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National Current Affairs
Cabinet Approvals August 16 2017
On August 16, 2017, Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved following bilateral agreements and initiatives:
Cabinet approves new Metro Rail Policy
Union Cabinet has approved a new Metro Rail Policy that seeks to enable realization of growing metro rail aspirations of a large number of cities but in a responsible manner.
- Cabinet approves new Metro Rail Policy
- Cabinet approves creation of a single non-lapsable corpus fund for Secondary and Higher education
- Cabinet approves MoU between India and Sweden on IPRs
- Cabinet approves completion of balance works of North Koel Reservoir Project
- Cabinet approves closure of Andaman & Nicobar Islands Forest and Plantation
- Development Corporation Limited (ANIFPDCL), Port Blair
- Cabinet approves raising Rs.9020 cr for long term irrigation fund.
Cabinet approves raising Rs. 9020 crore for Long Term Irrigation Fund
The Union Cabinet gave its approval for raising Extra Budgetary Resources of up to Rs, 9,020 crore for Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) during the financial year 2017-18.
The funds will be raised by the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) through the issuance of Bonds at 6% per annum as per requirement.
Utilization of Funds
The LTIF will be for the implementation of Accelerated Irrigation Benefits Programme (AIBP) works of 99 ongoing prioritised irrigation projects along with their command area development (CAD) works under the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY).
Large number of major and medium irrigation projects taken up under the AIBP were languishing mainly due to inadequate provision of funds. To cater to the large fund requirement and ensure completion of these projects, the Union Finance Minister in his Budget speech 2016-17, had announced creation of dedicated LTIF in NABARD with an initial corpus of Rs. 20,000 crore for funding identified ongoing projects under PMKSY (AIBP and CAD). The corpus of LTIF was to be raised through budgetary resources and market borrowings to fast track implementation of incomplete major & medium irrigation projects.
Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (PMKSY)
PMKSY has been formulated amalgamating ongoing schemes viz. AIBP, Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) and On Farm Water Management (OFWM) component of National Mission on Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA). It is implemented by Ministries of Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Development.
Objectives of PMKSY: (i) Achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level, (ii) Expand cultivable area under assured irrigation (har khet ko pani), (iii) Enhance the adoption of precision-irrigation and other water saving technologies (More crop per drop), (iv) Improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water, (v) Enhance recharge of aquifers and (vi) Introduce sustainable water conservation practices.
Cabinet clears stalled North Koel Reservoir Project in Bihar
The Union Cabinet approved proposal to complete the balance works of North Koel Reservoir Project in Bihar, stalled since 1993. It also revived the project to address environmental concerns.
Under the revived project, storage of water in Mandal dam to be constructed under it will be will be restricted at lower level than envisaged earlier to reduce the submergence and to protect Betla National Park and Palamau Tiger Reserve. Moreover, a 24 MW power project as part of the original design also has been scrapped.
The project is situated on the North Koel river, tributary on Sone River. It aims to provide irrigation to 111,521 hectares of land annually in the most backward and drought prone areas in Jharkhand and Bihar. The construction of the project originally had started in 1972 and continued till 1993 when it was stopped by the Bihar forest department over environmental concerns. The Mandal dam as part of the project had threatened to submerge portions of the Palamau Tiger Reserve and Betla National Park. The National Wildlife Board (NWB) had cleared the project in June 2017 with certain conditions.
North Koel River
North Koel River rises on Ranchi plateau in Jharkhand. It joins the Sone River (only right bank tributary of Ganga River) a few miles north-west of Haidarnagar. Its principal tributaries are the Auranga and the Amanat. It meanders through the northern part of Betla National Park.
Cabinet approves MoU between India and Sweden on IPRs
The Union Cabinet has approved Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Sweden on cooperation in the field of Intellectual Property (IPRs).
The MoU establishes wide ranging and flexible mechanism, allowing both countries to work together and exchange best practices on training programs and technical exchanges to raise awareness and protect IPRs.
Features of MoU
It facilitates establishment of a Joint Coordination Committee (JCC) with members from both countries. It aims to enhance cooperation between both countries for exchange of best practices, experiences and knowledge on IP awareness among the public, businesses and educational institutions.
It will also facilitate exchange and dissemination of best practices, experiences and knowledge on IP with industry, universities, R&D organisations and SMEs by organising programs and events. It also seeks to enhance collaboration in training programmes, exchange of experts, technical exchanges and outreach activities.
It will also facilitate exchange of information and best practices for disposal of applications for patents, trademarks, copyrights, industrial designs and Geographical Indications as also the protection, enforcement and use of IP rights. It will enhance cooperation for understanding protection of traditional knowledge and the exchange of best practices, including traditional knowledge related databases. It will also facilitate exchange of information and best practices regarding IP law infringements in digital environment, especially regarding Copyright issues.
Significance of the MoU
It will enable India to exchange experiences in the innovation and IP ecosystems that will substantially benefit entrepreneurs, businesses and investors on both sides. By facilitating exchange of best practices between both countries, it will lead to improved protection and awareness about India’s range of Intellectual creations. It will be will further the objectives of National IPR Policy, 2016 and aid in India’s journey towards becoming a major player in global Innovation.
GST relief for industrial units in Himalayan, NE region till 2027
On August 16, 2017, Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval to the Scheme of providing Budgetary Support under Goods and Service Tax (GST) Regime for the eligible industrial units located in State of Jammu & Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and North Eastern States including Sikkim.
- GST Relief Beneficiaries
- Rationale for Providing GST Relief
- Quick Facts about Goods and Services Tax (GST)
Union Government inks Global Environment Facility Grant Agreement with World Bank
The Union Government has inked US $24.64 million Grant Agreement from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) of the World Bank for Ecosystem Service Improvement Project.
The Project will be entirely financed by the World Bank out of its GEF Trust Fund. The project’s duration is of five years.
Ecosystem Service Improvement Project
The project will be implemented by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) in Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh through Indian Council of Forestry Research & Education (ICFRE) under the National Green India Mission (GIM).
The objective of the Project is to strengthen the institutional capacity of the Community Organisations and Departments of Forestry to enhance forest ecosystem services and improve the livelihoods of forest dependent communities in Central Indian Highlands.
Global Environment Facility (GEF)
GEF is a multilateral financial mechanism that provides grants to developing countries for projects that benefit the global environment and promote sustainable livelihoods in local communities. Projects under it address six designated focal areas: biodiversity, international waters, climate change, ozone depletion, land degradation and Persistent Organic Pollutants. It was established on the eve of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit.
National Mission for Green India (GIM)
GIM is one of the eight key Missions outlined under National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC). It aims at protecting, enhancing and restoring India’s decreasing forest cover and responding to climate change by a combination of mitigation and adaptation measures.
The mission acknowledges the influence of forests on environmental amelioration through climate change mitigation, water security, food security, biodiversity conservation and livelihood security of forest-dependent communities. It hinges on decentralized participatory approach by involving grass root level communities and organizations in decision making, planning, implementation and monitoring.
Petrol pumps to sell LED bulbs, tubelights, ceiling fans soon
The OMCs (Oil Marketing Companies) and EESL (Energy Efficiency Services Ltd) was to ink Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on August 18,2017 for selling LED bulb for Rs 65, tube light for Rs 230 and ceiling fan at Rs 1,150.
But it was postponed due to the demise of Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave and the new date for signing the MoU would be finalised soon.
- The consumers will be able to buy these appliances in mentioned petrol bunk.
- These appliances would be supplied by the three oil marketing companies (OMCs) such as Hindustan Petroleum, Indian Oil and Bharat Petroleum from the Energy Efficiency Services Ltd (EESL).
- The EESL has been able to reduce the procurement price of 9 Watt LED bulbs to as low as Rs38 per unit through bulk procurement.
- Similar is the case of LED tube lights and ceiling fans which are selling at a rate of Rs600-700 and Rs1,700-1,800 respectively in the retail market.
- The EESL has recently decided to invest 100 million pounds in the United Kingdom market through its joint venture in which it has majority stake
North Eastern Cultural and Information Centre to be set up in Delhi: Dr. Jitendra Singh
On August 16, 2017, Union minister Jitendra Singh confirmed about the initiation of north eastern cultural and information centre to be set up in Delhi.
The centre will be a new gift to the people of the northeast and in line with the priority being given to the region by the central government.
- Delhi Development Authority (DDA) had allotted a land of 5341.75 sqm.(1.32 acre) at Sector-13, Dwarka, New Delhi, at a cost of approx Rs. 6 crore, to North Eastern Council (NEC) for the purpose of construction of North Eastern Cultural and Information Centre.
- The centre will act as a cultural and convention, information hub of the north eastern region in Delhi.
- It will be planning to construct with the international standards and will have a library-cum-reading room with material on North Eastern Region, an art gallery showcasing the North East.
- The project is expected to be completed within 1-2 years and at a cost of approximately Rs. 50-55 crores.
Emma Stone named as 2017’s highest-paid female actor
Emma Stone has been named Hollywood’s best-paid female actor in Forbes’ annual list of top earners.
- Emma Stone has been named as this year’s highest-paid actress, taking in $26m in the last 12 months.
- Jennifer Lawrence, who was named the highest-paid actress in 2015 and 2016, has fallen down to third place taking in $24 million.
- Stone had earned an Oscar for best actress in La La Land. The film has grossed more than $445.3m worldwide.
- Emma Watson starring role in this year’s Beauty and the Beast grossed more than $1.26bn worldwide.
- Watson is followed by Charlize Theron, Cate Blanchett, Julia Roberts and Amy Adams.
US designates Hizbul Mujahideen as Foreign Terrorist Organisation
The United States has named Pakistan based Kashmiri terrorist outfit Hizbul Mujahideen as a “Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO)”. The designation slaps a series of US sanctions on the outfit.
With this, Hizb Mujahideen joins the other terrorist outfits Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) on the US list of FTO designated in 2001. Moreover, two other anti-India groups, Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (2016) and Indian Mujahideen (2011) are also in the list.
What does it means?
Such designations expose and isolate terrorist groups and individuals, and deny them access to the US financial system. It also assists the law enforcement activities of US agencies and other governments. It blocks all of Hizbul Mujahideen’s property and interests in property subject to US jurisdiction. It also prohibits US citizens from engaging in any transactions with the group. It’s purpose is to deny Hizbul Mujahideen the resources it needs to carry out terrorist attacks.
The designation comes against the backdrop of upsurge in the terror activities of the militant group in Kashmir in recent months. Earlier in June 2017, US had added the Hizbul Mujahideen’s Pakistan-based chief Syed Salahuddin to its list of designated global terrorists.
The US decision to designate Hizbul Mujahideen as FTO marks a severe blow to Pakistan which has been projecting the militant group as a voice of Kashmiri people. It also validates India’s position on cross-border terrorism as the reason behind the Kashmir issue and the support terrorist organisations getting from Pakistan. It will also help India to put the squeeze on Pakistan, whose top political and military leaders are portraying Hizb cadres as “freedom fighters” at a time of heightened terrorist activity in Kashmir.
About Hizbul Mujahideen
Hizbul Mujahideen (meaning “Party of Holy Warriors”) is one of the largest and oldest terrorist groups operating in Kashmir. It was started in 1989 by Muhammad Ahsan Dar as Kashmiri separatist group and holds pro-Pakistan ideology. Its current commander is Sayeed Salahudeen who is based in Rawalpindi and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). It has been already designated a terrorist organisation by India and European Union.
Banking & Finance
Aadhar must for subsidised farm loans: RBI
eserve Bank of India (RBI) has made Aadhar linkage mandatory for farmers who wish to avail short-term crop loans in 2017-18 on 16thAugust 2017.
- Under Interest Subvention Scheme, the banks are advised to make Aadhar linkage mandatory for availing short-term crop loans in 2017-18.
- The interest subvention of 2% will be calculated on the crop loan amount from the date of its disbursement/drawal up to the date of actual repayment of the crop loan by the farmer or up to the due date of the loan fixed by the banks whichever is earlier.
- It is for a maximum period of one year.
- RBI has defined that farmers can avail of short-term crop loans of up to Rs 3 lakh at the subsidised interest rate of 7%that could go down to 4% on prompt repayment.
- An additional interest subvention of 3% will be available for those who pay their pay dues on time.
- This also implies that the farmers paying promptly as above would get short term crop loans @ 4% per annum during the year 2017-18.
SBI holds home loan utsav in Bengaluru
State Bank of India held two-day Home Loan Utsav at its local head office in Bengaluru.
(a)The loan Utsav saw title sponsor is GM Infinite.
(b)Subtitle sponsors- Brigade Group, Salarpuria Sattva and DSR Infra.
- The bank is offering a 0.25% concession in interest rate from the fourth year of the home loan if it is availed at the SBI Utsav.
- Those buying flats in real estate projects for which SBI has extended loans can avail home loans in four days.
- Tagline: Pure banking, nothing else.
- With You- All the way
- A Bank of the common man
Logo: The logo of SBI is a blue circle with a small cut in the bottom that depicts perfection and the small man the common man-being the center of the bank’s business. The logo came from National institute of design (NID), Ahmedabad and it was inspired by Kankaria Lake.
Karur Vysya Bank inaugurates AADHAAR enrolment centre in Chennai
Private sector Karur Vysya Bank has unveiled the Aadhaar Enrolment Centre in Chennai.
- The Unique Identification Authority of India had advised commercial banks to provide Aadhaar enrolment and updation facility at various branches.
- KVB is the first private sector bank to provide Aadhaar Enrolment Centre service in the country.
- Karur Vysya Bank identified the branches and ensured early implementation of the service.
- Unique Identification Authority of India, Assistant Director General and D M Gajarehave inaugurated the first Enrolment Centre at the Nelson Manickam Road branch.
- Customers need to bring in the approved documents as proof of residence and identity.
- The process of enrolment or updating the details in AADHAAR can be completed in about 15 minutes.
- Karur Vysya Bank has planned to expand the service to 75 more branches across the country.
About Karur Vysya Bank
- Founded: 1916
- HQ: Karur, Tamil Nadu India
- Chairman: B. Swaminathan
NSE to introduce seamless corporate announcement filing mechanism
NSE has decided to introduce seamless corporate announcement filing mechanism for information related to change in auditors, change in directors, and declaration of audit reports with unmodified opinion. This system will be in effect from 17th August 2017.
- The listed companies would be required to file corporate announcements on reappointment and statement of impact of audit qualifications through the mechanism.
- The announcements filed by listed companies under the mechanism are circulated directly on the NSE website without the exchange’s intervention.
- It would help in dissemination of corporate announcements to investors without loss of time.
- Under this seamless system, the information will get circulated as has been filed by listed entity.
- The registrar and share transfer agent update, strikes/lockouts/disturbances updates, trading window, code of conduct under SEBI’s insider trading regulations, can also be filed under this system.
- The National Stock Exchange of India Limited (NSE) is the leading stock exchange of India, located in Mumbai
- Founded on 1992
- MD & CEO: Vikram Limaye
Appointments & Resigns
Sohail Mahmood took charge as Pakistan’s new High Commissioner to India
Sohail Mahmood Pakistan’s High Commissioner to India took charge at the High Commission on 16th of August 2017.
- Sohail Mahmood, a career diplomat, joined Pakistan’s Foreign Service in 1985.
- He was born in 1962 and holds Masters Degrees in History and International Relations.
- His first posting abroad was in Ankara, where he served at the Pakistan Embassy from 1991-1994.
- He has served in various missions abroad, including Washington, New York and Ankara.
- He was Pakistan’s Ambassador to Thailand from 2009-2013.
- Mahmood was Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Islamabad, where he earlier served as Director General (2005-2009), Director (1995-1998) and Section Officer (1986-1991).
- He is one of the senior most officers of the Pakistan Foreign Service.
GM India appoints Sanjiv Gupta as president, MD
General Motors (GM) India has announced the appointment of Sanjiv Gupta as the new President and Managing Director of the company.
- The current President and Managing Director Kaher Kazem will hand over the reins of the company to Sanjiv Gupta, who is Chief Financial Officer, effective September 1, 2017.
- Kazem has been appointed as the President and CEO of GM Korea.
- Gupta will combine his role as GM India President and Managing Director with his finance leadership responsibilities.
India, Mexico plan to set up CEO Forum to boost trade ties
India and Mexico are planning to set up a CEO Forum to boost the trade ties. It has been announced on 15th of August 2017.
- A meeting between Commerce & Industry Ministry officials and trade diplomats from the Mexican Embassy is scheduled this week on promoting exchanges between the business communities.
- Mexico is looking at intensifying its economic partnership with big markets such as China and India believes that bilateral trade with India could touch $10 billion in the next five years from $6.41 billion at present.
- India, too, is eager to have closer business relations with the country. Top companies such as TCS and Infosys already have operations in Mexico.
- In the joint communique released by Modi and Nieto after their meeting in 2016, the two gave emphasis on encouraging cooperation in the infrastructure sector, among small and medium enterprises, in pharmaceutical products and many other sectors.
- Capital: Mexico City
- President: Enrique Pena Nieto
- Currency: Peso
Science & Technology
NPPA caps prices of orthopaedic knee implants
The National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has capped the prices of orthopaedic knee implants.
- The cobalt chromium knee implant, available at over Rs 1,58,000 at hospitals, will now be available for a ceiling price of Rs 54,720.
- At present, such implants have a market share of 80%.
- Implants with special metals like titanium or oxidised zirconium are priced at almost Rs 4,50,000 lakh. The new ceiling price will now be Rs 76,600.
- Highly-flexible implants are available at Rs 1,81,728 or more. Now, they will be sold at a ceiling price of Rs 56,490.
- Another category of surgery is revision implants, where a patient goes for a second surgery.
- The average maximum retail price of the revision implants is Rs 2,76,869. Now, they will be available at a ceiling of Rs 1,13,950.
- The government will consider invoking Section 3 (i) of the Drug Price Control Order if manufacturers do not cooperate in keeping adequate stock.
First power utility to use QR code for bill payment: Tata Power
Tata Power has become the first power utility to introduce a QR code based bill payments system in India announced on 17th of August 2017.
- According to the statement, the QR code linked to Unified Payments Interface (UPI) will be printed on the electricity bills.
- The customers can scan the QR code with BHIM app or any other UPI linked bank app and pay their bills without any hassle.
- Tata Power has become the first power utility to introduce QR code service for bill payments in Mumbai.
- Though this functionality of bill payments through a QR code has been introduced in other service industries, it will be launched in the power industry for the first time in India by Tata Power.
- The bill details will be displayed on the app, post which the customer can authorize the payment within a few seconds and his bill will be paid instantaneously.
- All bill details will be auto captured while scanning the QR code and the consumer has to pay using a single tap on his smartphone.
- The service will provide safer payment options to the consumers and contribute to the financial inclusion in the country.
All NH toll plazas to have separate lane for FASTag vehicles from 1st of Sept.
FASTag vehicles set to be operational at all toll plazas from 1st of September. The Centre has made arrangements for their online and offline sale.
- In order to enable the availability of FASTags for Electronic Toll Collection, National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has taken two steps in consultation with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI).
- It will include online sale of FASTags and offline sale through Common Services Centre (CSC) near toll plazas.
- FASTag can also be purchased online from Issuer Banks websites, NHAI website and Indian Highways Management Company Ltd (IHMCL) website.
- It will be delivered by courier at the door step of the purchaser.
- It is expected that this move will increase the sale of FASTags by improving availability and access.
- FASTags can also be bought sale points of CSC to be set up near toll plazas.
- It is expected that the association with CSC will give Electronic Toll Collection (ETC) ecosystem a further boost.
- NHAI has been working on installation and efficient execution of ETC infrastructure at all the toll plazas. The work being done by NHAI will provide safe, smooth and seamless journey to commuters on the national highways.
Scientists developed highly sensitive blood test to detect cancer
Stanford scientists have developed a low-cost and highly sensitive blood test that may quickly detect cancer growth and spread.
- The test called single colour digital PCR can detect genetic mutations in minute amounts of DNA released from cancer cells into the blood.
- The highly sensitive test requires only a fraction of a tube of blood and can detect as few as three mutation-bearing molecules in a single reaction.
- It has the potential to recognise mutations unique to any individual cancer.
- For monitoring patient tumours, only a handful of blood tests are available which are limited to only several types of cancers.
- This test is simple enough to set up and analyse without extensive training, and therefore, it can be implemented by anyone, making it highly accessible to any laboratory.
- Researchers used the test to analyse samples from six patients. Five patients were previously diagnosed with colorectal cancer and one with cholangiocarcinoma or bile duct cancer.
- After generation of customised mutation detection assays, the researchers were able to identify tumour-derived circulating DNA from three out of six patients.
- In one patient, the assay was able to show the presence of three different mutations.
The three patients, whose samples did not show elevated cancer DNA, were undergoing active treatment at the time of collection.
- The main advantage is that the new technique does not rely on pre-amplification, which can introduce errors and biases.
Uber Introduces ‘Uber for Business’ with customised travel options
Ridesharing app Uber has announced a new feature called ‘Uber for Business’ in India with an aim to give organizations a more efficient way to manage their business travel and improve employees’ experience.
About ‘Uber for Business’:
- ‘Uber for Business’ includes features such as ‘Set-and-forget travel programmes’ that will allow managers to set up automated programmes for commuting, business travel, airport rides and any other mobility need.
- Companies can now set rules for employees, customers and clients around the type of car that they can use, how much they can spend and the location from which a trip needs to begin or end.
- Businesses can also provide customised levels of Uber access depending on each person’s needs.
Quick Facts about Uber:
- Founded in: 2009
- Founded by: Travis Kalanick, Garrett Camp
- Headquarters: California, US
India has 27,312 elephants, Karnataka has highest: Census Estimation
According to preliminary results from the first-ever synchronised all-India Elephant Population Estimation released by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on World Elephant Day (August 12, 2017), India is home to 27,312 Asian elephant population.
About All-India Elephant Population Census:
- The census was conducted from March 2017 to May 2017.
- It covered 1.10 lakh square kilometres and spanned four regions of the country: the northeast, east-central, south and north.
Highlights of All-India Elephant Population Census:
- Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (3,054).
- In Karnataka, the protected forests of Nagarhole, Bhadra and Bandipur have the maximum elephant density.
Real Madrid won 2017 Spanish Super Cup
Real Madrid won the Spanish Super Cup for the 10th time with a 2-0 win over Barcelona.
- The Spanish Super Cup was held at Santiago Bernabeu on 16th of August 2017 and Real Madrid has won by 5-1 on aggregate points.
- Marco Asensio and Karim Benzema scored for Real Madrid to secure a 2-0 win over Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup.
- Real Madrid achieved the feat without Cristiano Ronaldo, who was slapped with a five-game ban for pushing the referee after he was sent-off in the first leg.
About Spanish Super Cup
- The Supercopa de Espana or the Spanish Super Cupis, a Spanish football championship.
- Founded in 1982
- All-time top scorer: Lionel Messi has scored the most goals in the Supercopa de España history, a total of 13 goals.
Former Advocate General of Kerala MK Damodaran passes away
Former Kerala advocate general M K Damodaran passed away in Kochi. He was 77.
- Damodaran had worked as an Advocate General during the LDF regime headed by E K Nayanar from 1996-2001.
- The present LDF government had last year initiated steps to appoint Damodaran as the legal advisor to the Chief Minister.
- Damodaran was imprisoned during the Emergency in 1975-77.