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Current Affairs - 31 October 2018

General Affairs 

For Drought Relief, Karnataka Government Seeks Rs. 2,434 Crore From Centre
  • The Karnataka government on Tuesday submitted a memorandum to the Centre seeking Rs. 2,434 crore under the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) for drought relief measures.

    During severe drought and devastating floods between July and August, the state registered a loss worth Rs. 16,662.48 crore.

    "Karnataka has faced severe drought and devastating floods during Kharif 2018. On one hand, the parts of Malnad and coastal districts were affected by floods associated with landslides/mudflows during July-August and on the other hand, the majority of the districts in interior Karnataka are reeling under severe drought."

    "After evaluating the drought indicating parameters, prescribed by the Government of India in the Drought Management Manual-2016, the State Government has notified 100 taluks of 24 districts in the state as drought affected," a government statement read.

    To ameliorate the economic condition of the farming community, especially small and marginal farmers, the state government has implemented "Crop Loan Waiver Scheme 2018.

    "It is likely to bring relief to a large number of farmers. The financial implications of the loan waiver is estimated to be more than Rs. 48, 000 crore and is the biggest ever for any state in the country," the memorandum read.

    Not only that, the Karnataka government also claimed that they have passed Karnataka Debt Relief Bill 2018 in an attempt to free small and marginal farmers and weaker sections from the agrarian and debt crisis due to borrowing money from informal sources at an exorbitant rate of interest.

Shivraj Chouhan's Son Sues Rahul Gandhi For Panama Papers Gaffe
  • Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's son Kartikey Chouhan filed a defamation case against Congress president Rahul Gandhi today for claiming that his name featured in Panama Papers.

    Panama Papers refers to the leak of millions of files from the database of the world's fourth biggest offshore law firm Mossak Fonseca that helped in setting up off-shore entities.

    Mr Gandhi later clarified that he was referring to Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh's son and not Kartikeya. But even while clarifying, the Congress president didn't spare the opportunity of taking another dig, saying that he got "confused" due to the "high number of scams" under BJP governments.

    "So many scams have taken place in BJP state governments that I got confused. The name of the son of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister is not there in Panama papers. But Vyapam and e-tendering scams have taken place in his (Mr Chouhan's) rule," Mr Gandhi alleged.

    The BJP, which is trying to win a fourth term in power in Madhya Pradesh, is using Mr Gandhi's faux pas to step up its attack on the Congress.  

    "Mr @RahulGandhi You have been making patently false allegations of Vyapam to Panama Papers against me and my family. Tomorrow, I am filing a criminal defamation suit for maximum damages against you for frivolous and malafide statements. Let law take its own course now," Shivraj Chouhan tweeted on Monday.

    Kartikey Chouhan has filed a defamation case against Mr Gandhi at a special court in Bhopal. His lawyer Shirish Shrivastava told reporters that case has been filed because "Rahul Gandhi has attempted to defame Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his son through his remarks at a rally in Jhabua". He alleged that it was part of a plan and Mr Gandhi wanted to reap political benefit from his remarks.

    Mr Shrivastava said, "Mr Chouhan and his son have nothing to do with the Panama papers". He said that media clippings and a video of Mr Gandhi's remarks have been submitted with the complaint.

    The Congress president had said that a Prime Minister of Pakistan (Nawaz Sharif) lost his post on this issue "but nothing happened here despite the name of the Madhya Pradesh chief minister's son being there".

    The Madhya Pradesh chief minister told reporters on Tuesday that Mr Gandhi would not have made the comments without giving it a thought.

    "Rahul Gandhi is not a small or a street-level leader. Hence the remarks would not have been made without thought," he said.

AI To Set Up 114 Aadhaar Seva Kendras Across India
  • To provide hassle-free Aadhaar enrolment services, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Tuesday said that it was going to set up Aadhaar Seva Kendras across the country on the lines of the Passport Seva Kendras.

    UIDAI CEO Ajay Bhushan Pandey said that around 114 such centres in 53 cities and towns, including all state capitals, would be established in the first phase. This would be in addition to the centres already operating in banks, post offices and government premises.

    These centres, each with eight or 16 stations depending on the population of the city, would start functioning within the next few months.

    "With Aadhaar Seva Kendras, we are building hassle-free and resident-friendly enrolment and update facility infrastructure to ensure ease in Aadhaar-related services to residents," he added.

    UIDAI sources said that the Aadhaar Seva Kendras would be supervised directly by its own employees just like the Passport Seva Kendras are run under the supervision of passport officials. 

    They would provide appointment-based enrolment and update services to residents while also dedicating a few counters for walk-in customers. 

    Following the decision of the Supreme Court in the Binoy Viswam case, also known as the PAN-Aadhaar linking case, the UIDAI had started shifting enrolment and update facilities from private places to banks, post offices and government premises to make Aadhaar-related services more secure. 

    The UIDAI intends to phase out private Aadhaar centres by establishing 30,000 supervised enrolment stations in banks, post offices and government premises.

Green Court Orders Assessment Of "Carrying Capacity" Of 102 Cities
  • Concerned over the threat posed to limited natural resources due to their overuse, the National Green Tribunal has directed for assessment of carrying capacity of 102 cities, including Delhi, where air quality does not meet the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

    The concept of "carrying capacity" addresses the question as to how many people can be permitted into any area without the risk of degrading the environment there.

    The tribunal said the Ministry of Urban Development in coordination with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), Ministry of Transport, authorities such as Planning Commission and states may carry out such study with the assistance of experts in the field.

    "We consider it necessary to direct assessment of carrying capacity for the NCT Delhi as well as other major cities, particularly 102 'non-attainment cities', within reasonable time, preferably in one year. Such study can be in phases depending on priority areas having pollution hot spots.

    "Such assessment must specifically study capacity in terms of number of vehicles, extent of population, extent of different nature of activities - institutional, industrial, commercial etc," a bench comprising Green Court  Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said.

    The methodology to do so may be worked out within two months, it said.

    "As a result of such study, further policy decisions may be taken by concerned authorities for comprehensive action for checking air pollution in the interest of public health. This may also result in regulation of logistics and infrastructure. The CPCB may act as nodal agency.

    It said that it is undisputed that air pollution is a matter of serious concern and large number of deaths take place every year in the country on account of air pollution.

    The Green Court said Delhi is over-polluted and figures quite high in the ranking of most polluted cities and there is no study about the capacity of the city with respect to the extent of population which can be accommodated and number of vehicles which can be handled by its roads.

Green Court Directs States To Help Farmers Prevent Stubble Burning
  • The National Green Tribunal today said Delhi, Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh governments need to take urgent measures to assist farmers to prevent crop residue burning in their states which spikes pollution levels.
    A bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel asked the state governments to enforce the directions of the tribunal including providing machinery to poor and marginal farmers.

    The tribunal said that the crop residue burning causes air pollution and industries should help the farmers by way of corporate social responsibility.

    The green panel was hearing the matter after taking note of a news report published in an English daily titled, "All fiddle as crop stubble burns, farmers say solutions out of reach."

    The report claimed that crop burning shoots up the carbon dioxide levels in the air by 70 per cent.

    It said that every October, the air quality in Delhi, Punjab and Haryana plummets as farmers set the leftover stubble and loose straw on fire after paddy is harvested using combines.

    It had also claimed that over the last two years, the central and state governments have devised a number of measures to prevent crop burning - from slapping fines on farmers to subsidising equipment that allow seeds of the next wheat crop to be planted with the stubble still on the fields.

    The tribunal had earlier directed the Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture to submit a status report within six weeks on providing infrastructural assistance to farmers to stop them from burning crop residue to prevent air pollution.

    It had asked the official to take feedback from the authorities concerned on steps taken to enforce the directions  of the tribunal including providing machinery to poor and marginal farmers.

    The Punjab government had earlier faced the wrath of the tribunal for not taking effective steps to provide financial assistance and infrastructure facility to farmers to encourage them not to burn agricultural residue in their fields.

    The green panel had said that three years had elapsed since its verdict in the Vikrant Tongad case, in which it had passed a slew of directions to stop crop burning, but the state government had shown a lethargic approach.

    It had said the Punjab government had also failed to tie up with any company, private or public, which could utilise the crop residue.

    The tribunal had directed the Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh governments to convene a meeting to work out a clear mechanism on transportation and use of stubble as fuel in power plants.

Business Affairs

The war of words between RBI and Centre underscores a long history of disagreements
  • The mounting differences between the RBI and the Centre, and the public war of words has government officials worried about the country's image taking a hit as well as spillover consequences for the markets.

    Days after RBI deputy governor Viral Acharya's eyebrow-raising speech on the importance of independent regulatory institutions - a topic he claimed had been suggested by Governor Urjit Patel - last Friday, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley spoke about the importance of high-quality stakeholder consultations. "I think, for any regulatory mechanism, stakeholder consultation has to be of a very high quality, which will probably lead to a revisiting of traditional thoughts and opinions," said Jaitley, without signalling out the RBI.

    Then, today, at the India Leadership Summit organised by US-India Strategic Partnership Forum, Jaitley accused the RBI of looking the other way after banks were told to "lend indiscriminately" between 2008 to 2014 to keep the economy artificially going after the global economic crisis.

    The current war of words between the apex bank and the Centre is actually among their rare public spats. But privately the two have a long history of disagreements, be it over autonomy in setting the monetary policy, regulating banks, managing the rupee value in forex market or even the transfer of RBI's surplus dividend to the government.

    An official told The Economic Times that Acharya's speech has caused concern and "trepidation" in the government as his statements can "create panic in the market". The source, however, made it clear that there is "no question of asking Patel to go", adding that "The only reason that the RBI governor should step down is if there is a health issue."

    The deputy governor's speech had emphasised that undermining a central bank's independence is akin to committing a "self goal" for any government. "Governments that do not respect central bank's independence will sooner or later incur the wrath of financial markets, ignite economic fire and come to rue the day they undermined an important regulatory institution," he had added.

    Exactly a week earlier, the RBI released its dissent note on the report of an inter-ministerial committee recommending an independent Payments Regulatory Board (PRB). The RBI wants the body to be under its remit as originally proposed by the government. Incidentally, the dissent note is part of the report that was made public by the finance ministry earlier.

    As Business Today previously pointed out, this is in addition to their impasse over the public debt management, a function which is under RBI's domain and the government wants to hive off. This issue often came up during the tenures of former RBI governors D Subbarao and Raghuram Rajan, but the regulator had strongly protected its turf. The government still wants a separate agency managing the public debt function.

    Apart from this, the government wants the RBI to help ease the liquidity squeeze gripping non-banking finance companies (NBFCs), relax the prompt corrective action regime for stressed banks, and draw further upon the central bank's reserves to help close the fiscal gap.

    The daily added that the finance ministry has been keen to put in place some norms drawn from international best practices or the Bank of International Settlements to determine how much excess capital the central bank retains, which according to government is over Rs 3.5 lakh crore. The government has been seeking a big one-time payment from these reserves, but the RBI has been doggedly resisting it.

    The regulator, on its part, has been unhappy over the removal of Nachiket Mor from the central board. This has been widely seen as one of the triggers for the RBI deciding to going public with its differences. Mor was known to be vocal on banking issues. On the other hand, the new appointments made by the government, which were said to be aimed at making the board more vibrant and diverse, include S Gurumurthy. The latter is an RSS ideologue who regularly lashed out at Rajan over the RBI asset quality review, saying that it merely weakened India's banks.

Home loan EMIs to get costlier! PNB hikes MCLR by 0.05%
  • PSU lender Punjab National Bank on Tuesday said it has hiked the benckmark lending rate by 5 basis points across tenors from November 1 that will make retail loans costlier for costumers.

    The marginal cost of funds based lending rate (MCLR) has been revised with effect from November 1, 2018, the bank said in a regulatory filing.

    The benchmark one-year MCLR rate -- on which most of retail loans are based--stands increased to 8.50 per cent.

    For other tenors, three-year loan will come at a rate of 8.7 per cent, for six-month it will attract interest of 8.45 per cent and for three months it would be at 8.25 per cent.

    One-month and overnight tenor loans will be priced at 8.15 per cent each.

    The MCLR mechanism was introduced into banking system in April 2016 as an alternative to the base rate, below which banks cannot lend, for new borrowers.

    MCLR is calculated on the marginal cost of borrowing and return on net worth for banks.

First Tata Harrier rolls out of Pune manufacturing plant, deliveries to begin next year
  • Tata Motors rolled out the first unit of its new SUV, the Harrier, off its new manufacturing facility in Pune today. The Indian auto manufacturer announced that deliveries for the Tata Harrier will begin early next year. Tata Motors dealerships began accepting registrations for the Harrier earlier this month.

    Tata Motors' Pune facility has been equipped with manufacturing practices from Land Rover to adapt to the new product development and manufacturing approaches for this design. The manufacturing plant has been built in a record time of six months with 90 per cent automation levels.

    Seen first as the H5X concept at the Auto Expo 2018 in February earlier this year, the Tata Harrier will be the first vehicle to be based on company's Impact 2.0 design language. The Impact 2.0 design will be carried over to premium hatchback by Tata Motors codenamed 45X.

    Tata Harrier, a five-seater monocoque SUV, is engineered on a new generation architecture derived from Land Rover D8 architecture and has been developed in collaboration with Jaguar Land Rover. It borrows the L 550 platform from Land Rover Discovery Sport and Range Rover Evoque

    With narrow and aggressive headlamps, sleek tail lights and wheel arches, the production-spec Tata Harrier looks quite similar to the concept that was showcased at the Auto Expo 2018. The Harrier will be powered by a Kryotec, 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine which can dish out 140PS of power and 320Nm of torque.

    The motor will be coupled with either a six-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic gearbox sourced from Hyundai. Tata Harrier will also come with two-wheel and four-wheel drive options.

    Inside, Tata Harrier will feature front and rear AC vents, sunroof, touchscreen infotainment system with surround sound system, steering mounted controls and electric seats with memory function. On the security front, the new SUV from Tata Motors will feature rear parking camera, parking sensors, and dual airbags.

    In terms of price, the Tata Harrier has been placed higher that the Tata Nexon and will compete with the Jeep Compass and Hyundai Creta. While no pricing details have been released by the company yet, the upcoming SUV from the Tata Motors' stables is expected to be priced in the Rs 13-16 lakh bracket.

Sensex slips 176 points, Nifty ends below 10,200; oil and gas stocks lead losses
  • The Sensex and Nifty closed lower today on profit booking amid fresh worries over trade war between US and China. While the Sensex slipped 176 points lower to 33,891, Nifty lost 52.45 points to 10,198.

    Reliance Industries fell 2.8 percent, while Housing Development Finance Corporation slipped 1.6 percent. Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd fell 4.77 percent, and was the top loser on the NSE index.

    Software services exporter Infosys rose 2.3 percent and was the biggest boost to the Sensex. Other Sensex gainers were HUL (2%), SBI (1.90%) and TCS (1.37%). IndusInd Bank (3.50%), Coal India (3.47%), and RIL (2.84%) were top Sensex losers.

    Of 30 Sensex stocks, 11 ended in the red. Overall market sentiment remained weak largely in sync with other Asian markets, tracking overnight losses at the Wall Street as caution grew ahead of a slew of earnings reports this week, brokers said.

    Sahaj Agrawal from Kotak Securities said, "Nifty50 witnessed some correction in today's session after staging strong recovery from critical trend defining level of 9,950.  Global markets continue to witness mixed activity with a negative bias.  Volatility remains high as the market struggles to find its bottom and define further course. We expect consolidation to continue in the near term in the range of 10,000-10,500 before a breakout on the upside. Midcap space has outperformed while banking has witnessed mixed activity. Pharma and FMCG sectors expected to outperform while pressure is seen in the auto and realty space."

    However, mid cap and small cap stocks rose 0.91% and 0.94%, respectively and capped losses in the market. Among BSE sectoral indices, oil and gas index was the top loser falling 1.70% or 224 points to 13,013 level.

    Other indices which lost are BSE metal index (1.21%) and bankex (0.54%). HPCL was the top Nifty loser after oil marketing company's September quarter net profit nearly halved to Rs 1,218.71 crore, well below analysts' expectations, hurt by higher expenses on account of forex losses.

    However, gains in IT stocks limited losses for the market. The BSE IT index was the top gainer rising 235 points or 1.71% to 14,036 points.

    Market breadth was positive with 1479 stocks closing higher compared to 1080 falling on the BSE. 150 stocks were unchanged.

    A couple of banks have come out with a good set of results, so there is optimism on earnings growth in corporate banks, said Neeraj Dewan, director at Quantum Securities.

    Meanwhile, on a net basis, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) sold shares worth Rs 2,230.79 crore on Monday, while domestic institutional investors (DIIs) bought shares worth Rs 2,526.90  crore, as per provisional data. On Monday, the Sensex rose 718 points or 2.15% to 34,067 and the Nifty gained 2.20% or 220 points to 10,250.

    Global markets

    Global market sentiment was muted after a Bloomberg report said United States was preparing to announce tariffs on all remaining Chinese imports by early December if talks next month between presidents Donald Trump and Xi Jinping fail to ease the trade war.

    In Europe, Britain's FTSE 100 added 0.2 percent to 7,037.82, but Germany's DAX fell 0.7 percent to 11,256.02 and the CAC 40 in France sank 0.6 percent to 4,961.33. Wall Street was poised for an optimistic open. Futures for the Dow were up 0.1 percent at 24,454.00 and the broader S&P 500 futures added 0.2 percent to 2,649.20.

    Japan's Nikkei 225 index jumped 1.5 percent to 21,457.29 after official data showed that the unemployment rate eased to 2.3 percent in September, from 2.4 percent a month earlier. The Shanghai Composite index rebounded 1 percent to 2,568.05 and South Korea's Kospi picked up 0.9 percent to 2,014.69. Australia's S&P-ASX 200 gained 1.3 percent to 5,805.10. Hong Kong's Hang Seng bucked the trend, slipping 0.9 percent to 24,585.53. Shares were higher in Taiwan, Indonesia and Thailand but fell in Singapore.

SBI halves daily ATM withdrawal to Rs 20,000 for certain card holders
  • The country's largest lender SBI has halved the daily cash withdrawal limit from ATMs for certain debit-card holders to Rs 20,000 from Wednesday.

    The withdrawal limit has been curtailed on Classic and Maestro debit cards, held by a large number of the bank customers.

    However, customers with other variants of SBI debit card can continue to enjoy higher daily withdrawal from ATMs.

    As per a senior SBI official, the average cash withdrawal from ATMs per card is less than Rs 20,000 and the move will help in checking frauds and promote digital transaction.

    About a month ago, the State Bank of India (SBI) had alerted its customers holding Classic and Maestro debit cards regarding reduction of cash withdrawal limit to Rs 20,000 a day from ATM starting October 31.

    The SBI had put out the following message on its website:

    "Daily cash withdrawal limit for Classic and Maestro debit cards has been reduced from Rs 40,000 to Rs 20,000 per day with effect from October 31.

    "If you require higher daily cash withdrawal limit, please apply for a higher card variant."

    SBI Managing Director PK Gupta had said the reduction in withdrawal intends to protect customers from fraudulent cash withdrawals from ATMs and also to spur more digital transactions.

    "We analysed all the ATM transactions and we found that most of them are less than Rs 20,000 a day. In case of frauds reported to us, we found that in all such cases withdrawals of Rs 40,000 (the maximum) have happened. So, this is basically to protect the customers and secondly, we want that more digital transactions should happen," Gupta had said.

    If any customer wants higher limit of cash withdrawal, he or she can ask for a higher variant card.

    When asked how many such customers/cards are to be impacted due to this reduced limit, he said a very large number of customers fall into this category.

    However, the bank has lots of customers with higher variant debit card, so they are not impacted.

General Awareness

    Namami Gange programme
    • What to study?

      For Prelims and Mains: Key features and significance of the programme.

      Context: The Executive Committee (EC) of the National Mission for Clean Ganga has approved 12 projects worth Rs. 929 Crore under the Namami Gange programme in its 16th meeting held recently.

      About Namami Gange Programme:

      Namami Gange programme was launched as a mission to achieve the target of cleaning river Ganga in an effective manner with the unceasing involvement of all stakeholders, especially five major Ganga basin States – Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.

      The programme envisages: River Surface Cleaning, Sewerage Treatment Infrastructure, River Front Development, Bio-Diversity, Afforestation and Public Awareness.


      The program would be implemented by the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), and its state counterpart organizations i.e., State Program Management Groups (SPMGs).
      In order to improve implementation, a three-tier mechanism has been proposed for project monitoring comprising of a) High level task force chaired by Cabinet Secretary assisted by NMCG at national level, b) State level committee chaired by Chief Secretary assisted by SPMG at state level and c) District level committee chaired by the District Magistrate.
      The program emphasizes on improved coordination mechanisms between various Ministries/Agencies of Central and State governments.

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