Current Affairs 13th February 2017

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India and the United Kingdom (UK) in February 2017 signed a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to allow more flights to boost tourism and trade in both the countries. The agreement was formally signed by Pusapati Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Lord Ahmad in New Delhi. While Raju is the Union Minister of Civil Aviation, Lord Ahmad is a representative of the UK Government. He led a delegation of British companies for the 2017 CAPA India Aviation Summit, which was held for two days in Mumbai in the second week of February 2017. Features : The MoU seeks to ease restrictions on the number of scheduled flights between India and the UK. As part of the agreement, limits on flights from key Indian cities including Chennai and Kolkata have been scrapped. This measure will allow a greater range of flights for passengers while providing a boost to trade and tourism for both the countries. The agreement also opened all destinations in the UK for Indian carriers for code share flights. Reciprocally, the UK carriers can also operate code share flights to any international airport in India. The present MoU is a part of the series of agreements signed between both the countries recently to boost bilateral relations. Some of the other recent agreements are MoU on Ease of Doing Business: The agreement facilitates sharing of best practices and technical assistance for effective implementation of the initiatives of Union Government to improve its ranking in the Ease of Doing Business Index. Some of the important areas of cooperation under this agreement are - support to businesses and startups, tax administration, regulatory regimes, competition economics, etc. MoU for Cooperation in the field of Intellectual Property: The MoU envisages establishing a mechanism for furthering cooperation between the Intellectual Property Offices of India and the UK in the field of IP and related information technology services.  

Loktak lake, the largest freshwater lake in the country, has now become home to first of its kind loktak floating elementary school. Situated about 50 km from Imphal, the school has been inaugurated at Langolsabi Leikai of Champu Khangpok village in Manipur. The Loktak Lake is referred as the “lifeline of Manipur” as it is highly productive and many lives depend on the lake for endurance. The lake is also an Important Bird Area as it’s a potential breeding site for waterfowl and is a staging site for migratory birds. This ancient lake serves as a source of water for hydropower generation, irrigation and drinking water supply. The lake is also a source of livelihood for the rural fisherman who lives in the surrounding areas and on phumdis, also known as “phumshongs”. The school has been opened under the initiative undertaken by All Loktak Lake Fisherman’s Union with the support of an NGO – People Resources Development Association (PRDA). The school will not only cater to the need of the children but for the illiterate adults as well. The school will be accommodating around 25 students and two teachers from the community. The honorarium of the volunteers will be sanction by the PRDA, under the project called ‘Empowering vulnerable local communities for sustainable development’, which is funded by Action Aid India.

Food regulator FSSAI has set up a scientific panel to frame final regulations on fortification of foods and prepare strategies to address malnutrition problem.  The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has already issued the draft guidelines on fortification for five food items -- salt, milk, wheat flour, rice and edible oil -- to boost production and consumption of fortified foods. The draft rules were operationalised in October even as FSSAI sought comments from stakeholders before finalising the final regulations Fortification means deliberately adding or increasing the content of essential micro-nutrients in food items to improve quality. The panel has 11 experts and scientists -- Ambrish Mithal from Medanta; CS Pandav and R K Marwaha (Retd) from AIIMS; Anura Kurpad from St John's Medical College; Yogeshwar Shukla from CSIR - Indian Institute of Toxicilogy Research, HPS Sachdev from Sita Ram Bharatia Institute of Science and Research; KM Nair from NIN; P Ramachandran from Nutrition Foundation of India; Sumit Arora from NDRI; Sirimavo Nair from the MS University, Baroda, and Harsulkar from Bharati Vidyapeeth. Apart from framing standards, FSSAI has launched the Food Fortification Resource Centre (FFRC) to promote large-scale fortification of food across India.

Monnet Ispat & Energy Ltd. CMD Sandeep Jajodia has been appointed the new president of industry chamber Assocham. Balkrishan Goenka, Chairman, Welspun Group and Kiran Kumar Grandhi, vice-chairman of GMR Infrastructure Ltd, have taken over as senior vice-president and vice-president respectively. Assocham will continue to play a transformational role both nationally and globally and the chamber will empower Indian enterprises by focusing on the most critical and relevant issues in a highly impact-oriented manner.  

The FIFA governing body has named Argentina’s former soccer player Diego Maradona as the new Ambassador of the FIFA . The 56 year old will have major role in FIFA’s activities to promote the game across the globe and will also be be involved in relevant development projects.  The Federation Internationale de Football Association is the international governing body of association football, futsal, and beach soccer.  President is Gianni Infantino and Headquarters in Zurich, Switzerland.

The Lok Sabha in February 2017 passed the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Bill, 2017. The bill replaces the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Ordinance, 2016. The ordinance was promulgated by the President Pranab Mukherjee on 30 December 2016. Features  : The bill specifies that the old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 notes will cease to be liabilities of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) from 31 December 2016 onwards. And, these notes will no longer be guaranteed by the union government. These notes were demonetised on 8 November 2016 by the Central Bank through a notification issued under the RBI Act, 1934. The notification specifies that the banned notes must be deposited in banks or post offices by 30 December 2016. A person will be prohibited from holding, transferring or receiving the specified bank notes from 31 December 2016 onwards. The bill exempts persons belonging to following categories from this prohibition – i. A person who holds up to 10 old notes (irrespective of denomination) ii. A person who holds up to 25 notes for the purposes of study, research or numismatics (collection or study of coins or notes) iii. A person who holds notes on the direction of a court In addition, the RBI or any person authorised by it are also exempted from this prohibition. Any person holding the specified bank notes, except in the circumstances mentioned above, will be punishable with a fine that may extend to Rs 10,000 or 5 times the value of notes possessed, whichever is higher. If a person acting on behalf of a company commits an offence under the bill, the company would also be held liable for such an offence. Any fine for contravening provisions of the bill will be imposed by the Court of a Magistrate of the First Class or the Court of a Metropolitan Magistrate.

Legislative Assembly of Karnataka on 13 February 2017 passed the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Karnataka Amendment) Bill, 2017. The bill seeks to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960, in its application to Karnataka.   The bill presented in the assembly by Minister for Animal Husbandry and Sericulture, A Manju was passed to facilitate the conduct of traditional buffalo race “Kambala” and bullock cart races in South Kanara and Udupi districts. Kambala : Kambala is a traditional annual buffalo race that is held in the marshy fields of the coastal districts of Karnataka. It is traditionally held under the sponsorship of local landlords and households or Patel of the village. The season for the race generally starts in November and lasts until March. At present, some 45 races are held annually in the Coastal Karnataka, including smaller remote villages. The amendment to the Act of 1960 was needed to exempt the conduct of bullock cart racing from the ambit of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act, 1960. Earlier, the High Court of the state had banned the sports following a petition of PETA.  This ban by the high court led to protests by Kambala committees and other Kannada organizations in the coastal districts of the state. The protests caught momentum after the success of stir in support of Jallikattu in Tamil Nadu. The protests in the Tamil Nadu forced the state government to bring a similar amendment to the central act.  

Bandaru Dattatreya, the Union Labour and Employment Minister launched the National Career Service (NCS) and JeevanPraman facility to the EPFO pensioners on 12 February 2017 through Post Offices in DakSadan, Hyderabad. With the launch, India Post that has a large postal network comprising around 155000 post offices will now be doubling up as employment registration centres for the unemployed youth living in the rural areas through the NCS portal. Highlights : The NCS portal will help the rural unemployed youth to register for employment at their doorstep without much hassle and at a very nominal fee. It will also give them access to a rich storehouse of career content covering almost 3000 occupations across 52 sectors, updated on its database. The portal mainly aims to bridge the gap between the net connected urban areas and non-connected rural areas by creating equal opportunities for the rural unemployed youth. The facility was launched for 95 Head Post offices and will soon be extended to other post offices across India. The EPFO pensioners would also now be able to submit their digital life certificates (JeevanPramaan) through Head Post Offices. Besides this, the Centre has planned to provide employment to 5 Cr people over the next five years.  The number of youth in the country is estimated to be around 80 Cr by the year 2020. According to the officials of the Labour and Employment department, around 14 lakh employers and about 4 Cr job seekers have already registered themselves in the NCS portal.

INS Sarvekshak, the survey vessel of Indian Navy has gone green by installing a solar power system on board. According to the Navy, the system is 100 per cent reliable for power source and can be used for a variety of functions including charging of batteries, for communication equipment and for general all day onboard lightings with battery outputs during night. The system will be maintenance free, unlike the regular diesel generator that requires regular maintenance. With the installation of the 5 KW solar power system, the estimated profit generated in a ship service life of 25 years is around Rs 2.7 Cr in this project alone. Even if the system is used for just 25 days in a year, the system can replay the cost in less than ten years. The system’s installation also helps avoid the use of around 165 kg of carbon in a day, 60225 kg of carbon in a year and the use of 22995 litres of diesel. In total in 25 years, the system will help save around Rs 15 lakh kg of carbon and 5.75 lakh litres of diesel. According to a Navy spokesperson, the use of solar power in marine environment is a great challenge and it has never been attempted before on any warship of India. He also noted that in the wake of climate change, the world is looking for clean, sustainable and renewable sources of energy in order to protect and reduce the harm caused to the environment and this new mechanism aims to encourage the same.  

Frank-Walter Steinmeier was elected as the new President of Germany on 12 February 2017 by a special Parliamentary assembly. He became the 12th person to hold the post in the post-war era. The special assembly comprised 630 federal Members of Parliament and an equal number of representatives from Germany’s 16 Federal states. Highlights : Steinmeier, a Social Democrat, won the election with an overwhelming majority. He got 931 out of total 1260 votes. There were 103 abstentions and 14 votes were declared invalid. The results were announced by Norbert Lammert, the President of Germany’s constitutional body, Bundestag. Steinmeier’s win was welcomed with a standing ovation by most members excluding a dozen belonging to the populist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, whose presidential candidate received just 42 votes. Steinmeier got a lot of support in the election from German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “grand coalition”. The coalition comprises centre-right and centre-left parties. In his acceptance speech, Steinmeier encouraged the people of Germany to be brave and not be afraid of the future. He also spoke about how Germany, a difficult fatherland, has become an anchor of hope for many across the world. Steinmeier will be taking oath on 19 March 2017, a day after current President Joachim Gauck steps down from his position. Frank-Walter Steinmeier : Born in 1956, Steinmeier holds a doctorate in law and was formerly serving as a civil servant. He had close relations with Gerhard Schroder, the Prime Minister of Lower Saxony and served as his chief of staff from 1996. He was appointed as the Under Secretary of the State in the German Chancellery in 1998 when Schroder became Germany’s Chancellor. He was handed the responsibility of overseeing intelligence services. He has held the post of Germany’s Minister for Foreign Affairs twice from 2005 to 2009 and very recently from 2013 to 2017, both times under the rule of Angela Merkel’s ‘grand coalition’. He also additionally served as the country’s Vice Chancellor from 2007 to 2009. In 2016, he was elected as the Chairman-in Office of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).   Steinmeier is widely respected for taking a strong stand on issues significant to the people of Germany. With his win now, hopes are high that he will work to support the country’s reputation as a global defender of tolerant liberal values.

World Radio Day was celebrated across the world on 13 February 2017. The day is observed every year to celebrate radio as the medium of entertainment, the mode of communication and information. Themed ‘Radio is You’, this year the day calls for a greater participation of both the audiences and communities in the policy and planning of radio broadcasting. Speaking on the occasion, Irina Bokova, the Director General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), said that at such a time when turbulence is high in the society, radio provides an ideal platform to bring communities together. She further added by saying that radio, as a popular communication medium, is a force for human rights and dignity and also a powerful enabler of solutions to the challenges faced by the society. World Radio Day was celebrated for the first time in 2012, following its establishment during the UNESCO General Conference in the same year.  It was later adopted by the United Nations General Assembly as an International Day. Every year, UNESCO commemorates the day by planning activities with organisations, broadcasters and communities from around the world. The day gives an opportunity to honour the role radio plays in bringing communities together and promoting a positive dialogue for change.The medium’s role is especially enhanced at the time of a disaster such as an earthquake, as it plays a significant part in disseminating information and bringing communities together.

The three trophy handlers at the ceremony are transgender model Martina Robledo; model and actor Derek Marrocco, and model and actress Hollin Haley. The ceremony host is James Corden. The 59th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held on February 12, 2017. The 59th Annual Grammy Awards ceremony will be held on February 12, 2017.The CBS network will broadcast the show live from the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The ceremony will recognize the best recordings, compositions, and artists of the eligibility year, which runs from October 1, 2015 to September 30, 2016. 

Prasad Erande from Pune travelled 14,576 kilometres on a cycle across India, establishing a Guinness World Record for the 'longest journey by bicycle in a single country. He covered the distance between June 22-November 9 in 2014. It increased my inner strength and taught me how to survive when conditions are not in my favour," said Erande about the journey.

C K Birla Group-owned Hindustan Motors have signed a deal with French carmakerPeugeot SA Group on February 10, 2017 to sell its iconic Indian car brand “Ambassador” to Peugeot for Rs. 80 crore. The production of Hindustan Ambassador car was discontinued in 2014 as sales dropped continuously and it could not keep up with the new generation of cars in the Indian market. Kolkata based Hindustan Motors would sell the car brand as well as the trademarks and use the proceeds to clear the dues of the employees and lenders.

The Ministry of Human Resource Development on February 10, 2017 said that from 2018 there would be a single entrance examination for admission in all engineering and architecture colleges for undergraduate courses. The aim is to make the admission process more transparent and put a stop on heavy capitation fee levied on students.  At present, many states conduct their own engineering examination or admissions are done on the basis of Class 12 marks. The government has also directed All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to issue suitable regulations under the AICTE Act for this. The Ministry of Human Resource Development has also requested all state governments and deemed universities to come under joint seat allocation to make seat allocation process more justified. The test shall be conducted multiple times a year and is intended to bring uniformity in academic standards and reduce the influence of donations.

The second edition of the Hunar Haat was inaugurated by the Union Minister of State for Minority Affairs (Independent Charge) and Parliamentary Affairs Shri Mukhtar AbbasNaqvi on February 11, 2017 at State Emporia Complex, Baba Kharak Singh Marg, Connaught Place in New Delhi. The theme of the 2nd Hunar Haat is Craft Aur Cuisine Ka Sangam. The festival will take place from February 11-February 26, 2017. The exhibition is being organized by the Minority Affairs Ministry through National Minorities Development & Finance Corporation (NMDFC) under USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills & Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development) scheme. The exhibition would provide national and international market access to the artisans and craftsmen of Minority communities from across the country to encourage and promote them. Hunar Haat is a unique platform that brings together crafts and traditional cuisines from different parts of the country. The show is being participated by 100 artisans and 30 culinary experts from about 24 states and Union Territories. Some of the very exquisite pieces of Handicraft & Handloom work that would be displayed for the first time includes Makrana Marble products, Bandhej from Sikar, Mojri from Rajasthan, Banjara Embroidery from Telangana, Handmade Locks & Door Handles along with Phool-Patti works from Aligarh among others.

Former IFS officer Narinder Chauhan  has been appointed as the next Ambassador of lndia to the Republic of the Philippines on February 11, 2017. Currently Narinder is working as the Ambassador of lndia to the Republic of Serbia.

The government has appointed 10 heads of IIMs includes IIM Bodhgaya, IIM Sirmaur,IIM Visakhapatnam, IIM Trichy, IIM Nagpur, IIM Sambalpur, IIM Raipur, IIM Rohtak, IIM Ranchi and IIM Bangalore for five years or until they turn 65 years of age. Dr. Neelu Rohmetra of Jammu University has been appointed as one of heads of IIMs. Now she became the first woman director of Indian Institute of Management Sirmaur, Himachal Pradesh Professor Neelu Rohmetra is currently the Rector of Kathua and Billawar Campuses of Jammu University Business School and shealso the founder director of International Centre for Cross-Cultural Research and Human Resource Management (ICccR and HRM), University of Jammu.

The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur is starting India’s first inter-disciplinary School on Quality and Reliability (Q&R) in India. The main of the establishing the school is to improve the quality of life for the people of India as well as develop quality conscious global citizens. The Q&R school, in collaboration with other academic units in the Institute will offer academic courses, research and mission-mode programmes in the area of Quality and Reliability for social transformation. Besides quality, the school will also help to improve the trinity of 3Ps namely Process, Planet and People with target on Engineering, Human and Natural systems. The School will be interdisciplinary with faculty members and students from various disciplines. The school is being named after an IIT Kharagpur alumnus Quality guru Subir Chowdhury as the Subir Chowdhury School of Quality and Reliability. He is the patron of the school who has offered $1 million fund for school.  

 The second edition of the International Spice Conference began at Kovalam in Thiruvananthapuram district of Kerala from February 12, 2017. The three days conference has been hosted by All India Spices Exporters Forum (AISEF) in association with the Cochin Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The conference was inaugurated by the Nestle India Limited Chairman and Managing director Suresh Narayanan. The theme of the conference is “21st Century Spic Industry-Disrupt or be Disrupted” The main aim of the event is to deliberate on effective strategies and innovative technologies to improve the livelihood of spice farmers, address spice industry challenges, food safety concern, demand supply disparity and foster sustainable growth. Over 800 delegates, including 250 delegates from foreign countries will take part in the conference. AISEF has set a target to achieve the spice export to about five billion by 2021, from the current export of Rs 2.5-billion.

The National Productivity Day is observed every year on February 12. Besides, February 12-18 is observed as National Productivity week throughout the country.  The main observance of day is organised by National Productivity Council (NPC) for encouraging all stakeholders in implementation of productivity tools and techniques with contemporary relevant themes.  2017  Theme of National Productivity Week: “From Waste to Profits-through Reduce, Recycle and Reuse”. To mark this day, various workshops, essay/slogan/painting competitions, training programs, debates are organized during the week to spread the message of productivity National Productivity Council (NPC) :  NPC is a national level autonomous organization under Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry to promote productivity culture in India. It was established as a registered society on 12th February 1958 by the Government with aim to stimulate and promote productivity and quality consciousness across all sectors in the country.  It is a tri-partite non-profit organization (NGO) with equal representation from government, employers and workers’ organizations. It also has representatives from technical and professional institutions including members from local productivity councils and chamber of commerce on its Governing Body.  It also implements the productivity promotion schemes of Government and carry out programmes of Tokyo based Asian Productivity Organization (APO), an inter-governmental body of which India is founder member.

The Union Government is targeting an investment of about Rs. 2,200 crore in start-ups working on new technologies in the electronic sector under the Electronics Development Fund (EDF) by 2019.  This investment aims at creating an eco-system to make India a global hub for electronics manufacturing.  Earlier, Government had approved Rs.681 crore as seed capital for building a total corpus of over Rs 6,800 crore under the EDF meant to support entrepreneurship and innovation in electronics and IT. Electronics Development Fund (EDF)  : EDF is the mother fund or fund of funds that will contribute to various funds for those who invest the money in companies for creation of intellectual property rights (IPR) in the field of electronics and IT.  It works with venture capitalists to create funds, known as ‘daughter funds,’ which provide risk capital to companies developing new technologies in the area of nano-electronics, electronics and IT. It will help attract angel funds, venture funds and seed funds towards research & development (R&D) and innovation in the specified areas.  It will also help to create a battery of Fund Managers and Daughter funds who will be seeking good start-ups (potential winners) and selecting them based on professional considerations.

The Union Government is planning to come out with ‘Indradhanush 2.0’, a comprehensive plan for recapitalisation of public sector lenders.  Indradhanush 2.0 will be finalised by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) after completion of Asset Quality Review (AQR) which is likely to be completed by end of March 2017. It aims to clean up the balance sheets of PSBs to ensure banks remain solvent and fully comply with global capital adequacy norms, Basel-III.  Besides, revised programme of capitalisation will be also issued as part of it. The RBI had embarked on the AQR exercise from December 2015 and had set a deadline of March 2017 to complete the exercise. As part of it, RBI had asked banks to recognise some top defaulting accounts as non-performing assets (NPAs) and make adequate provisions for them. Under ‘Indradhanush’ roadmap announced in 2015, the Union Government had announced an infusion of Rs. 70,000 crore in state-run banks over four years.  Banks also were allowed to raise a further Rs. 1.1 lakh crore from the markets to meet their capital requirement in line with global risk norms, Basel-III. In line with the plan, PSBs were given Rs. 25,000 crore in 2015-16, and a similar amount was earmarked for the current fiscal 2016-17. Besides, Rs. 10,000 crore each will be infused in 2017-18 and 2018-19.  Basel III (Third Basel Accord) Basel III is a global, voluntary regulatory framework on bank capital adequacy, market liquidity risk and stress testing.  It was agreed by Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS) members in 2010–11. It focuses primarily on the risk of a run on the bank, requiring differing levels of reserves for different forms of bank deposits and other borrowings.  It does not, supersedes the guidelines known as Basel I and Basel II for the most part, rather works alongside them. In March 2014, RBI had extended Basel III deadline up to March 31, 2019, instead of as on March 31, 2018.  Basel series of norms are broad supervisory standards formulated by BCBS to ensure that financial institutions have enough capital on account to meet obligations and absorb unexpected losses.

India is planning to host a conference on counter-radicalisation with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in October 2017.  It will provide common platform to countries for sharing experiences and ideas on prevention of radicalisation amid rise of Islamic State and other extremist ideologies Highlights : This conference will also help participating countries to learn from each other’s best practices on promoting deradicalisation.  It will mainly deal with the growing IS threat and make effort to counter radicalisation and misuse of religion by groups and countries for inciting hatred and terrorism India will also share its experience and also benefit from that of ASEAN countries, especially Malaysia.  Besides, more countries may be also invited as observers depending on the interest. UAE will one of such country as it has expertise in deradicalisation that was one of the key areas of discussions during the recent India-UAE bilateral interactions. Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) :  ASEAN is a group of 10 South Asian nations is a regional organisation comprising that aims to promote intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic integration amongst its members. It came into existence on August 8, 1967 after ASEAN declaration (also known as Bangkok declaration).

India won the ICC T20 Blind World Cup. In the final clash played at Bengaluru’s M Chinnaswamy stadium, India defeated Pakistan by 9-wickets. Successfully defending their title in the T20 Blind World Cup, India achieved the victory target of 198-runs in the 18th over in the final of the tournament. Pakistan had scored 197 for 8 in their 20 overs. The team had won the previous edition by defeating the same rivals in the final in 2012. India made to the finals with eight victories of the nine games. It lost its only match against Pakistan in the group stages at Feroz Shah Kotla in Delhi. On the other hand, Pakistan remained unbeaten throughout the tournament. Important fact: Pakistan also ended as runners-up to India in the 2012 edition of the game. In 2012, which was the inaugural session of the tournament, India defeated Pakistan by 29 runs. Pakistan scored 197 for 8 in 20 overs. The main scorer was Badar Muni (57) India scored 200/1 in 17.4 overs. Main scorers were Prakasha Jayaramaiah (99 not out), Ajay Kumar Reddy (43) Prime Minister Narendra Modi has congratulated the Indian blind cricket team for winning the Twenty20 World Cup. Congratulating them Prime Minister Modi tweeted, India is proud of their accomplishment. On the other hand, Sports Minister Vijay Goel also congratulated the Team for lifting T20 World Cup for Blind Cricketers. In a message to the team, he said, after the success of Para Athletes at Rio Paralympics in 2016, Indian team for Blind Cricket has added another chapter of glory in the history of country's sports.  

Anne Hidalgo, the Mayor of Paris announced on 9 February 2017 that a 2.5-meter high bulletproof glass wall would be erected around the city’s most treasured monument, the Eiffel Tower. The security measure has been undertaken in order to protect the iconic architecture from the threat of terrorism. The Eiffel Tower is visited by over 6 million people every year. Highlights :  Security measures around the most popular tourist attraction had been heightened way back in 2012 itself during the European football championships. Temporary metal fences were installed around the structure’s north and south ends in June 2016. However, these barriers are going to be turned into permanent ones now. The work, costing €20m, is expected to be completed by next autumn. The security measure is a part of the city’s wider €300 million renovation plan that aims to modernise the site over the period of next 15 years.The initiative closely precedes France’s bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics and 2015 World Expo. Along with renovation, the plan includes complete reorganisation of the foot traffic around the tower and other series of maintenance works. The city authorities mainly aim to create an improvised visiting experience that will also reduce the time spent in queues.The project was approved by the city council on 31 January 2017. The Eiffel tower was originally built as a temporary iron structure to mark the 1889 Universal Exhibition in Paris.It was scheduled to be pulled down in 1909 and went through its last major facelift in 1986. The first floor of the monument was reopened two years ago, after the installation of a glass floor that lasted two years. The tower is repainted after every seven years in its original grey shade. The whole process requires about 60 tons of paint and 20 months of work.The city currently spends about €13.7 million a year to maintain the legendary structure. The city of Paris has been on high alert after a string of terrorist attacks in the city as well as in other parts of France over the last two years.  

Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik created a Guinness World Record on 10 February 2017 by sculpting a 48.8 feet tall sand castle at Odisha’s Puri beach. The world’s tallest sand castle carries a message of world peace and features sculptures of legendary leaders and preachers of peace such as Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Gautama Buddha. Highlights :  Patnaik achieved the huge feat in just four days. He along with his 45 students started work on the sculpture on 7 February. They worked for nearly 12 hours a day. The artwork would be exhibited on the Puri beach for two more days. The official announcement about Patnaik’s feat was made by Guinness authorities in the presence of the state’s chief secretary Aditya Padhi and other senior officers. American artist Ted Siebert was the previous record holder. He had built a 13.97 metre high (45 .10 feet) sand castle at Miami Beach, USA in 2015 in seven days. Sudarsan Pattnaik : The 39-year-old Odisha-born sand artist is a Padma Shri awardee. He was conferred the prestigious award on 2014. He started sculpting images on the sand at an early age of seven years and has designed hundreds of sand art pieces since then. Previously, he has created 23 world records, all of which are registered in the Limca Book of Records. He has represented India in 50 international Sand Sculpture championships and festivals and has won 27 among them. He won the World champion title at USF World Sand Sculpture championship at Berlin in 2008. Apart from this, he is a 5-times winner of People’s choice award at Berlin. He also established the Golden Sand Art Institute, the first-ever sand institute in India One of his sand sculptures titled, the Black Taj Mahal, received accolades from around the world