Current Affairs 18th August 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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Dutch apparel brand Scotch & Soda which was being sold exclusively on, has struck a long-term partnership with Reliance Brands to open its stores in India.  The e-commerce rights for the brand will also move to Reliance at a time when fashion retailers are looking to deploy a multi-channel strategy of having physical stores as well as a notable online presence. Recently, fast-fashion retailer Forever 21 snapped ties with Myntra and forged a new deal with Madura Fashion and Lifestyle which gave the group online and offline rights for the American brand.  Reliance Brands, which runs stores of 19 international brands in India, including the likes of Muji, Kenneth Cole, Steve Madden, Diesel and Brooks Brothers, will start off by opening two stores next year for the Euro 600 million brand.  Scotch & Soda was founded by Laurent Hompes in 1985 and presently runs 160 mono-brand stores globally. In 2011, US-based apparel group Kellwood Company acquired the Dutch fashion brand. Darshan Mehta, president & CEO, Reliance Brands, said, "Myntra will be one of the channels for us and we will continue to sell through them. But we are now the exclusive master franchise partner of Scotch & Soda across all channels in India.  Myntra had struck an exclusive partnership with the Amsterdam-based brand in 2014. Over the past two years, a bunch of international fashion brands like Topshop, Dorothy Perkins, Miss Selfridge inked exclusive partnerships with the likes of Jabong and Myntra to test the India market.  E-commerce, both mono-brand through and multi-brand online commerce would be an important part of our growth and reach strategy. We would also push multi-brand brick and mortar stores, Mehta told TOI.  Over the past year, conglomerates like Aditya Birla group, Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries, which owns Reliance Brands, and Tatas have all spruced up their online commerce offerings particularly in the fashion and lifestyle category. Snagging online rights has become or retail groups which bring in foreign retailers to India.  Reliance Brands has over 200 stores across its portfolio. The brand's range will start around Rs 2,500 for t-shirts going up to Rs 12,000 for denims and trousers. Last week it opened the first Indian store for Japanese retailer Muji in Mumbai. 

The Gujarat High Court has  partly quashed a government ordinance abolishing the entire NRI quota in colleges offering medical courses in the state. A division bench of Chief Justice R Subhash Reddy and Justice V M Pancholi held unconstitutional the government's decision to cancel quota for "genuine" NRIs seeking admission in colleges in the state. The court observed that there was "no reason to remove the NRI quota entirely" as this amounted to violation of the Supreme Court order in the PA Inamdar case and hence, was unconstitutional. The state government had earlier this year issued an ordinance, called the Gujarat Professional Medical Educational Colleges or Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fees) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016, whereby the entire quota for NRIs in medical colleges was abolished. The high court also refused to stay its order for two weeks when the lawyer of one of the five petitioners, a consortium of self-finance dental colleges, requested the same so that his client could move the Supreme Court.Five petitioners, including a consortium of self-financed dental colleges and four NRI admission seekers, had challenged the constitutional validity of the Gujarat Professional Medical Educational Colleges or Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fees) (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016.

The Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) has developed a kit for onsite determination of toxic Hexavalent Chromium Cr(VI) in drinking water.  The detection kit is simple, user friendly, quick and cost effective kit for onsite determination of Cr(VI) in drinking water. It meets Indian standard IS10500 for drinking water as well as US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) criterion. The detection kit provides the much needed solution to measure the level of Chromium contamination in drinking water and tap water, rivers, lakes as well as in ground water. The detection procedure of kit involves adding specific reagents in specified amount to the water sample and identifying the developed colour.  The colour develops within 5 minutes and the distinction can be made with naked eye. For ease of comparison a colour chart is provided with the kit. Based on colour chart, water samples can be immediately categorized as safe or toxic for drinking from Cr(VI) point of view. Advantages  : Onsite detection and instantaneous results. Eliminates need of sophisticated instruments for analysis. Low investment on infrastructure for production of the kit. Easy availability of raw materials. Has very good accuracy for the intended purpose. It is cost effective and cheap compared to imported onsite detection kits. Chromium is widely used in various industries like steel, leather, chrome plating, paint manufacturing, wood preservation etc. Untreated effluents from these industries cause widespread contamination of water and has been reported in several parts of the country. Chromium in the environment primarily exists as Trivalent Chromium Cr(III) and Hexavalent Chromium Cr(VI). The Cr(VI) is more toxic compared to Cr(III). The World Health Organization (WHO) has classified Cr(VI) as carcinogenic and can cause stomach ulcers, cancers and severely damage kidneys and liver. As per Indian standard IS10500 for drinking water, maximum permissible concentration of Cr(VI) in drinking water is 50 microgram per litre. The US EPA recommends a still lower permissible concentration of 10 microgram per liter.

The Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) is planning to document stories and legends relating to villages and towns across India into an encyclopedia.  This initiative is aimed at to connect people better with the oral and folk traditions. It would be among the key initiatives to be under taken by ICHR. Other initiatives to be undertaken includes study of the princely States of modern India, studies to fill the gaps between the Harappan civilisation (first Indian urbanisation) and the 6th century BC (second urbanisation). Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) :  ICHR is an autonomous body of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. It was established by an Administrative Order of the then Union Ministry of Education and Social Welfare. It is based in New Delhi with regional centers in Bengaluru (Karnataka) and Gowahati (Assam).  ICHR disburses funds for carrying out research to Indian as well as foreign scholars on their applications for fellowships, grants, and symposia made to ICHR or through HRD Ministry. It has provided financial assistance to the historians and direction to the research scholars in their multifarious topics of historical research.

The Union Power Ministry has launched ‘e-Trans’ & ‘DEEP’ e-bidding web portals for electronic bidding and e-reverse auction of tariff-based electricity transmission projects. They were launched by Union Minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines Piyush Goyal in New Delhi. These portals have been developed by Rural Electrification Corporation Transmission Projects Company Limited (RECTPCL), a subsidiary of REC Ltd. These portals seek to enhance transparency in power transmission sector. It marks shift from present manual auction process to electronic mode for determining the lowest bidder for projects. e-Trans: It is a web platform for e-bidding and e-reverse auction for Tariff Based Competitive Bidding (TBCB) in transmission projects. DEEP (Discovery of Efficient Electricity Price) e-Bidding portal : It will provide a common e-bidding platform with e-reverse auction facility to facilitate nation-wide power procurement through a wider network in order to bring uniformity and transparency in the process of power procurement. TARANG Mobile Application and portal  : Besides, the minister also launched ‘TARANG’ (Transmission App for Real Time Monitoring and Growth) Mobile Application and portal. It will be used to monitor execution of the under construction power transmission projects. It tracks upcoming transmission projects and monitor the progress of Inter-State and Intra-State transmission systems in the country. It shall also include status of stalled/delayed transmission systems in country.

The world’s largest (longest) aircraft the Airlander 10 has embarked its maiden flight at an airfield in Cardington in central England. It is a hybrid airship made by Hybrid Air Vehicles in United Kingdom.  Its successful flight comes 85 years after another airship the ill-fated R101 took off in October 1930 from the same airfield before crashing in France. Features  : Airlander 10 is hybrid ship i.e. it is a partly plane and partly airship filled with helium gas. It is 92-metre-long and 43.5m wide. It can fly at up to 4,880 metres and reach speeds of 148 kilometres per hour. It can also carry a 10-tonne payload.  It can stay airborne for more than two weeks unmanned and up to five days if manned. It was first developed for the US Government as a surveillance aircraft, but the project was shelved amid defence cutbacks. It can also be used for commercial purpose

The Assam Assembly has passed the Assam Amusements and Betting Tax (Amendment) Bill, 2016 on 13 August 2016.  This bill will reduce the service charge of cinema tickets with an aim to boost to the local film industry. The government, however, raised the entertainment tax on cinema tickets by up to ten percentile points.The government proposed to make service charge 8 rupees per ticket for the halls without air conditioning system and 12 rupees for the halls with air conditioning system with back-up generator. The government also advised to increase the entertainment tax to 20 per cent from 15 per cent at present for entry charges between 5 rupees and 20 rupees per ticket.  There will be no entertainment tax if the entry charge is 5 rupees or less. It raised the government tax to 30 percent on service charge from the existing 20 percent.It proposes to fix the service charge at a maximum of 12 rupees per ticket, which is as high as 40 rupees at present.A cess of 1 rupee will be levied on each ticket for creating a welfare fund for film and theatre sectors.

India's tennis doubles pair of Purav Raja and Divij Sharan on 16 August 2016 clinched the Abierto Mexicano Los Cabos title in Mexico. The duo defated Israel's Jonathan Erlich and England's Ken Skupski by a score of 7-6(4), 7-6(3). Individually, Raja was appearing in his third career ATP World Tour final, while Sharan was contesting his second. They earn 250 Emirates ATP Doubles Rankings points and split 38940 US dollar in prize money.  Los Cabos Open : The Los Cabos Open is a professional men's tennis tournament played on outdoor hard courts.It is a part of the ATP World Tour 250 series of the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) World Tour. The year 2016 marks the inaugural edition of the Los Cabos Open.Croatia’s Ivo Karlovic is the winner of the Los Cabos Open Singles title. He defeated Spain’s Feliciano Lopez by a score of 7–6(5), 6–2.  

Simone Biles of USA won gold in the Floor Exercise event at Rio Olympics on 16 August 2016 . The 19-year-old gymnast performed a tumbling routine on the floor, scoring an incredibly high score of 15.966.With this, Biles has captured her fourth gold in the Olympics. She has also become one of five women to win four medals at a single Olympics in gymnastics. American Alexandra Raisman won silver with 15.500 Great Britain’s Amy Tinkler won bronze with a score of 14.933 in the event. On 9 August 2016, Biles won her first Olympic gold medal in the gymnastics team event. On 11 August 2016, she won the gold medal individual all-around. In the women's vault, she won her second individual gold medal with a score of 15.966. In the women's balance beam final, she grabbed bronze. Simone Biles : Simone Biles is an American artistic gymnast.She is a three-time world all-around champion from 2013 to 2015), three-time world floor champion from 2013 to 2015, two-time world balance beam champion from 2014 to 2015, four-time United States national all-around champion from 2013 to 2016. She ranks as the most decorated American gymnast.She is the first female gymnast since Ecaterina Szabo in 1984 to win four Olympic gold medals at one Games and only the fifth overall, after Larisa Latynina, Agnes Keleti, Vera Caslavska and Szabo. She is the first female gymnast since Lilia Podkopayeva in 1996 to win an all around gold and an event final gold.She is the first American gymnast ever to win the grand slam of all-around titles: U.S. National Championships, World Championships, World Cup (American Cup) and Olympics.

Kerala based private sector lender, Federal Bank has tied up with MMTC for distribution of Indian Gold Coins (IGC), the first-Ever national gold offering by the government, which was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi In November 2015.  Through this tie-up with MMTC, the bank becomes the first among the private sector banks to offer this product to its customers. Available presently in denominations of 5, 10 and 20 grams, the coins are distributed through select branches of the bank across the country . The Indian gold coins are of 24 karat purity, 999 fineness and has the national emblem of Ashok Chakra engraved on one side and the face of Mahatma Gandhi as in currency notes on the other. This is a government promoted coin and the only BIS hallmarked coin in India. The Indian gold coin carries advance counterfeit (security) features and tamper proof packaging. 

The world's longest and highest glass bridge will open to visitors on Saturday in Hunan province of China. The 430-metre long, six metre wide bridge, paved with 99 panes of three-layer transparent glasses, hangs between two steep cliffs 300 metres above the ground. The bridge has set 10 world records spanning its design and construction, according to the committee. A maximum of 8,000 visitors are allowed to cross the bridge every day and a reservation must be made one day prior to visiting. Construction was completed in December. In July, a two tonne truck was driven across in a show of the bridge's sturdiness. The unique pillar-like mountain formation in Zhangjiajie appeared in the Hollywood blockbuster movie "Avatar". The Grand Canyon Scenic Area in Zhangjiajie welcomed more than 1.2 million visitors from home and abroad in 2015.

Jharkhand became the third state to ratify the Goods and Services Tax Amendment Bill in a special session of the Legislative Assembly.]The GST Bill, described as India's biggest tax reform, needs to be ratified by at least 15 state legislatures before the President can notify the GST Council which will decide the tax rate. The Central has set a deadline of April 2017 for its rollout. Assam was the first state to ratify the bill.Telangana government has also decided to call an Assembly session this month to pass the GST bill. Bihar became the first non-NDA state to ratify the Constitution Amendment Bill on GST after Chief Minister Nitish Kumar counted virtues of the tax reform. With all the major parties in the state including JD(U), RJD, Congress and BJP in favour of the tax legislation, the House approved the GST Bill through a voice vote.

The Uttar Pradesh government has approved a Metro Rail project for Allahabad. The decision was taken at a cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav. Work is already underway on the Metro Rail in Lucknow and the Detailed Project Report for Varanasi and Kanpur have already been approved Akhilesh Yadav later told the media that Uttar Pradesh was the lone state in which Metro Rail projects were underway in four major cities, and Ghaziabad as well as Noida were already linked to the Delhi Metro.  Allahabad is a city in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh and the administrative headquarters of Allahabad District, the most populous district in the state. As of 2011, Allahabad is the seventh most populous city in the state, fifteenth in the Northern India and thirty sixth in India, with an estimated population of 1.11 million in the city and 1.21 million in its metropolitan region. In 2011 it was ranked the world’s 130th fastest-growing city. Allahabad, in 2013, was ranked the third most livable city in the state and twenty-ninth in the country.

India scored a major improvement in its Global Innovation Index ranking this year, moving up to the 66th place from 81 in 2015. India's better performance in the latest index readings was due to its strengths in tertiary education, software exports, corporate R&D and market sophistication.  Among middle income countries, India (25) came second after China (17) in innovation quality, overtaking Brazil (27). China figured at the 25th position (29 in 2015), the only middle-income country in the top 25.  The annual index  released by WIPO, Cornell University, and the multi-nation business graduate school INSEAD  has been ranking world economies since 2007 according to their innovation capabilities using more than 80 indicators, including education, R&D, patent filings, knowledge and technology inputs and institutions. The report said India was starting to excel in ICT and creative goods exports, setting a good example of how policy was improving the innovation environment. Overall, Switzerland had ranked first in the 2015 index as well. 

The Reserve Bank has imposed penalties of up to Rs 5 lakh on four cooperative banks for violation of various norms.  RBI said it has imposed a monetary penalty of Rs 5 lakh on The Cooperative City Bank, Guwahati, for flouting KYC norms and non-adherence to requirements relating to identification and reporting of suspicious transactions.  A penalty of Rs 2 lakh has been imposed on Indapur Urban Cooperative Bank, Indapur, District Pune, for violations of norms related to KYC/anti-money laundering and credit exposure norms on loans.  RBI imposed penalty of Rs 1 lakh on Shri Dadasaheb Gajmal Cooperative Bank, Pachora, District Jalgaon for violation of norms relating to creation of floating charge on its assets without the prior permission.  In a separate statement, the central bank said it has imposed penalty of Rs 1 lakh on The Model Cooperative Urban Bank, Hyderabad, Telangana for violation directives and guidelines on loans and advances to directors and their relatives. RBI has modified its directions regarding The R.S. Co-op. Bank, Mumbai and relaxed payment terms for deposits.  A sum not exceeding Rs 10,000 in every savings bank or current account or term deposit account or any other deposit account (by whatever name called), may be allowed to be withdrawn by depositor, provided that wherever such depositor is having liability to the bank in any manner, i.e. either a borrower or surety, including loans against the bank deposits, the amount may be adjusted first to the relevant borrowal accounts.The earlier limit was Rs 1,000.  The amount required to pay the depositors should be kept by the bank separately in an escrow account and/or in earmarked securities which will be utilised by the bank only to pay to the depositors as per the revised directions . The Reserve Bank notified that The R.S. Co-op. Bank was placed under directions for a period of six months in June 24, 2015. The validity of the directions was extended for a further period of six months and three months and the same is valid upto September 25, 2016. 

Asia Index, a joint venture between S&P Dow Jones Indices and BSE, launched a new index to measure the performance of Collateralised Borrowing and Lending Obligation (CBLO) rate one of the most liquid rates in the country  over a period of time. The new index S&P BSE Liquid Rate Index  can be used to create exchange traded funds (ETFs) for both retail and institutional investors.The index is designed to measure the returns from a daily rolling deposit at the CBLO rate. As the Indian fixed income market is maturing, investors are seeking a tool to measure the performance of CBLO rates over a period of time. With the launch of S&P BSE Liquid Rate Index, we are expanding our fixed income indices offering in the most actively traded instrument in the money market. The CBLO rate is considered one of the most liquid rates in India, in the overnight segment. The new index would be calculated using the CBLO rate for transactions maturing on the following business day.Rates used would be provided by Clearing Corporation of India Ltd (CCIL).The S&P BSE CBLO Index is calculated only on those days when both BSE and CCIL are open.

Santoor maestro Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma will be conferred upon with the annual Sangeet Martand Ustad Chand Khan Lifetime Achievement Award this year, Sursagar Society of Dilli Gharana has announced.  The 23rd edition of the festival that celebrates Indian classical art is scheduled to be held on September 13 and September 14 . Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma  : A Padma Vibhushan recipient, Pandit Shiv Kumar Sharma was born in Jammu in 1938, and is believed to be the first musician to have played Indian classical music on the santoor, a folk instrument from the state of Jammu and Kashmir.  The society has been felicitating stalwarts of Indian classical music and dance with the award since 1986 to recognise their contribution towards enriching the art forms.  The society has been holding music festivals across Delhi, Kolkata and Ranchi for over 70 years now, honouring artists who seek to develop interest in Indian Classical Music.  

Sakshi Malik become the first woman wrestler from India to bag the bronze in the Women’s Freestyle 58kg category with a spirited comeback victory over Aisuluu Tynybekova of Kyrgyzstan.  The fourth female athlete from the country to climb to the podium at the biggest sporting event in the world with a bronze medal finish at the Rio Games. The 23-year-old from Haryana, a silver medallist at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and bronze winner at the 2014 Inc heon Asian Games, earned a dramatic come-from-behind win over Kyrgysztan’s Aisuluu Tynybekova to script history. Weight-lifter Karnam Malleshwari was the first Indian to win an Olympic medal for India when she won a bronze at the 2000 Sydney Games. Boxer MC Marykom and shuttler Saina Nehwal had won a bronze each at the 2012 London Games. Overall, Sakshi has won India’s fifth wrestling medal in the Olympic Games. KD Jadhav was the first wrestler from India to win amedal in Olympics with his bronze at the 1952 Helsinki Games.

China and ten member countries of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have agreed to form a framework for a code of conduct to ease tension in disputed South China Sea. The agreement was reached between both sides during a meeting at Inner Mongolia in northern China held on August 15 and 16, 2016. The two sides also agreed to get the framework for the code of conduct done by mid-2017. They also approved guidelines for a China-ASEAN hotline for use during maritime emergencies. They also agreed that a pact on unplanned maritime encounters signed by countries in the region in 2014 is applied to the SCS. This decision is considered as a significant rapprochement between China and ASEAN bloc, especially after Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling against China in July 2016. The PCA had ruled that China has no historical title over the disputed South China Sea and it has breached the Philippines sovereign rights. However, China had dismissed the ruling and had urged bilateral talks to resolve the issue. Since 2010, China and the 10 members of ASEAN have been discussing a set of rules aimed at avoiding conflict among rival claimants in the busy waterway in South China Sea. China based on historical assumptions has claimed almost the entire South China Sea as its part. ASEAN members Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan (not member) also have claimed their rights in the sea through which more than $5 trillion of trade moves annually and is believed to be rich in energy deposits.

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