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AUGUST 22, 2017

Trump set to announce new Afghan policy

  • President Donald Trump will announce his new strategy for Afghanistan — which his administration now calls a South Asia strategy — on Monday night during an address to the nation, the White House has announced.
  • The President had, during his election campaign, spoken against American involvements in long-drawn foreign battles, but Afghanistan poses a security threat to homeland. National security is another of his critical political planks, and his new Afghan strategy will have to balance his desire to disengage from conflicts with the need to secure America against another terrorist strike.

‘Steel plant set to make profits again’

  • Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd., the corporate entity of Visakhapatnam Steel Plant, is hopeful of returning to the cash profit zone this fiscal, on the back of improved demand conditions, said chairman-cum-managing director P. Madhusudhan.
  • “There is an uptick in the demand situation of steel… we are sensing an appetite for consumption and if this is sustained, then we hope to become EBIDTA positive this fiscal and make cash profit by 2018-19,” he said at a press meet here on Monday.
  • India’s first shore-based integrated steel plant, the public sector RINL, made losses for two consecutive years in 2015-16 and 2016-17. Totalling Rs. 2,657 crore, these losses came after a continuous 12-year profit making stint since 2002-03. He said that product prices, which were lowered in the wake of the disruptions due to GST roll-out, had been increased again in August but sales were good.
  • Mr. Madhusudhan said that to boost productivity, the company had frozen manpower recruitment other than for critical requirement. “RINL’s manpower costs comprised about 18% of its production costs – we want to bring it down to around 12%,” Mr. Madhusudhan said.

Now, passport sans police verification

  • The physical police verification for getting a passport may soon be dispensed with as the Centre plans to connect the procedure with the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network and Systems Project (CCTNS), a project first conceptualised by the UPA government in 2009.
  • Union Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi said the CCTNS, an exhaustive national database of crimes and criminals that will check the antecedents of applicants at the click of a mouse, was expected to be linked with the passport service of the External Affairs Ministry.

National database

  • He said the mandate of the CCTNS had been expanded by incorporating citizen-centric services such as tenant verification, which could be done with the consent of the person being verified, quick registration of FIR in any crime and connecting the network with criminal justice delivery system.
  • Asked about the safety of the database, the Home Secretary said possibility of hacking was always there but enough safeguards had been put in place and the National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre had been roped in for the task.
  • The Home Minister said the digital police portal would provide citizens facilities for online complaint registration and request for antecedent verification.

215 animals, including 13 rhinos, killed in Kaziranga

  • With 70% of its area still submerged, 215 animals including 13 rhinos and a Royal Bengal Tiger have so far lost their lives at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, a senior forest official said on Monday.
  • Due to the flooding, the animals at the UNESCO World Heritage Site are facing food shortage within the park, compelling them to go out to the nearby hills, tea gardens and even human habitations in search of food, KNP Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Rohoni Ballav Saikia said here.
  • As the flood water from the national park recedes, Mr. Saikia said, the carcasses of animals were being recovered from its four ranges.

Dual trouble

  • He said the two waves of floods this year had caused the death of endangered species.
  • “Till date, we found bodies of 13 rhinos, 188 hog deer, four elephants, two swamp deer, four wild boars, two buffaloes and one Royal Bengal Tiger. All died due to drowning.”
  • The Kaziranga National Park is spread over 430 square kilometre.