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Current Affairs - 06 September 2018

General Affairs 

Rafale To Give India Unprecedented Combat Abilities: Air Force Vice Chief
  • The Rafale is a beautiful fighter aircraft which will give India "unprecedented" combat capabilities, Indian Air Force's vice chief said today amid escalating controversy over the Rs. 58,000 crore deal.

    Vice Chief of Air Staff Air Marshal SB Deo also said those criticising the Rafale deal must understand the laid down norms and procurement procedure.

    "It is a beautiful aircraft..It is a very capable aircraft and we are waiting to fly it," Vice Air Marshal SB Deo said on the sidelines of an event when asked about the controversy surrounding the Rafale deal.

    The vice air marshal also said that Rafale jets will give India "unprecedented advantage" over its adversaries in the region.

    India had signed an inter-governmental agreement with France in September 2016 for procurement of 36 Rafale fighter jets at a cost of around Rs. 58,000 crore. The delivery of the fighter jets is scheduled to begin from September 2019.

    The Congress has raised several questions about the deal, including on cost of the aircraft, while the government has rejected all charges made by the Congress.

2019 Elections: BJP, Mamata Banerjee's Party Prepare For Cyber Slugfest
  • With an eye on the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the ruling Trinamool Congress or TMC and the opposition BJP in West Bengal have decided to revamp their IT cells and enhance social media presence to take on each other in virtual space.

    Both the parties have been engaged in a bitter political battle for the past few years and are now planning to extend it to the social media turf.

    West Bengal has 42 Lok Sabha seats of which the Mamata Banerjee's party holds 34 and the BJP holds two.

    BJP chief Amit Shah has set a target of winning over 22 seats and the party hopes that social media will play an important role in its quest.

    The Trinamool Congress, for the past few months, has been strengthening the party's digital cell under the stewardship of Abhishek Banerjee, the party's youth wing president and nephew of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

    Trinamool Congress' national spokesperson Derek O' Brien and Abhishek Banerjee are quite active on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook and are at the forefront in taking on the BJP in the digital space.

    The party is all set to organise a Digital Conclave on September 10 at Nazrul Mancha, where Abhishek Banerjee will address its IT cell members, ministers and youth workers.

    "During this conclave, special instructions will be given to ministers to be more active on social media such as Twitter and Facebook to directly interact with the masses. Most of the BJP ministers are active on social media but in comparison only a few of our ministers and party leaders are active on social media. This has to increase," said a senior Trinamool leader.

    The party has decided to train over 40,000 youths on the usage of social media to reach out to the masses across the 42 Lok Sabha constituencies of the state.

    The party has set a target of creating 10,000 WhatsApp groups with 256 members in each of them to spread awareness on the developmental work of the state government and "anti-people" policies of the BJP government at the Centre.

    "Till now, we have been able to create 3,000 WhatsApp groups and for each Lok Sabha constituency, we have created a separate media page. We have 12-14 people monitoring media content, fake news and trolls from district level to booth level," said a member of Trinamool Congress' Social Media IT cell.

    Colonel (retd) Dipatanshu Chowdhury, who is a joint convenor of Trinamool Congress' Media cell, told news agency PTI that the party is not only looking into the usage of Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp but also other platforms such as Messenger, microblogging sites, e-mails, Pinterest and Instagram.

    "Social media is going to play a very vital role in the next Lok Sabha polls. We are looking at the use of digital spectrum so that we can reach out to our target audience, especially youths and first time voters," he said.

    Mamata Banerjee herself, during the Trinamool students' wing programme held recently, had asked the party's students and youth activists to become more active on social media to counter the BJP.

    With Trinamool Congress gunning for an all-out cyber war, the West Bengal BJP unit too is gearing up to retaliate.

    BJP chief Amit Shah, during his visit in June this year, had spelt out the strategy to reach out to the masses, both physically and also via social media. Mr Shah had asked party workers to use social media as a tool to combat the Trinamool government in the state and propagate the pro-people policies of the Modi government.

    He had also stressed on using social media to fight against the "rumours" spread by opposition parties and propagate developmental policies of the Narendra Modi government.

    Amit Malviya, national in charge of  BJP's IT, Website and Social Media Management cell told news agency PTI that BJP will leverage social media effectively to highlight the "colossal misgovernance" and "appeasement politics" of Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal.

    "The party has a trained cadre base with presence down to the booth level. BJP also has a huge network of volunteers, which is aligned with the BJP's ideology and sees a better future for themselves and the state under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi," Mr Malviya said.

    On social media platforms, the party plans to highlight the "failures" of the Trinamool Congress government at the state level and the pro-people policies of the BJP.

    Speeches and political messages of party president Amit Shah, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and state BJP president and other senior leaders will also be carried on the social media platforms and translated to Bengali so that it can be received by a bigger audience.

    State BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu said the party is in the process of creating Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups at every booth of the state.

    The purpose of these groups will not only be to highlight various state level issues but also create a public opinion on local issues through the use of social media. "The work of creating Facebook page and Whatsapp groups have already started. We hope to finish the job soon," Mr Basu told news agency PTI.

    The state BJP unit is also on the lookout for new office space for setting up the revamped IT cell. In districts too, the BJP is planning to have separate offices for its social media and IT cell.

Instead Of Saying 'Urban Naxals', File Charges Faster: Uddhav Thackeray
  • Shiv Sena Chief Uddhav Thackeray on Wednesday slammed the Maharashtra police for holding a press conference last week over the arrest of five left-wing activists in multi-city raids for alleged Maoist links and favoured timely filing of charges rather than labelling the accused as 'Urban Naxals'.
    He said the government should submit evidence in the court instead of revealing everything before the media.

    Instead of labelling the accused as 'Urban Naxals' or 'Hindu terrorists', charges should be filed in time, Mr Thackeray said while referring to the cases involving the five activists as also to the probe into recent seizure of explosives across state for which some people allegedly associated with right-wing groups have been arrested.

    "A new system has started, wherein the police reveals everything before the court takes a decision. Even the court has expressed its displeasure over this... If what you're doing is right, submit evidence before the court soon," the Sena chief told reporters in Mumbai after a meeting with his party leaders.

    On Friday last week, State Additional Director General (Law and Order) Parambir Singh along with the Pune police had addressed the media in connection with the arrest of five activists.

    During the press conference, Mr Singh had read out letters purportedly exchanged between the activists and had claimed the police had "conclusive proof" to link the left-wing activists arrested in June and last week to Maoists.

    Pune police had on August 28 raided homes of prominent left-wing activists in several states and arrested five of them- Varavara Rao in Hyderabad, Vernon Gonsalves and Arun Ferreira in Mumbai, Sudha Bharadwaj in Faridabad and Gautam Navalakha in Delhi.

    The raids were carried out as part of a probe into the Elgaar Parishad event on December 31 last year, which was followed by violence at Koregaon-Bhima in Pune district the next day.

    Separately, the Maharashtra ATS last month arrested five persons after explosives were seized from different places in the state, which according to the police were to be used to trigger blasts at various places.

    Mr Thackeray said since terrorism has no religion, why should those arrested be labelled either as 'Hindu terrorists or Urban Naxals'.

    "Whether you call them Urban Naxals or blame the Sanathan Sanstha, chargesheet should be filed against them in time," he said.

    "Why have all of them become active during this government's tenure? If a pro-Hindutva government is in power in the country, why are Hindu terrorists, if at all they are, springing up now," he said.

    Mr Thackeray also slammed the central government over what he called the "failed" note ban decision and said, "Who will take the responsibility of the loss to the country's economy and of the people who died while standing in queues? Will you accept this was a mistake?"

    Mr Thackeray also said he had called Gujarat's Patidar leader Hardik Patel and expressed his solidarity with him over his ongoing hunger strike.

    "I have extended my support to him and told him we need fighters like you. I also requested him to withdraw his hunger strike," Mr Thackeray said.

    Mr Patel has been on an indefinite fast in Ahmedabad since August 25 with demands including farm loan waiver and reservation for the Patidar community under OBC category in government jobs and education sector.

Bengal Government Was Warned About Majerhat Bridge Two Years Back
  • State-run engineering and consultancy agency RiTES had in 2016 warned the West Bengal government on the precarious condition of several bridges in the city including the Majerhat structure but no action was taken, officials said Wednesday.

    One of them said that the West Bengal government was about to undertake repair work on the decrepit Majerhat bridge but it got delayed due to bureaucratic wrangles.

    A section of the 50-year-old Majerhat bridge on the arterial Diamond Harbour Road caved in Tuesday killing one person and injuring several others.

    According to the official, the government has also decided to form a monitoring committee to carry out a health check-up of all the bridges in the city.

    "The tender (for Majerhat bridge) is already out for the repair work and the process in on. It has been decided that within a few days a monitoring committee would be formed to look into the condition of all the bridges in the city," the senior PWD official told PTI.

    After the collapse of the Vivekanada flyover in the city in March 2016, the state government had mandated Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RiTES) to survey the conditions of different bridges in Kolkata, he said.

    The under-construction flyover came crashing down in crowded Burrabazar area, the wholesale business hub of the city, on March 31, 2016 claiming 26 lives.

    "RiTES had warned us about the condition of the bridge and had advised that a repair work should be conducted. But there was no concrete report as such from them," the PWD official said on condition of anonymity.

    RiTES officials could not be reached for comment.

    Dipankar Sinha, former DG of Town Planning department of Kolkata Municipal Corporation said the state PWD department had time and again been reminded about the poor condition of the bridge but the warnings went unheeded.

    "When painting the bridge in blue and white is a priority, repair and maintenance works ought to take a back seat," Mr Sinha told PTI.

    Bridge experts in the city feel that lack of proper repair work of the Majerhat bridge had led to its collapse.

    Arup Guha Niyogi, a professor of civil engineering department of Jadavpur University, said if the standard operating procedures for the repair and maintenance of the bridge were followed, the accident could have been averted.

    "There is a stated operating procedure in terms of repair and maintenance, it should have been followed. Moreover, as initial news reports suggest, the road surface was metalled again and again. The rule is: you need to remove the layering every time you repair and put up a fresh layer. But this was not done in this case which in turn created a pressure on the bridge," he said.

    A new bridge needs to be inspected every three months for first two years, in order to see whether there are any flaws in its design. After two years, it is mandatory to conduct repair work in old bridges every year, Mr Niyogi said.

    Two persons still remained untraced Wednesday as search and rescue operations were stepped up in Alipore area in south Kolkata.

Maharashtra Government Proposes Changes To Regularise Illegal Buildings
  • The Maharashtra government has proposed changes in calculating penalties to regularise illegal residential buildings in the state, a move likely to provide some relief to occupants of such structures.

    The modifications have been published in a notification issued by the government's urban development department last week, an official said Tuesday.

    They are an improvement on calculations done earlier to levy penalties on unauthorised structures, he said.

    As per the proposed modifications, the planning authority would calculate 'compounding charges' (penalties) needed for providing public amenities, utilities and services in the respective areas.

    "The notification is a part of the government's attempt towards taking a realistic step to solve the problem of lakhs of unauthorised structures, most of which are residential buildings," an official of the urban development department said.

    The department had in October 2017 issued rules regarding regularisation of illegal structures built before December 31, 2015 on payment of a penalty.

    As per the rules, such constructions will be declared as compounded structures after payment of compounding charges, infrastructure charges and premium by the owner and occupier.

    The compounding charges so far are calculated on the basis of ready reckoner rates which are quite hefty and unrealistic, Observer Research Foundation's (ORF) senior fellow Sayli Udas-Mankikar, who works on urban and governance issues, said.

    This has generally led to residents of such buildings opposing payment of the charges and obtaining the 'compounded structure' status, she said.

    The proposed modifications will persuade people to approach the authorities concerned to get their structures regularised, she added.

    Ready reckoner rate is the government's estimate of minimum property values in various locations based on several factors. Based on these factors, a benchmark is set, below which no property transaction can take place in that particular locality.

    Observer Research Foundation is an independent think-tank which takes up studies on various current and relevant issues.

Business Affairs

IKEA India stops selling vegetarian biryani, samosa after 'bug' incident
  • Swedish home furnishings major IKEA has decided to stop selling vegetarian biryani and samosas in its canteen after an insect was found in biryani served to a customer. The company is also conducting an internal review on the August 31 incident.

    "IKEA takes food safety and quality very seriously and customer health is always a priority. Following an incident on August 31, 2018, when a customer encountered a foreign object in the dish he ordered, IKEA India has voluntarily stopped sales of two of its most appreciated products -- vegetarian biryani and samosa sourced locally in India. IKEA follows strong internal processes to secure quality and takes full responsibility for its supply chain. IKEA India has initiated an internal review in order to take any corrective actions as needed," a statement from IKEA said.

    The customer, Abeed Mohammad, had taken to Twitter to share his experience, saying: "Today I found a caterpillar in my veg biryani." He had also tagged the official handles of the city police, KT Rama Rao, Telangana Minister for Industries and Commerce and the Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development, as well as media organisations.

    He also approached the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), which imposed Rs 11,500 fine on IKEA. The episode has not only proved to be a major embarrassment for the Swedish furniture giant but has also brought it under the scanner of the municipal authorities, who inspected the restaurant and collected food samples for bacteriological analysis.

Banks still haven't learnt their lesson! RBI again says fix the gaps in SWIFT systems
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has been calling for a comprehensive audit of SWIFT systems in use since 2016, long before the Rs 13,000 crore Punjab National Bank scam broke. But banks are yet to pay heed, and hence the regulator has reportedly issued show-cause letters to several banks.

    To remind you, the reason the scam escaped detection for so long is that rogue bank employees had issued fraudulent Letters of Undertaking (LoU) by using the SWIFT messaging system, without recording the transactions in the bank's core banking software (CBS) - something he was supposed to do since the two systems were not integrated.

    As details about the scam surfaced earlier this year, the apex bank had once again cracked the whip. According to The Economic Times, in a confidential advisory to CEOs of all banks, the RBI had directed them to put in place a slew of measures to curb such frauds.

    To begin with, banks were directed to immediately ensure that no SWIFT message, creating funded or non-funded exposure to banks, got sent without first ensuring that the underlying transaction was duly reflected in the CBS/accounting system.

    Secondly, they were asked to implement straight-through processing between both systems by April 30, 2018. Moreover, a detailed timeline was issued to banks for implementation of 20-odd controls related to SWIFT and Nostro accounts. Some of these measures had to be implemented with immediate effect while the rest had to be put in place between March and June-end.

    Other measures suggested by the RBI included putting in place a system to generate alerts on breach of any control limits as well as any other unusual feature in the transactions; auditing SWIFT/Nostro transactions for any anomaly by sourcing the data in raw form from the originating system; reconciling payment messages every one or two hours by comparing the outward messages with SWIFT confirmation; and setting limits for all corporate customers (fund and non-fund based limits), which would be monitored centrally by bank's risk management division every week.

    But now, having discovered that many banks are yet to fully implement the measures, the regulator has asked them to explain the delay. Citing bankers the daily added that the show-cause letters issued in August-end points out lapses in close to 25 banks.

    "There is a degree of paranoia. I believe banks have been told to follow a two-step authentication for large value transaction. Some of these measures may slow down a bank. But that's the price you pay after a scam," said a source.

Jan Dhan Yojana: Govt doubles up overdraft facility from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000
  • The government Wednesday decided to make the Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) an open-ended scheme and added more incentives to encourage people to open bank accounts. Briefing reporters about the cabinet decision, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said as the scheme has been a "runway success", the government has decided to make it an open-ended scheme, meaning that it will continue indefinitely.

    The PMJDY was launched in August 2014 for a period of four years as a national mission for financial inclusion to ensure access of financial services like bank accounts, insurance and pensions to the masses. To make the scheme more attractive, the government has decided to double the overdraft facility from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000, the minister said.

    He further said that 32.41 crore accounts have been opened under the scheme and as much Rs 81,200 crore has been deposited in them so far. Jaitley said 53 per cent of the PMJDY account holders are women, while 83 per cent of the accounts are seeded with Aadhaar.

    Under the scheme, age entitlement has been relaxed to 18-65 years, and accident insurance of accounts after 28 August will have a limit of Rs 2 lakh. He said that the government has now changed its focus from household to adult individuals to ensure the inclusion of those outside the financial system.

RBI has a new tool to prevent bank frauds! It'll affect most companies
  • Global financial transactions are often difficult to track. Especially, when no standard identification of companies is followed around the world.

    Unscrupulous businessmen running away with huge sums of taxpayer's money is not uncommon. Money is laundered through a web of companies located in different geographies, making it difficult to check such transactions. To fight this, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has introduced Legal Entity Identifier or LEI. Its key aim is to check and prevent banking frauds.

    In fact, RBI has mandated a phase-wise implementation of LEI (Legal Entity Identifier) for all borrowers of banks in India. Entities without an LEI code will not be granted renewal / enhancement of credit facilities after a specified date.

    What is LEI?

    LEI is a 20 digit global reference number which uniquely identifies a company. Across the world LEI is conceived as a key measure to improve the quality and accuracy of financial data through improved risk management.

    Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation (GLEIF) is the regulator of LEI. The foundation is backed and overseen by the LEI Regulatory Oversight Committee, represented by public authorities from around the globe that have come together to jointly drive forward transparency within the global financial markets.

    Advantages of LEI

    1 Uniquely identifies parties to a transaction.

    2 Improves accuracy and quality of financial data.

    3 Enables transaction tracking.

    How would LEI help the banking sector?
    1 Help banks to effectively monitor debt.

    2 Prevent issuing multiple loans for the same collateral.

    3 Facilitate assessment of aggregate borrowing by corporate groups.

    4 Serves as a proof of identity for a firm.

    5 Eases transaction reporting to regulators.

    6 Corporate entity identification across financial markets.

    An example of legal entity identification number and its breakup

    The structure of LEI is determined by ISO standard 17442 and takes into account financial stability board stipulations.

    How will this work?

    Through LEI, key reference information can be connected that enables clear and unique identification of legal entities participating in a financial transaction.

    Banks will be required to acquire LEI number from the borrower and report it to CRILC (Central Repository of Information on Large Credit), a database of loans where details of loans above Rs 5 crore is maintained. CRILC collects data on non-performing assets (NPA) from all Indian financial institutions and advises the state of impairment.

    Timeline to adhere to LEI

    RBI in its November 2, 2017 mandate has specified introducing LEI in a phased manner for large corporate borrowers having fund and non-fund exposure of Rs 5 crore and above. Below table cites the deadlines for corporates to get LEI issued.

    How to get LEI for your business in India?

    Legal Entity Identifier India Limited (LEIL) a wholly Owned Subsidiary of The Clearing Corporation of India Ltd. acts as a Local Operating Unit (LOU) for issuing globally compatible Legal Entity Identifiers (LEIs) in India. LEIL has been recognised by the Reserve Bank of India as an "issuer" of Legal Entity Identifiers under the Payment and Settlement Systems Act 2007. Cost of obtaining LEI for your business is Rs 6,000 plus GST.

India to buy 18 bullet trains from Japan for Rs 7,000 crore: report
  • As part of the government's plan to launch country's first high speed rail corridor by 2022, India will buy 18 bullet train sets worth Rs 7,000 crore from Japan. The deal will include a pledge to transfer technology for local production, The Economic Times reported.  

    The 508-km high speed train corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is expected to be operational by 2022. The bullet trains are expected to run at a speed of 350 km per hour covering the stretch in about two hours. In comparison, trains plying on the route take over 7 hours to travel the distance whereas flights take an hour.  

    "We'll be getting 18 Shinkansen train sets from Japan," an official told the daily, adding, "Each train will have 10 coaches and would be able to cruise at the speed of 350 km per hour."

    The report added that Japanese train makers will participate in a tender that will be floated soon to procure the high-speed trains. The imported trains will have automatic protection systems to ensure safety, it said.

    Meanwhile, Indian Railways will also begin the process of setting up a bullet train assembling units in India on a public private participation (PPP) basis. Japanese train manufacturers like Kawasaki and Hitachi may set up facilities in the country, the report quoted an official as saying.

    "We'll be inviting bids to set up an assembling plant here in India as well under the Make in India programme," the official added.

    Indian Railways which had set December 2018 as the deadline for acquiring land, is expected to start construction work in January next year.

    The Mumbai-Ahmedabad route is expected to be used by 18,000 passengers daily, with fares between the two cities likely to be around Rs 3,000 in economy class. According to a study conducted by IIM Ahmedabad, Ahmedabad-Mumbai bullet train will need to make 100 trips daily and carry 88,000-118,000 passengers per day to be financially viable.

    National High-Speed Rail Corporation Limited (NHSRCL) will be responsible for executing the project of the high-speed train corridor. The 12 proposed stations along the route will include Bandra Kurla Complex, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Baroda, Anand, Sabarmati and Ahmedabad.

    NHSRCL is also planning to have two distinct schedules for the bullet trains. The faster route will stop at fewer intermediary stations, which will include Surat and Vadodara, before reaching Ahmedabad, while the other will stop at all stations.

    The cost of Ahmedabad-Mumbai High Speed Rail Project is estimated to be Rs 1,10,000 crore, almost equal to total capital outlay of Indian Railways in 2017. However, Japan had agreed to offer a soft loan worth Rs 88,000 crore at 0.1 per cent for the ambitious project.

General Awareness

    International Aviation Summit
    • What to study?

      For Prelims and Mains: International Aviation Summit- key highlights, IATA.

      Context: The International Aviation Summit is being held New Delhi.

      The summit has been jointly organised by the Airports Authority of India, Ministry of Civil Aviation and International Air Transport Association (IATA).


      The Indian Government is preparing for a massive air traffic surge to handle as many as 100 crore passengers in next 15-20 years, much above the 50 crore trips a year as predicted by IATA. According to IATA, India is expected to overtake Germany, Japan, Spain and the UK within the next ten years to become the world’s third largest air passenger market.

      Challenges to growth of the sector:

      India’s aviation industry is showing contrast as on one hand there are infrastructural and economic issues plaguing the sector while on the other, airline companies are busy buying planes to meet the demand.
      With a surge in domestic air travel demand in India, the country’s airlines are gearing up for a rise and have ordered around 1,000 aircraft over the next eight years. But despite traffic growth, the financial outlook for domestic airlines has deteriorated dramatically since January.
      Imposing GST on international air tickets is being seen as a violation of international standards. The GST rate is 5% and 12% on economy and business class tickets respectively.

      About IATA:

      What is it? The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the trade association for the world’s airlines, representing some 280 airlines or 83% of total air traffic. Formed in April 1945, it is the successor to the International Air Traffic Association, which was formed in 1919.

      What it does? IATA supports airline activity and helps formulate industry policy and standards. It also provides consulting and training services in many areas crucial to aviation.

      Headquarters: It is headquartered in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with Executive Offices in Geneva, Switzerland.

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