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Current Affairs - 04 June 2018

General Affairs 

Twin Railway Line To Be Built Along Proposed Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway
  • Indian Railways has joined hands with the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways to build a twin rail line along the proposed expressway between Mumbai and Nagpur -- a first such coordinated move to execute a transportation project.

    Both arms of the government will work together to put the project on the fast track with the aim of drastically cutting travel time on the busy route.

    "Spanish consultant Ineco has conducted a feasibility study on constructing a high-speed rail line along the proposed Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway and the reports are positive," a senior Railway Ministry official told IANS.

    Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, which is already acquiring land for the proposed expressway, will keep the rail project in mind, he added.

    The elevated rail line could be built in the middle or along the proposed 800 km expressway depending on the ground situation, according to a feasibility report.

    The official said that twin tunnels and bridges can also be constructed to cross rivers and negotiate hilly areas in a coordinated way for road and rail traffic.

    While the feasibility report is being examined by the Railways officials concerned, the Spanish team is set to make a detailed presentation, including on the financial aspect, to the public transporter shortly to take the ambitious project further.

    According to the study, travel time will be drastically reduced for both road and train travellers as the expressway will be fully access-controlled while the elevated rail track will ensure an uninterrupted high-speed train journey.

    Land acquisition is a serious problem and many rail projects, including the ambitious Dedicated Freight Corridor, have been delayed due to land-related issues. The Mumbai-Ahmedabad high-speed rail corridor is also facing the same problem.

    Incidentally, the improved road network in the country has taken a toll on the Railways' business on shorter routes and the national transporter is making a concerted effort to wean away goods and passenger traffic from roads and increase its share.

    "It's a new way of executing the project faster, as the combined efforts to acquire land will ease a major burden for both ministries and pave the way for speedy execution," the official said.

    The Mumbai-Nagpur section is part of the proposed high speed rail corridor between Howrah and Mumbai, the diamond quadrilateral rail project.

"Down But Not Out", Say BJP Leaders After Bypoll Results
  • The electoral losses suffered by the BJP in the recently held by-elections in Kairana and Noorpur seats in Uttar Pradesh may have given the opposition a reason to smile, but BJP leaders believe they are "down but not out".

    UP BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi told PTI that despite the losses suffered in the bypolls, the BJP is optimistic about the outcome of the 2019 general election from UP, a politically important state which sends 80 MPs to the Lok Sabha.

    "We are down but not out," he said, when asked to comment on three successive defeats suffered by the party in the Lok Sabha by-elections this year in the state.

    To begin with, he said, the winning margin of Tabassum Hasan, the joint opposition candidate fielded by the RLD in Kairana Lok Sabha seat, was 44,618 votes over Mriganka Singh of the BJP.

    Compared to this, in 2014 general elections, BJP's Hukum Singh defeated his nearest rival by a huge margin of 2,36,828 votes, Mr Tripathi added.

    Again, during the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, polling percentage in Kairana was 73 percent , as compared to 54 last week.

    A senior party leader said traditionally a higher polling percentage has always worked in favour of the BJP.

    Mr Tripathi said the scenario of a better and much higher turnout will occur in the 2019 general elections in the constituency, as also throughout the state, thereby, favouring the ruling party.

    About Noorpur Assembly constituency, he said the victory margin of SP candidate Naimul Hasan over BJP candidate Avni Singh was 5,662 votes as compared to the 2017 UP election, when Lokendra Singh of the BJP defeated Mr Hasan by a bigger margin of 12,736 votes.

    "The 2017 UP assembly elections had witnessed a voter turnout of 66.9 percent, as compared to 61 per cent in the recently held assembly bypoll," Mr Tripathi said.

    The by-election to Noorpur was necessitated by the death of sitting BJP MLA Lokendra Singh in a road accident. Mr Lokendra's wife Avni was given the BJP ticket but she lost.

    The Kairana Lok Sabha bypoll was ordered after sitting BJP MP Hukum Singh died. His daughter, Mriganka, was fielded by the BJP.

    Optimistic that the BJP will emerge victorious in the 2019 Lok Sabha and 2022 UP assembly elections, Mr Tripathi said, "We are confident that the voters in UP will elect BJP candidates both in the coming Lok Sabha and also UP assembly elections."

    Party leaders also claimed that the voting percentage in the Lok Sabha and UP assembly elections will increase and it will definitely give BJP a reason to smile.

    "Once the voting percent goes up, our party will trounce its political opponents," another senior party leader said.

China Reacts Coolly As India Expands Footprint In Southeast Asia
  • Almost lost in the din of the upcoming US-North Korea summit and fresh tension between Washington and Beijing last week, India cemented its diplomatic and security ties across Southeast Asia in a clear challenge to China.

    It's not clear just how far New Delhi will take these relationships, given years of promise, and a general election due in 11 months that could be a distraction for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. And if India is already rattling China, it won't want to spark open confrontation.

    But PM Modi took several concrete foreign policy and security steps in Southeast Asia in recent days.

    He signed an agreement with Indonesia to develop a port in the city of Sabang that would overlook the western entrance to the Strait of Malacca, one of the world's busiest waterways, and agreed a pact with Singapore on logistical support for naval ships, submarines and military aircraft during visits.

    PM Modi also flew to Kuala Lumpur for a late-scheduled call on Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who won last month's general election, effectively cementing ties with three of the most influential Southeast Asian nations.

    On Friday, PM Modi told the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Asia's premier defence forum, that India would work with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to promote a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region.

    "We will work with them, individually or in formats of three or more, for a stable and peaceful region," he said in the keynote speech at the forum.

    Several delegates, including US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, voiced support.

    At the end of the forum on Sunday, Singapore Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said: "I am sure many countries are delighted that India has indicated its firm commitment to the region."

    China Cool

    The term "Indo-Pacific" has grown in usage across diplomatic and security circles in the United States, Australia, India and Japan in recent years, shorthand for a broader and democratic-led region in place of "Asia-Pacific", which some people have said places China too firmly at the centre.

    In a nod to India's growing regional stature, the US military's Pacific Command in Hawaii formally changed its name to the US Indo-Pacific Command in a ceremony on Wednesday.

    Despite an outward show of friendship between China and India, and PM Modi's comments about the strong relations between them, Beijing gave a distinctly cool response to his strategy.

    The state-owned Global Times warned in an editorial last week: "If India really seeks military access to the strategic island of Sabang, it might wrongfully entrap itself into a strategic competition with China and eventually burn its own fingers."

    Senior Colonel Zhao Xiaozhou, research fellow at the Institute of War Studies Academy of Military Sciences of the People's Liberation Army, told reporters on the sidelines of the Shangri-La Dialogue that PM Modi "made some dedicated comments on what he thought of the Indo-Pacific concept".

    He did not elaborate but the Global Times quoted him as saying: "The Indo-Pacific strategy, and the quasi-alliance between the US, Japan, India and Australia will not last long."

    Wider Footprint

    Indian foreign ministry officials said there was a strong element of self-interest in New Delhi's efforts to secure open access to the Malacca Strait, since it carries about 60 percent of its foreign trade.

    But India's intended footprint looks to be wider. Late last month, three Indian warships staged exercises with the Vietnamese navy for the first time in the South China Sea, which is claimed almost wholly by China.

    Vietnamese submariners are trained in India, while the two sides have significantly increased intelligence sharing and are exploring advanced weapons sales.

    To the west, India signed an agreement for access to the port of Duqm on Oman's southern coast, during a visit by PM Modi earlier this year. Under the agreement, media reports said, the Indian navy will be able to use the port for logistics and support, allowing it to sustain long-term operations in the western Indian Ocean.

    In January, India finalised a logistics exchange arrangement with France under which it can use French military facilities in the Indian Ocean.

    Analysts said a more assertive India would answer concerns in Southeast Asia about expanding Chinese influence in the region and a fear that the United States was disengaging.

    The United States' trade spat with China and a perceived U-turn in its foreign policy as it pursues peace with North Korea had shaken many assumptions in the region, they said.

    "There is some pressure (in ASEAN) for diversification of security relationships, taking insurances," said C Raja Mohan, director of the Institute of South Asian Studies at the National University of Singapore.

    "An active India then actually fits into this situation."

    But although PM Modi has started strongly, it was not clear how well his strategy would be sustained, he added.

    "Implementation has always been a major challenge for India. (PM Modi is) struggling to improve the capacity of Delhi to do things outside borders. There's been some advance but that is a structural challenge that will remain."

Benami Attachments Worth Crores May Fall Flat As No Authority For 1.5 Years
  • Over 780 benami asset attachments worth crores of rupees run the risk of being invalidated in the near future as the government has failed to create a designated adjudicating authority for over a year-and-a-half since the stringent law was enforced to deal with black money and corruption.

    The Benami Property Transaction Act, enacted in 1988, was revived and enforced by the current government from November 1, 2016, the month that also saw demonetisation of two big currencies of the country by a declaration made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

    Section 7 of this law, that attracts a rigorous imprisonment of up to seven years and fine up to 25 per cent of the fair market value of the property, requires the government to create an independent 3-member Adjudicating Authority (like the one for PMLA) that will decide on the validity of the attachment of properties made under this legislation by the Income Tax Department (ITD).

    In the absence of such an authority for over 1.5 years now, the government has entrusted the task of handling these cases on an ad-hoc basis and as a "transitional" arrangement to the already short-staffed and over-burdened Adjudicating Authority for the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), a stringent law enforced by the Enforcement Directorate.

    Official records accessed by PTI show that while over 860 such cases have been finalised by the tax department and sent to this authority till now, only about 80 could be adjudicated, leaving a pendency of about 780 cases bearing attachments worth crores of rupees and involving some very high-profile individuals, politicians, bureaucrats and others.

    Worried that these high-value sensitive cases may get "time-barred" or invalidated as benami attachment orders have to be confirmed within an year of issue by the ITD, the Authority has recently asked the Department of Revenue and the CBDT under the Finance Ministry to not send to it the cases and "hold" them with the IT Department, till the new body is constituted.

    The Authority, as per official records, has put the government on notice stating if a new body is not created and existing vacancies of members and staff are not immediately posted to the existing setup, "it will be impossible for it to dispose of benami cases in the prescribed time limit...considering the speed at which work is pouring under the benami law."

    "If benami cases fail to be adjudicated within the prescribed time, it will lead to major litigation and embarrassment for the government as the drive against benami assets has been the most-talked about action of the government under its flagship anti-black money drive, about which PM Modi has himself spoken at various forums and poll rallies," a senior Finance Ministry official told the news agency.

    Records show that the existing Authority is forced to work without a regular Chairman since April 1 as the incumbent retired a day before and has only two working members now. 

    It has also beseeched the Finance Ministry to provide it at least 9 junior staff members like court masters-- to take down dictations and write judicial orders-- and peons to serve tea and snacks to members and defence counsels in courts.

    The Revenue department, records show, has till now not been able to fix a date to thrash out these issues even after it was told by the Authority last year that "immediate steps may kindly be taken for notification/creation of the Adjudicating Authority for the benami law so that public interest does not suffer and the purpose for which the Act was created is effectively met and justice is done."

    The Authority has also told the government that it "cannot handle the pressure of work under both the PMLA and the Benami Act and do justice with both" and a single authority cannot handle the two Acts due to "huge work being thrown" at it by two departments of the government-- the ITD and the ED-- after demonetisation and the enforcement of the benami law in 2016.

    "An early action in the matter will be highly appreciated," the Authority told the Revenue department even as it suggested that for the time being, some staff could be deputed with it on a temporary basis from the IT Department as it is the agency that has been entrusted with enforcing the benami law in the country.

    The benami law mandates that every case under adjudication is mandatorily heard and decided by a two-member bench and hence while deciding these cases within the time limit the manpower is diverted here at the cost of PMLA adjudication, the official said.

    Members of the benami authority, as per the scheme of the law, can be a person who has been a Commissioner-rank officer in the IT Department or has held the post of Joint Secretary in the Law Ministry and belongs to the Indian Legal Services.

    The Authority, records show, already has a pendency of over 230 PMLA cases at present that are sent to it by the ED after attachment of assets of those charged for money laundering.

    The ITD has set up 24 benami properties unit (BPU) in its investigation wings across the country to streamline functioning under the new Act and as per data till last year end, the department had attached assets worth more than Rs. 2,000 crore for which it issued over 530 notices and made 550 attachments.

    Benami properties are those in which the real beneficiary is not the one in whose name the property has been purchased.

India Successfully Test-Fires Nuclear Capable Agni-5 Ballistic Missile.
  • India today successfully test-fired its indigenously developed nuclear capable long range ballistic missile Agni-5 with a strike range of 5,000 km. The missile was launched from Dr Abdul Kalam Island off the Odisha coast.

    The surface-to-surface missile was launched with the help of a mobile launcher from launch pad number 4 of the Integrated Test Range at Dr Abdul Kalam Island, earlier known as Wheeler Island, in the Bay of Bengal at 9:48 am. This was the sixth trial of the state-of-the-art Agni-5 ballistic missile.

    The trial was a total success as the missile hit its target with pin-point accuracy after covering its full distance, sources told news agency PTI. "The flight performance of the missile was tracked and monitored by radars, tracking instruments and observation stations all through the mission," they said.

    Unlike other missiles of the series, Agni-5 is the most advanced with new technologies in terms of navigation and guidance, warhead, and engine, said a Defence Research and Development Organisation or DRDO official.
    agni 5 test ndtv
    The Agni-5 missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead of about 1.5 tonnes

    Agni-5's navigation systems, very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System or RINS, and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System or MINS ensured that the missile reached its target with precision.

    The Agni-5 missile has a high speed on-board computer and fault tolerant software along with a robust and reliable bus. Its path is precisely directed by the advanced on-board computer and inertial navigation system.

    The three-stage, 17-metre tall, two-metre wide Agni-5 missile is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead of about 1.5 tonnes. The missile also has higher reliability, longer shelf life, less maintenance and enhanced mobility.

    At present, apart from the Agni-5, other Agni missiles that India has in its armoury are: Agni-1 with a 700-km range, Agni-2 with a 2,000-km range, Agni-3 and Agni-4 with 2,500 km to more than 3,500 km range.

Business Affairs

RBI panel to decide on policy rates in 3-day MPC meet starting tomorrow
  • Rising inflation and high crude oil prices will weigh on the minds of the six Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) members at their three-day meeting beginning here tomorrow to decide the key policy rate.

    The seven-quarter high growth rate of 7.7 per cent in January-March 2018 and forecast of a normal monsoon has reduced the clamour for a cut in the benchmark lending rate (repo) by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI).

    Retail inflation (CPI), a key data for the RBI, has remained above 4 per cent since November 2017. The government has mandated the RBI to restrict the retail inflation at 4 per cent (with a margin of +/- 2 per cent), while supporting growth.

    The RBI has refrained from revising the repo rate since August 2017 citing inflationary concerns.

    Indicating hardening of the interest rate scenario, several major lenders including SBI, PNB and ICICI Bank have already raised their lending rates from June 1. Some of the banks have also increased the deposit rates.

    "Notwithstanding the clamour for a rate hike in market, we believe ground realities call for caution and not rate action," India's largest lender SBI said in a research report.

    One of the reasons it cited was that while the GDP numbers are strong, private consumption continues to lose pace, dropping to 6.6 per cent in 2017-18 from 7.3 per cent in the previous year.

    The MPC, headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel, will for the first time meet for three days as against the usual two.

    The resolution of the second bi-monthly monetary policy meeting for the current fiscal will be announced in the afternoon of June 6.

    In the last MPC meet, held in April, RBI Deputy Governor and member of the panel Viral Acharya had indicated that he would vote for withdrawal of monetary accommodation in the June policy.

    Another member Michael Patra had voted for a hike in repo rate but was overruled by majority that opted for status-quo.

    Currently, repo rate -- the short term lending rate at which RBI lends to banks -- stands at 6 per cent. Consequently, the reverse repo rate is 5.75 per cent and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the bank rate stand at 6.25 per cent.

    Naresh Takkar, MD and Group CEO of ICRA Ltd said: "Although the headline and the core CPI inflation for April 2018 revealed negative surprises, an immediate rate hike may be premature, given the lack of clarity on factors like the 2018 monsoon, the minimum support price (MSPs) and fiscal risks."

    However, the expected rebound in the average CPI inflation for 2018-19, in conjunction with the higher-than-anticipated GDP expansion in Q4 of last fiscal, suggests that a back-ended rate hike cannot be ruled out, which is likely to be reflected in the tone of the policy document, he added.

    Reversing the declining trend of three months, retail inflation inched up to 4.58 per cent in April.

    The Wholesale Price Index (WPI) based inflation too rose to 3.18 per cent in April mainly on account of a spike in fuel prices, as per data released by the government.

'Hand of government' behind GDP growth spurt in March quarter: HSBC
  • It was the "hand of government" that boosted GDP growth to an exemplary 7.7 per cent during the quarter ended March as exports and private consumption disappointed, an HSBC report said. Clocking its fastest rate of growth in seven quarters, the Indian economy grew at 6.7 per cent during the financial year 2017-18, according to government data released earlier this week.

    The report by the global financial servies major cited four key drivers for the rise in growth print -- core GVA (Gross Value Added), the public spending component of GVA, construction, and rise in central and state government fiscal deficits.

    As per the report, core GVA (GVA excluding public services and agriculture), which is a rough proxy for private sector growth, moderated slightly in the March quarter to 7.2 per cent versus 7.4 per cent last quarter and 4.1 per cent in the same quarter last year.

    "The GDP print reinforces our view that much of the current uptick in growth is led by the government's push to construction and consumption," the HSBC report said.

    On one hand, while manufacturing and agriculture growth rose, exports and private consumption disappointed, it added.

    "Even though global demand has been strong, India's export growth fell across every metric. Net exports shaved off 1.5 ppt from the growth number," it added.

    According to HSBC, the public spending component of GVA and the government consumption component of GDP grew at a rapid pace, accounting for roughly one-fifth of overall growth. Moreover, construction and capital formation grew at double digits and public roads contracts awarded quadrupled in the March quarter.
    Besides, central government fiscal deficit for FY18 rose to 3.5 per cent, versus a budget estimate of 3.3 per cent and this has growth dividends, the report noted. According to government data, fiscal deficit for last fiscal settled at Rs 5.92 lakh crore which amounts to 3.52 per cent of the total GDP.

    India retained the tag of the fastest growing major economy in the March quarter on robust performance by manufacturing and service sectors as well as good farm output. The GDP numbers showed that all core sectors clocked significant growth during Q4 of FY18, in comparison to the quarter before. This spurt in GDP growth also opens up the possibility of Reserve Bank of India considering a rate hike during its upcoming monetary policy meet.

Bank officials to brief parliamentary panel on mounting NPAs, bank frauds
  • Top officials of both public and private banks will tomorrow brief a parliamentary panel on the issue of mounting non-performing assets (NPAs) and banking frauds. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Finance headed by Veerappa Moily has called the Indian Banks' Association officials to appear before it tomorrow. The association has top officials of all the major banks in the country as its member.

    As per a Lok Sabha bulletin, the panel will be briefed on the issue of rising NPAs and other matters related to banks. Members of the panel said there will also be discussion on the recent frauds in the banks.  The meeting is being called after the RBI governor Urjit Patel had said the central bank did not have adequate powers to deal with public sector banks. The panel has also called Patel to brief on the same issue later this month.  The committee was earlier briefed by Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar about issues related to the banking sector.

    Earlier, bankers appearing before a different parliamentary panel had said the 180-day resolution plan for NPAs under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) was not an adequate window.  They had also suggested the emphasis should be on restructuring the stressed assets and that referring cases for resolution under the IBC should be the last option.

    Former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who is also a member of the committee, is likely to attend the meeting.

    Gross NPAs of state-owned banks had crossed Rs 7.77 lakh crore at the end of December 2017, according to official data.

SBI to modify rules for investing in fintech start-ups
  • Country's largest lender State Bank of India (SBI), which has not been able to invest in fintech start-ups despite earmarking funds, is now looking to modify rules to kickstart the infusion, a top official has said.

    "We are a public institution and investments in start-ups are generally considered very risky. We understand that traditional way of investing will not work," chairman Rajnish Kumar told PTI on the sidelines of an event here over the weekend.

    He said the bank, which has earmarked Rs 50 crore to invest in fintech start-ups, will be modifying the rules in order to plough-in the money.

    "We want to spend the money which we have earmarked," Kumar stressed, adding that it is keen to create more companies like online retailer Flipkart and ride sharing app Ola, which define the country's prowess.

    Kumar said SBI has a board-approved policy to support the fintech sector, which has passed the necessary oversight bodies like Central Vigilance Commission.

    He said the bank has been able to make progress on two other aspects of the fintech engagements, including procuring goods from such startups and also playing an active role with the ecosystem through collaborations.

    Kumar said the bank is also planning to invest Rs 25 crore to set up a collaborative innovation centre in the satellite city of Navi Mumbai to promote latest technologies.

    The bank, which has 430 million customers or a third of the country's population, has worked with over 150 startups till now on various cutting edge technologies including chatbot, data analytics, etc, according to him.

    The lender has held five editions of hackathons to collaborate and search for the best solutions, Kumar said.

    At present, the entire bank runs from its global technology centre at Belapur in Navi Mumbai.

Flipkart-Walmart deal: Tax department to act once US-based retailer gets regulatory nod
  • E-commerce major Flipkart has shared 'some details' with the income tax  authorities on its $16 billion deal with US-based Walmart, but the tax department will act only after regulatory approvals have been obtained, an official said.

    The department is currently studying the details received from the company, the official said, adding that they can issue notices seeking details of taxes withheld once the transactions are completed.

    Last month, the tax department had written to Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart saying that the US company can seek guidance about the tax liability under Section 195 (2) of the Income Tax Act.

    Under Section 195 of the Act, anyone making payment to non-residents is required to deduct tax (commonly known as withholding tax).

    The official said Flipkart has filed "some details" with the tax authorities and the same are being examined.

    "There is no action required right now on our part. We will wait till the regulatory clearances are obtained," the official told PTI.

    Nangia Advisors LLP Managing Partner Rakesh Nangia said Income tax department has power to issue notices u/s 133(6) of IT Act to any party involved in this mega deal, including Flipkart, Walmart or any of the investors selling their stake.

    "If the department is not satisfied with the reply/ explanation furnished by the purchaser/ payer, it may hold the purchaser/ payer as 'assessee in default' for failure to withhold appropriate taxes u/s 195 of the Act," Nangia said.

    The department currently is going through the Section 9 (1) of the Income Tax law, which deals with indirect transfer provisions, to see if the benefits under the bilateral tax treaties with countries like Singapore and Mauritius, could be available for foreign investors selling stakes to Walmart.

    Singapore-registered Flipkart Pvt Ltd holds majority stake in Flipkart India.

    Walmart had, on May 9, announced that it will pay about $16 billion to buy about 77 per cent stake in Flipkart. Significant shareholders in the Bengaluru-based company like SoftBank, Naspers, venture fund Accel Partners and eBay has agreed to sell their shares, as well as Sachin Bansal.

    Experts, however, said that the only regulatory clearance that the deal would need is from the CCI.

    According to V Lakshmikumaran, Managing Partner of law firm Lakshmikumaran & Sridharan: "Under Section 6 of the Competition Act, the Walmart will have to seek clearance from the CCI as it is going to be a major player in the e-commerce sector".

    Besides, Walmart will also have to adhere to the guideline of the Commerce Ministry on market place model of e-commerce which allows 100 per cent FDI under automatic route, he said.

    As per DIPP guidelines, market place model means providing an information technology platform by an e-commerce entity on a digital and electronic network to act as facilitator between a buyer and seller.

    E-commerce marketplaces are permitted to provide support services to sellers in respect of warehousing, logistics, order fulfilment, call centre, payment collection and other services. However, such entities will not exercise ownership over the inventory.

    Regulatory clearances have become important in the wake of complaints filed by RSS-affiliate Swadeshi Jagran Manch (SJM) to the Department of Industrial policy and Promotion (DIPP) alleging that US retail giant Walmart was "circumventing" rules for a "back-door entry" into India.

    The DIPP has referred SJM's complaint to the Enforcement Directorate (ED), Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Comptetion Commission of India (CCI) and the Income Tax Department.

    Besides, traders body CAIT too has complained to the Enforcement Directorate for alleged violation of the government's foreign direct investment (FDI) policy. It has also approached the CCI saying that the deal will create unfair competition and an uneven level playing field for domestic players.

    General Awareness

    4th Room-Temperature Ferromagnetic Element: Ruthenium
    • Context: A platinum-group chemical element called ruthenium (Ru) is the fourth single element to have unique ferromagnetic properties at room temperature.

      About Ru:

      Ruthenium is a chemical element with symbol Ru and atomic number 44. It is a rare transition metal belonging to the platinum group of the periodic table. Like the other metals of the platinum group, ruthenium is inert to most other chemicals.
      Most ruthenium produced is used in wear-resistant electrical contacts and thick-film resistors. A minor application for ruthenium is in platinum alloys and as a chemistry catalyst. A new application of ruthenium is as the capping layer for extreme ultraviolet photomasks.
      Ruthenium is generally found in ores with the other platinum group metals in the Ural Mountains and in North and South America. Small but commercially important quantities are also found in pentlandite extracted from Sudbury, Ontario and in pyroxenite deposits in South Africa.
      From an application perspective, Ru is interesting because it does not oxidize easily and theoretical predictions indicate it is particularly temperature-stable, which is an important property allowing scaling of magnetic memories.

      Significance of the discovery:

      The discovery could be used to improve sensors, devices in the computer memory and logic industry, or other devices using magnetic materials.

      Facts for Prelims:

      Ferromagnetism is the basic mechanism by which certain materials form permanent magnets, or are attracted to magnets.
      So far, only three single elements were found to be ferromagnetic at room temperature: iron (Fe), cobalt (Co), and nickel (Ni); the rare earth element gadolinium (Gd) nearly misses by only 8 degrees Celsius.
      Magnetic materials are very important in industry and modern technology and have been used for fundamental studies and in many everyday applications such as sensors, electric motors, generators, hard disk media, and most recently spintronic memories.

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