Daily Current Affairs - 21st Apr 2017

Former Iranian President Ahmadinejad disqualified from running in Iran’s presidential election

  • Iran's former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has been disqualified from running in next month's presidential election. The decision was taken by the Guardian Council, a clerical body charged with vetting candidates for the May 19 election.
  • In a surprise move, Ahmadinejad registered as a candidate last week, despite previously saying he would not stand. Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had previously urged him not to run.
  • Ahmadinejad left office in August 2013 after two turbulent four-year terms, leaving the country divided domestically, isolated internationally and struggling economically.

Sindhu moves to No. 3

  • P.V. Sindhu climbed up two places to be at No. 3 in the latest BWF ranking. Sindhu earned two spots on the basis of making the quarterfinals of the recent Singapore Open Super Series.
  • Saina Nehwal also jumped up a place to be ranked eighth.

Auctions may help private coal miners tap 100 million tonnes

  • According to the Coal Ministry sources, private players will be able to bid for mines with about 100 million tonnes of coal reserves in the initial phase of auctions for commercial mining rights. The auction will follow a simple and transparent process for selecting eligible bidders.
  • Coal India is gearing up to meet competition from private miners and will shut down all unviable mining operations over the next couple of years. Since 1973 coal blocks were nationalised.

Australia toughens citizenship test

  • Australia unveiled plans to put “Australian values” at the heart of tougher requirements to gain citizenship, days after scrapping a visa programme for temporary foreign workers.
  • The moves came against a background of growing populist pressure and a resurgence of the anti-immigration One Nation party led by Pauline Hanson.
  • The new requirements include competent English, belief in gender equality and a four-year qualification period.
  • Candidates for citizenship will be required to be permanent residents for four years against the current one-year period. They will also need to demonstrate a job record and how they have integrated into the local community.
  • Some 1,14,109 people sat the Australian citizenship test in 2014-15, with 1,12,474 passing it, according to the latest immigration figures.

Banks allow Reliance Defence to exit CDR

  • Reliance Defence Engineering Ltd. (RDEL) has got lenders’ approval to exit the corporate debt restructuring (CDR) mechanism as the consortium of banks led by IDBI has agreed to refinance
  • Rs. 6,800 crore of debt at lower interest with an extended maturity of 20 years.
  • Reliance Defence will now be eligible to bid for the upcoming contracts for making submarines, landing platform dock (LPD) and corvette.
  • Both the proposals were presented to the CDR Empowered Group’s (EG) meeting on March 29, 2017 and were approved by the requisite majority of CDR lenders.
  • Reliance Defence Engineering’s current orders stand at more than Rs. 5,300 crore from Navy, Coast Guard and commercial vessels.

Britain may change policy on international students

  • The British government may be set to bring in a significant change to its immigration policy by taking international students out of the net migration figures.
  • An amendment to a piece of legislation on higher education, introduced by members of the House of Lords and due to be considered by the House of Commons next week.
  • The move would be strongly welcomed by India, which has raised concerns in the past about the British policy towards international students.

China, Iran to sign contract on heavy water reactor

  • China and Iran will sign the first commercial contract to redesign Iran's Arak heavy water reactor in Vienna. China and Iran have reached initial agreement on the commercial contract.
  • Redesigning the Arak heavy water reactor is a core aspect of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran's nuclear program.
  • The signing will create a favorable condition for the progress of the redesign. The 7th Joint Commission between Iran and the P5+1 will convene in Vienna next week.

Delhi’s iconic Taj hotel to go under the hammer

  • The Supreme Court gave the green signal for the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) to e-auction its 3.78 acre property hosting the national capital’s iconic Taj Mansingh Hotel, which is run by the Tata Group.
  • A Bench of Justices of Supreme Court agreed with the NDMC’s argument that the first right of refusal is in-built in the very process of e-auction as the highest offer is open before the bidders.
  • The court observed that in case the Tata Group loses out in the auction, they should be gracefully given a period of six months to wind up their commitments at the hotel and leave.

Facebook gives peek inside unit studying brain-to-text technology

  • Facebook is working on a new ‘silent speech’ technology that will allow people to type directly with their minds, drastically reducing the time it takes to convert our thoughts into written words. The silent speech system will be capable of typing 100 words per minute straight from the brain — five times faster than one can type on a smartphone today.
  • Facebook announced two projects focussed on silent speech communications.
  • It also has a project directed at allowing people to hear with their skin. The company is working on building the hardware and software necessary to deliver language through the skin.
  • Facebook founder and CEO: Mark Zuckerberg

Govt relaxes curb on export of organic farm produce

  • The government has relaxed restrictions on exports of certain organic agricultural and processed products like wheat, non-basmati rice to boost their overseas shipments. Export of organic agricultural and organic processed products like wheat, non-basmati rice, edible oils, sugar have been exempted from existing quantitative ceilings.
  • It has also increased the annual quantitative ceiling on export of organic pulses and lentils from existing 10,000 tonnes to 50,000 tonnes per annum.

Honda plans Rs. 1,600 cr. spending to add bikes

  • Japanese two-wheeler major Honda Motorcycle & Scooter India has lined up investment of Rs. 1,600 crore in 2017-18 for expanding capacity and developing new products.
  • Honda sold five million units in 2016-17 — the biggest volume achieved by any Honda motorcycle subsidiary worldwide, has set a target to sell six million units this year, an increase of 20%. It has plans to make India an export hub after BS-VI migration.
  • HMSI, which started operations in 2001, has grown to become India’s second-largest two-wheeler company with more than 30 million customers.

Hyundai aims for annual sales of 1 million vehicles in India by 2021

  • South Korean auto major Hyundai, which aims to sell one million cars annually in India by 2021, will invest Rs. 5,000 crore to introduce eight new models in the country’s market by 2020.
  • Hyundai Motor India,sold a total of 6.62 lakh units in 2016 of which five lakh units were sold in the domestic market. The company had set a target of selling 6.72 lakh units in 2017. It is also planning to increase the number of dealers in India from 475 to about 500.
  • It has a market share of 17% in the India market.

India makes fresh bid to get Headley, Rana

  • India has made a fresh request to the U.S. for the extradition of David Coleman Headley and Tahawwur Rana, wanted for their roles in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. The National Investigation Agency ( NIA), which is probing the conspiracy behind the 2008 attacks, raised with FBI senior officials the pending requests for extradition of Headley and Rana. The NIA told that its multiple requests for the custody of Rana went unanswered.

India, EU likely to resume talks

  • The talks between India and the EU that were stalled in the backdrop of the Italian marines crisis are likely to kick-start during the April 21-23 visit of a high official of the European Union.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs announced that the High Representative of EU, Federica Mogherini, will hold discussions with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
  • The 14th EU-India summit, to be held in New Delhi this year.
  • Both officials likely to discuss the stalled trade pact between India and EU, the visit is also likely to open up India-Italy ties.
  • The main issues are over duties and market access but additional points of disagreement have reportedly emerged over new clauses that would not allow international companies to rush to international arbitration without completing cases in Indian legal system.

Indian team for Asian Grand Prix

  • A 12-member Indian team will compete in the first leg of the Asian Grand Prix at Jiaxing and Jinhua, China, on April 24 and 27 respectively.
  • The team:
  • Men: Vidyasagar Siddarajanayaka (100m), Jinson Johnson (400m), Rakesh Babu (triple jump), Om Prakash Singh (shot put), Neeraj Chopra and Ravinder Singh (javelin).
  • Women: Dutee Chand and Reena George (100m), Tintu Luka (800m), Neena Varakil (long jump), Jinu Maria (high jump), Manpreet Kaur (shot put). Coaches: Garry James Calvert, Bibu Mathew, PT Usha, Radha Krishnan Nair.

IOB may face sanctions from RBI

  • Chennai-based Indian Overseas Bank (IOB) may face sanctions from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) after the lender breached the risk threshold on asset quality and is on course to violate the one on profitability.
  • The RBI had announced revised norms for prompt corrective action (PCA) — setting certain parameters regarding net non-performing assets, returns of assets and capital adequacy ratio — breach of which will result in a lender facing action like restriction on branch expansion, higher provisioning among others. The revised norms cite three risk tolerance levels.
  • IOB’s capital adequacy ratio is 10.78% and the common equity tier-I capital (CET1) ratio is 7.62%, as on December end. It's net NPA, as on 31 December was 14.32% or Rs. 19,901 crore. IOB’s net NPA ratio is the highest among public sector banks.
  • IOB has already breached the third level — the maximum level of tolerance — in terms of net NPA and is on its way to transgress the second level in terms of return on assets (RoA).The last threshold on asset quality is breached if net NPA goes above 12%.

Logistics pact between India, U.S. almost done

  • India is expected to notify the operationalising of the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the U.S.
  • India and the U.S. concluded the logistics agreement, the first of the three foundational agreements between the two nations.
  • LEMOA gives access to both countries to designate military facilities on either side for refuelling and replenishment in primarily four areas — port calls, joint exercises, training and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
  • The other foundational agreements are the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement (COMCASA) and the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement for Geospatial Information and Services Cooperation (BECA).
  • The notification includes designating the points of contact for the U.S. military to work with and setting up a common account for payments.

Opposition wants Pakistani PM to resign

  • Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the opposition party led by former cricketer Imran Khan, asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to resign after the Supreme Court ordered the formation of a joint investigation team (JIT) to probe into corruption allegations against his family members.
  • The opposition wanted the Supreme Court to disqualify the Prime Minister over allegations that his children had used offshore companies to buy properties in London.
  • The corruption controversy erupted when the 11.5 million secret documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which documented the offshore dealings of many of the world's rich and powerful, were leaked last year.
  • The Supreme Court, in a split verdict, rejected calls for disqualification, citing insufficient evidence.

Sri Lankan PM to visit India

  • Sri Lankan Prime Minister will visit India next week to set the agenda for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip to Colombo in May.
  • An MoU to develop Trincomalee port’s prospects through operating a major oil-storage facility, LNG plant and piped-gas projects and developing it as a key transit point with major expressways and industrial zones in the region is in the final stages of negotiations.
  • The two sides will also hold discussions on the Economic and Technology Cooperation Agreement (ETCA), a version of the free trade agreement, and will be taken forward during Mr. Modi’s visit for International Vesak Day, the annual Buddhist festival on May 12.
  • Prime Minister of Sri Lanka: Ranil Wickremsinghe

TRAI invites comments on ease of doing business in broadcasting sector

  • The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has invited comments from stakeholders on ease of doing business in the broadcasting sector. The comments, which can be sent till 8th of next month, will help in identifying issues related to ease of doing business before going for an elaborate consultation later.
  • According to TRAI, the telecom sector has immense potential for growth if more conducive business environment is created by simplifying the provisions of policy and regulatory framework.
  • TRAI Head: Ram Sewak Sharma

Wipro sacks 600 staff

  • Wipro Ltd., the country’s third largest IT services company, has sacked about 600 employees. The company confirmed some employees may be asked to leave as part of an “appraisal process”.
  • The company's systematic and comprehensive performance evaluation process triggers a series of actions such as mentoring, retraining and upskilling. The performance appraisal may also lead to the separation of some employees from the company and these numbers vary from year to year,
  • Wipro is likely to axe more people from mid-level managerial roles. Earlier, there were media reports that Wipro would reduce headcount by about 30% due to automation.