Will explore alternative route to project, won’t touch Ram sethu: Govt to SC
The Union government told the Supreme Court that it will not touch the
Ram Sethu, an underwater coral formation in the Indian Ocean referred in
mythology Ramayana, for the implementation of the Sethusamudram Ship Channel
The government said cutting a route through the Ram Sethu, also known as
Adam’s Bridge, would be a cause of “socio-economic disadvantage”.
This is part of a one-page affidavit filed by the Shipping Ministry
almost four years after the Supreme Court asked the government to “come
clean” on the choice of the project’s route and whether it would damage the
BJP leader Dr. Subramanian Swamy had, as early as 2014, asked the apex
court to verify whether a Cabinet decision was taken to “not touch” the Ram
Sethu for the project.
Mr. Swamy mentioned his plea again before a Bench led by Chief Justice
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand told the court that an
affidavit had been filed stating the government’s position.
The affidavit said instead of Alignment 6 (the route which cuts through
the Ram Sethu), the government would explore an “alternative”.
“The government of India intends to explore an alternative to the
earlier alignment of Sethusamudram Shipping Canal Project without
affecting/damaging the Adam’s Bridge/Ram Sethu in the interest of the
nation,” the Ministry affidavit said.
In 2016, the apex court granted Mr. Swamy liberty to approach the court
if the Centre as much as “touched” the Ram Sethu during the project
Mr. Swamy had requested the court for mandamus to direct the government
“to follow any other alternative route or alignment without affecting or
destroying or demolishing the historic and sacred place Ram Sethu”.
Acting on the suggestions of the Supreme Court, the government appointed
a committee under R.K. Pachauri to study whether an alternative route to
Alignment 6 was feasible.
The committee was to consider if construction of the project was viable
along Alignment 4A, an alternative route running on land north of
Dhanushkodi, thereby avoiding any chances of affecting the Ram Sethu,
The court then reserved its judgment until such time the government got
Alignment 4A evaluated and a report submitted to it.
The committee referred the question of Alignment 4A to the Goa-based
National Institute of Oceanography (NIO).
Mr. Swamy had alleged that the NIO completed the study and handed over a
report to the government in March 2009.
He had voiced apprehensions that the report may never be submitted in
the Supreme Court as the consequences may be to the scrap the project
The court also wanted to know the government’s position on whether the
ancient Ram Sethu could be declared a national monument.
Halt tree-felling for Chardham Project: NGT
Hearing a petition alleging that the Chardham highway project was
resulting in ‘massive’ felling of trees, the National Green Tribunal (NGT)
has urged the project proponent to refrain from doing so till further
The green panel on February 28 had issued notices to the Centre and the
Uttarakhand government on why the ongoing work on the Chardham highway
project should not be stayed.
In its reply to the show-cause notice, the State government denied “each
and every averment and allegation made in the applications”.
The directions came while the tribunal was hearing a plea filed by
Dehradun-based NGO Citizens for Green Doon, where it was alleged that the
road-widening work to connect Kedarnath, Badrinath, Yamunotri and Gangotri
was being carried out in violation of environmental laws.
Abolishing Health scheme: Rajasthan Govt.
The Bharatiya Janata Party government in Rajasthan is set to abolish a
health scheme for the poor, started by the previous Congress regime, on the
purported ground of duplication leading to loss to the exchequer.
Congress has cried foul and described it as an instance of BJP’s
The State government has decided not to extend the Mukhya Mantri BPL
Jeevan Raksha Kosh to the financial year 2018-19 after its expiry on March
Medical and Health Minister Kali Charan Saraf said that the scheme’s
beneficiaries would get free diagnosis and treatment facilities under other
According to the official orders, the patients of below poverty line (BPL)
category will get the medical treatment under the Bhamashah health insurance
scheme, free diagnostic test scheme and free medicine scheme.
A new procedure has been laid down for the cases of hospitalisation,
implants and specialised treatment.
However, the move will render over 500 contractual employees, including
the computer operators, unemployed.
They were hired for effective implementation of the Mukhya Mantri BPL
Jeevan Raksha Kosh in various districts.
Besides, it gave a grant to the childless BPL couples and those with an
annual income of Rs. 1 lakh for their treatment.
Mr. Gehlot said the State government had taken the decision on the
pretext of promoting the Bhamashah health insurance scheme.
Sports talent and Woman power of Manipur inspire India: Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Manipur’s woman power and sporting
talents have been an inspiration for the Centre in designing programmes such
as ‘Khelo India’.
He was speaking at a rally after initiating a slew of projects at
Luwangshangbam on the outskirts of the State capital, Imphal.
The projects included Luwangpokpa Multi Sports Complex, Rani Gaidinliu
Park, 1,000 anganwadicentres and 19 residential complexes for teachers,
doctors and nurses in far-flung areas. He also inaugurated the boxing
academy of Olympic medallist, Mary Kom.
Mr. Modi laid the foundation stone of the National Sports University —
India’s first — that was caught in a land dispute.
But scrapped from the list of projects to be inaugurated by him was a
multi-purpose dam project following protests from the Joint Action Committee
Against Forced Inauguration of Mapithel Dam, an umbrella body of 20 groups
of project-affected people.
Born at Nungkao in Manipur’s Tamenglong district, Gaidinliu (1915-1993)
was a revolutionary who led an army of Nagas against the British in 1931.
Pakistan has failed to take decisive actions against terror groups as
sought by the Trump administration, the White House said, and warned
Islamabad that the U.S. is prepared to take actions on its own to safeguard
its personnel in Afghanistan.
U.S. President Donald Trump had announced his South Asia Policy in
August last year, criticising Pakistan for providing safe havens to terror
groups carrying out attacks in Afghanistan.
The Trump Administration, for the first time, has really restored
clarity on the U.S.-Pakistan relationship.
“We are truly holding Pakistan accountable for its actions,” the
official said, adding that the President has made it clear that he is not
satisfied with the action taken by Islamabad. “We have communicated clearly
to Pakistan what we mean by decisive action,” the official said.
On questions about the deadline, the official said the U.S. is in
discussion with Pakistan. The U.S. also wants Pakistan to take action
against Pakistan-based terrorist groups that target India like
Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).
Sanctioned Rs.10,000 crore for GST refunds: Govt.
The government sought to debunk reports carrying unverified estimates of
pending GST refunds, terming these figures “highly speculative and mostly
So far, the government said, ₹10,000 crore of refunds had been
sanctioned by the Central Board of Excise and Customs and the States,
although it did not mention the quantum of the remaining amount.
“It has been noticed that at regular intervals, unverified estimates of
pending GST refunds on account of exports are published in the print media
or put forward by various trade bodies,” the Ministry of Finance said in a
statement. “These figures are highly speculative and mostly inaccurate.”
“It is a fact that while a number of exporters have not been able to get
the export refunds, so far others have been granted refunds,” it added.
“In order to overcome the causes of the delay in sanctioning of refunds,
government has taken various steps, which includes amendments in the rules,
changes in the business procedures of common portal and customs automated
system to address the systemic issues.”
The statement said that many of the errors plaguing the claims for
refunds were due to the “inadequate familiarisation of the exporters with
the GST laws and data entry errors in the various GSTRs/forms.”
“A standard operating procedure applicable to both Central and State GST
has been put in place by virtue of various circulars and clarifications
issued with regard to processing of ITC refund.”
Q3 CAD is 2% GDP
The current account deficit (CAD) rose to 2% of the GDP or $13.5 billion
in the December quarter, up from $8 billion or 1.4% in the year-ago period,
on the back of higher trade deficit, according to Reserve Bank of India
The CAD, which shows the difference between foreign exchange earned and
spent, stood at $7.2 billion or 1.1% of gross domestic product (GDP) in the
preceding September quarter, according to the data released by the central
“The widening of the CAD on a year-on-year basis is primarily due to a
higher trade deficit which rose to $44.1 billion in the reporting quarter
due to a larger increase in merchandise imports relative to exports,” the
central bank said in a statement.
On a cumulative basis, CAD more than doubled to 1.9% of GDP in the
April-December 2017 period from 0.7% in the corresponding period of 2016-17
due to wider trade deficit, which increased to $118.9 billion from $82.7
Net services’ receipts rose 17.8% during the reporting quarter mainly on
the back of a rise in net earnings from software services and travel
Private transfer receipts, mainly representing remittances, amounted to
$17.6 billion, an increase of 16% from over a year ago.
In the financial account, net foreign direct investment stood at USD 4.3
billion, almost 55 per cent less than in the year-ago period when it was at
USD 9.7 billion, the apex bank data showed.
However, net portfolio investment inflows were in the green at USD 5.3
billion in Q3, compare to an outflow of USD 11.3 billion in the year-ago
period, due to net purchases in both the debt and equity markets.
Net receipts on account of non-resident deposits amounted to USD 3.1
billion in the reporting quarter as against net repayments of USD 18.5
billion a year ago.
During the three months to December 2017, the forex kitty swelled by USD
9.4 billion (on balance of payment basis) as against a depletion of USD 1.2
billion in Q3 of FY17.
During this period, forex kitty saw an accretion USD 30.3 billion to the
foreign exchange reserves.
Net FDI inflows during April-December 2017 declined to USD 23.7 billion
from USD 30.6 billion, while net portfolio inflows stood at USD 19.8 billion
during the period as against a net outflow of USD 3.2 billion a year ago.
Chances of steel imports to rise from South Korea and Japan
India is likely to witness an increase in steel imports from South Korea
and Japan in the near term due to global readjustment of trade patterns
after the U.S. imposed a 25% import tariff on the commodity, rating agency
ICRA said in a note.
Both South Korea and Japan, which have free trade agreements (FTA) with
India, are expected to raise their exports to countries with which they have
such pacts, following the move by the U.S.
Together, the two countries exported about 5 million tonnes (mt) of
steel to the U.S. in calendar 2017.
ICRA, however, said the impact of U.S. tariffs may not be significant in
the medium term as 26 mt of affected imports to that country would be
absorbed by the 25 mt increase in the global demand elsewhere, especially in
Also, Chinese steel exports had been declining in the last two years,
reaching 75 mt in 2017 from a peak of 112 mt in 2015, providing an
opportunity to other countries to fill this gap left by China, by diverting
volumes away from the U.S.
‘Meagre exports to U.S.’
“India’s steel exports to the U.S. remained a meagre 0.7 mt in
[calendar] 2017,” said Jayanta Roy, senior VP, ICRA. “India’s steel mills
should be able to find an [alternative] market for its nominal U.S. export
volumes without much difficulty.”