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Current Affairs - 12 October 2018

NATION

No pressure to choose Reliance for the Rafale aircraft deal, says Dassault
  • Dassault Aviation said that it chose Reliance Defence “freely” for the Rafale aircraft deal. 
  • The French military major issued a statement a day after reports in the French media said the company was made to choose Reliance Defence in a “trade-off” to get the fighter jet deal from India.
  • Investigative journal Mediapart reported that Dassault Aviation found it mandatory to have Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence as an offset partner. It cited documents from Dassault that showed it had no option but to take Reliance as the offset partner.
  • The clarification comes in the backdrop of a visit to France by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman .
Work with sincerity on issue of stubble burning: Centre to States
  • The Centre appealed to neighbouring States like Haryana and Punjab to work with full sincerity and responsibility in persuading farmers not to burn paddy stubble.
  • Union Environment and Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan said that the Centre is monitoring the matter at all levels.
  • The ministry, he said, has held meetings with Ministers and officers of the States on the issue and asked them to distribute farm equipments to farmers by October 15.
  • The Centre has already provided ₹500-600 crore for the purpose, he said, adding that it was urged to the States to deal with the matter with full seriousness.
  • Stubble burning has been a major concern in northern India. It led to severe air pollution in National Capital Region in the past few years
Three apps to check stubble burning
  • Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh launched three mobile apps aimed at checking crop residue burning and creating awareness about its effects on the environment and human health.
  • The three Android mobile applications have been developed by Punjab Remote Sensing Centre.
  • These are: 
  1. i-Khet Machine for facilitating farmers to have access to the agriculture machinery or equipment for in-situ management of crop residue; 
  2. e-PEHaL for monitoring tree plantation; and 
  3. e-Prevent to have prompt and accurate information about incidents of crop residue burning, according to an official statement released in Chandigarh.
Fears of flooding as rain pounds Odisha
  • Cyclone ‘Titli’ that left a trail of destruction in Andhra Pradesh and Odisha was not as intense as Phailin and Hud-Hud that wreaked havoc in 2013 and 2014.
  • However, high-speed winds and rain severely damaged the road network in both States.
  • Uddanam region in Srikakulam district was the worst affected, with several trees uprooted by the 120 kmph winds.
  • As the cyclone triggered heavy rain, major rivers in Odisha’s southern region are rising, prompting the State government to launch a fresh evacuation. Around three lakh people have been moved from low-lying areas to 1,112 relief camps ahead of the cyclone. 
  • Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik reviewed the situation and administrative measures at the State secretariat in Bhubaneswar. The IMD has forecast heavy rain at some places in Gajapati, Ganjam, Puri, Rayagada and Koraput.
ED blocks Greenpeace India’s 12 accounts
  • The Enforcement Directorate has stopped operations of Greenpeace India Society’s 12 accounts with different banks and three current accounts of a private company pending an ongoing probe into suspected foreign exchange rule violations
  • In a statement released on Thursday, the NGO said that “every rupee that goes into Greenpeace India’s environmental work is a donation made by ecologically conscious people in the country… We strongly object to attempts of defaming Greenpeace India through false claims and accusations.”
  • It said the accusations seemed to be part of a larger design to muzzle democratic dissent in the country.
1 in 5 Indian children ‘wasted’, says GHI

  • At least one in five Indian children under the age of five are ‘wasted,’ which means they have extremely low weight for their height, reflecting acute under-nutrition, according to the Global Hunger Index 2018. 
  • The only country with a higher prevalence of child wasting is the war-torn nation of South Sudan, says the report.
  • Overall, India has been ranked at 103 out of 119 countries in the Index, with hunger levels in the country categorised as “serious”. India’s ranking has dropped three places from last year, although the Index says its results are not accurately comparable from year to year and instead provides a few reference years for comparable data.
  • Four main indicators are used to calculate hunger levels in the report:
  1. The first indicator is undernourishment, which is the share of the population which is undernourished and reflects insufficient caloric intake. 
  2. Second indicator is: child wasting (low weight for height), reflecting acute under-nutrition; 
  3. child stunting (low height for age), reflecting chronic under-nutrition; and 
  4. child mortality
  • India has shown improvement in three of the indicators over the comparable reference years. The percentage of undernourished people in the population has dropped from 18.2% in 2000 to 14.8% in 2018. 
  • The child mortality rate has halved from 9.2% to 4.3%, while child stunting has dropped from 54.2% to 38.4% over the same period.
  • However, the prevalence of child wasting has actually worsened in comparison to previous reference years. It stood at 17.1% in 2000, and increased to 20% in 2005. In 2018, it stands at 21%. South Sudan’s child wasting prevalence is at 28%.
U.S. sanctions Act no hurdle: Russian envoy
  • India and Russia’s defence deals won’t be affected by the United States’ threat of sanctions, and several more defence deals are expected to be completed after the S-400 Triumf missile deal, Russian Ambassador Nikolai Kudashev said.
  • Mr. Kudashev also advocated that India sign a military logistics agreement with Russia.
  • The Ambassador’s remarks come just hours after U.S. President Donald Trump’s words, seen as a sign of possible punitive action, that “India is going to find out… Sooner than you think,” about U.S. sanctions as a result of the $5.43 billion missile deal signed during the Putin-Modi summit in Delhi.
  • Mr. Kudashev added, detailing more defence deals to be announced by the two countries in the next “two-three months”. These include a production licence for Kalashnikov AK-103 Assault Rifles, and four stealth frigates.
  • Mr. Modi and Mr. Putin are expected to meet next at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires on November 30, after which the pending defence agreements may be announced during an expected visit to Delhi by the Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, it is learnt.
WORLD

Indians top list of overstayers in U.K.
  • India accounts for the largest number of individuals staying in the U.K. illegally, and the number of those subjected to forced returns to India has fallen by 50% in three years, Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has said.
  • The problem of “visa overstayers” was highlighted by the department in its submission to a British parliamentary committee’s “Global Britain and India’ inquiry into post-Brexit relations with India.
  • The focus on overstayers is significant, suggesting that there is little sign of change on an issue that has overshadowed bilateral relationships.
  • Tensions came to a head earlier this year when Britain’s Trade Secretary Liam Fox linked the decision on excluding Indians from a relaxation of student visa requirements to cooperation between the two countries on the return of illegal migrants, including India’s failure to sign an MOU with the U.K. on the issue.
  • In its submission, the U.K.-India Business Council warned that Britain’s stance on immigration had been characterised in India as a “directly hostile message” that suggested Indian citizens were not welcome to the U.K. any more.
  • Citing the decision to exclude India from the relaxation of student visa process, it said that it was a step in the wrong direction. 
  • Apex IT body NASSCOM warned that a restrictive immigration system, limiting opportunities for global talent, could hit Britain’s economic growth and productivity.
  • The Royal Commonwealth Society warned that the state of Indian visas into the U.K. was “abysmal” and reiterated its call for Indian visitors to be given similar conditions as Chinese tourists, who were able to get a two-year multiple entry visa at nearly 75% lower cost than others.
  • However, on the issue of visas, the Foreign Office submission highlighted what it saw as key achievements on visas to Indian nationals. These included Britain having more visa centres in India than any other country in the world, Britain issuing more skilled worker visas to India than all other countries in the world combined and the fact that 90% of Indian nationals, who applied for a visa, were successful.
ECONOMY

Sensex slumps amid global sell-off
  • The Indian equity markets went in a free fall with the benchmark Sensex shedding more than 1,000 points during intra-day trading as interest rate-sensitive sectors like banks, financials and auto lost heavy ground amidst a global sell-off.
  • Though the benchmarks did manage to recover a large part of the intra-day losses, the indices still closed at their lowest level in six months with almost ₹3 trillion of investor wealth eroded in a single day.
  • The broader Nifty closed at 10,234.65, down 225.45 points or 2.16%.
  • Incidentally, much before the Indian markets opened on Thursday, the leading Asian indices like Hang Seng and Nikkei were already deep in the red shedding more than 900 points each thereby dampening investor sentiments in India. 
  • The massive selling in the stock markets across the globe was primarily driven by the spike in the interest rates in the US, which increases the attractiveness of bonds for institutional investors compared to equities.
  • n India, dealers attributed the intra-day recovery to buying activity from domestic institutions like mutual funds and insurance companies even as overseas investors continue their selling spree having sold equities worth over ₹15,000 crore in the current month amidst the Indian rupee touching new lows.
  • The rupee hit a new all-time low at 74.48 a dollar in the morning trade but recouped losses later following suspected intervention by the RBI.