Current Affairs 22nd February 2017 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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India and China on 22 February 2017 held their first upgraded strategy dialogue in Beijing to sustain their bilateral ties. The talk happened amidst rising tensions between the two countries over Beijing’s reluctance to support India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group and blocking UN ban on JeM chief Masood Azhar. The dialogue was opened by the remarks of the Indian Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar who said that the relations between the two countries have really acquired a steady momentum over the years. He further said that not only have both the countries been engaging in leadership level meetings regularly but their economic engagement is also growing steadily. He also acknowledged how the border areas of both the countries have managed to maintain peace and tranquillity  Referring to the differences shared by both the countries, Jaishankar said there are natural issues which neighbours have and it is the responsibility of both the countries to address them. The Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, while welcoming Jaishankar spoke about how India and China have become two major developing countries and emerging markets in the world.  He also highlighted the need to hold such high-level talks about critical issues on a more frequent note saying that such meetings form a good foundation for successful strategic dialogue.Wang further added that by raising the level of the strategic dialogue, the two sides will be able to enhance their strategic communication and thereby reduce misunderstanding and build a more trust-base relationship and deepen strategic cooperation. This in turn according to him would help both the countries tap into the great potential of their bilateral relations and live up to their responsibilities and maintain regional stability. The dialogue was attended by several top officials from both sides including those in-charge of nuclear disarmament issues, indicating a discussion on India’s bid to enter the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

The Union Cabinet gave its approval for signing of a bilateral Air Services Agreement (ASA) with Greece. The approval was given at a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22 February 2017 in New Delhi. Under the agreement, both the countries shall be entitled to designate one or more airline. The designated airlines of either country shall have the right to establish offices in the territory of the other country for the promotion and sale of air services. The designated airlines of the two countries shall have fair and equal opportunity to operate on specified routes. As per the Route Schedule, the Indian carriers can operate to Athens, Thessaloniki, HerakIion and any 3 points to be specified later in Greece from points in India. The carriers of Greece can establish direct operation to 6 metros - New Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Chennai. Any points shall be available as ‘intermediate’ as well as ‘beyond point’ destinations for the designated carriers of India as well as the designated carriers of Greece. The agreement has the potential to boost trade, investment, tourism and cultural exchange between India and Greece. It will provide enabling environment for enhanced and seamless connectivity between various destinations in both the countries. The agreement will provide commercial opportunities to the carriers of both the sides ensuring greater safety and security. At present there is no Air Service Agreement between India and Greece. To fill this vacuum, the delegations of two sides met in New Delhi for two days in September 2016 and finalized the text of the Air Service Agreement. The agreement has been prepared keeping in view the latest International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) template.  

The Union Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved revised norms for the Scheme for Development of Solar Parks and Ultra Mega Solar Power Projects. The approval was given by the CCEA at its meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22 February 2017 in New Delhi.  The production target under the scheme was enhanced to 40,000 MW from the present 20,000 MW. The capacity of the solar park scheme has been enhanced after considering the demand for additional solar parks from the States. The enhanced capacity would ensure setting up of at least 50 solar parks each with a capacity of 500 MW and above in various parts of the country. Smaller parks in the Himalayan and other hilly States, where contiguous land may be difficult to acquire in view of the difficult terrain, will also be considered under the scheme.  It would also contribute to long term energy security of the country and promote ecologically sustainable growth. It will generate large direct and indirect employment opportunities in solar and allied industries like glass, metals and heavy industrial equipment. The scheme was launched by the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) in December 2014. Till now, 34 solar parks of aggregate capacity 20,000 MW have been approved by the MNRE. All the States and Union Territories (UTs) are eligible for benefits under the scheme. The State Government will first nominate the Solar Power Park Developer (SPPD) and also identify the land for the proposed solar park.  It will then send a proposal to the MNRE for approval along with the name of the SPPD.  The SPPD will then be sanctioned a grant of up to Rs 25 lakh for preparing a Detailed Project Report (DPR) of the Solar Park. Thereafter, Central Financial Assistance (CFA) of up to Rs 20 lakhs/MW or 30 per cent of the project cost, including grid-connectivity cost, whichever is lower, will be released as per the milestones prescribed in the scheme.

The Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), A S Kiran Kumar stated on 20 February 2017 that India has the capability to develop a space station, it just requires a long-term approach and ambitious planning. Kumar said that India has all the capabilities required to set up a space station and the day the country will take the decision to build one, ISRO will okay the project. He added that all they need for the project is for the government to draw out a policy on the same and provide sufficient funds and time. Going further, he said that in India we still talk about what would be the immediate benefits of a manned space mission and that is why the country is still not sure about when to invest in a space station. He urged that to set up a space station, the country needs to adopt a long-term thinking and the sooner it would be the better. Kumar’s statement comes not long after ISRO attempted what no space agency has done before- launch 104 satellites in one single mission. Kumar made the statement while attending the foundation day ceremony of Raja Ramanna Center for Advanced Technology (RRCAT) in Indore. Besides this, the ISRO chief also revealed that the space organisation was thinking of tying up with the industry to enhance India’s satellite launching capability. He explained it by saying that there is a growing need for more satellites in order to keep a better check on land and weather conditions and also to enhance the communication network. So, in order to increase the number of satellite launches, the country requires better infrastructure and cheaper equipment. Kumar also added that though there has been an increase in the number of companies manufacturing small satellites across the world, these companies have not been able to launch them and so, there is a lot of commercial potential in the area, which India could tap into by enhancing its launch facilities.

The Ministry of Defence on 21 February 2017 gave its in-principle approval to set up 38 radar stations to boost surveillance of the country’s 7,517 km long coastline. The approval for the project was given at a meeting of the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by the Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar in New Delhi.  Coastal Surveillance Project : The project will be executed at a cost of Rs 800 crore by the Bengaluru-based Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL). Apart from the 38 static radar stations, 4 mobile surveillance stations will also be set up under the project. These surveillance stations will be integrated with the Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) in the Gulf of Kutch and Khambatt. These stations are in addition to 46 radar stations, which have already been set up under the Phase I of the Static Sensor Chain Project. The project seeks to set up gap-less electronic surveillance along India’s coastline. The following are some of the recent measures undertaken by the Indian Navy to boost coastal security. On 3 February 2017, the Vice Admiral and Western Naval Command Chief Girish Luthra inaugurated an Integrated Under Water Harbour Defence and Surveillance System (IUHDSS) for the Indian Navy in Mumbai. Indian Coast Guard Ship ICGS AYUSH was commissioned on 18 February 2017 in Kochi, Kerala. The fast patrol vessel (FPV) is fitted with state-of- the-art navigational and communication equipment including Integrated Bridge System (IBS) and Machinery Control System (MCS). The Indian Navy’s second ocean going sailboat Tarini was inducted on 18 February 2017. INSV Tarini is a sloop built by M/s Aquarius Shipyard Pvt Ltd at Divar, Goa.

The Asian Hockey Federation (AHF) on 21 February 2017 confirmed the appointment of Abhijit Sarkar as its new Vice Chairman. Sarkar was also appointed the Chairman of the AHF Commercial and TV Committee with immediate effect. The decision to appoint Sarkar was taken after an Executive Board Meeting held on 7 February 2017. Sarkar has been associated with the Sahara India Pariwar since 2004. He has also served as the Head of Corporate Communications, Corporate Affairs and Relations, and the Sports Division at Sahara India Pariwar. Asian Hockey Federation  : The Asian Hockey Federation is the governing body for the sport of field hockey in Asia.At present, it has 30 member associations.  It is affiliated to the International Hockey Federation (FIH).The current president of AHF is Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah. The legislative body of the AHF is the AHF Executive Board. The Executive Board manages the affairs of the federation, implements the decisions of the AHF Congress, supervises the AHF CEO and professional staff, and appoints the AHF Committees. The Executive Board is made up of 19 members, including the President, Honorary Treasurer, six Vice-Presidents (including one female Vice-President and one Vice-President from the country hosting the Asian Games) and 10 ordinary members as well as the AHF CEO.

Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitinbhai Patel, who also holds the Finance portfolio, on 21 February 2017 presented the State’s annual budget for 2017-18 in the legislative assembly. It was the first budget presentation for the Vijay Rupani-led government, which came into the power on 7 August 2016. Highlights of Budget 2017-18 : The total size of the revenue surplus budget is Rs 1,72,179.24 crore, which is Rs 20, 327.31 crore more than the budget 2016-17. For the FY 2017-18, total revenue expenditure is estimated at Rs 1,25,455.63 crore and the capital expenditure is estimated at Rs 45,376.34 crore. The revenue receipts are estimated at Rs 1,31,521.23 crore and the capital receipts are estimated at Rs 33,974.90 crore. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) will be rolled out on 1 July 2017. Payment of taxes exceeding Rs 10,000 will have to be paid through e-payment mode only. The State government will provide bicycles to 45,000 female students of class IX under the Vidya Sadhna Yojana (VSY). About 3.5 lakh tablets will be provided to first year college students at subsidized prices to encourage e-learning. An independent State Food Commission (SFC) will be set up to monitor the functioning of the Food Security Act, 2013. A new corporation will be set up for undertaking welfare measures related to differently-abled persons (Divyangs). To reduce the dropout ratio in schools, free uniform and textbooks will be provided to over 60 lakh students. An exclusive university will be set up to undertake studies and research related to tribal issues. The university will be established in Narmada District. To improve the viability of agriculture sector, the government has allocated Rs 4,011 crore for power subsidies. Allocation of Rs 5,100 crore has made to take Narmada water to the drought-prone Kutch region. Nitinbhai Patel has allocated Rs 1340 crore for construction of 1 lakh affordable houses in urban areas.  

The leader of Naga People’s Front (NPF), Shurhozelie Liezietsu, was sworn in as the 11th Chief Minister of Nagaland on 22 February 2017 at Raj Bhavan, Kohima. The 81-year-old is the oldest to take oath as the Chief Minister of the state. He has been a member of the Nagaland Legislative Assembly (NLA) eight times. However, since he did not contest the 2013 election, he is not a sitting member of NLA and will have to get elected within six months of taking office. He was invited by the Governor of the state, P B Acharya to form the new government on 20 February after a vote that saw him emerge as the unanimous choice for the post. He had earlier met the Governor to stake his claim for the position. Shurhozelie will be succeeding TR Zeliang, who resigned from the post following widespread protests in the state by the Nagaland Tribes Action Committee (NTAC) over 33 per cent reservation for women in local body elections. The NTAC has called off its state-wide bandh following Zeliang’s resignation. To break the deadlock with the agitating tribal groups and the government, a vote was conducted on 15 February, in which 42 of the total 49 legislators had unanimously selected Shurhozelie as their new legislature party leader.According to Nagaland’s Rajya Sabha member K G Kenye, Shurhozelie was unanimously elected as the new legislature party leader of the NPF and also as the new leader of the government.  Shurhozelie Liezietsu : Born on 20 November 1936 in a village in Kohima, Liezietsu belongs to Angami tribe, one of the 16 major tribes in Nagaland. He started off as a clerk in the state secretariat and later switched to teaching. His political career began in 1969 when he along with some others jointly founded Nagaland’s first regional party, the United Democratic Front (UDF) and later the Naga National Democratic Party (NNDP).He also played a significant role in the formation of Nagaland Peoples’ Front (NPF) in 2002. His political career spans across 5 decades wherein he was elected as an MLA eight times and also held several other high-profile ministerial portfolios. He has written more than 40 books that include novels, poetry, drama, history and translations. He decided against contesting the 2013 elections as he wished to retire from politics but he was instead appointed as the President of NPF and Chairman of DAN (Democratic Alliance of Nagaland). Shurhozelie will now be faced with a tough task of managing the factions within the party and take decisions on holding the urban local body (ULB) polls with 33% reservation for women, a major issue that led Zeliang to step down.

Milind Soman, the national level swimmer-turned-model successfully completed a 517.5 km race, an extremely high endurance event called Ultraman on 19 February 2017 in Florida. The race that was divided into three days included swimming, cycling and running. The 51-year-old completed the whole event barefoot, gaining the title Ultraman. Highlights of the Race :  The first part of the event that began on 17 February opened with a 10 km swim followed by 147.2 km bike ride, which Soman sailed through smoothly. The day two involved a timed 171 km bike ride that Soman completed with just 5 seconds to spare. The day three involved an 84 km long ultra –marathon, which too Soman completed successfully. Soman was cheered on at the event by his 76-year-old mother, Usha Soman, who followed him in a car constantly encouraging him. He was accompanied by four other Indians - Abhishek Mishra, Kaustubh Radkar, Prithviraj Patil and Manmadh Rebba, who also completed the race. While Pune’s Kaustubh Radkar was the fastest Indian in the race with a timing of 31 hrs 29 mins, Soman was the only contestant who completed all the events barefoot.Soman’s overall timing was 34 hrs and 49 mins. The other three Indians, Prithivraj Patil, Manmad Rebba and Abhishek Mishra finished the race in 31 hrs 32 mins, 31 hrs 43 mins and 34 hrs 51 mins respectively. This challenging race is not Soman’s first such experience as he has previously taken part in the Ironman event, held in Zurich, Switzerland in 2015. The event too involved a gruelling race course including a 3.8 km swim, 180.2 km bicycle ride and a 42.2km run.

Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre, a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India, was appointed as the chairman of the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal on 21 February 2017. He was nominated for the post by the Chief Justice JS Khehar. The post was vacant since Justice Balbir Singh Chauhan resigned from the post. Justice Chauhan, who retired from the apex court in July 2014, was heading the Cauvery Water Disputes tribunal as its Chairperson. In addition to this, Justice Sapre’s appointment as Chairman of the tribunal turns up to be a significant one as the Supreme Court will start hearing the Cauvery case on a regular basis from 21 March 2017. Earlier in December 2016, the Union Cabinet approved a proposal to set up a single, permanent Tribunal to adjudicate all inter-state river water disputes subsuming existing tribunals. The tribunal was established with an aim to speed up water sharing disputes among states. In addition to this, the Union Government also proposed to float some benches to look into disputes. Justice AM Sapre : Sapre, who enrolled as an advocate in January 1978, practised on civil constitutional and labour sides in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh in Jabalpur. In October 1999, he was appointed as an additional judge of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh and confirmed as a permanent judge in October 2001. In February 2011, he was transferred to Rajasthan High Court and assumed charge at Principal Seat Jodhpur. In April 2012, he was transferred to Chhattisgarh High Court In March 2013, he was transferred to the High Court of Manipur as Chief Justice where he assumed the charge as the First Chief Justice of High Court of Manipur. In October 2013, he was transferred to the Gauhati High Court, Guwahati as its Chief Justice. In August 2014, he was elevated and took charge as Judge of the Supreme Court. Born on 28 August 1954, Sapre will retire on 27 August 2019.

The United Nations (UN) on 21 February 2017 announced that the complex crisis in Yemen continues to deepen. The agency also reported that around one million people, who had fled for safety, are returning to their homes mainly due to a lack of access to income and basic services in the areas of displacement. The reports, a multi-sectoral location assessment report and a periodically updated population movement tracking report, show that there are currently two million internally displaced people (IDPs) across Yemen and one million IDP returnees. Highlights : About 40% of key informants indicate that internally displaced people now intend to return home within the next three months. A lack of access to income and basic services in areas of displacement are the key reasons for pushing IDPs to return to the areas of their origin. Yemen's local communities are also under extreme strain with alarming scarcities of food and insufficient access to water and sanitation services. Around 84% of the country’s two million IDPs have been displaced for more than a year. More than 17 million people are frequently forced to skip meals. Seven million people do not even know where their next meal will come from and are ever closer to starvation. The risks related to the availability of food in markets and the food pipeline are fast approaching the Yemenis. Food shortages are widespread, food and fuel prices are rising, there are disruptions to agricultural production, and purchasing power is plunging, especially brought about by the lack of salary payments in the public sector for over six months. Yemeni Civil War : The Yemeni Civil War is an ongoing conflict that began in 2015.  The conflict is between two factions claiming to constitute the Yemeni government, along with their supporters and allies. Houthi forces controlling the capital Sana'a and allied with forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have clashed with forces loyal to the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, based in Aden. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have also carried out attacks. The UN states that 16200 people have been killed in Yemen, including 10000 civilians, from March 2015 to January 2017.

The capital will soon get India's first dedicated "heliport" for flying in and out of Delhi to nearby areas in choppers.  Aviation secretary R N Choubey said the Rs 100-crore project will be inaugurated on February 28 and will be an integrated one with a chopper maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) unit part of the complex at Rohini.  Owned by Pawan Hans Helicopters Ltd (PHHL), the hugely-delayed heliport will have a large number of parking bays and an AC passenger terminal building with car parking area for the flyers.  Only top VVIPs and industrialists manage to get permission for flying in or out of IGI in choppers. The country's top dignitaries, including the president, prime minister, home minister and chief ministers of a few states, use choppers from Safdarjung airport.  To promote regional air connectivity, Pawan Hans has also prepared a roadmap to connect all the major destinations from this heliport such as Delhi to Shimla, Haridwar, Dehradun, Mathura, Agra, Meerut and industrial hubs such as Manesar, Bahadurgarh etc  Pawan Hans had successfully carried out the first trial test landing an Eccuriall B3 chopper exactly a year ago to assess standard operating procedures and safety standards. Since then it has carried out many more tests. This heliport has a terminal building having capacity of 150 passengers, four hangers with parking capacities of 16 helicopters and 9 parking bays.   

To curb misuse of resources and essential commodities, the Jammu and Kashmir Government on 21 February 2017 announced a guest control order. The order imposes restrictions on the number of guests at weddings and small functions like social and government functions. The order that will come into force on 1 April 2017 restricts the number of guests at the bride’s place during the marriage ceremony to 500. The number of guests at the groom’s place is restricted to 400. On the other hand, the number of guests at smaller functions like engagement among others has been restricted to 100. Highlights of the guest control order : It bans the use of loudspeakers and firecrackers in any private or government social functions.  It bans sending of dry fruits and sweets with invitation cards for functions.  It says that the wedding menu will be restricted and non-vegetarian dishes cannot go above seven. It limits serving of fruits and sweets to two. It lays down norms to dispose leftover food and non-decomposing disposable items. The order was issued by the department of food, civil engineering and consumer affairs after it received complaints in relation to the injurious use of essential commodities and expenditures that are made during public and private functions. The order is not a new one in the valley. Earlier in October 2004, a similar guest control order was passed in the state that restricted the scale of hospitality, the number of guests as well as dishes at weddings and related ceremonies. Later, the order was stayed by the Jammu and Kashmir high court. It seems that the order is similar to the Marriages (Compulsory Registration and Prevention of Wasteful Expenditure) Bill, 2016 that would be presented in the Lok Sabha in the upcoming session. The bill seeks to put a restriction on the number of guests at the weddings as well as lavish spending that includes the number of dishes. The Marriage Bill, 2016 says that those spending above Rs 5 lakh on a wedding will have to contribute 10 per cent of such amount towards weddings of poor girls. The bill was presented in the Lok Sabha by Ranjeet Ranjan, a Congress MP, wife of MP Pappu Yadav.  

India  defeated South Africa by one run to win the ICC Women’s World Cup Qualifier 2017 at the P. Sara Stadium, Sri Lanka. Set to chase 245, India had all but lost its way after a flurry of wickets. However, stand-in captain Harmanpreet Kaur kept her cool to score the nine runs required off the last over from pace bowler Marcia Letsoala. South Africa’s Sune Luus is named as the Player of the Series, while India’s Deepti Sharma is the Player of the Match. 2017 ICC Women's Cricket World Cup Qualifier : The 2017 ICC Women's Cricket World Cup Qualifier was an international women's cricket tournament. The tournament was held from 7 to 21 February 2017 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.  It was the final stage of the qualification process for the 2017 World Cup in England.The tournament was the 4th edition of the World Cup Qualifier. It was also the first World Cup Qualifier tournament to be held in Sri Lanka. Along with India and South Africa, both Sri Lanka and Pakistan have also qualified for the 2017 Women's Cricket World Cup.Bangladesh and Ireland kept their ODI status until 2021 by virtue of them reaching the Super Six stage of the tournament. The qualified teams that will participate in the 2017 World Cup are:  India (Bottom 4 of ICC Women's Championship) South Africa (Bottom 4 of ICC Women's Championship) Pakistan (Bottom 4 of ICC Women's Championship) Sri Lanka (Bottom 4 of ICC Women's Championship) Zimbabwe (Africa regional qualifier) Thailand (Asia regional qualifier) Papua New Guinea (East Asia-Pacific regional qualifier) Scotland (Europe regional qualifier) Bangladesh (automatic qualification – ODI status) Ireland (automatic qualification – ODI status)  

The Telangana Government has signed an MoU with NABARD here for a loan of Rs 874 crore to the Horticulture Development Corporation to cover 3.15 lakh acres under Micro Irrigation scheme for 2016-17 and 2017-18. A Government release quoted Agriculture Secretary Parthasarathi as saying agriculture in the state is rain-fed and about 42.82 lakh acres depend on borewells for irrigation. Due to change in climatic conditions, the ground water level is decreasing and it is the need of the hour for the farmer to use micro irrigation Parthasarathi said the target for the year 2016-17 under the NABARD project is to cover 2.23 lakh acres allotted to all districts in the state.

Direct-to-home operator Dish TV Thursday said it has tied-up with private lender ICICI Bank for digital payments. This alliance with ICICI Bank through UPI will drive higher customer adoption and allow them to be a part of the digital economy. This will also aid our vastly spread customers with or without Internet access to recharge conveniently.  

Tamil Nadu government lead by Edappadi K Palaniswami has sanctioned Rs 2,247 crore to drought-hit farmers in Tamil Nadu after the report submitted to the government by senior officials. The report suggested that Rs 2,247 crore for 50,34,237 acres in which crops were cultivated during samba season. The relief amount will be credited to the bank accounts of the farmers. Farmers whose rain-fed lands will get Rs 3,000 per acre and Rs 5,465 per acre to farmers who have lands which are dependent on irrigating  

Union Minister of Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad launched Cyber Swachhta Kendra in New Delhi on February 21, 2017 for Botnet cleaning and Malware analysis as a psrt of digital India initiative He also launched two mobile apps 1.Mkavach to protect smart phones and tablets from hackers 2.Samvid to protect Desktops from suspicious applications from running Cyber Swachhta Kendra : To create a secure cyber space by detecting botnet infections. Cyber Swachhta Kendra will operate in close coordination and collaboration with Internet Service Providers and Antivirus companies. The centre is being operated by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team. The planning of this centre was announced in 2015 with an outlay of Rs 100 crore.

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu in the presence of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju inaugurated the Composite Regional Centre at Itanagar Banquet Hall, Arunachal Pradesh on February 21, 2017 To create resources and infrastructure required for developing services for persons with disabilities The Composite Regional Centre at Itanagar along with a creation of 17 contractual posts for it. The centre is established under the National Institute for Locomotor Disabilities (NILD), Kolkata of Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India Pema Khandu announced that the amount in Chief Minister’s Disability Pension Scheme of Rs 1000 per month being currently paid to the disabled person will be increased.

UNESCO celebrates International Mother Language Day (IMLD) on February 21, 2017 under the theme 'Towards Sustainable Futures through Multilingual Education'. To foster sustainable development, learners must have access to education in their mother tongue and in other languages.  It is through the mastery of the first language or mother tongue that the basic skills of reading, writing and numeracy are acquired. Local languages, especially minority and indigenous, transmit cultures, values and traditional knowledge, thus playing an important role in promoting sustainable futures.  

Cash purchases of jewellery will attract 1% TCS (Tax Collected at Source) from April 1, 2017 if the amount exceeds Rs 2 lakh, as against the current threshold of Rs 5 lakh. Once the Finance Bill 2017 is passed, jewellery will be treated on par with general goods which attract 1% TCS on cash purchase of above Rs 2 lakh. The Bill seeks to do away with the threshold of Rs 5 lakh on jewellery purchases for applicability of TCS because the Union Budget 2017-18 has proposed to ban cash dealings of over Rs 3 lakh and make violations punishable with a penalty of an equivalent amount to be paid by person receiving the cash.

Russia will start initial deliveries of military helicopters to India in 2018, with assembly and manufacturing to follow in Asia's fastest growing economy. India and Russia signed an agreement in October, 2016 to jointly manufacture 200 of the KA-226T helicopters for the Indian Armed Forces.  Both countries have agreed to cooperate in energy and defence as India seeks to modernize its armed forces and build a nuclear industry and sanctions-hit Russia looks for investment and new markets. 

The Ahmedabad-based Entrepreneurship Development Institute of India (EDII), an acknowledged national resource institute for entrepreneurship education, research, training and institution-building, has received the prestigious International Mercury Awards for the year 2016-17 for the best overall presentation of its 2015-2016 EDII has not only spearheaded entrepreneurship movement throughout India, but over the years has been instrumental in generating industry-specific content and knowledge through original research. Founded in 1987, the Mercury Awards promote excellence, quality and performance in the various fields of public relations. The award entertains participation from agencies, associations, corporations, government agencies, nonprofit groups, and organizations from around 80 countries worldwide every year. Judges from the International Academy of Communications Arts and Sciences (IACAS) evaluate entries on the basis of objectivity, audience connection, use of imagination and original solutions, use of illustration and overall expression of the message

The 13th Agricultural Science Congress being organised in Bengaluru from February 21-24 by the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) and the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR). It will focus on ‘Strategies for Climate Smart Agriculture’. The event will be held at the University of Agricultural Sciences Bengaluru's GKVK campus in collaboration with the local ICAR institutes. It is expected to draw about 2000 participants including scientists from across the world. The congress will provide a platform for discussing key issues related to ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ in all its facets, including socioeconomic empowerment of marginal farmers through technology development and policy initiatives for sustainable farming, forestry and natural resource management in tune with global climate change.

Nagaland People’s Front (NPF) president Shurhozelie Liezeitsu will be sworn in as the state’s eleventh Chief Minister. As Nagaland Former Chief Minister T R Zeliang stepped down from the post on February 19, 2017 facing revolt from his party MLAs against the decision to reserve 33% seats for women in urban local bodies.  Nagaland is a mountainous state in northeast India, bordering Myanmar. It's home to diverse indigenous tribes, with festivals and markets celebrating the different tribes' culture. Its capital city of Kohima suffered heavy fighting in World War II, commemorated by memorials at the Kohima War Cemetery. The Nagaland State Museum exhibits ancient weaponry, a ceremonial drum and other traditional Naga cultural artifacts.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has declared 2017 as ‘Year of Apple’ in a major bid to promote the famed Kashmiri apples in domestic and foreign markets.  It was announced after she launched High Density Apple Plantation Scheme in Srinagar.  Under this scheme, state government provide high-density apple plants to the farmers. Government will provide 50% subsidy.  The high density plants have a yield of 50-70 metric tonnes per hectare against 10-12 tonnes in case of conventional plants. J&K at 11.2 metric tonnes is the largest apple producing State in India, which accounts for 71% of national production.

The GST Council on 18 February 2017 approved a bill to compensate States for any loss of revenue due to the implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). This approval by the GST Council paves the way for the roll out of the GST on 1 July 2017. Goods and Services Tax :  The GST is a single indirect tax. It subsumes most of the Central and State taxes such as the Value Added Tax (VAT), excise duty, service tax and central sales tax.  The benefits of GST : GST will bring uniformity in the tax structure across the country.  It helps the government to reach the goal of – ‘One Nation, One Tax.’ Once it is fully implemented, the proposed tax is expected to contribute to the additional 2 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). It will also help the administrators in curbing tax evasion. The President Pranab Mukherjee approved the Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) Act, 2016 in September 2016. The Act, amended various provisions of the Constitution paving way for the introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) across the country.  As per Article 279A (1) of the amended Constitution, the GST Council has to be constituted by the President within 60 days of the commencement of Article 279A. Consequently, a notification was issued by the Union Ministry of Finance on 10 September 2016 regarding the formation of the GST Council. The Council is the apex body that takes decisions on all important decisions related to the GST, including items and rates. The Union Finance Minister is the Chairperson of the council. The Union Minister of State, in-charge of the Revenue in the Finance Ministry, and the Minister in-charge of finance or taxation or any other Minister nominated by each State Government are the members of the council.

The Haryana government on 19 February 2017 conferred the Bhim awards to 42 sportspersons of the state, recognising them for their outstanding performance at the national and international level between the years 2013 and 2017. The awards were given by the state’s Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki at a function held at Haryana Raj Bhawan. Highlights : The state’s highest sports award carries a cash prize of ₹5 lakh, an idol of Bhim, a blazer, a scroll of honour and a scarf or a tie. In total, the cash conferred to Bhim awardees during the function amounted to about ₹2.10 Cr. The awards acknowledged the exceptional performance of 42 sportspersons at both national and international level during the years, 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17. Some of the awardees included Indian hockey captain Sardar Singh, hockey player Rani Rampla, wrestler Babita Phogat, shooter Anu Raj Singh, boxer Vikas Krishan, golfer Ranbir Saini and the 2016 Rio Paralympics silver medallist, Deepa Malik. In his congratulatory address, the state’s CM Manohar Lal urged the sports persons to utilize their experience in grooming the younger lot, in order to make Haryana a centre of sports in the country as well as in the world. Manohar Lal also added that to mark the Swarna Jayanti Year of Haryana, various programmes were being organized in the State including ‘Khel Mahkumbh’, a two-month long programme that would involve holding sporting events at both block and district level. He also announced the launch of various unique sports policies and several new facilities to ensure the development of the state’s youth right from an early age. Some of the new sports facilities include:   Hockey Astroturf has been constructed at seven different places in the state. A synthetic track is being laid in Panchkula.  An artificial ground for football has already been made functional at Fatehabad. The government also plans to build a multi-purpose hall and Yuva Vikas Kendras in all of its districts. To ensure the implementation of the above the provisions, the State Government has doubled the budget of the Sports and Youth Affairs Department to Rs 401 crore for the year 2016-17.

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