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Current Affairs - 21 March 2017

General Affairs 

4,000 Resident Doctors Stay Away From Duty In Maharashtra Hospitals
  • Over 4,000 resident doctors in Maharashtra's government hospitals did not report for duty today to protest the incidents of attack on their colleagues, an official said.

    The issue also came up before the Bombay High Court with an activist filing a petition seeking a direction to the doctors to report to work immediately.

    At most of the hospitals, some senior resident doctors looked after the daily health check-ups of the patients, an official of the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors (MARD) said.

    The emergency services were, however, not affected due to the doctors' protest, he added.

    The doctors did not report to work to protest the two recent incidents - one in Dhule and another at the Sion hospital in Mumbai - where relatives of patients attacked the respective doctors in-charge.

    "There are a couple of long-pending demands from the state government, including higher wages and more security at the government hospitals," a senior MARD official said on condition of anonymity.

    "Both the demands have not been addressed to our satisfaction. Hence, we get attacked frequently and the state authorities fail to address the issue," he added.

    The MARD had earlier assured the Bombay High Court that it would not give a call or go on a strike and would only hold peaceful demonstrations highlighting their grievances.

    State Medical Education Minister Girish Mahajan said, "We are holding negotiations with the MARD members. There has been a substantial financial allocation in the state budget for infrastructure development.

    "We are keen on increasing the number of doctors (in government hospitals) as well and have taken steps towards it. We need some time, so that the changes can be felt." Meanwhile, social activist Afak Mandaviya today approached the Bombay High Court seeking a direction to the resident doctors across the state to call off their protest and report to work immediately.

    The petition also sought a direction to the state government to look into the issue and take necessary action. The petition is likely to be taken up for hearing by a division bench tomorrow.

China Angered As Dalai Lama Shares Stage With Indian Officials
  • China expressed anger on Monday after exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama attended a Buddhist conference supported by the Indian culture ministry, the latest spat with India over a man whom China brands a dangerous separatist.

    The Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, denies espousing violence and says he only wants genuine autonomy for his remote Himalayan homeland.

    The Dalai Lama opened the conference last Friday in Bihar.

    "Recently, India ignored China's solemn representations and strong opposition and insisted on inviting the 14th Dalai Lama to attend an international Buddhist conference organised by the Indian government," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.

    The Dalai Lama also shared the stage with Indian government officials and gave a speech, she told a daily news briefing.

    "China is strongly dissatisfied and resolutely opposed to this," Ms Hua added.

    "We urge the India side to clearly recognise the anti-China separatist nature of the Dalai clique, abide by its promises on the Tibet issue, respect China's core interests and avoid further disturbances and harm to China-India relations," she said.

    The Dalai Lama and Indian Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma inaugurated the conference on Friday. Buddha's teachings were especially relevant in a world facing violence, President Pranab Mukherjee said on Sunday in a closing address to the conference, held at Rajgir in Bihar.

    In December, President Mukherjee hosted the Dalai Lama at his official residence with other Nobel prize winners, the Tibetan leader's first public meeting with an Indian head of state in 60 years.

    Next month, the government representatives will meet the Dalai Lama when he visits Arunachal Pradesh, despite a warning from Beijing that it would damage ties.

    China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist since it was "peacefully liberated" by the People's Liberation Army in 1950.

    China denies any repression in Tibet and says its rule has brought development to a once backward and poverty-stricken region.

BSP Chief Mayawati To Move Court This Week Against EVM 'Tampering' In UP Polls
  • The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) will move court in the next two-three days against the alleged tampering of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) during the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, its chief Mayawati today said. She charged that "the BJP won elections by rigging electronic voting machines".

    Ms Mayawati had said that a 'black day' will be observed every month against what she termed the "murder of democracy" by the BJP.

    "We will approach court over the issue in the next two-three days," the BSP supremo told reporters in the Parliament premises. Earlier, the Election Commission of India (ECI) had rejected Mayawati's claim that the voting machines were rigged and said her demand for a re-poll using ballot papers was legally untenable.

    The BSP, which had 80 legislators in the outgoing UP Assembly, managed to win just 19 seats in the 403-member House. Driven by the Modi wave, the BJP, along with its ally, had stormed to power in UP after 14 years, securing 325 seats, while the Samajwadi Party had won 47 seats and its ally the Congress seven seats.

    The former Chief Minister of UP had alleged large-scale tampering in the EVMs soon after results were announced on March 11.The Samajwadi Party and the Congress had also supported Mayawati's allegations.The BJP had ridiculed Ms Mayawati's allegations of EVM tampering and asked her to "gracefully accept the people's mandate".

    Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal too had claimed that EVMs were tampered with in Punjab to keep the Aam Aadmi Party out of power.

US Tells India No Significant Change In H-1B Visa Regime
  • The United States has conveyed to India that there is no significant change in the H-1B visa regime, Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said today.

    Ms Sitharaman said in Lok Sabha that India is articulating its concerns regarding the visa policy vigorously with the new administration in the US.

    However, the Minister said, there is no significant change in the H-1B visa regime.

    "The fear, at least for 2017, is not proved to be correct. They (US authorities) are saying their current priority is to deal with the illegal immigrants," she said during Question Hour.

    Ms Sitharaman said the issue was also taken up by the Commerce Minister recently with visiting Congressional delegation led by Bob Goodlatte and during the visit of Commerce Secretary and Foreign Secretary to the US during first week of March 2017.

    The Minister said India's concerns on visa issues were articulated during the Strategic and Commerce Dialogue 2016 and Trade Policy Forum 2016 held in October, 2016. She said India had decided to continue their engagement on visa issues and reiterated their shared resolve to facilitate the movement of professionals.

    Ms Sitharaman said a number of industry bodies have raised concerns on visa policies of the US and these concerns were conveyed to the US authorities by the government.

    The Minister said the US monitors policies of 73 countries and India may be one of them.

    "But we don't recognise any monitoring by any countries. No unilateral policing is acceptable for India," she said.

New Wi-Fi System To Provide 100 Times Faster Internet
  • Scientists have developed a new wireless internet based on harmless infrared rays that is 100 times faster than existing wi-fi network and has the capacity to support more devices without getting congested.

    Slow wi-fi is a source of irritation that nearly everyone experiences. Wireless devices in the home consume ever more data, and it is only growing, and congesting the wi-fi network, researchers said.

    The wireless network developed by researchers at Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands not only has a huge capacity - more than 40 Gigabits per second (Gbit/s) - but also there is no need to share since every device gets its own ray of light.

    The system is simple and cheap to set up. The wireless data comes from a few central 'light antennas', for instance mounted on the ceiling, which are able to very precisely direct the rays of light supplied by an optical fibre.

    The antennas contain a pair of gratings that radiate light rays of different wavelengths at different angles ('passive diffraction gratings').

    Changing the light wavelengths also changes the direction of the ray of light. Since a safe infrared wavelength is used that does not reach the vulnerable retina in your eye, this technique is harmless.

    If you walk around as a user and your smartphone or tablet moves out of the light antenna's line of sight, then another light antenna takes over, researchers said.

    The network tracks the precise location of every wireless device using its radio signal transmitted in the return direction, they said.

    It is a simple matter to add devices: they are assigned different wavelengths by the same light antenna and so do not have to share capacity.

    Moreover, there is no longer any interference from a neighbouring wi-fi network.

    Current wi-fi uses radio signals with a frequency of 2.5 or five gigahertz.

    The new system uses infrared light with wavelengths of 1,500 nanometres and higher.

    This light has frequencies that are thousands of times higher, some 200 terahertz, which makes the data capacity of the light rays much larger.

    Researchers managed to achieve a speed of 42.8 Gbit/s over a distance of 2.5 metres. Even if you have the very best wi-fi system available, you would not get more than 300 Megabit/s in total, which is some hundred times less than the speed per ray of light achieved by the new system.

    The system has so far used the light rays only to download; uploads are still done using radio signals since in most applications much less capacity is needed for uploading.

Business Affairs 

Govt decides to merge Mahila Bank with SBI
  • The government today said it has decided to merge Bharatiya Mahila Bank with the country's largest lender SBI to ensure greater banking outreach to women.
    Explaining the rationale behind the merger, the finance ministry said the SBI group already has 126 exclusive all-women branches across the country while the Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) has only seven.
    "The proportion of administrative and managerial cost in the BMB is much higher to reach the same coverage. For the same cost, a much higher volume of loans to women could be given through the SBI," it said.
    The ministry said there was a need to achieve the objectives of affordable credit to women as well as propagation of women-centric products quickly through a wider network and lower cost of funds.
    "The Government of India has decided to merge the BMB with the State Bank of India to ensure greater banking services outreach to a larger number of women, at a faster pace," the ministry statement read.
    In the three years since the BMB was established, it has extended loans of Rs 192 crore to women borrowers while the SBI group has provided loans of about Rs 46,000 crore to women borrowers.
    "The decision to merge the BMB with the SBI has been taken in view of the advantage of the large network of the SBI, among other things," the statement added.
    The SBI has a large outreach of more than 20,000 branches and lowest cost of funds in the sector. Of the total workforce of around 2 lakh employees in the SBI, 22 per cent are women.
    The BMB, set up in 2013, has 103 branches with its presence in almost all the states. The total business of the bank is about Rs 1,600 crore.
    "The Union Government is committed to enhancing the access to financial services to the population at large and women in particular," the ministry said.
    Under the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana, preference is given to women for overdraft facility. Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana had 73 per cent women borrowers in the previous financial year, it added.

No FDI in defence, ports, coal in Apr-Dec period: Govt
  • As many as five sectors including defence, ports and coal have failed to attract any foreign direct investments during the April-December period of the current fiscal, Parliament was informed today.
    The other two segments which were not able to attract the foreign inflows are - photographic raw film & paper and coir, according to the data shared by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in a written reply to the Lok Sabha.
    Barring defence industries, the other four sectors had not received any FDI in 2015-16 either.
    Last year, the government relaxed FDI norms in several sectors including defence. India imports 70 per cent of its military hardware from different countries.
    As per the current policy, foreign investment beyond 49 per cent has been permitted in the defence sector through the approval route in cases resulting in access to modern technology in the country or for other reasons.
    However, the sectors which have attracted maximum FDI in the April-December period of this fiscal include services (USD 7.5 billion), trading (USD 2 billion), metallurgical industries (USD 1.25 billion), electrical equipment (USD 2 billion), telecommunications (USD 5.54 billion) and computer hardware & software (USD 1.81 billion).
    During the 9-month period of 2016-17, India attracted a total of USD 35.84 billion in foreign inflows.

E-pharmacies grow despite government's impending regulation
  • Although the government is yet to come out with specific rules and guidelines to regulate the online sale of drugs, internet pharmacies are gaining popularity in the country. According to sources from leading net-based drug distribution companies, the industry has been growing significantly - at over 30 per cent - after the government expressed its intention to allow online sale of drugs and bring in a framework for regulating e-pharmacies.
    Sources said the concerned committees and industry stakeholders are discussing the guidelines at various levels.
    "We have generated over five lakh prescription orders since our launch in August 2015, and this has been growing month after month," said Pradeep Dada, Promoter of Chennai-based Netmed, a leading internet pharmacy. Netmed's operations are currently spread across 800 cities in the country, and over 60 per cent of the orders are from tier II and III cities, mainly in Tamil Nadu.
    It is estimated that there are around 30-40 pharmacies in the online space - Netmed, 1mg, PharmEasy and Medlife, to name a few - and they have together invested roughly Rs 500 crore to Rs 800 crore in the past two years. It is estimated that these companies have garnered 1-2 per cent of the Rs 83,000-crore Indian drug market that predominantly runs on the 100-plus-year-old traditional drug distribution system consisting of five lakh odd retail shops, wholesalers and C&F agents. Some of these companies have also raised funds from private equity companies. Last year, Netmed received an investment commitment of $50 million (Rs 325 crore) from healthcare-focused global PE firm OrbiMed.
    Dada said his company was also planning to enter into the B2B wholesale business in drug distribution, once the Goods and Services Tax (GST) gets implemented across states.
    As per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940 and Drugs and Magic Remedies and Objectionable Advertisement Act, 1945, drugs under Schedule H and X (prescription drugs) cannot be dispensed without a prescription from a registered qualified medical professional, and should be dispensed only by a qualified registered pharmacist. Prescription drugs or drugs having any curative properties cannot be advertised as well and attracts jail term, fine, or both. Industry professionals and public in India have voiced their concerns on the safety aspects related to the online sale of drugs.

    UP farm loan waiver to cost banks Rs 27,420 crore: SBI report
    • If the UP government fulfils its farmer loan waiver promise, banks are likely to take a hit of Rs 27,420 crore and the scheme will lead to some stress on the state's fiscal arithmetic, warns a report.
      The BJP had in its UP election manifesto promised to waive farmers' loans if elected to power. The party and its allies won a whopping 325 seats in the 403-member House. An SBI Research report today said schedule commercial banks together had an outstanding farm credit of Rs 86,241.20 crore in UP with the average ticket size of Rs 1.34 lakh, as of 2016, most of which is to small and marginal farmers.
      According to RBI data (2012), 31 per cent of the direct agriculture finance went to marginal and small farmers (landholdings upto 2.5 acre). "Taking this as a proxy for UP as well, around Rs 27,419.70 crore will have to be waived off in case the farm loan waiver scheme is implemented for the small and marginal farmers, for all banks," the report said.
      As per the Socioeconomic and Caste Census of 2011, 40 per cent of rural UP households are engaged in cultivation. When it comes to landholdings, 92 per cent are marginal and small farmers in the state, according to the 2010-11 Agriculture Census.
      The report said the UP government's total revenue for 2016-17 is Rs 3,40,255.24 crore, according  to revised estimates, and if Rs 27,419.70 crore are to be written off, this is around 8 per cent of the total revenue.
      "This will definitely cause some amount of stress for the state's fiscal arithmetic in the coming year," the report warned and said the UP government will have to go beyond the traditional solutions and find innovative ways of adding to its revenue. The country's farm sector faces a lot of issues like raising farm productivity which need attention, it noted.
      "Efforts should be made so that the farming community is covered by formal banking system so that they can easily avail crop loans," it said. The report said the Jan Dhan scheme has ensured that almost all UP households now have bank accounts but only a small proportion of those into agriculture have availed the agriculture advances from banks.

      CL Educate IPO opens today, aims to raise Rs 239 crore
      • CL Educate, which owns Career Launcher opened its initial public offer (IPO) today.
        The issue is open till March 22, 2017. The Delhi-based firm is offering 4,760,000 equity shares of face value of Rs 10 each.
        The firm aims to raise Rs 239 crore. The fresh issue is for around 21.80 lakh equity shares of face value of Rs 10 each.
        Its offer for sale comprises 25.79 lakh equity shares of Rs 10 face value.
        The stock which will be listed on both BSE and NSE is available at an issue price of Rs 500 to Rs 502 per share.
        The minimum order quantity for the bids is 29 shares. Its book running lead manager is Kotak Investment Banking and registrar to the offer is Karvy Computershare Pvt Ltd.
        The firm allotted 14.28 lakh equity shares worth Rs 71.69 crore to anchor investors including Sundaram Mutual Fund, Canara HSBC Oriental Bank of Commerce Life Insurance Company, DSP Blackrock  MicroCap Fund and ICICI Lombard General Insurance Company.
        The firm says its brands, particularly, Career Launcher and GK Publications, are associated with academic excellence.
        A significant portion of our operating revenues is derived from our test preparation business. Failure to attract students in our test preparation business, including due to an unsatisfactory success ratio, may adversely affect our revenues, business, results of operations and prospects, it adds. 

      General Awareness

      2017 International Buddhist Conference Held in Bihar

      • The three days International Buddhist Conference was held at the Rajgir International Convention Center (RICC) of Nav Nalanda Mahavira Deemed University, Rajgir, Bihar from March 17-19, 2017.
        • The conference was inaugurated by His Holiness, The Dalai Lama jointly with the Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dr. Mahesh Sharma by lighting a ceremonial lamp.
        • The event was organized by Ministry of Culture and Nava Nalanda Mahaviahra Deemed University.
        • Theme: The main theme of the conference was: Buddhism in the 21st Century – Perspectives and Responses to Global Challenges and Crises.
        • Aim: The three-day conference aimed at discussing Buddhist perspectives and responses towards global issues such as ecological sustainability, social and economic justice, ethics and values, a holistic approach to education, inter-religious harmony and cooperation, gender equality.
        • The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee addressed the closing ceremony of the International Conference on March 19, 2017.
        Key Highlights of the Conference
        The three day conference saw the participation of over 1000 Buddhist delegates from 35 countries including Sri Lanka, Burma, Taiwan, Thailand, Bangladesh, Uganda, representing both the Sanskrit and Pali traditions.
        • The three-day conference include cultural programme, discussions, seminars on how to create a balance between economic development and conservation of nature and environment with secular ethics
        • Some of the main topics of discussion during the conference included, Conflict Avoidance and Peace Building: The Buddhist Response; Environment & Nature Conservation; Buddhism & Sciences; Women in Buddhism; Preservation of Nalanda Tradition; Ethics & Values; Secular Ethics & Interfaith Understanding.
        • One of the main highlight of the conference was the release 41-volume of the Pali Tripitaka by His Holiness the Dalai lama, reprinted by the Nava Nalanda University in Devanagri script.
        • Besides, he also inaugurated the Nava Nalanda University’s new department of the Buddhist Science, first of its kind in Asia.
        • His Holiness the Dalai Lama also visited the Nava Nalanda Mahavihara near Rajgir on March 18, 2017 to  plant the sapling of the Bodhi Tree and inaugurate Nagajurna Faculty Building as well as Santarakshita Hostel.
        • He praised India’s rich tradition of inner wisdom and secular tradition and called India as the seat of Buddhism worldwide, where most of the holiest Buddhist sites are located and described India as the seat of Buddhist learning and knowledge.
        • The cultural programmes during the conference were performed by renowned Kathak dancer Manisha Guliyani and sarod players brother duo Amaan Ali Bangash and Ayaan Ali Bangash.
        About Lord Buddha and Buddhism
        Gautama Buddha also known as Siddhartha Gautama or simply Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal. He was a sage on whose teachings Buddhism was founded.
        • Buddhism  is a religion and dharma that is surrounded by a variety of traditions, beliefs and spiritual practices largely based on teachings attributed to the Buddha.
        • Buddhism originated in India sometime between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE, from where it spread through much of Asia.
        • Buddhism is the world’s fourth-largest religion, with over 500 million followers or 7% of the global population, known as Buddhists.
        • Buddhism was an oral tradition in the ancient times. The Buddha’s words, the early doctrines and concepts, the interpretations were transmitted from one generation to the next by the word of mouth in monasteries, and not through written texts.
        • The first Buddhist canonical texts, were likely written down in Sri Lanka, about 400 years after the Buddha died.
        • These texts were written in Pali or Sanskrit as palm-leaf manuscripts, birch bark, painted scrolls, carved into temple walls, and later on paper.
        • Buddhism is a tradition that focuses on personal spiritual development. Buddhists strive for a deep insight into the true nature of life and do not worship gods or deities

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