Current Affairs Current Affairs - 18 September 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 18 September 2018

General Affairs 

After UK Satellite Success, ISRO Plans 18 Missions In Next Six Months
  • With the continuing success of PSLV missions, ISRO has decided to take it up a notch and plans to launch 18 missions in the next six months, virtually one every two weeks.

    The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on Sunday night successfully launched NovaSAR and S1-4 earth observation satellites of the UK-based Surrey Satellite Technologies Ltd.

    "We are going to have 18 missions in the next six months, virtually one launch every two weeks," ISRO chairman K Sivan said in a press release.

    According to senior scientists, some of the planned launches include GSAT-11, Chandrayaan-2 moon mission and GSLV-MkIII-D2 missions.

    GSAT-11 is a multi-beam communication satellite, which is expected to be launched from French Guiana.

    Chandrayaan-2 is the second mission to the moon in which ISRO will launch the lander carrying a six-wheel rover.

    ISRO had successfully launched Chandrayaan-1 in October 2008 which orbited the moon at a height of 100 km from the lunar surface for chemical, mineralogical and photo-geologic mapping of the moon.

    In Chandrayaan-2, the scientists will make the lander soft land on the moon and deploy the rover to study its surface.

    The GSLV-MkIII-D2 mission would, for the first time, carry communication payloads. It is targeted at Village Resource Centres in rural areas to bridge the digital divide.

Skydiver's Birthday Wish To PM Modi From 13,000 Feet Above
  • Parajumper Shital Mahajan jumped off a plane from a height of 13,000 feet holding a birthday message for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Chicago, USA on Monday.

    After the successful jump, Ms Mahajan, 35, uploaded a video of her unique birthday greeting on social networking site Facebook.

    Ms Mahajan, a Padma Shri awardee, said she was trying to meet PM Modi for the last four years, but in vain.

    "I have been trying to meet the prime minister for the last four years but received no response from his office. I am hopeful of getting some response after this jump," Ms Mahajan said in a message on the internet.

    PM Modi celebrated his 68th birthday today with everyone across the country wishing the BJP supremo.

    PM Modi had an interaction with school students in his Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi during which he told them never to feel afraid to ask questions, saying it is a key aspect of learning.

    A giant, 568-kg ladoo was unveiled on the occasion of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 68th birthday on Monday by Union Minister Prakash Javadekar and his cabinet colleague Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi.

Soldier Killed By Terrorists In Kashmir Was Home After Son's Death
  • A territorial Army soldier, who had returned to his home in south Kashmir's Kulgam district for the last rites of his son, was shot dead by terrorists on Monday. The gunmen barged into his home at Shurat village and shot him from point blank.

    "Shoot me if you want to, but don't ask me questions," those present at the scene quoted Lance Naik Malik as having told the terrorists, according to news agency PTI.

    Officials say Lance Naik Mukhtar Ahmad Malik was a commander of a disbanded counter-insurgency group before he was recruited in the territorial Army. 

    "The Chinar Corps Commander and all ranks condole the death of Lance Naik Mukhtar Ahmad Malik who was killed in a dastardly act by the terrorists today at Kulgam. He was grieving the untimely demise of his son," an army spokesman said. 

    Lance Naik Malik's son teenage son Shariq had died on Friday after battling for his life for nearly two weeks following an accident. Giving details of the incident, officials said the family was preparing for 'Rasm-e-Chauram' (post-death ritual) when terrorists barged into the house of 43-year-old Malik.

    Lance Naik Malik is the latest off-duty soldier to be killed by terrorists in Kashmir. In the last one year, several off-duty soldiers and policemen have been killed in their homes in south Kashmir, a region heavily infested by terrorism.

Mohan Bhagwat Opens RSS Outreach Event With Rare Praise For Congress
  • If an outreach was the aim, reach out it did. Mohan Bhagwat, chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, opened a three-day conclave in Delhi today with a rare conciliatory tone for one of its harshest critics. "In the form of the Congress, a huge freedom movement fledged in the nation. It too gave birth to a number of all-sacrificing great personalities who continue to inspire us today. That movement managed to inspire ordinary people to join the freedom struggle. It had a huge hand in us achieving Independence," he said.
    That the words came from the head of an organisation which has been the bull's-eye for most Congress darts on the ruling party (which in turn has not missed many opportunities to return the favour) made it the kind of political spectacle perhaps last seen only in Congress chief Rahul Gandhi's famous hug for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in parliament two months ago.

    Mr Bhagwat, 68, was speaking at an event that the RSS, the ideological mentor of the ruling BJP, said it has organised to make the right-wing organisation better understood.

    And from diversity to women, the RSS chief in an 80-minute address seemed keen to re-mould its image on more than one issue.

    "India is a country full of diversity and it must be respected and celebrated," he said, adding that it should not become a reason for "discord" in the society.

    Addressing a frequent criticism about the lack of women participation in the RSS, Mr Bhagwat said there was room to change that and added there are other groups within its umbrella where they do take part.

    The RSS, which was an organisation unlike any other, is targeted by many people in the country out of "fear" of its increasing power which is natural, he said.

    Though many leaders of the ruling BJP, a number of Bollywood actors, artists and academicians were present for the event in Delhi's Vigyan Bhavan, usually the venue for major government events, almost all major opposition parties gave the conclave a miss though the RSS had invited them.

    With two more days to go, Mr Bhagwat appeared to count on drawing more people as he gave out a teaser for Tuesday's subject: Why the RSS is seen as an organisation that seems to court only Hindus.

PM Modi In Varanasi On His 68th Birthday, Interacts With School Students
  • Spending his 68th birthday in his Lok Sabha constituency, Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday had an interaction with school students during which he told them never to feel afraid to ask questions, saying it is a key aspect of learning.

    "As students, it is vital to ask questions. Never feel afraid to ask questions. It is a key aspect of learning," PM Modi said interacting with young students of a school at Narur on a wide range of subjects.

    PM Modi also said students must give importance to sports, asking them to go out and play since it is essential.

    "It is important to learn various skills, this will help you forever."

    "I came to your school on the special day of Vishwakarmajayanti. My greetings to everyone on this special day," he told the students.

    Earlier, the students welcomed him enthusiastically saying "Swagatam PM".

Business Affairs

Gold to become more expensive? Govt may hike import duty to stem rupee fall
  • In a bid to stem the free fall of Indian rupee, the government may be looking to hike tariffs on the yellow metal. An import duty on gold may help Centre to keep India's widening current account deficit (CAD) under control. The gold import bill nearly doubled to $3.6 billion in August.

    India's CAD jumped to 2.4 per cent of GDP in the first quarter of FY19, from 1.9 per cent in March 2018. The drop in value of rupee and spike in international crude oil prices may force the government to curb imports of non-essential commodities.

    Surendra Mehta, national secretary, India Bullion & Jewellers Association (IBJA) told The Economic Times that the best option for government in the present scenario is to increase the import duty on gold by 2 per cent.

    "The additional duty of 2 per cent collected on physical gold can be utilised to repay sovereign gold bond on maturity to incentivise customers who have invested in gold bonds. By doing so, investment demand for gold will shift to sovereign gold bond," Mehta told the daily.

    In 2013, when the rupee witnessed a similar depreciation, the government had raised import duty on gold to 10 per cent. Currently, there is a 3 per cent Goods and Service Tax (GST) on gold in addition to the import duty.

    However, many bullion jewellers feel that the government may not go for a hike in import duty as elections are just around the corner.

    To reduce the mounting pressure on CAD, some experts believe that duty on dore should be brought on a par with that on direct imports. A dore is a semi-pure alloy of gold and silver, usually created at the site of a mine.

    "A more optimal solution rather than changing the format of payment or raising import duty from 10 per cent would be rationalising the duty structure on raw gold or dore, which he says makes up 55 per cent of the gold India imports. The duty on dore is 9.35 per cent against 10 per cent on bullion bars imported by banks on consignment basis. Cheaper gold increases demand and this in turn widens the CAD. He said duty on dore should be brought on a par with that on direct imports to reduce pressure on CAD," said Shekhar Bhandari, business head (global transaction banking & precious metals) at Kotak Mahindra Bank.

SC exempts Saridon, two other combination drugs from govt ban
  • A week after the Supreme Court banned the sale of as many as 328 combination drugs, including popular painkiller Saridon, the Supreme Court on Monday allowed the sale of Saridon and two other drugs, Piriton Expectorant and Dart. The decision was taken after drug makers filed a petition, saying that these drugs were being manufactured since 1988. The petitioners cited the Supreme Court's earlier relief to 15 manufacturers on the bases of the similar grounds, saying that they should also be exempted from the ban.

    The Supreme Court also asked the Ministry of Health to give its opinion on the petitions filed against the order. The order provides a major relief to the companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Piramal, as these drugs are marketed by these companies. The Union Ministry of Health had banned the manufacture, sale or distribution of as many as 328 varieties of combination drugs manufactured in its efforts to keep a check on the irrational use of fixed dose combination (FDC) medicines. The FDC medicines are two or more drugs contained in a single dosage form. They are manufactured to evade price control measures, and are low-cost drugs that can treat multiple diseases.

    The SC order has affected over 6,000 medicine brands worth about Rs 25,000 crore across the country. Earlier, a government statement had said that the move would help curb the wrong use of 'unsafe' FDC medicines. The health ministry had taken the decision to ban these drugs after the Drugs Technical Advisor Board suggested these drugs might pose health risks.

    Experts believe combination drugs as unsafe because unaware physicians can sometimes prescribe a wrong dosage that can in turn make human body resistant to treatment. India's overall Rs 1.10-lakh crore drug market is saturated with over 25,000 brands. The government had initially brought in a notification to ban 345 combination drugs deemed 'unsafe' in 2010. Pharma companies and the government battled it out in various courts and eventually the Supreme Court directed the government to set up another committee to take a fresh look. Thereafter, the issue was examined by the Drugs Technical Adviser to study its overall impacts, which suggested the government to ban these 328 drugs.

Bank of Baroda's merger with Vijaya Bank, Dena Bank: Four key challenges
  • Three years ago, the government picked Bank of Baroda, country's fifth largest bank, for a turnaround experiment. It appointed high-profile outside professionals to overhaul the scheme of things at BoB. Ravi Venkatesan, former chairman of Microsoft India and ex- independent director of Infosys, joined the bank as its chairman. P S Jayakumar, an ex-citibanker, took over as MD& CEO. In fact, a lot of professionals joined laterally to work with them to transform the bank. The idea behind inducting professionals was to create a fresh template for public sector banks (PSBs) for them to stay competitive in the market.

    In the last three years, the duo managed to create some building blocks for a complete transformation of business. In fact, a lot of work was left to be done. Meanwhile, Ravi Venkatesan didn't get the extension last month. Jayakumar's tenure is also coming to an end next month. There is no news of his extension. But the merger announcement with Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank hit headlines just before his extension. The merger of Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank with Bank of Baroda will create following new challenges for BoB:

    1) Does size matter?

    The merged entity will emerge as the second largest bank after State Bank of India with balance sheet size of close to Rs 10 lakh crore. The SBI's balance sheet stood at over Rs 27 lakh crore as of March 2017. The next two after BoB will be HDFC Bank and ICICI Bank. But the question is; size for what? Amid fast-changing digital banking world, the banks should focus on faster processing of loans, risk management and cost and also on lucrative return for the shareholders.

    2) New geographies

    With Vijaya Bank, there will be new geographies in the South, but Bank of Baroda also has a national presence. There is likely to be some duplication of branches. The three banks actually mirror each other in terms of portfolio of assets and also the quality of portfolio. Dena Bank is in a bad shape with higher NPAs, higher cost to income and falling profitability. Dena Bank's numbers will pull down some of the profitability numbers of the merged entity.

    3) Technology integration

    The technology integration will be a big issue. The bank of Baroda recently upgraded its core banking technology from Finacle 7 to Finacle 10. It was a huge exercise lasting for months. In fact, the BoB was targeting on the up-gradation of its core banking of foreign offices from the older version. They will now have a huge task at hand to put all the three banks in the same platform.

    4) Workforce troubles

    The BoB had hired a lot of outside professionals at the level three after executive directors and MD&CEO. The merged entity will have lot of senior people coming from Vijaya and Dena Bank. The new capabilities that the BoB was building in loan processing at Gift City and two new IT subsidiaries require completely different set of people with new skills. These people from new banks have to be trained to put them in new areas like relationship managers, marketing and sales work etc.

    The BoB insiders say the building blocks created by the new management, especially share services -- an independent processing subsidiary based in Gujarat's Gift city for retail loans -- is a good template for the new merged entity. They just have to shift the branch processing work of Dena and Vijaya to this newly created subsidiary. Similarly, the focus on relationship manager in the corporate banking will be expanded in the new entities merging with it.

Flipkart plans to buy stake in Hotstar; to compete with Amazon Prime Video, Netflix
  • Is Flipkart planning to buy a stake in homegrown video streaming company Hotstar? If reports are to be believed, Hotstar could soon have the backing of the biggest e-commerce giant in India as it plans to enter the online video content segment to diversify its business. The fact that US content giants like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video are making a killing in India has driven Flipkart to aggressively work out its strategy to enter the segment by way of strategic alliance or investment. The move could be significant considering the growing popularity of shows produced by these over-the-top media services providers.

    Mint has quoted unidentified people, who are aware of the development, saying though talks are at an initial stage right now, the deal can give Flipkart a major push in its plans to attract more internet consumers on its platform. Notwithstanding, Flipkart has already partnered with Hotstar for the launch of a video advertising platform. Hotstar is also a part of the Flipkart Plus customer loyalty programme.

    Before this, the report said Flipkart held various meetings for a strategic alliance with Netflix but failed to strike a deal. Now the company seems to be banking on Hotstar, which is owned by Novi Digital Entertainment, a wholly owned subsidiary of Star India. Hotstar currently offers over 50,000 hours of TV content and movies across 8 languages, and every major sport covered live.

    Meanwhile, Flipkart has junked the report but said it remains "open to partnerships that can help grow the Internet ecosystem in India and beyond". "As flattered as we are by the rumours, the service is too valuable for such conjectures to be even entertained," the company told the newspaper.

    Not just Flipkart, other Indian companies are also gearing up to cash in on this growing industry. In July, it was reported that Mukesh Ambani-led company, Reliance Jio, would set up its own production house to create original web series and short films for Jio subscribers.

    Besides this, Netflix and Amazon are pouring in millions, and are partnering with telecom companies, to attract more customers. In August, Netflix announced a three-month Netflix gift subscription to select V-Fiber home broadband and postpaid users. Though the telco wants to strengthen its strategic partnership with Netflix to take on Reliance Jio's upcoming fast wired broadband service, it has created opportunities for Netflix to make inroads in the Indian content industry. Similarly, Vodafone India has also partnered with Amazon to offer free Amazon Prime Video subscription for one year on its Vodafone Red plan.

Dark Monday on Dalal Street: Sensex crashes 505 pts, Nifty closes below 11,400 level amid rupee fall, trade war fears
  • After rallying for two sessions, the Sensex and Nifty closed over 1% lower on Monday as worries about global trade war and prevailing rupee crisis dampened investors mood despite the government announcing steps to stem a steep fall in the Indian currency.

    While the Sensex fell 505 points or 1.33% to 37,585 level, the Nifty lost 137 points or 1.19% to 11,377 level.

    Subdued Asian and European markets due to escalating trade war between the US and China mainly led to a caution on domestic bourses, brokers said.

    Following the sharp fall in stocks, the market capitalisation (m-cap) of BSE-listed companies dropped by Rs 1.14 lakh crore to Rs 1,55,22,343 crore.

    Also, more than 140 stocks hit their 52-week low levels on BSE.

    VK Sharma, Head, Private Client Group & Capital Market Strategy at HDFC Securities said," PM's review meeting over the weekend on economy did not bring out any immediate trigger for the stocks prices to catapult higher. Stocks and forex had high hopes on the outcome and both markets promptly gave up their recent gains.  Nifty gave up 1.2% today and with today's fall, it has lost 3.2% from its recent highs. Rupee also gaped down and could not recover throughout the day. Metal stocks are bucking the trend and likely to remain on investors' radar as firm commodity prices are aiding profitability.

    President Donald Trump wants to impose tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, the signals that the trade jitters will continue to hang over global financial markets for the time being."

    The losses came after two sessions of gains ahead of economic review held by PM Narendra Modi in a weekend meeting.

    The Sensex had rallied 677.51 points in the previous two sessions on sustained buying by domestic institutional investors. Top Sensex losers were Sun Pharma (2.85%), HDFC (2.47%), and Tata Motors (2.35%).

    Top Sensex gainers were PowerGrid (0.70%), TCS (0.40%) and Adani Ports 0.37%.  BSE Midcap and small cap indices fell 124 points and 8 points, respectively.

    Meanwhile, on a net basis, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) bought shares worth Rs 1,090.56 crore, while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) made purchases to the tune of Rs 115.14 crore on Friday, provisional data showed.

    Mustafa Nadeem, CEO at Epic Research said," Nifty fails to breach previous swing high as the correction continues. Nifty failed to surpass its previous swing high placed at the zone of 11,550 - 11,560 as bears take control of the falling downward channel on the daily scale. Nifty has been in a downward channel on the daily chart and it becomes very critical for the prices to stay above this channel to put bulls back in the game. The lower top and lower bottoms continued while we expect Friday's top at 11,523 to be a lower top. The downward move shall be continued to a lower trend line which comes at 11,160 - 11,120.

    As a tactical tool, we maintain a cautious stand while continue to remain bearish in short term with sell on highs strategy."

    Banking stocks led the losses with the BSE bankex falling 330 points to 30,290 level. Bank Nifty too fell 343 points to 26,820 level.

    BSE consumer durables index too fell 259 points to 20,476 level.

    Of 19 BSE sectoral indexes, 16 ended in the red. Market breadth was negative with 1282 stocks rising compared to 1441 falling on the BSE. 191 stocks were unchanged.

    Global markets

    Global markets were mostly lower on Monday following reports that President Donald Trump will place tariffs on $200 billion more in Chinese goods, despite a possible meeting to iron out tensions between the world's two largest economies.

    In Europe, France's CAC 40 fell 0.4 percent to 5,331.94 while the DAX in Germany dropped 0.5 percent to 12,062.13. Britain's FTSE 100 declined 0.3 percent to 7,283.65. Wall Street was set for a muted open. Dow futures fell less than 0.1 percent to 26,178.00. S&P 500 futures shed 0.1 percent to 2,910.00.

    South Korea's Kospi fell 0.7 percent to 2,303.01 and Hong Kong's Hang Seng index tumbled 1.3 percent to 26,932.85. The Shanghai Composite index lost 1.1 percent to 2,651.79. But Australia's S&P/ASX 200 rose 0.3 percent to 6,185.00. Japanese markets were closed for a national holiday. Stocks fell in Taiwan and most of Southeast Asia.

General Awareness

    Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS)
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: Key facts on MPLADS.
      For Mains: Significance, performance analysis and need for monitoring of the scheme, demand for a legal framework.

      Context: Noting that ₹12,000 crore of the Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) funds remains unspent, the Central Information Commission (CIC) has asked the Lok Sabha Speaker and the Rajya Sabha Chairman to come out with a legal framework to ensure its transparency and hold parliamentarians and political parties accountable for their obligations under the scheme.

      Need for legal framework:

      MoSPI report showed that in February 2018, funds allotted to MPLADS but unspent stood at ₹4,773.13 crore, while 2,920 instalments of ₹2.5 crore were yet to be released. That resulted in a total backlog of ₹12,073.13 crore.

      Structure of the proposed framework:

      The framework should make transparency a legal obligation, with all MPs and parties required to present the public and Parliament with a comprehensive report on the number of applications received for their constituency, works recommended, works rejected with reasons, progress of works and details of beneficiaries.
      Liabilities for any breach of duties should also be imposed. Further, the framework should prohibit and prevent MPs using the funds for their private works, or diverting them to private trusts or to their own relatives.
      District administrations must provide regular information — work-wise, MP-wise, and year-wise details on progress — which are to be compiled by the MoSPI and made available to the public.

      About MPLAD scheme:

      What is it? It was launched in December, 1993, to provide a mechanism for the Members of Parliament to recommend works of developmental nature for creation of durable community assets and for provision of basic facilities including community infrastructure, based on locally felt needs.

      Works under the scheme: Works, developmental in nature, based on locally felt needs and always available for the use of the public at large, are eligible under the scheme. Preference under the scheme is given to works relating to national priorities, such as provision of drinking water, public health, education, sanitation, roads, etc.

      Funds: Funds are released in the form of grants in-aid directly to the district authorities. The funds released under the scheme are non-lapsablee. The liability of funds not released in a particular year is carried forward to the subsequent years, subject to eligibility.

      Execution of works: The MPs have a recommendatory role under the scheme. They recommend their choice of works to the concerned district authorities who implement these works by following the established procedures of the concerned state government. The district authority is empowered to examine the eligibility of works sanction funds and select the implementing agencies, prioritise works, supervise overall execution, and monitor the scheme at the ground level.

      Recommendation of works: The Lok Sabha Members can recommend works in their respective constituencies. The elected members of the Rajya Sabha can recommend works anywhere in the state from which they are elected. Nominated members of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha may select works for implementation anywhere in the country.

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