Current Affairs 25th March 2017 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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German scientists are switching on “the world’s largest artificial sun” in the hope that intense light sources can be used to generate climate-friendly fuel. The Synlight experiment in Jülich, about 19 miles west of Cologne, consists 149 souped-up film projector spotlights and produces light about 10,000 times the intensity of natural sunlight on Earth. The aim of the experiment is to come up with the optimal setup for concentrating natural sunlight to power a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel. Solar power stations that use mirrors to focus sunlight onto water are already well established. These work by harnessing heat from the sun to produce steam that turns turbines and generates electricity. The Synlight experiment is investigating the possibility that a similar setup could be used to power a reaction to extract hydrogen from water vapour, which could then be used as a fuel source for aeroplanes and cars. Synlight currently uses a vast amount of energy – four hours of operation consumes as much electricity as a four-person household in a year – but scientists hope that in the future natural sunlight could be used to produce hydrogen in a carbon-neutral way.  

First vertical garden of India has setup at the Hosur Road Electronics City Flyover in Bengaluru to control the pollution level of the city.It will also act as a soundproofing barrier The garden is an initiative of SayTrees which is an NGO having ordinary citizens as its members who are determined to protect nature. The vertical garden is designed in such a way that a pillar of the flyover is covered with the garden flaunting lovely saplings that are organic and refreshing. The garden has an automatic drip irrigation system allowing the plants to get 100 milliliters of water on a daily basis. iv. The world’s first vertical gardens were set up in China .   

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, author Fareed Zakaria are amongst six Indian-Americans nominated for the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honour 2017 the highest civilian award in the US for immigrants.Among 88 named recipients, the four other Indian- Americans are Harman International Industries chairman CEO Dinesh Paliwal, Dr Annapoorna S Kini, Yashvant Patel, Mohan H Patel, as well as Pakistani-American Dr Adil Haider. Nooyi has been the CEO at PepsiCo since 2006 and chairman since 2007. She was previously the president and chief financial officer at the company, as well as senior vice president, and senior vice president of corporate strategy and development. Zakaria is the host of CNNs "Fareed Zakaria GPS" as well as a columnist for The Washington Post. He has also served as a columnist at Newsweek, an editor at Newsweek International and editor-at-large of Time. Paliwal has served as the president and CEO at Harman since July 2007 and later became the chairman in 2008. The Ellis Island Medal of Honour founded by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organisations (NECO) are given annually to individuals whose accomplishments in their field and service to the country are cause for celebration, NECO said. Since its inception in 1986, the medal has been officially recognised by both Houses of Congress as one of the nations most prestigious awards. NECO has honoured distinguished and diverse Americans, including six presidents of the US, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, as well as esteemed Americans such as Frank Sinatra, Lee Iacocca, Quincy Jones, Muhammad Ali, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel, Louis Zamperini and Rosa Parks. The 2017 recipients will be honoured at a May 13 event on Ellis Island in New York. 

Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd (BHEL) has commissioned a 250 MW coal-based thermal power unit at its Bongaigaon Thermal Power Station (TPS) in Assam . BHEL is executing the main plant package contract for setting up three coal-fired units of 250 MW each at NTPC’s Bongaigaon Thermal Power Station. This is the largest coal based power plant in North East.  The first unit of the power plant was commissioned earlier by BHEL and is presently operational while the third and final unit is in an advanced stage of commissioning.  The sets of this rating class, supplied by BHEL, are considered as the workhorse and backbone of the Indian power sector. These sets have been performing much above the national average as well as international benchmarks.  At present, in Assam, BHEL is also executing a gas-based combined cycle power project of 98.4 MW at Namrup. The plant is already commissioned in the open cycle mode and the commissioning in combined cycle mode is in the final stages.  BHEL is the market leader in the Indian Power Sector with a formidable installed base of over 1,70,000 MW of power plant equipment globally. 

The Taliban has captured the crucial city of Sangin in southern Afghanistan after a year-long battle. Afghan forces have made a tactical retreat from the centre of Sangin.  The fall of Sangin came amid the insurgents’ year-long push to expand their footprint in the Taliban heartland of Helmand province. It signals growing strength of Taliban in Afghanistan.

SBI chief Arundhati Bhattacharya and Indian-origin physician Raj Panjabi have been named by Fortune magazine among the world's 50 greatest leaders who are transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same.  Bhattacharya, Chairman of India's largest bank and the first-ever woman to do so, has been ranked 26th on the list while Panjabi, founder and CEO of Last Mile Health, follows closely on the 28th spot.  The list has been topped by President of Baseball Operations at Chicago Cubs Theo Epstein, followed by Alibaba Group Executive Chairman Jack Ma on the second spot, Pope Francis (3), Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Cochair Melinda Gates (4) and Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos (5).  The list also includes German Chancellor, Angela Merkel(10), Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen (17), former US Vice President Joe Biden (23), Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (31) and London Mayor Sadiq Khan (48). 

The CBDT has constituted a committee to identify those IRS and other junior-rank officers of the Income Tax department who are on unauthorised leave or are absconding, so that strict disciplinary action could be initiated against them.  The three-member committee, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) said in a order, will carry out a "one-time count" of all the officers working in the department and identify those Group 'A' officers (Indian Revenue Service) who are presently on unauthorised leave or are absconding.  The committee is headed by an officer of the rank of Additional Director General (ADG).  A senior official said the step was being taken by the policy-making body of the tax department after it was noticed that over a dozen such cases were investigated and officers were sacked in the last about two years.  The CBDT order said the committee "will analyse the records of all the IRS officers currently in service and identify the IRS officers who are absconding or are on unauthorised leave.  The Committee is authorised to obtain information or certificate from controlling officers regarding any IRS officer prima facie found to be absconding or on unauthorised leave to ascertain whether such officers are still in service and/or on authorised leave and what action has been initiated against these officers  The committee, which was formed on March 20, has been asked to submit its report within two months.  The CBDT has also asked all the regional chiefs to conduct a similar exercise in respect of the Group 'B' and 'C' officials of the tax department. 

India is hosting the 23rd Conference of Auditors General of Commonwealth nations and nine British overseas territories here, starting Tuesday, to discuss the role of technology in public audit. This is the first time that India is hosting the conference. With the theme 'Fostering Partnerships for Capacity Development in Public Audit', the conference will discuss leveraging technology in public audit and environment audit, it said. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will address the conference here on Wednesday. The conference will see the participation of 52 Commonwealth countries besides the British overseas territories. About 80 delegates from 37 countries are expected to participate in it. The auditing organisations in these countries come together every three years to discuss the major challenges before them. The last such conference was held in Malta in 2014. The CAG heads the International Working Group on Information System Audits and provides technical assistance to various audit institutions of other countries. On information technology and environment audits, the CAG has its own international training centres in Noida and Jaipur, respectively, where auditors from all over the world are trained in specialised aspects of public auditing.

The Ministry of Home Affairs has issued an Advisory to the Chief Secretaries/Administrators of all State Governments/UT Administrations, Secretaries of all Ministries / Departments of Government of India, reiterating to ensure strict compliance of the provisions contained in the ‘Flag Code of India. 2002’ and ‘The Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971’. The Advisory directs that mass awareness programmes be carried out in this regard and also give wide publicity through advertisements in the electronic and print media. Features: The advisory directs to carry out mass awareness programmes and also wide publicity through advertisements in both the electronic and print media for compliance. It states that National Flag represents hopes and aspirations of the people of the country and, therefore, should occupy a position of honour. According to the advisory, the National Flags made of plastic are being used in place of paper flags which are not decomposable. So steps should be taken for proper disposal of these flags after event to maintain the dignity of the flag instead of throwing them everywhere. For this, wide publicity for not using the National Flag made of plastic, should be made along with its advertisement in the electronic and print media. 

The 8th Laadli Media Awards for Gender Sensitivity 2016 (Northern and Eastern Region) were announced at the Chinmaya Mission in Delhi.  Anima Pookkunnyil, Assistant Editor with BusinessLine, and Shreya Ila Anasuya, a Delhi-based freelance journalist, were awarded this year for their critical gender-sensitive reportage. Ila Anasuya was awarded for her report on Suzette Jordan. Anima Pookkunnyi was awarded for her story about Kamlesh Kairi’s petition to the Supreme Court against the unjust laws.

The Parliament has passed The Employees Compensation (Amendment) Bill, 2016. The Bill amends the Employee’s Compensation Act, 1923.  It ensures compensation up to Rs 1 lakh to employee if an injured in an industrial accident and imposes hefty penalty in case of any violation by the employers. Features of the Bill : Mandatory for employers to inform the employee of his right to compensation under the Act. Such information must be given in writing at the time of employing him. Employer will be penalised if he fails to inform his employee of his right to compensation.  Such penalty may be between Rs. 50,000 to Rs. 1 lakh. Raises amount in dispute related to compensation, distribution of compensation, award of penalty or interest, etc to Rs. 10, 000. It permits the central government to further raise this amount.  Provision of withholding payments pending appeal if an employer has appealed against a Commissioner’s order has been deleted. It provides payment of compensation to employees and their dependants in the case of injury by industrial accidents, including occupational diseases.  It provides that any dispute related to an employee’s compensation will be heard by a Commissioner (with powers of a civil court). Under it, appeals from the Commissioner’s order, related to a substantial question of law, will lie before the High Court only if amount in dispute is at least Rs. 300.

Researchers including Indian origin from University of Glasgow have developed new prototype prosthetic limbs having solar-powered skin. The solar-powered skin will give amputees with prosthetic limbs a better sense capabilities of touch, temperature and texture compared to battery powered prosthetics. Highlights: The new technology involves installing a thin layer of pure carbon around a prosthetic arm, hand or leg. This allows light to pass through it and be easily used as solar energy. The sun can provide up to 15 times more energy than is usually needed to power a prosthetic limb. This extra and renewable energy can be used to power sensors.  These sensors can increase sense and feeling in a limb, so much so that the prosthetic can feel pressure, temperature and texture like natural skin. The technology also has potential to increase the functionality of robots, allowing them to have a better understanding of what they touch.

A group of researchers have found a tiny shrimp-like fossil, which is thought to be around 430 million-years-old. The creature was preserved in ancient volcanic rock. The researchers decided to name it after their favourite naturalist Sir David Attenborough. The creature has been named as Cascolus Ravitis, which is a combination of the Latin word for Attenborough, and the Roman word for Leicester, where the naturalist lived. Sir David Attenborough : Sir David Frederick Attenborough is an English veteran broadcaster and naturalist. He is best known for writing and presenting the nine Life series, in conjunction with the BBC Natural History Unit. The series collectively form a comprehensive survey of animal and plant life on the planet. He has also served as a former senior manager at the BBC. He served as controller of BBC Two and Director of Programming for BBC Television in the 1960s and 1970s.He is the only person to have won BAFTAs for programmes in each of black and white, colour, HD, and 3D. He was named among the 100 Greatest Britons following a UK-wide poll for the BBC in 2002.At least 15 species and genera, both living and extinct, have been named in his honour.  

Radha Mohan Singh, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, on 23 March 2017, launched a Coffee Table Book titled “50 Years – The Great Indian Milk Revolution.” The book was launched to commemorated National Dairy Development Board’s (NDDB) Golden Jubilee year. The book summarizes NDDB's remarkable 50-year journey and the value it has created for millions of dairy farmers in India. The book also underlines the NDDB’s belief that cooperative principles are as relevant in the present time as they were in the past. It also highlights the Board's efforts towards bringing about socio-economic change in rural India. National Dairy Development Board : The National Dairy Development Board was set up by an Act of Parliament of India.It is an institution of national importance. It was founded by Dr. Verghese Kurien. The NDDB was created in 1965.Its main office is located in Anand, Gujarat. It subsidiaries include IDMC Limited-Anand, Mother Dairy, Delhi, NDDB Dairy Services, Delhi and Indian Immunologicals Ltd, Hyderabad.

The Bakshi stadium in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir is all set to be developed into a world-class facility as per the FIFA norms. The total estimated cost of the project is expected to be around Rs 48 Cr. The announcement was made at a meeting convened by the Divisional Commissioner of Kashmir, Baseer Ahmad Khan, to analyse the activities of Jammu and Kashmir State Sports Council. The meeting was attended by divisional sports officer, deputy director planning, district officers from sports council and other concerned officers. Highlights : The Bakshi stadium would be developed according to the norms and regulations set by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the international governing body of football. The stadium is expected to be developed within 12 working months.It would be having floodlights, six entry and exit points, a modern pavilion, food court and other state-of-the-art facilities. Khan, who is also head of Divisional Sports Committee, stated that he has directed for proper calculation of project deadlines and schedules to ensure fewer delays and completion of the project in a time-bound manner. Officers of the Sports Council were also told to create an all-year-round sports activities calendar and encourage greater participation of people in the planned programmes. Khan also asked the Council to involve private clubs for hosting games like billiards, snooker and basketball at Indoor stadiums to generate more income. Besides this, the Divisional Commissioner directed the concerned authorities to hold regular meetings with all district officers for the resumption of both indoor and outdoor sports activities across the valley.  

The National Helicopter operator Pawan Hans is going to launch a new service, ‘Delhi Darshan rides’ from 1 April 2017. The announcement of the same was made by the operator’s Chairman and Managing Director B P Sharma during the inauguration of the nation’s first heliport in Rohini, in the north of Delhi. Highlights : The service would include two rides, a 10 minute one and a 20 minute one. While the 10 minute one would cost around Rs 2499 per person, the 20 minute one would be a slightly more expensive service with the cost being around Rs 4999 per person. The rides would commence from the company’s state of the art integrated heliport at Rohini. The service would undergo a trial run between 25 and 26 March.   It would be officially opened for regular service on 1 April. In its latest statement, the company said that the visitors can take a helicopter ride to experience the breathtaking beauty of the city through an aerial view of Majnu Ka Tila, Pritam Pura Tower, Red Fort, Akshardham Temple, Rajghat and other surrounding areas. Besides this, the Rohini facility will also be useful in cases of medical emergency and public safety in the future.

Michael Lobo, a BJP legislator was elected as the Deputy speaker of the Goa Assembly on 24 March 2017. Lobo, who is a two-time MLA from Goa’s Calangute constituency, defeated the Congress nominee Izidore Fernandes by 21-15 during the final day of the state’s Budget session. Highlights : While one Congress MLA Churchill Alemao refrained from voting, another Fransisco Silveira reached late to the House.Speaker Pramod Sawant also did not vote. The state has a 40 member house and one of the MLA’s resigned just days after the assembly poll results were announced.Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar after congratulating Lobo on his win escorted him to his chair. Chandrakant Kavlekar, the leader of opposition (INC) and a three-time assembly member also congratulated Lobo on his win. In his victory speech, Lobo showed staunch support for the Chief Minister and stated that he will always be with him due to Parrikar’s vision for Goa. Michael Lobo : Born on 18 June 1976 in Mapusa, Goa, Lobo is an Indian businessperson and politician. He defeated incumbent Member of the Legislative Assembly for Calangute constituency, Agnelo Nicholas Fernandes in 2012 state assembly elections. He became a member of the Sixth Legislative Assembly of the State of Goa on 7 March 2012. Besides this, he is Chairman of the North Goa Planning and Development Authority and a member of different committees in the Government of Goa.  

The International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of Slavery and the Transatlantic Slave Trade was observed globally on 25 March 2017 with the theme "Remember Slavery: Recognising the Legacy and Contributions of People of African Descent". The theme aims to draw attention to the consequences of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, especially the ways in which the enslaved Africans and their descendants influenced and continue to shape societies across the world, including in the areas of technology and culture. The theme also highlights the persistent spirit and innovation of the enslaved people. Highlights : The International Day aims to raise awareness about the dangers of racism and prejudice in today’s world. To honour of the Remember Slavery Programme’s 10-year anniversary, the Department of Public Information released a new logo and entered into new partnerships to help it meet its goals easily. In another token of remembrance, the video series ‘UN stories’ has produced a 90-second video, which is titled ‘the African Roots of Cuba's Music, on the transatlantic slave trade’s impact on the culture and music of Cuba. An exhibition titled ‘A Legacy of Black Achievement’ will also be opened for all in the visitor’s lobby at the headquarters of the United Nations in New York on 29 March 2017. The exhibition, produced by the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, will feature 21 notable personalities, belonging to different backgrounds who have paved the way for civil rights and the recognition and justice for Africans living in Africa, Europe, America and across the globe. It will be presented in partnership with the United Nations Department of Public Information’s Remember Slavery Programme.

The Union Cabinet gave its approval to amend three existing Acts to facilitate the implementation of Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. The approval was given at a meeting of the Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 22 March 2017 in New Delhi. Following are the three existing Acts which will be amended by the Parliament. The Customs Act, 1962 The Customs Tariff Act, 1975 The Central Excise Act, 1944 Besides, the Cabinet gave its approval to repeal the Central Excise Tariff Act, 1985. Insertion of Sections 108A and 108B in the Customs Act, 1962 seeks to provide for furnishing of information relating to import or export of goods by specified persons. This amendment will enable analysis and detection of cases of under or over-valuation in imports and exports, misuse of export promotion schemes including the Drawback Scheme. It will also lead to detection of violations of the provisions of the Customs Act and various other laws under which customs officials have been authorized to effectively implement these laws Amendments or repeal of various provisions of other Acts will result in cleansing of the irrelevant portions from the statute book and reduce multiplicity of taxes. Goods and Services Tax : Goods and Services Tax is one indirect tax for the whole nation, which will make India one unified common market. It is a single tax on the supply of goods and services, right from the manufacturer to the consumer.The benefits of GST are multifold. The new tax regime leads to uniformity of tax rates and structures, improved competitiveness in the industry and relief in overall tax burden to the consumer. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is expected to be rolled out on 1 July 2017 after the passage of the necessary laws by the Parliament.  

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