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Daily News Digest, 16th February 2016

Punjab National Bank declares United Breweries (Holdings) as wilful defaulter

  • Punjab National Bank has declared the UB Group holding company United Breweries (Holdings) Ltd as a “willful defaulter”.
  • Earlier on 13, November 2015, State Bank of India (SBI) had declared United Breweries and Mallya as wilful defaulters, though the company had filed a writ petition against the same in the Delhi high court.
  • Kingfisher Airlines’ operating licence was suspended in October 2012 by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
  • The total loan of lenders is Rs.6,360 crore which increases to about Rs.7,000 crore after interest.
  • SBI has the maximum exposure to Kingfisher in the consortium at Rs.1, 600 crores, followed by Punjab National Bank (Rs.800 crore), IDBI Bank Ltd (Rs.800 crore and many more.
  • Meanwhile, SBICAP Trustee Co. Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of investment bank SBI Capital Markets Ltd (SBI Cap), has initiated the process for selling Kingfisher House, the headquarters of grounded airline Kingfisher Airlines.

Arun Jaitley launches portal to collect non-tax receipt

  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has launched a portal to electronically collect over Rs 2 lakh crore annually in non-tax receipts from sources such as dividends by state-owned firms, RBI and spectrum fee.
  • The State-owned NTPC remitted an interim dividend of Rs 989 crore to the government through the electronic mode.
  • The annual collection of non-tax receipts amounts to over Rs 2 lakh crore.
  • It mainly includes dividends, interest receipts, spectrum charges, royalty, licence fee, the sale of forms and RTI application fees.
  • The government aims to collect Rs 2.21 lakh crore as non-tax receipts during 2015-16.
  • NTRP provides a one-stop platform to citizens or corporates or other users to make online payment of non-tax receipts to Government of India.
  • The ministry has already received a dividend of Rs 65,896 crore from RBI.

U K Sinha gets extension as SEBI Chief

  • U K Sinha’s term has been extended by the government for one year.
  • He will remain SEBI Chairman until March 1, 2017. His current term was to end on February 17.
  • His extension was approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
  • Sinha is a 1976 batch IAS officer of Bihar cadre. He assumed office as the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) chairman on February 18, 2011, when the previous UPA government was in the power.
  • Sinha was initially appointed for a three-year term, later a two-year extension as Chairman of the regulatory body. U K Sinha will become the second-longest serving chief of SEBI after D R Mehta’s seven-year term from 1995 to 2002.
  • As per the eligibility criteria, a person can hold the position of SEBI Chairman till the age of 65 years.
  • Earlier, Sinha was heading UTI Mutual Fund. Prior to that, he had served in Finance Ministry, among other positions as an IAS officer.

Supreme Court gives no order on euthanasia

  • The Supreme Court has refrained from passing an order on a plea to legalise passive euthanasia and the right of terminally ill persons to execute 'Living Will' not to prolong their lives by putting them on life support systems.
  • The SC keeps this open for the government to take a call on the both issues.
  • The bench led by Justice Anil R. Dave comprise of total five judges including Justices Kurian Joseph, Shiva Kirti Singh, A K Goel and R F Nariman
  • The SC has given  an “unwritten hope” that  the government or Parliament will finalise a law on passive euthanasia, the act of withdrawing medical treatment with the deliberate intention of causing the death of a terminally-ill patient by July 2016.

DoT to make mandatory for mobiles to support local languages

  • The department of telecom (DoT) plans to come out with regulations in 3-4 months that will make it mandatory for mobile phones to support Hindi and atleast one regional language.
  • The move is aimed at making users communicate in local languages and access government services like e-payment through mobile phones.
  • Currently, there are many mobile phones available in the market which supports regional languages. The government is also running a programme called ‘Digital Saksharta Abhiyan (Disha)’ to impart IT training for digital literacy.
  • The scheme aims to make a person IT literate so that he or she can operate digital devices such as mobile phones, tablets and the like and send and receive emails and search the Internet for information.
  • Besides IT literacy at a higher level, under the scheme, the citizens will be trained to effectively access various e-governance services being offered by the government and other agencies.

Indian Government asks Vodafone to pay taxes or face asset seizures

  • India government ask Vodafone to pay a disputed Rs 14,200 crore tax bill, otherwise, the government  may seize Vodafone Group Plc’s assets in the country
  • Vodafone has been fighting Indian tax authorities for years over its purchase of billionaire Li Ka-Shing's mobile-phone business in the country in 2007.
  • The dispute traces back to Vodafone’s $11 billion acquisition of a 67% in the mobile-phone business owned by Hutchison Whampoa, now part of CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.
  • Vodafone has conducted the transaction of the purchase offshore then Indian authorities have sought to collect taxes on the deal because it involved the assets in the country.
  • Vodafone is the second-largest mobile carrier in India, began international arbitration proceedings on the tax bill in 2014.
  • It’s the biggest of three disputes Vodafone have with India’s government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s predecessor.
  • The other disputes involved the valuation of international transactions a case that Vodafone won at the Bombay high court -and a separate ruling in October, whereby the court ruled that Vodafone didn’t owe as much as Rs.8,500 crore in back taxes.

Trade deficit narrows to 11-month low

  • India’s trade deficit narrowed to an 11-month low in January due to a sharp decline in the imports of petroleum products and electronic items even as exports continued to contract for the 14th month in a row amid tepid global demand and a volatile global currency market.
  • As per the commerce ministry, the merchandise exports contracted 13.6% in January while merchandise imports shrank 11% leading to a trade deficit of $7.6 billion.
  • During April-January, India’s exports fell 17.7% to $217.7 billion while imports shrank 15.5% to $324.5 billion resulting in a trade deficit of $106.8 billion.
  • India’s overall exports are projected by the commerce ministry to decline 13% from the previous year to $270 billion in 2015-16, with a trade deficit of around $120-125 billion.
  • The government’s earlier target of $900 billion in the export of goods and services by 2020, raising the country’s share in world exports to 3.5% from 2% now, looks more daunting.
  • Non-oil imports contracted 1.4% in January after picking up by 7.63% in December, while oil imports contracted 39% due to falling crude oil prices.
  • Only 10 out of the 30 import items were positive in January as compared with 17 in December. Thirteen of the 30 top export items were positive in January against 15 in the previous month.

Australia to store world's nuclear waste

  • The South Australian royal commission has released its tentative findings and proposed a nuclear storage and disposal facility would be commercially viable and South Australia could store nuclear waste as early as the late 2020s.
  • South Australia was suitable because of its low levels of seismic activity, arid environment in many parts of the state, stable political structure and frameworks for securing the long-term agreement with landowners and the community.
  • The nuclear waste storage and disposal could generate $5bn a year for the first 30 years of operation and about $2bn a year until waste receipts conclude. This would result in $51bn profit over the life of the project.
  • The nuclear storage would create approximately 1,500 full-time jobs during a construction period of about 25 years, peaking at 4,500, and leaving more than 600 jobs once operations begin.
  • The royal commission will now conduct five weeks of consultation, with responses due by 18 March. The commission’s final report will be delivered on 6 May.

DoT plans to change with new infra sharing norms

  • The Department of telecommunications has allowed mobile operators to share infrastructure which will reduce cost by 30-35%.
  • It means that apart from sharing towers, they can now share even the electronic infrastructure required for communication networks.
  • Now two operators can share a single mobile switching centre. The operators will also be able to reduce their operating expenditure by around 5%.
  • The active infrastructure sharing also operationalises spectrum sharing, which was allowed by the government in September last year.
  • As such Reliance Jio Infocomm has signed a spectrum sharing agreement with Reliance Communications across 16 circles, which will be the biggest beneficiary.
  • Active infrastructure sharing has been the long pending demand of the telecom industry, which the DoT has now accepted.

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