Today Current Affairs 3rd February 2017

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Tech giant Apple has reached an agreement with the Karnataka government to set up a manufacturing plant in Bengaluru, Karnataka. "Apple’s decision on initial manufacturing in Bengaluru has further enhanced the reputation of Bengaluru as the most preferred destination for foreign investment," the Karnataka government said.  Apple is reportedly expected to start production for the Indian market in April.

India witnessed the highest growth of 23.3 per cent in domestic air travel demand worldwide in 2016 twice that of neighbouring China, according to IATA.  India witnessed the highest growth of 23.3 per cent in domestic air travel demand worldwide in 2016 twice that of neighbouring China, according to IATA.  Domestic air travel rose 5.7 per cent in 2016. Capacity rose 5.1 per cent and load factor was 82.2 per cent, up 0.5 percentage points over 2015 . All major markets except Brazil showed growth, but India and China, with RPK expansion of 23.3 per cent and 11.7 per cent, respectively, were the stand-out performers . Both India and China have been underpinned by additional routes and increasing flight frequencies, the grouping said, while adding that the latter is likely to continue this year.  Globally, passenger traffic demand grew 6.3 per cent last year -- much higher than the ten-year average annual growth rate of 5.5 per cent.  International passenger traffic alone rose 6.7 per cent in 2016.  Air travel was a good news story in 2016. Connectivity increased with the establishment of more than 700 new routes. And a $ 44 fall in average return fares helped to make air travel even more accessible.  As a result, a record 3.7 billion passengers flew safely to their destination. Demand for air travel is still expanding   

China has successfully tested a new version of a DF-5C missile that can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads in January 2017.  The flight test of the missile was carried using 10 multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, (MIRVs), from the Taiyuan Space Launch Centre in Shanxi province and to an impact range in the western Taklamakan desert. The Dongfeng 5 (DF-5) is a three stage Chinese intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). It has a length of 32.6 m and a diameter of 3.35 m.  It weighs in at 183,000 kilograms. It has an estimated range of 12,000 to 15,000 kilometers. It is primarily designed for nuclear weapons delivery. The DF-5’s first flight was conduected in 1971 and was in operational service 10 years later.  This missile’s development is considered as response to development of US’s ballistic missile defence system. This development indicates shift in China’s nuclear deterrence policy to modify older its arsenal of rockets with new MIRV busses. It means that China intends to increase the number of nuclear warheads it possesses. It is currently estimated to have about 250.

The World Wetland Day (WWD) is observed every year on 2 February to raise awareness about the value of wetlands for humanity and the planet.  This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands also called as Ramsar Convention on 2 February 1971 in the Iranian city of Ramsar. 2017 Theme: “Wetlands for Disaster Risk Reduction”.  It seeks to raise awareness and to highlight the vital role of healthy wetlands in reducing the impacts of extreme events such as floods, cyclones and drought on communities, and in helping to build resilience. Mangrove forests along tropical coastlines and in salt water environments are an important category of wetlands. They are a critical component of marine ecosystems, as they serve as nursery grounds for many aquatic species, including commercially important fish species.  Mangroves also serve as excellent buffer zones between coastal lands and open ocean as they reduce the impacts of storms and keep coastal erosion under control. Mangrove forests also had reduced the impact of the 2004 Southeast Asian tsunami. These rich mangroves ecosystems are threatened mostly by conversion into agriculture and aquaculture (shrimp farms), urban and resort development and rising sea levels. For first time, World Wetland Day was celebrated in year 1997. Since then it is observed every year to spread awareness about Ramsar Convention in particular for conservation of Wetlands.  The theme for the world wetland day 2016 was “Wetlands for our Future – Sustainable Livelihoods”.

The Union Health Ministry has notified new rules for medical devices to remove regulatory bottlenecks and ensure availability of medical devices for patients. Under the new rules, manufactures will not be required to renew licenses periodically and submission of applications and grant of licenses will be done online. The new rules have been framed in conformity with Global Harmonisation Task Force (GHTF) framework and conform to best international practices. Under it, medical devices are classified as per GHTF practice, based on associated risks, into Class A (low risk), Class B (low moderate risk), Class C (moderate high risk) and Class D (high risk).  The new rules seek to remove regulatory bottlenecks to make in India, facilitate ease of doing business and also ensure availability of better medical devices for patients’ care and safety.  It also seeks to evolve a culture of self-compliance by medical devices manufacturers. Under it, manufacturing licences for Class A medical devices will be granted without prior audit of manufacturing site. Under the new rules, there will be no requirement of periodic renewal of licences and manufacturing and import licences will remain valid till these are suspended, cancelled or surrendered. Further, the entire process, starting from submission of application to grant of licence will be processed online.  Besides, timelines also have been defined for most activities at the regulators end. The manufacturers of medical devices will be required to meet risk proportionate regulatory requirements specified in the rules. System of ‘Third Party Conformity Assessment and Certification’ through Notified Bodies is envisaged to bring in the highest degree of professionalism in regulation of medical devices. These bodies will undertake verification and assessment of Quality Management System of Medical Device Manufacturers of Class A and Class B category and also Class C and D medical devices.

Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget Speech 2017-18 announced corpus of Rs 500 crore for setting up Mahila Shakti Kendras in the 14 lakh ICDS Anganwadi Centres at village level.  These kendras will provide one stop convergent support services for empowering rural women with opportunities for skill development, employment, health, nutrition and digital literacy. The budget allocation for the welfare of Women and Children under various schemes across all the Ministries the has been increased from Rs. 1,56,528 crores in 2016-17 to Rs. 1,84,632 crores in 2017-18.  It includes allocation of Rs 2700 crore for Maternity Benefit Programme under which Rs. 6000 each will be transferred directly to bank accounts of pregnant women undergoing institutional delivery and vaccinate their children. 16745 crore has been allocated for the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme.  The allocation for flagship Beti Bachao Beti Padhao scheme has also been doubled to Rs 200 crore. Allocation for the Child Protection Scheme also has seen a substantially increased to Rs. 648 crore as compared to Rs 397 crore in 2106-17.

The Union Government has announced two measures in the Budget 2017-18 to bring in greater transparency in funding of political parties. These include capping cash funding by a single anonymous donor to Rs. 2000 (one tenth of the current limit of Rs 20,000) and introduction of the electoral bonds. It will take effect from 1 April, 2018. The finance bill lays out the way ahead for capping cash funding and sale of electoral bonds by proposing amendments in the section 13A of the Income-Tax Act, 1961 and to Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934. The amendment to I-T Act will provide political party exemption if the donation not exceeding Rs. 2,000 is received through instruments such as cheque, draft, electronic clearing system or electoral bond. The amendment of RBI Act will facilitate introduction of electoral bonds.  These bonds will be instrument to donate money to political parties and the RBI will acts as the intermediary. Donors can purchase bonds only through cheque or digital mode, helping to track record of the source of the purchase.  These bonds shall be redeemable only in the designated account of a registered political party and within the prescribed time limit from issuance of bond. The bond bearer’s identity will be unlikely revealed in the books of the political party and the recipient party will also remain unknown.

The three-day Visakha Utsav was inaugurated by M. Venkaiah Naidu, the Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting and Urban Development, in Visakhapatnam on 3 February 2017. The state festival, comprising various cultural events is being held at the port city’s Rama Krishna Beach. The kick-off day saw in attendance various notable figures from the state ministry such as the HRD Minister Ganta Srinivasa Rao, Health Minister Kamineni Srinivas, Zilla Parishad Chairperson Lalam Bhavani and MLAs V. Anita, Vasupalli Ganesh Kumar, Palla Srinvasa Rao and P. Vishnu Kumar Raju. Highlights : Visakha Utsav is an annual festival that aims to bring out the rich culture and tradition of Andhra Pradesh.Its main objective is to promote the brand image of Visakhapatnam. It includes a cultural event called ‘Utsav Vedika’, which aims to revive the state’s art forms. Officials from various departments had been working as a team since the past three days to celebrate the festival. The inauguration was followed by a folk dance by Lambadi women from Warangal. After the presentation of a theme-based song, a dance ballet choreographed by popular Kuchipudi dancer Bala Kondala Rao was staged. This was followed by a cultural extravaganza. Besides this, the event will also see performances by many popular personalities including Shibani Kashyap, Baba Sehgal and Devi Sri Prasad. Other main highlights of the festival include replicas of temples, adventure sports, kite festival, beach volleyball and a grand flower show. The festival is expected to witness heavy footfall, not only from within the city but from the entire state and outside as well. Following are some of the arrangements made by the state authorities to ensure the smooth functioning of the event: The Andhra Pradesh State Road Transport Corporation (APSRTC) has made arrangements for bus services to and from the beach to several places in order to make commuting easy for the visitors. The places include Pendurthi, Gajuwaka, Chodavaram, Tagarapuvalasa, Sabbavaram, Anakapalle, Bheemili, Kothavalsa and Simhachalam. While the bus services from these places to the beach will start at 3 pm, the return service will start operating from 7 pm.Almost 75 buses have been allotted for the event. The last bus from the beach will operate at 10 pm. The state has also deployed a special staff to assist passengers and control traffic at the beach. Apart from this, the Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation Limited will be operating a stall at the Beach to enable booking of rooms at APTDC hotels from the beach itself with a 30 per cent discount.  

The Centre of Integrative Oncology is going to be inaugurated on 3 February 2017 at the National Institute of Cancer Prevention and Research (NICPR), Noida. The institute will be dedicated to building collaboration in areas related to cancer research, care and prevention. The inauguration of the centre would be carried out by Saumya Swaminathan, the Secretary of Department of Health Research (Ministry of Health & Family Welfare) & Director General of Indian Council for Medical Research and Ajit M. Sharan, the Secretary of Ministry of AYUSH. Besides them, Ravi Mehrotra, Director of NICPR-Indian Council for Medical Research and Abhimanyu Kumar, Director of All India Institute of Ayurveda would also be present at the ceremony. The memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the centre’s construction was signed on 19 October 2016. Objectives of the Centre : To build collaborations in the areas of cancer prevention, research and care. It will carry forward the ongoing bilateral dialogues and facilitate collaboration with stake holders including national and international ones such as National Cancer Institute, USA. It would be the clearing house for information for cancer research and management projects initiated by Ministry of AYUSH. It would also be offering 5 post-doctoral and 5 Senior Research Fellowships each year to deserving candidates to assist and encourage quality research on cancer in the country. The fellowship program would be launched at the inauguration ceremony. The Centre’s creation is an outcome of the discussions held during the Indo-US Workshop on 3-4th March 2016, which was organized by Ministry of AYUSH. The workshop saw in attendance US delegates from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), National Institute of Health and National Cancer Institute, who along with eminent cancer research experts from India laid out a plan for future collaborations.

India is invited as the Guest country for the upcoming 2017 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum which was scheduled to be held from June 1 to 3, 2017 Prime Minister Narendra Modi will attend the St Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF). India & Russia are working on the “bilateral aspect” during Modi’s visit o Russia The SPIEF is an international economics and business event held annually with the participation of the President of the Russian Federation

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sanctioned proposal for building of 3,000 new settlements in the territory of the West Bank in addition to the recently approved 2,500 units.  Earlier in January 2017, Israeli authorities had approved the construction of 2,500 housing units in the occupied West Bank despite December 2016 UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution calling on Israel to immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.  UN considers these settlements as illegal, and according to International Court of Justice, the West Bank territory is occupied territory. The West Bank has been occupied by Israel since 1967.  

Tesla Motor Inc. and Southern California Edison have jointly launched World’s largest energy storage facilities on January 30, 2017 at the utility’s Mira Loma substation in Ontario, California. The facility was unveiled as part of the massive deployment of grid-connected batteries agreement made between the two companies in September 2016. The facility would reduce dependence on fossil fuels for generating energy and take advantage of wind and sun to deliver clean energy to power homes, businesses among other things. It is the largest lithium-ion battery storage project in the world consisting of 396 stacks of Tesla Powerpack units spread across 1.5 acres. Each unit is fitted with 16,000 lithium-ion battery cells. The battery can store upto 80 megawatt hours to power 2,500 homes for a day or 15,000 homes for four hours. The batteries charge up when there is more renewable energy than demand, ultimately allowing customers to use clean energy during peak hours. The new facility would reduce the reliance on gas speaker plants, prevent electricity shortages, provide energy security and reduce greenhouse gases.

Union Minister for Information & Broadcasting M Venkaiah Naidu was inaugurated the Digital Radio or All Round Table Conference in New Delhi on January 31, 2017 Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) and Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (BECIL) To stimulate the interests of the key Indian stakeholders in the public phase launch of the project to digitise radio in India, following the successful installation of DRM digital radio transmitters by All India Radio (AIR).

Gurgaon based airline, SpiceJet made record by winning awards in three prime categories at the Asia One Awards held in Singapore. The low-cost airline was honoured as the ‘Asia’s Greatest Brands – 2016’ at the function. The selection process was supervised by PricewaterhouseCoopers. Among others, Chairman and Managing Director of SpiceJet, Mr. Ajay Singh, was honored with the title of the ‘Global Asian of the year’, 2016. The Chief Financial Officer Mr. Kiran Koteshwar won the award for ‘Asia’s Greatest CFO 2016’. Earlier, SpiceJet launched a first if its kind initiative of smart check-in facility using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) and NFC (Near Field Communication) technologies for which it won international recognition by Future Travel Experience global awards in Las Vegas with the ‘Best Check- in Initiative’ award.

Aiming to enhance quality and improve efficiency of the Engineering Education System, a Financing Agreement for IDA credit of USD 201.50 Million was signed with World Bank for the 'Third Technical Education Quality Improvement Programme' (TEQIP III)  The Agreement was signed by Raj Kumar, Joint Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, on behalf of the Government of India and Junaid Kamal Ahmad, Country Director, World Bank (India) on behalf of World Bank. The objective of the agreement is to improve the Engineering Education sector in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, along with eight North Eastern States and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The project has been designed as a disbursement linked one to the effect that the loan will be handed over only on completion of certain fixed outcomes. The closing date of TEQIP III is March 31, 2022.

National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) on February 2, 2017 sanctioned a loan amount of Rs. 157 crore to the Government of Haryana to undertake drinking water project. Under the project, the government would undertake drinking water supply scheme in 84 villages of districts Palwal and Faridabad. As per the project, portable drinking water would be supplied in selected villages in blocks Prithla, Palwal and Ballabhgarh from Yamuna flood plain by constructing ranney wells and deep tubewells. The project is likely to benefit 3,06,814 persons.  The loan amount has been sanctioned from the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF). Till date NABARD has provided Rs 5,794 crore assistance to Harayana government under RIDF since its inception in 1995-96.  

HSBC has estimated the GDP growth rate of India at 7.1 percent for the year 2017-18 which is up from the 6.3 percent in the year 2016-17. The main reason for this increase is cited to sufficient remonetization by April end, thus boosting the consumption level in the country to normal. Besides, the schemes announced in Budget 2017-18 are also seen to play major role in the growth rate. Besides, the investment is projected to remain weak within a range of 7.5-8 percent.

India and Sri Lanka has signed an MoU on February 2, 2017 for the construction of a multi-ethnic tri-lingual school in a north central district of the island nation. The school would provide an opportunity to Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim students to learn in a multi-cultural environment and thus promote reconciliation and unity in Sri Lanka. The MoU was signed between India’s High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu and Secretary to the Ministry of Education Sunil Hettiarachchi. The Indian Government would provide a grant of SLR 300 million for the island school to be constructed in Polonnaruwa district. Under the project class rooms, laboratories and library would be constructed as well as furniture and other equipment would be procured.

The Indian Policy Think Tank, NITI Aayog together with Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (DIPP) and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) has launched a first of its kind online portal, India Innovation Index in India to rank the states on the basis of innovation. The Index has been developed by the Indian sides in consultation with the World Economic Forum, the World Intellectual Property Organization, Cornell University, OECD, UNIDO, ILO, UNESCO, ITU and others. The portal was inaugurated by Mr Amitabh Kant, CEO NITI Aayog on February 2, 2017 in New Delhi. The Index would rank Indian states as per their innovation capability and provide them necessary feedback to build their respective innovation ecosystems and further instill innovation spirit among institutions and people. The index would consider Global Innovation Index indicators and other India–centric data from various states to determine the ranking which will be updated periodically. These would enable the international agencies to collect India’s up to date data points for ranking global indices.  

To augment income of farmers budget has proposed setting-up of a Dairy Processing and Infrastructure Development Fund with a corpus of Rs 8,000 crores over three years. Dairy is an important source of additional income for the farmers. A Dairy Processing and Infrastructure Development Fund would be set-up in NABARD with a corpus of Rs 8,000 crores over 3 years stated Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his budget speech, 2017.  

India's Lakshya Sen has become the World No 1 Junior Badminton player. He achieved the distinction in the latest rankings of the Badminton World Federation (BWF).  Fifteen-year-old is the first shuttler from Uttarakhand to attain the numero uno spot at the international level.  Lakshya, who is considered as the shining future star of Indian badminton, moved ahead of Chia Hao Lee of the Chinese Taipei, to attain the top spot.  According to BWF current rankings, Lakshya has 16,903 points in eight tournaments he has played in the season. Chia Hao, who is at the second spot, has 16,091 points.

The Union Budget 2017-18 has announced that Government will set up five Special Tourism Zones in partnership with States.  These five special zones will be anchored as Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) that will be set up in partnership with the States. In this budget, government has allocated Rs. 1,840.77 crore to the Tourism Ministry, Rs. 250 crore more in the 2017-18 fiscal. To boost the image of India in the international travel market Incredible India 2.0 Campaign will be unveiled across the world the financial year 2017-18. 959.91 crore has been allocated for the Integrated Development of Tourist Circuits around specific themes under Swadesh Darshan scheme. 100 crore has been allocated for Pilgrimage Rejuvenation and Spiritual Augmentation Drive (PRASAD).  Rs. 412 crore provided for promotion and publicity of various programmes and schemes. Besides, Government has asked the Railways to start dedicated trains for tourism and pilgrimage purposes. Swadesh Darshan Scheme: Under it, 13 thematic circuits have been identified for development, namely North-East India Circuit, Buddhist Circuit, Himalayan Circuit, Coastal Circuit, Krishna Circuit, Desert Circuit, Tribal Circuit, Eco Circuit, Wildlife Circuit, Rural Circuit, Spiritual Circuit, Ramayana Circuit and Heritage Circuit. PRASAD Scheme: Under it, 13 cities Ajmer, Amritsar, Amravati, Dwarka, Gaya, Kamakhaya, Kancheepuram, Kedarnath, Mathura, Patna, Puri, Varanasi and Velankanni have been identified for development.

Scientists have confirmed the existence of a “lost continent” under the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius. It is left over by the break-up of the super-continent Gondwana, which started about 200 million years ago.  The discovery was based on study of Zircon, a mineral found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions which is too old to belong to Mauritius. The lost continent is just a small piece of island that probably broke of when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean. The scientists found zircons on the island of Mauritius that are three billion years old.  These remnants are too old to belong to Mauritius as it has no rock older than nine million years old. The piece of crust of lost continent was subsequently covered by young lava during volcanic eruptions.  There are many pieces of various sizes of undiscovered continent which are collectively called as Mauritius. Zircons are minerals that occur mainly in granite from the continents. They contain trace amounts of uranium, thorium and lead.  They can survive geological processes. They contain a rich record and can be dated extremely accurately.

Scientists from US and India have found that consumption of litchi fruit on an empty stomach can result in very low blood glucose level and acute encephalopathy leading to seizures and coma, and causes death in Children in many cases.  Litchi fruit contains the toxins hypoglycin A and methylenecyclopropyl-glycine (MCPG). Its consumption and skipping evening meals causes very low blood glucose level (less than normal 70 mg/dL) and acute encephalopathy in children. Outbreaks of high fever followed by seizures and death in young children were reported in poor socio-economic backgrounds in rural Muzaffarpur in Bihar and other litchi-growing regions in India due to consumption of unripe lychees on an empty stomach.  In 2014, fever and convulsions had killed 122 and hospitalised 390 children within three weeks in Muzaffarpur. All the sick children had eaten litchis without eating evening meal and had developed high fever, seizures and convulsions followed by coma before daybreak. Unripened litchi contains Hypoglycin A, naturally-occurring amino acid that causes severe vomiting (Jamaican vomiting sickness). MCPG is a poisonous compound found in litchi seeds that cause a sudden drop in blood sugar, vomiting, altered mental status with lethargy, unconsciousness, coma and death.  These toxins may block enzymes involved in normal glucose metabolism and result in an inability to synthesis glucose leading to acutely low level of blood sugar. The build-up of other metabolic by-products can also have an adverse effect (encephalopathy) on the child. Dextrose therapy (giving children sugar to normalize their rapidly plummeting blood glucose levels), minimising litchi consumption, eating evening meal throughout the outbreak period, implementing rapid glucose correction for suspected illness.

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for introduction of The Indian Institutes of Information Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2017 in Parliament. The amendment Bill has provision for the inclusion of Indian Institute of Information Technology Design and Manufacturing (IIITDM), Kurnool along with the other IITs in the Principal Act. With this, IIITDM Kurnool will become fifth Member as a Centrally Funded IIIT. IITDM Kurnool inclusions will make it an institute of National Importance with the power to award degrees to students. Its academic session had commenced in two branches of study in 2015-16. The expenditure for the operationalization of IITDM Kurnool is incurred from the Plan funds of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. The Indian Institutes of Information Technology Act, 2014 confers the status of Institutions of National Importance on the IIITs. It deals with matters connected with administering these IIITs. The Andhra Pradesh as embodied in the Andhra Pradesh Reorganization Act, 2014 had embodied creation of a new NIT at Kurnool in Andhra Pradesh. Subsequently, Government had approved its creation. Due to addition of a new IIIT, amendment has to be made in the IIIT Act, 2014.