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Current Affairs - 01 April 2018

General Affairs 

CBSE Leaks: Two Coaching Centre Directors Arrested, Four Students Detained
  • Six more people, including two directors of a private coaching centre, were apprehended on Saturday in connection with the CBSE question paper leaks, police said.

    Since yesterday, 12 people, including Class 10 and 11 students, have been questioned in the CBSE leak case from Jharkhand's Chatra district, they said.

    The examination board came under criticism after its Class 10 mathematics and Class 12 economics papers were leaked earlier this week.

    On Friday, the police had detained six Class 10 students in the case.

    The police said that among those apprehended today, four are students of different schools in the district and two directors of a private coaching centre.

    A Class 11 student was detained from the Navodaya Vidyalala campus. According to police, he had hid chits containing answers of a leaked question paper in the school's bathroom. Two students are from Patna, they said.

PM Modi Doesn't Let Us Sleep Till Project A Is Completed: Devendra Fadnavis
  • Once a project is sanctioned, Prime Minister Narendra Modi does not let the concerned ministers and officers sleep till it is completed, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said today.

    Mr Fadanvis was addressing a gathering after laying the foundation stone of a rail coach manufacturing factory in Latur. Union Railways and Coal Minister Piyush Goyal was also present on the occasion.

    "If a project does not get completed on time, Modi ji does not let the concerned minister and the officers sleep until the work is done. I want Piyush ji to bring PM Modi along to inaugurate this project in a year and a half," Mr Fadnavis said.

    "We are laying extensive metro lines in Maharashtra but we had to import coaches from outside, despite we being ready to pay the Railways for them. This is the first project in the history of Railways where bhoomipujan is being done within two months of it being approved," he said.

    The chief minister expressed hope that the coach factory would bring allied industries and create thousands of jobs in the state.

    Built on 153 hectares of land, the plant would manufacture Electrical Multiple Units (railway term for suburban trains) and metro rail coaches.

    The Maharashtra government has offered relaxation in land, taxes and other requirements.

    The Maharashtra Chief Minister said Vidarbha and Marathwada regions were his government's priority, adding that both shared the same pain and thirst for development.

    "Both regions want farmers to prosper and employment for youth, but have been struggling from many years on these fronts. Hence, our priority is to develop these regions first," he said.

    Mr Fadnavis said industries were not willing to set up a base in Marathwada as the region did not enjoy port connectivity.

    "Our Mumbai-Nagpur super expressway project aims to bridge this gap. All seven districts of Marathwada have been connected to the expressway. Thus, Mumbai is merely 7-8 hours away," he said.

Minister VK Singh To Leave For Iraq To Bring Back Bodies Of 39 Indians
  • Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh is expected to fly to Iraq tomorrow in a C-17 plane to bring back mortal remains of the 39 Indians, killed in the war-torn country, sources said today.

    Sources also said that the minister is expected to bring back the bodies by late Monday or Tuesday.

    "MoS Singh will most probably leave tomorrow for Iraq to bring back mortal remains of these 39 Indians. After coming back, he will first go to Amritsar followed by Patna, Kolkata to hand over bodies to their relatives," a source said on Saturday.

    Families of some of these victims had met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi on March 26.

    Earlier this month, Ms Swaraj had told Parliament that as many as 40 Indians were abducted by terror group ISIS from Mosul in Iraq in June 2014, but one of them escaped posing as a Muslim from Bangladesh.

    The remaining 39 Indians were taken to Badoosh and killed, she had said.

Supreme Court Plea Against CBSE's Move To Conduct Re-Exams After Paper Leak
  • A plea has been moved in the Supreme Court against the decision of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) to cancel and re-conduct the economics exam of Class 12 held on March 26 and the mathematics paper of Class 10 on March 28 over suspicion of alleged question paper leak.

    The petition, filed by Shakarpur-resident Reepak Kansal, said that there was no justification whatsoever on the part of the CBSE in deciding to re-conduct the exams without holding any enquiry and finding out those responsible for such serious and intentional lapse which has resulted in extraneous financial consideration.

    "It is to be noted that this year, 16,38,428 students are appearing for the Class 10 and 11,86,306 students for Class 12 in the CBSE examinations. And therefore, to penalise the student community for an incident which is under investigation and without completion of that investigation/enquiry and issuing a notice on March 28, 2018 (for re-exams), affects the fundamental rights of students which is arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional," the plea said.

    It alleged that reports about the question paper leakage was circulated on social media for several hours before the papers started.

    "Despite information and complaints, the CBSE denied any leak of question papers and urged students and parents to not to panic," the plea read.

    It also sought a direction to the board to declare the results based on the exam which was already conducted.

    The petition, which sought directions to the Centre and the CBSE, said that due to the inaction/wrong actions of CBSE officials, the fundamental rights of students, falling in the category of re-examination, has been violated as they would not have proper time and opportunity to appear in their respective competitive examinations.

Three-Phase Panchayat Polls To Be Held In West Bengal In May
  • The West Bengal State Election Commission today announced three-phased panchayat polls in the state on May 1, 3 and 5.

    The panchayat election assumes significance as it is the last major poll in the state before the general elections next year.

    On May 1, polling will be held in 12 districts, while on May 3 voting will take place in two districts, State Election Commissioner (SEC) AK Singh told reporters in Kolkata.

    In the third phase, voting will be held in six districts, AK Singh said, adding panchayat polls will not be held in Darjeeling and Kalimpong districts.

    The districts where voting will be held in the first phase are Nadia, North 24 Parganas, South 24 Parganas, Howrah, Hooghly, East Burdwan, West Burdwan, Purulia, Bankura, Jhargram, West Midnapore and East Midnapore.

    On May 3, polling will be held in Murshidabad and Birbhum districts, while in the third phase on May 5, voting will take place in Coochbehar, Alipurduar, Jalpaiguri, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur and Malda districts, Singh said.

    Repoll, if any, for the first phase will be held on May 3, for the second phase on May 5 and for the third phase on May 7.

    Notification for the election will be issued today, while the last date for filing nominations is April 9. The date of scrutiny of papers is April 11 and the last date for withdrawal of candidature is April 16.

    Counting of votes will take place on May 8, the SEC said, adding the election process will have to be completed by May 15.

    AK Singh said with the model code of conduct coming into force from today, new schemes for panchayat areas cannot be announced or inaugurated. Neither can foundation stones for any new projects be laid in these ares.

    Ongoing projects can, however, continue, he said.

    "In case of natural disasters, permission for starting new work or distribution of materials will be taken up by district authorities or from the State Election Commission. No minister or ministry-ranked officials can use pilot car with or without beacon light unless there is security threat assessed by appropriate police officers," AK Singh said.

    An estimated 5.08 crore voters are eligible to exercise their franchise for elections to gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads.

    Elections will be held in 48,751 seats in 3,358 gram panchayats, 9,240 seats in 341 panchayat samitis and 825 seats in 20 zilla parishads. There will be total 57233 booths spread across the 20 districts.

    Earlier this week, the SEC had met representatives of political parties and discussed preparations for the panchayat polls.

Business Affairs

Diesel price hits all-time high, petrol prices highest in over 4 years
  • Prices of diesel hit an all-time high of Rs 64.40 per litre in Delhi, while petrol prices were at Rs 73.55, highest in over four years. The last time petrol prices were higher was in September 2013 when it was Rs 76.06 per litre in the city.

    In a bid to bring in transparency in pricing of fuels, the government had changed the fortnightly revision of prices to a daily routine in June 2017. Since then prices of petrol at the pump have gone up by over 12 per cent, while for diesel the increase has been even steeper at over 18 per cent. At the same time, prices of crude oil for the Indian basket has shot up by over 63 per cent. Oil marketing companies have been able to somewhat cushion the increase due to the appreciation of the Indian currency against dollar. India imports nearly 82 per cent of its crude oil requirement every year and currency fluctuation plays a major role in pricing of the fuels at the retail level.  

    Yet these prices do not reflect what the consumer should be normally paying. Crude prices have fallen drastically from the highs of September 2013, when retail prices were higher than today. At that time, the price of the Indian basket of crude oil had shot up to $110 per barrel, almost 48 per cent more than today. The invisible factor between the two is taxes.

    Prices of the two fuels in India have witnessed a steady increase in the past four years as the government has increased excise duty on the two fuels a dozen times in this period. As a result, the Narendra Modi led NDA government gets Rs 10 per litre excise duty more on petrol than what the Mammohan Singh led UPA government got in 2014. For diesel, the government gets almost Rs 11 per litre more than the previous government. Excise duty on petrol has gone up by 105.49 per cent (including the only time when duties were cut by Rs 2 per litre last October), while on diesel it has shot up by over 240 per cent during the time.

    It is not that the central government alone has reaped the benefit of lower crude prices. Even the state government, led by Arvind Kejriwal in the case of Delhi, which gets its share through VAT has seen its kitty bulge by over 31 per cent or Rs 3.74 per litre on petrol and nearly 44 per cent or Rs 3.4 per litre on diesel. Even the petrol pump owners have seen their commission go up by 80 per cent on petrol and 111 per cent on diesel between April 2014 and March 2018.

    In a nutshell, everybody except the consumer, has and is benefitting from benign oil prices.

Good news for home buyers! SBI to waive off processing fees on home loans till March 31
  • Country's biggest lender State Bank of India has decided to waive off the processing fees for home loans till  March 31, 2018. Customers who want to apply for SBI home loans can apply by logging into their website, homeloans.sbi or by visiting a nearby branch.

    Besides, the bank is also making interesting offers on home loans, such as 30 years to repay the home loans, concession rates for women borrowers, among others.

    The minimum interest rate on home loans is 8.35 per cent, which is valid for loans up to Rs 30 lakh for salaried women borrowers. For other salaried borrowers, SBI charges 8.4 per cent as interest rates for loans up to Rs. 30 lakh. For non-salaried women borrowers, the interest rate  is 8.45 per cent for loans in the same category. Other non-salaried borrowers will pay an interest rate of 8.5 per cent for loans up to Rs 30 lakh.

    To avail the home loan service, the borrower should be a resident of India and should be between 18 and 70 years. Under regular norms, the applicants get a loan tenure up to 30 years.

    The bank requires an employer identity card, loan application, proof of identity, proof of residence, property papers, bank account statements of last 6 months, salary slip of last 3 months (for salaried borrower). For non-salaried borrower, income proof with government identity cards is must to take loan from the bank.

Will file criminal complaint if Air India disinvestment turns out to be a scam, says Swamy
  • Subramanian Swamy has trained his guns at the government once again, this time over the proposed Air India disinvestment. The Rajya Sabha MP said in a tweet that he will file a criminal complaint if he sees any wrongdoing in the sale of the national air carrier.

    "The proposed sale of Air India is potentially another scam in the making. Selling family silver is not divestment. I am watching who is doing what and will, if I see culpability, file a private criminal law complaint," Swamy wrote in his tweet.

    The Air India disinvestment has also been criticised by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. "I am sorry to read in the media about the Govt inviting expression of interest for selling Air India, the jewel of our nation. We strongly oppose this and want this order to be withdrawn immediately. This Govt must not be allowed to sell our country," she said in a tweet.

    The Civil Aviation Ministry floated preliminary information memorandum inviting bids for the sale of 76 percent stake in the debt-laden Air India and transfer management control to private players. Interested bidders could furnish expressions of interest by May 14. Professional services firm Ernst & Young LLP India has been appointed as transaction adviser for the strategic disinvestment process.

    The memorandum also invited bids for the sale of 50 percent shares India holds in Air India SATS Airport Services. It is a joint venture between the debt-laden Indian carrier and Singapore Airport Terminal Services. The divestment process will also include Air India Express, the completely-owned international arm of Air India.

    The government has ordered that entities willing to participate in the Air India sale process must have a minimum aggregate net worth of Rs 5,000 crore. Domestic airlines with zero or negative net worth can participate in the bidding process by forming consortiums which fulfil the prescribed criteria.

    In June 2017, the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave an in-principle nod to the strategic disinvestment of the airline, which has a debt burden of over Rs 50,000 crore. Subsequent to the decision, the Air India Specific Alternative Mechanism (AISAM), headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, was set up to decide on specific issues.

E-way bill validity to begin from the date transporter fills up details, says Finance Ministry
  • The finance ministry today said the validity of an e-way bill will be counted from the day transporter fills in the details in the GST form for the first time.

    The electronic way bill system will be rolled out from tomorrow as per which businesses and transporters have to produce before a GST inspector e-way bill for moving goods worth over Rs 50,000 from one state to another.

    In a clarification, the finance ministry said that the validity period of e-way bill will start only after the details in Part-B of Form GST EWB-01 are updated by the transporter for the first time.

    Giving example, the ministry said supposing a consignor fills in the details in Part A of Form GST EWB-01 on Friday and handover his goods to the transporter.

    When the transporter is ready to move the goods, say on Monday, he can fill the Part B of Form GST EWB-01 and the validity period of the e-way bill will start from Monday.

    As per the rules approved by the GST Council, for goods travelling a distance of less than 100 km the e-way bill will be valid for a day from the relevant date. For every 100 km thereafter, the validity will be additional one day from the relevant date.

    The "relevant date" will mean the date on which the e-way bill has been generated and the period of validity will be counted from the time at which the e-way bill has been generated and each day will be counted as 24 hours.

    The ministry in another clarification said in case there are two transporters for moving goods from one state to another, then only one e-way bill will be required to be generated.

    Giving example, the ministry said consider a situation where a consignor is required to move goods from City X to City Z. He appoints transporter A for movement of his goods. Transporter A moves the goods from City X to City Y.

    For completing the movement of goods i e from City Y to City Z, transporter A now hands over the goods to Transporter B. Thereafter, the goods are moved to the destination i e from City Y to City Z by transporter B.

    In such a situation, Part A of Form GST EWB-01 can be filled by the consignor and then the e-way bill will be assigned by the consignor to transporter A. Transporter A will fill the vehicle details, etc in Part B of Form GST EWB-01 and will move the goods from City X to City Y.

    On reaching City Y, transporter A will assign the said e-way bill to the transporter B. Thereafter, transporter B can update the details of Part B of Form GST EWB-01.

    Transporter B will fill the details of his vehicle and move the goods from City Y to City Z, the ministry added.

    Touted as an anti-evasion measure and would help boost tax collections by clamping down on trade that currently happens on cash basis, the e-way bill provision of the goods and services tax (GST) was first introduced on February 1.

    However, its implementation was put on hold after the system developed glitches in generating permits. With several states also starting to generate intra-state e-way bills on the portal, the system developed a snag.

Oil companies to sell BS-VI petrol, diesel in Delhi from Sunday, prices to remain unchanged
  • Ultra-clean Bharat Stage VI (BS-VI) grade petrol and diesel, matching the Euro-VI emission norms, will be supplied in the national capital from Sunday. Introduced to combat alarming levels of air pollution, no additional cost will be charged for the cleaner fuel.

    Delhi will be the first city in the country to leapfrog from BS-IV grade petrol and diesel to BS-VI. Cities in the national capital region like Noida, Ghaziabad, Gurugram and Faridabad as well as 13 major cities including Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Pune will switch over to cleaner BS-VI grade fuel from January 1 next year. Rest of the country will follow suit from April 2020.

    State-owned oil firms will begin supplying the BS-VI petrol and diesel at all their 391 petrol pumps in the national capital territory (NCT) from tomorrow, said Indian Oil Corp (IOC) Director (Refineries) B V Rama Gopal.

    While the oil companies have invested heavily to produce cleaner fuel, the consumers are not being passed on any of the cost for the time being, he said.

    "Rest assured we don't have plans of passing on the cost to consumers. There are no plans to recover (the cost) from customers immediately," he told reporters here.

    Costing wise, the cleaner fuel should cost around 50 paisa a litre more.

    He said a mechanism of recovering the cost when the whole country shifts to BS-VI grade fuel would be worked out.

    To meet Delhi's annual consumption of 9.6 lakh tonnes of petrol and 12.65 lakh tonnes of diesel, Mathura refinery in Uttar Pradesh, Panipat refinery in Haryana, Bina in Madhya Pradesh and Bhatinda in Punjab have started producing Euro-VI grade fuel. About Rs 183 crore has been spent on Panipat refinery alone for producing cleaner fuel.

    Other refineries are in the process of being upgraded, he said.

    India had in 2015 decided to leapfrog to BS-VI emission norm compliant petrol and diesel from April 2020, from the BS-IV grade at present.

    While the deadline for the rest of the country stands, the same for Delhi, which is choking on thick toxic smog, was brought forward. BS-VI grade fuel contains 10 parts per million (ppm) of sulphur as against 50 ppm in BS-IV fuels.

    Gopal said the cleaner BS-VI fuel and lesser grade cars and two-wheelers, which are presently available in the country, would result in 10-20 per cent reduction in particulate emission but for full benefits, the vehicles too need to have BS-VI engines.

    "BS-VI petrol and diesel supplies from tomorrow give comfort to automobiles manufacturers that supplies of cleaner fuel would not be a problem," the official said.

    IOC, the nation's biggest oil firm controlling roughly half of retail fuel market, will source the BS-VI fuel to meet Delhi's requirement from its Mathura and Panipat refineries, while Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd (HPCL) will do so from its joint venture refinery at Bhatinda. Bharat Petroleum Corp Ltd (BPCL) will supply the fuel from its Bina refinery.

    According to IOC, for petrol engines, one of the most critical specifications is Research Octane No. (RON), which has improved from 88 in BS-II to 91. It is at par with regular 91 octane gasoline (petrol) required for BS-VI emission norms.

    Sulphur specification for petrol and diesel will be reduced 50 times from a level of 500 ppm for BS-II fuel to 10 ppm in BS-VI.

    Previously, the fuels meeting BS-IV or BS-IV specifications were to be supplied throughout the country by April 2017 and BS-V grade fuel by April 1, 2020. But now the government plans to switch over directly from BS-IV to BS-VI auto fuels.

    Oil refineries had previously upgraded technology and invested over Rs 55,000 crore for production and supply of BS-III/IV fuels. Oil refineries will need to invest Rs 28,000 crore in upgrading petrol and diesel quality to meet cleaner fuel specifications by 2020.

General Awareness

Facts for Prelims:
  • Context: Construction works on 60 MW Naitwar Mori Hydro Electric Project have begun.

    About the project:

    The Naitwar Mori Project with a generation potential of 60 MW is located on River Tons, a major tributary of River Yamuna on the Ganga basin, in Uttarkashi district of Uttarakhand state in North India.
    This run-of-the river project was allocated to SJVN Ltd by the Government of Uttarakhand. SJVN Ltd is a Mini Ratna PSU under administrative control of the Ministry of Power, Govt. of India.

    Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi:

    Who is Anandibai Gopalrao Joshi? She was India’s first female doctor and first woman to obtain a degree in western medicine.

    Why in news? Google Doodle celebrated her 153rd Birthday on March 31st. Anandi Joshi was born on 31st March 1865 in Maharashtra.

    ‘Sarmat’:

    What is it? It is Russia’s most advanced nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile. It was flight-tested recently.

    Key facts:

    The Sarmat is a heavy ICBM intended to replace Russia’s aging, Soviet-era missiles that form the basis of its nuclear deterrent.

    The chief innovation of the Sarmat is its ability to carry a large number of guided warheads.

    The missile is believed to be able to fly 16,000 miles and is capable of flying over the South Pole to strike the U.S.

    NATO has named this missile as ‘Satan 2’.

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