Daily Current Affairs - 01st Apr 2017

Vanaja N Sarna appointed new CBEC Chief

  • Senior revenue service officer Vanaja N Sarna will be the next Chairperson of the Central Board of Excise and Customs. The decision was taken by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
  • Sarna, a Customs and Central Excise officer of the 1980 batch, is at present posted as Member, CBEC. She will take over from incumbent Najib Shah.
  • The CBEC will be responsible for ensuring successful roll out and subsequent implementation of the GST, with the help of VAT officers of state governments and others. The board will also be rechristened as Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) after necessary legislative approval in the GST regime. The CBEC - which works under Finance Ministry - comprises of a chairperson and a maximum of six members.

Apple opens app accelerator in Bengaluru

  • Apple Inc, the maker of the iPhone, announced the opening of its App Accelerator in Bengaluru.
  • The company said that the accelerator would provide specialized support for developers making apps on its mobile operating system iOS, which is the foundation for its products like i Phone, i Pad and iPod touch. The firm said that it would also provide tools and best practices to help them hone their skills and transform the design, quality and performance of their apps on iOS.
  • The first-of-its-kind facility will also provide support and guidance on Swift, Apple’s powerful and intuitive programming language created to build apps for iOS, Apple TV and Apple Watch.

ASCI asks Airtel to withdraw ‘misleading’ advertisement

  • The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has asked Bharti Airtel to withdraw or modify its advertisement that claims the operator’s networks are the fastest in the country.
  • The move came after rival Reliance Jio Infocomm (RJio) filed a complaint with the advertising industry watchdog stating Airtel’s claims were false, misleading and incorrect.
  • Airtel has claimed to be the fastest network based on a report by Seattle-based broadband testing firm Ookla. RJio has sent a legal notice to Ookla too.

Bank of England to use palm oil for £ 20 note

  • The Bank of England is considering using palm oil or coconut oil in the production of the new £ 20 note, following criticism from Hindus, Sikhs and vegetarians of the use of animal fat in the plastic £ 5 notes.
  • The new £ 20 note is due to be introduced by 2020.
  • The Bank said it was now assessing whether palm oil or coconut oil should be used instead. Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, vegetarians and others in the U.K. have objected to the tallow used in plastic notes.

Contractors to pay for bad roads

  • Road contractors may have to pay out up to `1 lakh per accidental death caused due to faulty road design and poor maintenance of the roads, according to the proposed Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill approved by the Union Cabinet.
  • The insurance claim amount has been reduced to `5 lakh from `10 lakh from the earlier proposal.
  • The new proposed Bill also “proposes Aadhaar- based verification for grant of online services, including learner’s licence”.

Core sector growth slows to more than 1-year low

  • The growth of eight core sectors slipped to a more than one-year low of 1% in February mainly due to decline in output of crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers and cement.
  • The growth rate of eight infrastructure sectors of coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity was 9.4% in February 2016.
  • The core sectors, which contribute 38% to the total industrial production, expanded 4.4% in April-February this fiscal compared to 3.5% growth in the same period previous financial year, according to the data released by the commerce and industry ministry.

Fiscal deficit exceeds FY target in Feb.

  • India’s fiscal deficit at the end of February worked out to `6.05 lakh crore, 113.4% of the full year target for the 2016—17 fiscal, mainly because of lower realisation on non-tax revenues, according to government data.
  • The fiscal deficit, reflection of government borrowing to meet revenue—expenditure gap was at 113.4% in the 11-month period as compared to 107.4% in the similar period previous fiscal.

Gujarat to tighten cow slaughter law

  • Gujarat came up with an amendment to make cow slaughter an offense punishable with life term, a first in the country.
  • The most stringent provision in the amendment Bill is awarding maximum imprisonment up to life, but not less than 10 years, to those found involved in slaughter of cows, calves, bulls and bullocks.
  • The Bill also bans transportation of animals from one place to another at night while providing for permanent forfeiture of vehicles involved in the transportation of progeny of cows, beef and beef products.

India to cut Iranian oil purchases in row over gas field

  • Indian state refiners will cut oil imports from Iran in 2017/18 by a fifth, as Indian government takes a more assertive stance over an impasse on a giant gas field that it wants awarded to an Indian consortium.
  • At the heart of the spat is that a group of Indian oil companies headed by Oil and Natural Gas Corp wants to develop Iran’s Farzad B gas field.
  • Iran has yet to hand out a concession that would allow its development.
  • ONGC Videsh has submitted a $3 billion development plan to Iranian authorities to develop the offshore field estimated to hold reserves of 12.5 trillion cubic feet, with a lifetime of 30 years.

New I-T form seeks details of deposits of over `2 lakh made during note ban

  • Taxpayers with annual income up to `50 lakh will have to submit details of any cash deposits of over `2 lakh into their bank accounts during the period of demonetization in the new income tax return form.
  • The information has to be furnished in the new one page, simplified Income Tax Return (ITR) form–I or ‘Sahaj’ that was notified by the Central Board of Direct Taxes.
  • The CBDT has also made it mandatory to furnish the 12-digit Aadhaar numberand if it is not available, then the 28-digit Aadhaar enrolment ID.

New visa regime starts from April 1

  • India’s new liberalized visa structure will start from April 1, months after it was cleared by the Union Cabinet.
  • E-visas have further been divided into e-tourist visa, e-business visa and e-medical visa. The e-visa facility has been extended to the nationals of 161 countries for entry through 24 airports.
  • The window for application under the e-visa scheme has been increased from 30 to 120 days and duration of stay on e-visa has been increased from 30 to 60 days with dual entry on e-tourist and e-business visa and triple entry on e-medical visa.

Notify HIV-hit children as disadvantaged group: Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court asked the state governments to consider issuing a notification to include children living with or affected by HIV as belonging to disadvantaged group for imparting compulsory education.
  • The bench, which asked the states to bring out a notification within four weeks, also made it clear that those states which are not willing to come out with the notification will have to spell out the reasons in an affidavit as to why they are considering not to do so.

Policy change to push stalled power projects

  • The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved amendments in the Mega Power Policy to push 31 GW stranded projects entailing an investment of `1.5 lakh crore.
  • The initiative is mainly aimed at bringing down power tariff for making electricity more affordable and achieving the ambitious goal of 24X7 power for all.
  • The CCEA approved 25 Provisional Mega certified projects for Mega Policy benefits in proportion to the long-term power purchase agreement tied up as permitted under the Mega Power Policy.

SBI merger with associate banks, Bharatiya Mahila Bank effective Apri 1

  • The State Bank of India (SBI) has merged its operations with its four associate banks and the Bharatiya Mahila Bank, in a move that will create one of the top 50 banks in the world.
  • SBI has merged its operations five its four associate banks - State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Travancore, State Bank of Patiala, State Bank of Mysore, and State Bank of Bikaner and Jaipur. It has also merged its operations with the Bharatiya Mahila Bank.
  • The merged behemoth will have an asset base of about `37 lakh crore, 22,500 branches, 58,000 ATMs, and 50 crore customers.

Small savings interest rates cut by 0.1%

  • The government has lowered interest rates on small saving schemes such as Public Provident Fund (PPF), Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) and Sukanya Samriddhi scheme by 0.1 per cent for the April-June quarter, a move that would prompt banks to cut their deposit rates.
  • PPF scheme will fetch lower annual rate of 7.9%, the same as 5-year National Savings Certificate. KVP investments will yield 7.6% and mature in 112 months.
  • The one for girl child savings, Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme, will offer 8.4% annually, from 8.5% at present, while it will be the same at 8.4 % for the five-year Senior Citizens Savings Scheme.

SpaceX Creates History With Second 'Used' Rocket Trip to Space

  • US space firm SpaceX made history as it launched an already-used Falcon 9 rocket back into space for the first time and then landed its first stage on a droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.
  • The two-stage rocket, carrying a communications satellite into orbit for Luxembourg-based satellite operator SES, blasted off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
  • Previously, the first stage of the rocket for the SES-10 mission flew in a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station cargo for the US space agency NASA in April 2016.