Current Affairs Current Affairs - 15 July 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 15 July 2018

General Affairs 

"New Varanasi Being Built For A New India," Says PM
  • Blaming the previous governments for the state of the pilgrim city, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said he wanted to see it developed as a place with an ancient soul but in a modern shell.
    Addressing a public rally in Varanasi in his Lok Sabha constituency, he said change was visible in Varanasi over the last four years of his government.

    PM Modi urged the people of Varanasi to start preparing to welcome delegates from all over the world for the Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas (NRI Day), which will be held here from January 21 to 23 next year.

    The guests will also visit Allahabad for a 'kumbh darshan'.

    Earlier in the day, the prime minister had addressed another rally in Azamgarh and laid the foundation stone there for the 340-km Purvanchal Expressway.

    He will visit Mirzapur on Sunday, wrapping up his two-day visit to eastern Uttar Pradesh.

    In a symbolic inauguration in Varanasi, PM Modi launched development projects worth nearly Rs. 1,000 crore for the city and the region around it.  "A new Banaras is being built for a new India; its soul will remain ancient but the structure will be new," he said.

    While its culture and traditions will remain, the city will have "smart systems." He began his speech in the local dialect and chanted 'Har Har Mahadev'.

    PM Modi condoled the death of at least 15 people when an under-construction flyover collapsed here in May.

    He said the city was in neglect when the Samajwadi Party was in power in Uttar Pradesh.

    "Four years back there were overflowing sewers, dangling cables, and traffic jams all over. The road from the airport was in a bad state due to which flights were missed," he said.

    PM Modi said the situation had changed now with cooperation between the BJP governments in the state and at the Centre.

    "The condition of the Ganga banks was also not good and all the waste used to flow into the river. The earlier governments were not concerned about this," he said.

    He said a large amount of money was earlier wasted in the name of cleaning up the river. The BJP-led government has now taken up the task of cleaning the Ganga  from Gangotri to Gangasagar, and sanctioned Rs. 21,000 crore for this.

    He said projects related to roads, transport, cooking gas, beautification, cleanliness and other schemes to help people living here were inaugurated today.

    "The change Varanasi is witnessing is helping nearby areas and villages. For the farmers, a perishable cargo centre is ready and potatoes, tomatoes and other perishable vegetables can be stored here. Farmers will not have to suffer losses," he said.

    "Whether it is roads or railways, new facilities are being made available for Varanasi. Doubling of track to Allahabad and Chhapra is on," he said.

    New trains will help people from Ballia and Ghazipur to come to Varanasi and return the same day, he added.

    He praised the Yogi Adityanath government in the state.

    "Tourism promotion and work on cleanliness and conservation of old monuments are being acknowledged. Swachh Bharat campaign has been taken forward by the UP government," he said.

    He said that impact of the state's industrial policy was also visible now.

    "The Samsung factory in Nodia was recently inaugurated by me. It will generate job opportunities. Mobile phone factories have increased from two to 120 in the past four years, of these over 50 are in UP," he said.

Court Put 'Stamp' On Reservations Over Social Media Hub Case: Congress
  • The Congress today claimed that the Supreme Court had "put a stamp" on its reservations over the government's move to create a social media hub, a day after the top court asked the centre whether it wants to tap citizens' WhatsApp messages as it will be like "becoming a surveillance state".
    Congress's communications in-charge Randeep Surjewala said in a tweet that on June 1 the Congress had raised the "serious issue" of the Modi government acting as a 'surveillance state' by setting up a 'Social Media Communication Hub' that "will be a tool by BJP to snoop on citizens".

    "July 13: SC puts a stamp on our reservations," he said on Twitter.

    Mr Surjewala also tagged a statement issued by Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi on June 1 in which he had accused the Modi government of trying to invade the privacy of every individual in the country by creating a social media hub.

    "Does the government want to tap its citizens' WhatsApp messages? It will be like creating a surveillance state," the top court bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud had said while hearing a PIL filed by a Trinamool Congress legislator from West Bengal.

    The bench sought the Centre's response on the plea by TMC MLA Mahua Moitra and also asked for Attorney General KK Venugopal's assistance in the matter.

    In May this year, the Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL), a Public Sector Undertaking under the Information and Broadcasting Ministry, had floated a tender to supply a software for the project.

Government Wants Madrasas Open To Mainstream Education: Minister
  • Minority Affairs Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi on Saturday said the government does not want to "shut the doors of madrasas", but it wants to open their doors for mainstream education.
    Mr Naqvi made the remarks at an event here to distribute certificates to the students who have been successful in a 'Bridge Course', jointly conducted by the Ministry of Minority Affairs and the Jamia Millia Islamia, for school dropouts and those studying in madrasas.

    A statement issued by the minister's office quoted him as saying that the government's "3T" -- Teacher, Tiffin & Toilet -- formula to bring minority youths into mainstream education has been a tremendous success.

    The government does not want to "shut down the doors of Madrasas", it only wants to "open their doors for formal and mainstream education," Mr Naqvi was quoted as saying.

    He said that steps taken by the Modi government for the educational empowerment of the needy sections of the society, including the minorities, have ensured that the youths belonging to the minority communities are getting better jobs through quality education. 

    In the past about one year, thousands of educational institutions of all minority communities, including madarsas, have been included in the mainstream education system by connecting them with the 'Teacher, Tiffin, Toilet' campaign, Mr Naqvi said.

    He said the school dropout rate among Muslim girls, which was earlier more than 70 per cent, has now been reduced to about 35 per cent due to the educational empowerment programmes of the government.

    Mr Naqvi said that during the last four years, 2.66 crore students belonging to the poor and weaker sections among minorities have benefitted from various scholarships. 

    More than 5.43 lakh youths have been provided employment and employment opportunities through job-oriented skill development schemes, he said.

    Mr Naqvi handed out the certificates to the students successful in the bridge course.

    The Ministry of Minority Affairs, in collaboration with the Jamia Millia Islamia University, had started the nine-months "bridge course" to bring madrasa students and school dropouts into mainstream education system.

    This year, a total of 260 students had been trained under the course out of which 182 students successfully completed the course.

    Mr Naqvi said the Ministry of Minority Affairs has also started a training programme to link madrasa teachers with the mainstream education system.

    Minority Affairs Ministry Secretary A Luikham, Aligarh Muslim University Vice Chancellor Tariq Mansoor; Chairman Guru Harkishan Public School Society S Manjit Singh GK and representative of Diocese of Delhi-Church of North India Bishop Collin Theodore, were among those present at the event.

639 Farmers Ended Lives In 3 Months In Maharashtra: State Government
  • In Maharashtra, 639 farmers committed suicide between March and May this year due to crop failure, debt and inability to repay bank loans, the state government has said.
    State Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil gave this information in the Legislative Council in Nagpur yesterday in reply to a question by Leader of Opposition Dhananjay Munde and NCP members Hemant Takle, Sunil Tatkare, Amarsinh Pandit, Kiran Pawaskar, Narendra Patil, and others.

    "639 farmers have committed suicide between March 1 and May 31, 2018. Of these 639 farmers, 188 were declared eligible for compensation as per government schemes, based on the government's criteria of crop failure, debts and their failure to repay loans," Mr Patil said.

    "Of the 188, families of 174 farmers have received compensation," he said, adding 122 cases were declared ineligible for compensation, while 329 cases are pending for probe.

    The opposition members had sought to know the number of farmers that had committed suicide in the last three months and details of the compensation provided to the family of the deceased. They also sought to know steps taken by the government to help the families of the deceased farmers.

    Talking to PTI, Mr Munde alleged that all schemes of the government, including the loan waiver, compensation to farmers for crop loss, crop loans, and minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural goods, have failed, which led to the rise in the number of farmer suicide.

    He claimed in the last four years as many as 13,000 farmers have ended their lives, of which 1,500 committed suicide in the last one year alone.

    Replying to another query, Mr Patil told the house that according to the parameters set by the state government in October last year for declaration of drought, eight talukas of Yavatmal, Washim and Jalgaon districts were declared affected by medium intensity drought in April this year.

    "Accordingly, compensation and other assistance was provided to the affected farmers," the minister said.

    On May 29 this year, the Centre made amendments in the rules for declaration of drought-hit areas based on the suggestions made by the states. Accordingly, the state revenue and forest departments made the changes on June 28, he said.

    Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, while replying to a calling attention motion moved by NCP MLC Vidya Chavan, asserted that appropriate action will be taken to recover mortgaged lands of farmers from lenders.

    Co-operative Minister Subhash Deshmukh said availing benefits under the government's 'lender-free farmer' scheme by submitting fake and forged documents was a crime and that strict action would be taken against those found guilty.

    "Efforts will be made to get back the mortgaged jewellery of a victim farmer from lenders," he said.

Government School In Mysuru Painted Like Train Coach To Attract Students
  • A government school in a remote village in Mysuru district in Karnataka has been painted to look like a train to check migration of its students to private schools.
    The school is located in Nanjangud taluk.

    "Government schools are shutting down these days because children are going to private schools. The same was happening with our school too.This made us think why not we paint the school to make it look differently," Block Education Officer of the school M Narayana told PTI.

    The school, which has classes from one to seven, had 50 students while a few others were reportedly waiting in the wings to join some private schools.

    The education department stumbled upon this idea when it faced the challenge of possible school dropouts and parents admitting children to private schools, school authorities said.

    The officer said the four-five teachers in the school decided to paint the school wall to resemble a train.

    "After the painting, not only did children give up their plans to go to private schools but some others came back from nearby private schools," the officer said.

    Earlier, there were 50 students but today their number has increased to 55, he added.

    Villagers too contributed their mite by laying the foundation for a school compound wall.

    Basava Naik, the school headmaster, said "One of our teachers got a message about the school-train somewhere in Rajasthan, which prompted him to plan a similar thing here.

    We are happy that children are showing interest in our school." 

Business Affairs

Big blow for H1-B holders! New rule makes it easy for US to deport foreign nationals if visa extension gets rejected
  • The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Department (USCIS) has introduced a new rule that will kick-start the deportation process against those whose request for visa extension has been rejected and the tenure of stay granted by the US authorities has expired.

    On June 28, the US Immigration Department came out with a policy memorandum which allows the USCIS to issue 'Notices to Appear' (NTA) in cases where, upon the denial of an application or petition, an applicant is unlawfully present in the United States.

    A Notice to Appear is a document given to foreign nationals that instructs them to appear before an immigration judge on a certain date. The issuance of an NTA commences removal proceedings against the foreign citizens.

    Under the new rules, USCIS officers will now issue an NTA for a wider range of cases where the individual is removable and there is evidence of fraud, criminal activity, or where an applicant is denied an immigration benefit and is unlawfully present in the United States, the policy memorandum said.

    Jennifer Minear, a director in the immigration practice group at McCandlish Holton, recently in an interview to Forbes explained how the new policy is different. She said that in the past, USCIS generally referred matters of potentially removable foreign nationals to Immigration and Customs Enforcement to determine whether removal proceedings should actually be initiated by issuing a Notice to Appear. "However, under its new policy memorandum, USCIS has greatly expanded its mandate for issuing NTAs without first consulting ICE," she said.

    "Now, USCIS will issue a Notice to Appear on its own initiative and thereby place individuals in removal proceedings upon denial of an application or petition for immigration benefits if the person is deemed removable at the time of the denial," Minear told Forbes.

    According to Minear, NTA is a charging document issued by the Department of Homeland Security through any of its component agencies - Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or US Citizenship and Immigration Services. She said: "The purpose of the Notice to Appear is to place an individual into deportation proceedings."

    The United States' latest move could hit thousands of Indians who wanted an extension of H1-B visa or whose visa has been expired. Ever since Donald Trump took over, he has introduced multiple rules to further tighten country's immigration policy in a bid to curb the number of foreign professionals in the USA.      

    Between 2015 and 2017, top seven Indian IT companies experienced a whopping 43 per cent drop in their H-1B visa approvals. 

IKEA postpones opening of its first store in Hyderabad to August 9
  • Swedish Home furnishing major IKEA retail India on Friday announced that the opening date of the first Indian store in Hyderabad will be moved from July 19 to August 9, 2018. In a statement issued yesterday, the company said: "IKEA India decided to move the date as it needs some more time to live up to its expected quality commitments towards customers and co-workers."

    IKEA Retail India CEO Peter Betzel said: "Our main priority is to create an inspiring and safe experience for both customers and co-workers. Opening the first Indian IKEA store in Hyderabad means a lot to IKEA and we want to offer the best possible meeting with IKEA for the many Indian customers."

    The Hyderabad store has come up with an investment of Rs 1,000 crore. This would provide 1,000 direct and 1,500 indirect jobs at the store, and 50 per cent of the employees would be women.

    Almost five years back, the Swedish furniture giant got a go-ahead from the government for its Rs 10,500 crore investment plan for setting up stores in India. IKEA plans to open 25 stores by 2025 in nine Indian cities.

    Earlier in April, the company signed a memorandum of understanding with the Gujarat government to set up its stores in the state with an expected investment of up to Rs 3,000 crore in the long term. IKEA has also signed MoUs with Karnataka, Telangana, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to open its retail stores.

    IKEA India Country Property and Expansion Manager David McCausland recently said that IKEA will soon set up its retail stores and other touch points in Gujarat to bring good quality and affordable home furnishings for the many people in Gujarat.

    Last year in December, the company said that it will have 15,000 co-workers in India by 2025. "IKEA currently has close to 400 co-workers in India and plans to have 15,000 co-workers by 2025, of which 50 per cent will be women. The company is hiring 500-700 co-workers for each of its four stores that will open in Hyderabad, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Delhi/NCR cities," IKEA had said.

Impact of trade war with China not visible yet, US banks say amid mixed profits
  • Clients of giant US banks are increasingly nervous about growing trade tensions, but are not yet significantly curtailing business activity due to the uncertainty, banks have said, after reporting mixed earnings.

    JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon cautioned yesterday that "There are unpredictable outcomes when you start skirmishes like this with multiple countries."

    "It's a worry," he told reporters in a conference call, but "I don't know if I'd use the word 'major' yet."

    Citigroup chief financial officer John Gerspach agreed with his counterparts that the concerns are not yet driving business decisions.

    "When you get into this kind of rhetoric, it does impact sentiment," he said.

    "It's going to slow down decision making in some cases, but that hasn't translated yet into anything we've seen."

    The comments came as the two major US banks reported earnings that easily topped analyst expectations, in contrast to slumping Wells Fargo which badly underperformed forecasts.

    The banks are among the first major companies to report results in what is expected to be a strong second-quarter earnings season thanks to US tax cuts and a humming American economy.

    However, a series of trade battles launched by US President Donald Trump against key trading partners, including China and the European Union, have clouded the overall business outlook.

    Another worry particular to bank stocks is whether the benefits from higher Federal Reserve interest rates are ebbing. Higher interest rates boost bank profits by allowing them to charge more for loans. However, as rates continue to rise, banks also must pay more to depositors.

    A note from S&P Global credit analyst Brendan Browne this week warned that the gains for banks from higher interest rates "are likely to diminish, because we expect deposit rates to rise more materially over the next year."

    Banks will need to sweeten the incentives for depositors to compete with improved rates for certificates of deposit and money market mutual funds, Browne said in an interview.

    JPMorgan, the biggest US bank by assets, reported an 18.3 per cent surge in net income compared to the year-ago period to USD8.3 billion. Revenues came in at USD 28.4 billion, up 6.5 per cent.

    Highlights included increases in net interest income following two Fed rate hikes this year, and a rise in overall loans compared with the year-ago period, a sign of strengthening economic conditions.

    Citigroup profits jumped 16 per cent in the second quarter to USD 4.5 billion due to overall loan growth and lower tax payments. Both main divisions, global consumer banking and institutional client services, had higher profits.

    Revenues came in at USD 18.5 billion, up two per cent.

    Gerspach said Citigroup has seen an uptick in activity within Asia that could pick up further if the US-China clash worsens.

    "If it does emerge that there is some slowdown in trade between China and the US, what we are seeing is that there is growth in trade flows elsewhere in the world," he said.

    "In particular, we're seeing a lot of growth in trade flows just in the Asia corridor."

    Citigroup has hired additional staff for China desks in India and South Korea, Gerspach said.

    The big laggard was Wells Fargo, which still has not completely found its footing following a fake accounts scandal that surfaced in 2016, prompting numerous fines, government probes and lawsuits.

    Net income fell 11.4 per cent to USD 5.2 billion, and there was a drop in overall deposits and loans. On the positive side, the company notched an increase in net interest income, indicating it also benefited from higher interest rates.

    Wells Fargo has replaced key executives, revamped some pay incentive policies to improve governance, and spent on marketing to emphasize these improvements.

    "During the second quarter we continued to transform Wells Fargo into a better, stronger company for our customers, team members, communities and shareholders," said Wells Fargo chief executive Tim Sloan.

    Shares of JPMorgan finished down 0.5 per cent, while Citigroup dropped 2.2 per cent and Wells Fargo 1.2 per cent

Reliance proposed board member R A Mashelkar as the Chancellor of Jio Institute: Report
  • Eminent scientist Raghunath A Mashelkar is proposed to be the Chancellor of Jio Institute. Indian Express today reported that the Reliance Foundation has pitched Mashelkar's name to the government committee as the Chancellor of yet-to-be-established Jio Institute. According to the report, Dipak C Jain, former director of Sasin Graduate Institute of Business Administration in Bangkok, will serve as the Vice-Chancellor of the Institute. Mashelkar and Jain are members of the board at Reliance Industries.

    Raghunath A Mashelkar, who is also the chairman of the Reliance Innovation Council, is an eminent scientist and President of Global Research Alliance. Earlier, he served as the Director General of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research for eleven years. Mashelkar is currently the Chairman of India's National Innovation Foundation under the Department of Science and Technology.

    According to the Indian Express, the Board of Management, headed by the V-C, will govern the institute's administration. It will also have the Provost, Dean Research, Executive Vice President and nominees of the GC and Reliance Foundation as its members, the report said.

    Earlier this week, the government granted "Institution of Eminence" status to IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay and Indian Institute of Science in the public sector, and Manipal Academy of Higher Education, BITS-Pilani and Jio Institute in the private sector.

    The selection of the Jio Institute - which doesn't even exist - as one of the six Institutions of Eminence drew sharp criticism from various quarters with many questioning the process of selection and the motive behind it.

    The Ministry of Human Resource Development later clarified how Jio Institute was accorded such coveted status despite having no physical infrastructure in place.  According to the government, Jio Institute has been given this tag under Greenfield Project - purpose of which is to allow responsible private investment to build global class educational infrastructure.

    There were four parameters on which all applications were judged. According to the Ministry, Jio Institute satisfied all the four parameters, and hence was recommended for issuing a letter of intent for setting up an Institute of Eminence.

    Earlier it was reported that RIL Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani led the team that convinced the government committee to pick Jio Institute as one of the country's six Institutes of Eminence. Jio Institute is to be set up on an 800-acre campus in Karjat in Maharashtra.

Exports up 17.6% in June; trade deficit widens to 43-month high amid surge in crude oil imports
  • India's exports grew 17.57 per cent to $27.7 billion in June on account of healthy growth in sectors such as petroleum and chemicals but trade deficit widened to a 43-month high of $16.6 billion due to costlier crude oil imports. Imports rose 21.31 per cent to $44.3 billion during the month, according to the data released by the commerce ministry.

    The trade deficit in June 2018 is the highest since November 2014 when the gap was $16.86 billion. The deficit in June 2017 stood at $12.96 billion. During April-June this fiscal, exports rose 14.21 per cent to $82.47 billion. Exports of petroleum products, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, gems and jewellery, and engineering goods registered a positive growth.

    However, shipments of textiles, leather, marine products, poultry, cashew, rice and coffee recorded negative growth. Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO President Ganesh Gupta expressed concern over rising trade deficit, saying it could impact current account deficit thereby adding to the woes of the government on the fiscal deficit front.

    "MSME sectors of exports are still feeling the pinch of liquidity crunch as banks and lending agencies have continuously been tightening their lending norms," he said in a statement. Imports during the first quarter of the fiscal increased 13.49 per cent to $127.41 billion. Trade deficit during the period widened to $44.94 billion as against $40 billion in April-June 2017.

    Oil imports during the month were up 56.61 per cent to $12.73 billion. These imports during April- June 2018-19 were valued at $34.64 billion, which was 49.44 per cent higher as compared to the same period last year. Gold imports in June dipped about 3 per cent to $2.38 billion. Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank data showed that services exports in May contracted 7.91 per cent to $16.17 billion. The trade balance in services (i.e. net export of services) for May was estimated at $5.97 billion. The imports stood at $10.21 billion.

General Awareness

    National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR)
    • Context: NCPCR has come up with a model fee regulatory framework for unaided private schools.


      NCPCR has been receiving reports that children were being harassed by school administrations and that they considered committing suicide over the fee hike issue.

      The framework:

      The framework is for private unaided schools – which are 23% of the total schools in India and cater to 36% of the total population of children attending school.
      The framework is a model document that may be recommended to states where the fee regulation mechanism does not work effectively.
      According to the draft regulations, if a school violates the norms provided in the uniform fee framework, the respective government can bar the school from taking new admissions for the next academic year or impose fine equivalent to 10% of the total revenue generated by the school or society or trust in the preceding year.


      A 10% yearly cap on fee hike in private, unaided schools.
      Set up a district fee regulatory authority in states to monitor school fee increases.

      About NCPCR:

      The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) was set up in March 2007 under the Commission for Protection of Child Rights Act, 2005.
      It works under the administrative control of the Ministry of Women & Child Development.
      The Child is defined as a person in the 0 to 18 years age group.
      The Commission’s Mandate is to ensure that all Laws, Policies, Programmes, and Administrative Mechanisms are in consonance with the Child Rights perspective as enshrined in the Constitution of India and also the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

      What’s important?

      For Prelims: NCPCR- Statutory status and mandate of the commission.
      For Mains: Protection of vulnerable section of the society, need for regulation of fees.

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