Daily Current Affairs - 19th Apr 2017

Anti-dumping duty likely on hydrogen peroxide

  • India may impose anti-dumping duty of up to $118 per tonne on import of a chemical used by industries in applications such as corrosion control and paper bleaching from six countries.
  • The move is aimed at guarding domestic players from cheap imports of ‘hydrogen peroxide’ from Bangladesh, Taiwan, Korea, Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand.

At UN, US warns on human rights in Iran, Cuba, N.Korea

  • US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley has singled out North Korea and Syria over human rights violations. She also warned that new conflicts could be triggered by rights abuses in Iran, Cuba and North Korea.
  • Ms Haley also mentioned cases of torture in Burundi and Myanmar's crackdown on ethnic Rohingyas as human rights concerns.
  • The US views was challenged by Russia, China and other countries at the UN body.

Australia visa cut to hit Indian IT workers

  • Australian Prime Minister announced the scrapping of the Australian “457” visa programme that allowed Australian companies to hire Indians in a number of skilled jobs. The government would replace the programme with a more stringent system, making it difficult to hire non-Australian citizens.
  • Measures planned are reductions in the tenure of many of the visas from four years to two years.
  • The new visa programme will cut more than 200 eligible jobs for skilled migrants — from 651 to 435, Visa fees are set to increase, and the visas will be restricted to filling “critical skills shortages”.
  • The scheme was scrapped to address growing unemployment in the country. Australia wants to adopt ‘Australians first’ approach to skilled migration.
  • According to the Australian Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Indians constituted 76% of the total ‘457’ visas issued in the three IT streams, and 57% of permanent migrant visas issued in the skilled stream of workers last year.
  • 457 visa:The 457 visa allows Australian employers to employ foreign workers for a period up to four years in skilled jobs where there is a shortage of Australian workers. The visa holders are eligible to bring family members, who have unrestricted work and study rights in Australia. The visa was introduced during the tenure of Prime Minister John Howard in 1996.
  • Prime Minister: Malcolm Turnbull
  • Capital: Canberra
  • Currency: Australian dollar

Babri case: SC verdict on CBI plea

  • A Supreme Court Bench of Justices P.C. Ghose and Rohinton F. Nariman will pronounce judgment on a CBI appeal against the dropping of criminal conspiracy charge against prominent BJP and Sangh Parivar leaders, including L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, in the 25-year-old Babri Masjid demolition cases.
  • The Bench had indicated that it would order a joint trial in a Lucknow court after reviving criminal conspiracy charges against the leaders in connection with the razing down of the 16th century mosque in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992 by kar sevaks.
  • The court indicated that it will order the CBI court to conduct a time-bound trial and complete it in two years.

Banks investment in REIT, InvIT capped at 10%

  • The RBI stated that banks may not invest more than 10% of unit capital of Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs). During the first bimonthly policy review of 2017-18, the central bank allowed banks to invest in such funds, within the overall ceiling of 20% permitted for direct investments in capital markets (including venture capital funds).
  • REIT is an investment vehicle that allows both small and large investors to acquire ownership in real estate assets through purchase of units.
  • InvIT is an investment vehicle for owning undivided interest in other classes of assets such as hospitals, hotels, warehouses, shopping malls, roads, ports, etc.
  • Units of REIT/InvIT are listed on stock exchanges in India.

Centre promises election reforms

  • The Union government told the Supreme Court that it had constituted a task force to frame a road map for implementation of the Law Commission’s recommendations on decriminalisation of politics.
  • The Supreme Court asked the Centre to file an affidavit on a PIL petition seeking debarring of convicts for life from contesting polls and stopping them from entering the judiciary and the executive.
  • The Union Law and Justice Ministry, in its affidavit, told the court that the government was actively considering a law panel report titled “Electoral disqualifications”,and had appointed a team of senior officials to look into the issue.

Disabled people granted exemption from standing during National Anthem in movie halls

  • The Supreme Court has granted an exemption to six categories of disabled people from standing when the national anthem is played before the screening of a film in theatres.
  • The six categories include people suffering from cerebral palsy, Parkinson disease, muscular dystrophy and other categories of disability.
  • The order comes at the backdrop of reported incidents of people with disabilities facing the wrath of people trying to enforce patriotism during the national anthem.
  • In addition, the Court has also issued notice to the union government on the plea seeking Vande Mataram to be made mandatory in schools.
  • On November 30, 2016, the Supreme Court made it mandatory for all the cinema halls across the nation to play the national anthem with the image of the national flag displayed before screening of a movie.
  • The idea was to instill a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism among people.

IMF trims India growth forecast

  • The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in its latest annual World Economic Outlook (WEO) trimmed India’s annual growth forecast by 0.4 percentage points to 7.2% for 2017, citing the impact of demonetisation.
  • The reduction mainly because of the temporary negative consumption shock induced by cash shortages and payment disruptions from the recent currency exchange initiative.
  • The Indian government in February had pegged GDP growth at a higher-than-expected 7.1% for the current fiscal despite the note ban.
  • IMF: The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is an international organisation working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world
  • International Monetary Fund (IMF) Head: Christine Lagarde;
  • Headquarters: Washington, D.C., United States

Marathi film festival to be held in Sweden

  • A five-day Marathi International Film Festival is to be held in Stockholm, Sweden. It is being hosted by the Sweden India Film Association (SIFA) and the Goa-based Vinsan World, in association with the organisers of the Goa Marathi Film Festival.
  • The aim of the festival is to raise awareness about quality Marathi cinema from India and to educate the people of Sweden about vibrant, multi-faceted India.
  • This will lead to the strengthening of ties between the film industries of these two countries, while initiating an interest in each other’s culture.
  • Sweden Capital: Stockholm
  • Prime Minister: Stefan Löfven
  • Currency: Swedish krona

Met Department predicts normal monsoon for India this year

  • According to the India Meteorological Department (IMD), the country will receive 96 percent of the long-period average what it considers ‘normal’ monsoon rains. Every number forecast by the IMD has a built-in 5% error margin. IMD has adopted a new weather model this year, and it is still a work-in-progress.
  • This year, international weather models as well as the IMD’s own dynamical global climate forecasting system model indicate that El Nino conditions might set in during the “latter part of the monsoon.”
  • Last month, private weather forecasting company, Skymet had said that the monsoon was likely to be ‘below normal’ at 95% of the Long Period Average
  • IMD Director General: K.J. Ramesh; Headquarters: New Delhi

Netflix on the verge of hitting 100 million subscribers

  • Netflix is on the verge of surpassing 100 million global subscribers, a testament to how much the video- streaming service has changed the entertainment landscape since its debut a decade ago. It is expected to reach the milestone this weekend if its projections are correct.
  • Netflix: Netflix is an American entertainment company which specializes in providing streaming media and video-on-demand online and DVD by mail.
  • Chairman and CEO: Reed hastings

Pace of laying of roads rises to 22.5 km daily in 2016-17

  • The pace of road construction rose to 22.5 km per day in 2016-17, up from 16.6 km per day in 2015-16, according to Road Transport and Highways Minister.
  • In 2016-17, 16,271 km of road projects were awarded as against 10,000 km awarded in 2015-16. The pace of road construction rose 36% to 8,231 km in 2016-17 compared to the previous financial year.
  • The Ministry has targeted constructing 15,000 km of national highways during 2017-18 that translates into 41 km of road construction daily.
  • Union Road Transport and Highways Minister: Nitin Gadkari

Panama papers leak: Centre assures SC of probe

  • Assuring a thorough investigation into the Panama papers leak, the Centre told the Supreme Court that the probe into the offshore accounts of Indians linked to the leak is complicated and spans several international jurisdictions. The government is actively investigating the names and multiple agencies are involved.
  • The government assured the court that it is absolutely serious about probing disclosures made by a website in the Panama papers leak, allegedly naming nearly 500 high-profile Indians who have money parked in off-shore accounts.
  • It is stated that Panama papers include the names of Indians, including celebrities and industrialists, who have allegedly parked funds in offshore accounts in transactions brokered by the law firm.
  • The Panama leak contains information covering 2,10,000 companies in 21 offshore jurisdictions.

Phase I clinical trial of Zika vaccine to begin next month

  • Bharat Biotech International Ltd in Hyderabad will start the Phase I clinical trial of Zika virus vaccine (MR 766) in two centres in India next month. It already got the approval from DCGI [Drug Controller General of India] in March to carry out the Phase I clinical trial.The Phase I is being initiated based on the promising results in animals trials
  • It will be a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial involving 48 adults, both men and women (who are not pregnant). Each volunteer will receive two vaccine doses on days 0 [the starting day] and 30 and will be followed-up for a year for both safety and immune response. Three different dose ranges will be tested.
  • Zika Virus: Zika virus is a mosquito-borne flavivirus caused by a virus transmitted primarily by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • People with Zika virus disease can have symptoms including mild fever, skin rash, conjunctivitis, muscle and joint pain, malaise or headache. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days. Zika virus is a cause of microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • In October 2015 Brazil reported an association between Zika virus infection and microcephaly.

President inaugurates Global Exhibition on Services

  • President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated the Global Exhibition on Services (GES) which highlights India’s potential to boost its services exports across sectors at India Expo Mart, Greater Noida.
  • The event has been organised by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry together with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Services Export Promotion Council. This is the 3rd edition of GES and the earlier editions were held in 2015 and 2016.
  • This edition is set to see the participation of over 70 countries and comes in the backdrop of increased focus on services trade and India’s submission to the World Trade Organisation on trade facilitation in services.
  • The main focus of the event will be on 20 services sectors, including information technology, tourism and hospitality, logistics, education and financial services.
  • The objective is to position India as a leader in the services sector and tap potential for exports in the services sector. Also to draw investments into the country in the services sector.
  • India’s services exports stood at $146.5 billion in the first 11 months of 2016-17, growing at 3 per cent.
  • In India, IT and software services accounted for over 48% of overall services exports.

RBI red flags banks’ telecom exposure

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has raised a red flag over banks loans to telecom players and asked the lenders to increase their standard asset provisioning more than what is prescribed so that they can built necessary resilience.
  • The telecom sector is reporting stressed financial conditions, and presently interest coverage ratio for the sector is less than one. Interest coverage ratio of less than one means the company’s EBIDTA (Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization) is not sufficient to repay interest, let alone principal.
  • Telecom players are reeling under a huge debt — estimated to be about Rs. 4.2 lakh crore — amid a tariff war and a consolidation among some of the players.
  • Banks are reeling under asset quality pressure amid sluggish economic growth as their gross non-performing asset rate rose to 9.1% in September 2016, from 5.1% a year ago.

SBI beats ONGC to become most-valued PSU firm

  • State Bank of India (SBI) surpassed ONGC to become the country’s most valued state-owned firm in terms of market valuation. At end of trade, the market cap of SBI was Rs. 2,35,307.51 crore. This was about Rs. 2,961.79 crore more than ONGC’s Rs. 2,32,345.72 crore.
  • ONGC once used to be the country’s most-valued company in terms of market valuation.
  • Among the top-10 most valued companies list, SBI is at fifth position.

Tata’s BRABO, First Made-In-India Industrial Robot

  • TAL Manufacturing Solutions, a wholly owned subsidiary of Tata Motors has launched India’s first industrial-articulated robot and it goes by the name “BRABO”. The robot is indigenously developed for micro, small and medium enterprises in India.
  • The robot is primarily developed to complement the human workforce and repeatedly perform high volume, dangerous and time-consuming tasks ranging from handling of raw materials to packaging of finished products.
  • BRABO was designed and manufactured at the TAL’s Pune factory.
  • The robot will be easy to install, use, program and maintain. It comes with low-cost power transmission system. It will be able to work on single phase power supply suitable for MSMEs.
  • It has an inbuilt programmable logic controller and can act as a virtual controller for simulation.

TCS profit rises 4.2% to Rs. 6,608 cr.

  • Tata Consultany Services (TCS), India’s largest software exporter, reported a 4.2% increase in fourth-quarter net profit to Rs. 6,608 crore. Revenue in the January-March quarter also grew 4.2% (year-on-year) to Rs. 29,642 crore.
  • The financial year 2016-17 witnessed broad-based growth across markets with all industry verticals except BFSI, retail and hi-tech growing in double digits.
  • Among major markets, Europe grew in double digits at 13.6% and crossed $2 billion milestone in revenues followed by North America at 7.6% and U.K. at 6.1%. Among growth markets, MEA grew at 14.8%, Latin America 14.1% while India grew at 10.1%.
  • Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director: Rajesh Gopinathan

US President Donald Trump signs executive order to tighten H-1B visa programme

  • US President Donald Trump has signed an executive order to tighten the rules for technology companies seeking to bring highly skilled foreign workers to the United States. The order signed by Mr Trump targets the H-1B visa programme.
  • The order directs US agencies to propose rules to prevent immigration fraud and abuse in the programme. Agencies have also been asked to suggest changes so that the H-1B visas are granted to the most-skilled or highest-paid applicants.
  • H-1B visa programme undercuts American workers by bringing in large numbers of cheaper foreign workers, which drives down US wages.

Vistadome, India's First Train With Glass Ceiling, LED Lights And Rotable Seats Launched

  • Union Railway Minister has flagged off Visakhapatnam-Kirandul passenger train with first of its kind, see-through, vistadome coaches through a video link from Bhubaneswar.
  • The Vistadome air-conditioned coach is a first-of-its-kind on Indian Railways that has been introduced with an aim to promote tourism.
  • The 40 seat coach has been built by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu at a cost of INR 3.38 crore.
  • At present only one coach has been attached to the train on trial basis. Similar coaches are expected to be introduced in other routes like northeast as well.
  • The vistadome coaches have the specially designed features like glass roof, LED lights, rotating seats, GPS-based information system, large glass windows and observation lounge among others. It also has a glass-domed ceiling, automatic sliding doors and a multi-tier luggage rack.
  • The coach will offer a panoramic view of the sites along the 128-km rail route from Visakhapatnam to Araku valley hill station.
  • Union Railway Minister: Suresh Prabhu

Visually impaired Indian runner Sagar Baheti completes historic Boston Marathon

  • Bangalore-based Sagar Baheti has become the first visually impaired Indian runner to complete the historic Boston Marathon, the world's oldest, most competitive and the hardest marathon to qualify for.
  • He completed a distance of 42.16 km distance in just over four hours.
  • Supported by the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired (MABVI), 31 year old Baheti finished the 121st Boston Marathon as one of 30,000 runners.
  • The 2017 Boston Marathon has been recorded as the second hottest marathon in a decade.
  • Boston Marathon is an annual event hosted in several cities in greater Boston, United States.
  • Baheti, a businessman by profession was diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease, a type of macular degeneration that eventually leads to blindness, in 2013.