Daily Current Affairs - 12th Jul 2017

1.16 lakh firms under ED scanner

  • The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has received a databank of about 1.16 lakh companies from the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), 16,000 of which are confirmed non-trading entities.
  • As per the existing Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), the ED cannot on its own proceed with money laundering investigations till any primary agency, which includes the likes of Central Bureau of Investigation, the Income Tax Department, the SFIO or the State police, institutes a case under provisions that are listed in the Act’s schedule.
  • The SFIO, which functions under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs, has collected information on these companies from sister agencies. They have been categorised as “shell companies”, “derived companies (which have directors who were also associated with the confirmed shell companies)” and the “suspected shell companies”.

5 States, a UT sign pact with Centre on e-Marketplace

  • 5 States and a Union Territory (UT) formally adopted the Centre’s initiative called the Government e-Marketplace (GeM) that aims to ensure that public procurement of goods and services.
  • Procurement of common use goods and services required by various Government (Central and state government) departments/organizations/public sector units is estimated to be over Rs. 5 lakh crore.
  • This process will be annually carried out through the online platform for transparency and to eliminate corruption.
  • The States and the UT that signed an MoU with the Centre include Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat, Telangana, Puducherry and Arunachal Pradesh. Four more, including Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu and Haryana, will ink such an MoU soon.
  • This follows a call made by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to all the Chief Ministers in April to ensure that priority is accorded to transparency in public procurement of goods and services.

Darjeeling parties to fast to death from July 15

  • An all-party meeting in Darjeeling announced that the shut down in the hills would continue and a representative from each political party would observe fast unto death from July 15, demanding the formation of a separate Gorkhaland.
  • Leaders of all parties that are members of Gorkhaland Movement Coordination Committee (GMCC) would sit on a hunger strike from July 15 to demand Gorkhaland.
  • The GMCC also decided to return all awards received from the Bengal government on July 13.
  • Gorkha Janamukti Morcha chief: Bimal Gurung

Earth facing sixth mass extinction

  • The sixth mass extinction of life on Earth is spreading more quickly than feared, scientists have warned. More than 30% of animals with a backbone — fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and mammals — are declining in both range and population. Scientists say that this is the case of a biological annihilation occurring globally.
  • For 177 mammals, researchers combed through data covering the period 1900 to 2015.
  • The mammal species that were monitored have lost at least a third of their original habitat.
  • Forty per cent of them — including rhinos, orangutans, gorillas and many big cats — are surviving on 20% or less of the land they once roamed. The loss of biodiversity has recently accelerated.
  • There are as few as 20,000 lions left in the wild, less than 7,000 cheetahs, 500 to 1,000 giant pandas, and about 250 Sumatran rhinoceros.
  • On an average, two vertebrate species disappear every year. Tropical regions have seen the highest number of declining species.
  • The main drivers of wildlife decline are habitat loss, overconsumption, pollution, invasive species, disease, as well as poaching in the case of tigers, elephants, rhinos and other large animals prized for their body parts. Climate change is poised to become a major threat in the coming decades

Forensic guru Chandra Sekharan passed away

  • Renowned forensic expert, Pakkiriswamy Chandra Sekharan, who helped investigators crack the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case and played a major role in getting back the stolen 1,500-year-old Pathur Nataraja idol from the U.K., died.
  • A former director of the Tamil Nadu Forensic Sciences Department, Professor Chandra Sekharan was awarded the Padma Bhushan. An acknowledged expert and pioneer in some forensic techniques, Professor Chandra Sekharan deconstructed the suicide bomb attack on Rajiv Gandhi in May 1991.
  • He used both forensic science and traditional knowledge in establishing India’s claim over the Nataraja idol at the Royal Court of Justice in the U.K. After the idols were stolen from the Viswanatha Swamy temple, they were hidden for some time in a haystack.

Gopal Gandhi is Opposition pick for Vice President Post

  • The leaders of 18 Opposition parties got together to decide on the vice-presidential candidate. All of them spoke in support of Gopal Gandhi and have decided to field him as their joint candidate for the vice-presidential election.

Liberty buys Tata’s pipe mills in U.K.

  • Liberty House, the industrial group owned by Sanjeev Gupta, is to acquire two British pipe mills owned by Tata Steel, the second deal to be reached by the company in Britain in just over a week after the group struck an agreement to buy steel producer Arrium in Australia.
  • The two mills which produce heavy-duty steel for the energy, power and construction sectors in Britain and beyond, employ around 140 people.

Malabar submarine drills worry China.

  • China is closely monitoring the ongoing Malabar naval exercises between India, the U.S. and Japan, in view of the Indian Navy’s growing clout to detect Chinese submarines and surface ships in the Indian Ocean, using newly acquired weaponry from U.S. It points out that the focus of the drills is anti-submarine warfare (ASW).
  • The Malabar exercise used to be a comprehensive drill that had included air defence, anti-ship elements.

Merkel reiterates support for US-EU trade deal

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel says she is open to restarting talks with the United States on a trade deal with the European Union. Ms. Merkel told that the U.S. president Donald Trump had signalled their intention to negotiate the deal and Trans-Atlantic agreement remains on their agenda.
  • Negotiations for the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership deal, known as TTIP, started under the Obama administration but have been stalled since last year.

Monsoon to cover entire country this week

  • According to IMD officials, monsoon rains are expected to cover the whole country in the next week and are likely to strengthen over central India. Between June 1 and July 10, India got 248 mm of rains, a mere 1.1% short of the historical normal of 251 mm.
  • Normally, the monsoon enters into a break or a prolonged lull of around a week in the middle of July and sometimes August.
  • Most regions in India have got their normal quota of rains (defined as a within a 20% margin of a 50-year average) except for Kerala, south Karnataka, Vidarbha, Gangetic West Bengal and Jharkhand.
  • Monsoon rains are likely to advance into remaining parts of Jammu division and Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and some parts of Punjab during next 48 hours.

Over Rs 57,000 crore saved through DBT

  • The Centre has saved a whopping Rs 57,000 crore with its Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) scheme under which subsidies are given directly to beneficiaries. The DBT programme, a major reform initiative to check graft in welfare funds, was launched by the UPA government on January 1, 2013.
  • The scheme was aimed at transferring benefits of various central government-run social welfare schemes to the bank accounts of beneficiaries.
  • Of the Rs 57,029 crore saved under DBT in 2016-17, the LPG subsidy scheme 'Pahal' accounted for Rs 29,769 crore. About Rs 14,000 crore were saved in providing subsidies directly to beneficiaries under the Public Distribution System.
  • The MGNREG Scheme, that guarantees 100 days of employment for every rural household, saved Rs 11,741 crore, and Rs 399 crore were saved in DBT transfers for the National Social Assistance Programme, which deals with, among other things, old age and widow pensions.

SC stays cattle sale rules across nation

  • The Supreme Court stayed the Centre’s May 26 notification, banning cattle sale in livestock markets for slaughter and religious sacrifices.
  • The order came after the government accepted that public outcry and objections from the States about the law's impact on livelihoods made it realize that the rules need changes.

Sensor network to map and predict pollution, effluents in Godavari

  • A group of U.S. researchers is working on a system to map undulating pollution trends in the Godavari, India’s second longest river. Using a mix of methods, including satellite-monitoring, traversing stretches of the river to collect water samples and using special sensors to measure bacterial and chemical pollution.
  • Through cloud-based data collection and real-time mapping systems, the research and implementation teams intend to demonstrate the importance and value of detecting and anticipating pollutants that enter the river in the form of human waste, organic materials, and chemical contaminant.
  • The team’s objective is to be able to inform State officials and citizens of a probable increase in levels of dangerous microbes or effluents, similar to weather and air pollution forecasts.

Sharif to move top court against probe team report

  • Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has decided to file a legal challenge in the Supreme Court against a damning report by the Joint Investigation Team, which accused him and his family of concealing assets from tax authorities.
  • The JIT has recommended the anti-corruption body, National Accountability Bureau, to file a corruption reference. The Court is expected to decide the fate of the Prime Minister on July 17.
  • There is a huge uproar in the country with opposition parties and media calling for the Prime Minister’s resignation.

Startup India’s slow pace worries Government

  • The Union government is concerned about the number of start-ups becoming eligible for tax benefits under the Startup India programme, with just 39 start-ups qualifying for such concessions even 18 months after the flagship initiative was introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Till March (2017), only around 10 start-ups were found eligible for tax benefits.
  • A start-up should be a private limited company or a limited liability partnership incorporated on or after April 1, 2016, few companies qualified for tax benefits in the initial period as there were not many corporate entities incorporated on or after that cut-off date.

U.S. may tighten rules for foreign students

  • Foreign students in the United States may be required to reapply every year for permission to stay in the country, if a proposal under consideration by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is implemented. Around 1.4 million international students are currently present in the U.S.
  • The move will require regulatory changes that could take up to 18 months. The proposed measures could increase costs and paper work for students and universities.
  • Under current regulations, international students can stay in the U.S. as long as they are enrolled for a programme.
  • Indians are the fastest growing group among the international student population in the U.S. There are 1,66,000 students from India pursuing higher education in the U.S. now, up from about 1,00,000 two years earlier.

Vistara picks Thng as CEO

  • Singapore Airlines (SIA) veteran Lesli Thng will be the new CEO of Vistara, effective October, replacing current chief Phee Teik Yeoh, who has steered the Tata-SIA venture full-service airline since inception.
  • Mr. Thng was the chief commercial officer for SIA’s subsidiary Budget Aviation Holdings.
  • Shastri confirmed as Indian cricket head coach
  • Ravi Shastri was named as the next head coach of the Indian cricket team for the next three years — till the 2019 World Cup. Shastri, who has been in charge of the team twice before for various tenures.
  • Zaheer Khan will be joining the team as its new bowling consultant. Rahul Dravid will assist the senior team as batting consultant but only during overseas Test tours.