31st Dec 2017 – Current Affairs Today

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National Current Affairs

Nitish Kumar lays foundation for Rs 700 crore projects

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar laid foundation stones for more than 100 projects worth Rs 700 crore in Nalanda district as part of his state-wide “Vikas Samiksha Yatra”.

  • At Chamera village in Ekangarsarai block, 132 projects worth Rs 97.63 crore in addition to the 114, worth Rs 698.65 crore, for which foundation stones were laid were dedicated to public.
  • Various development schemes were being run by the government in addition to social reform measures like ban on alcohol and campaigns against dowry and child marriage
  • Agriculture in the state was likely to receive a major boost as part of his government’s “third roadmap” for the period 2017-22 which was recently launched by President Ramnath Kovind.

 

Odisha police to go digital from January 1, 2018

The Odisha police is all set to go digital from January 1, 2018 with computerisation of police station work under the Criminal Tracking and Networking System (CCTNS).

  • The project is being implemented under the national e-governance initiative at a cost of Rs 61 crore.
  • Out of 612 police stations across the state, 589 police stations have been equipped with the necessary hardware and software for successful implementation of the project.
  • All police stations will have to work online while registering cases, station diaries, case diaries and charge sheets.
  • The investigating officers will also be able to use laptops, tabs and smart phones for accessing the database and generating reports easily.

 

Centre sanctions Rs 1,250 cr for Assam inland transport

The central government has sanctioned Rs. 1,250 crore for the development of transport sector in Assam.

  • This financial assistance was aimed at an all-round development of the inland transport sector of the state.
  • With this financial outlay, the government also aimed at developing the inland water transport,
  • Of this outlay, an amount of Rs 32 crore will be utilized for constructing 56 terminals and Rs. 60 crore will be spent on Ro-Ro service.
  • Setting up a motor driving training institute all the districts of the state has also been envisaged.

 


International Current Affairs

Pakistan announces hydropower project worth $1.5bn in PoK

A new hydropower project with an estimated cost of $1.51 billion is being set up by the Pakistan government on the banks of river Jhelum in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). The project is expected to be complete by 2022 with the help of foreign funds.

  • The project which is called Azad Pattan Hydropower Project is an initiative undertaken by the government under the Policy for Power Generation 2002.
  • The cost of the project will be 75 per cent debt, mostly foreign debt, and 25 per cent equity. With a debt repayment period of 18 years including a six-year grace period. The project is expected to be completed within six years.

 

China shuts down its legal Ivory trade

As of December 31, all of the China’s licensed ivory carving factories and retailers will be shuttered in accordance with a landmark 2015 announcement from Chinese President Xi Jinping and then U.S. President Barack Obama.

  • China and the U.S. both agreed to “near-complete” ivory bans, which prohibit the buying and selling of all but a limited number of antiques and a few other items. The U.S.’s ivory ban went into effect in June 2016. China’s goes into effect December 31, 2017.
  • The Chinese government's ban on its domestic ivory trade sends a message to the general public in China that the life of elephants is more important than the ivory carving culture.
  • China’s State Forestry Administration, the agency in charge of enforcing the new ban, is embarking on a campaign to make sure the country’s citizens are aware of the law.

 


Banking & Finance

6 stressed banks get capital of Rs 7,500 crore

The government has provided over Rs 7,500-crore fresh equity to six stressed state-run banks to help them meet the prescribed regulatory capital requirement and state its commitment to keep banks well-funded.

  • Bank of India, IDBI Bank, UCO Bank, Bank of Maharashtra, Dena Bank and Central Bank of India have received equity through preferential issue of shares with two of them informing stock exchanges about the decision.
  • The six banks are on the list of players that are part of prompt corrective action initiated against state-run lenders whose performance has slipped due to a pile-up of bad debt.
  • Strict conditions will be put in place to avoid a repeat of unbridled lending that has resulted in record non-performing assets (NPAs) for Indian banks, especially those in the public sector. At the same time, it is working on an incentivising the better performers.

 

Allahabad Bank ties up with NeSL

On December 30, 2017, Allahabad Bank entered into an agreement with National e-Governance Services Limited (NeSL) for utilizing its Information Utility Services envisaged under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

  • State-owned NeSL is the first Information Utility entity registered by Insolvency and bankruptcy Board of India under IBBI (IU) Regulations, 2017.
  • Information utility is an information network which procures and stores financial data like borrowings, default and security interests of various entities.
  • Information stored by Information Utility Services can be accessed by concerned parties during insolvency resolution process under National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT).
  • Having access to high-quality authenticated financial information helps stakeholders to counter frivolous litigations made by defaulters to delay the process.

 

Rs 14500cr generated through BHARAT 22 ETF

On December 29, 2017, Minister of State for Finance, P Radhakrishnan, informed Lok Sabha that Central Government has raised an amount of Rs 14500 crore through its BHARAT 22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF).

  • An exchange-traded fund (ETF) is an investment fund traded on stock exchanges, just like stocks. An ETF holds assets such as stocks, commodities, or bonds and tracks an index, such as a stock index or bond index. ETFs may be attractive as investments because of their low costs, tax efficiency, and stock-like features.
  • Bharat 22 ETF was launched in November 2017. It is a unique blend of shares of key Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs), Public Sector Banks (PSBs) and Government owned shares in blue chip private companies like Larsen & Tubro (L&T), Axis Bank and ITC held under the Specified Undertaking of the Unit Trust of India (SUUTI).
  • It comprises 22 companies that represent 6 important sectors of the economy – Finance, Industry, Energy, Utilities, Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) and Basic Materials.
  • Owing to positive response from Institutional Investors and to accommodate huge demand from retail investors and retirement funds, Government had increased the issue size of New Fund Offer (NFO) of Bharat 22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) to Rs 14500 crore from Rs. 8000 crore earlier.

 

Finance Ministry clears decks for a fourth whole-time member at SEBI

Union Finance Ministry has accepted Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI’s) request to have four whole time members.

  • As per the SEBI Act, the board of SEBI comprises a chairman, one member each from the Reserve Bank of India, Union Finance Ministry and corporate affairs Ministry and five other members of whom at least three should be the whole-time members.
  • Demand for fourth whole-time member was made to handle the increased workload post merger of Forward Markets Commission (FMC) with SEBI in 2015.
  • Having one more whole time member will not only help to tackle the increased workload but will also broaden SEBI’s top leadership pool.
  • Currently, SEBI has two whole time members, Madhabi Puri Buch and G Mahalingam, while Sanjeev Kaushik was appointed as the third whole-time member in November 2017. However, he is yet to join duty.

 


Science & Technology

NASA's flying observatory to explore Saturn's moon

NASA's flying observatory is preparing its 2018 observing campaign, which will include observations of celestial magnetic fields, star-forming regions, comets and Saturn's giant moon Titan.

  • This will be the fourth year of full operations for Sofia, with observations planned between February 2018 and January 2019.
  • Sofia is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 100-inch diameter telescope. It is a joint project of NASA and the German Aerospace Center, DLR.
  • The observatory's newest instrument, the High-resolution Airborne Wideband Camera-Plus, called HAWC+, will continue research with its polarimeter, a device that measures the alignment of incoming light waves.
  • These investigations will help them understand how magnetic fields affect the rate at which interstellar clouds condense to form new stars.
  • One such programme will use the instrument to understand the impact magnetic fields have on stars forming inside a dark cloud, a stellar nursery filled with dust and molecules, called L1448.

 

Indian Startup reveals the First Robocop in Hyderabad

On December 29, 2017, H-BOTS, a Hyderabad-based artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning start-up unveiled a prototype of a smart policing robot.

  • The life size prototype is five-foot-seven-inch tall, weighs 43 kg and is made of nylon plastic, which is ten times stronger than regular plastic.
  • It can take complaints, monitor temperature, identify suspects, can record audio and video clips and can assist people at malls, streets, airports and railway stations.
  • It has a multi-touch screen. It can recognise voice and can interact in English. The makers have stated that in the near future, it will also recognise Telugu and Hindi.
  • After some more fine-tuning, H-BOTS is planning to produce 700 such units a year by 2020.

 

IAF bids farewell to MiG-27 ML Bahadur

On December 28, 2017, Indian Air Force (IAF) bade farewell to MiG-27 ML, Bahadur fleet at Hasimara Air Force base in Bengal.

  • Russian origin MiG-27 ML, codenamed ‘Bahadur’ in India, was inducted into the IAF fleet in the late 1980s.
  • MiG-27 ML was a dedicated ground attack aircraft capable of delivering a variety of loads (bombs, rockets and guided munitions) in different modes of attack with immense precision.
  • MiG-27 ML fleet played an instrumental role in Kargil and participated in numerous international exercises held in India.
  • 22 Squadron, known as ‘Swifts’ was the last squadron of the IAF flying the MiG-27 MLs.

 


Appointments & Resigns

Vineet Chowdhary appointed chief secretary to Himachal government

On 31st December 2017, Vineet Chowdhary was appointed as chief secretary to the Himachal government.

  • Vineet Chowdhary replaces Vidya Charan Pharka.
  • Vidya Charan Pharka was appointed as chief secretary on June 1, 2016, superseding six senior IAS officers including Vineet Chowdhary.
  • Vineet Chowdhary had filed a case in the Central Administrative Tribunal. Now, Vidya Charan Pharka has been appointed as principal advisor to the government.

 

N C Goel appointed new Chief Secretary of Rajasthan

On 30th December 2017, N C Goel was made the new Chief Secretary of Rajasthan.

  • N C Goel was Additional Chief Secretary of Forest and Environment, Tourism, Art and Culture Department, Mines and Petroleum departments.
  • He was the CMD of Jaipur Metro Rail Corporation Ltd, Rajasthan. He was also District Collector and Magistrate of Alwar and Jaisalmer. He replaces Ashok Jain.

 

Dr M Malakondaiah is new Andhra Pradesh police chief (Director General of Police)

On 30th December 2017, M Malakondaiah was appointed Director General of Police (Head of Police Force) in Andhra Pradesh.

  • Dr M Malakondaiah is the Managing Director of Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation.
  • He replaces Nanduri Sambasiva Rao. Malakondaiah will retire on June 30, 2018 from service.

 

Om Prakash Singh is appointed as DGP of Uttar Pradesh

Om Prakash Singh has been appointed the new Director General of Police (DGP) of Uttar Pradesh.

  • Om Prakash Singh replaces Sulkhan Singh as Director General of Police of Uttar Pradesh
  • Sulkhan Singh is a 1980 batch IPS officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre. His term ended on 31st December 2017.

 


Acquisitions & Mergers

Bank of Baroda acquires 51 per cent foreign stake in MF arm

Bank of Baroda has entered into an agreement with Italian bank UniCredit S.p.A. to acquire its 51 per cent stake in Baroda Pioneer Asset Management Company. Owing to this agreement, Bank of Baroda’s stake in Baroda Pioneer Asset Management Company has increased to 100 per cent and Pioneer Investments (owned by UniCredit) has thus exited the venture.

  • This deal was mandated as Pioneer Investment itself has been acquired by French asset manager Amundi which already has a 37% stake in SBI Mutual Fund.
  • It is to be noted that as per Securities and Exchange Board of India guidelines (SEBI) guidelines, an entity cannot hold stakes in two fund houses.
  • As of November 2017, Baroda Pioneer Asset Management Company’s average assets under management (AUM) stood at about Rs 11000 crore.

 


Environment

New endemic ants discovered from the Andamans

Two new ant species Tetramorium krishnani and Tetramorium jarawa have been discovered by scientists in the islands of Andaman.

  • The Tetramorium krishnani and Tetramorium jarawa ant species were discovered by scientists of the National Centre for Biological Sciences (NCBS), Bengaluru and the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University, Japan.
  • These ant species have been named after late scientist K.S. Krishnan of NCBS, and the Jarawas – indigenous people of Andaman.
  • This research has been published in PeerJ. These new ant species live in leaf litter of the Havelock Island. These species are endemic to Andaman.

 


Obituary

Renowned educationist M V Pylee passes away at 98

On 30th December 2017, eminent educationist M V Pylee died due to age-related problems at a private hospital, in Kochi, Kerala.

  • M V Pylee was 98 years old. He was the third Vice Chancellor of the Cochin University of Science and Technology. He was considered a fore runner in management education in India.
  • He also worked as a visiting professor at several foreign universities. He had received Padma Bhushan award in 2006.