Today Current Affairs 25th February 2017

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TR Zeliang, the former Chief Minister of Nagaland, was appointed as the finance advisor to the state government on 25 February 2017. He was appointed as the finance advisor in the rank of a Cabinet Minister. An official releases said, ‘Zeliang, appointed by the Governor PB Acharya, will receive the pay and allowances and all other facilities admissible to a cabinet minister’. Zeliang has resigned from the chief ministership on 19 February 2017. He resigned from the post on the protest and demand of the Joint Coordination Committee and Nagaland Tribal Action Committee. His resignation was demanded his decision to hold elections to urban bodies with 33 per cent reservation for women. TR Zeliang : From 2014 to February 2017, he had served Nagaland as its Chief Minister. Born on 21 February 1952, Zeliang is a political leader of Nagaland People's Front.  He resigned from the office of chief minister of the state in the backdrop of protests in the state. Earlier, he had served India as a Member of Parliament. In Parliament, he represented his state in the Rajya Sabha.

India and Bangladesh on 24 February 2017 signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to provide financial assistance to Bangladesh for sustainable development of Sylhet, a north-eastern Bangladeshi city. Under the MoU three development projects will be taken up in Sylhet. These projects will be developed at an expense of around Taka 240 million. Projects for which financial aid will be provided under the tripartite agreement are India will provide financial aid for construction of a five-storey Kinder Garten and High School BuildingFinancial aid will be provided for construction of a six-storey cleaner colony building  Financial aid will be provided for some development work in Dhupa Dighirpar area The tripartite agreement was signed in Sylhet by Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla and Bangladesh's Economic Relations Division Additional Secretary Shah Md. Aminul Haque and Sylhet City Corporation CEO Enamul Habib. The signing was the follow-up of an earlier MoU which was signed between India and Bangladesh in April 2013 for the implementation of sustainable development projects in socio-economic sectors of Bangladesh. Sylhet : Sylhet also known as Jalalabad is a metropolitan city in northeastern Bangladesh. It is the administrative seat of Sylhet Division and one of the most important spiritual and cultural centers of Bangladesh. The city is located on the right bank of the Surma River in northeastern Bengal. It has a subtropical climate and lush highland terrain.  The city has a population of more than 479837 residents.  After Dhaka and Chittagong, Sylhet is one of the most important cities of Bangladesh. The city's dargahs or burial sites of Muslim saints have helped the city to win a status of tourist destination within and outside the country. Earlier, Sylhet was a part of the former Assam province of India and was a focal point for 1971 Liberation War. Besides, being an ancient city and a historically vibrant city, the city has been a hub of commercial activities. Besides, the Union Government will also carry out similar development projects for Rajshahi. The project will be carried at an expense of Taka 210 million. A MoU was recently signed in Rajshahi in this regard.  

Former Sri Lankan cricketer Kumar Sangakkara created record on February 23, 2017 to become the 16th player worldwide and 2nd Asian Batsman to play 1000 matches acrossall forms of Cricket. The only Asian to become the first to achieve the feat was former Sri Lankan player Mahela Jayawardene. Currently Sangakkara is leading the Karachi Kings in the ongoing second edition of the Pakistan Super League. The player made the record while playing against the Quetta Gladiators. Though Kumar Sangakkara retired from the international cricket over a year ago, he continues to play his trade in different T20 leagues around the world. Of the 1,000 matches played by Sangakkara, 587 has been played for the Sri Lankan team.

 In a first of its kind development of a cross-border zip line in the world, a an international zip line named as Limite Zero has been created to connect Spain and Portugal. The 2,362-foot-long zipline will connect Sanlucar de Guadiana, in Andalucia, Spain, to Alcoutim, in Algarve, Portugal whose time zone is an hour behind than that of Spain. The zipline crosses Guadiana River at 50 feet above sea level to connect the villages in two countries which are separated by the 150 metres wide river. The project undertaken by Englishman David Jarman will enable the thrill seekers to reach the place in less than a minute with a speed of about 50kmph by flying through the air plus without the need for a passport.

Indian film actress, producer, former model Shilpa Shetty was roped as the Brand Ambassador for cleanliness initiative Swachh Bharat Mission by the central government. It was announced by Urban Development Ministry Joint Secretary and director of Swachh Bharat Mission (Urban) Praveen Prakash. Swachh Bharat Mission is to make India open defecation free by 2019. Shilpa will feature in TV and radio campaigns aimed at discouraging people from littering on roads.  

Virendra Sharma, an Indian-origin British MP was conferred with the first Dr Stya Paul Memorial Award on February 22, 2017 for his outstanding contribution to India-UK ties. The Labour party MP from Ealing Southall received the award at the third annual Indo-UK Thought Leadership Awards in London  from NRI industrialist Lord Swraj Paul, the younger brother of Indian educationist Dr Stya Paul. Besides, Rajesh Agrawal, an Indian-origin Deputy Mayor for Business in London received the Global Icon Award for 2017. The event was organised by Great Place to Study (GPTS) Research Institute which is an international auditing firm for Indian colleges jointly with UK-based consultancy Sterling Media. The event is held annually to celebrate achievements in the field of education and economic development.  

Rajasthan Governor Kalyan Singh announced on February 23, 2017 that Rajasthan has become the second largest crude oil producer in India. The oilfields in the state were producing nearly 90 lakh tones oil annually which accounted for 24 percent of the total domestic crude oil production. On the other hand, the Bombay High, an offshore oilfield of Mumbai is the largest producer of crude oil in India which accounts for half of the domestic oil production.

The Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) signed a 375-million-dollar loans and grants on February 23, 2017 in New Delhi to develop 800-km Visakhapatnam-Chennai Industrial Corridor. The project is the first phase of a planned 2,500–kilometer long East Coast Economic Corridor (ECEC) having total cost of 846 million dollars. The MoU was signed between LB Sondjaja, Deputy Country Director of ADB’s India Resident Mission on behalf of ADB and Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions), in the Ministry of Finance, on behalf of Government of India. The Corridor will enhance development in eastern coast in line with the government’s ‘Make in India’ policy to boost manufacturing by attracting foreign investment and facilitating the establishment of manufacturing hubs The project involves creation of efficient transport and reliable water and power supplies in the industrial clusters, skilled workforce with industry-friendly policies to improve ease of doing business for integration of local economy with global production networks. Besides, an agreement was also signed for a five million dollars grant from the multi-donor Urban Climate Change Resilience Trust Fund that is managed by ADB to build climate change resilient infrastructure.

 The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for AYUSH, Shripad Yesso Naik inaugurated the World Integrated Medicine Forum on Regulation of Homeopathic Medicinal Products: National and Global strategies in New Delhi on February 23, 2017. The two day event that concluded on February 24, 2017 was organized by Ministry of AYUSH and Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH) and supported by Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine & Homeopathy (PCIMH) & Central DrugsStandard Control Organization (CDSCO). The first-of-its-kind forum is expected to increase the perception of the international world towards India as a key player in the progress of the homeopathy drug industry. Drug lawmakers, regulators, manufacturers and pharmacopeial experts from various regulatory authorities, eminent scientific organisations and pharmaceutical industries from 25 countries participated in the event. Besides, an MoU was also signed between Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia Convention of the United States (HPCUS) and Indian bodies including Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine & Homoeopathy (PCIM&H) and Central Council for Research in Homeopathy (CCRH) on cooperation in the field of Homeopathic Medicine. During the event the major points of discussion included issues like current regulatory status in different countries, practices and possible trade opportunities in key countries worldwide, possible solutions to regulatory challenges among others.

The first of its type festival, the National Folk Festival of Kerala (NFFK 2017) has been organized in Kerala starting from February 24, 2017 to be held for three days in three different locations in the capital city Thiruvananthapuram. The NFFK 2017 has been organised by the state Youth Welfare Board, in association with Bharat Bhavan and the Vyloppilli Samskrithi Bhavan. The event will see over 500 artists showcasing the centuries old folklore culture and tradition of the country through different art forms. Some of the major performances may feature artists from Kashmir to showcase dance and music programmes, performance by noted Bengal folk music band ‘Sahajiya. Performance from Punjab to show dances like Bhangra, Giddha and Jago while those from Rajasthan would showcase ‘Kalbelia’. The performances of artists from Jaisalmer as well as artists of Kerala would showcase the state’s traditional art forms including ‘Theyyam’.

India’s first Gramin Khel Mahotsav will be held in New Delhi from 25th to 31st March 2017. The games will be held in five sports disciplines Athletics, Volley Ball, Wrestling, Kabaddi and Kho-Kho.  This festival will help participation of rural youth in large numbers in popular sports and encourage them to achieve excellence and adopt healthy life style.  These games are intended to act as a catalyst to promote sports in rural areas across the country and will be replicated in other States/UTs as well.

Pakistan army has launched nationwide military operation named ‘Radd-ul-Fasaad’ to eliminate menace of terrorism and consolidate gains of its counter-terrorism operations.  The operation aims include the elimination of the residual and latent threat of terrorism, consolidating gains of operations made so far and ensuring the security of Pakistan’s borders.  Pakistan Air Force, Civil Armed Forces, Pakistan Navy as well as other security and law enforcement agencies will actively participate and support the efforts of the Pakistan Army.  It will also conduct broad spectrum security and counter-terrorism operations in continuation of ongoing operations across the country and focus on more effective border security management.

Global payments network Visa has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Andhra Pradesh Government to transform Vishakhapatnam into India’s first ‘less cash’ city.  Under this agreement, an initiative has been designed to provide foundation for the city to emerge as India’s ‘Fintech Valley’.  To achieve the goal, Visa will focus on driving payments digitisation and help to build the talent pool required in city organisations and in academia on emerging technologies like blockchain.  It will also provide support to FinTech start-ups by providing access to Visa’s APIs by providing subject matter expertise and participating in boot camps and hackathons.

Andhra Pradesh Government has signed a MoU with technology giant Microsoft to utilise Microsoft Azure Stack for its state data centre.  Under the MoU, Microsoft Azure Stack will be used to migrate live applications currently hosted in Hyderabad State Data Centre (SDC) to Vishakhapatnam (Vizag) data centre.  The Microsoft has tested its Azure Stack in its lab but it has not yet been physically delivered or commercially used anywhere in the world.  This will be for the first time in the world, Microsoft doing proof of concept (POC) with Government of Andhra Pradesh to prove capability of Azure Stack.  

India and UK had held detailed deliberations on the legal processes and procedures on Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance held in New Delhi.  Both sides have agreed to further strengthen their legal cooperation and expedite the pending requests.  They also agreed to review further progress in these cases every six month through video conference. The meeting was held pursuant to the decision taken during the official visit of British Prime Minister in November 2016 to India. T he decision was taken to expedite pending requests so that fugitives and criminals are not able to escape the law.

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved a deal to jointly develop a medium range surface-to-air missile (MR-SAM) system for Army with help of Israel.  The deal will be executed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI). The approved deal is for five regiments of the MR-SAM system, which consists of 40 units and 200 missiles. It has a range of 50-70 km. The system will be based on the older Barak system of Israel, which is in use in India. It will be manufactured in India and will have an 80% indigenous content. Under this deal, the DRDO will play a crucial role in developing the target homing system.  Deliveries of the system will begin in 2023. The MR-SAM system will be the latest in a series of other variants of SAM systems used by the Navy and the Air Force which is jointly developed by India and Israel. India and Israel are also in an advanced stage of negotiations for the purchase of two more long-range Phalcon AWACS.  The CCS already has approved the deal for additional AWACS in 2016. India currently operates three Phalcon AWACS Israeli radars mounted on Russian IL-76 transport aircraft, under a $1-billion tripartite deal with Russia, signed in 2003. India already has ordered two IL-76 aircraft from Russia to be converted to AWACS.

The Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) in Goods of World Trade Organisation (WTO) came into effect with its ratification by two-thirds members of WTO including India. The TFA in Goods was adopted by the WTO Members in 2014. It aims to streamline, simplify, standardise and ease customs procedures and norms. It will help to cut trade costs around the world. Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) The TFA in Goods is the WTO’s first-ever multilateral accord that aims to simplify customs regulations for the cross-border movement of goods. It was outcome of WTO’s 9th Bali (Indonesia) ministerial package of 2013. The agreement includes provisions for Lowering import tariffs and agricultural subsidies : It will make it easier for developing countries to trade with the developed world in global markets. Abolish hard import quotas: Developed countries would abolish hard import quotas on agricultural products from the developing world and instead would only be allowed to charge tariffs on amount of agricultural imports exceeding specific limits. Reduction in red tape at international borders: It aims to reduce red-tapism to facilitate trade by reforming customs bureaucracies and formalities. Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) :  Agreement Recently, India submitted a legally vetted proposal on Trade Facilitation in Services (TFS) Agreement, a global services pact on the lines of the TFA in Goods to the WTO. Now the proposal for TFS Agreement will be taken up by an expert committee at the WTO headquarters in Geneva and later it will be put up for discussion among all the WTO members. It aims to ease norms for movement of skilled workers across borders for short-term work, ensure portability of social security contributions, single window mechanism for foreign investment approvals and cross-border insurance coverage to boost medical tourism.  

The Union Ministry of Urban Development approved development of 6 km long Bet Dwarka Darshan Circuit in Gujarat under Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY). Decision in this regard, was taken HRIDAY National Empowered Committee meeting chaired by Urban Development Secretary in New Delhi. The circuit will connect famous Dwarkadish Haveli and Hanuman Dandi (only temple housing Hanumanji and his son Makardhwaj) in Dwarka district of Gujarat at a cost of Rs. 16.27 crore. There are two important water bodies along the circuit viz., Shankhudhar Lake and Ranchod Talav. Under this project development works will be undertaken along the circuit. Heritage City Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY)   : The HRIDAY scheme was launched in January, 2015 with a focus on holistic development of heritage cities. The scheme aims to preserve and revitalise soul of the heritage cities across the country to reflect their unique character by encouraging aesthetically appealing, accessible, informative & secured environment.  It supports development of core heritage infrastructure projects that include revitalization of urban infrastructure for areas around heritage assets identified/approved by Ministry of Culture, state Governments.  The development initiatives covered it includes improvement of water supply, sanitation, drainage, waste management, footpaths, approach roads, street lights, electricity wiring, tourist conveniences, landscaping and such citizen services. Since its launch, the scheme has been implemented in 12 identified heritage cities namely, Ajmer, Amaravati, Amritsar, Dwarka, Badami, Gaya, Mathura, Puri, Kanchipuram, Varanasi, Velankanni and Warangal.

The Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) on 23 February 2017 launched a mobile application for Goods and Services Tax (GST). The app will inform the taxpayers of the latest updates on GST among others. The mobile application for GST was launched in-line to the Union Government’s Digital India Initiative. The application will provide latest updates on GST to the taxpayers. The application will help taxpayers to access certain information related to the GST like  Migration to GST-Approach and guidelines for migration  Draft Law-Model GST Law, GST Compensation and Law IGST Law Draft Rules-Rules related to Registration, Payment, Returns, Refund and Invoice Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on GST Various resources on GST like videos and articles among others Links related to website as well as email and helpdesk contacts At present, the application is available for the android platforms. The iOS version of the application will be launched soon. Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) CBEC is a part of the Department of Revenue under the Union Ministry of Finance. The nodal national agency is responsible for administering The tasks of formulation of policy concerning levy Collection of Customs & Central Excise duties and Service Tax Prevention of smuggling and administration of matters relating to Customs, Central Excise, Service Tax and Narcotics It is the administrative authority for its subordinate organisations, including Custom Houses, Central Excise and Service Tax Commissionerates and the Central Revenues Control Laboratory. Goods and Services Tax (GST) : The Constitution (One Hundred and First Amendment) (GST) Act 2016 passed by both houses of the Parliament and approved by President Pranab Mukherjee is a proposed system of indirect taxation of India. It will be created by merging most of the existing taxes (central and state taxes) into a single system of taxation. The proposed bill is being looked out by the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council who will decide the tax rate, cess and surcharges. The council being headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will comprise of state Finance Ministers.