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Current Affairs - 5 April 2017

General Affairs 

Terrorism Must Be Dealt With Urgently: President Mukherjee On St Petersburg Blast
  • President Pranab Mukherjee today said the blast in St Petersburg is a reminder that terrorism must be dealt with "urgently and comprehensively".

    Mr Mukherjee also conveyed to Russian President Vladimir Putin that people of India stand by Russia in this difficult hour.

    In a message to Vladimir Putin, the President conveyed his condolences on the loss of lives in the blast in a metro carriage in St Petersburg yesterday.

    "This is yet another reminder that the menace of terrorism must be addressed urgently and comprehensively by the world community," he said.

    Mr Mukherjee said the people of India stand with the Russian people in this difficult hour and offer their sincere sympathies to the families of the victims.

    "Please accept my heartfelt condolences for the loss of innocent lives in the blast that occurred in the metro system of St Petersburg.

    "We pray for the early recovery of all those injured in the attacks," he said.

    A suicide bomber was behind the attack that killed 14 people and left dozens wounded.

After PM Modi's Mann Ki Baat, Devendra Fadnavis To Interact With Citizens On Monthly TV Show
  • Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is reaching out to the citizens through a TV show whose pilot episode will see him interacting with farmers.

    Apparently taking a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's radio talk show 'Mann Ki Baat', Mr Fadnavis will interact with the common man once a month on a range of issues.

    The first episode of 'Mee Mukhyamantri Boltoy' (This is chief minister speaking) was recorded yesterday and will be telecast on Sunday.

    The show, conceptualised by the Directorate General of Information and Publicity (DGIPR), will be aired on Marathi news channels, including the DD's Sahaydri.

    The maiden episode was recorded by the state information and public relations at its newly built studio in Mantralaya (state secretariat), an official in the Chief Minister's Office said.

    Farmers asked questions through popular messaging platform WhatsApp and emails. As many as 18,000 queries on WhatsApp and 1,250 on emails were received. Thirty farmers from different parts of the state were invited for the recording, the official said.

    The questions were related to loan waiver, irrigation, water conservation, water shade management, marketing of agri produce and technology among others, she said.

    However, among them only questions related to sustainable agriculture were chosen for Mr Fadnavis' response.

    The programme comes in the backdrop of opposition parties taking out 'Sangharsh Yatra' to persuade the BJP-led government to write off loans of the indebted cultivators.

Centre Sanctions 150 Crore For Manipur's Hill Areas
  • The central government has sanctioned Rs. 150 crore for the construction of markets in Manipur's hill areas, officials said on Tuesday.

    The news was confirmed on Monday night and Chief Minister N Biren Singh said that the construction work would start shortly. 

    In Manipur, all markets are exclusively run by women. 

    The unique Ima market, a conglomeration of three women's market complexes in Imphal city, is world famous. 

    "The government is giving more importance to the hill areas in developmental work. Manipur cannot forge ahead without developing the hill areas which constitute 80 per cent of the total size of the state", the Chief Minister said.

    Trust deficit is the main cause for the widening communal chasm in Manipur, he said. 

    "We are doing everything possible for a rapprochement among different groups". 

    Weapon Zimik, president of Tangkhul Naga Long said that "When the Chief Minister visits Ukhrul on April 11, all sections of people shall accord a warm welcome to him." 

    When former Chief Minister O Ibobi Singh had visited Ukhrul earlier, there was a shutdown and the security personnel did not allow him and his colleagues to get out of their helicopter.

Arun Jaitley Pays His Own Legal Bills, Why Can't Arvind Kejriwal, Asks BJP
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has sued Arvind Kejriwal the individual for defamation and not as Delhi Chief Minister, the BJP said today, attacking the Aam Aadmi Party chief for wanting to use public money to pay his legal bills. Former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee concurs.

    "It is a civil suit. Kejriwal has to pay on his own. How does the Delhi government come into the picture, adding, "Delhi's taxpayer money can't be used, Kejriwal in his individual capacity has to pay the bill."
    A bill of 3.8 crore has been served to Mr Kejriwal by Ram Jethmalani, the lawyer defending him in defamation cases filed against the Delhi Chief Minister by Arun Jaitley. This morning Mr Jethmalani, 93, offered free legal service if Mr Kejriwal can't afford to pay, after it became known that the Delhi government has sought the approval of Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal to pay the bill.

    "The case is against Arvind Kejriwal, not against the Delhi CM...Chief Minister is his post. This is a private defamation case," said union Minister Prakash Javadekar of the BJP, accusing the Aam Aadmi Party of "dacoity" and of "trying to loot the people."

    Mr Javadekar pointed out that Mr Jaitley is paying his own legal bills. "He is the Finance Minister of the country. But he is not misusing his office. This is a personal matter and he is dealing with it personally. That is the difference between an honest government and one that is just fooling the people," the minister said.

    Mr Jethmalani has been engaged by Mr Kejriwal to represent him in both a criminal and a civil defamation case filed by Arun Jaitley, who has accused him and other AAP leaders of making "false and defamatory" allegations of corruption relating to the period when the Finance Minister headed Delhi's cricket body the DDCA.

    AAP has argued that Mr Kejriwal made statements against Mr Jaitley after raids were conducted at the chief minister's office and that "it was an attack on the chief minister of Delhi."

    Delhi's deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said today that Mr Kejriwal is "not fighting personally," and that "the government has to pay."

    AAP leaders said Mr Jethmalani had offered to represent the chief minister for free initially, but sent bills months later.

    "I will certainly defend him even if he can't pay, but he said 'no, I want to pay, send us the bills', so I have sent bills. If it is incumbent on me to support him and his livelihood I will support him, because he is a clean force as opposed to Arun Jaitley," Mr Jethmalani, who was expelled by the BJP four years ago, said today.

Kudankulam-II Nuclear Plant To Restart Generation On Friday
  • The second 1,000 MW atomic power unit at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) that suffered an outage on Monday due to a problem in its steam dump valve is expected to start operations on Friday, said a senior official of Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).

    "Due to some problem in the steam valve, the unit was shut down on Monday. We will be opening the valve today (Tuesday) to set right the issue. We expect the unit to start generating power on April 7," HN Sahu, Site Director, Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KNPP) told IANS on Tuesday.

    Kudankulam is in Tirunelveli district around 650 km from Chennai.

    According to Power System Operation Corporation Limited (POSOCO), the nuclear power unit is under forced outage from April 3 "to rectify the passing of steam dump valves to condenser in secondary side".

    The unit started commercial operation on March 31, 2017.

    "Only on March 31, it was declared as commercially stabilised and this tripping happens within three days," said G Sundarrajan, an anti nuclear power activist and who had filed cases against setting up of atomic power plant at Kudankulam.

    Speaking about Unit 1, Sahu said it will be shut down on April 13 for refuelling purposes.

    "The first unit will be shut down for around 55 days," Mr Sahu said.

    Every year, one third of the reactor's 163 fuel assemblies - 54 assemblies - will be replaced.

    This coming refueling cycle will be the second for Unit 1.

    Meanwhile, the first 220 MW unit of Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) belonging to NPCIL under annual maintenance shut down is expected to come into operation from April 27 onwards.

Business Affairs 

PM Narendra Modi's push for digital economy on right track as Indians withdraw less cash, make more digital transactions
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems to have achieved some success in turning India into a digital economy, especially after his decision to demonetise old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes late last year.
    A new report says Indians withdrew Rs 32,500 crore between March 17-24, which was way less as compared to the peak of Rs 52,800 crore which was withdrawn for the week ended January 13.
    According to SBI research report Ecowrap, even in the span of one week (between March 17 to 24), cash withdrawal declined by Rs 2,000 crore.
    The Reserve Bank had removed caps on withdrawal limits in many phases. All withdrawal limits were removed from March 13.
    The report said that the drop in cash withdrawal was particularly "intriguing" considering the removal of all withdrawal limits.
    Even though the report did not cite any specific reason for the drop in cash withdrawal, the government's strict monitoring on cash withdrawal and perks on digital payment were considered to be the key factors.
    "While it may be difficult to ascribe a reason, our estimates indicate that there would be a permanent liquidity injection of least Rs 1.7 lakh crore or 1.1 per cent of GDP post demonetisation," the report said, adding that this data are a reflection of the extent of formalisation of the economy.
    In fact, the cash withdrawal is likely to go down even further with the government banning cash transactions of over Rs 2 lakh from April 1.
    This declining trend in cash withdrawal will also have repercussions on RBI liquidity management policy, the report added.

RBI seen holding rates, not pulling another surprise
  • The Reserve Bank of India has pulled surprises at its last three policy meetings, so another can't be ruled out at Thursday's review, but analysts uniformly expect no change in interest rates.
    All 60 economists polled by Reuters predict the RBI's six-member monetary policy committee (MPC) will leave the repo rate at 6.25 percent, where it has been since October.
    Investors will scrutinise the statement for the MPC's views on consumer inflation after prices advanced 3.65 per cent in February from a year earlier, not far below the RBI's target of 4 percent.
    A session whose results match expectations would be a break for investors after the RBI stunned markets in each of the three meetings so far where decisions were made by the MPC, instead of by the governor.
    In October, the MPC unexpectedly cut rates and then it held them in December when markets were betting on an easing move.
    In February, the committee again surprised by holding rates and switching to a "neutral" stance from "accommodative" - a move that made bond yields spike. All decisions were taken by a unanimous 6-0 vote, adding to the surprise.
    On Thursday, "We expect the MPC to maintain its neutral stance, with caution being the watchword on external factors," said A Prasanna, an economist at ICICI Securities Primary Dealership.

    Though analysts agree rates will be held on Thursday, they are split on inflation and its implications for later: 21 of 34 economists predict stable prices should allow the RBI to cut rates this year.
    But others fear food prices will spike should the country see below-average rains during the monsoon season in the middle of the year, ensuring rates stay on hold through 2017.
    The RBI is also likely to say it continues to monitor global markets as the U.S. Federal Reserve's tightening gives pause to central banks around the world, while dealing at home with a surge in cash at banks after the country's ban on some banknotes last year led to a surge in deposits.
    To justify a rate cut this year, the RBI would likely need more comfort on consumer prices, either through a slump in food costs or an easing of core inflation, which has stayed at around 5 percent for several months.
    The RBI also needs to reduce the around Rs 4 trillion ($61.59 billion) accumulated in the banking system in March, doubling from the January.
    The government, mindful of the impact on inflation, has already indicated it is considering acting with the RBI in implementing a special facility to drain the extra liquidity.
    Meanwhile, the RBI will likely tread carefully at a time most central banks in Asia are keeping their key rates on hold.
    India appears in good stead after attracting $8.85 billion in investment into debt and equities in March - the most since at least 2002 - sending the broader NSE share index to a record high and the rupee to a nearly 1-1/2 year high.
    But the RBI has long worried about any sudden reversals of foreign flows, further making a change in rates unlikely on Thursday, analysts said.

SBI's new rules: Here's a detailed list of changes in minimum balance and ATM transactions
  • SBI has implemented a new list of rules for millions of its customers across India. Right from the introduction of an increased minimum balance to various new transaction charges. The new changes have been implemented from April 1.
    Even customers of the six new banks that merged with SBI will have to follow this new list of rules. With the central bank introducing these new charges, there is a high probablity that other private sector banks will follow the suit and increase their banking charges.
    Here's a list of the changes that have been implemented from April 1:
    • The monthly average balance (MAB) requirement has been increased to as high as Rs 5,000 for branches in six metros
    • Savings bank account holders of SBI have to maintain the monthly balance or else they will invite a penalty ranging from Rs 20 (rural branches) to Rs 100 in (metro cities), according to SBI website
    • Till March 31, the monthly average balance (MAB) for a savings bank account was Rs 500 without facility of cheque book and Rs 1,000 with cheque book across the country
    • India's largest bank has now decided to fix separate MABs for 'metro', 'urban', 'semi-urban' and 'rural' areas from the beginning of next financial year
    • Penalty for non-maintenance of minimum balance will be between Rs 50 and Rs 100. For urban and semi-urban branches, the MAB has been fixed at Rs 3,000 and Rs 2,000 respectively
    • In case of rural branches, the minimum balance has been fixed at Rs 1,000. Breach of MAB will attract a penalty ranging between Rs 20 and Rs 50
    • These new rates effective from April 1 are not applicable on Surabhi, Basic Savings Bank and PM Jan Dhan Yojana accounts 
    • The bank has increased locker rent and curtailed number of free locker usage in a year. After usage 12 times, the customer has to pay Rs 100 plus service tax applicable for visiting his or her locker
    • As far as cheque books are concerned, for a current account holder, the first 50 cheques free in a financial year; thereafter, it will cost Rs 3 per leaf
    • 25-leaf Cheque Book now costs Rs 75 plus service tax and 50-leaf Cheque Book cost is Rs 150 excluding service tax
    • SBI will now charge Rs 20 for opening fee including enrolment for savings account among other various charges that the bank has raised
    • If one maintains Rs 25,000 in your SBI savings account, then customer can use ATM unlimited number of time. However, the charges of ATM usage over allowed 5 times will attract charges as prescribed by RBI.

Aditya Birla Group gets RBI licence to start payments bank
  • The Aditya Birla Group said on Tuesday it has received licence from the Reserve Bank of India to start payments bank.
    Headed by Kumar Mangalam Birla, the group's outfit Aditya Birla Nuvo had set up a 51:49 joint venture-Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank-with telecom major Idea Cellular to launch payments bank services in the country.
    "... the Reserve Bank of India... has granted licence to Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank Ltd to carry on the business of payments bank in India," Aditya Birla Nuvo said in a BSE filing.
    At present, Airtel and India Post are offering payments bank services in the country. Idea Cellular Chief Corporate Affairs Officer Rajat Mukarji had earlier said the Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank will be launched in the first half of 2017.
    With the objective of deepening financial inclusion, RBI kicked off an era of differentiated banking by allowing SFBs (small finance banks) and PBs (payments banks) to start services.
    A total of 21 entities were given in-principle nod, including 11 for payments banks.
    Later, three entities-Tech Mahindra, Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Company and a consortium of Dilip Shanghvi, IDFC Bank and Telenor Financial Services-backed out of the payments bank licensing. Payments banks can accept deposits from individuals and small businesses up to a maximum of Rs 1 lakh per account. 

Exports of gems and jewellery rises 9.5% in April-January
  • Exports of gems and jewellery grew 9.5 per cent to about $29 billion during April-January 2016-17, driven largely by demand in India's major markets like the US.
    In April-January period of the previous fiscal, exports from the sector stood at $26.5 billion, according to the data from Gems and Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC).
    Gems and jewellery contribute about 14 per cent to the country's overall exports. The rise in exports during the ten-month period of the last fiscal was mainly supported by cut and polished diamond. It rose to $18.5 billion during the period as compared to $16.5 billion a year ago.
    Exports of silver jewellery grew by 20 per cent to $2.94 billion during the period of last fiscal. An official said that the overall exports of the country has started registering positive growth and the main contributors include gems and jewellery shipments.
    Shipments of gold jewellery, however, contracted to $3 billion during the period under review from USD 3.13 billion a year ago.
    Exports of gold medallion and coins too dipped to $4.32 billion in April-January 2016-17.
    According to the GJEPC data, imports of rough diamonds rose by 26 per cent to about USD 14 billion in April-January 2017.
    Imports of gold bars too grew to $3.67 billion.

General Awareness

NIRF 2017 Ranking announced by HRD Ministry – topped by IISc Bangalore

  • Union Human Resource Development Minister Mr. Prakash Javadekar announced ‘India Ranking 2017’ based on National Institutional Ranking Framework.
    Toppers of India Rankings 2017 (NIRF 2017):
    OverallIndian Institute of Science Bangalore
    EngineeringIndian Institute of Technology Madras
    ManagementIndian Institute of Management Ahmedabad
    UniversitiesIndian Institute of Science Bangalore
    CollegesMiranda House (Delhi)
    PharmacyJamia Hamdard (Delhi)
    • From this edition, the colleges have also been ranked.NIRF 2017 Ranking announced by HRD Ministry - topped by IISc Bangalore
    • 800 new private and public institutions participated in this year’s survey.
    • From this year, overall ranking category has also been added.
    • Other domains viz. architecture, law, medicine etc. were also to be included this year. But owing to non-representative participation they were excluded.
    For India Rankings – 2017, there has been no change in main ranking parameters. However, significant changes have been made in a few sub-parameters.
    About National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF):
    • On 29th September 2015, the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) was approved and launched by Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD).
    • It is framework that outlines methodology to rank higher education institutions of India.
    • A core committee was set up by MHRD to enlist broad parameters for rankings. The methodology adopted by NIRF is based on recommendations of this committee.
    • First edition i.e. India Rankings 2016 were announced on 4th April 2016.
    • More than 3000 private and public institutions had participated in the ‘India Rankings 2016’.
    • Theses rankings are determining factor for institutions seeking Govt. funding. Institutes with better ranking are rewarded in terms of greater autonomy and more international exposure.
    • The broad parameters of NIRF are as under:

    Teaching, Learning & ResourcesStudent Strength including Doctoral Students
    Faculty-student ratio with emphasis on permanent faculty
    Combined metric for Faculty with PhD (or equivalent) and Experience
    Total Budget and Its Utilisation
    Research and Professional PracticeCombined metric for Publications
    Combined metric for Quality of Publications
    IPR and Patents: Filed, Published, Granted and Licensed
    Footprint of Projects and Professional Practice And Executive Development Programs
    Graduation OutcomesCombined % for Placement, Higher Studies, and Entrepreneurship
    Metric for University Examinations: GUE
    Median Salary
    Metric for Graduating Students Admitted Into Top Universities
    Metric for Number of Ph.D. Students Graduated GPHD
    Outreach and InclusivityPercent Students from other states/countries (Region Diversity )
     Percentage of Women
    Economically and Socially Challenged Students
     Facilities for Physically Challenged Students
    PerceptionPeer Perception: Employers and Research Investors
    Peer Perception: Academics
    Public Perception

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