Today Current Affairs 23rd March 2017

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The Supreme Court of India on 22 March 2017 constituted a committee to explore a technical solution to block videos of sexual offences on social networking sites. The committee comprises of representatives from the Union government and internet majors. The members of the committee that includes the nominees of Google India, Microsoft India, Yahoo India, Facebook and other internet intermediaries were given a time period of 15 days to meet and come up with a solution. The representatives of all stakeholders were asked to participate in the meeting and inform it about the outcome of the meet on 20 April 2017, which is the next day for hearing the case. The direction was passed by a bench of Justice MB Lokur and Justice UU Lalit while hearing a letter sent to former Chief Justice HL Dattu by a Hyderabad-based NGO along with two rape videos in a pen drive. Earlier in the day, the officials from cyber security informed the apex court that internet was a wild highway and blocking objectionable content at the source was a technical challenge. It informed that clear guidelines should be issued to stop the circulation of such material. They had told the court that 50 countries have set up hotlines to stop child abuse in their jurisdiction but India was yet to start such a service. The team of cyber security also informed the court that they are taking help of INTERPOL to stop child pornography. On receiving a complaint, internet service providers were asked to block the objectionable content. Cyber security department is a wing of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

China’s State Oceanic Administration on 22 March 2017 released its annual report that revealed a record high rise in China’s coastal sea level in 2016.  According to the report, the average coastal sea levels in the country in 2016 were up by 38 mm in comparison to the previous year and hit a record high in the months of April, September, November and December.  Highlights  : This rise in the level has been credited to climate change as well as El Nino and La Nina events. The administration has warned that high sea levels would lead to major problems including coastal erosion and more frequent and severe typhoons.  It also added that regions falling in the vulnerable coastal lines need to push their flood prevention efforts further by improving their drainage system and building more dams.  The vulnerable areas would also need to avoid using underground water to reduce the risk of caving in of land.  China's coastal waters have risen 3.2mm per year since 1980, which is much higher than the global average increase over the period. Besides this, the study also revealed a rise in the country’s coastal air and sea temperature and a fall in its coastal air pressure.

A group of birdwatchers in March 2017 spotted an Australian night parrot, once thought to be extinct, for the first time in 100 years. The bird was spotted photographed in Western Australia. It is the first verified sighting of the bird in the region. The discovery of the bird was made by a group of four friends from Broome. The group travelled to a habitat in the outback of Western Australia that they identified as a potential spotting place for the parrot via detailed aerial maps. They spent a night camping out at the spot, listening out for the distinctive calls of the parrot. One member from the group managed to take a photograph of the parrot. The last recorded sighting of the parrot in Western Australia was in the Pilbara in 1912. Night Parrot : The night parrot is a small parrot endemic to the continent of Australia.It is well known as being one of the most elusive and mysterious birds in the world. There were no known sightings of the bird between 1912 and 1979, which led to a speculation that it was extinct.Since 1979, the bird’s sightings have been extremely rare. The bird's population size is still unknown. However, it is estimated to be somewhere around 50 to 249 mature individuals.The first photographic and video evidence of the bird was publicly confirmed in July 2013. In August 2015, the capture of a live individual was announced on Australian media.

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 22 March 2017 approved the proposal for Amendments to the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) Act, 1981. Highlights : Amendments to National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development Act, 1981 include provisions that enable Union Government to increase the authorized capital of NABARD from Rs 5000 crore to Rs 30000 crore. It also proposes to increase the authorised capital beyond Rs 30000 crore in consultation with RBI, as deemed necessary from time to time.  It also proposes the transfer of 0.4 per cent shareholding of RBI in NABARD to the Union Government. The shareholding of RBI amounts to Rs 20 crore. The proposed amendments also include changes in the long title and certain Sections to bring Medium Enterprises and Handlooms in NABARD’s mandate.  The proposed increase in the authorized capital of NABARD will allow the organisation to respond to the commitments it has undertaken, particularly in respect of the Long Term Irrigation Fund and the recent Cabinet decision regarding on-lending to cooperative banks.  It will also enable NABARD to augment its business and enhance its activities to facilitate promotion of integrated rural development and securing prosperity of rural areas including generation of more employment. The transfer of entire shareholding in NABARD held by RBI to the Union Government will remove the conflict in RBI's role as banking regulator and shareholder in NABARD.  

The Election Commission on 22 March 2017 issued an interim order freezing AIADMK party’s symbol of ‘two leaves’, blocking both the camps in Tamil Nadu from using the symbol as well as the party name in the upcoming RK Nagar assembly by-polls in April. The interim order was issued as there was little time available to issue a final one. After a day-long hearing, the Commission said that since there is little time available for it to issue a final order, it is issuing an interim one. The commission had given both VK Sasikala faction and O Panneerselvam faction time till 10 am on the morning of 23 March to choose new symbols to contest the by-polls.  The order was given after a day-long hearing in New Delhi. The EC panel said that it needed more time to read the documents submitted by both the blocks. The decision will be effective only until the end of the by-election.  The last date to file nominations of the April by-polls is 23 March.  The RK Nagar assembly by-poll, which is going to be held on 12 April, is crucial for both camps as it was the constituency held by the late Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa. The tug-of-war for the AIADMK party symbol started last week with the Panneerselvam faction submitting a petition to the EC requesting it to allot the party symbol to it and to counter the same the Sasikala group submitted a memorandum to the panel requesting it to not entertain any claims from the Panneerselvam group to the party symbol.  New party symbol and name  : The Election Commission has allotted the symbol of ‘electricity pole’ to the Panneerselvam faction. The Sasikala faction, on the other hand, has been allotted the hat symbol and their party name would be ‘AIADMK Amma’. Though initially, the Panneerselvam camp had submitted the name ‘Amma AIADMK’, they were asked to change the name by the EC and the faction finally decided on ‘AIADMK Puratchi Thalaivi Amma’. While the Sasikala faction has named AIADMK’s newly-appointed deputy general secretary TTV Dinakaran who is also Sasikala’s nephew as its nominee for the by-polls, the Panneerselvam faction has named E Madhusudanan as their nominee.

The Union Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu on 22 March 2017 released the Water Policy of Indian Railways to mark the World Water Day. The policy was released at a ceremony in New Delhi. On this occasion, the minister also presented GreenCo Certificates to three units of Indian Railways and announced the expansion of VIKALP Scheme for the benefit of waitlisted passengers. The expanded scheme will become effective on 1 April 2017. Features : The policy covers all aspects of water use, recycling, conservation and recharge of groundwater. This is a progressive and creative policy under which field units will be motivated to recycle and save water. The objective of the policy is to improve water use efficiency by setting up water recycling plants, rainwater harvesting plants, sewage treatment plants and effluent treatment plants on railway land.The policy allows the participation of private players for recycling water for non-potable usage on build, own, operate and transfer (BOOT) basis. In this water policy, water audits, restoration of water bodies and recycling of water were given a priority.  GreenCo Certificates : GreenCo Certificates, which are developed by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), are given for adopting good green practices.In fact, the GreenCo Rating System is the first of its kind framework in the world. The GreenCo Rating System is aimed at catalyzing green practices in the Indian industry. The objective of the scheme is to define and assess “How Green is a company?” and facilitate the way forward for further improvement and promote world class competitiveness through green strategies.The framework adopts a life-cycle approach and evaluates the activities of a unit or a facility on the green front.

Indian para-athletes in the third week of March 2017 bagged eight medals, including three gold, in the 9th Fazza International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai. With 3 gold, 1 silver and 4 bronze medals till the second day of competition, India ranks at the seventh spot out of 48 participating countries. Sundar Singh Gurjar clinched a gold each in the men’s Javelin Throw F-46 and Discus Throw F-46 competitions. Gurjar, who lost his left hand in an accident two years ago, threw 60.33m in Javelin Throw F-46. He threw 44.56m in Discus Throw F-46, over five meters clear of the rest of the field. The third gold for India was grabbed by Narender Ranbir in men’s Javelin Throw F-44 with an effort of 47.75m. Other Indian winners till the second day of competition Anandan Gunasekaran won silver in 400m Men T-42/44/46 Ramkaran Singh won bronze in 800m Men T-13/20 Surjit Singh won bronze in Shotput Men F-40/41/42 Rohit won bronze in 400m Men T-11/12/13 Pramod K Yadav won bronze in 400m Men T-42/44/46 International Paralympic Committee :  The International Paralympic Committee is the global governing body for the Paralympic Movement. It organizes the Paralympic Games and functions as the international federation for nine sports. It was founded on 22 September 1989 in Dusseldorf, Germany. The body’s mission is "To enable Paralympic athletes to achieve sporting excellence and inspire and excite the world". It headquarters is located in Bonn, Germany.  

Five people were killed, including a police officer, in a suspected terrorist attack outside the British Houses of Parliament on 22 March 2017.  While a vehicle slammed into unsuspecting pedestrians on the nearby Westminster Bridge, an unidentified assailant wielding a knife stabbed a police officer multiple times. The attack put the British Parliament on a complete lockdown for hours. Members and officials remained inside while Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May was rushed away to safety by car. The assailant with the knife was shot dead by armed police. London Police stated that they would be treating the attack as a terrorist incident until they know otherwise.Several world leaders including Indian Prime Mister Narendra Modi condemned the attack and voice their staunch support for the UK in its fight against terrorism. Those dead include the assailant, the policeman he stabbed and three other victims who were hit by the speeding car.Theresa May termed the terror strike as “sick and depraved” and added that the location of the attack was no accident.  Speaking on the investigation, Mark Rowley, Britain's most senior counter-terrorism officer stated that the police’s fast-paced investigation was working on the assumption that the attack was Islamist-related terrorism. The incident is the biggest suspected case of terrorism in London since four British Islamist suicide bombers killed over 52 people in an attack on the city’s transport system in July 2005. It also coincides with the first anniversary of the Islamic State suicide attacks that killed 32 people in Brussels, the capital city of Belgium.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on 22 March 2017 approved a policy for grant of extension to the Production Sharing Contracts (PSC) that were awarded by Union Government  for Pre-NELP Exploration Blocks before 1999. This extension comes as a relief for Vedanta-owned Cairn India Ltd that operates India’s largest onland block at Barmer in Rajasthan. Cairn India holds 70 per cent stake in the Rajasthan block while ONGC owns 30 per cent. The policy aims to enable and facilitate investment to extract the remaining reserves. Highlights of the Policy : It will enable the contractors to extract not only the remaining reserves but also the additional reserves by implementing new technologies.  In certain fields, additional recovery of hydrocarbons can be obtained through Enhanced Oil Recovery / Improved Oil Recovery (EOR/IOR) Projects.  The policy will act as a progressive step towards achieving the target of 10 per cent reduction in import of crude oil by 2022.  Among others, it includes oil and gas blocks in the State of Rajasthan that account for about half of the country's onland production of crude oil.  The policy brings out detailed guidelines regarding grant of extension, criterion for evaluation of request, time frame for consideration of request, duration of extension etc. The extension of these contracts is expected to bring extra investments in the fields and would generate both direct and indirect employment.  The share of Profit Petroleum of Union Government during the extended period of contract would be 10 per cent higher for these fields, thus bringing additional revenues to Government. 

The Peshawar High Court on 22 March 2017 ordered authorities to ensure separate counting of Sikhs in the nation-wide census. The order came after the community members filed a plea for not being counted among the religions. The court ordered that the section of Sikhism be included in the religion column in the census form. The first phase of the 6th census had clubbed Sikhs with the Scheduled Castes of the country while separately counting the Muslims, Hindus, Christians and some other groups. The Sikhs community filed a petition in the high court, which ordered that the section of Sikhism be included in the religion column in the census form. The high court directed that the implementation of the ruling should be carried out in the second phase of the population census, which would start from 25 April 2017. First census in 19 years : Pakistan is holding its first census in nineteen years. The country conducted its last national population census in the year 1998. In the ongoing census in the country, only nine of its estimated 70 languages will be listed, which disappoints many communities. No regional languages from sparsely populated Gilgit-Baltistan are included in the census form. However, it is for the first time that around three million registered and unregistered Afghan refugees in the country will also be counted in the census. It is also for the first time that transgendered citizens will be counted.The ongoing census will be concluded in two phases. The first phase, which already started on 15 March 2017, will conclude on 15 April 2017. The second phase starts from 25 April 2017 and will conclude on 25 May 2017. Sikhs in Pakistan :  Sikhs form a very small community in present-day Pakistan.Most of the community members live in the province of Punjab and Peshawar in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, is located in Pakistan’s Punjab province. Before the partition, significant populations of Sikhs inhabited the largest cities in the Punjab such as Lahore, Rawalpindi and Faisalabad. However, post-partition, the minority Hindu and Sikh migrated to India. In the decades following Pakistan's independence in 1947, the Sikh community began to re-organise, forming the Pakistan Sikh Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee (PGPC) to represent the community in Pakistan.  

The Ninth Gorkhas celebrated 200-years of its raising in Secunderabad, Telangana on 16 March 2017. The first battalion of the Ninth Gorkhas was raised by the British government in 1817 as the ‘Fatehgarh Levy’. Ninth Gorkha Rifles has a unique honour that all its battalions have been awarded the Chief of Army Staff’s Citation for exceptional performance in the line of duty. Awards conferred on the regiment in the two centuries of its existence includes Three Victoria Crosses Five Mahavir Chakras Seventeen Vir Chakras Scaling of Mount Stok Kangri (6153 meters): A team of the regiment on 30 September 2016 scaled Mount Stok Kangri, which is the highest peak of the Stok Ranges in the Ladakh Region. Motorcycle Rally: A motorcycle rally was flagged off by the Chief of Army Staff, General Rawat. The rally was conducted on the traditional recruiting areas in Western Nepal. The rally reached Pokhara, Nepal on 4 February 2017. Massive rally to celebrate the bicentenary of the Regiment: The massive rally that saw the participation of almost 3500 ex-servicemen and widows was held in Pokhara, Nepal. The event was attended by General Rajendra Chhetri, Chief of Army Staff, Nepal Army, and Lt General AK Bhatt, Colonel, Ninth Gorkhas. This massive rally also coincided with the motorcycle rally that reached the city of Pokhara on the same day. Conclusion of the event: The event culminated with a special dinner. The dinner ceremony was attended by serving and retired soldiers, including former Governor of Punjab, Gen B K N Chibber. The occasion was graced by more than 500 veterans from remote areas in Nepal with their families. This participation reaffirmed the regimental bonds between the two nations. Regimental bonds between Nepal and India : The two nations, namely India and Nepal, share a unique model of military diplomacy. At present, about 32000 Nepali citizens are serving in the Indian Army. Apart from this, more than 90000 veterans are drawing their pensions in Nepal. 9 Gorkha Rifles : The 9 Gorkha Rifles is a Gorkha regiment of the Indian Army. It comprises Gurkha soldiers of Nepalese origin and was initially formed in 1817 by the British government. After independence one of the Gurkha regiments was transferred to the Indian Army. They were transferred to India as part of the tripartite agreement in 1947. This Gorkha regiment mainly recruits soldiers who come from the Chhetri (Kshatriya) and Thakuri clans of Nepal. Domiciled Indian Gorkhas are also taken, and they form about 20 percent of the regiment's total strength. The 9 Gorkha Rifles is one of the seven Gorkha regiments of the Indian Army. The other regiments are 1 GR, 3 GR, 4 GR, 5 GR (FF), 8 GR and 11 GR.  

India on 23 March 2017 paid befitting tributes to martyr Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev. 23 March marks their 86th martyrdom day, which is also celebrated as Shaheed Diwas. Paying tributes on the occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tweet said the country will never forget their courage and sacrifice. British rulers had executed them at Shadman Chowk in Lahore Central jail on 23 March 1931 for their revolutionary activities against the British rule. They were hanged a day before the scheduled date of execution. Their bodies were cremated on the banks of the Sutlej River. The trio, Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar, were hanged for killing John Saunders, who they mistook as James Scott, the British police superintendent. It was believed that Scott was the person behind the death of Lala Lajpat Rai. Later, they, Bhagat Singh and his associates, got themselves arrested by exploding bombs in the central legislative assembly in Delhi. During their imprisonment period, they undertook several revolutionary works including hunger strikes in which they demanded better rights for Indians in prisons. To mark the day, a number of programmes have been organised across India, especially in Punjab. Events that will be held to mark the martyrdom day of the national heroes includes Ferozpur, Punjab: As per reports, a 120-kilometer long bicycle rally was planned on the occasion of the martyrdom day. The rally started on 22 March from the Martyrs' Memorial at Asafwala village, near Sulemanki border between India-Pakistan in Fazilka district and will reach Hussainiwala on 23 March 2017. Toori Bazaar of Ferozpur was used as a hideout for nearly six months in 1928-29 by Bhagat Singh and contemporaries. During this hideout, Singh has got his hair cut to change his outlook. Delhi: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government led by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has invited historian, AG Noorani, to address the Delhi Assembly on Bhagat Singh's legacy under the subject 'The trial of Bhagat Singh and his relevance today’ on 23 March 2017. Bhagat Singh’s gun: The Border Security Force (BSF) has planned to put on display the pistol (semi-automatic .32-bore Colt-make pistol) that was used by Bhagat Singh to kill British officer John Saunders in 1928, at its new arms museum. At present, the pistol is on display at the old museum of the city-based Central School of Weapon Central School of Weapons and Tactics (CSWT). The gun will be put on display within a couple of months. Pakistan: The High of Lahore, Pakistan has granted security covers to Bhagat Singh Foundation to mark his Martyrdom Anniversary. The security cover was granted as it is believed that the ceremony has threats from some religious groups in the country.

The Union Cabinet, presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 22 March 2017 was apprised of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-ln) and the US Homeland Security Department on cooperation in the field of Cyber Security. The MoU was signed on 11 January 2017 in New Delhi. The agreement aims to promote closer co-operation and exchange of information pertaining to the Cyber Security in accordance with the relevant laws, rules and regulations and on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual benefit. Indian Computer Emergency Response Team : The CERT-In is the Government organisation under Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.It is a nodal agency that deals with cyber security threats like hacking and phishing. It strengthens security-related defence of the Indian Internet domain. In December 2013, the organisation had reported a rise in the cyber attacks on Government organisations like banking and finance, oil and gas and emergency services. In March 2014, the organisation had also reported a critical flaw in Android Jelly bean's VPN implementation. On 19 July 2011, the United States and India had signed an MoU to promote a closer cooperation and timely exchange of information between the organizations of their respective Governments responsible for Cyber Security. Since July 2011, regular interactions between CERT-In and US CERT are taking place to share the information and discuss cyber security related issues.

The World Meteorological Day 2017 was observed globally on 23 March 2017 with the theme 'Understanding Clouds'. The Day is organised every year by World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and is celebrated globally. The theme highlights the enormous importance of clouds for weather climate and water. Clouds are central to weather observations and forecasts.International Cloud Atlas On the occasion of World Meteorological Day 2017, WMO released its new digitized International Cloud Atlas- a global reference for observing and identifying clouds. The new Atlas combines 19th century traditions with 21st century technology.  It includes new classifications including volutus, a roll cloud; clouds from human activities such as the contrail, a vapour trail sometimes produced by airplanes and asperitas, a dramatic undulated cloud which captured the public imagination. It also proposes five new special clouds: cataractagenitus, flammagenitus, homogenitus, silvagenitus and homomutatus. It contains hundreds of images submitted by meteorologists, photographers and cloud lovers from around the globe.  It also features  other meteorological phenomena such as rainbows, halos, snow devils and hailstones.   The International Cloud Atlas was first published in the late 19th century. World Meteorological Day : World Meteorological Day celebrates the anniversary of the convention establishing World Meteorological Organization in 1950. It showcases the essential contribution of National Meteorological and Hydrological Services to the safety and wellbeing of society. It celebrates the inherent beauty and aesthetic appeal of clouds, which has inspired artists, poets, musicians, photographers and countless other enthusiasts throughout history.

The Government of India is set to increase the nuclear power generation capacity in India to nearly 15,000 MW by 2024. The information regarding the same was delivered by Minister of State for PMO Jitendra Singh in the Lok Sabha on March 22, 2017.  The minister also informed that in 2014, India’s nuclear power generation capacity was 4,780 MW.  The government is taking a number of steps to accelerate all ongoing nuclear projects and setting up of new plants in different parts of the country.  However, for generating targeted nuclear power, there has to be enough uranium available, both from domestic as well as foreign sources. The government is therefore actively involved in the process of acquiring uranium from different sources, including exploration in new places like Bihar and Meghalaya.   

Olympics silver medalist and professional badminton player PV Sindhu has been appointed as brand ambassador of PepsiCo’s sports based drink for Gatorade to popularise the benefits of this drink.  Sindhu will unveil an all new Sweat More campaign to support the badminton star’s journey from silver to gold.  It was the first time American food and beverage maker PepsiCo Inc has roped an Indian to endorse the brand in India. 

Philippines headquartered Asian Development Bank (ADB)’s Deputy Country Director L. B. Sondjaja and Joint Secretary (Multilateral Institutions), Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance, Raj Kumar have signed a $350 million loan agreement in New Delhi on March 22, 2017.  This loan amount will be used to improve 1,500 kilometers of major district roads in India’s second­largest State Madhya Pradesh.  The state government of Madhya pradesh also will allocate $150 million for this project iv. At the same time Pramod Agrawal, Principal Secretary of Madhya Pradesh government and Piyush Kumar Chaturvedi, General Manager of Madhya Pradesh Road Development Corporation (MPRDC) signed a four year project agreement 

The Russian VTB Bank has announced its intention to close its only office in India as part of its ongoing cost optimisation strategy. However, the bank will continue operations in the country and further develop their partner and client network in the country. The VTB Bank was launched in India in New Delhi in April 2008. The branch holds an Indian banking licence for transactions in national and foreign currencies.  Russian government is the majority shareholder of VTB Bank with 60.9 percent of the voting shares. The Delhi branch focused on trade financing, foreign exchange transactions, corporate lending, settlement and cash services, and opening Rouble accounts for Russian tax residents operating in India.

The Government of India has proposed to lower the limit of cash transaction from Rs. 3 lakh to Rs. 2 lakh per month to further tighten and discourage payments by cash as well as curb black money. The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley proposed 40 amendments to the Finance Bill 2017 which was cleared by the Lok Sabha on March 21, 2017.  The new limit will be effective from April 1, 2017. Any violations to the norms would be subjected to a fine equivalent to the amount of transaction. For example, if a cash transaction of Rs 4 lakh is uncovered, the penalty will be Rs 4 lakh.  The decision to cap the cash transaction to Rs. 2 lakh was taken based on a report that after a sudden increase, the digital transactions had again declined. Among other amendments, the Minister proposed to make Aadhaar mandatory for filing tax returns from July 1. Besides, Aadhaar has also been made mandatory to apply for permanent account numbers (PAN). The government also proposed to amend the Finance Bill to ensure only cheque payments can be accepted for the purchase of electoral bonds and that RBI is empowered to authorise banks to accept them. The amendments to the laws like Companies Act, Employees Provident Fund, Smuggling and Foreign Exchange Act, TRAI Act and Information Technology Act, have also been proposed to make the functioning of tribunals more efficient by merging the smaller ones and reducing their numbers from 40 to 12. 

Samsung Electronics officially launched the mobile payment service, Samsung Pay in India on March 22, 2017. With this, Samsung becomes the first company to launch a mobile payment service in India, ahead of Apple Pay or Android Pay.  The first commercial transaction of the new payments service in India was carried out in the presence of NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant and Samsung Southwest Asia President and CEO HC Hong. Samsung has tied up with several banks and payment gateways in India like ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank, SBI, Standard Chartered, Citi Bank, and American Express for the payment service. v. Its network partners are American Express, Visa, and MasterCard, while Pine Labs is the Acceptance partner for PoS machines.  Samsung has also tied up with mobile wallet Paytm for payments and will also add UPI based payment soon. However, initially the service is still limited to a select few Galaxy smartphones and will be rolled out to other devices soon.  Samsung Pay is a highly secure platform as it works with three levels of security like fingerprint authentication, card tokenization and Samsung’s defense­grade mobile security platform, Samsung KNOX. 

Taiwan’s president Tsai Ing­wen launched the island’s first ever home­grown submarine project on March 21, 2017 at a naval base in southern city of Kaohsiung because the island faces rising navy threats from China as relations deteriorate. An MoU has been signed for the project between the navy, Taiwanese shipbuilder CSBC Corporation and the National Chung­Shan Institute of Science and Technology, which develops combat system integration. The project is a part of the island’s indigenous defence policy and the delivery of the submarine is expected to take eight years and deployed within 10 years.  Taiwan’s navy currently operates a fleet of 4 submarines which are purchased from abroad, however only two of them may be deployed in the occasion of warfare. The other two have been constructed by the United States in the 1940s and are solely used in training as they’re too outdated for fight. 

The high level Committee has been formed to examine the working of the regulatory bodies Central Council of Indian Medicine (CCIM) and Central Council of Homoeopathy(CCH) said by Yesso Naik, Minister of State (Independent Charge) for AYUSH.  The committee will be headed by Arvind Panagariya,Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog.  \Other members of the committee are Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NITI Aayog and Secretary, Ministry of AYUSH  Both the council will be inspected by the new committee and will suggest suitable reforms.   

ABB India has restored and modernized the critical 1,035 MW Sharavathi hydropower plant in Karnataka that accounts for 25% of Karnataka Power Corporation’s generation. For restoring the crucial power infrastructure, the ABB has bagged 'the India Smart Grid Foundation (ISGF) innovation award'. ABB (ASEA Brown Boveri) is a Swedish-Swiss multinational corporation headquartered in Zürich, Switzerland, operating mainly in robotics and the power and automation technology areas. It ranked as the 286th largest company by revenue for 2016 in the Fortune Global 500 list. ABB is one of the largest engineering companies as well as one of the largest conglomerates in the world. ABB has operations in around 100 countries, with approximately 132,000 employees in December 2016.

India was ranked 131 in the 2016 Human Development Index (HDI) among the 188 countries.  India scored 0.624 and was placed in medium human development category. The index was unveiled recently as part of the Human Development Report (HDR) 2016 titled Human Development for Everyone published by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).  Top three countries: Norway (0.949 score), Australia (0.939) and Switzerland (0.939) SAARC countries: Sri Lanka (73) and Maldives (105) were placed in “high human development” category, followed by India (131), Bhutan (132), Bangladesh (139), Nepal (144), Pakistan (147) and Afghanistan (169). BRICS Countries: India ranks lowest among BRICS nations. Russia (49), Brazil (79), China (90), South Africa (119) and India (131). India related facts: India’s HDI value increased from 0.428 in 1990 to 0.624 in 2015. However, its average annual growth in HDI (1990-2015) was higher than that of other medium HDI countries. Life expectancy at birth: In India, it has increased from 68 years to an average of 68.3 years — 69.9 years for women and 66.9 years for men. Access to knowledge: India’s expected years of schooling remains at 11.7 years, while mean years of schooling increased from 5.4 to 6.3 years. India’s Gross National Income (GNI) based on per capita purchasing power parity (PPP): It has risen from $5,497 to $5,663. Gender Inequality Index (GII): India ranked 125 among 159 countries. Only 12.2% of Parliament seats are held by women. 8% of women above the age of 15 years are part of India’s labour force — compared to 79.1% men. The ratio of maternal mortality is 174 against every 100,000 live births. Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index (IHDI): It is difference between the HDI and IHDI, expressed as a percentage of the HDI, indicating the loss in human development due to inequality. India’s HDI was pegged at 0.624, but its value falls 27.2% after being adjusted for inequalities, resulting in a HDI value of 0.455. Life expectancy adjusted with inequalities between 2010 and 2015 fell 24%, resulting in a value of 0.565. The percentage of inequality in education in 2015 was 39.4% or 0.324 and inequality in income 16.1% or 0.512.  The HDI is a measure for assessing countries progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life (life expectancy), access to knowledge and access to a decent standard of living. Countries are ranked based on scale ranging between 0 (low) to 1 (high).  

The GRAPES-3 experiment at TIFR’s (Tata Institute of Fundamental Research) Cosmic Ray Laboratory in Ootacamund in Tamil Nadu is getting upgraded to detect solar storms.  GRAPES-3 (Gamma Ray Astronomy PeV EnergieS phase-3) experiment had detected the effect of a solar storm that hit the earth in June 2015. GRAPES-3 has an important role in understanding the propagation of storms from the L1 point (Lagrange point 1) to its impact on the Earth. The upgraded detector will have an increased coverage and improved capacity to determine the direction of incident cosmic rays.  It will play a major role in getting precise information about the propagation of storms in the last million miles (from the L-1 point) of their journey from the Sun to the earth.  The Sun is at a distance of 150 million kilometres from the earth. Satellites are placed at a distance of nearly 1.5 million kilometres, at the so-called L1 point (between Earth and Sun), where they orbit the Sun along with the Earth. The satellites act as an early warning system as the charged particles from a solar storm first impact the satellites before hitting the earth. The GRAPES-3 experiment is located at Ooty in India. It was started as a collaboration of the TIFR and the Japanese Osaka City University, and now also includes the Japanese Nagoya Women’s University.  It is specially designed to study cosmic rays with an array of air shower detectors and a large area muon detector. It aims to probe acceleration of cosmic rays in the four astrophysical settings.  

The Southern Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) suspended the Environmental Clearance (EC) granted to the India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO). It has asked the project proponent to make a fresh application. NGT suspended the EC after petitioner submitted that the INO project was just 4.5 km away from Mathikettan Shola National Park in Idukki district (Kerala) and one kilometre from Kerala-Tamil Nadu border and falls under category ‘A’ project in the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).  The Union Environment Ministry had categorised INO project as a Category ‘B’ project, for which an EIA is not necessary. But, as per EIA Notification, 2006, any project specified in category ‘B’ will be treated as category A, if it is located in whole or in part within 10 km from the boundary of protected areas notified under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 and inter-State boundaries. INO is a category ‘A’ project, which meant EIA study has to be done by an accredited agency. Since the project was near a national park, INO needs to get a clearance from the National Board for Wildlife. It also needs to get necessary clearance from the Kerala government as well. India-Based Neutrino Observatory (INO)  : It country’s most ambitious basic science project proposed to come up in Bodi west hills of Theni district of Tamil Nadu.  It aims at building a world-class underground laboratory with a rock cover of approximately 1200 meter. Its mandate is to conduct basic research on the elementary particle called neutrino.  It is jointly supported by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science & Technology (DST), with DAE acting as the nodal agency.  The observatory will be located underground in order to provide adequate shielding to the neutrino detector from cosmic background radiation.  It will comprise a complex of caverns which will house detector which is 130 metres long, 26 metres wide and 30 metre high.  

The upper house of Indian Parliament, Rajya Sabha passed the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) (Prevention and Control) Bill, 2014 by voice vote on 21 March 2017.  The bill, which includes provisions that ensure equal rights to people afflicted by HIV and AIDS in getting treatment and admission in educational institutions and jobs, was introduced in the house on the same day.  Highlights  : The bill was introduced in the house by the Union Health Minister, J P Nadda. It was originally introduced by the UPA government in February 2014 after consultations with people in 29 ministries and 21 departments.  Explaining the provisions of the bill, Nadda stated that it will give legislative backing to the people living with HIV and prohibit the feeling of hatred.   It will ensure that every HIV infected person below the age of 18 years has the right to reside in a shared household and enjoy its facilities.   It also prohibits discrimination against HIV positive persons on grounds like denial, termination, discontinuation or unfair treatment with regard to employment, educational establishments, health care services and residing or renting property. Further, replying to concerns of some members of the house including Congress leader Jairam Ramesh regarding clause 14 of the bill that says ‘as far as possible’ for providing treatment to those having HIV/AIDS by the Centre and the State, the health minister stated that the bill will ensure that nobody is denied treatment. While the bill received overwhelming support in the house, members emphasized on the need to provide higher budgetary allocation for National AIDS Control Organization and blood banks and the need to include sex education in school as a part of the syllabus in order make students more aware and cautious.

Majuli: Biggest River Island in the world in the Brahmaputra River, Assam Sarbananda Sonowal, Chief Minister of Assam, on 21 March 2017 launched initiatives to develop Majuli as India’s first carbon neutral district and as a biodiversity heritage site. The launch coincided with the celebration of International Day of Forest at Brahmaputra State Guest House in Guwahati. In addition, the Chief Minister also launched Forests are Lives campaign to underline the importance of Assam’s rich forest and biodiversity. Highlights : The state CM also launched through remote a registry in Majuli which would record and analyse the climate impact of all proposed projects in the island.The CM stated that the Sustainable Actions for Climate Resilient Development (SaCReD) Initiative would ensure that infrastructure in Majuli had less carbon. Majuli : Majuli is the biggest river island in the world.It is located in the Brahmaputra River, Assam. It is also the first island district of India. The island was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit. The island had a total area of 1250 square kilometres at the beginning of the 20th century. However, it has now shrunk to an area of only 352 square kilometres in 2014. Erosion is the biggest reason behind the shrinkage of the island. However, it is still recognised by Guinness Book of World Records as World's Largest River Island. The island is formed by the River Brahmaputra in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the River Subansiri in the north. The island is accessible by ferries from the city of Jorhat. The island is the abode of the Assamese neo-Vaisnavite culture.  

Upendra Tripathy, the former secretary at Ministry of New and Renewable Energy, was appointed as the full-time interim Director General (IDG) of the International Solar Alliance (ISA). A notification read, “Shri Piyush Goyal, Union Minister for Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy and Mines, Government of India and Ms. Ségolène Royal, Minister for Environment, Energy and Marine Affairs Government of France jointly decided to appoint Mr. Upendra Tripathy, as the Interim Director General (IDG) of the International Solar Alliance (ISA) on a full-time basis.” Upendra Tripathy : Tripathy is an Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Karnataka Cadre. He served the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy as its secretary from 1 April 2014 to 31 October 2016. He has worked with local, provincial and union governments in India for the last 36 years. Departments served by Tripathy include power, commerce, environment, transport and education. In April 2009, he was awarded the Prime Minister’s Award for Excellence in Public Administration. Background on International Solar Alliance (ISA) The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is a coalition of the solar research-rich countries. It was jointly launched on 30 November 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of France François Hollande on the first day of the Paris Climate Conference (CoP21). It was launched in the presence of Ban Ki Moon, the then Secretary-General of the United Nations. 20 nations sign Framework Agreement of International Solar Alliance Mission and vision of International Solar Alliance To provide a dedicated platform for cooperation among solar resource-rich countries where the global community can make a positive contribution to assist and help achieve the common goals of increasing use of the solar energy in meeting energy needs of prospective ISA member countries in a safe, convenient, affordable, equitable and sustainable manner. The stakeholders of the global community include bilateral and multilateral organisations, industry, corporates among others. Earlier on 25 January 2016, PM Modi and President Hollande jointly laid the foundation stone of the ISA headquarters in Gwalpahari, Gurugram (then Gurgaon). They also inaugurated the Interim Secretariat of the ISA at the National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE) in Gurugram. As per the agreed plan, the Union Government will contribute US$ 27 million to the ISA for creating the corpus, building infrastructure and recurring expenditure over 5-year duration.

The United Nations (UN) on the occasion of the World Water Day, 22 March 2017, published a report that stated that wastewater is a key to solving global water crisis. The report stated that recycling the world's waste water, almost all of which goes untreated, would ease global water shortages while protecting the environment. Highlights of the report : The report highlighted the fact that people have been using fresh water faster than nature can replace it. This contributed to hunger, disease, conflict and migration in some regions. Two-thirds of human population currently live in zones that experience water scarcity at least one month a year. The report states that half of those people live in China and India. On current trends, the United Nations Environment Programme predicts that water demand, for industry, energy and an extra billion people, will increase by 50 per cent by 2030. Global warming has already deepened droughts in many areas. The earth will continue to heat up over the course of the century, even under optimistic scenarios. Waste water, runoff from agriculture, industry and expanding cities contribute to the problem. The problem is deeper in poor countries where very little, if any, waste water is treated or recycled. High-income nations treat about 70 per cent of the waste water they generate. The figure drops to 38 per cent for upper middle-income countries. In low-income nations, only 8 per cent of industrial and municipal waste water undergoes treatment of any kind. More than 800000 people die every year because of contaminated drinking water, and not being able to properly wash their hands. Water-related diseases claim nearly 3.5 million lives annually in Africa, Asia and Latin America. The figure is more than the global death toll from AIDS and car crashes combined. Chemicals and nutrients from factories and farms lead to dead-zones in rivers, lakes and coastal waters, and seep into aquifers. The report concludes that policy initiatives must shift focus to removing contaminants from waste water flows, reusing water, and recovering useful by-products to reduce pollution at the source.