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Current Affairs - 17 September 2017

General Affairs 

Piyush Goyal Suggests Out-Of-Turn Promotions For Staff Averting Rail Accidents
  • In the wake of a series of recent train accidents in the country, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal today suggested out-of-turn promotions for those staff who take timely action to avert mishaps.

    Speaking at a review meeting with senior officials of the South Western Railway, he asserted that such schemes will boost the morale of the staff.

    Terming the recent train accidents as "unfortunate", Mr Goyal called upon the railway staff to work diligently for ensuring complete safety in running trains, a release by the South Western Railway said.

    "The minister suggested various schemes such as granting out-of-turn promotion for the staff who take timely action to avert accidents. He said such schemes will go a long way in boosting the morale of the staff," it said.

    The BJP leader emphasised that safety shall be given top most priority and track renewal works be taken up expeditiously.

    He also asked the Railways to develop an action plan for eliminating unmanned level crossing gates in a year's time, instead of 2019-20 as planned earlier.

Didn't Like Your Meal On Train? You Can Now Rate It On A Tablet
  • A rant on social media may soon not be the only option for rail passengers unhappy with the food served to them on their journeys. Passengers on superfast trains such as Rajdhani and Shatabdi will soon be able to give instant feedback on a tablet that will be passed around passengers before they get off the train.

    In this, passengers will be asked to rate different aspects of the food being served - on quality, quantity, presentation, staff behaviour and overall satisfaction - on a scale of 1-5.

    If the rating is three or less, the passenger would be requested to elaborate.  For instance, if a passenger isn't happy with his or her meal, the person will be asked to elaborate. Was it the taste, presentation or something else?

    About 100 tablets have already been passed on.

    The instant feedback system was tried on the Ahmedabad-Delhi Rajdhani on Saturday. Over the next few weeks, on-board supervisors of the railway's catering subsidiary, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation, or IRCTC will move around other premium trains as well before the system is formally launched on the Mumbai Rajdhani, said IRCTC's Pinakin Morawala.

    "This will help us be more specific with the redress of complaints and suggestions. We will be able to gauge customer satisfaction as well as grade the suggestions," Mr Morawala said, according to news agency Press Trust of India.

    The IRCTC has the catering contract for 40 trains including the Rajdhani, Duronto and Shatabdi.

    "As of now, we are targeting 10 per cent of passengers in a train for feedback. Eventually we could raise our target," the official said.

    Passengers will get a confirmation message on their mobile phones so that no one else can manipulate the feedback system.

    Officials said since a large number of passengers on a particular train would be reporting their experience. The numbers would even out biases that otherwise get highlighted. It would also make it easier for supervisors to narrow down a problem area. Or let them know what clicked with passengers.

    The initiative comes weeks after the country's top auditor, Comptroller and Auditor General came down heavily on the Railways saying that cleanliness and hygiene was not maintained in catering units at stations, and in trains, foodstuff unsuitable for human consumption had been served.

Oppose 'Third Party', Says China on India-Japan's Northeast Plan
  • Reacting to Japan's plan to step up investments in the northeastern states in India, China said it was against the involvement of a "third party" in the region where it has boundary disputes with India.

    Keeping in line with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 'Act East' policy, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe - who was in India on a two-day visit earlier this week - announced increased Japanese investment in infrastructure projects such as road connectivity and electricity in the northeast, a region New Delhi sees as a gateway to Southeast Asia. A joint statement issued on Thursday after a bilateral meeting between the two leaders announced the setting up of the Act East Forum.

    "You also mentioned Act East policy. You must be clear that the boundary of India and China border area has not been totally delimited. We have disputes on the eastern section of the boundary," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said.

    "We are now trying to seek a solution through negotiations that is acceptable to both sides. Under such circumstances, various parties should respect such aspects and any third party should not be involved in our efforts to resolve the disputes," Ms Hua said.

    Shinzo Abe's visit came days after New Delhi and Beijing agreed to end the longest and most serious military confrontation in Doklam, near Sikkim. The 70-day stand-off started in June when India sent troops to stop China building a road in the Doklam area, a remote, uninhabited territory claimed by both China and India's ally Bhutan. Delhi says the road is a serious security concern because it changes the status quo at the tri-junction of the borders of India, China and Bhutan.

    The Chinese spokesperson, however, said there was no mention of China anywhere in the India-Japan joint statement nor has she seen any "innuendos" referred to Beijing as stated by the media. "We are also closely following the Japanese Prime Minister's visit to India. I read the joint statement carefully but I have not found the statement mentioned the term China at all," she said.

    The India-Japan joint statement said, "the two Prime Ministers welcomed the India-Japan cooperation on development of India's North Eastern Region (NER) as a concrete symbol of developing synergies between India's Act East policy and Japan's Free and Open Indo Pacific Strategy."

    "India and Japan are important countries in Asia. We hope the normal development of the relationship can be conducive to regional, peace and development and play a constructive role in this process," the Chinese spokesperson said.

    In an indirect reference to Japan, Hua said, "We also hope various parties can uphold the rights to freedom of navigation of over flights by countries in various waters." China and Japan have a dispute over the uninhabited islands called Senkakus by Japan and Diaoyu islands by China in the East China Sea where naval ships of both the countries aggressively patrol the waters around the islands.

    Relations have deepened between India and Japan - Asia's second and third largest economies - as Mr Abe and PM Modi, who enjoy a close personal relationship, increasingly see eye-to-eye to balance China as the dominant Asian power.

2 Terrorists Killed In Jammu And Kashmir's Machil Sector, Infiltration Bid Foiled
  • Two terrorists were killed today as the Indian Army foiled an infiltration bid along the Line of Control (LoC) in Machil sector of north Kashmir's Kupwara district, defence officials said in Srinagar.

    "An infiltration bid has been foiled in Machil sector and two terrorists have been killed," defence spokesman Col. Rajesh Kalia said.

    He said troops noticed suspicious movement along the LoC and challenged the intruders, leading to a gunfight in which the two terrorists were killed.

    Weapons have been recovered from the terrorists, the spokesman said. 

Ayurveda Students Set Guinness Book Record In Jaipur
  • As many as 733 ayurveda students here today entered the Guinness Book of World Record for most people receiving 'Naysa Karm', an ayurvedic treatment, simultaneously for over seven minutes.

    'Nasya karm' (treatment) refers to the ayurvedic therapy that includes instillation of herbal oils, juices or powders through the nasal route. It works specifically on disorders of ear, nose and throat.

    'Nasya' is one of the five 'panchakarma' techniques used in ayurvedic detoxification therapies.

    The students, who gathered here from various ayurvedic institutions across the country on the second day of the three-day youth festival at the National Ayurveda Institute, have set the record for "most people receiving panchkarm treatment simultaneously".

    The official adjudicator of the Guinness Book of World Record, Swapnil Dangarikar, gave away the certificate, saying it was impressive to see ayurveda students performing 'Nasya Karm'. 
    Addressing the event, BJP MP from Jaipur Ramcharan Bohra said one can achieve good health by adopting ayurveda and also have better longevity of life.

    Rajasthan Lokayukta S S Kothari said one should answer the world through their work and not through speech.

    The world record set by the students is true example that the ayurveda is a best medicine practice in the world, he said.

Business Affairs

How small creditors using new bankruptcy law to put the squeeze on big players
  • In late June, one of India's top wind power equipment makers, Inox Wind Ltd, was dragged into insolvency courts by a logistics handler over unpaid dues of $88,000. Two weeks on, the matter was settled, with dues paid off.
    The case illustrates how small creditors and vendors, previously at the mercy of large debtors, are now using India's new bankruptcy code as a pressure ploy to secure payment of dues that would earlier have been all but impossible to recover.
    India overhauled bankruptcy laws last year with the main goal of helping banks tackle a $150-billion bad loan issue that is crimping growth in the economy.
    Less than a year on, insolvency professionals say it is vendors and small suppliers, also referred to as operational creditors, who are using the new rules as leverage to recover dues much more effectively than banks owed far larger sums.
    "It is not necessarily a negative thing, but it was not the objective of the new code," said Ashish Chhawchharia, a partner at Grant Thornton who works on insolvency cases.
    The new rules give any creditor owed 100,000 rupees ($1,560) the right to drag a multi-billion dollar company to court.
    They lay out a stringent timeline for resolution, or force debtors into automatic liquidation, giving outsize influence to vendors and suppliers who would normally rank well below secured financial creditors, such as lender banks, in any bankruptcy process.
    But they have also stirred fears of a tsunami of cases jeopardising the plans of banks with billions of dollars at stake, and which are forced to join such proceedings.
    "If an operational creditor initiates a process, that basically brings in unwilling financial creditors, even if they do not deem it the right time or course of action," said leading insolvency lawyer Sumant Batra.
    The court that handles such bankruptcy cases, the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), should first test the intent of any operational creditor making a bankruptcy plea, he added.
    "NCLT has to hold an enquiry at the beginning to determine whether this has been filed only for recovery of debt, or whether this has been actually filed for a resolution or a liquidation process."


    Swedish telecom equipment firm Ericsson became the first high-profile foreign vendor to use the tool, filing a petition this week to drag Indian telecom carrier Reliance Communications to insolvency courts over unpaid dues of $180 million.
    By comparison, RCom, as the company is widely known, owes nearly $7 billion to its banks, who have agreed to a standstill over its servicing obligations until year end, while the company attempts to restructure.
    RCom said it plans to challenge the Ericsson plea.
    About 1,000 insolvency petitions have been triggered since early 2017, when the first case was admitted under the new rules, but consultant EY estimates about 80 percent of these were withdrawn following out-of-court settlements.
    About 60 percent of the cases brought to the NCLT are initiated by operational creditors, industry estimates show.
    Sanjay Ruia, a Mumbai chartered accountant who took a holiday tour operator to bankruptcy court over unpaid audit and advisory fees, said the law had made it easier for creditors like himself who would formerly have struggled to recover dues.
    Still, many fear the arm-twisting tactics could make life tougher for secured financial creditors, who must make steep balance-sheet provisions for loans to borrower firms entangled in bankruptcy proceedings.
    For its part, Inox Wind, which settled the dispute with the logistics firm, remains a "solvent company with excellent financial health" and has been regular in servicing all commitments to its lenders, it said in a statement in July.

No any further extension in filing of returns under GST, says Hasmukh Adhia
  • Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia today ruled out any further extension in filing of returns under GST after December. "Taxpayers should not wait for the last day. The general tendency is that people wait for the last day resulting in heavy rush," Adhia said. GSTR-3, which is the match of GSTR-1 and GSTR-2, was needed to be filed by September 30. However, for easier compliance, the council allowed businesses to file simplified GSTR-3B for four more months till December.
    According to a news agency report, the Revenue Secretary said: "We have kept long deadlines for GST filing. For at least six months the taxpayers have to file their own assessment. There will be no extension later." He was speaking to reporters after the first meeting of the Group of Ministers that was formed to tackle IT-related glitches. Earlier this week, various states had raised the technical glitch issues while filing the GST returns.
    Adhia said: "Initial hiccups are there but no mass scale failure. Initial issues need to be sorted out. We have decided a plan of action. The attempt was to work around the difficulties to eliminate problems, leading to better understanding of all stakeholders." The GST Council has given businesses to file GSTR-3B till December.
    The GST Council had in its last meet decided to form a five-member panel to look into the technical glitches facing GST-Network or GSTN. The GSTN, the information technology backbone and portal for real-time taxpayer registration, migration, and tax return filing under the GST, had faced downtime when the first deadline for filing of returns approached, forcing the government to extend the last date.
    Last week, while briefing reporters after the 21st GST Council meeting, the Revenue Secretary said that for companies with turnover of over Rs 100 crore, the last date for filing GSTR-1 will be October 3. For the rest, it will be October 10. Also, filing of GSTR-2 for July will have to be done by October 31, and GSTR-3 by November 10.

GST transitional credit: Taxpayers claim Rs 65,000 crore as refund of Rs 95,000 crore collected under GST. Govt orders probe
  • The government has received a rude shock with a whopping Rs 65,000 crore of the Rs 95,000 crore collected as GST in July being claimed back as transitional credit by taxpayers. The tax authorities are now scrutinising all such cases where the sum exceeds Rs 1 crore.
    The Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime, which came into effect from July 1, allows tax credit on stock purchased during the previous tax regime. This claim is available only up to 6 months from the date of implementation of GST. The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC), the apex body which administers control over indirect taxes, has in a letter dated September 11 asked tax officials to verify GST transitional credit claims of over Rs 1 crore made by 162 entities.
    In the transitional credit form TRAN-1 filed by taxpayers along with their maiden returns for July, businesses have claimed a credit of over Rs 65,000 crore for excise, service tax or VAT paid before the GST was implemented from July 1. CBEC has in a letter to all chief commissioners said that carry forward of transitional credit is permitted only when such credit is permissible under the GST law and in the light of such huge claims the issue has to be closely looked into.
    "The possibility of claiming ineligible credit due to a mistake or confusion cannot be ruled out. It is desired that the claims of input tax credit of more than Rs 1 crore may be verified in a time-bound manner,'' the CBEC letter states. It asked the chief commissioners to send a report to the CBEC by September 20 on the claims made by these 162 companies.
    To ensure only eligible credit is carried forward in the GST regime, the CBEC has asked field offices to match the credit claimed with closing balance in returns filed under the earlier law. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had told journalists after the GST Council meeting last week that as many as 70 per cent of the 60 lakh taxpayers had filed returns for July, amounting to maiden revenue of Rs 95,000 crore under GST.
    The finance minister was upbeat on the success of the new tax regime. However, it has now turned out that the input tax credit (ITC) data for Central GST (CGST) claimed in TRAN-1 has shown that registered businesses have claimed over Rs 65,000 crore as transitional credit. The government, in late August, had come out with form TRAN-1 for businesses to claim credit for taxes paid on transition stock.    
    Traders and retailers had 90 days to file for a claim. Also, businesses have been allowed to revise the form once till October 31. Under the transition rules, traders and retailers are allowed to claim a credit of 60 per cent of taxes paid earlier against the CGST or SGST dues where the tax rate exceeds 18 per cent. In cases where the GST rate is below 18 per cent, only 40 per cent deemed credit will be available against CGST and SGST dues.
    Further, the government would also refund 100 per cent excise duty on goods that cost above Rs 25,000 and bear a brand name of the manufacturer and are serially numbered such as TV, fridge or car chassis.
    To avail this, a manufacturer can issue a Credit Transfer Document (CTD) to the dealer as evidence of excise payment on goods cleared before the introduction of GST. The dealer availing credit using CTD will also have to maintain copies of all invoices relating to buying and selling from the manufacturer, through intermediate dealers.

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."

    India's CAD widens to USD 14.3 billion as trade deficit is up
    • The country's current account deficit in the April-June quarter of 2017-18 rose sharply to $14.3 billion (Rs 92,950 crore), or 2.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP), primarily on account of a larger increase in merchandise imports compared to exports. The figure stood at $0.4 billion (Rs 2,600 crore), or 0.1 per cent of the GDP, during the corresponding period of 2016-17, the Reserve Bank said.
      The widening of the CAD on a year-on-year basis was primarily on account of a higher trade deficit, which was at $41.2 billion (over Rs 2.6 lakh crore) brought about by a larger increase in merchandise imports relative to exports, RBI said. On a sequential basis, the current account deficit also widened from $3.4 billion or 0.6 per cent of GDP in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2017.
      Balance of payments for the April-June quarter stood at $11.40 billion up from $6.969 billion in the year ago period. The net foreign direct investment at $7.2 billion in the reporting quarter almost doubled from its level in the same period last year.
      According to commerce ministry data released on Friday, the exports grew by 10.29 per cent, highest in the last four months, to $23.81 billion (over Rs 1.5 lakh crore) in August, helped mainly by higher growth in petroleum products, engineering and chemicals shipments, government data showed on today.
      Imports, too, rose by 21.02 per cent to $35.46 billion (over Rs 2.3 lakh crore) in August from $29.3 billion in the yearago month, according to the commerce ministry data. Trade deficit widened to $11.64 billion (Rs 75,660 crore) in the month under review from $7.70 billion (Rs 50,050 crore) in August 2016 due to increase in gold imports.

    General Awareness

    2017 Global least and most stressful cities: Stuttgart, Germany at the top, Bangalore 130th

    • On 13th September 2017, Global ranking for the least and most stressful cities of the world was released, by a firm called Zipjet, in London. Stuttgart,Germany is  at the top ,Bangalore 130th and, New Delhi 142nd.Stuttgart, Germany
      i.Global ranking for stressful cities and stress-free cities 2017:
      ii.The ranking was done based on the following factors:
      Density, Green Spaces, Public Transport, Traffic, Perception of Security, Sunshine Hours,Air Pollution ,Noise Pollution, Light Pollution, Unemployment ,Debt per Capita ,Social Security ,
      ii.Family Purchase Power ,Mental Health ,Physical Health ,Gender Equality ,Race Equality.
      iv.500 locations were studied and 150 cities were ranked.
      v.Four out of the top ten most stress-free cities are in Germany.
      vi.Top 5 most stress-free cities in the world are as follows:
      1.Stuttgart, Germany
      3.Hanover, Germany
      4.Bern, Switzerland
      5.Munich, Germany
      vii.Stuttgart’s lush greenery helped it move to the top of the list. It has a strong economy too. It is   home for world’s great companies like Porsche, Bosch and Mercedes-Benz.
      viii.People of Singapore and Taipei have a very satisfactory public transport system.
      ix.Abu Dhabi is considered to be world’s safest place by its citizens.
      x.Indian cities, Bangalore in the 130th position and Delhi in the 142nd position managed to get a place at the bottom of the list.
      xi.Delhi ranks number 8 in the most stressful cities list.
      Top 5 world’s most stressful cities are as follows:
      1.Baghdad, Iraq
      2.Kabul, Afghanistan
      3.Lagos, Nigeria
      4.Dakar, Senegal
      5.Cairo, Egypt
      xii.Terrorist attacks have pulled down cities like Bhagdad , Kabul and Cairo to be the most stressful cities in the world.
      xiii.The ranking was done by Zipjet, a cleaning services startup, based in London.
      About Germany:
      Capital                   –   Berlin
      Currency                –   Euro
      Official language     –   German
      President                –   Mr.Frank-Walter Steinmeier

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