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Current Affairs - 15 October 2018

General Affairs 

IIM Shillong To Screen APJ Abdul Kalam's Biopic On His Birth Anniversary
  • IIM-Shillong will host the screening of a National Geographic film on former president APJ Abdul Kalam tomorrow, on the occasion of his 87th birth anniversary, officials said on Sunday.

    Abdul Kalam passed away minutes after delivering a lecture at the institute in July 2015. The authorities launched a Centre for Policy Research the same year in his honour.

    The National Geographic film, which is part of the channel's ongoing series 'Mega Icons', narrates significant events from the life of India's 'Missile Man' and gives a "scientific breakdown" of how these events turned him into a revered leader, the institute said in a statement here.

    "The documentary also reveals many lesser-known facts, not just through intimate interviews with his close ones, but also through the voice of the former president," it said.

    The screening will be held on the institute premises, in the presence of students and dignitaries, including the ones who were present during his last speech here, the statement added.

    Abdul Kalam, who was born on October 15 1931, contributed to the world of science and humanity.

    He was born and raised in Rameswaram,Tamil Nadu, and studied physics and aerospace engineering.

    He came to be known as the 'Missile Man of India' for his work on the development of ballistic missile and launch vehicle technology.

    In 2002, Abdul Kalam became the 11th President of India.

    Fondly recognized as the 'People's President', he was honoured with prestigious awards such as Padma Vibhushan, India's second-highest civilian award, and Bharat Ratna, the country's highest-civilian award.

Social Media To Be Monitored For Poll Code Violations: Telangana Poll Body
  • Social media posts of political parties and groups in poll-bound Telangana will come under the Election Commission's scanner to check for any objectionable content under the model code of conduct, state Chief Electoral Officer Rajat Kumar has said.

    An agency had been appointed in Telangana to help the CEO on social media issues and the EC at the national and the state level is in touch with companies such as Google and Facebook, which have assured cooperation in cases of violation of the model code of conduct (MCC), he said.

    Assembly elections are scheduled to be held in Telangana on December 7.

    "We are working out the matrix right now on how to control social media (content violative of MCC)... we will put some key words which indicate violation of MCC... an appeal or an offer of money with catch phrases. we will scan through various websites, the CEO told PTI.

    The official said Telangana Director General of Police M Mahendar Reddy has also offered help of the Cyber wing in taking action in cases of violation of the code.

    "The source will be identified and action will be taken against him under the relevant sections of IPC and cyber crimes also," he said.

    According to him, the guidelines for social media are exactly same as that of print and electronic media.

    Hyderabad Police Commissioner Anjani Kumar said they will keep an eye on bulk messaging sent through social media or the traditional way with a malafide intention.

    Besides monitoring, a Facebook page under the name Chief Electoral officer Telangana has been created to update news and initiatives by the EC to reach out to voters.

    The page had already clocked over 9.70 lakh views as of October 11, Mr Kumar said.

    Around 90 per cent of followers are less than 34 years of age and majority of whom are below 24, he added. 

Japanese Experts To Help Indian Architects Develop Bullet Train Stations
  • Japanese consultants will join hands with Indian architects to develop the 12 proposed bullet train stations and its adjoining areas in an integrated way.
    In a meeting with senior officials of Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority and Gujarat's Urban Development and Municipal Commissioners, it was decided to take the help of Japanese experts in developing the areas around the stations -- connecting them to bus, metro and other forms of transportation, a senior Indian Railways official in the know told news agency IANS.

    The 12 proposed stations on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad high speed train route are: Bandra Kurla Complex, Thane, Virar, Boisar, Vapi, Bilimora, Surat, Bharuch, Baroda, Anand, Sabarmati and Ahmedabad.

    Railways will adopt a "transit-oriented development plan" for all these stations so that each becomes a commercial hub ensuring smooth connectivity with the outside world.

    In urban planning, transit-oriented development is a type of urban development that maximises the amount of residential, business and leisure space within walking distance of public transport.

    "There will be scope of constructing housing complexes near some stations as per the plan," the Railways official added.

    The terminal building, which will have space for commercial activities like eateries, forex counters, malls and parking lots, will also be a major interchange hub, providing passengers seamless connectivity between the bullet train network and other services such as the metro and bus services, as well as last-mile connectivity.

    "Unless the stations are well-connected with neighbouring districts, the bullet train service will not attract the ridership required to make the project viable," said the official.

    The bullet trains are expected to run at 350 km per hour covering the 508 km stretch in about two hours. In comparison, trains currently plying on the route take over seven hours to travel the distance, whereas flights take about an hour.

    Railways will 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 development of 12 stations and its adjoining areas is expected to be a boon for economic activity in the region.

    The cost of the ambitious project is estimated to be Rs. 1,10,000 crore and Japan is providing a soft loan worth Rs. 88,000 crore at 0.1 per cent.

    The 508-km high speed train corridor between Mumbai and Ahmedabad is expected to be operational by August 2022.

US Wants "Regime Change" In Iran, Says Hassan Rouhani
  • The United States is seeking "regime change" in Iran, President Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday, adding that the current US administration is the most hostile that the Islamic Republic has faced in its four decades.
    Tensions have increased between Iran and America after US President Donald Trump withdrew from a multi-lateral agreement on Iran's nuclear programme in May.

    "In the past 40 years there has not been a more spiteful team than the current US government team toward Iran, Iranians and the Islamic Republic," Rouhani said in a speech broadcast on state TV.

    "There was a time when there was one person who had enmity. The rest were moderate. Now...the worst have gathered around each other," he added in a speech marking the beginning of the academic year at Tehran University.

    Rouhani accused the Americans of using psychological and economic warfare and questioning the legitimacy of the Islamic Republic.

    "Reducing the legitimacy of the system is their final goal. When they say getting rid of, regime change in their own words, how does regime change happen? Through reducing legitimacy, otherwise a regime doesn't change,"

    He used the English phrase "regime change" to emphasise his point.

    Washington reintroduced steps against Iran's currency trade, metals and auto sectors in August.

    With US curbs on Iran's oil exports set to come into force next month, some Iranians fear their country is entering an economic slump that may prove worse than the period from 2012 to 2015, when it last faced major sanctions.

    Vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri played down the impact of the planned restrictions.

    "America will certainly not be able to reduce Iran's oil exports to zero," Jahangiri said on Sunday, according to Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB).

    "America thinks Saudi Arabia can replace this oil. But right now Iran's oil has reached more than $80 and with half the previous exports we will have the same income as before," he added on comments on the IRIB website.

Lawmakers From Across India Showcase Nation's Diversity At UN
  • Reflecting the diversity of India's democracy, members of parliament from across the political spectrum and the nation are representing India at the General Assembly.

    India's Permanent Representative Syed Akbaruddin described their participation in the Indian delegation to the Assembly as "a long tradition that has helped in fostering better understanding of multilateralism among parliamentary decision makers."

    "Also, it reflects that positions India takes are broad based and take into account the diversity of our polity," he added.

    About his experience with the Indian delegation at the UN, Prem Das Rai of the Sikkim Democratic Front said that it would "help us to engage more knowledgeably in domestic discussions in India on global issues and foreign policy."

    The bulk of the work of the Assembly takes place in its six committees that sit simultaneously and deal with issues ranging from terrorism and disarmament to development and protection of children.

    The MPs fanned out to the committees, where they presented India's stands on issues, while also getting a crash course on how international diplomacy plays out.

    "Sitting in on the (committee) meetings we see how different issues matter to different countries and how they approach them and also see India's own positions and contribution to multilateralism," Rai said.

    Speaking at one of the Assembly committees last week, he decried "narrow national interests" derailing efforts for an international legal framework against terrorism.

    Sharad Tripathi (Bharatiya Janata Party; UP) spoke before another committee about how international cooperation can make cyberspace safe for children and open new opportunities for them.

    At other committees, Arvind Ganpat Sawant (Shiv Sena; Maharashtra) presented India's efforts to manage rapid industrialisation, while Sushmita Dev (Congress; Assam) spoke about India's efforts to empower women and said that an example of it at the UN was the deploymentAof the first police unit made up entirely of women in peacekeeping operations.

    N. K. Premachandran (Revolutionary Socialist Party; Kerala), said that India's robust commitment to sustainable development at home also translated internationally to several programmes likeA the India-UN Development Partnership Fund to which the nation has committed $150 million for helping the least developed countries and the small island developing countries.

    Those five MPs, who were here last week, met Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa on Friday.

    The second group that will be joining the delegation this week comprises Vishnu Dayal Ram (BJP; Jharkhand), Sukhendu Shekhar Ray (Trinamool Congress; West Bengal); Narendra Damodar Jadhav (Nominated); Kanimozhi Aravinthan (DMK; Tamil Nadu), A. P. Jithender Reddy (Telengana Rashtra Samithi; Telengana) and Naresh Gujral (Shiromani Akali Dal; Punjab).

Business Affairs

Govt invites bids for international Udan flights
  • The central government has invited proposals from interested air operators for the international version of its 'Udan' (Ude Desk Ka Aam Nagrik) scheme as it seeks to enhance air connectivity from India to select overseas destinations.

    This is despite the domestic format of the scheme failing to yield desired results with almost half of the routes approved in the first phase of the bidding for the scheme still to be launched.

    National airports operator AAI, which has been mandated to implement the international version of the Udan scheme, has invited "e-proposals (bids) from international bidders for selection of airlines under the International Air Connectivity Scheme, IACS Udan," according to a notice in a leading English daily.

    The government, in its bid to make flying more affordable for masses, had in October 2016 announced the Udan scheme with airfares capped at Rs 2,500 for a one-hour journey through subsidised ticket rates and to provide air connectivity to smaller towns.

    In the subsequent developments, five airlines were mandated to fly on 128 regional routes in the first phase of the bidding in March 2017, and 15 airlines on 325 regional routes, including those having chopper operations, in the second phase in January this year.

    The Airports Authority of India (AAI) is also the implementing agency for the domestic format of the regional connectivity scheme.

    The bids could be submitted to the AAI by November 22, according to the notice inviting e-proposals.

    The AAI has invited the bids on behalf of the civil aviation ministry and the Assam government, as per the notice.

    The central government had in August unveiled a draft scheme for extending the UDAN scheme to international circuits, with state governments identifying routes for the operations.

    The draft International Air Connectivity (IAC) scheme envisages to increase the international ticketing to 20 crore by 2027.

    As per the draft, the scheme is to be made operational only for states which demonstrate their commitment to implement and provide the requisite support for promoting operations under the scheme.

    The BJP-ruled Assam had last year offered to provide Rs 100 crore as viability gap funding towards extension of the scheme for international air connectivity from the state capital Guwahati.

    According to the draft scheme, state governments will identify the routes to be connected, and airline operators will assess demand on the identified routes and submit proposals for providing connectivity.

    Operations under the scheme will be permitted through fixed-wing aircraft only with more than 70 seats.

    The scheme has proposed to set up an International Air Connectivity Fund (IACF) -- dedicated for providing subsidy support under the scheme. It will be created through the contributions of state governments.

No extension for RBI's October 15 deadline over data localisation
  • The RBI will not relax the October 15 deadline for global financial technology (fintech) companies to comply with its data localisation norms in the public interest, according to sources.

    The central bank in April gave six months time to global payment companies to store transaction data of Indian customers within India. The RBI's data localisation norms will kick in from Monday.

    However, the US wants to prohibit data localisation to ensure free flow of information across borders.

    "We want to have prohibitions on data localisation to ensure free flow of information, free flow of data across borders, disciplines around countries requiring companies to give up their source code, permanent ban on taxation or duties on digital transmissions, Dennis Shea, Deputy US Trade Representative and US Ambassador to the WTO, told a Washington audience on Friday.

    According to the sources, global fintech companies reportedly sought an extension of the October 15 deadline but it seems that the RBI is not inclined to relax the norms.

    Data localisation requires data about residents be collected, processed, and stored inside the country, often before being transferred internationally, and usually transferred only after meeting local privacy or data protection laws.

    Although domestic companies have welcomed the guidelines, global companies fear increase in their expenses for creation of local servers.

    To avoid this rise in cost, global companies in recent meeting with the RBI proposed to provide mirror data instead of original data to which the central bank did not agree, the sources said.

    Last week, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met RBI Deputy Governor B P Kanungo to discuss RBI's data localisation norms. The meeting was also attended by Economic Affairs Secretary Subhash Chandra Garg, Financial Services Secretary Rajiv Kumar and IT Secretary Ajay Prakash Sawhney.

    The RBI in April said in order to ensure better monitoring of payment service operators it is important to have unfettered supervisory access to data stored with these system providers as also with their service providers/ intermediaries/third party vendors and other entities in the payment ecosystem .

    All system providers shall ensure that the entire data relating to payment systems operated by them are stored in a system only in India, it had said.

    The RBI further said data should include the full end-to-end transaction details, information collected/carried/ processed as part of the message/payment instruction.

Total in talks to buy stake in Adani's LNG, city gas projects
  • French energy giant Total SA is in talks to buy up to half of Adani Group's stake in LNG projects in Gujarat and Odisha, an under-construction LPG import facility and in its city gas projects, sources privy to the development said.

    The French firm is keen on investing in fast growing gas market in India and finds Adani a suitable vehicle as it owns the crucial downstream infrastructure, they said.

    Adani holds 25 per cent stake in just-completed 5 million tonnes a year liquefied natural gas (LNG) import terminal at Mundra. It is also building a similar capacity LNG import terminal at Dhamra in Odisha at a cost of Rs 5,100 crore.

    Sources said Total is in talks to buy half of Adani's stake in the two terminals.

    It is also looking at buying a 50 per cent stake in under-construction LPG import terminal that Adani is building at Mundra in Gujarat as well as a stake in Adani's flourishing city gas distribution projects, the sources said, adding that a preliminary pact may be signed this week during the visit of Total CEO Patrick Pouyanne to India.

    India is looking at more than doubling the share of natural gas in its energy basket to 15 per cent in next few years and is giving major push to city gas distribution projects. It imports half of its gas needs, which are projected to rise exponentially as it shifts from polluting liquid fuels to environment friendly natural gas.

    While an email sent to Total for comments remained unanswered, Adani Group spokesperson wasn't immediately available for comments.

    While the Mundra LNG terminal has Gujarat State Petroleum Corp (GSPC) as the lead partner, Adani is building a new LPG import facility at the same port with a total capacity to 3.56 million tonnes per annum. The LPG terminal is to be completed by next month.

    Adani Gas, a subsidiary of Adani Enterprises Ltd, is developing city gas distribution (CGD) networks to supply the piped natural gas (PNG) to the industrial, commercial, domestic (residential) units and compressed natural gas (CNG) to the transport sector.

    It already has set up city gas distribution networks in Ahmedabad and Vadodara in Gujarat, Faridabad in Haryana and Khurja in Uttar Pradesh.

    It has, in the recently concluded CGD bid round, won rights to 13 cities on its own and another 9 in joint venture with state-owned Indian Oil Corp (IOC). These are in addition to the 50:50 Adani-IOC joint venture winning rights to develop CGD network in Allahabad, Chandigarh, Ernakulam, Panipat, Daman, Dharwad, and Udhamsingh Nagar in previous bid rounds.

    Sources said Total is looking at buying half of Adani's stake all the CGD networks.

    The development comes weeks after Total announced its exit from Royal Dutch Shell-operated Hazira LNG terminal in Gujarat.

    It sold its 26 per cent stake in the project to Shell.

    Total had in March 2004 picked up 26 per cent stake in the 2.5 million tonnes a year Hazira liquefied natural gas import terminal in Gujarat. The terminal capacity was later doubled to 5 million tonne. Hazira LNG terminal was commissioned in 2005 and expanded to 5 million tonnes in 2013. Shell held the remaining 74 per cent stake in the company.

    Total has signed an agreement to sell 0.5 million tonne LNG per year to Shell over five years, on a delivery basis to supply the Indian and neighbouring markets. The deliveries will be sourced from Total's global LNG portfolio and are expected to begin in 2019.

Govt policy on anvil to extend 'courtesies' to honest, consistent taxpayers
  • The government is working on an ambitious policy proposal to "facilitate" honest and consistent taxpayers in availing a variety of public services and tax-related works on priority, officials said Sunday.

    They said that a committee under the Central Board of Direct Taxes, the policy-making body for the Income Tax Department (ITD), is working to chalk out the broad parameters for extending such "courtesies" and benefits to taxpayers who pay their taxes on time and in full.

    The proposal will be vetted by the Finance Ministry and sent for final approval to the Prime Ministers Office (PMO) before it is cleared by the Union cabinet.

    A cabinet note to enhance the output of the Central Processing Centre (CPC) of the department in Bengaluru has already been prepared and sent.

    The capacity and automation of the CPC, the repository of tax payer's data and their I-T Returns (ITRs), is proposed to be enhanced so that refunds can be issued real-time and ITRs of small taxpayers (with single source of income) can be processed within hours and not days, as prevalent at present, they said.

    As part of the larger plan, they said, it is proposed that honest taxpayers are empowered to get "priority service" while using public services at airports, railways stations and at tolls on highways.

    Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a conference with senior tax officers last year, had urged the department to enhance taxpayer services and ensure that honest taxpayer are given due importance.

    It is proposed that taxpayers who have been consistently paying their taxes or even just filing their returns can be hosted at civic receptions held by prominent government functionaries and are honoured publicly, they said.

    A unique identity number could be given to such taxpayers or their permanent account number (PAN) could be flagged as special as part of this maiden taxpayer facilitation proposal, they added.

    Few years back, the CBDT had started a process by which diligent taxpayers were sent thank you or appreciation notes over email under the name of the CBDT Chairman.

    It is proposed to take this initiative forward and the CBDT committee is working on it, a senior official in the finance ministry said.

    The committee of senior officers of the CBDT and the IT Department will soon submit its report to the board, they said.

    It is also being thought to fully launch hassle-free electronic assessment of diligent taxpayers as part of the new proposal, they added.

    The CBDT is already working to usher in a mega plan where a taxpayer can be assessed electronically in any part of the country, as part of its measures to reduce complaints of harassment and corruption in rendering these services.

    At present, a taxpayer is assessed by an IT officer based in the city where the person earns their income.

    "These new proposals could well be launched by the end of this year," a senior official said.

    There are about 8 crore income taxpayers in the country at present and the CBDT has instructed the taxman to add 1.25 crore to this tally by the end of the current financial year in March next year.

Mutual funds collection via SIP up 40% to Rs 7,727 crore in September amid volatile markets
  • Mutual fund industry managed to garner Rs 7,727 crore through systematic investment plans (SIPs) in September, a surge of 40 per cent from the year-ago period, despite corrections in equity market.

    With this, total SIP contribution in the first half of the current fiscal rose to Rs 44,487 crore, compared to Rs 29,266 crore in April-September 2017, as per the Association of Mutual Funds in India (AMFI).

    SIP continued to be the preferred route for retail investors to invest in mutual fund as it helps them reduce market timing risk, the industry body noted.

    As per the latest data, the SIP contribution in September stood at Rs 7,727 crore, which was 40 per cent higher than Rs 5,516 crore clocked in the same month last year.

    In August, the industry collected Rs 7,658 crore and Rs 7,554 crore each in June and July.

    The pace of growth in fresh SIPs has slowed over the last three months as the SIP book grew by a little over 2 per cent in this period.

    A sharp plunge of more than six per cent in 30-share Sensex last month, triggered by the IL&FS crisis, fall in the rupee and boiling crude oil prices, could be the reason for this pace.

    However, over the past few years, investment through SIPs has been rising as investments of over Rs 67,000 crore through the mode were seen in 2017-18 and more than Rs 43,900 crore in the preceding fiscal.

    "There is a healthy trend and SIPs have seen growth from strength to strength surviving markets volatility. This a good way for retail investors to manage market's ups and downs and it's encouraging that this trend continues," Edelweiss Asset Management Company Chief Executive Radhika Gupta said.

    According to Morningstar Director - Manager Research Kaustubh Belapurkar, Indian investors are increasingly showing signs of maturity by recognising the fact that equity is a long term asset class and volatility is a part of the journey. Investors are in fact using market dips to top up their investments.

    "We are witnessing a trend of increasing SIP numbers as industry efforts towards investor education is getting more investors under the fold, who are acknowledging the power of the long-term wealth creation potential offered by equity investing," he added.

    Adhil Shetty, CEO of, believes that it is the right time to continue with SIPs in equity funds rather than redeem investments. It gives investor a chance to add higher number of units in their portfolio.

    "This surge in investment points towards an increase in investor awareness about SIP, which is a good sign for the industry," he added.

    Currently, mutual funds have 2.44 crore SIP accounts through which investors regularly invest in Indian mutual fund schemes. In the current fiscal, the industry has added 10.17 lakh SIP accounts each month on an average, with average ticket size of Rs 3,165.

    SIP is an investment vehicle that allows investors to invest in small amount periodically instead of lump sum payment. The frequency of investment is usually weekly, monthly or quarterly. It is similar to a recurring deposit where investors deposit a small or fixed amount every month.

General Awareness

    Chandra X-Ray Observatory
    • What to study?

      For Prelims and Mains: About the observatory, its objectives and accomplishments.

      Context: NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory has entered protective “safe mode” due to a malfunction of some soft.

      About Chandra X-Ray Observatory:

      The Chandra X-Ray Observatory is a NASA telescope that looks at black holes, quasars, supernovas, and the like – all sources of high energy in the universe. It shows a side of the cosmos that is invisible to the human eye.
      It was previously known as the Advanced X-ray Astrophysics Facility (AXAF).
      After more than a decade in service, the observatory has helped scientists glimpse the universe in action. It has watched galaxies collide, observed a black hole with cosmic hurricane winds, and glimpsed a supernova turning itself inside out after an explosion.
      The telescope is named after the Nobel Prize-winning Indian-American astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar.

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