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Current Affairs - 31 October 2017

General Affairs 

Robots Made By IIT Students Sweep Their Way To Record Books
  • Students at the Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) campus on Sunday created a new Asian record for deploying the largest number of robots for sweeping an area.

    Nearly 270 students from IIT-M's Centre For Innovation (CFI) created 45 custom-designed robots, that wielded a fast rotating 'jhadu' or scrubber that cleaned an area the size of badminton court to create the new record.

    The robots were controlled using smartphones via bluetooth. Each robot consisted of a high-speed motor at its centre, with two rotating scrub-pads that directed the dust into the central suction mechanism, which was collected by a filter in a vacuum tunnel. Prof B Ravindran, CFI Faculty-in-Charge said the record was the latest in the list of achievements by the robotics groups. "Robotics is one of the oldest co-curricular activity at IIT Madras. In the past, IIT-M teams have successfully participated in various global competitions," he said.

    Gaurav Lodha, Student Executive Head, CFI, and a Fourth Year Dual-Degree Student, Department of Civil Engineering listed the benefits of use of robots. "This will also impart technical training to students by teaching them the basics of electronics, robotics, automation, wireless communication, 3D printing, rapid prototyping and software modelling along with soft skills like teamwork, time management, problem-solving, communication and leadership," he said.

    Experts claim that use of robots can contribute to eradication of manual scavenging and also help replace humans in cleaning sewer waste.

India Not Unaffected By Global Terrorism: Rajnath Singh
  • Noting that India is not "unaffected" by global terrorism, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said the country's intelligence and security agencies have so far foiled all nefarious plans of terror group ISIS.

    The next five years would be crucial for resolving challenges related to terrorism and communalism, especially in Jammu and Kashmir, the northeast and the left-wing extremism- affected areas, he said while addressing IPS probationers at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (NPA) here.

    The graduating cadets should take a vow to eradicate such problems, Mr Singh said.

    "Today, the world is engulfed by the fear of terrorism and radicalisation. Outfits such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda are killing innocent people across the globe and there is a threat from nuclear arms. People are facing issues of cyber-attacks. These organisations are continuously coming out with newer ideas," the Union minister said.

    "ISIS has been successful in spreading its network in some parts of the world. ISIS-related networks are using newer ways (to spread their network). Our country is not unaffected by these developments. Our neighbouring country is harbouring and aiding terrorism which has become an additional challenge," Mr Singh said.

    "But our intelligence and security agencies have thwarted and succeeded against all attempts by such forces (to carry out terrorist attacks or other kinds of disruption)," he said.

    Mr Singh said, "ISIS modules were busted in our country and those associated with it were arrested, foiling all their plans. Compared to other countries, a very small number has been impacted due to ISIS's radical ideology, thanks to our strong social and rich cultural values. The credit goes to our countrymen."

    He also flagged the menace of fake news and attempts to spread radical ideology through the Internet. The government has notched up certain gains against terrorism and the left-wing extremism in recent times, and there is a need to maintain this momentum, the Union minister said.

    The Centre recently allocated Rs. 25,000 crore for modernisation of police force, Mr Singh noted.

    He advised the IPS probationers to follow four principles, hard work, honesty, positive attitude and judicious decision-making, in their career.

    Mr Singh also announced a grant of Rs. 5 crore for the NPA Welfare Society on this occasion.

    As many as 136 probationers, including 14 from other countries, graduated from the academy today after undergoing training for 45 weeks.

Your Support To Terrorists Unacceptable, India Tells Pak Army
  • Pakistan Army's support to terrorism is unacceptable and India will continue to take all retaliatory measures to respond to such acts, Indian Army's director-general of military operations (DGMO) told his Pakistani counterpart today.

    In an unscheduled conversation with Lt Gen A K Bhatt over the hotline, Pakistani DGMO Maj Gen Sahir Shamshad Mirza accused the Indian security forces of resorting to unprovoked firing along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir.

    However, DGMO Bhatt said retaliatory firing by Indian troops has only been carried out in response to "unabated support" provided by the Pakistan Army to armed terrorists, who infiltrate across the border and target Indian Army posts with heavy calibre weapons, the Army said in a statement here.

    The telephonic conversation was requested by the Pakistani side.

    The Indian DGMO told his Pakistani counterpart that while the Indian Army will continue its efforts to ensure peace and tranquillity on the borders, the support provided to the terrorists by the Pakistan Army was the prime reason for any "collateral damage".

    "He reiterated that this support to terrorism by the Pakistan Army is unacceptable and the Indian Army will continue to take all retaliatory measures as well as retain the right to punitively respond to such provocative acts of aggression from the Pakistani side," the Army said.

    It said Lt Gen Bhatt also clarified that the Indian Army always maintains impeccable standards of professionalism and does not target civilians.

    "On the contrary, Pakistan Army has employed civilians at the forward posts and accorded permission for permanent locations of civilians in the vicinity of Pakistan Army posts," the Army said.

    It said that these civilians have repeatedly been used for gaining information of locations of Indian troops and providing guides to the terrorists while crossing the LoC.

    The LoC in Jammu and Kashmir has witnessed a spurt in ceasefire violations by the Pakistani troops and the Indian Army has been retaliating effectively to Pakistani actions.

'GST Is A Good Idea, Badly Implemented': Rahul Gandhi's Latest Attack
  • After meeting top party leaders to plan nationwide protests on November 8, the first anniversary of the notes ban, Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi delivered another instalment of criticism for the government on its reform policies today, calling demonetisation and the new national tax GST "double torpedoes". Demonetisation, Mr Gandhi said, is a disaster, while GST is "a good idea implemented badly."
    The Congress has declared Sunday next, November 8, as "black day" and plans protests all over the country. Other opposition parties like the DMK and Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress too have announced similar plans. The opposition said yesterday that an amalgamation of 18 parties including the Congress, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool and the Left will ensure that the day is observed as a "black day" with protests and rallies in different states to highlight the cash crunch and economic slowdown that followed demonetisation. The Centre has said it will observe November 8 or demonetisation anniversary as "anti-black money day".

    Mr Gandhi met with top leaders of his party, including former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and former Finance Minister P Chidambaram at his party's headquarters in Delhi.

    "PM Modi saying that November 8 will be celebrated conveys the message that he has not understood the pain and feelings of people. November 8 is a sad day for India... Demonetisation was a disaster. I don't know what is there to celebrate," Mr Gandhi said. "The notes ban was the first torpedo; the wrong implementation of GST was the second torpedo. They showed how a good idea like GST can be rushed in and destroyed by the government." Last week, he had called them "two shots to the chest" that have "killed the economy." Prime Minister Narendra Modi had announced on November 8 last year that high-value notes were being immediately scrapped in an attempt to rid the economy of black money. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced last week that November 8 will be celebrated by the BJP as "anti-black money day." 
    "I think the Congress has not understood the concept of demonetisation. The ownership of cash is not known; it is an anonymous owner. So when cash gets deposited in banks, what was being laundered earlier, now gets into the law books. So for entry into the lawful system, you are liable to pay tax," the Finance Minister said.

    Rahul Gandhi has led the opposition in attacking the government over Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth plunging to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent in the June quarter. He has blamed the notes ban and what he calls a faulty implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, which he alleges has brought small businesses to their knees.

    The government has defended both policies as key structural reforms that will deliver massive benefits for the economy in the long run.

Senior IPS Officer Yogesh Chander Modi Takes Charge As New NIA Chief
  • Senior IPS officer YC Modi, who was part of a Supreme Court-appointed team that probed the 2002 Gujarat riots cases, today took over as NIA chief, succeeding Sharad Kumar.

    In an official statement, the counter terror probe agency said, Yogesh Chander Modi, a 1984 batch IPS officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre, took over as Director General of the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

    He succeeded Sharad Kumar, a 1979 batch IPS officer of Haryana Cadre, who completed his tenure.

    Mr Modi will hold the post till his superannuation on May 31, 2021, according to an order from the Department of Personnel and Training.

    He was named as NIA head on September 18.

    Mr Modi takes over the NIA at a time when it is probing the funding of separatists and stone-pelters in Jammu and Kashmir by Pakistan-based terrorist groups.

    Earlier, Mr Modi had joined the NIA as Officer on Special Duty (OSD) on September 22. Before that he was posted as Special Director with the CBI. Mr Modi was appointed Additional Director of CBI in 2015.

    Mr Modi was part of the Special Investigation Team (SIT) that probed the Gujarat riots cases in August 2010 and remained part of the team till July 2012.

    The SIT had cleared Narendra Modi, who at that time was Gujarat Chief Minister, in the Gulbarg Society massacre case.

    According to NIA, YC Modi in his career spanning over 33 years, has extensive experience of investigation, intelligence and operations.

    "He worked with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a period of around 10 years in two stints from 2002-2010 and 2015-2017, where he handled special crime and economic offences besides anti-corruption cases."

    Mr Modi was awarded the Police Medal for Meritorious Service in 2001 and the President's Police Medal for Distinguished Service in 2008.

    Sharad Kumar was appointed NIA chief on August 5, 2013. He was given two extensions -- the latest on October 23 last year.

    "The NIA, under his inspiring and able leadership, made path-breaking progress with its thorough and professional investigation," the agency said.

    The statement said that during Sharad Kumar's tenure, the NIA achieved significant successes in solving many complex terrorist crimes and unearthing intricate conspiracies, including the Bodh Gaya temple blast, blast at Patna rally of the then prime ministerial candidate of the BJP Narendra Modi, Pathankot airbase attack case, ISIS and the Jammu and Kashmir terror funding case.

    The agency said that it expanded its geographical presence to the entire country with the creation of three new branch offices at Kolkata, Raipur and Jammu.

    The office and residential complex of the Lucknow branch office was also inaugurated in August 2017.

Business Affairs

The complex problem of a simple GST
  • On Sunday, 29th October, a high level panel on the Goods and Services tax (GST), led by Assam finance minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, came up with some suggestions to help small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and even big companies to navigate GST better. The suggestions included making return filing quarterly for all companies (instead of monthly for companies with over Rs 1.5 crore turnover as at present), expanding the composition scheme ceiling from Rs 1 crore turnover to Rs 1.5 crore turnover, reducing the composition rate to 1 per cent for manufacturers and restaurants, instead of 2 and 5 per cent as at present, and a host of other recommendations.
    No doubt these are all meant to address the pain points of companies filing GST, and they are good suggestions. But the unintended consequence of these recommendations, if adopted by the GST Council, will be more complexity, not less. For example, it is not very clear how filing of GST returns on a quarterly basis will help if taxes still need to be paid and filed monthly.
    There are other points. How will a big manufacturer who files GST and claims input taxes work with a supplier who files under the composition scheme.
    Since its launch, the GST council and various high level committees have been trying their best to bring a degree of simplicity to GST by tweaking rules and issuing clarifications. The problem is that each new rule brought in to simplify existing pain points ends up creating fresh grey areas and cascading confusion.
    The essential problem with GST is that it was implemented with too many rates, too many compliance requirements, and too many rules and regulations. Instead of a simple broad rate that applies to everyone, and the same set of rules for everyone, the current form of GST has introduced too many categories and sub categories. And trying to fix it is only creating more confusion - for players, for the GST network, and for all stake holders.

Mergers and Acquisitions decline 63.4 per cent in Q3,2017: Report
  • The third quarter of 2017 experienced a slowdown in Indian M&As with the deal value declining by 63.4 per cent to $ 6.8 billion in Q3 compared to S$ 18.5 billion in the corresponding period last year. The number of deals targeting India (54) was the lowest since 2009. It is also half  the number in Q3 2016 (117 deals). A report by Mergermarket, an Acuris Company blames country's falling GDP growth, slowing to a three-year low of 5.7 per cent, for the slide in the M&A market. The deal count in all sectors had declined compared to last year. In telecommunications and agriculture it remained the same.

    Telecom remained most active
    Although there was no deal in telecommunications this quarter, it was still the most active sector in the year by deal value because of the contribution of two large deals, both valued at over $1 bn in the first half of 2017. Aircel Limited's $4.8 bn merger with Reliance Communications Limited (RCOM) lapsed on October 1 and as a result the deal value of the sector in 2016 dropped to $ 8.7bn from $ 13.6bn. Therefore, the sector saw a 70 per cent increase to $ 14.8bn in 2017 over the same period of 2016, with four deals in both years.
    Private Equity
    Going by the report data, while Indian M&A activities appear to be slowing in 2017, private equity buyouts saw 66 deals worth US$ 7.4bn in total, recording the highest deal value since 2001. In Q3 alone, 14 buyouts totalling $ 2.2bn were done in India. This was more than double the value in the same period of 2016 ($ 1.04bn), despite the deal count dropping.
    Real estate was the most targeted sector by value with 4 deals valued at $ 1.8bn in YTD (year to date) 2017, largely due to the Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC Private Limited's $ 1.34bn acquisition of a 33.34 per cent stake in commercial properties developer DLF Cyber City Developers in August. Nonetheless, according to the report, such a trend is not likely to continue in the next quarter considering the economic slowdown in India. The financial services sector continued to be an attractive sector to PE firms, with 15 deals worth US$ 1.4bn during the January-September period. It saw an increase of 17 per cent by value compared to YTD 2016 with same number of deals (15 deals, $ 1.2bn).
    Goldman Sachs topped India Financial Advisor League Table by value of $ 16.9bn across 5 deals. Ernst & Young has finished first by deal count working on 22 deals worth a total US$ 3.4bn. The firm is the only financial advisor to work on more than 10 deals in 2017.

Tata Steel back in black, posts Rs 1,018 crore net profit in Q2
  • Tata Steel on Monday posted a consolidated net profit of Rs 1,018 crore for the quarter ended September 30, 2017. The company had reported a consolidated net loss of Rs 49.38 crore in the July-September quarter a year ago, Tata Steel said in a filing to the BSE.
    Total income during the second quarter increased to Rs 32,717.35 crore as against Rs 27,228.50 crore in the year-ago period.
    During July-September 2017, total expenses of the company were also higher at Rs 30,566.68 crore as compared to Rs 26,866.49 crore a year ago.
    Shares of Tata Steel today closed 1.03 per cent lower at Rs 718.80 apiece on the BSE.
    Deliveries from India operations grew 17 per cent year-on-year to 3.08 million tonnes in the quarter despite subdued market conditions. Wider product range enabled entry into new segments.
    Consolidated quarterly total steel deliveries were up 15 percent to 6.45 million tonnes, with Indian deliveries contributing about 48 percent of the total.
    During the quarter finished steel demand grew by just 4 per cent QoQ - primarily due to subdued demand driven by the GST related issues, slower economic activity, Tata Steel said in a BSE filing.
    In September, Tata Steel and Thyssenkrupp announced plans to merge their European steelmaking operations. The JV would have 42,000 employees.
    The companies said last month the deal would help tackle over-capacity in Europe's steel market, which faces cheap imports, subdued construction demand and inefficient legacy plants.

Samsung knocks off LG as most attractive brand in India; Patanjali climbs up to 12th spot
  • Indian's most attractive brand is the consumer durables major Samsung India. This year it has ousted LG from the top position. India's Most Attractive Brands 2017 Report by TRA Research, a Comniscient Group company, measures consumer's buying preference and their keenness to buy products based on two factors: trust and attractiveness quotient.
    Sony has retained its rank at the third position while Tata is ranked fourth. Honda ranks fifth, down from the fourth place in 2016. The sixth Most Attractive brand in 2017 is Apple, which has steadily climbed to this position -- it was ranked 18th in 2016.
    Patanjali has major a drastic move up from 87th to 12th position this year. Google that has climbed to 19 position, a sharp rise from 102 rank last year.
    The top three sectors this year were durables, auto and diversified products respectively. FMCG, auto and F&B made it to the top-of-the-mind recall. This shows how due to two major interventions in the Indian economy, demonetisation and GST, the consumer's preferences have moved from products associated with social worth to value-based goods, says N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA Research.
    Also, in the top 1000, there are 332 new brands. This is because of the decreased ad spends of several national brands and the increasing accessibility of local brands which are gaining ground in the Indian market, adds Chandramouli.
    In the top 1000 brands recognized by India's Most Attractive Brands Report 2017, Delhi lags behind Mumbai. It had 215 brands compared to Mumbai's 239.  However, in the top 20, nine brands are from NCR. Some of the NCR-based category leaders include Dabur (rank 48) in the Ayurveda category, NDTV, ranks at 111, Paytm leads the Digital Wallets category with all-India 135th rank, Indian ethnic wear women's fashion brand BIBA stands at 209 and Mankind Pharma is at 272.

    Seaplanes to land on Yamuna, Ganga? SpiceJet may soon place an order for 100 such aircraft
    • Days after low-cost carrier SpiceJet said it is in talks with Japan's Setouchi Holdings to purchase 100 Kodiak amphibious planes, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari said Russian and Japanese firms have expressed interest in supplying amphibious planes to India which also include 50 seater planes.
      "India has a huge potential in seaplanes that can overhaul connectivity. A Russian firm has approached us for supplying 50 seater amphibious planes which have multiple uses right from passenger and cargo transportation to fire fighting, rescue and defence operations," the transport and water resources minister Nitin Gadkari said.
      "Airports are in short supply in India. Lots of the growth in India is happening in small markets, but those small markets have little or no connectivity. So we are looking for a solution where we can get flights to places where no airports exist," SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh told Bloomberg.
      "The basic logic for this is that in India, we need last-mile connectivity. The amphibian plane opens up a lot of areas, creates a lot of flexibility. The Kodiak planes also could be deployed to tourist sites such as the western lake-town of Udaipur, where the airport is far away from the main city," Singh said.
      SpiceJet's announcement comes weeks after the budget carrier signed a pact with Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier to supply 50 turboprop jets valued at $1.7 billion. SpiceJet had earlier signed an initial pact with the US aircraft maker Boeing Co for 40 737 MAX planes.
      Amphibious aircraft
      Amphibious aircraft can take off and land on both short strips and water bodies. Amphibious aircrafts are slower and heavier but are more versatile than the usual land planes. They could be slightly tricky to manoeuvre as these planes, unlike helicopters, cannot hover in the same place and cannot land vertically. They however, do have a longer range than helicopters. Since these planes can land on water, they have floats as well as wheels for landing.
      As per PM Modi's vision, using these amphibious aircraft could lead to bridging of the connectivity gap in the country. In line with the government plans to convert 111 rivers into national waterways in the country, Gadkari said, proposals are being examined for introducing seaplanes at Yamuna, Ganga and other water bodies.
      Gadkari, however, made it clear that the proposal is at an early stage and involved multiple issues right from various regulatory permissions, route assessments, creation of hydro ports on the pattern of airports and seaports. The minister said that similarly a Japanese firm has also evinced interest in such projects and a trial show could be held in November-end at Varanasi.
      Once the projects are approved, Gadkari said, they can be taken at a large scale across the country as India has a huge potential in this sector and it will change the face of the tourism sector as well as communication.
      "Every city in India has large water bodies which could easily serve the seaplanes. Besides, we are introducing amphibious buses and recently have sent one such bus to Ahmedabad," the minister said.
      Amphibious aircraft were initially produced in UK between the two World Wars. They were primarily used for military duties including search and rescue operations, and to spot artilleries. It could be an effective way out to connect areas that are water-locked as well.

    General Awareness

    Yonex French Open Badminton 2017 – Overview

    • Yonex French Open 2017 Badminton tournamentwas held from 24th – 29th October, 2017 in Paris, France.French Open Badminton Tournament is held annually since 1909 in France.
      • It is hosted by Federation Française de badminton (FFBa).
      • In 2007, it was promoted as Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournament.
      • Prize Money for Yonex French Open 2017 was USD 325000.
      Kidambi Srikanth Wins French Open to Clinch 4th Super Series Title of 2017
      On October 29, 2017, Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth became the first Indian to win the men’s singles title at French Open badminton tournament.
      • In the final match played in Stade Pierre De Coubertin, ParisSrikanth defeated Kento Nishimoto of Japan by 21-14, 21-13.
      • With this victory, Srikanth also achieved the distinction of being the first Indian player to win four Super Series titles in a year.
      Tai Tzu Ying is the new French Open Super Series champion
      Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei has won women’s singles title at Yonex French Open Badminton 2017.
      • In the final match, she defeated Akane Yamaguchi of Japan.
      • It is to be noted that Tai Tzu Ying is currently at No. 1 position in Women’s Singles BWF World Rankings.
      Taipei’s Jhe-Huei Lee and Yang Lee clinched Men’s doubles
      Pair of Lee Jhe-Huei and Lee Yang of Chinese Taipei has won men’s doubles title at Yonex French Open Badminton 2017.
      • In the final match they defeated the pair of Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen of Denmark
      Greysia Polii & Apriyani Rahayu clinched women doubles
      Pair of Apriyani Rahayu and Greysia Polii of Indonesia has won women’s doubles title at Yonex French Open Badminton 2017.
      • In the final match they defeated the pair of Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan of South Korea.
      Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir clinched Mixed doubles
      Pair of Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia has won mixed doubles title at Yonex French Open Badminton 2017.
      • In the final match they defeated the pair of Zheng Siwei and Chen Quingchen of China.
      Srikanth becomes first Indian to play French open final, Sindhu crashes out
      Indian Badminton player Kidambi Srikanth became the first Indian man to reach the final of French Open Super Series Badminton Tournament.
      • In the semi final match of men’s singles category, Srikanth defeated compatriotHS Prannoy by 14-21, 21-19, 21-18.
      • In semi final match of women’s singles category, India’s PV Sindhu lost to Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi by 21-14, 21-9.
      Saina Nehwal Exits French Open; Loses to Akane Yamaguchi
      On October 26, 2017, India’s Saina Nehwal exited from French Open after losing out to Japanese World No.5 Akane Yamaguchi.
      • Saina’s match against Akane Yamaguchi lasted for 39 minutes. She suffered a straight-game loss by 9-21, 21-23.
      Winners of Yonex French Open Badminton 2017 – Summary:
      Men’s SinglesKidambi Srikanth (India)Kenta Nishimoto (Japan)
      Women’s SinglesTai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei)Akane Yamaguchi (Japan)
      Men’s DoublesLee Jhe-Huei & Lee Yang (Chinese Taipei)Mathias Boe & Carsten Mogensen (Denmark)
      Women’s DoublesApriyani Rahayu & Greysia Polii (Indonesia)Lee So Hee & Shin Seung Chan (South Korea)
      Mixed DoublesTontowi Ahmad & Liliyana Natsir       (Indonesia)Zheng Siwei & Chen Quingchen (China)

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