Today Current Affairs 18th February 2017

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Melody Queen Lata Mangeshkar has been honoured with the 'Legendary Award ' 2017 by Brand Laureate. The Brand Laureate Awards recognise world-class achievement in branding amongst individuals and companies. Lata expressed her heartfelt thanks to the Brand Laureate on twitter for honouring her.  In 2012, actor Shah Rukh Khan was honoured with the Brand Laureate Legendary Award for his unmatched contribution to Indian Cinema.    

Mangalore based public sector lender Corporation Bank was awarded the 2017National MSME Excellence Award on February 10, 2017 at a function in New Delhi. D V Subramanya Varma, General Manager of Corporation Bank received the award from Union Minister of State for Micro Small and Medium Enterprises, Haribhai P Choudhary. The award is instituted by the Federation of Industry, Trade and Services (FITS). Corporation Bank provides various facilities to MSME sector like online loan facility for MSME borrowers, online facility for revival and rehabilitation of MSME, Concessions and collateral free loans up to Rs 2 Crore under Credit Guarantee Scheme. Concessions in interest rate are also offered to women beneficiaries and rated MSME units. Besides, the bank has also organized campaign for growth of MSME sectors.  

Leading professional services firm JLL has once again been named to FORTUNE magazine’s World’s Most Admired Companies list of 2017 based on their reputation for innovation, top talent and global competitiveness. JLL is an American professional services and investment management company specializing in real estate and investment management and helps real estate owners, occupiers and investors achieve their business ambitions.

Odisha based National Aluminium Company Limited(NALCO) has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi on February 16, 2017 Scientific, technological and educational activities in the area of mining rehabilitation. The agreement will further strengthen initiatives being undertaken under Sustainable Development Framework (SDF). It will will cover mining rehabilitation methods and technologies, sustainable rehabilitation on red mud areas, capacity building, workshops and preparation knowledge documents on mining rehabilitation.  

Mangaluru based private sector lender Karnataka Bank Ltd launched National Pension System (NPS) at its corporate office in Mangaluru on February 16, 2017. To provide financial security at old age by giving regular income in the form of pension. Under the scheme, one can contribute to NPS while earning and eventually start receiving pension on his/her attaining the age of 60 years to meet their financial needs. To avail the benefit, any individual between the ages 18-60 years can register their name with the bank branch to contribute and to get pension benefit. Besides, the investor can avail of the exemption to the extent of Rs 50,000 under section 80 CCD 1 even though they are contributing towards any other pension schemes. Initially the bank has introduced this scheme at select branches and plans to introduce it in a phased manner at all of its branches.  

 Leading global payments and technology firm, Mastercard is set to provide payments processing solution to Airtel Payments Bank. The payment processing platform will enable the Airtel Payment Bank in providing various payment services like switching, card management along with support for reconciliation and dispute management processes. As per the announcement by Mastercard on February 17, 2017, Mastercard and Airtel Payments bank have also launched India’s first online debit card along with a prepaid card, both of which is accessible through the Myairtel App. The online debit card will enable Airtel Payments Bank customers to make digital payments at over 100,000 online merchants. The collaboration will enable Airtel Payments Bank to offer a safer, innovative and faster payments experience to its customers through globally proven expertise and technology solutions of Mastercard. Airtel Payments Bank launched its services across 2, 50, 000 banking points in all the 29 states on January 12, 2017.  

Bangalore based Public sector Canara Bank has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Human Resource Development (HRD)Ministry on February 17, 2017 to operationalize the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA).  The establishment of the Higher Education Financing Agency (HEFA) was approved by the Union Cabinet in September 2016. Through this MoU, HRD Ministry and Canara Bank will jointly promote the HEFA with an authorised capital of Rs. 2,000 crore. The objective behind the establishment of HEFA is to enhance and create high quality capital assets and infrastructure in the premier educational institutions. All the centrally funded higher educational institutions would be eligible for joining as members of HEFA. HEFA would finance the civil and lab infrastructure projects through a 10-year loan. HEFA would leverage the equity to raise up to Rs. 20,000 crore for funding infrastructure and development projects for world class Labs in IITs/IIMs/NITs and such other institutions. HEFA would also mobilize CSR funds from PSUs and corporate and use it for promoting research and innovation in these institutions on a grant basis. The principal portion of the loan will be repaid through ‘internal accruals’ which is earned through fee receipts, research earnings etc. by the institutions. The interest partwould be paid by the Government through regular Plan assistance.  

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has unveiled plans to build the first city on Mars by 2117. The announcement was made by Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai and Sheikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces on the sidelines of the World Government Summit in Dubai on February 14, 2017. As a part of the long term Mars Plan, the UAE engineers presented a virtual presentation depicting a preliminary concept for the city on Mars for guests to explore which is expected to be about the size of Chicago. For the 100-year national project, the UAE government would collaborate with specialised international organisations and scientific institutes. The Mars 2117 Project is a long-term project and the first step towards it would be to make appeal to young Emiratis to make space travels and set up special programs in space sciences at universities in the UAE. Under the project, an Emirati scientific team would be set up to implement the plan and later the team would also include international scientists and researchers. The team would work to develop action plan to facilitate the transport of people to-and-from the planet over the next decades. They would also research as to what the settlement would look like and how it will be sustainable in terms of food, energy and transportation Besides, under the Mars Probe Mission announced by UAE in 2015, the Arab world’s first spacecraft would be send to the Red Planet in a scientific exploration mission that will land on planet in 2021

A ‘Science Express’ train named ‘Science Express Climate Action Special’ was flagged off from Safderjung Railway Station in New Delhi on February 17, 2017 on a seven-monthjourney to spread awareness about climate change. The train was flagged off jointly by three minister including Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Anil Madhav Dave and Union Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Harsh Vardhan who were present at the railway station while Union Railway Minister, Shri Suresh Prabhu, flagged off event through videoconferencing. The Science Express is on a seven-month journey and will cover 68 stations across the country, including Agartala and Lumding in the northeast. The journey will conclude at Gandhinagar station on September 8. The 16 coach express is a collaborative effort of Ministries of Railways, Environment and Science and Technology and will travel to Tripura and to the north bank of the Brahmaputra initially. Out of the total coaches, 8 coaches are devoted to information, caste studies and materials related to various aspects of climate change. It will also showcase the underlying science, impacts, adaption activities, mitigation solutions and policy approaches in a manner that is easy to understand. A kids’ zone is also set up for children from Class 4 and below to participate in fun-filled activities, game and puzzles in science, mathematics and environment. The remaining 8 coaches will display exhibits and activities of the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology. Three coaches are fitted with solar panels on the roofs. The train will stop at each station for students and others to visit the exhibitions in coaches.  

The Supreme Court has introduced Middle Income Group Scheme, (MIGS) a self-supporting scheme for providing legal services to the middle and relatively lower income groups. Under this scheme, middle class people who cannot afford the expensive litigation in the apex can avail the services of the society for a nominal amount. MIGS is a self-supporting scheme that will provide legal services to the middle income group citizens whose gross income does not exceed Rs.60, 000 per month or Rs. 7, 50, 000 per annum.  A case will be registered under the MIG Legal Aid Scheme and forwarded to Advocate-on-Record/ Senior Counsel/Arguing Counsel on the panel for their opinion.  If Advocate-on-Record is satisfied that case is fit, then the society will consider that applicant is entitled to legal aid.  The view expressed by Advocate-on Record will be final in determining eligibility of the applicant for obtaining the benefit under the scheme. A society will be created with Chief Justice of India (CJI) as Patron-in-Chief.  Attorney General will be its ex-officio Vice President, Solicitor General its Honorary Secretary and other senior advocates as its members.  If an advocate, appointed under the scheme, is found negligent in pursuing the case entrusted to him, he will be required to return the brief together with the fee received by him from the applicant.  The society will not be responsible for the negligent conduct and the entire responsibility will be that of the advocate. The name of the Advocate will be struck off from the panel prepared under the scheme.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has permitted multilateral and regional financial institutions (FIs) to invest in ‘masala bonds’, rupee denominated bonds issued by Indian entities.  This decision will allow multilateral agencies like Asian Development Bank (ADB) and BRICS led New Development Bank (NDB) to invest in these bonds. It also provides more choices of investors to Indian entities issuing rupee-denominated bonds abroad. The Masala bonds refer to rupee-denominated bonds through which Indian entities can raise money from foreign markets in rupee, and not in foreign currency. Basically, they are debt instruments that are typically used by corporates to raise money from investors.  The issuance of rupee denominated bonds, Indian entity is protected against the risk of currency fluctuation, typically associated with borrowing in foreign currency.  Masala bonds also help in internationalization of the rupee and in expansion of the Indian bond markets. These bonds are usually traded on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) and not in India. The first Masala bond was issued by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), the investment arm of the World Bank dubbed as Uridashi Masala Bonds in November 2014.  The Housing Development Finance Corporation (HDFC) was the first Indian company to issue rupee-denominated bonds “masala bonds” on London Stock Exchange (LSE) in July 2016. International Financial Corporation was first time issued green masala bonds in August 2015 to raise private sector investments that address climate change in India.  Canada’s British Columbia province was the first foreign government to issue of masala bonds.

Air India on 16 February 2017 inducted the first Airbus 320 neo aircraft into its fleet. The plane is first of the 14 aircraft leased from Kuwait headquartered ALAFCO Aviation Lease and Finance Company. The plane was formally inducted by giving the traditional water canon salute at the international airport in New Delhi. With this induction, Air India became the first CFM powered NEO operator in India. Airbus 320 neo aircraft, known for burning less fuel, is configured with 162 seats including 12 in the business class. It joins the national carrier’s existing fleet of 66 A320 family planes. With this induction of Airbus 320 neo aircraft, Air India’s fleet size went up to 138 planes. While inducting the plane into the fleet of Air India, the CMD Ashwani Lohani said a total of 14 A320 neos would be inducted into the fleet in 2017. The CMD also said that the airline is also looking at using these planes for international operations. With this, Air India became the third airline after IndiGo and Go Air to induct the A320 neo aircraft. It is the first domestic operator of neo plane that is powered by CFM engine; the other two are using the aircraft with Pratt and Whitney engine. Airbus in a press release said that the India contributes directly and indirectly to all Airbus programmes and every aircraft produced today is partly made in India. A320neo Family : The A320neo family that was launched in 2010 is the world’s best-selling single aisle product line with over 5000 orders from 92 customers from across the world. With 5000 orders, it captures almost 60 percent share of the market. Planes designed for the A320neo planes incorporate the latest technology and includes engines of the new generation with win top devices. In total, its design helps in saving 15 percent fuel.

Water conservation lessons may soon become a part of the syllabus for students in Rajasthan. The announcement was made by the Chairperson of Rajasthan River Basin and Water Resources Planning Authority, Sriram Vedire, who also added that Rajasthan is the only state in the country to integrate advanced scientific techniques in its water conservation efforts. The proposal to include water conservation in the state’s school syllabus has already been sent to the state government. It will be implemented after it gets the approval. Water Crisis in Rajasthan : The state normally receives an annual rainfall of 549.1 mm. However, 16 of its 33 districts got 20-60 per cent less rainfall in 2016, which affected almost 19 districts. So, as a result, about 91 per cent of Rajasthan’s water demand was met through extraction of groundwater, which resulted in its drastic depletion. The remaining was drawn from seven major reservoirs, as a result of which most reservoirs, dams and hand pumps either dried up or started losing water rapidly. To deal with the crisis, the Rajasthan state government launched a four-phased Mukhya Mantri Jal Swavlamban Abhiyan (JSY) in 2016. The main aim of the yojana is to make all villages self-sufficient in water and also to ensure effective implementation of water harvesting and water conservation related activities in the rural areas. The phase I of the program covered 3259 villages, benefitting a population of around 41 lakh and nearly 45 lakh livestock.  At the end of it, almost 96000 water conservation works were completed, which in total received 11,170 million cubic feet water from rains. The yojana, in fact, received a lot of praise from South Africa and Australia and it will soon be implemented there as well. Following the successful implementation of JSY’s first phase, the state government has launched its second phase. Jal Swavlamban Yojna Phase-II : 4200 villages have been selected for the yojana’s second phase using advanced technology including drone cameras, way-point scientific technique and geo-tagging. Besides villages, 66 urban cities have also been chosen to be the focus in Phase-II. These cities will be made greener. The phase will include renovation and recharge of historic water bodies.It will also include rain water harvesting works at around 1200 government buildings.