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Current Affairs - 21 August 2017

General Affairs 

Kalinga Utkal Express derailment: 4 railway officials suspended based on prima facie cause of accident
  • Amid reports that the Kalinga Utkal Express derailed due railway officers' negligence, Railway Board has sent on leave three top officials, suspended four railway officers and transferred one.  
    After the audio clip alleging negligence on the part of railway workers went viral, Senior Divisional Engineer, Assistant Engineer, a Senior Section Engineer (Permanent Way), responsible for track maintenance and a Junior Engineer have been suspended and Chief Track Engineer, Northern Railway has been transferred.
    Three top officials--Northern Railway GM RK Kulshreshtra, Railway Board Member Engineering Aditya Mittal and Divisional Railway Manager Delhi RN Singh-- have been sent on leave based on the prima facie evidence, as instructed by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu.
    The audio clip is a conversation between a gateman and railway official about the broken track that needed welding. No red flag was shown to the train to caution them about the danger ahead.
    Meanwhile, the Uttar Pradesh anti-terror squad denied any terror angle to the derailment.
    The accident occurred on Saturday evening around 5.45 pm leading to death of over 22 passengers and injuring over 100 passengers.

Ludhiana City Centre Scam: Opposition questions Vigilance Bureau's closure report
  • A day after the Punjab Vigilance Bureau gave a clean chit to the Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and others in Rs 1,144 crore Ludhiana City Centre scam case, the opposition Aam Aadmi Party on Sunday termed the decision as manipulated, procured acquittal and a mockery of the judicial system.
    The leader of Opposition, Sukhpal Khaira said Badals and Captain Amarinder Singh were making mockery of criminal justice system in Punjab as the closure report filed by Vigilance Bureau is a clear case of complete friendly match between the two families.
    "In year 2007, Badals had filed the case of Ludhiana City Centre scandal against Captain Amarinder. A total of 36 people including Captain Singh, his son Raninder Singh, and son-in-law Raminder Singh besides others were accused of favouring Delhi based firm which was awarded the contract.
    The case was also fortified with ten thousand documents which were attached in the charge sheet. After spending 10 years and crores of rupees from public exchequer, suddenly the prosecution says that no irregularity has been found in the case. If this is not the mockery of judicial system then what is", Khaira questioned.
    Khaira said that the acquittal of Captain will cost the people of Punjab dear as the Today Homes Group approached Supreme Court in the case and got appointed Justice R C Lahoti as an arbitrator. The Supreme Court on Feb 3, 2017 had awarded Rs 437 crores damages.
    "The amount at present has gone up to Rs. 1100 Crores after applying 18 percent interest on the amount. After the acquittal of Captain and Today Homes in the case, the public exchequer will be burdened to pay such amount to the firm as per the order of Hon'ble court." Khaira said.
    The Punjab Vigilance Bureau on Saturday had filed a closure report in the multi-crore scam in the court which according to the sources cited lack of evidence for acquittal. The bureau in 2007 had registered an FIR against Captain his family members and others for masterminding the scam.
    The next hearing of the case will take place on September 2. President of Lok Insaf Party and MLA Simarjit Singh Bains and Balwinder Singh Bains have decided to challenge the closure report in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.

Flight services at Delhi airport resume after drone threat
  • Flight services to and from Delhi airport were suspended for 30 minutes today evening after a pilot spotted a drone in the area.  
    An AirAsia pilot coming from Goa spotted the drone at Delhi airport while landing around 7.10 pm. Air Asia later issued a statement confirming that the pilots of flight i5 799 spotted an unidentified object flying close to aircraft while landing at IGI.
    All the three runways at the Indira Gandhi International Airport were closed and flights that were to land were diverted. A team of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), the Delhi Police and the aviation security were also rushed to the spot.
    The services, however, resumed around 7.55 pm.
    Two Air India flights were diverted to Lucknow and Ahmedabad. One flight each of GoAir and IndiGo that were diverted to Jaipur, returned to Delhi around 8.30 pm.
    The airport authorities have not figured out the source of the unidentified drone.

Kashmiri separatists, Maoists in Chhattisgarh feel fund-starved after note ban, says Arun Jaitley
  • Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley today said demonetisation left Maoists in many parts of India and separatists in Jammu and Kashmir "fund starved".
    He said it greatly reduced the number of protesters taking part in stone-pelting in the militancy-hit state. "Stone pelters used to gather in thousands on the streets of Kashmir before demonetisation was announced, but now not even 25 come together for such agitations," he said.
    "After demonetisation, separatists in Jammu and Kashmir and also Maoists in states like Chhattisgarh have become fund starved," the minister said. Arun Jaitley was speaking at a function organised by Mumbai BJP president Ashish Shelar. He spoke on the topic New India Pledge. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was also present on the occasion.
    Elaborating on benefits of the move to scrap high-value notes in November 2016, Arun Jaitley said money which was earlier getting circulated outside the economy had come into the formal banking system.
    On the BJP's vision of building a New India, he said, "We want to spend funds on defence, rural development and infrastructure. We should have world-class public institutions so that shameful incidents such as the Gorakhpur tragedy do not recur".
    The finance minister said the Modi government was not satisfied with a 7-7.5 per cent GDP growth rate. To accelerate the growth rate, the government would continue to take tough decisions in the interest of the nation as it had done since coming into power in 2014, he said.
    Arun Jaitley listed several achievements of the BJP-led government, which had completed three years in power.
    Among them, he spoke about the GST rollout, note ban, the insolvency and bankruptcy code, amendment to laws related to benami transactions, fair allocation of spectrum and natural resources and double taxation avoidance treaties signed with various countries.

AC jackets for Indian Special Forces soon: Ex-Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar
  • Trials for introducing air-conditioned jackets for the Indian Special Forces soldiers are on, former Defence Minister and Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has said.
    "In a Special Forces operation, there is extensive exercise. When the body heats up, soldiers are very uncomfortable. At that time if he has an air conditioned jacket, he is more comfortable. Trial is on," Parrikar told students late on Saturday.
    Talking about the Light Combat Aircraft Tejas, he said the only weak-point of the LCA Tejas was that it was a light plane and could carry a payload of only 3.5 ton.
    He said there were other capabilities at which the Tejas fared better than many of the best planes in the world.
    Parrikar, who served as the Defence Minister between 2014 and 2017, returned to state politics earlier this year to be appointed the Chief Minister of Goa for the fourth time.
    He said that he had diligently pursued the LCA project.
    "It was completed some 5-6 years (ago) but the government was not inducting it. Minor issues were there. I consecutively conducted 18 meetings and saw to it that it is inducted in the Air Force. Now there are three planes and one new aircraft is getting added up every one or two months," Parrikar replied to a question regarding Indian capabilities at manufacturing world class war equipments.
    "It is indigenously designed and I can tell you the plane has many features that are better than many of the world renowned planes. Its only defect is that it is light-weight. It can carry only a 3.5 ton bomb. It is the only weak-point. Otherwise the capacity of the plane, its reaction is better than many quality planes," Parrikar said.

Business Affairs

Bank unions to go on strike on Tuesday, services may be hit
  • Services at public sector banks may take a hit on Tuesday as all unions under the aegis of UFBU have threatened to go on strike against the government's proposed consolidation move besides raising a host of other demands.
    Most banks have already informed their customers that functioning of branches and offices will be impacted if the strike takes off.
    Operations at private lenders like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, Axis Bank and Kotak Mahindra Bank are expected to be normal except delay in cheque clearances.
    The United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU) is an umbrella body of nine unions, including All India Bank Officers' Confederation (AIBOC), All India Bank Employees Association (AIBEA) and National Organisation of Bank Workers (NOBW).
    "As the conciliation meeting before the Chief Labour Commissioner failed, unions are left with no other option but to go on strike. There was no assurance from the government and the management of banks," AIBOC General Secretary D T Franco said.
    All attempts to hammer out solutions to the demands raised by the unions bore no fruit and hence, UFBU decided to proceed with the proposed strike on August 22, he said.
    Other demands include no write-off policy for non- performing assets (NPAs) of corporate loans, declaring wilful default of loans as criminal offence and implementation of recommendations of Parliamentary Committee on recovery of NPAs, AIBEA General Secretary C H Venkatchalam said.
    He also suggested that banks should not pass on the burden of corporate NPAs on bank customers by hiking charges.
    Venkatchalam said the government should abolish the Banks Board Bureau and ensure stringent measures to recover bad loans and accountability of top executives.
    UFBU, which claims membership of nearly 10 lakh across banks, also requested the government for cost reimbursement of demonetisation to banks.
    As many as 21 public sector banks control 75 per cent of the total business. 

Defaulters owe 27% of total amount to SBI alone, PNB next
  • Country's largest lender SBI accounts for over 27% of the total amount owed to public sector banks by wilful defaulters. As many as 1,762 wilful defaulters owed Rs25,104 crore to State Bank of India as on 31 March, putting pressure on its balance sheet.
    Punjab National Bank (PNB) is next on the list with 1,120 wilful defaulters having outstanding non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans of Rs12,278 crore. Together these two banks account for Rs37,382 crore or 40% of the total outstanding loans. Total outstanding loans due to public sector banks by wilful defaulters amounted to Rs92,376 crore, according to the Finance Ministry data.
    The total outstanding loans by wilful defaulters rose to Rs92,376 crore at the end of financial year 2016-17, from Rs76,685 crore at the end of last fiscal 2015-16 -- up 20.4%. At the same time, there has been close to 10% increase in the number of wilful defaulters on annual basis. It increased to 8,915 at the end of March as against 8,167 in the previous fiscal.
    Out of 8,915 cases of wilful defaults, banks have filed FIR (First Information Report) in 1,914 cases with outstanding loans of Rs32,484 crore. During 2016-17, 27 public sector banks, including SBI and its five associates had written off Rs81,683 crore, the highest in the last five fiscals.
    The amount was 41% higher than that in the previous fiscal. Gross NPAs of the public sector banks rose to Rs6.41 lakh crore at the end of March 2017 as against Rs5.02 lakh crore a year ago.
    In order to check incidences of wilful default, RBI has tightened the norms and made it clear that promoter of the defaulting company cannot escape from his responsibility even if he is not a whole time director.
    As per earlier guidelines, a bank couldn't label a non- whole-time director of a company as a wilful defaulter unless there was conclusive evidence that the individual was aware of the wilful default by the company and had not objected to it.
    A wilful default occurs when a borrower doesn't honour an obligation despite having the capacity to pay or siphons off funds by disposing of assets without the knowledge of the bank, according to RBI. RBI has allowed banks to name and shame wilful defaulters by publishing their photographs.

FPI net outflow from equities at Rs 7,344 crore in August
  • Foreign portfolio investors (FPI) have pulled out more than Rs 7,300 crore from the equity markets this month so far as they flee to safe haven assets amid geopolitical tensions and some domestic concerns. However, FPIs have invested about Rs 9,364 crore in debt markets during this period.
    According to the latest depository data, FPIs withdrew a net sum of Rs 7,344 crore (USD 1.14 billion) from stock markets during August 1-18.
    This comes following a net inflow of over Rs 62,000 crore in last six months from February-July 2017. Prior to that, they withdrew close to Rs 1,200 crore.
    After taking into the account latest outflow, the total investment in equity markets stood at Rs 53,610 crore (USD 8 billion) this year.
    Market analysts attributed the latest outflow from equities to geo-political tension between the US and North Korea over the latters ballistic missile programme and a deadly attack in Spain.
    "Growing geopolitical concerns injected an element of uncertainty, which prompted FPIs to hedge risks. Given emerging markets are more susceptible to such uncertainties, they restrained their investments into Indian markets," Himanshu Srivastava, senior analyst manager research at Morningstar said.
    Additionally, confidence has fallen given Sebis action over shell companies while a slowdown in business growth will lead to downgrade in earnings forecast for the next 1-2 quarters, Geojit Financial Services Head of Research Vinod Nair said.
    According to Vidya Bala, head of MF research at FundsIndia.com said that FPI investments in debt have been robust for the last few months.
    "While the run-up to the monetary policy saw some tepid flows, as investors remained cautious in the event of a no rate cut stance by RBI and the inflows picked up right after the the 25 basis points rate cut on August 2," she added.
    Markets regulator Sebi, in early July, increased the FPI limit in central government securities, which provided a longer rope for them to pump in money.
    "With the spread between US 10-year bond and 10-year India gilts at a good 4.2 percentage points even now, FPIs continue to seek opportunities in the Indian debt market with the rupee-dollar equation stable," she added. 

Sebi to chart out long term cyber security plans for markets
  • Sebi will deliberate with its board members next month on putting in place a long term cyber security framework for markets amid concerns over malicious software script targeting systems and possible data breaches.
    With technology-based platforms and high speed algorithmic systems becoming key fulcrums for trading activities, the regulatory focus is on bolstering the existing framework and ensure a robust firewall is in place to thwart possible cyber attacks.
    The Securities and Exchange Board of Indias (Sebi) efforts to put in place long term plans for cyber security of the market place also come against the backdrop of exchanges facing technical glitches and spate of suspected cyber attack cases globally, including in India.
    In recent months, a raft of dreaded ransomware attacks like WannaCry and Petya have impacted the computer systems worldwide.
    Sources said a detailed discussion on cyber security issues are expected during the meeting of the Sebi board, which is scheduled for September 18.
    The meeting would deliberate on measures that can be initiated for a long term cyber security plan, they added.
    On July 10, a technical glitch at the countrys largest stock exchange NSE had resulted in halting of trading activities for over three hours.
    Already, the regulator has decided to undertake a comprehensive review of technology and systems at all market institutions, including stock exchanges, to safeguard the marketplace from cyber threats and technical glitches. The watchdog has also asked the exchanges and other institutions to keep a constant vigil on cyber threats globally and take lessons to put in place necessary safeguards. "It was emphasised that there should be prompt and diligent reporting of any technical issues, including cyber attacks, to relevant agencies including CERT-In and Sebi," the regulator had said after a meeting with stock exchanges, clearing corporations and depositories in late July.
    According to the watchdog, Market Infrastructure Institutions (MIIs) should have well laid out change management and standard operating procedures that should encompass all areas related to technology and operations.
    Besides the stock exchanges, major MIIs include depositories and clearing corporations.
    Among others, Sebi has been stressing on the importance of sharing information on instances of technology-related disruptions, cyber threats and attacks among MIIs so as to enhance their situational awareness.
    In May, Sebi had set up a high level panel on cyber security to suggest measures to safeguard the capital markets from such attacks.
    The committee would advise Sebi in developing and maintaining cyber security and cyber resilience requirements aligned with global best practices and industry standards in accordance with the need of Indian capital market structure.
    Earlier this month, the NSE and the BSE alerted market entities to guard against a malicious software script that targets critical sectors like energy and finance to steal information from personal computers and passes them on to adversaries outside the country.
    The alert came after a communique from National Cyber Security Coordinator regarding a highly suspicious communication being observed on the internet in the country.

Centre plans to provide monthly fellowship of Rs 70,000 for IIT and IISc PhD researchers
  • The Centre will provide Rs 70,000 as monthly fellowship to those researchers doing their PhDs in IITs or IISc, Union higher education secretary Kewal Kumar Sharma has said. Presently researcher-students get Rs 25,000 as monthly scholarship at IITs.
    "As part of the research fellowship scheme of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, we wish the meritorious students who are being forced to leave the country for purely financial reasons stay within the country."
    "We will provide 2,000 such monthly fellowships across the IIT system and IISc Bengaluru," Sharma said at the 67th Foundation Day of IIT Kharagpur at its Kharagpur campus in West Midnapore district on Friday. It will be given for a period of five years, he said.
    This will also enable meritorious researchers, keen to further their research but forced to opt for corporate jobs for higher pay, to pursue their goal, he said. However, the scholarship recipients can't do any other job, the senior official said.
    "The cabinet nod for the proposal should come soon. We are hopeful to start it from the next session," he said.
    IIT-KGP director Partha Pratim Chakrabarti later said, "This is a very good proposal."

General Awareness

RBI Introduces Rs. 50 banknote in Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will soon release Rs 50 denomination banknotes in the Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series, having signature of Governor Urjit R. Patel. RBI clarified that all the Rs 50 banknotes in the earlier series will continue to be a legal tender. In December 2016, RBI had announced that it would soon issue new currency notes of Rs 50 and Rs 20.
    About Rs 50 denomination banknotes in the Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series: 
    • The base colour of the new note is fluorescent blue. It has a motif of Hampi with Chariot on the reverse, depicting the country’s cultural heritage.
    • The note has geometric patterns aligning with the overall colour scheme, both at the obverse and reverse. Dimension of the banknote will be 66 mm x 135 mm.
    Design & Security Features Rs 50 denomination banknotes in the Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series:
    Front Side of the Note:
    • See through register with denominational numeral 50
    • Denominational numeral ५० in Devnagari
    • Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi at the centre
    • Micro letters ‘RBI’, ‘भारत’, ‘INDIA’ and ‘50’
    • Windowed demetalised security thread with inscriptions ‘भारत’ and RBI
    • Guarantee Clause, Governor’s signature with Promise Clause and RBI emblem towards right of Mahatma Gandhi portrait
    • Ashoka Pillar emblem on the right
    • Mahatma Gandhi portrait and electrotype (50) watermarks
    • Number panel with numerals growing from small to big on the top left side and bottom right side.
    Back Side of the Note:
    • Year of printing of the note on the left
    • Swachh Bharat logo with slogan
    • Language panel
    • Motif of Hampi with Chariot
    • Denominational numeral ५० in Devnagari
    Quick Facts – Reserve Bank of India (RBI):
    Established in: 1935
    Headquarters: Mumbai
    Current Governor: Urjit Patel

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