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Current Affairs - 5 June 2017

General Affairs 

GSAT-19 launch: A communication satellite, a monster rocket and a gamechanging experiment
  • India is all set to launch communication satellite GSAT-19 into space tomorrow using a monster rocket.
    The satellite launch vehicle--the Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle Mark-III (GSLV Mk-III)--is the heaviest rocket till date. Its weight is equal to that of five fully-loaded Boeing Jumbo Jets or as much as 200 fully grown elephants.
    "All activities for our GSLV-Mark III launch tomorrow are going on in Sriharikota, expecting launch at 5:28 pm," said A S Kiran Kumar, chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
    The ISRO chairman called the launch an important event as it will help India put communication satellites into space from its own soil.
    The GSAT-19's successful launch will pave the way for the launch of GSAT-11--a heavier communication satellite--into the space in the near future.
    1. The GSLV-Mark III in its first developmental flight will carry communication satellite GSAT-19 weighing 3,136 kg from Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
    2. The GSLV-MK III-D1 is a three-stage vehicle with two solid motor strap-ons, a liquid propellant core stage and a cryogenic stage (C25).
    3. If successful, the single GSAT-19 satellite will be equivalent to having a constellation of 6-7 of the older variety of communication satellites in space. Currently, of the 41 in-orbit Indian satellites, 13 are communication satellites.
    4. While the size of the rocket/launch vehicle is being talked about, it is the satellite--GSAT-19--that is billed as the real game-changer. According to experts, the satellite can be the first to provide "Internet services using a space-based platform".
    5. Internet services may not be unleashed immediately but what the country is putting together is a capability in place which is important especially to connect places that are literally off the fibre optic Internet backbone.
    6. Weighing more than three tonnes, the GSAT-19 satellite is the heaviest satellite made and launched from India, and is the test bed for several new technologies.
    7. The GSAT-19 will be powered for the first time with indigenously-made Lithium-ion batteries. Similar batteries can be later used to power electric vehicles like cars and buses.
    8. According to ISRO, the GSAT-19 "carries a Geostationary Radiation Spectrometer (GRASP) payload to monitor and study the nature of charged particles and the influence of space radiation on satellites and their electronic components".
    9. The GSAT-19 also features a miniaturised heat pipe, fibre optic gyro, Micro Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) accelerometer. These new features are being tested with GSAT-19 and can go on to become an intrinsic part of the systems on future missions.
    10. The GSAT-19 will not have transponders, and instead it will beam data using multiple frequency beams. According to experts, this feature will also let the satellite beam more data to the ISRO.

India will not stop to count bullets if Pakistan fires even once, says Rajnath Singh
  • Warning Pakistan once again for 'disturbing peace and tranquillity in Jammu and Kashmir', Home Minister Rajnath Singh today indicated that India would respond with unmeasured force if the neighbour fired even a single bullet.
    "Pakistan is trying to disturb peace and tranquillity in Jammu and Kashmir time and again, but this practice will not continue for long," the home minister was quoted as saying by news agency IANS, once again referring to his recent statement that the Modi government is working on permanent solution for the situation in Kashmir.
    On the topic of cross-border aggression by Pakistan, Rajnath said that the Indian Army has been given the permission not to keep a record of bullets if Pakistani forces 'fire one bullet'.
    The home minister's comments came during a public meeting in Hamirpur, Himachal Pradesh, where Rajnath was attending the Bharatiya Janata Party's Tridev Sammelan aimed at strengthening and mobilising party cadres.
    This is the second time in two days that the home minister has directly spoken about Pakistan-backed terrorism in Kashmir. During a press conference yesterday, he had said, "I assure you that we will uproot Pakistan-sponsored terror from Jammu and Kashmir and establish peace there".
    Rajnath's comments today came two days after two Indian Army jawans were killed in an ambush my militants on the Jammu-Srinagar National Highway.

    Recently, there have been a spate of ceasefire violations along the Line-of-Control, with Pakistan military just yesterday claiming to have killed five Indian jawans. The Indian Army, however, denied those claims.

Indian Army to open up combat positions for women, says General Bipin Rawat
  • In a transformational move, the Indian Army is all set to open up combat positions for women, a gender barrier broken by only a few countries globally.
    Army Chief General Bipin Rawat said the process to allow women in combat role, currently an exclusive domain of men, is moving fast and initially women will be recruited for positions in military police.
    "I am looking at women coming as jawans. I am going to start it soon. Firstly, we will start with women as military police jawans," he said, giving details of the move to allow women in the male-dominated positions in the Army.
    Currently women are allowed in a number of select areas including in medical, legal, educational, signals and engineering wings of the Indian Army but combat roles are kept off limit for them due to operational concerns and logistical issues.
    The Army Chief said he was ready to recruit women as jawans and the matter is being taken up with the government.
    "We have already started the process," General Rawat told PTI in an exclusive interaction recently.
    He said women will have to show grit and strength in taking up challenges in combat role and shattering the glass ceiling.
    Very few countries including Germany, Australia, Canada, the US, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France , Norway, Sweden and Israel have allowed women in combat roles.
    The roles of military police include policing the cantonments and army establishments, prevent breach of rules and regulations by soldiers, maintaining movement of soldiers as well as logistics during peace and war, handling prisoners of war and extending aid to civil police whenever required.
    Creating history, the Indian Air Force, last year, had inducted three women as fighter pilots, less than a year after the government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis.
    A decision on having women as fighter pilots will be taken after evaluating performance of the three women--Avani Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh who are now part of IAF's fighter squadron.
    The Indian Navy is currently deliberating on a policy on having women on board the ships. The Navy allows women in various other segments including in legal, logistics, naval architecture and engineering departments.

Indian Railways told to pay Rs 75000 to passenger whose seat was occupied by unauthorised persons
  • The state consumer commission has asked the Indian Railways to pay Rs 75,000 to a man for the inconvenience he suffered when his reserved seat was occupied by unauthorised persons for most part of his journey.
    The Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (SCDRC) has upheld the district forums order which had asked the Railways to deduct one third of the compensation from the salary of the ticket checker who apparently failed to ensure that the reserved seat of the aggrieved passenger was not used by anyone else.
    "The compensation of Rs 75,000 awarded by the district forum is reasonable and appropriate. The same has been awarded by considering the facts and circumstances of the case," the bench headed by its president Justice Veena Birbal said.
    The commission, however, refused to enhance the compensation awarded to Delhi resident V Vijay Kumar.
    Kumar, in his complaint, said that when he travelled by Dakshin Express on March 30, 2013 from Visakhapatnam to New Delhi, his reserved seat was occupied by someone else.
    Kumar, who claims to be suffering from knee-joint pain, had booked a lower berth.
    It was alleged by Kumar that some unauthorised persons entered into the compartment and occupied his seat/berth at Bina Station in Madhya Pradesh.
    It was further alleged that the unauthorised passengers created lot of nuisance and caused inconvenience to him as well as to his co-passengers.
    He tried to complain to the TTE or any other railway official but no one could be found, Kumar had claimed in his complaint.
    The district forum passed the order after the Railways failed to appear before it saying it was guilty of deficient service.

Terror module busted in Punjab, 3 ISI-linked Khalistani militants arrested
  • Two days after the a pressure cooker bomb making unit was discovered in Patiala, the Punjab Police on Sunday claimed to have busted a terror module by arresting three men from two different locations in the state.
    The three men, believed to be members of the banned International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) have been identified as Gurdial Singh, Jagroop Sigh and Satwinder Singh. The police said the trio were trained by Pakistan based ISYF Chief  Lakhbir Rode and Harmeet Singh lias Happy or PHD.
    "They were trained to carry out terror attacks and to target religious leaders and politicians," a Punjab Police spokesperson told India Today.
    Notbaly, the arrest of two terrorists, Sher Singh and Man Singh, on May 21 is what led to the arrest of these militants. The two were arrested by the Border Security Force with a consignment of arms and ammunition smuggled from Pakistan.
    "Gurdial hails from Road Majara area of Hoshiarpur, and Jagroop and Satiwinder are residents of Chandpur Rurki Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar District. A .32 bore pistol, with one magazine and 10 cartridges and a .38 bore revolver, with 7 cartridges have also been recovered from them," the Punjab Police spokesperson said.
    The Police said Gurdial Singh was the chief operative of ISYF terror module who was introduced to Lakhbir Singh Rode, currently living in Lahore cantonment, by another terrorist Balvir Singh Sandhu who is hiding in Germany.
    Police said Gurdial visited Pakistan several times during the last six to seven years. He would visit Pakistan purportedly to pay homage at a Sikh shrine. He had last visited Pakistan between November 12 and November 21, last year, and was accompanied Jagroop Singh.
    "Jagroop confessed that he was blindfolded and was taken to the ISYF chief blindfolded at an undisclosed location and was imparted a four-day training course by the ISI in handing AK-47 rifle and smaller weapons. He was also trained in techniques of sabotaging railway tracks by loosening the securing/fastening mechanisms of fish-plates, nuts and bolts," Police said.
    The Khalistani terrorist are also believed to have been in touch with some terrorist groups in Jammu and Kashmir. The police also said that Satwinder was an active member of this module and along with Jagroop, was directly in touch with mentors in Pakistan and Germany.

Business Affairs 

    Gold tax rate under GST fixed at 3 per cent; new tax rates for metals much more complex
    • As expected, there is a couple of new tax categories added under the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. Gold, silver and processed diamonds would be taxed at 3% under the GST as against the lowest tax bracket of 5% proposed earlier. Apart from this new tax rate, rough diamonds would be taxed at 0.25%.
      With this, there are now seven tax slabs under the GST - nil, 0.25% (for uncut diamond), 3% (for gold, silver and processed diamond), 5%, 12%, 18% and 28% -- making the new tax regime much more complex than it was earlier conceived.
      Announcing the new tax rate at the conclusion of the GST Council meeting in New Delhi today, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said," At present, gold has 1% excise duty and in many states 1% VAT (Value Added Tax). In some states, the VAT is more than 1%. There was an extensive debate (on rate of tax on gold in the meeting and between 2% and 5%, there was almost a vertical. Therefore, we finally reached a consensus of taxing gold and gold jewellery at 3%." 
      On rough diamond, the finance minister said that a nominal rate of 0.25% was levied to keep the audit trail.
      Already, the proposed GST has come under criticism for having five tax slabs and different cesses levied on items kept in the highest tax slab of 28%, the two new tax rates would make the tax structure more complex.
      Suresh Nair, Tax Partner, EY, said, "Inspite of a near vertical division, the GST Council manages a consensus on rate of tax on gold at 3%.  This adds on to another new tax rate under GST regime. It would be interesting to watch the trade community reaction in the transition phase given that the GST rate in most states could be higher than the overall current effective tax rate on gold.  States with higher VAT rate would be hopeful of compensation from the Centre to bridge the gap, if otherwise not taken care of."  
      Meanwhile, the World Gold Council has welcomed the step to apply 3% GST on gold by calling it an 'encouraging step in the current context to stabilise the industry, it has said that with the current import duty of 10% the total tax on gold is still high and will continue to have an impact on the jewellery industry. Therefore, it has asked to bring down the import duty on gold.

    RBI to keep policy rate unchanged on June 7, say experts
    • The Reserve Bank (RBI) is likely to maintain status quo at its monetary policy review on Wednesday as it would like to gauge the impact of GST rollout on inflation, say experts.
      However, industry and government are pitching for a rate cut to boost GDP growth which fell to 7.1 per cent in 2016-17 from 8% in the previous fiscal.
      "Given the inflation trajectory and as the liquidity in enough in the market, it is unlikely that there would be any rate cut this time. I think commentary of the policy will be benign," State Bank of India DMD and Chief Financial Officer Anshula Kant told PTI.
      The six-member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel will meet on June 6 and 7 for the Second Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement for 2017-18.
      "I do not think RBI will cut repo rate in the upcoming policy. They will wait for CPI data before taking a call. The tone of the policy is likely to be dovish," Union Bank of India executive director Vinod Kathuria said.
      Retail inflation, based on Consumer Price Index (CPI), dropped to multi-year low at 2.99% in April over last year, mainly due to lower cost of food items, including pulses and vegetables. CPI inflation stood at 5.47% in April 2016.
      At the same time, inflation based on the wholesale price index slipped to a four-month low of 3.85% in April as both food articles and manufactured items showed cooling in prices.
      GST, which government intends to roll out from July 1, is likely to be inflation neutral as per official estimates.
      On April 6, the Reserve Bank had left its benchmark lending rate unchanged at 6.25% for the third monetary policy review in a row, citing upside risk to inflation.
      According to India Inc, the time is opportune for the Reserve Bank to cut interest rates as inflation is likely to remain at moderate levels.
      "The RBI and the Monetary Policy Committee are being cautious in not recognising the significant decline in inflation. Global commodity prices have moderated and food prices are down," CII said.
      According to a Nomura report, the RBI is expected to tread a cautious path.
      "... given much of the ongoing drop in inflation is due to transitory factors and given other factors that will reverse (narrowing output gap, remonetisation, house rent allowance increase), we continue to see the RBI's next move as a hike rather than a cut," it said. 

    PSBs plan to mobilise Rs 58,000 cr from capital mkts this fiscal
    • Public sector banks, including SBI, Bank of Baroda and IDBI Bank, plan to raise Rs 58,000 crore through equity dilution during the current fiscal to meet Basel-III norms and clean up their balance sheets.
      Leading the pack, countrys largest lender SBI plans to raise Rs 15,000 crore through share sale and expects this to complete by the year-end, probably through a qualified institutional placement (QIP).
      "This is something for which we have everything in place but we will go when we find the market is conducive," SBI Chairperson Arundhati Bhattacharya has said.
      Besides, Bank of Baroda and Central Bank of India plans to raise Rs 6,000 crore
      and Rs 65,000 crore from capital markets, respectively.
      Oriental Bank of Commerce and IDBI Bank have taken boards approval for raising Rs 5,000 crore each through equity dilution, while Mumbai-based Union Bank of India plans to Rs 4,950 crore during the current fiscal.
      Raising funds from the market will ease the pressure on the exchequer of pumping in capital. As per the Indradhanush plan public sector banks need to raise Rs 1.10 lakh crore from markets, including follow-on public offer, to meet Basel-III requirements, which will kick in from March 2019.
      This will be over and above Rs 70,000 crore banks will get as capital support from the government. Of this, the government has already infused Rs 50,000 crore in the past two fiscals and the remaining will be pumped in by the end of 2018-19.
      In the Budget speech on February 1, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced capital infusion of Rs 10,000 crore for the current fiscal.
      "In line with the Indradhanush road map, I have provided Rs 10,000 crore for recapitalisation of banks in 2017-18. Additional allocation will be provided, as may be required," Jaitley had said.
      PSU banks requires capital for meeting Basel-III norms and cleaning of balance sheet as non-performing assets (NPAs) have reached unacceptably high levels. These banks are saddled with non-performing assets or bad loans to the tune of a staggering Rs 6 lakh crore.
      Bad loans rose by over Rs 1 lakh crore in the first nine months of last fiscal to Rs 6.07 lakh crore by 31 December 2016. Gross NPA of PSBs stood at Rs 5.02 lakh crore at the end of March 2016, up from Rs 2.67 lakh crore at the end of March 2015.
      Corporation Bank and Syndicate Bank have lined up fund raising plan of Rs 3,500 crore each, while Bank of Maharashtra has taken boards approval for raising Rs 2,000 crore.
      SBI, in 2014, had raised Rs 8,032 crore by selling shares through qualified institutional placement (QIP), largely aided by state-owned life insurer LIC.
      The bank sold 5.13 crore shares at an average price of Rs 1,565, which was the lower side of the price band it had set.
      Besides, Canara Bank had also raised about Rs 1,250 crore from rights issue to its shareholders last fiscal. 

    Foreign investors with modern technology welcome in steel sector, says Steel Minister
    • The government has welcomed foreign investors with modern technology to set up steel plants in India as the country aims to increase the output to 300 million tonnes (MT) by 2030.
      "If somebody comes with a new technology with any joint venture or some company from abroad wants to put their plant they are also welcome," Steel Minister Chaudhary Birender Singh told PTI.
      "The ministry is quite open to this. Any transfer of technology will be welcomed. May be they can have joint ventures, they can have MoUs," the minister said.
      The government aims to more than triple the crude steel output in the country from current 97 MT to 300 MT.
      "In such a situation they would be coming with a new technology....In this sector even 100 per cent FDI is allowed. So they have all their funds utilised for that. That means this would also serve to have sufficient FDI...Our target by 2030 is 300 MT. We are going to create this capacity," the minister said.
      In 2016-17, Indias crude steel production was at 97.385 MT, registering a growth of 8.5 per cent over the year-ago period.
      SAIL and ArcelorMittal have already inked a pact to set up a Rs 5,000-crore auto-grade steel plant. The joint venture is in final stage and is progressing fast. It will produce high-end steel based on latest technology.
      In March, the steel minister had said that SAIL and ArcelorMittal will resolve differences over setting up of this plant.
      The two companies had inked a pact in May 2015 to explore the possibility of setting up an automotive steel manufacturing unit under JV arrangement.
      The proposed JV will construct world-class facilities that will offer technologically advanced steel products for Indias rapidly growing automotive sector. 

    TCS H-1B visa applications see a huge drop compared to 2015
    • Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) applied for only a third of the H-1B work visas this year compared to 2015, helped by increased hiring from engineering campuses and B-schools in the US.
      The move comes at a time when the Indian IT companies are confronted by closer scrutiny and tighter visa norms in the US, a market that accounts for nearly 60 per cent of India's IT exports.
      "We have significantly ramped it (local hiring) up in the last couple of years, replicating many of the programmes that have worked very well for us in India, such as partnering academic institutions and engaging with high school students," TCS EVP Human Resources Ajoy Mukherjee said in the company's annual report.
      He added that TCS is hiring from over a hundred engineering campuses and MBA graduates from top B-schools in the US.
      "All this is helping us bring down our dependence on work visas. In 2016 and again this year, we have applied for only a third of the visas we had applied for in 2015," he said.
      With rising protectionism across markets like Singapore and Australia, companies are beginning to adjust their business models to reduce their dependence on visas, hiring more locals instead.
      The ramp up in local hiring is also aimed at placating the Donald Trump administration in the US that has been critical of outsourcing firms.
      The US had accused TCS, as well as peers Infosys and Cognizant of unfairly cornering the lion's share of US' H-1B work visas, taking jobs away from American workers.
      The tightening of visa norms not only pushes up operational costs for these tech firms, but also makes movement of skilled workforce difficult.
      Infosys has already announced that it would hire 10,000 Americans over the next two years and set up four innovation hubs in the US.
      The H-1B visa programme is most sought-after by Indian IT firms and professionals to work on customer sites. Every year, the US grants 65,000 H-1B visas, while another 20,000 are set aside for those with advanced US degrees. 

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