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Current Affairs - 28 November 2017

General Affairs 

BJP Releases Final List of 34 Candidates For Gujarat Polls, Drops Anandiben Patel
  • On the last day of filing of nominations for the second phase of the Gujarat polls, the BJP released its final list of 34 candidates today, and dropped five MLAs including a minister and former chief minister Anandiben Patel.

    Anandiben Patel, the legislator from Ghatlodia seat of Ahmedabad city, had earlier announced that she would not contest the polls. 

    The BJP has also dropped minister Rohit Patel from Anand seat.

    The other MLAs not given tickets are Nagarji Thakor from Radhanpur, R M Patel from Asarwa (SC) and Vinchhia Bhuria from Limkheda (ST).

    Former minister and spokesperson Jaynarayan Vyas will be contesting from Siddhpur, from where he lost the 2012 polls.

    The ruling party has also given tickets to Tejashariben Patel, the former Congress MLA who joined the saffron party earlier, and Kanu Makvana, the son of former Congress MLA Karamshi Makvana, who had crossed over to the BJP during the Rajya Sabha polls.

    In its sixth and final list, the party has given tickets to 12 sitting MLAs.

    The BJP has fielded Bhupendra Patel from Ghatlodia, represented by Anandiben Patel, while senior leader Kaushik Patel has been given the ticket from Naranpura, which was earlier represented by party president Amit Shah.

    Mr Shah had resigned as MLA after his election to the Rajya Sabha.

    The 182-member Gujarat Assembly will go to the polls in two phases on December 9 and 14. The counting of votes will be taken up on December 18.

AAP Gets Rs. 30-Crore Notice; Was Given 34 Chances To Explain, Say Taxmen
  • Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was slapped a Rs. 30-crore tax notice today for an allegedly massive mismatch in donations it received to fight elections and what it documented. Delhi's ruling party was told by the Income Tax department that it had been given 34 chances to explain allegations that it had concealed details of a chunk of its overseas donations.

    Mr Kejriwal called it the "height of political vendetta". He tweeted: "In the history of India, ALL donations to a political party have been declared illegal. All these were accounted for and shown in books of accounts."

    The notice landed a day after the party marked with great fanfare the five-year anniversary of its evolution from an anti-corruption campaign to a political outfit.

    Tax officials believe the party has not been able to account for around Rs. 13 crore it received from its overseas supporters before the 2015 Delhi election, which it won.

    AAP is also accused of not disclosing to the Election Commission details of 461 donors who contributed over Rs. 6 crore to their campaign.

    Officials say their investigations show that Mr Kejriwal's party did not put up on its website details of nearly Rs. 37 crore in donations. Also, in documents to the Election Commission, AAP did not declare close to Rs. 30 crore received from donors, officials allege.

    Mr Kejriwal, 49, has alleged that the tax crackdown is part of the central government's strategy to persecute AAP - - one of its fiercest critics - and discredit its anti-corruption mission.

    Earlier this year, the AAP was asked by taxmen to explain the alleged tampering of its account books and discrepancies in its report about donations received in 2014.

Centre Withdraws Lalu Yadav's 'Z+' NSG Security Cover
  • The centre has withdrawn RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav's 'Z+' VIP security cover of National Security Guard (NSG) commandos after a recent review of the threat to various protectees, official sources said today.

    The former Bihar Chief Minister will now be given 'Z' category security and be guarded by an armed commando squad of the Central Reserve Police Force, in accordance with the protocol of the scaled down cover, the sources said.

    Mr Yadav will not have National Security Guard black cat commandos guarding him any more. The NSG only provides 'Z+' security cover.

    The decision was taken after the Union home ministry recently reviewed the threat levels of various VIP protectees, the sources said.

    The 'Z+' CRPF VIP security cover of former Bihar chief minister Jitan Ram Manjhi has been withdrawn completely. He will have state police cover now.

    The 'Z' cover of Union minister Haribhai P Chaudhary has also been scaled down to 'Y+', entailing less manpower and other paraphernalia, they said.

    The minister of state for coal and mines was accorded the larger security cover of central security forces commandos when he was minister of state for home. 

Mumbai Airport Hits Record Number Of Flights, 969 In 24 Hours
  • Rising incomes and cheaper fares offered by budget carriers are fueling air travel in India, an aviation market set to be the third biggest behind China and the U.S.

    In signs traffic is surging, Mumbai on Friday handled 969 flights in a 24-hour period, a world record for an airport that operates only one runway at any given point of time, the Times of India reported Sunday, citing an official at the Mumbai International Airport Ltd. The aim is to reach 1,000 aircraft movements, the official told the newspaper.

    Indian carriers flew about 100 million domestic passengers last year, and the International Air Transport Association estimates the market will add about 337 million more in the next two decades. About 97 percent of India's 1.3 billion people have never been on an airplane, according to low-cost airline SpiceJet Ltd., indicating the potential for growth in traffic.

    Mumbai's airport, which has two runways, can operate only one at a time because they criss-cross each other, with lack of land ruling out the construction of one more. As a result, it is technically a single-runway facility. The surge in traffic on Friday was also aided by private and charter aircraft, the newspaper said.

Donald Trump Again Backs Alleged Harasser, Democrat Gives Up Key Post
  • President Donald Trump on Sunday redoubled his support for embattled Senate candidate Roy Moore, ignoring the sexual harassment allegations plaguing the ex-Alabama judge's campaign, even as Democrats moved to address harassment concerns afflicting their own party.

    In an early-morning tweet, Trump said that Moore's rival in the Alabama race for a Senate seat, Democrat Doug Jones, was weak on crime, the military and immigration. For Alabamians to support him in next month's special election, the president said, "would be a disaster!"

    Many members of Trump's Republican Party have withdrawn support for Moore, who is now 70, following multiple allegations that while in his 30s he molested or harassed teenage girls as young as 14.

    But allegations of sexual harassment have plagued both of America's main political parties in recent weeks.

    Democrat John Conyers, a celebrated civil rights leader who is the longest-serving member of Congress, announced he was stepping down from a leadership position as he battles similar claims.

    Even while denying the allegations, Conyers, the 88-year-old said he was leaving his post as ranking member of the powerful House Judiciary Committee -- but remaining in Congress -- while he seeks vindication before the House Ethics Committee.

    Ethics Committee leaders said Tuesday they planned to investigate allegations that Conyers, a 27-term legislator who co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus, had sexually harassed staff members and used official resources "for impermissible personal purposes."

    Swirling allegations of sexual misconduct have derailed high-profile careers in the entertainment and media industries and are now jolting the political world after a deluge of claims against one-time Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein.

    They have sparked angry demands from both political friend and foe that the alleged perpetrators step aside.

    Some leading Republicans have suggested that Moore, if elected, should not be allowed to take his Senate seat. 

    Most prominently, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has called for Moore to drop out of the race altogether, saying, "I believe the women." 

    - Losing proposition -

    McConnell reportedly has pleaded with Trump to stay out of the Alabama race, lest Moore's election damage the party ahead of next year's midterm elections. 

    One prominent Republican senator, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said that having Moore on the ballot was a losing proposition.

    "If he wins... it becomes a story every day about whether or not you believe the women or Roy Moore. If you lose, you give the Senate seat" to a Democrat, he told CNN.

    But Trump -- himself the object of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct during his presidential campaign, all of which he denied -- shrugged off such appeals.

    He tweeted that "the last thing" Republicans need in the closely divided Senate is a Democrat like Jones "who is WEAK on Crime, WEAK on the Border. Bad for our Military" and who "WANTS TO RAISES (sic) TAXES TO THE SKY."

    "He says it didn't happen," the president told reporters Tuesday. "You have to listen to him, also."

    Nancy Pelosi, the House Democratic leader, said that Conyers deserved "due process" in the coming inquiry, calling him "an icon" who had done much to advance women's causes.   

    But she later tweeted, in a statement about Conyers's decision, that "no matter how great an individual's legacy, it is not a license for harassment."

    Legislators have struggled with how to react to allegations against fellow party members.

    Pelosi suggested that the allegations against Democrat Al Franken -- including that the Minnesota senator once kissed a woman against her will -- were less serious than those against Moore.

    Asked if she would be satisfied were Franken to apologize, Pelosi told "Meet the Press" on NBC: "Right. Also, his accusers have to accept an apology. The victims have some say."

    There were reports that Franken might be planning an announcement Sunday, but in interviews with Minnesota media, he vowed to return to work on Monday.

Business Affairs

October GST collections down to Rs 83,346 crore as compared to Rs 92,000 crore in September
  • As many as 17 days have passed since the GST Council slashed tax on as many as 200 items, and the latest GST collections figures are here. A finance ministry statement said the total collection on the Goods and Service Tax (GST) for October slipped by almost 10 per cent to Rs 83,346 crore as compared to Rs 92,000 crore in the previous month.
    In a major rejig of GST rates, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on November 10 announced a 10 per cent cut in tax on over 200 goods ranging from chocolates to cosmetics to artificial fur coats and wrist watches. As many as 50.1 lakh Goods and Services Tax (GST) returns were filed for October. The ministry attributed the drop in collections to rates on several commodities being cut and tax administration being based on self-declaration as matching of returns, electronic transit permit system or e-way bill and reverse charging being postponed.
    Also, there was additional tax inflow on inter-state movement of goods, called Integrated-GST or IGST, in the first three months. The GST, which was implemented from July 1, has subsumed over a dozen central and state levies including excise duty, service tax and VAT. The revenues collected are split between the Centre and states in a pre-decided formula.
    The finance ministry said Rs 10,806 crore was released to states from the revenue collected from levy of cess on luxury and sin goods, in July and August. A compensation of Rs 13,695 crore for September and October is being released, it added. The compensation is to make up for any loss of revenue to the states arising from implementation of the GST. "The states' revenues have been fully protected taking base year revenue as 2015-16 and providing a projected revenue growth rate of 14 per cent," the ministry said.
    As per official data available, GST collections in the maiden month of July was over Rs 95,000 crore while in August, the figure was over Rs 91,000 crore. In September, it was over Rs 92,150 crore. October is the fourth month of GST rollout. Explaining the downward trend in tax revenue under GST, the ministry said initially Integrated GST was paid on transfer of goods from one state to another. "As and when the final transaction of these goods takes place, the credit for IGST is being utilised for payment of SGST and CGST and therefore, the inflow of new taxes is low," it said.

Demonetisation has resulted in wider adoption of non-cash modes of payments: RBI report
  • Demonetisation has resulted in a wider adoption of non-cash modes of payments, as per the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) report Mint Street Memos. The report points that there has been a reduction in the usage of cheques prior to demonetisation; and since demonetisation, cash transactions have moved in a sustained manner to non-cash mode of payment systems via retail electronic payment systems, point of sale terminals and cheques.

    Within the ambit of inter-bank payment and settlement systems, paper based interbank cheque clearing system is the oldest non-cash mode, albeit with the highest settlement time lag and inherent credit and liquidity risks. Therefore, RBI has attempted to reduce the usage of cheques and facilitate increased usage of electronic payments.

    The RBI has intervened to reduce the usage of paper-based instruments on several dimensions. Effective April 1, 2008, it mandated the use of electronic modes of payment for Rs 10 million and above in regulated markets and by regulated entities, which was further reduced to Rs 1 million with effect from August 1, 2008.

    Monthly data on the number and amount of inter-bank payment system transactions are published in the monthly bulletin of the RBI. Non-cash interbank payment systems have been grouped into four categories -- paper-based, retail electronic payment systems, cards at point of sale (POS) terminals and the RTGS system.

    Even as retail payment systems, card transactions at POS, and the RTGS system have been growing steadily, cheque volumes and values have shrunk from 2008-2009 to 2016-2017 except for 2012-2013 in value terms and 2016-2017 in volume terms.

    The payment systems data have been grouped into three time buckets--pre-demonetisation period from April 2016 to October 2016; demonetisation period from November 2016 to March 2017; and post-demonetisation period from April 2017 to August 2017. Cheque volumes and values contracted during the pre-demonetisation period but recorded positive growth during demonetisation as well as post-demonetisation period. There was a sharp growth in card transactions at Point of Sale (POS) for both demonetisation and post-demonetisation periods.

Handlooms and handicrafts not in the purview of India Inc's CSR spending
  • Any company in India with revenues more than Rs 1,000 crore has to compulsorily invest 2 per cent of its profit on developmental activities, be it poverty eradication, gender, hunger or education. After trying to find loopholes in the law and figuring out ways of not ploughing back their profits into developmental activities, in the last year-and-half industry observers have finally seen concerted CSR efforts from corporate India.
    "Corporates are clearly looking at serious CSR strategies rather than investing in one-off exhibitions or workshops," points out Rama Iyer, Founder, White Kettle, a CSR advisory firm. In fact, a KPMG report last year had said that 52 per cent of the top 100 companies had not been able to spend the required amount on developmental activities. However, among the companies which have committed to spend on the CSR, there has been 11 per cent increase in overall spends; with the average spend per company increasing by 15 per cent.
    As companies change their approach towards CSR, the category that has lost out because of the law are traditional art and craft societies such as Paramparik Karigar. The organisation which supports 100 crafts persons organises exhibitions annually to promote the work of its members. "Getting corporate sponsorship is becoming increasingly difficult ever since the 2 per cent CSR rule has come in," says Ratna Krishna Kumar, Member, Managing Committee, Paramparik Karigar. Paramparik is organising a Bharatnatyam ballet (choreographed by Malavika Sarukkai) that depicts the process of weaving a sari, called 'Thari - The Loom', which is a ticketed show and the proceeds of same would go for the upliftment of crafts persons.
    "We found it difficult to find a sponsor even for an event of this nature," says Kumar. "We have over 100 crafts persons as members now, and now that they have started doing well because of our support, they have started volunteering 10 per cent of their sales proceeds to Paramparik Karigar. This is how we are able to match up the costs of the exhibition," she adds.
    The reason why corporates are shying away from supporting handloom and art and  craft exhibitions is because the CSR law clearly states that anything that is in the marketing space and impacts one's brands is not CSR. "There is a clear difference brand-building and CSR. Whoever, the corporate is funding, has to show an expenditure certificate, therefore funding one off events is not what the corporates want to do," explains Iyer of White Kettle.
    Tata Chemicals, for instance, has created a handicraft brand called Okhai, and through the sale of the Okhai products it's helping to improve the livelihood of women living in the villages of Okhamandal in Gujarat. "Tata Chemicals has a salt plant in that region, therefore, it's approach was to find means of generating livelihood for which it partnered with local NGOs and self-help groups. Corporates no longer want to be seen doing one-off CSR activities," explains a former employee of Tata Chemicals.
    So what if corporate India can't fund handicraft exhibitions, they can always help organisations such as Paramparik Karigar through a host of other ways, says Kumar. "Corporates could support workshops on design inputs that we conduct for our karigars, they could buy our crafts and use it for corporate gifting or could even decorate their office space with paintings done by our karigars." However, India Inc as of now sees more merit in supporting burning issues such as environment, the girl child, education and hunger.

Mindtree stock closes over 7% higher on Credit Suisse upgrade
  • The stock of IT firm Mindtree rose over 7 percent on Monday after Credit Suisse upgraded the Bengaluru-based software developer on earnings growth outlook.
    At 3:20 pm, the stock was trading 7.24 percent or 37 points higher at 549 level on the BSE. It closed 7.40 percent or 37.90 points higher at 549.85. 

    Credit Suisse upgraded the firm's stock rating to 'Outperform' from 'Neutral' and hiked target price to Rs 600 from Rs 460, implying a potential upside of 17 percent from Friday's close.
    The brokerage said: Recent earnings were impacted due to revenue loss from some top clients and challenges faced by two acquired entities, Bluefin and Magnet. We believe that this is now behind them, leading to attractive EBIT and earnings growth.
    "Revenue challenges are behind as top clients seem stable. Bluefin grew in Q2 and Magnet appears to have bottomed out," it said.
    The stock is up 6.4 percent on an year-to-date level and is trading 16.47 percent higher on an yearly basis.

    Bengaluru businessman accuses Flipkart founders, 3 employees of Rs 9.96-crore fraud, FIR lodged
    • Barely four months after e-commerce giant Flipkart grabbed headlines when its chief operating officer (COO) Nitin Seth accused the company of wrongful termination in July, the company seems to be caught in yet another controversy. This time, it is Indiranagar-based C-Store Company in Bengaluru that has accused Flipkart founders Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal and three of its employees of not clearing "Rs 9.96 core due payment" towards the supply of 12,500 laptops.
      Apart from Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, the FIR (First Information Report) was lodged against sales director Hari, accounts managers Sumit Anand and Sharauque among other employees on the basis of a complaint by C-Store Company Naveen Kumar on November 21. Naveen allegedly supplied 14,000 laptops to Flipkart between June 2015 and June 2016 during the Big Billion Sale. "Flipkart returned 1,482 units but did not pay for the remaining units. TDS and shipping charges for those units too were not paid. When asked to clear the dues, Flipkart falsely claimed it had returned 3,901 units. By not clearing the dues, they have cheated me to the tune of Rs 9,96,21,419," the FIR says, reported Times of India. 
      The police said they had registered a case for common intent, criminal breach of trust and cheating under different sections of the Indian Penal Code, and that further probe was on. Though no response has been received from the Flipkart founders so far, it remains to be seen whether the allegations are true or false. And if the allegation turns out to be true, the row could spell trouble for the company at a time when it is trying hard to thwart dominance of global ecommerce giant like Amazon in India.

    General Awareness

    Global University Employability Ranking 2017 – IISc ranks 29th in the World

    • Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has ranked 29th among the top 150 universities on Global University Employability Ranking 2017 published by Times Higher Education.
      About Global University Employability Ranking 2017:
      Global University Employability Ranking ranks 150 universities and institutions across the world on the parameter to bring out ‘work-ready graduates’.
      • This ranking has been designed by HR consultancy Emerging, is conducted by research institute Trendence and published by Times Higher Education.
      • Rankings are complied on basis of a survey conducted among recruiters and industry professionals from 22 countries.
      Highlights of Global University Employability Ranking 2017:
      IISc ranked 29th on Global University Employability Ranking 2017, which marks an improvement of nine places as compared to 38th rank in 2016.
      • Other than IISc, only two institutes from India featured among the top 150. Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IITD) ranked 145th and Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB) ranked 148th. Both these institutes did not find a place in last year’s ranking.
      • According to the survey, India is lagging behind other countries in imparting digital skills to its graduates.
      • Asian universities, especially in China, Taiwan and South Korea have made good progress this year.
      • France, Germany and Switzerland have the highest number of institutes in this employability ranking.
      • This year’s ranking has been topped by California Institute of Technology (Caltech). Interestingly, Caltech admits students on the basis of strong maths, science and engineering skills and interest. This filtering method is believed to be the reason behind Caltech churning out high calibre graduates every year.
      Global University Employability Ranking 2017 – Top 10:
      1California Institute of Technology
      2Harvard University
      3Columbia University
      4Massachusetts Institute of Technology
      5University of Cambridge
      6Boston University
      7Stanford University
      8Technical University of Munich
      9University of Tokyo
      10Yale University

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