Current Affairs Current Affairs - 16 September 2017 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 16 September 2017

General Affairs 

President Launches 'Swachhta Hi Seva' Sanitation Campaign
  • Taking the central government's ambitious cleanliness drive to a higher trajectory, President Ram Nath Kovind today kicked off the fortnight-long 'Swachhta Hi Seva' (Cleanliness is Service) campaign from Uttar Pradesh.

    The campaign, aimed at highlighting the Narendra Modi government's flagship cleanliness initiative 'Swachh Bharat Mission', was launched from Ishwari Ganj village near Kanpur. The president also made people take a pledge to keep their surroundings clean.

    "Today we are fighting a different battle - battle against uncleanliness," he said. President Kovind said every person in the society was "rashtra nirmata" and invited NCC cadet Manish Dwivedi, who belongs to Kanpur, to the Rashtrapati Bhavan to meet him.

    "The responsibility shown by people of Ishwariganj village to make their village open defecation free is laudable. I hope others will take a cue from this village," he said.

    "We should make united efforts for cleanliness. It is not only the responsibility of the sanitation staff but all of us. Ensuring cleanliness will be the true tribute to Mahatma Gandhi," he said, adding diseases, including mental illness, can happen due to unclean atmosphere.

    President Kovind also had a word of praise for those women who refused to marry into homes without any toilets. He also appreciated actors Amitabh Bachchan and Akshay Kumar for their support to the cause.

    Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik said it was more important for a household to have a toilet than a place of worship.

    "Even if you do not have 'devghar' (place of worship), you must have toilets," he said.

    Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath thanked the president for launching the campaign in his home state.

    "The UP government has been associated with the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan and has constructed 10 lakh toilets so far. The target is to construct 78 lakh toilets by December 31, 2017 and make the state open defecation free (ODF) by October, 2018. I have written a letter to all the village heads for their support in this regard," he said.

    The chief minister said four districts - Shamli, Bijnor, Hapur and Ghaziabad - had been made open defecation free, while by December 31, 2017, 30 districts would be brought under the ODF category, and by October next year, all the 75 districts in in the state will become open defecation free.

    "We have made an anti-land mafia task force and the land freed from thus will be utilised for construction of houses for poor," he said.

    Speaking on the occasion, Union Drinking Water Sanitation Minister Uma Bharti noted the the main idea behind the campaign was to fulfil Mahatma Gandhi's dream of clean India and meet the prime minister's target of making the entire country open defecation free by 2019.

    The government has identified special dates during the campaign period. September 17 has been reserved for the voluntary work and cleanliness and construction of toilets.

    Vice President Venkaiah Naidu is scheduled to visit a village in Karnataka on September 17 and offer 'shramdaan' for toilet construction and general cleanliness.

    On September 24, citizens at panchayat and municipal levels will take up voluntary work. On September 25, cleaning of public places, bus stands, hospitals will be done.

    A special cleanliness drive is planned for 15 identified places on October 1.

    The Doordarshan will also broadcast a world premiere of the film 'Toilet: Ek Prem Katha' on September 17.

    September 17 also happens to be the birth date of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    On October 2, Gandhi Jayanti, which is also the Swachh Bharat Diwas, awards for essays, short film and painting competitions will be given.

India Pushing Myanmar To Take Back Rohingya Refugees, Says Sushma Swaraj
  •  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has expressed solidarity with Bangladesh over the Rohingya crisis and said India is putting pressure on Myanmar to take back refugees who have fled the Buddhist-majority nation, a top aide of Bangladesh Prime Minister has said.

    More than 300,000 Rohingya have poured into Bangladesh since the latest flare-up in violence on August 25, adding to around 300,000 refugees already living in Bangladesh, close to the border with Myanmar.

    "She (Swaraj) called our Prime Minister last night and conveyed her country's solidarity with Bangladesh over the Myanmar refugee issue," Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina deputy press secretary Nazrul Islam told PTI.

    Ms Swaraj, he said, told the Bangladesh premier that the crisis by now appeared as an international issue while India was trying to put "pressure bilaterally and multilaterally on Myanmar to stop persecution on ethnic minority Rohingya Muslims" and take back the refugees who fled to Bangladesh.

    According to the spokesman, PM Hasina, on the other hand, said Bangladesh was forced to offer refuge to the refugees on humanitarian ground as they fled their home at Myanmar's western Rakhine state to evade atrocities.

    He said Ms Hasina explained to Ms Swaraj the helplessness and miseries of the refugees, particularly of the minor children and women, and said Bangladesh is trying to address their basic needs.

    "She (Hasina) told Swaraj that Bangladesh required external supports to handle the refugee issue and return them to Myanmar," the spokesman said.

    Ms Hasina said her government allocated land for makeshift shelters of the Rohingyas "but, it will certainly create a big problem for Bangladesh if they stay for long".

    The premier's spokesman said Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla was present at the Hasina's Ganabhaban residence when Ms Swaraj called.

    Ms Swaraj's call came hours after the external affairs ministry issued a statement expressing India's readiness to provide Bangladesh "any assistance" in tackling the refugee crisis.

Centre Looks At Trimming Largest Ever List Of VIPs Who Get Special Security
  • The Narendra Modi government sanctions special security, seen by many to signal VIP status, to 475 people, compared to the 350 protected by the previous Congress-led government. The Union Home Ministry's current list is an all-time high despite PM Modi's firm drive against a VIP culture, and senior officers said the government is looking at reviewing and trimming it soon.

    "Some politicians are being provided security by NSG and also the paramilitary so some of them will lose their NSG cover," a senior ministry official said.

    Bihar politician Lalu Yadav who is guarded by both the elite National Security Guard (NSG) and the paramilitary CRPF, is no more a lawmaker and rarely moves out of his state now and his security is being reviewed, sources said, as is that for former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh of the BJP. Also M Karunanidhi, the 93-year-old leader of Tamil Nadu party the DMK, who is ill and barely moves out of his home. All these politicians currently have the highest Z plus security, which the government gives to 50 people, each guarded by 35 to 40 security personnel at any given time. The previous government had a list of 26. 

    Removing or scaling down security is easier said than done, sources said, with political pressure every time there is such a move. An officer said there are also many complaints that VIPs misbehave with the security staff.

    Special security is provided by the Centre and state governments under several categories ranging from X to Z plus based on a threat perception that the government assesses from time to time; the difference is in the number of security personnel that protect the person. People with Z category security get 30 guards, while people with Y Plus security get 11. 
    So 30 policemen and paramilitary personnel are assigned for yoga teacher Baba Ramdev's security. Spiritual leader Mata Aamritanandamayi too gets Z security, while Mahant Nritya Gopal Das, who is the chairman of the Ram Janmabhoomi Shrine Board gets Y security. Even controversial lawmaker Sakshi Maharaj is protected under the Y category.

    In addition, many people are given an NSG guard, including the children of at least 15 politicians, including union Home Minister Rajnath Singh's son Pankaj Singh, who is a first-time lawmaker.

    Uttar Pradesh has the most VIPs with special protection, including Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, former Chief Ministers Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati. 
    NSG officials say that at least 15 politicians are guarded by its black cat commandos, including Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal. The government had withdrawn the NSG from the Assam chief minister's security detail when the Congress' Tarun Gogoi held the post, but restored it when Mr Sonowal of the BJP took over.

    The CRPF protects almost 75 VVIPS, BJP President Amit Shah and Minister of Road and Transport Nitin Gadkari, the CISF guards 75, including national security adviser Ajit Doval and Minister of state for home Kiren Rijiju, while the ITBP is assigned to protect 18, including Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti and her predecessor Omar Abdullah.

    Mukesh Ambani, the country's richest man pays for Z category security for himself, and Y category for his wife Neeta Ambani.

'Fireball' On London Tube Is Terror Attack, Improvised Explosive Device Used
  • A number of passengers on a London Underground train were injured and some reported being "badly burned" after an explosion caused a "fireball" in a terror attack during the morning rush hour in the city. The Metropolitan Police have called it an "act of terror", which makes it the fourth attack this year in London. The police said an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) was used.

    London Ambulance Service tweeted that 18 people have been taken to a number of hospitals in the city. "We have taken 18 patients to a number of London hospitals. None are thought to be in a serious or life-threatening condition #ParsonsGreen," the tweet said.

    The explosion took place inside a plastic bucket left in a supermarket bag on a District Line train when it was at the Parsons Green station in west London.

    Witnesses reported seeing passengers who had suffered facial burns and had hair coming off, with at least two women seen being treated by medics amid scenes of panic. On social media, people shared that there was "mass screaming, shouting, stampede and running". "Explosion on Parsons Green District Line train. Fireball flew down carriage and we just jumped out open door," said Twitter user @Rrigs.

    Images from the train showed a burning bucket after the blast which was reported to have sent a "fireball" down the carriage. The bucket looked like the type used by builders and there appeared to be cables coming out of it.

    People were seen in tears and some appeared to be in shock as they were led away by policemen. 
    Tubes in the section have been suspended and passengers have been removed from nearby trains through back exits. Apart from the District Line, the central and Victoria Lines have also been affected. Services between Earls Court and Wimbledon have been suspended, the police said. The transport department tweeted that "London Buses, South Western and London Overground accepting tickets via any reasonable route".

    The fire department, the British Transport police and the Scotland Yard have taken over the area and cordoned it off. The police advised people to stay away.

    "We have a number of resources and specialists officers in attendance at the incident at#ParsonsGreen tube station," tweeted the Fire brigade. 
    Reports said a loud explosion was heard and "people were left with cuts and grazes from trying to flee the scene".

    One man was quoted as saying he had seen a passenger covered in blood.

    This year, Britain has already suffered three terror attacks, in which 36 people have been killed.

Foreign Media On Security Concerns Over Rohingyas In Nations Like India
  • Violence in Myanmar that's pushed nearly 400,000 Muslim refugees into neighboring Bangladesh is threatening to deepen sectarian tensions across the region.

    The exodus of Rohingya from Rakhine state has sparked concerns that politicians in countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Bangladesh and India could seek to capitalize on public anger over the treatment of a group that's considered stateless in Buddhist-majority Myanmar. There have been vocal rallies in some of those nations in recent days in support of the Rohingya.

    Militant group al-Qaeda has also urged Muslims, especially those in Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, and the Philippines to support the Rohingya in Myanmar financially, militarily and physically, according to SITE Intelligence Group.

    "The regional security implications of the Rakhine State crisis stem primarily from the risks of sectarian conflict as Muslim communities in Southeast Asia, accounting for almost half the region's population, grow increasingly angry over the treatment of Muslim Rohingya by Buddhist Rakhine," said Michael Vatikiotis, Asia Regional Director for the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue.

    "This sentiment is easily exploited by local political actors in Indonesia and Malaysia, where the rise of identity politics has increased the risk of religious conflict," said Vatikiotis, author of Blood and Silk: Power and Conflict in Modern Southeast Asia. "With over 370,000 recent arrivals in Bangladesh, where access to aid and shelter is challenging, many Rohingya may start to leave on boats and arrive on the shores of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand."

    The Rohingya could potentially become a domestic issue for Indonesia "as it could trigger a strong reaction from the people," said Hajriyanto Y. Thohari, deputy chairman of the country's second-largest Muslim organization, Muhammadiyah.

    In India, Junior Home Minister Kiren Rijiju had previously said the government wanted to deport an estimated 40,000 Rohingya living in India. On Wednesday he tweeted that the Rohingya issue "undermines India's security". The foreign ministry said Thursday it was sending aid to the Bangladesh port city of Chittagong.

    "India's airlift of humanitarian assistance to Chittagong today shows India's increasing willingness and capacity to act as a first responder to emergencies in the region," said Constantino Xavier, a fellow with Carnegie India. It also indicates "its preoccupation in stemming the refugee flow in Bangladesh, reducing their incentives to cross the border into India.

    Security Trigger

    The campaign by Myanmar's security forces was triggered by an August 25 attack by a Rohingya insurgent group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which killed a dozen security personnel.

    Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has since allotted thousands of acres for new camps to accommodate the nearly 400,000 Rohingya refugees now residing near the southern border with Myanmar. On Wednesday, Myanmar's leader Aung San Suu Kyi canceled next week's scheduled appearance before the United Nations General Assembly.

    Still, "the longer the refugees stay, the less welcoming Bangladesh will be," Sasha Riser-Kositsky, an Asia analyst at Eurasia Group, said by phone from New York.

    Myanmar's army said more than 400 Rohingya militants had been killed in the past few weeks, while Bangladesh police inspector Mainuddin Khan said at least 100 people had been found dead in the Naf river that separates Bangladesh and Myanmar. Human rights groups have said most of those killed were civilians.

    A report from Amnesty International released overnight found evidence of a "mass-scale scorched-earth campaign" by Myanmar's security forces and vigilante mobs. The group also said soldiers were planting landmines along the northern part of the Bangladesh border on two busy paths used by Rohingya.

    Protest Note

    Reports of the landmines prompted the foreign ministry in Dhaka to send a protest note to Myanmar Speaking to Bloomberg by phone, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque confirmed the existence of the note but would not disclose its content.

    United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters on Wednesday the situation was "catastrophic".

    The treatment of the Rohingya in Myanmar has repeatedly generated accusations of mass murder in recent years. Many of the country's 53 million people view the 800,000 Rohingya, who are denied citizenship, as illegal migrants from what is now Bangladesh. Rakhine Muslims constitute the single biggest stateless community in the world.

    The international condemnation of Myanmar could yet threaten the flow of international investment into the fast-growing Southeast Asian nation, which saw the U.S. and Europe begin to ease sanctions after the military junta released Suu Kyi from house arrest in 2010.

    Foreign investment plunged 30 percent last fiscal year after overseas investors pumped a record $9.5 billion into the economy in the preceding 12 months. The investment shortfall has coincided with concern over the direction of the government's economic agenda.

    "A key concern is that Myanmar becomes synonymous with sanctions and human rights violations," said Erin Murphy, founder of Inle Advisory Group and former Special Assistant to the U.S. Government Office of the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Myanmar.

Business Affairs

US approves its first cancer biosimilar, India has several already
  • The United States of America is now for the first time getting a taste of a locally approved biosimilar drug for treating cancer. What it can do by way of lowering of drug prices, the various other advantages and challenges that come with it. This follows the announcement by the US drug regulator, the USFDA (US Food and Drug Administration) on Thursday, September 14th that it has approved the first biosimilar for the treatment of cancer. The regulator has approved Mvasi (bevacizumab-awwb) as a biosimilar to Avastin (bevacizumab) - Innovator company Roche - for the treatment of multiple types of cancer. "Mvasi", a note issued by the USFDA says, "is the first biosimilar approved in the U.S. for the treatment of cancer." Then, the USFDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb is quoted as saying: "Bringing new biosimilars to patients, especially for diseases where the cost of existing treatments can be high, is an important way to help spur competition that can lower healthcare costs and increase access to important therapies." He further says: "We'll continue to work hard to ensure that biosimilar medications are brought to the market quickly, through a process that makes certain that these new medicines meet the FDA's rigorous gold standard for safety and effectiveness." This may be good news for Indian companies wanting to launch biosimilars in the US. As against innovator drug, biosimilars, as many know, are very loosely the generic drug equivalents in the biotech drug space
    For good or for bad, depending on who is viewing it, India has taken a lead here and going by the official figures, there are around 24 biosimilar drugs in all that have already been approved by the Indian regulator since 2011. In fact, for this very innovator drug, Avastin, doctors talk of some half a dozen biosimilars already available in the Indian market and being sold at as low as half the price. With a biosimilar policy also in place, what India may want to focus only on, as doctors say, is to ensure a constant eye on quality and on the clinical trials, as they hold the key in biotech drugs.
    The development on this front in the US needs to be watched closely. For, it may be an exciting piece of news for patients and insurance companies since there is competition leading to lowering of cancer drug prices. What however needs to be seen is how it will play out and the response of the innovator companies, for whom many of their drugs are leading products in the market. Avastin for instance is one of the top selling drugs of Roche.
    Mvasi, the USFDA note exaplains, is a biosimilar to the cancer drug Avastin, is approved for certain colorectal, lung, brain, kidney and cervical cancers.
    It however adds a word of caution: "Health care professionals should review the prescribing information in the labeling for detailed information about the approved uses." And says: "Biological products are generally derived from a living organism and can come from many sources, such as humans, animals, microorganisms or yeast. A biosimilar is a biological product that is approved based on data showing that it is highly similar to an already-approved biological product and has no clinically meaningful differences in terms of safety, purity and potency (i.e., safety and effectiveness) from the reference product, in addition to meeting other criteria specified by law." And that the "FDA's approval of Mvasi is based on review of evidence that included extensive structural and functional characterization, animal study data, human pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamics data, clinical immunogenicity data and other clinical safety and effectiveness data that demonstrates Mvasi is biosimilar to Avastin. It has been approved as a biosimilar, not as an interchangeable product."
    The FDA, it adds, "granted approval of Mvasi to Amgen, Inc. Avastin was approved in February 2004 and is manufactured by Genentech, Inc" (a member of the Roche Group).
    Meanwhile, Amgen, in a media release issued on the same day said: Amgen and Allergan plc.announced that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved MVASI (bevacizumab-awwb) for all eligible indications of the reference product, Avastin (bevacizumab). MVASI is the first anti-cancer biosimilar, as well as the first bevacizumab biosimilar, approved by the USFDA. MVASI is approved for the treatment of five types of cancer, including in combination with chemotherapy for non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), in combination with chemotherapy for metastatic colorectal cancer (mCRC), glioblastoma, metastatic renal cell carcinoma in combination with interferon alfa and in combination with chemotherapy for persistent, recurrent, or metastatic carcinoma of the cervix." And added this quote: "The approval of MVASI marks a significant milestone for healthcare practitioners and patients as the first anti-cancer biosimilar approved in the United States," said Sean E. Harper, executive vice president of Research and Development at Amgen. "With decades of experience in oncology and biologics, Amgen continues to expand its biosimilar and oncology portfolios, and MVASI has the potential to advance access to high-quality, targeted cancer therapy."

Forex reserves on BoP basis jump by $11.4 billion in Q1: RBI Report
  • The forex reserves on the balance of payment basis rose by USD 11.4 billion in the April-June quarter of fiscal 2018, compared to USD 7 billion in the year-ago quarter, according to the RBI data.
    On nominal terms, the foreign exchange reserves increased by USD 16.6 billion during the first quarter against increase of USD 3.3 billion during the same period last year.
    There was a decline in capital account balance by USD 14.3 billion against the fall of USD 0.4 billion year ago.
    Capital account increased by USD 25.7 billion in the first quarter compared to USD 7.4 billion.
    Foreign direct investment surged by USD 7.2 billion in the reporting period from USD 3.9 billion in the same period last year, RBI data showed.
    Foreign institutional investment flows increased by USD 11.9 billion in the first quarter from USD 1.2 billion in the same period last year.
    External commercial borrowing declined by USD 0.3 billion in the quarter from USD 2 billion in the same period last year, the data showed.
    Highlights of India's balance of payments in Q1 of 2017-18, as mentioned by RBI, are:
    • India's current account deficit (CAD) at US$ 14.3 billion (2.4 per cent of GDP) in Q1 of 2017-18 increased sharply from US$ 0.4 billion (0.1 per cent of GDP) in Q1 of 2016 -17 and US$ 3.4 billion (0.6 per cent of GDP) in Q4 of 2016-17.
    • The widening of the CAD on a year-on-year (y-o-y) basis was primarily on account of a higher trade deficit (US$ 41.2 billion) brought about by a larger increase in merchandise imports relative to exports.
    • Net services receipts increased by 15.7 per cent on a y-o-y basis mainly on the back of a rise in net earnings from travel, construction and other business services.
    • Private transfer receipts, mainly representing remittances by Indians employed overseas, at US$ 16.1 billion increased by 5.3 per cent over the corresponding quarter of previous year.
    • In the financial account, net foreign direct investment at US$ 7.2 billion in Q1 of 2017-18 almost doubled from its level in Q1 of 2016-17.
    • Net portfolio investment recorded substantial inflow of US$ 12.5 billion in Q1 of 2017-18, primarily in the debt segment, as compared with US$ 2.1 billion in Q1 of last year.
    • Net receipts on account of non-resident deposits amounted to US$ 1.2 billion in Q1 of 2017-18; this was lower than US$ 1.4 billion a year ago.
    • In Q1 of 2017-18, there was an accretion of US$ 11.4 billion to the foreign exchange reserves (on BoP basis) as compared with US$ 7.0 billion in Q1 of 2016-17 (Table 1) and US$ 7.3 billion in the preceding quarter.

Why government's decision to keep diesel, petrol prices high is good economics but bad politics
  • Political rivals along with a section of economists are up to get goat of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, blaming them for keeping the prices of petrol and diesel high to make up for the revenue deficit and 'looting' people at large. On the contrary, this is an unpopular decision, but full credit needs to be given to the NDA regime for sticking to this decision and believing in the economic benefits. It is good economics to keep the prices of petrol and diesel higher, especially when country is reforming the energy usage pattern and is dependent on the imports of oil to suffice demand.
    But it is obviously bad politics, as it is creating unrest among urban voters, who are paying through their nose to buy these fuels. But is this good economics to keep oil prices high via taxes, in days of subdued crude oil prices globally. The answer is yes. Most of the economists, believe that it is much wiser to pay tax upfront than let inflation and other means squeeze this money from our pockets. Consumers of petrol and diesel are facing heavy taxation, but they also reaped the benefits when the prices were controlled. But this also defeats the argument of decontrol, where consumer gets benefit of low prices and pays hefty when prices are higher.

    But there is a weight in high taxation, at least at a bigger picture. The biggest argument that backs Jaitley and Pradhan duo's decision of heavy taxation is, despite the artificially higher petrol and diesel prices the demand for these products is growing. Not exponentially as earlier, but growth is still healthy.
    In FY 2016/17, India consumed 194.2 million tonne, roughly 5 per cent higher than FY 2015/16 numbers of 184.6 million tonne. But the growth from 2014/15 numbers was 11.5 per cent. Although India has substantial 230 million metric tonnes of refining capacity, yet requires importing 78 per cent of the raw material crude oil. Last year, India paid $70 billion (despite soft crude oil prices) to import crude oil. The jump in demand from world's third largest consumer of oil, would not only jack up the crude oil prices globally, but will also impact the currency rate. Indian rupee appreciated by more than 5 per cent in the last one year, would have gone for a toss. More purchase of crude oil obviously will impact the current account deficit, especially when the exports from India are down. This could have snowballed into higher inflation economy. In an era of slower growth, higher rate of inflation would have created more problems.
    Along with this, heavier taxation is allowing government some extra money to push infrastructure spending. In this year's budget Jaitley promised spending of Rs 3,96,135 crore in upgrading and creating new infrastructure in the country. This includes roads, railways, ports, transmission facilities et al. Some of the money is been generated internally, but much of it is coming from the state's coffers.
    From August 1, India has already moved towards daily correction of prices for both petrol and diesel. This practice is globally accepted practice. The US market is much more liberal, and allows the retailers to decide the price, unlike India where oil marketing companies decide price based on international prices of petroleum products.
    On Friday, the price of a liter of petrol at any Indian Oil outlet was priced at Rs Rs 70.43. Out of this, the dealers pay Rs 30.41 (without taxes) to Indian Oil and keep Rs 3.57 as their margins. Out of rest Rs 36.43, Rs 14.97 go to Delhi government and rest Rs 21.48 goes to union government. Delhi again gets nearly Rs 11.59 out of collection of union government. This is true for all the states in the country.
    Petroleum products, along with sales of alcohol, real estate and electricity are kept out of GST. These products make most for the state exchequer. For example: Delhi government pockets Rs 26.56 in sale of every liter of petrol. During the discussion on GST, many states shared their apprehensions of losing the revenues these items are brought into GST ambit. If the taxes come down, especially, when the state governments are finding it difficult to match the expenditures for the social development programmes, it would be nightmare for the centre to achieve structural changes in the Indian economy.
    The second argument, which supports high taxation on petrol and diesel during the low crude oil prices is that it allows to control the demand for these products. India, along with other major economies is moving towards use of renewable energy and to replace petrol & diesel with electricity as transportation fuel. The soft oil prices are here to stay. Most of the global oil analysts feel, maximum oil could touch is $60 a barrel. In pockets, India has decent density of utilization of natural gas as transport fuel, but a better network of gas supplies would have made this phase much smoother. Recently, Pradhan argued that nearly a dozen countries have petrol and diesel prices higher than India. But what he didn't tell us, that why they have higher prices. Many of these countries are pushing their consumer towards cleaner fuels. India is still far from seeing this infrastructure. In comparison to more than 57,000 petrol or diesel outlets, there are only 1094 CNG outlets. Moreover, there are only 32.8 lakh consumers of piped gas, than 18 crore LPG consumers.
    But since India is jumping this age, and is moving with renewable wave, there is a massive push to rooftop solar and solar parks to replace the peak load. It is inevitably replacing the diesel based generation units. This is coupled with the drop in prices of solar panels and stagnant (or higher prices) of diesel. As per CEA's estimates, country has 90 GW of such capacity. Back of the book calculations suggest that the DG units generate 5 units of electricity on consumption of one liter of diesel. This fuel is priced at Rs 59.08 in Gurugram, and a unit of electricity produced with it will cost Rs 11.82 and power from solar rooftop on an average will cost around Rs 5 a unit. Diesel there is taxed around Rs 26.29 (Haryana + Centre taxes). This advantage is also gauged in the country's biggest transporter Indian Railways.
    The higher price of diesel and cheaper electricity makes the case for railways to increase the speed of electrification from 1000 KM annually to around 3500 KM, and it makes the efforts to outsource this to Power Grid and EESL more lucrative. India consume half of diesel for transportation, nearly all petrol consumption goes in cars and bikes. The benefit of renewable being more eco-friendly and more stable comes in bundle.
    In this debate, both sides have solid arguments, hope at the end the country wins.

Bitcoin takes a hit: Value against Indian Rupee slumps 40 per cent in two weeks
  • The dream run for cryptocurrencies seems to have hit a wall, as Bitcoin values with respect to Indian Rupee kept decreasing over the past two weeks. The value of Bitcoin in India slipped down to Rs 1,93,799.20 by the end of day on Friday. This steep depreciation has come shortly after the Reserve Bank of India showed distrust in the leading virtual currency, and a few days after its value reached a new high earlier this month.
    As per statistics on, an online currency exchange tool provider, Bitcoin reached a new high of Rs 3,17,546.24 on September 2, highest in the last 12 months, before its value fell back to where it started a year ago. The website stated that one unit of Bitcoin was worth Rs 1,94,704.70 on September 15, 2016. This translates to a decline of almost 38.9 per cent in its value with respect to Indian Rupee during the course of 13 days.
    Bitcoin has been hailed as a revolution in monetary transactions, and a profitable investment, on account of its fast-growing value. It gained popularity due to the same reasons, despite no government authority controlling it. Only recently, the virtual currencies had been losing their ground due to regulators' distrust in them.
    Recently, the RBI reportedly started looking into prospects of making Bitcoin and other virtual currencies legal tender. It remains to be seen, though, whether RBI intends to issue a recommendation on cryptocurrencies to the government, or if the review is at an early or advanced stage. While this might lead to virtual currencies becoming fiat money, the central bank is still doubtful of them.
    "As regards non-fiat cryptocurrencies, I think, we are not comfortable with them," Sudarshan Sen, a RBI executive director, recently stated at a conference in Mumbai.
    Fiat currency, or fiat money, is a currency approved as legal tender by the government, but is not backed by any physical commodity.
    "Fiat will be when the Reserve Bank, for example, starts issuing digital currency which you can carry in cyberspace, you don't have physical currency in your pocket," Sen had said.
    Earlier this month, the RBI had told a parliamentary panel about possible 'black money risks' from virtual currencies. The central bank had mentioned that virtual currencies are susceptible to misuse by terrorists and fraudsters laundering money. China has also moved against cryptocurrencies recently, closing down its local cryptocurrency exchanges.

    Sensex, Nifty fall after North Korea fires second ballistic missile over Japan
    • Sensex, Nifty fell on Friday, tracking Asian markets lower, as geopolitical tensions following another missile launch by North Korea dampened sentiment and as profit taking was seen in recent outperformers such as banks and pharma stocks.
      Asian shares ex-Japan and US stock futures dipped after Pyongyang fired a missile over Japan into the Pacific Ocean on Friday, demonstrating the reclusive state's defiance in the face of intensifying sanctions.
      "The market sentiment is subdued following (North Korea's) missile launch and also consolidation seems to be happening across sectors, including pharma and banks," said Gaurang Shah, head investment strategist at Geojit Financial Services.
      The broader Nifty was down 0.36 percent at 10,050.15, while the benchmark BSE Sensex was 0.26 percent lower at 32,156.74 as of 0551 GMT.
      Sun Pharmaceutical Industries and Dr. Reddy's Laboratories, which gained in the last three sessions, fell 1.5 percent and 1.1 percent, respectively.
      The Nifty Pharma Index was down 0.9 percent, on track to break its three-day winning streak.
      Private lender Axis Bank fell 1.3 percent after gaining more than 2 percent this month up to Thursday's close.
      The Nifty Bank Index was 0.3 percent lower, and was set to post its first loss this week.
      State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp Ltd however rose as much as 4.4 percent, the top percentage gainer on the NSE index, and in line to snap a three-session losing run.
      Shares of Max Financial Services Ltd surged as much as 4.8 percent after at least seven block deals took place on the BSE early in the session.

    General Awareness

    London retains top in 2017 Global Financial Centres Index;Mumbai ranked at 60th position

    • London retains top rank in Global Financial Centres Index 2017; Mumbai ranked at 60th position
      On 11th September 2017, Global Financial Centres Index 2017 was released, in which London has retained its 1 rank despite major issues regarding Brexit.
      On 11th September 2017, Global Financial Centres Index 2017 was released, in which London has retained its 1 rank despite major issues regarding Brexit.
      Global Financial Centres Index 2017:-
      Global Financial Centres Index 2017:
      i.This is the 22nd edition of Global Financial Centres Index.
      ii.The Global Financial Centres Index provides ranking of competitiveness for the major financial centres around the world.
      iii.The Global Financial Centres Index is compiled by China Development Institute (CDI) in Shenzhen and Z/Yen Partners in London.
      iv.The first GFCI was released in March 2007.
      v.GFCI is updated twice a year in March and September.
      vi.London has retained its 1st position this year also in spite of Brexit (exit of United Kindom from European Union).
      vii.  London is followed by New York in the second position and Hong Kong in the third.
      viii. The difference in points between second and third positions were very less.
      To prepare this 22nd edition of GFCI 108 financial centres all over the world were studied
      The rankings were done based on the following 5 areas of competitiveness:
      ix.To prepare this 22nd edition of GFCI 108 financial centres all over the world were studied.
      x.The rankings were done based on the following 5 areas of competitiveness:
      – Business Environment
      – Human Capital
      – Infrastructure
      – Financial Sector Development
      – Reputation
      xi.Mumbai has managed to get 60th rank in the list.
      xii.An overall drop in confidence was seen among leading financial centres.
      xiii.The top five positions did not see much of a change.
      xiv.Asia Pacific region’s leading financial centres have seen a downfall.All Eastern      European financial centres have shown a rise in their rankings.
      xvi.All North American leading financial centres had a downfall.
      xvii.Latin American centres have done well.
      xviii.Middle East and Africa have shown mixed results.
      xix.China has shown a good development. Chinese financial Centres Shanghai is in 6th rank and Shenzen is in 20thrank.
      About United Kingdom
      Capital – London
      Currency – Pound sterling
      Official language – Englis
      Prime Minister – Ms.Theresa May

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