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Current Affairs - 28 March 2016

General Affairs 

PM Narendra Modi Halts Speech During Azaan In Kharagpur
  • PM Narendra Modi Halts Speech During Azaan In KharagpurKHARAGPUR, WEST BENGAL:  While going all guns blazing against the Trinamool Congress as well as the Left Front, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on his maiden campaign for the West Bengal assembly polls, stopped his speech midway following azaan (Islamic call to prayer) from a nearby mosque.

    Canvassing for BJP candidates at the BNR Ground in Kharagpur in West Midnapore district, PM Modi halted his speech as soon as the sound of azaan was heard and waited patiently for its completion.

    Even as thousands of people who had gathered there egged him to continue, PM Modi gestured with his hands signalling them to calm down.

    "Excuse me, azaan was on. Because of me, there should not be any problem to anyone's worshiping, so I paused for a few minutes," PM Modi said, before resuming his speech where he castigated the Communists and the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool for destroying Bengal.

    Earlier in November 2014, BJP president Amit Shah had taken a similar pause during his address in Kolkata.

Avalanche Hits Jammu And Kashmir's Kupwara District, Kills 2
  • Avalanche Hits Jammu And Kashmir's Kupwara District, Kills 2SRINAGAR:  Two persons were killed today when an avalanche hit a place near Sadhna Pass in north Kashmir's Kupwara district, a police official said.

    "Two civilians, who were working as Beacon (Border Roads Organisation) labourers, came under an avalanche during snow clearance operation at Khooni Nallah near Sadhna Pass," he said.

    The official said rescue teams swung into action and pulled out the duo who were buried under a huge mound of snow.

    However, both succumbed during treatment at a hospital, he said.

    The divisional administration had yesterday issued a medium danger avalanche warning for areas above 3,000 m in Kupwara, Bandipora, Baramulla, Ganderbal and Kargil districts of the state.

    People residing in these zones were advised not to venture into avalanche-prone areas and the deputy commissioners of these districts were asked to keep a close watch and take the necessary precautionary measures.

Dhirubhai Ambani, Anupam Kher, Saina Nehwal To Be Given Padma Awards Tomorrow
  • Dhirubhai Ambani, Anupam Kher, Saina Nehwal To Be Given Padma Awards TomorrowNEW DELHI:  Founder of Reliance Industries late Dhirubhai Ambani, former governor of Jammu and Kashmir Jagmohan, actors Anupam Kher and Ajay Devgn and badminton star Saina Nehwal are among 56 eminent persons who will be honoured with Padma awards by the President tomorrow.

    Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, renowned dancer Yamini Krishnamurti, former CAG Vinod Rai, film maker Madhur Bhandarkar and celebrated chef Mohammed Imtiaz Qureshi will also receive the Padma awards at the Civil Investiture Ceremony to be held at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

    President Pranab Mukherjee will present five Padma Vibhushan, eight Padma Bhushan and 43 Padma Shri awards at the function.

    Dhirubhai Hirachand Ambani (posthumous), Avinash Kamalakar Dixit, Jagmohan, Yamini Krishnamuthi and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar would be awarded Padma Vishushan, while Padma Bhushan would be conferred on Hafeez Sorabe Contractor, Barjinder Singh Hamdard, Anupam Pushkarnath Kher, Pallonji Shapoorji Mistry, Saina Nehwal, Vinod Rai, Alla Ventaka Rama Rao and Duvvur Nageshwar Reddy.

    The 43 Padma Shri awardees who will receive the honour tomorrow include Mylswamy Annadurai, Madhur R Bhandarkar, Ajay Devgn, Deepika Kumari and Mohammed Imtiaz Qureshi.

    Government had announced Padma awards for 112 eminent persons on the eve of Republic Day.

    The rest of the awardees, including actor Rajinikanth, actor Priyanka Chopra and tennis star Sania Mirza, will be given the honour at a separate function to be held next month.

Indian Appointed UN Adviser On Human Rights And Businesses
  • Indian Appointed UN Adviser On Human Rights And BusinessesUNITED NATIONS:  An India-born academician has been named by the UN Human Rights Council as an adviser to one of its working group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

    Surya Deva has been appointed by the Geneva-based UNHRC as the Asia-Pacific representative of the UN Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises.

    Deva is an associate professor at the School of Law of City University of Hong Kong and his research interests lie in Business and Human Rights, Corporate Social Responsibility, India-China Constitutional Law, and Sustainable Development.

    Deva recently wrote a background paper for India's National Framework on Business and Human Rights and in 2014.

    He was elected a Member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Constitutional Law.

    President of the Human Rights Council Choi Kyong-lim informed in a letter to all permanent representatives to the United Nations Office at Geneva last week about Deva's appointment.

Belgian Police Detain Four Suspects After 13 Raids: Prosecutor
  • Belgian Police Detain Four Suspects After 13 Raids: ProsecutorBRUSSELS:  Belgian police detained four people for questioning in connection with terrorism after 13 raids today across Brussels and the towns of Duffel and Mechelen to the north, the federal prosecutor said.

    "In connection with the terrorism dossier, 13 raids were carried out this morning... in all nine people were questioned, with five of them later released," the prosecutor said in a statement.

    The statement made no direct mention of Tuesday's twin bomb attacks on Brussels airport and a metro train in which 28 people were killed and 340 were hurt.

    It said there were four raids in Mechelen, about 30 kilometres (20 miles) due north of Brussels, and one in Duffel, 40 kilometres in the same direction.

    The examining magistrate will decide later whether the four people held will be put in preventive detention, it said.

    The prosecutor said the authorities would say nothing for the moment about the results of the searches.

    The suicide bombings, Belgium's worst ever terror attacks, were claimed by ISIS.

Business Affairs 

Flipkart, Snapdeal top brass squabble on social media
  • E-commerce rivals Flipkart and Snapdeal slug it out on social media over the Chinese online retailer Alibaba's plans to enter the Indian market.
    Alibaba, which has invested in Indian e-tailers like Paytm and Snapdeal, recently said that it plans a full-fledged entry into the Indian market.
    Taking a pot shot at competitors, Flipkart co-founder Sachin Bansal in a tweet said, "Alibaba deciding to start operations directly shows how badly their Indian investments have done so far."
    Hitting back, Snapdeal founder Kunal Bahl tweeted, "Didn't Morgan Stanley just flush 5bn worth market cap in Flipkart down the (toilet seat icon) Focus on ur business not commentary (smile icon)".
    Alibaba China has about 40 per cent stake in One97 Communications which runs Paytm.
    In February, a mutual fund firm under Morgan Stanley marked down the value of Flipkart's shares by 27 per cent. In a regulatory filing the firm said it valued Flipkart stake at $58.93 million in December 2015, as compared to $80.62 million in June 2015.
    Flipkart in February, before the filing by Morgan Stanley fund, had said it is valued at $15.2 billion then.
    In the recent times, online retailers such as Flipkart and Snapdeal have sparred on social media over various issues and have also run publicity campaigns to target rivals. 

    Arvind Kejriwal asks CMs to oppose excise duty on jewellery
    • Arvind Kejriwal asks CMs to oppose excise duty on jewelleryDelhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday urged the chief ministers of all states to oppose the central government's proposal to levy excise duty on non-silver jewellery.
      "I wrote to Prime minister a few days back seeking roll back of excise on jewellers. Today, I wrote letters to all chief ministers urging them also to write to PM," Kejriwal tweeted on Saturday.
      Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, in his budget speech, had proposed levying one percent excise duty on non-silver jewellery.
      Many jewellers and bullion traders associations have been opposing the move and have been on an indefinite strike since March 2.
      "I have written to the prime minister requesting him to roll back the excise proposal. I also request you to oppose the excise duty on jewellers and write to the central government in this regard," Kejriwal said in his letter to the chief ministers.

      50 mn homes in India yet to access electricity, says Piyush Goyal
      • There are 50 million rural homes without access to electricity, union Minister Piyush Goyal said in  New Delhi.
        Addressing a session "Making India a Global Economic Superpower" at a Conference on Young Indians, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy Goyal admitted the country could never become an economic superpower unless it ensured equal opportunities for people at the bottom of the pyramid.
        "We cannot become a super economic power unless the person at the bottom of the pyramid gets equal opportunity to study, to be skilled and has the opportunity to move towards a better quality of life."
        "To my mind, lack of electricity access in villages across the country is a serious concern for us as a nation. There are about 50 million homes which do not have access to electricity," Goyal said.
        Goyal said that in Arunachal Pradesh, there were about 808 villages without any access to electricity. "While we are now working on building a grid in Sikkim and Arunachal, it will take time. Hence, we are looking at off-grid solutions in the interim."
        The minister said he felt India could become a superpower if the economies of scale are leveraged, greater degrees of transparency introduced and proper monitoring of work ensured.
        "India is poised for decadal double digit growth in the days to come and is poised to become a superpower with a billion plus happy people."
        "India has the potential to transform and can move into the big league very rapidly if we leverage the economies of scale, bring in greater degrees of transparency and monitor work that has been undertaken," he said.
        Elaborating on the need to take a holistic view of the various programmes being implemented by the government, Goyal said: "There is a need to recognise the opportunities in the ecosystem and look at how these can be converted into an actionable agenda."
        Highlighting the success of one of the key programmes of the Ministry of Power, Goyal said, "The LED programme in India is going to result in savings of 100 billion units of electricity annually and will benefit the consumers directly. In monetary terms, it will lead to savings of $6.5 billion annually."
        "Given the environmental concerns, this programme will result in the reduction of about 80 million tons of carbon dioxide. This programme demonstrates how economies of scale can be leveraged to achieve a significant reduction in the cost of LED bulbs."

      Yokohama Rubber to buy tyre-maker Alliance Tire Group
      • Tokyo-based Yokohama Rubber Co will acquire off-highway-tyre manufacturer Alliance Tire Group (ATG) for $1,179 million to expand its commercial tyre business.
        The company has reached into an agreement with global investment firm KKR and Mahansaria family to purchase 100 per cent shares of Netherlands-based ATG, the company said in a statement.
        "The agreed equity value of the transaction is $1,179 million. The acquisition is expected to be finalised on 1 July 2016, after completion of all necessary closing procedures, including regulatory approvals," it said.
        ATG sells radial and bias tyres in 120 countries with a focus on the North American and European markets. It has two in India and one in Israel.
        The firm has developed a highly specialised business in the manufacture and sale of tyres for agricultural, industrial, construction and forestry machinery.
        At present, Yokohama Rubber does not manufacture or sell tyres for agricultural or forestry machinery. ATG's acquisition will strengthen its product lineup in commercial tyres.
        "The ATG acquisition will strengthen the Yokohama Group's business in commercial tyres and accelerate its ongoing globalisation," it added.
        ATG has an annual sales of $529 million with operating profit of $95 million.
        "Agricultural equipment tyre demand is expected toincrease as a result of the growing use of agricultural machinery, which is crucial to improve agricultural efficiency to meet the increasing food needs for the world's growing population," it added.

        India as a democracy better placed than EU: Arvind Panagariya
        • Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman, NITI AayogComparing diversity issues in India and the European Union, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya said on Saturday the world's largest democracy is better placed as a cohesive unit than EU and is bound to see high growth rates in the coming decades.
          Replying to a question on India often being called a "noisy democracy" at an industry body CII event in New Delhi, the noted economist said India despite its huge diversity and varied traditions and cultures, has stayed as a single cohesive unit.
          Quoting economist Jagdish Bhagwati, Panagariya said Bhagwati told Singapore's first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in response to his comment on India being a noisy democracy, that "You hear the noise, I hear the music".
          "This says it all. Just think about it, Europeans, with far less diversity than India, today are still struggling to become a single state. The whole movement towards a single Europe is ridden with so many difficulties.
          "Even as a single monetary union there are fears that Greece might drop out of this union and tomorrow Spain might drop out of this union," he said.
          He added that quite contrary to that, with much greater diversity in India, the country has stayed as a single nation.
          "And not only have we stayed together, but the nation has grown over time. Because in today's noise we tend to forget that in 1950s and 1960s when you go back there were so many separatist movements based on language, etc," he noted.
          On the way ahead, he said: "So I see it as a huge success of India's democracy. I think I will not have it any other way. In the long run we will see our growth rate in the next 15-30 years return to the rate of 8-10 per cent."
          On steps India needs to take to make its growth more inclusive, Panagariya said India's nature of growth has been different.
          In earlier success stories of Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and China, most recently, growth happened through rapid growth of labour-intensive industry, which created a lot of jobs and then that was led by growth in services sector.
          "What we need to do is make the ecosystem better for the labour-intensive industry so that our industrialists can see what can be done through people and what can be done through machines...," he added.
          Panagariya stressed that the thrust should not just be on increasing the use of machines, but for the industry to find the right mix so that the growth can be evenly spread.
          On India's growth potential, he said the scope is "enormous".

        General Awareness

        J P Nadda launches Rota virus vaccine

          • The Union Ministry of health and welfare has been taking consistent efforts to develop new medicines and keep the contagious diseases under control. Recently, the minister of Health and Welfare launched the Rota virus vaccine.
            Flash points
            • Rotavirus vaccine is an initiative to provide immunity against Diarrhoea and bring infant mortality rate under controlJ P Nadda launches Rota virus vaccine
            • This vaccine will be made available under Universal Immunization Programme
            • This vaccine aims to reach out to 27 million children
            • It was developed by the Ministries of Science and Health and Family Welfare through public-private partnership under ‘Make in India’ initiative
            • The vaccine is a cost effective program and it is to be rolled out in of Himachal Pradesh, Haryana,Odisha and Andhra Pradesh in the first phase
            • The event was organized in Bhubaneshwar
            • Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Odisha health ministerAtanu Sabyasachi Nayak were present during the launch
            Rota virus
            • Rota is a highly contagious virus that infects majority of children
            • It is the most common cause of severe diarrhoea among children, leading to hospitalisation and death.
            • About 80,000 – 1,00,000 children die in India due to rotavirus diarrhoea every year
            Key points
            • Union Minister of Health & Welfare– JP Nadda
            • Odisha CM- Naveen Patnaik

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