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Current Affairs - 16 October 2018

General Affairs 

Deadline Ends For Digital Payment Firms To Store Data Locally
  • With the government today saying it will not relax the Reserve Bank of India's October 15 deadline for data localisation, the road ahead has become tough for global digital payment providers who have sought more time to comply with the guidelines.

    The RBI guidelines say that all digital payment firms like Google Pay, WhatsApp and others must store data locally for their businesses. The deadline to comply with the norms ended today.

    In a statement, WhatsApp said that in India, almost a million people are testing WhatsApp payments to send money to each other in a simple and secure way.

    "In response to India's payments data circular, we've built a system that stores payments-related data locally in India," a WhatsApp spokesperson said.

    The spokesperson did not mention if the Facebook-owned company has finally submitted a compliance report sought by the RBI With over 200 million users, India is the largest market for WhatsApp.

    Google Pay has reportedly asked the government for more time on this. In September, Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai wrote to Information Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, advocating free flow of data across borders as such a step will encourage global companies to contribute to India's digital economy.

    Mr Pichai said the free flow of data across borders would also benefit Indian start-ups looking to expand globally. "Free flow of data across borders -- with a focus on user privacy and security -- will encourage start-ups to innovate and expand globally and encourage global companies to contribute to India's digital economy," Mr Pichai wrote.

    "The Google team in India will be in touch with your office to follow up on some of the specific topics we discussed during our meeting," said Mr Pichai, thanking Mr Prasad for his visit in August to Google's Mountain View campus in the US.

    On Monday, sources said the government is not in favour of extending the deadline for RBI's data localisation plan.

    According to digital payment provider Paytm, all payments data of Indian users must be processed and stored only within the country and must not be allowed to go out of the country, not even for processing. "We have complied with this mandate since day one and have welcomed this initiative right from the beginning," a Paytm spokesperson said.

Stolen Wallets With ID Cards Found Inside Mail Boxes In Chennai
  • Pickpockets seem to have discovered a novel method to dispose off stolen wallets which have identification cards in them.
    In the last six months, the Chennai postal department has found 70 such wallets inside mail boxes.

    Pickpockets just drop off the wallets after taking the money, a senior official in the city's postal department said.

    ID cards such as Aadhaar, PAN and driving licences have been found inside the wallets.

    "The sub-postmasters in the post office concerned take extra pains to ensure the cards are returned to the people to whom they belong. Even though there is no income to the department (from this activity), they do it as a service to the citizens," the official said.

    In case there is a contact number written on the ID cards, the staff ask the people concerned to pick up their wallets from the post office.

    If no number is available, they put the ID cards in an envelope and dispatch it to the address provided.

    Recently, some passports were also found inside the mail boxes. They were handed over to the Regional Passport Office, the official said.

Allahabad To Be Renamed "Prayagraj", Says Yogi Adityanath. Congress Upset
  • Allahabad will be renamed "Prayagraj" if there is consensus on renaming the iconic Uttar Pradesh city, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has said, provoking a howl of protests from the opposition Congress.

    "It might be the wish of many people that Allahabad can be renamed Prayagraj. It will be a very good message. If everyone agrees, we should know this city as Prayagraj and it can be a good start," the saffron-robed chief minister was quoted as saying on Saturday by the news agency ANI.

    Allahabad, a historic city with a deep association with the freedom struggle, features the confluence of the rivers Ganga Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati.

    Reports suggest Yogi Adityanath wants a new name in place before the Kumbha Mela, a mega spiritual gathering that draws gurus, seers and others from across the nation to Allahabad.

    There have been mixed reactions to the rechristening; critics say there have been quite a few name-changes over the past few years.

     I welcome this decision. #Allahabad to be #Prayagraj soon. Prayagraj is the ancient name of Allahabad and it was changed in 1575. So it’s a restoration and not a rename. #Prayagraj is also known as Triveni Sangam or Sangam Nagari because of the confluence of 3 rivers.

    After @myogiadityanath's announcement for the change of name from Allahabad city to Prayagraj, @samajwadiparty student leader showed black flag to his convoy during his supervision visit for Kumbh Mela preparations in the city today.

    UP CM wants Allahabad to be renamed as Prayagraj,Subramuniam Swami reminds Modi je about his promise to change name of Ahmadabad & list is too long.India has been critic of Taliban for similar acts but now is heading for its own talibanization.Soon you may see no India but Bharat

     #Prayagraj survived despite change of it's name to #Allahabad,,natives were timid and submissive,,never demanded restoration of old glorious name,,of heritage

    Congress leader Onkar Singh says the region where the Kumbh takes place is already called the "Prayag (confluence)". If the government wanted, it could make Prayagraj a separate city without any name-change, he suggested.

    The Congress leader also pointed out that pre-independence meetings where the freedom movement took shape were held in Allahabad, which is also the birthplace of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

    The ruling BJP says the announcement reflects the wishes of crores.

    Prayag was the original name of Allahabad, one of the oldest cities of UP. It was named "Illahabad" or "abode of God" by Mughal emperor Akbar in 1575.

    Recently, the UP government renamed the Mughalsarai Railway station, another historic spot, to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya junction.

Railways To Use Same Device Installed In Planes To Probe Accidents
  • Indian trains will soon have voice recorders or black boxes to facilitate investigators trying to identify the cause of accidents and assess crew performances, an official said today.

    The Indian Railways has decided to install the Loco Cab Voice Recording (LCVR) devices in the locomotives, a Railway Ministry official said.

    The system is in its developmental stage, the official added.

    The video/voice recording system will help identify operational issues and human factors during an accident.

    A black box, used in aircraft, is made of two separate pieces of equipment -- the flight data recorder and a cockpit voice recorder and is usually kept in the tail of the aircraft, where they are more likely to survive a crash.

Ahead Of Sabarimala Temple Opening, Big Protests, Plans To Stop Women
  • Thousands of Lord Ayyappa devotees, including women and children, today protested in Kerala's capital Thiruvananthapuram against the Supreme Court order allowing entry of women of all ages into the Sabarimala temple.
    As the temple complex opens Wednesday for monthly rituals, protesters have warned they will not allow women inside the complex and if needed, they will lie down at the entry points.

    Steered by the state unit of BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), devotees raised slogans and held pictures of Lord Ayyappa, placards and the BJP's party flags as part of their "Save Sabarimala" campaign.

    The Travancore Devaswom Board, which runs the hill-shrine, will meet the patrons, including the Tantri (head priest) family, Pandalam royals and Ayyappa Seva Sangam on Tuesday to discuss the preparations ahead of the three-month-long annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku pilgrim season starting November 17.

    However, the members of the Padalam royal family and the temple priests haven't confirmed their presence.

    "Let them come and share their views. We will take a suitable decision on all aspects regarding the temple," the board's president A Padmakumar said.

    Heavy security has been deployed for the opening. So far, no special arrangements have been made for women devotees, he added.

    The state has been witnessing a series of protests by the state units of Congress and the BJP as well as Hindu outfits against the verdict and the Left-led government's "hasty" move to implement the order. Some of the groups have demanded that the Kerala government come out with an ordinance to stop the entry of women to the shrine.

    The BJP has alleged that the government is "conspiring" to destroy the hillock shrine.

    BJP's state president PS Sreedharan Pillai has warned of a bigger agitation if the government failed to resolve the issue in the next 24 hours.

    "We will meet each villager in Kerala and chalk out a massive agitation plan to protect the Sabarimala Temple, its centuries-old traditions and the sentiments of Lord Ayyappa devotees," Mr Pillai said.

    The Lord Ayyappa temple has traditionally barred all women of menstruating age. The temple's rule followed the belief that menstruating women are "impure".

    The custom in the temple was challenged by a clutch of petitioners who argued that women cannot be denied the constitutional right to worship.

    In a four-one majority verdict, the top court allowed women to enter the temple. But women devotees, activists who backed the ban on the entry of women between the ages of 10 and 50, took to the streets to express their dissent.

Business Affairs

Trade deficit shrinks to five-month low of $13.98 billion in September
  • Trade deficit shrunk to a five-month low of $13.98 billion in September as compared to $17.4 billion in August, data released by the government showed on Monday. The overall trade deficit stood at $94.32 billion in the first six months of the current fiscal.

    However, India's exports entered negative zone after five months, declining 2.15 per cent in September on a yearly basis. Exports were on the rise since April, after declining by 0.66 per cent in March 2018.

    Meanwhile, imports went up by 10.45 per cent in September. The increase works out to be 16.16 per cent during April-September period of 2018-19 financial year.

    The trade deficit is the gap between imports and exports.

    The development may come in as a relief for the government which is already facing a rupee slide.

    In September, the Centre had hiked customs duty on 19 items including air conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, footwear, ATF, etc.

    The customs duty on electronic goods and telecom equipment was also hiked to 20 per cent from the 10 per cent earlier this month.

Look who all supported IL&FS just before it went bust
  • The beleaguered IL&FS and its subsidiaries were in desperate need of funds last year. The huge debt in the books with rising short term loans meant replacement of debt every year. IL&FS needed longer term debt to correct its liquidity mismatches. But there was not much appetite for its long term resource raising. However, some institutions gave money to the group, but that was in the region of Rs 25 crore to Rs 200 crore. Big names like Kotak Mahindra Bank, ICICI Bank and few others extended a credit line through non convertible debentures (NCDs) at attractive interest rates. Take a look:

    i) Inurance companies are always on a look-out for earning good returns. While general insurance gets short term funds, they always have a good float because of continuous inflows. In March this year, HDFC ERGO General Insurance Company, a leading general insurance firm, invested Rs 25 crore in the parent IL&FS by way of NCDs. The money was put in for five years at an ROI of 8.45 per cent per annum.

    ii) Banks also run treasury operations to subscribe to papers with good returns. This boosts treasury income. In June this year, the leading private sector bank ICICI Bank and Mumbai-based NBFC Centrum Capital Ltd subscribed to the Rs 200 crore NCD issue of IL&FS. These NCDs carried interest rate of 9.15 per cent per annum.

    iii) In August this year, IL& FS raised Rs 75 crore through Maharashtra State Electricity Boards Contributory Provident fund and Tipsons financial services. This money was invested for sever-year at 9.90 per cent per annum.

    iv) The IL&FS energy subsidiary, IL&FS Energy Development, issued an NCD in May this year to Welspun Enterprises, ILKAL Cooperative Bank Ltd, Trust Capital Services Ltd and Trust Investment Advisors for close to Rs 200 crore.

    v) In June this year, another subsidiary IL&FS Financial Services managed to get Rs 50 crore from Tipsons Consultancy services and SAIL Alloy steel.

    vi) In September 2017, IL&FS Financial Services issued Rs 100 crore NCD to Kotak Bank , Janta Sahakari Bank and Canara Bank Employees Pension Fund.

Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme opens: All you need to know
  • The Series II of Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGB) scheme opened for subscription today . Sovereign Gold Bonds will be issued every month from October 2018 to February 2019 as per the calendar specified in five tranches, the RBI said in a release.

    The first tranche of the scheme which opened today would be open for subscription till October 19 and the bonds would be issued on October 23.

    The next tranche would be open from November 5-9 and issuance would be on November 13. The next one would be available for subscription from December 24-28 and the bonds would be issued on January 1, 2019.

    Another tranche would open for subscription from January 14-18 and the issuance of bonds would be on January 22. The final one would be from February 4-8 and those would be issued on February 12.

    For the current fiscal, the first tranche of the sovereign gold bond (SGB) and its subscription opened on April 16.

    The government has fixed issue price of the scheme at Rs 3,146 per gram of gold. The bonds would be issued on October 23, 2018. The price for 24 carat gold in open markets stood at Rs 32,810 for 10 grams of yellow metal. Here' s a look at some key facts about the scheme.

    12 key facts

    The sovereign gold bond scheme, initially launched in 2015, is government securities denominated in grams of gold. The bonds are denomin ated in multiples of gram(s) of gold with a basic unit of 1 gram. The bond is issued by Reserve Bank on behalf of the government.
    The bonds are sold through offices or branches of Nationalised Banks, Scheduled Private Banks, Scheduled Foreign Banks, designated Post Offices, Stock Holding Corporation of India Ltd. (SHCIL) and the authorised stock exchanges either directly or through their agents.
    For online applicants if the payment is made through digital mode, there is a discount of Rs 50 per gram on the issue price. For online applications, the issue price will be Rs 3,096 per gram.
    The bonds will be redeemed in cash on maturity date. The redemption price will be linked to the prevailing price of gold on maturity.
    The minimum investment in sovereign gold bond scheme is 1 gram of gold and the maximum limit of subscription of 4 kg for individuals, 4 kg for Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) and 20 kg for trusts and similar entities.
    Sovereign gold bonds come with a maturity period of 8 years, with an exit option from the fifth year. Sovereign gold bonds are also traded on stock exchanges (if held in demat form), offering an early exit option for investors.
    The gold bonds pay interest at the rate of 2.50 per cent (fixed rate) per annum on the amount of initial investment. Interest is credited semi-annually to the bank account of the investor and the last interest payout will be on maturity along with the principal.
    Interest on the Bonds will be taxable as per the provisions of the Income-Tax Act. The capital gains tax arising on redemption of SGB to an individual has been exempted. TDS (tax deducted at source) is also not applicable on the gold bond.
    Sovereign gold bonds can also be used as collateral for loans.
    Joint holding is allowed for gold bonds. Minors can also invest in SGB if guardian applies on their behalf.
    If the applicant meets the eligibility criteria, produces a valid identification document and remits the application money on time, he/she will receive assured allotment.
    The quantity of gold for which the investor pays is protected, since he receives the ongoing market price at the time of redemption/ premature redemption. The SGB offers a superior alternative to holding gold in physical form by eliminating the risks and costs of storage. Investors are assured of the market value of gold at the time of maturity and periodical interest. SGB is free from issues such as making charges and purity in the case of gold in jewellery form. The bonds are held in the books of the RBI or in demat form eliminating risk of loss of scrip etc.

PM warns of high oil prices hurting global economic growth
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi today warned oil producers like Saudi Arabia that high crude prices are hurting the global economy and sought a review of payment terms to provide a temporary relief to the local currency.

    India, the world's third-biggest oil consumer, has been over the past two months battered by high crude oil prices that have sent retail petrol, diesel and LPG rates to record high, posed inflationary risks and together with a sliding rupee threatened to upset its current account deficit. Also, unrelenting fuel price rise since mid-August has negated cut in taxes and subsidy.

    With Saudi Arabia Oil Minister Khalid A Al-Falih and a UAE minister listening, Modi at his third annual brainstorming with the chief executives of top global and Indian oil and gas companies underscored how crude oil prices at a four-year high were hurting global growth.

    Sources privy to the deliberations said Modi also asked chief executives why no new investments in oil and gas exploration and production are coming to India despite the government implementing all the suggestions they made at the previous such meeting, sources said.

    An official statement issued after the meeting said Modi noted that "the oil market is producer driven and both the quantity and prices are determined by the oil-producing countries".

    "Though there is enough production, the unique features of marketing in the oil sector have pushed up the oil prices," it said quoting the prime minister.

    Consuming countries, he said, face economic challenges like serious resource crunch due to rising crude oil prices.

    He made a strong case for a partnership between the producers and consumers in the oil market as it exists in other markets. "This will help stabilise the global economy which is on the path of recovery," he said.

    Also, oil producing countries should channel their investible surplus to pursue commercial exploitation of oil in developing countries, he said stressing on technological cooperation between producers and consumers.

    "Lastly and importantly, he requested for review of payment terms so as to provide temporary relief to the local currency," the statement said without giving details.

    The Indian rupee has fallen 14.5 per cent this year, making imports costlier.

    The country is over 83 per cent dependent on imports to meet its oil needs.

    Later speaking at the India Energy Forum, Saudi Oil Minister said Modi at the meeting raised the issue of "consumer pain" from high crude oil prices.

    "We heard it today loud and clear from prime minister (about consumer pain)," Al-Falih said.

    He, however, said the "pain" would have been "much louder" but action by Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter of oil, to invest in creating spare capacity has used to cushion price shocks.

    "Prime minister cautioned producers like myself not to kill the hen that lays the golden egg," he said referring to consumers are the golden hen.

    Speaking at the same conference, Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said India is "facing severe headwinds from rising oil prices" which have risen by 50 per cent in dollar terms and 70 per cent in rupee term in the last one year.

    The meeting, which was also attended by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and NITI Aayog vice chairman Rajiv Kumar, was called to discuss emerging energy scenario particularly ripples from US sanctions on Iran and volatile oil prices threatening growth.

    The official statement said Prime Minister Modi at the meeting made a strong case for a partnership between the producers and consumers to stabilise the global economy which is on path of recovery.

    Modi "highlighted that the consuming countries, due to rising crude oil prices, face many other economic challenges including serious resource crunch. The cooperation of the oil producing countries would be very critical to bridging this gap," it said.

    He also spoke of higher acreage under exploration and sought the cooperation of the developed countries both in terms of technology and extension of coverage.

    Modi also sought the role of private participation in the distribution of the gas sector.

    The prime minister also spoke about the various policy initiatives and developmental measures undertaken by his government in the sector including liberalisation in gas pricing and marketing, open acreage licensing policy, early monetisation of coal bed methane, incentives for discovery of small fields and seismic survey at a national level. Talking of ongoing commercial exploitation, he made a special mention of extension of production sharing contracts, the statement added.

    Modi's first meeting was on January 5, 2016 where suggestions for reforming natural gas prices were made. More than a year later, the government allowed higher natural gas price for yet-to-be-produced fields in difficult areas like deep sea.

    In the last edition in October 2017, suggestions were made for giving out equity to foreign and private companies in producing oil and gas fields of state-owned ONGC and OIL. But the plan could not go through in view of strong opposition from Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC).

    Sources said BP CEO Bob Dudley, Total head Patrick Fouyane, Reliance Industries Director PMS Prasad and Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal attened the two-hour long meeting.

Sensex extends gains in choppy trade, rises 132 pts; Nifty ends above 10,500
  • The benchmark BSE Sensex extended gains for the second straight day by surging about 132 points on Monday on sustained buying by domestic institutional investors despite disappointing macro-economic data and uninterrupted foreign fund outflows.

    The NSE index Nifty ended above the 10,500-mark.

    However, investor mood remained cautious due to fresh weakness in the rupee on rising crude oil prices and a subdued trend at other Asian markets, following worries over Sino-US trade disputes, a possible slowdown in the Chinese economy and signs of tighter monetary policy by the US Federal Reserve.

    The rupee again breached the 74-mark against the US dollar to quote at 74.05 (intra-day) in the forex market.

    Brent crude, the international benchmark, was trading higher by 0.98 per cent, to USD 81.79 per barrel.

    Meanwhile, inflation based on wholesale prices rose to a two-month high of 5.13 per cent in September, mainly due to hardening of food prices and rise in cost of petrol and diesel, according to data released Monday.

    Industrial production slipped to a three-month low of 4.3 per cent in August, while retail inflation up marginally to 3.77 per cent in September, data released by Central Statistics Office (CSO) on Friday.

    The 30-share barometer, which had gained 732.47 points, its biggest single day gain in 19 months on Friday, reclaimed the 35,000-mark to hit a high of 35,008.65 at the outset on sustained buying by DIIs but turned choppy and slipped into negative zone to touch a low of 34,559.98.

    Finally, it settled 131.52 points, or 0.38 per cent, higher at 34,865.10, largely supported by gains in healthcare and information technology space.

    On similar lines, the NSE Nifty was up by 40 points, or 0.38 per cent, at 10,512.50. Intra-day, it shuttled between 10,526.30-10,410.15.

    Meanwhile, domestic institutional investors (DIIs) bought shares worth a net Rs 1,287 crore, while foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold shares to the tune of Rs 1,322 crore on Friday, as per provisional data.

General Awareness

    Data Localisation
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: What is data localization, Highlights of Srikrishna panel report.
      For Mains: Data localisation- Why government wants this? Concerns expressed by stakeholders and possible solutions.

      Context: A last-minute effort to dilute the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) directive on data localisation by American global payment companies has triggered direct intervention by US lawmakers urging Prime Minister Narendra Modi to soften tough stand taken by the country’s monetary authority.

      What’s the issue?

      The US companies want Donald Trump administration to put pressure on Indian authorities in a bid to seek relaxation on the RBI order of ensuring implementation of data localisation by 15 October. US companies have been lobbying with the Finance Ministry and the RBI over the issue.


      U.S trade groups, representing companies such as Amazon, American Express and Microsoft, have opposed India’s push to store data locally. That push comes amid rising global efforts to protect user data but is one that could hit planned investments by the firms in the Indian market, where the companies currently have limited data storage.

      What does Data Localization mean?

      Data localization is the act of storing data on any device that is physically present within the borders of a specific country where the data was generated. Free flow of digital data, especially data which could impact government operations or operations in a region, is restricted by some governments. Many attempt to protect and promote security across borders, and therefore encourage data localization.

      Policy goals:

      Goals set in the Draft National Digital Communications Policy 2018, along with various government notifications and guidelines such as Reserve Bank of India’s notification on Payment Data Storage 2018, and the Guidelines for Government Departments for Contractual Terms related to Cloud Storage 2017, show signs of data localisation.

      The rationale behind such mandates has been attributed to various factors, such as: securing citizen’s data, data privacy, data sovereignty, national security, and economic development of the country. The extensive data collection by technology companies, due to their unfettered access and control of user data, has allowed them to freely process and monetise Indian users’ data outside the country.

      Why technology firms are worried?

      Stricter localisation norms would help India get easier access to data when conducting investigations, but critics say it could lead to increased government demands for data access. Technology firms worry the mandate would hurt their planned investments by raising costs related to setting up new local data centres.       

      Why government is in favour of data localisation?

      Greater use of digital platforms in India for shopping or social networking have made it a lucrative market for technology companies, but a rising number of data breaches have pushed New Delhi to develop strong data protection rules.
      Also, minimal or deregulated governance on critical data, due to absence of localisation requirements, could be detrimental to India’s national security as data would be outside the purview of existing data protection legislation. The ineffectiveness of Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties (MLATs) in this realm aggravates such government fears.
      In addition to these, India also aspires to become a global hub for, among others, cloud computing, data hosting and international data centres, all of which are prompting the government to enact data localisation requirements for accelerating the nation’s economic growth, especially in the sphere of digital technologies.

      Is data localisation the solution to physical data access and decryption of enciphered data? Can data localisation be conflated with access?

      The proposed law by Srikrishna Committee cannot be a knee-jerk reaction to some events; it has to be in line with the SC judgement, which supports the march of technology, innovations, growth of knowledge, and big data analytics for the growth of economies, and for better services to citizens. It recognizes the role of data driven innovation (DDI) for the growth of economies, and for job creation. But it emphasises that the data so collected be utilised for legitimate purposes.

      Way ahead:

      Though these policy goals are justifiable, a deeper analysis is required to determine the possible adverse spill-over effects on relevant stakeholders in case a faulty roadmap is adopted to achieve them.

      Adequate attention needs to be given to the interests of India’s Information Technology Enabled Services (ITeS) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industries, which are thriving on cross-border data flow.

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