Current Affairs

Morning Brief: Exit Polls Predict Easy Wins For BJP; Defence Ministry Overhaul; US ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules Rolled Back

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. (Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images) 

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

Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh: Exit Polls Predict Easy Wins For BJP: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is expected to romp home comfortably in Gujarat and recapture the hill state of Himachal Pradesh from the Congress, exit polls claimed on Thursday. The BJP is predicted to win 99 to 146 seats in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly, according to eight exit polls. Congress, which tried to stitch an umbrella coalition of Patidars, other backward classes and Dalits to deny BJP another shot at power, may have to settle for a worst of 36 as one poll suggested or may get up to 82 as others predicted. In Himachal Pradesh, ruling Congress is likely to lose power with BJP bagging seats in a range of 35 to 56 in a House of 68 MLAs, leaving the Congress seats between six – in a worst case scenario – to 32 seats.

Defence Ministry Undergoing Major Shakeup: Sitharaman: Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said on Thursday that a major "shakeup" is being given to the Defence Ministry to speed up various acquisition projects, ensure transparency and clear backlogs for key programmes. She also said the government is seriously examining functioning of around 39 ordnance factories and possible ways to boost their productivity including through joining of hands by the private sector. Sitharaman said the efforts are on to ensure that the defence acquisition council (DAC) clears all the backlog relating to various procurements by 31 December, emphasising that speeding up of decision making process has been one of her focus areas. Sitharaman, who assumed charge of the Defence Ministry in September, also said ensuring transparency is a major priority area for her. "The biggest compliance issue which we are definitely 100 per cent following is to have greater transparency, put everything in the public domain and make sure that every decision stands up to the principle of accountability," she said.

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Breaking The Glass Ceiling: Parsi Trust To Allow Women To Enter Fire Temple: Breaking age-old traditions, a Parsi Trust on Thursday informed a constitution bench of the Supreme Court that it will allow a woman, who married a Hindu under the Special Marriage Act, to pray at the Tower of Silence and take part in the ceremonies following the death of her parent. The five-judge bench took on record a memorandum submitted by the Valsad Parsi Anjuman Trust, which said that it would allow Goolrokh M Gupta to perform the rites. The Trust said it came to the decision after consulting its high priest and in “deference” to the Supreme Court orders. The court took on record the memorandum submitted by the Trust through senior advocate Gopal Subramanium, and said this was only being considered as an interim and immediate relief for Goolrokh and her family. The court said the larger questions of law regarding the religious identity of a Parsi woman and her right to marry outside her religion, among other issues, would remain open and be dealt with in the next hearing scheduled for the third week of January next year.

No ATM Refill In Cities After 9pm: In a bid to prevent incidents of looting and hijacking of cash vans used to transport public money across the country, the Union Home Ministry has drafted model rules laying down the basic safety norms to be followed by private cash handling agencies operating these vans. The government has proposed that ATMs should not be replenished with cash after 9pm in cities and private cash transportation agencies must collect money from the banks in the first half of the day. The deadline for putting money in the ATMs in rural areas would be 6 pm, and 4 pm in Naxal-affected districts. Also, specially designed cash vans, fitted with CCTVs and GPS, must not carry more than Rs 5 crore per trip. The model rules under the Private Security Agencies Regulation Act, 2005, require the cash handling agencies to follow standardised procedures to secure movement and transportation of cash, have a minimum number of trained and pre-verified staff escorting the vans, and adhere to pre-set timings for movement of cash in urban, rural as well as unrest-prone areas.

New Shiv Sena Threat To Quit Maharashtra Alliance: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) fractious ally in Maharashtra has sounded a warning: prepare for polls in Maharashtra, because the Shiv Sena will pull out of the government, probably within a year. The Sena had threatened several times in the past to walk out of the National Democratic Alliance government. Addressing a rally in Ahmednagar district, Yuva Sena chief Aaditya Thackeray said that after quitting, the Sena will come back to power on its own strength. “The Sena will quit power in one year and come back to power on its own strength. (Sena president) Uddhav Thackeray will decide the time when the party will quit power," Aaditya Thackeray said. Ever since the BJP formed government in Maharashtra, the Sena, which always projected itself as the "big brother" in the state politics, has been uneasy for having made to play second fiddle to the BJP. Maharashtra goes to polls in 2019.

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Jisha Murder Case: Convict Ameerul Islam Sentenced To Death: A trial court in Ernakulam awarded Ameerul Islam, 23, the death sentence for raping and murdering Dalit law student Jisha in Kerala in April last year. While delivering the verdict, the trial court said that it was one of the rarest of the rare cases and Ameerul Islam never deserved any sympathy. It observed that the accused did not show any remorse after committing the heinous crime and he was a big threat to society. He was found guilty by the court on Tuesday. Jisha was found murdered in her one-room house on 28 April 2016. The police arrested Islam after groping in the dark for two months. The trial in the case started in April 2017 and was completed in eight months. As many as 100 witnesses were heard and 291 documents and DNA test reports were presented during the trial.

Israel Relaxes Visa Rules For Indians: In a bid to woo Indian tourists, Israel has simplified its visa application procedures. The relaxed visa rule involves less documentation for Indians who have availed of visas of Schengen countries, the US, Canada, Australia or Israel and have completed their travel to these countries, the Israeli consulate said on Thursday. “This is an initiative we have been working very closely with interior ministry and foreign ministry to introduce in India and I am happy to see this change for the Indian travellers who wish to travel to Israel,” Israeli tourism ministry India director Hassan Madah said. He said, easing the visa requirements will not only make the application process faster, it will also increase the number of tourists to Israel as well. Israel has witnessed 31 per cent growth in tourist arrivals from India with 55,000 Indians travelling to the holy country from this year till November.

US Regulators Roll Back "Net Neutrality" Rules: American regulators on Thursday voted to roll back "net neutrality" rules that require internet providers to treat all traffic equally. The Federal Communications Commission, in a 3-2 vote, adopted a proposal by Republican appointed chairman Indian-American Ajit Pai. By doing so, the Republican-majority commission has reversed the 2015 "net-neutrality" rule of the previous Barack Obama Administration, which mandated upon all internet service providers to treat all traffic equally, without blocking or showing content. The decision restores the longstanding, bipartisan light-touch regulatory framework that has fostered rapid internet growth, openness, and freedom for nearly 20 years, the FCC said after the voting. In place of that heavy-handed framework, the FCC is returning to the traditional light-touch framework that was in place until 2015, it asserted. Moreover, the FCC also adopted robust transparency requirements that will empower consumers as well as facilitate effective government oversight of broadband providers' conduct, it said.

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SWARAJYA SPECIAL

How To Read The Gujarat Results, Whichever Way They Turn Out: Whichever way the Gujarat voter tilts, it will have a huge impact on national politics, economic policy and market trends.

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

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