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Current Affairs Today – March 4 2017

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INDIAN AFFAIRS

Final Draft of Central GST & Integrated GST Approved By GST Council
i. The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unanimously cleared the crucial Central GST (CGST) and Integrated GST (IGST) draft bills on March 4, 2017 during its 11th meeting at Vigyan Bhavan.
ii. The state had recommended as many as 26 changes regarding CGST and IGST, all of which were accepted by the Centre.
iii. Under the IGST bill which is related to taxation of inter-state transfer of goods, the legislation has been made for cross empowerment of state and central officers.
iv. Both Centre and states have agreed to provide a composition scheme for small businesses. Now the small businesses with an annual turnover of up to Rs 50 lakh will pay 5 percent tax (to be shared equally between the Centre and states).

Aadhaar Mandatory to Get Mid Day Meal and Booking Train Tickets Online
Mid-Day Meal
i. The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development in its notification on February 28, 2017, made it mandatory for the students across the country to have an Aadhaar number for getting the their midday meals.
ii. Besides, the Cook-cum-helpers working under the midday meal scheme will also have to furnish Aadhaar number.Aadhaar bill 2016
iii. The stated rule will be applicable across the country except Jammu and Kashmir, Meghalaya and Assam.
iv. Those who have not yet enrolled under Aadhaar can do so by June 30, 2017.
v .The move is aimed to ensure greater transparency and simplification in the government delivery process and enable beneficiaries to get their entitlements directly and in a seamless manner.
Train Ticket
i. As per the new business plan 2017-18, unveiled by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on March 2, 2017, railway will soon make Aadhaar number compulsory for booking railway tickets online.
ii .Besides, it will also move towards cashless ticketing system by installing 6,000 point-of-sale machines and 1,000 automatic ticket vending machines across the country.
iii. The decision aims to end fraudulent bookings and prevent selling tickets registered with fake identities.
iv. In addition, an integrated ticketing app will also be launched by May 2017 to promote cashless transaction. Aadhaar number will be required for one-time registration at the IRCTC ticketing site.
v. Aadhaar number has also been made mandatory for senior citizens to avail concessions in train tickets from April 1, 2017. A three-month trial run for this is going on.

Assam Cabinet Declares Sanskrit as Compulsory Subject upto Class 8
i .In a cabinet meeting on February 28, 2017, the Assam government led by the Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal decided to make Sanskrit a compulsory language for students up to class 8 in the state.
ii. Besides, the government also decided to promote computer education in the state. The government would also appoint teachers for the two subject.
iii. The government will also connect each panchayat of the state with Internet facility by the end of 2017-18.
iv. The decision to make Sanskrit mandatory was highly appreciated by the Assam Sanskrit Sahitya Sabha and Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as it would prevent western impact on state’s culture.
v. However, the All Assam Students Union (AASU) criticized the decision to make Sanskrit compulsory instead of promoting Assamese language in the schools.

Punjab, J&K seal fresh deal on Shahpur Kandi project
i. A renewed agreement between Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir has
been sealed for the completion of the Shahpur Kandi Dam project, work on which was halted two years ago following a dispute.
ii. This move comes days before its annual Indus Water Commission meeting with Pakistan in Lahore later this month. The dam will help India utilize its share of waters under Indus Water Treaty.
iii. The 55.5-metre high Shahpur Kandi dam in Punjab, will help in providing irrigation facility to 5000 hectares of land in Punjab and 32173 hectares in J&K, besides generation of 206 MW power
iv. The pact will pave the way for completion of the dam also would stop the Ravi waters from flowing into Pakistan.

West Bengal Clinical Establishment Bill 2017 Unanimously Passed in State Assembly
i. The West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Transparency) Bill, 2017 was passed by the state legislative assembly on March 3, 2017 with full support.
ii. The Bill aims to regulate the private hospitals and bring transparency, end harassment of patients and take necessary steps to stop medical negligence in health institutes.
Clinical Establishment Bill 2017iii. The Bill replaces the West Bengal Clinical Establishments (Registration, Regulation and Regulation) Bill, 2010.
iv. The state will set up a 13 member West Bengal Clinical Establishment Regulatory Commission which will monitor private healthcare facilities, decide on charges for hospitals and deal with complaints from patients.
v. The regulatory commission will conduct surprise and routine checks on internal functioning of hospitals, and in case of non-compliance would be liable to be imposed penalty or even forced to wind down the operations.
Key Highlights of the Bill
i. Hospitals cannot charge more than as stated in the Bill.
ii. Hospitals cannot delay the release of a deceased patient even if the family cannot pay up immediately.
iii. In case of death due to negligent treatment, hospital would be liable to pay Rs. 10 lakh as compensation.
iv. Victims of accidents will have to be provided care even if he or she cannot immediately pay for it.
v. Hospitals that received land from the state government will have to provide free treatment to one in five outdoor patients, and one in 10 patients admitted to the hospital.
vi .Every clinical establishment shall maintain a public grievance cell for lodging of complaints on treatment, improper billing, deficit service, behaviour of attending staff.
vii. Offer free Cardiac surgery to children under Sishu Sathi Scheme

West Bengal Gives Official Status to Tribal Language Kurukh
i. The West Bengal government has given an official status to Kurukh language in the state which has been listed as an endangered language by the UNESCO.
ii. The language was given the official status on February 21 on the occasion of the International Mother Language Day.
iii. Kurukh is a tribal language that belongs to the Dravidian family. It is spoken by the Oraon tribal community living in Birbhum-Bankura-Purulia-Midnapore belt and the tea garden regions in north Bengal.
iv. Kurukh is mostly spoken by around 16-lakh Oraon and Kisan tribal peoples and a sizeable number of them live in West Bengal.
v. Besides, the state has also given official recognition to Rajbongshi / Kamtapuri language. Since the language do not have any written script, the state CM Mamata Banerjee has formed a committee headed by respected Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri which will finalise the script and syllabus for Rajbongshi language.
vi. The recognition of Kurukh and Rajbongshi languages by the state government would facilitate imparting of education in state-government run schools and they can be used in official works in those areas in the state where the Oraon and Rajbongshi people live.
Official Languages in West Bengal
♦ English and Bengali are the two official languages of the state. Besides, the state has also recognized six other languages including Urdu, Gurmukhi, Nepali, Ol-Chiki, Oriya and Hindi.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Syrian Army Backed by Russian Jets Recaptures Ancient City Palmyra
i. The Syrian troops on March 2, 2017 successfully recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group for the second time in a year with support from Russian forces and warplanes.
ii. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group known as Jihadists first captured Palmyra in May 2015 and began to systematically destroy and loot the UNESCO’s World Heritage Site’s Monuments and Temples.
iii. They were driven out in March 2016 but again recaptured the city in December 2016 in a surprise move when Syrian government was focused on seizing rebel-held east Aleppo.
iv. Though the jihadists totally fled away from the desert city but had destroyed many priceless cultural heritages in the historic city for sale in black market.
v .Before Islamic State entered the city, Palmyra was well known for temples, colonnaded alleys and elaborately decorated tombs that were among the best preserved classical Syrian Army recaptures historic city of Palmyra from ISmonuments in the Middle East.
SYRIA
♦ Capital: Damascus
♦ Currency: Syrian pound
♦ Prime Minister: Imad Khamis
♦ President: Bashar al-Assad

Half of 4,096 KM of India-Bangladesh Border Fenced
i. As per the report by the Border Security Force (BSF), India has completed the process of fencing half of the 4,096 km of border area which it shares with Bangladesh and expects to finish fencing the rest by 2019.
ii .The aim of fencing is to curb infiltration and smuggling of cattle and fake Indian currency notes.
iii. BSF has also identified the plots and sent the proposal to the government for fencing the remaining area but land acquisition is a major challenge for completing the work by the 2019 deadline.
iv. In case where fencing will not be possible, technological solutions such as cameras and lasers would be installed.
v. India and Bangladesh shares a 4,096 km border. Among Indian states, West Bengal shares 2,216.7km, Assam 263 km, Meghalaya 443 km, Tripura 856 km and Mizoram 318km border with Bangladesh.
Bangladesh
♦ Capital: Dhaka
♦ Currency: Bangladeshi taka
♦ Prime minister: Sheikh Hasina
♦ President: Abdul Hamid

Sweden introduces military draft for both men and women
i. Sweden’s coalition government of Social Democrats and Greens instituted a military draft for both men and women to tackle the deteriorating security environment in Europe and around Sweden.
ii. The country has abolished compulsory military service for men in 2010 because there were enough volunteers to meet its military needs.
iii. The country runs on Volunteer policy that Armed Forces with enough trained personnel and never had a military draft for women.
iv. Presently over 20,000 people now work for the Swedish armed forces, but this draft was announced to raise the strength of the forces by 1,000 active troops as well as 7,000 reservists.
Sweden:
♦ Capital: Stockholm
♦ Currency: Swedish krona

BANKING & FINANCE

SBI slaps charges on cash deposits, breaching balances
i. India’s largest lender has State bank of India has revised service charges various transactions, as well as cash deposits and for failing to maintain monthly average balance in their savings accounts.
ii. This move follows the leading private sectors banks announced similar charges in this SBIweek. The charges will be applicable from April 1, 2017.
iii. The lender announced that three cash deposit transactions will be free in a month, beyond three transactions the bank will charge Rs 50 plus service tax for each transaction.
iv. The charges will be applicable to ATM transactions beyond free transactions, besides SBI will charge Rs 20 (plus service tax) per transaction.
v. The bank has also imposed service charge for failure in maintaining monthly average balance (MAB) in metro, urban and rural centres.

Population Center Minimum Balance Penalty
Metropolitan Rs 5,000 MAB Rs 50 charge for 50 per cent shortfall, Rs 75 for shortfall between 50-75 per cent and Rs 100 for 75 per cent or more
Urban  Rs 3,000 MAB Rs 40 service charge, Rs 60 for 50-75 per cent shortfall and Rs 80 for 75 per cent or more.
Semi-Urban Rs 2,000 MAB Penalty for non-maintenance of minimum balance ranges from Rs 20-50 plus service tax
Rural Rs 1,000 MAB

Rs 10000 penalty for bank branches refusing to exchange soiled notes
i. The Reserve Bank of India has clarified that currency notes which have messages scribbled on it are legal tender bank branches that refuse to exchange soiled notes from people will have to pay a penalty of Rs 10,000.
ii. The RBI however said that notes cease to be legal tender if message scribbled on it is political in nature.
iii. According to RBI’s Clean Note Policy 1999, no banks can deny to exchange soiled or mutilated currency notes, However there is restriction is in place.
iv. The restriction for exchanging soiled notes is that if one exchanges more than 20 notes or notes worth Rs 5,000 in a day, then banks will levy service charge

BUSINESS

Google India inks MoU with Telangana government
i. Search Engine Giant Google India and Telangana government have inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) aimed at supporting the digitisation efforts of the state.
ii. As Part of the MoU Google will provide Google Cloud credits and access to all cloud Googleplatform products to eligible startups engaged with Telangana government’s T—Hub initiative.
iii. The MoU will cover various initiatives among, making all government websites mobile friendly and introduce programmes to help local small and medium businesses go online and stay safe online.
iv. The Agreement will pave Google India and the Telangana to work on promoting digital literacy among rural women through programme Internet Saathi.

Government’s biotech innovation centre to be set up in Bengaluru’s C-CAMP
i. The Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC), will house its regional entrepreneurship centre at Bengaluru ­based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Platforms (C­CAMP), a biotechnology innovation incubator.
ii. The government’s nodal funding agency for the biotech industry BIRAC regional centre aimed to increase portfolio through partnerships with startups and entrepreneurs.
iii. The centre will provide a direct interface between angel investors and early­stage VCs, among other things. BREC will play a facilitator’s role.

APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS

P K Purwar appointed MTNL CMD
i. Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) appointed P K Purwar as the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of State-owned telecommunications service provider Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Limited (MTNL).
ii. The appointment effective from 1 March 2017 for the duration of five years.
iii .Prior to this elevation Purwar was working as Director (Finance) in MTNL, he also held the additional charge of the post of MTNL CMD between June 2014 and June 2015.
MTNL
♦ Founded: 1 April 1986
♦ Headquarters: New Delhi
♦ CEO: Pravin Kumar Purwar

ACQUISITIONS & MERGERS

Airtel, Millicom ink pact to merge in Ghana
i. Bharti Airtel and Millicom International Cellular SA (Millicom) have entered into an agreement for Tigo Ghana Ltd and Airtel Ghana Ltd to combine their operations in Ghana.
ii. As a result, both the companies would have equal ownership and governance rights in the combined entity in Ghana, making it one of the largest communications companies in the country.
iii. The combined entity would serve nearly 10 million customers, of which 5.6 million are data customers. It would cover more than 80 per cent of Ghana’s population with high speed data and would have revenues close to $300 million.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

President Pranab Mukherjee Confers Standard & Colours Award to 125 Helicopter Squadron and MIT
i. President Pranab Mukherjee awarded the prestigious President’s ‘Standard’ to 125 Helicopter Squadron and “Colours” to Mechanical Training Institute (MTI) at the Tambaram air base, near Chennai on March 3, 2017.
President Pranab Mukherjee Confers Standard & Colours Award to 125 Helicopter Squadron and MITii. The President’s ‘Standard’ and ‘Colours’  recognizes the meritorious service rendered during war and peace.
iii .The 125 Helicopter Squadron also known as Gladiators of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was recognized for the outstanding role played during the Pathankot terror attacks, in confining the terrorists to a restricted area and reducing the casualties.
About 125 Helicopter Squadron
♦ The 125 Helicopter Squadron was the first gunship squadron of the Indian Air Force formed in November 1983.
♦ Since its formation, it has enhanced its operational capability over the years and earned accolades for its valour and strike capabilities when deployed internally as well as abroad.
About Mechanical Training Institute (MTI)
i.The MTI is the oldest technical training institute of the force formed in 1935.
ii.The institute has undergone changes in locations as well as in nomenclature over the years and was rechristened as Mechanical Training Institute in 1980.

ENVIRONMENT

WCCB Conducts Operation Thunderbird & Operation Save Kurma to Combat Wildlife Crime
i. The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) under the Ministry of Environment and Forests coordinated nationwide ‘Operation Thunder Bird’ from January 30 to February 19, 2017 to combat illegal trade of wildlife animals in the country.
ii. The operation was undertaken in coordination with International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL).
iii. Operation Thunder Bird is the codename for Interpol’s multi-national and multi-species enforcement operation. It aimed to eliminate poaching of wildlife animals of India.
iv. ‘Operation Save Kurma’ is a turtle specific operation where over 15,000 live turtles were seized.

NGT Fixes Norms for Camping Activity Along The River Ganga
i. The National Green Tribunal has passed an order on March 2, 2017 prohibiting all camping activity on beaches along the Ganga which fall within 100 meters from the middle of the river during lean season flow from Shivpuri to Rishikesh, a hub for eco-tourism and river rafting.
ii. The Bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar gave the judgment upon a petition filed by an environment activist Vikrant Tongad who highlighted that illegal and improper activity at the camping sites led to the pollution of Ganga, forest areas and was violating the norms and guidelines.
iii. The bench clarified that rafting which is one of the significant components of eco-tourism should be encouraged but it should not cause any environmental and bio-diversity degradation.
iv. The permitted area can be used  for the camping activity i.e. putting up of tents, providing of toilets and such other requirements of necessity while the remaining part of the beach can only  be used for the purpose of walking and such activity which is not dependent upon setting up any permanent or temporary infrastructure.
v. A Study by Uttarakhand and the Wildlife Institute of India notified that there are total 56 beaches along the River Ganga out of which 33 were recommended for camping while 23 were out of bounds.
vi. Out of the 33 sites recommended for beach camping, 3 fall outside the restriction of 100 meters, 8 sites are wholly within 100 meters while the remaining 22 sites are partially within 100 meters and partially outside 100 meters.

SPORTS

Maria Sharapova handed wildcard to participate in the Italian Open
i. Russian Tennis star Maria Sharapova has been granted wild card Italian Open as makes her return from a doping ban. The Rome tournament runs from May 15 to May 21.
ii. The former world number one will return to the tour on April 26 in Stuttgart Open, after a 15-month ban for testing positive for the banned substance meldonium ends.
iii. The Russian would need as her world ranking has disappeared during her absence, to even make the qualifying event. Besides She has also been handed a wildcard for the Madrid Open.

OBITUARY

Former IFS and MP Syed Shahabuddin dies
i. Well known Former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officer and parliamentarian Syed Shahabuddin has passed away after a prolonged illness, at a hospital in New Delhi. He was 82.
ii. Syed began working as a diplomat for the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), later served three terms from 1979-1996 as a MP.
iii. In his bureaucratic stint he served as Joint Secretary in charge of South East Asia, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific in the Ministry of External Affairs.
iv. Besides the eminent man Shahabuddin was a former President of All India Muslim Majlise Mushawarat left party.

BOOKS & AUTHORS

‘Number Do Lie’ authored by former cricketer Aakash Chopra
‘Number Do Lie’ authored by former cricketer Aakash Choprai. Former Indian cricketer Akash Chopra released book titled Numbers Do Lie, 61 Hidden Cricket Stories which takes a different look at stats.
ii. The defensive opening batsman narrated about the cricket records and player performances more lucidly that reflects player’s impact in the game of cricket. It is based on the Impact Index analytics by Jaideep Verma, Soham Sarkhel and Nikhil Narain.
iii. The book is more about Impact Index measures performance based on the match in series context and not just plain statistics.

IMPORTANT DAYS

World Hearing Day – March 3, 2017
i. World Hearing Day is observed on each year on March 3rd to promote hearing since its pronouncement in 2007.
ii. The theme for World Hearing Day 2017 “Action for hearing loss: make a sound investment” reflects to the economic impact of hearing loss.
iii. This year WHO urged the theme which highlights actions which can be undertaken by decision-makers to address hearing loss.