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Current Affairs - 25 October 2017

General Affairs 

C-130 Hercules, other IAF jets land on Agra-Lucknow Expressway
  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) today kicked off its major touchdown exercise with a C-130 Hercules landing on the Lucknow-Agra Expressway. Soon, three Jaguar aircraft touched down on the expressway. Seventeen aircraft, including AN-32, Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi MKI, will participate in the three-hour drill.
    In a first, the heavy-duty C-130 Hercules, the 35,000-kg transport aircraft, will make an assault landing with Garud commandos. These commandos will be extricated from the same spot when the C-130 will make a landing for the second time.
    1. A C-130 transport aircraft with Special Forces (Garud) commandos, and frontline fighters from Indian Air Force's (IAF) inventory will be a part of the exercise to use highways as landing strips.
    2. In addition to displaying operational capability, the IAF will show its prowess in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR), a methodology to be used in case of any natural disaster or event that will enable the pilots to touch down to provide relief and assistance.

      A total of 17 aircraft will practice the difficult landing today which will include two C-130 Hercules, Jaguar, Mirage 2000 and Sukhoi 30MKI fighter jets.

      Vice Chief of Indian Air Force Air Marshal S B Deo on Monday said that landing of fighter aircraft on the Agra-Lucknow Expressway is an "important operational achievement".

      Air Marshal Deo said that highways can be "very important during wartime when the runway is denied for some reason".

      The exercise begins with the short landing of C-130 Hercules, which will drop the Garud commandos. The commandos will take position on either side of the airstrip to cordon it off for fighter operations.

      This will be followed by three Jaguar Deep penetration strike aircraft, two formations of three aircraft each of Mirages and two formations of three aircraft each of Sukhoi-30.

      All fighter aircraft will follow the touch-and-go manoeuvre following which the C 130 Hercules will return for another short landing to extricate the Garud commandos.

      Many highways have been cleared by the government to be used as airstrip for emergencies such as disaster relief, humanitarian assistance, as well as during war or conflict.

      The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has used the M2 motorway as a runway--for the first time in 2000 when it landed an F-7P fighter, a Super Mushak trainer and a C-130 and, again, in 2010.

MP CM Shivraj Singh disregards PM Modi's cashless India dream, allows farmers to pay in cash
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi's dream of a digital India is coming crashing down in Madhya Pradesh.
    Almost a year after demonetisation, when cash transactions in agriculture mandis across the state were banned, with the mentioned aim of cutting out the role of middle men, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has now announced that traders can now pay up to Rs 50,000 to farmers for their produce.
    Also there is no cap on the number of farmers who can be paid in cash on a single day.
    Chouhan before leaving for the US last week recorded a video message which was later posted on to his twitter timeline.
    In his video message CM of MP said, "Many farmers had complained to me. My government is of the farmers so keeping the interests of farmers in mind it has been decided that farmers can be paid up to Rs 50,000 in cash. The remaining amount can be either be paid in cheque or can be transferred directly to the bank accounts of beneficiaries."
    The decision has been taken to placate the angry farmers, but traders are not willing to listen. On Tuesday, when soyabean farmers demanded cash, the traders refused saying amendments have not been done to Income Tax rules.
    "We gave cash yesterday but after talking to IT officers, we realised that the rules have not been amended. The officials have also told us that we would have to pay the penalty," Ramchandra Aggarwal, President Traders Association of Agar Malwa said.
    "The traders are telling us that they cannot give us cash, as they have to pay the tax aswell. They are saying, Shivraj has allowed cash transactions but PM Modi has said no to such transactions," Raja Ram, a farmer who had to return empty handed from the mandi said.
    The opposition Congress party has charged the government of indulging in gimmickry, alleging that the government does what the bureaucrats tell them to do.
    "The officers take decisions to facilitate corruption and people at the top get their cut," KK Mishra of the Congress said.
    This is not the first time that Shivraj Singh Chouhan has taken a U-turn on his decisions announced amid much fanfare. The decision to give cash to farmers has been taken keeping the 2018 Assembly election in mind, but the farmers, it appears are not impressed.

Tejashwi Yadav ignores ED summons in IRCTC case; agency likely to move court
  • Former Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav failed to depose before the ED today after ignoring two prior summons in the IRCTC case. The agency was unsatisfied with Yadav's earlier interrogation and had summoned him to appear for further questioning.
    The Enforcement Directorate is now likely to approach the court for non-compliance of summons against the RJD supremo, Lalu Prasad Yadav's son.
    On October 10th, Tejashwi Yadav was interrogated by the ED for more than eight hours in association with the IRCTC scam. Yadav was questioned about money laundering vis-a-vis the railway hotel allotment case.
    Meanwhile, in this case involving the entire family of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Rabri Devi has been asked to appear for questioning on 27th October.
    "The investigative officer was expected to record Tejashwi Yadav statement under the provisions of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), under which it had registered a case against the Lalu Prasad family and others but he did not appear," said a senior officer of ED.
    Earlier, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) grilled Lalu Yadav and Tejashwi Yadav for their alleged involvement in the IRCTC scam case.
    It has been alleged by the agency when Lalu Yadav was the railway minister in UPA government, he handed over the maintenance of two hotels run by the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in Ranchi and Puri to Sujata Hotel.
    Sujata Hotel is a company owned by Vinay and Vijay Kochhar. It has been alleged in the complaint that Kochar brothers were given the two hotels in return for a prime plot of three acres in Patna through a benami company called Delight Marketing Company.
    According to the complaint, after the tender was awarded to Kochar brothers, the ownership of Delight Marketing also changed hands from Sarla Gupta to Rabri Devi and Tejashwi Yadav between 2010 and 2014.

CVC backs Vasundhara Raje govt's gag ordinance to protect babus from corruption probe
  • Amid raging controversy over the Rajasthan Government's ordinance, the Chief Vigilance Commissioner KD Chaudhary has backed law to protect ministers and bureaucrats from corruption investigation.
    "Barring bribery cases where trap is being laid, there should be some internal check before the case is registered," he told media persons on the sidelines of a workshop organised by Anti-Corruption Academy.
    "The Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) is on record that there is a need for somebody within the organisation to apply his mind and say that there is a criminality in this and there is a consent given before a case is registered," said Chaudhary.
    At the moment sanction is given when the case reaches the prosecution stage.
    The CVC said, "Given the fact that today people (officials) handle diverse kinds of situations, like banking and atomic energy. These are complicated things and every organisation has different protocol of working. Some require approval whole some do not.
    "When these things are done, an outside agency may say 'look here, this is a fraud', but within the agency that may not be the case," he added.
    "If it is a straight case of bribery or a trap we are not saying you take somebody's approval. So there is a need for someone to apply his mind before criminal agency takes over because, one, the agency books a case. Then investigation takes a lot of time. Then trial takes time. In the meantime, the career of the officer is ruined," the CVC said.
    The Chief Vigilance Commissioner also red-flagged the growing menace of shell companies. "Some say there are three lakh, some say four lakh shell companies. But more than the number, it is the quantum involved that is more damaging because they are used for more than one purpose. One is to route money. The other is to bring money in form of premium capital like Rs 10 share is issued for a worthless company at Rs 1,000. So people try to white wash money that way," he said.'
    "Shell companies are also used to create long term capital gains," he further added.
    "Though the government has cancelled licences of some of these companies, it has become a menace," said Mr Chaudhary.
    "Regulation is there to some extent but may be we need more teeth. But the PMLA and other enforcement agencies have to catch up. Unless we take up a few cases and take them to a logical conclusion the fear of law will not be there," he added.

China: PLA retains Army General of Doklam standoff Zhao Zongqi in CPC meet
  • Among the top People's Liberation Army (PLA) officers included in the Chinese Communist Party's new five-year Central Committee, announced on Tuesday, is the PLA General in charge of the army's Western Theatre command, which includes the border with India.
    General Zhao Zongqi, 62, heads the Western Command, and was hence considered responsible for China's handling of the 72-day-long stand-off in Doklam near the India-China-Bhutan trijunction. He is the key PLA figure that is responsible for China's military posture and engagement vis-a-vis India.
    General Zhao was among the 204 members of the new 19th Central Committee, that was announced on Tuesday, following the conclusion of the 19th Party Congress.
    General Xu Qiliang, currently Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC) which Xi heads, was also named, and is set to retain his post as VC.
    On Wednesday, Xi will appoint at least one more VC to replace General Fan Changlong who is set to retire. A favourite is General Zhang Youxia, who is thought to be close to Xi with both sharing ties that go back to their childhood--both were children of CPC revolutionary heroes from Shaanxi province.
    The former Army Commander General Li Zuocheng, recently promoted to head the Joint Staff Department after the removal of General Fang Fenghui on corruption charges, is another candidate, should Xi add a third VC.
    The current CMC has two VCs and eight other members. The South China Morning Post reported on Tuesday that Xi is considering changing the composition and installing even as many as four VCs, partly to dilute the power wielded in the past by the two VCs and to share the workload as he pushes sweeping military modernisation reforms.
    An amendment to the Party Constitution passed on Tuesday called on the military to explicitly "implement Xi Jinping's thinking on strengthening the military". The new CMC will be announced on Wednesday, along with the new Politburo and Politburo Standing Committee.

Business Affairs

Government announces massive capital infusion plan for public sector banks, but challenges remain

  • The government today announced a massive capital infusion plan of Rs 2.11 lakh crore over the next two years for the public sector banks (PSBs). The idea, says the government, is to strengthen the lending capacity of government owned banks. Here goes what it actually means for the market, banks and the economy.
    1. Challenge to raise equity from market
    The government plan includes Rs 76,000 crore through budgetary and market raising. There is no break up given, but the government has budgeted Rs 10,000 crore from the budget in 2017-18 and under the revised plan it has mentioned some Rs 18,000 crore. So there is a likelihood of Rs 8,000 crore of additional money coming in this year from the budget.  Going forward, there is a big challenge for PSBs to raise equity capital either through divestment or through equity expansion. Barring SBI, no other bank has strong financials to raise money at a higher valuation.  
    2. Bulk of the fresh capital to go down the drain
    Most of the new capital will go down the drain as more than half a dozen PSBs are under the preventive corrective action (PCA) of the Reserve Bank of India. The RBI puts banks under PCA when there is a drastic fall in the capital levels, lower profitability and losses and higher NPAs. The asset quality review and bankruptcy proceedings have already put additional NPA provisioning burden on banks. The capital is already getting absorbed in provisioning as NPAs are only growing quarter after quarter.
    3. Low credit off take and over-leverages India Inc
    The economy has been witnessing historically low levels of credit offtake. The credit off take has plunged to single digit in the last few years because of over-leveraged corporate, lower capacity utilization and slowdown in the economy. There is actually no demand for credit. In the last three years, only one engine - retail banking - is growing whereas the corporate side is mostly refinancing or working capital loans.
    4. More clarity needed on recap Bonds
    Under the plan a bulk of Rs 1,35,000 crore is to come from repitalisation bonds. There is no clarity on the issuers of these bonds and who will subscribe to such bonds. Will they be interest bearing and who will pay for the interest and how much will be the interest?  These will have implication for the issuer (if government issues it) in terms of widening of fiscal deficit.
    5. Need of the hour is governance and HR reforms
    The PSBs have been suffering because of government ownership and archaic systems and processes. The Bank Board Bureau (BBB), which was set up to look into many of these  issues has not seen any success. There is no accountability in the PSBs today. The credit standards are quite weak, resulting in banks sharing bulk of the NPAs in the system. In fact, these banks also lack in technology and digital banking, which is already transforming the banking industry. They are already miles away in the race when it comes to Fintechs or private banks. There is lot of catching up to do by PSBs. Capital alone won't resolve these issues.

Relief for taxpayers: Fine on delayed filing of GST returns for August, September dropped
  • The penalty on delayed filing of initial GST returns for the months of August and September have been dropped for the ease of taxpayers. The government is now planning to credit the late fine which has been charged to taxpayers back to their accounts. The decision came on the back of demands from businessed to waive the penalty for delayed filing of GSTR-3B returns.
    "To facilitate taxpayers, late fee on filing of GSTR-3B for August and September has been has been waived. Late fee paid will be credited back to taxpayer ledger," Finance Minister Arun Jaitley mentioned in a tweet.
    In a similar move earlier, the government had waived the late fee for delay in the first-ever GST returns filed for the month of July under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. The GST law mandates for charging a late fee of Rs 100 per day on Central GST (CGST) and the same amount on State GST (SGST) in case of late filing of returns and payment of taxes.
    As per the data available with the GST Network (GSTN), a huge chunk of businesses file their returns after the expiry of the due date. The incerease in influx of traffic on the last day hinders with the smooth functuoning of the IT backbone of the GST regime, resulting in taxpayers being unable to file their returns. As of now, a Group of Ministers led by Assam Finance Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma is looking into the glitches in GSTN portal or order from the GST Council. The ministerial panel will submit its findings and suggestions to the Council when it meets next on November 10 in Guwahati. According to norms, preliminary returns GSTR-3B for a month is filed on the 20th day of the corresponding month after paying due taxes. Going by the official numbers, taxpayers have filed 55.87 lakh GSTR-3B returns for the month of July, 51.37 lakh for August and more than 42 lakh for September. While only 33.98 lakh returns were filed for July till the due date, the number has now increased up to 55.87 lakh. On similar line, 28.46 lakh GST returns were filed for August before the deadline expired, but the figure went up to 51.37 lakh later. Similarly, taxpayers filed 39.4 lakh returns for September by the due date and the number is still rising, crossing 42 lakh GST retruns till yesterday.
    Meanwhile, GSTN has annoucned yesterday that exporters can start claiming refunds for GST paid in August and September from this week following the launch an online application for processing of refund.
    GSTN has developed the app wherein exporters can save and upload their sales data which are part of GSTR-1 after filling up export details in Table 6A. The table will be then extracted separately and after exporters digitally sign it, it would automatically go to the customs department.
    The customs department will then validate the information provided in the table with the shipping bill data and also the taxes paid in GSTR-3B. The refund amount would be either credited to exporter's bank account through ECS or a cheque would be issued.
    GST Network (GSTN), the company handling IT infrastructure for the indirect tax regime, has from October 10 started issuing refunds to exporters for Integrated GST (IGST) they paid for the month of July, after matching GSTR-3B and GSTR-1.

Bullet train logo finalised: NID student's Cheetah will be face of PM Modi's high-speed train project
  • Bullet train logo has been designed and it's: cheetah. A student of the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad has designed the logo for India's high-speed rail network, the Indian Express reported. A senior Railways official said the logo was selected from a contest by a three-member screening committee headed by renowned painter and architect Satish Gujral.
    "The contest received an overwhelming response from across the country. The dates for submitting the applications were between April 19 and May 18, and around 100 entries were received by the committee from various states," the report quoted an official as saying. The cheetah represents speed, while the red and blue lines symbolise calm and reliability, the report further said. Three entries were shortlisted after initial screening. The top entry was selected from NID in Ahmedabad, the second from the School of Planning and Architecture in Delhi, and the third from the NID in Bengaluru.
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe laid the foundation stone for India's first high-speed rail network project in Gujarat on September 14. The first bullet train will run between Ahmedabad and Mumbai. This Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Rail or MAHSR is a 508 KM long corridor that will pass through Sabarmati, Anand, Vadodara, Bharuch, Surat, Bilimora, Vapi, Boisar, Virar and Thane. The project is expected to be completed by 2022. The MAHSR project is a joint venture between Indian Railways and Japan's Shinkansen Technology.
    Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad recently put out a study, saying that the bullet train from Mumbai-Ahmedabad can eventually be extended to Jaipur and Delhi. The study said that the Mumbai-Ahmedabad corridor was a good choice for the first route as it connects the country's first and seventh most populous cities with significant economic development in the 500 km corridor between them. "In terms of future network growth, this segment can be part of further extension to Jaipur and Delhi," the study said.
    5 historical, engineering facts you need to know about Japan's prestigious bullet trains
    • The first bullet train was inaugurated in Japan in the year 1964. The train, known as Shinkansen, ran from Tokyo to Osaka. It could run upto 320 km per hour. However, a few years before Shinkansen was inaugurated in Japan, Emile Bachelet of New York demonstrated a prototype of what was to become a magnetic levitating car.
    • Subsequently, a series of German patents were awarded to Hermann Kemper for his idea of magnetic levitating trains. The first commercial magnetic levitating car, what was to become one of the earliest versions of Maglev, ran in Birmingham from 1984-95 between the international airport and the international railway station.  
    • The idea behind the Maglev or Magnetic Levitation is very simple. It functions on the basic principle of magnetic repulsion, where opposite poles attract and similar poles repel. This governs the functioning of the Maglev that levitates around 10 mm from the guiding track.
    • Although a lot of countries have high-speed trains, not all of them are bullet trains. According to reports on the Guardian and the Washington Post, fewer than 15 countries had high-speed trains as of 2009.
    • As of now, the fastest train is the Japanese maglev L0 series that can speed up to 603 km/h. According to India Today, the TR-09 in Germany and the Shanghai Maglev in China are the second and third swiftest trains that can run upto a speed of 500 km and 430 km per hour respectively.

HDFC Bank Q2 net profit rises 20.1% even as bad loans surge: Key takeaways
  • Private sector lender HDFC Bank on Tuesday reported a 20.1 per cent year-on-year rise in Q2 net profit at Rs 4,151 crore.
    Here are the key takeaways from HDFC Bank's September quarter earnings.
    Net Profit 
    The bank reported Rs 3,455 crore in net profit for the quarter ending September last year. During the first quarter of this fiscal, the lender logged Rs 3,893 crore in net profit.
    Total Income
    Its total income rose to Rs 23,276.2 crore in Q2 against Rs 19,970.9 crore reported in the corresponding quarter of last fiscal.  Profit before tax for the quarter was up 20.2 percent to Rs 6,341.7 crore.
    Net interest income

    Net interest income (NII) rose by 22 percent to Rs 9,752.1 crore from Rs 7,993.6 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2016 aided by 17.6 percent growth in average assets and a core net interest margin for the quarter of 4.3 percent. Net interest income (NII) is the difference between revenues generated by interest-bearing assets and the cost of servicing (interest-burdened) liabilities.
    Operating expenses
    Operating expenses rose by 13.8 percent to Rs 5,540.1 crore in Q2 from Rs 4,870 crore during the corresponding quarter of the previous year.
    Provisions and contingencies 
    The key balance sheet figure rose to Rs 1,476.2 crore in Q2 against Rs 749 crore in the corresponding quarter of the previous fiscal.
    Capital adequacy ratio 
    The bank's total capital adequacy ratio (CAR) as per Basel III guidelines, was at 15.1 per cent as against 15.4 per cent at the end of second quarter of the previous fiscal.
    Its gross non-performing assets (GNPAs) rose to 1.26 per cent of gross advances from 1.02 per cent a year ago. The net NPAs also increased to 0.4 per cent from 0.3 per cent.
    Meanwhile, the HDFC Bank stock closed 0.23 percent or 4 points higher at 1,867 level on the BSE. The stock is up over 55 percent since the beginning of 2017. 

    Infosys Q2 net profit rises 6.9%, FY18 revenue guidance cut to 5.5%-6.5%
    • IT major Infosys on Tuesday reported Rs 3,726 crore in Q2 net profit which came below analysts' estimates.
      These are the first set of earnings after former CEO Vishal Sikka resigned and co-founder Nandan Nilekani returned as chairman of the company.
      The Bengaluru-based firm reported a 3.3 percent rise in its Q2 net profit from Rs 3,606 crore an year ago. On a sequential basis , net profit rose 6.9 percent compared with Rs 3,483 crore in the last quarter.
      The board declared an interim dividend of Rs 13 per share.
      The firm cut its FY 18 revenue guidance to 5.5%-6.5% in constant currency.
      Revenues came at Rs 17,567 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2017; quarter-on-quarter growth of 2.9% and year-on-year growth of 1.5% "
      Operating profit was Rs 4,246 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2017, quarter-on-quarter growth of 3.3%  and year-on-year decline of 1.4%
      On the search of the new CEO, the firm said : The process of identifying the next CEO and shareholder consultation outreach have been initiated and are  progressing well.
      UB Pravin Rao, Interim CEO and Managing Director said, "We continue to focus on executing on the theme of software enabled services and on accelerating growth of our new services portfolio."
      "During the quarter, we responded quickly to the management and Board changes through proactive communication with all stakeholders minimizing any negative impact to the business and allowing us to deliver growth across all our large industry units," Rao added.
      "Our focus on improving operational efficiencies enabled us to deliver stable margins in the quarter and at the same time provide compensation increases and higher variable payouts to our employees." said MD Ranganath, CFO.
      "We have taken several steps during the quarter towards our capital allocation policy covering Rs 13,000 crore share buyback, coupled with interim dividend of Rs 13 per share for enhancing shareholder returns," Ranganath added.
      The earnings were announced after market hours. The stock closed 1.37 percent or 12.90 points lower at 926.75 on the BSE.
      The company had posted 1.3 per cent increase in net profit to Rs 3,483 crore for the June quarter, helped by client wins in key markets, and raised its annual US dollar revenue outlook. Its revenue grew 1.7 per cent to Rs 17,078 crore in the first quarter of 2017-18 as against Rs 16,782 crore in the year-ago period.

    General Awareness

    Paika Bidroha to be named as 1st War of Independence

    • On October 23, 2017, Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar mentioned that from the next academic session, ‘Paika Bidroha’ (Paika rebellion) of 1817will included in history text books as ‘the First War of Independence’.
      • Central Government under PM Narendra Modi has taken several initiatives to create awareness among Indians about the Paika rebellion.
      • During his visit to Bhubanewar, Odisha in April 2017, Prime Minister Narendra felicitated the family members of 16 freedom fighters who were martyred during the Paika Rebellion.
      • In July 2017, the then President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated year-long celebration of Bi-Centenary of the Paika Bidroha of Odisha.
      • Central Government has allocated Rs. 200 crore for commemorating it across the country.
      About Paika Rebellion:
      Paika Rebellion was an armed rebellion against British East India Company,which broke out in the year 1817 across Odisha. Combination of social-political-economic causes triggered the Paika rebellion.
      • Paiks were the traditional warrior clan under Gajapati rulers of Odisha.
      • Their ancestors were granted rent-free rights over land in Khurda region as recognition for their military service. After the defeat of King of Khurda at the hands of East India Company, the rights of Paiks over their ancestral land were derecognised by the British.
      • Besides, owing to imposition of unreasonable taxes, the common people in the region too were not satisfied with the British officials.
      • British officials also abolished a local currency system prevailing in the region which added to inconvenience of the masses.
      • Paika rebellion broke out in the region under the leadership of Bakshi Jagabandhu Bidyadhara. British were able to re-establish their authority in the region after numerous conflicts and casualties.
      • Many Scholars, researchers and historians consider Paika Rebellion of 1817 was India’s first organized armed rebellion against British Raj.

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