Current Affairs 14th October 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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Public sector bank Bank of Baroda, has signed a principal sponsorship contract with badminton Olympians P V Sindhu and K Srikanth. The three year deal with the two players was agreed in principle before they represented and made India proud on the International stage at the Rio 2016 Olympics. In 2005, the bank had appointed right hand batsman Rahul Dravid as its brand ambassador, though that contract has long since expired. Banks and sports personalities have had a longstanding relationship in terms of brand endorsements. A month back, team India test captain Virat Kohli signed on as the brand ambassador of Punjab National Bank, while Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar has endorsed the Royal Bank of Scotland in the past. In 2014, Canara Bank appointed Shikhar Dhawan as its brand ambassador.  

India has decided to eliminate use of HFC-23, a greenhouse gas (GHG) that harms the ozone layer by 2030. With this, India, is taking the lead on tackling climate change. It was announced during the meeting of parties to the Montreal Protocol at Kigali in Rwanda. In this meeting, final negotiations are taking place to substantially reduce the use of HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) by 2030. The elimination will potentially check emissions of HFC-23 equivalent to 100 million tonnes of CO2 over the next 15 years. Indian companies will not be compensated for the costs involved in ensuring that these gases are not released. This move is considered as a major break away from the concept of financial assistance for every action on environment in which India earlier had shown the lead. HFC-23 :  HFC-23 is a by-product of HCFC-22 (Hydrochloroflurocarbon-22), which is used in industrial refrigeration. It is a potent greenhouse gas (GHG) with global warming potential of 14,800 times more than that of CO2. Montreal Protocol :  The Montreal Protocol, is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer. It came into force in 1989. It aims at reducing the production and consumption of ozone depleting substances (ODS) in order to protect the earth’s fragile ozone layer.

The 2016 World Sight Day (WSD) was observed across the world on 13 October 2016. The theme for the WSD 2016 is Stronger Together. The Day is an annual day of awareness held on the second Thursday of October, to focus global attention on blindness and vision impairment. The day was originally initiated by the SightFirstCampaign of Lions Club International Foundation in 2000. WSD is co-ordinated by International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) in cooperation with the World Health Organization under the VISION 2020 Global Initiative.  International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness : The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness (IAPB) was established in 1975 by the late Sir John Wilson.  It was established as a coordinating, umbrella organisation to lead international efforts in blindness prevention activities.It aspires to link professional bodies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), educational institutions, and interested individuals, with national programmes for the prevention of blindness. The first major achievement of IAPB was the establishment of the WHO Programme for Prevention of Blindness (WHO/PBL), with which, it then entered into an official relationship.

India and Russia has signed a bilateral agreement for cooperation in the development of a network of integrated infrastructure irradiation centres on 13 October 2016. The agreement was signed between the Indian Agricultural Association, Hindustan Agro Co-Op Ltd (HACL) and United Innovation Corporation (UIC), a subsidiary of ROSATOM State Atomic Energy Corporation of Russia. It was signed by Bharat Dhokane Pandurang, Chairman of HACL and Denis Cherednichenko, CEO of UIC. Highlights of the Agreement :  It will be implemented through a Joint Venture and aims to set up 25 integrated irradiation centres.  In the first phase, seven centres will be set up in Maharashtra, which will begin with the upgradation of the current centre at Rahuri in Ahmednagar district. The 7 centres are likely to be established in Sindhurg, Satara, Solapur, JNPT, Jalana, Napur and Pune in the first phase. UIC will be a technology partner and will help set up the irradiation centres in India.   

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has released the Global Tuberculosis Report 2016 highlighting that countries need to move much faster to prevent, detect and treat Tuberculosis (TB) in order to meet global targets. The report highlights the considerable inequalities among countries in enabling people with TB to access existing cost-effective diagnosis and treatment interventions that can accelerate decline in TB worldwide.  Highlights  :  The report signals the need for bold political commitment and increased funding. While efforts to respond to TB saved more than 3 million lives in 2015, however TB burden is actually higher than previously estimated, reflecting survey data from India.In 2015, there were an estimated 10.4 million new TB cases worldwide.  Six countries accounted for 60 percent of the total burden, with India bearing the brunt, followed by Indonesia, China, Nigeria, Pakistan and South Africa. An estimated 1.8 million people died from TB in 2015, of whom 0.4 million were co-infected with HIV. Although global TB deaths fell by 22 percent between 2000 and 2015, the disease was one of the top 10 causes of death worldwide in 2015. Gaps in testing for TB and reporting new cases remain major challenges. Of the estimated 10.4 million new cases, only 6.1 million were detected and officially notified in 2015, leaving a gap of 4.3 million. In addition, the rate of reduction in TB cases remained static at 1.5 percent from 2014 to 2015. This needs to accelerate to 4–5% by 2020 as per World Health Assembly-approved End. India under-reported TB for 15 years : Inaccurate estimates of the tuberculosis burden in India between 2000-2015, has led the World Health Organisation (WHO) to underestimate the global TB epidemic. India had reported only 56 percent of its TB burden in 2014 and 59 percent in 2015. Since India accounts for more than one quarter of the world’s TB cases and deaths, the revisions in the estimates have had a major impact on global estimates.The revised estimates put the incidence of TB in India at 217 per 100000 population in 2015 as against the previously estimated 127 per 100000.  

The 193 member states of the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution by acclamation, appointing Guterres as the ninth U.N. Secretary-General. Guterres, who succeeds Ban Ki-moon, will assume his new role on 1 January 2017 for a five-year term that can be renewed by member states for an additional five years. Antonio Guterres : Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres is a Portuguese politician.He served as the Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002. He also served for a time as President of the Socialist International.He served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015. Secretary-General of the United Nations : The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the United Nations Secretariat.The Secretary-General also acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader of the United Nations. Their role is laid out by Chapter XV (Articles 97 to 101) of the United Nations Charter.The Secretary-General was envisioned by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a world moderator. Article 97 under Chapter XV of the United Nations Charter states that the Secretary-General shall be the chief administrative officer of the Organization, but does not dictate their specific obligations.

Union Cabinet has approved MoU between Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) on General Cooperation with the BRICS promoted New Development Bank (NDB) on 13 October 2016, along with other Development Financial Institutions of BRICS nations. This will be achieved through the BRICS Interbank Cooperation Mechanism. This approval will help in enhancing trade and economic relations among the BRICS countries and benefit the participating institutions from the BRICS nation. There is no financial implication involved in signing of the MoU. Highlights : The MoU is a non-binding umbrella agreement. It aims at establishing a cooperation framework in accordance with the national laws and regulations, besides skills transfer and knowledge sharing amongst the signatories. Establishment of the NDB reflects the close relations among the BRICS countries and provides a powerful instrument for increasing their economic cooperation and help India play an enhanced international role. The signing of MoU is necessary in the context of cooperation extended by the Members in various forms for promoting and facilitating trade of goods and services as well as investments in mutual projects among the BRICS countries. It will help in sustainable development and inclusive economic growth of the BRICS nations. Five banks from the BRICS nations had established the BRICS Interbank Co-operation Mechanism to enhance trade and economic relations among the BRICS countries. The BRICS Interbank Co-operation Mechanism now proposes to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on General Co-operation with the New Development Bank.

Aditi Ashok(18) from India recorded her third top-10 finish on the Ladies European Tour at the ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters held at the Golf Club Hubblerath, Germany. She tied at ninth position in the final.  She played her fourth successive one-under 69 round for her third straight top-10 finish on the Ladies European Tour at the Lacoste Ladies Open de France. She was the only Indian female golfer in the Rio Olympics 2016. At the top, 34-year-old Beth Allen of the USA overturned a four-stroke deficit with nine holes remaining to claim a decisive victory. The American moved two ahead after Luna three-putted the 14th and she then soared three clear after making a short eagle putt on the long 15th.

Indian off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin today reclaimed the number one spot in Test rankings for bowlers following a career-best match haul of 13 for 140 in the third Test against New Zealand in Indore.  Ashwin, who was named man of the series after he finished with 27 wickets in a 3-0 sweep by India, now has 220 wickets, the most by any bowler after 39 Tests.  Ranked third before the final Test in Indore, Ashwin, who also holds the top position in rankings for all-rounders, has leapfrogged pace bowlers James Anderson and Dale Steyn to attain a career-best rating of 900 points.  Ashwin, who finished the 2015 year-end rankings as the number-one bowler and was also at the top briefly in July this year, has joined a select band to have touched a rating of 900 points since 2000, the others being Muttiah Muralitharan, Glenn McGrath, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn and Shaun Pollock.  In the rankings for Test batsmen, India's middle-order batsman Ajinkya Rahane has attained a career-best sixth rank with scores of 188 and 23 not out.  Rahane, whose previous best was eighth in August this year, has gained five slots after starting the match at 11th position.  Prolific scorer in the New Zealand series, Cheteshwar Pujara and captain Virat Kohli also moved up the rankings.  Pujara's knocks of 41 and 101 not out have helped him move up one place to 14th while Kohli's scores of 211 and 17 at Indore helped him move up four places to 16th position.  For New Zealand, opener Martin Guptill has moved up 10 places to 58th with knocks of 72 and 29 while Jimmy Neesham has moved up 12 slots to 70th position.  For New Zealand, opener Martin Guptill has moved up 10 places to 58th with knocks of 72 and 29 while Jimmy Neesham has moved up 12 slots to 70th position.  In the all-rounders' list, India's Ravindra Jadeja has reached a career-best joint-third rank.  Meanwhile, Pakistan team does not have a chance to reclaim the number-one ranking from India even with a 3-0 win against the West Indies. 

K E Raghunathan, a noted industrialist and former Regional Chairman of All India Manufacturers' Association, has been elected as the National President of the body. While Raghunathan was elected as National President, Suresh Deora was elected as Honorary National General Secretary and Harish L Metha as the Honorary National Treasurer, 'unanimously,' at the 75th Annual General Body Meeting held recently in Mumbai. The body has 14 regional units and has 140 sub-committees across the country. All India Manufacturers' Association represents small, medium and large scale industries.

In Tamil Nadu, the portfolios held by ailing Chief Minister J.Jayalalithaa have been allocated to Finance Minister O. Panneerselvam. The decision by Governor Vidyasagar Rao has been taken on the advice of Jayalalithaa who is undergoing treatment at Apollo hospital since the 22nd of last month. The portfolios re-allocated include the Home and Public Departments and General Administration among others. Paneerselvam, who holds the Administrative reforms portfolio, in addition to Finance, will also preside over the Cabinet meetings. He is viewed as a trusted aide of Jayalalithaa and has also donned the role briefly as chief minister in September 2001 and September 2014, when Jayalalithaa had to step down from her position as chief minister due to court rulings.

Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) and FieldFresh Foods, a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises & Del Monte Pacific Limited have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to carry out a corn productivity research programme.  The MoU follows the agreement signed recently between Cambridge University and Bharti Foundation to fund the research Programme.  The collaborative research will examine the relationship between the genetic make-up, environmental factors and crop management of corn in order to develop a production system that is more resilient and helps reduce production costs and greenhouse gas emissions.  The three-year programme, to be funded by FieldFresh, will look at enhancing corn crop yield and minimising greenhouse gas emissions.  Under the project, FieldFresh will also fund a post-doctoral fellowship to conduct field trials the company's Agri Centre of Excellence (ACE) in Ludhiana, Punjab, The fellow will work under the mentorship of PAU scientists.  The research findings of the project will be further translated into guidance for small farmers in India to promote sustainability, financial stability and to eradicate food shortages. 

 Former Uttarakhand chief minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank has been conferred with a prestigious award by the Ugandan government for promoting human values through his literature. Nishank, who is currently a BJP MP from Haridwar, has authored a number of books and anthologies. Honouring the former chief minister with the award in recognition of his literary work at Kampala last night, the Ugandan Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda said Nishanks literary oeuvre bears testimony to the fact that despite being a politician he attaches utmost importance to promotion of human values in life. Describing Nishanks literary work as representing a rare confluence of politics and literature, Rugunda said he was proud to confer him with the award.

India has donated Rs. 9.3 million (ZAR 2 million) to the Nelson Mandela Foundation to help it in its welfare work for the people of South Africa. Announcing the donation at the offices of the Foundation here, Indian High Commissioner Ruchi Ghanashyam said the donation was a direct result of the recent visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Nelson Mandela Foundation was established in 1999 after the then President Nelson Mandela stepped down as the President of South Africa. The Government of India helped in the building of the Foundation’s premises. The Foundation has duly acknowledged this contribution on the plaque at the entrance. In 2014, the Foundation hosted an exhibition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to India. India is supportive of the charitable work of the foundation covering a wide range of endeavours: from building schools to HIV/AIDS work, from research to peace and reconciliation interventions.

Satish Pathak, a Pune-based innovator, has been awarded the the Excellence in Technical Innovation by the International Society of Automation. The innovation, called Digital Controlled Valve for Precise Liquid Dispensing by Gravity flow, has the capacity of saving for the industry and is a step change technology in industrial valves, said Pathak. In 2008, Pathak decided to work on a valve to address the problems in the industrial valves being used.  Industries have to invest for separate set ups in order to deal with different liquids. Perfected in 2012-13, at present a standalone unit is functional in Kalyan. Pathak, who is a serial innovator, said that he would be starting the first commercial usage of the project at Kalyan for a company dealing with natural honey soon.  

The Union Finance Ministry has constituted a high-level committee to consolidate the regulation of pension products that is currently being done by three different watchdogs including insurance and stock market regulators.  The committee would have representatives from all financial sector regulators SEBI, IRDA, RBI and PFRDA. Its mandate will be to look into the issue of bringing these companies which are offering pension plans under different regulators under the purview of PFRDA. The PFRDA Act says that PFRDA will be the pension regulator in the country. Currently, pension products floated by insurance companies and those sold by mutual funds are under purview of IRDA and SEBI respectively.  Thus, there are cases of overlapping functions performed by financial sector regulators SEBI, IRDA, RBI and PFRDA in case of floating different pension products. For instance PFRDA is regulating all pension products in the country. However, insurers and mutual funds continue to sell pension products outside PFRDA’s watch.  The PFRDA Act says that PFRDA will be the pension regulator in the country. Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA)  : PFRDA is a statuary pension regulatory authority established in 2003 under the PFRDA Act. It functions under the aegis of Union Ministry of Finance, Department of Financial Services.  PFRDA promotes old age income security by establishing, developing and regulating pension funds. It also protects interests of subscribers to schemes of pension funds and related matters. It is responsible for appointment of various intermediate agencies such as Central Record Keeping Agency (CRA), Custodian, Pension Fund Managers, NPS Trustee Bank, etc.

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Hungary on cooperation in the field of water management.  The MoU will be signed between Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and the Ministry of Interior, Government of Hungary.  This is for the first time India is entering into a MoU with Hungary with wide-ranging areas on water sector. Both the countries will cooperate in the field of river basin management, integrated water resources management, irrigation technology innovation, efficiency in water supply and flood & drought management to improve the socio-economic conditions of the people.  They will also exchange of scientific delegations and experts in the field of water resources development and management for joint activities. Enhance bilateral cooperation in the field of water management, on the basis of equality and mutual benefits.  Encourage the development of bilateral relations between private and public organizations concerning water resources of both the countries.

Four public sector banks (PSBs) may struggle to make coupon payments on their additional tier 1 (AT1) bond as they have reported heavy losses due to a surge in bad loans.  In this case coupon payment is an annual interest paid on the face value of a bond. It is expressed as a percentage. AT1 bond is issued under Basel III capital regulations. The main reasons that may affect ability of PSBs to pay coupon on AT1 bonds are decline in profitability and increasing losses that may wipe out their revenue reserves. Union Government has committed capital support to these PSBs on the coupon on AT1 bonds. However, this support can only be serviced through PSBs current year’s profit or from revenue reserves. Thus, any capital infusion by the government alone cannot help the banks to service coupon on these bonds. AT1 bonds are the hybrid bonds that combine debt and equity elements. They are also called as contingent convertible capital instruments (CoCos). AT1 or Cocos bonds have their roots in financial crisis when governments were forced to bail out banks. They are the riskiest debt issued by banks and do not have any set maturity date.  The defining characteristic of AT1 or Cocos bond is that it may be converted into shares when certain conditions are met. For example, when a company runs into trouble, the owners lose their stake and the debt becomes equity, lenders turns into owners.  But in case of banks such negotiations are not possible. The coco bonds are designed to anticipate that process and transform automatically from debt to equity.

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej passed away on 13 October 2016 at Bangkok, Thailand. He was 88. King Adulyadej was the world’s longest reigning monarch. After the demise of the Thai King, 63-year old Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn is expected to become the new king. Bhumibol Adulyadej : Bhumibol Adulyadej was the ninth monarch of Thailand from the Chakri Dynasty as Rama IX. He was also known as King Bhumibol the Great.He was crowned King of Thailand on 5 May 1950 at the Royal Palace in Bangkok where he pledged that he would "reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people.” He was the world's longest-serving head of state and the longest-reigning monarch in Thai history, serving for 70 years, 127 days. During his reign, he was served by a total of 30 prime ministers beginning with Pridi Banomyong and ending with Prayut Chan-o-cha. They are otherwise known as Bhumibol's Thirty. Forbes estimated his fortune to be $30 billion US dollar in May 2014.

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the mechanism for revision of ethanol price for supply to Public Sector Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) to carry out the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme on 13 October 2016. The administered price of ethanol for the Programme will be 39 rupees per litre for the next sugar season from 1 December 2016 to 30 November 2017. Highlights : Charges will be paid to the ethanol suppliers as per actuals in case of Excise Duty and VAT or GST and transportation charges as decided by the oil marketing companies. The prices of ethanol will be reviewed and suitably revised by Government at any time during the ethanol supply period depending upon the prevailing economic situation and other relevant factors. The revision in ethanol prices will facilitate Government in providing price stability and remunerative prices for ethanol suppliers. Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme : Union Government in 2003 launched the Ethanol Blended Petrol (EBP) Programme to promote the use of alternative and environment friendly fuels. The programme also sought to reduce import dependency for energy requirements. However, since 2006, OMCs were not able to receive offers for the required quantity of ethanol against the tenders floated by them due to various constraints like State Specific issues, Supplier related issues including Pricing issues of ethanol. To end constraints and augment the supply of ethanol, government on 10 December 2014 placed a mechanism for pricing of ethanol under which the delivered price of ethanol at OMC depots was fixed in the range of 48.50 rupees per litre to 49.50 rupees per litre including Central/State Government taxes and transportation charges. Effect of the Decision : The decision helped in improving the supply of ethanol. Ethanol supplies increased to 67.4 crore litres in 2014-15 and the projected supplies for ethanol supply year 2015-16 are around 120 crore litres.

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