Current Affairs 24th August 2017

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Software giant Microsoft announced its 'Project Brainwave' deep learning acceleration platform for real-time artificial intelligence (AI). The 'Project Brainwave' uses the massive field-programmable gate array (FPGA) infrastructure that Microsoft has been deploying over the past few years. Real-time AI is becoming increasingly important as cloud infrastructures process live data streams, whether they be search queries, videos, sensor streams, or interactions with users.

India and Nepal signed eight Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) in various fields including Housing grant and prevention of drugs, reconstruction packages in health and education sectors.  The agreements were inked after delegation level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visiting Nepalese counterpart Sher Bahadur Deuba at Hyderabad House in New Delhi.  The two leaders also jointly inaugurated the Kataiya-Kusaha and Raxaul-Parwanipur cross border Transmission lines. 

 The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the renaming of the new Central Sector Scheme- SAMPADA (Scheme for Agro-Marine Processing and Development of Agro-Processing Clusters) as "Pradhan Mantri Kisan Sampada Yojana (PMKSY)" for the period of 2016-20 coterminous with the 14th Finance Commission cycle. The new scheme was approved by the Central Government in the month of May. The objective of PMKSY is to supplement agriculture, modernize processing and decrease Agri-Waste.

Karnataka Government signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with software giant Microsoft India to develop a unique price forecasting model. The proposed initiative is claimed to be the first-of-its-kind in the country. The farm price forecasting model will use latest IT tools in a bid to help farmers, administrators, and other stakeholders to understand market behavior.

Odisha Government launched a grid-connected rooftop solar programme through the net-metering system at the State Secretariat in the capital city of Bhubaneshwar. The program mainly aims at harnessing renewable solar capacity through people’s participation to further strengthen the grid and reduce power losses. The program is being implemented by Odisha Renewable Energy Development Agency (OREDA).

The Supreme Court of India pronounced that individual privacy is a fundamental right protected by the Constitution. A nine-judge Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar ruled that the right to privacy is intrinsic to life and liberty, thus coming under Article 21, and comes to the various fundamental freedoms in PART III of the Indian Constitution. With this now India has total seven fundamental rights. The Fundamental rights are Right to equality, Right to freedom, Right against exploitation, Right to freedom of religion, Cultural and Educational rights, and Right to constitutional remedies are the 6 fundamental rights of India.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved the proposal of Ministry of Railways to close the Bharat Wagon and Engineering Company Limited (BWEL) - a Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) under Ministry of Railways.  The CCEA decision will stop the flow of financial support from public funds for carrying on the operations of BWEL Resulting in savings. The Company was referred to BIFR (Board for Industrial and Financial Reconstruction) in December 2000 and was declared sick in the year 2002. 

Union Government clarified that five percent Goods and Service Tax (GST) is applicable on selling of space for advertisement in print media if an agency buys space from the newspaper and sells the same to clients on its own account. However, the GST rate will be 18 percent of the sale commission, if the agency works as an agent of the newspaper on a commission basis.

Union Minister Raj Nath Singh attends a two-day Meeting of Heads of Governments of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) the Member States. The meeting will focus on prevention and elimination of emergency situations. The participation of India as SCO Member will open additional opportunities for giving new impetus to the development of international cooperation in the field of protecting the population and territories from emergency situations within the framework of the Organisation. 

Union Government finalized a new policy for cadre allocation by the Central government for IAS, IPS and other officers, aimed at ensuring "national integration" in the country's top bureaucracy. Officers of all-India services include the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), Indian Police Service (IPS) and Indian Forest Service (IFoS) have to choose cadres from a set of zones instead of states. The Zone I has seven cadres namely AGMUT (also known as Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territories), Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Rajasthan, and Haryana. The Zone-II consists of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Odisha. The  Zone-III comprises Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The Zone - IV consists of  West Bengal, Sikkim, Assam-Meghalaya, Manipur, Tripura, and Nagaland.

The Union Cabinet approved the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Nepal on Drug Demand Reduction and Prevention of Illicit Trafficking in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances. The MoU lists out the areas of cooperation on narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances. It develops mutual cooperation with a view to effectively resolving the issue of illicit traffic in narcotic drugs, psychotropic substances and their precursors, cooperate in drug demand reduction through prevention, awareness, education and community-based programmes, treatment and rehabilitation.

Ashwani Lohani, the CMD of Air India appointed as the New Chairman of Railway Board, following the resignation on A.K. Mittal. Ashwani Lohani, an Indian Railway Service of Mechanical Engineering (IRSME) cadre. He holds four engineering degrees, has authored two books and is credited with the turnaround of the Madhya Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation and the India Tourism Development Corporation.

The Union Cabinet approved Framework for Consolidation of Public Sector Banks (PSBs) through an Alternative Mechanism (AM). The decision would facilitate consolidation among the nationalised banks to create strong and competitive banks and also improve their competitiveness. Under this framework, the decision regarding creating strong and competitive banks will be solely based on commercial considerations.