GN Staff | December 14, 2015
External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj is set to make a statement in both houses of Parliament today on her two-day visit to Pakistan and the resumption of bilateral talks. “I will make a statement on my recent visit to Islamabad tomorrow at 11 am in Rajya Sabha and at 2 pm in Lok Sabha,” Swaraj tweeted on Sunday.A release from the parliamentary affairs ministry confirmed that Swaraj will make a statement on “developments relating to ties between India and Pakistan” in both the houses this week. “This is one of the major agenda items,” the statement added.India and Pakistan had on December 9 announced in Islamabad that they have decided to engage in a “comprehensive” dialogue that will include peace and security, and Jammu and Kashmir.
MPs panel wants executive powers for Niti Aayog
The standing committee on finance has strongly recommended that the government confer executive powers on the Niti Aayog to enable it to perform its functions in a more effective manner. If accepted, the recommendation could give amajor boost to the stature of the body that replaced the Planning Commission and give it wider political acceptance. "In the light of suggestions received from eminent experts, it would be appropriate to confer suitable executive powers upon Niti at this nascent stage itself," the Veerappa Moily-led standing committee on finance said. "This will enable Niti to deal and interact with central ministries as well as states in a more authoritative and decisive manner," said the committee. Since the Aayog is seen as only a think tank and an advisory body that lacks teeth, neither central ministries nor states feel compelled to heed its advice.
Modi rejigs Inter-State Council
Prime minister Narendra Mo?i has rejigged composition of the Inter-State Council and its Standing Committee in an effort to make the consultation process more broad-based and enable the government to now also consult private domain experts. The Inter-State Coucil, which is headed by the Prime Minister, will now have 11 union ministers as "permanent invitees", six more than the one under the UPA. Smriti Irani, Dharmendra Pradhan, Suresh Prabhu, Piyush Goel, Nirmala Sitharaman, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Suresh Prabhu and Harsimrat Kaur Badal are among the 11 Ministers who have been included as permanent invitees to the Inter-State Council. Its first meeting under the new government will now be held soon. A notification issued on December 7 has further fleshed out the role of the Standing Committee to not limit its consultations to government but expand it to private experts. "The Standing Committee may, if necessary, invite experts and persons eminent in specific fields to have the benefit of their views while deliberating upon the related subjects," the notification has said, amending the role of the standing committee.
Cold wave sweeps north India; Leh records minus 12 deg C
North India is experiencing cold wave conditions. Yesterday, maximum temperatures were below normal by 25 C at most places over Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Haryana, Chandigarh & Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat region. Leh in Ladakh region experienced coldest night of the season at minus 12 degrees Celsius and higher hills of Himachal Pradesh received another spell of moderate snowfall. Delhiites woke up to a chilly morning with the mercury dipping to 6.8 degrees Celsius, a drop of nearly five notches from Saturday (11.5 degrees). Cold wave conditions swept many parts of Haryana and Punjab, with Narnaul turning out to be the coldest place at 2.5 degrees Celsius.
NHAI's Rs 10,000-crore tax-free bond issue tomorrow
National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) begins sale of tax-free bonds on Tuesday to raise Rs 10,000 crore, the season's biggest such offering.Investors will get 7.39-7.60 per cent interest on paper with 10-15 year maturities. That's seven-10 basis points higher than the bonds of Indian Railways Finance Corporation (IRFC), the sale of which has just ended. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point. An investor has to buy minimum five bonds worth Rs 5,000 crore. Retail investors can invest up to 40 per cent of the total issue size while qualified institutional buyers, companies and high net worth individuals are allowed 20 per cent each. The securities will be listed on the BSE and NSE.
Apple slashes prices of iPhone 5s to almost half in India
Apple has slashed prices of its Indian bestseller iPhone 5s for the third time in three months, bringing them down to almost half of September levels, in a bid to shore up sales as demand for iPhone 6s and 6s Plus has nosedived after Diwali. iPhone 5s prices now starts at Rs 24,999, down from Rs 44,500. Retailers say iPhone 5s accounts for almost 50% of total iPhone sales in India. Apple had lowered the price of iPhone 5s during Dussehra in October and then again before Diwali in November.
Government pushes to change scheduled tribes classification rules
The Narendra Modi government is expediting a proposal to change the criterion and procedure for classification of communities as scheduled tribes (ST), reports Economic Times. Ministry of Tribal Affairs has sent a Cabinet note changing the classification criteria of ST communities, paving the way for reconsideration of 300 proposals that have been stuck for the past three years. The change in procedure and criterion for classification would take away the veto powers of Registrar General of India, National Commission of Scheduled Tribes (NCST) and Anthropological Society of India. The alacrity with which the government has acted on the politically-sensitive decision that had been pending for two years would directly benefit Assam. The poll-bound state has 45 proposals pending for classification as scheduled tribes. The state's recommendations have been rejected by the Registrar General of India at least four times. According to current rules, if the Registrar General of India rejects a proposal twice, it cannot be presented again. With the change in rules, these proposals would get legal sanctity to be considered again. Under the new procedure, a committee of secretaries, headed by secretary (tribal affairs), would take the final call on the classification.
Twitter warns users of possible state-sponsored cyber attack
Twitter Inc issued an alert to some users warning them that state-sponsored hackers may have tried to obtain sensitive data from their accounts, the company said, the first such warning by the micro blogging site. The notice said there was no indication the hackers obtained sensitive information from what it said were a "small group of accounts" targeted. It did not provide additional information about the attack or possible suspects in its investigation. Google and Facebook have also started issuing warnings to users possibly targeted by state-sponsored attacks.
Don't judge me by my clothes, says defence minister Parrikar
Responding to repeated criticism of his dressing sense, defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Sunday asked his critics not to judge him on the basis of the clothes he wears but on his performance. Parrikar was speaking at a function in Panaji organised to celebrate his 60th birthday. "Why judge people from the clothes they wear? I have not joined the army. I have not joined the navy. I have not joined the air force. To join that is difficult, it is easier to join politics," Parrikar said. The defence minister said he has received several communications from retired military officials asking him to wear a more formal bandhgala for official functions of his ministry. "Many retired army officials write to me, telling me to wear the bandhgala, which I wear abroad, at functions. I wear it there because I represent India, therefore, I wear a formal dress. Why wear it for a function of my own department," Parrikar said.
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