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Current Affairs - 12 August 2018

General Affairs 

37 Dead, 31,000 In Relief Camps; Kerala On High Alert For Heavy Rain
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018More than half of the 14 districts in Kerala have been put on high alert, officials said on Saturday, as the death toll from one of the worst floods in the southern state reached 37.

    Torrential rains and landslides have ravaged farmlands and prompted massive evacuation efforts in Kerala.

    Crops on 1,031 hectares (2547.66 acres) have been damaged and 31,000 people have been forced to take shelter in rescue camps, according to the Kerala State Disaster Management Authority's (KSDMA) control room in the state capital.

    A senior official there said eight districts had been put on varying levels of high alert.

    Another government official previously told Reuters that crop worth 3.42 billion rupees ($49.65 million), across 26,824 hectares had been destroyed by rains since their onset on May 29.

    PH Kurian, KSDMA's chief and a top state bureaucrat, said rains had eased.

    "There was no rain in the catchment areas of major reservoirs today," Mr Kurian said. "However, we will continue our alert and preparedness till August 15," he added.

    Federal home minister Rajnath Singh was expected to travel to the state on Sunday to take a stock of the relief and rescue operations, Mr Kurian added.

    Kerala authorities have taken the unprecedented step of opening the gates of 25 water reservoirs to prevent potentially disastrous breaches.

    The state, which has 44 rivers, witnessed its worst floods in 1924 following torrential rains.

    The weather department forecast heavy rains until August 15, Independence Day, also warning of flooding in low-lying coastal areas. Fishermen have been advised not to venture into the Arabian Sea.

Those Who Don't Innovate Will Stagnate: PM Modi To IIT Bombay Students
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018Prime Minister Narendra Modi today said a society will stagnate without innovation and called for collective efforts to improve the quality of higher education.

    The IITs have built brand India globally and now, become an "instrument for transformation". Innovation and enterprise are the foundation of making India a developed nation, Modi said addressing the 56th annual convocation of the Indian Institute of Technology-Bombay (IIT-B).

    The prime minister said, "Any society that does not innovate, stagnates. Make India the most attractive destination for innovation. Innovate in India and innovate for humanity." "It is not just the government efforts. New ideas come from young minds at campuses and not government buildings and fancy offices," he said, adding that innovation was the buzzword of the 21st century.

    Seven lakh engineering students pass out every year, and a collective effort is required to ensure they get high quality of education and acquire necessary skills, PM Modi said.

    The IITs have now become "instrument for transformation", playing an important role in innovation and new technology, and also mitigating climate change, ensuring better agriculture productivity, water conservation and combating malnutrition, the prime minister said.

    Dwelling on the history of IITs, PM Modi said they were conceptualised to contribute to nation-building post-Independence through the use of technology.

    He said all the IITs have built brand India globally and their students are at the forefront of some of the best startups in India. IIT students are helping in solving national problems. The biggest corporations of today were startups of yesterday, PM Modi said.

    "The nation is proud of IITs and what IIT graduates have achieved. The success of IITs led to the creation of engineering colleges around the country. They were inspired by the IITs and this led to India becoming one of the world's largest pools of technical manpower," he said.

    "Innovation and new technology will decide the trajectory of world growth and our IITs are working for new India's, new technology, the prime minister said.

    Underscoring the importance of technology, he said 5G broadband, artificial intelligence, block chain and machine learning will play a key role in smart manufacturing and building smart cities.

    IITs represent diversity of India where students from different parts of the country and background merge in pursuit of knowledge and learning, the prime minister said.

    India is improving its innovation ranking, PM Modi said, highlighting his government's initiatives in this regard. "The Atal Innovation Mission and Start Up India have resulted in India having the second largest ecosystem in the world (for entrepreneurship promotion).

    India has become a hub for start-ups. "In the innovation index, we are going up. We must make India an attractive destination for innovation," he said.

    In the beginning of his 35-minute speech, the prime minister paid tributes to freedom fighter Khudiram Bose, who sacrificed his life for the nation 110 years ago when he was just 18. "We did not have the good fortune to die for our country. But, we can live for independent India and work for creating a new India," he said.

    He urged the graduating students to focus on aspirations and keep their goals high. "If you face self-doubts that will restrict your talent," he further said.

    PM Modi suggested the IIT-B, which is celebrating its diamond jubilee, to launch an outreach programme for students around Mumbai, which has around 800 colleges with 9.5 lakh students.

    "You are fortunate to have lived in a campus in Mumbai where there is a lake on one side and hills on the other. Sometimes you have the company of crocodiles and leopards. It's still August, but the mood is indigo," Prime Minister Modi said, referring to IIT-B's annual college cultural festival "Mood Indigo", which is generally organised in December.

Gita Mittal Is First Woman Chief Justice Of Jammu And Kashmir High Court
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018Justice Gita Mittal became the first-ever woman Chief Justice of Jammu and Kashmir High Court after she was administered the oath of office by Governor NN Vohra in Srinagar today.

    The Governor administered the oath of office to Justice Mittal as the Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court at a ceremony at the Raj Bhavan, an official spokesman said.

    Justice Mittal is the first-ever woman Chief Justice of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court, he said. He said the Warrant of Appointment of Justice Mittal as the Chief Justice of the high court was read out by the Registrar General of the high court.

    After administering the oath, the Governor congratulated Justice Mittal and wished her a highly successful tenure as the Chief Justice of the state high court, the spokesman said.

    He said the Governor's wife Usha Vohra, former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah and Omar Abdullah, advisors to the Governor and serving and retired Judges of the Supreme Court and the Jammu and Kashmir High Court were present on the occasion along with senior officials from the administration and the police.

Indian Medicine Firm Pulls Heart Drug From US Amid Cancer Risk Probes
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018A unit of India's Hetero Drugs is recalling some batches of the blood pressure and heart medicine valsartan in the United States, a notice on the U.S. regulator's website said, amid a wider probe into cancer risks associated with the drug.

    At least a dozen companies around the world have pulled specific batches of valsartan from the market since early July, when regulators said valsartan made by the Chinese supplier Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceuticals had been found to contain a probable human carcinogen, N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA).

    The notice from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said Hetero was found to be using a similar manufacturing process to China's Zhejiang Huahai for valsartan.

    "Test results from Hetero Labs show the amount of NDMA found in its valsartan active pharmaceutical ingredient (API) exceeds acceptable levels; although it is generally lower than the amount discovered in the API manufactured by Zhejiang," the FDA said.

    Hetero declined to comment, a spokesman in India said.

    The company, among India's top 15 drugmakers and one of the world's largest suppliers of HIV/AIDS drugs, sells valsartan in the United States through its unit Camber Pharmaceuticals, which is recalling the drug as a "precautionary measure," the FDA notice said.

    It added that Camber had not received any reports of adverse events related to the drug.

    Calls to New Jersey-based Camber went unanswered on Saturday, outside of regular working hours.

    Valsartan was originally developed by the Swiss firm Novartis and sold under the name Diovan, but it is now off patent and is used in several generic medicines made by companies around the world.

    Hetero's website says the company has more than 30 manufacturing plants around the world.

    India has temporarily suspended imports of medicines from China that contain valsartan, K. Bangarurajan, a joint drugs controller at India's main drug authority, the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization, told Reuters on Saturday.

    Imports from elsewhere continue, he said.

    "Not all imports have been blocked," he said, adding that the action was taken after FDA posted a notice about cancer links to valsartan last month.

    European regulators said on Friday that a second Chinese contract manufacturer, Zhejiang Tianyu, had produced valsartan with the cancer-causing chemical.

    NDMA is classified as a probable human carcinogen. Based on results from laboratory tests, it may cause cancer with long-term use.

    China and India supply more than two-thirds of all active drug ingredients used in medicines, industry experts estimate.

Aadhaar Of 30,000 Children At Shelter Homes Added To Tracking Database
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018Aadhaar cards of over 30,000 children living in child care institutions have been linked to the Track Child portal in a bid to bolster the information base on the number of children under institutional care amid reports of children going missing from shelter homes, an official said.

    Track Child functions as a central database of all those children who have gone missing in different parts of the country. The portal will aid coordination between child homes, police departments and state governments.

    The government is linking Aadhaar card with the children in child care institutions to bolster the information base on the number of children under institutional care, and a total of 30835 Aadhaar card numbers have been linked till now, according to a Women and Child Development official.

    There are a total of 261566 children living in over 9000 CCIs across the country.

    According to the official, Aadhaar enrolment procedure by child care institutions at times have led authorities to finding parents of the child as during enrollment it was found that children already had an Aadhaar card which had their address.

    The aim of linking the Aadhaar to Track Child is also helping in finding the child who had gone missing from child care institutions as if the child is tried to enrolled somewhere his whereabouts would become known.

    "The Ministry has asked all the stakeholders to ensure Aadhaar registration of children in all CCIs. Necessary action is been taken by the state governments as reported by them at various platforms.  There is already a provision of entering Aadhaar details of a child on the TrackChild Portal," the official said.

    The details come amid reports of children going missing from child care institutions. About 18 girls were recently reported missing from a shelter home in Deoria where reports of alleged sexual harassment of girls surfaced.

    As reported by National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB), a total of 68,874, 60,443, and 63,407 children were reported missing during the year 2014, 2015 and 2016 respectively.

Business Affairs

Remembering Anant Bajaj: Man with futuristic ideas, ability to take tough decisions
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018The early demise of 41-year-old Anant Bajaj, managing director of Bajaj Electricals (BEL), will be a huge loss to the industry and the company as he spearheaded many of first projects in technology and manufacturing processes and countered the aggression of the foreign electrical manufacturers in the domestic market. The market value of BEL, which doubled to Rs 6,300 crore in the last one year, stands as the proof of his initiatives.

    Anant joined BEL after his engineering in 1996. In a very recent interview to Business Today, he said that he started from rock bottom in the company as a salesman of fans. In 1999, he helped his father Shekhar Bajaj to change BEL from a marketing and sales company to a manufacturing company by building Ranjangaon facility in Maharashtra and ramping up Chakan facility. His engineering background helped him accomplish the projects.

    "On August 15, 1997, the company launched its website as one of the earliest in the country. In 2001, we launched an e-commerce platform," Bajaj said in the interview. In 2001, the company's turnover was Rs 350 crore. But the plant construction cost had weighed down on the company's balance sheet. But Anant said his father Shekhar was younger at that time and had the ability to take pressure and it kept the company from going into bankruptcy.

    In 2002-03, he worked in Bajaj Auto under Rajiv Bajaj. In his words, it was a crisis period for the auto business. He has seen the crisis in both electrical and auto businesses. Post the crisis in electricals business, he created business units to bring accountability inside the company and among dealers. During the 2003-09 period, the company had seen exponential growth. In 2006, he became executive director and in the next year, BEL had become a Rs 1000 crore company.

    Anant implemented Oracle ERP system in the company in 2009 for accelerating business growth. He was trying to implement the Theory of Constraints (ToC) method in the company to overcome the challenges since 2009 but failed because of the lacklustre attitude of the senior staffers. In 2012, when he became joint MD, he decided to play the ball hard and asked the seniors either to implement or quit.

    ToC changed the mindset of the company. With its implementation, the top line got hit. But it eventually improved the margins.

    Anant initiated digital transformation journey of BEL in 2014. He had turned around the loss-making EPC business in 2015. After 2012, the company centralised the supply chain and business unit structure. Bandra-Worli Sealink, Wankhede Stadium, Vidyasagar Setu in Kolkata were some of the iconic projects of Bajaj, executed under Anant.

    BEL's revenue has grown to Rs 4,700 crore in the last financial year and it posted a profit of Rs 84 crore.

    His father Shekhar Bajaj earlier told Business Today that Anant has been aggressively involved in the transformation of the company. "He looks to achieve faster growth. He has futuristic ideas."

    "He has taken a lot of initiatives in the last four years and they are fructifying into results. He took tough decisions like stopping wholesale and started distribution. We were prepared to take the negative growth because of the tough decisions," the father said.

    He was promoted as Managing Director about two and a half months ago, on June 1. He was primarily responsible for setting up the integrated R&D centre that focuses on cutting-edge technologies to create next-generation appliances.

Seaplanes project gathers speed! Govt clears water aerodromes at three sites
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018The Civil Aviation Ministry has approved a proposal for setting up of water aerodromes in the country, with Chilika Lake in Odisha, Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat being identified in the first phase for development of such facilities, an official said today.

    The proposal was cleared by Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu yesterday.

    The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued regulations in June this year, prescribing procedures and requirement for licencing of water aerodromes.

    Since there is no historical data on the market and demand from any airlines, the project will be done as a pilot project, the ministry official said. The development would pave the way for operation of amphibian planes (both in land and water) to enhance air connectivity.

    Under the proposal, water aerodrome would be set up near locations of tourist and religious importance.

    The Airports Authority of India has already identified the sites in Odisha, Gujarat, Assam, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh where water aerodrome would be developed.

    "In the first phase, Chilika Lake in Odisha, Sardar Sarovar Dam and Sabarmati River Front in Gujarat have been identified for development of water aerodromes," the official said.

    Earlier, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey said that his ministry was also considering a proposal to look at seaplane operation under phase III of the regional connectivity scheme UDAN.

    According to the DGCA, an entity seeking to set up a water aerodrome has to take approvals from various authorities, including the ministries of defence, home, environment and forests, and shipping.

    A water aerodrome licence would be valid for two years.

    "Initially, a provisional licence shall be issued for a period of six months during which implementation of the water aerodrome operation is monitored... Regular licence shall be accorded after post implementation monitoring period and completion of corrective action," the DGCA said.

    The formal application for setting up a water aerodrome has to be submitted at least 90 days before the date of intended operations.

    Under the aviation regulations, an aerodrome cannot be used for scheduled air transport services, among others, unless there is a licence.

    Generally, seaplanes are described as fixed-wing aircraft that are designed for taking off and landing on water.

    In October last year, no-frills carrier SpiceJet had unveiled plans to buy over 100 amphibian planes, estimated to cost $400 million.

    The airline had signed a memorandum of understanding with Japan's Setouchi Holdings to explore whether the amphibian planes can be used by the airline in a cost-effective manner. It has already approached the Odisha government evincing interest to operate amphibian planes from the Chilika Lake.

Coal India net profit rises 61% to Rs 3,786 crore in June quarter
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018Coal India Ltd (CIL) today posted 61.07 per cent jump in consolidated net profit at Rs 3,786.44 crore for the June quarter of 2018-19 financial year.

    It had reported a net profit of Rs 2,350.78 crore in the same quarter of 2017-18, the state-owned company said in a regulatory filing.

    Net income rose 17 per cent to Rs 25,470.86 crore from Rs 21,774.42 crore in the year-ago period.

    Expenses remained higher at Rs 19,383.99 crore as against Rs 17,837.17 crore in April-June 2017.

    During the reported quarter, the government divested 0.225 per cent stake by way of placement of shares in 'Bharat 22-ETF'. After the divestment, the Government of India holds 78.32 per cent equity in CIL, it said.

    Coal production stood at 136.85 million tonne (MT) during the quarter, while offtake was 153.47 MT, it added.

    CIL, which accounts for over 80 per cent of the domestic coal output, has set a production target of 630 MT for 2018-19.

Microsoft boss Satya Nadella sells one-third of his shares for $35 million
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018Microsoft's Indian-origin CEO Satya Nadella has netted over USD 35 million after selling almost one-third of his common shares in the software giant.

    Nadella sold 328,000 shares in multiple trades at prices ranging from $109.08 to $109.68 as the stock trades near a record price.

    The stock sale, disclosed in a regulatory filing yesterday, netted Nadella more than $35 million.

    Microsoft shares have soared 53 per cent in the past year, closing the week at $109. The record closing price was $110.83 on July 25.

    Nadella, 50, still own 778,596 shares of common stock. He is required to have 15 times his base salary in stock.

    His annual base salary in 2017 was $1.45 million, and his total compensation exceeded $20 million.

    "The stock divestitures made today were for personal financial planning and diversification reasons," a Microsoft spokesperson told CNBC.

    "Satya is committed to the continued success of the company and his holdings significantly exceed the holding requirements set by the Microsoft board of directors," he said.

    Since Nadella took over the CEO role from Steve Ballmer in February 2014, Seattle-based Microsoft's shares have tripled in value. He last sold shares in 2016, when the stock was worth around $58 per share.

Suresh Prabhu calls for another round of consultations on draft e-commerce policy
  • Current Affairs - 12 August 2018Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu today asked his officials to undertake another round of stakeholder consultations for the draft e-commerce policy as concerns have been raised on some proposals.

    The ministry, in a tweet, said that it "had received few concerns regarding the draft e-Commerce Policy following which the minister has directed officials to conduct another round of consultation with stakeholders to address them. The Minister will personally review the draft once it is prepared."

    The initial draft e-commerce policy has suggested several steps to promote the growth of the fast growing sector.

    It said online retail firms may have to store user data exclusively in India in view of security and privacy concerns.

    It has stated that any group company of an online retailer or marketplace may not be allowed to directly or indirectly influence the price or sale of products and services on its platform, a move that could completely restrict e-tailers from giving deep discounts.

    The draft has also suggested introduction of a pre-set timeframe for offering differential pricing or deep discounts by e-commerce players to customers.

    Further, the draft recommended permitting 49 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) in inventory-based business-to-customer e-commerce model. Currently, FDI in such businesses is prohibited and it is allowed only in the marketplace model.

    Besides, it has talked about adopting a common definition of e-commerce for the purpose of domestic policy making and international negotiations as currently there is no commonly accepted definition.

    In the context of international trade negotiations, policy space for granting preferential treatment and imposing customs duties on e-transmission to digital items created in India would be retained.

    Further, it recommended steps for increasing use of RuPay. The steps could include identifying deficiencies in infrastructure, providing budget, branding, and addressing quantitative deficiencies in service for wider use of RuPay cards.

    However, certain online firms have welcomed the draft policy. Travel e-commerce firm Travel Unravel Holidays has hailed the move to form a single regulator for the sector.

    Saurabh Sharma, Director, Travel Unravel Holidays said, "This move will organise the entire travel space, which eventually will help everyone in the chain especially the end consumer. The single e-commerce regulator will ensure one umbrella that will drastically reduce the multiplicity of compliance and authorities to deal with, offering seamless business ecosystem."

    Additionally, it will prevent monopolistic tendencies of big players to usurp the market and infuse competitiveness and fair play in the travel business, he said.

General Awareness

    Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: What is Proxy voting? Highlights of the Bill.
      For Mains: Significance of the Bill.

      Context: Lok Sabha has passed Representation of the People (Amendment) Bill, 2017 to extend the facility of ‘proxy voting’ to overseas Indians, on the lines of service voters.

      The Bill seeks to amend Representation of People Act (RPA), 1950 and Representation of People Act (RPA), 1951 to allow for proxy voting and make certain provisions of these Acts gender-neutral.

      Highlights of the Bill:

      The Bill proposes to allow non-resident Indians (NRIs) to emerge as a decisive force in the country’s electoral politics on their own terms. The amendment paves the way to remove an “unreasonable restriction” posed by Section 20A of the Representation of the People Act, which requires overseas electors to be physically present in their electoral constituencies to cast their votes.

      What necessitated this move?

      Section 20A of the Act provides for registration and inclusion of overseas electors in the electoral rolls. The Registration of Electors Rules, 1960 provide for overseas electors to register themselves in the electoral rolls of their respective constituencies on the basis of self-attested copies of their passport and valid visa, and exercise their franchise in person on production of the original passport at the time of voting at the specified polling booth.

      Thus, the rules demand for the physical presence of overseas electors in their respective polling stations in India on the day of polling. This causes hardship to the overseas electors. This amendment proposes facilitating an external mode of voting, that is, voting by proxy, whereby such electors can exercise their franchise from their places of residence abroad.

      Significance of this move:

      If the Bill is passed, overseas voters can appoint a proxy to cast their votes on their behalf, subject to certain conditions to be laid down in the Conduct of Election Rules, 1961. This would considerably mitigate the difficulties presently faced by overseas electors in exercising their franchise.

      What is voting by proxy?

      According to the provisions of ‘Representation of the People Act (Amendment) Bill, 2017 overseas Indians, who are entitled to vote in India, can appoint a proxy voter to cast their votes on their behalf. Also, the overseas Indians would be allowed to use the option of proxy, which till now was only available to service personnel.

      Drawbacks of the proxy voters:

      It threatens the very core of democracy as the special treatment violets the fact that there are many times more domestic migrants who also seek to have a voting right at their homes.
      The proxy voter may cast vote for the candidate who is not desired by oversea Indians.
      There can be no guarantee of NRI voters exercising their vote in a free and fair manner as there can be no check on coercion or inducement by the employers.
      There is no guarantee that votes would not be sold to the so called proxy.
      There is no fixed number of votes a proxy could cast in an election.

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