01. FPIs pull out Rs 6,000 crore from debt market in May: Foreign investors pulled out close to Rs 6,000 crore from the Indian debt market in May after pumping in huge money in the preceding month. However, foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) are bullish on the stock market as they put in Rs 1,495 crore during the same period. Market experts attributed the outflow to weakening of the rupee. Besides, possible action by the US Federal Reserve has also hit investor sentiment. With stocks at an attractive valuation, it makes sense to enter the equity market right now," SAS online chief operating Officer (COO) Siddhant Jain said. "Also, the recent changes in Mauritius tax treaty might have prompted FPIs to pull out of debt, step back and consider their tax implications," he explained. The data sourced from the depositories showed FPIs have sold debt securities worth Rs 5,986 crore (US$ 891 million) till May 27. 02. PSBs install nearly 14,000 ATMs in FY16, miss target: State-owned banks installed close to 14,000 automated teller machines (ATMs) in different parts of the country in 2015-16, but missed the cumulative target of 15,249 for the financial year. With the addition, total number of ATMs of public sector banks increased to 1,42,557 at March end. Countrys largest bank SBI installed 4,222 ATMs against the target of 4,200. SBI had 49,724 ATMs at the end of March. Andhra Bank, Bank of Baroda, Bank of India, Canara Bank, Indian Bank, Oriental Bank of Commerce, and Vijaya Banks were among the state-lenders which exceeded their respective targets. On the other hand, Allahabad Bank, Bhartiya Mahila Bank,Central Bank of India, Punjab National Bank and Union Bank of India missed their targets last fiscal. 03. India Inc eyes Rs 2 lakh cr from assets to tide over stress: With bankers forcing companies to sell non-core assets to tide over bad debts, the economic research wing of SBI said it expects asset sales of up to Rs 2 trillion by Indian Industry as part of the clean-up process. “We estimate that nearly Rs 2 lakh crore of asset sales are in the pipeline/already completed by debt-ridden companies having a debt exposure of around Rs 10 lakh crore,” it said in a note. At least a tenth of the total debt sales should go through the listing route, it said, adding that cash-rich conservative corporates are finding value in such companies. About 270 companies reported decline in debt by Rs 47,813 crore in 2015, it said. SBI research note also cited the case of debt-laden Lanco Groups efforts to lessen debt through asset sales, including the Udupi plant sale in 2015-16 for Rs 6,300 crore, and also efforts to exit power assets of Rs 25,000 crore, which can help retire debt of about Rs 18,000 crore. 04. Singapore central bank directs BSI Singapore to shut down: Singapores central bank said it had withdrawn Swiss bank BSI Banks status as a merchant bank in Singapore and directed it to shut down for serious breaches of anti-money laundering requirements and other lapses. In a statement on 24th May 2016, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it has referred to the Public Prosecutor names of six members of BSI Banks senior management and staff to evaluate whether they have committed criminal offences. "This is the first time that MAS is withdrawing its approval for a merchant bank since 1984, when Jardine Fleming (Singapore) Pte Ltd was shut down for serious lapses in its advisory work," MAS said. BSIs former employees have come under scrutiny for handling transactions linked to Malaysias troubled state fund 1MDB. Monetary Authority of Singapore MAS is Singapores central bank and financial regulatory authority established in 1971. 05. World Bank officials to come to India in June: Officials from the World Bank Group would be coming to India in June 2016 for the purpose of data collection for its - Doing Business 2017 annual report which is scheduled to come out in October later this year. India was ranked at 130 out of 189 economies in the world in the report released last year, a step higher as it was ranked 142 . Speaking to a group of journalists in Washington last week, officials from the World Bank Group said that data collection begins for the report in February- March and goes on till the end of July. The data for the report is most often finalized by September. "A team of two members would be coming for two weeks to Mumbai and Delhi in June 2016 to collect data from government as well as from the private sector," said a official from the group. 06. Indus era 8,000 years old, not 5,500; ended because of weaker monsoon: It may be time to rewrite history textbooks. Scientists from IIT-Kharagpurand Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have uncovered evidence that the Indus Valley Civilization is at least 8,000 years old, and not 5,500 years old, taking root well before the Egyptian (7000BC to 3000BC) and Mesopotamian (6500BC to 3100BC) civilizations. Whats more, the researchers have found evidence of a pre-Harappan civilization that existed for at least 1,000 years before this. The scientists believe they also know why the civilization ended about 3,000 years ago — climate change. "We have recovered perhaps the oldest pottery from the civilization. We used a technique called optically stimulated luminescence to date pottery shards of the Early Mature Harappan time to nearly 6,000 years ago and the cultural levels of pre-Harappan Hakra phase as far back as 8,000 years," said Anindya Sarkar, head of the department of geology and geophysics at IIT-Kgp. 07. The worlds longest rail tunnel, in numbers: The worlds longest rail tunnel, which runs under the Alps and took 17 years to build, is inaugurated on 25th May 2016 at Geneva, Switzerland. Here are four key numbers about the project, called the Gotthard Base Tunnel (GBT). At a length of 57 kilometres (34.5 miles) the GBT will overtake Japans 53.9-kilometre Seikan tunnel as the longest rail tunnel in the world. A total of 152 kilometres of tunnel was carved through the mountain. That figure includes separate tubes for northern and southern travel, as well as cross passages and access tunnels. - 1882 -That was the year the first rail route through the Gotthard pass opened, a landmark in Swiss history that helped boost trade through the Alpine nation, which had previously been arduous to cross. Swiss engineer Carl Eduard Gruner first sketched the idea for a rail tunnel under the Alps at the Gotthard Pass in 1947. 08. Railway conducts trial run for high-speed Talgo trains: Indian Railway . on 29th May 2016 conducted the first ever trial run for high-speed Talgo trains of Spain on the Bareilly-to-Moradabad stretch in Uttar Pradesh. "The test train consisted of one locomotive fit for 180 kmph along with one VIP coach, one first class coach, one cafeteria coach and four second class coaches," a statement from the ministry said. The second trial run will be conducted on the Palwal-to-Mathura section of the North-Central Railway. The trial run will be conducted in a series of phases to test the riding, safety and and stability of Talgo trains, a railway official told IANS. After the successful completion of this phase, timing trial of the much awaited high-speed train will be conducted. Talgo is a Madrid-based Spanish leading manufacturer of semi-high speed (160-250 kmph) and high-speed (350 kmph) passenger trains, which are energy-efficient. 09. India among top 10 steel importers in 2015: World Steel Association: India, the worlds third largest steel producer, was among the top 10 importers of the alloy last year, according to the latest data by the global industry body World Steel Association (WSA). India imported 13.3 million tonnes (MT) of the metal in 2015 and was just a notch up from China, which imported 13.2 MT of steel during the same period. According to the WSA data, European Union as a bloc imported 37.7 MT of steel last year, which was followed by the US (36.5 MT), Germany (24.8 MT), South Korea (21.7 MT), Italy (19.9 MT), Turkey (18.6 MT), Vietnam (16.3 MT), Thailand (14.6 MT), France (13.7 MT) and India (13.3 MT). According to Indian government data, steel imports rose by 25.6 per cent to 11.71 MT during the 2015-16 financial year against 9.32 MT in the year-ago period. India was a net importer of the metal in the last fiscal. WSA data also showed that India exported 7.6 MT of steel in 2015, which was just a fraction of what its neighbour China exported during the same period at 111.6 MT. 10. New emission norms pose huge challenge: Srivats Ram: The transition to Bharat Stage VI (BS-VI) emission norms for vehicles will pose a significant technological challenge, according to a top official of Wheels India. The government recently announced that India would leapfrog from BS-IV emission norms that are now in force to the BS-VI norms by 2020. Introduced in 2000, the Bharat norms are emission control standards put in place by the government to check air pollution. Implementation of the BS-V standard was originally scheduled for 2019. This has now been skipped. BS-VI, originally proposed to come in by 2024, has now been advanced to 2020 instead. “With the new regulations, there are a lot of technological changes that need to be made in the vehicles which will have an impact on pricing. But leaving aside the price part, the technology and the adaptation of technology to Indian road conditions need to be done, he said.
CURRENT AFFAIRS MAY 29, 2016
01. Exports: Application filing process under MEIS eased: The Commerce Ministry has eased the process of filing of application for claiming benefits under the Merchandise Exports from India Scheme (MEIS) with a view to improve ease of doing business in the country. Commerce Ministry has done away with separate applications required for shipments from different electronic data interchange (EDI) ports. “The procedure for filing of application under MEIS for EDI shipping bills is simplified. Shipments from different EDI ports will not require separate applications,” the Directorate General of Foreign Trade has said in a public notice. Rewards under MEIS are payable as percentage of realised free-on-board value and the MEIS duty credit scrip can be transferred or used for payment of a number of duties, including the basic customs duty. In terms of trading across borders, India ranked at 133rd out of 189 economies, according to the World Banks report on ease of doing business. 02. Those with illegal money to be prosecuted: FM Arun Jaitley on Panama Papers: Warning of strict action against people stashing black money, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said prosecution would be initiated against those found to have parked funds illegally in accounts named in Panama Papers. “If illegal money is found in accounts of those who are named in Panama case, then they will also be prosecuted as in case of HSBC accounts,” he said. Hundreds of Indians have been named in the leaked Panama Papers about entities having accounts in offshore tax havens. Arun Jaitley said the government came out in the last fiscal with a law to deal with black money stashed abroad and was now focusing on domestic black money. Stating that those failing to make the disclosure under this scheme face imprisonment up to 10 years, Jaitley said the law to deal with black money stashed abroad has yielded about Rs 4,000 crore. 03. RBI to infuse Rs 15,000 crore liquidity next week: The Reserve Bank will buy government bonds worth Rs 15,000 crore through open market operations (OMO) next week in order to infuse liquidity. This is the second OMO within a week to infuse liquidity in cash starved banking system. RBI yesterday bought government securities of Rs 15,000 crore. Based on the current assessment of prevailing and evolving liquidity conditions, the Reserve Bank has decided to conduct purchase of government securities under Open Market Operations for an aggregate amount of Rs 150 billion on May 31, the central bank said in a statement today. There is an overall aggregate ceiling of Rs 150 billion for all the securities in the basket put together. 04. Federal Reserve chief Janet Yellen hints at rate hike in coming months: The US Federal Reserve should raise interest rates "in the coming months" if the economy picks up as expected and jobs continue to be generated, Americas central bank chief Janet Yellen said , bolstering the case for a rate increase in June or July. "Its appropriate ... for the Fed to gradually and cautiously increase our overnight interest rate over time, and probably in the coming months such a move would be appropriate," Yellen said during an appearance at Harvard University. Although Yellen expressed caution about too steep a rise in US rates, she sounded more confident than she has in the past that the US economy has rebounded from a weak winter and that inflation would edge higher toward the Feds 2 per cent target. 05. Indian small cars to benefit from Sri Lanka import duty changes: Sri Lanka has reduced import duties on 800 and 1,000cc cars while increasing duty on higher engine capacity cars, a move likely to benefit India-made smaller vehicles. Prices of vehicles above 1,000 cubic centimeter engine capacity will increase following the increase of the minimum unit tax from 27th May 2016, Sri Lankas Vehicle Importers Association said. According to a gazette notification released on 27th May 2016 by the ministry of finance, the 800 and 1,000cc cars would have a lower import tax band. A majority of this category imports are dominated by the India-made cars. An example is of the India-made Maruti Wagon R. 06. Indian Air Force successfully test fires Brahmos missile at Pokaran: Indian Air Force (IAF) on 27th May 2016 successfully test fired supersonic cruise missile BrahMos against a land-based target from a defence base in the western sector, paving the way for its maiden air launch from a fighter aircraft. Defence sources said, with advanced guidance system and indigenously built software algorithm, this version of BrahMos land-attack system was launched from a mobile autonomous launcher from Pokhran range at about 12 pm establishing its supremacy in the world of supersonic cruise missiles. The flight has met its mission parameters in a copybook manner reassuring its reliability consistency and accuracy. Fired from a land based platform, the weapon successfully hit and annihilated the designated target as coordinated. 07. Sunil Bharti Mittal awarded Harvard B-Schools highest honour:Sunil Bharti Mittal, the founder and chairman of Bharti Enterprises, received the Alumni Achievement Award of Harvard Business School. The award is presented annually since 1968 and is the highest honour given to any alumni of the institute. “I am truly honoured to receive this recognition. Harvard Business Schools renowned management program helped me validate and sharpen my work towards putting together the building blocks to create one of the leading global telecom companies – Bharti Airtel,” said Mittal after receiving the award. 08. First bullet train to run in India by 2023: Suresh Prabhu: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said the first bullet train will run in India in 2023 heralding a new era in train operations in the subcontinent. “In 2023, the first bullet train will run in India. We have already discussed the phases of bullet train project,” Prabhu told PTI. The bullet train is expected to cover 508 km between Mumbai and Ahmedabad in about two hours, running at a maximum speed of 350 kmph and operating speed of 320 kmph. 09. ISRO to launch record 22 satellites in single mission in June: ISRO said it will launch a record 22 satellites in a single mission next month. “After the current reusable launch vehicle, the next experiment what we have to do we have to worry about that. Other than that, next month we have a launch where we will be launching about 22 satellites. Also one of a cartographic series satellite will be launched,” ISRO Chairman Kiran Kumar said. Speaking on the sidelines of an event organised by Federation of Karnataka Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FKCCI), he said that of the 22 satellites, three are Indian and the rest all commercial. The space agency had earlier sent ten satellites into orbit in a single mission in 2008. 10. Delhi-NCR tops job creation among 8 cities in Q4 of FY16, says ASSOCHAM study: Delhi-NCR (National Capital Region) has emerged as the leader in creating the highest number of jobs during the fourth quarter of the last fiscal, an ASSOCHAM study has found. The region generated over 2.6 lakh new jobs while a total of 8.5 lakh jobs were created in eight major new cities , the study said. Garnering over one-fourth share of the total number of new jobs generated across India, Delhi-NCR emerged on top with over 2.6 lakh new jobs created during January to March 2016, followed by Bengaluru (1.9 lakh), Mumbai (1.5 lakh), Chennai (82.2 thousand) and Hyderabad (60 thousand). About 88.9% of job openings have been recorded in these top five cities, said the ASSOCHAM placement study. "Among top metro cities, Delhi-NCR had maximum share of over 30.1% in job creation while Bengaluru witnessed a 23.4% contribution in job creation, followed by Mumbai with 18.6%," said D S Rawat, secretary general of ASSOCHAM.
CURRENT AFFAIRS MAY 28, 2016
01. Islamic banking to debut in Gujarat: Jeddah-based Islamic Development Bank (IDB) is set to start its India operations from Gujarat. The international financial institution from Saudi Arabia has chosen Gujarat to set up its first branch in India. The state will also get 30 medical vans as part of IDBs social sector initiatives. IDBs main objective is to foster the economic development and social progress of member countries as well as the Muslim community in accordance with principles of Shariah (Islamic law). The bank has 56 Islamic countries as its members. 02. HDFC among worlds top 10 consumer financial services company: Mortgage lender HDFC Ltd has been ranked among the worlds ten biggest and most powerful companies in the consumer financial services sector on a Forbes list topped by global major American Express. Ranked 7th, HDFC is the only Indian company in top-ten in this category, where others include Capital One, Visa and MasterCard. In the overall list of the worlds 2,000 largest and most powerful public companies compiled by Forbes, HDFC is ranked 404th while it is at tenth position among Indian firms. There are total 56 Indian companies on the list, with Reliance Industries ranked highest among them. It is at 121st place globally. State Bank of India was ranked among the top 20 globally in the regional banks category. With a market capitalisation of USD 23.3 billion, SBI was ranked 149th in the global list. 03. Trying to take Indian railways out of ICU: Suresh Prabhu: Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said efforts are on to take the public transporter out of the ICU and create a situation where it can breathe well. “The railways was in deep trouble not now but in the last 20-30 years. That is what the Rakesh Mohan committee report had said. So now we are trying to create a situation where the railways will be able to breathe well,” he told PTI. Asked whether the national transporter is still in the ICU, he said, “We are trying to take it out of the ICU.” On measures to make it robust, Prabhu said, “In order to survive, the railways needs to revamp its operation. We are working on it. We are making it sure that the railways will be an engine of growth in the next few years. We are putting all our efforts into it.” To a question about the railways strategy since loadings are falling, the minister said a capacity to handle 1.2 billion tons of cargo will be created in the coming years. 04. EPFO doubles insurance for subscribers to Rs 6 lakh: The government has finally enforced the decision of retirement fund body EPFO to almost double the maximum sum assured under its insurance scheme to Rs 6 lakh for its 4 crore subscribers. In September, Employee Provident Fund Organisations apex decision making body Central Board of Trustees (CBT) had decided to increase benefits under the Employees Deposit Linked Insurance ( EDLI ) scheme from Rs 3.6 lakh to Rs 6 lakh. However, the notification to amend the scheme could not be issued by Labour Ministry as it was stuck in the Law Ministry. "The notification to enhance EDLI amount has been issued. It (the maximum sum assured) has been enhanced from Rs 3.6 lakh to Rs 6 lakh," Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya told reporters after launching a modernisation plan for National Academy for Training & Research in Social Security (NATRSS). 05. New committee swipes towards cashless society: The government and the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) have been working on how to reduce cash transactions in the economy. In this regard, they formed a committee last month, of seven members, chaired by a ministry official, Neeraj Kumar Gupta. This group is looking at how to ensure the acceptance of card payments is increased. This will require more of point-of-sales (PoS) machines. RBI data at end-March shows 24.5 million credit cards and 661.8 million debit cards in the country, compared to 1.3 million PoS terminals. A committee was also formed last year on the same issue; the new panel is to also see that the formers suggestions are implemented. These include reducing the interchange fee charged on credit cards and bringing these at par with debit cards. Currently, 1.98 per cent in the case of credit card spending and 0.5-1 per cent in debit card spending of the total amount is interchange fee by the bank and the card players. 06. Maruti Suzuki to recall 77,380 Baleno, DZire cars: Maruti Suzuki India Ltd, Indias leading carmaker, will recall 77,380 vehicles to upgrade the airbag controller software and replace a faulty fuel filter, the company said in a statement . Maruti, controlled by Japans Suzuki Motor Corp, will recall 75,419 Baleno cars, including 17,231 units of exports, manufactured between August 3, 2015 and May 17, 2016 to upgrade the airbag controller software. Of these, 15,995 Baleno diesel cars, manufactured between August 3, 2015 and March 22, 2016, will also be inspected for a faulty fuel filter, which will be replaced. Maruti will also recall 1,961 DZire diesel hatchback cars, with auto-shift gear technology, to inspect and replace a faulty fuel filter, it said in the statement. Dealers will start reaching out to buyers from May 31. 07. Indian-American students sweep National Geographic Bee contest: Indian-American students have swept the prestigious national bee competitions, securing the first three positions for this years National Geographic Bee championship finals. Rishi Nair, 12, a sixth grader from Florida took top honours at the 28th annual National Geographic Bee held at the National Geographic headquarters here. As National Geographic Bee champion, Rishi received a USD 50,000 college scholarship and a lifetime membership in the National Geographic Society. This is the fifth consecutive year that an Indian-American has won the prestigious national tournament. Indian-American students have consistently performed exceptionally well at various bee competitions over the years.The spelling bee competition has produced Indian-American champions for eight consecutive years, and 13 of the past 17, a run that began in 1999. 08. Union HRD Minister Launches Bharatavani Portal: Bharatavani Becomes the Largest Online Repository of Dictionaries in India on its Very First Day The Union HRD Minister, Smt Smriti Zubin Irani launched the multilingual knowledge portal www.bharatvani.in at Lucknow. While launching the app the Minister said that under the Prime Minister Shri Modis Digital India Mission, Bharatavani App will perform the task of bringing about digital revolution in the county. The Governments mission is to showcase the Indian culture and heritage to the world through the medium of technology. This project is in line with the HRD Ministrys efforts to not only ensure universalization of education but also towards creation of a knowledge society in the digital age. The Central Institute of Indian Languages (CIIL), Mysuru is implementing this ambitious project of MHRD. 09. Why sea ice cover around Antarctica is rising: Why has the sea ice cover surrounding Antarctica been increasing slightly, in sharp contrast to the drastic loss of sea ice occurring in the Arctic Ocean? A new NASA-led study has found the geology of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is responsible. The researchers used satellite radar, sea surface temperature, land form and bathymetry (ocean depth) data to study the physical processes and properties affecting Antarctic sea ice. They found that two persistent geological factors — the topography of Antarctica and the depth of the ocean surrounding it — are influencing winds and ocean currents, respectively, to drive the formation and evolution of Antarcticas sea ice cover and help sustain it. 10. Gadkari launches safety feature-rich Nirbhaya buses: Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari on 25th May 2016 launches 20 Nirbhaya buses of Rajasthan State Transport Corporation with multiple safety measures to better protect women passengers. "Certain unfortunate incidents in the recent past have forced the ministry to take this step, so that women travelling in buses are more safe," Gadkari said in a statement here. Nirbhaya bus security measures include Vehicle Tracking System (VTS), CCTV and panic buttons on every seat. "The VTS and the panic buttons will enable the police to know the exact location of the bus and provide prompt assistance," he said. Gadkari said directions in this regard will be given to other states in due course of time, adding that buses in the future should be manufactured with such safety features to contain anti-social elements.
CURRENT AFFAIRS MAY 30, 2016
Reviewed by sambasivan srinivasan