Current Affairs 24th March 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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Government 24 March 2016 decided to construct 2.95 crore houses in rural areas under its ambitious Housing for All by 2022 scheme. The Union Cabinet, in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its nod for the implementation of the rural component of the scheme. The government will have to spend nearly Rs 81,975 crore over construction of the one crore houses in the first three years of the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana-Gramin under which it will provide financial assistance of Rs 1.20 lakh to those living in plain areas and Rs 1.30 lakh to those in "hilly and difficult" areas. The scheme would be implemented in rural areas throughout the country except Delhi and Chandigarh. The cost of houses would be shared between the Centre and the states. An amount of Rs 81,975 crore will be needed to construct one crore houses between 2016-17 and 2018-19 out of which Rs 68,000 crore will be provided by budgetary provisions," Prasad told reportes after the Cabinet meeting.He said the rest Rs 21,975 crore will come from borrowing through National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) to be amortised through budgetary allocations after 2022. The Union Cabinet had in June last year approved the launch of the 'Housing for All by 2022' programme for the rehabilitation of slum-dwellers and promotion of affordable housing for the urban poor, targeting to provide nearly 20 million houses over seven years.In the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana-Gramin, the gram sabhas will have a role in the final say on beneficiaries as the list identified through the SECC will be presented to them to find out beneficiaries who have been assisted before or have become ineligible due to other reasons. The scheme envisages to meet the additional requirement of building materials through manufacturing of bricks using cement stabilised earth or fly ash under MGNREGA. The beneficiary would also have an option to avail loan of up to Rs 70,000 for the construction of the house. Support will be provided at district and block levels for technical facilitation and addressing quality issues in house construction. 

Ace shooter Abhinav Bindra has floated a venture fund that will invest in startups. The Olympic champion has set up an incubation fund, called Shooting Star LLP, in equal partnership with consulting firm Franchise India and an initial investment of $2 million. This is my first widespread and extensive business venture. A startup is very much like an athlete's life .Gaurav Marya, president of franchising and consulting firm Franchise India Holding, said the fund will invest in scalable formats with specialised domain expertise in areas such as emerging sports academies, sports injury, rehab, tech, equipment and training, health apps, child development, holistic wellness, organic foods and dairy. The focus of the fund will be services. 

South Indian Bank has announced that its personnel department has achieved the ISO 9001:2008 certification.It is a remarkable achievement for the bank as only very few personnel departments have won this certification in the industry, said V G Mathew, MD & CEO of South Indian Bank, while receiving the certificate from Shashi Nath Mishra, Global Head, Indian Register Quality Systems, at a function held at the bank's headquarters in Thrissur.The ISO 9001:2008 certification acknowledges that the policies, practices and methods adopted by the department are system oriented and in tandem with international standards.

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for a MoU between India and United Arab Emirates (UAE) to mobilise long-term investment in National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF). Decision in this regard was taken by Union Cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.The MoU will help establish a transparent and high-level framework and collaboration platform for both countries. Under this platform both countries will explore ways to facilitate and expand the participation of UAE’s investment institutions in appropriate infrastructure projects and institutions in India including NIIF. Under this MOU, a joint working group comprising of the concerned representatives of both parties would be established to take forward cooperation and to discuss and agree the terms, principles and criteria jointly.In August 2015, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to UAE both countries had agreed to establishment of UAE-India Infrastructure Investment Fund. The aim of the fund was to reach a target of 75 billion dollars to support investment in India’s plans for rapid expansion of next generation infrastructure.The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) has been established by Union Government as a Category II Alternate Investment Funds (AIF) as per the regulations of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The objective of NIIF is to maximize economic growth of the country mainly through infrastructure development in commercially viable projects (both greenfield and brownfield), including stalled projects. For the investment purpose, NIIF will solicit equity participation from strategic anchor partners.

India and France have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for construction of six nuclear reactors at Jaitapur nuclear park in Maharashtra. It was inked by Electricite de France (EDF), a French public utility and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL). The MoU was signed after the two countries had decided to conclude the techno-commercial negotiations for the Jaitapur project by the end of 2016. This cooperation roadmap was finalised during the official state Visit of French President Francois Hollande to India in January 2016. EDF is France’s public electricity producer and supplier. It has been designated by the French government for taking over AREVA NP and shall supply equipment to for Jaitapur nuclear park.Jaitapur Nuclear Power Project  is a 9900 MW power project proposed by Nuclear Power Corporation of India (NPCIL) at Madban village of Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra. On completion, it will become the largest nuclear power generating station in the world by net electrical power rating. It consists of 6 European Pressurised Reactors (EPR) of 1650 MW each. France is going to supply technology for construction and also nuclear fuel for 25 years for this plant.

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval to the US $ 1,500 million project of World Bank Support to Swachh Bharat Mission. The Project basically provides for incentivising States on the basis of their performance in the existing SBM-G. Incentivisation of States was approved by the Cabinet while approving the Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) on 24th September, 2014. The current approval provides for the mechanism of such incentivisation through World Bank credit. Under the approved project, the performance of the States will be gauged through certain performance indicators, called the Disbursement-Linked Indicators (DLIs). Following are three DLIs. Reduction in the prevalence of open defecation: The funds under this result area shall be released to the States on the basis of reduction in prevalence of open defecation amongst rural households in the State, compared to the previous year, Sustaining Open Defecation Free (ODF) status in Villages: The funds under this result area, shall be released on the basis of estimated population residing in ODF villages, Increase in percentage of rural population served by improved Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM): The funds under this DL1 will be based on the population served with acceptable level of SLWM services. The States will pass on a substantial portion (more than 95 percent) of the Performance Incentive Grant Funds received from the MOWS, to the appropriate implementing levels of districts, Blocks, GPs etc. The end-use of the incentive grants will be limited to activities pertaining to the sanitation sector. The project will accelerate efforts to achieve sustained outcomes in sanitation by 2019. The incentive framework introduced through the project will reorient efforts of States towards the SBM(G) 'outcomes' such as reduction in open defecation, sustainable achievement of open defecation - free (ODF) villages and improvement in solid and liquid waste management (SLWM). The project will also put in place a robust and credible independent verification system for annual measurement of improvement in rural sanitation. The project will support the SBM(G) programme in achievement of its objectives of attaining open defecation- free and clean environment. Since poor sanitation is related to ill-health, malnutrition, poor education and poverty; achievement of SBM(G) objectives will have a beneficial effect on all of these. It will therefore ensure a better quality of life for the rural population. The total World Bank credit being obtained for the Project is US $ 1500 million (Rs. 9000 crore @ US $ l=Rs. 60), of which US $ 1475 million (Rs 8850 crore) is for providing incentive grant to the States and US$ 25 million (Rs 150 crore) is for providing programme management and capacity support to Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation (MDWS). The proposed Project is, therefore, not a new scheme, but part of the existing SBM (G) and provides part-funding to SBM (G) as Externally Aided Project (EAP) credit to support incentivisation of States. In other words, a Performance- based Incentive Grant Scheme, as part of SBM (G), is proposed to be launched through World Bank support credit funds. The project comes in the background of acceleration of efforts under Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) which has a goal to accelerate efforts to achieve universal sanitation coverage, improve cleanliness and eliminate open defecation in rural India by 2019. The program is considered India's biggest drive to improve sanitation and cleanliness in the country. Under the new SBM (G), the focus is on behaviour change and creation of complete open defecation free (ODF) villages. The objective of the proposed programme is to reduce open defecation in rural areas and strengthen the capacity of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation to manage the SBM(G) programme. The project will therefore, support the SBM(G) programme in achievement of its objectives of attaining an open defecation free and clean environment.

The department of heavy industry has granted in-principle approval to Himachal Road Transport Corporation (HRTC) and Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) to introduce zero-emission retrofitted electric buses under its flagship scheme FAME India (faster adoption and manufacturing of hybrid & electric vehicles in India).According to sources in the know, HRTC and MMRDA will roll out 25 electric buses each. Under FAME India, the department will fund up to 75 per cent cost of the buses.A senior official in the department said pilot projects worth Rs 100 crore were in–principle approval and Rs 75 crore would be disbursed soon under the scheme.Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, who also holds the finance portfolio, had mentioned in his Budget speech that Himachal Pradesh would be the first state in India to introduce zero-emission electric buses. The chief minister also announced exemption from token tax, registration charges and value-added tax on all electric vehicles for five years to promote eco-friendly transport services in the state.The flagship scheme was announced in April 2015 with a total capital outlay of Rs 795 crore in the first two financial years starting with the current year. With this, the government hopes to save Rs 60,000 crore annually on the country’s oil import bill by 2020.According to Geete, business interest is on the rise with Rs 15 crore worth of proposals pouring into the ministry every month.Critics, however, say that in the major metros where the scheme has already been launched  Delhi National Capital Region, Greater Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad  here is no infrastructure for smooth adoption of such vehicles.  

National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 22 March 2016 fined 20 lakh rupees on Uttarakhand-based Darrameks Hotels and Developers Pvt Ltd (DHDPL) for construction on Ganga floodplains.It was fined for constructing a hotel within 200 meters from the Ganga river bank.It slapped the environmental compensation on the developer for violating the order passed by Uttarakhand High Court. In the said order, the HC had prohibited construction of any commercial unit within 200 meter of the river bank.DHDPL also violated the conditions set in the Consent to Establish issued by the Uttarakhand Environment Protection and Pollution Control Board (UEPPCB).The developer through the use of JCBs (mechanical excavators) for levelling the area has disturbed the immediate/direct catchment of the River Ganga by changing the drainage pattern.It also pulled up Uttarakhand government for issuing No Objection Certificate (NoC) to the hotel, located adjacent to the river, without inspecting the site in question.It constituted a committee headed by Uttarakhand Pollution Control Board to inspect the site in district Tehri Garhwal of Uttarakhand and give its recommendations with respect to the hotel project and its impact on Ganga.It directed the committee to submit its report within four weeks and prohibited DHDPL from further construction on the area till the time the panel submits its report.The judgement came on a petition filed by Rajiv Savara, a chartered accountant. In the petition he had alleged that illegal commercial construction on the river bank was posing a serious threat to the ecology and causing irreparable damage to the river.

9th International Abilympics started on 23 March 2016 at Bordeaux in France. Abilympics is coined from Olympics of abilities of persons with disabilities.It is a global work skills competition held every four years. The event aims to promote social awareness in the field of skills development and employment both locally and internationally, and foster friendship among the competing nations.Abilympics : The name Abilympics comes from the idea of organizing a competition to promote the skills of persons with disabilities. It combines Abilities with the idea of the Olympics.The concept was developed in Japan in 1972 based on the model of the skills competition named WorldSkills and on the Paralympic Games.That year, the first national final of the Abilympics was held in Tokyo under the banner Acquiring professional skills leads to a bright future.The International Abilympics Federation (IAF) was officially created during the 3rd International Abilympics in Hong-Kong in 1991.The others countries which hosted the Abilympics are Australian in 1995, Czech Republic in 2000, India in 2003, Japan in 2007 and Korea in 2011.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 23 March 2016 inaugurated broadband connectivity to North Eastern States via Bangladesh to strengthen telecom services in the region.Under the project, an international gateway for broadband connectivity will be set up at Agartala in Tripura.Using this platform, connectivity will be provided to other North Eastern States like Manipur, Nagaland, etc through Bangladesh.The cost of the project is around 19 crore rupees and BSNL will bear annual operational expenditure of around seven crore rupees from its own resources.During the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June 2015, an agreement on this project was signed between India and Bangladesh. The agreement was signed between the state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) and Bangladesh Submarine Cable Company limited.Before this link, telecom connectivity for networks was provided to North East from Chennai via Kolkata. The new link is a short route cable between Cox Bazar cable landing station in Bangladesh to Agartala through Akhaura.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 22 March 2016 launched the Longitudinal Ageing Study in India (LASI).The Longitudinal Ageing Study is the largest survey of its kind. It will survey more than 60000 elderly over 25 years plan. The survey will provide scientifically validated data on various issues of the elderly.The study will be important as it will investigate various health structures, and impact of social determinants on health of the elderly. It will also help in framing evidence-based policy.LASI is the largest study on older population in the country.The International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai in collaboration with Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and University of Southern California (USC), USA is undertaking the LASI under the aegis of the Ministry of Union Health and Family Welfare.LASI is jointly funded by the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the United States’ National Institute on Ageing, and the United Nations Population Fund-India.

World Tuberculosis Day (WTD) 2016 was globally observed on 24 March 2016 with the theme Unite to End TB.The theme was selected against the backdrop of the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015.The Goal 3 of the Agenda aspires to ensure health and well-being for all, including a bold commitment to end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other communicable diseases by 2030. It is annually celebrated on 24 March to commemorate the day on which Dr. Robert Koch discovered the cause of tuberculosis, the TB bacillus in 1882.The day aims to build public awareness about the global epidemic of tuberculosis (TB) and efforts to eliminate the disease.It is one of eight official global public health campaigns marked by the World Health Organization (WHO).The other seven includes World Health Day (7 April), World Blood Donor Day (14 June), World Immunization Week (24-30 April), World Malaria Day (25 April), World No Tobacco Day (31 May), World Hepatitis Day (28 July) and World AIDS Day (1 December).WHO’s End TB Strategy : In May 2014, at the World Health Assembly, governments agreed on an ambitious 20-year (2016-2035) strategy to end the global TB epidemic.The strategy envisions a world free of TB with zero deaths, disease and suffering.It also sets targets and outlines actions for governments and partners to provide patient-centered care, pursue policies and systems that enable prevention and care, and drive research and innovations needed to end the epidemic and eliminate TB.Tuberculosis is an infectious bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis, which most commonly affects the lungs.It is transmitted from person to person via droplets from the throat and lungs of people with the active respiratory disease. It is the second biggest killer next only to HIV/AIDS worldwide.As per an estimate, around 9 million people fell ill with TB and 1.5 million died in 2013. In India, one person dies every two minutes due to this disease.TB can be completely cured if proper and regular medication is taken.

The Ministry of road, transport and highways has approved 11 National highways projects worth Rs 6,284 crore. The total length of the road is 453 km and will be executed on EPC(Engineering, Procurement Construction), BOT (Toll) and Hybrid annuity model.The project was approved by the Expenditure Finance Committee (EFC) meeting which was held under the chairmanship of Secretary Road, Transport and Highways, Sanjay Mitra.Out of the total 11 projects, one will be implemented on BOT(Toll) and Hybrid annuity each and the remaining nine projects will be on EPC mode.

BPO transport service provider Wings Travels has closed the acquisition of taxi aggregator Bookmycab for an undisclosed amount. The acquisition is part of Wings Travels' plan to strengthen its technology and expand business to 47 more cities in India, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and Sri Lanka. The combined entity will be rebranded as Wings Bookmycab. "We have merged synergies to create a global technology solution," said Arun Kharat, founder director of Wings Travels. "For the fast growing vehicle rental market, innovative technology reduces entry barriers for entering new geographies.In July last year, there were reports that Chandigarh-based aggregator Jugnoo has acquired Bookmycab but the deal actually did not go through. "This is to clarify that the deal with Jugnoo fell through at the last stage as it was linked to their Series-B fund raise, which got delayed .Wings Travel, which provides transport services to over 10 lakh employees of top multinational and Indian companies across nine cities, has been considering buying a technology company for developing its own mobile app, which would aid its expansion plans into retail and staff travel market .With this deal, two of the biggest investors in Bookmycab  YourNest Angel Fund and Contrarian Drishti Partners  have become the first external investors in Wings. "With this acquisition, we see an opportunity to play a positive role to build a significant billiondollar tech-leveraged transportation company.

Corporate honchos Anand Mahindra, Aditya Puri and Indian origin Shantanu Narayen have been named in Barron's top 30 list of global CEOs. The 12th annual list of the world's 30 best CEOs include top leaders from Amazon, JPMorgan, Netflix, Disney, Alphabet, Google and more. This year's list replaced a third of last year's honorees, including many CEOs in Asia and included nine new faces and one returnee Jeffrey Bezos of Amazon.com  who proved their mettle as markets swayed and the economic recovery threatened to stumble. The job of identifying the world's best chief executives got harder this year, given plummeting energy prices, China's economic woes, and lukewarm corporate earnings," Barron's .On Anand Mahindra, Mahindra & Mahindra, managing director since 1997, Barron's said he has "transformed family's industrial business into a global conglomerate". When India opened its economy to foreign competition in the 1990s, Mahindra & Mahindra seemed marked for extinction. But scion Anand Mahindra ... restructured his family's company, transforming a business that made tractors and jeeps for rural India into a global conglomerate with interests in tractors, autos, technol  finance, and more.Praising HDFC Bank Managing Director Aditya Puri, Barron's said that he "built HDFC Bank from scratch into India's second-largest bank .A career banker, Puri built HDFC into India's second- largest private-sector bank by assets after ICICI, while generating stock returns that beat Warren Buffett's.On Shantanu Narayen, Adobe Systems, CEO since 2007, said he had "the good and bad fortune of becoming Adobe's CEO in December 2007, on the brink of the economy's collapse. The shares fell 60 per cent in his first 15 months as CEO, but the crisis allowed him to revamp Adobe through acquisitions and in-house disruption".

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its approval for extension of time period of the "Special Industry Initiative for J&K" (SII J&K) Udaan scheme till 2019-20. Initially, the time period of Udaan was up to 2015-16.Udaan provides exposure to the youth of Jammu and Kashmir to the best of corporate India and corporate India to the rich talent pool available in the State. So far, 67 leading corporates have partnered with National Skill Development Corporation (NSDC) under Udaan with a commitment to train youth from the state covering Organized Retail, Banking, Financial Services, IT, ITES, Infrastructure, Hospitality etc.It is expected that the target of the scheme, to train and enhance employability of 40,000 graduates, post graduates and three year engineering diploma holders, will be achieved by 2019-20. To accelerate the pace of implementation, mega selection drives have been introduced, in which around 8-10 corporates participate in a drive.It has significantly improved the number of selections. 67 mega selection drives have been held so far covering all districts of the state.Udaan is a national integration scheme with the goal to mainstream J&K youth with rest of the country. The scheme not only provides skill enhancement and job opportunity but also leads to counter - radicalization and weaning away youth of Jammu and Kashmir from militancy. (ANI)

The Department of Posts will offer core banking solutions (CBS) to its customers at 25,000 post offices by April, against 20,494 CBS-enabled branches as of Monday, Minister of Communications and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad said on March 24,2016. CBS-enabled post offices allow customers to access their postal savings from any of the branches where the facility is available. “Postal department’s digitisation is integral to Digital India. The first thing we pushed was core banking solutions, which means banking from anywhere to anywhere,” Prasad said while addressing a conference on Digital India.The minister said that the core banking linkage of post offices was bigger than that of State Bank of India, which has 16,333 CBS-enabled branches. Implementation of CBS is part of the government’s plan for IT Modernisation Project of the Department of Posts, which aims to bring in various IT solutions with the required IT infrastructure to the post offices.In September 2015, the postal department received an in-principle approval from the Reserve Bank of India to set up a payments bank within 18 months.

To ensure minimum damage to the ecosystem of the Sundarbans during this polling season, the district administration and political parties have decided to minimise the carbon footprint in the islands.Plastic flex is being replaced by banners made of cotton or jute while paper cups are being preferred over plastic cups this year.One of our objectives this year is to maintain a clean and green Sundarbans this polling season. It is being done both for poll campaigning by all political parties as well as during voter awareness programmes and training sessions of poll officials done by us,” said South 24 Parganas District Magistrate Dr PB Salim.For transport, LPG vehicles or electric-run vans are being promoted instead of smoke-guzzling cars.The green project is being implemented in all the 13 Assembly constituencies of South 24 Parganas district of the Sundarbans. Another portion of the archipelago, a UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its tigers and mangrove forests, lies in the adjoining North 24 Parganas district.Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has already announced that the two will be combined to make a new district of Sundarbans later in the year.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Hasina along with Chief Minister of Tripura inaugurated two historical projects between two countries via video conference.These projects are 100 MW power export via transmission lines between Surjamaninagar (Tripura) and South Comilla in Bangladesh. Announcement of India’s 3rd Internet Gateway optical fibre connection between Cox Bazaar in Bangladesh and Agartala (Tripura). Bangladesh will export 10 gbps (gigabytes per second) of Internet bandwidth to India. It will help India strengthen telecom services and connectivity in India’s underdeveloped and sparsely connected eight northeastern states. Under the connectivity project, an international gateway for broadband connectivity will be set up at Agartala (Tripura) through which connectivity will be provided via Bangladesh. India’s state-run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Bangladesh Submarine Cable Co. Ltd (BSCCL) using the network of the Bangladesh Telecom Co. Ltd are implementing agencies. These agreements on the export of electricity and Internet bandwidth were signed between both countries in Dhaka during PM Narendra Modi’s official visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.

Retired Chief Justice of Sikkim High Court Justice Permod Kohli has been appointed as the Chairman of Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT). His appointment was approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New. Justice Kohli will have tenure of five years with effect from the date of assumption of charge of the post or till attaining the age of 68 years, whichever is earlier.CAT was established under Article 323A of the Constitution (inserted by the 42nd Constitutional Amendment, 1976). It exercises original jurisdiction in relation to recruitment and all services matters of public servants covered by it. Its jurisdiction extends to the all-India services, Central civil services, civil posts under the Centre and civilian employee of defence services, It is a multi-member body consisting of Chairman and members.

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for India to accede to the Ashgabat Agreement, an international transport and transit corridor. The agreement facilitates transportation of goods between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf.  India would become party to the Agreement upon consent of the founding members. Accession to the Agreement would enable India to Utilise this existing transport and transit corridor to facilitate trade and commercial interaction and ties with the Eurasian region. Synchronise India’s efforts to implement the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC) for enhanced connectivity. It will provide India an opportunity for reorientation of the freight traffic from the traditional sea route to land transcontinental routes.Ashgabat Agreement is a transit agreement established in year 2011. It establishes international transport and transit corridor between Central Asia and the Persian Gulf countries. Its founding members are Uzbekistan, Iran, Turkmenistan and Oman. Kazakhstan had joined the grouping in 2015.

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