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Current Affairs - 01 November 2017

General Affairs 

Rs. 21,738 Crore Mega Project Cleared By Government To Acquire 111 Helicopters For Navy
  • In a major move, the defence ministry today approved the procurement of 111 utility helicopters for the Indian Navy at a cost of Rs. 21,738 crore.

    The long-pending proposal was cleared at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC), chaired by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, official sources said.

    The sources said that 16 helicopters will be procured at a fly away condition while 95 will be manufactured in India.

    The acquisition of the helicopters will be made under the strategic partnership model.

    The cost of the project will be Rs. 21,738 crore, the sources said.

    The government will now start the process to identify a foreign helicopter maker and an Indian defence firm for a joint venture for the project.

    In May, the government had unveiled the strategic partnership model under which select private firms will be roped in to build military platforms such as submarines and fighter jets in India in partnership with foreign entities.

    The procurement of the helicopters will be the first major acquisition project under the new model.

Rashtriya Ekta Diwas To Be Celebrated Marking The Birth Anniversary Of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel
  • Sardar Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel, one of the founding fathers of the Republic of India, popularly referred to as the Iron man of freedom struggle, was known for protecting the unity of the country post-independence. 31st October, the birth Anniversary of Sardar Patel, will be celebrated as Rashtriya Ekta Diwas or the national day for unity. 

    This year the Rashtriya Ekta Diwas celebrations will happen at a national level across the country. The day will begin with a floral tribute to the Sardar Patel's statue by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at Sardar Patel Chowk in the national capital. Prime Minister Modi will then flag off the Run for Unity event at Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium. The event will see a participation of over 15,000 students along with others including ex-Servicemen, athletes and NSS volunteers. Sports personalities like P V Sindhu, Captain of the Indian Women Cricket team - Mitali Raj and Former Indian Hokey team captain - Sardar Singh will be present at the event.

    The Run for Unity would start from the National Stadium covering a 1.5 kilometer stretch across the national capital. Coaches from the Sports Authority of India are to supervise the Run. Several Departments of the Central Government are to celebrate the Ekta Diwas by carrying out programmes to spread the message of unity. Indian Embassies across the world will also commemorate the day with special programs dedicated to the Iron Man. 

    PM Modi, while addressing the nation on Mann Ki Baat on October 29th, highlighted the greatness of Sardar Patel and Rashtriya Ektra Diwas celebrations in the country. He quoted Sardar Patel stating that Mr Patel believed in mutual love and harmony with no division of caste or creed. PM Modi said that this very ideal of 'Sardar Sahab' is what is relevant today and the primary reason why his birthday is celebrated as National Unity Day. "On the occasion of the birth anniversary of Sardar Sahab, Run for Unity will be organized throughout the country, which will see the participation of children, youth, women, in fact people of all age groups. I urge you to participate in Run for Unity, the festival of mutual harmony."

    Last year on Rashtriya Ektra Diwas, PM Modi had inaugurated a digital museum based on Sardar Patel's life near Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. He had said that one can see the tricolor from Kashmir to Kanyakumari; from Attock to Cuttack; from the Himalayas to the ocean. We see the tricolour across the length and breadth of the nation; and the credit for this goes to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Indian Army Team To Bring Back Remains Of World War I Soldiers
  • A team of the Garhwal Rifles will travel to France in November to identify and bring back the remains of its two soldiers killed during the First World War, an Army official said.

    The decision came after the French government recently found the remains of four soldiers, including two unnamed Indian soldiers, at a construction site near Laventie, about 70km from Dunkirk, in France.

    "The French government has found remains of two soldiers along with their regimental insignia having 39 number engraved on it. This makes us believe that the two soldiers could be of the Garhwal Rifles regiment," Lt. Colonel Ritesh Roy of Garhwal Rifles said.

    Notably, during the time of World War I the now Garhwal Rifles regiment was known as '39 Garhwal Regiment'.

    According to Roy, the other two remains found from the site were of British and German soldiers. "We have already informed the Indian government and top Army officers about the situation and a team from our regiment will be visiting France to identify the remains. If it is confirmed that the remains belong to the Garhwal Rifles regiment soldiers only, then we will bring it back with full army honour," he added.

    The British government honoured the 39th Garhwal Rifles by renaming it as '39 Royal Garhwal Rifles'. However, it was changed back to its original name after India's independence.

    Over 650 soldiers of the Garhwal regiment lost their lives during World War I.

After Terror Suspects Arrest, Cops To Recheck Passports In UP's Deoband
  • Passports issued in western Uttar Pradesh's Deoband belt and beyond will re-verified by the police to find if there are more cases of Bangladeshi extremists getting a passport. One person, suspected to be linked to the Ansarullah Bangla Team -- a Bangladesh-based extremist group inspired by the Al Qaeda -- was arrested from neighbouring Muzaffarnagar district earlier in August .

    The decision to re-examine passports issued in the Deoband area comes after the anti-terror squad discovered that the Bangladeshi suspect Abdullah had been issued his travel document on an address in this area.

    His questioning and follow-up raids led the police that more extremists from Bangladesh could have been issued passports in this part of Saharanpur district, famous for the widely respected centre of Islamic education, Darul Uloom Deoband.

    The Ansarullah Bangla Team had been accused of a series of attacks on secular writers and bloggers. In 2015, the group had published a hit-list of international bloggers and activists. Nine of the people named were UK nationals and two were from the US. 
    Saharanpur police chief Babloo Kumar suggested the police were particularly interested in listing people who had got their passports issued from the district but were no longer living here.

    Like Abdullah-al-Memon who was arrested by the anti-terror squad.

    Investigators said he had been living in Uttar Pradesh since 2011, initially in Deoband and later Muzaffarnagar's Kutesara area.

    The police are yet to arrest Faizan, who the police accused of being the ringleader of this group that radicalised young men for terror activities and providing them with logistical support. Of the many documents that the ATS had said were recovered from him were instructions on making bombs.

China Says Report On Tunnel Plan To Divert Brahmaputra Water 'False'
  • China today rejected as "false and untrue" a media report that it was planning to build a 1,000-km long tunnel to divert water from the Brahmaputra river close to Arunachal Pradesh border and send it to the parched Xinjiang region.

    Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post yesterday said that Chinese engineers were testing techniques that could be used to build the tunnel, the world's longest.

    "This is untrue. This is a false report," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing when asked about the report.

    China will continue to attach great importance to cross-border river cooperation, she said.

    According to the report, the proposed tunnel, which would drop down from the world's highest plateau in multiple sections connected by waterfalls, would provide water in China's largest administrative division, comprising vast swathes of deserts and dry grasslands. 
    The water would be diverted from the Yarlung Tsangpo River in southern Tibet, which becomes the Brahmaputra river once it enters India, to the Taklamakan desert in Xinjiang, the report had said.

    India as riparian state has already flagged its concerns to China about various dams being built by it on the Brahmaputra river, which is known in China as the Yarlung Tsangpo.

    Beijing has been assuring India and Bangladesh that its dams were not designed for storing water.

Business Affairs

Ease of Doing Business rankings: India makes highest-ever jump to rank 100 out of 190 countries
  • India jumped 30 spots to secure a place among the top-100 countries on World Bank's ease of doing business ranking list in 2018. With this increase, India has become the first country to register such a major growth in terms of ease of doing business, said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during a press conference to annoucne the development.
    The Doing Busines Report 2018 on ease of doing business 2018 was made public at 7:30pm IST. Although, the copies of report were already sent to the countries, there was an embargo in effect on publishing it till 7:30 pm IST.
    The World Bank's Ease of Doing Business index ranks the nation based on the 10 indicators. These indicators are: Starting a business, Dealing with construction permits, Getting electricity, Registering property, Getting credit, Protecting minority investors, Paying taxes, Trading across borders, Enforcing contracts and Resolving insolvency. Each one of these indicators carry equal weightage.
    Commenting on the India's unprecedented performance in ease of doing business, Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated, "The Government has undertaken an extensive exercise of stakeholder consultations, identification of user needs, government process re-engineering to match government rules and procedures with user expectations and streamline them to create a more conducive business environment. The report acknowledges India as a top improver with the highest jump in rank of any country in Doing Business Report, 2018. India is the only country in South Asia and BRICS economies to feature among most improved economies of the Doing Business Report this year."
    Addressing the press conference, Jaitley said, "Historically India has been in the rage of 130-140. In last two years, we made it to 131, 130 places. This year we have jumped 30 points to 100. This is the highest jump any country has made in World Bank's ease of doing business ranking."
    The survey conducted by World Bank covers economies of 190 countries, evaluating them on 10 specific parameters required for doing business. India has improved its standing in 6 out of these 10 indicators, the report shows.
    India secured 29th spot in terms of getting electrcity connection for a business, he added. Meanwhile, the Indian economy has improved its standing to 103 in terms of resolving insolvency. This is one of the most encouraging parameters for India as we were previously ranked 136 in resolving insolvency, but this year we have jumped 33 positions to finish at 103 number, Jaitley said.
    "We are ranked 29th in providing credit. This is a significant position we have achieved. The biggest jump we have made is in taxation reforms. This year we have moved up 53 places to 119. In protecting minority shareholders, we are at number 4," Jaitley said.
    Apart from these benchmarks in the Doing Business 2018 report, India has been ranked 164 in Enforcement of Contracts, 181 in Construction Permits, 156 in Starting a Business. Moreover, World Bank listed names of 10 countries which have taken structural reforms, and India is the only major economy to feature in this list. However, Brazil is the only BRICS nation below India in terms of ease of doing business.
    With eight reforms making it easier to do business in 2016/17, India was the only economy in South Asia to join the list of the 10 top improvers. India made obtaining a building permit faster by implementing an online Single Window System for the approval of building plans; the new system allows for the submission and approval of building plans prior to requesting the building permit, the report said.
    As per the Doing Business 2018, India also streamlined the business incorporation process by introducing the SPICe form (INC-32), which combined the application for the Permanent Account Number (PAN) and the Tax Account Number (TAN) into a single submission. Furthermore, following improvements to the online system in 2016, the time needed to complete the applications for Employee's Provident Fund Organization (EPFO) and the Employee's State Insurance Corporation (ESIC) decreased.
    The report noted that the joint application for the Mumbai Value Added Tax (VAT) and the Profession Tax (PT) also was fully implemented in January 2017. India also strengthened access to credit by amending the rules on priority of secured creditors outside reorganiza -tion proceedings and adopting a new insolvency and bankruptcy code that introduced a reorganization procedure for corporate debtors. In trading across borders, India reduced border compliance time by improving infrastructure at the Nhava Sheva Port in Mumbai.
    Export and import border compliance costs were also reduced in both Delhi and Mumbai after merchant overtime fees were abolished. Thanks to the increased use of electronic and mobile platforms, since July 2016 importers under the Authorized Economic Operator (AEO) program have been able to clear cargo faster through simplified customs procedures.
    However, Goods and Services Tax, the biggest tax reform in the country, was not factored in by World Bank while conducting this survey. Since June 1 is the cut off date for ranking economies on the basis of 10 specified parameters, GST implementation was not factored in this year. Jailtey mentioned that GST will be factored in the ease of doing business ranking, which will further improve the ranking ahead.
    In the World Bank's 'Doing Business' 2017 report, India's place remained unchanged from last year's original ranking of 130 among the 190 economies that were assessed on various parameters. The government however was not satisafied with the rankings as, it said, the World Bank did not capture the reforms undertaken by the Centre and states.
    Soon after 'Doing Business 2017' report, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the officials to ramp up the efforts to introduce reforms and push for India's improved rankings. The Prime Minister is known for making business friendly environment and cutting down the bureaucratic interface by introducing online process.

State Bank of India cuts MCLR rates for first time in 10 months
  • Country's largest lender, State Bank of India will cut marginal cost-based lending rates (MCLR) across maturities by 5 basis points. The new rates will come into effect on Wednesday. The rate cut will be SBI's first lending rate cut in 10 months. SBI, which accounts for more than a fifth of India's banking assets, will lower the 1-year MCLR to 7.95 percent from 8 per cent, according to a notification on Tuesday.
    Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had earlier suggested bringing in place an external benchmark rate to link lending rates for faster transmission of rate cuts to the borrowers by the banks. In April 2016, RBI came up with a new benchmark-MCLR for faster transmission of rate cuts. However, varying reset periods under the same and tweaking by banks led to considerable time lag in full transmission of the rate cut, thereby defeating its whole purpose.  
    The RBI last year unveiled the MCLR, which sought to remove much of the discretion commercial banks have to set lending rates. But to its frustration, the pace of bank lending rate cuts has lagged the reduction in policy rates, which fell by a total 200 basis points since January 2015.
    The RBI is keen for banks to lower lending rates further to accelerate credit growth and private investment in an economy growing at its slowest in more than three years. Bank loans last financial year grew at their slowest pace in more than six decades.
    Flush with deposits after a surprise scrapping of high-value notes last year, banks led by SBI had last sharply cut lending rates under the MCLR system in early January.
    The State Bank of India had earlier revised the minimum account balance for its savings accounts, as well as the penalties for non-maintenance of minimum balance, on Monday. The major change was been made with respect to savings accounts in metro cities, where SBI account holders will now have to maintain a monthly average balance (MAB) of Rs 3,000, instead of Rs 5,000.

Core sector growth hits 6-month high of 5.2% in September
  • Eight core sectors, which comprise 40.27 per cent of the weight of items included in the Index of Industrial Production(IIP), grew to a six-month high of 5.2 per cent in September, driven by a strong performance in coal, natural gas and refinery segments, official data showed on Tuesday.
    The combined Index of Eight Core Industries stands stood at 122.5 in September 2017. The eight core industries, which include coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity - had witnessed a growth of 5.3 per cent in September last year.
    The expansion in September is highest since April, when the core sectors' growth stood at 2.6 per cent. Coal production increased by 10.6 per cent in September, 2017 over September, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 1.5 per cent during April to September, 2017-18 over corresponding period of the previous year.
    Crude Oil production increased by 0.1 per cent in September, 2017 over September, 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 0.2 per cent during April to September, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of previous year.
    The Natural Gas production increased by 6.3 per cent in September, 2017 over September, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 5.0 per cent during April to September, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of previous year.
    Petroleum Refinery production increased by 8.1 per cent in September, 2017 over September, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 2.1 per cent during April to September, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of previous year.
    Fertiliser output recorded a degrowth during the month under review. Fertilizer production declined by 7.7 per cent in September, 2017 over September, 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 2.1 per cent during April to September, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of previous year.
    However, growth rate of steel and cement production was slower in September this year as against the same month previous fiscal. Electricity generation recorded almost flat growth.
    Steel production increased by 3.7 per cent in September, 2017 over September, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 5.5 per cent during April to September, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of previous year.
    Cement production increased by 0.1 per cent in September, 2017 over September, 2016. Its cumulative index declined by 1.9 per cent during April to September, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of previous year.
    Electricity generation (weight: 19.85 per cent) increased by 5.2 per cent in September, 2017 over September, 2016. Its cumulative index increased by 6.0 per cent during April to September, 2017-18 over the corresponding period of previous year.
    Cumulatively, the growth in the eight core sectors during April-September this fiscal slowed down to 3.3 per cent as against 5.4 per cent in the same period last fiscal.
    Healthy growth in key sectors would have positive implications on the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) as these eight segments account for about 41 per cent to the total factory output.

Bharti Airtel Q2'18 results hit by Jio effect: Net profit falls 76.5% Y-o-Y to Rs 343 crore
  • Effects of ongoing tariff war in telecom sector was evident in Bharti Airtel's quarterly results released today. The quarter that ended on September 30, 2017 saw the net profits of country's largest telecom company nosediving to Rs 343 crore, a decline of 76.5 per cent in comaprison to the same quarter in the corresponding year. The consolidated revenues earned by the company during the second quarter of the current fiscal slipped to Rs 21,777 crore, falling 11.7 per cent, a statement by Bharti Airtel said. Bharti Airtel had posted net profit of Rs 1,461 crore for the July-September quarter of last fiscal. The total revenues posted by the telco in the same period amounted to Rs 24,652.
    The consolidated revenues for just-ended quarter, at Rs 21,777 crore, represented a year on year drop of 10.4 per cent (reported drop of 11.7 per cent) on an underlying basis (that is adjusted for Africa and Bangladesh divested operating units and tower assets sale), Airtel said in a statement. On the other hand, India revenues posted by the company for the September quarter at Rs 16,728 crore have declined by 13 per cent over the year ago period, led by mobile drop of 16.8 per cent.
    Meanwhile, the company's consolidated net debt rose to Rs 91,480 crore as opposed to Rs 87,840 crore as seen in the previous quarter. Net debt excluding the deferred payment liabilities to the Telecom Department and finance lease obligations increased by Rs 2,554 crore sequentially in the quarter, the company added.
    Mobile market continues to experience value erosion and financial stress led by competitive pressures, Airtel mentioned in the statement.
    "The financial stress in the industry continues due to double digit revenue decline and will be further accentuated by the reduction in IUC rates in the next quarter. This will eventually force operator consolidation and exits as we have witnessed in the recent past," Gopal Vittal, MD and CEO, India and South Asia, Bharti Airtel said in the statement.
    Bharti Airtel, along with other incumbent telecommunication service providers, has been engaged in a fierce tariff war with Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Jio. Over the past few quarters, Bharti Airtel has been blaming the "pricing disruption" in the Indian telecom market casued by Jio's freebies for the eating into industry revenues and stress on sector profitability, cash flows and leverage.
    The company said it had "stepped up" the capex investments in the quarter on the back of data coverage and capacity.
    Bharti Airtel's net interest costs increased to Rs 1,905 crore compared to Rs 1,603 crore in the same quarter last year on account of lower investment income.
    "The forex and derivative loss for the quarter was at Rs 422 crore compared to loss of Rs 302 crore in the corresponding quarter last year," it said.
    On the day of the quarterly results, the shares of the company closed at Rs 497.65 a piece, after rising by 0.98 per cent over the previous close on BSE.

    Axis Bank stock rises up to 9% on likely fund infusion from Bain Capital
    • Private sector lender Axis Bank's stock rose in Tuesday's trade after an Economic Times report said  Bain Capital is in advanced talks with the bank to buy 5 per cent stake.
      At 2:28 pm, the stock was up 8 percent or 39 points at 523.50 level on the BSE.
      The stock is up 12.45 percent since the beginning of this year and rose 4.01 percent on an yearly basis.
      According to the report, the bank is in advanced talks with Bain Capital to invest between Rs 4,800-6,400 crore, in what could be one of the largest private equity investments in the Indian banking sector.  
      Axis Bank was in news on October 17, 2017 after the lender reported a 36 percent rise in net profit at Rs 432 crore in the second quarter.
      The stock fell after the lender reported percentage of gross non-performing assets (NPAs) rising to 5.90 percent in Q2 from 5.03 percent in the sequential quarter ended June 30, 2017.
      Net NPAs also inched up to 3.12 per cent as against 2.02 per cent in the same quarter of the previous fiscal.
      Subsequently, gross NPAs rose in absolute terms to Rs 27,402 crore at the end of September as compared to 16,379 crore at the end of the second quarter of the previous year.
      On October 17, 2017, the stock closed at 513 level but slipped to 449 level by the end of trade on October 23 on asset quality worries.

    General Awareness

    India tops list of new TB cases in 2016 – WHO

    • According to ‘Global TB Report 2017’ released by World Health Organization (WHO)India has topped the list of seven countries, accounting for 64 per cent of the 10.4 million new tuberculosis (TB) cases worldwide in 2016.
      What is Tuberculosis (TB)?
      Tuberculosis (TB) is a contagious disease which affects the lung and is caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MTB).
      • Cough, fever, weight loss and night sweats are typical symptoms of TB. It is an airborne disease i.e. transmitted through air.
      • Every year 24thMarch is observed as ‘World Tuberculosis Day’ across the world.
      Highlights of ‘Global TB Report 2017’:
      In 2016, nearly 7 million people died from TB, marking a 4% drop as compared to 2015 report.
      • It is estimated that out of the 1.7 million people who died from TB in 2016, around 400000 people were co-infected with human immunodeficiency virus(HIV).
      • In terms of new tuberculosis (TB) cases worldwide in 2016, India is followed by Indonesia, China, Philippines, Pakistan, Nigeria and South Africa.
      • As per the report, around 490000, multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) cases were registered in 2016. Almost half of these cases were reported from India, China and Russia.
      • The report has outlined that although global efforts against tuberculosis (TB) have saved an estimated 53 million lives since 2000 and reduced the TB mortality rate by 37 per cent, it still remains the top infectious killer in 2016.
      • Underreporting and underdiagnosis of TB cases has been noticed in countries with unregulated private sectors and weak health systems.
      • People living with HIV and children less than 5 years, are the two priority risk groups which are currently receiving TB preventive treatment.
      • As per WHO officials, shortfall in TB funding has been cited as one of the main reason that is hampering the progress to reach the end TB targets.

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