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- Current Affairs 2017 January
PM Modi inaugurates 104th Indian Science Congress at Tirupati
i. Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 104th Indian Science Congress at Tarakarama Stadium of Sri Venkateswara University in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh on January 3, 2017.
ii. The theme for the five-day event is ‘Science and Technology for National Development’. The Congress would conclude on January 7, 2017.
iii. Aim of the Congress: The basic aim of the 104th Congress was to focus on strengthening the scientific research in the country to make India among top three countries in the world in the field of Science and Technology by 2030.
iv. He appealed Research and Development institutions to strengthen their basic research in line with leading global standards to help achieve inclusive and sustainable growth.
v. PM also laid stress on the need to address the rapid global rise of Cyber-Physical Systems. There is a need to develop and exploit these technologies in services and manufacturing sectors.
vi. Six Nobel Prize winners along with 14,000 scientists and scholars from around the country took part in the mega event.
vii. The Prime Minister also felicitated Nobel laureates at the conclave. He also inaugurated ‘Pride of India’ exhibition as a part of the Congress.
viii. This is the second time that the city of Tirupati is hosting the event, first time being in 1983.
Trial run of India’s first 700 MW PHWR expected in 2017
i. The trial run of India’s first 700 MW Pressurized Heavy Water Reactor(PHWR) at Kakrapar, Gujarat, is expected to take placein middle of 2017.
ii. India’s atomic power plant operator NPCIL is building four 700 MW PHWRs, two
each at Kakrapar Atomic Power Station (KAPS) in Gujarat and Rajasthan Atomic Power Station (RAPS) in Rajasthan.
iii. The construction of two 700 MW PHWRs at KAPS is at an advanced stage. The commissioning activities of the first unit have begun and the trial run of the first unit is expected to happen during the middle of 2017.
iv. Firstly the hydro test would be conducted in May-June 2017 followed by hot conditioning of the unit, which would happen around two-and-a-half months after the hydro test. After that the systems will be drained and dried.
v. The fuel loading is expected to happen in October 2017 and the reactor’s criticality (first time starting of the nuclear fission process) is set to happen in November 2017. The unit is expected to start commercial operations early 2018.
vi. The project cost for the two 700 MW units is around Rs 11,500 crore. It is the biggest reactor being build by NPCIL which currently has been building 220 MW and 540 MW pressurised heavy water reactors.
Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL)
♦ The Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL) is a public limited company under the Companies Act 1956, responsible for the generation of nuclear power for electricity
♦ Headquarter: Mumbai.
♦ Founded: September 1987
Union Government Keeps interest rates on Small Savings Schemes Unchanged
i. The Union Government has kept interest rates on Small Savings Schemes like PPF and Kisan Vikas Patra, Sukanya Samriddhi Account and Senior Citizens Savings Scheme unchanged for the January-March quarter.
ii. Interest rates on small savings are being reviewed every quarter since April last year. The interest rates on small savings will remain unchanged from the rates prescribed for the fourth quarter of 2016-17 starting from January 1, 2017, and ending on March 31.
iii. Interest Rates on Small Savings Schemes
1.Public Provident Fund (PPF): 8 percent annual interest rate.
2.5-year National Savings Certificate: 8 percent
3.Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP):7.7 percent with maturity in 112 months.
4.Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme: 8.5 percent annually.
5.5 years Senior Citizens Savings Scheme: 8.5 percent. The interest rate on the senior citizens savings scheme is paid quarterly.
6.Savings deposit: 4 percent interest annually,
7.Term deposits of 1-5 years: 7-7.8 percent that will be paid quarterly.
8.5-year recurring deposit: 7.3 percent rate.
Maharashtra Government Unveils the Portrait of Social Reformer ‘Prabodhankar Thackeray at BMC
i. The Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis unveiled the portrait of social reformer ‘Prabodhankar Thackeray’ in the general assembly hall of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on January 2, 2017 and paid rich tributes to him.
ii. Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, famously known as Prabodhankar was born in September 1885. He was a social reformer, author and key leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti which successfully campaigned for the linguistic state of Maharashtra. He is the father of late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray.
iii. Before this, the corporation hall had only two portraits, one of philanthropist and pioneer of Mumbai’s development Nana Shankarseth and other of Dadasaheb Donde, one of the leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement.
iv. Besides, a revamped portal was also launched of the civic body by the Civic Commissioner Ajoy Mehta along with several other initiatives to facilitate Ease of Doing Business while an Automatic Napkin Vending Machines was also launched.
Ministry of Sports Constitutes Committee to suggest improvements to National Sports Code
i. The Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs and Sports Mr Vijay Goel constituted a committee on January 2, 2017, to suggest improvements in the National Sports Development Code functioning of sports federations.
ii .The decision comes after the recent controversial appointments of Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Chautala as life presidents of Indian Olympic Association.
iii. The move aims to avoid any further disturbances caused by the decisions of any sports council and maintain good governance, transparency and cleanliness in sports.
iv. The committee, which will be chaired by Sports Secretary, Injeti Srinivas, will submit its report within one month on the basis of suggestions and feedback given in these meetings so that sports bodies act according to the public expectations for the promotion of sports in the country.
India Ranks Third Among Countries Offering Highest Salaries to Expats
i. According to HSBC Expat survey 2016, India ranks third among the countries offering the highest average annual salary to expatriates. Switzerland topped the list to offer highest average salary of about $188,275 a year to expats while Hong Kong was listed third.
ii. Expatriates living in India are the third-highest paid in the world.Out of almost 27,000 expats polled, the average salary of foreigners living in India was $145,057 while the highest paid were foreign workers in Switzerland who got an average salary of $188,275, followed by Hong Kong at $169,756.
iii. The average annual expat salary in Switzerland was almost twice the global average. It tops the expat career ranking for a second year. The combination of high salaries and excellent work culture has placed Switzerland at the top of the table.
UNSC passes Russian Drafted Resolution over Syrian Ceasefire
i. The United Nation Security Council (UNSC) unanimously passed a resolution drafted by Russia on December 31, 2017, to end the nearly six-year conflict in Syria and called for peace negotiations through nationwide Syrian ceasefire.
ii. The resolution is an effort taken by Russia and Turkey which aims at stopping violence in Syria and launch a political process. The UN body is also committed to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.
iii. The resolution calls for the rapid, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid throughout Syria.
iv. The document also obliges the Syrian government and the opposition representative to start direct talks in Astana, capital of Kazakhstan, in January 2017.
♦ The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations, charged with the maintenance of international peace and security as well as accepting new members to the United Nations and approving any changes to its United Nations Charter.
♦ Headquarter: New York City
♦ Formation: 1945
♦ President: Olof Skoog
India and Sri Lanka Agrees to find permanent solution to the fishermen issues
i. A ministerial level talks between Indian Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare of India Radha Mohan Singh and Minister for Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Development of Sri Lanka Mahinda Amaraweera was held in Colombo on January 2, 2016.
ii. Under the agreement reached after a meeting of JWG, both the countries agreed to release all Indian and Sri Lankan fishermen in each other’s custody.
iii. The meeting between the ministers was at the joint working group (JWG) level, constituted in a decision taken in November 6, 2016 in New Delhi. The first meeting of the joint working group on fisheries was held in December 31, 2016 in New Delhi.
iv. During the discussion, the ministers exchanged views on possible mechanisms to help find a permanent solution to the fishermen issues.
v. Both countries agreed to a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) to soon release and hand over fishermen in each other’s custody on completion of respective legal and procedural formalities.
vi. Both the countries also agreed to the Confidence Building Measures (CBMs) to intensify cooperation on patrolling and to institute periodic interaction between the Coast Guard of the two countries.
vii. The two sides discussed the issue of releasing fishing vessels in each other’s custody. The Indian side requested for the immediate release of Indian fishing vessels which was agreed by Colombo.
viii. The Sri Lankan side suggested ending the practice of bottom trawling, as practiced by the Indian fishermen, to which India assured that bottom trawling would be phased out in a time-bound manner.
ix. India also informed Colombo about the measures already instituted including the decision to construct a new fishing harbour at Mookaiyur in Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu.
x. The next JWG meeting will be held in Colombo in April 2017 to review the progress made in addressing the fishermen issues in a comprehensive manner.
Sri Lanka :
♦ Capitals: Sri Jayawardenepura Kotte, Colombo
♦ Currency: Sri Lankan rupee
♦ Prime minister: Ranil Wickremesinghe
♦ President: Maithripala Sirisena
Pakistan finally approved the Hindu marriage bill
i. Pakistan’s Senate Functional Committee on Human Rights chaired by Nasreen Jalil approved the much-awaited Hindu Marriages Bill on January 2, 2017 while the National Assembly passed the Hindu Marriage Bill in September 2016.
ii. Hindu Marriages Bill will enable the Hindu community members to get their marriages registered and to appeal in courts of law in cases of separation
iii. Hindus in Pakiatn here after to will get a proof of marriage document called the shadiparat.
iv. The bill states that a Hindu widow shall have the right to re-marry of her own will and consent after the death of her husband provided a period of six months has lapsed after the husband’s death.
China launches first freight train to London
i. China has launched its first freight train to London
ii. The train will travel for about 18 days and more than 12,000 km before reaching its destination in Britain
iii. It will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before arriving in London.
iv. London is the 15th city in Europe added to China-Europe freight train services
BANKING & FINANCE
Banks cuts lending rates, home, corporate loans to be cheaper
i. A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an interest subvention for home loans of up to Rs. 12 lakh and asked banks to keep the poor and middle class at the focus of their activities many PSUs and private banks reduced their benchmark lending rate by up to 1.48 percent on January 3, 2017.
ii. The reduction in lending rates may lead to an increase in credit taking frequency which has moderated substantially putting burden on balance sheet of banks. Housing, auto and corporate loans are all set to become cheaper.
iii. The three state-owned banks, State Bank of India (SBI) and Punjab National Bank (PNB) and Union Bank of India on January 1, 2017, reduced the lending rate by a good 0.9 per cent.
iv. While SBI reduced its marginal cost of funds based lending rate (MCLR) by 90 basis points for all maturities, Union Bank of India reduced its MCLR by 65-90 basis points for loans of various tenures while PNB cut its MCLRs by 70 basis points for 1, 2 and 3 year tenures.
v. Following the reduction, lending rate of SBI for a one-year loan, has come down to 8% from 8.90%.
HDFC Ties with Niki.ai to Launch OnChat to make Payments via Facebook’s Messenger
i. HDFC has tied-up with artificial intelligence firm Niki.ai to launch a chatbot
called OnChat on Facebook’s Messenger platform, that will allow users to recharge phones, pay utility bills, book cabs from Ola or Uber etc., through a chat.
ii. The chatbot is available for non-HDFC bank users as well. The chat opens a payment gateway through which transactions can be made using any bank account.
iii. The chatbot is available on Facebook messenger where it can be used for e-commerce transactions like booking a cab, ordering food or making mobile recharges, bill payments for electricity, water, gas, DTH etc.
iv. For payments, the platform prompts users to pay either via Paytm, Freecharge or PayuMoney, using which users can pay via debit/credit cards etc. Thus the chatbot facilitates the transaction via another payment portal.
♦ HDFC Bank is an Indian banking and financial services company headquartered in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It has about 87,555 employees and has a presence in Bahrain, Hong Kong and Dubai.
♦ CEO: Aditya Puri
♦ Headquarters: Mumbai
♦ Founded: August 1994
Coca-Cola India partners the State Bank of India to enable digital transactions
i. Coca-Cola India and its largest bottling partner Hindustan Coca-Cola beverages have partnered the SBI to enable over 2.6 million retailers and 5000 distributors in conducting business transactions digitally.
ii. SBI will educate retailers on digital transactions and will be developed a customized payment solution for retailers and distributors.
iii. They will also be able to access loans and other financial services from the bank
Consumers Can Waive Off Service Charge in Restaurants if Dissatisfied with Services: Government
i. The Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) on January 2, 2017 directed that Service charges billed by restaurants are optional and it is up to the customers to pay it.
ii. The decision comes after the department cited complaints that hotels and restaurants are levying an additional 5 to 20% in bills in name of tips, regardless of the kind of service provided
iii. The National Restaurants Association of India (NRAI), an industry lobby group, has been directed by the Government to sensitize hotels and restaurants and advise them to display on their premises that service charges are discretionary/voluntary and can be waived if a consumer is dissatisfied with the services.
APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS
Sanjiv Ranjan concurrently accredited as the next Ambassador of India to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay
i. Shri Sanjiv Ranjan, 1993 batch IFS officer has been concurrently accredited as the Ambassador of India to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay.
ii. Mr. Ranjan, presently serving Ambassador of India to Argentina and he will take up his assignment shortly.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Russia Delivers 4 Sukhoi Su-35 Fighter Jets to China after Two-Year Delay
i. Russia finally delivered 4 Sukhoi Su-35 Fighter Jets to China on December 25, 2016, after a delay of two years. The Su-35 is an advanced version of the Su-30s operated by the Indian Airforce.
ii. Moscow cited the reason for delay to the fear that its fifth generation jet will lose value in Chinese Market once Chinese military commissioned its J-20 stealth fighter. However Russia did not change its stance on the export of the Su-35 until the J-20 fighter was unveiled.
iii. While China has made advances in manufacturing of new type of fighter jets, it is still dependent on Russia for engines as well as avionics. Russia has been selling some of its advanced weaponry to China in recent years to overcome economic crisis.
China’s Grand Slam Champion Li Xiaoxia Announces Retirement from Table Tennis
i. China’s table tennis Grand Slam Champion Li Xiaoxia announced her retirement on January 1, 2017, ending her 22 years career on the court.
ii. She helped China to win gold medal in doubles at the Rio Olympic Games in 2016 besides finishing runner-up in the singles event and also won 53rd Table Tennis Team Championships 2016.
iii. The 28-year-old holds multiple doubles and Teams World titles in Olympics Games, World Championships, World Cups, Asian Cups, Asian Championships etc.
Former French skier Jean Vuarnet Dies at 83
i. Former French Olympic skiing Gold Medallist, Jean Vuarnet, died on January 2, 2017, of stroke. He was 83.
ii. The Frenchman won Olympic gold in the downhill at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, California.
iii. He was also credited with developing the “egg” position racers adopt for a better aerodynamic profile.
Pioneering Art Critic, John Berger Dies at 90
i. John Berger, the Booker-prize-winning novelist and visionary writer died of illness on January 2, 2017 in Paris at the age of 90.
ii. Berger won the Booker Prizein 1972 for his novel ‘G’ and pledged to give half the prize money to the radical African-American movement.
iii. The Marxist intellectual also helped to transform the way a generation looked at and perceived art through his book Ways of Seeing.
iv. Berger, born in Hackney, North London, began his career as a painter but soon opted for various other fields ranging from writing, poetry, screenplays etc.
Karnataka Cooperation & Sugar Minister H S Mahadeva Prasad passes away
i. Karnataka Cooperation and Sugar Minister H S Mahadev Prasad died of a massive heart attack at a private resort in Koppa in Chikkamagaluru district
ii. He represented Gundlupete constituency in Chamarajanagar district.