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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Current Affairs - 30 October 2016

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General Affairs 

Rs. 5 Crore To Army Welfare 'Never Decided' At Meeting: Devendra Fadnavis On 'Ae Dil...' Row
  • MUMBAI:  Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis today said the contribution of Rs. 5 crore to the Army Welfare Fund by filmmakers was "never decided" at the meeting he had mediated between MNS chief Raj Thackeray and director Karan Johar to ensure smooth release of "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil".

    Karan Johar's film "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" had faced protests by MNS for casting Pakistani actor Fawad Khan.

    The film's smooth release, scheduled to open on October 28, was ensured after a meeting among the Film Producers' Guild, the producers, and Raj Thackeray, mediated by Fadnavis last week.

    It was agreed upon at the meeting the filmmakers would contribute Rs. 5 crore to the army welfare fund, which sparked strong reactions from Opposition and some army veterans.

    Replying to a question whether he will monitor the filmmakers' contribution demanded by the MNS, now that the film has released, Mr Fadnavis said, "Such a decision (filmmakers' contribution of Rs. 5 crore) was never taken at the meeting. Even producers' guild chief Mukesh Bhatt has said that I had told the producers that there was no compulsion to accept the MNS demand."

    Under fire for "brokering" a deal between producers of "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil" and Raj Thackeray, Mr Fadnavis had earlier said he had opposed the offer of Rs. 5 crore contribution from the film makers to the Army Welfare Fund.

    "When the issue of Rs. 5 crore came up, I intervened and made it clear to the Film Producers' Guild that they need not have to agree to it. I also told them that the contribution has to be made voluntarily. However, it was the producers' decision to accept it," Mr Fadnavis had said explaining his stand.

    "Ae Dil Hai Mushkil", a romantic drama, which stars Ranbir Kapoor, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Anushka Sharma, got a smooth opening yesterday at theatres across the state.

India, China National Security Advisers To Meet Next Week To Discuss Bilateral Ties
  • BEIJING:  National Security Advisers of India and China will meet next week to discuss measures to improve bilateral ties which are strained by differences over a host of issues including India's admission into NSG and Beijing's attempts to block UN ban on JeM Chief Masood Azhar.

    National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi will meet in Hyderabad in November first week for informal dialogue on the state of bilateral relations, especially the irritants bedevilling the development of ties, officials said.

    Besides blocking India's admission into the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), China had put a second technical hold on India's move to bring about a UN ban on Azhar. Also India has been protesting over the USD 46 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

    While India is concerned over the Pakistan factor creeping into India-China relations making the bilateral ties more complex, China too is airing its apprehensions over the movement to boycott Chinese goods in India as well the visit of US Ambassador to New Delhi, Richard Verma, to Arunachal Pradesh, which it considers as Southern Tibet and India's permission to allow the Dalai Lama to visit the area.

    Chinese officials say Beijing is apprehensive about India moving closer to US and Japan broadening its strategic and defence ties with both the countries.

    Mr Doval and Mr Yang who are the designated Special Representatives of the India-China boundary talks, also periodically meet to discuss the whole gamut of the Sino-Indian relations.

    Mr Yang was the former foreign minister of China before he was elevated to the rank of State Councillor of the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) after President Xi Jinping took over power in 2013.

    In Chinese power structure, State Councillor is more powerful than the Foreign Minister on foreign policy issues.

    Both Mr Doval and Mr Yang have been meeting regularly to discuss the problems affecting the bilateral relations.

We Will Not Bow Down Before Anyone: Rajnath Singh On Ceasefire Violations
  • NEW DELHI:  Amid the continuing ceasefire violations by Pakistani troops along Line of Control, Home Minister Rajnath Singh today assured the nation that security forces were giving "befitting reply" to firing from across border and that the country will not bow down before anyone.

    "I want to assure the nation that the security forces are giving befitting reply to the firing from Pakistan. We will not bow down before anyone," he told reporters.

    Mr Singh said if countrymen were celebrating Diwali, it was because of the security personnel guarding the borders.

    The Home Minister said people must have faith in security forces who are foiling the evil designs of enemies.

    Terrorists, aided by the cover fire by Pakistani Army, last night crossed the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir and killed an Indian soldier and mutilated his body, prompting the army to warn that the "incident will be responded to appropriately."

    Four Army and three BSF personnel have died in the latest escalation along the boundary with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

    Pakistan Rangers also violated ceasefire in RS Pura and Kathua sectors along International Border today.

Border Security Force (BSF) Soldier Killed In Pak Ceasefire Violation
  • SRINAGAR:  A soldier of the Border Security Force or BSF was killed today in firing by Pakistani troops, violating the ceasefire, in Machil sector along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir.

    28-year-old Constable Koli Nitin Subhash, of Sangli in Maharashtra, was killed this morning in firing by Pakistani security forces, a BSF official said.

    Constable Subhash had joined BSF in 2008 and is survived by his wife and a four-year-old and two-year-old son.

    The incident came hours after terrorists, aided by the cover fire by Pakistani Army, last night crossed the Line of Control in the sector.

    They killed an Indian army soldier and mutilated his body prompting the Indian Army to warn that "the incident will be responded to appropriately".

    Four army and three BSF personnel have died in the latest escalation along the boundary with Pakistan in Jammu and Kashmir.

    Pakistan Rangers also violated the ceasefire in RS Pura and Kathua sectors along International Border today.

    In last night's attack, one terrorist was killed

    "In an encounter close to the Line of Control this evening, one solider was martyred and one terrorist was killed. The terrorists mutilated the body of the jawan before fleeing back into Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir under the cover of firing by Pakistan Army," an army spokesman said.

    He said the incident reflected the barbarism pervading in official and unofficial organisations in Pakistan.

Soldiers Deployed On Posts Above 9,000 Feet To Get 'High Altitude Medal': Rajnath Singh
  • GREATER NOIDA:  Border-guarding troops deployed on posts above 9,000 feet will now be decorated with a new 'high altitude medal' to recognise their services in the tough terrain and adverse climate areas, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today.

    Officiating as the chief guest for the 55th Raising Day celebrations of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police in Greater Noida, Mr Singh said a policy decision has been taken to honour the valour and commitment to duty of the men and women of these forces.

    The new medal will also given to the personnel of forces like the BSF (Indo-Pak, Indo-Bangla border-guarding force) and the SSB (Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan border guarding force) among others.

    "We got to know that there were some difficulties in awarding the high altitude medals to the personnel working at border outposts located above the height of 9,000 ft. So, we have decided that now all jawans and officers who work at a height of 9,000 ft and above will be awarded with the high altitude medal," he said.

    The forces, officials said, have been making a demand for instituting such a medal as this will work to boost the morale of those personnel who render duties in such harsh conditions.

    The Home Minister acknowledged that forces like ITBP work in adverse conditions facing vagaries of harsh climate and difficult terrain.

    "I am aware of the adverse conditions the ITBP personnel face while discharging their duties," he said.

    He recalled his visit to such an ITBP border post in the Ladakh region sometime back.

    "I have seen ITBP personnel working in tough, adverse conditions and even that could not dampen their morale. They have carried out all responsibilities they were entrusted with," he said.

    Mr Singh said the government has also recently decided to raise the financial aid amount to the families of the troops of paramilitary forces who lay down their lives in line of duty.

    "The force personnel who are martyred in combat with terrorists and extremists or anti-social elements, the compensation to them has been increased from Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 25 lakh. Those who make the supreme sacrifice in the duty at border posts, the financial aid to their families has been increased from Rs. 15 lakh to Rs. 35 lakh," the Home Minister said.

    The 90,000-personnel strong ITBP, raised in 1962, is deployed to secure the 3,488-km Sino-India border running along five states from Karakoram Pass in Jammu and Kashmir to Jechap La in Arunachal Pradesh.

    Many of the ITBP posts are located at a height of 9,000 feet upto 14,500 feet.

Business Affairs 

India offers to buy 200 foreign combat jets - if they're Made-in-India
  • India is offering to buy hundreds of fighter planes from foreign manufacturers - as long as the jets are made in India and with a local partner, air force officials say.
    A deal for 200 single-engine planes produced in India - which the air force says could rise to 300 as it fully phases out ageing Soviet-era aircraft - could be worth anything from $13-$15 billion, experts say, potentially one of the country's biggest military aircraft deals.
    After a deal to buy high-end Rafale planes from France's Dassault was scaled back to just 36 jets last month, the Indian Air Force is desperately trying to speed up other acquisitions and arrest a fall in operational strength, now a third less than required to face both China and Pakistan.
    But Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration wants any further military planes to be built in India with an Indian partner to kickstart a domestic aircraft industry, and end an expensive addiction to imports.
    Lockheed Martin said it is interested in setting up a production line for its F-16 plane in India for not just the Indian military, but also for export.
    And Sweden's Saab has offered a rival production line for its Gripen aircraft, setting up an early contest for one of the biggest military plane deals in play.
    "The immediate shortfall is 200. That would be the minimum we would be looking at," said an air officer briefed on the Make-in-India plans under which a foreign manufacturer will partner local firms to build the aircraft with technology transfer.
    India's defence ministry has written to several companies asking if they would be willing to set up an assembly line for single-engine fighter planes in India and the amount of technology transfer that would happen, another government source said.
    "We are testing the waters, testing the foreign firms' willingness to move production here and to find out their expectations," the person said.
    India's air force originally planned for 126 Rafale twin-engine fighters from Dassault, but the two sides could not agree on the terms of local production with a state-run Indian firm and settled for 36 planes in a fly-away condition.
    Adding to the military's problems is India's three-decade effort to build a single-engine fighter of its own which was meant to be the backbone of the air force. Only two of those Light Combat Aircraft, called Tejas, have been delivered to the air force which has ordered 140 of them.
    The Indian Air Force is down to 32 operational squadrons compared with the 45 it has said are necessary, and in March the vice chief Air Marshal B.S. Dhanoa told parliament's defence committee that it didn't have the operational strength to fight a two front war against China and Pakistan.

    Saab said it was ready to not only produce its frontline Gripen fighter in India, but help build a local aviation industry base.
    "We are very experienced in transfer of technology - our way of working involves extensive cooperation with our partners to establish a complete ecosystem, not just an assembly line," said Jan Widerström, Chairman and Managing Director, Saab India Technologies.
    He confirmed Saab had received the letter from the Indian government seeking a fourth generation fighter. A source close to the company said that while there was no minimum order set in stone for it to lay down a production line, they would expect to build at least 100 planes at the facility.
    Lockheed Martin said it had responded to the defence ministry's letter with an offer to transfer the entire production of its F-16 fighter to India.
    "Exclusive F-16 production in India would make India home to the world's only F-16 production facility, a leading exporter of advanced fighter aircraft, and offer Indian industry the opportunity to become an integral part of the world's largest fighter aircraft supply chain," Abhay Paranjape, National Executive for Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Business Development in India said in an email.
    Lockheed's offer comes on the back of expanding U.S.-India military ties in which Washington has emerged as India's top arms supplier in recent years, ousting old ally Russia.
    Earlier this year Boeing also offered India its twin-engine F/A-18 Hornets, but the level of technology transfer was not clear.
    India has never previously attempted to build a modern aircraft production line, whether military or civilian. State-run Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL) has assembled Russian combat jets including the Su-30, but these are under licensed production.
    "We have never had control over technology. This represents the most serious attempt to build a domestic base. A full or a near-full tech transfer lays the ground for further development," said retired Indian air marshal M. Matheswaran, a former adviser at HAL.
    He said the Indian government would be looking at producing at least 200 fighters, and then probably some more, to make up for the decades of delay in modernising the air force.

    With Tata patriarch back as pilot, likely tailwind for airline ventures
    • As family patriarch Ratan Tata takes back the controls at his Indian conglomerate after a boardroom coup this week, one sector is cheering his, albeit interim, return: the group's airline ventures, both lagging competitors in India's cutthroat market.
      Industry executives and analysts say they expect loss-making Vistara and AirAsia India, both part-owned by Tata, to enjoy fresh cash and expansion plans as low fuel prices and Indian government policy drive a boom in air travel.
      "Now he's back, we'll see him taking aggressive steps," said Mark D Martin, chief executive at Martin Consulting, adding this could include growing other ventures such as Taj Air, a charter company also owned by the Tata group.
      Vistara and AirAsia India declined to comment.
      Tata Sons, the parent controlling Tata's listed businesses, has said Ratan Tata's return from retirement is temporary, and denied the move would mean any extra focus on the airlines - other than for business reasons. "Both businesses are completely focused on enhancing their market positions," a spokesman said.
      But analysts say the move will have a longer-term impact, with the family reasserting its influence in day-to-day operations.
      Tata agreed to invest an estimated $60 million into the two airlines when they launched, mostly into Vistara.
      The two airlines have a combined India market share of around 5 percent - dwarfed by more established carriers like InterGlobe Aviation's budget airline IndiGo.
      AT ODDS
      The Tata family has a long history with aviation.
      Ratan Tata's predecessor was India's first qualified pilot, and Tata's first airline was later nationalised as state carrier Air India. Ratan Tata, insiders said, fulfilled a long-held dream when he pulled the group back into the aviation sector in 2013.
      Ousted chairman Cyrus Mistry, who replaced Tata in 2012, was less keen, however.
      In a leaked letter to the Tata board earlier this week, Mistry said he had opposed Tata's 2013 partnership with Malaysia's AirAsia Bhd to launch AirAsia India.
      More than a year later, Tata started a second airline, Vistara, in partnership with Singapore Airlines.
      "Tata Sons took a considered view that it makes business sense to take part in India's civil aviation industry," a spokesman for Tata Sons said.
      Mistry's blistering letter portrayed Ratan Tata, 78, as a man who cast aside his advice and bulldozed through major decisions. Mistry considered the airlines to be proof that he had his hands tied as chairman, illustrating just how Tata still pulled the strings even after retiring.
      "It is on his advice that the Tata Sons board has increased the capital infusion in the (aviation) sector at multiple levels of the initial commitment," Mistry wrote.
      Tata has not detailed its most recent capital infusion, but media reports have said it increased its stake in AirAsia India over time to 49 percent from 30 percent for an undisclosed sum.
      In Vistara, 51 percent-owned by Tata, media reported last month Tata approved injecting an additional $37 million alongside Singapore Airlines, which would bring the total equity by the joint-owners to around $150 million.
      Whoever's in charge, turning a profit in India's competitive environment will be tough. Analysts say two years is too short: budget airlines could take up to five years and full service carriers up to seven years to be profitable.
      Vistara has already had to revise its strategy, which initially sought to target business travellers, and AirAsia India has seen several senior management changes since it launched in 2014, and experts have queried its strategy.
      Airline analysts and consultants said they expect Tata to strengthen the group's market foothold, for example, by expanding its partnership with Metro Jets, a provider of business aviation services including charters and maintenance.
      "For Ratan Tata, it's an emotional issue," said Harsh Vardhan, head of Starair Consulting. "The Tatas think they pioneered aviation in the country, and again have a role to play."

      Bosch resumes operations at Jaipur plant
      • Auto component maker Bosch Ltd on Saturday said it has resumed operations at its Jaipur plant following the Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board keeping a notice to close the plant in abeyance for a month.
        Yesterday, the company had stated that it would cease operations at its Jaipur plant following a notice by Rajasthan State Pollution Control Board (RSPCB) for alleged violation of norms regarding waste water treatment. The board had revoked consent given to operate the plant.
        "We now wish to inform you that based on representation made by the company, RSPCB have kept in abeyance the above order for a period of one month...Accordingly, the Jaipur Plant will resume routine operations henceforth," Bosch Ltd said in a BSE filing.
        Stating that it would co-operate with the authorities for an early resolution of the matter, it said: "There is no material impact on account of the suspension of operations of the plant for a day."
        It had, however, stated yesterday that the production loss due the closure is approximately Rs 2.5 crore per day.
        Bosch said the plant had a licence valid till February 28, 2017.
        The revocation of the licence was for alleged "non-fulfillment of certain conditions with respect to waste water treatment and re-use of the treated water".
        Commissioned in 1999, the company's Jaipur facility is the lead plant for fuel injection pumps for diesel engines. It supplies these pumps to many major automobile manufacturers in India.

        Reliance Industries gets world's 1st very large ethane-carrying ships
        • Reliance Industries has received the delivery of world's first very large ethane carrying ships that will be used for ferrying the fuel from the US.
          Reliance had in 2014 ordered building of six Very Large Ethane Carriers (VLECs) at Samsung Heavy Industries' shipyards in Korea.
          The vessels are the first to feature new membrane technology from French specialist GTT, considered key to the execution of the project. With a capacity of 87,000 cubic meters, the two vessels are the largest ethane carriers built to date.
          "In a ceremony held in Geoje (South Korea), Reliance Industries Ltd inaugurated its very first two VLECs," GTT said in a statement.
          The two vessels, named Ethane Crystal and Ethane Emerald, are the first in a series of six VLECs ordered by RIL in 2014.
          Japan's biggest shipping company Mitsui OSK Lines will manage and operate the ships for RIL.
          Ethane, a natural gas component, is expected to be produced in large volumes in North America due to the shale gas revolution, which has generated an abundance of liquefied natural gas (LNG) and cooking gas LPG.
          Ethane is primarily used as a petrochemical feedstock to produce ethylene by steam cracking.
          RIL plans to ship 1.5 million tonnes a year of ethane from its US shale joint ventures to its chemical complex in Gujarat.
          The firm has two joint ventures in Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale - one with Chevron, in which it has invested $1.7 billion, and another with Houston-based Carrizo Oil and Gas, in which it has invested $392 million.
          It has a third JV, in which it invested $1.5 billion, in Texas' Eagle Ford Shale with Dallas-based Pioneer Natural Resources.
          The world's richest energy billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led RIL's business spans petrochemicals, exploration and production, retail and telecommunications.
          As per the original contract, Samsung was to deliver the ships to be used for ethane transportation, from October 2016 to January 2017. Each ship is priced at $120 million.
          VLECs are a hybrid of LNG carrier and LPG carrier.
          Due to the expectation of competitively priced ethane as opposed to naphtha, a crude oil byproduct, petrochemical producers are hoping to lower their production costs by using ethane.
          The VLECs are to transport liquefied ethane from the US to the Dahej terminal in Gujarat, which will be used to supply feedstock for RIL's crackers in Dahej, Hazira and Nagothane.
          RIL has an ethane supply contract in place with Enterprise Product Partners out of their Morgan's Point terminal in the US Gulf, which exported its first ethane cargo in September on a 27,500 cubic meter vessel for Ineos.
          Earlier this week, RIL had stated that it has secured a $573 million of loan for part-financing of the vessel construction costs.

          India to have almost 1 billion mobile subscribers by 2020
          • India is expected to see a significant uptick in mobile subscriptions, broadband and connectivity with almost a billion unique mobile subscribers expected by 2020, marking a period of rapid development of the country's mobile economy, a new study has revealed.
            The new report, 'The Mobile Economy: India 2016' by GSMA Intelligence, noted that at the end of June 2016, 616 million unique users had subscribed to mobile services in India, making it the second-largest mobile market globally.
            India also overtook the US in 2016 to become the world's second-largest smartphone market with an installed base of 275 million devices.
            The report forecasts that improving affordability, falling device prices and operator investments in network coverage and quality will help deliver an additional 330 million unique subscribers in India by 2020, lifting the country's penetration rate to 68 per cent of the population (up from 47 per cent in 2015).
            India is also seeing an ongoing technology shift to mobile broadband services; the number of 3G/4G mobile broadband connections is forecast to reach more than 670 million by 2020, 48 per cent of the total connection base, it said.
            There will also be an accelerating move to 4G over this period. The number of 4G connections is forecast to grow rapidly, growing from just 3 million at the end of 2015 to 280 million by 2020. In addition, the industry is set to invest heavily, with operator capex growing to USD 34 billion for the period 2016 to 2020.
            "With this report, all signs point to a period of tremendous growth for India's mobile economy, which will strongly support and enable the government's 'Digital India' initiative aimed at providing broadband connectivity to all," said Mats Granryd, Director General, GSMA.
            "To fully realise India's tremendous market potential, review and reform in key areas, including modernising regulation and long-term planning for spectrum allocation, would accelerate mobile broadband access and adoption across the country," he said.

          General Awareness

          India ranks 87th on the WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016

          • India has climbed 21 spots to rank 87th on the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016 while in 2015, it was ranked 108th. With this jump in ranking, India has now overtaken China which is ranked 99th out of 144 countries.
            Iceland tops the latest rankings followed by Finland, Norway and Sweden. The reportmeasures gender gap as progress towards parity between men and women in four areas – educational attainment, health and survival, economic opportunity and political empowerment.
            The 2016 Report covers 144 countries. The report estimates that the global economic gender gap will now not close until the year 2186.
            WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016 – Top 10 Countries
            New Zealand9
            WEF’s Global Gender Gap Report 2016 – South Asia
            Sri Lanka100

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