Daily Current Affairs - 25th Apr 2017

Bihar adopts Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill

  • Both the Houses of Bihar Legislature unanimously adopted the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill along with the Bihar taxation (Amendment) Bill, becoming the second State after Telangana, to pave the way for roll out of the GST from July 1.

Panel moots UID numbers for cows

  • The Centre has proposed issuing Unique Identification Number Sequences for cows and their progeny to protect them from cattle smuggling. The plan is the brainchild of the Union Agriculture Ministry for tamper-proof identification of cattle using polyurethene tags with a Unique Identification Number Sequence.
  • This may be made mandatory for all cow and its progeny throughout India for all cattle that is owned.
  • The Committee recommended that each animal be tagged with proper records of identification details, including age, breed, sex, lactation, height, body, colour, horn type, tail switch and special marks.

Astronaut Peggy Whitson breaks new space record

  • Astronaut Peggy Whitson broke the U.S. record for most time in space. The International Space Station’s commander surpassed the record of 534 days, two hours and 48 minutes for most accumulated time in space by an American.
  • She's beaten the record previously set by Jeff Williams, who had a total of 534 days in space.
  • She also now becomes the first two-time female commander of the International Space Station.

Cabinet Secretary Sinha gets extension

  • The Central government has granted one-year extension to Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha whose two-year term is scheduled to end on June 12. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC), headed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi, cleared Mr Sinha’s extension.
  • Currently Revenue Secretary Hasmukh Adhia was most likely to be next Cabinet Secretary from June 2018. Adhia, a 1981 batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, is overseeing implementation of Goods ad Services Tax (GST) which is set to be introduced from July 1 this year.

Child artistes can work for only 5 hours a day

  • The Labour Ministry has proposed draft rules to fix the working conditions for child artistes and for employing children in family enterprises. While a child artiste will not be allowed to work for more than five hours a day, a child assisting in a family business can work for only three hours a day, according to the proposed amendments to the Child Labour Rules, 1986.
  • Children will be allowed to assist their family in running family enterprises without affecting their school education. The family would include parents, real siblings, and real brother and sister of the parents.
  • Under the proposed rules, at least 20% of the income earned by the child artiste will be required to be deposited in a fixed deposit account in a nationalised bank. The money would be credited to the child after she turns 18.

Goldman Prize for Niyamgiri hero

  • Activist Prafulla Samantara was named as one of the six winners of the Goldman Environmental Prize for 2017. He was honoured for his historic 12-year legal battle that affirmed the indigenous Dongria Kondhs’ land rights and protected the Niyamgiri Hills from a massive, open-pit aluminum ore mine.
  • Mr. Samantara was one of the key leaders responsible for rallying tribes, indigenous to Odisha’s Niyamgiri region, and using legal provisions to thwart mining-to-metals conglomerate, Vedanta.
  • The company was later forced to suspend plans to mine bauxite in the region.
  • Other prize-winners this year include mark Lopez, U.S.; Uroš Macerl, Slovenia; Rodrigo Tot, Guatemala; Rodrigue Katembo, Democratic Republic of Congo and Wendy Bowman, Australia.
  • Five other Indians — Medha Patkar, M.C. Mehta, Rasheeda Bi, Champaran Shukla, Ramesh Agrawal — have won the award since it was instituted in 1990.
  • Apart from a medal and citation, winners receive a substantial cash award $175,000 (Rs. 1.13 crore approx) as prize money.

Government to auction mines for coal-to-gas projects

  • The Union government is planning to auction coal blocks for private coal-to-gas, liquid and polychemical projects this financial year. The development takes on significance as domestic coal gas can help lower the country’s import bill by $10 billion in five years and cut carbon emission.
  • Fresh coal blocks would be auctioned to the private sector through competitive bidding for exploring coal-to-gas, liquid and polychemicals.
  • The mines will not be out of the 204 cancelled blocks but will be fresh ones under the MMDR Act.

GST may lift prices of small, mid-sized cars

  • Small and mid-sized cars may see a small increase in prices after the Goods and Services Tax (GST) is rolled out from July 1 as different goods are fitted into the four-slab rate structure.
  • Goods and services will have to fall into one of the approved four rate categories, of 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%, which is closest to the present incidence of taxation.
  • Small cars currently attract a 12.5% central excise duty. States levy 14.5-15% VAT, with total tax incidence at 27-27.5%.The closest slab for this category of cars would be 28%, resulting in a small increase in price.
  • Mid-sized cars of up to 1500 cc are levied 24% excise and 14.5% VAT taking the tax incidence to 38.5%.

HCL Tech buys BPO firm in U.S.

  • HCL Technologies had acquired U.S.-based provider of mortgage business process and fulfilment services firm, Urban Fulfillment Services (UFS) for $30 million. The deal with UFS, which has more than 350 employees and operates out of three centres in the U.S.
  • The acquisition strengthens HCL’s capabilities in mortgage BPO services, loan fulfillment and debt servicing space. Mortgage servicing is a regulated activity in the U.S. and the transaction requires regulatory approvals for getting licenses.

India’s first sea ropeway to connect Mumbai & Elephanta Island

  • India’s first and longest ropeway is planned to be constructed by the Mumbai Port Trust to link Mumbai with the famous Elephanta Island in the Arabian Sea. The 8-km long ropeway will start from Sewri in Mumbai’s east coast and end at Elephanta Island at Raigad district.
  • The 40-minute ride by a 20-seater cable car is expected to boost tourism as it offers a magnificent view of mudflats on the east coast especially during the flamingo season, the mangroves as well as the Mumbai Trans Harbour Link to the north.
  • At present, the islands are accessible only by ferries from the mainland and takes around an hour for the 10-km cruise.
  • Elephanta Island is a 16 sq. km island that has several archaeological remains famous for its cave sculptures. The island is locally known as Gharapuri Caves. It is located in Mumbai Harbour, east of Mumbai, Maharashtra.
  • Elephanta Island has got global recognition as it was listed in UNESCO World Heritage site.

Jio posts Rs. 22.5 crore loss for second half of FY 2017

  • Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio has posted a net loss of Rs. 22.5 crore for the six months ended March 31, 2017 compared with a net loss of Rs. 7.46 crore in the year ago period. Fiscal 2018 will be the first full year of operations for the company as the telco has started charging its customers from April after offering free voice and data for the past seven months.
  • More than 72 million of its 109 million users have signed up for the Jio Prime membership offer in a start to the monetisation of the telecom company.
  • The company will invest another Rs. 18,000 crore in network expansions, almost the same as last quarter.
  • Jio had total assets of Rs. 2,00,888 crore, equity of Rs. 70,864 crore and liabilities of Rs. 1,30,024 crore.

K. Viswanath wins Dadasaheb Phalke award

  • Renowned filmmaker and actor Kasinadhuni Viswanath, best known for his award-winning movies in Telugu, Tamil and Hindi, has won the Dadasaheb Phalke award for the year 2016 for his outstanding contribution to the film industry.
  • He will be the 48th recipient of the award, the highest recognition in Indian cinema, which consists of a golden lotus, a cash prize of Rs. 10 lakh and a shawl. President Pranab Mukherjee will confer the award on him at a ceremony on May 3.
  • A recipient of five National Film Awards, Viswanath is celebrated for his film Sankarabharanam , Sagara Sangamam , Swati Mutyam , Saptapadi , Kaamchor , Sanjog and Jaag Utha Insaan
  • Swati Mutyam , a National Award-winning film, was India’s official entry to the 59th Academy Awards in the best foreign film category. He won the Padma Shri in 1992.

Local procurement mandatory for Metro firms

  • The Union Urban Development Ministry has approved changes in tender conditions making it mandatory for metro rail companies to procure indigenously manufactured cars and related critical equipment and sub-systems as part of the “Make In India” initiative.
  • Among the mandatory conditions is that a minimum 75% of the tendered metro cars have to be manufactured indigenously, with progressive indigenisation of content.
  • Metro rails currently operate in Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Jaipur and Gurgaon, with a total route length of 326 km. While projects for 546 km route length are under construction in 11 cities, proposed construction of 903 km route in 13 cities are under consideration.
  • Union Urban Development Minister: M. Venkaiah Naidu

Nations team up to protect ancient heritage from terrorism

  • Ten countries formed a new group aimed at protecting ancient heritage from extremism of the kind that saw the Islamic State group lay waste to Syria's historic Palmyra.
  • Iraq, Iran, Egypt, Greece, Italy, China, India, Bolivia, Mexico and Peru- all home to some of the world's most cherished archaeological sites- have signed up to the "forum" launched in Athens by ministers and ambassadors from the nations.
  • Greek government, who is spearheading the project along with China, said the group would run joint projects to promote dialogue in the face of fanaticism, and culture in the face of terrorism.
  • Palmyra in Syria, Bamiyan, in Afghanistan, and Mali's Timbuktu are UNESCO sites to suffer destruction at the hands of Islamist extremists.

Quick test for superbug infection

  • A simple, new test may accurately diagnose some of the most drug-resistant bacterial infections such as bronchitis and gastroenteritis in under 15 minutes, scientists say.
  • Bacteria have been gradually evolving to become resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them. Over the last few years, scientists have found evidence that some bacteria have become resistant to a last resort antibiotic called colistin.

Reliance Comm. shareholders approve merger with Aircel

  • Reliance Communications (RCom) shareholders have approved the merger of its wireless business with Aircel to create India’s fourth- largest telecommunications company.
  • The shareholders of Reliance Communications, at their meeting have approved with 99.99% majority for the Scheme of Arrangement for demerger of the wireless division of the company and Reliance Telecom Limited (RTL), a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company, into Aircel Limited and Dishnet Wireless Limited.
  • RCom has already received approval from the SEBI, the BSE, the NSE and the Competition Commission of India for the merger.
  • The merged entity will also have the second-largest spectrum holding aggregating 448 MHz across the 850, 900, 1800 and 2100 MHz bands.
  • The merged entity will have an asset base of more than Rs. 65,000 crore and net worth of Rs. 35,000 crore.

Solve a problem, win Rs. 1 crore

  • The Central government is set to launch a scheme for students from higher educational institutions to volunteer to offer innovative, original and practical solutions to problems facing the country and get rewarded for their efforts. The Human Resource Development Ministry has identified a handful of areas pertaining to which the problem-solving skills of students will be tested.
  • These are affordable healthcare, computer science and ICT, energy (making solar/renewable resources cheaper, energy efficiency, etc.), affordable housing, healthcare, agriculture, education, water resources and river systems, affordable infrastructure, defence, cybersecurity and information security, and environment and climate change.
  • The scheme will invite students to find solutions to problems in these fields — and offer a prize of Rs. 1 crore to the best solution in each field — is to be called IDEAS, or Innovations for Development of Efficient and Affordable Systems.
  • All higher educational institutions will be eligible and encouraged to participate, but participation of IITs, NITs and CFTIs will be mandatory.

Trump, Merkel discuss Syria, Yemen and North Korea

  • US President Donald Trump discussed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel the conflicts in Syria and Yemen and the "urgent security challenge" posed by North Korea.
  • Trump also reaffirmed American support for German- and French-led efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Ukraine on the basis of the Minsk agreements.

Venezuela protesters block roads to pressure president

  • Protesters blocked Venezuela’s main roads, including the capital’s biggest motorway, triggering fears of further violence after three weeks of unrest left 21 people dead. Anti-government protests entered a fourth week with mass sit-ins to press for early elections. A presidential election is scheduled for 2018.
  • Protests are also fuelled by the crippling economic crisis in the oil-rich nation of 30 million people.
  • There is little sign of the protests subsiding as the opposition has vowed to stay on the streets until presidential elections due to be held at the end of 2018 are brought forward.
  • Opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez is being held in prison almost a month in isolation.
  • President: Nicolas Maduro
  • Capital: Caracus
  • Currency: Venezuelan bolívar

Younis crosses 10,000 runs

  • Younis Khan became the first Pakistan player to complete 10,000 Test runs as his team reached 201 for four in reply to the West Indies first innings total of 286 at stumps on the third day of the rain affected first Test at Sabina Park.
  • Having confirmed this series as the last before he retires from international cricket, 39-year-old Younis played with exaggerated care at the start of his innings.