Current Affairs Current Affairs - 23 February 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 23 February 2018

General Affairs 

Avani Chaturvedi Becomes First Indian Woman To Fly A Fighter Jet
  • Scripting history, flying officer Avani Chaturvedi has become the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft, an Indian Air Force official said. "Chaturvedi became the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo when she flew a MiG-21 bison in her first solo flight," the official said.

    She undertook the sortie from IAF's Jamnagar base on Monday, he said.

    Flying Officer Chaturvedi took off from the Jamnagar Air base and successfully completed mission.

    Three women pilots, Ms Chaturvedi, Ms Bhawana Kanth and Ms Mohana Singh, had undergone strenuous training programme to fly fighter jets.

    They were commissioned as flying officers in July 2016, less than a year after the government decided to open the fighter stream for women on an experimental basis.

    The IAF has already selected the next batch of three women trainee pilots for the fighter stream.

India Test-Fires Prithvi-II Off Odisha Coast
  • India on Wednesday successfully test-fired nuclear-capable medium range surface to surface missile Prithvi-II off the Odisha coast, defence sources said.

    The missile was successfully flight tested from the launch complex 3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Chandipur on sea at about 8.30 p.m, said the sources.

    Sources said all the radars, electro-optical tracking systems and telemetry stations along the Odisha coast have monitored all the trajectory parameters of the vehicle.

    Prithvi-II, which has a strike range of 350 km, is capable of carrying 500-1,000 kg of warheads and is thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engines.

Situation In Doklam "Absolutely Fine": Army Chief Bipin Rawat
  • The situation in Doklam is "absolutely fine" and there is no reason to worry, Army chief Bipin Rawat said here today, amid reports of China developing defence infrastructure near the strategically key area.

    Commenting on last year's Doklam standoff, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba said "frequent" instances of transgression by the Chinese army across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and the Doklam incident were an indication of increasing assertiveness by China.

    Admiral Lanba, who is also chairman of chiefs of staff committee, while addressing a conference, said the face-off at Doklam has also underscored the vulnerability of Siliguri Corridor, a 22 km-long narrow stretch linking the Northeast with the rest of India.

    "(It is) absolutely fine. There is nothing to worry," General Rawat told reporters on the sidelines of the event when asked about the current situation in Doklam.

    Troops of India and China were locked in a 73-day-long standoff in Doklam from June 16 last year after the Indian side stopped the building of a road in the disputed tri-junction by the Chinese Army. Bhutan and China have a dispute over Doklam. The face-off ended on August 28.

    As a close friend and neighbour, Bhutan enjoys diplomatic and military support from India.

    Addressing the conference on bridging gaps and securing borders in the north-eastern region, Admiral Lanba said despite the cartographic differences with China, peace and tranquility has been maintained along the LAC for several decades.

    "However frequent instance of transgression by the PLA (Peoples Liberation Army) across the LAC and the recent standoff at Doklam are indication of increasing assertiveness of China, as it makes rapid progress both economically and militarily. The recent developments have also underscored the vulnerability of Siliguri corridor," he said.

    The Navy Chief said the Northeast has a large portion of international borders and that the region should be integrated into the national economy and national consciousness by improving its infrastructure, economy and connectivity.

    Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale, National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and Army Chief Gen. Rawat had quietly travelled to Bhutan earlier this month during which they held extensive talks with the top brass of the Bhutanese government on strategic issues including the situation in Doklam.

    Last month, General Rawat had said the time had come for the country to shift its focus from the western to the northern frontier.

    Sources had said China has been keeping its troops in north Doklam and significantly ramping up its infrastructure in the area.

    The Indian Army has also been strengthening its troop level in certain key sectors along the Sino-India border besides enhancing infrastructure there.

Indigenous Light Transport Aircraft "Saras" Completes Second Test Flight Successfully
  • India's indigenous light transport aircraft Saras was on Wednesday successfully test flown for a second time in Bengaluru, Union Science and Technology minister Harsh Vardhan said.

    The production model design is expected to be ready by June-July this year, he said.

    The test flight, commanded by Wing Commander U P Singh, Group Captain R V Panicker and Group Captain K P Bhat of the Indian Air Force (Aircraft and System Testing Establishment), lasted 25 minutes, Mr Vardhan said.

    The flight took off from the HAL's airport in Bengaluru.

    "This was the second of the 20 test flights planned for Saras PT1N, before freezing the production version...," he told reporters.

    The first successful test was carried out on January 24 this year.

    The design and development of the aircraft is being done by the CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories, he said.

    The Indian Air Force has committed to induct 15 such aircraft initially, Mr Vardhan said.

    CSIR-NAL proposes to get the SARAS-Mk 2 version certified initially for military and subsequently for civil version, he said.

    Saras will be 20 to 25 per cent cheaper than any imported aircraft in the same category and it will be a 19-seater aircraft instead of 14-seater, Mr Vardhan said.

    "The unit cost of the aircraft, with more than 70 per cent indigenous content, will be around Rs. 40 to Rs. 45 crore as against Rs. 60 to Rs. 70 crore for imported ones and has far more benefits than what the imported aircraft offers," he said.

    The HAL has been identified as the production agency for the military version of Saras, while production of the civil version will be given to identified private industries.

    "We are in talks with the Tatas, Mahindra and Reliance companies. We have not yet finalised any of the private companies. Soon we will do it," he said.

    India needs 120 to 160 civil and military versions of the aircraft in this genre in the next 10 years, Mr Vardhan said.

    SARAS Mk 2 will be ideal for commuter connectivity under the Centre's UDAAN Scheme for variety of applications like air taxi, aerial search and survey, executive transport, disaster management, border patrol, coast guard, ambulance and other community services, Mr Vardhan said.

    "Its successful development will be one of the game changers in the history of civil aviation in India," he said.

    The project was dumped by the previous government, after an accident during the test flight in 2009, Mr Vardhan said.

    "Though the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had exonerated the aircraft from any design flaw or poor-quality production, no effort was made to revive the project," he added.

    The credit for reviving the indigenous project goes to the present government, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who had given a thrust to the 'Make in India' mission and the team of scientists and engineers under the leadership of J Jadhav, the minister said.

    "It is the culmination of joint team efforts of ASTE, DGAQA, CEMILAC and HAL," he added.

    After the project was revived by the present government, NAL has incorporated design modifications and improvements on the Saras PT 1 model, like 2x1200 shp engines, among other things, Mr Vardhan said.

    CSIR Director General Girish Saini said the cost of development and certification of Saras Mk2 will be around Rs. 600 crore with a time period of about 2 to 3 years.

    Air Vice Marshal Sandeep Singh said the IAF was committed to testing and thereafter inducting the first indigenously designed and manufactured Light Transport Aircraft.


    "IAF is fully supporting this programme and the design and configuration of the new version of SARAS would be frozen soon," he added.

Pakistani Troops Fire At Indian Posts Along Line Of Control
  • Pakistani troops today fired at Indian posts along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir, prompting Indian soldiers to retaliate, an Army official said.

    The Pakistani troops opened unprovoked firing at Indian posts in the Hajipeer area of the Uri sector in Baramulla district this morning, the official said.

    He said Indian soldiers are retaliating the aggression from across the LoC effectively and in equal measure.

    No casualties have been reported in the incident so far, he added.

Business Affairs

CBI arrests Rotomac owner Vikram Kothari, son Rahul in Rs 3,695-crore loan default case
  • In a big breakthrough, the CBI on Thursday arrested Rotomac Pens owner Vikram Kothari, his son Rahul Kothari and two directors of the company for defrauding a consortium of banks of over Rs 3,695 crore, reports ANI. The agency was questioning the stationery czar-turned-loan defaulter for the past three days. Kothari had taken several loans worth Rs 2,919 crore - with interest around Rs 3,695 crore - from a consortium of seven banks since 2008, but allegedly used the money for other business purposes, and defaulted on them.

    Apart from his son, the role of his wife Sadhna Kothari, and his company directors, is also under scanner, as they allegedly hid information about his fake companies from the banks. Besides conducting raids at his facilities across UP, the ED had informed all the authorities concerned to make sure he didn't flee from the country like billionaire Nirav Modi would defrauded the PNB of around Rs 11,400 crore.

    Seven banks, Rs 2,919-crore loan

    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.

    Did banks know about Kothari's fake firms?

    Nirav Modi's PNB scam was apparently a trigger point for one of the seven consortium members (Bank of Baroda) to come forward with a request to the CBI to lodge an FIR against Kothari, who they feared might flee the country like many other billionaires, including Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya. The central investigation agency registered a case against Vikrant Kothari after BoB's deputy general manager Brijesh Kumar Singh approached it on February 18.

    The BoB, the CBI courses believe, might have panicked over the fact that he could use his money power to get away from the country, which is why they requested the CBI to seize the passports of Kothari and his family members. The BoB's inquiry into Kothari had earlier revealed he was using the loan for various purposes instead of buying wheat from overseas. The report adds the BoB complaint to the CBI states Kothari's bank "account is of high value in this fraud case, we apprehend that directors/guarantors of the company may try to escape from the country to skip from legal/criminal proceedings."

    As per the complaint, BoB, after its probe, knew that his suppliers abroad never existed. "Our representative from Hong Kong Branch visited the address given by the company for M/S Gulf Distribution Ltd and found that the company is maintaining a virtual office and any physical office...was not present at the address," the complaint says.

    Modus operandi, twisting of system

    The inquiry reveals Vikram Kothari used different methods to seek loan from these banks. As per the allegations, in a clear violation of Fema (Foreign Exchange Management Act) Rules, he used loans availed for export to help his Kanpur-based company. He allegedly created many fake companies by furnishing forged documents to seek loans from these banks.

    Kothari had availed Rs 485-crore loan from Mumbai-based Union Bank of India and Rs 352-crore loan from Kolkata-based Allahabad Bank. A year later, he didn't pay either the interest or the loan. Last year, BoB, after declared him a wilful defaulter for the loan default, and he moved the Allahabad high court seeking removal of its name. The court declared he was "wrongly declared a wilful defaulter by BoB despite having offered assets worth over Rs 300 crore since the date of default".

New 13-digit numbering for SIM-based M2M devices only, not regular mobile phones
  • A recent letter from state-run telecom operator BSNL to its vendors has generated debate on cell phone numbers in the country. The letter said that "it was decided that 13-digit M2M numbering plan will be implemented from July 1, 2018". Some people were quick to jump to the conclusion that mobile numbers in India will now have 13 digits instead of 10 digits presently, and how it will lead to great disorder.  Hang on! The new 13-digit numbering series will be used for SIM-based M2M devices which are different from regular mobile phones and tablets that use SIM cards to access calls and use data. 

    So what are these M2M devices? M2M devices are machines that interact with each other constantly using the cellular network. M2M is an evolving technology which has applications across various areas - homes, power grids, traffic management, offices, among others. The idea of M2M devices is to make people's lives easier. For instance, a M2M-capable washing machine could send notifications to the owners' smart devices once the clothes are washed. 

    But why there's a need for 13-digit numbers? As per a DoT report titled M2M Gateway and Architecture dated November 2015, the government estimates that there will be a requirement of 10 billion numbers to uniquely identify the (M2M) devices working on both mobile and fixed-line networks. It's estimated that the existing 10-digit scheme will run out of numbers to cater to the requirement of SIM-connected devices. 

    The increased number scheme may not affect consumers as such; it will require telecom operators to make changes in their networks.

    The report adds that the after studying the global scenario, it's suggested that a new number range (13-digit) will be required to tackle the projected growth in the number of connected devices. "It is estimated that of the total connected objects, approximately 40 per cent will use cellular connections. Since the number of M2M devices in the next 15-20 years using cellular connections is likely to be around 10 billion (40 per cent of 24 billion), it is apparent that the number of digits in the numbering plan must be increased," the report added.

    In December 2016, the DoT has already approved the 13-digit numbering scheme for SIM-based M2M devices which will co-exist with the existing 10-digit mobile numbering scheme. 

    While each country is free to choose any kind of numbering plan, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), a UN agency for information and communication technologies, limits the length to 15 digits, including the international prefix that can extend up to 3 digits. Some countries like Singapore and Hong Kong have already adopted increased number length.

Deadline for filing revised or belated income tax return for past two assessment years is March 31
  • Forget the Ides of March. The date you actually need to focus on is March 31, because that is the last day to file revised and belated income tax returns (ITR) for assessment years (AY) 2016-17 and 2017-18, with interest, if any, for late filing. This is not to be confused with the deadline for filing taxes for the current financial year, which is on or before July 31. Last year this deadline was extended till August, but the gesture may not be repeated.

    So if you are yet to file older ITRs, "there's still time" to "come clean" as a recent advertisement put out by the income tax department reminds folks. The ad goes on to exhort companies, firms, LLPs, trusts, associations and political parties (whose income prior to claim of exemptions exceeds the minimum chargeable to tax) to file taxes. Similarly, individuals earning over Rs 2.5 lakh have to pay income tax while the exemption limit for senior citizens (aged 60-80 years) is Rs 3 lakh and that for very senior citizens (over 80 years) is Rs 5 lakh.

    "If you have deposited large amounts of cash in your bank account or made high value transactions, please consider the same while filing income tax returns," says the communication, adding that "Non-filing or incorrect filing of return of income may result in penalty and prosecution". The easy way to do it is online, either by logging into the tax department's e-filing website (incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in) or the likes of Cleartax.com and Taxspanner.com, which are far more user friendly. Keep in mind that failure to file returns for the AY 2017-18 by March 31 means no second chances.

    Belated filing, of course, poses serious drawbacks. Not only do you lose the opportunity to avail of select exemptions and carry forward losses (other than house property loss) for the assessment years for which ITR were not filed, you may have to shell out extra as interest under section 234A, perhaps even sections 234B and 234C, which deal with advance tax. The latter is applicable on all individuals with a tax liability exceeds Rs 10,000 after your employer has deducted the TDS.

    For any defaults in filing your ITR, according to Cleartax, "you will be charged an interest amount of 1% per month (simple interest) on the tax amount outstanding. This interest will be calculated from the due date applicable to you for filing of return of the applicable year till the date that you actually file your return."

    Here's an example. Assume your total tax outstanding is Rs 1 lakh and you forgot to file your return. Your tax liability will calculated at 8% (8 months late till the end of the assessment year on March 31) of Rs 1 lakh, or Rs 8,000, over and above the tax amount that you are due to pay in any case.

    That apart, "a penalty of Rs 5,000 shall be levied under section 271F", says the FAQ on the income tax website. With effect from AY 2018-19, a new section 234F will come into play, under which the penalty for ITRs furnished on or before December 31 is Rs 5,000, but double that amount for later filings. However, penalty "shall be levied @ Rs 1,000 if total income does not exceed Rs 5,00,000" and if the tax evaded "exceeds Rs 25 lakh the punishment could be 6 months to 7 years" adds the website.

    Also keep in mind that silly mistakes often creep in when one is trying to beat a deadline, like erroneously leaving a mandatory field empty or forgetting to report interest income. So make sure no discrepancies creep in while filing your returns, else you could be staring at a demand notice from the taxman, which means extra paperwork for you.

    Thankfully, at least this headache will disappear from the next assessment year on. Earlier this month the CBDT announced that demand notices won't be issued in cases of a minor mismatch between a taxpayer's ITR and the corresponding tax credit data collected from banks and other financial institutions.

Sensex closes 25 points lower to 33,819, Nifty at 10,382 level on inflation concerns, February derivatives expiry
  • The Sensex and Nifty recovered in last hour of trade on Thursday only to close lower amid expiry of February futures and options contracts. Indian market fell after the minutes of the central bank's latest policy meeting showed inflation concerns continued, while the rupee fell to its weakest level against the dollar since November.

    While the Sensex closed 25 points or 0.07% lower to 33,819 level, the Nifty ended 14 points lower at 10,382 level.

    Top losers on the Sensex were ONGC (2.26%), Dr Reddy's (2.19%) and PowerGrid (1.85%). The BSE realty index was up 0.7 percent, IT index rose 0.59 percent, Teck index added 0.23 percent.

    The minutes from the February 6-7 meeting showed Reserve Bank of India's monetary policy committee members were concerned about accelerating inflation as well as uncertainty about the strength of an economic recovery.

    "The minutes of the RBI meeting suggest RBI is still concerned about inflation ... all these have weakened sentiment further," said Neeraj Dewan, director, Quantum Securities.

    BSE oil & gas index fell 1.46 percent, power index dropped 1.11 percent, PSU index down 1 percent, consumer durables and auto indexes slide 0.9 percent reflecting weakness in the market.

    "Domestic sentiment has become weak and global sentiment is also rubbing off to some extent," Dewan added.

    Market breadth was negative with 1020 stocks rising against 1701 stocks falling on BSE. 163 stocks were unchanged.

    Among financials, fraud-hit Punjab National Bank continued to witness sell-off, falling as much as 3 percent. Jefferies has cut its target price on the stock. The stock closed 2.09 percent lower to 114.65 on BSE.

    Global markets 

    European markets fell in early trading. Britain's FTSE 100 slid 1 percent to 7,205.21 and Germany's DAX lost 0.5 percent to 12,384.33. France's CAC 40 retreated 0.4 percent to 5,279.97. Wall Street was poised to open lower. Dow futures fell 0.3 percent to 24,716.00 and broader S&P 500 futures dipped 0.1 percent to 2,695.80.

    Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 index sank 1.1 percent to close at 21,736.44 and South Korea's Kospi shed 0.6 percent to 2,414.28. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.5 percent to 30,965.68 but the Shanghai Composite jumped 2.2 percent to 3,268.56, fueled by pent-up demand from investors in mainland China, where markets reopened after a weeklong holiday. Australia's S&P ASX 200 edged up 0.1 percent to 5,950.90. Taiwan's benchmark fell and Southeast Asian indexes were mostly lower.

Centre unveils plan to synergise operations of telecom PSUs
  • The central government has unveiled a plan to synergise the operations of public sector organisations under the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) to better utilise the business opportunities arising out of its ambitious Rs 42,000 crore BharatNet project. The move will benefit PSUs like MTNL, BSNL, BBNL, TCIL, ITI, C-DoT and TEC which are already cooperating to connect one lakh panchayats across the country with broadband network through the ongoing first phase of BharatNet. The second phase, with an outlay of Rs 31,000 crore is meant to extend this service to 2.5 lakh panchayats by March 2019.

    "The combined strengths of PSUs will enable them to tap the immense business opportunities that are arising out of Internet of Things (IoT) and 5G telecom services in near future", said Aruna Sundararajan, Secretary, Telecom.

    At a function in Delhi on February 22, the PSUs signed seven MoUs to formalise its synergistic partnership. The "strategic plan" includes effective utilisation of human resources, settlement of legal issues among PSUs entities and optimal utilisation of land and buildings, among others. The PSUs have also developed a revenue sharing framework to address the payment issues arising out of joint execution of business contracts and assignments.

    The PSUs are hopeful of playing a lead role in implementing the government's Digital India initiatives like e-health, e-commerce and e-education services. They also expect to promote startups in these areas and provide a fillip to entrepreneurship programmes that promote smart infrastructure. Indigenisation and import substitution by making use of the government public procurement policy and development of 5G products and services ecosystem are other emerging opportunities they wish to tap.

    The decision to prepare a comprehensive plan to synergise the operations of telecom PSUs were taken in January 2016. The roadmap, prepared after two-years' deliberations however is silent on mergers and acquisitions among PSUs in the telecom space.

General Awareness

Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
N Gopalaswami committee

  • Context: N Gopalaswami committee has been constituted to select 20 institutes of higher education in India that will be developed into “world-class” institutes. In a few months, 10 each (from public and private category) institutions will be accorded the eminence status with a mandate, and supported, to achieve the world-class status over a period of 10 years.

    Facilities provided to these institutes:

    These institutes will be provided with greater autonomy to admit up to 30% foreign students, to recruit up to 25% foreign faculty, to offer online courses up to 20% of its programmes and to enter into academic collaboration with top 500 in the world ranking institutions without UGC permission.

    Background:

    Last year, the Union ministry of Human resources Development, through the University Grants Commission, had invited institutes from across the country to be upgraded into “world-class universities.” Following this the Commission had received 100 applications, maximum being from public institutions.

    Need for world-class institutes:

    India lacks world-class universities according to international rankings, and Indian academics, compared internationally, are rather poorly paid. Students also suffer an immense shortage of places in top academic institutions and throughout the higher education system. India today educates only half as many young people from the university age group as China and ranks well behind most Latin American and other middle-income countries.

    Way ahead:

    If India is to succeed as a great technological power with a knowledge-based economy, world-class universities are required. The first step, however, is to examine the problems and create realistic solutions. Spending large sums scattershot will not work. Nor will copying the American academic model succeed.

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