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Current Affairs - 13 November 2016

General Affairs 

Rail Network To Make Northeast India A 'Destination': Suresh Prabhu
  • AIZAWL:  The railway network would make northeast India a "destination" instead of being a transit point, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu said in Mizoram.

    "The railway network would make resource rich northeast India a "destination" instead of being a transit spot," Mr Prabhu said late Friday while laying the foundation stone of the railway station building at Sairang, 20 km north of Mizoram capital Aizawl.

    Underlining the role of railways in economic development of the northeastern region, he said: "Railway would not only be the engine of growth but would also be the catalyst of social transformation."

    "Railway network would also bring people of the region more closer and help to overcome various problems in tapping the resources and to supply goods," he added.

    Citing examples of rich natural resources found in Mizoram, the minister called for better utilisation of the natural resources like the bamboo.

    Mr Prabhu announced that railways would plan to use more bamboo products made in the region in the Indian railway system to give a boost to the potential industry.

    He said that Indian railways would construct all future stations in the country keeping the local ethos as a major part of the design.

    Minister of State for Railways Rajen Gohain, who was also present on the occasion, said that the new broad gauge line from Bairabi to Sairang was part of the Indian railway's vision to connect all the capitals of northeastern states through broad gauge line by 2020.

    The 50.38 km new line, being laid by the Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR), originates from Bairabi (under Kolsib district in northern Mizoram) and terminates at Sairang station, which is 20 km from Aizawl.

    "Due to the very steep gradient of the mountainous terrain between Sairang and Aizawl, it was not feasible to take the line up to Mizoram capital city," Mr Gohain said, adding that efforts are being made to complete the project in the stipulated time.

    Mizoram Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla said that the extension of broad gauge railway line up to Sairang would be a milestone in the progress of Mizoram.

    Speaking at the function, Mizoram Governor Lt Gen (retd.) Nirbhay Sharma emphasised on building railway connectivity with neighbouring Bangladesh and Myanmar in the near future as it would be vital for the development of Mizoram.

    The governor also requested the state government and railway authorities to consider construction of a high quality hospital and a school at Sairang for the benefit of the people.

    The 50.38 km Bairabi-Sairang new broad gauge line alignment passes through complicated mountainous terrain covered with dense forest throughout its length.

    At least 23 tunnels -- the longest being 1,766 metre -- and 38 major bridges and six tall bridges (the tallest being 117 metre high) would be constructed in the railway line, which is scheduled to be completed in 2019-20.

    Mizoram Transport Minister John Rotluangliana, state's Lok Sabha member C. L. Ruala, NFR's General Manager Chahatey Ram, General Manager (Construction) H. K. Jaggi among others were also present at the function.

In Cash Hungry India, Many Line Up - But To Help Out
  • NEW DELHI/BENGALURU: Endless queues, chaos and agitated crowd - scenes outside most banks and ATMs across the country as millions rush to exchange and deposit discontinued currency. But amidst the hassled crowd are some who have tried to ease this transition by helping strangers at a time of need.

    To deal with the heavy rush, some banks have asked retired staff to help ease the load on bank employees - and they readily agreed.

    "I was called by the regional head to go and assist one of the nearest branches, so I came here," said Shankar Rao, a retired employee of the Bank of Baroda in Bengaluru.

    "Yes, as soldiers we should come, this is a war footing, so like yodhas (soldiers) we should help the bank," another retired employee MR Durg said.

    In Delhi, volunteers from the Aam Aadmi Party or AAP were seen trying to bring some order amidst serpentine queues at banks and ATMs.

    "Almost 2,000 to 3,000 (volunteers) will be there right now on the ground and we are trying to increase this number," said AAP legislator Saurabh Bharadwaj.

    "We have been making lines separately for women. We have the forms here, as some people don't know about them. We are also giving water," said AAP volunteer Kalpana Prakash.

    In Uttar Pradesh's Firozabad, people who are unclear on the needed procedures have been helped by strangers.

    "Old people, women, kids and labourers are all standing in lines and the humanity in me came out. Those people who are worried and don't know how to fill forms, we have filled their forms on our own and made them join lines so they are not hassled," said a volunteer, Amit.

    In a surprise announcement to curb black money, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had declared on Tuesday night that Rs. 500 and 1000 notes will become illegal from Wednesday midnight, making them "worthless pieces of paper".  

    Long queues outside banks and ATMs have been reported from all parts of the country for the last three days as people scrambled to exchange old currency notes and bank employees worked overtime to serve customers.

PM Modi Calls For Greater Participation Of Japanese Industries
  • KOBE:  Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called for greater participation and engagement of Japanese industries, saying it will benefit Japan and India's MSME sector for which it could prove "transformational".

    Addressing a luncheon gathering of business leaders in Kobe, PM Modi recalled his association with Hyogo Prefecture and his visits to Kobe, a city on Osaka Bay in Japan, in 2007 and 2012.

    PM Modi, who travelled to Kobe from Tokyo in Japan's famed high-speed Shinkansen bullet train along with his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe, was received at Hyogo prefecture guest house. The Governor of Hyogo Toshizo Ido and Mayor of Kobe Kyuzo Hisamaoto were present at Hyogo house.

    An agreement has been signed between the state of Gujarat and Hyogo Prefectural Government to promote cooperation between them in the fields of academics, business, culture, disaster management and environmental protection.

    "A stronger web of state and provincial connections. The leaders witness exchange of MoU of Coopn between Gujarat Govt and Hyogo Prefecture," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup tweeted.

    Thanking Governor Ido for valuable efforts two develop relations with Gujarat, Modi said ties between the two sides is characterised by complete trust and mutual confidence. "Greater participation and engagement of industries in Hyogo will benefit Japan and India's MSME sector for which it could prove transformational," Modi said

    The Prime Minister said Indian community in Kobe has a long history of trade and commerce. "I congratulate all residents of Kobe on forthcoming 150 years of its port," he said.

Arvind Kejriwal Demands Rollback Of Move To Scrap Old Notes, Calls It 'Huge Scam'

  • Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Saturday said that the government's
    ambitious plan to withdraw 500 and 1,000 rupee notes from circulation was a "huge scam" and said it should be nixed immediately.

    "Before the PM announced the move on Tuesday, the BJP and its friends had been alerted and they had already stashed their cash," he said.

    Days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the dramatic announcement on Tuesday, a BJP official in Punjab posted photos of bundles of the new 2,000 rupee notes on Twitter, Mr Kejriwal said.

    Also as evidence, Mr Kejriwal offered that though deposits in banks were plummeting in the months leading to July this year, large sums had been deposited since then, indicating that many people had tried to get rid of untaxed wealth.

    "The other thing is that despite all the chaos that is going on, no black money will come back in the system. Black money will only be redistributed, it will only change hands," he said, adding that the move was encouraging touts and agents.

    "Several people have died in the last few days, there is chaos everywhere. Modi ji's surgical strike is not against black money, but against the common man who had saved up... we demand an immediate rollback," he said.

    Hailed as a landmark move to curb 'black' or unaccounted wealth, PM Modi on Tuesday night declared that 500 and 1,000 rupee notes illegal from midnight. New 500 and 2,000 notes would replace them, making the old ones "worthless pieces of paper", he said.

    Opposition parties, including the Congress, Trinamool Congress, Aam Aadmi Party and also BJP ally Shiv Sena however questioned the move, saying it would inconvenience people.
    Long queues outside banks and ATMs have been reported from all parts of the country for the last three days as people scrambled to exchange old currency notes and bank employees worked overtime to serve customers. 

Maharashtra Urban Bodies Receive Rs. 100 Crore As Dues In Scrapped Notes
  • MUMBAI:  The coffers of urban local bodies in Maharashtra swelled by whopping Rs. 100 crore as citizens rushed to pay their pending bills and dues in scrapped bank notes of Rs. 500 and 1000 as permitted by state government in a bid to ease the woes of common people.

    The state government on Friday allowed citizens to use the demonetise Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes towards payment of their electricity bill, water bill, property tax or any kind of dues after the Central government accepted state's request in this regard.

    The deadline for payment of Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes closes midnight of friday.

    "The cumulative recovery crosses Rs. 100 crore mark," said an official in the Chief Minister's Office.

    Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Friday said that government offices will accept now defunct notes till midnight of November 11.

    According to a senior official, the move by state government evoked an unprecedented response from the common people.

    "Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis's request to seek permission from Prime Minister's office and positive response to his request not only paved the way for crores of people to utilise their scrapped high denomination notes, but also led to swelling up the state's exchequer," he said.

    He said while Mumbai received highest revenue through the discontinued tender, the second highest payment was received by Pune urban bodies. However, he didn't quote the exact figure of Mumbai as the deadline ends at midnight only.

    "Even since yesterday, Kalyan Dombiwali Municipal Corporation received Rs. 4 crore, Nashik Rs.2 crore, Thane Rs. 2 crore, Meera Bhayandar Municipal Corporation Rs. 51 lakh, Ulhasnagar Rs.3.11 crore, Nagpur 1.10 crore, apart from Rs. 5.41 crore received from different municipal bodies by the Directorate of Municipal Administration, Maharashtra," he added.

    Maharashtra has 27 municipal corporations whereas nearly 300 other local civic bodies, acting as semi-government agencies, are mandated to provide essential services to residents by levying bills.

    "Normally, people wait for the last date to pay their bill, but ever since Rs. 500 and Rs. 1000 notes have been demonetised, people didn't wait for it (last date) and at many places they cleared the bills pending from several months and years," the official said quoting authorities from Revenue Department.

Business Affairs 

Anger rising in India as banks slow to dispense cash to millions
  • Anger was rising across India on Saturday as banks struggled to dispense cash after the government withdrew large denomination notes in a shock move aimed at uncovering billions of dollars of unaccounted wealth hidden from the taxman.
    Hundreds of thousands of people stood outside banks for a third day for long hours trying to replace 500 and 1,000 rupee bank notes that were abolished earlier in the week.
    These bills made up more than 80 percent of the currency in circulation leaving millions of people without cash and threatening to grind large parts of the cash-driven economy to a halt.
    "There is chaos everywhere," said Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejrilwal and a bitter foe of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He said Modi's move had upended the lives of the poor and working while the rich - whose wealth he had sought to target - had found loopholes to get around the new rules.
    People argued and banged the glass doors of a branch of Standard Chartered in southern Delhi after the security guards blocked entry, saying there were already too many people inside the bank.
    Others turned on Modi, criticising his ongoing visit to Japan while countrymen suffered at home. "He is taking bullet train rides in Japan and here you have old people knocking on bank doors for cash," said Prabhat Kumar, a college student who said he had spent six hours at the queue.
    "He has made a terrible mistake."
    Nearly half of India's 202,000 ATMs were shut on Friday and those that operated quickly ran out of the new notes as scores of people descended upon them.
    Traders in Delhi's vegetable market said they were considering to shut down the market as cash was running out and banks were dispensing a limited amount.
    "We might have to close down until the situation stabilises," said Metharam Kriplani, the president of the Chambers of Azadpur Fruit and Vegetable Traders said.
    People in Mumbai said grocers were charging ten times the price of salt in return for accepting the old cash notes and in Benguluru some people were using their old notes to buy one-time insurance policies.
    The government has asked people to redeem the old 500 and 1,000 rupees notes by Dec. 30. The central bank said there was enough cash available with banks and that it had made arrangements to deliver the new bank notes all over the country.
    But in Dudko, about 75 kms (45 miles) from Delhi, villagers said they were struggling to pay for food and fuel, four days into the cash crunch.
    One family was marrying off their daughter later this month and were worrying about their money stuck in the bank. "Bank officials are saying they will give the money on Monday. How will we make purchases," said Sunita, the mother.
    Much of India's rural economy is powered by cash transactions with few people having bank accounts or operating one even if they have an account.
    Modi's move was aimed at shrinking the "black economy", the term widely used to describe transactions that take place outside formal channels and which could be as high as 20 percent of gross domestic product, according to investment firm Ambit.
    Bribe and crime proceeds also go into this underground economy. Modi said he also wanted to strike against counterfeit 500 and 1,000 rupee notes that anti-India militants were using to finance acts of violence.

    Demonetisation among core factors for market's slump
    • The domestic crisis has been the reason for the fall in the market.  As written two days ago, the fact that demonetisation was a bigger threat to the Indian market than Donald Trump's unexpected victory was clearly evident with the BSE Sensex losing 700 points. While FIIs were sellers that sold due to the domestic crisis as well as due to dollar strengthening, domestic mutual funds decided to sit on the sidelines to adopt a wait and watch policy, thus pulling the market lower.
      In fact, markets were highly valued and have been finding reasons for correcting, which wasn't coming due to liquidity. But now it seems to have found a reason due to which it has corrected. Second, with no trigger in the market, no one has any clue as to what is actually happening on the bourses.
      For instance, the market was expecting Hillary Clinton to win the US presidential election and therefore when the FBI on the eve of the poll gave her a clean chit on the email scandal, the market rejoiced. Surprisingly the same market rose when Trump won the election to become the 45th president of the US. In reality it had to correct but it didn't as sentiments changed towards Trump - the underlying thought being that President Trump is a different person than presidential candidate Trump, and a country's policies do not change overnight.
      Demonetisation is a bigger issue than government and policy makers seem to have anticipated. More than two-third of the Indian economy is a cash economy and overnight bringing the economy to a standstill will have its own ramifications and will even impact the markets.
      In fact, in political and market corridors, the talks are this has been Modi's biggest mistake for which he will have to pay a huge price going forward. If the intention was to curb black money, which was in the interest of people, then why introduce currency of similar denomination and even higher denomination? In fact, some people say they could have sacrificed, but a half-hearted effort isn't good enough. The cycle will continue and seeing  the economic cost and inconvenience, it doesn't seem to be worth the effort.
      The pain, it seems, is likely to be there for another two to three weeks, and it will have impact on corporate performance and the market. Then, implementation of GST is still in limbo. In such a scenario, the market will look at external cues for support but fears of a rate hike in the US in December will not augur well for the Indian market. The only positive aspect is any correction could give players an opportunity to buy. But till uncertainty continues, the market will be range-bound - with a downward bias. 

    TCS stock hits fresh 52-week low as Cyrus Mistry, Tata Sons trade allegations
    • The TCS stock on Friday hit a fresh 52-week low amid former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus Mistry and the Tatas levelling allegations against each other in the public.
      At 1508 hours, the stock was trading 2.74 percent lower at Rs 2098 on the BSE.
      It made a new 52-week low of Rs 2091 level on the BSE after opening at Rs 2145 level and touching an intraday high of Rs 2146.
      It closed 2.54 percent lower on the BSE. 
      On Thursday, Tata Group issued a statement accusing Cyrus Mistry of taking credit for all the strong performance firms he inherited from Ratan  Tata and hiding weak show under his tenure by blaming the Tata Group. 

    Your neighbourhood mom-and-pop stores too can register with wallets
    • With the abolition of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes, there has been a sudden decline in the business of the local mom-and-pop stores. While consumers in tier-1 and tier-2 cities are willing to pay through the digital wallet, a majority of these stores are not registered with any.
      As per regulations, merchants can only receive payments up to Rs 10,000 per month if they haven't submitted their KYC documents. However, if they update their KYC documents, the limit extends to 1,00,000 a month. Merchants can log on to digital wallet websites to register.
      FreeCharge, One of the popular digital wallet player offers a simple procedure for merchant on-boarding with the simple download of app on a smartphone. Post installing the app, the merchant needs to create an account under 'Register as FC+ Merchant' where they need to enter the basic information. This has to be followed by creating a Paytag name (which is Unique to the merchant).
      Once the merchant/local retailer is registered as an FC+ Merchant, they can ask their customers to make the payment through various ways. This includes P2P Transaction where customers can transfer money directly to the merchant's FreeCharge account using his pay tag name or mobile number; or through QR code, where Customer can also generate a QR codes on their FreeCharge App and the merchant can scan the same through his smartphone to receive payments. For merchants who have completed the KYC documentation, Freecharge creates a QRCode pasted at their store and one can scan this QRCode to make payments. There is also an option of on-the-go pin, which requires a card processing system and involves cost.
      Paytm also offers solutions for retail stores to start using Paytm to accept payments. According to Paytm website, the merchants need to fill an online form on the Paytm's website, which asks for details such as name, mobile number, email id, business/outlet name, address and amongst other details. Paytm takes a maximum of up to 48 hours to get in touch with the merchant for the same.
      Merchants can register on MobiKwik by calling the helpline number which is operational 24x7. Once the merchant shares the required official documents, the registration happens quickly.

    PM hints at more action to unearth black money
    • Hinting at more action to unearth black money, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said those holding unaccounted money will not be spared and there is no "guarantee" that no further steps would be taken after December 30 till when people can deposit the demonetised notes.
      He assured honest people that they will not face any trouble.
      "I would like to announce once again that after the end of this scheme, there is no guarantee that something new will not be introduced to punish you (thikane lagane ke liye)," Modi said.
      He was addressing the Indian community at a reception here.
      "I make it very clear that if anything unaccounted comes up, then I will check its records since Independence. Will deploy as many people as required for this. Honest people will not face any problem. No one will be spared. Those who know me, they are intelligent as well. They think it is better to offer it in Ganga than in banks," Modi said.
      He was referring to reports of the demonetised Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes flowing in Ganga river.
      Modi termed the demonetisation as "Swachhata Abhiyan" and hailed the undaunting spirit of people despite their hardship following its announcement on November 8.
      "I salute my countrymen. People stood in line for four hours, six hours but accepted the decision in national interest the way people of Japan tackled the aftermath of the 2011 disaster," he said.
      "I thought long and hard about the possible difficulties and it was also important to keep it a secret. It had to be done suddenly but I never thought I will receive blessings for this," he said.

    General Awareness

    “Smart India Hackathon 2017” launched by HRD ministry

    • Shri Prakash Javadekar, Union Human Resource Development Minister, inaugurated the world’s largest digital national building initiative “Smart India Hackathon 2017” on November 9, 2016, by handing over a torch to technology students over the country.
      • Smart India Hackathon 2017, will enable the HRD ministry to reach out to all technology institutions in India and challenge students to work out innovative solutions to some of the difficult problems faced by the nation.
      • 25 different ministries and government departments have come together for supporting this massive initiative. Some of the ministries and departments participating in the Hackathon include Railways, External Affairs, Defence, Civil Aviation, Indian Space Research Organization, Department of Atomic Energy, etc. 
      • The HRD minister announced the first set of 250 problem statements that was received from various ministries. The students will be required to solve these problem statements during the Hackathon that will take place in early 2017.
      • Some of the problem statements include developing a dynamic HealthMap that can tap into online data sources to ensure rapid response to disease outbreaks such as H1N1, dengue and chikungunya through faster information flow between public health systems.   The full list of problem statements is available online on Smart Hackathon 2017 website.
      • The Hackathon will have nearly 500 problem statements in all which will be published on
      ‘Smart India Hackathon 2017’
      The ‘Smart India Hackathon 2017’ is a pan-India 36-hour nonstop digital programming competition which will take place in more than 20 centressimultaneously.
      • The Smart India Hackathon 2017 will focus on finding digital solutions to problems in the areas concerning: power, education, health, water, finance, agriculture, energy, urban & rural development, aviation & shipping, transport, sanitation, sports, law & justice, skill development & entrepreneurship, defence, textiles, tourism, etc. This initiative will help in harnessing the creativity and skills among youth for nation-building.
      • Each participating college can nominate up to three teams, with six team members. The members may belong to different courses or semesters but within the same college. Each team will need to have at least one female team member, to encourage women participation.
      • Each team will also have the choice of choosing up to two mentors, who can be faculty, alumni or any other expert in their circles.
      Each of the participating 25 ministries and government departments will give away prizes to top three teams, so 75 teams will stand a chance to win cash rewards as well as a chance to work with those ministries and departments for up to six months to execute their winning solution. For every ministry and department, the first prize will be of Rs.100,000, second prize of Rs.75,000 and third prize of Rs.50,000.
      Supporting Partners :
      • All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), University Grants Commission (UGC), i4c, MyGov, NASSCOM, Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhiniand Persistent Systems have come together  to organize the massive ‘Smart India Hackathon 2017’ under the sponsorship of Ministry of Human Resource Development. All these partners will connect to about 6500+ technology institutions and challenge the innovative thinking of the students.  Students will stand a chance to win cash prizes from each participating ministry, and also be part of the NASSCOM’s 10,000 Startups Program
      • ‘Smart India Hackathon 2017’ will harness creativity & technical expertise of over 30 lakh students from not only top IITs and NITs but also from the remotest parts of the country.

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