Daily Current Affairs - 28th Apr 2017

India, Sri Lanka sign MoU for cooperation in economic projects

  • India and Sri Lanka will collaborate in a host of energy and infrastructure projects across the island. The MoU— signed during Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s visit to India — includes the setting up of a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plant in suburban Colombo and a solar power plant in Sampur in Trincomalee.
  • As per the MoU, the countries will also jointly set up Industrial Zones and Special Economic Zones in Sri Lanka.

A robotic system that can 3D print buildings

  • MIT scientists have designed a new robotic system that can 3D print the basic structure of an entire building, an advance that would make building houses a faster, less expensive process. The building could be completely customised to the needs of a particular site and the desires of its maker.
  • Even the internal structure could be modified in new ways.
  • The system consists of a tracked vehicle that carries a large, industrial robotic arm, which has a smaller, precision-motion robotic arm at its end. This highly controllable arm can then be used to direct any construction nozzle.

Bandhan Bank posts Rs. 112 cr. profit

  • Bandhan Bank reported a Rs. 111.95 crore post-tax profit in 2016-17, its first full year of operation. The Current Account and Savings Account (CASA) balance stood at Rs. 6,837.3 crore which was 29.4% of the total deposits.
  • Bandhan closed the year with a net non-performing asset of 0.26 %. Its net interest income stood at Rs. 2,403.5 crore with a net non interest income of Rs. 411.4 crore. The bank started its operations on August 23, 2015.
  • Founder Managing Director and CEO: Chandra Sekhar Ghosh

Bulgarian President handed Boyko Borissov mandate to form new govt

  • Bulgarian President Roumen Radev handed former country's Prime Minister Boyko Borissov a mandate to form new government. Borissov is leader of Citizens for European Development of Bulgaria, GERB, Party.
  • Earlier,GERB and the United Patriots party signed a coalition agreement.
  • Within the framework of the Bulgarian legislation, Borissov will have seven days to announce the composition of the government.
  • Borissov and his previous cabinet resigned in November 2016, after the defeat of his party's candidate in the presidential election won by Radev.
  • Capital: Sofia
  • Currency: Bulgarian lev

Direct tax base to soar in 3 years

  • Policy Think Tank NITI Aayog expects India’s direct tax base to rise significantly over the next three years, due to demonetisation and steps taken to curb black money by the government, pegging the direct tax to GDP ratio at 6.3% in 2019-20 from 5.6% in 2016-17.
  • The forecasted direct tax to GDP ratio is 5.8%, 6% and 6.3% in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively.
  • As per its estimates, gross tax revenue (total tax receipts before deducting the tax share of States) will rise from Rs. 17.03 lakh crore to Rs. 19.49 lakh crore this year and rise further to Rs. 25.81 lakh crore in 2019-20 at an annual growth rate ranging between 12%-17%.
  • The Aayog has recommended a massive increase in outlays on healthcare and railways and road sectors over the next three years, with the share of healthcare spending in total government expenditure expected to rise from 1.7% in 2015-16 to 3.6% by 2019-20.

El Salvador becomes 1st country in world to ban metals mining

  • El Salvador has became the first country in the world to ban the mining of metals which is a landmark move for environmental protection. The law bans prospection, exploration, exploitation, extraction or processing of metallic minerals in El Salvador.
  • The new law entered into force after being signed by the President. The law will protect poor rural communities threatened by proposed mining projects. The country has had disputes with powerful foreign mining firms in the past.
  • President: Sanchez Ceren
  • Capital: San Salvador
  • Currency: United States Dollar

German lawmakers approve package of security measures, partially ban burqa

  • In Germany, lawmakers have approved a package of security measures aimed at preventing extremist attacks and in this regard the lawmakers also partially banned the full-face burqa, the Islamic veil. The new law on facial coverings falls short of a total ban in public places demanded by right-wing parties.
  • The prohibition will apply to public servants -- including election officials, military and judicial staff -- performing their duties.
  • Under another new measure, Germany will implement EU rules on the exchange of flight passenger data to counter terrorism and serious crime.

ISRO launches solar calculator app

  • ISRO has launched a solar calculator app that can calculate the benefits of installing solar panels in different regions of the country. The app has been created by the Space Application Center (SAC) facility of ISRO following the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE)’s request.
  • The app comes handy for installation of Photovoltaic (PV) for tapping of solar energy.
  • The App determines solar energy potential (in kWh/m2) at any given location, determination of which is important for setting up of photovoltaic thermal power plants.
  • The user can key in the location or the app can get the location details through GPS. The app provides monthly and yearly solar potential by processing data obtained from Indian Geostationary Satellites (Kalpana-1, INSAT-3D and INSAT-3DR).
  • The app provides information about the azimuth and elevation angles, and duration of day over different time periods in a year.

Kotak Bank’s margins lift profit by 40%

  • Kotak Mahindra Bank’s standalone net profit grew 40% to Rs. 976 crore during the fourth quarter, aided by healthier margins. The net interest income grew by 16% to Rs. 2,161 crore on the back of a 15% growth in advances.
  • Founder & Executive Vice Chairman & MD: Uday Kotak

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft successfully travels between Saturn and its rings

  • NASA’s Cassini spacecraft completed its final close flyby of Saturn’s moon Titan and has now started its final set of 22 orbits before plunging into Saturn on September 15, 2017, and thus completing its 20-year long journey.
  • Cassini has dived successfully through the space between Saturn and its rings, a region no spacecraft has been before.
  • Cassini spacecraft was named after the 17th-century astronomer Giovanni Cassini. It was launched into space in October 1997. It is a joint endeavour of NASA, European Space Agency (ESA) and Italian space agency, Agenzia Spaziale Italiana (ASI).
  • Cassini was the fourth space probe to visit Saturn and the first to enter its orbit
  • Cassini and Huygens have revealed the existence of earth-like geographic features, great lakes of liquid nitrogen gas on Titan’s surface. Cassini also found evidence for the existence of Underground Ocean on the moon Enceladus.

Paytm to invest Rs. 10,000 cr. over 3 years

  • Fintech firm Paytm, which is backed by Chinese major Alibaba, plans to invest Rs.10,000 crore over the next three years in its banking and financial services business. It is also expecting to get the final approval for payments bank operations. These will include Paytm Banks, wallet and financial services.
  • The company had 218 million mobile wallet users at the end of March 2017.
  • Paytm founder and CEO: Vishal Shekhar Sharma

Prime Minister Narendra Modi Launches Cheap Flights Scheme 'Udan' From Shimla

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the ambitious UDAN(Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik)
  • in Shimla, a scheme to help people to fly cheap to small-towns. The Prime minister flagged of the first UDAN flight under Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) on Shimla-Delhi sector. UDAN flights on Kadapa–Hyderabad, and Nanded-Hyderabad sectors were also flagged off.
  • Around 45 unserved and under-served airports are set to be connected under UDAN scheme to make flying more affordable. The airports to be connected under UDAN include Bhatinda, Bhavnagar, Durgapur, Jaisalmer, Puducherry, and Shimla.
  • Under this scheme, five operators will operate flights services on 128 routes that will connect 70 airports through 19-78 seater aircrafts. The operators are Air India subsidiary Airline Allied Services, Air Deccan, Air Odisha, Turbo Megha, and Spice Jet.

Putin calls for talks over North Korea

  • Russia President Vladimir Putin has called for the resumption of talks with North Korea as tensions on the peninsula continue to escalate. During his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, he urged those involved to refrain from using belligerent rhetoric.
  • Both Russia and Japan wanted to see peaceful, constructive dialogue between the opposing parties. Relations between North Korea and the US have plunged in recent weeks.

Trump administration introduces massive tax reforms

  • The Trump administration released a tax plan that proposes to sharply slash business taxes and steeply discount the rate on corporate profits. The new plan proposes for a 15% corporate tax rate which is a sharp drop from the existing 35%.
  • In addition, the new reforms aim to move to a territorial tax system that provides relief to both small and large businesses.
  • The tax plan proposes cutting top income tax rate from 39.6 per cent to 35 per cent, and doubling the amount Americans can deduct from their tax returns.
  • It also proposed tax relief for families with child and dependent care expenses. For individuals, the Trump administration proposes to reduce the existing seven tax brackets to three tax brackets of 10 per cent, 25 per cent and 35 per cent.
  • It also proposed to repeal the estate tax, the alternative minimum tax.
  • Under the US law, only the Congress is empowered to make major changes to the tax laws.

Trump agrees to renegotiate NAFTA with Mexico, Canada

  • US President Donald Trump told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that he would not pull out of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) treaty for now, but will swiftly begin renegotiating the trilateral deal with them.
  • Trump said he was about to terminate the NAFTA but changed his mind after talking to leaders from Canada and Mexico who urged him to consider renegotiating it. During his entire presidential campaign, Trump has been very critical of NAFTA, which came into force in 1994.
  • NAFTA is an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico and the US to create a trilateral trade bloc in North America.
  • NAFTA has two supplements: the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) and the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC)
  • President of Mexico: Enrique Pena Nieto
  • Prime Minister of Canada: Justin Trudeau

Turkey Supreme Electoral Council approves result of constitutional referendum

  • In Turkey, the Supreme Electoral Council approved the result of constitutional referendum. The country's opposition has demanded cancellation of the vote citing alleged vote manipulation by accepting some 2.5 million unstamped ballots, and the surfacing of several video files showing violations at the polling stations.
  • According to the council, voter turnout is 87.45 percent, 'Yes' was supported by 51.41 percent of voters, 'Against' was backed by 48.59 percent.

UNESCO to screen Indian short film as part of World Press Freedom Day celebrations

  • UNESCO to screen Rahul V. Chittella’s short film “Azaad” as a part of World Press Freedom Day event that is scheduled to be held from May 1-4 in Jakarta, Indonesia. The movie is about the dysfunctional relationship between a father and his son.
  • The theme for this year’s edition of World Press Freedom Day is “Critical Minds for Critical Times: Media’s role in advancing peaceful, just and inclusive societies”.
  • May 3 is celebrated as World Press Freedom Day every year to celebrate the fundamental principles of press freedom as well as to evaluate the freedom of press around the world.
  • UNESCO: The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO),
  • purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through educational, scientific, and cultural reforms in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom.
  • Headquarters: Paris, France
  • Director-General of UNESCO: Irina Bokova

US to send more troops Afghanistan to train Afghan soldiers

  • United States is planning to send more troops led by a well-trained, well-equipped commander to Afghanistan as a part of the mission to train Afghan soldiers. It will send about 1,500 soldiers to Afghanistan during the summer months in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel.
  • The 1st Brigade Combat Team is well-trained, well-equipped and ready to assist our Afghan partners as part of the Resolute Support mission.

Veteran actor Vinod Khanna passes away

  • Bollywood actor-turned politician Vinod Khanna passed away at the age of 70. A sitting Member of Parliament from Gurdaspur in Punjab, he was suffering from advanced bladder carcinoma and had been hospitalised since April 5.
  • Khanna has featured in as many as 146 films. Some of his famous films are Mere Apne, Insaaf and Amar, Akbar, Anthony. He was last seen in 2015 in Shah Rukh Khan’s Dilwale. He made his debut in 1968 with Mann Ka Meet.
  • He served as the Union minister for culture and tourism in 2002 under the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Later, he also became a minister of state in the Ministry of External Affairs.

Won’t be able to ratify BBIN motor vehicles agreement: Bhutan

  • Bhutan has announced that it would not be able to ratify the (BBIN) Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal motor vehicles agreement for the time being and asked the other stakeholders to go ahead with the plan without it.
  • While the other three countries have already ratified the agreement, the government of Bhutan is in the process of completing its internal procedures for ratification, to address the concerns raised by the domestic stakeholders. The agreement will enter into force for Bhutan after its ratification process is completed.
  • Right from the time the BBIN MVA was tabled for ratification, the draft legislation faced opposition in Bhutan. There have been fears of vehicular pollution and environmental degradation if trucks from neighbouring countries are given access to Bhutan.
  • The MVA was proposed to reduce transport costs drastically and and foster development of multi-modal transport facilities for a better connectivity between the four countries.