Current Affairs Current Affairs - 16 February 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 16 February 2018

General Affairs 

Why farmers in Madhya Pradesh are not likely to fall for Shivraj Singh Chouhan's sops
  • The Shivraj Singh Chouhan led BJP government in Madhya Pradesh has claimed a double digit agricultural growth during the past several years. Based on this double digit growth figure, the state has bagged five 'Krishi Karman awards'. Despite this, there has been no end to farmers' miseries.

    The latest bolt from the blue has come in the form of a hailstorm that has destroyed major part of the crop, which was almost ready for harvest, in most parts of the state.

    According to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 21,000 farmers committed suicide in Madhya Pradesh in the past 16 years. Of these 16 years the BJP has been in power in the state for over 14 years.

    More than 1900 farmers and farm labourers committed suicide in the state between February 2016 and February 2017.

    The state government never disputed the NCRB suicide figures but has refused to attribute farm distress as a cause.

    Now with elections due by the end of the year, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has announced a series of sops hoping to once again win back the crucial farmer vote on to his side.

    "My government is for the farmers. This government is for your progress. We might suffer losses but I will leave no stone unturned. Shivraj Singh Chouhan will create a new history that will be known for the benefit of farmers," Chouhan said at a kisan sammelan organized in Bhopal on February 12.

    But is the farmer even interested to listen? Karan Singh who owns 10 acres in the chief minister's home district Sehore could not care less. He has lost over 50 per cent of his wheat and chana crop in the latest round of hail storm. He claims he had not been benefitted even in the past from the schemes and sops that were announced by the chief minister.

    "I have lost 50 per cent of my crop. I got nothing in the soya been crop. What will I get now? Even the Bhavantar could do nothing. Some people got very little and some got nothing," Karan Singh said while talking to India Today.

    Karan Singh is not the only farmer who appears disillusioned with the schemes that have been announced by Chouhan. Most farmers in Sehore claim the benefits have failed to reach them.

    Farmer distress that was apparent in the NCRB suicide figures came out in the open in June 2017 when farmers started protesting and threw their produce on the streets after they failed to get a decent price.

    Six farmers were killed in police firing in Mandsaur in the same month which led Chouhan to announce new schemes like the Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojna. Now as elections are round the corner, Chouhan has announced a bonus on wheat and rice procurement.

Pakistan has lost 20 soldiers in 2018 after Indian Army's aggressive stance on LoC
  • Pakistan has lost as many as 20 soldiers in 2018 alone, and as many as seven more were critically injured in the fire assault which was launched by the Indian Army, sources told India Today.

    Pictures shown to India Today reveal that the Indian Army has been targeting Pakistan posts and Pakistan Army facilities running as far as three km inside Pakistan.

    Sources said India has adopted an aggressive stance. The Indian Army's retaliation is "unprecedented".

    The Indian Army has noticed that terror launch pads in excess have been prevalent around the Line of Control - the de-facto boundary between India and Pakistan. The LoC has been witnessing activities since more than 400 terrorists are ready and waiting to infiltrate.

    The Indian Army is specifically targeting Pakistani posts and facilities along the LoC.

    "We don't want these terror launch pads to be activated" and they are receiving special attention of the forces. Field commanders have been given "adequate freedom" to decide upon the retaliation, sources said.

    From pictures and details shared with India Today, it's clear that the India Army has launched major fire assaults in the Ballnoi area of Krishna Ghati, Mendhar, Bimber Galli sectors, in the past few weeks.

    The Indian Army has also told the government that because of this aggressive stance, Pakistan has issued repeated red alerts to warn its posts, soldiers and local population who are collated with Pakistani installations along the LoC.

    A minimum of 35 red alerts are estimated to have been issued by Pakistan since January 2018.

    The Rawalpindi-based 10 Corps Commander of Pakistan has been actively visiting forward locations of the Pakistani ary to take stock of damage caused by the Indian armed forces

    Earlier, the Chief of Army Staff General Bipin Rawat had shared with reporters in New Delhi that the army was no longer following the 2003 India-Pakistan Ceasefire agreement in letter and spirit.

    "Terrorists are disposable commodities for the Pakistan Army, just hitting them won't yield results, we have to hurt the Pakistan Army," he had said.

Congress jibe at PM Modi over PNB financial fraud scandalous, says Ravi Shankar Prasad
  • After Congress took a swipe at the Narendra Modi government over Nirav Modi, Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad today hit back saying that the NDA government will take action regardless of the stature of the accused.

    Prasad said that the allegations against PM by the Congress were baseless. Government will not spare those who are guilty, Prasad told media persons.

    Furthering his tirade against the Congress, Prasad said that the party's response to the PNB fraud transaction case was scandalous.

    Prasad said that the Congress should stop politicising the Davos summit picture where PM Modi is seen with the billionaire jeweler Nirav Modi.

    Also read: Rs 11400 crore fraud case: Not limited to Nirav Modi and Punjab National Bank only, explained

    Nirav Modi did not meet PM Modi at Davos. Nirav Modi had arrived in Davos on his own and was present at CII group photo event, said Prasad in Delhi

    Prasad warned that even the BJP too has pictures of Congress leaders with Mehul Choksi who is an associate of Nirav Modi. He added that the Congress should remember that those who live in glass house should not pelt stones at others.

    On the Congress comment about Vijay Mallya, Prasad said that even former PM Manmohan Singh had exchanged letters with liquor baron Vijay Mallya who is accused of financial fraud.

Modi in Northeast: Huge excitement to hear PM speak, says Tripura BJP
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a one-day trip to North East and will be visiting Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura.

    PM Modi will be addressing a political rally in Shantibazar in South Tripura and will also hold road show, a first in north east in Left ruled state of Tripura.

    PM Modi will be addressing the people of Shantibazar, a CPI stronghold and also the seat of the incumbent Minister of Prisons in the state. It is interesting because previous BJP rallies were focussed on North Tripura and now he will be visiting South Tripura. This however, is also the first time he will be addressing a massive gathering in the capital city of Agartala.

    BJP state president of Tripura, Biplab Deb said, "The enthusiasm and excitement to hear the Prime Minister is huge across the state...since he cannot travel to all constituencies we are selecting places and including Agartala because both urban and rural people want to hear him."

    Modi will be visiting Arunachal Pradesh in the first half of the day where he will visit Itanagar to inaugurate the state Civil Secretariat complex, convention hall and also lay the foundation stone of the Film and Television Institute in the state capital. Modi also addressed a public rally at Indira Gandhi Park.

    In Arunachal Pradesh, I will also dedicate the State Civil Secretariat Building to the nation and lay the Foundation Stone of the Academic Block of the Tomo Riba Institute of Health and Medical Science.

    He will launch a new Doordarshan channel Arun prabhat for Arunachal Pradesh. He will also lay foundation stone of academic block of Tomo Riba Hospital of Medical Science and the convention hall is dedicated to late Dorjee Khandu, Former Chief Minister and also father of incumbent Chief Minister Pema Khandu.

    Interestingly, 16th is the last day of campaigning for Tripura and Rahul Gandhi will be holding rallies in Tripura, just a day after PM's visit making it a triangular fight in the state ruled by Left for more than 20 years.

PM Modi to advise Delhi school and college students on staying stress-free before exams, will hold interactive session with them
  • On Friday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will again don the cap of 'friend, philosopher, guide' to young students and engage in a tete-a-tete with them on stress-free examinations.

    Called 'Pareeksha Par Charcha', the programme will be an hour-long interaction with school and college students at Delhi's Talkatora Stadium.

    The Human Resource Development Ministry has arranged for 2,500 school students from Class IX to XI and students engineering colleges to be present for this live question and answer session. Teachers will also join this interaction.

    "It's a first of its kind. It's useful for everybody because this is exam time. There is always tension at home, on campuses. The PM need not only be talking on politics," said HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar.

    Students from Kendriya Vidyalayas, Navodyay Vidyalaya, Delhi Public School, Mother's International and 50-60 private hospitals will attend Friday's programme that will start at noon and will be telecast on the national broadcaster Doordarshan.

    The HRD Ministry hopes that through this live broadcast, 10 crore students across the country will watch the Prime Minister give life lessons.

    Of course, questions will be asked by the students present at Talkatora Stadium and some from the set will be recorded beforehand through the MyGov portal.

    External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj recently had launched 'Exam Warriors', a 193-page book penned by Prime Minister Modi to beat exam stress.

    It provides students with 25 mantras to be successful in their forthcoming exams. With Class X and XII Board exams round the corner, Prime Minister's 'Pareeksha Par Charcha' has been well-timed.

Business Affairs

PNB's risk management system to come under RBI scanner for laxity in SWIFT messaging, Nostro reconciliation
  • The state-owned Punjab National Bank's (PNB) risk management system is going to come under close scrutiny from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for laxity in the SWIFT messaging system and non-reconciliation of Nostro balances to detect the reported fraud.

    These two key elements - Swift and Nostro - are at the heart of the USD $1.77 billion (Rs 11,395 crore) fraud, as claimed by the PNB, perpetrated by its customer Nirav Modi to whom the letter of undertaking (LoU) were issued by the PNB. The LoUs were issued by PNB to the branches of half a dozen other banks based on which the funds were transferred to PNB's Nostro account.

    SWIFT refers to Society for Worldwide Inter-Bank Financial Telecommunication. The SWIFT codes, like the IFSC code in the inter-bank domestic transfers, are used for inter-bank international money transfers and messaging. In fact, the banks are identified with the alphanumeric SWIFT code. In the present case, the overseas branches of other banks got the information about the bank fraud from the SWIFT messaging from PNB. "How a message in SWIFT goes undetected in the bank. The amounts were large. The proper auditing of a SWIFT messaging would have easily raised a red flag," sources say. PNB later realized that the documents submitted by Nirav Modi's firms were not in order.

    It is the same with Nostro account of PNB with other banks overseas. Banks hold Nostro account with each other for cross border foreign currency transactions. There are many transactions through the day, but banks makes a combined statement at the end of the day. There are generally weekly or fortnightly reports for analysis. In fact, the RBI, as part of its risk management, advices banks to do reconciliation. "How come the reconciliation didn't show that there is something amiss," sources say. The Indian banks affected by the PNB fraud deposited the money in the PNB's Nostro account. The money was then transferred outside the bank's system.

    The banks have been using the SWIFT and the Nostro account for decades without any issues. Clearly, the PNB case shows there was laxity in its risk management system.

'Magnetic Maharashtra' investment summit targets to attract Rs 10 lakh crore
  • While most of the investments commitment of Rs eight lakh crore from the 'Make in India' event in Mumbai during February 2016 are yet to fructify, the State of Maharashtra is gearing up for attracting another round of huge investments.

    A maiden Global Investors Summit organised by the Government of Maharashtra, the "Magnetic Maharashtra: Convergence 2018", will be held at the MMRDA grounds in Mumbai from February 18-20.

    Apart from the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, business leaders like Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic, Tonino Lamborghini, Lamborghini, Edward Monser, President, Emerson Electric Co, Hande Diltemiz, country manager, Global production, India, H&M, Cho Hyun-Joon, chairman, Hyosung Group, Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem, group chairman and CEO, DP World, Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and MD, Reliance Industries are expected to attend the event.

    "We are eyeing Rs 10 lakh crore of investment pacts with domestic and global investors and plan to sign approximately 4,500 MoUs and our dream of Maharashtra becoming a trillion-dollar economy is going to be a reality soon." Maharashtra Industries Minister Subhash Desai said at a press conference to announce the event.

    At the event curated to showcase the state's industrial prowess and investment-readiness, 47 people from different sectors will be awarded for their meritorious performance. The list will be drawn from the state's top exporters and companies in the Information Technology space, said Desai.

    The Summit and an exhibition will be organised by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation (MIDC), with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) as the national partner and KPMG as the knowledge partner.

Punjab National Bank stock falls nearly 22% in 2 days, Rs 8,368 crore in market capitalisation wiped out
  • The Punjab National Bank stock erased all its gains today post announcement of recapitalisation of banks made on October 24, 2017 after it fell 16 percent intra day on detection of a $1.77 billion fraud on Wednesday.

    The stock lost Rs 8,368 crore in market capitalisation during the last two trading sessions witnessing heavy selling and putting bank Nifty and BSE Bankex under pressure after falling 21 percent on BSE.

    The stock which slumped 10 percent yesterday, closed 11.97 percent or 17 points lower at 128.35 level today. It was the top BSE loser today and the worst performing stock on the BSE bankex. In the process, the stock touched a new 52-week low of 125.55 level today.

    The stock opened at Rs 137, and hit an intra day high of 139.70 on BSE.

    The stock saw maximum volume on BSE witnessing 1.72 crore shares in trade amounting to turnover of Rs 23,064 lakh in Thursday's trade.

    On February 12, the stock closed at 161.65 level, a day before the fraud came to light.  The market was closed on February 13 (Tuesday), a holiday for MahaShivratri.

    On February 14 when market accounted for the impact of Rs 11,300 crore fraud, the stock closed nearly 16 points or 10 percent lower at 144 level. On October 24, 2017, the Modi government announced a bank recapitalisation plan of Rs 2.1 lakh crore (which is 1.3 per cent of GDP) to be infused over the next two years into the public sector banks.

    The Punjab National Bank closed at Rs 138 level on same day. On October 26, 2017, the stock rose 55 percent to close at Rs 214 buoyed by the recapitalisation plan.

Government to change base year for GDP, IIP to 2017-18
  • The government will change the base year to 2017-18 for the calculation of GDP and IIP numbers while for retail inflation the year will be revised to 2018, Union minister DV Sadananda Gowda said on Thursday.

    "During 2018-19, the ministry is proposing to initiate steps to revise the base years of gross domestic product (GDP), Index of Industrial Production (IIP) and Consumer Price Index (CPI) to accommodate and factor the changes that take place in the economic scenario of the country," the statistics and programme implementation minister said at a conference on budget provisions.

    The statistics ministry has proposed the new base year for GDP and IIP as 2017-18 while for CPI it will be 2018.

    Gowda said the ministry will undertake various steps in the next fiscal beginning April that will improve the statistical system that will help meet the data requirements in the emerging socio-economic scenario.

    The Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation (MOSPI) has been allocated Rs 4,859 crore in the Union Budget 2018-19.

WPI Inflation reaches six-month low of 2.84% in January on cheaper food articles
  • Wholesale Price Index-based inflation eased to 2.84 per cent during January 2018 to reach a six-month low. The dip in wholesale inflation was registered on account of lower food article prices, even as vegetable prices remained elevated last month.

    Based on monthly WPI, or wholesale price index, wholesale inflation for December 2017 stood at 3.58 per cent, and 4.26 per cent for January 2017. The last low in wholesale inflation was registered in July last year when it reached 1.88 per cent, hitting an eight-month low.

    As per the data relased by government on Thursday, wholesale inflation on food articles fell by 2.4 per cent last month. The index for non-food articles jumped by 1.4 per cent.

    Inflation in vegetables eased a little with annual inflation at 40.77 per cent recorded last month as opposed to 56.46 per cent in December 2017. As per the wholesale price index data, onion prices witnessed a whopping increase of 193.89 per cent in January.

    Pulses witnessed deflation at 30.43 per cent, and the same for wheat and cereals was 6.94 per cent and 1.98 per cent respectively. Prices of protein rich items eggs, meat and fish deflated by 0.37 per cent while that of fruits increased 8.49 per cent in January.

    In the fuel and power segment, wholesale inflation rose to 4.08 per cent in January, while it was 2.78 per cent for manufactured items. Crude petroleum and natural gas group saw a increase of 0.3 per cent in wholesale price index on account of high crude oil prices. The prices of natural gas, however, declined by one per cent. WPI inflation for minerals group declined marginally by 0.3 per cent.

    Data released earlier this week showed that retail inflation was at 5.07 per cent. The Reserve Bank of India takes into account retail inflation while deciding on key policy rates.

    In its policy review last week, the RBI had kept key interest rate unchanged and estimated retail inflation to be 5.1 pc in the January-March quarter. For April-September, RBI projected inflation to be in the range of 5.1-5.6 per cent.

    Meanwhile, inflation for November has been revised upwards to 4.02 per cent from the provisional estimate of 3.93 per cent released earlier.

General Awareness

Urbanization, their problems and their remedies.
Bengaluru may face Cape Town fate

  • Context: As per a report based on “UN-endorsed projections” published by the BBC, Bengaluru city of India is “most likely” to be the first Indian urban settlement that will run out of drinking water. The report has listed 11 top cities of the world that are “most likely” to run out of drinking water, just like South Africa’s City of Cape Town, which is facing unprecedented water supply shortage in history.

    Cities which are likely to run out of drinking water:

    Sau Paulo, Brazil’s financial capital is on top of the list. The report ranks Bengaluru second in the list of 11 world cities that are “most likely” to run out of drinking water. Other cities are Chinese capital Beijing, Cairo in Egypt due to struggling rive Nile, Jakarta of Indonesia, Moscow in Russia, Istanbul of Turkey, Mexico City, London, Tokyo of Japan and Miami in the US.

    Factors behind Bengaluru’s fate:

    Bengaluru is a victim of urbanisation madness. The city is experiencing unprecedented rapid urbanisation and sprawl in recent times due to unplanned unrealistic concentrated developmental activities. This has posed “serious challenges to the decision-makers in the city planning and management process involving a plethora of serious challenges such as loss of green cover and water bodies, climate change, enhanced greenhouse gases (GHG) emissions, lack of appropriate infrastructure, traffic congestion, and lack of basic amenities (electricity, water, and sanitation) in many localities, etc.”

    The report notes that not a “single” lake in the city has water fit for either drinking or bathing. Lakes of the city, including Bellandur, often make news for catching fire. Between 1973 and 2016, the city witnessed a 1005% increase in “concretization or paved surface increase”. Since 1981, the city has spread and has also experienced dramatic decadal population growth.

    Why Indians should worry?

    Shortage of water is a problem faced by almost all urban centres of the world. Even in India, the situation is not so happy. A world bank report last year had said that at least 21 Indian cities were moving towards zero groundwater level by 2020.

    As per a report by World Resources Institute, as much as 54% of India’s area is under “high” to “extremely high water stress”. The stark future of the Indian cities can be judged from the fact that water requirement would rise up to 1.5 trillion, while the current supply of water is just 740 billion cubic meter. Experts believe that 40% of people in India may not get to drink water by 2030.

    Way ahead:

    The ominous prediction by the UN for Bengaluru must concern all residents and authorities of the city, especially after the Cape Town experience. The South African City of Cape Town is facing its worst drought in 100 years. Residents of the city have been told to cut their daily water consumption while the authorities of the city are scrambling to prevent the city running dry as soon as in April.

    Bengaluru’s presence on the list should be a wake up call for other Indian cities. A mix of better planning, market-based thinking and technology adoption could help them, especially if local populations and governments are stakeholders in the process. It may be too late for Bengaluru, but there may still be a chance for other Indian cities.

    What’s important?

    For Prelims: The list of 11 cities which are likely to run out of drinking water.
    For Mains: Water crisis- causes, effects and solutions.

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