Current Affairs 3rd March 2017 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) on 2 March 2017 handed over three of its products for induction into the Indian Army at a function in New Delhi. The Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, who presided the function, handed over the products to the Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat on behalf of DRDO. The three new products are  – i. Weapon Locating Radar (WLR), SWATHI ii. NBC Recce vehicle iii. NBC Drugs Features of Weapon Locating Radar (WLR), SWATHI : It was developed by the DRDO’s Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE). The radar provides fast, automatic and accurate location of all enemy weapons like mortars, shells and rockets firing within in its effective zone of coverage. The SWATHI simultaneously handles multiple projectiles fired from different weapons at different locations. The system is capable of adjusting the fire of our own artillery weapon also. The weapon includes 81mm or higher calibre mortars, 105mm or higher calibre shells and 120mm or higher calibre free flying rockets. Thus WLR has two roles to perform - Weapon Location Mode for enemy artillery and Direction of Own artillery Fire (DOOAF) Mode for our own artillery. Features of NBC Recce Vehicle Mk-I : The NBC Recce Vehicle Mk-I was developed by Vehicles Research and Development Establishment (VRDE).  It carries out post-event recce of nuclear, biological and chemical contaminated areas. It is capable of collecting solid and liquid samples of biologically contaminated areas, mark the nuclear and chemical contamination zone and transfer the recce data speedily to support formations.  

Popular singer Robyn Rihanna Fenty was on 28 February 2017 conferred with the 2017 Peter J Gomes Humanitarian of the Year Award of the Harvard University. She was awarded for her charity work of building a state-of- the-art centre for oncology and nuclear medicine to diagnose and treat breast cancer at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados. Moreover, in 2012, she founded Clara Lionel Foundation Global Scholarship Program, named after her grandparents, for students attending college in the US from Caribbean countries.  The program also supports the Global Partnership for Education and Global Citizen Project to offer children with access to education in over 60 developing countries, giving priority to girls, and those affected by lack of access to education in the world today.  Born in Barbados, singer, actress and songwriter Robyn Rihanna Fenty has sold more than 200 million records, won eight Grammy Awards and scored 14 number-one hits till date. Peter J Gomes Humanitarian of the Year Award : The Harvard Foundation recognizes prominent public-spirited leaders every year in honor of the late Professor Peter J. Gomes.  Hans Rosling, James Earl Jones, Ban Ki-moon, Kofi Annan, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Malala Yousafzai, Kailash Satyarthi, Arthur Ashe, Louis W. Sullivan and Dolores Huerta are some previous years awardees.    

The Pakistan Government on 2 March 2017 approved the merger of Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) with the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. The step was taken to bring the impoverished and politically deprived tribal region at par with the rest of the country. Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister of Pakistan, presided a meeting of the federal cabinet, which approved in principle the recommendations of the FATA Reforms Committee.  The Committee includes the merger of the tribal areas with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and repeal of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). The recommendation to merge Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa with the FATA was made by the six-member committee headed by Sartaj Aziz, PM's Adviser on Foreign Affairs. The Government, in addition, also approved a 10-year reform package to bring the tribal region on a par with other developing areas of the country. Highlights : The development package, worth more than Pakistani Rupees 110 billion, has been approved for the seven agencies of the tribal region.  Jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the Peshawar High Court will be extended to FATA. Introduction of Local Government system, education and jobs opportunities for youth and up-gradation of Levis Force are part of the 24-point FATA reforms. However, LG polls will be held after 2018 general elections.

Andhra Pradesh on 2 March 2017 decided to rename Gannavaram Airport as NTR Amaravati Airport and Tirupati Airport as Sri Venkateswara Airport. The decision was taken by the State Cabinet, which met under the chairmanship of Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, in Amaravati. A proposal for renaming the airports would now be sent to the Union Government for approval. In addition, the State Cabinet also accepted the Andhra Pradesh Maritime Board Draft Bill. The board works in the place of Andhra Pradesh Port department. The Cabinet also decided to float new liquor policy by introducing amendments in the Assembly, which would be meeting from 6 March 2017 at the newly inaugurated Assembly building. The State Cabinet also gave green signal to 600 acre land allocation for Bhogapuram Airport and 75 acres for Savita University in Amaravati. Tirupati Airport : Tirupati Airport is a public airport located at Renigunta in Andhra Pradesh. The airport is located 14 km away from Tirupati and 39 km from Venkateswara Temple, Tirumala. It was established in 1976. P. V. Narasimha Rao had laid the foundation stone for a new terminal building, run way expansion and a radio tower in 1993. The upgraded airport was inaugurated for passenger traffic in 1999 by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the then Prime Minister of India.

The Union Government on 2 March 2017 launched four new freight sector initiatives to increase the profitability of the Indian Railways. The initiatives were launched by the Union Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhakar Prabhu at the National Rail Museum in New Delhi. The newly launched freight sector initiatives are - i. Roll-on-Roll-off (RORO) ii. Long Term Tariff Contracts and Agreements iii. Double Stack Dwarf Containers iv. Indian Railway’s Business Plan 2017-18 Salient features of Roll-on-Roll-off (RORO) : In the Railway Budget for 2016-17, Suresh Prabhu announced that an action plan will be developed and implemented to expand the freight basket through either containerization or new delivery models.  ‘Roll-on-Roll-off’ is one such new delivery model which can provide multimodal transport mix.  RORO services were started on Konkan Railway and then proliferated to ECR and NFR successfully last year. Under this policy, long term tariff agreements and contracts will be signed by the Indian Railways with key freight customers using pre-determined price escalation principle. The agreements will benefit key industries such as cement, fertilizers and steel. These contracts and agreements will result in multiple benefits such as stability and certainty of long term freight rates to the customers, assured supply of wagons and rakes to the customers through preferential traffic order (PTO) and incremental guaranteed volume of traffic to the Indian Railways. This measure is a part of the government’s intention to expand the freight basket and recapture the traffic through either containerization or new delivery models. Double Stack Dwarf Containers are designed with 6 feet 4 inches height to run under wire for maximum throughput with increased loadability. This new delivery model is expected to attract additional traffic of around 3 million tonnes in the initial year. The plan is a continuation of government’s sustained efforts to make the journeys of passengers more pleasurable and to make Indian Railway's freight business more responsive to the needs of customers. The plan seeks to revamp  railways through partnerships with stakeholders, RORO, dwarf containers, road-railers and new terminals. Aadhaar -based ticketing application will be launched by May 2017.  Parcel business will be enhanced through new partnership with the Postal Department.

Syrian troops backed by Russian jets on 2 March 2017 recaptured the historic city of Palmyra from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based war monitor, the army and Iranian-backed militia advanced inside Palmyra on 2nd March. They recaptured the historic city after ISIS withdrew from the city. Highlights : The observatory in its report said ISIS militants retreated to areas in the East and the government forces conducted combining operations to clear mines on the day. IS militants mined several areas before withdrawing completely. During Syria's six-year civil war, the oasis city has traded hands several times and become a symbol of the meaningless destruction of cultural heritage in areas under ISIS control. Palmyra was first seized by the militant group in May 2015. After capturing the city, UNESCO world heritage site was destroyed systematically. The city was listed on UNESCO’s world heritage site for hosting numerous ancient monuments and temples. Later in March 2016, the militant group was driven out from the city but was able to recapture it in December 2016 when the Syrian government focused on recapturing rebel-held East Aleppo. Reports say the Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu has informed President Vladimir Putin of Palmyra's recapture. Loss of Palmyra is being considered as the latest blow to the militant group, ISIS because in recent past the group had suffered losses in its two main strongholds, namely Raqa (Syria) and Mosul (Iraq). It lost these two areas after facing assaults by forces backed by the US-led coalition. Early in 2014, the militant/jihadist group took over swathes of territory in Syria and Iraq.  

The World Wildlife Day was observed across the world on 3 March 2017 with the theme 'Listen to the young voices'. The day is seen as an opportunity to celebrate the many beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora.The call of the 2017 UN World Wildlife Day is to engage and empower the youth. It tends to give a new opportunity to provide incentives to the youth to tackle conservation issues. It is also an opportunity for them to engage with one another and together forge an inspired path to a better world. The day is celebrated and implemented by the secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), in collaboration with other relevant United Nations organizations. With 183 Member States, CITES remains one of the world's most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on 20 December 2013 proclaimed 3 March as the World Wildlife Day.

Justice (retd) Arijit Pashayat, the Vice-Chairman of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigating Team (SIT) on black money, on 2 March 2017 said so far the amount of unearthed black money from across the country stands to Rs 70 thousand crore. This Rs 70000 crore of black money includes more than Rs 16000 crore, which was detected after a probe was launched into the global leaks about Indians stashing funds abroad. It was unearthed through different schemes of the government. Justice Arijit Pashayat gave the information after a high-level meeting of SIT on black money. The meet was held in Cuttack. In addition to this, he also said that the SIT is hopeful that the amount will rise substantially in coming days. Justice Pasayat also informed that the committee will submit its sixth report to the Apex court in the first week of April 2017. He said the SIT during the past two years has made several recommendations through its interim reports to the Apex court for the Central government to check the generation and tap the black money at the source. He said, that on the SIT’s recommendation, the Government has already declared that cash transaction beyond Rs 3 lakh is to be treated as illegal and punishable The meeting assumes significance as it was held for the first time after demonetisation undertaken by the Union government.  

As a part of delivering recognition to Women’s in India, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), has for the first time introduced a separate category of Lifetime Achievement Awards for Women in the upcoming BCCI Annual Awards 2016-17. For the award, BCCI has chosen former Indian skipper Shanta Rangaswamy on February 28, 2017 who has become the first receiver of the award under the category. Besides, BCCI has nominated Mr. Rajinder Goel and Mr. Padmakar Shivalkar for the Col CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016 to be given at the BCCI Annual Awards. The two non test cricketers were nominated by the Col. C.K. Nayudu Awards Committee of BCCI consisting of Mr. N. Ram, Mr. Ramachandra Guha and Ms. Diana Edulji. All the three winners would be felicitated during the BCCI Annual Awards ceremony to be held in Bengaluru on March 8, 2017 which also marks the International Women’s Day.  

Chennai-based private sector lender Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB) has tied up with Centrum Group on February 27, 2017 in which the bank will refer its High Net Worth Individuals (HNI) to Centrum for wealth management and family office services. Centrum will conduct the business through its wealth management arm, Centrum Wealth Management and will offer its existing portfolio of wealth management services to the bank’s HNI clients. The agreement was signed between Parthasarathi Mukherjee, managing director & CEO, LVB and Jaspal Bindra, executive chairman, Centrum Group. This is the first time in the country that a private bank has given the charge to an independent professional wealth management firm for such services.

American Express, a global leader in payment solutions has launched an electronic payment platform linked to corporate card, Buyer Initiated Payments (BIP) to eliminate payment through cheques or drafts. The BIP card will help organizations and their vendors by reducing the processing cost and offer extended payment terms compared to traditional invoice payments.  BIP enables companies to increase the Days Payable Outstanding (DPO) while still paying vendors on time.

India’s leading private banks stated that they will charge a minimum of Rs 150 for cash deposits and withdrawals after four free transactions in a month, reviving charges that were kept in abeyance briefly after the government scrapped high-value notes in November. HDFC, ICICI and Axis banks will calculate the fee aimed at reducing cash dealings at the rate of Rs 5 for every Rs 1,000 transacted or Rs 150, whichever is lower. HDFC and ICICI sources said the fees will be applicable to transactions outside of home branches.  Both banks define home branch differently HDFC defines it as the branch where an account was opened while ICICI defines it as any branch within the city of the account.There was no clarity on whether the charges will be applicable to ATM withdrawals.

The World Bank has announced an assistance programme of over $1 billion in the areas of urban transport and climate resilient agriculture in Maharashtra, over the next 2-3 years. This was announced by the World Bank’s Chief Executive Officer, Kristalina Georgieva. Over the last five years, World Bank had invested over $1.4 billion in Maharashtra in urban transport, rural water supply and agriculture.  The Government of Maharashtra is committed to sustaining high economic growth for its people. The State faces significant challenges, particularly in the areas of urban transport, climate change and water, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis stated.  

BEML (Bharat Earth Movers Limited), a defense public sector company, has set itself a goal of utilizing 100 percent renewable energy for its consumption. In this endeavor, the company has inaugurated a 200 KW grid connected rooftop solar project at its Mysore complex. The project was inaugurated by Deepak Kumar Hota, Chairman & Managing Director, BEML, in the presence of B R Viswanatha, Director-Mining & Construction, BEML. To achieve 100 per cent renewable energy, BEML has set up a 5 MW windmill project in Gadag district in north Karnataka. This project has been generating power since 2007.

China has announced that it will cut five lakh jobs from steel, coal and other heavy industries to reduce excess production capacity amid slowdown of its economy which is world’s second largest.  China produces more than half the world’s steel, but in recent times due to drop in global demand it has left the steel industry with massive overcapacity.  China’s economy grew 6.7% year on year in 2016, the slowest pace of growth in 26 years from 6.9% in 2015.

South Korean and United States held large-scale joint military exercise called Foal Eagle to test their defence readiness against the threat from North Korea. It will continue until the end of April 2017.  The exercise comes amid heightened tension following the latest test launch of a ballistic missile by the North in February 2017.   South Korea also has signed agreement with US Lotte Group conglomerate to secure the land to station the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile defense system.  Similar exercise conducted by both countries in 2016 involved about 17,000 American troops and more than 300,000 South Koreans.

The Union Government has notified the Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017 to prohibit the holding, transferring or receiving of scrapped old Rs.500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes from 31 December, 2016,  This law makes possession of more than a certain number of the old Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 notes a criminal offence. It ends the liability of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and the government on the demonetised Rs.500 and Rs. 1000 currency notes. It prohibits the holding, transferring or receiving of demonitised notes from 31 December, 2016 and confers power on the court of a first class magistrate to impose the penalty.  Possessing more than 10 pieces of old notes by individuals and more than 25 pieces for study, research or numismatics purposes will attract a fine of Rs. 10,000 or five times the value of cash held, whichever is higher. Fine of a minimum of Rs, 50,000 will be imposed for a false declaration by persons for being abroad during the demonetisation period (9 November-30 December, 2016). The Union Government had demonetised old Rs.500 and Rs. 1,000 notes from November 2016 on the recommendations of the RBI’s central board to eliminate unaccounted money and fake currency notes from the financial system. As a follow up, The Specified Bank Notes (Cessation of Liabilities) Act, 2017 was passed by Parliament in February 2017 and received assent of President Pranab Mukherjee on 27 February 2017. The law aims to eliminating the possibility of running a parallel economy using demonetised currency notes.  The demonetisation had abruptly sucked out 86% of the currency in circulation in the form of Rs.500 and Rs. 1,000 out of the system.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on 2 March 2017 ordered a ban on camping activities within 100 metres of the Ganga in Uttarakhand. The decision was taken by a bench of justices headed by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar. The ban will be imposed from Kaudiyala to Rishikesh in Uttarakhand. There are 33 beaches along the riverside of Ganga. The NGT order follows a complaint by activist Vikrant Tongad who had moved the tribunal against camping along the river. Vikrant had contended that camping and river rafting, when done without any regulations, would disturb the environment. He also pointed out that camping along the riverside leads to pollution of the water and the river bank, as campers often dispose of the waste in the river and leave behind glass and plastic bottles on the banks. Polluting of the Ganga water is a cause of concern for the Union government as well and in fact, the cabinet minister of Water Resources, River Development & Ganga Rejuvenation, Uma Bharti had set 2018 as the deadline to clean Ganga fully. However, it is unlikely for the work to be completed by 2018. Main reasons for the delay include the delay in clearances by the state government to execute the projects as well as the intrusive questioning process of the NGT about the operating capacity of sewage treatment plants in Uttar Pradesh.

Union Minister for Chemicals and Fertilizers Ananth Kumar on 1 March 2017 presented the 7th National Awards for Technology Innovation in Petrochemicals and Downstream Plastics Processing Industry (2016-17) in New Delhi. For the 7th National Awards, 415 nominations were received and finally, 16 nominations have been selected as winners and 7 nominations as runners-up for 2016-17. Winner Category Dr K Balasubramanian Innovation in Polymeric Materials Reliance Industries Limited Innovation in Polymeric Materials Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati Innovation in Polymeric Materials Dr Debdatta Ratna and Team Innovation in Polymeric Products Advanced Systems Laboratory (ASL), Hyderabad & Others Innovation in Polymeric Products Dr S Sridhar and Team Innovation of Polymer Processing Machinery & Equipment Windsor Machines Limited, Kalol Innovation of Polymer Processing Machinery & Equipment E-Parisaraa Private Limited, Bengaluru Innovation in Polymer Waste Management & Recycling Technology and Green Polymeric Materials & Products Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology, Nagpur Innovation in Polymer Waste Management & Recycling Technology and Green Polymeric Materials & Products John Deere India Pvt. Ltd., Pune Polymers in Agriculture and Water Conservation Junagadh Agricultural University, Junagadh Polymers in Agriculture and Water Conservation Dr. Lizymol P.P. Polymers in Public Health Care” HLL Lifecare Limited, Thiruvananthapuram & Others Polymers in Public Health Care DRDO, Delhi & IIT Delhi Polymers in Public Health Care Dr. S. Reshmi and Team, VSSC, ISRO “Research in the field of Polymer Science and Technology Raja Shunmugam, IISER Kolkata Research in the field of Polymer Science and Technology CSIR - National Aerospace Laboratories, Bengaluru Research in the field of Polymer Science & Technology    

P K Purwar was on 1 March 2017 appointed as the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of state-run telecom major Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL).  His appointment was approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for the duration of five years.P K Purwar was on 1 March 2017 appointed as the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of state-run telecom major Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL).  His appointment was approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) for the duration of five years. MTNL had been without a full-time Chairman and Managing Director since the superannuation of A K Garg in May 2014. Narendra Kumar Yadav, Member (Services) in the Department of Telecom (DoT), was given the additional charge of CMD of MTNL on 8 June 2015, however, as per the rules, he relinquished the post after serving for a year. For the purpose of appointing the CMD of MTNL, a search-cum-selection committee was constituted under the Chairman of Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB). Purwar’s name was recommended for this MTNL’s top post by PESB in November 2013, but the government did not go ahead with the recommendation at that time.

The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and the Rotary India signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the success of Namami Gange Programme. The MoU was signed on 2 March 2017 in New Delhi. The MoU was signed by Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga U P Singh and Vice Chairman of Rotary India P T Prabhakar. The collaboration would initially focus on synergizing the strength of Rotary International for Ganga Rejuvenation without any additional financial commitment from NMCG. As part of the MoU, the Rotary India will undertake activities and campaigns to create awareness in schools and communities about Ganga rejuvenation and thereby reducing the pollution flowing into the river. The MoU is part of the Union Minister for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti’s efforts to involve voluntary organizations and NGOs into the Namami Gange programme to make it a mass movement. Features of the NMCG-Rotary India MoU  :  As part of the MoU, the Rotary India will support the NMCG through their ‘WASH in Schools’ programme in various schools. Rotary India has planned to undertake WASH in Schools programme in 20,000 government schools. The programme will be undertaken in government schools and communities located along the river Ganga in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Nadia District of West Bengal and other states where Rotary has a strong presence. The programme includes the implementation of water, sanitation and hygiene services in the targeted government schools. The Rotary India will sensitize all the stakeholders, including school children, teachers, school management and communities on practicing positive health behaviors for improving awareness on sanitation. This will be achieved through an integrated learning environment and enabling children to serve as agents of change for their siblings and communities at large. The MoU shall remain in force for two years.

Union Minister of Drinking Water and Sanitation Narendra Singh Tomar on 1 March 2017 launched Swachh Shakti Saptah, a week-long programme of activities across the country to highlight the role of women in Swachh Bharat Mission and to recognize their leadership. The Ministry made the national launch of Swachh Shakti Saptaah in Gurugram, Haryana, at a joint event with the Haryana Government. Highlights : The launch was done with release of balloons by ground level women leaders, inauguration of a sanitation related exhibition and a series of folk cultural presentation relating to women and Swachhta. Deputy Commissioners of 11 ODF (Open Defecation Free) districts of Haryana were honoured on the occasion.  Over 1000 women swachhta champions from grassroots in Haryana attended the event.  The launch marked the achievement of Swachh Bharat Milestone as over 100 districts in India were declared as ODF districts and over 1.7 lakh villages have become ODF.  Moreover, throughout the week, there will be nationwide events honouring women champions, women sarpanches, ASHA workers, school teachers, young students and senior citizens.  The Swachh Shakti Saptaah will culminate with a mega-event in Gujarat named Swachh Shakti 2017 where the Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address 6000 women sarpanches and honour them for their contribution to Swachh Bharat.  Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) : Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 2 October 2014 with an aim to make India Open Defecation Free (ODF) by 2019. Up to June 2016 in India, out of 686 districts, only 16 districts were declared ODF. The mission was proposed to be achieved by creating awareness, construction of Household toilets, public toilets, school, anganwadi toilets and solid waste management.  

UK’s upper house, The House of Lords voted on 2 March 2017 to amend the Brexit Bill, thereby delaying the bill's passing. The members of the House voted 358 to 256 for an amendment that will require the ministers to protect the rights of more than three million European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) citizens living in the UK after it exits the EU. Highlights : The bill will now have to return to the lower house, the House of Commons for further debate and deliberation. However, since it was approved by a large majority in the lower house, chances are high that the house would reject the proposed amendment and send the original bill back to Lords. This move does though delay the final approval of the bill just weeks ahead of Theresa May’s set deadline for triggering Article 50 of the EU’s Lisbon treaty. On 23 June 2016, the citizens of UK voted to decide whether the UK should leave or remain in the European Union. Almost 30 million people cast their vote to decide UK’s fate. The total turnout was around 71.8 per cent. The final results saw 51.9 per cent votes in the favour of UK to leave EU and 48.1 per cent to remain. The vote was fuelled by concerns of mass migration of people from the EU to Britain. May promised to end free movement of workers from the other 27 EU countries to Britain.  However, the fate of those who are already in the UK remains uncertain.  Though May repeatedly stressed that she wants them to stay but she also said that she must secure the rights of the 1.2 million British citizens living in the EU.

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