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June 24, 2019
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22 June Current Affairs

Amid protests, triple talaq Bill introduced

In News:

The Narendra Modi government on Friday introduced The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill, 2019, also known as the triple talaq Bill, in the Lok Sabha.

Details:

The Bill, the BJP-led government’s first legislation in the second term, was introduced after the Opposition asked for a division of votes. The treasury won with 186 “ayes” to the 74 Opposition “nays”.

543 cases reported:

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who introduced the Bill, said the legislation was meant to ensure gender justice and equality. The Bill was not about religion but a “question of dignity of women and we are committed to safeguarding [it]”. There were 543 cases of triple talaq reported in the country.

Even after the Supreme Court banned the practice, over 200 cases were reported and this necessitated, in his view, a Bill that addressed the issue. “The job of Parliament is to legislate, and it is up to courts to interpret the law,” he said.

Several Opposition members stood up to protest as soon as Mr. Prasad was asked by Speaker Om Birla to table the Bill.

Mr. Tharoor said he was against triple talaq, already voided by the Supreme Court, but opposed the Bill as it conflated civil and criminal laws. The Bill was a “textbook example of class legislation” as it was pointed at one community — the Muslims — even though abandoning wives was not unique to it.

Mr. Owaisi said the BJP’s “affection” for Muslim women and its advocacy of gender justice were suspect, considering the party’s opposition to the entry of Hindu women into the Sabarimala temple. The Bill violated constitutional rights as it stipulated a three-year jail term for men, whereas a similar offence by non-Muslim men attracted only a year in jail.

Mr. Premachandran made similar points against the Bill, which had faced objections from Opposition parties from the beginning. They had claimed that jail term for a man for divorcing his wife was legally untenable.

Copy of ordinance:

The new Bill is a copy of the ordinance in force. Bills that are introduced in the Rajya Sabha and that are pending there do not lapse with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha. But Bills passed by the Lok Sabha and pending in the Rajya Sabha lapse with the dissolution of the Lower House.

The government had promulgated the ordinance on triple ‘talaq’ twice — in September 2018 and in February 2019 — as the contentious Bill remained pending in the Rajya Sabha, though it was passed by the Lok Sabha.

I stopped a strike on Iran, says Trump

In News:

U.S. President Donald Trump said that he aborted a military strike on Iran because such a response to Tehran’s downing of an unmanned U.S. surveillance drone would have caused a disproportionate loss of life.

Details:

U.S. economic sanctions against Iran were having an impact and more were imposed, following the destruction of the U.S. drone by an Iranian surface-to-air missile.

Mr. Trump said the plan was to hit three different sites in response to the drone’s downing, and that he was told 150 people would have died. “Ten minutes before the strike I stopped it, not proportionate to shooting down an unmanned drone. I am in no hurry, our military is rebuilt, new, and ready to go, by far the best in the world,” he tweeted. Earlier, on Friday, Iranian officials told Reuters that Tehran had received a message from Mr. Trump warning that a U.S. attack was imminent but saying that he was against war and wanted talks on a range of issues.

The message was delivered through Oman overnight. “In his message, Trump said he was against any war with Iran and wanted to talk to Tehran about various issues,” one of the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Iran fallout: United suspends Newark-Mumbai flights

In News:

United on Friday announced the suspension of its Newark-Mumbai flight service in view of growing tensions between the United States and Iran.

Details:

On Thursday, Iran shot down a drone belonging to the US over Tehran-controlled airspace over the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Oman.

“Given the current events in Iran, we have conducted a thorough safety and security review of our India service through Iranian airspace and decided to suspend our service,”, but did not say how long the suspension would last. However, Swedish airline and airport tracker Flightradar24 said the suspension was initially for three days.

OPSGROUP, a blog site that offers safety guidance to air operators, said commercial aircraft were flying very close to the unpiloted Global Hawk at the time that it was shot down. “The threat of a civil aircraft shootdown in southern Iran is real. Avoiding the Strait of Hormuz area is recommended – misidentification of aircraft is possible”.

The unmanned drone that was shot down is said to have a wingspan larger than a Boeing 737 jetliner.

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) issued an emergency order to US civil aircraft, prohibiting all American aircraft operators from entering the Tehran Flight Information Region in the area above the Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman.

‘Operation Bandar’ code name of Balakot strike

In News:

The air strike by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on a terrorist training camp in Balakot, Pakistan, was code-named ‘Operation Bandar’.

Details:

“It was code-named Operation Bandar but was known to very few”. There was no particular reason in the choice of the name, the official stated and added, “It could have been anything.”

Secrecy maintained:

To maintain secrecy, the Mirages took off directly from their home base in Gwalior at the time of the mission crossing Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir to the target and back.

“Everything was carried on as usual to maintain secrecy”.

As a response to the Pulwama terror attack which claimed the lives of 40 security personnel, 12 IAF Mirage-2000 fighter jets struck on Jaish-e-Mohammed training camp in Balakot inside Pakistan in the early hours on February 26 with precision guided munitions.

Rise in infant deaths in three years

Maharashtra witnessed the higher number of infant deaths in the last three years with 2018-2019 alone accounting for the death of 16,539 new born babies due to infection, pneumonia, low birth weight and breathing defects.

GST Council eases returns filing process

In News:

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council, at its 35th meeting on Friday, took a number of decisions aimed at easing the registration and returns filing process, including the use of Aadhaar for registrations, introduction of e-invoicing and setting a deadline for the roll-out of the single-return filing system.

Details:

The meeting, chaired by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, decided to allow the use of Aadhaar as the identity and address proof for registration for the GST. No other documents would be required, and authentication can be done using a one-time password.

“The Council also approved into law decisions taken by it in earlier meetings, such as raising the turnover threshold for GST registration to Rs. 40 lakh a year, from Rs. 20 lakh a year, and extending the Composition Scheme to services”. “These were earlier by notification, now they have been put in the law.”

Electronic Invoicing:

The Council also decided to introduce the electronic invoicing system in a phased manner for B2B transactions. Phase-1 is proposed to be voluntary and would roll out from January 1, 2020.

Related to this, the Council also decided that registered multiplexes shall be required to issue a tax invoice electronically and for this purpose an electronic ticket issued by them shall be deemed to be a tax invoice.

“The decision to implement the e-invoicing model means that technology will continue to play a critical role in tax administration”. “While this system could initially be implemented for the B2B segment only, but with e-ticketing for multi-screen cinema halls a similar mechanism is also proposed for B2C segment.”

“One of the major decisions is roll-out of e-invoicing concept from January 2020, which will remove the burden of generating e-waybill”. “This concept will be a milestone towards ease of doing business as the taxpayer will generate the invoice electronically and there would not be any requirement to generate an e-waybill.”

In addition, the tenure of the National Anti-Profiteering Authority has been extended by two years.

“Now that GST Council has approved extension of National Anti-Profiteering Authority by two years, one would expect the framing of rules and guidance from Government as to what constitutes profiteering”.

‘IS was initially unaware of Easter attack’

In News:

The Islamic State may have claimed responsibility for the Easter terror attacks in Sri Lanka, but its chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was initially not aware of the horrific serial bombings, according to a top official familiar with the probe.

Details:

The ongoing investigation in Sri Lanka has revealed that a local Islamist radical, who is an IS sympathiser, had contacted the IS leadership after the attacks.

“Through a third party, he [the suspect, now in custody] had pleaded with the IS, asking the organisation to recognise the blasts carried out by jihadists, who had ‘sacrificed’ their lives”.

About 48 hours after the April 21 attacks, which claimed over 250 lives, the IS took credit for the bombings, with the group’s Amaq news agency releasing a visual of the Sri Lankan suicide bombers, standing by a black flag of the IS, apparently pledging allegiance. The faces of all but one — the alleged ring leader Zahran Hashim — were masked. At the time, IS analysts had pointed to the “delay” in the claim, with some of them even terming it “uncharacteristic” of the terror group.

Sri Lankan investigators are yet to find concrete evidence of whether the local jihadists were directly connected to the IS. “They were all sympathisers of the IS, but it remains unclear how they maintained links with the IS, if in fact they did. Now we have also come across some other radicals here who are supporters of the IS,” the official said, requesting anonymity, due to the sensitivity of the ongoing probe.

Another key suspect’:

Investigators also expect to draw out more specific information in the coming weeks from five Sri Lankan suspects who were deported from Saudi Arabia last week. One of them, Mohamed Milhan, is believed to have been chosen the likely successor of Zahran Hashim, to lead the radical National Thowheed Jama’ath (NTJ).

Significantly, investigators have traced Milhan’s involvement in two cases that are now considered important precursors to the Easter killings. The first involves the shooting of two policemen, in November 2018, at a checkpoint in the eastern Batticaloa district from where Zahran Hashim hailed and the other being the shooting of a Minister’s coordinating secretary in March, in the central town of Mawanella. The secretary, who was seriously injured, is now in hospital.

Milhan’s name was also mentioned in a memo dated April 11, sent from a top Sri Lankan police official to the security services, warning of possible suicide attacks targeting catholic churches. The letter is proof of prior intelligence — including information shared by India — having been available.

Investigators have established that Milhan left the country on April 17 — about a week after the letter was circulated, and four days before the deadly bombings. “We are hoping to retrieve Milhan’s phone and laptop from the authorities in Saudi, to cull out more evidence of his role in the plot”.

The interrogations have revealed Zahran Hashim’s “dictatorial tendencies”. “The youth he drew, including most other suicide bombers for the Easter mission, were keen on fighting foreign wars for the IS — in Syria or Iraq. But Zahran had told them ‘nothing doing’, and that this assignment in Sri Lanka was as holy and important”.

Kaleshwaram project inaugurated

In News:

Kaleshwaram Lift Irrigation Project (KLIP), claimed as the world’s largest multi-stage and multi-purpose lift irrigation scheme, was inaugurated by Telangana Chief Minister K. Chandrasekhar Rao at Medigadda where the first barrage of the project is located in Jayashankar-Bhupalapally district.

Details:

The project is intended to irrigate over 37 lakh acres of new and existing ayacut, providing drinking water to Hyderabad and villages en route and supplying water for industrial needs by lifting 195 tmc ft of water from the Godavari at 2 tmc ft a day during the flood season. By lifting one more tmc ft water a day later, the government plans to bring another 8 lakh acres under irrigation.

Mr. Rao dedicated the project to people with the inauguration of the barrage in the presence of Governor of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana E.S.L. Narasimhan and Chief Ministers of Maharashtra and AP Devendra Fadnavis and Y.S. Jaganmohan Reddy, respectively. Later, he switched on a motor of the pump house at Kannepally to lift water from Medigadda barrage and take it upwards to Annaram barrage.

Forest cover up by 1%, says Javadekar

In News:

Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar on Friday told the Lok Sabha that India’s forest cover was up by 1% in the last one year, while former Minister and his own party’s MP Maneka Gandhi told the Minister that the additional forest cover could be a result of satellite imagery being taken where the sugar cane crops could be mistaken for trees.

Details:

Responding to supplementaries during Question Hour, Mr. Javadekar said for one tree chopped for development work, three to four were planted either in the same area or elsewhere.

Responding to Ms. Gandhi, he said satellite imagery was taken at regular intervals and it was unlikely that sugar cane crops were counted as such.

According to a latest report, over 24.39% of the country’s geographical area now constitutes of green cover. He said 125 crore trees would be planted along highways to increase green cover.

The Minister, in response to a separate question, said the government did not agree with a private weather agency’s report on climate change that 11 out of 15 hottest places in the world are from India. Mr. Javadekar was responding to BJP MP Jagdambika Pal’s questions, stating that the government did not agree with the findings of the agency, El Dorado Weather, and the data on its website vary every day. “The report of hottest places — 11 out of 15 hottest places in the world are from India — is based on a newspaper article quoting a private weather forecasting agency El Dorado Weather. The agency in its webpage reports the 15 places with maximum temperature of the last 24 hours on a daily basis and the hottest places vary each day. The government does not agree to the findings,” he said.

India likely to raise terror, financial crimes at G20 meet

In News:

India is likely to raise issues of terrorism, energy security and climate change financing, and call for stricter international laws on economic fugitives when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits Osaka for the G20 summit of the world’s largest economies on June 28-29.

Details:

Indicating that the government might still be open to negotiation on the two major issues of e-commerce and data localisation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Sherpa for the summit, former Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu said that both policies, which have come in for severe attack from several western countries, were still being debated within the country.

“We have certain views on e-commerce and data localisation. Those issues are being debated and discussed at various forums within the country. As far as G20 is concerned, we will put forward our views as they are emanating from the discussion within the country,” Mr. Prabhu told journalists at a briefing on the summit agenda.

This year’s summit under Japanese Presidency has the theme of “Human centred future society” and will take up digital economy, artificial intelligence, global health, ageing and marine plastic waste as subjects of deliberation. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, in a speech on May 30, laid the agenda for the summit and highlighted the global nature of data as opposed to its localisation.

The Government of India is bracing for pressure on its data localisation guidelines at the G20 summit, given an outcry particularly from the United States and Japan on the Reserve Bank’s circular last year that stipulated that all “data relating to payment systems” must be “stored in a system only in India.”

In the May 30 speech, Mr. Abe announced that he would push for a “Data Free Flow with Trust,” or DFFT system. Making a veiled reference to the Indian plan of a “single closed-off room”, he said data localisation would result in “immeasurable losses”.

Diplomatic sources confirmed that the DFFT would be on the agenda to be adopted by the G20 nations.

India has also faced bilateral backlash from the U.S. on the guidelines. While the State Department denied reports on Thursday that it would link data localisation laws to curbing H1-B visas, U.S. officials have made it clear to New Delhi that they expect a change in the guidelines proposed by the RBI.

Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, who attended the trade ministers of G20 conference last week, also convened meetings of industry bodies, as well as had a meeting with the Finance and External Affairs Ministers this week and discussed India’s stand at G20.

 

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