Daily Current Affairs - 26th Oct 2017

Centre approves 83,000-km highway projects worth Rs 7-lakh crore

  • The Union cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved a plan to build thousands of kilometres of roads and highways over the next five years at a cost of about Rs 7 lakh crore, a spending push that could help generate jobs and lift the economy.
  • The plan involves constructing 83,677 km of roads, highways, green-field expressways and bridges in phases.
  • Under the first phase to be completed by 2022, 34,800 km of highways will be built. This will include 24,800 km of the ambitious Bharat Mala programme, at a cost Rs 5.35-lakh crore.
  • Of the 34,800 km stretch, 10,000 km are part of the ongoing National Highway Development Project (NHDP).
  • Bharat Mala programme, announced two years ago, to build highways through economic corridors centred around manufacturing hubs, inter-corridors and feeder routes, border, coastal and port connectivity roads. The project to cost Rs 5.35-lakh crore.

Centre to aid offshore e-commerce play

  • The Union government is working on a new policy to expand the footprint of the Indian e-commerce sector to tap potential markets outside the country, including Africa and Southeast Asia. This is part of efforts to achieve the target of making India a trillion-dollar digital economy in the next seven years.
  • Currently, the Ministry is looking at tapping markets such as Southeast Asia, West Asia, SAARC countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, the Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, and BRICS partners (Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa).
  • The e-commerce economy is currently pegged at $30 billion, and the government expects it to grow at $150 billion by 2024-25.
  • The digital economy in the country was forecast to generate employment for about 30 million people by 2024-25. While electronics, telecom and IT/ITeS sector will be the top three contributors with 8.9 million, 8.8 million and 6.5 million jobs.
  • The government is also working on a strategy to make India a hub for data analytics, cloud computing and financial technology, besides encouraging development of Internet of Things, to push the digital economy.
  • The Data Protection Act, the draft of which is likely to be ready by December 2017, will provide a policy framework on digital economy, including social media.

Cricket: India win second ODI against New Zealand

  • India have won the second One Day International against New Zealand. With this win, India leveled the ongoing 3 match ODI series 1-1 with New Zealand.
  • Chasing a victory target of 231 runs, India beat the visitors by 6 wickets with 24 balls remaining in their second ODI in Pune. India finished their innings at 232 losing 4 wickets in 46 overs.

First International Day of Diplomats celebrated in Brasilia

  • The first International Day of Diplomats was celebrated in Brasilia, Brazil on October 24 with participation from the diplomats of Bangladesh, Brazil, France, Ghana, India, Israel, Italy, Mexico, South Africa and Turkey.
  • The idea of celebrating International Day of Diplomats on October 24, also the United Nations Day - to recognize the hard work and sacrifices of diplomats and their families - was proposed by Indian poet-diplomat Abhay K.
  • Since then, the idea has gathered wide support from a cross-section of the international community, including diplomats of several countries.

India ranked 28th in Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index 2017

  • India stands at the 28th position out of the 30 among the reviewed countries in the Melbourne Mercer Global Pension Index 2017. It stated that India's pension system is found to be more sustainable than that of Poland, Germany, France, Japan, Italy, Austria, Brazil, China and Argentina.
  • Denmark has retained the top position for the record sixth year with an overall score of 78.9, ahead of the Netherlands and Australia at 78.8 and 77.1, respectively.
  • India’s sub-index value raised under sustainability from 40.9 to 43.8 is primarily due to the inclusion of the new economic growth question in the sustainability sub-index
  • The index measuring 30 countries and covering 60 percent of the world’s population, has urged countries with unsustainable pension systems to take action now, rather than risk the need to take even more drastic action in the future.

Indian Navy approves new mission-based deployment plan

  • The Indian Navy has approved a new mission-based deployment plan that involves deploying mission-ready ships and aircraft along critical sea lanes of communications.
  • These ships will undertake operations in preventing acts of maritime terrorism and piracy to Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief missions.
  • Along with these deployments, the Indian Navy along with the Minitry of External Affairs, have focussed their efforts on the Capacity and Capability development of navies in the region.
  • Indian Navy, Chief Admiral: Sunil Lanba

Kotak Bank net rises 22%; IDFC Bank’s climbs 40%

  • Private lender Kotak Mahindra Bank reported a 22% increase in net profit to Rs. 994 crore on a standalone basis for the quarter ended September 30, aided by a 16% increase in net interest income to Rs. 2,313 crore. The net interest margin for the July-September period increased 14 basis points year-on-year to 4.47%.
  • IDFC Bank reported a 40% decline in net profit to Rs. 234 crore owing to a sharp decline of 33% in operating income to Rs. 607 crore. Within operating income, non-interest income declined by 43% to Rs. 130 crore.

Legal steps to guard digital payments

  • The Home Ministry has asked banks and e-wallet firms to furnish details of the extent of financial fraud reported in the past one year as digital transactions picked up after the Union government implemented demonetisation from November 8, 2016.
  • A high-level committee meeting has been convened with officials of banks, e-wallet firms and the Reserve Bank of India to understand the extent of technological misuse and financial frauds committed through digital means. The Centre was planning to bring changes to the law to check frauds in the financial sector.
  • Nearly 10,000 fraud transactions are being reported every month through e-wallet platforms. Pre-demonetisation, the figure stood at 4,000.
  • As many as 1,44,496 cybersecurity attacks were observed in the past three years.
  • Information reported to, and tracked by, the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) shows 44,679 cybersecurity incidents in 2014, 49,455 in 2015 and 50,362 in 2016.

Madras High Court bans photos of living persons on banners

  • The Madras High Court banned the use of photographs or pictures of living persons on banners, flex boards, signboards across the state. The court also directed the chief secretary to send a circular in this regard to all office-bearers of the wards of the town panchayat, panchayat union, municipality and corporation.
  • This means that images of top politicians, including Chief Ministers, ministers and party chiefs, will not be allowed in the state where supporters are known to fill up roadsides and colonies with massive hoardings for their leaders.

Ministries of Power & Textiles jointly launches SAATHI to help small Industries

  • Ministries of Power and Textiles jointly launched SAATHI (Sustainable and Accelerated Adoption of efficient Textile technologies to help small Industries).
  • Under the SAATHI initiative, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL), would provide energy efficient Powerlooms, motors and Rapier kits to the small and medium Powerloom units at no upfront cost.
  • The SAATHI initiative will be jointly implemented by EESL and the office of the Textile Commissioner, all over India.
  • Union Minister of Textiles: Smriti Irani

Netherlands Opens First 3D-Printed Bridge to Cyclists

  • Dutch cyclists can now pedal over the world’s first 3D-printed concrete bridge in a town called Gemert in the Netherlands. The researchers had to develop a new 3D printing technique that uses steel reinforcement cables to create pre-stressed concrete
  • It took its creators at Eindhoven University three months and 800 layers to complete the 26-foot-long bridge. Standing only 26 feet long and less than 12 feet wide, the small platform consists of some 800 layers of prestressed concrete, reinforced with steel cables.

Odisha to participate in World Food India as Focus State

  • Odisha will be the Focus State in the World Food India (WFI)-2017 event being held in the national capital next month. Japan, Denmark and Germany are partner countries in the World Food India-2017 while Italy and the Netherlands are ‘Focus Countries’.
  • Over 450 domestic companies and leading R&D institutes along with 95 Indian industry captains are likely to participate in the event. More than 200 global companies and 41 global CEOs from 30 countries will be participating at the event.
  • The World Food India-2017 is an international mega food event being organized at New Delhi on November 3-5, 2017.

Qatar to introduce minimum wage for workers

  • Football World Cup 2022 host Qatar, under global scrutiny over its alleged ill-treatment of migrant labourers, is to introduce a minimum wage for workers. The gas-rich emirate has signed bilateral accords with 36 countries from which it draws most of its two-million-strong foreign workforce, to provide legal protection for workers headed to the Gulf.
  • The minimum wage initiative and the agreements were announced by minister of administrative development, labour and social affairs, during a meeting with foreign diplomats.
  • The announcements came on the eve of an International Labour Organisation (ILO) meeting that could see the launch of a formal investigation by the UN agency into Qatar's treatment of migrant workers.
  • Qatar is a high-income economy, backed by the world's third-largest natural gas and oil reserves. The country has the highest percaptia income in the world.
  • Capital: Doha
  • Currency: Qatari riyal

Railways floats global tender for procuring rail worth about Rs. 3,500 cr.

  • The Ministry of Railways has floated a global tender to procure 7 lakh tonne of rail, worth about Rs. 3,500 crore, instead of purchasing from the Steel Authority of India Limited (SAIL), in a bid to clear pending track renewal work.
  • SAIL had committed to supply 11.45 lakh tonne rail to the Railways in 2017-18, leaving a deficit of 3.14 lakh tonnes.
  • At present, the Railways procures rail solely from public sector SAIL which is the largest steel producer in the country.
  • The Railways has a total track length of 1,14,907 km and on average, 4,500 km should be ideally renewed every year.
  • In 2016-17, the Railways renewed 2,487 km tracks compared with 2,794 km in 2015-16 and 2,424 km in 2014-15.

RCom to close down 2G business in 30 days

  • Debt-laden Reliance Communications (RCom) has decided to close down its 2G wireless business due to mounting losses. It will ask its 2G and 3G customers to upgrade to its 4G network. RCom has 81 million subscribers of which about 40 million use its 2G network.
  • RCom has decided to adopt a 4G-focussed strategy for profitable growth of its wireless business.
  • It will be optimising its 2G and 3G footprint and related infrastructure and human resources, with effect from November 30, 2017.
  • With a debt of Rs. 46,000 crore, RCom had a moratorium on servicing loans till December 2017 to repay Rs. 25,000 crore, failing which lenders may convert a part of the debt into equity.
  • RCom’s DTH television licence expires on Nov. 21 and it does not plan to renew it.

Singapore has the most powerful passport

  • According to a new ranking by Passport Index, Singapore now has the world’s most powerful passport after Paraguay removed restrictions for Singaporeans. Now its citizens will be able to travel to the greatest number of countries visa free.
  • That means approximately 3.4 million holders of Singaporean passports can now travel to 159 countries either without a visa at all, or can have one issued on arrival.
  • Germany came in second place, with its citizens able to visit 158 countries without a visa, while Sweden and South Korea tied for third. The U.S. passport was in sixth place, alongside Malaysia, Ireland and Canada.
  • India is placed at 75th position(while it was 78th last year) figuring with a visa-free score of 51. Afghanistan came bottom of the list with visa-free access to just 22 countries
  • The U.S. passport’s usefulness has fallen since President Donald Trump took office, with Turkey and the Central African Republic becoming the most recent countries to revoke their visa-free entry for holders.

Trump administration makes it more difficult for H-1B, L1 visa renewal

  • The Trump administration has made it more difficult to renew non-immigrant visas such as H-1B and L1, popular among Indian IT professionals.
  • The US Citizenship and Immigration Services, in its latest memorandum revoked its more than 13-year-old policy and said the burden of proof in establishing eligibility is at all times, on the petitioner. Now during every extension, they need to prove to the federal authorities that they are still eligible for the visa they apply for.
  • Under the previous policy, if a person was once found to be eligible for a work visa initially, they would usually be considered for extension of their visa.

UGC asks all universities to publicize 'Vidya Lakshmi' portal

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has asked all universities to publicize the 'Vidya Lakshmi' portal launched for students seeking education loans on their websites and the colleges affiliated to them.
  • The Human Resource Development Ministry has sought the link www.vidyalakshmi.co.in be put up on the home pages of websites of higher educational institutions so that maximum number of students can avail the benefit of the service.

Under-17 FIFA Football: Spain set up title clash against England

  • Spain and England have set up the title clash of the Under-17 FIFA World Cup being held in India. In the semi-finals yesterday, while Spain defeated Mali, 3-1 to book a Final berth for the fourth time.
  • England stunned three-time champions Brazil by 3-1 to enter their maiden Final.
  • The Final will be played in Kolkata on Saturday. The two losing semi-finalists - Brazil and Mali - will play for the third place on the same day.