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Current Affairs - 02 September 2017

General Affairs 

Old Age Homes In Each District: Top Court Seeks Replies From States
  • The Supreme Court today sought the response from the states with regard to the status of old age homes in every district on a plea filed by former union minister Ashwini Kumar for protection of rights of senior citizens.

    The top court said it was looking into what all could be done for the elderly people.

    "We have to look forward as to what could be done for elderly people. Centre may be wrong but the purpose of the plea is different. States should file their replies to the plea with regard to the status of old age homes in each district," a bench of Justices MB Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.

    During the hearing, senior advocate Ashwini Kumar, who was also the Law Minister during the erstwhile UPA government, said the Centre in its affidavit says it was giving Rs. 200 as old age pension. He termed it as "not sufficient" for elderly people when the GDP of the country was rising.

    Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Pinky Anand, appearing for the Centre, said the Centre was coming up with new policy for senior citizens and that the pension amount of Rs. 200 varied from state to state.

    She said Rs. 200 old age pension was not uniform across the country. While in Haryana it was Rs. 1600 and in Puducherry, it was Rs. 2,000 for people between 60 and 79 years and Rs. 3000 to those above 80.

    Ms Anand said the Centre was not looking the plea as an adversarial litigation and trying to evolve an acceptable solution for the elderly people.

    Mr Kumar said there should be nationwide uniformity in the pension as well as the criteria for availing benefits from social security schemes.

    The bench then asked the ASG about the status of old age home in each district of the country.

    She said that construction of such homes was a state subject and the Centre cannot do much in it.

    The bench then said it will be better if the states filed their replies to the plea and clarify their position.

    The Centre had in May informed the court that it plans to replace the nearly two-decade old national policy on older persons with new norms that will fix uniform age across the sectors for a person to be declared as senior citizen.

    Different sectors like railways, insurance, airlines, income tax have different age criteria for a person to be declared as senior citizen for availing various social security schemes.

    It had said that keeping in view the changing demographic pattern, socio-economic needs of senior citizens, social value system and advancement in the field of science and technology over the decades it will be bringing out a National Policy for Senior Citizens.

    Kumar had claimed that successive governments have come up with various plans and schemes but nothing has reached the ground and elderly people were forced to lead a life of utter neglect as the old age homes were not sufficient.

    Earlier, the former union minister had conceded that he had failed both as a minister and a parliamentarian for not being able to protect the rights of senior citizens. He had said that there were around 11 crore such people whose rights were being denied.

    Mr Kumar, in his PIL, had said there was a large number of aged people and the number has been increasing, with most of them living in poverty, without any roof over their heads or proper clothes and food. The budgetary allocation for their welfare has also been paltry.

    He had referred to a report of the parliamentary standing committee dealing with the demand for grants for 2015-16, saying the amount allocated as the budget estimate stage was Rs. 50 crore in 2014-15 which was cut down to Rs. 25 crore at the revised estimate stage and only Rs. 10.45 crore actually utilised.

    The petitioner has sought that adequate number of old age homes be established in the country and direction be given to maintain and operate such homes with adequate standards to enable the elderly live their life with dignity and in accordance with section 19 of the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007 (MWP Act).

In Assam, Women Shave Their Heads In Protest Against Government
  • A shaved head was a powerful message that some 100 women protesting in Assam against the BJP government sent across today without saying a word.

    At a protest event in Guwahati, three of the women shaved off their long hair on the spot, to the shock of hundreds on the street. In the northeastern state, a woman's hair is her pride and revered.

    "By shaving our heads, we wanted to signify that the government is dead here and we are guardian-less," said Moushumi, one of the women, later.

    The women, all members of the Swadhin Nari Sakti, targeted the ruling BJP of the state for "going against its promises, three of the protesting women shaved off their heads".

    The women complained that during the polls last year, which brought the BJP to power for the first time in a northeastern state, the party had promised to protect the interests, land and rights of the indigenous communities of Assam.

    The protestors said that they had tried conventional ways of protest but they had failed to draw the attention of the Sarbananda Sonowal government.

    The BJP government, they alleged, splurged on festivals and jobs to outsiders, instead of giving them to the local people.

    They also accused the government of not doing enough to protect the state and its people during the floods.

    "Our Chief Minister is only busy in pleasing the high command in Delhi and has no time for the issues that affect the people at the grass root level. We hope that our protest at least pricks the conscience of the government," said one of the protesting women.

'Don't Lose Heart': Top Space Scientists Tell ISRO After Satellite Launch Fails
  • India's top space scientists say yesterday's unsuccessful launch of a satellite in its workhorse PSLV or Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle is a matter of concern. However, they say the heavy-lift rocket can be restored to its former glory since it has a good track record.
    The scientists told the Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO team not to lose heart. The space agency yesterday said the rocket carrying India's first private sector-built regional navigation satellite IRNSS-1H had a normal lift-off, but the heat shield used to protect the satellite did not separate.

    "This resulted in satellite separation occurring within the heat shield. The satellite is inside the heat shield resulting in the unsuccessful mission. Detailed analysis is under progress to identify the cause of the anomaly in the heat shield separation event," ISRO said.

    Former ISRO Chairman K Kasturirangan said the space agency has gone through unsuccessful missions in the past, particularly in the early phase of the country's space programme.

    "Every time we have come back with redoubled vigour and made sure that not only it does not repeat, the probability of these things happening is minimised," he said. "But space is certainly a risky endeavour. So, one has to keep allowance for it. One should not be complacent, do the best and then leave the rest of it to providence because there is a small component of probability that in spite of everything being done, in what we call as perfect, there can something which can be residual. So, we should not be complacent," Mr Kasturirangan said.

    "We had an extraordinary string of successes with PSLV, so it's all the more hurting because of the fact that we expect 100 per cent success every time to we do with PSLV," he said.

    Mr Kasturirangan said he has no doubt ISRO would move forward with redoubled vigour and greater determination.

    "One satellite was involved and certainly a setback in that sense but there is no question of looking back; we have to look forward. They have got a big agenda for space and ambitious agenda; it can be fulfilled only with courage of conviction, determination and exceptional technical professionalism. In all these, ISRO is now well-known and has established its credentials," he said.

    Another former ISRO Chairman, G Madhavan Nair, called the unsuccessful mission "very unfortunate". "PSLV had a good track record. About 40 launches it has done. Now, a failure like this is difficult to digest," he said.

    But Nair noted: "Failures are not uncommon. If you look at the global scenario, five to 10 per cent is a failure rate of proven launch vehicles itself. Compared to that, we had hardly one failure in 40. That's our record. It has become two. We cannot be satisfied with statistics. We have to be concerned about it," he said.

    "I am sure ISRO team will be able to find why and how it happened, and fix it, and come back to the launch pad as quickly as possible. That's been ISRO culture. My message to ISRO team, they should not lose heart, go hard into failure reason and fix it," he said.

    Another former ISRO Chairman K Radhakrishnan tweeted ISRO shouldn't get disheartened.

Madras High Court To Take Up Blue Whale Game After Madurai Teen's Suicide
  • The Madras High Court said it will take up the issue of 'Blue Whale' challenge on Monday, days after a teenager was found hanging in his room in Madurai.

    Police suspect that the death of  Vignesh, 19, is linked to the dangerous and self-destroying game, that has claimed over 100 lives across the world.

    Investigators say the second year commerce student at a private college was part of a Whatsapp group of 75 members who are playing the suicide game.

    "Blue Whale - This is not a game but danger. Once you enter, you can never exit," Vignesh wrote in a chilling note found in his home in Madurai on Wednesday. He was addicted to his mobile, according to his brother and other family members.

    When a lawyer told the Madurai bench of Madras High Court that he plans to file a petition, the court expressed concern and announced that it will take up the matter own its own.

    The Chennai police has issued an advisory for parents to keep a tab on the social media activities of their children. On Thursday, the Madurai Collector announced special cells to raise awareness about Blue Whale Challenge in colleges.

Ultraviolet Light May Be Key To Finding Alien Life: Study
  • Ultraviolet light may have played a critical role in the emergence of life on Earth and could be a key to finding life elsewhere in the universe, a study led by an Indian-origin scientist at Harvard suggests.

    The study found that red dwarf stars might not emit enough ultraviolet (UV) light to kick-start the biological processes most familiar to our planet.

    For example, certain levels of UV might be necessary for the formation of Ribonucleic Acid, a molecule necessary for all forms of known life.

    "It would be like having a pile of wood and kindling and wanting to light a fire, but not having a match," said Dr Sukrit Ranjan of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) in the US.

    "Our research shows that the right amount of UV light might be one of the matches that gets life as we know it to ignite," said Dr Ranjan.

    Researchers focused on red dwarf stars, which are smaller and less massive than the Sun, and the planets that orbit them.

    Recently, several planetary systems with potential habitable zones, where liquid water could exist, have been discovered around red dwarfs including Proxima Centauri, TRAPPIST-1, and LHS 1140.

    Using computer models and the known properties of red dwarfs, the researchers estimate that the surface of rocky planets in the potentially habitable zones around red dwarfs would experience 100 to 1,000 times less of the UV light that may be important to the emergence of life than the young Earth would have.

    Chemistry that depends on UV light might shut down at such low levels, and even if it does proceed, it could operate at a much slower rate than on the young Earth, possibly delaying the advent of life.

    "It may be a matter of finding the sweet spot," said Dr Robin Wordsworth of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science.

    "There needs to be enough ultraviolet light to trigger the formation of life, but not so much that it erodes and removes the planet's atmosphere," said Dr Wordsworth, co-author of the study published in The Astrophysical Journal.

    Previous studies have shown that the red dwarf stars in systems such as TRAPPIST-1 may erupt with dramatic flares in UV.

    If the flares deliver too much energy, they might severely damage the atmosphere and harm life on surrounding planets.

    On the other hand, these UV flares may provide enough energy to compensate for the lower levels of UV light steadily produced by the star, researchers said.

Business Affairs

Saab Adani tie-up to bid for fighter jet deal in India
  • In what could be a big boost to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Make in India' initiative, Swedish aerospace and defence major Saab announced tying up with Gautam Aadani-led Adani Group to bid for manufacturing single engine fighter aircraft in India.
    "We are keen to play an instrumental role in making India a place for high-class defence manufacturing. This is in line with PM Modi's Make in India vision. Gripen will be offered to the Indian government under the strategic partnership model," Gautam Adani, Chairman of Adani Group said today.
    The partnership will compete with U.S. defence giant Lockheed Martin in a two horse-race to win a potential order from India's military for single-engine jets that will be produced locally under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "Make-in-India" initiative.
    The Saab-Adani partnership would be aimed at producing planes under India's new 'strategic partnership' policy, said Ratan Shrivastava, an independent New-Delhi-based consultant and adviser at India's industry lobby group FICCI.
    The partnership will likely be announced on Friday, Shrivastava said.
    Saab declined to comment. Saab President and Chief Executive Hakan Buskhe will host a media event in New Delhi on Friday, Saab said in a press invitation issued on Wednesday. It did not give details.
    There was no immediate comment from Adani, which is a $12 billion group with businesses ranging from energy and logistics to real estate and defence.
    Shares in Adani Enterprises Ltd, a group company, rose on Thursday after the news of the planned Saab tie-up and were trading about 2.7 percent higher. Saab shares were up 1.8 percent.
    Under India's new defence partnership policy, a foreign aircraft maker will collaborate with an Indian firm to develop a world-class indigenous aeronautical base that India has struggled to build for decades.
    Lockheed has already picked India's Tata Advanced Systems as its local partner to produce its F-16 fighter planes that will compete with Saab's Gripen aircraft.
    The government will issue a formal request to Lockheed and Saab over the next few days to provide information about their plans to design, develop and produce combat jets in India, a government official told Reuters earlier this week.
    India's air force needs hundreds of aircraft to replace its Soviet-era fleet, but Modi wants the planes built in India to help boost the domestic industrial base and cut imports.

India signs MoU with Switzerland; Railways to get Swiss tilting trains
  • India will collaborate with Switzerland for developing trains which will tilt on approaching a bend, just like a motorbike on a winding road.
    A memorandum of understanding was signed today between the two countries in this regard.
    Such trains are now operational in 11 countries -- Italy, Portugal, Slovenia, Finland, Russia, the Czech Republic, the UK, Switzerland, China, Germany and Romania.
    Explaining how the tilting trains work, officials said that as a train rounds a curve at speed it cause objects to slide about.
    "While it makes seated passengers feel squashed by the armrest, standing passengers tend to lose their balance. The design of the tilting trains counteract this," an official said.
    During a curve to the left, the train tilts to the left and vice versa, the official said.
    The railway ministry signed two MoUs with the Federal Department of the Environment, Transport and Communications of the Swiss Confederation for technical cooperation in rail sector in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
    The first agreement is a follow up on bilateral cooperation in rail sector discussed in the meeting held between Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and the Swiss Ambassador in July 2016.
    The MoU aims at cooperation in the areas of traction rolling stock, electric multiple unit and train sets, traction propulsion equipments, freight and passenger cars, tilting trains, railway electrification equipments, tunnelling technology among other things.
    The second MoU was signed between Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) and Swiss Federal Institute of Technology which will help the former in establishing the George Fernandes Institute of Tunnel Technology (GFITT) at Goa especially for assimilation and dissemination of knowledge in the field of tunnelling, the officials said.

2017 is the year of Digital at scale: Cognizant CEO
  • The IT Services industry may be facing significant headwinds - an era of de-globalization, tech disruptions, investor activism.  Nevertheless, Cognizant's CEO Francisco D'Souza remains optimist on the demand scenario as well as the future of employment in this sector. He spoke to Business Today on Thursday.

    1.    Demand: D'Souza insists the industry is not in the middle of a demand constrained environment. Close to $1 trillion is currently spent by global enterprises on IT services. Some companies, however, are struggling with technology disruptions of the current decade, everything from mobile and cloud computing to automation. Companies who have made investments in re-inventing themselves, don't see a contracting demand, he says. Cognizant, particularly, sees opportunities because of changes in the business model, the operating model and the underlying technology at enterprises, necessitated because of the migration to digital. While in 2016, enterprises executed smaller digital projects, 2017 is the year of "Digital at scale", D'Souza says. "We have end-to-end capability to do these three things for digital immigrants." The company tabulates 'digital' to be about 25 per cent of its business currently - it is also a higher margin service.   
    2.    Future of jobs: The role of technology is becoming bigger and more important across every enterprise. If that is the case, the world would require more technologists. The CEO believes that this is the good news; he is optimistic that the demand for technologists will not be outpaced by automation. The IT industry's workforce will, however, need to upgrade themselves periodically to remain relevant. "Your skills will be obsolete in five years - doesn't matter which university you come from," D'Souza says. This is an era of continuous learning. 

Former Infosys Chairman Seshasayee lashes out at Narayana Murthy, calls charges untrue, offensive
  • Former Infosys Chairman R Seshasayee responded to the allegations made by NR Narayana Murthy against the former Board of Directors, snubbing remarks by the co-founder of the company as "patently offensive" and "slanderous".
    Murthy had singled out Seshasayee and the Board in his address at an investors' meet on Tuesday, blaming them for not being clear on the issue of alleged governance lapses he had pointed out in the company, and misleading the shareholders instead. In support of his arguments, Murthy cited the Board's "inconsistent responses" on the issue of severance package paid to ex-CFO, Mr. Rajiv Bansal in October 2015.
    Seshasayee exclaimed that the statements attributed to him by Murthy were taken out of context to make it seem like he was not telling the truth to shareholders regarding the alleged governance lapses in the company.
    "I wish to categorically state that I have always been candid and truthful in all my statements concerning Infosys. To quote an anonymous whistleblower letter that alleged many things, which have subsequently been proved baseless and false through multiple investigations by highly respected counsel, in order to give an impression to the audience that I lied to the shareholders, is patently offensive," the former Chairman was quoted by The Economic Times in a statement. 
    "It is regrettable that Mr. Murthy's campaign on the alleged governance lapses has continually slipped into personal attacks and slander on individual Board members," the former Chairman said in a statement.
    Seshasayee said that portions Murthy attributed to Jeff Lehman and Roopa Kudva from private conversations with him have also been shockingly taken out of context. Jeff Lehman recently gave up the position of Director on Infosys board.
    Former Directors defend Seshasayee
    Meanwhile, Lehman defended Seshasayee as a competent Chairman. "During his tenure, Mr Seshasayee was scrupulously and tirelessly devoted to ensuring that the Board comply with all applicable principles of law and governance. For the good of Infosys, I wish Mr Murthy would stop quoting those lies as if they were reputable. For the good of Infosys, I wish Mr Murthy would stop defaming Mr Seshasayee and the other members of a Board who have served with dedication and integrity, who have turned the other cheek when slandered, and who have acted only in the best interests of the company," he said.
    John Etchemendy, another former Director on Infosys Board also came out in support of Seshasayee, calling him a "man of impeccable integrity" who did not say anything in public, or private, about the severance package to Rajiv Bansal that was not in accordance to the mood of the Board.

    LPG price hiked by Rs 7 per cylinder, ATF by 4%
    • Subsidised cooking gas (LPG) price was on Friday raised by over Rs 7 per cylinder, in line with the government's decision to hike prices every month so that all subsidises are eliminated by this fiscal-end.
      A subsidised 14.2-kg LPG cylinder now costs Rs 487.18 in Delhi as against Rs 479.77 previously, according to Indian Oil Corporation, the nation's largest fuel retailer.
      Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had on July 31 told the Lok Sabha that the government had asked state-owned oil companies to raise subsidised cooking gas (LPG) prices by Rs 4 per cylinder every month to eliminate all the subsidies by March next year.
      Rates were, however, raised by Rs 2.31 per cylinder on the previous due date on August 1 and the oil companies have effected a larger hike to equalise that, sources said.
      Since the implementation of the policy of monthly increases of Rs 2 from July last year, subsidised LPG rates have gone up by over Rs 68 per cylinder. A 14.2-kg LPG cylinder was priced at Rs 419.18 in June 2016.
      The government had previously asked IOC, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd (BPCL) and Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Ltd (HPCL) to raise rates of subsidised domestic LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) by Rs 2 per 14.2-kg cylinder per month (excluding VAT).
      The quantum has now been doubled so as to bring down the subsidy to nil.
      Every household is entitled to 12 cylinders of 14.2-kg each at subsidised rates in a year. Any requirement beyond that is to be purchased at market price.
      The price of non-subsidised LPG or market-priced cooking gas has also been hiked by Rs 73.5 to Rs 597.50 per bottle.
      Rates were at the last revision cut by Rs 40.
      Simultaneously, the oil companies also raised prices of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) by 4 per cent, in keeping with rising global rates.
      ATF, or jet fuel, now costs Rs 50,020 per kilolitre, Rs 1,910 more than Rs 48,110 previously. This hike comes on the back of a 2.3 per cent increase effected from August 1.
      Also, price of kerosene sold through public distribution system (PDS) was hiked by about 25 paise per litre.
      The government is adopting the same policy as in LPG for eliminating subsidy on kerosene. Since July 1 last year, rates have been been hiked by 25 paise per litre each fortnight.
      While Delhi has been declared a kerosene-free state, the fuel now costs Rs 22.27 per litre in Mumbai compared to Rs 22 previously. Kerosene was on July 1, 2016, priced at Rs 15.02 per litre in Mumbai.
      State-owned oil firms revise rates of LPG and ATF on 1st of every month based on average oil price and foreign exchange rate in the previous month.
      Today's hike in the LPG price is fourth since the May 30 order of the oil ministry to raise rates by Rs 4 per cylinder every month.
      There are as many as 18.11 crore customers of subsidised LPG in the country. These include 2.6 crore poor women who were given free connections during the last one year under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna.
      There are another 2.66 crore users of non-subsidised cooking gas.

    General Awareness

    BRICS Innovative Competitiveness Report 2017

    • On 29th august ,2017, BRICS Innovative Competitive Report 2017 was released by China Science and Technology Exchange Centre. The report says India is expected to surpass China in innovation competitiveness between 2025-2030. At present, China is the leading BRICS nation in innovation competitiveness. The report is a huge confidence booster for Indian government’s efforts at improving the innovation environment in the recent years.
      Observations: –
      • The report predicts that growth rate of Russia would also fall in coming years and India would take over Russia in terms of its comprehensive STI (Science Technology and Innovation) competitiveness by 2030.
      • BRICS countries have evolved as leading centres of Science and Technology development among developing countries. These countries- Brazil, Russia, China, India and South Africa – have also become a “globally important STI force
      • The report calls for an international collaboration among BRICS countries.
      About BRICS: –
      • The BRICS members are all leading developing or newly industrialized countries, but they are distinguished by their large, sometimes fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional affairs.
      • South Africa was inducted in this group in 2010.
      • 2016 BRICS summit was held at Goa.
      • 2017 BRICS summit will take place at Xiamen,China on  3-5 September 2017.

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