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Current Affairs - 23 October 2017

General Affairs 

Sushma Swaraj on Rohingya issue: Normalcy will come only when displaced people return to Myanmar's Rakhine state
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said today that normalcy would return to Myanmar's restive Rakhine state only if the "displaced people," meaning Rohingya refugees, return.
    Swaraj is in Dhaka on a two-day visit. She discussed the ongoing Rohingya crisis with Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, and the need for an "early and lasting solution," her ministry said.
    Bangladesh has been dealing with the Rohingya issue for a long time, because of the huge influx of refugees from Myanmar. It has sought help from India in de-escalating the crisis.
    "India is deeply concerned at the spate of violence in Rakhine State of Myanmar. We have urged that the situation be handled with restraint, keeping in mind the welfare of the population," Sushma Swaraj said earlier today.
    The minister said the "only long-term solution to the situation in Rakhine State is rapid socio-economic and infrastructure development that would have a positive impact on all the communities living in the State." India, she said, has "has committed to provide financial and technical assistance for identified projects to be undertaken in Rakhine State in conjunction with the local authorities."
    "We have also supported implementation of the recommendations contained in the Kofi Annan led Special Advisory Commission report," she added.
    Well over half a million Rohingya people have crossed into Bangladesh's southern district of Cox's Bazaar since late August after escaping horrific violence in neighbouring Myanmar.
    A recent report by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) drew attention to the desperate living conditions - and water-borne diseases - that are threatening more than 320,000 Rohingya refugee children who have fled to southern Bangladesh since late August, including some 10,000 who crossed from Myanmar over the past few days.

Chinese Army hails 'peaceful resolution' of Doklam stand-off at Party Congress
  • China's People's Liberation Army on Sunday hailed the "peaceful resolution" of the standoff with India at Doklam , amid the on-going once-in-five-year Party Congress in Beijing, and said it showed how its "practical cooperation" and "many negotiations with India" helped in resolving the dispute.
    Liu Fang, Staff Officer at the Office for International Military Cooperation of the PLA's Central Military Commission (CMC) - its top body headed by President Xi Jinping - highlighted the "peaceful resolution" of standoff with India in her opening remarks to media at a press conference on the sidelines of the Congress.
    She referred to the resolution as underlining the PLA's "practical cooperation" with foreign countries, where she also highlighted newly set up emergency dispute resolution and maritime cooperation mechanisms with the United States.
    Referring to what she said was Indian troops "crossing the borderline into China's territory", Liu said, "My colleagues in the military and other ministries worked very closely and held negotiations with the Indian side many times, and the spokesperson for the national defence also clearly reiterated China's position. All this contributed a lot to the peaceful resolution of the China-India cross border dispute."
    Saying the 72-day stand-off was "safely resolved right now", she indicated it showed how the PLA was "working hard to build up new platforms and measures in international cooperation".
    After the August 28 disengagement at Doklam, the PLA said then the "Chinese military will remain vigilant and firmly defend national territory and sovereignty".  Senior Colonel Wu Qian of the PLA also said "peace and stability along China-India border concerns regional peace and stability and accords with the common interests of the two peoples."
    At the same time, he added, "We remind India to draw lessons from the stand-off, abide by established treaties and the basic principles of international law, and work together with China to safeguard peace and stability along the border and promote the healthy development of the two militaries."
    At the October 18 opening of the week-long congress, President Xi called for building stronger armed forces and said China would work to complete the modernisation of armed forces by 2035 and to build it into "world class forces" by "the mid-21st century". Xi has pushed sweeping reforms of the military during his first term, introducing a higher degree of centralisation as well as increasing the joint integration of army, air force and navy commands, besides adding a new rocket force and strategic support force.

Railway Minister Piyush Goyal travels in Kota Janshatabdi Express, takes passengers' feedback
  • In a surprise move, Railway Minister Piyush Goyal today travelled in the Kota Janshatabdi Express, and took the feedback of passengers.
    Goyal inspected the whole train when it departed from Mathura.
    Piyush Goyal took over the Railways ministry from Suresh Prabhu earlier this year, on the basis of his performance in the power ministry, where he turned out to be a strict task master.
    Last week, 24 rail passengers were hospitalised due to food poisoning after they had breakfast on-board the Tejas Express, a premium train that runs between Goa and Mumbai. What was shocking here is that the incident came merely three months after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had said in its report that the Indian Railways is serving food on trains and stations which is unfit for human consumption.
    The CAG has pointed out several loopholes in the managing of catering services. It had pulled up the Railways for mismanagement of catering services, poor quality food, and monopolisation - which has led to a compromise in quality.

PM Modi in Vadodara: Opposition has no authority to question EC
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today that the Opposition had no right to question the Election Commission, which recently found itself in the eye of a controversy for its decision to hold back the dates of the Gujarat Assembly election.

    The PM was addressing a public meeting in Vadodara. Earlier today, he  inaugurated the first phase of a Rs 615 crore 'roll-on-roll-off' (ro-ro) ferry service between Ghogha in Saurashtra and Dahej in south Gujarat. 
    Here are the top quotes from his speech in Vadodara.
    HIGHLIGHTS
    1. Diwali mein Vadodara kyun aya hun is par logon ko pet mein dard hai. Mujhe toh kuch keh nahi sakte isliye EC par dabaav bana rahe hain (People are questioning why I am in Vadodara for Diwali. They can't tell me anything, that's why they're putting pressure on the EC). Lekin main unko kehna chahta hun ki unko Election Commission par ungli uthane ka koi hakk nahi hai (But I want to tell them they have no authority to question the EC)
    2. Since I was a child I was hearing about a ferry service from Ghogha to Dahej. It was not done all these years because development was never a priority for them. When we got a chance to serve we focussed on all-round development and the ferry is operational today.
    3. (On) 31st October we mark the Jayanti of Sardar Patel. Like in the previous years, there will be a 'Run for Unity.' Let us take part in this and urge others to join.
    4. If you scan the newspapers before May 2014 (when the BJP came to power at the Centre) you will see continuous mentions about the record corruption in various sectors.
    5. We are clear in our working. All our resources will be spent towards the wellbeing of every citizen. Our priority is development.
    6. The scale of development works being inaugurated in Vadodara today is unprecedented.

Kashmir: Security forces increase footprint in militant bastion Shopian
  • The security forces footprint has considerably increased in Shopian district, considered the last bastion of militants operating in south Kashmir, with the Army establishing new camps and the CRPF pushing a reserve battalion into the area, officials said.
    Once seen as the ground zero for militants, who used to roam openly in the area, problems started after April this year with security forces facing resistance in entering Heff- Shirmal area in the district, they said.
    Senior police, Army and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel started burning the midnight oil to overcome the crisis of controlling Shopian, which is located south of the Peer Panjal mountain range and can provide free access to terrorists to cross over to Doda, Kishtwar and Poonch area of Jammu, the officials said.
    After the killing of Burhan Wani, the poster boy of Hizbul Mujahideen militant outfit, on July 8 last year, the district has accounted for the disappearance of over 37 youths, who are believed to have joined various militant outfits.
    Officials said that after increasing the footprint, local intelligence has started flowing, resulting in encounters that saw top militant leadership, including the main recruiter for Hizbul Mujahideen Irfan Sheikh of Maldera and the groups financier Waseem Shah being eliminated.
    CRPF has also moved in a reserve battalion comprising nearly 1,000 men into Shopian.
    Victor Force, a counter-insurgency unit of the Army, headed by Major Gen B S Raju, and Deputy Inspector General of Jammu and Kashmir Police (South Kashmir) S P Pani along with CRPF officer brain stormed and started re-calibrating their plans for making Shopian a militant-free zone, they said.
    Jammu and Kashmir police moved in a considerable number of its personnel to various parts of the district and its crack teams of special operation group got attached with teams of the Army and CRPF to engage in a quick operation, whenever needed, they said.
    Army has established nearly five camps at Nagabal, Chillipura, Maitribugh, Zainpura and Larkipura besides increasing strength in existing camps in the area, the officials said.
    The most important was the Army camp at Chillipura, which is located next to Heff-Shirmal area, as it provided a safe haven to militants with a natural cover being provided by the lush green forests and apple orchards.
    Considered as a gateway to the Kashmir Valley for being strategically located en-route to the historical Mughal road, Shopian has at present nearly 15 active militants. Out of them, only Saddam and Zeenat-ul-Islam are A++ category militants who carry a cash reward on them.

Business Affairs

I am being sacked, Mistry texted wife before board meet
  • "I am being sacked" was the text message former Tata Sons chairman Cyrus P Mistry sent to his wife Rohiqa minutes after he was asked to either resign or face termination over Tata Trusts losing confidence in him for a variety of reasons.
    Minutes before the October 24, 2016 board meeting of Tata Sons -- the holding company of the USD 106 billion salt-to- software conglomerate -- Ratan Tata and another board member Nitin Nohria came calling on the former chairman, claims Nirmalya Kumar, who was part of the core Group Executive Council (GEC) formed by Mistry.
    "Nitin Nohria begins by proclaiming that Cyrus as you know the relationship between you and Ratan Tata has not been working.
    "Therefore, Nohria continues, Tata Trusts have decided to move a board resolution removing Cyrus as Chairman of Tata Sons. He is offered the option of resigning or facing the resolution for his removal at the upcoming board meeting," Kumar wrote in a blog.
    Ratan Tata, according to Kumar, chimes in at this stage to say he is sorry that things have reached this stage.
    "Cyrus Mistry calmly responds with gentlemen you are free to take it up at the board meeting and I will do what I have to do," he wrote.
    Cyrus sends a text "I am being sacked" to his wife Rohiqa, before putting on his jacket and heading for the board meeting, says Kumar in his latest blog titled How Cyrus Mistry was fired.
    Kumar, who is currently a professor of marketing at Lee Kong Chian School of Business, Singapore Management University and Distinguished Fellow at INSEAD Emerging Markets Institute, states that during the meeting, Mistry argued that the articles of association required a 15-day notice before a resolution.
    Another Tata Trusts nominee Amit Chandra informed the board that the legal opinion obtained by the Trusts stated such a notice was not necessary. "He offered to share the opinion, but none has been to date," said the blog.
    While six of the eight-member board that included Vijay Singh, Amit Chandra and Nitin Nohria -- all trust nominees; Ajay Piramal, Ronen Sen and Venu Srinivasan -- all independent directors, voted in favour of the resolution that sought removal of Mistry, Farida Khambhata, an independent director, and Ishaat Hussain, finance director, Tata Sons abstained from voting.
    "It was all over in minutes, no explanations and no opportunity for Cyrus Mistry to prepare a rebuttal," Kumar wrote.
    At 3 pm Mistry returned to his room and begun "packing his personal effects." He was informed by F N Subehdar, chief operating officer, Tata Sons that it was "unnecessary for Mistry to return the next day" when the latter queried him about the same.
    Kumar said Mistrys ouster stood out because the Tata Group had a history of only six chairmen over 148 years.
    "Cyrus Mistry was selected after a careful process that took over a year, and by assuming the role at the age of 46, he was expected to serve between 20-30 years," he wrote.
    Kumar said the initial contract under which Cyrus was serving as the Chairman had been passed via a shareholder resolution of Tata Sons.
    "It was due to expire on 31 March 2017. Instead of the sudden, no warning dismissal, the board could have just let the clock run out in five months. By eschewing the public humiliation of Cyrus Mistry, the bloody aftermath that followed could have been avoided.
    "Unfortunately, instead there was the subsequent public airing of the underbelly of the Tata group as well as the deleterious impact on the reputations of Ratan Tata, Cyrus Mistry and the Tata brand," he wrote.
    The only winners, he said, were the public relations companies and lawyers, who are still having a field day.
    On October 24 last year, Tata Sons announced that its board has replaced Mistry as Chairman of Tata Sons, naming his predecessor Ratan Tata as interim chairman.
    Mistry was appointed Tata Sons chairman in November 2011 on the basis of his representation from Shapoorji Pallonji, the single largest shareholder in Tata Sons.
    On February 21 this year, former head of TCS N Chandrasekaran took over as the chairman of Tata Sons.

Six of top 10 companies add Rs 48,372 crore to market cap
  • The combined market valuation of six of the 10 most valued companies surged by Rs 48,372.16 crore last week, with Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) emerging as the biggest gainer.
    While RIL, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), HDFC Bank, ITC, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) and ONGC saw gains in their market capitalisation (m-cap) in the holiday-shortened week ended on Wednesday, HDFC, Maruti Suzuki India, Infosys and SBI suffered losses. Stock markets were closed on Thursday and Friday for Diwali. The RILs valuation zoomed Rs 23,462.1 crore to Rs 5,78,636.87 crore.
    The m-cap of TCS jumped Rs 6,183.15 crore to Rs 4,95,618.63 crore and that of ITC advanced by Rs 5,482.64 crore to Rs 3,29,384.88 crore. The mcap of ONGC went up by Rs 5,261.63 crore to Rs 2,23,554.96 crore and that of HDFC Bank rose by Rs 4,173.16 crore to Rs 4,83,104.01 crore. The market valuation of HUL climbed Rs 3,809.48 crore to Rs 2,73,633.38 crore.
    In contrast, the mcap of SBI slumped Rs 7,121.44 crore to Rs 2,10,794.67 crore. Maruti lost Rs 2,495.18 crore to Rs 2,35,308.28 crore in its valuation and HDFC saw an erosion of Rs 2,017.8 crore to Rs 2,79,564.28 crore. The mcap of Infosys went down by Rs 1,711.26 crore to Rs 2,12,345.54 crore. In the ranking, RIL remained at the numero-uno spot followed by TCS, HDFC Bank, ITC, HDFC, HUL, Maruti, ONGC, Infosys and SBI. Over the last week, the BSE 30-share index rose by 151.66 points or 0.46 per cent to close at 32,584.35. 

Maruti becomes No. 1 exporter of personal vehicles from India, Hyundai 4th
  • Maruti Suzuki India has become the largest passenger vehicles exporter from India in the first half of the ongoing fiscal, dethroning Hyundai Motor India Ltd which has now been pushed to fourth spot behind Volkswagen and General Motors.
    In the April-September period this fiscal, Maruti Suzuki India (MSI) exported 57,300 units of passenger vehicles (PVs) as against 54,008 units in the year-ago period, up 6 per cent, according to the latest data by Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM).
    The long-running number one exporter, Hyundai Motor India Ltd (HMIL) on the other hand shipped 44,585 units as against 63,014 units in the year-ago period, a decline of 29.25 per cent. The company is now behind Volkswagen and General Motors India in terms of export of PVs from India.
    During the first half of the fiscal, Volkswagen India exported 50,410 units at a growth of 16.92 per cent. It is now the second biggest exporter of PVs from India behind MSI.
    Last year, it had exported 43,114 units during the same period. Interestingly, General Motors (GM) which had on May 18 this year decided to stop selling its vehicles in India after struggling for over two decades to make a mark, is now the third biggest exporter of PVs from the country. In the first half of the fiscal, GM exported 45,222 units as against 30,613 units in the year-ago period, a growth of 47.72 per cent.
    The company exports vehicles from its manufacturing plant at Talegaon in Maharashtra. It has sold its first plant at Halol in Gujarat to MG Motor India, an arm of Chinas SAIC. Another US auto major, Ford also posted impressive growth in exports of PVs from India during the period.
    The companys overseas shipments stood at 42,412 units as against 31,467 units in the same period last fiscal, up 34.78 per cent making it the fifth biggest exporter from India.
    Nissan Motor India, which was the third biggest exporter last year saw its overseas shipments during the first half of the fiscal decline by 37.11 per cent to 30,872 units from 49,091 units in the same period last fiscal. It now occupies the sixth spot.

Tech companies have only 26per cent women in engineering roles: Survey
  • The overall representation of women in the engineering workforce of IT firms is just 34 per cent, according to a survey.
    "The average number of women (irrespective of their function) in tech companies, we found that the overall representation was 34 per cent," according to survey by Belong on the gender gap in the tech industry in India.
    Belong survey looked at all tech companies in the country and found that there is one woman engineer as against three men engineers, leading to the fact that the Indian technology industry has just 26 per cent women in engineering roles.
    The Belong survey was done with ITES companies with over 50 employees and the data was collected from around three lakh women.
    This reinforces the assumption that science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) jobs attract less women, the survey added.
    After analysing the career trajectories of techies, who moved into managerial positions and data, the survey found that the transition of men on an average to managerial positions is usually after six years of experience while women move to these roles after eight years of experience.
    Further, the survey has revealed that as many as 45 per cent of women move out of core engineering roles after close to eight years.
    After quitting engineering, these women mostly move to marketing, product management or consulting, it added.
    It said, among the tech talent in India, there are more women in software testing roles (a less sought after skill) compared to core programming roles.
    This is the case even though the absolute number of jobs in software testing are significantly less than programming, it added.
    Belong survey also revealed that for every 100 testing jobs, there were 34 women compared to 66 men.
    When it came to hardcore programming roles, the ratio changed to 25:75, it added.
    The survey found that if 29 per cent women start working in a given year, the percentage drops to a dismal 7 per cent after 12 years.
    The biggest drop-off in pure numbers is after the first five years, it said.
    One of the major reasons for this is that women often take a break to start a family around this time in their lives, and many do not return to the workforce, it said.
    There have been initiatives by many big companies to tap these lost talents and bring back these women, it said.
    From leadership development programmes and special incentives to refer women candidates, Indian IT companies are using innovative techniques to hire and retain tech talent of the opposite gender, it added.

    India's best performance in Wordskills challenge since 2007; bag two medals
    • Two Indians bagged a silver and a bronze at the global skill competition here, showing the best ever performance by India since the country began participating in the WorldSkills' challenge in 2007.
      The Indian team comprising 28 competitors also won nine Medallions of Excellence across key skills. India had won a silver medal in 2009 and five medallions of excellence in 2015.
      Over 1,300 candidates from 59 countries competed across 51 skill categories this year. The results were announced in a closing ceremony last evening, a statement by Worldskills said.
      Mohit Dudeja won a silver for Patisserie and Confectionery whereas Kiran bagged a bronze for Prototype Modelling.
      Nine Medallions for Excellence were won in trades/skills like mechatronics, brick-laying, restaurant service, automobile technology, jewellery, graphic design technology, mobile robotics, beauty therapy and car painting.
      "The country should take great inspiration from the grit, the confidence and the determination with which the young team has performed at the Olympic of Skills and proved their mettle against countries like China, Russia, Korea, Japan, Brazil," said Rajesh Agrawal, Official delegate India for WorldSkills.
      "Our preparation for the next WorldSkills will begin soon and I encourage more and more youth to participate and have the honour to represent the country at such international levels," Agrawal said.

    General Awareness

    Government sets up expert group for suggestions on artificial intelligence policy


    • Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has set up an internal committee which will provide suggestions to Indian government on framing a national policy on artificial intelligence (AI).
      About Committee for Suggesting Artificial Intelligence Policy:
      This internal committee comprising of experts will advise the IT ministry on the most appropriate technology for India in context of emerging trends in the area of AI.
      • Reducing/averting cyber attacks carried out with the help of AI is the main focus area of Indian government.
      • Members of the committee will also hold consultations with officials from Union Home Ministry as well as Union Finance Ministry.
      • The committee will soon submit a detailed report including suggestions/recommendations to the Government, which will serve as a base for forming the national policy.
      • Framework for India’s strategic plan to use AI will incorporate key areas that have been identified in Government’s seven-point strategy.
      • Developing methods for human machine interactions; creating a competent workforce in line with AI and R&D needs, ensuring safety and security of AI systems; measuring and evaluating AI technologies through standards and benchmarks and understanding and addressing the ethical, legal and societal implications of AI are among the key points included in Government’s seven-point strategy.
      Emerging Trends in the area of Artificial Intelligence:
      Ability of machines to perform given tasks by adapting to the environment and thereby maximising its chance of success is referred to as Artificial Intelligence.
      • From 2016-2022 artificial intelligence market is expected to grow at a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 45.4%.
      • Trade analysts have forecasted that in 2020, artificial intelligence market will be worth $153 billion.
      • From Government’s perspective, AI is being viewed as a major challenge against creating as well as sustaining job opportunities, as in future more and more companies will deploy AI for executing tasks that currently require human resources.
      • Countries like US, UK and China are already working on formulating national plans to appropriately position themselves for harnessing AI technology in future.

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