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Current Affairs - 16 September 2016

General Affairs 

Cauvery row: SC pulls up Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, says maintain peace

  • The Supreme Court on Thursday slammed the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka governments for their failure to stop people from taking to the agitation path after its order on Cauvery river water sharing and said it hoped both states will maintain peace and respect for law.
    When told about a shutdown and a 'rail roko' stir in Karnataka on Thursday and another bandh on Friday in Tamil Nadu, a bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Uday Umesh Lalit said the shutdowns and agitations could not be allowed pursuant to the apex court orders.
    Having made its displeasure known over the events that followed its September 12 order, Justice Misra said: "We hope and trust that wisdom will prevail on both the states to maintain peace, harmony, order and calm and, above all, dignity and respect for law."
    The apex court had asked the Karnataka government on September 12 to release 12,000 cusecs of Cauvery river water to Tamil Nadu daily, after modifying its earlier September 5 order for the release of 15,000 cusecs.

Hurriyat hawks exposed: How funds flow from Pakistan to fuel Kashmir unrest

  • Intelligence agencies have dug out the details of internet calls between separatist Hurriyat leaders and their Pakistani handlers as they joined hands to foment trouble in Kashmir. The call details, intelligence sources said, establish links between the Hurriyat hawks and their handlers from across the border.
    According to intelligence agencies funds from Pakistan reached the Kashmir Valley via Delhi route. Hurriyat leaders collected 'Azadi funds' worth crores of rupees sent by Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin to fuel unrest in the Valley.
    Earlier, India Today reported that Lashkar-e-Toiba chief Hafiz Saeed and Hizbul chief Salahuddin had joined hands to raise funds for fomenting trouble in the valley after the killing of Hizbul commander Burhan Wani. Saeed and Salahuddin were collecting donations from across Pakistan to fund the troublemakers in the Valley.
    As the proof for Hurriyat hawks-Pakistan link emerged, the several separatist leaders have come under the scanner of the security agencies. As per intelligence sources, Syed Ali Shah Geelani and his wing of Hurriyat Conference along with ten district heads of the outfit are under the scanner for their links with their Pakistani handlers and their suspected role in fueling unrest in the state.
    Funds raised in Pakistan and PoK are learnt to have reached the Valley through hawala via Delhi. The funds were transferred from Pakistan to Delhi and from Delhi to Kashmir and again from Kashmir to Delhi.
    Naeem Geelani, son the Syed Ali Shah Geelani, is likely to be called for questioning by senior officials for his suspected involvement in hawala funds transfer.
    Intelligence agencies have found that Hurriyat leaders run eight trading companies to receive funds from Pakistan. Huge amounts of cash were used for investment in benami properties, intelligence sources said.

Shivpal, wife and son resign from all posts as Samajwadi family crisis deepens in UP

  • Samajwadi Party's newly appointed Uttar Pradesh chief Shivpal Yadav has resigned from all ministerial berths and party posts held by him in Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav's government. Akhilesh has rejected his resignation from the post of a minister, but Shivpal is insistent on quitting.
    Meanwhile, Shivpal's wife and his son Aditya too have also resigned from all posts. Aditya has resigned from the chairman's post of Pradeshik Cooperative Federation, sources said. A group of Shivpal supporters gathered in front of his residence and raised slogans saying - "Shivpal, we are with you."   
    Shivpal's resignation came after two days of high-voltage political drama involving a power tussle between Akhilesh and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav who appointed his uncle Shivpal Yadav as the state chief of the party.
    On Tuesday, Akhilesh had stripped his uncle Shivpal of three key ministerial portfolios. Shivpal was reportedly upset at this but Mulayam seemed to have put his weight behind his youngest brother by stating that Shivpal was "in the party and the government, both." But, it was seemingly not enough for Shivpal.

    Akhilesh was scheduled to return home at 5 Vikramaditya Marg, by 7 pm today, but he did not. Rajya Sabha MP and Mulayam's cousin Ram Gopal Yadav came from Saifai and met Akhilesh for over an hour but was unable to break the ice.  At around 7: 30 pm this evening, Shivpal met with Akhilesh at 5 Kalidas Marg in Lucknow. The meeting lasted 15 minutes.
    Earlier today, Mulayam tried to broker a peace deal between his son and his upset brother. Shivpal Yadav agreed to make sacrifices for Mulayam and the party. Shying away from further confrontation with Akhilesh, Shivpal said that Mulayam Singh's decision was final for everyone in the party.
    On being asked if he was fine with Akhilesh being SP's UP CM face for 2017 elections, Shivpal said, "I accept whatever decision Netaji takes."
    On Wednesday, Shivpal Yadav met elder brother and party president Mulayam Singh Yadav at the latter's official residence in New Delhi. Emerging after a four-hour meeting, Shivpal said, "Neither I nor Netaji (Mulayam) is angry. We all are happy... There are no differences."
    But, the downsized UP minister soon added, "Humari party mein kisi ki bhi haisiyat nahin hai jo Netaji ke faisley ko kaate (No one in our party has the authority to defy the decisions taken by Mulayam Singh Yadav)."
    His resignation today makes Akhilesh as BSP's strongest face for the upcoming Assembly elections in the state in 2017. 
    YADAV vs YADAV: How things went from bad to worse
    1. June 2016: Akhilesh Yadav goes against father Mulayam and uncle Shivpal, sabotages Shivpal's move for SP's alliance with controversial politicians banded under Qaumi Ekta Dal
    2. August 14: Shivpal Yadav threatens to quit over rampant corruption, alleges of land grab by some Samajwadi Party leaders and ministers
    3. August 15: Mulayam backs brother Shivpal, warns that if he leaves party then SP will get divided into factions
    4. September 12: Akhilesh Yadav sacks two of his controversial Ministers Gayatri Prasad Prajapati and Raj Kishore Singh over corruption charges
    5. September 13: Akhilesh removes Chief Secretary Deepak Singhal (considered close to Shivpal). Principal Secretary (Finance) Rahul Bhatnagar replaces him. # Mulayam Singh Yadav ousts son Akhilesh as state party chief and replaces him with Shivpal. # Akhilesh strips Shivpal Singh Yadav of three key ministerial portfolios hours after the latter replaced him as Samajwadi Party chief

Petrol price up by 58 paise/litre, diesel down by 31 paise

  • Amid the recent fluctuation in global oil prices, state-run Indian Oil Corp (IOC) today moved in contradictory ways on transport fuels, increasing the price of petrol by 58 paise a litre and decreasing diesel by 31 paise per litre effective from midnight - both at Delhi, with corresponding changes in other states.
    "The current level of international product prices of petrol and diesel and INR-USD exchange rate warrant increase in selling price of petrol and decrease in selling prices of diesel, the impact of which is being passed on to the consumers with this price revision," IOC said in a release here.
    Making its previous fortnightly revision in fuel prices on August 31, the IOC had hiked prices of petrol by Rs 3.38 a litre and diesel by Rs 2.67 per litre effective both at Delhi, with corresponding increase in other states.
    Petrol per litre from Friday will cost Rs 64.21 in Delhi, Rs 67.42 in Kolkata, Rs 69.13 in Mumbai and Rs 63.76 in Chennai.
    Similarly, diesel per litre will cost Rs 52.59 in Delhi, Rs 54.89 in Kolkata, Rs 58.10 in Mumbai and Rs 54.06 in Chennai.
    The Indian basket of crude oils closed trade on Wednesday at $44.44 a barrel as per official data.

Nitish leader of coalition government, alliance rock solid: Lalu Prasad Yadav

  • The Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav has asserted that Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar was the leader of the coalition government in the state.
    Yadav's comments have come at a time when a massive controversy is raging after gangster Shahabuddin said that he did not consider Nitish as a leader but an accidental chief minister.
    "Nitish is the leader of the grand alliance government. The BJP has no other issue than Shahabuddin. It is the judiciary that has granted bail to Shahabuddin," said Yadav.
    The RJD chief appealed that the controversy surrounding the grand alliance government in Bihar after the release of gangster turned politician Shahabuddin should cease. He added that the opposition in the state was trying to create a rift between the JDU and the RJD.
    "The grand alliance was formed after much thought. If someone has some grievance, they should raise it at the party level," said Yadav.
    The RJD leader was also miffed at the press conference convened by ministers Bijendra Yadav and Lallan Singh, both from JDU quota, to slam RJD Vice-President Raghuvansh Prasad Singh and said that in future no party should convene press conferences unilaterally.
    "The state president of all the three parties, JDU-RJD-Congress should address press conferences jointly to avoid confusion," he said.
    Yadav asserted that despite the recent friction between the JDU and the RJD over Shahabuddin and his scathing attack on Bihar CM, the grand alliance was intact like a rock.
    "BJP's  mouth is watering for power. We had formed grand alliance to keep the BJP at bay. Our alliance is rock solid," he said.
    The chief admitted there could be differences between alliance partners over ideology, however, he added that solutions on the differences should be found at the party level.
    "It's a grand alliance governemnt in Bihar. One should think before giving any comment because that may damage the alliance," advised Yadav.

Business Affairs 

Sensex settles the day in green, Nifty ends just a tad below 8,750; RIL top gainer

  • In a lacklustre trade, the S&P BSE Sensex on Thursday gained 40 points, while the broader Nifty50 settled the day just a tad below its key 8,750 level.
    The headline indices swung between gains and losses, tracking muted regional stock markets, as concerns over the global central banks' ability to stimulate growth continued to hurt risk-appetite.
    The 30-share index ended the day at 28,412, up 40.66 points, while broad-based 50-share index quoted 8,742, up 15.95 points.
    Perceived limits to the extensive monetary easings led by major central banks such as the European Central Bank and the Bank of Japan have soured broader risk sentiment.
    Sentiment back home was also frail as investors took a breather after indexes hit 18-month high last week, helped by overseas inflows.
    Foreign investors have been buying into domestic shares as part of a shift to higher-yielding emerging markets, bringing the total net investments to $6.31 billion so far this year.
    "What we are seeing now is some amount of consolidation and a slightly range-bound market which should continue through the next trading session, on the back of uncertainties surrounding major central banks' moves," said Gaurang Shah, vice president, Geojit BNP Paribas Financial Services.
    Bank stocks were the biggest drag on the indexes, with the Nifty Bank Index declining as much as 0.74 per cent after gaining 0.60 per cent in the previous session.
    State Bank of India fell 0.9 per cent, ICICI Bank declined 0.6 per cent, while Axis Bank lost 2.1 per cent.

5 big challenges Indian Railways faces

  • Indian Railways is the fifth biggest rail network in the world with 1.3 million employees and it is a massive task to streamline its operations.
    Different Union governments and railway ministers have commissioned multiple studies on what ails the Railways and how to turn it around.
    Railways Minister Suresh Prabhu is trying to restructure the Railways to make it more efficient. From upgrading the quality of coaches, adding Wi-Fi, running special trains like super luxury Tejas and modern Deen Dayalu to reducing costs, speeding up project execution, and dreaming up new ways of raising finances.
    Though he seems to be clear that nothing should hold up work on his mission, Indian Railways still faces a lot of challenges.
    1. Railways continues to master Fiscal Jugglery
    The working of Indian Railways is caught up between making it a self-sufficient organisation and serving it as a transport system for the poor. The result being no rise in passenger fares and new trains and routes being decided on non-commercial reasons. The passenger fares usually remain static for years, burdening the Union Budget. In order to keep finances in check, freight charges have been raised in the past. But the discrepancy between freight charges and passenger fares seem to distort the Railways' performance. The recent decision of surge pricing of tickets in premium trains is a move in a correct direction. But biggest headache for Railways is expansion of their freight basket.
    2. Operating Efficiency
    Indian railways has a huge employee base of 1.3 million, which includes powerful workers' unions. It has become a centralised organisation with hierarchical decision-making. As a result, even simple decisions take years to resolve. Operating ratios are likely to get worse as costs pile up, including money for the 7th Pay Commission recommendations which is nearly Rs 28,000 crore this year to retirees and serving employees of Railways. The Railways is only ministry at present which gives back dividend on Gross Budgetary Support. Last year, they paid Rs 7,000 Cr to the finance ministry.   
    3. Finances and accounting
    Indian Railways spends heavily on revenue expenditure - there is little left for capital expenditure. Indian Railways need to generate enough funds on its own for capital expenditure and also find new, non-government sources of funding in order to witness a noticeable change. But that can only happen if Railways is run as an efficient corporation with a healthy balance sheet that can be leveraged to raise debt. Prabhu is also looking at taking the investments in Railways to Rs 8.56 lakh crore by 2019. Next year onwards, there will be no separate Railway budget. At present it is only merger of speech with General Budget, but discussions are on to takeover liabilities of the Railways and merging the accounts with national financial records.    
    4. General inefficiencies
    Indian Railways lags behind on a lot of parameters. In the previous fiscal, it missed most of its targets, including of electrification, track renewals, bridge works, and doubling of tracks. In 2014/15, projects worth Rs 6.5 lakh crore were stuck, including works related to doubling, new lines, gauge conversion, traffic facilities, and electrification. Today Railways faces a burden of Rs 4,83,511 crore for the execution of 458 unfinished projects.
    5. Stranded projects
    Suresh Prabhu is trying to complete unfinished projects. He has appointed mission directors to ensure smooth execution of these projects. He has started few trains in the past two years. He has come up with a five-year plan. Any faulty execution of projects could land Railways in a debt trap. Prabhu is focusing on station redevelopment, construction of new lines, debottlenecking the existing freight corridors, formulation of new suburban railway networks, restricting the lethargic Railway Board etc.  

Exports fall to $21.51 bn in August, trade deficit narrows

  • India's exports declined for the second consecutive month in August by 0.3 per cent to $21.51 billion due to dip in shipments of products like petroleum and leather.
    The outward shipments stood at $21.58 billion in August 2015 . The country's imports too contracted by 14 per cent to $29.91 billion, leaving a trade deficit of $7.67 billion in the month under review.
    The trade gap was narrowed in August this year from $12.4 billion in the same month last year, according to the data released by the commerce ministry.
    The important export sectors which recorded negative growth in the month include petroleum (14 per cent), leather (7.82 per cent) and chemicals (5 per cent). Further dip in gold imports too helped in bridging the trade gap. The precious metal imports dipped by 77.45 per cent to $1.11 billion in August 2016.
    Oil imports during the month fell by 8.47 per cent to $6.74 billion. Since December 2014, exports fell for the straight 18 months till May 2016 due to weak global demand and slide in oil prices. Shipments witnessed growth only in June this year thereafter again entered into negative zone in July. 

RBI to shortly issue Rs 20 notes with governor Urjit Patel signature

  • The Reserve Bank will shortly issue Rs 20 denomination banknotes bearing signature of Governor Urjit R Patel.
    RBI said the Mahatma Gandhi Series-2005 will have the inset letter 'R' on both number panels and the year of printing '2016' printed on reverse of the banknote.
    The design and security features are similar to the Rs 20 banknotes in Mahatma Gandhi Series-2005 issued earlier, except that on obverse, the numerals on both number panels will be in ascending size from left to right while the first three alpha-numeric characters (prefix) will remain constant in size.
    "The numeral 20, RBI seal, Mahatma Gandhi's portrait, RBI legend, guarantee and promise clause, the governor's signature and Ashoka Pillar emblem which were hitherto printed in intaglio (raised printing) are now being printed in offset (without any raised printing)," the central bank said.
    Further, the rectangular identification mark on the left side of the banknote has been removed.
    "While there is no change in the colour at the reverse, the colour at the obverse is lighter (due to removal of intaglio printing)," it added.
    All the banknotes in the denomination of Rs 20 issued by RBI in the past will continue to be legal tender.

Expressways of progress: Gadkari announces Rs 1,33,500-crore projects

  • The government will soon launch three expressway projects-Delhi-Amritsar-Katra, Delhi-Jaipur and Vadodara-Mumbai-soon at a cost of about Rs 1,32,000 crore, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said on Thursday. The minister also announced Rs 1,500-crore expressway project between Kanpur and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh. 
    "We will soon start three important expressway projects that would reduce travel time significantly between Delhi-Katra, Delhi-Jaipur and Vadodara-Mumbai. These would entail a total project cost of Rs 1,32,000 crore," Gadkari said.
    He hoped that the travel distance to these destinations will reduce significantly once the projects are operationalised.
    As per the plan, Amritsar could be reached via Delhi in up to 3 hours after completion of the Rs 60,000-crore Amritsar-Delhi expressway, which will reduce travel duration by over two hours.
    Also on the anvil is a project connecting Jalandhar to Ajmer that will bring down the travel time to 5 hours.
    Meetings in this regard are scheduled with chief ministers of Jammu & Kashmir, Punjab, Haryana, Delhi and Rajasthan.
    Uttar Pradesh 
    A Rs 1,500-crore expressway project between Kanpur and Lucknow in Uttar Pradesh would also be launched soon, Gadkari said.
    The project is part of Rs 2-lakh crore highway projects in the state, the road minister said.
    "Detailed project report is being prepared for an eight-lane access controlled expressway between Kanpur and Lucknow. The estimated cost of the project would be around Rs 1,500 crore," the minister said.
    Once completed, "Kanpur to Lucknow distance can be travelled in 35-40 minutes", Gadkari said adding that it will be an elevated road.
    The minister said massive road network would be laid in the entire state and the government has planned at least Rs 2 lakh crore projects of which work on about Rs 70,000 crore projects is underway.
    Gadkari last month laid foundation of three projects-Rs 806 crore Varanasi-Jaunpur stretch on National Highway No 56, Rs 785 crore Varanasi-Ajamgarh stretch on National Highway No 233 and Varanasi-Gazipur stretch on NH 29.
    The minister said Rs 868 crore would be spent on Varanasi-Gazipur stretch. These highway stretches are scheduled to be completed by June 2018.
    Gadkari said these stretches would result in all-round development of the state by promoting seamless flow of cargo traffic and passengers, and also also promote tourism and minimise the accidents.
    Gadkari said there were plans to promote cargo traffic in a big way on the Ganga river.
    "Our experiment to transport Maruti cars from Varanasi to Haldia has been successful. Now few other automobile companies like Mahindra have also come forward," he said.
    The minister said it will be gamechanger and transportation through water will bring down the prices of Maruti cars in North East and West Bengal by Rs 3,000 to Rs 4,000 each.
    The minister said transportation of steel, cement and fertilisers would also be started soon.
    "At present 20 lakh tonne of cargo is moved through Ganga which will be expanded to 200 lakh tonne of cargo by 2018, and we are setting up three multi-modal hubs on Ganga."
    As part of plans to develop waterways and make the Ganga river navigable, Gadkari last month laid the foundation stone of a Rs 211-crore multi-modal terminal in Varanasi.
    The phase 1 of the multi-modal terminal would be built at a cost of Rs 211 crore and would be ready by August 2018.
    The terminal is part of Rs 4,200-crore Jal Marg Vikas project to enable commercial navigation of vessels with capacity of 1,500-2,000 DWT Tonnage from Varanasi to Haldia.

General Awareness

Priyanka Chopra bagged 8th position in Forbes List of Highest paid TV Actresses
    1. Priyanka Chopra has become the first Indian star to enter theForbes list of highest paid television actresses in the world.
      Forbes Highest Paid List:-
      • Colombian-American actress Sofia Vergara topped Forbes magazine’s annual list of best paid television actresses for the fifth year in a row, earning $43 million.
      The top 10 highly paid actress as follows,
      1 Sofia Vergara
      2 Kaley cuoco
      3 Mindly Kaling
      4 Ellen Pompeo
      5 Mariska Harigitay
      6 Kerry Washington
      7 Stana Katic
      8 Priyanka Chopra
      9 Julianna Margulies
      10 Julie Bowen
      In all, the 15 highest-paid female stars of the small screen made a combined $208.5 million between June 2015 and June 2016 —$43.5 more than last year’s combined total of $165 million.
      • This increase can be chalked up to some new lucrative endorsement deals like Vergara’s with the Ninja Coffee Bar and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ with Old Navy.
      •  New to the list is Priyanka Chopra, who stars on ABC’s Quantico. While Chopra may be relatively new to an  American audience, she is one of the most famous faces in India.
      • In the past year, she has starred in two Bollywood mega films (Bajirao Mastani and Jai Gangaajal) and will take her big-screen talent stateside later this year with one of the lead roles in Baywatch alongside Hollywood heavy-hitters including Dwayne Johnson, the world’s highest-paid actor.
      But like most television actresses her millions are not made from screen time alone. Chopra is one of India’s top picks for advertisers, recently winning a seven-figure deal with sparkling juice brand Appy Fizz. 
      About Priyanka Chopra :
      Priyanka Chopra is an Indian actress, singer, philanthropist, and the winner of the Miss World 2000  One of the highest-paid actresses in the world and one of India’s most popular celebrities, Chopra has also gained recognition for her sense of style.
      • She has receivednumerous awards, including a National Film Award, and five Filmfare Awards, and was awarded the Padma Shri, the fourth highest civilian award, by the Government of India in 2016. That same year, Time named her as one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
      • Although Chopra initially aspired to study engineering orpsychiatry, she accepted offers to join the Indian film industry,which came as a result of her pageant wins, making her Hindi film debut in The Hero in 2003.
      • She played the leading lady in the box-office hitsAndaaz(2003) and Mujhse Shaadi Karogi (2004), and earned praise for her breakout role in the 2004 thriller Aitraaz.
      • In 2006, Chopra established herself as a leading actress of Indian cinema with starring roles in the top-grossing productions Krrish and Don. Following a brief setback, she received critical acclaim for playing a troubled model in the drama Fashion (2008),which won her the National Film Award for Best Actress and the Filmfare Award for Best Actress.
      • Chopra subsequently gained recognition for her versatility in portraying a range of unconventional characters in the films Kaminey (2009), 7 Khoon Maaf (2011), Barfi! (2012), Mary Kom (2014), Dil Dhadakne Do (2015), and Bajirao Mastani (2015), all of which garnered her critical acclaim and several accolades.
      • In addition to her acting career, Chopra is noted for her philanthropic work, and was appointed as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador for Child Rights in 2010. She promotes various causes such as environment, health and education, and women’s rights, and is particularly vocal about gender equality, and gender pay gap.
      • Though she is reticent to discuss her personal life in public, her off-screen life is the subject of substantial media coverage. As a singer, she has released three singles. Chopra is also the founder of the production company Purple Pebble Pictures.

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