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Current Affairs - 14 June 2018

General Affairs 

4 BSF Personnel Killed In Pakistan Firing In Jammu And Kashmir's Samba
  • Four Border Security Force (BSF) personnel, including an assistant commandant-rank officer, were killed and three others injured in firing by Pakistan Rangers along the International Border in Samba district of Jammu and Kashmir, a senior BSF officer said today.

    The BSF said that it had honoured the ceasefire agreed at a recent sector commander-level meeting but Pakistan resorted to unprovoked firing.

    Eleven BSF troops have been killed in cross-border firing incidents along the International Border (IB) in Jammu and Kashmir till date in 2018, the highest casualty figure for the border force in a year in the past five years, the latest data revealed.

    "Since the ceasefire was on...it is the time we use to strengthen our defences. A team was going with defence material, Pakistan violated the ceasefire and fire at them with flat trajectory weapon followed by mortar firing. That is how the causality has taken place," Additional Director General (ADG) of BSF Western Command, K N Chaubey, told reporters here today.

    Another team of the BSF led by Assistant commandant Jitender Singh rushed to evacuate them and a mortar fired from Pakistan's Asraf Post exploded close to them in Border Our Post (BoP) Chambiliyal, resulting in fatal causalities, they said.

    The BSF ADG said that it was very unfortunate and "the ceasefire announcement made and agreed is to be honoured".

    "We have honoured it and Pakistan has not honoured it. And what Pakistan does is Pakistan's business and how we respond to betrayal is our job," he said.

    Asked whether the BSF will lodge a protest with Pakistan, he said, "Of course, it would." He asserted that it was premature to say about any involvement of Pakistan special force BAT in it.

    "Pakistan Rangers initiated cross-border firing along the IB in Ramgarh sector last night. We have lost four of our personnel, including an assistant commandant-rank officer, while three of our personnel suffered injuries," Inspector General, BSF (Jammu Frontier) Ram Awtar told PTI.

    In a tweet, Jammu and Kashmir Director General of Police (DGP) SP Vaid expressed condolences.

     "In Ramgarh Jammu sector of IB, 4 BSF personnel were martyred including one Asstt Commandant & 5 injured due to firing from across. Our heart goes to those who lost their dear ones," he said.

    In a statement, the BSF said, "Around 2140 hours Pak Rangers Post Asraf started unprovoked firing on BOP Chamliyal with flat and high trajectory weapons.

     "Retaliating this unprovoked fire, Jitender Singh, Assistant Commandant, SI Rajneesh, ASI Ramniwas, Constable Hansraj attained martyrdom. Three other bordermen received severe injuries. Injured BSF personnel have been evacuated to hospital," the statement said.

    Assistant Commandant BSF Jitendra Singh, who was born in 1984, joined BSF in 2011 and hails from Jaipur (Rajasthan). Sub Inspector Rajneesh Kumar, who was born in 1986 and joined BSF in 2012 hails from Etah in UP.

    The 1990 born Constable Hansraj Gurjar joined BSF in 2011 hailed from Alwar in Rajasthan and Assitant Sub Inspector Ramniwas, who was born in 1966 and joined BSF in 1988 also hailed from Sikar Rajasthan.

    Mr Jitendra is survived by his wife and a 3-year-old son and his family had only left him yesterday after staying with him for some time.

    The firing from across the border in Chamliyal post area of Ramgarh sector started around 10.30 pm yesterday and continued till 4.30 am, a police official said, requesting anonymity. BSF troops also fired in retaliation, the official said.

    This is the second major ceasefire violation along the IB this month and came despite Director General Military Operations (DGMO) of the two countries agreeing on May 29 to implement the ceasefire pact of 2003 in "letter and spirit".

    On June 3, two BSF personnel, including an Assistant Sub-Inspector, were killed and 10 persons, mostly civilians, injured in heavy shelling and firing by Pakistan Rangers along the IB in Pragwal, Kanachak and Khour sectors.

    The latest casualties take the number of those killed in ceasefire violation by Pakistan along the IB and the Line of Control (LoC) this year to 51, including 25 security personnel. There has been over 1,200 incidents of ceasefire violation.

    On May 29, the DGMOs of India and Pakistan agreed to "fully implement" the ceasefire pact of 2003 in "letter and spirit" forthwith to stop border skirmishes in J&K.

    Last month, thousands of people residing along the IB in Jammu, Kathua and Samba districts had to flee their homes following intense shelling from Pakistan between May 15 and May 23 which left 12 people dead, including two BSF jawans and an infant, and scores of others injured.

    After the DGMOs of the two countries spoke to each other, hope rekindled among border residents who had started returning to their homes but the latest incident triggered fresh concerns among them.

    On June 4, the border-guarding forces of India and Pakistan met at the Octroi post here and held a 15-minute meeting during which both sides decided to "develop confidence" between them.

    The Pakistani side gave an assurance that they would not initiate any cross-border firing and the BSF reciprocated by saying that it would only retaliate when provoked.

Opposition Copying BJP's Enrollment Drive: Amit Shah
  • BJP president Amit Shah today hailed his party's drive to enroll new members and train them, and said opposition parties are also now emulating this exercise.

    Addressing party functionaries after releasing training booklets to educate workers, Mr Shah said the BJP's ideology is aimed at changing the society and the country's politics, sources said.

    The training booklets also include measures to effectively deal with media.

    The party had launched a membership drive after it stormed to power at the centre in 2014 and claimed to have enrolled 11 crore new members. It then launched workshops across the country and said that it has trained over 10 lakh workers.

    People present at today's meeting said Mr Shah also referred to membership drives of some opposition parties and said they had followed the BJP.

    There are different booklets for panchayat-level workers, elected members of local bodies and members of farmers cells, among others. The party has named this exercise to educate party workers the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay Prashikshan Mahabhiyan.

Rahul Gandhi Meets Family Of Farmer-Scientist Dadaji Khobragade, Apologises For Nation's "Apathy'
  • Congress chief Rahul Gandhi today met the family of late Dadaji Khobragade, the rural inventor who revolutionised rice farming in Maharashtra's Chandrapur district, and apologised for the nation's "apathy" towards his achievements.

    Khobragade had invented the revolutionary HMT variety of paddy, but died "largely forgotten and in penury", Mr Gandhi noted. The 78-year-old rice innovator, a native of Nanded village in Chandrapur in Vidarbha region, died earlier this month after a prolonged illness in Gadchiroli district.

    "Dadaji Khobragade, a Dalit farmer-scientist, invented the revolutionary HMT variety of paddy. But, he died largely forgotten and in penury. I visited his home in Nanded, Maharashtra, to condole with his family and to apologise for our apathy as a nation, to his achievements," Mr Gandhi said on Twitter.

    Congress general secretary Ashok Gehlot, its Maharashtra unit chief Ashok Chavan and Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil accompanied Mr Gandhi during the visit.

    "Rahulji enquired about the various rice varieties he has developed. Rahulji was also keen to know how their father (Khobragade) became so successful in developing so many varieties of paddy," Mr Chavan told PTI.

    The issue of patenting the rice varieties was also discussed at the meeting with his family members, he said. "Dadaji Khobragade developed 11 varieties of rice. However, none of them have been patented. The Congress has decided to follow up this issue with the state government and the Centre," Mr Chavan said.

    Mr Gandhi had a 20-minute meeting with Khobragade's family members in which no other Congress leader was allowed, he said. Later, the Congress president also held a 'chaupal', an interactive session with locals, at Nanded village, and attacked the BJP and the central government on a range of issues.

"Won't Promise To Fill Your Pockets With Cash": Rahul Gandhi's Jab At PM
  • Congress chief Rahul Gandhi kept up his attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government on the second day of his visit to Maharashtra. The idea of a united opposition to take on the BJP in next year's general elections is not only a goal of political parties, it also has the backing of the people, he said.  

    Amid farmers' concerns over loan waivers and lack of forward movement in the agriculture sector, he targetted the government and visited the family of late Dalit farmer-scientist Dadaji Ramaji Khobragade to apologise for the nation's apathy to his achievement. "People with skills are not rewarded in India ... farmers work hard but you don't see them in the office of Modi ji," he said.

    The Congress chief, who promised a food processing unit in every district to farmers of Mandsaur a few days ago, underscored how it is needed in every corner of the country.

    "Food processing plants would enable farmers to market their produce better, it would provide employment to people," said Mr Gandhi, who also promised Maharashtra farmers that if voted to power, the Congress will waive farm loans within 10 days.  

    He accused the government of failing to create jobs while providing benefits to a handful of industrialists. "MNREGA required Rs.35000 crore to initialize. Nirav Modi escaped with the exact same amount, amount that could generate employment for crores".

    Referring to the BJP's pre-election promise of job creation and bringing back black money, he said the Prime Minister's intentions "weren't right" when he made all those promises. "I won't promise that I'd fill your pockets with cash. I know it is a lie, I won't lie. India has enough cash to safeguard farmers. We would allocate it if we come to power," he said.

3-Member Panel To Take Decisions In Maharashtra Chief Minister's Absence
  • The Maharashtra government has formed a three-member ministerial committee to take decisions in case of an emergency in the absence of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.

    The committee members are Chandrakant Patil (Revenue Minister), Sudhir Mungantiwar (Finance and Planning minister), and Girish Mahajan (Water Resources Minister).

    A government resolution (GR) issued on June 11 by the General Administration Department stated that the committee has been assigned powers to take decisions during an emergency situation when the chief minister is out of the country on an official tour.

Business Affairs

No research before ban: Was RBI reckless to stop banks from dealing with cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin?
  • The RBI on April 6 dealt a body blow to all the cryptocurrency exchanges and individuals doing virtual currency business in India by asking regulated institutions like banks to stop providing services to them. The RBI diktat led to a huge decline in trade volumes and overall revenue of the cryptocurrency exchanges in India. But was this decision of the central bank -- which stirred the whole digital currency market, especially Bitcoin traders and investors -- based on a thorough research? If an RTI query response from the Reserve Bank of India is anything to go by, the central bank didn't conduct any research before imposing these restrictions, raising questions about the validity of its constitutional guidance.

    According to a report published in The Economic Times, the RBI responded to an RTI query filed by Varun Sethi, a startup consultant, saying it does not have an internal committee that looks into venture capital firms. Reports suggest the RBI committee was one of the two panels constituted by the Ministry of Finance to look into cryptocurrencies.

    "The RBI specifically mentions that it conducted no research or consultation before the implementation of restriction in April. The RBI also responded that no committee was ever formed for analysing the concept of blockchain before the decision," Sethi, a lawyer and founder of blockchainlawyer.in, told the newspaper.

    In a circular on April 6, the central bank called for the ring-fencing of regulated financial entities such as banks from risks associated with virtual currencies. Heeding to the RBI's warning, various banks in the country 'prohibited' customers from transacting in virtual currencies and gave these regulated entities three months to stop their business activities with the companies or individuals dealing in digital currencies. "If they (cryptocurrencies) grow beyond a critical size, they can endanger financial stability," BP Kanungo, RBI Deputy Governor, said in April.

    Banks asked traders and online marketplaces to stop using their services for venture capital activities, following which they moved the Supreme Court against the RBI restriction. The hearing in the case is scheduled for July 20. Reports suggest the petitioners would use two reasons to cement their case in the court - the RBI didn't consult all the stakeholders before taking such as crucial decision and that the decision to put restrictions was not based on any preliminary enquiry done by the central bank.

No need to share Aadhaar number from July 1 for mobile SIMS; Virtual IDs to be used
  • The Department of Telecom (DoT) released a circular on Tuesday asking all telecom operators to work on a mechanism that employs Virtual IDs instead of the sensitive biometric data. This step will help UIDAI restrict the massive flow of data to major telecom companies. The companies will now have to use Virtual IDs and Limited KYC, which essentially mask user data and hence avoids blatant sharing of sensitive data.

    The implementation of this new service launched by UIDAI is due on July 1. Telecom companies are expected to make the necessary changes in their data verification method.


    What is a Virtual ID?

    The virtual ID will be a combination of 16-digits which will be used to mask the Aadhaar data. This set of random number can be used by the Aadhaar holder in lieu of his/her Aadhaar number. This step avoids the need on sharing any personally identifiable information during the time of authentication.

    What is Limited KYC?

    This service does not return Aadhaar number. Instead, it provides "agency specific" unique UID token to eliminate any the scope of agencies storing the number. At the same time, this process will provide access to paperless KYC.

    In order to streamline the shift, the DoT has released a set of guideline for the telcos. Telecom operators will be registered under as local authentication user agencies. These agencies won't get complete access to KYC process.   

    The telcos will have to display the Aadhaar number masked by the unique virtual ID during the authentication process at the point of sale (PoS). Furthermore, the companies won't be allowed to store any of the data anywhere in the systems, applications and any other database.

    Earlier, companies demanded the Aadhaar data during the e-KYC process which included the Aadhaar number and even biometric verification. Earlier, a Supreme Court ruling pushed back the decision on Aadhaar being compulsory for mobile number verification.

Railways can save Rs 15,000 crore on fuel, can double revenue by 2025, says Piyush Goyal
  • Railways Minister Piyush Goyal is planning to double the national transporter's revenue to Rs 4 lakh crore by 2025. In an interview to the Economic Times, the Minister said: "Our target is to turn the Railways profitable so that it doesn't have to take any gross budgetary support from the government. We intend to double revenues by 2025."

    To achieve this target, Goyal will focus on increasing capacity by improving signals, expanding the electrified network, adding more lines in congested routes and enhancing utilisation of assets. The Minister believes that if Indian Railways succeeds in electrify large parts of its network, then it can easily save around Rs 15,000 crore in fuel bill itself.

    In the interview, Goyal said that just by introducing modern signalling on the golden quadrilateral route, railways can increase the line capacity by 50 per cent. The Golden Quadrilateral is a highway network that connect many of the major industrial, agricultural and cultural centres of the country. It forms a quadrilateral connecting Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi and Mumbai.

    "These lines currently carry 58 per cent of freight. Just imagine the kind of revenue we can get by just investing Rs 12,000 crore in signalling, which will allow us to run more trains in shorter blocks," the Railways Minister said.  

    Among the areas where Goyal is working to double the Railways' revenue are signalling, train punctuality and freight capacity. Indian Railways wants to increase its share of freight from 33 per cent to 45 per cent.

    According to Goyal, if Railways adds more capacity, its freight rates will also come down that will increase volumes. "The speed of trains is also being increased, which will allow us to run more trains. All of it will help us earn more money. Average speed of passenger trains is also being increased by 25 per cent," the Minister said.

    While presenting the budget this year in February, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that strengthening the railway network and enhancing Railways' carrying capacity has been a major focus of the government. Indian Railways capex for FY 2018-19 was pegged at Rs 1,48,528 crore. A large part of the capex is devoted to capacity creation. The ministry is moving fast towards optimal electrification of railway network. "4000 kilometers are targeted for commissioning during 2017-18," Arun Jaitley had said during  the budget .

USFDA nod to Sun Pharma's Halol plant a big boost for Indian pharma
  • It is a big relief for Sun Pharmaceutical and a development Indian pharma has been keenly waiting for. On Tuesday, June 12, Sun Pharma, the largest Indian pharma company, announced that it has received the Establishment Inspection Report (EIR) from the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for the inspection conducted at its Halol facility (Gujarat) during the period February 12-23, 2018. Sharing this in a note to the Bombay Stock Exchange, the company added that "the agency concluded that the inspection is now closed and the issues contained in the Warning Letter issued in December 2015 have been addressed." While, it is important for the company as  analysts expect to see other companies also getting their plants cleared by the USFDA - the likes of Dr Reddy's, Lupin, IPCA.

    The development is a hugely positive development both for Sun Pharma and for Indian pharma. From a sentiment perspective, it is significant given that the company has been finally able to get its facility cleared after three years. The expectation is that Sun Pharma will start getting approvals for product launches from this plant. It will lift the revenues of the company in the US market. This facility, before the import alert, used to contribute about 40 per cent of the company's US sales, which later came down to about 11 per cent. Currently, large number of drug approval filings for the US market have been made from this important injectibles plant and therefore this development is critical for the company as it removes a major threat. Based on the approvals that the company can start getting for newer product launches in the US, analysts estimate that there could there $ 150 million incremental revenue from this plants in the next 12 months or so.

    The note issued by the company to the stock exchange also quotes Dilip Shanghvi, Managing Director, Sun Pharma as saying, "This is an important development for Sun Pharma. We remain committed to following the highest levels of quality and 24x7 cGMP compliance at all our manufacturing facilities globally." This, coupled with its evolving business model, is a huge positive for the company. The Sun Pharma stock price on Wednesday morning was already up 3 per cent. Also, overall pharma stock prices have seen a pick up in prices.

    Last year, in a note to the Bombay Stock Exchange in March, Sun Pharmaceutical stated that it had been informed by the USFDA that the regulator "will lift the import alert imposed on the Mohali (Punjab) manufacturing facility and remove the facility from the Official Action Initiated (OAI) status." The note also added that "this proposed action will clear the path for Sun Pharma to supply approved products from Mohali to the U.S. market, subject to normal US FDA regulatory requirements". While, it was a significant development for the company, it shifted focus to Halol which had already undergone a re-inspection by the US drug regulator.

Modi government constructed 73% more highways compared to UPA's last 4 years
  • Recent data released by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) indicates that the Narendra Modi government has built 73% more highways in its first four years in office as compared to the last four years of the former UPA government. This is a momentous achievement which the NDA government can, in the run-up to the 2019 general elections, not just look up to, but possibly even take advantage of to remain in office.

    So far, the incumbent government has constructed a total of 28,531 km national highways since FY 2014-15, contrasting with 16,505 km by the previous government up to FY 2013-14, a clear gain of an astounding 12,026 kms, the Financial Express reported.

    The implementation of the construction projects is done through the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) route. Under EPC, the government invites bids from companies which have expertise in engineering and construction. Once a successful bid has been placed, the government hands over the contract to the company and provides 100% funding. The company is then accountable for every single aspect of the project, viz. procuring materials, labor, implementation, maintenance, etc.

    Over the last few years, under the NDA government, construction of national highways has steadily increased. Until May 2014, the construction rate of highways stood at 11.67 km per day. The current regime has steadily raised the construction rate to the present 26.9 km per day in FY 2017-18.

    In FY 2017-18, the government built 9,829 km; 8,231 km in FY 2016-17; 6,061 km in FY 2015-16; and 4,410 km in FY 2014-15. For FY 2018-19, the MoRTH is set out to achieve a target of 45 km per day.  

    Additionally, the government is actively addressing policy issues that hinder highway development. It has streamlined the exit policy which will enable developers to invest in new projects, land acquisition has been expedited, and one-time fund infusion scheme has been introduced which aids in resurrecting languishing projects.  

    General Awareness

    Swachh Iconic Places
    • Context: The government has selected ten new iconic sites under Phase III of the flagship project Swachh Iconic Places (SIP) of the Swachh Bharat Mission.

      Key facts:

      Phase I iconic places are: Ajmer Sharif Dargah, CST Mumbai, Golden Temple, Kamakhya Temple, MaikarnikaGhat, Meenakshi Temple, Shri Mata Vaishno Devi, Shree Jagannath Temple, The Taj Mahal and Tirupati Temple.
      Phase II included Gangotri, Yamunotri, Mahakaleshwar Temple, Charminar, Convent and Church of St. Francis of Assissi, Kalady, Gommateswara, BaidyanathDham, Gaya Tirth and Somnath temple.
      Phase III includes RaghavendraSwamy Temple (Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh); Hazardwari Palace (Murshidabad, West Bengal); Brahma Sarovar Temple (Kurukshetra, Haryana); VidurKuti (Bijnor, Uttar Pradesh); Mana village (Chamoli, Uttarakhand); Pangong Lake (Leh-Ladakh, J&K); Nagvasuki Temple (Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh); ImaKeithal/market (Imphal, Manipur); Sabarimala Temple (Kerala); and Kanvashram (Uttarakhand).

      About Swachh Iconic Places (SIP):

      What is it? Swachh Iconic Places (SIP) is an initiative of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under Swachh Bharat Mission. Initiated as a project to implement Prime Minister’s vision to take iconic places and their surroundings to higher standards of Swachhata, so that all visitors benefit and also take away home the message of cleanliness, Swachh Iconic Places is now in its second phase.

      Implementation of the project: SIP is a truly collaborative project with three other central Ministries: Urban Development, Culture, Tourism; all levels in the concerned States and more importantly, Public Sector and Private companies as partners.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims: SIP and SBM- key features, brief overview of places chosen for SIP project.
      For Mains: SBM- features, significance, challenges and sub- missions.

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