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Current Affairs - 20 December 2017

General Affairs 

PM Modi visits Ockhi affected families, dramatic scenes after he leaves early
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited cyclone Ockhi affected regions of Lakshadweep, Tamil Nadu and Kerala starting Monday evening. In Thiruvananthapuram, dramatic scenes unfolded as prime minister returned after meeting a few fishermen.

    Other fishermen families who came for the meeting hoping to share their grievance with PM protested at the venue. Many were seen crying out loud with the photos of their loved ones who went missing after the catastrophic cyclone Ockhi.

    PM Modi who reached Mangalore last evening first went to Kavarati Island in Lakshadweep.

    After a brief meeting with few fishermen, Modi chaired a high level meeting with government officials. The officials briefed PM Modi about the extent of the damage in the island.

    From Lakshadweep, the Prime Minister went to Thiruvananthapuram. PM was received by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, Governor P Sadhasivam and some BJP leaders.

    After the reception, PM moved to Kanyakumari in Tamil Nadu along with his team in 3 choppers. After meeting the fishermen in Kanyakumari Modi returned to Thiruvananthapuram by 4.30 in the evening.

    In Thiruvananthapuram, prime minister visited the families of cyclone Ockhi affected families from 4 villages.

    Since, it was advised unsafe for the prime minister to visit the coastal areas; the meeting was arranged at a community hall in Poonthura.

    Selected representatives from other villages were brought to Poonthura to meet PM. Modi who reached the venue at 5 interacted with a few family members.

    In his speech, Prime Minister assured all support from the central government.

    "We are doing everything we can to find out our missing fishermen. Hopefully we will be able to bring them back by Christmas," said the Prime Minister.

    After Modi returned from the venue, a section of the fishermen community protested against the Prime Minister. They alleged that the PM should have found more time to understand our worries and interact with us.

    "He just visited a few families at from one side of the crowd and returned. Then what is the point in bringing us here, asked Scarlet, who is still in search of her husband.

    Soon after others too joined the protest as the venue witnessed dramatic scenes of fishermen families crying helplessly. Many families were raising photos of their relatives who went missing.

    However, neither the state government nor any of the central minister's tried to intervene as all of them returned with Prime Minister.

    After the fishermen visit, Modi attended a high level meeting in Thiruvananthapuram in which was joined by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and other government officials.

    The state government submitted a memorandum for Rs 7340 Cr central package for Ockhi relief.

Maharashtra: 2965 minor girls missing in 6 months, CM Fadnavis seeks police action
  • Almost 2,965 minor girls went missing from Maharashtra between January to June this year, the state government informed the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday.

    The issue of missing minors was discussed after a BJP member Randhir Savarkar asked a question in this regard.

    Minister of State for Home Ranjit Patil said the number of missing minors in the same period last year was 2881.

    Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who heads the Home department stated in a written answer that the government has taken a decision to register all cases of missing minors as cases of kidnapping.

    He mentioned that the Home department has instructed all police stations to register a case of kidnapping whenever parent or legal guardian of a child below age of 18 files a missing person complaint.

    He claimed that it will make the police to search for the minor within five to six hours of his/her missing.

    "Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) have been drafted in this regard," the CM mentioned in the reply to Savarkar's question.

    Patil told the House that the government was aware that the number of kidnapping cases will go on after this.

    "We are not bothered about the numbers but we are serious on finding the missing minors," he said.

    Meanwhile, Fadnavis has claimed that the BJP's victory in Gujarat has made his government more stable and stronger.

    "The Opposition had created a scene saying the political equations in Maharashtra will be changed after the Gujarat election. Their prediction will fall flat," said Fadnavis.

    He pointed that the BJP has been winning the local civic body elections in the state. "That means people of Maharashtra don't want to go with the Congress and NCP," he said.

    Fadnavis also predicted that Congress and NCP will not come together for the Assembly election in 2019. At the same time BJP will accommodate Shiv Sena as the former has a "big heart".

Metro breaks through depot wall while being taken for washing
  • A Delhi metro train crashed into a wall today at Kalindi Kunj depot when it rolled back on a ramp while being taken for washing, six days before its commissioning with the scheduled launch of the magenta line by the prime minister.

    There were no casualties, according to the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) which blamed the incident on "human error and negligence" during maintenance and asserted it will have no bearing on the December 25 launch.

    A DMRC official said that the empty train, part of metros new generation driver-less fleet, broke through a portion of the boundary wall at the depot around 3.40 pm as it rolled back.

    "A trial train was moved from the workshop without testing the brake system as a result of which, while the train was moving up the ramp for washing, it rolled back and hit the adjacent boundary wall," the DMRC said in a statement.

    The end of the train which hit the wall suffered damage and a portion of the wall collapsed, suggesting that the collision was quite intense.

    A high-level inquiry by a committee of three officers of the rank of executive directors has been ordered, the DMRC said.

    "Prima facie, it appears to be a case of human error and negligence and appropriate action will be taken after the inquiry," the DMRC statement said.

    The Managing Director of DMRC, Mangu Singh, said that "main line operations on this line are absolutely safe, with a high level of automation and has been thoroughly checked and cleared by the commissioner of metro rail safety for passenger operations "

    "Todays incident was a manual error during maintenance and has nothing to do with the trials or passenger safety during future operations," he said.

    The Delhi government, meanwhile, also sought a report from the DMRC on the incident with Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot tweeting: "Shocking lapse! There can be no compromise on passenger safety."

    The DMRC and the Delhi government are engaged in a running feud over the recent rise in commuting fares. The Arvind Kejriwal government continues to insist that the fare hike should be rolled back.

    The train was to be pressed into service on the 12.38-km- long Botanical Garden-Kalkaji Mandir section, which is part of the magenta line coming up as part of metros Phase III construction.

    Only yesterday, the DMRC had announced that the section will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on December 25.

    The inauguration was very much on track, a metro official said, stressing the accident will "not have any bearing" on the services on the new corridor.

    As per DMRC's laid down norms, when a train enters a workshop (depot), the brakes of the train are decommissioned so that the train and its systems including the brakes can be freely checked.

    Once the train is again re-commissioned, the brakes are tested by the maintenance staff in the depot before the train leaves the shed. The train movement inside the workshop area is done manually and not by the signalling system.

    "Prima facie, it appears, this was not done and subsequently, the person who took charge of the train from the maintenance staff also did not check the brake and proceeded with the train up to the washing plant built on a ramp. While stopping at the ramp, since the brakes were not available, the train rolled back causing this incident," the DMRC said.

    Otherwise, when a train is on service, its brakes are largely guided by the automatic signalling system and controlled from the Operations Control Centre (OCC), one of which is housed inside the metro headquarters itself.

Male, female students can now sit together in Trivandrum medical college after government intervens
  • Two month long gender war in Trivandrum Medical College settled after college authorities withdrew the ban on male and female students sitting together in classrooms.

    Earlier the college authorities banned male and female students sitting together in classrooms and the campus.

    The gender segregation move triggered student protests in the campus.

    Health Minister K.K Shailaja Teacher directed the college authorities to submit a report and demanded a probe on the issue after receiving complaints from students.

    College Principal Dr. Thomas Mathew constituted a committee consisting of faculty members to probe the incidents and convened the meeting of student representatives and faculty members.

    The principal clarified that there would be "no restriction for medicos in the campus and they were free to sit in the classroom without gender segregation".

    Medicos in Trivandrum Medical College started sitting in the lecture hall after attending seminar on gender sensitization. The medicos also started mingling together freely in the campus.

    But a woman faculty member objected it and raised the issue of indiscipline in the faculty meeting.

    Some students raised the issue on social media and college authorities threatened action against them.

    "We started sitting together in the class room after the seminar. Initially, there was no problem and many faculty members appreciated it as a welcoming move. But one faculty member objected and asked girls not to sit with boys. When we challenged, a parent teacher's meeting was convened and named few students as problem makers. We have to fight for justice and gender sensitive campus," a student representative told India Today.

    In 2016, Trivandrum Medical college authorities banned wearing jeans, leggings and short tops in the campus.

PM Modi has a credibility problem: Rahul Gandhi on Gujarat verdict
  • A day after the Congress lost Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh Assembly elections to the BJP, party president Rahul Gandhi has said the verdict shows Prime Minister Narendra Modi has a "credibility problem".

    "A question has been raised on Modi ji's credibility. Modi ji has a credibility problem," the 47-year-old leader said while talking to reporters outside Parliament.

    "I got to know that people in Gujarat do not approve of Modi ji's model. The marketing and propaganda is very good, but it is hollow from the inside. They could not answer to our campaign," Rahul Gandhi said.

    GUJARAT A MASSIVE JOLT FOR BJP: RAHUL 

    The Congress president claimed the BJP has suffered a "massive jolt" in Modi's home state, where the BJP, though victorious, was reduced to 99 seats in the 182-member state Assembly. It was the BJP's worse performance since 1995 in a state it has ruled for 22 straight years.

    "Three-four months back, when we went to Gujarat, it was said that the Congress cannot fight the BJP. We did the hard work for three-four months and you have seen the results. The BJP has suffered a massive jolt," he said.

    Rahul said that Modi's decision to not speak about the Goods and Services Tax (GST) and developmenthas only put forth doubts on his credibility. "People of the state [Gujarat] don't believe in PM Modi's model of development," he said.

    Though BJP was able to snatch Himachal Pradesh away from the Congress, the Grand Old Party put up a gutsy fight in Gujarat, winning 77 seats against the BJP's 99.

    Reiterating his earlier stance on BJP using hate as a political tool, the Congress president emphasised that Congress will meet BJP's hate with love. "Gujarat has shown Modi that anger will not help him," Rahul Gandhi said.

Business Affairs

BJP's Gujarat and Himachal elections victory lifts rupee to 3-month high, domestic currency closes at 64.04
  • A day after the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) thumping victories in the states of Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh in the Assembly elections, spirited investors on Tuesday lifted rupee by 20 paise to close at the three-month high of 64.04 against the US dollar. Although rupee faced little friction on Monday and lost by 20 paise on the election result day only to close at 64.24, the domestic currency came out of its losses by the end of the day on Tuesday as the election results in Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh became evident. Other factors responsible for the recovery of rupee were heavy dollar unwinding, robust capital flow and domestic equity indices hitting fresh all-time highs. The BJP won 99 seats in the 182-member Assembly in Gujarat, and retained power for the sixth time, while Opposition Congress got 77 seats. In Himachal Pradesh, the saffron party won 44 seats while the ruling Congress could win 21 seats in the 68-member Assembly in the hill state.
    The dollar held steady against other majors currencies in quiet trade as investors remained cautious regarding progress on the US tax reform front. At the Interbank Foreign Exchange (forex) market, the rupee opened a tad higher at 64.22 against Monday's close of 64.24 on fresh bouts of dollar selling. But later gaining strength, the home currency breached the 64-mark to hit an intra-day high of 63.94 in mid afternoon trade before concluding at 64.04, showing a smart gain of 20 paise, or 0.31 per cent. The RBI, meanwhile, fixed the reference rate for the dollar at 64.1205 and for the euro at 75.6365. The flagship Sensex shot up over 235 points to close at 33,836.74, while Nifty jumped nearly 75 points to 10,463.20. The dollar index, which measures the greenback's value against a basket of six major currencies, was up at 93.14 in early trade. In cross-currency trades, the rupee continued to rule firm against the pound sterling and ended at 85.70 from 85.81 per pound and hardened against the Japanese yen to settle at 56.87 per 100 yens from 57.07 earlier. It also recovered against the euro to finish at 75.63 from 75.74 yesterday.
    Elsewhere, the common currency euro edged down against the dollar as data from Germany suggests business leaders in Europe's largest economy have become less optimistic about the future. In forward market today, premium for dollar remained weak due to sustained receiving from exporters. The benchmark six-month premium payable in May edged down to 125-127 paise from 126-128 paise and the far forward October 2018 contract also softened to 262-264 paise from 263.50-265.50 paise. On the global energy front, crude prices edged up as the Forties pipeline outage in the North Sea and voluntary production restraint led by OPEC supported crude, although soaring output in the United States put a cap on gains.

Ola Foodpanda deal: After all, a customer dropped home late, may need a midnight snack
  • India's largest cab aggregator Ola on Tuesday announced the acquisition of food-tech company Foodpanda's India business in exchange for Ola stock.
    The deal has been in the making for a quarter now and underlines what to expect in 2018: More big ticket consolidation as investors look for exits and poorly run firms get kicked out of the system.
    Why Ola acquired Foodpanda, which has gone through many ups and downs, may seem surprising to begin with. However, it begins to make sense when you think of both as essentially logistics businesses.
    Ola is a platform play. Foodpanda, which aggregates restaurants also is one, but at a much smaller scale. The food tech firm is present in 100 cities and has 15,000 restaurants on its platform. Ola, in contrast, is in 110 cities with nearly a million cabs or drivers. Such scale generates many capabilities, such as better inventory optimization and product experience. Neither Zomato, or Swiggy, Foodpanda's primary rivals in India, will have the advantage of Ola's scale.
    The acquisition is a diversification for Ola, a company that is building big data capabilities. Going ahead, there will be cross-selling opportunities. A customer who is dropped home late, may need a midnight snack, or someone who reaches office at noon, would require a quick lunch.
    Ola said it would invest $200 million into Foodpanda's India business. Expect the app experience to improve. The food tech firm, will press the growth accelerator from now on. How Ola helps it achieve that without burning too much cash, will determine the success of this acquisition.

'Tata Tele, Reliance Jio, 3 other telecom operators understated revenue by Rs 14,000 crore'
  • Tata Teleservices, Telenor, Videocon and Reliance Jio are among five telecom firms which have understated revenues by over Rs 14,800 crore, resulting in a short fall of nearly Rs 2,578 crore to the exchequer, the CAG said on Tuesday.
    As per the report of Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) tabled in Parliament, government was paid Rs 1,015.17 crore less in licence fee, Rs 511.53 crore in spectrum usage charge, and Rs 1,052.13 crore as interest applicable on delay in payment.
    It said the five companies are Tata Teleservices, Telenor, Videocon Telecom, Qaudrant (a Videocon group firm) and Reliance Jio.
    The government collection from Tata Teleservices is short of Rs 1,893.6 crore, Telenor - Rs 603.75 crore, Videocon - Rs 48.08 crore, Quadrant - Rs 26.62 crore and Jio - Rs 6.78 crore for licence fee, SUC and applicable interest charges.
    CAG said: "To sum up the verification of records of five PSPs (private sector players) by audit indicated total understatement of AGR (adjusted gross revenue) of Rs 14,813.97 crore for the period up to 2014-15 and consequent short payment of revenue share on Government of India to the tune of Rs 1,526.7 crore."
    It added that interest due on the short paid revenue share for the period up to March 2016 was Rs 1,052.13 crore.
    The CAG findings are based on the audit of Tata Teleservices and Tata Teleservices (Maharashtra) Ltd from 2010-11 to 2014-15; Quadrant Televentures (2006-07 to 2014- 15); Videocon Telecom (2009-10 to 2014-15); Telenor (2009-10 to 2014-15) and Reliance Jio Infocomm from 2012-13 to 2014-15.

Mylan, Natco take early lead with enhanced safety profile generic drug for Hepatitis B
  • Two companies, one a global major, Mylan and the other, Hyderabad-headquartered niche pharma product-maker Natco Pharma, have taken an early lead in launching generic version of Tenofovir Alafenamide, TAF, 25 mg, a once-daily tablet for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B in adults.  On December 7th, Mylan launched 'HepBest', which it called, "the first drug approved in eight years for management of chronic Hepatitis B infection in India." The launch was done by Mylan Pharmaceuticals in India. Just over 10 days later, on December 18th, Natco Pharma informed the bourses on Monday that it was launching the drug  under its brand 'TAFNAT,' in India. The drug TAF, it says, demonstrates comparable efficacy, with an enhanced renal and bone safety profile as compared to earlier formulation of tenofovir (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate).
    TAFNAT is manufactured under license from Medicines Patent Pool (MPP) and Gilead Sciences. Natco priced its generic medicine of TAFNAT at an MRP of INR 1900/- for a monthly pack of 30 tablets for the India market. According to Dr Jyoti Joshi, head, South Asia at the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics and Policy, based in New Delhi, "generic drugs such as these open doors for access to medications for poor patients such as tribals in India and perhaps may also encourage the government to take it forward in its public health programme for targeted treatments."
    Mylan, off course in its media release, referred to the dimension of the problem. It says, according to World Health Organization (WHO) estimates, more than 2 billion people worldwide are infected with the hepatitis B virus (HBV), of which more than 240 million have chronic liver infection. These patients are at risk of developing serious illness and death, largely resulting from liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. The company also quotes, Rakesh Bamzai, its President, India and Emerging Markets, as saying, "India has an estimated 40 million HBV carriers, of which 15 per cent to 25 per cent could go on to suffer from cirrhosis and liver cancer." In 2014, Mylan signed an agreement with Gilead to enhance access to TAF-based HIV treatments in developing countries. As part of the licensing agreement, on US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, Mylan received a technology transfer from Gilead, enabling it to manufacture low-cost versions of TAF.

    Bitcoins now an energy guzzler
    • Bitcoin is the newsmaker of this year. Virtual or real, it is perhaps the most valued currency in the world. The world might be awed at Bitcoin's meteoric rise, but its rise has not made it very green.
      A recent report published in November says that activity related to the cryptocurrency exceeded the energy consumption of 159 countries around the world.
      As of December 19, the 'miners' have consumed 34.96 TWh (1 TWh= 100 crore units) of electricity, according to the Bitcoin Energy Consumption Index by Digiconomist.
      So, if bitcoin was a country, at current value, it would stand at 58th position in the world, next to Qatar in terms of consuming electricity in a year.
      In fact, the total energy consumption is more than that of Ireland which uses 23.79 TWh of electricity and North Korea at 11.24 TWh.
      How It Works
      Mining bitcoins is like solving a math riddle, that becomes difficult as we go into the advanced stages. Coins are awarded to computers that verify transactions. The process is like a lottery, where you have many hits and misses. Therefore, it will require a number of attempts to get it right. More number of tries equals to greater consumption of electricity.
      Effect On Environment
      According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, for every unit of electricity produced in the world, on an average, 500 grams of CO2 is exerted. So, if you break it down, total CO2 emission due to bitcoin mining is 14.75 million tons.
      Countries that consumes most electricity
      Nearly three-quarters of all major mining pools are based in just two countries, China and the US, a study by Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance (University of Cambridge) and Visa showed. Of this, 58% are in China, followed by the US with 16%.
      Cheap power often means dirty power, and in China, miners draw on low-cost coal and hydroelectric generators. According to energy analysis, one of the mines in China's carbon footprint was same as a Boeing 747.

    General Awareness

    Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation

    • The work of the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016, which mandates the establishment of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), will be looked after by the Urban Affairs Ministry. The central government has amended the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules 1961, in this regard. 

      About the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016:

      The RERA is for regulation and promotion of the real estate sector and to ensure sale of plot, apartment or building in an efficient and transparent manner and to protect the interest of consumers in the real estate sector.

      It makes it mandatory for all builders – developing a project where the land exceeds 500 square metre – to register with RERA before launching or even advertising their project.
      The promoter of a real estate development firm has to maintain a separate escrow account for each of their projects. A minimum 70% of the money from investors and buyers will have to be deposited. This money can only be used for the construction of the project and the cost borne towards the land.
      RERA requires builders to submit the original approved plans for their ongoing projects and the alterations that they made later. They also have to furnish details of revenue collected from allottees, how the funds were utilised, the timeline for construction, completion, and delivery that will need to be certified by an Engineer/Architect/practicing Chartered Accountant.

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