Current Affairs Current Affairs - 11 August 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 11 August 2018

General Affairs 

Navy Put On High Alert Amid Heavy Rain In Kerala
  • The Navy has put on alert its Southern Naval Command in view of the rising water level in Periyar river in Kerala and a possible inundation of parts of Wellingdon Island, surrounded by the backwaters of Kochi.

    A defence spokesperson said the Navy has made preparations to meet any situation arising out of the possible inundation of the island, said to be the largest artificial island in the country, following the opening of shutters of three dams of Cheruthoni, Idamalayar and Kakki.

    "We will take all necessary steps to ensure that important installations in the island are not affected," the spokesman told PTI.

    The Wellingdon Island, part of Kochi city, houses strategic facilities, including the Southern Naval Command and Cochin Port Trust.

    The water level will rise in downstream districts with the released excess water from the dams reaching there.

    Areas in Kuttanad Taluk are likely to be affected, sources said. The spokesperson said three contingents (50 men each) from INS Dronacharya, Venduruthy and Naval Air station INS Garuda are ready to be deployed as and when required, besides a medical team from the INHS Sanjivani.

    The Southern Naval Command is also geared up to contribute to community kitchens, he said.

    As heavy rains continued to lash various parts of the southern state, five more shutters of the Cheruthoni dam, part of the Idukki reservoir, were opened today releasing 7 lakh litres of water per second as the level touched around 2,401.5 feet.

    For the first time in the last 26 years, a shutter of the Cheruthoni dam was opened yesterday and two more were opened at 7 am today.

Triple Talaq Bill Deferred To Next Session Of Parliament
  • The draft law making triple talaq, or instant divorce, a criminal offence is likely to be taken up in the next session of parliament as parties in the Rajya Sabha failed to reach an agreement over it, Vice President Venkaiah Naidu said today. The centre could also bring in an ordinance, or emergency executive order, to enact the law, sources told.

    "Triple Talaq Bill will not be taken up today because no consensus could be built around it," Mr Naidu, the Rajya Sabha chairman, said.

    The move comes just a day after the cabinet signed off on changes to the triple talaq law, officially called Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2017, to dilute two contentious provisions in hopes that it could pass through the opposition-dominated upper house.

    The first change allows only a woman, or a close relative, to file a police case against her husband for instant triple talaq, the Islamic practice that allows men to divorce their wives immediately by uttering the word "talaq" (divorce) thrice.

    The second amendment allows her to drop the case if the husband comes around later and they arrive at a compromise.

    A third amendment mandates that the magistrate can decide on releasing the husband on bail only after hearing the wife.

    But the government hasn't toned down the three year jail penalty for the husband or the provision that only empowers a magistrate, and not a local police officer, to release the accused on bail.

    The original bill was cleared by the Lok Sabha last year but has been stuck in the Rajya Sabha where the BJP-led national coalition NDA is in minority.

    The government had hoped that the tweaks cleared by the cabinet would persuade some non-NDA parties, which had genuine concerns about the misuse of the law, to support the bill in its new form.

    The government's effort to push the bill in the Rajya Sabha, irrespective of the outcome, was also seen as an attempt to corner the Congress.

    Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad appeared to lay the foundation for the barbs that will follow when he, after outlining the proposed changes at Thursday's cabinet briefing, turned his attention to UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi.

    "I want to ask Sonia Gandhi, will you stand up for women's honour and pride? Congress should make their stand clear," Mr Prasad said.

    When last month, Rahul Gandhi wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to "walk the talk" on the women's quota bill, Mr Prasad wrote back urging the Congress to support the "triple talaq" bill.

India's Elderly Population Will Cross 340 Million By 2050
  • The government is taking steps to ensure proper care of India's elderly population whose population will cross 340 million by 2050, Minister of State for Health Anupriya Patel today said.

    Ms Patel said the National Programme for Healthcare of Elderly was launched by the government with an aim of providing dedicated care services to an ageing population.

    The programme aims to provide accessible, affordable, and high-quality long-term, comprehensive and dedicated care services to an ageing population.

    Community-based primary health care approach including domiciliary visits by trained health care workers are also part of this programme.

    The minister also said the government has initiated Longitudinal Ageing Studies across all states to collect the data on disease burden.

    She also informed the House that two dedicated national Centres for ageing will come up, each in AIIMS in Delhi and Madras Medical College, Chennai.

    The National Centres of Ageing are expected to be Centres of Excellence in the field of geriatric care in the country, she added.

PM's Remarks On Congress Leader Deleted, In Embarrassment For Government
  • A portion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's speech in parliament on Thursday, with reference to a Congress parliamentarian, has been deleted from the records in a development that is rare and embarrassing for the government.

    PM Modi made the comments in the Rajya Sabha after the government's candidate, Harivansh, won the election for the post of deputy chairperson. Congress's BK Hariprasad was the opposition candidate in the closely-fought election.

    PM Modi, in his speech congratulating Harivansh, said the election was between "two Haris". He went on to take a swipe at Mr Hariprasad, playing on his initials, which was seen as derogatory and infuriated the Congress. Immediately after, he praised Mr Hariprasad for doing his bit to protect the dignity of democracy in a lost battle.

    While BJP leaders called it an example of Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu's fairness and non-partisanship, the Congress said the prime minister's words, spoken as part of a congratulatory speech on the floor of the house, were ill-chosen and unseemly.

    "I think it becomes a massive shame for this country. The PM himself uses unparliamentary expressions in any house of the Parliament," said Congress lawmaker Shashi Tharoor.

    "I think Mr Modi is a very fine speaker and rhetorician. He prides himself on being able to find play of words on everything and I think that should be applauded. We need some creativity of expression but at the same time, there are some limits that must not be crossed and very sadly it is clear that these limits have been crossed," he added.

    It is rare but this may not be the first instance of a prime minister's comments being expunged. In 2013, after a sharp exchange in Parliament between then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Arun Jaitley, who was in the opposition, resulted in some words used by both of them being deleted.

    The government's win in the Rajya Sabha test has delivered a blow to the opposition's efforts to gather forces to take on the ruling BJP in the 2019 national election. The opposition missed several members in the house yesterday. The BJP, on the other hand, ensured its victory by meticulously reaching out to allies. Even minister Arun Jaitley came to the house for the first time since a surgery, to vote.

Record 4 Lakh Give Exam On Day 1, As 5 Million Apply For Railway Jobs
  • A record four lakh candidates appeared in the Railways' largest recruitment drive for around 60,000 posts of assistant loco pilots and technicians that started yesterday, a statement from the national transporter said.

    "On Thursday, 4.83 lakh candidates - approximately 1.60 lakh per shift (exams were conducted in three shifts) - were scheduled. Out of this, around 3.59 candidates appeared for the exam. This attendance is a record for all RRB examinations conducted so far," the statement read.

    Chairman of the Railway Board, Ashwani Lohani, paid a surprise visit to one of the centres in the national capital to take stock of the arrangements made for the exam and candidates. He also visited a command centre, from where the status of all 439 exam centres in 166 cities is being monitored for "every step of the process i.e. pre-exam, during exam and post exam".

    Question papers are being provided to the candidates in 15 languages. This is a big step in the interest of candidates belonging to different vernacular backgrounds.

    The exams will be conducted in a phased manner till August 31. The next set of exams will be conducted today, August 13, 14, 17, 20, 21, 29, 30 and 31.

    Around 83 percent of the candidates have been allotted centres within 500 kilometers. Special care has been taken to ensure that almost all women candidates and persons with disability are provided centres within 200 kilometers.

    Even for those candidates who could not be accommodated within 500 kilometers, the Railways has made extra efforts and arranged exam special trains from places like Deoria, Chhapra, Patna, Darbhanga, Muzaffurpur, Ara to destinations such as Secunderabad, Bhopal, Indore, NCR etc. So far, 10 pairs of such special trains have been mobilized and more trains will be planned in the future.

Business Affairs

How Flipkart-Walmart deal aced the CCI test
  • The traders' associations and retailers may have been opposing the Walmart-Flipkart deal, their concerns did not seem to pass muster with the Competition Commission of India (CCI) as the anti-trust regulator recently approved the Walmart's acquisition of Flipkart, saying the "proposed combination is not likely to have an appreciable adverse effect on competition in India".

    Flipkart-Walmart Deal Aces The CCI Test!

    The CCI dealt with the question if indeed the Walmart-Flipkart combination was altering the competition both in the horizontal and vertical markets.  In competition parlance, a horizontal overlap is a merger between two competitors in similar line of business, while a vertical overlap is a merger between a manufacturer and distributor, who are at different stages of production chain in different markets. Needless to say, the Walmart-Flipkart deal has a horizontal overlap as both the companies are in the wholesale cash and carry of goods (B2B market).

    Horizontal Overlap

    The CCI concluded that Flipkart and Walmart "are neither close competitors in the B2B sales nor have a combined market share that raises competition concern".

    According to a submission by the Walmart, the Indian retail market size is estimated at $672 billion, 30-40 percent of which is B2B sales, while the combined market share of the Flipkart and Walmart would remain less than 5 per cent. The submission report further noted that the market share of Walmart in B2B sales in India is less than half a percent and "thus the incremental changes on account of the proposed combination is insignificant."

    On more detailed examination of the two companies' markets in the B2B segment, it was found that "Flipkart was relatively strong in mobile and electronics products, where Walmart has insignificant presence. Walmart, on the other hand, is stronger in groceries but Flipkart is absent in this segment. Though both the companies have presence in lifestyle products like skincare, haircare, oral care, baby & feminine hygiene, personal wash, apparel and shoes & accessories, but the combined value of sales of the two in this segment is relatively insignificant compared to the total market size.

    The CCI thus concluded that the combination of the two "does not alter the current market structure".

    While Walmart's submission is based on the combined (organised and unorganised) B2B segment,  CCI contends that even if the organised sector is considered separately, it looks competitive due to presence of players like Reliance Retail, Metro Cash and Carry, Amazon Wholesale etc.

    Is There A Vertical Overlap Too?

    No, concludes CCI. The regulator maintained that "as the parties have regulatory restriction to engage in B2C sales and are admittedly not engaged in the same, the Commission does not find any vertical overlap between B2B business of Walmart and the online marketplaces of Flipkart."

Around 40,000 people visit IKEA Hyderabad store on first day; Twitter reacts
  • The Swedish home furnishing retailer IKEA's first day in the country was worthy of its preparation to launch its first store in India. As the store opened on August 9, a staggering 40,000 customers visited IKEA's Hyderabad store. The crowd started pouring in a little after the launch at 11 am. IKEA staff was initially struggling to manage the entry point. A video of the same has gone viral on social media. The road leading up to the 4,00,000-sq-ft store at HITEC City in Cyberabad was also jam-packed. The Cyberabad Police Commissioner deployed additional officials to ensure smooth movement of traffic near the store to avoid chaos.

    IKEA said that they were excited at the first day response. The store saw a massive sale of mattresses, followed by the children's section. Cooking section, along with decoration, bed, bath, textiles, bedroom furniture also saw a massive response. IKEA's 1,000-seater restaurant was also crowded. The Swedish meatballs on offer were one of the most relished items while, the dum biryani too was selling out fast.

    "The IKEA restaurant will offer 50% Swedish specialties like and 50% local delicacies like Hyderabadi biryani and samosas which has cheapest Rs 10 pricing.  Store also has a kids' play area named Smaland where customers can leave their children safely while experiencing the shopping," said an IKEA spokesperson.

    The Swedish giant eventually came to India after the government's nod to 100% FDI approval for a single brand retailer in India. The company now plans to open 25 outlets by 2025. The next store is going to open in Navi Mumbai in 2019. IKEA has also acquired land in Karnataka and Delhi-NCR and is planning to expand their footprint in those cities too.

    IKEA has been sourcing material from India for its global stores for more than 30 years. There are currently 403 IKEA stores in 49 countries with a sales volume of 38.3 billion euro. In FY17 alone 936 million customers visited IKEA stores and 2.3 billion people visited IKEA online.

    IKEA Hyderabad offers around 7,500 home furnishing products. It remains operational from 10:00 am to 11:00 pm.

Industrial output hits four-month high of 7% in June
  • Industrial output recorded a four-month high growth rate of 7 per cent in June on account of higher output in mining, manufacturing and power generation segments.

    Factory output growth measured in terms of the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) was revised upwards for May at 3.9 per cent from previous estimate of 3.2 per cent estimated earlier, according to data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) today.

    The cumulative growth for the period April-June 2018 stands at 5.2 per cent over the corresponding period of the previous year.

    The manufacturing sector, which constitutes 77.63 per cent of the index, grew by 6.9 per cent in June, as against a decline of 0.7 per cent in the year-ago month.

    Power generation segment saw a rise of 8.5 per cent during the month as compared to 2.1 per cent growth a year ago.

    The mining sector output recorded an impressive growth of 6.6 per cent in June as against 0.1 per cent in June 2017.

Next phase of e-commerce in India to see transactions worth $50 billion, says study
  • Much has been said about India's accelerated digital transformation. Like the fact that we are the world's fastest-growing internet market, adding 40 million users per year on average. In fact, despite the digital divide, India boasts the second highest active internet user base with 1 out of 3 people online.

    The corollary to this story is the country's red-hot ecommerce pie, which according to a new study has the potential to become far bigger, driven by more than 500 million Indians who will constitute the next wave of online consumers. The size of the opportunity up for grabs is a whopping Rs 3.44 lakh crore.

    The report, titled 'Unlocking Digital for Bharat: $50 Billion Opportunity', released by Bain & Company, Google and Omidyar Network, claims that India has the potential to unlock over $50 billion in online commerce in India by driving awareness, usage and transactions among the current and next set of internet users and shoppers.

    But the road to get there is far from smooth. Based on a survey of 3,400 customers, the study puts the spotlight on some major barriers holding India back, beginning with India's small transacting user base. Only 40 per cent of India's 390 million internet users transact online. The remaining 60 per cent do their research online but complete the transaction offline.

    In addition, there is the worrying number of dropouts. According to the report, 54 million users - across the affluent socioeconomic segments that comprise 80% of the user base alone - stop after the first online purchase due to issues with user experience.

    Significantly, it takes three to four months for a typical Indian internet user to make the first online transaction and among users who have been on the internet for two or more years, 61 percent transact online. The number of "transactors" drops to 27% among new users, who have been online for just 4-6 months. This underscores the need for ecommerce players to retain customers through content, experience and fostering trust.

    The study points out that India can "double the current product transactor base" by retaining the number of people who give up after a trial purchase and by beefing up its current numbers. For the latter, one can start by focussing on the 160M content consumers who draw the line at online transactions, which has the potential to boost ecommerce by $14-18 billion.

    Then there is the massive non-user base, just waiting to be tapped. The report estimates 370 million non-internet users across India's affluent socioeconomic strata and 620 million across the mostly-untapped lower income segments. While the latter are out of the scope of the survey, their sheer numbers spell a massive future opportunity.

    "Digital India is at a very interesting point - a large internet user base with significant variations across demographics, and only a small portion actually transacting online. While online spends are still low given lower per capita incomes, there is huge potential to unlock value by addressing user concerns at various stages of the digital curve," said Arpan Sheth, partner, Bain & Company, and one of the authors of the report. "However, the path won't be easy for businesses and they will have to innovate and be patient to monetize this user base and generate value."

    Moreover, despite the growth of the internet user base in India, online retail spending in India is much lower compared with other countries - $224 per online buyer compared to $374 for Brazil and $1,862 for China in 2017. That's due to the relatively low per capita GDP in India but the good news is that it's growing at nearly a 23% CAGR (2012-17), the fastest in the world.

    The study points out that scale and profitability in the online space will likely take time, and hence businesses should focus on exploring alternative options such as monetizing the ecosystem and capturing larger shares across the transaction value chain.

    "With the user growth and adoption story on a fast growing trajectory, there is a need to grow consumer confidence to make digital a medium of choice for services and transactions for users across the country," said Vikas Agnihotri, Industry Director, Google India. "With this report, we outline the need for much focused intervention for different subsets of the users who are now online and grow consumer confidence to make the digital medium a viable platform for all."

Hindalco Industries reports 43% jump in profits
  • Aluminium major Hindalco Industries Ltd reported profit after tax (PAT) of Rs 414 crore for the first quarter (Q1) of this fiscal, up 43 per cent against Rs 290 crore in the corresponding period last year. However, as per Thomson Reuters data, analysts on average had expected a profit of Rs 421 crore.

    Considered together with its 100% subsidiary Utkal Alumina, the results are even better. "Highest-ever quarterly EBITDA [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] of Rs 1,951 crore vs Rs 1,661 crore in Q1 FY18 and Rs 1,807 crore in Q4 FY18, on the back of supporting macros and higher by-products realisations in Copper Business, partially offset by increase in cost of inputs, mainly coal and furnace oil," the Aditya Birla Group owned company stated in its earnings presentation, adding, "PAT double at Rs 734 crore this quarter compared to Rs 364 crore in Q1 FY18".

    Revenue (standalone) from operations of the company, which also manufactures copper products and fertilisers, inched up 1.7% year-on-year to Rs 10,593 crore in the quarter under review, but that was slight lower compared to the previous quarter (Rs 11,681 crore). Its total EBIDTA for Q1 stood at Rs 1,431 crore, up 2% from Rs 1,409 crore in the corresponding quarter last year.

    Hindalco's US subsidiary Novelis Inc, last month, signed the definitive agreement to acquire US aluminium maker Aleris Corporation for $2.58 billion. This was Hindalco's second biggest deal - after Novelis - and it is poised to create the world's second-largest aluminium maker. According to Reuters, on completion of the deal, Hindalco's consolidated revenue is expected to rise to about $21 billion.

    On August 7, Novelis had posted a 10% increase in net income to $113 million during the June quarter - up from $103 million in the year-ago period - on better operational performance and higher capacity utilisation. However, including some tax benefits, net income came in at $137 million, against $101 million in the year-ago period, attributable to common shareholder, the company reported.

    "Outstanding operational performance with increased asset optimisation and favourable market conditions contributed to another strong quarter," President and Chief executive Officer Steve Fisher said in a statement. The company, which deals in aluminium rolled products, also reported its highest-ever adjusted EBITDA (excluding metal price lag) at $332 million, up 15% from Q1 FY18.

    Hindalco sees aluminium demand growing by 4-5% in the current calendar year and production to grow around 1-2%.

General Awareness

    Quit India Movement
    • What to study?

      For Prelims and Mains: Quit India Movement- reasons, key features and outcomes.

      Context: 76th anniversary of Quit India movement was observed on August 8th, 2018.

      What is Quit India Movement?

      It was in 1942 when the world was going through the havoc caused by World War II. India too was facing the heat and after the Cripps Mission had failed, and on 8 August 1942, Mahatma Gandhi made a Do or Die call through the Quit India movement. Large protests and demonstrations were held all over the country. However, as the movement didn’t get too much support from the outside, it was crushed and the British refused to grant immediate Independence, saying that it could happen only after the war had ended.

      Who started Quit India Movement?

      The Quit India movement was started by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942 but drew protests from the All-India Congress Committee demanding what Gandhi called was “An Orderly British Withdrawal” from India. This forced the British to act immediately and soon all the senior INC leaders were imprisoned without trial within hours of Gandhi’s speech.

      Where was the Quit India Speech given?

      On 14th July 1942, the Congress Working Committee at Wardha had passed a resolution demanding complete independence from the British government. On August 8, 1942, Mahatma Gandhi made a Do or Die call in his Quit India speech which was delivered in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan. Even though the speech caused some turmoil within the party and even leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Azad were apprehensive and critical of the call, but backed it and stuck with Gandhi’s leadership until the end.

      Other key facts:

      Several national leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Abdul Kalam Azad, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel were arrested.
      The Congress was declared an unlawful association, leaders were arrested and its offices all over the country were raided and their funds were frozen.
      The first half of the movement was peaceful with demonstrations and processions. The peaceful protest was carried till Mahatma Gandhi’s release.
      The second half of the movement was violent with raids and setting fire at post offices, government buildings and railway stations. Lord Linlithgow adopted the policy of violence.
      The Viceroy’s Council of Muslims, Communist Party and Americans supported Britishers.

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