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Current Affairs - 14 April 2017

General Affairs 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi To Release New BHIM-Aadhaar Interface, Enabling Digital Payments Via Biometric Data
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will release the new BHIM-Aadhaar interface, enabling digital payments without cellphones, internet connection and debit or credit card. The new interface, to be launched tomorrow in Nagpur during the 126th birth anniversary celebrations of Bhim Rao Ambedkar, will use biometric data such as thumb print or a merchant's biometric enabled device for digital payments. 

    "Any citizen without access to smart phones, Internet, debit or credit cards will be able to transact digitally through the BHIM-Aadhaar platform, thus realizing Ambedkar's vision of social and financial empowerment for all," a statement from the NITI Aayog said.

    It added that 27 major banks were already onboard with around 3 lakh merchants, so that they can start accepting payments using BHIM-Aadhaar.

    During the event, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will also launch two new initiatives to push digital payments - cash back and referral bonus schemes - with an outlay of Rs. 495 crore for a period of six months.

    "Under the referral bonus scheme, both the existing user who refers BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) and the new user who adopts BHIM would get a cash bonus credited directly to their account. 

    "Under the cashback scheme, the merchants will get a cashback on every transaction using BHIM," the statement added. 

    CEO NITI Aayog Amitabh Kant said that the launch of BHIM-Aadhaar application and the launch of the two schemes - cashback and referral schemes - would provide a "major impetus to the digital payment revolution in India". 

    During the event, PM Modi will also declare about 75 townships going "less-cash" where the deployment of payment acceptance infrastructure is complete and all the families are covered under training programs. 

    "Only those townships which have reported more than 80 per cent of the total number of transactions being done through digital modes of payments during the review period are included in this list," the government said. 

    These townships are likely to generate over 1.5 lakh digital transactions every day thereby leading to about 5.5 crore digital transactions in a year, it added.

    During the event, PM Modi will also award winners of the mega draw of the two major incentive schemes to promote digital payments - Lucky Grahak Yojana for customers and Digidhan Vyapaar Yojana for traders. 

    PM Modi, in December 2016, had announced lucky draw schemes for people who use digital payment methods including e-banking, mobile banking and e-wallets. He had announced that apart from regular prizes, one big bumper draw would be held on the occasion of Ambedkar Jayanti in which the winning price would be in crores.

    Later same month, he launched BHIM app, an Aadhaar-based mobile payment application to promote and make digital transactions easier.

Yogi Adityanath Government To Hold Mass Weddings Of Poor Muslim Girls
  • The Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is planning to organise mass weddings for poor Muslim girls in the state.

    "Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has given his consent to mass weddings of poor girls belonging to minority communities and we have included it in the 100 days' programme of the state government," Minister of State for Minorities Affairs Mohsin Raza said told PTI in Lucknow today.

    Muslims account for nearly 20 per cent of the state's population and a lion's share of the scheme will go to girls from that community.

    A proposal for the same is being prepared, the MoS said, adding that besides extending monetary assistance of Rs. 20,000 to each girl, the government will bear other expenses for the mass wedding.

    He said the idea of mass weddings for girls from minority communities, which would also include Sikhs and Christians, has come from the chief minister himself.

Women Can Retain Maiden Names In Passports After Marriage: PM Narendra Modi
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced that women are free to retain their maiden names in their passports now after the marriage. "From now onwards, women will not have to change their names in the passport after their marriage," PM Modi told a gathering of the Indian Merchants Chambers' ladies wing over a video conferencing. According to the passport website, uptill now, to change the name in the passport after marriage, one had to apply for a "re-issue" and get the specified change done in the name.

    Stating that he wanted women to be at the centre of the developmental schemes, PM Modi said his government is working in different ways to empower them through various schemes like Mudra and Ujjwala, among others.

    The government wants the woman of the house to be the priority in all of its development schemes, he added.

    Citing various women-oriented schemes launched by his government, the Prime Minister said the maternity leave for the women has been extended now to 26 weeks from the present 12 weeks while another scheme provides for transfer of Rs. 6,000 to women, who chose to deliver in hospitals.

    On the free cooking gas distribution project launched last year under the Ujjwala scheme, PM Modi said, "The government has set a target of covering as many as 5 crore people from BPL families over the next two years. Within a year of its launch, the scheme has already benefited 2 crore women." Under the LPG subsidy surrender campaign, already 1.2 crore people have voluntarily given up their benefits, he added.

    Praising women for their entrepreneurial spirit, PM Modi said wherever women are given an opportunity, they have proved that they are two steps ahead of the men.

    The biggest contributors to the dairy and livestock sectors are women, he said.
    Lijjat Papad and Amul are the shining examples of what our women can do if empowered, the prime minister pointed out. PM Modi also said 70 per cent of the Mudra loans (aimed at small borrowers for productive purposes) borrowers are women now, which indicate the rising entrepreneurial spirit of the women.

People Were Upset Over Legislator Quitting: AAP After By-Poll Defeat
  • With the AAP's humiliating defeat in the Rajouri Garden by-poll, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia today admitted that people were upset with the party over its legislator quitting to contest from Punjab.

    He said the party will pull up its socks in the upcoming MCD polls and try to convince the people of Rajouri Garden by showcasing the "good work" done by the Delhi government.

    The Rajouri Garden bypoll was necessitated after AAP MLA Jarnail Singh quit to contest from Lambi in Punjab against the then Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal. Jarnail Singh came in third in the contest.

    BJP-Akali Dal candidate Manjinder Singh Sirsa trounced his nearest rival and Congress' Meenakshi Chandela by over 14,500 votes. AAP's Harjeet Singh came in a distant third.

    "There was anger among people after Jarnail went to Punjab. We tried convincing them, but with the results we are realising that people were not convinced and remained upset. 

    "We will pull up our socks in the upcoming polls and also try to convince the people of Rajouri Garden. Whatever work was done by Jarnail we will carry it forward," Mr Sisodia said.

    When asked about the possible impact of the Rajouri Garden bypoll on the MCD election, Mr Sisodia said the BJP too lost several by-polls after its resounding victory in 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

    "We will show it in the MCD poll. After winning 282 seats in Lok Sabha, the BJP lost many bypolls. We will win the MCD polls by telling people about the work done by us and we will win it handsomely," he said.

India's Abdulqadir Rashik Wins Top Prize At UN Challenge For Open Source Tool
  • An Indian software engineer has won the top prize at a global challenge for an open-source tool that enables users to interactively view UN General Assembly resolutions and gain a deeper understanding of the voting patterns of member states.

    Abdulqadir Rashik, also an entrepreneur, won the 'Unite Ideas #UNGAViz Textual Analysis and Visualisation Challenge' for his 'Global Policy', an open-source tool that enables users to search and interactively view General Assembly resolutions to gain a deeper understanding of the voting patterns and decisions made by United Nations Member States.

    Mr Rashik's prototype will be made public and shared with United Nations bodies and member states. He will also receive recognition from the Department of State and the Office of Information and Communications Technology.

    Mr Rashik is a frequent contributor to Unite Ideas challenges and he previously won the top prize in the #LinksSDGs challenge for his 'Links to Sustainable Cities', an interactive visualisation that identifies and maps the links between various Sustainable Development Goals.

    The world body said the project was the first collaboration between the UN Office of Information and Communications Technology (OICT) and the US Department of State.

    The UNGAViz challenged developers worldwide to create an open-source tool capable of providing greater visibility into Member State voting patterns, as well as greater public transparency about their voting choices.

    Solutions were judged not only on their technical merits, but also on their potential to support policymakers dealing with humanitarian challenges, peace and security issues, and other international matters, sometimes under extreme time pressure.

    A State Department official Andrew Hyde said the UN General Assembly has drafted and passed thousands of resolutions affecting people in every corner of the world since its establishment in 1946.

    "In support of transparency and accountability, we believe that everybody, from the general public to policymakers to diplomats, should have easy and timely access to this vast body of knowledge," he said.

    The first runner-up position was awarded to Maximiliano Lopez, an information technology consultant from Argentina, and the second runner-up was Thomas Fournaise, an information technology manager from France.

    The Chief of the Global Services Division in the Office of Information and Communications Technology Salem Avan said the global network of talented open-source developers responded with insightful and practical solutions that can be easily implemented and made available to United Nations offices and Member States.

    UNGAViz is the sixth challenge issued by Unite Ideas, a big data crowd-sourcing platform developed by the Office of Information and Communications Technology to facilitate collaboration among academia, civil society and UN offices, and to mobilise data scientists and software developers around the world to help tackle the complex issues faced by the Organisation and its member states through the creation of open-source technology solutions.

    To date, academia, the general public and private companies have responded to the Unite Ideas challenges with more than 50 open-source solutions, many of which will be used by the United Nations or shared with member states.

Business Affairs 

State Bank of India sees profit boost in three years after bank units merged
  • The head of State Bank of India, the country's largest lender, said she expects a boost to annual profit of as much as 30 billion rupees (USD 465 million) in three years on cost and efficiency gains from the absorption of associate banks.
    Chair Arundhati Bhattacharya also said in an interview that signs of more factory activity pointed to a turnaround in India's weak credit cycle this financial year - welcome news for a government keen to revive private investment.
    State-run SBI this month merged five subsidiary lenders and absorbed them into the parent company. It had fully owned two and had majority stakes in the others, but all had previously operated separately.
    Workforce integration will start in June, said Bhattacharya who joined SBI 40 years ago and rose through the ranks to become its first female chief in 2013. SBI has said it will shut or move some branches and close overlapping units.
    "Total bottom line impact (of) around two to three thousand crores (20-30 billion rupees) is what we are thinking of," she said. "I'll have a better hang of these numbers by the middle of May."
    That would compare with a net profit of 115.9 billion rupees for the year ended March 2016 if results of the five subsidiary banks were included.
    Profits at state-run lenders have been under pressure, weighed down by a record USD 150 billion in stressed assets. The pile of bad debt, combined with slower economic growth and deferral of large projects, has prevented lenders from boosting credit growth.
    As of March 17, banking sector loans had grown just 4.4 percent, compared with 10.9 percent in the previous year, the weakest pace since the fiscal year ended March 1954.
    But Bhattacharya, 61, said she was hoping for good growth from the July-September quarter.
    "I've already had a number of meetings with people saying their capacity utilisation has gone up. Commodity prices have gone up, so to that extent people are coming with working capital requests," she said.
    SBI has forecast loans to grow 11 percent this financial year after an expected 6.5 percent growth in the year ended March.
    Bhattacharya also said the central bank would need to offer rates matching or higher than the reverse repo rate of 6.00 percent, the rate lenders get for deposits at the RBI, should it implement a special facility to drain cash from the banking system.
    India's central bank wants to withdraw some of the big cash pile accumulated in the banking system since the government banned circulation of big currency-notes, but lenders are keen to get proper returns in exchange for transferring cash.

Infosys Q4 results: Infy needs to make a major acquisition
  • Infosys Ltd's results for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017-18 and the full year are in and the numbers don't look pretty. After the initial euphoria under the Sikka regime, it is back to the phase, where it is struggling to grow. Even more worrying is that its guidance for next year is disappointing.
    The management has blamed the external environment and the churn happening in the industry. While that is partly true, a large part of the blame also rests on the internecine feud between the promoters and the current management, which is distracting the company at a crucial time.
    If the current momentum continues it is unlikely to achieve the publicly stated target of achieving $20 billion in revenues by 2020, with industry leading margins and revenue per employee of $80,000. The company is likely to end up short on all of these promises.
    As a palliative measure, the board has announced an enhanced capital allocation policy which includes more generous dividends and a buyback offer but with no clear timelines. Usually a company announces buyback when it believes its shares are being grossly undervalued by the market. Concern in Infosys case is that whether the current buyback is an exit strategy being provided to promoters.
    Also instead of buybacks and even more generous dividends, the company if it believes in the business, should make a large acquisition. Large because at Infosys's size that is the only way to move the needle. It needs to try new things as the old ones clearly seems not to be working.
    Instead of trying to manage steady decline in its fortunes or just milking the existing business model, Sikka and his team need to make bold bets.

EPFO to give Rs 50,000 additional benefit to its members: All you need to know
  • Retirement fund body has decided to give additional benefit of Rs 50,000 to EPFO members. The EPFO calls it a loyalty-cum-life programme that will be given at the time of retirement for contributing to the scheme for 20 years or more.

    • Loyalty-cum-life benefit will be provided to all those members on retirement at 58 or 60 years who have contributed to the scheme for 20 years or more.
    • However, 20 years clause will not be a constrain in the condition of permanent disability of the members. According to proposal, the benefit will also be provided in case of permanent disability. In such cases, the members who have contributed to the EDLI scheme for less than 20 years will be eligible.
    • The Central Board of Trustees, EPFO's apex decision making body, has made a recommendation to the government for a minimum sum assured of Rs 2.5 lakh in the event of death of a subscriber. It has also recommended amending the Employees' Deposit Linked Insurance Scheme to provide the benefits and loyalty-cum-life benefit of up to Rs 50,000.
    • The board's recommendation came in view of a huge Employees' Deposit Linked Insurance corpus of Rs 18,119 crore following addition of interest that accrued on investment of this fund.
    • The suggested benefits will be available to members after government approval. Initially, it will be provided for two years on a pilot basis and will be reviewed thereafter.
    • Those members whose average basic wages are up to Rs 5,000 will get loyalty-cum-life benefit of Rs 30,000. Similarly, the members with wages of Rs 5,001-10,000 Will be eligible for Rs 40,000 benefit.
    • All those members getting more than Rs 10,000 monthly wage will be eligible for Rs 50,000 loyalty-cum-life benefit under the proposed scheme.
    • At present, the dependants of the deceased get a sum assured of up to Rs 6 lakh. There is no provision of minimum insurance and any benefit for surviving members or in cases of permanent disability under the scheme.

    RBI tweaks rules for regulatory action on banks
    • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on Thursday tweaked rules that trigger regulatory action against lenders who overshoot the limit on bad loans or fail to comply with capital ratios.
      The changes are under the so-called Prompt Corrective Action framework unveiled in 2002, which sets thresholds that when breached trigger supervisory action from the RBI, including restriction on dividend distribution.
      In extreme cases, the framework provides the RBI with powers to force mergers or even wind up the non-compliant lender.
      Regulatory action will be taken if a bank's capital-to-risk-assets ratio falls below 7.75 percent, RBI said in a statement on Thursday.
      If the ratio falls below 3.625 percent, the bank could be a candidate for a merger or may even be wound up, the regulator added.
      It was not immediately possible to draw a direct comparison between the new limits and the existing ones.
      Meanwhile, on bad loan ratios, the central bank said the first threshold will be triggered if a bank's net non-performing assets ratio crosses 6 percent.
      A net bad loan ratio of more than 12 percent will invite the extreme action of winding up or merger, it added.

    Sensex closes 182 pts lower, Nifty ends at 9,150; Infy top loser
    • The BSE Sensex settled the day 29,461.45, plunging 182.03 points while the NSE Nifty closed the day 52.65 points lower at 9,150.
      Dragging the markets down were TCS (down 2.60 per cent), Adani Ports (down 2.61 per cent), Tata Steel (down 3.07 per cent) and Infosys (down 3.60 per cent).
      1.20 PM:
      Shares of Sun Pharma was the top gainer on BSE, adding 1.71 per cent. 
      9.53 AM:
      The rupee made good some of its losses by strengthening 30 paise to 64.37 against the US dollar in early trade today on fresh selling of the American currency by banks and exporters.
      Besides, weakness of the dollar against other currencies overseas supported the rupee, forex dealers said.
      They said a lower opening of the domestic equity market and weak macroeconomic data with retail inflation jumping to 5-month high of 3.81 per cent in March and industrial output contracting 1.2 per cent in February capped the rupee's gain.
      Yesterday, the rupee had ended lower by 17 paise to 64.67 against the US dollar with forex market sentiment taking a hit over growing geopolitical tensions at the global level.
      9.44 AM:
      The markets are under pressure in trade today with stress from the IT sector and fall in the metals space.
      Infosys is currently the top loser on the BSE Sensex, losing over 2 per cent.
      Vedanta, down 3 per cent and Hind Zinc, down 0.80 per cent. 
      9.22 AM:
      The Indian benchmark indices opened on a negative note on the back of weak global cues.
      The S&P BSE Sensex was trading at 29,577.55, 65.93 points lower.
      The NSE Nifty Index was trading at 9,183.90, down 19.55 points.
      Country's largest IT software giant Infosys announced their Q4 results prior to market opening with weak results.
      The stock of Infosys fell over 2 per cent in early market session.
      Among other laggards were Tata Steel and Adani Ports that fell 1.13 per cent and 2.15 per cent respectively.
      Hindalco was the top loser on the NSE with Reliance pushing up gains adding nearly 1 per cent.  
      9.00 AM:
      Infosys January-March FY17 consolidated net profit rises marginally year-on-year to Rs 3,603 cr; revenue up 3.44% to Rs 17,120 crore.
      Infosys 2016-17 consolidated profit rises 6.4% to Rs 14,353 crore from previous fiscal; revenue up 9.7% to Rs 68,484 crore.
      Infosys expects 2017-18 revenue growth at 6.5-8.5% in constant currency, 6.1-8.1% in US dollar terms.
      FY18 constant currency guidance at Rs 17,120.
      FY18 EBIT margin guidance between 23-25 per cent.
      Constant EBIT margin falls at 24.6 per cent.
      The board announced dividend of Rs 14.75 per share.
      The company will also pay up Rs 13,000 cr as dividend/share buyback - 20 per cent net worth of Infosys. 
      8.45 AM:
      Investors and experts remain cautious over the Infosys Q4 results as the giant is expected to take a conservative stance.

      General Awareness

      Government to launch Rs 6000-crore ‘SAMPADA’ scheme for food processing

      • Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal has announced that her ministry will soon approach the Cabinet for the approval for an umbrella programme ‘Scheme for Agro-Marine Produce Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters (SAMPADA).’
        About SAMPADA:
        Financial Outlay: Rs. 6000 crore
        To be implemented by: FY 2019-20
        • To bring all ongoing schemes like mega food parks and cold chain projectsunder one umbrella scheme
        • Bring down post harvest losses to almost zero level
        • Provide high quality food to consumers at affordable price
        • Doubling of farmers’ income
        Proposed Schemes to improve food supply chain:
        1. ‘Creation/ Expansion of Food Processing and Preservation Capacities’
        2. ‘New Agro-Processing Clusters’
        3. ‘Backward and Forward Linkages’
        Initiative to create Food Processing Infrastructure:
        Ms. Harsimrat Kaur also mentioned that in order to ensure seamless transfer of food products from production place to consumption centre, Govt. will provide up to Rs 10 crore of subsidy grant or 35% subsidy (whichever is lower) for creating infrastructure at food clusters, agriculture hubs, food labs and cold chains across the country.
        Post-Harvest Losses and Govt.’s Initiatives:
        As per a study done by Union Food Processing Ministry, our country suffers post-harvest losses to the tune of Rs 92,000 crore annually.  In a bid to reduce such losses, Central Govt. has so far sanctioned 42 mega food parks and 234 cold chain projects.
        • These projects can preserve and process 139 lakh tonnes of agricultural produce worth Rs 35,000 crore. Besides, they will also generate 3.5 lakh direct job opportunities.
        • In March 2017, Food Processing Ministry sanctioned 101 new cold chain projects. These projects will require an investment of Rs. 3100 crore out of which Rs. 838 crore will be provided by the Food Processing Ministry.
        • Renowned names like Big Basket, Amul and Haldiram will be setting up these projects.

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