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Current Affairs - 21 February 2018

General Affairs 

BSF Personnel Killed In Pak Sniper Fire At LoC In Jammu and Kashmir
  • A BSF personnel was on Tuesday killed after he was shot by a Pakistani sniper from across the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir's Tangdhar, officials said.

    Constable S K Murmu (28) succumbed to the "critical" injury of the gun shot wound he suffered in the ceasefire violation incident, they said.

    He died at the Army hospital in Srinagar around 8:30 pm.

    The officials said that Constable Murmu was deployed at a forward defended location (FDL) along the LoC in Karnah sector of the Tangdhar area, when a sniper shot hit him in the stomach around 4:30 pm.

    "He was initially evacuated on foot from the forward area and then taken to Srinagar in an Army helicopter. However, Murmu succumbed to the fatal sniper shot. He was shot at by the Pakistani forces," a senior officer said.

    The personnel, who joined the Border Security Force (BSF) in 2013, hails from the Jamui district in Bihar.

AAP MLA Detained After Chief Secretary Alleges Assault By 2 Legislators
  • After the Delhi Chief Secretary alleged that he was manhandled by two Aam Aadmi Party lawmakers at Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's home, the police said they detained AAP legislator Prakash Jarwal late on Tuesday.

    Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash alleged that he was assaulted by AAP MLAs Amantullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal during a meeting at the chief minister's home on Monday night. The police has registered an FIR against Mr Khan and others on the basis of his complaint. Arvind Kejriwal's office has dismissed the accusation as "bizarre and baseless".

    Prakash Jarwal, who is the MLA from Deoli, was picked up by the police from his South Delhi home and detained, sources told news agency Press Trust of India, adding that there is a possibility that he will be arrested later. A strong contingent of policemen deployed outside Amanatullah Khan's home triggered speculation that he could be next.

    Hours after Anshu Prakash was allegedly assaulted, Delhi Environment Minister Imran Hussain was mobbed by officials and staff at the Delhi Secretariat, following which AAP's Delhi unit chief spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj asked why no arrests were made for the incident despite it being caught on video. He also said that Mr Jarwal was "arrested" without any evidence.

    "Delhi Police arrested elected MLA without any evidence. What about arrest of IAS Officers who can be seen beating Minister in Secretariat? There is FIR by Minister as well as video evidence, but no arrests," Mr Bharadwaj tweeted.

    Prakash Jarwal and another AAP MLA, Ajay Dutt, earlier claimed that the Delhi Chief Secretary made casteist remarks, and lodged a complaint with the Delhi police and the National Commission for Scheduled Castes against Anshu Prakash.

    Home Minister Rajnath Singh, after a meeting with the IAS Officers' Association and Anshu Prakash, asked Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal for a report on the incident at Mr Kejriwal's home.

PNB Fraud Set To Rock Parliament, Congress To Talk To Other Parties
  •  The multi-crore PNB bank fraud and the Rotomac issue is set to rock the second leg of Parliament's budget session with the Congress saying it would talk to other like-minded parties and demand answers from the government on the state of the banking sector in the country.

    Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said his party would not let go of the issues till the government gives a satisfactory response.

    He said the Congress would demand answers from the government not just on the Rs. 11,400-crore Punjab National Bank (PNB) fraud involving diamond merchant Nirav Modi and the Rotomac fraud issue, but on the credibility of the entire banking sector.

    "The second part of the budget session is starting and the Congress will talk to other parties which have concern over the country's banking sector and will demand answers from the government on the issue," Mr Tewari told reporters.

    "Till the time the government addresses the issue, we will not leave it there," he said, adding all political parties which are hurt by 'malgovernance' will come together in Parliament on the issue and ask the government to break its silence.

    "You have seen how all political parties got together to meet the President on the issue of probe into CBI judge Loya's death case. Answers will be demanded from the government on these issues in Parliament," the Congress leader said.

    Mr Tewari also dared the government to direct banks to come out with details of all their non-performing assets (NPAs) along with the list of defaulters and publish the same.

    Terming the PNB fraud case as only a "tip of the iceberg", he demanded that the government provides a list of all NPAs that corporates owe the banks and said the Congress would go to grassroots level to raise the banking fraud issue among the public.

    "If the government of India has the courage and conviction, let them release information regarding total NPAs and list of defaulters," the Congress spokesperson said.

    On the issue of Income tax department serving a notice to the wife of Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi, Mr Tewari said this is a clear case of political vendetta and asked whether the I-T or ED has questioned the person who made the entries of these loan sanctions.

    Mr Tewari also termed the purported letter of Nirav Modi to PNB as "full of arrogance", and said it insinuates in it that he would not return the money he owes.

    The Congress spokesperson also asked whether the government has any knowledge of the whereabouts of Nirav Modi, and alleged that such a letter can be written by a person who has "protection" from the powers-that be in the government.

    Contending the claims made by Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, Mr Tewari dared him for an open debate on the issue of NPAs during the NDA and UPA dispensations as also on the state of the economy after the BJP-led government came to power.

Premium On Mega Healthcare Scheme To Be Rs. 900-1,000: NITI
  • Government's premium on insurance cover of Rs. 5 lakh for every eligible household under the new National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) would be around Rs. 900-1000 per family annually, lower than the earlier estimate of Rs. 1000-1,200, a senior NITI Aayog official said on Tuesday.

    The official further said that representatives of all states with the exception of Tripura, where the assembly elections are on, participated in a meeting on NHPS, organised by the government think tank and the ministry of health and family welfare.

    "Premium for availing health insurance cover of up to Rs. 5 lakh under NHPS is expected to be around Rs. 900-1000 annually for every household, which will be borne by the Centre and states," the official told PTI.

    On whether West Bengal participated in the deliberations, he said, "Officials from the state's health department attended NHPS workshop for states on February 15-16.

    "They also gave presentations. Out of 30 states, the only state that did not participate in the deliberations was Tripura, which was in poll mode."

    Earlier, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee had reportedly expressed apprehensions about joining the NHPS.

    About 1 crore people in West Bengal would be eligible to join the scheme, the official said, adding if the state opt out, it would lose Rs. 600 crore of Centre's share.

    Under the funding arrangement, the centre will provide 60 per cent fund, while the remaining money would have to come from concerned states.

    In case of special category states, the centre will provide 90 per cent of fund.

    Earlier, it was estimated that the premium for providing healthcare to an eligible family would be around Rs. 1000-1200.

    In his Budget for 2018-19, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had provided an initial corpus of Rs. 2,000 crore for NHPC which aims to provide medical cover of up to Rs. 5 lakh to over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families, constituting 40 per cent of India's total population.

Government Clears Opening Up Of Commercial Coal Mining To Private Firms
  • In a major reform in the coal sector since its nationalisation in 1973, the government today allowed private companies to mine the fossil fuel for commercial use, ending the monopoly of state-owned Coal India Ltd (CIL).

    The opening up of commercial coal mining for private sector is the most ambitious coal sector reform since the nationalisation of this sector, Coal and Railway Minister Piyush Goyal said while briefing the media on the decision taken in the Cabinet meeting.

    Currently, private sector is allowed coal mining for captive use only.

    The reform, Mr Goyal said, is likely to bring efficiency into the coal sector by moving away from the era of monopoly (of CIL) to competition and lower power tariffs. He said the move will lead to higher investments and create lakhs of direct and indirect jobs.

    "It will increase competitiveness and allow the use of best possible technology into the sector. The higher investment will create direct and indirect employment in coal bearing areas especially in mining sector and will have an impact on economic development of these regions," the minister said.

    The decision was taken by the the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    The CCEA has approved the methodology for auction of coal mines/blocks for sale of coal under the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 and the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, the coal ministry said in a statement.

    Following nationalisation, only state-owned CIL was allowed to sell coal.

    The minister said big, medium as well as small mines would be offered to private companies for mining.

    Opening up the sector will also lead to energy security through assured coal supply, accountable allocation and affordability, he added.

    The methodology gives highest priority to transparency, ease of doing business and ensures that natural resources are used for national development, the statement said.

    "The auction will be an ascending forward auction whereby the bid parameter will be the price offer in Rs./tonne which will be paid to the State Government on the actual production of coal. There shall be no restriction on the sale and/or utilisation of coal from the coal mine," it said.

    The move will lead to energy security as 70 per cent of country's electricity is generated from thermal power plants, the statement said, adding that this reform will ensure assured coal supply, accountable allocation of coal and affordable coal leading to affordable power prices for consumers.

    "As the entire revenue from the auction of coal mines for sale of coal would accrue to the coal bearing States, this methodology shall incentivise them with increased revenues which can be utilised for the growth and development of backward areas and their inhabitants including tribals," the statement said, adding that the Eastern states will be especially benefited.

    Mr Goyal said the move will help ramp up domestic production and reduce dependence on imports, which in turn will save the country precious foreign exchange.

    The move will also help in bringing down power tariffs, he said.

    West Bengal, Odisha, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, and Madhya Pradesh are the major coal bearing sates. India is believed to have reserves of 300 billion tonne.

    When asked how the move would impact Coal India, Mr Goyal said competition would help the state-owned miner.

    The Supreme Court had in September, 2014 cancelled 204 coal mines allocated to the different Government and private companies since 1993 under the provisions of Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973.

    To bring transparency and accountability, the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill 2015 was passed by the Parliament which was notified as an Act in March, 2015. Enabling provisions have been made in the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act, 2015 for allocation of coal mines by way of auction and allotment for the sale of coal.

Business Affairs

CBI arrests Vipul Ambani, first big arrest in the Rs 11,400 crore scam
  • The CBI nabbed Vipul Ambani, the president (finance) of Nirav Modi's Fire Star Diamond, on Tuesday in connection with Rs 11,384 crore fraud in Punjab National Bank (PNB). This is the first high profile arrest made in the what the biggest corporate scam case in India.

    Four other senior executives were also arrested by the agency in connection with two FIRs registered by it in the scam, they said.

    Ambani was arrested along with executive assistant Kavita Mankikar and Senior Executive Arjun Patil in connection with the first FIR registered by the agency, in which 150 Letters of Undertaking (LoUs) worth Rs 6,498 crore are under probe.

    An LoU is a guarantee which is given by an issuing bank to Indian banks having branches abroad to grant a short-term credit to the applicant. In case of default, the bank issuing the LoU has to pay the liability to the credit-giving bank along with accruing interest.

    Mankikar was also the authorised signatory of three firms -- Diamond R US, Stellar Diamond, Solar Exports -- listed as accused in the FIR registered by the agency on January 31, they said.

    Billionaire diamond merchant Nirav Modi, his wife Ami, brother Nishal, and uncle Mehul Choski were also named as accused in the FIR, officials said.

    All of them fled the country in the first week of January.

    The remaining two -- Kapil Khandelwal, the CFO of Nakshatra group and Gitanjali group, and Niten Shahi, the Manager of Gitanjali group -- were arrested today in connection with the second FIR registered by the agency on February 15 against Choksi and his three companies, they said.

    The probe in this case pertains to 143 LOUs worth Rs 4,886 crore fraudulently issued by the officials of the PNB.

    The CBI today questioned an executive director of the Punjab National Bank along with nine other officials in connection with issuance of Rs 11,400 crore worth of guarantees to Modi and Choksi, officials said.

    The analysis of documents recovered from the premises of Modi led the CBI to a palatial bungalow-cum farmhouse in Alibaugh, a weekend getaway of celebrities in the business world and bollywood from Mumbai, where the agency started searches this afternoon, they said.

    The CBI probe is led by a joint director-level officer who is considered to be an ace investigator of financial crimes and has handled mammoth financial frauds having tentacles in multiple states.

    During the questioning of three PNB officials, Bechhu Tiwari, Yashwant Joshi and Praful Sawant, arrested yesterday, it emerged that they were trying to shift the blame on their colleagues -- Gokulnath Shetty (retired official) and Manoj Kharat -- arrested earlier, they said.

    The three officials were presented before a special court in Mumbai which sent them to CBI custody till March 3.

    The officials said Tiwari, Joshi and Sawant were entrusted to cross-check and verify intimations sent to SWIFT messages and upload them on PNB's core banking solutions system on daily basis which they allegedly did not do.

    Shetty and Kharat allegedly sent messages of the LoUs using an international messaging system for banking systems called SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication), which is used to pass instructions among banks globally to transfer funds, but did not make entries in the bank's system to avoid detection.

    Based on these instructions and guarantees, funds were released by overseas branches of Indian banks.

    The agency has found that Joshi, who was a scale-II officer in the forex department during 2015-18 allegedly did not deliberately submit daily reports in respect of SWIFT messages. He allegedly aided and abetted in the conspiracy to cheat PNB, officials said.

    Sawant, a scale-I officer, posted in the forex department of the bank between 2015 and 2017, did not "deliberately" check the details of SWIFT messages sent daily and whether the same were entered in the core banking solutions system of the bank.

    The agency said their "deliberate acts" of omission in collusion with Shetty and Kharat led to the continuance of concealment and large scale liabilities of PNB to the foreign banks.

    One of the biggest financial scams of the country surfaced when companies of Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi approached the PNB's Brady Road branch, Mumbai, in January this year seeking LoU for payments to suppliers.

    The official handling the case sought 100 per cent cash guarantee before any such letters could be issued to which the company officials said no such guarantee was sought in the past.

    The official checked the records which did not show such LoUs to Nirav Modi or Choksi's company which led to suspicion.

    It is alleged that Shetty, for the last seven years, was bypassing core banking system of the PNB and issuing LoUs fraudulently.

    The CBI has registered two cases -- involving Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi -- pertaining to 150 LoUs worth Rs 6,498 crore and the second one involving 143 LOUs worth Rs 4,886 crore.

FM Arun Jaitley promises to chase down culprits to last possible conclusion
  • After much criticism over his silence on the PNB fraud, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday assured the country that the state would chase down whosoever "cheats the banking system". Without naming Punjab National Bank or the alleged kingpin of the scam Nirav Modi, Jaitley said the bank management did not live up to their task as it failed to detect the delinquent. He went on to blame auditors for being unable to detect irregularities and asked supervisory agencies to assess the system requirement to detect such frauds. He said supervisory agencies should ensure that stray cases are nipped in the bud and they are never repeated.

    "It is incumbent on us as a state, till the last legitimate capacity of the state, to chase these people (fraudsters) to the last possible conclusion to make sure the country is not cheated," he said addressing the annual meeting of Association of Development Financial Institutions in Asia & Pacific (ADFIAP) here.

    On Monday, celebrity jeweller had reportedly written a letter to PNB, saying the erroneous liability which resulted in a media frenzy has jeopardised his ability to repay the dues of the group to the banks. In a letter to the management of the defrauded Punjab National Bank purportedly penned by the billionaire jewellery designer, Modi has requested the bank to permit payment of salaries to 2,200 employees from the balance lying in the current accounts. "I would request you to permit salaries for FIPL (Firestar International Private Ltd) and FDIPL (Firestar Diamond International Private Ltd) to be paid for the 2,200 employees from the balance lying in the current accounts. Our HR head will send you a breakup of the monthly salary," Modi reportedly added in the letter.

    Modi accused the bank of jumping the gun. "Even after your complaint was filed, in good faith I wrote to you saying please allow me to sell Firestar Group, or their valuable assets, and recover the dues not just from Firestar Group, but also from the three firms," he wrote. Valuing his domestic business at around Rs 6,500 crore, he said "this could have helped reduce/discharge the debt to the banking system," but quickly added that this is not possible as all his bank accounts have been frozen and assets have been sealed or seized. "In the anxiety to recover your dues immediately, despite my offer, your actions have destroyed my brand and the business and have now restricted your ability to recover all the dues leaving a trail of unpaid debts."

    To remind you, last week PNB's managing director Sunil Mehta had mentioned that Modi had written to them promising to repay the money by selling his company Firestar Diamonds but had made it clear that the offer was "vague". According to Mehta, neither was there "any concrete plan to repay so far", nor had Modi come to the bank "personally" to discuss the matter. "We have requested to him to come and give us a written plan and how he is going to make a repayment", he added.

    The letter further claims that the amount owed by his companies is "substantially less", under Rs 5,000 crore. "The erroneously cited liability resulted in a media frenzy which led to immediate search and seizure of operations and which, in turn, resulted in Firestar International and Firestar Diamond International effectively ceasing to be going-concerns. This thereby jeopardised our ability to discharge the dues of the group to the banks," he alleges.

Vikram Kothari conned 7 banks of Rs 3,695 crore, created fake companies to seek loans
  • The Rotomac loan default case, pegged to be around Rs 3,695 crore, is throwing many surprises as the agencies' probe deepens. The ED and the CBI cases lodged against the businessman say he defrauded seven banks by using loans meant to procure wheat and export of goods for various other purposes. Of the total Rs 2,919 crore principal amount (excluding interest) given to Vikram Kothari's Rotomac, Bank of India loaned Rs 754.77 crore, Bank of Baroda Rs 456.63 crore; Indian Overseas Bank Rs 771.07 crore; Union Bank of India Rs 458.95 crore; Allahabad Bank Rs 330.68 crore; Bank of Maharashtra Rs 49.82 crore; and Oriental Bank of Commerce Rs 97.47 crore. As the agencies investigate Vikram Kothari's money trail, cases have been lodged against his wife Sadhna Kothari and son Rahul Kothari, and several bank officials who allegedly helped him by hiding the information about his fake companies, or conniving with him.

    The CBI is conducting searching at his house and office premises in Uttar Pradesh but no arrests have been made so far. Though rumours had emerged about Kothari fleeing the country, just like diamond jeweller Nirav Modi, he said he was not willing to leave the country, which he loved, and that it's just a case of 'loan default'. "First of all, it is not a scam. I am not going anywhere. I am an Indian citizen and am very much in my hometown. Though banks have declared my company as a non-performing asset (NPA), I am not a defaulter. The matter is still sub judice with the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). I am regularly in touch with the banks and am constantly cooperating with them. I availed the loans and will repay them soon," he said.

    The inquiry reveals Vikram Kothari used different methods to seek loan from these banks. According to CBI sources, in clear violation of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) rules, he used loans sanctioned by banks for export orders to help his Kanpur-based company. He created many fake companies by furnishing forged documents to seek loans from these banks, added sources. Allahabad Bank, Bank of India, Bank of Baroda, Indian Overseas Bank and Union Bank of India compromised their rules to sanction loans to Rotomac, sources said.

    Kothari took a loan of Rs 485 crore from Mumbai-based Union Bank of India and a loan of Rs 352 crore from Kolkata-based Allahabad Bank. A year later, Kothari has reportedly not paid back either the interest or the loan. Last year, Bank of Baroda (BoB), a consortium partner declared pen manufacturer Rotomac Global Pvt. Ltd. as 'wilful defaulter'.

    The company then moved the Allahabad High Court seeking removal of its name from the list of wilful defaulter. A division bench comprising Chief Justice D B Bhosle and Justice Yashwant Verma had passed the order on a petition filed by the company, contending that it has been wrongly declared a wilful defaulter by BoB despite having "offered assets worth more than Rs 300 crore to the bank since the date of default".

    Rotomac was declared a wilful defaulter vide an order dated February 27, 2017 passed by an authorised committee, as per the procedure laid down by the Reserve Bank of India. The development comes less than a week after Punjab National Bank (PNB) had detected a USD 1.77 billion - about Rs 11,400 crore - scam wherein Modi allegedly acquired fraudulent letters of undertaking (LoUs) from a branch in Mumbai to secure overseas credit from other Indian lenders. The PNB fraud pertains to issuance of fake LoUs to companies associated with billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi by errant PNB employees, which enabled these companies to raise buyers' credit from international branches of other Indian lenders. Last month, PNB had lodged an FIR with CBI stating that fraudulent LoUs worth Rs 280.7 crore were first issued on January 16. At the time, PNB had said it was digging into records to examine the magnitude of the fraud. In the complaint, PNB had named three diamond firms - Diamonds R Us, Solar Exports and Stellar Diamonds - saying they had approached it on January 16 with a request for buyers' credit for making payment to overseas suppliers.

Global retail majors getting ready to spread wings in India
  • Will the Indian modern retail industry sooner or later be dominated by global giants such as Walmart, Amazon and Alibaba? It looks like they are aggressively doing ground work to spread their wings in India. Walmart is known to be in the final stages of picking up a stake in Flipkart. If it does so, it gets to reach last mile Indian consumers through Flipkart's distribution network. The Indian consumer will get access to Walmart, which currently is allowed to operate only as a B2B cash and carry retailer. Similarly, Amazon is getting set to roll out its grocery retail business in the next six months. Will Amazon pick up a stake in an Indian brick and mortar grocery retail company? Well, India's retail king, Kishore Biyani is known to have recently met both Jack Ma of Alibaba and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. So, whether he plans a strategic investment is again anybody's guess.

    "By picking up a stake in Flipkart, Walmart is playing a defensive game. The idea would be to make use of the synergies as soon as FDI in multibrand retail opens up," says Arvind Singhal, Chairman, Technopak. In fact, Walmart across the world has been acquiring online retail companies in order to strengthen its omni-channel presence. It has invested in JD.comin China, while Alibaba bought out two physical retailers Hema and Bailan in China.

    Building an online retail presence for a physical retail company or an online retail company building a physical presence, both seem to be expensive propositions. Therefore, global retail giants, just as they have done elsewhere, are trying to get into partnerships in India too. Amazon picking up a 5 per cent stake in Shoppers Stop is an example. "The moment FDI in multibrand retail is allowed, I expect most of the Indian retail companies to join hands with the global biggies," points out Singhal of Technopak, who expects Indian modern retail to be dominated by the likes of Amazon, Walmart, Alibaba, and Reliance Retail. The reason why Indian retail companies would be happy to join hands with the global giants is because retail is a capital intensive business and one needs deep pockets to sustain the business in the longer-term.

    Rajat Wahi, Partner, Deloitte, does agree that the Indian retail industry will see domination of global majors, but only in the long-term. "One doesn't know when FDI in multi-brand retail will open up. For the next 4-5 years I see all the local retail companies building scale, consolidation will happen post that." After all, modern retail is just 10% of the overall retail industry and companies need to build their platforms and reach maximum consumers so that they become lucrative buys.

    Future Group Chairman, Kishore Biyani, is busy scaling up. In the last two years, he has acquired three retail businesses (EasyDay, Niligiris and Heritage). He recently announced his company's Retail 3.0 plan through which he hopes to become a 1.5 trillion company by 2022 by blending online and offline retail. That surely is scale that could woo any global retailer looking at India.  In fact, Biyani likes to be known as a FMCG company and not a retailer. "Our focus has always been to build brands, its only the industry which likes to call us a retail company," Biyani had said in a recent interview with Business Today.

    So, will the king of Indian retail exit modern retail in the years to come? Quite possible. For, his biggest passion now is his FMCG business, which he aspires to scale into a Rs 20,000-crore brand by 2021. As per Singhal's forecast, the only two Indian retail companies that would stay in the race in the long run are Reliance Retail and DMart. Reliance Retail because they have deep pockets and DMart because of its valuation. "I don't think any foreign retailer will want to pay that kind of value for DMart."

Sensex recovers 157 points, Nifty above 10,400-mark
  • Stocks staged a comeback in early trade with the BSE Sensex gaining over 157 points and the Nifty recapturing the 10,400-level on buying by investors in metal, capital goods, teck and IT stocks amid a mixed trend at other Asian Markets.

    The 30-share Sensex recovered by 157.24 points, or 0.46 per cent, to 33,931.90 in opening trade. The index had lost 522.81 points in the previous two sessions.

    Sectoral indices led by metal, capital goods, Teck and IT were trading in the green with gains of up to 0.75 per cent.

    The broad-based NSE Nifty went up by 23.95 points or 0.23 per cent to 10,402.35.

    Tata Steel rose up to 1.5 per cent in early trade after reports suggest the steel maker was leading bidder for debt-ridden Bhushan Steel.

    IT stocks TCS, and Infosys also advanced up to 1.7 per cent on a weaker rupee.

    Banking stocks ICICI Bank, Axis Bank and Yes Bank gained on value buying after recent losses.

    Bharti Airtel, HDFC Ltd, L&T, M&M and ONGC also rose up to 1.4 per cent.

    However, Punjab National Bank, embroiled in the Rs 11,300 crore scam, remained weak and shed another 3.31 per cent while Gitanjai Gems lost 9.91 per cent.

    Brokers said buying by domestic institutional funds and investors amid a mixed trend at other Asian bourses improved the market sentiment.

    Domestic institutional investors (DIIs) bought shares worth a net Rs 586.52 crore yesterday, as per provisional data.

    Overseas, Asian stocks were trading mixed as Treasury yields climbed back toward recent four-year highs. Chinese markets will reopen on Thursday, 22 February. US markets remained closed yesterday, in observance of Presidents Day.

    In the Asian region, Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 0.66 per cent, while Japan's Nikkei was down 1.20 per cent in early trade today. Shanghai Composite remained closed for a public holiday.

General Awareness

Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
More than 40 Indian languages will soon be extinct

  • Context: As per the Census Directorate, 42 Indian languages are said to be endangered. Due to the small number who speak the languages are expected to soon be extinct. The languages include dialects as well. The 42 languages are considered endangered because they are spoken by less than 10,000 people.

    Endangered languages:

    The endangered languages include, 11 from Andaman and Nicobar Islands- Andamanese, Jarawa, Lamongse, Luro, Muot, Onge, Pu, Sanenyo, Sentilese, Shompen and Takahanyilang, 7 from Manipur- Aimol, Aka, Koiren, Lamgang, Langrong, Purum, and Tarao, and 4 from Himachal Pradesh- Baghati, Handuri, Pangvali, Sirmaudi. Mandi, Parji and Pengo from Orissa, Koraga and Kuruba from Karnataka, Gadaba and Naiki from Andhra Pradesh, Mra and Na from Arunachal Pradesh, Tai Nora and Tai Rong from Assam, Bangani from Uttarakhand, Kota and Toda from Tamil Nadu, Birhor from Jharkhand, Nihali from Maharashtra, Ruga from Meghalaya and Toto from West Bengal.

    Efforts to protect these languages:

    A central scheme is in place to protect these languages. The Central Institute of Indian Languages has been working on the conservation of these languages. Under the programme, grammatical descriptions, monolingual and bilingual dictionaries, language primers, anthologies of folklore, encyclopedias of all languages or dialects that are endangered are being prepared. There are currently 31 languages in India that have been given the status of official languages by state governments and union territories.

    Difference between a Dialect and a Language?

    Distinction between the two based can be made based on the concept of Mutual intelligibility. Two languages where speakers can understand each other are considered dialects of the same language, whereas two languages where the speakers cannot understand each other are separate languages.

    Historically two dialects with close enough continuous contact will remain mutually intelligible. With enough separation in time and space dialects will eventually turn into separate languages.

    Way ahead:

    India is one of the few countries with such a huge diversity of languages. If the languages become extinct it will not just mean the loss of the said languages but also a loss of culture. The country wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for its diversity, languages are a crucial part of that diversity.

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