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Current Affairs - 18 October 2018



NATION

Beautiful Kulgod is the best village
  • PIN Code 591310 is the most developed village in the country under the Antyodaya scheme of the Centre. 
  • On Wednesday, Kulgod in Karnataka’s district got ready to celebrate its special status as the results of the village ranking came in. Its score: 94 out of 100.
  • Nestled on the banks of the perennial Ghataprabha river, Kulgod is a clean, green village. It scored high on infrastructure, financial inclusion, women’s empowerment, health and education, among 47 parameters.
  • There are signs of prosperity: a well-equipped gram panchayat office, branches of two nationalised banks, a co-op bank, a BSNL centre, a government primary school, three private high schools, an electricity customer care centre, a PHC, a veterinary hospital, and an ATM. With a population of 7,000 people, it has 5,200 voters.
  • The economy is aided by agriculture, and nearly 90% of the area is irrigated by the Ghataprabha right bank canal and the Rameshwar lift irrigation project. There is a frequent bus service. Beyond Class X, girls take a bus to the government college at Koujalagi, 6 km away.
Punjab govt. approves new sand, gravel mining policy
  • The Punjab government approved policy changes to enable the government to grant contracts by auction of mining blocks in strategically established clusters through progressive bidding instead of the earlier process of auction by individual mines.
  • The move is aimed at increasing the royalty receipt of the State exchequer, provide adequate supply at fair price to the consumer, and curb illegal mining.
  • An official statement said it was also decided that the department of Mining would launch an online Punjab Sand Portal for sale of sand to all consumers, small or medium. 
  • Notably, during 2017-18, four e-auctions of minor mineral mines were held. Due to speculative bidding in these auctions, it resulted in a significant number of mines being auctioned at very high prices. However, many of the contractors failed to operationalise these mines, which led to dearth of supply of sand and gravel, causing the market price of these commodities to remain high.
  • The Cabinet also approved a policy to allow promoters to surrender the licences in case they are unable to develop colonies or complete development works in colonies.
  • The Cabinet also gave its nod for an ordinance to amend Schedule 1-A of Indian Stamp Act, 1899, to enable increase in the stamp duty rates. It also decided to amend the industrial and business development policy of 2017 to give investment incentive by way of net SGST on intra-State sale.
Bathukamma blooms at NSW Parliament
  • Women in resplendent clothes danced around ‘floral deities’ singing Bathukamma songs for the first time, at the New South Wales Parliament in Sydney, Australia, in a celebration of Telangana’s famed festival.
  • Among those present at the event were Minister for Multiculturalism Ray Williams and Shadow Transport Minister Jodi McKay, and several members of Parliament. Mr. Williams and Ms. McKay lit the lamps on eight Bathukammas.
  • “We are celebrating our commitment to Telangana community’s 900-year-old heritage in continuation of what was floated in September 2006 as ‘Sydney Bathukamma Ethnic Festival’ at the Parliament House of New South Wales,” Mr. Vinod said.
  • At the celebration, the contribution of Pochampally handloom weavers to the textile history of the State, and their struggle to save the famed handloom sector was highlighted to the guests, said ATF vice-president Kavitha Reddy. 
  • The participants were requested to patronise Pochampally sarees, which embodied traditional design, vibrant colour and creativity.
SC bars States from diverting money from CAMPA funds
  • The Supreme Court has barred State governments from diverting money from their Compensatory Afforestation and Management Planning Authority (CAMPA) funds meant for environmental protection, rehabilitation of displaced persons due to issues like depletion of forest, mining, etc.
  • The apex court’s order came after realising that the Punjab government took ₹1.11 crore from CAMPA funds and to pay its lawyers and other legal expenses.
  • A Bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur, S. Abdul Nazeer and Deepak Gupta, on October 1, ordered the Punjab government to reimburse ₹1,11,01,420 to its CAMPA funds within a fortnight. 
  • The court was hearing a suo motu case titled In Re: National CAMPA Advisory Council. This is part of a major effort by the Supreme Court since 1995 to prevent and monitor environmental degradation. 
  • The idea of having CAMPA funds and authority was introduced by the apex court. The periodic orders of the court in this litigation finally led to the birth of The Compensatory Afforestation Fund Act of 2016.
  • In a March 2018 order, the Supreme Court recorded that the total amount in CAMPA funds is “tentatively put in the region of ₹.70,000-75,000 crore approximately” and likely to go even higher.
  • The apex court had observed that this was a “huge amount” which can be used for the benefit of environmental protection and rehabilitation of persons displaced by environmental causes. 
  • The 2016 Act’s objective is promote conservation, protection, improvement and expansion of forest and wildlife resources of the country.
GoM to look into cases of harassment
  • Government is considering setting up a Group of Ministers (GoM) to brainstorm on ways to deal with sexual harassment at workplace, say sources.
  • Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, Home Minister Rajnath Singh and women Ministers would be members of this GoM.
  • Sources also say that a panel of judges and legal persons announced by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi to look at ways to strengthen the legal and institutional framework was being examined by the Ministry of Law but it may not be a legally sound instrument.
  • “The GoM, therefore, will go into strengthening the existing laws so that justice can be availed without having to bring the matter to court all the time,” said a senior Minister.
A.P. hamlets shine in rural survey
  • Kuligod in Karnataka’s Belagavi district is the country’s best developed village, but more than a third of the gram panchayats ranked in the top 10 are in Andhra Pradesh, according to the findings of an ongoing Rural Development Ministry survey.
  • With multiple panchayats assigned the same score – and thus tied at the same ranking – there are 97 panchayats in the top 10 ranks. Of these, 37 panchayats are in Andhra Pradesh while 24 are in Tamil Nadu.
  • Villages from other States are represented only in single digits. Of the States going to the polls next month, Telengana and Madhya Pradesh have five and four panchayats in the top 10 ranks respectively.
  • The Rural Development Ministry has done a gap analysis of more than 3.5 lakh villages, in more than 1.6 lakh panchayats under the Mission Antyodaya convergence scheme. 
  • A team of officials surveyed and scored village level facilities and amenities using parameters related to infrastructure, economic development and livelihood, irrigation facilities, health, nutrition and sanitation, women’s empowerment, and financial inclusion.
  • At the national level, the data shows progress in some areas and also spotlights discrepancies in respect of targets met under some other government schemes.
  • For example, the survey reveals that more than 95% of villages have electricity available for domestic use, while the government had earlier this year claimed that 100% of villages had power connections.
  • Similarly with regard to sanitation, the survey shows only 58% of villages — slightly more than 2 lakh of the 3.5 lakh surveyed villages — are open defecation free (ODF). However, according to the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan-Gramin, 5.13 lakh of India’s 6 lakh villages are already ODF.
  • The survey also shows only 21% of villages having a community waste disposal system.
  • About a quarter of all villages have more than 75% of households using clean energy, such as LPG or biogas.
India, China set to resume drill
  • India and China will resume the annual joint Army exercise ‘Hand-in-Hand’ in December in China’s Chengdu region, an Army official said. The drill was cancelled last year due to tense relations in the aftermath of the Doklam standoff.
  • Following the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping in April, the two countries have initiated several measures to normalise relations.
  • About 175 personnel from each side will take part. The Indian sidewould be represented by troops from the 11 Sikh Light regiment under the Northern Command.
  • The scope of the exercise is to understand transnational terrorism and evolve joint drills for the conduct of counter terrorism operations, in addition to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations.
  • The exercise will be held in three phases — familiarisation, basic training and the joint exercise.
  • Separately, the Army has for the first time organised a forward area tour to Leh on October 16 and 17 for interested foreign service attaches posted in India.
‘Rajasthan’s Zika strain close to Brazilian one’
  • The Zika virus behind the ongoing outbreak in Rajasthan is closely related to the virus that caused the Brazilian outbreak, according to Balram Bhargava, Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). 
  • Dr. Bhargava told that the National Institute of Virology (NIV) had fully sequenced the Rajasthan virus’ genome, and this is the first time a Brazilian-like strain has been detected in India. Before this, a strain from a patient in Gujarat, sequenced partially by the NIV, was found to be close to a Malaysian Zika strain, isolated in 1966.
  • The Rajasthan outbreak is different from the Gujarat cases in several important ways. Firstly, this is the largest in India, having affected 72 people. 
  • Secondly, in Gujarat and Tamil Nadu, the virus did not seem to be moving efficiently from person to person, via mosquitoes. 
  • Thirdly, even though the ICMR has screened 50,000 mosquitoes at 8 sites across India since 2016, it did not detect the virus in mosquitoes until the Rajasthan outbreak, Dr. Bhargava said.
  • “The current outbreak seems to be triggered due to uncontrolled mosquito breeding. Vector control is the key to prevention of outbreaks in future,” he said.
  • Though the virus is spreading quickly, most Zika cases have been mild, with 60 out of 72 patients healthy after treatment.

WORLD

Khashoggi was tortured before being killed: report
  • A pro-government Turkish newspaper on Wednesday published a gruesome recounting of the alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, just as America’s top diplomat arrived in the country for talks over The Washington Post columnist’s disappearance.
  • The report by Yeni ┼×afak adds to the ever-increasing pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Mr. Khashoggi, who vanished on October 2 while visiting the consulate to pick up paperwork he needed to get married.
  • Mr. Khashoggi had fled the country last year amid the rise of Prince Mohammed, whom he wrote critically about in the Post.
  • The Yeni ┼×afak report cited what it described as an audio recording of Mr. Khashoggi’s slaying, which it said showed that the writer was tortured.
  • The newspaper said Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Mr. Khashoggi: “Do this outside; you’re going to get me in trouble.”
  • The newspaper said one of the Saudis torturing Mr. Khashoggi replied: “Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia.”
  • On Tuesday, a high-level Turkish official told the AP that police found “certain evidence” of Mr. Khashoggi’s slaying at the consulate, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
  • Leaked surveillance video shows that cars travelled to the Consul’s home shortly after Mr. Khashoggi went into the consulate.
ECONOMY

Of 24 IPOs made this year, 17 trade below offer price
  • Since the start of 2018, a total of 24 companies made their debut on the bourses and shares of 17 such entities have fallen below their issue price.
  • Further, companies like Apollo Micro Systems and ICICI Securities have seen their share prices halve since listing on the bourses.
  • Among the few IPO (initial public offer) listings that gained are HDFC AMC, Bandhan Bank, Mishra Dhatu Nigam and RITES.
  • ICICI Securities, which listed in April, is currently trading at ₹256.30, much lower than its issue price of ₹520.
  • Apollo Micro Systems has fared the worst with the shares currently trading at ₹119, compared with its issue price of ₹275.
  • According to experts, while the markets have been quite volatile with a negative bias in the recent past, the fact that so many public issues have lost ground much more than the benchmark indices shows that pricing was done aggressively by the merchant bankers and promoters.
  • “While merchant bankers always maintain that the pricing is decided on the basis of extensive roadshows and feedback from potential investors, the fact remains that it is done more based on sentiment and ability of the market to pay at that time,” said Arun Kejriwal of Kejriwal Research & Investment Services while adding that this quite often leads to mispricing of issues.
  • Interestingly, some issues, that have fared badly on the bourses, saw huge oversubscription, especially in the segment reserved for high net worth individuals (HNIs) bringing to the fore the age-old issue of IPOs getting subscribed primarily on account of leveraged financing.
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