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Current Affairs - 24 June 2018

General Affairs 

India Discusses Counter-Terror Ops, Maritime Security With European Union
  • India and the European Union (EU) discussed counter-terrorism and maritime security among other issues in a meeting between External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini in Brussels.

    "Federica Mogherini and Minister (Sushma) Swaraj discussed in depth foreign policy and security cooperation, namely on counter-terrorism, cybercrime, maritime security, as well as in the Indian Ocean," the EU said in a statement following the meeting on Friday.

    Both sides also addressed developments in their respective neighbourhoods, such as the issues of Rohingya refugees, and the situation in Afghanistan and the Maldives, as well as the ongoing diplomatic work for the denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula.

    "Good progress has been made in bringing the EU-India Strategic Partnership to its full potential, notably in the fields of energy and climate change, environment, ICT, transport, research and innovation, as well as space with the signature of the Agreement on Earth Observation Data Exchange in March 2018," the statement said.

    Mogherini also informed Sushma Swaraj on the preparation of a new EU Joint Communication on India, "which will provide direction for increased cooperation in the coming years, as well as the EU's upcoming strategy to enhance, in a sustainable manner, EU-Asia connectivity".

    "They exchanged views on creating the conditions to increase trade and investment flows," the statement said.

PM Modi To Unveil Several Development Projects In Madhya Pradesh
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has arrived today in Madhya Pradesh on a one-day visit during which he will launch several development projects.

    PM Modi will dedicate the Mohanpura Irrigation Project in Rajgarh district to the people of the state and also inaugurate several other projects, including an urban transport scheme named 'Sutra Seva" in Indore, a government public relations officer (PRO) said.

    The Prime Minister will land at Bhopal's Raja Bhoj Airport around 12 pm and  leave for Mohanpura. He will then visit Indore to take part in various programmes, the official said.

    "The Prime Minister will dedicate the Mohanpura irrigation project worth Rs. 3,866 crore to the people of the state. This project, which includes a dam and a canal system, will benefit 727 villages in Madhya Pradesh," he said.

    Thereafter, PM Modi will head to Indore to dedicate the development works worth Rs. 4,713.75 crore at a programme.

    He will also felicitate the winners of cleanliness survey - Swachh Survekshan 2018. He will give away awards to the representatives of Indore, Bhopal and Chandigarh, the cities that secured top three positions in the survey, the official said.

    PM Modi will also inaugurate the state government's urban transport scheme named 'Sutra Seva' at Indore's Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

    The economical bus service -- 'Sutra Seva: MP Ki Apni Bus' -- is being introduced in 20 selected cities of the state.

    The Urban Development and Housing Department will make the bus service available inside and outside the cities under the Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme through private partnership.

    In the first phase of 'Sutra Seva', 127 buses will start plying in four municipal corporation cities -- Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur and Chhindwara -- and in two municipal council towns -- Guna and Bhind, the official said.

    The 'griha pravesh' (house warming ceremony) of all 1,00,219 beneficiaries of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana will be performed simultaneously across the state.

    The Prime Minister will also dedicate 23 development projects undertaken at a cost of Rs. 278.26 crore in Indore, Bhopal, Jabalpur, Gwalior and Ujjain under the Smart City Mission, the official said.

    During the programme, PM  Modi will also inaugurate drinking water schemes for 14 urban areas. These places are: Dharampuri Municipal Council (Dhar distric), Raisen Municipal Council, Begumganj, Obaidullaganj, Berasia (Bhopal), Athner (Betul), Badhvad (Ratlam), Dindori, Lakhnadon (Seoni), Narsinghpur, Sabalgarh, Bamor, Poursa (Morena) and Bamouri (Shahdol), he said.

    Parks developed under the AMRUT Yojana in 10 urban areas, including Khandwa, Burhanpur, Khargone, Sehore, Hoshangabad, Bhopal, Pithampur, Guna, Gwalior and Rewa, will also be dedicated to the people during the programme.

    Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh are scheduled to be held by the end of the year.

Mumbai Residents "Happy" As Maharashtra Plastic Ban Comes Into Effect
  • The Maharashtra government's ban on plastic has got a thumbs up from residents, who say that the move will be beneficial in the long run. People in Mumbai were seen using sustainable alternatives like jute and cloth bags.

    "It's not that we aren't facing any difficulties, but it will be beneficial for us in the long run. We are happy with the decision," Mumbai residents were quoted by news agency ANI.

    From today, use of plastic, disposable items and one-time use plastic can't be used anywhere in the state. The ban comes in the backdrop of the environmental risks and harm posed by plastic items to wild animals from ingestion or entanglement, making Maharashtra the 18th state in India to enforce the ban.

    Maharashtra generates 1,200 tonnes of plastic waste everyday; Mumbai alone generates 500 metric tonnes of everyday which accounts for nearly 10% of its total waste. While this ends up in the garbage dumps and landfills, a lot of the plastic also ends up clogging drains and in the sea, leading to massive marine pollution around Mumbai.

    One lakh marine animals are killed due to plastic every year globally and coastal areas around Mumbai have also seen marine life deaths due to plastic. Versova-based lawyer Afroz Shah, who has been spearheading the beach clean-up since October 2015, has removed over 15 million kg of plastic from just Versova beach along with his team.

    Shiv Sena Leader Aditya Thackeray, who has been instrumental in pushing through the ban on single use plastics, called it a "historic step" towards bettering the lives of all citizens and protecting the environment.

    The ban on single use disposable plastic includes a ban on plastic cups, plastic bags, plastic straws, plastic plates & cutlery, styrofoam cutlery and non woven bags. These items are a global issue now and we have taken a step to combat it, better our planet

    The fine for the first-time and second-time offenders will be Rs. 5,000 and Rs. 10,000, respectively. A third violation will attract a fine of Rs. 25,000 and three months in jail.

    Errant manufacturers will face a strong action, but common people and small traders will not be harassed, Maharashtra Environment Minister Ramdas Kadam said. "We will ensure that common people and small traders are not harassed. But strict action will be taken again plastic manufacturers (if they break the law)," the senior Shiv Sena minister said.

    "This decision has been taken for the betterment of the state," he added.

    On March 23, the state government imposed a ban on manufacturing, 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 gave three months for the disposal of existing stocks.

    Star couple Kajol and Ajay Devgan, appealed to citizens to make "little effort" to save the city, the country and the world from plastic pollution.

    "We always think of leaving something for our kids. We think of leaving property or bank balance for them. It would be better if we thought of leaving behind green environment for them."

    The government has planned an extensive awareness campaign about banned items, Mr Kadam said.

Bihar's 42,000 Missing Class 10 Answer Sheets Were Sold As Scrap For 8,500
  • The mystery of the 42,500 answer sheets of Class 10 students that disappeared from an evaluation centre of the Bihar School Examination Board may just have been solved. A scrap dealer arrested today by the police has allegedly told the authorities that he had bought the answer sheets as scrap for Rs. 8,500.

    He and an associate had paid the money to a peon of the Gopalganj school where the papers had been kept for safe keeping after evaluation, the police said. The peon had let them into the school one night with a tempo and the answer sheet bundled out.

    Officials of Bihar's examination board discovered that the answer papers were missing earlier this week when an inspection team was sent to cross-check the answer sheets of student who could top the examination.

    The practice of verifying the answer sheets was started after some students who topped the school exam could not answer basic questions about the subjects. A probe later revealed a scam they had paid money to clear the exam.

    But when they opened the room in SS Girls' Senior Secondary School in Gopalganj district, about 150 km from state capital Patna, the papers were missing.

    Over 200 bags that contained the papers were found later on Friday near the school, empty.

    The board, which was slated to announce the Class 10 exam results this week, has put off the announcement by six days or so.

    It is not clear if the board will stick to the June 26 date that it had announced. This date was based on the expectation that the police would be able to recover the answer sheets in a few days. The Gopalganj police, however, hasn't been yet succeeded in this endeavor yet.

    According to the police, it is yet not clear if the peon had sold the papers to the scrap dealers under instructions from someone else.

    A red-faced state education minister Krishna Nandan Prasad Verma had earlier claimed that the crime was the work of some elements who wanted to embarrass the school board and the Nitish Kumar government.

    The high court had also taken note of the media reports about the missing answer sheets and sought a report from the state government.

Defend, Destroy, Defeat - Fresh Brief For Security Agencies In Kashmir
  • After the BJP-PDP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir ended, the centre's renewed approach to ensure peace in the Valley involves 4Ds - defend, destroy, defeat and deny, said a senior home ministry official. The security forces have to follow this brief as they venture into trouble-prone areas of the Valley.

    Defend means strengthening of the security of the camps, destroy means that security forces would eliminate terrorists and their hideouts, defeat means that the agencies would work to crush the ideology of separatism and deny or prevent young men from getting recruited by various tanzeems (terror organisations).

    "People are feeling relieved that the BJP-PDP coalition has fallen apart, but this euphoria won't last," said a ground duty officer.

    During a meeting at Home Minister Rajnath Singh's home last week, it was decided that the government of India would now take a tough stand against Hurriyat leaders. Yasin Malik was detained while Hurriyat Conference chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq was placed under house arrest to prevent separatists from leading protests.

    The separatists, under the banner of Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL), had on Tuesday called for a protest on Friday against the killing of civilians allegedly in firing by security forces recently and the assassination of veteran journalist Shujaat Bukhari.

    But the steps taken by the security agencies ensured that the situation remained in control after Friday prayers.

    "Yasin Malik is responsible for all the stone throwing incidents in downtown area so he was detained. Even Geelani Sahab was also put under house arrest," said an officer.

    The centre is also having second thoughts about withdrawing prosecution cases against stone throwers. The issue was discussed in the meeting.

    "We have decided that from now on no amnesty would be offered to stone throwers," a senior minister in PM Modi's cabinet told.

    According to him, the BJP had a lot of issues with PDP government and the break-up was inevitable. "There have been instances when the police were asked to go slow in operations," he said.

    Former Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti had in November last year announced amnesty for 4,500 first-time stone throwers. However, intelligence officials said that the increase in cases of stone throwing in the Valley were indicative of the widespread radicalisation of the youth, with the Hurriyat holding sway over the local population.

Business Affairs

LIC seeks govt approval to buy controlling stake in IDBI Bank: Report
  • State-run Life Insurance Corporation of India has sought the government's approval to buy a controlling stake in IDBI Bank Ltd, Mint reported today. LIC, which currently has 10.8 per cent stake in IDBI Bank, wants to buy an additional 43 per cent stake for about Rs 10,500 crore. "The LIC board has already approved initiatives for taking controlling stake in taking over a bank. The specific proposal regarding acquisition of controlling stake in IDBI Bank shall be placed before the board after the approval of the government," the report quoted a source as saying.

    On Friday, IDBI Bank's stock surged 6 per cent intra- day after it was reported that the government was planning to sell its 40-43 per cent stake to LIC. The stock closed nearly 2 per cent higher on BSE. The stake sale would fetch the government Rs 10,000- 11,000 crore, news agency NewsRise reported citing an official from the Finance Ministry.  Currently, the government holds 81 per cent stake in IDBI Bank.

    Earlier this month, it was reported that the government was considering merging at least four state-run banks as part of a larger consolidation plan - triggered by rising bad loans. IDBI Bank had also figured in that list. The troubled bank's gross NPA soared to 27.95 per cent of its loans at March 2018 compared to 21.25 per cent at the end of March 2017. IDBI Bank posted a net loss of Rs 5,662.76 crore in Q4 due to higher provisioning for non-performing assets.

    Last year in May, IDBI Bank became the first lender to be put under a revised prompt corrective action (PCA) for its high non-performing assets and negative return on assets. The move came after the bank's NPAs shot up by 80 per cent to Rs 35,245 crore and it booked a loss of Rs 2,255 crore for the December quarter of FY 2016-17. Its return on assets also declined to (-) 2.32 per cent at the end of the third quarter of 2016-17.

    The PCA framework is a mechanism to maintain sound financial health of the banks. It facilitates banks - in breach of risk thresholds for identified areas of monitoring such as capital and asset quality - to take corrective measures so that they are protected from going into financial crisis.
    IDBI Bank's return on assets has been constantly falling during the last five fiscals. Return on assets ratio is a profitability ratio that measures the net income produced by total assets during a period by comparing net income to the average total assets. RoA measures how efficiently a company can manage its assets to produce profits during a period. The ratio is calculated by dividing net income by average total assets.

    Recently, IDBI Bank created a special department for managing bad loans and monitoring credit after it was put under watch by the RBI.

Air India unveils revamp plan after privatisation setback
  • State-run Air India will revamp its business and first class cabins on international flights to try to boost revenues by wooing more high-paying passengers, a top company official said on Friday, days after a plan to privatise the ailing airline was called off.

    The government on Wednesday shelved a plan to sell a 76 per cent stake in the debt-laden carrier due to lack of interest from bidders.

    Air India, known for its Maharaja mascot, is saddled with about USD 7 billion of debt and its sale was expected to cement Prime Minister Narendra Modi's credentials as a reformer willing to step away from running money-losing businesses.

    The airline, which now plans to focus on finding ways to remain competitive and win market share, also unveiled a new food menu and amenities for passengers, and uniforms for its airline staff.

    These changes, expected to be introduced over the next two months, could earn the airline an additional 10 billion rupees ($147 million) a year in revenue, Air India's chairman and managing director Pradeep Singh Kharola told reporters.

    Air India currently fills only 60 per cent of the business and first class seats on its international flights to North America and Europe and the changes are expected to increase the so-called load factor to 80 per cent, Kharola said at the event.

    He declined to comment on how much money the airline had spent on the revamp.

    The government is committed to supporting the airline and to making it competitive, junior civil aviation minister Jayant Sinha said, adding Air India was also looking at flying to new destinations in Africa, Australia and North America.

    Air India has been losing domestic market share to rapidly expanding lower-cost operators such as InterGlobe Aviation Ltd's IndiGo and SpiceJet Ltd that are now looking to expand their international routes as well.

No disparities in 31 loan accounts named in whistleblower complaint, says ICICI
  • The ICICI Bank has said that it received an complaint in March 2018 over "irregularities in the conduct of some borrower accounts", citing 31 borrower accounts. The complainant also alleged "incorrect accounting of interest income and NPA recoveries as fees" and "overvaluation of security for corporate loans", citing no specific examples. In a regulatory filing on Friday, the private lender mentioned that the borrower accounts cited by the anonymous whistleblower were classified as non-performing assets prior to the complaint.

    "The complaint was treated as a whistle blower complaint and an inquiry was instituted as per the Whistle Blower Policy of the Bank under the supervision of the Audit Committee of the Board of Directors, without involvement of the senior management other than Internal Audit," ICICI Bank said.

    The statutory auditors were provided periodic updates and their inputs were factored into the inquiry process. The interim report of the inquiry was reviewed in detail by the Audit Committee and statutory auditors, prior to finalisation of the accounts for the year ended March 31, 2018.

    "The findings in the interim report had no material impact on the financial statements for FY2018. The interim report has also been submitted to the regulator," the private sector lender said in its statement.

    It further said the loans outstanding were fully classified as non-performing, with provisions made as per applicable norms. 29 of these borrower accounts were classified as non-performing between the year ended March 31, 2012 and the year ended March 31, 2017. The remaining two accounts were classified NPAs by December 31, 2017.

    "Thus, all these loans had been classified as non-performing prior to the Bank becoming aware of the complaint," the filing said. The aggregate loans (in the 31 cases) outstanding at March 31, 2018 were Rs 6,082 crore ($898 million), about 1.1 per cent of gross loans. The provision coverage (including prudential/ technical write-offs) was 50 per cent.

    "Based on the procedures performed in the enquiry, the allegations relating to incorrect accounting of interest income and NPA recoveries as fees, and overvaluation of security for corporate loans, were not borne out. In certain accounts, transactions were observed that may have delayed the classification of the account as nonperforming under Indian GAAP in earlier years. As mentioned earlier, all the above loans had been classified as non-performing and provided for as per applicable norms by December 31, 2017 itself," ICICI Bank said in the regulatory filing.

    Also, no disclosure on divergence in asset classification and provisioning for NPAs was required to be made by the bank with respect to RBI's annual supervisory process for 2016-17, it added.

    This marks the third whistleblower complaint against the bank since 2016, which have led to several controversies including the Videocon-ICICI Bank loan case row. Banks' MD and CEO Chanda Kochhar is facing an internal probe in the matter over charges of quid pro quo. She will be on leave till the completion of the enquiry.

Patanjali says Adani Wilmar not eligible to bid for bankrupt Ruchi Soya
  • Baba Ramdev-led Patanjali Ayurved has raised questions over the eligibility of Adani Wlimar to participate in the bidding process to acquire bankrupt Ruchi Soya. According to sources, the resolution professional dealing with the case has sought at least 8-10 days time for replying to clarifications sought by Patanjali Ayurved related to the eligibility of Adani Group company.

    Adani Wilmar, which sells cooking oil under the Fortune brand, and Baba Ramdev's Patanjali group have locked horns in the fight to acquire debt-ridden Ruchi Soya.

    The resolution professional is reported to have informed the Committee of Creditors (CoC) that it will take 8-10 days to reply to Patanjali, which has raised questions over the Adani group's eligibility to participate in the bidding process under Section 29 A of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

    Section 29A states the bidders for an insolvent company cannot be allowed to offer a resolution plan if the bidding company is 'connected' to another stressed-loan corporate.

    It has been alleged that Pranav Adani, MD of Adani Wilmar and a relative of Adani Group chief Gautam Adani, is married into the Kothari family, the erstwhile promoter of Rotomac group which is undergoing investigation after Bank of Baroda lodged a complaint against the company for siphoning off loans over Rs 3,000 crore.

    According to the recent IBC ordinance, approved by the President on June 6, the definition of "connected person" has broadened to include "related party" and "relatives" a category that is expected to include in-laws.

    Patanjali, which has been declared as the second highest bidder with Rs 5,700 crore offer, was asked to submit a revised bid by June 16 to match or better the highest offer of Rs 6,000 crore by Adani Wilmar under the Swiss Challenge system adopted by the RP and banks. However, Patanjali wrote to the RP seeking clarifications instead of submitting fresh and revised bid.

    Under the Swiss Challenge method, Adani will get another chance to make an offer if Patanjali were to match or better its offer of about Rs 6,000 crore. Yoga guru Ramdev-led Patanjali group has also questioned the appointment of Cyril Amarchand Mangaldas as the RP's legal advisor as the law firm was already advising the Adani Group.

    The Haridwar-based FMCG firm has raised the issue of conflict of interest over the appointment of the law firm due to its alleged connection with the Adani group.

    Ruchi Soya, which is facing the insolvency proceedings, has a total debt of about Rs 12,000 crore. The company has many manufacturing plants and its leading brands include Nutrela, Mahakosh, Sunrich, Ruchi Star and Ruchi Gold.

    In December 2017, Ruchi Soya Industries entered into the Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) and Shailendra Ajmera was appointed as the RP. The appointment was made by the National Company Law Tribunal on the application of the creditors Standard Chartered Bank and DBS Bank, under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code.

ED moves court to confiscate Rs 12,500 crore assets of Vijay Mallya
  • India on Friday made its first move to clampdown on big bank loan defaulters under a new law as the Enforcement Directorate (ED) moved court against liquor baron Vijay Mallya seeking to declare him a 'fugitive offender' and to confiscate his assets worth Rs 12,500 crore.

    Officials said the central probe agency filed an application before a special court in Mumbai, under the recently promulgated Fugitive Economic Offenders Ordinance, that empowers it to confiscate "all linked assets" of an absconding loan defaulter.

    The application accessed by news agency PTI said the ED seeks to "confiscate all the properties of Vijay Mallya including those properties indirectly controlled by him."

    The application said the "estimated value of properties proposed for confiscation is to the tune of Rs 12,500 crore approximately, which includes immovable properties as well as movable properties in form of shares."

    The action has been taken in pursuance of two bank loan money laundering cases of over Rs 9,000 crore involving the IDBI bank and a SBI-led consortium and these became predicate offences for the latest action under the Ordinance brought by the Modi government early this year.

    The ED, in the application, furnished evidences that it filed as part of its two charge sheets against Mallya and others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) and stated that in both cases, non-bailable warrants have been issued against Mallya by the court.

    This is first case filed by the ED, empowered to execute this Ordinance in the country, and the agency will soon undertake the same action against absconding designer diamond jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, accused in the USD 2 billion PNB fraud case, apart from other such big bank loan defaulters, they said.

    The government brought the fugitive ordinance as "there have been instances of economic offenders fleeing the jurisdiction of Indian courts, anticipating the commencement, or during the pendency, of criminal proceedings."

    The agency charged in its application that Mallya "had no intention to repay the loans from the start and though he and Ms UBHL (United Breweries Holdings Limited) had substantial assets that were sufficient to repay the loans, they intentionally withheld the details from the banks."

    It alleged that a "criminal conspiracy was hatched from inception" by Mallya and his firms to obtain loans in "gross violation" of established procedures.

    "The investigation under PMLA also revealed several instances of diversion of funds at the behest and for the benefit of Mallya through Ms Kingfisher Airlines," it said.

    The agency said it has attached assets worth over Rs 8,040 crore of Mallya and others under the PMLA in the past.

    Two criminal complaints were filed by the ED in these instances after taking cognisance of CBI FIRs.

    As per the existing process of law under the PMLA, the ED could confiscate the assets only after the trial in a case finishes which usually takes many years.

    General Awareness

    Chabahar port
    • Context: India is trying to make Chabahar Port in Iran operational by 2019 despite a threat of renewed US sanctions against Tehran.

      Background:

      The Indian-backed Chabahar port complex in Iran is being developed as part of a new transportation corridor for land-locked Afghanistan that could potentially open the way for millions of dollars in trade and cut its dependence on Pakistan, its sometimes-hostile neighbour.

      Where is Chabahar port?

      Iran’s Chabahar port is located on the Gulf of Oman and is the only oceanic port of the country. The port gives access to the energy-rich Persian Gulf nations’ southern coast and India can bypass Pakistan with the Chabahar port becoming functional.

      Why Chabahar port is crucial for India?

      The first and foremost significance of the Chabahar port is the fact that India can bypass Pakistan in transporting goods to Afghanistan. Chabahar port will boost India’s access to Iran, the key gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that has sea, rail and road routes between India, Russia, Iran, Europe and Central Asia.
      Chabahar port will be beneficial to India in countering Chinese presence in the Arabian Sea which China is trying to ensure by helping Pakistan develop the Gwadar port. Gwadar port is less than 400 km from Chabahar by road and 100 km by sea.
      With Chabahar port being developed and operated by India, Iran also becomes a military ally to India. Chabahar could be used in case China decides to flex its navy muscles by stationing ships in Gwadar port to reckon its upper hand in the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf and Middle East.
      With Chabahar port becoming functional, there will be a significant boost in the import of iron ore, sugar and rice to India. The import cost of oil to India will also see a considerable decline. India has already increased its crude purchase from Iran since the West imposed ban on Iran was lifted.
      Chabahar port will ensure in the establishment of a politically sustainable connectivity between India and Afghanistan. This is will, in turn, lead to better economic ties between the two countries.
      From a diplomatic perspective, Chabahar port could be used as a point from where humanitarian operations could be coordinated.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims: Location of Chabahar port.
      For Mains: Significance of the port.

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