Current Affairs Current Affairs - 11 February 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 11 February 2018

General Affairs 

PM Modi Conferred Grand Collar Of The State Of Palestine
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi was today conferred the 'Grand Collar of the State of Palestine' by President Mahmoud Abbas, recognising his key contribution to promote relations between India and Palestine.

    President Abbas conferred the Grand Collar of the State of Palestine on PM Modi after the conclusion of the bilateral meeting between the two leaders.

    PM Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to make an official visit to Palestine.

    The Grand Collar is highest order given to foreign dignitaries - Kings, Heads of State/Government and persons of similar rank.

    It has in the past been awarded to King Salman of Saudi Arabia, King Hamad of Bahrain, President Xi Jinping of China, among others.

    The commendation reads "In recognition of his wise leadership and his lofty national and international stature, and in appreciation of his efforts to promote the historic relations between the State of Palestine and the Republic of India; in acknowledgment of his support to our people's right to independence and freedom so that peace prevails in the region."

Congress Asks PM Modi To "Personally Supervise" Ops After Sunjwan Attack
  • The Congress on Saturday appealed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "personally supervise" the operation against the terrorists who attacked an Army camp in Jammu.

    Heavily armed Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terrorists today struck at an Army camp in Sunjwan, Jammu, killing two personnel and injuring nine others.

    Congress communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said it was a matter of deep concern that 14 major terror attacks have taken place on the Army in Jammu and Kashmir since 2014, after the NDA government came to power.

    He said there have been 206 terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir alone and 382 Army personnel were killed in the last four years.

    Fourteen soldiers have been killed in the last 31 days, he said.

    "We appeal to the Prime Minister, whichever part of the world he is, to personally supervise the operation and ensure that these terrorists are gunned down and give the armed forces every possible help in this regard," Mr Surjewala told reporters.

    PM Modi is currently on a three-nation visit to Palestine, the United Arab Emirates and Oman.

    Mr Surjewala also recalled how PM Modi, as the then chief minister of Gujarat, had hit out at the UPA government even as anti-terror operations were underway during the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

    "Like Modiji, we will not make any political comment. We are with the government and the Army," he said.

Pakistan Using American Missiles To Target Us, India To Tell US: Sources
  • India is likely to raise with the Trump administration the use of US-made anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) by Pakistan Army to target Indian troops along the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, defence ministry sources indicated on Saturday.

    The Pakistan Army had used the ATGMs during heavy shelling on an Indian Army team along the LoC in Rajouri district of J-K last Sunday in which four army men including a captain were killed, the sources said.

    Army sources had said that the Pakistan Army used 120mm mortars and the ATGMs in the Rajouri attack, adding usually Pakistan uses 80mm mortars to target Indian posts along the LoC.

    The security establishment here is understood to have been concerned over use of US-made ATGMs by Pakistan, considering the expanding Indo-US strategic ties.

    "We are going to raise the issue with them (the US)", said a source.

    The defence and security ties between India and the US have been on an upswing. 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.

    The Army last week had clearly indicated that it would take retaliatory action against the killing of four army men.

    The sources said that Pakistan has been escalating the hostilities along the LoC and in hinterland in Jammu and Kashmir to vitiate the atmosphere ahead of panchayat polls in the state.

There Was No Rafale Deal Under UPA: Defence Ministry Sources
  • The original deal to procure 126 fighter jets could not go through during the UPA rule despite reaching the final stage as the then defence minister A K Antony felt there was something wrong in the process and asked for a review, defence ministry sources claimed.

    The sources talked about Mr Antony's intervention while asserting that there was no deal arrived at during the UPA regime to procure 126 medium multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA).

    The Congress has been ramping up attack on the government over the Rafale issue, claiming that the deal negotiated under its rule was much cheaper than the contract signed by the PM Modi government to procure 36 Rafale fighter jets from France at a cost of Rs. 58,000 crore.

    The sources said Mr Antony's apprehensions may have been genuine and he may have had bona fide reasons for such an intervention. The price negotiating committee was at that time examining the deal after initially getting approval for it from the then defence minister.

    The sources also said that the Eurofighter Typhoon had offered to bring down their prices by 25 per cent after Rafale was declared L1 vendor.

    "Such a proposal after declaring the winning bidder was not at all acceptable as per laid down procedure. You cannot do that," said a source.

    Alleging a "scam", the opposition Congress has been asking the government whether the per aircraft price of Rafale, according to international bids opened on December 12, 2012, comes to USD 80.95 million (Rs. 526.1 crore) as against the PM Modi government's per aircraft negotiated price of USD 241.66 Million (Rs. 1,570.8 crore) as per current exchange rates.

    The UPA government floated a tender in 2007 for purchase of 126 MMRCA for the Air Force and, post negotiations, two of them--Rafale and Eurofighter Typhoon -- remained in the reckoning.

    However, the deal could not be finalised by the UPA regime.

    Asked why NDA government did not go for Eurofighter Typhoon as it had offered a 25 per cent price cut, the sources said several European countries were involved in manufacturing of Eurofighter and France was preferred for the inter- governmental deal.

    The Congress had also claimed that Qatar had purchased 12 Rafale fighter jets in November 2017 for USD 108.33 million per aircraft (Rs. 694.80 crore), noting that the per aircraft rate at which the Gulf nation is buying the jet is much lower than the rate at which India will procure them.

    The sources said the rates cannot be compared as price depended on the weapons package.

    In a detailed statement, the defence ministry had on Wednesday termed as "unfounded" allegations made by the Congress about the Rs. 58,000-crore deal, asserting that the demand to disclose details such as its value was "unrealistic" as doing so might compromise India's national security.

    It had said giving an item-wise cost and other information would reveal details about weapons systems and customisation of the jet.

    The ministry had said that in 2012, the then defence minister exercised an unprecedented personal veto on the laid down institutional process then underway for the procurement of 126 jets.

India Hopes To See Independent Palestine State Soon, Says PM
  • PM Modi, who ended the visit with a bear hug, said a permanent solution is only possible with dialogue. "We know it is not easy but we need to keep trying as a lot is at stake," he said, standing at Al Muqata'a, the Palestine National Authority headquarters in Ramallah, with President Abbas by his side.

    President Abbas conferred his country's highest award, the "Grand Collar of the State of Palestine", on PM Modi in recognition of his contribution to enhancing relations between India and Palestine.

    In his remarks, President Abbas said Palestine was relying on India's role and great standing on the international stage to facilitate the peace process with Israel. He said Palestine has always been ready to engage in negotiations to achieve freedom and independence in accordance with the two-state solution along the lines of 1967, provided that East Jerusalem is the Capital of the state of Palestine. PM Modi did not address this point in his remarks.

    "This is a historic visit that will lead to stronger bilateral cooperation," PM Modi declared, shortly after landing in Palestine on his short, three-hour-long visit. "Friendship between India and Palestine has stood the test of time. The people of Palestine have shown remarkable courage in the face of several challenges," he said.

    In Ramallah that serves as the de facto capital of Palestine, PM Modi headed straight to the memorial of former President Yasser Arafat who the Prime Minister later described as "one of the greatest world leaders". Accompanied by President Abbas, he also visited the Yasser Arafat Museum.

    During his visit to Israel in July last year, PM Modi had traveled to Jerusalem as well just 20 km away from the Palestinian authority's headquarters in Ramallah where he stood today. But he had then steered clear of crossing the 700-km long security barrier edging the West Bank into Ramallah to make the point that his government would treat India's relations with the two countries as "mutually independent and exclusive".

    PM Modi had taken a chopper from the Jordanian capital of Amman, where he had spent the night, to reach Ramallah today. In 2015, then President Pranab Mukherjee had flown to Israel and traveled by road to Ramallah. Mr Mukerjee had, after an overnight stay at the Palestinian city, started his visit to Israel.

    It was with PM Modi's stand-alone visit to Israel last July that New Delhi ended this practice of dignitaries who visit Israel, also traveling to Palestine. "We have de-hyphenated our relations with Palestine and Israel and now we see them both as mutually independent and exclusive and as part of this policy the prime minister is undertaking this visit," B Bala Bhaskar, joint secretary in the foreign ministry, said.

    The two sides also signed agreements worth $50 million including setting up of a super specialty hospital worth $30 million in Beit Sahur and construction of a centre for empowering women worth $5 million.

    In December, India voted at the United Nations along with 127 other nations against US President Donald Trump's decision to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The status of Jerusalem is one of most contentious issues between Israel and Palestine, with the Arab state wanting East Jerusalem as the capital of a future state. President Abbas reiterated this stand today as well but PM Modi did not address this point in his statement.

Business Affairs

Sebi to focus on IPOs, bonds, commodity markets this year, says chief Ajay Tyagi
  • Initial public offers, corporate bonds and commodity markets, where a view would soon be taken on allowing mutual fund investments, will be the focus areas for Sebi this year.

    For 2018 and next year, a priority would be on putting in place facilities to further encourage raising funds from the primary market, according to Sebi chairman Ajay Tyagi.

    Talking to reporters after meeting of its board, which was also addressed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Tyagi said the regulator would look at listing time, IPO (Initial Public Offer) process and further simplification of norms.

    "(We) want to facilitate that as the capital are raised for development," he added.

    The Sebi chief noted that so far this fiscal, around Rs 1.9 lakh crore has been raised through equity and about Rs 4 lakh crore through debt. As many as 150 IPOs have come in this fiscal.

    Jaitley today asked Sebi to take more steps to deepen the corporate bond market and hoped that continuing uptrend in IPOs would help in meeting the disinvestment targets. Following the government proposal to mandate listed firms to meet at least 25 per cent of their fund requirements from corporate bonds, Sebi would soon be coming out with norms in this regard.

    "Sebi will soon come out with norms on corporate bonds to encourage companies to tap this route for raising funds... Sebi will come out with detailed rules by September in this regard," Tyagi said.

    About commodity markets, the Sebi chief said it is a challenge since the underlying market is not being regulated by it. The watchdog would soon take a view on whether to allow mutual funds to invest in commodity markets.

    "We have taken a number of steps and allowed AIF (Alternative Investment Fund) 3, because we thought initially they should get into this. We are examining portfolio management schemes and mutual funds... we will take a view soon," Tyagi noted.

    To a query about extending market hours, the Sebi chairman said, "We have really not applied our mind on that, they have also not approached us."

Sebi examining Fortis Healthcare matter for regulatory lapses
  • Market regulator Sebi today said it is examining the issues surrounding group firms of Fortis Healthcare, which has landed in a controversy over alleged regulatory lapses in transfer of funds to some promoter-linked companies.

    "We are examining the Fortis issue," Sebi Chairman Ajay Tyagi told reporters after a board meeting of the regulatory body here today.

    "...we also received a reference on Religare from somewhere I cannot not disclose and it will be looked into," Tyagi further said.

    Religare and Fortis have the same promoter groups.

    Fortis Healthcare was issued notices by the stock exchanges yesterday following a media report claiming that the company's promoters, the Singh bothers, took at least USD 78 million (about Rs 500 crore at current exchange rate) out of the publicly-traded hospital company they control without board approval about a year ago.

    Replying to the notices, Fortis Healthcare said its wholly-owned arm Fortis Hospitals had deployed funds to the tune of Rs 473 crore as secured short-term investments to group firms of its promoters.

    The company, which earlier on Thursday announced that its promoters Malvinder Mohan Singh and Shivinder Mohan Singh have quit the board, also said the loans are adequately secured and repayment has since commenced as per agreed payment schedule.

    Amid all these developments, the company's stock price zoomed by nearly 18 per cent yesterday following another unconfirmed media report about a possible merger of Fortis Healthcare with Malabar Hospital.

    The media reports have also said that the company's auditor, Deloitte Haskins and Sells LLP had "refused to sign off on the company s second-quarter results until the funds were accounted for or returned".

    However, the healthcare chain refuted these allegations.

    "We categorically deny the allegations that 'Auditors have Refused to Sign the Accounts for Q2'. The results for the Q2 could not be tabled before the Board for approval and the same was communicated to the stock exchanges on November 14, 2017," it said.

    Stating that audit review process for results of both second and third quarters were in progress, the company said those would be presented before the board at their meeting scheduled on February 13, 2018.

    Earlier on Thursday, the company had informed stock exchanges that the Singh brothers had resigned as directors from the company's board following a Delhi High Court order upholding the Rs 3,500 crore arbitral award in favour of Daiichi Sankyo.

    Individually, Malvinder Mohan Singh and Shivinder Mohan Singh held 11,508 shares each in Fortis Healthcare Ltd as on December 31, 2017 out of total 51,86,17,631 shares of the company.

    However, the total promoter group holding through different entities is 34.43 per cent.

India Post Payments Bank to be launched across India from April
  • India Post Payments Bank today said that it will start pan-India roll out of its network from April this year.

    "India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) Expansion Programme continues to make brisk progress and a nation-wide roll-out is scheduled beginning April 2018," the Department of Posts said in a statement.

    All 1.55 lakh post office branches will operate as access points and 650 payments bank branches will provide them back-end support.

    "Once the proposed expansion is completed, IPPB will be providing the largest financial inclusion network in the country, covering both urban as well as rural hinterland with ability to provide digital payment services at the doorstep with the help of Postmen and Gramin Dak Sewaks (GDS)," the statement said.

    In 2015, RBI had granted 'in-principle' approval to 11 entities, including the Department of Posts, to set up payments banks. Payments banks can accept deposits of up to Rs 1 lakh per account from individuals and small businesses.

    Unlike traditional banks, payments banks are not allowed to give loans or credit to customers.

    The new model of banking allows mobile firms, super market chains and others to cater to banking requirements of individuals and small businesses. A payments bank is a differentiated bank and confines its activities to acceptance of demand deposits, remittance services, Internet banking and other specified services.

    IPPB will be the third payments bank to have full fledged operations after Airtel Payments Bank and Paytm.

    "IPPB will also enable more than 17 crore active account-holders of Post Office Savings Bank to make interoperable digital payments including the benefit of NEFT, RTGS, UPI and bill payment services. Additionally, the IPPB will enable acceptance of digital payments across post offices in the country in line with the digital payments initiative of the government," the statement said.

    IPPB launched its pilot services in Raipur and Ranchi in January 2017.

Fiscal slippages to be contained by next financial year, assures Arun Jaitley
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Saturday exuded confidence that there will be no more fiscal slippages as the financial position is likely to be comfortable from the next fiscal.

    Brushing aside any need to worry about rising global oil prices, Jaitley said an assessment should not be made based on hypothetical situation concerning crude prices as the trend in the last three days has been the opposite (with prices falling again).

    He added that at this stage he was not worried about any slippages on the fiscal front.

    Addressing a press conference after meeting RBI's board in a customary post-Budget exercise, Jaitley also said that the last decision of the Monetary Policy Committee, chaired by RBI Governor Urjit Patel, to keep interest rates unchanged was a "balanced decision".

    "... as far as fiscal situation is concerned, I see next year to be more comfortable as far as revenues are concerned. I cannot see at this stage that there would be any slippages," he said.

    The finance minister in Budget 2018-19 projected a higher fiscal deficit of 3.5 per cent of the GDP for the current fiscal, as against the target of 3.2 per cent, on account of GST implementation and deferment of spectrum auction.

    The fiscal deficit or gap between total expenditure and revenues has been pegged at 3.3 per cent for the next fiscal as against the Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Act mandate of 3 per cent.

    With regard to the Budget proposal of fixing the minimum support price (MSP) of kharif crops at least 1.5 times that of the cost of production, Jaitley said the issue was discussed in this meeting because it takes place in the light of the Budget.

    "How to implement this and what impact it can have on farmers, commodity prices and export competitiveness, all these issues were discussed. It was an academic discussion," he said.

    With regard to long-term capital gains tax, the finance minister said it was not part of this meeting but was discussed in Sebi's board meeting.

    Asked about the rate transmission by the banks, Patel said one of the banks reduced its Marginal Cost of funds-based Lending Rate (MCLR) two days ago.

    "In terms of transmission if you measure since the easing cycle started by MPC and you compare the MCLR now actually there has been good transmission. Actually what happened was that transmission came late and I must admit that some of the transmission came after demonetisation because we had a financial intermediation taking place in the system," he said.

Rupee loses momentum gained so far on capital outflows fears, stock mayhem, says Forex
  • Unnerved by ferocious sell-off in the financial markets and heightened global currency volatility, the rupee ended at a fresh two-month low of 64.40 against the US dollar, wiping out all gains made this year so far.

    Stamping its second straight week drubbing, the home currency depreciated by 34 paise, or 0.53 per cent. It has lost a staggering 85 paise in the two-week roller coaster ride.

    A slew of distrubing macro-economic events including the brutal fall in global equity markets alongwith RBI policy outcome largely highlighted trading momentum. Frantic dollar demand from importers and banks in the midst of fresh foreign fund outflows predominantly weighed on the forex sentiment.

    The panic-driven capitulation in domestic bourses following the spill-over from wobbly Asian markets also took its toll on currency market amid speculation that US Federal Reserve and other major central banks would act quicker to raise interest rates.

    In the meantime, The Reserve Bank kept the interest rate unchanged as widely expected but lowered economic growth projection to 6.6 per cent for 2017-18 from 6.7 per cent on higher inflation expectations.

    Although policy statement from the central bank calmed nervous bond market to some extent.

    However, a sustained slide in crude oil prices and country's strong macro-economic fundamentals as well as abundant forex reserves limited further losses in the rupee.

    Meanwhile, foreign investors signalled that it is kicking into reverse global buying spree against the grim backdrop of global market tumroil.

    Foreign funds and overseas investors turned net sellers and sold shares worth USD 939.53 million during the week.

    The rupee opend the week substantially lower at 64.20 from weekend close of 64.06 at the Interbank Foreign Exchange (forex) market due to sustained dollar pressure amid firm greenback overseas.

    It later swung widely between 64.01 and 64.44 in the absence of any firm direction before ending the week at at 64.40, revealing a loss of 34 paise, or 0.53 per cent - the lowest closing since December 13, last year.

    The RBI, meanwhile fixed the reference rate for the dollar at 64.3686 and for the euro at 78.8902.

    In the meantime, country's foreign exchange reserves swelled by USD 4.12 billion to a new high of USD 421.914 billion on a healthy increase in the core currency assets and uptick in the gold stock, the RBI said.

    In the international energy front, the rout in global crude prices remained unabated as a steep surge in U.S. crude output added to concerns about a global supply glut also impacted by higher production plan from the OPEE member Iran within the next four years.

    Friday marked the biggest one-week plung since January 2016, and the worst daily fall since last July with Brent, the international benchmark crashing nealy 9 per cent on the week to close at USD 62.79.

    On the global front, the American currency rebounded sharply to mark its strongest week against a basket of currencies in nearly 15 months as some traders piled into the greenback in a week of tremendous swings felt in stock and bond markets around the world.

    The U.S. currency recovered further from a three-year low set two weeks agoas sentiment turned buoyant after the U.S. Senate approved a budget deal including stopgap government funding bill, which was too late to prevent a federal shutdown that was already underway.

    The dollar index, which measures the greenback's value against a basket of six major currencies, was higher at 90.22 as against 88.69 last week.

General Awareness

Role of women and women’s organization.
National Women Entrepreneurship Council

  • Context: The Ministry of Women and Child Development is considering to establish National Women Entrepreneurship Council (NWEC). NWEC will promote entrepreneurship as it would be the umbrella organization for socio-economic gender parity, financial inclusion and economic empowerment of women in India.


    According to Mastercard Index of Women Entrepreneurs, India scored an overall 41.7 points, ranking 49 among 54 economies globally with comparatively low in Women Business Ownership percentages.

    Need for economic empowerment of women:

    Economically empowered women are major catalysts for development. There is greater recognition of the positive relationship between increased economic activity by women and improved social outcomes. Women often tend to reinvest their income in their children’s education, health and nutrition. This has a positive impact on the potential for economic growth.


    India presents lower opportunities for women to assume leadership roles, participation in the workforce or engagement in entrepreneurial activities. Lack of education, technological know-how and cultural bias coupled with stringent business and government regulations are some key impediments that happen to undermine women’s ability to rise to positions of leadership and take advantage of entrepreneurial opportunities in India.

    Way ahead:

    Women entrepreneurs have been carving out a niche for them across the globe, including India especially in niche and unconventional businesses. However, there is significant potential to harness the untapped potential of women’s entrepreneurship in India.

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