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Current Affairs - 18 July 2017

General Affairs 

India-US-Japan's Malabar naval exercise is a message gift-wrapped for China
  • The F/A-18 super hornet fighter jets line up along the 4.5-acre flight deck of the 98,000-tonne displacement US navy aircraft carrier USS Nimitz in the Bay of Bengal.
    The ship is sailing about a hundred nautical miles off the coast of Chennai. One after the other, a dozen aircraft are catapulted into the sky in under two minutes each. The aim is to dominate the skies as the P-8 A and P 8 I Poseidon aircraft of the US and Indian navies carry out long-range maritime reconnaissance and antisubmarine warfare operations to dominate the seas. 21 ships, including two submarines and over 100 aircraft and helicopters of the US, Japan and Indian navies are currently carrying out the most complex naval exercise in the Bay of Bengal in an aim to hunt down enemy submarines.
    "This is the most complex exercise undertaken by the three navies together. INS Vikramaditya, India's aircraft carrier with its MiG-29 K aircraft and P 8 I reconnaissance aircraft are participating in this exercise for the first time. The Japanese maritime defence force has also sent its most potent weapon platform JS Izumo with nine anti-submarine warfare helicopters for the first time.
    "The US Navy has this aircraft carrier, LA class submarine, destroyers and cruisers, fighter aircraft, helicopters and P 8 A for joint submarine hunting and sea domination exercise,'' says a top officer participating as an observer.
    Though on record officers of the three countries insist the operations are all about interoperability and jointmanship to work together from humanitarian aid disaster relief to anti-piracy, scratch beneath the surface they admit the exercise is an attempt to send out a signal to an increasingly belligerent China.
    The aim is to checkmate China. "The exercise is designed to advance military to military coordination and capacity to plan and execute tactical operations in multinational environment. There is a live firing gunnery exercises, helicopter cross deck operations and anti submarine warfare,'' says Rear Admiral William Byrne, Commander of the US Carrier Strike Group.
    The message, to China, he insists is the same as to the rest of the world and that is to follow international norms. The Indian Navy is in the market hunting for anti-submarine warfare helicopters and on display are the capabilities of the MH 60 R ASW helicopters.
    The Chinese navy submarines are increasingly lurking in the Indian ocean region. "We need better technology and more platforms to keep up with the Dragon's every increasing footprint. This exercise is a step in the right direction,'' he adds. As the navies refine their interoperability, the message is not lost. Today the three powerful maritime forces are operating in the Indian ocean region. Tomorrow, if required the three navies along with their allies can also operate across the high seas - from north Arabian Sea to the South China sea.

Voting in presidential election ends, result on July 20: All you need to know
  • MPs and MLAs across India today voted for India's 14th President. NDA candidate Ram Nath Kovind looks set to win with a comfortable margin against opposition-backed Meira Kumar as mathematical calculation proves it.
    Polling to choose the successor of incumbent Pranab Mukherjee, who demits office on July 25, started simultaneously in Parliament in Delhi and state assemblies at 10 AM and ended at 5 PM.
    All elected MPs and MLAs were eligible to cast their vote through secret ballot. The  Election Commission had supplied a special pen to all voters to mark their choice of candidate on ballot papers.
    Close to 99 per cent voting has been recorded in the presidential poll, Returning Officer Anup Mishra said.

    1. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah were among the first to cast their votes in Parliament.
    2. Yesterday, on the eve of the presidential election, the prime minister had already congratulated Ram Nath Kovind "in advance" and assured him of his government's support.
    3. The Election Commission had put up a total of 32 polling stations - one in Parliament House Room No 62 and rest one each in state legislative assemblies - for the polls.
    4. A total of 776 MPs and 4,120 MLAs were eligible to vote. The total value of votes of the electoral college is 10,98,903, and the NDA candidate is slated to cross the halfway-mark and get about 63 per cent votes.
    5. Kovind -- ex-Bihar governor -- has an advantage over Meira Kumar -- a former Lok Sabha speaker -- as the numbers are stacked in favour of the ruling NDA.
    6. The BJP and allies have nearly 63 per cent of the vote while the Congress-led opposition has a little over 35 per cent. Independents and other smaller parties, who have not made their choice known, have two per cent.
    7. If elected, Kovind will be the second Dalit President of India. K.R. Narayanan was the first from the community to hold the post.
    8. "Kovindji will win with a comfortable and respectable margin," Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu said before voting.
    9. Meira Kumar said she has requested members of the electoral college to "heed the inner voice of their conscience" and vote in the best interest of the country.
    10. The ballot boxes will be brought to Delhi for counting on July 20 and results will be declared the same day.

Kashmir: Army kills 3 wanted Lashkar militants in Anantnag encounter
  • Two Lashkar-e-Taiba were killed in a brief encounter with security forces in South Kashmir's Anantnag today.
    The slain militants are believed to behind the killing of Achabal SHO Farooq Ahmed Dar.
    The encounter began in Anantnag's Bulbul area of Naugam, after an Army vehicle came under fire from terrorist at 09:20 pm.
    Director General of Police (DGP) of Jammu and Kashmir SP Vaid congratulated the forces tweeting, "In a chance encounter 3 terrorists killed near Anantnag by joint team of security forces. Their identities are being ascertained. Well done!"
    As per initial reports the slain militants have been identified as: Mudassir Hajam, Showkat Lohar and Jibran.
    The three militants were killed in ambush laid by 19RR in watergam area Brakpora in Anantnag and firing is still on. While Jibran is a Pakistan national, the other two are local militants. Showkat Lohar belongs to Arwani village in Bijbehara and Mudasir Ah Hazam is from Danwatpura in Kokernag.

    Both the local militants were part of Bashir Lashker group who was killed earlier this month and were wanted in the killing of police officials in Achabal. 15 terrorist had laid ambush on police vehicle in which six cops including the SHO Farooq Ahmed Dar was martyred.

    On July 10, seven people, including six women and one man, died and several more were injured after terrorists struck a bus carrying Amarnath Yatra pilgrims in near Khanabal Chowk in south Kashmir's Anantnag.

Vice-Presidential election: NDA picks Venkaiah Naidu against Opposition's Gopalkrishna Gandhi
  • Senior BJP leader and union minister M Venkaiah Naidu was today picked as NDA's vice presidential nominee.
    The decision was taken at BJP's parliamentary board meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this evening. Besides Naidu, names of Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao and O Rajagopal were doing the rounds as probables for the coveted post.
    Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah said the decision in favour of Venkaiah Naidu was consensus at the party meeting. For the August 5 vice presidential elections, Naidu will file his papers tomorrow as it is the last date for making nominations.
    With the ruling NDA backing him firmly, 68-year-old Naidu's victory seems easy.
    A BJP Rajya Sabha MP from Rajasthan, Naidu is a Minister for Urban Development, Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation, and Information and Broadcasting.
    The former BJP president has been pitted against former West Bengal Governor, diplomat and scholar Gopalkrishna Gandhi whose name has been finalised by an alliance of 18 opposition parties.
    Incumbent Vice President Hamid Ansari's term ends on August 10.
    The electoral college for the election consists of 790 MPs of the two Houses of Parliament.
    The ruling bloc enjoys an overwhelming majority in the electoral college and BJP has expressed confidence about garnering anywhere between 500 and 550 votes.
    Describing him as a fitting candidate for the office of Vice President, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he has always admired Naidu for his hardwork and tenacity.

     Born in Andhra Pradesh's Chavatapalem, Venkaiah Naidu had started his political career as students' union leader from VR College, Nellore.
    After winning an Assembly seat in Andhra Pradesh in 1978, Naidu rose to the ranks in the party and remained the general secretary of BJP from 1993-2000. Two years later, he was promoted as BJP's national president.
    In June 2016, Naidu was re-elected to Rajya Sabha from Rajasthan for a fourth term.
    Known to have his way with words, the BJP veteran is famous for his one-liners. The urban development ministry, under which the Narendra Modi's pet project of Smart Cities is being executed, made him more close to the prime minister.

AgustaWestland chopper scam: Dubai firm director arrested for money laundering
  • Enforcement directorate today arrested director of two Dubai-based firm, Shivani Saxena, for money laundering in the Agusta Westland case.
    Saxena is a resident of Palm Jumeira in Dubai and is the director of M/s UHY Saxena, Dubai & M/s Matrix Holdings. It is through these companies that the proceeds of the crime have been routed and further layered and integrated in buying the immovable properties, shares etc.
    According to the investigation conducted M/s Agusta Westland International Ltd, UK paid an amount of Euro 58 million as kickbacks through M/s Gordian Services Sarl, Tunisia and M/s IDS Sarl, Tunisia. These companies further siphoned off the said money of Crime in the name of consultancy contracts to M/s Interstellar Technologies Ltd in Mauritius and others, which were further transferred to M/s UHY Saxena and M/s Matrix Holdings Ltd. Dubai and others.
    Further investigations also revealed that her husband Rajiv Saxena is the beneficial owner of M/s Interstellar Technologies Ltd.
    Shivani Saxena and her husband Rajiv Saxena are partners in M/s UHY Saxena and M/s Matrix Holdings Limited. Both these companies received proceeds of crime in their respective Dubai bank accounts from M/s Interstellar Technologies Ltd. Mauritius.
    It was also revealed that Shivani Saxena and Rajiv Saxena have remitted/transferred huge amounts of money through their companies in Dubai to various other accounts. Shivani was produced in the Court of Special Judge PMLA. The Hon'ble Court has given 4 days remand to Enforcement Directorate in the matter.

Business Affairs 

    Cigarettes not getting cheaper as GST Council slaps higher cess
    • The GST Council today hiked cess on cigarettes to take away the "windfall " manufacturers were reaping due to an anomaly that crept in after the GST rate fixation , Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said today.
      While the peak Goods and Service Tax (GST) rate of 28 per cent stays and so does 5 per cent ad valorem cess on top of it, the fixed cess has been hiked between Rs 485 and 792 per thousand sticks.
      The increase in cess would bring in Rs 5,000 crore of additional tax revenue which otherwise would have gone to the manufacturers, he said briefing reporters after the council held an emergency meeting through video conferencing.
      The GST Council had in May fixed 28 per cent as the top rate for cigarettes. A 5 per cent ad valorem cess was levied on top of it and Rs 1,591 per thousand sticks as fixed cess on both filter and non-filter cigarettes of not exceeding 65 mm length. The cess rate varied from Rs 2,126 to Rs 4,170 for cigarettes of different lengths.
      But this rate was lower than the pre-GST tax incidence and the choice before manufacturers was either to pass on the lower taxes to consumers by way of cutting rates or pocketing the windfall.
      The manufacturers chose the latter.
      Jaitley said to correct this, the GST Council has raised the fixed cess by Rs 485 to 792 per thousand sticks.
      Consumer prices will, however, not change as the increased tax incidence would only take away the windfall profits the manufacturers were earning.
      Jaitley also said the GST Council will meet in first week of August to review the progress of the implementation of GST, which was rolled out on July 1.

    Can't afford another window to deposit banned notes: Centre tells Supreme Court
    • Centre refused to allow another opportunity to exchange old high denomination notes worth Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 that were demonetised last year. government told the Supreme Court of India that one such window will defeat the very purpose of demonetisation to curb black money from the system.
      In a statement earlier this month, the Supreme Court had said the government can't deny citizens, who have valid reasons, the right to swap the scrapped notes.
      The Supreme Court referred to people, like those in prisons, cannot be stopped from exchanging the old notes. The apex Court has also asked the government to explain how it would help such people by the 17th of this month.
      According to reports, the Chief Justice of India JS Khehar was concerned about the honest citizens and said, "If these genuine people are not given a chance, then it is a serious issue."
      In response to this, the government responded that such a chance would open doors for 'any number of benami transactions', making it difficult for the departments to separate 'genuine cash from bogus ones', the report stated. Government referred to the earlier instances of misuse of extensions given for submitting demonetised notes.
      There have been instances earlier when the Chief Justice has asked the government to help genuine citizens. Earlier in March, when the government passed an ordinance to help people who were abroad, a bench led by Chief Justice of India JS Khehar said: "Prime Minister in his address had said that people with genuine difficulties can deposit the demonetised currency even after December 30, 2016, till March 31, 2017 with the RBI branches. Give us the reasons why despite having powers under the law, you did not create a category for those people who couldn't deposit the demonetised notes before December 30, 2016."
      The bench further said that the discretion vested in the government by the ordinance had been exercised arbitrarily to allow one category only when the law permits the government to extend the relief to other categories too.
      Last year on November 8, Prime Minister Narendra Modi scrapped old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes and asked people to deposit the same in banks till December 30, 2016. However, the deadline for non-resident Indians or NRIs was 31 March, 2017 which was later extended through an ordinance till Jun 30.
      A few days ago, Reserve Bank of India Governor Urjit Patel told a parliamentary panel that lack of machines and infrastructure has resulted in the delay of counting the demonetised currency in the system.
      Patel, at the meeting, is believed to have said that the RBI hadn't arrived at the final figure just because the counting was still in progress. Patel did share some data but did not discuss the exact figures at the meet.
      The parliamentary standing committee on finance is supposed to table the report on demonetisation in the monsoon session that started today. The committee has given the RBI chief 15 days time to submit data on deposits of the defunct Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes.

    Mahindra group to pump in $1 bn in US over next 5 years
    • Diversified Mahindra group plans to invest USD 1 billion across business verticals in the US over the next five years as it aims to double revenues from the American market to USD 5 billion.
      The Mumbai-headquartered group, which currently employs around 3,000 people in the country, also plans to double the headcount over the next five years as it looks to expand operations.
      "We have so far invested around USD 1 billion in the US among all the businesses and we should invest another billion over the next five years," Mahindra & Mahindra Managing Director Pawan Goenka told PTI here in an interview.
      The quantum of investment, however, would depend on various factors like market conditions and success of various projects that are currently underway in the US, he added.
      Elaborating on various strategic projects, Goenka said the company has bid for a US postal service contract and if it comes through it would help the company grow exponentially in the country.
      When asked about the group's ambitions in terms of revenues in the US, Goenka said: "In the next five years, we are targeting doubling revenue to about USD 5 billion."
      The USD 19 billion group currently generates around USD 2.5 billion from its seven business verticals in the US. The major group firms active in the country include IT major tech Mahindra and Mahindra USA which sells tractors and utility vehicles in the country.
      When asked to elaborate on the factors that would help the company achieve desired results, Goenka said the growth would be led by various factors like the launch of a new off road vehicle by its arm Mahindra North America Technical Centre (MNATC) besides other group entities.
      "The growth will be led by Mahindra USA where we intend to double revenues from USD 500 million to USD 1 billion in next five years and then there is Tech Mahindra," he added.
      Mahindra is also looking at doubling its manpower in the country over the next five years.
      "Mahindra currently employs more than 3,000 locals in the US and as things are going we are going to double that over the next 4-5 years," Goenka said.
      He said success of Mahindra brand in the US is very important as accomplishment in the country would mean recognition in various other geographies.
      "Building the Mahindra brand in the US is very important for us because it is the place everyone looks up to. The brand which gets successful in this market gets automatic recognition in so many places," he said.
      While confirming that Tech Mahindra is facing visa issues, he said the IT major is working on resolving the matter.
      "Other than IT business where... there are both locals and people brought in from India, none of our other businesses have huge number of Indians (brought) to the US for work," Goenka said.
      He further added: "The company's objective has never been to bring in people from India. We have invested here we have employed people here and thus we are not really been impacted by the new polices."
      After being nudged by the Trump Administration, the IT major Tech Mahindra now has been focusing on local hiring. It has been recruiting from colleges in the US and this year it plans to add around 2,200 people in the country, which remains its biggest single market in the world.
      When asked if the company is facing any discrimination in the US, Goenka said: "There is no discrimination I can think of in conducting business in the US...laws, taxes are same for everyone. I don't see any kind if disadvantage for Indian multinationals here."
      Besides, MNATC, Tech Mahindra and Mahindra USA, the group is also present across various other verticals including aviation, electric two wheelers and supply chain.

    GSTN Portal to allow invoice uploading from July 24
    • From 24 July onwards, businessmen will be allowed to upload their sale and purchase invoices generated post-July 1 on the GSTN portal.
      At present, the Goods and Services network has been facilitating registration of businesses.
      Earlier, GSTN had introduced an offline Excel format for businesses to maintain their invoice records and this can be uploaded on the portal from July 24 onward.
      The Goods and Services Tax has kicked in from July 1 and so far, the GST Network, the company handling the IT backbone for new tax regime, has been facilitating registration of businesses.
      "We plan to launch the invoice upload utility on the portal on July 24 so that businesses can come forward and start uploading the invoices on a daily or weekly basis to avoid month-end rush," GSTN Chairman Navin Kumar told PTI.
      Generating invoices for dealings above Rs 200 and keeping invoice records in serial number even if maintained manually, are pre-requisites for claiming input tax credit under the GST regime.
      It is also to be noted that the central agency will also put up a video on its portal to assist people in uploading invoices.
      A call center desk has been set up to assist taxpayers regarding the GST.
      According to the latest data available, around 69 lakh excise, VAT and Service Tax assesses have transferred to the portal. Apart from this, around five lakh new registrations have also been registered under GST.

    Fortis Healthcare, Religare stocks close lower post RHC Holding's debt rating downgrade by India Ratings
    • The stocks of Fortis Healthcare and Religare slumped on Monday after India Ratings downgraded the holding firm's non-convertible debentures.
      Some loans and non-convertible debentures held by RHC Holding Pvt Ltd were downgraded to default levels of "IND D" and "IND C".
      The credit ratings agency said RHC defaulted on coupon obligations for NCDs due on June 27, amounting to principal of Rs 200 crore ($31.08 million).
      "The downgrade of ratings on other debt instruments reflects an impaired debt servicing capability due to a stretched liquidity position," said India Ratings.
      The Religare stock closed 4.44 percent or 5.20 points lower at 112 level. It hit an intra-day low of 107.15 on the BSE. On an year to date basis, the stock is down 55 percent.
      The Fortis Healthcare stock too closed 8.07 percent or 13 points lower at 149.75 level on the BSE. The stock hit an intra-day low of 144 level.
      On an year-to-date basis, the Fortis healthcare stock is down 17.33 percent
      Previously the credit rating agency had a rating of "IND A" for some of RHC's NCDs and loans, while others were unrated.
      "The downgrade of ratings on other debt instruments reflects an impaired debt servicing capability due to a stretched liquidity position," said India Ratings & Research.
      India Ratings also put three Religare Group firms- Religare Enterprises, Religare Finvest and Religare Housing Development Finance-on under negative ratings watch list.
      On July 13, CARE Ratings downgraded the rating of Religare Finvest Limited (RFL), a subsidiary of the company, from 'CARE AA-(Outlook Negative) ' to 'CARE A' with respect to RFL's Non-Convertible Debentures (NCDs) of Rs 332.05 crore.
      The outstanding amount of these NCDs as on date was Rs 108.92 crore.
      The revision in ratings of said NCD of RFL by CARE Ratings takes into account the issues as highlighted in the qualification/observations made by the auditors of RFL in the audited annual financial statements for FY 2016-17, Religare said in a statement.
      As of March 2017, Religare Enterprises has total consolidated debt of Rs 11,075.25 crore, while Fortis Healthcare has a debt of Rs 1,961.30 crore.
      Religare Enterprises is a financial services company. The company is engaged in the business of broking in securities and commodities, lending and investments, financial advisory services, custodial and depository operations, portfolio management services, asset management and insurance, institutional equities and investment banking services to clients.
      Fortis Healthcare is an integrated healthcare delivery service provider. The firm is engaged in establishing, maintaining, operating, running, managing or administering hospitals, medicare, healthcare, diagnostic, health aids and research centres.

    General Awareness

    Minister of Railways inaugurates Sindhudurg leg of the Science Express

    • The IX Phase of the prestigious Science Express exhibition train which is on a nationwide tour since February 17, 2017 reached Sindhudurg in Maharashtra on July 17, 2017.
      • This phase of train is being referred as ‘Science Express Climate Action Special (SECAS) – II’ as it conveys message about global challenge related to climate change
      • Sindhudurg leg of Science Express was inaugurated on July 17, 2017 by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu through Video Conferencing from Delhi.
      • This exhibition train will be available for public viewing at Roha Railway Station on July 18, 2017 and after that at Mumbai CST from 19th to 22nd July 2017.
      About Science Express Exhibition Train Programme:
      Science Express is a flagship programme of the of Science & Technology (DST), under Union Ministry of Science and Technology.
      • It is an innovative mobile science exhibition mounted on a 16 coach AC train, travelling across India since October 2007.
      • So far, it has made eight tours of the country, travelling about 1,53,000 km and exhibiting at 495 locations.
      • Over its 1712 exhibition days, Science Express received an overwhelming response and 64 crore visitors.
      • Science Express has become the largest, the longest running and the most visited mobile science exhibition and has registered twelve entries in the Limca Book of Records.
      • Exhibition is open to all and there is no entry fee. It primarily targets students and teachers.
      Phases of Science Express and Themes:
      Phase I to IVCutting-edge research in Science and Technology being carried out worldwide
      Phase V to VIIBiodiversity –  ‘Science Express Biodiversity Special (SEBS)’
      Phase VIIIGlobal challenge of climate change – ‘Science Express Climate Action Special (SECAS)’
      Phase IXGlobal challenge of climate change – ‘Science Express Climate Action Special (SECAS) – II’
      Details about Science Express Climate Action Special (SECAS) – II and major attractions:
      The current ninth phase of the Science Express as SECAS II was flagged off on Feb 17, 2017 from Delhi Safdarjung Railway Station by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu, Dr. Harsh Vardhan – Minister of Science & Technology and Earth Sciences; and Late Anil Madhav Dave – Minister of State (I/C) for Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
      • The current tour of SECAS – II is scheduled from Feb 17, to Sept 8, 2017, during which it will be exhibited at 68 stations across India, covering 19000 km.
      • SECAS II is a unique collaborative initiative of Dept. of Science & Technology (DST), Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change (MoEFCC), Dept. of Biotechnology (DBT), Ministry of Railways, Govt of India; Wildlife Institute of India (WII) and Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC).
      • Of the 16 coaches of SECAS – II, exhibition in 8 coaches put up by MoEFCC, is exclusively devoted to information, case studies and material related to various aspect of Climate change, the underlying science, impacts, adaptation activities, mitigation solutions and policy approaches in a manner that is easy to understand and interesting for not just school students but also the masses. In rest of the rake, there are exhibits and activities put up by Dept. of Science & Technology (DST) and Dept. of Biotechnology (DBT).
      • DST has entrusted Vikram A Sarabhai Community Science Centre (VASCSC), Ahmedabad with the task of managing the SECAS across India. VASCSC’s team of qualified, trained and highly motivated Science Communicators travelling with the train explain and interpret the exhibition, answers queries, facilitate the visitors and conduct complementary activities.

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