Current Affairs Current Affairs - 18 April 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 18 April 2018

General Affairs 

State-Run HAL Wants To Compete For $15 Billion Air Force Order
  • Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd. is boosting production capacity to manufacture locally-developed light combat aircraft, even as it strikes a strategic tie-up with American major Boeing Co. to bid to make F/A-18 fighter jets in India.

    Although the public sector aircraft maker has fallen behind on deliveries of the first group of 40 'Tejas' planes ordered in 2013, it's awaiting a fresh order from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government to manufacture 83 extra aircraft.

    "The government believes the Tejas is required for the air force," Hindustan Aeronautics chairman and managing director T. Suvarna Raju said in an interview in Chennai on April 13.

    Since January 2015, HAL has delivered just eight Tejas aircraft to the Air Force. Still, Raju said the jets have passed all tests to prepare them for a two-front threat from China and Pakistan. "All the eight aircraft were flown three sorties each during the ongoing nationwide air warfare exercises," Raju said.

    The Modi government approved an 13.81 billion rupee ($210 million) plan on March 15, 2017 to ramp up production of the Tejas jets at HAL from the existing capacity for eight aircraft a year to 16 aircraft. At present, it's able to produce just six Tejas aircraft a year.

    On April 12, HAL signed up with Boeing and Mahindra Defence Systems Ltd. to jointly offer the F/A-18 to both the Indian Air Force and the Navy. American Lockheed Martin Corp. and Swedish Saab AB are also competing for the $15-billion Air Force tender for 110 jets. The Navy initiated its own 57-jet procurement process in January 2017.

    The additional 83 Tejas aircraft would fetch an order worth 500 billion rupees to add the company's 690 billion rupee order book. HAL is also awaiting orders from the Indian armed forces for 73 of its Dhruv helicopters, and 200 Kamov OAO helicopters, to be produced jointly with Russia

Sweden, India Work on Security Accord That May Open for Jet Deal
  • India and Sweden agreed to work on a deal to allow increased sharing of classified information, potentially opening up for Saab AB to secure an order for its Gripen fighter jets.

    An accord will be needed for cooperation on defense materials, Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven said at a press conference in Stockholm with his Indian counterpart, PM Narendra Modi, who was in town for a summit with Nordic leaders.

    "This agreement would be an important step forward as we are deepening our bilateral cooperation in the defense domain," Lofven said. The countries also agreed to set up a common task force on cyber security and form a partnership on innovation.

    The visit comes as Swedish weapon manufacturer Saab is vying for a contract in India to build 110 locally-manufactured aircraft.

    Swedish Enterprise Minister Mikael Damberg said agreeing to share secrets is common when these types of deals move forward. "When you enter into the final phase you need to learn more about company secrets and deeper information," he said in an interview.

    PM Modi met with Swedish business leaders on Tuesday, who are eager to gain a bigger share of one of the world's biggest and emerging markets.

    Hakan Buskhe, Saab's chief executive officer, was one of the executives in attendance. While there's no time to drive deal making in these settings, a top-level meeting of this kind indicates a willingness to move forward together, he said in an interview.

    Saab is targeting the Indian market for a broad spectrum of business, including Gripen, he said. "What's spectacular are the possibilities out there," he said.

In Mahabharata, Tripura Chief Minister Finds Proof Of Internet, Satellite Communication
  • The theory of ancient Indian television got a huge upgrade today as a BJP Chief Minister claimed that internet and satellite communication existed in the days of Mahabharata.  "The Europeans and the Americans may claim that it is theirs, but it is actually our technology," said Biplab Deb,  the Chief Minister of Tripura, where BJP captured power from the CPM in the assembly elections held earlier this year.

    The description in Mahabharata of the blind king Dhritarashtra getting updates about the battle of Kurukshetra from Sanjay, both sitting in the palace, proves particularly piquant for right-wing thinkers looking for scientific achievements in ancient India. While the epic explained that Sanjay was granted special powers by the sage Vyas, many remain convinced that it proved television existed in ancient India.

    Today Mr Deb, while speaking at an event in state capital Agartala on computerisation of the Public Distribution System, took it up a notch. "How can he see through Sanjay's eyes? There was technology available at that time... internet was there, satellite communication was there," Mr Deb said.

    Mr Deb has been trained by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, the BJP's ideological mentor. The 47-year-old got the state's top job when the BJP stormed to power in the state with a promise for development after three terms of Left rule.  

    While the scientific community is yet to comment on the Chief Minister's comment, this is not the first time BJP's ministers have been caught on the wrong foot.

    In February, junior education minister of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet -- Satyapal Singh - courted controversy, saying certain 'mantras' codified the laws of motion much before they were discovered by Isaac Newton.

    Last year, the minister said the first flying machine was invented by Indian scholar Shivkar Bapuji Talpade and not the Wright Brothers. This, he said, should be taught in the Indian Institutes of Technology and other engineering institutes.

    Y Sudershan Rao, the chairman of India's leading historical organisation, has maintained that Ramayana and Mahabharata indicated that Indians were flying aeroplanes, carrying out stem cell research and using cosmic weapons 5,000 years ago. Horrified by such views, many academics have described his appointment as a blow for the 40-yera-old history organisation.

    In October 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's comments that Lord Ganesha was the product of plastic surgery, prompted the Indian History Congress, to pass a stern resolution to "resist interested distortions of our past." The next January, PM Modi had said the account of Karna's birth in Mahabharata indicated that "people were aware of genetic science".

PM Modi Calls On Sweden King, Discusses Bilateral Cooperation
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today called on Swedish King Carl XVI Gustaf and exchanged views on strengthening bilateral cooperation across several sectors.

    PM Modi arrived in Stockholm yesterday, the first bilateral visit by an Indian premier to the Nordic nation in 30 years.

    Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven received PM Modi at the airport. PM Modi and King Lofven also travelled together in the same vehicle from the airport to the hotel.

    He will also hold bilateral meetings with his Swedish counterpart Stefan Lofven and leaders of four other Nordic nations.

    "10 engagements in 10 hours- a hectic day begins for PM @narendramodi in Stockholm! Call on King of Sweden, bilateral meeting with @SwedishPM & 4 Nordic countries' leaders, roundtable meeting with Swedish CEOs, call by Leader of Opposition, India-Nordic Summit and Community event," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar tweeted.

    "Royal start to the day! PM @narendramodi called on His Majesty the King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden. Leaders exchanged views on strengthening bilateral cooperation across several sectors," Mr Kumar said.

    PM Modi is on the first leg of his five-day foreign tour which will also take him to the UK where he will attend the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM).

    Earlier, ahead of his visit, PM Modi said in New Delhi he was looking forward to deepening bilateral engagement with both countries in a number of areas including trade, investment and clean energy.

    PM Modi had said he and king Lofven would interact with top business leaders of both countries and chart out a future roadmap of cooperation in sectors such as trade and investment, science and technology, clean energy and smart cities.

    India and Sweden will also jointly organise the India-Nordic Summit in Stockholm tomorrow. The summit will also be attended by the prime ministers of Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

    From Sweden, Modi will tonight travel to the UK where he will also attend the CHOGM, besides holding bilateral talks with his British counterpart Theresa May.

Expect Government To Appoint Lokpal At The Earliest, Says Supreme Court
  • The government today received another sharp reminder from the Supreme Court on the appointment of a Lokpal or corruption watchdog. "We expect the appointment of Lokpal will be made at the earliest possible," said the court, scheduling the next hearing on May 15.

    The court is acting on a contempt petition by senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, which alleges a delay in the appointment of the Lokpal.

    The government told the court that the process of appointing an eminent jurist was on and would take time.

    "Since the process of appointment of Lokpal is at an advanced stage we will hear the case after four weeks," said the judges.

    In April last year, the court had told the government that the anti-corruption body should be set up without delay and the lack of a Leader of Opposition should not hold up the process. The ruling meant that the government can select a Lokpal without taking the Congress, the main opposition group, on board.

    anna hazare
    The law to set up a Lokpal was passed in 2013 after a nationwide campaign by activist Anna Hazare and others

    The law to set up a Lokpal was passed in parliament in 2013 -- after a nationwide campaign by activist Anna Hazare that included Arvind Kejriwal and Prashant Bhushan -- and was enacted a year later.

    The government had told the court that the Lokpal could not be appointed as there was no Leader of Opposition in the selection panel and a change in law that would allow the Congress -- as largest opposition group -- to be a member has yet to be approved in parliament.

    The Congress has so far boycotted the meetings of the selection board with its leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge, saying he has been called as a "special invitee" with the singular intention of excluding the opposition from the selection process.

Business Affairs

India to re-emerge as one of fastest growing economies in 2018-19, says IMF
  • India is expected to grow at 7.4 per cent in 2018 and 7.8 per cent in 2019, leaving its nearest rival China behind respectively at 6.6 and 6.4 per cent in the two years, the IMF said on Tuesday. With growth picking up after falling sharply in the second quarter of 2017 due to "one-off factors", India in 2018 and 2019 would re-emerge as one of the fastest growing major economies, it said.

    The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the latest World Economic Outlook (WEO) has projected India to grow at 7.4 per cent in 2018 and 7.8 per cent in 2019. China is expected to grow respectively at 6.6 and 6.4 per cent in the two years. However, the latest IMF growth rate projection remains unchanged since the last one in October. India's growth rate in 2016 was 7.1 per cent as against China's 6.7 per cent. Two major economic reforms demonetisation and goods and services tax (GST) resulted in a slight lower growth rate of 6.7 per cent in 2017.

    China with 6.9 per cent growth jumped marginally ahead of India in 2017. India's projected growth provides some offset to China's gradual slowdown, the IMF said. The latest forecast is unchanged, "with the short-term firming of growth driven by a recovery from the transitory effects of the currency exchange initiative and implementation of the Goods and Services Tax, and supported by strong private consumption growth," the WEO said.

    According to the IMF, India has made progress on structural reforms in the recent past, including through the implementation of the GST, which will help reduce internal barriers to trade, increase efficiency, and improve tax compliance. "While the medium-term growth outlook for India is strong, an important challenge is to enhance inclusiveness," the report said. India's high public debt and recent failure to achieve the budget's deficit target call for continued fiscal consolidation into the medium term to further strengthen fiscal policy credibility, the report said.

    The main priorities for lifting constraints on job creation and ensuring that the demographic dividend is not wasted are to ease labour market rigidities, reduce infrastructure bottlenecks, and improve educational outcomes, the IMF said.

    According to the WEO, growth in China and India last year was supported by resurgent net exports and strong private consumption, respectively, while investment growth slowed. Referring to the projected growth rate for India in 2018 and 2019, which is higher than that of the previous year of 2017, the IMF explained this is due to the strong private consumption as well as fading transitory effects of the currency exchange initiative and implementation of the GST.

    "Over the medium term, growth is expected to gradually rise with continued implementation of structural reforms that raise productivity and incentivise private investment," the WEO said.

    "The growth rate in China is projected to soften down during this period," it said, adding that over the medium term, its economy is projected to continue re-balancing away from investment toward private consumption and from industry to services, but nonfinancial debt is expected to continue rising as a share of GDP, and the accumulation of vulnerabilities clouds the medium-term outlook.

    Corporate debt overhang exerts drag on investment in India, says IMF

    The corporate debt overhang and associated banking sector credit quality concerns exert a drag on investment in India, the IMF on Tuesday said in an apparent reference to the PNB scam involving billionaire diamantaire Nirav Modi. Balance sheet vulnerabilities pose a downside risk to medium-term growth prospects in many emerging market economies, requiring policy action, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said in its latest annual World Economic Outlook report.

    "The corporate debt overhang and associated banking sector credit quality concerns exert a drag on investment in India," it said. The global financial lender was apparently referring to the massive Rs 13,700-crore fraud at the Punjab National Bank in which Modi is the main accused. According to the report, the recapitalisation plan for major public-sector banks announced in 2017 will help replenish capital buffers and improve the banking sector's ability to support growth. "However, recapitalisation should be part of a broader package of financial reforms to improve the governance of public sector banks, and banks' debt recovery mechanisms should be further enhanced," the IMF said.

Kotak Mahindra Bank replaces SBI to become India's second most valuable bank
  • The share price of Kotak Mahindra Bank Ltd (KMB) has gone up 12 per cent in the past month and a whopping 229 per cent in five years. In fact, yesterday, it managed to steal State Bank of India's spot after its stock reportedly climbed 2.22 per cent, hitting a record high of Rs 1,174 before closing at Rs 1,170.05. It is now the country's second most valued bank, currently trading at Rs 1,176 apiece. HDFC Bank continues to retain the top slot with a market cap of Rs 5.03 lakh crore.

    As per BSE data, KMB's market cap stands at Rs 2.24 lakh crore, compared to SBI's Rs 2.23 lakh crore. The latter is currently trading at Rs 250.35 apiece. The stock has slipped 2 per cent in the past month and a significant 18 per cent over the past three months as it battled a spate of bad news. And that worked out nicely in KMB's favour.

    "KMB has undoubtedly proven its competitive edge over its private sector peers with higher fee income generation capability, asset quality management as well as effectively managing financial business subsidiaries. Resultantly, the stock has traded at a premium to its peers despite having lower return ratios," said a Reliance Securities report in January.

    The bank's healthy Q3 performance has spurred the stock on. "At the standalone bank, this quarter recorded a profit of Rs. 1,053 crore, 20 per cent rise over the same period last year. Net interest margin at the bank at 4.2 per cent and the net NPAs [non-performing assets] have dropped to 1.09 per cent this time around compared to 1.26% a quarter ago," said Jaimin Bhatt, President and Group CFO, at KMB's Q3 FY18 Earnings Conference Call. He had added that "the SMA-2 numbers continue to be low. We are at 0.19 per cent of our advances and restructured standard at 0.04 per cent of our advances".

    For the uninitiated, SMA-2 stands for the highest-risk Special Mention Accounts, where the principal or interest payment is overdue by 61-90 days. Beyond this the account slips into NPA category.

    According to the Mint, of the 37 brokers tracking the KMB stock on Bloomberg, as many as 26 recommended a "buy" rating, four asked its investors to "sell" the stock and 7 have a "hold" rating. The negative sentiment likely stemmed from KMB's merger with the erstwhile ING Vysya Bank (IVB). "We expect some negative surprises on asset quality and profitability in next few quarters' post completion of merger of IVB" said the Reliance Securities note. All eyes are now on the bank's Q4FY18 results, expected at the end of this month.

    SBI, on the other hand, not only reported its first quarterly loss in 17 years in February for Q3FY18 - pegged at Rs 2,416 crore - but also admitted that the RBI's audit of its books for 2016-17 had led to the addition of Rs 23,239 crore in its bad loans. With this India's "most trusted and most popular bank", according to a survey by Brand Finance last year, joined the ranks of private banks like Yes Bank and Axis Bank reporting NPA divergence.

    To remind you, Indian banks have to disclose such discrepancies should the difference between its reported numbers and the apex bank's risk assessment report findings exceed 15 per cent. The bank fraud at Punjab National Bank, allegedly perpetuated by diamantaire-turned-fugitive Nirav Modi, made matters worse. According to the daily, after the scam broke, SBI's share price declined nearly 10 per cent while Nifty PSU Bank index dived 18.4 per cent.

    "SBI earning for December quarter underscores the challenges in asset quality albeit moderation in the pace of NPL accrual. The group would benefit from the NPL resolution underway through insolvency proceedings. However, the overhang from stressed assets not recognised as impaired, headwinds to margin outlook in the near term, and moderation in growth imply protracted time for the group to deliver normalised level of earnings and profitability," the daily cited brokerage firm IIFL Institutional Equities.

    As per Bloomberg data, of the analysts covering SBI stock, 42 have a "buy" rating, six have a "hold" rating, while two have a "sell" rating.

Cash shortage likely to get worse in Delhi-NCR, Mumbai as ATMs run dry
  • As the problem of sudden cash crunch hits several states of the country, India's two major regions, the Delhi-NCR and Mumbai, can severely get affected in the coming days if the situation persists. According to sources in one of the largest private banks in the country, in the past one week the Delhi-NCR region received around 20 per cent of the cash supply it used to get on a daily basis. In the country's business capital, Mumbai, banks received in a week what they need on a daily basis. If immediate measures are not taken to pump in more money, the ATMs in these regions could run dry very soon.
     The government has announced it plans to increase printing of notes by Rs 2,500 crore a day to tide over the crisis.
     In the NCR, the last time a few large banks received cash from RBI was nearly 6 days ago, causing many ATMs to remain shut. 
     Another possible reason for cash shortage is believed to be the RBI order on movement of cash from cash-surplus circles to those short of currency. "A month back, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) stopped banks from moving excess cash from one circle to the deficient circles. Hence, many circles have the excess cash supply while the others have nothing," said the source.
    Acording to reports, banks are only providing more of Rs 200 and Rs 100 currency notes; only Rs 500 notes are also being curtailed. The All India Bank Officers' Confederation has also claimed there's been around 30-40 per cent cash crunch in the country, which has emerged due to the RBI's constant pressure towards 'digital economy'.
     "We are facing a cash crunch. We are facing difficulty, don't know what to do," claimed a resident in the national capital, reported ANI. 
     At a given time, around 8 per cent of the country's ATMs are out of cash. Sources said at the country's biggest public sector bank SBI - that comprises 25 per cent of India's ATMs - about 16 per cent of the ATMs are running dry. In some pockets, the number has even reached 30 per cent. Experts suggest the scenario could also be similar in other larger banks as well.
    The government on Tuesday blamed the 'unusual spurt in currency demand' in past three months for the cash shortage. A Ministry of Finance circular clarified the claim saying the currency supply increased by Rs 13,000 crore in the first 13 days of April.

V Kamakoti committee on Artificial Intelligence only skims the surface
  • The report of the 'Task Force on Artificial Intelligence for India's Economic Transformation', constituted by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and headed by  V Kamakoti of IIT Madras is finally out (dipp.nic.in/whats-new/report-task-force-artificial-intelligence). It is a set of preliminary recommendations, and not as detailed as perhaps the subject demanded or even some of the other task force committee reports on other subjects. It focuses specifically on three policy questions: 1) What are the areas the government should play a role? 2) How can AI improve quality of life and solve problems for Indian citizens? and 3) What are the sectors that can generate employment and growth by the use of AI technology? It could perhaps have tackled a couple of other exceedingly important questions. For example, what are the policies needed to turn India into an AI research powerhouse, and not merely an user of AI solutions? Or for that matter, how does one guard against the dark side of AI, a topic which is being debated by many of the world's technology titans as well as researchers. Perhaps those questions were not part of the brief given by the ministry to the committee. But the committee members - who are all eminent people from different fields - could have expanded their brief as well.

    Despite that, there is a lot to praise about the report. It clearly identifies 10 important domains - Manufacturing, Fintech, Healthcare, Agriculture/Food Processing, Education, Retail/Customer Engagement, Aid for the Differently Abled/Accessibility Technology, Environment, National Security and Public Utility Services. It also highlights some of the work being done by AI focused tech companies and start ups which are working in these areas.

    The good part of the task force report is that it goes on to make some very concrete recommendations on each of these areas, which the government can follow up. Apart from specific pointers on each of these 10 domains, the report also makes some other suggestions. It calls for the setting up of an Inter-Ministerial National Artificial Intelligence Mission funded to the tune of Rs 1200 crores over 5 years. (The report's recommendations are all for a 5 year period). The main task of the mission should be setting up Centres of Excellence, setting up a generic AI testbed for developers to use as a validation platform, creation of interdisciplinary large data centre etc. The report also seeks setting up of Digital Data Centers, Market Places etc, for creating standards for development and deployment of AI solutions. Other suggestions include tax and other incentives for boosting use of AI; AI based curriculum for education and skilling; and leveraging international relationships and participation in AI based international standard setting discussions.

    The main problem with the survey is that it gives a glimpse of what the government should be doing - it just does not delve deep enough into the subject. In areas like national security, ethics in AI, and even in creating centres of excellence, it seems to skim the surface.

    The problem is that AI is a multi dimensional issue. One set is about how to use AI to improve services and get an edge. The other is on AI research and standard setting, which is what will differentiate one country from another. The second part cannot be segregated from the first one simply because the country which will become an AI research powerhouse will also set the standards, and also use the best of AI in creating solutions for its citizens and its industry. Currently, the US and China are locked in a battle to be the leaders in AI, and other countries are trying as well. India has been slow to react, being content more to be an user of AI solutions rather than creating AI solutions on its own. The task force had a golden chance to rectify that by recommending how we could join the race. Perhaps it was not its brief to answer that question - but there was no reason why it could not have expanded its brief.

Sensex closes 89 points higher, Nifty at 10,548 on normal monsoon expectations
  • The Sensex and Nifty marked their longest winning streak in over three years closing higher for the ninth straight session as consumer-based stocks rose on a normal monsoon forecast by India Meteorological Department (IMD).

    While the Sensex rose 89 points to 34,395, Nifty closed 20 points higher to 10,548 level.

    India Meteorological Department (IMD) said on Monday monsoon rains are likely to be 97 per cent of their long-term average in 2018, reassuring farmers ahead of summer planting in a country where only half of the farmland is irrigated.

    The BSE index which opened nearly 100 points higher marked its longest winning run since early September 2014 after close.

    Diversified consumer goods manufacturer Hindustan Unilever (HUL) hit its 52 week high level of Rs 1,450 on expectations of a normal monsoon. The stock closed 1.83% higher at 1,445 level.

    Mahindra and Mahindra, which is among the world's largest tractor maker, rose to its 52 week high of 819 level on BSE.  The stock closed 1.05% higher at Rs 809 on BSE. Normal monsoon will bring cheers to the farmers with water available in abundance for their crops. This in turn would spur sales of farm equipment and agricultural products.

    Mahindra and Mahindra is also engaged in the business of manufacturing and selling farm equipments, agricultural machinery, equipment and other agriculture products.

    Abhijeet Dey, senior fund manager-equities at BNP Paribas Mutual Fund said, "Markets traded on a volatile note as lacklustre industrial production numbers dampened sentiment. Industrial production grew just 6% in March, compared with 7.2% in the first two months of the year, and 6.8% overall for the quarter. Both the benchmark Sensex and the Nifty finally closed the day with marginal gains. Sectoral performance on the National Stock Exchange (NSE) was mixed. While the PSU banking, media, IT and auto indices traded with losses, the FMCG index registered sharp gains."

    On the Sensex, top gainers were PowerGrid (2.94%), NTPC (1.99%) and Hindustan Unilever (1.83%)  were the top Sensex gainers.

    Consumer goods stocks led the charge on Dalal Street with the BSE consumer durables index rising 1.05% to 23,038 on expectations of a normal monsoon. The Nifty FMCG index too gained 1% to 27,536 level.

    The BSE FMCG index too rose 1.05% to 10,846.
    Jewellery stocks closed higher a day ahead of Akshaya Tritiya, the most auspicious day according to the Hindu calendar.

    Demand for gold jewellery rises on this day in the market.

    Jewellery stock Titan Industries hit a fresh 52-week high of 999.95 level on BSE and closed at  998 level, rising 1.55%. PC Jeweller too closed 1.53% higher at 305 level.

    Sameet Chavan, chief analyst, Technical and Derivatives at Angel Broking said, "It was a day of consolidation for our market as we saw a flat opening followed by some correction and then a gradual recovery throughout the second half to reclaim the 10550 mark. If we look at the index, it's clearly not going anywhere. The real action was seen in individual stocks, which kept lot of traders engaged during the course of action.

    As far as index view is concerned, we would continue with our recent stance and expect the Nifty to gradually march towards its sturdy wall of 10580 - 10640. We reiterate that it would be an opportunity for short term traders to liquidate longs and remain light on positions. One should expect some consolidation for next couple of days before market giving any kind of directional move. Hence, intraday traders are advised to keep focusing on individual stocks and should rather adopt a proper exit strategy. For the coming session, the support now would be seen at 10500 - 10450 levels."

    Meanwhile, the Indian rupee fell to its seven-month low on concerns over widening of trade deficit amid heightened geopolitical worries. Foreign institutional investors (FIIs) pulled out over Rs 308 crore and domestic institutional investors selling stocks worth Rs 28.97 crore in the Indian market on Monday also weakened sentiment.

    The rupee closed at 65.6425 level, down 15 paise over its previous close.

    Global markets

    Global shares were mixed Tuesday, with steady China economic growth data supporting sentiment despite simmering trade tensions between China and the US. France's CAC 40 inched up 0.1 percent to 5,319.17 in early trading, while Germany's DAX added 0.3 percent to 12,430.06. Britain's FTSE 100 was down nearly 0.1 percent  at 7,191.33. U.S. shares were set to drift higher with the Dow future gaining 0.4 percent to 24,663. The S&P 500 future climbed 0.3 percent to 2,690.20.

    Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 edged 0.1 percent higher to 21,847.59. Australia's S&P/ASX 200 was unchanged at 5,841.50. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.2 percent to 2,453.77. Hong Kong's Hang Seng shed 0.9 percent to 30,059.32, while the Shanghai Composite dropped 1.4 percent to 3,066.80. Shares fell in Taiwan and Indonesia, but rose in Singapore.

    Benchmark US crude added 20 cents to $66.42 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It declined $1.17 to settle at $66.22 per barrel on Monday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, rose 13 cents to $71.55 per barrel.

General Awareness

Statutory, regulatory and various quasi-judicial bodies.
Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB)

  • Context: India’s downstream oil and gas regulator Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) is set to take up the role of the market regulator for the natural gas sector, when the planned natural gas trading hub comes into being, much on the lines of the capital markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).

    Need for a natural gas trading platform:

    The plan to establishing a natural gas trading platform is part of a larger effort by the government to build a vibrant and transparent gas market in India. The idea is to create an ecosystem where the competing buyers would be able to buy gas from competing sellers and transport the same from gas source to the place of their requirement by getting a non-discriminatory access to the pipeline capacity. This end-to-end solution would reduce customer risk and enhance customer confidence on gas as an alternate fuel and feed.

    What needs to be done?

    The Government has envisaged ushering into a gas-based economy by increasing the share of natural gas in the primary energy mix of the country from current level of about 6% to 15% by 2030.

    The thrust now should be on increasing the availability of natural gas by enhancing the domestic production, encouraging the import of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), completion of national pipeline grid and speedier roll out of City Gas Distribution network in the country.

    PNGRB:

    The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) was constituted under The Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006.
    The Act provide for the establishment of Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board to protect the interests of consumers and entities engaged in specified activities relating to petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas and to promote competitive markets and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
    The board has also been mandated to regulate the refining, processing, storage, transportation, distribution, marketing and sale of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas excluding production of crude oil and natural gas so as and to ensure uninterrupted and adequate supply of petroleum, petroleum products and natural gas in all parts of the country.

    Facts for Prelims:

    The world’s biggest natural gas hub is the Henry Hub in the US state of Louisiana. Gas delivered at this point is the basis of most US natural gas futures.

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