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Economic Development and Policies

Urjit Patel resigns as RBI governor

Well known economist and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Urjit Patel resigned today (December 10, 2018).  He said that he has decided to “step down” from his current position effective immediately “on account of personal reasons”. The governor’s decision to resign came five days after the bi-monthly policy meeting, in which he refused to answer questions on the controversies surrounding the RBI’s autonomy. He also appreciated the support and hard work of RBI staff, officers and management saying that it had been the proximate driver of the Bank’s considerable accomplishments in recent years. He expressed gratitude to his colleagues and Directors of the RBI Central Board, and wished them all the best for the future. All sober officers like Urjit Patel claim personal reasons when they resign, but public and observers do not take such reasoning on its face value. The differences between the RBI and government came loudly in public domain in last few weeks. Resignation of the RBI government is no doubt partly because of irreconcilable difference between the approach of the RBI and government. Media reports were rife with speculation of Urjit Patel’s resignation following the government’s decision to invoke the never-used-before special powers under Section 7 of the RBI Act to initiate consultation on a range of issues such as the Prompt Correct Action (PCA) norms, RBI’s capital reserves, and liquidity problem in NBFCs.

To clear the cloud, few minutes after Urjit Patel announced his resignation, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted praise for him, saying that he is “an economist of a very high calibre with a deep and insightful understanding of macro-economic issues”. The PM added, “He steered the banking system from chaos to order and ensured discipline. Under his leadership, the RBI brought financial stability”.

Former Governor of the RBI, Raghuram Rajan, reacting  on Urjit Patel’s decision to step down, said that the autonomy of the central bank should not be undermined. He said, “Believe resignation of RBI Governor Urjit Patel is a matter of great concern. Resignation by a government servant is a note of protest when faced with circumstances they cannot deal with” .  While refusing to speculate what led to Urjit Patel’s resignation, he advised the government to take “extreme care” in its relationship further with the RBI. “Need to understand what prompted this act by Urjit Patel”.

Urjit Patel was appointed the 24th governor of the RBI on September 2016 for a three-year term. He was heavily criticised for his silence on demonetisation, which was announced just two months after he took the position. Urjit Patel earlier served as a deputy governor of the RBI and was elevated to the governor’s position after Raghuram Rajan’s tenure ended.

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Economic Development and Policies Persons in News

Krishnamurthy Subramanian: The New Chief Economic Advisor to Govt. of India

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved for the appointment of Dr Krishnamurthy Subramanian, Associate Prof. and ED (CAF), ISB, Hyderabad, to the post of Chief Economic Adviser,” said a government notification. Subsequently, the government appointed ISB Hyderabad professor Krishnamurthy Subramanian as Chief Economic Adviser for a period of three years on December 7, 2017. The Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) is the economic advisor to the Government of India. The CEA is the ex-officio cadre controlling authority of the Indian Economic Service. The CEA is under the direct charge of the Minister of Finance.

Who is Krishnamurthy Subramanian?

Mr. Subramanian is seen as one of the world’s leading experts in banking, corporate governance and economic policy. Before being appointed to the post, he was an associate professor and executive director (Centre for Analytical Finance) of Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad. He Subramanian is a trained engineer and has a degree in Electrical Engineering from IIT Kanpur. He is also an alumni of IIM Calcutta, where he was named to the famed Honour Roll on account of his stellar academic performance after he had topped his batch. He earned PhD from Chicago-Booth, US  in Financial Economics under the advice of Professor Luigi Zingales and Professor Raghuram Rajan, the former RBI governor. Prior to taking a plunge into the world of academia, Subramanian worked as a consultant with JPMorgan Chase in New York and also served in a management role in the derivatives research group at ICICI Ltd. Besides being on the boards of Bandhan Bank Ltd, the National Institute of Bank Management, and the RBI Academy, Subramanian also serves as a member of SEBI’s standing committees on alternative investment policy, primary markets, secondary markets and research.

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Persons in News

Forbes World’s Billionaires list puts Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos as the world’s richest man

According to the Forbes World’s Billionaires list published on June 17, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos has become the richest man in the world with a net wealth of $ 141.9 billion, followed by Bill Gates, the principal founder of Microsoft Corporation, who is the second-richest man in the world with $ 92.9 billion. Bezos’ wealth has grown more than $ 5 billion since June 1 to beat Bill Gates in wealth ranking. Warren Buffet, one of the most successful investors in the world, trailed in the third place with a total of wealth of $ 82.2 billion. Notably, Bezos officially became the richest person in the world earlier this year, and his business behemoth of online retailing, Amazon, grew into the second most valuable company in the world after Apple. Fortune’s last list release showed that Amazon ranked eighth on the 2018 list of America’s largest companies, with revenues of $ 177.87 billion.

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International Current Affairs

Challeges of Mahathir Mohamad as new Prime Minster of Malaysia

2018 election for PM in Malaysia

In a historic election upset in a country that has been governed by just one coalition for decades, a Malaysian opposition bloc led by the 92-year-old former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad swept to a majority in national parliamentary elections. The opposition had won 122 seats in Parliament, 10 more than needed to form a new government.  Prime Minister Najib Razak, who is accused of stealing hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds, gave an emotional national address on May 10, saying that he would “accept the verdict of the people.” In the Malaysian general election, 2018, Barisan Nasional were defeated for the first time in the nation’s history, winning 79 seats out of 222 in the Dewan Rakyat. Najib accepted the results of the election and promised to help facilitate a smooth transition of power.

 Following a decisive victory for Pakatan Harapan in the 2018 election, Mahathir was sworn-in as Prime Minister on 10 May 2018. At 92, he is the world’s oldest sitting head of government. He is the first Malaysian Prime Minister not to represent the Barisan Nasional (or preceding Alliance). He is also the first Malaysian Prime Minister to serve from two different parties and on non-consecutive terms. After leaving office, Mahathir became a strident critic of his hand-picked successor Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in 2006 and later, Najib Razak in 2015. His son Mukhriz Mahathir was the Chief Minister of Kedah until early 2016. On 29 February 2016, Mahathir quit UMNO in light of UMNO’s support for the actions of Prime Minister Najib Razak, in spite of the 1Malaysia Development Berhad scandal. On 9 September 2016, the Malaysian United Indigenous Party was officially registered as a political party, with Mahathir as chairman. On 8 January 2018, Mahathir was announced as the Pakatan Harapan coalition candidate for Prime Minister for the 2018 general election, in a plan to pardon Anwar Ibrahim and hand a role to him if the campaign was successful.

With victory, Mr. Mahathir, who led the country for 22 years before retiring at 78, would return to power as the world’s oldest elected government leader. Mr. Mahathir had left Mr. Najib’s party over the financial scandal and joined the opposition to help oust him.   Among the important jobs that Mahathir is expected to do is to stitch together a governing coalition that includes followers of Anwar Ibrahim, his onetime nemesis, who was released from prison after serving five years on charges that were widely seen as politically motivated. Mr. Najib waged a desperate election-eve attempt to gain support, promising that if his coalition wins he would exempt everyone 26 or younger from paying taxes and declare two public holidays next week, but he lost.

Challenges before the new government

Malaysia is grappling with many economic challenges. Its Debt-GDP ratio is described as unsustainable while its fiscal deficit is also high. Malaysian economy is also a victim of crony capitalism since the old regime and the country is in need of economic reforms to keep on the path of sustained and interrupted growth.  Over the years, former PM Mr. Najib has been accused of having ties to a murder, taking kickbacks from the purchase of military hardware and helping concoct a criminal prosecution against a rival. The image of the government in the past was entrenched in corruption.
Najib Razak, former Prime Minister who lost in the 2018 election, faced allegations of  siphoning off billions of dollars from sovereign wealth fund 1MDB.

Moody’s Investors Service has maintained (June 13) its estimate of Malaysia’s direct government debt at 50.8% of GDP in 2017. It said its assessment of contingent liability risks posed by non-financial sector public institutions has also not changed following some statements by the new Federal Government led by Pakatan Harapan which won the 14th General Election.  It pointed out that the new administration’s treatment of large infrastructure projects that may be placed under review but have benefited from  government-guaranteed loans in the past, and outstanding debt from state  fund, 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB, unrated), will play an important role in determining risks that contingent liabilities pose to the credit profile.

Background

Najib’s tenure as Prime Minister has been marked by economic liberalisation measures, such as cuts to government subsidies, loosening of restrictions on foreign investment, and reductions in preferential measures for ethnic Malays in business. After the 2013 election his government was marked by the pursuit of a number of its critics on sedition charges, the imprisonment of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim following a conviction for sodomy, the implementation of a Goods and Services Tax (GST), and an ongoing scandalinvolving state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) which led to rallies calling for Najib’s resignation, spearheaded by the grassroots movement Bersih. These protests culminated in the Malaysian Citizens’ Declaration by Mahathir Mohamad, Pakatan Harapan and NGO’s to oust Najib. Najib’s response to the corruption accusations has been to tighten his grip on power by replacing the deputy prime minister, suspending two newspapers and pushing through parliament a controversial National Security Council Bill that provides the prime minister with unprecedented powers. Najib’s various subsidy cuts have contributed to soaring living costs, while fluctuating oil prices as well as fallout from the 1MDB scandal have led to a steady depreciation of the Malaysian ringgit.

1MDB Scandal

The 1Malaysia Development Berhad Scandal involves came to light in 2015 in Malaysia as a political scandal occurring involving former Malaysia’s Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, who allegedly channeled over RM 2.67 billion (nearly $700 million) from 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a government-run strategic development company, to his personal bank accounts. The event triggered widespread criticisms among Malaysians, with many calling for Najib Razak’s resignation – including Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad who has served as the fourth and now the seventh Prime Minister. Political leader Anwar Ibrahim has openly questioned the credentials of 1MDB. He told Parliament that according to the records held by the companies commission, the company “has no business address and no appointed auditor.” According to its publicly filed accounts, 1MDB has nearly RM 42 billion ($11.73 billion) in debt. Some of this debt resulted from a $3 billion state-guaranteed 2013 bond issue led by Goldman Sachs, who is believed to have made as much as $300 million in fees from that deal alone, although it disputes this figure. Conference of Rulers in Malaysia has called for the investigations by the government to be completed as soon as possible, saying that the issue is causing a crisis of confidence in Malaysia.

After the 14th general election, the newly elected Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said there was enough evidence to reopen a probe on the 1MDB scandal. Having filed complaints alleging that more than $ 4.5 billion was diverted from 1MDB and laundered through a web of shell companies and bank accounts located in the United States and elsewhere, the U.S. Department of Justice said it would continue to pursue investigations into 1MDB and looked forward to working with Malaysian law enforcement authorities. On 18 May 2018, Malaysian police seized a huge haul of designer handbags, many of them stuffed with cash and jewelry, in searches of homes and offices linked to Najib Razak. Later he signed a pipeline deal with China which was also suspected as a deal to garner money to pay off the debt taken from 1MDB sovereign fund in an unauthorized manner. The pipeline deal was one of a series of big-ticket, Beijing-backed projects signed during Najib’s leadership, fuelling suspicions China was helping the scandal-mired leader pay off debts racked up by the stricken fund.

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International Current Affairs

Pedro Sánchez Swears in as Prime Minister of Spain

Pedro Sánchez was sworn in as Spain’s new Prime Minister on June 01, 2018. This remarkable personal comeback has settled a week of political upheaval that culminated in the first removal of an incumbent leader by Parliament in modern Spanish history. The New York Times writes aptly, “Little more than a year ago, Mr. Sánchez, 46, seemed lost in the political wilderness, deposed as the leader of the Socialist party after two record electoral defeats. And the man he has now replaced, Mariano Rajoy, 63, was seen as the great survivor of Spanish politics, one of Europe’s longest-serving heads of government. But Mr. Sánchez was unexpectedly re-elected as Socialist leader seven months after his ousting. Then, when Mr. Rajoy’s conservative Popular Party was tarnished by corruption — a court last week found the party guilty of operating a slush fund — he pounced, assembling parliamentary backing for a vote of no confidence in Mr. Rajoy, which passed on June 01.”

Background

His tenure may be short. The Socialist party holds just under a quarter of the seats in Parliament. Like the vote against Mr. Rajoy, his government will rely on support from the far-left Podemos party and nationalists from Catalonia and the Basque region. An economist by training and politician by occupation, he is also Secretary-General of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), holding office for the second time after winning a leadership election June 2017. He is without a seat in the Congress of Deputies. He served as town councillor in the City Council of Madrid from 2004 to 2009. In 2009, he was first elected Deputy in the Congress. In 2014, he became Secretary-General of the PSOE, and he was the party’s candidate for prime minister in the 2015 and 2016 general elections. During his first term as Secretary-General, he was heavily opposed to the re-election of Rajoy as Prime Minister. Rajoy needed the abstention of the PSOE in the Congress of Deputies in order to secure a parliamentary majority. Tensions grew within the party to allow Rajoy to form a government; due to its opposition by Sánchez, he stepped down as Secretary-General on 1 October 2016. He simultaneously resigned as Deputy, and a caretaker committee took over the PSOE leadership. He would eventually win the party primaries, defeating Susana Díaz and Patxi López, and was reinstated Secretary-General in June 2017. Under his tenure, the PSOE backed the Government of Spain in its handling of the Catalan independence referendum and the subsquent constitutional crisis.

On 31 May 2018 the PSOE filed a no-confidence motion, which passed with the support of the PSOE, Unidos Podemos, and Basque, Valencian and Catalan regionalist and nationalist parties. On 1 June 2018, a Royal Decree named Pedro Sánchez Prime Minister of Spain. On the following day, he was officially sworn into the office before King Felipe VI.

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Books and Authors Prizes and Awards

Polish author Olga Tokarczuk wins Man Booker International prize

Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize on May 22, 2O18  for fiction for Flights, a novel that charts multiple journeys in time, space and human anatomy. Flights beat five other finalists, including Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi’s horror story Frankenstein in Baghdad and South Korean author Han Kang’s meditative novel The White Book. Ms. Tokarczuk’s novel combines tales of modern-day travel with the story of a 17th century anatomist who dissected his own amputated leg and the journey of composer Frederic Chopin’s heart from Paris to Warsaw after his death.

The judging panel led by writer Lisa Appignanesi called Flights a witty, playful novel in which “the contemporary condition of perpetual movement” meets the certainty of death. One of Poland’s best known authors. Ms. Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s best-known authors. She has been criticised by Polish conservatives and received death threats for criticising aspects of the country’s past, including its episodes of anti-Semitism.

About the Author

Olga Tokarczuk born 29 January 1962 is a Polish writer, activist, and public intellectual who has been described as one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful authors of her generation. Tokarczuk was born in Sulechów near Zielona Góra, Poland. Before starting her literary career, from 1980 she trained as a psychologist at the University of Warsaw. During her studies, she volunteered in an asylum for adolescents with behavioural problems. After her graduation in 1985, she moved first to Wrocław and later to Wałbrzych, where she began practising as a therapist. Tokarczuk considers herself a disciple of Carl Jung and cites his psychology as an inspiration for her literary work. Since 1998, Tokarczuk has lived in a small village near Nowa Ruda, from where she also manages her private publishing company Ruta. She is a member of the political party The Greens, and has leftist convictions.

Tokarczuk is particularly noted for the mythical tone of her writing. She trained as a psychologist at the University of Warsaw and published a collection of poems, several novels, as well as other books with shorter prose works. Flights won the Nike Award, Poland’s top literary prize, in 2008. She attended the 2010 Edinburgh Book Festival to discuss her book Primeval and Other Times and other work. With her novel Księgi jakubowe (The Books of Jacob), Tokarczuk won the Nike Award again in 2015. In the same year, Tokarczuk received the German-Polish International Bridge Prize, a recognition extended to persons especially accomplished in the promotion of peace, democratic development and mutual understanding among the people and nations of Europe.

About the Prize

The prize is a counterpart to the Man Booker Prize for English-language novels and is open to books in any language that have been translated into English. The £50,000 ($67,000) award is split evenly between the writer and her translator, Jennifer Croft.

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Prizes and Awards

National Film Awards 2018

The National Film awards were announced by Shekhar Kapur, the head of the Jury for feature films, on April 13, 2018.  While Vinod Khanna was posthumously given the prestigious  Dadasaheb Phalke award, the critically acclaimed Assamese movie Village Rockstars won the Best Feature Film award. The best film actress award would be given to Sridevi for her performance in ‘Mom’.Vonod Khanna was a very popular actor and his  popularity in the 1970s rivalled Amitabh Bachchan’s. He passed away last April. He was also an Union minister and BJP MP from Gurdaspur for four terms. Sridevi, often described as the first female superstar, delivered a clutch of compelling performances in movies such as Tamil classic ‘Moondram Pirai’, Sadma (its Hindi version), ‘Mr India’ and ‘Chaalbaaz’.

The National Film Awards this year was a tribute to regional cinema. On a day when Malayalam cinema shone, winning awards in as many as seven categories ranging from best film on social issues (Aalorukkam), best direction (Bhayanakam), best supporting actor for Fahad Fazil for ‘Thondimuthalum Driksak- shiyum,’ cinematography (Bhayanakam), screenplay original and adapted, and production design, the jury also announced 78-year-old legend K J Yesudas as the best male playback singer for 2017.

Jury chairman Shekhar Kapur, who said he was hugely impressed by the regional cinema in India, also had a word of advice for the Hindi film industry: “It needs to pull up its socks.” “The standard of performances in some of the regional films is completely stunning. These regional films are rooted,” Kapur said while announcing winners.

The best feature film award went to Assamese film ‘Village Rockstars’ produced and directed by Rima Das, who also won the award for best editing. Bhanita Das won the best child artist award for the same movie.

Here is the full list of winners:

Dada Saheb Phalke Award: Vinod Khanna

Best Director: Jayaraj for Bhayanakam (Malayalam)

Best Feature Film: Village Rockstars (Assamese)

Best Actor: Ridhhi Sen for Nagar Kirtan (Bengali)

Best Actress: Sridevi for Mom (Hindi)

Best Supporting Actor – Fahadh Faasil for Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum(Malayalam)

Best supporting actress – Divya Dutta for Irada (Hindi)

Best Action Direction: Baahubali 2 (Telugu)

Best Choreography: Ganesh Acharya for Toilet Ek Prem Katha

Best Film for National Integration – Dhappa (Marathi)

Best Popular Film: Baahubali 2(Telugu)

Best Debut Film of a Director:Pampally for Sinjar (Jasari)

Best film on Social Issues:Aalorukkam (Malayalam)

Best Child artist: Bhanita Das  for Village Rockstars (Assamese)

Best Children’s Film: Mhorkya(Marathi)

Best Cinematography: Nikhil S Praveen for Bhayanakam(Malayalam)

Best Special Effects: Baahubali 2 (Telugu)

Special Jury Award: Nagar Kirtan (Bengali)

Best Film Critic: Giridhar Jha

Special Mention for Film Criticism: Sunil Mishra of Madhya Pradesh

Special Mention:

Mhorkya (Marathi)

Hello RC (Odiya)

Take Off (Malayalam)

Pankaj Tripathi for Newton (Hindi)

Malayalam actor Parvathy

Best Film on Environment Conservation/Preservation: Irada (Hindi)

Best Regional films

Kaccha Limbu (Marathi)

Thondimuthalum Driksakshiyum (Malayalam)

Newton (Hindi)

Mayurakshi (Bengali)

Ishu (Assamese)

To Let (Tamil)

Gazi (Telugu)

DHH (Gujarati)

Hebbettu Ramakka (Kannada)

Sinjar (Jasari)

Hello Arsi (Odiya)

Walking With The Wind (Ladakhi)

Paddayi (Tulu)

Music

Best Lyrics: Muthu Ratna for March 22 (Kannada)

Best Music Direction (Songs): A.R. Rahman for Kaatru Veliyidai  (Tamil)

Best Music Direction (Background score): A.R. Rahman for Mom (Hindu)

Best Location Sound Recordist: Mallika Das, Village Rockstar (Assamese)

Best Sound Design: Walking With The Wind (Ladakhi)

Best Female playback Singer– Shasha Tirupati for Vaan Varuvaan from Kaatru Veliyidai (Tamil)

Best Male Playback Singer: Yesudas for Poy Maranja KalamfromViswasapoorva M Mansoor (Malayalam)

Production

Best Make Up artist- Ram Razak for Nagar Kirtan (Bengali)

Best Production Design: Santosh Rajan for Take off (Malayalam)

Best Editing: Reema Das for Village Rockstar (Assamese)

Best Costume: Gobinda Mandal for Nagar Kirtan (Bengali)

Screenplay

Best Original Screenplay:  Sajeev Pazhoor forThondimuthalum Driksakshiyum(Malayalam)

Best Adapted Screenplay: Jairaj for Bhayankam (Malayalam)

Best Dialogues: Sambit Mohanty for Hello Arsi (Odiya)

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Sports

Indian Girls Fire in the Bull’s eye, win gold and silver in 10m pistol category at CWG

Kudos! A great feat indeed, India loves both the girls who brought pride and glory to the country in women’s 10 air pistol competition at Commonwealth Games!

India’s 16-year-old Manu Bhaker comfortably won the gold in women’s 10 air pistol while Heena Sidhu staged a remarkable recovery to secure silver at the 21st Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast on Sunday (April 08). Bhaker’s calm and composure belied her age as she shot 240.9 to break the Commonwealth Games record, finishing well ahead of her senior teammate Sidhu, who aggregated 234. The bronze medal went to Australia’s Elena Galiabovitch who ended with 214.9. Bhaker was the overwhelming favourite to win the event, having bagged gold medals at the 2018 ISSF World Cup in Guadalajara, Mexico and the following Junior World Cup in Sydney. Sidhu too did well to win silver after she was on the verge of elimination at one stage. She had also won a silver at the Delhi Games in 2010.

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Sports

21st   Commonwealth Games: The country rejoices weightlifting Gold rush for indicating a and healthier India 

Poonam Yadav, the brave daughter of India, made a memorable Sunday of  April 08 for India by winning the fifth weightlifting gold for India with a top finish in the 69kg category of the 21st Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast. A bronze-medallist from the 2014 Glasgow edition, Poonam lifted 222kg (110kg+122kg) to claim gold ahead of England’s Sarah Davies, who finshed with 217kg (95kg+122kg). Earlier Mirabai Chanu (48kg), Sanjita Chanu (53kg), Sathish Sivalingam (77kg) and Venkat Rahul Ragala (85kg) had claimed gold medals. Mirabai Chanu’s 84kg lift in snatch and 108kg in clean and jerk won India its second gold medal of the Games. It’s also the 24-year-old’s second consecutive gold at the Commonwealth Games. Four years ago in Glasgow, Chanu had dominated the 48kg category, emerging as a strong contender for the Rio Olympics. Sanjita Chanu won her second successive gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in the 2018 edition held in Gold Coast, Australia. She had shifted to a higher weight category of 53kg and secured the title with a total of 192kg. En-route to her gold medal, she bettered her performance from the previous edition and broke the Games record for the Snatch category with a lift of 84kg; she lifted a weight of 108kg in the Clean and jerk segment. At the 2018 Commonwealth Games Sathish Shivalingam he won gold medal in 77kg category. He lifted 144 kg in snatch games record and 173 kg in clean and jerk. At the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Sivalingam won the gold medal in the men’s 77 kg, with 149 kg snatch, and 179 kg clean and jerk lifts, totalling 328 kg. His lift of 149 kg in the snatch, set a new games record. Sathish born in Sathuvachari, Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India to Sivalingam and Deivanai. His father Sivalingam an ex-serviceman who won gold medals at national level and now works as a security guard at VIT University, Vellore. won gold medal in the men’s 85 kg weight class at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia. He lifted a total of 338 kg – 151 kg in snatch and 187 kg in clean and jerk. He won the 4th gold medal for India in the weightlifting category at the games.Manipur Government announced a reward of Rs.  lakh each to the girls from the state-   Khumukcham Sanjita Chanu had won a gold in women’s 48kg weightlifting at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

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India and The World

India, France ink 14 pacts, express resolve to combat terrorism

Taking strategic ties to a new high

India and France took their strategic ties to a new plane on March 10 when they signed as many as 14 key agreements in areas like defence, security, nuclear energy and protection of classified information as French President Emmanuel Macron conveyed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi his country’s firm resolve to join hands with India in combating terrorism, Islamic fundamentalism and radicalisation. Without directly naming Pakistan or any other nation, the two leaders, in a joint statement, called upon all countries to work towards rooting out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting networks and their financing channels and halting cross-border movement of terrorists belonging to Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Al Qaeda, Daesh/ISIS and their affiliates who threaten peace and security in South Asia and the Sahel region, a joint statement issued after Modi-Macron talks said.

The two countries also inked pacts in fields like education, environment, urban development and railways after wide-ranging talks between the two leaders on bilateral issues as well as international developments.

Display of friendship

Prime Minister, Modi while interacting with Macron described France as one of the most trusted defence partners of India. He also spoke about Paris’s commitment to his ‘Make in India’ initiative in the defence sector. Responding the French leader said, “France is the entry point to Europe. We want to be India’s best partner in Europe. ”

Joint Strategic Vision

The two leaders also welcomed the ‘Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region’ as a guiding beacon for partnership between their two countries. Apparently taking a dig at China for its growing ambition in the South China Sea, the two leaders reiterated that cooperation between India and France would be crucial in order to maintain the safety of international sea lanes for unimpeded commerce and communications in accordance with the international law, for countering maritime terrorism and piracy. ‘’Indian Ocean cannot be a place for hegemony,’’ the French President said.

Significance is being attached to the agreement for logistics support between the armed forces of the two countries. Under the accord, India is expected to be permitted to use French bases in the Indian Ocean and, in return, allow French naval vessels access to Indian ports for repair and resupply. The pact also has provisions for joint exercises, joint training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts.

Information sharing

The agreement regarding the exchange and reciprocal protection of classified or protected information will enable the two countries not to divulge information classified ‘secret’ by either side. It would apparently also cover cost details of the Rafale jet deal on which the Modi government has been facing intense heat from the Congress party.  The two leaders noted with satisfaction the on-schedule progress in the implementation of acquisition related agreements, including the Rafale pact signed in 2016.

Nuclear cooperation

The agreement on nuclear cooperation prescribes a way forward for the implementation of the Jaitapur nuclear power project which has been hanging fire for almost a decade now. The two leaders reiterated the goal of commencing work at the Jaitapur site by the end of this year.

Despite the age difference between them, Modi and Macron have established a personal chemistry between them which was very much in evidence as the two leaders hugged each other at the ceremonial welcome accorded to the French leader at the Rashtrapati Bhavanon Saturday morning. The two leaders will co-chair the International Solar Alliance (ISA) Summit on Sunday.

14 MoUs signed by the two sides:

  1. Home Minister Rajnath Singh and French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian signed an agreement on the “prevention of illicit consumption and reduction of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and chemical precursors and related offences”. The pact would facilitate the two countries in combating illicit traffic and consumption of drugs and also impact on financing of terrorism, according to a PIB statement.
  2. Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian inked the India-France Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement, which aims to facilitate temporary circular migration based on mobility and the encouragement for a return of skills to the home country.
  3. Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar and French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation Frederique Vidal signed an agreement to facilitate “mutual recognition of academic qualifications”.
  4. French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian singed an agreement on behalf of SNCF Motilities with Union Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on technical cooperation in the field of railways. “The purpose of this MoU is to build upon and deepen the mutual cooperation and focus on priority areas of high speed and semi-high speed rail; station renovation modernisation of current operations and infrastructure; and suburban trains,” said the release.
  5. Railway Minister Piyush Goyal and French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Jean-Yves Le Drian also signed a Letter of Intent between for creation of a permanent Indo-French Railways Forum to enhance the already existing cooperation.
  6. Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and French Minister for the Armed Forces Florence Parly signed a pact “to facilitate the reciprocal provision of logistic support, supplies and services between the Armed Forces of the two countries during authorised port visits, joint exercises, joint training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts etc”.
  7. Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Dr Mahesh Sharma and Brune Poirson, French Minister of State, attached to the Minister for the Ecological and Inclusive Transition, signed an MoU to establish a basis for exchange of information between the governments and technical experts of the two countries in the field of environment and climate change.
  8. MoS (Independent Charge), Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri and Minister of State, attached to the Minister for Ecological and Inclusive Transition, Brune Poirson singed an agreement between India and France on cooperation in the field of sustainable urban development to allow exchange of information on smart city development, development of urban mass transportation systems, urban settlements and utilities etc.
  9. National Security advisor Ajit Doval and Philippe Etienne, Diplomatic Adviser to the French President, inked a pact regarding the exchange and reciprocal protection of classified or protected information. According to the press statement, the agreement defines the common security regulations applicable to any exchange of classified and protected information.
  10. K. Sivan, Secretary, Department of Space & Chairman, Indian Space Research Organisation, and Jean-Yves Le Gall, President, Central National D’EtudesSpatiales, signed an agreement to implement an arrangement between the two organizations for pre-formulation studies of a maritime awareness mission. The agreement would provide end-to-end solution for detection, identification and monitoring of vessels in the regions of interest for France and India, said the release.
  11. An ‘Industrial Way Forward Agreement’ between the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd, and EDF, France, was signed by Sekhar Basu, Secretary, Department of Atomic Energy, andJean Bernard Levy, CEO, EDF. The agreement prescribes a way forward for the implementation of the Jaitapur nuclear power project.
  12. Vinay Kwatra, Ambassador of India to France, and Alexander Ziegler, Ambassador of France to India, signed a bilateral arrangement to encourage cooperation in the field of hydrography, nautical documentation and maritime safety information.
  13. A ‘credit facility agreement’ of Euros 100 million was signed between India and France for funding of the Smart City projects through a “challenge process”. Ambassador of India to France Vinay Kwatra and Ambassador of France to India Alexander Ziegler were the signatories. The agreement aims to “help fill the funding gap under the Smart City Mission and the funds provided by the Central and State Governments for the purpose”.
  14. An MoU was signed between the National Institute of Solar Energy, the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy and the National Solar Energy Institute, France, under which both countries will work on projects in ISA member countries in the areas of solar energy (solar photovoltaic, storage technologies, etc.) through transfer of technology and collaborative activities. Ambassador of India to France Vinay Kwatra and Administrator, Commission for Atomic and Alternate Energy, Daniel Verwaerde, were the signatories.