[current affairs] 13 – 19 May 2017


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13 – 19 May 2017

  • The South Asia Satellite has been launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) successfully. The communication satellite on board the launch vehicle 'GSLV F-Zero Nine' lifted off from the second launch pad of the Satish Dhawan Space Centre at Sriharikota at 4.57 pm on 5th May and reached the geosynchronous transfer orbit. The South Asia Satellite has 12 Ku band transponders meant for communication purposes. They can also be used for broadcasting services, telemedicine, tele-education and disaster management. The total cost of the satellite mission has worked out to be 450-crore rupees including 235 crore rupees for the satellite alone. As Prime Minister Modi had announced earlier, it is a gift by India to its neighbours. Six of India's neighbours including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives have participated in the project. Pakistan pulled out of the project. The participating nations would be given at least a dedicated transponder for their exclusive use. The launch is a great boost for South Asian regional cooperation in jointly undertaking development initiatives.
  • The Supreme Court has upheld the conviction and death penalty by the Delhi High Court to the four convicts Mukesh, Akshay, Pawan and Vinay in the 16th December 2012 Nirbhaya gang rape and murder case. A three-judge bench headed by Justice Dipak Mishra wrote two separate but concurring judgments in the case. It noted that victim's dying declaration is consistent as it has been proved beyond doubt and corroborated. The Court said that aggravating circumstances outweighed mitigating circumstances in the case.

  • The Civil Aviation Ministry has released draft rules for a No-fly list for unruly passengers travelling by domestic airlines. This comes in the wake of an incident involving Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad. Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said, the Ministry has proposed three kinds of unruly behaviour – disruptive behaviour, physically abusive and life threatening behaviour. Mr. Sinha said, this is for the first time that a No-fly is being proposed to address issues pertaining to civil aviation safety. He said the Ministry has put draft rules on the DGCA website for public comments and suggestions. Mr. Sinha said, the rules will be finalized by the 30th of June after taking into consideration public comments and suggestions.

  • The Union Government has declared entire Assam, besides bordering areas of Meghalaya, as a disturbed area, under the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA), for three months. In a gazette notification, the Home Ministry cited violence perpetrated by insurgent groups like ULFA, NDFB and others as the reason for enforcing AFSPA for three more months with effect from the 3rd May. It said, there were 75 incidents of violence in Assam last year in which 33 people including four security personnel were killed and 14 were abducted. It said, this year, there were nine violent incidents in which four people including two security personnel were killed. AFSPA has been continuing in Assam since November 1990.
  • The Centre has asked the Jammu and Kashmir Government to take immediate steps to stop unauthorized broadcast of Pakistani and Saudi Arabian channels in the state. According to media reports, Information and Broadcasting Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu spoke with the state chief secretary and sought a compliance report at the earliest. He expressed concern over reports that the channels are being broadcast in the state without permission.

  • Nepal's first woman Chief Justice Sushila Karki resumed office after the Supreme Court ordered here reinstatement and directed Parliament to put on hold the impeachment motion against her. The court issued the order saying that the impeachment move was against the spirit of the country's constitution. The order came in response to a writ petition against the motion. Justice Karki was suspended after an impeachment motion was registered in Parliament by ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Centre). They accused her of interfering with the executive and issuing prejudiced verdicts.

  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has said no US combat troops will stay in the country after the end of fight against the Islamic State terror group. In a statement in Baghdad, the Prime Minister said, the American troops will then only have an advisory role to help security forces maintain full readiness for any future security challenges. Iraqi forces are currently fighting to retake the last remaining Mosul neighbourhoods from Islamic State militants in the city's western half.

  • A deal unveiled by Russia's military to set up safe zones in Syria has come into force. The four zones will remain in place for six months. The accord on the zones was reached during talks in Kazakhstan between Russia and Iran which back Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Turkey, which supports Syrian rebel groups, agreed to act as a guarantor. Moscow said, US, UN and Saudi Arabia also support the idea. The main Syrian opposition grouping said, it has little faith in the deal.
  • The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a legislation to tighten sanctions on North Korea. The sanctions target shipping industry and companies that do business with Pyongyang. Supporters said, the legislation was intended to send a strong message to North Korea, amid international concern over the escalation of its nuclear programme. Reacting on the legislation Chinese Foreign Ministry said, Beijing opposed any unilateral sanctions and urged all sides to exercise restraint to avoid any escalation. On the other hand, North Korea has accused the US Central Intelligence Agency of plotting with South Korea to assassinate its leader Kim Jong-Un.

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has made substantial changes in the norms for dealing with stressed loans and warned banks they will be penalized for missing Non Performing Assets (NPA) resolution timelines. RBI, through a notification, eased the decision making process in the Joint Lenders' Forum and Corrective Action Plan under the 'Framework for Revitalizing Distressed Assets in the Economy'. The apex bank also warned that any non-adherence to these instructions and timelines specified under the framework shall attract monetary penalties on the concerned banks. Earlier, the government notified an ordinance empowering the Reserve bank to issue directions to banks to initiate insolvency resolution process in case of a default under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016.

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has said that Indian Economy will grow 7.4 percent this fiscal and 7.6 percent in the next fiscal. India had grown 7.1 percent in the previous fiscal. ADB Chief Economist Yasuyuki Sawada said that reforms like the Goods and Services Tax and the new bankruptcy law will make it easier to do business in India. On the impact of rupee appreciation on exports, he said, the appreciation cannot be considered in isolation, and the overall export performance of India so far seems quite positive. The rupee has appreciated by over 5 percent against the US dollar since January.

  • According to the Reserve Bank of India's weekly statistical supplement, India's foreign exchange reserves have increased by $1,594 billion to touch a lifetime high of $372.73 billion in the week that ended on April 28. The increase was due to increase in foreign currency assets.
  • Indian national football team has secured a 100th spot in the latest FIFA world football rankings. This is the first time in 21 years that India has been ranked into top 100. India has been placed 100th alongside Nicaragua, Lithuania and Estonia with a total of 331 points. India had ranked 101st in the FIFA rankings for April. The team climbed one spot up owing to the recent wins over Cambodia and Myanmar.

  • Fourth seeds Leander Paes and Andre Sa lost in the Estoril Open quarterfinals. Spanish team of Nicolas Almagro and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez defeated them 7-6, 4-6, 10-8. Unseeded Indian team of Sharan and Raja also lost in the quarterfinals. Sharan and Raja were beaten by Aria Behar and Aliaksandr Bury 5-7, 3-6.

  • Olympic silver medalist P.V. Sindhu and former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal slipped a place each to be at the fourth and ninth spots respectively in the latest BWF World ranking released. Both Sindhu and Saina last played at the Asian Badminton Championship in China with the former losing in the quarterfinals, while the latter bowed out in the first round. In men's singles, Ajay Jayaram continues to be the best-ranked Indian at the 13th spot, while Sai Praneeth ranked 22nd.

29 April – 5 May 2017
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said civil servants should adopt new ways of doing work as per the changing times. Addressing bureaucrats on the 11th civil services day on 21st April, Mr. Modi said with changing times, the government has to become from regulator to an enabling entity. He said changing trends in the last 15-20 years have altered the dynamics as competition is playing a big role in bringing a qualitative change. The Prime Minister said, earlier the role of the government was to do a lot of work starting from a quantum jump in work, a qualitative change must also follow. The Prime Minister said, e-governance, m-governance, social media are good means to reach out to the people for their benefits. He said, the push for reform comes from political leadership but the perform angle is determined by officers and it is the Jan bhagidari which transforms it. The Prime Minister also conferred PM's awards for Excellence in Public Administration to Districts and other Central and State organizations for effective implementation of Programmes and Innovation. The awards have been instituted with a view to acknowledge, recognize and reward the extraordinary and innovative work done by Districts and Organizations of the Central and State Governments for the welfare of common citizen.

  • The Union Cabinet has decided to ban the use of red beacons on all VIP vehicles, including those of President, Vice-President and Prime Minister, from May 1. Emergency services, like ambulances and fire brigade, will be allowed to use blue beacons. Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said that from May 1, no person in the country would be able to put a red beacons on their vehicles and there would no exception to this. The Ministry of Road, Transport and Highways hailed the decision as a 'historic' step towards strengthening healthy democratic values.

  • The Supreme Court has set a benchmark for maintenance to be paid by a husband to his estranged wife. The Court said that twenty five percent of his net salary might constitute a just and proper amount as alimony. According to media reports, a bench of Justices R. Banumathi and M.M. Santanagoudar directed a resident of West Bengal to set aside twenty five percent as maintenance for his former wife and their son. The court said the amount of maintenance or permanent alimony must be sufficient to ensure that a woman lived with dignity after separating from her husband.

  • The Supreme Court has questioned the Centre for making Aadhaar mandatory for procuring Permanent Account Number (PAN) card. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the Centre, told a bench headed by Justice A.K. Sikri that they have found that people were giving details of PAN cards which have been procured on the basis of fake documents. Rohatgi said there were instances that one person was having a number of PAN cards and these fake cards were being used to divert funds to shell companies. To this, the bench asked the Attorney General, whether this was the remedy that one need to have Aadhaar for having PAN. The apex court further asked why has Aadhaar been made mandatory.
  • The government has said it would not take a decision on a Law Commission report, which has proposes stringent punishment against lawyers for misconduct, before holding consultations with the legal fraternity. Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters in New Delhi that the government has not taken any decision on the recommendations of Law Commission. Till the consultations are complete, no action will be taken on the law panel report, he added.

  • India and South Korea have signed an Inter-governmental Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Defence Industry cooperation between their shipbuilding yards. The Indian side was represented by Secretary of Defence Production A.K. Gupta and South Korea was represented by his counterpart Chang Miyung Jin, in New Delhi. India has nominated Hindustan Shipyard at Vishakhapatnam whereas South Korea is yet to nominate its shipyard. This MoU is part of the 'Make in India' initiative of Central Government.

  • Information and Broadcasting Ministry has asked the authorized officers to take action against the Multi System Operators and Cable Operators who are still transmitting analog signals on cable TV network. The Ministry, in an advisory issued to States and Union Territories said, every cable operator is mandated to transmit or retransmit programmes in an encrypted form through digital addressable system with effect from the 1st of this month. The advisory came in the wake of complaints about carriage of analog signals by the MSOs and Cable Operators.

  • The government has directed Internet service providers ISPs to block distribution and transmission of child sexual abuse content by 31st July. In an order, Ministry of Electronics and IT said, ISPs having cable landing station gateways, international long distance licences in India shall be required to adopt and implement Internet Watch Foundation resources on or before 31st July. The directive has been issued after the recommendation of an inter-ministerial committee that was constituted to recommend solutions to address the issue of child sexual abuse material following a Supreme Court order.
  • India has finalized its National Action Plan to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR). This was announced by the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J.P. Nadda on April 19. Nadda said the government is ready with a blueprint which meets global expectations and that AMR needs to be addressed comprehensively under the 'One Health Approach'.

  • India has objected to China renaming six places in Arunachal Pradesh. It said inventing names of states of a neighbour does not make an illegal occupation legal. In reply to a media query, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Gopal Baglay said, Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India and will always remain so. China recently announced that it has standardized official names for six places in Arunachal Pradesh and termed it as legitimate action. It came days after Beijing lodged protest with India over Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama's visit to the state.

  • Five prominent Madhesi parties in Nepal have united to form a new united party named the Rastriya Janata Party. The Rashtriya Janata Party will be the fifth largest party in Nepal's parliament. This announcement of unification has come ahead of elections to local government bodies scheduled on May 14.

  • The UN Security Council has strongly condemned the recent ballistic missile test by North Korea. In an unanimous statement, Security Council members expressed their utmost concern over Pyongyang's flagrant and provocative defiance of UN sanctions. North Korea last Saturday tried and failed to launch a missile from its submarine base at Sinpo off its eastern coast.

  • Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made sweeping changes to Citizenship laws unveiling tighter requirements for new applicants. This announcement follows the recent scrapping of the 457 visa program for foreign workers, which was used majorly by the Indians. The 457 programme was scrapped to tackle the growing unemployment in the country.
  • Earth Day was celebrated across the world on 22nd April. The day is observed worldwide to demonstrate support for environmental protection. The day was proposed at the UNESCO conference in 1969 and the first Earth Day celebrations took place in 1970. The campaign these for this year is Environmental and Climate Literacy. In a message, Information and Broadcasting Minister Venkaiah Naidu called on people to remember that Mother Earth can satisfy everyone's need but not everyone's greed.

  • Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, has strongly raised the H-1B visa issue with US Commerce Secretary, Wilbur Ross. In their meeting in Washington, Jaitley told Ross about the contribution of highly skilled Indians in the economic development of the United States and India and stressed that they should continue to do so which is in the best interest of the two countries. US Commerce Secretary said, Washington has started the process of reviewing H1B visas issues and no decision has been taken on it yet. The executive order signed by Trump recently calls for a review of H-1B visas by the departments of State, Labour, Homeland Security and Justice. Jaitley is leading an Indian delegation to attend the annual Spring meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

  • The Government has raised Rs. 1,200 crore by divesting 9.2% of paid-up capital in National Aluminum Company Ltd. (NALCO). With this disinvestment, Government's shareholding In NALCO has become 65.37%.

  • Tamil Nadu, Himachal Pradesh and Tripura have been selected by the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare for the Krishi Karman awards for their record performance in the production of food grains during 2015-16. Apart from these states, Meghalaya will get commendation prize for total food grain production and will be given a cash award of Rs. 1 crore.

  • Ace shuttler P.V. Sindhu has been ranked No. 3 in the latest BWF ranking. Sindhu who was at No. 5 climbed up two places on the basis of making the quarterfinals of the recently concluded Singapore Open Super Series. Sindhu's career best is when she reached World No. 2 two weeks ago.

8 – 14 April 2017
  • History was created when Lok Sabha cleared all the four bills for the launch of the much-awaited Goods and Services Tax (GST), the country's biggest tax reform since Independence. The GST will unify the country into a common market, eliminating a string of central and state levies. Central taxes such as the central excise duty, additional excise duty, additional customs duty and service tax will all be merged into one CGST. State levies such as VAT, sales tax, entertainment tax, purchase tax, mandi tax, luxury tax, octroi and entry tax will be subsumed into SGST.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called for synergy between various Government Departments, Krishi Vigyan Kendras and agricultural Universities to work out efficient cropping patterns and water-use mechanisms in the command areas of irrigation projects. The Prime Minister was reviewing the progress of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana, the Government's flagship irrigation programme with the officials of the concerned Ministries in New Delhi.

  • The Supreme Court has banned the sale and registration of Bharat Stage III (BS-III) vehicles from April 1, when BS-IV emission norms would come into force across the country, saying that health of citizens is more important than commercial interests. A bench of Justices Madan B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta said that BS-III vehicles could aggravate the already deteriorating air quality in the country and such a step was needed to handle the menace of pollution. Holding that the health of millions of people is more important, the court dismissed the plea of automakers to allow them to dispose of existing stocks of 8.2 lakh BS-III vehicles.

  • Supreme Court has refused to restore administrative and judicial work to Calcutta High Court Judge CS Karnan and granted him four weeks time to respond to contempt notice. A seven-judge bench headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar took note of personal appearance of Justice Karnan, a first in the history of Indian judiciary, and asked him to respond to the allegations leveled against various judges in his several communications.
  • Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has asserted that the security forces will continue to give befitting reply to terrorists and infiltrators in Jammu and Kashmir. Replying to a question in the Lok Sabha on the recent incidents of stone pelting on security forces during terrorist encounters. Mr. Singh said it is the new trend guided by the Pakistan based groups who mobilize youths through social media to provoke them for stone pelting. He said these groups are misleading the youth.

  • Union Information and Broadcasting Ministry has launched the e-Cinepramaan, an online film certification system of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC). The initiative was launched on the lines of Union Government's vision of ease-of-doing business and digital India, to make the entire process transparent and efficient.

  • The Election Commission has said dissemination of predictions of election results by astrologers and tarot card readers during the period when there is a ban on broadcasting exit polls is also a violation of law. The Poll body has asked both the electronic and the print media to refrain from airing and publishing such programmes in future elections to ensure free, fair and transparent elections.

  • Indian Air Force has formally launched web-based e-billing system Aviation Turbine Fuel Digital Issue and Payment. It was unveiled by Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa in New Delhi.

  • Kanha Tiger Reserve has become the first tiger reserve in India to officially introduce a mascot – Bhoorsingh, the Barasingha – to present the hard ground swamp deer as the spirit of the reserve and spread awareness to save it from possible extinction. Barasingha or swamp deer, is the state animal of Madhya Pradesh. The Kanha tiger reserve, spread over Mandla and Balaghat districts, is the only place in the world where the species exists.
  • United Nations has denied that India is preventing the UN observer group, monitoring the ceasefire line between India and Pakistan, from presenting its report on the ground situation. The world body also rejected claims that the role of United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan UNMOGIP, was being constrained by India. Deputy Spokesperson of UN Secretary-General, Farhan Haq said that different peacekeeping missions have different mandates and different reporting mandates. The earliest peacekeeping missions, which include UNMOGIP come from a different era where they have completely different reporting requirements.

  • US Senate has voted to approve Montenegro as 29th member of North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by 97-2 vote. So far, 25 other NATO members have ratified Montenegro's accession, a country of 620,000 people seen as a geostrategic ally.

  • The 11th edition of the Earth Hour was observed across the world on 25 March to take a global call on climate change. To mark this day, cities worldwide turned their lights off from 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm local time.

  • The Parliament passed the Finance Bill 2017 after the Lok Sabha rejected all five amendments moved to it by the Rajya Sabha. The bill seeks to give effect to the financial proposals of the Central Government for the financial year 2017-18. The amendments of the Upper House included curbing more powers to tax officials and a cap on donation by companies to political parties. Replying to the debate on the amendments proposed by the Rajya Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, the amendments cannot be accepted by the government saying there is no logic behind them. He, however, invited suggestions from political parties, including the Congress and the BJD, to make electoral funding more clean and transparent.
  • Government has notified a new simplified Income Tax Return Forms, ITR Forms, for individuals for the Assessment Year 2017-18. The Central Board of Direct Taxes, CBDT in a release said, one of the major reforms made in the forms is the designing of a one page simplified ITR Form-1, called Sahaj. This ITR Form 1 can be filed by an individual having income upto 50 lakh rupees and who is receiving income from salary, one house property and other income including interest. It said, this will reduce the compliance burden to a significant extent on the individual taxpayer.

  • Union Finance Minister has approved re-organization of field formations of the Central Board of Excise & Customs for the implementation of Goods and Services tax. Under it, CBEC will be renamed as the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs after getting required legislative approval.

  • The government has lowered interest rates on small saving schemes like PPF, Kisan Vikas Patra and Sukanya Samriddhi scheme by 0.1 percent for the April-June quarter, a move that would prompt banks to cut their deposit rates. For April-June, these have been lowered by 0.1 percent across the board compared to January-March. However, interest on savings deposits has been retained at 4 percent annually. Since April last year, interest rates of all small saving schemes have been recalibrated on a quarterly basis.

  • Union Power Ministry for the first time has become a net exporter of electricity during the April-February period in fiscal 2016-17. According to Central Electricity authority, during this period, India exported around 5,798 million units of electricity to Bangladesh, Nepal and Myanmar.

  • India has reclaimed the Border-Gavaskar Trophy, beating Australia by eight wickets in the deciding fourth Test at Dharmsala. It was India's seventh Test series win in a row – continuing the dominance that started in 2015 with Sri Lanka, South Africa, West Indies, New Zealand, England and Bangladesh being annihilated. Needing 87 runs on the fourth day to reach a modest victory target of 106, opener Lokesh Rahul (51 not out) dominated from the start with a flurry of boundaries and finished with six half-centuries in the series. The match ended in just three days and a session, a reflection of India's distinct upper hand in the 2-1 triumph.
  • West Bengal won the 2017 Santosh Trophy of football by defeating Goa by 1-0 goals. It was 71st edition of Santosh Trophy and overall record 32nd win of West Bengal.

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