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Current Affairs - 28 October 2017

General Affairs 

Civic Body Elections In UP To Be Held In 3 Phases From November 22
  • Uttar Pradesh will have civic polls in three phases from November 22, making it the first electoral test for the ruling BJP in the state which stormed to power in the assembly elections with a massive mandate earlier this year.

    "As per the schedule, 24 districts will go to polls on November 22, 25 districts on November 26, and 26 districts on November 29," State Election Commissioner SK Agarwal told reporters here.

    He said no central para-military force would be used for exercise, which will be conducted by the state police alone.

    "Counting of votes polled for 16 nagar nigam, 198 nagar palika parishad and 438 nagar panchayat will be done December one," he said.

    Mr Agarwal said 3.32 crore voters will be eligible to cast their ballots at 36,269 polling booths and 11,389 polling stations.

    Giving phase-wise details, he said the first phase will cover 24 districts in which 230 local bodies, spread over 4,095 wards, will got to polls.

    For this phase, there will be 3,731 polling centres and 11,683 polling booths with total over 1.09 crore voters.

    The second phase will cover 25 districts having 189 local bodies covering 3,601 wards. The polls will be held at 13,776 polling booths to be set up for 1.29 crore voters, he said.

    In the third and last phases, 26 districts will go to polls in which there are 233 local bodies spread over 4,299 wards.

    For this phase, there will be 10,810 polling booths for over 94 lakh voters.

    These polls will mark the first test for the Yogi Adityanath government which came to power in March, with the BJP getting a landslide victory.

Rajasthan High Court Issues Notice To Centre, State On Gag Law
  • The Rajasthan high court today issued notices to the Centre and the state government on writ petitions challenging the controversial ordinance that protects serving and former judges and public servants from being investigated for on-duty action without prior sanction of the state government.

    The next hearing in the case is scheduled on November 27. A bench comprising justices Ajay Rastogi and Deepak Maheswari heard the seven writ petitions including by Rajasthan Congress chief Sachin Pilot, AAP leader Poonam Chand Bhandari and NGO People's Union for Civil Liberties (PUCL), seeking quashing of the ordinance.

    The counsel for the petitioners contended that the ordinance restricted the freedom of media and amounted to violation of the right to free speech.

    "The court has served notices to the Centre and the state government. The matter is scheduled for hearing on November 27," A K Jain, counsel of petitioner Bhagwat Gaur, said. 
    He said that arguing in the court, the counsel for the petitioners took exception to the new provision for punishment for disclosure of a public servant's identity until the sanction for investigation and prosecution is given.

    The Criminal Laws (Rajasthan Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 was promulgated by the state government on September 7 and a bill to replace it was tabled in the Rajasthan Assembly on October 23. It was then referred to the select committee of the House.

    The Vasundhara Raje government has attracted criticism from various quarters for the ordinance which provided six-month immunity to both serving and former public servants, judges and magistrates from any investigation without prior sanction from the state government.

'We're Not Rigid': India On Reports Of Japan's Quadrilateral Along With US, Australia
  • India said today that it was open to working with like-minded countries on issues that advance its interests and promote Indian viewpoint, a day after Japan indicated that it would propose a top-level dialogue with the US, India and Australia.

    "We are not rigid in this regard," External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said when asked about Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Kono's remarks to the Nikkei Business Daily that Japan would propose a dialogue with the US, India and Australia.

    Mr Kumar also referred to various trilateral initiatives India was participating in.

    "Because of our broad acceptability as a country, there are a number of such initiatives which are trilateral in nature. For example, we did the trilateral meeting with Russia and China on the topic of Asia Pacific last year.  We also do an India-Sri Lanka-Maldives trilateral on security matters," he said.

    Mr Kumar also talked about the India-US-Japan trilateral which has been happening for many years and the recent India-Japan-Australia trilateral. The country is also part of India-Afghanistan-Iran trilateral and is looking to hold the India-US-Afghanistan meeting, he said, adding that all these meetings are conducted at various levels.

     "As far as we are concerned, we have an open mind to cooperate with countries with convergence but obviously on an agenda which is relevant to us," Mr Kumar said.

     After her meeting with US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday had said the two sides have agreed to work together and with other partners to promote cooperation based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to travel to the Philippines to attend the 31st ASEAN and East Asia summits on November 13 and November 14. He is expected to meet other leaders, including the US president.

BJP-Ruled Northeast States Rank Low In Implementing PM's Urban Schemes
  • The centre has pulled up northeastern states for being 'tardy' in their implementation of the BJP-led NDA government's flagship urban development programmes.

    A two-day review meeting held at Guwahati this week has found that northeast India has been rather slow  in almost all the pet urban makeover schemes of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland - either ruled alone by the BJP or as a member of a coalition - have done poorly.

    Ironically, opposition Congress-ruled Mizoram has done exceptionally well in all parameters and after the review, Left-ruled Tripura has received the maximum fund allocation - a sign of

    "During review, it was found that many states and mostly those ruled by the BJP are lacking behind. In many cases, Detailed Project Report (DPRs) have not been submitted, fund utilization certificates have not reached centre. These states have also not been able to achieve many milestones that are required to get the next release of fund," a senior official from Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs told NDTV.

    The closed-door review also found several shortcomings in other schemes like Smart Cities and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the official added.

    Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, who was in Guwahati for the review of work, acknowledged that the pace of work has "variations".

    "The system is such that if you can spend money, then you are likely to get more funds. That's the normal dynamics. If activities are taking place, next instalments are required. There will be variation, but now everything will be competitive. We are coming up with software and app where all data will be uploaded," Mr Puri told NDTV.

    The post-review allocation of funds for the region says it all. While Rs. 182 crore is being released for the Northeast, Tripura is getting the biggest share - Rs. 128.53 crore and Mizoram is getting 22.8 crore.

    Falling far behind, Meghalaya got Rs. 2.73 crore, Nagaland got Rs. 2.98 crore, Sikkim got Rs. 5.35 crore, Assam got Rs. 18.13 crore and Arunachal Pradesh got Rs. 1.65 crore. Manipur's allocation have not been notified.

    "Our state has a difficult terrain, it is sparsely populated. Now for housing schemes to take material up in the hills, the costing is more. There have been some bureaucratic delays in some of the project," said Arunachal Pradesh Urban Development minister Nabam Rebia.

India, France Discuss Ways To Ramp Up Strategic Ties
  • India and France today held wide-ranging talks aimed at further boosting defence and security ties, with a focus on co-development of military platforms, and enhancing cooperation in the maritime sphere.

    Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her French counterpart Florence Parly deliberated on a host of key issues, including the regional security situation, transfer of critical technology for various defence projects and ways to ramp up overall strategic ties, an official said.

    All aspects of defence and security cooperation between the two countries as well as ways to enhance maritime cooperation were discussed in the meeting, the official added.

    Ms Parly, who is in India on a two-day visit, will call on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and meet National Security Adviser Ajit Doval. She is expected to lay the ground for French President Emmanuel Macron's upcoming trip to India.

    Ms Parly is also likely to push for a follow on order of additional Rafale fighter jets, after the delivery of 36 jets under a Rs. 58,000 crore deal finalised last year.

    The French Embassy had said in a statement yesterday that Ms Parly's visit is aimed at strengthening all aspects of France's "fast developing" defence cooperation with India, its foremost Asian strategic partner.

    It said Ms Parly's talks with Ms Sitharaman will range from defence cooperation, in particular maritime security, joint exercises of the armed forces and counter-terrorism to industrial and technological partnership under the 'Make in India' initiative.

Business Affairs

Sensex closes above 33K level for third day, Nifty ends marginally lower; Maruti Suzuki hits fresh 52-week high on Q2 earnings
  • The Sensex and Nifty saw profit booking during the last hours of trade today.
    While the BSE index managed to close above the historic 33,000 mark for the third consecutive day, the NSE Nifty ended a tad lower in today's trade.
    The Sensex closed at 33157 level or 10.09 points higher, Nifty ended 20 points lower at 10,323 level. The indexes fell off days's record highs on account of profit booking as traders, investors moved to cash in record highs of the stock market.
    The market tracked key Q2 earnings today including that of ICICI Bank, FMCG major ITC, Canara Bank, and PVR  Cinemas. Analysts said markets may take a breather as investors digest corporate results. We look at key developments affecting the market today.
    15:32 PM: Multiplex chain operator PVR reported a 15.13 per cent decline in consolidated net profit at Rs 24.72 crore for the quarter ended September 30. The company had posted a net profit of Rs 29.13 crore during the same period previous fiscal.
    15:30:  ITC Ltd Q2 net profit grows 5.59% to Rs 2,639.84 crore; total income down 27.20% at Rs 10,258.13 crore.
    15:17 pm: State-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC) reported a 18 per cent rise in second quarter net profit on the back of higher fuel sales. Net profit in July-September at Rs 3,696.29 crore, or Rs 7.80 per share, was 18.4 per cent higher than Rs 3,121.89 crore, or Rs 6.59 a share, net profit in the year-ago period.
    14:49 pm: Maruti Suzuki India, the country's top-selling car maker, reported 3.4 per cent rise in its Q2 net profit at Rs 2,484.3 crore, beating analysts' estimates. The stock hit a new 52 week high post announcement of Q2 earnings.  
    12:24 pm:"Markets are looking at consolidating before moving," Kejriwal Research and Investment Services founder Arun Kejriwal told Reuters.
    12:06 pm: United Spirits stock rises up to 15 percent at Rs 2,960 level on the BSE after the firm reported an 85.57 per cent increase in its net profit at Rs 153.1 crore for the quarter ended September 30, helped by lower interest costs and exceptional items. The company had posted a net profit of Rs 82.5 crore in the same period last fiscal. Net sales during the quarter under review grew 6,214.6 crore as against Rs 6,017.3 crore in the year-ago period, up 3.27 per cent.
    10:43 am: Crompton Greaves Consumer Electricals reported a 23.28 per cent increase in its net profit to Rs 70.80 crore for the second quarter ended September 30, 2017. The company had reported a net profit of Rs 57.43 crore in the same quarter a year ago.
    10:32 am: Lupin has received final approval for its Clonidine Hydrochloride Extended-Release Tablets, 0.1 mg from the USFDA to market a generic version of Concordia Pharmaceuticals Inc.'s Kapvay Extended-Release Tablets. These tablets had annual sales of approx. $66 million in the US.
    10:31 am: BSE has joined hands with Ebix Inc to set up a joint venture firm for building a robust insurance distribution network in India. Ebix is a leading international supplier of on-demand software and e-commerce services to the insurance, financial, e-governance and healthcare industries.
    10:30 am: Reliance Nippon Life Insurance AMC was subscribed 4.9 times on the second day of IPO.
    10:22 am: The YES Bank stock was trading 6.35 percent or 21.05 points lower at 310.65 on the BSE. Midsize private sector lender Yes Bank said its September quarter net profit rose 25 per cent to Rs 1,002 crore but it reported a massive net NPAs rising nearly three-fold to Rs 1,543.26 crore in Q2FY2018 from Rs 545.31 crore in Q1FY2018 - the incremental outstanding Net NPA is almost equivalent to its reported net profit of Rs 1,002.73 crore in Q2FY2018.
    9: 22 am: Housing sales dropped 18% yoy to 44,755 units in nine major cities during the September quarter on continued slowdown in the property market. New launches of homes fell by 53% to 22,115 units in the second quarter of the current fiscal due to the implementation of new real estate law RERA.
    9: 11 am: Global ratings agency Moody's has blamed Axis Bank for being a "laggard" and non-prudent in recognising asset quality stress and termed it as a credit negative. At its earnings update on October 17, Axis Bank, which is rated Baa3 with a stable outlook by Moody's, reported a 24% quarter-on-quarter increase in NPAs driven largely by a Rs 8,100-crore fresh slippages in the corporate front.
    9:05 am: TVS Motor hit a lifetime high of 725 level on the BSE on Thursday. The stock is up 102 percent since the beginning of this year. It is up 83.47 percent on an yearly basis.
    9:00 am: Stocks to watch out for in today's trade are United Spirits, GIC Housing, Indiabulls Ventures, Yes Bank, Ion Exchange , Cummins India, Biocon , Mphasis, Sagar Cements, Supreme Petro and United Spirits post their Q2 earnings.
    8:50 am:Private sector lender ICICI Bank, FMCG major ITC, Canara Bank, Maruti Suzuki, Indian Oil and PVR are among the big firms to announce their Q2 earnings today.
    8:45 am: The rupee on Thursday closed over one-week high against the US dollar at 64.82 against the dollar, up 0.09% from its Wednesday's close of 64.90. So far this year, the rupee has gained 4.7%;

ICICI Bank Q2 results: Rise in bad loans eat into biggest private lender's profit
  • The country's largest private sector lender ICICI Bank today reported a 30 per cent decline in consolidated net profit to Rs 2,071.38 crore for the September quarter due to increase in bad loans.
    The bank's net profit in July-September quarter of the last fiscal was Rs 2,979 crore.
    Its total income during the September quarter also slipped to Rs 30,191 crore, as against Rs 32,435 crore in the year-ago period, ICICI Bank said in a statement.
    On standalone basis, net profit declined by 34 per cent to Rs 2,058 crore for the second quarter as compared to Rs 3,102 crore in the same period of the previous fiscal.
    Its total standalone income came down to Rs 18,763 crore compared with Rs 22,759 crore on standalone basis in the same quarter of 2016-17.
    However, net interest income rose by 9 per cent to Rs 5,709 crore compared to Rs 5,253 crore in the second quarter of last financial year.
    ICICI Bank's gross non-performing assets (NPAs) or bad loans jumped to 7.87 per cent as against 6.12 per cent in the year-ago period.
    Similarly, net NPAs rose to 4.43 per cent compared with 3.21 per cent in the previous fiscal.
    During the quarter under review, the bank made provisions (other than tax) and contingencies of Rs 4,502 crore as against Rs 7,083 crore in the same quarter of the previous fiscal.
    In absolute term, the gross NPA increased to Rs 44,489 crore as against Rs 32,548 crore in the same quarter of the last year.

Trai calls for data protection, says soon to recommend policies on privacy, net neutrality
  • Trai Chairman RS Sharma on Wednesday said that the telecom regulator was committed to data protection and was in favor of defining the responsibility of various stakeholders in the value chain to ensure that customers' data is safeguarded. He was speaking at 'i-Bharat 2017' organized by FICCI in collaboration with the Ministry of Electronics and IT.
    Trai Chairman said that information privacy, security and data ownership, needed to be defined. He added that after seeking views and conducting open houses with industry and relevant stakeholders, Trai would finalize any policy. He further said that several consultation papers were out in the public domain for recommendations and suggestions. Trai is expected to send its recommendations on guidelines for data privacy sent to the Justice Srikrishna Committee.

    Speaking on the monopoly over data, Sharma said: "Currently, there is a huge amount of monopoly and that monopoly is becoming bigger and bigger. We are saying you can use my data because we are using your application, but give us too so that we can use it for other purposes too. This should be finalised by December-January."
    The Trai chief also addressed the issue of data ownership. He said that there was asymmetry of information. "In most of the cases, the users were not even aware of the long term consequences of sharing data and how it could be misused. There was also the issue of bounded rationality and instances have come to light where the privacy policy of a service provider seeks the right to use the data of the customer in any form," Sharma said.

    Speaking on net neutrality, Sharma said that net neutrality calls for access to internet content without any discrimination in data speed and cost and Trai will come out with its views on net neutrality very soon. He added that digital consent and blockchain were emerging trends and suggested that there should be a provision for data portability as well.

    This is not the first time when the issue customers' data protection has been raised. Earlier in August, former Aadhaar Chiarman Nandan Nilekani urged the government to come up with a framework to protect the data of individuals using technology. According to a report in the Business Standard, Nilekani said: "Time is running out and India needs to take a strategic view on data colonisation, privacy and data dominance and how data is used for public good. It is a policy issue and not a technology issue that needs to be addressed soon." He also said the Aadhaar system has not been breached yet but in future data security was going to be a big concern for the government.

    Recently, the telecom regulator had accused Apple of engaging in data colonisation in India and being anti-consumer by not allowing customers to pass on details about pesky calls and unwanted messages to authorities as well as their mobile operators. Trai chief Sharma had slammed the iPhone maker for this and said: "While Google's Android supports our Do-Not-Disturb (DND) app, Apple has just been discussing, discussing, and discussing. They have not done anything." Speaking on this particular case, Nilekani said: "Currently, there is nothing that a user knows regarding what is happening to their data and this information needs to be given back to people."

Aadhaar-Mobile number linking: Govt to announce new cell verification method for NRIs, tourists
  • It's not just Indian citizens who have to get their mobile numbers verified. NRIs and foreign tourists coming to India too have to get their mobile numbers verified even though they don't possess Aadhaar. The Telecom Department and Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) are in discussions to put in place a method for mobile number verification of NRIs and foreign tourists who are not eligible for Aadhaar. A decision on evolving SIM verification method for these NRIs and foreign tourists is expected to be taken in 2-3 weeks, said Telecom Secretary Aruna Sundararajan.
    In the absence of Aadhaar, one of the alternative mechanisms for verification of mobile numbers of foreign tourists could be through passport, but no decision has been taken yet on the matter.
    According to Sundararajan, the need for SIM verification arose in the wake of rising complaints about mobile connections being issued without proper due diligence by telecom operators (and later such SIMs being used by terrorists and fraudsters). 
    "So, it is in the subscribers own interest and for their security. Especially, in a world of galloping digital payments where everybody is using their mobile phones, one needs to make sure that no one else fraudulently takes a mobile phone in your name," added Sundararajan.
    Lately, the government eased the process of linking mobile number with Aadhaar for its citizens with the help of OTP. In this regard telecom operators have been asked to submit to UIDAI by November 15 a blueprint of the process to operationalise the new modes (including OTP) of SIM re-verification through Aadhaar.
    Apart from OTP (one time password), now app or IVRS facility can also be used for linking mobile number with Aadhaar.
    "The operators have been asked to draw up a process incorporating new guidelines and come back to UIDAI by November 15. Once the UIDAI gives them clearance, they will have to implement the new system within a period of two weeks," Sundararajan added.
    However, the authentication of mobile phone number with Aadhaar, a process called re-verification, by visiting stores of telecom firms will continue.  Telecom operators will deploy iris devices at "appropriate number of service points" so subscribers have access to iris authentication "within a reasonable geographical distance".
    Linking mobile number with Aadhaar has raised some security concerns among people. Earlier, a petition was filed against the mandatory linking of Aadhaar with mobile numbers. The petition asked the apex court to provide "a direction to the Telecom Service Providers' to stop advertisements as well as SMS and misinforming the citizens of India about the actual import of the said order." The petition referred to DoT's notification, directing the linking of numbers with biometric-based identity card. 
    Linking the mobile number with Aadhaar doesn't find favour even with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. On Wednesday she refused to link her mobile number with Aadhaar and said, "We will not link mobile with Aadhaar. If we do not have a mobile connection for that, so be it. I challenge that I will not provide my Aadhaar number even if my connection is stopped. I don't care."
    She termed the linking of Aadhaar with mobile number a breach of right of privacy. "This means even a private conversation between a husband and a wife is going to be tapped."

TERI Water and Sanitation Report calls for new financing options to improve Swachh Bharat Mission
  • Newer models of sanitation finance are needed to enhance the scope and effectiveness of the Swachh Bharat Mission. 'State of Urban Water and Sanitation in India'- a joint report by the TERI University, USAID, and Coca-Cola India, recommends establishing a legal framework for safe and sustainable sanitation in urban areas.
    The Surat Municipal Corporation's energy generation initiatives and sale of recycled water have been flagged in the report as exemplary instances of self-financing by urban local bodies; it suggests devolution of powers to urban municipalities.
    Recommending stringent regulatory measures for scientific management of solid waste, faecal sludge, and sewage, the report suggests that local bodies enforce 'polluter-pays' norms. It also suggests maintaining more detailed data records to help city managers create cleaner cities. Specifically it says, information about waste collection, the cost of city service, and how waste is treated in each city, will help managers better understand the needs of these cities, vis-a-vis their goals under the government's key social sector scheme.
    Acting as a snapshot of the efforts made since the beginning of the Swachh Bharat Mission, the report focuses on the best practices to help policy makers. It also examines three years worth of policies and programs to improve access to clean water and sanitation facilities.
    The goal for this project was the creation of lasting education programs designed by experts for students and city officials that would help change policies and community behaviours. "This new report, the policy briefs, discussion papers, strategy paper, and model curriculum will help current and future policy makers choose the best ways to help their communities become cleaner, faster. We are proud to have been a part of this effort with TERI University and Coca-Cola. This program contributes directly to the U.S. Government's commitment to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs to support access to improved sanitation," explained Paul Seong, Deputy Director, Office of Social Sector Initiatives, and USAID.

General Awareness

SBI foundation among seven shortlisted companies given LOI under Adopt a Heritage Scheme

  • Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley has presented Letters of Intent (LOI) to seven shortlisted entities under the ‘Adopt a Heritage Scheme’.LOIs were presented at the closing ceremony of ‘Paryatan Parv’ in New Delhi on October 25, 2017.
    About ‘Adopt a Heritage Scheme’:
    ‘Adopt a Heritage Scheme’ was launched on World Tourism Day i.e. 27thSeptember, 2017 by President Ram Nath Kovind.
    • This scheme has been initiated by Ministry of Tourism in close collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).
    • Under this scheme, Ministry of Tourism invited private and public sector companies to adopt as many as 116 ASI-protected monuments/sites and to take up the responsibility for its maintenance, conservation and development.
    Shortlisted Entities under ‘Adopt a Heritage Scheme’:
    Post announcement of this scheme, Ministry of Tourism received positive response from several organisations.
    • After detailed scrutiny, 14 monuments have been allocated for adoption to 7 entities. These entities are reputed names in hospitality industry, travel industry and banking industry.
    • These entities have been presented Letters of Intent (LOI) and are being referred to as future ‘Monument Mitras’.
    • Interestingly, no entity came forward to adopt the Taj Mahal. 
    Shortlisted Entities and Adopted Monuments:
    EntityAdopted Monument
    SBI FoundationJantar Mantar, Delhi
    TK International Ltd.
    • Sun Temple, Konark, Odisha
    • Raja Rani Temple, Bhubanewar, Odisha
    • Ratnagiri Monuments, Jajpur, Odisha
    Yatra Online Pvt. Ltd.
    • Hampi, Karnataka
    • Leh Palace, Jammu & Kashmir
    • Qutub Minar, Delhi
    • Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra
    Travel Corporation of India Ltd.
    • Mattancherry Palae Museum, Kochi, Kerala
    • Safdargunj Tomb, Delhi
    Adventure Tour Operator Association of India
    • Gangotri Temple Area and Tril to Gaumukh
    • Mt. StokKangri, Laddakh, Jammu & Kashmir
    Special Holiday Travel Pvt. Ltd. (with) Rotary Club of DelhiAgrasen ki Baoli, Delhi
    NBCCPurana Quila, Delhi

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