Today Current Affairs 28th January 2017

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The Indian Navy’s Annual Theatre Readiness Operational Exercise (TROPEX) 2017 is being conducted off the Western Seaboard. The month long exercise will see participation of ships and aircraft of both the Western and Eastern Naval Command and also assets from the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and the Indian Coast Guard. TROPEX 17 exercise is aimed at testing combat readiness of the combined fleets of the Indian Navy, and the assets of the Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Coast Guard. It seeks to strengthen inter-operability and joint operations in a complex environment.  It assumes special significance in the backdrop of the current security scenario. TROPEX 17 exercise will be conducted in various phases, both in harbour and at sea encompassing the various facets of war-fighting and combat operations. It will see participation of major surface combatants and air assets of the Indian Navy including the aircraft carrier Vikramaditya, nuclear submarine Chakra, Landing Platform Dock (LPD) Jalashwa. It will also see participation of recently commissioned destroyer Chennai, the P-8I long range maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft. The assets of Indian Navy will operate alongside SU-30 MKI, Jaguars, AWACS, IL-78 Flight Refuelling Aircraft of the Indian Air Force and Infantry units of the Indian Army. The last edition of TROPEX exercise was conducted in January 2015 and since its launch it has grown in scale and complexity over the years.

The Union Finance Ministry has announced that the General Anti Avoidance Rule (GAAR) will be effective from the 1 April, 2017. In this regard Income Tax (IT) department has issued a slew of clarifications on implementation of GAAR, seeking to address concerns of foreign investors over implementation of the anti-evasion measure.  GAAR seeks to prevent companies from routing transactions through other countries to avoid taxes. The rules are framed mainly to minimize and check avoidance of tax.  India will be the 17th nation in the world to have laws that aim to close tax loopholes.  At present, GAAR is in force in nations like Australia, Singapore, China and the UK. GAAR seeks to give the IT department powers to scrutinize transactions structured in such a way as to deliberately avoid paying tax in India.  It will not be invoked in cases where investments are routed through tax treaties that have a sufficient limitation of benefit (LOB) clause to address tax avoidance. It should be noted that LOB clause in tax treaties generally requires investors to meet certain spending and employment criteria to avail the benefits of the treaty.  All transactions or arrangements approved by courts and quasi-judicial authorities like the authority for advance ruling and that specifically address the issue of tax avoidance will not be subject to the GAAR test. GAAR will not be applicable on compulsorily convertible instruments, bonus issuances or split/consolidation of holdings in respect of investments made prior to 1 April 2017 in the hands of the same investor.  In order to prevent misuse of GAAR provisions by the IT department, adequate safeguards also have been put in place based on which GAAR will be invoked. The proposal to apply GAAR first will be vetted by an officer at the level of the principal commissioner or commissioner of income tax and at the second stage by an approving panel headed by a high court judge. GAAR will not apply on foreign portfolio investor if its jurisdiction is based on non-tax commercial considerations and the main purpose is not to obtain tax benefits.  

President Pranab Mukherjee on 27 January 2017 appointed Banwarlal Purohit and P B Acharya as acting Governors of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh respectively. At present, Banwarlal Purohit is the Governor of Assam, while Padmanabha Balakrishna Acharya is the Governor of Nagaland. These appointments come in the backdrop of resignation of V Shanmuganathan as Governor of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. V Shanmuganathan resigned from the office on 27 January 2017 following a controversy, in which he was accused of sexual misconduct. V Shanmuganathan : V Shanmuganathan is a veteran Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) activist.He was sworn in as the Governor of Meghalaya in May 2015. He was given the additional charge of Governor of Arunachal Pradesh in September 2016 after J P Rajkhowa was removed from the position. Shanmuganathan also worked as the acting Governor of Manipur between September 2015 and August 2016.Born on 21 November 1949, he hails from the Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu. Banwarilal Purohit :  He was appointed as the Governor of Assam by the President Pranab Mukherjee in August 2016. He took charge from Padmanabha Acharya. Banwarilal Purohit was a Member of Parliament  for three times. He represented the Nagpur Lok Sabha constituency twice as an Indian National Congress member and once as a member of  Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). P B Acharya : He was appointed as the Governor of Nagaland on 14 July 2014 by the President of India under the Article 153 and Article 156 of the Constitution. He hails from Udupi district in  Karnataka. He is credited for planning University of Delhi's Gyanodaya Express to North East of India.  

Alexander Kadakin, Russian ambassador to India, passed away on 26 January 2017 following a brief illness. He was 67. Kadakin was one of the longest serving envoys as he had spent a significant part of his life working to promote Russia's ties with India. Alexander Kadakin : He held the position of Russian ambassador to India in New Delhi from November 2009, this was his second stint as ambassador to India.  He was also in India as Deputy Chief of Mission when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991 and at that time he became the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to India in 1999, an assignment he held for 12 years over two postings.  He began his diplomatic career in 1971 as a Third Secretary at the Russian Embassy in India and since then, he had been closely associated with promoting Russian-Indian relations. He first came to India just ahead of the signing of the Indo-Soviet Friendship and Cooperation Treaty. Kadakin also stood out among the diplomatic community for his fondness for Indian culture and language.  Apart from his diplomatic career, he also authored and translated several books from English and Hindi. He published over 50 articles in scientific journals and press in Russia and India.  

The Indian state of Karnataka is all set to celebrate the Kambala festival. Kambala is an annual buffalo race held traditionally under the patronage of local landlords and households in the state. The buffalo race in Karnataka takes place annually between November and March. The places where the festival takes place are Baradi Beedu, Kolatta, Majalu, Bolantur, Kamalakettu, Puttur and Uppinagadi. The two-day celebration starts with a display of the participating buffaloes with their respective farmers. During the festival, when the fields are wet, the buffaloes are made to race on the tracks, guided by the farmer. Each team consists of two buffaloes and a farmer who controls the buffaloes. Two teams are made to race down two mushy paddy fields to conclude on the fastest team. The winner of the race is awarded with a coconut and other gifts. Kambala festival : The origin of the Kambala can be traced back to more than a thousand years. During the early days of the festival, it was known as Karaga celebrations. It is believed that the festival was started by the Hoysala Kings. According to beliefs, the Kings started the festival to see if the buffaloes could be trained and used during wartime. The Kings were amazed to see the speed of the buffaloes and started racing them against one another. This, gradually, led into a sport for the royals. As per another belief, the origin of the festival lies in the farming community of Karnataka. The belief states that the celebrations are dedicated to Lord Kadri Manjunatha, an incarnation of Lord Shiva. It was celebrated to please the Gods for a good harvest. The festival has been criticised by animal lovers and various lawsuits were filed by animal welfare organizations for banning the sport. In 2014, the Supreme Court of India ordered a ban on Kambala and Jallikattu.  There has been a request to remove the ban on Kambala, following a government order to remove the ban on Jallikattu in January 2017.

Arunachal Pradesh launched 'Dulari Kanya', a special scheme to check infant mortality in the state, on the occasion of the 68th Republic Day. Governor V Shanmuganathan launched the scheme, under which the government will deposit Rs 20,000 in the bank account of a girl child, born in any government hospital. It would be paid along with the accrued interest after she attains 18 years of her age. Terming it as a "visionary programme" of the state government, he said it would not only arrest infant mortality but also keep a track of all pregnant mothers so that they avail of pre-natal and ante-natal care in the government health centres and go for institutional deliveries.   

The Chief Minister of Kerala, Pinarayi Vijayan launched the IT Project, e-Health Kerala which is named Jeevan Rekha on January 25, 2017 at Peroorkada Model Government Hospital. The project has been developed by the Health Department in association with the state IT Mission. It aims to create a centralized database that will have the complete healthcare records of all the citizens in the state through the digitization of government hospitals. The pilot project would be launched in Thiruvananthapuram. After this the project will be launched in two phases. In the first phase seven districts would be covered including Kollam, Malappuram, Kasargod, Alappuzha, Idukki, Kannur and Ernakulam. The remaining districts would be covered in the second phase. The Health Minister of state K K Shylaja distributed 8,000 tablet computers to health workers to conduct the public health survey for creating the database. The comprehensive health project costs around Rs. 96 crore which has been funded mostly by the central government. The project will benefit the citizens to avail the medical benefits without the need go to the hospitals. They can use the unique IDs generated for each citizen to view their health documents from anywhere. Besides, the project will allow the state to closely monitor the health of its people and can take effective control measures over contagious diseases.  

The Aditya Birla Group on January 27, 2017 announced its plans to invest Rs 7,000 crore in the next two years in Andhra Pradesh. The company aims to expand its existing businesses in the state. The conglomerate already has investments of Rs 10,000 crore in the state across sectors like telecom, retail and cement. The company has set up a cement plant with capacity of 5.6 million tonnes n Andhra Pradesh. In the telecom sector, Idea cellular currently serves 8 million customers through 69,000 outlets and nearly 9,400 cell sites.  In the branded apparel and retail business, the company has 240 stores.  

Vodafone has given a contract worth up to $500 million (Rs 3,650 crore) to Nokia for 4G network deployment and expansion, covering 10 of the country's 22 telecom zones . Nokia is deploying and expanding 4G LTE network for Vodafone India in Kolkata, Mumbai, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu-Chennai, Haryana, UP East, West Bengal, Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir, one of the people told ET.  Nokia and Vodafone India didn't respond until press time Thursday to emails seeking comment. Chinese equipment vendor Huawei is supplying 4G base stations and other equipment for Vodafone's networks in Karnataka, Kerala and Delhi circles, ET had earlier reported.  By giving this contract, the UK based telecom major's India unit is expediting its network expansion and ramping up capacities to counter the threat from bigger rival Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, the new 4G player which is currently offering free services, industry watchers say.  Vodafone India has already launched 4G services in 17 circles as had planned, and is now rapidly expanding 4G footprint within these circles.  These 17 circles cover 91% of Vodafone India's total revenue and 95% of mobile data revenue. The telco aims to make the service available in 2,400 towns by March 2017.  Vodafone India, which commenced operations in 2007, has operations across the country serving over 200 mn customers, including over 106 mn in rural areas.  The company had previously given a three-year managed services and network operations deal worth $180-220million to Chinese gear maker Huawei.  Nokia has had a successful run so far in the country's 4G market, having already pocketed a 4G deployment and expansion contract worth $500 million from Bharti Airtel   

The State Bank of India has launched a new wealth management product named “SBI Exclusif” in Kochi, Kerala.  Later it will be rolled out in other cities of the state during the course of the year. The product was launched by Chief General Manager, SBI, Kerala Circle, S Venkataraman on January 24, 2017. SBI Exclusif is targeted at fast growing affluent and high net worth customer segments of the bank. SBI Exclusif offers an electronic wealth center that equips the customers with a convenience and flexibility to track their portfolio, conduct transactions and make investments through digital channels such as internet and mobile SBI has tied up with leading technology and product partners to provide an extensive suite of privileged products and lifestyle benefits.  These include top-tier credit and debit cards and concessions/waivers in charges, among others.

US President Donald Trump has appointed prominent Indian-American attorney Uttam Dhillon to a key White House position to assist him on ethics and compliance matters. Dhillon, who served as chief oversight counsel for the House of Representatives Financial Services Committee, has been appointed as special assistant to the President. He previously worked as an associate deputy attorney general for the Department of Justice, Chief Counsel for the House Select Committee on Homeland Security, Policy Director for the US House of Representatives Policy Committee, and as an Assistant United States Attorney in Los Angeles. Other members of the team are Stefan C Passantino who has been commissioned to serve as deputy assistant to the President and deputy counsel to the President along with Scott Gast and James D Schultz who have been commissioned to serve as special assistants to the President and associate counsel to the President.

Japan based sumo wrestler Kisenosato was promoted to the highest rank of the wresting, Yokozuna after winning his first title at the New Year Grand Sumo Japan Wrestler Tournament with a 14-1 record. The 30-year-old Kisenosato, whose real name is Yutaka Hagiwara is the first Japanese born and bred wrestler to earn the coveted rank of “grand champion since 1998. Kisenosato, whose real name is Yutaka Hagiwara, is the first Japanese wrestler to earn the coveted rank of "grand champion" since 1998.  

Researchers from The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI), US have created world’s first stable semi-synthetic organism, a single-celled bacterium with an expanded genetic code  The semi-synthetic organism is the modified E.coli bacteria created by introducing DNA molecules that are not found in nature in a common bacterium. Life’s natural genetic code only contains four natural bases- adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), thymine (T). These bases pair forms two base pairs in the DNA ladder.  The newly created bacterium has two human-created X and Y bases that grow and divide, much like the four natural bases. This single-celled organism can hold on to the synthetic base pair as it divides. The human-created X and Y base pair was dropped over time in the bacterium that limited the ways the it can use the additional information possessed in their DNA.  For this, researchers had optimised a tool called a nucleotide transporter, which brings the materials necessary for the unnatural base pair to be copied across the cell membrane.  They discovered that modification to the transporter, made it much easier for the organism to grow and divide while holding on to X and Y. Researchers used gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to design the synthetic organism to see a genetic sequence without X and Y as a foreign invader. This research gives scientists an opportunity to ‘create organisms with wholly unnatural attributes and traits that are not found elsewhere in nature.  In future, it can help in creation of microbes capable of manufacturing entirely new proteins, which can provide leads to new medicines and nanotechnology breakthroughs.  

President Pranab Mukherjee has given Governor of Assam Banwarilal Purohit additional charge of Meghalaya.  Besides, President also gave Governor of Nagaland PB Acharya additional charge of Arunachal Pradesh.  These appointments come after President accepted the resignation of V. Shanmuganathan, as Governor of Meghalaya and Arunachal Pradesh. Banwarilal Purohit was appointed as the Governor of Assam by President in August 2016.  He had succeeded Padmanabha Acharya who was the additional in-charge of Assam. Padmanabha Acharya was appointed as the Governor of Nagaland in July 2014 after the President accepted the resignation of of Tripura Governor Vakkom Purushothaman. Article 153: It says that there shall be Governor for each state. But 7th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1956 facilitated the appointment of the same person as a governor for two or more states. Article 156: Governor is appointed by President and hold office during the pleasure of President. It should be also noted that this article also mentions tenure of Governor. In this regard it says that Governor shall hold office for the term of 5 years from date he enters upon his office.  

The Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has reconstituted TOP committee with objective of identifying and supporting potential medal prospects for 2020 and 2024 Olympic Games under Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme.  The committee will be headed by Abhinav Bindra, Olympic Gold Medalist. Its members are Anil Khanna, Prakash Padukone, Karnam Malleshwari, P. T. Usha, Murlidhar Raja, Anjali Bhagwat, Rekha Yadav, Dr. S.S. Roy and Inder Dhamija. The committee will select elite athletes to provided financial assistance for their customized training at Institutes having world class facilities and other necessary support. It will decide on its own procedures and will be competent to invite subject experts as and when required. It will have initial tenure of one year. TOP (Target Olympic Podium) Scheme  : The TOP Scheme was formulated by the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports within the overall ambit of National Sports Development Fund (NSDF).  Its objective is to identify and support potential medal prospects for 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games. Under the scheme the selected athletes are provided financial assistance for their customized training at Institutes.  These sports institutes will have world class facilities and other necessary support to improve performance and higher position in medals tally for the country. Under it benchmark for selection of athletes is in relation to international standards.  

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) successfully tested indigenously developed cryogenic engine for the upper stage ‘GSLV Mk III’ rocket.   The cryogenic upper stage, designated as C25, was tested for 50 seconds at ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) at Mahendragiri in Tamil Nadu demonstrating all the stage operations. It was the first test in a series of two tests.  The second test is planned for flight duration of 640 seconds. Cryogenic engines are used in the upper stage of a rocket launch as they provide the maximum thrust to a launcher vehicle. The development of C25 cryogenic stage started after approval of GSLV MkIII, ISRO’s next generation launch vehicle, capable of launching heavy four tonne class spacecraft in Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO).  C25 stage was conceptualised, designed and realised by Liquid Propulsion Systems Centre (LPSC) with support from Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), ISRO Propulsion Complex (IPRC) and Sathish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC).  GSLV MkIII vehicle consists of two solid strap-on motors, one earth storable liquid core stage and the cryogenic upper stage. The C25 stage is most powerful upper stage developed by ISRO. It uses Liquid Oxygen and Liquid Hydrogen propellant combination. This stage carries 27.8 tons of propellants loaded in two independent tanks.  Development of a cryogenic stage has unique design challenges liquid Oxygen stored at -195 deg C and as liquid Hydrogen is stored at -253 deg C in its tanks. To store these cryogenic fluids, special multi-layer insulation is provided for the tanks and other structures. The 50 second test of C25 is a significant milestone in the ISRO’s development of indigenous cryogenic propulsion technology.  The successful hot test of the stage in the first attempt itself demonstrates the ISRO’s ability to work in new areas like cryogenic technology. The first flight stage for ‘GSLV MkIII-D1’ mission is in an advanced stage of realisation. It is scheduled to launch GSAT-19 during first quarter of 2017.  Its flight engine was successfully tested earlier in the High Altitude Test facility and integrated with the flight stage.

President Pranab Mukherjee has appointed Dr Vijay Bhatkar, architect of India’s first supercomputer the Param series, as the chancellor of Nalanda University. He will have term of three years from the date of his appointment as provided under Section 11(3) of the Nalanda University Act. He shall succeed George Yeo, former Foreign Minister of Singapore, who resigned after the Board of the University was reconstituted. Dr Vijay Bhatkar  : Dr. Bhatkar is one of the acclaimed scientists and IT leaders of India. He is best known as the architect of India’s first supercomputer Param series.  He is also known as the founder executive director of C-DAC, India’s national initiative in supercomputing. He is also credited with the creation of several national institutions.  He also was member of the scientific advisory committee to the cabinet of Union Government and as also of the governing council of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).  Bhatkar studied at the Indian Institute of Technology (Delhi) and the Maharaja Sayaji Rao University. He has been honoured with Padma Shri, Maharashtra Bhushan, Padma Bhushan (2015) awards for his contribution to field of science and technology. Nalanda University :  Nalanda University revived version of ancient Nalanda University located at Rajgir in Nalanda District in Bihar. It is a non-state, non-profit, secular and self-governing international institution. Its idea was mooted by former President APJ Andul Kalam in 2006.  It was established through Nalanda University Act, 2010. It is mandated to be engaged in the pursuit of intellectual, philosophical, historical and spiritual studies   The ancient Nalanda University was established in 427 AD during the reign of Gupta king Sakraditya. It was one of India’s earliest university. At its peak, it had attracted scholars and students from near and far with some travelling all the way from Tibet, China, Korea, and Central Asia