Current Affairs Current Affairs - 05 February 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 05 February 2018

General Affairs 

In 'Advantage Assam', Some See More Than Just Another Investor Summit
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday opened Advantage Assam, the two day maiden global business summit of Assam and the first ever anywhere in northeast on Saturday. Not just top business tycoons but even Bhutan's Prime Minister Tshering Togbay was among the attendees.

    "We created the 'Act East' policy and the northeast is at the heart of it. It requires increased people-to-people contacts particularly with ASEAN. The name Advantage Assam is not a statement but it's a holistic vision," PM Modi said in his inaugural speech.

    His sentiments were seemed to be echoed even by Bhuyan's PM Tshering Tobgay who said, "PM Modi has given special attention to Assam. As Assam's immediate neighbour, we are excited since we will also grow. Advantage Assam means Advantage Bhutan."

    The 'Advantage Assam' summit was also linked to the centre's 'Act East' policy.

    But some political observers say the BJP and PM Modi had more than just business in mind to help Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal launch the massive event.

    While many expected PM Modi to go beyond rhetoric to explain how this business summit will be a gamechanger for the state, he chose to elaborate on his budget promises.

    "The government has announced an unique health insurance scheme in the budget. For poor people, the biggest fear is medical treatment. If one family member is critically sick, the entire family is financially burdened. We will end this scenario," PM Modi said in his address.

    His speech seemed to keep in mind the elections in three northeast states this month and a possibility of early general elections. Some also saw an attempt to match up to the 'Biswa Bangla' investor summit organised by BJP's rival Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal.

    PM Modi being felicitated by Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal during the inauguration of programme

    "The spirit of Vibrant Gujarat has travelled today to Guwahati. The spirit of Sabarmati has flown into Brahmaputra," said Mukesh Ambani, chairman of Reliance Industries, who also showered lavish praise at on Ms Banerjee's government at the Bengal summit.

    With over 170 business agreements in the bag and investment commitments of over Rs. 60,000 crore, the Assam summit certainly holds its own in front Bengal's announcement of 110 memoranda of understanding (MoUs) and over Rs. 2 lakh crore of proposed investments.

    "States should compete and it's good. Let Calcutta try to position itself as a gateway and Guwahati too. And let the best city win," Chairman of SpiceJet Ajay Singh, who too attended the Bengal summit.

    "I have travelled as a tourist in Northeast but today I am here looking for business opportunities. This itself speaks of the change," said Harshavardhan Neotia, chairman of the Ambuja Neotia Group, headquartered in Kolkata.

4 Soldiers Killed, 1 Injured In Pak Firing In Jammu And Kashmir's Rajouri
  • Four soldiers were killed and another injured in shelling by Pakistani troops across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district on Sunday.

    Pakistan intensified firing at Indian military posts and villages along the Line of Control or LoC in Poonch and Rajouri districts this morning, violating the ceasefire. A teenage girl and a soldier were injured in Poonch. The Indian Army said it was responding appropriately. Pakistan used "small arms, automatics, mortars and missiles" in the unprovoked firing, it said.

    It was the second time in three days that the Pakistani Army has targeted Poonch, using automatic weapons and mortars. They targeted military and civilian facilities in nearly a dozen areas of the Balakote sector last week.

    Indian forces say there have been over 130 instances of ceasefire violations by Pakistan last month, the highest since 2014.

    At least 14 people including eight civilians and six security personnel had been killed in Pakistan firing in the Jammu region between January 18 and 22. More than 60 people were injured and dozens of homes were damaged and burnt down in the firing.

    More than 300 schools situated close to the Line of Control and the international border in Rajouri, Poonch, Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts were closed for a week between January 21 and 28, for the security of villagers. Hundreds have abandoned their homes close to the border, leaving behind cattle and crops.

    Speaking at an election rally in Agartala, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, India wanted peaceful relations with Pakistan, but the country's forces have been told that if one bullet comes from across the border, the security personnel should fire countless bullets to retaliate. "I have given standing orders to our forces to shoot limitless bullets to retaliate a single fire on our territory by the Pakistani forces," Mr Singh said.

India A "Central Strategic Partner" In Indo-Pacific, Says US Air Force Chief
  • The Indian and the US air forces will significantly step up operational cooperation to complement the strategic interests of the two countries in the Indo-Pacific region, Chief of US Air Force General David L Goldfein has said, while expressing concern over China's rising military influence over the area.

    Calling India a "central strategic partner" of the US in pursuing common interests in the region, he said two of the world's largest air forces were going to jointly shift the focus on the Indo-Pacific region while asserting that the rules-based order must be preserved in the critical sea lanes.

    Mr Goldfein, who held extensive talks with Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa and the top brass of the defence set-up during his three-day India visit that ended yesterday, said the "Quadrilateral" coalition among the US, India, Japan and Australia would provide for deeper cooperation between the Indian and American air forces.

    Asked if cooperation between the two forces would deepen in the wake of the four countries joining hands, he replied, "I do (think so) and that is a big part of my visit and in my discussions here".

    In June last year, two Lancer heavy strategic bombers of the US Air Force had conducted flights over the South China Sea, sending a clear message to China against its military build-up in the disputed area. Three US aircraft carriers the USS Nimitz, USS Ronald Reagan and USS Theodore Roosevelt - have also been operating in the Indo-Pacific region.

    "We have common interests in preserving the rules-based order. So while we look for opportunities for partnerships, it is actually appropriate also for us to be critical for those who are trying to change that in ways that may not benefit the region," he told PTI in an interview in New Delhi.

    In November, India, the US, Australia and Japan gave shape to the long-pending "Quad" to develop a new strategy to keep the critical sea routes in the Indo-Pacific free of Chinese influence.

    Referring to the "Quad" or "quadrilateral coalition", the US Air Force Chief said there was a natural convergence among the four countries to work towards preserving the rules-based order, adding cooperation between Indian and US air forces would increase at several levels.

    "India is absolutely a central strategic partner in moving forward in our common interests, and where we take this in the future is the purpose of my visit," he said.

    Mr Goldfein, who has 4,200 flying hours under his belt and flew in the Gulf war and in Afghanistan, also talked about India's place as mentioned in the recently unveiled national defence strategy of the US.

    "It will be at a number of levels. It is on interoperability, how do we look beyond new platforms and sensors and look more broadly in the longer term," he said about cooperation between the US and the Indian air forces.

    The visit assumes significance as he was accompanied by Terrence O'Shaughnessy, Commander of the US Pacific Air Force.

    Mr Goldfein did not give a direct reply when asked if the US would increase its military presence in South China Sea.

    "We want to be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable. I am not going to share with our adversaries what our intentions are. If in fact we are to increase our presence or decrease our presence, that is something we will do at our time and place of our choosing," he said.

    India, US and several other nations have been pressing for freedom of navigation in the disputed South China Sea. The US has been periodically sending naval ships and planes to assert freedom of navigation, much to the chagrin of China.

    The US Air Force Chief said connecting capabilities of the two forces will be one of the priority areas to enhance interoperability.

    Elaborating, he said the focus of the cooperation will be to "make decision faster than our adversaries and then act in ways that may bring multiple dilemmas at a pace the adversary could never keep up with".

    "I believe that's going to help us to find deterrence in the 21st century. Being able to produce multiple dilemmas means being able to operate simultaneously from all domains.

    So as we look at our partnership with IAF, the question for me is not perhaps what individual platforms and sensors we can bring but how do we bring increasing connectivity, how do we actually connect our capabilities in ways that allow us to act, to observe or decide and act faster than our adversaries.

    That is the big idea going forward," he said.

    Mr Goldfein also talked about his and IAF chief Dhanoa's roles in "combat campaign" in Kosovo and Kargil in 1999.

    "He was leading in the Kargil campaign and I was involved in the Kosovo campaign. He was developing night tactics as a squadron commander and I was also developing night tactics as a squadron commander... Who would have thought that the two squadron commanders engaged in combats, building similar tactics, grow up to be the chiefs of two of the largest and most professional air forces on the planet," he said.

    "Where do we take that. Again we have these relationships built at all levels, I am excited. There is plenty of opportunities," he added.

    US President Donald Trump, in his first prime-time televised address to the nation as commander-in-chief last year, had laid out his South Asia policy saying a "critical part" of it was to further develop the US's strategic partnership with India.

    In June 2016, the US had designated India a "Major Defence Partner" intending to elevate defence trade and technology sharing with India to a level commensurate with that of its closest allies and partners.

16-Year-Old Girl, Jawan Injured In Intense Firing By Pakistan, India Retaliates Strongly
  • A teenage girl and a soldier have been injured in firing by Pakistan at the Line of Control in Poonch on Sunday. Firing started around 11 am when Pakistan targeted forward posts and villages along the LoC in Shahpur. 16-year-old Gulnaz who was injured in the firing has been hospitalised. The army has been effectively retaliating.

    This is the second time in three days that the Pakistan Army has targeted Poonch, using automatic weapons and mortars. They targeted military and civilian facilities in nearly a dozen areas of the Balakote sector last week.  

    Thirteen people including seven civilians and six security personnel had been killed in Pakistan firing in the Jammu region between January 18 and 22. 

    More than 300 schools situated close to the Line of Control and the international border in Rajouri, Poonch, Jammu, Samba and Kathua districts were closed for a week between January 21 and 28, for the security of villagers. Hundreds have abandoned their homes close to the border, leaving behind cattle and crops.

    Speaking at an election rally in Agartala, Home Minister Rajnath Singh said, India wanted peaceful relations with Pakistan, but the country's forces have been told that if one bullet comes from across the border, the security personnel should fire countless bullets to retaliate. "I have given standing orders to our forces to shoot limitless bullets to retaliate a single fire on our territory by the Pakistani forces," Mr Singh said.

27 Years After Bofors, Report May Be Finalised This Budget Session
  • A parliamentary panel looking into the Bofors gun deal for almost 27 years is likely to finalise its report on the issue in the current Budget Session, members said.

    The CAG report on Bofors is the oldest "pending" matter before the Public Accounts Committee (PAC).

    The main function of PAC is to examine an audit report of the Comptroller and Auditor General of India after it has been placed in Parliament.

    The six-member PAC sub-committee on defence is looking into the non-compliance of certain aspects of the CAG report of 1989 and 1990 on the Bofors Howitzer gun deal.

    The report has been delayed as action taken notes were not submitted before the panel by the concerned ministry and government organisations, said a member of the sub-committee, chaired by the BJD's Bhartruhari Mahtab.

    While deliberating over the defence deal, the panel had asked several top government officials to appear before it and to brief the members about the matter.

    The drafting of the report has been initiated and is likely to be finalised during the Budget Session, said another PAC member, who added that the report would be comprehensive and clear misconceptions about the deal.

    After the report is finalised by the PAC sub-committee, it will go to the main committee for its approval, where, a member said, Congress MPs may oppose portions of the report.

    The main committee is headed by Mallikarjun Kharge of the Congress.

    The Bofors scandal, relating to the alleged payment of kickbacks in the procurement of Howitzer artillery guns, had triggered a massive political storm and is believed to have led to the fall of the Rajiv Gandhi government in 1989.

    Recently, the CBI filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging a 2005 order of the Delhi High Court quashing all charges against those accused in the politically-sensitive pay-off case.

    The filing of the appeal assumes significance as Attorney General K K Venugopal had recently advised the agency against moving a petition 12 years after the high court's verdict. 

Business Affairs

India's 'Modicare' to cost about $1.7 billion a year: Sources
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi's plan to provide health insurance for about half the country would require an estimated 110 billion rupees ($1.7 billion) in central and state funding each year, sources familiar with the matter said.

    The National Health Protection Scheme, which the government dubs "Modicare", was announced in Thursday's budget for 2018/19 and would provide 100 million families, or about 500 million poor people, with health cover of 500,000 rupees per year for free treatment of serious illnesses.

    Several states now offer health insurance but these schemes are generally small and poorly implemented. Modi faces a national election next year and the new health programme is seen as a signature initiative to woo voters in the countryside, many of whom struggle with high healthcare costs.

    The government estimates the cost of insuring each family under the new scheme at about 1,100 rupees ($17.15), said a government official who had direct knowledge of the matter and did not want to be identified.

    Officials at NITI Aayog, India's federal think tank, on Friday said the government's estimated premium for insuring each family would be 1,000-1,200 rupees, confirming the funding would be shared between federal and state governments.

    "This is a turning point for the health sector," Vinod K. Paul, a member of NITI Aayog, told reporters.

    Indian officials have said "the world's largest government funded health care programme" would have a central allocation of 20 billion rupees in 2018-19, but added that more funds would be made available as the programme is rolled out over the year.

    Some critics have raised doubts whether 20 billion rupees in federal funding is enough to support the programme for 2018-19.

    However, the government official said of the 110 billion rupees in premiums required to fund the programme, the federal government would contribute about 70 billion rupees with the 29 states providing the rest.

    The 50 billion rupees in federal funding on top of the budget allocation of 20 billion rupees would be made available as the scheme details are worked out over the coming months, the official said.

    "Government health insurance companies have readily agreed to fund the programme (at this cost)," the official said.

    A second source familiar with the planning said the government could also partly use the funds raised from a newly imposed 1 percent health cess on taxable incomes, and the health scheme would also benefit from the planned merger of three state-run insurance firms announced in Thursday's budget.

    "It's a big pool (of people). When you have a mammoth insurance company, the task becomes easier," said the source, adding that the government's premium payments for the scheme were expected to be low and manageable.

    Modi's government on Thursday also raised the federal health budget by 11.5 percent to $8.3 billion for 2018-19.

    The measures are Modi's latest attempt to reform a public health system that faces a shortage of hospitals and doctors. The government has also in recent years capped prices of critical drugs and medical devices and increased health funding.

    Still, India spends only about 1 percent of its GDP on public health, among the world's lowest, and the health ministry estimates such funding leads to "catastrophic" expenses that push 7 percent of the population into poverty each year.

    A top official at a state-run insurance company said the government would take 4 to 6 months to finalize the contours of the health plan since it would take time to get hospitals on board.

    Nevertheless, a government-sponsored health programme will come as a major boost for the private hospital sector in India. Overburdened public hospitals mean nearly 70 percent of healthcare delivery is in the hands of private players.

    The scheme "will be a game changer", said Prathap Reddy, chairman of Apollo Hospitals Enterprise Ltd.

RBI should refrain from hiking rates on Feb 7 policy: Assocham
  • The Reserve Bank should not "over-react" to high yield pressures in the bond market and refrain from hiking interest rates in its next monetary policy review on February 7, industry body Assocham said.

    "Some of the macro indicators, including pegging of higher fiscal deficit of 3.3 per cent for 2018-2019 and 3.5 per cent of the GDP for the current fiscal, look difficult, but reaction of the bond market would ease out soon," Assocham said in a post-Budget paper.

    It said the concerns over the minimum support price (MSP) leading to increase in retail inflation are "exaggerated" as there is no MSP for the vegetables at the ground level.

    "The Reserve Bank should not over-react to the high yield pressures of the bond market, along with the government promising a substantial revision in the MSP for farmers and refrain from going in for any hike in the benchmark policy lending rates when the Monetary Policy Committee meets on February 7," it said.

    The RBI is scheduled to announce its sixth bi-monthly monetary policy statement for 2017-18 on February 7. In the last policy on December 6, 2017, the RBI had kept key policy rates unchanged.

    Assocham said for Operation Greens for onion and potato, announced in the Budget, entire institutional mechanism would have to be worked out by the NITI Aayog along with the states. So is the situation with regard to the MSP for several other agri commodities.

    "While the NITI Aayog and the states would bear in mind the farmers interest, the institutional mechanism would surely strike a balance between remuneration to the growers as also the impact on the retail prices. So, the immediate fear may be an over-reaction and the RBI should not get influenced while fixing the Repo (policy lending) rates in the coming week," it added.

    With regard to stock market valuations seeing a decline, Assocham said it is a healthy correction which was overdue.

    "A lot of froth and unnecessary exuberance had gathered around the stocks, particularly in the mid-cap space and there was no justification while matched against the corporate earnings," Assocham Secretary General D S Rawat said.

    It said, while the government has realised this fact, it is time RBI joined the initiative by ensuring that the growth which seems visible, should be encouraged by at least not revising the interest rates upward.

NPAs mess: The challenges for Asset Reconstruction Companies
  • With growing stress in balance sheets of stressed companies and that of large banks, role of Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs)- envisaged as an institutional response to tackle growing NPAs-  have come into sharper focus.

    Out of 19 Public Sector Banks (excluding State Bank Group), majority i.e. 10 are under Prompt Corrective Action (PCA) by RBI. Stressed Assets of the system are at a significantly elevated level of around a Million crores and growing.

    To address the alarming problem, Government of India have passed the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) which, amongst others, provide for change in management of defaulting company and time bound resolution in a period of maximum 270 days or the defaulting company moves into liquidation.

    The Government has further taken the initiative to advise the Regulator RBI to advise banks to refer large NPAs. In the first instance, 12 large NPAs popularly referred as the "Dirty Dozen" having NPAs of over Rs 2 lakh crores have been referred to NCLT and other cases are being referred periodically thereafter.

    The eco system around resolution of NPAs is evolving fast with slew of enabling regulations. The positive regulatory environment has encouraged a lot of players in distressed debt- both global and domestic- Special Situation Funds, Hedge Funds, Long Term Funds including Pension Funds, Sovereign Funds, PE Investors, Strategic Buyers, Turnaround Specialists, Specialised Transaction Advisory etc to come forward in large hordes.

    And in this NPA space crowded with several stakeholders, how do ARCs stand out and pursue their effective role play, that is where ARCs to have to retrospect, introspect and reinvent themselves.

    There are 4 key challenges which restricts ARCs scale up to a leading role in whole NPA play. First and foremost- Funds available with ARCs which is minuscule compared to the vast NPA market. Second, even if funds are available, the price expectation mismatch between selling bank (s) and buying ARC and ever elusive consensus on an acceptable valuation framework.

    Third, even if an ARC acquires the NPA of a particular bank, how to expeditiously aggregate loans from all other creditors who have complex and deep rooted inter creditor issues to achieve threshold level for driving resolution- generally 75% of debt, though for sale of asset through SARFAESI it is 60%.

    More important component in resolution beyond debt aggregation, is how to address challenges in resolution including finding fresh money, management and technology to revive the Asset. Finally, how to have an exit clause for the investors.

    The ARCs have to address all these, which have been discussed at various levels and possible solutions are visible. Starting from the weakest link, absence of a vibrant distressed debt market in India. In a recent function of ARCs organized by an Industry body, RBI DG Viral Acharya rightly focused on this single factor alone.

    He suggested setting up of a Distressed Loan Sales Trading Platform and advised formation of a body like Loan Syndication and Trading Association comprising of ARCs, Banks and Rating Agencies to work together for evolving such a platform. Selling of NPAs should be as smooth as selling Sachin Tendulkar's Bat, he added.

    The next big challenge for ARCs is to develop and possess requisite skill sets in managing turnaround story. The RBI has already advised ARCs for preparing a panel of sector specific management firms/ individuals having expertise in running firms/ companies which could be considered for managing the (acquired distressed) companies. In fact, ARCs can choose niche area for scope of their operations for greater success in portfolio management.

    With regulatory arbitrage over provisioning in banks and ARCs gone, role of ARCs as an exit structure for balance sheet management of banks is largely over. Banks will now look forward to more cash transactions particularly in recent NPAs with little provisions.

    This will require ARCs to necessarily have extensive support from deep pockets with risk capital and risk appetite for their survival.  For ARCs to get this support, they have to showcase their capability and preparedness to handle complex NPAs and inspire confidence of the investors that they can generate market expected IRR.

    The debate on haircut has been ignited by Chairman of India's largest bank recently. How much cut is a cut, and beyond which it is bald for the bank- that is the question.  

    There is no ready answer. The banks, ARCs and the rating agencies, because they have been associated now for over a decade with Recovery Rating Scale i.e. valuing how much money can be realized from Security Receipts with underlying NPAs, have to devise an acceptable valuation framework and leave it to market forces for efficient price discovery.

     Market is right, provided the issues of information asymmetry is addressed. With time, data on Credit Defaults, Loss Given Default, Expected Credit Loss i.e. expected present value of losses that arise if borrowers default on their obligations at some time during the life of the financial asset will evolve and risk pricing can be more quantified.

    ARCs are now at a historic juncture. They can recreate successful ARC story by being alive to challenges above and transform into new Avtar. The choice before ARCs is between ability to script and execute a good turnaround story or being consigned to history.

Mega healthcare scheme 'game changer', financing not a constraint: Niti Aayog
  • Brushing aside criticism of the newly announced mega healthcare scheme, Niti Aayog Vice- Chairman Rajiv Kumar has said it is a "game changer" and revenue from the 1 per cent additional cess would be enough to meet the funding needs.

    Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his budget for 2018-19 announced the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) announced to provide health insurance cover of Rs 5 lakh to over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families.

    "This scheme is game changer," Kumar told PTI as he regretted that "a completely baseless and false propaganda" is being spread against the ambitious scheme of the Modi government.

    Former Finance Minister and senior Congress leader P Chidambaram has termed the proposal as "a jumla" with no money provided in the budget for it.

    On funding of the scheme envisaging to cover about 50 crore people, the Niti Aayog vice-chairman said the allocation for the health sector has been raised by Rs 6,000 crore.

    Moreover, there is an existing facility of Rs 2,000 crore for the ongoing RSBY scheme.

    The government has provided further financial space to the health ministry by establishing an alternate mechanism Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) for funding capex needs of the health education project.

    And in addition, the one per cent extra education and health cess proposed by Jaitley in the budget will annually yield Rs 11,000 crore. All these combined would be more than adequate to meet the financing needs of welfare programme.

    The Centre and the state governments, Kumar added, will only have to bear the insurance premium which was likely to be very moderate. It will benefit from bulk procurement and competition.

    "Like all central schemes it will have 60-40 ratio. Those states which want to join join the scheme will contribute 40 per cent. North East states will pay 10 per cent," he added.

    Many experts have questioned the ability of the government to fund such as ambitious scheme and also the availability of infrastructure to provide medical facilities for a large number of people across the country.

    On the infrastructure for health services providers, Kumar said the scheme will encourage private sector enterprises that will come up rapidly.

    "The bottom line is that financial resources will not be allowed to be a constraint on this game changing scheme," he insisted.

    According to senior Niti Aayog officials, the mega healthcare scheme will cost up to Rs 12,000 crore annually and it is likely to be launched either on August 15 or October 2.

    All poor people identified by the Socio Economic and Caste Census 2011 will be eligible for the scheme.

    It will be linked to Aadhaar but will not be a mandatory condition for availing the benefit.

MSMEs to lead consolidation phase of economy, says Arun Jaitley
  • Terming the MSME sector as the backbone of the economy, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the sector would lead the current consolidation phase of the economy.

    "Having gone through a series of very major structural reforms in the past two years, now (this) also is a phase for consolidation as far as the economy is concerned. And this phase of consolidation will also be led by the MSME sector," he said after launching CriSidEx, the first sentiment index for micro and small enterprises (MSEs).

    Jaitley further said the health of the sector is extremely vital to the economy and with a number of steps taken there is an increased integration of the sector into the formal economy.

    Pointing out that it is one of the largest employers, he said, "This is one sector where people not only exhibit their entrepreneurial skills, become part of large value chains but then also become job creators in the process."

    That is the reason why the bulk of the jobs in manufacturing, trading have been created in this particular sector, the finance minister added.

    He also said that in a country with a vast population, the scope for employment either in government or in the large industry has a limited potential.

    CriSidEx, developed jointly by CRISIL and SIDBI, is a composite index based on a diffusion index of 8 parameters, and measures MSE business sentiment on a scale of 0 (extremely negative) to 200 (extremely positive).

    This objective index will be of some use to individual companies but certainly it will be of much greater use as far as policymakers are concerned so that the necessary changes can also be brought in, to ensure that the government continues to perform its role as a facilitator as far as the sector is concerned, he said.

    "I see a great value in this index as much as in the series of the data, the series of sentiment, which will show, what are the challenges to that sector, what are the strength of that sector, what is the cause of optimism, where is that the shoe pinches...," he added.

    Speaking on the occasion, Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar said the launch of index is very timely because the government has really enabled MSME in terms of credit needs and taxation relief in the last 4-5 months.

    "In respect of 'Udayamimitra', I would say it's virtual platform now and 3,300 cases have been sanctioned amounting to Rs 750 crore in the last 4-5 months," Kumar said.

    The banks have been fully capitalised, their lending capacity has increased. It is really right time that this Udayamimitra online portal becomes really effective and more and more lending takes place, he said.

    Similarly, on the part of Trade Receivables Discounting System (TReDS), a large number of PSU and PSBs have already come on board, he said.

    "Banks are really ready to support the MSME sector and they being major employment generator and I am sure we will not fail on this aspect," he said.

    Noting that it is MSME which generates most of the employment, Economic Affairs Secretary S C Garg said a lot of them talk about 6-7 crore fundamental enterprises in the country, if they get their online ID from Aadhaar as an enterprise ID that will also facilitate their process towards formalisation.

    "It will also facilitate their ease of doing business. With one single enterprise ID it is possible that 26-27 business registration will not be required. And it will be possibly much easier to file their returns," Garg said.

    Talking about benefit of index SIDBI Chairman and Managing Director Mohammad Mustafa said it captures the sentiment of MSEs very well, and therefore would do two crucial things.

    It would be an accurate barometer of on-the-ground trends - given that not much statistical light emanates now from MSE geographies - and play an important role in addressing financial and developmental gaps in the MSE ecosystem, he added.

General Awareness

Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisions and basic structure.

  • Context: The Supreme Court has referred to a Constitution Bench to decide whether the people of Tamil Nadu can preserve jallikattu as their cultural heritage under Article 29 (1) of the Constitution and demand its protection.


    The decision came based on petitions filed by activists to strike down the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Tamil Nadu Amendment) Act of 2017 and the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Conduct of Jallikattu) Rules of 2017. Activists contended that the amended laws had opened the gates for the conduct of the popular bull-taming sport in the name of culture and tradition despite a 2014 ban by the Supreme Court.

    Activists contend that the 2017 Jallikattu Act and Rules violate the five internationally recognised freedoms — the freedom from hunger, malnutrition and thirst; freedom from fear and distress; freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; freedom from pain, injury and disease; and freedom to express normal patterns of behaviour.

    Significance of this decision:

    It is for the first time the Supreme Court is considering the question of granting constitutional protection to jallikattu as a collective cultural right under Article 29 (1). Article 29(1) is a fundamental right guaranteed under Part III of the Constitution to protect the educational and cultural rights of citizens.

    Though commonly used to protect the interests of minorities, Article 29(1) mandates that “any section of the citizens residing in the territory of India or any part thereof having a distinct language, script or culture of its own shall have the right to conserve the same”.

    What is Jallikattu?

    Also known as Eruthazhuvuthal or Manju virattu, Jallikattu is a traditional bull-taming sport organised in Tamil Nadu during Pongal. According to some historical accounts, the practice dates back to as far as 2000 years ago. The sport involves a natively reared stud that is set free inside an arena filled with young participants. The challenge lies in taming the bull with bare hands. Participants often try to grab the bull by its horns or tail and wrestle it into submission. A few also tend to latch on to the bull by clinging to the hump at the back of its neck. Calves are specially reared to become bulls fit for Jallikattu by feeding them a special diet.

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