Current Affairs Current Affairs - 6 March 2017 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 6 March 2017

General Affairs 

Assembly Elections 2017 - Complete Counting Arrangements By Tuesday: Poll Panel
  •  The Election Commission on Sunday directed Chief Electoral Officers (CEOs) in the five states to complete vote counting arrangements by Tuesday.

    The poll panel has also sought full-proof security at all the 157 counting centres, an official statement said.

    The counting of votes in Goa, Punjab, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh and Manipur will be done on March 11.

    Of the 157 counting centres, Uttar Pradesh will have 75 followed by Punjab (53), Uttarakhand (15), Manipur (12) and Goa (2).

    The Election Commission has issued detailed instructions regarding storage and safety arrangements of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), appointment of counting staff and counting agents and the counting procedures.

    It has said that at all counting halls, there must be wire mesh to segregate the counting agents from the counting personnel and EVMs. The CEOs must complete all counting arrangements by March 7 night.

    The whole process of counting, including the movement of EVMs, will be video filmed.

    Manipur will vote on March 8 along with the seventh and final round of polling in Uttar Pradesh.

Did Arun Jaitley Know About Notes Ban? Can't Disclose, Says His Ministry
  • The Finance Ministry has refused to disclose whether Union Minister Arun Jaitley was consulted before the notes ban announcement by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on November 8, 2016. Earlier, the Prime Minister's Office and the Reserve Bank of India had claimed that the query whether the Finance Minister and the Chief Economic Advisor were consulted before the announcement does not come under the definition of "information" under the RTI Act.

    The definition of "information" under the Act refers to "any material in any form" under the control of a public authority.

    The Finance Ministry's response to the RTI query filed by Press Trust of India assumes significance as it acknowledges that there are records pertaining to the question but they cannot be disclosed under the Right to Information Act.

    The Ministry has cited an exemption clause under the RTI Act to deny the information. It did not, however, give any reason as to how the information would attract the section.

    The section allows withholding information the "disclosure of which would prejudicially affect the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security, strategic, scientific or economic interests of the state, relation with foreign state or lead to incitement of an offence".

    The three key institutions which are directly related to the move of demonetisation-- the PMO, the RBI and the Finance Ministry-- have refused to disclose information about the sudden measure. The Finance Ministry is the latest respondent.

    The RTI Act has specific provision which allows records attracting its exemption clauses to be disclosed "if public interest in disclosure outweighs the harm to the protected interests".

    "The clause of public interest would apply where exemption clause applies on the information sought by an applicant. In the present case, the information sought does not attract any exemption clause," former Central Information Commissioner Shailesh Gandhi told PTI.

    He said the law is very clear: when a public authority refuses to disclose information, it must give clear reasons as to how the exemption clause would apply.

    On the responses of the PMO and the RBI, former Chief Information Commissioner AN Tiwari had said their replies are wrong as the applicant had sought to know a fact which would be part of records hence an "information" under the RTI Act.

    Notes of Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 500 ceased to be legal tender after a surprise announcement by the PM on November 8 last year.

Tral Encounter: 2 Terrorists Killed In Encounter In South Kashmir; 1 Policeman Dies
  • Two terrorists who were holed up inside a residential building in South Kashmir's Tral have been killed in an encounter in south Kashmir's Tral. A policeman has also died and three security personnel have been injured in a gunbattle that started on Saturday evening and lasted for over 24 hours.

    Blasts were heard and security personnel exchanged heavy fire with the terrorists on Saturday. The area was quickly cordoned off. Police said the terrorists were still firing intermittently till Sunday morning even though the house which the terrorist had used as a fortified bunker was demolished.

    Manzoor Ahmad, the policeman who has died, was part of an assault team of the security forces that launched the operation following a tip off about presence of two Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists at a house in Tral's Shikargah.

    "We have lost one policeman in the encounter. He fought valiantly to neutralise heavily armed terrorists. It is exceptional bravery," said a senior police officer supervising the operation.

    One of the terrorists killed in the encounter reportedly had close ties with Burhan Wani, the poster boy of Hizbul who was killed in July last year. His killing had triggered a wave of protests in the Valley, and in the subsequent unrest nearly 100 people were killed and more than 12,000 were injured.

    As the fierce encounter started Saturday evening, according to the police, protesters clashed with the security personnel to disrupt the operation. Police said some protesters snatched a rifle from a CRPF officer on duty.

    "As the security forces closed on the hiding terrorists, they came under heavy automatic gunfire which was returned, leading to a gunfight," a police officer said, adding that some top terrorists active in south Kashmir areas are among the trapped militants, police said.

Chose Varanasi Over Vadodara, PM Narendra Modi Reminds People
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said he chose Varanasi over Vadodara because he wanted to restore the ancient temple town to its former glory.

    "I had won the Lok Sabha polls from Vadodara in my home state and Varanasi. I chose Varanasi as I wanted to restore the lost glory of the oldest city in the world," he told a town hall gathering in his constituency, seeking to strike a chord with the voters of election-bound Uttar Pradesh.

    The Prime Minister began his speech with throaty chants of "Har Har Mahadev", an incantation to Lord Shiva which has also been the traditional form of greeting for residents of this ancient city.

    Reaching out to his constituents who will vote in the last of the seven-phase assembly elections on March 8, PM Modi spoke his first few lines in Bhojpuri, the local dialect, and expressed his delight over getting an opportunity to visit the temples of Kashi Vishwanath, the presiding deity of the city, and Kaal Bhairav, who he referred to as "Kashi Kotwal (the custodian of Kashi)".

    Apparently peeved at the Congress demanding registration of an FIR against him for today's roadshow here, Modi recalled how permission was denied for his rally in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections when he was the BJP's prime ministerial nominee.

    PM Modi said being a "small worker of BJP" apart from the local MP and Prime Minister, he had the right to interact with people of his constituency.

    "I am a small BJP worker besides being the Prime Minister and an MP. I am pained by the memory of election officials in the city depriving me of an opportunity to hold a rally during the Lok Sabha polls. Permission for the rally was granted at the last moment. I wonder what might have been the compulsion for the election officials to take such a decision.

    "Assembly elections are a festival of democracy and I availed of this opportunity to interact with the people of my parliamentary constituency by travelling in an open vehicle on my way to holy temples," PM Modi said.

    The district administration had refused to give permission for the rally in a crowded locality of the city during the Lok Sabha elections of 2014. Senior BJP leaders including Amit Shah and Arun Jaitley had sat on a dharna in protest.

    Earlier in the day, the Congress approached the Election Commission seeking registration of an FIR against Modi for the roadshow, alleging it was held without due permission from the poll panel or the local authorities.

    Referring to the importance of Varanasi, also called Kashi, PM Modi said, "During my tour of the US, I happened to visit Boston and I was told that they had a street which they fondly called Kashi, and the people there commonly referred to those in the teaching profession as guru."

    The Prime Minister referred to a slew of measures undertaken by his government for the facelift of Varanasi and mocked Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for doubting his commitment to improving living conditions in the city.

Barack Obama Denies President Donald Trump Allegations Of Wiretapping
  • A spokesman for Barack Obama on Saturday rejected claims from US President Donald Trump that the former president had wiretapped him in October during the late stages of the presidential election campaign. "Neither President Obama nor any White House official ever ordered surveillance on any US citizen. Any suggestion otherwise is simply false," Mr Obama's spokesman Kevin Lewis said in a statement. Mr Trump had suggested that Mr Obama had improperly tapped his phones, without citing evidence, in a series of tweets on Saturday morning.

    "How low has President Obama gone to tapp my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!," Trump said in a series of tweets on his Twitter account early on Saturday. "I'd bet a good lawyer could make a great case out of the fact that President Obama was tapping my phones in October, just prior to Election!"

    Mr Lewis also said that "a cardinal rule of the Obama Administration was that no White House official ever interfered with any independent investigation led by the Department of Justice."

    The statement raised the possibility that a wiretap of the Mr Trump campaign could have been ordered by Justice Department officials.

    The White House did not respond to a request to elaborate on Mr Trump's accusations.

    Mr Trump's spokeswoman said that the Republican president is "having meetings, making phone calls and hitting balls" at his golf course in West Palm Beach.

    Earlier, former Barack Obama adviser Ben Rhodes strongly denied Mr Trump's allegations.

    "No president can order a wiretap. Those restrictions were put in place to protect citizens from people like you," Mr Rhodes wrote on Twitter.

    In one of the Tweets, Trump said the alleged wiretapping took place in his Trump Tower office and apartment building in New York, but there was "nothing found."

    Trump's administration has come under pressure from Federal Bureau of Investigation and congressional investigations into contacts between some members of his campaign team and Russian officials during his campaign.

    Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said he had no knowledge about any wiretapping but is "very worried that our president is suggesting that the former president has done something illegally. I would (also) be very worried if in fact the Obama administration was able to obtain a warrant lawfully about Trump campaign activity."

    Mr Graham said it was his job "to get to the bottom of this. I promise I will."

    Several other Republicans again urged an investigation into a series of intelligence-related leaks.

    House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi ridiculed Trump's assertions. "The Deflector-in-Chief is at it again. An investigation by an independent commission is the only answer," she wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

    Obama Administration imposed sanctions on Russia and ordered Russian diplomats to leave the United States in December over the country's involvement in hacking political parties in the November 8 US presidential election.

    On Saturday, Representative Eric Swalwell, a Democrat who is a member of the House Intelligence Committee, told Fox News that Trump "is not credible when it comes to talking about Russia."

    Mr Swalwell downplayed Trump's allegation. "I think this is just the president up early doing his routine tweeting, he said. "Presidents don't wiretap anyone. These are pursued by the Department of Justice in accordance with the FBI and signed off by a judge."

    Under US law, a federal court would have to have found probable cause that the target of the surveillance is an "agent of a foreign power" in order to approve a warrant authorizing electronic surveillance of Trump Tower.

    Several conservative news outlets and commentators have made similar allegations about President Trump being wiretapped during the campaign in recent days, without offering any evidence.

    President Trump's national security adviser, Michael Flynn, resigned in February after revelations that he had discussed US sanctions on Russia with the Russian ambassador to the United States before Mr Trump took office.

    Mr Flynn had promised Vice President Mike Pence he had not discussed US sanctions with the Russians, but transcripts of intercepted communications, described by US officials, showed that the subject had come up in conversations between him and the Russian ambassador.

    Donald Trump has often used his Twitter account to attack rivals and for years led a campaign alleging that Barack Obama was not born in the United States. He later retracted the allegation.

Business Affairs 

Tata Steel May Scrap Merger Plans With Thyssenkrupp: Report
  • Tata Steel may be considering breaking off talks over a planned merger of its European business with German conglomerate Thyssenkrupp, a UK media report claimed on Sunday.

    The merger talks had been revealed by the Indian steel giant last year as part of a major restructuring of its UK steel business.

    Such a deal with the German steel major could potentially lead to the formation of a European steel behemoth with blast furnaces in Wales, the Netherlands and Germany. However, 'The
    Sunday Times' claims that the deal may be under threat due to German pension liabilities. 

    The deal has been slow moving as Tata Steel tries to solve the problem of its own 15-billion-pound British steel pensions scheme.

    Last month its UK workers had voted in favour of a new pension deal to save their jobs.

    Nearly 10,000 workers voted in a ballot in favour of moving from a final salary pension to a less generous scheme in return for job safety and Tata's promise of nearly 1-billion-pound worth of investment over the next 10 years.

    According to the newspaper, Dutch unions representing workers at Tata's vast Ijmuiden plant have raised concerns over the Thyssenkrupp pensions, which are an unfunded liability and underpinned by cash-flow from the steelworks.

    Thyssenkrupp is under pressure from the activist investor Cevian and recently sold its steel venture in Brazil for 1.3 billion euros.

    Thyssenkrupp, a vast conglomerate ranging from escalators to car axles, is reportedly already considering an alternative for its steel business should the deal with Tata fail - floating it as a standalone company.

    "Talks are ongoing with Thyssenkrupp and to find a sustainable solution for the UK pension scheme," Tata Steel said in a statement.

    Tata Steel, which owns the UK's largest steelworks at Port Talbot in South Wales among other units, has been working on finding a solution to the crisis in the steel industry since it announced a major restructuring in March 2016.

Markets Take A Poll Position, Exit Numbers To Set Stage
  • Assembly election results this week will decide the stock market fortunes in coming days and exit poll findings on March 9 may set the ball rolling either way, say experts.

    On Monday, stock markets may react to Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen's speech, which indicated that an interest rate increase could be "appropriate" later this month if the economy holds up.

    "Markets are likely to spend this week on tenterhooks as the outcome of state elections will still not be known when the markets down their shutters for the week on March 10. The results will only come in on Saturday. Effectively speaking, the results will only impact our markets in the week after that," said V K Sharma, Head Private Client Group (PCG), HDFC Securities.

    "Markets will only react to the outcome on March 14 when they open for business after Holi."

    However, markets are likely to get some cues from the exit polls analysis, which will be released on March 9, he said.

    "The uncertainty for the markets is likely to continue as the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC), the policy-making arm of the US Federal reserve, goes into a 2-day huddle to decide on rates on March 14," Sharma added.

    Moreover, industrial production (IIP) data for January will come in after market hours on Friday, which will set the tone further.

    "Domestic news flow with respect to the exit polls in the middle of the week could be a key trigger for a swift move on either side in the coming week," said Rakesh Tarway, Head of Research, Reliance Securities.

    "As of now, the most important factor the market is waiting for is Uttar Pradesh election results though the impact is expected next week... Outcome of UP elections will provide a breakout. A win for the BJP could be trigger on the higher side and vice versa," said Abnish Kumar Sudhanshu, Director & Research Head, Amrapali Aadya.

    The last phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh and Manipur is on March 8 and the results are due on March 11.

    "March is going to be a crucial month due to the concern on Fed rate hike speculation and ambiguity over five state election results," said Vinod Nair, Head of Research, Geojit Financial Services.

    On a weekly basis, the BSE Sensex fell 60.52 points, or 0.20 per cent, and the Nifty 41.95 points, or 0.46 per cent, halting a five-week rising spell.

    "Market is in no big hurry to move before the outcome of state elections until March 12, which will give a signal to FPIs and domestic investors to commit fresh funds," said Jimeet Modi, CEO, SAMCO Securities.

Flipkart To Hire 20-30% Employees More This Year
  • E-commerce major Flipkart is looking to hire 20-30 per cent more people in 2017 compared to last year even as rival Snapdeal hands out pink slips to its employees.

    The Bengaluru-based firm, which is locked in an intense battle with the US-based Amazon for leadership in the Indian market, will hire most laterals this year.

    "Our 2017 hiring plans are calibrated to the growth momentum we are seeing and we expect it to be somewhere around 20% to 30% higher than last year, spread out as per requirements across verticals," Flipkart COO Nitin Seth told PTI. 

    He added that a majority of this will likely come in through the lateral route.

    "We believe this offers us the right mix of talent needed to power the next phase of growth at Flipkart," he said.

    Seth, however, declined to comment on the hiring number this year or in the previous year.

    According to sources, Flipkart hired about 1,500 people last year.

    Besides, it hired about 10,000 temporary staffers, mostly in logistics, ahead of festive sales to ensure it can meet the huge jump in demand.

    According to research firm RedSeer, the Indian e-tailing industry expanded by a merely 12 per cent in 2016 to clock revenues of $14.5 billion compared to a whopping 180 per cent growth in 2015.

    With raising of fresh funds becoming difficult and markdown in valuations, many of these technology-led businesses are being forced to pare down workforce or shut businesses.

    Flipkart itself has seen a mutual fund managed by Morgan Stanley marking down its value for the fifth straight quarter.

    It now values the e-commerce major at $5.37 billion.

    Last month, SoftBank-backed Snapdeal laid off some 600 people, with founders forgoing their salaries as part of the company's efforts to become profitable in two years.

    Similarly, the Chennai-based online hotel room aggregator Stayzilla decided to wrap up operations because of intense competition in the market.

    Lenders To Auction Two Kingfisher Airlines Properties On Monday
    • Kingfisher Airlines' two prime assets, Kingfisher House in the city and Kingfisher Villa in Goa, will be auctioned tomorrow by banks to recover their loans to the long-defunct airline started by defaulter businessman Vijay Mallya.

      While Kingfisher House will be put under the hammer for the fourth time after three failed attempts, Kingfisher Villa is being put on sale for the third time.

      The reserve prices for both the properties owned by Mallya have been lowered after the earlier attempts of the 17-lender consortium failed to attract bidders. 

      The SBI-led consortium has reduced the reserve price of the erstwhile headquarters of the grounded airline, Kingfisher House, by 10 per cent to Rs. 103.50 crore as compared to that of Rs. 115 crore for the previous auction held last December.

      In the first auction of Kingfisher House last March, the reserve price was set at Rs. 150 crore but was lowered to Rs. 135 crore in the second auction held in August as none of the bidders came forward to buy the property.

      The prime property has a built-up area of over 17,000 sq ft and is located in the plush Vile Parle area near the domestic terminal.

      Similarly, the reserve price of Kingfisher Villa, the plush property situated at Condolim in north Goa is set at Rs. 73 crore, which is around 10 per cent down than the second auction held last December.

      In the December auction, the price of the sea-facing property was set at Rs. 81 crore. It was put under the hammer for the first time last October with a reserve price of Rs. 85.29 crore.

      The Villa was once used by Mallya to host lavish parties.

      SBICAPS Trustee is auctioning the properties on behalf of the lenders.

      Mallya has been declared a wilful defaulter and is wanted by Indian authorities for default in payment of loans related to Kingfisher Airlines that was grounded in 2012.

      He owes over Rs. 9,000 crore to lenders like SBI, PNB, IDBI Bank, BoB, Allahabad Bank, Federal Bank and Axis Bank, among others. He left the country on March 3 last year and is currently said to be in the UK.

      On Friday, Mallya, in a series of tweets, blamed faulty engines as one of the reasons for the collapse of Kingfisher Airlines.

      He said IAE, a group firm of Pratt & Whitney, against which aviation regulator DGCA has ordered a detailed inspection, has been sued for supplying defective engines to his erstwhile airlines.

      Aviation regulator DGCA recently ordered a detailed inspection of 21 Airbus 320neo planes of IndiGo and GoAir that are equipped with P&W engines, which are facing frequent glitches.

      Finance Ministry Gives In-Principle Nod To Employee Stock Options By PSU Banks
      • Finance Ministry has agreed in-principle to allow public sector banks to offer stock options to their employees from next fiscal -- a move aimed at retaining experienced hands with better incentives.

        According to sources, Employee Stock Option plans (ESOPs) could be given by those banks which have not only earned substantial profit but also made remarkable improvement in managing NPAs.

        It will help motivate employees to work towards strengthening the financial status of their banks so that their share value rises, sources said. 

        Although the Finance Ministry has given in-principle nod, the finer details are being worked out like what percentage of profit can be earmarked for ESOPs, sources said, adding, this is based on the suggestion of Banks Board Bureau (BBB).

        One of the proposals is to issue shares equivalent to a certain percentage of banks' net profit to employees which is being examined.

        For large banks, the ESOPs could be as much as 5 per cent of profit after tax while for the smaller ones, it could be about 3 per cent but no decision has been taken yet, sources said.

        Apart from ESOPs, bonuses and other performance-linked packages are also being discussed as suggested by BBB, sources added.

        ESOPs are common in the private sector, where companies offer stocks to reward and retain key and top-performing employees.

        Since the employees stand to benefit from any appreciation in stock price, ESOPs also help in aligning the interests of the employees with those of shareholders.

        Earlier in January, BBB chief Vinod Rai had said the compensation package across the board of public sector banks needs to be improved.

        "Maybe we are not able to do much with the fixed part of compensation package but variable part we are hopeful that in the next financial year we will be able to introduce a far more attractive package which will have bonuses, ESOPs and other performance linked incentives as part of the package," he had said.

        It can be monetary or non-monetary benefits to make it more attractive for professionals to enter public sector banking space, he had said.

        Last year, the then RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan also made a case for offering ESOPs to bank staff.

        "With public sector banks' shares trading at such low levels, a small allocation to employees today may be a strong source of motivation, and can be a large source of wealth as performance improves," Rajan had said.

      General Awareness

      WCCB Conducts Operation Thunderbird & Operation Save Kurma to Combat Wildlife Crime

      • The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) under the Ministry of Environment and Forests coordinated nationwide ‘Operation Thunder Bird’ from January 30 to February 19, 2017 to combat illegal trade of wildlife animals in the country.
        • The operation was undertaken in coordination with International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).
        • Besides, WCCB also convened a turtle specific operation code-named as ‘Operation Save Kurma’ from December 15, 2016 to January 30, 2017.
        • The operation brought about an awareness among the enforcement agencies to focus on the existing trade routes and major trade hubs in the country so as to deal with the menace of wildlife crime.
        About ‘Operation Thunder Bird’
        Operation Thunder Bird is the codename for Interpol’s multi-national and multi-species enforcement operation. 
        • It aimed to eliminate poaching of wildlife animals of India.
        • WCCB seized as many as 2,524 live species of scheduled animals which included 19.2 kgs of elephant ivory, 1 tiger skin, 9 carcasses of wild animals, 1 organ pipe coral, 1 jar of snake venom, 8 leopard skins and 1 Indian Muntjac skin.
        • About 71 people were arrested in a nationwide crackdown on illegal trade in wildlife.
        • The operation witnessed overwhelming response from states of Assam, Meghalaya, Maharashtra, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Uttarakhand, Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Gujarat, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh.
        About ‘Operation Save Kurma’
        ‘Operation Save Kurma’ is a turtle specific operation where over 15,000 live turtles were seized.
        • As per WCCB, a total of 15,739 live turtles were recovered from 45 suspects.
        About Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB)
        The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) was constituted by the Government of India as a statutory body on 6 June 2007, by amending the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, a special Act to protect the wildlife in the country to combat organized wildlife crime in the country.
        • The Bureau has its headquarter in New Delhi
        The main role of WCCB includes:
        Collect and collate intelligence related to organized wildlife crime activities and to disseminate the same to State and other enforcement agencies for immediate action.
        • Establish a centralized wildlife crime data bank
        • Assist foreign authorities and international organization concerned to facilitate co-ordination and universal action for wildlife crime control
        • Capacity building of the wildlife crime enforcement agencies for scientific and professional investigation into wildlife crimes and assist State Governments to ensure success in prosecutions related to wildlife crimes
        • Advise the Government of India on issues relating to wildlife crimes having national and international results, relevant policy and laws.

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