Morning briefing: Japan's PM Shinzo Abe to arrive in Delhi today, bullet train on agenda

GN Bureau | December 11, 2015



Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is coming to India today. Among other agreements, he likely to sign a proposal to build nation's first bullet train between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. A meeting of cabinet under Narendra Modi has already cleared the $14.7 billion Japanese proposal to build the bullet train line, one of the biggest foreign investments in its infrastructure sector.Japan had offered to finance 80 percent of the cost of the train at an interest rate of less than 1 percent.Abe is also set to meet with business leaders, foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and president Pranab Mukherjee before heading on Saturday to Varanasi, Modi's parliamentary constituency.

Modi and Abe enjoy an unusually close friendship that pre-dates the Indian leader's election last year.Both are right-wing nationalists elected on a platform of kickstarting economic reforms in Japan and India, Asia's second and third-largest economies respectively.And both are seen as strong leaders at the helm of nations embroiled in territorial disputes with China, the dominant regional power.Modi visited Japan twice as chief minister of prosperous Gujarat state and met with Abe both times.He received a warm welcome in Japan in August last year after choosing the country as the destination for his first bilateral visit outside South Asia.When Abe joined Twitter in 2012, Modi was the third person he followed, after his wife and a Japanese politician.

Meeting today to select new chief information commission
Prime minister Narendra Modi-led selection panel will meet today to decide the new chief of central information commission (CIC) and three commissioners.Vijai Sharma completed his tenure on December 0, after attaining 65 years of age.The transparency watchdog has gone headless, for the second time since the BJP government came into power in 2014. The CIC was without its chief for nearly 10 months after the completion of the tenure of the then Chief Information Commissioner Rajiv Mathur in August 2014.

Finance minister Arun Jaitley and leader of Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjuna Kharge, who are members of the three-member panel, will also attend the meeting.As per convention, the senior most Information Commissioner is chosen as chief. Basant Seth is the senior-most Information Commissioner.The CIC comprises of one chief and 10 Information Commissioners. At present, there are seven Information Commissioners.A total of 33,619 complaints and appeals are pending in the Commission as on December 10, 2015, as per official data.

eSamiksha and PRAGATI to measure performance in govt
With Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Cabinet Secretariat directly monitoring progress of schemes and projects of all ministries through PM's pet eSamiksha and PRAGATI projects, the government has scrapped a major scheme close to the heart of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh through which performance of ministries was monitored since 2011, reports Economic Times.Minister of State for PMO, Jitendra Singh has told Parliament that the government "has not pursued the mechanism of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation System (PMES) for 2014-15 and thereafter". Under PMES, every ministry made a Result Framework Document (RFD) every year against which its performance was measured at the end of the year.The eSamiksha is a real time, online system for monitoring of projects by the PM and follow-up action is to be updated by the concerned ministry as and when the status changes or at least every month — PM monitors this on his iPad. PRAGATI is another platform through which PM once every month monitors and reviews important programmes and projects of Centre and states.

Asian stocks head for weekly loss, China yuan hits 4-1/2-year low
Asian shares slumped on Friday, on track for a weekly loss as plunging crude prices heightened fears about receding global growth, while China’s yuan hit its weakest level in more than four years.A supply glut in oil markets and cooling growth in China, the world’s biggest commodities consumer, have pressured many asset markets ahead of a widely expected hike to US interest rates by the Federal Reserve next week.China’s central bank set its guidance rate at the weakest level in more than four years on Friday, a sign Beijing is permitting the currency to depreciate after it was included in the International Monetary Fund’s reserve basket.

Minimum qualification for panchayat polls valid, says supreme court
The supreme court on Thursday upheld a Haryana's law mandating that only those having “minimum” educational qualifications will be eligible to contest panchayat elections in the state. The “minimum” education required for eligibility to contest in a panchayat election is completion of matriculation in case of general candidates; completion of Class 8 for a woman candidate or a candidate belonging to Scheduled Caste; and completion of Class 5 pass for a Scheduled Caste woman candidate contesting for the post of ‘Panch’.

The other grounds for disqualification from contesting polls under the Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015 are failure to pay arrears to any primary agriculture co-operative society or agriculture co-operative banks, failure to pay electricity bill arrears and not having a functional toilet at home.The law leaves 68 per cent of the Scheduled Caste women and 41 per cent of the Scheduled Caste men in Haryana ineligible to contest panchayat elections. The court said that there is nothing “irrational or illegal or unconnected” if the law prescribes minimum educational qualification for candidates. Simply put, the court feels that basic education would “enable the candidates to effectively discharge duties of the panchayat.”

Dow Chemical, DuPont may announce merger today
Dow Chemical Co. and DuPont Co. plan to announce a merger Friday, according to people familiar with the matter, a deal that would be the largest ever in the chemicals industry.The companies have been in advanced talks about a merger that would be followed by a breakup of the combined company into three separate businesses, the people said: agriculture, specialty chemicals and commodity chemicals. A combined Dow and DuPont should be able to clear a US antitrust review if the companies sell off a few assets.

Modi tops charts on Facebook in India, in top 10 list globally
Prime Minister Narendra Modi topped the charts of Facebook under the most-viewed topic in India this year, while at the global level, he is among the top 10, where US president Barack Obama leads the pack.Modi was ranked No.9 on Facebook globally, under the category of topics.Only three other people are on the top 10 list for India — late former president APJ Abdul Kalam, actors Salman Khan and Deepika Padukone — which is otherwise dominated by events.In the global category of politicians who were most talked about were US President Barack Obama, Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, American politician Hillary Clinton and Democratic presidential candidate in the US Bernie Sanders. To put this list together, Facebook posts were analysed in an aggregated, anonymised way, and then ranked to create a snapshot of the year on Facebook.

Islamic State finance chief confirmed killed in air strike
The Islamic State group's finance chief has been confirmed killed in a coalition air strike last month, US officials said on Thursday.Abu Saleh was killed in late November, US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said in a videoconference from Baghdad, calling him "one of the most senior and experienced members" of the group's financial network.Abu Saleh's real name is Muwaffaq Mustafa Muhammad al-Karmush, described in a State Department terrorist blacklist as a 42-year-old Iraqi."Killing him and his predecessors exhausts the knowledge and talent needed to coordinate funding within the organisation," Warren said.

The military spokesmen said two other figures in IS fundraising networks also were killed in coalition air strikes in late November.Meanwhile, a senior official has said that  ISIS terrorists have looted up to $1 billion from bank vaults in Syria and Iraq and has made at least another half a billion dollars from black market oil sales."ISIL has made more than $500 million from black market oil sales," Adam Szubin, acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence with the U.S. Treasury. "It has looted between $500 million and $1 billion from bank vaults captured in Iraq and Syria," Mr Szubin said. "And it has extorted many millions more from the populations under its control, often through brutal means."

Uttarakhand on alert, snow and heavy rains in next 3 days
The hill state Uttarakhand is set to receive 24 cm of snow and hail over the next three days, the meteorological department has predicted. There is also a possibility of avalanches in the interior parts of Uttarakhand.All 13 districts have been notified along with the State Disaster Rescue Force, local police and the district administration to be prepared deal with any eventuality which might arise given the weather pattern.While the districts in the upper reaches like Uttarkashi, Pithoragarh, Chamoli and Rudraprayag might experience snow, sleet and hail, Dehradun, Haridwar, Udhamsingh Nagar, Pauri and Nainital will get their share of heavy to moderate downpour along with hail in some places. The mercury may dip by some five to six degrees.

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