Today Current Affairs 19th April 2017

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Mongolia launched its first satellite on Wednesday, part of its efforts to make use of new technology to diversify its resource-dependent economy.The 1,227-megahertz satellite, called Mongol Sat-1, will help landlocked Mongolia expand its television, telecoms and broadband services, according to a video posted on the official website of Mongolia’s parliament.The satellite was launched in partnership with Asia Broadcast Satellite (ABS), a telecoms and broadcast provider for the region. No details about the cost of the satellite and the launch were provided, and government agencies could not be immediately reached for comment.“The project that began over 10 years ago has been finally accomplished,” said Parliament Speaker Miyeegombo Enkhbold in a meeting with ABS Chief Executive Officer Thomas Choi at the satellite’s launch.”This is a historic advance, and we are proud that Mongolia sends its first satellite off into space.”Enkhbold said the satellite would also be used to help with space research, map making and with preparing for natural disastersMongolia has been adopting new technologies to help connect its most remote and inaccessible regions, and dozens of new television broadcasters have also been launched in the last decade.Mobile phones have also become an essential part of life for Mongolia’s traditional nomadic herders, providing remote settlements with access to banking and weather alerts.The International Monetary Fund has urged Mongolia to diversify its economy as part of a $5.5 billion bailout.Mongolia plunged into an economic and financial crisis last year after a collapse in commodity prices eroded growth and sent its currency, the tugrik, plummeting.

India is hopeful that Nepal will be able to forge consensus through dialogue in its quest for peace, stability and multi-party democracy taking all the sections of its society on board, President Pranab Mukherjee said at New Delhi.In his banquet speech in the honour of visiting Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari, Mukherjee said India has an abiding interest in the socio-economic development of Nepal.He said Nepal is passing through a crucial phase in its quest for peace, stability and multi-party democracy with the aim of consolidating the gains of democracy and achieving economic prosperity.“India lauds the enterprise and achievements of the people of Nepal. Their wisdom and resilience will, no doubt, succeed in forging consensus through dialogue and understanding so as to achieve their objectives within a federal and democratic framework, taking all sections of their society on board,” Mukherjee said.The Himalayan nation is witnessing strong opposition of the Indian-origin Madhesi people on the implementation of the new Constitution.The Madhesis, mostly of Indian-origin, launched a prolonged agitation between September 2015 and February last year against the implementation of the new Constitution which they felt marginalised the Terai community.Bhandari is on her first State visit after taking over as the President of Nepal.Mukherjee said India is happy that Nepal is engaged in the important task of implementing the Constitution and pursuing a progressive and inclusive political agenda.The President said India deeply values its historical and traditionally close relations with Nepal.He said the long shared open border and national treatment of each other reflect a closeness that few other countries share.“We believe that the prosperity, security and welfare of our two nations are inter-linked and inter-dependent. India is committed to extending all possible support in accordance with the priorities of the people and Government of Nepal,” Mukherjee said in his banquet speech last evening.He said the close bonds of kinship and cooperation between India and Nepal are defined by geography and enriched by common culture and history.The President said age-old fraternal relations between the two nations have been nurtured by successive governments and leaders in both India and Nepal into a dynamic and enriching partnership.“We consider it natural and logical that as neighbours with a unique and exemplary relationship, both nations should continuously build on our many complementarities, explore all opportunities and pursue new avenues of cooperation to our mutual benefit,” he said.The President said both our peoples are opposed to the menace of terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.“Development and progress are of utmost importance to us. Towards our common goals, we have been cooperating closely, to very successful outcomes,” Mukherjee said.He said the visit of Nepal’s President has provided an opportunity to reaffirm special relationship between the two countries and to identify ways and means of further enriching multifaceted partnership between them.“She will find one clear and consistent message of India’s unequivocal commitment to bilateral cooperation and friendship with Nepal. India also seeks to advance our common interests through regional and sub-regional cooperation based on respect .

Benchmark Sensex snapped its four- session long streak to end marginally higher today on selective buying by investors.The 30-share index opened higher at 29,369.90 buoyed by forecast of a normal monsoon and advanced to a high of 29,388.25 but succumbed to profit—booking and slipped to 29,241.48, before concluding 17.47 points, or 0.06 per cent higher at 29,336.57.The broader NSE Nifty shed 1.65 points, or 0.02 per cent, to end at 9,103.50.

As part of its attempts to encourage entrepreneurship in the financial market space, Japanese financial major Nomura has launched its 'Voyager -Nomura FinTech Partnership' in India.The global financial major is inviting entrepreneurs to participate in the program to build innovative solutions for capital markets and investment banking that can be deployed across the firm and financial industry, said a statement issued by the company.To achieve this, it has set up Nomura Innovation Centre (NICe) at Powai in Mumbai to provide a platform to start-ups that will be selected for the Voyager program.Speaking on the initiative, R K Rangan, President & CEO, Nomura Services India, said: “New technology, supported by an innovation-driven ecosystem, has resulted in an environment of increasing collaboration between new and traditional market players. Building on this momentum, Voyager is a program for start-ups to engage with Nomura to drive innovation through its global network.”As per the statement, working at NICe will enable entrepreneurs to access Nomura resources and test their concepts and solutions leveraging the firm's people, processes and technology. The partnership could lead to start-ups potentially gaining Nomura as a client and/or an investor and obtaining global exposure.Further, Nomura has collaborated with PwC as a knowledge partner, and with Google, IBM and Amazon Internet Services to bring together industry expertise to the Voyager program.“Nomura has already gained momentum in FinTech with the launch of Financial Innovation Office globally, an accelerator program in Japan, and the establishment of N-Village, a wholly-owned subsidiary, to promote new business development and open innovation. We also plan to create a new 10 billion yen fund to provide financial support to start-ups. The Voyager initiative in India is a further sign of our commitment to engage with start-ups and encourage financial innovation,” said Yo Akatsuka, Senior Managing Director, Innovations, Nomura Holdings, Inc.

The National Green Tribunal on Wednesday directed an immediate and complete shutdown of all industries around Bengaluru’s Bellandur Lake where a mound of garbage was set on fire in February this year. Slamming the local civic bodies for inaction, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar also banned dumping of any kind of municipal solid waste around the lake and announced an environment compensation of Rs 5 lakh on anyone found dumping waste in and around the lake.“All the industries located in the vicinity of Bellandur Lake and discharging effluent are hereby directed to be closed… “No industry is permitted to operate unless inspection by a joint inspection team is conducted and analysis of effluent is found to be within the permissible limits,” the bench, which also comprised Justice R S Rathore, said.The green panel ordered the State Pollution Control Board to seal the industries which are violating the directions. The tribunal had yesterday taken objection to a legal opinion by the state government while interpreting its May 4, 2016 order that had increased the buffer zone of lakes from 30 metres to 75 metres in Bengaluru.Earlier, the NGT had lashed out at the Karnataka government and its agencies responsible for maintenance of the Bellandur lake, asking them why they should not be prosecuted for negligence following the recent outbreak of fire in the waterbody. It had earlier issued notice to the Union Environment Ministry, the Karnataka government, Lake Authority of Bangalore, state pollution control board and Central Pollution Control Board in the case.“Undoubtedly, such emissions are bound to be have an adverse impact on environment, ecology and human health. It is a matter which requires serious investigation, remedial measures and restoration of the lake to its original wholesome status,” it had said. Thick cloud of white smoke persisted in the air around Bellandur Lake in Bengaluru after the blaze in a garbage mound around it on February 16.On February 20, the NGT had taken suo motu cognisance of media reports and photographs of the incident in which fire broke out in the Bengaluru lake. “It is reported that there were thick clouds of smoke which severely hit traffic and people living around the lake. It is also reported that usually a pile of garbage around the lake is set on fire and there was total panic.

The Central government has decided to abolish the use of red beacons on any vehicle other than ambulances, police vehicles and fire brigade vehicles.This will cover all dignitaries including the Prime Minister.This was announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at a press conference after the Cabinet meeting on Wednesday. The decision was conveyed by the Prime Minister to the Cabinet today, Mr. Jaitley said.The Rule 108 which says that the Centre or a State can notify categories of vehicles that can be driven with red beacons is being abolished. The Centre or any State cannot have a dignitary nominated for use of red lights from May 1.The Rule 108 (2) is being changed so that only emergency services can use blue flashing lights. There will be no exceptions to this, the Finance Minister.

Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan on Wednesday suggested that Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath must reinstate 'sati pratha', where widows were burned with their husband's pyre, before banning triple talaq. "Who is stopping him to legislate laws on triple talaq? But first, tell me which Muslim opposed 'sati pratha''Sati pratha' is a part of the Hindu culture," he asserted .His remark came after Adityanath said that those silent on the triple talaq issue were equally 'guilty' as the ones practising it. "People maintaining silence are equally guilty," Adityanath said while addressing a launch of book on former prime minister Chandra Shekhar Singh.The Chief Minister further said, "If our criminal suits and marriages are similar, then what is harm to implement Uniform Civil Code in the country."Citing the example of Mahabharata's Draupadi's 'Cheer-haran', he said that the society would also be equally guilty if it does not utter a single word on the issue.The fresh impetus to impose a ban on triple talaq came after Prime Minister Narendra Modi strongly spoke against the issue."Our Muslim sisters deserve justice. We should try to solve this issue at the district level. We should also proceed on the formula of a new India. We can't simply move forward on a slow pace, but charge ahead with full speed," he said during the BJP National Executive Meeting in Bhubaneswar. 

Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT) will start functioning in Madhya Pradesh from August this year. VIT University Trustee and Vice Chancellor G Vishwanathan met MP Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan yesterday and informed him about certain developments, an official of the Public Relation Department said.“The academic session of the university will commence from August this year,” Vishwanathan told PTI today.The foundation stone for the new campus, at Kothri Kalan on Bhopal-Indore Highway in Sehore district, was laid by Chouhan last year.The varsity is setting up its campus in over 100 acres area with an investment of 500 crore in phases.

The Union Cabinet on Wednesday is said to have cleared purchase of VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) machines as requested by the Election Commission.Recently, Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Nasim Zaidi had requested the Union Law Ministry for urgent release of funds, given the “prevailing environment,” to facilitate procurement of VVPAT (voter verifiable paper audit trail) machines for the 2019 Lok Sabha elections Amid protests by Opposition parties against electronic voting machines (EVMs) without paper trail units, Mr. Zaidi said the EC felt that the procurement of VVPAT machines could not be delayed any longer.Over 16 lakh VVPATs would be required, at an estimated cost of 3,174 crore, to cover all polling stations in the next Lok Sabha polls.

Mobile subscribers cannot pay more than Rs 20,000 in one tranche to buy a service or download content by using their pre-paid account balance or through post-paid bills, the Department of Telecom said today.“The subscribers can download all paid digital contents through their mobile phones and the payments for such contents can be made using their mobile pre-paid account balance or post-paid bill payment methodology with a maximum value not exceeding Rs 20,000 each time,” a DoT order said.Many subscribers pay for downloading digital contents like mobile application, ebooks, movies etc through their pre-paid balance or post-paid bill system option.The system is helpful for those subscribers who do not have access to debit, credit cards or net banking system.The DoT said that payment made by using mobile balance or bill will not be deducted from telecom operators total revenue to calculate adjusted gross revenue (AGR).“Such purchase of digital content shall not be treated as pass-through revenue for the purpose of computing AGR for licence fee and spectrum usage charge,” the note said.Telecom operators in the country are required to pay a percentage of adjusted gross revenue to the government as it is net amount earned by them from sale of telecom services.

The United Nations will issue special stamps commemorating the International Yoga Day on June 21 this year.“Releasing soon. @unstamps Special Event sheet to commemorate International Day of Yoga,” India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin tweeted.The UN postal agency, UN Postal Administration (UNPA) will issue the new special event sheet to commemorate Yoga Day that has been marked annually since 2015. The special sheet consists of stamps with images of the sacred Indian sound “Om” and various yogic asanas.The first International Yoga Day was commemorated at the UN in 2015 with aplomb, with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj leading the celebrations along with then UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and US Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard.In December 2014, the UN General Assembly had adopted a resolution with a record number of 177 co-sponsoring member states to commemorate the International Day of Yoga every year on June 21.United Nations stamps are issued simultaneously at UN offices in New York, Geneva and Vienna. Each issue carries a related design theme, with different denominations for each office. Usually six new commemorative issues are released each year and remain on sale for 12 months only. UN stamps have illustrated the aims and achievements of the United Nations and its family of organisations, the UNPA website.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday revived conspiracy charges against L.K. Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi and 13 others in the 25-year-old Babri Masjid demolition cases.The Supreme Court in its ruling said the case should be tried in a time-bound, day-to-day basis, without any adjournments or transfer of trial judge.Union Minister Uma Bharti is also among the accused who will be tried for criminal conspiracy.A Special Court had in May 2001 dropped the criminal conspiracy charges against Mr. Advani and top BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders, including Ashok Singhal, Giriraj Kishore, Murli Manohar Joshi, and Uma Bharti among others. The Allahabad HC had dismissed the CBI plea to revive the conspiracy charges in May 2010, following which the agency moved the Supreme Court in appeal in February 2011.

An Air India flight with around 300 pssengers on-board was grounded here today before its departure for New York due to hydraulic failure in one of the aircraft engines.All the passengers have been accommodated in a nearby hotel and the flight has been rescheduled for 5p.m. today, an Air India spokesperson said.The Boeing 777-300 ER aircraft had to be grounded due a hydraulic failure in one of the aircraft engines, the spokesperson said.Air India flight AI 101 (New Delhi-New York) was scheduled to depart from the Indira Gandhi International airport here at 0140 hours.“All passengers had boarded the aircraft and it was ready for departure when problem in the engine was detected,” said a stranded flyer.The engineers were called in to fix the glitch and make the aircraft airworthy but to no avail, the passenger said.“We remained seated in the plane till around 6a.m. Later, the airline staff shifted us to a hotel,” the passenger said.Air India tried to arrange another aircraft to ferry the stranded passengers but it could not be made available, the spokesperson said.The engineers are working on the plane and it is expected to be airworthy soon, the spokesperson said, adding the same aircraft will fly to New York at 5p.m.

Deadline for the construction of phase III approaching, Delhi Metro has reportedly negotiated with house owners in southwest Delhi’s Hasanpur area and paid around Rs 5.91 crore to have the top floors of two buildings demolished, the Times of India has reported. The area is a 714 square-metre plot which is the first time the Delhi Metro has closed a deal using easement rights in which it would not own the buildings in question, the TOI report added.“The owners can rebuild the structure, provided they get the requisite permission from Delhi Metro once the viaduct is constructed,” Delhi Metro spokesperson Anuj Dayal was quoted as saying to Times of India.The spokesperson said that the two buildings may not get permission to rebuild up to their present height in the future because “the reconstruction will have to be in tune with the regulations for structures near Delhi Metro viaducts”, the Times of India reported. The spokesperson added that negotiations were done as per DMRC’s policy with the land owners.

The United States has singled out North Korea and Syria over human rights violations and warned at the United Nations that new conflicts could be triggered by abuses in Iran, Cuba and North Korea. US ambassador Nikki Haley made the case at the Security Council yesterday that more attention should be focused on rights abuses to prevent conflict, a view challenged by Russia, China and other countries at the UN body.“When a state begins to systematically violate human rights, it is a sign, it is a red flag, it’s a blaring siren — one of the clearest possible indicators that instability and violence may follow and spill across borders,” said Haley.Turning to Syria, she recalled that the war, now in its seventh year, began with anti-government protests, and took a swipe at the council for being “reluctant to address” the crisis early on.In North Korea, “systematic human rights violations underwrite the country’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs,” she argued“The next international crisis could very well come from places where human rights are widely disregarded. Perhaps it will be North Korea or Iran or Cuba,” she said.Haley also mentioned cases of torture in Burundi and Myanmar’s crackdown on ethnic Rohingyas as human rights concerns.The United States, which holds the council presidency this month, was able to hold the meeting on human rights following negotiations with countries that did not want it to be a formal agenda item.Seven countries — Russia, China, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Bolivia, Senegal — raised objections, with many arguing that the UN Human Rights Council was the venue for such discussion.In the end, human rights were discussed under the existing “international peace and security” agenda item at the Security Council.During the meeting, Chinese Ambassador Liu Jieyi devoted his remarks on poverty as one of the root causes of conflict and notably did not mention human rights.“All nations should take development as a first priority,” he said.Russian Deputy Ambassador Evgeniy Zagaynov argued that the Security Council would be extending its mandate of preserving peace and security if it were to tackle human rights.Such a move would lead to a “politicization” of the Security Council and “lower trust” in its work, argued the Russian envoy.In a jab at the United States, Bolivia argued that joining the International Criminal Court would help advance human rights. The United States has not signed the Rome statute establishing the ICC.Human rights groups were skeptical of the US push for the meeting, raising questions about President Donald Trump’s commitment to ending violations.“If the Trump administration wants to burnish its reputation on rights, it should address problems at home such as its discriminatory travel ban on people from six Muslim majority countries,” said Akshaya Kumar, deputy UN director at Human Rights.