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Sunday, October 21, 2018

Current Affairs - 21 October 2018

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General Affairs 

PM Modi To Join Flag-Hoisting On Azad Hind Fauj's Anniversary At Red Fort
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will join a flag-hoisting ceremony at the Red Fort on Sunday to mark the 75th anniversary of the 'Azad Hind government' headed by Subhas Chandra Bose.

    Interacting with BJP workers via video-conference on Wednesday, PM Modi had announced his plans to attend the ceremony.

    Traditionally, the prime minister hoists the national tricolour at the historic Red Fort on Independence Day on August 15.

    PM Modi said that BJP respects everybody who served the country, irrespective of party affiliation. He said his government celebrates the contributions of many great personalities who were neglected by the Congress in its rule of several decades.

    While the Congress neglected the likes of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, Subhas Chandra Bose and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the BJP believed in remembering everybody who contributed to nation-building, he said, citing his government's works, including constructing museums for noted tribal personalities and developing five places linked to Dalit icon BR Ambedkar.

    "We respect everybody who served the country," he had said.

    The Prime Minister would also lay the foundation stone of a museum dedicated to the Azad Hind Fauj.

    On October 21, 1943, Subhas Chandra Bose had announced the formation of the country's first independent government.

After Amritsar Tragedy, A Frantic Search For Missing Family Members
  • Many panic-stricken family members of people killed or wounded in Friday's Amritsar tragedy searched frantically from one hospital to another for any clue about the fate of their loved ones.

    At least 61 people were killed Friday evening after a crowd watching Ravan burning was run over by a train near Joda Phatak in Amritsar.

    "My son is missing since the train accident. I went to Civil Hospital and Guru Govind Hospital, but I am unable to find him," a woman told news agency PTI. Another Amritsar resident who was looking for his brother-in-law and found him in a hospital, said: "I was shocked when I heard about the train accident. I got a call from home came to know that he had not come back home.

    Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday ordered a magisterial inquiry into the accident after visiting the injured in hospitals A senior official in the district administration said most of those killed were migrant workers from UP and Bihar.

Always Favoured The Construction Of Grand Temple In Ayodhya: BJP
  • The BJP is committed to constructing a Ram temple in Ayodhya and would wait for the Supreme Court's verdict on the issue, the party spokesperson GVL Narasimha Rao said today.

    Speaking to reporters in Hyderabad, the BJP leader said though there was a demand for a section of leaders to bring an ordinance on the Temple, Mr Rao said the party understands the sentiments of the people.

    "As far as the issue of construction of the grand temple for Lord Ram is concerned, our party's position has been consistent. We have always favoured the construction of grand temple in Ayodhya. That is the aspiration and sentiment of crores of people, Hindus in this country," he said.

    "We are waiting for the verdict of the honourable Supreme Court and we want the process for the Ram temple construction to begin thereafter. We are committed to it but then we want this to happen either through the court verdict or through some kind of settlement among the communities, but that has not come forth. So we will have to wait for the court verdict," Mr Rao said.

    Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) are asking the government and the BJP for an early settlement of the issue.

    RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, during his annual Vijayadashmi address on Thursday in Nagpur said the government should clear the path for construction of the Ram temple in Ayodhya through an appropriate and requisite law.

    The BJP leader alleged that some of the Congress leaders have been trying to put roadblocks in the construction of the temple by trying to delay Supreme Court judgment by using their own "lawyer-politician" to create huddles in the court processes.

    The Ayodhya case is currently before the Supreme Court and the next hearing is scheduled for October 29.

    To a question on Rahul Gandhi's visit to Telangana for poll campaign, the BJP leader said the AICC president was a "negative factor" for the Congress party during elections.

    "Mr Rahul Gandhi has been proved to be disaster as far as electoral politics is concerned," he said.

    The Congress President would address two public meetings in Telangana today in the run-up to the December 7 assembly elections.

    The Election Commission had on October 6 announced the election schedule for five states, including Telangana, which will go to the polls on December 7.

    Quoting media reports that the Income Tax department found some discrepancies in the firms owned by Telugu Desam lawmaker CM Ramesh and Congress leader Revanth Reddy, GVL said the findings of the taxmen was just a "tip of the iceberg" and those leaders owed an explanation to the people.

BJP Wins Election To Jammu Civic Body, Suffers Losses In Other Districts
  • The BJP secured a major victory in polls to the Jammu Municipal Corporation, the votes for which were counted today, but did not do as well in other districts of the Jammu province.

    A chart posted by BJP national general secretary Ram Madhav on Twitter showed that his party had won 212 of the 520 wards in the Jammu region, leaving 110 for the Congress. While Independent candidates scored 185, the Jammu and Kashmir National Panthers Party secured an unlucky 13.

    According to the chart posted by Mr Madhav, the BJP managed its highest tally of 92 wards in Jammu district -- securing absolute majority -- while the Congress and Independents scored 28 and 34 respectively. However, the party did not fare as well in polls to municipal committees in other districts hitherto considered as its traditional strongholds.

    Its second-best showing was in Kathua, a district that has long been in the news over the rape and murder of a nomadic girl by alleged right-wing activists, with 34 of 80 wards. While the Congress won 19 wards in the district, Independent candidates scored 27.

    Of the 56 wards in Samba district, the BJP emerged victorious in 18 while the Congress managed just nine. Independent candidates claimed 27 wards in this region.

    The Congress got the better of the BJP in the districts of Kishtwar (two to one), Doda (12 to seven) and Ramban (10 to six), although a lion's share of the wards was bagged by Independents.

    The BJP also won 53 of the 132 wards in four districts of south Kashmir (Anantnag, Kulgam, Pulwama and Shopian), giving it control over at least four of 20 civic bodies.

    The Congress, however, bagged all 13 seats in the Leh Municipal committee - leaving none for the BJP. It also won five wards in neighbouring Kargil district, election officials said in Srinagar.

    Two major regional forces -- the National Conference and the Peoples Democratic Party -- had refused to contest in the state's local body polls over alleged attempts to dilute Article 35(A) of the Constitution. Article 35A empowers the Jammu and Kashmir legislature to define "permanent residents" of the state and provide special rights and privileges to permanent residents.

    The state urban civic body polls were held earlier this month. While Jammu and Ladakh regions witnessed robust polling in the municipal polls, only 3.4 per cent of the people came out to vote in terrorism-hit Kashmir.

No Approval Was Given For Dussehra Event: Amritsar Municipal Corporation
  • Amritsar police on Saturday said that though they had given a "no objection" certificate for the Dussehra celebration near Joda Phatak, the organisers did not take permission from the municipal corporation and the pollution department.

    According to the permission document, the organisers were given the go-ahead following their assurance that they would follow the directions of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on use of loud speakers.

    They had also assured that traffic movement would not be disrupted and nobody would carry any weapon at the event, it said.

    The organiser, Saurabh Madan, who is also the president of Dussehra Committee (East) and husband of Congress Councillor Vijay Madan, had sought permission for the October 19 event. He had also sought security from the police as Cabinet minister Navjot Singh Sidhu and his wife Navjot Kaur Sidhu were supposed to attend the event.

    Deputy Commissioner of Police Amrik Singh Powar said the organisers were asked to also seek permission from the municipal corporation and pollution department as well.

    "If any of these permissions is not granted, then the permission for holding a Dussehra event cannot be granted," Mr Powar said.

    Earlier on Saturday, the Amritsar Municipal Corporation (AMC) said no permission was granted to hold Dussehra celebrations at 'Dhobi ghat' ground in Amritsar.

    "Nobody was given permission for organising the Dussehra event. Moreover, nobody had applied for the permission with the Amritsar Municipal Corporation," AMC commissioner Sonali Giri sai.

    Opposition parties, including the Akali Dal, BJP and AAP have demanded strict action against those who gave permission for holding the event. They have also held the Congress-led Punjab government responsible for allowing the Dussehra celebrations near the railway track.

    At least 60 people were killed on Friday evening after a crowd had spilled onto railway tracks while watching the burning of a Ravana effigy was run over by a train near Joda Phatak in Amritsar. At the time of the tragic incident, at least 300 people were watching the 'Ravana dahan' at the ground adjacent to the elevated rail tracks.

Business Affairs

ICICI Lombard Q2 net profit surges 44% to Rs 293 crore
  • ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company on Saturday reported a jump of 43.6 per cent in net profit to Rs 293 crore for the second quarter ended September this fiscal.

    The company's net profit in the corresponding July-September quarter of 2017-18 was at Rs 204 crore.

    The gross direct premium income (GDPI) of the company increased to Rs 3,530 crore in the September quarter, registering a growth of 11.3 per cent over Rs 3,173 crore in the same period previous fiscal, ICICI Lombard said in a regulatory filing.

    The combined ratio improved to 101.1 per cent in second quarter from 102.9 per cent in the same quarter a year ago (combined ratio was 99.9 per cent in second quarter excluding the impact of Kerala floods), it added.

    The Board of Directors of the company has also declared interim dividend of Rs 2.50 per share for first half of 2018-19.

    ICICI Lombard said that its profit before tax (PBT) and profit after tax (PAT)/net profit includes a one off impact of Rs 58 crore recovered on account of doubtful reinsurance recoverable already provided in earlier years.

    Profit before and after tax grew by 36.6 per cent and 25.1 per cent, respectively, in the second quarter of the fiscal excluding the one-off impact.

    ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company offer products, including motor, health, crop, fire, personal accident, marine, engineering and liability insurance, through multiple distribution channels.

    As an outcome of the board meeting, the company said that Lalita D Gupte has been appointed non-executive chairperson of the board of directors of the company with immediate effect.

    Vinod Mahajan has been appointed as the Chief Investment Officer of the company with immediate effect, it said.

ArcelorMittal selected as preferred bidder by Essar Steel lenders
  • ArcelorMittal has been chosen as the preferred bidder for Essar Steel by the Committee of Creditors for the embattled steel producer. The Lakshmi Mittal-owned global steel giant bagged the lenders' approval following a long legal battle with other players in the race for acquiring Essar Steel, especially Russian VTB Bank-promoted Numetal. The company said it will now enter into further final negotiations with the creditors. Essar Steel was one of the 12 companies referred by the Reserve Bank of India put up for insolvency proceedings.

    "ArcelorMittal confirms it has been informed by the Committee of Creditors (CoC) for Essar Steel India Limited (ESIL) that it has been evaluated to be the H1 Resolution Applicant (the preferred bidder) in the corporate insolvency resolution process for ESIL," ArcelorMittal said in a statement on Friday.

    ArcelorMittal has said its board of directors believes that "ESIL represents a unique and compelling opportunity for the company to establish a significant footprint", with substantial expansion potential, in the high-growth Indian steel market.

    Earlier this week, ArcelorMittal agreed to pay Rs 7,469 crore to the creditors of Uttam Galva and KKS Petron to be eligible to acquire Essar Steel in line with the Supreme Court order. Around 80 per cent of the Rs 7,649 crore payment is to be used to settle the dues of Uttam Galva and the rest 20 per cent for KSS Petron, the world's largest steel producer said.

    "ArcelorMittal announces that, in-line with the Indian Supreme Court ruling dated 4 October 2018, it has approved a payment of 7,469 crore rupees (approximately $1 billion) to the financial creditors of Uttam Galva and KSS Petron to clear overdue debts in order that the offer it submitted for Essar Steel India Limited (ESIL) on 2 April 2018 is eligible and can be considered by ESIL's Committee of Creditors (CoC)," the Luxembourg-headquartered company has said.

    Russia's VTB Bank had moved the Supreme Court on October 12 seeking clarification on its October 4 verdict by which mining major ArcelorMittal and NuMetal were granted another opportunity to bid for Essar Steel. VTB Bank has recently indicated that it was likely to bid alone for the debt-ridden Essar Steel. A bench of justices R F Nariman and Indu Malhotra had said that ArcelorMittal and VTB Bank-promoted NuMetal can bid for Essar Steel, provided the two pay off the non-performing assets (NPAs) of their related corporate debtors within two weeks from October 4.

    It, however, had held that ArcelorMittal India Pvt Ltd and NuMetal Ltd were ineligible to file resolution plans for corporate debtor Essar Steel -- which had NPAs or bad debts amounting to Rs 45,000 crore -- as per the criteria laid down in the amended Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC).

    As per the verdict, ArcelorMittal will qualify to bid for Essar Steel only if it clears dues above Rs 7,000 crore dues of two firms, Uttam Galva and KSS Petron, it was previously associated with.

    With regard to NuMetal, the court had held that it was a shell company of Essar Group promoter Ravi Ruia and can only become eligible after clearing the NPAs of the group firms. The court, however, had not specified NPAs of NuMetal's related corporate debtors which have to be paid off to become eligible to bid for corporate debtors Essar Steel.

    Earlier, both the firms had moved the apex court against the decision of National Company Law Appellate Tribunal which had ruled that NuMetal's second bid for Essar Steel was eligible, but the same by ArcelorMittal would qualify only if it cleared the Rs 7,000 crore dues of two firms it was previously associated with.

HDFC Bank Q2 net profit rises 21% to Rs 5,005 crore
  • Private sector HDFC Bank Saturday reported a rise of 20.6 per cent in its net profit to Rs 5,005.73 crore for the second quarter ended September this fiscal, as the core income grew at a healthy pace.

    The bank had registered a net profit of Rs 4,151.03 crore in the July-September quarter of 2017-18.

    Total income for the quarter grew by 21.2 per cent to Rs 28,215.2 crore as against Rs 23,276.2 crore, the bank said in a regulatory filing.

    The net interest income (interest earned minus interest expended) for the quarter grew by 20.6 per cent to Rs 11,763.4 crore, driven by average asset growth of 22.9 per cent and a net interest margin of 4.3 per cent, it said.

    The net interest income stood at Rs 9,752.1 crore in September quarter of 2017-18.

    On asset front, the gross non-performing assets (NPAs) of the bank rose slightly to 1.33 per cent of the gross advances as on September 30, 2018 from 1.26 per cent on September 30, 2017.

    In value terms, the gross NPAs of the bank stood at Rs 10,097.73 crore by end of September quarter, compared to Rs 7,702.84 crore.

    The net NPAs or bad loans, however, fell to 0.40 per cent of the net loans by end of second quarter against 0.43 per cent. The absolute value of net NPAs was at Rs 3,028.24 crore as against Rs 2,596.83 crore.

    The provisions and contingencies for the quarter ended September 30, 2018 were Rs 1,820 crore as against Rs 1,476.20 crore as on September 30, 2017.

    The lender said it made preferential allotment of more than 3.90 crore equity shares to its parent Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC Ltd) at a price of Rs 2,174.09 crore on July 17 aggregating to Rs 8,500 crore.

    On August 2, the bank concluded a qualified institutional placement (QIP) of over 1.28 crore equity shares at a price of Rs 2,160 aggregating to Rs 2,775 crore and an ADR offering of 17.5 million, representing 5.25 crore equity shares aggregating to USD 1.82 billion (equivalent to Rs 12,440.90 crore).

    Among other key metrics, total deposits of the bank rose by 21 per cent year-on-year to Rs 8.33 lakh crore as of September-end.

    "The focus on deposits has helped in maintenance of a healthy liquidity coverage ratio at 118 per cent, much above the regulatory requirement," the bank said.

    The advances were up at Rs 7.51 lakh crore as against Rs 6.05 lakh crore.

    The bank said its domestic advances grew by 24.2 per cent during the second quarter. Overseas advances constituted 3 per cent of total advances.

    Total balance sheet size as of September 30, 2018 was Rs 11.70 lakh crore as against Rs 9.34 lakh crore on September 30, 2017.

    The bank's total Capital Adequacy Ratio (CAR) as per Basel Ill guidelines was at 17.1 per cent as on September 30, 2018 as against a regulatory requirement of 11.025 per cent, it said.

    HDFC Bank's distribution network was at 4,825 banking outlets and 13,018 ATMs across 2,718 cities/towns as against 4,729 banking outlets and 12,259 ATMs across 2,669 cities/towns a year ago.

    Of the total banking outlets, 53 per cent are in semi-urban and rural areas.

    The employees count of the bank stood at 94,907 as of end-September.

Indians hold three-quarters of H-1B visas in 2018, says USCIS report
  • Nearly three out of every four H-1B visa holders as of October 5 are Indian citizens, an official US report has said. According to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), there were as many as 419,637 foreign nationals working in the US on H-1B visas as on October 5. Of these, 309,986 are Indians, the USCIS said in its report 'H-1B petitions by gender and country of birth fiscal year 2018'.

    The report also reveals a massive gender disparity as only one out of every four H-1B visa holders is female. Of the 419,637 H-1B visa holders, 106,096 (or 25.3 per cent) are females as against 311,997 (or 74.3 per cent males), it said. Gender disparity is wider among Indians.

    Of the 309,986 Indians on H-1B visas in the US this October, only 63,220 or 20.4 per cent are females while nearly 245,517 Indians on H-1B visas or 80 per cent (79.2 per cent to be precise) are males. As many as 1,249 Indians on H-1B visas have been characterised in the category of missing/others.

    Indians, who account for 73.9 per cent of the total H-1B visa holders in the US, are followed by a distant Chinese with 47,172 on H-1B visas, accounting for 11.2 per cent of the total foreign nationals on this work visas.

    But there is not much gender disparity among the Chinese on H-1B visas. According to the report, 21,342 or 45.2 per cent are females and 25,718 or 54.5 per cent are males.

    After India and China, Canada and South Korea are the only two countries which account for a little over one per cent (1.1 per cent to be precise) each on H-1B visas.

    After that all other countries constitute less than one per cent of the H-1B visas as of October 5.

    The Philippines is the only country in top 10 H-1B visa holders wherein there are more females (1712 or 52.7 per cent) on H-1B visas than males (1519 or 46.7 per cent) on H-1B visas. As of October 5, as many as 3,250 professionals from the Philippines were on H-1B visas.

    The H-1B gender report was released days after the Trump administration came out with its unified fall agenda, in which it said that it plans to make changes in the definition of specialty occupation for the definition of H-1B visas and re-redefining the relationship between employees and employers.

    The proposed regulations, it said, is aimed at attracting the best and the brightest from across the world, prevent the abuse of H-1B visas which is consentient with the hire American agenda of the Trump administration.

    The USCIS is also proposing to introduce a pre-registration system for foreign students in the US. Technically it is possible that if 85,000 such students succeed in getting H-1B visas, no overseas applicants could apply.

China to launch its own 'moon' in the sky to save energy, light up streets
  • China is planning to put a 'moon' of its own in the night sky, and the motive reach beyond just a nod to the poetic beauty of the real celestial body. This artificial moon will replace conventional street lamps and help save a pretty penny in electricity expenses, the Chinese state media reported.

    According to a report by China Daily, Chengdu city in southwestern Sichuan province of China is developing illumination satellites, which will shine along with the real moon but will be eight times brighter. These satellites will have a reflective coating which can reflect sunlight towards the Earth similar to the moon. Placed only 500km above the Earth, the light reflected from the man-made moons will be more luminous than the actual moon.

    The first 'artificial moon' from China is scheduled to be placed into orbit by 2020 and will be launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan as a test mission. Three more such satellites will be launched in 2022 if the first attempt turns out to be a success, Wu Chunfeng of Tian Fu New Area Science Society told China Daily. The scientific outfit is responsible for this project.

    "The first moon will be mostly experimental, but the three moons in 2022 will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential," Wu told China Daily.

    The location and brightness of the light from artificial moons can be changed as required, with coverage accuracy in the range of a few dozen metres. They can be used to replace some street lights and save energy. This would also help Chengdu save around $174 million annually in electricity costs if any area spanning 50 square kilometre was illuminated using the illumination satellites, according to Wu's estimates.

    The light from the man-made moons could be used to light up disaster-struck areas facing blackouts, aiding rescue and relief operations, Wu added. The luminosity of the mirrors could be adjusted or they can be turned off completely, as required.

    In the initial phases, the tests on light from the artificial satellites will be conducted on open deserts so it does not interfere with people's daily dealings or other Earth-based space observation equipment.

    This is not the first time harnessing energy from space has been attempted and several countries have made attempts in this direction. Space mirrors have also been in discussion for some time now. Russia tried to launch a 25-metre space mirror to redirect sunlight to its cities in 1999, but it misfired at launch. The project was reportedly closed down due to budget issues.

General Awareness

    Azad Hind Government
    • What to study?

      For Prelims and Mains: Particulars of Azad Hind Government- objectives, accomplishments and other related key facts.

      Context: Seventy years after Subhash Chandra Bose assumed the leadership of the ‘Azad Hind Government’, PM Narendra Modi will hoist the national flag and unveil a plaque to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the erstwhile government on October 21 at the Red Fort.

      About Azad Hind Government:

      Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose had announced the establishment of the provisional government of Azad Hind in occupied Singapore in 1943.

      Known as Arzi Hukumat-e-Azad Hind, it was supported by the Axis powers of Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, the Italian Social Republic, and their allies.

      The revered freedom fighter had launched a struggle to free India from British rule under the banner of the provisional government-in exile during the latter part of the Second World War.

      Objectives:

      Bose was convinced that armed struggle was the only way to achieve independence for India. He had been a leader of the radical wing of the Indian National Congress in the late 1920s and 1930s, rising to become Congress president in 1938 and 1939 but was ousted following differences with Mahatma Gandhi and the Congress leadership.

      Under his provisional government, the Indians living abroad had been united. The Indian National Army drew ex- prisoners and thousands of civilian volunteers from the Indian expatriate population in Malaya (present-day Malaysia) and Burma (now Myanmar).

      The formation:

      On October 21, 1943, in his address announcing the setting up of the provisional government, he said India’s Army of Liberation was drawn up in military formation on the battlefield of Singapore which was once the bulwark of the British Empire.

      Under the provisional government, Bose was the head of the state, the prime minister and the minister for war and foreign affairs. Captain Lakshmi headed the women’s organisation while S A Ayer headed the publicity and propaganda wing.

      Revolutionary leader Rash Behari Bose was designated as the supreme advisor. The provisional government was also formed in the Japanese-occupied Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The islands were reoccupied by the British in 1945.

      Bose’s death was seen as the end to the Azad Hind movement. The Second World War, also ended in 1945 with the defeat of the Axis powers.

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    Current Affairs - 21 October 2018

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