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Current Affairs - 26 September 2017

General Affairs 

PM Narendra Modi's Saubhagya scheme: 4 crore homes to get free power connections by 2018
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today announced that the government will provide free electricity connections to about four crore rural homes.
    The Saubhagya scheme was launched so that the poor can have access to electricity free of cost.
    The decision will cost the government Rs 16,000 crore which will not be passed on to the poor, said PM Modi.
    The Prime Minister said that the connections will be delivered at the doors of the rural poor.
    "Four crore out of 25 crore families do not have power connection even after 70 years of independence," said PM Modi.
    He also said that the rural poor will not have to go after the government officials to avail the scheme.
    The Prime Minister was speaking at a function to launch "Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojna" -- the scheme for easy electricity to every household -- at the renovated ONGC Bhavan, renamed after BJP ideologue Deendayal Upadhyaya.
    The announcement was made soon after the national executive meet of Bharatiya Janata Party.
    Meanwhile, Power Minister R K Singh said that India will achieve the target of power for all by December next year, while all villages will be electrified by the end of this year, much ahead of the schedule.
    Government had set the deadline for electrifying all villages by May 1, 2018. Similarly, it was aiming to provide 24X7 power to all by March, 2019.
    "Prime Minister has said December 2018 is the target. We will do it. This is a tight target but we will do. Every household will get electricity by December 2018," Singh said at the launch of 'Saubhagya' scheme for providing power to all households.
    "One more important target we have got, that is 24X7 power, reliable and quality power. We will take a proposal to the Prime Minister," he said.
    Singh also talked about the pre-paid model to be adopted for electricity to all households as per government plans.  He stressed on the need for developing skills for the power sector and said that "there is need for skill development for grid and feeder maintenance".
    He called upon the industry to invest in the power sector saying that in the coming year, the demand for electricity is going to increase in view of high growth economy.
    "I appeal to the industry to come and invest. India's energy requirement is going to quadruple. You please come and invest," he added.
    The government has been working hard to electrify all the villages in the country and also want to achieve 24X7 Power for All by March, 2019.
    In the 2015 Independence day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced that the government will electrify the remaining 18,452 unelectrified villages in 1,000 day.
    However, the power ministry is expected electrify all the inhabited villages by December this year.
    According to GARV portal, out of the 18,452 villages, 14,483 villages have been electrified so far. The electrification work is in progress for 2,981 villages while 988 villages are uninhabited.
    The portal also indicates that out of the 17.92 core households in the rural areas, 13.87 crore families have got electricity connection. As many as 4.05 crore families are yet to provided electricity connection.

India's first bullet train project reignites debate on land for public purpose
  • Plans for India's first bullet train , a USD 17-billion-dollar project, have sparked a debate on the definition of "public purpose" for land acquisitions which have become increasingly contentious. 
    The 500-km-long high-speed rail link promises to cut travel time between the financial hub of Mumbai and the industrial city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat state by more than half to under three hours. 
    The project, inaugurated earlier this month, will need about 825 hectares (2,000 acres) of land. The government has said it will complete the line by 2022, even as farmers along the proposed route held protests against giving up their land. 
    They may have little say in the matter, as the state has a legal right to take private property for public purposes. 
    But analysts say the definition of what constitutes public purpose needs revisiting, even for infrastructure projects.
    "When projects - airports, private colleges, bullet trains - benefit only a small percentage of the population, some debate over public purpose needs to be had, for moral if not legal reasons," said Aseem Shrivastava, an environmental economist. 
    "When the state is brokering land deals, should only the state decide what is public purpose?" Conflicts have increased in India as land is sought for industrial use and development projects. 
    A law passed in 2013 was meant to protect the rights of farmers, ensuring consensus over land acquisitions, rehabilitation for those displaced, and adequate compensation. 
    But several states have diluted these provisions to speed up acquisitions. 
    Over the years, the state has extended public purpose from public schools, railways and highways to also include private hospitals and educational institutions, factories and Special Economic Zones. 
    Officials say these are key to accelerate economic growth and generate jobs that benefit the community. 
    But land rights experts say defining such projects as public purpose leaves vulnerable people with little judicial recourse. 
    "To say that jobs are created by setting up a factory, and that therefore it is public purpose, is a facetious argument," Shrivastava said.
    In a rare victory for campaigners, the Supreme Court last year ruled that land purchased by West Bengal state for a Tata Motors factory could not be deemed to have been acquired for a "public purpose" and must be returned to farmers.
    In an analysis of all land acquisition cases decided by the Supreme Court from 1950, the top court invalidated the government's view of public purpose in less than 1 percent of cases, according to think tank Centre for Policy Research. 

    "We have a virtual laundry list of what makes up public purpose now," said Namita Wahi, director of the centre's Land Rights Initiative. "This permissive interpretation is very problematic."

NSG commandos probe JEM Fidayeen attack in South Kashmir
  • The special Counter - Terror force National Security Guard (NSG) commandos a re closely studying Fidayeen attack carried out by three Jaish-E-Muhammed terrorists at District Police Line (DPL) in Pulwama . The black cats are carefully examining the modus operandi and tactics used by JEM.
    The attack took place in the District Police Line and later spread out. The attack was comparable to an urban attack. The families of police personnel were taken out safely while the security forces were engaged in a serious gun battle."We sent out a team member to get the details and also prepared them to examine the attack or counter attack response by the security forces," a senior officer in NSG told India Today
    The case study will be used to prepare forces for urban attacks. Though Jammu and Kashmir has remained outside the domain of NSG with multiple agencies working in the strife torn state.
    The Jammu and Kashmir Police, Army and CRPF launched an operation inside a District Police complex in south Kashmir (Pulwama) where three Pakistani terrorists were gunned down after they launched a suicide attack. The attack had left eight security personnel including four CRPF men and four JK Police personnel dead on August 26, this year. These three hard core terrorists were identified as Abu Saad, Dawood and Al Bakr - of Jaish-e-Muhammed outfit, Afzal Guru Squad, NSG is studying in detail how the terrorist entered in a surprise attack .
    Incidentally, the JEM terrorist were behind attack on the High Security Military air base in Pathankot in 2016, an operation which was dealt by NSG, besides the Army in which 7 security personnel were martyred including NSG's Lieutenat Colonel Niranjan Kumar.  The force however continues to do mock drills in the eventual possibility of a terror attack.
    However, the NSG has not been deployed after the Pathankot terror attack but keeps an active eye on encounters in Jammu Kashmir which has witnessed another "bloody" year, with spate of terror attacks.However, the hinterland on the contrary has not witnessed terror attack since Pathankot.

BJP's dig at Rahul Gandhi: The longer he stays in politics, the better for us
  • Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Amit Shah addressed the party's mega meeting in New Delhi today and dedicated a major part of his speech slamming Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi over his controversial remarks at Berkeley in California earlier this month.
    "It is a problem in all political parties in India. That's how the entire country is running. So don't just go after me....That's what happens in India," Rahul Gandhi had said responding to a question regarding dynasty politics in India.
    "It (dynasty politics) is a tradition of the Congress and not of India," Amit Shah speaking on the second day of BJP's two-day national executive meet in the national capital today.
    "Rahul Gandhi ji has been undermining India these days, Amit Shah ji gave a befitting reply with facts. The longer he stays in politics, the better for us," said Piyush Goyal while interacting with reporters after Shah's speech. "The win in 2019 will be bigger than 2014," Goyal added.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be speaking at the meeting later in the day.

Tamil Nadu: MK Stalin's DMK wants Madras HC to disqualify 11 AIADMK MLAs who joined OPS' February rebellion
  • MK Stalin's DMK chief whip Sakkarapani today filed a writ petition in Madras High Court court, seeking the disqualification of eleven AIADMK MLAs who supported O Paneerselvam - when he rebelled against VK Sasikala earlier this year.
    Panneerselvam, now the deputy chief minister in the Edappadi Palaniswami administration, had then opposed VK Sasikala's elevation as legislature party leader. Later, he and the 11 lawmakers whom the DMK want disqualified voted against Palaniswamy in a floor test.
    Back then, Palaniswamy was seen as Sasikala's proxy. He was elevated after she was convicted by the Supreme Court in a disproportionate assets case.
    The Tamil Nadu Assembly Speaker recently disqualified as many as 18 AIADMK legislatorsloyal to TTV Dhinakaran, Sasikala's nephew - and a new power centre within the party. The Madras High Court has said elections cannot be held for their seats, and prohibited any floor tests - a DMK request - until further orders.
    "The DMK doesn't want to remain a silent spectator to the wheeling and dealing and horse trading that's taking place," DMK spokesperson Manu Sundaram told India Today.
    "We waited to see whether the Speaker will initiate action against MLAs who defied party whip but instead there's been a quid pro quo. EPS (Edappadi Palaniswami) has given OPS (O Panneerselvam) and K Pandiarajan minister ships, and in return K Pandiarajan has withdrawn his petition before the Hon'ble Supreme Court wherein he challenged the EPS chief ministership."
    The Palaniswami-Panneerselvam combine's IT wing representative shot back, "Stalin does not have any right to do this. It is the discretion of the speaker. As per assembly rules - if I am not wrong - (the) speaker should take action with fifteen days of floor test."
    "But now it (has been) close to eight months. No one can interfere in Speaker's decision," he said.
    The Tamil Nadu government now finds itself in a precarious situation. The DMK is the main Opposition party, and has as many as 98 MLAs in a 234-member assembly. And TTV Dhinakaran threatens to eat away at its majority by taking away more MLAs.

Business Affairs

SBI reduces minimum balance: Here's how much you need in savings account to avoid penalty
  • The State Bank of India revised the minimum account balance for its savings accounts, as well as the penalties for non-maintenance of minimum balance, on Monday. The major change has been made with respect to savings accounts in metro cities, where SBI account holders will now have to maintain a monthly average balance (MAB) of Rs 3,000, instead of Rs 5,000.
    With this, the average balance for SBI savings account holders in metro cities has come down to what those in urban areas are supposed to maintain. The biggest lender in the country has also revised the penalties that account holders are supposed to pay for failing to maintain the stipulated balance in their savings accounts. Notably, customers still have to pay GST over and above the fine they have incurred. The new minimum balance rules will be effective from October 1.
    This change in minimum balance under MAB rules came within days of SBI mentioning that it was analysing the customer feedback it received over charges for non-maintenance of minimum account balance. India's biggest bank had brought back penalties over non-maintenance of MAB in April this earlier this year.
    Rajnish Kumar, SBI Managing Director (national banking group), had stated that the bank would consider the comments from its customers in this matter and take an informed decision.
    Here's a look at what monthly average balances SBI customers will have to pay, depending on their region, and what are the penalties for failing to do so:
    The SBI customers in metro cities of India will have to maintain at least a sum of Rs 3,000 as monthly average balance in their savings account, as opposed to Rs 5,000. If MAB falls between Rs 2,999 and Rs 1,500, then the account holder will have to pay Rs 30 as penalty. Whereas, if the average balance at the end of the month comes out to be anywhere from Rs 1,499 to Rs 750 then the penalty for non-maintenance of MAB will be Rs 40, and  Rs 50 if the MAB is below Rs 750. Earlier, the penalties for these three stages were Rs 50, Rs 75 and Rs 100 respectively.
    The MAB for urban SBI customers remains unchanged, as does the penalty for its non-maintenance. SBI account holders in urban regions of the country will have to maintain Rs 3,000 as monthly average balance, as before. This is same to those for metro city SBI customers. The penalties and conditions for urban area customers will also be the same as SBI clientele from metro cities.
    The MAB for semi-urban areas has been unchanged at Rs 2,000, but penalties for non-maintenance have been slashed for this group. People with savings accounts with SBI branches in semi-urban areas will have to pay fines to the tune of Rs 20 if their MAB is between Rs 1,999 and Rs 1,000, as opposed to Rs 25 before. The semi-urban SBI customer will have to pay Rs 30 if their MAB rests between Rs 999 and Rs 500, and not Rs 50 as they did before. For MAB less than Rs 500, they will now have to pay Rs 40 instead of Rs 75.
    The minimum balance for SBI clientele in rural areas remains unchanged too at Rs 1000, as do most of their penalties for its non-maintenance as per MAB rules. SBI has kept the penalties for rural customers similar to that of its semi-urban clients, at Rs 20 (for MAB between Rs 999 and Rs 500), Rs 30 (for MAB between Rs 499 and Rs 250), and Rs 40 (for MAB at Rs 249 or less).
    Exempted from MAB restrictions
    Meanwhile, the SBI has also kept certain groups exempted from the restrictions of maintaining a minimum balance at the end of the month, including financial inclusion accounts, basic savings bank deposit accounts, small Accounts, Phela Kadam and Pheli Udaan accounts, minors till the age of 18 years, and all pensioners including recipients of social welfare benefits.

PM Modi constitutes Economic Advisory Council; Bibek Debroy named Chairman
  • Amidst rampant economic slowdown, Prime Minister Narendra Modi constituted an Economic Advisory Council to PM (EAC-PM) to help turn things around. Bibek Debroy, the vice chairman of Niti Aayog has been appointed as the Chairman of this economic review body. Also, Ratan Watal has been named member-secretary of the council, whereas Surjit Bhalla, Rathin Roy and Ashima Goel will be part-time members.
    According to reports, the council will analyse issues, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the Prime Minister and advise him accordingly. The EAC-PM will also address macroeconomic issues of import, suo moto or on orders from PM Modi, and present views on the same to the PM.
    Talking to CNBC-TV18, Ashima Goel stated that the Council will focus on sructural reforms  as well as try to put necessary course correction into effect in order to steer Indian economy towards the right direction.
    The first meeting for the economic council has not been decided yet.
    "The five-member council consists of economists of high repute and eminence," said an official statement.
    Terms of reference of the EAC would be to "analyse any issue, economic or otherwise, referred to it by the prime minister and advising him thereon," the statement said.
    It will also "address issues of macroeconomic importance" and present its views to the prime minister, it said, adding "This could be either suo-motu or on reference from the prime minister or anyone else."
    It's terms of reference also includes attending to "any other task as may be desired by the prime minister from time to time," the statement said.

Sensex falls 447 points, Nifty closes below 10,000 level over North Korea hydrogen bomb scare
  • The Sensex and Nifty tumbled on Friday following nervousness in global markets as investors turned cautious following new US sanctions targeting North Korea which threatened to test a nuclear weapon in the Pacific.
    North Korea's foreign minister reportedly warned Thursday Pyongyang could test a hydrogen bomb over the Pacific Ocean in response to US President Donald Trump's threats of military action.
    The Sensex closed 447 points or 1.38 percent lower to 31,922  level. The Nifty was down 1.56 percent or 157.50 points at 9964.40 level.
    IPCA Laboratories (8.78 percent), IndiaBulls Real Estate (8.23 percent) and Jindal Steel (8.17 percent) were the top losers on the BSE.
    On the 30-stock Sensex, Tata Steel (4.70 percent), L&T (3.49 percent) and Reliance (2.83 percent) were the top losers.
    Market breadth was negative with 519 stocks closing higher against 519 falling on the BSE.
    Meanwhile, the rupee fell below the 65 mark for the first time in over five-and-a-half months on Friday on concern that fiscal deficit will widen after the government said it was considering measures to boost growth.
    The Indian currency closed 54 paise lower to 64.81 per dollar on Thursday.
    The first-quarter GDP growth slipped to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent this fiscal year. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said the government is considering additional measures to bolster the economy.
    Global markets
    Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.4 percent to 20,273.26 and South Korea's Kospi lost 0.7 percent to 2,389.83. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.8 percent to 27,877.19 and the Shanghai Composite fell 0.5 percent to 3,341.72. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 edged up 0.4 percent to 5,675.70. Taiwan's benchmark fell and Southeast Asian indexes were mostly lower.
    Major US benchmarks ended lower. The Standard & Poor's 500 index lost 0.3 percent to 2,500.60. The Dow Jones industrials fell 0.2 percent to 22,359.23. The Nasdaq composite lost 0.5 percent to 6,422.69.

Capacit'e Infraprojects soars 60% in market debut
  • Shares of construction firm Capacit'e Infraprojects made a smashing debut at bourses today, surging nearly 60 per cent from the issue price of Rs 250.
    The stock listed at Rs 399, reflecting a sharp jump of 59.6 per cent over the issue price on the BSE.
    At NSE, it debuted at Rs 399, surging 59.6 per cent.
    In terms of equity volume, 26.43 lakh shares of the company were traded on the BSE and over one crore shares changed hands at the NSE during the morning trade.
    Capacit'e Infraprojects' Rs 400-crore initial public offer (IPO) received overwhelming response and was oversubscribed 183.03 times during September 13-15.
    The qualified institutional buyer (QIB) portion was oversubscribed 131.32 times, non-institutional investor a staggering 638.05 times and retail investor 17.57 times.
    The price band for the offer was fixed at Rs 245-250 per share.
    Proceeds of the issue will be utilised for funding working capital requirements, purchase of capital assets and general corporate purposes.
    Axis Capital, IIFL Holdings and Vivro Financial Services were the book running lead managers to the issue.

    Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries becomes world's 3rd largest energy firm
    • Reliance Industries ltd has jumped five places to rank as the world's third-biggest energy company behind Russian gas firm Gazrpom and German utility E.ON, according to Platts Top 250 Global Energy Company Rankings.
      State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) broke into the top 10 club, climbing to 7th position in the 2017 ranking, up from 14th rank in 2016. IOC has been steadily climbing the rankings -- it was placed at No. 66 in 2015.
      Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) was placed at 11th position in 2017 as against 20th in 2016.
      "While 14 Indian energy companies made it to the S&P Global Platts Top 250 Global Energy Company Rankings, they were one short of the tally held last year," Platts said in a statement.
      Reliance, the owner of world's biggest refinery complex, was ranked at 7th position last year.
      Coal India Ltd, the world's largest coal producer, was the only Indian firm to have slipped in the ranking - 45 in 2017, down from 38 in last year.
      The other Indian firms in the ranking included Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (39), Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (48), Power Grid Corp (81) and GAIL India Ltd (106).
      Russia's Gazprom snagged the number 1 spot, ending US oil and gas giant ExxonMobil's 12-year reign at the top of the list (ExxonMobil holding within the lead ten at 9th place).
      Among this year's biggest movers is E.ON, which climbed 112 places to 2nd place from 114th.
      South Korea's Korea Electric Power is ranked 4th, followed by China Petroleum & Chemical and Russia's PJSC Lukoil.
      The annual Top 250, published by S&P Global Platts, ranks companies based on financial performance using four key metrics: asset worth, revenues, profits, and return on invested capital. All companies on the list have assets greater than USD 5.5 billion.
      "Coal's troubles were especially acute in Asia, with China's production falling by 7.9 per cent or 140 million tons of oil-equivalent (mtoe), a record decline. Those headwinds translated into swings in this year's Platts rankings for coal interests," the statement said reasoning Coal Indias slip.
      Overall, thanks to the new entrants buoyed by utilities and pipelines, revenues of the Top 10 global energy companies surged more than 30 per cent to USD 1.1 trillion from USD 830.2 billion in the 2016 rankings.
      Collectively, the world's top 10 companies posted combined profits of USD 63.7 billion last year, 14 per cent lower than the USD 74.3 billion posted the year before, it said.
      The Top 250 profit figures are adjusted for preferred dividends and exclude discontinued operations and extraordinary operations.

    General Awareness

    Government launches ‘Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat’to boost PMUY

    • On 23rd September 2017, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Mr.Dharmendra Pradhan launched the ‘Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat’ in Mota Ishanpur village of Gujarat.
      Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat:-
      i.On this occasion, Mr.Dharmendra Pradhan handed over free LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) connection to a beneficiary of PMUY (Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana) scheme.Gujarat Chief Minister Mr.Vijay Rupani was also present in the occasion.
      ii.‘Pradhan Mantri LPG Panchayat’ will focus on spreading awareness among LPG users about the proper use and benefits of LPG.
      iii.This Panchayat will act as an interactive forum for PMUY beneficiaries, officials, LPG distributors and NGOs (Non-Governmental Organisations).Under one Panchayat, around 100 LPG customers will be clubbed.
      vi.The customers can share their experiences with others.The Panchayats will also discuss about safety practices, quality of service provided by distributors and availability of refill cylinders.
      LPG distribution centres :-
      i.Mr.Pradhan said that LPG connection has empowered women and has ensured their safety. As, lakhs of women have died due to health complications from usage of firewood as a fuel.
      ii.One lakh LPG Panchayats are to be formed all over India.Mr.Pradhan said that 40 % of PMUY beneficiaries in Gujarat are Tribals and Dalits.
      iii.He said that 106 new LPG distribution centres have been formed in the last one and half years in Gujarat.
      vi.He added that 319 new distribution centres are to be set up in Gujarat. This will provide employment to 5,000 people.
      v.He also said that LPG connection has been provided to 8.5 crore households in India in a duration less than three years.
      About Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY):
      Launched by – Mr.Narendra Modi
      Launched in – 2016
      Purpose – to provide 5,00,00,000 LPG connections to women below poverty line.

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