Daily Current Affairs - 24th Feb 2018

Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank begins operations

  • Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank Limited has commenced operations as a payments bank with effect from February 22, 2018. Aditya Birla Idea Payments bank is among seven entities to get a final approval from the banking regulator RBI.
  • Aditya Birla Nuvo Limited was one of the 11 applicants which were issued in-principle approval for setting up a payments bank, on August 19, 2015. The payments bank is set up through the newly formed Aditya Birla Financial Services with the merger of Grasim Industries and Aditya Birla Nuvo, which received the payment bank licence.
  • Airtel Payments Bank Ltd was the first payments bank to start operations in January 2017 followed by India Post. So far, Airtel, Paytm, India Post, and Fino Payments Bank have launched their operations.
  • The Payments Bank intends to promote a wide range of banking products & services including current and savings bank account, domestic remittances, merchant payments etc.

Assam to observe 'Rhino Day' on September 22

  • The Assam government will be observing September 22 as 'Rhino Day' to generate public awareness on protection of the one-horned pachyderm,
  • A day to be dedicated to the approximately 2500 rhino population in the state will be a tribute to the rhinoceros - the pride of Assam.
  • A State Rhino Project in line with National Rhino Project will be launched in Assam soon for protecting the pachyderms from threats of poaching.
  • National Parks in Assam:
  • Manas National Park or Manas Wildlife Sanctuary is a national park, UNESCO Natural World Heritage site, a Project Tiger reserve, an elephant reserve and a biosphere reserve in Assam
  • Kaziranga National Park is home to the world’s largest population of Indian one-horned rhinoceroses.
  • The Orang National Park
  • Dibru-Saikhowa National Park
  • Assam Chief Minister: Sarbananda Sonowal

Brexit: EU leaders clash over financial impact of UK's departure

  • Germany and France have warned that funding cuts to EU programmes after Brexit could damage efforts to tackle illegal immigration and terrorism. The leaders of both nations said that spending on these areas should not be compromised. But other wealthy member states have argued that a smaller EU without the UK should mean a smaller budget. Both nations argued that it was important not to reduce financial support to operations that had proved effective in tackling issues such as terrorism in the Sahel region of north and West Africa.
  • It has been announced that the UK Prime Minister Theresa May is to deliver a speech setting out her vision for the UK's future relationship with the EU on 2 March 2018.
  • German Chancellor Angel Merkel
  • French President Emmanuel Macron

Centre sets up committee on medicinal and aromatic plants for NE

  • An inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on medicinal and aromatic plants has been set up for the north-east and it will suggest actionable measures to generate more livelihood opportunities in the region.
  • The IMC would identify the gaps in the existing mechanism or institutional arrangements, suggest a policy intervention for optimally harnessing the medicinal and aromatic plants of the north-eastern region.
  • It would also suggest actionable measures to generate more livelihood opportunities, which would lead to the economic transformation of the region, based on cultivation and sustainable management of medicinal and aromatic plants.
  • The first meeting of the committee is scheduled to be held on March 12 and it will be co-chaired by the secretaries of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) and Ministry of AYUSH.

CII calls for more private stake in PSBs

  • The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) sought higher private sector shareholding in public sector banks (PSBs) to infuse professionalism into the banks’ management. They argue that current episode of financial fraud shows gaps in supervision and monitoring systems at the bank level which have the potential to become disruptive for the industry and the financial sector.
  • They called for infusing professionalism in bank’s management, and dilution of government stake in PSBs to bring them down to 52% in the first phase and then, to 33%.

Cricket Canada announces ICC-approved T20 league

  • Cricket Canada announced that they have signed a 25-year licensing agreement to start their own three-week competition. Dubbed the Global T20 Canada, the tournament is tentatively scheduled to get underway in July 2018 after it was sanctioned by the ICC.
  • The key characteristics of the six-team league is that a minimum of four Canada eligible players must be included in each 15-man squad. However, there is no mandate that any Canada players must be in a starting XI, opening up the possibility of XIs comprising only foreign players.
  • The Global T20 Canada would be the first franchise league held completely in North America.

Frame a law to oversee auditors, SC tells govt.

  • The Supreme Court directed the union government to frame a law to regulate the auditing profession, saying failures of auditors have resulted in scandals in the past. In a judgment, a Bench of Justices highlighted the manner in which multi-national accounting firms violate auditing and financial laws. The apex court directed the Centre to constitute a three-member committee of experts within two months to frame a law for an oversight mechanism over auditors.

Guwahati organises tribal festival 'Aadi Mahotsava'

  • Assam has organised a tribal festival called 'Aadi Mahotsava' at Gandhi Mandir Indoor stadium field here to celebrate the ethnic tribal culture of the country. The 10-day festival is being conducted by the Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India in collaboration with the Ministry of Tribal Affairs in an attempt to celebrate the rare art and culture of the tribal communities.
  • The local artisans from 20 different cities, including Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal and north-eastern states Manipur and Assam, have participated in the event to showcase handcrafted artifacts and products

India, Uzbek region ink pharma pact

  • The Andijan Region of Uzbekistan and India have inked an agreement for cooperation in the pharmaceutical industry. Both sides will develop cooperation in the implementation of a program for the production of pharmaceutical, bio-pharmaceutical products and medical equipment in the Andijan region of Uzbekistan.
  • Both sides agreed to work together on the issue of creating an Uzbek-Indian free pharmaceutical zone in the Andijan region and start joint development of a business plan for this project.
  • They also agreed to work together on the issue of attracting direct investments of Indian companies and Uzbek investors to create modern production facilities for the production of pharmaceutical products and medicines with high value.
  • Uzbekistan
  • President: Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev
  • Prime Minister: Abdulla Nigmatovich Aripov
  • Capital: Tashkent
  • Currency: Uzbekistani so?m

India-German MOU on Sustainable Urban Development programme & Smart Cities

  • An Indo-German MoU has been signed for an “Implementation Agreement in Sustainable Urban Development and Smart Cities in India. The objective of the programme is to develop and apply concepts for sustainable urban development about the provision of urban basic services and housing in selected cities and Smart Cities in India.
  • The technical cooperation measure will support approaches for sustainable urban development in the area of integrated planning, provision of affordable housing and basic services with particular focus on water, waste water and solid waste management and mobility.
  • The MoU was signed between Ministry of Housing & Urban Affairs(MoHUA) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit(GIZ) GmbH, India on behalf of the German government.

Indian Navy successfully test fires nuclear-capable ballistic missile 'Dhanush' from sea

  • The Indian armed forces successfully test fired nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile Dhanush in full operational configuration from a naval warship positioned in the Bay of Bengal.
  • The test was aimed at checking the performance of manoeuvring stealth warheads besides gauging the efficiency and killing probability of the missile in a real-time situation. The missile achieved close to zero circular error probability (CEP) accuracy.
  • Dhanush, the indigenously developed naval version of the ‘Prithvi’ short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) has a striking range up to 350 km and can neutralise both land-based and sea-based targets. It can carry a single warhead, conventional or nuclear up to 500 kg.
  • Developed by the DRDO under its ambitious Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), the missile is about 8.53 metres in length and 0.9 metre in diameter besides its launch weight about 4.4 tonnes.
  • This single stage missile uses liquid propellant and can be used as an anti-ship weapon as well as for destroying land targets depending on the range.

Kunwar Bai, the 106-year-old icon for Swachh Bharat campaign, dies

  • Kunwar Bai, a 106-year-old woman from Chhattisgarh who was chosen as a mascot for the `Swachh Bharat Abhiyan', died after a prolonged illness. Kunwar Bai shot to fame in 2016 when the story of how she sold her goats to build a toilet at home got nationwide publicity.
  • She was felicitated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a public meeting at Kurrubhat village in Rajnandgaon district, and later made a mascot for the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.

Mahindra Aerospace, Canada’s Viking Air sign MoU to manufacture small aircraft

  • Mahindra Aerospace and Canada’s Viking Air have signed a memorandum of understanding to form a strategic alliance for making smaller aircraft to support regional air connectivity in India.
  • The pact was signed during the ongoing India visit of Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, to India.
  • Under this alliance, Mahindra Aerospace and Viking will work together to support each other’s non-competing aircraft business to boost market penetration in identified territories and provide potential customers with multiple options based on specific operational requirements
  • Viking produces the Twin Otter Series 400, a 19-passenger, twin-engine utility turboprop aircraft that is capable of operating from multiple surfaces (including water).
  • Mahindra Aerospace produces the 8-seat utility piston aircraft, the Mahindra Airvan 8, and the 10-seat turboprop utility aircraft, the Mahindra Airvan 10 and will in due course also launch these aircraft in Ski and Float versions
  • CEO of Viking Air: David Curtis

MC Mary Kom storms into final of Strandja Memorial boxing

  • MC Mary Kom stormed into the Finals of the Strandja Memorial Tournament at Sofia in Bulgaria. She defeated China's Ye Jiali to make the summit clash. While Sarita Devi bowed out in the 60 kg section with a bronze medal. Meena Kumari Devi in 54 kg also settled for a Bronze
  • Meanwhile in the men category Vikas Krishan and two other male boxers entered the semifinal.
  • Bulgaria:
  • President: Rumen Georgiev Radev
  • Prime Minister: Boyko Metodiev Borisov
  • Capital: Sofia
  • Currency: Bulgarian lev

Ombudsman scheme for NBFC clients

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced an ombudsman scheme for customers of non-banking finance companies to redress complaints against deficiency in services concerning deposits and loans among others. The scheme will be operationalised for all deposit-accepting NBFCs and based on the experience gained, the scheme would be extended to include the remaining identified categories of NBFCs.
  • Certain NBFCs like infrastructure finance companies are excluded from the ambit of the ombudsman scheme.
  • A Non-Banking Financial Company (NBFC) is a company registered under the Companies Act, 1956 engaged in the business of loans and advances, acquisition of shares/stocks/bonds/debentures/securities issued by Government or local authority or other marketable securities of a like nature, leasing, hire-purchase, insurance business, chit business but does not include any institution whose principal business is that of agriculture activity, industrial activity, purchase or sale of any goods (other than securities) or providing any services and sale/purchase/construction of immovable property.
  • NBFC cannot accept demand deposits and they do not form part of the payment and settlement system and cannot issue cheques drawn on itself.

Paytm launches two more firms to enter insurance sector

  • Paytm parent company One 97 communications has created two new entities to cater to insurance, months after getting a corporate agency license from Insurance Regulatory Development Authority of India. The two new entities, named Paytm Life Insurance Corporation Ltd and Paytm General Insurance Corporation Ltd, were incorporated on February 21, as per filings with the Ministry of Corporate Affairs. Both entities have a share capital Rs 1,000,000 each.
  • Paytm had applied for a composite license with the IRDA to sell products of both life and general insurers. Last year, it set up Paytm Financial Services to offer financial products and Paytm Money for wealth management.
  • Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma

SBI To Start Electoral Bonds Sale From March

  • Under the electoral bonds sale scheme, the sale of first batch of bonds will kick-off from March 1-10 at designated branches of State Bank of India (SBI). The government had notified the Electoral Bond Scheme on January 2 this year. As per provisions of the scheme, a person, who is a citizen of India or an entity incorporated / established in India can purchase electoral bonds.
  • As per the scheme, announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in Budget 2017-18, only registered political parties, which have secured not less than 1 per cent of the votes polled in the last election of the Lok Sabha or legislative assembly of the state, will be eligible to receive electoral bonds.
  • The electoral bonds are being pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties and bring transparency in political funding.

TechM plans centre in Toronto for C$100 mn

  • Tech Mahindra, a provider of consulting, digital and business re-engineering services, announced that it would invest Canadian $100 million over the next five years to set up a Center of Excellence in Toronto. The center will work on technologies such as artificial intelligence and blockchain with focus on areas like Fintech and Smart Cities. The Toronto center will also jointly develop cutting-edge business solutions in digital technologies in collaboration with academic institutes, innovators and accelerators in the start-up ecosystem.
  • CEO and MD, Tech Mahindra: C.P. Gurnani

U.S. tightens H-1B approval process, IT firms worried

  • The U.S announced fresh measures to tighten the scrutiny of H-1B visa petitions, mandating fresh documentary requirements for workers at third-party worksites. The move will impact Indian IT services providers that place employees with H-1B visas at American companies that contract them, by imposing more paper work and processing hurdles.
  • The companies filing H-1B petitions for their employees will have to associate a particular project to the individual visa, which could be approved only for the duration of the project.
  • The measures are intended to bring the client-vendor -employee relations in business models based on bringing high skilled H-1B workers to America under closer scrutiny.

United States imposes largest ever sanctions on North Korea

  • The United States has imposed fresh set of sanctions on North Korea, the largest ever. The sanctions target 56 entities - 27 shipping and trade companies, 28 vessels, and one individual, adding that all of them were involved in sanctions evasion schemes.
  • The action targets the deceptive shipping practices that have enabled North Korea to fund its dangerous weapons programmes.
  • President Donald Trump warned of serious consequences if the latest round of sanctions did not generate results.
  • North Korea is already under a range of international and US sanctions over its nuclear programme and missile tests.