Current Affairs 14th July 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) and French firm Safran Helicopter Engines have agreed to establish a support centre in India for national and international rotorcraft customers.  An agreement was signed by DK Venkatesh, Director (Engg and R&D), HAL, and Bruno Even, CEO, Turbomeca, at the ongoing Farnborough International Airshow (July 11-17) in England. The new centre will provide MRO services for Safran TM333 and HAL Shakti engines that power HAL-built helicopters. Safran and HAL will provide their customers with services including optimised engine availability.  With over 1,000 engines, including 250 TM333s and 250 Shaktis, India’s armed forces are one of the largest operators of Safran-designed helicopter engines. Shakti is the Indian designation for the Safran’s Ardiden 1, co-developed with HAL and produced under a licence.

The Union Cabinet has extended numerous facilities to persons from minority communities of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh namely Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, Sikhs, Parsis and Christians staying in India on Long Term Visa (LTV).  Decision in this regard was taken by Union Cabinet Meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. The move is aims at easing out the difficulties being faced by minority communities. Some of the approved facilities include opening of bank account, permission for purchase of property for self-occupation and suitable accommodation.  It also includes issuing of driving licence, PAN card and Aadhar number, free movement within the State/UT where they are staying and waiver of penalty on non-extension of LTV on time. During the last 2 years, Union Government has taken a number of steps to facilitate the stay of persons belonging to minority communities of Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan. However, persons belonging to minority communities staying in India on LTV were facing difficulties with regard to several aspects of living.

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for Revised Cost Estimate (RCE) of 7290.62 crore rupees for the ongoing 1020 MW Punatsangchhu-II Hydroelectric Project (HEP) in Bhutan.  The Hydroelectric project seeks to provide surplus power to India and thus augment power availability in the country.  The approval of RCE would enable project works to proceed smoothly without interruption and the total cost escalation for the project after RCE at this stage is 3512.82 crore rupees. India and Bhutan had signed a bilateral agreement to execute the Punatsangchhu-II HEP in April 2010. The project was approved cost of 3777.8 crore rupees with funding by Union Government as 30% grant and 70% loan at 10% annual interest.  The main factors behind cost escalation were due to inflation from March 2009 to March 2015 and increase in capacity of HEP from 990 MW to 1020 MW. Besides, change in surface power house to underground power house and additional requirements of Bhutan’s National Transmission Grid Master Plan and adverse geological condition also escalated the cost.

The Union Cabinet has approved the revival of defunct Fertilizer Units in Gorakhpur, Sindri and Barauni on 13 July 2016. The units to be revived includes Sindri (Jharkhand) and Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh) of Fertilizer Corporation India Limited (FCIL)  Barauni (Bihar) unit of Hindustan Fertilizers Corporation Limited (HFCL) How revival will be helpful : The setting up of new units at Sindri, Gorakhpur and Barauni will help in meeting the growing demand of urea of Bihar, West Bengal and Jharkhand. It will also ease the pressure on railway and road infrastructure due to long distance transportation of urea from Western and Central Regions and thereby saving in subsidy on freight. It will also accelerate the economic development of the region. Apart from growth of regional economy, this unit will create opportunities for 1200 direct and 4500 indirect employments. Process of their revival : These three fertilizer units would be revived by means of Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) of Public Sector Units (PSUs) namely, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Coal India Limited (CIL), Indian Oil Corporation Limited (IOCL) and FCIL/HFCL, through ‘nomination route’. Besides, the GAIL (India) Limited has planned to lay a gas pipeline from Jagdishpur to Haldia. These units will serve as anchor customer for this pipeline and ensure its viability. Commissioning Jagdishpur-Haldia gas pipeline (JHPL) is important for development of critical infrastructure in Eastern India and will have multiplier effect on economic growth of the region. These units were lying defunct since their closure during 1990-2002. Therefore, the units and other associated facilities were lying unutilized. There is no functional urea unit in the Eastern part of the country except two small units at Namrup (Assam). Earlier in 2015, Government had approved revival of these three units through ‘bidding route’. However, the bidding process could not be carried forward due to receipt of only one application each against ‘Request for Qualifications’ (RFQs) for revival of Gorakhpur and Sindri units of FCIL. The annual consumption of urea in the country is approx. 320 LMT, out of which 245 LMT is produced indigenously and rest is imported. To enhance the production of urea indigenously, government earlier also approved the revival of Talcher (Odisha) & Ramagundam (Telangana) units of FCIL by PSUs through ‘nomination route’.  

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the disinvestment of 15% paid up equity of National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited (NBCC) on 13 July 2016. At present, Union Government holds 90 percent shareholding of the corporation (i.e. 54 crore share). This disinvestment would help the government to earn about 1706 crore rupees. However, the actual realization amount will depend upon the market conditions and the investor interest prevailing at the time of actual disinvestment. Besides, in order to inculcate a sense of belongingness amongst the employees of NBCC, it has also been decided to allot additional shares to the eligible and willing employees at a discount of 5% to the Issue/discovered (lowest cut-off) price of the OFS. National Buildings Construction Corporation Limited (NBCC) : NBCC, a Navratna company, was incorporated on 5 November 1960 as a wholly owned Government of India (GoI) enterprise under the administrative control of the Ministry of Urban Development. It was established with the objective of becoming a leading company in the field of construction, engineering and project management consultancy services. The NBCC IPO (Initial Public Offer) was launched in March 2012, when the GoI divested 10% paid up equity capital of NBCC out of its 100% shareholding and got the Company listed on the stock Exchanges.  

The Union Cabinet has approved the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) with an outlay of 12000 crore rupees to impart skilling to one crore people over the next four years (2016-2020)  on 13 July 2016. PMKVY will impart fresh training to 60 lakh youths and certify skills of 40 lakh persons acquired non-formally under the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). The target allocation between fresh trainings and RPL will be flexible and interchangeable depending on functional and operational requirements. Highlights : It will move to a grant based model where the training and assessment cost would be directly reimbursed to training providers and assessment bodies in accordance with the Common Norms.  Financial support to trainees will be given in the form of travel allowance, boarding and lodging costs. Post placement support would be given directly to the beneficiaries through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT). Disbursement of training cost to training partners will be linked to Aadhaar and biometrics for better transparency and targeting.  Skill training would be done based on industry led standards aligned to the National Skill Qualification Framework (NSQF). Mobilisation, monitoring and post training placement of trainees will be done through Rozgar Melas (placement camps) and Kaushal Shivirs (mobilization camps).  There will be special focus on placement of trainees with incentives/disincentives linked to placement as envisaged in the Common Norms. It will also cater to domestic skill needs, also focus on skill training aligned to international standards for overseas employment in Gulf countries, Europe and other overseas destinations. There will be scholarship for student undergoing training in high end job roles under the Scheme.  

The Peru Government has declared Zika health emergency across the northern half of the country on 13 July 2016. The emergency was declared after 102 people have been confirmed to be infected with the virus, 34 of which are pregnant women. The government’s declaration of 90-day emergency facilitates the allocation of almost 6 million US dollar to combat the spread of the virus. The states under emergency include Amazonas, Cajamarca, Huanuco, La Libertad, Lambayeque, Loreto, Piura, San Martin, Tumbes, Ucayali and Lima. Zika virus : Zika virus is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae and the genus Flavivirus.It is spread by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes.  Its name comes from the Uganda’s Zika Forest, where the virus was first isolated in 1947. From 2007 to 2016, the virus spread across the Pacific Ocean to the Americas where the 2015–16 Zika virus epidemic reached pandemic levels.The infection often causes no or only mild symptoms, similar to a very mild form of dengue fever. As of 2016, the illness cannot be prevented by medications or vaccines. Zika can also spread from a pregnant woman to her foetus. This can result in microcephaly, severe brain malformations, and other birth defects. On 1 February 2016, World Health Organisation (WHO) declared Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Hockey Olympian Joe Antic passed away on 12 July 2016 in Mumbai. He was 90. Antic represented the country in the Rome Games where Pakistan won the final between the arch-foes 1-0. The hockey player was also a part of the hockey squad that finished runner-up, again to Pakistan, in the Asian Games at Jakarta. Joe Antic : Joseph Anthony Antic was an Indian field hockey player.He was born on 13 March 1931 in Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh.He won a silver medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. He had retired from Western Railway in the mid-1980s. He was one of the coaches in the Indian team’s World Cup camp in 1973. Later, he became the national coach of the Oman team that took part in the 1982 Asian Games in Delhi.

An Indian-American professor Dr Kinshuk was appointed as the Dean of University of North Texas College of Information in the United States with effect from 15 August 2016. Kinshuk has a diverse set of academic experience in the field of science and technology. Dr Kinshuk : He received his doctoral degree from De Montfort University in England and a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from University of Rajasthan in India. Since 2010, he served as an associate dean at Athabasca University in Alberta, Canada, where he helped lead the Faculty of Science and Technology. Prior to this, he served as Director in the School of Computing and Information Systems. Kinshuk also served as Industrial Research Chair in Adaptivity and Personalisation in Informatics for the National Science and Engineering Council of Canada. At Massey University in New Zealand, Kinshuk was the director of the Advanced Learning Technologies Research Centre. He also was a research fellow for the German National Research Centre for Information Technology in St. Augustin, Germany.  Earlier in his career he was a part-time lecturer at the Government Polytechnic College in India.  

The Union Government has appointed Ashok Patnaik as the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) on 13 July 2016, one of the most ambitious intelligence projects that failed to take off during United Progressive Alliance (UPA) rule.Patnaik is currently serving as Additional Director in the Intelligence Bureau and he will continue to hold this post till his superannuation in 2018. Patnaik is a 1983-batch IPS officer of Gujarat cadre. National Intelligence Grid (NATGRID) : The NATGRID is a centralised agency which stores sensitive personal information on citizens from almost two dozen agencies to be made available for counter-terror investigations.There are around 70 personnel, drawn from both the government and private sectors, in the NATGRID. The project will run in different phases and will connect data providing organisations and users. In the first phase, 10 user agencies and 21 service providers will be connected, while in later phases about 950 additional organisations will be connected followed by over 1000 organisations in future.

Union Government has started the operation 'Sankat Mochan' to evacuate its citizens stranded in South Sudan's capital Juba on 13 July 2016. Two C-17 military transport aircrafts have been pressed in service to make the evacuation. The operation being undertaken by Indian Air Force (IAF) will be headed by Minister of State for External Affairs General (Retd.) VK Singh. The Indian Ambassador in South Sudan Srikumar Menon and his team is organising this operation on the ground. Indian Embassy in Juba in an advisory had communicated that all the stranded Indian citizens should get in touch immediately with the embassy to avail the facility. Flight route of evacuation : The evacuation flight route will be Juba-Kampala-Trivandrum- Delhi. Passengers willing to de-board at Trivandrum will be allowed to do so.

William H McNeill, the prize-winning scholar, passed away on 8 July 2016 in Connecticut, United States. He was 98. McNeill was mostly renowned for his writings on Western civilization. William H McNeill : William McNeill obtained a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Chicago in 1938. He obtained Master of Arts in 1939. He obtained his PhD at Cornell University in 1947. In the same year, he began teaching at the University of Chicago, which became his home throughout his professional career. His most popular work is The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community. The book explored world history in terms of the effect of different old world civilizations on one another. The book had a major impact on historical theory. Rise of the West won the 1964 U.S. National Book Award in History and Biography. In 1976, he wrote Plagues and Peoples, an important early contribution to the impact of disease on human history. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama on 25 February 2010.

Leading stock exchange BSE is introducing 'Paperless SIP' (systematic investment plans) that would allow mutual fund investors to make transactions through various modes of payments.  The additional feature on BSE's mutual fund platform StAR MF  would allow MF distributors to register SIPs for their clients, who can pay SIP amounts through various modes. However, the new facility, to be launched, is available only for non-dematerialised transactions and for instalment of amount more than Rs 2 lakh  MF distributors have the option to register only Exchange SIP (XSIP) for their clients which allows for ECS (electronic clearing service) payment route.  XSIP, launched last year, offers the MF distributors on its StAR MF platform facility to register their client's ECS bank mandates and upon successful registration with the destination bank, to start registering SIPs for their MF customers.  Under the Paperless SIP facility, the investors would receive an e-mail for all the payment modes, including direct pay, nodal account, one time mandate and cheque, after the SIP has been registered.  BSE StAR Mutual Fund has become the largest MF distributor platform in India with more than 4 lakh SIPs per month.  As per the exchange's estimate, BSE StAR Mutual Fund accounts for more than 8 per cent of traction taking place in Indian MF houses.  In 2014, capital market regulator Sebi had allowed mutual fund distributors to use the stock exchange platform for non-demat transactions as well for sale or redemption of these financial products.  The move was aimed at allowing mutual fund distributors to leverage the stock exchange platforms to expand their reach. 

The Union Government has recently constituted a high-level committee headed by Chief Economic Adviser Arvind Subramanian to tackle the shortage of pulses in India. The committee was constituted by the high-level meeting chaired by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi. The committee is tasked to study and suggest ways to contain the rising prices of pulses in the country. The committee will consider a reasonable hike in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for pulses and bonus for the farmers to promote pulse cultivation.  Frame an appropriate long term policy to promote cultivation of pulses in India and shall also consider the issue of subsidising farmers who wish to grow pulses. Beside this, the Union Government also has decided to increase the buffer stock of pulses from 8 lakh to 20 lakh tonnes.  

INS India, the base depot ship of Indian Navy at New Delhi celebrated its 75th anniversary (Platinum Jubilee) on 13 July 2016. As a run up to celebrate this grand occasion, a series of events were organised. A Health Run and a Dream Walk was organised. A blood donation camp was also organised. INS India :  INS India was established as HMIS India in 1941 as small unit with a complement of just a handful of officers and sailors. It was rechristened as INS India on 26 Jan 1950.  The base depot ship has the privilege of being the Flagship of the Chief of the Naval Staff.  It is now a major establishment in New Delhi with a plethora of duties and responsibilities. It provides administrative and logistics cover to all officers and sailors borne in Naval Headquarters and other units at Delhi.  During 75 years of transition of INS India, the establishment has seen as many as 32 Commanding Officers.

Conservative party leader Theresa May (59) became Prime Minister of United Kingdom after meeting Queen Elizabeth II. She succeeds David Cameron, who had resigned in the wake of Brexit referendum that ended his six-year-long stint as the Prime Minister of Britain.  With this, she became UK’s second-ever female Prime Minister after Margaret Thatcher (in office from 1979-1990). Theresa May  : Prior to entering front-line politics, Theresa May has worked with the Bank of England from 1977 to 1983. She had served as a councillor for the London Borough of Merton from 1986 to 1994. She is Member of Parliament for Maidenhead since 1997.  In the outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron she had served as home secretary of UK from May 2010 to July 201. She was the longest-serving home secretary of UK in last 50 years.  

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