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Current Affairs - 8 March 2016


General Affairs 

Centre Seeks Report On Chhattisgarh Church Attack
  • Centre Seeks Report On Chhattisgarh Church AttackNEW DELHI:  The Centre today sought a report from Chhattisgarh government on the vandalisation of a church near Raipur and Union Minister Kiren Rijiju said the guilty will not be spared.

    "We have sought a report from Chhattisgarh government on the incident. Police have already taken necessary action and the guilty will not be spared," Mr Rijiju, the Minister of State for Home, told reporters.

    Nine people have been arrested in connection with the vandalisation of a church on the outskirts of Raipur. Of the nine held, six are minors.

    A group of about 15-20 youths allegedly sporting saffron headbands had yesterday "barged" into the church while prayers were underway and vandalised the premises and thrashed those present there.

    President of Chhattisgarh's Christian Forum, Arun Pannalal, has alleged that the attackers even targeted women and an infant.

    Mr Pannalal claimed that yesterday's incident was the fourth attack on a Christian place of worship in the past one month in the state.

Happenings In 2-3 Universities Spoiling Image, Says Minister Venkaiah Naidu
  • Happenings In 2-3 Universities Spoiling Image, Says Minister Venkaiah NaiduGURGAON:  Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu today said out of 740 universities in the country, happenings in two or three of them are spoiling "image", in remarks that came against the backdrop of controversies in Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and Hyderabad Central University.

    "There are 740 universities in the country. 737 university students are focusing their attention on studies, academic excellence only, nothing else, everything is peaceful. But because of happening in 2-3 places the image is gone. We should not allow such things to happen in future," he said at the 'Happening Haryana' global investor summit.

    JNU Students' Union president Kanhaiya Kumar was slapped with sedition charge for allegedly raising anti-national slogans during the protest against the hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru on his third death anniversary last month.

    There was outrage over suicide of Dalit scholar Rohith Vemula at the Hyderabad Central University.

    Mr Naidu said "unfortunately" in India there is also a tendency in "some the section of media" to blow things out of proportion and make things if everything is going wrong.

    Referring to the Jat agitation, Mr Naidu said what happened in the state should never allowed to be repeated.

    "We should draw lessons from that and there has to be repentance on that also because you cannot have such things here. There is nothing wrong in making a demand, asking for anything, but there is democratic method and everybody has to follow, otherwise name would be spoiled and people would be hesitating," he said.

    In wake of the agitation, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar said many people "in and outside my government", suggested to reconsider holding the investor summit.

    "I knew that the right action was to carry on with this summit sans the frills and celebrations. Natural calamities and law and order disturbances are risks in all locations in the world. What really matters is, how the government responds," he said.

Mehbooba Mufti Says Committed To Alliance But Sticks to Conditions
  • Mehbooba Mufti Says Committed To Alliance But Sticks to ConditionsSRINAGAR:  Mehbooba Mufti, the chief of Jammu and Kashmir's PDP, today said the alliance with the BJP will continue but the issue of government formation cannot be resolved until "forward movement" is seen on the agenda of alliance.

    Addressing a public meeting in Kupwara this afternoon, Ms Mufti said, "My father stood by his word, I also stand by that commitment. He formed an alliance and relationship with BJP based  on an agenda of alliance".

    Then came the caveat: "We have agreed on a programme which needs forward moment. Once that is achieved, I will come forward to honour Mufti Sahib's commitment and fulfill his  mission."

    Jammu and Kashmir went under President's Rule a day after Ms Mufti's father and chief minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed died on January 7.

    Ms Mufti, who was expected to succeed him as the chief minister, had stalled, claiming that the agenda of alliance with the BJP had not been fully implemented.

    Questions were raised over the fate of the alliance as Ms Mufti demanded written assurances that the BJP-led government at the Centre will undertake some confidence-building measures.

    The BJP has refused to give any such assurance, claiming Ms Mufti was placating her votebank, which had been miffed with the alliance between two ideologically opposite parties.

    The party -- which has 25 members in the state assembly against PDP's 27 - had been unwilling to push the issue, lest it be seen as damaging the coalition.

    The two parties had met the Governor on February 2 and sought more time to resolve their differences.

    Last month, senior BJP leader Ram Madhav also visited Ms Mufti in Srinagar and expressed hopes that the issue of government formation will be resolved soon.

Air India Operates 'World's Longest All-Women Flight'
  • Air India Operates 'World's Longest All-Women Flight'NEW DELHI:  National carrier Air India today said it flew the "world's longest" all-women operated and supported flight from the national capital to San Francisco.
         
    The flight, which travelled a distance of around 14,500 kilometre in close to 17 hours, was operated as part of International Women's Day celebrations.    

    The non-stop Delhi-San Francisco flight took off from here on March 6."This year for the first time, on the world's longest non-stop flight, entire flight operations from cockpit crew to cabin crew, check-in staff, doctor, customer care staff, ATC (air traffic control) and the entire ground-handling... were handled by women," Air India said in a release.

    Air India Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) Ashwani Lohani said it was a historic flight and "the longest operated by all-women crew". "The airline has immense respect for women and it is a symbol of women empowerment," he added.The flight was under the command of Kshamta Bajpayee and Shubhangi Singh, along with First Officers Ramya Kirti Gupta and Amrit Namdhari.
         
    The carrier has about 3,800 women employees, including pilots, cabin crew, engineers, technicians, doctors, security personnel and executives.

BJP's Agenda To Impose Single Ideology On India Not Possible: Tarun Gogoi
  • BJP's Agenda To Impose Single Ideology On India Not Possible: Tarun GogoiGUWAHATI:  Accusing the BJP government at the Centre of restricting public's fundamental rights, Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi today said the party is trying to impose a single ideology on the country.

    "There has been varied ideologies prevalent in the country since long. But the BJP's agenda, at the behest of the RSS, is to impose a single ideology which is not possible in a diverse country like India," Mr Gogoi told reporters in Guwahati.

    "The BJP has attacked the Constitution by restricting freedom of speech and expression guaranteed to us by the fundamental rights and this cannot be tolerated," he said.

    Expressing his views on JNU Student Union president Kanhaiya Kumar's recent speech, Mr Gogoi said Mr Kumar has rightfully pointed out that they want freedom guaranteed under the Constitution but the Centre has slapped sedition charges against him.

    "Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi supported it and sedition charges were pressed against him. I, too, support the demand for freedom," Mr Gogoi said.

    I am not agreeing to Kanhaiya's every point but he has a right to freedom of speech and expression and nobody can take that away, the chief minister said.

    People did not accept the restrictions on freedom of speech and expression during the Emergency and rejected the Congress government then, though several positive developments took place in the country, Mr Gogoi said.

    The BJP government's attitude of "we are funding their education, so the students cannot criticise us, is absolutely wrong and unacceptable", he said.

    He said if any unlawful activities have been committed the law should be allowed to take its own course, he said. There are many banned militant outfits in Assam like ULFA, NDFB, DHD, KPLT and if somebody supports them, that does not mean that they will be put behind the bars, Mr Gogoi said.

    "If we had done that, entire Assam would have become a jail. The militants and their supporters are our brothers and sisters, it is our duty to bring them to the mainstream and I have been largely successful in doing it," Mr Gogoi said.

    The AGP government had brought sedition charges against journalists and people came out in large numbers to protest against this move and ultimately AGP was not successful in gagging the media, Mr Gogoi said.

Business Affairs 

    Farmers see Narendra Modi's budget as all promise, no delivery
    • Farmers see Narendra Modi's budget as all promise, no deliveryFarmer Ram Pal Singh voted for Narendra Modi's promise of "better days" in India's 2014 general election, but he won't be backing the prime minister again even after last week's budget promised more aid to the countryside.
      Growing discontent in rural India, home to two-thirds of the country's 1.3 billion people, bodes ill for Modi as he tries to bounce back from a heavy defeat in a state election last year in Bihar and build a support base to keep power in the 2019 general election.
      In an eyecatching announcement, the budget doubled spending on agriculture and farmers' welfare to $5.3 billion in support of his promise that their incomes would double by 2022.
      Yet critics say most of the extra spending is in fact an accounting entry that shifts the cost of an interest subsidy to the agriculture budget that was previously borne by the finance ministry.
      "We have received nothing from the government. We don't even recover our costs," said Singh, whose 21-acre (8.5-hectare) plot is big by Indian standards.
      Two failed monsoons, and sudden unseasonal rains, have caused widespread crop damage across northern India. Debt-laden farmers like Singh say low state purchase prices and a lack of compensation for crop losses are worsening their plight.
      Singh lost $4,500 over the past two years because of severe damage to his wheat and sugarcane crops in the Ghaziabad district of Uttar Pradesh, 30 miles (50 km) east of New Delhi. It has left him with debts of more $10,000, and despair has driven him to think of selling his land.
      "We have so much land but we still struggle to survive ... there is only sadness in farming," said Singh, 60, who does not want his grandchildren to work in the fields.
      Last month, farmers went on the rampage in neighbouring Haryana state to protest a lack of economic opportunity. Thirty people died and saboteurs cut metropolitan Delhi's main water supply.
      "The budget may give you an illusion the government has tried to address the problems faced by farmers," said independent food and trade policy analyst Devinder Sharma. He called instead for a package of "immediate assistance" to stop a spate of suicides by farmers from spreading.
      RURAL DISTRESS
      Modi last year promised higher compensation for crop losses, but more than a dozen farmers interviewed by Reuters on a field trip said they had received no relief. Many have taken out more loans or sold cattle to tide themselves over.
      All but one said they will not support Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in next year's poll in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, home to 200 million people.
      In 2014, the party swept Uttar Pradesh, winning 71 of 80 seats to claim the strongest parliamentary mandate in three decades. The budget play seemed designed to improve its standing in rural areas, traditionally a weak spot for the BJP.
      "For the first time the agriculture sector has figured prominently in budget, and for the first time we've seen such a sharp rise in allocation for farmers' welfare," Farm Minister Radha Mohan Singh told a news conference.
      But Jai Kisan Andolan, a peasants' rights movement, and 35 farming unions counter that the budget offered them no debt relief, and failed to hike either government farm purchase prices or crop-loss compensation rates."Most of what the budget speech projects as big favours to the farming community is actually 'business as usual' with a sleight of hand," the groups said in a statement after the budget.
      In addition, the main effort to expand irrigation - adding just 2 percent of net cultivated area of 141 million hectares - is seen as piecemeal. And a new crop insurance scheme is expected to get off to a slow start.
      "The government does not have a firm plan to address the rural crisis. They will have to pay a big political price for this," said Satish Misra, a political analyst at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.

      February coal imports rise for first time in 8 months
      • Coal imports rose 1.7 per cent in February, the first rise in eight months, Coal Secretary Anil Swarup told Reuters on Monday but suggested it may have been a temporary increase based on deals signed earlier.
        Imports rose to 16.79 million tonnes from 16.51 million tonnes a year ago, ending a downward trend that began in July and lasted until January.
        "This is just a marginal increase ...''" Swarup said.
        "It could be on account of a booking made earlier by an importer."
        State behemoth Coal India has been boosting output at a record pace though consumption has grown slower-than-expected, forcing the company to scale down activity in some mines.
        India does not have enough good quality resources of steelmaking coal and that grade is imported from countries such as Australia and South Africa. 

        Automation reduces hiring of TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL, Cognizant by 24%
        • Automation reduces hiring of big five IT firms by 24%The Big Five software exporters - TCS, Infosys, Wipro, HCL and Cognizant - together added net 24 per cent fewer employees in 2015 at 77,265, thanks to their automation drive.
          The massive plunge in net additions was led by the US-listed, Chennai-based Cognizant Technologies (down 74.6 per cent from 2014) and HCL Technologies (down 71 per cent) which have been very keenly focusing on improving utilisation rates through automation, says a report by city-based brokerage Centrum Broking.
          "Software vendors across the pack are focusing on automation and we believe that FY16 will be an inflection point.
          "We see rapid scope for vendors improving efficiencies through expanding automation across multiple projects and service lines owing to sheer competitive pressure.
          "The result is that these five companies have net added 24 per cent fewer employees in 2015," the report notes.
          This came at a time when these companies' combined dollar revenue grew 9.8 per cent.
          The report also notes that the drop would have been much higher had it not been for Infosys, which made a whopping 111.4 per cent net addition at 23,745 in the year.
          But this is understandable due to the massive attrition the company was facing in the past many years.
          Against the hiring spree by Infosys, market leader TCS saw its net additions dip by 6.6 per cent at 26,066.
          While Cognizant saw a massive 74.
          6 per cent plunge in net employee additions at 10,200, HCL saw the same dipping by 71 per cent to 3,456 in 2015.
          At the end of December 2015, these five companies had a headcount of 1.34 million.
          These companies are vocal about improving delivery efficiency and revenue productivity using automation as their revenue per reported employee stands at USD 45,000-52,000 per year, which is lower than their global peers.
          Riding on automation, Infosys has given a guidance to take this to USD 80,000 per annum by 2020, says the report.
          Even though each of these companies have their own automation platforms -- Infosys has Infosys Automation Platform, Wipro has Holmes, HCL Tech operates Dry Ice, and TCS has Ignio -- their focus on this line of business has seen emergence of many independent players offering automation services or virtual engineers.
          Companies offering such services include IPSoft, Blue Prism, Genfour and Automation Anywhere.
          The report notes that though Infosys and Wipro are the most vocal on "freeing up resources" across their IMS/BPO service lines, they have shown relatively higher net employee addition in 2015.
          The report also notes that FY16 could be a year of transition in the sector on the automation front and tangible benefits can flow down from FY17 as vendors are focusing on re-training the freed up resources from the traditional service lines.
          On the revenue side, the report predicts that the focus on automation will ease pressure on wage hikes.
          "With automation enabling improved delivery efficiency and productivity, the IT sector could be facing a scenario of lower net additions in FY17/FY18," it said.

          Vijay Mallya, others come under Enforcement Directorate radar, booked under money laundering law
          • Liquor baron Vijay MallyaIn fresh trouble for liquor baron Vijay Mallya , the Enforcement Directorate has registered a money laundering case against him and others in connection with the alleged default of over Rs 900 crore loan from IDBI Bank.
            Official sources said the agency recently filed charges under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) based on an FIR registered last year by CBI in the same case.
            They said while the ED's zonal office in Mumbai has registered the case, sleuths are also looking at the overall financial structure of the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines and a separate probe under foreign exchange violation charges could also be initiated.
            Mallya and others will soon be questioned. The agency has collected relevant documents from concerned authorities and the bank in question, they said.
            The ED has pressed charges under various sections of the PMLA against Mallya and others named in the CBI complaint.
            The CBI had booked Mallya, director of Kingfisher Airlines, the company, A Raghunathan, Chief Financial Officer of the airlines, and unknown officials of IDBI Bank in its FIR alleging that the loan was sanctioned in violation of norms regarding credit limits.
            The CBI action came as part of its wide probe into criminal aspects of loans declared to be non-performing assets by public sector banks.
            The ED is looking into the proceeds of crime that would have been generated using the slush funds of the alleged loan fraud, they said.
            While a DRT order is expected in this case on Monday, ex-Kingfisher airlines employees have also gone public against Mallya and the company alleging they have been cheated of their remuneration and service benefits.
            Mallya had on Sunday said he is making efforts to reach a 'one-time settlement' with banks through additional payments to the lenders, even as he denied personally being a borrower or judgement defaulter and alleged that disinformation campaign was being played to make him a poster boy of all bad loans. The debt-laden airline had stopped operations in October 2012. 

            AirAsia cuts fares on select flights starting from Rs 1,099
            • AirAsia cuts fares on select flights starting from Rs 1,099Low-cost carrier AirAsia offering tickets at discounted rates starting from Rs 1,099 on select domestic and international routes.
              The discounted prices would be applicable on tickets booked online from March 7-13 for travel between October 1, 2016 and May 22, 2017.
              The promotional fares start from Rs 1,099 on domestic destinations such as Bengaluru, Visakhapatnam, Guwahati, Kochi, Imphal, Goa and Delhi connected by AirAsia India, the airline said on Sunday.
              Under the offer, fares would start from Rs 2,999 to Kuala Lumpur from Kochi, Chennai or Hyderabad connected by its group airline AirAsia Berhad.
              Besides, tickets would be available at Rs 3,999 to Bangkok from Chennai and Bengaluru connected by Thai AirAsia.

            General Awareness

            National conference of Women Legislators inaugurated by the President

              • President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday inaugurated the National conference of Women legislators atVigyan Bhawan. Vice president Hamid Ansari and PM Narendra Modi were also present in the event.
                President of India inaugurates first Conference of Women Legislators
                Flash points
                • The conference, hosted by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra mahajan, is being attended by former President Pratibha Patil, Union ministersSushma Swaraj, Najma Heptullah  and Maneka Gandhi, Gujarat CM Anandiben Patel, former Delhi CM Sheila Dikshit, Congress president Sonia Gandhi, among others
                • Bangladesh Jatiyo Samshad Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury will chair a session of the 2 day conference
                • President having inaugurated the National conference expressed his concern over the 33% reservation for women in legislation
                • He told that despite proposing 33% reservation for women in parliament the current strength merely represents 12%
                • Vice president urged the political parties to support the bill which proposes to give 33% reservation to women in legislation
                • The bill though approved by the Upper house is still not passed in Lok Sabha due to opposition of some political parties
                • Hamid Ansari told that though 49 % of electorate constituted were Women only17% of women represent the parliament in the Lok Sabha elections
                • He also told that though the representation at Panchayat levels rose up to 43%it has not impacted in parliament elections
                • He also cited that committees on Finance, Estimates, Defence and Home Affairs together had only seven women members — six per cent of their total strength of 124 in the two Houses

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