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Current Affairs - 26 April 2018

General Affairs 

Scope for India, Sweden Cooperation In Green Technology: Swedish Prime Minister's Adviser
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi's recent visit to Sweden will lead to greater cooperation between the two countries in green technology, says Nila Vikhe Patil, the political adviser in the Swedish PMO.

    PM Modi's talks with Swedish Prime Minister Kjell Stefan Lofven were fruitful, she said.

    The Indian prime minister visited Sweden last week with the purpose of striking up a collaboration on innovation and green technology - a mutually beneficial partnership to enhance opportunities and development for both the countries, Vikhe Patil said.

    "I see a great potential for this collaboration. India has excellent world class engineers and unmatched out-of-the- box thinking on innovative solutions to problems," she told PTI.

    Sweden has a capital intensive labour market, it is at the forefront of green technology and feminist policies, and has a transparent tax and regulatory framework for startups, she said.

    "I hope that this visit by PM Modi will be a great starting point for India and Sweden for a bright future with green technology and a new wave of technology disruption," said Nila Vikhe Patil, the daughter of leading educationist in Maharashtra, Ashok Vikhe Patil.

    "I also feel that religious and political unrest (in India) should be addressed. Without equal gender rights, we will go nowhere," she said.

    Sweden is one of the most feminist countries in the world, said Ms Nila Vikhe Patil, the granddaughter of late Union minister Balasaheb Vikhe Patil.

    She was born in Sweden and spent early years at Ahmednagar in Maharashtra.

    Sweden has been on a charm offensive towards India recently, supporting PM Modi's 'Make in India' manufacturing summit with Lofven leading a delegation of the Swedish industry leaders to the launch event in 2016.

    India is also an increasingly important market for Sweden, with more than 160 Swedish companies now established in the country.

"Devendra Fadnavis Government Good For Nothing": Uddhav Thackeray
  • Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray today lashed out at the Maharashtra government led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, saying it was "good for nothing", and demanded a separate home minister for the state.

    At present, Mr Fadnavis holds the Home portfolio. Mr Thackeray's comments came after a local Sena leader, Sachin Sawant, was shot dead on April 22.

    Prior to it, two Shiv Sena leaders were shot dead earlier this month in Ahmednagar district after the result of a civic bypoll there was announced.

    "The Fadnavis government is good for nothing. The situation here is worse than that in Bihar. It is now time the government appoints a separate Home minister for the state," Mr Thackeray said.

India, Mongolia To Enhance Bilateral Trade, Energy Cooperation
  • India and Mongolia today discussed economic cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development, energy, services and IT and agreed to explore possibility of launching direct air connectivity between New Delhi and the Mongolian capital.

    External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during a joint media briefing with Mongolian Foreign Minister D Tsogtbaatar after the 6th Session of the Indian-Mongolia Joint Committee on Cooperation in Ulaanbaatar said the two countries agreed to explore ways to identify new areas of cooperation in all sectors of mutual interest and to enhance bilateral trade and investments.

    Ms Swaraj, the first Indian foreign minister to visit the resource-rich country in 42 years, said India sees Mongolia as a factor of stability in East Asia and believes that Mongolia's social and economic development is important for peace and prosperity in the region.

    During the Indian-Mongolia Joint Committee on Cooperation, the two sides discussed pressing global challenges, particularly the scourge of terrorism and agreed to collaborate bilaterally and in international arena to thwart the designs of those who extend support to terrorist outfits.

    The two sides also reviewed the progress in the ongoing collaborative projects, including the refinery project selected by the Government of Mongolia for implementation with the support of $one billion Indian Line of Credit.

    "We directed our officials to coordinate follow up action on each side for the expeditious implementation of these projects. Our strong political ties must be complemented by commensurate levels of trade, economy and investment," she said.

    "Today, India has emerged as one of the fastest growing large economies in the world. With its rich natural resources and strong aspiration for development, Mongolia can be an important partner in India's growth story," she said.

    Ms Swaraj, who arrived in Ulaanbaatar yesterday on a two-day visit, said collaboration for the ongoing refinery project is in recognition of this fact.

    She said Mongolia is not only India's strategic partner but also a spiritual neighbour.

    "We share long historical links. Mongolia is well known in India for the valour of her kings and her strong Buddhist heritage. India was among the first countries, outside the erstwhile Communist bloc, to establish diplomatic relations with Mongolia," she said.

    Ms Swaraj also called on Prime Minister of Mongolia U Khurelsukh and discussed cooperation in developmental cooperation, mining, capacity building, IT, films and other areas of bilateral cooperation.

    During the joint media briefing with Mongolian Foreign Minister, Ms Swaraj said in the six decades of the partnership between the two countries, the bilateral relations have grown from "strength to strength".

    "This is reflected in our widening and deepening strategic partnership today, based on the common ideals of democracy and freedom, and enriched by mutual respect and trust."

    She said Prime Minister Narendra Modi's "historic visit" in 2015, the first ever by an Indian Prime Minister to Mongolia, provided a fresh impetus to the bilateral relations and qualitatively raised the level of the engagement.

    "We also agreed that we should make all efforts to maintain and accelerate the momentum of our interaction in all areas."

    She said that in tandem with the countries' ever growing engagement, India and Mongolai will have more frequent visits now on at foreign minister's level.

    Calling upon the Mongolian business community to "seize economic opportunities arising out of "India's growth", she said the two countries have agreed to remove institutional and logistical impediments to boost trade, tourism and people to people contacts.

    "In this regard, we also agreed to explore possibility of launching direct air connectivity between our two capitals," she said.

    In the meeting, they discussed economic cooperation in areas such as infrastructure development, energy, services and IT.

    She said that India is committed for capacity building programmes for the people of Mongolia, including in areas such as, training in English language and IT.

    She said India looks forward to more students from Mongolia visiting the country for pursuing vocational education and training under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation programme, also known as ITEC, and through scholarships offered by the Indian Council of Cultural Relations.

    "We would encourage students from Mongolia to pursue studies in Indian art, music and culture which would further reinforce our cultural links," she said.

    In view of the two countries' common Buddhist heritage, she said, India also encourage students from Mongolia to visit the country for further study and research in the field of Buddhist studies.

    Ms Swaraj later called on M Enkhbold, Speaker of the Mongolian State Great Khural (Parliament) and discussed cooperation between the Parliaments of the two countries, which she said is an "important pillar of bilateral relationship."

    She also met Mongolian Minister and Chief of Cabinet Secretariat Gombojav Zandanshatar and discussed measures to expand cooperation across several sectors.

    Ms Swaraj will participate in a special event to commemorate the birth centenary of the Venerable 19th Kushok Bakula Rinpoche, who was not only an eminent Buddhist leader, but also the longest serving Ambassador of India to Mongolia. 

No Untoward Incident So Far After Asaram Conviction: Home Ministry
  • No untoward incident has been reported so far from anywhere in the country in the wake of the conviction of self-styled godman Asaram Bapu by a Jodhpur court today, the home ministry said.

    The ministry is also keeping itself abreast of the prevailing situation, particularly in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana, said a home ministry spokesperson.

    "No significant law and order incident has been reported from anywhere so far in wake of the conviction of Asaram Bapu," he said, adding that the developments are being closely monitored by respective state governments.

    The godman was convicted by a Jodhpur court today for rape of a teenager about five years ago at one of his ashrams.

    The central government had asked Rajasthan, Gujarat and Haryana governments yesterday to beef up security in their states and ensure that no violence takes place after the verdict.

    The three states were also told to deploy additional forces at sensitive places, the official said.

As Water Shortages Grow, 'Day Zero' Becomes Every Day In India
  • Parched Cape Town, in South Africa, has managed to push back its "Day Zero" - an estimate of when taps in the city could run dry - to 2019 after successful water-saving efforts.

    But in India, "Day Zero" has come and gone for residents in many parts of the country, where taps failed long ago and people have turned instead to digging wells or buying water.

    An expanding population, growing demand for water from agriculture and industry, and poor management of water supplies have sent India's groundwater to ever lower levels.

    That reality, combined with rising temperatures, threatens worsening scarcity, experts say.

    Nearly 163 million people among India's population of 1.3 billion - or more than one in 10 - lack access to clean water close to their home, according to a 2018 WaterAid report.

    That is the most of any country in the world, according to the UK-based charity, which aims to provide clean water and better hygiene to people without them.

    Disputes with neighbours over the sharing of water from rivers that cross national boundaries also means tensions are rising as water shortages grow, said Michael Kugelman, a deputy director and South Asia expert at the Wilson Center, a policy think tank in Washington D.C.

    "Countries that get along the least are forced to share and cooperate over water resources, and many major rivers originate in, or pass through, politically contested and tense areas," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

    "So you have population growth, intensifying climate-change impacts, poor water management and geopolitical tensions. It's a perfect storm for greater water insecurity," he said.

    India is entangled in water disputes with its eastern and western neighbours - Bangladesh and Pakistan.

    To the north and northeast, however, India fears a loss of water to upstream China, which plans a series of dams over the Tsangpo river, called the Brahmaputra as it flows into eastern India.

    Water losses

    While India's trans-boundary rivers are governed by treaties on how water should be shared, disputes are increasing as water shortages stoke tensions.

    Apart from in Bhutan and Nepal, South Asia's per capita water availability is already below the world average. The region could face widespread water scarcity - less than 1,000 cubic metres available per person - by 2025, Kugelman said.

    Almost 600 million people in India are at high risk of being unable to continue relying on surface water - including in the country's northwest and south, where much of the country's staple wheat and rice are grown, according to the World Resources Institute.

    Water supply in India may fall 50 percent below demand by 2030, the Asian Development Bank has forecast.

    "Large parts of India have already been living with 'Day Zero' for a while now," said Mridula Ramesh, author of an upcoming book on climate change.

    "Much of it is because of bad management. Most cities lose between a third and a fifth of their water from pilferage or leakage through antiquated pipes, and we don't treat and reuse wastewater enough," she said.

    Bengaluru, Karachi and Kabul are among the 10 cities in the world that are "on the verge of an imminent water crisis", according to a report last month by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a research and advocacy group based in New Delhi.

    Bengaluru, once known as the "city of lakes", now relies heavily on groundwater, which is not being naturally replenished and cannot sustain the growing population, said Sushmita Sengupta at CSE.

    "'Day Zeros' are inevitable unless cities push for judicious use of water - including rainwater harvesting and reuse of waste water, as well as more efficient irrigation, and regulation of tubewells," she said.

    Migration?

    India is one of the largest consumers of groundwater in the world, with worsening shortages attributed in part to subsidies that help farmers run electric irrigation pumps cheaply for longer than needed, and to a lack of limits on extracting water or digging wells.

    Some states are taking steps to manage water better. Karnataka and Maharashtra require industries to use treated urban wastewater, with Gujarat and other states also planning similar measures.

    But regulating water use is a politically sensitive issue - one few policymakers are keen to address, Kugelman said. That's the case even as thousands of farmers migratw out of parched rural areas or commit suicide as their crops wilt, he said. .

    Water scarcity is expected to force 50 to 70 million people in India, Bangladesh, Nepal and China from their homes by 2050, according to research by the Strategic Foresight Group in Mumbai.

    "With greater migration to the cities, there will be increased social disruptions and greater stress on water resources in urban areas," Kugelman predicted.

    "These will, in turn, increase tensions between states and countries over water. Even treaties can't help then."

Business Affairs

Microsoft is India's most attractive employer, followed by Amazon: Randstad survey
  • Technology giant Microsoft India has been declared the most attractive employer brand, followed by e-commerce giant Amazon India. The winners were named by HR service provider Randstad's Employer Brand Research (REBR) 2018. Other names in the list include Hindustan Unilever, IBM India, ITC Group, Larsen & Toubro, Mercedes-Benz India, Samsung India, Sony India and Tata Consultancy Services. Sector wise, Tata Consultancy Services is most favoured in IT, while Larsen & Toubro tops Infrastructure & Construction and Hindustan Unilever emerges the winner in FMCG.

    "Employer Branding has never been more important than it is now. Candidates have choices, not only where they decide to work but in what capacity," said Paul Dupuis, MD & CEO Randstad India.

    The REBR covered 75% of the global economy with 30 participating countries and more than 1,75,000 respondents worldwide. The research highlighted that people prefer working for companies in sectors like IT & ITeS that was picked by 69% of the respondents, followed by Automotive by 68% and Retail & FMCG by 67%.

    Salary and employee benefits were the top influencing factor for employees while choosing an employer. Forty-eight per cent of respondents picked that, followed by work-life balance that was picked by 44%, job security by 42%, both career progression and strong management by 39%. At least 43% respondents said that they left their employers for lack of career growth opportunities.

    Forty-nine per cent of the respondents mentioned that work places need to be open, flexible and should demonstrate a willingness to change in order to retain their employees as well as keep them engaged.

    The research also revealed that men favour organisations with strong leaders, while women prefer employers who offer strong training programmes.

Fresh Bid for Essar Steel may see Jindal Vs Mittal Vs Agarwal
  • The lenders of Essar Steel have decided to meet again on Friday to take a call on inviting fresh round of bids. The war front is becoming clearer and a tough battle is expected between three business houses - JSW, ArcelorMittal and Vedanta.

    According to the sources in the banking industry, the new round of bid will see larger bids since it will be the last chance to win the battle. In addition, they expect that the bids may go up the size of over Rs 35,000 crore, when Essar's loans stands at around Rs 45,000 crore.  At the same time, they are still confused on the fate of the second round of bid, which was termed invalid by the NCLT about a week back. After NCLT's order, the lenders opened the first round of bids and in which ArcelorMittal is believed to have emerged as the largest bidder with an offer of over Rs 30,000 crore.

    Sajjan Jindal, chairman of JSW group, had earlier evinced his interest in participating in the bid and JSW Steel had written to the lenders about their wish to submit the bid. If it's going for a new round, Jindal is expected to get the chance to submit his proposal.

    After Rewant Ruia, son of Essar group co-founder Ravi Ruia, exited from the Numetal Consortium, which bid in the first round, JSW Steel joined the consortium which is led by Russian financing company VTB. But still it's not clear whether Jindal would prefer the consortium or form another one with his trusted partners like Aion and JFE Steel Corporation, say sources.

    However, the unanswered question in the whole process is the eligibility of potential bidders. ArcelorMittal has started the process for disassociating itself from other bankrupt companies like Uttam Galva and KSS Petron. But some are saying the sale of stakes won't absolve them of responsibility of the stakeholder.

    JSW Steel is the only bidder for Monnet Ispat and the insolvency process is about to be completed.

    Another likely bidder, Anil Agarwal's Vedanta Resources had submitted its bid in the second round, which hasn't yet opened. Vedanta has already bagged ElectroSteel Steels. Since the bid price of Essar is likely to go up in the fresh round, can Jindal and Agarwal take the financial load to counter the bid of global steel giant ArcelorMittal is the question, industry experts say.

    If LN Mittal's firm qualifies for the bid, they clearly have a financial edge.

Wipro numbers disappoint and guidance muted, say analysts
  • The much awaited financial numbers from the third largest Indian IT giant, Wipro, have fallen short of analyst and market expectations, be it in terms of revenue growth or the margins. Analysts believe that there are hardly any positive takeaways from the numbers, apart from glimpses of some good performance in select verticals and geographies.

    Sudheer Guntupalli, analyst at Ambit Capital, who was expecting the company to post better numbers feels it was a disappointment across the board. This, he says, is despite the CEO guiding that the company will exit FY18 with growth rate matching industry rate.

    Then, the company had some one-offs in terms of impairments. In the results, the company points out, "For the year, we recognized provisions totalling Rs 5,255 million ($81 million) with respect to insolvency of two customers and impairment loss of one of our acquisitions. For the quarter, we recognized provisions totalling Rs 2,080 million ($32 million) with respect to insolvency of a customer and the impairment loss in one of our acquisitions."

    Analysts are also unhappy with the IT services margin of 15.8 per cent, adjusted for the impact of insolvency of two customers and the impairment loss in case of one acquisition. Excluding these factors, the IT services margin that the company reported for the year were at 16.8 per cent.

    The analysts also seem to find the guidance for the next quarter muted and this seems to have added to the overall disappointment.

    However, it adds, "We had announced the divestiture of our hosted data centre services business to Ensono for a consideration of $ 405 million. We expect the transaction to complete during the quarter ending June 3, 2018. For the purpose of the Outlook , we have not considered the impact of the divestment on the revenue for the quarter ending June 30, 2018. We will revise the Outlook for the quarter based on the actual date of completion of the divestment."

    Madhu Babu, analyst at Prabhudas Lilladher, too, hoped to see more organic growth happening in the company. He is finds the numbers overall disappointing.

    However, the good news for the company has been the good performance of select verticals like the BFSI, and in select geographies like Europe, where sequential growth was shown.  There is also some comfort in terms of valuation, says Sandip Agarwal from Edelweiss, though he feels the numbers are a bit disappointing.

Sensex falls 115 pts on weak global cues, profit-booking; Nifty closes at 10,570
  • The Sensex and Nifty closed lower in trade today amid weak global cues and unabated foreign fund outflows. While the Sensex fell over 115 points to 34,501, the Nifty ended 43 points lower at 10,570 today.  

    The Sensex had gained 201.06 points in the previous two sessions.

    Asian markets fell and European shares opened lower, tracking overnight losses on Wall Street, led by sell-off in industrials, materials and technology stocks after the 10-year Treasury yield briefly touched the psychologically important 3 per cent level for the first time in four years.

    Thursday's April month expiry in the derivatives segment added to the volatility in the domestic market, brokers said

    Bharti Airtel was the top gainer on Sensex (3.37%) and Nifty (2.90%) after the telco beat analysts' expectations of a net loss and managed to clock Rs 73 crore in net profit for Q4.

     TCS (2.43%), M&M (1.88%) and Infosys (0.61%) were the other Sensex gainers.

    Banking stocks fell the most with the BSE bankex falling 301 points to 27,732 level. The BSE Information Technology index rose the most-1.24% or 163 points to 13,360 level.

    The BSE IT index rose after rupee fell to a 14-month low of 66.825 against the dollar on bouts of month-end dollar demand from importers amid crude price volatility and rising US bond yields.

    Market breadth was negative with 1750 stocks closing lower against 898 ending higher on the BSE.

    Global stocks

    Global shares fell back on Wednesday, mirroring a sell-off on Wall Street triggered by worries over slowing growth and falling profits.

    France's CAC 40 edged nearly 0.1 percent lower in early trading to 5,440.32, while Germany's DAX slipped nearly 0.8 percent to 12,456.33. Britain's FTSE 100 lost 0.4 percent to 7,392.47. US shares were set to drift lower with Dow and S&P 500 futures both down 0.2 percent.

    Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 shed 0.3 percent to finish at 22,215.32. Hong Kong's Hang Seng lost 1.1 percent to 30,281.15. The Shanghai Composite index shed nearly 0.4 percent to 3,117.97. South Korea's Kospi lost 0.6 percent to 2,448.81. Australian markets were closed for Anzac Day, a public holiday. Southeast Asian shares were also lower.

    Bond prices slipped again on Tuesday. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note rose to 2.99 percent from 2.98 percent. Earlier it peaked at 3 percent for the first time since January 2014. Low interest rates have played an important role in the economic recovery of the last decade, and the yield on the 10-year note is a benchmark for many kinds of interest rates including mortgages. It's been climbing because investors expect higher economic growth and inflation.

    Benchmark US crude oil edged 7 cents higher to $67.74 a barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. It shed 1.4 percent to $67.70 on Tuesday. Brent crude, used to price international oils, gained 13 cents to $73.99 per barrel.

India's average GDP growth to rise to 7.8% in H1 2018: Nomura
  • Indian economy is expected to witness a cyclical recovery driven by investments as well as consumption, and the average GDP growth is expected to rise to 7.8 per cent in the first half of this year, says a report.

    According to the Japanese financial services major Nomura, investment and consumption demand are the main drivers for India's growth, amid worsening net exports.

    "Our leading indicators suggest the cyclical recovery, which started in the second half of 2017, is set to continue through the first half of 2018," Nomura said in a research note.

    Consistent with these data, "we expect average GDP growth to rise to 7.8 per cent year-on-year in the first half 2018 from 7.2 per cent in October-December 2017".

    The report, however, noted that rising oil prices, tighter financial conditions and a likely slowdown in investment activity ahead of the elections suggest growth will start to moderate in the second half of this year "towards our Q4 2018 forecast of 6.9 per cent".

    Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank expects India's economic growth rate to strengthen to 7.4 per cent in the current fiscal, from 6.6 per cent in 2017-18, on account of revival in investment activity.

    On RBI's monetary policy stance, the report said the rising oil prices are changing the macro dynamics and may put pressure on inflation.

    According to Nomura, for every USD 10/bbl rise in oil prices CPI inflation may rise by 30-40 bps and worsen the current account balance by 0.4 percentage points.

    "Thus, if oil prices remain at these levels, then monetary policy is likely to move towards tightening versus our base case of no change," the report said.

    The six-member MPC, headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel, had left the benchmark repo rate unchanged for the third time in a row after deliberations on April 4-5, citing inflationary concerns.

    The minutes of the April MPC meeting released by the RBI noted that RBI Deputy Governor Viral Acharya favoured withdrawal of monetary accommodation in the next policy review meeting scheduled on June 4-5.

    Meanwhile, Executive Director Michael Debabrata Patra voted for an increase of 25 basis points in April itself, though the majority view of maintaining status quo prevailed.

General Awareness

New system to measure air quality
  • Context: India is tying up with the United States and Finland to develop a pollution-forecast system that will help anticipate particulate matter (PM) levels at least two days in advance and at a greater resolution than what is possible now. The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) will be coordinating this exercise and the plan is to have a system in place by winter.

    The new system, to be jointly developed with expertise from the Finnish Meteorological Institute and the U.S.’ National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will use a different modelling approach as well as computational techniques from that employed in the SAFAR model.

    Background:

    Currently, the System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR), run out of the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune, serves as the apex forecaster of pollution trends in Delhi, Mumbai, Pune and Ahmedabad. It generates a likely air quality profile, a day in advance, for these cities.

    About SAFAR:

    The Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), Government of India, has introduced the System of Air Quality Forecasting And Research (SAFAR).
    It has been introduced for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.
    It has been introduced for greater metropolitan cities of India to provide location-specific information on air quality in near real time and its forecast 1-3 days in advance for the first time in India.
    The World Meteorological Organization has recognised SAFAR as a prototype activity on the basis of the high quality control and standards maintained in its implementation.
    The ultimate objective of the project is to increase awareness among general public regarding the air quality in their city well in advance so that appropriate mitigation measures and systematic action can be taken up for betterment of air quality and related health issues.

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