Current Affairs: 16 February 2017

HDFC life launches 'Pragati', a trad plan for low income group

  • HDFC life launched Pragati, a traditional life insurance plan that has been specifically designed to empower low income families. 
  • Pragati makes life insurance easily accessible to every person who wishes to financially secure his family, the private life insurer said in a release issued here.
  • With Pragati, HDFC Life wants to offer the dual benefit of systematic savings (with guaranteed premium returns) and wholesome life protection, making it an ideal financial product for every Indian household. 
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Airbus signs MoU for setting up centre of excellence in Hyderabad

  • Airbus signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for establishing a Centre of Excellence for aerospace skill development in Hyderabad, together with the Telangana government, National Skill Development Corporation India and AEROCAMPUS France.
  • The Centre, which will come up at Begumpet Airport, will train candidates ranging from high school graduates to experienced aviation personnel on aircraft manufacturing, logistics, Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO), ground handling and special aviation processes.
  • The Centre will offer short-term refresher modules as well as long-term certificate and diploma courses that will find acceptability within the industry, Airbus said in a release.
  • Centre is expected to roll out short-term courses this year, adding, it planned to upgrade into a university over the next five years.
  • The Telangana government will provide space for setting up the Centre and would arrange the initial seed fund for the project.
  • The National Skill Development Corporation will channelise the candidates to the Centre.
  • Together with AEROCAMPUS and Aviation and Aerospace Sector Skill Council (AASSC), it will also ensure that the programmes comply with international standards and are certified

France’s Jean-Pierre Lacroix named new UN peacekeeping chief

  • UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced the appointment of Jean-Pierre Lacroix of France to head UN peacekeeping for a year pending a review of the world body’s functions and structure.
  •  The UN’s political affairs chief, Jeffrey Feltman of the United States, will remain at this post, also for a year.
  • The two positions of under-secretary-general are among the most high-profile at the United Nations.

Usain Bolt wins Laureus 'Sportsman of the Year' award

  • World's "greatest" sprinter Usain Bolt pipped the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and LeBron James to win the 'Sportsman of the Year' trophy for a record-equalling fourth time, while gymnast Simone Biles clinched the top honour in the women's category at the Laureus World Awards
  • Bolt, who won this award in 2009, '10 and '13, walked away with the 'Oscar of Sports' for the fourth time, thereby joining tennis legends Roger Federer and Serena Williams, and surfer Kelly Slater as four-time Laureus award winner.
  • Olympic gymnastics champion Biles notched up the 'Sportswoman of the Year' trophy, riding on her brilliant achievement at the Rio Games last year, where she finished with four yellow metals and a bronze.
  • The most decorated Olympian of all-time, Michael Phelps bagged the 'Comeback of the Year' award after returning to the swimming pool and scooping five more gold medals.
  • Formula One champion Nico Roseberg claimed the 'Breakthrough of the Year' award.

First Indian genomics beacon launched in UK

  • Global Gene Corp and Global Alliance for Genomics and Health (GA4GH) launched the first-ever beacon for Indian genomics data, which is expected to help scientists develop more effective drug delivery systems.
  • A beacon is an online web service that allows researchers to determine whether an institution has particular genomic data in its data set. 
  • The aim of the Indian beacon is to address the gap in shared Indian genomics data, which helps scientists better understand disease and develop more effective drug delivery systems and therapeutics.
  • Genomics is the science that will define healthcare in our lifetime. Solving healthcare problems at scale is exceptionally important for India to ensure quality of life 
  • The Indian beacon joins those already on the Wellcome Genome Campus supplied by EMBL-EBI and the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute in Hinxton, Cambridgeshire. 
  • Cambridge-based Global Gene Corp (GCC) is based at the Wellcome Genome Campus and is co-founded by alumni from the Indian Institute of Technology, Harvard and National University of Singapore with the mission to “democratise genomics”.

US, Thailand Launched 2017 Cobra Gold Military Exercises

  • The United States and Thailand kicked off the 2017 iteration of the annual Cobra Gold military exercises, Asia’s largest multinational drill.
  • In over 30 years, Cobra Gold, which began as a bilateral drill between the United States and Thailand – Washington’s oldest ally in Asia – has now grown into one of the world’s largest multinational exercises, involving some 30 countries.
  • Cobra Gold 2017, the 36th iteration of the military exercise, is officially taking place from February 14 to 24, according to a statement released by the U.S. embassy in Bangkok. 
  • The opening ceremony was held in Sattahip Royal Thai Marine Corps Base in Chonburi Province, while the closing ceremony will be held in Phu Lamyai Training area in Nakhon Ratchasima Province.
  • This year’s exercise will feature 29 countries either directly participating in or observing. As is customary, it will be comprised of three primary events: a staff exercise which includes a senior leader seminar; a field training exercise that includes a variety of training events to strengthen regional relationships and enhance interoperability; and humanitarian civic assistance projects in Thai communities.

India to join Moscow meet on Afghanistan

  • India is among six nations participating in a conference on Afghanistan’s future in Moscow two months after Russia hosted a similar conference with only China and Pakistan. 
  • After India and particularly Afghanistan objected to being cut out of the discussion, Moscow agreed to expand its ambit, announcing a six-nation conference of Russia, India, Iran, Pakistan, China and Afghanistan.
  • To begin with, India is increasingly uncomfortable with Russia’s overtures to Pakistan on defence issues. Significantly, Russia did not join the U.S., U.K. and France in sponsoring a resolution against Jaish chief Masood Azhar at the U.N. sanctions committee last month, a resolution which China then put a hold on.
  • Russia has been seen as favouring a softer line on the Taliban as a counter to the spread of Islamic State (IS) in Afghanistan; Russia and China have also been coordinating to demand the delisting of senior Taliban leaders designated as terrorists by the U.N. sanctions committee.

Mamata Banerjee declares Kalimpong as separate district of West Bengal

  • A new district of Kalimpong was carved out of Darjeeling, which has seen separate statehood demands since 1980s, with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee making the formal announcement.
  • Announcing a slew of development projects for the newly created district at a colourful ceremony, Banerjee said "a Rs 220 crore road link project will be taken up to connect Kalimpong with Sikkim via the old Silk Route."
  • Rs 50 crore water supply project by the public health engineering department will be taken up soon to address Kalimpong's water scarcity problem. 
  • Darjeeling Hills has been witness to violent statehood movements since 1986 under the leadership of Subhas Ghising and after a few years' thaw, again under Bimal Gurung, the present chief executive of Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, in a bid to break away from West Bengal.

Madhya Pradesh govt to set up tourism board with CM as its head

  • The state MP government on decided to set up a tourism board. The decision was reached at a meeting of the tourism cabinet in Pachmarhi.
  • The chief minister will be the chairman of the board, the minister for tourism and chief secretary will be vice-chairmen while principal secretaries of the departments of finance, forest, urban development, environment and culture will be the directors.
  • The main work of the board would be implementation of the state's tourism policy, attract private sector participation, facilitate investors and extend benefits to them as is permissible under the tourism policy. 
  • The Board would also have to formulate new policies, monitor new tourism projects, select and increase land banks and organise fairs, food festivals, cultural programmes, cottage industry carnivals.

J&K govt launches e-Prison project

  • The Jammu and Kashmir government launched the e-Prison project to enumerate jail inmates in the State, where numbers of detainees keep swelling during unrest.
  • The information about jail inmates is currently being maintained manually. To avoid delays in processing the information and manage all the jails efficiently, the automation of prison department has been started.
  • The government has already digitised records of 500 inmates. The project will digitise 25 district jails, two Central jails and one sub-jail in the State. The second phase of the project will focus on videoconferencing between jails and prison headquarters, e-court, tele-medication in jails.
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