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Current Affairs - 29 April 2017

General Affairs 

India's First Smart Highway, Worth Rs. 11,000 Crore, To Be Ready In August: Nitin Gadkari
  • India's first smart and green highway - Eastern Peripheral Expressway - for decongesting Delhi will be completed in August this year, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said today.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi will dedicate to the nation the 135-km, the nearly Rs. 11,000 crore access-controlled six-lane expressway.

    The project is replete with smart and intelligent highway traffic management system (HTMS) and video incident detection system (VIDS) besides a closed tolling system in which the collections will be made only on the distance travelled and not on the entire length.

    "The project, most likely, will be completed in August this year. We have spent a huge Rs. 5,900 crore on land acquisition.

    Once complete, this will reduce traffic congestion in Delhi and will have the best automatic traffic management system, landscaping, besides wayside amenities. We're planting at least 2.5 lakh trees and the expressway will be lit by solar panels," said Mr Gadkari.

    The Eastern Peripheral Expressway will set a benchmark in highway construction by being environment-friendly with world-class safety features and smart/interactive infrastructure, the minster said.

    The project, which commenced on September 14, 2015 will consume a million tonnes of flyash from NTPC's various thermal plants to utilise waste and minimise pollution.

    The greenfield project, which hit several hurdles and saw laying of its foundation by Prime Minster Narendra Modi on November 5 2015, will divert around 2 lakh vehicles passing through the national capital daily to this bypass, cutting out pollution. 
    Mr Gadkari, who inspected the project sites in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, said the toll plazas will be equipped with the faster Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) system offering an uninterrupted travel experience to users.

    "The Expressway will be equipped with HTMS which will include Variable Message Signs (VMS), CCTV, VIDS, Warning Devices, Overspeed Checking System, Weigh-in-Motion, Pavement Management Systems and Fibre Optic Network. All information collected from HTMS equipment will be relayed to a central server in control room which will, on the basis of input, trigger alarms and change VMS messages etc. This will result in real-time incident management," he said.

    Along the expressway, wayside amenities like petrol pumps, motels, rest areas, restaurants, shops, repair services etc will be developed, he said.

    Landscaping will be done at all the interchanges, major bridges and toll plazas with provision of fountains and lighting and a total of about 2.5 lakh trees of various species will be planted as green belt within row of the Project Expressway, he added.

    Unique features of the project will be rainwater harvesting at every 500 metres on either side of the Expressway and the watering of the plants will be done through drip irrigation, he said.

    In keeping with the Prime Minister's Swachh Bharat Mission, provision of toilets will be made at regular intervals along the expressway on either side at a distance of 25 km, he added.

    The expressway passes through Sonipat, Bagpat, Ghaziabad, Gautam Budh Nagar, Faridabad and Palwal in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, and the proposed alignment crosses river Yamuna at Khurrampur/Khata in UP and Faizpur Khadar in Haryana and crosses the river Hindon.

    The project will consume 10.2 lakh tonne cement, about one lakh tonne steel, 19 lakh tonnes of sand and 50 lakh tonnes aggregates. 7,275 people are associated with the project.

Sushma Swaraj Calls On Cyprus President
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today called on the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, and discussed areas of bilateral cooperation.

    The visiting dignitary is scheduled to hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on key bilateral, regional and international issues later in the day.

    Mr Anastasiades, who is currently on a five-day visit to India, was given a ceremonial welcome at the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhavan.

    He also paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi whom he described as an "inspiration" for Cyprus' freedom struggle.

    This is the first visit of President Anastasiades to India. Earlier, he had substantive meetings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York in September 2015.

PM Narendra Modi, Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades Hold Bilateral Talks
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades today held detailed discussion on bilateral and regional issues and agreed on the need for all countries to decisively act against states that shelter and sustain violence factories in their regions.
    After the meeting between their leaders, the two sides signed four pacts, including one for air services and cooperation in merchant shipping.

    At a joint media event with the Cypriot leader, Mr Modi said India has always stood with Cyprus on crucial issues and firmly supports its sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity.

    Noting that they had "detailed discussion" on bilateral as well as regional and international issues of mutual interest, PM Modi said, "We agreed on the need for all countries to decisively act against states that generate, support, shelter and sustain violence factories in our regions."

    The two sides also agreed on the need of early reforms of the UNSC, Mr Modi said and expressed India's appreciation for Cyprus' support to India's bid for inclusion in it as a permanent member.

    Earlier, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj called on the Cypriot president, and discussed areas of bilateral cooperation.

2017 To Be One Of The Hottest Years: Study
  • 2017 will be among the hottest years on record, say scientists who have developed a new method for predicting global mean temperature. Researchers at Yale University in the US found that weak El Nino activity from 1998 until 2013, rather than a pause in long-term global warming, was the root cause for slower rates of increased surface temperature.

    They also found that volcanic activity played only a minor role.

    "From a practical perspective, our method, when combined with El Nino prediction, allows us to predict next-year global mean temperature," said Alexey Fedorov, professor at Yale University.

    "Accordingly, 2017 will remain among the hottest years of the observational record, perhaps just a notch colder than 2016 or 2015," Mr Fedorov said.

    El Nino events contribute to year-to-year variations in global mean temperature by modulating the heat that is released from tropical oceans into the atmosphere, researchers said.

    El Nino warms the atmosphere, while the cold phase of the phenomenon, La Nina, cools the atmosphere. 
    The new model closely mirrors global mean surface temperature (GMST) changes since 1880, including the so called global warming hiatus and the more recent temperature rise.

    "Our main conclusion is that global warming never went away, as one might imply from the term 'global warming hiatus,'" Mr Fedorov said.

    "The warming can be masked by inter-annual and decadal natural climate variability, but then it comes back with a vengeance," said Fedorov.

    Multiple strong El Nino events occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. This was followed by much weaker El Nino activity, which lasted until 2014.

    "The recent rapid rise in global temperature mainly resulted from the prolonged 2014-2016 El Nino conditions in the tropics that reached an extreme magnitude in the winter of 2015," said Shineng Hu, first author of the study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

    "The corresponding heat release into the atmosphere, together with the ongoing background global warming trend, made 2014, 2015, and 2016 the three consecutive warmest years of the instrumental record so far," Mr Hu said. 

Maharashtra BJP To Launch 'Sanvad Yatra' To Counter Opposition Campaign
  • In a bid to counter the opposition's 'Sangharsh yatra' campaign, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday asked the BJP workers to embark on a "Sanvad Yatra" to tell people and farmers about the welfare policies of the state government.

    Addressing the concluding session of the two-day state BJP executive meeting in Pimpri Chinchwad area near here, Mr Fadnavis asked the workers to reach out to farmers and common people.

    "People of this state are not responding to the 'Sangharsh Yatra' as they have reposed their faith in us and they are expecting communication from our side.

    "So, we are going to start a 'reaching-out' campaign, wherein party workers in the state will go to common people. There will be target of reaching out to 25 lakh farmers. As they (opposition) call their campaign a 'Sangharsh Yatra', we will call ours a 'Sanvad Yatra'," the CM said.

    Taking potshots at the Congress and the NCP, Mr Fadnavis said that common people and farmers are not supporting their 'Sangharsh' campaign because masses know that these parties had "exploited them by indulging into corruption when they were in power".

    "I would like to tell all MLAs and corporators that people gave us the mandate because of transparency and honesty..Do not ever compromise on these two aspects". He also cautioned the party workers against allowing power to go into their heads.

    Speaking to reporters later, the BJP state unit president Raosaheb Danve said the party is celebrating the birth centenary of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay.

    "The party workers, including office-bearers, corporators, MLA, MPs and ministers are expected to convey the 'Antyodaya' ideology of Upadhyay and spend 15 days reaching out to common people and farmers, and explain them about various policies of the state government," he said.

    When asked why a loan waiver is not granted to farmers in Maharashtra as against Uttar Pradesh where the BJP government has announced this measure, Mr Danve said, "the loan waiver was one of the electoral promises of BJP in UP.

    However, in Maharashtra, the loan waiver was not in the party's manifesto".

    The BJP leader clarified the government is not against awarding loan waiver to farmers.

    "Loan waiver is not the ultimate solution as farmers need infrastructure in the agriculture field and sustainable investment in the agriculture," he said.

    Mr Danve said that the party workers will be given training before they embark on "Sanvad Yatra".

Business Affairs 

India to be among top 5 economies in the world by 2022, pushing Britain out, overtaking Germany
  • Riding on a high economic growth prospect, India is set to overtake Germany in 2022 as the world's fourth-largest economy and push United Kingdom out of the top five economies of the world. However, the journey will not be easy as the country has to deal with many challenges to maintain the current growth momentum.
    According to a report in Bloomberg which is based on the analysis of growth projections by the International Monetary Fund, India has to deal with multiple challenges including the biggest pile of distressed assets.
    Underlining some of the challenges, the report said: "These include executing a wide-ranging overhaul of the tax system, sorting out the biggest pile of distressed assets among major economies, reviving lackluster productivity, substantially increasing employment opportunities, encouraging corporate investment and overcoming a significant infrastructure shortfall." 
    In a recent report, the IMF observed that India's economy has grown at a strong pace in recent years owing to the implementation of critical structural reforms, favorable terms of trade, and lower external vulnerabilities.
    The IMF believes that India is going to continue to grow at a fast pace, with a projected 6.8 per cent rate for Financial Year 2016-17 and 7.2 per cent in 2017-18.
    The IMF report also highlighted India's effort to streamlining the taxing-system and said that it would help raise country's medium-term growth to above eight per cent.
    Speaking on the tax reform in India, IMF Deputy Managing Director Tao Zhang said, "The government has made significant progress on important economic reforms that will support strong and sustainable growth going forward."
    "We expect that the goods and services tax (GST), which is targeted to be applied starting in July, will help raise India's medium-term growth to above 8 per cent, as it will enhance production and the movement of goods and services across Indian states," the IMF official said.
    Currently, world's top five largest economies are United States, China, Japan, Germany and United Kingdom. India ranks 6 with $2,454.458 billion nominal GDP.

Biocon's adjusted Q4 net profit up; company issues bonus shares
  • Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, Chairperson and Managing Director, Biocon is "cautiously optimistic" about FY18 and continues to stand by the guidance the company has given on its hopes to be a billion dollars in revenue in FY19. Sharing the financial results for the fourth quarter and for the full year FY17 over a conference call on Friday, Shaw says the cautious optimism for FY18 is linked to some of the uncertainties around chances of any delays in getting approvals in the emerging markets for sales from the new Malaysian facility of the company.
    That apart, there are certain unknowns surrounding the GST (Goods and Services Tax) roll out in India such as the levels that would be applicable and how it would be rolled out as far as pharma sector is concerned.  
    Biocon has reported a net profit of Rs 127 crore for Q4FY17 showing a decline as compared to the corresponding period of previous year. This, she says, is  "because the net profit in the year-ago quarter was boosted by an exceptional item of Rs 256 crore. This was on account of a deferred revenue recognition pertaining to partnering of our rh-insulin development program."
    Adjusting for exceptional items in Q4FY16, she says, "our net profit for the Q4FY17at Rs 135 crore, represents a growth of 75 per cent, against Rs 77 crore net profit before exceptional item in Q4FY16". She underlined the fact that the company's financial results were based on the new Indian Accounting Standards, referred to as IND-AS.
    As for revenues, she says for Q4FY17, it was Rs 974 crore as against Rs 973 crore in Q4FY16. The EBITDA for the quarter stood at Rs 231 crore as against Rs 221 crore in the previous year. The board of directors of the company, she said, have recommended the issue of 2 bonus shares for every 1 share held in Biocon. Also, the board had recommended a final dividend of Rs 3 per share for FY17 (pre bonus).

Sensex ends 103 pts lower, Nifty closes below 9,350
  • The Sensex on Thursday opened marginally lower amid Asian markets slipping as investors digested the scant details of President Donald Trump's US tax overhaul, and economic and corporate reports.
    Here are the live updates
    3.42 pm:
    S&P BSE Sensex ended the day at 30,029.74, 103.61 points lower (0.34%) while the Nifty50 settled the day at 9,342.15, down 9.70 points (0.10%).
    Lupin was the top loser, falling 2.72 per cent, followed by ITC and Tata Steel on the BSE Sensex.
    On the Nifty index, Aurobindo Pharma was the top loser while YES Bank was the top gainer.
    Shares of Kotak Mahindra Bank rose 1.5 per cent after the bank reported a rise in net profit.

    Maruti Suzuki fell 0.7 per cent even after its posted a 15.8 per cent increase in Net Profit to Rs 1,709.

    Shares of Adani Enterprises surged 13 per cent in intraday trade after it was out of the F&O ban but later pared gains to end nearly 5 per cent lower.
    1.28 pm:
    The Indian benhmark indices carried forward morning losses into the afternoon as investors continue to book profits ahead of the April F&O.
    The Financial stocks failed to impress, dragging the market low, led by Axis Bank after it fell as much as 2.7 per cent on the back of a 43% drop in Q4 profit.
    The long awaited US tax reform failed to boost investor sentiment that added to the muted global cues.
    European markets also opened lower.
    Yesterday, Indian markets out-performed with the BSE Sensex closing the trade above 30,000-mark for the first time ever.
    Nifty50 hit an all-time high of 9,367 for the second straight session on Wednesday. 
    11.53 am: Maruti Suzuki was trading lower by 0.11 per cent at Rs 6,397.50 as cautious investors cut down their bets ahead of the quarterly earnings to be released later in the day.
    11.47 am: The BSE Sensex was trading at 30,087.27, down 46.08 points.
    The Nifty50 was at 9,349.45, 2.40 points lower. 
    Tata Motors, Power Grid and Hero MotoCorp were leading the gains, while Lupin, Axis  Bank and ITC were dragging the bourses lower. 
    Squaring-up of positions by participants -- today being the last trading session of April series contracts in the derivatives segment -- and weak Asian cues dampened sentiment here.
    11:13 am: The rupee, which opened 6 paise stronger in the morning, has pared some gains and is trading at 64.11 to the dollar.
    11:00 am: Shares in Maruti Suzuki, India's largest carmaker by sales, jumped nearly half a percent to touch its record high of Rs 6,439.95. The stock is trading at 6,413.
    10:50 am: Losses in ITC, Reliance Industries, HDFC, ICICI Bank and Axis Bank are weighing on the Nifty.
    10:20 am: BSE midcap index adds 0.24 percent, taking gains so far this year to 23 percent.
    9:57 am: BSE consumer durables index rises 0.8 percent, TECk index adds 0.6 percent, auto index gains 0.46 percent, power index climbs 0.24 percent.
    9:31 am: The Axis Bank stock was trading 1.71 percent lower at 508 level a day after the private sector lender reported a 43 per cent decline in net profit to Rs 1,225.10 crore for the fourth quarter of last fiscal on higher provisioning for bad loans, which rose sharply.
    9: 20 am: The BSE Sensex was trading 3.73 points or 0.01 percent lower.
    9:19 am: Nifty too was trading 15 points or 0.17 percent lower at 9336 level.

    Global markets 

    Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index lost 0.2 percent to 19,243.76 while South Korea's Kospi dipped 0.3 percent to 2,201.39. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.1 percent to 24,565.60 and the Shanghai Composite index in mainland China fell 0.4 percent to 3,128.42. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged up a fraction to 5,914.00. Benchmarks in Taiwan and Southeast Asia slipped.
    The Standard & Poor's 500 index slipped less than 0.1 percent to 2,387.45 after briefly climbing above its record closing level earlier in the day. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 0.1 percent to 20,975.09 and the Nasdaq composite slipped less than 0.1 percent to 6,025.23. The Russell 2000 index of small-caps rose 0.6 percent to 1,419.43.

      Over 29 million smartphones shipped to India in Q1: Report
      • Smartphone shipments in India grew 15 per cent to 29 million units in March quarter compared to the year-ago period, with top five brands capturing almost 70 per cent of total segment, research firm Counterpoint said.
        India is one of the world's largest and among the fastest growing smartphone markets. With sales slowing down in mature markets like the US and Europe, handset makers are expanding their presence in the Indian market, bringing in the best devices from their portfolio.
        During the said quarter, Samsung continued to lead the market with 26 per cent share, followed by Chinese players Xiaomi (13 per cent), Vivo (12 per cent), Oppo (10 per cent) and Lenovo (8 per cent).
        Overall, the mobile handset market grew by six per cent in the January-March 2017 quarter, with smartphones and feature phones contributing equal share.
        Samsung led the tally here too with 26 per cent share, followed by itel (nine per cent), Micromax (eight per cent), Xiaomi (seven per cent) and Vivo (six per cent).
        "India s smartphone market is witnessing a focus shift in distribution strategy by major brands. Offline brands like OPPO, vivo and Gionee have now started focusing on online channels as well to gain extra market share," Countrepoint Research Analyst Karn Chauhan said.
        He added that online-only brands like Xiaomi and Motorola are moving fast into offline markets to widen their reach to the mass market, addressing consumers in tier II and III cities.
        The mid-end segment (Rs 15,000-20,000) witnessed the highest growth of 158 per cent year-on-year during the said quarter. Most of the growth in the category was driven by Samsung, OPPO, vivo, Gionee, and Motorola.
        The premium segment (over Rs 30,000) grew at 35 per cent year-on-year with Samsung accounting for 48 per cent market share, followed closely by Apple at 43 per cent. OnePlus, OPPO and Google made it to the top five in this segment, but each with marginal shares.
        Shobhit Srivastava, Research Analyst at Counterpoint, said the ASP (average selling price) of smartphones in India increased by Rs 2,000 during the March quarter compared to the year-ago period.
        "The reason for the increase in ASP is the growing number of users that are upgrading to the high-end specifications offered by brands in the Rs 8,000-20,000 price segment," he added.

      States need to distinguish between rich and poor farmers: CEA
      • Joining the debate on taxing agriculture income, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian today said states, which have the option to levy the tax, should make a distinction between rich and poor farmers.
        "The legal situation is...nothing prevents state governments from taxing agriculture income. The constitutional restriction is on central government taxing agriculture income.
        "There too, one could make a case that this is a choice open to 29 state governments and if there are willing takers, all power to them," he said.
        Subramanian also stressed that there is a need to make a clear distinction between poor and rich farmer.
        "Why is it that it is very difficult to make a distinction between a poor farmer and a rich farmer... When you say farmer, people think that you are going after the poor farmer.
        "So what is it about political discourse that does not allow these distinctions to be made. Why can't we say, rich regardless of where they get their income, should be taxed," he said.
        A controversy erupted after NITI Aayog member Bibek Debroy suggested that the agricultural income should be taxed.
        However, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley later clarified that there was no such proposal and the Centre has no power to impose tax on agricultural income.

        General Awareness

        NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully travels between Saturn and its rings

        • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft completed its final close of Saturn’s moon Titan and has now started its final set of 22 orbits before jumping into Saturn on September 15, 2017 and completed its 20-year long journey.
          Key facts:
          • Cassini has dived successfully through the space between Saturn and its rings.
          • It will perform another 21 dives through the same gap and will send more detailed information about Saturn and its rings.
          • The spacecraft will provide the radar team with the final set of new images of the hydrocarbon seas and lakes that are present in Titan’s North Polar Region.
          • Cassini spacecraft was named after the 17th-century astronomer Giovanni Cassini.
          • It was the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter its orbit.
          • It was launched into space in October 1997.
          • It is a joint program of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI).
          • Cassini and Huygens have revealed the existence of earth-like geographic features, great lakes of liquid nitrogen gas on Titan’s surface.
          • Huygens was developed by the European Space Research and Technology Centre.
          • In April, NASA announced that the spacecraft has found evidence that the underground ocean could sustain some form of life.
          • Cassini has generated a rich volume of data that will fuel scientific study for decades to come.
          About Saturn
          Saturn is the sixth planet from the Sun and the second-largest in the Solar System, after Jupiter.
          • It is a gas giant with an average radius about nine times that of Earth.
          • Saturn has a prominent ring system that consists of nine continuous main rings and three discontinuous arcs.
          • Radius: 58,232 km.
          • Moons: Titan, Enceladus, Mimas, Iapetus, Dione, Rhea, Tethys, etc.

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