Current Affairs Current Affairs - 28 October 2015 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 28 October 2015

General Affairs

Trinamool Congress Wants JD-U Leader Nitish Kumar to Win in Bihar
  • Trinamool Congress Wants JD-U Leader Nitish Kumar to Win in BiharKOLKATA:  Trinamool Congress today reaffirmed its support for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in the Assembly polls and said the communal forces needed to be "defeated".

    "Our main focus is on Bihar poll presently. We want Nitish Kumar to win. We feel that the communal forces in the country need to be defeated. We have always stood by the minorities," Trinamool Congress leader and state Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim told reporters.

    Mr Hakim's comment followed party chief Mamata Banerjee's appeal to Bihar voters two days back to re-elect Mr Nitish Kumar.

    Asked why Trinamool Congress is not directly attacking the BJP on the issue of communalism like other parties, Hakim said, "Why would we attack BJP, when they are completely irrelevant in Bengal? Why would we do it? We have condemned the incident of Dadri long back".

        Pulses Prices Start Easing as 82,000 Tonnes Seized From Hoarders
        • Pulses Prices Start Easing as 82,000 Tonnes Seized From HoardersNEW DELHI:  Over 82,000 tonnes of pulses have been seized so far from hoarders during 8,394 raids carried out by 12 state governments, resulting in a marginal fall in tur and urad dal prices across the country.

          The states have indicated that seized stock will be made available in retail markets within a week, which will further help to bring down skyrocketing prices.

          The retail price of tur dal slipped below Rs. 210 per kilogram (kg) and was quoted around Rs.190 today, while wholesale price of the commodity declined to Rs. 181 per kg, according to the data maintained by the Consumer Affairs Ministry.

          The price of Urad dal dropped by up to Rs. eight per kg in both retail and wholesale markets across the country. The retail price of urad was Rs. 190, while it was Rs. 180 per kg in the wholesale market.

          "Under de-hoarding operations, 8,394 raids have been conducted so far and 82,462.53 tonnes pulses have been seized across the states," an official statement said today.

          Due to the seizure of pulses in 12 states, prices have started showing a downward trend, a senior Consumer Affairs Ministry official said.

          A maximum quantity of 57,455 tonnes pulses was confiscated from Maharashtra due to which tur dal prices in Mumbai wholesale markets fell to Rs. 152 per kg from Rs. 200 a week ago, though its impact is yet to percolate into retail markets, the official added.

          Similarly in Rajasthan and Karnataka, the wholesale prices are showing a declining sign.

          As per the ministry data, 4,932 tonnes of pulses have been seized in Chhattisgarh, 2,370 tonnes in Madhya Pradesh, 3,330 tonnes in Rajasthan and 2,189 tonnes in Haryana so far.

          The statement further said that "more states have started selling pulses through government/cooperative outlets. Prices in the wholesale market have also registered declining trends.

        BSF, Pakistan Rangers Agree Not to Violate Border Ceasefire
        • BSF, Pakistan Rangers Agree Not to Violate Border CeasefireJAMMU:  Field commanders of Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers today agreed to respect the bilateral ceasefire and work together to bring down tension on the border in Jammu and Kashmir.

          This was agreed at a flag meeting between BSF's Deputy Inspector General (DIG) BS Kasana and Pakistan Rangers' Brigadier Waseem Jaffar Bhatti on the international border in Suchetgarh sector of Jammu district.

          Briefing the media after the flag meeting, BSF's Inspector General, Frontier, Jammu, Rakesh Sharma said the meeting was held in a cordial atmosphere and the two sides have agreed to work together to uphold the ceasefire on the international border.

          "Pakistani Ranger field commanders have assured not to violate the ceasefire and we have told them there would be no unprovoked firing from our side," he said.

          Sources in the BSF said the Indian side blamed the Pakistan Rangers for targeting civilians, one of whom was killed last week in unprovoked firing in Mawa village of Samba district.

          "Pakistan Rangers said the BSF had earlier fired at Pakistani farmers near the international border.

          "Our field commanders clarified to them that BSF troopers had fired after noticing suspicious movements around 1 am last week suspecting that militants could be attempting infiltration.

          "They (Rangers) were told that no farmer would try to come closer to the border fencing at that hour of the night," a source said.

          The sources also said the two sides lodged complaints about loss of life and damage to civilian properties during recent cross-border shelling and firing.

          While one civilian was killed and over a dozen others injured in Pakistan shelling on the international border last week on the Indian side, Pakistan has said five of its civilians were killed in cross border shelling and firing by the BSF.

          More than 3,000 residents of border villages in Samba district have abandoned their homes during the last seven days because of indiscriminate shelling by Pakistan Rangers.

          The state government has set up 20 makeshift accommodations for these families in government buildings and religious places away from the international border.

        Arun Shourie No Longer a Party Member, Clarifies BJP
        • Arun Shourie No Longer a Party Member, Clarifies BJPNEW DELHI:  Arun Shourie, who had launched a scathing attack on the Modi government yesterday, is no longer a party member, the BJP clarified today. The party countered the criticism of its one-time influential leader who was also a minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government.

          BJP general secretary Arun Singh said Mr Shourie's membership ceased after he did not renew it during the recent membership drive.

          All members have to renew their membership after every six years and Mr Shourie did not do so this time round, he said. "Arun Shourie is no more a BJP member. He did not renew his membership," he said.

          At a press conference in the party headquarters, Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu rejected Mr Shourie's attack on the government, saying "his views are shared neither by the party nor by the public".

          Mr Shourie, a former union minister and once a strong supporter of Narendra Modi during the Lok Sabha election campaign last year, had said the Centre believes that managing economy means "managing the headlines" and that people had started recalling the days of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

          "The way to charaterise policies of the government is - Congress scaled plus a cow," he had said.

          Dismissing the charge, Mr Naidu said there has been "no scam, no scandal and not even one mistake" under the government and BJP had been winning elections across the country.

          "We are a democracy, he (Shourie) has his opinion, but the country's opinion is different," Mr Naidu said, adding the people were supporting the Prime Minister in all parts of the country.

        Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung Okays Arvind Kejriwal's Choice for VAT Chief

        • Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung Okays Arvind Kejriwal's Choice for VAT ChiefNEW DELHI:  Delhi's Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung today approved SS Yadav's name for the post of Delhi's VAT Commissioner.

          Mr Yadav's name was suggested by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

          Mr Yadav, who was the CEO of Delhi Jal Board, will succeed Mr Vijay Kumar, whose transfer to Lakshadweep by Mr Jung was slammed by the Delhi government.

          An official in Mr Jung's office said the Lieutenant Governor "has accorded approval to (the) appointment of SS Yadav as the VAT commissioner".

          Earlier, the Aam Aadmi Party government accused Mr Jung of shunting out Mr Kumar, who it said was fighting corruption.

          Mr Jung said the transfer was done at the central government's behest.

          Mr Keshav Chandra will replace Mr Yadav as the Delhi Jal Board CEO.

        Business Affairs 

          Govt to simplify income tax law to facilitate businesses
          • FM Arun JaitleyThe government has set up a new panel to simplify the country's 55-year-old income tax law, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said on Tuesday, part of an effort to make it easier to do business in Asia's third-largest economy.
            The panel will suggest ways to create predictability and certainty in tax laws without having a substantial impact on the tax base and revenue collection, FM Jaitley told reporters.
            Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked various ministries to review laws, aiming to improve country's ranking in the World Bank's index of the ease of doing business index.
            India ranked 142 among 189 countries in the 2015 report, two notches lower than the previous year. The World Bank will release its latest annual report on Wednesday.
            The 10-member panel, headed by a former judge of the Delhi High Court, has been asked to submit its first set of suggestions by the end of January 2016.
            Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia said the government plans to use the recommendations to introduce changes in the income tax law in the annual Budget due the following month.
            The panel has also been asked to identify provisions in the tax law which are leading to litigation because of different interpretations.
            The government remains locked in major back-tax battles with telecoms group Vodafone and Cairn Energy. Last month, the finance ministry decided not to press claims for a Minimum Alternate Tax (MAT) against foreign portfolio investors.
            The new panel will not, however, look into retrospective tax issues, Adhia said, adding the government will take a separate decision on those.
            Jaitley has said previously that the government was trying to resolve pending tax disputes, many of them outside the courts.

          Vedanta Q2 net profit declines 41% to Rs 974 crore
          • Vedanta Q2 net profit declines 41% to Rs 974 croreVedanta on Tuesday reported a 40.6 per cent fall in consolidated net profit to Rs 973.97 crore for the quarter ended September 30 on the back of lower commodity prices.
            Billionaire Anil Agarwal-led mining conglomerate had reported a net profit (after taxes, minority interest and consolidated share in profit/loss of associates but before exceptional items) of Rs 1,639.93 crore during the second quarter of 2014-15.
            The company , which was earlier known as Sesa Sterlite, saw its net sales drop to Rs 16,349.21 crore during the quarter from Rs 19,448.14 crore in the year-ago period.
            Revenues during the quarter at Rs 16,349 crore were 16 per cent lower than last year on account of the fall in crude oil and metal prices, partially offset by higher volumes at Zinc India, Oil & Gas and TSPL (Talwandi Sabo Power Ltd) as well as rupee depreciation, the company said in a statement.
            Revenues for the quarter were lower by 4 per cent QoQ due to softening of crude oil and metal prices during the quarter, partially offset by higher volumes at Zinc India and depreciation of the rupee, it said. Total expenses of the company declined to Rs 14,221.32 crore during the period as against Rs 15,270.56 crore a year ago.
            Vedanta CEO Tom Albanese said, "Our diversified asset portfolio has delivered a strong operating performance, including record production from our tier-1 zinc mines, resulting in strong free cash flows during the quarter. We are continuing to drive efficiency improvements and optimise opex and capex across the business, taking measured steps to reduce net debt and maximise free cash flow."
            "While the near-term market outlook is challenging, we believe we have the right mix of low cost assets fuelled with new technologies to benefit from future demand in India and globally," he added.  
            The company further said the gross debt amounted to Rs 79,433 crore as on September 30, 2015.
            Net debt decreased by Rs 5,335 crore to Rs 27,105 crore as a result of several initiatives to optimise opex, capex and working capital.
            Out of the total debt of Rs 79,433 crore, debt in INR currency is Rs 36,197 crore and balance Rs 43,236 crore (54 per cent) is in US dollar.
            Further, the gross debt comprises long-term loans of Rs 65,031 crore and short-term loans of Rs 14,402 crore, it said.
            "We continue to have a strong balance sheet with cash and liquid investments of Rs 52,328 crore as on September 30, 2015 which is mostly invested in debt related mutual funds, bank deposits and bonds," it added.
            Vedanta shares closed 0.14 per cent up at Rs 104.85 apiece on the BSE. 

            No Fed rate hike likely as it monitors global pressures
            • No Fed rate hike likely as it monitors global pressuresAhead of the US Federal Reserve's two-day policy meeting, doubts are rising that the central bank will start raising rates before next year from the record lows where they have stood since 2008. When its policymakers meet later on Tuesday, the likelihood of a rate hike is widely seen as close to zero.
              The last Fed meeting in mid-September had hinted at increasing the interest rates once the US economy showed signs of strength. Fed Chair Janet Yellen had even affirmed on an increase in rates by the end of this year. But, in the wake of a global economic slowdown, led by China, that's inflicted wide-ranging consequences, experts believe an increase in interest rates is not likely before next year.
              US job growth has flagged. Wages and inflation are subpar. Consumer spending is sluggish. Home sales have flattened. Investors are nervous. And manufacturing is being hurt by a stronger dollar, which has made US goods pricier overseas. Central banks in Europe and China are executing deflationary pressures in their economies.
              The tightening of the US monetary policy gives the emerging economies a nightmare, but since China, in August, announced a surprise devaluation of its currency that rocked markets and escalated fears that the world's second-largest economy was weaker than thought and could derail growth in the United States, uncertainty rose manifold. Since the outlook has dimmed further, the Reserve Bank of India and central banks of other emerging economies will have more time to brace themselves for the rate hike expected to come next year.
              Even though the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), a branch of Federal Reserve that determines the monetary policy, had predicted rates around 1.25 per cent by the end of 2015, Yellen, in her second year as the head of Federal Reserve, has said the Fed will start raising rates once it's "reasonably confident" inflation will return to 2 per cent within two to three years. She has said that confidence should be boosted by a stronger job market, which will help raise workers' pay.
              Moreover, the Fed's two-day meeting starting Tuesday coincides with major central banks in Europe, China and Japan pursuing their own low-rate policies. Against that, a Fed rate hike would strengthen the dollar and thereby squeeze US exporters of farm products and factory goods by making them costlier overseas.
              Even if the Fed makes no policy changes Wednesday, there's still likely to be spirited debate at the meeting as Yellen seeks consensus on the timing of a rate hike - a debate not without risks.

            Maruti Suzuki reports 42.08% rise in Q2 net profit, stock closes higher
            • Maruti Suzuki reports 42.08% rise in Q2 net profitCountry's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki on Tuesday reported a 42.08 per cent rise in net profit for the quarter ending September 30, 2015.
              The firm posted a net profit of Rs 1,225.56 crore in the second quarter of the current fiscal compared to Rs 862.54 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2014.
              Total income rose to Rs 14070.85 crore in the quarter under review compared with Rs 12,497.03 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2014.
              The Maruti Suzuki stock closed 2.44 per cent higher on the BSE. 

            India Inc's external borrowings fall 32% at $2.6 bn in September
            • India Inc's external borrowings fall 32% at $2.6 bn in SeptemberExternal commercial borrowings (ECBs) by Indian firms declined by 32 per cent to $2.61 billion in September, according the Reserve Bank data on Tuesday.
              The borrowings were at $3.18 billion in the same month last year.
              However, ECBs raised by Indian firms in August this year were significantly lower at $750.77 million, as per RBI data.
              Of the total amount raised during last month, $1.48 billion was through approval route, while $1.13 billion came via automatic route.
              Two players Reliance Industries Ltd ($1.47 billion) and Global Vectra Helicorp ($8.7 million) took the approval route to refinance earlier ECBs and import of capital goods, respectively.
              Major loan takers under automatic route were Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd ($250 million); Rural Electrification Corporation ($250 million) and MCC PTA India Corp. Pvt Ltd ($170 million).  

            General Awareness

            Review Committee appointed by HRD Ministry to evaluate Fellowships

              • In a bid to reform higher education sector the Ministry of Human Resource Development has decided to establish a Review Committee to go into the issues related to the research fellowships provided by the UGC, covering both NET and Non-NET fellowships. The Review Committee will submit its report to the Ministry within December 2015.
                (Minister of Human Resource Development – Smriti Irani)
                Review Committee appointed by HRD Ministry to evaluate FellowshipsIssues to be reviewed by committee
                • Feasibility of enhancing the number of NET fellowships which are merit based.
                • Establishing a transparent system of transfer of fellowship amounts each month to the Non-NET fellows which is presently being done on a reimbursement basis, and without the Direct Benefit Transfer mandated by the Government.
                • Bringing the benefits and opportunities of the Non-NET fellowship scheme to a larger number of Universities, including State Universities.
                • Considering economic and other criteria for eligibility for non-NET fellowships.
                • Recommending guidelines for the selection, coverage, award, and administration of the non-NET fellowships.
                About NET Fellowship
                For Research Fellowships, All India National Eligibility Test (NET), a competitive examination conducted twice a year by the University Grants Commission (UGC).
                • Junior Research Fellows will receive, for the first two years Rs. 25,000 per month and 30% House Rent Allowance (HRA) as well as a contingency grant for each year. Senior Research Fellows will receive, for the next three years Rs. 28,000 per month, 30% HRA and a contingency grant for each year.
                About Non- NET Fellowship
                The Non-NET Fellowship Scheme was introduced by the UGC in 2006.
                • It is presently limited only to 50 institutions including Central Universities and those with Potential for Excellence.
                • Almost 35000 students are presently availing of these Fellowships.

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