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Current Affairs - 19 October 2017

General Affairs 

CBI To Look Into Private Detective's Allegations In Bofors Case
  • The CBI today said it would look into the "facts and circumstances" of the Bofors scam mentioned by private detective Michael Hershmam, who alleged that former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi-led Congress government had sabotaged his investigation. Mr Hershman, who is the president of US-based private detective firm Fairfax, said in television interviews recently that Rajiv Gandhi was "furious" when he found a Swiss bank account "Mont Blanc".
    Mr Hershman, who was in New Delhi last week to attend a conference of private detectives, alleged that the bribe of the Bofors gun scandal had been parked in the Swiss account.

    "The agency has learnt of the matter pertaining to the Bofors aired on certain TV channels containing interview of Michael Hershman," CBI information officer and spokesperson Abhishek Dayal said in a statement.

    "Facts and circumstances as mentioned in the interview will be looked into as per due process by the CBI," he said.

    Mr Hershman was quoted as telling television channels that Rajiv Gandhi got very upset when "our work was uncovered". He then formed a Supreme Court commission to look into the circumstances surrounding then finance minister VP Singh's hiring of Fairfax.

    In his interviews, Mr Hershman has expressed willingness to testify and help Indian agencies on the Bofors gun pay-off scandal but the effort has to be a credible one.

Power Plant Shut, Diesel Generators Banned To Fight Diwali Smog In Delhi
  • The Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Board shut down a coal-fired power plant and banned the use of diesel generators in Delhi as air quality plummeted in the world's most polluted capital on Wednesday at the start of the Diwali festival. The Board has also ordered coal-fired Badarpur power station in south Delhi to be shut. 

    New Delhi experiences suffocating smog every year around Diwali, when farmers in north India burn the stubble left behind after the harvest and revellers let off smoke-spewing firecrackers.

    The onset of winter aggravates the problem as the cooler air traps the pollutants, a phenomenon known as inversion.

    The Board made the ruling as levels of PM2.5 pollutants in the air reached around 200 micrograms per cubic metre, eight times the World Health Organization safe limit of 25.

    "Difficult situations demand tough responses and solutions and Delhi is faced with a really difficult situation each winter when air pollution levels spiral out of control," said its chairman Bhure Lal in a statement.

    The Board said the Badarpur power plant, which has a capacity of around 700 megawatts, would be closed until March. The plant is due to shut down for good next July as India seeks to move away from heavily-polluting fossil fuels.

    It also banned the use of the privately-owned diesel generators that many rich households rely on during India's frequent power cuts.

    The measures follow a temporary ban on the sale of firecrackers in Delhi introduced earlier this month by the Supreme Court to ease the pollution levels.

    Last year, levels of PM2.5, the fine particles linked to higher rates of chronic bronchitis, lung cancer and heart disease, soared to 778 in the days that followed Diwali, prompting the Supreme Court to warn of a public health emergency.

    Levels of PM2.5 between 301 and 500 are classified as "hazardous", while anything over 500 is beyond the official index.

    The Delhi government then shut schools for three days, banned all construction work for five days to curb dust levels and temporarily closed the Badarpur plant.

    A 2014 World Health Organization survey of more than 1,600 cities ranked Delhi as the most polluted.

    India's notoriously poor air quality causes over a million premature deaths every year, according to a joint report by two US-based health research institutes earlier this year.

Congress-NCP Nominee Wins Sarpanch Poll In Devendra Fadnavis's Adopted Village
  • In a setback to Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in his adopted Fetri village in Nagpur, a woman candidate backed by Congress-NCP on Tuesday won the post of the village sarpanch in the gram panchayat election.

    Dhanashree Dhomne of Congress-NCP alliance was elected as the sarpanch in Fetri village, adopted by the chief minister.

    The BJP has won five seats out of nine seats in Fetri gram panchayat election.

    In another setback for the BJP, Congress-backed candidate Sunil Dudhpachare was elected from Suradevi village in Koradi near Nagpur, adopted by state energy minister and Nagpur guardian minister Chandraskehar Bawankule.

    Meanwhile, replying to query in Mumbai over sarpanch election, Mr Fadnavis said he has adopted four villages.

    "I had told the people of these villages that it (adopting the village) was not my political agenda. Even during one of my rallies in one of the villages, I had told the villagers that they were free to choose their candidates," Mr Fadnavis said, speaking to reporters at his official residence 'Varsha' in the state capital.

    Replying to further queries over BJP's show in the first round of gram panchayat polls, he said that all the BJP candidates, who won the gram panchayat polls, were purely party cadres.

    Mr Fadnavis announced that next month the party will organise a conclave of BJP sarpanchs, wherein people will come to know the reality.

Separate Police Investigation Wing For Women To Start In Maharashtra
  • In a bid to effectively deal with cases of crime against women, the Maharashtra government has decided to come up with a separate woman police investigation wing in all districts, a police official said today.

    The state home department issued a Government Resolution in this regard on October 12, said the official.

    Incidents of crime against women like rape, molestation, domestic violence, abetment of suicide, human trafficking are being reported on a regular basis and to tackle them, to investigate it thoroughly and to present chargesheet on time, there was a need to have a special investigation team, said the official.

    With this new initiative, a 16 member investigation team will be formed under supervision of Deputy Superintendent of Police (Economic Offences Wing) at the district level. The team will be consisting of four police officers and 12 men, he said.

    This team will be involved in investigation of cases related to atrocities against women, framing of charges against the accused and submission of chargesheet well in time, he said.

    Earlier, under directions of the union government the state police force had constituted investigative units at seven different places to handle the investigation and to monitor women related crimes, said the official.

    Cities like Mumbai, Thane, Pune, Nagpur and districts like Pune Rural, Yavatmal and Ahmednagar were the places where these units had come up, he added.

    As the cases related women are on the rise, state home department decided to start special investigative squads at district level too, said the official.

    Apart from the investigations the specialised teams will also work to increase conviction rate in women related crime incidents, he said.

    These units will also impart training to concerned persons to register an offence and start investigations and to suggest precautionary measures for safety and security of women, the official said.

    These units will work in coordination with NGO's working for women upliftment and for their security and safety, he added.

Armed, Para Military Forces Can Now Make Calls To Their Families For Rs. 1 Per Min
  • Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha today said armed as well as para-military forces will be able to make calls to their families using satellite phone for Re 1 per minute from tomorrow.

    The current call rate for most of such connections was Rs. 5 per minute, although some subsidised ones paid Re 1.

    "On the eve of Diwali, we are announcing that Armed forces and para-military forces stationed in remote areas and tough terrains on borders will be able to make satellite phone calls at the rate of Re 1 per minute, instead of Rs. 5 applicable on it. This will enable them to talk their family for longer duration," Mr Sinha said.

    The minister also announced that no rental will be charged from security forces from tomorrow.

    "At present, Rs. 500 monthly rent is charged for satellite phone connections from security forces. From tomorrow onwards, they will not need to pay any rental," Mr Sinha said.

    Satellite phone service was earlier being provided by Tata Communications but now it will be provided by the staterun telecom firm BSNL.

    The call charge was Re 1 in 2009-10 to begin with, to be revised every 5 years.

    "We have decided that charges will be Re 1 only per call and not increased to Rs. 5," the telecom minister said.

    Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan said the cost will have an impact of Rs. 3-4 crore per annum which will be borne by the government.

    At present there are 2,500 satellite phone connections operational in the country.

    "We have capacity of 5,000 connections. We are informing the defence and the home ministries that more connections can be given. The total capacity can be further increased, if required, in six months," Mr Sinha added.

Business Affairs

EPFO launches online facility to link UAN with Aadhaar number ahead of Diwali
  • The Employees' Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has launched a new online facility where its members can link their Universal Account Number (UAN) and other relevant details with their respective Aadhaar number. This new facility will help the members to access EPFO services speedily and easily, Ministry of Labour and Employment stated in a statement.
    UAN is a 12-digit portable number which acts as an umbrella for multiple member IDs that are alloted to EPF subscribers as they change jobs over the course of their career. EPFO mandatorily requires for its members to link their UAN with respective Aadhaar numbers in order to avail its online services like checking PF account balance, submit PF claims or for withdrawing some money from the PF accounts.
    As a part of the Digital India initiative, EPFO also allows its members to automatically transfer their money from the provident fund account with the previous employer to the new account using Composite Declaration Form (F-11). This facility too can be availed by EPF subscribers who have linked their UAN with their Aadhaar number.
    How to link UAN with Aadhaar online
    The use the online facility to link Aadhaar and UAN, follow these steps:
    1. Go to EPFO's website
    2. Get to 'Online Services' section on the website's homepage
    3. Click 'e-KYC Portal' under 'Online Services'
    4. Click 'Link UAN Aadhaar' in the page that opens next.
    5. Fill in UAN, mobile number linked with UAN in designated fields and click 'Genearate OTP' button
    6. Enter the OTP that you receive, followed by your Aadhaar number in designated fields
    7. Click Submit
    Once through with this, another OTP will be sent to the EPF member's mobile number and e-mail address linked with Aadhaar. After OTP verification, UAN will be linked with Aadhaar if UAN and Aadhaar details match.

Reliance Jio revises 4G data plans, new Dhan Dhana Dhan plans to come into effect from Diwali
  • Reliance Jio annocuned its new Dhan Dhana Dhan tariff plans today. The new plans with revised benefits will be available from October 19 and can be availed by new as well as existing Jio subscribers. As part of these unlimited benefits, customers can enjoy high speed data within prescribed FUP limit followed by unlimited internet at lowered speeds, free voice calls and SMS.
    Among the new plans, Reliance Jio is offering Rs 459 plan for Jio Prime members. This plan offer unlimited data benefits for FUP limit of 1GB per day for a periof of 3 months for postpaid users, or 84 days for prepaid users. The Rs 459 plan also comes with unlimited voice calling and access to Jio apps.
    In this plan revision, Reliance Jio has also doubled the data limit on the Rs 149 plan. Data entitlement is being increased to 4 GB instead of the current 2 GB. The validity for the plan will be 28 days for prepaid users and one billing period for postpaid users. Unlimited voice calling and text messages as well as free access to the Jio apps bouquet will remain.
    Moreover, Reliance Jio will continue to offer the Rs 399 plan with its unlimited benefits for a validity period of 70 days.
    For subscribers with more data requirements, Jio will offer the Rs 509 plan which offers 2 GB high speed data per day to users for a validity period of 49 days. This comes in addition to unlimited access to other services.
    For users who need unrestricted high speed data access, Jio has maintained its long-term non-FUP plans. The Rs 999 plan will give 60 GB high speed data for 3 months, whereas Rs 1999 will offer 125 GB unrestricted high speed data for 6 months. Jio subscribers can also recharge with the annual plan at Rs 4999 which gives unrestricted access to 350 GB high speed data.
    For small value recharges, Jio has introduced super-affordable daily and weekly packs. Under these plans, a user can get free voice, SMS, unlimited data (0.15 GB daily) for as low as Rs 19 for a day, Rs 52 for a week or Rs 98 for 2 weeks.

Paytm sees gold transaction worth Rs 120 crore in 6 months, over 1 million buyers till Dhanteras
  • Alibaba-backed digital wallet company Paytm on Wednesday said gold transactions worth Rs 120 crore have been made within six months of launch of sales of the yellow metal on its platform. The number of buyers crossed one million mark on the Dhanteras day, Paytm said.
    The e-wallet company witnessed 12 per cent surge in gold sales on Dhanteras, which was celebrated on Tuesday across the country. Dhanteras is considered an auspicious day to buy gold, silver and other metals, according to Hindu calendar.
    "More than 60 per cent of Paytm Gold sales were from smaller cities and towns, with southern and eastern states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Jharkhand and West Bengal registering the maximum demand," Paytm said in a statement.
    A landmark of over a million customers transacted the yellow metal worth Rs 120 crore on its platform within six months of launch, it noted.
    A majority of the customers purchased gold worth up to INR 500, while more than 70 per cent customers were millennials - pointing at an increasing trend of consumers choosing Paytm Gold as the preferred method for long-term savings, it said.
    "Gold gives us an extraordinary opportunity to create a wealth solution that is trusted and used by consumers across every nook and corner of the country," Paytm senior vice president Nitin Misra said.
    Paytm partnered with India s only internationally accredited refinery MMTC-PAMP to launch Paytm Gold on its platform. This will allow customers to buy 24 carat 999.9 pure gold online and store it in the MMTC-PAMP s most secure, 100 per cent insured lockers at no additional charge.
    Customers can also request this gold to be delivered at their homes in the form of minted coins or sell it back online to MMTC-PAMP at transparent market-linked prices.
    While gold saw some buying on auspicious occasion of Dhanteras, it fell by Rs 140 per 10 gm mainly due to profit-booking in the national capital on Tuesday. The weak trend overseas due to dollar strengthening against major currencies further eroded the appeal of the metal as a safe haven and also contributed to the fall in the prices. In Mumbai, the prices fell by Rs 50 for 10 gram of 22-carat gold, and by Rs 55 to Rs 31,854 per 10 gram of 24-carat gold. In Ahmedabad, spot gold was trading at Rs. 29,708 per 10 grams with a loss of 0.54 per cent at the Multi-Commodity Exchange (MCX).
    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday launched gold options trading on MCX. "This marks a very important evolution in trading of yellow metal itself. It hedges all risks by giving them (traders) the option of futures," Jaitley said right after launching the options trade on the auspicious day of Dhanteras.
    "I am sure more it formalises, better it is for consumers, jewelers and those trading in this. That's in consonance with the business environment for future that we see for us," Jaitley added.

Samvat 2073: Sensex up 16.6%; investors richer by Rs 25 lakh crore
  • Stock markets ended on a flat note today, just below their record highs, but finished Samvat 2073 with robust gains of over 16 per cent, adding over Rs 25 lakh crore to investors' wealth.
    The benchmark Sensex has gained 4,642.84 points, or 16.61 per cent, in the Hindu Samvat year 2073, while the broader NSE Nifty surged 1,572.85 points, or 18.20 per cent during this period.
    In today's session, the 50-share Nifty fell by 23.60 points or 0.23 per cent to close at 10,210.85 after moving between 10,175.75 and 10,236.45.
    The Sensex resumed lower at 32,518.56 and fell further to a low of 32,462.85 before ending at 32,584.35, down 24.81 points or 0.08 per cent.
    Investors adopted a cautious approach ahead of the long Diwali weekend, while a weak rupee too affected sentiment, brokers said.
    The BSE and NSE will conduct a special Muhurat trading session tomorrow between 1830 hrs and 1930 hrs on the occasion of Diwali.
    The bourses will remain closed on Friday for 'Diwali Balipratipada'.
    "NPA divergences have continued to be a strong theme in banks' results, putting the banking stocks under pressure, but market remains expectant of more GST related positivity in the coming days," said Anand James, Chief Market Strategist, Geojit Financial Services.
    Axis Bank emerged as the worst performer among Sensex components, tumbling 9.52 per cent following a spike in bad loans in the September quarter.
    The private sector lender yesterday reported a nearly 36 per cent increase in net profit at Rs 432 crore in the second quarter ended September, but reported a rise in bad loans.
    Other laggards included ICICI Bank, Cipla, SBI, Lupin, Sun Pharma, Asian Paints, Hindustan Unilever, Bajaj Auto, Hero MotoCorp, Maruti Suzuki, Infosys, Bharti Airtel, L&T and Tata Steel, falling by up to 3.96 per cent.
    Reliance Industries topped the gainers list by surging 4.52 per cent, while Wipro rose 1.92 per cent after the company yesterday reported a 5.8 per cent rise in net profit for three months to September.
    Among the sectoral indices, telecom fell 1.86 per cent, followed by bankex 1.79 per cent, healthcare 0.80 per cent, teck 0.67 per cent, consumer durables 0.57 per cent, metal 0.51 per cent, auto 0.41 per cent and IT 0.35 per cent.
    The broader markets depicted a mixed trend, with the small-cap index falling 0.02 per cent, while the mid-cap rose 0.01 per cent.
    Foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold shares worth a net Rs 484.92 crore yesterday, as per provisional data released by the stock exchanges.
    Domestic institutional investors (DIIs) bought shares worth a net Rs 809.03 crore.
    Overseas, European shares edged higher as investors monitored the latest batch of earnings and economic data releases.
    Most Asian stocks edged lower as investors in the region looked to China's Communist Party Congress for signs on future policy direction of the world's second-largest economy.

    Corporate India has cut budget for Diwali gifts by 35-40% this year: Report
    • Reports are pouring in about slow sales this year leading to low-key festivities across the country. Keeping in line with the general sentiment, corporate India has also mellowed down the gifting process this year. Budget for gifts has been slashed by at least 35-40 per cent reveals a survey by industry chamber, Assocham.
      The industry body has mentioned that employees are more or less still receiving the Diwali gifts that have become a corporate tradition by now. The reduction in gifts is reflecting more so on gifts that are usually given to associates, network partners, key personalities and other outside contacts.
      However, there has certainly been a downward impact on bonus payments with several corporate houses cutting costs in their overall operations due to debts. Besides, disruptions arising out of demonetisation and issues with the Goods and Services Tax (GST) too have affected the overall sentiment, Assocham said.
      "Consequent to slowdown in the Diwali gift sale, the FMCG companies which generally bet high on festive sales in the business of chocolates, cookies and sweets are reporting less than normal sales," Secretary General of Assocham, DS Rawat said.

      "Similar is the case with consumer durable firms engaged in washing machines, refrigerators, ovens, electric stoves and other such items. Even the festive sale of high-end smartphones seems to have taken a hit," he further added.
      He also said that the survey endorses the general low key mood of the industry and trade with the considerable trimming of the festive budget.
      The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) had conducted a telephonic survey of about 758 companies across tier I, II and III cities - Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Delhi-NCR, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai in the run-up to Diwali.

    General Awareness

    Dharmendra Pradhan’s two day visit to Japan

    • An Indian delegation led by Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan visited Tokyo, Japan from 17th – 18th October, 2017 to participate in LNG Producer- Consumer Conference 2017.
      Highlights of Dharmendra Pradhan’s Japan Visit
      Besides attending LNG Producer- Consumer Conference 2017, Pradhan also met Hiroshige Seko, the Minister of Economy, Trade, and Industry of Japan. Both the ministers discussed issues of bilateral engagement in the hydrocarbon sector.
      • Mr Pradhan and Mr. Seko also signed a Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) on establishing a Liquid, Flexible and Global LNG Market between India and Japan.
      • During his visit, Mr. Pradhan also met representatives of major Japanese Companies, including Osaka Gas, Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) and Japex to explore the scope of collaboration with the Indian companies.
      Union Minister Dharmendra Pradhan participated in LNG Producer-Consumer Conference 2017 held in Tokyo, Japan
      LNG Producer-Consumer Conference 2017 was organized by the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry of Japan (METI) and the Asia Pacific Energy Research Centre (APERC), in Tokyo, Japan.
      • This conference is a global dialogue, held every year to promote active dialogue among LNG producers, consumers and other stakeholders. The dialogue focuses on deepening shared understandings of market trends and discussing measures to develop a global LNG market.
      • Pradhan delivered a key note address on ‘Developing LNG Market in Asia: Government Perspectives’.
      • Energy Ministers from several countries including Qatar, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Mozambique, Japan and other leading hydrocarbon experts also participated in this Conference.
      India, Mozambique agree to develop Rovuma gas field
      On the sidelines of LNG Producer–Consumer Conference 2017, Union Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan met Energy Minister of Mozambique, Leticia Klemens to discuss the development of the gas fields in Mozambique.
      • Indian companies have invested about US$6.5 billion in development of gas projects in Area -1, spanning across 10,000 square kms, located in northernmost part of offshore Mozambique Rovuma Basin.
      • ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), holds 16 per cent stake in Area–1, whereas Oil India Ltd has 4 per cent stake and a unit of Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) holds 10 per cent stake.
      Quick Facts about Mozambique:
      • Capital – Maputo
      • Currency – Mozambican metical
      • Current President – Filipe Nyusi

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