Current Affairs: 8 September 2017

Important Days

International Literacy Day: 8 September 2017

  • September 8 was declared International Literacy Day by UNESCO on November 17, 1965. Its aim is to highlight the importance of literacy to individuals, communities and societies. Celebrations take place in several countries
  • The theme of this year's International Literacy Day is ‘Literacy in a Digital World’. 
  • On 7 and 8 September, 2017 a special two-day event will be organized at UNESCO’s Headquarters in Paris, with the overall aim to look at what kind of literacy skills people need to navigate increasingly digitally-mediated societies, and to explore effective literacy policies and programmes that can leverage the opportunities that the digital world provides. 
  • The 2017 UNESCO International Literacy Prizes awards ceremony will also take place to recognize and reward excellent literacy practices from around the world in connection with this year’s theme.
  • As part of International Literacy Day, the UNESCO-Pearson Initiative for Literacy: Improved Livelihoods in a Digital World, a partnership between UNESCO and Pearson, will present its first batch of case studies on how inclusive digital solutions can improve livelihoods.

National Events

Gujarat launches subsidised food scheme for construction workers

  • Shramik Annapoorna Yojana (Construction Workers' Meal Scheme), under which each registered worker is provided a plateful of food for a mere Rs 10 with is launched by the Gujarat government providing a hefty subsidy of Rs 19 per meal.
  • The meal includes rotis or theplas, mixed vegetable, cereals, rice, pickle or chutney, and green chilies daily -- and a sukhadi (a local sweet) once a week, and the labourers, after filling their tiffin boxes, then hope they will find work for the day.
  • There are 43 such distribution points in Ahmedabad alone and 44 across the state in 11 cities -- Gandhinagar, Kalol, Vadodara, Surat, Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Valsad, Dharampur, Vapi, Bharuch and Ankleshwar.
  • Construction workers can enroll themselves at the saffron-coloured food outlets -- that bear pictures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel -- by filling out a form, following which they get a registeration card.
  • The scheme draws inspiration from the Amma Canteens which then Chief Minister J. Jayalaithaa launched in 2013. These serve pongal and sambar for Rs 5 and an idli for one rupee. For lunch, lemon rice is served for Rs 5. The canteens also provide chapatis, curd rice and a side dish for Rs 3 and sambar rice for Rs 5.

NITI Aayog sets up task force on employment, exports

  • In a bid to provide a “major” thrust to job creation by enhancing India’s exports, the NITI Aayog has set up a task force to be headed by its Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar.
  • The task force, which includes government and private sector representatives, will submit its report by November.The objectives
  • Among other things, the task force will propose a comprehensive plan of action to generate employment and alleviate under-employment in both goods and services sectors and low wages by boosting India’s exports in key labour-intensive industries, as per its terms of reference.
  • Its other terms of reference include suggesting ways to enhance the availability of data on trade such that it is “reliable, globally comparable and timely, particularly with respect to trade in services”
  • Recommending sector-specific policy interventions in key employment sectors, measures to enhance trade in services with high employment potential, identifying key macroeconomic factors constraining exports and suggesting methods to address these constraints, assessing the effectiveness of existing schemes to promote exports and issues related to logistics, export credits and trade facilitation are its other terms of reference.

Government Appoints Committee To Study Data Protection Framework for India

  • The Modi government has appointed an expert committee, headed by former Supreme Court judge B N Srikrishna, to “identify key data protection issues” in India and recommend methods to address any potential problems.
  • The ten-member committee – which includes representatives from the department of telecommunications (DoT), the IT ministry, the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) and the academic community – will not only study the various issues around data protection in India but will also draft a data protection bill that will be taken up for consideration by the Centre.
  • In addition to Srikrishna, members of the committee include DoT secretary Aruna Sundararajan, UIDAI head Ajay Bhushan Pandey, national cybersecurity coordinator Gulshan Rai, MeitY additional secretary Ajay Kumar, IIT Raipur director Prof Rajat Moona, IIM Indore director Rishikesha T Krishnan, DSCI’s Rama Vedasree and Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy Arghya Sengupta.

Gujarat CM launches state-wide ‘Gyankunj Project’ in schools

  • Gujarat, Chief Minister Vijay Rupanilaunched state-wide 'Gyankunj Project' on Teachers' Day
  • 'Gyankunj Project' is prepared at the total expenditures of Rs. 35.85-crore is going to be implemented in 3173 class rooms of standard 7th and 8th of 1609 schools. The objective of the project is to produce world-class students. The project is launched at expenditure of Rs. 222,000/- per school.
  • In the first phase, 550 schools will be covered under the 'Gyankunj Project' and gradually standard 5th to 9th of every schools of the state will cover under the project.

India’s first hyperloop coming up in Andhra Pradesh

  • The journey between Vijayawada and Amaravati, could soon be a 5-minute ride, with Hyperloop Transportation Technologies (HTT) signing an agreement with the Andhra Pradesh government to build a connecting road between the two cities.
  • The proposed route for the connector would be between the city centres of Vijayawada and Amravati. 
  • The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) that HTT, an American research firm, has signed with the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board (APEDB), is a first of its kind in India. 
  • The project will use a Public Private Partnership model with funding primarily from private investors.
  • The project is expected to create 2,500 jobs and develop the region with its ultra-high-speed transportation.

Trai recommends delicensing of some spectrum for M2M services

  • In order to facilitate the smooth roll-out of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications utilising licence exempt airwaves, sectoral regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has recommended delicensing of a chunk of spectrum in a few bands.
  • The telecom regulator in its recommendations on "spectrum, roaming and quality of service related requirements in M2M communications" said spectrum allocation should be technology and service neutral and no separate spectrum band should be allocated exclusively for M2M services.
  • However, in order to facilitate the smooth roll-out of M2M services utilising "licence exempt spectrum, 1 MHz of spectrum at 868 MHz (867-868) and a chunk of 6 MHz of spectrum at 915-935 MHz is recommended to be delicensed. Delicensng the V-band (57-64 GHz) as recommended by the authority on various occasions may be done on priority."
  • M2M is the basis for automated information exchange between machines and can impact various industry verticals like smart city, smart grid, smart water, smart transportation, smart health etc. The government has also recognized the potential of M2M and emphasized the same in National Telecom Policy 2012.
  • M2M service providers should register with DoT and all access service providers and unified licence holders using licenced spectrum shall be allowed to provide M2M services.

International Events

Vatican declares Mother Teresa a patron saint of Calcutta

  • The Vatican on Wednesday declared Mother Teresa a patron saint of the Archdiocese of Calcutta at a Mass in the city where she dedicated her life to the poorest of the poor.
  • The honor came 16 months after Pope Francis declared Mother Teresa a saint.
  • About 500 people attended the Mass at a cathedral where Vicar General Dominique Gomes read the decree instituting her as the second patron saint of the archdiocese.
  • Mother Teresa's name will be mentioned whenever people under the archdiocese pray or a Mass is held.
  • The Vatican's ambassador to India, Giambattista Diquattro, led the Mass and inaugurated a bronze statue in the church of Mother Teresa carrying a child.
  • The Roman Catholic Church declared St. Francis Xavier the first patron saint of Calcutta in 1986.

India hands over off-shore patrol vessel to Sri Lanka

  • India today handed over an off-shore patrol vessel, Varuna, to Sri Lanka, 
  • The ship was decommissioned with traditional honours on August 23 to facilitate the handing over at Kochi. 
  • India has earlier handed over two OPVs of the Indian Coast Guard, Varaha in April 2006 and Vigraha in August 2008. 
  • The ship has been allocated pennant number SLCG-60 by Sri Lanka Coast Guard and will be commanded by Captain Neville Amara Ubayasiri. 
  • Prior to the ship's departure to Sri Lanka, the Sri Lanka Coast Guard crew will be imparted familiarisation and on job training by Indian Coast Guard workup team on ship handling, bridge navigation, engine room controls and machineries. 

UJALA scheme launched in Melaka, Malaysia

  • Energy Efficiency Services Limited ( EESL) , under Ministry of Power, Government of India has launched UJALA (Unnat Jyoti by Affordable Lighting for All) Scheme in the State of Melaka, Malaysia.
  • Under this scheme, each household in Melaka will get 10 high quality 9-watt LED bulbs at a cost of only RM 10, which is a special price and is almost half of what in begin offered in the market. 
  • The distribution of these LED bulb will take place from 28 numbers of Japerun in the region. 
  • These Japerun are a unique community welfare and engagement centers, which are situated across the Melakan State. 
  • Under the extensive and ever-expanding idea of UJALA, Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) plans to distribute about 1 million 9W LED bulbs, which will replace 18W CFLs. 
  • The initiative will have the logistical assistance and facilitation support from Green Growth Asia, which is a not for profit organization. 
  • The price of each bulb will be way lesser than global average price of the LED bulbs, which still swings between 3-5 USD. Notably, each bulb that is being provided by EESL under the UJALA scheme in Melaka comes with a 3-year free replacement warranty against any technical defects. 
  • These bulbs sent from India will be of leading brands and manufacturers like Osram, Philips along with other companies of repute.

Sri Lanka Navy ships at Visakhapatnam for maritime exercises

  • Sri Lankan naval ships Sayura and Sagara entered Visakhapatnam harbour today to participate in the fifth edition of SLINEX 2017, a bilateral naval exercise between India and Sri Lanka, from 7 to 14 September.
  • The exercise is being conducted in two phases, with the harbour phase from 7 to 10 September at Visakhapatnam and the sea phase from 11 to 14 September in the Bay of Bengal.
  • Sri Lankan Naval ships Sayura and Sagara are India-built off-shore patrol vessels.
  • INS Gharial, an amphibious ship and INS Kora, a missile corvette and Chetak helicopter are participating from the eastern fleet. The exercise will commence with a harbour phase, during which, the participants will engage in professional, cultural and social interactions.
  • The harbour phase will be followed by the sea phase, which will commence on 11 September. The sea phase will include complex operations including anti-piracy exercises, gun firings, cross-deck helicopter operations and anti-surface exercises.
  • SLINEX series of bilateral maritime exercises, initiated in 2005, has over the years helped both the navies in understanding each other's procedures and enhanced interoperability.
  • The benefits of operational interactions under the aegis of SLINEX are clearly visible as both the Navies have an improved and steadfast understanding. 
  • SLINEX-17 will further enhance the capability of the two navies to work together at sea and contribute towards maritime security in the region.

‘Lakshadweep island Parali I has vanished’

  • One of the uninhabited islands that is a part of Lakshadweep has vanished due to coastal erosion and another four such territories in the sea are shrinking fast, claims a new study.
  • Parali I island, part of Bangaram atoll, which had an area of 0.032 sq.km in 1968 has been completely eroded, resulting in its inundation
  • The researched was conducted by R.M. Hidayathulla.who is from Androth in Lakshadweep, was awarded a doctoral degree in July this year by Calicut University in Kerala for his work
  • He conducted studies on the biodiversity of five uninhabited islands — Bangaram, Thinnakara, Parali I, II and III, of which Parali I has been inundated
  • Since the absence of this island (Parali I) is noticed in both observations carried out in 2003 and 2007, it is assumed that the island has been subjected to complete erosion during 1968-2003 periods and an assessment of the exact year of its inundation requires data analysis for a span of 35 years extending from 1968

India Refuses To Sign Global Declaration Against Myanmar On Rohingyas

  • India dissociated itself today from a declaration adopted at an international conference as it carried a reference to violence in the Rakhine state of Myanmar, from where 125,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh.
  • An Indian parliamentary delegation, led by Speaker Lok Sabha Sumitra Mahajan, refused to be a part of the Bali Declaration adopted at the World Parliamentary Forum on Sustainable Development held at Nusa Dua in Indonesia.
  • The country-specific amendment to the draft declaration was proposed at the eleventh hour by selective countries which referred to the violence in Rakhine state of Myanmar. India argued that specifying a particular country is unjustified as this Forum is focused on SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) and inclusive development for all countries based on cooperative and collaborative approach to achieve the 2030 Agenda for the world

Sports

Lewis Hamilton WINS Italian Grand Prix to take lead in title race from Sebastian Vettel

  • Lewis Hamilton took over as leader of the drivers’ world championship for the first time this year when he claimed a lights-to-flag victory as Mercedes dominated the Italian Grand Prix.
  • The 32-year-old Briton, seeking his fourth world title, made a perfect start from his record 69th pole position to lead his Mercedes team-mate Valtteri Bottas home for his sixth win this year, his fourth at Monza and the 59th of his career.
  • Hamilton now leads four-time champion Sebastian Vettel by three points after the German finished third, 36.317 seconds adrift, in his Ferrari in front of a big home crowd on the weekend of the Italian team’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

Banking & Business

Airtel Launches ‘GST Advantage’ For Small Businesses – Hassle-Free GST Filing

  • Airtel has launched its own GST Advantage to “enable small businesses and start-ups to file their GST returns accurately, securely and seamlessly”.
  • It is being offered free to all existing Airtel Business customers. All they need to do is register themselves
  • Airtel GST Advantage: Three Main Attractions
  • Get Free And Secure Access To GST Network Via ClearTax:
  • ClearTax is one of India’s largest tax filing platform. Airtel has tied up with them for Airtel GST Advantage. All of Airtel’s customers who register themselves for this service will be able to access ClearTax’s GST software and platform for free till 31st March 2018, which otherwise is a subscription-based paid service.
  • Get The Best On-demand Professional Advice About GST:
  • Airtel’s newly launched GST Advantage Helpdesk will be available to all its registered customers between 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM on all weekdays. The helpdesk will be manned by trained GST experts who will address queries and offer advice regarding GST. Additionally, Airtel has released a GST Knowledge Bank developed by renowned tax experts. Airtel hopes to empower all Airtel Business Customers with this knowledge bank.
  • Preserve Bandwidth While Filing GST Returns:
  • With Airtel GST Advantage, Airtel is offering free additional 18GB data which will be spread over three months. This will be broken up as 2GB per month, per connection on a maximum of three connections. This will enable its customers to file returns without worrying about additional bandwidth charges.

HDFC Bank’s ‘Eva’ becomes India’s smartest chatbot

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI)-based chatbot ‘Eva’ – built for HDFC Bank by Bengaluru-based Senseforth AI Research – has successfully addressed over 2.7 million customer queries in six months to become the country’s largest banking chatbot. 
  • According to HDFC Bank, it collaborated with Senseforth and launched ‘EVA’ (Electronic Virtual Assistant) in March this year on its website.
  • Since then, ‘Eva’ has interacted with over 530,000 unique users, holding 1.2 million conversations and addressing 2.7 million queries with ease. “‘Eva’ currently handles 50,000 plus semantic variations for thousands of banking related intents, tracks and analyses everyday customer issues and gains a deeper understanding of their behaviour patterns

Sia, SBI's intelligent chat assistant

  • India's largest public sector lender State Bank of India (SBI) has come up with its own Artificial Intelligence-powered chatbot who will take care of customer queries by giving out information on SBI's range of products and services
  • SIA is designed to answer customer questions regarding home loans, education loans, car loans, personal loans, recurring deposit, term deposit, etc.
  • SBI's new digital platforms like SBI inTouch are widely using bots and artificial intelligence such as IBM Watson, to perform a variety of jobs, especially in improving customer experience.
  • In March, HDFC Bank had announced the launch of an electronic virtual assistant (EVA), an artificial intelligence-driven chatbot, for customer services.
  • Eva was India's first AI-based banking chatbot and can answer millions of customer queries across multiple channels instantly

Awards & Honours

NHAI awards first international project in Myanmar to Punj Lloyd-Varaha

  • The National Highway Authority of India has awarded its first international project in Myanmar to a joint venture of Punj Lloyd-Varaha. This is for the upgradation of the Yagyi–Kalewa section in Myanmar to two lanes with earthern shoulder in the engineering, procurement, and construction mode.
  • The 120-km-long project was estimated to cost Rs. 1,177.02 crore and is to be completed within 36 months.
  • Punj Lloyd-Varaha’s bid was identified as the most competitive among four qualified bidders. It was at Rs.1,177 crore or 0.0017 per cent lower than the estimated cost.

Appointment & Resigns

Sankara Narayanan takes charge as MD & CEO of Vijaya Bank

  • R A Sankara Narayanan has taken charge as Managing Director and Chief Excecutive Officer of Vijaya Bank. He has taken over the reigns of the bank from Kishore Sansi, who reached superannuation on August 31.
  • Narayanan is a post-graduate in Public Administration with an MBA in Finance, CAIIB, PGDPM, PGDFM, DTIRM, DCP and BRM. 
  • He joined Bank of India as a direct recruit officer in 1983 and has headed various branches, zones and national banking groups across the country and many other departments in the corporate office, including treasury, retail, international banking, corporate credit, risk management, compliance, retail, marketing, recovery and human resources, with overseas assignments in Tokyo and Singapore.
  • As Executive Director of Bank of India from May 2015, he was responsible for treasury, corporate credit, recovery, risk management, compliance apart from international banking, retail, HR, IT, planning and finance. 
  • He has represented BoI on various boards including PT Bank of India Indonesia Tbk, Bank of India - Tanzania, Commonwealth Finance Corporation Ltd (CFCL-Hongkong), BoI New Zealand Ltd, BoI Shareholding and SUD Life Insurance.

Viveck Goenka elected new PTI Chairman, The Hindu’s N. Ravi is Vice Chairman

  • Viveck Goenka, Chairman and Managing Director of the Express Group, and N. Ravi, former Editor-in-Chief of The Hindu, were unanimously elected Chairman and Vice Chairman of Press Trust of India, the country’s largest news agency.
  • Mr. Goenka (60) succeeds Riyad Mathew, who is Senior Assistant Editor and a member of the Manorama management. Mr. Ravi (69) succeeds Mr. Goenka as Vice Chairman.
  • The election took place at a meeting of the Board of Directors following the Company’s 69th Annual General Meeting
  • Mr. Goenka, an engineer by qualification and a publisher by profession, is also a director of the Indian Newspaper Society (INS) besides being a member of the Advertising Association, India Chapter. 
  • Mr. Ravi, an award-winning journalist with an illustrious career in India and the United States, is a Director at Kasturi & Sons Ltd, which publishes The Hindu.
  • The editorial team is now led by a new Editor-in-Chief, Vijay Joshi, a veteran journalist with more than three decades experience in the profession. The CEO is Venky Venkatesh, who also has more than three decades experience in sales, marketing, corporate affairs and media.

Godrej's Sunil Kataria appointed as leader of the Indian delegation for the AdAsia Congress

  • The Advertising Council of India (ACI) & The Advertising Club has announced the appointment of Sunil Kataria, business head, Godrej Consumer Products as leader of the Indian delegation for the AdAsia Congress to be held in Bali. 
  • The 30th edition of the media and advertising awards organized bi-annually by the Asian Federation of Advertising Associations (AFAA) will see global marketing and creative industry practitioners be a part of the ideas exchange platform.
  • The Advertising Council of India (ACI) was formed on April 20, 1999 by the Standing Committee on Advertising (STACA) 

Index & Ranking

World University Rankings 2018: IIT Delhi, IISc Bangalore Slip In Times Higher Education Rankings

  • Two UK institutions lead the Times Higher Education World University Rankings of the best universities for the first time in its history, with Oxford holding on to the number one spot for the second year in a row, while Cambridge has risen to second place. 
  • According to the rankings, India's representation has also declined, from 31 institutions to 30, while eight of its universities have slipped to a lower band. "The country's flagship university, the Indian Institute of Science, has been demoted from the 201-250 cohort to the 251-300 band as its research income and citation impact have declined
  • IIT Delhi slipped to 501-600 band from its previous year band of 351-400 while IIT Kanpur also fall from 401-500 to 501-600. Among the IITs, IIT Bombay's ranking of 351-400 band remained unchanged.
  • While, China is the only BRICS nation that has advanced dramatically; it is now the fourth most-represented nation in the table, with 60 universities, including seven in the top 200, up from four last year.

Science & Technology

SpaceX launches top-secret space shuttle

  • SpaceX launched the US air force’s super-secret space shuttle on Thursday, blasting off from Kennedy space center in Florida
  • The crewless aircraft, a technology testing mini-shuttle capable of spending years in orbit, rode an unmanned Falcon rocket on the fifth such flight.
  • There are two X-37B orbital test vehicles in existence, and between them they have already logged five and a half years in orbit
  • This was the first time SpaceX has provided a lift for the experimental minishuttle. The previous missions relied on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rockets. Air force officials said they wanted to use a variety of rockets for the X-37B program, to be able to launch quickly if warranted.

APEDA develops mobile app for farm registration, certification

  • Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority (APEDA) has developed a mobile app for farmers to facilitate registration, testing and certification of certain fruits and vegetables
  • It said the app “Hortinet” is an integrated traceability system developed by APEDA for providing internet-based services to the stakeholders. 
  • The app will facilitate “farm registration, testing and certification of grape, pomegranate and vegetables for export from India to the European Union in compliance with standards”. This initiative is expected to increase the accessibility and reach of the traceability software system among farmers and other stakeholders
  • The app would also assist state horticulture and agriculture departments to capture real time details of farmers, farm location, products and details of inspection. 

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