Current Affairs India - 17 December 2013

1. Taking a strong view of the US action against India-s Deputy Consul-General in New York, the Indian Government took some measures including asking all the US embassies and consulates to return their diplomatic ID cards. It has also withdrawn all airport passes for them. The Indian government is also seeking details of wages paid to Indians working in US embassy, consulates and American schools. Delhi Police has been asked for removal of barricades outside US embassy.

The Government has also asked the US to return the ID cards given to their consular officers posted in India. It is understood that the Government intends to review the immunity and benefits enjoyed by US diplomats. Significantly, the review comes after India reacted sharply to Deputy Consul General Devyani Khobragade being arrested and handcuffed in public in New York on visa fraud charges last week by summoning US Ambassador Nancy Powell and issuing a demarche in this regard.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde today cancelled his meeting with a senior US Congressional delegation ostensibly as a mark of protest. Yesterday, Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar had cancelled her meeting with a senior US Congressional delegation due to the same reason.

2. The Rajya Sabha passed the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011 by a voice vote today after Samajwadi Party members staged a walkout saying that the proposed legislation is not in the interest of the country. Now, the Bill will be taken up in the Lok Sabha tomorrow. The bill provides for the setting up of a Lokpal at the Centre and will consist of a Chairperson and not more than eight members. The Chairperson may be either a serving or retired Chief Justice of India, or a Judge of the Supreme Court or an eminent person. Fifty per cent of the total members shall be from the higher judiciary.

3. The Union Cabinet has approved the Prevention of Communal Violence Bill 2013 yesterday. The bill aimed to prevent and tackle the communal violence in the country and punish the perpetrators of the violence. The Bill has been named as The Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2013. The Bill has the provision of creating an institutional arrangement for speedy investigation, disposal of cases and for providing relief and rehabilitation to victims of communal violence.

4. Union Minister of Road Transport and Highways Oscar Fernandes has been given additional charge of the Ministry of Labour and Employment, following death of Minister Sis Ram Ola. Earlier, President Pranab Mukherjee condoled the passing away of Ola, a veteran Congress leader from Rajasthan.

5. Over 2,200 youth from Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) are getting trained under -Project Udaan- by 29 corporates across the country. The project, an initiative of the Prime Minister, the National Skills Development Corporation and the Ministry of Home Affairs and industry, was started with the aim of providing skills to 40,000 youth over a period of five years, according to an NSDC release.

6. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has appointed Sayee Srinivasan will serve as an acting Chief Economist of the US commodities market regulator. In his new role, Srinivasan will be responsible for leading the Commission-s efforts in drafting policy and rule-making, advising the Commission on industry practices and policy implications, among others.

7. The Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) has appointed M. K. Goel as the new Chairman and Managing Director of Power Finance Corporation Ltd (PFC). Currently Goel is the Director (Commercial) and acting Chairman and Managing Director of the public sector finance company.

8. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) approved USA retail giant Walmart Stores Inc's proposal to acquire Bharti Group's nearly 50% stake in their Indian wholesale stores joint venture. Walmart and Bharti Group had started the joint venture in 2007 but Walmart Stores decided to acquire the entire stake in 2013.

9. Global pharma major GlaxoSmith-Kline Plc announced a USD1-billion open offer to increase its stake in its publicly listed pharma entity in the country GSK India from 50.7% to up to 75%. The potential total value of the transaction at the offer price is approximately Rs 6,400 crore. GSK had increased its stake in its listed consumer healthcare subsidiary, GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare to 72.5% from 43.2% for USD 901 million in February this year.