Current Affairs 17th August 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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Tata Power Solar, one of the largest integrated solar company, has successfully commissioned a 100 MW solar project for NTPC in Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh.  This is the biggest solar project commissioned using domestically manufactured solar cells and modules. The plant is expected to generate nearly 160 million units of energy per year and help offset approximately 110,000 tonnes of CO2 in the first year . Tata Power Solar delivered the project in record 80% of stipulated timelines, and nearly 3 months ahead of schedule. Key highlights of the project were the innovative design of Balance-of-System (BoS) and cabling, along with optimized selection of evacuation systems.  Tata Power Solar, said, "Today, pace of delivery and quality have become crucial benchmarks in the industry and we have delivered a project of this scale in record time. By bringing together our core strengths in domestic manufacturing and EPC services over the last 25 years, this 100 MW plant is the largest project commissioned by us to date. We hope to continue to build on our capabilities and deliver over expectations to proficient customers like NTPC.  Built over a 500 acres, the land contained natural streams and hillocks which were untouched by the plant to maintain the natural ecosystem. Tata Power Solar delivered the plant with a robust safety management system and 1.3 million safe man hours put in. Apart from a highly experienced team at Tata Power Solar, more than 50 local people were provided employment at the site.  With over 25 years of experience, Tata Power Solar has commissioned over 250 MW of ground-mount utility scale projects across India. Their partnership with NTPC too has been long-term, having delivered their 50 MW flagship project using domestically made cells and modules in Rajgarh, Madhya Pradesh in 2014. 

Maharashtra state government has  relaunched its "Majhi Kanya Bhagyashri" scheme. The scheme was relaunched at all district headquarters with the guardian ministers handing over certificates of encouragement to couples, who have registered under the scheme.  In April last year, the state government had launched the scheme, in place of the "Sukanya" scheme, initiated by the erstwhile Congress-NCP government in the state. However, it had failed to gain momentum in its implementation largely due to lack of public awareness.  Minister Pankaja Munde, who was divested of Water Conservation portfolio in the recent cabinet reshuffle, has focused her attention on the scheme and plans to implement it on a mission mode across the state, for which she had enlisted support of her cabinet colleagues and guardian ministers.  The scheme is broadly divided into two parts. One in which the couple has gone for family planning operation after the birth of the first girl child and second category is for couples going for the family planning operation after the birth of the second girl child. However, the scheme shall not apply for couples having one boy, one girl child .

The Archaeological Survey of India, under the Ministry of Culture has discovered an ancient camping site dating 8500 BC in Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir, indicating humans were camping in the area 10,500 years ago.  This site was unearthed at 14,000 feet above the sea level on the way from Saser La to Ladakh. While exploring in Nubra valley during 2015-16, ASI Joint Director General SB Ota noticed a section, exposed due to road construction, showing successive layers comprising burning residue.  After covering a distance of about 22 km, he noticed a section, exposed due to road construction, showing successive layers comprising burning residue and immediately stopped to explore the area.  It was a small flat area with snow-covered peaks on one extreme, dry barren land with loose rocks all around and gushing stream within the deep western gorges, an ideal place for camping in a picturesque setting.

The Union Government has allowed online authentication using Aadhar for new mobile connections. In this regard Department of Telecom (DoT) has issued guidelines for Aadhaar Electronic-Know Your Customer (e-KYC). The e-KYC seeks to make the online process of application and authentication faster and simpler for subscribers. Customer through their Aadhaar number and biometrics will online authorise UIDAI to provide demographic details.  The details will include name, address, date of birth and gender, along with the digitally-signed photograph, to the mobile operator.  The e-KYC seeks to bring down the cost of subscriber acquisition significantly as telecom companies will not have to spend on physical transportation of forms, verification, scanning and storage.  Besides it will be an instant, secure and green mobile subscriber verification project, where a customer’s Aadhar card and fingerprints are adequate for both validating and activating prepaid and postpaid connections.

The first South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Youth Parliamentarians Conference on `Peace and Harmony for Development’ was held in Islamabad, Pakistan.  The two-day (from August 16 to 18, 2016) intends to offer young Parliamentarians’ narrative as a prelude to the 19th SAARC Summit to be hosted by Pakistan in November 2016. 8 parliamentary delegates from 8 SAARC member countries are participating in the conference. Lok Sabha MP Kalikesh Narayan Singh Deo, is leading the three member Indian delegation.  The conference was hosted by the Pakistan National Assembly and was inaugurated by National Assembly Speaker Ayaz Sadiq.  The goal of the conference is to build bridges between the future leaders of South Asia on a platform that supports continued engagement and cooperation. It is dialogue among Young Parliamentarians of SAARC region to create democratic space to meet expanding expectations of burgeoning youth population in region.  It seeks to provide an opportunity for the youth and Parliamentarians to apprise respective Government leaders on where the youth of South Asia stands on a vision for the region ahead of the High Level Summit.  Besides, it also seeks to set the foundation of strong inter-parliamentary linkages between parliamentarians from across South Asia. The linkages will be to setup a network that can nurture regional interaction, support democratic norms and build a coalition for sustained dialogue and peaceful cooperation.

Former Union Minister Najma Heptullah was appointed as the Governor of Manipur on 17 August 2016. With this, Heptullah will be the 18th Governor of the state. Before her appointment, V Shamuganathan, the Governor of Meghalaya, was looking after the state of Manipur since September 2015.Heptullah had resigned from the Union Ministry on 12 July 12 2016 as she completed 75 years of age.  Banwarilal Purohit was appointed as the Governor of Assam. VP Singh Badnore was made the Governor of Punjab. Prof Jagdish Mukhi was named Lieutenant Governor of Andaman and Nicobar Islands in place of Lt Gen (Retd) AK Singh.

The Shashi Shekhar Committee was in news in the third week of August 2016 as the NGT directed Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living (AOL) to submit its response within three weeks on the inspection report.The report of the expert committee dealt with the damage caused to the Yamuna flood plains due to the World Culture Festival. The festival was organised by the AOL in March 2016 along the River Yamuna in New Delhi. The inspection report of the committee concluded that the event has caused damage to the riverbed. The 5-member committee was formed by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in the wake of allegations that the festival caused extensive damage to the biodiversity and aquatic life of Yamuna. The committee is headed by Shashi Shekhar, Secretary of the Ministry of Water Resources and consisted of expert members from the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).The committee was asked to quantify the damage and furnish a tentative cost for restoration of the area within 45 days. So far, the AOL foundation had deposited 4.75 crore rupees as "environment compensation" with Delhi Development Authority (DDA) as directed by NGT for damaging Yamuna's biodiversity during the festival

Unilever, the parent company of Hindustan Unilever (HUL), on 16 August 2016 acquired Swedish firm Blueair for an undisclosed sum. Blueair is a leading player in mobile air purification technology.With this deal, Unilever will make its foray in air purification, a move that will complement its existing water purification business. However, Blueair will continue to operate under its existing brand name in all its markets in Sweden, China, the U.S., Japan, South Korea and India. This acquisition will help widen the reach of Blueair purifiers.  Blueair : Blueair is one of the largest makers of premium air purifiers in China, the US, Japan, South Korea and India.  Blueair was unveiled 20 years ago with the mission to start a clean air revolution by bringing people the world’s best air purifiers.Blueair’s air purifying products remove up to 99.97 percent of all contaminants from the air, including hazardous sooty particles, allergens and viruses. It launched its operations in India in May 2015 and aims to make India one of its top three markets globally in five years.

Joao Havelange, former President of Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), passed away on 16 August 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was 100. Havelange’s tenure as President was the second longest in FIFA's history, behind only that of Jules Rimet. Joao Havelange : Born on 8 May 1916, Joao Havelange was a Brazilian lawyer, businessman and athlete.He served as the 7th President of the FIFA from 1974 to 1998. He received the title of Honorary President when leaving office; however, he resigned in April 2013.He succeeded Stanley Rous and was succeeded by Sepp Blatter. He served as a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 1963 to 2011.In July 2012, a Swiss prosecutor's report revealed that, during his tenure on FIFA's Executive Committee, he and his son-in-law Ricardo Teixeira took more than 41 million US dollar in bribes in connection with the award of World Cup marketing rights.

Noted music composer A.R. Rahman was honoured with the Tamil Ratna Award on 15 August 2016.The award was presented by New York based Tamil Sangam. Rahman was bestowed with the honour after his concert at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) chamber. Rahman was invited at the UNGA to perform a concert to honour M.S. Subbulakshi, the doyen of Carnatic music. The concert was sponsored by India's UN Mission and Sankara Nethralaya, a Chennai-based charity organisation. The previous recipients of Tamil Ratna Award include Tamil movie director Bharathi Raja, Bharatha Natyam exponent Kamala Lakshman and Srinivasa Varadhan, the winner of the Abel Prize for mathematics. A.R. Rahman : A.R. Rahman's works are noted for integrating Eastern classical music with electronic music, world music and traditional orchestral arrangements.His body of work for film and stage has earned him the nickname of the Mozart of Madras. In 2009, Time included him on its list of the world's most influential people.The UK-based world-music magazine Songlines named him one of Tomorrow's World Music Icons in August 2011. In 2009, he won the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music and two Academy Awards (Best Original Score and Best Original Song, the latter shared with Gulzar) at the 81st Academy Awards.He has also won two Grammy Awards: Best Compilation Soundtrack Album and Best Song Written for Visual Media. His work in 127 Hours won him Golden Globe, BAFTA, and two Academy Award nominations (Best Original Music Score and Best Original Song) in 2011.  

Havildar Hangpan Dada was honoured posthumously, with the government announcing the highest award to an army man during peace-time operations on the eve of the Independence Day. Havildar Hangpan Dada : He was ho killed four intruding terrorists before laying down his life at the height of 13,000 feet in the harsh and icy Himalayan range of North Kashmir, that won him the Ashok Chakra. 36-year-old Dada, who laid down his life for the country on May 27 this year, valiantly fought in the treacherous Shamsabari range in North Kashmir eliminating four heavily-armed terrorists who had infiltrated into North Kashmir from Pak-occupied-Kashmir (PoK). Hailing from Boduria village in far-flung Arunachal Pradesh, the Havildar, who was popularly known as ‘Dada’ among his team, was posted at the high mountain range since late last year. Enrolled in the Assam Regiment of the Army in 1997, Dada was posted with the 35 Rashtriya Rifles, a force carved out for counter-insurgency operations. Ashoka Chakra  : The Ashoka Chakra is India's highest peacetime military decoration awarded for valor, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the battlefield. It is the peace time equivalent of the Param Vir Chakra, and is awarded for the "most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent valour or self-sacrifice" other than in the face of the enemy. The decoration may be awarded either to military or civilian personnel. It replaced the British George Cross.

Telangana State has received the highest number of gallantry medals for police personnel in the country on the 70th Independence Day. It was the only State unit to secure the President’s police medal for gallantry (PPMG).  The other units to receive the award this year were Central Reserve Police Force, Indo-Tibetan Border Police, and the Intelligence Bureau. Sub-Inspector Duddekula Siddaiah and Constable Chougoni Nagaraju, who lost their lives trying to catch two Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) operatives in Nalgonda district last year, were announced as the recipients of the PPMG. Two SIMI operatives had gunned down a police Constable and a Home Guard at Suryapet bus stand in Nalgonda on April 2, 2015. The entire Nalgonda district police were looking out for the duo. Apart from the two policemen who would be honoured with the gallantry medal posthumously, Telangana also got a President’s Police Medal for distinguished service to Fire Services Director General Rajiv Ratan. Twenty-four more police personnel would be awarded the Police Medal for Gallantry (PMG). Warangal range DIG T. Prabhakar Rao and Counter Intelligence Cell DIG Rajesh Kumar were among the winners of PMG.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has selected six U.S. companies to develop ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats on 10 August 2016 . This will help in advancing the Journey to Mars. NASA and industry partners will expand commercial development of space in low-Earth orbit. In addition, they will also work towards improving deep space exploration capabilities to support more extensive human spaceflight missions. The six companies are : Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas Boeing of Pasadena, Texas Lockheed Martin of Denver Orbital ATK of Dulles, Virginia Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Space Systems of Louisville, Colorado NanoRacks of Webster, Texas Highlights : Full-sized ground prototypes and concepts for deep space habitats will be developed under the second Next Space Technologies for Exploration Partnerships (NextSTEP) Broad Agency Announcement (NextSTEP-2). NextSTEP establishes unique public-private partnerships that seek to advance commercial development of space.NextSTEP is managed by the Advanced Exploration Systems Division (AES) in NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. An effective habitat comprises a pressurized volume plus an integrated array of complex systems and components that include a docking capability, Environmental Control and Life Support Systems (ECLSS), logistics management etc. The ground prototypes will allow NASA and the partners to evaluate configurations of the habitat, how the various systems interact together and with other capabilities like propulsion modules and airlocks. It will also provide platforms to test and ensure the standards and common interfaces being considered are well thought out.The ground prototypes will be used for three primary purposes: supporting integrated systems testing, human factors and operations testing, and to help define overall system functionality.

Prominent Malayalam script writer TA Rasaq passed away on 15 August 2016 in Kochi following a brief illness. He was 58.He had worked for more than thirty films in Malayalam beginning from 1991.  TA Rasaq : He was born in Thurakkal near Kondotty town in Malappuram in April 1958. He started his career with the film Vishnulokam directed by noted filmmaker Kamal in 1991.  He won the state film award for best screenplay and story in 1996 for the film Kanakkinavu. He also won state film awards for best stories in 2002 and 2004 for the films Ayirathil Oruvan and Perumazhakkalam respectively.  Rappakal, Bus Conductor , Vesham Nadodi, Gazal, Thalolam, Sneham Saphalayam, etc are other major screen writings by Rasaq.

Prominent Punjabi writer and Jnanpith awardee Gurdial Singh passed away on 16 August 2016 in Bathinda, Punjab. He was 83.Singh was known as a Spartan who has taken it all in his stride in the literary world. Gurdial Singh : Gurdial Singh started his literary career in 1957 with a short-story titled Bhaganwale, which was published in Panj Darya magazine.He became known as a novelist when he published the novel Marhi Da Deeva in 1964.After Amrita Pritam, he is the second Punjabi writer to receive the Jnanpith Award. He has written ten novels, including Anhoe, Addh Chanani Raat, Anhe Ghore Da Daan,Parsa among others.His novels Marhi Da Deeva and Addh Chanani Raat have been translated into English asThe Last Flicker and Night of the Half Moon respectively. He was awarded Sahitya Akademi Award in 1975. In 1998, he was honoured with the Padma Shri. In 2000, he was awarded with the Jnanpith Literary Award 2000.

Times Internet , in partnership with HDFC Bank, announced the launch of a co-branded card called the Times Points Debit Card.  The card marries the concept of Times Points, an online loyalty product with over 18 million users, and Times Card, a co-branded credit card currently used by 3.5 lakh customers that was launched in 2013 by Times Internet in association with HDFC Bank.  services include : opportunity to earn points while browsing and commenting on any Times Internet sites, discounts while purchasing online, welcome offers on over 350 e-commerce sites, and offline shopping destinations across nine Tier 1cities.  Card payment products, merchant acquiring services, and marketing, at HDFC Bank, highlighted how spends and the growth rate in the debit cards segment was double of that in credit cards, rationalising the need for yet another co-branded card to serve the market.  On the marketing front, Vohra, said, "We like to get the products scale in the market first. Having nearly 4 lakh Times credit cards, and 19 million Times Points users is huge scale. The marketing initiatives will begin now .

Bollywood star actors Sonam Kapoor and Nawazuddin Siddiqui bagged the best actress and best actor awards at the Indian Film Festival (IFF) of Melbourne 2016.  While Sonam, 31, was awarded for her performance in Neerja Bhanot’s biopic, “Neerja,” Nawazuddin won the award for his role of psycho serial killer in “Raman Raghav 2.0”. This year, the festival has screened a variety of films, features, shorts and documentaries in 17 languages. Around 50 films are shortlisted for the festival. The theme for this edition is ‘Women Empowerment’. “Angry India Goddesses,” will bring the curtains down for the festival on August 21. Award winners are: 1.Best Actor (Male) – Nawazuddin Siddiqui for Raman Raghav 2.Best Actor (Female) – Sonam Kapoor for Neerja 3.Best Film Award – Kapoor & Sons 4.Best Indie Film – Thithi 5.Best Director – Shakun Batra  6.Indian Film Festival Excellence in Cinema Award(lifetime achievement award) – Rishi Kapoor. 

Government has notified the revised tax treaty with Mauritius under which India will impose capital gains tax on investments routed through the island nation from April 1 next year in a bid to curb tax evasion.  The protocol amending the agreement between India and Mauritius, signed on August 24, 1982 for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income and capital gains and for the encouragement of mutual trade and investment, was signed at Mauritius on May 10, 2016.  India and Mauritius signed had signed the revised Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC) after prolonged negotiations at Port Louis.  Under the amended treaty with Mauritius, for two years beginning April 1, 2017, capital gains tax will be imposed at 50 per cent of the prevailing domestic rate. Full rate will apply from April 1, 2019.  This concessional rate would however apply to a Mauritius resident company that can prove that it has a total expenditure of at least Rs 27 lakh in that nation and is not a 'shell' company with just a post office address.  As per the revised treaty, investments made prior to April 1, 2017, will be protected from new tax provisions.  The island nation with just 1.3 million people was the biggest single source of foreign direct investment into India in 2014-15, accounting for about 24 per cent of USD 24.7 billion foreign direct investment (FDI).  The three-decade-old taxation treaty is said to have been misused by many Indian and multinational companies to avoid paying tax or to route illicit funds.  India had been insisting on review of the treaty since 2006 as it felt a chunk of the funds were not real foreign investments but Indians routing cash through the island to avoid domestic taxes, a practice known as "round tripping".  It wanted to ensure firms in Mauritius that invest in India are not just 'shell' and instead have substantial operations in the island, such as paying staff there, before qualifying for treaty terms of getting exemption from payment of capital gains tax in India. 

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced a bunch of development projects and schemes regarding the “seven resolves” adopted by his government for the next five years. Nitish Kumar announced the launch of Student Credit Card scheme from October 2 and this scheme promises Rs. four lakh interest-free loan to students for pursuing higher education and Another scheme of providing free Wi-fi facility would be made available in all state universities and colleges from February 2017.  The scheme promises Rs. 4 lakh interest-free loan to students for pursuing higher education. He also announced the launch of a scheme to provide an allowance of Rs 1,000 per month to youth in the age group of 20 to 25 for two years to help them search job.

Tata AutoComp Systems, the Tata Group-owned auto-component conglomerate, will acquire TitanX, a leading global engine cooling supplier. TitanX supplies engine and powertrain cooling solutions to the commercial vehicle industry having plants across North America, South America, Europe and China with sales of approximately $200 million. TitanX is currently owned by EQT Opportunity and Fouriertransform. TitanX represents state of the art powertrain cooling solutions with a global presence that fits perfectly into our future growth areas. We are confident that under the successful and experienced management in TitanX, it will be a great asset and will contribute to the growth of Tata AutoComp. Sellers were advised by BDA Partners and Tata AutoComp was advised by Tata Capital Investment Banking. Subject to customary regulatory approvals, the transaction is expected to be completed by the end of 2016. TitanX supplies to Volvo Trucks, Scania, Daimler and Iveco. It has manufacturing plants in Sweden, USA, Mexico, Brazil and China.

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill was passed  in a one-day special session of the Bihar legislature, while 3 MLAs of Communist Party of India-Marxist and Leninist (CPI-ML) boycotted the bill and staged a walkout from the House. Participating in the debate, legislators of both ruling and Opposition parties underlined the benefits of the bill for the state. Bihar became the second state after Assam to adopt it, while neighbouring Jharkhand is scheduled to convene a special session of the state assembly to ratify the bill.  The GST Bill, dubbed India’s biggest tax reform, needs to be ratified by at least 15 state legislatures out of a total 29 before the President can notify the GST Council, which would eventually decide the new tax rate and other issues. The Central Government has set a deadline of April 2017 for its rollout. With Assam and Bihar having ratified the Bill, it now needs to be ratified by 14 more assemblies. Once that is done, the GST Council will be constituted and help the Finance Ministry prepare drafts of the Central GST, Integrated GST and State GST Bills. The Modi government hopes to bring these three Bills in the winter session of Parliament.

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