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Monday, June 25, 2018

Current Affairs - 25 June 2018

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General Affairs 

Maharashtra Plastic Ban To Cost 3 Lakh Jobs, Loss Of 15000 Crores: Report
  •  The state-wide plastic ban, including carry-bags and thermocol by the Devendra Fadanvis government, will result in loss of up to Rs. 15,000 crore and nearly 3 lakh job, says the plastic manufacturing industry.

    "The ban imposed by Maharashtra from Saturday has hit the industry very hard and the plastic industry is staring at a loss of Rs. 15,000 crore, leaving nearly 3 lakh people jobless overnight," Plastic Bags Manufacturers Association of India general secretary Neemit Punamiya told PTI today.

    Nearly 2,500 members of the association have left with the no option but to shut shop following the ban, he added and termed the ban as "discriminatory".

    On March 23, the state announced a ban on manufacture, use, sale, distribution and storage of plastic materials such as one-time-use bags, spoons, plates, PET and PETE bottles and thermocol items. The government had given three months time to dispose of the existing stocks, which ended on June 23.

    Industry insiders have said the job losses from the ban will impact the state's GDP, and also increase banks' bad loans from the plastic sector.

    While retailers across the megapolis have said heavy fines for violating the bank will make them financially unviable and force them to turn away many customers, consumers have complained of inconvenience, and wondered whether the ban makes any sense.

    The civic authorities have imposed a fine of Rs. 5,000 for the first-time offenders and Rs. 10,000 for the second-time offenders. Those who violate the ban for the third time will face a fine of Rs. 25,000, along with a three-month imprisonment. 

Forest Officers Find 100 Baby Cobras In Labourer's House In Odisha
  • Over 110 baby cobras and two adult cobras were rescued from a house in a village in Odisha's Bhadrak district, forest officials said.

    While the snakelets and 20 eggs were found in a labourer's mud house at Paikasahi village on Saturday, the adult snakes were spotted today, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Bhadrak, Amlan Nayak, said.

    The snakelets are about two to three days old. The adult cobras, a male and a female, are around 2.10 meters in length.

    The snakelets would be released in their natural habitat, away from human habitation, the DFO said, adding, he has spoken to forest officer of the nearby Hadagarh Wildlife Sanctuary about releasing the snakes there.

    SK Mirza, a snake rescuer said he rushed to the site Saturday evening after the owner of the house, informed him that a number of snakes were roaming inside

    After five hours of search, around 110 snakelets and 20 eggs were found, Mr Mirza said. Villagers however claimed that the man, Bijay Bhuyan was aware of the presence of snakes there an used to worship them.

2 Terrorists Shot Dead In Kashmir's Kulgam, 1 Surrenders; Clashes Erupt
  • Two Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists, including the terror group's divisional commander Shakur Dar, were killed in an encounter with security forces, while another surrendered in Kulgam district of south Kashmir today, police said. A civilians was also killed and 12 protesters were injured in the clashes that erupted soon after the encounter, police sources told.

    Jammu and Kashmir top cop SP Vaid said that efforts are being made to establish the identity of the terrorists.

    The encounter began this afternoon in the Cheddar Qaimoh area of Kulgam district as Jammu and Kashmir Police, along with the CRPF and the Army, were carrying out operations to sanitise a national highway ahead of the annual Amarnath pilgrimage, beginning June 28, news agency PTI said.

    Clashes erupted soon after the encounter during which a civilian died. The man was killed 5 km from the encounter site, police sources said. Twelve protesters have also been injured.

    Internet services have been suspended in Kulgam following the incident.

    Meanwhile, another civilian injured in security forces firing in Anantnag yesterday died in a hospital in Srinagar.

To Glorify One Family, Other Leaders Belittled, Says PM Modi
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said yesterday that to glorify one family, deliberate attempts were being made to belittle the contributions of other towering leaders in nation building, as he paid rich tributes to Bharatiya Jana Sangh (BJS) founder Syama Prasad Mookerjee.

    In a veiled attack on the Congress, he said it was spreading "lies, confusion and pessimism" and was cut off from the ground reality.

    "It is unfortunate that to glorify one family, deliberate attempts were made to belittle the contributions of other towering personalities in the country," PM Modi told a public meeting after launching the Mohanpura Irrigation Project in Rajgarh district of Madhya Pradesh.

    He said the party which ruled the country for maximum years never trusted the people and their hard work.

    He said when the Congress ruled the state, Madhya Pradesh was called a BIMARU state, but the BJP government pulled the state out of that tag.

    "The Congress never saw this as an insult to the people of the state. The BJP had worked hard to remove this tag," he added.

    PM Modi said in the past four years at the Centre and 13 years in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP had worked for the uplift and empowerment of poor, farmers and deprived sections of society.

    "In the last four years, we never spoke of frustration and dismay. We are the ones who are marching ahead with confidence," he said, adding that people believed in the BJP and its government, which was working for their welfare.

    "People trust the BJP and its government. Your huge presence here is a proof of it. But those spreading lies, confusion and pessimism are cut off from the ground reality."

    Recalling Syama Prasad Mookerjee's contribution to the country, PM Modi said, "His vision inspires us even today and helps us come out of despondency."

    As independent India's first industries and supplies minister (in the Jawaharlal Nehru cabinet), he framed the nation's maiden industrial policy, the prime minister said.

    Syama Prasad Mookerjee believed that the government should fulfil the dreams of its people and improve the life of the poor, PM Modi said.

    His thoughts and actions for the country's industrial policy, things he had done in the areas of education, women empowerment and nuclear policy were far ahead of his times and they are still relevant, the prime minister said.

    Education, finance, development, health and national security were his main focus areas, PM Modi said.

    "His vision was to impart skills to the youth and give them opportunity so that they become capable of serving the country. Programmes such as Startup India and Make in India are a reflection of his ideas," he said.

    "Today BJP's government at the Centre and in the states are running based on the vision of Mookerjee," he added.

    He said Syama Prasad Mookerjee died in a "suspicious" manner in Kashmir, where he was on a visit in 1953.

    "It is a coincidence that today is the death anniversary of Syama Prasad Mookerjee. On June 23, he died in a suspicious manner in Kashmir. I remember him on this occasion."

    The BJP, the successor party of the BJS, observes June 23 as 'Balidan Diwas'.

    For the Mohanpura Irrigation Project, the prime minister gave credit to the labourers "who worked hard with tools and machines, sweating it out day and night".

    "I have just done the formality of launching the project by pressing the button, but it's actual launch was done when they toiled hard for it," he said.

    The project would supply drinking water to 400 villages and its water will reach more than 700 villages, he said, adding that it would irrigate 1.25 lakh hectares of land.

    "It is a great service to women and sisters who face lot of difficulties in fetching water from long distances," he said.

    "I congratulate all the people associated with these water projects, including the people who carried the bricks on their heads...They have done a great job in nation building," PM Modi said.

    Praising Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the prime minister said when the BJP came to power in the state, the irrigation capacity of the state was 7.5 lakh hectares.

    "But it rose to 40 lakh hectares in 2018 and the state government is working on expanding it further to 80 lakh hectares by 2024," he added.

    He said MP's agricultural average growth rate has been 18 per cent in the last five years, which is the highest in the country.

    PM Modi also said that soil health cards were given to 14 crore farmers in the country, including 1.25 crore in Madhya Pradesh.

    The prime minister also highlighted achievements of various other schemes including Crop Insurance Scheme, Ujjwala Yojana, and making mandis online under eNAM project.

    Under Ujjwala Yojana, four crore women were given LPG cylinders free of cost, including 40 lakh in Madhya Pradesh, he said.

NSG Introduces Pyschology Test To Select Aspiring 'Black Cat' Commandos
  • The NSG has included a new and comprehensive psychology test for entry-level soldiers aspiring to be inducted and honed as 'black cat' commandos who undertake special counter-terror and counter-hijack operations in the country.

    The federal contingency force till now used to put Army and paramilitary troops under rigorous physical and mental strength tests once they join the commando conversion course (CCC) to get inducted into the premier force.

    Soldiers desirous of joining the National Security Guard or NSG, modelled on the lines of special counter-terror forces of the UK and Germany, will now have to undergo a special capsule of psychology tests and questions during the 3-month CCC, a senior official in the Union home ministry said.

    He said a threshold mark has to be obtained by a soldier in the psychology test like qualifying the other physical and mental parameters in order to join the force.

    national security guard nsg website
    Soldiers desirous of joining the National Security Guard or NSG, modelled on the lines of special counter-terror forces of the UK and Germany, will now have to undergo a special capsule of psychology tests (Representational)

    The force had a "pressing" need for a full-time pyschologist in its commando selection panel and experts of this domain have recently been hired in the NSG, he added.

    The new system of induction will ensure that physically and mentally fit personnel are inducted into the force to become and perform as the best commando unit of the country, the official said.

    PTI had reported in January that the force, while conducting a Psychological Screening Test (PST) when chosen personnel from various uniformed forces join it on deputation, wanted to have a "regular process" of measuring psychological attributes of a trooper wanting to join it and also for those who are already in the ranks.

    The force had also included yoga in the daily fitness curriculum and gradings given by the yoga instructor and the newly-hired psychologist will henceforth be reflected in the performance records of commandos, who undertake continuous training when not part of an operation.

    The 'black cat' commandos of the NSG are segregated into two major units -- SAG (Special Action Group) manned by officers and jawans from the Army and the SRG (Special Rangers Group) comprising personnel from paramilitary forces.

    The force was raised under an act of Parliament in 1984 as a federal contingency combat unit. It has undertaken numerous operations till now.

    These include flushing out terrorists during the 26/11 Mumbai siege in 2008 and the 2016 operation when they were deployed to kill terrorists who attacked the Indian Air Force (IAF) base in Pathankot.

    Recently, a small team of its commandos has been deployed in the Kashmir Valley to undertake specific 'house intervention' and terrorists' neutralisation operations as part of  their new mandate to "strengthen the security grid" in Jammu and Kashmir.

    The force will also train personnel of the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the JK police and the CRPF which regularly undertake counter-terror operations in the Kashmir Valley.

Business Affairs

Idea-Vodafone merger hits a snag as DoT looks to demand Rs 4,700 crore
  • The Department of Telecom (DoT) is reportedly looking to raise a fresh demand of around Rs 4,700 crore ahead of the merger deal between Vodafone India and Idea Cellular. The demand will be raised from Vodafone India before its merger with Idea Cellular, a PTI report said. This is more than likely to keep the mega-merger of the two telecom operators from being completed by the intended deadline of June 30.

    "Vodafone India had merged all its arms into one company and there are dues of around Rs 4,700 crore related to one-time spectrum charges (OTSC) on the company. DoT will ask Vodafone to either clear dues or furnish bank guarantee before the merger with Idea," the report quoted an official source as saying.

    Back in 2015, Vodafone had merged its four subsidiaries Vodafone East, Vodafone South, Vodafone Cellular and Vodafone Digilink with Vodafone Mobile Services. The resultant entity is now called Vodafone India. DoT had asked Vodafone to clear OTSC dues worth Rs 6,678 core at the time of consolidation, but the company challenged the demand it in court. After the Supreme Court ruled in favour of DoT, Vodafone had paid only Rs 2,000 crore to get the merger deal with Idea cleared.

    Following this, the Telecom Minister Manoj Sinha reportedly asked the DoT to take legal opinion whether a demand regarding OTSC dues can be sought from Vodafone India. "The DoT has received legal opinion which affirms that a demand can be raised from Vodafone," the source said.

    The final amount to be quoted is still being worked out by the DoT, which might include interest as well. The Department will likely raise the demand next week. The demand will be in addition to bank guarantee of around Rs 2,100 crore that DoT will seek from Idea for OTSC dues.

    "DoT is working on fresh demand expeditiously and may issue it next week. The demand note will have to be drafted meticulously and there are a lot of complexities involved. Therefore, DoT needs some time," the officer said.

    Both Idea and Vodafone are planning to join forces to create India's largest telecom company. The move is being seen as a way to counter the highly competitive Indian telecom market. Both telcos were hoping to seal the deal by June 30, 2018.

    The company formed after the merger is proposed to be named Vodafone Idea Limited if approved by shareholders of Idea Cellular. It is estimated to have over 40 crore mobile customers from day 1 and 41 per cent revenue market share. Vodafone Group and existing promoters of Idea will hold 45.1 and 26 per cent of the equity share capital of the merged company, respectively and the balance 28.9 per cent will be held by the public shareholders.

After IndiGo and SpiceJet, GoAir raises check-in baggage charges beyond 15 kg
  • After IndiGo and SpiceJet, now GoAir has increased baggage charges beyond the standard limit of 15 kgs. The revised charge of GoAir has come into effect from Saturday. IndiGo and SpiceJet raised the extra baggage charges from Friday onwards. After this, state-run Air India is the only airline now on the domestic sector which allows passengers to carry up to 25 kg baggage free.

    According to the revised charges, IndiGo will charge Rs 400 per kg for every kilo beyond 15 kg which the passengers have to pay at the airport. In case of pre-bookings, the airline will charge Rs 1,900 for excess baggage of 5 kg, Rs 3,800 for extra 10 kg, Rs 5,700 for 15 kg extra and 11,400 for extra 30 kg.

    When it had revised the pre-booking charges last August, they were Rs 1,425 for extra five kg, Rs 2,850 for 10 kg, Rs 4,275 for 15 extra kgs and Rs 8,550 for extra 30 kg.

    The revised charges effected by GoAir from Saturday is identical to that of IndiGo. On revising the baggage fees, IndiGo has said that if customers who are booked on Lite Fare report at the airport with baggage to be checked-in, then they will have to pay Rs 200 to avail 15kg baggage allowance.
    According to reports, SpiceJet's new pre-booking charges for 5, 10, 15, 20 and 30 kg in domestic sector are Rs 1,600; Rs 3,200; Rs 4,800; Rs 6,400 and Rs 9,600, respectively.

    Earlier this month, full service carrier Jet Airways had announced new baggage rules, allowing only one check-in baggage weighing 15 kg or less for its economy class passengers. This would come into effect from July 15, 2018. Premiere class passengers will be allowed two check-in bags each less than 15 kilograms.

Heads of 11 PSBs to appear before parliamentary panel on Tuesday
  • Heads of 11 state-run banks will apprise a parliamentary committee about the problems of mounting bad loans and increasing fraud cases on Tuesday, sources said.

    They will be appearing before the Standing Committee on Finance, headed by veteran Congress leader M Veerappa Moily, which is looking into 'Banking Sector in India- Issues, Challenges and the Way Forward, including Non- Performing Assets/ Stressed Assets in Banks/Financial Institutions'.

    Top officials of IDBI Bank, UCO Bank, Central Bank of India, Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank, Dena Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, Bank of Maharashtra, United Bank of India, Corporation Bank and Allahabad Bank, will make presentations before the panel and respond to queries on June 26.

    The banking sector is grappling with rising non-performing assets (NPAs), which touched Rs 8.99 lakh crore or 10.11 per cent of total advances at December-end 2017. Of the total gross NPAs, the public sector banks accounted for Rs 7.77 lakh crore.

    The rising number of frauds has become a serious cause of concern.

    The number of frauds reported by banks increased from 4,693 in fiscal 2015-16 to 5,904 in 2017-18. The fraud amount at end-March 2018 was Rs 32,361.27 crore, up from Rs 18,698.8 crore at the end of 2015-16.

    Earlier this month, RBI Governor Urjit Patel had replied to host of questions asked by the committee members. Patel, sources had said, was asked about bad loans, bank frauds, cash crunch and other issues.

    They also said he assured the panel members that steps were being taken to strengthen the banking system.

GSTN working on data analysis tools to help taxmen check tax evasion
  • Almost a year into providing platform for tax collection, GST Network is now developing applications and tools for tax officers to help analyse data of their assessees and check possible evasion, a senior official said.

    GST Network (GSTN), the company handling the technology backbone for Goods and Services Tax, has over the last 11 months provided a platform for businesses to file their returns and pay taxes every month.

    GSTN Chief Executive Prakash Kumar said the next focus of the company will be on providing data analytics and improving user interface on the GSTN portal, besides developing backend system for assessment, audit, appeal and advance ruling for 27 states.

    "'We are working on the analytics part. We have already started sharing with tax officers simple analytics on differences between GSTR-3B and GSTR-1, GSTR-3B and GSTR-2A. This is a broad state-wise data generated by GSTN, based on which the officers can look into the returns filed by taxpayers in his jurisdiction and spot mismatches," Kumar told PTI in an interview.

    GSTN currently only provides support to tax officers (on data analysis). And gradually we are providing them tools so that they can do it themselves... We are in the process of developing an application for Commissioners to generate data without any external help, he added.

    He said the tools would enable tax officers to do the analysis themselves. "We have started work on it, We had even showed the functionality to state officers. We will be slowly releasing the tools over the next few months," Kumar added.

    GSTN is also working to improve its user interface by providing systematised error messages with 'error numbers'. Once a taxpayers sees a particular error number pop up on the screen, he can call the GSTN help desk for solutions.

    "Now the error message also says what has gone wrong and what you need to do to correct that. It will show a particular error number, which helps the GSTN helpdesk person to quickly identify the error that the taxpayer is committing and can guide him accordingly," Kumar said.

    Since the roll out of the GST from July 1, 2017, GSTN has handled 11.5 crore returns and processed 376 crore invoices.

    Currently, over 1.11 crore businesses are registered under the GST regime, of which 63.76 lakh have migrated from the erstwhile service tax and VAT regime, and 47.72 lakh are new registrants. As many as 17.61 lakh businesses have opted for composition scheme under GST.

    Kumar further said that GSTN has been sending Management Information System (MIS) reports to tax officers 27 states which are categorised as model 2 states for better understanding of taxpayers in their jurisdiction.

    "We have provided 27 different MIS report for model 2 states. The tax officers get to see their own jurisdiction data, who their assessees are, return filed, taxes paid. The report has daily, monthly revenue collection list in the jurisdiction, ward-wise collection list, registration details, taxpayers with outstanding liability, disposal of cases, among other things," he said.

    Based on the broad data mining by GSTN, tax officers have started analysing cases where there are instances of mismatch and have been sending scrutiny notices to taxpayers whose summary sales returns GSTR-3B did not match with final returns GSTR-1 or with system generated purchase returns GSTR-2A.

    Besides, many tax payers have got notices for utilising input tax credit (ITC) for payment of most of the GST liability and have been asked to explain reasons within a stipulated time. Also some notices have been sent for claiming less IGST input tax credit while filing sales returns as against the credit claims auto-generated by the GSTN.

    On taxpayers getting notices for utilisation of ITC for GST payment, EY Partner Abhishek Jain said, "While these could be genuine cases for quite a number of businesses for reasons like low margins and large transitional credit pool, these notices could help check on utilisation of any ingenuine credits. Also, these could help detect fake credits claimed, if any".

Power Ministry wants to control your AC temperature, and it's for your own good
  • The next air conditioner you buy might come with its default temperature set at 24 degree Celsius. This will happen at the behest of Ministry of Power, and with good reason. The ministry has asked air conditioner manufacturers to regulate default settings of the units they make in order to promote power efficiency in the area of air conditioning. The move is also aimed at cutting down on greenhouse gases emitted by air conditioners. The 24-degree Celsius level has been suggested by the Ministry based on a study carried out by the Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE), an official statement said.  

    "Every one-degree increase in the air-conditioner temperature setting results in saving of 6 per cent of electricity consumed," Minister of State for Power RK Singh said in a statement by the ministry. He reasoned that the commercial establishments, hotels and offices are wasting energy by maintaining temperatures in the range of 18-21 degree Celsius when the normal temperature of human body is 36-37 degree Celsius.

    "This is not only uncomfortable but is actually unhealthy. Setting the temperature in the range of 18-21 degree Celsius compels people to wear warm clothing or use blankets; therefore, this is actually wastage of energy. Some countries like Japan have put in place regulation to keep the temperature at 28 degree Celsius," the Minister said.

    As of now, an advisory has been issued to all establishments and air conditioner manufacturers to keep the default temperature setting between 24 and 26 degree Celsius. The targeted commercial buildings will include airports, hotels, shopping malls, offices and government buildings like ministries and attached offices, state government offices and public sector undertakings. The manufacturers have also been advised to label the optimum temperature levels keeping in mind the financial and physical well-being of customers.

    After running an awareness programme for a period of 4-6 months, and conducting a survey to garner public feedback afterwards, the ministry will consider making this mandatory. If all the consumers adopt, this will result in savings of 20 billion units of electricity in one year alone, the Ministry has claimed in its statement.

    Considering the current market trend, total connected load in India due to air conditioning will be 200GW by 2030 and this may further increase as today only about 6 per cent of households are using air conditioners, informed the BEE.  The total installed air conditioner capacity in the country is estimated to be 80 million TR (ton of refrigerator), which is set to rise to about 250 million TR by 2030.  Considering this huge demand, an estimated 40 million units of electricity can be saved every day by tweaking the air conditioner temperatures.

    General Awareness

    Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2018 report
    • Context: The U.N. has released its annual checkup report on the SDGs, accompanied by a call from U.N. Chief António Guterres that, “we must inject a sense of urgency” in making good on the ambitious 2030 development agenda. The SDG Report presents an overview of progress toward achieving the Goals, which were unanimously adopted by countries in 2015.

      Highlights of the report:

      Concerns: Progress on the Sustainable Development Goals remains uneven, and is not moving fast enough to meet the ambitious 17 goals on poverty, health, and equality by 2030.

      Challenges: A fast-changing climate, conflict, inequality, persistent pockets of poverty and hunger and rapid urbanization are challenging countries’ efforts to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

      The hunger challenge: There are now approximately 38 million more hungry people in the world, rising from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016.  According to the report, conflict is now one of the main drivers of food insecurity in 18 countries.

      Sanitation and Health: In 2015, 2.3 billion people still lacked even a basic level of sanitation service and 892 million people continued to practice open defecation. In 2016, there were 216 million cases of malaria compared to 210 million cases in 2013 and close to 4 billion people were left without social protection in 2016. The under-five mortality rate dropped by almost 50% and in the least developed countries.

      Individual SDG highlights include:

      On SDG 2 (zero hunger), the number of hungry people in the world has risen from 777 million in 2015 to 815 million in 2016, mostly as a result of conflicts and disasters and droughts linked to climate change. In 18 countries, the report finds that conflict is a main driver of food insecurity.
      On SDG 4 (quality education), more than half of children and adolescents are not meeting minimum proficiency in reading and mathematics, with disparities persisting along gender, urban-rural and other divides.
      On SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), in 2015, 2.3 billion people lacked a basic level of sanitation, and 892 million people practiced open defecation.
      On SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), 91% of the global urban population breathes air that does not meet the World Health Organization’s (WHO) air quality guidelines for particulate matter.
      On SDG 14 (life below water), global trends suggest declining marine fish stocks and deterioration of coastal waters, due to pollution and eutrophication.
      On SDG 15 (life on land), the report finds that the world’s forest areas continue to shrink.
      On SDG 16 (peace, justice and strong institutions), more than 570 different flows involving trafficking in persons were found between 2012 and 2014.
      On SDG 17 (partnership for the Goals), official development assistance (ODA) for capacity building and national planning has been stable since 2010.

      Way ahead:

      Transitioning towards more sustainable and resilient societies requires an integrated approach that recognizes that these challenges—and their solutions—are interrelated. As the global community moves forward to achieve the SDGs and address existing challenges, reliable, timely, accessible and disaggregated data is critically needed. This requires technology and innovation, increased resources and political commitment to build strong data and statistical systems in all countries.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims: SDGs.
      For Mains: Significance and efforts towards achieving SDGs.

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