Current Affairs 23rd February 2017 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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The Justin Trudeau government announced on 21 February that Canada will give asylum to 1200 Yazidis, the most vulnerable refugees in the world by the end of the year. The efforts follow the Canadian Parliament’s resolution last year to take in the Yazidis facing genocide in Iraq at the hands of the Islamic extremists. According to Ahmed Hussen, Canada's Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship, though initially, the aim was to bring over the women and girls who stand the risk of facing persecution, the government decided to help all, especially since the extremist group was also targeting boys. Highlights : Canada began its operation of rescuing these vulnerable refugees on 25 October 2016. Around 400 Yazidis have already been airlifted to the country in the last few months. The migrants have been brought over on commercial flights at a controlled pace to avoid overwhelming Canada's refugee system. The whole operation is expected to cost around 28 million Canadian Dollars. While the majority of the refugees will come from Iraq, some will also be from Lebanon and Turkey. Ever since Justin Trudeau took over as the Prime Minister of Canada in 2015, his government has helped resettle almost 40000 Syrian refugees. Yazidi community : Yazidis are ethnically a Kurdish-speaking minority religious community. Their pre-Islamic religion is thought to have its origin in the Zoroastrianism of ancient Persia. They are neither Arabic nor Muslim and so, the Islamic State considers them polytheistic heretics. The rescue operation for the Yazidis differs slightly from the regular one, as these are being conducted in a more closed manner in order to protect the identity of these vulnerable groups. In addition to the resettlement of the 1200 refugees, the Canadian government also intends to facilitate them with private sponsorships. While appreciating the efforts of the Trudeau government, Conservative MP Michelle Rempel stressed that like Canada other countries also need to wake up to the fact that if these people are not provided with a safe haven now, they might get wiped off completely.

The Digital Payments 2020 report said that digital payment industry in India is expected to reach USD 500 billion by 2020. The USD 500 billion accounts for about 15 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP). The report was jointly published by Google and Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The report says that by 2020, over 50 per cent of Internet users in the country will be using the mode of payment. The report projects that the non-cash contribution in the consumer payments segment will double to 40 per cent. The estimates say digital technology in India will influence up to 45 per cent of all retail sales by 2025. It says that the non-cash transactions will exceed cash transactions by 2023.  It says that the about 81 per cent of the existing users of the digital payments prefer it over other methods of non-cash payments.  IT highlights that the 90 per cent Indian consumers will be using digital payment mode for both online as well as offline points of sale in fields. It says that over 60 per cent of digital payment value will be contributed by offline points like unorganised eateries, transport and retail among others. Three activities where digital payment is used in excessive at present include payment of utility bills, online shopping and buying movie tickets. Besides, the report counts on union government’s plan to develop 100 smart cities across India as well as Digital India. Digital India aims at increasing the optical fibre network to thousands of villages where two-third of the population lives. In addition, the report also appreciates the country for the use of mobile and digital technologies for creating educated as well as digitally literate user base.  Digital Payments 2020 report : The Google-BCG study report provides a comprehensive overview on the ongoing transformation in digital payments in India. It also talks about its impact on the overall payment landscape of the country. The report is based on Nielsen’s qualitative and quantitative research with over 3500 respondents (digital consumers: 1,516, remittance users: 917 and merchants: 917), combined with BCG and Google’s industry intelligence.

The Union Government on 22 February 2017 announced setting up of POSCO Victims Compensation Fund to provide financial help to children who are victims of sexual crimes. The announcement was made by the Union Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi as as a response to a letter, which sought her attention to the plight of a three-year-old from Ahmednagar who was raped in December 2016. The establishment of the fund is in tune with the objectives of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act, 2012. The money for this fund will be drawn from the Nirbhaya Fund Nirbhaya Fund The fund was operationalised by the Union Government in April 2015 with a corpus of Rs 3000 crore. The primary objective of the fund is to improve safety and security of women in the country. As per the guidelines of the fund, the Ministry of Women and Children (WCD) can be approached by various Ministries and Departments with the proposals and schemes. The ministry forwards the suitable proposals to the Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) for necessary budgetary allocations in the respective Demands for Grants. The Act seeks to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation by establishing special courts.The POSCO Act identifies any person below the age of 18 years as a child. In certain cases, if the child is between 16 and 18 years, it shall be examined whether consent for the act was taken against his will or was taken by drugs, impersonation and fraud. The Act penalises any person who commits offences such as “sexual harassment”, “sexual assault”, “penetrative sexual assault” and “aggravated penetrative sexual assault”. A person commits “sexual harassment” if he uses words or shows body parts to a child with sexual intent. The penalty for this offence is imprisonment for up to three years and a fine. A person commits “penetrative sexual assault” if he penetrates his penis into the vagina, mouth, urethra or anus of a child.

US President Donald Trump’s administration on 22 February 2017 rolled back Obama’s protection law for transgender students that allowed them to use the bathroom and locker room of their choice in public schools.In May 2016, Barack Obama had instructed all the public schools in the United States to allow transgender students to openly choose their gender identity and use the bathrooms and locker rooms that matched with it. This measure was taken in accordance with Title IX, the federal law that bars gender discrimination in education. It was seen by the transgender community as a huge progress in their fight for equal rights. However, Trump’s administration revoked the protection arguing that the state and public schools should have the authority to make their own decisions without interference from federal authority.  The decision to revoke the order was announced by the Department of Justice and Department of Education. The withdrawal was not well received by the opposition Democratic Party leaders. The Trump administration backed the move by saying that there were too many lawsuits and legal loopholes in Obama’s regulation. Obama’s instructions not in line with Title IX According to Betsy DeVos, US Education Secretary, the guidance issued by Obama’s administration had raised several legal questions and as a result a federal court in August 2016 had issued a nationwide ban, barring the department from implementing a portion of its application. DeVos further stated that since then, the department had not enforced that part of the instruction and so, the withdrawal has had no immediate effect on the students. US Attorney General Jeff Sessions also commented on the issue by saying that the previous instruction did not comprise enough legal analysis or explain how its interpretation was in line with Title IX. He further added that the state legislatures and local governments are in a position to adopt appropriate policies to address the issue. Sessions also affirmed that the Department of Justice is committed to ensure the proper interpretation and enforcement of Title IX and the protection of all its students including the ones belonging to the LGBT community from discrimination, bullying and harassment.

The Union Cabinet gave its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Australia for promotion and development of cooperation in civil aviation security. The approval was given at a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22 February 2017 in New Delhi. The MoU will also provide compliance of international obligation as well as enhance promotion in the area of security cooperation between the two countries. India-Australia Relations : India and Australia have several commonalities, which serve as a foundation for closer cooperation and multi-faceted interaction between the two countries. The relationship has grown in strength and importance since India’s economic reforms in 1990s’. The present bilateral cooperation extends to all the vital areas such as trade, energy, mining, science and technology, information technology, education and defence. India and Australia cooperate in various multilateral fora. Australia supports India’s candidature in an expanded UN Security Council.  Both India and Australia are members of the G-20, Commonwealth, Indian-Ocean Rim Association (IORA), ASEAN Regional Forum and Asia Pacific Partnership on Climate and Clean Development. Defence Cooperation between India and Australia has expanded significantly in recent years.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi paid a successful visit to Australia in November 2014. India is Australia’s largest export market for gold and chickpeas, the second largest market for coal and copper ores and the third largest market for lead and wool. Four products – coal, non-monetary gold, copper ores and petroleum – account for over 80 per cent of India’s imports from Australia. India’s major exports to Australia are pearls and gems, jewellery, medicaments and passenger motor vehicles. There is an Indian community of nearly 2,95,000 in Australia. The community is contributing to the Australian economy in their role as teachers, doctors, accountants, engineers and researchers.  

Sahitya Akademi Awards 2016 were conferred on twenty-four writers on 22 February 2017. The eminent authors were conferred with the award/honour for writing in as different Indian languages. The awards were conferred on them at the annual Festival of Letters. The festival, which began 21 February 2017, will continue till 26 February 2017. The distinguished physicist and Marathi writer Jayant Vishnu Narlikar was the chief guest of the award ceremony. The awards were conferred in different genres and they included poetry, essay, short story, novel, criticism and play. Awardees in different genres were  Genre Poetry  • Jnan Pujari: Was awarded for book Meghmalar Bhraman written in Assamese.   • Anju (Anjali Narzary):  Was awarded for book Ang Maboroi Dong Dasong written in Bodo.   • Kamal Vora: Was awarded for book Anekek written in Gujarati.   • Prabha Varma: Was awarded for book Shyamamadhavan written in Malayalam. • Sitanath Acharya: Was awarded for book Kavyanirjhari written in Sanskrit.   • Gobinda Chandra Majhi: Was awarded for book Nalha written in Santali.   • Nand Javeri: Was awarded for book Akhar Katha written in Sindhi.   • Papineni Sivasankar: Was awarded for book Rajanigandha written in Telugu. Genre Short Story • Chhatrapal: Was awarded for book Cheta written in Dogri.   • Shyam Darihare: Was awarded for book Barki Kaki at Hotmail Dot Com written in Maithili.   • Moirangthem Rajen: Was awarded for book Cheptharaba Eshingpun written in Manipuri.   • Asaram Lomate: Was awarded for book Aalok written in Marathi. • Paramita Satpathy: Was awarded for book Prapti written in Odia. • Bulaki Sharma: Was awarded for book Murdjat Ar Dujee Kahaniyan written in Rajasthani.  • Vannadhasan: Was awarded for book Oru Siru Isai written in Tamil. Genre Novel  • Gita Upadhyay: Was awarded for book Janmabhumi Mero Swadesh written in Nepali. • Jerry Pinto: Was awarded for book Em and the big Hoom written in English. • Nasira Sharma: Was awarded for book Paarijat written in Hindi. • Boluwaru Mohammad Kunhi: Was awarded for book Swatantryada Ota written in Kannada. • Edwin J.F. D’souza: Was awarded for book Kale Bhangar written in Konkani. Genre Criticism  • Aziz Hajini: Was awarded for book Aane Khane written in Kashmiri. • Nizam Siddiqui: Was awarded for book Mabad-e-Jadidiat Se Naye Ahed Ki Takhliqiyat Tak written in Urdu. Genre Essay • Nrisinghaprasad Badhuri: Was awarded for book Mahabharater Astadahi written in Bengali. Genre Play  • Swarajbir: Was awarded for the play titled Masia Di Raat written in Punjabi.  

Union Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu on 22 February 2017 dedicated Antyodaya Express to the nation at the Delhi Safdarjung Station. The Railway Board Chairman AK Mital was present on this occasion. Antyodaya Express is a long-distance, fully unreserved and super fast train service for the common man. These trains, which will be operated only on dense routes, were proposed for the first time by Suresh Prabhu in his 2016-17 Railway Budget speech.   These coaches are fully unreserved Linke Hofmann Busch (LHB) second class coaches with the following additional amenities: ●       Cushioned luggage racks which can serve as seats ●       Additional hand holds in doorway area ●       J-hook near longitudinal luggage racks ●       Multiple unit cables at both ends of the coach ●       Vestibuled ends for internal movement of the passengers ●       Potable drinking water dispenser ●       Mobile charging points ●       Fire extinguisher with anti-theft lock ●       FRP (Fibre Reinforced Plastic) Modular Toilets ●       Pleasing interior colour scheme ●       Display boards to indicate toilet occupancy ●       Light Emitting Diodes ●       SS Slip-free flooring at doorway and gangway ●       Anti-graffiti coating for exterior painting Ministry of Railways has identified following routes for the Antyodaya Express. (i) 15567/15568 Darbhanga-Jalandhar City Antyodaya Express (Weekly) (ii) 22885/22886 Lokmanya Tilak(T)-Tatanagar Antyodaya Express (Bi-weekly) (iii) 22841/22842 Santragachi-Chennai Central Antyodaya Express (Weekly) (iv) 22895/22896 Bilaspur-Firozpur Antyodaya Express (Weekly) (v) 22921/22922 Bandra(T)-Gorakhpur Antyodaya Express (Weekly) (vi) 22877/22878 Howrah-Ernakulam Antyodaya Express (Weekly) (vii) 15563/15564 Jaynagar-Udhna Antyodaya Express (Weekly)

India and Uganda on 22 February 2017 agreed to cooperate in various fields like the space programme, vocational training and peaceful use of atomic energy. The agreements were announced in a joint press conference by the Vice President Hamid Ansari and Ugandan President Yoweri Kauta Museveni in State House at Entebbe, the official residence of President. VP Ansari was in Uganda during the second leg of 2-nation of his visit to East Africa, namely Rwanda and Uganda. He was in Rwanda from 19 February to 21 February 2017 and in Uganda from 21 February to 23 February 2017. Besides these agreements, the Vice President held talks with President Yoweri Museveni at the State House. During this meet, the two leaders reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation. They also committed to work together in trade, investment, agriculture, defence cooperation and IT among others. In addition, President Museveni called Indian companies to manufacture automobiles locally, which would help the country in discouraging import of cars. It seems that this call for assembling and manufacturing vehicles locally in Uganda would provide a new market to Indian manufacturers. Earlier in the day, Vice President Hamid Ansari met his counterpart Edward Ssekandi at the Vice Presidents Secretariat.

The Government of Uttarakhand on 21 February 2017 issued a shoot-at-sight order in the Corbett Tiger Reserve to curb poaching of tigers. The order was issued by the State Chief Secretary in view of the increased incidences of poaching from the southern border of the tiger reserve. Corbett Tiger Reserve ; Jim Corbett National Park, which is a part of the larger Corbett Tiger Reserve, is located in the Nainital district of Uttarakhand. Established in the year 1936 as Hailey National Park, Corbett is considered as India's oldest and most prestigious national park. The prestigious Project Tiger was first launched in this area in 1973. With an extent of 520 square kilometers, its whole area comprises of hills, marshy depressions, riverine belts, grasslands and large lakes. It is among the few tiger reserves in India that allows overnight stays in the lap of a national park. Nature watch and wildlife viewing in the park is done in an open four wheeler jeep and on elephant back. Dhikala, situated at the border of the extensive patil dun valley, is the most popular destination in the tiger reserve because of its superb location and sheer abundance of wildlife. Some of the important safari zones in the  tiger reserve are Bijrani Safari Zone, Jhirna Safari Zone and Dhikala Zone.  

The National Rifle Association of India(NRAI) announced that India will be hosting the Combined World Cup for shooting in 2019 during the meeting held in New Delhi. Combined World Cup will a qualifying event for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It will comprises all the three categories — shotgun, rifle and pistol  

Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev has named his wife Mehriban Aliyeva(52) as Azerbaijan’s first vice-president on February 21, 2017 Prior to this, Aliyeva has served previously as a lawmaker and headed a charity. She became the country’s first powerful lady and second most powerful person in Azerbaijan

Oricon Enterprises Ltd (OEL), the flagship company of Parijat Enterprises that is in marine logistics, packaging, petrochemicals and automobile dealership, will invest Rs 100 crores to build a manufacturing facility in Odisha for packaging products.  The company announced to create new facility at an investment of Rs. 100 crores in two phases in the State of Orissa.  This facility will be used to manufacture new packaging products. The project will be funded from internal accruals As part of its strategy to consolidate its presence in the Indian caps & closures market, the company has been adding capability by raising the production. Oriental Containers Ltd, a wholly-own subsidiary of OEL, recently completed expansion of its plastic closures manufacturing capacity, which involved investment of Rs 35 crores, at Murbad in Maharashtra. This expansion has added a capacity of 1.2 billion closures per annum, taking the total installed capacity to over 8 billion per annum - highest in India.

Bangalore based  Indian food-products corporation Britannia has signed an MoU with Greece’s cakes and confectionery major Chipita for exploring certain business opportunities on February 22, 2017. ii. This is the first joint venture after Britania’s tie-up with New Zealand’s Fonterra Dairy and and dairy giant Groupe Danone SA dissolved in 2009 Chipita: Chipita S.A. is a food company in Greece. It operates in 66 countries. It is already operating in India. Chipita’s brands include 7Days, Molto, Fineti and Chipicao, spanning categories such as croissants, cakes, biscuits, jams and confectionery.  

Lucknow based Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bengaluru based Vijaya Bank for providing concessional finance to micro and small enterprises (MSEs). To promote and strengthen the units in the MSE segment The MoU also expect joint financing/co-financing of MSMEs for meeting capital expenditure under the ‘SIDBI Make in India Soft Loan Fund for Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises’ scheme at concessional rate of 9.60 per cent, along with working capital from Vijaya Bank. The resources and expertise of SIDBI in MSME financing and the outreach of Vijaya Bank are proposed to be leveraged  

Union government aims to bring high-speed digital connectivity to every village by 2018 and is profound to share proficiency in the area with other nations. Union Department of Telecom, under the Universal Services Obligation (USO) fund, is working to bring highspeed broadband to every village in the country by 2018. The Centre is working to bring the game­ changing impact of technology to all our six lakh villages and the optical fibre network to all rural areas.  

Punjab Government has banned the manufacture, sale, storage or distribution of gutkha, pan masala, flavoured/ processed/processed/scented chewing tobacco and any other food products containing nicotine or tobacco for one year.  The ban has been imposed in view of the orders of the Supreme Court and shall continue on packaged or unpackaged or sold as one or separate products throughout the state.

The Revenue Department has notified the protocol amending the India-Israel tax treaty to provide for exchange of information on tax matters including bank details to check flow of black money.  The amended treaty provides that information in respect of an Indian resident received from Israel can be shared with other law enforcement agencies like the CBI and Enforcement Directorate.  It also provides for levy of capital gains tax in India on sale of shares or interest in a trust, partnership or other entity.  It also provides ‘Limitation of Benefits’ Article as an anti-abuse provision in order to enable enforcement of domestic law in case of misuse of the treaty.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved an investment proposal for generation component of Arun-3 Hydro Electric Project in Nepal.  The project is implemented by Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam (SJVN) Limited, a Central Public Sector Enterprises of Government of India.  It will generate 900 Megawatt of hydro power at an estimated cost of 5723.72 crore rupees.  The decision demonstrates government’s commitment to promote clean and green energy in India and the sub-continent.

The National Biodiversity Congress (NBC) 2017 was held in Thiruvananthapuram, capital of Kerala. The event is hosted by the Kerala State Biodiversity Board.  NBC is one of the significant biodiversity mega events of the country. It aims to identify practical, evidence-based case studies at the regional level to support the plan of action.  The focal theme of 2017 NBC was “Mainstreaming Biodiversity for Sustainable Development”. This edition of the event had organised array of programmes including exhibition, conference, capacity building workshops and Children’s Biodiversity Congress.  National Biodiversity Conference, governed by a national advisory committee comprising biodiversity conservation experts was also held.  Number of experts in field of biodiversity conservation had delivered keynote address and plenary lectures on variety of key issues related to biodiversity conservation, sustainable utilisation and benefit sharing.  Members of academic and research institutions, civil society, biodiversity management committees, NGOs, farmers, students, corporates also participated in the event.

Scientists have discovered four new species of miniature night frogs no bigger than a human thumbnail in Western Ghats, a global biodiversity hotspot. These species were discovered among the seven new ‘Night Frogs’ by a team of researchers from the University of Delhi and Kerala Forest Department. Four new species of miniature night frogs are (i) Athirappilly Night Frog: It was discovered close to the Athirappilly waterfalls. (ii) Sabarimala Night Frog: It was discovered near the Sabarimala hill shrine.  (iii) The Radcliffe’s Night frog and (iv) Kadalar Night Frog: They were reported from plantation areas. Night Frogs belong to the Nyctibatrachus genus, endemic to the Western Ghats. They make a distinctive chirping sound comparable to that of a cricket. These tiny amphibians are present in abundance in the region but were overlooked in the past because of their extremely small size, secretive habitats and insect-like calls.  They were confirmed as the new species with the help of integrated taxonomic approach that included DNA studies, detailed bioacoustics and morphological comparisons.  Threats: Over 32% of the frog species in the Western Ghats are threatened with extinction. Out of the seven new species, 5 face considerable anthropogenic extinction threats and require immediate conservation. Ancient Group:  Night Frogs represent an ancient group of frogs that diversified on the Indian landmass approximately 70 to 80 million years ago.  Total Nyctibatrachus species: This discovery has taken the total number of known Nyctibatrachus species to 35, of which 20% are less than 18 mm in size (i.e. they are diminutive).  As many as 103 new amphibian species were discovered from biodiversity rich Western Ghats region between 2006 and 2015.

The Union Government has launched Bharat QR code, a quick response (QR) code to enable digital payments without card swiping machines. It is world’s first interoperable payment acceptance solution launched by Indian Government to move towards less-cash economy. Bharat QR code has been developed by jointly by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), Visa, MasterCard and American Express under instructions from Reserve Bank of India (RBI).  It works as common interface for the MasterCard/Visa/RuPay platforms and also facilitate acceptance of Aadhaar-enabled payments and Unified Payments Interface (UPI). It enables person to make payments to retailers without using the merchant’s ID or number. It eliminated need of using card swiping machines making digital payments.  Using, BharatQR code merchants will be required to only display one QR code instead of multiple ones. Users can make payment by scanning the code.  BharatQR code is of two types static and dynamic. In static QR code, first code need to be scanned and then amount is entered to make payment. In case of dynamic QR code, new QR code will be generated in real time for every transaction. In this case there is no need to enter the amount. The payment is just made by scanning and entering the PIN. QR code (Quick Response code) is a two-dimensional (matrix) machine-readable bar code made up of black and white square. This code can be read by the camera of a smartphone.  It is used for storing URLs or other information that link directly to text, emails websites phone numbers. It is capable of 360 degrees (omni-directional), high speed reading.  QR Code can store up to 7089 digits as compared to conventional bar codes which can store max 20 digits.  It encodes same amount of data in one-tenth the space of a traditional bar code. It carries information both horizontally and vertically. It has error correction capability and data stored in it can be restored even if it is partially damaged or dirty.

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