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Current Affairs - 21 April 2017

General Affairs 

Aadhaar Act Has Strong Privacy Provisions, Says NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant
  • Niti Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant today said the Aadhaar Act has strong privacy provisions while dismissing fears that there is possibility of misuse of data.
    "The Aadhaar Act has strong privacy provisions. I am a great believer in privacy of data," the Niti Aayog CEO said while replying to a query at the Hero Mindmine Summit here.

    Mr Kant, however, cautioned that India definitely needs to take care of privacy in future.
    "I think India in future needs to move towards a strong Privacy Act," he said.    

    His statement comes in the wake of sharing of personal details of ace cricket MS Dhoni on social media by an agency that helps the Unique Identification Authority of India enroll citizens for Aadhaar.

    About increase in digital transactions, Mr Kant suggested elite Indians need to change their mindset.
    "People in Krishna Godavari district in Andhra Pradesh and tribals of Jharkhand are able to adopt digital transactions more than elites of Delhi," he pointed out.
    The Niti Aayog CEO predicted that there would be no concept of physical banking in future. "Data analytics would enable banks to lend to people. We have biometrics of a billion people which no other country has," Mr Kant added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Paytm Founder Only Indians On Time's '100 Most Influential People' List
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma were the only two Indians to make it to an annual list of '100 most influential people in the world' this year released by the Time magazine today.
    The list features pioneers, artists, titans, leaders and icons from around the world honoured for "the power of their inventions, the scale of their ambitions, the genius of their solutions to problems that no one before them could solve."
    The magazine has also included US President Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and British Prime Minister Theresa May in the new list of 100 most influential people.
    The profile of PM Modi, 66, written by author Pankaj Mishra, said that in May 2014 - long before Trump seemed conceivable as a US president - Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of the world's largest democracy.
    "Once barred from the US for his suspected complicity in anti-Muslim violence, and politically ostracised at home as well, this Hindu nationalist used Twitter to bypass traditional media and speak directly to masses feeling left or pushed behind by globalisation, and he promised to make India great again by rooting out self-serving elites," it said.
    Nearly three years after he came to power, PM Modi's vision of India's economic, geopolitical and cultural supremacy is far from being realised, the profile read, but his "extended family of Hindu nationalists have taken to scapegoating secular and liberal intellectuals as well as poor Muslims."
    "Yet Modi's aura remains undimmed. He is a maestro of the art of political seduction, playing on the existential fears and cultural insecurities of people facing downward or blocked mobility," it said.
    PM Modi's elections victory in Uttar Pradesh, India's most politically significant state, by a landslide confirmed that "elected strongmen are the chief beneficiaries of a global revolt against elites."
    For 43-year-old Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani wrote that when India's government unexpectedly scrapped 86 per cent of the country's currency notes in November, Mr Sharma "seized the moment".
    As Indians scrambled to exchange the banned notes for new currency, Paytm, Mr Sharma's digital payments startup, went on a promotional spree, inviting Indians to start using Paytm's digital wallet to pay for everyday goods and services.
    "It worked. By the end of 2016, Paytm had 177 million users, compared with 122 million at the beginning of the year," Mr Nilekani wrote.
    Mr Sharma had "catapulted himself into a nation's consciousness. It was a masterstroke by a small-town boy who studied in a Hindi medium school before conquering the country's Anglophone startup world," he wrote.
    Paytm is now backed by the chief of China's Alibaba, Jack Ma, and Mr Sharma is branching out into the more heavily regulated world of banking, with plans to offer digital accounts.
    "He will face new challenges from deep-pocketed and more-experienced competitors. But knowing Vijay, he will win the next time around too," his profile read.

Government Will Not Reduce Security Given To VIPs: Venkaiah Naidu
  • The government has no plans to cut back on security to VIPs, Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said today, a day after the Centre banned the use of beacon lights atop all vehicles, except emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire brigade. "With regard to security, it is necessary in the interest of the country because important people have to be protected. Otherwise, there is no preferential treatment," Mr Naidu, who holds the portfolio of Information and Broadcasting, told reporters in New Delhi.

    About the Centre's decision to put an end to the VIP culture, he said: "Everybody is a VIP and that is the philosophy of our government." Though it is a small initiative but it sends a message that every person should be treated equally, he added.

    He hoped that state governments will also shun the used of beacons or they will face the wrath of the people. On a query about the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute, the Minister said the case has been going on for so many years and there is nothing new in that.

    He did not elaborate on what could be the impact of the Supreme Court order in the Babri Masjid demolition case on the BJP.

    Top BJP leaders LK Advani, MM Joshi and Uma Bharti will be tried for criminal conspiracy in the 1992 Babri Masjid demolition case as the Supreme Court had yesterday allowed the CBI plea to restore the charge against them.

    The Supreme Court, however, noted that Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh enjoys constitutional immunity and can be tried only after he ceases to hold the office. Kalyan Singh was the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh in 1992.

    Meanwhile, amid a debate on some of the negative impacts of social media, Mr Naidu said it cannot be censored. "It is a larger issue. We have to think about it and discuss because we cannot think of censoring social media. The society has to discuss and then come to a conclusion at the end of the day," he said.

    The Minsiter was speaking to reporters after inaugurating a workshop on Instagram for government employees engaged in social media communications.

Appealed To Pak For Consular Access To Kulbhushan Jadhav 15 Times, Says India
  • India has sought consular access to Kulbhushan Jadhav 15 times from Pakistan and will do all it can to ensure justice is done, the foreign ministry said today. Mr Jadhav, a former Indian Navy officer was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court last week on charges of spying.
    "India had demanded consular access 15 times till now," Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Gopal Baglay said at a media briefing today. "We don't know anything about Jadhav's location or condition in Pakistan; it is a matter of concern for India. We have no idea where he is and how he is doing. Whether he is healthy and whether he needs help; this is the reason why we need consular access," he said.

    He said the Pakistan Deputy High Commissioner was summoned to the Ministry yesterday. The Ministry of External Affairs has sought details of legal proceedings against Mr Jadhav in Pakistan and wants Pakistan "to communicate officially what is the process for appeal", Mr Baglay said.

    The government reiterated that allegations against Mr Jadhav are "baseless" and "there are attempts to misinform the international community which have failed in the past too". Pakistan has claimed all legal requirements were fulfilled in the trial of Mr Jadhav which resulted in his conviction.

    Pakistan claims its security forces had arrested Mr Jadhav from Balochistan on March 3 last year and alleged that he was a serving officer in the Indian Navy. The Pakistan Army had also released a "confessional video" of Mr Jadhav after his arrest. India denied the charges and maintained that Mr Jadhav was kidnapped by the Pakistan authorities.

Invented Names Don't Make Claims Legal: India's Comeback To China's Barb
  • New Delhi has brushed aside China's announcing its own names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh, saying renaming or inventing names for towns of neighbours does not make Beijing's territorial claims legal.

    The barb was officially described by China as a move to standardise in Chinese characters the names of six places. It came days after Beijing, fuming over the visit of the Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to Arunachal Pradesh, declared that it would take further action to safeguard its sovereignty.

    "Assigning invented names to towns of your neighbour does not make illegal territorial claims legal. Arunachal Pradesh is and will always be an integral part of India," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay told reporters here.

    The names announced by China are Wo'gyainling, Mila Ri, Qoid ngarbo Ri, Mainquka, B mo La and Namkapub Ri. It is not clear which places in Arunachal Pradesh they correspond to. But China's state-run media had made clear that the names, put out by the Ministry of Civil Affairs, referred to locations in Arunachal Pradesh that China insists was a part of South Tibet.

    Union Information and Broadcasting Minister M Venkaiah Naidu was equally dismissive. "Let them rename. How does it matter? It's like you renaming your neighbour. It does not change his name,"  he said.

    The Chinese move came weeks after the 81-year-old Dalai Lama's visit to Arunachal Pradesh, his seventh since he arrived in Tawang in March 1959 that China wanted to be called off. New Delhi had rejected the demand, insisting that China was trying to create an "artificial controversy" over the spiritual leader visit. China had lodged a formal protest with India against the visit that it perceived would "undermine" Beijing's interests.

Business Affairs 

Four crore EPFO subscribers to get 8.65 per cent interest rate for 2016-17
  • Over four crore subscribers of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) will get 8.65 per cent rate of interest for 2016-17 in their accounts soon.
    On Thursday, labour minister Bandaru Dattatreya said the Finance Ministry has approved 8.65 per cent interest rate on EPF.
    "Finance Ministry has agreed to 8.65 per cent rate of interest. Now, the communication will come. The formal discussions are over," the minister said.
    "We will immediately issue the notification and credit the rate of interest to over four crore subscribers."
    The Employees' Provident Fund Organisation trustees had approved 8.65 per cent rate on EPF in December last year.
    The Finance Ministry has been nudging the Labour Ministry to lower the EPF rate for aligning it with the rates of small savings schemes like PPF.
    As per the practice, the board's decision is concurred by the Finance Ministry after evaluating whether the EPFO would be able to provide the rate approved by trustees through its own income or not.
    Once the Finance Ministry ratifies the rate of interest approved by the CBT, it is credited to the account of EPFO members for that particular financial year.
    The Finance Ministry had last year also decided to lower the EPF interest rate of 8.8 percent for 2015-16, decided by the CBT, to 8.7 per cent. The decision had drawn flak from all quarters forcing the government to uphold 8.8 per cent.
    The Finance Ministry has been asking the Labour Ministry to rationalise the EPF interest rate in view of lowering of returns on various administered saving schemes like PPF.
    The government generally ratifies the rate of return approved by the CBT because the EPFO is an autonomous body and provides interest on EPF deposits from its own income.

Indian economy on a sound footing
  • The Indian economy appears to be well placed if global and Indian agencies are to be believed. It is estimated that the Indian economy is poised to grow at over 7 per cent in the near future.
    The World Bank expects India's growth to spike to 7.2 per cent in the financial year 2017/18 from 6.8 per cent the previous fiscal. The international agency forecast that India's economic growth will rise gradually to 7.7 per cent in 2019/20, "underpinned by a recovery in private investments. A "timely and smooth implementation of the GST could prove to be a significant upside risk to economic activity in FY17/18", the World Bank said in a report. It has however warned against significant risks to India's favourable growth outlook.  
    The Asia Development Outlook 2017 report too is upbeat about India and predicts a GDP of 7.4 per in 2016/17 and 7.6 per cent in 2017/18. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently trimmed India's 2017 GDP growth forecast by 0.4 percentage points but it still expects a healthy 7.2 per cent. The lower estimate was primarily because of temporary negative consumption shock induced by cash shortages and payment disruptions from the recent demonetisation drive.
    In February, the Central Statistics Office estimated country's GDP also estimated economic growth at over 7 per cent (7.1) in 2016/17 even though it's a correction from the growth of 7.9 per cent recorded 2015/16. A normal monsoon, as forecast by the India Meteorological Department (IMD), would further boost growth.
    Indeed, India appears poised to remain the fastest growing major economy for a while, outstripping China. 

More than 90% engineers in India are not suitable for software development jobs, shows research
  • Talent shortage is acute in the IT and data science ecosystem in India with a survey claiming that 95 per cent of engineers in the country are not fit to take up software development jobs.
    According to a study by employability assessment company Aspiring Minds, only 4.77 per cent candidates can write the correct logic for a programme -- a minimum requirement for any programming job.
    Over 36,000 engineering students form IT related branches of over 500 colleges took Automata -- a Machine Learning based assessment of software development skills -- and over 2/3 could not even write code that compiles.  

    The study further noted that while more than 60 per cent candidates cannot even write code that compiles, only 1.4 per cent can write functionally correct and efficient code.
    "Lack of programming skills is adversely impacting the IT and data science ecosystem in India. The world is moving towards introducing programming to three-year-old! India needs to catch up," Aspiring Minds CTO and Co-Founder Varun Aggarwal said.
    The employability gap can be attributed to rote learning based approaches rather than actually writing programmes on a computer for different problems. Also, there is a dearth of good teachers for programming, since most good programmers get jobs in industry at good salaries, the study said.
    Moreover, programming skills are five times poorer for tier III colleges as compared to tier 1 colleges.
    "Sixty nine per cent of candidates from top 100 colleges are able to write a compilable code versus rest of the colleges where only 31 per cent are able to write a compilable code," the report said.

    Sensex climbs 75 pts; Shares of GAIL, HDFC Bank gain, ICICI Bank bleed
      YES Bank beats estimates and posted profits of Rs 914.1 crore for March quarter, but net NPAs rose to Rs 1,072.3 crore against Rs 342.5 crore posted during the previous quarter. 
      However, the shares of the private lender plunged 6.50 per cent to Rs 1,501 after the asset quality of the bank slipped in the results declared yesterday.
      RS Software reported a loss at Rs 3.6 crore with a 2 per cent dip in revenue.
      Jay Bharat Maruti posted a 72 per cent rise in profit at Rs 21 crore; Revenue up 41.3 per cent on year on year basis.
      Reliance has commissioned the world's largest and most complex ethane project at Dahej
      Zee Entertainment reports that it in in advanced talks to buy Silk Routes 9x Media.
      DHFL may sell its majority stake in Adhar housing finance.
      Godrej Property to raise Rs 1,500 crore by selling office assets to reduce its debt.
      1.24 PM:
      Grasim was the top gainer on NSE Nifty, adding over 5 per cent followed by GAIL (up, 2.58 points) and Bank of Baroda (up 2.23 per cent).
      YES Bank and ICICI Bank continue to plunge on the NSE Index.
      1.12 PM:
      Shares of Yes Bank slumped 6.5 per cent after the company's bad assets swelled in the March quarter.
      The stock saw a weak opening and further dropped 6.5 per cent to Rs 1,501 on BSE.
      At NSE, shares of the company plunged 5.28 per cent to Rs 1,520.60.
      Yes Bank yesterday reported a 30.2 per cent rise in net profit in its Q4 results at Rs 914.12 crore for the last quarter of 2016-17, even as its bad assets swelled.
      The private sector lender had registered a standalone net profit of Rs 702.11 crore in the corresponding January-March period of 2015-16.
      Total income (standalone) of the bank grew 29.4 per cent to Rs 5,606.38 crore, against Rs 4,331.11 crore in the corresponding period a year ago, the bank said in a regulatory filing.
      However, the asset quality of the bank slipped, with gross non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans rising to 1.52 per cent of gross advances as on March 31, 2017, as against 0.76 per cent a year ago.
      Net NPAs rose to 0.81 per cent of net loans disbursed from 0.29 per cent earlier.
      1.06 PM:
      BSE Sensex trade at 29,412.22, climbs 75.65 points (0.26%)
      Nifty50 trades at 9,128.40, up 24.90 points (0.27%)
      11.05 AM:
      The Sensex is trading at 29,418.80, rising 82.23 points (0.28%)
      The Nifty50 is at 9,127.35, up 23.85 points (0.26%)
      GAIL is the top gainer on the BSE gaining 4.15 per cent.
      9.35 AM:
      Ambuja Cements, up 1.69 per cent.
      Adani Ports, up 1.32 per cent.
      YES Bank , down 3.77 per cent.
      ICICI Bank, 2.51 per cent.
      9.25 AM:
      "Looking at yesterday's recovery after posting a low of 9075, it can be concluded that the Nifty is respecting its intraday support level of 9060 (161% retracement of the small up move from 9120.25 to 9217.90)," said an Angel Broking report.
      "Going forward, 9130 - 9160 would be seen as a strong intraday resistance zone. At present, one should closely keep a track of the trading range of 9060 - 9160. It's advisable to focus on individual stocks which are likely to offer better trading opportunities," the report added.
      9.20 AM:
      ICICI Bank was the top loser on the BSE, down 2.51 per cent as 55.7 lakh shares was trading in the A block.
      9.19 AM:
      Sun TV is the stock of the moment, trading 5.5 per cent higher as analysts expect the media house to post profits in their Q4 results.
      9.17 AM:
      The BSE Sensex was trading at 29,399.41, 62.84 points higher (0.21%)
      The NSE Nifty50 was trading at 9,123.00, up 19.50 points (0.21%)
      9.15 AM:
      Sensex, Nifty start on a green note, paring losses from previous sessions. 

    Nalco stake sale attracts Rs 954 cr worth bids on day 1
    • The first PSU disinvestment of the current fiscal took off on a strong note, with the NALCO share sale attracting bids worth Rs 954 crore on strong demand from HNIs and institutional buyers.
      The share sale attracted bids for over 14.24 crore shares as against 7.73 crore offered to institutional investors, an over-subscription of 1.84 times, according to the stock exchange data. Most of the bids came at Rs 67.03 per share, slightly higher than the floor price of Rs 67. At this price, subscription of over 14.24 crore shares could fetch over Rs 954 crore.
      "The government will retain full over-subscription under the greenshoe option," a finance ministry official said. Of its total holding of 74.58 per cent in Nalco, the government is selling 5 per cent or over 9.66 crore shares at a floor price of Rs 67. The two-day stake sale could fetch about Rs 640 crore to the exchequer.
      Over 1.93 crore have been reserved for retail investors who will also be offered 5 per cent discount over the issue price. Retail investors are defined as individuals ones who place bids for sales of total value of not more than Rs 2 lakh in aggregate.
      However, Nalco scrip closed 7.76 per cent lower over previous close of Rs 67.75 on the BSE. National Aluminium Company Ltd (Nalco) is the first disinvestment of the current fiscal, which began on April 1.
      For this fiscal, the government has set a target of Rs 46,500 crore through minority stake sale and Rs 15,000 crore from strategic disinvestment. In 2016-17, the government had raised over Rs 46,247 crore from disinvestment.

    General Awareness

    Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh inaugurates India Steel 2017 in Mumbai

    • “India Steel 2017”, the 3rd edition of International Conference and Exhibition on Steel Industry was held at Mumbai Exhibition Center in Mumbai from 19th-21st April, 2017. It was inaugurated by Union Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh.
      Other dignitaries present at the inauguration: Dr. Aruna Sharma – Secretary, Steel, Mr. P.K. Singh – Chairman of SAIL, Dr. Edwin Basson – Director General of World Steel Association and Dr. A Didar Singh – Secretary General of FICCI.
      More Details About ‘India Steel 2017’:
      • This exhibition-cum-conference has been organised by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) along with Union Ministry of Steel.
      • The objective was to provide a platform for stakeholders in Steel Industry to interact with each other and explore mutually beneficial business opportunities.
      • More than 200 exhibitors from the steel sector participated in this event.
      • Reverse Buyer-Seller Meet, which is first-of-its-kind in steel sector was also organised, wherein International buyers from Middle East, South East Asia, Africa, Australia and SAARC countries were invited.
      PRIDE – Thrust areas of Union Ministry of Steel:
      During the inaugural address, Mr. Singh mentioned about five thrust areas which Union Steel Ministry has been focusing since July 2016. These thrust areas have been summed up as
      P – Production and Productivity Increase
      R – Research and Development
      I – Indian-Made steel concept
      D – Demand boost for steel
      E – Excellence in Quality and Efficiency
      Overview of the Indian Steel Sector
      • Steel sector is one of the core industries in India.
      • It contributes 2% to India’s GDP and employs nearly 6 lakh people.
      • Steel production in India was 6 MT in 2016. Currently India is the third largest producer of crude steel in the world and is expected to become second largest producer by year 2020.
      • Indian Govt. has set a national mission of having steel production capacity of 300 MT by 2025-26.
      Indian Steel Sector Performance in FY 2016-17:
      ParameterGrowth Rate
      Steel Exports102%
      Steel Production9%
      Steel Consumption3%
      The phenomenal growth in steel exports during 2016-17 was complimented by reduction in steel imports by 36%. As a result, India became net exporter of steel after a gap of three years.

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