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Current Affairs - 8 June 2017

General Affairs 

Presidential election on July 17, counting on July 20, says Election Commission
  • The Election Commission today announced that polling for choosing India's next President will be held on July 17 while counting will be on July 20.
    President Pranab Mukherjee's term ends on July 24.
    Announcing the schedule, Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi told reporters here that the last date of filing nominations is June 28, scrutiny of nominations will take place on June 29 and the last date for withdrawal of candidature is July 1.
    "The date on which polling will be held, if required, is July 17. Counting, if required, will be done on July 20," Zaidi said.
    Elected members of the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha and state assemblies including assemblies of Delhi and Puducherry are eligible to take part in the election.
    Neither the BJP-led NDA nor the Congress-led Opposition have come out with their candidates for the presidential election. Both the Narendra Modi government and the Opposition appear not in favour of giving a second term to incumbent President Pranab Mukherjee.
    The Congress Working Committee chaired by party president Sonia Gandhi met in New Delhi on Tuesday to discuss the upcoming presidential poll. However, no decision was made on party's candidate for the presidential election.
    In May last week, Sonia Gandhi had invited leaders from Opposition for a luncheon to discuss names of probable candidates. However, the group of leaders failed to arrive at any consensus.

Army foils infiltration bid along LoC, kill 3 militants
  • Indian army soldiers killed three militants who were trying to infiltrate across the border from the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir's Kupwara district today.
    There was an exchange of fire between infiltrators and army inside the forested area near LOC in Machil sector of Kupwara after which three of the infiltrators were gunned down, sources said.
    Earlier, a police officer here said that the operation ensued after personnel of the counter-insurgency Rashtriya Rifles, searching the Sardari Nad forests near the LoC on information about presence of militants there, came under gunfire.

Babri Masjid demolition: Advani, Joshi, Uma get relief from personal appearance
  • A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court on Wednesday relieved veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L. K. Advani from personal appearance in connection with the Babri demolition case.
    The court also granted exemption from personal appearance to BJP veteran Murli Manhohar Joshi and Union Minister Uma Bharti.
    On May 30, a special CBI court in Lucknow framed charges against 12 people - including Advani, Joshi and Bharti.
    The court had also asked BJP leader Vinay Katiyar, VHP's Vishnu Hari Dalmia and Sadhvi Ritambara to present themselves before the court in person.
    While directing the accused to present themselves in person, the judge had earlier said that no application for adjournment or exemption from personal appearance shall be entertained.
    The Supreme Court had ordered the restoration of a conspiracy charge against them.
    The apex court's April 19 directive that the special court "complete the trial and deliver the judgment within a period of two years" from the date of the judgment may overlap with the holding of the 2019 general election, when the temple plank is likely to emerge as an emotive issue.
    The apex court also directed the trial court in Lucknow to commence the proceedings in four weeks and hear the matter on a day-to-day basis so as to complete the hearing in two years. The apex court also said there will be no 'de novo' (fresh) trial.
    The CBI has been ordered to ensure that at least one prosecution witness appears in the trial court for recording of testimony.
    To ensure a speedy trial, the top court has given two important directions - first, no party shall be granted adjournments without the sessions' judge being satisfied of the reasons for it; second, the trial judge hearing the case shall not be transferred till the judgement is delivered.

Nagaland: 3 terrorists, 1 officer killed in ongoing encounter in Mon
  • At least three terrorists were killed in an encounter in Nagaland's Mon district, the Indian Army said on Wednesday morning.
    One soldier from the Territorial Army and one civilian were also killed in the encounter. Three other jawans were injured.
    The Indian Army's Eastern Command said in a message on Twitter that the soldier killed was an officer in the Territorial Army. The injured soldiers have been evacuated to a hospital and their condition is stable, the Eastern Command said. The encounter broke out at around 11.30 pm on Tuesday after militants ambushed security personnel.

    Three militants were killed in the subsequent encounter. Major David Manlum of the Territorial Army died in the gunfight while three other soldiers suffered inujuries.

Madhya Pradesh farmers protest: Violence spreads in Mandsaur, PM Modi consults top ministers
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi met his senior Cabinet colleagues in New Delhi today to discuss farmers protest in Madhya Pradesh. At least five farmers were killed in firing on agitating protesters in Mandsaur on Tuesday.
    PM Modi met Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Nitin Gadkari and others after the regular Cabinet meeting to discuss the situation in Madhya Pradesh as situation in the state continues to remain tense.
    More violence was reported from Mandsaur and adjoining areas today as the administration failed to control a rampaging mob which went on burning vehicles and damaging public property in the region. The Congress has called a bandh Mandsaur today.
    • Rahul Gandhi and other Congress leaders will visit Mandsaur tomorrow, says Congress general secretary Mohan Prakash
    • A criminal case should be registered against the Shivraj government for murder of the farmers. He should resign from his post: Congress general secretary Mohan Prakash 
    • PM Modi met Home Minister Rajnath Singh, Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh, Nitin Gadkari and others to discuss Tuesday's violence in Mandsaur and decide on future strategy.
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi discusses Madhya Pradesh farmers protest issue with senior ministers after the regular Cabinet meeting.
    • Suhatra police station SHO Shyam Babu Sharma attacked by protestors, condition critical, has been rushed to to Mandsaur for better medical treatment.
    • Farmers protest spreads. Vehicles set on fire in Devas's Hatpipalya area.
    • I can't remember such kind of a massacre happening before. They are giving death toll as as 5,6 but I believe more people have been killed, says former Janata Dal (United) president Sharad Yadav
    • Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu slams Congress for politicising the farmers protest in Madhya Pradesh."Madhya Pradesh is an island of peace. I tell Congress don't politicise, don't fuel violence in the name of farmers," Naidu said.
    • Shivrajji has done a lot of work for farmers, in the agriculture sector. Mandsaur incident is unfortunate: Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh
    • Cellular data services to be suspended in Ratlam, Neemuch, Mandsaur and Ujjain till further orders.
    • Agitators have set on fire 8-10 vehicles in Mandsaur.
    • Mandsaur collector Swtantra Singh heckled by farmers . Singh denies ordering firing on protesting farmers.
    • Rahul Gandhi's close aide Meenakshi Natarajan arrested ahead of the Congress vice president's likely visit to Mandsaur.
    • Rahul Gandhi denied permission to land in Mandsau.
    1. Mandsaur collector Swatantra Kumar Singh heckled by an angry mob when he went to console the family of dead farmers.
    2. Rahul Gandhi lashed out at the BJP-led Madhya Pradesh government the deaths, saying it is at war with the farmers and 'feeding' them with bullets for demanding their rights.
    3. "This government is at war with the farmers of our country. In BJP's new India, farmers demanding their rights get bullets in return," he said in a tweet.
    4. Some eyewitnesses alleged that the victims suffered bullet wounds, but Mandsaur district authorities denied that police fired on the protesters, who were on a rampage.
    5. Mandsaur collector S K Singh confirmed death of five persons and said a magisterial inquiry has been ordered. As tension prevailed, mobile internet service were suspended in Mandsaur, Ratlam and Neemuch districts since morning to check spread of rumours.
    6. Curfew has been imposed in Pipalya Mandi police station area of Mandsaur district where the incident took place, while prohibitory orders restricting movement under section 144 of CrPC have been imposed in rest of the district. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the family of the farmers killed in protests in Mandsaur will receive Rs 1 crore each in compensation.

      Trouble was reported from many parts of western Madhya Pradesh as farmers' protest entered seventh day today. In Indore, police used lathi charge following stone-pelting during a march by farmers.

      Farmers have been holding protests across Madhya Pradesh demanding higher prices for their produce. Similar protests were witnessed in neighbouring Maharashtra where farmers are demanding the Devendra Fadnavis government for a loan waiver similar to what the Yogi Adityanath government did in Uttar Pradesh.

      Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis has assured the farmers that his government will waive the debt of marginal farmers who defaulted in the last few years.

Business Affairs 

    In a snub to India, Iran signs pact with Russia's Gazprom for developing gas field of Farzad B
    • In a snub to India, Iran has signed initial pact with Russia's Gazprom for developing ONGC-discovered gas field of Farzad B but has kept the door open for awarding it to the Indian firm.

      With Tehran delaying the award of rights to develop the 12.5 trillion cubic feet gas field to its discoverer -- ONGC Videsh Ltd -- India decided to cut oil imports from Iran by a fifth in 2017-18.

      Iran retaliated by first cutting by one-third the time it gave to Indian refiners to pay for oil they buy from it as also raising ship freight rates, and now by signing a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Russian gas monopoly Gazprom.

      Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh confirmed signing of the agreement with Gazprom while talking to Argus in Vienna.

      "Yes. We have signed an initial agreement with them (Gazprom) or Farzad, the North Pars and Kish fields," he said.

      Gazprom, on its website said, it signed a MoU with National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) in Kremlin on March 28 when Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin.

      Iran has been unhappy with the USD 5.5 billion investment plan that OVL, the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), has submited for development of the Farzad-B field in the Persian Gulf.

      Since it has to reimburse all of the money that is invested, together with a fixed rate of return, it wants the investment to be lowered and OVL commit to buying gas at a price fixed by it.

      OVL, on the other hand, says it will take up development only if the terms are economical and cannot absorb any cost and the price of gas should be comparable to rates in current market.

      Sources said Indian refiners have cut oil imports from Iran by a fifth to 190,000 barrels per day (bpd) in 2017-18 from 240,000 bpd in the previous fiscal.

      Iran, Indias third biggest oil supplier, used to give a 90-day credit period to refiners like Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MRPL) to pay for the oil they would buy from it.

      Now, Tehran has reduced this to 60 days, essentially meaning that IOC and MRPL would have to pay for the oil they buy from Iran in 60 days instead of previous liberal term of 90 days, sources said.

      Iran oil sale terms were the most attractive for Indian refiners. Besides, a liberal credit period, it also shipped the oil to India for a nominal 20 per cent of normal ocean freight.

      Other Middle-East sellers offer not more than 15-day credit period.

      Sources said National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) has also decided to cut the discount it offers to Indian buyers on freight from 80 per cent to about 60 per cent.

      Since the lifting of western sanctions, Iran has played hardball over award of the field which was discovered by OVL.

      The two nations were initially targeting concluding a deal on Farzad-B field development by November 2016 but later mutually agreed to push the timeline to February 2017.

      Now, the deal is being targeted to be wrapped up by September after the two sides agree on a price and a rate of return for OVL's investments.

      Farzad B was discovered by OVL in the Farsi block about 10 years ago. The project has so far cost the OVL-led consortium, which also includes Oil India Ltd and Indian Oil Corp (IOC), over USD 80 million.

      Sources said that in the master development plan (MDP), the company has estimated cost of putting up a facility to convert gas into LNG and shipping it to India at USD 5-6 billion.

      The field in the Farsi block has an in-place gas reserve of 21.7 tcf, of which 12.5 tcf are recoverable.

      New Delhi is keen that the gas from the field comes to India to feed the vast energy needs.

    RBI monetary policy: Dissent among MPC and other highlights of second bi-monthly monetary policy
    • The Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) met today for the second edition of bi-annual policy meeting to review the interest rates. With economy recovering slower than expected after demonetisation and inflation numbers way below the predicted figures, the Committee led by Reserve Bank Governor Urjit Patel kept the interest rates unchanged this time.
      The Reserve Bank today kept interest rate unchanged as widely expected but raised concerns over fiscal slippages in view of rush for farm loan waivers.
      It has however slashed the Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR) or the percentage of deposits that banks have to park in government securities, by 0.5 per cent to 20 (rpt) 20 per cent, a move that would result increased lending by banks.
      The fifth meeting of Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) maintained the repo rate, at which it lends to the banks, at 6.25 per cent and the reverse repo, at which it borrows, will be 6 per cent.
      To improve the investment scenario in India, the government has been calling for a decrease in borrowing rates in order to tempt more private investors. Earlier this week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had advocated slashing interest rates, citing reasons that inflation has been under control for long and is likely to remain so, underpinned by good monsoon while there is no likelihood of a spike in oil prices.
      "...growth and investment need to improve. These are indicators which are available. Any finance minister under these circumstances would like a rate cut , the private sector would like a rate cut. But then when you entrusted it with the MPC, I would rather wait for their decision," he had said.
      Here are the highlights

      • Farmers' loan waiver is a path that needs to be tread carefully: RBI Governor Urjit Patel
      • RBI Deputy Governor Kanungo sais that according to the data, 82.6% of the economy has been remonetised
      • Recent GDP data shows that economy started slowing before demonetization. GDP slowdown more due to fundamental factors: RBI Governor
      • RBI cut the economic growth projection to 7.3 per cent for the current fiscal from 7.4 per cent earlier.
      • "The risk of fiscal slippages, which, by and large, can entail inflationary spillovers, has risen with the announcements of large farm loan waivers," RBI said.
      • RBI cautions against rush of farm loan waivers, warns of risk on fiscal slippages and inflationary spillovers.
      • Inflation low since November 2016 due to transitory factors: Urjit Patel, RBI Governor
      • Low inflation number in April pushed us to cut forecast, said RBI Governor Urjit Patel
      • SLR cut by 50 bps to 20% w.e.f June 24, MSF,CRR and Bank rate are also unchanged
      • RBI Governor Urjit Patel is addressing a Press Conference

    RBI cuts provisions, risk weights to make home loans cheaper
    • In what can make new home loans cheaper, the Reserve Bank on Wednesday reduced the standard assets provisions on individual housing loans to 0.25 per cent and also lowered the risk weights on such lending.
      "As a countercyclical measure, the LTV (loan to value) ratios, risk weights and standard asset provisioning rate for individual housing loans" have been reviewed from on Wednesday, the RBI said in the second bi-monthly policy statement.
      The standard asset provisions, or the amount of money to be set aside for every loan made, has been lowered to 0.25 per cent from the earlier 0.40 per cent, which will help reduce the interest rates on home loans.
      It also eased the risk weights for certain categories of loans, which will help banks on the capital adequacy front, and enable them to make more loans.
      The risk weight for individual housing loans above INR 75 lakh has been reduced to 50 per cent from the earlier 75 per cent, while for loans between INR 30 and INR 75 lakh, a single LTV ratio slab of up to 80 per cent has been introduced with a risk weight of 35 per cent.
      RBI Governor Urjit Patel explained that this is a part of the central bank and the government attempts of "targeted interventions" to help prop-up the sagging growth numbers.

    After privatisation proposal, AI fleet expansion plans on hold
    • Air India's plans to expand its fleet with new aircraft seems to have hit an air pocket following the NITI Aayog's proposal to the PMO its total privatisation which made the national carrier's future course uncertain.
      Decisions earlier approved by the airline's board of directors regarding acquisition of newer versions of aircraft are currently "on hold" and tenders for procurement of new planes have been deferred till there is a clarity, an airline source said.
      Air India's board of directors had in March approved a proposal to induct seven Boeing 787-9 aircraft in its fleet with the aim to improve connectivity to Canada, the USA and Australia.
      The airline was planning to float tenders for procuring these aircraft on lease this month, which has now been deferred.
      "The decision (of floating tenders) is on hold until there is a clarity on the airline's future," a top Air India official said.
      Similarly, plans to procure 10 more ATR aircraft by Air India's regional arm, Alliance Air, which has been awarded several routes under the Centre's regional connectivity scheme UDAN, have been put on the back-burner, the official said.
      Alliance Air currently has 10 ATRs in its fleet and has recently placed orders for leasing of 10 more such planes by the end of this fiscal.
      As part of its fleet expansion plans, Alliance Air has proposed to take its ATR fleet strength to 30 over a period of time.
      On the other hand, Air India is also leasing 22 Airbus A320 Neos, of which four have already joined the fleet.
      According to the source, the airline had planned to issue bids for seven more such planes but now there is uncertainty over these tenders as well.
      However, as of now, there is no change in plan to take the deliveries of the remaining four of the total 27 Dreamliners (Boeing 787-800s) that the airline had ordered in 2006, which are to be inducted in its fleet between July and October, the source said.
      The state-owned carrier has a total 103 planes of which 42 are wide-bodied Boeing 777s, 747s, 787s and 61 narrow- bodied Airbus 319s, 320s and 321s. Its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express has 23 Boeing 737s.
      Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has favoured privatisation of Air India and the civil aviation ministry is looking at all options to make the airline strong and viable.
      According to Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, a cabinet note in this regard is likely to be prepared shortly.
      Air India has piled up over Rs 50,000 crore debt mainly because of high maintenance cost and lease rent.
      It made an operational profit of Rs 105 crore in the financial year ending March 2016, the first time since the merger of then Air India and Indian Airlines into one entity Air India Limited in 2007.

    Samsung to invest Rs 4,915 cr in Noida unit,create 15,000 jobs
    • Consumer electronics major Samsung will invest Rs 4,915 crore to double its manufacturing capacity for smartphones and refrigerators at its Noida plant.
      Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who inaugurated the new unit at the facility, said that the manufacturing expansion plan will create 15,000 jobs.
      "Inaugurated new Samsung mobile manufacturing unit at Noida. New facility can produce 10 crore phones per year and create 15,000 jobs," he tweeted.
      The Korean chaebol said that the investment would position the Noida plant as a major production hub.
      As as a result of the investment spread over the next two years in the Noida factory, the production capacity of smartphones will rise to 1.2 crore units a month or 14.4 crore a year from the existing 50 lakh, a Samsung official said.
      The capacity for refrigerators would double to 30 lakh units per annum (against 15 lakh at present), and for TV panels to 26 lakh units (from 13 lakh), the official added.
      "The investment reaffirms Samsung's commitment to Make- in-India and Make-for-India and to the state of Uttar Pradesh," a company statement said.
      The Noida plant was was set up in 1996 and is the first of two manufacturing units in India for the company. The plant started with the manufacture of televisions way back in 1997, and mobile phone manufacturing unit was added in 2005.
      "The expansion of the plant on an additional 35 acres of land adjacent to the current facility will double the production capacity of both mobile phones and refrigerators...," the statement said.
      The company's investment proposal was recently approved by the UP Government under its Mega Policy.
      "The expansion of the plant will act as a catalyst for the development of a robust electronics manufacturing ecosystem and is expected to generate thousands of new jobs, both direct and indirect, across the country," the statement added.
      The groundbreaking ceremony was held at the new site today in the presence of Electronics and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant.
      Speaking on the occasion, HC Hong, President and CEO of Samsung Southwest Asia, said, "A bigger manufacturing plant will help us cater to the growing demand for Samsung products across the country".
      Besides the factory in Noida, Samsung also has a production unit in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu, five R&D centres and one design centre in Noida, employing over 70,000 people.

    General Awareness

    World’s first hybrid ‘aeroboat’ made by Indo-Russian JV unveiled

      1. The world’s first hybrid “aeroboat” has been built by an Indo-Russian joint venture was unveiled in Moscow on 6th of June. 
        Key Points:
        It is capable of travelling on land, water, snow and sand.It is a start-ups event organised by Russia’s state-run Skolkovo Foundation.
        • Theaeroboat is designed to access difficult terrain, such as flooded or marshy areas where the use of regular boats is made impossible because of shallow water, patches of dry land or by marine vegetation.
        • It has been designed by IIAAT Holding. It is a joint venture between the International Institute for Advanced Aerospace Technologies and Indian firm Millennium Aerodynamics.
        • It is organized by the Russia’s biggest innovation fund the Skolkovo Foundation.
        • These are much faster and more robust than the comparable hovercrafts.
        • Hovercrafts on an average move at around 45-50 km per hour on water while aeroboats are capable of going at around 150 km or more.
        • TheAeroboat is more robust than hovercrafts.
        • Its maintenance costs are $400-$600 per year and are cheaper to maintain and fuel.
        • Hovercrafts work on static air-cushion whereas aeroboats work on dynamic air-cushion.
        • The aeroboat is designed to access difficult terrain, such as flooded or marshy areas.
        • Hovercrafts work on static air-cushion, whereas aeroboats work on dynamic air-cushion.
        • The 6.5-metre-long aeroboat can handle steep slopes and embankments, and does not require any marine infrastructure
        Russia :
        • Capital: Moscow
        • Currency: Russian ruble
        • President: Vladimir Putin

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