Thursday, 05 May 2016 03:32


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05 - MAY - 2016



The Heart of Asia (HoA) conference began in New Delhi.

The conference was attended by officials of a number of countries including Pakistan Foreign Secretary Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry.

Earlier, Pakistan hosted the fifth Heart of Asia Ministerial Conference in Islamabad on 9 December 2015.

Key elements of HoA

To devise a sustained, incremental approach to implementation of the Confidence Building Measures (CBM) in Afghanistan. The officials are set to deliberate on them during the conference.

The objective of the conference is to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and to speed up its reconstruction with a focus on enhancing investment and connectivity to the country.

About Heart of Asia conference

The Heart of Asia conference is a part of Istanbul Process.

The Istanbul Process was established on 2 November 2011 to provide a platform to discuss regional issues, particularly encouraging security, political and economic cooperation among Afghanistan and its neighbours.

The first HoA ministerial conference was held on 2 November 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.

The second HoA ministerial conference was held on 14 June 2012 in Kabul.

The third HoA ministerial conference was held on 26 April 2013, Almaty, Kazakhstan.

The fourth HoA ministerial conference was held on 31 October 2014 in Beijing, China.

The fifth HoA ministerial conference was held on 9 December 2015 in Islamabad, Pakistan.

The 14 participating countries in HoA process are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and UAE. The supporting countries include Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Iraq, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, U.K., U.S. and the E.U.

The supporting countries to the process are: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, European Union, France, Finland, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States of America.


Parliamentary Standing Committee’s report on the Consumer Protection Bill 2015 was tabled in Parliament.

The committee headed by Telugu Desam Party MP J C Divakar Reddy in its report recommended holding celebrities accountable for misleading advertisements and stringent provisions including jail term up to five years and penalty up to 50 lakh rupees.

Highlights of the Recommendations

• It suggested legal teeth to Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) to curb misleading ads besides proposing severe penalties, jail and cancellation of license of those involved in food adulteration.

• Advocates empowering Department of Consumer Affairs to make laws to regulate e-commerce, direct selling and multi-level marketing where consumer complaints are on the rise.

• For first time offence, the offender may be penalised with either a fine of 10 lakh rupees or imprisonment up to two years or both.

• For second time offence, it recommends a fine of 50 lakh rupees and imprisonment of five years.

• For subsequent offences, the penalties may be increased proportionately based on the value of sales volumes of such products or services.

• Government should clearly and comprehensively define the word 'endorsement' in the bill so that there is no room for any misinterpretation or ambiguity.

• Government should insert suitable provisions in the bill to make it mandatory for the Law Enforcement Agency to take immediate action in cases where a consumer makes complaint of adulteration of products for human consumption by registering an FIR and arrest the accused.

• If for any reason, the FIR is not registered by the agency then it should be deemed to have been registered after lapse of 21 days from the date of complaint.

• The liability provisions should be extended to any or all parties involved in the chain, right from the manufacturer to retailer for any damage caused by that product. At present, the bill provides for liability only to manufacturer.

• The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) should function independently and proposed suitable provision in the bill to ensure that the chief commissioner and commissioners and officials of the CCPA are provided protection for action taken in good faith.

The Union Government introduced the Consumer Protection Bill 2015 in the Lok Sabha in August 2015 to repeal the 30-year old Consumer Protection Act, 1986. The panel's report will be studied before final passage of the bill.


The Japanese financial services firm, Nomura announced that India may surpass China in attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in 2016, in terms of percentage of its GDP.

The firm mentioned that the gap in inflows between the two nations has been narrowing due to ongoing reforms in India.

Key highlights of Nomura's research report

The trend of rising inflows to India and moderating inflows to China began in 2013 and FDI inflows to India can surpass those into China in 2016. It is because India already has large investment commitments from MNCs in sectors like electronics, solar energy, auto, defence and railways.

FDI inflows to India raised from 1.7 per cent of GDP in 2014 to 2.1 per cent in 2015. China had 2.3 per cent of GDP in 2015.

These trends of rising inflows to India and moderating inflows to China are likely driven by a mix of pull and push factors, such as divergent growth outlooks, ongoing FDI liberalisation or economic reforms in India and rising labour costs in China.

FDI inflows not only provide a stable source of financing the Current Account Deficit (CAD), but also bring in technical know-how, which can boost India's productivity growth in the near future.

About Nomura Group

Nomura is an Asia-based financial services group with an integrated global network spanning over 30 countries.

In October 2008, Nomura Holdings, Inc. acquired Lehman Brothers Holdings's investment banking and equities unit in Asia and Europe and kept on most of its employees.


The Department of Telecommunications notified the Panic Button and Global Positioning System in Mobile Phone Handsets Rules 2016.

The Rules were issued under section 10 of the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act, 1933.

Highlights of the Mobile Phone Handsets Rules 2016

• Under these rules, all feature phones will have the facility of panic button configured to the numeric key 5 or 9.

• All the smart phones will have the panic button configured to three times short pressing of the on-off button.

• Further, with effect from 1 January 2018, all mobile phones will be required to have the facility of identifying the location through satellite based GPS.

• Similar solutions will also be made available for existing mobile phone handsets in the form of software patches by which same buttons could be configured to send out emergency calls for concerned telephone numbers.

• Software patches will be made available for direct download in the smart phones and installation at the mobile phone shops by the concerned manufactures/service providers.

Reason for notifying Handset Rules

The move came following the observation that in order to provide safety to women in distress situation, it is important to enable them to send out distress signal to a family member or the police authorities so that they can be rescued.

A physical panic button is much superior to having an App on the mobile phone as a women in distress does not have more than a second or two to send out a distress message as a perpetrator will often reach out to her mobile phone in the event of a physical/sexual assault.


International Cricket Council (ICC) in its board meeting suspended the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) in view of government interference in the board.

The suspension would stay in place until such time as the CAN becomes free of government interference and is properly structured to begin exploiting the tremendous cricket talent and opportunities that exist in Nepal.

It will only cut off ICC funding for the CAN but Nepal national teams can continue to feature in ICC events.

ICC management will also work with the Nepalese cricket community, and other stakeholders, in order to assist with the development of a sustainable governance and administration structure for cricket in Nepal.


• Nepal's National Sports Council (NSC) formed an ad-hoc committee to run the CAN in December 2015. This happened soon after Chatur Bahadur Chand was elected the CAN's president in controversial annual general meeting without the NSC's permission and also without the attendance its then president Tanka Angbuhan.

• The Chand-led CAN faction then filed a court case, which is still pending, challenging the NSC's decision.

• In light of the ongoing court case involving the Cricket Association of Nepal (CAN) and the Ad hoc Committee established by the Nepalese National Sports Council (NSC).

• It led to a vacuum of cricket leadership in Nepal, the Board suspended the Membership of CAN for breach of Article 2.9 of the ICC's Articles of Association, which prohibits government interference and requires free and fair elections.


  • As Uttarakhand continued to fight the inferno across 2,269 hectares of forests, two IAF helicopters joined the operations, ferrying water through the Garhwal and the Kumaon hills and dumping it in areas inaccessible to forest personnel.
  • Villages in many districts kept awake at night to try and protect their houses and cattle from the creeping blaze.
  • Wild animals, including snakes, leopards, monkeys and barking deer, moved closer to human habitations, as they were pushed out of the forests by fire and smoke.
  • Hoping to cut off the spread of fire, the IAF helicopters stationed near Nainital and Srinagar drew water from the Bhimtal lake and a river in Srinagar using 3,500-litre ‘Bambi Buckets’. However, smoke and fog delayed the air operation.
  • A third Mi-17 helicopter will reach Nainital on Monday. Two will function in areas near Nainital and one near Srinagar.
  • The Forest Department’s data show that till Sunday 1,082 incidents of forest fire had covered 2,269 hectares, and preliminary losses were put at Rs. 22 lakh.
  • However, the blaze showed a declining trend. On April 27, there were 140 incidents, rising to 338 on April 28 and 477 on April 29.
  • But on Apr 30, they were down to 219 and on May 1st, to 112. Home Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the situation and held discussions with the Chief Secretary.
  • Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the Centre was taking the forest fires very seriously. The government would study the causes and prepare an action plan.


  • Over 54 crore farmers and rural populations across 13 States are in the grip of drought, and it is a multi-dimensional crisis. This fact was highlighted at a national consultation on drought here on Sunday.
  • Owing to the drought, people were battling for drinking water, food had become scarce, domestic cattle were dying a nomadic death and farms had turned fallow.
  • Good rains may end the water crisis, yet food shortage will continue until the new crop comes in; the government needs to ensure food security..
  • Farmers in a dozen States struggling with severe drought conditions and experts participated in the consultation, which was organised by Swaraj Abhiyan and the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).
  • CSE director-general Sunita Narain said: “Drought in the 1990s was essentially the drought of a poor India. The 2016 drought is of richer and more water-guzzling India.
  • This classless drought makes for a crisis that is more severe and calls for solutions that are more complex.
  • The severity and intensity of drought is not about lack of rainfall; it is about the lack of planning and foresight, and criminal neglect. Drought is human-made.


  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, which aims to provide five crore LPG connections to women in Below Poverty Line (BPL) households over the next three financial years, at a cost of Rs. 8,000 crore.
  • The scheme, launched at Ballia in Uttar Pradesh, is to be partially funded from the savings accruing to the government from LPG users who gave up their subsidy as part of the Give It Up programme.
  • Over one crore consumers have given up their subsidy, leading to savings of nearly Rs. 2,000 crore per year. This money would be utilised to provide LPG connections to BPL families.
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had, in his Budget speech in February, announced a provision of Rs. 2,000 crore this financial year to provide LPG connections to 1.5 crore women from BPL households.
  • The new users who receive LPG connections under the scheme will not have to pay the security deposit, while the Rs. 1,600 administrative costs, cost of pressure regulator booklet and safety hose will be borne by the government.
  • Consumers will have the option to purchase gas stove and refills on EMI.
  • The Prime Minister said nearly 10,000 new distributorships and infrastructure expansion plans were in the works to cater to the increased demand arising out of the new connections.
  • The households will be selected using the socio-economic and caste census data.
  • Currently, India has 16.64 crore active LPG consumers with a requirement of about 21 million tonnes per annum.
  • Stating that LPG coverage is being increased, he said there are serious health hazards associated with cooking based on fossil fuels.
  • According to World Health Organisation estimates, about 5 lakh deaths occur in India alone due to unclean cooking fuels. Experts say having an open fire in the kitchen is like burning 400 cigarettes an hour.
  • Providing LPG connections to BPL households will ensure universal coverage of cooking gas in the country and this will empower women and protect their health, he said.
  • India’s demand for LPG is expected to see a double-digit growth over the coming years, the government said in a release. Towards this, several steps have been taken to increase infrastructure in order to meet the demand.
  • Indian Oil is developing new import facilities at Dahej [by 2018-19], Paradip and Cochin [by 2017-18], Bharat Petroleum is developing its import facility at Haldia, apart from which East India Petroleum Private Limited [EIPL] capacity augmentation is also getting completed by December 2016.
  • Apart from those who voluntarily gave up their LPG connections, those earning Rs. 10 lakh or more a year have been deemed ineligible for the subsidy.
  • The recently-released income tax data shows that there were 13.3 lakh individuals who declared an income above Rs. 10 lakh a year in assessment year 2012-13.
  • Using that number, back-of-the-envelope calculations show removing the LPG subsidy from these people would save the government Rs. 173 crore a year.


  • Rainwater may play an important role in the process that triggers earthquakes, says a new study.
  • Researchers identified the sources and fluxes of the geothermal fluids and mineral veins from the Southern Alps of New Zealand where the Pacific and Australian Plates collide along the Alpine Fault.
  • Chemical analyses showed that fluids from the mantle, the layer below Earth’s crust, and fluids derived from rainwater, are channelled up the Alpine Fault.
  • By calculating how much fluid is flowing through the fault zone at depth, the researchers showed for the first time that enough rainwater is present to promote earthquake rupture on this major plate boundary fault.
  • Deep groundwaters may be important for the initiation of earthquakes as these fluids can weaken the fault zones by increasing pressures.


  • The Islamic State group carried out rare attacks in Iraq’s deep Shia south, killing at least 33 people with twin suicide car bomb blasts in the city of Samawa.
  • They said at least 50 people were also wounded in the blasts in Samawa, 230 km south of Baghdad.
  • IS issued a statement later on social media claiming two suicide attackers detonated their car bombs against members of the security forces.
  • It named the bombers as Abu Dayyaral-Qurashi and Abu Zubayral-Zaidi, saying that the second blew up his car bomb as security forces rushed to the scene of the first blast.
  • Samawa is the capital of Muthanna and lies deep in Iraq’s Shia heartland and such attacks there are rare. Muthanna also borders Saudi Arabia and a vast Iraqi desert that connects the troubled province of Anbar with the south.


  • After the disaster, images of collapsed temples spread across the world after the earthquake were beamed across the world, and donors, principally India and China, came forward with pledges of $4.1 billion in foreign grants and soft loans.
  • But those promises, so far, have not done much to speed the progress of Nepal’s reconstruction effort.
  • The delay is misery for the 7,70,000 households awaiting a promised subsidy to rebuild their homes.
  • Because a yearly stretch of bad weather begins in June, large-scale rebuilding is unlikely to begin before early 2017, consigning families to a second monsoon season and a second winter in leaky shelters made of zinc sheeting.
  • It is normal for spending to remain low for the first year after a disaster, then ramp up only after legislation and construction standards are in place.
  • Sites like the ancient, battered town of Sankhu were a major reason foreign donors came forward so readily.
  • Relief efforts kept pace during the weeks after the disaster, when half a million homeless families received about $140 in emergency aid.
  • The goodwill reached Sankhu: By summertime, a foreign country had promised $5,70,000 to rebuild Bajrayogini and surrounding structures.
  • That early progress then halted. Leaders swung their attention to the fast-track adoption of the country’s first Constitution, and its division of power infuriated ethnic communities in the south.
  • The Nepali authorities say they must maintain control over the actions of nongovernmental organisations and foreign donors.


  • India has conveyed to the Iran that it is ready to clear nearly $ 6.5 billion of the dues for oil import from that country at the earliest, provided there is clarity on payment channel.
  • The message was conveyed even as Prime Minister Narendra Modi is likely to visit the oil-rich country later this month.
  • Government sources said there had been a series of discussions at various levels both in Tehran and here and both sides were confident of resolving the issue soon.
  • Following lifting of sanctions against it in January under a historic nuclear deal, Iran terminated a three-year-old system with India of getting paid for half of the oil dues in rupees and was insisting on being paid in Euros for the oil it sold to Indian refiners.
  • It also scrapped free delivery of crude oil. Though Western sanctions against Iran were lifted, problems persist in banking channels due to which regular transactions were not possible yet.
  • Refiners such as Essar Oil and Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd (MPRL) owe nearly $ 6.5 billion in dues to Iran.
  • During their visit to Iran last month, Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj conveyed to Iranian leaders that India wanted to significantly ramp up engagement in the oil and gas sector.


  • Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman hit out at the protectionist measures of many developed nations.
  • She referred to protectionist measures of many in the G20 and said if India took any measure the rich nations perceived to be negative, they went on a campaign to brand India protectionist.
  • Ms. Sitharaman said the “huge trade-distorting” agricultural subsidies of rich nations had not yet been properly discussed at the World Trade Organisation.
  • She also referred to subsidies “given by China to its industry” and said this was hurting Indian manufacturers in sectors including steel.
  • In the backdrop of competitive devaluations of currency by several countries including China to boost their exports, she cited the persisting contraction in India’s exports and said she personally felt the Indian currency needs to be devalued a bit.


  • Asked to explain the “real causes” of ballooning bad loans at public sector banks, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) Governor Raghuram Rajan has put the blame on “overall economic downturn,” among other reasons, in his submission.
  • Congress leader K. V. Thomas-led Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has examined Mr. Rajan’s response but can ask the RBI Governor to appear before it in future once it is reconstituted.
  • Various public sector banks may also be asked to appear before the panel again to explain their position.
  • The Parliamentary panel had suomotu decided to examine the non-performing assets of the public sector banks, which touched Rs.3.61 lakh crore at the end of December 2015.
  • The state-owned companies had first refused to appear before PAC, but agreed later and made their submission.
  • During the examination of bad loan recovery process of the banks, the PAC found that in a number of cases the same bankers were trying to retrieve the bad loans who had earlier sanctioned the loans.
  • In its questionnaire for the RBI Governor, the panel observed that private sector banks and foreign banks do not have as much NPAs as the Public Sector Banks.
  • This was despite the constraints under which the entire banking sector operates being the same, except for the Priority Sector Lending (PSL) requirements.
  • Noting that Private Sector Banks and Foreign Banks have 2.2 per cent NPA whereas the Public Sector Banks have 5.98 per cent NPAs, the PAC felt “it is hard to believe that the difference is only due to the PSL”.
  • The PAC Chairman also sought to know the “real causes for the present spurt in NPAs and stressed assets” and whether these are really different from those listed by the Narsimham Committee that went into the NPA issue in 1998.
  • Mr. Rajan listed six primary reasons for a spurt in stressed assets that have been observed in recent times.
  • These included domestic and global economic slowdown, delays in statutory and other approvals especially for projects under implementation and aggressive lending practices during upturn as evidenced from high corporate leverage.
  • Other reasons cited by Mr. Rajan were laxity in credit risk appraisal and loan monitoring in banks and lack of appraising skills for projects that need specialised skills resulting in acceptance of inflated cost and aggressive projections.
  • Besides, he also listed wilful default, loan frauds and corruption in some cases among the key reasons.
  • The gross NPAs ratio had steadily declined from 15.7 per cent in 1996-97 to 2.36 per cent in 2010-11.
  • As on March 25, the gross NPA ratio was 4.62 per cent. As on June 2015, the gross NPA ratio was 4.97 per cent and the ratio of restructured standard assets to gross advance was 6.50 per cent.
  • Mr. Rajan also informed the panel about seven key methods evolved by way of recent regulatory measures by RBI to tackle the problem of NPA.


  • To check any possible misuse of investors’ money, markets regulator SEBI will soon put in place a mechanism for enhanced supervision of stock brokers and wants stock exchanges to evolve an automated alert-generation system.
  • Stock exchanges will be required to continuously monitor the client assets lying with the brokers and generate alerts to determine potential misuse of these assets by brokers.
  • Besides, the stock exchanges will monitor financial strength of stock brokers by continuously reviewing certain financial ratios and indicators of brokers.
  • The proposed measures, based on recommendations made by a high-level committee, will be soon implemented in consultation with the stock exchanges.
  • The Committee, consisting of SEBI officials and representatives of stock exchanges, depositories and stock brokers, was set up to suggest measures to further enhance the current regulatory and supervisory mechanisms for protection of clients’ assets with stock brokers.
  • The Committee deliberated on various issues pertaining to enhanced supervision of stock broker’s including augmented disclosures, periodic reconciliation, continuous information sharing and others.
  • Among various recommendations, the Committee suggested there should be no netting between client and proprietary obligations — meaning, client obligations and own obligations of the broker shall be settled separately.
  • This will ensure that brokers’ obligation and payment thereof are separated from the clients’ obligation and payment thereof.
  • Another proposed measure required prescription of uniform nomenclature for bank and demat accounts, which are maintained by stock brokers in order to ensure maintenance of an audit trail.
  • SEBI also wants strengthening of the existing internal audit system for stock brokers in line with the requirements for auditors as mentioned in the Companies Act, 2013.



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Last Updated on Friday, 06 May 2016 02:56