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Current Affairs - 12 December 2015

General Affairs 

Japan To Fund 80% Of India's First Bullet Train, Says Minister Manoj Sinha
  • Japan To Fund 80% Of India's First Bullet Train, Says Minister Manoj SinhaNEW DELHI:  A deal on fast trains was a likely key component of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's three-day India visit that commenced today with Tokyo having agreed to loan over three-fourths of the project cost of the first Bullet Train, estimated at $15 billion, parliament was informed.

    "The Government of Japan has given an assistance package proposal for Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed rail project involving financial assistance to the tune of 81 per cent of project cost as loan," Minister of State for Railways Manoj Sinha told the Rajya Sabha in a written reply.

    "A joint feasibility study for the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed corridor, co-financed by Indian Railways and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has been completed in July 2015," Mr Sinha said in reply to another question.

    "No other country has offered such support for the project."

    A joint feasibility study for the project was jointly conducted by the Indian Railways and Japan International Cooperation Agency in July this year. The cost of the 505-km-long corridor is estimated at just under Rs. 100,000 crore ($15 billion).

    This apart, the corridor was also studied by the state-run RITES (Rail India Technical and Economic Service) and Systra of France, along with Italfer of Italy, in 2010. A business development study for Mumbai-Ahmedabad was also done by SNCF of the French Railway in 2014.

    In this budget, Rs. 65,000 crore has been allocated for high-speed rail and elevated corridor.

    The Ministry of Railways has decided to entrust the work of implementation of all high-speed rail projects to two state-run companies -- Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd and High Speed Rail Corp of India Ltd.

    The government has also identified feasibility studies for six other similar projects -- Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Chennai, Chennai-Kolkata, Kolkata-Delhi, and two diagonals that intend to cover the Delhi-Chennai and Mumbai-Kolkata routes.

    "Japan is virtually underwriting India's public expend in Infra," said Vinayak Chatterjee, chairman of Feedback Infra, "After Rs. 81,000 crore soft loan for Bullet Train, now Rs. 100,000 crore for road financing".

    The Indian Railways had intended to follow a two-pronged approach on high-speed train system -- step up the speeds of existing segregated passenger corridors on trunk routes to 160-200 km per hour and identify intercity routes for corridors to cater to speeds of up to 350 km per hour.

    The idea was to develop at least four corridors of a total 20,000-km length by 2020.

No Proposal For Raising Retirement Age of Supreme Court, High Court Judges: Government
  • No Proposal For Raising Retirement Age of Supreme Court, High Court Judges: Government
    NEW DELHI:  There is no proposal to increase the retirement age of judges of Supreme Court and High Courts, the government today informed the Rajya Sabha.

    In written reply to a question on raising salaries and allowances of judges, Law Minister DV Sadananda Gowda said, "It will take place once the salary of Secretaries to Government is re-fixed."

    "There is no proposal to increase the age of retirement of Judges of High Courts and the Supreme Court under consideration of the government," he said.

    The minister said the salary of higher constitutional functionaries including the judges of Supreme Court and High Courts are fixed by making necessary adjustments with reference to the pay scales suggested by the Pay Commissions and approved by government for the level of Secretaries to the Government of India.

    In reply to another question on the entry of foreign legal firms, Mr Gowda said the matter is under consideration of the government in consultation with the Bar Council of India.

BJP Slams Congress, Brings Out Booklet On National Herald Case
  • BJP Slams Congress, Brings Out Booklet On National Herald CaseNEW DELHI:  Escalating its attack on the Congress over the National Herald case, the BJP has brought out a booklet titled 'Family Greed and National Blackmail' that aims to "inform" its party leaders about the issue.

    The party will distribute the booklet, which is a compilation of a number of write-ups on the issue, among its lawmakers and leaders across the country to "inform" them on the issue and give them "talking points", BJP parliamentary party office secretary Balasubrahmanyam Kamarsu said.

    "It will give our leaders basic information about the issue and help them in explaining the stand of party as well the government. It will also give our spokespersons and leaders various talking points so that they could highlight them in debates and discussion," he said.

    The BJP has resorted to bringing out booklets on almost every major issue since it came to power in May 2014.

    The Congress had accused the central government of practising "vendetta politics" and has alleged that the National Herald case against Sonia and Rahul Gandhi is part of the conspiracy.

    The party has brought out booklets on a host of issues, including Land Acquisition Bill, intolerance debate and the recent debate on Constitution.

Our Engagement With World in Politics Will Intensify: Sushma Swaraj
  • Our Engagement With World in Politics Will Intensify: Sushma Swaraj
    NEW DELHI:  India's engagement with other countries in politics, economics, trade and other fields will intensify, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said even as she urged youth to consider taking up a career in the field of foreign policy.

    Describing the 21st century as "Asia's century", she said, "As we push forward into this brave new century, it is also increasingly clear that the biggest problems of tomorrow cannot be solved by nations acting alone."

    The Union minister was speaking at a felicitation function for winners from the All India Essay Competition for the Kendriya Vidyalayas, at the Ministry of External Affairs headquarters in Delhi.

    "I hope through this exercise we have been able to expose students to think about the myriad ways in which our foreign policy choices impact on our daily lives. Because, at its core, foreign policy is designed to create a favourable external environment for a nation's domestic progress," she said.

    Ms Swaraj, while emphasising the finer points of foreign policy and external affairs, said that the idea of the competition was to engage the youth, as they were the "bright sparks of hope" that will guide this nation forward in the years to come.

    "Even as I speak, my colleague is in Paris attempting to reach an agreement on combating climate change that will protect India's right to sustainable growth while recognising the dangers of global warming...

    "From cyber crimes to free passage on the high seas, from reforming international institutions to peacekeeping in distant lands, we can only solve the problems of tomorrow if we act together today," she emphasised.

    She hoped that through the competition the External Affairs Ministry has been able to inculcate in young minds the importance of "our engagement with the world", and see the world through "your (students) eyes".

    "I would urge you also to think about a career in public service and foreign policy. This century is going to be Asia's century, our century. India's engagement with the world in politics, economics, trade, security, technology, education and all other fields will intensify and deepen.

    "What better way to define India's place in the world than to actually work as an ambassador of our heritage and values and a promoter of India's interests abroad," she said.

    Twenty-five winners from each of the Kendriya Vidyalayas regions spread across the country were awarded at the event at the Jawaharlal Nehru Bhawan, which was also attended by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Vikas Swarup, Secretary (East) Anil Wadhwa, and KV Sangathan Commissioner Santosh Kumar Mall, among others.

    Among the 25 entries, girls outnumbered boys, and the three grand winners among them were also girl students. Alibha Priyadarshini, 17, from a small town Bargarh in Odisha (Raipur KV Region) won the top prize.

Uttar Pradesh Will Co-Operate With Centre To Clean Ganga: Akhilesh Yadav
  • Uttar Pradesh Will Co-Operate With Centre To Clean Ganga: Akhilesh YadavNEW DELHI:  The Uttar Pradesh Government will extend "whatever" co-operation the Centre will require in cleaning river Ganga, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav said in Delhi today.

    Akhilesh Yadav made the statement in view of Centre's plan to begin surface cleaning of the revered river's mainstream by next year - likely from January.

    "Let them start the work, we will co-operate with them. I am not aware (off hand) the funds the Centre has released to us for the work yet, but we will extend whatever co-operation they require. Rather, we already have been co-operating over the same," he told PTI on the sidelines of 'Agenda Aaj Tak' conference in Delhi.

    Uttar Pradesh is one of the five states from where river Ganga passes through. The other states are Uttarakhand, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.

    The Central Government intends to begin cleaning the river with entry-level activities divided in four parts.

    The activities include surface cleaning of the river's mainstream by removing solid waste.

    Three other activities comprise construction/repairing of ghats along the river stretch, construction/repairing crematoria and recycling sewage water flowing into the river from over 3,000 villages on the banks of the river.

Business Affairs 

Sensex ends 208 points down, Nifty at 7,610 ahead of IIP, inflation data
  • Sensex ends 208 points down, Nifty at 7,610 ahead of IIP, inflation dataThe S&P BSE Sensex pared some losses to end the day 208 points down after crashing below its crucial, psychological level of 25,000 earlier in the day, while broader CNX Nifty managed to settle above its key support level of 7,600. 
    Investors remained cautious ahead of the October factory output data due later in the day and November inflation print to be released on Monday.
    The 30-share index ended at 25,044.43, down 207.89 after falling as much as 321.89 points, while the broad-based 50-share index closed at 7,610.45, down 72.85 points. 
    Market breadth remained negative with 19 of the 30 Sensex components ending the day in red.
    Losses were led by banking and realty stocks with BSE Realty index losing 2.52 per cent, while BSE Bankex shedding 2.25 per cent.
    Shares of steelmakers such as Bhushan Steel, Tata Steel and Jindal Steel gained up to 7 per cent in intraday trades after the government initiated safeguard on imports of hot-rolled plates and sheets.
    Tata Steel stock was the top gainer on both benchmark indices and closed 3.41 per cent higher, while shares of Jindal Steel and Power added 4.34 per cent to Rs 91.30 through the day but ended flat. 
    The stock of Bhushan Steel gained Rs 49.30, up 7.05 per cent in intraday trade. However, it closed 1.85 per cent down.
    State-run Steel Authority of India climbed 3.2 per cent intraday and settled the day 1.47 per cent up.
    Broader sentiment was also weak ahead of the US Federal Reserve's policy meet on December 15-16, when it is widely expected to raise interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade.
    Asian markets traded mixed with China's Shanghai Composite losing 0.61 per cent, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng settling the day 1.11 per cent down. Japan's Nikkei bucked the trend and added 0.97 per cent at close.
    Overnight, US stocks closed higher after a three-day decline but sharply pared gains late in the session as oil dropped to near seven-year lows.
    The Dow Jones rose 82.45 points, or 0.47 per cent, the S&P 500 gained 4.61 points, or 0.23 per cent, and the Nasdaq Composite added 22.31 points, or 0.44 per cent.
    Lowdown on markets today
    02:37 pm
    Sensex at 24,966.75, down 285.57 points
    Nifty at 7,586.40, down 96.90 points
    01:06 pm
    Sensex at 25,015.16, down 237.16 points
    Nifty at 7,602.20, down 81.10 points
    12:00 pm
    Sensex at 25,094, down 159 points
    Nifty at 7,638, down 45 points
    11:00 am
    Sensex at 25,209, down 43 points
    Nifty at 7,672, down 12 points
    9:30 am
    Sensex at 25,257.99, up 5.67 points
    Nifty at 7,681.10, down 2.20 points

Industrial output growth hits five-year high in October
  • Factory output rises 9.8% in OctoberIndustrial output grew at its fastest pace in five years in October, powered by manufacturing, bringing some cheer to investors fretting about a gridlock in Parliament that has stalled vital reforms.
    Output at factories, utilities and mines grew 9.8 per cent on year, its fastest pace since October 2010, compared with a 7.8 per cent expansion forecast by analysts in a Reuters poll and sharply higher than an upward revised figure of 3.8 per cent growth in September.
    While the October output figures were bolstered by a favourable statistical base, double-digit growth in the manufacturing sector points to a strengthening industrial recovery.
    Soumya Kanti Ghosh, chief economic advisor at State Bank of India, said Friday's data was likely to push overall economic growth for the year ending in March 2016 above 7.5 per cent.
    India's economy expanded at an annual rate of 7.4 per cent in the July-September quarter, outpacing China's economic growth.
    "The base effect has played a role, but there is also a sequential momentum for manufacturing driving the index of industrial production, which is a good sign," Ghosh said.
    Still, investors are worried about a persistent logjam in Parliament that has hurt expectations for the early passage of a new sales tax.
    Aimed at creating a customs union for India's 1.2 billion people, the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is the biggest revenue shake-up since independence from Britain in 1947.
    Supporters say it will add up to two percentage points to economic growth by replacing multiple federal and state tax levies, a chaotic structure that inflates costs for businesses.

    Political Slugfest, Structural Headwinds
    Widely considered a low-hanging reform measure, the tax bill has now become a victim of a battle between Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the opposition Congress.
    The Nifty closed nearly 1 per cent lower on Friday to hit a three-month low.
    While Asia's third-largest economy has emerged as the world's fastest growing major economy, it's still not firing on all cylinders. Much of the steam comes from public spending rather than private investment.
    A lasting industrial recovery is less likely without fixing structural bottlenecks such as the domestic tax system, reckoned Shilan Shah, an economist at Capital Economics.
    "We are less bullish on the prospects for a renaissance in Indian industry over the longer term," he added.
    A government panel's recommendations to revise up salaries of millions of government employees is expected to buttress consumer demand and underpin manufacturing activity.
    Bolstering the outlook, consumer goods output - a proxy for consumer demand - grew 18.4 per cent in October compared with a fall of 18.2 per cent a year ago. Capital goods, a barometer of investments, surged 16.1 per cent from a year earlier.

Nomura sees India's GDP growth at 7.8% in 2016
  • Nomura sees India's GDP growth at 7.8% in 2016India is in the initial stages of a business cycle recovery with Gross Domestic Growth expected at 7.8 per cent in 2016 and 8 per cent in 2017, up from 7.3 per cent expectation for this year, Japanese financial group Nomura forecast on Friday.
    "Under the new GDP series, we estimate India's potential ground at around 8 per cent, which implies that the output gap will gradually narrow over the course of 2016, before closing fully by Q1 2017," said Nomura in its Asian Economic Outlook presented to media in Singapore on Friday.
    "In our view, India is already in the initial stages of a business cycle recovery," said Nomura, suggesting that growth would pick up in the next two quarters.
    "The tailwinds from the low commodity prices, low inflation, the gradual transmission of 125 bps of cumulative rate cuts into lower bank lending rates, debottlenecking of stalled project clearances and government efforts to kick start public investment in infrastructure should all help to keep the recovery on track," it said.
    "We expect consumption demand to rise faster than capex in 2016. Higher real disposable incomes, lower borrowing costs and the income boost from the pay commission hike should boost urban consumer discretionary demand."
    A normal monsoon should also support rural consumption demand in the second half of 2016, said the Nomura report.
    "Overall, we expect real private final consumption expenditure to rise to 8.4 per cent from 7.6 per cent in 2015," said Nomura.
    It also expects the investment pick up to be led mainly by faster implementation of previously stalled projects.
    Infrastructure investment growth in roads, railways and renewables should start to rise.
    "The government's budgeted capex is likely to be constrained in 2016 given the higher wage bill; so FDI inflows, bilateral/multilateral funding and public institution will likely fund infrastructure projects," said Nomura.
    "Given ample spare capacity in the manufacturing sector and high leverage, we do not expect a substantial acceleration in private sector capex, although higher profitability, lower funding costs and continued deleveraging should gradually repair private sector balance sheets," it said.
    For this year, it noted that India has diverged from most other major Emerging Markets (EMs) and embark on "what we judge to be a sustainable, multi-year economic recovery".
    In 2016, Nomura expects growth to rise close to the economy's full potential.
    "However, as the recommendation of the Seventh Pay Commission are implemented, we expect risks to the fiscal balance and to CPI inflation to rise, although the latter is mainly due to one-off factor," said the Japanese group.
    Economic reforms are likely to continue in 2016, but incrementally, with executive decisions likely to take more of the spotlight.
    "The main focus will be on the government's ability to implement the goods and services tax, state elections in mid-2016 and redemption of FCNR(B) dollar deposits in Q4 2016," it pointed out.

Raghuram Rajan expects US Fed to hike rate by 25 bps; India well-prepared for any eventuality
  • RBI governor Raghuram RajanRBI governor Raghuram Rajan on Friday said there is a 70-75 per cent probability of interest rate hike by US Federal Reserve in its policy meet to be held on December 15-16.
    Rajan expects Fed to hike interest rates by 25 basis points (bps) next week and said the Fed decision will impact global financial flows.
    Addressing a press conference in Kolkata post board meeting of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), the governor added RBI is prepared for any eventuality that may follow after Fed rate hike.
    Rajan assured that apex bank will keep the market supplied with needed liquidity and is ready to do open market bond purchase as far as long term liquidity is needed.
    Speaking on banking reforms, the governor said that framework on restoring the banking sector health is due soon and that he is hopeful of restoring it by March 2017.

Time taken for registration of firms cut by 50%, claims govt
  • Time taken for registration of firms halved, claims govtThe government has claimed that time taken for registration of a company has been cut by 50% due to steps taken by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
    According to the ministry, the average number of days taken for incorporation of a company has come down significantly from 9.57 days in December 2014 to 4.51 days in November 2015. It is targeting that the average number of days to be further reduced to one to two days for approval in normal cases.
    The ministry said in a statement that in the past one year, it has taken a number of steps, and is in the process of further streamlining processes and the regulatory framework, to reduce the overall time taken for incorporating of a company.  
    The ministry said it has introduced an integrated incorporation form (Form INC29) and started tighter monitoring of Registrar of Companies' (ROCs') performance resulting in faster approvals and lesser number of clarifications being asked from the stakeholders.
    It will soon introduce a new version of Form INC29 incorporating suggestions received from the stakeholders allowing up to five directors to be appointed and greater flexibility in proposing a name for a company.
    The statement further said rules with regard to reserving and approving of names for companies will also be simplified, and a centralised new process will be introduced soon for time-bound approval of names of companies.

General Awareness


    • 1. Who among the following was appointed as Vice Chairman of the Basel-based Bank for International Settlements in November 2015? 
      (a) Kaushik Basu (b) Raghuram Rajan (c) Jens Weidmann 
      (d) Subir Gokarn (e) Haruhiko Kuroda (Ans : b)
      2. Which country won the Rugby World Cup organized in October 2015 in England? 
      (a) New Zealand (b) S. Africa (c) Australia (d) Wales (e) England (Ans : a)
      3. Which party won simple majority in Parliamentary elections in Canada in October 2015? 
      (a) Liberal Party (b) Conservative Party (c) New Democratic Party 
      (d) Bloc Quebecois Party (e) Green party (Ans : a)
      4. Vidya Devi Bhandari was elected as the first woman President of Nepal in October 2015. She is the leader of which party? 
      (a) Nepali Congress (b) Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (c) Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist) 
      (d) Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (e) Tarai-Madhesh Loktantrik Party (Ans : c)
      5. What was India’s position at the Asian Shooting Championship organized in Kuwait City in November 2015? 
      (a) first (b) second (c) third (d) fourth (e) fifth (Ans : b)
      6. Who among the following is the new Prime Minister of Poland where parliamentary elections were held in October 2015? 
      (a) Donald Tusk (b) Beata Szyd3o (c) Jaroslaw Kaczynsi 
      (d) Bronislaw komorowski (e) Ewa Kopacz (Ans : b)
      7. Which SAARC nation started Balance Nail military exercise with USA in November 2015? 
      (a) Nepal (b) Bhutan (c) Sri Lanka (d) Pakistan (e) Bangladesh (Ans : a)
      8. Who among the following was conferred with all Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration on October 31, 2015? 
      (a) CNR Rao (b) E Sreedharan (c) Karan Singh 
      (d) PV Rajagopal (e) MS Swaminathan (Ans : d)
      9. Abhishek Verma won silver medal for India at the….. World Cup Final in Mexico City in October 2015. 
      (a) Archery (b) Wrestling (c) Shooting (d) Rowing (e) Boxing (Ans : a)
      10. The UN launched the International Year of….. 2016 in November 2015. 
      (a) Spices (b) Cotton (c) Coconut (d) Oilseeds (e) Pulses (Ans : e)
      11. Ground Zero Summit, organized in New Delhi on November 5-8, 2015, was on the issue of– 
      (a) Terrorism (b) Cyber security (c) Climate Change 
      (d) Welfare of Women (e) Corporate Social Responsibility  (Ans : b)
      12. India’s Amit Verma won the 2015 Bastiat Prize for….. given by Los Angeles-based Reason Foundation in November 2015. 
      (a) Law (b) Science (c) Journalism (d) Philosophy (e) Economics (Ans : c)
      13. Reserve Bank issued guidelines for the Gold Monetisation Scheme on October 22, 2015. Who will decide the interest rate on gold deposits? 
      (a) RBI (b) Finance Ministry (c) Indian Banks Association 
      (d) Individual banks (e) World Gold Council (Ans : d)
      14. President Pranab Mukherjeee launched ‘IMPRINT India’ research initiatives for which of the following academic field in November 2015? 
      (a) Commerce (b) Arts (c) Law (d) Management (e) Engineering (Ans : e)
      15. Punjabi is now the third official language in Parliament of Canada after English and….. 
      (a) French (b) Spanish (c) German (d) Russian (e) Chinese (Ans : a)
      16. Who among the following was named the most powerful woman in the Indian business sector by Fortune India in November 2015? 
      (a) Shikha Sharma (b) Chanda Kochhar (c) Chitra Ramakrishna 
      (d) Naina Lal Kidwai (e) Arundhati Bhattacharya (Ans : e)
      17. What is India’s position in the list of world’s most valuable nation brands by London-based Brand Finance in November 2015? 
      (a) 7th (b) 17th (c) 27th (d) 37th (e) 47th (Ans : a)
      18. Justice Tirath Singh Thakur appointed the….. Chief Justice of India in December 2015. 
      (a) 41st (b) 42nd (c) 43rd (d) 44th (e) 45th (Ans : c)
      19. What was India’s rank among 189 economies in World Bank’s ‘Doing Business 2016’ report launched in October 2015? 
      (a) 110th (b) 120th (c) 130th (d) 140th (e) 150th (Ans : c)
      20. The Grand Alliance won over two-third majority in Bihar Assembly election results declared in November 2015. How many seats are there in the Assembly? 
      (a) 143 (b) 193 (c) 243 (d) 293 (e) 343 (Ans : c)
      21. The Presidents of China and….. met for the first time after more than six decades in November 2015. 
      (a) Laos (b) Taiwan (c) Myanmar (d) Vietnam (e) Mongolia (Ans : b)
      22. ‘INDRA’ is the joint military exercise conducted by troops of India and….. in Rajasthan in November 2015. 
      (a) USA (b) UK (c) France (d) Russia (e) China (Ans : d)
      23. Which is the top-ranked country in the list of world’s most valuable nation brands by London-based Brand Finance in November 2015? 
      (a) USA (b) UK (c) Canada (d) Sweden (e) Singapore (Ans : a)
      24. India has been re-elected to the UN Commission of International….. Law for another six year term in November 2015. 
      (a) Trade (b) Culture (c) Maritime (d) Environment (e) Human Rights (Ans : a)
      25. Which is the best country in terms of internet freedom in the report ‘freedom on the Net 2015’ released by Freedom House in October 2015? 
      (a) Norway (b) Sweden (c) Finland (d) Denmark (e) Iceland (Ans : e)

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