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Current Affairs - 14 August 2017

General Affairs 

Kashmir: 3 terrorists killed, 2 jawans martyred in Shopian; 2 cops injured in Bandipora
  • Three terrorists were killed in an encounter with militants in Shopian district in south Kashmir that lasted over 12 hours.
    The terrorists have been identified as Umar Majid Mir from Kulgam, Irfan Sheikh of Maldura and Adil Malik from Shopian. Sepoy Ilayaraja P and Sepoy Gowai Sumedh Waman were also martyred in the encounter in Avneera village that began last evening, and three personnel including the captain were injured. "Two security personnel martyred, while three injured. One terrorist eliminated and two still hiding in adjoining house," Jammu and Kashmir DGP SP Vaid told news agency ANI.
    Security forces are conducting searches as two to three terrorists are believed to be hiding in the village.
    Separately, in north Kashmir's Bandipora, two policemen were injured on Sunday when militants fired on a search party of security forces.
    A cordon and search operation was launched by the forces at Wahab Parray Mohalla in Hajin area of the district after receiving specific intelligence input about the presence of militants there, a police official said. However, taking advantage of the stone pelting, the militants managed to escape
    The injured policemen were taken to a hospital for treatment and are stable and  the cordon and search operation has concluded.

Goa: Coast Guard ship Shaurya commissioned
  • Indian Coast Guard ship 'Shaurya', the fifth in the series of six 105m Offshore Patrol Vessels (OPVs), was commissioned in Goa by Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan today in the presence of Director General Rajendra Singh and other senior officials of the Central and state governments.
    'Shaurya' meaning courage is a projection of Indian Coast Guard's will and commitment "To serve and protect" the maritime interest of the nation. The ship is based at Chennai, Tamil Nadu under the operational and administrative control of Commander Coast Guard Region (East).
    This 105 meters OPV has been designed and built Indigenously by Goa Shipyard Ltd and is fitted with state-of-the-art navigation and communication equipment, sensors and machineries. The features include 30 mm CRN 91 Naval Gun, integrated Bridge System (IBS), Integrated Machinery Control System (IMCS), Power Management System (PMS) and High Power External Fire Fighting System. The ship is designed to carry one twin engine light helicopter and five high speed boats including two Quick Reaction Inflatable Boats for swift boarding operations, search and rescue, law enforcement and maritime patrol. The ship is also capable for carrying pollution response equipment to contain oil spill at sea.      The ship draws 2350 tons (GRT) propelled by two 9100 KW diesel engines to attain a maximum speed of 23 knots and has an endurance of 6000 NM at economical speed. The sustenance and reach coupled with the latest and modern equipment and systems, provides her the capability to perform the role of a command platform and accomplish all Coast Guard charter of duties.
    The ship will be deployed extensively for EEZ surveillance and other duties as enshrined in Coast Guard Charter, to safeguard the maritime interests of India. Presently Indian Coast Guard has a fleet of 129 Ships & boats and 72 Ships & boats are at various stages of construction at different shipyards in India.
    Shaurya is commanded by Deputy Inspector General DS Chauhan and manned by 12 officers & 94 men.

India fully equipped to face any challenge: MoS PMO on Dokalam
  • Union minister Jitendra Singh today played down the heightened rhetoric by Beijing over the Dokalam standoff, stating that India was fully equipped to face any challenge.
    He said the government was confident about the steps it was taking in this regard.
    "We are well equipped to face any challenge whether externally or internally," Singh told reporters here.
    The MoS PMO was responding to a question about the recent 'threat' by China through its official media asking India to withdraw troops from the Sikkim sector.
    "I think for us the more important thing is to see what we are doing. I am not here to respond to what somebody is tweeting from the opposition parties. We are confident about what we are doing," he said.
    China had recently said that it had conveyed its firm stand to India that it must take "concrete actions" by immediately pulling back troops from Doklam in the Sikkim section with "no strings attached" to resolve the current standoff.
    The BJP leader also said that the government was giving "befitting reply" with regard to ceasefire violations on the Indo-Pakistan border, and was dealing with terrorism in Kashmir with a "stern hand".
    On appearance of militant Zakir Musa's posters in Kashmir asking youths and students to keep away from Independence day functions, Singh said such posters have come up in the past too.
    "The government will take a call on this. The more these (terrorist) leaders come up with such things, the more they expose themselves. The youths cannot be threatened by the diktats of these militants," he said.
    The Union minister also hailed the "proactive" role of security forces on the borders.
    "It is going to reap results sooner or later. I am sure this (proactive role of forces) will bring terrorism to its logical conclusion," he said.
    Singh also emphasized that the Centre's stand on Article 35A granting special autonomous status to Jammu and Kashmir was clear.
    "BJP's stand on Article 35A is clear. Opposition is waiting in the wings for this coalition government (in the state) to fall. We will not oblige them," he said.
    Replying to a question on Uttar Pradesh governor directing all madrasas to sing the national song on Independence day, Singh said, "Vande Mataram is a symbol of India's national ethos. It is, therefore, wrong to associate it with any particular religion or sect".
    "We need to educate the masses on this more intensely.
    Vande Mataram was composed in 1870. It later become a national song in tribute to martyrs, irrespective of religion. It is a poem which became an unifying force in pre-Independence and post-Independence era. How can this be a dividing force? It has been wrongly perceived".
    On the recent infant deaths at a hospital in Uttar Pradesh for want of oxygen, the Union minister said, "I am sure there is a responsible government in the state. We have a CM who is extremely proactive. Whatever is required, will be done. What has happened is bad and all of us feel for it."

Bhopal train blast: Accused wanted to migrate to Syria via West Bengal
  • Self-radicalised ISIS linked jihadis, who carried out a blast in a Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train this year, had planned to escape to Syria via the Sundarbans in West Bengal to join terror training, intelligence sources have told Mail Today. The men also did a recce in the coastal forested region as well as Kolkata to find an escape route but failed.
    According to a senior intelligence officer, this was the first ever strike by alleged Islamic State members in India. The morning blast on the train at the Jabri railway station on March 7 left at least 10 people injured. The incident not only raised questions on railway security but also sparked concerns about the presence of self-radicalised jihadis in the country connected to ISIS.
    The National Investigation Agency (NIA) in its charge sheet has named Uttar Pradesh residents Atif Muzaffar, Mohd Danish alias Jaafar, Syed Mir Hussain alias Hamja Abu Bakkas and Ghaus Mohd Khan who were indoctrinated through online content and Islamic State-inspired publications, and also tried to migrate to ISIS territory several times but failed.
    The agency stated that action against Saifullah, son of Sartaj Khan of Kanpur Nagar in UP, has stopped since he is dead. Saifullah, the alleged terrorist sympathetic to ISIS, was killed in Lucknow in an encounter on March 9 this year. "They were very serious about 'Hizrat' (migration to ISIS territory) and the members went to Kolkata and Sundarbans to find a way to leave for Syria," the NIA said in its charge sheet.
    ISIS headhunters hide within an ocean of 2.3 billion live social media accounts, flooding the internet with romanticised videos of life inside the caliphate, as well as brutal execution clips, using them as clickbait to lure potential recruits. Kerala's Abdul Rashid Abdulla is believed to have started ISIS recruitment and fundraising operations in the southern state in July 2015. He had led 21 youth from the state to Islamic State dens in Afghanistan.
    "This is an unusual route but probably the group members were looking for an option to enter Bangladesh to further find their way to Syria," an officer said.
    But the NIA investigation reveals that all the members took 'bayah' (oath of allegiance) to ISIS and also attempted to do Hizrat several times through Kashmir, Amritsar, Mumbai and other places. "Having failed to do so, they then conspired with each other to cause subversive activities threatening the sovereignty of India and the safety and security of the nation. To this effect, they shifted to a hideout at Lucknow and collected arms and fabricated IEDs there," said a senior NIA officer.
    Photos related to preparation of different explosives and some connected to ISIS were also found along with a picture of the bomb after it was placed on the overhead rack on the train. This is the same photo which was sent by the accused on social media and the messaging app Telegram. NIA claims that they wanted to wage a war against India which is evident from the data recovered from their phone that was used as propaganda on social networking sites to attract and recruit more followers to the cause of Islamic State. The agency in its charge sheet also said that all of them met at religious gatherings and their discussion on the rise of ISIS led to their radicalisation.
    They were more inclined towards jihad in India and tried their best to convince others to join their cause. They all took an oath of allegiance to Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The men had prepared a bomb in their hideout in Lucknow which they carried to Bhopal to cause the blast. The group planned to target innocent people and they practiced firing weapons in areas near Kanpur. The NIA found that the terrorists carried out several attempts to create fear and panic among the public. Apart from a trial blast, they also tried to test their arms and ammunition.
    On October 24, 2016, they shot a school teacher in Kanpur to test their skills and to create panic. The accused learnt to prepare a bomb from Inspire magazine available online. The charge sheet also reveals that they tried to attack Barelvi Muslims. They planted a bomb at a religious procession of 'Bara Rabi ul Alwal' in UP's Unnao district in December 2016, but it failed to explode. They fixed a new timer and used the same bomb on the Bhopal-Ujjain passenger train on March 7.
    After planting the bomb on the train at Bhopal station, they snapped a photograph and sent it to a person called Abu Hishaam for transmission to ISIS. During investigation, sufficient oral, documentary, technical, forensic and material evidence has been collected which establishes the criminal conspiracy and the terror act committed by these accused, the agency says. Atif Muzzafar, leader of the group, had told officials that he was a firm believer in the ISIS ideology of establishing a Sunni caliphate.
    He also used to follow controversial preacher Zakir Naik. Atif sold his ancestral property and used Rs 70 lakh from the sale to fund the group's terror activities. He was born into a Deobandi family and was interested in a purist version of Islam, especially after the death of his father.
    He started visiting the Quran Centre at Kanpur. Later he began frequenting an Ahl-al Hadith programme in the city. In 2013, he had gone for Umrah (pilgrimage) in Saudi Arabia. Ghaus Mohd was Barelvi by birth and was working in Punjab with the Indian Air Force. However he was impressed by the Deobandi form of Islam. Later, he went to Saudi Arabia for work between 1996 and 1998 where he started believing in the Ahl-al Hadith form of Islam.
    Kanpur police have initiated a process to transfer the probe into the murder of a retired school principal to the NIA after a ballistic test report corroborated that he was shot by two of the four accused mentioned in the charge sheet by the agency. Ramesh Chandra Shukla was shot dead in Kanpur last October.

Yogi Adityanath breaks down in Gorakhpur, says guilty will not be spared
  • After visiting the Baba Raghav Das Medical College hospital today along with Union Health Minister JP Nadda, a teary-eyed Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath while addressing a press conference promised exemplary action against the guilty. 
    Speaking about his plans to not 'spare those responsible for the deaths' the CM added that nobody can be more sensitive towards those children than him.
    The death toll of the Gorakhpur hospital tragedy has now reached 68 after a four-year-old boy died today. Most of the children allegedly died of suffocation caused by shortage of oxygen supply in the concerned ward of the hospital.
    Facing sharp criticism from the Opposition parties, the Yogi Adityanath government yesterday sacked the principal of the BRD Medical College Dr Rajeev Mishra and ordered an inquiry into the incident. The probe committee will be led by the chief secretary. It will probe the angle of oxygen supply leading to deaths.
    UP Health Minister Siddharth Nath Singh yesterday denied that the children died due to shortage of oxygen supply. However, letters pointing to shortage of oxygen appeared in public contrary to the claim made by the UP Health Minister. Earlier, Yogi Adityanath spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday and apprised him of the situation. The Opposition parties, meanwhile, demanded the expulsion of state health and medical education ministers.
    • Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and Union Health Minister JP Nadda today addressed a press conference after their visit to the hospital.  
    • While Adityanath promised exemplary, punitive action, Nadda said, "Centre is ready to give all help to UP."
    • Principal of Ambedkarnagar Medical College, PK Jain has been given the additional charge of BRD Hospital with immediate effect.
    • In his press address yesterday, the UP CM had blamed the deaths in his hometown on filth and the scourge of open defecation.
    • Amid soaring discourse that his earlier visit to the BRD Medical college few days back was vacuous, the CM said that he was not informed about any kind of shortage in the hospital.
    • Despite the hospital authorities denying that the children did not die due to shortage of oxygen, two letters written by them demanding immediate supply of the gas surfaced on Saturday.
    • The letters were written by the operators managing oxygen storage plant from where the life saving gas is supplied to different wards.
    • The contractor who used to supply oxygen cylinders to BRD Hospital had stopped his services over non-payment of dues. The hospital had not cleared its bill of Rs 69 lakh.
    • But, letters sent by the oxygen supplying company- Pushpa Sales Pvt Limited to the hospital also made way to the public domain that clearly stated that the supply would be snapped if bills as old as six months are not paid soon.
    • According to some reports, Pushpa Sales Pvt Ltd sent at least seven reminders to the hospital, asking the authorities to furnish the payments.
    • Meanwhile, members of the Youth Congress rallied in bereavement and in angry protest against the tragedy outside the BRD Medical College.
    • Congress Party leaders were among the first to reach the hospital with a delegation headed by Ghulam Nabi Azad on August 12.
    • Speaking to the press there, he said, "For the last 15 days, reports were put out in various Hindi papers that there was a lack of oxygen. But no action was taken by the government or the health department."
    • In addition, more appalling details emerged underlining the poor health facilities at the hospital. One of the doctors revealed that sometimes two patients are admitted on the same bed due to insufficient beds.

Business Affairs

This Railways village will be a place for disasters, but it's a good thing
  • Trains falling into rivers and coaches catching fire will be common sights in the countrys first Railways disaster management village expected to come up on the outskirts of Bengaluru by December next year.
    A senior official of the railways ministry said "overaged rolling stock" will be used to replicate train accidents so that real time rescue operations could be carried out to improve such efforts.
    "It will be just like the mock drills carried out by security personnel. It will be as real as it can get," he said.
    The railways has earmarked the 3.32-sq km village of Hejjala, with a population of 3,483 people, to develop its Disaster Management Institute and Safety village at a cost of Rs 44.42 crore, according to the blueprint accessed by PTI.
    "For augmenting theoretical class room training with practical hands on exercise, a real environment for training in various conditions and scenarios of train accidents, a concept of safety village was envisaged," it said.
    The focus is on imparting state of the art training on rescue, medical relief and rolling stock restoration techniques in a classroom and also using various simulated teaching aids. However, it is the practical reproduction of accidents on site and the ensuing rescue operations that are being touted as the big ticket venture.
    "For the practical training as a part of the safety village tunnel, cutting, embankment, other conditions and obstructions like overhead structures and platforms are being created. For carrying out underwater rescue and relief operations, a water body is also being developed," it said.
    Overaged rolling stock such as coaches, wagons and locomotives would be stationed in the safety village along with various tools and equipment for imparting hands-on practical training, the concept note said.
    The village, about 25 km from Bengaluru, will also have a virtual reality centre for analysis of railway accidents.
    "The centre aims at providing training on dealing with various disasters under varied environment and terrain," it said.
    Construction work has begun and will be completed by December next year, it said. 

18% GST on food takeaway from non-AC area at AC restaurant
  • A uniform goods and services tax (GST) rate of 18% will be charged on takeaways as well as food served from a non-AC area of a hotel or restaurant if any of its part has a facility of air conditioning, the government has said.
    The new GST regime, which was rolled out from 1 July, provides for levy of 12% on food bill in non-AC restaurants. The tax rate for AC restaurants and those with liquor licence will be 18% while 5-star hotels will charge 28% GST.
    The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has clarified through an FAQ on the GST rates that will be levied by restaurant-cum-bars where the first floor area is air- conditioned and used for serving food and liquor while the ground floor only serves food and non-AC.
    The CBEC said tax will have to be charged at 18% irrespective of from where the supply is made, first floor or second floor. "If any part of the establishment has a facility of air conditioning, then the rate will be 18% for all supplies from the restaurant," it said.
    With regard to tax rates that would be charged for take- away food from such restaurants, the CBEC said, "Tax has to be charged at 18% on supplies of food made from their takeaway counter." Besides, such restaurants are also not eligible for the composition scheme as they are engaged in supplying liquor. 

NPA resolution to spur credit expansion, growth: Panagariya
  • Resolution of bad loans in the banking system is on right track and will open the door to rapid credit expansion and growth, Niti Aayog Vice Chairman Arvind Panagariya has said.
    Terming the non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans problem as a legacy issue, he said that even after three years of the NDA government taking charge, it has not gone away.
    "Now we are on absolutely right track. Once we solve the NPAs issue, it will open up also the door to faster credit expansion. If this is done, this problem of twin balance sheet issue (over-leveraged companies and bad-loan-encumbered banks) will get addressed at the result of this.
    "So banks will be better equipped to lend and on the sides of borrowers there will be greater appetite," Panagariya told PTI.
    The banking sector is saddled with NPAs of over Rs 8 trillion (Rs 8 lakh crore), of which Rs 6 trillion is with public sector banks (PSBs).
    As part of its strategy to rein in the unacceptable level of NPAs, Reserve Bank of India recently identified 12 accounts for Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) proceedings with each of them having over Rs 5,000 crore of outstanding loans, accounting for 25 per cent of total NPAs of banks.
    The 12 identified cases account for 25 per cent or about Rs 2 lakh crore of NPAs.
    When asked about his view on merger of a weak bank with a strong bank, the outgoing Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog said that consolidation of public sector banks (PSBs) is necessary, also because the pool of talented people who have the specialisation of running the banking business is limited one.
    "So if you have 25 PSBs, then you spread it over too many banks and everybody who is an expert says, we do not have good management, and so consolidation will also bring good management to the banks.
    "Then need for number of competent people...would be smaller if number of banks is smaller," he noted.
    The finance ministry has sought help of NITI Aayog and global consultancy firms to examine the possibility of next round of consolidation of PSU banks with an aim to create a few lenders of global size and scale.
    NITI Aayogs report is expected to set the tone for consolidation roadmap.
    Five associate banks and Bharatiya Mahila Bank (BMB) became part of SBI on April 1, 2017, catapulting the countrys largest lender to among the top 50 banks in the world. PTI BKS CS SA SRK

Stopped sharing company information with Mallya since Feb: UBL
  • United Breweries Ltd (UBL) had stopped sharing company-related information with erstwhile chairman Vijay Mallya since February after Sebi restrained the fugitive liquor tycoon from holding position as director or key managerial personnel in any listed firm. According to a regulatory filing by UBL, although the cessation of Mallyas directorship was communicated to authorities last week, he was asked to step down from the board much earlier this year.
    The independent directors at their meeting on February 6 had decided not to send notices and agenda related to board meetings and other "privileged information" till the time Sebi order remained in force, it said.
    Two days later, the companys board of directors met and took on record the minutes of meetings of the independent directors.
    "Effectively through these measures, Mallya was restrained from acting as a director in the company, in accordance with Sebi order. Further, by a separate communications, Mallya was requested to step down from the board with immediate effect until the Sebi order is stayed or vacated," UBL said.
    As the Sebi order was not vacated, in July, the board had asked Mallya and his associate companies to nominate a director in his place in terms of article of association of the company. On August 4, UBL said Sebi issued another letter observing that Mallya still continued to be disclosed as non- executive director and chairman of UBL on the BSE website. The markets regulator had sought information on what steps were taken regarding the order prohibiting him from holding any position as director in any listed company. 
    In response to that, UBL said it communicated to Sebi on August 10 steps taken by it, with the board authorising filing of requisite forms and intimations with the Registrar of Companies and other authorities notifying Mallyas cessation from holding position of director in the company. In January, Sebi had also restrained Mallya and six others from the securities market and "buying, selling or otherwise dealing in securities in any manner whatsoever, either directly or indirectly" till further directions. 
    The regulators order was issued close on the heels of CBI naming Mallya, Kingfisher Airlines and eight others in a chargesheet related to a loan default case. Mallya, whose now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines owes more than Rs 9,000 crore (including interest) to various banks, had fled India for London on March 2, 2016. 
    The CBI has two cases against him -- one related to the IDBI Bank case and the other related to a loan default of over Rs 6,000 crore filed on the basis of a complaint from a State Bank of India-led consortium. He is facing extradition to India.

Trai website to soon display telcos tariff plans: Trai Chairman
  • Telecom subscribers will be able to soon check tariff plans of different operators on the regulators website, improving transparency over rates, Trai Chairman RS Sharma has said.
    Going further, Trai is mulling allowing export or use of that data to enable people to build tariff-comparison apps and products, just as one sees for insurance or airline fares.
    The regulator has recently asked all operators to start filing their tariffs in electronic form along with physical submission, and intends to do away with the physical filing entirely, albeit in a phased manner.
    As per some estimates, nearly 24,000 rates are filed in a year by telecom companies -- the number includes tariff plans for all operators for various circle as well as special tariff vouchers.
    "We will not only have transparent tariff display on the Trai site, we will also probably enable machine-readable data which can be exported, so people can build applications on top of it. We will provide APIs (code that enables two software programs to talk)," Sharma told PTI.
    The export of data will allow app makers to build products based on the tariff information displayed on Trai site.
    " more applications can be built on top of that. For example, in insurance, there are apps which say which policy is the best. One can also do a comparison for airfares. Similarly, people should be able to build apps on top of it (tariff data) to suggest to consumers the best plan to buy in an area," Sharma said.
    Asked about the timeline for enabling export of data for the apps, he said: "We will do it pretty soon. Now, we are asking them (telcos) to submit data online which will reduce their workload also."
    Online filing of tariffs by telcos will mean more convenience and efficiencies in the system.
    "They (telcos) have to do a lot of paper submission, online filing will make life easier for everyone," he added.
    Sharma noted that complaints about people-specific (customised) tariffs recently had also prompted the regulator to reiterate its stance on transparency and non-discriminatory framework to the telecom operators.
    Earlier this year, Reliance Jio had charged incumbent operators of lining up customised retention offers for subscribers wanting to shift out of their network.
    Jio had then alleged that such offers being presented to customers "surreptitiously" on one-to-one basis, are also not being openly publicised on websites of incumbent telcos. 

General Awareness

Environment Minister launches ‘Gaj Yatra’ to mark World Elephant Day

  • Union Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister, Dr. Harsh Vardhan haslaunched ‘Gaj Yatra’ on 12th of August 2017.The goal of World Elephant Day is to create awareness about the plight of elephants and to share knowledge and positive solutions for the better care and management of captive and wild elephants.
    Key Points:
    i.It is a nationwide campaign to protect elephants on the occasion of World Elephant Day.
    ii.The campaign is planned to cover 12 elephant range statesthat have wild elephants, using local art and craft.
    iii.Vardhan has said that efforts for elephant conservation must bring about a qualitative improvement by the next World Elephant Day.
    iv.The Environment Minister released the All India Census 2017 Report on elephants as also the Agreed Points of Action on Trans-Boundary Conservation of Elephants by India and Bangladesh.
    v.A document is titled ‘Right of Passage’ on elephant corridors in India.
    vi.A glimpse of Initiatives is taken for Elephant Conservation in India (2012-2017) was also released.
    vii.It is based on Parliamentary Questions and Replies’ by ENVIS Centre, WWF-India and the Project Elephant Division, MoEF&CC.
    viii.The publication covers the concerned environmental issues in the form of a compact disc.
    ix.It can serve as a ready reference source for scientists, policy-makers, technocrats and others concerned with the cause of conservation and sustainable development.
    x.During the period of the campaign, artists and craftsmen will create life-size works on the theme of elephants in places along the route of the roadshow.
    xi.Actor and wildlife enthusiast, Ms. Dia Mirza, participated in the walk and run event organised on the occasion along with the children.
    About World Elephant Day Background 
    i.World Elephant Day is an annual global event celebrated across the world on August 12, dedicated to the preservation and protection of elephants.
    ii.As per the available population estimates, there are about 400,000 African elephants and 40,000 Asian elephants.
    iii.African elephants are listed as “vulnerable” and Asian elephants as “endangered” in the IUCN Red List of threatened species.
    iv.World Elephant Day is celebrated to focus the attention of various stakeholders in supporting various conservation policies to help protect elephants.
    v.The elephant is part of India’s animal heritage and the Government celebrates this day to spread awareness about the conservation of the species.

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