Daily Current Affairs - 27th Mar 2017

Airfares set to rise as Centre hikes airport charges

  • Airfares are set to go up as the government has decided to raise airport charges across all non-major airports operated by Airports Authority of India (AAI) by 5% every year beginning April 1.
  • This is the second time the government has raised airport charges in the last five months. The passenger service fee, which is charged as a part of air ticket fare, will increase from Rs. 85 per passenger at present to Rs. 89 in 2017-18. The fee will subsequently be increased to Rs. 93 in 2018-19 and Rs. 98 per passenger in 2019-20.
  • The raise in fares will be applicable on non-major airports such as Amritsar, Nagpur, Bagdogra, Madurai, Vijayawada, Jammu, Vadodara, among others, which handle an annual traffic of less than 15 lakh.

Bulgaria center-right Prime Minister Boyko Borisov set for return to power

  • Bulgarians have appeared to back Boyko Borisov for the third time in an early snap election held on Sunday. Preliminary official results put his pro-European Union center-right party in first place, winning around 32 percent of the vote.
  • Bulgaria's Socialists Party(BSP) has conceded defeat after exit polls showed her party placing second in the parliamentary election.
  • Boyko Borisov, the 57-year-old head of Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria (GERB) party has the chance to form the country’s fourth government in as many years.
  • Borisov's most recent resignation and the following failure of Bulgarian parties to form government triggered the country's third parliamentary elections in just four years.
  • Bulgaria Capital: Sofia; Currency: Lev

Cleartrip looks to expand footprint in West Asia

  • Online travel portal Cleartrip, which aims to break even in the next fiscal year, plans to invest in expanding its footprint in the West Asia market.
  • Cleartrip is currently looking at investing in hotels and accommodation as well as its almost year-old hyper-local activities segment.
  • It raised an undisclosed amount in funding from existing investors, U.S.-based Concur Technologies and Gund Investment, among others, in June.
  • India's online travel market is estimated to be about $30 billion. According to a Tracxn report, about 56 travel start-ups had started operations in the country last year. MakeMyTrip and Ibibo merged in October last.

GIC may be first PSU to go public

  • General Insurance Corporation (GIC Re) is likely to be the first PSU insurer to tap the capital market as the Finance Ministry has started looking for merchant bankers to manage its IPO.
  • The government holds 100% stake in GIC Re, which provides reinsurance support to 54 general and life insurance companies, both public and private, in the Indian market.
  • The authorised and paid-up share capital of the company was Rs. 1,000 crore and Rs. 430 crore, as on March 31, 2016.

Government to enact law to enforce dam safety regulations

  • The Union Water Resources Ministry has drafted a new dam safety bill to contemplate an institutional mechanism to improve safety of around 5300-odd dams across in India. It will now go to the Union Cabinet for approval and its introduction in Parliament.
  • There are around 4900 large dams in India and several thousand smaller ones. Recent analysis of the state of India’s dams also has found that half of them did not meet contemporary safety standards.
  • Currently, dam safety guidelines are not effectively enforced by the States. The dam safety bill, proposes a Central authority and State-level bodies that will enforce regulation.

Hong Kong chooses first woman head

  • A Beijing-backed civil servant, Carrie Lam, was chosen to be Hong Kong’s next leader amid accusations that Beijing is meddling and denying the financial hub a more populist leader.
  • Ms. Lam, who will become Hong Kong’s first woman Chief Executive when she takes office on July 1, won 777 votes compared with 365 for her closest rival.
  • The majority of the China-ruled city’s 7.3 million people have no say in deciding their leader, who is chosen from among several candidates by a 1,200-person election committee stacked with pro-Beijing and pro-establishment loyalists.
  • Hong Kong officially called the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People's Republic of China, is an autonomous territory. The city is one of the world's leading financial, banking and trading centers.

Impact crater linked to old Martian tsunamis located

  • Scientists have identified a crater on Mars, possibly created by an asteroid that triggered 150 metre-high tsunami waves when it plunged into an ocean on the red planet three billion years ago.
  • The researchers have identified the impact crater, a 120 km-wide bowl called Lomonosov. The feature is extremely degraded today, with a collapsed crater rim.
  • Scientists think an ocean might once have filled the vast lowland region that occupies the Red Planet’s northerly latitudes.

India eyes Dhruv’s foreign market

  • As part of efforts to enhance defence cooperation and boost exports with friendly countries, India is in discussions with Sri Lanka and several Southeast Asian nations for the supply of Dhruv, the indigenously developed advanced light helicopter (ALH).
  • Dhruv, designed and developed by the HAL, is powered by the Shakti engine jointly developed by it and Turbomeca of France. Over 200 helicopters are in service with the Indian military.
  • Supplying defence equipment and providing assistance in setting up domestic manufacturing capability have become the new normal in India’s defence cooperation with regional countries.
  • India is in talks with Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka for ALH.
  • To increase the delivery rate, the HAL recently set up a second assembly line in Kanpur, which is expected to produce 12 helicopters a year.

Indian Navy’s iconic Tupolev aircraft to be decommissioned

  • The Indian Navy’s iconic Tupolev-142M anti-submarine warfare aircraft will be decommissioned. The planes have been the mainstay in guarding the Indian Ocean region for almost three decades.
  • The Soviet-era aircraft, one of the most formidable airborne reconnaissance platforms around the world, has been part of major operations since its induction in 1988.

Indo-U.S. civil nuclear pact likely to miss June deadline

  • More than two years after India and the U.S. announced that the civil nuclear deal was done, its actual operationalisation is in doubt over a number of developments that stretch from a school scandal in the Japanese parliament in Tokyo to the Pennsylvania headquarters of Westinghouse Electric, which is expected to file for bankruptcy this week.
  • Earlier the two sides had agreed to work towards finalising the contractual arrangements by June 2017 for six reactors to be built in Andhra Pradesh by Toshiba-owned Westinghouse and the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd (NPCIL).
  • However, recent developments have led to uncertainty over the June 2017 timeline.
  • The reason for the concern is that the Indo-U.S. nuclear arrangement hinged on two major factors — the completion of the India-Japan Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA), as Toshiba and other suppliers for reactor parts are bound by Japanese laws and by the actual contract to be negotiated by the U.S.-based Westinghouse.

Iran imposes sanctions on 15 American companies

  • Iran has imposed sanctions on 15 American companies over their alleged support for Israel, terrorism and repression in the region. The companies are barred from any agreements with Iranian firms and that former and current directors will not be eligible for visas.
  • The move is seen as a response to U.S. sanctions placed on dozens of Iranian entities in February following an Iran missile test.
  • Iran's sanctions are unlikely to have much impact as none of the targeted U.S. companies are known to do business in Iran.

Massive brown dwarf 750 light years away

  • Scientists have identified a record-breaking brown dwarf, which possesses the purest composition that is about 90 times as massive as the planet Jupiter, located 750 light years away in the outermost reaches of our galaxy.
  • The object, known as SDSS J0104+1535, is located 750 light years away in the constellation of Pisces. It is made of gas that is around 250 times purer than the Sun, hence consists of more than 99.99% hydrogen and helium.
  • Estimated to have formed about 10 billion years ago, measurements also suggest that it has a mass equivalent to 90 times that of Jupiter, making it the most massive brown dwarf found to date.
  • Brown dwarfs are intermediate between planets and fully-fledged stars.

Merkel's CDU wins Germany's regional elections

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party easily won a regional election, dealing an early blow to centre-left hopes of ending her more than decade-long reign.
  • In the Saarland State vote, Ms. Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) won 40% against 30% for the Social Democrats (SPD), according to early results by public broadcaster ZDF.
  • The vote in the tiny State which has a population of only one million, was seen as an indication ahead of the September 24 general election in which Ms. Merkel will seek a fourth term.
  • The Social Democrats (SPD) led by Martin Schulz, the former president of the European Parliament, has made strong gains in national opinion surveys after he took over the party. He will be contesting against Merkel.

Rashmmi finishes 19th in women’s skeet

  • National champion Rashmee Rathore shot 64 and was placed 19th in women’s skeet in the Shotgun World Cup.
  • Kimberly Rhode of the US won gold, beating compatriot Caitlin Connor 54-53.
  • The results: Women’s skeet: 1. Kimberly Rhode (USA) 54 (70); 2. Caitlin Connor (USA) 53 (72); 3. Cao Yi (Chn) 41 (71); 19. Rashmee Rathore 64.

Santosh Trophy: Bengal beat Goa in final to win record 32nd title

  • Bengal defeated Goa 1-0 in extra-time in the final of the Santosh Trophy, to lift the title for a record 32nd time.
  • Manvir Singh struck in the 119th minute for a 1-0 win over Goa, extending their domination in the premier domestic football tournament.
  • After playing out a goalless 90 minutes, Manvir finally came good in the dying moments of extra time to leave the home crowd shocked at the GMC Stadium.

Scientists develop solar-powered skin for prosthetic limbs

  • Researchers including Indian origin from University of Glasgow have developed a new prototype prosthetic limbs having solar-powered skin.
  • The solar-powered skin will give amputees with prosthetic limbs a better sense capabilities of touch, temperature and texture compared to battery powered prosthetics.
  • The new technology involves installing a thin layer of pure carbon around a prosthetic arm, hand or leg. As this allows light to pass through it and be easily used as solar energy.
  • The technology also has potential to increase the functionality of robots, allowing them to have a better understanding of what they touch.

Sudan opens humanitarian corridor for famine-hit South Sudan

  • Sudan will open a humanitarian corridor for delivering food aid to thousands of people suffering from famine in South Sudan, which split from the North Sudan in 2011.
  • South Sudan, the world's youngest nation, has declared famine in parts of Unity State, saying 100,000 people face starvation and another million are on the brink of famine.
  • At least 7.5 million people across South Sudan -- almost two thirds of the population, need humanitarian assistance.
  • Sudan Capital: Khartoum; President : Omar al-Bashir; Currency: Sudanese Pound
  • South Sudan Capital: Juba President : Salva Kiir Mayardit; Currency: South Sudanese Pound

U.K. calls for access to messaging services

  • The British government stated that its security services must have access to encrypted messaging applications such as WhatsApp, revealing it was used by the killer behind the Parliament attack.
  • Home Secretary told Sky News it was completely unacceptable that police and security services had not been able to crack the heavily encrypted service.

Union Government to launch Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana

  • The Union government of India is going to launch Rashtriya Vayoshri Yojana (RVY) scheme for providing physical aids and assisted-living devices for senior citizens belonging to BPL category.
  • It is the first-of-its-kind Central Sector Scheme (CCS) in India, to be fully funded by the Central government. It is expected to benefit 5,20,000 senior citizens.
  • The eligible elderly beneficiary will get devices such as walking sticks, elbow crutches, walkers/crutches, tripods/qadpods, hearing aids, wheelchair, aificial dentures and spectacles.
  • It will be implemented through ‘Artificial Limbs Manufacturing Corporation (ALIMCO), a PSU under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • As per the Census of 2011, there are 10.38 crore senior citizens in the country and 5.2% of them suffer from some sort of old age-related disability.
  • It is projected that the number of senior citizens will increase to around 173 million by 2026.