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Current Affairs - 28 July 2017

General Affairs 

PM Modi inaugurates 'missile man' APJ Kalam's memorial on his 2nd death anniversary
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated a memorial dedicated to former president APJ Abdul Kalam at Peikarumbu near Rameswaram on his second death anniversary.
    He opened the memorial built in the hometown of the former president at a location where the mortal remains of the "missile man" are buried.
    Modi, who also unveiled a statue of Kalam playing a 'veena', a musical instrument, was accompanied by Tamil Nadu Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao, Chief Minister K Palaniswami, Union ministers Pon Radhakrishnan and NDA's vice presidential nominee M Venakaiah Naidu. The Prime Minister unfurled the national flag at the entrance of the memorial, built by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) with which Kalam was associated for decades as a key scientist.
    Later, Modi interacted with the family members of Kalam. He was seen holding affectionately the hands of Kalam's elder brother APJ Mohamed Muthumeeran Maraikayar while speaking to him.
    With 'unity in diversity' as its theme, the memorial features quotes of Kalam and his pictures as a scientist and as the president of the country.
    Resembling the arch of the India Gate, the memorial has on display replica of rockets and missiles on which Kalam had worked. While the first phase of the memorial was inaugurated today, its second phase was scheduled to be completed in another 18 months. It would then house a library, planetarium and auditorium.

    Earlier, Rao and Palaniswami received Modi at the Madurai airport from where he arrived here by an helicopter.

Nitish's move to quit Mahagathbandhan his 'personal decision', JD-U wasn't consulted: Sharad Yadav
  • While Nitish Kumar has become Bihar Chief Minister again with help from the BJP in less than 24 hours after he stepped down pulling out of the Mahagathbandhan alliance, some senior party leaders, including Sharad Yadav, are unhappy with him.
    Yadav described Nitish's move to walk out of the ruling Grand Aliance in Bihar his "personal decision", adding that he allegedly didn't take several party leaders into confidence about this step, according to party general secretary Arun Srivastava.  
    With Nitish's bold move having left many in the party surprised, the dissenting camp within the JD-U has decided to speak to party leaders across the country over the next two-to-three days and then come out before the media with its stand.  
    This decision was taken at an hour-long meeting at Sharad Yadav's residence in New Delhi on Thursday evening. It was attended by party general secretaries Arun Srivastava and Javed Raza and Rajya Sabha MPs Ali Anwar and Veerender Kumar.
    Arun Srivastava said, "This is not rebellion. We made this party. We spoke up because we want democracy to prevail in the party."
    Veerender Kumar, JD-U's only MP from outside Bihar, said that the Kerala unit of the party was not happy with Nitish's tie-up with the BJP. Sources indicate Veerender Kumar could break away from the party to start his own unit or join the Left Democratic Front in Kerala.
    Ali Anwar too lashed out at Nitish for betraying the secular plank on which he won the Bihar elections in 2015.
    How damaging this move will prove to be for Nitish remains to be seen. Meanwhile, reports also suggest that Union Defence Minister Arun Jaitley could reach out to Sharad Yadav in order to placate him.

NSAs Ajit Doval, Yang Jiechi meet in Beijing, exchange views on bilateral, regional issues
  • National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi have met in Beijing for bilateral talks, coming amid the on-going border stand-off in Doklam.
    Doval, who will on Friday attend a BRICS NSA's summit, and Yang met "separately" on Thursday, the official State-run Xinhua news agency reported. Xinhua said Yang also met separately with NSAs of Brazil and South Africa. China and Russia on Wednesday held a strategic dialogue.
    Discussions were held "on bilateral relations, international and regional issues and multilateral affairs" and Yang "set forth China's position on bilateral issues and major problems", Xinhua reported.
    It did not say what those "major problems" were and whether the on-going stand-off figured.
    Yang was quoted as saying that "it accords with the common interests of the BRICS countries to strengthen their partnership, calling for the five countries to deepen communication, strengthen strategic mutual trust, enhance cooperation on politics and security issues, safeguard international justice, and promote practical cooperation in various fields in order to benefit the peoples of all countries."
    As India Today reported, Doval will also meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday, with the five NSAs set to call on Xi at the Great Hall of the People following the BRICS summit.
    China had earlier this week hinted at bilateral talks with India, with the Foreign Ministry saying "usually it is arranged for the heads of delegations to hold meetings to exchange views on bilateral relations and other international issues.
    At the same time, spokesperson Lu Kang also stressed that in China's view, "meaningful dialogue" on the stand-off at Doklam was not possible until India withdrew. "China and India have a smooth diplomatic channel," he said.
    "The crux now is Indian border troops illegally stayed on China's territory. Once again we urge India to pull back to the Indian side of the boundary. I want to stress that this is precondition for any meaningful talks between the two sides."
    Yang Jiechi, is called Tiger Yang. He is called so, because he was born in the year of Tiger (1950), and also because the last character of his name contains a part "Tiger" in Chinese. The last character Chi has two parts, a bamboo on top of a tiger. In Chinese, bamboo is symbolised by its unbreakable yet yielding character. For Yang, it translates to being humble and open-minded. The tiger, on the other hand, symbolises authority and aggression. Together they connote forcefulness with compromise.  
    Yang Jiechi is one of the five State Councillors of China. Since 2013, he has moved up in political rank from Foreign Minister to State Councillor, which is at the same level as the vice president of China.  
    Yang is known as a top expert on US-China relations. During his time at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he was sent to work at the Embassy of China at Washington DC, USA, three times. His diplomatic maneuver on the Hainan Island Incident in 2001 earned him high praise in China.

Terror funding case: 7 separatist leaders to undergo lie detector test, says NIA
  • As the National Investigation Agency (NIA) probes deeper into the terror funding case, the agency is preparing to approach the NIA special Court to seek permission for a lie detector test to be conducted on the 7 arrested separatist leaders in custody of the agency.
    This includes leader Nayeem Khan, Bitta Karate, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq's close aide Shahid Ul Islam, Geelani's son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah alias Altaf Fantosh, the spokesperson for Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Ayaz Akbar, Peer Saifullah, Raja Merajuddin Kalwal who have been charged with funding terror groups in Kashmir and indulging in anti-national and subversive activities in the Kashmir Valley.
    However, the consent of the accused is mandatory for a lie detector test. In case the accused refuses to give their consent for the test, the agency cannot proceed.
    NIA which has prepared an extensive dossier on conspirators has gone a step further by issuing fresh summons to 25 persons related to the case. "The arrest of second rung hurriyat leaders is only tip of the iceberg, we will be summoning 25 to 30 people in  connection with this," a senior NIA official told India Today.
    However the agency has not yet summoned top hurriyat hawks like Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Yasin Malik. Sources, however, said it is only matter of time.
    Sources said that Geelani's son Nayeem and Naseem have both been summoned by the NIA to New Delhi next week.
    In the last two weeks, NIA  summoned the office bearers of the Anjuman-e-Auqaf, which runs the affairs of Jamia Masjid in Srinagar, and Anjuman-e-Nusrat-ul-Islam, an educational trust which runs religious schools and is headed by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq. His two uncles and his assistant have already  been questioned by the agency.
    Also, Asiya Andrabi whose brother Taha Andrabi was called in for questioning to New Delhi Headquarters recently is on radar.
    NIA is also examining terror fund links from Dubai, a senior officer told India Today.
    "We will be seeking details from them. As layers of conspiracy against the country is getting off, another angle of gold smuggling is also emerging.  Gold smuggling from Dubai being used by terror financiers to fuel unrest in valley," he said.
    Meanwhile, Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti who was in the national capital to meet the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley told India Today that "The state has no objection to action and arrest carried out by NIA. There is perfect coordination on the ground," she said.

Rahul Gandhi says he knew about Nitish Kumar's plans to join hands with BJP, but what did he do?
  • Hitting out at Nitish Kumar for joining hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bihar, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi said that he knew that such a plan was in the making for the last three-four months.
    "We knew that this (Nitish joining hands with BJP) was being planned for the last three-four months. A person can go to any limits for his own benefit," Rahul Gandhi said.
    The Congress leader said that Nitish Kumar was given the mandate for his fight against anti-communal forces but now he has joined hands with the same forces.
    The big question, however, is that if Rahul Gandhi knew that Nitish Kumar-led JD(U) was in talks with the BJP to look at the possibility of rebuilding the alliance, did he do anything to put a stop to such plans.
    After tendering his resignation as Chief Minister of Bihar, Nitish Kumar said that in the current circumstances, where deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav was accused of corruption, he was finding it difficult to continue "to be in power".
    Nitish Kumar, in an attack on Rahul Gandhi, said that while the Congress vice-president tore the ordinance exempting politicians from facing corruption charges, he did not do anything to save the Grand Alliance. A few days ago, Nitish Kumar had met Rahul Gandhi in New Delhi where the two reportedly talked about the corruption charges against Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief Lalu Prasad and his family members, including son and deputy chief minister Tejashwi Yadav.
    At the meeting, Nitish Kumar was believed to have conveyed to Rahul Gandhi that under present circumstances Tejashwi Yadav could not continue in his Cabinet.
    Given Congress' long association with RJD, many would argue that the former could have convinced Lalu Prasad to ask his son to quit the Cabinet for the time-being.
    This, however, is not the first time when Rahul Gandhi and the Congress leadership were found to be on the back foot despite having prior knowledge about the situation threatening to go out of their hands.
    In the recent Assembly election in Goa, the Congress had more seats than the BJP but lost the chance of forming the government due to alleged delay in decision-making by the leadership.
    As an active BJP reached out to everyone it could to get the numbers on its side, sources in the Congress said that the leadership, in particular Digvijaya Singh, was late in deciding on the leader of the legislature party.
    Disgruntled Congress MLA Vishwajit Rane put in his papers and joined the BJP, blaming the leadership for delay in decision-making.  
    "We waited from 11 am to 5 pm not knowing anything about what is happening but BJP swiftly acted," said Congress MLA Jennifer Monserrate.
    Rahul Gandhi, while crying foul over BJP forming the governments in Goa and Manipur where Congress had more seats, accused the BJP of stealing the mandate by using "financial power".

Business Affairs 

    Dr Reddy's net profit falls in Q1, Glenmark performs better than expected
    • On Thrusday, July 27th, financial results for the first quarter of the new financial year from Dr Reddy's and Glenmark surprised many analysts. While both took a hit, like many others in the industry, from the adjustments following the imposition of GST (Goods and Services Tax), the other factors such as price erosion in the US and higher costs, brought down the numbers of Dr Reddy's.
      Glenmark, on the other hand, despite the setbacks, posted better than expected set of numbers, some of the analysts Business Today spoke to, said.  Analysts particularly point to declining margins for Dr Reddy's, among with the increase in its operating costs quarter on quarter. Its gross profit margin at 51.6 per cent meant a  decline by approximately 460 bps over last year.
      The media release put out by the company quoted even G V Prasad, Co-Chairman and CEO of the company as saying:  "Our first quarter's results of FY 18 have been below expectations. While headwinds in the form of price erosion due to U.S. customer consolidation continue, a lower contribution from new product launches in the U.S. and the GST implementation in India also impacted our performance."
      In contrast this, Glenmark posted a consolidated revenue increase of 19.99 per cent to Rs. 2,363 crore . What is more, its  India Business grew by 15.21 per cent to Rs. 616.40 crore.
      According to a company official, had it not been for the GST implementation, this growth could have been even higher. But the results of Glenmark's this quarter need to be looked along with its rather difficult forth quarter of the previous year, when its consolidated revenue increased by just 6.52 per cent as compared to the corresponding previous quarter.
      On the bourses, Dr Reddy's shares on the Bombay Stock Exchange  opened the day at Rs 2719.80, touched a low of Rs 2596 to close the day at Rs 2651.45, down 3.29 per cent. Glenmark, opened at Rs 710 on the BSE closed the day at Rs 715.75, up 1.28 per cent.
      Also the latest Glenmark results were aided by its significant generic cholesterol-lowering product launch in the US.

    ONGC confirms government slapping it, RIL with $3.9 bn demand
    • The government has slapped ONGC, Reliance Industriesand Royal Dutch Shell with a demand of USD 3.9 billion (about Rs 25,487 crore) in dues following an arbitration award in its favour, the state-owned firm said today.
      The demand notice pertains to interpretation of the contract for the Panna-Mukta and Tapti (PMT) oil and gas fields in the Arabian Sea.
      "The directorate general of hydrocarbons (DGH), vide letter dated May 25, 2017, marked to all joint venture partners -- RIL, BG Exploration and Production India Ltd (now taken over by Shell) and ONGC -- has asked for payment of differential Government of India's share of profit petroleum and royalty alleged to be payable by contractor pursuant to the government's interpretation of the Final Partial Award," the company said in a regulatory filing.
      ONGC, which owns 40 per cent stake in PMT fields, said its share out of the demand notice amounts to USD 1.57 billion, equivalent to Rs 10,195 crore.
      RIL and Shell hold 30 per cent stake each.
      The notice does not contain any date for making the payment or consequences that would follow if the payment is not made.
      In its first quarter earnings statement, ONGC said the production sharing contracts (PSCs) for Panna-Mukta and Mid and South Tapti areas were signed on December 22, 1994, for 25 years.
      "In December 2010, RIL and BGEPIL invoked an arbitration proceeding against the Union of India in respect of certain disputes, differences and claims arising out of or in connection with both the PSCs," it said, adding that it did not participate in the arbitration following a specific instruction to that effect from the oil ministry in July 2011.
      However, in the case of an arbitral award, the same was to be applicable on ONGC as a constituent of the contractor.
      "On October 12, 2016, a Final Partial Award (FPA) was announced by the tribunal in the arbitration matter," it said.
      ONGC said that in response to the government notice, the other joint venture partners led by RIL have stated that the demand is "premature as the FPA does not make any money award in favour of the Government of India as quantification of liabilities is to be determined during the final proceedings of the arbitration and the same has been challenged for the English Commercial Court".
      "Pending final quantification of liabilities by the Arbitration Tribunal and decision of the English Commercial Court, the company is not liable to implement the FPA being premature and therefore, no provision for the same has been considered necessary (in the first quarter earning statements)," it said.
      Last November, RIL and Shell had challenged in the English court a three-member arbitration panel headed by Singapore-based lawyer Christopher Lau's FPA upholding the government view that the profit from the fields should be calculated after deducting the prevailing tax of 33 per cent and not the 50 per cent rate that existed earlier.
      It also upheld that the cost recovery in the contract is fixed at USD 545 million in Tapti gas field and USD 577.5 million in Panna-Mukta oil and gas field. The two firms wanted that cost provision be raised by USD 365 million in Tapti and USD 62.5 million in Panna-Mukta.

    India to leave US behind to become second largest 4G phone base: Report
    • Explosive growth in data usage, driven by attractive offers from operators like Reliance Jio and Airtel, is likely to catapult India as the second largest 4G handset market by next year, a report by Counterpoint today said.
      With an estimated installed base of 340 million 4G devices, India will displace the US as the second largest market. With a base of 150 million users, India is currently placed behind China and the US, the report said.
      While the US is forecast to see the 4G installed base grow to 245 million from 225 million currently, the Indian market is expected to grow at a faster pace, driven by increasing adoption of mobile Internet.
      China, on the other hand, would continue to dominate the tally with 780 million 4G devices next year, growing from 740 million currently.
      "LTE capable smartphones contributed to 96 per cent of smartphone shipments in India in Q2 2017. However, in terms of installed base, almost half of the smartphones are still only 3G or 2G capable," Counterpoint noted.
      The LTE installed base of handsets crossed 150 million units in India, placing the country third after China and the US.
      "...India is estimated to surpass the US in next one year," it said adding that the next 150 million users are estimated to take half the time as VoLTE feature phones will be bringing 4G to lower price points.
      Recently, Reliance Jio has announced that it will launch a 4G feature phone against one-time refundable deposit of Rs 1,500 a unit.
      It will come pre-loaded with applications with the option of unlimited data usage and free calling service starting at Rs 24.
      The Counterpoint report said the mobile phone shipment in India grew marginally in the April-June 2017 quarter to 65.7 million units from the year-ago period.
      About 30.4 million units of smartphones and 35.3 million units of feature phones were shipped during the second quarter of 2017.
      "Although, shipments were impacted in anticipation of GST roll-out especially in June, retailers were quite hesitant in adding new stock into the channels during the last month even though there was some assurance from the OEMs to support pre- GST channel inventory clearance," Shobhit Srivastava, Research Analyst at Counterpoint Research, said.
      Going forward, the market is expected to jump back to double digit growth ahead of a festive season in the second half of 2017, he added.
      Samsung led the smartphone tally with 24.1 per cent share, followed by Xiaomi (15.5 per cent), Vivo (12.7 per cent), Oppo (9.6 per cent) and Lenovo (6.8 per cent).
      Overall, Samsung had a 25.4 per cent share (feature and smartphone), followed by itel (10.2 per cent), Xiaomi (7.2 per cent), Micromax (7.1 per cent) and Vivo (5.9 per cent).

    Sensex, Nifty reach all-time highs amid Bihar CM's surprise move, strong Q1 earnings
    • The Sensex and Nifty on Thursday welcomed the partial transition of power in Bihar, global rally and better-than-expected quarterly earnings.
      The BJP's re-entry into power in the state in alliance with Nitish Kumar's Janata Dal (United) led the market to its all-time high, strengthening the position of the Narendra Modi-led party for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. 
      The Nifty which closed above 10,000 level for the first time ever yesterday, rallied to its highest intra day level of 10,104 points in early trade.
      The Sensex which closed at 32,382 level yesterday, rose to its all-time high of 32641 in early trade. 
      Hectic shortcovering in view of July expiry day amid dovish stance by the US Federal Reserve and optimism over slew of corporate earnings later in the day spurred the buying momentum.
      At 11:22 am, the index was trading at 32,660 level, up 278 points or 0.86 percent.
      HDFC (3.82 percent), State Bank of India (1.32 percent) and Hindustan Unilever (1.13 percent)and Maruti Suzuki (1.13 percent) were the top gainers on the 30-stock Sensex.
      Maruti Suzuki hit a fresh 52-week high of 7671 points ahead of its June quarter earnings scheduled to be announced today.  
      Biocon (0.45 percent), ICICI Bank (1 percent) and ONGC (0.06 percent) were trading higher ahead of their June quarter earnings scheduled to be announced today. 
      Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold shares worth a net Rs 60.60 crore on Wednesday, as per provisional data. Domestic institutional investors (DIIs) bought shares worth a net Rs 676.61 crore.
      Private sector lender YES Bank hit a fresh yearly high  of 1796.50 level on the BSE on a strong 32 percent rise in net profit for the quarter ending June 2017.
      IT firm HCL Technologies' stock too hit a fresh 52-week high of 926 level on Q1 net profit which rose about 8 percent.
      Global markets 
      Japan's Nikkei 225 gained 0.1 percent to 20,065.21 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng climbed 0.5 percent to 27,066.71. South Korea's Kospi added 0.2 percent to 2,439.39 and the S&P ASX 200 of Australia climbed 0.3 percent to 5,795.30. Taiwan's index climbed 0.9 percent after electronics maker Foxconn announced a $10 billion investment in Wisconsin that is expected to create 3,000 jobs. The Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.3 percent to 3,237.04 and shares in Southeast Asia were mixed.
      US stock indexes inched further into record territory Wednesday after AT&T, Boeing and others joined the parade of big companies reporting stronger profits than analysts expected. The Standard & Poor's 500 index edged up less than 0.1 percent to 2,477.83, adding a whisper to the record high set a day earlier. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 0.5 percent to 21,711.01, and the Nasdaq composite rose 0.2 percent to 6,422.75.

    'Falling trade deficit opens space to reduce gold import tax'
    • India's falling trade deficit is giving the world's second-biggest gold consumer room to lower its import duty on bullion, a commerce ministry official said on Thursday.
      A reduction in import duty would make gold cheaper in the local market and could boost demand, supporting global prices now trading near their highest in six weeks. Spot gold prices are rebounding this month after posting their first monthly loss for 2017 in June.
      A lower import duty would also help in curbing gold smuggling, which the industry says is likely to rise after the hike in sales tax on gold jewellery from July 1.
      "Now the current account deficit is improving and this decision (to reduce import duty) should be taken into the budget," Manoj Dwivedi, a joint secretary at India's commerce ministry said on the sidelines of a conference.
      The commerce ministry is recommending a reduction in the gold import duty to the finance ministry, Dwivedi said, although it was not clear how soon a decrease could be enacted.
      A finance ministry spokesman declined to comment on the matter.
      India raised import duties on gold to 10 percent in a series of hikes to August 2013, looking to curb demand to narrow a gaping current account deficit.
      India's trade deficit narrowed more-than-expected to $12.96 billion in June as gold imports nearly halved from a month earlier.
      The commerce ministry has "been saying the ideal rate for the industry would be 2 percent. It can be brought down in a phased manner or in one go," Dwivedi said.
      Gold smuggling has been rife since India raised the import duty on the metal. The World Gold Council estimates that up to 120 tonnes of gold was smuggled into India in 2016.
      India's legal imports typically stand at around 800 tonnes a year, with gold and gold jewellery used as religious donations, and wedding and holiday gifts, or as investments that can be readily turned into cash. 

    General Awareness

    Shri Bandaru Dattatreya attends the BRICS Labour & Employment Ministers’ Meet held in China

    • BRICS Labour & Employment Ministers’ Meet was held on 26th and 27th July, 2017 in Chonqging, China. Indian delegation to this meet was led by Bandaru Dattatreya, the Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Labour & Employment. M Sathiyavathy, Secretary ( Labour and Employment), Manish Gupta, Joint Secretary, Anuja Bapat, Director and Prof Sasikumar, Sr. Fellow, VVGNLI were also the part of Indian delegation.
      Highlights of BRICS Labour & Employment Ministers’ Meet:
      China is the chair for the BRICS Labour & Employment Ministers’ Meet for the year 2017.
      • The meeting concluded with the adoption of the BRICS Labour and Employment Ministerial Declaration.
      • The Declaration covered a variety of areas that are of critical importance to all BRICS countries including India and called upon strengthening collaboration and cooperation on these through appropriate institutionalisation.
      • The BRICS Labour and Employment Ministerial Declaration would now be presented to the Leaders/ Head of the State at BRICS Summit scheduled to be held on 3-5th September, 2017 Xiamen, China.
      Areas Covered in BRICS Labour and Employment Ministerial Declaration:
      1. Governance in the Future of Work
      2. Skills for development in BRICS
      3. Universal and sustainable social security systems
      4. BRICS Network of Labour Research Institutions
      5. BRICS Social Security Cooperation Framework
      6. BRICS entrepreneurship research
      Quick Facts about BRICS:
      Acronym BRICS, refers to five major emerging economies viz. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
      • Originally as per term ‘BRIC’ coined in 2001 by then-chairman ofGoldman Sachs Asset Management, Jim O’Neill, South Africa was not a part of this grouping. It joined in 2010 and thereafter these countries have been collectively referred to as BRICS nations.
      • BRICS nations represent about 40% of world’s population and account for nearly 22% of gross world product.

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