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Current Affairs - 23 May 2018

General Affairs 

Aadhaar Based Unique ID To Enable Paperless Boarding For Domestic Flyers
  • Domestic air passengers could soon be enjoying a complete paperless boarding experience at airports as the government under a biometric-based 'digi-yatra' initiative will provide them a unique ID for hassle-free entry.

    For this, passengers need to enrol with the programme through the government's revamped AirSewa-II portal to generate a 'digi-yatra' ID for paperless service.

    "We are utilising Aadhaar infrastructure to first authenticate a passenger and thereafter we will be developing the database and identification procedures so that people can get into the airport without any paper. It will improve convenience and increase the throughput of our airports," Minister of State Jayant Sinha told reporters.

    The Aadhaar-based verification will, however, be done only once, he said, clarifying that the initiative is "voluntary" and passengers are free to decide on enrolling for digi-yatra.

    "The architecture is designed in a way to ensure privacy is fully protected. Supreme Court has said that privacy is a fundamental right. The privacy has been build into the digital yatra system," Mr Sinha said.

    Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said passengers can enter the airport via an "e-gate" after a face-based identification process.

    The system, he said, will be a win-win situation both for the passengers, the security apparatus and the airlines. The system will ensure shorter queue, faster boarding, self baggage drop and self check-in.

    One need not go to the airline counter. The number of security personnel could come down, leading to cost reduction. With fewer airline staff, ticket prices could also come down.

    Airports in Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Varanasi and Vijayawada will role out the programme in phases by January 2019.

Solution To Rising Petrol, Diesel Prices In 3-4 Days, Says Amit Shah
  • BJP president Amit Shah today said the government is taking the issue of rising petroleum prices seriously and will soon announce measures to deal with the matter.

    "The government at the highest level is concerned about it and is taking the matter seriously," he said, adding it will come out with a solution in three-four days. 

    He told a press conference that Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan is meeting representatives of oil companies and that he is hopeful that a solution will be worked out soon. 

    More than a week after the state-owned oil firms ended a 19-day pre-Karnataka poll hiatus on revising fuel prices, petrol and diesel rates have touched record highs. 

    Petrol costs Rs. 76.87 per litre in Delhi and diesel costs Rs. 68.08 a litre. In the past nine days, petrol price has risen by Rs. 2.24 a litre and diesel by Rs. 2.15.

    Rates vary from state to state depending on the incidence of local sales tax or VAT. The prices in Delhi are the cheapest among all metros and most state capitals.

BJP And NCP Lock Horns In Maharashtra's Bhandara-Gondiya
  • The BJP has locked horns with the NCP for retaining Maharashtra's Bhandara-Gondiya Lok Sabha seat for which by-elections are scheduled on May 28, unlike in Palghar where the state's ruling party and its ally Shiv Sena are locked in a direct contest.

    However, Bhandara-Gondiya, like Palghar, has become a prestige issue for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since its sitting MP Nana Patole had quit the party in December 2017 and later joined the Congress.

    This time, BJP's Hemant Patle is pitted against Nationalist Congress Party's (NCP's) Madhukar Kukde, a former legislator, who is supported by the Congress, making it the main contest in the constituency with 18 others in the fray.

    Incidentally, Mr Patle was the district chief of BJP ally Shiv Sena, who quit his party and was rewarded with the Lok Sabha bypoll ticket (by the BJP). He has been supported by another NDA ally Republican Party of India-A.

    Bhandara-Gondiya, in the Vidarbha region of eastern Maharashtra, has been a traditional stronghold of senior NCP leader Praful Patel.

    While Mr Patel defeated Nana Patole in 2009, the situation was reversed in 2014 when Mr Patole vanquished him as a BJP candidate during the "Modi wave".

    Nana Patole, a senior OBC leader, became the first BJP MP to criticize Prime Minister Narendra Modi openly before quitting the party and subsequently joined Congress, dealing a severe blow to the party.

    The BJP in January suffered another big loss when its respected sitting MP Chintaman Vanga of Palghar Lok Sabha constituency died suddenly due to a heart attack. His son joined the Shiv Sena and was given a party ticket.

    In a poll-related development, around a dozen villages in the constituency have, under the banner of 'Bawanthadi Prakalp Sangharsh Samiti', resolved to boycott the May 28 by-elections demanding proper drinking and irrigation facilities for the farmers in the region.

    The villages are Bhamnewada, Ganeshpur, Gobarwahi, Gudri, Heti, Khandal, Khairtola, Pavnarkheri, Sodhepur, Sundartola, Sitasawangi, and Yedarbuchi, with a combined population of around 30,000.

ABVP Challenges Law Entrance Exam, Court Asks For Centre's Reply
  • The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and other authorities to file their response on a plea filed by Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) -- a Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliated student body -- challenging Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) 2018.

    Justice Rekha Palli directed the Central government to file its response and listed the matter for May 30 for further hearing.

    The court was hearing a petition filed by advocates Namit Saxena and Nishant Awana, who have alleged that there was grave mismanagement in the conduct of examination.

    The petitioners have sought a stay on all further proceedings regarding CLAT 2018, including the declaration of result, scheduled for May 31.

    "The conduct of CLAT over the last several years has been continuously riddled with arbitrariness, opacity and ineptitude, thereby affecting the education and career prospects of thousands of students, who participate in these exams every year," the petition read.

    The bench has also observed that similar petitions were also being heard by some other courts, including the high courts of Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

Nipah Virus Outbreak: Situation Under Control, Says Health Minister JP Nadda
  • In the wake of the Nipah virus claiming 10 lives in Kerala, the Union Health Ministry today asked people not to "panic" and said the outbreak is "unlikely" to spread as early and efficient containment measures were being taken. The ministry also noted that the outbreak appeared to be a "localised" occurrence.

    The situation is under control, Union Health Minister J P Nadda said. 

    The minister, after reviewing the situation in Kerala with Union Health Secretary Preeti Sudan and Director General, ICMR, Dr Balram Bhargava, also directed officials to extend all support to the Kerala government in its prevention and management.

    The health ministry said a total of nine persons are currently undergoing treatment and isolation wards have been opened in several hospitals in Kozhikode. It said that a multi-disciplinary central team from the National Centre for Disease Control or NCDC is in Kerala and is constantly reviewing the situation.

    The NCDC team has visited the house in Kerala's Perambra from where the initial death was reported, and found many bats in a well from where the family took water.

    Some of the bats have been caught and sent for examination to a laboratory to confirm whether they were the cause of the disease, an official statement said.

    "Sixty different samples have been collected from the spot and sent for examination. There are two confirmed cases with history of contact with the index case. They were admitted to the Calicut Medical College and Hospital and died due to the Nipah virus," the ministry said in the statement.

    The central team includes Dr Sujeet K Singh, Director, NCDC; Dr S K Jain, Head of Epidemiology, NCDC; Dr P Ravindran, Director, Emergency Medical Relief (EMR); Dr Naveen Gupta, Head of Zoonosis at NCDC; Dr Ashutosh Biswas, Professor of Internal Medicine at AIIMS; and Dr Deepak Bhattacharya, Pulmonologist at the Safdarjung Hospital.

    Besides, the team also has two clinicians and an expert from the animal husbandry ministry.

    The ministry has also mobilised a public health team from the NCDC's Kozhikode branch to assess the extent of the problem for risk assessment and management.

    "They are assisting the state-level team deployed at the epicentre. So far, seven patients have been admitted to the Baby Memorial Hospital and to the Government Medical College in Kozhikode, and to the Amrutha Medical College, Ernakulum," the statement said.

    Mr Nadda urged citizens not to believe in rumours on social media and spread panic.

    "Hospitals in the public and private sector have been provided with personal protective equipment and appropriate steps to contain this virus have been taken among domestic animals such as pigs. Since all the contacts are under observation and steps to avoid exposure through animal vectors have been taken there is no reason for people to panic. This appears to be a localised occurrence," the ministry said.

    With early and efficient containment measures undertaken jointly by the health ministry and the Kerala government, the outbreak is "unlikely to spread", it said. The Virus Research Diagnostic Laboratory at Manipal Hospital and the National Institute of Virology has been asked to meet diagnostic challenges.

    The field team has advised hospitals to follow intracranial pressure (ICP) guidelines, provide personal protective equipment to health workers and during sample collection, assist in enhancing active fever surveillance in the community and strengthen contact tracing in close contacts of cases, relatives and health workers.

    The health institutions have also been asked to ensure isolation facilities, ventilator support and infection control practices, and coordinate to enhance surveillance for unusual illness and deaths in animals.

    "The ministry has ensured availability of diagnostic kits, personal protective equipment and risk communication materials. High quality personal protection equipment has been provided to health care personnel," it said.

Business Affairs

Zero cancellation fee proposed within 24 hours of air ticket booking
  • The air passengers will soon have plenty of reasons to rejoice. The ministry of civil aviation has released draft passenger charter that defines the rights of air passengers. A long list of rules aims to empower passengers in case of flight delays, cancellations and other forms of inconveniences caused by the airlines. The crucial points include:

    1. The draft has capped the cancellation charges, and it will never exceed the basic fare plus fuel surcharge in any circumstance. At the moment, each airline follows its own cancellation policy. For instance, market leader IndiGo takes a minimum of Rs 3,000 on cancellations. GoAir charges Rs 2,950 for cancellations beyond two hours of departure. The step will certainly benefit passengers who are flying on shorter routes as fares on short-haul flights are lower than the current cancellation charges of the airlines. It will also put a tight leash on the airlines that change their cancellation charges frequently.

    2. Passenger will be allowed the cancel or amend tickets within 24 hours of booking ticket without bearing any cost. Some airlines like Vistara and Jet Airways are already offering this facility to their flyers.

    3. If there's a delay of more than 4 hours, the airlines have to offer full refund of ticket to the passenger. Also, if the delay involves the flight to fly on the next day, the airlines have to offer free hotel accommodation. Last month, aviation regulator DGCA reported 81,191 cases of delays beyond two hours. IndiGo had the highest number of passengers - 29248 - affected by the delays beyond two hours, and the airline offered free refreshments to those affected.

    4. According to draft, the airlines will have to pay a minimum compensation of Rs 5,000 (or more depending on ticket price) in case the passenger is denied boarding on the plane on account of overbooking by the airline. Overbooking is one of the biggest menaces that the regulator has not managed to curb. Despite their fancy software, airlines in India frequently indulge in overbooking to ensure effective use of capacity. Early this year, DGCA had told Delhi High Court that it does not allow overbooking of flights and airlines are liable to compensate passengers. With the charter, there's finally a rule in place.

    5. The most interesting point in the draft includes all airports to provide passengers with free 30-minutes Wi-Fi services. Currently, the free Wi-Fi services are available for local mobile numbers and passengers with international roaming packs. In addition, the draft highlights that both domestic and international airlines are allowed to offer internet services and mobile services on-board an aircraft in Indian airspace, and interested stakeholders need to apply for licenses and regulatory clearances.

SBI reports second straight quarterly loss at Rs 7,718 crore
  • The State Bank of India (SBI), the country's largest lender, reported a net loss for a second quarter back-to-back, and this time it is three times worse. In its Q4FY18 results, SBI reported a net loss of Rs 7,718 crore. In comparison, in its December quarter, when it had reported its first quarterly loss in 17 years, the net loss stood at Rs 2,416 crore. And the bank had reported a net profit of over Rs 2,814 crore in Q4FY17. In fact, SBI's latest loss is the highest quarterly loss figure reported by any bank after Punjab National Bank's Rs 13,417 crore loss.

    The loss stemmed largely from the huge jump in provisions for non-performing assets (NPAs) under the Reserve Bank of India's revised framework for resolving stressed assets. Total provisions went up 66.55 per cent in the quarter under review to Rs 23,601 crore against Rs 14,171 crore in the previous quarter. The year-on-year (YoY) jump this quarter stood at 13.73 per cent. The bank said in a statement that its overall provision coverage ratio on NCLT accounts is 63 per cent, adding that that "wage revision and enhancement in gratuity ceiling" also pushed up the provisioning requirement.

    Lower Trading Income and significant MTM [mark-to-market] losses due to hardening of bond yields" further weighed down the bank's bottomline. Significantly, the bank said that it has not availed the benefit of RBI dispensation with regard to amortization of MTM losses. "Our bank has consciously chosen not to avail the  mark-to-market loss dispensation [allowed to be spread across four quarters] and taken it all at once as we see bond yields rising further," Moneycontrol quoted SBI Chairman Rajnish Kumar.

    Operating performance

    SBI's total income in the March quarter stood at Rs 68,436 crore, down 3.87 per cent compared to the corresponding quarter in the previous year. However, the bank's net interest income (NII), the difference between interest earned and interest paid, stood at Rs 19,974 crore, down 5.18 per cent from Rs 21,065 crore in Q4FY17. Its total non-interest income fared better, going up 2.23 per cent to Rs 12,495 crore in the same period, driven mainly by higher fee income and recovery in written-off accounts.

    Operating Profit also declined by 8.24 per cent to Rs 15,883 crore in the quarter under review from the year-ago period. CASA Ratio stood at a healthy 45.68 per cent. According to the SBI statement, deposits at the whole bank level registered a growth of 4.68 per cent YoY to Rs 27,06,343 crore as on March 2018 while gross advances registered a growth of 4.91 per cent YoY to Rs 20,48,387 crore in the same period.

    Asset quality 
    According to the bank, gross NPAs crossed Rs 2.23 lakh crore as on March 2018, up from Rs 1.77 lakh crore in the year ago period. Its gross NPA Ratio at 10.91 per cent increased sequentially by 56 bps in Q4FY18 while Net NPA Ratio at 5.73 per cent increased sequentially by 12 bps.

    Fresh slippages in the quarter under review stood at Rs 33,670 crore, up from Rs 25,836 in the December quarter. But the slippage ratio had improved from 5.78 per cent in FY17 to 4.85 per cent in the last fiscal. The bank said that its expected haircut on the entire first list of stressed assets referred to the NCLT is 52 per cent and it is optimistic that a bulk of the resolutions will go through in the first half of the current fiscal. It added that the second NCLT list is likely to be resolved by the end of this fiscal.
    Reacting to the results, SBI's share price jumped up 6 per cent during the day, hitting a high of Rs 259 apiece before coming down to Rs 254.15 currently.

Govt has right to sell or not to sell Air India if bid price is inadequate: Aviation secretary
  • Civil Aviation Secretary RN Choubey on Tuesday said the government could decide against selling state-run Air India if it does not get "adequate" price for it. "The government has the right to sell or not to sell Air India if the bid price is found to be inadequate," Choubey told reporters here, even as he expressed confidence that ailing airline will fetch a good price. While the deadline for submission of Expression of Interest (EoI) ends on May 31, the Secretary said the Request for Proposal could be issued after June 15.

    He said the highest bidder for the airline would be known by the end of August. But the highest bidder may not be the successful bidder, he said, adding the government intends to complete the disinvestment process by this year end. "Though the transaction advisor (Ernst & Young) will assess the enterprise value, the right price for the airline will be decided by us," he said.

    Asked about Air India employees union protests against the proposed sale, he said they are conscious of the fact that airlines worldover have done well after privatisation.  Earlier, Choubey had said the disinvestment process in the national carrier has generated a great deal of interest.

    The government on March 28 had kicked off the disinvestment process of the debt-laden national carrier with the issuance of the preliminary information memorandum for the proposed sale of up to 76 per cent stake in it along with management control to private entities.  The government also made it clear that it would have the rights of a "minority shareholder" with 24 per cent stake in Air India post disinvestment.

Sensex halts five-day slide, Nifty closes at 10,536 on value buying
  • Reversing a five-session slide, the benchmark Sensex rose over 35 points to end at 34,651.24 in see-saw trade today as participants accumulated recently beaten down auto, metal, banking and realty stocks. Asian markets ended mixed following a good show by US stocks as investors applauded easing of trade tensions between the US and China.

    The 30-share Sensex opened in the green and hit a high of 34,754.60, but witnessed bouts of volatility. It finally settled at 34,651.24, showing a gain of 35.11 points, or 0.10 per cent. The index had lost 940.58 points in the previous five sessions as investors rushed to unwind bets following post-poll instability in Karnataka amid discouraging global cues.

    The broader NSE Nifty, after shuttling between 10,558.60 and 10,490.55, finished the day at 10,536.70, showing a gain of 20 points, or 0.19 per cent.

    Dr Reddy's Laboratories (6.30%), Bajaj Auto (3.86%) and Tata Motors (3.78%) were the top Sensex gainers.

    SBI rose 3.69 per cent despite the lender today posting a standalone net loss of Rs 7,718 cr in Q4 on mounting bad loans. The SBI share opened at 245.10 and surged as much as 6.03% intra day, its highest in over a month even as the government-owned lender reported its biggest ever quarterly loss of Rs 7,718.17 crore for the quarter ending March 31, 2018 compared to a net profit of Rs 2,814.82 crore in the corresponding period of 2016-17. The stock closed 3.69% or 9.05 points higher at Rs 254.15 on BSE.

    BSE Midcap and small cap indices rose 0.65% each, respectively. BSE auto (1.73%) and BSE metal (1.58%) indices rose the most among 19 sectoral indices. Market breadth was positive with 1405 stocks closing higher against 1219 ending in the red on BSE. Meanwhile, domestic institutional investors (DIIs) made purchases worth Rs 1,190.56 crore while foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold shares worth a net Rs 496.03 crore yesterday, as per provisional data. 

    Global markets 

    Global stock markets were mixed Tuesday as investors watched developments in the U.S.-China trade relations and Italy's move toward forming a euroskeptic government. London's FTSE 100 was up 0.2 percent to 7,870 and Germany's DAX added 0.1 percent to 13,092. France's CAC 40 was roughly flat at 5,635 and Italy's FTSE MIB was up 0.4 percent at 23, 179. On Wall Street, futures for the Dow Jones industrial average and the Standard & Poor's 500 both advanced 0.2 percent.

    The Shanghai Composite Index spent most of the day in negative territory before closing up 0.5 points at 3,214.35. Tokyo's Nikkei 225 lost 0.2 percent to 22,960.34. Sydney's S&P-ASX 200 tumbled 0.7 percent to 6,041.90 and India's Sensex added 0.1 percent to 34,646.42. Markets in Hong Kong and South Korea were closed for holidays. Benchmarks in New Zealand, Taiwan and Southeast Asia declined.

HSBC black money list: ED seizes assets worth Rs 20.87 cr of ex-Dabur chief Pradip Burman
  • The Enforcement Directorate on Tuesday seized assets worth Rs 20.87 crore of former Dabur group director Pradip Burman in its inquiry into the HSBC bank black money list, which was unearthed a few years ago. Pradip Burman belongs to the family that owns Dabur India Ltd. His name had appeared in the black-money list holders among 628 Indians in the HSBC Geneva list in FY 2006-2007. The seized assets comprised 50,000 tax free government bonds of the Housing and Urban Development Corporation and the Indian Railway Finance Corporation, which were purchased on different dates for Rs 5 crore, Rs 4 crore, and Rs 11 crore, amounting to over Rs 20 crore.

    The inquiry is being under done under Section 37A (1) of the FEMA (Foreign Exchange Management Act). The agency took over the case on the basis of a chargesheet filed by the Income Tax Department against Burman as part of its probe in the leaked HSBC list of the Indians. The trial in the case is yet to start.

    The agency said the assets were seized after it was found that Burman deposited $3.2 million in his account with HSBC bank in Zurich in Switzerland and that he "did not" show this amount in his IT Returns filed during 2007-08 despite declaring it to the taxman that this was his earning. "The investigation revealed that Burman has deposited $3.2 million with HSBC, Zurich, and was holding the same in contravention of section 4 of the FEMA and failed to repatriate the entire amount to India till date," the ED said.

    Burman was a director in Dabur India Limited, Sanat Product Ltd and Ayurved, Ratna Commercial Enterprises (P) Ltd and is also a trustee in the Burman family trust called the Dr SK Burman Charitable Trust. The black-money holders' list was obtained by India from the French government in 2007. 

    General Awareness

    INSV Tarini
    • Context: INSV Tarini has completed a historic global Circumnavigation. This is the first-ever Indian circumnavigation of the globe by an all-women crew.

      Significance:

      The expedition titled ‘Navika Sagar Parikrama’ is in consonance with the National policy to empower women to attain their full potential. It has showcased ‘Nari Shakti’ on the world platform and helped change societal attitudes and mindset towards women in India by raising visibility of their participation in challenging environs.

      About the Journey:

      During her 254 day long voyage, the vessel has covered over 22,000 Nautical miles, visiting five countries – Australia, New Zealand, Falkland Islands (UK), South Africa and Mauritius.
      During the course of her voyage, the vessel has met all criteria of circumnavigation, viz. crossing the Equator twice, crossing all Longitudes, as also the three great capes (Cape Leeuwin, Cape Horn and Cape of Good Hope).
      The expedition was covered in six legs, with halts at 5 ports: Fremantle (Australia), Lyttleton (New Zealand), Port Stanley (Falklands), Cape Town (South Africa) and Port Louis (Mauritius).

      INSV Tarini:

      INSV Tarini is a 56 foot sailing vessel built in India by M/s Aquarius Shipyard Pvt Ltd, Goa. It was inducted into the Indian Navy recently in February 2017. It has Raymarine navigation suite and an array of satellite communication systems for perfect navigation anywhere in the world. It showcases the ‘Make in India’ initiative on the International forum.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims: INSV Tarini, Navika Sagar Parikrama, Nari Shakti and Criteria of circumnavigation.

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