Current Affairs Current Affairs - 24 January 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 24 January 2018

General Affairs 

After ASEAN, PM Modi To Focus On West Asia, Visit UAE, Oman And Palestine
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to travel to the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Palestine in the second week of February, days after hosting ten leaders of the ASEAN countries.

    During his trip, the prime minister, who is currently in Davos to participate in World Economic Forum, is expected to discuss cooperation in strategic areas of security and trade, sources said.

    Significantly, PM Modi's visit to Palestine, likely to be on February 10 comes less than a month after Israeli prime minister Benjami Netanyahu's India trip. The two leaders had discussed the Palestine issue.

    After the Modi-Netanyahu talks, Vijay Gokhale, secretary (economic relations) in the External Affairs Ministry, had said, "What the two sides agreed, that the our relationship was much larger than any single issue...that we need to look at it holistically and while we continue to talk to each other, our relationship is not determined by a single issue."

    He was asked whether the long-pending issue of Palestine figured in the talks between the two prime ministers.

    PM Modi is also expected to attend the World Government Summit in Dubai from February 11 to 13, according to reports.

"Let Scientists Be": Minister Who Dissed Darwin Theory Told Off By Prakash Javadekar
  • Union Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar today said he had asked his minister of state Satyapal Singh to refrain from making comments on issues such as Darwin's evolution theory. Mr Singh had, at an event in Aurangabad last week, said that that Charles Darwin's theory of evolution was "scientifically wrong" and needs to be changed in school and college curricula.

    Intervening in the row over the remarks, Mr Javadekar said there are no plans for a national seminar to prove Darwin wrong.

    "I have discussed the matter with my MoS and I have asked him to refrain from making such comments. We should not dilute science. This is the advice I have given him," Mr Javadekar told PTI.

    "We are not going to fund any event or don't have any plan for a national seminar to prove Darwin wrong. It is the domain of scientists and we should let them free to continue their efforts for progress of the country," he added.

    Following his statement on Darwin's theory, Mr Singh had also called for an international debate on the issue to decide if it merits a place in school textbooks.

    "There is hardly any evidence to substantiate the theory. Great scientists of the world came out to say there is no evidence available in the world which can prove the theory of evolution is correct," the minister had claimed.

    "I propose, if the Ministry of Human Resource Development is ready to sponsor a world-level international conference to decide what is true and factual and that must be taught in schools and colleges," he added.

    Mr Singh had said our ancestors have nowhere mentioned that they saw an ape turning into a man, thereby casting doubts on Darwin's evolution theory.

India-Russia To Sign Contract For 48 Mi-17 Choppers By March: Russian Official
  • A contract for Mi-17V-5 helicopters, which was supposed to be signed last year, is now expected to be finalised soon, a top Russian official has said.

    "Negotiations with the Indian side on the delivery of 48 Mi-17V-5 helicopters have been completed; we expect to sign the corresponding contract in the first quarter of 2018," CEO of Russia's Rostec State Corporation, Sergey Chemezov, told IANS in an interview.

    He also said that there is "serious modernisation potential" in the Mi-17 and Mi-8 choppers which was proven by the development of the Mi-171A2 helicopter.

    The Mi-171A2 is an advanced medium multirole helicopter, based on the Mi-8/17 series with more powerful propulsion systems, upgraded main rotor, gear systems and fuselage and advanced avionics.

    Mr Chemezov said the chopper has seen more than 80 new improvements in the platform.

    India at present has around 151 Mi-17V-5 helicopters, the last of which were delivered in January 2016.

    The Mi-17V-5 is based on the Mi 8 helicopter airframe and is one of the most advanced aircraft of the Mi-8/17 helicopter family.

    The helicopters are equipped with night vision technology, on-board weather radar, a new PKV-8 autopilot system, and a KNEI-8 avionics suite.

    The sturdy choppers have been the Indian Air Force's mainstay in a number of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.

    The chopper was also used during the Mumbai terror attack of November 2008, where it aided in the commando assault to take back Chabad House. It is also said to have been used in the surgical strike carried out on Pakistani terror launch pads across the Line of Control in September 2016.

    It has TV3-117BM turboshaft engines, rated at 1900 hp each, giving the chopper greater service and hovering ceiling, and have proved efficient in the tough mountain terrain of the Himalayas.

    Asked about a recent tender for 111 Naval Utility Helicopters that India came out with, Chemezov said Russia will be participating in the tender with its Kamov Ka-226T helicopter.

    Mr Chemezov said Ka-226T met all specifications of the tender, and a solution for Naval use of the helicopter had also been found.

    "Our helicopter meets all the requirements presented in the tender documentation, and its technical characteristics exceed our competitors. We already have a solution for the naval version of this helicopter with folding blades," he said.

    "If the Ministry of Defence of India selects the Ka-226T, India can save money significantly. Thanks to the project for joint production of helicopters, there are opportunities for joint maintenance, training of pilots and mechanics and other related costs," he said.

    He added that there will also be a scope to export the helicopters once India's requirements are met.

    In anticipation of the contract, the two countries have formed a joint venture for 200 Ka-226T helicopters, 40-60 of which are likely to be imported off-the-shelf from Russia, with the rest being assembled in India.

    At the Russian-Indian summit in Moscow in December 2015, an intergovernmental agreement was signed for implementation of the project for production of Ka-226T helicopters in India.

    In October 2016, at the Russian-Indian summit in Goa, the parties signed a Partner Agreement and ratified the Memorandum and Articles of Association of the new Joint Venture, which was announced at the BRICS summit.

    The Russian side has 49.5 per cent share, while India has 50.5 per cent stake in the Joint Venture which got Russian President Vladimir Putin's nod in April and was registered in India in May this year.

In Davos Debut, PM Modi Seeks Bigger Global Role For India
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is the first Indian prime minister in two decades to attend a meeting of the world's rich and powerful in Davos, trying to carve out a bigger global role for the country, while convincing investors that his economic reforms are a success.

    PM Modi will give a speech at the opening session of the World Economic Forum today, where his key message will be that India is open for business and the economy can contribute to world growth as living standards improve at home, said Vijay Gokhale, top diplomat for economic affairs. India's vision is of an open global economy, he said.

    PM Modi's debut at the WEF comes a year after Xi Jinping became the first Chinese leader to address the conference, mounting a strong defense of globalisation amid US President Donald Trump's trade threats. With Trump also making an appearance in Davos, PM Modi will have an opportunity to show India's growing clout, while fighting perceptions back home that economic growth is losing steam and he isn't creating enough jobs.   

    "We have to speak about India's achievements in the past few years and the opportunities that it presents to global business, and that will be the message the prime minister will deliver," said Mr Gokhale.

    PM Modi's speech is scheduled for 11 am in Davos or 3:30 pm India time.

    Overtaking Germany

    While the $2 trillion economy is forecast to grow at the slowest pace since 2014 in the year through March 31 following a series of disruptive policy changes, the International Monetary Fund predicts the pace of expansion will revive to almost 8 per cent over the next four years. India is set to overtake Germany as the world's fourth-largest economy in 2022, presenting a huge opportunity for global companies looking to expand.

    Indian officials will meet with top executives of companies ranging from Airbus SE to General Motors Co. and JPMorgan Chase & Co. to outline an economic agenda that's focused on removing bureaucratic sloth and reversing the country's image as a hard place to start and do business. Yoga classes and Indian cuisine will be on offer at the Swiss ski resort.

    "Narendra Modi has a mammoth set of tasks in front of him," John Studzinski, vice-chairman of investor relations and business development at the Blackstone Group LP, wrote in a column for BloombergQuint. "With his appearance at Davos, he stands both to enhance his reputation as a hands-on national leader and gain new respect as a much-needed global statesman."  

    India is reliant on foreign investment since it runs twin deficits on its budget and current accounts. The country has seen foreign direct investments worth $195 billion (12.4 lakh crore) since PM Modi came to power, but that's dwarfed by what neighboring China attracts.

    PM Modi was rewarded for his reforms with a recent credit rating upgrade and India's jump of 30 places to the 100th spot in the World Bank's latest Ease of Doing Business rankings. But a chaotic roll out of the goods and services tax in July and an unprecedented ban on high-value cash notes in late 2016 has hurt the economy and hit business sentiment.

    "Apart from the usual selling points like favorable demographics, a large English-speaking population and huge domestic market, he has the goods and services tax," said Devendra Pant, New Delhi-based chief economist at India Ratings Ltd. "It can be sold as the tax reform under which companies won't have to deal with multiple states or rates."

    The government has also undertaken reforms by passing a bankruptcy code and announcing a $33 billion (2.1 lakh crore) recapitalization plan for struggling state-run banks. That's expected to unclog credit delivery channels, boost demand for loans from companies that have been paying down debt and get banks, which are saddled with bad loans, to start lending again.

    With PM Modi heading into an election year in 2019, businesses are looking for assurances that he will carry on with structural reforms, such as opening up the banking sector to achieve double-digit growth rates.

    "He must present himself incontrovertibly as a leader who is not prepared to compromise his laudable, if ambitious, long-term objectives for the sake of short-term gains achieved through identity populism," said Blackstone's Studzinski. "His Davos audience will admire him all the more for adhering to principles that will enhance India's contribution not just to the global economy, but to the world's geopolitical and moral order."

Strong Earthquake Of Magnitude 6.0 Sparks Panic In Indonesia
  • A strong quake rattled Indonesia on Tuesday, sparking panic in the capital Jakarta.

    Office workers rushed outside as highrises began swaying, while riders were thrown off their motorbikes by the force of the 6.0 magnitude rumble.

    It was not immediately clear if there were any casualties.

    "I was sitting when the building suddenly started shaking," said Jakarta department store worker Suji, 35, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.

    "I ran outside the building. It was quite strong and I was afraid." 

    The United States Geological Survey said the 6.0 magnitude quake struck at a depth of 43 kilometres (27 miles).

    There was no warning of any tsunami.

    The epicentre was off the coast, about 130 kilometres southwest of Jakarta, a sprawling city of more than 10 million people.

    "The epicentre is in an area prone to quakes. More aftershocks are very likely," Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics agency chief Dwikorita Karnawati told Metro TV.

    "I'm calling on people to be prepared, especially if you are in buildings with a weak structure," he added.

    The tremor came as US Defense Secretary James Mattis was in Jakarta for an official visit.

    Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where tectonic plates meet, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

    At least three people were killed following a 6.5-magnitude earthquake just outside the coastal town of Cipatujah on Java island in mid-December.

    The tremor was felt across the densely populated island, causing damage to hundreds of houses and other buildings.

    An earthquake struck Indonesia's western province of Aceh in December 2016, killing more than 100 people, injuring many more and leaving tens of thousands homeless. 

    Aceh was one of the areas worst hit by the devastating 2004 tsunami triggered by a magnitude 9.3 undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.

    The wall of waves killed 220,000 people in countries around the Indian Ocean, including 168,000 in Indonesia.

Business Affairs

Budget 2018: How tax structure has changed under Arun Jaitley
  • On February 1, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will present his fifth Union Budget, including an interim one as his first report. While speculations are rife that he will try to win hearts by tinkering with exemption limits and/or tax slabs - this being the Modi government's last Budget before general elections next year - he has already introduced a fair amount of changes to our wallets over the years. Take a look:

    Jaitley came out all guns blazing in his maiden Budget speech in Parliament on July 10, 2014. To begin with, he raised the income tax exemption limit from Rs 2 lakh to Rs 2.5 lakh for individual taxpayers below the age of 60. The limit for senior citizens was accordingly raised too. In addition, the exemption limit for investment in financial instruments under 80C was hiked by Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh while the deduction limit for interest payable on a home loan (self-occupied property) was raised from Rs 1.5 lakh to Rs 2 lakh.

    Though Jaitley did not touch tax rates or slabs in Budget 2015, he introduced a string of exemptions on the healthcare front. Apart from raising deduction limits for health insurance premiums from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 - the new limit for senior citizens was Rs 30,000 - he announced an additional deduction of Rs 25,000 for differently-abled persons under Section 80DD and Section 80U of the Income-tax Act. For very senior citizens, aged 80 years or more, who weren't covered by health insurance, he allowed deduction of Rs 30,000 towards medical expenditure. He also hiked the deduction limit with respect to specified diseases of serious nature from Rs 60,000 to Rs 80,000 for senior citizens.

    Then, to make the average salaried person happy, he doubled the transport allowance exemption, from Rs 800 to Rs 1,600 per month. To make up for the revenue loss, he increased the income tax surcharge for the super-rich with incomes of over Rs 1 crore - from 10% to 12% - but abolished the Wealth Tax. He had claimed that with these measures the individual taxpayer would get "tax benefit of Rs 4,44,200", including income exempted from tax.

    Once again he raised the income tax exemption limit by Rs 50,000, taking the ceiling to Rs 2.5 lakh. In addition, the ceiling of tax rebate under section 87A was raised from Rs 2,000 to Rs 5,000 to lessen the tax burden on individuals with income up to Rs 5 lakh. As a sop to first-time home buyers, he allowed deduction for additional interest of Rs 50,000 per annum for loans up to Rs 35 lakh sanctioned in 2016-17, where house cost was under Rs 50 lakh. Not forgetting those living in rented accommodation, he increased the limit of deduction of rent paid under section 80GG from Rs 24,000 per annum to Rs 60,000. On the flip side, Jaitley once again hiked the surcharge on incomes over Rs 1 crore, this time to 15% (up from 12% in the previous year).

    In last year's budget, the finance minister offered marginal relief to small tax payers by reducing tax rate on the Rs 2.5-5 lakh bracket to 5%. Tax rebate for taxpayers with income up to Rs 3.5 lakh (earlier Rs 5 lakh) was reduced to Rs 2,500 from Rs 5,000 per year but the combined effect of change in tax rate and rebate meant that an individual with taxable income of Rs 3.5 lakh would have to pay Rs 2,575 as income tax instead of Rs 5,150 earlier.
    Significantly, a new 10% surcharge was introduced on incomes over Rs 50 lakh up to Rs 1 crore, in addition to the 15% of income tax levied on those with incomes over Rs 1 crore.

    While the middle class has benefitted from these measures, one must balance it against the fact that interest rates on fixed income investments-think fixed deposits, provident fund, National Savings Certificate et al-have been steadily coming down under the stewardship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Sensex closes above 36K for first time, Nifty above 11,000; SBI, Tata Steel, ONGC top gainers
  • The Sensex and Nifty closed at record highs on the back of strong third quarter earnings and huge expectations from the upcoming Union Budget by the Narendra Modi government on February 1. An International Monetary Fund (IMF) report showing India was set to regain the title as the world's fastest growing major economy in 2018-19 also boosted sentiment.

    IMF on Monday revised up its forecast for world economic growth and said that it expected a strong Indian economy to offset decelerating growth in China.

    Gains in global markets after US lawmakers passed a short-term measure to fund the federal government through Feb. 8, ending a three-day government shutdown, also boosted investor sentiment.

    While the Sensex closed above 36,000 for the first time, Nifty too ended above 11,000, its highest ever level.

    The Sensex rose 0.96% or 341 points to 36,139 level. Nifty too rose 1.07% to 11,083 level.

    Nifty took nearly six months to rise from 10,000 to 11,000 points, marking the fourth shortest period for the index to cover a thousand point milestone.

    SBI (3.84%), Tata Steel (3.72%) and ONGC (3.60%) were the top Sensex gainers today. On BSE, Delta Corp (10.98%) was the top gainer followed by Jindal Steel (10.28%) and Sterlite Technologies  (7.59%) were the top gainers.   

    "Earnings so far have been positive and macro economic factors are fuelling the market movement," said Sudhakar Pattabiraman, head of research operations at MarketSmith, which is part of financial services provider William O'Neil.

    Rallis India (7.10%), Can Fin Homes (5%) and Great Eastern Shipping Co (4.63%) were the top losers on BSE.

    Surprisingly, market breadth was negative with 1374 stocks closing higher against 1,553 ending lower on BSE.

    Midcap stocks led the charge on Dalal Street with the index rising 202 points or 1.13% to 18,078 points.

     Bank Nifty too contributed to the gains and hit an all time high of 27,422 level. It closed at 27,390, a rise of 349 points.

    The BSE Metal index was the top gainer among the 19 sectoral indexes rising 649 points to 15,788.

    Bank stocks on BSE too led the market higher gaining 500 points to 31117 level.

     The BSE consumer durables index was the sole loser among the indexes falling 78 points to 23,676.

    Among stocks boosting the indexes, Infosys gained over 3 percent while Reliance Industries Ltd and State Bank of India  rose 2 percent.

WEF 2018: India has opened new door of FDI; come invest in my country, says PM Modi at Davos
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his keynote address at the WEF 2018 on Tuesday delivered a strong message to the world by calling for unity against protectionism and invited global companies to invest in India. He said due to the structural reforms carried out by the current government, India has opened a "new door of the FDI". He assured the CEOs and the leaders of world powers that India was ready to take on any challenges like protectionism and terrorism. Here are some key takeaways from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pitch for 'Make in India'.

    Assures companies of smooth policies
    PM Modi said India has no indirect motives, and that it works in close coordination with partner countries without any agenda, indirectly hitting out at China's policies in Indian sub-continent. Slamming the protectionist policies adopted by many developed countries, Modi said they need to change their self-centered way. He even compared the problem of protectionism with climate change and terrorism. "We are facing a big obstacle in terms of countries turning self-centered. Many countries who preach globalisation have chosen to remain self-centered. This is equal to terror and climate change, and the sheen of globalisation is slowly fading," said PM Modi.

    India at cusp of major social change
    The Prime Minister said: "We are not only doing small changes in our economic and social policies but are bringing revolutionary changes by adopting a policy of reform, perform and transform." Boasting how the government has made it easy to invest in the country, the PM said due to our simple policies for investment, "it is now very easy to invest, visit, work, manufacture and export your product to all corners of the world from our country". "The Indian youths were earlier tied due to poor policies. But now situation has changed, and in three years big changes have happened in India. Now Indian youths are eyeing  for $5 trillain economy by 2025, and they are capable in doing this," said the PM.

    From red tape to red-carpet nation
    Assuring India has completely shed its conservative working policy and that anyone could invest in India without facing much bureaucratic hurdles, Modi told the gathering "my country has now changed from a red tape to a red-carpet nation.  The PM said that to improve major political, economic and security issues of the world, there's a need for strong coordination between likeminded nations. "There's a strong need to speed up global economic growth. Current results are encouraging but technology and digital revolution can help find out answers to these problems." The PM concluded his speech with a passionate call for investment by stating that "if you want wealth and wellness, come to India. If you want health and wellness, come to India. India will always welcome you."  

    Investment opportunities in solar power
    The Prime Minister Modi drove the people's attention towards the problem of climate change by showing India's progress on the initiative. He said the real solution of problems lie in first accepting them and then finding solutions by working together. "We have to ask if economic progress at the cost of environment degradation is the real progress. Why are we not thinking about these challenges? In India, we have set a target to produce 175gigawatt renewable energy production by 2022. Total 60gigawatt of the desired target has already been achieved."  The Prime Minister said India and France united in 2016 to make an organisation to tackle the solar energy production challenges and formed the International Solar Alliance. "This year, France President Emmanuel Macron and the other alliance leaders would come to India to take part in its first international meet," he said.

Income Tax rule on treating discounts as revenue expense will hit small e-tailers the most
  • E-tail giant Flipkart has lost an appeal against the Income Tax (IT) department for reclassifying marketing expenses and discounts as capital expenditure. According to news reports, IT department contends that e-commerce companies should restructure their marketing expenses and discounts as capital expenditure and not as revenue expenditure.

    The IT department is of the view that the money spent on discounting and marketing is a cost incurred to increase the company's brand value. This is different from a brick and mortar retailer giving discounts because companies like Flipkart and Amazon spend big bucks and offer discounts not just to increase sales but change customer behavior, that is, get customers to start shopping online rather than go to retail stores. This increases their goodwill, number of customers and also the revenue per customer, which further improves the intangible assets of these companies, such as valuation and brand recall whose benefits will spill over to the next few years.

    Currently companies treat it as revenue expenditure, part of their day to day operations, which gets treated as an expense in the P&L account and reduces the net income of the company. The result is increase in losses on sale and thus, their non-liability to pay taxes.

    Historically, in various cases, marketing and advertising expenditure has been considered as revenue expense. The judgment in the three cases - Spice Retail Ltd, Fine Jewellery (India) Ltd and Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd - held that expenditure from marketing, discounts and from the peripherals of a sale (a box or a handbag with company's branding) was revenue expenditure and not incurred to increase the company's value, says Pranav Jain, Partner at Mumbai-based law firm MDP & Partners.

    Jain adds that, if passed, this ruling will cover all sectors whether it is FMCG or retail and the likes but it will not impact every company that gives discounts. It will affect those that use discounting as a strategy to increase their valuation. "Big companies like Facebook and Amazon may still escape this because of their complex organizational structure with multiple subsidiaries but the smaller ones with simple company framework will face most of the brunt," says Jain.

    It is one of the cases where there is a very thin line on categorization of the two terms. The Income Tax Act was formed in 1962 and has to catch up with the new business models, until then organizations will take advantage of any loophole in the Income Tax laws to decrease their taxable income, says Vishal Gandhi, founder of law firm Gandhi & Associates.

Railways may introduce new high speed trains to replace Rajdhani, Shatabdi
  • The world's fourth largest railways, long bogged down by adjectives like slow, tardy, dirty, et al, is in the midst of a makeover. First came the cosmetic changes. Last summer, the Indian Railways rolled out Project Swarn to refurbish and jazz up 15 Rajdhani and an equal number of Shatabdi trains at an estimated cost of Rs 25 crore. Think cleaner loos, trolley service for catering, on-board entertainment and more. Around the same time, the railway station Wi-Fi project was picking up pace.

    Then came the promises of better things in the future, like India's very own $17 billion bullet train by 2023. But while the latter has drawn flak in the recent times for sourcing 70% of the core components from Japan, the Indian Railways is reportedly ready to surprise the country with a new, self-propelled, semi-high speed train, entirely made in India, this summer.

    According to a Times of India report, the new train set-temporarily named Train 18-has been designed by the Chennai-based Integral Coach Factory (ICF) and the first train with 16 fully air-conditioned coaches and contemporary-style continuous window glasses will roll out by June. Not only will it pack 'world-class' passenger amenities such as GPS-based passenger information system, on-board Wi-Fi and infotainment, automatic sliding doors and zero discharge vacuum-based bio-toilets, but it will also cut down the travel time by at least 20% compared to any locomotive-hauled train to faster acceleration and deceleration. The new train's aerodynamic nose for reduced drag helps too while improving aesthetics.

    Train 18 is expected to eventually replace Shatabdi Trains, currently used for superfast inter-city travel. Where the maximum speed of the Shatabdi is 150 kmph-but it usually manages only 70-90 kmph due to several speed restrictions and slower acceleration-Train 18 is said to run at a top speed of 160 kmph. That is the same speed as the Gatimaan Express, country's fastest train currently that has been dubbed the 'semi-bullet train'.

    Another train set called Train 20 is expected to follow in 2020, to replace the Rajdhani trains plying on longer routes. The only difference between these new trains is that Train 20 will have an aluminium body while Train 18 will have stainless steel body. According to a study, Indian Railways will be able to cut travel time by three hours and thirty-five minutes on the 1,440-km Delhi-Howrah route with this new train set. Given that the calculation factored a maximum permissible speed of 130 kmph, travel time could come down further if the permissible speed limit is raised to 160 kmph.

    Being manufactured in India, these new train sets will reportedly cost half of what imported train sets command but it's still a pricey project. A Train 18 coach will reportedly cost Rs 2.50 crore and a Train 20 coach is expected to cost more than double that figure.

    Once these new trains commence operations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would have finally delivered on one of his key electoral promises-that of high speed rail systems connecting the four major cities of India.

    Rail passengers would have had more to cheer had the government given the green light to the high speed Spanish Talgo trains too. To remind you, the railway ministry had shown interest in deploying these trains on a profit-sharing basis after the successful trial in 2016. Talgo not only offered to send four trains to India but had also agreed to customise the trains as per Indian conditions and infrastructure.

    These trains could anyway race at an average speed of 105 kmph on existing tracks and push up to 180 kmph. Unfortunately, the plan seems to have fallen through. "The Talgo trains cannot come through direct agreement. It has to come via open tender. But there is no other bidder offering the same technology. This makes the procurement of Talgo trains nearly impossible," a senior railway board official recently admitted.

    With the ministry shelling out Rs 18,000 crores to upgrade the 1,384-km Delhi-Mumbai corridor and 1,450-km Delhi-Howrah corridor to allow the movement of trains at 160 kmph, more trains like Train 20 would have been ideal.

General Awareness

Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes; mechanisms, laws, institutions and bodies constituted for the protection and betterment of these vulnerable sections.

  • Context: A National Conference of the State channelizing Agencies, Public Sector Banks and Regional Rural Banks of National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) was recently held.

    During the conference, the participating agencies were asked to better coordinate with NHFDC and Channelising agencies for the smooth and better implementation of NHFDC Schemes for the benefit of larger number of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan). In the Conference, incentive cheques were also given to the best performing SCAs/PSBs/RRBs of NHFDC.

    About NHFDC:

    The National Handicapped Finance and Development Corporation (NHFDC) has been set up by the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Government of India on 24th January 1997. The company is registered under Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956 as a Company not for profit. It is wholly owned by Government of India and has an authorised share capital of Rs. 400 crores. The company is managed by Board of Directors nominated by Government of India.

    NHFDC functions as an Apex institution for channelizing the funds to persons with disabilities through the State Channelizing Agencies (SCAs) nominated by the State Government.

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