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Current Affairs - 11 March 2016

General Affairs 

President, PM Congratulate ISRO Scientists On Successful Satellite Launch
  • President, PM Congratulate ISRO Scientists On Successful Satellite LaunchSRIHARIKOTA:  President Pranab Mukherjee and Prime Minister Narendra Modi today congratulated ISRO scientists for the successful launch of India's sixth navigation satellite.

    "Congratulations to ISRO team on successful launch of IRNSS 1F into orbit.#PresidentMukherjee," the President tweeted soon after ISRO launched the satellite onboard its PSLV C-32 rocket from the spaceport.

    PM Modi in his tweet said, "Successful launch of IRNSS-1F is an accomplishment we all take immense pride in.I salute the hardwork of our scientists & @isro".

    IRNSS-1F is part of the Indian Regional Navigational Satellite System under which a total of seven spacecraft are planned to provide navigational services.

Tejas, Astra Missile To Be Showcased At Indian Air Force's Firepower Demo
  • Tejas, Astra Missile To Be Showcased At Indian Air Force's Firepower DemoNEW DELHI:  Indigenous Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, which won appreciation at the Bahrain Air Show putting India on the global map for aircraft manufacturing, will now be showcasing its firepower at the Indian Air Force's Firepower Demonstration - Iron Fist.

    Tejas, a single-jet engine, multi-role light fighter developed by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, will be seen firing Russian R-73 missiles and Laser Guided Bombs at the exercise which will be held at Pokhran in the Thar desert on March 18.

    The exercise will be attended by President Pranab Mukherjee and, according to sources, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also be present.

    One squadron of the fighter, which the IAF expects will get operational clearance soon, is expected to be inducted in the force later this year.

    Also on public display for the first time will be the Astra air-to-air missile, being developed by DRDO, and the Akash missile system which will fire the Akash missile in public view for the first time.

    Iron Fist 2016 will see the participation of 181 aircraft, 103 of which are fighter planes.

    The demonstrations include firing of lethal ordnance, combat and combat support demonstrations.

    "This will be a display of the day-and-night capabilities of the Indian Air Force. We did not have this in the last decade. During the Kargil war, we did not have it," Vice Chief of Indian Air Force Air Marshal BS Dhanoa said at a press conference in New Delhi.

    "It will showcase our ability to deter aggression," he said.

    The IAF also highlighted that the exercise, that was being held after three years, was being held within the annual training budget of the force.

    Meanwhile, even as the event is set to see presence of several dignitaries, including defence attaches from various countries, the IAF confirmed that Pakistan and China have not been invited.

    The defence attaches of Pakistan and China have not been invited to the Indian Air Force's power demonstration exercise Iron Fist, the IAF said on Thursday.

    "We have invited defence attaches but not those of Pakistan and China," Mr Dhanoa said.

    He said this was a "collective decision of MEA (ministry of external affairs) and MOD (ministry of defence)" to leave out the defence attaches of the two countries from the mega exercise.

    The last Iron Fist held in 2013 was the Indian Air Force's first day-night exercise, and more than 100 aircraft and 30 different weapon platforms were showcased.

    The exercise is aimed at displaying network-centric operations capabilities of the Indian Air Force.

Don't Harass Honest Tax Payers, Says Prime Minister Narendra Modi
  • Don't Harass Honest Tax Payers, Says Prime Minister Narendra ModiNEW DELHI:  Honest tax payer should never be harassed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today.

    Interacting with 167 probationers of the Indian Revenue Service (IRS) who met him, PM Modi urged them to have a sense of trust while working and laid stress on pursuing a humane approach.

    The prime minister said that an overwhelming majority of people in the country were law abiding and wished to comply with laws in the interest of the nation.

    "He said the honest taxpayer should not be harassed even as officers perform their duty of implementing the government's revenue policy," said an official statement.

    Replying to a series of questions from the young officer-trainees, the prime minister said officers must feel that each and every citizen was a part of their family.

    If this spirit prevailed, the officers will not feel exhausted.

    In the course of the 45-minute session, PM Modi recalled several anecdotes from his life and political experience to explain the importance of civil servants pursuing "a sensitive and humane approach".

Amid Sedition Row, JNU Gets President's Award
  • Amid Sedition Row, JNU Gets President's AwardNEW DELHI:  Amid a raging political row over sedition that has engulfed the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), the prestigious institution has bagged the President's award for excellence in research and innovation.

    Tezpur University in Assam has won annual Visitor's award for 'best university'. President Pranab Mukherjee is the Visitor of central universities.

    "Tezpur University has won the annual Visitor's award for the best university and Prof Rakesh Bhatnagar as well as the Molecular Parasitology Group of JNU have won the Visitor's awards for 'research' and 'innovation' respectively," a press release issued today by Rashtarapati Bhavan said.

    President Mukherjee will present the Visitor's awards for 2016 at a function to be held at Rashtrapati Bhavan on March 14, as part of the 'Festival of Innovations'.

    The President had announced institution of these awards at the Vice Chancellors' Conference in 2014 with the aim of promoting healthy competition amongst central universities and motivating them to adopt best practises from across the world.

    The Visitor's award for innovation will be given to Professor Rakesh Bhatnagar for development of a genetically engineered vaccine and a therapeutic antibody against anthrax, it said.

    The visitor's award for research will be presented to the Molecular Parasitology Group of JNU for its pioneering work in the area of molecular parasitology, especially anti-malaria, leishmaniasis and amoebiasis.

    The best university will receive a citation and trophy while winners of Visitor's award for innovation and research will receive a citation and cash award of Rs. one lakh.

    For selecting the winners, online applications were invited from all central universities for each category. A selection committee headed by Omita Paul, Secretary to the President, secretaries of department of higher education and department of science & technology as well as Chairman, University Grants Commission, Director General of Council of Scientific and  Industrial Research, etc as members chose the winners.

    The week-long Festival of Innovations is being held at Rashtrapati Bhavan from March 12 to 19. It will commence with the inauguration of an exhibition of grassroots innovations on Saturday by the President.

    The festival will witness a number of exhibitions, round-table discussions on different topics related to innovations, group discussions, presentation of an award for Gandhian Young Technological Innovation, a meeting of innovation clubs set up in institutions of higher education, a workshop for children and a hackathon among others.

North Korea To Liquidate South Korean Assets, Fires Missiles Into Sea
  • North Korea To Liquidate South Korean Assets, Fires Missiles Into SeaSEOUL, SOUTH KOREA:  North Korea responded today to new sanctions from South Korea by firing short-range ballistic missiles into the sea in a show of defiance and vowing to "liquidate" all remaining South Korean assets at former cooperative projects in the North.

    The moves are the latest in an escalating standoff between the Koreas that began in January when North Korea detonated what it said was an "H-bomb of justice," its fourth nuclear test. Since then, the North has launched a long-range rocket and the South has shut a jointly run factory park, slapped sanctions on the North, and begun large-scale war games with the United States. North Korea responded by threatening nuclear strikes on South Korea and the US mainland.

    The missile firing today came a day after North Korean media printed photos of what appeared to be a mock-up of a nuclear warhead.

    The North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of Korea said in a statement today that North Korea will "liquidate" South Korean assets at the closed factory park in the North Korean border town of Kaesong and at a scrapped tourism resort at Diamond Mountain. In a continuation of bellicose rhetoric that has spiked in recent weeks, it said North Korea will also impose "lethal" military, political and economic blows on the South Korean government to accelerate its "pitiable demise."

    South Korea's government called the North Korean statement a "provocative act" and warned the North not to damage any South Korean assets.

    North Korea didn't say what exactly it would do with the South Korean assets. Observers said it could move the remaining manufacturing equipment at Kaesong to other industrial areas or convert it to military use, and use the South Korean-owned facilities at Diamond Mountain for its own tourism project.

    The South Korean assets at Kaesong include buildings, manufacturing equipment and finished products. The assets at the resort are a hotel, a spa, a golf course and a building used for occasional reunions of Korean families separated by war. The assets are worth about 1.4 trillion won ($1.2 billion) in total, according to Seoul's Unification Ministry.

    The North Korean statement called the new South Korean sanctions "laughable, unsightly," and referred to South Korea's female president, Park Geun-hye, as an "American prostitute," the latest in a series of sexist attacks on her.

    All of this has ratcheted up hostility on the already anxious Korean Peninsula. But, so far, analysts don't see the possibility of things spinning out of control. Some of the North's rhetoric is intended for a domestic audience to display government strength ahead of a major meeting of the ruling party in May.

    The missiles fired by North Korea today flew about 500 kilometers (310 miles) before falling into the ocean off the country's east coast, Seoul's Defense Ministry said. They were believed to be Scud-type missiles, ministry spokesman Moon Sang Gyun said.

    Such missile firings by the North are not uncommon when animosity rises. North Korea hates the annual military drills staged by Seoul and Washington, calling them preparations for an invasion. The allies say the drills, which this year are described as the biggest ever, are defensive and routine. North Korea warned at the start of the drills Monday of pre-emptive nuclear strikes.

    On Wednesday, North Korea printed photos in official media of a purported mock-up of part of a nuclear warhead, with leader Kim Jong Un repeating a claim that his country has developed miniaturized atomic bombs that can be placed on missiles.

    Information from secretive, authoritarian North Korea is often impossible to confirm, and the country's state media have a history of photo manipulation. But it was the first time the North has publicly displayed its purported nuclear designs, though it remains unclear whether the country has functioning warheads of that size or is simply trying to develop one.

    South Korea's Defense Ministry on Wednesday disputed the North's claim that it possesses miniaturized warheads.

    US State Department spokesman John Kirby declined to comment on North Korea's nuclear capabilities, saying it was an intelligence matter, but told reporters the US takes the North's rhetoric seriously.

    The United States said Wednesday it has dispatched three B-2 stealth bombers capable of launching nuclear as well as conventional weapons to the Asia-Pacific region. The US Strategic Command said the bombers will conduct training with the Australian military during their deployment, which amounts to a show of force at a time of mounting tensions with North Korea.

Business Affairs 

    Sensex slips 170 points, Nifty ends below 7,500 ahead of ECB rate decision; BHEL top loser
    • Sensex slips 170 points, Nifty ends below 7,500 ahead of ECB rate decision; BHEL top loserSnapping the six-session long gaining spree, the S&P BSE Sensex settled the day 170 points lower, while broader CNX Nifty managed to end above its key 7,450-mark as investors booked profits, especially in blue chips such as Reliance Industries.
      The headline indices tanked even as Asian stocks edged up after New Zealand surprised markets with a rate cut, keeping investors primed for more stimulus from the European Central Bank later in the day.
      The 30-share index ended the day at 24,623, down 170.62 points, while broad-based 50-share index quoted 7,486, down 45.65 points at close.
      Market breadth remained negative with 19 of the 30 Sensex components ending the day in red.
      BHEL was the worst performing stock on Sensex and lost 3.1 per cent on media reports rating agency CRISIL has lowered the rating of the company's long-term bank facilities citing a constrained business risk profile. 
      The drop, in contrast with Asian peers, came after indices posted their best weekly gain since 2011 in the week ended March 4, boosted by a fiscally prudent budget announcement.
      "In India, there is a positive feeling after the Budget, but there will always be an overhang of global volatility, which could be coming from Europe, the US or China," said Sadanand Shetty, senior fund manager at Taurus Mutual Fund, which has about $746 million in assets under management.
      Investor sentiment has improved after the government stuck to its fiscal deficit target for the next financial year, raising hopes the central bank would soon cut key policy rates.
      Mirroring the optimism, foreign investors net bought $1.11 billion worth of shares this month, but have been net sellers worth $1.77 billion for the year.
      Metal stocks such as Vedanta, Jindal Steel and Power (JSPL), Tata Steel and Hindalco rose up to 5 per cent after the Union Cabinet cleared a proposal to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act.
      Reliance Industries fell 2.87 per cent after gaining 3.5 per cent over the past two sessions, amid expectations it would declare a dividend at a board meeting on Thursday.
      Software maker Infosys fell 2.76 per cent on reports four shareholders have put up for sale a block of shares to raise around $131 million.
      Among Asian markets, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index ended with a downtick of 0.06 per cent, while China's Shanghai Composite lost 2.02 per cent. Japan's Nikkei bucked the trend to gain 1.26 per cent.
      A lowdown on markets today
      12:30 pm
      Sensex at 24,522, down 271.05 points
      Nifty at 7,460, down 71.25 points
      Sensex at 24553.91, down 240 points
      Nifty at 7465.75, down 66 points
      10:10 am
      Sensex at 24,617, down 176.79 points
      Nifty at 7,485, down 46.45 points
      09:25 am
      Sensex at 24,740, down 53.91 points
      Nifty at 7,524, down 7.50 points

      Rajya Sabha passes real estate regulation bill
      • Rajya Sabha passes real estate regulation billA bill seeking to regulate the real estate sector, bring in transparency and help protect consumer interests was passed by the Rajya Sabha today.
        Moving 'The Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bill, 2015' for consideration and passage, Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said it aims to protect the interests of buyers and bring more transparency in the sector.
        The Congress had extended its support to the Bill, which was passed by a voice vote in the House. It is touted as a major reform measure to regulate the vast real estate sector and bring order in it.
        "The Bill is need of the hour," Naidu said, responding to clarifications by members saying it can see further changes in the coming times. He also sought the support of AIADMK members, who had opposed the measure.
        He said the bill would prohibit unaccounted money from being pumped into the sector and as now 70 per cent of the money has to be deposited in bank accounts through cheques.
        "There will be no discrmination of any kind on basis of religion, region, caste, creed or sex and gender and we will include that in the rules," Naidu said, responding to members' clarification, adding "there has to be single-window clearance for all approvals."
        "Government has done its best to accommodate the views and suggestions of various stakeholders and different political parties in the matter. It is our collective responsibility to protect the consumer, encourage the developer and ensure orderly growth of the sector," Naidu said as he sought support of all sections for passage of the bill in the Upper House.
        He said the objective of 'housing for all' can only be achieved if construction sector is supported to grow orderly in an atmosphere of mutual trust and confidence, credibility, efficiency, accountability and transparency and timely execution of projects.
        Real Estate sector is the second largest employer in the country, next only to agriculture and accounts for about 9 per cent of GDP and the construction sector supports 250 ancillary industries.
        "Such an important sector, over decades has been marked by lack of trust and confidence between the consumers and project developers. In the process, this sector has acquired certain notoriety, adversely impacting investment climate and hurting the interests of lakhs of home buyers every year," he said.
        Naidu said about 10 lakh people buy houses every year with an investment of about Rs 3.5 lakh crore. As per available information for 27 major cities including 15 capitals, 2,349 to 4,488 new housing projects were launched every year between 2011 and 2015.
        "Thus in these 27 cities during these last five years, a total of 17,526 projects were launched with a total investment value of Rs 13,69,820 crore.
        "Delay in implementation of housing projects due to lack of transparency and accountability has been the bane of real estate sector in our country. This results in huge cost and time overruns, resulting in increased cost of houses. This is a matter of serious concern in the context of every citizen aspiring to own a house of his or her own," he said.
        But for reasons like lack of regulation in this sector, the consumer has been reduced to a state of helplessness, he said, adding "the consumer shall be the king as had happened in sectors like telecom after a regulatory mechanism was put in place. There is an imperative need for consumer to be the king in real estate sector also.
        "When there is a king, there got to be a queen also. The queen obviously is the developer. And there shall be a happy marriage between the king and the queen, for both to live happily ever after.
        Naidu said a total of 76,044 companies were involved in the real estate sector, which has unfortunately been seen in poor light on account of unscrupulous activities of some developers.
        The Bill provides for registration of all real estate projects with Regulatory Authorities to be set up, requiring developers to disclose project information including details of the promoter, project, lay-out plan, land status, status of approvals, agreements along with details of real estate agents, contractors, architects, structural engineers.
        "This is necessary for ensuring timely execution of projects in accountable and transparent manner," Naidu said.
        Extending the support of her party, Congress member Kumari Selja said consumers were falling prey to unfair practices as there was no regulatory mechanism. "The whole country is waiting for this bill...Consumers are waiting with baited breath for this," she said.
        Selja suggested all housing projects should be brought under purview of this bill and there should be no limit and a clause be brought in to prevent discrimination against anyone including dalits, women and transgenders.
        "Congress party stands committed to the interests of consumers, big or small, and no one should be discriminated against. We stand by this bill," she said, adding that though Congress has got many things done and brought this bill, it does not wish to take credit and BJP may do so.
        Anil Madhav Dave (BJP) said though there are regulations in every sector like telecom, power, cable, food and medicines, there was none for the real estate sector which was the biggest as 50 per cent of money was in this sector.
        "A regulation is coming in a field in which this country's money is being pumped in. With the beginning made today, things will become transparent. Through this bill, there will be no difference between what the developer shows and what he sells. It will have to be the same and all details of the project will be uploaded," he said.
        Dave, who headed the Select Committee that looked into the bill, lamented that flats were being sold on the roadside in Noida which was "worrisome".
        "When there is no regulation, the unscrupulous benefit from the confusion. I can say with confidence that this sector will see a boom, both among builders and consumers...There is nothing to fear from this bill," he said, adding that one the big builders will be regulated the smaller ones will also come under its purview over time.
        Naresh Agrawal (SP) wondered if the state laws will be superceded by this bill and whether states will adhere to this central law or not. He had earlier objected to introduction of the bill through a point of order saying land was a state subject and the bill would take away powers of states.
        Deputy Chairman P J Kurien, however, rejected his point of order saying "at this stage, your point of order has no relevance and I am ruling it out."
        Agrawal said those selling plots should also be brought under the purview of the bill. 

        Banks to take every possible action to recover Kingfisher debt: Jaitley
        • Finance Minister Arun JaitleyThe banks will take "every possible action" to recover the money owed by liquor baron Vijay Mallya's grounded carrier Kingfisher Airlines, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told parliament on Thursday.
          The carrier owed banks Rs 9,091 crore ($1.35 billion) including interest as of end-November, Jaitley said, responding to demands from the opposition Congress Party that the government make a statement.
          "Banks are going to certainly take every possible action to recover not only from him but many other defaulters," he said.
          Mallya, who is a guarantor to the Kingfisher loans, left India last week, a lawyer for the government told Supreme Court on Wednesday, asking the court to order his return.

          Inflation seen cooling in February, gives RBI easing room
          • Inflation seen cooling in February, gives RBI easing roomInflation was expected to cool in February as food prices rose more slowly, a Reuters poll found, which could strengthen calls for more monetary policy easing.
            The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has not changed its key interest rate since cutting by a surprise 50 basis points in September. Governor Raghuram Rajan has emphasised the need for fiscal reform and stable inflation before he takes any further action.
            India unveiled a fire-fighting budget last week that seeks to win back support among rural voters for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government and sustain growth against a grim global backdrop, putting the onus for support back on Rajan.
            Junior Finance Minister Jayant Sinha said the tight fiscal policy could allow for further monetary easing. Also giving Rajan room to act, the poll of 23 economists predicted retail prices rose 5.60 per cent in February, a touch slower than January's 5.69 per cent.
            "Food inflation eased in February...most likely due to the fact that temperatures have finally returned to normal, after unusually high temperatures earlier in winter led to delays in the sowing of rabi (summer) crops such as wheat and barley," said Shilan Shah, India economist at Capital Economics.
            "The chances of there being perhaps one more rate cut in the near term have risen, but this is because the FY16/17 budget adopted a tighter fiscal stance than expected rather than any change in the outlook for inflation," he added.
            Although inflation has been climbing since July, it has remained below the RBI's January 2016 target of 6 per cent for nearly a year-and-a-half.
            The RBI is expected to cut rates by 25 basis points at its April 5 meeting and follow up with a second cut in the last three months of 2016, a separate Reuters poll conducted last week found, as it tries to boost flagging growth.
            Indian industrial production was expected to contract for a third straight month in January, the latest poll also found.
            Economists predicted Friday's data will show a fall of 0.5 per cent in factory output, following a 1.3 per cent and 3.4 per cent decline in December and November respectively.
            "Although auto sales are doing well and the manufacturing PMI recovered very recently, other indicators such as rail freight and production in 'core' industries remain weak," said Devika Mehndiratta, ANZ Research's chief Asia economist.
            The slight rebound is likely due to a similar bounce back in infrastructure output, which rose 2.9 per cent in January, up from December's 0.9 per cent. Infrastructure output accounts for over one-third of the wider industrial measure. 

            PSUs spent over Rs 2400 crore in CSR in 2014-15
            • PSUs spent over Rs 2400 cr in CSR in 2014-15116 central public sector enterprises have spent an amount of Rs 2447.59 crore on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities in 2014-15 and no complaint has been received on misuse of these funds, government said today.
              Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises Minister Anant Geete said this in Rajya Sabha during the question hour after several members expressed concern over media reports suggesting that there have been misuse of CSR funds, especially by private companies.
              Geete told the members that he understood their concerns and added that he was not ruling out the possibility of misuse. He however added that his ministry had received no "written" complaint regarding which could be acted upon.
              Speaking about companies in the private sector, he said the government did not control these companies, but has issued guidelines. "If there is a specific complaint, we can act on it," he said.
              As members voiced concern about the spending of funds in the private sector, Geete said his ministry was the nodal department for the public sector enterprises.
              Geete also said that meetings to monitor the spending of these funds are held every six months.

            General Awareness

            India –Indonesia joint Military exercise- Shakti IV

              • India and Indonesia are set to begin their Joint Military Exercise Shakti IV from March 10-23 in Indonesia.
                Military Exercise Shakti
                Flash points
                • The Joint Military Exercise between India and Indonesia Shakti was started in2012 in India
                • It is conducted on a reciprocal basis with first edition in India ,second edition in Indonesia and so on
                • This year is the fourth edition of Shakti and it is conducted at Meaglang, Indonesia
                • It is a thirteen day exercise conducted between March 10-23
                • The exercise is aimed at building and promoting positive relations between the two Armies of India and Indonesia
                • Indian Army platoon strength contingent will carry out cross training with a platoon from the airborne battalion of the Indonesian Army in the fourth edition
                • The selected army team from India is expert in various counter insurgent and counter terrorist operations across Northern, western and eastern parts of the country
                • The selected Indian contingent has been put through a rigorous training schedule to prepare it for the exercise which includes combat conditioning, firing, tactical operations, tactical skills and special heliborne operations training
                • The aim of the exercise is to develop the expertise in joint counter insurgent operations and tactical cooperation between two armies working under United Nations Charter
                • Exercise Planning Conference was held at Yogyakarta, Indonesia onSeptember 22-232015 to coordinate the activities of the exercise
                Key points:
                • Indonesia Capital: Jakarta
                • Indonesia Currency: Indonesian rupiah
                • Indonesia President: Joko Widodo

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