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Current Affairs - 10 November 2015

General Affairs

Nepal Asks India to Open Border Entry Points to Ease Supplies of Goods
  • Nepal Asks India to Open Border Entry Points to Ease Supplies of Goods
    Kathmandu:  Nepal's Cabinet today passed a special resolution asking India to open the border entry points to ease supplies of essential goods like medicines, gas and petroleum to the landlocked country, reeling under acute shortage due to blockade of key trade points.

    The Cabinet meeting headed by Prime Minister KP Oli passed the special resolution asking India to open the border entry points and ease supply of essentials including petrol and LPG, according to Cabinet sources.

    The Cabinet called on the Indian government to further improve the bilateral relations and make the bond of friendship strong by easing the supplies.

    The Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers (OPMCM) also asked the agitating Madhes-based parties to seek solutions to their demands through dialogue.

    Stating that the government has already initiated process for treatment to the injured agitators, withdrawal of fake charges lodged against the detained protesters, and implementation of decision to compensate bereaved family members with Rs. 1 million, the OPMCM urged the protesters to end blockade at border points at the time when festivals like Chhath and Lhosar are just around the corner.

    The government has said it is serious about fulfilling other remaining demands through dialogue.

    "The government is saddened by the inconvenience caused to Nepali people at Terai and all across the country at this moment.

    "We express gratitude to the general public for their patience and harmony during this critical times," it said.

    The special resolution came as talks between the government representatives and the Madhesi parties scheduled for today were postponed.

    Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Kamal Thapa, who heads the government talks team, told media that the meeting was postponed due to lack of proper home works.

    The development came amid a political crisis over the new Constitution opposed by Indian-origin Madhesis who have led an agitation and blockaded key border trade points of Nepal with India, bringing supplies of essential goods including fuel and cooking gas for over a month.

    India has denied that it has imposed any blockade.

    Reeling under the pressure, Nepal has warmed up to China to open border trade points for the much-needed supplies ahead of the festive season.

    Indo-Nepal relations have suffered a major setback since the promulgation of Nepal's new Constitution, which did away with identifying the Himalayan nation as a Hindu state and proposed dividing the country into seven provinces.

    Madhesis, protesting division of their ancestral homeland in the new Constitution, have led an agitation that has witnessed the killing of over 40 people.

    Consensus with the protesters has proved elusive for the new government that is still allocating Ministries to its ministers.

    India for the first time raking up at the UNHRC alleged conflict-era human rights violations in Nepal has also not got down well with the Nepalese leadership that hit out at New Delhi, saying the neighbour has "opened our eyes".

    Prime Minister Oli had said Nepal is currently at the receiving end of the blockade which is 'more inhuman than a war', while Deputy Prime Minister CP Mainali has accused New Delhi of trying to disintegrate the country and annex the Terai region, triggering strong condemnation from India.

    Even the Maoist chief Prachanda, known for his anti-India stance, had said that if India tries to dominate, the country "should be ready to fight against such oppression".

Government to Organise 'National Integration Week' From November 19
  • Government to Organise 'National Integration Week' From November 19New Delhi:  'National Integration Week' will be observed from November 19 with a view to fostering and reinforcing the spirit of communal harmony across the country amidst ongoing debate over the issue of intolerance.

    Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has asked the central and state governments to organise and celebrate the 'Qaumi Ekta Week' so that the message of communal harmony and national integration could reach out to every part of the country and society.

    "This occasion provides an opportunity to reaffirm age old traditions and faith in the values of tolerance, co-existence and brotherhood in a multi-cultural and multi-religious society.

    "The observation of 'Qaumi Ekta Week' will also help to highlight the inherent strength and resilience of our nation to withstand actual and potential threats to the eclectic and secular fabric of our country, and nurture a spirit of communal harmony in its widest sense," the Home Ministry today said in a press release.

    With a view to fostering and reinforcing the spirit of communal harmony, national integration and pride in vibrant, composite culture and nationhood, the 'Qaumi Ekta Week' (National Integration Week) will be observed all over the country, from the November 19-25.

    The first day of the week will be observed as 'National Integration Day' and programmes like meetings, symposia and seminars would be organised to emphasise the themes of secularism, anti-communalism and non-violence.

    November 20 will be observed as "Welfare of Minorities Day" and items of the 15-point programme are emphasised on this day, it said.

    "November 21 will be observed as 'Linguistic Harmony Day'. Programmes like special literary functions and Kavi Sammelans will be organised to enable people of each region to appreciate the linguistic heritage of other parts of India," the release said.

    November 22 will be observed as "Weaker Sections Day" and meetings and rallies would be organised to highlight programmes under various Governments which help SCs/STs and weaker sections with particular emphasis on the distribution of surplus land to landless labourers.

    Whereas November 23 would be observed as "Cultural Unity Day" and functions presenting the Indian tradition of unity in diversity and promoting cultural conservation and integration would be organised, it said.

    The second last day of the week will be observed as "Women's Day" during which importance of Women in Indian society and their role in development of nation-building would be highlighted.

    The last day of the week will be observed as "Conservation Day", and meetings and functions would organised to emphasise the growing need for awareness and action to conserve the environment.

    The National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH), an autonomous organisation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, would also organises Communal Harmony Campaign coinciding with the "Qaumi Ekta Week" and observes the "Communal Harmony Flag Day" on November 25.

    The foundation promotes communal harmony and strengthens national integration. It also provides financial assistance for relief and rehabilitation of children rendered orphan or destitute in communal, caste, ethnic or terrorist violence.

Bihar Defeat to Overshadow PM Modi's UK Visit: British Media
  • Bihar Defeat to Overshadow PM Modi's UK Visit: British Media
    London:  Ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's maiden visit to the UK, the British media today said "troubles at home" after the BJP's drubbing in the Bihar elections will overshadow his visit.

    The fervour has been building up in the UK around PM Modi's three-day visit starting Thursday, which will include a grand reception at Wembley Stadium described as the "biggest political rally in the history of the UK" on Friday.

    "Since he swept to power 18 months ago, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has proved to be a charismatic international statesman, impressing leaders from Shinzo Abe to Barack Obama as well as expatriate Indians with his ambition to modernise India," The Financial Times' said.

    "But his next foreign visit - to the UK this week to meet David Cameron and the Queen and to address a crowd of 60,000 British Indians at Wembley Stadium - will for the first time be overshadowed by deepening troubles at home," it said.

    The newspaper, however, stressed that the UK will be keen to distance itself from any negatives to clinch an estimated package of USD 15-billion trade and investment deals.

    'The Independent' newspaper also feels the drubbing in the Bihar elections is an "embarrassing setback" coming on the eve of the high-profile visit.

    "The result means that as he prepares for an enthusiastic welcome in Britain this week - including an unprecedented sell-out event at Wembley Stadium on Friday - Mr Modi will be smarting from the defeat on home soil, which comes as his administration also faces mounting accusations of fomenting intolerance," the newspaper said.

    In its own analysis titled 'From pariah to rock star world leader', the 'Daily Telegraph' also expressed concerns over how his party was "comfortably defeated" in the Bihar polls, weakening the Indian Prime Minister's domestic stand.

    "As he emerged from provincial politician to likely leader of the world's largest democracy, Britain ended the boycott in 2012 in the face of growing business and realpolitik pressures.

    "The turnaround has been dramatic. This week he will stay at Mr Cameron's country residence (Chequers), address the two Houses of Parliament, visit Indian-owned businesses and sites of Indian cultural importance," the daily said.

    The news reports come against a backdrop of the so-called "Modi Not Welcome to the UK" protest group projecting a hologram with its banner on the House of Parliament on Sunday night. The group led by Awaaz Network is among some of the UK-based organisations planning protests during the visit this week.

    CasteWatchUK has also announced a demonstration at Parliament Square on Thursday afternoon, coinciding with PM Modi's address to the British Parliament.

    "An appropriate policing plan is in place. We are in dialogue with various protest groups to facilitate their requests. No restrictions have been placed on the route," a Scotland Yard statement said.

    Meanwhile, PM Modi expressed his excitement at the maiden visit in an article for 'The Sunday Times'.

    "I am looking forward to my visit to the United Kingdom with anticipation and excitement. Britain is a special partner, and ours is no ordinary relationship," he wrote.

    PM Modi arrives in London on Thursday and lunch with Queen Elizabeth II and a host of engagements with his British counterpart, David Cameron, are part of the packed schedule.

    Visits to Mahatma Gandhi's statue in Parliament Square and Tata Motors' owned Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) factory will be followed by unveiling of a new Ambedkar memorial in north London and a new statue of 12th century Indian philosopher Basaveshwara as part of the official agenda, before he leaves for Ankara to attend the G20 summit on November 14.

'Time Ripe For Rahul Gandhi to Take Over as Congress President'
  • 'Time Ripe For Rahul Gandhi to Take Over as Congress President'
    New Delhi:  Raising the pitch for Rahul Gandhi's elevation in the party, Punjab Congress chief Pratap Singh Bajwa today said the opportune time has arrived for him to take over as Congress President under the overall guidance of Sonia Gandhi.

    "This is the right time for Rahul Gandhi to assume the mantle and lead the Congress from the forefront. Rahul Gandhi has shown excellent political acumen and foresight in stitching an alliance of like-minded and secular parties in Bihar and further brought Nitish Ji, Lalu Ji and Congress on one common platform which trumped the NDA led by Narendra Modi," he said.

    Mr Bajwa said the phenomenal performance of the Congress in terms of the relative increase in seat tally from the previous Bihar assembly elections is indicative of the growing popularity of Rahul Gandhi.

    "The decimation of the BJP in Bihar is a bellwether that the youth in the country are looking towards a progressive, sincere, young and dynamic leader who can take the nation forward and can deliver on the aspirations of crores of Indians," he said.

    The Punjab Pradesh Congress Committee  chief also said the present dispensation instead of performing is turning the clock back and has created an atmosphere of fear and hatred in society.

    He said the public has seen through BJP's propaganda and a strong sense of disillusionment has set in and the Bihar result is "symptomatic" of this trend.

    Many Congress leaders have in the past raised the demand for Rahul taking over the overall control of the party and lead it in future.

Indo-Russian Joint Training Begins in Bikaner
  • Indo-Russian Joint Training Begins in Bikaner
    Bikaner, Rajasthan:  The seventh Indo-Russian joint training exercise INDRA-2015 commenced today at Mahajan field firing range. The two contingents presented a parade before the senior officers in the ceremony with unfurling of the National Flags of both the countries.

    The Russian contingent from an Independent Motorised Brigade comprising 250 Military personnel along with supporting staff landed at Bikaner directly from Russia on November 7, according to defence spokesperson Lt Colonel Manish Ojha.

    The 14-day training schedule is focused on training on 'Counter Terrorism Operations in the backdrop of Desert terrain under a United Nations Mandate'.

    The opening ceremony was held at Mahajan Field Firing Ranges where Major General PC Thimmaya, General Officer Commanding-Red Eagle Division welcomed the Russian contingent and urged both contingents to strive to understand each other's battle drills and procedures so as to achieve optimum cohesion and enhanced inter-operability between the two forces, the spokesperson said in a release.

    "He stressed upon the importance of free exchange in ideas, discussion of concepts and assimilation of best practices between the troops of the two nations. Enhancing mutual confidence and inter-operability between the two armies would be a priority," said Lt Colonel Ojha.

    Cultural programmes were also held at the ceremony. The exercise is scheduled to finally terminate on November 20.

Business Affairs 

India Inc hit by debt burden, falling profit
  • India Inc hit by debt burden, falling profit
    Core profit growth at country's top companies has slowed down sharply from last year's levels, hampering efforts to cut debt in one of Asia's most leveraged corporate sectors and dampening the private investment needed to spur sluggish economic growth.
    With a majority of Indian companies already reporting financial results for the quarter to end-September, 53 top firms have shown collective 9.4 per cent growth in core profit, the slowest since January-March 2013, according to Thomson Reuters data. That compared with average quarterly profit growth of 16.9 per cent in the previous financial year that ended in March, the data showed.
    Slowing profit growth will weigh on spending by the companies, which, analysts say, are already utilising the majority of their operating profit to service interest costs. Debt for 963 companies covered by Thomson Reuters StarMine reached more than $640 billion, or more than 40 per cent of India's gross domestic product.
    Disappointment over earnings has helped send Indian shares down for two consecutive weeks now and pushed the broader market into negative territory for the year, with the main index down about 5 per cent.
    "The ability to service debt, as measured by interest coverage, is continuing to deteriorate," said Rakesh Valecha, head of credit and market research at credit agency India Ratings.
    Midway through fiscal year, debt-to-equity ratios at the 53 companies had fallen only slightly to 1.05 from 1.10 in the six months to March-still the highest in Asia, and more than double the 0.40 in China, the data showed.
    But debt-to-forward core profit estimates, a broad measure of how many years it would take to pay off debt, rose to 2.39 in the April-September period from 2.30 in the previous fiscal half year. That means it could take almost five years of annual profits to pay all debts.
    Concentrated Debt
    Corporate debt in India is particularly high in the resources, infrastructure and construction sectors, along with telecoms, where firms paid handsomely to snap up spectrum.
    Credit Suisse estimates Indian conglomerates with the biggest gross debt, including infrastructure builders Lanco Group and GVK Group, have debt that is seven times core profit, while their interest cover, a measure of their ability to pay down debt, is less than one, below the 1.5 that is generally considered as the minimum necessary.
    The result is companies are focusing on cutting back that debt, at the expense of much-needed spending. India Ratings estimates two-thirds of operating profit among the country's top companies is being used to service interest.
    The lack of private spending was seen as a major reason why the economy grew more slowly than expected in the first three months of India's fiscal year that runs from April to March.
    The government is now stepping up to take up some of the private sector investment slack, seeking to build roads, highways and railways. But how much it can ultimately spend is in doubt given it is also diverting some of its budget funds to bail out state-owned banks and has a deficit target to hit.
    "They have used the fiscal space to push their spending on building road infrastructure," said Somasekhar Vemuri, a senior director at CRISIL Ratings.
    "Whether this is enough to revive animal spirits, we'll have to wait and watch."

Markets overcome Bihar hangover; Nifty ends above 7,900-mark
  • Markets overcome Bihar hangover; Nifty ends above 7,900-markThe S&P BSE Sensex pared much of day's losses owing to banking and auto stocks and ended the day 144 points down after Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government faced a crushing defeat in Bihar elections raising concerns the government would struggle to pass policy reforms.
    Sensex settled above its crucial psychological level of 26,000, while broader CNX Nifty closed at 7,915.20, down 39.10 points. The index tested 7,800 mark earlier in the day.
    Market breadth remained negative with 20 of the 30 Sensex stocks ending the day in red.
    Sun Pharma was the worst performer on both the indices and settled the day 5.8 per cent lower on BSE after the pharma major reported a 46.02 per cent dip in its consolidated net profit to Rs 1,106.66 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2015 due to lower sales growth, volatile currency movements and supply constraints.
    The broader market outperformed the benchmark indices through the day, with the BSE midcap and BSE smallcap indices closing 0.42 per cent and 0.78 per cent higher, respectively.
    Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Composite ended 1.58 per cent higher, Hong Kong's Hang Seng saw a downtick of 0.61 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei added 1.96 per cent at close.
    On Friday, US stocks ended higher after the jobs report showed the economy added 271,000 jobs in October, largest monthly gain this year.

    Lowdown on markets today
    03:05 pm
    Sensex at 26,166.93, down 98.31 points
    Nifty at 7,856.30, down 98 points
    01:00 pm
    Sensex at 25965.87, down 299 points
    Nifty at 7865.20, down 89 points

    10:52 am
    Sensex at 25,954.53, down 310.71 points
    Nifty at 7,856.30, down 98 points
    9:30 am
    Sensex at 25,809, down 456.24 points
    Nifty at 7,824.50, down 129.80 points

Midcaps outdo Sensex in past 3 mths: Top 4 bets
  • Midcaps outdo Sensex in past 3 months; top four stock ideas by expertSelect midcap stocks were in vouge on Monday, even as the benchmark indices dropped around 2 per cent in trade on Monday.
    Positive momentum in midcaps helped the BSE midcap index wipe out entire losses seen in the morning trade and trade marginally higher.
    The BSE midcap index ended the day 0.42 per cent higher at 10871.75. The index had fallen nearly 2 per cent in the morning trade.
    The index has also outperpofrmed the BSE Sensex in the past one year. The index has gained 8.12 per cent in the past year, compared with a 6.88 per cent fall in the Sensex.

    Havells India, Allahabad Bank, Indian Hotels and Petronet LNG were the top gainers on the BSE Metal index and rose up to 7 per cent in today's trade.

    Ravi Shenoy, VP-Midcaps Research, Motilal Oswal Securities belives the rout in largecap oil & gas and metal stocks, owing to a slump in global commodity prices may have impacted returns on Sensex.
    "The presence of oil and gas and metal stocks in the Sensex and also global cyclicals such as Tata Motors weighed on Sensex. These stocks performed badly owing to fall in commodity prices, which pushed Sensex lower," said Shenoy.
    "These are all capital-intensive businesses and there are not too many midcap stocks into these space. That is also why midcap index did not go down as much as Sensex," added Shenoy.
    Commenting on last three-month performance of midcap index, Shenoy said, "Performance on the midcap front has been better in terms of earnings. Looking at individual stocks, they have continue to post double digit growth numbers and a lot of them have operating and finance leverage coming into place too, whereas the numbers for the front-end stocks have been disappointing, which caused slump on the index."
    Following are the top four picks by the expert with the one-year horizon:
    1. TVS Motors
    2. Can Fin Homes
    3. Eveready

Boeing, Tata Group announce aerospace joint venture for choppers
  • Boeing, Tata Group announce aerospace JV in IndiaBoeing and Tata Advanced Systems on Monday announced a joint venture that will manufacture aerostructures for AH-64 Apache attack choppers, recently ordered by India, and collaborate on integrated systems development opportunities in India.
    The joint venture will initially create a manufacturing centre of excellence to produce aerostructures for the AH-64 Apache helicopter and compete for additional manufacturing work packages across Boeing platforms, both commercial and defence.
    "Boeing and Tata Advanced Systems intend to grow the JV partnership in the future with a focus on opportunities to collaborate on development and selling of integrated systems," a statement by the US aviation major said.
    Boeing had recently received an order for 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy-lift helicopters. Both are the newest models of these aircraft.
    "This partnership will capitalise on India's industrial capability, innovation and talent to contribute to Boeing's long-term competitiveness and position us for future growth in the global marketplace," said Chris Chadwick, president and CEO of Boeing Defense, Space & Security.
    Boeing India President Pratyush Kumar said that over the last 12 months, the company has doubled its sourcing from India.
    "We are committed to continue that journey," he said.
    Boeing and Tata group companies have established partnerships in India to manufacture aerostructures for Boeing's commercial and military aircraft.
    Tata Advanced Materials has delivered composite panels for the power and mission equipment cabinets and auxiliary power unit door fairings for the P-8I long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
    TAL Manufacturing Solutions is manufacturing complex floor beams out of composite materials for the Boeing 787-9. It also provides ground support equipment for the C-17 Globemaster III strategic airlifter.

Railways raises ticket cancellation fee by 100%: All you need to know
  • Railways raises ticket cancellation fee by 100%: All you need to knowThe railways has doubled the ticket cancellation charge as it has proposed to change the refund rules to help genuine passengers getting confirmed tickets.
    Here are key things you need to know about the development.

    • There will be no refund after the departure of train and one has to get the refund four hours before the departure, according to the new refund rules.
    • The revised refund rules will be effective from November 12.
    • While cancellation fee of of second class confirmed ticket in 48 hours before the scheduled departure of the train will be increased from Rs 30 to Rs 60, the third AC ticket will cost Rs 180 as against Rs 90 earlier.
    • The Second Sleeper class cancellation has been increased from Rs 60 to Rs 120, the Second AC has doubled up from Rs 100 to Rs 200, according to the notification.
    • For waitlisted ticket and reserve against cancellation (RAC), one has to avail the refund upto half an hour before the scheduled departure of the train and there will be no refund after that, as per the new rules.
    • Now, between 48 hours and 12 hours before the scheduled departure of the train, cancellation fee was 25 per cent of the ticket.
    • Earlier between 48 hours and 6 hours before the scheduled departure of the train, the cancellation fee was 25 per cent of the ticket. Earlier from 6 hours before the scheduled departure of the train and up to 2 hours after the actual departure of the train, cancellation fee was 50 per cent of the ticket.
    • However, revised rules stipulate that between 12 hours and 4 hours before the scheduled departure of the train, cancellation fee will be 50 per cent of the ticket. Rules were revised to discourage touts and those ticketing agents indulging in black marketing of tickets, said the official.
    • Railways has also decided to enable certain unreserved ticket counters to allow refund of reserved ticket.

General Awareness

Government notifies norms for making AAIB independent body

    • The government has reported the regulatory agenda for making the Aircraft Accident Investigation Bureau (AAIB) an autonomous body following The International Civil Aviation Organization (part of the United Nations)key audit of local aviation sector. The ICAO audit is a good ranking for India would come as a key enhancement for the country’s aviation sector which has growth prospective.
      The audit (third in last nine years) would cover aspects with aircraft investigation tool, aerodrome operations, air traffic control and air navigation.
      • Norms have been notified for making AAIB(Under aviation regulator DGCA) an independent body and 21 positions plus that of Director General have also been informed.
      • The ministry is outlining the recruitment guidelines for the posts which would be perpetual ones and initially some posts would be filled up on deputation basis.
      • When an accident happens many reasons would be there comprising the possibility of lapses at the DGCA(Directorate General of Civil Aviation) Such matters get tackled.
      • The bureau (headed by a senior DGCA official), which was made a separate division under the (DGCA) in 2012 has the charge of inspecting all major aircraft accidents.
      • US aviation regulator Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had also conducted a similar exercise following which India’s aviation safety ranking was withdrawn to category 1.
      About ICAO:
      ICAO was established in 1944 to run the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention). 191 countries including India are part of the convention.It nurtures the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
      • Head: Dr. Fang Liu(Secretary General)
      • HQ: Montreal, Quebec, Canada

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