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Current Affairs - 18 September 2017

General Affairs 

Meaningless To Talk To Pak Until It Stops Aiding Terrorism: Home Minister
  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today ruled out talks with Pakistan until it stops aiding cross-border terrorism aimed at destabilising India. 

    Speaking at a public meeting in Nizamabad as part of Telangana Liberation Day celebrations, Mr Singh said India has a policy of maintaining cordial relations with neighbours. "Some people suggest that we should engage in dialogue with Pakistan. I would like to say that we are ready to talk to anyone. But Pakistan is unable to understand this thing, till Pakistan does not stop its attempts to destabilise and weaken India by encouraging cross-border terrorism, holdings talks with it has no meaning."

    He also referred to the oath-taking ceremony of the Modi government in 2014, when premiers of all neighbouring countries, including Pakistan, were invited. "The idea was that we wanted to build good relations with all of them. We invited them not just for shaking hands, but to maintain cordial relations," the home minister said.

    The government is determined to stop all sorts of destabilising activities in the country, he said, and alleged that Pakistan is violating ceasefire agreements. "It started sending terrorists into our country. It violates ceasefire agreements. I want to assure you that we will end terrorism, extremism and Naxalism too," he asserted.

    The situation on the border has changed as India began giving befitting reply to the enemy, which has "set an example in country's history", Mr Singh said.

    Recalling an incident where five Indian civilians were killed in cross-border firing by Pakistan, the home minister said he had a conversation with a top official of the Border Security Force in 2014 where he asked the official to act tough on intruders and Pakistan's anti-India activities. "I told the BSF DG not to show 'white flag' (signal for talks) next time but give them a befitting reply."

    Mr Singh also cautioned people against those trying to divide the country on the basis of community, caste and language. "Today, the (Telangana) Liberation Day, we have to take a pledge that we will ensure that the country will not be divided on the lines of community, caste and language. Those who try to weaken the country are anti-national forces. I want to assure you that no power in the world can weaken India," he said.

Sharad Yadav Faction Steps Up Fight Against Nitish Kumar
  • The Sharad Yadav-led rebel JD(U) faction today appeared to be pushing for a split in the party as it appointed Chhotubhai Vasava as its acting president and formed a disciplinary committee to decide on action against Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

    The Yadav faction held a 'national executive' meeting and took a number of decisions targeting Mr Kumar, who is also the JD(U) national president, a move seen largely symbolic due to the overwhelming support he has in the party.

    Arun Kumar Srivastava, who was sacked as the party's general secretary due to his proximity to Mr  Yadav, claimed at a press conference that a majority of the party's state chiefs and workers were on their side.

    Following today's decision, including a number of appointments to party posts, the Yadav faction will meet the Election Commission soon to stake its claim over the party's election symbol.

    The faction's meeting also decided to reinstate those JD(U) state presidents that were sacked by Mr Kumar over a period of time.

    Accompanied by Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar, Mr Srivastava also said their faction will be part of the grand alliance of the opposition parties against BJP.

    "We have elected our party's Gujarat unit chief and six- time MLA Chhotubhai Vasava as the acting president. The national executive has unanimously decided that the party will work under his leadership till a new president is elected," Mr Srivastava said.

    He said that several decisions taken under Kumar's leadership were "unconstitutional" and the executive revoked them.

    Mr Srivastava said Mr Kumar had appointed Aneel Hegde as the returning officer for organisational poll in violation of the party norm that only the national executive can take such a decision.

    "Hence, the national executive (of today) has declared all the elections monitored by Mr Hegde as null and void....several party state presidents were sacked on whims and fancies, we have revoked that and reinstated those state presidents," Mr Srivastava added.

    Mr Srivastava said he will head the disciplinary panel against Mr Kumar.

    Replying to a question on what will be the faction's strategy before the Election Commission, which had recently refused to take cognizance of its claim over the party's symbol, Mr Srivastava said they have moved the EC again and sought time from the poll watchdog to submit fresh documents.

    He also insisted that the EC has not rejected the rebel group's earlier plea in this connection and added it has only been "set aside".

    "We had not given any paper in support first. We approached the EC again on Friday with signed affidavit. We have also demanded from them another month's time to submit all the documents. We will submit those in the next 10-15 days," he said.

    Mr Srivastava also said that the faction has not yet decided on whether to join the UPA. He, however, said a grand alliance of opposition parties is likely to take shape.

    He said Sharad Yadav was touring various parts of the country under his 'Composite Culture' campaign which was being attended by leaders of other opposition parties.

    "Congress, RJD, and the Left parties are with us, and we feel an alliance will take shape in the coming days which you can call a grand alliance," he added.

MiG Open To Developing Jets For Navy With Indian Companies
  • Eyeing a multi-billion dollar contract from the Indian Navy for the supply of fighter aircraft, Russian military aviation firm MiG today said it was not averse to the transfer of technology and joint development of MiG-29 K jets with Indian companies.

    MiG CEO Ilya Tarasenko said his company would submit a detailed proposal to the Indian government shortly, detailing its readiness for the joint development of aircraft for the Navy to deepen its already close engagement with India.

    "We are considering various options for long-term and perspective cooperation, including those within the framework of the Make in India programme," Tarasenko told PTI in a written interview.

    In January, the Indian Navy had kick-started the process of procuring 57 multi-role combat aircraft for its carriers by issuing a Request for Information (RFI) to leading military jet makers.

    Currently, six planes are compatible for the aircraft carrier -- Rafale (Dassault, France), F-18 Super Hornet (Boeing, US), MIG-29K (Russia), F-35B and F-35C (Lockheed Martin, US) and Gripen (Saab, Sweden). While F-18, Rafale and MIG-29K are twin-engine jets, the other three have a single engine.

    Tarasenko said MiG had been working with Indian defence forces for more than 50 years, delivering planes and providing service.

    He said the company was eager to further strengthen its relationship with India.

    Russia has been one of India's key suppliers of arms and ammunition. Then Defence Minister Arun Jaitley had visited Russia in June during which the issue of transfer of technology and joint development of high-end military platforms and weapons systems were discussed at length.

    Hard-selling MiG-29K as the best option for the Indian Navy, Tarasenko said a fleet of the aircraft had operated from Russian aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov as part of its operations in Syria recently and showed excellent results, including in striking ground targets.

    He said the MiG-29K was part of the recent Malabar exercise involving the navies of India, the US and Japan and it proved its operational prowess while operating from the Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya.

    Tarasenko claimed MiG-29K aircraft have serious tactical and technical advantages compared to Boeing's F/A-18. "In addition, the MiG-29K aircraft were successfully tested in combat conditions as part of the Russian Navy's military squadron in the Mediterranean in 2016 and have a unique experience of real combat use," he said.

    The US defence major has offered to set up a manufacturing facility in India for the production of its F/A- 18 Super Hornet aircraft, if the company gets contracts for their supply.

    At present, the Navy operates 45 MIG-29K jets. The RFI by the Indian Navy says the aircraft required by it should be day-and-night capable, all-weather, multi-role, deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air defence, air-to-surface operations, buddy refuelling, reconnaissance etc. from IN aircraft carriers".

    "The Indian side has sent an RFI to companies that produce aircraft, which is one of the procedures preceding the official tender. MiG corporation has received such a request, now we are preparing our proposal," Tarasenko said.

    In a major step towards defence indigenisation, the Indian government had in May unveiled a "strategic partnership" model under which select private firms would be engaged along with foreign entities to build military platforms such as fighter jets, submarines and battle tanks.

Railways' Stunning 'Vistadome' Coach Debuts On Mumbai-Goa Route
  • With a view to provide a delightful travelling experience to passengers, the Central Railway introduced a see-through Vistadome coach on Mumbai-Goa route from Monday, officials said. The Dadar-Madgaon Jan Shatabdi Express has a special coach with glass-roof Vistadome, rotatable chairs and hanging LCDs, offering panoramic view of the surroundings.

    "A Vistadome (glass-top) coach will be attached to the Jan Shatabdi Express running between Dadar and Madgaon from September 18," CR's spokesperson Sunil Udasi said.

    This special and aesthetically-designed Vistadome air-conditioned coach, is a first-of-its-kind in Indian Railways, he said.

    "Commuters travelling on this train will have this special coach with a glass-roof Vistadome, rotatable chairs and hanging LCDs for entertainment. A unique feature of this Rs. 3.38 crore 40-seat coach is the double-wide reclining passenger seats that could be rotated 360 degrees for a better sightseeing experience," Mr Udasi added. A statement issued by the CR said, the passengers or tourists can now sit relaxed in their seats and enjoy panoramic view from the Vistadome coach, unlike the stereotype train compartments.

    This special coach was received by the CR at its headquarters- the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) in the first week of September. Booking for the Vistadome coach opened at all computerised reservation centres and on website from today, he informed.

    According to Mr Udasi, this train will run three times a week during the monsoon period and five days a week once the monsoon gets over.

    The departure time of Jan Shatabdi Express is 5.25 am from Dadar and it reaches Madgaon at 4 pm the same day.

    The Vistadome coaches have been built in The Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. Mr Udasi said, the fares for this coach will be equivalent to that of the executive class in Shatabdi Express without catering charges. The reservation charges, GST and any other charges will be levied in addition to the basic fare.

    "There shall be no concession and all passengers will be charged at full fare. Minimum chargeable distance shall be 50 km," the official added.

    A few months back, at the launch of the coach, former Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu had said the Vistadome coaches were being introduced for the first time in the country to promote tourism.

Paramilitary Force Sashastra Seema Bal To Get Intelligence Wing
  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh will operationalise the Sashastra Seema Bal's first ever intelligence wing tomorrow, a home ministry official said.

    The paramilitary force guards India's borders with Bhutan and Nepal, which are often used by criminals and terrorists from Pakistan.

    The intelligence wing will have 650 field and staff agents to gather actionable information.

    Due to the visa-free regime India has with Nepal and Bhutan, there is a trans-border movement of criminals and anti-national elements which pose a major challenge, the home ministry official said.

    As many as 230 terrorists, based in Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir, have come to India through the Indo-Nepal border since 2010. Security agencies detained them upon ascertaining their real identities, an official said requesting anonymity.

    The Indo-Bhutan border is known to be frequented by the Assam-based insurgent group NDFB, which has even attacked Bhutanese nationals in the past.

    India shares a 1,751-km-long border with Nepal and a 699-km-long border with Bhutan.

    The Sashastra Seema Bal has also been declared as the lead intelligence agency for both the borders. Thus, the central government felt that a well-knit intelligence network of the highest capability that can function and deliver would be the prime requirement for comprehensive border management.

    This was essential as the Sashastra Seema Bal's operations are based on intelligence to prevent criminals and smugglers from taking advantage of the friendly borders with Nepal and Bhutan, the official said.

    The Sashastra Seema Bal has been mandated to guard the Indo-Nepal and Indo-Bhutan borders where there are no restrictions on the movement of people on either side.

    The border population on both the sides has strong regional, cultural and economic ties.

    The Sashastra Seema Bal has 474 Border Out Posts (BOPs) on the Nepal border and 131 on the Bhutan border.

    The border with Nepal touches Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and Sikkim and the border with Bhutan touches Sikkim, West Bengal, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh.

Business Affairs

GSTN glitches: GoM selects 25 issues, to meet every fortnight
  • A high-powered group of ministers will meet every fortnight to resolve over two dozen technical glitches identified in the GST tax portal GSTN, the panels head and and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi has said.
    Over 25-odd glitches, which had led to the GST-Network portal crashing on at least two occasions in the very first month of filing, relate largely to payments and registration, he told PTI after the five-member GoM held its first meeting in Bengaluru yesterday.
    The grouping had extensive interaction with executives of Infosys, which is providing the IT support for the portal, and businesses will notice a "lot of difference" on the GSTN portal in the next 7-10 days, Modi said.
    The GSTN website had faced glitches last month as taxpayers flogged to the portal on the last day of the deadline of filing returns for July.
    "Over 25 issues have been identified which needs to be resolved and timelines have been set for each of them. Overall we are satisfied with the performance of GSTN and Infosys is doing its best to make it error free," said Modi.
    The GSTN, the information technology (IT) backbone and portal for real-time taxpayer registration, migration, and tax return filing under the GST, had developed a snag last month when the first deadline for filing of returns approached, forcing the government to extend the last date. A five-member GoM was constituted on September 12 after the GST Council decided to sort out technical glitches. The first meeting of the GoM was held in Bengaluru on September 16.
    Besides Modi, Kerala Finance Minister Thomas Isaac, Chhattisgarh Minister of Commercial Taxes Amar Agrawal, Karnataka Agriculture Minister Krishna Byre Gowda and Telangana Finance Minister Etela Rajender are part of the GoM.
    Modi said the GoM noted that the tendency of taxpayers is to file returns on the last day, which is evident from the fact that only 3.5 lakh taxpayers have so far filed GSTR-3B for the month of August. The last date for filing is September 20.
    Over 47 lakh returns in GSTR-3B was filed in July and the GST to the tune of Rs 95,000 crore was collected in the maiden month of roll-out.
    On September 15, GSTN officials and state commercial tax officers also held meetings with bankers, large taxpayers and tax experts to decipher the procedural issues being faced by them on the portal.
    "The GoM will meet every 15 days to review the functioning of GSTN. The GSTN system is robust and load is not an issue. We are looking into the procedural issues," Modi said. So far, over 22 crore invoices have been uploaded on the GSTN portal, which has a capacity of handling over 3 billion invoices. GSTR-3B is only a simple return which will ease compliance burden of businesses. Businesses will have to upload invoices and file final returns in form GSTR-1, 2 and 3 on a stipulated date.
    The GST Council, chaired by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and comprising state counterparts, had last week decided to extend the last date for filing final returns for July by a month to October 10. GSTR-2 for July will have to be filed by October 31 and GSTR-3 by November 10.
    Currently, there are over 85 lakh registered taxpayers under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. This include 62 lakh assessees who have migrated from the excise, service tax and VAT system and another 23.18 lakh new registration. Among this, 10.96 lakh businesses have opted for composition scheme, under which they have to file returns quarterly.

Need tax uniformity on petroleum products, says Dharmendra Pradhan
  • Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said he has requested the Ministry of Finance to bring petroleum products under the ambit of Goods and Services Tax (GST) in the interest of consumers.
    Justifying the move, he said there has to be a "uniform tax mechanism" all over the country.
    "This is the proposal of the Ministry of Petroleum. We have appealed to all the states and finance ministry (to bring petroleum items under GST). Looking into the consumer interest, there must be tax rationalisation. GST is a well thought mechanism by the Government of India and the states, they developed the GST Council...
    "There are two kinds of taxes (on petroleum products). One is the central excise and the other one is state VAT. That is the reason we are expecting uniform tax mechanism from the industry point of view," Pradhan told PTI.
    Justifying the daily price mechanism which is in place for petrol and diesel, Pradhan said states are getting 42 per cent share in whatever levy is being collected by the Centre and clarified domestic rates are determined by international prices.
    "There is no communication gap or mismatch (between domestic and global prices). Whatever is the international price we are passing exactly that to the Indian consumer. When it is increasing, we have to increase, when it is declining we have to decrease it. That is the practice in the country."
    The minister for petroleum and natural gas said, "42 per cent of the central tax is coming to states. And states have their own tax mechanism. So a substantial portion of tax collection is utilised and coming to the states."
    He said the Centre needs funds for implementing various development and welfare projects in the country.
    "Dont you think we should build good roads. Dont you think we should give clean drinking water to citizens. See the spending of the Government of India. Previously, for the housing scheme (for the poor), the government was spending Rs 70,000 per unit. Now we are spending Rs 1.5 lakh.
    "Where do you get the money from? Do you think (we) have kept the money in the treasury. We are passing the money for the greater recycling of the economy through infrastructure projects," he explained.
    Replying to a query, he said the second round of auction of oil and natural gas blocks received a good response from both international and domestic players.

SBI reviewing minimum balance charges for savings accounts
  • State Bank of India (SBI) said it is reviewing charges for certain categories of accounts for non- maintenance of monthly average balance (MAB) after receiving feedback from customers.
    In April this year, the countrys largest lender reintroduced charges on non-maintenance of monthly average balance (MAB) after a gap of five years.
    "We have received feedback from our customers on the issue and we are reviewing those. The bank will take into account those and make an informed decision," the banks managing director (national banking group) Rajnish Kumar told PTI.
    "We will internally debate whether any moderation for certain categories of customers like senior citizens and students needs to be done anywhere. The charges are never cast in iron."
    As per the list of revised charges of SBI, failure to maintain monthly average balance in accounts will attract penalty of up to Rs 100 plus goods and services tax (GST).
    In metropolitan areas, there will be a charge of Rs 100 plus GST, if the balance falls below 75 per cent of the MAB of Rs 5,000. If the shortfall is 50 per cent or less of the MAB, then the bank will charge Rs 50 plus GST.
    In rural areas, the monthly average balance requirement has been kept at Rs 1,000. Any shortfall in maintaining minimum balance in rural areas can attract penalty in the range of Rs 20 to Rs 50 plus GST.
    Kumar said the bank has over 40 crore savings bank accounts, which includes 13 crore of Basic Savings Bank Deposit (BSBD) and Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) accounts.
    The bank has exempted BSBD and PMJDY accounts from maintaining the minimum balance requirement.
    Out of the 27 crore normal savings bank accounts, nearly 15-20 per cent are those where customers are not maintaining monthly average balance.
    The bank in April had given notices to all those account holders who did not have monthly average balance and asked them to keep the minimum balance in May.
    "When they did not maintained the monthly average balance in May then we recovered in June. We had recovered Rs 235 crore from such account holders as penalty," Kumar said.
    He said there is huge cost in maintaining the savings accounts and banks should be allowed to recover some costs.
    "There are lots of operational costs. We also have to invest huge amount of money in technology. There are some costs which I think bank should recover," Kumar said, adding the charges which SBI is levying for non-maintenance of minimum balance is very competitive as compared to other lenders.
    He said a normal savings account holder has an option to convert his account into BSBD account which will exempt him from maintaining monthly average balance.

RBI likely to keep policy rate on hold till fiscal-end: Report
  • The Reserve Bank is expected to pause rate cuts for the rest of 2017-18 as retail inflation is likely to tread higher towards 4.7 per cent by March, says a Kotak Institutional Equities report. According to the report, both CPI and WPI inflation have bottomed out and retail inflation is inching towards 4.7 per cent and wholesale towards 3.6 per cent by March 2018.
    It further noted that the impact of the 7th Pay Commission Housing Rent Allowance will further lend upside pressure to CPI inflation, a major factor for the RBI to decide its monetary policy stance. "We expect CPI inflation to tread higher towards 4.7 per cent by March 2018 (4.3 per cent without HRA)," the report said. Moreover, core CPI (excluding HRA) inflation is expected to remain tepid, averaging 4 per cent in this fiscal compared to 4.7 per cent in 2016-17 underscoring the weak underlying demand pressures.
    Retail inflation rose to five-month high of 3.36 per cent in August due to costlier vegetables and fruits. The consumer price index (CPI) based inflation was 2.36 per cent in July. According to the domestic brokerage firm, the RBI is expected to keep on hold the repo rate for the rest of this financial year but might consider an easing in policy stance "if inflation surprises below the 4 per cent mark on improvement in food supplies amid good monsoon, imported disinflation due to INR appreciation and downward surprise on core inflation".
    "We maintain our call for status quo on repo rate for rest of 2017-18 and remain watchful of the incoming data, especially given the recent slide in high-frequency growth indicators," the report said. The RBI reduced the repo rate by 0.25 per cent to 6 per cent in August, citing reduction in inflation risks. The rate cut was the first in 10 months and brought policy rates to a near 7-year low. The next RBI policy review meet is scheduled on October 3-4.

    Sebi to hire chief economist who will be paid whopping Rs 55 lakh annually
    • To strengthen its research capabilities, regulator Sebi is planning to hire a chief economist, whose position will be equivalent to that of an executive director in terms of pay and benefits.
      A proposal in this regard would be discussed during the board meeting of Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) tomorrow, an official said. It would be a first for Sebi to have a 'chief economist', who would be responsible for overall macro-economic scenario analysis including interplay of various financial sector regulatory activities.
      Among others, the officer would be instrumental in strengthening research and database management capabilities and backing regulations and strategy with sound economics. The position of chief economist would be equivalent to that of an executive director of Sebi in terms of pay, allowances and benefits.
      The person would be appointed for a three-year period and get a pay of Rs 55 lakh per annum. The internal and external candidates would be considered for the post. However, this post will not add to the existing sanctioned number of posts (nine) for executive directors in Sebi. Currently, the regulator has a dedicated research team under the department of economic policy and analysis.
      The team maintains statistics for the entire capital market, publishes Sebi's monthly bulletin, annual report, reports on the economic outlook of the country as well as securities markets. Now, Sebi feels the need of appointing a chief economist to utilise its existing resources in a much better way in order to have a multi-pronged approach that connects Sebi's research and analysis functions with overall strategic objectives of the organisation, the official said.
      Earlier in 2011, an advertisement was issued by Sebi, inviting applications for the post of chief economist. However, it received a lacklustre response. Besides, the selection committee constituted to scrutinise the applications, could not find a suitable candidate and accordingly the matter was closed.

    General Awareness

    First global map of water on Moon created

    • On September 14,2017scientists from Brown University have created the first map of water and its chemical building blocks trapped in the uppermost portion of the Moon’s soil.The research was funded by the NASA Lunar Advanced Science and Exploration Research Program.The study was published in Science Advancesjournal.
      Details and findings from the map : 
      i. It is built on the initial discovery in 2009 of water and a related molecule hydroxyl, which consists of one atom each of hydrogen and oxygen in the lunar soil.
      ii. It also used a new calibration of data taken from NASA’s Moon Mineralogy Mapper, which flew abroad India’s Chandrayaan-1 spacecraft.
      iii.Study’s lead author, Shuai Li said “The signature of water is present nearly everywhere on the lunar surface, not limited to the polar regions as reported earlier”
      iv.Amount of water increases toward the poles and doesn’t show much difference on various terrains, it decreases towards the poles.
      v.The water concentration reaches a maximum average of around 500 to 750 parts per million in the higher latitudes. That is less than what is found in the sands of Earth’s driest deserts.
      vi. Researchers said the way water is distributed gives a clue to find their source. After confirming the presence of water on moon researchers are now working on whether this water could be used for drinking purposes.
      vii. It has been confirmed that there is a connection between solar wind and water in moon. The constant bombardment of protons from the Sun, can form hydroxyl and molecular water.
      viii. However researchers concluded that solar wind is not the only criteria for water on moon there may be other factors too.For example, the researchers found higher-than-average concentrations of water in lunar volcanic deposits near the Moon’s equator, where background water in the soil is scarce.The water in those localised deposits likely comes from deep within the Moon’s mantle and erupted to the surface in lunar magma.
      ix.The study also found that the concentration of water changes over the course of the lunar day at latitudes lower than 60 degrees, Itis wetter in morning and evening and dry in noon
      About Brown University :-
      Brown University is a private Ivy League research university in Providence, Rhode Island, United States. It is the seventh-oldest institution of higher education in the United States.
      Brown’s faculty and alumni include eight Nobel Prize laureates, five National Humanities medallists and ten National Medal of Science laureates. Other notable alumni include eight billionaire graduates and more.
      • Established      –    1764
      • President         –     Christina Paxson

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