Daily Current Affairs - 23rd May 2018

Air quality causes premature deaths in India

  • According to a new study conducted by the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Delhi in collaboration with environmental NGO Centre for Environment and Energy Development (CEED) in 11 north Indian cities, worsening air quality in the last two decades has emerged as one of the major reasons for high numbers of premature deaths.
  • The report found annual mortality linked to air pollution to be in the range of 150-300 persons per 1 lakh population.
  • The study calculated the annual “mortality burden” through averages of recorded deaths caused due to Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Acute Lower Respiratory Infection (ALRI), coronary disease, stroke, and lung cancer, in these cities. COPD was the largest cause of the deaths (at 29.7%) and lung cancer the lowest (0.6%).
  • Kanpur recorded the highest number of premature deaths per year (4,173) due to chronic exposure to air pollution, followed by Lucknow (4,127), Agra (2,421), Meerut (2,044), Varanasi (1,581), Allahabad (1,443) and Gorakhpur (914).

Andhra Bank posts quartely loss of Rs. 2,536 cr.

  • Public sector bank Andhra Bank has reported Rs. 2,536 crore loss for the quarter ended March 31 on a standalone basis against a net profit of Rs. 35 crore registered in year-earlier period. The loss came in the backdrop of provisions for non-performing assets increasing to Rs. 5,562.76 crore compared with Rs. 1,171.58 crore in the year-earlier period. Interest income declined by 3.52% to Rs. 4,606 crore (Rs. 4,774 crore).

DAC bid to simplify acquisitions

  • In an attempt to speed up arms procurements, the Defence Acquisition Council has approved measures to simplify the Defence Procurement Procedure. The significant changes include devolution of powers within the Ministry of Defence and the Service Headquarters, concurrent running of the acquisition process instead of sequential stage clearance, deletion of repetitive processes, aligning of various documents with revised financial guidelines, amongst others.
  • These measures will go a long way in reducing undue procedural delays and hasten activities besides shrinking procurement timelines.

Dr. Reddy’s Q4 net profit declines 19%

  • Pharmaceutical major Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories has posted a consolidated net profit of Rs. 272.1 crore in the quarter ended March 31 or 19% lower compared with Rs. 337.6 crore in the year earlier period.
  • Price erosion in the U.S., increased competition overall, regulatory pressures and currency volatility as well as outgo on account of a new law in the U.S. were factors influencing the net profit during the quarter and full fiscal 2017-18.
  • Total revenue from operations during the quarter was 1.60% lower at Rs. 3,553.9 crore (Rs. 3,611.9 crore). Total revenue from operations stood at Rs. 14,281 crore (Rs. 14,196.1 crore).
  • Company chief executive officer and co-chairman G. V. Prasad

Finance ministry ties up with 40 entities for extending loans to small entrepreneurs

  • The Union finance ministry has tied up with 40 entities including Flipkart, Swiggy, Patanjali and Amul for extending loans to small entrepreneurs under the Mudra scheme. The ministry will organise an event in Mumbai to extend loan under the scheme and about 40 companies have been identified as biggest job creators.
  • As these companies will identify people who need loans under Mudra Yojana, underwrite them and will extend loans under the scheme.
  • Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana (PMMY), launched on April 8, 2015, for providing loans of up to Rs 10 lakh to the non-corporate, non-farm small/micro enterprises.
  • Last fiscal the government has extended Rs 2.53 lakh crore credit under the Mudra Yojana, while Rs 5.73 lakh crore has been extended in last 3 years.

HD Kumaraswamy to be sworn-in as Karnataka CM

  • JD(S) leader HD Kumaraswamy will sworn-in as Chief Minister of Karnataka. The cabinet will comprise of 22 ministers from Congress including Deputy CM and 12 from JD(S) including the CM.
  • Congress leader G Parameshwar will be sworn-in as Deputy Chief Minister. Congress MLA Ramesh Kumar will be the Speaker.
  • Governor Vajubhai Vala will administer him oath of office and secrecy.

India crash out of Thomas Cup Final

  • India has crashed out of the Thomas Cup Final in Bangkok after the young Indian Men's team made the exit after losing to heavyweights China, 0-5 in their last Group-A match. The Indian shuttlers simply lacked the experience to compete against their Chinese counterparts.
  • The Indian team had lost to France, 1-4 in the opening game before winning against Australia, 5-0.

India receives first UAE crude cargo for Mangalore strategic reserve

  • India received the first cargo of UAE crude oil for storing at one of the two Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) caverns built by Indian Strategic Petroleum Reserve Ltd (ISPRL) at Mangalore.
  • India and UAE jointly initiated the filling of the crude oil carrier vessel MT Inspiration with 2 million barrels of crude oil belonging to Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC).
  • During the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to UAE, ISPRL and ADNOC signed an agreement under which ADNOC will store about 5.86 million barrels of crude oil in India’s SPR facility at Mangalore at its own cost.
  • The agreement stipulates that during emergency oil shortages, the Indian government can use the entire available crude oil stored by ADNOC in the Mangalore SPR facility for its use.
  • UAE is the sixth-largest crude oil source for India and supplies around six per cent of the petroleum requirement.
  • Minister of petroleum and natural gas and skill development and entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan

India to join anti-terror meet in Pakistan

  • India is likely to send senior representatives to discuss legal modalities of counter-terrorism for a meeting that Pakistan will host along with the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).
  • India, China and other member countries will now participate in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (SCO-RATS) that will be meeting in Islamabad from May 23 to 25. The event will be the first such time Pakistan which will host India and other members of SCO to discuss a response to terrorism.
  • The legal experts will discuss terrorist threats facing the region and ways and means to enhance counter-terrorism cooperation between SCO member states.
  • Shanghai Cooperation Organisation-Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure, headquarters: Tashkent.

Industrialist Bansidhar Panda passes away

  • Renowned industrialist and founder of Indian Metals & Ferro Alloys Ltd (IMFA) Bansidhar Panda passed away. He was 87. Mr. Panda was instrumental in setting up industries that contributed to Odisha’s development in a big way.
  • Panda, a renowned research scientist, returned from the United States and chose remote Therubali in Rayagada (in erstwhile undivided Koraput) district to embark upon his industrial dream; and the IMFA plant was set up there in 1961.

International Bio-diversity Day observed on May 22

  • The Convention on Biological Diversity is celebrating the International Day for Biological Diversity on May 22, 2018, with the theme “Celebrating 25 Years of Action for Biodiversity. The aim to celebrate the International Day for Biological Diversity is to make people aware of the importance of biodiversity issues. The United Nation had declared May 22 as the International Day for Biological Diversity.
  • This year, Parties to the Convention will begin work on a new action plan to ensure that, by 2050, biodiversity is valued, conserved, restored and wisely used for the benefit of all people.
  • The Convention has three goals: the global conservation of biodiversity, its sustainable use and the equitable sharing of its benefits.

IPL: CSK enter final for 7th time with 2-wicket win over SRH

  • Chennai Super Kings entered in to their seventh IPL final after they beat Sunrisers Hyderabad by 2 wickets in Mumbai. Opting to bowl, Chennai first restricted Hyderabad to 139 for 7.
  • Chennai overhauled the target with 5 balls to spare and 2 wickets in hand, thanks to Du Plessis' excellent innings of an unbeaten 67 off just 42 balls. He was adjudged man of the match.
  • Chennai, the two-time champions, have now entered the title clash which will be played on Sunday.

Mark Zuckerberg apologises to EU Parliament for data breach

  • Facebook Chief Mark Zuckerberg has apologized to the European Parliament for the recent data breach scandal involving British consultancy firm, Cambridge Analytica. During the live streamed hearing in Brussels, he admitted that up to 87 million users, including 2.7 million Europeans, may have had their data hijacked by Cambridge Analytica, which worked for US President Donald Trump during his 2016 campaign.
  • He said they are taking steps to prevent a repeat of a massive breach of users' personal data. He added that Facebook would make fresh investments to protect its users. He also welcomed European Union, EU's sweeping new personal data protection rules, saying that Facebook was adopting similar steps.

MCX launches India's first copper options

  • India's Multi Commodity Exchange has launched the country's first copper options contracts. Three contracts expiring in June, August and November with a lot size of 1 tonne were launched.
  • The option contract will provide physical market participants an additional instrument to hedge their risk.
  • The exchange had launched crude oil options earlier this month.
  • MCX Managing Director Mrugank Paranjape.

Model law for contract farming

  • Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Sharma released the model law for contract farming. The law is aimed at reducing farmers’ risks by creating an assured market for their produce at a pre-agreed price, while encouraging investment from agribusiness and food processing industries by enhancing productivity and cost efficiency.
  • It provides for State-level boards to be set-up to promote and facilitate rather than regulate contract farming, and sets out a framework for registering and recording agreements.
  • It also provides for a dispute settlement authority. The model law stipulates that the sponsor will not be allowed to build any permanent structure on the farmers’ land.
  • In India, 86% of farmers fall into the small and marginal category and the average farm size is 1.15 hectares.

Ola to expand in Australia

  • Indian cab-hailing firm Ola had expanded its services in Australia to three more cities Brisbane, Gold Coast and Canberra. It also plans to roll out services to Adelaide, Darwin and Hobart in the coming months.
  • In January, Ola had announced its plans to foray into the Australian market. Thereafter, it started offering services in six cities, including Melbourne and Perth. Ola said its service received a strong response from driver-partners.
  • CEO of Ola Cabs: Bhavish Aggarwal

Poland’s Olga Tokarczuk wins Man Booker International Prize

  • Polish novelist Olga Tokarczuk won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for fiction with “Flights,” a novel that charts multiple journeys in time, space and human anatomy. Tokarczuk is one of Poland’s best-known authors.
  • “Flights” beat five other finalists, including Iraqi writer Ahmed Saadawi’s horror story “Frankenstein in Baghdad” and South Korean author Han Kang’s meditative novel “The White Book.”
  • The Man Booker International Prize is an international literary award hosted in the United Kingdom. The prize celebrates the English translations of works of international literature. The prize is a counterpart to the Man Booker Prize for English-language novels and is open to books in any language that have been translated into English.
  • Poland:
  • President: Andrzej Duda
  • Capital: Warsaw
  • Currency: Polish zloty

SBI posts Rs. 7,718 cr. Q4 loss on NPAs, bonds

  • State Bank of India (SBI) reported its biggest ever quarterly loss of Rs. 7,718 crore in the three months ended March 31 due to provisions made for losses in its bond portfolio and for bad loans. This is the second consecutive quarter that the bank has posted a loss.
  • SBI has an exposure of Rs. 49,116 crore for the 12 companies against which bankruptcy proceedings were initiated by banks under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. SBI has made a provision of 56% on these accounts and expects to take 52% haircut on these accounts.
  • There is also a second list of accounts, where SBI has an exposure of Rs. 28,510 crore and has made 63% provisioning.
  • The bank has set aside Rs. 24,080 crore as provision for bad loans and Rs. 4,761 crore for investments, mainly in its bond portfolio. The bank’s capital adequacy ratio was 12.6% as on March 31, including tier-I capital of 10.36%.
  • Last quarter, Rs. 29,037 crore of loans slipped into the NPA category, of which Rs. 17,435 crore was from stressed standard assets category.
  • SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar

Tata Steel to borrow Rs. 16,500 crore for deal

  • Tata Steel would raise Rs. 16,500 crore through debt instruments to fund the Rs. 35,200 crore acquisition of Bhushan Steel Ltd. (BSL). The remaining amount will be raised through internal resources. The transaction was largely financed by cash, and incremental debt of about Rs. 16,500 crore which will be raised on the target balance sheet eventually.

U.S. may sell armed UAVs to India

  • The U.S. is close to selling armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to India and the legislative process for that is under way. India has long sought the capability that could be used to target terrorist camps and launchpads across the border. It is likely to be the big outcome of the India-U.S. two-plus-two dialogue to be held in July in Washington.
  • If the proposed sale of armed UAVs goes through, India would be among the rare few countries to be sold the high-end U.S. technology, even among closest US allies.

United India makes Rs. 1,003-crore profit

  • The second-largest general insurer in the country United Insurance Company Ltd. (UICO) has reported a profit after tax of ?1,003 crore for the year 2017-18, compared with a loss of ?1,914 crore in the previous fiscal, thanks to significantly lower underwriting losses. In 2017-18, the underwriting losses fell by almost half to ?2,542 crore from ?4,444 crore in 2016-17.
  • A big rise in net investment income at Rs. 3,770 crore (Rs. 2,532 crore) largely aided the company’s return to profit during the year.
  • CMD: M. N. Sarma

US tightens financial sanctions on Venezuela following Maduro's victory

  • The United States has tightened financial sanctions against Venezuela following President Nicolas Maduro's victory in election. The US President Donald Trump has restricted Venezuela’s ability to liquidate state assets and debt in the US.
  • The sanctions include the sale, transfer, assignment, or pledging as collateral by the Venezuela government of any interest in any entity in which it has a 50 percent or greater ownership interest.
  • US had, earlier, slapped sanctions on Mr Maduro and his senior aides, as well as banned US companies from buying any more debt from Caracas or the state oil company.
  • Venezuelan President is also facing an international backlash after winning his second six-year term. Six countries, including the US and Argentina said they did not recognize the election results.
  • Fourteen countries including Argentina, Brazil and Canada have recalled their ambassadors from Caracas in protest.