Current Affairs 19th May 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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The counting are half-the way and the trends have become clear. 91-year old VS Achutanandan is set to return to the helm of chief minister for the second time as Left Democratic Front (LDF) is all set to win 91 seats out 140 assembly seats. Compared to 2011 assembly elections when it had won 68 seats, LDF increased its tally by 24 seats in 2016 assembly elections. On the other hand, Congress Party led United Democratic Front (UDF), like in other states, is in for a huge setback. It is leading only in 47 seats, a big 23 seats drop compared to 2011 assembly elections. BJP opens account in Kerala : Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has something to rejoice as it manages to open an account in Kerala by winning the Nemom seat, a suburb of state capital Thiruvananthapuram.The account for BJP was opened by 86-year-old former Union minister O Rajagopal, who won by over 8000 votes. He will go down in history as the first BJP MLA in Kerala’s 140-member assembly.It was the image of Rajagopal, popularly known as ‘Rajettan’, apart from the BJP’s organisational strength that helped the party to create history. He is considered a noble and well meaning person. Anti-incumbency factor : Anti-incumbency factor against the Congress chief Minister Oommen Chandy is responsible for such a massive setback to the grand old party in the state. The government had been hit by a series of corruption scandals involving some of his top aides and ministers. There also has been a barrage of criticism following a spate of crime against women, especially the horrific rape, torture and murder of a Dalit student.

In a consolation win of sorts for Congress, which faced defeats in Assam and Kerala, the party in alliance with DMK has stormed to power in this tiny union territory, securing a simple majority of 17 in the 30-member assembly.  Congress avenged its defeat in the 2011 elections at the hands of AINRC founder N Rangasamy, who broke away from the national party to form his outfit and rode it to power, as the ruling party fell by the wayside bagging just eight seats.  Congress which contested 21 seats won in 15 seats. DMK emerged succesful in two segments, giving the combine a clear majority as it bucked initial trends of a close fight with the AINRC when counting of the votes polled in the May 16 assembly elections was taken up.  AIADMK, which contested the elections on its own, won four seats.  Puducherry election result 2016 :  Indian National Congress : 15 All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam : 4 All India N.R. Congress : 8 Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam : 2 The PWA comprising DMDK, MDMK, CPI-M, CPI and RSP contested 28 constituencies but drew a blank so did the BJP, which had fielded candidates in all 30 seats.  With the Congress-DMK combine getting the majority mark, the focus will now shift to choosing the chief minister.   

Aiming to combat the “menace” of coaching, the Human Resource Development Ministry is coming up with a mobile app and portal containing free lectures from IIT faculty on various subjects and previous years’ question papers of entrance tests to these prestigious engineering institutions. HRD Ministry Irani  aims to resolve the various regulatory issues faced by these bodies while expressing concern over commercialisation of education. The government has decided to dedicate in the forthcoming two months, an IIT-Pal portal and mobile app on which 50 years of IIT (entrance) examination papers will be available free of cost.  

Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) Chairman and Managing Director Mukesh Ambani has been conferred the prestigious Othmer Gold Medal for his entrepreneurial leadership that has resulted in the expansion of India’s petroleum refining industry, creation of the Jamnagar Refinery in Gujarat – the largest grassroots petroleum refinery in the world, and path-breaking initiatives in oil and gas exploration. The Chemical Heritage Foundation (CHF) established the Othmer Gold Medal in 1997 to honour outstanding individuals who have made multifaceted contributions to the world's chemical and scientific heritage through outstanding activity in such areas as innovation, entrepreneurship, research, education, public understanding, legislation, or philanthropy.  

Nepal SBI Bank, one of the largest overseas subsidiaries of SBI, has launched payment gateway to facilitate online trade and non-trade transactions between the Himalayan nation and India.  With the launch of above services, the customer of Nepal SBI Bank can utilise various features of mobile banking and other value added services along with the platform of the payment gateway. Nepal SBI Bank is providing banking services from its 70 Offices including 59 branches and 3 Regional Offices.  As a part of social responsibility initiatives of Nepal SBI, Sriram also inaugurated construction of main entrance gate of Pashupati area development trust on the theme of UNESCO World Heritage Design.  

Tata Power Renewable Energy has announced that it has won two solar-grid connected photovoltaic projects of 50 Mw capacity each in Karnataka. Tata Power Renewable Energy Ltd (TPREL) has won two Solar grid connected photovoltaic projects of 50 Mw capacity each in Pavagada Solar Park in the Tumkur district of Karnataka. The projects have been awarded through open category under Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission (JNNSM) Phase-II Batch-II Tranche-l under 'State Specific Bundling Scheme. TPREL has received the Letter Of Intent (LoI) to develop the projects and will sign a 25 year Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam Ltd. The two solar projects will add 100 Mw of non-fossil fuel energy to our total generation capacity, thereby, significantly increasing our green footprint. The JNNSM, launched in January 2010, is a major initiative of the government that aims to establish India as a global leader in solar energy by creating favourable policy conditions for its diffusion across the country.

An Indian-American biotechnologist has received University of Houston's highest teaching award for her sustained and significant contributions to education.  Rupa Iyer, an Indian-American Associate Dean, Research and Graduate Studies at the University of Houston's College of Technology, has been presented the "Distinguished Leadership in Teaching Excellence Award". It is the highest award given in teaching and the only one given in this category by the varsity.  Iyer has been part of the college since 2005 as a credentialed associate professor was named Associate Dean of Research and Graduate Studies in 2014.  Her research is in the area of environmental biotechnology with applications in bioremediation.  She has received many recognition, awards and grants for her outstanding contributions.  Iyer was recommended for the Fulbright Specialist Roster in 2015 after receiving the endorsement from the US Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs and the Institute of International Education's Council for International Exchange of Scholars.  

The United States (US) Senate on 18 May 2016 approved a bipartisan 1.1 billion US dollar emergency funding to combat the Zika virus in 2016 and 2017. The measure presented by Sens Roy Blunt (Republican from Missouri) and Patty Murray (Democrat from Washington) was supported with 68-29 votes. The fund would be designated for both international and domestic Zika control and prevention efforts. Highlights of the Bill : The fund will be used to control mosquito populations, public education and the development of a vaccine It would be used to increase laboratory capacity for research into the virus connected with birth defects. Of the 1.1 billion dollar Senate package about 361 million US dollars will be directed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for programs, and 200 million US dollars will be directed to the National Institutes of Health to aid in vaccine research. The fund will also be used for new diagnostic tests for the Zika virus,More than 50 million US dollars will be directed for Puerto Rico, which has been especially hard hit. However, the funding sanction for fighting Zika virus is less than what White House has demanded. It had asked the Senate to provide a package of 1.9 billion US dollar for a broad initiative that would include mosquito-control programs and birth-defect surveillance. Prior to this proposal, two Zika funding proposals were blocked on procedural votes in the Senate. One stalled with 50-47 vote demanded administration’s 1.9 billion US dollars. The second demanding 1.1 billion US dollars was halted with 52-45 votes.  Both measures needed 60 votes to advance.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on 18 May 2016 released the draft of State of Delhi Bill, 2016. The bill seeks to establish the State of Delhi as the 30th State in the country. The proposed State will comprise the territories of the existing National Capital Territory of Delhi. At present, NCT Delhi is one of the seven Union Territories of the country. Highlights of Delhi Statehood Bill, 2016 draft : It seeks to repeal the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991 that formed the National Capital Territory of Delhi by replacing Union Territory of Delhi.Areas demarcated under the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the Delhi Cantonment Board would remain beyond the legislative and administrative control of the proposed Delhi State. Delhi Development Authority and Municipal Corporations of Delhi will be accountable to the State administration. The bill seeks to replace the term Lieutenant Governor with Governor. He would act on the aid and advice of the Council of Ministers as provided in Article 163 of the Constitution. Delhi Police will be made accountable to the elected Government of Delhi.The New Delhi area which is under the control of the NDMC will be under the Union Government for matters of law, order and land while the remaining areas will be under the Delhi State. Related Constitutional Provisions Article 2 : Admission or establishment of new States: Parliament may by law admit into the Union, or establish, new States on such terms and conditions, as it thinks fit Articles 239AA and 239BB : These two articles were inserted through the Constitution (69th Amendment) Act, 1991.The Article 239AA confers special status to the NCT Delhi. Unlike a normal Union Territory, it is provided with a Legislative Assembly and a council of ministers responsible to such Assembly. Apart from Delhi, Puducherry is the only other union territory that has a legislative assembly and council of ministers. It provides for National Capital a special status among the Union territories. Except law and order and land, the Assembly has the powers to legislate on all the major subjects.The Chief Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Chief Minister.The ministers shall hold office during   the pleasure of the President.

Union Government on 17 May 2016 announced that it is working to revise the rehabilitation of bonded labour scheme and make it a Central Sector Scheme. The revised scheme was announced by Bandaru Dattatreya, the Minister of State (IC) labour and Employment. Implementation of the new rules will replace Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976. Highlights of the revision : Quantum of Assistance: It increases the quantum of financial assistance from 20 thousand rupees to one lakh rupees. Cash Assistance may extend to two lakh rupees in Special Cases and to three lakh rupees in cases of extreme deprivation.It proposes to increase the budget provision from 5 crore rupees to 47 crore rupees per annum.It proposes a fund of 3 lakh rupees for the most deprived and marginalised like the disabled, female and children who are rescued from trafficking, sexual exploitation and transgender.The special category that comprises of females and the minors will get 2 lakh rupees. A normal adult male bonded labour will get 1 lakh rupees. New Form of Bondages: It aims to address new forms of bondage such as a)Organised begging rings b) Forced prostitution c) Child labour for which females, disabled and transgenders are mercilessly used by the powerful elements. Role of District Magistrate : This new package and the money will remain in an annuity account, controlled by the District Magistrate (DM).The monthly earning will flow to the accounts of the beneficiary.The corpus will remain untouched till it is decided by the DM.The rehabilitation work has been made simple for the DM/Collectors.A permanent and renewable district level rehabilitation fund of at least 10 lakh rupees will be available with the DM/Collector which will be used as a stop-gap arrangement before reimbursement by Central Government through the DBT system. The DM/Collector is also empowered to provide several non-cash benefits such as land, house, ration and occupational support through State Programmes.The DMs/Collectors will also have the freedom to extend state care where bondage is not proved but the person is in distress.Other Provisions: Minor children and women will remain in State care and educated & skilled as per their needs. Marriage of orphan girls will also be the responsibility of State Government.It seeks to ensure that bonded labour cases are tried and judgment is pronounced on the same day like other summary trial cases as per Cr.PC. It will also be ensured that such cases are monitored by the Sessions Courts and the State High Courts by way of regular review as per their respective criminal manual apart from the State Home and Revenue Departments.Suitable provisions will be made in the Rules to facilitate institutional involvement of other stakeholders. The Bonded Labour System is a social evil which though has declined over a period, however still exists in India despite constitutional provisions for its total eradication. The BLS(angel) Act, 1976 for the last 40 years has not been able to eradicate Bonded Labour System completely. Even the Rehabilitation Scheme of 1978 have been able to free 2.82 lakh Bonded Labourers in 18 States across 172 districts in the country during the past 38 years. There is no correct estimation of the extent of bondage which has also transformed its form under the compulsions of transitional economy.

Finland-based companies Nokia Technologies and HMD global Oy (HMD) on 18 May 2016 signed a 10-year licensing agreement to market Nokia-branded phones and tablets. As part of this brand-licensing deal, Nokia will receive royalty payments from HMD for sales of Nokia-branded mobile products, covering both brand and intellectual property rights. In 2014, Nokia sold its entire handset business to Microsoft under a 7.2 billion US dollars deal. While the deal majorly covered manufacturing, sales and distribution, Nokia held on to its phone patents. Other related agreements signed on 18 May 2016 :  FIH Mobile Limited (FIH), a subsidiary of Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group), agreed to acquire the remainder of Microsoft's feature phone business assets, including manufacturing, sales and distribution. HMD and Nokia Technologies signed an agreement with FIH Mobile Limited (FIH) to establish a collaboration framework to support the building of a global business for Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets. The above three agreements together will give HMD full operational control of sales, marketing and distribution of Nokia-branded mobile phones and tablets across the world.

Apple Inc. on 19 May 2016 opened a new Development Office in Hyderabad, Telangana. The office was formally opened by Apple’s CEO Tim Cook. The facility will focus on development of Maps for Apple products, including iPhone, iPad, Mac and Apple Watch. This investment will accelerate Maps development and create up to 4000 jobs. Apple has been continually updating and adding new features to Maps, including 3D views, the Flyover feature and tools to help customers find convenient places to shop, eat and explore nearby areas. With iOS 9 Apple added Transit, offering a combination of trains, subways, buses and walking, which is already available for more than 300 cities around the world.The new facility, located on the Waverock campus, will provide a world-class, LEED-certified home for the expanding Maps team.This facility is in addition to a new iOS App Design and Development Accelerator that would come up in Bengaluru in early 2017. Apple Inc. :  Apple revolutionized personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984. At present, Apple leads the world in innovation with iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV.Apple’s four software platforms — iOS, OS X, watchOS and tvOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and provide various services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud.Across India, Apple supports over 640000 iOS app developer jobs and other positions related to the iOS ecosystem.

The Government has approved three foreign direct investment proposals, all related to the pharmaceutical sector, worth Rs 60.73 crore. Axis Bank’s FDI proposal worth Rs 12,973.14 crore to increase foreign investment by FIIs / NRIs/ FPIs / ADRs / GDRs from 62 per cent to 74 per cent has been referred to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA). This is in line with the government's decision to refer all FDI proposals above Rs 5,000 crore to the CCEA. Eight proposals including those from Macmillan Publishers, UK, JCB International, Janalakshmi Financial Services and Fans Asia have been deferred, while a proposal by Rafique Dawood in the manufacturing sector has been rejected, an official release circulated on Wednesday stated. The decisions have been taken based on the recommendations made by the FIPB at its meeting of April 29. The highest FDI proposal of the three pharmaceutical companies which got the nod was from Advanced Enzyme Technologies. The company sought approval for investment proposed to be made by FIIs / NRIs / FPIs / QFIs / AIF/FVCIs pursuant to fresh issue of and offer for sale of 44,73,470 equity shares by certain NRIs and resident shareholders worth Rs. 60 crore. The other two companies whose proposals were approved include Wockhardt, which asked for post facto approval for issuance of ESOPs to its two NRI employees, and Aurobindo Pharma which sought clarification and approval regarding grant of ESOPs to a non-resident employee.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 18 May 2016 appointed Patricia Espinosa Cantellano of Mexico as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).   The appointment was made after consultation with the Conference of Parties through its Bureau. Espinosa Cantellano will succeed Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica. Patricia Espinosa Cantellano : At present, Espinosa Cantellano is serving as Ambassador of Mexico to Germany.She joined the Foreign Service on 16 September 1981. She then served at the Mexican delegation to the United Nations in Geneva. From 1992 to 1997, she worked at the Mexican delegation to the United Nations at New York City and served as general director of the Ibero-American Summit and the Summit of the Americas.She was Minister for Foreign Affairs of Mexico from 2006 to 2012.She holds more than 30 years of experience at the highest levels in international relations, with a specialization in climate change, global governance, sustainable development, gender equality and protection of human rights.  Born in 1958, she holds postgraduate degree in International Law from the Institut Universitaire de Hautes Études Internationales in Geneva. She also obtained a degree in international relations from El Colegio de Mexico.   United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change : The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is an international environmental treaty negotiated at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro from 3 to 14 June 1992.The UNFCCC was adopted on 9 May 1992, and opened for signature on 4 June 1992. It entered into force on 21 March 1994.The UNFCCC objective is to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system.The framework set no binding limits on greenhouse gas emissions for individual countries and contains no enforcement mechanisms. Instead, the framework outlines how specific international treaties may be negotiated to set binding limits on greenhouse gases.  

Japanese financial company Nomura has fully exited its mutual fund joint venture with state-run insurer LIC.IC Nomura Mutual Fund has now been renamed LIC Mutual Fund. According to the note, the shareholding pattern of the new AMC is: LIC –45 per cent, LIC Housing Finance Ltd - 39.3 per cent, GIC Housing Finance - 11.7 per cent and Corporation Bank  4 per cent. Earlier, Nomura held 35 per cent stake in the asset management company. As of March 2016, LIC Nomura Mutual Fund managed assets of about Rs. 13.156 crore, according to the Association of Mutual Funds in India.

Five Indian car models got zero star ratings after failing in the crash tests conducted by the Global New Car Assessment Programme (Global NCAP) on 17 May 2016. The cars that failed the crash tests are the Renault Kwid, Maruti Suzuki’s Celerio and Eeco, Mahindra Scorpio and Hyundai Eon. Global NCAP participated in a two-day conference on road safety hosted by the Institute of Road Traffic Education in Faridabad. Highlights of the crash tests conducted by NCAP : The results showed low levels of adult occupant protection in the five models.  The Renault Kwid was tested in three versions including one with airbags, but none got a star for adult safety. As for the Scorpio, it scored zero stars in adult occupant protection and two in child occupant protection. The collapse of the structure combined with the lack of airbags indicated high probability of life threatening injuries for adult passengers. Hyundai Eon, which is offered in the standard version without airbags, scored zero stars in adult occupant protection with two in child occupant protection. Global NCAP cited unstable structure in the passenger compartment and lack of airbags as the cause.The non-airbag Maruti Suzuki Celerio and Eeco scored zero stars in adult occupant protection and one star in child occupant protection. The results of the crash test show how important it is for cars to have a body shell that can remain stable in a crash. This is an absolutely crucial prerequisite for occupant safety together with fitment at least of front airbags. These results will certainly link up to Centre’s decision to mandate front and side impact crash tests from October 2017.

State-run Punjab National Bank has posted the largest quarterly loss ever reported by an Indian lender after being forced to set aside more funds as bad loans more than doubled from the year earlier.  The Delhi-based lender made a net loss of Rs 5,367 crore in the January-March quarter compared with a profit of Rs 307 crore in the year earlier. Provisions shot up to Rs 11,380 crore from Rs 3,281 crore following a surge in gross non-performing assets (NPAs) to Rs 55,818 crore fromRs 25,695 crore at the end of March 2015.  India's banks are being forced to clean up their books under an asset quality review (AQR) initiated by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Five other state-run lenders have also reported steep losses in the just-concluded fourth quarter of FY16.  The bank reported fresh slippages - loans turning bad - of Rs 41,060 crore for the year ended March. Gross NPAs for PNB rose significantly to 12.9 per cent at the end of March 2016, from 6.55 per cent a year ago. Net NPAs also surged to 8.61 per cent against 4.06 per cent at March 2015.  In a research note, Angel Broking said that this was by far the highest ever increase in NPAs at any bank so far. "The point of worry is that the bank believes the cleaning up exercise of balance sheet is not over.  PNB hopes to recover Rs 15,000-20,000 crore of loans gone bad over the next year. The bank is also looking to unlock the value of its non-core assets to raise capital but the timing of the sale will depend on market conditions.  Nitin Kumar, research analyst at Prabhudas Lilladher, said provisioning will continue, which may further impact financials. "The bank's scrip may have not been impacted for now because may be the market is under impression that the bank may have come out with all its bad loans . For FY16, the bank reported a net loss of Rs 3,974 crore against a profit of Rs 3,062 crore in the previous year. The bank has set aside Rs 18,469 crore for the FY16 to cover bad loans. 

Apple Inc. on 18 May 2016 announced establishment of a new iOS App Design and Development Accelerator in Bengaluru. The new initiative is aimed at supporting engineering talent and accelerating growth in India’s iOS developer community. This facility is in addition to the Development Office that was formally opened by Apple’s CEO Tim Cook in Hyderabad on 19 May 2016. Features of the new facility : Apple’s team will work to inspire and instruct developers on best practices, help them hone their skills and transform the design, quality and performance of their apps on the iOS platform.The developers will be given access to tools which will help them create innovative apps for customers around the world.The facility will also provide support and guidance on Swift, Apple’s powerful and intuitive programming language created to build apps for iOS, Mac, Apple TV and Apple Watch. Swift enables developers to write safer, more reliable code, save time and create richer app experiences.The facility is expected to open in early 2017. Apple choose Bengaluru : Tens of thousands of developers in India make apps for iOS, the world’s most powerful mobile operating system and the foundation for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.Bengaluru is now home to more technology startups than any other part of India.Over one million people in the city work in the tech sector, and over 40 percent of graduates from local universities specialize in engineering or information technology.  

The UN-Habitat on 18 May 2016 released the new global flagship report on sustainable urban development titledWorld Cities Report 2016, Urbanization and Development: Emerging Futures. The report states that a New Urban Agenda is needed to unlock the transformative power of cities. Highlights of the World Cities Report 2016 : The top 600 cities, with 1/5th of the world’s population, produce 60 percent of global GDP. Since the last UN conference on cities Habitat II in Istanbul in 1996, the center of gravity for megacities has shifted to developing regions. In 1995, there were 22 large cities, and 14 megacities globally; by 2015, both categories of cities had doubled with 79 percent of the megacities, that are located in Latin America, Asia and Africa.  Large South-Asian countries like Bangladesh, India and Pakistan feature massive, expanding urban populations in mega- cities such as Dhaka, Mumbai, Delhi, Karachi and Lahore.The fastest growing urban centres are the medium and small cities with less than one million inhabitants, which account for 59 percent of the world’s urban population.Over the last 20 years, housing has not been central to national and international development agendas.The slum challenge continues to be one of the faces of poverty in cities in developing countries. Today the world is more unequal that it was twenty years ago: 75 percent of the world’s cities have higher levels of income inequalities than two decades ago.Planning as an ongoing, sustainable, inclusive process has been central to the reinvention of urban planning, yet many countries still rely on outdated conceptions of planning.Mega cities and metropolitan regions have benefited more from globalization than secondary cities with more than 80 percent of global GDP being generated in cities. Less dense cities brought higher infrastructure costs, worsen mobility and destroyed agricultural land. Persistent and emerging challenges : Urban areas around the world are facing greater challenges than they did 20 years ago. The persistent urban issues include the growing number of urban residents living in informal settlements and the challenge of providing urban services. The emerging urban issues include climate change; exclusion and rising inequality; rising insecurity; and upsurge in international migration.  Between 1950 and 2005, the level of urbanisation increased from 29 percent to 49 percent, while global carbon emissions from fossil-fuel burning increased by almost 500 percent.Cities account for between 60 and 80 percent of energy consumption, and generate as much as 70 percent of the human-induced greenhouse gas emissions.  The war in Syria has given rise to the largest humanitarian crisis since World War II. In 2015, more than 1.5 million forced migrants and refugees arrived in Europe compared to 280000 in 2014.The fear of crime and violence continues to be pervasive in cities. New and pervasive risks affecting cities include terrorism, urban warfare, heightened securitization and pandemics. New Urban Agenda : When well-managed, urbanization fosters social and economic advancement and improved quality of life for all.A new agenda is required to effectively address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities offered by urbanization.The new urban agenda should promote cities and human settlements that are environmentally sustainable, resilient, socially inclusive, safe and violence-free, economically productive.This New Urban Agenda shall be adopted at the upcoming UN conference Habitat III to be held in Quito, Ecuador in October 2016. India in World Cities Report 2016 :  India is projected to add 300 million new urban residents by 2050 and it will need to build climate-friendly cities to address the challenge of accommodating the needs of the growing population.India should plan to build 100 smart cities in response to the country's growing population and pressure on urban infrastructure.  

Prime Minster Narendra Modi and Union Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister Radha Mohan Singh held meetings with the Chief Ministers of 10 drought affected states in May 2016. States suffering from drought and water scarcity situations are Andhra Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Karnataka, Telangana, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. Highlights  : The Chief Ministers were asked to take immediate steps to fight drought and review it on week to week basis. This will help them to fight with challenges like shortage and scarcity of drinking water, conservation efforts and usage of existing water resource optimally and prudently.They were asked to periodically review water shortage.They were asked to come up with the long term mitigation along with drought proofing measures specific to individual States. States were asked to undertake a major drive for construction of farm ponds, adopt micro irrigation and diversify into crops requiring less water.The States would promote water storage and water conservation practices and rejuvenate water bodies. While promoting dug wells and farm ponds, the State will incentivise solar pumps for irrigation.Integrated action plan will be developed for water conservation, desiltation of irrigation tanks, rain water harvesting, ground water recharge, watershed development etc. Maintenance of check dams, percolation tanks, lining of canals, prevention of water leakage and pilferage in distribution network will be prioritised. The chief ministers were asked to prioritize water use and promote recycling waste water & use it for agriculture purpose in periurban areas. Special emphasis will be laid down on reviving defunct traditional/historical step wells in different parts of the country.All water bodies will be numbered by assigning a unique identity.Underground pipelines will be constructed to complete the missing links of canals in command area. This will reduce evaporation losses besides dispensing with the requirement of land acquisition.  The Union and State governments involving Local Self Government will take short and long term measures to tackle water scarcity. It was decided that preparatory steps for water conservation would be completed before the onset of monsoon.District wise Contingency Plans, information on weather, crop advisories will be made available to farmers on ‘mobile app’ in their language. Remote sensing, satellite technology will be used extensively for decentralised contour and ridge mapping and for locating ground water resource. The culture of seaweed, pearl and prawn culture will be encouraged in coastal areas.Beekeeping will be encouraged along the milk route.Rain water harvesting on building in urban areas will be made compulsory. Apart from crop diversification, the States will consider value addition and promotion of alternate livelihood- dairy, poultry, fishery, bee-keeping, floriculture, timber farming etc.

Mobile app for transportation Ola has signed an MoU with National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) established under the aegis of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to focus on building a sustainable framework by supporting entrepreneurship, skill development training and self-defence courses for Safai Karamcharis and Scavengers. The Ola-NSKFDC partnership has the potential to generate synergies that will result in a better future for driver entrepreneurs by creating sustainable careers and livelihoods for them. The MoU was signed in the presence of Thaawarchand Gehlot, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment. Aimed at socio-economic development of Safai Karamcharis/ Scavengers, the MoU will aim at benefitting these people and their dependents by enabling livelihood opportunities, especially for women beneficiaries identified by NSKFDC. Ola, as a technology platform will help create opportunities for these trained drivers by giving them access to infrastructure, financing and continuous revenue. Ola aims to add 10,000 driver-partners on its platform over the next five years by mobilizing, training and engaging with aspirants through such partnerships. Under this MoU, Ola will facilitate driver-partner micro-entrepreneurship opportunities on its platform for those who are identified and trained by NSKFDC. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has been training women as part of its commercial motor driving training programme with self defence skills. Ola will also help these trained women with opportunities like assistance in buying a car directly from manufacturers with the support of financial institutions that it has partnered with as well as placement as private drivers.  

The Indian 4x100m women's relay team on 18 May 2016 broke the 18-year-old national record to finish in 4th position at the IAAF World Challenge held in Beijing, China. The 4x100m women relay team, which included Dutee Chand, Srabani Nanda, HM Jyoti and Merlin Joseph, clocked 44.03 seconds to finish the race.The clocked time broke the 18-year-old record of 44.43s created by the quartet of Saraswati Dey, Rachita Mistry, EB Shyla and PT Usha on 22 July 1998 in Fukuoka, Japan. The Indian team ran with Joseph starting the race with Jyoti running the second. They were followed by Nanda with Chand running the anchor leg.The China A and the China B team grabbed the first and third position respectively while Japan finished second.The China A team clocked 42.65s for the gold medal. Japan finished the race in 43.81s for the silver medal. The China B team finished third for the bronze medal by clocking 43.89s. 4 × 100 Metres Relay : The 4 × 100 metres relay or sprint relay is an athletics track event run in lanes over one lap of the track with four runners completing 100 metres each.The first runners must begin in the same stagger as for the individual 400 m race.A relay baton is carried by each runner and must be passed within a 20 m changeover box, which extends 10 m on either side of each 100 m mark of the race.Another line is marked 10 m further back, marking the earliest point at which the outgoing runner may begin. IAAF World Challenge : The IAAF World Challenge is an annual global circuit of fourteen one day athletics competitions organized by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF).Started in 2010, it comprised the second level (after the IAAF Diamond League) of athletics meetings over the season and replaced the IAAF Grand Prix.  

The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) will start shutting down its ten branches in India as it exits from the country following an announcement in February 2015.  The branch closures are not a surprise. In February 2015 the bank announced that it will shut down operations in the country as part of a global reshuffle to cut costs and improve returns for shareholders.  It has already started selling its outstanding loans in India. In March, Singapore based DBS Bank bought a Rs 1,000 crore loan portfolio from the bank as it decided to sell its business in parts rather than at one go.  Earlier in October. RBS had sold $1 billion of external commercial borrowings (ECBs) of Indian companies to National Bank of Abu Dhabi (NBAD).  RBS' ten functional branches in India employ 650 people. It also had a global back office called RBS Business Services Pvt. Ltd, which has another 7,100 employees. Its main businesses include institutional and corporate banking business.   

Union Government has opened a special Tatkal like window to expedite examination process of patent applications by start-ups as well as of entities choosing India for filing the first patent. In this regard, the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has as amended patent rules. Under the new rules  : Union Government is aiming to reduce the time frame for the grant of patents to 18 months from the present 5-7 years by March 2018. It also seeks to popularise India as a patent filing hub so that more companies file applications in India. The Controller General of Patents Designs and Trademarks (CGPDT) will only take up a limited number of applications under the fast-track route in one year. Applicants can opt for the Expedited Examination Route if they have chosen India as International Preliminary Examining Authority or International Searching Authority. The expedited route is also applicable to all those entities qualifying as a start-up as per the definition for start-up provided in the Patent Rules. The new rules were made as per the India’s first National Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) policy which was unveiled earlier in May 2016. The policy seeks to focus on issues like expediting approval processes involving patents or trademarks and consolidating institutional mechanisms to create a robust IPR eco-system.  

A multidisciplinary research team from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) on 13 May 2016 announced that it genetically engineered world’s first clone of the Zika virus strain. The development of cDNA clone, as it is called, is expected to speed up many aspects of Zika research, including vaccine and therapeutic development. It will also unlock scientists’ ability to more quickly develop countermeasures and explore whether or how the Zika virus has evolved to spread more quickly and cause more severe diseases in people. In addition to the cDNA clone, the scientists developed mosquito infection models and the Zika mouse model which will help the researchers deciphering why the virus is tied to serious diseases.  

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