Current Affairs Current Affairs - 20 October 2018 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 20 October 2018

General Affairs 

Relief Operations Being Conducted At Amritsar Accident Site: Piyush Goyal
  • Railways today rushed its top officials to Amritsar as several Dussehra revellers were run over by a passing train, while Union minister Piyush Goyal said immediate relief and rescue operations are being conducted.
    Railway Board chairman Ashwani Lohani and Northern Railway general manager Vishwesh Chaube are rushing to the spot, officials said.

    "Shocked and deeply saddened by the tragic train incident that occurred in Amritsar. My heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims. I pray for the injured to recover quickly. Railways is conducting immediate relief and rescue operations," Mr Goyal tweeted from the US where he had gone to attend an event.

    While Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh announced Rs. 5 lakh for kin of each dead and free treatment for the injured, officials said there was no decision as yet on any compensation from the railways.

Flood Alert In Arunachal After Landslide Forms Artificial Lake In China
  • The Arunachal Pradesh government has issued an alert for possible flash floods in the state and adjoining Assam after China sounded India that a landslide has blocked a section of the Yarlung Tsangpo river in the Tibet region, that flows into Arunachal as Siang and further downstream into Assam as the Brahmaputra.

    According to reports, the landslide has led to the formation of an artificial lake and there are fears of large-scale floods downstream if the lake breaches.

    The East Siang district administration has asked people not to venture near the Siang River and asked them to stay alert. The water level in the Siang River has reduced due to the landslide blocking the flow of water, official sources said.

    Lawmaker Ninong Ering of the Congress has written to foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to immediately take up the matter with China.

    According to Chinese media, over 6,000 people were evacuated after a barrier lake was formed following the landslide in the Yarlung Tsangpo.

    In August, several people were airlifted from Assam's Dhemaji district as the Siang River was flooded due to heavy rainfall in the Chinese area.

    Last year, the Siang had turned brackish and extremely turbid, raising concerns in India of a fallout if China build dams in its upper reaches.

Defence Minister Holds Talks With US, ASEAN Counterparts In Singapore
  • Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told held a series of bilateral meetings with her counterparts from ASEAN nations and US Defence Secretary James Mattis on the sidelines of ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meet.

    Defence Ministers from ASEAN countries and that of Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Russia, and the US have gathered for the 12th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) and the 5th ADMM-Plus, which is being hosted by Singapore.

    The ADMM and ADMM-Plus serves as key Ministerial-level platforms in the regional security architecture, promoting strategic dialogue and practical cooperation between ASEAN and its partners.

    "Smt @nsitharaman in a bilateral meeting with  #SecDef James  Mattis, United States Secretary of Defense on the sidelines of ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meet (Plus) in Singapore," the defence minister tweeted.

    Ms Sitharaman also met her Malaysian counterpart Mohamad bin Sabu, Australian Defence Minister Christopher Pyne, Philippines' Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana and Vietnam Defence Minister Ngo Xuan Lich during her fast-paced day-long meetings.

    She will also hold a bilateral meeting with her Singapore counterpart Dr Ng Eng Hen.

    According to sources, India and Singapore will extend their already comprehensive bilateral defence collaboration.

    A new agreement is likely to be signed for the Army-to-Army collaboration as well as bilateral hosting of logistics and furthering supports for exchange visits by of naval vessels of the two countries, the sources said.

    Both the countries conduct regular exercises involving the armed forces, navies and air forces.

    India and Singapore will also be celebrating 25 years of SINBEX, an annual exercise with a two-week naval exercise programme in the Bay of Bengal in the coming weeks.

    Ms Sitharaman arrived in Singapore on Thursday and will return home on Sunday.

Rajnath Singh Mentions New Hi-Tech Borders, Explains How Soldiers Benefit
  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh today said technological solutions in border security, which were being implemented by India, would eliminate the need for a soldier to stand guard round-the-clock to protect the borders.
    He said a comprehensive integrated border management system was being implemented by the government to strengthen border security and a pilot project under the system was launched in Jammu.

    "We want that such technological solutions be used where there is fencing because it gets damaged after some time. This will ensure a complete border security," Mr Singh said while addressing BSF soldiers in Rajasthan's Bikaner.

    "We are going to implement this too... this will take time but our soldiers will not have the need to stand guard constantly round-the-clock on the border for protection," he said.

    Rajnath Singh said there would be a command and control centre where the soldiers would monitor activities on the border.

    "They will get to know if any intruder is entering India and the nearest border outpost will be alerted by the command and control centre and security will be ensured," he said.

    Mr Singh said the people of the nation had faith in the BSF soldiers and it had increased rapidly recently. He also claimed the Pakistani rangers were jittery due to the BSF.

    Mr Singh said he had seen their hard work when they guarded borders and also in Maoist and terrorism-affected areas.

    "You have a feeling of national respect which inspires you. It was the feeling which had inspired Chandra Shekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and Khudiram Bose to fight for the freedom of the country," he said.

    He was speaking after the worship of weapons or 'Shastra Pujan'.

    Rajnath Singh said there would be no need to use weapons if the neighbouring country stopped using them.

    Highlighting the significance of Dussehra, he said Rama was worshipped on the occasion instead of Ravana, who was rich, powerful, intelligent, because it was "character" which made a difference.

    Senior BSF officers were also present on the occasion. The minister is also scheduled to visit the Indo-Pak International Border during his visit to the border district.

    Rajasthan's four districts of Bikaner, Jaisalmer, Sriganganagar and Barmer share over a thousand-km-long border with Pakistan and are guarded by the BSF.

Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana Is Centre's Fight Against Poverty: PM Modi
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi said today that the Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana or PMAY was his government's endeavour to eradicate poverty and urged the beneficiaries of the scheme to empower their next generations through education.

    He was interacting with the PMAY beneficiaries from Maharashtra through video-conferencing from the temple town of Shirdi in Ahmednagar district.

    PM Modi said those who have got pucca houses under the scheme should also avail the benefits of the Ayushman Bharat healthcare scheme.

    "You will get my letter. If you submit it to the hospital, you will get a gold card, through which you can avail assistance for hospitalisation of family members. For serious illnesses, Rs. 5 lakh per year to each family will be given," he said.

    Interacting with the beneficiaries mostly in Marathi, PM Modi asked if they had to bribe anyone to get the funds for the houses. When the beneficiaries replied in the negative, he said under the NDA rule, the middlemen have become helpless.

    While interacting with people from tribal-dominated Nandurbar district, Prime Minister Modi recalled how he used to visit the place frequently in the past and have "Chaudhary ki chai".

    He said just like he speaks Marathi, people from Nandurbar can also speak Gujarati. "After all, you are our bigger neighbour," he said.

    He asked a beneficiary, Ahilya Padvi, if she would be able to welcome more visitors in her new house now.

    When PM Modi asked the women beneficiaries in Thane how many of them were educated, only one raised her hand.

    To this, he said, "You all should ensure that your next generation gets education. The housing scheme is a fight against poverty and along with new houses you can avail health benefits under the Ayushman Bharat scheme."

    To the beneficiaries in Solapur, he asked if the men were angry as the ownership of the house was given to women. To this, the women said it was a good decision.

    Interacting with the beneficiaries in Satara, the prime minister said he had a special connect with the place since his teacher Laxman Namdar was from there.

    He also asked people in Latur if they knew about the government's Ayushman Bharat Yojana and the cleanliness drive. He told them to promote the schemes in their villages.

    The interaction was conducted at the 'e-griha pravesh' ceremony for 40,000 beneficiaries of the PMAY. Before the interaction session, the prime minister handed over symbolic keys to ten beneficiaries.

    PM Modi also launched development projects worth Rs. 475 crore initiated by the temple trust and participated in the centenary celebrations of Mahasamadhi of Saibaba.

    Speaking on the occasion, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said 2.5 lakh beneficiaries got ownership of houses under the PMAY on Friday.

    He said the state wanted six lakh more houses and if allotted, they would construct them by October next year.

    "Construction of four and a half lakh houses is on and will be completed by December this year," he said.

Business Affairs

Essar Steel creditors choose ArcelorMittal as highest bidder
  • ArcelorMittal was named the highest bidder by the Essar Steel's Committee of Creditors for the resolution process under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, according to a report by The Economic Times. Now the lenders of the embattled steel producer will initiate negotiations with ArcelorMittal over the resolution plan.

    ArcelorMittal has reportedly agreed to pay Rs 35,000 crore as upfront payment to the lenders of Essar Steel and infuse Rs 8,000 crore into the company. Reports suggest that the ArcelorMittal proposal will be put up for voting by the Essar Steel creditors sometime next week.

    Earlier this week, ArcelorMittal said it will pay Rs 7,469 crore to the creditors of Uttam Galva and KKS Petron to be eligible to acquire the debt-laden Essar Steel, as per Supreme Court order.

    The Laxmi N Mittal-owned ArcelorMittal, which is the world's largest steel maker, has been engaged in a murky legal battle with other bidders, especially the Russian VTB Bank-promoted NuMetal. It had submitted a proposal to take over Essar Steel on April 2.

Govt imposes anti-dumping duty on certain steel products from China
  • India has imposed anti-dumping duties of up to $185.51 per tonne for five years on certain varieties of Chinese steel to guard domestic players from cheap imports from the neighbouring country.

    The revenue department imposed the duty based on recommendations of the Directorate General of Trade Remedies (DGTR), according to a government notification.

    JSW Steel Ltd, Sunflag Iron & Steel Co, Usha Martin, Gerdau Steel India, Vardhman Special Steels and Jayaswal Neco Industries Ltd had jointly filed an application before DGTR for initiation of investigations and levying of anti-dumping duties on some steel products.

    In its anti-dumping investigation, the DGTR stated that dumped imports of 'straight length bars and rods of alloy steel' from China have increased in absolute terms during the period of probe (2016-17).

    While recommending the anti-dumping duty, DGTR said the goods have been exported to India from the China below normal value and the domestic industry has suffered material injury on account of the imports.

    The duty has been imposed in the range of $44.89 to $185.51 per tonne on import of 'Alloy bars and rods in straight length, whether or not hot rolled, hot drawn, cold drawn, cold extruded, peeled bar, surface machined, polished, bright bar, forged'.

    "The anti-dumping duty... shall be effective for a period of five years (unless revoked, superseded or amended earlier) from the date of publication of this notification in the Official Gazette and shall be paid in Indian currency," the notification said.

    The product finds end use application across various segments and sectors including forging, automobiles, auto components, crank shaft, springs, gears, fasteners, cement plants, power plants, turbines, ship-building, and railways, among others.

    Imports of straight length bars and rods of alloy steel from China have increased to 1,80,959 tonnes in 2016-17 from 56,690 tonnes in 2013-14. India's total imports rose to 2,56,004 tonnes in 2016-17 from 1,32,933 tonnes in 2013-14.

    The demand of this steel in India too increased to 16,69,653 tonnes in 2016-17 from 15,14,795 tonnes in 2013-14.

    Domestic steel manufacturers always flag concerns over the imports from the neighbouring country, with which India has a huge trade deficit.

    The trade gap with China has increased to $63.12 billion in 2017-18 from $51.11 billion in the previous financial year.

    In general, the purpose of anti-dumpinmg duty is to eliminate injury caused to the domestic industry by the unfair trade practices of dumping so as to re-establish a situation of open and fair competition in the Indian market, which is in interest of the country.

In-flight connectivity: Govt to allow only data services in airplanes for now
  • The Department of Telecommunications is planning to allow only data services aboard flights and water vessels within India in the initial rollout of in-flight connectivity. Voice services have been put on a hold for now on account of some gateway issues. The proposed in-flight connectivity guidelines talk about providing both data as well as voice services to passengers on air or maritime transport within the national boundaries.

    "DoT will initially seek application for data services under in-flight connectivity (IFC) guidelines. There are some issues around gateway for voice so that will not start immediately," a Department of Telecom (DoT) official told PTI.

    In-flight connectivity service is available in most of the developed markets. While mobile phone use will still be restricted during takeoff and landing, the Telecom Commission has approved lifting the ban on the use of mobile phones and internet services at cruising altitudes. Globally, many airlines are offering Wi-Fi for passengers, but they have to switch off the facility when they enter Indian airspace.

    AirAsia, Air France, British Airways, Egypt Air, Emirates, Air New Zealand, Malaysia Airlines, Qatar Airways and Virgin Atlantic are among 30 airlines that are already allowing mobile phone use on aircraft but not in Indian airspace.

    The DoT is likely to approach the Law Ministry next week for the review of these guidelines before notifying them. It could take around two weeks the Ministry to sanction the guidelines before they could be notified.

    The DoT has reportedly held meetings with telecom operators and airlines, with some parties showing interest to offer these services. Once the licences are rolled out, the carriers and telecom companies will reportedly have to bid to acquire the license for the service they want to push out.

    Indian carriers have been advocating internet services on flights as it would result in add-on revenues and bring them at par with international flights. While it is still too early for a definite pricing structure for in-flight connectivity, it is anticipated that the cost will far surpass that of rates for normal mobile services.

    However, it is not going to be a simple task for Indian carriers. Each aircraft would require an investment of about $1 million, an executive said. The plane will also have to be grounded for at least 10 days to retrofit the aircraft with the technology. In current circumstances, this revamping may not come across as very welcoming.

    The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had earlier said that Indian and international flights be allowed voice and data services within India's airspace above an altitude of 9,850 ft. It suggested that in-flight service connectivity licences should be provided at Re 1 annually. Except for international flights, the Telecom Commission approved TRAI's recommendations.

Electric car sales drop 40%, but e-bikes volume jumps 138% in FY18, says industry report
  • The last fiscal was a mixed bag for electric mobility in India. According to industry reports, electric car sales dropped 40 per cent in financial year 2017-18 in comparison to 2016-17, whereas electric two-wheeler sales jumped 138 in the same period. By the end of March 2018, there were 56,000 electric vehicles plying the streets in India, as per the data from the Society of Manfacturers of Electric Vehicles. Out of this, 54,800 were electric two-wheelers, whereas there were only 1,200 electric cars on the roads.

    In FY16, 20,000 electric two-wheelers were sold in the country, which increased to Rs 23,000 units in FY17, according to the data. In the same year, 2,000 e-cars were sold and remained stagnant in FY17. In FY16 there were only 22,000 electric vehicles on the roads, which rose to 25,000 in FY17 and to 56,000 units in FY18, show the data.

    The steadily rising number of electric vehicles in the country indicates that the people are accepting them as an economical as well as a environment-friendly mode of transportation, according to Sohinder Gill, director of corporate affairs at the Society of Manfacturers of Electric Vehicles

    "Most manufacturers have started using lithium-ion batteries, which has increased the performance of e-two wheelers and has helped in gaining consumer confidence. But the absence of adequate finance mechanism, price gap between an e-two-wheelers and petrol variants, awareness among citizens are challenges which need immediate redressal," Gill said.

    As for the sharp decline in electric cars sales, Gill holds "lack of infrastructure, ambiguity over policy" responsible, which he believes are the major deterrents for growth. For the current fiscal, industry experts are confident about the volumes picking up. The expectations are that electric vehicle sales will grow this financial year, especially in the electric two-wheeler segment and the sector is estimated to perform better than last year.

    It can be noted that the Centre is pushing electric mobility under Energy Efficiency Services, which had ordered 10,000 e-cars. The first phase of delivery of 500 units has been completed by Tata Motors and Mahindra. But the government organisations which picked them up are said to be unhappy with their performance due to low durability of the batteries.

    The EESL is an energy service company set up by the Centre and is the world's largest such PSU. Fully owned by the government owned, it is a joint venture of state-owned NTPC, Power Finance Corporation, REC and PowerGrid.

Sensex closes 464 points lower, Nifty falls to 10,303; YES Bank top loser
  • The Sensex fell 464 points or 1.33 per cent to close at 34,315.63 points on losses in index major Reliance Industries, HDFC and Infosys. While the Sensex touched an intra day low of 34140, Nifty fell to 10,249 level. YES Bank (6.06%), HDFC (4.32%), and Reliance (4.11%) were the top Sensex losers.

    Of 30 Sensex stocks, 23 closed in the red.

    Sentiments also took a hit on sell-off in NBFCs, led by Indiabulls Housing Finance, Dewan Housing Finance, IL&FS Engineering and Construction which dropped up to 16.55 per cent on prevailing liquidity concerns, brokers said.

    Reliance Industries dropped up to 7 per cent despite record financial results for the second quarter.

    Meanwhile, the Reserve Bank Friday announced more steps to increase liquidity flows to the non-banking financial companies.

    The RBI permitted banks to use government securities equal to their incremental outstanding credit to NBFCs, over and above their outstanding credit to them as on October 19, to be used to meet liquidity coverage ratio requirements.

    Sun Pharma (2.52%), Kotak Bank (1.78%) and Vedanta (1.51%) were the top Sensex gainers.

    Mid cap and small cap stocks also took a beating with the indices falling 1.10% and 1.32%, respectively. IT stocks led the losses with the BSE IT index falling 381 points to 14,295 level.

    Auto stocks also led the market lower on fears of lower sale this festive season due to prevailing lower liquidity from NBFCs, with the BSE auto index losing 1.42% or 281 points to 19,572.

    Market breadth was negative with 867 stocks closing higher compared to 1722 falling on the BSE. 157 stocks were unchanged.

    Cues from other Asian markets were mixed with early losses were erased as China shares rebounded in afternoon trade after government statements sought to bolster market confidence.

    China's banking and insurance regulator also said on Friday that it may allow bank wealth management subsidiaries to invest directly in stocks.

    Stock exchanges and money markets were closed yesterday on account of "Dussehra".

    On Wednesday, the Sensex finally ended 1.09% lower at 34,779 points. The Nifty too ended 131 points or 1.24% lower at 10,453. Prior to that, the Sensex had risen nearly 1,161 points in the past three sessions on the back of unabated buying by domestic institutional investors (DIIs) and rebound in global equity markets.

General Awareness

    Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE)
    • What to study?

      For Prelims: About ICFRE, NVS and KVS, Prakriti programme.
      For Mains: Significance of MoUs.

      Context: The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) has signed two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) with Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS).

      Key Highlights:

      The agreements were signed to launch ‘Prakriti’ programme, which aims to promote awareness about forests and environment and stimulate interest among the students of NVS and KVS in maintaining a balanced environment and for acquiring skills that reflect care and protection towards forests, environment and society.
      The main objective behind the agreements is to provide a platform for the school children to learn practical skills towards sustainable use of the resources.
      The two agreements have been signed for a period of 10 years. They aim to make the Indian youth more sensitive towards national and global issues of environment and thus, help them become responsible citizens.
      The agreements also aim to mobilise a cadre of youth for raising a peoples’ movement, which is committed to the conservation of forest and environment.
      The collaboration will enable transfer of knowledge to students and teachers of NVS and KVS on environment, forest, environmental services and contemporary areas of forestry research through lectures and interactive sessions by ICFRE scientists.

      About ICFRE:

      The Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) is an autonomous council under the Union Environment Ministry.
      The council mainly guides, promotes and coordinates forestry research, extension and education at the national level through its nine institutes and five centres located across the country.

      Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS):

      The Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti is an autonomous organisation established under the Department of School Education and Literacy in the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The organisation was established to provide modern quality education to talented children, predominantly from rural areas, without regard to their family’s socio-economic condition.

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