[current affairs] 13 – 19 May 2017


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11 – 17 March 2017

  • President Pranab Mukherjee has said in the last 13 years, country's economy grew more than 7 percent, making it the fastest growing large economy in the world. The President was speaking on the topic of 'India at 70' during the sixth K.S. Rajamony Memorial Lecture in Kochi on 2nd March. He added that as per the indication of the third part of the current year, it is sure to grow more than 7 and a half percent. Mr. Mukherjee said such a performance could be achieved only because of the hard work of farmers and workers. The President said in the last 70 years, tangible change can be seen in every aspect of our lives. India has transformed itself from a poor under-developed nation into the third largest economy in the world in PPP terms within a short span of seven decades.

  • Centre has approved over 4,000 Post Graduate seats in medical colleges and hospitals across the country for the academic session 2017-18. Health Minister J.P. Nadda in an official statement said that with this, the total number of PG seats available in the country will go up to over 35 thousand. He said, this will further boost nations resolve to strengthen tertiary care and improve the medical education in the country. Mr. Nadda said, of the total increase, 2 thousand 46 seats are in medical colleges.
  • Indian Navy has successfully test-fired an anti-ship missile for the first time from an indigenously built Kalvari class submarine, describing the launch as a significant milestone in enhancing its 'sub-surface' warfare prowess. The weapon was fired from the submarine, the first of India's six Scorpene-class submarines which are being built under the Project 75, and it 'successfully hit' a surface target during the trial in the Arabian Sea.

  • India has successfully test-fired an indigenously developed supersonic interceptor missile capable of destroying incoming enemy ballistic missile at low altitudes. This Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile, which was tested for the second time in less than a month, is part of an effort to put in place a multilayer missile defence system.

  • Jawaharlal Nehru University has won the annual visitor's award for the Best University-2017. Dr. Deepak Pant from Central University of Himachal Pradesh won the visitor's award for innovation, while the visitor's award for research has been jointly won by Dr. Shyam Sunder from Banaras Hindu University and Prof. Niranjan Karak from Tezpur University. President Pranab Mukherjee had announced institution of these awards in 2014 with the aim of promoting healthy competition amongst Central Universities and motivating them to adopt best practices from around the world in the pursuit of excellence.

  • National Science Day was celebrated across the country on February 28 this year. The theme for this year was 'Science and Technology for Specially Abled Persons'. This day marks the epoch-making discovery of Raman Effect by Indian physicist C.V. Raman on February 28, 1928. His discovery was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1930.
  • The United Nations envoy on human rights in Myanmar called for the creation of a Commission of Inquiry (COI), the UN's highest-level probe, to investigate abuses in the country. Human Rights envoy Yanghee Lee made the appeal in a report submitted to the UN rights council, currently holding its main annual session in Geneva. She urged the 47-member body to establish a COI to investigate the systematic, structural and institutional discrimination in policy, law and practice, as well long-standing persecution, against the Rohingya and other minorities in Rakhine State.

  • Contrary to projections by analysts and economists, demonetization has not dented India's economic growth, data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO). According to CSO, India's GDP growth during the third quarter of the current financial year will be seven percent, which will help the country retain the tag of the fastest growing major economy. In comparison, China had recorded a GDP growth of 6.8 percent for the same period. According to CSO data, the GDP growth for the entire financial year would be 7.1 percent, down from 7.9 percent estimated for 2015-16.

  • The Reserve Bank of India has asked banking-operated Financial Literacy Centers, FLCs and rural branches to organize special camps starting from April 1 to educate public about digital payments through Unified Payments Interface, UPI and Unstructured Supplementary Service Data-based USSD, "*99# service code platforms. The camps will be conducted for one year. Besides these special camps, RBI said FLCs will conduct the tailored camps for five target groups like farmers, small entrepreneurs, school children, senior citizens and Self Help Groups. Furthermore, banks are henceforth required to conduct only one camp per month on the third Friday of each month after branch hours.
  • The government said the increase in the price of non-subsidized LPG cylinder will not impact the consumers receiving subsidized refills. The non-subsidized price of LPG cylinder has increased by Rs. 86. The Petroleum Ministry in a statement said the increase in line with the rise in global LPG product prices. It said, now the rate of the non-subsidized cylinder will be Rs. 737 in Delhi and the consumers will receive subsidy amount of Rs. 303 in their bank accounts. Thus, the net price for the consumer for the subsidized cylinder will be Rs. 434, which remains unchanged.

  • Some banks, including HDFC, ICICI and Axis Bank are now charging a minimum amount of Rs. 150 on cash withdrawal and beyond four transactions in a month. The move was seen aimed at discouraging cash transactions and furthering the digital payment drive. Leading private sector player HDFC Bank said in a circular the bank would also cap the third party cash transactions at Rs. 25,000 per day. ICICI Bank website says there will be no charge for first four transactions in a month in home branch. The third party limit would be Rs. 50,000 per day.

  • Senior IAS officer Ajay Tyagi became the ninth Chairman of markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India. Mr. Tyagi took over the charge of SEBI Chairman in Mumbai from U.K. Sinha, who completed his six-year tenure. The appointment of 58-year-old Tyagi is for a period of three years. Mr. Tyagi is 1984 batch IAS officer of Himachal Pradesh cadre. Prior to this appointment, he has handled capital markets division in the Finance Ministry.
  • The 89th Academy Awards, popularly known as Oscars was held at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Los Angeles. The award is presented in 24 categories by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS), honouring best films of 2016. Musical drama La La Land won the most number of awards totaling to six at the ceremony after it was nominated into 14 categories. It was followed by Moonlight and Arrival with each being nominated in eight categories. Best PictureMoonlight; Best Actress – Emma Stone (La La Land); Best Actor – Casey Affleck (Manchester By The Sea); Best Director – Damien Chazelle (La La Land). He became the youngest director to win Oscar at 32; Best Supporting Actress – Viola Davis (Fences).

25 February – 3 March 2017

  • In its thirty-ninth flight (PSLV-C37), ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle successfully launched the 714 kg Cartosat-2 Series Satellite along with 103 co-passenger satellites on February 15, 2017, from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre SHAR at Sriharikota. This is the thirty-eighth consecutively successful mission of PSLV. The total weight of all the 104 satellites carried on-board PSLV-C37 was 1378 kg. PSLV-C37 lifted off at 0928 hrs IST, as planned, from the First launch pad. After a flight of 16 minutes 48 seconds, the satellites achieved a polar Sun Synchronous Orbit of 506 km inclined at an angle of 97.46 degree to the equator (very close to the intended orbit) and in the succeeding 12 minutes, all the 104 satellites successfully separated from the PSLV fourth stage in a predetermined sequence beginning with Cartosat-2 series satellite, followed by INS-1 and INS-2. The total number of Indian satellites launched by PSLV now stands at 46. Of the 103 co-passenger satellites carried by PSLV-C37, two ISRO Nano Satellite-1 (INS-1) weighing 8.4 kg and INS-2 weighing 9.7 kg – are technology demonstration satellites from India. The remaining 101 co-passenger satellites carried were international customer satellites from USA (96), The Netherlands (1), Switzerland (1), Israel (1), Kazakhstan (1) and UAE (1).
  • In Tamil Nadu, the new Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswamy won the trust vote held on February 18, after 122 MLAs voted in his favour after hours of uproar in the Assembly. The vote was concluded after Assembly Speaker P. Dhanapal turned down the opposition DMK's request for a secret ballot in the floor test. Eleven MLAs voted against Mr. Palaniswamy. As one seat in the Assembly is vacant, the required number to win the vote was 117. The house was adjoined twice and resumed after the second adjournment at 3 pm. Earlier, the assembly was adjourned till 1 pm following protest by DMK MLAs, O. Panneerselvam camp MLAs and Congress MLAs demanding secret ballot. Mr. Palaniswamy, a V.K. Sasikala loyalist, sought vote of confidence at 11 in the morning though he was given 15 days by the Governor to prove his majority. After a prolonged political crisis due to power struggle within the ruling AIADMK, Governor Vidyasagar Rao invited him to form the Government on Thursday and had administered oath of office and secrecy.

  • Pursuing Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi's vision of Affordable, Quality Healthcare for All, the Centre has issued notification for fixing the ceiling prices of coronary stents. This was informed by Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers and Parliamentary Affairs, Shri Ananthkumar. The step would bring down the cost of coronary stents, currently hiked by about 380%. The ceiling prices of Bare Metal Stents (BMS), having 10% market share, has been capped at Rs. 7,260 and Drug Eluting Stents (DES), having 90% market share, at Rs. 29,600. These prices are exclusive of VAT and other local taxes. The Minister further stated that since most of the States have 5% VAT on stents, the MRP of BMS and DES would be Rs. 7623 and Rs. 31,080. National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) has fixed the prices within 60 days as required. The step is a major decisive action on the unethical margins charged at each stage in the supply chain of coronary stents.

  • The Minister of Women and Child Development Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi has urged schools to strictly observe Guidelines for Eliminating Corporal Punishment, issued by the National Commission of Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR) of WCD Ministry. The WCD Ministry has asked the Ministry of Human Resource Development for wide spread circulation and implementation of the Guidelines for Elimination of Corporal Punishment in schools. This was done in the light of the recent disturbing incident of girl students who were meted out tormenting corporal punishment in the school for not completing their homework. The incident was widely reported in the media, thereby bringing to public attention the issue of corporal punishment used in schools.
  • The Supreme Court has said, it will set up a five-judge constitution bench to hear and decide on a batch of petitions relating to the practices of Triple Talaq, nikah halala and polygamy among Muslims. A bench, headed by Chief Justice J.S. Khehar, said this after the Centre submitted a list of issues for adjudication including the question whether fundamental right to practice and propagate one's religion protected these practices. The apex court said, all of them relate to the constitutional issues and needed to be dealt with by a larger bench. It said, the issues are very important and they cannot be scuttled.

  • UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has cautioned US President Donald Trump against abandoning the idea of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, saying there is no alternative. It comes after Mr. Trump went against decades of US policy, saying he would back whatever formula led to peace. Palestinians reacted with alarm to the possibility that the US could drop support for Palestinian statehood. The last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks broke down in 2014. Speaking alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Trump promised to deliver a great peace deal. But he said both sides must compromise.

  • In the United States, a top American Senator has sought reform in H-1B visas system to bring in highly qualified workers from other countries to fill the huge shortage of IT professionals in the US. Republican Senator Orin Hatch, Chairman of the Senate Republican High-Tech Task Force, said in Washington that he will soon re-introduce the Immigration Innovation Act, which he had introduced in the last two Congresses to modernize H-1B visa system. He said, US will face a shortage of more than 220,000 workers with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) degrees by 2018 and Washington need to reform H-1B visa system to better identify high-skilled individuals who want to come and stay in the United States and to contribute to its economy.

  • In Pakistan, the death toll in the suicide attack inside the crowded Sufi Shrine of Lal Shahbaz Qalandar in Sindh has risen over 80. Reports said, more than 250 people have been admitted to different hospitals in Sehwan, Dadu, Hyderabad, Jamshoro, Karachi, Shaheed Benazirabad, Nawabshah and Larkana.
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said normalcy has been restored within few weeks of the decision to recall 86 percent of the currency in circulation and now there is no shortage of notes in market. He said, currency note printing presses of Reserve Bank of India as well as Security Printing and Minting Corporation of India Ltd., SPMCIL have worked without a break to remonetise by issuing new bank notes. Mr. Jaitley heaped praises on Prime Minister Narendra Modi's much-debated demonetisation move claiming perhaps such massive exercise has not happened in any country. He was speaking at the 11th Foundation Day function of the Security Printing Minting Corporation of India Limited, SPMCIL in New Delhi.

  • Reserve Bank Governor Urjit Patel said India's economic growth will make a sharp recovery following the recall of old 500 and 1,000 rupee notes. In an interview to a private TV channel, Mr. Patel made a strong case for continuing with globalization, even in the face of a potential shift to trade protectionism under US President Donald Trump, as India has benefitted from open trade. He said, the remonetisation has happened at a fast pace and that was part of the plan. RBI had lowered economic growth projection for the current fiscal to 6.9 percent from the previously estimated 7.1 percent, but saw it bouncing back in a big way to 7.4 percent in 2017-18. Mr. Patel said, the benefit of junking 86 percent of currency in circulation will take time to fully play out and needs more work to ensure they are lasting.

  • The total food grain production in the country has been pegged at record 272 million tonne. Agriculture Ministry in its second advance estimates of production of major crops for 2016-17 said a record is going to be made due to good rainfall and various policy initiatives taken by the government. It is higher by about 7 million tonnes the previous record production of 265 million tonnes in 2013-14. Total production of rice is estimated at record 108.86 million tonnes which is also a new record. Wheat production, estimated at 96.64 million tonnes is also a record. The Ministry said, as a result of significant increase in the area coverage and productivity of all major pulses, total production of pulses is estimated to be 22.14 million tonnes which is higher by 2.89 million tonnes than the previous production. With an increase of 8.35 million tonnes over the previous year, total oilseeds production in the country is estimated at record level of 33.60 million tonnes.
  • Nearly half of the 18 lakh people under the Income Tax scanner for suspicious bank deposits during the demonetisation period, have been put in the 'doubtful' category. The action against them will follow only after the new tax amnesty scheme which ends on 31st of next month. Under 'Operation Clean Money', the IT department had sent SMS and e-mails to these people, who had made deposits of over 5 lakh rupees during the 50-day window provided to get rid of old 500 and 1000 rupee notes. The Tax Department had asked measures to submit response to avoid enforcement actions under the IT Act and other applicable laws. Since Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojana (PMGKY) runs till 31st March, action against any depositor can be taken only after this scheme closes as the depositor may choose to disclose the wealth and pay taxes. The verification will be closed if the cash deposit is declared PMGKY, the disclosure scheme for black money.

  • The annual rate of inflation, based on monthly WPI, stood at 5.25% (provisional) for the month of January, 2017 (over January 2016) as compared to 3.39% (provisional) for the previous month and -1.07% during the corresponding month of the previous year. Build up inflation rate in the financial year so far was 5.31% compared to a build up rate of -0.40% in the corresponding period of the previous year.

  • India's star shuttler P.V. Sindhu has risen to a career best BWF ranking of number five. She overtook Japan's Akane Yamaguchi, as per the latest rankings released. This is the first time that Sindhu has broken into the top five. Saina Nehwal, who is ranked ninth, is the other Indian in the top 10 while Chinese Taipei's Tal Tzu Ying continues to lead the rankings. Saina had a rather forgettable year in 2016 as she had been out for most of the year due to a knee injury. Sindhu, in contrast, had probably the best year of her career as she won the Silver Medal at the Rio Olympics and became the first Indian women to win an Olympic silver medal.

  • The Indian team has lifted the T20 World Cup for Blind Cricketers. Following the success of Para Athletes at Rio Paralympics 2016, the Indian team for Blind Cricket has added another chapter of glory in history of Indian Sports by retaining T20 World Cup. The emphatic victory of India in finals over Pakistan is significant as the visiting side was enjoying unbeatable record in the championship this year till their defeat in finals by India.
  • The first Youth Test match between Under-19 cricket team of India and England has ended in a draw. In the match played at Nagpur, a staggering 17 wickets fell on the fourth and final day. The VCA Stadium at Jamtha virtually turned into a graveyard for batsmen of both teams as they struggled to remain afloat. England, who resumed at their overnight score of 32/1, were shot out for 167 off 53 overs in their second essay. India required 238 for an outright win, but their batsmen too struggled. The hosts finished at 189 for 8, thus managing to draw the game.

18 – 24 February 2017

  • The first part of the Budget Session has yielded a total of 7 sittings of the Lok Sabha and 8 sittings of the Rajya Sabha. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Anand Kumar informed that the productivity of Lok Sabha during this phase was 113 percent, while for Rajya Sabha it was 97 percent. The first phase of the 'Budget session started on 31st January. The two houses will now have a month long recess. The second part of the budget session will commence from 9th of March and will continue till 12th of April.

  • The Government has decided to open 56 Post Office Passport Seva Kendras, (POPSK), at different locations of many states for delivering passport related services to public. The states include Delhi, Assam, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana and West Bengal.

  • The Centre has created a buffer stock of 10 lakh metric tonnes of pulses through domestic procurement and imports. Of this, five lakh tonnes have been procured during ongoing kharif marketing season. The buffer stock of pulses would be used to intervene in the market in case of price rise.

  • The Union Cabinet has approved 'Pradhan Mantri Gramin Digital Saksharta Abhiyan' to make 6 crore rural households digitally literate by March 2019. The scheme is expected to be one of the largest digital literacy programmes in the world. Union Finance Ministry had announced about the programme in the Union Budget 2016-17.
  • The Centre has made Aadhaar Card mandatory for receiving subsidized foodgrains from all PDS shops. The Department of Food and Public Distribution has issued a notification in this regard which requires individual beneficiaries having Ration Cards to furnishing Aadhaar number or undergo Aadhaar authentication to receive subsidies under the National Food Security Act or NFSA. This condition will also be applicable for all new beneficiaries. Those who do not have Aadhaar number or not enrolled for Aadhaar can make application Aadhaar enrollment by 30th of June this year.

  • The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development will soon set up a department – National Testing Agency (NTA) to conduct examinations for higher and secondary education. NTA will be the single authority that will conduct entrance tests for all higher institutions like JEE, NEET, NET and other prestigious exams.

  • The Supreme Court has directed real estate businessman and owner of Uphaar Cinema in Delhi, Gopal Ansal to serve one year jail term in connection with the 1997 fire tragedy case in which 59 people had died. The apex court, in a majority verdict of 2:1, asked Gopal Ansal to surrender within four weeks to serve the remaining jail term of the one year punishment. However, the apex court gave relief to elder brother Sushil Ansal considering his old age by giving him the jail term already undergone by him, including the remission, in the case.

  • The birth anniversary of Guru Ravidas, the famous saint of the Bhakti Movement, was celebrated on 10th of February. His devotional songs and verses made a lasting impact upon the Bhakti Movement.

  • The Reserve Bank of India has maintained status quo on its key rates in its monetary policy review, and the repo rate, or the rate at which the RBI lends to banks, stands unchanged at 6 (point) 25 percent, and the reverse repo rate, or the rate at which the RBI absorbs excess liquidity, also remains steady at 5 (point) 75 percent.
  • The Reserve Bank shifted its monetary policy stance from 'accommodative' to 'neutral' Reserve Bank Urjit Patel said the Monetary Policy Committee decided to change its policy stance while keeping the policy rate on hold to assess how the transitory effects of demonetisation of inflation and the output gap play out. The RBI said it is committed to bringing headline inflation closer to 4 percent on a durable basis, and this requires further significant decline in inflation expectations, especially since the services component of inflation that is sensitive to wage movements has been sticky. The RBI also revised down its GDP growth forecast to 6.9 percent for the current fiscal, from 7.4 percent earlier. But, it added that growth will pick up sharply to 7.4 percent in the next fiscal.

  • India will soon send a team to Geneva to speed up the process of negotiations to find a permanent solution on food security. It is amidst the WTO chief Roberto Azevedo asking member countries to redouble efforts to meet the deadline of December this year. Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and WTO Chief Azevedo discussed various issues during a meeting in New Delhi this week. Ms. Sitharaman said India wants the procedure of finding a permanent solution to be completed on time and before the ministerial level meet in Argentina in December.

  • The NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog and CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) have jointly launched India Innovation Index. Besides country's first innovation index portal was also launched. The index has been jointly developed by NITI Aayog, DIPP (Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion) and CII in consultation with WEF (World Economic Forum), WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), Cornell University, UNIDO (United Nations Industrial Development Organization), ILO (Industrial Labour Organisation) etc.

  • The government is going to start Highways Advisory Services to provide real time traffic updates on 12 National Highways in 13 States through All India Radio. Replying to supplementaries in the Lok Sabha, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari said phase one of the pilot project was implemented on Delhi-Jaipur National Highway No. 8. He said, in Delhi, Alwar and Jaipur, real time traffic updates of duration five minutes each, is being provided in 18 bulletins everyday through All India Radio Stations.
  • US President Donald Trump has agreed to honour the America's One China policy by acknowledging that China has sovereignty over self-ruled Taiwan. A White House statement said that Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping had a phone conversation and President Trump agreed, at the request of President Xi, to honour 'One China' policy.

  • The US Senate has voted to confirm Representative, Tom Price as the top US health care official. The Senate voted 52-47 to approve the conservative Georgia Republican and orthopedic surgeon as the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). A member of the House of Representatives since 2005, Price is the author of legislation to repeal Obamacare and replace it with age-adjusted tax credits for the purchase of health insurance.

  • A US appeals court has rejected a bid to reinstate President Donald Trump's controversial travel ban from seven Muslim countries. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals said it will not block a lower-court ruling that brought the President's executive order to a half. The latest ruling means that President Trump's travel ban will remain blocked and citizens from Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen will continue to be able to travel to the United States. President Trump issued the travel ban on January 27, citing terror threats and putting the national security of the US at risk. It led to causing chaos, confusion and protests at international airports as the legal status of people in transition was suddenly thrown into question. The US Supreme Court will likely determine the case's final outcome.

  • In Brazil, more than 100 people have been killed during the six-day strike of policy demanding higher salaries and more benefits in Espirito Santo state. Schools, health clinics, businesses are closed and public transportation was at a standstill in the state.
  • The World Cancer Day was observed on 4th February. The day is observed every year on this date across the world to raise awareness of cancer and to encourage the prevention, detection, and treatment. The theme (tagline) between 2016 and 2018 WCD is 'We can. I can'. It reflects on what everyone can do to raise awareness of cancer and asks to take pledge and action in fight against cancer.

  • Nobel laureate Sir Peter Mansfield, who developed Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), has died at the age of 83 on 8th February. Mansfield, an English physicist born in 1933, was a Professor at the University of Nottingham starting from 1964 until 1994, when he retired. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 2003, along with late American chemist Paul Lauterbur, for discovering Magnetic Resonance Imaging, a technique used by medical specialists to generate images of the human body's anatomy. MRI uses magnetic fields, radio waves, and field gradients to detect damage, such as cancer, in various parts of the body.

  • Virat Kohli has become the first batsman to score double centuries in four successive Test series surpassing legendary Sir Donald Bradman and Rahul Dravid. The Indian Skipper scored 204 on the second day of the one-off Test against Bangladesh at Hyderabad to achieve the feat. Sir Bradman and Rahul Dravid achieved the feat in three successive series. Kohli also went past Virender Sehwag's record of most runs in a home season by aggregating 1168 runs in the current season, with the aid of four centuries and two half-centuries.

  • For the first time, two Indian cagers – Aashey Verma and Priyanka Prabhakara – have been selected in a 67-strong international group of boys and girls for the NBA and FIBA's third annual Basketball without Borders (BWB) Global Camp in New Orleans, USA. The camp will be held from February 17 to 19 as part of NBA All-Star 2017.

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