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Saturday, June 23, 2018

Current Affairs - 23 June 2018

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General Affairs 

Jammu And Kashmir Governor Meets Political Parties On Roadmap For Peace
  • Two days after central rule was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir, Governor NN Vohra met leaders of all political parties in the state in an attempt to build consensus over how to deal with the overall security situation.

    The state was placed under Governor's Rule on Wednesday, a day after the BJP junked its three-year-old alliance with the PDP, citing 'deteriorating security situation'.

    Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti did not attend the all-party meeting but sent one of her party leaders instead. She called on Mr Vohra separately ahead of the all-party meeting that was also attended by former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah and the state chiefs of the Congress and the BJP.

    Sources say the meeting that lasted over two hours had two broad things on the table --- how to deal with street protests and clashes between security forces and civilians, and to clear questions over why the assembly was put under suspended animation.

    Mr Abdullah has already questioned why the assembly was not dissolved when no single party has a majority and all the major players saying no to any possible alliance. The BJP may have ruled out allying with any other party but Mr Abdullah says not dissolving the assembly could encourage horse trading.

    There was a spike in violence in the valley during the month-long unilateral ceasefire declared by the centre during the holy month of Ramzan, after which operations against terrorists resumed on Sunday.

    Four terrorists were killed in an encounter today in Anantnag, an operation that also led to the deaths of a policeman and a civilian in whose house the terrorists were hiding.

    Earlier this week, Mr Vohra met top administrative and police officials to review the security scenario and ways to deal with it. Sources say security personnel have been asked to exercise restraint while dealing with civilian protests in an attempt to prevent any collateral damage that may worsen the situation further.

    With the annual Amarnath Yatra beginning on June 28, security is top priority. Mr Vohra, who has held the post for 10 years and was due to demit office later this week, is expected to continue till the yatra ends in August.

Weak Monsoon Delays Cotton, Soybean Sowing In India
  • Sowing of summer-sown crops such as soybean, cotton, corn and pulses has been delayed in India due to the slow progress of monsoon rains in central and western parts of the country, raising concerns over output, industry officials told Reuters.

    Lower production of soybean could force India to raise imports of edible oils such as palm oil and soyoil, while a drop in cotton production could limit the world's biggest fibre producer's exports.

    Cotton sowing has been delayed in western states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, the country's top two producers of the fibre, as rainfall wasn't sufficient for sowing, said Atul Ganatra, president of the Cotton Association of India.

    "But sowing can pick up once monsoon covers these parts," he said.

    Farmers have so far planted summer-sown crops on 11.6 million hectares, down 9.7 percent compared with the same period a year ago, according to the farm ministry's provisional data. Cotton sowing is down 16.3 percent, while soybean planting has lagged by 59 percent during the period.

    Monsoon rains hit the southern Indian state of Kerala a few days earlier than normal last month and delivered good rainfall in southern states, but from the second week of June it lost momentum. Usually monsoon covers entire India by mid-July.

    Monsoon rainfall was 9 percent lower than normal so far in June, but in some states such as Gujarat the rainfall deficit was as high as 93 percent, data compiled by the state-run India Meteorological Department (IMD) showed.

    Monsoons deliver about 70 percent of India's annual rainfall and are the lifeblood of its $2.5 trillion economy, spurring farm output and boosting rural spending on items ranging from gold to cars, motorcycles and refrigerators.

    Conditions are becoming favourable for the advance of monsoon into more parts of central and western India in the next two to three days, the IMD said in a statement on Friday.

    Usually monsoon covers the entirety of Gujarat and top soybean producer state Madhya Pradesh by the third week of June, but so far this year monsoon has not reached it, IMD data showed.

    Farmers can accelerate soybean sowing if monsoon delivers good rains in the next two weeks, said B.V. Mehta, executive director of Mumbai-based trade body, the Solvent Extractors' Association of India (SEA).

    India is likely to get 97-percent rainfall of a long-term average in the June-September monsoon season, IMD forecast last month.

    The forecast for normal monsoon rains and an early arrival in Kerala prompted farmers such as Raghunath Patil from Jalgaon district in Maharashtra to cultivate cotton on four acres in first week of June.

Plastic Ban In Maharashtra From Tomorrow, Violators To Face 3 Months Jail
  • The Maharashtra government ban on plastic items is all set to come into effect from tomorrow. Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam said that an extensive awareness campaign will be carried out in the next eight days to inform people about banned items.

    Errant manufacturers will face a strong action, but common people and small traders will not be harassed, he said. "We will ensure that common people and small traders are not harassed. But strict action will be taken again plastic manufacturers (if they break the law)," the senior Shiv Sena minister said.

    On March 23, the state government imposed a ban on manufacturing, use, sale, distribution and storage of plastic materials such as one-time-use bags, spoons, plates, PET and PETE bottles and thermocol items. The government gave three months for the disposal of existing stocks.

    The fine for the first-time and second-time offenders will be Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 10,000, respectively. A third violation will attract a fine of Rs. 25,000 and a jail term for three months.

    Star couple Kajol and Ajay Devgan, appealed to citizens to make "little effort" to save the city, the country and the world from plastic pollution.

    "We always think of leaving something for our kids. We think of leaving property or bank balance for them. It would be better if we thought of leaving behind green environment for them."

    Mumbai generates 500 metric tonnes of everyday which accounts for nearly 10% of its total waste. While this ends up in the garbage dumps and landfills, a lot of the plastic also ends up clogging drains and in the sea, leading to massive marine pollution around Mumbai.

    One lakh marine animals are killed due to plastic every year globally and coastal areas around Mumbai have also seen marine life deaths due to plastic. Versova-based lawyer Afroz Shah, who has been spearheading the beach clean-up since October 2015, has removed over 15 million kg of plastic from just Versova beach along with his team.

    Shiv Sena Leader Aditya Thackeray, who has been instrumental in pushing through the ban on single use plastics, said: "Plastics are there in the sea, in the drains. It's even reached Mount Everest. We are not getting rid of all plastics. We are only targeting single use disposable plastics which have alternatives. I want to thank the courts for taking cognizance of the problem and upholding the move."

    BMC Commissioner Ajoy Mehta told, "We are looking at implementation in two ways. One is the legal way where we now have to powers to impose fines and take action but beyond that we are looking at telling and convincing people that it's high time you stopped using plastic as there is an alternative."

    The BMC also organised an exhibition to showcase alternatives that are available in place of single use plastics.

    Mamata Asthana, a Hiranandani resident in Powai suburb told, "We have got 45 buildings together and we have decided that whatever the BMC does, whatever the extent of the plastic ban, we are going to become a zero waste society."

    While everyone was in favour of the ban many expressed apprehension over the availability and quality of alternatives that were on display.

    Cyrus Behram Irani, the owner of a popular bakery in south Mumbai told, "I am here to find out alternate ways and means. I am totally in support of the ban. I have not found any alternatives in the portions that I have covered."

9 Security Personnel Injured In Grenade Attack In Kashmir's Pulwama
  • Nine security personnel, including five Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) jawans, were injured in an attack by terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir's Pulwama area, police said.

    The terrorists threw a grenade and opened fire when the personnel were on patrol today on Tral road, a police spokesperson said.

    Five CRPF jawans and four police officers were injured in the attack. The injured were rushed to the hospital.

    Security forces' personnel exercised maximum restraint after being attacked to prevent any civilian casualty, he told news agency Press Trust of India.

    The attack comes hours after four terrorists were killed in an encounter in Anantnag district.

    Among the four terrorists was the head of a local unit inspired the global terror group ISIS. The gun-battle -- second since the ceasefire was called off in the Valley on Sunday - also claimed the lives of a policeman and a civilian.

    The terrorists were holed up inside a house in the south Kashmir district, whose owner died in the crossfire. His wife has been injured.

"Farmer Suicides Doubled, Not Their Income": Shiv Sena To Modi Government
  • The Shiv Sena today hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi's farmers' outreach programme and said that only farmers' suicides, and not their income, have doubled.

    PM Modi had spoken on Wednesday, via video-conferencing, to farmers in 600 districts nationwide, as part of a farm outreach programme, in which he highlighted how his government had doubled the agriculture budget to Rs. 2.12 lakh crore and how it was working towards doubling farm incomes.

    In a scathing attack in its mouthpiece "Saamana", the party said that country was "tired" of the never-ending announcements and jumlas of the present dispensation.

    "The country is tired of never-ending announcements and jumlas of the present dispensation. The recent announcement of PM Modi of doubling farmers' income by 2022 is not a new one. The BJP's 2014 election manifesto too had promised the same thing and this had helped it come to power," the Saamana editorial said.

    "He played the same old cassette," the Saamana editorial added.

    It added that the farmers who brought the BJP to power had now gone into "coma".

    "Instead of doubling farmers' income, their condition has, on the contrary, deteriorated," it said.

    The Marathi language daily added that PM Modi, in his interaction, should have disclosed what steps had been taken to double the income of farmers in the last 4 years, and if achche din had arrived for them.

    The party questioned that if PM Modi's government had taken policy decisions, why was it not reflecting on the ground.

    The editorial said that increase in cost of production and lack of takers for farm produce was distressing farmers.

    It added that banks were not giving them agricultural credit either.

    "Banks roll out a red carpet for industrialists who then dupe banks. But farmers do not get money. This is discrimination. Instead of their income, suicides of farmers have doubled in the present regime. Forty thousand farmers have committed suicide between 2014 and now," the party claimed.

Business Affairs

Day after Teradata files IP theft suit against SAP, Vishal Sikka terms charges 'baseless, outrageous'
  • The battle between US-based data and analytics firm Teradata and German tech giant SAP SE has intensified as its former top boss Vishal Sikka junked charges levelled against his former company. On Thursday, Teradata had lodged a formal complaint against SAP in the US District Court for the Northern District of California over alleged misappropriation of trade secrets, copyright infringement and antitrust violations. Vishal Sikka, whose previous term with India's tech conglomerate Infosys was marred with controversies and differences with the company founders, termed these allegations "baseless and outrageous".

    Slamming the charges, Sikka in an emailed statement to PTI said: "Although this lawsuit is not directed at me, I categorically deny the baseless and outrageous allegations made by Teradata that attempt to diminish the hard work, passion, and the irrefutable and fully legitimate achievements by the Hana team, including myself".

    The complaint, which names several top executives of SAP, alleges misappropriation happened during the development of HANA. SAP's HANA platform handles both transactions and analytics in memory on a single data copy. It also converges a state-of-the-art database with advanced analytical processing, application development capabilities, data integration, and data quality.

    After the development of HANA 2011, the company had strengthened its positions across the globe as a major software corporation, and Sikka was a major force behind the project.

    The complaint states that SAP engaged in a decade-long campaign of anti-competitive behaviour, to the detriment of the parties' customers and Teradata alike. "SAP lured Teradata into a purported joint venture in order to gain access to Teradata's valuable intellectual property. SAP's purpose for the joint venture was to steal Teradata's trade secrets, developed over the course of four decades, and use them to quickly develop and introduce a competing though inferior product, SAP HANA," said the complaint.

    The company has alleged that upon release of SAP HANA, SAP promptly terminated the joint venture, and is now attempting to coerce its customers into using HANA only, to the exclusion of Teradata. The company has demanded an injunction barring SAP's illegal conduct, monetary damages, and "all other legal and equitable relief available under the law and which the court may deem proper".

    The company said that SAP could not have so quickly developed and marketed HANA without its "theft of Teradata's trade secrets". "Now, using the fruits of that theft and its position in ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) applications, SAP is attempting to foreclose Teradata from supplying EDAW solutions to many of the largest corporations in the world."

    In reply to the allegations, SAP has said that it is surprised by the complaint, and will comment only after reviewing the complaint document.

OPEC set to boost oil output by 1 million barrels per day after Saudi Arabia coaxes Iran
  • OPEC moved closer on Friday toward boosting oil output as its leader Saudi Arabia appeared to have persuaded arch-rival Iran to cooperate, after major consumers warned of a supply shortage.

    Saudi Arabia and non-OPEC Russia have said a production increase of about 1 million barrels per day (bpd) or around 1 percent of global supply had become a near-consensus proposal for the group and its allies.

    The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is gathering in Vienna amid calls from the United States, China and India to cool down the price of crude and prevent an oil deficit that would hurt the global economy.

    OPEC in theory needs the agreement of all members to clinch a deal but has in the past agreed production pacts without Iran, which has criticized the idea of raising supply as it faces export-crippling U.S. sanctions.

    "We are cooking something," Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh told reporters after meeting Saudi Energy Minister Khalid al-Falih before the OPEC talks.

    Iran, OPEC's third-largest producer, has so far been the main barrier to a deal as it called on OPEC to reject pressure from U.S. President Donald Trump to pump more oil.

    Trump imposed fresh sanctions on Tehran in May and market watchers expect Iran's output to drop by a third by the end of 2018. That means the country has little to gain from a deal to raise OPEC output, unlike top oil exporter Saudi Arabia.

    Falih said the overwhelming majority of producers had recommended raising output by 1 million bpd, gradually and on a pro-rata basis.

    Past clashes

    OPEC and its allies have since last year been participating in a pact to cut output by 1.8 million bpd. The measure has helped rebalance the market in the past 18 months and lifted oil LCOc1 to around $74 per barrel from as low as $27 in 2016.

    But unexpected outages in Venezuela, Libya and Angola have effectively brought supply cuts to around 2.8 million bpd in recent months.

    Brent oil prices were up 1.6 percent LCOc1 on Friday. The OPEC meeting began around 1000 GMT. Two OPEC sources said ministers were nearing a deal after 90 minutes of talks.

    OPEC has a history of difficult meetings as well as clashes between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

    In 2000, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton's energy secretary, Bill Richardson, phoned Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister at the time, during an OPEC meeting to ask for more oil.

    The move infuriated Iran, and Zanganeh refused to sign up to the meeting's decision to raise output. The dispute was settled by the time of the next OPEC talks.

    The current standoff was partially triggered by the United States, with Trump calling directly on OPEC to raise output.

    Market squeeze

    Falih has warned the world could face a supply deficit of up to 1.8 million bpd in the second half of 2018 and that OPEC's responsibility was to address consumers' worries.

    "We want to prevent the shortage and the squeeze that we saw in 2007-2008," Falih said, referring to a time when oil rallied close to $150 per barrel.

    Earlier this week, Zanganeh left the door open for a deal, saying OPEC members that had overdelivered on cuts in recent months should comply with agreed quotas. That would effectively mean a modest boost from producers such as Saudi Arabia that have voluntarily cut more deeply than planned.

    Zanganeh has said that if OPEC returned to regular compliance, the group would raise output by around 460,000 bpd.

    On Friday, Zanganeh said OPEC would change the structure of the current deal, but declined to elaborate.

    Falih also said the real increase would be smaller than the nominal gain of 1 million bpd, meaning a compromise with Iran remained possible. He said OPEC could meet again in September to adjust the deal.

    OPEC sources also said Iran had demanded that U.S. sanctions be mentioned in the group's post-meeting communique, as Tehran has blamed U.S. measures for the recent rise in oil prices.

    The United States, which rivals Russia and Saudi Arabia for the position of world No.1 oil producer, is not participating in the current supply pact.

Bharat-22 ETF oversubscribed, investors put in bids worth Rs 12,500 crore so far
  • The second tranche of Bharat-22 ETF was oversubscribed on the final day of offering, with the issue garnering subscription to the tune of Rs 12,500 crore.

    Through the Bharat-22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF), comprising shares of 22 companies, the government had targeted to mop up Rs 6,000 crore with a green-shoe option of another Rs 2,400 crore.

    Subscription has come in for over 2 times of the base issue size of Rs 6,000 crore. The total bids that has come in so far is for Rs 12,500 crore and one lakh applications have come in, market sources said.

    The government is likely to exercise the green-shoe option to retain the additional Rs 2,400 crore worth bids received.

    The government had on June 19 launched the follow-on fund offer (FFO) of Bharat-22 ETF, which is managed by ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund.

    On the first day of the issuance, anchor investors put in bids worth Rs 5,163 crore, which was 3.44 times the portion reserved for them.

    The state-owned companies that are part of the ETF include ONGC, IOC, SBI, BPCL, Coal India and Nalco.

    The other central public sector enterprises on the list are Bharat Electronics, Engineers India, NBCC, NTPC, NHPC, SJVNL, GAIL, PGCIL and NLC India. Only three public sector banks SBI, Indian Bank and Bank of Baroda feature in the Bharat-22 index.

    The government had in November last year launched the new fund offer (NFO) of Bharat-22 ETF comprising shares of 22 companies, including public sector undertakings (PSUs), public sector banks, ITC, Axis Bank and L&T.

    The fund had garnered bids to the tune of Rs 32,000 crore, although the government retained only Rs 14,500 crore.

    The government plans to raise Rs 80,000 crore in the current fiscal from disinvestment, lower than over Rs 1 lakh crore raised last year.

    Besides, the initial public offering (IPO) of railway consultancy firm RITES got subscribed nearly 67 times so far on the final day of issuance. The IPO is expected to fetch over Rs 460 crore to the exchequer.

After Swiggy, Zomato to raise $400 million at $2-billion valuation from existing investors
  • A day after its rival Swiggy announced to raise $210 million from its existing and new investors, online food delivery start-up Zomato Media Pvt Ltd also claimed it was in talks to raise $400 million (Rs 2,712 crore), valuing the food-tech company at $2 billion. Zomato is believed to be in negotiations with its existing investors Alibaba's Ant Financial Services Group and Temasek Holdings to raise more funds as the online food delivery space continues to flourish in India, a Mint report said.  

    Besides, SoftBank Group is also planning a big entry into India's booming food tech space, following its exist after raking in $4.5 billion out of the $16-billion Flipkart-Walmart deal. The Japanese conglomerate held an exploratory discussion with Zomato in May regarding a possible investment. It is exploring a possible funding of up to $200-250 million in Swiggy too.

    The food delivery business in India is on the roll. According to RedSeer Consulting, the online food delivery market in India totalled $0.3 billion in 2016. A CAGR of 90 per cent is expected to take the segment to $4 billion by 2020. The sector had reportedly seen investments to the tune of $500 million in 2015, followed by a rough period of consolidation and correction.

    Both Swiggy and Zomato had raised $100 million and $200 million, respectively, in their last round of funding this year, but now competition in the food delivery segment has increased with the entry of new players. Uber Eats, which was launched in India last May by the world's biggest ridesharing cab company Uber, and FoodPanda, which is owned by Ola, are also expanding aggressively to newer cities. Uber is expected to invest $200 million into UberEats in India, Ola has earmarked an identical amount to grow FoodPanda.

    While Zomato is present in 23 countries, its rival Swiggy has operations across 15 nations. Zomato has been able to reduce its losses in the past one year to Rs 389 crore in March 2017 from Rs 590 crore a year earlier. Its biggest competitor Swiggy has over 35,000 restaurant partners on its catalogues and a massive delivery fleet of over 40,000 across 15 cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and Hyderabad.

IDBI Bank stock rises 6% intra day on stake sale buzz to LIC
  • The IDBI Bank stock surged 6% intra day amid a report the government was planning to sell its 40-43% stake to Life Insurance Corporation of India. The stock closed nearly 2% higher on BSE. The stake sale would fetch the government Rs 10,000 crore to Rs 11,000 crore, news agency NewsRise reported, citing an unnamed finance ministry official.  Currently, the government holds 81% stake in IDBI Bank and LIC holds 10.8 % as on March 31, 2018 , according to stock exchange data.

    The report said the insurer had cleared the initiative to take a controlling stake in the bank.

    Volume of the stock traded rose more than three times on the BSE in trade today compared with the previous trading day.  

    On Thursday, the volume of IDBI Bank shares traded on BSE stood at 13.48 lakh which rose to 48.48 lakh today.

    The stock is down 1.34% since the beginning of this year. It has risen 3.60% during the last one year.

    The stock is down over 22% in the last three months.

    On Thursday, State Bank of India's (SBI) Managing Director B Sriram was appointed as the IDBI Bank's CEO and managing director for a temporary period of three months, according to an official order. He has been appointed in place of incumbent Mahesh Kumar Jain who was recently named Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

    The bank on May 25, 2018 reported net loss at Rs 5,662.76 crore for the quarter ending March 2018 due to higher provisioning for non-performing assets (NPAs).

    The lender had reported a net loss of Rs 3,199.77 crore in the corresponding January-March quarter of 2016-17. The bank's income during January-March 2018 was Rs 7,913.82 crore, marginally up from Rs 7,703.19 crore in the year-ago period, it said in a regulatory filing.

    IDBI Bank's gross NPAs soared to 27.95 per cent of its loans at March 2018-end compared to 21.25 per cent at the end of March 2017.

    General Awareness

    Nuclear arsenals around the globe
    • Context: Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released its 2018 edition of the yearly report on the current state of armaments, disarmament and international security.

      Key findings:

      There are nine countries which have nuclear warheads. They include Russia, the US, the UK, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea.
      China continues to modernise its nuclear weapon delivery systems and is slowly increasing the size of its nuclear arsenal. The country now has an estimated 280 nuclear warheads. In 2017 report, the number was 270.
      The US and Russia still constitute a major share of approximately 14,465 nuclear weapons that exist in the world. Both together account for nearly 92% of all nuclear weapons despite reducing their strategic nuclear forces pursuant to the implementation of the 2010 Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms.
      Despite the overall decrease in global nuclear weapons year-on-year, India and Pakistan have increased their stockpiles. India, which had an estimated 120-130 nuclear warheads as per 2017 report, now has 130-140 warheads. Similarly, Pakistan, which had 130-140 warheads now has increased to 140-150 warheads. Both countries are also developing new land, sea and air-based missile delivery systems.
      Nuclear warheads in other countries: UK (215 warheads), France (300 warheads), Israel (80 warheads) and North Korea (10-20 warheads). The figures for North Korea are uncertain.

      Way ahead:

      Nuclear weapons remain uniquely dangerous because they are uniquely destructive. The renewed focus on the strategic importance of nuclear deterrence and capacity is a very worrying trend. The world needs a clear commitment from the nuclear weapon states to an effective, legally binding process towards nuclear disarmament.

      Facts for Prelims:

      SIPRI is an independent international institute dedicated to research into conflict, armaments, arms control and disarmament. Established in 1966, SIPRI provides data, analysis and recommendations, based on open sources, to policymakers, researchers, media and the interested public. Based in Stockholm, SIPRI also has a presence in Beijing, and is regularly ranked among the most respected think tanks worldwide.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims: SIPRI and nuclear- weapon states.
      For Mains: Nuclear disarmament- need, challenges and global efforts.

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    Current Affairs - 23 June 2018

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