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Current Affairs - 30 November 2016

General Affairs 

PMO To Notify Chief Ministers' Panel On Making India Less-Cash Economy
  • NEW DELHI:  Seeking to neutralise political turmoil over demonetisation within and outside Parliament, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) is likely to shortly notify a committee of chief ministers to suggest ways to make India a less-cash economy.
    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has already spoken to Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu to head the chief ministers' panel, for which Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik are also being co-opted.

    Sources said Mr Jaitley had spoken to all the three chief ministers. Incidentally, the three were among the first to back Prime Minister Narendra Modi's announcement of junking old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes.
    The panel, which will be notified by the PMO, will also review the ground-level situation following the decision to demonetise high-value currency and suggest possible ways to ease hardships and inconvenience.
    Besides assessing the public impact, it is to come up with a road map for a less-cash economy.
    Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan would also be part of the committee. However, there is no decision on who will be picked from Congress and Left-ruled states.
    The sources said names of chief ministers of Puducherry and Uttarakhand, V Narayanasamy and Harish Rawat, respectively, have been mooted from among the Congress fold.
    The final call on the issue will have to be taken by the party, they said, adding that Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar is also believed to be in the reckoning from among Left states.

    While the demonetisation issue has rocked Parliament for past several days, the opposition parties organized nation-wide protest against the issue on Monday.

Nabha Jailbreak 'Mastermind' Parminder Singh Shifted To High-Security Barrack
  • MUZAFFARNAGAR:  Parminder Singh, the alleged "mastermind" of the daring daylight jailbreak in Punjab, has been shifted to a high security prison in the district, jail officials said today.

    Singh along with Khalistan Liberation Front terrorist Harminder Mintoo and four other prisoners escaped after armed men in police uniform stormed the high-security Nabha prison at Patiala in Punjab on November 27.

    Parminder Singh was arrested from Kairana in Uttar Pradesh's Shamli district the same day, when the getaway vehicle was stopped at a police picket.

    Superintendent of district jail Rakesh Singh said the accused, Parminder Singh, was shifted to a high security barrack yesterday.

    No inmate is allowed to meet him, he said, adding that security of the jail has been heightened.

    An alert has been sounded in 65 district jails of Uttar Pradesh in the wake of the Nabha jailbreak.

To Blunt Opposition Attack On Notes Ban, Arun Jaitley Dials Nitish Kumar, Other Chief Ministers
  • NEW DELHI:  Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu will head a committee of Chief Ministers that will suggest ways to move to a cashless economy and to ease the situation caused by the massive cash crunch after the government banned 500- and 1,000-rupee notes to combat black or untaxed money.

    Among those invited on the panel by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley is Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who has stood out among opposition leaders for his support to the Centre's demonetisation move. Mr Kumar is expected to RSVP later today.

    The government's move is seen as an effort to take the sting out of the fierce attack by opposition parties against the notes ban. It has also invited on the panel Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar of the Left, one of the harshest critics of the currency ban and Congress Chief Minister V Narayanaswamy of Puducherry.

    The others reportedly tapped for the committee are Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, whose party the BJD give issue based support to the government and has not participated in the notes ban protests of the opposition and the BJP's Shivraj Singh Chouhan of Madhya Pradesh.

    Arun Jaitley called Chandrababu Naidu on the phone on Monday afternoon to ask him to head the panel, news agency Press Trust of India said. Chandrababu Naidu, an ally of the BJP in the National Democratic Alliance or NDA, has been seeking a ban on high value notes as a way to curb corruption.

    He has welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision on November 8 to scrap 500- and 1000-rupee notes, but objected to a 2,000-rupee note being introduced.

    PM Modi has aggressively pitched for a cashless economy, promising that the hardship caused to people by the cash crunch that has followed his ban on high value notes will be gone in 50 days.

    As people have had to line up at banks for days for rationed new notes and rural India, which has poor access to banking, has reported extreme distress, opposition parties have hit out at the government for what former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of the Congress called a "monumental management failure".

    They have held up parliament proceedings demanding that PM Modi explain his decision and the way it was implemented, and have protested both in parliament and out of the streets.

Women Re-Enter Mumbai's Haji Ali Dargah After 5 Years
  • MUMBAI:  After five years and a series of legal battles and agitations, a group of women activists entered the famous Haji Ali dargah in Mumbai on Tuesday afternoon.

    A group of around 75-80 women from all over India visited the mausoleum of the saint for prayers around 3 pm, said an activist, keen to enter the dargah on the rocks off Worli in the Arabian Sea.

    "It will be routine now, we have not informed the police or the dargah trust. We shall pay our respects and come out," Bharatiya Muslim Mahila Andolan (BMMA) co-founder Noorjehan S Niaz told IANS.

    Till June 2012, women were allowed entry up to the sanctum sanctorum comprising the mazaar (grave) of the revered Muslim saint, Sayyed Peer Haji Ali Shah Bukhari, but suddenly the entry to women was barred.

    In 2014, the BMMA and others challenged the move of the Haji Ali Dargah Trust in the courts.

    On August 26, Justice VM Kanade and Justice Revathi Mohite-Dhere ruled in favour of the petitioners and directed the trust to allow equal access to women, which the trust challenged in the Supreme Court.

    The Supreme Court on October 24 delivered its verdict upholding equal access to men and women, and the trust expressed readiness to allow women inside till the sanctum sanctorum.

    The trust authorities sought four weeks' time to make certain infrastructural changes and alterations to accommodate the women devotees, who would now throng the shrine.

    The women offered floral tributes, 'chadars' and pray for peace at the dargah on Tuesday.

    "It was a fight for equality, ending gender bias and our constitutional rights. We are happy that it has resulted in women and men getting equal unrestricted access right till the sanctum sanctorum," Ms Niaz said.

    Ahead of the move, a trustee of the dargah, Suhail Khandwani, had said that separate entries have been devised to the shrine for men and women and henceforth nobody would be allowed to touch the peer's tomb.

    Under the new arrangements, all devotees would wait and pray nearly two metres away from the tomb with rights of equal access to all.

    The dargah was constructed in 1431 in memory of a wealthy Muslim merchant Sayyed Pir Haji Ali Shah Bukhari of Bukhara in modern Uzbekistan.

    At one time, he renounced all his worldly possessions, travelled all around the world, made a pilgrimage to Mecca and finally settled in the then Mumbai in the 15th century.

    According to local legends, once he saw a poor woman crying over oil spilt from her vessel, afraid that her husband would thrash her.

    He took the woman to the spot where the oil had split and jabbed his finger in the earth and oil gushed out. The happy woman filled up her vessel and went home.

    Later, the saint had tormenting dreams of how he had injured the earth by his action. He fell ill and asked his followers to throw his coffin into the Arabian Sea.

    He died during his pilgrimage to Mecca and the casket carrying his body miraculously was swept back to the shore of Worli and got stuck in the rocks there.

    His dargah was constructed at the same spot and on Thursdays-Fridays, it is visited by large number of pilgrims of all religions from India and abroad for the saint's blessings.

Shiv Sena Won In Local Polls Though I Didn't Campaign: Uddhav Thackeray
  • MUMBAI:  A day after the BJP emerged as the biggest gainer in the municipal councils elections in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray today took a dig at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, saying the Sena scored a victory on its own strength and despite his absence during the campaigning.

    While Mr Fadnavis had led BJP's poll campaign for the elections to the 164 municipal councils and nagar panchayats, the results of which were declared yesterday, Mr Thackeray had delegated the responsibility of electioneering to Sena leaders and had not campaigned personally.

    "The credit of Sena's victory goes to all the Shiv Sainiks. I did not even campaign once because I wanted to prove what a true Sainik could do. I also thank the people for the mandate because even though we had not given any false assurances, they gave us a landslide verdict," Mr Thackeray told reporters in Mumbai.

    Out of the 3,727 seats in the 164 municipal councils and nagar panchayats for which, polling was held on Sunday, BJP won 893 seats, Congress 727, Sena 529, NCP 615, CPM 12, BSP 9, MNS 7, other registered parties 91, unrecognised but registered parties 305, Independents 510, and Alliances/Fronts 29.

    Mr Thackeray said unlike the BJP, the Sena did not ally with any party in the first phase of the polls, which was held on Sunday.

    "We might have allied with the units of local parties under exceptional circumstances. But other than that, we did not ally with any other party. (But) BJP, in every local council, allied with different parties which resulted in them securing the number one position," he said.

    The Sena chief said the BJP had done "exceptionally well" in the Vidarbha region whereas, the Sena's performance needed to be improved.

    "We are not very strong in the Vidarbha region. I will have to give the region more attention now. The Sainiks there need my support," he said.

    In the direct elections for the posts of presidents across 147 municipal councils, the BJP has won 52 seats, Sena 23, Congress 19, NCP 16 and others 28.

Business Affairs 

Steel giant SAIL to sell stakes in three units via auction
  • State-run Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) has received approval 'in principle' from the government to sell stakes in three units, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.
    The company will be selling stakes in the Bhadrawati, Salem and Durgapur steel plants through a two-stage auction process to strategic buyers, the statement said.
    SAIL is India's biggest state-owned steel company.

Demonetisation effect on GDP: India might soon lose its 'fastest economy' title
  • Fitch Ratings today lowered India's GDP growth forecast for this fiscal to 6.9 per cent from 7.4 per cent, saying there will be temporary disruptions to economic activity post demonetisation.
     It said economic activity will be hit in the October- December quarter because of the cash crunch created by withdrawal and replacement of 500 and 1000 rupee notes that accounted for 86 per cent of the value of currency in circulation.
    Indian growth has also been revised down to reflect temporary disruptions to activity related to the RBI's surprise demonetisation of large-denomination bank notes, Fitch said, as it revised real GDP growth forecast down to 6.9 per cent for 2016-17, from 7.4 per cent projected earlier.
    The US-based ratings agency also revised GDP growth forecast for 2017-18 and 2018-19 lower to 7.7 per cent from 8 per cent earlier. 
    Gradual implementation of the structural reform agenda is expected to contribute to higher growth, as will higher real disposable income, supported by an almost 24 per cent hike in civil servants' wages. But the anticipated recovery in investment looks a bit less certain in light of ongoing weakness in the data, Fitch said in its 'Global Economic Outlook - November' report.
    Regarding currency ban, it said consumers do not have the cash needed to complete purchases, and there have been reports of supply chains being disrupted and farmers unable to buy seeds and fertiliser for the sowing season. Time spent queueing in banks is also likely to have affected general productivity.
     The impact on GDP growth will increase the longer the disruption continues, Fitch said, adding the medium-term effect of the currency withdrawal on GDP growth is uncertain, but is unlikely to be large. Most importantly, demonetisation is a one-off event. People who operate in the informal sector will still be able to use the new high-denomination bills and other options (such as gold) to store their wealth, it added.

Demonetisation: Govt may not extend Dec 30 deadline for old note deposits
  • Government today said sufficient cash is available with RBI and banks, and it is not considering extending the deadline of December 30 for deposit of invalid Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes.
    The statement was made in the Rajya Sabha even as people queued up at banks to deposit old high value notes and withdraw new cash. There is sufficient cash available with the Reserve Bank of India and banks. 
    Circulation of notes in respect of Rs 100 has already been increased, Minister of State for Finance Arun Ram Meghwal said in a written reply. On whether the December 30 deadline will be extended, he said, No such proposal for extension of deadline beyond December 30, 2016, is presently under consideration of the government.
    To cater to the requirements of rural areas, banks have been advised to supply notes of smaller denominations (Rs 100 and less), Meghwal added. As on November 8, the day demonetisation was announced, there were 1,716.50 crore pieces of Rs 500 and 685.80 crore Rs 1,000 notes in circulation. To another question, Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar said RBI advises banks from time to time to enhance security arrangements at their branches and ATMs. 
    This include coverage of ATM sites by CCTVs and ensuring adequate training of security staff posted there. Banks have also been advised to review and strengthen the security arrangements in their branches/ATMs to deal with instances of robberies and risk perceptions emerging from such incidents. PTI NKD CS ARD 11291539

Sensex, Nifty close higher, Bharat Financial rises 8%
  • The market closed higher on Tuesday after the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) said lenders had received Rs 8.45 trillion ($123.05 billion) in deposits, absorbing a substantial amount of the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes that were declared worthless earlier this month.
    The amount deposited, announced by the RBI on Monday, raised hopes that the demonetisation process would end sooner than expected, reducing what has been a key constraint for markets.
    While, the Sensex rose 43.84 points to 26394, the Nifty rose 15.25 points to 8,142 level.
    The Nifty Bank Index lost 0.42 per cent to 18,223.75 level. Bank stocks fell for the second day after the Reserve Bank of India ordered banks to temporarily increase their cash on deposit at the RBI to absorb excess liquidity caused by a government ban on high-denomination notes.
    IndusInd Bank and ICICI Bank rose up to 1 percent and 0.16 percent, respectively recovering some losses from Monday's trade. Mortgage lender HDFC Ltd rose as much as 0.66 percent.
    A faster end to the demonetisation drive could revive auto sales, according to analysts.
    Meanwhile, Tata Steel hit a two-week high after the company said its British arm Tata Steel UK would enter talks with Liberty House on sale of speciality operations. The stock closed 0.48 percent higher on the BSE.
    Shares of Idea Cellular ended 4.42 percent higher after CNBC-TV18 reported that the company plans to sell 100 percent stake in tower arm for $1 billion.
    The Bharat Financial Inclusion stock closed higher on Tuesday after the firm released a presentation on the impact of demonetisation on its collections. The stock rose 7.86 percent at Rs 734.00 on the BSE.
    Global markets 
    The Shanghai Composite Index gained 0.4 percent to 3,290.22 and Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to 5,482. Hong Kong's Hang Seng index was almost flat at 22,838.06, as is Seoul's Kospi at 1,978.06. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 gave up 0.2 percent to 18,322.58 and benchmarks in Philippines and New Zealand also fell.
    U.S. stocks declined on Monday as a remarkable rally in November since the upset victory of Donald Trump in the presidential election fizzled out. Investors are waiting for third-quarter economic data later Tuesday that will set the tone for U.S. equities and currency. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.3 percent to 19,097.90 on Monday. The Standard & Poor's 500 index fell 0.5 percent to 2,201.72 and the Nasdaq composite shed 0.6 percent to 5,368.81.

Indian equity market poised for double-digit returns in 2017: Report
  • The equity market is exiting the low-return trap and equities are likely to deliver 15 per cent return in rupee terms next year, says a Morgan Stanley report.
    The low-return environment that the country seems to be trapped in may get a breather in 2017, thanks to better equity valuations, bottoming of the growth cycle (disrupted temporarily by the recent demonetisation) and higher correlations with global equities market, the report said.
    Demonetisation has come as a negative surprise leading to lower GDP growth estimates and therefore earnings and the recovery are likely to be pushed back by a couple of quarters, it said.
    "The equity markets are once again looking attractive and appear poised for double digit returns in 2017," Morgan Stanley said in a research note, adding that equities are likely to deliver 15 per cent returns in rupee terms in 2017 compared to (-)3 per cent in 2015 and 2016.
    It said double digit returns are possible next year, with a base case (50 per cent probability) BSE Sensex target of 30,000. In the bull case, which has a 30 per cent probability, the brokerage has a BSE Sensex target of 39,000 and bear case (20 per cent probability) BSE Sensex target of 24,000.
    It expects Sensex earnings growth of 2.5 per cent for financial year 2016-2017 and 16 per cent in fiscal year 2018 and for fiscal 2019, it expects 15 per cent EPS growth. "India's macro stability remains in its best shape in several years and policy momentum is the best since 2007.
    Financial conditions look easy and the inflation trajectory suggests more rate cuts are in the pipeline," it said. Key risks for this prediction include near term growth uncertainty arising from demonetisation; further rise in commodity prices; sharp decline in treasury yield premiums for India which may induce volatility in the bond market; slippage in fiscal deficit; elevated mid-cap valuations and rising return correlations globally. 

    General Awareness

    47th Edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2016 held in Goa

    • The 47th Edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI), 2016 was held from 20-28 November, 2016 at Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee indoor stadium at Talegao on the outskirts of Panaji, Goa.
      • The Directorate of Film Festivals (DFF) and the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG) the Goa government’s Entertainment Body are the Organizers of the Event.
      • The event was inaugurated by Union minister for information & broadcasting Venkaiah Naidu in the presence of veteran filmmaker Ramesh Sippy and other guests.
      • Actor and film-maker Ajay Devgn was the Chief Guest at the Opening Ceremony.National Award-winning Director S. S. Rajamouli was the chief guest of the closing ceremony.
      • The festival screened over 300 films including 4 premieres, 6 international premieres, 26 Asian premieres 104 Indian premieres and Oscar-winning entries from nearly 90 countries. The Republic of Korea was the focus country of IFFI 2016.
      • The 2016 festival saw the participation of several young film-makers who took on bold and unique themes.
      • The international Jury comprised of Ivan Passer, Nagesh Kukunoor, Lordan Zafranovic, Larry Smith and Leila Kilani.
      • After nine days of cinema goodness, at the 47th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) at Panaji, Goa drew to a close. The grand closing ceremony was held at the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium with Gaurav Kapoor and Shriya Saran hosted the event.
      The ceremony ended with veteran filmmaker Subhash Ghai felicitating all the award winners and performers on the grand stage.
      Award Categories At the IFFI 2016 :
      CategoryName of the Awardee
      Lifetime Achievement AwardSouth Korean film director and writer, Im Kwon Taek
      Centenary Award For Indian Film Personality of the YearVeteran singer SP Balasubrahmanyam
      Best FilmIranian film Daughter, directed by Reza Mirkarimi
      Best directorSoner Caner and Baris Kaya for Turkish film Rauf
      Best Actor (Male)Farhad Aslani for Daughter
      Best Actor (Female)Elina Vasca for Latvian film Mellow Mud
      Special Jury AwardSouth Korean director Lee Joon-ik for The Throne
      Centenary Award for the Best Debut Film of a DirectorSpanish film Chile Rara  directed by Pepa San Martin from Argentina
      South Korean film director and writer, Im Kwon Taek conferred with Lifetime Achievement Award at IFFI 2016
      • South Korea is the focus country of the 47th edition of IFFI 2016.
      • The legendary South Korean film director and writer, Im Kwon Taek, has been conferred with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award at IFFI 2016 at the opening ceremony.
      • He has directed more than 100 films in a career of more than 50 years and is credited with the film movement New Korean Cinema or Korean New Wave.
      • He has also collected several honours, including best director at the 2002 Cannes Film Festival for Chi-hwa-seon (Strokes of Fire).
      • The 80-year-old filmmaker was fond of Shah Rukh Khan’s work. He also liked 3 Idiots and Slumdog Millionaire.
      ‘Azadi 70 Saal  – Yaad karo Qurbani’
      IFFI 2016 also featured the National Film Archives of India’s (NFAI) exhibition with theme: “Azadi 70 Saal, Yaad Karo Qurbani” (70 Years of Independence, Remember the Sacrifices) to commemorate 70 years of Indian Independence.
      • The virtual reality section of the NFAI exhibition has two parts: the first consists of the tour of NFAI and their activities; the second is more interactive, comprising a virtual exhibition of film posters.
      • The exhibition focussed on material from all possible languages.
      • Director of NFAI, Prakash Magdum told the selection of posters was done in consonance with the theme, seeking to highlight the institution’s collection of archival material on the sacrifices of freedom-fighters, social evils and developmental issues, as well as the contribution of the nation’s armed forces.
      IFFI first to use Barco Laser Projection In India.
      The 47th edition of International Film Festival of India used Barco’s laser projection for the first time in the country to offer superior image quality to the audience at the IFFI from November 20- November 28.
      • Barco’s laser phosphor digital projector model ‘DP2K-20CLP’ is cost effective as it uses blue laser technology where colors are generated through the phosphor wheel that provides 30,000 hours lifetime at 50% light utilization, clear image quality along with enhanced viewing experience as well as simple operations for projection.
      • Barco India, is responsible for Research and Development and for Sales & Marketing of projectors in the country.
      IFFI Nominated 8 movies for ICFT Unesco Gandhi Medal
      The 47th edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) nominated 8 films for the ICFT UNESCO Gandhi Medal Prize. All 8 films were screened at the IFFI in Panaji, Goa.
      • The International Council for Film, Television and Audio-visual Communication (ICFT) UNESCO Gandhi Medal Prize is awarded to a film which promotes peace and inter-cultural dialogue.
      The films nominated under the ICFT Unesco Gandhi Medal Prize 2016 included:
      1.Harmonia from Israel,

      2.Beluga from Iran,
      3.Cold of Kalandar from Turkey/Hungary,
      4.The Family from Spain/France/Germany,
      5.Exiled from Latvia,
      6.A Real Vermeer from Netherlands/Luxembourg/Belgium,
      7.The Apology from Canada and
      8.Allama from India.

      The ICFT–Unesco Gandhi medal was awarded to Turkish film Cold of Kalandar,directed by Mustafa Kara for his poetic portrayal of rural life in a remote hilly region of Turkey. The film was chosen for its ethical values and respect for the environment.
      • Canadian multi-lingual entry The Apology by Toronto-based Tiffany Hsiungreceived a special mention in the Gandhi Medal competition.
      • The medal to be awarded to the winner will bear a portrait of Mahatma Gandhi, etched alongside his message ‘in the midst of darkness light prevails.
      International Film Festival of India (IFFI)
      • IFFI was founded in 1952. It is one of Asia’s oldest and India’s biggest film festival and is held annually in the state of Goa since 2004.
      • The festival is conducted jointly by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Directorate of Film Festivals and the Government of Goa.
      • The IFFI aims to nurture, encourage and inspire Indian cinema and introduce it to the world outside as well as the many audiences that co-exist in this vast and diverse country.
      • It provides a platform to understand film cultures of different nations in the context of their social and cultural ethics and promote friendship and cooperation among people of the world.

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