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Current Affairs Today – January 31 2017

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Railway Ministry Requests Separate Fund for Rashtriya Rail Safety Fund
i. The Ministry of Railway has proposed the Finance Ministry to create a non-lapsable safety fund named ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ over five years with initial corpus of Rs. 20000 crore and contribute a portion to fund it in the upcoming Budget 2017 to be presented on February 1.
ii. The decision to set up the safety fund is based on the recommendation of a high-level safety review committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission.
iii. The decision has also taken into consideration the increasing number of train derailments this year. In the year 2016-17 till January 23, the number of cases recorded was 74 compared to 65 in previous year and is even higher than the number of cases in last 6 years.

Textile Ministry Inaugurates Meghalaya’s First Ever Apparel and Garment Centre at Ampati
i. Meghalaya’s  first ever Apparel and Garment Making Centre was inaugurated on January 30, 2017 jointly by Union Textiles Minister Smriti Zubin Irani and Chief Minister of Meghalaya Dr. Mukul Sangma near Ampati in South West Garo Hills.
ii. The centre would enable to create job opportunity for both men and women of the region and make them economically empowered.
iii. The facility has been set up in an area of 45,000 sq feet at an approximate cost of Rs 14.26 crore. It has been set up under North East Region Textiles Promotion Scheme (NERTPS).
iv. Union Ministry of Textiles is working to implement projects worth Rs 70 crore in the Secriculture & Weaving sector for Meghalaya alone to boost investment in the region as well as generate employment prospects.
v. The Ministry has already sanctioned Rs 32 crore out of Rs 53 crore for promotion of handlooms of the region.

Ministry of Defence to Set up Rs 1500 cr Defence Unit in Madhya Pradesh
i. The Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Rural Development, Narendra Singh Tomar announced on January 31, 2017 that the Ministry of Defence is set to open its Defence
in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh.
ii. The unit would be set up in Kailaras and Sabalgarh tehsil areas and span over 969.735 hectare of land at a cost of Rs. 1500 crore.
iii.The Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has already allotted 334.584 hectare revenue land for the purpose free of cost.
iv. The state cabinet has also acquired 34.745 hectare private land and has send a proposal to acquire 600.406 hectare forest land in exchange of equal revenue land.

E-Paathsala Launches Unique Technology-Backed Services for Educational Institutions in India
i. Bangalore based Start-up firm E-paathsala has launched an integrated accreditation and ERP technology solution for the colleges and universities to enable them better manage their multiple accreditation standards in an easy, efficient and fast manner and bridge the gap identified for specific accreditations.
ii. Every college and University has multiple accreditations for standards such as NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council), NBA (National Board of Accreditation) among others.
iii. E-paathsala would provide a software and consultancy solutions that would help the institutions to improve their management system with emphasis on improving accreditation standards. Besides, it would provide an ERP solution to help the colleges improve their performances as per the benchmark standards.
iv . With the help of the ERP solution the educational institution would get an accreditation report about any gap in the management system of the multiple standards and necessary recommendations for improvement to get better grades for the accreditations.
v. The technology would provide services like Accreditation Management, IQAC work flow, PO-CO attainment for students, SWOT analysis, Admission Management, Accounting and Fees Management, Student Management, Learning Management System, Library Management, Hostel and Class Management, Transport Management, Placement Management and Alumina Management.
vi. Additionally the consultancy services would include External Quality Assurance service through its panel of experts by providing Academic Audit, Administrative Audit, Green audit, Gender audit and academic roadmap with prospective plan.
vii. E-paathsala in collaboration with global education community provides necessary strategic guidance for higher education transformation to help the educational institutions in achieving greater efficiencies. 

Income Tax Department (ITD) launches Operation Clean Money 
i. Income Tax Department (ITD) lead by ‎Sushil Chandra has launched Operation Clean Money on January 31, 201 to verify the cash deposited in the banks during November 9th to December 30th 2016.
ii. An online Verification process will be carried out by comparing the demonetisation data CBDTwith information in ITD databases.
iii. This information will be available at the portal PAN holder can view the information using the link ‘Cash Transactions 2016’ under ‘Compliance’ section of the portal.
iv. Email and SMS will be sent to the taxpayers if any case they found in the database. The taxpayers should submit their online response on the portal within 10 days.
The verification will be closed if the cash deposit is declared under Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Yojna (PMGKY).
Income Tax Department (ITD) :
♦ The Income Tax Department or IT Department is a government agency in charge of monitoring the income tax collection by the Government of India.
♦ Chairman of CBDT: Sushil Chandra


US House of Representatives Introduces H-1B Visa Reform Bill
i. The US House of Representatives has introduced a legislation on January 30, 2017 making it mandatory to raise the minimum salary of the H-1B visa holders to more than double at USD 1,30,000 from the previous USD 60,000.
ii. If the legislation is passed, it would highly impact American companies as they may face difficulty in replacing the American employees with foreign workers including IT professionals from India.
iii. The legislation introduced by California Congressman Zoe Lofgren under the name High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 envisages market-based allocation of visas to those companies which is willing to pay nearly 200 percent of a wage to its employees.
iv. The legislation aims to find the best talent from around the world so as to supplement the US workforce with talented, highly-paid, and highly-skilled workers and also provide ample opportunity to create job for Americans rather than replacing them with low cost foreign talent.

Ireland became the world’s first country to stop investing in fossil fuels
i. Ireland has become the first country in the world to divest coal, oil and gas investments from Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.
ii. The bill was passed in the Irish parliament by gaining 53 votes out of 90. It was introduced by Deputy Thomas Pringle.Ireland
iii. The law regarding fully divest public money from fossil fuels expected in the upcoming month.If the bill is enacted, it would force the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to sell its investment in fossil fuel industries over the next five years.
♦ Capital: Dublin
♦ Currency: Euro


Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley Presented Economic Survey 2016-17 in the Parliament
i. The Union Finance Minister Shri Arun Jaitley presented the Economic Survey 2016-17 in the Parliament on January 31, 2017 that provides a base for the government to prepare the annual Budget.
ii. The Economic Survey has estimated that the GDP growth rate for FY18 will be in the range of 6.75 percent to 7.5 percent.
iii. The survey stated that the indirect taxes grew by 26.9 percent during April-November 2016.
iv. As per the Consumer Price Index (CPI), inflation remained under control for the third successive financial year. The average CPI inflation was 5.9 percent in 2014-15, 4.9 percent in 2015-16 and 4.8 percent during April-December 2016
v. The survey stated that the growth in export was increased by 0.7 percent during April-December of 2016-17 amounting to USD 198.8 billion.

Lakshmi Vilas Bank Partners with Fisdom for Mission FINFIT
i. The private sector lender Lakshmi Vilas Bank in partnership with Bangalore based fin-tech startup firm Fisdom, has launched a mobile application “Mission FINFIT” to offer the customers of the bank financial planning and personal wealth management services based on Robo advisory.
ii. The mobile app would enable the customer of the bank to plan their finances in an effective manner using the online platform for wealth management thus encouraging them to invest smarter.
iii. The important services that would be provided through the online platform includes getting the KYC done, investing money in various platforms, viewing the account summary, withdrawing the invested money among others.
iv. This would make the bank a one-stop shop providing all the banking products. The facility would be provided by Fisdom.
v. Fisdom is a Bangalore based start up that uses innovative technology to solve issues related with financial investments by making investing easy to understand, quick and highly accessible through a mobile and web app.
Lakshmi Vilas Bank
♦ Founded: 1926
♦ Headquarters: Chennai, Tamil Nadu
♦ MD & CEO: Parthasarathi Mukherjee

Reserve Bank Lifts ATM Withdrawal Limits Effective From February 1
i. As per the announcement by Reserve Bank of India on January 30, 2017, the daily withdrawal limit from ATM will be removed with effect from February 1, 2017.  However the weekly limit to withdraw Rs. 24000 from savings account will still continue.
ii. Earlier, the RBI had hiked the daily withdrawal limit from savings account on January 16, 2017 to Rs. 10000.
iii. Besides, the Central bank has also removed the cash withdrawal limit from current accounts/ cash credit accounts/ overdraft accounts with immediate effect.
iv. Lifting the weekly withdrawal limit from saving accounts would be taken into consideration in future depending upon the condition of flow legal tenders.
v. RBI has also instructed the banks to fix their own withdrawal limit. Banks have also been directed to encourage digital payment among the customers.

India Post Payment Bank Begins Pilot Service in Ranchi & Raipur
i. India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) started its operations on January 30, 2017 with the pilot services launched in Raipur and Ranchi.
ii .The total paid up capital of the bank is Rs. 800 crore and the government has already infused Rs. 275 crore.
iii. IPPB will offer an interest rate of 4.5 percent on deposits up to Rs.25,000; 5 percent on IPPBdeposits of Rs.25,000-50,000 and 5.5 percent on Rs.50,000-1 lakh.
iv. The main of IPPB is to encourage financial inclusion rather than promoting commercial interests. It would work jointly with the Department of Post to offer the benefits of the government schemes and financial services which is not easily available to rural people and marginal population of urban area.
v. IPPB would enable 3 lakh postmen to aid in bank functions. Besides, 1000 ATMs of India Post will be transferred to IPPB. The bank has made plans to launch 650 branches across the country by September 2017.
vi. IPPB is the third entity after Airtel and Paytm and the first governmental organization to receive payments bank permit by RBI.
vii. According to Reserve Bank of India rules, Payments banks can accept deposits up to RS.1 lakh per account from individuals and small businesses.
viii. A.P. Singh has been appointed as the interim managing director and chief executive officer of IPPB.

FICCI’s Economic Outlook Survey Projects GDP to grow 6.8 Percent in FY 17
i. Based on the latest Economic Outlook Survey report released by FICCI on January 30, 2017, the India’s GDP is projected to grow 6.8 percent this fiscal which is 0.5 percent points less than FICCI’s previous estimate of 7.3 percent.
ii. FICCI conducted the last round of survey between December 2016 and January 2017 and collected responses from leading economists representing industry, banking and financial services sectors.
iii. A slowdown in the estimate is due to the decrease in services and infrastructure sectors post demonetization.
iv. FICCI estimated that the agriculture sector may witness slight increase in the current fiscal due to good monsoon while the industry and services sector have been expected to grow moderately by 5.7 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.
v. Earlier, the Central Statistical Organisation (CSO) had estimated a GDP growth of 7.1 percent for 2016-17.
Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI)
♦ The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is the largest, oldest and the apex association of business organizations in India.   It is involved in sector specific business policy consensus building, and business promotion and networking. It has presence in 12 states in India and 8 countries across the world.
Headquarter: New Delhi
♦ Founded: 1927
♦ President: Pankaj Patel

ICRA Estimates Banks Credit Growth to Remain Subdued at 5-6 percent in FY17
As per the report of the rating agency, ICRA, the bank credit growth rate is likely to float between 5-6 percent in the current fiscal year.The reason cited includes weak loan demand as the rate of return offered by debt market is better in comparison to banks.
♦ Besides, the deposit rate was also projected to drop to 12 percent from the current 14.7 percent this fiscal ending March 2017 due to better cash flow in the system and cut in the deposit rate by the banks.
ICRA Limited 
i. ICRA Limited (ICRA) is an Indian independent and professional investment information and credit rating agency. It is one of the largest Indian rating companies in term of customer base.
ii. The Indian credit rating industry mainly comprises of CRISIL, ICRA, CARE, ONICRA, FITCH and SMERA.
iii. CRISIL is the largest credit rating agency in India, with a market share of greater than 60%.


UberMOTO launches service in Hyderabad
Uberi. American worldwide online transportation network company Uber has launched two-wheeler aggregation service UberMOTO by Uber Founder and CEO Travis Kalanick in Hyderabad on January 30, 2017
ii. UberMOTO can hire two-wheelers for short-distance commute at cheaper rates to provide the last-mile connectivity from and to the upcoming Metro railway stations.
iii. Uber inducts two-wheeler owners into the network, the same way it ropes in cabs for the main service.


Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Presents 2016 National Entrepreneurship Awards
i. The First ever National Entrepreneurship Awards 2016 was presented by the Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh at Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi on January 30, 2017. Shri Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Minister of State (I/C) for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship was the guest of honour on the occasion.
ii. The National Entrepreneurship Awards was instituted by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MoSDE) to recognize and honor the entrepreneurial spirit of India’s youth and encourage more and more young Indians to become entrepreneur.
iii. The awards were given in 11 different categories divided into two groups: Award Track and Recognition Track.


Moussa Faki Mahamat appointed as new AU head 
i. Chadian foreign affairs minister Moussa Faki Mahamat has been elected as the head of AU Headthe African Union Commission on January 30, 2017. He will replace Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma
ii. He defeated favourites Amina Mohamed of Kenya, Senegal’s Abdoulaye Bathily, Botswana’s foreign minister, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi and Mba Mokuy of Equatorial Guinea
African Union Commission:
♦ The Commission of the African Union acts as the executive branch or secretariat of the AU . It consists of a number of Commissioners dealing with different areas of policy.
♦ Headquarters: Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.


ASTROSAT Captures Rare Act of Vampire Star
i. Based on a study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters, an unusual action of a small, six billion old, so called vampire star, has been captured by  ASTROSAT, India’s first dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory that was preying on bigger celestial body.
ii. The team of scientist involved in the observation included scientists from IIA, Inter-University Centre of Astronomy and Astrophysics (IUCAA), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
iii. Vampire stars are actually the smaller stars that suck the energy and masses of the bigger companion stars ultimately leading to its death.
iv. Therefore the smaller stars becomes bigger, hotter and bluer, by preying on star companions thus it appears as a young star and so are also known as blue straggler.
v. The new study would help the scientists to study the formation of ‘blue straggler’ stars. Besides, the discovery has also lead to highlight the capability of the ASTROSAT telescope.


Sports Ministry Forms Committee to Prepare Action Plan for next 3 Olympics
i. The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports led by Vijay Goel constituted an 8-membered committee on January 30, 2017 that would work to prepare an action plan for the next three Olympic Games to be held in 2020, 2024 and 2028.
ii. The committee includes badminton coach Pullela Gopichand, Shooter Abhinav Bindra, Indian Hockey Captain  Viren Raquinha, Hockey Coach S. Baldev Singh, senior journalist Rajesh Kalra, Om Pathak from the School Sports Promotion foundation, Professor G L Khanna from Manav Rachna International University and General Sandeep Pradhan, Director of Sports Authority of Gujarat.
iii. The Task Force would be responsible to prepare a comprehensive short-term, medium-term and long-term action plan for effective participation of Indian athletes in the next three Olympics
iv. Besides, they would also be tasked to suggest methods of identifying medal prospects for the 2020 Olympics, necessary upgradation needed in sports infrastructure to train the top-level athletes and the requirement of foreign training and exposure of top-level athletes.
v. Additionally the committee would also recommend ways to improve the standards of coaching and sports science in the country.


Father of Pac-Man Masaya Nakamura Dies at 91
i. Japanese Businessman Masaya Nakamura, who founded the leading video game Father of Pac-Man Masaya Nakamura Dies at 91developing company Namco, died on January 22, 2017. He was 91.
ii. Nakamura is considered the Father of Pac-Man. In 1980, he played significant role to introduce the arcade games in Namco. The most successful arcade game developed was Pac-Man by Toru Iwatani.
iii. Pac-Man has been named in the Guinness World Records as the world’s most successful coin-operated arcade game.
iv. He was also awarded the Order of the Rising Sun in 2007 by the Japanese government for his achievements.


12th Raising Day of National Disaster Response Force 
The 12th Raising Day of National Disaster Response Force(NDFR) is celebrated today(January 31, 2017) to commended the NDRF for its efforts during disaster response .
i. Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh presented the Jeevan Raksha Padak awards and Distinguished Service Medals to the NDRF personnel on this occasion .
ii. He will also release the NDRF pictorial book and souvenir to mark the occasion.
About NDRF :
♦ The National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) is a specialised force constituted “for the purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster” under the Disaster Management Act, 2005.
♦ Director General: R.K. Pachnanda
♦ Founded:2006