Material For Exam

Recent Update

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

UPSSSC VDO Result 2018, UPSSSC VDO 2016 Final Result Out - Check Now

18:25 0

Uttar Pradesh Subordinate Services Selection Commission, Lucknow has finally declared the Final result of Village Development Officer (VDO) Exam 2016 on the basis of written examination, physical efficiency test and interview. We have updated the direct link to download the result PDF below. List of selected candidates can be downloaded now Here, you can find your roll number.

Click Here to download UPSSSC VDO Result 2018, UPSSSC VDO 2016 Final Result 

Click Here to Like our Facebook page for latest updates and free ebooks

Read More

Daily Current Affairs,18th July 2018

18:14 0

1) Nelson Mandela International Day: 18 July
•Nelson Mandela International Day 2018 is observed internationally on 18th July. This year marks 100 years since the birth of Nelson Mandela (18 July 1918).  The Nelson Mandela Foundation is dedicating this year's Mandela Day to 'Action Against Poverty', honouring Nelson Mandela's leadership and devotion to fighting poverty and promoting social justice for all.

•November 2009 - in recognition of the former South African President’s contribution to the culture of peace and freedom, UN General Assembly declares 18 July "Nelson Mandela International Day".

2) EU, Japan Sign Massive Free Trade Deal
•European Union (EU) and Japan have signed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). It was signed at EU-Japan summit in Tokyo by EU Presidents Jean-Claude Juncker and Donald Tusk and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. 

•It is biggest ever trade deal negotiated by the EU and creates free trade zone covering nearly third of the world’s GDP. The trade deal is set to eliminate the "vast majority" of the $1.1 billion in duties that EU companies pay to Japan, according to the European Commission.  

3) Indo-US Delegation Meeting On Defence Cooperation
•As part of Indo-US Bilateral Defence Cooperation, the 7th Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI) meeting was held between India and the US delegation in New Delhi. The meeting was co-chaired by, Secretary (Defence Production), Dr Ajay Kumar and Under Secretary of Defence for Acquisition and Sustainment, DoD, US Government Ms Ellen M Lord. 

•The meetings are held twice a year, alternately in India and the USA with the aim to bring sustained leadership focus to the bilateral defence trade relationship and create opportunities for co-production and co-development of defence equipment. 

4) Brij Bhushan Saran Singh To Be Named India's Chef De Mission At Asian Games
•Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president Brij Bhushan Saran Singh is set to be named the Chef de Mission of the Asian Games-bound Indian contingent. 

•The four deputy Chefs de Mission set to be appointed are BS Kushwaha (former secretary of Indian Kayaking and Canoeing Federation), RK Sacheti (Executive Director of Boxing Federation of India, DK Singh (Uttarakhand Olympic Association) and Colonel RK Swain (Secretary of Equestrian Federation of India). 

5) UNEP Partners With Google For Monitoring Impact Of Human Activity On Ecosystem
•UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has entered into a partnership with search engine giant Google to monitor the impacts of human activity on global ecosystems by using sophisticated online tools. 

•The partnership was launched during a High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development at United Nations (UN) headquarters in New York. The aim of the partnership is to develop a platform to enable governments, NGO’s and public to track specific environment-related development targets with user-friendly Google front-end. 

6) Javelin Thrower Neeraj Chopra Wins Gold At Sotteville Athletics Meet
•Javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra has clinched a gold medal at the Sotteville Athletics Meet in France. The Indian youngster secured the top spot in the podium with an 85.17m throw. 

•Moldova’s Andrian Mardare took the silver medal after he covered a distance of 81.48m. The bronze medal went to Lithuania’s Edis Matusevicius, whose best throw of the night was 79.31m. 

Read More

The HINDU Notes – 18th July 2018

11:56 0

๐Ÿ“ฐ Accept gay relationships, says SC judge

Read More


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Daily Current Affairs,17th July 2018

20:13 0

1) President Gives Nod To Assam's Anti-Witch Hunting Bill
•President Ram Nath Kovind has approved the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015, converting it to an Act, almost three years after it was passed by the state Assembly. 

•The Act, aimed at eliminating the superstition from the society, imposes a punishment of up to seven years and a fine of up to Rs. 5 lakh. Branding people, mostly women, as witches and killing them is an old practice in Assam. 

2) Odisha To Get Country’s 1st Skill Training Centre
•Union Minister for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan announced that the Centre is planning to set up one National Skill Training Institute (NSTI) in every State to meet the rising demand for skilled manpower in the country. He laid the foundation stone of country’s first such skill training institute in Bhubaneswar, Odisha. 

•The Centre’s endeavour is yet another step to empower the youth of the State and make them job ready for industries. This will also help in addressing the issue of migration. 

3) Gautam Kaul Won Prestigious Post In Federations' Executive Committee Elections
•India has been elected new President of Asian Tug of War Federation. India's Gautam Kaul won the prestigious post in the Federations' Executive Committee elections held in Kathmandu, Nepal. 

•This is the first time when India has been elected to lead the organisation. The post of Secretary-General has also gone to India, while Nepal has got Treasurer's post. Pakistan and Cambodia have won posts of Vice Presidents. The tenure of newly elected office bearers will be for 3 years. 

4) T-Hub To Host Country’s 1st Defence Incubator
•One of the country’s first Defence incubators will come up in Hyderabad, which is India’s missile development centre and fast emerging the hub for aerospace industries. The incubator will be housed at T-Hub. The Telangana State government proposes to accommodate the Defence incubator in the upcoming Phase-2 of the T-Hub. 

•The incubator will be funded through the Ministry’s Innovation for Defence Excellence (iDEX) scheme. Under the scheme research in the fields of Aerospace & Defence by MSMEs, start-ups, research institutions, educational institutions are to be funded. The iDEX will be funded and managed by a Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO). 

5) Forbes Releases 2018 'Celebrity 100' List Of World's Highest-Paid Entertainers
•The Forbes has Released the 'Celebrity 100' list of World's Highest-Paid Entertainers. The world’s 100 top-earning celebrities pulled in a combined $6.3 billion pretax over the past 12 months, up 22% from last year. Boxer Floyd Mayweather captures the top spot on Forbes’ 20th annual Celebrity 100 ranking of the world’s highest-paid celebrities.

•Few of the famous names on the list are Leonel Messi 8th, Cristiano Ronaldo 10th. From India, Akshay Kumar (40.5 million dollars) is ranked 76th while Salman Khan (37.7 million dollars) is on the 82nd spot.

•The top 3 celebrities on the list are: 
1. Floyd Mayweather (Athlete, Boxing, $285M)
2 George Clooney (British liquor giant, $239M)
3. Kylie Jenner (Founder, Kylie Cosmetics, $166.5M)

6) IMF Cuts India’s GDP Growth Forecast To 7.3% In 2018
•The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut India’s GDP growth forecast by 10 basis points to 7.3% in the year 2018 and by 30 basis points to 7.5% in 2019, as the international body expects the central bank to tighten the monetary policy faster. 

•The IMF announced that India remains a key driver of global growth and India will still retain its top spot in the global growth league. 

7) Vinesh Phogat Wins Gold At Spanish Grand Prix
•Wrestler Vinesh Phogat won gold at the Spanish Grand Prix in Madrid, conceding just one point in five bouts en route to the title victory in the women's 50kg freestyle category. The 23-year-old outclassed Canada's Natasha Fox 10-0 in the final. 

•Vinesh began her campaign by beating Mariana Diaz on technical superiority and then thumped Erin Golston 12-1 and Valeria Chepsarakova 5-0.

8) Marc Marquez Wins German Grand Prix
•Honda's Marc Marquez (of Spain) cruised to his ninth consecutive German Grand Prix victory to extend his MotoGP lead. He has now won in the top category at Sachsenring for the past six years and three times in the smaller classes before that. 

•Seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi finished second with his Yamaha team-mate Maverick Vinales third. 

9) Thailand Open 2018: Nozomi Okuhara Beats PV Sindhu Win Maiden Title
•India's star shuttler PV Sindhu (seeded second) suffered a defeat to fourth seed Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in straight games inside 50 minutes to settle for runners-up spot in the Thailand Open at the Nimibutr Stadium in Bangkok. 

•In men's singles, Kanta Tsuneyama (Japan) was the winner and Tommy Sugiarto (Indonesia) was runner up. 

Read More

Current Affairs - June 2018 Pdf Download

13:24 0

Click Here to download Current Affairs - June 2018 Pdf 

Click Here to Like our Facebook page for latest updates and free ebooks

Read More

Economics And Agriculture Pdf Download

13:22 0

Click Here to download Economics And Agriculture Pdf

Click Here to Like our Facebook page for latest updates and free ebooks

Read More

The HINDU Notes – 17th July 2018

13:08 0

๐Ÿ“ฐ A redemptive moment

It matters little what the final ruling will be in the Section 377 case. There will be no return to the original scoreboard

•A conservative British historian nailed down the role of culture in creating the law when he said, “The trouble with marijuana is that it’s the black man’s vice.” He was referring to the role of racial prejudice in the evolution of the law in the erstwhile British colonies, among which India was the most prominent. Nothing else can explain the perception that consumption of marijuana is louche. In India, cultivation, possession, sale, transportation of ganja (cannabis) is prohibited without a licence even as serving bhang on auspicious occasions is a time-honoured tradition in parts of the country.

•It is a similar internalisation of colonial prejudice that leads India’s middle class to flaunt a taste for whisky while distancing itself from “country” liquor. While all these demonstrate slavishness to non-Indian cultural values, it is yet less monstrous than the effect of some other codes imported into India during the colonial era.

•Among these an important, but not necessarily the most prominent, one is Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) which criminalises sexual intercourse considered “against the order of nature”. In effect this criminalises all intercourse other than the procreative. The colonial administrator had an eagle eye, as he had even identified animals as potential partners of man in this unholy act. For over 150 years an Indian minority whose numbers we are unable to divine with accuracy has been yoked to a law without a narrative. Unless you are of a religious bent you are unlikely to restrict the idea of sex to procreation. Moreover, can consensual sex among citizens ever be considered the legitimate business of the state, which is what Section 377 implies?

•Post-colonial India, though a democracy with some considerable achievements, has failed miserably to interrogate the laws under which it is governed; laws made to serve the colonial project of Britain. But now, with an urgency that has surprised the country’s LGBT community, of which I am a member, the Supreme Court of India has turned the tables by entertaining a curative petition in the matter of its own ruling in 2013 that Section 377 is not violative of India’s Constitution.

An empowerment

•The court has given an opportunity to LGBT activists to make their case, for the religious groups that oppose the decriminalisation of consensual same-sex acts to state their position and asked the Government of India what it has to say about retaining Section 377. In one fell swoop the Court has empowered a group marginalised beyond imagination, one not just excluded from social life but actually criminalised on the basis of mere prejudice. It matters little what the final ruling will be in the case for one thing is certain. There will be no return to the original scoreboard so far as sexual rights is concerned. The idea of sexual equality has now been sown and will only gain currency.

•Even as the hearings in the Supreme Court have been covered extensively in the media, it has willy nilly drawn attention to two related aspects — namely the role of the political class and the question of the democratic content of the Indian LGBT movement itself.

Scant political concern

•The political class manages a democracy. In the Westminster model that we follow, this opportunity goes to the political party that gains power every five years. It is astounding that India’s political parties have had next to nothing to say on the repeal of Section 377 while the hearings are on. Even the Indian Psychiatric Society has rushed through a position paper stating that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. Though this has come a full 45 years after a similar ruling by its American counterpart, it at least reflects a concern with being seen as credible.

•No such concern appears to afflict our political parties. Clearly the Bharatiya Janata Party’s cultural nationalism does not extend to erasing a colonial stain on Indian life. The repression that grips its psyche is reflected in the deposition reportedly made in court by the Government of India that not even “unnatural sex” in private need be treated as an offence. This mealy-mouthedness is of a piece with the tweet by a leading member of the party some years ago that gay men — he had chosen the colonial “homos” — are “genetically handicapped”. He later refined his position to tweet that “if they flaunt it, it has to be punished & therefore there has to be Section 377 of the IPC”. Now who has decided that flaunting your sexuality is any more vulgar than flaunting your foreign economics degree?

•As for the Congress party, whose leadership considers it to be India’s answer to social democracy, its silence leaves it open to the charge of cowardice. In a party that otherwise makes a show of its concern for the minorities, its own foreign-educated strategists appear to have missed the observation by John Rechy, a pioneer of the American gay movement, that gay men are “the only minority against whose existence there are laws”.

•For the Congress party it seems the only minorities are the religious ones. In an unusual gesture, soon after the reading down of Section 377 by the Delhi High Court in 2009, the Law Minister was featured on television assuring men in cassocks that “it is wonly a reading” (sic), implying that the Congress Party ‘would keep in mind the sentiments of religious minorities’. Why is it necessary to appease Christian lobbies in India on the matter after Pope Francis has said “Whom am I to judge?” when asked about same-sex relationships? The president of the Congress party recently met Muslim ‘intellectuals’ presumably to listen to their concerns. This is only appropriate in a democracy. However, at the same time and at the very least he could have used Twitter, a medium that he appears to enjoy using, to express his support to LGBT Indians as they face a trial of monumental significance not just to them but for Indian democracy itself.

•More generally, it reflects the quite extraordinary evolution of democracy in India that groups claiming to represent the religious minorities, while scouring the political space for every privilege, try to deny the most basic rights to a secular minority, the LGBT. As an Indian committed to a secular state, I can only repeat “this was not what I had meant at all”.

Questions for the community

•Finally though, the ball returns to the court of the LGBT community itself. As we contemplate a future after the closing of the trial, whatever may be the verdict, the question is how the community will govern itself and what role it will play in spreading the freedom it has received from the mere playing out of its case in the highest court in the land these few days past. Will India’s LGBT members create an inclusive world, embracing people of all ages and every appearance? Will they be true to its colours and be part of a rainbow coalition to make India a democracy that includes others on the margins, namely women, the manual scavengers and the physically challenged? Only time will tell. For the moment though, abandoned by the political parties and their intellectual servitors, they may be allowed to savour this redemptive moment for Indian democracy by remembering the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’: “My chains are gone, I’ve been set free”.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Explaining Britain’s industrial revolution

A paper tests the popular ‘high wage economy’ hypothesis

•Why did the industrial revolution take place in Britain? Economic historians have proposed various hypotheses to answer why Britain was the first country in the world to transform from an agricultural to an industrial economy. One of the most popular among them is the ‘high wage economy’ hypothesis put forward by American economic historian Robert C. Allen. Allen proposed that the high cost of labour in Britain relative to the cost of fossil fuels like coal encouraged British companies to adopt technology that would help them save on their labour costs. So the need for British businesses to save on their labour costs supposedly spurred the industrial revolution.

•“Spinning the industrial revolution”, a 2018 paper published by Jane Humphries and Benjamin Schneider in The Economic History Review studies the spinning industry in Britain before the advent of the industrial revolution to examine if Allen’s hypothesis actually holds true. Contrary to the Allen hypothesis, the authors find that labourers employed in Britain’s spinning industry were actually paid low wages. One reason for this was that the owners of spinning mills were able to tap an abundant source of cheap labour in the form of women and children from rural Britain. The authors find that there was “no substantial jump in nominal, real, or relative wages for spinners leading up to the spinning innovations of the 1760s and 1770s”. Thus, they come to the conclusion that high wages probably do not explain why the industrial revolution originated in Britain rather than in some other country, and highlight the need for alternative explanations.

•A possible flaw in the Allen hypothesis is that it fails to recognise that disparities in factor prices can only influence the kind of technology adopted by businesses. It cannot, by itself, influence whether or not businesses choose to adopt new technology. So, businesses faced with high wages may be more likely to invest in labour-saving technology, while those with high rents invest in land-saving technology. This does not mean that businesses will not adopt new technology unless there is a disparity in factor prices. Businesses trying to earn profits always look to adopt technology that can help them cut costs, irrespective of the relative prices of factors of production. If so, there is probably no reason to believe that there was something unique about factor prices in Britain that caused the industrial revolution to originate there.

๐Ÿ“ฐ National database for gun licence holders

From April next year: Home Ministry

•Come April 2019, names of all arms licence holders, new or old, will be included in a national database and they will be issued a unique identification number, according to the Home Ministry.

•The move is aimed at keeping a tab on authorised private gun holders, many of whom are often found involved in crimes and celebratory firing leading to loss of lives.

•Every licensing and renewing authority will have to enter the data in the National Database of Arms Licences system, which will generate a UIN, and with effect from April 1, 2019, any arms licence without UIN shall be considered invalid, the Ministry said in a notification.

•Additionally, any existing licensee holding multiple licences shall on or before April 1, 2019 make an application for grant of a single licence in respect of all firearms held by him or her under his or her UIN to the concerned licensing authority.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Kovind clears Assam Bill against witch-hunt

It prescribes a prison term of up to seven years

•President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent to the Bill against witch-hunting that the Assam Assembly passed three years ago has rejuvenated the campaign of a barely literate 65-year-old woman against superstition that has claimed scores of lives.

•“We can now tell the people that they cannot get away with killing or maiming people in the name of witchcraft,” Birubala Rabha told The Hindu from her village Thakurbhila in Goalpara district on Monday. Ms. Rabha has been campaigning against witch-hunting after a quack almost killed her son in 1996. She stood her ground despite the threat of excommunication by the local shaman and went on to rescue over 50 women from being branded as witches before launching Mission Birubala against the menace.

•On Sunday, Principal Secretary (Home and Political) L.S. Changsan said the State received the President’s approval for the Assam Witch Hunting (Prohibition, Prevention and Protection) Bill, 2015, on June 13. The State has already notified the Act.

•Ms. Rabha’s inputs had gone into the legislation, making every offence under the Act “cognizable, non-bailable and non-compoundable.” The Act prescribes a prison term of up to seven years and up to ₹5 lakh in fine for calling a person witch. It also has provisions to come with Section 302 of the IPC (punishment for murder) if someone is killed after being branded a witch. The punishment for leading a person to suicide may be extended to life imprisonment and up to ₹5 lakh in fine.

•Another important person behind the legislation is Director-General of Police Kuladhar Saikia. As Deputy Inspector-General in Kokrajhar, he launched Project Prahari in 2001, which blended normal policing with social campaigns to check the menace.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Dark clouds over the RTI

Any move to amend the RTI Act must involve public consultation

•The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)government has struck another blow against transparency and accountability. Its already negative track record — that has been marked by an unwillingness to operationalise the Lok Pal, the Whistleblowers Act and the Grievance Redress law — has taken another step backwards if one is to go by a single line in item 14 in the legislative agenda of the monsoon session of Parliament (from July 18). It says: “To amend The Right to Information (RTI) Act 2005 — for Introduction, Consideration, and Passing.” The government will most likely proclaim these proposed amendments to be “progressive” as it did with its inverted definition of bringing about “transparency” in political party funding through “secret” electoral bonds. For such a dispensation, the RTI is an obvious threat.

•Since 2005, the RTI Act has helped transform the relationship between the citizen and government, dismantle illegitimate concentrations of power, legitimise the demand for answers, and assist people in changing centuries of feudal and colonial relationships. But public servants, troubled by accountability, have seen this as interference. As a result, the RTI Act has been under constant threat of amendments. At least two major attempts to amend the Act have been met with such strong popular resistance that the government of the day has had to back off. This time, it seems as if the government has decided to avoid all norms of transparency and consultation in trying to impose its undemocratic will.

•It is a bitter irony that a little over a decade after the RTI Act was operationalised, proposed amendments have been kept secret; there has not even been a hint of public consultation.

Undermining consultation

•It is no secret that the intent of this government is questionable. Applications for information about amendments made under the RTI Act have been stonewalled and information denied. Any amendment to the law should have been discussed before it went to the cabinet, as in the “pre legislative consultation policy” of the government of India (

•But more danger lies ahead. Bureaucratic jargon such as “consideration” is a euphemism for pushing the amendment through without due consideration of parliamentary processes. For some time now, major pieces of legislation, including those that affect the transparency regime, are being pushed through without being sent to multi-party standing committees. Worse still, in order to avoid facing the strength of the Opposition, there have been steps to steamroller legislative measures (in the garb of money Bills) that have destabilised access to information such as Aadhaar and electoral bonds.

Blow to transparency

•The spirit of the RTI law lies in not just the filing of an RTI application and getting an answer. It actually mandates the replacement of a prevailing culture of secrecy with a culture of transparency. Under Section 4(2) of the RTI Act, which has been poorly implemented, it says: “It shall be a constant endeavour of every public authority... to provide as much information suomotu to the public at regular intervals... so that the public have minimum resort to the use of this Act to obtain information.” One can understand why there is an attempt to undermine the RTI Act in letter and spirit.

Hampering acccountability

•The popular movement for accountability which swept across the country five years ago has also been successfully neutralised — at least for now. While the RTI Act allowed us to uncover fraud, it was difficult to ensure that the information could be used to hold a bureaucrat or elected representative accountable. The Lokpal debate, for example, highlighted grand corruption, but those who protested across India were personally fed up with the inefficiency of public servants and their impunity. Accountability to the people should have been institutionalised through a strong social accountability and Grievance Redress Act, as promised by the BJP. That promise has been forgotten. The Lokpal Act is now in cold storage. No Lokpal appointments have been made, despite repeated prodding by the Supreme Court; in fact the government has tried to protect bureaucrats by amending the Lokpal Act in such a way that assets of family members of public servants do not have to be disclosed in the public domain.

•Citizens’ movements in India have been energetic and courageous. The use of the RTI has led to more than 70 citizens fighting corruption losing their lives, but the government remains unaffected. People have been demanding a strong whistle-blower protection law, but like the Lokpal, the Whistle Blowers Protection Act has been ignored, with attempts to amend the law that will completely negate its intent.

•It is notable that amendments to the RTI rules that were put up for public feedback have reportedly been withdrawn after objections. It is without justification that a government which could place its rules for public consultation should now shy away from placing amendments in the public domain. Though there have been reports that the proposed amendments seek to change the status of the information commissions, it is not worth discussing these in an opaque framework.

•Secret amendments to a law fashioned and used extensively are deeply suspect. This time round, it is far more critical that all of us rally together again for the people of India cannot afford to lose what has been gained through the RTI.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Fix the pothole problem

The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, which attempts to address the issue of liability for road defects, must be passed

•Three years ago, when Dadarao Bilhore lost his son, Prakash, to a road crash caused by a pothole in Mumbai, he decided that it was time to take matters into his own hands. He visited local authorities and urged them to repair the potholes. He received condolences and assurances, but things haven’t changed. On July 11, a 45-year-old man was crushed to death by a passing truck when he fell into a pothole in Kalyan, Mumbai. This is just one among the many recent deaths caused by potholes in the city. In 2016, potholes claimed six lives every day in India. The numbers could be higher as dozens of pothole-related deaths go unaccounted because crash reporting protocols vary from State to State.

•According to official statistics, potholes claimed 11,836 lives and left 36,421 persons injured in India from 2013 to 2016. A State-wise analysis of data pertaining to road crashes due to potholes reveals that Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra have maintained a fairly consistent record of being among the top four in road crashes, injuries and deaths due to faulty roads, particularly potholes. Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Odisha and West Bengal feature regularly among the top 10 States in the same category.

Pinning blame

•Every year, pothole-related deaths make it to the headlines especially during the monsoon season. The irony of the situation is that instead of booking cases against contractors or engineers for shoddy maintenance of roads, police reports often blame the victims or drivers for ‘death due to negligence’. Negligence on the part of road owners or maintenance authorities is rarely brought to book.

•The Indian Road Congress has prescribed over 100 sets of guidelines to ensure standardised road construction, maintenance and management, including guidelines for repairing potholes. The challenge lies in ensuring that these guidelines are implemented. The absence of a unified statute or law on road construction, engineering and maintenance makes it nearly impossible to ensure that these guidelines are implemented.

•The existing legislation for road safety, the Motor Vehicles Act, has no provisions to ensure accountability of road authorities for defects in the engineering, design and maintenance of roads. Thankfully, the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017, which seeks to strengthen the Act, has attempted to address the issue of liability for road defects. For any road crash injury or death caused by defective road design and engineering, the designated authority responsible to construct and maintain the road is to be penalised with a sum capped at ₹1 lakh. The Bill directs that safety standards be prescribed by the Central government. Unfortunately, road contractors and engineers will still not be held criminally liable for causing deaths and injuries, which organisations like the SaveLIFE Foundation have been demanding. But a fine, even if it is a small amount, is a step in the right direction.

•Potholes are usually caused by the presence of heavy traffic and water on roads. Several studies conducted in cities such as Chandigarh and Mumbai point to the lack of a proper drainage system and weak proportioning of aggregates for road construction as major reasons for pothole formation. Therefore, it becomes necessary to ensure the use of standardised methodology and good quality material when constructing roads. There also needs to be regular maintenance and an effective system to ensure accountability. There is a need to incorporate the Safe System Approach in all aspects of road design, engineering and construction. This approach takes into account the possibility of human error and ensures that the surrounding environment and infrastructure are designed to save lives.

A multisectoral issue

•Road safety is a multisectoral issue. At a policy level, the first step is to create an enabling framework that weaves in different progressive aspects across stakeholder sectors under one legislation. The Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2017 aims to rectify several systemic issues by providing a uniform driver licensing system, protecting children and vulnerable road users, rationalising penalties and creating a system of accountability in the construction of roads. The Bill was sent to the Rajya Sabha last Monsoon Session; a year later, it still awaits passage. The Bill is not a panacea for all problems, but it is the first step towards ensuring that no deaths are caused by road crashes.

๐Ÿ“ฐ India, Iran pledge to maintain trade levels

New Delhi strikes a defiant note against demands by the U.S. to cut oil imports from Tehran to ‘zero’

•Striking a defiant note against the U.S.’s demands to “zero” out oil imports and end engagement with Iran, Indian and Iranian officials said they would “maintain the momentum” of bilateral cooperation between them.

•External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will also travel to Tehran for the next Joint Commission meeting in November, an official statement said, which is the month U.S. sanctions on energy trade would go into effect.

•“Both sides reviewed and positively assessed the progress in implementation of decisions taken during [President Rouhani’s visit], especially for enhancing connectivity and strengthening cooperation in trade and economic issues and in the promotion of people-to-people exchanges. It was agreed to maintain the momentum of mutually beneficial multifaceted bilateral cooperation and exchanges between the two sides []” the Ministry of External Affairs said at the end of talks between visiting Iran deputy Foreign Minister Seyyed Abbas Araghchi and Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, adding that both sides had discussed “issues that have arisen over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).”

•On May 8, the United States pulled out of the 6-nation JCPOA, and decided to reimpose sanctions on Iran, due to be implemented in two batches; on August 6 and November 4, with U.S. officials asking all countries including India to bring oil imports from Iran to zero.

•Monday’s meetings with Iranian diplomats came a day ahead of talks with a senior U.S. team including Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Marshall Billingslea and State Department official Andrew Peek where the U.S. will discuss its demand for compliance with sanctions to “isolate Iran.” Speaking to a small group of journalists after the meeting, Mr. Araghchi said he “had a very good sense” from his meeting that India and Iran will continue their cooperation despite the U.S. threats.

•“There are many routes by which Iran and India can cooperate in important fields for both sides especially energy and Chabahar. We know that there are pressures from outside but we count on the Indian government to make proper decisions in favour of the national interest of India,” Mr. Araghchi replied to a question from The Hindu.

•Indian and Iranian officials have already indicated that they will use the Rupee-Rial mechanism initiated in 2012, which allows India to import oil and pay through a special fund that allows Iran to import food and other goods from India in return. Iranian diplomats are also hopeful that European countries who had taken part in the previous round of sanctions in 2012 will not enforce them this time around, freeing the way for Indian small and medium companies who are not dealing with the United States for now.

•Iran is India's third-largest oil supplier after Iraq and Saudi Arabia, and India is Iran’s second largest oil importer after China, taking about $30 million tonnes of crude last year. While officials concede that the U.S. sanctions, accompanied by a push from visiting U.S. U.N. envoy Nikki Haley to “revise” ties with Iran, will have some effect on India’s capacity to continue energy trade with its traditional partner, but Indian officials are expected to tell the U.S. that “zeroing out” imports may not be an option. When asked, Mr. Araghchi denied reports that Indian refineries have already cut oil imports from Iran by 16% in June. “We don't have these reports yet. The current levels are still the same as previous months, but colleagues are talking about next month's purchases from Iran which is still an open issue,” he added.

•Officials also discounted any impact of the U.S. sanctions on India’s investment in Chabahar’s Shahid Beheshti port, where it has committed $85 million on current construction, and a total of $500 million on the project including railway lines. In 2012 the U.S. had given Indian investment a “carve-out”, but has not yet indicated any waiver for the project in the current round of sanctions which including ports and shipping sectors.

•“It is in the ultimate interest of India to continue this project. This has big political and strategic importance for both countries, and I am confident we can work together to take this project forward,” Mr. Araghchi told reporters before leaving for Tehran.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Wholesale price inflation touches a four-year high

Wholesale price inflation touches a four-year high
Driven in large part by rising fuel prices

•Inflation at the wholesale level quickened to 5.77% in June, the highest since December 2013, driven in large part by rising fuel prices, according to official data released on Monday.

•Growth in the Wholesale Price Index (WPI) accelerated in June from 4.43% in May, and is far higher than the 0.9% seen in June last year.

Marginal rise

•While inflation in the primary articles component of the index quickened to 5.3% in June from 3.16% in May, this was not due to food price inflation, which accelerated only marginally to 1.8% from 1.6% over the same period. “Paddy inflation showed a decline on a monthly basis, but the announcement of kharif MSP [minimum support price] by the Union government is expected to push it beyond the current levels,” Sunil Kumar Sinha, principal economist, India Ratings and Research, wrote in a note.

•The real upward push in wholesale inflation came from the crude petroleum and natural gas segment, which saw inflation surging to 48.7% in June from 26.9% in the previous month. Similarly, the fuel and power segment saw inflation quicken to 16.2% from 11.2% over the same period. Wholesale inflation in manufacturing accelerated in June to 4.17% from 3.73% in May.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Upgraded Vikas engine — with more thrust — will boost ISRO’s rockets

Upgraded Vikas engine — with more thrust — will boost ISRO’s rockets
•All three satellite launch vehicles of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) are set to add muscle to their spacecraft lifting power in upcoming missions this year. The space agency has improved the thrust of the Vikas engine that powers all of them. The agency said the high-thrust engine qualified on Sunday after a ground test lasting 195 seconds (over three minutes).

Main beneficiary

•The main beneficiary of the high-thrust Vikas engine is said to be the heavy-lifting GSLV-Mark III launcher, which ISRO expects will now put 4,000-kg satellites to space. This would be the third Mk-III and the first working one to be designated MkIII Mission-1 or M1.

•The first MkIII of June 2017 started with a 3,200-kg satellite and the second one is being readied for lifting a 3,500-kg spacecraft.

•The Vikas engine “will improve the payload capability of PSLV, GSLV and GSLVMk-III launch vehicles,” ISRO said. The improvement effort, the second such since December 2001, was conducted at ISRO Propulsion Complex in Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu.

•S. Somanath, Director, Launch Vehicles Centre, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, said the incremental benefit of the upgraded engine should be seen in the PSLV and GSLV missions over the coming months. MkIII-D2, the second test flight of the heavy-lifter, is being assembled. The new engine will be used in the subsequent mission — M1.

•The Vikas engine is used in the second stage of the light lifting PSLV; the second stage and the four add-on stages of the medium-lift GSLV; and the twin-engine core liquid stage of Mk-III.

•Mr. Somanath said that, eventually, ISRO will phase out Vikas by replacing it first in Mk-III with a cleaner and safer semi-cryogenic engine. The semi-cryo engine is ready for trial; its stage has just been approved. “I cannot predict when it [the replacement] can happen,” he said.

๐Ÿ“ฐ SC lashes out at Centre on pollution

Questions delay in ban on import of petcoke

•“Let’s be clear about something, the people of this country are more important for us than anything,” the Supreme Court lashed out at the Union Ministry of Environment on Monday.

•The Supreme Court’s Green Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta made this clear to the government while hearing the issue of ban on import of petcoke — a toxic fuel used in hazardous industries.

•“What is more important for you? Saving lives of people or industry?” Justice Lokur asked the government, represented by Additional Solicitor General A.N.S. Nadkarni in court.

•When Mr. Nadkarni said “lives,” Justice Lokur asked then why is there a “delay” in imposing a ban.

•“Newspaper reports said 60,000 people died of pollution last year. People are dying in the city. There is huge amount of pollution. People are not supposed to breathe anymore or what?” Justice Lokur asked.

•Amicus curiae informed the Supreme Court that the Environment Ministry is “not bothered about the environment.”

•“When the Ministry of Petroleum is saying ‘please stop import of petcoke’, the Environment Ministry is not concerned. This report filed by the Ministry of Environment is an ‘Alice in Wonderland’ report. They are employing delay tactics,” the amicus curiae submitted.

Nationwide ban

•The court has been urging the government since December 2017 to move forward towards a nationwide ban on the use of petcoke and furnace oil to power up industries in a bid to fight pollution.

•The court had by then, in October last year, already ordered a ban on the industrial use of petcoke and furnace oil in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan.

•The ban on use came after an EPCA Report, including the ban on sale, distribution and use of furnace oil and petcoke in the NCR. Their use is already prohibited in Delhi.

•Pursuant to the Supreme Court ban, both the Environment Ministry and the Central Pollution Control Board had brought into “immediate effect a prohibition on the use of petcoke and furnace oil by any industry, operation or processes within the States of Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan until further orders.”

•The court had even highlighted how petcoke is being imported from countries like the United States and China, which have already stopped using them after due consideration of its harmful effects on human beings and environment.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Sugar production set to hit a record high next season

Cane farmers stare at recordpayment arrears

•Cane farmers may face about ₹25,000 crore in payment arrears from sugar mills by next May, according to industry estimates. With an 8% increase in acreage under sugarcane and adequate rainfall expected to lead to a bumper crop, the resultant production glut could hit farmers hard in an election year.

•Satellite images from the latter part of June show that the total acreage under sugarcane in the country is estimated to be around 54.35 lakh hectares this kharif season, an 8% increase from the previous year, according to a statement by the Indian Sugar Mills Association.

High yield

•With farmers switching more of their acreage to a cane variety with a higher sugar yield, ISMA expects mills to produce a record 350-355 lakh tonnes of sugar next year, even higher than the 322 lakh tonnes produced this year.

•“Next year, the conditions are likely to be tougher than ever before...We expect to produce at least 90 lakh tonnes more than needed for domestic consumption,” ISMA general secretary Abinash Verma told The Hindu. “And we will start the next marketing season [in October 2018] with at least 100 lakh tonnes carried over from this year’s record harvests.”

•In May 2018, mills’ pending dues to farmers had crossed ₹22,000 crore, according to the Food Ministry. Soon after the ruling BJP lost a key by-poll in Kairana in the heart of Uttar Pradesh sugarcane country, a slew of relief measures including a sugar production subsidy were announced.

•By the end of June, the arrears had dropped to ₹18,000 crore and is likely to drop further, partly spurred by the Centre’s sugar relief package. However, as farmers start harvesting and selling this year’s kharif cane crop from October, and mills struggle with their bloated inventory, those dues are likely to rise again to at least ₹25,000 crore by the summer of 2019, according to industry sources.

•One way to reduce that inventory and increase cash flow to mills, and ultimately to farmers, is to increase exports.

•“We will aim to export 60 lakh tonnes next year — a huge challenge — and we will still be left with 130 lakh tonnes,” said Mr. Verma.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Overdue correction: on revisiting the Companies Act

A relook at the overly harsh provisions of the Companies Act must yield action

•The Centre has announced the constitution of a committee to revisit several provisions of the Companies Act, 2013 that impose stiff penalties and, in some cases, prison terms as well, for directors and key management personnel. The 2013 law entailed the first massive overhaul of India’s legal regime to govern businesses that had been in place since 1956 and was borne of a long-drawn consultative process. Now, this 10-member committee appointed by the Corporate Affairs Ministry has been tasked with checking if certain offences can be ‘de-criminalised’. The panel, which includes top banker Uday Kotak, has been given 30 days to work out whether some of the violations that can attract imprisonment (such as a clerical failure by directors to make adequate disclosures about their interests) may instead be punished with monetary fines. It will also examine if offences punishable with a fine or imprisonment may be re-categorised as ‘acts’ that attract civil liabilities. Importantly, the committee has also been asked to suggest the broad contours for an adjudicatory mechanism that allows penalties to be levied for minor violations, perhaps in an automated manner, with minimal discretion available to officials. In fact, some of the provisions in the law are so tough that even a spelling mistake or typographical error could be construed as a fraud and lead to harsh strictures.

•The government hopes such changes in the regulatory regime would allow trial courts to devote greater attention to serious offences rather than get overloaded with cases as zealous officials blindly pursue prosecutions for even minor violations. The decision to build in harsh penalties and prison terms for corporate misdemeanours in the 2013 law was, no doubt, influenced by the high-pitched anti-corruption discourse that prevailed in the country at that moment in time. Apart from several cases of crony capitalism that had come to light during the second UPA government, massive corporate frauds reported at once-revered firms such as the erstwhile Satyam Computer Services had spooked investors and other stakeholders about the credibility of corporate India’s books and governance standards. When the NDA came to power in May 2014, a comprehensive review of the Companies Act was at the top of industry’s wish list as a means to revive the economy. Industry captains had red-flagged the impact of such provisions on the ease of doing business, and investor sentiment in general. A trust deficit between industry and government owing to stray incidents of corporate malfeasance should not inhibit normal business operations, they had argued. Four years down the line, the government is finally moving purposefully on this, a rethink perhaps triggered by the fact that private sector investment is yet to pick up steam and capital still seeks foreign shores to avoid regulatory risks. One hopes this is followed up on swiftly, before the ruling party slips into election mode.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Faster visas for minorities from three nations

Since 2011, nearly 30,000 Pakistanis have been granted long-term visas and, currently, 1,500 such applications are pending, says Home Ministry

•The Home Ministry has further liberalised the process for granting long-term visas (LTVs) to minorities from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh.

•The move comes days after one of its officials was arrested by the Rajasthan Anti-Corruption Bureau for allegedly extorting money from Pakistani Hindu migrants for their visa extension, visa transfer and grant of citizenship.

•The Home Ministry has reduced the time limit for security clearance of applicants from 45 days to 21 days.

•After an application reaches the central system, it’s forwarded to three agencies for verification — the State government, the Intelligence Bureau and the Home Ministry.

•“The State government, through the local police, has to run a background check on the applicants who has applied for an LTV. If the State doesn’t reply within 21 days, the system will log them out and the application will be deemed to be cleared. If, in future, there is a security implication, the onus will be on the State government,” a senior government official said.

Automatic process

•Once the replies from all agencies are fed in the system, the application is automatically processed.

•A Home Ministry official said that since 2011, nearly 30,000 Pakistanis had been granted LTVs and, currently, 1,500 such applications were pending. The LTVs are precursors to citizenship, based on the report given by the State governments.
Faster visas for minorities from three nations
•The visa facility, first introduced in 2011 for persecuted Hindus from Pakistan in 2011, was further liberalised after the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government came to power in 2014. The LTVs granted to Pakistani Hindus from 2011 to 2014 stood at 14,726.

•From January 1, 2015 to July 16 this year, 15,244 LTVs were issued.

•In 2015, the government granted concessions to Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Afghanistan nationals belonging to the Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Christian and Jain communities, who entered India on or before December 31, 2014, in respect of their entry and stay in India without proper documents or after the expiry of relevant documents.

•It also empowered revenue authorities in some States, not including Assam, to allow them to register properties and take up employment.

Amendment Bill

•The Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2015 that proposes citizenship to Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis, Christians and Buddhists from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who came to India before 2014 has hit a hurdle.

•There has been strong resistance to the Bill in Assam as it seeks to grant citizenship to non-Muslims from Bangladesh. Several political and civil groups in Assam have said that the Bill will pave the way for granting citizenship to illegal Hindu immigrants from Bangladesh in Assam in violation of the Assam Accord, 1985.

•There have been no exact numbers of such minority refugees from these countries but officials put the figure at around 2 lakh Hindu and Sikh refugees from Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan living in India.

•There are 400 Pakistani Hindu refugee settlements in cities such as Jodhpur, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Jaipur.

•Hindu refugees from Bangladesh mostly live in West Bengal and the northeastern States.

๐Ÿ“ฐ Army to resume M777 trials

Test was stopped last year following a barrel burst caused by faulty ammunition

•The Army will resume the trials of the U.S.-made M777 Ultra-Light Howitzer (ULH) in Pokhran firing range. The trials were suspended last September after barrel of a gun burst during firing.

•A defence official said they had received four guns for the trials. “Firing will resume this month and continue in August. Local ammunition will be used and tentatively 100-150 rounds will be fired,” the official said.

•In November 2016, India signed a deal with the U.S. government under the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) programme for 145 M777 guns at a cost of $737 million. Following this, two guns were delivered for calibration and making range tables with local ammunition when the barrel burst occurred. The trials have been suspended since.

•As the deal was through the FMS, the trials will be conducted by the U.S. government and India will be an observer. Following the trials, the Army will take formal custody of the guns.

U.S. review

•An Army team was in the U.S. in June to take stock of the investigation. A preliminary investigation after the incident had found faulty ammunition supplied by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) to be the cause of the accident.

•“The M777 gun delivery programme is proceeding to plan. Major upcoming milestones include hand-over of the first ULHs to the Indian Army and the mobilisation of the Assembly, Integration and Test facility at Mahindra,” a BAE Systems spokesperson told The Hindu.

•The M777 is a 155 mm, 39-calibre towed artillery gun made of titanium and aluminium alloys and weigh just four tonnes, making it transportable under slung by helicopters. Of the 145 guns, 25 will be imported while the remaining 120 will be assembled in the country in partnership with Mahindra group. Deliveries are slated to commence in March 2019.

Read More