Current Affairs: 3 August 2017

National Events

India Permitted To Construct Kishanganga, Ratle Projects: World Bank

  • India is allowed to construct hydroelectric power facilities on tributaries of the Jhelum and Chenab rivers with certain restrictions under the 1960 Indus Waters Treaty (IWT), the World Bank has said.
  • The World Bank's comments came as officials from India Pakistan concluded the secretary-level talks over the IWT.
  • Pakistan opposes the construction of the Kishanganga (330 megawatts) and Ratle (850 megawatts) hydroelectric power plants being built by India in Jammu and Kashmir, 

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Cabinet to take up scrapping of no-detention policy in schools

  • States will soon be able to able to conduct exams for students of class 5 and 8 who fail in the annual exams to give them another chance to pass with the Union cabinet likely to take up a proposal on Wednesday of scrapping the ‘no-detention policy’,
  • States will have the discretion to give another opportunity to these students to pass. Under the proposal, students of classes 5 to 8 who do not pass the examination in March will be given a chance in May or June.
  • However, they will be detained if they fail again according to the proposal.
  • In case a student is unable to pass the annual exam in March, he/she will get another opportunity in May or June. Before sitting for the exams once again, the students will be asked to attend ‘remedial classes’. Once the new system comes into force, the onus would be on the states to decide whether to hold examinations in classes 5 and 8.

CIC reconstitutes bench to hear complaints against political parties


  • Chief Information Commissioner R K Mathur has constituted a larger bench to hear complaints against six national political parties not adhering to the CIC order bringing them within the ambit of the RTI Act.
  • The bench will replace a three-member panel headed by Sridhar Acharyulu which was hearing the matter since July 22, 2016 until one of its members Bimal Julka decided to recuse himself citing workload. After his recusal, Mathur had put the matter in abeyance till further notice.
  • Besides Mathur himself, the new Bench will have Information Commissioners-- Sharat Sabharwal, Manjula Prasher and Divya Prakash Sinha.
  • The new Bench will start hearing the matter from August 16


Bills to extend GST to J-K passed by Lok Sabha

  • The Lok Sabha passed legislation to extend the Goods and Services Tax (GST) to Jammu and Kashmir, making it part of the “one nation, one tax” regime.
  • The House passed the Central Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir), Bill, 2017 and the Integrated Goods and Services Tax (Extension to Jammu and Kashmir), Bill, 2017 after a brief discussion in which members by and large welcomed the measures.
  • The two bills replace an order promulgated by the President

Online tatkal railway tickets: Now you can pay on delivery


  • People can now pay later for tickets booked under the tatkal quota on the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corp (IRCTC) website, it was announced on Wednesday.
  • Till now, this service was available only for general reservations. For tatkal bookings, people had to pay first via the standard online payment gateways before the IRCTC portal confirmed their ticket.
  • For tatkal tickets, IRCTC users will be able to pay via cash, debit card or credit card by opting to have tickets delivered at their doorstep, said IRCTC payment provider Anduril Technologies.
  • IRCTC processes 130,000 Tatkal transactions daily. A majority of these tickets are booked within minutes of the quota opening.
  • The new feature eliminates the transaction failures as often the money gets debited and the ticket is not issued due to multiple reasons. The refund cycle is of about seven to 15 days.



International Events

BRICS trade ministers meet concludes in Shanghai

  • The two-day meeting of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) trade ministers was held in Shanghai
  • A six-member delegation led by Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman participated in the August 1-2 meeting.
  • The ministers adopted seven documents at the conclusion of the meeting and that includes trade in services cooperation roadmap, e-commerce cooperation initiative and framework on strengthening the economic and technical cooperation, and outlines for BRICS investment facilitation.

Donald Trump signs Russia sanctions Bill into law

  • U.S. President Donald Trump has signed legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia into law,
  • The U.S. Congress voted last week by overwhelming margins for sanctions to punish the Russian government over interference in the 2016 presidential election, the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea and other perceived violations of international norms.
  • The new law allows Congress, which passed the measure to punish Russia over interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and the annexation of Ukraine's Crimea, to halt any effort by Trump to ease sanctions on Russia.
  • His hands were tied after the Republican-controlled Congress approved the legislation by such a large margin last week that any presidential veto of the bill would have been overridden.

Banking & Finance

RBI cuts repo rate by 25 bps to 6%, loans may get cheaper

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) cut interest rates, in line with what the Street was expecting. Repo rate - the rate at the which the central bank lends short-term money to banks - was cut by 25 basis points to 6 per cent from 6.25 per cent. RBI's move comes on the back of inflation running well below its target for consecutive quarters. The central bank had last cut key rates in October 2016. 
  • The current rate of 6 per cent is the lowest since November 2010.
  • The RBI also cut reverse repo rate -- the rate at which the central bank borrows money from commercial banks by 25 basis points to 5.75 per cent from 6 per cent. 
  • Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) rate -- the rate at which banks borrow overnight funds from RBI against approved government securities -- and the bank rate were also adjusted to 6.25 per cent.
  • SBI also informed the stock markets that it had cut MCLR (marginal cost of funds based lending rate) or its key lending rate, by 90 basis points effective January 1, 2017, on the strength of large inflows in savings and current accounts after demonetisation. 

RBI widens Basel-III-compliant asset base of banks


  • Ahead of the implementation of the stringent capital requirements under the Basel-III regime from 2019, the Reserve Bank today amended a slew of previous regulations on the same, helping banks shore up their capital buffers and improve liquidity coverage ratios.
  • Accordingly, the new amendments widen the assets of banks such as the excess CRR; excess G-secs holdings in SLR; and also excess g-secs under marginal standing facility, which all would now be included in the stock of liquid assets without any limit as also without applying any haircut, the central bank said in a notification.
  • The liquid stock will also include marketable securities issued/guaranteed by foreign sovereigns which have only 0 per cent risk weight under the Basel II standardised approach for credit risk; actively traded repo or cash markets operations with zero risks, reserves held with foreign central banks in excess of the reserve requirement.
  • Other term deposits with the central bank are not eligible for this. However, if the term expires within 30 days, the term deposits could be considered as an inflow, the RBI circular added.


SBI, Samsung collaborate to advance Digital India initiative

  • The State Bank of India (SBI) and Samsung India on Tuesday announced the availability of Samsung Pay for higher variants of SBI debit card, giving a major boost to government's 'Digital India' initiative.
  • Samsung Pay works on 2.5 million Point of Sale (PoS) Card machines across the country through its Magnetic Secure Transmission (MST) technology.
  • Samsung Pay is currently available on a wide range of Samsung smartphones, enabling consumers to make offline payments without the need for a physical Card.
  • "To help more consumers avail of our innovative payment system, we have also introduced Samsung Pay to our mid-segment smartphones like the Galaxy J7 Pro. We recently introduced Samsung Pay Mini to cater to the unique requirements of mid-segment consumers too,

SEBI forms committee on fair market conduct


  • Regulator Sebi set up a committee on 'fair market conduct' which will suggest measures for improving surveillance of the markets and strengthen rules for algo trades, among other norms.
  • The panel, under the chairmanship of former law secretary T K Viswanathan, would suggest measures for improvement in PIT (Prohibition of Insider Trading) norms, PFTUP (Prohibition of Fraudulent and Unfair Trade Practices) regulations and mainly related to 'trading plans' and handling of ''unpublished price sensitive information' during takeovers. 
  • It would be responsible for recommending steps to align insider trading regulations with Companies Act provisions. 
  • The committee will suggest short term and medium term measures for improved surveillance of the markets as well as issues of high-frequency trades, harnessing of technology and analytics in surveillance
  • The other members of the committee are representatives of law firms, mutual funds, retail and institutional brokers, forensic auditing firms, foreign portfolio investors, stock exchanges, chambers of commerce, data analytics companies and the markets regulator.

Appointments

Sanjaya Baru new secretary general of FICCI

  • Sanjaya Baru, who was media advisor to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has been named new secretary general of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci). 
  • Baru will assume the charge from September 1, Ficci President Pankaj Patel said in a statement. He will replace A Didar Singh. 

US Senate confirms Christopher Wray as FBI Director

  • The Senate has confirmed Christopher Wray to lead the FBI, replacing James Comey, who was abruptly fired by President Donald Trump amid the investigation into Russia meddling in last year’s presidential election.
  • The vote was 92-5 for Wray, a former high-ranking official in President George W Bush’s Justice Department who oversaw investigations into corporate fraud. Wray, 50, inherits an FBI at a particularly challenging time given Trump’s ousting of Comey, who was admired within the bureau.
  • Wray won unanimous support from the Senate Judiciary Committee last month, with Republicans and Democrats praising his promise never to let politics get in the way of the bureau’s mission.

Science & Technology

Bitcoin 'clone' sees a slow start following split

  • Bitcoin's underlying software code was split, generating a new clone called "Bitcoin Cash," but the new virtual currency got off to a slow start due to lacklustre support for its network.
  • The initiative was headed by a small group of mostly China-based bitcoin miners - programmers who essentially operate the bitcoin network - who were not happy with scheduled improvements to the currency's technology meant to increase its capacity to process transactions.
  • These miners, who get paid in the currency for contributing computing power to the bitcoin network, initiated what is known as a "fork" on Tuesday, where the underlying blockchain splits into two potential paths, creating a new digital currency.
  • Bitcoin's split has created a new competitor to the original digital currency, which remains the oldest and most valuable in circulation.
  • Yet only a small fraction of bitcoin miners have been contributing their computing power to the new blockchain, and it took nearly six hours for the first batch of Bitcoin Cash coins to be mined this afternoon, according to Blockdozer Explorer, a firm providing data on digital currencies.

Google's Internet Saathi programme reaches 100,000 villages

  • American Internet giant, Google India said that it has reached a milestone of 100,000 villages with its Internet Saathi programme which was launched as a pilot in Rajasthan in July 2015 along with Tata Trusts. 
  • Google will also be expanding the program in two new states - Haryana and Bihar. 
  • Live in ten states in India, 25,000 fully trained Internet Saathis are working everyday across these villages to help women and children learn about the Internet. In total, over 10 million women have gained from the programme
  • In Haryana, the program has already started to roll out and will be covering around 1000 villages and in Bihar the programme has kicked off from Ramnagar, Bagaha, Lauria, Manjha and Chakai villages and we will be covering over 7000 villages expanding it further later in the year. 

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