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Current Affairs - 15 May 2017


General Affairs 

Yogi Adityanath Visits Martyr's Family. AC, Sofa Come And Go With Him
  • The family of Prem Sagar -- the murdered and mutilated Border Security Force man whose daughter wanted "50 heads for his sacrifice" - says the special arrangements made for Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's visit has left them "humiliated".  Not only did the local administration officials insist on carting in various articles for the Chief Minister's comfort - an air-conditioner, a carpet and sofa and even towels - they promptly took it away as soon as he was safely out of the way.

    The body of the BSF Head Constable had been found near the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir earlier this month. For more than 24 hours, the family -- residents of a tiny village in Deoria -- had withheld his funeral. All they wanted was an audience with the Chief Minister. The funeral took place only after Yogi Adityanath spoke to them on phone and promised to visit them.

    The visit happened over the weekend. Ahead of it, arrangements were made for uninterrupted power supply to the martyr's home -- a four-room house shared by his wife and four children -- for the duration of the visit.

    "Before the visit, local officials installed an air conditioner, a sofa set and even a carpet in the room where the meeting with the Chief Minister was to take place," said his son Eashwar. "Right after he left, some officials came and dismantled everything and left".


    Daya Shankar, the brother of the martyred soldier, who also works with the BSF, said it was an "insult" and that the local administration could have waited a day or two.

    Mr Sagar drew a salary of around Rs. 40,000. The Chief Minister, the family said, has extended financial help. He has even promised a job to one member of the family.

    Mr Sagar and army jawan Paramjit Singh were part of a three-member team that had gone to check on a snapped communication line at the Line of Control. Their mutilated bodies were recovered in the morning on May 2. After his death, anger had erupted at the village, with the locals demanding that the government take stern action.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi To Unveil Roadmap For Narmada River's Revival Tomorrow
  •  Prime Minister Narendra Modi will tomorrow unveil a roadmap for steps to be taken for the conservation of the Narmada river in Madhya Pradesh.

    The event at Amarkantak, the place in Anooppur district where the river originates, will mark the conclusion of 'Namami Devi Narmade Sewa Yatra'. The Narmada river conservation awareness campaign was launched in December last year.

    "I am delighted to join the programme to mark the conclusion of the Narmada Seva Yatra in Amarkantak, Madhya Pradesh, tomorrow afternoon.

    "Narmada Seva Yatra is an excellent mass movement to protect the Narmada & conveys a larger message of saving the environment as well," PM Modi said in a series of tweets. 

    He said he will launch the 'Narmada Seva Mission' which will have a major impact on Madhya Pradesh's ecology.

    "The prime minister will release a roadmap for the conservation of Narmada, the lifeline of Madhya Pradesh, at Amarkantak," Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said today.

    "The roadmap has been prepared after wide-ranging consultations with various stakeholders, including environmentalists, river conservation experts and people directly associated with the Narmada," he said. 


    The yatra, which started on December 11, 2016 from Amarkantak, will conclude tomorrow after covering a distance of 3,344 km and passing through over 1,100 villages and towns. 

    A number of prominent personalties, including Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, BJP president Amit Shah, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Uma Bharti, Anil Madhav Dave, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and well-known water conservationist Rajendra Singh, among others, took part in the yatra in its different stages.

    PM Modi will arrive at Amarkantak, around 450 km from Bhopal, in the afternoon. He will also take part in 'Narmada Pujan' and address a gathering, an official associated with the yatra said.

    Elaborate security arrangements have been made for the prime minister's visit, he said.

    Narmada flows 1,312 km before draining through the Gulf of Khambhat into the Arabian Sea.

    Narmada, also known as Rewa, is one of only three major rivers in the country that flows from east to west. The other two are Tapti and Mahi.

ISRO's Heaviest Rocket, GSLV Mark-III, Set For Maiden Launch In June
  •  Buoyed by the successful launch of the South Asia Satellite, the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO is now busy preparing for the maiden launch of its heaviest rocket - the 640-tonne Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV Mk III).

    The notable aspect of this rocket is that the main and bigger cryogenic engine has been developed by space scientists in Chennai and will be powering the rocket for the first time.

    "Our 12 years of labour is expected to bear fruit this June. Preparation for the June launch of GSLV Mk III rocket carrying communication satellite GSAT-19 is on at Sriharikota," K. Sivan, Director, Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), said.

    "All the officials are confident of the proposed mission's success. The strap-on motors and the core stage/engine have been integrated," Mr Sivan added.

    He added that extensive tests were carried out ahead of the rocket launch. "As this is a new rocket, we want to carry out extensive tests and hence there has been a slight change in the launch schedule," Mr Sivan said.

    According to him, the GSLV Mk-III will make its maiden voyage during the first week of June.

    The GSAT 19, weighing around 3.2 tonnes - the heaviest satellite to be lifted by an Indian rocket - is already at the Sriharikota rocket port.

    "The rocket's design carrying capacity is four tonnes. The payload will be gradually increased in the future flights of the GSLV Mk-III," he said.

    According to ISRO, GSAT-19 is a multi-beam satellite planned to carry Ka and Ku band forward and return link transponders. The satellite's design lifespan is 15 years.

    The Indian space agency had flown a similar rocket without the cryogenic engine but with 3.7 tonne payload in 2014. "That was mainly to test the structural stability of the rocket while in flight and the aerodynamics," Mr Sivan added.


    During the atmospheric flight phase, a rocket will encounter different kinds of pressures.

    "The 2014 mission was a success. The vehicle performed as expected but gave data for slight modifications in rocket's outer shield to improve the aerodynamics. The shape of the heat shield and the strap-on motors has been slightly changed now," he said.

    "That mission proved the transition of stage (engine) burn, the rocket's overall design and the separation of various stages," S. Somanath, Director, Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC), said.

    Mr Somanath, who was earlier Project Director for the GSLV Mk-III, said the inputs of the 2014 mission enabled ISRO reduce the load on the rocket by around 20 per cent.

    "Designing the rocket engines and, more particularly, the cryogenic engine of the GSLV-Mk III is not a simple extrapolation of specifications of the GSLV Mk-II's cryogenic engine," he said.

    The mass of the GSLV Mk-III's cryogenic engine is double that of the GSLV-Mk II's cryogenic engine.

    "The GSLV-Mk II cryogenic engine's propellant volume is 12 tonnes while that of GSLV- Mk III is 27 tonnes. The thrust power of the bigger cryogenic engine is 19.5 tonnes while that of the previous engine was 7.5 tonnes," he added.

    As to the learnings from developing the cryogenic engine for the GSLV-Mk II, Somanath said: "It enabled us to learn about cryogenic materials. It gave us the experience in handling cryogenic materials. We also established the various procedures from scratch."

    According to Somanath, ISRO has got the government's approval to build more GSLV-Mk II rockets and orders for hardware have been placed.

    India presently has two rockets - the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) and GSLV-Mk II - with a lift-off mass of 415 tonnes and a carrying capacity of 2.5 tonnes.

2 Terrorists Gunned Down In Jammu And Kashmir's Kupwara District
  • Two militants were killed today by the security forces in an encounter in north Kashmir's Kupwara district, an Army official said.

    The security forces had launched a cordon and search operation in Bhagatpura in Handwara area of the district based on a specific intelligence input about the presence of terrorists there, he said.

    As the security forces were conducting the search operation, terrorists fired upon them, the official said.


    The security forces retaliated and in resulting encounter, two terrorists were killed, the Army official said.

    Two weapons have been recovered from the encounter site, he said, adding that the identity and the group affiliation of the slain terrorists is being ascertained.

    The gunfight is over and the area is being sanitised, the official said.

Global Ransomware Virus 'Wannacry' Found In Indian Cyberspace
  • The country's cyber security agency has alerted Internet users against damaging activities of a strong and globally active ransomware virus named'Wannacry' that critically infects work stations and locks them remotely.

    A red-coloured 'critical alert' has been issued by the Computer Emergency Response Team of India (CERT-In), the nodal agency to combat hacking, phishing and to fortify security-related defences of the Indian Internet domain.

    "It has been reported that a new ransomware named as Wannacry is spreading widely. Wannacry encrypts the files on infected Windows systems. This ransomware spreads by using a vulnerability in implementations of server message block (SMB) in Windows systems.

    "This exploit is named as ETERNALBLUE," an advisory issued by the CERT-In, accessed by PTI, said.

    It said the ransomware called 'WannaCry' or 'WannaCrypt' encrypts the computer's hard disk drive and then spreads laterally between computers on the same local area network (LAN).

    "The ransomware also spreads through malicious attachments to emails," it said.


    A huge extortion cyber-attack had hit dozens of nations yesterday, holding computer data for ransom at hospitals, telecommunications firms and other companies. A cyber ransomware is a type of malicious software that blocks access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid through the online medium.


    The cyber agency advised users to apply patches to their Windows systems in order to prevent its infection  and spread.

    The ransomware virus is such lethal and smart that "it also drops a file named '!Please Read Me!.txt' which contains the text explaining what has happened (to the computer) and how to pay the ransom."

    'WannaCry' encrypts files with the following extensions, appending .WCRY to the end of the file name like .lay6, .sqlite3, .sqlitedb, .accdb, .java and .docx among others.

    The CERT-In has suggested some anti-ransonware measures:

    1. Check regularly for the integrity of the information stored in the databases.
    2. Regularly check the contents of backup files of databases for any unauthorised encrypted contents of data records..
    3. Do not open attachments in unsolicited emails even if they come from people in your contact list .
    4. Never click on a URL contained in an unsolicited email, even if the link seems benign.
    "In cases of genuine (universal resource locators) URLs, close out the email and go to the organisation's website directly through browser," it said.

    The most important advisory by the CERT-In stated "individuals or organisations are not encouraged to pay the ransom as this does not guarantee files will be released.

    "Report such instances of fraud to CERT-In and law enforcement agencies," it said. 

Business Affairs 

Snapdeal-Flipkart deal may leave staff richer by Rs 193 cr
  • Sale of a company often leaves employees high and dry, but not in the case of Snapdeal that may offer a Rs 193 crore bonanza to its staff if the homegrown e-commerce firm is taken over by larger rival Flipkart.
    According to sources, if the deal goes through, the founders will give half of their payout (USD 30 million) for the proposed scheme which would cover all current employees of Snapdeal.
    Snapdeal has about 1,500-2,000 staffers.
    "The founders have asked the Board to carve out USD 30 million (about Rs 193 crore) from their settlement for payouts to the Snapdeal team. They want to ensure that the team does not get sidelined in any manner," they added.
    Some former senior executives of Snapdeal, who have left the firm in the last 12 months, could also benefit from the process.
    E-mails sent to Snapdeal did not elicit any response.
    The intent is also to compensate for the ESOPs that were issued to senior employees.
    The value of their shares and options have eroded and would be worthless once the deal is signed, one of them said.
    Interestingly, the deal-linked payment would also be extended to employees who do not own ESOPs to reward those staying on with Snapdeal till the proposed transaction with Flipkart is complete.
    If the deal goes through, Snapdeal founders will get USD 60 million (cumulative), of which half will be given to employees.
    Japanese conglomerate and Snapdeal's largest investor SoftBank has initiated the process to sell the beleaguered online marketplace to bigger rival Flipkart.
    It has managed to get Board members, which also includes the founders (Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal) and early investors Kalaari and Nexus Venture Partners, to agree to the potential deal.
    Nexus Venture Partners could get close to USD 80 million and a stake in the merged/new entity, while Kalaari could get about USD 70-80 million.
    As per regulatory filings, SoftBank currently owns over 30 per cent in Snapdeal, while Nexus has roughly a 10 per cent stake and Kalaari holds 8 per cent share in the firm.
    A non-binding term sheet to start the due diligence by Flipkart for Snapdeal is expected to be signed soon between the two parties.
    In the past few months, Snapdeal has seen a number of voluntary and involuntary exits. While the company has hiked salaries by up to 15 per cent, employees are concerned about their future as the impending takeover looms ahead.
    One of the leading contenders in the Indian e-commerce space, Snapdeal has seen its fortunes failing amid strong competition from US-based Amazon and Flipkart.
    Compared to a valuation of about USD 6.5 billion in February 2016, the sale to Flipkart could see Snapdeal being valued at about USD 1 billion.
    SoftBank had recently said it suffered a loss of USD 1 billion (Rs 6,500 crore) on its investment in Snapdeal during 2016-17, almost matching the money it put in the home-grown marketplace.
    The deal between Snapdeal and Flipkart, if completed, would mark the biggest acquisition in the Indian e-commerce space and change the landscape of the sector that is witnessing intense competition among players.

Fake rupee notes seizure up four-fold in Switzerland
  • Switzerland may be known in popular perception as an alleged haven for black money, but it is the fake Indian rupee notes which seem to have seen a huge surge in the Alpine nation.
    The quantum of fake Indian currency seized by the Swiss authorities saw an over four-fold increase during 2016, making it the third most seized counterfeit foreign currency in Switzerland after euro and the US dollar.
    The fake currencies were in the denominations of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 -- both of which have been withdrawn by the Indian government from the list of legal tenders. There was no seizure of any counterfeit Rs 2,000 note, which were introduced as part of the ambitious demonetisation drive late last year to check the menace of fake notes and the black money problem.
    According to the latest data released by the Swiss Federal Office of Police (Fedpol), as many as 1,437 fake Rs 1,000 notes were seized in Switzerland during 2016, while there were also five counterfeit Rs 500 notes.
    This marks a huge surge from 342 fake Indian currency notes seized by Swiss authorities during 2015 -- five were counterfeits of Rs 500 notes, 336 for Rs 1,000 and one for Rs 100.
    Over the years, counterfeits have been found in Switzerland mostly for Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes, while there have been some instances for other denominations such as Rs 10 and Rs 100 notes as well.
    As per the latest Fedpol data, the number of counterfeit local currency, Swiss frank, seized during 2016 was 2,370.
    Among foreign currencies, the maximum amount of counterfeits was in case of Euro at 5,379, while it was 1,443 for the US dollar -- just one more than that for the Indian rupee.
    The number of counterfeit British pound found during 2016 was 65, among major currencies.
    An analysis of the counterfeit statistics released by the Fedpol over the years shows that the maximum number of fake Indian currency was seized during the year 2012 when it stood at 2,624, but fell sharply to 403 in the subsequent year 2013 and even further to just 181 in 2014.
    Earlier in 2011, the number of fake rupee notes was 1,144 -- up from 212 in 2010. Prior to that, the number were in single digits mostly except for 25 in 2007 and 100 in the year 2000. No such notes were found in the year 1999 and again in 2003.
    Fake currency has been a major concern for India as well as many other countries, due to which they keep improving security features to make it difficult for them to be counterfeited. Still, there have already been some instances of newly introduced Rs 2,000 notes getting counterfeited and found in some parts of India.

Scrap Rs 2,000, Rs 500 notes: Chandrababu Naidu to Centre
  • Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu today asked the Centre to scrap the banknotes of Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 denomination to speed up digital payments.
    "It was I who first demanded abolition of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 notes. Now, they brought Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes but they too should be scrapped," Naidu, who heads a panel of chief ministers on digital economy, told reporters.
    His fresh demand came in the light of a hawala racket that was busted by the Visakhapatnam police today.
    "A staggering Rs 1,379 crore was sent out using the hawala route. I once asked the RBI -- after the demonetisation -- to send more money to AP. The RBI Deputy Governor told me money was 'coming to AP but don't know where it's going'. Now, we know where the money is going," the Chief Minister said, referring to the hawala racket.
    "So many fake companies were created for these transactions. Some nondescript persons have done all this. Who is the role model for them," Chandrababu asked, indirectly taking a dig at YSR Congress president Y S Jaganmohan Reddy.
    "These people are tarnishing the image of AP. Who knows how many such rackets exist (in the state) and who is the role model for them? We have to deal with them in a tough manner and protect the state's image," the Chief Minister remarked.
    Attacking the YSRC president, the TDP supremo said the former extended support to the NDA in the ensuing presidential election only because "he has no other option".
    "We (TDP and BJP) are coalition partners. Why did he (Jagan) go and meet the Prime Minister (Narendra Modi)? He announced support to the NDA in the presidential election as he has no other option," Chandrababu said.
    In November last year, the Narendra Modi-led government had introduced the Rs 2,000 and Rs 500 notes after announcing the demonetisation of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 currency notes.

    Gujarat ready for GST rollout, over 5 lakh businessmen enrolled: CM
    • Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani claimed that the state is ready for the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rollout on July 1 with over 5 lakh businessmen enrolling with the GST network.
      The state has little over 5 lakh commercial taxpayers.
      "Over 5 lakh businessmen (taxpayers) from Gujarat have enrolled (with GST Network). Gujarat is ready for its rollout (on July 1)," Rupani told reporters here.
      Speaking to the taxpayers at a seminar organised by the GST Bar Association here today, Rupani said GST is an important step in the direction of country's tax reform, and the process will make tax regime simple and transparent.
      "As against separate service tax, VAT and excise duty of different states, the GST will unite the country," he said.
      The phase-1 of enrolment with GST Network was suspended on April 30, and will be again opened for 15 days from June 1.
      On May 9, the Gujarat assembly had passed the state Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill unanimously during a day-long special session.
      The state assembly also passed two other related Bills.
      The Centre is looking to meet a target of July 1 roll out of the historic tax reform which subsumes several indirect taxes levied by both the Centre and state governments like excise duty, VAT, service tax, among others.

    Layoffs in Indian IT may continue for 1-2 yrs: Experts
    • As digitisation and automation become the new normal, IT biggies like Infosys, Cognizant and Tech Mahindra are seeing a spate of layoffs and this trend may continue for the next 1-2 years, say experts.
      The pink slips are being handed out to thousands of employees as part of their performance appraisal process, but it is believed that these are directed more towards cost control amid pressure on bottom line due to a rising tide of protectionism in most target markets.
      Indian software exporters in particular are facing headwinds in the business environment and stricter work permit regime in countries like the US, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
      Moreover, with newer technologies in artificial intelligence (AI), robotic process automation and cloud computing, which help complete the job with less manpower, software companies are now having to reconsider their strategies.
      "It's a situation wherein the available talent haven't kept up with the pace at which the industry was evolving and hence, many of them find themselves redundant," said Rituparna Chakraborty, TeamLease Services Executive Vice-President and co-founder.
      Executive search organisation GlobalHunt MD Sunil Goel said: "This rationalisation does happen in every 3-5 years in the industry through new-age technologies, but this has impacted it more this time as the US also has changed policies for foreign IT workers."
      Goel further noted that "the consolidated trend may continue for next 1-2 years", but sees it as an opportunity for IT professionals to upgrade themselves and get into the new age technologies where demand is going to be huge.
      Pink slips are likely for jobs in manual testing, technology support and system administration since these are increasingly going to be managed by AI and robotics process automation based systems.
      However, there is surge in demand for latest and innovative technologies like data science, artificial intelligence and digital domain specific skills.
      "It is a painful transitory phase. However, things would look up in the next two quarters as each of the IT services company successful steers towards a stable growth phase," Chakraborty said.
      Talent management solutions provider KellyOCG India Country Director Francis Padamadan said, "We will continue to see some amount of rationalisation happening among IT companies though it is difficult to put a number."
      Japanese brokerage firm Nomura, in a research note, said that the job cuts of 2-3 per cent of the overall headcount of nearly 7,60,000 by Infosys, Cognizant, Tech Mahindra and Wipro are not material. However, this kind of rationalisation is likely to be a continuing phenomenon until the workforce realignment towards digital skills is complete.

    General Awareness

    Kerala tops, Bihar last in Public Affairs Index

    • Kerala has secured first rank and Bihar has ranked last on this year’s Public Affairs Index (PAI), compiled on basis of a survey by Bengaluru-based think-tank Public Affairs Centre (PAC). The survey was based on 10 themes, 26 focus subjects and 82 indicators.
      • It was released by former Chief Justice of India M.N. Venkatachaliah. Former Karnataka Lokayukta N. Santosh Hegde, Director of Public Affairs Centre (PAC) G. Gurucharan and former Chief Secretary of Rajasthan C.K. Mathew were also present at the event.
      Public Affairs Index Survey was based on following 10 themes:
      (i)Essential Infrastructure
      (ii)Support to Human Development

      (iii)Social Protection
      (iv)Women and children
      (v)Crime, Law and Order
      (vi)Delivery of Justice
      (vii)Environment
      (viii)Transparency and Accountability
      (ix)Fiscal Management
      (X)Economic Freedom
      Highlights of Public Affairs Index Survey:
      In the overall rankings of large states, Kerala was followed by Tamil Nadu at second position and Gujarat at third position.
      • This year’s bottom three large states – Bihar (18th), Jharkhand (17th) and Odisha (16th) – ranked at the same position even in 2016.
      • Among 12 small States (states having population of less than two crore), Himachal Pradesh secured the first rank whereas Meghalaya ranked at last position (12th).
      • In the category of essential infrastructurePunjab emerged as the best performer.
      • In Support to Human DevelopmentKeralaMaharashtra, and Punjab are the top three states, whereas Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Assam are the bottom three states.
      • Top three slots in implementation of social protection policies were taken up by Kerala, Assam and Madhya Pradesh. Telangana, Haryana and Punjab are lagging the most on this theme.
      • In the category of women and children, Kerala ranked first followed by Odisha and Karnataka. Jharkhand, Haryana and Maharashtraare the worst performers on this theme.
      • Tamil Nadu is the best performer on three themes viz. maintaining law and order, delivery of justice and environment.
      • In fiscal management,Telangana topped the list, whereas its neighbour Andhra Pradesh is at the bottom of the list.
      • PM Modi’s home state Gujarat is No. 1 in economic freedom, whereas Nitish Kumar’s Bihar ranked last in this category.

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