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Current Affairs - 02 August 2017

General Affairs 

Government Plans Rs. 3 Lakh Crore Highway Projects In Maharashtra: Nitin Gadkari
  • The government is planning to undertake highway projects worth Rs. 3 lakh crore in Maharashtra, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said today.

    "We have a target to undertake highway projects worth Rs. 3 lakh crore in Maharashtra. We have started work on projects worth Rs. 1.5 lakh crore," Road Transport, Highways and Shipping Minister Mr Gadkari told reporters after a meeting in Delhi.

    He said a project on beautification of waterfront on both inland waterways and sea worth Rs.2,000 crore will be undertaken by Thane Municipal Corporation. The project will be undertaken in three phases.

    "We have decided to make fifty per cent contribution to the project. The ministry will provide Rs. 1,000 crore. Since the detailed project report for the first phase, which is worth Rs. 500 crore, is ready so our initial instalment would be of Rs. 250 crore," Mr Gadkari said.

    The beautification project will change the face of Mumbai, the minister added.

    On the issue of Aadhaar linkage with driving licence, Mr Gadkari said he supported the move as it will help to fight de-duplication of licences.

    On a question regarding Motor Vehicles Act, he said, "I have got objections from MPs late last night and we are preparing the answers. Once the replies are prepared then we will discuss it in front of Rajya Sabha Vice Chairman and decide next course of action".

Manish Sisodia Demands CAG Audit Of 28 Delhi University Colleges Over Corruption Plaints
  • Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia today wrote to CAG demanding an audit of 28 Delhi University colleges, wholly or partially funded by the state government, after receiving complaints of corruption against them.

    The move comes a day after the Delhi government ordered a freeze on the funding of the 28 colleges following the varsity's failure to constitute Governing Bodies (GBs) for over 10 months.

    The Delhi University (DU) teachers, on the other hand, have written to Vice Chancellor Yogesh Tyagi, urging him to complete the GB formation process so that students do not suffer due to funds freeze. "Have written to CAG asking for comprehensive audit of 28 Delhi govt funded colleges, as I've received many complaints of corruption.

    "28 colleges need CAG audit as there are complaints of corruption; with no Governing Bodies for 10 months, there's been no oversight," Mr Sisodia said in a series of tweets.

    Mr Sisodia, who is also the education minister, said, "It seems governing bodies have not been formed so that corruption and irregularities can go on. Public money cannot be wasted like this".

    He also posted a letter from BJP MP Udit Raj on his Twitter handle, complaining of alleged irregularities in appointments to government funded colleges.

    A college's governing body comprises 15 members, out of which five are nominated by the state government. The body is responsible for taking several administrative decisions.

    Out of the 28 colleges, Maharaja Agrasen College, BR Ambedkar College, Deen Dayal Upadhyaya College, Keshav Mahavidyalaya and Bhagini Nivedita College etc are wholly funded by the Delhi government.

    The College of Vocational Studies, Rajdhani College, Shivaji College, Motilal Nehru College, Aurobindo College, Kalindi College and Shyama Prasad Mukherji College are among those partially funded by the state."The university is in the process of completing the formalities and soon the bodies will be formed," a senior DU official said.

Railway Mishaps On Decline After Safety Measures, According To Data
  • Lalu Yadav today accused former partner and Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of being "greedy for power," calling him a palturam (turncoat) who lacks political character. Mr Yadav has continuously attacked Mr Kumar since last week when the latter dissolved their partnership and chose the BJP as his new ally.    

    He ridiculed Nitish Kumar today for saying that there was no opposition leader strong enough to take on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2019 general elections, asserting, "Keep shouting slogans in favour of Narendra Modi ... PM material (Nitish Kumar) has surrendered before him but we will have another face against him (Modi) in 2019."

    Mr Kumar was seen as a strong contender for the joint opposition's prime ministerial face in the 2019 elections before he dumped Lalu Yadav and the Congress, tying up instead with PM Modi's BJP in the state.

    The Chief Minister had also suggested that Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress had vastly benefited due to his leadership role in the 2015 Bihar assembly elections.

    Lalu Yadav, who hit back at him, underlined that he didn't really trust Nitish Kumar and had been reluctant to give him the lead role in the game-changing Mahagathbandhan or Grand Alliance ahead of the 2015 assembly elections which included Mr Kumar's Janata Dal United, the RJD and the Congress. But he agreed, Lalu Yadav said, at the insistence of the Samajwadi Party's Mulayam Yadav to keep the BJP out.

    "I had said that even I have to gulp down poison, I will, to keep the communal fascist forces away," the RJD chief who has been seething with anger after Nitish Kumar last week resigned from the Chief Minister's post, only to form a new government with the BJP the next day.

    Mr Kumar has insisted that the RJD's refusal to make Lalu Yadav's son Tejashwi Yadav exit after facing corruption charges had driven him to bring down his government. In between, the Chief Minister also suggested that he had a reputation to keep and was expected by the voters to deliver on the mandate of good governance.

    Lalu Yadav has been questioning this narrative that pins the blame on his son and smears their reputation to end their political career that he had launched with the last assembly election. The RJD chief also challenged arguments that suggest his party and the Congress had gained because of their association with Nitish Kumar.

    Citing statistics on the voting pattern in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, Lalu Yadav said the JD (U) won, or came second in just 39 assembly segments and lost its deposit in 135 assembly segments. "Yes, he has such a good face," Lalu Yadav added sarcastically. In contrast, the RJD had won, or came second in 150 seats and the Congress 34 when they contested alone.

Over 16 Lakh Medals Yet To Be Issued To Armed Forces, Says Government
  • A staggering 16.82 lakh service medals are yet to be issued to personnel from the Army, the Navy and the Air Force, the government told the Rajya Sabha today. Replying to a question, Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre said steps have been taken to streamline the process to procure medals so that the backlog can be cleared.

    "As on December 31, 2016, around 16,82,577 service medals are pending for issue," he said.

    Mr Bhamre said a total of 9.88 lakh service medals have been issued to the armed forces since 2008. "The Directorate of Military Regulations and Forms was earlier issuing service medals to the respective record offices. This work has now been transferred to the respective service headquarters," he said.

    To a separate question, Mr Bhamre said the Karnataka government's agencies have given a list of 18 proposals for infrastructure projects indicating requirement of 60 acres of defence land for them.

Climate Change Drove 59,000 Farmers To Suicide In India In 30 Years: Study
  • At least 59,000 farmers have committed suicide in the last 30 years in India after their crops failed due to climate change, a study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, said. Farmer suicide rate in India will rise as global temperature also gradually increases, the study said.
    The researchers said farmers pushed into extreme poverty by failing harvests are likely to commit suicide. "It was both shocking and heart breaking to see that thousands of people face such bleak conditions that they are driven to harm themselves," said Tamma Carleton, researcher at UC Berkeley.

    The study said temperature increase of just one degree a day during the growing season leads to roughly 65 suicides across India - whenever that day's temperature is above 20 degree Celsius. A temperature rise of five degree Celsius a day has five times that effect, the researchers said.

    "But learning that the desperation is economic means that we can do something about this. The right policies could save thousands," Ms Carleton said.

    While high temperature and low rainfall during the growing season substantially drive farmers to commit suicide, similar natural events have no effect on farmers during off-season when few crops are grown, hence implicating agriculture as the critical link.

    The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, helps explain India's evolving farmer suicide issue, where suicide rate has nearly doubled since 1980.

    The study results indicate that seven per cent of this upward trend can be attributed to warming that has been linked to human activity, the researchers said. Over 75 per cent of suicides in the world are believed to be happening in developing nations, with one-fifth of those in India alone, they said.

    The study said global warming - forecast to rise three degree Celsius by 2050 - is already taking a toll on India. More than half of India's working population is employed in rain-dependent agriculture, long known to be sensitive to climate fluctuations such as unpredictable monsoon, heat waves and drought. A third of India's workers already earn below the international poverty line.

    Ms Carleton tested the links between climate change, crop yields and suicide by pairing the numbers for India's reported suicides in each of its 32 states between 1967 and 2013, using data from the National Crime Records Bureau, along with statistics on India's crop yields and high-resolution climate data.

    To isolate the types of climate shocks that damage crops, Ms Carleton focused on temperature and rainfall during June through September, a critical period for crop productivity that is based on the average arrival and departure dates of summer monsoon.

Business Affairs

ISRO to launch a 'back-up' navigation satellite by month end
  • Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) will launch its navigation satellite IRNSS-1H by the end of this month to augment the existing seven satellites of NavIC constellation, a senior ISRO official said.
    To be launched on board PSLV-C39, IRNSS-1H will be a "back up" navigation satellite for IRNSS-1A, one among the seven satellites in the constellation, as its three rubidium atomic clocks on board had stopped functioning.
    "IRNSS-1H on board PSLV-C39 will be launched by the end of this month. The exact date will be decided shortly," a senior ISRO official told PTI.
    He said IRNSS-1H will be a back up for IRNSS-1A, whose three "imported atomic clocks had failed".
    The Indian Regional Navigation Satellite System (IRNSS) is an independent regional navigation satellite system developed by India on par with US-based GPS.
    The system that offers services like terrestrial and marine navigation, disaster management, vehicle tracking and fleet management, navigation aide for hikers and travellers, visual and voice navigation for drivers, was named as 'NavIC' (Navigation with Indian Constellation) by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
    ISRO had launched seven satellites - IRNSS-1G on April 28, 2016, IRNSS-1F (March 10, 2016), IRNSS-1E (January 20, 2016), IRNSS-1D (March 28, 2015), IRNSS-1C (October 16, 2014), IRNSS-1B (April 4, 2014) and IRNSS-1A on July 1, 2013.
    According to ISRO officials, the total cost of all the seven satellites was Rs 1,420 crore.

Banks restructure corporate loans of Rs 2.04 lakh cr in FY17
  • The amount of corporate loans restructured by lenders has seen a decline in the last three financial years, according to the data tabled by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha today.
    Banks restructured loans, that were sanctioned to companies, of worth Rs 3,70,279 crore in FY2014-15 and Rs 2,99,111 crore in 2015-16.
    The amount of restructured corporate loans came down to Rs 2,04,884 crore in the last financial year, as per the data.
    The finance minister was responding to a question seeking names of companies whose loans have been restructured and at what terms.
    "Any restructuring is to be carried out in accordance with detailed guidelines issued by RBI on restructuring like Joint Lenders' Forum (JLF), Strategic Debt Restructuring (SDR) and Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A)," Jaitley said.
    The finance minister further said that "the names and details of borrowers are covered under section 45E of RBI Act, 1934 and banking laws.
    "... which (the Act and banking laws) oblige financial institutions to maintain secrecy about the affairs of their constituents."
    On provision for restructuring of farm loans in case of natural calamities, he said banks can facilitate restructuring, including conversion of short-term debt to term loan or re-schedulement or repayment time-frame to such borrowers with benefit of retention of asset classification.
    "For agricultural accounts that became impaired on account of reasons other than natural calamities, restructuring is allowed in terms of RBI guidelines on Income Recognition and Asset Classification (IRAC)," Jaitley said.

Number of taxpayers increased after demonetisation, says Govt
  • The Finance Ministry on Tuesday said the number of income tax payers has increased after demonetisation.
    From the date of demonetisation and March 31, 2017, 1.96 crore returns were filed as compared to 1.63 crore returns filed during corresponding period of FY 2015-16 and 1.23 crore returns filed during corresponding period of FY 2014-15, Santosh Kumar Gangwar, Minister of State for Finance said in written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha today.
    "Demonetisation seeks to create a new 'normal' wherein the GDP would be bigger, cleaner and real. This exercise is a part of Government's resolve to eliminate corruption, black money, counterfeit currency and terror funding," Gangwar added.
    The government has collected over Rs 1.80 lakh crore in direct tax till July 15 in the current fiscal, an increase of 21.4 pre cent year-on-year, "belying" fears of slowdown in economic activities.
    "The current growth rate is higher than the target rate of 15.32 required to achieve the Budget Estimate," Minister of State for Finance Santosh Kumar Gangwar said in a written reply in the Rajya Sabha.
    The government aims to collect Rs 9.8 lakh crore through direct taxes in 2017-18.
    The minister further said the current growth rate in direct tax collections is "quite healthy, belying any apprehension of reduction" in the level of economic or commercial activities.
    He said the government has taken several initiatives to boost economic activity in the country and several measures were announced in the Budget 2017-18.
    Replying to another question, Gangwar said the number of cyber crimes pertaining to credit card, ATM, debit card and internet banking shows a marginal increase of 4.4 per cent from 13,083 in 2014-15 to 13,653 in 2016-17.
    He said the Reserve Bank has mandated banks to put in place a board approved cyber-security policy, which covers the risks threats and the measures to address these risks.

Maruti Suzuki sales grow 21% in July to 1,65,346 units
  • India's largest carmaker Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) today posted a 20.6 per cent rise in total sales in July at 1,65,346 units as against 1,37,116 in the same month last year.
    This is its highest-ever monthly sales. The previous best was in April this year when the company had sold 1,44,492 units.
    The company's domestic sales increased 22.4 per cent during the month to 1,54,001 units as against 1,25,778 in July 2016.
    Last month, sales of mini segment cars, including Alto and WagonR, went up 20.7 per cent to 42,310 units, from 35,051 in the year-ago month, MSI said in a statement.
    Sales of the compact segment comprising Swift, Estilo, Dzire, Baleno and Ignis increased 25.3 per cent to 63,116 units in July this year as against 50,362 in the same month last year.
    Similarly, sales of mid-sized sedan Ciaz registered a growth of 23.5 per cent at 6,377 units during the month. Sales of utility vehicles, including Ertiga, S-Cross and Vitara Brezza, surged 48.3 per cent to 25,781 units in July this year from 17,382 in the corresponding month last year.
    Sales of vans -- Omni and Eeco -- increased 6.6 per cent to 15,714 units last month compared to 14,748 in the same period of the previous year. Exports during the month rose marginally to 11,345 units compared to 11,338 in July last year, MSI said.

Cochin Shipyard IPO opens today, aims to raise up to Rs 1,500 crore
  • The Cochin Shipyard initial public offer (IPO) opened for subscription today.  The issue of India's largest public sector shipyard as of March 31, 2015 will close on  August 3.
    The firm plans to raise about Rs 1,400-1,500 crore through an initial public offering (IPO).
    The shares are available at a price band of Rs 424 - 432 (Rs 21 discount for retail investors and employees).
    The IPO has a issue size of  33,984,000 equity shares (including fresh issue of 22,656,000 equity shares plus  offer for sale of 11,328,000 equity shares).
    The IPO has an offer size of  Rs 1440.92 crore- Rs 1468.11 crore.
    Bids can be made in a lot size of 30 equity shares and in multiples thereof.
    The firm has reported Rs 312.18 crore, Rs 291.75 crore and Rs 69.28 crore profit in FY17, FY16 and FY15, respectively.
    Its equity shares are proposed to be listed on the BSE and National Stock Exchange. The book running lead managers to the issue are SBI Capital Markets, Edelweiss Financial Services and JM Financial Institutional Securities.
    The firm caters to clients engaged in the defence sector and those engaged in the commercial sector worldwide. In addition to shipbuilding and ship repair, it also offers marine engineering training.
    The company proposes to utilize the net proceeds towards the following.
    A. Setting up of a new dry dock within the existing premises of the company at Rs 443crore
    B. Setting up of an international ship repair facility at Cochin Port Trust area at Rs 229.5 crore
    C. General corporate purposes.
    In addition, Cochin Shipyard expects to receive the benefits of listing of the equity shares on the stock exchanges which will result in the enhancement of company's brand and creation of a public market for its equity shares in India.

General Awareness

Earth to warm 2 degrees Celsius by end of this century says Study

  • As per two different studies, using entirely different methods published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the global temperature is likely to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius by the end of this century.
    Derivations from the Studies:
    One study used statistical analysis to show that there is a 95% chance that Earth will warm more than 2 degrees at century’s end, and a 1% chance that it’s below 1.5 Celsius.
    • As per this study, the likely range of global temperature increase is 2.0-4.9degrees Celsius and the median forecast is 3.2 C.
    • The second study analyzed past emissions of greenhouse gases and the burning of fossil fuels to show that even if humans suddenly stopped burning fossil fuels now, Earth will continue to heat up about two more degrees by 2100. 
    • This study also concluded that if emissions continue for 15 more years, Earth’s global temperature could rise as much as 3 degrees.
    • It is to be noted that both the above studies were completed before the United States left the Paris Agreement. The consequential effect from this event has not been accounted for in either study.
    Significance of 2 Degree Mark:
    The 2 degree mark which was set by the 2016 Paris Agreement was first proposed as a threshold by Yale economist William Nordhaus in 1977.
    • Surpassing that mark will trigger events such as rising seas, mass extinctions; super droughts, increased wildfires, intense hurricanes, decreased crops and fresh water and the melting of the Arctic.
    • As per Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, rising temperatures and shifts in weather would lead to reduced air quality, food and water contamination, more infections carried by mosquitoes and ticks and stress on mental health

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