Current Affairs Current Affairs - 21 October 2017 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 21 October 2017

General Affairs 

Over 500 long-distance trains to travel quicker by up to 2 hours from November
  • More than 500 long distance trains will travel quicker by up to 2 hours, a senior Indian Railways official informed on Friday.
    He said the new timings will be updated in the November timetable of the Railways.
    In the wake of directions from Railway Minister Piyush Goyal earlier this month, the national carrier incorporated "innovative timetabling" under which the running time of popular trains will reduce by 15 minutes to two hours.
    The new timetable will also provide each railway division two to four hours for maintenance work.
    "Our plan is to maximise the use of the existing rolling stock. It can be done in two ways - if we have a train that is waiting somewhere to return, we can use it during the lie over period. In the new timetable, around 50 such trains will be run like this. Fifty-one trains will immediately see reduced run time from one to three hours. This will go up to more than 500 trains", the official said.
    The railways has started the exercise of an internal audit through which 50 mail and express trains will be upgraded to super-fast services.
    This internal audit exercise is part of an overhaul of the rail system of increasing the average speed of the existing trains, he said.
    Trains such as the Bhopal-Jodhpur Express will reach 95 minutes early while the Guwahati-Indore Special will complete its 2,330-km journey 115 minutes early and the 1929-km journey of the Ghazipur-Bandra Terminus Express will be completed 95 minutes earlier.
    The national transporter has also reduced the halt time of trains at stations. Similarly, trains will not stop at stations where footfall is less.
    Coupled with track and infrastructure upgrade, automatic signalling and the new Linke-Hofmann-Busch coaches that allow a 130 kmph top speed, trains are expected to run faster.
    The railways is also in the process of reviewing permanent speed restrictions.

In Kedarnath, Modi says Congress didn't let him rebuild flash flood-hit holy town in 2013 as Gujarat CM
  • On a visit to the Kedarnath shrine, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today attacked the Congress for rejecting his proposal in June 2013 when he was Chief Minister of Gujarat to redevelop the Uttarakhand shrine that was badly damaged in the massive flash floods.
    While addressing a public meeting after offering prayers at the Kedarnath temple, the Prime Minister also said that the BJP was trying to develop the Himalayan shrine into an ideal pilgrim centre with quality infrastructure.  
    Talking about the devastating 2013 flash floods in Uttarakhand, Modi said he as the chief minister of Gujarat had visited Uttarakhand in its aftermath to offer help. "I came here to do all that I could for the victims. I had met the then Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and state government officials and offered that Gujarat would redevelop Kedarnath. During the meeting they agreed. And I announced it outside in the media. But when the news was flashed on television, and it reached Delhi, the people there (UPA government) panicked and within hours, the state government was pressurised to announce that it would redevelop Kedarnath itself", Modi alleged.
    Modi said after the BJP government came to power in Uttarakhand earlier this year, "I understood that the work for Kedarnath's redevelopment will be done by us".
    In June 2013, the then Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna and the Congress party had rebuffed Modi's offer for redevelopment of Kedarnath and his Rs 3 crore cheque, which was in addition to a Rs 2 crore his state had donated as relief aid for rain disaster.
    The Congress and other parties had criticised Modi for trying to be the "Rambo" of rescue. The Congress had alleged that he was trying to communalise a natural calamity.
    Speaking about the work being done in Kedarnath, Modi said, "Through the work we are doing, we want to show what an ideal 'Tirth Kshetra' (pilgrim centre) should be like, how it should be pilgrim-friendly and the well-being of priests should be given importance."
    The Prime Minister added, "We are building quality infrastructure in Kedarnath. It will be modern but the traditional ethos will be preserved. We will ensure the environment is not damaged", Modi said, adding it would also be developed as a site for adventure sports and to showcase the natural beauty of the area.
    He was speaking after laying the foundation stone for a slew of reconstruction projects in Kedarpuri, including renovation of Adi Guru Shankaracharya's tomb which was damaged in the floods.
    He said the Himalayas have much to offer - for spiritual pursuits, nature lovers, for those interested in adventure and water sports.
    "If we protect the environment, in return it shall protect us all", he said, adding, "I invite everyone to come and explore the Himalayas."
    He also lauded the people of Uttarakhand for their discipline.
    "Discipline is in the blood of the people of Uttarakhand. At least one person from each family is a soldier", the Prime Minister said.
    He urged the state government to promote organic farming and turn it into an organic state like Sikkim.
    The Prime Minister asked the corporate sector to join in the work for development of the country.

    "We need more corporate support to work on the development of the country. We need more companies and their corporate social responsibility activities to work on this nation. We will fully develop India by 2022 ", he said.

Chidambaram's dig: Election Commission has authorised PM Modi to announce Gujarat election dates
  • Congress leader P Chidambaram today criticised the Election Commission saying that by not announcing the Gujarat poll schedule, it has "authorised" Prime Minister Narendra Modi to declare the dates at his last rally, after all "freebies" for the state were doled out.
    The former finance and home minister also claimed the Election Commission will be "recalled" from its "extended holiday" after the Gujarat government has announced all "concessions and freebies".
    "EC has authorised PM to announce date of Gujarat elections at his last rally (and kindly keep EC informed)," he tweeted.
    The EC had on October 12 announced that polling for the assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh will take place on November 9, but held off announcing the Gujarat schedule.
    The EC had just said the polling in the western state would be held before December 18.
    The Congress had alleged that the government put "pressure" on the poll panel to "delay" the announcement of Gujarat assembly poll schedule to enable the prime minister to act as a "false santa claus" and offer sops, use "jumlas" (rhetoric) during his October 16 visit to his home state.
    The model code of conduct would have come into immediate effect in Gujarat had the poll schedule been announced along with Himachal Pradesh, the party had said.
    Hitting back at the Congress for targeting the EC, BJP leader and Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said allegations levelled against the constitutional body were without any basis.
    "It is absolutely absurd. Its like questioning the prudence of the EC. The Congress is perhaps speaking out of its own experience where interference in the functioning of constitutional bodies used to be a thing in their rule. Such is not the case since 2014," he had said.
    "Let me also add, this tells that they are jittery about BJP?s prospects in the state," Prasad had said.

Army, Navy, Air Force all to take part in first-ever Indo-Russian tri-service exercise

  • On Friday, India and Russia will kick off 'Indra', a ten-day military exercise that will see, for the first time, all the three services - the Army, the Air Force and the Navy - taking part.
    The military exercise, to be held in Russia, will mark a "a landmark event in the history of Indo-Russian defence cooperation", the Defence Ministry said in a statement.
    An IL-76 aircraft transported the Army and Air Force contingents to Russia on Wednesday while two Navy ships - the indigenously built INS Satpura and INS Kadmatt - docked at the Vladivostok Port on Thursday.
    The 10-day military exercise will be conducted at the 249th Combined Army Range Sergiyevisky and in the Sea of Japan near Vladivostok.
    In its previous nine editions, Indra has been conducted as a single-service exercise alternately between India and Russia. This year, all three Indian and Russian military services will take part in the annual exercise. The Indian contingent comprises of 350 personnel from the Army, 80 from the Air Force, two IL-76 aircraft and one Frigate and Corvette each from the Navy.
    Russia will be represented by approximately 1,000 troops of the 5th Army, marines and ships of its Pacific Fleet and aircraft from Eastern Military District, an official release said.
    "Indra-2017 will serve towards strengthening mutual confidence and interoperability as well as sharing of the best practices between the armed forces of both the countries," the statement said. "The joint tri-service exercise will be a demonstration of the increasing commitment of both nations to address common challenges across the full spectrum of operations," it added.

Jaipur farmers celebrate Diwali by partially burying themselves in pits to protest against land acquisition
  • Farmers in Jaipur's Neendar village protesting against Vasundhara Raje government's alleged attempt to forcibly acquire land, celebrated Diwali at the site of the protest itself.
    To protest, farmers have dug pits and put themselves neck-deep inside it. On Diwali, the protest site was lit up by hundreds of small earthen lamps as farmers kept each others' spirit high while protesting.
    They have been protesting for at least 17 days against the alleged attempt to forcibly acquire land by the Rajasthan government to build housing complexes for earning revenue.
    Hundreds of farmers have claimed they will be rendered landless if the Jaipur Development Authority (JDA) goes ahead with its plan to acquire land in Neendar.
    Even after various rounds of talks with representatives of the JDA, no conclusion had come out and that is when several farmers decided to go on a hunger strike.
    More than 800 farmers, including 500 female farmers had renounced food. The protest, which was being termed as Zameen Samadhi Satyagraha, by the agitating farmers had failed to yield any positive results.
    Agitating farmers claimed that their protests will continue in the face of an adamant state administration that has been unresponsive to their demands.
    "Our point is that we will not give land because we do not have any land to give. That is why, we will bury ourselves in this land itself but will not give one inch of land to the government", a protesting farmer had earlier told India Today.
    The representatives of agitating farmers had claimed that any further talks will be held with the government only.
    "Talks failed with the JDA so now will not indulge in any further discussions below ministerial level", Dr Nagendra Shekhawat, Convenor, Farmers' Sangharsh Samiti, said.

Business Affairs

Taxpayers file 3.3 million GST returns for September till noon as deadline draws near: GSTN Chairman
  • As many as 3.3 million GST returns for September have been filed till noon and 75,000 sales data is being uploaded on the GSTN portal on hourly basis, its Chairman Ajay Bhushan Pandey said on Friday.
    The deadline for filing the initial returns in GSTR-3B for September under the Goods and Services Tax regime ends midnight tonight.
    In an interview to PTI, Pandey said that the GSTN system is stable and has been handling data at just 30 per cent of its capacity with 20 lakh returns being uploaded in last two days.
    "As many as 33 lakh returns have been filed till noon. The pace of filing is picking up with an average 75,000 returns being uploaded on an hourly basis. GSTN system is stable. We hope more people are able to file return within the due date," he said.
    Since the rollout of GST on July 1, this is the third month for which businesses have to file GSTR-3B returns listing out details of their sales.
    For July and August, 5.5 million and 5 million returns had been filed, fetching Rs 95,000 crore and Rs 92,000 crore in revenue respectively.
    Pandey said that in the first two months, businesses have also uploaded returns after the end of due date and the number of September returns would go up eventually.
    "If we see the capacity of the network, GSTN is using only 30 per cent of its capacity. So there is a lot of headroom available for the server to upload more number of returns," Pandey said.
    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had last month appealed to businesses to file GST returns before the due date and not wait till the last date to file returns.
    To ease compliance burden, the GST Council has allowed businesses to file their initial tax returns in form GSTR-3B in the first six months of GST rollout until December.
    Accordingly, the GSTR-3B returns would have to be filed by the 20th of the next month, which means September returns have to be uploaded by October 20.
    The GST Network (GSTN) had faced glitches during the GSTR-3B filing for July, which had forced the government to extend the due date for filing of returns and had also waived the late payment fee.
    However, the network worked fine at the time of return filing for August.
    The Group of Minister under Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi has met twice to look into the issues faced by GSTN and has smoothened its functioning after taking into account the troubles faced by stakeholders.

No instruction for mandatory linking Aadhaar and bank account: RBI in RTI response
  • It seems there is no end to the debate regarding Aadhaar linking. While banks have been threatening their accountholders to furnish UIDAI-issued Aadhaar to experience seamless banking experience or face suspension of their accounts, in new revelation, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has made it clear that it has not issued instructions regarding mandatory linking of the two. It made its stance clear in response to a Right to Information (RTI) application filed by news website
    When asked to provide a copy issued by it for mandatory linking of Aadhaar number of their customers with their bank account it stated "the Government has issued a Gazette Notification GSR 538(E) dated 1 June 2017 regarding Prevention of Money laundering (Maintenance of Records) Second Amendment Rules, 2017, inter-alia, making furnishing of Aadhaar (for those individuals who are eligible to be enrolled for Aadhaar) and permanent number (PAN) mandatory for opening a bank account. It may be noted that Reserve Bank has not yet issued an instruction in this regard.
    It also revealed that it has not even filed any any petition with the Supreme Court on seeking explicit permission of linking the two. "RBI has not filed any petition with the Supreme Court," the RBI said in response to the query.
    The replies clearly show that government and RBI are not on the same page. In its fight against tax evasion, the Centre has made it mandatory to quote the Aadhaar number for opening bank accounts and also made Aadhaar compulsory for 135 schemes (of 35 ministries) including free cooking gas (LPG) to poor women, kerosene and fertiliser subsidy, targeted public distribution system (PDS) and MGNREGA.
    However, the Supreme Court has restricted usage of Aadhaar to six schemes where the government provides benefits or subsidy to individuals.

MPC minutes give no sign of rate cut in the near term: Report
  • The minutes of the recent Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) meeting suggest that the Reserve Bank is likely to tread a cautious path and there is little chance of a rate cut in the near term as inflation is expected to inch upwards, says a report.
    According to a Kotak Economic Research report, besides inflationary pressures, fiscal slippage concerns and possible volatility in global markets worried some MPC members. "The minutes of the October MPC meeting reinstated the cautious approach of most members as inflation is likely to inch upwards," Kotak Economic Research said in a note.
    They suggest that growth is expected to recover cyclically in the second half of the current fiscal, but factors like low capacity utilisation, debt overhang of corporate and stressed assets of banking sector may act as structural constraints to growth.
    The reports expects retail inflation to average around 3.3 per cent in this fiscal, noting however that directionally inflation will be trending higher and core inflation too will likely stay sticky around 4.5 per cent.
    "With RBI fixated on the 4 per cent target on a durable basis, and with plausible case of fiscal slippage, it looks less convincing for a policy easing in the near term, unless data surprises on the downside significantly," the report noted.
    Earlier this month, Reserve Bank of India kept benchmark interest rate unchanged on fears of rising inflation while lowering growth forecast to 6.7 per cent for the current fiscal. It also raised its inflation forecast to a range of 4.2 to 4.6 per cent during remainder of current fiscal as against 4 to 4.5 per cent previously.

MSRTC strike Day 4: Stand-off continues over pay hike for bus drivers under 7th Pay Commission
  • State transport buses kept off the streets of Maharashtra for the fourth day as the strike called by Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSRTC) employees demanding an increase in their salaries as per recommendations by the 7th Pay Commission. State government has held several rounds of meetings with the MSRTC representatives but to no avail. While the employee unions show no signs of letting up on the strike, Maharashtra government has refused to hold further talks till the MSRTC employees resume their duties.
    The strike has kept a fleet of 19,000 buses operated by MSRTC from running across Maharashtra, along with almost 1 lakh MSRTC employees. The MSRTC has already agreed to hike salaries of its employees as per the recommendations by the 7th Pay Commission. This would have reportedly increase MSRTC employees' salaries by Rs 4,000 to Rs 15,000 depending on their seniority and put additional burden of Rs 1,100 crore on the corporation. But the employee unions are dissatisfied with the hike.
    "We tried to present the options with the maximum possible hike. But the unions remain dissatisfied with the amount sanctioned. We have tried to offer the maximum hike ever in the 77-year history of the organisation. We appeal to them to withdraw the strike," Raote said in a statement.
    State Transport Minister Diwakar Raote met the representatives of MSRTC employees for a lengthy discussion over the matter on Wednesday, but without any results. The employee unions are not willing to call off the strike before their demands are met. On the other hand, Maharastra government claims that demands for salary hike cannot be met as the state transport corporation cannot afford to award the pay rise being demanded.
    Maharashtra agreed in July to adopt the suggestions made by the 7th Pay Commission regarding pay and pension, but maintained that it would take around nine months to fully implement the changes mentioned by the pay panel.
    While the state government urged the MSRTC employees to return to their jobs as commuters were facing troubles, the MSRTC employee unions blamed government for the impasse. "As per the rule, we had given a notice for strike 40 days in advance. But the administration remained under the impression that we would accept their terms," a senior member of the state transport union was quoted by PTI.
    On the other hand, the MSRTC claims to have held series of meetings to explain to its employees that the demands of pay hike are not financially possible, despite which the employee unions started the strike.

    A tepid start to Samvat 2074; Sensex may be subdued after 17% gain previous year
    • While the Samvat 2073 ended on a positive note on Wednesday, the new Samvat started on a tepid note for equities on the back of muted quarterly results, weak global clues and profit booking. The Sensex opened at 3 2,656.75 points, made a high of 32,663.06 points, a low of 32,319.37 points and closed at 32,389.96 points, down by 194 points during one-hour Muhurut trading. Even BSE Midcap index fell 0.25%. The only saving grace for the day was Smallcap index which rose marginally at 0.11%.
      Bharti Airtel emerged as the top gainer with a rise of 2.06%. It was followed by Lupin (0.34%), Infosys (0.29%), Mahindra and Mahindra (0.26%), Dr Reddy's Laboratores (0.14%). The top losers were Adani Ports (2%), ICICI Bank (1.98%), Kotak Mahindra Bank (1.64%), NTPC (1.60%), Tata Motors (1.45%) and Coal India (1.38%).
      According to experts, in Samvat 2074 markets will remain subdued due to weak earnings growth and higher than average valuations and needs strong domestic flows to rise up.
      In Samvat 2073, domestic investors put in a whopping 97,597 crore. This coupled with funds flowing from foreign investors pushed markets to a record high. The Sensex gained 16.67% and the Nifty 18.38% by the end of Samvat 2073. This is despite disruptions in the economy like  demonetisation of high value currencies on 8 November 2016 and goods and services tax (GST) rollout from from 1 July 2017.
      Good monsoon were also responsible for the rally.
      However, Indian markets lagged behind its Asian counterparts like Hong Kong, Korea and Japan.

      Sectoral indices like metal gained from 10578 to close at 14541 as metal prices increased due to a revival in global demand and expectations of Chinese production cuts.
      The one-hour Muhurat session is held every year on Diwali to mark the start of the Hindu New Year and see traders entering into token trades to making money as the trading is considered auspicious
      Markets are closed today on account of Vishwakarma Puja.

    General Awareness

    India among five countries responsible for 50% newborn deaths

    • As per a report titled “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017”India along with Pakistan, Nigeria, Congo and Ethiopia is responsible for half of all new-born deaths in the world.
      About “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017” Report:
      “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017” are the estimates developed by United Nations Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation (UN IGME) in context of monitoring child survival.
      • This report has been authored by United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), World Health Organization (WHO), World Bank Group and United Nations.
      • Estimates of under-five, infant and neonatal mortality have been presented in this report. Besides, progress at the country, regional and global levels has also been assessed.
      Highlights of “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality 2017”:
      As per the report, 6 million children died before reaching the age of five in 2016. This marks a decrease as compared to year 2000 in which 9.9 million children had died before turning five.
      • The report outlined that neonatal deaths (deaths during the first 28 days of life) accounted for 46 per cent whereas 6 million babies were stillborn in 2016.
      • 24 per cent of new-born deaths occurred in India. Pakistan accounted for 10 per cent whereas African countries – Nigeria Democratic Republic of Congo and Ethiopia accounted for 9 per cent, 4 per cent and 3 per cent respectively.
      • On a global level, Pneumonia and diarrhoea caused 16 per cent and 8 per cent of deaths respectively among children under five.
      • In 2016, 30 per cent of newborns succumbed to preterm birth complications and complications during labour or child birth.
      • The report has cautioned that as per the current trends, 60 million children would die before their fifth birthday between 2017 and 2030.
      • Improved access to skilled health-professionals during pregnancy and at the time of birth, immunisation and breastfeeding have been listed as possible solutions to ending preventable child deaths.

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