Today Current Affairs 18th April 2017

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The Southwest Monsoon will be “normal” this year, a news which will augur well for the farming community and the economy.India Meteorological Department (IMD) Director General K.J. Ramesh said there would be good distribution of rainfall across the country.“The country will receive 96 per cent of Long Period Average (LPA),” he said.Anything between 96 and 104 per cent of the LPA is considered as “normal”. Anything under 96 per cent is considered as “below normal” and 104-110 per cent of the LPA as “above normal”.The IMD last year made an initial forecast of “above normal” rainfall, but it belied its prediction and ended the seasons with normal precipitation.Last year, the southern peninsula registered deficient rainfall and several parts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala reeled under drought like situation.

The Woman and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi has sought a change in rules that require father’s name to be mandatorily mentioned for getting caste certificates, in case of children raised by single or separated mothers. Gandhi’s move comes days within her approaching HRD minister Prakash Javadekar with a request to change the rule that requires father’s name to be mandatorily mentioned on a student’s degree certificate.In a letter to Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot, Gandhi said she has been approached by several women facing problems in getting caste certificates for their children without the name of the father from the jurisdictional offices.Stating that breakdown of marriages and separation of husband and wife is now a “reality” which cannot be ignored, Gandhi added, “What we need to appreciate is the fact that women in such situations often do not get their rights and entitlements due to certain loopholes in the procedures/laws.”She said her ministry was working towards plugging these loopholes.“Keeping in view the sensitivity of the single/separated mother, we need to make a provision for this purpose by changing rules/guidelines,” the letter added.Last year, Gandhi had written to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj asking her to reconsider the rule of having the father’s name mentioned for getting passports.Priyanka Gupta, a single parent, had initiated a petition last year on website, asking for passport rules to be altered so that she was not required to mention her husband’s name on her daughter’s passport.The petition was addressed to Gandhi and Swaraj.Months later, the MEA announced the revised set of passport rules and declared that the name of only one parent was enough and that married applicants will not have to produce a marriage certificate and share their spouse’s name if they were separated or divorced.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday will leave on a five-day visit to the United States to participate in the Spring Meetings of the World Bank and IMF as well as deliberations of G20 nations.The official delegation, led by Mr. Jaitley, includes among others, Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das and Chief Economic Advisor Arvind Subramanian. Also, a team of RBI officials led by RBI Governor Urjit Patel will be attending the meeting.Mr.Jaitley and Mr, Patel will participate in the G-20 meeting on April 21, which will focus on financial sector development and regulations and other issues. Das will also participate in the meeting, according to an official statement.Later, the finance minister, along with Mr. Patel and Mr.Das, will attend the International Monetary and Financial Committee (IMFC) introductory session on Global Development and Prospects. This will be followed by a session on Early Warning Exercise.The Spring Meetings will bring together central bankers, ministers of finance and development, private sector executives and academics to discuss issues of global concern, including world economic outlook, global financial stability, poverty eradication, jobs and growth, economic development, and aid effectiveness. Later in the day, he will hold a meeting with the CEOs.On April 22, Mr. Jaitley will participate in the IMFC Plenary Session, along with Patel and Das.The finance minister is also slated to hold a meeting with US Treasury Secretary and participate in the Development Committee Plenary Meeting of the World Bank.On April 23, Jaitley and Das will leave for New York and later in the evening and participate in dinner to be hosted by Indian industry chamber.On April 24, Jaitley will have an interaction with the Council for Foreign Relations, followed by meetings with institutional and long—term investors. Later in the evening, Jaitley will travel to Moscow to boost military ties with Russia.

The Haryana government on Tuesday exempted solar equipment and parts used in installation of solar power projects from value added tax (VAT). A decision to this effect was taken by the Haryana Cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, in Chandigarh.At present, VAT of five per cent plus surcharge is levied on solar devices and equipment in the state, an official spokesman said. Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh have already exempted solar energy devices from VAT.“Exemption of VAT will enable the trade and industry in Haryana to compete with other states where solar energy devices are exempted from VAT,” he said. This exemption will cost the state exchequer about Rs 2.30 crore,.Various solar devices like solar lantern, water heating system, pumping system, inverter, energy meters, alternators and spare parts such as solar photovoltaic modules, solar collection and dishes would be exempted from levy of VAT.

Businessman Vijay Mallya was arrested today morning in London, according to sources. Mr. Mallya is due to appear in Westminister Magistrates court.The British authorities had recently started the legal process to extradite Mr.Mallya to India. However, it is not certain if the legal process would culminate in his return to India to face charges as India-U.K. Extradition Treaty allows a wanted person to seek several guarantees before being extradited.

Australia on Tuesday abolished a visa programme used by over 95,000 temporary foreign workers, majority of them Indians, to tackle the growing unemployment in the country. The programme will be replaced by another visa programme, with new restrictions.The programme, known as 457 visa, allows business to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers.“We are an immigration nation, but the fact remains: Australian workers must have priority for Australian jobs, so we are abolishing the 457 visa, the visa that brings temporary foreign workers into our country,” said Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.The majority of the visa holders were from India, followed by the United Kingdom and China.“We will no longer allow 457 visa to be passports to jobs that could and should go to Australians,” he said. Australia would adopt a new ‘Australians first’ approach to skilled migration.As at September 30, there were 95,757 workers in Australia on primary 457 visa programme, ABC reported.“It is important businesses still get access to the skills they need to grow and invest, so the 457 visa will be replaced by a new temporary visa, specifically designed to recruit the best and brightest in the national interest,” Mr. Turnbull said.Mr. Turnbull said the new programme will ensure that foreign workers are brought into Australia in order to fill critical skill gaps and not brought in because an employer finds it easier to recruit a foreign worker than go to the trouble of hiring an Australian.Mr. Turnbull’s announcement comes days after he visited India where a range of issues, including national security, counter terrorism, education and energy, were discussed and six agreements were signed. Australia Cancelled 457 visa used by more IT Professionals.

Prince William has brought Lady Gaga on board with in his efforts to persuade people to be more open about their mental health and crush the stigma associated with the issue.The heir to the throne released a video on Tuesday in which he speaks with the pop superstar in a FaceTime call from his home in London to her’s in Los Angeles.Prince William says it is “time that everyone speaks up and really feels very normal about mental health. It’s the same as physical health.”Lady Gaga says that talking more openly about mental health would allow people to feel like “we are not hiding anymore.”Prince William, his wife the Duchess of Cambridge and his brother Prince Harry have made mental health a focus of their charitable work.

WhatsApp may finally make it less painful to change your number.Since WhatsApp is tied to your phone number, changing numbers can be a huge hassle. Users do everything from add dozens of friends to a new group chat announcing the change in number to using the app's broadcast feature.Now, the Facebook-owned company is reportedly testing a new "Change Number" feature in the beta version of WhatsApp. The feature allows users to notify contacts about the change in phone number, and groups will be notified regardless. Users can select whether they want to notify all contacts or just contacts they have already.

Railways has undertaken a massive exercise of imparting training to over 500 railwaymen on high-speed rail technology in China and Japan, ahead of running trains at speed ranging from 160 to 200 kmph in select corridors in the country. Railways has firmed up plans for running trains at higher speed of 160 kmph in the busy trunk routes of Delhi-Howrah and Delhi-Mumbai section to reduce travel time between these metropoles.Besides, the public transporter has asked SNCF, the French railways, to explore possibilities of running trains at 200 kmph on the Delhi-Chandigarh route. “There is a need for imparting training on high-speed rail technology to our officials before the introduction of the service here,” a senior Railway Ministry official involved in Mission Raftaar said.Railways has launched Mission Raftaar, a programme to increase speed of trains in all busy routes to reduce journey time between cities. There will be about 550 railway officials from directorates concerned, including traffic and electrical, who will be trained in China and Japan as arrangements for such training has been put in place, the official said.While the first batch of 40 railway officials are being trained in high-speed rail technology at Chengdu in China, 20 officers have already been trained in Japan and 38 more are undergoing the training programme there. The training programme in China is for two weeks and in Japan the study course is for 20 days.They will learn the functioning of high-speed train service and its maintenance operations as part of their training module, the official said. Railways is forging ahead to ensure 160 kmph speed on Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Kolkata routes and the contract for strengthening of the track, upgrading of signalling system and fencing off vulnerable sections along the route are to be awarded.While the Delhi-Howrah route is used by about 120 passenger trains and around 100 goods trains every day, some 90 passenger services and an equal number of freight trains run on Delhi-Mumbai corridor daily.Once these two major routes are upgraded to the speed of 160 kmph, there will be a scope for launching more passenger trains in these sectors. This will reduce the waiting list of passengers in some of the popular trains as many more such services with similar facilities will be on offer.

U.S. President Donald Trump is set to sign an executive order that would tighten the process of issuing the H-1B visas and seek a review of the system for creating an “entirely new structure” for awarding these visas, the most sought-after by Indian IT firms and professionals.Mr. Trump is scheduled to travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the home state of House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan, to sign the ‘Buy American, Hire American’ Executive Order.This was a transitional step aimed at achieving a more skills-based and merit-based immigration system.The executive order would be signed a day after the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that it has completed the computerised draw of lots from the 199,000 petitions it received for the Congressional mandated 65,000 H-1B visas for the fiscal year 2018 beginning October 1 this year.The lottery was held for the 20,000 H-1B visas for those applicants having higher education from US educational institutions.Opposing the traditional lottery system for H-1B visas, a senior administration official told White House reporters that these visas were being used by companies to bring in foreign workers at a low wage rate and displace local workers.The official argued that there were enough qualified people within the country to meet the demand of technology professionals.“With respect to the H-1B visa programme in particular, which deals mostly with STEM jobs, we graduate about twice as many STEM students each year as find jobs in STEM fields.“The issue of training workers for skilled manufacturing jobs is a different aspect of a policy then, say, the H—1B visa, which obviously is for STEM occupations,” the official said.The official argued that the reality was that the US has large numbers of unemployed American workers.“Right now we’re creating an environment with our guest-worker programmes where those workers are being bypassed,” the official said.“If you make it harder to abuse the guest-worker programmes, it creates more of a market for domestic workers, as well as more of a market for the kinds of job training and vocational training programmes that you’re talking about,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.Mr. Trump had made the alleged abuse and fraud in H-1B visa system a major election issue during his campaign.The executive order signed by Mr. Trump on Tuesday will call for the strict enforcement of all laws governing entry into the United States of labour from abroad, for the stated purpose of creating higher wages and higher employment rates for workers in America, the official said.The top three recipients of the H-1B visas, the official said, were Tata (TCS), Infosys and Cognizant.“Some companies oftentimes are called outsourcing firms.They’re like the top recipients of H-1B visa. You know, are companies like Tata (TCS), Infosys, Cognizant. They will apply for a very large number of visas; more than they get. Like putting extra tickets in the lottery raffle, if you will,” the official said.“And then they’ll get the lion’s share of visas,” the official said.As part of the executive order, the agencies have been asked to do everything they can, he said.“But you could be looking at things on the administration side like increasing fees for H-1B visas. You could be looking at things like if we could adjust the wage scale to have a more honest reflection of what the prevailing wages actually are in these fields,”

Union Minister for Urban Development  M Venkaiah Naidu has termed reservation on the basis of religion as unconstitutional, saying it is not in the interest of the country. “Reservation on the basis of religion is not in the interest of the country. It is unconstitutional,” he told reporters on Monday in response to a query.Naidu’s comments came a day after the Telangana legislature passed a bill increasing the reservation for Scheduled Tribes and backward sections among the Muslim community in government jobs and educational institutions.Speaking on the sidelines of a programme, he also said courts had struck down such moves in the past. “The makers of the Constitution were against reservation on the basis of religion…that is why they did not go for it. The constituent assembly too was against it,” he said.The BJP’s stand is clear. The party does not believe in giving religion-based reservation and is against it,” he said.“However, we are not averse to reservation to the economically and educationally backward communities, be it Hindus, Jains, Muslims or Christians, for their upliftment,” he said. “India was divided on religion…we can’t afford it as it will create more problems,” he opined.The Union Minister said earlier Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu had tried to provide religion-based reservation.

NSE Nifty reclaims the psychological 9,200-mark and BSE benchmark Sensex soared about 267 points in early trade on Tuesday, triggered by across-the-board buying amid mixed overseas cues.Investors appeared optimistic ahead of quarterly earnings of some key companies, including IT major TCS which is scheduled to release its results later in the day.The 30-share index was trading higher by 266.97 points, or 0.90 per cent, to 29,680.63 with all the sectoral indices led by metal, oil & gas and capital goods leading the recovery.The gauge had lost 374.69 points in the previous three sessions largely on weak global cues on rising geo—political concerns.The NSE Nifty was up 66.10 points, or 0.72 per cent, at 9,205.40 in early tradeBrokers said value-buying in select bluechips coupled with a mixed trend in other regional markets following positive lead from Wall Street influenced sentiment here.Among other Asian markets, Japan’s Nikkei was up 0.23 per cent, while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng down 0.96 per cent in the early deals. Shanghai Composite Index too shed 0.12 per cent.

In a bid to avoid suicide attempts , Delhi and Chennai Metro Rail systems have decided to install platform screen doors (PSD) in underground stations.These doors are synchronised to open along with the train doors, thereby blocking access to the tracks for commuters.While in Delhi Metro with over 150 stations, PSDs are being set up only in six major stations for now, all 19 underground stations of Chennai Metro Rail will have this facility.This will be a new feature for commuters in the city, something unseen in the suburban or MRTS stations.When the Commissioner of Metro Rail Safety (CMRS) and his team inspected the stations from Thirumangalam to Nehru Park, they also checked if there was a risk of passengers getting trapped between these doors.An official of CMRS said, “We checked whether there was a risk by placing our feet between the PSD door before it closed; it instantly detected it and opened. Passengers won’t get stuck in between. Then, we asked [officials of Chennai Metro Rail Limited] what if the dupatta or saree of a commuter gets stuck in between, and they said the door is manually opened by the station controller.”Since there are CCTV cameras in most parts of the station and inside the trains too, the driver and station controller can see when such incidents take place. Officials of Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL) said they have carried out several test runs in this regard to check if the PSD doors work.Another major reason for installing this facility is that it greatly reduces electricity consumption, officials said.“All the underground stations are air-conditioned, so the electricity consumption will go through the roof without this PSD. If not for this, the cool air will escape and run along the entire tunnel for several km and consumption will be exorbitantly high. As such, the electricity consumption for the underground stretch may be triple that of elevated one,”.

Infosys Ltd, despite a relatively good performance over the past two years, is battling perceptions of under-performance because of its inability to keep pace with its ambitious target of more than doubling its revenue to $20 billion by March 2021.This target appears to have done more harm than good: analysts continue to rate the company using it as a metric; and people in the know attribute the departure of at least a few senior executives over the past few years to it. Now, an analyst at a foreign brokerage has suggested that the company is better off without the target.Infosys maintains this target is an ambition and the management has no plans to dump it.In April 2015, Infosys first outlined its ambitious target: India’s second largest software firm wanted to become a $20 billion firm with 30% operating margin and to generate $80,000 in revenue from every employee working on a project.In 2016, it tweaked the deadline to 2020-21.Infosys ended financial year 2015 with $8.7 billion in revenue, 25.9% in operating margin and generated $52,300 per employee.Two years later, Infosys managed a compound annual growth rate of 8.25% to increase its revenue to $10.21 billion but operating margin declined by 120 basis points to 24.7% and revenue per employee slipped to $51,400, making many question CEO Vishal Sikka’s strategy.

A top ranking leader of the outlawed Communist Party of India-Maoist [CPI-Maoist], Narayan Sanyal passed away late on Monday night in a south Kolkata hospital. He was in his early 80s and was suffering from cancer.Sanyal was the Polit Bureau member of the CPI-Maoist at the time of his arrest in 2005 and perhaps the second most important leader after the party’s national secretary, Muppalla Lakshmana Rao.Born in an affluent family in undivided Bengal’s Bogra district, now in Bangladesh, Sanyal was known for his keen interest in football. His father was the district chief of Congress and was a generous host to many of the leaders, including second Chief Minister of West Bengal Bidhan Chandra Roy and Congress leader Sarojini Naidu. Sanyal and his family shifted to West Bengal in the 1940s and he got a job in a bank.I worked in the United Bank of India in Kolkata, which originated from Comilla Union Bank in Bangladesh,” he once told this correspondent.He soon left the job to join the CPI-Marxist-Leninist [ML] in the 1960s. After a split in the CPI-ML, led by Bihar’s leader Satyanarain Singh, Sanyal went to work in Bihar among the landless and marginal peasants. He was arrested in 1972-73 and released in 1977 as a part of general amnesty granted to many ML leaders, soon after Left Front came to power in the State.Following his release Sanyal again went back to work in central Bihar with CPI-ML-Party Unity, which was formed in the early 1980s with the merger of various ML factions. Party Unity led movement gained momentum in the central Bihar throughout the 1980s, resisting the private army of the big landholders. Sanyal played a key role in leading the movement. He eventually became the secretary of the Party Unity.1990s was a decade of merger between various Naxalite factions. In the early ’90s, Party Unity, Maoist Communist Centre [MCC] and Telengana-based CPI-ML People’s War [PWG] came together to fund a frontal organisation; later– in 1998– Party Unity and PWG merged. Sanyal played a key role in these mergers. He also played a significant role in the merger of PWG and MCC in 2004- a merger that formed CPI-Maoist. However, he has never documented the historical context and the conditions behind the mergers of the main Marxist-Leninist outfits and religiously refused to give a formal interview.