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Current Affairs - 6 March 2016

General Affairs 

'Disturbing Inputs' About Possible Terror Attack, Says Army Commander
  • 'Disturbing Inputs' About Possible Terror Attack, Says Army CommanderPATHANKOT:  There are some "disturbing" inputs about a possible terror attack in the country aimed at creating the "maximum media impact" during the Shivratri festival and the ongoing Parliament session, a top army commander said.

    "There are security-related problems today. You know, Maha Shivratri is coming. There are inputs which are disturbing but notwithstanding that extra care has been taken," Western Army Commander Lt Gen KJ Singh said.

    When asked to elaborate, he refused but said such events are planned to create "maximum media impact".

    "See elaboration is neither required nor warranted. These events (terror attacks) are planned to create maximum media impact and when can you create a media impact when Parliament is in session, when a festival is taking place, so both happen to be going on...So that is why, there are inputs but we have taken steps against that. I must assure you of that," he said.

    The General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-in-C) of the Western Command went on to add that such "mischievous" activities will not deter a great nation as the Army is fully geared to meet any eventuality.

    "We want to tell whoever has got this mischievous intentions that nothing can deter us, one Pathankot, one Arnia, one Janglot, once more Samba, cannot deter us. This nation is too great. Indian army is fully organised. We will take care of every situation," Lt Gen Singh said.

    When asked about inputs that some Pakistan-based terrorist commanders were in touch with their Kashmiri counterparts, he said, "there are certain inputs. There are certain indications. I should only tell you this much that we are fully prepared for that."

    With regard to the detection of a tunnel in Jammu on the International Border with Pakistan, he said it had helped avert a major terror attack.

    He added that a survey will be carried out in all the border areas to see if there are any more such tunnels, for which a team of officials of Home Ministry and other security agencies has been formed.

President Pranab Mukherjee Makes Strong Pitch for Women Reservation In Public Offices
  • President Pranab Mukherjee Makes Strong Pitch for Women Reservation In Public OfficesNEW DELHI:  Making a strong pitch for women reservation, President Pranab Mukherjee said, "how can there be empowerment of women without their representation in public office."

    Inaugurating the first-ever National Conference of Women Legislators, President Mukherjee said the country has not been able to achieve more than 12 per cent representation for women out of the total membership of Parliament, which is "a sad commentary on us". "How can there be empowerment without representation?" he said, adding that "attitudinal change is necessary."

    The meet with the theme, 'Role of Women Legislators in Nation Building', has been organised by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan. It was attended by women lawmakers from across the country besides Speaker of the Bangladesh Parliament, Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury.

    Recalling the efforts put in under the previous UPA government to pass the women's reservation Bill, the President said, "Even the legislation was passed with two-thirds majority in one of the Houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha); the other House has not yet approved it."

    He said Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari has rightly spoken about the need for commitment from the political parties "in actual action, not in words, not in resolutions" in this regard.

    The President said unless there is reservation, it is too much to expect that political parties will start giving one- third of tickets to women candidates.

    "To expect that everybody will fall in line is too much and normally does not happen," he said at the first-of-its- kind conference.

    On the issue of poor representation of women in committees not dealing with women's matters, President Mukherjee said representation on such panels is not in the hands of the members of the political parties as it is distributed according to the strength of the parties in the House.

After Mehbooba Mufti's Hints, BJP Pushes For Early Government Formation
  • After Mehbooba Mufti's Hints, BJP Pushes For Early Government FormationJAMMU:  After PDP chief Mehbooba Mufti dropped hints of going ahead with it, BJP today pushed for early formation of the coalition government in Jammu and Kashmir, saying people were desiring it.

    "I think that the J&K government should be formed without wasting time", BJP leader Nirmal Singh told reporters in Jammu.  

    The former Deputy Chief Minister said people want them to form the government as they have suffered a lot during the Congress regime.

    "It took two months to prepare the 'Agenda of Alliance'," he said about the efforts made when the coalition was firmed up between the two parties in March last year.

    PDP, which has 27 legislators in the 87-member Assembly, and 25-member BJP ran a 10 month-government till the sudden demise of the then chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed on January 7.

    The state is under Governor's Rule since January 8 as Ms Mehbooba Mufti, seen as successor to her father Mufti Sayeed, did not stake claim to form the government.

    After two-month suspense, the PDP chief yesterday dropped hints of going ahead with BJP in government formation, saying she was "not afraid" of criticism over it but wanted the Centre to send out a "signal" that it will do "everything" for the welfare of people of Jammu and Kashmir.

    She also underlined that her party wanted her to form the government and she was not "adamant".

    Barely hours after making these comments, Ms Mehbooba Mufti held an hour-long meeting with Governor NN Vohra over the "political situation" and "various challenges" facing the state.

AK Antony To Be Congress Rajya Sabha Candidate From Kerala
  • AK Antony To Be Congress Rajya Sabha Candidate From KeralaTHIRUVANANTHAPURAM:  The Congress in Kerala today decided to renominate former defence minister AK Antony as the Rajya Sabha candidate on the single seat the party plans to contest from the state.

    The decision was announced by KPCC president VM Sudheeran after the party's high power committee meeting in Thiruvananthapuram today.

    Three seats from Kerala will fall vacant in the Upper House as the terms of Congress leader Mr Antony, CPI(M) leaders TN Seema and KN Balagopal are due to expire this month.

    Of the three seats, ruling Congress led-UDF can win two and CPI(M)-led LDF opposition one, based on the strength of the legislators of both the fronts.

    UDF has decided to allot the second winnable seat to its partner JD(U), led by its state president MP Veerendra Kumar.

    LDF is yet to decide on the one seat they can win. CPI has demanded that they be given the seat.

    Meanwhile, an official release said that election for the Rajya Sabha seats falling vacant would be held on March 21.

    The last date for filing of nomination is March 11 and withdrawal on March 14.

    Election and counting of votes would take place on March 21, the release added.

For Women's Day, Air India To Fly Longest All-Women Flight
  • For Women's Day, Air India To Fly Longest All-Women FlightNEW DELHI:  For Women's Day this year, Air India will operate the world's longest all women-crew flight from New Delhi to San Francisco on March 6.

    The 14,000 km journey will take a flight time of approximately 17 hours depending on wind speed - the longest non-stop flight.

    A team of four pilots and 10 cabin crew will be on-board the Boeing 777-LR that departs New Delhi at 2:35 am on Sunday. The flight will leave on March 6 and return on March 8.

    Speaking to, Captain Ramya Kirti Gupta, a First Officer said, "The flight is a symbol of women empowerment and it will encourage women to step out of their comfort zone and succeed in male dominated arenas too."

    Captain Kirti, a commercial pilot since 2007, took her first gliding class at a young age of 13.

    Air India celebrates International Women's Day every year by deploying all women crews on select international and domestic routes.

    This year the entire flight operations from cockpit crew, cabin crew, check-in staff, doctor, trimmer, ground handling staff to the traffic control will be handled by women.

    The journey begins with all four pilots sitting in the cockpit for the first hour and then a Commander and a First Officer taking turns to rest. The duo who take off are the ones to land and alternates during the return flight.

    The national carrier has 3,765 women employees including women pilots, engineers, technicians and executives.

Business Affairs 

    EPF tax: PM Narendra Modi intervenes, asks FM Arun Jaitley to reconsider decision
    • PM Narendra ModiIn a move which will give relief to lakhs of salaried taxpayers, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has asked FM Arun Jaitley to reconsider the proposed amendments in the Budget under which Employees Provident Fund withdrawal will be taxed.
      The matter has been making headlines since FM Jaitley proposed 60 per cent tax on EPF withdrawal. Trade unions and salaried employees have vehemently opposed the proposal which would reduce their retirement savings.
      According to sources, PM Modi has asked his Cabinet colleague to rollback the tax proposal.
      Ever since the tax proposal was made, finance ministry has been flooded with suggestions and representations on the topic. The industry had suggested that if 60 per cent of corpus under recognised Provident Fund is not invested in the annuity products, the tax should be levied only on accumulated returns on the corpus and not on the contributed amount.
      Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has in his Budget for 2016-17 proposed taxing 60 per cent of withdrawals from the Employee Provident Fund (EPF) on contributions to be made after April 1, unless the sum is reinvested in pension product such as an annuity.
      Towards this end, the Finance Minister had announced that 40 per cent of the total corpus withdrawn at the time of retirement will be tax exempt both under recognised Provident Fund and NPS, he pointed out.
      The Finance Ministry had expected that the employees of private companies would place the remaining 60 per cent of the corpus in annuity, out of which they can get regular pension.
      The entire corpus will be tax free if invested in annuity.

      6,000 unelectrified villages provided with power: Govt
      • 6,000 unelectrified villages provided with power: GovtElectrification has been done in 6,000 of the 18,500 unelectrified villages and the renewable energy capacity has reached 39.5 Giga Watts, a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was told.
        At the two-and-a-half hour meeting to review the progress of key infrastructure sectors in New Delhi, Modi also took stock of the progress in 'Housing-for-All' programme and directed officials concerned to expedite its implementation, using a judicious mix of modern technology and local building materials and techniques.
        Sectors such as power, coal, housing, ports and Digital India were reviewed in the meeting.
        The meeting was also informed of the progress in providing mobile connectivity to villages affected by Left Wing Extremism where 1,371 towers have so far been installed, a PMO statement said.
        The Prime Minister was informed that the progress of electrification of all unelectrified villages is proceeding at a rapid pace, the statement said.
        Out of the approximately 18,500 unelectrified villages targeted under the Prime Minister's rural electrification programme, about 6,000 have already been electrified, the meeting was told.
        The Prime Minister was informed that the progress of the initiative is being tracked in real-time using sophisticated technology applications, including geo-tagging, it said.
        With regard to renewable energy, Modi was told that significant progress has been achieved towards the target of 175 Giga-Watts (GW) capacity by 2022, with the total installed renewable energy capacity already reaching 39.5 GW.
        Officials explained that off-grid solutions such as solar panels are being used to reach remote and inaccessible areas in states such as Arunachal Pradesh, the statement said.
        The progress in distribution of LED bulbs across the country was also reviewed. Coal India Limited has achieved a 9.2 per cent increase in production this year, as compared to an average of just 3 per cent growth over the last 5 years, the statement said.
        The Prime Minister called for immediate measures to scale up the speed of providing broadband connectivity to all Gram Panchayats. He was informed that 12 important tourist locations have been provided public Wi-Fi connectivity when he inquired about the progress in this area.
        Reviewing the ports sector, the Prime Minister instructed officials to work urgently on improving the average vessel turnaround time at major ports, in order to bring it in line with international standards. Drastic reduction in the timeliness for border compliance and measures for boosting coastal shipping within the country, were also discussed, the statement added.

        Raghuram Rajan to wait until April to cut rates again: Poll
        • RBI governor Raghuram Rajan.The Reserve Bank of India will wait a month to cut interest rates again, according to economists in a Reuters poll who mostly said government's latest fiscal deficit target looked optimistic.
          Finance Minister Arun Jaitley committed to fiscal discipline in his February 29 budget, lowering the deficit target further for the fiscal year that starts next month, but offered little in the way of reforms investors have been waiting for.
          Investors and traders in financial markets have been hoping RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan will follow soon with a rate cut, like he did last year.
          But the majority of economists polled said he would not repeat the surprise cut of 25 basis points he delivered just a few days after last year's budget, with 20 of 28 saying a cut was unlikely before next month's policy review on April 5.
          "Although we doubt the fiscal math, the fact that the government has been sticking to the stated math, in whatever way they are doing it, creates room for Rajan to cut rates soon," said Kunal Kundu, India economist at Societe Generale.
          "They will probably bring the fiscal deficit down in a way that is not desirable, by cutting public capex, but Rajan has indicated that even if fiscal consolidation leads to lower growth he would still be OK with it," he said.
          Asked what they thought about the fiscal deficit target for the next fiscal year, nearly two-thirds of the economists said Jaitley was being optimistic. The rest felt it was about right.
          About two-thirds, 17 of 25, also predict the RBI will cut its benchmark repo rate by 25 basis points to 6.50 per cent next month. Two predicted a deeper 50 basis point cut to 6.25 per cent, while six saw no change.
          After an April cut, the RBI is set to ease policy again in the last quarter of the year, according to the consensus view.
          That is a very different outlook from what happened last year, when the RBI sliced 125 basis points off rates, twice unexpectedly and in-between meetings.
          Last year's rate cuts came as inflation cooled rapidly around the world, triggering a wave of similar easier policy from major central banks. Consumer price inflation in India was 5.7 per cent in January.
          That exceeds Rajan's inflation target of 5 per cent set for March 2017. Coupled with a weakening rupee, predicted to fall to record lows in the coming 12 months, rising inflation could stall the RBI's easing cycle.
          There is a roughly one-in-three chance of the rupee falling to 70 per dollar, a Reuters poll of currency strategists showed on Thursday.
          India is set to raise wages by almost 25 per cent for its millions of public sector employees, a once-in-a-decade bonanza that will cost roughly $16.6 billion, something that economists widely agree is inflationary.
          Despite that extra expenditure, as well as planned outlays on farming and schemes to guarantee minimum employment for people in rural areas, Jaitley surprised investors by pledging to cut the fiscal deficit to 3.5 per cent of gross domestic product in the 2016-17 fiscal year.
          The RBI, however, is not yet convinced.
          A possible source of revenue next fiscal year is sales of government stakes in public sector companies, the budget says.
          But successive governments have had a poor track record selling off companies and it could be especially hard amid global stock market turmoil.
          Three policymakers aware of the RBI's budget deliberations said they were combing the numbers to test how Jaitley struck a balance and whether the impact of the public pay rise had been fully accounted for.

          38,000 MSME units to come up in Odisha: Naveen Patnaik
          • 38,000 MSME units to come up in Odisha: Naveen PatnaikOdisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on Saturday said the state government would set up 38,000 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) units providing employment for about one lakh people in the state.
            The government, he said, would develop five food processing corridors covering potential districts and set up 10 food parks in the state for development of food processing sector.
            The chief minister was addressing the 12th Entrepreneurs' Week which commemorates the birth centenary of his former chief minister Biju Patnaik here.
            Patnaik said 10 Livelihood Business Incubators would be set up in the potential districts for development of livelihood by way of gradation and use of local skill, adding that 10 new village industries clusters by Odisha Khadi and Village Industries Board would also be set up.
            "Considering the importance of the MSME segment, the government has taken a number of initiatives to promote MSMEs through policy framework like MSME development policy 2009, Odisha Food processing policy 2013, Odisha Procurement Preference Policy 2015," he said.
            The chief minister also said the Odisha Industries Facilitation Amendment Rule 2015 has been notified to provide a conducive environment for industrialisation.
            "Biju Babu dreamt of an industrially developed and prosperous Odisha. Therefore, it should be our endeavour to take Odisha to the top of the industrial map of India which will be a real tribute to the great leader and the doyen of entrepreneurship," said the chief minister.
            He said a Composite Inspection Framework is being worked out to reduce the frequency of inspection by various authorities.
            MSME minister Jogendra Behera called upon the youth to inculcate the spirit of entrepreneurship which will directly give a boost to the MSME sector for self-employment and income generation.
            Highlighting the works and contribution of late Biju Patnaik in making Odisha an entrepreneurs' driven industrious state, he urged the youth to follow his dream to achieve the same.

            China eyes 6.5% growth over next five years
            • China faces a tough battle to keep its economy growing by at least 6.5 per cent over the next five years while creating more jobs and restructuring inefficient industries, Premier Li Keqiang said as he opened China's annual Parliament on Saturday.
              Growth of 6.5 per cent would mark a ripping pace for most countries but would be the slowest in China in a quarter century as world's No. 2 economy grapples with gyrating financial markets, softening global trade and efforts to reduce environmental degradation.
              "Our country's development faces more and greater difficulties ... so we must be prepared for a tough battle," Li said.
              In 2016, Beijing will aim for an economic growth rate between 6.5-7 per cent, as Reuters previously reported, with a consumer inflation target of around 3 per cent and money supply expansion of around 13 per cent, according to a series of draft reports ahead of the opening of the 12-day Parliament.
              Many investors had been hoping China would post an aggressive target for fiscal spending to prop growth.
              But the draft goal of running a fiscal deficit equivalent to 3 per cent of GDP, while up from the previous year's target of 2.3 per cent, still disappointed some who had hoped for a number closer to 4.
              "The budget deficit of 3 per cent is not enough and should be increased," economist and former central bank advisor Yu Yongding told Reuters on the sidelines of the meeting.
              Zhou Hao, economist at Commerzbank in Singapore, said the low figure may reflect concerns that a higher number would signal tolerance for another spree of debt-fueled growth such as that Beijing embarked on in 2009.
              Moody's recently downgraded the outlook for Chinese sovereign debt, a move Chinese regulators said was unjustified.
              "The pressure from rating agencies could be something China has to consider, indicating that China is cautious on rolling out large infrastructure investment that could result in long-term debt issues," Zhou said in a email.
              The reports provide a blueprint of China's aspirations for the next five years across a range of sectors and measures.
              They show Beijing trying to strike a balance between holding up growth and restructuring underperforming industries, where so-called "zombie firms" are responsible for much of the country's corporate debt overhang left over from the 2009 stimulus.
              In lead up to parliament, the government flagged major job losses in key coal and steel industries. Overall, China aims to lay off 5-6 million state workers over the next two to three years, two sources said, in Beijing's boldest retrenchment program in almost two decades.
              Li said the country will create 10 million new jobs, address zombie firms through mergers, bankruptcies and debt deals, and hold the urban registered unemployment rate below 4.5 per cent in 2016.
              Seeking to improve the environment, Beijing aims to cap total energy consumption at 5 billion tonnes of standard coal by 2020 and set targets for improving water efficiency.
              China will increase military spending by 7.6 per cent this year, its lowest increase in six years, as it pursues a modernisation plan that will shrink staffing.
              Unlike previous years, the documents did not mention a specific target for trade figures, having missed their goals repeatedly in recent years.
              Weighed down by sluggish demand at home and abroad, industrial overcapacity and faltering investment, China's economic growth slowed to 6.9 per cent in 2015.
              Economists widely expect it to cool further to a still-healthy rate of around 6.5 per cent this year.
              But slower growth raises the spectre of social unrest, as the transformation from low-end manufacturing to high technology and services leads to rising structural unemployment.
              Beijing hopes the country's financial markets can play a stronger role in supporting the economic transformation.
              "We will move forward with the reform of stock and bond markets and increase the level of rule of law in their development, promote the sound development of the multilevel capital market, and ensure that the proportion of direct financing is increased," Li said.
              The reassurance comes after Chinese markets erupted in 2015, with the stock indexes crashing, the yuan sliding sharply, and property markets in major cities spiked while smaller cities lagged.
              Those moves prompted heavy-handed intervention from the government, leading some to question whether the Chinese Communist Party was capable of following through on its commitment to let markets play a "decisive role" in setting the price of assets.
              Li said China will open its capital account in an "orderly manner" and continue to improve the exchange rate regime in 2016.

            General Awareness

            World’s Costliest Train Station Opened In New York

              • The 9/11 site where the deadliest terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York 14 years ago happened has theworld’s costliest railway station . It was opened on March 3, 2016.
                Key Highlights:
                • The station has been built at a cost of $3.85 billion and its space measures 350*115 feet at its widest point.
                • The centre connects New York to New Jersey, provides indoor commuter access to the Trade centre towers.
                • It will house an enormous shopping plaza and a restaurant.World's Costliest Train Station Opened In New York
                • The transit hub will serve 250,000 people and more than 200,000 commuters each day, making it the third-largest transportation centre in New York.
                9/11 attack:
                • Date : 11 September 2001
                • Terrorist Outfit: Al Qiada
                • What Happened: The twin towers of World Trade Centre were blown off by the four passenger airlines which were hijacked by the outfit. The were flown into the buildings
                • Casualty: Around 3000 people killed
                • Loss: Around $3 trillion in infrastructure and $10 billion in property
                Key Points:
                • World’s Longest Station: Gorakhpur, UP, India
                • World’s Longest Railway Track: Trans Siberian Railway, Moscow
                • World Longest Railway bridge: Danyang–Kunshan Grand Bridge in China

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