Current Affairs Current Affairs - 22 August 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 22 August 2018

General Affairs 

Navy pilot lands chopper on terrace, praised for daring rescue act
  • When Keralites struggled to rescue people marooned across the state, a naval captain’s daring act stood out. Captain Raj Kumar landed his Sea King helicopter on the roof terrace of a flooded house to bale out its inhabitants.

    The officer attached to the Southern Naval Command has become a superstar after a video of the breathtaking rescue of 26 people went viral on social media. The captain who hails from Palakkad is no stranger to headlines. He was honoured with a ‘Shourya Chakra’ for his tireless rescue mission in the time of Cyclone Ockhi.

    Sea King 42 C is one of the large helicopters in the service of the Indian Navy. Manoeuvring the big bird to land on the roof of a house standing among taller buildings and trees is not a task for the faint-hearted. This has the stamp of an expert, people who are familiar with aviation said.

    Captain Raj Kumar chose the unconventional method to save on time and energy in the extraordinary situation. The textbook process, in which the chopper hovers over the area of evacuation while the rescuers winch themselves down in metal ropes and carry the evacuees back, takes a lot of time.

    Captain Raj Kumar landed the chopper on the terrace to let in the waiting people without delay. They could be flown back to safety thanks to the out-of-the-box thinking.

    Sea King’s blades rotate 203 times in a minute. The copter with large rotor blades is difficult to land in a limited space without even a person to assist in aircraft handling on the ground.

    Captain Raj Kumar also flies the Chetak helicopters. He is the go-to person for the authorities whenever VIPs visit.

    Sea King 42 C is used as a transporter for personnel and an air ambulance in times of disasters. They are also used for VIP escorts and search and rescue.

    The other Sea King, 42 B, is used by the Indian Navy to locate and neutralise vessels and submarines.

After Worst Flood In 100 Years, Kerala To Get Cyclone Warning Centre: IMD
  • In the wake of tropical cyclones and severe weather events in Kerala and Karnataka coasts, the centre has proposed to set up a Cyclone Warning Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, Secretary in the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) M Rajeevan said today.
    The cyclone centre is expected to come up in another one month, he said.

    At present, the India Meteorological Department (IMD) has cyclone warning centres in Chennai, Bhubaneswar,  Vishakhapatnam, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Mumbai.

    "South India was managed by the Chennai (Met) office. Now, the Thiruvananthapuram centre will cater to the needs of Kerala and Karnataka and it will be equipped with state-of- the-art infrastructure, including forecasting tools, to issue weather warnings and coastal bulletins (for fishermen etc)," he said.

    It would further strengthen the present forecasting activity in IMD's existing office in Kerala, Rajeevan said, adding the decision was taken to decentralise IMD's operations in South India.

    The east coast is prone to cyclones. Last year, Kerala was hit by Cyclone Ockhi that killed nearly 93 people. The IMD came under severe criticism after the state government alleged that the Met Department did not give adequate warning.

    The ministry is also planning to set up another C-Band Doppler Weather Radar at Mangalore by end of 2019 which would cover the northern parts of Kerala, a statement by the MoES said.

    At present, there are two Doppler Weather Radars in the state -- at Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram.

    With these three radars, the entire state would be covered for monitoring of rainfall and severe weather events, and adequately warn the people well in advance.

    The IMD has developed many new models and tools from nowcasts (2-3 hours) to extended range forecasts (15-20 days' lead time).

    The MoES is also planning to organise an awareness and training workshop for the state disaster management authorities of all states and other stakeholders by next month, to brief and train them on the new tools and their use for effective decision making.

Medical Entrance Exam NEET Once A Year, To Be Handwritten
  • The Union Education Ministry has scrapped its plan to conduct the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test or NEET twice a year and in online mode after recommendations of the the Health Ministry. NEET, the entrance exam for medical and dental undergraduate programmes, will be held in May next year and will be handwritten.

    In July, the Education Ministry had said that the newly formed National Testing Agency will conduct NEET twice a year and the the exam will be computer-based.

    "The change in the NEET exam pattern as against the statement earlier, which will now be a single exam in pen-and-paper mode and in the same number of languages as has been conducted last year, is on the request of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, which wanted the same pattern followed last year to be maintained," news agency PTI quoted an official as saying.

    After the Education Ministry's announcement last month, the Health Ministry had voiced concerns over holding NEET twice a year as it may put additional pressure on students.

    There were also concerns that the computer-based exam may put aspirants from rural areas at a disadvantageous position.

    An announcement by the Education Ministry today said that registration for the NEET will begin on November 1 and the exam will be held on May 5, 2019.

Satya Pal Malik To Replace NN Vohra As Jammu And Kashmir Governor
  • NN Vohra, Jammu and Kashmir's longest serving governor, has finally been replaced amid differences with the centre over the formation of a new government in the state and over Article 35A on land ownership rights in the state. Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik will take over from him. 
    Mr Vohra was Governor of Jammu and Kashmir for more than a decade.

    The state has been under Governor's Rule since June 20, after the BJP ended its coalition government with Mehbooba Mufti's People's Democratic Party or PDP, saying it was "untenable" to continue because of security concerns and rising terrorism.

    Sources had last month told that the government was unlikely to continue with NN Vohra. The Centre and NN Vohra do not see eye to eye on the formation of a new government in Jammu and Kashmir, sources had said. The Centre is keen on it, but Mr Vohra, who had handled the state four times between governments, was not.  

    A senior functionary of the home ministry said, "At this late stage he is not ready to accommodate certain decisions".

    Mr Vohra was appointed by the Congress-led UPA government and after the BJP came to power, it continued with him. Even though his term ended on June 28, the Centre decided to extend his term until the Amarnath Yatra. The governor heads the board looking into elaborate security cover for the annual pilgrimage.

    Satya Pal Malik, a former lawmaker and BJP's national vice president, had been appointed Bihar Governor in September last year. He has served as Union Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs and Tourism in 1990. 

    Born on 24 July 1946, Mr Malik has held many important positions in both the Centre and the state.

    The 72-year-old has been a member of the Rajya Sabha twice. After winning in general elections, he also joined the Lok Sabha from 1989 to 1990. 

    BJP veteran Lalji Tandon will take over from him as governor of Bihar.

Over Dozen FMCG Companies Donate Food To Kerala: Harsimrat Kaur Badal
  • Over a dozen FMCG firms, including ITC, Coca Cola, Pepsi and Hindustan Unilever, have pledged to supply water bottle, food and necessary items to flood-hit areas of Kerala in the next two days, Union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal said today.

    In a late evening meeting yesterday with the representatives of leading food processing companies, Ms Badal discussed a plan to strategise assistance to Kerala in the coming days.

    "It is time to work as a cohesive unit and make a coordinated effort to help the people of Kerala, instead of separate entities making individual efforts," said the minister of food processing industries.

    The companies have pledged full support to the endeavour of reaching out to the people hit by the floods, she said in a statement.

    Hindustan Unilever said it has already supplied 9,500 cases of salt, 29,000 cases of wheat products, 1,000 cases of Ketchup, 250 cases of spices mix masala and other products across the state.

    Nestle said it has supplied 90,000 packets of Maggi, 2,00,000 packets of Munch, 1,100 packets of coffee and UHT milk.

    The company said it will supply additional 40,000 packets of Maggi, 1 lakh Munch, 1,100 packs of coffee and UHT milk will be supplied along with 30,000 packs of ready-to-drink Milo and 10,000 packs of Serigo.

    ITC has promised to supply 3.30 lakh packets of biscuits, 2,000 bottles of Savlon, 3,000 packets of dairy whitener, 9,000 packets of liquid hand wash and 7,000 soaps, the statement said.

    Coca Cola India has already supplied 1.4 lakh litres of packaged drinking water and the company has committed to supply additional 1 lakh litres of packaged drinking water in next two days including 20,000 bottles tomorrow.

    Pepsico has promised to supply 6.78 lakh litres of packaged drinking water and 10,000 kg Quaker Oats.

    Among others, Britannia has already delivered 2.10 lakh packets of biscuits (6.5 Tonnes) at Kochi and 1.25 lakh packets at Malapuram and Wayanad.

    The company will deliver additional 1.25 lakh packets of biscuits in next two days, 3,000 buns and 10,000 packets of biscuits to be supplied from Madurai.

    MTR Food has delivered 35,000 ready-to-eat packets to Wayanad, while Bikanervala has decided to send one tonne of namkeen in coordination with industry body CII.

    Dabur has promised to deliver 30,000 - 40,000 litres tetra-packed juices and 10,000 tubes of Odomos, while GSK India will sent relief material worth Rs. 10 Lakhs, 1 million packets of Horlicks and 1 million Crocin tablets.

    Marico has committed to supply 30 tonnes of Oats, while Bagrrys India has promised to supply 2 tonnes of oats.

    Pernard Ricord and Cargill have assured to coordinate with dairy cooperative Amul for supply of milk powder and baby foods.

    Mondelez India Foods has decided to give cash contribution of Rs. 10 lakh to the CM relief fund.

Business Affairs

Flood hit Kerala seeks hike in borrowing limit to 4.5% to raise Rs 10,500 crore
  • Battling its worst flood in nearly a century, Kerala is planning to raise an additional Rs 10,500 crore debt for rehabilitation and rebuilding. To achieve this, the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan today said that his government will ask Centre to raise the ceiling on borrowing for the state to 4.5 per cent of the GDP. The borrowing limit is currently capped at 3 per cent.

    Calling for mobilisation of resources in a large way, Kerala CM said, "Cabinet decided to submit to the Central Govt a comprehensive plan that will enable the rehabilitation of the affected people and the rebuilding of Kerala. Our aim is not merely a restoration of the state to pre-flood times but the creation of a new Kerala."

    With several roads and highways facing the brunt of flooding, Kerala CM said the state needs a special package for central schemes. "The State will demand Centre for a Rs 2,600 crore MGNREGA special package," the chief minister said.

    The state will also request NABARD for a special scheme to implement long-term projects for infrastructure development in agriculture, irrigation and associated areas and social sectors, tweeted the chief minister's official Twitter handle.

    To facilitate rehabilitation efforts, the CM said he will request the Hon'ble Governor to call a special session of the assembly on August 30 to discuss on relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction.

    The Kerala government also announced a moratorium for bank loans in the flood affected areas, which will be applicable to both commercial and cooperative banks.

Govt plans to transfer Air India's non-core assets to special purpose vehicle
  • The government is looking at transferring Air India's non-core assets and "unsustainable debt" to a special purpose vehicle (SPV) as part of measures to revive the national carrier, a top official said on Tuesday.

    After the proposed strategic disinvestment of Air India failed to take off in May, the government has been looking at ways to bolster the carrier. Against this backdrop, the official at the Finance Ministry said that efforts are on to sell non-core assets of Air India.

    As part of the disinvestment process, which has been shelved for now, the government had proposed creating a special purpose vehicle wherein the non-core assets and "unsustainable debt" would be transferred there. The official said that proposal and encashing the non-core assets is being pursued as it would also help the airline stand on its feet.

    "This was also proposed for Air India when we had gone for hunting of proposed bidder for Air India," the official added. The national carrier's debt burden was more than Rs 48,000 crore at the end of March 2017. It is staying afloat on a bailout package extended by the previous UPA regime in 2012.

    In the current financial year, the airline has received an equity infusion of Rs 650 crore up to June. TAP and a Financial Restructuring Plan (FRP) were approved for Air India by the previous UPA regime in 2012. Last month, the government sought Parliament's nod for Rs 980 crore as supplementary grants for equity infusion into the airline. According to the official, there is no plan "as of now" to make additional capital infusion into Air India.

Promoter holding in 15 Tata companies valued at $100 billion; Ambani family's wealth at $53 billion
  • The aggregate value of promoter holdings in 15 top Tata group companies has crossed $100 billion (Rs 7.03 lakh crore), thanks to the recent surge in TCS and Titan stocks and the depreciation witnessed in the Indian rupee. The market capitalisation of IT bellwether gained slightly on Monday, though it couldn't overtake billionaire Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries (RIL). TCS value by Monday's closing stood at Rs 7.7 lakh crore, as compared to Rs 7.83 lakh crore of RIL. Titan is the second most valued company (Rs 81,889 crore) in Tata group, followed by Tata Motors (Rs 77,828 crore) and Tata Steel (Rs 67,521 crore).

    RIL's share price jumped by 2.61 per cent to Rs 1235.15 on Monday and it catapulted the wealth of Ambani family to Rs 3.7 lakh crore ($53 billion). However, the promoter wealth of TCS alone stood at Rs 5.54 lakh crore ($79.21 billion). Ambanis own 47.35 per cent stake in RIL, compared to 71.92 per cent held by promoters of TCS.

    In April, TCS had breached the $100 billion market capitalisation mark. However, RIL regained the top spot in July last. Last week, TCS went past RIL again, but it was short-lived as RIL bounced back on Monday. However, the fall of Indian rupee, which is at around 70 against the US dollar, has helped the Tata promoters to reach $100 billion valuation from their promoter holding in 15 companies. The Tata Trusts through the holding companies -- Tata Sons and Tata Industries -- control the promoter stake in group companies. Besides, the group companies have many cross-holdings.

    It was mostly the personal wealth of Tata founders that was transferred to form Tata Trusts -- which include Sir Dorabji Tata Trust, Sir Ratan Tata Trust and Allied Trusts. Tata Trusts controls 66 per cent of the shares of Tata Sons, the principal investment holding company and the promoter of Tata companies. The Pallonji Mistry family also holds 18 per cent stake in Tata Sons.

    The aggregate market capitalisation of 15 Tata group companies comes to Rs 11.32 lakh crore. The one next to Tatas is HDFC -- which includes HDFC Ltd, HDFC Bank, HDFC Asset Management Company and HDFC Standard Life Insurance Company -- and its aggregate valuation comes close to Rs 10 lakh crore. In the market valuation game, Bajaj Group companies come fourth after RIL. The market value of RIL started riding high especially after the launch of digital service business, Reliance Jio, in September 2016.

Sensex, Nifty hit record highs in early trade, auto stocks gain
  • The Sensex and Nifty scaled fresh peaks in early trade today on gains in big cap stocks such as Bajaj Auto, ITC, Asian Paints and Adani Ports. While the Sensex hit an all time high of 38,402 rising 124 points from yesterday's close, the Nifty  rose 30 points to new peak of 11,581 after climbing 30 points from its previous close. The BSE midcap and small cap indices were trading 0.40% and 0.26% higher, respectively.

    Auto stocks led the gains with BSE auto index rising 184 points at 24,804 level.

    Bajaj Auto (1.06%), Hero MotoCorp (0.95%) and Tata Motors (0.70%) were the top Sensex gainers.

    Bharti Airtel was the top Sensex loser post dismal subscriber data for the Month of June. The firm added a paltry 10,689 customers in June, the least compared to its peers. The stock was down 0.94% at 366.90 level.

    Mustafa Nadeem, CEO at Epic Research said, "Primarily, sentiment wise we believe it is optimism that has turned up post fresh talks between US and China. Secondly, domestic cues have been positive as fund flows that we are witnessing since July series has been positive. This is clear indication that trend is up and having positive flow makes it intact at lower sides or due consolidations and corrections. The third and most important factor is the heavyweight Reliance that is trending higher. The stock has been up almost 10% in August Series itself and that is what taking along the Nifty with it. The heavyweight today has also alone added 60% of the gains while 40% is from other top 9 gainers. Fourth, the derivatives data clearly suggested in past two days that there has been aggressive writing at 11400 - 11500 CE which indicates this to be the near-term bottom and higher levels are expected since fresh build-up was seen in 11600 - 11700 Strikes. Lastly, subdued and lower levels in Crude is helping sentiments to remain positive in short term."

    Other losers were Vedanta (1.01%) and ONGC (0.86%).

    The rupee too opened higher by 17 paise at 69.65 today compared to Monday's close of 69.82 level to the dollar.

    Mustafa Nadeem, CEO at Epic Research said, "INR appreciated as the relief rally is seen in most Asian Emerging markets currencies post fresh talks between US and China and fading away of Turkish crisis. The INR appreciated by more than half a percent as Bearish bets on USD mounted. The Dollar index fell against a basket of currencies that led to an up move in INR as it came below $70 Mark in August contract though it continues to be above $70 in September."

    Market breadth was positive with 923 stocks rising compared to 791 falling on the BSE.

    Global markets

    Asian shares were mixed Tuesday amid doubts on the prospects for resolving the trade dispute between the US and China.

    Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped nearly 0.2 percent in morning trading to 22,158.35, while Australia's S&P/ASX 200 lost 0.9 percent to 6,290.00. But South Korea's Kospi added 0.4 percent to 2,255.65. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was little changed, inching up less than 0.1 percent to 27,610.20, and the Shanghai Composite was up 0.6 percent at 2,714.12. Shares were higher in Taiwan but lower in Singapore.

    The S&P 500 rose 6.92 points, or 0.2 percent, to 2,857.05. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed 89.37 points, or 0.3 percent, to 25,758.69. The Nasdaq composite recovered from a morning slide, adding 4.68 points, or 0.1 percent, to 7,821.01. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks also rebounded, picking up 5.75 points, or 0.3 percent, to 1,698.69.

Over 54 million stopped buying online in last 12 months, finds study
  • About 50 millions shoppers in India have stopped online shopping in the last one year - a move that has cost the e-commerce industry around USD 50 billion. According to a report conducted by Google, Bain and Company, and Omidyar Network, about 40 million new internet users are added to online transactions per year, but only 40 per cent of India's 390 million internet users transact online.

    "About 54 million customers have stopped online transactions after first purchase," the report noted.

    The report further observed that there was potential to unlock over USD 50 billion in online commerce in India by driving awareness, usage, and transactions among the current and next set of internet users and shoppers. "This will be driven by more than 500 million Indians who will constitute the next wave of online consumers. However, these consumers experience significant barriers in accessing the internet," it said.

    The report's findings show that data usage on mobile is at par with developed markets - 8 GB per month/ per subscriber. To bring more people online and drive the growth of users to unlock their economic potential, the report highlights the barriers and key themes relevant to the next half billion internet users and online shoppers.

    Based on a survey of 3,400 customers, the report reveals three key characteristics that affect India's digital ambition: skewed user base and not equitable across socio-economic classes, small transaction base, and large drop-out rate.

    According to the report, it takes three to four months for a typical internet user to make the first online transaction, which makes it very critical for companies to retain customers through content. It further observed that among the users, who have been on the internet for two or more years, 61 per cent transact online.

    However, it also notes that a large number of users (54 million) stop after the first online purchase due to issues with the user experience. The report summarises that despite the growth of the internet user base in India, online spends will remain limited due to the relatively low per capita GDP in India.

General Awareness

    Interlinking of Rivers
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: ILR- approved projects and their brief overview.
      For Mains: Need for and significance of interlinking of rivers.

      Context: 15th Meeting of Special Committee for Interlinking of Rivers was recently Held.

      Outcomes of the meeting:

      During the meeting, it was stressed on the need for developing consensus amongst the concerned states on interlinking of rivers so that the water draining unutilized into the sea could be utilized for the needy areas.
      States were called upon to discuss and sort out issues through active consultation so that the projects can be implemented on priority.

      Developments so far:

      Steps have been taken for early implementation of five interlinking projects and Memorandum of Agreement for implementation of these projects is being finalised in consultation with the concerned state governments.
      These five projects include Ken-Betwa link project, Damanganga-Pinjal link project, Par-Tapi-Narmada link project, Godavari-Cauvery (Grand Anicut) link project and Parvati-Kali Sindhu-Chambal link.

      Need for interlinking of rivers:

      The interlinking project aims to link India’s rivers by a network of reservoirs and canals that will allow for their water capacities to be shared and redistributed. According to some experts, this is an engineered panacea that will reduce persistent floods in some parts and water shortages in other parts besides facilitating the generation of hydroelectricity for an increasingly power hungry country.

      Benefits and significance of interlinking:

      Enhances water and food security of the country and it is essential for providing water to drought prone and water deficit areas.

      Proper utilization: River interlinking projects envisage that the surplus water available in Himalayan Rivers is transferred to the areas where water supply is not adequate in the Peninsular India. Also, huge quantities of water from several Peninsular rivers drain unutilized into the sea, and river interlinking projects help transfer this water to water deficit areas of Peninsular India.

      Boost to agriculture: The main occupation of rural India is agriculture and if monsoon fails in a year, then agricultural activities come to a standstill and this will aggravate rural poverty. Interlinking of rivers will be a practical solution for this problem, because the water can be stored or water can be transferred from water surplus area to deficit.

      Disaster mitigation: The Ganga Basin, Brahmaputra basin sees floods almost every year. In order to avoid this, the water from these areas has to be diverted to other areas where there is scarcity of water. This can be achieved by linking the rivers. There is a two way advantage with this – floods will be controlled and scarcity of water will be reduced.

      Transportation: Interlinking of rivers will also have commercial importance on a longer run. This can be used as inland waterways and which helps in faster movement of goods from one place to other.

      Employment generation: Interlinking also creates a new occupation for people living in and around these canals and it can be the main areas of fishing in India.

      Concerns associated:

      Interlinking of rivers will cause huge amount of distortion in the existing environment. In order to create canals and reservoirs, there will be mass deforestation. This will have impact on rains and in turn affect the whole cycle of life.

      Usually rivers change their course and direction in about 100 years and if this happens after interlinking, then the project will not be feasible for a longer run.

      Due to interlinking of rivers, there will be decrease in the amount of fresh water entering seas and this will cause a serious threat to the marine life system and will be a major ecological disaster.

      Due to the creation of Canals and Reservoirs, huge amount of area which is occupied by the people will be submerged leading to displacement of people and government will have to spend more to rehabilitate these people.

      The amount required for these projects is so huge that government will have to take loans from the foreign sources which would increase the burden on the government and country will fall in a debt trap.

      Way ahead:

      National Water Development Agency (NWDA) so far has received more than 40 proposals of intra-state links from 9 States viz. Maharashtra, Gujarat, Jharkhand, Odisha, Bihar, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Chhattisgarh. The successful completion of these projects will lead to reduction in disaster during floods, improved irrigation facilities, employment generation in rural agriculture, and increase in exports and decrease in migration from villages.

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