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Current Affairs - 4 March 2016

General Affairs 

Rajya Sabha Members Condemn Inflammatory Statements By Sangh Parivar In Agra
  • Rajya Sabha Members Condemn Inflammatory Statements By Sangh Parivar In AgraNEW DELHI:  Opposition members in Rajya Sabha today expressed serious concern over reports that some Sangh Parivar leaders had allegedly sought to take "revenge" on the minority community for the killing of a Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) leader, with a nominated member making a fervent plea for preserving the unity and diversity of the country.

    The government also condemned the reported statements in the House.

    Making a Zero Hour mention, Anu Aga accused some Sangh Parivar members of recently giving a call for taking "revenge" on the minority community, terming them 'demons'.

    "Such incidents should be stopped and condemned," she said, adding that "in a peace-loving Hindu dominated country, public statements by persons in responsibility goes against the inclusive ethos of the country."

    At a condolence meeting in Agra for a VHP worker who was killed recently, speakers reportedly made inflammatory statements and swore to take revenge on the minorities.

    Ms Aga said such statements derailed the development agenda and appealed for forgetting differences and joining hands to preserve the unity, diversity and integrity of the country and restore sanity.
    Several Opposition members supported her and raised their hands to associate with her.

    Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said he agreed on maintaining unity and harmony and added no destructive agenda can dominate development agenda.

    Mr Naqvi said the government does not support such incidents and "we condemn it."

    Madhusudan Mistry (Congress) raised the issue of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP members reportedly throwing black ink on the statue of India's first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru on February 19 in Badaun town of Uttar Pradesh.

    While Pandit Nehru went to jail for country's freedom, those who assisted the British and did not hoist national flag on RSS headquarters are now teaching nationalism, he said.

    "Our leader is being given life threats by Rajasthan MLA and such statements are not even being condemned," he alleged and added that no action has been taken against those responsible from throwing ink at Nehru's statue.

    Mr Mistry demanded that the Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh be directed to take action.

    When Deputy Chairman PJ Kurien asked if the government will seek report on the matter, the minister replied that it was a law and order issue which is a state subject.

CBSE Asks Schools To Urge Students To Download PM's Mobile App
  • CBSE Asks Schools To Urge Students To Download PM's Mobile AppNEW DELHI:  The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has asked schools to encourage students, teachers and parents to download the 'Narendra Modi mobile app' so that they can share their experiences with the Prime Minister.

    The Board issued a notification after the Prime Minister in his last 'Mann ki Baat' radio addresses urged students to face examinations with confidence and optimism while seeking their response through the Narendra Modi app.

    In its notification, the CBSE has invited students, teachers and parents to give a feedback on their own experiences about examinations on the Narendra Modi Mobile App.

    Students can share their experiences of taking examinations while teachers and parents can also recount their experiences, the CBSE notification said.

    The Prime Minister will also be sharing some of his own thoughts, it added.

    "All School Heads are requested to encourage their students, teachers and parents to download the App, and share their experiences on how to overcome the stress of taking examinations," the CBSE notification said.

    The CBSE also mentioned part of the Prime Minister's radio address in which he had mentioned that final Examinations for grade 10th and 12th will be conducted in the coming days.

    The PM had said that it is his wish that students who have got success, share their experiences on how they have spent the tension-free days of examination, regarding the atmosphere in the family, teachers, elders, efforts made by them, or any tips or suggestions.

    "You must have had good experiences. This time you can send your experiences on Narendra Modi App," the PM had said in his 'Mann ki Baat' address on January 31, the CBSE notification said.

After Smriti Irani's Allegations, Inundated With Calls, Threats: Yechury
  • After Smriti Irani's Allegations, Inundated With Calls, Threats: YechuryNEW DELHI:  CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury has moved a privilege motion against Education Minister Smriti Irani accusing her of making "baseless allegations" against him during a debate on the JNU case, which saw members sparring on references to Goddess Durga.

    In a letter to the Rajya Sabha Chairman today, Mr Yechury sought protection from the Chair, saying he was being "inundated with phone calls and messages full of profanity, obscenity and threats to him on the basis of allegations and calumny" spread against him in the House.

    "During the discussions on February 26, HRD Minister made completely baseless allegations against me imputing motives that are completely false. These allegations suggest that I had made some comments denigrating the Hindu Goddess Durga," he said.

    "There is absolutely no reference of anything of this nature in the course of the long discussions in the House. Such totally baseless allegations have had the incendiary effect of resulting in the threats, intimidation and harassment that I continue to be subjected to," Mr Yechury said in his letter.

    The CPI(M) parliamentarian said the "baseless and completely unfounded allegations by the Minister against me on the floor of the House has led to a barrage of threatening calls to me, aimed primarily at obstructing my functioning as MP and in discharging duties as MP and is a clear case of breach of my privilege as MP."

    Mr Yechury said, "Considering the grievous nature of such allegations and since they were made on the floor of the House and recorded as part of the proceedings, I am seeking your intervention to ensure the protection of my rights and privileges as member of this House."

Ishrat Jehan Case: Court To Hear Plea For Quashing Action Against Gujarat Cops Next Week
  • Ishrat Jehan Case: Court To Hear Plea For Quashing Action Against Gujarat Cops Next WeekNEW DELHI:  The Supreme Court would hear on March 11 a plea seeking quashing of criminal prosecution, suspension and other actions taken against Gujarat cops in the 2004 alleged fake encounter killing of Ishrat Jehan in view of recent testimony of jailed Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) operative David Headley.

    The matter, which was mentioned for urgent hearing before a bench comprising Chief Justice TS Thakur and Justice UU Lalit on March 1, will now be heard on March 11, sources said.

    The plea, filed by advocate ML Sharma, refers to the statement recorded by David Headley, the Pakistani-American terrorist, in a Mumbai court that Ishrat Jehan was a LeT operative.

    Gujarat Police personnel, including the then Deputy Inspector General (DIG) DG Vanzara, are facing trial in a Mumbai court for their alleged role in the encounter.

    The plea, which cited the recent statements before a special court recorded by David Headley, who allegedly conspired with LeT in plotting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, said the facts are now undisputed that all four persons killed by Gujarat Police, including Ishrat Jehan, were terrorists.

    "The judicial proceeding and statement of David Headley, who conspired with LeT in plotting the 26/11 Mumbai attacks, stated via video conference and recorded in the special court at Mumbai that four persons, including Ishrat Jahan who were killed in June 2004 by Gujarat Police, were a part of LeT terrorist organisation belonging to Pakistan and they were assigned to kill then Chief Minister of Gujarat, Narendra Modi," it said.

    The plea sought a direction to close criminal proceedings and action taken in First Information Reports lodged by Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the Gujarat Police personnel and others, saying it was unconstitutional within the judicial facts and evidences of David Headley.

    It also sought a direction from the court declaring that killing of a terrorist is not an offence under Indian law and proper compensation be paid to the state police personnel in the interest of justice.

    It also wanted initiation of suo motu perjury/contempt proceedings against the then Home Minister and CBI Director for concealing true facts before the Supreme Court and the Gujarat High Court and for filing a false affidavit pertaining to facts about Ishrat Jehan case.

Google Donates $1Million To Help Fight Zika Virus Spread
  • Google Donates $1Million To Help Fight Zika Virus SpreadGoogle is donating $1 million to fight the spread of the Zika virus and offering engineers and data scientists help to determine where it will hit next.

    Zika has become an epidemic in Latin America and the Caribbean since last fall. The virus is mainly spread through mosquito bites and has been potentially linked to birth defects.

    Google said in a blog post that it is in a good position to assist since its mission is to help people find information, and it has experience analyzing large sets of data. The company has seen a more than 3,000 percent increase in global search interest in Zika since November.

    Google operates a group of businesses, including a dominant Internet search engine, under the holding company Alphabet Inc. Google brought in an operating profit of $6.8 billion in last year's fourth quarter.

    The Mountain View, California, company's grant will go to UNICEF and be used to help reduce mosquito populations and support the development of diagnostics and vaccines as well as work to prevent virus transmission.

Business Affairs 

    Budget has given RBI space to cut rates: Jayant Sinha
    • Union Minister of State for Finance Jayant SinhaThe union budget 2016-17, with the target of holding the next fiscal's deficit at 3.5 per cent of GDP, has given space to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to ease interest rates, Union Minister of State for Finance Jayant Sinha said on Thursday.
      "Macroeconomic stability is fundamental to ensuring that monetary policy has space. If we don't provide that monetary policy space by generally a tighter fiscal policy, we cannot expect monetary policy to loosen up," he said at an event here organised by Indian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.
      "So, that is the kind of environment we have tried to create on the macro side. There was fiscal consolidation, the current account deficit came down, inflation came down. As that happened, interest rate, which was very high over 10-12 per cent, came down quite dramatically," he added.
      Declaring that prudence lies in adhering to fiscal targets, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, presenting the budget on Monday, retained the much-awaited figure of fiscal deficit for the current financial year at 3.9 per cent of GDP, and at 3.5 per cent for 2016-17 but added he had also ensured that the development agenda is not compromised.
      The fiscal deficit for 2014-15 touched 4.1 per cent of the GDP.
      Meanwhile, services sector activity fell to a three-month low amidst subdued growth in new orders, key macro-economic data showed on Thursday.
      The Nikkei Business Activity index fell to a three-month low of 51.4 in February, from 54.3 in January, adding to expectations of a rate cut by the RBI.
      At its sixth and the fiscal's final bi-monthly monetary policy review last month, RBI kept its key lending rate unchanged at 6.75 per cent.
      "The Reserve Bank continues to be accommodative even as it leaves the policy rate unchanged in this review, while awaiting further data on inflation," Governor Raghuram Rajan said in his policy statement.
      The consumer price index (CPI), or retail inflation has been rising. As per data released last month, annual retail inflation moved up further to 5.69 per cent in January, from 5.61 per cent in the month before.

      Sensex ends 364 points up, Nifty above 7,450, Tata Steel top gainer
      • Sensex ends 364 points up, Nifty above 7,450, Tata Steel top gainerExtending its gains for the third consecutive day, the S&P BSE Sensex gained 364 points to trade above its crucial psychological level of 24,000, while broader CNX Nifty jumped above its key 7,450-mark. 
        The headline indices gained as a rally in a range of commodities fuelled fresh buying in miners, with investors drawing further comfort from a stronger rupee. Positive trend seen in Asian markets on the back of upbeat data on US jobs and gains in commodities also boosted sentiment. 
        The 30-share index ended the day at 24,606, up 364.01 points, while broad-based 50-share index quoted 7,475, up 106.75 points at close.
        Market breadth turned fairly positive with 26 of the 30 Sensex components ending the day in green.
        Tata Steel was the best performing stock on both the benchmark indices and gained over 7 per cent after the steel major received green nod for project worth Rs 1,877 crore ($278.49 million) in Jharkhand.
        Meanwhile, rupee rose for a fifth day and was trading at 67.32 after weakening to as much as 68.79 to the dollar last month, boosted by foreign flows.
        Investor sentiment has improved after the government stuck to its fiscal deficit target for the next financial year, raising hopes the Reserve Bank of India would soon cut key policy rates.
        Foreign investors bought a net $442.68 million worth of Indian shares on March 1, paring this year's outflow to $2.43 billion.
        "Right now, budget has been positive for sentiment but we need to see how the implementation goes on from here and most importantly we need to see earnings support," said Devendra Joshi, Asia equity strategist at HSBC.
        "From relative economic growth perspective, India looks better than many of the other emerging markets at this point in time," the expert added.
        Miners such as Hindalco and Vedanta rose between 5 per cent to 6 per cent, boosted by higher prices for copper and iron ore globally.
        Dr Reddy's Laboratories gained 5.77 per cent after the drugmaker obtained the US health regulator's approval to start selling a generic version of anti-nausea injection Aloxi.
        Trent rose 4.50 per cent amid reports Future Group is in the process of forging a distribution alliance with Trent's Star Bazaar outlets.
        Among Asian markets, China's Shanghai Composite ended with an uptick of 0.35 per cent, Japan's Nikkei also added 1.28 per cent. However, Hong Kong's Hang Seng index bucked the trend to lose 0.31 per cent.
        A lowdown on markets today
        12:40 am
        Sensex at 24,503, up 260.22 points
        Nifty at 7,442, up 74.00 points
        11:20 am
        Sensex at 24502.31, up 260 points
        Nifty at 7442.55, up 74 points
        09:25 am
        Sensex at 24,454, up 211.16 points
        Nifty at 7,428, up 60.00 points

        London world's most expensive city, Mumbai ranked 17th: Study
        • London has been ranked as the world's most expensive city to live and work in, ahead of New York and Hong Kong, according to a UK study that puts Mumbai at 17th.
          The only India city on the list of top 20, Mumbai is ranked 17th ahead only of Berlin, Johannesburg and Rio de Janeiro by the UK real estate firm Savills survey that was released on Monday.
          It compares the total annual cost of renting both residential and office accommodation per person in some of the world's leading cities.
          London is 18 per cent more expensive than it was five years ago, and has been ranked at the top of the index since 2014.
          The cost of living in the British capital comes to more than double the cost of other English-speaking cities such as Sydney, Los Angeles and Chicago.
          "The highest ranking global cities, London and New York, are also the most expensive for businesses and workers to occupy... World cities can become a victim of their own success when rents rise to the point where affordability becomes an issue," said Yolande Barnes, head of Savills World Research.
          "The productivity of cities and their value to global businesses clearly has a pronounced effect on demand and hence rental costs," she said.
          Her research found that accommodation for the average Londoner calculated as a total of housing and office rental costs - comes to 80,700 pounds a year, compared to 79,600 pounds in New York and 73,800 pounds in Hong Kong.
          Savills puts together its study as an indicator for companies of the cost of doing business in different world cities.

          Drop in global oil prices a windfall for Indian economy: IMF
          • Drop in global oil prices a windfall for Indian economy: IMFThe collapse in global oil prices is a large windfall gain for India and it has made room for more spending on goods and services, the IMF has said.
            "The collapse in global oil prices is a large windfall gain for India. The windfall has made room for more spending on goods and services, helped improve the external and fiscal positions, and allowed a sharp decline in inflation," Paul Cashin, head of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) team for India, said yesterday
            In its latest report, the IMF projected India's GDP growth from 7.3 per cent in this fiscal year to 7.5 per cent next year, even as the economic recovery has been uneven.
            The pick-up in the investment cycle is yet to gain strength, the banking system is weighed down by bad loans, and the weaker global economy has hit India's exports, it said.
            IMF said as private investment continues to show only a few signs of revival, the challenge for India is to sustain its growth momentum.
            An increase in public infrastructure investment and government initiatives to unclog stalled investment projects are helping bolster investor sentiment and having a positive impact on private investment, it said.
            "Nonetheless, project implementation and supply-side challenges have been a drag on corporate investment for several years and they have chipped away at the financial strength of core industrial sectors, so the investment recovery is likely to be sluggish," Cashin said.
            "Weakened bank asset quality and profitability means that banks are also becoming more cautious in their lending, which could hobble economic growth," he said.
            He welcomed the Reserve Bank of India's recent steps toward more stringent recognition and more effective resolution of distressed bank loans as well as raising of banks' loan loss provisions.
            According to IMF, with global growth weaker, India will have to continue to rely mainly on domestic demand as a key source of growth.
            "Increasing capital buffers in public banks, which in our assessment is manageable even in a severe stress scenario, and implementing governance reforms in public sector banks along with the new bankruptcy law, are of key importance to ensure the durability of the Indian growth recovery," Cashin said.
            He said the adoption of the flexible inflation-targeting framework in early 2015 is a very positive development.
            "The new framework is simple, has clear objectives and provides operational autonomy for the RBI in setting monetary policy," Cashin said.
            The report notes that household inflation expectations remain high, and breaking away from this pattern will likely require a prolonged period of low inflation.
            In the near-term, inflation risks stem from an unfavourable monsoon and expected wage increases of government employees as a result of a once-a-decade wage adjustment, IMF said.he matter when he speaks during the debate on Budget in Parliament.

            Services PMI cools to 3-month low, rate cut hopes brighten
            • Services PMI cools to 3-month low, rate cut hopes brightenIndia's economic growth slowed in February and the services sector activity fell to a 3-month low amid subdued growth in new orders, a monthly survey showed today, adding to expectations of a rate cut by the Reserve Bank.
              The Nikkei Services Business Activity index fell to a 3-month low of 51.4 in February, from 54.3 in January, as increase in prices led to muted demand.
              Although new orders at services firms continued to rise in February, the rate of expansion eased to the weakest since last November as firms reportedly faced strong competition for new work during the month, the survey noted.
              Meanwhile, the seasonally adjusted Nikkei India Composite PMI Output index, which maps both manufacturing and services sectors, dipped to 51.2 in February from January's 11-month high of 53.3.
              "India's economic growth softened during February, with slowdown evident across both manufacturing and service sectors," said Pollyanna De Lima, economist at Markit, which compiles the survey, adding that demand conditions in the country appear to be weak, as indicated by lacklustre increase in new orders.
              Meanwhile, service providers' confidence with regard to the 12-month outlook for business activity remained positive, with panelists indicating that improved marketing campaign is likely to drive sales. However, sentiment waned since January.
              "Although PMI data still signal expansion in output and incoming new work (orders), recent figures are considerably low by historical standards," Lima said.
              On RBI's policy stance, Lima said the falling price pressures and global economic challenges may open up room for a dovish policy.
              "One centrepiece of the latest survey result is evidence of fading inflationary pressures which combined with a stuttering recovery and an increasingly challenging global backdrop open up room for a rate cut," Lima added.
              RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan on February 2 had left the key interest rate unchanged, citing inflation risks and growth concerns.

            General Awareness

            Mumbai Home To Most Number Of Billionaires In India

              • India’s Financial Capital, Mumbai, with 1094 billionaires(Ultra High Net Worth Individuals) has become home to the wealthiest people in the country, followed by Delhi at 545, according to the Knight Frank Wealth Report 2016.
                Knight Frank Wealth Report 2016.

                Key Points:
                • In the past 10 years, the billionaire counts in India jumped by 333% against the global rate of 68%.
                • 97 cities surveyed globally
                • Rankings of Mumbai and Delhi: 21 & 33 respectively.
                • The cities are expected to improve their rankings to 14 and 29 by 2025, globally.
                • India accounts for 6% of the billionaire population across the world
                • The average number of residential properties owned by wealthy Indians stands at 4, the highest in the world, against a global average of 3.7.
                Knight Frank’s Wealth Report:
                • Knight Frank LLP is a residential and commercial property consultancy in Londonfounded by John Knight, Howard Frank and William Rutley in 1896.
                • The Wealth report is published it annually after examining the global property markets.

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