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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

17 Jul 2019


US Proposes Increasing Merit-based Immigration

  •  The Trump administration is proposing a nearly five-fold increase in merit-based legal immigration and half those based on family and humanitarian system, in an effort to overhaul the outdated system.
  • Senior presidential adviser Jared Kushner, who is also the son-in-law of United States President Donald Trump, said that having an immigration policy that would attract talented and meritorious people from across the world would create over USD 500 billion in tax revenues over 10 years.
  • At the direction of Trump, Kushner is leading the immigration reform project, which was now into its final stages and expects to make it public soon.

First Imran-Trump Summit

  •  As per Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, the first summit-level talks between Prime Minister Imran Khan and US President Donald Trump in July 2019 would give them new opportunities to reset the bilateral ties and usher in an era of peace in the region.
  • Trump would host Imran on July 22, 2019 at the White House, after a flurry of exchanges between Islamabad and Washington seems to have eased the friction in bilateral ties, especially on securing a peace deal in war-ravaged Afghanistan and paved the way for the meeting.
  • Addressing a seminar organised by the Islamabad Policy Institute on Pakistan-US relations, Qureshi said that the US policy of coercion towards Pakistan was gradually changing into one of cooperation.
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DHFL Presents Debt Recast Plan

  •  Stressed housing finance major Dewan Housing Finance Company (DHFL) has shared its resolution plan with bankers and company sources claim that the lenders are in sync with the plan.
  • The plan will be formally presented to the banks later in July 2019 and to bond-holders on July 25, 2019.
  • In its resolution plan, the housing finance company has proposed that its debt be recast. The cash-strapped lender has a cumulative debt of Rs. 1 lakh crore, of which it owes Rs. 38,000 crore to banks and Rs 34,000 crore to bondholders.
  • As far as repayment to retail investors is concerned, the resolution plan seeks to utilise monthly cashflows of Rs. 2,300 crore it receives in the form of EMIs from consumers to repay the retail investors upon maturity.
  • Lenders have to give their blessing to this proposal. Nearly Rs. 5,000 crore worth of bonds (institutional and retail) are maturing between August and September 2019.
  • Extension of maturity may be sought from institutional bondholders. If bankers agree, the surplus money from this Rs. 2,300 crore could be used to restart lending operations, after the mortgage major has repaid retail investors.
  • DHFL has also sought a moratorium on payments till its cash flows stabilise and operations resume.
  • While it is seeking a moratorium on some part of its debt, it is also asking lenders to allow it to defer payment of the principal.
  • The plan envisages that lenders will maintain the same interest rate on loans at which they were disbursed.

Suzlon Defaults on Bonds

  •  In a sign of stress widening across India's credit market, Suzlon Energy defaulted on redemption of its foreign currency convertible bonds (FCCBs) worth $172 million, or Rs. 1,200 crore.
  • Suzlon asked bondholders to hold on till the company completes its one-time settlement with banks.
  • However, its settlement with the banks depends upon its plans to sell stake to Canadian investor Brookfield, a move that may see promoters, with 19.8% stake, ceding management control.
  • The company has not made the payment of the principal amount of the outstanding bonds, being $ 172,000,000, which was due on July 16, 2019 in accordance with the terms and conditions of the bonds.
  • The company is working on a holistic solution for its debt and that it continued to be in discussions with various stakeholders in relation to outstanding debt (including the bonds).
  • Brookfield is eyeing a majority stake in the company and discussions are on for a one-time settlement plan with creditors to restructure outstanding bank loans.
  • The firm has an outstanding debt of Rs. 7,761 crore, including FCCBs and working capital debt of Rs. 3,380 crore.

Nayara Licenses UNIPOL PP Process Technology for Refinery

  •  As part of its $850 million investment in its Vadinar Refinery towards expansion in petrochemicals, Nayara Energy has licensed UNIPOL PP Process Technology from W. R. Grace & Co to produce a broad range of phthalate-free products from the 20 metric million tonnes per annum (MMTPA) refinery.
  • As part of the expansion, Nayara plans to set up up a 4.5 lakh-tonnes a year polypropylene plant.
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Australia Targets T20 World Cup in 2020

  •  Australia is banking big on women and men T20 cricket world cups in 2020 to achieve the mark of half million tourists in a year, a target which it had set for 2022.
  • With a record 3,64,600 visitors in 2018-19, Tourism Australia is in talks with airports in Australia and Indian airlines to increase the capacity between two countries.
  • According to the data provided by Tourism Australia, visitors from Delhi and Maharashtra contribute heavily to the tourist inflow and with 7.5 lakh Indians living there, the Australian government is hopeful to achieve 5 lakh tourist by the end of 2020.
  • Since last five years, the island nation has seen double digit growth in Indian visitors every year with majority of them visiting Canberra and South Australia.
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BJP Appoints New Chiefs

  •  The Bharatiya Janata Party named Swatantra Dev Singh and Chandrakant Dada Patil as the presidents of its Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra units, respectively.
  • Samajwadi Party leader Neeraj Shekhar, who quit as the party's Rajya Sabha member, also joined the BJP.
  • Son of former Prime Minister Chandra Shekhar, Neeraj Shekhar was purportedly upset with the SP president Akhilesh Yadav after he was denied ticket to contest the Lok Sabha election from Ballia.
  • Maharashtra public works minister Patil takes charge of the party ahead of the state assembly elections which are due in September-October 2019.
  • Mangal Prabhat Lodha, BJP legislator from Malabar Hills, was appointed to lead the party's Mumbai unit.
  • Swatantra Dev Singh, another backward classes (OBC) leader who hails from Mirzapur, is UP's transport minister.
  • He replaced Mahendra Nath Pandey, a Brahmin who was inducted into Prime Minister Narendra Modi's council of ministers in May 2019 as the skill development minister.
  • The decision came a day after Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath met party chief Amit Shah and working president JP Nadda in Delhi.

Govt. Names AAP Leaders to Metro Directorial Board

  •  In a first, the Delhi government nominated members from the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) as directors of the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), instead of bureaucrats.
  • This came at a time when the Arvind Kejriwal-led government locked horns with the BJP led central government over offering free rides on the metro to women, the metro's phase-4 expansion plan and, previously, over fare hikes.
  • The Delhi government and the Centre have equal stake in the DMRC, and equal representation of five directors each on the 17-member DMRC board of directors.
  • The Delhi government nominated prominent AAP leaders Raghav Chadha, Atishi, party Rajya Sabha member ND Gupta's son Naveen Gupta, and Dialogue and Development Commission of Delhi (DDCD) vice-chairperson Jasmine Shah.
  • Chadha and Atishi had fought and lost the recent Lok Sabha elections in Delhi, while DDCD is a policy think-tank of Delhi government.
  • Delhi government's directive was issued by transport minister Kailash Gahlot in which he had asked the DMRC to appoint the four new directors to the corporation's board with immediate effect.

End to Manual Scavenging

  •  The Centre cited rising deaths during hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks while directing states and union territories (UTs) to urgently stop the undesirable practices of manual scavenging.
  • The ministry of housing and urban affairs has advised them to set up Emergency Response Sanitation Units (ERSUs) in major cities on the lines of fire stations in capital cities of each state and major cities.
  • A letter, written by ministry of housing and urban affairs' secretary Durga Shanker Mishra to all state chief secretaries directed all state Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) to set up ERSUs in cities having a municipal corporation and a water & sewerage board with population of more than one lakh.
  • ERSUs will also be responsible to meet sanitation emergency requests from all smaller towns within a cluster of about 75 km radius.
  • Union social justice minister Ramdas Athwale told Rajya Sabha that the states have until June 30, 2019 reported 620 deaths of sanitation workers while cleaning sewers or septic tanks since 1993 while 88 were reported in the past three years.
  • Hazardous cleaning of sewers and septic tanks is banned under the Prevention of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act (PEMSRA), 2013.
  • The law bars individuals, local authorities or agencies from engaging or employing directly or indirectly anyone for hazardous cleaning of sewers or septic tanks.
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First Batch of Shyena Torpedoes to Myanmar

  •  Myanmar received the first batch of Shyena advanced lightweight torpedoes from India early in July 2019. India and Myanmar had signed a deal worth $37.9 million in 2017 for the supply of Shyena torpedoes.
  • The Shyena torpedoes were developed and manufactured by the Defence Research and Development Organisation's (DRDO) Naval Science and Technological Laboratory and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) respectively. Several warships of the Indian Navy are armed with Shynea torpedoes.
  • The light weight torpedo is an electrically propelled, self-homing underwater weapon and can be launched from a submarine, surface warship, helicopter and an aircraft.
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Sandeep Sinha Resigns

  •  Cummins India Ltd announced that Sandeep Sinha, MD, Cummins India and Vice-President, Cummins India ABO, resigned to pursue business interests outside of the company.
  • Sinha joined Cummins in 2004 as a Corporate Indirect Purchasing Manager.
  • Over his career at Cummins, he held several leadership roles in Corporate Strategy in the US, New and Recon Parts and the Industrial Engine Business in India.

First Female European Commission President

  •  Ursula von der Leyen was confirmed as the European commission's first female president and the first German in the job for more than 50 years.
  • In a secret ballot, MEPs voted narrowly to support the German defence Minister as a replacement for Jean-Claude Juncker when he steps down on 31 October 2019.
  • She won the support of 383 MEPs, nine votes more than required to secure an absolute majority but below the 400 threshold that would have given her a stable majority to get her policies through parliament over the next five years.
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World Day for International Justice

  •  World Day for International Justice, also referred to as Day of International Criminal Justice or International Justice Day, is an international day celebrated throughout the world on July 17 as part of an effort to recognise the emerging system of international criminal justice.
  • July 17 was chosen because it is the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute, the treaty that created the International Criminal Court.
  • On 1 June 2010, at the Review Conference of the Rome Statute held in Kampala (Uganda), the Assembly of State Parties decided to celebrate 17 July as the Day of International Criminal Justice. 
  • Each year, people around the world use this day to host events to promote international criminal justice, especially support for the International Criminal Court.
  • The day has been successful enough to attract international news attention, and for groups to use the day to focus attention on particular issues such as genocide in Darfur, Falun Dafa, and serious crimes of violence against women.
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Rajya Sabha Passes AERA of India (Amendment) Bill

  •  The Rajya Sabha passed a Bill allowing the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA) to bid out any new airport at a pre-determined tariff structure.
  • As per Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, as many as 16 airports will be in the purview of AERA. All other airports continue to be looked after by the Civil Aviation Ministry.
  • Currently, major airports with an annual capacity to handle one-and-a-half million passengers come under the purview of Airports Economic Regulatory Authority of India (AERA).
  • If the amendment is passed by Parliament, the definition of major airports would be changed to any aerodrome which has or is designated to have annual passenger capacity of three-and-a-half million.
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TN to Host 1st Global School Debate tournament

  •  An international debating tournament for school children would be held in Chennai from July 18 to July 21, 2019.
  • As many as 15 teams from various countries would participate in the first-ever international event, called "Mini Worlds", which is being organised by the Indian Schools Debating Society (ISDS). The tournament would be held in the format followed by World Schools Debating Championships.
  • According to an ISDS communiqué, the event would be represented by teams from The Netherlands, England, Wales, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria, Australia and New Zealand, Sri Lanka, South Korea and Hong Kong. Three teams will represent India.

AIDS Deaths Down

  •  The United Nations said that the number of deaths due to HIV decreased to 770,000 in 2018, which is about 33% less than the year 2010.
  • However, the United Nations warned that global efforts to eradicate this disease are being blocked because financing is going down.
  • UNAIDS said in its annual report that according to an estimate, about 3.79 million people are currently infected with HIV. Of these, 2.33 million people have access to 'anti retroviral therapy'.
  • In the mid-1990s, AIDS took the form of a severe epidemic. Since then, keeping in view the progress made in prevention of this disease, it has been reported in the report that in the year 2017, 8,00,000 people were killed by this disease, which decreased to 770,000 in 2018.
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OYO Enters Co-working Spaces

  •  Hospitality chain OYO announced its foray into co-working spaces with a new brand — OYO Workspaces — with an aim to have 50 centres across the country by end of 2019.
  • The company confirmed that it had acquired co-working firm Innov8, which has about 16 centres in the country, providing seats to about 6,000 employees of brands like Swiggy, Paytm, Pepsi, Nykaa, OLX and Lenskart.
  • While financial details were not disclosed, the acquisition is being pegged at about ₹200 crore. OYO Workspaces, led by Rohit Kapoor, CEO of New Real Estate Businesses, aims to be a fully controlled workspaces solutions provider, designed to meet the needs of over 80% of the working population in the country, the company said.
  • The firm has also introduced two other co-working brands — Powerstation and Workflo. Powerstation would offer beautiful and functional workspaces for small and medium scale business at the right prices and Workflo is budget-friendly, functional co-working solution catering to the aspirations of a rising India.
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