Current Affairs Current Affairs - 09 October 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 09 October 2018

General Affairs 

National Security Advisor To Lead Group For Planning Strategic Moves
  • The government has set up a panel headed by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval to help the National Security Council, which advises the Prime Minister on matters of national security and strategic interests, officials said Monday.

    The Strategic Policy Group or SPG will assist the National Security Council and undertake among other tasks, a long-term strategic review of country's security affairs.

    It will be the principal mechanism for inter-ministerial coordination and integration of relevant inputs in the formulation of national security policies, a top Home Ministry official said.

    The SPG will be chaired by Mr Doval and its members include the NITI Aayog vice chairman, cabinet secretary, the chiefs of the three defence services, the RBI governor, the foreign secretary, the home secretary, the finance secretary and the defence secretary.

    The secretary of the Department of Defence Production and Supplies, the scientific adviser to the defence minister and the secretary, cabinet secretariat will also be members of the panel.

    The other members are secretary, department of revenue; secretary, department of atomic energy; secretary, department of space; director, Intelligence Bureau, and secretary, National Security Council Secretariat.

    Representatives of other ministries and departments will be invited to the meetings of the group as and when necessary, another official said.

    The NSA will convene the meetings of the SPG and the cabinet secretary will coordinate implementation of the group's decisions by union ministries and departments, and state governments.

BrahMos Engineer Arrested For Spying, "Chatted On Facebook With Pak IDs"
  • An engineer working at the BrahMos Aerospace Private Limited in Maharashtra's Nagpur was arrested on Monday on charges of spying for Pakistan's intelligence agency ISI and other countries, sources say.

    Nishant Agrawal has worked in the technical research section of the missile centre for four years. He studied at the National Institute of Technology in Kurukshetra, was a gold medalist and is described as a very bright engineer. According to reports, he married last week.

    He was arrested in a joint operation by the Military Intelligence and the Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra police, following a tip.

    The police are investigating whether he was "honey-trapped" by Facebook IDs in the name of women, which have been traced to Pakistan.

    "Very sensitive information was found on his personal computer. We found evidence of him chatting on Facebook with Pakistan-based IDs," said Aseem Arun, the chief of the anti-terror squad of Uttar Pradesh.

    He will be charged under the Official Secrets Act, sources say. His home and office computers have been seized.

    Nishant Agrawal is accused of passing on classified and secret information to the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan as well as other countries. Some experts, however, say he worked at the integration facility and doubt he had access to any classified information.

    Two scientists working in a Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) lab in Kanpur are also being monitored for suspicious activity.

    This is the first spy scandal to hit the Brahmos Aerospace, which is involved in making critical components for the BrahMos missile, considered the world's fastest cruise missile and one that can be launched from land, ships, aircraft or submarines.

    The BrahMos - its name a combo of the rivers Brahmaputra and Moscow - can fire on targets as much as 300 km away.

Court Reserves Order On Plea To Check Duplicate Voters In Madhya Pradesh
  • The Supreme Court on Monday reserved its order on a plea by Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath claiming existence of a large number of duplicate voters in the electoral rolls of the state going to elections in November.

    The Congress leader has moved the top court seeking that the voter list be made available in text mode, so that it can be scanned to identify the duplicate votes. He said they have already identified 60 lakh duplicate voters in the state electoral rolls.

    The Election Commission or EC, however, disputed the contention by Kamal Nath and told the bench of Justice AK Sikri and Justice Ashok Bhushan that deletion of 24 lakh votes from the voter list was not done after the Congress brought it to their knowledge, but by way of its own exercise of checking the electoral rolls.

    The Congress had written to the EC on June 3 about the presence of a large number of duplicate voters in the electoral rolls.

    Alleging that the Congress leader has relied upon documents which he knows are not correct, senior counsel Vikas Singh, who represented the Election Commission, told the bench that it is a fit case for action under the Indian Penal Code for intentionally producing false documents.

    Pressing for an inquiry, Vikas Singh objected to the practice of counsel for the petitioners handing over the documents to the bench across the bar and maligning the EC.

    Vikas Singh told the court that the EC has to move with the law as it progresses and has to take steps to protect the data about voters and ensure that it is not misused.

    The EC defended its decision not to supply the voters list in text mode, citing voters' right to privacy, and said that it is already making changes in its manual.

    It said that the manual is for its own in-house procedure and not a statutory rule that can be interpreted.

Top Court Seeks Centre's Reply On Plea Seeking Citizens' List In Tripura
  • The Supreme Court Monday sought a response from the centre on a plea seeking implementation of the national register for citizens or NRC in Tripura to identify illegal immigrants in the state.

    A bench comprising Justices Ranjan Gogoi, SK Kaul and KM Joseph considered the petition filed by the Tripura People's Front, seeking registration of citizens of Tripura in the NRC to identify illegal immigrants.

    The centre had on July 30 published a second draft NRC list in Assam in which out of 3.29 crore people, names of 2.89 crore were included. The first draft of the NRC for Assam was published on the intervening night of December 31 and January 1.

    Assam, which has faced influx of people from Bangladesh since the early 20th century, is the only state having an NRC, which was first prepared in 1951.

IIT Scientists Say They Have Developed Material To Harvest Water From Fog
  • A team from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mandi has developed a material that can harvest water from fog.

    "There are several plants in arid and semi-arid regions of the world whose leaves can harvest water from dew and fog. If they can do it, so can we," said Venkata Krishnan, an associate professor at Indian IIT Mandi, Himachal Pradesh.

    For the study published in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, researchers studied the intricate structures on the leaves of an ornamental plant called the Dragon's lily head (Gladiolus dalenii).

    The surface patterns on the leaf in micrometre and nanometre scales were evaluated in relation to the water harvesting properties, and the patterns were replicated onto a polymer material.

    The team found a 230 per cent enhancement on the fog harvesting performance of the patterned samples, compared to an unpatterned control sample.

    Solutions to provide drinking water to India's growing population must not only span policy and behavioural changes but also incorporate scientific and technological innovations inspired by nature, researchers said.

Business Affairs

Rupee slumps 30 paise to close at record low of 74.06
  • The rupee slumped by 30 paise to close at a fresh lifetime low of 74.06 against the US dollar on Monday amid strengthening of the greenback and steady capital outflows.

    The rupee had opened lower by 14 paisa against Friday's close of 73.76 in early trade as the US dollar strength against major global currencies weighed on the rupee sentiment.

    At the Interbank Foreign Exchange (Forex) market, the local currency opened lower at 73.89 a dollar against its previous closing of 73.76.

    It recovered to a high of 73.76, but failed to sustain the momentum and plunged to 74.10 and finally closed at 74.06, down by 30 paise, marking its fifth straight session of decline.

    On Friday, the domestic unit plummeted by 18 paise to end at 73.76.

Boeing appoints IIT Delhi alumnus Pratyush Kumar to head F-15 fighter jet programme
  • US-based aircraft-maker Boeing has named its India president Pratyush Kumar to lead the iconic F-15 fighter jet program in the United States and the world. Kumar, an alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, completed his BTech in mechanical engineering in 1989 and later went on to study Materials Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

    In a statement, Boeing said Pratyush Kumar has been selected to lead the F-15 program in the United States and he will focus on furthering the F-15 business in the US and the rest of the world.

    Boeing International President Marc Allen described Kumar as an exceptional leader who has demonstrated his ability to respond to global customers and to empower his team to collaborate and deliver results.

    The aviation major is expected to announce Kumar's successor in India. Kumar is also a vice president in Boeing International.

    Boeing said during his five-year tenure in India, Kumar advanced the company's business in commercial airplanes, defence, space, security, and global services.

    Under Kumar's tenure, Boeing launched a engineering and technology centre in Bengaluru to drive innovation and scale up its aerospace supply chain. It also established a joint venture in Hyderabad with Tata to manufacture fuselages for the Apache attack helicopter, established Boeing Defense India to serve customers locally, finalized the sale of both Apache and Chinook helicopters to the Indian military and converted options for the P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft to firm orders.

    Kumar said he was upbeat about his new US role to build business for the F-15 programme the world over. The company will, however, expand its local manufacturing, technology and innovations, products and people in the Indian sub-continent, he added.

    Born in a remote village in Bihar with no electricity or road connectivity, he was homeschooled by his grandfather. "At that time my ambitions were limited and all I wanted was to be able to go to a regular school. The first time I discovered a city and even a television set for that matter, was when I moved to Delhi at the age of 11," Kumar had told India Today in 2016.

    Kumar has worked at companies such as McKinsey & Company and General Electric in the US. Between 2001 and 2003 he co-founded two technology start-ups Coventor and Cytonome in Boston.

Bank unions to protest against PSU banks' merger decision
  • A bank employee unions' federation has called upon bank unions to hold demonstrations on Tuesday to protest against the merger of three state-run lenders --Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank, a union leader said Monday.

    "The sit-in will take place after office hours Tuesday. All our unions are requested to hold protest demonstrations in all state capitals and in all other towns on October 9," C H Venkatachalam, General Secretary of All India Bank Employees' Association said.

    The demonstrations are against the government's proposal to merge Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank, he added.

    The demonstration has been called under the aegis of the United Forum of Bank Unions (UFBU).

    AIBEA in a statement said that it has learnt that the board of these three banks have approved the agenda and hence they may proceed further.

    "The issue as discussed in the UFBU meeting held on September 29, 2018, and it has been decided to call upon all our unions to hold protest demonstrations," it said.

    AIBEA said that the issue will be further discussed in the ensuing UFBU meeting to be held on October 12 in Mumbai and the further course of action will be decided upon.

    Separately, the National Organisation of Bank Workers (an industrial federation of Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh), in a statement said that it will hold demonstrations across the country tomorrow to protest against government's decision to merge the three banks.

    It said the union do not agree with the government's stance of creating six-seven large banks by merging existing banks.

    Consolidation by way of merger will not solve the problem of non-performing assets in the banking system, it added.

    The boards of three state-run banks Dena Bank, Bank of Baroda, and Vijaya Bank have approved the proposed merger.

    The amalgamation of these three banks will create country's second-largest PSU lender by assets and branches.

330,000 high networth individuals hold 48% of India's private wealth: report
  • The cumulative wealth of India's population may touch US $ 25 trillion by 2027, predicts Johannesburg based market research firm New World Wealth and Research & Markets. In its new India Wealth Report, the agency says that the growth will make India the fourth largest wealth market in the world, surpassing the UK and Germany.

    "Total wealth held by all the individuals living in India amounts to $8.2 trillion (as of Dec 2017) from $3.2 trillion a decade ago. This includes the wealth of all people living in the country, including middle class, low-income and HNWIs all together. Around $3.9 trillion (or 48%) of this total is held by HNWIs", the report said.

    HNWI volumes also increased substantially, from 124,000 HNWIs in 2007 to around 330,000 HNWIs in 2017, it said stating that this made India one of the top performing wealth markets in the world (on both a total wealth growth and HNWI growth basis).

    The report says that Mumbai remains the wealthiest cities with 28 city based billionaires having a cumulative wealth of $950 billion (private wealth held by individuals include assets like property, cash, equities, business interests less any liabilities) in 2017. Delhi and Bangalore with $554 billion and $410 billion respectively come next in the ranking. The report says that in 2017, India had 119 billionaires, 20,730 multimillionaires with $10 million and above wealth and  330,400 high net worth individuals (HNWI) with $1 million and above. Kolkata, Hyderabad, Pune, Chennai and Gurgaon were the other top ranking cities in terms of private wealth in India.

    The report also identifies Kochi as one the leading emerging cities in terms of private wealth creation.  Chandigarh, Surat, Ahmedabad, Visakhapatnam, Goa, Jaipur and Vadodara are the other cities in the list of emerging wealth hubs in India.

    In terms of asset allocations, business interests was reported to be the favorite choice for the average HNWI living in India (accounting for around 25% of their assets), followed by cash & bonds (23%), real estate (22%), equities (21%), and alternatives (9%). It was also estimated that at the end of 2017, approximately 19% of Indian HNWI wealth was held offshore, up from 15% in 2007.

    While these holdings were mainly $ cash and in US and Asian equities, some are invested in foreign property in cities like London, New York, Singapore, Miami, Dubai and Sydney.

    The report stated that the reasons for the high wealth growth forecast for India included highly competitive wages when compared to worldwide peers, strong economic growth forecasts, large number of entrepreneurs, good educational system, strong ownership rights and ongoing crackdown on corruption resulting in ease of doing business in country.

India defies US sanctions on Iran, eyes Chahbahar port and route to Afghanistan
  • Finally, India decided to go against US sanctions on Iran instead of bringing the crude oil imports from the country to zero by November 4. This date is a deadline set by the US establishment led by President Donald Trump to set in the sanctions on Iran. Following this, Washington ratcheted up the pressure on Delhi along with other consumers of Iranian crude to slash their oil imports to zero. In first week of October, two Indian companies placed orders for crude oil delivery next month.

    India was negotiating window out of these sanctions, similar to waivers under the Countering America's Adversaries through Sanctions Act, or CATSA on Russia to buy S-400 missile systems. Indian diplomats say the US is yet not clear about waivers on Iran. These diplomats told Business Today that India must not wait endlessly since these sanctions are neither backed by the United Nation nor by any other community. From 2012 to 2015, US along with EU and United Nations pushed sanctions on Iran, forcing India to reduce the imports as well.

    Bringing the imports to naught neither suits Indian economically nor geo-politically. The indications from Tehran suggest that the diplomats may link the Chahbahar port with the oil exports to India. Iran hasn't withdrawn a single penny out of the line of credit worth $500 million extended by India a year back, via EXIM bank. All this India can ill-afford.

    Meanwhile, the state-backed refiners -- IOCL and MRPL -- placed orders of 6 million barrels and 3 million barrels, respectively from the Iranian exporters. On October 8, Indian petroleum minister Dharmendra Pradhan came on record to say that India will continue with its purchases. He also confirmed that country is evolving a different payment system to transact in rupees. India expects that this will help in circumventing the US sanctions on transactions in US dollars. Many of the Indian oil companies, like IOCL make most of their payments in euros. In May this year, the Indian foreign minister Sushma Swaraj sat with her Iranian counterpart Javed Zarif to exchange notes on rupee-riyal trade.

    India along with other regional guzzlers of imported crude oil like Japan and South Korea are reducing their dependence on Iran, but the Chinese plans are still not clear. On the trade front, China is already fighting a battle with the US establishment. Along with this, China is trade positive with Iran, and is comfortable in convincing the Iranians to execute deals in yuan. This may force India to concede their space to their bete noire in case of bringing the crude oil to naught.
    There are challenges for India, especially to arrange the insurances for the vessels and product; where the US-based companies are dominant. Apart from this, India was unable to replace the crude despite the Washington's assurance of additional supplies from Saudi Arabia and from their own coasts. There is economics as well; Saudi Arabia charges premium on cargoes heading towards east, whereas Iran offer deeper discounts. Although the diplomats in Washington are continuously telling their counterparts that they are pushing the OPEC members to increase their output to mellow down the crude oil prices, yet on ground situation hasn't improved.

    In September first week, at first 2+2 dialogue -attended by external affairs minister, Sushma Swaraj, defence minister, Nirmala Sitharaman and US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo and secretary of defence Jim Mattis-India pushed the case of Indian interests in Iran in ensuring the regional balance of powers. The crucial Chahbahar port in Iranian province Sistan-Baluchistan is nearing completion and India doesn't want the sanctions to have any impact on the same.

    To make the intentions clear, India also hosted Iran's Roads & Urban Development Minister Abbas Ahmad Akhoundi in Delhi, during the same time when the US lawmakers were doing the dialogue. He made it clear that Iranian establishment is ready to honour the commitment of handing over the the Shahid Beheshti port or phase 1 of Chabahar in few weeks to India Ports Global Ltd, or IPGL-an Indian company. IPGL will take over the operations of the port.

    New Delhi looks at the port as a gateway to the International North-South Transport Corridor that will link India to the landlocked Central Asia and Russia as well. At present, India's trade with these countries, especially to CIS countries and Afghanistan is dependent on a pass through from Pakistan, and the hostile relations between New Delhi and Islamabad affect the trade and make it uncompetitive with their Chinese counterparts. The Chabahar port has the potential to become a regional transit hub for Afghanistan and Central Asian countries as well.

General Awareness

    Future of Work in India” survey by WEF
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: About the Task force and its functions.
      For Mains: Significance of the task force, skills gap in India.

      Context: The government has launched a task force for closing the skills gap in India, in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

      The Task Force is the second country-led public-private collaboration of the World Economic Forum’s Closing the Skills Gap Project after South Africa.

      About Closing the skills gap task force:

      The task force will bring together leaders from business, government, civil society and the education and training sectors to accelerate the future-proofing of education and training systems in the country.
      The goal of the Task Force is to develop an action plan to address skills gaps in India and make the Indian workforce ready for jobs of future.


      With more than half of our population in the working age, skills development will be critical to sustaining inclusive growth and development in India.’ The “Closing the Skills Gap” task force will be a significant step to accelerate the impact on skills development already achieved by bringing together relevant stakeholders to act collectively.

      Closing the Skills Gap Project by WEF:

      The Closing the Skills Gap Project aims to create global and national platforms to address current skills gaps and to reshape education and training for the future. It works at three levels:

      Country implementation deep-dives: At the national level, the Closing the Skills Gap Task Forces provides a platform for multi-stakeholder collaboration to close the skills gap and prepare for the future of work. Each Closing the Skills Gap Task Force brings together leaders from business, government, civil society, and education and training sectors to accelerate reskilling and upskilling efforts in the current workforce and the future-proofing of national education and training systems.
      Global and regional knowledge exchange: At the global level, an informal Global Alliance for Closing the Skills Gap provides an exclusive global platform for leaders and experts from business, government, civil society, and the education and training sectors to build consensus, share ideas, and identify preferred models and best practices.
      Global business commitments: With skilling, reskilling and upskilling becoming a clear “no-regret” move for addressing the flux in labour markets, there is a rapid movement of multinational businesses towards such efforts for their employees, communities and wider audience. Managed strategically, this can be impactful and a win-win for companies and workers alike. As a first step, the Forum is consolidating global business commitments with the goal to reach 10 million people by January 2020.

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