Current Affairs Today March 15 2018

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INDIAN AFFAIRS

Cabinet Approvals on March 14, 2018
On March 14, 2018, Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved following bilateral agreements and initiatives.
i. Cabinet approves the MoU between India and Iran in field of Traditional Systems of Medicine
ii. Cabinet approves MoU between India and Iran in agriculture and allied sectors
iii. Cabinet approves Agreement on Avoidance of Double Taxation and Fiscal Evasion between India and Iran
iv. Cabinet apprised of MoU between India and Sri Lanka in the field of Information Technology and Electronics
v. Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the proposal of Department of Fertilizers to continue Urea Subsidy Scheme beyond 12th plan period (2012 – 2017) up to 2019-20………………………………..Click here to Read more

HRD Ministry to set up ‘Innovation Cell’ to promote education
The HRD (Human Resources Development) ministry has decided to set up an innovation cell lead by a scientist to develop new ideas to encourage innovation in India.
Innovation Cell:
i. This decision was made at a high-level meeting held on 15th March 2018, in which the need to create innovation cell was discussed after India improved by 6 ranks in the Global Innovation Index Ranking.
ii. India was at 66th position in 2016. It improved to 60th rank in 2017 on the Global Innovation Index Ranking.
iii. Head of the Innovation cell will be a scientist. The cell will also have a senior official and young professionals who will come up with new ideas in encouraging innovation.
About HRD (Human Resources Development) ministry:
♦ Minister of Human Resource Development – Prakash Javadekar
♦ Minister of State for HRD (Higher Education) – Dr. Satya Pal Singh
♦ Minister of State for HRD (School Education & Literacy) – Shri Upendra Kushwaha

First Interaction of 15th Finance Commission with Parliamentarians held in New Delhi
First Interaction of 15th Finance Commission with the Members of Parliament was held on March 14, 2018 in New Delhi.First Interaction of 15th Finance Commission with Parliamentarians held in New Delhii. The meeting was held to convey the proposed schedule of the Commission’s work and its Terms of Reference (TOR) as well as to seek suggestions of Parliamentarians.
ii. In context of this news, it is important to note that unlike previous Finance Commissions, the 15th Finance Commission will function in a different scenario wherein there is no Planning Commission and Government has removed the distinction between Plan and Non Plan grants.
iii. In coming days, 15th Finance Commission will conduct meetings with state level stakeholders.
Quick Facts about 15th Finance Commission:
♦ Formed in – November 2017
♦ Chairman – N.K. Singh
♦ Full time members – Former Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das, and adjunct professor of Georgetown University Anoop Singh

Lok Sabha passes bill on damages for breach of contract
On March 15, 2018, Lok Sabha passed the Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2018 seeking to grant a party the right to seek damages from the other side in case of a breach of a business contract.
More information about Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2018:
i. The current law only provides for a certain kind of specific relief, while the amendment proposes a remedy which aims at the exact fulfilment of an obligation or specific performance of the contract rather than grant of a general relief or damages or compensation.
ii. This amendment bill also seeks to reduce discretion of courts in such matters and is being viewed to be in line with government’s ease of doing business policy.
iii. Specific Relief (Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed in Lok Sabha by Voice Vote.

Andhra Pradesh stands at 51st position in Global Multidimensional Poverty Index
As per a recent household survey conducted in Andhra Pradesh, the state attained a rank equivalent to 51st rank globally on Multidimensional Poverty Index.Andhra Pradesh stands at 51st position in Global Multidimensional Poverty IndexSurvey on multidimensional poverty in Andhra Pradesh:
i. On the global Multidimensional Poverty Index, India ranked at 66th position with an index value of 0.1911.
ii. As per Multidimensional Poverty Index Report 2017, launched by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu on March 13, 2018, Andhra Pradesh’s index value is 0.0825. Thus on a comparative basis, Andhra Pradesh can be placed at 51st position.
iii. Among districts of Andhra Pradesh, East Godavari has topped with index value of 0.0468 and Vizianagaram is at the bottom with a value of 0.1271.
iv. The survey was conducted by Vision Management Unit, Planning Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh in collaboration with Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford, UK.
v. Multidimensional Poverty Index methodology was developed by Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative in collaboration with United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It is the most widely accepted global measure of multidimensional poverty.
Quick facts about Andhra Pradesh:
♦ Capital – Amaravati (de facto)
♦ Current Chief Minister – N Chandrababu Naidu
♦ Current Governor – E S L Narasimhan
♦ Important National Park – Papikonda National Park

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Photography exhibition on India held in Egypt: “Indian Images: People and Places”
On 14th March 2018, “Indian Images: People and Places”, a photo exhibition about India was inaugurated by India’s Ambassador to Egypt Sanjay Bhattacharyya in Cairo, Egypt.
Indian Images: People and Places:
i. This photo exhibition was held as a part of the annual cultural festival ‘India by the Nile’. It featured photos captured by Khaled Gawdat, an Egyptian photographer.
ii. Venue: The photo exhibition was held at El-Sawy Cultural Center in Zamalek in Cairo, Egypt.
iii. 60 photographs taken in different parts of India were displayed in the exhibition. They depicted everyday life in India, landscapes, tourist places, cultural performances, people’s faces and colourful costumes.
Presidents of few countries:
♦ South Africa – Cyril Ramaphosa
♦ Liberia – George Weah
♦ Switzerland – Alain Berset

WHO member-countries commit to end TB by 2030
On March 14, 2018, Member-countries of the World Health Organisation (WHO) South-East Asia Region, including India, committed to intensifying efforts to eradicate tuberculosis (TB) by 2030.WHO member-countries commit to end TB by 2030Commitment to end TB by 2030:
i. This commitment was made during ‘End TB Summit’ in New Delhi.
ii. The Summit built on the Delhi Call to Action adopted by member countries of the WHO South-East Asia Region in March 2017 and set the stage for the September 2018 United Nations (UN) High-Level Meeting on TB.
iii. The member-countries have resolved to collectively reach out to 2 million missing TB cases and 150000 multidrug-resistance cases by 2020 and take necessary action to end TB.
Quick Facts about World Health Organisation (WHO):
♦ Formed in – 1946
♦ Headquarters – Geneva, Switzerland
♦ Current Director General – Tedros Adhanom

United States challenges Indian export subsidies schemes at WTO
On March 14, 2018, US challenged Indian export subsidies schemes at the World Trade Organisation, stating that these programmes are creating an uneven playing field and are thus harming American manufacturers.
i. US Government has argued that Indian Government runs several export subsidy/incentives schemes which offers financial benefits to Indian exporters and brings down the end cost of products, thereby making it more competitive vis-à-vis products manufactured in US.
ii. Reference was being made to various schemes of Indian Government including Merchandise Exports from India Scheme, Export Oriented Units Scheme, sector specific schemes such as Electronics Hardware Technology Parks Scheme, Export Promotion Capital Goods Scheme, Special Economic Zones and Duty Free Imports for Exporters Programme.
iii. Through these schemes, Indian exporters are granted exemption from certain duties, taxes, and fees.
iv. As per Government data, thousands of Indian companies receive financial benefits to the tune of $7 billion annually through these schemes.
Quick Facts about World Trade Organisation:
♦ Formed in – 1995
♦ Task – Regulation of International Trade
♦ Headquarters – Geneva, Switzerland
♦ Current Director General – Robert Azevedo

BANKING & FINANCE

Tax rates under GST are world’s second highest: World Bank
As per World Bank’s bi-annual India Development Update, Indian goods and services tax (GST) regime is one of the most complex with the second highest tax rate in the world among a sample of 115 countries which have a similar indirect tax system.Lok Sabha passes GST (Compensation to States) Amendment Bill, 2017World Bank’s views on India’s GST regime:
i. World Bank highlighted that 49 countries around the world have a single slab of GST, 28 countries have two slabs, and only five countries, including India, have four non-zero slabs.
ii. Besides, in terms of complexity, GST roll out in India has not only increased administrative tax compliance burden on firms but has also resulted in locking-up of working capital due to slow tax refund processing.
iii. However, World Bank asserted that in the long run, benefits of the GST will outweigh its costs and initial hurdles.
Quick Facts about Goods and Services Tax (GST):
♦ Rolled out in India from – July 1, 2017
♦ Replaced – 16 levies (7 central taxes and 9 state taxes)
♦ Non-zero Tax brackets – 5%, 12%, 18% and 28%

First Data Signs Deal With India’s RBL Bank to Provide Card Processing Services
First Data, a global leader in commerce-enabling technology and Indian private sector bank, RBL Bank have entered into a partnership wherein First Data will help RBL Bank migrate their credit card customers to its latest proprietary software providing end-to-end card processing services.
More Details about First Data-RBL Bank tie-up:
i. On account of this partnership, RBL Bank will be able to introduce innovative features for its clients and will be able to scale up transactions on a secure platform.
ii. RBL Bank currently services over 3.98 million customers through a network of 246 branches across India.
iii. First Data Corporation is a global payment technology solutions company headquartered in Atlanta, United States and serves top national and international banks in India.
Quick Facts about RBL Bank:
♦ Founded in – 1943
♦ Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
♦ Current MD and CEO – Vishwavir Ahuja

AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS

Indian film ‘Halkaa’ bags award at Festival International du Film Pour Enfants de Montreal Film (FIFEM)
Indian film “Halkaa” has won the ‘Grand Prix de Montreal’ award at the 21st Festival International du Film Pour Enfants de Montreal Film (FIFEM).
‘Halkaa’ bags award at Montreal fest:
i. “Halkaa” was directed by Nila Madhab Panda. Child actor Tathastu has acted as Pichku, the lead role.
ii. “Halkaa” was selected among seven international children’s films in the official competition of the festival held from 8th to 11th March 2018.
Some important lakes of India:
♦ Kanwar Lake – Bihar
♦ Kankaria Lake – Gujarat
♦ Khajjiar Lake – Himachal Pradesh

Jackie Shroff-starrer ‘Shunyata’ wins award at Best of India Short Film fest in US
Actor Jackie Shroff’s short film “Shunyata” has won an award at Best of India Short Film Festival in Los Angeles, US.Jackie Shroff-starrer 'Shunyata' wins award at Best of India Short Film fest in LAJackie Shroff-starrer ‘Shunyata’ wins award at Best of India Short Film fest in US:
i. ‘Shunyata’ is short fiction film which runs for 22 minutes. It was directed by Chintan Sarda. It was produced by Sarda and Sunil Khedekar.
ii. The movie was screened at a theatre in Los Angeles. The jury selected ‘Shunyata’ as the best film.
iii. The award ceremony was held at Mack Sennett Studios on 3rd March 2018. It received a cash prize of $1,000.
Some river projects of India:
♦ Beas Project – Beas River
♦ Chambal Project – Chambal River
♦ Hirakud Project – Mahanadi River

Ministry of Power awarded for successful implementation of e-Office
Union Ministry of Power has been awarded a Certificate of Appreciation for successfully implementing e-Office system in the Ministry.
Details about e-Office system:
i. In a bid to bring in effective Governance and quality in public service delivery, e-Office System is being implemented in all Government of India’s Ministries/Departments.
ii. e-office system is  part of Government of India’s National e-Governance Programme and is aimed at improving the operational efficiency of the Government.
iii. The Certificate of Appreciation was given by Dr. Jitendra Singh, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Development of North Eastern Regions to Secretary, Power, Ajay Bhalla.

APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS

JP Nadda elected unopposed to Rajya Sabha seat from Himachal Pradesh
On 15th March 2018, Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda was elected unopposed to the Rajya Sabha from Himachal Pradesh for a second term.J P Nadda launches Rota virus vaccineJP Nadda elected unopposed to Rajya Sabha seat from Himachal Pradesh:
i. JP Nadda was the only candidate who filed nomination for the Rajya Sabha seat from Himachal Pradesh.
ii. The last date of filing nominations was 12th March 2018. The last date of withdrawal of nominations was 15th March 2018.
iii. As he was the only candidate who had filed nomination, he was elected unopposed for the Rajya Sabha seat from Himachal Pradesh.
Some wildlife sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh:
♦ Chail Sanctuary
♦ Churdhar Sanctuary
♦ Daranghati Sanctuary

Nepal’s Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli sacked for faking birth dates
On 14th March 2018, Nepal’s Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli was removed from his post by Nepal’s Judicial Council for providing fake date of birth in order to remain longer in office.
Nepal’s Chief Justice Gopal Parajuli sacked for faking birth dates:
i. In the removal letter to Chief Justice the Judicial Council has quoted inconsistencies in the birth dates as mentioned in his citizenship and academic certificates as reasons for his removal.
ii. The judicial council stated that Gopal Parajuli should have retired 7 months ago when he became 65, which is the retirement age for Nepal officials.
Nick names of some Indian cities:
♦ Hyderabad-Secunderabad – Twin city
♦ Amritsar – Golden City
♦ Mysore – Sandal Wood City

Larry Kudlow appointed as Donald Trump’s new chief economic adviser
Larry Kudlow has been named the new chief economic advisor to US President Donald Trump.Larry Kudlow appointed as Donald Trump's new chief economic adviserLarry Kudlow appointed as Donald Trump’s new chief economic adviser:
i. Larry Kudlow replaces Gary Cohn as Donald Trump’s chief economic adviser. Larry Kudlow is 70 years old.
ii .Larry Kudlow worked as Donald Trump’s informal economic adviser during the 2016 campaign.
iii .On 14th March 2018, the White House announced that Larry Kudlow had been offered and had accepted the job as head of the White House National Economic Council.
iv. The National Economic Council director advises the US president on economic issues and carries out implementation of policy goals.
Some important stadiums in India:
♦ Feroz Shah Kotla Stadium – Delhi
♦ Eden Gardens – Kolkata
♦ M.Chinnaswamy Stadium – Bengaluru

HSBC appoints Pradeep Rao as head of corporates in South-east Asia for global banking
On 13th March 2018, HSBC appointed Pradeep Rao as its head of corporates for South-east Asia for global banking.
HSBC appoints Pradeep Rao as head of corporates in South-east Asia for global banking:
i. As head of corporates for South-east Asia for global banking of HSBC, Pradeep Rao will work on strategic dialogue with HSBC’s important clients in South-east Asia.
ii. He was previously HSBC’s managing director of Asia-Pacific consumer and retail sector.
iii. He will be based in Singapore. He will report functionally to Rajeev Sahney, head of corporates for Asia-Pacific, and locally to Stephen Williams, head of global banking for South-east Asia.
About HSBC:
♦ Group CEO – John Flint
♦ Established – 1865

Slovenian PM Miro Cerar resigns over court ruling on referendum
On 15th March 2018, Slovenian Prime Minister Miro Cerar resigned after Slovenia’s top court invalidated the result of a government referendum.Resignation of Miro Cerar:
i. On 14th March 2018, the constitutional court invalidated the result of a referendum which approved a government infrastructure project. The project was to upgrade transport links to Koper port on the Adriatic coast.
ii. The estimated project cost was nearly one billion euros. The referendum held in September 2017, received a vote in favour of building a new railway line for the town.
iii. The constitutional court stated that, the government had acted partially by spending public money to obtain positive vote for the scheme.
About Slovenia:
♦ President – Borut Pahor
♦ Official language – Slovene

Sangeeta Bahadur appointed as Ambassador of India to Belarus
On 15th March 2018, Sangeeta Bahadur was named the next Ambassador of India to the Republic of Belarus.
Sangeeta Bahadur appointed as Ambassador of India to Belarus:
i .Sangeeta Bahadur is an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) Officer of the 1987 batch. She is at present the Additonal Secretary in Ministry of External Affairs.
ii .She has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Republic of Belarus.
About Republic of Belarus:
♦ President – Alexander Lukashenko
♦ Prime Minister – Andrei Kobyakov

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

CCRAS Developed a AYUSH Drug QOL-2C for Cancer Patients
Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS) has undertaken development of a coded drug AYUSH QOL-2C for enhancing the quality of life of cancer patients.
CCRAS Developed a AYUSH Drug QOL-2C for Cancer Patients:
i. Clinical studies on breast cancer patients was done at St. John’s Medical College, Bengaluru and AIIMS, New Delhi.  Studies on lung cancer patients was performed at Bhagwan Mahaveer Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Jaipur.
ii. Information in this regard was given by Minister of State (Independent Charge) for AYUSH, Shripad Yesso Naik.
About Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS):
♦ Director General – Prof. Vd. K. S. Dhiman
♦ Functions under – Ministry of AYUSH

IMPORTANT DAYS

World Consumer Rights Day – March 15
On 15th March 2018, World Consumer Rights Day was observed all over the world.World Consumer Rights DayWorld Consumer Rights Day:
i. World Consumer Rights Day is celebrated on 15th March every year to create awareness about consumer rights.
ii. World Consumer Rights Day was inspired by President John F Kennedy. He sent a special message on issues of consumer rights to the US Congress on 15th March 1962. The first World Consumer Rights Day was celebrated in 1983.
iii. Theme: “Making Digital Marketplaces Fairer” is the theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2018.
Some important bird sanctuaries in India:
♦ Atapaka Bird Sanctuary – Andhra Pradesh
♦ Nagi Dam Bird Sanctuary – Bihar
♦ Mayani Bird Sanctuary – Maharashtra