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Current Affairs - 25 May 2016

General Affairs 

NEET Will End 'Unhealthy' Practices Of Private Colleges: Venkaiah Naidu
  • NEW DELHI:  The government is in favour of National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) as it wants to put an end to "unhealthy" practices of private medical colleges, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said today.

    "The government is in favour of NEET," he said, adding "the private colleges, which are practicing unhealthy trends, we have to put an end to those".

    He said the issue was raised in Parliament and all political parties expressed the opinion that the students would find it difficult to prepare for the exams in such a short period of time.

    That's why the Cabinet brought an ordinance on NEET keeping out of its ambit State Boards for one year, he said.

    Noting that the Ordinance has given a "firm and statutory" support to the common medical entrance test, Mr Naidu said the students in states will get an opportunity to appear this year (2016-17) for undergraduate exams.

    The ordinance on NEET, cleared by the Union Cabinet on Friday last, is aimed at "partially" overturning Supreme Court order that had also taken into account the multiple medical entrance tests by states and private colleges as well as allegations of corruption.

    The court had directed that a common entrance test-- NEET-- will be held across India for MBBS and dental courses.

    But state governments had objected to its implementation from this year, saying it will be too stressful for students as they had little time to prepare for the syllabus and also there were issue of language.

    They said the students affiliated to state boards will find it tough to appear for the uniform test as early as July and such students will be at a loss compared to those who have followed the central board.

    After the Supreme Court turned down the plea, the Centre had decided to take the ordinance route.

NSG, Masood Azhar Issues To Figure In President's Talks With Xi Jinping
  • BEIJING:  China's opposition to India's membership in the elite NSG and its action blocking the UN move to ban JeM chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist are expected to figure prominently during President Pranab Mukherjee's talks with the top Chinese leadership, including President Xi Jinping on Thursday.

    Mr Mukherjee, who is making his first visit as head of state but has made a number of trips to China in various capacities during his long political career, is expected to convey India's concerns on these issues and present India's views on how it felt strongly on them, sources said.

    The President, who arrived today in southern China's Guangzhou city on the first leg of his four-day visit, will have one-on-one meeting with President Xi on Thursday besides holding delegation-level talks with him. He will also meet Premier Li Keqiang and Chairman of the National People's Congress Zhang Dejiang.

    Issues of mutual interest like the festering border dispute and ongoing mechanism to resolve the problem will figure in the President's discussions with the Chinese leadership.

    New Delhi's stand on the nuclear issue assumes significance in the context of the scheduled meeting of the 48-member Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) in South Korea next month when it is expected to make its bid strongly for membership of the nuclear club.

    The sources said that India's membership of the NSG was a logical culmination of its efforts in pursuing its peaceful objective of a civil nuclear programme and there could be no comparison with others.

    At the same time, India has no objection to Pakistan's membership of the NSG but is opposed to China's attempt to bracket the two countries together on the issue, Indian officials say.

    The sources said China was free to canvas for Pakistan in its quest for nuclear programme but it should not rake up any bogey in a bid to checkmate India.

    They also rejected Beijing's new insistence on India signing the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty for gaining membership of the NSG or its dismissal of New Delhi's stand that France had not signed the NPT when it became a member of the NSG.

    Officials pointed out the NSG is a consensus-based regime and not a treaty.

    Officials said that the visit of the President was more than ceremonial or reciprocal because of the fact he carries some heft in view of his long political career and the different portfolios he had during that period including external affairs and defence portfolios.

    Also the President is expected to convey India's concerns over China blocking the UN move on Azhar at a time when there was need for a collective fight against global terror.

    Sources felt that Beijing's stand on these two issues could be seen as an attempt to placate it's "all-weather" ally Islamabad.

Delhi Government To Discoms: Stop Outages Or Face Licence Cancellation
  • NEW DELHI:  In a stern warning to the discoms, Delhi government today said it will not hesitate to consider "cancelling" their licenses if they fail to improve the power situation in the city which has been hit by a spate of outages of late.

    The message was conveyed by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal in a meeting that was attended by representatives of the private distribution companies BSES, Tata Power (TPDDL) and also the chairman of Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission (DERC).

    Power Minister Satyendra Jain said the policy on getting consumers compensated for unscheduled black outs will be implemented within a week and that DERC (Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission) will issue a notification in this regard.

    "The CM has given them (discoms) a week's time to take corrective measures while making it clear that strict action will be taken otherwise. We will not hesitate to consider cancelling their licenses.

    "There's no shortage of power in the city but the outages are due to local faults. The compensation formula will be implemented within a week. DERC will notify this within a week. Discoms will decide how to implement it," Mr Jain told reporters.

    A senior government official said the discoms could not offer a "single explanation" behind the outages despite there being no shortage of power in the national capital.

    "The government has categorically asked them to set their house in order as people of Delhi will not suffer for the efficiency on their part," the official said.

    Delhi's power demand hit an all-time peak of 6,188 MW on May 20, which is expected to rise by the month of July.

    Today's peak load was relatively low at 4,834 MW, as the weather has slightly cooled down due to yesterday's rain.

India's Bill On Kashmir Map Violation Of UN Security Council Resolutions: Pakistan
  • UNITED NATIONS:  Seeking to internationalise the issue of India's proposed maps bill, Pakistan has said depiction of the "disputed territory" of Jammu and Kashmir as an integral part of India in the bill is in violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions and is "factually incorrect and morally unacceptable."

    Pakistan had last week sought UN intervention on the draft bill in the Indian Parliament over the map of Kashmir, with its ambassador to the UN Maleeha Lodhi writing to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Security Council President for the month, Abdellatif Aboulatta of Egypt.

    In the letter, released to the media by the UN today, Ms Lodhi referred to India's draft Geospatial Information Regulation Bill 2016 and said Pakistan has "serious concerns" over the bill.

    "However, in violation of UNSC resolutions and international law, the official map of India has been depicting the disputed territory of Jammu and Kashmir as a part of India which is factually incorrect, legally untenable and morally unacceptable. Sadly, the international community and the United Nations have failed to take notice of this Indian action," Ms Lodhi said in the letter.

    Ms Lodhi said that the international community should "honour" its responsibility to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.

    "More than 65 years later, the people of Jammu and Kashmir are still waiting for the international community and the United Nations to fulfil their commitments by holding an independent and impartial plebiscite under UN auspices. Failure on the part of the UN to ensure the sanctity of UN resolutions has resulted in blatant violations of international law as well as human rights abuses of the Kashmiri people. The Indian government has been using force as state policy, which has been exacerbating the situation. In view of this, the UN should intervene to uphold UNSC resolutions and urge India to stop such acts which are in violation of international law," she said.

    India had reacted strongly to Pakistan seeking UN intervention on the Indian draft bill on map, saying it was an "entirely internal legislative matter" and Pakistan or any other party has no locus standi on it.

    External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Vikas Swarup had said that India "firmly rejects" repeated and increasing attempts by Pakistan to impose on the international community matters that it has always been open to address bilaterally with 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," Mr Swarup had said in response to a question on Pakistan Foreign Office press release on India's Geospatial Bill.

    Ms Lodhi cited UNSC resolutions, saying the final disposition of Jammu and Kashmir would be made in accordance with the "will of the people, expressed through the democratic method of a free and impartial plebiscite, conducted under the auspices of the United Nations."

    She said the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir is a "UN declared and internationally accepted disputed territory".

India's New Submarines May Come Without Torpedoes. Here's Why.
  • NEW DELHI:  India will not buy heavyweight torpedoes from Wass -- a subsidiary of Italian company Finmeccanica -- for its Kalvari class submarines in India, sources in the Ministry of Defence said.

    As a result, the first of the Kalvari class which is expected to join the Navy end of this year, will not have a torpedo - the main weapon for a submarine -- to fire.
    The Kalavari class is the Diesel-Electric Scorpene submarines designed by the French naval defence and energy company DCNS. The subs are being made at Mumbai's Mazgaon docks.

    The decision to cancel the purchase stems from the order by an Italian court last month, which found irregularities committed by Finmeccanica subsidiary AgustaWestland in the sale of 12 VVIP helicopters to India.

    The Navy was to buy 98 heavyweight 533 mm torpedoes from WASS for about Rs. 1,200 crore.

    The Navy has been asked to look to alternatives. The officials said they are hopeful that the government will also look at the government-to-government route to procure the torpedoes.

    Earlier, the Defence Ministry had banned AugustaWestland from participating in any defence deals in India.
    A partial ban had been imposed on Finmecannica following legal advice that a complete ban could affect combat readiness.

Business Affairs 

Farmer earns Re 1 after selling one tonne of onions!

  • In a bizarre claim, a farmer has said he could earn only Re 1 from sale of nearly a tonne of onions at the district Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC).
    According to Devidas Parbhane, 48, the fall in onion prices is already taking a toll and like him, several others have got a 'raw deal' despite a bumper crop this season.
    "Every day, we are hearing news about farmer suicides from drought-hit regions. However, with onion prices touching new lows, farmers like me may be meeting the same fate," said Parbhane, the sole bread-earner for his family of five.
    Parbhane explains the math: he has two acres of farm land in which he grew onions by spending Rs 80,000.
    "On May 10, I sent 952 kg of onions in 18 gunny bags through a truck to the Pune-based Agriculture Produce Market Committee and received Rs 16 per 10 kg. So, per one kg, it works to one rupee and sixty paise," said Parbhane.
    "The total onion was sold for Rs 1,523.2. Out of the earnings, the middlemen took away Rs 91.35 as commission, labour charges were Rs 59 and Rs 18.55, and Rs 33.30 was paid against miscellaneous charges. Rs 1,320 was paid to the truck driver, who transported the produce to APMC."
    He claimed that after all the deductions, he is taking home only Re 1. He was informed that the prices of onion had plunged drastically that particular day.
    "I was expecting at least Rs 3 per kg. However, I was disappointed after receiving such a deal," the farmer said.
    "For four months, I took care of my produce and watered the onions at the time of load-shedding. Forget the profit, I am unable to recover even my expenditure on growing onions."
    There were no comments on the farmer's claim from APMC.
    Local media reports quoted the trader who bought the onion as saying that produce was of smaller size and inferior quality.
    Meanwhile, a delegation of onion traders and APMC members from Lasalgaon in Nashik has met Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis seeking his intervention on the issue of plummeting prices of onions.

    BJP'S report card: Modi magic lost! Nifty dips 7% during PM's 2nd year in office

    • If you had invested in the market in May 2014 thinking PM Narendra Modi's magic wand will turn the table for economy and your investment alike, chances are high you might have incurred losses by today.
      While Modi euphoria felt before Narendra Modi taking the reins fizzled out in the first year itself, the sentiment on the Dalal Street took a severe knock in his second year in office. Blame it on global cues, slower pace of reforms or no material improvement in earnings, or may be on sheer luck, if we go by how the benchmark indices ruled in Modi's second year, the performance was anything but satisfactory.
      For Nifty50, it was nothing sort of a dream rally when Modi was declared as BJP's prime-minister candidature on September 13, 2013. The 50-stock index had run-up 25.78 per cent all through the assembly election outcome.
      The index continued to rally in Modi's first year in office but at a slow pace of 13 per cent, even as FIIs pumped in a whopping Rs 94,000-odd crore into equities for the year.

      But the PM's second year in office was not good for equities. Foreign outflows from domestic equities stood at whopping Rs 10,603 crore in the past one year. The NSE benchmark has fallen 7 per cent during the year. Data available for a total of 16 sectoral indices on NSE, only three has gained in Modi's second year.
      Dharmesh Kant, Head - Retail Research, Motilal Oswal Securities believes Nifty underperformance can be attributed mainly to global scenario and to an extent slow pace of reforms, particularly those which can throw up instant results, like GST.
      "Fall in commodity prices beyond a point hurts the entire system be it commodity producers, consumers or financial system supporting commodity companies. It is a backward spiral effect which can knocks the market down," added Kant.
      NSE sectoral indices infrastructure, metals, realty and banks, which offered stratospheric returns in the run-up to election results, went down in the dumps as BJP's second year concludes.
      Nifty PSU Bank index, which rose 72 per cent in the run-up to elections, shed over 38 per cent during PM Modi's second year in office. Riding on his pro-investment image, Nifty Metal, Infra and Realty index rose up to 50 per cent in the run-up to polls, while they lost up to 20 per cent during his second year.
      Meanwhile, Nifty IT, FMCG, Consumption and Media indices still fared better than those of capex-related sectors. Nifty Media, in fact, stood out and rallied over 18 per cent during the same period.
      However, Ankur Varman of SBICAP Securities said capital expenditure (capex) is reviving and infra, capital goods and defence will be among the few sectors seeing good recovery from hereon.
      "IT and FMCG are sectors that generate cash and hence people find surety and safety of earnings there. Pharma also received good interest till regulatory hurdles bumped it. If this quarter results are anything to go by, then once again infra and capital goods will take the lead and IT and FMCG will go on the back burner," said Varman.

      Kant of MOSL believes PM Modi-led government has done a remarkable job, which will reflect itself as we enter fiscal year 2018.
      "Reform process so far implemented by government are structural in nature which takes time to play out and are not quick fixes, be it fuel pricing, banking, taxation, power or coal & mine auction reforms etc. Fiscal year 2017 and 2018 should witness actual benefits of such initiatives  into P&L of corporate India," added Kant.

      India seeks rights to operate Iran oil field

      • India has sought a discovered oilfield from Iran for raising crude oil imports from the Persian Gulf nation as part of efforts to widen economic and energy ties post lifting of sanctions.
        Indian Oil Corp (IOC), the nation's largest oil firm, has proposed to Iran that it be given rights to operate and produce crude oil from the discovered field to help move away from buyer-seller relationship to a strategic partnership, sources privy to the development said.
        The oil produced from the field can then be shipped home, the IOC has said.
        IOC had last fiscal imported 1.2 million tons of crude oil from Iran. In the fiscal year that began from April 1, it is looking to raise it by at least three-fold.
        Prime Minister Modi's visit to Iran was aimed at boosting trade and commerce between the two countries. His trip came just months after lifting of international sanctions on Iran following Tehran's historic nuclear deal with the Western powers over its contentious atomic programme.
        Besides IOC, ONGC Videsh Ltd has also sought two discovered fields from the 16 fields that Iran is likely to put on auction shortly.
        The fields sought by OVL, the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), is besides the Farzad-B offshore field for which it is in advanced talks to secure developmental rights.
        OVL had in 2008 discovered the Farzad-B field in the Persian Gulf. The field holds 12.5 Trillion cubic feet of recoverable reserves.
        Sources said Iran has so far not responded to the requests by the Indian firms.
        It has, however, shown willingness to give Farzad-A, which holds 283 billion cubic meters of reserves.
        The field besides holding smaller reserves is more challenging, OVL feels.
        Sources said India may import as much as 20 million tonnes of crude oil from Iran in 2016-17 fiscal, up from about 11 million tonnes in the previous year.
        This follows lifting of sanctions against Iran in January.
        Till 2010-11, Iran was the second biggest supplier of crude oil to India after Saudi Arabia. Fresh US sanctions in 2010 led to imports, which were 18.5 million tonnes in 2010-11, to fall to 11 million tonnes. Iraq is now the second biggest supplier of oil to India.
        Sources said India has also expressed interest in investing in chemicals, petrochemicals and fertilizer plants if Iran provided natural gas at low prices. It also is looking at setting up an ammonia/urea plant in Chabahar Free Trade Zone with long-term off-take of urea to India.
        While Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) and Essar Oil Ltd -- the biggest Indian buyers of Iranian oil -- are likely to maintain buying at around 5 million tonnes each, Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) may begin importing oil from the Persian Gulf nation.
        HPCL-Mittal Energy Ltd (HMEL) has indicated it will buy a small quantity with an option to raise volumes.
        In addition, private refiner Reliance Industries is seeking to buy 5-6 million tons of Iranian oil, mainly heavy grades.
        India imports about 189 million tonnes of crude oil to meet about 80 per cent of its oil needs. Saudi Arabia sold about 38 million tonnes of oil to India in 2015-16, while Iraq supplied 33 million tonnes.

      Scoot Airlines connects Singapore, Sydney with tier-2 Indian cities

      • Singapore-based low-cost carrier Scoot is focusing on tier-2 cities to expand its reach in India, a senior official said on Tuesday.
        "We are focusing on the tier- 2 cities in India to expand our reach. We will promote weekend travel to Singapore as the travel fare will be cheaper than flying to some of the Indian cities," Bharath Mahadeven, country head-India for Scoot told reporters here.
        According to Mahadevan, Scoot offers a promotional fare of Rs 5,300 to Singapore and Rs 13,500 to Sydney/Melbourne from Chennai.
        The airline started operating daily Singapore to Chennai services and three days in a week Singapore to Amritsar services from Tuesday.
        Scoot will increase the frequency on Singapore to Amritsar route with an additional Monday service from July.
        It will also commence services from Singapore to Jaipur from 2 October 2016.
        He said the airline will also target the Korean corporates here for flying to Seoul and other overseas destinations.
        "We are targeting 80-85 per cent load factor in all the routes we fly," said Leslie Thng, chief commercial officer, Scoot and Tigerair.
        According to him Scoot complements the other three airlines in the Singapore Airlines Group by serving under-served or new destinations.
        He said the entire fleet of Scoot consists of Dreamliner 787 and connects 21 destinations in 10 countries.
        The airline takes out Tigerair's Singapore to Chennai daily service.

        Bank of India posts $530 million net loss in fourth quarter

        • Bank of India, country's third biggest state-run lender by assets, reported a fourth-quarter loss of 35.87 billion rupees ($529.92 million) as it set aside more money to cover a surge in bad loans .
          This was the third straight quarterly loss for the Mumbai-based lender, which had reported a net loss of 561.4 million rupees the previous year.
          Gross bad loans as a percentage of total loans rose to 13.07 per cent in the quarter ending March 2016, from 9.18 per cent in December. Provisions, including for loan losses, more than doubled from a year earlier to 54.70 billion rupees, the lender said in a regulatory filing.

        General Awareness

        Union Government announced 13 cities as Smart Cities

          • Urban Development Ministry announced 13 cities as Smart Cities where highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability
            Ministry: Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation
            Name of the Cities

            Venkaiah Naidu conferred that seven more capital cities will be entered to the smart city competition.The above 13 cities are announced as Smart Cities.
            • They are Patna, Shimla, Naya Raipur, Itanagar, Amaravati, Bengaluru and Thiruvananthapuram.
            • Twenty-three cities, with the highest ranking from as many States and Union Terrritories, which failed to get representation in the first round of competition.
            • The ‘Fast Track Competition’ from which these 13 were selected.
            23 cities competed for the Fast Track Competition:
            Warangal (Telangana); Lucknow, New Town Kolkata, Panaji, Pasighat (Arunachal Pradesh), Dharmashala (Himachal Pradesh), Faridabad (Haryana), Raipur (Chattisgarh), Bhagalpur (Bihar), Shillong (Meghalaya), Namchi (Sikkim), Port Blair (Andaman & Nicobar Islands), Diu (Daman & Diu), Oulgaret (Puducherry), Silvassa (Dadra & Nagar Haveli), Imphal (Manipur), Ranchi (Jharkhand), Agartala (Tripura), Kohima (Nagaland), Aizawl (Mizoram), Kavaratti (Lakshadweep), Dehradun (Uttarakhand) and Chandigarh.
            Smart City
            • A ‘Smart City’ is an urban region that is highly advanced in terms of overall infrastructure, sustainable real estate, communications and market viability.
            •  It is a city where information technology is the principal infrastructure and the basis for providing essential services to residents.
            Main features in a smart city:
            • Adequate water supply
            • Assured electricity supply
            • Sanitation, including solid waste management
            • Efficient urban mobility and public transport
            • Affordable housing, especially for the poor
            • Robust IT connectivity and digitalization
            • Good governance, especially e-Governance and citizen participation
            • Sustainable environment
            • Safety and security of citizens, particularly women, children and the elderly
            • Health and education

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