Current Affairs November 2017 - Vikalp Education

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Thursday, November 30, 2017

Current Affairs - 30 November 2017

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General Affairs 

VVPATs To Be Used In Gujarat, All Future Elections: Chief Election Commissioner
  • Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) AK Joti today said Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) gadgets with Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) would be used for next month's Assembly polls in Gujarat and in all future elections.

    The machines run on battery and cannot easily be tampered with, the CEC said at a press conference here.

    The Election Commission would buy new EVMs and VVPATs before the 2019 Lok Sabha election, he said.

    The CEC also said EVMs and VVPATs would be used in all the 3170 polling stations in Tripura where Assembly elections are due early next year.

    The final list of Tripura voters would be published on January 5 and the date for the state Assembly election would be announced after that, he said.

    According to the draft list, 25.05 lakh people, including 12.30 lakh women, are eligible to vote in the state in 2018.

    He said names of more than 28,000 ineligible voters including fake, dead and foreign voters were deleted from the list.

    Mr Joti said adequate Central security forces would be deployed to ensure the smooth conduct of the Tripura elections and the 856-km long border with Bangladesh would be sealed.

    A high-level EC delegation led by Mr Joti held meetings with representatives of different political parties, the chief secretary, director general of police and chief electoral officer here today.

    The Election Commission delegation had arrived here yesterday to oversee preparations for next year's Assembly elections.

UAVs, Smart Fence To Check Infiltration Along Indo-Bangla Border: Border Security Force
  • The BSF will deploy Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or UAVs and erect a 'smart fence' to check smuggling and infiltration from across the most notorious riverine and porous gaps along the India-Bangladesh border by next year, the chief of the force said today.

    BSF Director General (DG) KK Sharma, while interacting with reporters here, said the Union home ministry has recently approved a proposal of the force to deploy an indigenously developed smart fence at the 48.12-km-long riverine Dhubri border area along the Brahmaputra river in Assam.

    "The technology solution will help in checking surprise infiltration and it will also ensure rest and recuperation of troops involved in area domination duties in this area. By October 2018, this project will be in place at Dhubri," he said.

    The smart fence, a senior officer said, will detect illegal human or cattle movement with the help of infra-red rays. The control room will get alerted by satellite-based signals in case of a breach followed by a response by a quick reaction armed team of the force, he said.

    At present, BSF troops on boats guard this patch which is highly prone to illegal migration and cattle smuggling due to the changing course of the river. No permanent structure like border posts can be erected in this area.

    Mr Sharma said the force has approached the home ministry to procure four UAVs for "effective air surveillance of vulnerable infiltration areas of West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura", along the 4,096-km India-Bangladesh border that they are mandated to guard.

    The BSF has also urged the ministry to sanction the raising of five more battalions (about 5,000 personnel) and their deployment along this border region to check crimes like smuggling of cattle, fake Indian currency notes, arms, ammunition and narcotics in some of the "most vulnerable and notorious areas, he said.

    The BSF chief said the force has "very cordial" relations with its counterpart -- the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) -- in checking border crimes and it was trying to bring down the instances of killing of Bangladeshis along the boundary.

    "The relations between the two countries are very good. The moment we change the present strategy (of using non-lethal weapons), more killings take place. It is detrimental to the interest of both the countries and we don't want to embarrass the other side," he said when asked if the force will use more lethal weapons as smugglers attack BSF men on duty.

    He said that to check border crimes and stop attacks on BSF personnel and subsequent killing of Bangladeshis due to firing, both the forces have started doing simultaneous coordinated patrols in vulnerable areas.

    "Hopefully, things will get better," he said.

    Asked about the instances of cattle smuggling, the DG said these numbers were "gradually coming down".

    The figure of cattle smuggling stood at over 20 lakh cattle a few years back but this was now only about five to six lakh, he said.

    "We are very serious about handling this issue and hence the number of clashes with smugglers (of BSF troops) has gone up in the last two years.

    "We have had two of our brave officers killed by the smugglers in the recent past while more than 120 people have been injured in various clashes," he said.

    The force said it had also recently detected three underground tunnels in the border area.

    Tunneling is a serious concern in these areas and the tunnels are like those found along the Indo-Pak border areas, especially in Jammu region, for smuggling of contraband and arms, the DG said.

Goa Mulls Levying Fee On Trucks Carrying Fish Outside State
  • In a bid to ensure better availability of good quality fish in the local markets, the Goa government is mulling to impose tax on the trucks carrying fish for sale outside the state.

    "We are seriously thinking on imposing certain fee on the trucks that carry fish from Goa to the states like Karnataka. The fee would be imposed on the state border," state Fisheries Minister Vinod Paliencar told reporters today.

    He, however, said the fisheries department is yet to decide on how much fee should be imposed on these trucks as the idea of levying it is still at a preliminary stage.

    "Imposing fee might act as a deterrent for the fish traders and stop them from selling their catch outside the state," he added.

    Mr Palienkar said every attempt would be made to discourage the export of fish from Goa as it leaves no good catch in the local markets.

    Even in the past, he had expressed his desire to provide quality fish to Goans, which is usually exported, leaving poor quality fish in the local markets.

    The minister said the state government is working overtime to curb "illegal practices" in the fishing trade.

    He said show-cause notices have been issued to the 300 fishermen for allegedly indulging in illegal practices.

    He said their licences would be cancelled, if they don't give satisfactory reply. "The fishermen would be given 10-15 days time to respond to the notices," he said.

    According to the minister, the Goa government has increased the police presence along the fishing jetties in the state to stop any kind of illegalities.

India, Singapore Vow To Deepen Defence Ties, Ensure Freedom Of Navigation
  • India and Singapore today signed an agreement to deepen cooperation in the maritime security domain and called for ensuring freedom of navigation in critical sea lanes against the backdrop of China's increasing military manoeuvres in the Indo-Pacific region.

    The two countries also resolved to boost overall defence cooperation with a particular focus on combating terrorism during wide-ranging talks between Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Singaporean counterpart Ng Eng Hen.

    The pact on naval cooperation provides for increased engagement in the maritime security sphere, joint exercises, temporary deployments from each other's naval facilities and logistics support.

    "India and Singapore remain strongly committed to tackle the transnational security threats," Ms Sitharaman said at a joint media interaction with Mr Ng, noting that both sides agreed to ramp up overall defence cooperation.

    The Singaporean defence minister called the talks "overwhelmingly successful and productive" and emphasised the need for concerted regional and global efforts to deal with terrorism and other challenges such as tackling chemical and biological weapons.

    Referring to regional security scenario in the maritime domain, both ministers reaffirmed the importance of maintaining freedom of navigation and trade consistent with international law, a joint statement issued after the talks said.

    Appreciating India's leading role in the Indian Ocean Region, Mr Ng agreed to India's proposal for continuous and institutionalised naval engagements in shared maritime space of the two countries, including establishing maritime exercises with like-minded regional and ASEAN partners.

    However, Mr Ng, speaking at a think-tank yesterday, had expressed Singapore's reservation over the proposed quadrilateral coalition of India, the US, Japan and Australia.

    Both sides also signed the revised Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) to further strengthen the longstanding defence relationship between the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and the Indian armed forces.

    The joint statement said both ministers look forward to the commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Singapore- India maritime bilateral exercise next year.

    They welcomed the renewal of agreement between the air forces of the two countries earlier this year and look forward to the successful renewal of a similar pact between their armies, the statement said.

    The two ministers also discussed Singapore's proposal to expand the Code of Unplanned Encounters at Sea to all ADMM (ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting)-Plus countries as well as to establish guidelines for air encounters between military aircraft, the statements said.

    The two ministers resolved to work closely in joint development of various defence platforms.

    They agreed that to facilitate greater collaboration in aerospace, electronics and other areas of mutual interest between the defence industries of both countries.

    The Singaporean defence minister also expressed his appreciation for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's acceptance to be the keynote speaker at the 2018 Shangri-La Dialogue.

Planet Labs To Launch 4 Satellites On Board India's PSLV-C40 Mission
  • Planet Labs Inc, a US-based integrated aerospace and data analytics company, today said four of its Dove satellites will be launched aboard India's PSLV-C40 mission, scheduled to fly in January, 2018. The primary payload for this mission is Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO's Cartosat-2 Series satellite, and Planet's four satellites will ride as secondary payloads.

    In February, Planet's 88 Dove satellites travelled on the PSLV-C37 as part of ISRO's record-breaking launch of 104 satellites.

    The four Dove satellites on the upcoming launch are tech demos responsible for testing improvements to several of the satellite subsystems, including camera technology, thermal control, and altitude determination & control system, Planet Labs Inc said in a statement.

    The company, founded in 2010, said it launches tech demo satellites several times a year to ensure they are using the latest and most advanced technology. These advancements are then incorporated into future operational fleet.

    The company operates a fleet of earth-imaging satellites, collecting a massive amount of information about the planet.

    "We've been very pleased with our working relationship with Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of ISRO. When Planet proposed to send a record-breaking 88 satellites to orbit on a single launch, they accepted the challenge without hesitation, and they delivered," said Karthik Govindhasamy, chief technology officer and executive vice president of engineering at Planet.

    "We have a rich history with Planet and we are proud to be a reliable launch partner that they can count on for consistent and timely launches," Rakesh S, chairman and managing director, Antrix, was quoted as saying in the statement.

    "The Planet's appetite for launch capacity is impressive and we're excited that the PSLV continues to meet their needs," he said.

Business Affairs

Bank recapitalisation: Finance Minister Arun Jailtey to approve recapitalisation bonds soon, sources say
  • The ministry of finance would soon finalise the Rs 1.35 lakh crore recapitalisation bonds for public banks. The Department of Economic Affairs is finalising details of the draft submitted by the Department of Financial Services in consultation with the Reserve Bank of India. Thereafter, it would reach the finance minister's office for the final approval. Under the government's recapitalisation plan, the government plans to pump in Rs 2.11 lakh crore to strengthen public sector banks (PSBs), including re-capitalisation bonds of Rs 1.35 lakh crore, in the next two years. The funding would strengthen the financial of NPA-hit public banks, whose NPA assets increased to Rs 7.33 lakh crore as of June 2017 from Rs 2.75 lakh crore in March 2015.
    The government announcement may come during the upcoming winter session of Parliament that will begin on December 15 and continue till January 5. The finance minister had said multiple options for recapitalisation bonds were on the government table, were being examined and the best ones would be explored. Once the structure is in place, the government will frontload bond issuance, and a preliminary assessment indicates that it could be between Rs 70,000-80,000 crore, the official added.
    Besides recapitalisation bonds, the finance minister had announced that banks would get about Rs 18,000 crore under the Indradhanush plan over the next two years. Under the Indradhanush road map announced in 2015, the government had announced infusion of Rs 70,000 crore in state- owned banks over four years while they will have to raise a further Rs 1.1 lakh crore from the market to meet their capital requirement in line with global risk norms, known as Basel-III. In the last three-and-a-half years, the government pumped in Rs 51,858 crore capital in the PSBs. The remaining Rs 18,142 crore will be injected into the banks over two years.

TRAI net neutrality recommendations may hit Airtel, Reliance Jio's earnings: Here's how
  • At a time when countries across the globe are struggling to arrive at a common definition of net neutrality, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come out with recommendations on net neutrality, one of the most controversial issues in the telecom sector.

    Broadly, the regulator has disallowed "discriminatory treatment" of content by telecom operators. In the past, telecom operators were found to be involved in throttling, blocking and degrading of Internet speeds to give preferential treatment to a particular type of content belonging either to the telecom operator or any third-party that had tied up with the telecom operator. For instance, the largest telco in the country, Airtel, launched Airtel Zero in April 2015 tying up with companies like Flipkart and others to give preferential treatment to their content. Although Airtel's zero-rated service was free for consumers, the data charges were paid by companies who had deals with Airtel.

    The recommendations seem to have irked telecom operators in a big way. Firstly, the operators will not be able to get into agreements with OTT (over-the-top) players (like YouTube and WhatsApp), thereby, shutting down an additional revenue stream for telcos. Also, telcos argue that since the current recommendations have kept OTT services out of the ambit of any regulations, it will allow them to continue to eat into the revenues of telcos.

    In March 2015, TRAI first attempted to define net neutrality through a consultation paper on regulatory framework for OTT services. TRAI had apparently clubbed the OTT and net neutrality issues because telcos were offering data packs - WhatsApp packs and Facebook packs. In subsequent consultation papers, and recommendations to the department of telecom, Rajan Mathews, Director General of GSM body COAI, says, "TRAI did not consider the issue of OTT services and the relationship between telecom operators and OTTs, and the regulator continued with piecemeal approach, rather than taking a holistic view."
    The recommendation suggests setting up of a multi-stakeholder body (comprising telcos, Internet service providers, content providers, civil society and academia) to monitor the traffic management practices (TMPs) of telcos. Telcos will have to declare their TMPs - and their impact on consumers - if they choose to deploy such practices. Such recommendations, if implemented, will increase the compliance burden for telcos.

    The only reprieve for telcos is that TRAI has allowed exemptions for content delivery networks (CDNs). These are services where telcos deliver content within its network without going through the public Internet. Examples include Reliance Jio's JioTV, JioCinema, JioMusic, JioMags, and Bharti Airtel's Wynk Movies and Wynk Music. In a report, Mumbai-based brokerage Edelweiss Securities has said that "CDN exemption is likely to benefit integrated operators who are trying to create a content ecosystem to drive user traction. We expect Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel to sustain leading positions in this space. They could  leverage CDN  exemption  and  offer  platform  content  at  lower  prices  to  drive  traction..."

    Over the past one year, TRAI's has taken a tough stance on key policy matters. Whether reducing interconnection charges (to 6 paise from 14 paise) or penalising three incumbents for denying interconnectivity points to Jio, and now the net neutrality recommendations, the regulator is keeping operators on the edge.

Bankruptcy amendments to generate more momentum in market
  • The new amendment debarring willful defaulters and NPA accounts for more than one year from bidding under the bankruptcy process is expected to generate some momentum in the financial markets. The beneficiaries would be asset reconstruction companies, investment banking, NBFCs etc. Take a look.
    Support ARCs recovery efforts 
    The asset reconstruction companies (ARCs) can invoke bankruptcy proceedings in many of the mid-sized companies where they have bought loans from banks in the last few years. Since these loans are NPAs for a longer period and hence promoters are barred for bidding unless they clear the outstanding dues, the ARCs can easily proceed for liquidation and recovery in such cases.
    Scope for interim finance 
    The existing defaulting promoters will be forced to borrow money from NBFCs to participate in the bidding process in their companies if they have the outstanding dues to banks. Many promoters will now approach the NBFCs for interim financing to pay back the outstanding dues to come clean on NPA tag.
    Stake sale or sale of business 
    There is a also a strong possibility of promoters resorting to stake sale to generate resources. The promoters generally don't want to part with their stake or reduce their stake. They often demand a higher price for selling a chunk of holding to private equity and other financial investors. This situation will now changed as there is every chance of losing the company in case of a default.
    Selling part of the business or group business 
    There may be case where the defaulting company will sell a part of the business or business of some of the group companies to avoid a default or to come out of a default. This will give push to M&A activities.

Will India ever get over its Maggi hangover
  • In 2015, the instant noodles product from FMCG major Nestle's stable was banned following allegations of high lead content. First the brouhaha was about excessive lead in the tastemaker, and now it's allegedly too much ash. Maggi, India's favourite instant noodles brand, is back under the scanner after samples collected by the district administration of Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, reportedly contained ash content above the permissible limits of human consumption.
    The FMCG company, however, has claimed not to have received any such order yet. "While we have not received the orders passed by the adjudication officer, we have been informed that the samples are of the year 2015 and the issue pertains to 'ash content'. This appears to be a case of application of incorrect standards, and we will file an appeal urgently once we receive the order," said a Nestle India spokesperson.
    India is fifth when it comes to consumption of instant noodles around the world
    Hungry for more

    According to the Mordor Intelligence report, the instant noodles industry in India has emerged as the most attractive, witnessing 7.6% annual growth between 2010 and 2017, despite the ban on Maggi.

    Size matters

    Since Maggi's 2015 ban, some of the other brands, such as Top Ramen, Yippee, Ching's Secret, Knorr Soupy Noodles and Wai-Wai, besides the recently-launched Patanjali Atta Noodles, have gained some market share, but are still lightyears away from the market leader. Patanjali is probably the fastest growing brand in the instant noodles market, riding on the success of its FMCG vertical, which has a share of 11.8 per cent of the domestic market.

    Slice of the pie
    Maggi: 61 per cent
    Wai Wai: 15-20 per cent
    Yippee!: 8-10 per cent
    Rest (Patanjali, Top Ramen, Ching's Secret, Knorr Soupy Noodles): 9 per cent

Ola and Uber have a new competitor in Bengaluru
  • It is election season in Karnataka and the state is scheduled to go to polls within the next six months. So naturally, political parties are wooing every possible micro-constituency. One such large, vocal and active constituency is that of cab drivers who have come to Bengaluru from neighbouring districts like Mandya, Mysuru, Tumkur, Chennapatna and even from northern parts of the state looking to make a living.
    Dissatisfied with the ever-changing incentive structures of online cab aggregators like Ola and Uber, these drivers have also occasionally gone on flash strikes. Continuously driving in a traffic-clogged city like Bengaluru seems to have taken a toll on their health too. Largely young and male, quite a lot of them live away from their families for months at a time and usually only congregate when it comes to issues relating to language and state pride.
    The regional Janata Dal (Secular) lead by former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda has been looking to tap into the grievances of this large, young and vocal crowd. While initially there were plans to launch a cab service under the moniker HDK cabs (alluding to H D Kumarswamy, the former CM of Karnataka and Deve Gowda's son), the party seems to have finally settled on partnering with a Kolkata based company called TYGR to launch a cab service called Namma TYGR (our tiger).
    A Namma TYGR spokesperson claimed that the cab service which already has an app on the Google Play Store will offer better incentives to drivers. The new player also says that it already has 10,000 drivers who have signed up to offer their services on the Namma TYGR platform. Rates for now seem to be slightly on the higher side compared to their established competitors but the spokesperson says that there are no hidden charges and everything is transparent to the customer and the driver.
    Since quite a lot of the drivers have come from the rural parts of the state and their roles are seen as 'aspirational', the JD(S) will be hoping that their influence will act as a force that will help in gathering votes.  
    The service will be launched by former Prime Minister Deve Gowda in Bengaluru on November 30. While the established platform aggregators like Ola and Uber which have raised billions in funding may not be worried about the entry of Namma TYGR for now, JD(S) which has been out of power for the last decade is surely looking at the cab service to help them get back to power.

General Awareness

Golden Temple awarded ‘most visited place of the world’ -WBR

  • On 24th November 2017, the Golden Temple has been awarded the ‘most visited place of the world’ by ‘World Book of Records’ (WBR), a London-based organisation that catalogues and verifies world records.

    Golden Temple – most visited place of the world:

    General secretary of WBR India chapter, Surbhi Kaul, and president of WBR Punjab chapter, Randeep Singh Kohli, gave this award to Shriomani Gurdwara Pharbandhak Committee (SGPC) chief secretary Roop Singh and other senior officials at Teja Singh Samundari Hall, Amritsar.Golden Temple awarded 'most visited place of the world' -WBR

    Surbhi Kaul said the WBR organisation gives the award after every three months and the Golden Temple has been conferred this award on the basis of observations made from September 2017 onwards.
    Randeep Singh Kohli said they are planning to give these awards to Durgiana Temple at Amritsar and Attari-Wagah border, which also witnesse a huge footfall.
    The SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh said though the shrine has been hugely popular ever since its foundation, the footfall has increased since the live telecast of gurbani kirtan.
    He said on average more than one lakh devotees visit the shrine every day. He honoured the WBR team with ‘siropas’ and a model of the Golden Temple.
    About Golden Temple:

    The holiest Gurdwara and the most important pilgrimage site of Sikhism
    Location – Amritsar, Punjab
    Construction Completed – 1589
    Also known as – Darbar Sahib, Sri Harmandir Sahib

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