1. Triple talaq is criminal offence
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared an ordinance that makes talaq-e-biddat, or instant triple talaq, a criminal offence that will attract a maximum jail term of three years. President Ram Nath Kovind later in the day gave his assent.
The new law, however, incorporates safeguards, including a provision for bail to an accused before the start of the trial.
While instant triple talaq will continue to be a “non-bailable” offence — the police cannot grant bail at the police station — the accused can approach a magistrate for bail even before trial.
The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill makes instant Triple Talaq illegal and imposes a jail term of up to 3 years.
2. NRC to process claims from September 25
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the opening of the process for receiving claims and objections from 40 lakh persons left out of the draft National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam from September 25.
A Special Bench of Justices Ranjan Gogoi and Rohinton F. Nariman said the process would “tentatively” continue for a period of 60 days.
The claimants can rely on any one or more of the 10 additional documents, of a total of 15, detailed in the list of the draft Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) submitted by the Centre. The court decided to leave out five among the 15 listed documents.
The Bench ordered NRC Co-ordinator Prateek Hajela to file a report with his views on the reliability of the five documents left out for the time being.
3. Afghanistan Ambassador to India quits
In a surprise move for the Afghanistan government, its Ambassador to India Dr. Shaida Mohammad Abdali quit on Wednesday, presenting his resignation personally to President Ashraf Ghani at the end of his one-day visit to Delhi.
Speaking to The Hindu, Dr. Abdali, who took over in July 2012, said he was returning to Afghanistan to address the deteriorating situation and to serve his “people and country.”
4. Pak. court frees Sharif, relatives
The Islamabad High Court on Wednesday suspended the jail sentences handed to former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Captain Safdar (retired) in a corruption case.
All of them have been granted bail.
On July 6, an Accountability Court had sentenced Mr. Sharif to 10 years in jail, Maryam Sharif to seven years and Captain Safdar to one year.
5. Cabinet clears ₹3,466 crore dam improvement project
The Hirakud dam in Sambalpur district of Odisha.
The government has approved a 65% hike, and extended by two years, a project to improve the stability and working of dams in 11 States.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, approved the Dam Rehabilitation Improvement Project (DRIP) project on Wednesday. Out of the ₹3,466 crore cleared, ₹2,628 crore would be funded by the World Bank and ₹747 crore by the States and Implementing Agencies (IAs), and the balance ₹91 crore by the Central Water Commission (CWC).
Originally, the total cost of DRIP was ₹2,100 crore with the States expected to fund ₹1,968 crore and the Centre ₹132 crore. Initially, the six-year project commenced on April 18, 2012, with a scheduled closing on June 30, 2018.
This has now been extended to June 2020. A dam safety Bill that sets directives on how the States and the Centre ought to have an institutional mechanism to better manage dams is still to be discussed in Parliament.
Six monthly reviews
There are 198 existing dams in Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Jharkhand (Damodar Valley Corporation) and Uttarakhand (Uttarakhand Jal Vidyut Nigam Limited) that would benefit from the project. In lieu of the funds, dam managers would have to adhere to recommendations by the CWC as well as subject themselves to six monthly reviews by the World Bank and an audit by an independent French agency, said an official in the Union Water Ministry, who did not wish to be identified.
Kerala, which saw devastating floods and questions raised on the management of its dams, will see 16 of the reservoirs managed by its Water Resources Department and 12 by that State’s Electricity Department, get funded under the DRIP programme to the tune of ₹ 514 crore.
6. Gujarat lawmakers give themselves a salary hike
The Gujarat Assembly on Wednesday unanimously passed a bill hiking salaries of legislators, Ministers, the Speaker, the Deputy Speaker and the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Whip and his deputy by ₹45,000 a month.
7. Imphal-Jiribam copter service begins
Manipur Chief Minister N. Biren inaugurated a passenger helicopter service between State capital Imphal and Jiribam district bordering Assam on Wednesday. He said this was just the beginning. “All other border districts, including Tengnoupal and Pherzawl, will soon get the passenger helicopter service,” he said.
8. Air Marshal Randhir Singh passes away at 97
Air Marshal Randhir Singh (retd.), a highly decorated Indian Air Force veteran, passed away here at the age of 97 after a brief illness. A contemporary of IAF’s late Marshal Arjan Singh, Air Marshal Randhir Singh, PVSM, AVSM, Vir Chakra, died on Tuesday night.
9. What are NRI bonds?
These are bonds issued by the Reserve Bank of India to non-resident Indians who are interested in investing their money in India. Since these bonds offer higher returns than other similar investments, they can be used as a tool to attract capital during times when other domestic assets fail to attract the interest of foreign investors. Many investors view them as a safe investment as these bonds are issued by the Indian central bank.
Why are they in the news?
The sharp slide in the value of the rupee has led to speculation that the RBI might opt to issue NRI bonds worth $30-35 billion in order to help attract dollar investment into the country. The rupee’s fall of 13.7% since the beginning of the year has been caused by two factors. On the one hand, capital has been moving out of India’s capital markets. Foreign portfolio investors pulled out ₹47,836 crore in the first half of the year, a 10-year high. On the other, Indian exports have been losing demand, while imports of commodities like crude oil have risen significantly. India’s current account deficit hit a five-year high in July. Both these factors have combined to cause an increase in the demand for the dollar, thus leading to the fall in the value of the rupee.
10. Omitted variable bias
This refers to any bias in a predictive model which is the result of the omission of variables that are relevant to the outcome. The omission of a relevant variable can, among other things, lead to erroneous conclusions about the relative influence of different variables on a certain outcome. A researcher trying to determine the factors that influence unemployment, for instance, would be committing an error if he were to ignore the effect of the minimum wage on the unemployment rate. The omitted variable bias is a common problem in the field of regression analysis where researchers try to ascertain the influence of different variables on an outcome.
11. Ban in force in Sri Lanka, Pakistan
India’s neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are among the countries that have banned the practice of instant triple talaq prevalent among Muslims for divorce.
India and 22 other countries have banned it.
In Pakistan and Bangladesh, the law requires the man who wishes to divorce his wife to give the ‘arbitration council’ a written notice of his having done so, and supply a copy of the same to his wife.
In Pakistan, triple talaq was abolished when it issued its Muslim Family Law Ordinance in 1961, according to Geo News. In Afghanistan, divorce through three pronouncements made in only one sitting is considered to be invalid. Sri Lanka’s Marriage and Divorce (Muslim) Act, 1951, amended up to 2006, also prohibits triple talaq.
12. ‘S. Korea wants to elevate ties with India’
One of the major foreign policy initiatives of President Moon Jae-in of South Korea is the government’s ‘New Southern Policy’, with a goal of deepening ties with South East Asian nations as well as India, and building an inclusive regional architecture in Asia, said an expert.
In an interaction with a group of Indian journalists, Choe Wongi, head of the Centre for ASEAN-India Studies at Korea National Diplomatic Academy, said there were similarities “between our approach and that of India towards regional issues”.
Concerns about BRI
“India wants to be more vocal about maritime security in the region. We are aware of it. There are increasing activities by China in the Indian Ocean region. There are concerns about the BRI (Belt and Road Initiative)… Nobody is appreciating what they are doing in the South China Sea. But a confrontational approach is not good,” he said. “China is… the largest trading partner of most countries in Asia. Whether we like China or not, we have to live with it,” said Mr. Choe, who’s involved in training South Korean diplomats.
He added that South Korea’s main policy objective was not to get subsumed into the U.S.-China rivalry in Asia. “The U.S. Indo-Pacific policy is simple. We have to play by the rules. There are no exceptions. Even China is not an exception… [I]f the U.S. takes an aggressive approach, we can’t be part of it. That’s the message from regional countries. What we need is an inclusive regional architecture in Asia.”
He added that South Korea, as part of this strategy, wants to build stronger ties with ASEAN and India on multiple fronts — economic, bilateral and strategic. India and South Korea have agreed to boost bilateral trade to $50 billion by 2030 from $20 billion now.
At the diplomatic level, Mr. Choe said Seoul wanted to elevate ties with India to the level of those with four other major powers around the Korean Peninsula — the U.S., China, Russia and Japan. Asked about South Korea’s approach towards the BRI, he said: “We welcome BRI. But China is pursuing BRI projects unilaterally or bilaterally. That’s the problem… We want BRI to be more open and transparent.”
13. Call for second Brexit vote grows stronger
The national campaign for a second referendum on whether Britain should leave the EU on the terms being negotiated by the government set out six scenarios in which such a vote would be possible, as it sought new momentum to show that the referendum — long talked about in theory — was practically possible.
“More than two years since the 2016 referendum, a political, economic and possibly constitutional crisis is gathering across the United Kingdom… the most viable and democratic way of resolving it is to allow the public to have their say on Brexit. To deny them a voice challenges the basic principle of informed consent,” said Lord Kerr, a former civil servant and former U.K. Ambassador to the EU, who authored a report published on Wednesday.
According to a poll published by YouGov in July, 42% of people in the U.K. believe there should be a referendum on the terms of the Brexit deal, while 40% do not.
Parliament is set to vote on the terms of the agreement being reached by the U.K. government later this year. Campaigners for the “people’s vote” suggest that a motion in the House of Commons at the time of the vote could be used to secure a referendum, as could amendments to Brexit legislation.
If MPs reject the Brexit deal, or no final deal is reached by January 21 next year, the government must table a statement on how it wants to proceed, and Parliament could use the vote that would take place on this as an opportunity to call for a referendum.
Other scenarios could include a snap general election, or the Prime Minister calling for one in the event of a no-deal scenario looking likely. “If a people’s vote is not granted by Parliament, it will not be due to procedural impediments or a lack of time, but because MPs have chosen not to take these opportunities,” said the report.
14. Kim agrees to abolish missile facilities, allow inspections
North Korea said on Wednesday that it would permanently abolish its key missile facilities in the presence of foreign experts, the latest gesture by leader Kim Jong-un to revive faltering talks with Washington.
Speaking at a joint news conference in Pyongyang, Mr. Kim and South Korean President Moon Jae-in said they agreed to turn the Korean Peninsula into a “land of peace without nuclear weapons and nuclear threats”. They said the North was also willing to close its main nuclear complex if the U.S. took unspecified ”reciprocal action”.
Kim to visit Seoul
Mr. Kim said he would visit Seoul in the near future, in what would be the first-ever visit to the South’s capital by a North Korean leader. Mr. Moon said the visit was expected to take place by the end of the year.
The leaders of the two Koreas also announced a series of steps to deepen bilateral exchanges in the economy, culture and sport. Though North Korea has unilaterally stopped nuclear and missile tests, it did not allow international inspections of the dismantling its only known nuclear test site in May, drawing criticism.
As a next step, North Korea will allow experts from ”concerned countries” to watch the closure of its missile engine testing site and launch pad in the northwestern town of Dongchang-ri, according to a joint statement signed by Mr. Moon and Mr. Kim.
The North also “expressed its readiness” to take additional measures, such as a permanent dismantlement of its main nuclear facilities in Yongbyon should there be unspecified corresponding action from the U.S.
The two Koreas agreed to begin construction to reconnect railways and roads linking the countries within this year.
They also agreed to pursue a bid to co-host the 2032 Summer Olympic Games, and actively work together in other international competitions including the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.
15. Rationalisation of CS schemes mooted
Several Centrally Sponsored Schemes (CSS) are just boutique in nature with ‘dubious’ outcomes, the 15th Finance Commission of the Union Government has noted while calling for urgent rationalisation of the CSSs.
The pruning of such schemes would give the State governments greater measure of flexibility in financing, Commission Chairman N.K. Singh said here on Wednesday.
‘High costs incurred’
“There are far too many of these boutique schemes with dubious outcomes in the States. Even the ones which are operational do not justify the high establishment cost being incurred on them,” he told reporters. The commission concluded its two-day consultations with the Maharashtra government, trade, industry leaders, economists and politicians. Among some core observations it made, the commission noted the general status of public financing in States remains ‘stressed’ owing to payments made towards the Seventh Pay Commission, loan waivers given to farmers and debt restructuring under the UDAY scheme. “The commission is looking at ways to restrict some of these schemes even as the Reserve Bank of India has pointed towards the stress on State finances as result,” he said.
16. 10 public lenders get CEOs
The Centre on Wednesday appointed chief executives to 10 public sector banks. The banks which got new heads include Syndicate Bank, Andhra Bank, Maharashtra Bank, Indian Bank, United Bank of India, Allahabad Bank, Dena Bank and others.
After approval from the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, the Department of Personnel and Training issued the appointment notification on Wednesday.
Padmaja Chundru has been appointed as MD & CEO of Indian Bank, Mrutyunjay Mahapatra as MD & CEO of Syndicate Bank, and Pallav Mahapatra as MD & CEO of Central Bank of India.
All three are with the State Bank of India (SBI) as deputy managing directors and now have been promoted to head smaller public sector banks independently.
Moreover, J. Packirisamy has been moved from SBI to Andhra Bank as MD & CEO, while S.S. Mallikarjuna Rao, the executive director (ED) of Syndicate Bank, has been moved to Allahabad Bank as MD & CEO. SBI deputy MD Karnam Sekar has been moved to Dena Bank as MD & CEO.
Executive Director of Indian Bank A.S. Rajeev has been moved to Bank of Maharashtra as MD & CEO. Similarly, Executive Director of Union Bank of India Atul Kumar Goel has been shifted to UCO Bank as MD & CEO.
S. Hari Shanker, ED of Allahabad Bank, has been moved to Punjab and Sind Bank as MD & CEO. Ashok Kumar Pradhan, ED of United Bank of India, has been elevated as MD & CEO in the same bank.
In addition, the Centre has appointed members on the board of southern, northern and eastern boards of the Reserve Bank of India.
17. Sajan corners the limelight; five new records set
Sajan Prakash kept his date with records as he blitzed his way to two new marks on the opening day of the Glenmark 72nd National senior swimming championship here on Wednesday.
Five new records, including a best Indian performance, were set. Sajan Prakash started in style by erasing the 200m freestyle meet record in the first final of the day.
Sajan clocked 2:05.63 to break Rehan Poncha’s nine-year-old record of 2:05.89s.
Sandeep Sejwal, who set a new record during the 50m breaststroke heats, was slower in the final but still won the gold easily.
International Shivani Kataria led from start to finish to improve her own record in the 200m freestyle event.
Shivani, who finished at least 10 metres ahead of her nearest rival, clocked 2:05.86s to sink her own mark (2:05.63) set last year.
Dam Rehabilitation Improvement Project (DRIP)
BRI (Belt and Road Initiative)
19. Things to Remember:
Chairman of the 15th Finance Commission of the Union Government – N.K. Singh
Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad
Assam Chief Minister – Sarbananda Sonowal
Manipur Chief Minister – N. Biren
Andhra Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu
20. Improve your Vocabulary:
Meaning – An opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information.
Example – ‘conjectures about the newcomer were many and varied’
Synonyms – guess, speculation, surmise, fancy, notion, belief, suspicion, presumption, assumption, theory, hypothesis, postulation, supposition