Current Affairs

Morning Brief: BJP Now Ruling In 19 States; Bitcoin Trade Probe Widens: ‘Nuclear War In South Asia A Real Possibility’

BJP leaders felicitating Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah after Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh victories in New Delhi. (Sonu Mehta/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)   

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

BJP Wins Gujarat And Himachal Pradesh: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has retained power in Gujarat where it has ruled for the last 22 years. It also wrested power from the Congress to form the next government in Himachal Pradesh. The victories in the two states in the run-up to the next Lok Sabha polls in 2019 showed the BJP remained powered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi whose personal appeal helped to continue its winning spree since it came to power in 2014. With these two states in its kitty, the BJP and its allies would be controlling 19 of the 29 states. The BJP secured a simple majority of 99 seats in the 182-Gujarat Assembly fending off a serious challenge from a resurgent Congress, which followed closely behind with 77 seats. In Himachal Pradesh, the BJP easily won 42 seats while the Congress bagged 21. The majority mark in the state is 35. In the outgoing House, Congress had 36 seats, and BJP 26.

India Can Grow At 8 Per Cent For Next 20 Years, Says UN Expert: A senior United Nations (UN) economic official has said that India can achieve an eight per cent growth rate for the next two decades. Describing India’s economic condition as largely positive and “favourable to growth”, Sebastian Vergara, an economic affairs officer at the UN said the country needs to unleash the next set of reforms to achieve its potential. “India in our assessment has the potential to grow at eight per cent, not for a few years, but 20 years,” Vergara said. “For that, India needs to come out with the next series of reforms, for example, promote investment and improve the living condition of its population,” he said. Several factors have led to India’s “positive” economic conditions, Vergara said. “One of this is the growth of private consumption and sound macroeconomic policies. The monetary policy, which has been able to control inflation, also has a role to play,” he said. “Also fiscal policy in India, in our assessment has been prudent. At the same time, it has provided another quiet support for the economic activity,” Vergara said.

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Bitcoin Trade Probe Widens: Expanding its investigation into bitcoin trade, the Income Tax (I-T) Department is set to issue notices to 4 to 5 lakh high networth individuals across the country who were trading on the exchanges of this unregulated virtual currency. "Those individuals and entities whose records were recovered by the department are now being probed under tax evasion charges. Notices are being issued and they will have to pay capital gains tax on the bitcoin investments and trade," a senior official privy to the operation said. As the bitcoins or the virtual currencies are illegal and unregulated in the country as of now, the I-T department has taken action as per the existing provisions, they said. Suspected black money being converted into white, post demonetisation, through the use of bitcoins was also under the department's scanner, officials said. The Reserve Bank of India has also cautioned users, holders and traders of virtual currencies. The government has also said that it does not recognise 'crypto-currency' as legal tender in India.

Significant Drop In The Number Of Indians Travelling To The US: There is a significant drop in the number of Indians travelling to the United States in the first six months of 2017, with experts attributing the dip to important policy changes at home. According to the latest figures released by US National Travel and Tourism Office, in the first six months (January to June), there was a drop of 12.9 per cent in the number of people travelling from India to the US. The drop was a significant 18.3 per cent during the second quarter months of April, May, and June. "There are so many things that influence the intent or ability for people to travel. The demonetisation. The introduction of the Goods and Services Tax was also something that affects people's ability or intent to travel," Brand USA's president and chief executive Chris Thompson said. Responding to a question on the impact of the general anti-immigrant sentiment in the US, he said the impact has been "negligible" in India.

US Vetoes UN Resolution Rejecting Trump’s Jerusalem Move: A draft United Nations (UN) resolution rejecting President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital was vetoed by the United States on Monday after all 14 other Security Council members backed the measure. The veto cast by US Ambassador Nikki Haley highlighted Washington’s isolation over Trump’s announcement that the US embassy will be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, effectively ignoring Palestinian claims on the city. “The United States will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy,” Haley told the council after the veto. Key US allies Britain, France, Italy, Japan and Ukraine were among the 14 countries in the 15-member council that backed the measure asserting that any decisions on the status of Jerusalem “have no legal effect, are null and void and must be rescinded.” Israel seized control of the eastern part of the city in the 1967 Middle East war and sees all of Jerusalem as its undivided capital. The Palestinians view the east as the capital of their future state.

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Government Formulates Plan To Tackle India's Air Pollution: The Indian Parliament was informed on Monday that the Union government has formulated the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) to tackle increasing air pollution across the country in a comprehensive manner. Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the government has formulated the NCAP as a “long-term time-bound national level strategy”. The minister said the objective is to augment and evolve an effective ambient air quality monitoring network across the country, besides ensuring a comprehensive management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution. “The NCAP focuses on a collaborative and participatory approach comprising all sources of pollution and coordination between relevant central ministries, state governments, local bodies and other stakeholders,” he said.

Nuclear War In South Asia A Real Possibility, Warns Pakistan NSA: Pakistan's National Security Adviser (NSA) Lt Gen (retired) Nasser Khan Janjua warned on Monday that nuclear war in South Asia was a real possibility. "India has been stockpiling a range of dangerous weapons and threatens Pakistan continuously of conventional warfare," Janjua said, adding that security in South Asia was under pressure. Criticising the US role in the region, the NSA said that Washington was "speaking India's language" and that the two nations share identical stance on the Kashmir issue. "The US is following the Indian policy on the longstanding Kashmir dispute," he remarked. The US, Januja said, was willing to give India a bigger role in Afghanistan, a claim that most Pakistani authorities have been making ever since US President Donald Trump announced his new Afghanistan strategy. Washington blames Islamabad for supporting and sponsoring terrorism in the region by retaining its ties with the Haqqani network and the Taliban.

MUST READ OPINIONS AND COLUMNS

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BJP's Developmental Politics Won Over Politics Of Caste Played By Rahul, Hardik And Friends: There are many politicians who came from poor economic background. They may or may not have sold chai. But there is no one like Modi who has jettisoned everything in the pursuit of the developmental politics and nation building.

India’s Jobless Growth Is A Myth: In India, the overall employment situation is assessed on the basis of periodic comprehensive surveys by NSSO. Between 2009-10 and 2015-16, incremental jobs created exceeded the number of persons who entered the labour force by a wide margin.

What’s Next, Statutory Warnings On Social Media? Facebook on 15 December published a startling research note which claimed that people who spend a lot of time passively consuming information report feeling worse after. Statutory warnings may even show up on social media sites as targeted advertisements…but the choice is still yours.

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SWARAJYA SPECIAL

The EVM Tampering Claim Is Like Blaming The Question Paper For Failing An Exam: Political parties will come and go but we will have to take a principled stand to respect the democratic mandate of India’s people.

We hope you enjoyed reading our morning brief. Have a great day ahead!

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