Current Affairs: 23 June 2017

Published on Friday, June 23, 2017

Important Days

United Nations Public Service Da: 23 June

  • The United Nations Public Service Day is celebrated on June 23 of every year. 
  • The prestigious UN Public Service Awards are given away on this day. 
  • The UN Public Service Day was designated by the United Nations General Assembly's resolution to “celebrate the value and virtue of public service to the community”. 
  • The United Nations Economic and Social Council established that the United Nations Public Service Awards be bestowed on Public Service Day for contributions made to the cause of enhancing the role, prestige, and visibility of public service.

National Events

Nirmala Sitharaman Launches Startup India Virtual Hub

  • India is the world’s third largest startup ecosystem in the world, and to further cement that position, Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched the Startup India Virtual Hub.
  • The Hub is an online platform for entrepreneurs to discover, connect and engage with each other. 
  • The government is claiming that the platform will attempt to solve the problem of information asymmetry and lack of access to knowledge, tools and experts, especially in the nascent ecosystems across Tier-II and Tier-III towns
  • Startup India Virtual Hub is an effort to create a marketplace where all the stakeholders can interact, exchange knowledge, and enable each other to grow. 
  • It will streamline the lifecycle of existing and potential startups, helping them access the right resources at the right time

Uttarakhand, Haryana become Open Defecation Free states

  • Uttarakhand and Haryana have become the fourth and fifth Open Defecation Free (ODF) states of India under the Swachh Bharat Mission
  • The two states joined the league of Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh and Kerala, which were the first three states to be declared ODF. 
  • Uttarakhand's 13 districts, 95 blocks, 7,256 gram panchayats and 1,5751 villages, while Haryana has 21 districts, 124 blocks, and 6,083 gram panchayats, all of which have declared themselves as ODF in formal declarations in Dehradun and Chandigarh, respectively. 

EPFO signs MoU with HUDCO under new Housing Scheme of EPF & MP Act-1952

  • Retirement fund body EPFO signed a pact with the Housing and Urban Development Corp (HUDCO) to enable members of its housing scheme to avail subsidy and interest subvention under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana.
  • Under the housing scheme, the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) allows its subscribers from societies for withdrawing up to 90 per cent of their EPFaccumulations to buy homes.
  • The agreement is regarding coverage of EPFO subscribers under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana by providing them various benefits like cheaper loans for buying homes.

India’s biggest municipal bonds programme launched in Maharashtra

  • To finance its 24x7 water supply project, the Pune Municipal Corporation on Thursday launched India’s biggest municipal bonds programme.
  • The project looks to raise Rs 2,264 crore in five years.
  • Pune’s bond programme is the first since the publication of the Issue and Listing of Debt Securities by Municipalities Regulations, 2015, by the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI).
  • In its first part, the corporation raised Rs200 crore through the Bombay Stock Exchange’s bond trading platform at a coupon rate (a fixed security amount) of 7.59% for 10 years. The issue received a good response with bonds being over-subscribed by six times.
  • Municipal bonds are debt instruments through which a corporation or municipality raises money from individuals or institutions. 
  • The civic body floating the bonds returns the principal amount on a maturity date with a specific amount of interest. 
  • There are usually two kinds of bonds – general bonds, where money is raised without mentioning the cause in particular, and revenue bonds, where funds are raised for income-generating projects and revenue from the projects is used to repay the buyers.

Rajdhani, Shatabdi trains set for revamping under 'Operation Swarn'

  • Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express were started to move people who could afford to pay more for a somewhat luxurious travel. 
  • But after years of service, the trains have lost their sheen. The service has deteriorated, the cleanliness is missing, quality of food has suffered. 
  • After years of complaints by the travelling public, the premium trains are now set for a makeover. The Railway Ministry is to launch "Operation Swarn" to improve services in Rajdhani and Shatabdi Expres train
  • In the first phase, the Mumbai-Delhi Rajdhani Express and Mumbai-Ahmedabad Shatabdi Express have been selected for upgradation. Work will start from September 26. More trains will be identified in a phased manner. 

International Events

US approves sale of 22 Guardian drones to India

  • The US has cleared the sale of 22 unmanned Guardian drones to India a deal being termed as a “game changer” ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington for his maiden meeting with President Donald Trump.
  • The deal, estimated to be worth $2to 3 billion, has been approved by the State Department,
  • The designation of India being a “major defence partner” was decided by the previous Obama Administration, and formally approved by the Congress.
  • The Indian Navy had made the request for this intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platform last year.

Qatar in landmark first Indian football league deal

  • Qatar has made its first leap into the growing Indian football market by announcing, on Thursday, a "technical partnership" between Doha's Aspire Academy and Delhi Dynamos FC.
  • The deal will allow for Aspire to share its expertise in areas such as scouting, training and sports science with the Indian Super League (ISL) club.
  • In return, youth players from the Dynamos will join the "Aspire Residential Programme", which gives young footballers the chance to train and learn at the Doha academy.
  • The tie-up brings together two of the most ambitious "young" footballing nations, pairing the 2022 World Cup hosts with a country which has potentially one of the sport's largest audiences in the world.

Saudi imposes family tax

  • Saudi government’s plan to introduce an ‘expat levy’ from July 2017, with charges of up to SR800 per worker to be phased in by 2020, is going to cost them heavily, which many of them may be unable to bear. 
  • In 2017 itself, each dependent of expats will incur a monthly fee of Saudi Riyal (SR) 100 (about Rs 1700) from July onwards, which will increase every year until 2020. 
  • The levy on expat workers will also be gradually revised upwards from next year, providing an additional impetus for employers to hire more Saudis.
  • Dependents of expats will each incur a monthly fee of SR100, from July onwards

World Bank sanctions 44 million dollars for ASPIRe

  • World Bank's Board of Executive Directors has approved a loan assistance of 44 million dollars for the Assam State Public Finance Institutional Reforms (ASPIRe) Project. 
  • Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal expressed his gratitude towards Prime Minister Narendra Modi for supporting the ambitious project and facilitating the approval. 
  • The project aims at improving predictability and transparency in budget execution and efficiency in tax administration in Assam.
  • All government departments and functionaries - specially finance, taxation and excise departments - will benefit immensely from this project while the citizens of Assam will see transformative benefits accruing to them through efficient processes, better service delivery such as electronic payments and collections for services. 
  • ASPIRe project is based on three important components that act as pillars for institutional reforms - strengthening public finance institutional capacity, strengthening expenditure and revenue information systems and on-project management, monitoring and evaluation, and coordination. 

Banking & Finance

State Bank of India gets mandate to take three steel companies to bankruptcy court

  • State Bank of India the country’s biggest bank, has been authorised to refer Essar Steel Bhushan Steel and Electrosteel to the bankruptcy court raising the possibility that some of these companies could be merged in an effort to return them to health. 
  • The three companies between them owe banks nearly Rs 1 lakh crore. By early next week, SBI will file applications at the National Company Law Tribunal for these three companies under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code. 
  • The lenders, and the management and promoters of these companies will have 270 days to resolve the problem after the NCLT admits the applications. 
  • The reorganisation could involve a restructuring of the debt or a consolidation with two companies merging. 

Amazon ties-up with ClearTax to make e-sellers GST ready

  • E-commerce giant Amazon has tied up with ClearTax to help sellers on their platform make a seamless transition to the GST regime and help them file their tax returns with ease, the company said in a statement.
  • ClearTax Biz and Cleartax Biz+, two softwares launched by ClearTax, will be available to the sellers free of cost for the first two months after sign-up. 
  • Subsequently, the software will be provided at a 30 per cent discount for sellers registered with Amazon India
  • The product aims to be a one-stop GST solution for sellers on Amazon’s marketplace through seamless integration with the Amazon platform as well as offline channels. 
  • Sellers can create GST-compliant sales and purchase invoices from day one of the GST regime, reconcile and file their GSTR forms, and have access to dashboards that enable better cash flow management and maintenance of GST-compliance ratings.

Ola ties up with Jio Money to give customers more cashless options for payment

  • Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Jio has made an entry into the app-based taxi service space. 
  • Travel aggregator Ola has tied up with India’s leading wallet Jio Money to provide customers with more cashless options for payment. 
  • The current payment options available are pay in cash, by using credit/debit cards and Ola Money. 
  • This means that now when you have sufficient funds in your Jio Money wallet, you can opt to use it to pay for your Ola rides.
  • With Jio Money, Ola riders will get special offers and hassle free travel, giving it precedence over other payment options available. 

SBI, Tirumala Milk Products tie up for providing loans to dairy farmers

  • State Bank of India has entered into a tie-up with Tirumala Milk Products, a South- based company which was acquired by Groupe Lactalis in 2014, to provide loans to dairy farmers who supply milk to the latter.
  • France-based Groupe Lactalis, which also acquired Indore-based Anik Dairy in 2016, wants to double the number of dairy farmers under its fold to three lakh and ramp up the amount of milk it procures daily to 25 lakh litres by 2020 from 14 lakh litres now.
  • Under its scheme for financing dairy units, SBI offers loans for, among others, construction of shed, and purchase of milch animals, milking machine, and chaff cutter.
  • Under another scheme, the bank provides loans to dairy societies for modernisation and creation of infrastructure such as purchase of automatic milk collection system, purchase of transport vehicles and bulk chilling unit.


UN chief appoints Lebanese official as head of operations in Libya

  • A Lebanese political science professor and political advisor to the United Nations in Iraq has been appointed as the Organization's top official in Libya.
  • UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced the appointment of Ghassan Salamé as his Special Representative and Head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), which is working to facilitate a Libyan-led political solution to the challenges facing the country.
  • Mr. Salamé will succeed Martin Kobler of Germany, whom the UN spokesperson said that Mr. Guterres is grateful for his dedication and service, as well as for his effective leadership of UNSMIL.

Russian diplomat appointed to lead new UN counter-terror unit

  • The United Nations has appointed veteran Russian diplomat Vladimir Voronkov to head a newly-established counter-terrorism division, despite growing tensions between the US and Russia. 
  • It will oversee the counter-terrorism efforts of 36 UN-funded programmes currently housed under a variety of UN agencies, 12 inter-agency working groups, as well as Interpol, and the World Customs Organisation.
  • The existing Counter-Terrorism Implementation Task Force is under the political affairs division. There are also two related offices under the Security Council, which will remain in place.

Subhash C Garg appointed as new DEA Secretary

  • Subhash C Garg, a 1983 batch Rajasthan cadre IAS officer, has been appointed as Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Finance Ministry. 
  • This was part of the major secretary level reshuffle and appointments announced by the Centre
  • The committee also gave its nod for the appointment of Rajiv Gauba, a Jharkhand cadre IAS officer, as the next Home Secretary. 
  • He will take over from Rajiv Mehrishi on August 30. Until then Gauba will serve as Officer on Special Duty in the Home Ministry.
  • Meanwhile, Ajay Prakash Sawhney, an Andhra Pradesh cadre IAS officer, will be the new Electronics & IT Secretary. 
  • He was earlier Additional Secretary in the Petroleum Ministry. Yudhvir Singh Malik, a 1983 Haryana batch IAS officer, will be the new Road Transport and Highways Secretary. He was earlier NHAI’s Chairman.

Reserve Bank of India expands oversight committee

  • RBI has expanded the oversight committee by appointing three more members to the high-level panel that will vet the process to resolve mounting bad loans bogging down the banking sector. 
  • Former chief vigilance commissioner Pradeep Kumar will head the now 5-member panel that will work through multiple benches
  • Besides Kumar, the other members of the committee are former SBI Chairman Janki Ballabh, former Canara Bank Chairman and Managing Director M B N Rao, former Chairman and Managing of L&T Finance Y M Deosthalee and S Raman, member Sebi. 
  • Raman would be inducted into the panel from September 7, 2017 after he completes the term at Sebi.

Awards & Honours

Radio Mirchi bags Gold at 2017 NYF Radio Awards

  • New York Festivals International Radio Program Awards announced this year’s award-winning programmes at the annual Radio Awards gala last week at New York City’s Manhattan Penthouse. 
  • India won nine metals (one Gold, four Silver and four Bronze) and bagged 22 finalist certificates.
  • Radio Mirchi bagged a Gold Radio for ‘Five years of Nirbhaya,’under the Public Service Announcement Promotion category. The player also bagged a Bronze Radio for ‘Ha ja ba ra la’ under the Best Audio Book Fiction category. 
  • Reliance Broadcast Network Limited (RBNL) won two Silver Radio and seven finalist certificates. 

'Baahubali 2' to be screened at Moscow Int'l Film Festival

  • Yet another feather in the cap of 'Baahubali 2: The Conclusion.
  • The blockbuster movie will be screened at the 39th edition of the Moscow International Film Festival.
  • The special screening at the film festival is part of a series of events to celebrate the 70 years of bilateral relations between India and Russia.
  • The festival, which is to be held from June 22 to June 29, will also include screening of films like 'Badman', 'A Death In the Gunj', 'BeyYaar', 'U Turn' and 'Kothandi',

Sahitya awards for 2 Goan writers

  • Two Konkani literary personalities — Vincy Quadros and Amey Naik — from Goa have been chosen for awards by the the country's highest literary body - the Sahitya Akademi. 
  • While Quadros is being awarded Sahitya Akademi's Bal Sahitya Puraskar for his book 'Jaduche Petul' for children in Konkani, Amey Naik has been selected for Yuva Puraskar 2017 for his Konkani poetry collection 'Mog Dot Com'.

Sonam Kapoor's fashion label Rheson wins PETA award

  • Actress Sonam Kapoor and her producer-sister Rhea Kapoor's fashion label -- Rheson has bagged the Compassionate Business Award from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India for a line of bags made exclusively of vegan materials. 
  • This is not the first time that Sonam, who was crowned PETA's Hottest Vegetarian Celebrity of 2016, has stood for animals. 

Science & Technology'

Rare extreme helium star bigger and hotter than our Sun discovered for first time in 40 years

  • A rare example of an extreme helium star has just been identified by astronomers. It is known as GALEX J184559.8−413827 - or J1845−4138 for short.
  • Extreme helium stars are very rare and mysterious, made up mostly of helium rather than hydrogen, which is the most common element in the Universe.
  • This oddity has long puzzled scientists, but they have also been fascinated by the fact that these stars are supergiants much larger and hotter than the Sun.
  • Besides helium, these stars also have significant amounts of carbon, nitrogen and hydrogen. The first one ever identified was spotted in 1942 by an astronomer called Daniel Popper.
  • Over the 30 years that followed, a small number of extreme helium stars were discovered with the help of spectroscopic surveys but astronomers continued arguing about how these stars formed. Identifying them beyond doubt also proved tricky on many occasions.

Nasa launches world's lightest satellite designed by 18-year-old TN student

  • India once again broke a global space record by launching the world's lightest satellite weighing a mere 64 grams, called Kalamsat, designed and developed not by professional space scientists and engineers, but by 18-year-old Tamil Nadu student Rifath Sharook and his team.
  • The tiny satellite, named after Abdul Kalam, was flown by a Nasa sounding rocket and the lift-off was from the space agency's Wallop Island facility around 3pm (IST). 
  • Kalam had his training in the sounding rocket programme at Wallops Island in the '60s. Kalamsat was the only Indian payload in the mission.

NASA tests flexible solar array on space station

  • NASA is testing for the first time the effectiveness of a flexible solar array on space station that could one day power satellites and spacecraft.
  • The Roll-Out Solar Array, or ROSA, an advanced, flexible solar array that rolls out like a tape measure “can be easily adapted to different sizes, including very large arrays, to provide power for a variety of future spacecraft,
  • It also has the potential to make solar arrays more compact and lighter weight for satellite radio and television, weather forecasting, GPS and other services used on the Earth.
  • In addition, the technology conceivably could be adapted to provide solar power in remote locations.
  • NASA tested the ROSA technology in vacuum chambers on the Earth several years ago, but this is its first test in space.
  • Over the weekend of June 17-18, 2017, engineers on the ground remotely operated the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 to extract the Roll Out Solar Array (ROSA) experiment from the SpaceX Dragon resupply ship.
  • The new solar array design rolls up to form a compact cylinder for launch with significantly less mass and volume, potentially offering substantial cost savings as well as an increase in power for satellites.

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