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Current Affairs Today – March 20 2017

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INDIAN AFFAIRS

Government Approves Solar Energy Scheme for Small Powerloom Units
i. The Minister of State for Textiles, Shri Ajay Tamta informed the Lok Sabha on March 16, 2017 that the Government has approved a new scheme, Solar Energy Scheme, to provide financial assistance/capital subsidy to small powerloom units, for installation of Solar Photo Voltaic (SPV) plant.
ii. Aim: To mitigate the problem of power cut/ shortage faced by decentralized powerloom units in the country so as to improve utilization, efficiency, productivity to face both the domestic and international markets competitively.
iii. The Scheme is meant for Units having 04, 06 & 08 powerlooms and subsidies for different SPV plants will be given in the range of Rs 2,25,000 to Rs 8,55,000 depending upon the capacity of the SPV plant (4KWP, 6KWP, 8 KWP).
iv. Besides, the Government of India shall provide financial assistance/capital subsidy to the extent of 50%, 75% & 90% of the basic cost of the Solar Energy Plant (Cost of Solar Panel + Inverter + batteries) to the applicants of General category, SC & ST respectively.
v. The Scheme will come into force with effect from April 1, 2017.
Scope of the Solar Energy Scheme
Under the Solar Energy Scheme, the Solar Photo Voltaic (SPV) plant will be implemented in two modes:
i.On-Grid Solar Power Plant
Suitable for areas where power cut/shortage is negligible and power tariff is high. On Grid Solar Power Plant consists of Solar Photo Voltaic panels with installation poles and Invertors/PCUs with matching capacity
ii.Off-Grid Solar Power Plant
Suitable for areas where there is power shortage & on-grid power is not continuously available. Off Grid Solar Power Plant consists of Solar Photo Voltaic panels with installation poles, Invertors/PCUs with matching capacity and battery with minimum backup capacity for 03 hours.

India’s Longest Road Tunnel, Cheneni-Nashiri Tunnel Ready for Opening
The longest road tunnel of India built at Chenani in Jammu’s Udhampur district has successfully completed its trail run and is ready for public opening.
♦ The longest tunnel connecting Chenani and Nashiri town is likely to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the end of March.India’s Longest Road Tunnel, Cheneni-Nashiri Tunnel Ready for Opening
♦ The trial run was successfully carried out between March 9-15 2017 during both peak and non peak hours.
About the Chennai Nashiri Tunnel
i. The 9-km-long tunnel passes through the Himalayas and is a part of the 286-km-long four-lane project on Jammu- Srinagar National Highway.
ii. It took nearly six years for the project’s completion, since the work started in May 2011.
iii. The twin-tube tunnel has been built at an elevation of 1,200 metres and at a cost of over Rs. 3,720 crore.
iv. It will help to reduce the time of travelling between Jammu and Srinagar by 30 kilometres and will make it easy for tourists to reach the Valley.
v .The tunnel is first in India to be equipped with world class integrated tunnel control system through which ventilation, fire control, signals, communication and electrical systems will be automatically actuated.

Five-Month Long Economic Blockade in Manipur by UNC Comes to Halt
i. With the coming of the new BJP government in Manipur, the five-month-long economic blockade imposed by United Naga Council (UNC) on two National Highways of Manipur finally came to an end on March 19, 2017.
ii. The lifting of the blockade was successful after a tripartite talk among the Centre, Manipur government and United Naga Council were held at Senapati District Headquarters along with the Joint Secretary (NE), Ministry of Home Affairs earlier in February 2017.
iii. The Manipur government has agreed to release the arrested United Naga Council leaders as well as withdraw all cases related to the economic blockade against the Naga tribal and student leaders over past few months.
iv. The statement was signed by Joint Secretary Satyendra Garg of the Union Home Ministry, Additional Chief Secretary (Home) J Suresh Babu and Commissioner (Works) Radhakumar Singh of the Manipur government and UNC general secretary S Milan and All Naga Students Association president Seth Shatsang.
v. All the three sides has also agreed upon holding the next tripartite talks within one month.
About the Economic Blockade in Manipur
♦ The Manipur economic blockade was imposed by the United Naga Council on the two National Highways, NH-2 and NH-37 of Manipur nearly five month ago on November 1, 2016 to protest against the creation of seven new districts by the then Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh-led Congress government in the state.
♦ The UNC has opposed the decision to carve out new districts from tribal-dominated hill areas in Manipur which are predominantly inhabited by various Naga tribal groups and said that the decision violated the rights of the tribal in the region.
♦ The blockade led to steep rise in prices of essential commodities and severely affected the normal life.

Union Cabinet Clears 4 GST Supplementary Legislations for Introduction to Parliament
i. The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the four supporting GST legislations on March 20, 2017.
ii .The four supporting legislations are the Compensation Law, the Central-GST (C-GST), Integrated-GST (I-GST) and Union Territory-GST (UT-GST).
iii. These legislations would be introduced as Money Bills in Parliament this week.
iv. Once the Parliament approves the Bill, the states would start taking their SGST bill for discussion and passage in the respective state assemblies.
v. Passage of all the legislations would pave the way for introduction of Goods and Services Tax (GST) from July 1.
vi. Once the new GST regime is into effect it will subsume central taxes like excise and service tax and state levies like VAT.
vii. A composite GST will be charged on sale of goods or rendering of services while the revenue would be shared between the Centre and the states in almost equal proportion.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Five Indians Named in WEF’s 100 Young Global Leaders List 2017
The annual World Economic Forum’s 100 Young Global Leaders list released for the year 2017 have given place to five Indians for their innovative approaches.
Five Indians Include
1.Vijay Shekhar Sharma: Founder & CEO PayTm
2.Shruti Shibulal: The Tamara Hospitality
3.Ambarish Mitra: Founder and CEO of Blippar, a mobile phone app
4.Hindol Sengupta: Editor-at-large, Fortune India
5.Rwitwika Bhattacharya-Agarwal: Founder and CEO of Swaniti Initiative.

Italy Ranked World’s Healthiest Country by Bloomberg 2017 Index 
i. According to the 2017 Bloomberg Global Health Index of 163 countrues released on March 20, 2017, Italy has been ranked as the healthiest country on Earth with a health score of 97.44 out of 100.
Top 5 Healthiest Countries

Rank Country Score (100)
1 Italy 97.44
2 Iceland 96.20
3 Switzerland 94.96
4 Singapore 94.11
5 Australia 93.88
ii. The reason behind the healthy citizens of Italy is cited to lot of dependence on leafy diets drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. Besides, Italy also has excess of Doctors in the country.
iii. The least healthiest states comprised of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and West Virginia and were considered that more than 35 percent of their populations faced obese2017 Bloomberg Global Health Index
iv. Each country in the index was graded based on variables such as life expectancy, causes of death and health risks ranging from high blood pressure and tobacco use to malnutrition and the availability of clean water.
Italy
♦ Capital: Rome
♦ Currency: Euro
♦ Prime minister: Paolo Gentiloni

BANKING & FINANCE

FinMin Approves Capital Infusion Plan for 10 PSU Banks
i. The Union Ministry of Finance has given the green signal to the turnaround-linked Rs.8,586-crore capital infusion plan to support 10 weak and non-performing public sector banks (PSBs).
ii .The 10 Banks Include: Allahabad Bank (Rs.418 crore); Andhra Bank (Rs.1,100 crore); Bank of India (Rs.1,500 crore); Bank of Maharashtra (Rs.300 crore); Central Bank of India (Rs.100 crore); Dena Bank (Rs.600 crore); IDBI Bank (Rs.1,900 crore); Indian Overseas Bank (Rs.1,100 crore); UCO Bank (Rs.1,150 crore) and United Bank of India (Rs.418 crore).
iii .Further, to avail for the capital support, the identified PSBs needs to enter a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the government, PSB management and employees of the PSB concerned.
iv. The MoU aims to commit all the participants to the agreement for a time bound plan beginning 2017-18 onwards with quantifiable and measurable milestones which can be monitored on quarterly basis.
v. The milestone identifiedto be achieved includes, Active bad loan management, Strengthening of credit underwriting, arranging capital from market, plan for disposal of non-core assets, divestment of subsidiary stake, closure of loss making domestic/international brnaches.

Hazira’s first private sector township to go cashless
i. Essar Steel’s Nand Niketan township at Hazira, Gujarat has become the first private township to go cashless with the help of Mumbai-based financial technology company, The Hazira's first private sector township to go cashlessMobile Wallet (TMW).
ii. TMW will provide smartphone based application for mastercard-enabled mobile wallets
and the wallet is powered by RBL Bank Ltd.
iii. All Essar employees got a nominal part of their salary as a credit into their TMW wallets. Essar employees and their families residing, merchants and shop owners in this township now using mobile wallet for their daily needs.
iv. Rs 2 lakh digital transactions are being executed every day through TMW

ICICI Bank launches new app ‘Mera iMobile’,for rural customers 
i. Mumbai based ICICI Bank launched first banking mobile application ‘Mera iMobile’ to provide agricultural information in 11 Indian languages for rural people without internet connection.
ii. Purpose: To access banking services and get information on agricultural services
iii. Mera iMobile app provide services include Kisan Credit Card, Gold Loan, Farm Equipment Loan and loans to Self-Help Groups (SHGs).
iv. It will provide agriculture related information like crop-wise mandi prices of nearly 230 crop varieties across 460 mandis. It also displays taluka-wise weather update for close to 3700 talukas across and over 300 districts.
v. ICICI bank planned to introduce Wifi hostpots at its 700 rural and semi urban branches.
ICICI Bank:
♦ CEO: Chanda Kochhar
♦ Headquarters: Mumbai
♦ Tagline: Hum Hain Na!

APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS

Snapdeal names Jason Kothari as new FreeCharge CEO
i. Jason Kothari was appointed as Chief Executive Officer of Freecharge by Indian e-commerce company Snapdeal CEO, Kunal Bahl on March 20, 2017.
ii. Kothari is succeedor of Govind Rajan who resign his job last month.
iii. He is currently working as the Chief Strategy Officer of snapdeal since January 2017. Prior to this he has worked in Housing.com.

Government swaps chief executives of IDBI Bank, Indian Bank
i. For the first time, the central government has swapped the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of state-owned Indian Bank and IDBI Bank on March 19, 2017
ii. It will be effective from the beginning of the next fiscal year.Government swaps chief executives of IDBI Bank, Indian Bank
iii. Mahesh Kumar Jain, MD & CEO of Indian Bank was shifted to IDBI Bank’s MD & CEO
iv. Kishore Piraji Kharat has been appointed as Managing Director and CEO of Indian Bank.
IDBI Bank:
♦ Headquarters: Mumbai
♦ CEO: Kishor Kharat
♦ Tagline: Aao Sochein Bada

ACQUISITIONS & MERGERS

Idea approves merger with Vodafone India, to create India’s largest telco
i. India’s Idea Cellular Ltd approved its merger operation with Vodafone India Limited (VIL) excluding Vodafone’s 42% stake in Indus Towers Ltd on March 20, 2017
ii. It will create India’s largest telecom company with a total revenue of over Rs80,000 crore.
iii. After merger, Vodafone will hold 45 percent in the combined entity while Idea promoters will hold 26 percent in the combined entity.
iv. Kumar Mangalam Birla, Aditya Birla group chairman, will be the chairman of the merged entity
v. The appointments of chief executive and chief operating officers will require approval of the boards of both the companies while Vodafone will have exclusive rights to appoint chief financial officer.

RCOM gets CCI approval for Aircel merger
i. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has approved the merger of wireless operations of Reliance Communications and Aircel to create a combined entity with assets worth Rs 65,000 crore.
ii. Reliance and Aircel have announced its merger operation in September 2016.
iii. Both the companies will transfer Rs 14,000 crore of debt each to the joint venture, taking the total debt of the new company to Rs 28,000 crore.
Relianceiv. RCom and  Aircel Ltd will hold 50 per cent each in the merged entity, with equal representation on the board and committees.
Key People:
♦ RCOM CEO: Gurdeep Singh
♦ Aircel CEO:Kaizad Heerjee

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

New Wi-Fi system to offer super-fast connectivity
Netherlands Scientists from Eindhoven University of Technology have developed infrared rays based Wi-Fi system whih is 100 times faster than the Wireless Fidelity networks.
Module of New Wi-Fi system:
i. Light antennas mounted on the ceiling will give the wireless data smartphone or tablet
ii. The antennas contain a pair of gratings that radiate light rays of different wavelengths at different angles
iii. Changing the light wavelengths also changes the direction of the ray of light.
iv. Light rays are used for download while radio signals are used for uploads.
Features:
♦ It uses safe infrared wavelength that does not reach the retina in the eye.
♦ The capacity of the new Wi-Fi system is more than 40 Gigabits per second (Gbit/s).
♦ The network tracks the precise location of every device using its radio signal transmitted in the return direction.
♦ Different devices are assigned different wavelengths by the same light antenna and so do not have to share capacity.
Infrared Rays :
1.Infrared radiation(IR)is electromagnetic radiation (EMR) with longer wavelengths than those of visible light, and is therefore invisible.
2.It extends from the nominal red edge of the visible spectrum at 700 nanometers (frequency 430 THz), to 1000000 nm (300 GHz)

Scientists at CERN Discovers Five New Sub-Atomic Particles Using Large Hadron Collider
i. The Scientists at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research), have discovered a new system of five particles all in a single analysis using the world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator, Large Hadron Collider (LHC).
ii .The scientists said that the discovery is exceptional since observing five new states all at once is a unique event in itself.
iii. The newly discovered particle states have been named as Oc(3000)0, Oc(3050)0, Oc(3066)0, Oc(3090)0 and Oc(3119)0 according to the standard convention.
iv. The numbers indicate their masses in megaelectronvolts (MeV), as measured by LHCb.
v. The Large Hadron Collider beauty (LHCb) experiment is one of seven particle physics detector experiments collecting data at the Large Hadron Collider accelerator at CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research).
vi. Now, the next step for the researchers will be the determination of the quantum numbers of these new particles, characteristic numbers used to identify the properties of a specific particle and the determination of their theoretical significance.
CERN (European Organisation for Nuclear Research)
CERN is a European research organization that operates the largest particle physics laboratory in the world.
♦ The organization is based in a northwest suburb of Geneva on the Franco–SwisScientists at CERN Discovers Five New Sub-Atomic Particles Using Large Hadron Colliders border and has 22 member states. Israel is the only non-European country granted full membership.
♦ CERN’s main function is to provide the particle accelerators and other infrastructure needed for high-energy physics research.
Keys :
♦ Formation: September 29, 1954
♦ Headquarters: Geneva, Switzerland
♦ Council President: Sijbrand de Jong

ENVIRONMENT

West Bengal Has Highest Number of Arsenic Affected Persons in India: Report
i. According the report presented in Lok Sabha by Union Minister for Drinking Water and Sanitation Mahendra Singh Tomar, West Bengal was the top most state of India having highest number of arsenic-affected persons as on March 4, 2017.
ii. The total number of arsenic-affected persons in the state was more than 1.04 crore.
iii. The State Minister of Public Health Engineering (PHE) Subrata Mukherjee informed that the state has 83 blocks in eight districts where ground water is affected by arsenic contamination.
iv. These districts include, Bardhaman, Malda, Hooghly, Howrah, Murshidabad, Nadia, North and South 24 Paraganas
v. Besides, Bihar was second with 16.88 lakh persons affected by arsenic followed by Assam in third spot with 14.48 lakh victims.
vi. The report also stated that the total number of arsenic-affected people in India is about 1.48 crore.
vii. According to the WHO’s guidelines for drinking water quality (2011), the permissible limit of Arsenic in groundwater is .01 mg per litre. However, in India the permissible limit in drinking water has recently been revised from .05 mg per litre to .01 mg per litre.

Uttarakhand HC recognises Ganga as India’s 1st living entity
i. A trans-boundary river of Asia Ganga along with river Yamuna has recognised as the ‘first living entity of India’ by the Uttarakhand High Court on March 20, 2017.
ii. Now, both the rivers will have same legal rights as a human being as per the constitution. If someone pollutes river Ganga, the law will see it equal to harming a human being.
iii. The court also instructed the Uttarakhand government to form a Ganga Administration Board for cleaning and better maintenance of the river.
iv. Recently New Zealand government had declared 145km long Whanganui River as a first living entity of the world
Ganga :
♦ The 2,525-km long river, Ganga is third largest river in the world in terms of discharge.
♦ It originates in the Himalaya mountains and ends in the Bay of Bengal.

SPORTS

Roger Federer Beats Stan Wawrinka to Win 2017 Indian Wells Tournament
i. Swiss Professional Tennis Player Roger Federer won his fifth BNP Paribas Open Tennis Tournament crown on March 19, 2017 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden, California by defeating his fellowmate Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5.
ii. Earlier, Federer won the title in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2012. He also finished runner-up in 2014-15. Federer won prize money of $1,175,505.
iii .With this win, the 35 years and seven months, Federer became the oldest champion in the desert tournament’s history, surpassing Connors, who was 31 years and five months when he won in 1981.
iv. The win also marks Federer’s 90th tour-level crown and his 25th ATP World Tour Masters 1000 title.
2017 Winners

Title Winner Runner
Men’s Single R. Federer S. Wawrinka
Women’s Single Elena Vesnina Svetlana Kuznetsova
Men’s Double Raven Klaasen/Rajeev Ram Lukasz Kubot/Marcelo Melo
Women’s Double Chan Yung-Jan /Martina Hingis  Lucie Hradecka /Katerina Siniakova

OBITUARY

Former Rajya Sabha member Pyarimohan Mohapatra passes away
i. Former Rajya Sabha MP and president of Odisha Janamorcha party Pyari Mohan Mohapatra passed away in Mumbai on March 19, 2017.He was 77.Former Rajya Sabha member Pyarimohan Mohapatra passes away
ii. Mohapatra is known as ‘Chankya of Odisha politics’. He played a key role in deciding the shape and contours of the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) after the regional party was formed in 1997.
iii. He was the Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister during Biju Patnaik’s period
iv. He was Rajya Sabha member from 2010 to 2012.

Gujarati poet Chinu Modi passes away
i. Noted Gujarati poet, novelist, story-writer and critic, Chinu Modi  passed away in Ahmedabad,Gujarat on March 20, 2017. He was 78.
ii. Chinu is also known by his pen name ‘Irshad’. He started hotel poetry club where he used to encourage young friends to read, write and to critique
iii. He also the chairman of Kriti Film Cooperative Society since 1979.
iv. He has written both metrical and non-metrical form of poetry. His main contribution towards ghazal poetry.
v. Along with ghazal, he has written geet, sonnet, free verse and Khandakavya (long narrative poem). His works have been translated into English, Hindi and other Indian languages and his plays have been staged several times.
vi. He was awarded Writer Fellowship from Department of Culture, New Delhi in 1979.

IMPORTANT DAYS

International Day of Happiness 2017 Observed on March 20, 2017
i. The International Day of Happiness is celebrated worldwide on March 20 since 2013 to educate and increase public awareness of the benefits of happiness.The day was celebrated for the first time in 2013.
ii. According to the 2017 World Happiness Report, released on March 20, 2017 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Norway has been ranked as the most happiest country of the world among 155 nations. India was placed at 122nd position in the World Happiness Report.
iii. The Central African Republic was the least happy of 155 countries according to the report.
Top 3 Happiest Country

Rank Country Score (10)
1 Norway 7.53
2 Denmark 7.52
3 Iceland 7.50

World Sparrow day – March 20, 2017
i. World Sparrow Day is celebrated every year on March 20 across the world since 2010 World Sparrow Dayto raise awareness about the importance of birds dwelling in urban areas.
ii. Aim:  To educate the public about the threat of polluted urban environments and non-caring humans to the house sparrow population, as well as to other common bird species.
iii. It is an international day initiated by the Nature Forever Society of India in collaboration with the Eco-Sys Action Foundation (France).