Current Affairs

Morning Brief: Strengthening Border Defences; Retail Inflation At 15-Month High; Special Courts For Tainted Lawmakers

The India Bangladesh land border crossing. (Shazia Rahman/Getty Images)

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

Home Ministry Releases Rs 174 Crore For Strengthening Border Defences: An amount of Rs 174 crore has been released by the Home Ministry to six states having an international border for development of infrastructure in forward areas. “An amount of Rs 174.32 crore was released to Assam, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Manipur, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal under the border area development programme (BADP),” an official said. Assam shares International Border with Bangladesh, West Bengal shares border with Nepal and Bhutan, Gujarat with Pakistan, Manipur with Myanmar, Uttar Pradesh with Nepal and Himachal Pradesh with China and Nepal. The fully centrally funded BADP covers all villages, which are located within the 0-10 km of the international border. However, priority has been given to those villages which are identified by border guarding forces for speedy development of infrastructure.

Retail Inflation Rises To 15-Month High: A sharp increase in food and fuel prices led India's retail price inflation in November to rise to a 15- month high of 4.88 per cent and virtually tied Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) hands for any interest rate cut in the near future as experts saw price rise to be more severe in coming quarters. Food prices rose 4.42 per cent in November from 1.90 per cent in the previous month on the back of shooting vegetable rates while fuel prices jumped 7.92 per cent from a low of 6.36 per cent in October due to rising global crude prices. The industrial production data, which was also released simultaneously, disappointed with a 2.2 per cent print in October from a high of 2.88 per cent in the previous month. The Central Statistics Office said the slowdown in factory output was mainly on account of deceleration in manufacturing and mining outputs.

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Centre To Set Up Special Courts To Try Tainted Lawmakers: The central government has told the Supreme Court that it is ready to set up 12 special courts for one year to deal with 1,571 criminal cases pending against members of Parliament (MPs) and members of legislative assemblies (MLAs) in the country. According to the available details, 184 Lok Sabha and 44 Rajya Sabha MPs are facing criminal cases. Among the state legislators, Maharashtra topped the list with 160 lawmakers with such charges, Uttar Pradesh came second with figure of 143 and Bihar third with 141 MLAs. Karnataka has 73 legislators with criminal cases pending against them. "The scheme framed in this regard currently envisages setting up 12 criminal courts for a period of one year to dispose of cases against political persons at an expenditure of Rs 7.80 crore," the Law and Justice Ministry submitted in an affidavit. The Finance Ministry has given in-principle approval for it on 8 December, it added. The apex court would consider the government's affidavit on Wednesday.

SC Allows Restaurants And Hotels To Sell Bottled Drinking Water Above MRP: The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected the Centre's contention that charging more than maximum retail price (MRP) for bottled water flouted law and would attract a fine of Rs 25,000 and jail term. The court said that the provisions of Legal Metrology Act would not be applicable to selling bottled water in hotels and restaurants, so there cannot be prosecution against them for selling water above MRP. A bench of Justices R F Nariman and Navin Sinha said hotels and restaurants were not bound by MRP when they sell bottled mineral water. The court said there are composite elements of sale and service in hotels and restaurants where consumers also enjoyed ambience, created by these commercial establishments. The court rejected the government's argument that even sale in hotels requires mandatory compliance with the provision of the Act and that there would be jail term and fine for selling above MRP.

Five Soldiers Missing After Avalanches Hit Kupwara And Bandipora: Five soldiers were reported missing after multiple avalanches hit forward posts in north Kashmir’s Kupwara and Bandipora districts. “Two soldiers slipped down the slope in Naugam Sector, Kupwara. Three soldiers went missing from a forward post in Kanzalwan Sub-Sector, Bandipora’s Gurez, in the past 24 hours,” Srinagar-based Army spokesman Colonel Rajesh Kalia said. The Army said rescue operations are underway, but heavy snowfall in the area is proving to be a huge challenge. "Efforts are on to trace the missing soldiers but continuous snowfall is hampering the rescue and search efforts," he added. The valley has remained cut off from the rest of the country after it received fresh snowfall. Flight operations at the Srinagar airport were suspended and all major highways, including the Srinagar-Jammu National Highway have been closed for traffic.

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SC To Hear PIL On Granting Minority Status To Hindus In J&K: The Supreme Court will take up for hearings after eight weeks a public interest litigation (PIL) that sought granting of minority status to Hindus in Jammu and Kashmir and seven other states. Muslims constitute 68.3 per cent of the state population while Hindus form 28.4 per cent, Sikhs 1.9 per cent, Buddhists 0.9 per cent and Christians form 0.3 per cent of the total population as per the 2011 census report. According to 2011 census, Hindus are in minorities in Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Punjab. “The case will again be listed after eight weeks. By then a joint committee of the Centre and the state government has to submit a report to the court on the contentious issue,” Jammu-based advocate Ankur Sharma said. The Centre will have to take a call on the issue of identification of minorities in Jammu and Kashmir and other Hindu minority states, he further said and hoped that central government would come up with a “rational and legally sustainable” report. He said the ball is now in the Centre’s court.

SEBI Probing Data Leak On WhatsApp Groups: Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is seriously looking into the issue of prescient messages on company results circulated by market insiders in private WhatsApp groups. SEBI chairman Ajay Tyagi on Tuesday confirmed that the regulator has come to know of instances wherein price-sensitive financial data of reputed companies were leaked right before the earnings were formally made public. "We are taking that (WhatsApp leaks) very seriously. How come such messages about reputed listed companies are leaked quite close to the financial results is something we are not going to sit quietly on," Tyagi said. The market regulator has reportedly summoned officials of some of these companies to find out whether such messages have been circulated. They have also been asked to disclose the steps taken to prevent such occurrences in the future.

Trump Approves $692 Billion Defence Budget: US President Donald Trump signed a $692 billion defence policy bill (budget), which among other things gives funding to provide legislative authority to implement his South Asia strategy and authorises critical missile capabilities to confront threats posed by North Korea. The National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA) authorises $626 billion of the base budget resources for the Department of Defence and the national security programmes of the Department of Energy, providing an additional $66 billion for Overseas Contingency Operations. Trump had sought a major role for India in bringing peace in Afghanistan and ruled out a hasty withdrawal of troops from the war-torn nation while announcing his new Afghanistan and South Asia policy in August. Trump at the signing ceremony at the White House said NDAA 2018 could not come at a more opportune or important time.

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

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