Current Affairs 21st February 2017

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The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has released the new format for recording and reporting road accident data. The uniform accident-recording format has been drawn on the lines of developed countries. It has been forwarded to all state police and transport departments for adaptation and to furnish annual road accident data. Police, transport department and other agencies rather merely putting blame on driver, should consider factor in circumstances such as road conditions, visibility, signage and weather that led to an accident first. The concerned authorities will have to furnish five-point information regarding every accident, which will be monitored centrally. These five points include the site of accident, details of vehicles involved, weather condition, victims’ details and nature of mishap. The new format has been designed by a high-level committee set up by the transport research wing of the ministry comprising senior officials and experts from IITs and World Health Organization (WHO).  In India, every day 1,374 roads accidents and 400 deaths are reported across the country, which translates into 57 accidents and 17 deaths every hour on an average.

The British Prime Minister, Theresa May on 20 February urged the members of the House of Lords to not stall the crucial Brexit Bill. The bill had earlier passed unchanged from the House of Commons with a majority of 372. Though the House of Lords, the upper house of the British Parliament, does not have the powers to reject the bill out rightly, as it has already been passed by the lower house- the House of Commons, it can however, delay its passing by holding several readings and debates or send it back to the House of Commons for further debate and votes.May saw the need to intervene before the House takes its final decision, as her party- the Conservative party does not hold a majority in this house, like it did in the lower one. She in one of her speeches during her visit to the constituency of Stoke said that the bill was not amended in the House of Commons and so, she hoped that the House of Lords will pay attention to that. While she approves debate and scrutiny of the bill in the upper house, she emphasised that she didn’t want to see anyone holding up the wish of the British people, which is for Britain to leave the European Union. The House of Lords would be beginning its second reading debate of the bill on 21 February 2017 and the final voting will also take place on the same day if the opposition allows the bill to go unopposed at this stage. If the bill is not amended then it might get approved by the House at the third reading, which is scheduled on 7 March 2017, after which it could go on and become a law. Once the bill becomes a law, May would be able to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty and initiate UK’s exit from the European Union.

Sivathanu Pillai, an eminent professor at the Indian Space Research Organisation is of the opinion that India will be able to fulfil all its energy requirements from resources on the moon by 2030. Pillai said on 18 February 2017 that the country would meet its energy requirements by 2030 through the mining of lunar dust, which is rich in Helium-3. The professor further added that the mining programme was on priority for ISRO. He revealed this while delivering a valedictory address at the three-day Observer Research Foundation (ORF)-Kalpana Chawla Space Policy Dialogue, which was organised by ORF. Pillai is a former chief of BrahMos Aerospace. Besides this, Lt Gen P M Bali, who is the Director General of Perspective Planning in the Indian Army, said that the launch of GSAT-7, India's first dedicated military satellite, is a proof of the country’s outlook towards using the outer space for national security. General Bali also noted that India possesses one of the largest constellations of communication and remote sensing satellites covering Asia Pacific. However, he said that there is a need for a dedicated military space programme with sufficient resources at its disposal due to "the changing realities in our neighbourhood".

The Gujarat Assembly on 20 February 2017 passed the Gujarat Aadhaar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, 2017. However, the Bill was passed in the absence of nearly 48 MLAs of the Congress who were suspended from the House by the Speaker for creating ruckus. Highlights : The Bill empowers the state government to use Aadhaar number as the sole identifier for the delivery of various subsidies and benefits in an effective and targeted manner. The government plan to link the Aadhaar number with various schemes which will help the government create a credible system to authenticate the identity of actual beneficiaries. As of now, the Gujarat Government provides various subsidies and financial assistance to the citizens under 119 schemes, which is paid via RTGS or through cheques. Now with the passing of the bill, the government can ensure more accurate, targeted and efficient delivery of such disbursements using Aadhaar number. The bill is in the line with the Central Aadhhar Act, passed by the central government in 2016. The Central Aadhhar Act empowers the state governments to introduce similar laws for targeted delivery of subsidies and benefits by linking Aadhaar number of each beneficiary.

The Senate of Pakistan in the third week of February 2017 gave its approval to the Hindu Marriage Bill. The bill seeks to regulate marriages of minority Hindus in Pakistan. It will be the first personal law for Hindus living in Pakistan. The bill was approved by the lower house of the Pakistan Legislature, National Assembly, on 26 September 2015. Highlights of Hindu Marriage Bill : The bill seeks to provide a special form of marriage and divorce among Hindus in Pakistan. The provisions of the bill are not applicable if neither of the parties to the marriage has a spouse living at the time of marriage. However, this provision shall not apply if a wife cannot conceive a child and medically declared to be so. The bill allows judicial separation of couples on five grounds. Most important among them are -  i. The other party renounced the Hindu religion and adopted another one ii. If the partner has been suffering from a virulent and incurable form of disease The bill sets the minimum age of marriage at 18 years for both boys and girls. It will be applicable in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces. The Sindh province has already formulated its own Hindu Marriage Act. Most importantly, the bill is considered as a progressive piece of legislation as it will help Hindu women get documentary proof of their marriage. Previously, married Hindu women had to prove that they were married, which was one of the key tools for miscreants involved in forced conversion. The law paves the way for issuance of a document called as Shadi Parath. This document is similar to the ‘Nikahnama’ for Muslims. The bill defines Shadi Parath is a certificate or document of marriage issued by the Marriage Registrar. Every marriage solemnized under this Act shall be registered within fifteen days in accordance with the provision of this Act.  

The Union Health Ministry on 20 February 2017 launched the SAATHIYA Resource Kit and mobile app named ‘Saathiya Salah’ for adolescents. The kit and the app were launched as part of the Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (RKSK) program. The key intervention of the programme is an introduction of Saathiyas (the Peer Educators), who will act as a catalyst for generating demand for the adolescent health services. The kit and app will also impart age appropriate knowledge on key adolescent health issues to their peer groups. The Resource Kit comprises of i) Activity Book ii) Bhranti-Kranti Game iii) Question-Answer Book iv) Peer Educator Diary Mobile app ‘Saathiya Salah’  : The app ‘Saathiya Salah’ is downloadable from the Google play store.  It will act as a ready information source for adolescents when they will not be able to interact with the peer educators. Besides, the mobile app is also linked to a cost-effective information platform of a toll-free Saathiya Helpline (1800-233-1250). This helpline will act as an e-counselor for the caller. The SAATHIYA resource kit and the mobile app were launched by CK Mishra, the secretary of health and family welfare. India is a home to nearly 253 million adolescents, which is the largest in the world in terms of absolute numbers. When RMNCH programmes were launched globally, India was the first nation to add the +A, that is, adolescent component to the Reproductive, Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (RMNCH), making it today’s RMNCH+A program’.

A tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on 20 February 2017 to help scheduled caste (SC) artisans in New Delhi. The MoU signed among the National Scheduled Castes Finance and Development Corporation (NSFDC), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment and Development Commissioner (Handicrafts), Ministry of Textiles. The MoU was signed in the presence of the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thaawar Chand Gehlot and the Union Minister of Textiles ZubinIrani. Senior officers of both the ministries, DC (Handicrafts) and NSFDC were also present on the occasion. Features of the tripartite MoU The basic objective of the MoU is to help scheduled caste artisans and their families by promoting production and marketing of high value handicrafts products. The MoU strives to develop handicrafts, cane and bamboo, artificial jewellery, textiles (hand printed as well as hand embroidery), dolls and toys, stone carving and footwear sectors. All the MoU signing parties shall popularize the schemes of DC (Handicrafts) amongst the SC artisans through awareness programmes and advertisements in electronic as well as print media in artisan concentrated areas. The MoU signing parties will collaborate for capacity building, including skill upgradation and economic development of SC artisans and their families for achieving the desired outcome. Exhibitions and fairs shall be organized for providing marketing assistance to SC artisans for enhancing their earnings. Relevant skill development programmes will be organised for upgradation of skills of the Scheduled Caste Artisans in clusters and also for sharing knowledge and experience. These efforts will provide marketing linkage to SC artisans and entrepreneurs in the country.

Tata Sons Chairman-designate Natarajan Chandrasekaran will also hold the chairmanship of the Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) from 21 February 2017. Chandrasekaran, who is currently serving as the Chief Executive and Managing Director of TCS, will now take charge as the Non-Executive Chairman of the board of directors of TCS. In addition, V Ramakrishnan is named as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of the TCS. He will succeed Rajesh Gopinathan, who will take over as the CEO and MD of the Tata Group company. TCS also announced that the Chief Operating Officer (COO) N Ganapathy Subramaniam will be on the board of the company as Executive Director. Natarajan Chandrasekaran : Natarajan Chandrasekaran took over as the CEO of TCS on 6 October 2009. Prior to that, he served as the COO and Executive Director of TCS. He is one of the youngest CEOs of the Tata Group. In January 2017, he was selected to become the next chairman of Tata Sons, a role he will assume on 21 February 2017. Soon, he was also announced as the chairman of Tata Motors.

The President of United States, Donald Trump appointed Lieutenant General Herbert Raymond McMaster as his new National Security Advisor on 20 February 2017.  The announcement was made by Trump himself at his Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida. He described McMaster as a man of tremendous talent and experience, who is highly respected by those in the military and added that the US government is honoured to have him in its service. McMaster will be succeeding Michael Flynn, who was forced to resign on 13 February after reports emerged about him misleading the US Vice President Mike Pence about the discussions he had held with the Russian ambassador to US about US sanctions on Moscow before the presidential transition. Since the national security adviser is an independent aide to the president, McMaster’s appointment does not require confirmation by the US Senate.  The acting National Security Advisor, retired general, Keith Kellogg, will now serve as Trump’s National Security Council Chief of Staff.  McMaster  : Born in Philadelphia in 1962, McMaster graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point in 1984.   He did his masters and Ph.D degrees in American history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  His Ph.D thesis, which criticised US military officers of the Vietnam War for not challenging the war strategies of the then President Lyndon B. Johnson and Secretary of Defence Robert McNamara, was further detailed into a 1997 book titled ‘Dereliction of Duty’ He previously served as the Director of Combined Joint Interagency Task Force-Shafafiyat (CJIATF-Shafafiyat) at the headquarters of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, Afghanistan.  He is also known to have played an effective role in the Gulf War, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom.  In April 2014, his name was included in the Time’s list of 100 most influential people in the world and he was described as the architect of the future US Army.   In the same year, he was promoted to the position of Lieutenant General along with four other officers and was made the Director of Army Capabilities Integration Centre and the Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command.  

For the first time in the history of Indian Premier League (IPL) Auction, two Afghanistan players were selected by the franchise on February 20, 2017 during the IPL Auction 2017. Mohammad Nabi became the first player from Afghanistan to be picked by Sunrisers Hyderabad for Rs. 30 lakhs. On the other hand his teammate Rashid Khan was signed by Mumbai Indians for an amount of Rs. 4 Crores. Five out of the 352 players listed for the auction in Bangalore were from Afghanistan for the first time. 18-year-old Rashid Khan who is known for his googly has 62 international wickets to his name, 31 each in ODIs and T20 Internationals. Nabi has represented the country in 72 ODIs and 52 T20 Internationals.

The Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard launched sophisticated rockets during a military exercise that started on February 20, 2017 in Iran’s central desert. The three day maneuvers called ‘Grand Prophet 11’ will last on February 22, 2017. The model of the small and advanced rockets or their capabilities have not been revealed. The launch comes despite warnings from the United States and the sanctions over the previous ballistic missile test.

Katamati Iron Mine, owned by Tata Steel, was conferred with the Best Green Organisation of the Year Award on February 18, 2017 at the Global Green Future Leadership Awards in Mumbai. The Global Green Future Leadership Awards, organized by World CSR Day, was honored to Katamati Iron Mine in recognition of its environmental protection measures. The award was received by Rahul Kishore, Head of Mining Operations, Katamati Iron Mine on behalf of Tata Steel from Jordan Reeves, Consul General of Canada in Mumbai. Katamati iron mine has been engaged in environmental protection efforts for years and has successfully implemented Environmental Management System as per the requirements of ISO 14001:2004 The Global Green Future Leadership Awards is awarded to any organization that participates in environmentally friendly or green activities to ensure that all processes, products, and manufacturing activities adequately address environmental concerns while maintaining a profit.

US based IT giant Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella and Indian electronic commerce company Flipkart Group CEO Binny Bansal has  announced a “strategic partnership” on February 20, 2017.  To provide consumers in the country the best online shopping service.iii. As per the deal, Flipkart, will adopt Microsoft Azure as its exclusive public cloud platform. Microsoft Azure will add a layer of advanced cloud technologies and analytics to Flipkart’s existing data centres. Flipkart also plans to leverage artificial intelligence, machine learning and analytics capabilities in Azure, such as Cortana Intelligence Suite and Power BI, to optimise its data for innovative merchandising, advertising, marketing and customer service.

Magaluru based Karnataka Bank Ltd has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Daimler India Commercial Vehicles Pvt Ltd (DICV) on February 20, 2017 to extend finance to customers for the purchase of commercial vehicles manufactured by the company. The deal will benefit the customers belonging to sectors such as MSME (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) to purchase commercial vehicles.

The country’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) rebranded its corporate website as “” from the earlier “” on February 19, 2017. Now is the highest domain protocol commonly known as generic top level domain (gTLD). With this, SBI has become the first banking organization in India to adopt gTLD for its internet presence. The adoption of gTLD will enable SBI to use its corporate name .sbi as their website’s top-level identifier instead of using “.com” or “” as domains. The existing web address will remain active till customers become familiar with operating through the new address.

The Bihar Cabinet under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has ruled out a new rule under which the no officials of the state government would be allowed to consume liquor either in the state or outside the state and not even abroad. This makes Bihar the first state to have such restrictions for officials and judges. The cabinet amended the Bihar Government Servants’ Conduct Rules 1976 and approved the Bihar Judicial Officers Conduct Rules, 2017. From now the bureaucrats, judges or magistrates caught drinking anywhere in the world will be punished. Any officer found guilty would be liable to face dismissal, suspension or even salary cuts. The drinking ban will also apply to Bihar officials on deputation outside the state.

The GST Council has approved a law to compensate states for any loss of revenue from the implementation of the new nationwide indirect taxation regime.  The meeting was held in Udaipur, Rajasthan first time outside national capital. It was headed by Union Finance Minister and attended by representatives from all states. GST is a consumption based indirect tax levied on sale, manufacture and consumption on goods and services at a national level. It will replace a plethora of central and state indirect taxes.  The Compensation Law provides compensation to states that will incur losses because of implementation of the Goods and Service Tax (GST) in the first five years. This law will go to Parliament for approval in the second half of the 2017-18 Budget Session beginning March 9, 2017.  This meeting deferred approval for enabling laws i.e. Central GST (C-GST), Integrated GST (I-GST) and State GST (S- GST) for full fledge implementation of GST regime.  Besides, Council gave its suggestions to legal sub-committee which is drafting the model laws, on issues like delegation of powers, composition of appeal at tribunal to adjudicate on disputes and exemptions during transition phase. GST Council has been established as per Article 279A of the Constitution. It is joint forum of the Centre and the States to make recommendations on important issues related to GST. Union Finance Minister is Chairperson of the council.  Besides, Union Minister of State (MoS) in-charge of Revenue of finance and Minister In-charge of taxation or finance or any other Minister nominated by each State Government are its Members.

Researchers from US based Michigan State University have developed the first stretchable integrated circuit (IC) made entirely using an inkjet printer. This elastic material is made up of several materials fabricated from nanomaterials and organic compounds.  These compounds are dissolved in solution to produce different electronic inks, which can easily run through printer to make devices. Using the ink, the researchers have successfully created the elastic material, the circuit and the organic light-emitting diode (OLED). The next step is combining the circuit and OLED into a single pixel.  As the material is produced using a standard printer, it has a major potential cost advantage over current technologies that are expensive to manufacture. Besides, stretchable electronic fabric can be easily folded and put in one’s pocket without breaking.  The new stretchable ICs can be used in smart tablet that could be stretched in size, from small to extra-large. Besides, it can be used in wearable electronics like rubber band-like wrist monitor that measures the wearer’s heartbeat, soft robotics applications and wallpaper that turns an entire wall into an electronic display.  

Geologists have claimed discovery of new geological continent named Zealandia submerged beneath the south-west Pacific Ocean. Zealandia is around 4.5-million square km land mass and is 94% under water. Only its highest points — New Zealand and New Caledonia are visible.  Zealandia is two-thirds the size of Australia and spreads out over 4.9-million-square kilometres of continental crust.  It was once a part of Australia. It is believed that it had broken off from Antarctica about 100 million years ago, and then from Australia about 80 million years ago as part of the breakup of super-continent Gondwanaland and sank beneath sea.  Sea-floor samples show that Zealandia consists of light continental crust and not the dark volcanic rocks that make up nearby underwater plateaus.

India and Rwanda on 20 February 2017 signed three agreements including innovation and aviation. The agreements were inked in Kigali in the presence of Vice President Mohammed Hamid Ansari and Rwandan Prime Minister Anastase Murekezi during a business forum meet. Vice President Ansari was in Rwanda on the first leg of his 2-nation visit to East Africa. He was in Rwanda from 19 February to 21 February 2017. Establishment of a bilateral air service agreement between the two nations. An agreement for exemption of visa requirements for diplomatic and service passports. Establishment of an Entrepreneurship Development Centre in Rwanda duly financed by Union Government. Besides these three agreements, Ansari also launched India-Rwanda innovation growth programme. In addition to this, while addressing the Indian community in Kigali, the Vice President assured the Indian diaspora that New Delhi will soon open a High Commission in that country. Earlier in the day, the VP Ansari had a meeting with President of Rwanda Paul Kagame and shared views on mutual benefits. He also met President of the Senate of Rwanda and presented him a copy of Constitution of India. After completing his visit to Rwanda on 21 February 2017, Vice President travelled to Uganda, which is the second leg of his tour to another African country. During his visit to the two East African nations Rwanda and Uganda, the Vice President is accompanied by Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Vijay Sampla, four Members of Parliament and other officials. His visit comes shortly after the visit of President of Rwanda for the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit in January 2017.