CURRENT AFFAIRS – FEBRUARY WEEK IV
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Awards and Honours
- Kanavu Variyam, a Tamil movie directed by a Chennai-based techie Arun Chidambaram, has gone on to win the prestigious Remi Award in the US.
- US President Barack Obama to honour six Indian Americans, who have made to the list of 106 scientists and engineers, with the highest US government prize for young independent researchers.
- Ismail Mahomed, an Indian-origin art lover and playwright in South Africa has been conferred knighthood by the French government for his lifelong devotion to the promotion of arts.
- Long-distance runner Lalita Babar was named as the Sports Person of the Year in the India Sports Awards 2015.
- Chemical scientist and well-known researcher Goverdhan Mehta has been conferred with Germany’s prestigious Cross of the Order of Merit (Bundesverdienstkreuz) Award.
- Tennis star Sania Mirza, Indian batting mainstay Virat Kohli and top-seeded badminton player Saina Nehwal lead the pack of over 50 Indians in Forbes’ inaugural list of top “promising young leaders and game changers” under the age of 30 in Asia.
- A bag of rice weighing 550 kilograms has entered the Guinness Book of World Records for being the heaviest bag of rice. The rice bag of India Gate Classic Basmati Rice brand has achieved the feat at the annual 4-day food and hospitality trade show being held from February 21-25.
- GVK Biosciences has bagged the Global CSR Excellence & Leadership Awards in the category of Best Environment Friendly Project for its ‘Go Green, Grow Green’ plantation drive.
- Dr Avinash Chander, Former Scientific Adviser to Defence Minister and ex-DRDO chief, has received the prestigious Astronautical Society of India’s Aryabhata Award.
- Father Agnel School in Greater Noida’s Sector Beta 2 pipped 500 schools from across the country to emerge as the ‘greenest school’.
- Railway officer Vinay Kumar Singh has been chosen for appointment as Managing Director of the National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC).
- Amar Singh has been appointed the police commissioner of Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur, the highest police rank achieved by a Sikh in the Muslim-majority country.
- Metropolitan Stock Exchange of India (formerly MCX Stock Exchange) has appointed its interim Managing Director & CEO Udai Kumar as MD & CEO after receiving necessary approvals from securities regulator SEBI.
- KN Vyas, Distinguished Scientist and Associate Director, Reactor Projects Group of the Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) took over as Director, BARC from Dr. Sekhar Basu.
- Bangladesh limited-overs captain Mashrafe Bin Mortaza is set to be named as the United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) “national goodwill ambassador for youth”.
- Japanese car manufacturer Nissan named Indian cricketer Rohit Sharma as their new global ambassador.
- The Diageo-controlled United SpiritsUSL) has announced the appointment of MK Sharma as its new chairman, a day after the embattled liquor baron Vijay Mallya resigned from the post.
- Rajendra Singh will be the new director general of the Coast Guard.
- Online fashion store Jabong on 26 Feb 2016 announced the appointment of Muralikrishnan B, former eBay India country manager, and senior e-commerce and consumer internet executive, as the company’s chief operating officer.
- Justice Subhro Kamal Mukherjee took oath as the 28th Chief Justice of the High Court of Karnataka on 25 Feb 2016.
- India’s leading private lender Yes Bank has been awarded inaugural Green Bond Pioneer Award at a ceremony held in London, United Kingdom.
- Union Government has selected former Chief Justice of India (CJI) H L Dattu as new Chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
- World football’s governing body elected the Swiss-Italian lawyer Gianni Infantino after he defeated nearest rival Bahrain’s Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa in the second round of voting.
Banking and Economy
- In order to enhance economic cooperation and strengthen financial stability, RBI has extended the USD 2 billion currency swap arrangement to SAARC nations till mid-November 2017.
- Mastercard is launching new mobile technologies that will allow customers to authenticate their online purchases using selfies or fingerprints.
- Banking giant SBI has taken another leap in this space with the launch of SBI e-Smart SME, a working capital loan offering for sellers on ecommerce platforms.
- State-owned Punjab National Bank (PNB) has declared 904 borrowers who owed it a combined10,869.71 crore as of December-end as wilful defaulters.
- The Reserve Bank of India has announced an open market operation (OMO) purchase of government securities worth Rs 12,000 crore on March 3.
- Ahead of the Union Budget (scheduled on 29 Feb 2016), the Economic Survey on 26 Feb 2016 termed external environment as challenging but projected a 7-7.5 per cent GDP growth rate in the next fiscal (April 1, 2016 to March 31, 2017) which could accelerate to eight per cent in a couple of years.
- Retirement fund body EPFO has tightened norms on withdrawal of provident fund as well investment of such amount in Varishtha Pension Bima Yojana for its over five crore subscribers.
- The Ministry of Tourism in co-ordination with Ministry of Culture has launched the Swachh Paryatan mobile app to increase citizens’ participation in the protection and upkeep of heritage monuments in India.
- Katni in Madhya Pradesh will have India’s longest railway bridge, 14 km on the up line, almost three and half times longer than Vembanad rail bridge in Kerala that connects Edappally and Vallarpadam in Kochi and is 4.62 km long.
- According to latest report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on global arms purchases, India continues to remain the world’s largest arms importer.
- INS Arihant, India’s first nuclear armed submarine is now ready for full fledged operations. The submarine has passed several deep sea diving drills as well as weapons launch tests over the past five months.
- The Government has decided to induct women in all military combat roles in the future.
- The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for introduction of steps for promotion of payments through cards and digital means.
- In a bid to provide standardised accommodation options to train travellers through a convenient booking platform, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has tied up with OYO Rooms.
- The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for establishment of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and Self Employment and Talent Utilisation (SETU) in NITI Aayog with appropriate manpower.
- In the Rail Budget 2016, Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu announces a capital plan of Rs. 1,21,000 crore for 2016-17; claims action initiated on 139 budget announcements made last year.
- The Indian Express Power List, which ranks the 100 most powerful Indians, for the year 2016, has been released.
- Industrialist Mukesh Ambani remains India’s richest person with a sharp surge of 30 per cent in his net worth to $26 billion, pushing his global rank to 21st on a worldwide rich list topped by Bill Gates.
- The Lok Sabha has passed Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to grant voting rights to people who became citizens of the country following the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh.
- Union Women and Child Development minister Maneka Gandhi said India has the third highest child mortality rate among SAARC countries with 48 deaths reported per 1000 live births.
- The Union Government has extended e-Tourist Visa Scheme to 37 more countries. With this, the total count of countries under the scheme will become 150.
- The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to launch the country’s first solar mission called Aditya-L1.
- The fifth edition of IBSAMAR 2016 trilateral naval exercise between Brazil, India and South Africa kicked off in Goa. IBSAMAR is abbreviated as of India-Brazil-South Africa Maritime.
- Hyundai Motor India Limited (HMIL) has inaugurated India’s first Digital Automotive Experience Outlet called Unity Hyundai in the national capital.
- The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to make a plan to block websites showing child pornography and sought its response to a plea to ban viewing of porn at public places.
- President Pranab Mukherjee has declared Kerala as the first digital state of the country.
- The Maharashtra government has taken action against e-commerce giants Snapdeal, Amazon and Flipkart which were selling medicines online without valid licences.
- Vedanta Limited has won India’s first-ever gold mining lease auctioned by the Chhattisgarh
- Minister of Railways, Suresh Prabhu has announced plans to set up a dedicated, cross functional team called Special Unit for Transportation Research and Analytics (Sutra).
- Cuban President Raul Castro announced that he is dispatching 9,000 soldiers to help keep the Zika virus out of Cuba, calling on the entire country to help kill the mosquito that carries the disease.
- Oil fell below $33 per barrel after Saudi Arabia ruled out production cuts.
- President Barack Obama on Tuesday called for the closure of the Guantanamo Bay detention facility after delivering his plan to Congress to achieve a goal that has long eluded his presidency.
- Vienna, Austria’s grand capital on the Danube river, offers the highest quality of life of all cities in the world, while the Iraqi capital Baghdad, once more took its place at the bottom of a live ability list compiled by consulting firm Mercer.
- Pakistan parliament became the first in the world to completely run on solar power, a venture supported by China with $55 million funding.
- Royal Enfield has opened its first exclusive store in Thailand. It has been set up in the Thonglor area of Thailand by the General Auto Supply Co. Ltd.
- Afghanistan’s National Women’s Cycling Team has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by members of the Italian parliament.
- The European Parliament called on the European Union to impose an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia, saying Britain, France and other EU governments should no longer sell weapons to a country accused of targeting civilians in Yemen.
- Google is shuttering Google Compare, its US comparison-shopping site for auto insurance, credit cards and mortgages after one year.
- The UN has urged Pakistan to resolve the status of more than 5 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan whose registration cards have expired or who remain unregistered.
- A US appeals court has handed Samsung a win over Apple in a long-running patent fight, overriding a jury verdict ordering it to pay $119.6 million to the iPhone maker.
India and the world
- Cyclone-hit Fiji will receive one million dollars as immediate assistance from the Indian Government.
- The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given its approval for signing of an Agreement between India and Maldives for the avoidance of double taxation of income from international air transport.
- India has approved a $150 million credit line for the development of Iran’s Chabahar port.
- Department of Biotechnology, Ministry of Science and Technology and a consortium of top UK research institutions signed an MoU for establishment of a joint India-UK collaboration programme in crop science.
Science and Technology
- Facebook has announced the Telecom Infra Project, which will look at developing new and alternative technologies to build and deploy telecom infrastructure, with partners including Aricent, HCL Technologies, Intel, Nokia and T- Mobile.
- The first fast-acting anti-rabies drug of the world, which instantly deactivates the rabies virus and provides immediate protection in severe dog bite cases, is set for a launch in India this year.
- Astronaut Scott Kelly is preparing to return to Earth after spending an unprecedented year on the International Space Station.
- World’s first fast-acting anti-rabies drug Rabies Human Monoclonal Antibody (RMAb) will be launched in India.
- Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is working towards the establishment of a Satellite Tracking & Data Reception Station and Data Processing Facility in Vietnam for ASEAN Member countries.
- Jaypee Punjab Warriors was crowned Hockey India League (HIL) champions as they clinched their maiden title after thrashing Kalinga Lancers 6-1 in a lop-sided summit clash.
- Former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone won her first title since 2013 when she defeated Shelby Rogers of the United States 2-6, 6-2, 6-2 in the Rio de Janeiro final.
- Santina, the world number one doubles pair have lost for the first time in 41 matches, at the Qatar Open.
- Ramon Castro, a life-long rancher and farmer who bore a strong physical resemblance to younger brother Fidel Castro, has died.
- BK Garudachar, India’s oldest first class cricketer from the pre-independence era passed away.
- South Indian filmmaker Rajesh Pillai died due to liver problem at the age of 42.
Snippets from states
- The West Bengal government is planning to get Geographical Identification (GI) tag for four traditional sweetmeat delicacies of the state for exporting them in future. The four sweetmeats are ‘Moa’ of Jainagar, ‘Sarpuria’ of Krishnagar, and ‘Sitabhog’ and ‘Mihidana’ of Burdwan.
- Telecom major Bharti Airtelhas started delivering 4G mobile broadband speed of up to 135 megabits per second in
- Haryana to soon become the first state in the country to have aquifer mapping done for its groundwater resources by May.
- Hyderabad ranks highest among Indian cities on a quality of life survey by consulting firm Mercer, but is only at number 138 on a global list of 230 cities.
- Karnataka government has announced housing scheme for transgenders, who are facing social boycott, in Bengaluru.
- Bihar became the sixth state to join Union Government’s UDAY (Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojana) Scheme for financial restructuring of debt of power distribution companies.
- Salesforce has acquired PredictionIO, a startup with general-purpose open source machine learning software.
- Canalysis of NASA’s data revealed that India has overtaken China’s air pollution levels in 2015 and the average particulate matter exposure was higher for the first time in the 21st century.
- A recent study has revealed that there is a high sediment mercury levels in Artic which is more prone for pollution in the region.
- The first animal to appear on Earth was very likely the simple sea sponges.
- Flamboyant ((of a person or their behaviour) tending to attract attention because of their exuberance, confidence, and stylishness.) businessman Vijay Mallya has quit as Chairman of United Spirits after its new majority owner Diageo agreed to pay Rs 515 crore and absolve him of all liabilities over alleged financial lapses at the company founded by his family.
- Pakistan on 24 Feb 2016 resumed Lahore-Delhi ‘Dosti’ bus service, days after it was suspended indefinitely at India’s request following violence and arson in Jat quota stir in Haryana.
- Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, JP Nadda on 23 Feb 2016 inaugurated 3-day International Conference on Combating Antimicrobial Resistance in New Delhi.
- Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on 22 February 2016 inaugurated an exhibition on the Coin and Currency of India at the Great Hall of North Block in New Delhi.
RAIL BUDGET 2016-2017 HIGHLIGHTS
- 1,21,000 crore will be the capital plan for this year In 2016-17.
- We hope to generate revenues of order of Rs.1,84,820 cr next year, 10.1% higher than revised target of current year.
- They are not going to hike in railway fares.
- 33% sub-quota for women under all reserved categories.
- FM radio stations to provide entertainment all passengers
- IRCTC will make available local cuisine of choice, hygienic food.
- Passengers can request for cleaning of toilets through SMS.
- Through 139 helpline number cancellation provision is available.
- CCTV network has been provided at 311 railway stations.
- Swacch Bharat: 17,000 bio-toilets and additional toilets to be provided by end of this Fiscal Year.
- There is an increase in seat quota this year; 50% up for senior citizens.
- Wi-Fi facility in 100 railway stations this year and 400 next year.
- LIC has agreed to invest 1.5 lakh crore over 5 years on extremely favourable terms.
- By 2020, we’ll have time-tabled freight trains.
Economic Survey: Outlook and challenges
- The growth rate of the Indian economy has been estimated to be in the range of 7-7.5% in 2016-17.
- The medium-term growth trajectory has been pegged at 7-7.5% percent.
- The SURVEY has emphasised that an 8% growth is possible only after two years, with continued economic reforms.
- Fiscal deficit refers to the difference between total revenue/income and total expenditure of the government. It indicates the total value of the government’s borrowings.
- The survey states that fiscal deficit target of 3.9% for 2015-16 is attainable. However, the government wants to adhere to the fiscal deficit target of 3.5% in 2016-17.
- The survey points out that in 2016-17, the 7th Pay Commission recommendations and demands of the OROP scheme will pose a challenge to achieve fiscal target.
- Inflation is the percentage change in the value of prices of a basket of goods and services in a year.
- CPI inflation seen around 4.5-5% in 2016-17.
- The RBI is expected to meet 5% inflation target by March 2017.
Current Account Deficit
- CAD is a measurement of country’s TRADE when value of goods and services imported is higher than the value of goods and services exported. It includes net income, such as interest and dividends as well as foreign aid/grants.
- Current account deficit is seen at around 1-1.5% of GDP in 2016-17.
- The growth in agriculture sector in 2015-16 has continued to be lower than the average of the last decade, mainly due to second successive year of lower-than-normal monsoon.
- As per the information of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare for 2015-16, the production of food-grains and oil-seeds is estimated to decrease by 0.5% and 4.1% respectively, while the production of fruits and vegetables is likely to witness a marginal rise.
- A brighter picture is expected to emerge from the allied sectors like livestock products, forestry and fisheries, with growth exceeding 5% in 2015-16, which will improve rural income.
- It refers to a sum of MONEY extended through a government grant to keep the price of a commodity low.
- The Economic SURVEY states that rationalisation and reprioritisation of subsidies through better targeting would be crucial role for fiscal consolidation and for targeting more expenditure towards inclusive development.
- The total subsidy bill as a proportion of GDP is expected to be below 2% of GDP as per Budget estimates for 2015-16.
- The 1.7% decline in majors subsidies was a result of nearly 44.7% decline in petroleum subsidy during April – December 2015, while other major subsidies-food and fertiliser -increased by 10.4% and 13.7% respectively during the period.
- Growth in the industry sector accelerated during the current year due to improved manufacturing activity.
- The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) showed that manufacturing production grew by 3.1% during April-December 2015-16, vis-à-vis a growth of 1.8% in the corresponding period of the previous year.
- The ongoing manufacturing recovery is supported by vigorous growth in petroleum refining, automobiles, apparels, chemicals, electrical machinery and wood products, including furniture.
- Apart from manufacturing, other three segments of the industry sector-electricity, gas, water supply-and related utilities, mining and quarrying and construction activities are witnessing a slump in growth.
- The growth in service sector is moderated slightly but remains robust.
- Being the main driver of the economy, the service sector has contributed about 69% of the total growth during 2011-12 to 2015-16. It has, therefore, expanded its share in the economy to 53% from 49%.
Other key points:
- The Goods and Services Tax bill will mark an unprecedented reform measure.
- The year 2015 was a landmark year for India in terms of climate change initiatives.
- India ranks first in milk production, thereby accounting for 18.5% of the world production.
- The emphasis is on widening tax base, increasing tax rates on property and reasonable increase in taxes from rich agriculturalists.
- Stock MARKETS in India are more resilient vis-à-vis its peers. India is the fastest-growing major global economy despite emerging economies affected by a slowdown.
DEEP SEA FACTS
- The life forms living hear hydrothermal vents, unlike any other life forms on earth, do not rely on photosynthesis and the sun for their energy but on chemicals coming from beneath the surface of the earth.
- Of the estimated 500,000 to 10 million species living in the deep sea, the majority are yet to be discovered.
- Approximately 98 percent of the oceans’ species live in, on or just above the floor of the sea.
- The estimated number of seamounts ranges from 30,000 to 100,000.
- Seamounts are home to a breathtaking array of species (for example, over 850 species were recently found on seamounts in the Tasman and Coral Seas).
- 15 percent or more of the breathtaking array of species being found on seamounts may be endemic, meaning that they are unique to that area. Because of this, each unsampled seamount is a potential source of numerous undiscovered species. The Coral and Tasman Sea seamounts have endemism rates of about 30 percent.
- Two-thirds of all known coral species live in waters that are deep, dark, and cold — some live three miles deep and are able to survive in -2°C.
- Some cold-water corals are 5,000-8,500 years old or more, and some grow into beautiful structures that rise up to 35 meters high.
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