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Current Affairs - 11 August 2015

General Affairs

For Transparency, Need to Examine Allotment of Plots to Judges, Says Gujarat High Court
  • For Transparency, Need to Examine Allotment of Plots to Judges, Says Gujarat High CourtAHMEDABAD:  The Gujarat government and 22 judges have been served notices by the High Court that admitted a public interest litigation challenging the allotment of land to them at concessional rates.

    A two-judge bench of the High Court, headed by Acting Chief Justice VM Sahai, treated letters from two former judges Justice BJ Sethna and Justice KR Vyas as a public interest litigation which had complained against the allotment.

    The former judges have complained that the allotments have been made in violation of norms.

    The state government had issued a resolution in 2008 announcing allotment of plots at concessional rates to high court judges. The plots were allotted over the years in Sola and Gota areas of Ahmedabad - considered to be a prime real estate area.

    Seeking responses by tomorrow, the Court asked for details of how the plots were allotted.

    Hearing arguments against the case, the Court said by hearing the case it was not casting any shadows on the government process.

    But for the sake of transparency a proper inquiry needed to be conducted to ascertain if there were violation of norms, Justice Sahai said.

    They Asked for Rs. 200 Crores for Releasing My Father, Says Daughter of Sailor Held In Nigeria
    • They Asked for Rs 200 Crores for Releasing My Father, Says Daughter of Sailor Held In NigeriaKOLKATA:  She has knocked on all doors of the government but the appeals of 21-year-old Shreyashi Das in Kolkata seeking her father's release from a Nigerian prison have not yielded any results yet.

      Shreyashi's father, Jogesh Chandra Das and 10 other Indians were serving with a shipping company based in Dubai. In July last year, on a trip from Ghana to Cameroon, their engines failed and their ship strayed into Nigerian waters, she said.

      "They were arrested. The EFCC (Economic and Financial Crimes Commission) and the Nigerian Navy asked for a payment of Rs. 200 crore for their release," Shreyashi said.

      But not wanting to worry his family, it was only in June this year that Mr Das told them that he and his crew have been languishing in Nigerian jail, she said, adding that some of them who had got into an altercation with authorities had their legs broken and haven't even received proper medical care.

      "My father is diabetic. I don't know how he is doing. We are having a very difficult time because he hasn't received his salary all this while. Not just us but all other families as well," she said.

      "The company, Genesis Forte, and the agent that had sent him on board that ship is based in Mumbai. There has been no response from them. Nobody picks up the phone and their offices are locked," she said. Last week, she filed an FIR at the local police station against them seeking the whereabouts about her father.

      From the little that they have heard, the families know that the case is now in a court in Nigeria but is getting delayed. The hearing is in October, Shreyashi said.

      The families of the sailors have written to the government and the President but there has been no response.

      They have now planned a demonstration in New Delhi's Jantar Mantar on August 18 in hope that their pleas will be heard.

    Rajasthan High Court Asks State to Survey Other Backward Castes
    • Rajasthan High Court Asks State to Survey Other Backward CastesJAIPUR:  It is a landmark judgment, the Rajasthan High court has asked the state government to conduct a fresh survey of the communities who are on the state list of Other Backward Castes or OBCs.

      The state OBC list contains 81 communities and who cumulatively enjoy 21% reservation and there is continuous conflict between the communities over availing their share of quota.

      This order came 16 years after a petition was filed by seven people against job reservation given to the Jat community in Rajasthan.

      The petitioners argued that the Jats in Rajasthan were given OBC status by the Vajpayee government in 1999 for political reasons.

      But no survey had been conducted to determine whether they were really backward or not.

      The court has now asked the government to remove Jats from two districts -- Dholpur and Bharatpur -- from the OBC list, since they comprise the ruling classes in these areas. Even Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and her son MP Dushyant Singh both belong to the Jat royal family of Dholpur.

      Pleased with the judgment, one of the seven petitioners, Yashvardhan Singh, said: "For the first time, a state government will have to review the entire OBC list in the state. They were supposed to do it in 2003 and then again in 2013, but it was never done because of political pressure."

      The judgment could well lead to a realignment of caste equations as communities in the OBC list are in conflict over share of the reservation pie. Since 2007, the Gujjars have been demanding a separate quota, claiming they have not been getting their share of reservation as politically and socially influential Jats are cornering the lion's share.

      The government has said it is studying the judgment, but the advocate representing the Jats in the case, Hanuman Chaudhary, also welcomed the court's decision.

      "When reservation is being handed out, why exclude the Jats? They are also backward farmers," he said.

    Need to Make Child Labour a Non-Bailable Offence: Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi
    • Need to Make Child Labour a Non-Bailable Offence: Nobel laureate Kailash SatyarthiMIRZAPUR, UTTAR PRADESH:  Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi today said that there was a need to make child labour a non-bailable offence.

      The Centre and the state governments should give funds to organisations working in child labour sector as it was necessary to break the vicious circle of poverty, illiteracy and child labour, Satyarthi said.

      The relationship between poverty, illiteracy and child labour was like that of an egg and hen, he said. "If there is poverty, then there is illiteracy and it leads to child labour. If there is illiteracy then there are both," he added.

      Satyarthi was here to attend a felicitation function organised by bar association. There should be strict implementation of laws on child rights framed on the guidelines of the Supreme Court and bail should not be granted to those involved in such crimes, he said.

      Later, after laying foundation stone of a degree college here, Satyarthi termed Mirzapur as his "karmbhoomi" and said that it brought him Nobel prize.

      Appreciating the efforts of the judiciary for its decisions to abolish child labour, Satyarthi said the decisions were lauded by the international community also.

    Top Officials Suspended Within Hours of Deoghar Stampede
    • Top Officials Suspended Within Hours of Deoghar StampedeDEOGHAR, JHARKHAND:  The Jharkhand government has suspended top officials of Deoghar district within 12 hours of a stampede near a temple in Deoghar town, in which at least 11 people died and 20 were injured. The town had witnessed similar incidents in the past.

      In a hurriedly convened press conference in Ranchi, state Home Secretary NN Pandey said Deoghar's Deputy Commissioner Ameet Kumar, in-charge of administration, Superintendent of Police P Murugan and the Civil Surgeon Shree Kamad were suspended for dereliction of duty.

      The stampede took place early this morning close to a temple of Goddess Durga, where thousands had lined up for a ritual. Devotees flock to the area every year in August to offer water from the river Ganga to Lord Shiva at the town's famous Baidyanath temple.

      The town sees the maximum crowds on Monday. Last week, around one lakh people had converged at the temple and the district administration had held a review meeting of arrangements on Sunday.

      The police said a crowd started building up at 2 am and snaked through lanes near the temple. Within two hours, it had swelled to over one lakh.

      Officials at the spot tried to organise the crowd, but the surge turned chaotic when at 5 am, people heard the temple gates were finally opening and started jumping the queue.

      The police reportedly used batons to try and control the mass but failed.

      Those who had fallen asleep in the snaking queue got trampled as others pushed towards the doors, said SN Pradhan, the state's Additional Director General of police.

      "Many tried to rush to the head of the queue which led to chaos and as some of them fell, the devotees got trampled," Mr Pradhan said.

      Chief Minister Raghubar Das has ordered an inquiry and announced compensation. Denying that police action exacerbated the situation, "There was no lathi-charge. I haven't heard of any such thing".

    Business Affairs 

    Goa resumes iron ore production after 3 years
    • Goa resumes iron ore output after 3 yearsGoa resumed production of iron ore on Monday after nearly three years and could hit its court-set annual limit of 20 million tonnes this fiscal year itself, its mines director told Reuters.
      Vedanta, country's largest private miner, led the resumption with a ceremonial opening at its Codli mine, heralding the return of a once-big exporter just when iron ore prices are inching up after hitting a decade-low in July.
      Almost all other miners in Goa should get their licences to restart this fiscal year started April, said Prasanna Acharya, Goa's director of mines and geology.
      The Supreme Court banned mining in Goa in 2012 as part of a clampdown on illegal mining, freezing shipments that reached about 50 million tonnes in 2010/11. It lifted the ban in April last year but companies had to wait to get environmental and dozens of other clearances from the government.
      Aniruddha Joshi, vice-president at Vedanta , said as Goa's mining revs up only after the monsoon season ends in September, companies will be able to easily meet their output targets this fiscal year despite starting late.
      Finding buyers, however, would not be easy given that prices have fallen sharply due to an oversupply.
      "It's going to be an uphill task to regain customers, mainly in Europe and Japan," Joshi said by phone. "But we have created a niche for us, mainly in China. Three Chinese mills are coming to meet us."
      Vedanta CEO Tom Albanese said on a call with reporters that the company expects positive cash flow from its iron ore business in Goa despite the low prices.
      India has cut the export duty on low-quality ore to 10 percent from 30 percent, mainly to help companies sell Goa's ore that contains less than 58 percent iron.
      Most Indian steel companies either do not have the technology to use low-grade iron ore competitively or are located such that transportation costs are prohibitive.

    Sensex gets a sinking feeling on reforms bills, down 135 pts
    • Sensex gets a sinking feeling on reforms pain, down 135 ptsThe benchmark Sensex on Monday ended over 134 points down, its biggest single-day fall in two weeks, as fears took hold that key reforms bills, including GST, may not be passed in the Monsoon Session of Parliament.
      The fall was mainly due to late sell-off by participants, which wiped out whatever gains the benchmark had notched up earlier in the day.
      The global cues remained mixed, though.
      Investors got the jitters on concerns that the governments' reforms process will get delayed as key GST and Land Bills may spill over to the next session as the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha stood adjourned for yet another day amid continued Opposition protest, brokers said.
      The gauge opened on a higher note at 28,250.78 and stayed in the positive zone for most part to touch the day's high of 28,417.59 on the back of value-buying in several blue-chips amid optimism that easing global crude oil prices will cut country's import bill.
      Meanwhile, Brent crude for delivery in September fell 36 cents to $48.25 per barrel.
      However, fag-end selling by investors as well as funds, ate into the gains and took the benchmark back to the negative territory, which hit a low of 28,017.85 before settling at 28,101.72 points, a fall of 134.67 points, or 0.48 per cent, marking it as the biggest single session fall since July 27.
      The benchmark Sensex swung almost 400 points during the day. The index had lost 61.74 points in Friday's session.
      The 50-share Nifty, after reclaiming the 8,600-mark, touched the session's high of 8,621.55 intra-day, before settling lower by 39 points, or 0.46 per cent, at 8,525.60.
      Of the 30-pack Sensex, 20 ended with losses and 10 higher.
      A mixed close at other Asian markets and a lower opening in Europe influenced sentiment, brokers added. The Shanghai Composite ended the day higher.
      The stocks that contributed to the fall include ONGC, M&M, NTPC, Tata Motors and Coal India.
      Bucking the trend, BHEL, Hero MotoCorp, GAIL, TCS, Bajaj Auto, SBI, HDFC, Lupin and HDFC Bank ended higher, cushioning the fall.
      Maruti Suzuki climbed 1.03 per cent on reports of plans to raise FII limit.
      Sector-wise, the BSE infrastructure index suffered the most (down 1.08 per cent), followed by metal, oil and gas and consumer durables.
      Broader markets too stayed on a weak wicket, with the BSE smallcap and midcap indices falling up to 0.41 per cent.
      Meanwhile, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) net sold shares worth Rs 93.74 crore last Friday, as per provisional exchange data. Domestic institutional investors (DIIs) net bought shares worth Rs 34.08 crore.

    Investors in smaller cities line up to join stock rush
    • Investors in smaller cities line up to join stock rushMutual funds are seeing a surge in stock investments from the hinterland as growing ranks of provincial retail investors help drive a two-year long rally.
      Many major funds say they are seeing the fastest growth in fund flows from areas beyond India's 15 largest cities, while growth from more-traditional investment centres such as Mumbai has slowed.
      Fund executives see more room for such growth, given investors from smaller cities account for only Rs 1.9 trillion ($29.8 billion) in mutual funds, or 15 per cent of total share assets in India.
      The government has long believed that attracting investors from beyond big cities such as New Delhi is vital to direct more household savings into equities, reducing traditional investor preference for property and gold.
      One such investor is Barun Mukherjee, 54, a senior operator at a steel plant in Jamshedpur, a city of about 1 million people in Jharkhand. Like many Indians, Mukherjee avoided stocks after the global financial crisis and subsequent stock slump wiped out the savings of many households.
      But a month ago he decided to invest Rs 50,000 ($783) into a mutual fund.
      "Mutual funds are providing the best returns. The market is doing well. India's business scene is positive and the future seems to be good," he said.
      Mukherjee is investing in stock markets that have surged 67 per cent since August 2013 when the rupee hit a record low. The surge was largely driven by foreign investors' heavy buying. They now own nearly a third of the equity of companies in the Sensex.
      Strong gains are now also starting to attract more retail investors in a country where fewer than 1.5 per cent of households put money directly into shares, compared with around 10 per cent in China and 20 per cent in the United States.
      Domestic net inflows into equity mutual funds reached $2 billion in June, the second-biggest month since January 2008. India does not have data breaking down investments by cities, but fund executives say investments from secondary centres are a major factor in the surge.
      The surge is lucrative for fund houses, which can charge additional fees on funds that have at least 30 per cent of new inflows coming from smaller cities, a measure adopted by regulators to help these fund management firms to offset the higher marketing costs involved.
      Axis Mutual Fund, one of country's largest mutual funds, has been organising frequent roadshows and investor seminars, and today about 40 to 50 per cent of its equity inflows are from provincial centres, according to Axis chief executive Chandresh Nigam.
      "Investment from smaller towns is rising steadily and has helped us especially since our funds are designed for investors who are risk averse and not very savvy," Nigam said.
      ($1 = Rs 63.7400)

    As RBI fights inflation, housewives don't feel the benefits
    • As RBI fights inflation, housewives don't feel the benefitsReserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan may have reshaped monetary policy and brought down consumer inflation to the lowest in years, but convincing people like housewife Shaila Pai that prices are under control is proving a tough challenge.
      Entrenched expectations of high inflation are feeding into higher wages and other prices, which could tie Rajan's hands even as he faces growing pressure to cut interest rates for a fourth time this year to help a patchy economy.
      Pai, a mother of two in Mumbai, says she has yet to feel any benefit from offical data showing inflation is easing. Her living costs are as high as they have ever been and the family is cutting down on travel, eating out and personal spending.
      "The biggest part of our household expenses goes towards education, food and medicines, and all of them are very expensive. We can't cut corners much there," she said.
      "I expect hospital, food, education costs will continue to rise in the double digits."
      She is not alone. A survey by the RBI this week showed households expect consumer inflation to hit 10.1 per cent within three months, almost double the current 5.4 per cent and a level not seen since late 2013.
      At its latest policy review on Tuesday, the central bank kept rates steady but held out the prospect of another easing after cutting the policy rate by three-quarters of a per centage point so far this year.
      "Price pressures are building up and these are sticky," said a senior policymaker familiar with the RBI's thinking. "We are cautious. We have to see whether core inflation will feed into headline numbers or not."
      Since becoming governor in September 2013, Rajan has refocused policy on consumer inflation instead of wholesale prices. Earlier this year, the government and RBI agreed on adopting a target to keep inflation between 2 to 6 per cent.    
      While that looks on track for now, core inflation, which excludes volatile fuel and food prices, has risen for the past six months, and reached around 5 per cent in June.
      A 16.2 per cent surge in urban wages in the January-March quarter, the biggest increase in 11 quarters, is a key driver of core inflation.
      "In everybody's mind, inflation is hovering at 8 per cent," said Anandorup Ghose, a partner and head of rewards at Aon Hewitt, a global human resource solutions company.
      "For companies to give salary increases less than 10-10.5 per cent, it almost seems like you are not giving a real pay increase compared to inflation."
      Other costs are also starting to rise, according to the RBI.
      Among the biggest increases have been in education, an expense few middle-class households in India are willing to cut.
      Education costs rose 7.23 per cent in June, the biggest jump among the sub-sectors in the core CPI data, followed by clothing and then household goods and services.
      Rajan on Tuesday indicated the central bank would closely study the pace of inflation expectations and the way it impacts consumer behaviour.
      "If we really want to manage inflation, we have to look at the sum total of inflation, especially the inflation that confronts consumers because that is what determines things like household savings behaviour. It also determines the wage pressures that will come," he told reporters.

    No Land bill in Parliament before Winter Session
    • No land bill in Parliament before Winter SessionThe contentious land acquisition bill will not come to Parliament before the Winter Session, with the Joint Committee of Parliament examining the measure on Monday deciding to seek more time to finalise its report after Congress and TMC sought more time to study certain clauses.
      The decision to seek further extension till the first week of the Winter Session came after a sharp exchange of words between BJP and Congress as the latter was opposed to any changes in the retrospective clause of the bill dealing with compensation of land acquired under the 1894 Act, which was replaced by the 2013 law passed by the UPA government.
      Giving in to the demands by Congress and TMC members for more time to study certain clauses threadbare, panel Chairman S S Ahluwalia decided that the Committee should not submit its report in this session ending on August 13 and instead do so in the first week of the Winter Session.
      The committee was earlier given a fresh extension till August 11 to submit its report. Following demand by Congress and TMC for more time, Ahluwalia decided to seek yet another extension from Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan as he wanted to submit a consensus report. This means that bill will come to Parliament only after assembly elections are over in the agrarian state of Bihar, where BJP is hoping to replace the incumbent Nitish Kumar government. Congress is using the NDA bill to paint the government as anti-farmer.
      Monday's  meeting was expected to evolve consensus on three key provisions including the one on return of unutilised land to its owners after five years and the retrospective clause. However, only the retrospective clause was taken up briefly during which the Congress members vociferiously opposed any change in provision 24 (2) of the UPA Act, which has been diluted in the NDA bill.
      Sources in the panel said former Rural Development Minister and Congress member on the committee Jairam Ramesh walked out in a huff when told that his party was engaging in delaying tactics. However, Ahluwalia is learnt to have later persuaded Ramesh to return to the meeting.
      The UPA law stated the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 will continue to apply where an award has already been made. However, if such an award was made five years or more before the enactment of The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (LARR) Act, 2013 and physical possession of land had not been taken or compensation not paid, the UPA law will apply.

    General Awareness

    :::BOOKS & AUTHORS :::
         My Years with Rajiv and Sonia written by R.D.Pradhan
         ModiNomics: Inclusive Economics, Inclusive Governance: authored by Sameer Kochhar.
        Some other books of Sameer Kochhar:
        Growth & Finance
        Speeding Financial Inclusion.
        Policymaking for Indian Planning

         Building from the Bottom: Infrastructure and Poverty Alleviation
         Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and other Truths authored by PC Parakh
         The Accidental Prime Minister: The Making and Unmaking of Manmohan Singh authored by Dr. Sanjaya Baru
         Lal Bahadur Shastri: Lessons in Leadership written by Pavan Choudary .
         Rationalised Roman for Kashmiri written by Dr. R L Bhat
         Narendra Modi: A Political Biography written by Andy Marino.
         Public Issues Before Parliament written by Vijay Darda
         The Political Economy of Energy and Growth authored by Sh. Najeeb Jung
         India at Risk: authored by Jaswant Singh.
         Water, Peace and War - Confronting the Global Water Crisis written by Brahma Chellaney.
         Hard Choices authored by Hillary Rodham Clinton
         Greater than Bradman: celebrating Sachin, the greatest batsman in Test history authored by : Rudolph Lambert Fernandez, a Chennai-based author.
         “Unbreakable” - An Autobiography by Mary Kom
         The Luminaries by: Eleanor Catton. She won the Man Booker Prize 2013.
         Walking With Giants: authored by former Finance Secretary G. Ramachandran.
         "I am Malal : authored by Christina Lamb.
         Momentous Times on the 175 years of Times of India. The book is an effort of the Times of India Group.
         "Victory India - A Key to Quality Military Leadership" authored by Colonel Vinay B Dalvi (Retd)
         The Da Vinci Code: Dan Brown
         “Ahmev Radha, Ahmev Krishnah” - Gulab Kothari (Chief Editor of Hindi newspaer Rajasthan Patrika)
         An Uncertain Glory: India and its Contradictions - Jean Dreze and Amartya Sen.
         A Brush with Life- Satish Gujral
         A Bend in the river- V.S. Naipaul
         God of Small things- Arundhati Rai
         Inheritance of Loss- Kiran Desai.
         Joseph Anton- Sulman Rushdie (Autobiography)
         “Khushwantnama-The Lessons of My Life “ -Khushwant singh
         Lajja- Taslima Nasrim.
         My Unforgettable Memories-Mamata Banerjee
         “Muslim in Indian cities”- Christophe Jaffrelot & Laurent Gayer
         My country My Life- L.K.Advani
         My Music My Life- Pt Ravi Shankar
         Revolution 2020- Chetan Bhagat
         Runs in Ruins — Sunil Gavaskar
         Satenic versus- Salman Rushdi
         True Colours — Adam Gilchrist
         The Heritage of Sikhs — Harbans Singh
         The Jewels of Happiness - Indian spiritual guru Sri Chinmoy.
         The Things About Thugs — Tabish Nair
         The Test of My Life’- Indian cricketer Yuvraj singh
         “Those were the Day and then-The Life & Times of Lal Krishna Advani”-Mira Govind Advani
         Turning Points-APJ Abdul Kalam
         What Young India Wants - Chetan Bhagat
         Ye Jo Hai Pakistan’- Shivendra Kumar Singh.
         Smritiyan - Garima Sanjay
         My Journey: Transforming Dreams into Actions - former President of India, Dr.Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam

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