Today’s Current Affairs, November 22 (from Hindu and other sources)

The Hindu November 22, 2019

Front page

Supreme Court urges center to address all concerns pertaining to life in J &K ..

Apparently unconvinced by the Solicitor General’s claim that life has returned to normal after the abrogation of Article 370, the Bench headed by Justice N. V. Ramana directed the center to give a point by point reply to each of the concerns raised by some petitioners aggrieved by the continuing distress in the valley. The Attorney General, Venugopal claimed that only a few of the restrictions remain, but, the intent of the government was to pave the way for better and safer future for the Kashmiri people. The advocate for the petitioners, Sanjay Hegde, averred that the apparent calm in the valley is deceptive. Excessive military force has numbed the public to silence. The lull, therefore, is superficial and temporary.

A government led by Shiv Sena with active participation of NCP, and the Congress inches closer to reality ..

The Shiva Sena supremo, Udhab Thackeray called on Sharad Pawar around midnight apparently to thrash out some remaining issues pertaining to the proposed new government.

Pragya Thakur and Farooq Abdullah are opted in to the parliamentary panel on Defence…

Farooq Abdullah is in indefinite detention, and Pragya Thakur is a terror-accused, out on bail. Her trial is on. Quite predictably, Pragya Thakur’s induction kicked off a social media storm yesterday with numerous citizens venting their surprise and anger against the government for the selection of such a controversial person. What contribution she could make to matters of defense is a baffling question.

India prevails upon the new Sri Lankan government to hasten the process of reconciliation with the Tamils ..

The northern parts of Sri Lanka where Tamils are in majority have been gripped by fear after the new President Gotabaya Rajapaksa roared to power in the recent election. The Tamils know how he had led the military onslaught that had eliminated the LTTE for good. Although the terror threat is gone, the memory of the atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan army led by Gotabaya still haunts the Tamils. The Tamils have their regional government in the north. Yet, there is a lack of trust between the Sihalese-dominated central government and the state government of the Tamils. The Indian Minister of External Affairs, Mr.  Jayashankar has asked the Sri Lankan government under Gotabaya to act with greater urgency to mainstream the minority Tamils, so that the bitterness of the past is forgotten fast.

CBI finds little substance in allegations that the suicide of Ganapathy  was orchestrated .. The suicide of the senior police officer, Ganapaty in 2016 has rocked Karnataka since then. After a long investigation,  the  CBI has concluded that Ganapathy apparently suffered from depression and some unknown mental disorder that led him to take his own life. The CBI has absolved the former Home Minister, George, and senior IPS officers, Mohanty and Prasad of the charge of abetting the suicide.  The suicide video of the deceased officer has also been discounted by the CBI as being the product of a deluded mind, and unworthy of being given any evidence value.

Bengaluru matters …

RGHUS goes for a drastic make-over….

RGUHS (Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences) has increased the duration of its B.S courses to four years, and name the various courses differently. This would improve the skill and employability of its graduates, besides making them eligible to seek admission in universities abroad.

Shopping vegetables at night ..

Since Bengaluru has many IT/ ITES firms and other factories that work 24×7, the companies have been clamoring for shops to remain open all night, so that the employees returning home could buy their essential items like vegetables, grocery etc. Now, the trade bodies have come forward to keep certain number of such outlets open at night to help night-shift workers to make their purchases. The establishments have been ordered to recruit extra salesmen for working at night.

Police personnel will be trained to be courteous and communicative..

Steps are being taken to train the police personnel to improve their body language and soft skills, so that the public treat them as friends, and not as hostile and heavy-handed law enforcers.

Mahadevpura’s roads get flooded as STPs of nearby apartments drain their water to drains ..

The sight of slush and mud on roads has long been an eyesore and a nuisance for the public of Mahadevpura. The problem has been attributed to Sewage Treatment Plants (STPs) of the numerous apartments in the area, who discharge their excess water to the drains that overflow and spill the dirty water on to the roads.

National …

BHU in the news for the wrong reason ..

After continuous protest by a small group of students at BHU, a newly recruited Muslim Assistant Professor had to decline the job offer and return to Rajastan. The interview panel of BHU, who selected the teacher, maintain that the teacher is eminently qualified for the job with a Ph.D in Sanskrit and Hindu religious practices. The BHU authorities further assert that the selection was done strictly as per the rules and guidelines of UGC, and BHU administration.  The students claim that only a Hindu can teach them the subject of Sanskrit and Hindu religious practices.

The controversy has exploded in the media with sharp comments from civil liberty groups. BSP supremo, Mayawati has weighed in in support of the Muslim professor. She blames the BJP and the right-wing Hindu elements for misleading the agitating students. The Rajastan chief minister Mr. Gehlot has also advised BHU administration to stand firm and disregard the protesters.

As per some latest reports, the Sanskrit department has re-opened, and the students might return to class soon.

It needs to be cited here that language teaching has never been identified with the religion of the teacher. In BHU itself, Hindu teachers teach Urdu with acclaim.

Nithyananda, the fraud Sadhu, has fled India…

 In a recent allegation, a girl’s parents complained to the police that the saffron-clad ‘Sadhu’ had unlawfully detained their daughter in his Ashram. Fearing police action, Nithyananda has fled the country.

The perpetrators of the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh await jail terms …

The long-drawn trial of the infamous Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh that had erupted during the BJP rule is drawing to a close. About 31 accused persons have been formally convicted by the court. Their punishment will be announced by the court soon.  This scam was about manipulation of the examination and interview processes in government departments and universities that enabled undeserving candidates to secure jobs and admissions by paying huge bribes.

Election Bonds issue rocks parliament …

The opaque system of paying contributions to political parties through Electoral Bonds has come to light through dogged effort of some RTI activists. It seems, the PMO intervened in a few instances to force SBI to extend the dates for Electoral Bond purchase. This helped the BJP to garner huge sums for its gain. The Congress leader Manish Tiwari tried to raise the issue in the Lok Sabha, but the Speaker disallowed it. The Congress MPs walked out in protest.

In another development, Minister Piyush Goel came forward in support of this highly dubious method of funds raising by political parties. Ironically, he claimed that system had no sin attached to it.

Rajya Sabha sees turbulence too..

Opposition members were trying to embarrass the government over the Forest Rights Act, and the murky Electoral Bonds system. When the government side tried to ignore the mentions, angry exchanges started. Mr. Venkaiah Naidu had a difficult time trying to rein in the protesting MPs.

SC/ ST are poorly represented in Secretary level jobs in government and even in IIMs ….

Out of about 82 secretaries at the center, just four are from SC/ ST. Similar dismal picture prevails in the elite IIMs. This goes to show how even after years of preferential treatment through Reservations, the SC/ST class has not been able to climb the ladder.

Fresh violence erupts in Srinagar …

Stone pelting and sloganeering protestors swarmed the streets in large parts of Srinagar breaking the lull that had prevailed in the last few days. The security forces smothered the demonstration using force.

U.S. continues to deny legitimate visa requests from Indian techies…

The foreign minister Mr. Jayshankar will take up this matter with his counterpart in Washington. Presently, one out of every four applications for H-1B visa is being declined.

International ..

Mahinda sworn in as the PM OF Sri Lanka..

Mahinda Rajapakshe, the elder brother of the President was sworn in to his post today. Prime minister Modi has lost no time in extending his hand of friendship to the new government. The defeat of Ranil Wicremesinghe has badly roiled his UNP. The rank and file of the party are demoralized and disillusioned.

Israeli PM Netenyahu faces very damaging charges of moral turpitude..

The law seems to have finally caught up with Netenyahu who has, so far, deflected many allegations against him. Now, the Israeli police will press charges of fraud, bribery, and other acts of corruption against him. It remains to be seen how the ‘Teflon-coated’ politician counters the charges.

Trump sees the Democrats inching towards him with their impeachment charges ..

The Democrats seem to have been galvanized by recent testimonies of diplomats before the House Panel. They feel they can tighten the noose around Trump’s neck and bring the impeachment proceedings to an early conclusion. All presidential aspirants in the Democratic party seem to be unanimous in their stance that Trump must be impeached.

Britain’s Labour Party under Corbyn promises sweeping reforms ..

Corbyn, if elected, promises to nationalize the railways, the power supply utilities, and the postal system. Apart from these, Corbyn plans to make university education free, cap rents, and increase the level of minimum wages.

Finance ..

Loan disbursement in October touches Rs.2.52 lakh crores ..

A closer look at this figure revels that a lion’s share of this amount has gone to large industries. MSME’s have availed loans, but their share is much lower than that of the large industries. Banks have also lent Rs.19,600 crores to the funds-starved NBFCs, so that they could resume their lending that ground to a halt after the collapse of IL&FS, and DHFL.

New investments in FY-20 fall to a 15-year low….

As per a survey conducted by Care ratings, government investment in new projects have been steadily falling in the last four years. This is proved by the fact that Gross Fixed Capital Formation (GFCF) as a percentage of GDP has fallen progressively. Now, it hovers around 28 to 29%. Delay in obtaining environmental clearance and paucity of funds have led to the don ward slide.

Moratorium on spectrum dues may bring little reprieve for the Telcos..

Analysts say the moratorium allowed by the government to the beleaguered Telcos in respect of clearing the staggering demands may not mean much to them in the long run. The Cellular Operator’s Association of India (COAI) feels that government taxes and levies must be reduced to increase the profitability of the industries. 

Editorial and Opinions ..

Stake sale in five government companies .. Judicious decision or a murky, fire-fighting exercise?

Five PSUs will be sold off, and the government will need its much-needed cash. However, the following questions beg answers.

Q1. All these companies were making profits. Is it good to get rid of an asset that gives the exchequer sizeable income year after year? Is it not like ‘selling away the family silver’?

Q2. The year-end is just a four months away. How can the cumbersome bidding process, selection of buyer, transfer of ownership, and a few other statutory procedures be completed to make the process transparent? Fast-tracking the process will invite harsh public scrutiny.

Q3. Why the Numaligarh refinery of BPCL, located in Assam was excluded from the sale? Was it done to keep the Assam voters in good humour? Will such exclusion not bring down the sales price of BPCL substantially?

Q4. Before deciding to sale such proft-making ventures, why the government didn’t try to sale the loss-making ones that have become a permanent burden on the exchequer? Was any effort made to make these companies saleable?

Like in many other decisions, the government can push these sales using its brute majority in the parliament, but the immorality of such sale might haunt the government for long.

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