Morning Brief: Armed Forces Face Shortage Of 60,000 Personnel; Small Savings Interest Rates Cut; Putin’s Re-Election Bid

by Swarajya Staff - Dec 28, 2017 06:15 AM +05:30 IST
Morning Brief: Armed Forces Face Shortage Of 60,000 Personnel; Small Savings Interest Rates Cut; Putin’s Re-Election BidAn Indian army contingent rehearses for Indian Republic Day parade along Rajpath in New Delhi. (MONEY SHARMA/AFP/Getty Images)

Good morning, dear reader! Here’s your morning news and views brief for today.

India's Armed Forces Facing Shortage Of 60,000 Personnel: Government: The government said on Wednesday that India's armed forces are facing a shortage of nearly 60,000 personnel. Addressing Lok Sabha, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the total shortage of officers in the Indian Army, Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force is 9,259, while the number for below officer rank is 50,363. Replying to a question, she said the total strength of the Army as on 1 July was is 12.37 lakh personnel against the authorised strength of 12.64 lakh and the total shortage is 27,864. The current strength of the Navy is 67,228 personnel and the number of vacant positions is 16,255. She said the Indian Air Force is facing a shortage of 15,503 personnel against the authorised strength of 1.55 lakh. The vacancies excluding personnel in dental and medical streams come to 59,622. "The recruitment in the armed forces is a continuous process. The government has taken a number of measures to reduce the shortages," she said.

Government Set To Introduce Anti-Trafficking Law: The Union government is set to bring in a legislation to guard against human trafficking. It is proposing a 10-year punishment for those engaging in "aggravated forms of trafficking" while seeking life imprisonment for repeat offenders. A bill to identify various forms of trafficking, including for the purposes of bonded labour, sexual exploitation, pornography, removal of organs and begging, has proposed severe punishment for those engaging in the heinous crime. The bill proposes the setting up of a national anti-trafficking bureau, which shall be entrusted with the gamut of issues aimed at controlling and tackling the menace under various forms. These include coordination, monitoring and surveillance of illegal movement of persons and their prevention. The Trafficking of Persons (Prevention, Protection and Rehabilitation) Bill 2017, initiated by the Women And Child Development Ministry, is currently with a Group of Ministers that will take a final view on the matter, official sources said.

Interest Rates Trimmed On Small Savings Schemes: The Union government has cut interest rates on small savings schemes such as National Savings Certificate (NSC) and Public Provident Fund (PPF) by 20 basis points. However, the rate on the five-year senior citizen savings scheme was retained at 8.3 per cent for the three-month period starting from 1 January 2018. The PPF scheme will now fetch a rate of 7.6 per cent, marginally lower than the rate of 7.8 per cent in the October to December quarter. The five-year national savings certificate plan will fetch a rate of 7.6 per cent while the rate on Kisan Vikas Patra has been reduced to 7.6 per cent from 7.8 per cent. The rate on the Sukanya Samriddhi account scheme has been lowered to 8.1 per cent from 8.3 per cent while the five-year recurring deposit will now have a rate of 6.9 per cent, lower than the 7.1 per cent in the previous quarter. Term deposits of one to five years will fetch a lower interest rate of 6.6-7.4 per cent, and will be paid quarterly. The rate on the five-year monthly income account is down to 7.3 per cent from 7.5 per cent.

Pakistan’s ISI Trying To Revive Khalistan Movement, Says Government: The government informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday that operatives of Pakistan's espionage agency ISI are making efforts through moral and financial support to revive pro-Khalistan elements for anti-India activities. Minister of State for Home Affairs Hansraj Gangaram Ahir, replying to a question, said certain elements in Pakistan are providing funds to separatists for secessionist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir as well. "Inputs indicate that ISI operatives are making efforts towards moral/financial support to pro-Khalistan elements for anti-India activities as well as to revive militancy in Punjab," he said. He said the government has adopted an integrated approach to counter the attempts to revive militancy. This includes sustained vigilance along the borders, strengthening of mechanisms for intelligence gathering and sharing.

Green Light For GST Cess Hike On Luxury Cars To 25 Per Cent: A bill to hike cess on luxury vehicles from 15 per cent to 25 per cent was approved by the Lok Sabha with a view to enhance funds to compensate states for revenue loss following the rollout of goods and services tax (GST). Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the funds collected following the hike in cess on luxury vehicles will be used to compensate states for revenue loss on account of implementation of the GST. The GST (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill 2017, which was passed by the Lower House, seeks to replace the ordinance which was issued in September to give effect to the decision of the GST Council. The ordinance provided for a hike in the GST cess on a range of cars from mid-size to hybrid variants and the luxury ones to 25 per cent. Participating in the discussion, members demanded that the GST rate should be reduced on a variety of items including sanitary napkins, agriculture equipment, handicrafts, handloom items and sports goods. Some members even suggested that there should be single tax slab instead of four.

Go-Ahead For Rs 133 Crore Central Assistance To Cyclone Ockhi-Hit Kerala: The Union Government will release an immediate assistance of Rs 133 crore to Kerala for rehabilitation of those affected by Cyclone Ockhi. Additional Secretary (Disaster Management) Bipin Mallick said the state government had sought an immediate assistance of Rs 423 crore of which Rs 133 crore would be released soon. Mallick and his other team members visited the cyclone-hit regions of Vizhinjam and Beemapally areas and held discussions with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and top state government officials. The death toll in the cyclone has touched 74, according to officials. The state has sought a relief package of Rs 7,434 crore from the Centre to take up various permanent measures for coastal safety and rehabilitation of cyclone-hit fishermen and farmers. The defence forces and other agencies involved in rescue operations saved 845 lives, but 661 fishermen still remain missing, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

Manpower Crunch: More Than 2 Lakh Railways Posts Lying Vacant: The Parliament was informed on Wednesday that more than 2 lakh posts are lying vacant across many groups in the railways, with majority of them in the Northern Zone of the network. In a written reply in the Lok Sabha, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said 222,159 posts are vacant in the rail network. The Delhi-headquartered Northern Railways with 27,537 vacancies tops the list of rail zones with maximum vacant posts, followed by Eastern Railway (19,942 posts) headquartered in Kolkata, and Central Railway (19,651 posts) with its head office in Mumbai, he said. “Filling up of vacancies is a continuous process and is done through various modes of intake. There is always a time lag between occurrence of vacancies and processing the same for filling up as it involves notification of vacancies, holding examinations etc... recruitment process of railways is done regularly,” Goyal said.

Putin Files Nomination For 2018 Re-Election Bid: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday filed nomination papers for re-election next year. Earlier, more than 600 celebrities, politicians and sports figures had gathered in Moscow to formally nominate Putin. The 65-year-old strongman, who will face only token opposition candidates, will extend his term until 2024, making him the longest-serving Russian leader since dictator Joseph Stalin. Candidates running against Putin include veteran ultra-conservative politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky, Communist Party candidate Pavel Grudinin and a former socialite turned liberal journalist Ksenia Sobchak. Earlier this week, electoral bosses barred top opposition leader Alexei Navalny from running against Putin, citing a controversial embezzlement conviction, which he says is politically motivated. Navalny, who is seen by many as the only Russian opposition leader who stands a chance of challenging Putin, has called for a boycott of the polls.

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