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Current Affairs - 17 May 2017

General Affairs 

Arunachal Pradesh's Anshu Jamsenpa Becomes First Indian Woman To Scale Mount Everest 4 Times
  • Arunachal Pradesh's Anshu Jamsenpa scripted history today by becoming the first Indian woman to scale the Mount Everest for the fourth time. She will attempt a double ascent to the world's highest peak to make it a total five successful climbs.

    Ms Jamsenpa, a mother of two, started at 1.45 am on May 13 for her climb and reached the Everest top at 9 am on today to unfurl the national flag.

    Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama had, on April 2, this year flagged off the mountaineer's double ascent expedition from Guwahati in Assam.

    Ms Jamsenpa scaled the Mount Everest twice in May 2011 and again scaled the peak on May 18 in 2013. 

    If she is successful with her double ascent this time, Ms Jamsenpa will set a record five climbs of Mt Everest. 

    She started the summit expedition after 38 days of acclimatisation at the Everest Base Camp from April 4 to May 12. 

    "The good news is that she is absolutely well and fine and shall attempt a double expedition," her spokesperson said. 

    Ms Jamsenpa spoke to officials at the Everest Base Camp and in Kathmandu over satellite phone from the world's tallest peak after unfurling the tricolour and clicking testimonial photos.

    Her health is stated to be perfectly fine and she is descending now to the base camp. 

    She acknowledged the support extended by State Bank of India, North Eastern Council, Numaligarh Refinery Limited, North Eastern Electric Power Corporation, Arunachal Pradesh government and all her previous associates for her success.

    Ms Jamsenpa is motivated and energised to try the double ascent if conditions remain favourable.

Your Columns Are Low-Impact, Merit No Reprisal, Says BJP To P Chidambaram
  • P Chidambaram, former Finance Minister, said today that the dawn raids at his home in Chennai are reprisal for his criticism of the government through his weekly newspaper column. "The government's aim is to silence my voice and stop me from writing," said Mr Chidambaram, 71. "All I will say is, I shall continue to speak and write."
    The government retorted that Mr Chidambaram is deluded about the impact of his writing. "No one cares about those columns, they have not stirred any storm in the country," said union minister Piyush Goyal.

    The raids at the home of Mr Chidambaram and his son Karti are linked to suspected criminal misconduct in the approval of investment deals, said the country's premier investigating agency. The CBI alleged that as Finance Minister in the previous Congress-led government, Mr Chidambaram facilitated violations of foreign investment laws in the 2007 sale of stake in media company INX, owned by Indrani and Peter Mukerjea, to offshore entities.

    The case names Karti Chidambaram as one of those accused of criminal conspiracy, cheating, seeking to influence a public servant and criminal misconduct. Investigators allege that he was given kickbacks in exchange for his father's help. 

    Karti Chidambaram, addressing a media scrum outside his home in Chennai, said there was no evidence to back the claims against him, adding they were politically motivated.

    "The government does not interfere in CBI probes... As a common citizen, I can say the probe must have been going on. Agencies must have had the evidence to take the action they are taking," union minister Goyal said at a press conference at the Bharatiya Janata Party's office in Delhi.

    Separate CBI teams conducted searches at more than ten places in Tamil Nadu, besides carrying out over a dozen raids in Delhi, Mumbai and Haryana's Gurugram.

President Pranab Mukherjee, Repeat Performance? Congress Agrees With Nitish Kumar
  • After Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar pitched a second term for President Pranab Mukherjee, the Congress today indicated that it will support such a move if the President agrees to it. This evening Congress chief Sonia Gandhi met West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to discuss fielding a common opposition candidate to take on the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance's nominee in the presidential election to be held in July.

    Nitish Kumar has suggested that the ruling BJP initiate talks with the opposition and build a consensus of all parties to nominate President Mukherjee for a second term. President Mukherjee, a former Congressman, has reportedly made it clear that he will consider a second term only if the government nominates him.

    But the BJP, sources say, is keen on fielding one of its own for President, though no names have emerged yet. Along with its allies and now the avowed support of the YSR Congress of Andhra Pradesh leader Jaganmohan Reddy, the BJP needs just a little more help to ensure its candidate gets the 51 per cent votes needed to become the next President.

    In 2002, the Congress wanted a second term for President KR Narayanan, but he had refused to contest after the then BJP-led government of Atal Bihari Vajpayee said it would not nominate him. In 2007, the Congress government at the centre nixed a second term for APJ Abdul Kalam, because it wanted someone more political.     

    "Pranab Mukherjee, comes from the pedigree of a thought process and an ideology that has been a center-point of this country from its formation until today, and would be so in the future," Congress' Randeep Surjewala said adding, "Post of President and Vice President are concerned are intrinsic to our democratic setup, for not only is our President the commander of the armed forces, he is also the protector of our constitution. It is also the role of the President and Vice President, to counsel the government when it loses its way. So bereft of political partisanship, you need... an individual who will be able to uphold the highest principles as enshrined in the constitution."

    Suggesting a second term for President Mukherjee, Nitish Kumar yesterday said, "The president represents the entire country and its people and as such the ruling party at the Centre should take an initiative to seek a consensus on selection of candidate for the top constitutional post after holding talks with all opposition parties," Mr Kumar said.

    As she landed in Delhi, Mamata Banerjee said, "That is for the ruling party to decide. I will not decide on their behalf... At this stage, I cannot say or comment anything." Ms Banerjee has had a long association with President Mukherjee and shares a good rapport with him. She is said to also favour nominating former diplomat and Mahatama Gandhi's grandson Gopalkrishna Gandhi.

    Sonia Gandhi has met opposition leaders like Nitish Kumar and the Left's Sitaram Yechury to discuss possible candidates, among them vice president Hamid Ansari and Mr Gandhi. They know they are unlikely to swing a win, but want to challenge the government. It is also seen as an exercise to test the ground for a big alliance of opposition parties to take on the BJP in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks a second term.  

    "If the ruling party does not go for consensus, it is the opposition's duty to put up a joint candidate for the president's post," Nitish Kumar said.

What's Meaningful Dialogue, India, China Scoffs On Belt And Road Row
  • China today took strong exception to India's stand on its Belt and Road initiative and asked New Delhi to explain what kind of "meaningful dialogue" it wants with Beijing on the multibillion-dollar venture.

    "Over the past four years since the project was initiated we have been holding the principle of extensive consultation, joint contribution and shared benefits" for the Belt and Road initiative, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, reacting to Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Gopal Baglay's remarks that China should hold a meaningful dialogue on the concerns over the One Belt One Road (OBOR) project. "I do not know what the spokesperson (of MEA was) trying to say. What kind of dialogue is a meaningful dialogue. What kind of a positive attitude the spokesman wants China to have?" Ms Hua said when asked for her reaction to Mr Baglay's remarks a day before the two-day Belt and Road Forum. India boycotted the Belt and Road Forum (BRF) held from May 14-15. The meeting was attended by 29 world leaders, including Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

    India skipped the meeting due to its sovereignty concerns over the $ 50 billion China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which passes through Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). A day before the Summit, Mr Baglay had said in New Delhi that, "Guided by our principled position in the matter, we have been urging China to engage in a meaningful dialogue on its connectivity initiative, 'One Belt, One Road', which was later renamed as 'Belt and Road Initiative'. We are awaiting a positive response from the Chinese side."
    The spokesperson, while responding to Mr Baglay's remarks, said, "I think our ideas and actions are there for all to see. You can see the response of the international community towards this forum."

    "Our attitude is always clear. We always want India to participate in the Belt and Road initiative. If they have the answer, they can give the answer to me, either in a public or private?" she said.

    She said China always followed the principle of extensive consultation with other countries on the project over which India has sovereignty concerns.

    "We always say the Belt and Road initiative is an open and inclusive one. We always follow the principle of extensive consultation, contribution and shared benefit," she said, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping's remarks at the Summit that benefits from the venture should be shared by all. Skirting any references to India's absence at the meeting, Xi had said, "All countries should respect each other's sovereignty, dignity and territorial integrity, each other's development paths and social systems, and each other's cores interests and major concerns."

    "I think these initiatives by China have already made a clear response to the Indian side," Ms Hua said. She asserted that China has already made its position clear on the Kashmir issue over which the Indian side is concerned.

    The Belt and Road initiative is for regional peace and prosperity. CPEC is not about the conflict with various sides and will not affect China's position on the Kashmir issue. It is an open initiative and welcomes various parties, she said. "So, China always holds the open and inclusive attitude and we want to see the participation of more parties and to bring more impetus to the region and to the world and prosperity to development to more and more countries," she said.

Only Buildings With Rainwater Harvesting To Be Approved, Says Yogi Adityanath
  • The clearance for construction of a house in Uttar Pradesh will be given only if there is a provision of rainwater harvesting facility in the building plan, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath said today.

    Voicing concern over depletion of ground water level in various parts of the state, the chief minister also said new ponds would be dug wherever possible to ensure availability of water.

    "The government will take all measures to ensure water conservation and promote forestation," he said in the state Assembly during Question Hour.

    "Permission will be given for building construction only if the plan shows that there is provision of rainwater harvesting facility," he said.

    During a recent presentation of the Urban Development Department, the chief minister had suggested rainwater harvesting as a remedial measure to offset water shortage.

    He had said that his government intended to ensure that people of the state did not face shortage of drinking water. He had also directed the UP Jal Nigam officials to ensure that the benefits of various government schemes reach the doorsteps of the needy.

    The matter was raised during Question Hour by Congress member Ajay Kumar Lallu and others, who sought to know from the government about measures to increase the ground water level. 

Business Affairs 

Not correct to assume IT industry going for big job cuts: Government
  • The government on Tuesday said IT industry has assured it that there will be no large scale job losses in the technology sector which continues to demonstrate 8-9 per cent growth.
    IT Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said there could be some cases were contracts are not renewed as part of the regular annual appraisal cycle.
    Besides, she said, the industry is also undergoing a shift in the job profile given the advent of cloud, big data and digital payments.
    "Some of the companies which have been named (as undertaking job cuts) have clarified that there is nothing big this year," she said on the sidelines of Broadband India Forum event.
    Sundararajan added: "As part of annual appraisals , they may not be renewing contract of some people but it is absolutely incorrect to assume that suddenly this year a large number of jobs are being shed."
    The government has categoric assurance from the industry in this regard, she emphasised.
    The industry is growing at 8-9 per cent and there is nothing to suggest that the growth is going to slow down "dramatically".
    IT sector, she said, will continue to hire and has added 5 lakh jobs in the last 2.5 years. The issue needed to be looked at "holistically", she added.
    Over the past few weeks, there have been reports of layoffs across the IT sector. Tech majors like Wipro, Infosys, Cognizant, and, more recently, Tech Mahindra have initiated annual performance reviews, a process that weeds out bottom performers or non performers.
    There are fears that thousands of employees in the sector could be shown the door over the next few weeks.
    The development comes at a time when Indian IT firms are facing challenges in the business environment and stricter work permit regime in countries like the US, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
    That apart, executive search firm Head Hunters India said recently that job cuts in IT sector will be between 1.75 lakh and 2 lakh annually for next three years due to under- preparedness in adapting to newer technologies.
    A McKinsey & Company report also said earlier this year that nearly half of the workforce in the IT services firms will be "irrelevant" over the next 3-4 years.

WannaCry ransomware attack: Microsoft says can't fight problems of present with tools from the past
  • As notorious WannaCrypt ransomware hits businesses worldwide, technology giant Microsoft said it has been working round the clock since Friday to help all its customers who have been affected by this incident.
    With more than 3,500 security engineers at the company, Microsoft said, it is fighting cybersecurity threats with constant updates to its Advanced Threat Protection service.
    Microsoft had released a patch in March to counter WannaCrypt ransomware, the company also issued a prompt update on Friday to Windows Defender to detect the WannaCrypt attack.
    "Working through our Microsoft Threat Intelligence Center (MSTIC) and Digital Crimes Unit, we'll also share what we learn with law enforcement agencies, governments, and other customers around the world," the software firm said.
    Terming such cyber-attacks as a shared responsibility between tech companies and customers, the tech giant said, so many computers remained vulnerable even two months after the release of a patch.
    "There is simply no way for customers to protect themselves against threats unless they update their systems. Otherwise they're literally fighting the problems of the present with tools from the past," it said.
    Blaming the ransomware attack on stockpiling of vulnerabilities by governments, Microsoft said, "vulnerabilities stored by the CIA show up on WikiLeaks, and now this vulnerability stolen from the NSA has affected customers around the world. Repeatedly, exploits in the hands of governments have leaked into the public domain and caused widespread damage."
    "The attack represents a completely unintended but disconcerting link between the two most serious forms of cybersecurity threats in the world today - nation-state action and organized criminal action," Microsoft said.

Markets extend rally: Nifty ends above 9,500-level for the first time, Sensex breaches 30,500
  • Indian markets extended their rally all through the day to closing as investors remained bullish about the prospects of a good monsoon.
    Sensex settled the day at 30,582.60, scaling 260.48 points (0.86%) while the Nifty50 ended the day at 9,512.25, 66.85 points higher (0.71%).
    During the day, Sensex touched its highest of 30,590 while the Nifty touched 9,517 for the first time ever.
    Much of the gains in the markets is on the back of domestic and foreign institutional investors turning net buyers in the past week.
    Further, macro data like inflation, good monsoon etc. added to the growing sentiment.
    Hero MotoCorp was the top gainer on BSE 30 and NSE, adding over 3 per cent each.
    TCS, Bharti Airtel, ITC, SBI and Maruti were top gainers, adding over 2 per cent each to the Sensex.
    ACC saw a major rally, closing the day 2.80 per cent higher on the NSE.
    FMCG stocks gained the most with HUL surging nearly 2 per cent to Rs 1,000, its 52-week high. The scrip ended 1.6 per cent higher.

    PNB records Q4 profit at Rs 262 crore
    • State-owned lender Punjab National Bank today reported a net profit of Rs 261.9 crore for the three months to March 2017.
      Standalone net loss was Rs 5,367.1 crore in the same quarter of the previous fiscal, the bank said in a BSE filing.
      Total income increased to Rs 14,989.33 crore in the quarter, from Rs 12,669.21 crore in the same period last year.
      Gross non-performing assets (NPAs) as a percentage of gross advances dipped to 12.53 per cent in the quarter ended March, from the earlier 12.9 per cent.
      Net NPAs too fell to 7.81 per cent in the March quarter, from 8.61 per cent a year ago.
      The stock rose around 5 per cent to Rs 175.2 on the BSE in the afternoon trade.

    Near-term inflation outlook benign, but RBI expected to hold on for now
    • Consumer price inflation (CPI) saw an overall slip of 2.99 per cent in April this year compared to 3.89 per cent in March. Rural CPI stood at 3.02 per cent and the urban CPI was at 3.03 per cent in April 2017 while retail inflation jumped to a five-month high at 3.81 per cent in March. 

      The fall in inflation was broad-based and the CPI excluding vegetables also fell to the lowest level since 2012. Price indices for vegetables and pulses fell sharply compared to the year-ago period, leading to a fall in headline inflation rate. Food and beverage inflation fell to 1.21 per cent in April compared to 2.5 per cent in March. Fuel and lighting inflation rose to 6.13 per cent compared to 5.5 per cent in March. Housing inflation was at 4.86 per cent compared to 4.96 over the same period.
      Under the new series, wholesale price inflation stood at 3.85 per cent in April, compared to 5.29 per cent in March. Under the old series, wholesale inflation in March stood at 5.7 per cent.
      The consumer price inflation is well within the limit of 2 to 6 per cent, prescribed by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). So, does a sharper-than-expected fall in CPI provide sufficient room for further rate cuts? Not in the near-term. According to Nomura, the RBI is looking through the current low inflation prints and may keep policy rates unchanged in 2017. Nomura expects headline CPI inflation to rise sharply to 5.5-6 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2017 and the first half of 2018, before stabilising around its steady state of around 5 per cent in the second half of 2018. "As growth accelerates due to lagged effects of easier financial conditions and as it becomes clear that inflation will continue to stay above its medium-term target of 4 per cent owing to still-elevated inflation expectations, we expect the RBI to move towards a tightening policy bias towards end-2017 and hike repo rates by a cumulative 50 bps in 2018, starting next April," the report added.
      Earlier this month, the central bank left key policy rate unchanged at 6.25 per cent for the third review in a row, citing upside risks to inflation. It had, however, increased the reverse repo rate by 0.25 per cent to 6 per cent.

    General Awareness

    Economy to grow at 7.4% in FY18, says FICCI survey

    • As per latest Economic Outlook Survey by Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Indian Economy is expected to grow at 7.4% for the fiscal year 2017-18. The survey has also mentioned minimum level of 7.0% and maximum level of 7.6%.
      • This survey was conducted during March and April 2017.
      Highlights of FICCI’s Economic Outlook Survey:
      • Services sector is expected to grow by 4% in 2017-18.
      • Industry is expected to grow by 9% in 2017-18.
      • Agriculture sector is estimated to clock 5% growth.
      • For FY 2017-18, average growth in IIP has been forecasted at 0%. However, extreme range has been mentioned as 1.5% minimum and 6.8% maximum.
      • Wholesale Price Inflation (WPI) has been projected at 5% with a minimum and maximum range of 3.6% and 5.9% respectively.
      • Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) has been projected at 8% with a minimum and maximum level of 4% and 5.3% respectively.
      • Protectionist trade policies adopted by Western countries have been identified as a major challenge.
      • The survey highlighted that strong macroeconomic fundamentals of Indian economy helped in absorbing the impact of sudden demonetization move.
      • Economists participating in the survey were hopeful that on completion of remonetisation process, the consumption patterns will be restored.
      • Indian Meteorological Department’s latest report which has forecasted adequate and timely arrival of monsoon has created a positive sentiment which was earlier dampened by reports of El Nino.
      • As a measure to reduce poverty, majority of the economists vouched for aUniversal Basic Income (UBI) aimed at guaranteeing minimum basic financial support to the Indian citizens.
      Quick Facts about Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI):
      • Formation Year: 1927
      • Headquarters: New Delhi
      • Organisation Type: Non-Government Trade Association
      • Current President: Pankaj Patel

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