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Current Affairs - 16 June 2017


General Affairs 

SPORTS: Speaking at PT Usha's athletics school, Modi invents another acronym
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has done it again. We now know SPORTS is an acronym for Skill, Perseverance, Optimism, Resilience, Tenacity, and Stamina.
    Speaking via video conference at the inauguration of synthetic tracks at PT Usha's Usha School of Athletics, Modi said, "For me, sports includes these attributes. S for Skill, P for perseverance, 0 optimism, R resilience, T tenacity, and S for stamina."
    Modi's penchant for coining acronyms has become an almost integral part of his public statements. That when it came to attacking his enemies, the fact that the word play worked to his advantage cannot be denied.
    Recently, when the government he heads was celebrating its three years in power, it was only fair that his party came up with the idea of celebrating MODI fests across India, MODI in this case standing for Making of Developed India. (Of course, one of the first to use this acronym was Union Minister M Venkaiah Naidu)
    Here are some famous acronyms Modi has invented so far:
    1. IT + IT = IT
    Last month, at the launch of Supreme Court's digital filing system, Modi came up with a new equation: IT + IT = IT (Information Technology + Indian Talent = India Tomorrow)
    2. SCAM
    During the bitterly-fought Uttar Pradesh election earlier this year, Modi coined SCAM (Samajwadi Party, Congress, Akhilesh Yadav, and Mayawati) to corner his competitors. Modi's Man Friday, Amit Shah, also made headlines in that election for coming up with KASAB (Ka in Hindi for Congress, Sa for Samajwadi Party and Ba for BSP).
    3. ABCD
    Similarly, in the run-up to the 2014 Lok Sabha election, Modi's ABCD (Adarsh, Bofors, Coal and Damaad) was a big hit. It referred to the many scams that marked the Congress-led UPA's 10 years in power.
    4. RSVP
    Around the same time, in a more focused attack on the Gandhi family, Modi thought of RSVP (Rahul, Sonia, (Robert) Vadra and Priyanka). It was in response to Rahul Gandhiquestioning the Gujarat model of development, that the BJP has often counted as Modi's first major achievement. 
    5. AKs
    Modi once said three AKs are enough to destabilise this country. The three AKs stood for AK-47 (the gun), AK Antony (veteran Congress leader), and of course, the third AK being Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, who had unsuccessfully contested against Modi from Varanasi in the 2014 election.

Pre-2006 voluntary Armed Forces retirees to get disability pension
  • In an important move, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) today issued formal orders authorizing disability pension to all disabled-soldiers and officers prior to 2006, even to those who had taken pre-voluntary pre-mature retirement. Doing away with the rule that the disability pension was given only to those officers and soldiers who had sought pre-mature retirement prior to 2006. While sources said that there were multiple judicial pronouncement, the government has finally given to a long pending demand and "has been a welcome step."
    Sources said that while the orders came in May itself, it has been implemented only now.
    A letter accessed by India Today says "the President is pleased to decide that Pre-2006 Armed force personnel who were retired/discharged from service on or after 1st January 2006. Who were retained in service despite disability and retired voluntarily or otherwise will be disallowed disability elements in addition to retiring/service pension and gratuity subject to condition that their disability was accepted as attributable to or aggravated by military service and had forgone lump-sump compensation in lieu of disability."
    Time line:
    In 2004, the Delhi High Court had questioned the MoD rule that prohibited grant of disability and war injury benefits to premature retirees. Similar orders were passed by the Punjab and Haryana High Court and later upheld by the SC.
    In 2009, the MoD issued a letter authorising disability benefits to voluntary retirees but had restricted its applicability to only post-2006 retirees. The MoD, however, continued to refuse benefits to affected disabled personnel, except those who approached courts.
    In November 2015, a committee of experts constituted by then Defence Minister, Manohar Parrikar, to reduce litigation in the armed forces came down heavily on the MoD for indulging in filing frivolous appeals against its employees, including disabled soldiers.

    The panel specifically recommended the removal of the prohibition once it had been struck down by courts. The committee stated that the denial of benefits was based upon a "false foundation, wrong inputs and unethical propaganda".

India faced with Rs 3.1 lakh crore farm loan waiver - 16 times 2017 budget for rural roads
  • As demands for farm-loan waivers grow across Punjab, Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka -- after Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra wrote off loans worth Rs 36,359 crore and Rs 30,000 crore, respectively -- India faces a cumulative loan waiver of Rs 3.1 lakh crore, or 2.6 per cent of its GDP in 2016-17.
    A waiver of this scale could pay for the 2017 rural roads budget 16 times over or pay for 443,000 warehouses or increase India's irrigation potential by 55 per cent more than the achievements of the last 60 years.
    While such waivers could provide succour for 32.8 million indebted farmers, an IndiaSpend analysis of the impact of previous farm-loan waivers indicates such bailouts are band-aids of uncertain efficacy and do not address a deeper malaise gripping the agrarian economy.
    Over nine years to March 2017, the central and state governments waived Rs 88,988 crore in loans to 48.6 million farmers. The nationwide Rs 52,000 crore loan-waiver announced by the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) in 2008 occupies the bulk of this figure.
    WHAT WERE WAIVERS AIMED AT PRIMARILY
    The waivers were primarily meant to discourage suicides by farmers, apparently caused by widespread indebtedness. However, our analysis shows this had little or no impact on suicide rates, probably because 32.5 per cent on average, or 79.38 million, small and marginal farmers across India (with farm holdings of less than 1 to 2 hectares in size) rely on informal sources of credit.
    Meanwhile, loan waivers have led to a rise in the non-performing assets (NPAs) of banks, especially public-sector banks, and are likely to have a significant bearing on the state and national fiscal deficits. In 2013, agricultural NPAs accounted for about 41.8 per cent of "priority sector" (which also comprises micro and small enterprises, affordable housing, and student loans) NPAs in public and private banks -- up from 25 per cent in 2009, according to a 2015 study published in the International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR).
    For example, Maharashtra's Rs 30,000 crore farm-loan waiver for small and marginal farmers will raise the state's fiscal deficit to 2.71 per cent, which is three-fourths (1.18 percentage points) higher than the budgeted deficit of 1.53 per cent of the GSDP for the current financial year, according to this 2017 report by ratings agency India Ratings and Research (Ind-Ra). Uttar Pradesh's Rs 36,359 crore farm-loan is 2.6 per cent of its GSDP. The 14th Finance Commission says fiscal deficits should not exceed 3 per cent of state budgets.
    About 85 per cent of all operational farm holdings in India are less than two hectares in size. Owners of these shrinking farms find it difficult to use modern machinery and are often too poor to afford farm equipment. Manual labour increases costs, and size and output further limits access to loans and institutional credit.
    On an average, a third of Indian small and marginal farmers have access to institutional credit. This means no more than 10.6 million of 32.8 million small and marginal farmers in the eight states demanding loan waivers could benefit from debts being written off.
    The other 22.1 million farmers depend on moneylenders and relatives for borrowings, according to the 2011 agricultural census and the National Sample Survey Office's 2013 situation assessment survey of farm households, the latest available data.
    COUNT OF FARMER SUICIDES
    In 2007, before the UPA's loan waiver for 30 million farmers across 18 states, 16,379 Indian farmers committed suicide, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data.
    A quarter of these suicides (4,238) were reported from Maharashtra. In 2009, the year after the loan-waiver was announced, the state government promised an additional waiver of Rs 6,208 crores. This led to a drop in farm suicides in India's richest state; but in 2010, suicides rose again, by 6.2 per cent. By 2015, seven years after the Centre's bail-out, Maharashtra recorded 4,291 suicides, its highest rate ever, accounting for 34 per cent of such deaths nationwide, according to the latest available NCRB data.
    After the first major farm-loan waiver of Rs 10,000 crore in 1990-announced by a Janata Party government led by then Prime Minister V.P. Singh -- it took almost nine years for banks to recover.
    Since the 2008 farm-loan waiver, agricultural NPAs rose three times, from Rs 7,149 crore in 2009 to Rs 30,200 crore in 2013, according to a 2015 study.
    These NPAs affect the credibility of lending institutions. Shares of banks fell four per cent after Maharashtra announced its loan waiver. Further, with public-sector banks (PSBs) accounting for the major share of farm credit - 52 per cent in Maharashtra, followed by 32 per cent from co-operative banks and 12 per cent in private banks -- these PSBs are "more vulnerable", said a 2017 Kotak Institutional Equities report.
    Indebtedness is a symptom and not the root cause of the farm crisis, according to a 2007 expert group report on agricultural indebtedness, chaired by economist R. Radhakrishna. The average farm household borrowing has not been "excessive", the Radhakrishna report said. The factors contributing to the farm crisis are "stagnation in agriculture, increasing production and marketing risks, institutional vacuum and lack of alternative livelihood opportunities", the report said.
    PROBLEMS THAT ARE CAUSE OF INDIA's AGRARIAN CRISIS
    It is clear a loan-waiver alone cannot solve India's agrarian crisis. The data reveal a more-than-necessary focus on agricultural credit, as other fundamental problems remain unaddressed.
    Over a decade to 2014-15, as institutional credit in agriculture grew 547 per cent, from Rs 1.25 lakh crore to Rs 8.45 lakh crore, rural road construction -- which increases access and boosts agricultural income and productive employment -- grew just 10.5 per cent.
    Roughly 7 per cent of total grain output, 10 per cent of seeds and between 25 and 40 per cent of fruits and vegetable -- overall a third of farm harvest spoils -- are wasted every year because there isn't enough storage and supply-chain infrastructure.
    Irrigation, increasingly vital in an era of climate change, has failed Indian farming. No more than 47.6 per cent of India's farms are irrigated, and the decadal growth in net-irrigated area to 2010 was 0.3 per cent, according to Ministry of Agriculture data.
    These low investments eventually make farming expensive and prices volatile.
    To curb the impact of market fluctuations, Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian recommended improving the "procurement capacity" -- or money available to buy farm produce -- of states, lifting export bans, raising stock limit and including "risks and externalities" while framing the minimum support prices (MSP) for various produce.

Take cue from Bihar and implement liquor ban in UP, Nitish tells Yogi Adityanath
  • Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Wednesday urged his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath, who visits Bihar today, not to come 'empty handed' but implement the liquor ban and 50 per cent reservation for women in local bodies.
    "You (Adityanath) should take cue from us and implement liquor ban and 50 per cent reservation for women in local bodies," Kumar told a public meeting after laying foundations of development projects worth Rs 300 crore.
    Taking a dig at the much-hyped Darbhanga visit of Yogi Adityanath today, Kumar said "He must be coming empty-handed whereas I am here to launch various development schemes."
    The Bihar Chief Minister also took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for non-fulfilment of various promises made to Bihar during the 2014 general elections and assembly polls in the state the next year saying "We implement whatever works we promise, but others forget about it."
    Kumar took a pot-shot at cow vigilantes and said that they should learn to take care of stray bovines before taking law into their own hands to deal with those involved in trade of animals.
    He claimed that the liquor ban has become a runaway success in Bihar and asked BJP-ruled states to follow suit. Kumar said that his government will launch a total de-addiction drive as follow up action after the success of the liquor ban.

EDMC must weed out corruption to make it financially viable, Kejriwal to East Delhi mayor
  • Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal today met East Delhi mayor and told him that the state government had released funds to MCDs that were supposed to have been released under the existing finance commission.
    According to sources in the CMO, Kejriwal told the East Delhi Mayor that there was massive corruption in the EDMC (East Delhi Municipal Corporation).
    Kejriwal said, "EDMC is plagued by parking mafia, and advertising and hoarding mafia. EDMC must weed out corruption to make it financially viable. Illegal hoardings and illegal parking must be done away with, which will in turn increase the revenue of MCDs manifold."
    Kejriwal asked why were sanitation workers not being paid salaries on time and where was the money being given by the Delhi government to the MCDs going.

Business Affairs 

    Indian Railways aims to enhance travel experience; plans to launch upgraded Humsafar coaches with more facilities
    • Aiming to enhance the train travel experience, the Railways are launching new 'Humsafar' coaches equipped with facilities like GPS-based passenger information system, and fire and smoke detectors.

      The upgraded coaches will also have mobile charging points and reading lights for every passenger. The changes have been planned after feedback from travellers. 

      "Humsafar trains are already running and we have got feedback from the passengers. So based on that, we have improved the facilities further by providing additional features," Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said after inspecting the new Humsafar coaches.

      The first Humsafar train was launched in December in 2016 between Gorakhpur and Anand Vihar. Last month, the all new Western Railways' first AC 3-tier Humsafar Express between Ahmedabad and Chennai was flagged off by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. 

      The new Humsafar Express, is a fully 3 AC service with modern facilities like GPS-based passenger information system, passenger announcement, fire and smoke detection and suppression system.

      The upgraded coaches also have facilities like baby nappy changing pads, and tea and coffeemakers.

      There will be a total of 11 Humsafar trains out of which six are operational.

    Google hires Indian-origin Apple employee to build processors
    • Internet search giant Google has hired Indian-origin engineer Manu Gulati, who was Apple's chip architect for iPads and iPhones, to play a key role in building its upcoming flagship pixel phone, according to media reports.
      Gulati, who had worked at Apple for almost eight years as a micro-architect, announced the job change through LinkedIn.
      He is now the Lead SoC Architect for Google.
      He has at least 15 Apple patents related to chip design under his belt and will be key in Google's plan to build its own processors, the CNBC reported.
      Google is now expanding their team of chip experts so that it can build their own chipsets for future Pixel smartphones.
      Gulati was instrumental in Apple's bid to build custom chips for the iPhone, iPad and Apple TV. In the past, he has been responsible for the A4 and A9 chips which powered the 2010 iPad.
      Apple currently builds its own smartphone processors but Google does not.
      Apple's newest A10X chips, for example, are built-in house instead of by companies like Intel or Qualcomm. Qualcomm currently supplies its Snapdragon processor for Google's Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones.
      Google's new hire could help the company differentiate Pixel from the many other smartphones by other vendors that run Android on Qualcomm (QCOM, -0.92 per cent) chips. And Gulati's exit is seen as a set back for Apple (AAPL, -0.98 per cent), which has filed a number of chip-related patents that credit Gulati as an inventor.
      Gulati's LinkedIn profile says he is now Google's lead SOC architect. SoC stands for system on a chip.
      He has also been employed by Broadcom and AMD.
      With Gulati now part of its team, Google can have an edge over other companies while it comes as a significant blow to Cupertino-based Apple.
      "Apple filed a total of 15 chip-related patents that credit Gulati as one of the inventors. Some of these filings describe fundamental chip architecture, while others are more specific to certain applications," the report said.
      If Google begins building processors in house, like Apple, it would potentially cut down on Google's reliance on Qualcomm, the report said.
      Other firms, such as Huawei and Samsung, have also started to build chips in-house, allowing them to rely less on potential supply restraints from outside parties.
      A spokesperson for Apple was not immediately available for comment, the report said.
      Google confirmed that Gulati is now working for the company but declined to provide additional details.

    Civil aviation ministry seeks deferment of GST implementation
    • The civil aviation ministry has sought postponement of the GST implementation by two months on the ground that airlines need more time to revamp their systems to comply with the new tax regime.
      The goods and services tax (GST) is scheduled to be rolled out from July 1 and preparations are at an advanced stage.
      Against this backdrop, the ministry has written to the finance ministry seeking deferral of the GST implementation by two months.
      According to a senior ministry official, the deferment has been sought as airlines are not yet ready with their systems to be in compliance with GST.
      Carriers, including Air India, have expressed concern over certain aspects of GST.
      Airline officials said making changes in the global ticket distribution system to ensure compliance with GST would take time. Lack of clarity on certain areas pertaining to airlines business has also given rise to concerns of higher operational cost.
      Among others, airlines are in a fix over the possibility of movement of "stocks (equipment or aircraft parts)" being taxed under GST.
      On Wednesday, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha chaired a meeting on GST preparedness with various aviation industry stakeholders, including airlines, airports and cargo.
      Earlier this week, the finance ministry said GST is on track for scheduled implementation from July 1 and pushed back against rumours of a delay.
      "The rumours about GST implementation being delayed are false. Please do not be misled by it," Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia had said.

    Sensex, Nifty trade flat ahead of US Federal Reserve policy outcome
    • Indian benchmark indices opened on a positive note today as the benchmark Sensex rose 80 points, coming on the back of an overnight record close on the Wall Street.
      Investors kept track of the two-day monetary policy meeting of the US Federal Reserve, which is due to announce its decision today.
      At 10.22 am, the BSE Sensex was trading 31,116.41, up 12.92 points (0.04%) while the Nifty50 was trading 5.85 per cent lower at 9,601.05-level.
      Realty, healthcare, oil and gas and auto indices rose.
      Support came from Dr Reddy's, Lupin, Reliance Industries, TCS, PowerGrid and ICICI Bank, which climbed by up to 1.53 per cent.
      Asian markets remained mixed. Japan's Nikkei was up 0.10 per cent while Hong Kong's Hang Seng rose 0.05 per cent in early trade today. Shanghai Composite, however, shed 0.22 per cent.
      The US Dow Jones Industrial Average ended at a record close by rising 0.44 per cent yesterday.

    Petrol price cut by Rs 1.12 a litre, diesel by Rs 1.24/litre
    • Petrol price was on Thursday cut by Rs 1.12 per litre and diesel by Rs 1.24 per litre, the last of the fortnightly revisions after which daily correction in rates in step with cost will be implemented.
      From tomorrow, petrol and diesel rates will be revised in sync with any movement in international oil rates. Rates will change at 6 am everyday depending on movement in cost on the previous day.
      Currently, prices are revised on 1st and 16th of every month based on the fortnightly average of international oil price and the foreign exchange rate.
      The last of such revision was announced on Thursday when petrol price was reduced by Rs 1.12 per litre, excluding state levies (VAT), and diesel by Rs 1.24 a litre, said Indian Oil Corp, the nation's largest fuel retailer.
      Actual reduction would be higher after taking into account local sales tax or VAT.
      Petrol will cost Rs 65.48 a litre in Delhi from tomorrow as against Rs 66.91 per litre currently. A litre of diesel will cost Rs 54.49 as compared to Rs 55.94 at present.
      IOC said daily revision of retail selling price of petrol and diesel on pilot basis was implemented in Chandigarh, Jamshedpur, Puducherry District, Udaipur and Visakhapatnam from May 1.
      "On the same lines, IOC intends to start revising retail selling prices of petrol and diesel across the country on a daily basis with effect from June 16. The prices declared on a daily basis shall be applicable from 6 AM to 6 AM the next day," IOC said in a statement.
      The reduction in rate announced on Thursday comes on the back of Rs 1.23 a litre hike in petrol rates on June 1 and Rs 0.89 a litre in diesel price.
      "The current level of international product prices of petrol and diesel and Indian Rupee-US Dollar exchange rate warrant decrease in selling price of petrol and diesel, the impact of which is being passed on to the consumers with this price revision," the statement said.

    General Awareness

    IOC, BPCL, HPCL sign agreement to set up $40 billion refinery in Maharashtra

    • On June 14, 2017, public sector oil firms IOC, BPCL and HPCL signed an agreement to jointly set up the world’s largest refinery and petrochemical complex at Ratnagiri district of Maharashtra. The total cost for setting up this refinery is estimated to be $40 billion.
      More Details about $40 billion refinery in Maharashtra:
      Indian Oil Corp (IOC) will be the lead partner with 50% stake while Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) and Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) will take 25% stake
      • Union Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said this refinery is being set up keeping in mind the future fuel demand and the export potential of the country.
      • The entire refinery will include three crude units of 20 million tonnes each.
      • After land acquisition and all clearances, it will take five-six years for completing this project.
      • The refinery will produce petrol, diesel, LPG, ATF and feedstock for making petrochemical that are basic building blocks in plastic, chemical and textile industries.
      • It will have an accompanying mega petrochemical plant that will include an aromatic complex, naphtha cracker and polymer complex.
      Oil Demand and Refining Capacity in India:
      According to the International Energy Agency (EA), oil demand in India is expected to reach 458 million tonnes by year 2040.
      • India has a refining capacity of 232.066 million tonnes, which exceeded the demand of 194.2 million tonnes in 2016-17 fiscal.
      • Refineries of IOC, BPCL and HPCL have combined refining capacity of nearly 139 million tonnes.
      • Currently IOC’s 15 million tonnes unit at Paradip in Odisha is the biggest refinery among all public sector oil firmsReliance Industries refinery in Jamnagar, Gujarat currently holds the distinction of biggest refinery in India.

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