Today Current Affairs 17th February 2017

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PSU Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has unveiled a new communication radio for the Indian armed forces, called STARS-V Mk III, at the Aero India 2017 show. MV Gowtama, CMD of BEL stated that The radio is completely designed, developed and made in BEL.  It is a multi brand, high data rate, software intensive IP radio with mobile ad hoc networking (MANET) functions supporting up to 64 notes, stated the firm in a statement. 

The Government has appointed Neelam Damodaran as Executive Director of Bank of India. His tenor is up to November 30, 2019. Prior to his elevation as ED, Damodaran was General Manager with Bank of Baroda.  He took charge on February 16,2017 .With this appointment, Bank of India now has two EDs. R A Sankara Narayanan has been ED of the bank since May 15, 2015.   

Punjab National Bank (PNB) has a new non-executive Chairman in Sunil Mehta. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved the proposal of the Department of Financial Services (DFS) for the appointment of Mehta as non-executive Chairman of PNB.  He has been appointed for a period of three years.  The only condition is that he would be required to resign from the board of State Bank of India before joining the board of Punjab National Bank. 

The supreme Court of India on 16 February 2017 directed three search engines, namely Google, Yahoo and Microsoft, to set-up in-house expert bodies forthwith to delete materials that go against Indian laws that prohibit pre-natal sex determination. The direction was passed by a bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice R Banumathi. The bench asked these cyber giants that in the case of any doubt, their in-house expert bodies can communicate with the nodal agency appointed by the Union Government for guidance and necessary action. Expressing its concern over the declining sex ratio in India, the apex court in its observation said that the declining number of girl child was a “disastrous signal for mankind”. However, the apex court also assured the Indian units of the multinational cyber giants that it would not initiate any contempt proceedings against them. It said that the idea was to make them responsive to the local laws and concerns. Pulling these companies, the apex court said that they know how to make money but don’t have any respect for the Indian law. While directing the three cyber giants, the court reiterated its 19 September 2016 direction and added that the respondents’ three to five (Google India Pvt Ltd, Microsoft Corporation (I) Pvt Ltd and Yahoo India) should appoint an in-house expert body. This expert body will take steps to immediately delete the words or keywords on the internet that have the potential to go against Section 22 of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act (PCPNDT), 1994. The Section 22 of the PCPNDT Act 1994 prohibits advertisement relating to preconception and pre-natal determination of sex and punishment for contravention. Advertisement means any circular, notice, wrapper, label or any other document including advertisement through the internet or any other media in print or electronic form. It also includes any visible representation made by means of any hoarding, wall-painting, signal, light, sound, smoke or gas. Section 22(3) says that any person who contravenes the provision of sub section (1) or (2) shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years and a fine that may extend to Rs 10000.  

The sea ice in Antarctica has shrunk to its lowest recorded level in the last four decades, according to the data collected by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC). The data reveals that the sea ice on the frozen continent covered an area of just 2.26 million square kilometres on 14 February 2017, which is even lower than the previously recorded lowest mark that was taken in 1997. Highlights : While the sea ice in the Arctic region has shown a relatively steady decline in its level over the past three decades as a result of rise in global temperature, the sea ice in the southern hemisphere has been more erratic and unpredictable when it comes to its extent.  In 2012, the ice extent in Antarctic Sea actually hit a record monthly high. Scientists’ attributed its growth to melting ice shelves. Following this, further evidence was accumulated on ice melt in the Southern Hemisphere including aerial views of cracks on western Antarctic ice. However, the data recorded on 14 February reveals an all-time low mark for Antarctica’s sea ice extent, which even surpasses the record lows seen around the same time in 1997. According to researchers, the sea ice is likely to decrease even further as it generally melts to its lowest level of the year by the end of February when it is the summer of the southern hemisphere. Commenting on the development Mark Serreze, Director of NSIDC, stated that the new numbers are preliminary and still need to be confirmed. However, he added that unless something out of the ordinary happens, they are looking at an all-time low record of sea ice cover in Antarctica. In fact, the NSIDC had reported at the end of last year that both Arctic and Antarctic sea ice had hit record monthly lows in November 2016. The current data is just yet another indicator of global warming, which inevitably leads to the concern of rise in sea level and other climatic impacts.

The Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of wasteful expenditure) Bill, 2016 seeks to put a cap on extravagant spending in Indian weddings by limiting the number of guests and number of the dishes in the menu. The bill aims to check ‘show of wealth’ and wants those who are spending above ₹5 Lakh in a wedding to contribute towards marriages of poor girls. It was introduced by Ranjeet Ranjan, a Congress MP, wife of MP Pappu Yadav. The Bill seeks that “if a family intends to spend more than ₹5 lakh on a wedding then, it will have to declare the amount proposed to be spent in advance to the appropriate government body and contribute 10% of it to a welfare fund established to assist poor families in the marriages of their daughters. The main objective behind its introduction is to prohibit extravagant and wasteful expenditure on marriages and to put into effect a simpler and much cheaper process. The Bill may be taken up as a private member’s Bill in the coming Lok Sabha session. If this proposed Bill comes into force, all marriages will have to be registered within 60 days of being solemnised. Explaining her main intention behind the bill’s introduction, Ranjeet Ranjan said great importance should be given to the solemnisation of marriage between two individuals but these days, unfortunately, the focus is more on celebrating marriages with pomp and show and spending lavishly. This, in turn, she added, is putting tremendous social pressure on poor families, forcing them also to spend more, which is not good for the society at large and hence, needs to be checked.

A group of scientists from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) created a high-quality grapheme, world's strongest material, using soybean. Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick. The research was published in the journal Nature Communications. Highlights of the Research : The scientists developed a novel "GraphAir" technology, which does not require a highly-controlled environment. The technology grows graphene film in ambient air with a natural precursor. It makes its production faster and simpler. The ambient-air process for graphene fabrication is fast, simple, potentially scalable, integration-friendly, and safe. GraphAir transforms soybean oil into graphene films in a single step. It results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods.  Soybean oil, with heat, breaks down into a range of carbon building units that are necessary for the synthesis of graphene.  The team also transformed other types of renewable and waste oil into graphene films. Graphene is an allotrope of carbon in the form of a two-dimensional, atomic-scale, hexagonal lattice in which one atom forms each vertex. It can be considered as an indefinitely large aromatic molecule. It is about 200 times stronger than the strongest steel.  It efficiently conducts heat and electricity and is nearly transparent. The potential uses of graphene include water filtration and purification, sensors, personalised healthcare, renewable energy, medicine and so on.

A study released on 16 February 2017 stated that people with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) have slightly smaller brains than those without the condition. The study insisted that it is a physical disorder and not just bad behaviour. The analysis found “structural differences” and evidence of delayed development compared with non-sufferers. It is the largest analysis to date of the brains of people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The results of the study involved 1713 people with ADHD and 1529 people without the condition. The findings were published in The Lancet Psychiatry. Highlights : MRI scans for more than 3200 people in nine countries aged four to 63, of whom 1713 had ADHD, were analysed. It was found that the brains of children with the condition were slightly smaller in five regions, including those that control emotions, voluntary movement and understanding. In addition, one scan per person was reviewed and no effect from ADHD medications was found.The findings support previous theories that the brains of people with ADHD may develop more slowly. However, those differences are mostly wiped out by the time children grow up. Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder : ADHD is a mental disorder of the neurodevelopmental type. It is characterized by problems paying attention, excessive activity, or difficulty controlling behaviour, which is not appropriate for a person's age. The exact cause of the disorder is still unknown in the majority of cases. It affects about 5–7 per cent of children when diagnosed via the DSM-IV criteria and 1–2 per cent when diagnosed via the ICD-10 criteria.

Surendra Verma, a well known Hindi scholar and writer, was selected for Vyas Samman 2016. He was chosen for the prestigious award for his novel Kaatna Shami Ka Vriksha: Padma Pankhuri Ki Dhar Se. The book, Kaatna Shami Ka Vriksha, was published in 2010. Surendra Verma : Born on 7 September 1941 in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, Verma will be the 26th recipient of the Vyas Samman. In 1993, he was conferred with the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award. In 1996, he was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Award. He has published about fifteen titles of short stories, novels, satires and play. Some other novels and plays (drama) penned down by Verma includes Mujhe Chand Chahiyae, Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pahli Kiran Tak, Athwan Sarg and Qaid-e-Hayat among others.His play Surya Ki Antim Kiran Se Surya Ki Pahli Kiran Tak (From Sunset to Sunrise) has been translated into six Indian languages. Vyas Samman : Vyas Samman was instituted in 1991 by the KK Birla Foundation and carries a cash award of Rs 3.50 lakh, a citation and a logo. It is awarded annually in recognition of the Hindi literary work published in past 10 years in genres like novels, plays, short stories, poetry, critiques and others

The employees and judicial officers of the Bihar state government may now stand to lose their jobs if found consuming alcohol or drugs in any form. The decision was taken during the state’s cabinet meeting on 15 February 2017, which was chaired by Bihar’s Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. Highlights : At the meeting, the cabinet approved an amendment to the Bihar Government Employee Conduct Rules, 1976 and also approved a new provision-Bihar Judicial Officers Conduct Rules, 2017. According to the new provisions, no judicial officer or state government official will be allowed to be under the influence of alcohol or any other intoxicating drink of drug, regardless of where they are. The move was made to ensure that the state officials strictly adhere to the provisions of total prohibition. Violators of the rule will be faced with departmental proceedings. Throwing more light on the new amendments, the state’s Cabinet Secretary Brajesh Malhotra said that the earlier rules forbade the state employees from consuming any kind of intoxicant while at work or in a public place but according to the new rules, they will not be allowed to consume any kind of liquor or drug in any part of the state. Besides this, the Bihar officials will also have to abide by the prohibition rules in other states where they are in force. So, they may be faced with proceedings if they defy the prohibition laws in states such as Gujarat, Nagaland and Kerala. The Nitish Kumar government had enforced a complete ban on the sale and consumption of liquor in the state in April 2016.  

A group of scientists at Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) conducted a monthly analysis of global temperatures. The analysis marked January 2017 as the third warmest January in 137 years of modern record-keeping. The result of the analysis was announced on 15 February 2017. The GISS team assembled the monthly analysis from publicly available data acquired by about 6300 meteorological stations around the world, ship- and buoy-based instruments measuring sea surface temperature, and Antarctic research stations. The modern global temperature record began around 1880 because previous observations did not cover enough of the earth. Highlights of the analysis : Temperature of January 2017 was 0.20 degrees Celsius cooler than the warmest January in 2016. However, it was 0.92 degrees Celsius warmer than the mean January temperature from 1951-1980. 2016 was the hottest year on record, at 1.12 degrees Celsius warmer than the January mean temperature. The second hottest was 2007 at 0.96 degrees Celsius warmer. It also showed that most of North America and Siberia were much warmer than the 1951-1980 base period. Also, much of the rest of Asia was relatively warm. Goddard Institute for Space Studies : The Goddard Institute for Space Studies is a laboratory in the Earth Sciences Division of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center. It was established in May 1961 by Robert Jastrow to conduct basic research in space sciences in support of Goddard programs. It is located at Columbia University in New York City. Research at the institute emphasizes a broad study of Global Change, the natural and anthropogenic changes in our environment that affect the habitability of Mother Earth.

Five new judges are appointed to the Supreme Court by the President Pranab Mukherjee. Now the total number of  judges in the Supreme Court raised to 28 from 23 New Judges are : 1.Madras High Court Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul 2.Rajasthan HC Chief Justice Naveen Sinha 3.Kerala HC Chief Justice Mohan M Shantanagouder 4.Chhattisgarh HC Chief Justice Dipak Gupta 5.Karnataka HC judge S Abdul Nazeer. Supreme Court : The Supreme Court of India is the highest judicial forum and final court of appeal under the Constitution of India, the highest constitutional court, with the power of constitutional review. SC consisting of the Chief Justice of India and 30 other judges SC judge is appointed to the Supreme Court by the President Supreme Court judges retire at the age of 65 Article 125 of the Indian Constitution leaves it to the Indian Parliament to determine the salary, other allowances, leave of absence, pension, etc. of the Supreme Court judges.

The Indian Foreign Service (IFS) Vikas Swarup was appointed as India’s High Commissioner to Canada on February 16, 2017. He will replace Syed Akabarudddin who is who is moved as serving as India’s Permanent representative in the United Nations Vikas is currently working as the spokesperson of Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).He had served the country’s in several embassies including US and Turkey. He has penned few books is best known for his novel ‘Q&A’ which was later adopted into a movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’.

An Indian-origin Scotland Yard officer Shand Panesar along with his colleague Craig Nicholson was honored with the 2017 Outstanding Bravery of the Year Award on February 10, 2017 in central London during a special award ceremony of the Total Excellence in Policing Awards. The duo were honored the top bravery award in the United Kingdom for risking their own life to save a family trapped in a burning house in Hillingdon in September 2016 Although the officers had no fire safety equipment or protective clothing they still acted in the best traditions of the Metropolitan Police. The coveted Total Excellence in Policing Awards recognizes a host of dedicated police work across 14 separate categories including Outstanding Bravery, Best Detective, Thief Taker of the Year, and Excellence in Victim Care among others.  

Tata Motors Ltd and Microsoft India entered into strategic agreement on February 16, 2017 to collaborate on the technology front for making driving a more personalized experiences for the customers. As per the agreement, Microsoft will make use of its IoT (internet of things), AI (artificial intelligence) and machine learning technologies to develop a highly personalized, smart vehicle for the customers. The first vehicle showcasing such technological advancements will be unveiled at the Geneva International Motor show on March 7, 2017. The tie-up will act as a new revenue opportunity for the company as car buyers increasingly look for value-added services.

Reserve Bank of India has raised the ceiling of gold loans given by regional rural banks (RRB) to Rs 2 lakh from Rs 1 lakh, expanding the access to credit for farmers and artisans willing to pledge gold as collateral.  RRBs with their 21000 branch network across country's rural belt play a significant role in farm credit and offer loans for various purposes against the security of gold or gold ornaments as a part of their lending policy.  RBI has doubled the gold loan ceiling for loans not exceeding 12 months from the date of sanction.  This facility comes with bullet repayment option. This means the loans will become due for payment only at the end of the tenure. But the interest will be charged at monthly rests.   

Citi has launched instant chat services for customers logged in to Citibank Online (CBOL) in India. The real-time chat facility focuses on resolving queries instantly, in a safe environment, across cards, domestic and non-resident accounts, and loans, for clients as they transact online.  The live chat functionality will transform the post login experience of our customers as they will be able to instantly connect with our service team while they bank on our secure site. The chat facility will address the customer’s need for help or clarification while logged into CBOL . CBOL also features a regular chat facility for generic query resolutions. This was introduced to support non-account centric queries, such as requests for product features, branch locations and log-in assistance, amongst others. India is the first country in Asia Pacific within the Citi network, which spans 12 countries in the region, to launch the generic chat capabilities.  The new chat facility does not require additional verification for the customer once logged in and authenticated. This feature, coupled with the recently launched voice biometrics authentication solution for CitiPhone, will transform the service paradigm for our customers. We believe these two chat options support digital penetration as online users can have a deeper engagement with the bank .  

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has launched a $110 million appeal on February 15, 2017 to help two million acutely malnourished children across Sudan including hundreds of thousands living in conflict areas Sudan is home to around 13 percent of all children suffering from acute malnutrition across Africa. Two million children under five in Sudan are acutely malnourished. They have been displaced due to violence in Darfur, Regions of South and North Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei while many separated from their relatives and affected by grave violations. UNICEF has spent about $500 million in Sudan over the past five years and increasingly aims to tap funds from inside Sudan.

India has been ranked 143 out of 186 economies in the annual Index of Economic Freedom 2017 released by top US based Think Tank, The Heritage Foundation.The Index measures the degree of economic freedom in the countries of the world. Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand are the top three nations in the Index respectively. India has been placed in the category of “Mostly Unfree” Economies in which the points ranges from 50.0-59.9. Among South Asian countries, only Afghanistan (163) and Maldives (157) were ranked below India. Nepal (125), Sri Lanka (112), Pakistan (141), Bhutan (107), and Bangladesh (128) surpassed India in economic freedom

Union Minister for Science & Technology and Earth Science Dr. Harsh Vardhan has inaugurated the three day International Conference on “NexGen Technologies for Mining and Fuel Industries” (NxGnMiFu-2017) in New Delhi on February 15, 2017 To innovate new techniques, technologies and applications for clean, safe, symbiotic sustenance of society, environment and industries in post-2020 era. The conference was organised by CSIR-Central Institute of Mining and Fuel Research, Dhanbad as a part of CSIR-Platinum Jubilee Celebration to commemorate 75th year of its foundation. An industrial exhibition is also being organised in the Vigyan Bhawan lawns and will run in parallel with the technical sessions. Eight distinguished luminaries from the mining, fuel sectors, 800 delegates from India and 50 delegates from countries like, UK, Australia, China, Republic of Korea, Czech Republic, Germany, USA, Japan, Canada, South Africa, Nigeria etc. have expected to  participante in the event.

The Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Shri Radha Mohan Singh inaugurated the Indian Seed Congress 2017 in Kolkata on February 12, 2017. The theme of Seed Congress is “Seed of Joy”. The theme is in line with vision of PM Modi government to bring happiness and prosperity in the lives of farmers by doubling their farm income by 2022. The minister emphasized that to enhance the productivity of good quality seeds the centre has directed the state governments to prepare variety wise seed rolling plants to meet year wise, season wise requirements of quality seeds. These rolling plants would help in improving the Seed replacement rate along with Variety replacement rate so that sustainable agricultural production and productivity could be ensured. Besides vegetable seeds, the conclave also stressed on the production of hybrid seeds of maize, paddy, pearl millet and cotton for export to African countries. Indian seed industry has the potential to become a major industry to supply quality seeds in global markets.  

The Himachal Pradesh Governor Acharya Devvrat inaugurated a Campaign against Drug Addiction on February 15, 2017 organized by Shimla Press Club in Shimla. The campaign aims to make the state drug free. The Governor has announced to grant Rs 1 lakh to the Press Club Shimla for organising the campaign against drugs Through the campaign, the state will make effort to eradicate drugs that not only affect the physical and mental health of the addict but also lead them towards increase in crime.

During the recent CII partnership summit in AP 12 MoUs were signed by the State Government with different companies for setting up 12 apparel units in the State entailing investment of Rs. 963 crores in all and generating 46,000 jobs. These 12 projects will come up in the next one to one-and-a-half years. Four of the units will come up in the Brandix apparel park , including two by Chinese companies, five units in Anantapur district and the remaining in Chittoor district.   The Andhra Pradesh Government is encouraging the textile sector in a big way and entrepreneurs should make use of the benefits being offered by the State as well as the special package given by the Union Government in the Budget to set up more units, according to K. Srikanth Prabhakar, the Joint Director in the office of the Commissioner of Handlooms and Textiles, AP Government.

Indian professional hockey player Sandeep Singh has been honored with an Honorary Doctorate Degree by Desh Bhagat University, a private educational institution in Amloh, Fatehgarh Sahib District of Punjab. He is the second Indian hockey player to receive this award.  The only first player was Dileep Tirkey, former captain and sitting Member of Parliament, to receive an honorary degree for sporting excellence from Sambalpur University in 2010.