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Current Affairs - 31 July 2018

General Affairs 

Top Court Declines Centre's Offer To File Panel Report On Data Protection
  • The Supreme Court today declined the Centre's offer to place on record the report of Justice BN Srikrishna committee on "data protection" for perusal of the five-judge Constitution bench, which had reserved the verdict on pleas challenging the validity of Aadhaar.

    A five-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra, on May 10, had reserved the verdict on the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of Centre's flagship Aadhaar scheme and its enabling 2016 law after a hearing that gone on for 38 days.

    Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the Centre, today told the bench comprising CJI Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud that the Justice Srikrishna committee has recently submitted the Personal Data Protection Bill, 2018 and its report and the Centre can submit it, if the court wishes so.

    "I do not think that it is required," the CJI said after consulting justices Khanwilkar and Chandrachud who were also part of the Constitution bench that had heard the pleas against Aadhaar.

    The Personal Data Protection Bill and the report have been submitted by the Justice Srikrishna panel recently to the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.

    The committee has suggested measures to be taken when it comes to protecting personal information of citizens, the role and duties of data processors and the rights of individuals.

    The report also talked about the penalties that may be imposed for violation of these data protection measures.

Justice KM Joseph's Elevation To Top Court Can't Be Stopped, Say Sources
  • The elevation of Uttarakhand High Court Chief Justice KM Joseph as a Supreme Court judge cannot he stopped and it is bound to take place, top government sources indicated today.  The government's questioning of Justice Joseph's elevation -- citing inadequate representation in the top court from other states -- had set the stage for its face-off with the country's highest court.

    The Supreme Court collegium had reiterated its choice of Justice Joseph for a second time. The court's decision, made last month before one of its members, Justice Jasti Chelameshwar, retired, has been conveyed to the government.

    Sources said the second recommendation from the collegium is a reiteration of its choice. Rules say if the collegium recommends a name a second time, the centre has no choice but to accept it.

    It is also unusual for the government to return a recommendation for elevation to the Supreme Court from the court's collegium. In recent years, it happened only once when the NDA government blocked elevation of senior lawyer Gopal Subramanium in 2014.

    The opposition has alleged that it was an attempt to undermine the judiciary and victmise Justice Joseph, who had delivered the verdict that cancelled President's Rule in Uttarakhand in 2016. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had denied the allegations.

    The government has said one of the reasons it questioned the appointment was that Justice Joseph's elevation would increase the number of judges from the Kerala High Court to two, though there were many high courts which didn't have a single judge in the top court.

    The Supreme Court, which should have 31 judges on its rolls currently has only 23 judges. Four more judges are slated to retire this year.

From 2015 To 2018, Ceasefire Violations Increased Six-Fold: Government
  • The ceasefire violations (CFVs) along the Line of Control have increased six fold from 2015 to 2018, the government informed the Rajya Sabha today.
    Replying to a question in the Upper House, Minister of State in the Defence Ministry Subhash Bhamre said there were 152 cases of CFVs in 2015.

    It increased to 228 in 2016, 860 in 2017 and 2018 (until July 23) in 942, Mr Bhamre said in a written response.

    Cross-border firing along the India-Pakistan international border increased by nearly two times from 2015 to 2018, he said.

    In 2015, there were 253 instances of cross-border firing, 221 in 2016, 111 in 2017 and 490 cases in 2018.

    From 2015 to 2018, the Army has lost 44 personnel due to ceasefire violations while 25 Border Security Force (BSF) personnel died in cross-border firing, he added.

     As many as 69 civilians have been killed in these firings, Mr Bhamre said.

Mamata Banerjee To Meet Sonia Gandhi, Opposition Leaders In Delhi
  • Stepping up efforts to forge a non-BJP front, TMC chief Mamata Banerjee is likely to meet Congress leader Sonia Gandhi to invite her for a planned 'federal-front' rally in Kolkata on Januray 19.

    She is likely to meet Mrs Gandhi, RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav and other opposition leaders during her three-day visit to the national capital, according to TMC sources,

    Ms Banerjee, who was earlier seen as wary of involving the Congress in any federal coalition to take on the BJP, has in recent weeks appeared to be more open to joining hands with the national party to consolidate the opposition forces.

    Though the meeting with Mrs Gandhi has not been scheduled, but Ms Banerjee would try to meet her and all other prominent leaders from opposition parties during her visit.

    "There could be certain circumstantial meetings with leaders of opposition parties when Mamata Banerjee would visit Parliament on August 1. She may meet Sonia Gandhi, and also RJD leader Tejashwi Yadav as he will be in Delhi during Banerjee's visit," said a senior TMC leader.

    The West Bengal chief minister, who would be visiting the Central Hall of Parliament, is expected to personally invite opposition party leaders for her rally of "federal forces" in Kolkata on Janury 19.

    The rally will help catapult Ms Banerjee to the centre stage of national politics and also show her capacity to unite all opposition parties to take on the BJP in the coming Lok Sabha elections, according to another TMC leader.

    TMC leader Derek O'Brien said that apart from opposition leaders, Ms Banerjee will also meet Ram Jethmalani, former BJP leader Yashwant Sinha and disgruntled BJP MP Shatrughan Sinha during her visit.

    Arun Shourie, a bitter critic of the Modi government, would meet Ms Banerjee later in Kolkata as he would not be present in Delhi during TMC chief's visit, Mr O'Brien said.

    Ms Banerjee had recently met National Conference leader Omar Abdullah on the issue of cobbling an alliance of opposition parties to take on the BJP. Mr Abdullah has maintained that the Congress has to be the "backbone" of the opposition unity with its chief Rahul Gandhi at the forefront of the campaign for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

    Ms Banerjee, who will be delivering a lecture at the conclave organised by Catholic Bishops Conference of India on July 31, is expected to attack the BJP on incidents of violence against members of minority communities.

    The West Bengal chief minister, who has strongly criticised National Register of Citizens draft for Assam, has also sought an appointment with the Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to discuss the issue.

Congress, Samajwadis, Mayawati And Ajit Singh Reach Mega UP Deal: Sources
  • A broad agreement has been worked out between the Congress, Akhilesh Yadav's Samajwadi Party, Dalit powerhouse Mayawati and RLD leader Ajit Singh to take on the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, the state that sends the maximum number of parliamentarians to the Lok Sabha. Sources said the parties have decided to work out the details of sharing the state's 80 seats later.

    The understanding between the parties in the nation's largest state is crucial to the building of an opposition front to take on the BJP in next year's general elections. The idea of a common front in Uttar Pradesh has already paid dividends in the by-elections held in the state earlier this year - delivering to the opposition the high profile seats of Gorakhpur and Phulpur, and later Kairana and Noorpur.

    Last week, Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar - one of the key interlocutors for an opposition front - met Ms Mayawati. The meeting, sources said, was an exploratory session regarding the Bahujan Samaj Party's plans for seat adjustment, especially for the three key states going to polls at the end of this year - Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh. 

    The seat sharing between Mayawati and the Congress hit a roadblock in Madhya Pradesh after the BSP chief demanded 50 of the state's 230 seats. Sources in the Congress say the party offered her 22 and refuses to go beyond 30.

    "It has to be a formidable alliance to take on the BJP and not one that would ensure a revolt in both parties and help the BJP," a leader said.

    Regarding the alliance in Uttar Pradesh, Congress sources say the party is yet to broach the issue of seat sharing and is yet to be looped into the formula arrived at by the rest of the allies.

    The BSP and the Samajwadi Party have a broad adjustment, under which Ajit Singh's party will be given seats from the SP quota.

    Sources said they are ready to give the Congress eight seats. "Unless there are tough negotiations, we will not agree to more than 10. The BSP will be given the maximum seats and the SP will be contesting approximately on 32 seats. Three seats will go to the RLD," a leader said.  

    The Congress has already finalised its alliances for Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Kerala.  

    For Jharkhand and Tamil Nadu, it has worked out a seat sharing formula with local heavyweights JMM and M Karunanidhi's DMK. The loose alliance in Tamil Nadu also includes the Left, which has agreed to work with the Congress inside and out of parliament.

    In Bihar, its Grand Alliance with Lalu Yadav stands, strengthened by the defection of Nitish Kumar to the BJP.

    In Maharashtra, the Congress has already worked out a seat sharing formula with Sharad Pawar. Several smaller parties are also expected to be part of the alliance.

Business Affairs

SBI hikes FD rates on deposits by 5-10 basis points; bulk deposits by 15-60 basis points
  • The country's largest lender, the State Bank of India (SBI), has hiked interest rates on fixed deposits of various tenures with effect from today. To begin with, the bank has made its retail deposits - those below Rs 1 crore - across longer maturity baskets more attractive by 5-10 basis points (see table). While interest rates on deposits of tenures longer than two years have gone up by 0.1 per cent, the hike on tenures of 1 year to less than 2 years stands at 0.05 per cent. Senior citizens, of course, earn 50 basis points more across all the revised brackets.

    On the other hand, bulk deposits of over Rs 1 crore for tenures of under two years will now earn less interest - rates have been slashed by 30-45 basis points. For instance, the interest rate on such deposits for 46 days to 179 days has been slashed by 45 basis points, or 0.45 per cent.

    However, bulk deposits of Rs 1-10 crore as well as over Rs 10 crore will now earn 6.85 per cent, as much as 60 basis points higher, on the 5-10 years tenure.

    SBI had last revised interest rates two months ago. The bank's website clarifies that "The proposed rates of interest shall be made applicable to fresh deposits and renewals of maturing deposits". Furthermore, the interest rate payable to SBI Staff and SBI pensioners will be 1 per cent above the applicable rate.

    With bank credit now outpacing deposits, it is only a matter of time before other banks follow SBI's lead. According to the RBI's latest data, banks' credit grew by 12.8 per cent year-on-year to Rs 86.60 lakh crore as on July 6. But bank deposits are growing much slower at 8.3 per cent so they now need money for lending, and hence they are making fixed deposits more attractive.

    Reacting positively to this development, SBI's stock was trading 4 per cent higher intraday at Rs 299.55 apiece earlier this afternoon.

Dabba trading sees an upsurge in wake of RBI's cryptocurrency ban
  • Ever since the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) banned banks from dealing with digital currencies, other ways of trading in major virtual currencies like Bitcoin or Ethereum have emerged, one of which is Dabba trading. Dabba trading is a process used by brokers to use a client's trade outside the official platforms. The illegal method, mostly used for trading in stocks, has seen an upsurge as traditional Dabba operators are accepting bets on Bitcoin too, giving a boost to their overall earning. The recent positive fluctuation in Bitcoin, which saw its price plunge from $20,000 in December 2017 to $5,800 in June end and then $8,000 in July, has also led to a flurry of activity in its trading, a Business Standard report said.

    For those unfamiliar with the term, 'Dabba trading' is a process by which a broker does not execute trade on its system connected with commodity or stock exchange and carries out trade using an overseas bank trading account by transferring money through hawala network. These accounts are mostly based in Europe, especially the UK, and Dubai.

    Ever since the banks were stopped from providing financial services to digital exchanges, the trade of Bitcoin through Dabba trading has increased manifold, and the whole purpose of stopping the flow of illicit money seems to have been defeated, say experts.

    How do these Bitcoin 'Dabba traders' work? Such traders are based out of Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Kolkata and Mumbai. They work as a bridge between a customer and foreign trading company. The broker accepts money in cash, buys Bitcoins using an overseas trading account and sells them when the bet placed in India is settled. The difference is paid in cash to the customer. Margins are settled the same day, usually by 8 pm, or, in some cases, in a week.

    Also, conversation mainly happens via messaging app Telegram, cloud-based instant messaging service with end-to-end encryption and the money in cash is routed through the hawala channels.

    Such deals are also happening through official channels like brokers who maintain bank accounts in India as well as overseas. The customer deposits money in a bank account in India. The money is then routed through official or unofficial channels to the foreign account where Bitcoins are bought and sold. The money is usually paid in cash or cheque to the investor following the deduction of commission or any loss. Interestingly, the RBI's guideline on maximum $250,000 per annum overseas remittance window is being misused by many using the 'Dabba trading'.

    The cash market existed way before the RBI diktat on cryptocurrencies but it has now flourished as people with illicit cash are using it to earn more money. Ever since the ban, many online exchanges are working on a peer-to-peer model to facilitate virtual currency trade without using normal banking channels. The P2P model is based on escrow - a contractual arrangement in which a third party keeps the financial instruments on behalf of two primary transacting parties.

RBI cancels licences of 35 NBFCs; over 100 companies blacklisted in July alone
  • The Reserve Bank of India cancelled the licences of as many as 35 Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) on Monday. In a statement issued by the RBI, the central bank said these companies will not be able to do the business of a non-banking financial institution from now on. The central bank has cancelled the licences of over 100 NBFCs this month alone. Some of them were either blacklisted or they stopped doing operations and surrendered their certificates to the RBI.

    Before this, the RBI had cancelled the licences of as many as 25 NBFCs on July 25; 45 on July 19; 12 on July 20; and eight on July 23. Over 1,200 NBFCs flagged as "high risk" prone for not complying with a provision of the anti-money laundering law had submitted their records to the government in April to be identified as legally compliant.

    Under the PMLA, the NBFCs, which include cooperative banks, are required to furnish details about the identity of their clients, maintain records and furnish the information to the Financial Intelligence Unit.  Several NBFCs are facing closure for violation of these rules, but despite that these non-banking financial institutions are expected to grow at 19-21 per cent in the current financial year, while SME credit could see over 25 per cent growth, an ICRA report said.

    Recently, the government MP Narender Jadhav told the Rajya Sabha that Chinese giant Alibaba had applied for NBFC licence in India through Paytm. There is a buzz that Flipkart is also looking to enter the financial services space to offer its customers as well as sellers a plethora of credit and insurance products. The Bengaluru-headquartered firm has started the process of applying for an NBFC licence, which will allow it to open lines of credit to its customers numbering around 10 crores and over 1 lakh sellers.

    The NBFCs lend and make investments and, hence, their activities are akin to that of the banks. However, they can't accept demand deposits and do not form part of the payment and settlement system and cannot issue cheques drawn on themselves.

Sensex hits all-time high of 37,533, Nifty crosses 11,300 for first time; ICICI Bank, SBI, Bharti Airtel top gainers
  • Extending their rally for the sixth consecutive session, the Sensex and Nifty hit their all-time highs today amid rise in banking and auto stocks.  While the Sensex touched 37,533, a fresh intra day high level, the Nifty breached the 11,300 level for the first time ever to reach an intra day high of 11,328.

    Later, the Sensex closed 0.42% or 157 points higher at 37,494, an all-time closing high level.

    Nifty too rose 41.20 points or 0.37% to end at 11,319 level.

    Banking rally was led by Bank of Baroda whose stock hit a fresh 17-week high level of 152.70 after the public sector lender reported a more than two fold rise in Q1 net profit to Rs 528.26 crore. The stock closed 9.92% or 13 points higher at 151.75 on the BSE.

    Top Sensex gainers were Bharti Airtel (5.13%), ICICI Bank (4.76%), SBI (3.75%), Axis Bank (2.67%), Mahindra and Mahindra (2.52%), Vedanta Ltd (2.25%) and HUL (1.90%).

    Top Sensex losers were Infosys (1.56%), HDFC Bank (1.41%) and L&T 1.19%.

    On the Nifty, top gainers were Bharti Airtel (5.68%), ICICI Bank (4.88%, SBI (3.40%) and Axis Bank (2.85%).

    Top Nifty losers were HDFC Bank (1.70%), Infosys (1.63%), HCL Technologies (1.61%) , HDFC (1.53%) and Bajaj Finance (1.46%).

    The ICICI Bank stock rose over 4.5 per cent today even as the lender posted its maiden quarterly loss in more than a decade for the quarter ended June. Posting its maiden quarterly loss in more than a decade, ICICI Bank reported a net loss of Rs 119.5 crore on higher provisioning for bad loans.

    However, on a consolidated basis, ICICI Group posted a meagre profit of Rs 4.93 crore, compared to Rs 2,604.73 crore a year ago.

    VK Sharma, head Private Client Group and Capital Market Strategy at HDFC Securities said, "The Nifty scaled yet another new high as short covering continued this week as well with the benchmark adding 41 points or 0.37% at 11,320. The street ramped up PSU Bank stocks and the industry facing private sector banks after results from Bank  of Baroda and ICICI bank enthused investors.

    With the central banks meeting lined up this week including the RBI , the Nifty is likely to consolidate. The Bank Nifty did better than the broader benchmark. The most positive development, however, was the advances outnumbering declines for the sixth day on the trot, a phenomenon, which the markets have not seen earlier in 2018."

    Banking stocks led the rally with the BSE bankex rising to 31177 level intra day.

    The index closed 401 points or 1.30% higher at 31144 level.

    Bank Nifty too rose 0.75% or 208 points to 27,842 level. It hit a high of 27,873 intra day.

    The auto sector also contributed to the rally with BSE auto rising 0.49% or 119 points to 24,388 level. The index hit an intra day high of 24,433.

    The Reliance Industries stock hit a fresh all-time high after the conglomerate announced its record Q1 earnings. The stock closed 1.78% or 20 points higher at 1,149 level on BSE. The stock hit an intra day high of 1,157.55 after opening at 1,136 level on the BSE. The stock has gained 2.26% during the last two sessions.

    Market breadth was positive with 1615 stocks closing higher compared with 1038 stocks falling on the BSE. 193 stocks were unchanged.

    Last week, the Sensex recorded a significant rise of 840.48 points, or 2.30 per cent while the Nifty gained 268.15 points, or 2.44 per cent.

    On July 27, FIIs pumped in Rs 738.05 crore into Indian markets. DIIs infused Rs 406.12 crore into Indian market.

    Global markets

    World markets slipped on Monday as steep losses by US technology stocks and a weakening Chinese Yuan shook confidence in overall growth.

    Germany's DAX fell 0.3 percent in early trading to 12,824.32 while France's CAC 40 was down 0.4 percent at 5,490.90. Britain's FTSE 100 dropped 0.2 percent to 7,683.99. Futures pointed to small losses on Wall Street, with the contract for Dow futures down 0.1 percent at 25,400.00 and S&P 500 futures also 0.1 percent lower at 2,813.90.

    Japan's Nikkei 225 index dropped 0.7 percent to 22,544.84 and South Korea's Kospi edged 0.1 percent lower to 2,293.51. The Shanghai Composite index slipped 0.2 percent to 2,869.05 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index lost 0.3 percent to 28,733.13. Australia's S&P ASX 200 gave up 0.4 percent to 6,278.40. Shares gained in Indonesia but were lower in Taiwan and Singapore.

IndiGo Q1 profit falls 97% YoY to Rs 28 crore on rising fuel costs, forex woes
  • Budget carrier IndiGo's parent InterGlobe Aviation on Monday reported a 96.6 per cent decline in net profit at Rs 27.80 crore for June quarter. India's largest airline by market share had reported Rs 811.10 crore profit in the year-ago quarter. The aviation company cited adverse impact of foreign exchange, high fuel prices and the competitive fare environment for fall fall in profitability.

    Aircraft fuel costs rose 54.4 per cent YoY during the quarter to Rs 2,715.60 crore compared with Rs 1759.2 crore in the year-ago quarter. However, sales from operations rose 13.2 per cent to Rs 651.20 crore in the quarter, compared with Rs 575.29 crore in the year-ago period, it said in a regulatory filing.

    "While we faced headwinds during the quarter, we remain focused on executing our long term plan. We added capacity into new routes and destinations domestically and also continued to connect international destinations to various cities in India," IndiGo co-founder and interim CEO Rahul Bhatia said in a statement.

    The passenger ticket revenues for the quarter rose 13.6 per cent to Rs 5,769.40 crore while ancillary revenues were up 16 per cent at Rs 682.70 crore.

    As of June 2018, the Gurugram-based company had a fleet of 169 aircraft including 124 A320ceos, 36 A320neos and 9 ATRs; a net increase of 10 aircraft during the quarter. The low-cost carrier, which flies 4 out of 10 Indians, operated a peak of 1,157 daily flights including international operations during the quarter

    Total expenses for the quarter jumped by 40.5 per cent year-on-year to Rs 678.70 crore, while fuel cost shot up by 54.5 per cent to 271.56 crore, from Rs 175.92 crore in the year-ago period.

    Besides, yield or average ticket price dropped to Rs 3.62 per km in the June quarter, against Rs 3.83 per km in the same period last year.

    The company's stock ended 0.23 per cent lower at Rs 1,004.25 apiece on the BSE today, against 0.42 per cent jump in the benchmark.

General Awareness

    Blood Moon
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: What is Blood Moon and how it occurs, How Lunar Eclipse occurs, Significance of 2018 July Lunar Eclipse.
      For Mains: Beliefs associated with Eclipses in India and their analysis.

      What is Lunar Eclipse?

      A Lunar Eclipse (Chandra Grahan) is when one can’t see the moon at night because its position is relative to the sun and earth ensures that light doesn’t fall on the part of it we can see.

      The moon gives off no light and is only visible because it reflects the light of the sun. We only see the part where light falls and thus as the earth and moon move through their orbits and different amounts of light falls on the moon, we see different phases of the moon.

      What is Blood Moon?

      When a lunar eclipse (Chandra Grahan) occurs, the Earth comes between the sun and moon, preventing light from falling on the moon. When this happens, the moon appears to glow red and is thus called the blood moon.

      Why red colour?

      The red colour is because of the way light travels through the Earth’s atmosphere. Sunlight is made of several colours and they all have different wavelengths. Depending on the way they travel through our atmosphere, we see different colours. That’s why the sun and sky have different colours during sunrise and sunset. Blues and purples have shorter wavelengths and scatter in our atmosphere, giving the sky its inky colour, but reds and oranges have the highest wavelengths and pass through our atmosphere before it is bent or refracted around Earth, hitting the surface of the Moon and making it red.

      Significance of July 2018 Lunar Eclipse:

      It was the longest eclipse of the 21st century. It occurred for 1 hour 43 minutes.

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