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Current Affairs - 07 December 2017

General Affairs 

Colleges, universities have responsibilities to impart skills to students: Ajit Doval
  • National Security Advisor Ajit Doval has said that in the current scenario, when India is reaching new heights and new doors of opportunity are opening in the international community, our nation is becoming ready for the global competition it is entering.

    He said that India is progressing on the basis of its human resource, and training this human resource is only possible at when students are still in colleges and universities. The institutes have the responsibility to provide a world-class leadership to the young population of the country.

    Doval said that Indian doctors, scientists, and students are the best in the world and the young generation should be ready to upscale its skills according to the height of the global competition.

    He said that he was a student of Agra University and in the last 55 years after leaving the University, whatever he has done is just a journey to pay back the university for what it has done for him.

    Doval was felicitated yesterday at the Dr BR Ambedkar University, Agra, with an honorary D Lit.

    Appreciating Doval's comments, Dr Girish Chandra Saxena, former Vice-Chancellor of Dr BR Ambedkar University said that this university has been graced with so many world-class students that it is impossible to count now. However, some of its students have made their mark globally and Ajit Doval is one of them.

Bihar Government orders to sack 80,000 striking contractual heath employees
  • The Bihar government has ordered for terminating the services of 80,000 health employees who have been recruited by the state government on contract.

    The government has taken this decision in the wake of the health employees remaining on strike for the last three days demanding equal pay for equal work and regularization of their services.

    Health secretary, R.K.Mahajan on Wednesday issued a letter to all the district magistrates and civil surgeons asking them to terminate the services of the striking contractual heath workers and go for fresh recruitment.
    "Disciplinary action will be taken against the health workers who have violated the terms of agreement of the contract. Their contract will be terminated for violating terms of agreement of contract", said health secretary R. K Mahajan's letter to the DM's and civil surgeons.

    More than 80,000 contractual health workers have gone on indefinite strike since 4th December in support of their demand of equal pay for equal work and regularization of services.

    The contractual health workers include health managers, pharmacists, OT assistants, technicians, data operators, paramedic and counsellors. The health services across the state have crippled because of the striking health employees.

    The striking health workers who have been protesting at the Gardanibagh area in the state capital for last three days have asserted that they would further intensify their stir and now bow to the pressure tactics of the state govt threatening to terminate their services.

    "We will immolate ourselves now if the government did not accept our demand," said Afroz Alam, a protesting health worker.

    The worst affected hospitals because of the ongoing strike of contractual health workers have been the prestigious Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH) and Nalanda Medical College and Hospital (NMCH) in Patna where several operations and surgeries have to be cancelled.

Bombay High Court to hear GN Saibaba's appeal against life sentence verdict
  • Is GN Saibaba a naxal sympathiser wrongly incarcerated for life by a Gadchiroli court? Or is he taking advantage of being a wheelchair bound paraplegic to escape a life sentence?

    As the Nagpur Bench of the Bombay High Court gears up to hear his appeal against the verdict today, his supporters and Left leaning intellectuals are drumming up support.

    A signature campaign, by many, including teachers of Delhi University where Saibaba taught before his 2014 arrest, and fiery opinion pieces by author Arundhati Roy, letters by Saibaba to his wife are amongst other measures to drum up support or draw attention.

    So is Saibaba being convicted for merely being a sympathiser or has the State taken the easier way out by ramming down flaky evidence against the professor.

    Saibaba and four others were handed down life sentences by a lower court on March 7 this year, while one member of the group got 10 years rigorous imprisonment.

    They were convicted for waging war against the Union under the UAPA Act.
    Last year in March, Saibaba got bail from the Supreme Court on medical grounds. However, while handing down a life sentence this year, Principal District and Sessions Judge S S Shinde had said, "Merely because Saibaba is 90 per cent disabled is no ground to show him leniency, he is physically handicapped but he is mentally fit, a thinktank and a high-profile leader of banned organisations."

    The Prosecution had depended on electronic evidence to prove their case. The clincher, according to them was a microchip containing documents from Saibaba to be delivered to naxal commander Narmadakka.

    While the court debates the merits of the evidence, its curious how the professor took such deep interest in Maoist philosophy.

    In fact, he's been unable to explain why he chose to attend conferences abroad under a pseudonym, Prakash, instead of his own name. Several terabytes of evidence were seized by the police when they raided his Delhi residence. This included details of the false names he used.

    Saibaba, who has complained loudly of poor jail conditions and deteriorating health in letters to his wife, which were later made public, had managed to travel abroad frequently despite his disability.

    Sources from the Intelligence point out that, "In 2008, Saibaba left his job at the Osmania University, Hyderabad, and moved to Delhi, where he joined Ram Lal Anand College as an Assistant Professor in English. Though he had never travelled abroad before his move to Delhi, in the next five years, he made six trips abroad with the average duration of a trip being a fortnight."
    "In 2008, he travelled to Hong Kong, followed by Europe in 2009. In 2012, he visited Germany in connection with the observance of the 40th Foundation Day of the Communist Party of Turkey-Marxist-Leninist. The same year, in 2012, he also visited Brazil, United States and Greece.

    Saibaba participated in all these conferences under the pseudonym Prakash, which was the name found extensively in the documents recovered from his house upon his arrest. Saibaba comes from a humble background and it is obvious that he could not have made these trips from his salary as an Assistant Professor," the source added.

    Not just abroad, the disability did not hinder the professor from visiting every village in Bastar, by his own admission.

    Interestingly, after his release, Intelligence officials claim that Saibaba was treated in Care Hospital, Hyderabad in June, 2016. His medical bill of Rs 15-16 lakh was not paid by him. He also claimed that the hospital treated him for free. In fact, it is believed that the treatment was paid in cash by the party from its funds.

Jammu and Kashmir: Man arrested in Shopian for plotting soldier Irfan Dar's murder
  • The recent gruesome murder of sepoy Irfan Dar who was working with 175 Territorial Army has been worked out. One of the co-conspirator has been arrested by the Shopian Police.

    Pertinently, the bullet ridden body of the said jawan was recovered from village Wuthmula on 25th November and consequently Case FIR No 298/2017 of Police Station Shopian U/S 302 RPC and 16 UA (P) act was registered and investigation taken up.

    The investigation conducted so far has revealed that militants involving Saddam Padder R/o Heff,Bilal Mohand R/o Heff, Touseef R/o Gadbugh and one newly recruited unidentified militant along with arrested accused Muzamil R/o Shirmal hatched a criminal conspiracy to kill the sepoy Irfan Dar.

    In pursuance of the said criminal conspiracy, on November 24, the accused Muzamil went to the native village of Irfan and took him to Wuthmula were the above mentioned militants were already present in a nearby orchard.
    They came out from the orchard and fired at the Sepoy Irfan, resulting instant death of the victim on the spot.

    After executing the gruesome murder all of them fled from the spot.
    Police on the basis of evidence available could unearth the entire chain of conspiracy and finally nabbed accused Muzammil who is presently in custody.

    The look out for the other three militants is on and necessary legal proceedings are in progress to complete the investigation of the instant case.

It's over: No more Cyclone Ockhi, parts of Gujarat, Maharashtra, MP could get light to moderate rain
  • Cyclone Ockhi became a depression which then weakened into a well-marked low over the Arabian sea before it could hit India's western coast. That's the latest information from the Indian Meteorological Department.
    So after leaving behind a trail of destruction in southern Tamil Nadu, Chennai and Lakshadweep, Ockhi is finally done.

    People in Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, hold on. This still doesn't mean you can put your umbrellas away.

    The latest MeT forecast says parts of Gujarat (Valsad, Surat, Navsari, Bharuch, Dang, Tapi, Amreli, Diu, Daman, Dadra, Nagar Haveli districts) are very likely to receive light to moderate rainfall till morning on December 6.
    North Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh are also very likely to see similar rainfall patterns till noon today.

    Maharashtra's Palghar, Thane, Raigarh, Greater Mumbai, Dhule, Nandurbar, Nashik, Jalgaon, Ahmednagar and Pune districts are likely to get light to moderate rainfall (till morning on December 6).

    A MeT bulletin had earlier said it was probable the Ockhi system would dissipate over the sea before reaching land due to unfavourable environmental conditions.

Business Affairs

RBI maintains 'neutral' stance on monetary policy; keeps repo rate unchanged at 6 per cent
  • The Reserve Bank of India on Wednesday left the repo rate and the reverse repo rate unchanged at 6 per cent and 5.75 per cent, respectively. In its fourth bi-monthly monetary policy review for 2017-18, five of six Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) members voted for retaining the policy rates. In August, the RBI had cut the repo rate by 25 basis points but it held the same in October. The cash reserve ratio (CRR) too was left unchanged at 4 per cent. The primary reason behind no change in the policy rates reflects the RBI's focus on inflation control, and its analysis of India's strong economic prospects. 
    At the Monetary Policy Committee meeting, Chetan Ghate, Pami Dua, Michael Debabrata Patra, Viral V Acharya and Urjit R Patel were in favour of keeping the repo rate unchanged while Ravindra H Dholakia voted for a policy rate reduction of 25 basis points.
    Here are some key takeaways from RBI's monetary policy statement.  
    Inflation to remain between 4.2-4.6 per centThe October bi-monthly statement projected that the inflation -already at a seven-month high - will rise and range between 4.2-4.6 per cent in the second half of this year. The inflation path will be influenced by several factors, including the impact of increase in house rent allowance (HRA) by the Centre, and there's is a risk that this upward trajectory may continue in the near-term, said the RBI. The retail inflation measured by year-on-year change in the consumer price index (CPI) recorded a seven-month high in October. The food inflation declined sharply in September but bounced back in October due to vegetables and fruits price rise. The RBI said the farm loan waivers, partial roll back of excise duty, and Goods and Services Tax rate cuts may also affect inflation.
    Reforms to boost growth prospects In the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) assessment, there have been several significant developments including raise in the capital from the primary capital market, ease of doing business, the recapitalisation of public sector banks and tightening of the insolvency and bankruptcy code (IBC), which auger well for growth prospects. However, it retained the growth forecast at 6.7 per cent for 2017-18 even though the gross value added (GVA) in the second quarter rose to 6.3 per cent.
    Global economies gain momentumThe RBI said the global economic powerhouses like the US, and the Euro zone, and Japan also gained momentum in the past quarter, with uptick momentum in private consumption, investment activity and net exports. Accommodative monetary policy, strong job gains and external demand also contributed to the factor, said the central bank. Talking about macro-level global economic trend, the RBI said the latest World Trade Organisation (WTO) report indicates a loss of momentum in global trade due to declining export orders. Besides, it said, crude oil prices touched a two-and-a-half-year high in early November on account of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries' (OPEC) efforts to rebalance the market.
    Production to pick up in Q3According to the Reserve Bank's Industrial Outlook Survey (IOS), the production is expected to pick up in Q3 as order books are rising. The RBI suggested a mixed picture for Q3 citing core industries' flat growth in October.  The services sector activity has remained mixed in October, said the central bank, suggesting that the sentiments on service sector activity for Q3 are upbeat. The RBI said the sharp acceleration in industrial activity sequentially accelerated the growth of real gross value added (GVA) in Q2. The GVA growth in manufacturing got a boost due to high demand and re-stocking post goods and services tax (GST) implementation.
    RBI reduces merchant discount rates for debit card transactions The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has further reduced the Merchant Discount Rates (MDR) - cost paid by a merchant to a bank for accepting payment via credit or debit cards - for debit card transactions. For merchants with turnover of up to Rs 20 lakh, the MDR has been capped at 0.40% if the transaction involves physical infrastructure such as a swipe machine. If the transaction is conducted via a QR code, the MDR has been further reduced to 0.30%. For merchants whose annual turnover exceeds Rs 20 lakh, the MDR has been capped at 0.90% for swipe machine based transactions and 0.80% for QR code based sales, subject to a maximum of Rs 1,000 per transaction. Following demonetisation, MDR was reduced for transactions up to Rs 1000 to 0.25% of the transaction value, and .2% for transactions between Rs 1000-Rs 2000.

India's shrimp export to China is going to go up
  • In a reversal of trend, the Indian exporters plan large scale ferrying of the premium aquatic food, shrimp to China as the demand shoots up driven by the consumption in the neighbouring country. China will be the next new market for the Indian shrimp exporters, say leading industry players.
    "China, which traditionally has been the large producer of shrimps, is becoming the world's largest consumer of this premium aquatic food. In the near future, India will see China as the biggest market," says Kamlesh Gupta, Chairman, WestCoast Group, one of the leading seafood exporters in the country.
    According to a report by Globefish, a division of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN, India and Chile are expected to be the standout performers in 2017. Bumper harvests of aquacultured vannamei shrimp is the main factor behind this status, said the report.
    At present, the top markets for seafood exports from India are the US, Europe, Japan, China and South East Asia. Frozen shrimp contributes to 38.28 per cent share in quantity and 64.50 per cent in value. India has set a target of earning $15.28 billion (Rs 1 lakh crore) from its shrimp exports by 2022. In the last financial year, the country earned $5.78 billion (compared to $4.69 billion in the previous year) from exporting 1.13 million tone of seafood. India became the largest shrimps exporter in the world with 438,500 tone in 2016, a y-o-y growth of 14.5 per cent.
    Gupta says, India with its superior quality production and processing of shrimp attracts buyers from the US and Japan. As per an earlier FAO report, India became the largest shrimps exporter in the world with 438,500 tone in 2016, a y-o-y growth of 14.5 per cent. The top five shrimp exporters to the international market in 2016 were India, Vietnam, Ecuador, Indonesia and Thailand.

RBI gives credit for debit card usage
  • With a view to encourage usage of debit card, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) further reduced the Merchant Discount Rates (MDR) for debit card transactions. MDR is the cost paid by a merchant to a bank for accepting payment from their customers via credit or debit cards every time a card is used for payments in their stores. The merchant discount rate is expressed in percentage of the transaction amount.
    For merchants with turnover of up to Rs 20 lakh, the MDR has been capped at 0.40% if the transaction involves physical infrastructure such as a swipe machine. If the transaction is conducted via a QR code, the MDR has been further reduced to 0.30%. Regardless of the value of the transaction, the MDR for such merchants can not exceed Rs 200 per transaction.
    For merchants whose annual turnover exceeds Rs 20 lakh, the MDR has been capped at 0.90% for swipe machine based transactions and 0.80% for QR code based sales, subject to a maximum of Rs 1000 per transaction. MDR for both debit & credit cards were same till June 2012, when the RBI first reduced MDR for debit cards to boost their usage for sales. Till then, debit cards were primarily used for cash withdrawals from ATMs. Consequently, MDR for debit cards were first fixed at 0.75% for transactions of amount up to Rs 2000, while for transactions above Rs 2000, MDR was 1%.
    Following the demonetisation drive last year, when currency of Rs 500 and Rs 1000 denomination was withdrawn from circulation, MDR was further reduced for transactions up to Rs 1000, to 0.25% of the transaction value. For transactions above Rs 1000 but less than Rs 2000, MDR was kept at 0.50% of the transaction value.

India Inc seeks investment incentives, lower corporate tax in pre-Budget meet with Arun Jaitley
  • India Inc today sought lower corporate tax and more incentives for investments while exporters called for quicker GST refunds at a meeting with Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the run-up to the last full-year Budget of the NDA government before 2019 general elections.
    The industry bodies suggested lowering the corporate tax to 18-25 per cent, from up to 30 per cent at present. The exporters, who are grappling with blockage of working capital, pressed for exemption from tax on export income or lower levies on forex earnings and faster clearance of GST refunds.
    "The finance minister has promised 25 per cent corporate tax rate long back and we expect that the finance minister will fulfil his promise in this Budget," Ficci President Pankaj Patel told PTI.
    The industry body also sought support for innovation, employment generation through investment in the MSME and startup sector and specific incentives for new investments, highlighting the need to establish an export zone with manufacturing facilities but without any taxes or regulations.
    "We have asked to reduce the corporate taxes. Across the world, people are reducing corporate taxes and India is among the highest. We do need to create more demand and capacities for private investment and if you see today, GST has increased the tax rates," CII President Shobana Kamineni said.
    CII suggested that the road map for corporate tax rate for India should include reducing it to 18 per cent (all inclusive) at the earliest and withdrawal of surcharges and cesses.
    "The implementation (of GST) and refund delays are a cause of concern, so we have suggested that if they can give us the IGST refund also, along with the drawback. In the US, there is a differential tax rate for export earnings, so we have sought a lower rate of tax on export earnings than the normal corporate rates," EEPC India Working Committee Member P K Shah said.
    According to Shah, refunds of exporters to the tune of at least Rs 60,000-70,000 crore are stuck post GST rollout in July.
    "We have asked the finance minister to take the corporate tax to 25 per cent comparing with developed and industrialised nations. This would help in investment and which, in turn, would increase employment opportunities. Dividend distribution tax, which is around 20 per cent, should also be lesser," said Assocham President Sandeep Jajodia.
    "We would urge the government to provide fiscal support to units that provide additional employment in the export sector. Such a scheme will also help the workers move from informal employment to formal employment, which is a priority of the government.
    "Incentives may be provided based on twin criteria of growth in exports and growth in workers so that while export is increased, the employment intensive units also get a boost," exporters' body FIEO said.
    "We have requested for reduction in the direct taxes and a scheme to boost women employment and expediting the refunds under GST as they have been delayed," P R Aqueel Ahmed, Vice- Chairman of the Council for Leather Exports.

    Shilpa Medicare tanks over 4% on USFDA observations
    • Shilpa Medicare shares fell by over 4.7% today after it received observations from United States Food & Drug Administration (USFDA) in relation to SEZ formulation facilities situated at Jadcherla, Telangana. Out of the 10 observations, 7 are related to improvement in procedures and practices and 3 observations are related to setting of analytical specifications, test procedures and method validation. USFDA communicates any deviations in manufacturing practices observed during the inspection on Form 483. Typically, the company needs to respond to USFDA within a period of 15 days with a corrective action plan.
      Shilpa Medicare Limited started its operations as API manufacturer in the year 1987 at Raichur, Karnataka- India. It is engaged in high-quality Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients (APIs), Intermediates, Formulations, New Drug Delivery Systems, Peptides/Biotech products and Specialty Chemicals. In FY17, over 71% of the revenues/sales are generated through exports. On a consolidated basis, the company has registered a 5 year CAGR of 21% and 22.3% in operating profit and net profit respectively. In FY17, the expenditure growth was higher than the revenue growth compared to FY16.
      Revenue grew by 8.7% whereas the total expenditure grew by 10.2%. Growth in total expenditure was led by employee cost that grew over 40%. Raw material costs jumped by 12.7%. Substantial increase in other income and reduction in interest costs helped the bottom-line which grew at 4.95% yoy. Its debt levels increased by more than 2.6 times between FY16 and FY17. The total debt (short term plus long term) increased from Rs 90.73 crores in FY16 to Rs 239.7 crores in FY17.
      Looking at the current consolidated quarter numbers, the company witnessed a decline in sales revenue by over 3% in Sep'17 quarter compared to Sep'16 quarter. Helped by reduction in total expenditure (-9.24%) and fall in interest costs (-7.91%) , it registered a healthy net profit growth of 27.8%.  Company's stock significantly underperformed BSE Sensex in the last one year. However, it outperformed BSE Healthcare index. Between 5 Dec 2016 and 5 Dec 2017, Shilpa Medicare lost -3.2% compared to BSE Healthcare index that lost -11.25%. BSE Sensex gained 24.5%.
      Indian pharmaceutical sector is facing quality issues as several pharma companies have received warning letters from USFDA to adhere to quality standards and data integrity. Several Indian manufacturing facilities were inspected by USFDA and observed issues like releasing failed products, inadequate out-of-specific investigation, inadequate corrective and preventive action and fabrication of failed results. With nearly 480 USFDA approved plants, India has the world's highest capacity to produce US-compliant pharma products, besides the US. In the backdrop of WHO report that said one out of every 10 medicines in the developing world including India is fake, is a worrying trend.

    General Awareness

    Fifth Bi-monthly Monetary Policy Statement Released by RBI

    • 06 December 2017 Current Affairs: On the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation at its meeting, the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) decided to keep the policy repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF) unchanged at 6.0 percent.

      Consequently, the Reverse Repo Rate (RRR) under the LAF remains at 5.75 percent, and the Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate at 6.25 percent.

      The projection of real GVA growth for 2017-18 of the October resolution at 6.7per cent has been retained, with risks evenly balanced.

      In the previous meeting in October, the RBI had maintained status quo on rates. Since then, inflation, as measured by the consumer price index, has accelerated to 3.58%, the fastest pace in seven months, because of rising food and fuel prices.

      Since October 2017, global economic activity has been gaining momentum through the final quarter of the year, driven mainly by advanced economies (AEs).

      US growth remained largely resilient to hurricanes and grew at the highest pace in the past three years in Q3 of 2017, with positive contributions from private consumption, investment activity and net exports.

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