Daily Current Affairs - 22nd Mar 2017

1.04 crore people hit by arsenic contamination in Bengal: Report

  • According to a recent report tabled in the Lok Sabha, West Bengal has the highest number of arsenic-affected people in the country. State’s 83 blocks in eight districts have ground water affected by arsenic contamination.
  • The total number of arsenic-affected people in the country is about 1.48 crore (as of March 2017).
  • West Bengal has topped the list with more than 1.04 crore arsenic-affected persons followed by Bihar in the second place with 16.88 lakh persons, with Assam in third with 14.48 lakh victims.
  • According to the WHO’s guidelines for drinking water quality (2011), the permissible limit of Arsenic in groundwater is .01 mg/ litre.
  • Arsenic is a natural component in the earth’s crust. It is widely distributed throughout the environment in the air, water and land. It is highly toxic in its inorganic form.
  • Long-term exposure to arsenic from drinking-water and food can lead to chronic arsenic poisoning. It can cause cancer, skin lesions, developmental effects, cardiovascular disease, neurotoxicity and diabetes.

Aadhaar to be must for I-T returns

  • The government decided to lower the limit on cash transaction from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 2 lakh and make Aadhaar number mandatory for filing income tax returns and applying for a PAN card. An amendment, to this effect, in the draft Finance Bill 2017 was taken up by the Lok Sabha.
  • Earlier this week, the centre has made it mandatory for beneficiaries to quote their Aadhaar number to avail themselves of benefits under the Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY) for skill development, and the Self Employment Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers.
  • The Centre had identified 31 schemes in which the Aadhaar could be made mandatory.
  • The Cabinet Secretariat has asked all Ministries to issue a notification under Section 7 of the Aadhaar Act, 2016, which makes the use of Aadhaar “an identifier for delivery of subsidies or benefits or schemes” to beneficiaries.

Billionaire philanthropist David Rockefeller dies at age 101

  • David Rockefeller, the U.S. banker, philanthropist, presidential adviser and heir to one of history’s most fabled fortunes, has died. At 101, he was the world’s oldest billionaire.
  • Rockefeller was the youngest and last-surviving grandson of Standard Oil founder John D. Rockefeller, the nation’s first billionaire. He was the only one of John D. Rockefeller Jr.’s five sons who spent his entire professional career in the corporate world, rising to chief executive officer of Chase Manhattan Bank during his 35 years at the company.
  • In 2006, he left $225 million to the Rockfellars Brother's Fund, which he and his brothers established in 1940 to promote social change worldwide. In 2008 Rockefeller gave $100 million to his alma mater, Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Centre collects ` 391529 cr as advance tax 16th of this month during current fiscal

  • The Union government has collected 3 lakh 91 thousand 529 crore rupees as advance tax till 16th of this month during the current fiscal compared to 3 lakh 52 thousand 899 crore rupees in the corresponding period last year.
  • In the current financial year, 7lakh 65 thousand 525 crore rupees have been collected as net direct taxes up to 16th of this month. In the previous financial year, amount of 7 lakh 42 thousand12 crore rupees was collected from direct taxes after refunds.

Centre designates 12 Olympians as National Observers to assist govt, SAI, NSFs

  • The Centre has designated 12 Olympians as National Observers in their respective disciplines to assist the Government, Sports Authority of India, and National Sports Federations (NSFs) concerned in the preparation and implementation of the long term development plan with respect to high priority and priority sports.
  • The National Observers will also be consulted as a group on crosscutting issues impacting sports development in the country and will be playing a key role in the implementation of action plans for Mission Olympics 2020, 2024 and 2028.
  • National Observers include Abhinav Bindra, P T Usha and Anju Bobby George (athletics), Sanjeev Kumar Singh (archery), Aparna Popat (badminton), MC Mary Kom and Akhil Kumar (boxing), Jagbir Singh (hockey), Somdev Devvarman (tennis), Karnam Malleshwari (weightlifting), Sushil Kumar (wrestling), I M Vijayan (football), Khajan Singh (swimming) and Kamlesh Mehta (table tennis)

Centre eyes ways to open multibrand retail

  • In a bid to ease Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) norms related to Multi-brand Retail Trading (MBRT), the Centre is considering various options including allowing FDI in MBRT of certain non-food items such as health and wellness products, with a rider that they should be locally manufactured.
  • The final call would be taken only after the ongoing Budget Session of Parliament ends on April 12.
  • In the BJP’s 2014 Election Manifesto it categorically ruled out FDI in the ‘politically sensitive’ sector. As the party is committed to protecting the interest of small and medium retailers, SMEs and those employed by them.

D Mart shares double on debut

  • Avenue Supermarts, the operator of supermarket retail chain D-Mart, more than doubled on debut on hefty buying by investors. The stock listed at Rs 604.4 on the Bombay Stock Exchange, up 102 percent over issue price of Rs 299.
  • The public issue, which received bids worth Rs 1.38 lakh crore against an issue size Rs 1,326.70 crore (excluding the portion of anchor investors), was oversubscribed 104.59 times.
  • At the current market price, the company's market capitalisation is almost Rs. 40,000 crore, which makes it much bigger than older listed entities like Future Retail (Rs. 12,000 crore) and V2 Retail (Rs. 562 crore).

For the first time, TV matches print in advertisement revenue

  • According to a FICCI-KPMG report, television revenue from advertisement jumped 11% in 2016 to Rs. 20,120 crore, which is almost equal to that of print which was at Rs. 20,130 crore.
  • As revenue growth from ads slowed in the English language print media, television caught up with print in terms of ad revenue for the first time.
  • Overall revenue of TV was pegged at Rs. 58,830 crore in 2016, which is a growth of 8.3%, while print grew 7% to Rs. 30,330 crore.
  • Print revenue growth rates continued to register a slowdown, clocking a 7% growth in 2016 as English language newspapers continued to be under pressure.According to the report. Regional language newspapers continued to perform well.

India slips in human development index

  • According to the 2016 Human Development Report (HDR) released by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), India slipped down one place from 130 to 131 among the 188 countries.
  • India’s human development index (HDI) value of 0.624 puts it in the “medium human development” category, alongside countries such as Congo, Namibia and Pakistan. It is ranked third among the SAARC countries, behind Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India still had the lowest rank among BRIC nations.
  • The world’s top three countries in HDI are Norway (0.949), Australia (0.939) and Switzerland (0.939).
  • The HDI is a measure for assessing progress in three basic dimensions of human development: a long and healthy life, access to knowledge, and access to a decent standard of living.

India, Afghanistan talks soon to boost trade

  • India will soon hold talks with Afghanistan on ways to boost bilateral trade and investment.
  • This is to help in the development of Afghanistan which is a land-locked and Least Developed Country (LDC) as well as to boost trade and investment in South Asia through better regional connectivity. It will also help India to improve trade ties with Central Asian nations.
  • In this regard, the ‘India-Afghanistan Joint Working Group on Trade, Commerce and Investment’ meeting will discuss ways to make use of the United Nations TIR (Transports Internationaux Routiers or International Road Transport) Convention to boost trade between India and Afghanistan through Pakistan.
  • India is keen to join APTTA (Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA)) and Afghanistan has backed India’s readiness to be an APTTA member but Pakistan has so far rejected such a proposal.

India, Pakistan to review Miyar project

  • India and Pakistan agreed on redesigning the Miyar Hydroelectric project, at the end of two-day talks of Indus Water Commissioners in Islamabad.
  • It was also agreed that the Lower Kalnai and the Pakal Dul projects would be inspected again.
  • The Pakistani delegation was headed by Mirza Asif Saeed while P.K. Saxena led the Indian team.
  • The talks between the two countries began after 22 months when Pakistan in 2015 skipped consultations following objections on the Kishenganga and the Ratle hydroelectric projects by India.

Jesus’ tomb to be unveiled to public

  • The restored tomb in which Jesus Christ’ body is believed to have been burried after his crucifixion will be unveiled to the public at a ceremony at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem’s Old City.
  • A team of Greek scientists and restorers has completed the nine-month renovation project, which focused on a small structure above the burial chamber, known as the Edicule. It is the most sacred monument in Christianity.
  • The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, in the heart of the Christian quarter of the walled Old City, covers the assumed site of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection. It is a huge attraction for pilgrims and tourists from all over the world,

National is sole bidder to insure tea crop

  • National Insurance Company has emerged as the sole bidder for the proposed crop insurance scheme for small tea growers for which expression of interest (EoI) was invited by the Tea Board.
  • The Tea Board had relaxed some terms in the crop insurance scheme following very poor response to the first round of bidding in November 2016.
  • As against the earlier 10%, the cover would come into force when the loss is 15%. However, despite the relaxation, several insurers dropped out of the race, leaving the state-owned firm as the lone bidder.

Ravindra Jadeja tops ICC's test bowlers ranking

  • Indian players continued to rule the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Test rankings. Ravindra Jadeja tops the ICC's test bowlers rankings leaving behind spin twin Ravichandran Ashwin in the latest list of bowlers.
  • Left-arm spinner Jadeja moves past Ashwin after the nine wickets haul in the drawn third Test against Australia at Ranchi. Jadeja has become only the third Indian player after Ashwin and Bishan Singh Bedi to top the bowling charts.
  • Cheteshwar Pujara gets career-high second rank among test batsmen with 861 points. Top-ranked Australian captain Steve Smith has reached a career-high rating of 941 points.

SC Threatens Sahara to Pay up Else it Would Auction Aamby Valley

  • The Supreme Court warned the Sahara Group that its Aamby Valley property worth 39,000 crore rupees in Pune will be auctioned if the company fails to deposit 5092 crore rupees with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) by 17th of April.
  • Aamby Valley is Sahara’s flagship project consisting of luxury resorts, man-made lakes and an airport. It is spread over 4,000 hectares in Maharashtra.
  • SEBI moved the apex court in August 2012 to recover 36,000 crore rupees from Sahara to refund investors who bought securities from two group firms.

Trump signs bill authorising NASA funding, Mars exploration

  • US President Donald Trump signed a bill authorising 19.5 billion US dollar funding for the NASA programmes and setting a new goal to send humans to Mars.
  • The law, known as the NASA Transition Authorization Act, gives the space agency the funding for fiscal year 2018.
  • It also asks the agency to create a plan to send a crewed mission to Mars in the 2030s.

U.S., U.K. limit electronic devices on planes

  • The United States and Britain imposed restrictions on carry-on electronic devices on planes coming from certain airports in Muslim-majority countries in West Asia and North Africa in response to unspecified terrorism threats.
  • Passengers travelling from those airports could not bring devices larger than a cellphone, such as tablets, portable DVD players, laptops and cameras, into the main cabin. Instead, they must be in checked baggage. The new restrictions were prompted by reports that militant groups want to smuggle explosive devices in electronic gadgets.
  • The airports include Cairo; Istanbul; Kuwait City; Doha, Qatar; Casablanca, Morocco; Amman, Jordan; Riyadh and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in United Arab Emirates.

US president nominates Indian-American to top judicial post

  • Amul Thapar, an Indian-American legal luminary, was nominated by the U.S. President Donald Trump to a key judicial position on the Court of Appeals. If confirmed by the Senate, Mr. Thapar will be part of the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears appeals from Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and Michigan.