Current Affairs 2nd February 2017 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has proposed a creation of a six-member Payments Regulatory Board in the RBI, headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel as part of bringing about structural reforms in the payment eco-system. For the purpose, necessary amendments are proposed in the Finance Bill 2017 to create a Payments Regulatory Board in the Reserve Bank of India by replacing the existing Board for Regulation and Supervision of Payment and Settlement Systems. In his Budget Speech, Jaitley stated a Committee on Digital Payments constituted by Department of Economic Affairs has recommended structural reforms in the payment eco system, including amendments to the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007. 

The Union Budget has allocated Rs. 10,000 crore towards recapitalisation of public sector banks in FY2017-18. Under Indradhanush roadmap announced in 2015, the government stated to infuse Rs. 70,000 crore in state banks over four years while they will have to raise a further Rs. 1.1 lakh crore from the markets to meet their capital requirement in line with global risk norms, known as Basel—III. In line with the blueprint, public sector banks has been given Rs. 25,000 crore in each fiscal, 2015—16 and 2016—17.Besides, Rs. 10,000 crore each would be infused in 2017—18 and 2018—19.So, let's discuss some questions related to this post:  

Neeti Mohan has become the first Indian female singer to collaborate with the United Nations on a project aimed at empowering women, ending human trafficking and promoting gender equality. The singer’s composition called ‘Udne de’, which was created as a tribute to all women and in support of gender equality, has been selected to be a part of an album for the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund project. Highlights : The project titled ‘Music to Inspire-Artists united against Human Trafficking’ aims to make a social statement on ending human trafficking. The project has witnessed participation from over 60 renowned artists and dignities from countries world over in its triple albums. Some of the names include Nicholas Cage, Tatyana Ali, Ashton Kutcher, Ellis Hall, Ashley Judd, Demi Moore and Gillian Anderson. The unique collection will be officially launched at an event that will be organized at the headquarters of the United Nation in New York City later this week. The proceeds from the project will benefit the United Nations Voluntary Trust Fund for Victims of Trafficking in Persons, which is managed by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Neeti commented on her collaboration by saying that she had written her track ‘Udne de’ after the shocking and unfortunate Nirbhaya incident in 2012. She added by saying that crime against women has become a global issue now and so, she wanted to take a stand on the matter on a global level. Apart from Neeti, Oscar-winning Indian Composer and Music Director A R Rahman has also contributed to the UN’s charitable music album and so has the prominent Indian sitar player, Anoushka Shankar.

The United Arab Emirates is planning to launch its first-ever mission to Mars in 2020, an unmanned orbiter called ‘Hope’ from Japan’s space centre. According to Yuichi Yamaura, Vice President of Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, the expected launching date of the orbiter would be sometime in July 2020 when the Earth and Mars will be aligned at their closest point. It would be the first-ever Mars Mission from an Arab country. Yamaura further added that they are delighted to launch the UAE Mars explorer from Japanese vehicle H-IIA at the Tanegashima Space Center in Japan. Yamaura is confident that they along with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries will be able to fulfil their responsibility.  Highlights : The unmanned orbiter programme mainly aims to add more detail to the knowledge available about Martian climate and atmosphere. According to the plan, around 150 engineers and scientists will be working on the project. The Preliminary Design Review (PDR) for the mission has already been completed, according to Omran Sharaf, the mission’s project manager. The project is being supported and financed by Shaikh Hamdan Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Crown Prince of Dubai. The Prince is also the Chairman of the Mohammad Bin Rashid Space Centre (MBRSC), the organiser of the project. The Hope spacecraft is expected to enter the Martian orbit by early 2021, which is also the year when UAE celebrates its 50th independence anniversary. By 2018, the KhalifaSat satellite, which has been designed entirely by UAE engineers, will also be launched from Japan using the same model of carrier rocket. Hope Spacecraft : It will be a compact, hexagonal-section spacecraft. It will be built from aluminium in a stiff but lightweight honeycomb structure with its surface made with a strong composite face-sheet.Its overall size and weight will be similar to a small car and it will weigh around it will weigh around 1,500 kg including fuel. The spacecraft’s brain will be equipped with advanced software that will be capable of guiding it into the Mars orbit without the need of any human assistance from the Earth. The spacecraft will be carrying three scientific instruments for its mission to study the Martian atmosphere:

Rex Tillerson, the former chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil has been sworn in as the 69th US Secretary of State under the new President Donald Trump’s government. The 64-year-old won the approval of the senate in an extremely close vote of 56 to 43. His confirmation was more contentious in comparison to his predecessors John Kerry and Hillary Clinton who had won the nomination with a huge margin of 94-3 and 94-2 respectively. Tillerson’s nomination faced opposition from most Senate Democrats who boycotted the vote. The main point of contention regarding his nomination was his close business relationship with the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his opposing stand on sanctions imposed against Moscow. However, he was able to win the majority with Republican numbers and some Democrats who crossed party lines. This is Tillerson’s first appointment at a political office.He was sworn in by the Vice President, Mike Pence in the Oval office. This appointment comes at a time when over 1000 career diplomats have expressed their disapproval of Trump’s executive order temporarily banning visitors from seven Muslim-majority nations. According to former US Ambassador Ryan C Crocker, Tillerson will now be faced with the huge task of implementing Donald Trump’s intention of making a radical break from the previous US foreign policy leadership, very well knowing that such a step might lead to global chaos. Rex Tillerson : Born on 23 March 1952, Rex Tillerson began his career as an engineer. He holds a bachelor's degree in civil engineering from the University of Texas at Austin. He joined ExxonMobil in 1975 and served as the company’s Chairman and CEO from 2006 to 2016. Exxon is the world’s 6th largest company by revenue. He retired from his position on 31 December 2016, following his nomination to the post of US Secretary of State by Donald Trump.

The 19th Bharat Rang Mahotsav or International Theatre Festival of India commenced on 1 February 2017 in New Delhi. The 21-day festival will conclude on 21 February 2017. The 19th Bharat Rang Mahotsav will pay special attention on the different genres of Indian theatre. The performances will be held at Abhimanch, Open Air Theatre, Bahumukh and Sammukh at the National School of Drama Campus. The performances will also be held at LTG Auditorium, Kamani Auditorium and Shri Centre for Performing Arts at Mandi House. The festival will see performances from artists belonging to 12 foreign countries including England, Russia, Israel, Turkey, Italy, Tajikistan, Romania, Afghanistan and others. The theatre festival will see 94 theatre performances and 15 foreign productions. It will also include 10 traditional folk theatre performances. Bharat Rang Mahotsav : Bharat Rang Mahotsav is the annual theatre festival of National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi.The festival was established in 1999. The festival was originally founded to show case works of Indian theatre practitioners. Gradually, the festival grew over the years to attract international performers as well. At present, it is acknowledged as the largest theatre festival of Asia.

Eminent theatre personality, artist, painter and writer Asim Basu passed away on 1 February 2017 following a prolonged illness at Bhubaneswar, Odisha. He was 82. He is survived by his son and two daughters. Basu was closely associated with the art and culture of Odisha for over five decades. Asim Basu :  Born in a small village in north Balasore, Basu was famous for his beautiful and graphic stage craft direction. Basu left his home at an very early age to learn paintings from Kolkata as his family members were against his painting career.  He started as a book cover designer when the Odia literary world was immensely active.  His art-direction in films like Agni Sanketa (Odia) and Shodh (Hindi) was really commendable. He had performed in films like Jaga Balia, Dadagiri and many others.  Besides, giving stage craft and art direction in more than 500 plays and films, Basu also directed over 200 plays. Widely known for his impeccable set design work in Odia movies and designing Odia book covers and movie posters, Basu was awarded with Parampara Samman in 2012. He had received the Odisha Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1998. Basu was chosen for Dharmapada Award for the year 2010, which he never received.  

Kuwait has suspended the process of issuing visas for travellers belonging to five major Muslim countries including Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Afghanistan in order to prevent the entry of radical Islamic terrorists. This order closely follows US President Donald Trump’s executive order banning the entry of immigrants belonging to seven Muslim-majority countries including Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Libya and Yemen in the United States of America for 90 days. For Syria the duration of the ban is indefinite. Highlights : The Kuwaiti authorities have informed future migrants from the five banned nations to not apply for visas. The suspension extends to all types of visas including tourism, trade and visitor visas. The key reason behind the ban is Kuwait’s worry of a possible migration of radical Islamic terrorists.  In 2015, a group of militants had bombed a Shia mosque, which led to the killing of almost 27 Kuwaiti nationals. Being a member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Kuwait has recently become heavily involved in the rising tension between the GCC and Iran. However, this is not the first time the nation has taken such an extreme step, as in 2011 Kuwait had ordered a similar ‘blanket ban’ on visas of nationals belonging to Syria.

Nik Khanna was appointed as the Managing Director (MD) of BAE Systems’ India operations with effect from 1 February 2017. He is taking charge of the BAE Systems shortly after the company was awarded a contract from the US Department of Defense to provide 145 M777 ultra-lightweight howitzers to the Indian Army. Before joining the BAE Systems, he worked as Country President at Raytheon where he led business development, marketing and strategy in India for the last four years. Prior to Raytheon, Khanna served as the Associate Vice-President at The Cohen Group. He also worked as Aerospace & Defense Director at the U.S-India Business Council. BAE Systems : BAE Systems is a British multinational defence, security and aerospace company. Its headquarters are located in London in the United Kingdom. It is among the world's largest defence companies.  It was ranked as the third-largest based on applicable 2015 revenues. Its largest operations are in the United Kingdom and United States. The company was formed on 30 November 1999 by the merger of two British companies: Marconi Electronic Systems and British Aerospace. The company is involved in several major defence projects, including the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Astute-class submarine and the Queen Elizabeth-class aircraft carriers.

UN children's agency UNICEF has launched an appeal for 3.3 billion US Dollar to help 48 million children caught up in crises worldwide amid fears of a funding cut from top donor the United States.  This year's appeal represents a 18 per cent increase from the initial request for funding in 2016. Donors contribute to the appeals on a voluntary basis.  The United States is by far the top donor to UNICEF, followed by Germany, Britain and the European Commission.  According to UNICEF, Almost one in four of the world's children now lives in a country affected by conflict or disaster.

Former Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Kumar Verma on Wednesday took charge as the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Verma, a 1979 batch officer of Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory (AGMUT) cadre, was appointed on January 19. He was appointed to the post almost one-and-a-half months after the superannuation of previous incumbent Anil Sinha on December 2. Verma will serve for two years. Although he is due to retire in July, the government could give him an extension. His appointment as the CBI director was his 24th posting in his 36-year career as a police officer. Verma started his career as an Assistant Commissioner of Police (under training) in Delhi Police on December 24, 1979. He was the Delhi Police chief for 11 months.  

The 53rd meeting of Saarc Programming Committee began here on 1 Feb 2017 and could mark revival of the regional bloc following postponement of the 19th Summit that was scheduled in Pakistan in November last year after India and some others members expressed their inability to participate. Though the two-day meeting at joint secretary/director general level only entails discussions about the budget allocation of five Saarc regional centres, some specialised bodies and their annual programme, it will definitely set a positive tone to reduce tensions between India and Pakistan and for resumption of the Saarc process They also expressed the hope that it will pave the way for meetings at higher levels. After India announced that it was pulling out of the Islamabad summit "in the wake of the September 18 cross-border terror attack on an Indian Army base in Uri town of Jammu and Kashmir" -- which New Delhi blamed on terrorists based in Pakistan -- Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan followed suit, leaving the fate of the regional bloc hanging in the balance.akistan, the host nation, then announced postponement of the summit, throwing Nepal, which is the current chair of Saarc, into a quandary. Since the postponement of the summit, member states had almost lost their communications and no meetings or engagements were either planned or convened. Earlier, the Programming Committee meeting was to take place ahead of the 19th Saarc Summit, but following the postponement of the summit, the meeting had failed to convene. The Programming Committee is the lowest level mechanism in Saarc below the Saarc Standing Committee, which is held at the Foreign Secretaries level, and Saarc Council of Ministers held at Foreign Ministers level. Nepal is hosting the meeting in its capacity as the Saarc Chair.

The US House of Representatives has introduced a legislation by making it mandatory to raise the minimum salary of the H-1B visa holders to more than double at USD 1,30,000 from the previous USD 60,000.  If the legislation is passed, it would highly impact American companies as they may face difficulty in replacing the American employees with foreign workers including IT professionals from India. The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 introduced by California Congressman Zoe Lofgren prioritises market based allocation of visas to those companies willing to pay 200% of a wage calculated by survey, eliminates the category of lowest pay, and raises the salary level at which H1B dependent employer are exempt from non displacement and recruitment attestation requirements to greater than $130,000.  This is more than double of the current H1B minimum wage of $60,000 which was established in 1989 and since then has remained unchanged.

The First ever National Entrepreneurship Awards 2016 was presented by the Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh at Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi.  Shri Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Minister of State (I/C) for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship was the guest of honour on the occasion. The National Entrepreneurship Awards was instituted by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MoSDE) to recognize and honor the entrepreneurial spirit of India’s youth and encourage more and more young Indians to become entrepreneur. The awards were given in 11 different categories divided into two groups Award Track and Recognition Track.

The Economic Survey 2016-17 tabled in Parliament has advocated for the concept of Universal Basic Income (UBI) as an alternative to the various social welfare schemes in an effort to reduce poverty.  It suggests that a more efficient way to help the poor will be to provide them resources directly, through a UBI. It will be an efficient substitute for a plethora of existing welfare schemes and subsidies. A basic income is a form of social security in which all citizens of a country regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, either from a government in addition to any income received from elsewhere. It is based on the principles of universality and unconditionality.  However, it forfeits other government aided benefits. Recently, government of Finland announced the introduction of a trial for UBI involving 2,000 unemployed people. In June 2016, Swiss voters in referendum had overwhelmingly rejected proposal to introduce basic income for all. Promoting social justice, reducing poverty, unconditional cash transfer that lets the beneficiary decide how she uses the money, employment generation by promoting labour flexibility.  It will bring in administrative efficiency as a direct cash transfer through JAM (Jan Dhan-Aadhar-Mobile) platform . It will be more efficient as compared to the “existing welfare schemes which are riddled with misallocation, leakages and exclusion of the poor. It can help to achieve considerable gains in terms of bureaucratic costs and time by replacing many of these with a UBI.  

According to Economic Survey 2016-17, the inter-state migration of workers in India has increased substantially to 90 lakh annually between 2011-16 period compared to the previous years.  The estimate of labour migration in India was based analysis of census data of 2011 and railway passenger traffic in the unreserved category and new methodologies including the Cohort-based Migration Metric (CMM). It is first-ever estimate of internal work-related migration using railways. The inter-state labour mobility average was between 50–65 lakh people in the 2001-2011 period. Migration for work and education is accelerating.  The acceleration of migration was particularly high for women and increased at nearly twice the rate of male migration in the 2000s The patterns of migration observed conform that less affluent states and districts evince higher out-migration and rich metropolises attract large inward flows of labour.  The largest recipient of migrant workers was the Delhi region, which accounted for more than half of migration in 2015-16, while Uttar Pradesh and Bihar together accounted for half of total out-migrants. Over time, there has been a shift towards the southern states, reflecting the opening up of new migration corridors in recent years.  Policy actions to sustain and maximize the benefits of migration include ensuring portability of food security benefits, healthcare and basic social security framework through an inter-state self-registration process.  

The Union Cabinet had approved the amendments in the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 to modify the list of SC in Odisha.  It also approved amending the Constitution (Pondicherry) Scheduled Castes Order, 1964 to change the name of the Union territory to Puducherry from Pondicherry. In this regard, The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Orders (Amendment) Bill, 2017, incorporating the above changes, will be introduced in the parliament.  The amendment of SC list in Odisha makes inclusion of Sualgiri/Swalgiri caste in the list as it is Sabakhia caste which is already in the list of SC in Odisha. The Constitution provides certain privileges and concessions to the members of Scheduled Castes, notified under the provisions of Article 341 of the Constitution.  Under the provision of Article 341, first list of SCs in relation to a states/UT is to be issued by a notified Order of the President after consulting concerned state Government.  But the clause (2) of Article 341 envisages that, any subsequent inclusion in or exclusion from the list of Scheduled Castes can be effected through an Act of Parliament.  So far, six Presidential Orders have been issued between 1950 and 1978 for specifying SC in respect of various States/Union territories. These Orders have been amended from time to time by Acts of Parliament enacted as per Article 341(2) of the Constitution between 1956 and 2016.  

Chinese scientists from Northwest A&F University have produced world’s first live cows with increased resistance to bovine tuberculosis (TB). This development shows that genetic modification technology can be better suited to producing transgenic livestock with purposefully manipulated genetic. Researchers had used a modified version of the CRISPR gene-editing technology called CRISPR/Cas9n to insert a new TB resistance gene NRAMP1 into the genome of bovine foetal fibroblasts, cell derived from female dairy cows.  These cells were then used as donor cells in a process called somatic cell nuclear transfer. In it, nucleus of a donor cell carrying the new gene was inserted into an egg cell, known as an ovum, from a female cow.  These ovum were then nurtured in the lab into embryos and transferred into mother cows for a normal pregnancy cycle. During this cycle, cows were produced with no off target effects on the animals’ genetics — a common problem when creating transgenic animals using CRISPR. This scientific process revealed that NRAMP1 had successfully integrated into the genetic code at the targeted region in all of the calves.  When it was exposed to Mycobacterium bovis (M. bovis), bacterium that causes bovine TB, transgenic animals showed increased resistance to M. bovis. Further in laboratory tests, the white blood cells taken from the calves also showed much resistance to M. bovis exposure.

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