Ready for anything and everything: Defence Minister
The government is ready for any eventuality in Doklam, said Minister for
Defence Nirmala Sitharaman.
The Minister’s statement comes amid India-China efforts to reset their
troubled ties, and ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expected
bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping in June.
Mr. Modi will visit China to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation
Organisation (SCO) summit to be held in Qingdao on June 9 and 10.
“We are alert and ready for any unforeseen situation in Doklam. We are
constantly working on the modernisation of our forces. We will maintain our
territorial integrity,” the Minister said.
Her comments also come within days of Indian ambassador to China Gautam
Bambawale saying that the Doklam standoff happened because the Chinese
military altered the status quo.
“The Chinese military changed the status quo in the Doklam area and,
therefore, India reacted to it,” he said in Hong Kong. “If the Chinese
military are going to build a road, then they must tell us that ‘we are
going to build a road’,” he said.
The Defence Minister earlier this month told the Rajya Sabha that China
had undertaken “construction of some infrastructure, including sentry posts,
trenches and helipads” close to the face-off point in Doklam.
A series of high-level meetings are expected during the summer, ending
in the visit of Mr. Modi to the SCO summit.
Ms. Sitharaman has already announced that she will visit China in late
April. Last time a Defence Minister visited China was in April 2016, when
Manohar Parrikar held high-level talks in Beijing.
At the official level, there are several other meetings slated in the
coming days. Indian and Chinese experts are to meet later this month to
discuss trans-border rivers.
In mid-April, the National Development and Reform Commission will hold
discussions with the NITI Aayog. In preparation for the SCO summit visit,
the SCO Foreign Ministers are to meet in Beijing towards the end of April.
Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha recently instructed officials to stay away
from the events to mark 60 years of the Dalai Lama’s flight to India, as
part of India's efforts to reset the troubled ties with China.
Check on crime against Children: Bengal Govt.
The West Bengal government as well as some NGOs are taking steps to
check the upward trend in crimes against children in the State.
The latest National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) report said that West
Bengal had registered 7,004 crimes against children in 2016, the 5th highest
in the country.
Uttar Pradesh is on the top of the list with 15% followed by Maharashtra
(14%), Madhya Pradesh (13%), Delhi (8%) and West Bengal (6%).
Nearly 20 crimes are committed against children every day in the State.
West Bengal shows upward trend in crimes related to kidnapping, child
trafficking and sexual offences against children, and these consist of over
90% of crimes against children in the State.
The State accounted for 7,004 recorded crimes against children, of which
4,178 crimes were registered under kidnapping and human trafficking from
Besides, 2,132 crimes were booked under the POCSO Act, which included
rape and sexual assault, as per the NCRB data.
West Bengal tops the list in human trafficking of minors for
prostitution, which stood at 53.3% (highest in the country) registering a
17% growth from 2012 to 2016.
In trafficking of minor girls, the State records 27%, second highest in
the country registering a growth of 47.7% from 2012 to 2016. In kidnapping
and abduction together, the State records 6.6%, fifth highest in the
West Bengal also records 6% crimes under POCSO, fourth highest in the
country. Taking into account of the urbanisation of crime, only about 5% of
the crime in the State are committed in Kolkata.
However, the city records a huge number of trafficking of girls from
foreign countries (40% of total trafficking in WB from neighbouring
countries), trafficking of minors for prostitution (16% of such crimes in
GSAT-6A for Armed Forces
GSAT-6A, the second predominantly S-band communications satellite, is
set to be launched from Sriharikota on March 29.
It will complement GSAT-6, which has been orbiting since August 2015 at
83 degrees East longitude.
The 2,000-kg-class 6A, costing about ₹270 crore, is a great deal more
than a routine communications satellite.
It is designated for the use of the Armed Forces and will not add any
transponder capacity for general uses, according to sources in the Indian
Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
A special feature of the GSAT-6A is its 6-metre-wide umbrella-like
antenna, which will be unfurled in once it is in space.
The antenna is thrice as broad as the antennas generally used in ISRO
It will enable mobile communication from anywhere via hand-held ground
terminals. Regular communication satellites with smaller antenna require
much larger ground stations, said a former director of ISRO.
The S-band’s antenna was developed by ISRO’s Space Applications Centre,
The unfurl-able antenna, hand-held ground terminals, and network
management techniques could be useful in future satellite-based mobile
GSAT-6A will also have a smaller 0.8-metre antenna for communication in
the C band. GSAT-6A is slated to be launched at 4.56 p.m. on a GSLV rocket.
Be more vigilant on Aadhaar: UIDAI to Banks
The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) has asked banks to
provide Aadhaar-based onetime password (OTP) for opening of bank accounts
only in the presence of the customer, in a banking outlet.
In a letter addressed to commercial banks, UIDAI Chief Executive Officer
Ajay Bhushan Pandey cited instances of misuse of Aadhaar while opening
The direction is a huge blow to the banks that are heavily dependent on
Aadhaar-based OTP authentication process for account opening (where the
customers do not have to visit branches) or use tab banking to open accounts
by visiting the customer’s residence.
The letter noted that while banks are using various channels for
collection of Aadhaar number from their customers, it was found by the UIDAI
that the authentication of Aadhaar numbers was not carried out or
authentication best practices were not followed.
“It has come to the notice of the UIDAI that there has been instances
wherein: Aadhaar of person A got seeded with person B’s account to carry out
fraudulent transaction,” the letter said.
“Stolen Aadhaar copy was used to open a bank account and obtain credit,
debit card,” the letter said while citing another example.
The UIDAI said a fabricated Aadhaar card provided to a bank may result
in fraud and loss of money, if the bank does not authenticate with finger
print or OTP to adequately identify the Aadhaar holder.
According to RBI norms, there are limits for accounts that are opened
through Aadhaar-based OTP authentication process, like deposits cannot
exceed ₹1 lakh and full KYC requirements, which is submission of documents
and giving biometric details, were needed to be made in 1 year.
Private sector lender Kotak Mahindra Bank, which had launched Aadhaar-based
OTP authentication process for opening of accounts in March 2017, said that
its customer base swelled from 8 million to 12 million within nine months of
introducing the scheme.
Since many other banks also offer similar schemes, bankers said account
opening is likely to be hit following the UIDAI’s directions.
Public responses for Draft Defence Policy
With the aim of creating up to 30 lakh jobs and a total turnover ₹1.7
lakh crore in defence goods, the Union government has called for public
responses to its draft Defence Production Policy, 2018.
The draft, made public on the Defence Ministry website a few days ago,
has suggested further liberalisation of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), by
permitting up to 74% FDI under the automatic route. At present, up to 49%
FDI is allowed through the automatic route, though no significant investment
has come into the sector.
The draft policy says the government’s aim is to achieve “a turnover of
₹1,70,000 crore (approximately $26 billion) in defence goods and services by
2025, involving additional investment of nearly ₹70,000 crore (about $10
billion) creating employment for nearly 2-3 million people.”
It also hopes to achieve exports of ₹35,000 crore “in defence goods and
services by 2025” and make India a global leader in cyberspace and AI
(Artificial Intelligence) technologies.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in his Budget for 2018-19 that
the government would bring out an industry-friendly Defence Production
Policy, 2018 to promote domestic production by the public and private
sectors and the MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises).
The Defence Ministry will receive public inputs until March-end.
The policy says the vision is to make “India among the top five
countries of the world in the aerospace and defence industries, with the
active participation of the public and private sectors, fulfilling the
objective of self-reliance as well as the demand of other friendly
The policy aims to create an environment that “encourages a dynamic,
robust and competitive defence industry as an important part of the ‘Make in
The policy also hopes to “reduce current dependence on imports and to
achieve self-reliance in development and manufacture” of several weapon
More sops for North east Ex-militants
For the first time since 1998, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has
increased the monthly stipend of surrendered militants in northeast India.
The stipend for the former militants has been increased from ₹3,500 to
₹6,000 per month and the one-time grant has been enhanced from ₹1.5 lakh to
₹4 lakh in a move that will come into effect on April 1.
According to MHA officials, the pressure to increase the stipend came
after several requests from the government of Assam, which has seen the most
number of surrenders and outlay for the scheme in the region.
The demands were made by both the former Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi, as
well as his successor Sarbananda Sonowal.
There are over 3,000 militants from various insurgent groups in the
region who have surrendered since 2012.
According to the policy, the MHA reimburses the amount paid to the
surrendered militants by the State governments under the Security Related
Expenditure (SRE) scheme.
The MHA also reimburses the expenditure incurred on the maintenance of
designated camps set up for insurgent groups.
The policy was revised in 2005, but this is the first time a significant
enhancement in stipend has been done.
Recently, MoS Home Kiren Rijiju told the Lok Sabha in a written reply
that the “surrender-cum-rehabilitation” scheme for Northeast States was
meant to “wean away the misguided youth and hardcore militants who have
strayed into the fold of militancy and find themselves trapped in that net.”
“The scheme also seeks to ensure that the militants who have surrendered
do not find it attractive to join militancy again…There is also revised
incentives for the weapons surrendered by the insurgents,” Mr. Rijiju said
A Home Ministry official said that since 2014, over ₹10 crore had been
released as stipend for surrendered militants. Mr. Sonowal had demanded that
the stipend be increased to ₹10,000.
Assam has entered into a “suspension of operations” agreement with 13
insurgent groups, which include ULFA (Pro-Talk), NDFB (Progressive), NDFB
(RD) among others.
The number of cadres living in the camps run by the various insurgent
groups is around 12,000.
The government has been in talks with some of these insurgent groups for
more than 14 years. Other States such as Manipur, Nagaland, Meghalaya and
Tripura also have similar agreements with 10 other insurgent groups.
Chanting “never again”, hundreds of thousands of young Americans and
their supporters answered a call to action from survivors of last month’s
Florida high school massacre and rallied across the U.S. to demand tighter
In some of the biggest U.S. youth demonstrations for decades, protesters
— more than a million of them — called on lawmakers and President Donald
Trump to confront the issue.
Voter registration activists fanned out in the crowds, signing up
thousands of the nation’s newest voters.
There were sobs as one teenage survivor, Emma Gonzalez, read the names
of the 17 victims and then stood in silence.
Tears ran down her cheeks as she stared out over the crowd for the rest
of a speech that lasted six minutes and 20 seconds, the time it took for the
gunman to slaughter them.
The massive ‘March For Our Lives’ rallies aimed to break legislative
gridlock that has long stymied efforts to increase restrictions on firearms
Youthful marchers filled streets in cities including Atlanta, Baltimore,
Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New York, San Diego and
More than 800 demonstrations were scheduled in the United States and
overseas, according to coordinators, with events as far afield as London,
Mauritius, Stockholm and Sydney.
Organisers of the anti-gun rallies want Congress, many of whose members
are up for re-election in November, to ban the sale of assault weapons like
the one used in the Florida rampage and to tighten background checks for gun
Rallies for tighter firearm restrictions also sprang up in rural,
Republican-leaning communities ranging from Lewiston, Idaho to Logan, Utah
where there is strong support for the Second Amendment constitutional right
to own guns.
White House deputy press secretary Lindsay Walters said the
administration applauded “the many courageous young Americans”.
Ms. Walters noted that the Justice Department proposed rule changes that
would effectively ban ”bump stock” devices that let semi automatic weapons
fire like a machine gun.
Also, Mr. Trump signed a $1.3-trillion spending Bill including modest
improvements to background checks for gun sales and grants to help schools
prevent gun violence.
Divestment proceeds should be kept for sick PSUs: Panel
A Parliamentary panel has recommended the earmarking of a defined
portion of proceeds from the divestment of State-owned enterprises for
funding revival, restructuring and modernisation proposals of sick public
sector undertakings (PSUs) that have the potential to turn around.
“In this manner, the government can extend a hand-holding support to the
select sick PSUs that have the potential to turn around and sustain
themselves in [the] future,” the panel said in a report.
The government had set a target of raising ₹80,000 crore in 2018-19 by
selling stakes in the State-owned firms, with strategic divestment of 24
CPSEs (central public sector undertakings) on the cards and privatisation of
Air India on track.
Besides, NITI Aayog is preparing another list of sick PSUs that can be
privatised, its chief executive officer Amitabh Kant said last month.
The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) had asked the think-tank to look into
the viability of sick State-run companies.
The Aayog had already recommended strategic divestment of 40 sick public
The committee observed that timely approval of revival/restructuring/modernisation
plans of CPSEs with accurate cost estimates, availability of funds with the
government and the timely disposal of such funds are crucial factors.