Current Affairs Current Affairs - 13 April 2016 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 13 April 2016

General Affairs 

PM Modi Calls For International Collaboration For Tiger Conservation
  • PM Modi Calls For International Collaboration For Tiger ConservationNEW DELHI:  After the count of Tigers in the world was reported to have increased for the first time in over 100 years, PM Modi today underlined the need for collaboration between governments at the highest level to check trafficking of body parts of the animal.

    Noting that conservation of tiger or nature is "not a drag" on development, the Prime Minister insisted that both can happen in a mutually and complementary manner and emphasised on the need to reorient the strategy.

    PM Modi said forests are inseparable from wild animals and both are mutually complementary.

    "Destruction of one leads to destruction of the other. This is an important cause of climate change which is now affecting us adversely in many ways. This is a global phenomenon which all of us are grappling with," he said.
     PM Modi was speaking at the inaugural session of the three-day 3rd Asia Ministerial Conference on Tiger Conservation where tiger range countries will discuss key issues including anti-poaching strategies.

    Noting that tiger habitats have reduced drastically across tiger range countries, the Prime Minister said the situation has been aggravated by the ongoing trafficking in body parts and derivatives of this magnificient animal.

    "A major threat to the tiger is the demand for its body parts. The forest and its wild denizens are an open treasury which cannot be locked up. It is painful to learn about trafficking of body parts of tigers and other big cats. We need to collaborate at the highest levels of governments to address the serious issues, he said.

    "In India too we have been facing the challenge of poaching. The positive side for us in India is that the majority of people respect trees, animals, forest rivers. They consider earth as mother and the universe as one family," PM Modi added.

    The Prime Minister said there is a need to define conservation as a means to achieve development rather than considering it to be "anti-growth".

    "We can achieve a framework to foster proactive engagement of industry for conservation. The natural capital denoting the stock of natural system should be treated at par with capital goods. Our economy needs to be viewed as a subset of a larger economy of natural resources and ecosystem services which sustain us," he said.

    More than 700 tiger experts, scientists, managers, donors and other stakeholders are gathering to discuss issues related to tiger conservation.

In Big Breakthrough, New Rules For US Planes, Ships At Indian Bases
  • In Big Breakthrough, New Rules For US Planes, Ships At Indian Bases
    NEW DELHI:  After negotiations that have traversed a decade, India has agreed that US warships and aircraft can refuel and restock water, food, and other supplies at Indian bases with a one-time clearance. Currently, permissions have to be sought each time there is a US requirement. For example, US warships on a humanitarian relief operation will be provided assistance throughout the duration of their operation based on a single request for Indian support.

    India too can use similar US facilities when required. A new Logistics and Support Agreement has been discussed, which would allow the two militaries to use each other's land, air and naval bases for resupplies, repair and rest. However, the text of the agreement has not yet been finalized - that's expected in the next few months, said Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter after talks held today.

    Mr Parrikar explained that there will be no permanent US military presence at Indian bases while Mr Carter made it a point to stress, "We can come here only if we are invited by the Indian government." Mr Carter added that the new logistics agreement "reflects the fact that we expect to be working more, our Navies together, our Air Forces together, our Armies together and we want to have the ability to respond together to let's say a humanitarian disaster... this doesn't bind anybody to doing anything in particular."

    Mr Parrikar referred to the case of the devastating Nepal earthquake last year which saw US planes carrying relief and aid refueling in India.

    The previous UPA Government had refused to sign an earlier iteration of the agreement, declaring that India would be seen as partnering with the US militarily, which could endanger India's independent foreign policy.

US Nears Military Breakthrough With India As Relations Warm
  • US Nears Military Breakthrough With India As Relations WarmThe United States and India are close to a breakthrough on a defense logistics deal that has taken more than a decade to negotiate, a reflection of closer ties as China's military muscle grows.

    The so-called Logistics Support Agreement will be signed in a matter of weeks, U.S. Defense Secretary Ash Carter told reporters in New Delhi on Tuesday. The deal, first proposed in 2004, allows for cashless transactions for services such as refueling for military vehicles, aircraft and warships.

    "All issues on the logistics agreement have been resolved," Carter said in a briefing alongside Indian counterpart Manohar Parrikar.

    India and the U.S. are strengthening defense ties as China increases its assertiveness in waterways throughout the Asia-Pacific region. The Obama administration also sees India as a large market for military goods, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is looking to attract arms makers to create manufacturing jobs.

    India and the U.S. plan to start dialogues on maritime security and submarine technology, Parrikar said on Tuesday. The two sides will also continue cooperation on a new aircraft carrier as part of efforts to integrate high-technology Indian companies into the global supply chain, he said.

    "I'm confident that the India-U.S. relationship will be one of the key global partnerships of this century," Parrikar said. "Defense cooperation is a central pillar of India's multi-faceted relationship with the U.S."

    While the logistics deal is close, neither side mentioned two other so-called "foundational agreements" that have been under discussion for almost as long, which cover communications interoperability and geospatial cooperation. Both would allow the U.S. to sell India more advanced military technology -- particularly in fighter jets, where India has a pressing need.

    It would be feasible for Lockheed Martin Corp. to set up an F-16 assembly line if about 100 jets are to be produced for the Indian Air Force and for possible exports, Abhay Paranjape, a director for business development, said in an interview last month.

    About one third of the country's air fleet is more than 40 years old and set to retire in the next decade, putting pressure on Modi to quickly acquire new warplanes to keep pace with neighbors China and Pakistan. Last year he scaled down a plan to buy 126 Rafale warplanes from Dassault Aviation SA to 36 jets after disagreements over the price.

    Carter on Tuesday reiterated plans to help India develop jet-engine technology.

    "Efficiently moving forward on a fighter jet to be manufactured in India can be a feather in the cap of the current government from a defense perspective," said Anurag Garg, director at PwC Strategy& in India. "With three years left in the current Modi government's term, the race is definitely on."

68 With Criminal Cases, 56 Crorepatis In Bengal Polls Second Phase
  • 68 With Criminal Cases, 56 Crorepatis In Bengal Polls Second Phase
    KOLKATA:  As many as 68 of the 383 candidates contesting in the second phase of the West Bengal assembly polls have declared criminal cases, including serious offences like murder and rape.

    According to a report released by West Bengal Election Watch (WBEW) today, at least 56 nominees -- or 15 percent of the total candidates -- are crorepatis.

    A total of 56 constituencies spread across the five districts of Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar, Darjeeling, Malda and Birbhum will go to the hustings on April 17 in the second phase.

    The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Trinamool Congress with 13 each, have the most numbers of candidates facing criminal charges, followed by the Communist Party of India-Marxist with 11 and the Congress with 6 candidates.

    "A lot has been discussed about the pre-poll and during the poll violence, but when candidates have such criminal charges against them, no wonder violence becomes part and parcel of elections," said WBEW coordinator Biplab Halim, while releasing the report.

    The report also reveals that 136 serious criminal cases are pending against 59 of the contesting candidates, with the pendency period of the cases ranging from two years to 16 years.

    On the financial front, 56 candidates have assets in excess of Rs.1 crore, with Rs.54.21 lakh being the average assets of the 383 candidates in the fray.

    Former India football captain and Trinamool nominee from Siliguri Baichung Bhutia with assets in excess of Rs.17.41 crore, heads the crorepati candidates list.

    The Trinamool with 23 has the most number of crorepati candidates followed by the BJP with 10, the Congress with 8 while the CPI-M has just one.

    The report also reveals that the average assets of each of the 45 sitting legislators re-contesting the polls in the phase, has increased by 180.09 percent from 2011 to 2016.

    Former Congress legislator Abu Nasar Khan Choudhury, who is contesting the polls as a Trinamool nominee this year, has seen his assets grow by a whopping 1,138.03 percent in the last five years to reach Rs.3.39 crore.

    In 2011, when Mr Khan had contested as a Congress nominee, he had declared assets in excess of Rs.29.77 lakh.

    Of the 383 candidates, only 33 are women.

Above-Normal India Monsoon Courtesy Fading El Nino
  • Above-Normal India Monsoon Courtesy Fading El NinoThe monsoon in India, which accounts for more than 80 per cent of annual rainfall, may be above average for the first time since 2013 after a back-to-back shortfall shrank agricultural production and caused an acute drinking water shortage.

    Precipitation in the rainy season starting in June is seen at 106 per cent of a 50-year average of 89 centimeters (35 inches) as the El Nino that often triggers dry weather in the region weakens, the India Meteorological Department, said in a statement on Tuesday.

    The forecast has a margin of error of 5 per cent, it said. Showers may be 105 percent of the average, Skymet Weather Services, a private forecaster, said on Monday.

    The prediction for stronger showers is seen bolstering Prime Minister Narendra Modi's target to double farmer incomes in five years and stem the slide in his popularity ahead of key state elections. The first consecutive rain shortfall in almost three decades last year hurt rice, corn, sugar-cane and oilseed crops and threatened to fuel food costs in Asia's third-largest economy.

    "A normal monsoon will improve farmers' income while boosting demand for consumer goods," said Soumyajit Niyogi, associate director at India Ratings, a unit of Fitch Ratings. "It will keep a check on inflation and create further room for the Reserve Bank of India to cut interest rates."

    The central bank lowered its key interest rate for the first time in six months on April 5 and Governor Raghuram Rajan said it would watch the performance of the monsoon to look for more room to ease. About half of India's 1.3 billion population is employed in agriculture, which accounts for almost 20 percent of the nation's $2 trillion economy. Normal rainfall will boost farm output and improve demand for motorcycles, smart phones and tractors.

    "A normal monsoon remains critical for revival in rural demand which has been dramatically impacted over the past six months," Deutsche Bank analysts Abhay Laijawala and Abhishek Saraf wrote in a report.

    "We believe that prospects of better monsoon this year hold significant potential to perk up rural India. We believe that the ongoing equity rally in India will continue in medium term driven by likelihood of normal monsoon rainfall, improvement in domestic indicators coupled with an accommodative RBI."

    The monsoon affects both summer and winter sowing, and waters more than half of all farmland. Rainfall was 14 percent below a 50-year average in 2015, following a 12 percent shortfall in 2014, data from the India Meteorological Department show.

    The El Nino has already peaked and will continue to decline, according to forecasters from the United States to Australia. The chances of a La Nina developing this year have increased to 50 percent as the Pacific Ocean cools, Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said on Tuesday.

    La Nina, sometimes thought of as El Nino's opposite, typically brings more rainfall to parts of Asia, including India. El Nino is a warming in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, while La Nina is a cooling of the waters. Each can impact agricultural markets as farmers contend with too much or too little rain. Based on the 26 El Nino events since 1900, about 50 percent have been followed by a neutral year with 40 percent by La Nina, according to the Australian bureau.

    "Analysis of previous data suggests that monsoon season rainfall over the country as a whole was deficient or below normal during 65 percent of the El Nino years," the Indian forecaster said. "However, during 71 percent of the years followed by El Nino, monsoon was normal and above."

    Weather Risk Management Services said on April 1 that a weakening El Nino means this year's monsoon will be stronger than usual, with well-distributed rains over the country. Falling sea-surface temperatures over the equatorial Pacific Ocean region also signal that rains will be normal, K.K. Singh, head of the agro meteorological division of the India Meteorological Department, said on April 4.

Business Affairs 

March retail inflation eases to 4.83 percent

  • March retail inflation eases to 4.83 percentAnnual consumer inflation eased for the second straight month to 4.83 percent in March, helped by smaller rises in food prices, government data showed on Tuesday.
    Economists surveyed by Reuters had forecast retail inflation would slow to 5 percent in March from an upwardly revised 5.26 percent in February.
    Food inflation eased slightly to 5.21 percent in March from 5.30 percent in the previous month.

    Sensex ends 123 points up, Nifty above 7,700 on hopes of better monsoon

    • Sensex ends 123 points up, Nifty above 7,700 on hopes of better monsoonExtending gains for the second consecutive session, the S&P BSE Sensex added 123 points to end above its crucial psychological level of 25,000, while broader CNX Nifty ended above 7,700 level.
      The headline indices rallied as companies with big rural sales such as Hero MotoCorp rose after the country's only private weather forecaster Skymet said 2016 monsoon rains were likely to be above average.
      The 30-share index ended the day at 25,145, up 123.43 points, while broad-based 50-share index quoted 7,708, up 37.55 points at close.
      Market breadth turned fairly positive with 23 of the 30 Sensex components ending the day in green.
      GAIL stock was the best performer on both the benchmark indices and gained 4.1 per cent.
      Monsoon rains are expected to be 105 per cent above a long-term average, with a 35 per cent probability of above average rainfall, Skymet said in a statement on Monday. State-run India Meteorological Department is expected to issue its forecast later in the day.
      Above average monsoon rains play a key role in boosting demand for an array of consumer goods, as 70 percent of India's 1.3 billion people live in villages.
      However, broader gains were capped as companies geared up to report earnings. Among major companies, software services provider Infosys (INFY.NS) is due to report its results on Friday.
      "Market is taking monsoon forecast news positively but the important trigger will be the earnings report and global cues," said Daljeet Singh Kohli, head of research at India Nivesh Securities.
      "At the moment, there are no positive triggers that could drive markets upwards, so we could see a range-bound trend between 7,500 to 8,000 on Nifty."
      Agriculture-related stocks jumped on better-than-normal monsoon forecast. Jain Irrigation Systems rose 3.21 per cent, while Insecticides (India) soared 16.92 per cent.
      Hopes of revival in rural demand also boosted two-wheeler maker Hero MotoCorp and consumer goods firm Hindustan Unilever. Hero MotoCorp and Hindustan Unilever were up 2.47 per cent and 0.83 per cent, respectively.
      Jewellery makers, including Tribhovandas Bhimji Zaveri, rose after they re-opened shops following nearly six weeks of protest.
      Nestle India gained 4.64 per cent after the company said on Monday all 29 samples of Maggi noodles tested clear by government test lab Central Food Technological Research Institute.
      Tata Steel fell 2.11 per cent on concerns over the company's pension liabilities in UK after it agreed to sell one of its plants there to Greybull Capital.

      Oil hits 2016 high above $43 on producer meeting hopes

      • Oil reached a 2016 high above $43 a barrel on Tuesday, supported by hopes that an upcoming meeting of oil producers will agree steps to tackle a supply glut, and by a weak US dollar and further signs of strong demand in China.
        Many members of OPEC plus outside producers such as Russia are meeting Doha, Qatar, on Sunday to discuss freezing output. The dollar fell to its lowest in nearly eight months against a basket of currencies, supporting commodities.
        Brent crude was up 50 cents at $43.33 a barrel at 0842 GMT and earlier in the session reached a 2016 high of $43.53. US crude gained 39 cents to $40.75 a barrel.
        "The weak dollar is one important reason," said Eugen Weinberg of Commerzbank. "Also, the fact that we are above $40 and at multi-month highs is also contributing to the price increase as it is prompting some speculative buying."
        Also supporting prices was rising vehicle sales in China - a further sign of strong gasoline demand in the No. 2 consumer - and a plan by thousands of oil and gas workers in Kuwait to go on strike from Sunday.
        "If it is not clear if the strike will last long and will have any meaningful impact on exports or domestic production (including refineries), it does illustrate further the amount of pain that (Gulf) oil producers are also facing at current price levels," said Olivier Jakob, analyst at Petromatrix.
        Oil prices have collapsed from above $100 in mid-2014 due to oversupply. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' decision in November 2014 to abandon its traditional role of cutting output helped deepen the decline.
        In a sign that oversupply may be easing, the structure of the Brent crude market has strengthened and the discount at which the first-month contract is trading to the second - known as contango - has narrowed significantly.
        This is partly in response to oilfield maintenance in the North Sea in June that will reduce supply of the crudes underpinning the Brent benchmark.
        Crude gained a boost last week after a surprise decline in US inventories from a record high. But this week's US supply reports are expected to show an increase in stocks of 2.8 million barrels.
        Industry group the American Petroleum Institute is scheduled to release its report on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. EDT (2030 GMT), while the government's figures are due out on Wednesday.

      Drought could hit rice stocks at exporters, fuel price crisis, analyst says

      • Crippling drought brought on by the El Nino weather pattern could cut rice stocks among the world's top exporters to levels not seen since 2008, potentially fueling a price crisis similar to one seen that year, an industry expert warned.
        Total stocks in top shippers of the grain India, Thailand, Vietnam, Pakistan and the United States are likely to fall to 19 million tonnes by the second half of the year, from a peak of nearly 41 million tonnes in 2013, said Samarendu Mohanty, head of the social sciences division at the Philippines-based International Rice Research Institute.
        "If we have a bad monsoon, with drought still persisting in many parts of Asia, the risk significantly increases in terms of price response," Mohanty told Reuters in a telephone interview. Dwindling stockpiles could crimp volumes exporters are willing to ship abroad.
        Although a severe El Nino is now fading, it has brought drought to swathes of Asia, drying irrigation channels and destroying crops. It has also stoked concerns on the strength of the South Asian monsoon due to start around June.
        Export restrictions by major rice producers including India fed panic in the market in 2008, forcing big purchases by countries such as the Philippines that caused Asian benchmark prices to nearly triple to around $1,000 a tonne.
        After that, consumers and exporters, mainly in Asia, rebuilt rice inventories to avoid another crisis, but Mohanty said stocks have been declining since 2013.
        "Last year, nobody was panicking because they were sure that there's plenty of rice in the market if there's any shortfall. I think we don't have that luxury anymore this year," he said.
        The price of Thai 5-percent broken rice touched an eight-month high of $378.50 a tonne in March, while Vietnam's own 5-percent broken rice last month rose to a 2-1/2-month peak of $385 a tonne.
        Mohanty said India and Thailand, the world's top two exporters, would have combined stocks of around 16 million tonnes by the third quarter, around 70-percent lower than levels in 2013.
        That buffer will be much smaller than recent stock levels of 16.2 million tonnes for India and about 12 million tonnes for Thailand.
        India will be "very cautious in exporting" if its rice output is hit by a weak monsoon, said Mohanty.
        That could push big buyers such as the Philippines and Indonesia to accumulate the grain, a staple food for nearly half of the world's population, similar to what happened in 2008.
        "We might see the same thing as we move forward and countries get scared about the weather situation around them," Mohanty said.
        The Philippines is considering importing another 500,000 tonnes of rice this year to boost state reserve stocks.

        We try to be an informed, adaptive regulator, says Raghuram Rajan

        • We try to be an informed, adaptive regulator, says Raghuram RajanReserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan today said as a regulator the central bank tries to be informed and adaptive when it comes to regulation of new instruments and processes.
          "We attempt to be informed and adaptive regulator. It means we start first by understating the problem, doing some careful analysis, helped of course by players who want to make change," Rajan said at the launch of the National Payments Corporation of India's (NPCI) Unified Payments Interface (UPI) system.
          He said RBI works with the people who are being regulated on the regulatory architecture and hear the proposals put forth by them.
          These are being looked at both from the perspective of the system and it also tries to figure out the biases of those people making such proposals, Rajan added.
          The governor said RBI does not limit itself too much when there is uncertainty.
          "One of the dangerous (aspects) of being a regulator is, the easiest thing to say is no and when you don't understand how things are going to develop it is easy to say no. Let's not even go there," he said.
          "The problem is when you say no, you never work out what the problems could be. Maybe, there are no problems and you keep the system from developing. Too many limitations upfront and you prevent growth and development," he added.
          Rajan said RBI prefers to watch new innovations and as the understanding increases, regulations can be evolved.
          "We watch carefully as the instrument, institution or the process is rolled out, look at where the grievances are coming from, where the conflicts are emerging... and thereby adapt regulation, if necessary," he added.
          Quoting the example of interest rate futures (IRF), he said the new instrument was started but was not successful initially because of too many limitations on them.
          "We started them again two years ago and now it's a flourishing market with tremendous amounts of volume. And this is because industry persuaded us to be a little bit open," he said.
          According to the governor, RBI has taken a bet on payments banks that have recently being given in-principle approvals.
          "We want to see where they push the system," he said.
          On UPI, Rajan said it is one of the more exciting developments in our economy in recent years.
          "For a number of years, we have been saying we need a revolution in banking in India. I think we can confidently say the revolution is upon us," he said.
          The country, Rajan said, has the most sophisticated public payment infrastructure in the world which can be accessible by anybody who enters the system.
          It is not just payment but the form of the whole new set of banks -- payments and small finance -- that is part of the revolution, Rajan added.
          "For long time Chanda's bank (ICICI Bank) and Shikha's bank (Axis Bank) were called new private banks. I guess we have to change the terminology. You are no longer new, you are the old banks," Rajan said.
          Meanwhile, the RBI governor also condoled the loss of lives in the fire tragedy at a Kerala temple yesterday.
          At least 106 people were killed and 383 injured in a devastating fire that engulfed the 100-year-old Puttingal Devi Temple complex in Kollam during an unauthorised display of fireworks yesterday.

        General Awareness

        India’s Maharajas’ Express among top rated trains globally

          • India’s Maharajas’ Express hasbeen ranked among the top rated trains in the world, while The Plaza New York was rated among the best hotels for the super-rich, says a survey.
            • The Maharajas’ Express’ train has redefined the luxury travel experience by offering guests the opportunity to explore fabled destinations providing a glimpse of rich cultural heritage of Incredible IndiaMaharaja Express
            • It offers various travel packages with train fares ranging fromaround $3,000, and going up to nearly $24,000 (Rs 16 lakhs).
            New World Wealth survey:
            Favorite Hotels:
            • The survey covers more than 800 millionaires around the world, released by South Africa-based wealth research firmNew World Wealth, ranked the Bellagio in Las Vegasthe No. 1 hotel in the world among millionaires.
            • The Plaza Hotel in New York City ranked second, followed by the Mandarin Oriental in London, the Hotel du Cap-Eden-Rock in Antibes, France, and Raffles Hotel Singapore.
            Favorite airlines:
            • In favorite airlines category Singapore Airlines topped the list. Australia’s Qantas ranked second, followed by Japan Airlines, Germany’s Lufthansa and Air France.
            Favorite Train:
            • They preferred the Eastern & Oriental Express, which rolls from Singapore to Malaysia to Thailand and features sumptuous silk-lined cabins and stunning views of Buddhist temples, palm plantations and the famous Bridge over the River Kwai.
            • The Blue Train in South Africa ranked second, followed by the Pride of Africa, which travels throughout that country.

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