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Current Affairs Today – March 17 2017

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GST Council Approves SGST & UTGST Draft Bills at its 12th Meeting
i. The Goods and Service Tax (GST) council headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley cleared the State GST (SGST) and Union Territory GST (UTGST) laws during its 12 Council meet on March 16, 2017.
ii. Now the draft bills will need to be approved by the Cabinet and taken up in Parliament’s ongoing budget session for final approval.
iii. Meanwhile, the sGST draft law will have to be approved by the legislative assemblies of respective states including Delhi and Puducherry.
iv .The UTGST draft law is for the union territories like Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep, Daman and Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, which do not have legislative assemblies.
v. The council’s next meeting is scheduled to be held on March 31 to frame rules for Goods and Service Tax regime.
vi. The GST tax regime has nine set of rules and regulations out of which the Council has already approved five including registration, payment, refunds, invoices and returns.
vii. The four other rules namely composition, valuation, input tax and credit transitions is yet to get formal approval of the Council and will be taken up in the next meeting on March 31.
viii. After March 31, the Council will take up the exercise of fitment of various commodities in the GST tax slabs of 5 percent, 12 percent, 15 percent and 28 percent.

Sanjauli Police Post in Himachal Becomes India’s First CCTNS Linked Police Post
i. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh inaugurated a Crime and Criminal Tracking Network & Systems (CCTNS) in Shimla on March 15, 2017 to connect all the police posts in the state with each other.
ii. Thus Himachal Pradesh has become the first state in India to link its police posts in CCTNSvarious districts with CCTNS.
iii. The CCTNS was first linked at Sanjauli Police Post in Shimla, followed by simultaneous linking of Police posts of Manikaran in district Kullu, Police Post Solan City and that of Dada Siba in district Kangra. All the police posts in Himachal Pradesh would be linked with CCTNS.
iv. The system will facilitate people in lodging online/offline complaints, police verification of job applicants, tenants, character verification and migrant labourer registration.
v .Besides, senior citizens, differently abled and women in far-flung areas of the state can lodge First Information Reports (FIRs) through the nearest police post.
vi. With the linkage of Police Posts with CCTNS, the general public can now file complaints at these posts which earlier were confined only to Police Stations to register complaints.
vii. Once the police posts are linked under the CCTNS system, its daily activities can be viewed online by supervisory officer of the police department which will make it easy to supervise the staff.

India, Brazil conclude social security agreement   
India and Brazil have finalised text of the Social Security Agreement(SSA) on March 16, 2017. It will be effective from 2018.
♦ This is the first SSA agreement between the BRICS Countries.
♦  Till date, India has signed Social Security Agreements (SSAs) with 18 countries – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Switzerland, and South Korea.
Benefits of SSA :
i. SSA will help to promote more investment flows between the two countries.
ii. A detached workers of the two countries are exempted from making social security contributions in either countries so long as they were making such contributions in their respective countries.
iii. It will establishes the rights and obligations of nationals of both countries and provides for equal treatment of the nationals of both countries and unrestricted payment of pensions
Brazil :
♦ Capital: Brasília
♦ Currency: Brazilian real
♦ President: Michel Temer

Demands for Grants of Ministry of Defence for 2017-18 Passed in Lok Sabha
i. The Lok Sabha passed the Demands for Grants of Ministry of Defence for 2017-18 on March 17, 2017 after negotiating with the opposition.
ii. In 2017-18, the Ministry of Defence has been allocated Rs 3,59,854 crore (including pensions) for expenditure across the various services, production establishments and research and development organisations.
iii. This allocation is the highest from all other departments and represents 16.8% of the central government’s budget of 2017-18 and 2.1% of India’s estimated GDP.
iv. Minister of State for Defence Dr Subhash Bhamre assured the House that money will never be a constraint in strengthening the country’s security and that the Indian Armed Forces are well prepared to meet any challenge against national security.
v. Besides, he said that more funds will be provided to Border Roads Organisation to create road infrastructure.
vi. Several steps have been taken by the government to modernize the defence forces with the latest equipment and meet all the critical requirements of the defence forces to further enhance its capabilities.

Australia Research Institute Signs Agreement with Indian Railways for Infrastructure Support
i. Monash University Institute of Railway Technology (IRT), Australia has entered into an agreement with the Indian Railways to support future research and technology development related to critical infrastructure in India.
ii. The agreement was signed on March 16, 2017 in New Delhi between the representatives from Monash University Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) and Indian Ministry of Indian RailwaysRailways Corporation DFCCIL (Dedicated Freight Corridor Corporation of India Limited).
iii. IRT along with partners, Balaji Railroad Systems Ltd (BARSYL), a leading railway consultant in India, PwC, and Indian Institute of Bombay (IITB) will provide necessary support to Indian Railways.
iv. They will provide guidance on the establishment of a new applied research and development institute in India known as SRESTHA (Special Railway Establishment for Strategic Technology & Holistic Advancement).
v. Though, SRESTHA will be locally engaged but will also have a global reach with the aim to become a world leader in the advancement of rail.
vi. The project will provide guidance to the Indian Railways for adoption of international models to the Indian railway environment.
Monash University Institute of Railway Technology (IRT)
♦ The Institute of Railway Technology (IRT) at Monash University is the premier track and vehicle railway research centre in Australia and enjoys an international reputation for excellence in railway research.
♦ IRT is one of the main technology service providers to heavy haul railway operations and leading mass transit railway systems, and provides a “one-stop” technology access point for the international railway industry.


G20 Meet of Finance Ministers & Central Bank Governors Began in Germany
i. The two day G20 finance ministers and central bank governors meet began in Baden-Baden, Germany on March 17, 2017.
ii. Focus: the meeting will focus on strengthening economic resilience in finance, digitalization and promote investment in Africa.
iii. The meetings between finance ministers and central bank governors will provide a preliminary discussion platform ahead the G20 Summit of heads of state and government, which will be held in Hamburg on July 7-8, 2017.
iv. This is the first global gather to discuss economic challenges since Donald Trump took over as the US President in January 2017. The gathering will help to set the tone for international commerce and finance.

India ranks 148 in 2017 UN Women in Politics Map
i. The Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and UN Women launched the ‘Women in Politics 2017 Map’ on March 16, 2017 in New York.The Women in Politics 2017 Map is the visual representation of women’s political empowerment in executive government and parliament as on January 1, 2017.
ii. It was unveiled on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the 61st Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at United Nations. The CSW is a global organization that focuses on the empowerment and equality for women.
iii. The theme for 2017 CSW is Women’s Economic Empowerment In The Changing World Of Work.
iv. As per the report, the top nations that have high representation to women in the government and parliament includes: Rwanda, Bolivia, Cuba, Iceland, Nicaragua, Sweden, Senegal, Mexico, Finland and South Africa.
v. As per the Map, India ranked 148 out of 193 UN member nations in representing women in the executive government.

New Zealand’s Whanganui River Granted Legal Status as a Person
i. New Zealand’s Whanganui River on March 15, 2017 became the first river in the World to get the legal rights as possessed by a human being.
ii. The third largest river of the country has gained its own identity with all the corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a legal person after a 170-year battle.
iii. The Te Awa Tupua (Whanganui River Claims Settlement) Bill was passed in the Parliament on March 15, 2017 to establish a new legal framework for the river.
iv. The local Maori Iwi tribe of Whanganui in the North Island regards the river as an ancestor and has fought for the recognition of the river for 170 years.
v. Two guardians will be appointed to act on behalf of the Whanganui River including one appointed by the government (crown) and one from the Maori tribe.New Zealand’s Whanganui River Granted Legal Status as a Person
vi. The river is a sacred and revered waterway to New Zealand’s Maori Iwi people and the new Bill creates a strong platform for the future of Whanganui River.
New Zealand
♦ Capital: Wellington
♦ Currency: New Zealand dollar
♦ Prime minister: Bill English


World Bank Approves $175 million loan for India’s National Hydrology Project
i. The World Bank has approved a $175 million loan on March 15, 2017 to India for the National Hydrology Project to improve India’s ability to forecast floods and reduce the recurring chances of floods and droughts.
ii. The loan would be disbursed by the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). The loan has a six-year grace period in which no interest payments will be due and will mature in 23 years.
iii. The project will strengthen the capacity of existing institutions to assess the water situation and equip them with real-time flood forecast systems across the country to help communities to plan in advance to build resilience against possible uncertainties of climate change.
iv .This National Hydrology Project is the successor of the Hydrology Project-I and Hydrology Project-II and will cover the entire country including the states along the Ganga and Brahmaputra-Barak basins.
v. National Flood Forecasting Systems with an advance warning system and reservoir operation systems as well as water resources accounting in river basins will be included under the project.
About National Hydrology Project
i. The National Hydrology Project was approved by the Union cabinet in April 2016 as a central sector scheme with a total outlay of Rs 3679 crore to be implemented by 2023-24. World Bank will provide financial assistance to nearly 50% of the cost.
ii. Out of the total cost, Rs 3,640 crore will be spent for the national project while the remaining Rs 39 crore will be used for establishment of the National Water Informatics Centre as a repository of nation-wide water resources data.
International Bank for Reconstruction and Development(IBRD)
The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development is an international financial institution that offers loans to middle-income developing countries.
Headquarters: Washington D.C.
♦Founded: 1944
♦ Leader: Jim Yong Kim
♦ Parent organization: World Bank

ESAF Small Finance Bank launched in Thrissur
Kerala’s first private sector bank ESAF Small Finance Bank was launched by Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Thrissur, Kerala on March 17, 2017
♦ This bank is promoted by ESAF Microfinance and Investments (P) Ltd and it is targeted to ESAFopen 85 branches in unbanked rural centres in first year.
♦ Target of the bank: Rs 20,000 crore by 2020.
Interest Rates :
i. For term deposits of varying maturities – 5.75 per cent to 9 per cent
ii. For savings deposits –  6 per cent to 7 per cent
iii. Senior citizens term deposits – .05 per cent
ESAF Microfinance :
♦ ESAF Microfinance is one of the 10 financial services firms picked by the RBI for setting up small finance banks
♦ It has a network of 285 branches in 93 districts spread over 11 states
♦ MD & CEO: K Paul Thomas

Bandhan Bank ties up with Avenues India
i. Kolkata based Bandhan Bank has signed an agreement with a payment solution provider Avenues India Pvt Ltd on March 16, 2017
ii. Aim: To provide merchants with seamless access to point-of-sales (POS) and payment gateway products.
iii. This tie-up will help to provide faster and “more direct” access to POS machines, payment gateways, and competitive financing options.
Bandhan Bank
♦ Headquarters: Kolkata
♦ Founded: 2001
♦ CEO: Chandra Shekhar Ghosh


Centre Gives 6 Months to Industrial Projects for Green Clearance
i. In a bid to regulate the environment violators, the Union Environment Minister, Anil Madhav Dave has decided to recommend closure of industrial projects if the developers are found to have started the construction without the mandatory environment clearance (EC).
ii. As per the notification published on March 14, 2017, the ministry has granted 6 months period to project developers as one time opportunity to apply for environmental clearance for units which have not obtained such nod earlier and are in violation on date of the notification.
iii. The notification states that if any projects/activities or expansion/modernization of existing projects/activities requiring prior environmental clearance is found to have been undertaken in any part of India without obtaining prior environmental clearance from the central government/State authorities then it shall be considered a case of violation of the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) Notification, 2006 and will be dealt strictly.
iv. All the cases of violation, irrespective of category, will be rated as category ‘A’ projects by respective sector Expert Appraisal Committee (EAC) at Central level so that the violations can only be appraised at the level of ministry.
v. The move is to bring such projects and activities in compliance with the environmental laws as early as possible rather than leaving them unregulated and unchecked.
vi. Besides, it also aims to take away the economic benefit derived by the company due to violation and pay for the remediation of damage caused due to violation.

First Airbus Training Centre in Asia to be set up in New Delhi 
i. France based Aircraft maker Airbus will set up Asia’s first training facility for pilots and maintenance engineers in New Delhi.
ii. Union Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju performed the ground-breaking ceremony for the training centre on March 17, 2017.
iii. The centre will formed by the European aviation major Airbus.It is expected to be Airbus signs MoU for setting up centre of excellence in Hyderabadoperational by the end of 2018.
iv. Vistara become the first client for this sentrs to provide training services to Vistara pilots for the A320 type aircraft for 5 years.
Airbus :
♦ Headquarters: Toulouse, France
♦ CEO: Fabrice Brégier


Mallikarjun Kharge set to become next PAC Chairman 
i. Former Minister of Inidan Railways Mallikarjun Kharge has been nominated for the post of chairman of the Public’s Account Committee (PAC) of Parliament.
ii. Kharge will take charge from K.V. Thomas on May 1, 2017
iii. Now, he will now be entitled for a Cabinet rank and an office at the Parliament House.
iv. The congress leader from Karnataka belonging to the Dalit community, he is a former Deputy Chief Minister of Karnataka and was union minister for railways and labour during the UPA regime.
Public’s Account Committee :
♦ The Public Accounts Committee (PAC) is a committee of selected members of Parliament, constituted by the Parliament of India, for the auditing of the revenue and the expenditure of the Government of India.
♦ The PAC is formed every year with a strength of not more than 22 members
♦ The term of office of the members is one year . It does not exceed one year at a time

Papa Rao, Jwala included in governing body of SAI
i. Indian badminton player Jwala Gutta and retired IAS officer BV Papa Rao have been appointed as members of the Sports Authority of India (SAI).
Jwalaii. Rao is currently working as a sports administrator and advisor to Telangana Government, has the experience of being an officer on special duty of SAI from 1985 to 90.
iii. Gutta has won the bronze medal at the 2011 World Championship and she is a 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games champion and a silver medallist at the 2014 Glasgow Games in women’s doubles.She was honoured with Arjuna award by the Indian Government
Sports Authority of India (SAI): 
♦ The Sports Authority of India (SAI) is an apex National Sports body set up in 1984 by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports for broad basing and bringing excellence in sports across India.
♦ Regional Centres: Bengaluru, Gandhinagar, Chandigarh,Kolkata, Imphal, Guwahati, Bhopal, Mumbai,Lucknow and Sonepat

Lenovo appoints Subhankar Roy Chowdhury as head HR for Asia Pacific
i. Lenovo,  Computer manufacturing company appointed Subhankar Roy Chowdhury as HR for Asia Pacific. He will replace Andrew Dahms.
ii. Now, Roy will responsible for transformation and people strategy in Asia Pacific with focus on building leadership, cultural transformation and developing talent resources.
iii. He is currently working as the company’s executive director and global head for HR Strategy, M&A and HR Analytics.
iv. Prior to this , he held leadership positions in HR consulting and HR generalist roles at Nokia, IBM Business Consulting, PwC, Siemens Information Systems and L&T in India, Middle East Africa and South East Asia regions.
Lenovo :
♦ Chairman & CEO :Yang Yuanqing
♦ HQ: Beijing, China, and Morrisville,United States.


Scientists Develops World’s First Blood Test for Autism
i. Scientists at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in United States have for the first time in the world, discovered a way to accurately predict whether a child has Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) by analyzing a blood sample.
ii. The blood test can help to determine whether a child is on the autism spectrum before Autismthey turn two, which was till now diagnosed after the age of two.
iii. The Biomedical Engineering Department of RPI scientist investigated the patterns of over 24 metabolites from a blood sample and found significant differences between metabolites of children with ASD and those that are neurotypical.
iv .This enabled them to categorize whether an individual is on the autism spectrum or not or even the chances of landing on the spectrum.
v. The test is the first physiological test for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and could open the door for earlier diagnosis and the future development of therapy.
vi. The study was published in the journal PLOS Computational Biology.
♦ Autism Spectrum Disorder is a lifelong developmental disability that affects how people perceive the world and interact with others.
♦ Autistic people’s behavior is characterized by mental health issues, challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviors, speech and nonverbal communication, as well as by unique strengths and differences.  

Japan Launches Latest North Korea Spy Satellite
i. Japan space agency JAXA launched a new spy satellite Radar 5 from a launch site in the country’s southwest on March 17, 2017
ii. The information-gathering satellite Radar 5 is lifted off with H-2A rocket.
iii. This will replace an existing satellite that is approaching the end of its mission.
iv. It will also used to monitor damage in the wake of natural disasters.
Japan :
♦ Capital: Tokyo
♦ Currency: Japanese yen
♦ Prime minister: Shinzō Abe

MIT Pune & IBM Jointly Unveils Robot ‘Chintu’
i. The final year computer engineering students at Maharashtra Institute of Technology (MIT) Pune and technology giant IBM have developed a robot named Chintu to assist senior citizens in their everyday tasks.
ii. Chintu is about 58 cm (2 feet) tall robot, weighing over 5 kilograms.
iii. The robot is the result of IBM’s global Shared University Research grant programme, under which the team at MIT received a grant of Rs 10 lakh in 2016 by IBM to work on this project.
iv. The students used APIs from IBM’s cognitive platform Watson along with the IBM Bluemix Cloud platform to create the ‘brains’ or the actual intelligence behind the robot.
v. Chintu will assist senior citizens in conducting everyday tasks such as reading the newspaper/book when they feel lonely as well as generate reminders on their daily medication. Chintu can move his hands to read books as well as dance for an audience.
IBM (International Business Machines Corporation)
♦ Headquarters:  New York, United States
♦ Founder: Charles Ranlett Flint
♦ Founded: 16 June 1911
♦ CEO: Ginni Rometty


Michael Clarke’s launches his autobiography ‘My Story’
i. Former Australia captain Michael Clarke has launched his autobiography named ‘My My StoryStory’ in Kolkata in the presence of former Indian cricketer Saurav Ganguly
ii. This book was triggered by how he was affected by Phil Hughes’ death when India were touring Australia in 2014-15
Michael Clarke:
♦ Michael John Clarke is a former international cricketer and captain of Australia.
♦ He was retired from One Day cricket after the end of the 2015 Cricket World Cup and retire from all forms of cricket after the final test of the Ashes Series from August 2015.