Current Affairs 11th August 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd has appointed Akhil Joshi as director (power). Prior to this, Joshi, 57, was executive director-human resource at BHEL . As director (power), Joshi will be responsible for marketing, commissioning and overall management of power projects along with the company's after-market business . Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) owned by the Government of India, is a power plant equipment manufacturer and operates as an engineering and manufacturing company based in New Delhi, India.  Established in 1964, BHEL is India’s largest engineering and manufacturing company of its kind. The company has been earning profits continuously since 1971-72 and paying dividends uninterruptedly since 1976-77.

Bill Maris, the chief executive and founder of Alphabet Inc's venture capital arm GV, is leaving the company on 8 august 2016. GV, previously known as Google Ventures, was founded in 2009 and has invested in more than 300 companies including Uber Technologies Inc and online retailer Jet.com, according to GV's website.  Alphabet's projects have seen some high-profile departures in recent months. Chris Urmson, chief technical officer for its self-driving car project, left last week, while Anthony Levandowski, product manager for the program, left earlier this year to co-found a startup.  Tony Fadell, a well-known Silicon Valley executive who was once expected to play a central role in Alphabet's hardware efforts, stepped down as chief executive of its Nest unit in June. 

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing and ratification of an Agreement between India and Croatia on Economic Cooperation. Decision in this regard was taken by the Union Cabinet Meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. India and Croatia had signed an Agreement on trade and economic cooperation earlier in September, 1994 with an aim to promote and develop bilateral trade and economic relations.  The new Agreement between both countries is a step in continuity as the earlier Agreement expired in November 2009. India’s bilateral trade with Croatia was US$ 152.01million (2012-13), US$ 148.86 million (2013-14) and US$ 205.04 million (2014-15). The average bilateral trade growth was 17.44% during these three years.

The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval Lokayuktas (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill seeks to amend Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 which provides for establishment of the Lokpal at the centre and Lokayuktas in the states for inquiring into complaints of corruption against certain public servants. The approved amendments will amend Section 44 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. These amendments will address concerns and apprehensions expressed by different categories of public servants.  They will also address the difficulties being faced in implementing the provision of section 44 of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013. These amendments are in line with one of the recommendations of the Standing Committee.

The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and South Africa for cooperation in the field of Tourism. Decision in this regard was taken by the Union Cabinet Meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. The MoU was signed in July 2016. Objectives of the MoU  : Expand bilateral cooperation in the tourism sector. Encourage cooperation between tourism stakeholders, including hotels and tour operators. Exchange information and data related to tourism Establish exchange programmes for cooperation in Human Resource Development.  Encourage visits of Tour Operators/Opinion Makers/ Media and tourists from both countries for promotion of two way tourism. Investing in the tourism and hospitality sector. Exchange experiences in the areas of education, promotion, marketing, destination development and management. Participate in travel exhibitions/fairs in each other’s country Promote safe, honourable and sustainable tourism. South Africa and India share and enjoy warm and friendly bilateral relations. South Africa is an emerging tourism source markets for India. In 2015, India had received approximately 51922 tourists from South Africa. India has extended the Electronic Tourist Visa (eTV) facility for the South African Nationals. The eTV facility has elicited good response from travel trade. The MoU will be instrumental in increasing arrival from South Africa.

The Lok Sabha has passed the Taxation Laws (Amendment) Bill 2016 to pave the way for employers in the textile sector to avail of the income tax benefit. The Bill seeks to amends the Income Tax Act (IT), 1961 and the Customs Tariff Act, 1975.  These changes are explained below. It will provide income tax benefit to employers in the textile sector on additional employment provided the employee has worked for 150 days and not 240 days as mandated earlier. Amendments to IT Act, 1961 Demerger of public sector companies : In case a public sector company demerges (split) into multiple companies under The Companies Act, 1956 the resultant company will be no longer a public sector company. Deduction in respect of employment of new employees: The limit of employing employee for minimum of 240 days in the previous year to obtain a deduction on taxable income has been reduced to 150 days for businesses which manufacture apparel. Amendments Customs Tariff Act, 1975 Customs duty on marble and granite blocks and slabs: Proposes to increase in customs duty on imports of granite and marble to 40% from earlier 10%.

The Union Cabinet has given its ex-post facto approval for introducing the Maternity Benefit (Amendment) Bill, 2016 in Parliament The Bill seeks to amend the Maternity Benefit Act, 1961. The law protects the employment of women during the time of her maternity and entitles her of a ‘maternity benefit’. The ‘maternity benefit’ includes full paid leave from work to take care for her child. This law is applicable to all establishments employing 10 or more persons. Increase Maternity Benefit to 26 weeks from 12 weeks for two surviving children and 12 weeks for more than two children. Mandatory 12 weeks Maternity Benefit to ‘Adopting mother’ and ‘Commissioning mother’. Facilitate Work from home for women during the time of her maternity. Mandatory for establishment having 50 or more employees to have Creche. These amendments will help approximately 1.8 million women workforce in organised sector.  Maternal care to the child during early childhood is crucial for growth and development of the child. The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development had proposed this Bill to enhance Maternity Benefit to 8 months based on recommendations of the 44th, 45th and 46th Indian Labour Conference. The conference had recommended enhancement of maternity benefits to 24 weeks.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CEEA) has given its approval for the development of Advanced Ultra Super Critical (AUSC) technology for thermal power plants. In this regard, CCEA has approved a one-time grant of 900 crore rupees spread over three years for an R&D project for the development of AUSC technology for thermal power plants. The project was proposed by a consortium of three government entities to reduce coal consumption as well as Carbon di-oxide (CO2) emission.  They are Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL), Indira Gandhi Centre of Atomic Research (IGCAR) National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC). AUSC technology will enable Indian industries to design, manufacture and commission higher efficiency coal-fired power plants with indigenously developed technology. This will be the first time large power plant equipment will be manufactured without any technological collaboration or licensing agreement with foreign companies. Use of this technology in all future large coal-fired power plants will ensure energy security for the country for a longer period as well as greener environment. Power generation from coal-fired power plants contributes to about 38% of CO2 pollution in the atmosphere. AUSC technology which is still in research stage will help in 20% reduction in CO2 emission at source combined with 20% saving in coal consumption compared to sub-critical plants.

Assam Government has started verification of rhino horns, stored in various treasuries since 1980 on 11 August 2016. For this purpose, the government recently instituted a Rhino Horn Verification Committee. The 12-member committee headed by former forest officer and former Assam State Information Commissioner, Mohan Chandra Malakar will be responsible for verifying the genuineness of the rhino horns, which were recovered in last three decades and stored in various treasuries. The other members of the committee includes four wildlife experts, two representatives from media, one RTI activist, one forensic scientist and four high officials of the state Forest department. As per directive, the committee after visiting every treasury of Assam that stores horn will submit its report within 60 days. The rhino horns are scattered in 12 treasuries of Assam, maximum being in Golaghat followed by Nagaon, Guwahati and Tezpur. Verification includes checking of genuineness and updating the complete inventory of rhino horns in the custody of Assam government. The first treasury was opened at Golaghat, which has the highest number of rhino horns stored in government custody. As per reports, almost all these rhino horns are of Kaziranga National Park. The trunks containing the Rhino Horns were carried in batches from the treasury to the Golaghat circuit house under heavy security. The authenticity of the horn will be verified at a filed lab set at the Golaghat circuit by the forensic experts. In case of suspicion, the particular horn would be referred to the experts of the State Forensic Laboratory.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Board of Governors has unanimously re-elected Takehiko Nakao as President of ADB for a further 5 years beginning on 24 November 2016.  Mr. Nakao was first elected as President by the Board of Governors on 28 April 2013 to serve the 3 and a half years remaining of the term of his predecessor, Haruhiko Kuroda.  Mr. Nakao is the 9th President of ADB. He was the sole nominee after ADB’s Governors were invited from 31 May to 30 June 2016 to make nominations for the organization’s presidency. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is a regional development bank established on 19 December 1966 which is headquartered in Ortigas Center located in Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines, and maintains 31 field offices around the world, to promote social and economic development in Asia.  The bank admits the members of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP, formerly the Economic Commission for Asia and the Far East or ECAFE) and non-regional.

NTPC has entered into a collaboration with Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) for joint research in low-emission energy technologies.  CSIRO and NTPC have signed a letter of intent for scientific collaboration and to encourage joint research activities in the area of low-emission energy technologies, including gasification and renewables technologies . NTPC Limited : NTPC Limited is an Indian PSU Public Sector Undertaking, engaged in the business of generation of electricity and allied activities. It is a company incorporated under the Companies Act 1956 and a "Government Company" within the meaning of the act. The headquarters of the company is situated at New Delhi. NTPC's core business is generation and sale of electricity to state-owned power distribution companies and State Electricity Boards in India. The company also undertakes consultancy and turnkey project contracts that involve engineering, project management, construction management and operation and management of power plants.

China has launched a new high-resolution Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) imaging satellite which provides accurate pictures of earth with ability to photograph detailed scenarios of its specific areas. The satellite was launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in northern Shanxi Province. The Gaofen-3 satellite was launched off on the back of aLong March 4C rocket at 6:55 am (local time), according to the centre. It was the 233rd flight mission by a Long March carrier rocket. As China's first SAR imaging satellite that is accurate to one metre in distance, it covers the globe with an all-weather, 24-hour observation service and will be used for disaster warning, weather forecasting, water resource assessments, and the protection of maritime rights, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. With 12 imaging modes, the high-definition observation satellite is capable of taking wide pictures of earth and photographing detailed scenarios of specific areas. Gaofen-3 is also China's first low orbit remote sensing satellite that has a lifespan of eight years. It is able to provide high-definition remote sensing data for its users over long periods of time. Since the inception of the Gaofen project in 2013, China has had an increasingly clear view of the planet, the report said. Launched in April 2013, Gaofen-1 can cover the globe in just four days. Gaofen-2, sent into space in August 2014, is accurate to 0.8 metres in full colour and can collect multispectral images of objects 3.2 metres or longer in length. Gaofen-4, launched in late 2015, is China's first geosynchronous orbit high-definition optical imaging satellite and the world's most sophisticated.The Gaofen-3 and the Long March 4C rocket were developed by the China Academy of Space Technology and the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, under guidance of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) has signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with IIT-Kharagpur for research project to develop technology to construct long lasting maintenance free highways in India.  IIT-Kharagpur will develop 'Paneled Cement Concrete Pavements' for highways. The duration of the research project is 3 years . In India, the highways are generally paved with bituminous material produced from refineries. However, it has been experienced that these highways are prone to damage and need frequent maintenance due to adverse climatic conditions such as rain and hot weather prevailing in the country.  Therefore, to overcome this problem, the road transport and highways ministry has recently announced a policy for the construction of concrete pavements for all major highways due to their longevity and maintenance free life.  Traditionally and as per the current practices, the construction of these highways requires a monolithic (in-situ) layer of cement concrete normally 300 mm thick laid continuously over the prepared surface, therefore, an innovation is required to optimize the design of concrete pavement in its traditional form which can facilitate faster construction at much cheaper cost, thus, consuming less natural resources and promote Green Highways in the country . The paneled concrete pavement laid on a lean concrete base can provide long lasting maintenance free pavement at a cost on par with those of bituminous pavements .

First Solar Power India, the local subsidiary of the Nasdaq-listed First Solar, announced the commercial operation of 80 MW and 50 MW solar power plants in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana on 10 august 2016. The projects are part of the 260 MW project portfolio owned by First Solar in India. After achieving a milestone of 1GW in solar photovoltaic capacity footprint in India, we are delighted to add 130 MW of utility scale solar power to the grid, growing our portfolio of operational solar assets to a cumulative capacity of 150 MW. The two plants will collectively produce enough energy to power approximately 2,27,500 average homes in India and will displace 204 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually. The project will be powered by more than 1.4 million First Solar modules offering predictable energy in all climates and applications. Electricity generated by the two projects will be purchased by the Southern Power Distribution Company of Andhra Pradesh and the Telangana State Southern Power Distribution Company under 25-year power purchase agreements.

Legendary carnatic vocalist M. S. Subbulakshmi will be honoured at the United Nations next week on India’s 70th Independence Day by a performance by Oscar-winning composer A.R. Rahman at the world body’s iconic General Assembly. Commemorations to mark Subbulakshmi’s birth centenary also include a photo exhibition at the UN headquarters by India’s Permanent Mission besides the cultural extravaganza here to coincide with the country’s Independence Day. The Indian mission is gearing up to celebrate India’s 70th Independence Day at the UN with the cultural extravaganza featuring Rahman who will become only the second Indian artist after Subbulakshmi to perform at the UN after she was invited for a performance 50 years ago. The world body’s iconic General Assembly hall, from where world leaders address the globe, will reverberate with Rahman’s music on the evening of August 15. Through his performance, Rahman will pay homage to Subbulakshmi, the first musician ever to be awarded India’s highest civilian honour Bharat Ratna. The Indian mission is organising the concert that coincides with the completion of 50 years of Subbulakshmi’s performance in the UN General Assembly hall with the support of Chennai-based Sankara Nethralaya, a not-for-profit eye care institution. Subbulakshmi was invited by the then UN Secretary General late U. Thant and the then Chef de Cabinet late C.V. Narasimhan to perform at the world body’s headquarters in 1966. Minister of State for External Affairs M J Akbar is expected to headline the Independence Day celebrations being organised at the Indian Consulate in the city. Several India Day parades will also be held across the tri-state area. Actor Abhishek Bachchan and Yoga guru Baba Ramdev will headline the parade in Manhattan, organised on August 21 by the Federation of Indian Associations of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and considered among the largest in the US.

Tata Chemicals said it will sell its urea business to Yara Fertiliser for Rs 2670 crore  as part of value unlocking by the company. Tata Chemicals said it would continue to own the brands – Paras, TKS and Daksha and the deal does not include specialty products and complex fertilisers. The company’s shares were trading 6 per cent up  at Rs 492 a share. Founded in 1905 in Europe, Yara has worldwide presence with 13,000 employees and in 150 countries. Tata Chemicals said the divestment is in line with the strategic direction of the company to continue to strengthen the fertiliser businesses by partnerships and transfer of ownership to world class companies. The urea business will now have the benefit of international network of Yara and its global expertise. Tata Chemicals said the sale marks a decisive move on the part of the company to move forward on its strategy to build consumer business while maintaining leadership in Inorganic chemicals Business and focusing the farm business through its subsidiary Rallis and Metahelix. The company is pleased to have found a strong partner to parent its Urea business. Kotak Investment Banking and JM Financial Institutional Securities Ltd were transaction advisors to Tata Chemicals, while Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP acted as Financial & Tax Advisors. AZB & Partners was Legal Advisor for the deal.

Sri Lanka appointed its pace bowler Chaminda Vaas as a coaching consultant. He has been given charge of identifying fast bowling talent around the island. Vaas had a spell as Sri Lanka's bowling coach from 2013-15 and has also coached New Zealand and Ireland. Vaas, is a former Sri Lankan cricketer regarded as the best fast bowler to have come out of the country. Vaas has been described as the 'most penetrative and successful new-ball bowler Sri Lanka has produced'.  In 2004 he gained international recognition when he was selected for the World Test and one-day XI at the inaugural ICC Awards.He was once again selected for the World Test XI at the 2005 awards. As of 22 February 2015, only 3 bowlers have taken more ODI wickets than Vaas. 

Tamil actress Jyothilakshmi passed away on 9 August 2016 in Chennai following a brief illness. She was 63.She earned fame by doing dance numbers and negative roles in Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malyalam and Hindi movies.  Jyothilakshmi : She made her film debut in TR Ramanna's Tamil film Periya Idathu Penn that had actors Saroja Devi and MG Ramachandran in the lead.She was a trained dancer and her skills on the dance floor were used to the best of her advantage by filmmakers.Some of her Telugu movies include Gandharva Kanya (1979), Sitaramulu' (1980) and the hugely-successful film Prem Nagar starring Akkineni Nageswara Rao. She was also seen alongside Rajinikanth in a song from his movie Muthu and was also part of a dance number in Vikram's Sethu. She was also part of Hindi films like Pistolwali (1972), Rani Aur Jaani (1973) and Jawab (1970).She has over 300 movies to her credit in all the four South Indian languages.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa on 10 August 2016 dedicated Unit 1 of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant to the nation. Besides, PM Modi announced that five more reactors of 1000 megawatt each will come up in the same location. Unit 1 of Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant : The reactors are being built jointly by Nuclear Power Corporation of India and Atomstroyexport company, a subsidiary of Rosatom (the regulatory body of the Russian nuclear complex). The power plant is updated with most modern Russian technologies.The first reactor of the plant attained criticality on 13 July 2013 at 11:05 P.M.KKNPP was first synchronised to grid at 2:45 A.M. on 22 October 2013. Power generation from first nuclear reactor started on the same day. Unit 1 was operating at 73% capacity by April 2014.Unit 1 attained its maximum capacity of 1000 MWe at 1:20 P.M. on 7 June 2014. It started commercial operation from 31 December 2014.Almost 85 per cent of the funding of the project has come from the State loan of the Russian Federation. The Government of India signed a contract with the Soviet Union to build the plant in 1988. However, the construction started only in 1997 due to the political and economic upheaval in Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.The construction of the first two units was later halted in September 2011 following protests by villagers around the plant. Work at the plant finally resumed in March 2012.The allocation from KKNPP-1&2 (2000 MW) include Tamil Nadu (925 MW), Karnataka (442 MW), Kerala (266 MW), Puducherry (67 MW) and 300 MW remains unallocated.

National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has signed agreement with United States (US) Energy Information Administration (EIA) to set up web portal on energy data on 10 August 2016.The web portal will host all the data related to energy sector including oil & gas, coal, solar & thermal energy etc. NITI Aayog, a think tank of Union Government, is working to develop India's energy data agency which will take 3-4 years to develop.  Agreement with USAID & UK : Niti Aayog also signed Statement Of Principle (SOP) with US Agency for International Development (USAID) and Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) of United Kingdom (UK) for collaboration in the area of energy research. Through this agreement, the Aayog aims to host all the data related to energy sector in the country including oil and gas, coal, solar and thermal energy, much on the lines of the Energy Information Administration of US.

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