Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 16 March 2018

SSC CGL Current Affairs

Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 16 March 2018


Death penalty for child rape: Haryana

  • The Haryana Assembly unanimously passed a Bill which provides for death penalty to those found guilty of raping girls aged 12 years or less.
  • After Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Haryana has become the third State where the Assembly has approved the provision of capital punishment for such sexual offenders, the House was informed.
  • The Criminal Law (Haryana Amendment) Bill, 2018, moved by the State’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ram Bilas Sharma, was passed on the last day of the budget session.
  • The Bill was passed unanimously with INLD and Congress members also lending their support.
  • A few Congress members put forth some suggestions, with senior leader Kiran Choudhary suggesting death penalty and harsher provisions for all rapists irrespective of the age of victims.
  • “After Section 376-A of the Penal Code, the following Section shall be inserted, namely 376-AA,” the Bill stated.
  • Under section 376-AA, in case of rape of a girl up to 12 years of age, there will be a punishment of death or rigorous imprisonment of not less than 14 years which may extend to imprisonment for life that is for remainder period of person’s natural life, according to the legislation.
  • A provision 376-DA has also been added after section 376-D of the penal code.
  • Under section--376-DA, if a girl upto 12 years of age is raped by one or more persons constituting a group, each of those persons shall be deemed to have committed the offence of rape and will be punished with death or rigorous imprisonment for a term which will not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life along with a fine.
  • The Bill also provides for making the existing criminal laws related to other sexual offences more stringent.
  • The punishment under Section 354 of the IPC (Assault or criminal force against woman with intent to outrage her modesty) will not be less than two years (earlier not less than one year) but may extend up to seven years (earlier up to five years).
  • Provision of fine
  • The new additions also include provisions of fining the convict and any such fine will be paid to the victim.
  • Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, during his speech in the House, expressed anguish over recent incidents of rape in the State.
  • He rejected charge levelled by some Opposition members that politics was the reason for bring the tougher law.

Envoy should return for ‘Consultations’: Pakistan

  • Pakistan asked its envoy to return for “consultations” amid growing bilateral tensions over alleged harassment of its diplomats in India. Indian sources, however, indicated that Pakistan had not ensured the safety and security of Indian diplomats in Islamabad despite repeated requests.
  • The envoy’s visit to the Pakistani capital for “consultations” was confirmed by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Dr. Mohammad Faisal, who reiterated at a weekly briefing that officials and staff of the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi were being subjected to different kinds of harassment for the past few days.
  • Indian sources, however, urged caution, emphasising that Pakistan had not withdrawn its envoy, High Commissioner Sohail Mahmood.
  • While the consultations are not unusual, the fact that the Pakistan MFA issued a statement on calling him to Islamabad amid growing diplomatic tension, is significant.
  • Over 500 Pakistani nationals including officials, staffers and family members are stationed at the High Commission in New Delhi.
  • The Indian High Commission in Islamabad, however, is a ‘non-family’ posting for diplomats. Indian sources maintained that Pakistan has remained unresponsive to their safety-related concerns.
  • The row has intensified after Pakistani sources issued several videos showing their diplomats being stalked by security operatives on the streets of Delhi.
  • Harassment charge
  • Both Indian and Pakistani officials have accused each other of similar harassments.
  • An Indian source indicated that over the last several months, Pakistani security agencies have resorted to a series of measures like stopping local employees from reaching the mission and disrupting electricity supply that made normal life impossible.
  • The Pakistani spokesman alleged that visitors and labourers were being stopped from going to the Pakistani mission in the Indian capital’s diplomatic enclave.
  • As a result, the diplomats, their children and families were finding it difficult to stay in New Delhi, he claimed.
  • Pakistan has complained to the Indian authorities, saying that it will become very difficult for its diplomats to perform their duties in New Delhi in the wake of such incidents.

KKNPP gets equipment from Russia

  • The first batch of equipment for Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project’s (KKNPP) third reactor, under construction, has been shipped from Russia.
  • PJSC ZiO-Podolsk, one of the enterprises of Rosatom Machine-Building Division ‘JSC Atomenergomash’, shipped out the first batch of equipment for the turbine hall and two high-pressure heaters, officials here said.
  • Four high pressure heaters each will be delivered for the third and the fourth 1,000 MW VVER reactors.
  • The oversized equipment will be delivered at the KKNPP site using multimodal way. From the premises of Podolsk, the equipment were moved by railroad to St. Petersburg seaport.
  • The cargo will reach Thoothukudi port and will be delivered at the KKNPP complex in April, said officials of Rosatom, Russia’s Atomic Energy Corporation.
  • Working design documentation had been elaborated by PJSC ZiO-Podolsk specialists.
  • They would also implement the follow-up of the manufacture and subsequent site mounting supervision at the KKNPP site, officials added.
  • Rosatom’s JSC Atomenergomash is the supplier of key equipment for the KKNPP, which will house 6 x 1,000 MWe VVER nuclear reactors to be built with Russian assistance.
  • For units 3 and 4, the company will manufacture steam generators, main circulation pumps, pressure compensators, pipe fittings, ancillary pumps, other equipment for reactor hall and turbine building.

PNB asks information of LoUs from peer banks

  • Punjab National Bank has asked for certain information from peer banks, but no condition has been set for payouts related to LoUs in the Rs. 12,968 crore scam involving Nirav Modi and his firms, sources said.
  • Bankers aware of the development said as the matter was under investigation by the CBI, no final call on LoU payouts could be taken as of now.
  • On what had been derived among the banks on the liability of PNB towards other banks to pay against the Letters of Undertaking (LOUs) on the basis of which peer lenders made import credit payments to Nirav Modi and his firms, the official said, “As the investigations are going on, there is no final call on LOUs payouts.”
  • As the investigation process was normally a long-drawn affair, the bankers fear they would be compelled to declare the portion of their exposure in the LoU fraud as non-performing.
  • To plug the loopholes, PNB has started the process of urgently integrating SWIFT, with its core banking solution (CBS) system.
  • A new software, Financle 10, had been installed and was in the testing phase.
  • “It is a superior system and would enable the bank at mid office and head office to view transactions of all branches through one administration,” PNB said.

Decline of 3% GDP to defence: MoF

  • The Finance Ministry has declined a recommendation from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence to have a fixed allocation of 3% of GDP for the Defence Ministry, a report of the Committee has stated.
  • “The recommendation of the Standing Committee for keeping a definite percent of GDP was referred to MoF for their consideration, the same was not approved by MoF,” the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in its reply to the Committee.
  • The Committee has on several occasions expressed favour for having a benchmark percentage of GDP earmarked for deciding on the allocation to the defence sector to continue modernisation.
  • Definite cost
  • The MoF in its reply to the MoD said: “Since government resources come with definite cost, resource allocation is made among various competing priorities.
  • Thus, defence expenditure as definite percentage of total government expenditure/GDP cannot be ensured considering the fact the resource allocations are made on need basis.”
  • Finance Ministry further added that rationalisation of the expenditure is the prime objective of the government while finalising the revised estimates during mid-year review.
  • The Vice Chief of Army Lt. Gen. Sarath Chand has deposed before the Committee that this year’s budgetary allocation has dashed their hopes, and the capital allocation does not even cater for the committee liabilities for the year.

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U.S, U.K, France, Germany slam Russia

  • Tensions between Russia and the West continued to ramp up as France, Germany, Britain and the U.S. jointly accused Russia of involvement in the attack on Sergei Skripal and his daughter in Salisbury in early March.
  • They said it involved the first “offensive use” of a nerve agent in Europe since the Second World War.
  • “It is an assault on U.K. sovereignty and any such use by a state party is a clear violation of the Chemical Weapons Convention and a breach of international law. It threatens the security of all of us,” they said in a joint statement.
  • All four shared Britain’s assessment that it was “highly likely” that Russia was responsible for the attack.
  • They condemned Russia’s failure to address the “legitimate” request by the U.K. government to explain whether and how a nerve agent developed under a Russian programme could have gotten into third party control.
  • That’s the only alternative to the Russian state’s direct involvement, they said.
  • The joint statement will be seen as a diplomatic victory for Prime Minister Theresa May who has been under pressure to show her diplomatic clout both across the Atlantic and within Europe.
  • France had initially avoided blaming Russia directly, saying it awaited evidence first, before joining in the wider response.
  • European Commission President Donald Tusk also joined in, expressing “full solidarity” with the British position “in the face of the brutal attack inspired, most likely, by Moscow”.
  • Relations between Britain and Russia have fallen to their lowest point since the Cold War, following the poisonings.
  • Britain retaliated by announcing the expulsion of 23 Russian diplomats (the largest expulsion since 1985 when Britain expelled 25), and the revocation of an invitation to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to visit the country.
  • It accused Russia of the “unlawful use of force”.
  • At an urgent meeting of the Security Council in New York, the U.S. joined Britain in condemning Russia, pledging to stand in “absolute solidarity with Great Britain”.
  • The U.S.’ Nikey Haley warned that if immediate action were not taken, Salisbury would not be the last time that a chemical attack happened on Western soil.
  • Novichok, the type of nerve agent, which Britain says was used in the attack could not have been manufactured by “non-state actors”, Britain’s Representative Jonathan Allen said.
  • He attacked Russia’s initial response that Britain was not following the protocol of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.
  • Under the OPCW’s Convention, Britain has “the right to lead our response… we have not jumped to conclusions,” he said.


A 5month low of Trade Deficit

  • India’s trade deficit narrowed to $12 billion in February, its lowest in five months, amid concerns that a global trade war could hit its exports because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to hike import taxes on steel and aluminum.
  • India’s merchandise exports are expected to touch $300 billion in the current fiscal year ending this month compared with $275.8 billion, mainly driven by a rise in commodity prices and strong demand in the U.S. and Europe.
  • February merchandise exports were $25.8 billion while imports were $37.8 billion, Rita Teaotia, a top trade ministry official, told reporters.
  • In the first 11 months of the fiscal, merchandise exports rose 11% to $273.7 billion from a year earlier while imports climbed 21% to $416.9 billion, she said.
  • New Delhi is worried that its exports could be hit in the coming months by Mr. Trump’s decision to impose tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is hosting a mini-ministerial meeting of members of the World Trade Organization next week expected to discuss the impact of Mr. Trump’s decision.
  • India’s trade secretary said the country was disappointed by the U.S. decision ‘as it is against WTO rules’.
  • “Exports were recovering but imports were growing even faster,” D.K. Srivastava, chief policy adviser at EY India said.
  • “Now, the level of export and import growth has moved down, reflecting the change in the global economy towards more protectionist measures. The other factor could be that sometimes when global crude prices fall, then the demand for Indian exports also falls.”
  • Export growth slowed to 4.48% in February compared with 9.07% growth in January.

Asia Premium oil prices to be pushed strongly by India for drop

  • India is likely to lobby heavily for an end to the discriminatory “Asian premium” on oil prices and a “responsible” price mechanism, as it prepares to host a major conference for oil producing and consuming countries.
  • Addressing a curtain raiser for diplomats of countries that are expected to send delegations for the International Energy Forum (IEF) April 10-12, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said India would become a “happening point” for energy after the conference, which would be close on the heels of the International Solar Alliance (ISA).
  • Mr. Pradhan promised a “new roadmap” for the world during the IEF, especially given the oil price fluctuations.
  • He added it was inevitable that low oil prices, as seen in recent years, would cause a “crisis”.
  • “Simultaneously we must take care of the interests and aspirations of consumers in India and we need affordable energy prices,” he said.
  • Key Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) including Saudi Arabia, and Iran’s petroleum ministers, will attend the conference said officials handling the programme.
  • The IEF represents 90% of world consumption and production of oil and gas.
  • All 92 member countries of the IEF are expected to send delegations, with about 40 participating at a ministerial level.
  • Since 2015, Mr. Pradhan has made repeated demands to the IEF countries to remove what is called the “Asian premium” on prices that was pioneered by Saudi Arabia, which distinguished consumers in Asia from the U.S. and European countries.
  • However, the demands have met with little success and the issue is expected to be raised on the sidelines of the event, if not during the conference with Saudi Arabia and others.

Challenge at WTO on India’s export subsidies by U.S

  • Turning the heat further on India on trade issues, the United States has challenged India’s export subsidy programmes at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
  • The move comes close on the heels of a string of statements accusing India of “unfair” trade practices, by President Donald Trump.
  • U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) Robert Lighthizer said Washington had requested dispute settlement consultations with the Government of India at WTO on the issue.
  • Mr. Trump had threatened to raise duties on products from India.
  • Unlike the many trade disputes between India and America that are sector specific or product specific, the new move by Mr. Lighthizer — a trade hawk closely in alignment with Mr. Trump’s nationalist economic policies — is broad and sweeping in targeting the whole range of Indian export subsidy programmes.
  • A statement from the USTR listed the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme; Export Oriented Units Scheme and sector specific schemes, including Electronics Hardware Technology Parks Scheme; Special Economic Zones; Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme, and a duty free imports for exporters programme as distorting trade in a way that allows Indian exporters “to sell their goods more cheaply to the detriment of American workers and manufacturers.”
  • MukeshAghi, president of the United States-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), said the case would not alter the long-term trajectory of bilateral trade partnership.
  • “As the relationship deepens, and volumes increase, disputes are natural. This is a normal dispute redressal mechanism that will run its course.” Mr. Aghi said.
  • “The U.S has been imposing countervailing duties in response to all these Indian programmes already.
  • The decision to take this to the WTO is a political move and qualitatively different from countervailing duties,” said Moushami P. Joshi, trade lawyer at Washington law firm Pillsbury, where she advises sovereign governments on WTO disputes.

2.5 Lakh crore worth power projects may go to bankruptcy because of US norms

  • More than 50,000 MW of stressed power projects, worth more than Rs. 2.5 lakh crore, with bank exposure of more than Rs. 1.75 lakh crore, are likely to face bankruptcy proceedings as, among others.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had scrapped all loan restructuring programmes in February, according to industry sources.
  • The government has called for a high-level meeting of all the stakeholders, including public and private sector power firms, lenders, coal suppliers and railways on Friday to discuss the gravity of the situation.
  • “RBI guidelines will be one of the most important issues under consideration as it may lead to most of the power firms to file for bankruptcy,” said the CEO of private power firm who would be attending the meeting.
  • Of the 50,000 MW, about 12,000 MW have no power purchase agreements (PPAs) or coal linkages while 20,000 MW have coal linkages but don’t have long term PPAs.
  • Another 11,000 MW of gas-based power plants are stranded for the want of gas while 9,800 MW coastal power plants of Tata Power, Adani Power and Essar Power are stranded due to lack of imported coal.
  • The RBI had recently scrapped all loan restructuring programmes and its recent guidelines on ‘Resolution of Stressed Assets — Revised Framework’ mandates the banks to classify even a day’s delay in debt servicing as default.

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