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Current Affairs - 16 May 2017

General Affairs 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Concerned Over Condition Of Indian Rivers
  • Voicing concern over the condition of rivers in the country, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said there are many which have no water.

    "Many rivers in the country are on the map but do not have any water in them," Modi said at an event to mark the conclusion of 'Namami Devi Narmade Sewa Yatra' here in Madhya Pradesh's Annooppur district.

    Lauding the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government for taking up the campaign to conserve one of the country's major lifelines, PM Modi said the Narmada conservation roadmap prepared by the state is a "perfect document for future vision".

    He asked the Madhya Pradesh government to share it with other states.

    "The document was sent to me in advance and I had gone through it. It has the details of what is to be done, by whom, and at what time. In my opinion, it is perfect document for future vision," he said.

    Congratulating people, and especially Mr Chouhan, for launching the yatra that lasted nearly 150 days, the PM Modi, who hails from Gujarat, said, "I, on behalf of people of Gujarat, for whom every drop of Narmada is important, Rajasthan and Maharashtra congratulate Madhya Pradesh for this great initiative."

    Earlier, PM Modi performed puja at the point of origin of the river in Amarkantak.

    The Namami Devi Narmade Sewa Yatra, which was launched on December 11, 2016 from Amarkantak, concluded today after covering a distance of 3,344 km, traversing over 1,100 villages and towns.

    PM Modi has evinced keen interest in the conservation campaign.

    "Narmada Seva Yatra is an excellent mass movement to protect the Narmada & conveys a larger message of saving the environment as well," PM Modi had tweeted yesterday.

'Even Personal laws Must Abide By Constitution': Centre On Triple Talaq
  • Previous governments did not bring law on triple talaq because the issue is dealing sensitively with minorities, the government told the Supreme Court today. But even personal laws must not flout the Constitution, which grants equal rights to all, the Centre told a bench that's examining the legality of triple talaq - under which a Muslim man can divorce his wife by saying "Talaq" thrice.

    The government has already told the court that it would bring law on marriage and divorce among Muslims if it strikes down the practice of triple talaq as invalid and unconstitutional.

    "The issue is sensitive dealing with minorities and that's why the previous governments did not bring (such a) law," Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi told the Constitution bench, which is holding special hearings on the knotty issue over the summer vacation.  

    The government earlier said it is ideally in favour of completely abolishing triple talaq. Today it said the system is "contrary to equality, gender equality and human rights". "Issues of marriage and divorce have nothing to do with religion," Mr Rohatgi told the court.

    The Muslim law board, which is being represented by former union minister and senior advocate Kapil Sibal has argued that it is not triple talaq that's at fault.

    "The issue is not talaq but patriarchy," Mr Sibal said. Citing another example, he said, "In Hindu law, a father can deny property to a son or daughter. But this is not permissible in Mohamadan law. Is this not discriminatory?"

    The bench, which will hear the issue again, has said it would not examine polygamy and nikah halala - in which a divorced woman has to marry another man and divorce him before she can go back to her first husband. "The issues will remain open," Chief Justice JS Khehar has said, indicating the possibility of examining them at a later date.

ISRO To Launch India's Heaviest, Most Powerful Rocket Next Month
  •  India will attempt to launch its heaviest and most powerful rocket yet next month. The 640-tonne Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle-Mark III (GSLV Mk III) has been worked on for more than 10 years.

    "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), told news agency IANS. 

    The notable aspect of this rocket is that the main and bigger cryogenic engine has been developed within India, said scientists at the Indian Space Research Organization or ISRO.

    The rocket was originally meant to fly at the end of the month. "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 rocket's design carrying capacity is four tonnes. The payload will be gradually increased in the future flights of the GSLV Mk-III," Sivan said.

    The satellite that it will put into orbit weighs 3.2 tonnes and will the heaviest to be lifted by an Indian rocket.

    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.

    Earlier this month, the GSLV-Mk 11 was used to launch a communications satellite that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has gifted for sharing to neighbours in South Asia. The South Asia Satellite will offer participating countries television services and communications technology for bank ATMs and e-governance, and may even serve as a backup for cellular networks, especially in places where the terrestrial connectivity is weak.

People Saw Potential In Modi, I Don't Have Ability To Become PM: Nitish Kumar
  • Nitish Kumar, the Chief Minister of Bihar, firmly ruled himself out today as a Prime Ministerial candidate for the 2019 national election, saying he hadn't "the aspiration or the ability". In the same self-deprecating vein, he also slipped in a good word for Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a bitter rival with whom he has, in recent months, had a blow-hot-blow-cold relationship.

    "The person in whom people will see potential will become the prime minister. People saw potential in Narendra Modi during the last elections, he has become the PM," Mr Kumar, 66, said. He also commented that five years before that, when PM Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister, he was not even "in the frame" for the top post.

    To questions on the possibility of him leading a non-BJP alternative, Mr Kumar declared, "I neither have any aspiration nor the ability to become PM."

    Mr Kumar's name has been swirling among possible candidates for the top job amid opposition moves to engineer a coalition of non-BJP parties for 2019, when PM Modi seeks a second term. But today, as he emphatically backed out, the Bihar Chief Minister commented, "I am not a fool".

    He said he was being "unnecessarily targeted" with such talk. "We are a small party. If I become the national president of my party, it does not mean that I harbour national aspirations," he said.

    Throughout his career, he stressed, he had served people as MP or Union minister and as chief minister. Flanked by his ministers and Janata Dal United colleagues, he said it was difficult to say who would emerge as the man for the top job.

    "It sounds weird... I am not the claimant for the prime minister's post in 2019," he said. "I was given the mandate to run Bihar," he added.

    Asked about a grand alliance of non-BJP parties for the national election much like the one in Bihar, he said that it was important for opposition parties to unite. "The candidate for the PM post will come before the people at the right time," he said.

No Report Yet Of 'WannaCry' Hit On Indian Network: Cyber Agency CERT
  • India's cyber security unit CERT-In today said it has not received any formal report of cyber attack on India's vital networks by the crippling global ransomware, 'WannaCry'.

    India is on high alert, monitoring critical networks across sectors like banking, telecom, power and aviation to ensure that systems are protected against the attack that has claimed victims in more than 150 countries over the weekend.

    "Everything seems to be normal, so far. No reports have come to Cert-In. We have been in touch with Microsoft and others...even they have not got any reports," Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), director general, Sanjay Bahl told PTI.
    He added that the Cyber Swachhta Kendra -- government's portal on information about cyber security -- is being updated on regular basis since Saturday

    'WannaCry' has disrupted networks in over 150 countries, including Russia and the UK and is being termed as one of the most widespread cyber attacks in the history.

    Reports suggest that over two lakh systems globally could have been infected by the malicious software.

    Security solutions providers have also accelerated efforts to develop tools to tide over the crisis.

    With global security reports counting India amongst the worst affected countries, public and private agencies have been working overtime to firewall their systems from any possible attack.

    Experts said India is vulnerable as a large number of computers in the country run the Microsoft's older operating systems like XP, and have not been updated yet.

    Moreover, with rampant piracy in the country, higher usage of unlicensed software could make the situation worse, they warned.

    'WannaCry' is infecting computers running the older versions of Microsoft Windows operating systems, locking access to files on the computer. The cyber criminals have demanded a fee of about USD 300 in crypto-currencies like Bitcoin for unlocking the device.

    However, there is no clarity yet on whether access is restored upon payment of the amount demanded. CERT-In has been on an overdrive advising critical infrastructure agencies including banks, airports, telecom networks and stock markets to take precautions against the ransomware attack by downloading software 'patches'.

    In India, there were reports of some systems of Andhra Pradesh Police being affected on Saturday, although CERT-In has said that the PCs were isolated and not on a network.

    CERT-In further said that it sent out advisory to the Reserve Bank of India on the matter, on Saturday itself.

    "So far we have not received anything. Typically, they (banks) have to report (any disruption) to both RBI and us," Bahl added.

    Earlier in the day, central transmission utility Power Grid said it has put sufficient firewalls to deal with the global cyber attack Ramsomware and consumers need not fear sudden outages on that account. 

Business Affairs 

ICICI Bank, HDFC cut home loan rates by up to 0.3%; match SBI
  • Following SBI, two leading private lenders ICICI Bank and HDFC Ltd on Monday slashed interest rate by up to 0.3 per cent for loans of up to INR 30 lakh to promote affordable housing.
    New home loans rates for up to 30 lakh for women will be 8.35 per cent and for other others, 8.40 per cent, mortgage lender HDFC Ltd said in a statement.
    For home loans between INR 30 lakh and INR 75 lakh the interest remains unchanged at 8.50 per cent for all borrowers.
    For home loans above INR 75 lakh it is now 8.55 per cent, from 8.75 per cent for all, it said.
    The new rates are effective from on Monday and are expected to be followed other lenders as well.
    Earlier in the day, the country's largest private sector lender, ICICI Bank too reduced interest rates by up to 0.3 per cent for home loans up to INR 30 lakh in its bid to boost affordable housing.
    With this reduction, salaried borrowers can avail home loans at among the lowest rates in the industry, the country's largest private sector lender said.
    Salaried women borrowers will get home loans at 8.35 per cent and others at 8.40 per cent, it said.
    Last week, State Bank of India had reduced its affordable home loan rates by up to 25 basis points, offering a lower rate of 8.35 per cent to new women borrowers.
    With around 26 per cent market share, SBI is also the biggest player in the home loan segment.
    This move would be followed up by other lenders both in private and public sector space to stay in the competition.
    With paring of rate, ICICI Bank said its customers taking home loans in the affordable segment will also have the option to select the type of interest rate.
    In both these cases, the reduction in interest rates is 30 basis points from the previous rates.
    They can enjoy the benefit of floating interest rate or a fixed interest rate for the initial two/three years followed by floating rate.
    "Further, borrowers can also choose to link their home loans with Marginal Cost of funds based Lending rate MCLR-6 Months or I-MCLR-1 Year. The bank is the first to offer such flexibility to customers. The reduced rate will be effective from May 15, 2017 for new borrowers," it said.
    ICICI Bank MD Chanda Kochhar said the bank is committed to supporting the government's vision to provide housing for all by 2022.
    "In line with this commitment, we have reduced the home loan interest rates for the affordable housing segment. With this announcement, customers of Economically Weaker Section (EWS) and Low Income Group (LIG) can avail the dual benefit of low interest rates from us and the Credit Linked Subsidy under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana," she said.
    This initiative, along with the bank's expansion of home loan business in tier II cities, will empower a larger section of customers to realise the dream of owning a new home, she added.

Seventh Pay Commission: Update on allowances likely soon
  • The union leaders of central government officials are likely to seek an update on the 7th pay commission allowances from government officials, according to report.
    The Ashok Lavasa Committee on Allowances submitted its report to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on April 27. 
    The Committee was formed to review the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission.
    The pay commission had recommended abolition of or subsuming of allowances like acting, assisting cashier, cycle, condiment, flying squad, haircutting, rajbhasha, rajdhani, robe, shoe, shorthand, soap, spectacle, uniform, vigilance and washing.
    The Committee was constituted in June last year after the government implemented the recommendations of the Pay Commission.
    The Seventh Pay Commission had recommended abolishing 53 of the 196 allowances, and subsuming 36 other allowances. It also recommended slashing the House Rent Allowance (HRA)--for metros, commission recommended bringing down the HRA from 30 per cent to 24 per cent.
    The Seventh  Pay Commission had recommended the rate of House Rent Allowance (HRA) be kept at 24 percent, 16 percent and 8 percent of the Basic Pay for Class X, Y and Z cities respectively.
    Government employees protested the recommendations of the Seventh Pay Commission, following which the Narendra Modi government formed a committee under Finance Secretary Ashok Lavasa to review the suggestions.
    The Committee on Allowances was constituted in July and after an extended deadline was asked to submit its report to the government by February 22, 2017.
    If the government implements pay commission recommendations on allowances, then as per estimates the cost to the exchequer will be Rs 29,300 crore.

Star Bazaar to open 25-plus outlets in 2017; eyes 200 by 2020
  • Multi-format grocery retail chain Star Bazaar, a Tata-Tesco initiative, plans to take its store count to over 65 stores by the end of this year, and 200 stores by 2020, a senior company executive said today.
    "We plan to scale up to over 65 stores by the end of this year, and touch 200 stores in three years," Jamshed Daboo, managing director of Trent Hypermarket, that operates Star Bazaar, told reporters here.
    "We will open in one more city in the south, after Mumbai, Pune and Bengaluru this year," he added.
    Going forward, the company will focus on opening smaller format stores that offers the convenience of being in the neighbourhood.
    At present, there are 41 Star Bazaar outlets of which 10 are large format of approximately 25,000 to 50,000 sq ft.
    The new stores will be Star Market, which is more a mid-size format at an average size of 7,500 sq ft, Daboo said.
    Besides the entire range of grocery and some kitchen items, the new stores will feature live counters for meats and fish, he said.
    Currently, a majority of Star Bazaar sales come from its Clubcard members. The retail chain has over a million customers, of which 800,000 are active, Daboo pointed out.
    Star Bazaar today revamped its loyalty programme and partnered with SBI Card and Tata Capital to offer more rewards on the shopping experience at its stores.
    Designed for the growing segment of consumers who buy grocery and departmental category items from organised retail stores, Tata Star Card will give consumers 3.5 per cent cash back at all Star Bazaar outlets and an additional Rs 500 bonus through Star Bazaar's loyalty programme.
    The card is launched in Platinum and Titanium variants and offers accelerated rewards on dining and international spends as well

    CBI busts foreign remittance scam of over INR 2,200 cr
    • The CBI has claimed to have busted a major scam of over INR 2,200 crore where 13 companies allegedly remitted the amount to foreign entities against bill payments of imports of only INR 24.64 crore.
      The CBI has registered a case against Stelkon Infratel Limited (SIPL) and 12 other companies for allegedly making these remittances.
      SIPL allegedly indulged in large-scale illegal foreign remittances under fraudulent imports of the goods during 2015 -16.
      Many of these transactions were effected through the company's account at Punjab National Bank, the CBI alleged.
      The agency alleged that in total INR 680.12 crore was remitted by the company using six accounts for imports but actually they filed only 25 bills of entry during this period with a declared value of INR 3.14 crore with the customs.
      Thus, an excess of INR 676.98 crore was "illegitimately" remitted abroad by SIPL, the CBI alleged in the FIR.
      Similar modus operandi was also used by 12 other companies who remitted INR 1,572.7 crore abroad by allegedly submitting non-existing or forged import documents to the banks, it alleged.
      "All these firms were floated using IEC's registration at fictitious or non-existent addresses. These firms have imported miscellaneous consignment through JNPT and Mumbai Port during the year 2015 and 2016," the CBI alleged.
      It alleged that the amount remitted by these firms through banks was around INR 2,252.82 crore while the actual import was to the tune of only INR 24.64 crore.

    Vedanta Ltd Q4 net profit grows 3.4 times to Rs 2,971 crore
    • Metal and mining conglomerate Vedanta Ltd today saw its consolidated net profit jump over three fold to Rs 2,971 crore for the fourth quarter to March on the back of higher income.
      The company had clocked a net profit of Rs 861 crore (attributable PAT before exceptional items and DDT) for the fourth quarter of 2015-16.
      Its total sales grew 41 per cent to Rs 22,371 crore during the quarter under review as against Rs 15,828 crore a year ago.
      "Revenue in the fourth quarter was up... 41 per cent y- o-y, driven by higher volumes from Zinc India, supported by ramp-up at the aluminium and power business and improved metal and oil prices. Additionally, higher volumes at iron ore in Q4 FY2017 over Q4 FY2016 aided higher revenues," the company said in a statement.
      Navin Agarwal, Chairman, Vedanta Ltd, said, "The completion of the Cairn India merger transforms Vedanta Ltd into a diversified natural resources powerhouse, anchored in India."
      He said further, "The combined entity truly reflects our strong, diversified, low-cost portfolio with industry-leading volume growth from our well-invested assets."
      Vedanta is one of the largest contributors to the exchequer in 2016-17, at Rs 40,000 crore, Agarwal said.
      He added: "The record dividends during the past financial year highlight our commitment to shareholder value. We are looking forward to a very exciting 2017-18 and future years, with all our businesses operating at full capacities and cost efficiencies."
      Tom Albanese, CEO, Vedanta Ltd, said the company's strategic focus to ramp up production across the portfolio, namely zinc, aluminium, power and iron ore businesses, has supplemented revenue growth.
      "In particular, record production levels at zinc and aluminium were well-timed in an environment of strong supply side pressures on both commodities. Our cost management initiatives have helped us deliver strong returns for all our shareholders," he added.

    General Awareness

    India’s Performance at Asian Wrestling Championship, New Delhi

    • The Asian Wrestling Championship concluded on May 14, 2017 in New Delhi. Indian wrestlers bagged total 10 medals (1 Gold, 5 Silver and 4 Bronze).
      • This marks an improvement as compared to 9 medals won by India in previous edition of this Championship in Bangkok.
      • In men’s freestyle categoryIran won the championship title with 71 points, followed by Japan with 55 points and Uzbekistan with 49 points. India finished at eight position with 33 points.
      • Among women’s teams, Japan won the title. Indian women’s team finished second.
      Following Indian Wrestlers won Medals at Asian Wrestling Championship, New Delhi:
      1. Gold Medal Winner (Men Wrestler) – Bajrang Punia
      2. Silver Medal Winners (Female Wrestlers) – Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat, Divya Kakran and Sarita
      3. Silver Medal Winner (Men Wrestler) – Sumit
      4. Bronze Medal Winners (Female Wrestlers) – Jyoti and Ritu Phogat,
      5. Bronze Medal Winner (Men Wrestler) – Harpreet Singh and Anil Kumar
      Anil, Jyoti bag bronze for India in Asian Wrestling
      Anil Kumar and Jyoti won two bronze medals for India in their respective wrestling matches on the second day of the Asian Wrestling Championship in New Delhi on May 11, 2017.
      • Anil Lumar won the bronze medal in the Greco-Roman 85kg category by defeating Uzbekistan’s Muhammadali Shamsiddinov.
      • In women’s 71 kg category, Indian wrestler Jyoti who lost to Japan’s Masako Furuichi in semi-final bout, received the bronze without any bout as there were less number of wrestlers in her weight category and had no opponent to fight in the repechage round.
      Bajrang Punia Wins Gold at Asian Wrestling Championship
      On May 13, 2017, Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia won Gold medal for India in men’s 65kg freestyle category by defeating South Korea’s Seunghui Lee at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex in Delhi.
      • This is Punia’s first gold medal in a major international tournament and is India’s first Gold Medal in this championship.
      • It is to be noted that Bajrang Punia has been mentored by London Olympic bronze-medallist Yogeshwar Dutt.
      • Earlier Bajrang Punia had defeated Uzbek wrestler Sirojiddin Hasanov in qualification round, Meisam Nassiri of Iran in quarterfinal and Kukgwang Kim of North Korea in semi-final.
      Sakshi Malik, Vinesh Phogat & Divya Kakran win silver in Asian Wrestling Championship
      On May 12, 2017, Rio Olympics bronze-medallist Sakshi Malik won a silver medal for India women’s 60kg category at the Asian Wrestling Championship in Delhi.
      • In the final bout for Gold, Sakshi lost to Japan’s Risako Kawai. Earlier, Sakshi defeated Nabira Esenbaeva of Uzbekistan in the quarterfinal and then defeated Kazakhstan’s Ayaulym Kassymova in the semi-final.
      • Sakshi was competing in the 60kg category for the first time. She was initially enrolled for the 58kg category was found overweight and was subsequently moved to 60k category by Wrestling Federation of India (WFI).
      In women’s 55kg category, Vinesh Phogat won silver medal. She lost to Sae Nanjo of Japan in the final bout. Divya Kakran (69 kg) also won a silver medal for India. In the final bout, Divya was defeated by Japan’s Sara Dosho. Earlier, Ritu Phogat won the bronze in the women’s 48kg category after being given a walkover by the Chinese opponent

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