Current Affairs 11th February 2017 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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The Union Government has constituted inter-departmental task force comprising members of various regulatory Ministries and enforcement agencies to crack down on benami firms. It is first major post-demonetisation move undertaken by Government for unearthing black money from shell companies used for large-scale money laundering and tax evasion. The task force will be headed by Revenue Secretary and Corporate Affairs Secretary to monitor the actions taken by various agencies. The involved agencies will invoke the stringent Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Act, 2016 against the shell companies and freeze their accounts and strike off the names of dormant companies. It will also initiate disciplinary action against professionals abetting the companies and entry operators, who are used to launder unaccounted-for incomes into the banking system for projecting them as white money.  There are about 15 lakh registered companies in India, but only 6 lakh of them file their annual returns. It has raised suspicion that a large number of these companies are indulging in financial irregularities. During a small sample analysis of such companies conducted by Government has found that Rs.1,238 crore in cash was deposited in these entities during the November-December 2016 period, after demonetisation. It also has been found that 560 beneficiaries have laundered money to the extent of Rs. 3,900 crore with the help of 54 professionals, who have been identified by the Government.

The Pakistan Navy has kicked of its biannually-held multinational AMAN 2017 naval exercise in Karachi, Pakistan. 37 countries are participating in the international event. Aman-17 is the fifth edition such exercise which Pakistan has been holding biannually since 2007. Previous exercises were held in 2007, 2009, 20011, and 2013, and 2016 respectively. The theme of AMAN 2017 is “together for peace”. It is intended to devise procedures and techniques against conventional and non-conventional threats.  The naval exercise aims at enhancing efforts to combating piracy and protecting international trade routes.  It is divided into two phases viz. Harbor phase and Sea phase. Harbor phase will include ship visits, sports events, and a maritime security conference in which participants will present research papers, among other things. Sea phase will witness a variety of activities including Search & Rescue (SAR) Operations, gunnery drills, anti-piracy demonstrations, replenishment at Sea (RAS) and maritime counter-terrorism demonstrations. It involves ships, aircrafts, helicopters, Explosives Ordinance Disposal (EOD), Special Operations Forces (SOF), marine teams and observers from regional as well extra-regional navies.  Nine countries Australia, China, Turkey, Indonesia, United Kingdom, Sri Lanka, United States, Japan and Russia are participating with warships or aircraft. Turkey and Russia are participating for first time. US has sent four ships, China and Russia have sent three ships, while Australia, Indonesia, UK, Turkey and Sri Lanka have each dispatched one. Japan has sent two P-3C Orion aircraft, whereas the Maldives, Malaysia, Nigeria, and Russia have each dispatched Special Operations Forces detachments.

Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor missile dubbed as Ashwin was successfully test-fired from launching complex-IV of Dhamara Abdul Kalam defence base off Odisha coast.  The test assed missile’s killing capability by intercepting a target, mimicking an incoming enemy missile in mid-air. The success of test has boosted India’s position in the exclusive club of AAD countries United States, Russia and Israel. The interceptor missile is a 7.5-metre-long single stage solid rocket propelled guided missile. It is equipped with a navigation system, a hi-tech computer, inertial navigation system and an electro-mechanical activator.  It can destroy the incoming hostile ballistic missile in the endo-atmospheric region (less than 30 km altitude) at a low altitude of less than 30 kms. It has its own mobile launcher, secure data link for interception, independent tracking and homing capabilities and sophisticated radars, India has a double-layered ballistic missile defence (BMD) system capable of tracking and destroying hostile missiles both outside (exo) and inside (endo) the earth’s atmosphere. The first phase BMD system capable of killing enemy missiles fired from 2,000 km away. It is expected to be inducted in the armed forces soon. The second phase BMD system, capable of destroying enemy missiles fired from 5,000 km away is still under development.

The International Day of Women and Girls in Science was observed across the globe on 11 February 2017. The day comes as an opportunity for all to take a stand for girls and women in science. Science and gender equality are vital for the achievement of the internationally agreed development goals, including the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. In 2016, the UNESCO launched a Manifesto ‘For Women in Science’ with the L’Oréal Foundation. The manifesto aims at engaging Governments and stakeholders in promoting the full participation of girls and women in science. It looks forward to inspire girls and young women by offering mentoring opportunities to young women scientists to assist in their career development. A study conducted in 14 countries shows the probability for female students of graduating with a Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree and Doctor’s degree in science-related field are 18 per cent, 8 per cent and 2 per cent respectively, while the percentages of male students are 37 per cent, 18 per cent and 6 per cent respectively.  International Day of Women and Girls in Science : The United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution A/RES/70/212 declaring 11 February as the International Day of Women and Girls in Science. It was done to achieve full and equal access to and participation in science for women and girls, and further attain gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

Over 400 whales got themselves stranded on Farewell Spit on the South Island of New Zealand in the early morning hours of 10 February 2017. Almost three-quarter of them died broke the dawn broke. The stranding has been described as the worst whale stranding in decades. Upon notification, the Department of Conservation (DOC) immediately launched a rescue operation for the beached whales. The organisation’s staff along with a dozen volunteers were at the sea early morning trying to refloat the remaining 100 whales. Still falling short on hands, the authorities issued an urgent plea to the locals in the area to drop their commitments and join the rescue mission with required essentials including towels, buckets and sheets to keep the beached whales cool, wet and calm. Though the beach is prone to whale stranding, as its shallow bay makes it difficult for them to swim out once they get too close, it is unclear how so many whales managed to beach themselves. While the rescue team managed to successfully refloat the 100 remaining whales, about 90 of them re-beached themselves in the afternoon during low tide. Even though the efforts are on to keep the surviving whales healthy and alive until the next high tide, which will be in the afternoon, chances of their survival are growing slim. In fact the volunteers also formed a human chain to restrain the remaining whales from stranding themselves again. With all focus on the living whales, plans for disposing of the dead have been put on hold for now.  According to Andrew Lamason, a team leader for the DOC Takaka area, it is common for whales involved in mass stranding to re-beach themselves, as they are used to staying in close proximity to their pod, the majority of which are lying dead on the beach and unless some of them decide to lead the group and head into the sea, the remaining ones will keep trying to come back. Lamason also explained how emotionally draining the whole situation is and only those who are strong-headed can go through with it, as the site is not one that everyone can cope with. He, however, added that hundreds of New Zealanders have come to the beach to help, most well prepared to stay there all day and night if needed. 

The Official Mascot of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 was unveiled on 10 February 2017 at Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in New Delhi. The Official Mascot is a clouded leopard called Kheleo. The clouded leopard is a vulnerable wild cat whose habitat extends from the Himalayan foothills to mainland Southeast Asia. Kheleo will participate in several activities in the run-up to the first FIFA tournament to be hosted by India. The tournament will be played from 6 to 28 October 2017. 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup : The 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup will be the 17th edition of the FIFA U-17 World Cup. The FIFA U-17 World Cup is a biennial international men's youth football championship contested by the U17 national teams of the member associations of FIFA. The most recent tournament was hosted by Chile and won by Nigeria. However, Nigeria will not be able to defend their title in the 17th edition of the tournament as they failed to reach the final round of the CAF qualifying tournament. In doing so, Nigeria became the first incumbent title holder since Switzerland in 2009 to fail to qualify for the subsequent tournament. In September 2016, the Local Organising Committee (LOC) of the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 had unveiled the Official Emblem for the event. The emblem of the first-ever FIFA tournament in India was designed as a celebration of the country’s richness and diversity of cultures. The logo includes elements of the Indian Ocean, the banyan tree, the kite and the starburst, which is an interpretation of the Ashoka Chakra, an integral part of the national identity.

The first phase of polling in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections begins, on 11 February 2017. With 73 Assembly constituencies of 15 districts up for polls, the vote will decide the fate of 840 candidates. A total of 2 Cr 59 Lakh people are eligible to cast their votes in all the constituencies combined. Highlights : Among the total number of eligible voters, around 1 Cr and 17 lakh are women and more than 1500 voters identify themselves as the third gender. Elaborate arrangements have been made in all the districts that are going to poll including Ghaziabad, Meerut, Hathras and Bagpat. Meerut alone has more than 24 lakh 46 thousand eligible voters who will decide the fate of 72 candidates contesting from 7 assembly constituencies. A total of 1181 polling centres have been set up in the district for tomorrow’s vote. Around 20000 central paramilitary forces and other police forces have been brought in and stationed at different points in the district. Out of the 887 polling centres in Muzaffarnagar, around 600 have been identified as critical centres. Video cameras have been set up at these critical zones to maintain a strict vigil.Besides this, a total of sixty companies of paramilitary forces would be stationed at all the polling centres in Muzaffarnagar and Shamli. The step has been taken to make the voters feel secure, especially in the areas that witnessed the 2013 communal riots. First phase of UP Assembly polls: Shamli Muzaffarnagar  Baghpat  Meerut  Ghaziabad  Gautam Buddha Nagar  Hapur Bulandshahar  Aligarh  Mathura  Hathras  Agra  Firozabad  Etah  Kasganj  

State Bank of India (SBI) put out a big advertisement seeking probationary officers for the bank. Half the advertisement has a smiling picture of the bank’s chairman, Arundhati Bhattacharya, who herself was part of the 1977 batch of probationary officers. India’s largest bank plans to recruit 2,200 probationary officers this year. “Are you next?” the ad says, as it offers to create “leaders of tomorrow”. Listing the reasons why one should join the bank, the ad says the topmost emolument could be “overseas exposure”. SBI has 196 foreign offices in 36 countries, which can offer global positions through “overseas postings even at an early career stage. The forms for the exam are already out and will be available till 6 March. Probationary Officers recruitment is a direct entry point into the bank’s management cadre.  As SBI offers the full array of financial services, the new entrants will get an opportunity work in the various departments, ranging from personal banking, rural banking, corporate banking, credit, forex and treasury, amongst others. 

India and the United States have agreed to maintain the pace of their partnership especially in  the area of the defence ties. The Defence Secretary James Mattis held a telephonic conversation with the Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar with the commitment to further strengthen the bilateral defence cooperation made in recent years. This was the first bilateral talk between the two ministers after Mattis was swron in as Defence Secretary in January 2017. With emphasis on the strategic importance of the US-India relationship and India’s role in advancing global peace and security, the two defence ministers also affirmed their commitment to sustain the momentum on key bilateral defense efforts to include the Defense Technology and Trade Initiative.

The three day long International Desert Festival 2017 started with great enthusiasm on 8 February 2017 in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. The festival was inaugurated by Jaisalmer MLA Chhotu Singh Bhati and district collectorMatadin Sharma by flagging-off the shobha yatra. The procession traveled from Gadisar Lake to Shaheed Poonam Singh Stadium. Famous folk artists coming from different parts of the country performed as the procession moved further. A cavalcade of 48 camels of Border Security Force (BSF) was the major attraction on first day of the festival. Thousands of Indian and foreign nationals gather to witness the festival. The major attraction of 2017 is the women wrestling which has been introduced for the first time. Other interesting events include kite flying competition, camel polo race, camel tattoo competition and the panihari matka race, camel decoration competition, shan-e-marudhara competition, tug of war, air warrior drill show by the Indian Air Force among others.

 The Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs and Sports Shri Vijay Goyal launched the Mission XI Million, the biggest school sport outreach programme, in New Delhi on February 10, 2017 in the presence of President of AIFF Shri Praful Patel. The programme has been launched with an aim to make football a sport of choice in India and encourage children to play the football games on regular basis.  It also involves school principals and sports teachers to encourage and incentivize students to opt for football and at the same time gain healthy habits and learn important life lessons in teamwork and sportsman spirit. The Mission XI Million has an objective to instill the passion for football in 11 million children from every part of the country. This also involves schools and parents. The programme will provide necessary equipments and the knowledge to the parents and schools about how to make regular play a reality for students. The program will be rolled out in every state of the country ranging from Kashmir to Kanyakumari from Kutch to Imphal. The government aims to reach over 37 cities and 12,000 schools across all 29 states of India. The programme is divided into three phases: seminars for teacher and educators, in-school activities and football festivals that would take place up to September 2017.  

Virat Kohli became the first player to score double century in four consecutive Test series on February 10, 2017 while playing against Bangladesh in Hyderabad. He also became the second captain to score four double centuries for his country Kohli began the trend while playing against West Indies in June 2016 to score his first double century where he scored exactly 200. Second with New Zealand in November 2016. The third record came against England where he scored his third double century and the latest against Bangladesh. During the course of this innings, Kohli overtook Virender Sehwag as the top scorer in a single home season for India. Sehwag had scored 1105 runs in the 2004/05.

Hemant Bhargava has been appointed as the managing director of Life Insurance Corporation of India. Bhargava, who was the zonal manager (I/C) Delhi, has been appointed by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet as managing director from the date of notification of his appointment up to the date of his superannuation (July 31, 2019) or until further orders

Folk singer from Punjab Satinder Sartaaj (34) has been selected for the awareness project against human trafficking “Blue Heart Campaign” by the United Nations Office onDrugs and Crime (UNODC). Sartaaj will works with Indian musicians like AR Rahman and Sonu Nigam to spread awareness about the illegal practice through Music to Inspire album. The album also includes songs by famous artistes such as Ozark Henry, Karmin, Joss Stone, Jack Atlantis, Tisha Campbell, Steve London and Lee England. UNODC : United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) is a United Nations office that was established in 1997 as the Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention by combining the United Nations International Drug Control Program(UNDCP) and the Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Division in the United Nations Office at Vienna. In 2016 – 2017 it has an estimated biannual budget of US$700 million.

2017 BRICS association of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa to be held in Xiamen, China in September 2017 ii. The summit will be held under the theme “BRICS: Stronger Partnership for a Brighter Future “. Deepening cooperation 2.Strengthening global governance 3.Carrying out people-to-people exchanges 4.Making institutional improvements and 5.Building broader partnerships. BRICS: BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Originally the first four were grouped as “BRIC” before the induction of South Africa in 2010 BRICS contains a development bank which is headquartered in Shanghai,China. It is called as NDB BRICS or NDB. BRICS The 2016 BRICS summit was hosted by India in Goa.

The Union Minister of Chemicals & Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs, Shri Ananthkumar inaugurated the Orientation Programme for the district heads of National Yuva Cooperative Society (NYCS) in New Delhi on February 10, 2017 to launch the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras (PMBJKs) in the country. The workshop was organized based upon the MoU signed earlier between Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) and NYCS for establishing 1000 PMBJKs in the country. The basic details regarding the Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) were laid down during the workshop for the effectiveness of the scheme. Representatives from 24 States and 106 districts from across the country attended the programme to further help spread the scheme in their respective zones and bring momentum in opening of PMBJKs. The Minister stressed the need to open more and more PMBJKs based on 3As namely Authenticity, Availability and Affordability. Currently there are 777 PMBJKs and the government aims to achieve 3000 kendras by March 2017

The Union Government is planning to set up a Defence Procurement Organisation (DPO), new procurement body to integrate and streamline the long and arduous process of defence acquisitions. The DPO will be a vertical under the Union Defence Ministry.  It will simplify the defence purchase procedure by integrating procurement processes. Government has modified several times the Defence Procurement Process, which applies to all defence capital procurements to bring in transparency and speed up acquisitions.  But even after multiple modification, the process continues to be lengthy and complicated. The new agency will be established based on the recommendation of government appointed committee on the modalities of setting up the DPO.  The committee was headed by Dr. Pritam Singh, former Director of Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Lucknow and has submitted a report to UnionDefence Minister Manohar Parrikar. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) chaired by the Prime Minister has increased the financial powers of the Defence Minister to clear defence deals upto Rs.2,000 crore from earlier Rs.500 crore limit to shorten the procurement cycle. Now only deals of Rs.3,000 crore and above would go to the CCS for approval.  CCS also increased joint financial powers of Finance Minister and Defence Minister to approve projects up to Rs.3,000 crore, up from the earlier Rs.1,000 crore.  The Defence Secretary also has been given financial powers upto Rs.500 crore to clear deals.

The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has appointed senior bureaucrat Ajay Tyagi (58) as the new chairman of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).  Mr. Tyagi will have tenure of 5 years or till the age of 65 years or until further orders. He will succeed UK Sinha whose term ends on March 1, 2017.  His name was recommended by the search-cum-selection panel headed by the cabinet secretary along with some other candidates. Ajay Tyagi Ajay Tyagi is 1984 batch IAS (Indian Administrative Services) officer of Himachal Pradesh cadre. Prior to this appointment, he was Additional secretary (investment) in the Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance, handling the capital market division.  He had served as the chairman of the finance ministry-appointed panel which monitored the merger of the Forward Markets Commission (FMC) with the SEBI. He had represented India at the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental body set up to combat money laundering, terror financing and other related threats.  Currently he is also representing India at the Financial Stability Board (FSB), an international body to monitor global financial systems. He also had led the initiatives on corporate bonds markets. Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) SEBI is the statutory regulator for the securities market in India established in 1988. It was given statutory powers through the SEBI Act, 1992. Protect the interests of investors in securities, promote the development of securities market and to regulate the securities market. SEBI has is responsive to needs of three groups, which constitute the market, issuers of securities, investors and market intermediaries.

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