Current Affairs 22nd March 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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Insurance regulator IRDA is satisfied with the investments of LIC in public sector banks. After a scrutiny of its investments in PSU banks, the regulator has given a clean chit to the largest domestic institution with assets of close to Rs 18 lakh crore.According to an official, the regulator did not find anything wrong with its investment pattern in PSU banks. Earlier, the RBI had expressed concern over LIC making huge investments in PSU banks, saying it can “affect the financial stability”.VR Iyer, Member, IRDA, led the team which held discussions with LIC. IRDA along with regulators, including the RBI and the Sebi, is conducting regulatory scrutiny of large institutions which can pose systemic risk in the economy.According to IRDA officials, in a total investment portfolio of around Rs 22,00,000 crore, LIC’s equity investment is just 6-7 per cent and investments in banks are still a smaller portion. LIC has followed the due diligence while making investment in the banks.LIC had made a profit of Rs 24,373 crore from the equity market in 2014-15 as against a profit of Rs 21,257 crore in the financial year 2014, which is a gain of 14.65 per cent. The RBI which has asked banks to clean up their balance sheets by March 2017 has given them a list of some 150 accounts which had either become NPAs or are on the verge of becoming NPAs. Bad loans of PSU banks rose by Rs 94,666 crore during the nine months ended December 2015. Gross NPAs of PSU banks increased from Rs 267,035 crore in March 2015 to Rs 3,61,731 crore in December 2015. This is as much as 7.30 per cent of their total advances. LIC doesn’t believe in the principle of buying today and selling tomorrow. We normally subscribe a bond having a tenure of ten years or more. And all bonds are maturing in time and thus giving or giving us good returns. Also, equity in banks giving us fantastic rate of returns,” the official added. The RBI had red flagged its concerns after the LIC increased its stake in several PSU banks last year. LIC hiked its stake in United Bank from 3.1 per cent to 12.12 per cent, Punjab & Sind Bank from 4.21 per cent to 10.49 per cent, Central Bank from 5.44 per cent to 13.41 per cent, Bank of Maharashtra from 5.31 per cent to 11.24 per cent, Canara Bank from 5.35 per cent to 14.4 per cent and Bank of India from 11.82 per cent to 14.93 per cent during the year ended March 2015. It reduced the stake in some banks recently.

Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar announced on March 21 2016 the clearance of the long anticipated Defence Procurement Policy of 2016 (DPP-2016). This will replace the current DPP-2013, and govern all defence acquisitions initiated after April 2. He said the new policy would be accessible on the defence ministry's website with effect from March 28.The policy will give first priority to Indian Designed Developed and Manufactured (IDDM) acquisition and relax norms with respect to blacklisting. There will be strategic partnerships in case of helicopters, fighters and submarine projects.The government will updated the Ordnance Factory Board and Defence Procurement Manuals in two months.Parrikar said the new blacklisting policy will also be issued separately next month and made it clear that there will be no relaxation for those who have already been blacklisted and bribe givers will be punished.The existing blacklisted firms will be allowed to appeal before a vigilance committee of the Defence Ministry for delisting under the new policy.The new DPP will also have provision for allowing the DAC to fast track the procedure by bypassing the Acceptance of Necessity (AON) process, in urgent cases like requirements of the Special Forces.

The government has formally withdrawn the recognition of Delhi Stock Exchange, more than a year after capital market regulator Sebi derecognised the bourse citing "serious irregularities" in its functioning.DSE was among the few bourses that were given permanent recognition by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi), as per information available on the regulator's website. Under certain provisions of the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act, 1956, the recognition to a recognised stock exchange can be withdrawn if it "has not been corporatised and demutualised within the specified time .In August 2005, Sebi had notified DSE Ltd (Corporatisation and Demutualisation) Scheme, 2005. The bourse was to be demutualised on or before the August 28, 2007. Under demutualisation, management and trading at a stock exchange are separated while corporatisation refers to running a bourse like a company. The serious irregularities have been found in the functioning of Delhi Stock Exchange at the time when DSE was taking steps for demutualisation," Sebi Whole Time Member Prashant Saran had said in an order dated November 19, 2014 .The  demutualisation process the erstwhile board of DSE had overlooked the due transfer of shares in demat accounts and receipt of funds by the appointed date. 

The Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry has launched new anti-TB (Tuberculosis) drug Bedaquiline It was launched by the Union Health Minister J P Nadda as part of the TB national programme Initially the drug will be made available in six public hospitals in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Guwahati and Ahmedabad.  Later it will be introduced in 104 districts across five States. Bedaquiline is a new anti-TB drug for treatment of Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis. It specifically targets Mycobacterial ATP synthase, an enzyme which is essential for the supply of energy to Mycobacterium tuberculosis and most other mycobacteria.CBNAAT machines : The Union Health Minister also has launched CBNAAT (Cartridge-Based Nucleic Acid Amplification Test) diagnostic machines for the quick diagnosis of TB within two hours. These machines have revolutionised rapid molecular test which detects Mycobacterium tuberculosis and rifampicin drug resistance, simultaneously.It will help in treating patients of TB patients promptly and can be used in remote and rural areas without sophisticated infrastructure or specialized training.The Union Health Minister also released the TB India 2016 Annual Report and the technical and operational guidelines for TB Control in India 2016. The comprehensive sets of guidelines are for management of all forms of TB and strategies for intensified case finding. These guidelines adhere of more patient centric approaches and single-window care for patients suffering from HIV and TB.

The fast patrol vessel (FPV) of the Indian Coast Guard ICGS Arnvesh was commissioned at Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.The ship is primarily intended to undertake surveillance at sea, coastal patrol, anti-smuggling and anti-piracy operations. Arnvesh is equipped with the most-advanced navigational and communication sensors and equipment, including night vision capabilities, and is fitted with 40/60 Bofors gun onboard as main armament. Indian Coast Guard has emerged as a potent force and its growth is exponential. The induction of Arnvesh today is yet another defining moment in the annals of Indian ship building industry and is testimonial to our indigenous shipbuilding capability, which further bolsters the nation's 'Make in India' campaign," Eastern Naval Command Vice-Admiral HCS Bisht said on the occasion. The ship is built by the Cochin Shipyard Ltd. Bisht said the changed security scenario in the maritime domain dictates the need for coastal security on round-the clock basis wherein both the coast guard and the Navy have to maintain a constant vigil. By keeping our seas safe and our coasts secure, we play a major role in the nation's growth and prosperity. The role of Coast Guard, along with various other stake-holders involved in coastal security, therefore assumes greater significance.The ship will be manned by five officers and 35 enrolled personnel. Senior officials were present on the occasion

The Indian Navy has deployed a P 8I maritime reconnaissance aircraft to Seychelles since March 20, 2016, for surveillance in the Exclusive Economic Zone of Seychelles, in accordance with the MoU between the two governments. The Indian Navy has, in the past, undertaken surveillance missions in the Seychello is EEZ twice a year, by deploying its ships. The last such deployment was undertaken by ships of the 1st Training Squadron of the Indian Navy, in October 2015 .This is the first time that the P8I aircraft has been deployed to Seychelles. This deployment would assist in curbing illegal activities and piracy as well as contribute towards security and stability in the Indian Ocean Region. The aircraft will remain deployed till March 23, 2016. The release says "During this period, the aircraft will undertake surveillance of the Seychellois EEZ. In addition, the deployment will facilitate professional interaction between the aircrew and the Seychelles People's Defence Force (SPDF).Deployment of Indian Navy's maritime reconnaissance aircraft is an indicator of India's commitment towards ensuring the security of Seychellois EEZ .

India has assumed BRICS Chairmanship from the Russian Federation for the year 2016. BRICS is an association of five countries viz. Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. On this occasion, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj formally unveiled the BRICS Logo for the duration of India’s BRICS Chairmanship and also launched website. India has assumed BRICS Chairmanship for second time and had hosted the  BRICS Summit in 2012 for first time in New Dehli. The 7th BRICS Summit was held in the Russian city of Ufa in July 2015.India will host the 8th BRICS Summit would be organized on 15-16 October 2016 in Goa. It will host over fifty meetings and events, at the Ministerial, Working Groups, Senior Officials, Technical and Track-II levels. Building responsive, inclusive and collective solutions is the core-theme for the BRICS Chairmanship. The special focus will be on institution-building, implementing past commitments and exploring innovative solutions in a spirit of continuity with consolidation.BRICS is the acronym for an association of five major emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa. Established: 2009. Originally it was known as BRIC before the inclusion of South Africa in 2011. First Summit: The first formal summit was held in Yekaterinburg, Russia. The BRICS members are all developing or newly industrialised countries and all five are G-20 members. They are distinguished by their large, fast-growing economies and significant influence on regional and global affairs.The Modi government has picked a lotus, the national flower but also the BJP’s election symbol, as the logo for the country’s presidency of the Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa (Brics) grouping this year.

The year 2014 recorded highest anthropogenic carbon released in past 66 million years. It was revealed by the scientists of the University of Hawaii in an article on 21 March 2016 in the Nature Geoscience journal.The study estimated that the pace of emissions even eclipsed the onset of the biggest known natural surge in fossil records that was perhaps driven by a release of frozen stores of greenhouse gases beneath the seabed.As per the research, current carbon emissions, mainly from burning fossil fuels, are about 10 billion tonnes a year, against 1.1 billion a year spread over 4000 years at the onset of the fast warming 56 million years ago.This research confirmed an early study undertaken by the UN that projected that temperatures could rise by up to 4.8 degrees Celsius in the 21st century, causing floods, droughts and more powerful storms, if emissions rise unchecked.

The Government of Telangana on 20 March 2016 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Aero Campus Aquitaine and Bordeaux Metropole to set up aviation training institute in Hyderabad.The MoU was signed on the sidelines of the India Aviation Show 2016 and in the presence of Jupally Krishna Rao, Minister for Industries and the representatives of the two companies.As part of the MoU, the two French firms will set up an aviation training institute at the Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad.The facility will be used to train in aviation and aerospace sectors. The training modules will also include the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) segment. In a year, at least 1000 students will be offered courses that will be of various durations from few weeks to one year. The students will be offered residential facilities also.Aero Campus Aquitaine aims to offer comprehensive training for professional skills in defence and aerospace industry with EASA certification. It has presence in Turkey, Malaysia and many other countries. It was established with an investment of outlay of 26 million euros.The centre in France is catering to the professional skill training for the pilots and technicians.

The sustained campaign to include the Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve (ABR) in UNESCO’s World Network of Biosphere Reserves (BR) has eventually paid off.The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve was included at the International Coordinating Council of the Man and the Biosphere programme of UNESCO that concluded in Peru on March 19.The ABR covers the Shendurney and Peppara wildlife sanctuaries and parts of the Neyyar sanctuary in Kerala and the Kalakad Mundanthurai Tiger Reserve of Tamil Nadu.India has been campaigning for the inclusion of the reserve in the network for the past few years.The Agasthyamala Biosphere Reserve was the only site considered from the country by the International Advisory Committee for Biosphere Reserves during the Paris session held last year. That time, the ABR was listed in the category of “nominations recommended for approval, pending the submission of specific information.”With the addition of the ABR, 10 of the 18 biosphere reserves in the country have made it to the list.The others are Nilgiri, Gulf of Mannar, Sunderban, Nanda Devi, Nokrek, Pachmarh, Similipal, Achanakmar-Amarkantak and Great Nicobar.The BRs are designated for inclusion in the network by the International Coordinating Council after evaluating the nominations forwarded by the State through National MAB Committees.Scientific expertise : The ABR would benefit from the shared scientific expertise of all the other members of the world network. The State is expected to work for the conservation of nature at the reserve while it fosters the sustainable development of its population, said a UNESCO official.The ABR is situated at the southern-most end of the Western Ghats and spread over Kerala and Tamil Nadu and covers an area of 3,500 sq km at an altitude ranging from 100 metres to 1,868 metres above the Mean Sea Level.Hotspot : The area falls in the Malabar rainforests and is one of the noted hotspot areas because of its position in the Western Ghats, according to the management plan of the reserve. It is estimated that more than 2,250 species of dicotyledonous plants are in the area and 29 are endemic to the region. Many plants are considered endangered too.Researchers have noted that about 400 Red Listed Plants have been recorded from ABR. About 125 species of orchids and rare, endemic and threatened plants have been recorded from the reserve.There are 669 biosphere reserves in as many as 120 countries.

Gurgaon-based Baxi will roll out a new feature to help users book rides on the app without using Internet.The bike-taxi hailing app, which offers services in Gurgaon and Faridabad, will make the feature available to its 30,000 users from next week."All customers that have an Android smartphone without a data connection can now use the new Baxi app. Customers can also use the app even when their Internet connection isn't working," Baxi co-founder and CTO Manu Rana told PTI.This feature will help the company reach out to a larger number of customers as they will not have to rely on or spend money on data packs.Upon opening the app, the user has to press the BOOK button to get the nearest Baxi. If the app is offline, it uses an SMS to send the user's location and request to its server, find the closest Baxi and respond to the user with that information using SMS.The app reads the SMS and displays the drivers information and location to the user in the same way as it would do in an online booking.The company, which plans to extend services to Noida and Ghaziabad later this month, offers rides at base fare of Rs. 10, followed by Rs. 4 per km and Re. 1 per minute of ride time charges.Similar to Ola and Uber, Baxi allows users to get rides but on motorbikes.The company claims it facilitates about 3,000 rides daily in Gurgaon and Faridabad. It had received about $1.5 million (roughly Rs. 10 crores) funding last year from investors including HT Media, Manish Kheterpal (WaterBridge Ventures), Alok Mittal (Indifi Technologies) and Puneet Dalmia (Managing Director of Dalmia Bharat Group).The transportation space is witnessing intense competition as the private equity-backed firms are offering discounted rides and investing heavily in getting more drivers on board.Other players in the bike-taxi segment include startups like N.O.W and Rideji.

Infibeam Incorporation Ltd, the first Indian e-commerce firm to launch an initial public offering (IPO), saw its issue being subscribed 0.21 times on the opening day of the share sale on March 21,2016.According to data from BSE, the qualified institutional buyers portion was subscribed 0.22 times, with all the bids coming in from foreign institutional investors, while the retail portion was subscribed 0.17 times.The Ahmedabad-based e-tailer, which aims to raise Rs.450 crore from the share sale, has already run into problems with two of the four domestic investment banks opting out on concerns over pricing and timing of the issue.Kotak Mahindra Capital and ICICI Securities withdrew as bankers to the issue. SBI Capital Markets Ltd and Elara Capital (India) Pvt. Ltd are the two bankers managing the offer currently. The issue closes on March 23,2016.Market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) introduced the concept of anchor investors in a public issue in 2009 with a view to having a set of committed investors anchoring a transaction notwithstanding the market conditions.Infibeam has fixed a price band of Rs.360-432 per share for its public offer, and investors deem it to be expensive.An anchor book, also known as anchor allotment, is that portion of the IPO that bankers can allot to institutional investors on a discretionary basis. Anchor-book subscription opens a day before the launch of a public issue and acts as an indicator of institutional investors’ confidence in the issue.In an email response, Infibeam said the company, in its discretion and in consultation with its book-running lead managers, has decided against having anchor investors in the issue.Also, the e-commerce sector, which is fiercely competitive, is facing several headwinds, including funding, and companies are facing severe stress on valuations.Its other business, that is, Buildabazaar, which provides services to enable merchants to set up online storefronts, is also smaller in revenue terms to global firms like, the note said, and added that even if the former does gain a dominant position in India, it is insufficient to justify the valuation.Infibeam, founded by former Amazon executive Vishal Mehta, turned profitable in the first six months of 2015-16. The company posted a revenue of Rs.171.3 crore and a net profit of Rs.6.6 crore for the six months ended September 2015. It reported a revenue ofRs.288.2 crore at a net loss of Rs.9.8 crore for the year ended 31 March 2015.The firm will use the IPO proceeds to set up a cloud data centre and 75 logistics centres, it said in its prospectus.After the stock exchange listing, Infibeam will be valued at Rs.2,250 crore, Mehta had said at a press conference earlier this month.

Researchers have developed a new map of Mars’ gravity with three NASA spacecraft that is the most detailed to date, providing a revealing glimpse into the hidden interior of the Red Planet.“Gravity maps allow us to see inside a planet, just as a doctor uses an X-ray to see inside a patient,” said Antonio Genova from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).The new gravity map will be helpful for future Mars exploration, because better knowledge of the planet’s gravity anomalies helps mission controllers insert spacecraft more precisely into orbit about Mars.Furthermore, the improved resolution of our gravity map will help us understand the still-mysterious formation of specific regions of the planetThe improved resolution of the new gravity map suggests a new explanation for how some features formed across the boundary that divides the relatively smooth northern lowlands from heavily cratered southern highlands.Also, the team confirmed that Mars has a liquid outer core of molten rock by analysing tides in the Martian crust and mantle caused by the gravitational pull of the sun and the two moons of Mars.Finally, by observing how Mars’ gravity changed over 11 years – the period of an entire cycle of solar activity – the team inferred the massive amount of carbon dioxide that freezes out of the atmosphere onto a Martian polar ice cap when it experiences winter.hey also observed how that mass moves between the south pole and the north pole with the change of season in each hemisphere.The gravity field was recovered using about 16 years of data that were continuously collected in orbit around Mars.The map was derived using data collected by NASA’s Deep Space Network from three NASA spacecraft in orbit around Mars: Mars Global Surveyor (MGS), Mars Odyssey (ODY), and the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO).The better resolution of the new map helps interpret how the crust of the planet changed over Mars’ history in many regions.

March 22,2016 : Punjab assembly passed a bill which states that whoever causes injury, damage or sacrilege to Guru Granth Sahib with an intention to hurt the religious feelings of the people will be punished with imprisonment for life.The Bill - Code of Criminal Procedure (Punjab Amendment - was moved by Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.The Bill seeks life imprisonment for sacrilege of the Guru Granth Sahib, by adding section 295 AA in IPC and enhancement of punishment under section 295 of IPC, injuring or defiling place of worship with intent to insult the religion of any class from two to 10 years.The move comes amidst a number of cases of sacrilege involving the Guru Granth Sahib in the past couple of months which triggered violent protests. Police firing during the clash in Faridkot had claimed two lives last month.The Congress leaders wanted provisions of similar punishments should be made for those causing damage to Gita, Bible, Quran, Ramayan and Mahabharta.Revenue Minister Bikarm Singh Majithia demanded capital punishments for those indulging in incidents of sacrilege.Under IPC's section 295 A, punishment for sacrilege is jail term for three years.  Besides, the House passed seven other bills with no discussion on these.Among those included Punjab Agricultural Produce Markets (Amendment) Bill.The Bill was moved by Agriculture Minister Tota Singh.

The Union Minister for Finance, Corporate Affairs and Information & Broadcasting Arun Jailey on 21 March 2016 presented 5th National Photography Awards in New Delhi.The annual awards are meant to honour and recognize those creative professionals who defined moments in history through their creative pictorial mastery.In addition to the Life Time Achievement Award, a total of 12 awards were presented on this occasion to various amateur and professional photographers.While awards in the amateur category were given for works on the theme – ‘Save Mother Earth’, the theme for professional photographers was ‘festivals of India’.Recipients of major awards Bhawan Singh - Life Time Achievement Award,Javed Ahmed Dar - Professional Photographer Award,Himanshu Thakur - Amateur PhotographerNational Photography Award is constitute a total of 13 awards in 3 categories.They are presented annually by the Union Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in 3 categories.The Awards conferred are an attempt to capture the growth of professionalism and creativity within the growing dimensions of photojournalism.The awards carry a cash prize and medals or Plaques and citations. The cash prize for Life Time Achievement Award is 150000 rupees. The cash prize for the Best Photographer of the year in Professional and Amateur category is 175000 rupees.The Special Mention Award carries a cash prize of 15 thousand rupees for each in professional category and 10 thousand rupees for each in Amateur category.

Indian wrestler Hardeep Singh on 20 March 2016 won silver medal in the Asian Olympic Qualification Tournament held in Astana, Kazakhstan.Even before the win, by virtue of reaching the final in the 98 kg category, he was qualified for participation in the Rio Olympics 2016 in Greco-Roman category and joined other two Indian wrestlers.Earlier, Yogeshwra Dutt and Narsingh Yadav qualified for the Olympics in men's freestyle category.With this win, Hardeep became the first Indian in 12 years to get an Olympic berth in the Greco-Roman category. The previous participation was that of Mausam Khatri in 2004 Athens Games.In fact, this is also the first time an Indian Greco-Roman grappler has ensured a place in the Olympics in a heavyweight category.

Andrew Grove, former Chairman and CEO of Intel, passed away on 21 March 2016. He was 79.Grove became Intel’s President in 1979 and CEO in 1987. He served as Chairman of the Board from 1997 to 2005.Andrew Stephen Grove, also known as Andy, was a Hungarian-born American businessman, engineer, and author.He escaped from Communist-controlled Hungary at the age of 20 and moved to the United States where he finished his education.He later became CEO of Intel Corporation and helped transform the company into the world's largest manufacturer of semiconductors.He was also referred to as the ‘guy who drove the growth phase’ of Silicon Valley. In 2000, he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.In 1995, he was awarded with the 1st Annual Heinz Award in Technology, the Economy and Employment.In 1997, he was chosen as the Time Magazine's Man of the Year.In 2006, he made a 26000000 US dollars donation to City College of New York, the largest donation ever made to that school.Intel is an American multinational technology company headquartered in Santa Clara, California.It is one of the world's largest and highest valued semiconductor chip makers, based on revenue.It was founded on 18 July 1968 by semiconductor pioneers Robert Noyce and Gordon Moore.

Zanzibar Electoral Commission (ZEC) on 21 March 2016 declared the incumbent President Ali Mohamed Shein of Tanzania ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) as winner of the presidential elections. He won with 91.4 percent of the votes.The presidential elections held on 20 March 2016 was the re-run of the elections held in October 2015, which were cancelled by the ZEC on grounds of fraud.Shein won 299982 votes against just 6076 votes (1.9 percent) won by his main rival Seif Sharif Hamad of the opposition Civic United Front (CUF), which boycotted the poll. Hamad was first vice president in the unity government headed by Shein that has been ruling Zanzibar since 2010.Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region of Tanzania, has its own president and parliament. It has more than 50 seats in the Tanzanian National Assembly, and makes its own laws. However, some union matters are the preserve of the Tanzanian government.The election of Shein will lead to easy cooperation between Zanzibar and Tanzania, since he comes from the same party as President John Magufuli on the mainland.However, the conducting of re-run of October 2015 presidential elections has come in for criticism from the group of 15 nations including the US, the UK and the EU. They called on Tanzanian Government to “exercise leadership in Zanzibar and pursue a negotiated solution between parties, with a view to maintaining peace and unity in the United Republic of Tanzania.’‘The concern arises from the fact that previous votes especially the votes of 2000 were marred by violence. In 2000, at least 35 people were killed and 600 were wounded in clashes with security forces after CUF supporters accused the CCM, which won the vote, of electoral fraud.

India's current account deficit, the excess of imports over exports, fell further to 1.3% of the gross domestic product due to benefits of lower commodity prices, but the fall in remittances from overseas Indians has restricted the improvement in balance of payments (BoP). Reserve Bank of India data showed current account deficit (CAD) at $7.1 billion in the third quarter ending December, lower than $8.7 billion or 1.7% of GDP in the preceding quarter. CAD was $7.7 billion or 1.5% of GDP in the year ago period. The fall in commodity prices helped lowering of trade deficit to $34 billion from $37.4 billion in the previous quarter, narrowing the current account gap. Net foreign direct investment, which picked up to $10.8 billion in the third quarter after moderating in the previous quarter, buoyed the country's BoP position. Outflow in portfolio investment could also be arrested with improvement in India's macro economic sentiment. Net outflow for the thrid quarter was just about $0.2 billion compared with net outflow of $3.5 billion in the preceding quarter. Equity outflows in the period under review were almost offset by inflows into the debt segment as RBI liberalised overseas investment in debts. Remittances by Indians employed overseas fell to $15.8 billion, amid fears that Indians may lose employment opportunities in the Gulf as they tighten the purse strings due to collapse of oil prices. Non-resident Indian (NRI) deposits moderated too with the Federal Reserve raising short term rates narrowing the interest rate differential between India and the US. India's foreign exchange reserves, if changes in currency valuation are excluded, rose $14.6 billion during April-December 2015 as compared with $31.3 billion in the year ago period. However, foreign exchange reserves including the valuation effects grew only $8.7 billion as compared with $16.4 billion. The valuation loss mainly reflected the appreciation of the US dollar against major currencies. 

China on March 21,2016, agreed to Nepal Prime Minister K P Oli’s request to build a strategic railway link between the two countries through Tibet to reduce land-locked Nepal’s total dependence on India, as the two sides cemented their ties by signing 10 agreements including a landmark transit trade deal.Oli, who arrived here on Sunday on his maiden seven-day visit to China, was given a red carpet welcome by Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People. He also called on Chinese President Xi Jinping. Oli’s high-profile visit comes as Nepal seeks to open more supply routes from China amid fears of a repeat of recent nearly six-month long crippling blockade when the Indian- origin Madhesis blocked Nepal’s trade-routes with India, throwing normal life out of gear. During the talks, the two Prime Ministers made a comprehensive review of bilateral relations and expressed satisfaction over steadily growing relations between the two countries.“The two sides exchanged substantive views on further strengthening and consolidating mutual trust and understanding as well as promoting mutually beneficial cooperation in various fields,” according to a press release issued by Nepalese Foreign Ministry.Trade diversification, cross border connectivity and infrastructure development, cooperation on energy, tourism, finance, education and culture were among the matters that figured prominently during the talks, it said.During his talks with Li, Oli mooted extension of China’s strategic railway link with Tibet further to Nepal.Briefing the media after Li-Oli talks, Hou Yanqi, deputy head of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said: “Nepal Prime Minister wanted to explore two rail lines.” Hou said the government would encourage Chinese firms to look at the internal rail plan and that China was already planning to extend the railway from the Tibetan city of Shigatse to Gyirong on the Nepal border.The two countries sealed 10 agreements including the much- publicised transit trade treaty which will end Nepal’s total dependency on Indian sea ports for third-country trade. The other agreements included a feasibility study on the establishment of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), China’s assistance to build a new airport and a border bridge over the Simikot-Hilsa road section that will connect Humla district with Tibet.The other agreements included a treaty on economic and technical cooperation to build a Regional International Airport Project at Pokhara, Nepal’s famous tourist site. China and Nepal also decided to initiate a feasibility study on Chinese assistance to Nepal for exploration of oil and gas resources.

World Puppetry Day, comes every March 21. The idea came from the puppet theater Artist Javad Zolfaghari from Iran. In 2000 at the XVIII Congress of the Union Internationale de la Marionnette, (UNIMA) in Magdeburg, he made the proposal for discussion. Two years later, at a meeting of the International Council of UNIMA in June 2002 in Atlanta, the date of the celebration was identified. The first celebration was in 2003.

Every year World Water Day (WWD) is observed globally on 22 March to preserve and ration consumption of water.WWD is observed to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues. It marks a day to prepare for how we manage water in the future. 2016 Theme: “Better Water, Better Jobs”. It focuses on the central role that water plays in creating and supporting good quality jobs.WWD was first formally proposed in Agenda 21 of United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992. Later, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) accepted the recommendation of UNCED and celebrated first World Water Day on 22 March 1993. Since then this day is observed annually to draw attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of fresh water resources. 2015 theme of WWD was ‘Water and Sustainable Development’.

World No 1 Novak Djokovic of Serbia and Victoria Azarenka of Belarusia on 20 March 2016 won men's and women’s singles titles of the BNP Paribas Open at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Southern California.Novak Djokovic defeated Milos Raonic of Canada 6-2, 6-0 in the men's final while Victoria Azarenka defeated top seed Serena Williams 6-4, 6-4.Djokovic won his fifth Indian Wells title and third in a row. He equaled Rafael Nadal’s 27 ATP Masters titles.On the other hand, Victoria Azarenka lifted her second BNP Paribas Open crown and her 19th singles title. It is popularly known as Indian Wells open as it is held in Indian Wells Tennis Garden in Southern California.It is the largest two-week combined ATP World Tour Masters 1000 and WTA Premier professional tennis tournament in the world.It is held annually in March and features the top men and women professional players competing in a 96 singles draw and 32 doubles draw.The tournament offers more than 10 million US Dollars in prize money with each of the Champions earning 1 million US Dollars prize purse.It is the only professional tournament in the world that provides Hawkeye, the official line-challenge system for players, on all match courts for both main and qualifying rounds.

Renowned Malayalam writer M Sukumaran in the third week of March 2016 was chosen for the CV Kunhiraman Literary Prize.The prize consists of 10001 rupees in cash, a citation, and a statuette designed by artist BD Dathan.M Sukumaran is an author and short story writer in Malayalam.He was born at Chittur in Palakkad District, Kerala.He won the Kerala Sahithya Academy award in 1976 for his book.The themes of all of his writings deal with the plight of the dispossessed and advocate an armed struggle for the liberation of the oppressed.

A Committee on Taxation of e-commerce constituted by the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) to examine the business models for e-commerce submitted its report on 21 March 2016.The Report of the Committee was received by the Government of India and taken into consideration in the preparation of Finance Bill, 2016.The Report provides the view of the Committee on issues related to taxation of e-commerce and recent international developments in this area.The Committee included officers of the CBDT, representatives from the industry, the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India and tax experts. The 8-member committee was headed by Akhilesh Ranjan, Joint Secretary (FT&TR-I), CBDT, Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance.Equalization Levy may be imposed on payments to non-residents for specified services by a separate chapter in the Finance Act, 2016.The Equalization Levy should be chargeable on any sum that is received by a non resident from a resident in India or a permanent establishment in India as a consideration for the specified digital services.The rate of Equalization Levy may be between 6 to 8 percent of the gross sum received.Equalization Levy should not be charged unless the consideration received for specified services in a year from a person in India is more than one lakh rupees.Equalization Levy should also not be charged on payments received by a permanent establishment of a non-resident in India, which are attributable to that permanent establishment and taxable under Income-tax Act, 1961.Every person that has received any sum chargeable to Equalization Levy, would be required to pay the Equalization Levy chargeable on that sum to the union government. Every person that has received any sum chargeable to Equalization Levy, would be required to file a return of Sum chargeable to Equalization Levy as prescribed, if such total sum received by that person in a year exceeds ten crore rupees.Any income arising from a transaction on which Equalization Levy has been paid should be exempted from income-tax, by necessary amendment in Section 10 of the Income-tax Act, 1961.The definition of business connection in section 9 of the Income-tax Act, 1961 may be expanded to include the concept of significant economic presence.Work on exploring the possibility of deduction of Equalization Levy by the payment gateways should be initiated immediately.The implementation and impact of Equalization Levy may be monitored on a regular basis.

Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh on 21 March 2016 launched a new mobile app Pusa Krishi at the valedictory session of the three-day Krishi Unnati Mela in New Delhi. It will help the farmers to take the technology to farm fields.The Mobile app will help the farmer to find easy solutions to the problems in their farm fields and also helps to get information about weather and accordingly they take measures to save crops.The app will provide farmers with information related to new varieties of crops developed by Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR), resource conserving cultivation practices as well as farm machinery and its implementation will help in increasing returns to farmers.Besides, PM Narenda Modi had launched Kisan Suvidha mobile app during the inaugural function of the mela, which aims at providing information to farmers on weather, market prices, farm machinery as well as identification and management of crop pest and diseases.

The government on March 19,2016 ,slashed interest rates payable on small savings including PPF and Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) to align them closer to market rates.As a part of its February 16 decision to revise interest rates on small savings every quarter, the interest rate on Public Provident Fund (PPF) scheme will be cut to 8.1 per cent for the period April 1 to June 30, from 8.7 per cent, at present.Similarly, the interest rate on KVP will be cut to 7.8 per cent from 8.7 per cent, according to a Finance Ministryorder.While the interest rate on Post Office savings has been retained at 4 per cent, the same for term deposits of one to five years has been cut.The popular five-Year National Savings Certificates will earn an interestrate of 8.1 per cent from April 1 as against 8.5 per cent, at present.A five-year Monthly Income Account will fetch 7.8 per cent as opposed to 8.4 per cent now. Girl-child saving scheme, Sukanya Samriddhi Account will see interest rate of 8.6 per cent as against 9.2 per cent.Senior citizen savings scheme of five-year would earn 8.6 per cent interest compared with 9.3 per cent."On the basis of the decisions of the government, interest rates for small savings schemes are to be notified on quarterly basis," the order saidannouncing the rates for the first quarter of fiscal 2016-17.Post office term deposits of one, two and three years command an interest rate of 8.4 per cent but from April 1, a 1-year Time Deposit will get 7.1 per cent, 2-year Time Deposit will earn 7.2 per cent and 3-Year Time Deposit will attract interest of 7.4 per cent.Five-year time deposit will fetch 7.9 per cent interest in the first quarter as against 8.5 per cent while the same on five-year recurring deposit has been slashed to 7.4 per cent from 8.4 per cent.The government had on February 16 announced moving small saving interest rates closer to market rates. On that day, rates on short-term post office deposits was cut by 0.25 per cent but long-term instruments such as MIS, PPF, senior citizen and girl child schemes were left untouched. 

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