Today Current Affairs 20th February 2017

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The South Asian Speakers’ Summit 2017 concluded on 20 February 2017 in Indore, Madhya Pradesh. The summit was organised for three days by the Parliament of India in association with the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). The summit was held as a follow up to the conclusions of the South Asian Speakers’ Summit. The summit was held in Dhaka, Bangladesh in 2016. South Asian Speakers’ Summit 2017 : The focus of the summit was to evolve appropriate strategies to achieve goals set by the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda (SDA) of the United Nations. The summit deliberated on opportunities and challenges that parliaments in South Asia face in making their contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The agenda of the summit embedded the gender perspective to reflect growing inequalities between men and women. Discussions also focussed on the impact of climate change on economic and social development in the region.The participants of the summit also discussed measures to strengthen cooperation among parliaments to address today's most pressing challenges. Inter-Parliamentary Union : The IPU is the international organization of parliaments. It was established in 1889. The union is the focal point for world-wide parliamentary dialogue and works for peace and co-operation among peoples and for the firm establishment of representative democracy. In October 2011, the IPU adopted its Strategy for 2012-2017 under the overall title – “ Better Parliaments, Stronger Democracy". The IPU is financed primarily by its members out of public funds.

The Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) has appointed Sarah Al-Suhaimi as its first female chairperson. Al-Suhaimi, the CEO of NCB Capital, was elected by the exchange’s board, which includes representatives from the Saudi Arabian Monetary Authority (SAMA), the Finance Ministry and the Ministry of Commerce and Investment. She has now become the first woman in the kingdom to chair a major governmental financial institution. One of the few women leaders working in Saudi’s finance sector, Al-Suhaimi became the first female CEO of a Saudi investment bank when she was appointed to lead NCB Capital in 2014. Prior to joining NCB Capital, Al-Suhaimi worked as chief investment officer at Jadwa Investment and senior portfolio manager at Samba Financial Group. In 2013, the Harvard graduate was appointed as a member of the Tadawul’s consultancy committee. Al-Suhaimi will reportedly maintain her post at NCB Capital along with her new role. Her appointment comes even as the Tadawul – the Arab region’s biggest stock exchange – is undertaking reforms to increase foreign investment. Most recently, it allowed overseas institutional investors to buy shares directly in IPOs.

Apple has acquired Israel-based start-up "RealFace" that develops deep-learning-based face authentication technology. The terms of the deal are not public, but it is estimated at 'several million dollars'. Apple would mainly be interested in the promise of the technology than pure resources . Set up in 2014 by Adi Eckhouse Barzilai and Aviv Mader, RealFace has developed a facial recognition software that offers users a smart biometric login, aiming to make passwords redundant when accessing mobile devices or PCs, the Times of Israel reported.  Last year, breaking with its tradition of keeping research topics a secret, Apple came out in the open publishing its first AI research paper that focuses on advanced image recognition.  Titled 'Learning from Simulated and Unsupervised Images through Adversarial Training', the paper describes techniques of training computer vision algorithms to recognise objects using synthetic, or computer generated, images. 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has greeted people of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram on their 31st statehood day (20 February 2017). The two hilly northeastern states of Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram celebrated their Statehood Day To mark its 31st statehood day, a four-day-long festival is being held in Arunachal Pradesh, which was earlier a union territory. Besides a gala musical by Bollywood artists, film festival, fashion show and other activities have been planned to mark the occasion.

In Madhya Pradesh, the world famous Khajuraho Dance Festival begins . Eminent Indian classical dancers will perform during the seven day event. This Dance Festival presents colourful and brilliant Indian dances in the backdrop of the famous Khajuraho temples.  Live performances of classical dances like Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Bharatnatyam, and Mohniattam will be major attraction this time.  

Virat Kohli became the first Indian sports personality to strike a Rs 100-crore endorsement deal with a single brand. Kohli signed an eight-year deal with sports apparel brand Puma worth Rs 110 crore. The Indian cricket captain is now set to join the likes of Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell and Thierry Henry, among others, as a global ambassador for the brand. The long-term deal could potentially cover Kohli’s remaining career with the Indian team. A bulk of the endorsement deal, estimated between Rs 12 crore to 14 crore annually, is locked up in fixed payout.  

France’s Jo-Wilfried Tsonga on 19 February 2017 defeated David Goffin 4-6 6-4 6-1 to win the ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament final in Rotterdam, Netherlands. With the title came an end to Tsonga’s two-year title drought. He had last won a title in the year 2015. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga : Jo-Wilfried Tsonga is a French professional tennis player. As of 13 February 2017, he is ranked World No. 13. His career-high singles ranking is world No. 5, which he achieved in February 2012.  He turned pro in 2004 and qualified for the China Open in September 2004.He won his first ATP Masters Series championship at the 2008 Paris Masters. He achieved his second Masters Series win at the 2014 Canadian Open, defeating four top 10 players on the way to victory, including those over Djokovic, Murray, and Federer. He is also the first and one of only three players (the others being Tomas Berdych and Stan Wawrinka) to have Grand Slam wins against each of the Big Four (namely Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, and Andy Murray). Rotterdam Open :  The Rotterdam Open is also known as ABN AMRO World Tennis Tournament. It is a professional men's tennis tournament played on indoor hard courts. It is part of the 500 series of the ATP World Tour. It has been held annually at the Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands. Slovakia’s Martin Klizan was the winner of the 2016 Rotterdam Open.

Barren Island, India's only live volcano in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, recently started spewing smoke and lava again. The announcement was made by researchers at Goa based National Institute of Oceanography (NIO). The volcano is erupting in small episodes of five to 10 minutes. The researchers observed only ash clouds during the day. However after sundown, red lava foundations spew from the crater into the atmosphere. Researchers from Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) and NIO have sampled sediments and water in the vicinity and recovered coal-like black pyroclastic material representing proximal volcanic ejecta. With the help of these samples, researchers can decipher the nature of present and past volcanic activity in the region.  Barren Island :  Barren Island is an island located in the Andaman Sea.It is the only confirmed active volcano in South Asia. It lies about 138 km northeast of the territory's capital, Port Blair.The first eruption of the volcano was recorded in the year 1787. Since 1787, the volcano has erupted more than ten times. Further eruptions were recorded in 1789, 1795, 1803–1804, 1852. After nearly one and half century of dormancy, the island had another eruption in 1991 that lasted six months and caused major damage. The volcano again erupted in 1994–1995 and 2005–2007, the latter considered to be linked to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake.  

Pakistani all-rounder Shahid Afridi on 19 February 2017 announced his retirement from international cricket. With the announcement comes an end to his illustrious 21-year career. Afridi had already quit Tests in 2010 and One Day International cricket after the 2015 World Cup. However, he still skippered the Pakistan Twenty20 team at the 2016 world championships in India.  Shahid Afridi : Shahid Afridi is a former captain of the Pakistan national cricket team. He made his debut on 2 October 1996 against Kenya. However, he did not bat and went wicketless. In his first international innings, he broke the record for fastest century in ODI cricket, reaching his hundred from 37 balls. With this, he became the youngest player to score an ODI century. The record was broken by New Zealand cricketer Corey Anderson on 1 January 2014. At present, South-African cricketer AB de Villiers holds the record for fastest century in ODI. He also holds a record of taking most wickets (97) and most player-of-the match awards in Twenty20 International cricket. He also holds the distinction of having hit the most number of sixes in the history of ODI cricket. On 21 November 2005, he was banned for a Test match and two ODIs for deliberately damaging the pitch in the second match of the three-Test series against England. On 25 May 2010, he was appointed captain of the national team in all three formats. In 2015, he was named among the top 20 most charitable athletes in the world by Do Something. At present, he is serving as the President for PSL team Peshawar Zalmi, which is owned by his cousin Javed Afridi.

The World Day of Social Justice was observed globally on 20 February 2017 with the theme "preventing conflict and sustaining peace through decent work”. The day is observed with an aim to recognise the need to promote efforts to tackle several issues like exclusion, unemployment and poverty. On the occasion, several organisations including the United Nations and the International Labour Office make statements on importance of social justice for people. According to United Nations, social justice is an underlying principle for prosperous and peaceful coexistence within and among nations. Social justice means removal of barriers that people face in the name of gender, ethnicity, age, religion, disability and culture. United Nations General Assembly created the day in 2007 in accordance with the goals and objectives of the World Summit for Social Development and the 24th session of the General Assembly. It was created to devote a day, i.e. 20 February, as a day to promote national activities in accordance with the objectives and goals of the World Summit. The United Nations says that the observance of the day should support efforts of the international community in poverty eradication. It should also promote full employment and decent work, access to social well-being, gender equity and justice for all.

Altamas Kabir, former Chief Justice of India (CJI), passed away on 19 February 2017 after prolonged illness in Kolkata, West Bengal. He was 68. Kabir served as the 39th Chief Justice of India from September 2012 to July 2013. Altamas Kabir : Altamas Kabir was born in Calcutta in 1948.He graduated in history from Presidency College. Later, he affiliated with the University of Calcutta to study law. He was admitted to the bar in 1973 and practiced civil and criminal law in Kolkata at the district court and the Calcutta High Court, Kolkata. On 6 August 1990, he was made a permanent judge of Calcutta High Court. He assumed the office of acting Chief Justice of Calcutta High Court on 11 January 2005. On 14 January 2010, he was appointed as Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority. Under his chairmanship, a national plan of action was taken up to be executed by all State Legal Services Authorities. Also, providing legal services to Transgender people was taken up as a new project of NALSA. On 3 January 2005, he became the Acting Chief Justice of the Jharkhand High Court. The elevation was made permanent on 1 March 2005. On 9 September 2005, he was elevated to the Supreme Court of India as Justice. On 29 September 2012, he became the 39th Chief Justice of India.

An actor turned politician Hema Malini’s journey from an actor and filmmaker to a politicianis being chronicled as an authorised biography titled ‘Hema Malini: Beyond the Dream Girl‘ . The biography is written by author-columnist Ram Kamal Mukherjee. The book will be published on her birthday on October 16 by the publisher HarperCollins India

Bangalore has been chosen to host the next Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Zone group-1 tie against Uzbekistan from April 7 to 9, 2017. As per the announcement made by the All India Tennis Association (AITA) on February 16, 2017, the tie clash will be held on the hard courts of Karnataka State Lawn Tennis Association (KSLTA) in Bangalore. Earlier, India outplayed New Zealand 4-1 in the first round in Pune while Uzbekistan beat Korea 3-1 in the away first round tie early this month. India and Uzbekistan are locked 2-2 in Head-to-Head record. The last time two teams clashed against each other was in April 2012 when Uzbekistan emerged 3-2 winners in tie. The last time India played in Bangalore was in September 2014 where it lost 2-3 to Serbia in a World Group Play off tie. The winner of the tie will make way to the World Group Play-offs to be held in September, 2017.

India Vetiver Network (INVN) has been launched at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University in Coimbatore . To protect the environment using vetiver INVN is a not-for-profit scientific network to promote vetiver in India. Vetiver has worldwide application to tackle many environmental issues like soil erosion, mitigation of soil and water pollution. Promotion of research in vetiver — identification of varieties, improved production technologies and distillation techniques.

T C A Ranganathan and Sunil Mehta were appointed as Non-Official Directors in Indian Overseas Bank and Punjab National Bank on February 19, 2017 by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet. Both appointed for a period of three years. It is announced by Personnel Ministry. Prior to this,  T C A Ranganathan has worked as the CMD of Exim Bank while Mehta is currently Chairman & Managing Director at SPM Capital Advisors Pvt Ltd.

Indian Cinema movie “Newton” directed by Amit Masurkar was honored with the Art Cinema Award in the Forum Segment at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival held from February 9-18, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. Rajkummar Rao and Anjali Patel starrer political comedy Newton had its world premiere during the film festival. The film revolves around a clerk placed on election duty in a conflict-ridden area of Chhattisgarh.  Over 43 films were screened in the Forum segment out of which 29 had their world premiere. The film is produced by Manish Mundra of Drishyam Films, company best known for bankrolling critically-acclaimed projects such as Masaan, Ankhon Dekhi and Umrika.

AirAsia became the first foreign airline to begin its operations from Srinagar international airport in Jammu and Kashmir on February 19, 2017. Srinagar has The Sheikh-ul-Alam International Airport since last five years, but noforeign airlines had yet operated services from there. The flight operation by AirAsia is expected to give a boost to tourism in the valley. The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, Mehbooba Mufti waved the flag to clear the landing for the AirAsia flight at Srinagar airport in presence of Tourism department officials and top management of AirAsia India operations. A Malaysian low-cost airline, AirAsia will operate one flight daily between Delhi and Srinagar initially.

The Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) launched a series of digital offerings for its customers on February 19, 2017 which also marks the 75th Foundation Day of the bank. The OBC bank introduced a new version of mobile banking in the form of mobile app under the name ‘Oriental Batuaa’ to provide banking services through app. Besides, OBC also launched two new RuPay cards, Oriental Premium card and Oriental Prepaid Card. Oriental Premium card is a RuPay based Platinum international debit card with airport lounge access. Oriental Prepaid Card is a RuPay card for individuals and corporates’. The bank also launched two MSME schemes ‘Oriental Sanjeevani’ and ‘Oriental Budget Hotels and Restaurants’. Oriental Sanjeevani is a specialised scheme for doctors for setting up new hospitals and clinics. The Oriental Budget Hotels and Restaurants scheme is for individuals, proprietors, companies etc for setting up new hotels, restaurants, lodges, motels etc. The OBC bank aims to achieve atleast 75 percent of its total transactions through non-branch channels by March 2018.  

 India has sanctioned a soft loan of US dollar 340 million to Nepal for various infrastructure development programmes on February 19, 2017. The approval paper was handed over by the Indian Ambassador to Nepal Ranjit Rae to Physical Infrastructure and Transport Minister of Nepal Ramesh Lekhak in the presence of Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu. Under this programme Mahalaki bridge and 15 roads will be constructed in various parts of Nepal. The move is a part of India’s commitment for strengthening infrastructure in Nepal. The completion of infrastructural projects will not only strengthen physical connectivity butalso emotional bonding between the people of both the countries.

An initiative by the government of Madhya Pradesh, “Mil Banche MP” (Let MP read together) programme was held in all the primary and middle government schools of the Madhya Pradesh on February 18, 2017 to increase knowledge and the understanding about language among students.. Under the programme, all the district administrators, government officials, public representatives, college students, retired officials, businessmen, media persons, doctors, engineers, sports persons and including common man will teach and interact with students of all government schools of the state. As a part of the programme, Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan also visited the Sanjay Gandhi Middle School in Bhopal where he had studied during his childhood. He took classes to motivate the children to do best in their life. He also announced that he would teach in schools twice every month. The programme has been launched by the Tribal Development Department and State School Education under the direction of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. More than two lakh people of every walk of life taught in 1,12,073 primary and middle schools of the state under this statewide programme.

The Indian Women's team won a silver at the Asian Rugby Sevens Trophy tournament at Vientiane, Laos.  A total of seven countries from across Asia including South Korea, Philippines, Malaysia, Nepal, Pakistan, India and hosts Laos vied for top honours in the tournament. In the last match, India was beaten by South Korea by 29-0.  The team participated under the aegis of the Indian Rugby Football Union (IRFU), the governing body for the sport of Rugby in India and supported by Societe Generale, the financial partner of Rugby India.

Sandeep Kumar of Haryana won the gruelling men's 50-kilometre event of the National Race Walking Championships held in New Delhi. Sandeep smashed his own national record. Sandeep clocked three hours 55 minutes and 59.05 seconds in a brilliant performance to win the race and qualify for the London World Championships in August.  Sandeep Kumar : Sandeep Kumar is a male Indian racewalker. He competed in the 50 kilometres walk event at the 2015 World Championships in Athletics in Beijing, China. He also participated in the 2016 Rio Olympics. He completed his 50 km race walk in 4:07:55 secs after 34 members (RANK-35).

RP Shah, one of the three General Managers of BCCI, resigned from his post citing his age as a “reason”. Shah was the General Manager (Commercial) and was considered to be one of the big decision makers in board’s commercial interest. Board of Control for Cricket in India : The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) is the national governing body for cricket in India. The board was formed in December 1928 as a society, registered under the Tamil Nadu Societies Registration Act.  It is a consortium of state cricket associations and the state associations select their representatives who in turn elect the BCCI officials.

India’s vaccine regulatory body NRAI (National Regulatory Authority of India) was given the maximum ratings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for vaccine regulations.  The ratings were given by WHO after completing the assessment of the status of the NRAI system against WHO NRA Global Benchmarking Tool and measured the maturity of the system in India. India is one of the main players in the pharmaceutical industry worldwide and often is referred as pharmacy of the world. India, as a large vaccine producing country, is currently supplying several vaccines to the United Nations agencies (UNICEF, WHO and PAHO). A fully functional NRAI is a pre-requisite for WHO prequalification of vaccines. One of the requirements to become eligible and retain prequalification status is to get assessed. The assessment was done in respect of 9 different functionalities by a WHO team comprising lead experts in different areas from WHO Headquarters Geneva, WHO India Country Office, experts from several countries.  Based on it, NRAI was declared functional with a maturity level of 4 which is highest level as per currently evolved definitions in respect of 5 functions, and maturity level 3 in respect of 4 functions.  Maturity level 4 indicates good results and sustained improvement trends, while level 3 reflects systematic process based approach, early stage of systematic improvements, data availability regarding conformance to objectives and existence of improvement trends.  The result reflects growing maturity of NRAI emanating from a concerted effort by Government in consultation with WHO to build capacity and capability of NRAI over last several years.

Maharashtra Government has approved Rs. 250 crore Cloud Seeding Programme during 2017 monsoon season to produce sufficient rain.  Under this programme, weather scientists using aircrafts will spray chemicals (silver iodide) over clouds clouds hovering above Solapur district, a rain shadow region of Western Ghats in the state. This will be the first controlled experiment to quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain.  This programme, coordinated by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, will be the first controlled experiment to quantify the extent to which clouds form water drops large enough to make rain. In this experiment, scientists will fly two aircraft and spray silver iodide and dry ice on 100 clouds and compare them with 100 unseeded clouds. Ground radar will be used to track the clouds and verify which ones contributed rain.

Indian Navy’s second ocean-going sailboat INSV Tarini was inducted at the INS Mandovi Boat Pool on Saturday in Goa. INSV Tarini is a sloop built by Divar-based Aquarius Shipyard.  It is slated to be the platform for the Indian Navy’s first Indian all-women circumnavigation of the globe expedition. INSV (Indian Naval Sailing Vessel) Tarini has been built to a stock design called called Tonga 56 by Van de Stadt, the Netherlands. It carries a suite of six sails, including a main sail, head sails (Genoa and stay sails), downwind sails and storm sail.  Its mast is 25 metres and has been custom-built by M/s Southern Spars, Cape Town (South Africa), for sailing in extreme conditions.  It has Raymarine navigation suite and an array of satellite communication systems on board through which contact can be made from anywhere. INSV Tarini’s predecessor INSV Mhadei learning experiences have been incorporated into it.  The INSV Mhadei has sailed over 1,15,000 nautical miles in the past eight years. It includes voyages like the first Indian solo globe circumnavigation undertaken by Dilip Donde in 2009 and the first solo, non-stop unassisted circumnavigation undertaken by Abhilash Tomy in 2013.

Indian Coast Guard Ship ICGS AYUSH was commissioned at Kochi, Kerala by Vice Admiral AR Karwe, Flag Officer Commanding-in- Chief, Southern Naval Command. ICGS AYUSH is the 20th and the last in the series of 20 Fast Patrol Vessels (FPVs) built by Cochin Shipyard Ltd. ICGS AYUSH is fitted with state-of- the-art navigational and communication equipment including Integrated Bridge System (IBS) and Machinery Control System (MCS).  The ship is capable of undertaking multifarious tasks such as surveillance, interdiction, search and rescue, anti-smuggling and medical evacuation. It will also play a secondary role of providing a communication link and escort coastal conveys in times of war.  The ship will be based at Krisnapatnam (Andhra Pradesh), under the administrative and operational control of Commander, Coast Guard Region.  FPVs are intended to help secure Indian waters by patrolling within the Exclusive Economic Zone and help in fisheries protection.

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully ground tested India’s largest indigenously developed Cryogenic Upper Stage engine for GSLV Mark III.  It was tested for full 10 minutes at ISRO’s Liquid Propulsion Complex (ILPC) at Mahendragiri in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. The C25 stage is the most powerful upper stage so far developed by ISRO. It uses Liquid Oxygen and Liquid Hydrogen propellant combination stored at minus 253 degrees centigrade.  The development of C25 cryogenic stage will provide ISRO capability to launch 4 ton class satellites in Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO), an altitude where satellites revolve in sync with Earth’s rotation.  So far, the cryogenic engine consisting very complex technology has been developed only by Russia, US, France, China, Japan and India.  This was last test in the series before going for actual GSLV Mark III rocket launch in April 2017 where engine will be put into actual use.  The GSLV Mark III rocket will be a successor to the GSLV Mark II which was first launched in 2001 and can carry a heavier payload than the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle or PSLV.  

Nagaland Chief Minister TR Zeliang resigned as Chief Minister of the state on 19 February 2017. He resigned against the backdrop of widespread protests in the state, which was triggered due to government’s decision to reserve 33 percent seats for women in urban local bodies. Zeliang’s resignation was accepted by the Governor PB Acharya. As per reports, the governor has asked Zeliang to continue till further arrangements were made. In a statement, the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) said Zeliang was stepping down and a consensus leader will be chosen on 20 February 2017 at Naga People's Front (NPF) Legislature Party meeting. The NPF meeting will be followed by a meeting of DAN (Democratic Alliance of Nagaland) in Kohima. In the 60-member assembly, the ruling Democratic Alliance of Nagaland comprises 48 NPF legislators, including suspended legislator Imkong Imchen, four of BJP MLAs and eight Independents. As per reports, Neiphiu Rio, the former Chief Minister and sole MP from the state, appears to be a front-runner for the Chief Ministership. In the 60-member Assembly, Rio is said to be commanding the support of 49 MLAs, including eight Independents.  At least three MLAs, including Speaker Chotisuh Sazo, are with party President Shurhozelie Liezitsu.