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Current Affairs - 18 May 2016

General Affairs 

Kashmir map issue: Mind your own business, India tells Pakistan
  • India on Tuesday reacted sharply to Pakistan's move to seek UN intervention on a draft bill that imposes heavy fines on misrepresentation of Kashmir on the map of India.
    External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup called the draft bill an "entirely internal legislative matter, since the whole of the state of Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of India." He added that Pakistan or any other party has no locus standi on it.
    "The government firmly rejects Pakistan's repeated and increasing attempts to impose on the international community matters that India has always been open to address bilaterally with Pakistan," he said in response to a question on the press release from Pakistan Foreign Office on India's Geospatial Information Regulation Bill.
    The draft Bill suggests that anyone distributing a map the Indian government deems to be "wrong", could be liable for a billion-rupee fine and jail time. Through passage of this Bill, the Indian government would be able to penalise individuals and organisations "who depict Jammu and Kashmir as a disputed territory as per the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions".

    Pakistan called the bill a "violation of UNSC resolutions" since "the official map of India has been depicting the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir as part of India which is factually incorrect and legally untenable."
    It sent a letter sent to the UN, calling it to uphold the Security Council resolutions, and urged India "to stop acts that are in violation of international law".
    Pakistan also urged the world body to hold and oversee an independent and impartial plebiscite on Jammu and Kashmir.
    This is not the first time India has objected to the misrepresentation of Jammu and Kashmir in India maps.
    Last year, Indian government took news channel Al Jazeera off air for nearly a week, saying it had repeatedly shown incorrect maps of Kashmir.
    Companies that provide map services, like Google and Apple, too have been in trouble of showing a chunk of Kashmir as part of Pakistan. In 2014, the national surveying agency filed a complaint against Google for displaying varying maps of India on its different country webpages.
    In 2011 it ordered The Economist magazine to cover up a map of the disputed borders in Kashmir. The news weekly placed white stickers over a diagram of the borders in 28,000 copies on sale in India.

Maharashtra to scrap canals, lay pipelines for water supply
  • The Maharashtra government today has decided to build a network of pipelines to fetch water from dams scrapping the existing open canal system.
    Water resources minister Girish Mahajan claimed that the pipeline system will not only save money but also stop water leakages and thefts. "We will not build canals henceforth. Instead of that we will lay down underground pipelines to give water to farms as well as cities for drinking purpose," Mahajan said.
    He claimed that a need for land acquisition for irrigation projects will not arise after the system comes into existence. It will also help cut down an irrigation project's cost by 30 to 35 percent.
    "At present 40 to 45 percent water is either stolen or gets leaked. The closed pipelines will also save 20 to 25 percent water from being evaporated," Mahajan said.
    He said that system is expected to be completed by 2019.
    He cited an example of water supply to Solapur city to underpin the need of closed pipeline instead of open canal. Solapur needs two TMC drinking water every year but the government has to send 20 TMC water from Ujani dam to fulfill the need as 18 TMC water is either lost or stolen in the 200 km journey from dam to the city.
    Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on May 7 had instructed state governments to adopt closed pipeline system for water supply. The Union government has set a target of increasing water utilisation by 20 percent by the end of 2017.

Samajwadi Party names Amar Singh, Beni Verma for Rajya Sabha polls
  • Over six years after it expelled Amar Singh, the Samajwadi Party today unanimously declared him as its candidate for the Rajya Sabha polls, setting the stage for his possible return to the party.
    The party also nominated six others, including former Union minister Beni Prasad Verma, an influential Kushwaha leader who recently quit Congress and returned to the Samajwadi Party, and realtor Sanjay Seth for the biennial polls scheduled next month.
    When asked about when would Singh, a former confidante of Mulayam Singh Yadav, rejoin the party, Shivpal Singh Yadav, a UP Minister and brother of party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav said," It will be decided by Netaji (Mulayam) and Amar Singh. We have earlier also sent Congress leaders Pramod Tiwari and P L Punia to Rajya Sabha."
    Amar Singh along with his close associate Jaya Prada were expelled from the Samajwadi Party in February, 2010. He floated his own political party, Rashtriya Lok Manch, in 2011, and fielded a large number of candidates in 2012 assembly polls. However, none of his candidates won. He had joined the Rashtriya Lok Dal and contested the 2014 Lok Sabha poll from Fatehpur Sikri but lost.
    Samajwadi Party denied there were "differences" over some candidates and claimed the decision on fielding them for the Rajya Sabha polls was "unanimous".
    "The SP parliamentary board has unanimously decided seven names for Rajya Sabha. There were no differences and party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav was authorised to take the final decision. The names were read out in the meeting," Shivpal, also the party spokesman, told reporters.
    The board has taken the decision after much thought and it will strengthen the party, he said, refuting reports of certain "objections" raised over some candidates at the meeting held today.
    The seven candidates are -- Beni Prasad Verma, Amar Singh, Sanjay Seth, Sukhram Singh Yadav, Reoti Raman Singh, Vishwambhar Prasad Nishad and Arvind Pratap Singh.
    Seth is a controversial Lucknow-based builder, who was earlier recommended to be nominated an MLC by the ruling party but his name was not approved by Governor Ram Naik. The governor had also rejected the governments proposal to nominate Rajvijay Singh and Kamlesh Pathak to the Legislative Council, contending that they did not qualify for it due to criminal cases pending against them. 

Pharma exports growth heading for a sharp decline
  • The famed story of pharmaceutical generics exports in the country, that has earned a prime position in the developed market for Indian companies making cheaper versions of off-patent drugs, is under threat. Exports growth in formulations (in US dollar terms) will decline sharply to 10-12 per cent annually over the next 5 years, compared with a growth of around 19 per cent seen in the last decade, rating agency Crisil said in a research note Tuesday.
    "Exports of generics have been the growth engine of the industry for a long while now, but the script is changing because the value of drugs going off patent is declining even as pricing pressures are increasing," Crisil said. For example, annual sales growth of generic drugs in US, the largest generics market, is seen slowing to 8-9per cent over the next five years, and decelerate even more after that. Therefore, for growth to sustain beyond 2020, domestic companies will have to step up investments in new molecules and draw up a roadmap to deal with lower generics growth.
    In the past decade and more, what came in handy was process chemistry skills - which helped companies clone drugs going off-patent by tweaking their molecules - and low-cost manufacturing. But competition has been intensifying, particularly for the large players, because of the huge number of abbreviated new drug applications (ANDAs) being filed with the US Food and Drugs Administration (USFDA), including by mid-sized domestic ones looking to step up presence in the biggest market. An ANDA is a filing to gain approval to market a generic version of a patented drug based on bio-availability and bioequivalence studies.
    Furthermore, consolidation of distribution channels in the US could reduce the pricing power of domestic drug makers. "Sharper focus on innovation and R&D has become an imperative," says Ajay Srinivasan, director, Crisil Research. "Our analysis of new drug applications (NDAs) approved by the USFDA reveals that Indian companies got approvals for just 26 products between January 2006 and June 2015 - a fraction of the 840 garnered by global pharmaceutical companies. Their global generic competitors such as Teva and Mylan had 48 and 33 NDAs to their credit as of February 2016." An NDA is a dossier filed to gain approval to sell a new drug in the US market based on pre-clinical and clinical studies.
    To be sure, Indian companies have indeed increased their R&D spend; for the top 30, it has shot up to 6.5 per cent of revenues in fiscal 2015 from 3.8 per cent a decade back. However, this pales in comparison with global majors, who spend close to 16 per cent. Typically, a chunk of the expenditure of domestic pharmaceutical companies is for launching generic therapies, changing product mix in generics, and process development.
    Some top ones have launched R&D programmes aimed at new drug discovery. Crisil Research's analysis indicates that a good 14 companies together have around 39 products in various stages of clinical development. These companies have adopted various approaches - such as in-house development, joint development and out-licensing - to manage the risk-return trade off. However, none has launched a new molecule in a regulated market such as the US.

Rename Delhi's Akbar Road to Maharana Pratap Road: General VK Singh to Venkaiah Naidu
  • Insisting that Maharana Pratap of Mewar, one of the greatest Rajput Kings of India, has not been given due recognition, Minister of State for External Affairs General (Retd) VK Singh has written a letter to Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu, seeking the renaming of New Delhi's Akbar Road as Maharana Pratap Road.
    The former chief of army has backed his potentially explosive suggestion saying Maharana Pratap was "truly secular" and has motivated Indians for generations. "I do find that one historical personality that has motivated generations - Maharana Pratap - has not been given his due. You would be aware that he was not only instrumental in stopping the might of the Mughal King Akbar but he was truly secular and a man of the masses," the General has written in his letter.
    India Today has accessed the letter Singh has shot off to the Urban Development Ministry. In his letter no MOS (VKS)/05/2016 dated 16 May 2016, Gen VK Singh writes that Maharana Pratap's army was led by a Pathan and had Bhils, adivasis and others as soldiers. "The Vaishya (trader) community led by Bhamashah provided him material support in his fight to retain independence from the Mughals," he says.
    "In view of this, I would request you to honour this great son of India by naming the Akbar Road as Maharana Pratap Road or a suitably important road in the Lutyen's Zone in his name. This would provide recognition to his valour and spirit of secularism which makes our country great. I do feel that important personalities like Maharana Pratap and Chatrapati Shivaji deserve greater recognition than they have been given thus far," he adds.
    Singh's views have been echoed by BJP's firebrand MP in Rajya Sabha, Subramanian Swamy. "The General is absolutely right. There isn't a single road in New Delhi after Maharana Pratap, one of India's biggest heroes when it comes to love for motherland and sacrifice. He preferred to live in poverty in jungles but did not compromise on his principles and patriotism. But there are roads named after Babur, Humayun, Akbar, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb. Somewhere down the line, the real heroes need to be recognized," Swamy told India Today.
    Incidentally, the headquarters of Opposition Congress are located on Akbar Road.
    Last year, after similar requests were made by  BJP MPs Mahesh Giri and Meenakshi Lekhi, the centrally-controlled New Delhi Municipal Council changed the name of Aurangzeb Road to APJ Abdul Kalam Road in the late former president's honour.

Business Affairs 

RBI chief Raghuram Rajan mentally not 'fully Indian', sack him immediately: Subramanian Swamy writes to PM Modi
  • In a fresh salvo at RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking immediate sacking of the former IMF Chief Economist while alleging he was mentally not fully Indian and has wilfully wrecked the economy.
    Following up his barb against Rajan at the end of Parliament session last week, Swamy on Monday wrote to Prime Minister seeking termination of Rajan's services with immediate effect.
    "The reason why I recommend this is that I am shocked by the wilful and apparently deliberate attempt by Dr Rajan to wreck the Indian economy, he wrote adding his concept of raising interest rates to contain inflation was disastrous. Also, bad loans with public sector banks has doubled to Rs 3.5 lakh crore in two years," he said.
    Rajan was appointed RBI Governor by the previous UPA government in September 2013 for a three-year term, which can be extended.
    "These actions of Dr Rajan lead me to believe that he is acting more as a disrupter of the Indian economy than the person who wants the Indian economy to improve. Moreover, he is in this country on a Green Card provided by the US government and therefore mentally not fully Indian. Otherwise why would he renew his Green Card as RBI Governor by making the mandatory annual visit to the US to keep the Green Card current?" he wrote.
    Swamy had last week stated that Rajan was not appropriate for the country as he had in the garb of controlling inflation raised interest rates leading to collapse of industry and rise of unemployment in the economy. The sooner he is sent back to Chicago, the better it would be, he had told reporters in Parliament House. Rajan is the on-leave Professor of Finance at the University of Chicago's Booth School of Business.
    After assuming charge as RBI governor in September 2013, Rajan gradually raised the short-term lending rate from 7.25 per cent to 8 per cent and had retained the high rates throughout 2014. He kept the rates high, citing inflationary concerns despite intense pressure from the Finance Ministry and the industry for softening them with a view to boosting growth. The Governor began the process of lowering the rates in January 2015 and since then it has come down by 1.50 per cent to 6.50 per cent.

    Sensex jumps 120 points, Nifty at 7,890 on likely win for BJP in Assam; ONGC top gainer
    • Extending gains for the second straight session, the S&P BSE Sensex on Tuesday settled the day 120 points higher, while the broader CNX Nifty ended a tad below its key 7,900-mark.
      The headline indices rallied after exit polls showed a likely first-time victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the key northeastern state of Assam, in a push for its reform agenda.
      The 30-share index ended the day at 25,773, up 120.38 points, while broad-based 50-share index quoted 7,890, up 30.00 points at close.
      Market breadth remained positive with 17 of the 30 Sensex components ending the day in green.
      A win in Assam, a tinderbox of ethnic and religious animosities, would testify to the continuing appeal of the BJP, the ruling party at the centre, in results that are due on Thursday.
      The outcome is being closely watched by markets as a potential indicator of the mood of voters in the world's biggest democracy and gives a snapshot of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's performance as he approaches the half-way mark of his five-year tenure.
      "BJP is likely to consolidate its position in Assam, which is positive for the government, as it will be able to push forward its reform agenda more strongly," said K K Mital, head of portfolio management, Globe Capital Market.
      Global market sentiment also improved, with Asian shares recovering from two-month lows on Tuesday, after a rebound in technology giant Apple Corp and oil price gains boosted Wall Street.
      ONGC was the best performing stock on both the benchmark indices and gained 3.75 per cent on the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE).
      Oil marketing companies such as Bharat Petroleum Corp and Hindustan Petroleum Corp rose 2 per cent each on a hike in retail prices of petrol and diesel.
      Sobha rose 0.73 per cent after the property developer said it would consider a share buyback during a board meeting on Thursday.
      Sun TV Network soared as much as 10.75 per cent after exit polls predicted the DMK-Congress alliance will form the next government in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
      Among the decliners, Tata Coffee dropped as much as 2.6 per cent after it posted a 13 per cent fall in March-quarter consolidated net profit.
      Bank of Baroda extended losses after the bank posted on Friday its second quarterly loss due to a surge in provisions.

      HSBC to move 840 IT jobs from UK to overseas sites
      • Global banking major HSBC will move 840 IT jobs from the UK to other countries as part of its cost-cutting plan that will eliminate 8,000 British jobs by the end of 2017, drawing flak from labour unions for the "ruthless" move to shift jobs to countries like India and China.
        The UK-headquartered banking group will shift the 840 IT jobs by March next year as part of a wider cost-cutting plan to boost profits.
        John Hackett, chief operating officer of HSBC UK, said: "In our investor update in June 2015, and many times since, we have stated that we are targeting significant cost reductions by the end of 2017.
        "As part of a global relocation exercise, around 840 non-customer-facing IT roles will transfer from the UK to other sites around the world by the end of March 2017. The UK will continue to play an important role in HSBC's global IT infrastructure, employing several thousand IT professionals."
        The majority of the roles affected by the latest announcement are based in Sheffield, Tankersley in South Yorkshire and London.
        Unite, the union for bank workers, said it was a "reckless" drive to move jobs offshore to low cost countries like India, China, and Poland.
        Dominic Hook, Unite's national officer for finance, said: "HSBC's decision to axe so many IT jobs is as ruthless as it is reckless. For almost a year staff have been left in the dark about their futures, only to be told that before being shown the door they're expected to train someone in India or China who will do their job for less money. It's a deeply cynical move by a bank which wants to be an 'employer of choice'."
        "Offshoring IT jobs to so-called 'low-cost economies' is extremely short-sighted. As IT glitches across the banks continue to prove, it is ultimately the customers who will suffer the consequences," he said.
        The bank had announced a three-year restructuring plan last year to improve earnings hurt by high compliance costs, fines and low interest rates.
        The restructuring is expected to eventually eliminate one job in five around the world and around one-sixth of jobs in Britain, amounting to nearly 8,000 job losses in the UK by the end of next year.

      Delhi HC seeks Govt's reply on surcharge on debit, credit card transactions
      • The Delhi High Court on Tuesday sought response of the Centre and RBI on a plea against the "illegal" surcharge levied on transactions done through debit and credit cards across the country while no such charge is imposed on cash payments.
        A bench comprising Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath issued notice to Ministry of Finance and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directing them to file an affidavit before August 19 on the plea which also sought direction to frame guidelines so as to prevent "unlawful" and "discriminatory" surcharge being levied on debit and credit card transactions.
        Advocate Amit Sahni, in his PIL, had said the "unlawful, unequal and arbitrary treatment is visible on the payment of petrol charges through credit and debit cards".
        The petitioner had also said the ministry and RBI are "responsible for making rules/guidelines and for monitoring banks across the country".
        He mentioned in his PIL that levying surcharge is not only illegal and discriminatory but it also promotes circulation of black money in cash.
        "The petitioner has noticed that illegal, unequal and arbitrary treatment is seen across the country on transactions being done through credit and debit cards by levying surcharge at the rate of 2.5 per cent or more, while such surcharge is not levied when the payment of such transaction is done by making cash payment in that regard...," the plea stated.
        It further said India is one of the most cash-intensive economies in the world and there is urgent need to incentivise credit or debit card transactions and dis-incentivise cash transactions.

        Associate banks propose merger with parent SBI
        • After over five years of hiatus, associate banks of SBI including State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur have proposed to merger with the parent lender.
          The respective boards have proposed merger with the State Bank of India (SBI), the parent, in a meeting held on Tuesday, sources said.
          The meeting of central board of SBI is going to consider the merger, they added.
          Meanwhile, a section of employee unions have registered protest against any such move and threatened to go on a strike if such move is approved by the SBI and the government.
          All employees of Associate Banks will go on strike on May 20, All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) General Secretary C H Venkatachalam said.
          The country's largest lender has five associate banks -- State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Mysore and State Bank of Hyderabad.
          Among these, State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur, State Bank of Mysore and State Bank of Travancore are listed.
          SBI first merged associate State Bank of Saurashtra with itself in 2008. Two years later in 2010, State Bank of Indore was merged.
          The government recently set up the Bank Board Bureau (BBB) to look into the issues including consolidation in public sector banking space.
          The BBB headed by former CAG Vinod Rai had conducted interview for appointments of Managing Directors of some of the banks where posts will be falling vacant during the current fiscal.
          The Bureau was constituted to help the government select heads of public sector banks and financial institutions and assist banks in developing strategies with regard to capital-raising and consolidation.
          Besides Chairman, the Bureau has three ex-officio members and an equal number of expert members.
          Expert members are ICICI Bank's former joint MD H N Sinor, Bank of Baroda's former CMD Anil K Khandelwal and rating agency Crisil's ex-chief Rupa Kudwa.
          Its ex-officio members are Secretary, Department of Public Enterprises, Financial Services Secretary and RBI Deputy Governor.

        General Awareness

        Shri Nitin Gadkari Launched INFRACON, ePACE and up-Scaled INAM PRO

          • Purpose:
            All Stakeholders to Use International Best Practises in Road Building and Demanding stakeholders to make use of innovations and successful best practices from round the world in engineering and construction of roads.
            Programmes launched:

            1. ePACE
            2. INFRACON
            3. Updated version of INAMPRO
            Ministry: Road Transport & Highways
            Developed by:  NHIDCL (National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd)
            Acronym of E Projects Appraisal & Continuing Enhancements and it is an online Integrated Management Information System
            • Ensuring their effective and real time tracking and getting information on real time status and fund utilization
            • The portal can be freely accessed and getting information about any particular state
            • It has been provided with GIS interface to enable easy geo-tracking of the projects
            INFRACON – National Portal for Infrastructure Consultancy Firms and Key Personnel
            Connection between consultancy firms working in the road engineering and construction sector and domain experts
            • The portal hosts the credentials of consultancy firms and key personnel and has linkages to Aadhar and Digi-locker for data validation and purity
            • Agencies within the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways, like the NHIDCL can receivetechnical proposals through INFRACON
            • Reduction of Paper work during bid
            INAM PRO
            Web-based application ( for Infrastructure and Material Providers
            • Web based market place that provides the material providers and the prospective buyers on a common platform.
            • Launched in March 2015 to facilitate contractors and cement buyers engaged in executing central/state funded roads and highways and bridge construction projects
            • To place cement orders online with the registered cement companies offering cement at competitive rates in the vicinity of project execution locations
            • Cement companies are facilitated to update their offered stocks and the prices on the portal

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