Current Affairs Current Affairs - 03 April 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 03 April 2018

General Affairs 

Trying To Reconnect With 'Most Powerful' Communications Satellite: ISRO
  • Space agency ISRO said on Monday it was trying to re-establish a link with its most powerful communication satellite that went missing over the weekend, in a setback for its space ambitions.

    Indian Space Research Organisation or ISRO said the link with the satellite was lost in the third and final stage of its launch, but it did not specify the possible cause of the snag.

    "Efforts are underway to establish the link with the satellite," ISRO said on its website.

    The satellite was launched on Thursday through an indigenously developed launch vehicle. The GSAT-6A is an advanced mobile communications satellite with a six-metre wide antenna, the biggest used by an ISRO communication satellite.

    Once located, the agency should be able to command and take the satellite to its final orbit. If not, the satellite would come down and burn out like any other, an agency official said.

    The satellite would enable advanced mobile communications, the space agency said, including for the military.

    The country is seeking a larger share of the more than $300 billion global space industry as Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeks to project it as a global low-cost provider of services in space.

"Not Like Biscuits": VK Singh Criticised For Comment On 38 Indians
  • Union Minister VK Singh, who brought back today the bodies of 38 Indians killed in Iraq, was criticized for his sharp retort to reporters who questioned him about compensation for the grieving families: "This is not like distributing biscuits."

    The minister, a former army chief, was speaking to the media at the Amritsar airport, where he arrived by a special C-17 transport plane, accompanying the coffins of the Indians killed in Mosul after they went missing in 2014.

    "Yeh biscuit baantne wala kaam nahi hai, ye aadmiyon ki zindagi ka sawal hai, aa gayi baat samajh mein? Main abhi elaan kahan se karoon? Jeb mein koi pitaara thodi rakha hua hai (This is not like distributing biscuits, this is about the lives of the people. Understand! How do I make the announcement now, I am not carrying anything in my pocket)," General Singh snapped when asked about compensation. On jobs for relatives of the workers, the minister said "this is not a game of football."

    As the minister looked rattled, Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu - who quit the BJP last year and joined the Congress - was seen trying to calm him down.

Supreme Court To Hear Petitions Challenging CBSE Decision To Hold Re-Exam On Wednesday
  • The Supreme Court will hear on Wednesday a batch of petitions challenging the Central Board of Secondary Education's (CBSE) decision to re-conduct maths exams for Class 10 after its question paper was leaked on March 28.

    The bench headed by the Chief Justice Dipak Misra said on Monday decided to take up the matter after it was mentioned for an urgent hearing.

    Besides challenging the re-conduct of the exam, the petitioners have sought a probe into the leak and declaration of results on the basis of exams already conducted.

    The government on March 30 announced that re-examination will be held for Class 12 economics paper throughout the country on April 25 while fresh test for Class 10 maths paper will be held only in Delhi, NCR and Haryana in July.

New System... No Wait: 1st CBSE Exam After Leak Delayed Over Confusion
  • Hundreds of students in Delhi today sat in classrooms waiting for question papers, as the first CBSE exams for Classes 10 and 12 since last week's paper leaks were delayed by more than an hour in the confusion over a new "URL-based" delivery system to ensure maximum security. Officials from many schools collected question papers around 11 am - at least 30 minutes after the exams were to start.

    The CBSE or Central Board of Secondary Education had earlier said examination centres would receive an encrypted copy of the question paper, which they would need to download and print on their own. The schools were to receive an email link to the question papers, log in using passwords sent for the purpose, and then print over 2,000 sheets of paper by 10:15am - 15 minutes before the exam - under surveillance.

    Class X students had language exams like Sanskrit, Urdu and French and Class XII students had Hindi today.

    But for some reason, schools were informed at the last minute that it was back to the old system, in which the CBSE gets the papers printed at a designated printing press and sends them in a sealed package to its centres. The CBSE centres hand over the sealed packages to banks. Schools send officials to collect the papers from the banks.

    It was 11.30 am by the time the students received the papers. They came out around 3 pm. Many of them had feared that today's paper was leaked too.

    "We waited an hour, we were very anxious...The teachers didn't tell us what happened," said Dharmender Thakur, a Class 12 student, after the exam.

    Officials say the new system was tested on Thursday before the board sent instructions to exam centres.

    To execute its new plan, the board had also asked schools to arrange high-speed internet, with dongles as backup and generators. But officials say many schools said they didn't have the resources or enough staff.

    Nearly two million students are having to re-sit the finals for two subjects after the papers were leaked last week. The board has announced that Class 12 students will take an economics re-exam on April 25. The class 10 math exam, if held at all, will be in July and only in Delhi and Haryana, said the board on Friday.

2018 Summer: "Above Normal" Temperatures Between April-June
  • The India Meteorological Department warned that the average temperatures in most parts of India are expected to be "above normal" between April and June, the period it considers the actual summer season.

    The IMD, however, said the temperatures in east, east-central and southern India, which include Odisha, coastal Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, are likely to be lower than the usual, indicating that the onset of monsoon will be on time.

    The "above normal" average temperatures prediction suggests that the warming of the summer season in northern and central India would be a continuation of the pattern seen over the past few years.

    Last year was recorded as the hottest year so far by the IMD and other meteorological institutes across the country.

    The previous year, 2016, was recorded as the hottest year since 1901. That year, Phalodi in Rajasthan had recorded 51 degrees Celsius, the highest-ever recorded in India by then.

    The respite, according to the IMD prediction, is that the this year's average temperature, despite being "above normal" in most parts of India, would be slightly lower than 2017.

    "Upcoming Hot Weather Season (April to June-AMJ) is expected to have the above normal sub-divisional average seasonal temperatures over most of the meteorological subdivisions of the country except the subdivisions of eastern, east central and southern parts for the country that are likely to experience slightly below normal seasonal temperatures," the IMD said in a bulletin.

    It was the second seasonal forecast issued by the IMD for the upcoming summer season.

    The mercury has started rocketing, reaching 40 degrees Celsius in parts of India, including in Delhi, in March, which is not considered as the summer season. This had prompted the meteorological department to issue a forecast on February 28.

    IMD Director-General K J Ramesh said thunderstorms in east, east-central and southern India will keep these parts generally cooler.

    "This is also an indication that the onset of monsoon will be on time," M Rajeevan, secretary, Ministry of Earth Sciences, said.

    Severe heat-wave conditions in Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have killed thousands of people over the past a few years. According to a government data released last year, 4,624 people died due to heat-wave between 2013 and 2017, of which 92 per cent of casualties were reported from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.

    "The AMJ seasonal average temperatures in most of the meteorological subdivisions are likely to be cooler than that of last year. Normal heatwave conditions are likely over core heat-wave zone of the country," the IMD bulletin added.

    This, however, does not mean there will be no heat-waves this year. "Usually, there are three-four heat-waves every year. This year, we expect it to remain the same," Rajeevan added.

    Central and northern India are generally considered the core heat-wave zones.

    A heat-wave is a period of abnormally high temperatures, more than the normal maximum temperature that occurs during the summer season in the north-western parts of India, according to information available on the website of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Business Affairs

ICICI Bank-Videocon loan whistle-blower claims govt silent on 12 cases raised in the past: Report
  • The whistle-blower who first red-flagged "the illicit banking and commercial relationship between Videocon Group of Venugopal Dhoot and ICICI Bank's MD & CEO Chanda Kochhar's family" as he put it in his blog post - incidentally two years before the ongoing brouhaha broke out - has reportedly claimed that he'd raised several such cases in the past, too.

    Arvind Gupta, the founder and trustee of Indian Investors Protection Council, and a Ph.D in Public Sector Economics, as his blog profile claims, told MoneyControl that he has raised more than 12 cases in the past "which have gone unnoticed by the government".

    Just like nobody reverted to his letter highlighting the ICICI-Videocon Group linkages addressed to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 15, 2016, with carbon copies sent out to the finance minister, the RBI Governor, SEBI chairman, CBI and Enforcement Directorate directors and more. Gupta, a shareholder of ICICI Bank as well as the Videocon Group, subsequently reproduced this letter on his blog in October 2016 in a post titled 'Banking Sector NPAs from mighty Corporate Cons?', but the matter only came out in the open after the mainstream media reported it last week.

    "Not just ICICI Bank, but other banks must also undergo a scrutiny whether this is just a one-off case or there is a pattern in the corporate restructuring or lending (practices) to the corporate houses who are going down the drain," Gupta told MoneyControl, adding that he wants the government and regulators to look into the matter.

    Claiming that he is currently following up on another big corporate case, Gupta said that rising corporate frauds is a serious threat to Indian corporate democracy and that just probes are required to bring back faith in the banking system. He pointed out that round-tripping of funds by Indian companies and over-invoicing is one of the oldest practices in the corporate space and summed up saying that "all the information is public", and that it's the right and responsibility of every corporate investor to flag off these wrong practices.

    In the aftermath of the recent allegations, ICICI Bank came out with a statement asserting its 'full faith' in Kochar's conduct. Putting its weight behind its celebrated CEO, ICICI Bank said in a statement to the stock exchanges last Wednesday that its board has concluded that there is no question or scope of any favouritism, nepotism or quid-pro-quo.

    But that was not enough to stop the stock markets from reacting negatively to these developments. Shares of ICICI Bank Ltd plunged as much as 7 per cent today from its closing price last Wednesday, before the stock market shut down for the long weekend. This wiped out a whopping Rs 11,353 crore from its market valuation during the morning trade. This year, so far, the stock has slumped 15 per cent. Things could get a lot worse for India's second largest private lender by asset if it does not emerge unscathed from the ongoing CBI probe. Last heard, the Enforcement Directorate and the taxman have joined the act, too, and are in the process of gathering evidence.

    In any case, it seems the bank has been rattled by the recent developments and is now playing on the defensive. While announcing that its board will meet today "for review of cases which are before National Company Law Tribunal under Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, and other routine matters" in a BSE filing, ICICI Bank added that the "meeting being held today is a pre-scheduled board meeting".

    Labouring the point, the bank further stated, "It's important to note that the board has been meeting regularly in the first week of April in the previous years too, to review progress in resolution of large cases." It is doubtful whether this will help allay its investors' concerns at the moment.

Govt blames global prices for high petrol and diesel cost, wants to bring oil under GST
  • Under fire for rising cost of oil in the domestic market, which remained at a four-year high for petrol and an all time high for diesel in the national capital on Monday, the government blamed high international prices for the spike with minister for petroleum and natural gas Dharmendra Pradhan making a case for oil to be included under the Goods and Services Tax (GST).  

    Petrol and diesel prices rose for the 14th consecutive day on Monday to hit a high of Rs 73.83 and Rs 64.69 per litre respectively in Delhi. Since June 15 last year, when the government had introduced daily revision of prices, petrol prices 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 37 per cent during the period. India imports nearly 82 per cent of its crude oil requirement every year.

    "There is nothing hidden in fuel prices in the country. If international crude prices go up then India will also feel the pinch," said Pradhan in Delhi on Monday.  "We are sensitive regarding petrol and diesel price hike. We have advocated for bringing petroleum products under GST. We want GST Council to soon take a decision regarding this. I am hopeful that petroleum products will also come under GST soon."

    The all time high domestic prices at the retail level however do not truly reflect similar corresponding highs in international prices. Ever since petrol prices were de-regulated in June 2010, the crude price for the Indian basket hit an all time high $ 123.61 per barrel in March 2012. The domestic price of the fuel then was only Rs 65.64 per litre. Similarly, when domestic prices touched an all time high Rs 76.06 on September 14, 2013, crude oil price for the Indian basket was hovering at $ 109.47 per barrel, almost 72 per cent more than today. The invisible factor between the two is taxes. 

    In the past four years excise duties on the two fuels have been hiked a dozen times. As a result, the government today gets Rs 10 per litre excise duty more on petrol than what it did in 2014. For diesel, the government gets almost Rs 11 per litre more than four years ago. 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. 

    Similarly state governments have also increased VAT, whose collection has gone up by over 31 per cent or Rs 3.74 per litre on petrol and nearly 44 percent or Rs 3.4 per litre on diesel. At the same time, 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. 

ArcelorMittal, Vedanta, NuMetal-JSW bid for bankrupt Essar Steel in second round
  • A grouping led by world's biggest steelmaker ArcelorMittal, mining mogul Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta and a consortium of Russias VTB Capital-backed NuMetal and JSW put in bids to takeover bankrupt Essar Steel in the second round of bidding on Monday. In the first round, NuMetal and ArcelorMittal were the only two parties that bid to buyout Essar Steel but the insolvency resolution professional overseeing the auction was advised to reject both the bids owing to their promoters being linked to defaulter companies. Revised bids were due on Monday. Sources privy to the development said three groups bid for Essar Steel.

    NuMetal, majority-owned by Russias second largest bank VTB Group, shed Aurora Trust, which has links to Rewant Ruia, son of Essar Steel promoter Ravi Ruia, in the second round of bidding. While its promoters bought out Aurora Trust's 25 per cent stake, NuMetal aligned with JSW to make the revised bid on Monday. ArcelorMittal, which had been disqualified in the first round for being listed as a promoter of loan defaulter Uttam Galva Steel, bid along with Nippon Steel and Sumitomo Metal Corporation.

    The global steel giant got itself declassified as a promoter of Uttam Galva Steel. The company sold its entire holding in Uttam Galva Steel before the first round of bids in February but its name had continued as a promoter on stock exchanges, resulting in its disqualification. Sources said Vedanta was the surprise entrant on Monday. Vedanta has already won a bid to acquire bankrupt Electrosteel Steels Ltd in an insolvency auction. Confirming bidding for Essar Steel, Anil Agarwal said the company has made a compelling bid. "I have put a very lucrative bid. This is a great opportunity. When we want it, we must have it."

    Six firms had initially put in expressions of interest to acquire Essar Steel, whose Rs 51,800 crore of outstanding debt claims have been admitted under the bankruptcy process. These firms included Tata Steel, state-owned SAIL, ArcelorMittal, NuMetal, Vedanta and Singapore-based fund SSG. Only ArcelorMittal and NuMetal put in bids in the first round on February 12.

    Sources said JSW was interested in acquiring Essar Steel after Tata Steels acquisition of bankrupt Bhushan Steel for Rs 35,200 crore gave it a pole position. But bankruptcy rules did not permit anyone who had not put in an EoI to bid and so it aligned with NuMetal for bidding on Monday. Rules also bar defaulting promoters from bidding. "In pursuance to this strategy, JSW Steel Ltd in the capacity of an investor joined NuMetal & Steel Pvt Ltd in submitting a binding bid for Essar Steel Ltd, which is under the corporate insolvency resolution process as per the provisions of Insolvency Bankruptcy Code 2016," JSW Steel said in a statement.

    TyazhPromExports (TPE) of Russia and Indo International are the other shareholders of NuMetal. The Ahmedabad bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), which has been approached by NuMetal against the disqualification of first bid, on Monday ruled that second round of bids cannot be opened before April 4. Confirming bidding for Essar Steel, ArcelorMittal in a statement said its subsidiary ArcelorMittal India Pvt Ltd along with Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corporation (NSSMC) put a revised bid on Monday.

    NSSMC is Japan's leading steel company, with capacity to produce approximately 50 million tons of crude steel per year with a reputation for innovation and high-quality products. "ArcelorMittal and NSSMC have enjoyed a close collaboration for many decades cooperating high-quality downstream finishing facilities in the US including I/N Tek, I/N Kote and, since 2014, jointly acquired and turned around AM/NS Calvert which has state-of-the-art facilities in Alabama that had failed to reach its potential under its previous owner," the statement said.

    Lakshmi Mittal, the Chairman and CEO of ArcelorMittal, said: "The aim of the resolution process is to find a strong, new, capable owner for Essar Steel and maximise returns to creditors. We believe that ArcelorMittal, together with NSSMC, has the most relevant credentials and experience and is the most credible owner for Essar Steel given our decades of steel industry expertise, backed up by industry leading research and development and a wide range of innovative product capabilities."

    He said the consortium is eligible and has made "a strong and competitive offer". "At the heart of this offer is a compelling industrial plan that enhances and transforms the asset. (Essar Steels) Plant in Hazira is a big integrated steel-making facility that requires dedicated knowledge and technological expertise to de-bottleneck, grow, and enhance its product portfolio.

    "We plan to commit significant capital expenditure to grow the asset, inject our proprietorial patents and processes and bring new high-quality products for industries such as automotive and solar to India," he said. Kosei Shindo, President of NSSMC, said India is the most promising steel market in the world, and NSSMC has been seeking opportunities to establish a significant presence in India.

    "Essar Steel is a good asset with a lot of potential and I believe that NSSMC and ArcelorMittal could provide operational experience and access to the best of global technologies that will enable Essar Steel to reach its potential and greatly contribute to the turnaround of the Indian steel manufacturing sector," he said. Founded by Shashi and Ravi Ruia, Essar Steel was referred to the National Company Law Tribunal last year after accumulating nearly Rs 50,000 crore in debt.

Commerce ministry considers appointing Aamir Khan as India's brand ambassador to China to boost trade
  • That Aamir Khan is much loved in China is not news to anyone. Khan's movies tend to do exceptionally well in the Chinese box office and are superhit with the audience. To tap in on that potential, the commerce ministry has made a proposal to the external affairs ministry to appoint the superstar as India's brand ambassador to China to boost services exports and narrow the trade deficit.

    According to a report in Mint, a commerce ministry official who wishes to remain anonymous said, "Aamir Khan has won the hearts of millions of common Chinese citizens. He can create tremendous goodwill for India in China. He can be our brand ambassador to China and present our prowess in services sectors."

    He said that the proposal made to the MEA is under consideration.

    India has a USD 51 billion merchandise trade deficit and around USD 270 million services trade deficit with China. The Indian government has already termed this deficit 'unsustainable'. In the recent 11th joint economic group between India and China, the latter's trade minister Zhong Shan agreed to sketch a medium and long term blueprint to address this massive deficit.

    Khan, who could be instrumental in this move, is already a beloved figure in the country. His movies 3 Idiots, PK, Dangal and the recent Secret Superstar all performed exceptionally well in the often-unexplored Chinese market. Dangal went on to earn Rs 1,200 crore putting it on the list of one of the highest Indian grosser in history. Even Secret Superstar, where the actor has a cameo role earned an whopping Rs 800 crore. His movies also paved way for other Indian hits like Bajrangi Bhaijaan which is still running in Chinese theatres and has earned Rs 278 crore so far.

    If this trend continues, China could very well emerge as the next biggest market for Bollywood movies. Nevertheless, it must be mentioned that a substantial portion of the earnings from the Chinese market go to their local distributor. China also only allows a handful of foreign films in the country, which means that the quota for Indian movies to release in the country gets even smaller.

Can Fin Homes stock falls up to 8% after Canara Bank calls off divestment process
  • The Can Fin Homes stock fell up to 8% in early trade after its parent Canara Bank decided to call off the divestment process of its entire stake in the subsidiary. At 10:48 am, the stock was trading 6.22% or 30.15 points lower at 454.90 on BSE.

    The stock hit an intra-day low of 445.95 or 8 percent lower within minutes of opening on BSE. It opened at 465.80 level. The firm's market cap stood at Rs 6,070.50 crore on BSE.

    "Since the quote received is not in tune with the valuation, Canara Bank has decided to call off divestment process of its entire stake in Canfin Homes Ltd (CFHL), which was under process," Canara Bank said in a regulatory filing.

    In December 2017, Canara Bank informed stock exchanges that it will offload 4 per cent stake in Canfin Homes Ltd (CFHL). After the transaction, the bank's holding in CFHL would have reduced to 26 per cent.

    However, later it informed that it has not accepted bids from empanelled merchant bankers and it will divest its entire stake in the company.

    Can Fin Homes has a pan India network of 132 branches, 20 affordable Housing Loan Centres (AHLCs) and 20 satellite offices with customer base of over 1.2 lakh.

    The firm was incorporated in the year 1987 and is engaged in the business of providing finance for housing in the country.

    It offers a range of loan products, housing loans as well as non-housing loans to the customers.

General Awareness

Indian culture will cover the salient aspects of Art Forms, Literature and Architecture from ancient to modern times.
Konark Sun Temple

  • Context: An aesthetically designed interpretation centre with world-class facilities that showcases the unique architectural features of Kalingan era was recently inaugurated at Sun Temple, Konark. The Indian Oil Foundation has developed the interpretation centre and the tourist facilitation centre at a cost of Rs. 45 crore.

    Key facts for Prelims:

    Built in the 13th century, the Konark temple was conceived as a gigantic chariot of the Sun God, with 12 pairs of exquisitely ornamented wheels pulled by seven horses.
    It was built by King Narasimhadeva I, the great ruler of Ganga dynasty.
    The temple is included in UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 for its architectural greatness and also for the sophistication and abundance of sculptural work.
    The temple is perfect blend of Kalinga architecture, heritage, exotic beach and salient natural beauty.
    It is protected under the National Framework of India by the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (AMASR) Act (1958) and its Rules (1959).
    The Konark is the third link of Odisha’s Golden Triangle. The first link is Jagannath Puri and the second link is Bhubaneswar (Capital city of Odisha).
    This temple was also known as ‘BLACK PAGODA’ due to its dark color and used as a navigational landmark by ancient sailors to Odisha. Similarly, the Jagannath Temple in Puri was called the “White Pagoda”.
    It remains a major pilgrimage site for Hindus, who gather here every year for the Chandrabhaga Mela around the month of February.

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