Current Affairs Daily Digest: January 7, 2017

The Current Affairs Daily Digest for January 7, 2017 with important tid-bits on current

Envrionment, Science & Technology Current Affairs

Black rice gains popularity in Assam

An exotic variety of Black rice or purple rice recently has gained popularity in Assam. It was recently sown by the local farmers for the first time in Barak Valley. The Black rice is also known as world super food because of its high nutrition value, unique texture and intriguing nutty flavor. It is known for its powerful disease-fighting antioxidants and also contains dietary fiber, anti-inflammatory properties. It has the ability to help stop the development of diabetes, cancer, heart disease and even weight gain.

ISRO to launch record 103 satellites at one go in February 2017

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to launch record 103 satellites in a single flight in the first week of February 2017. It will be a major feat for India as so far no country has attempted it. These satellites will be launched onboard of ISRO’s workhorse rocket PSLV-C37 from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh. Of the total 103 satellites, 100 are micro satellites from foreign nations including from US and Germany. Earlier, ISRO had planned a launch of 83 satellites in the last week of January 2017, of which 80 were foreign. But the launch was delayed by a week with the addition of 20 more foreign satellites.

China launches its longest bullet train

China has launched its longest bullet train ‘Shangri-la of the World’ connecting Kunming in Yunnan Province to Shanghai. yunanThe 2252 km
Shanghai-Kunming line
links China’s prosperous eastern coast with the less-developed south-western part. It traverses through 5 provinces of China viz. Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guizhou and Yunnan. The bullet train has maximum speed of 330 km/hr and it cuts travel time across 2252 km route from 34 hours to 11 hours. With this, China has expanded its high-speed train network to about 20,000 kilometres. The train’s name highlights the world famous resort in Shangri-la of Yunnan province which had first appeared in British novelist James Hilton’s novel Lost Horizon.

 

Norway to become first country to switch off FM radio

Norway is set to become the first country in the world to switch off its FM radio network. In this regard, Scandinavian country’s parliament has approved a proposal to shift to Digital Audio Broadcasting (DAB). The shutdown of FM (frequency modulation) radio will begin on January 11, 2017 from the northern city of Bodoe. Norwegian government claims that Radio digitization will help to save money and allow national radio stations to invest more in radio content. It will also open the door to a far greater range of radio channels, benefiting listeners across the country.

DGFT bans import of exotic skins

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT) has banned the import of skins of reptiles and fur of minks, foxes and chinchillas. It is considered as a landmark decision that will spare the lives of tens of thousands of animals killed for their exotic skins for the leather industry. With this, India is now emulating other nations across the world that are adopting cruelty-free alternatives to exotic skins. The Union Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change, and  Animal Welfare Board of India also had supported this ban proposal.

Giant iceberg set to break away from Antarctica: Scientists

According to scientists, 5,000-square-kilometre giant iceberg is poised to break away from Antarctica. The break-off is expected to be among the largest ever recorded and it is not driven by climate change. It will break because of expansion of rift that was slowly developing across the Larsen C ice shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula in recent years. It has expanded abruptly and growing by about 18 km. It is now more than 80-km long with just 20 km left before it break away. Scientists fear the loss of ice shelves around the frozen continent will allow glaciers inland to slide faster towards the sea as temperatures rise because of global warming, raising world sea levels. In recent years, several ice shelves have cracked up around northern parts of Antarctica, including the Larsen B that disintegrated in 2002.

Banking, Business & Economy Current Affairs

Cabinet approves 26% strategic sale in BEML

The Union Cabinet has given an ‘in-principal’ approval for strategic disinvestment of 26% equity shares in defence equipment manufacturer BEML Ltd. out of government’s shareholding of 54.03%. With this, it becomes the first major PSU to be sold through strategic disinvestment. BEML was established in May 1964 under the administrative control of Union Defence Ministry. It operates on three major business verticals for associated equipment manufacturing —rail and metro, defence and aerospace and mining and construction. It provides equipment support to Indian Army and other defence forces by manufacturing variants of Tatra vehicle for all terrain operation. It also supports the aerospace operations by supplying ground support equipment such as Multi-Purpose Weapon Loader, Aircraft Towing Tractor and Crash Fire Tender.

EPFO makes Aadhar mandatory for its pensioners

The retirement fund body Employees’ Provide Fund Organisation (EPFO) has made it mandatory for its pensioners and subscribers to provide either Aadhaar to remain beneficiary of its social security schemes.  The EPFO will not transfer the subsidy, equivalent to 1.16% of the employee’s salary upto Rs.6,500 towards the Employment Pension Scheme (EPS) till the Aadhaar number is shared with the authorities. The Union Government contributes 1.16% of the basic wages as subsidy to every members EPS Account in addition to 8.33% deposited by their employers every month. This provision has been mandatory as per the Section 7 of the Aadhaar (Targetted Delivery of Financial and other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Act 2016.  This section of the Act provides that when government provides subsidy, benefit or service from Consolidated Fund of India to an individual, the Government can ask him to undergo authentication or furnish proof of possession of Aadhaar number.

NRIs can exchange old 500 and 1,000 rupees notes at RBI offices till 30 June 2017

Indian citizens who are not residing in the country have been allowed to exchange their old 500 and 1,000 rupees notes at Reserve Bank of India (RBII) offices till the 30 June 2017. The provision to exchange these notes will be subject to the regulations of the notification of Foreign Exchange Management (Export and Import of Currency) Regulations, 2015. According to these rules put the limit of bringing back currency into the country at 25,000 rupees per person. Separate FEMA provisions are applicable to persons in Bhutan and Nepal which will continue to apply.

Vodafone announces SuperHour scheme

Telecom operator Vodafone has announced a SuperHour scheme, under which it will offer unlimited 3G or 4G data for one hour at a starting price of Rs. 16 for pre-paid customers. It will also offer unlimited local voice calls within its network (Vodafone to Vodafone voice calls) with one hour validity for Rs. 7. It will allow user to use and download as much data as you like for one hour at a fixed, nominal price. Moreover, it can be expanded with unrestricted repeat purchase every hour.

IRCTC to launch new app for booking tickets faster

The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) Limited will soon launch new ticketing app IRCTC Rail Connect. The app will be equipped with latest technology and will be based on next generation e-ticketing system. It will have several features added on the existing IRCTC Connect app to facilitate booking of train tickets in a faster and easier way. IRCTC is a subsidiary of the Indian Railways that handles the catering, tourism and online ticketing operations of the Indian railways

SEBI eases rules for foreign fund managers

The market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has amended the SEBI (Portfolio Managers) Regulations, 1993 to provide an enabling framework for registration of Eligible Fund Managers (EFMs). The changes were made with an aim to develop and promote fund management industry in India. It make easier for foreign fund managers keen to enter India. It also allows EFMs to act as Portfolio Managers under a relaxed regulatory regime.SEBI’s move assumes significance in the wake of the recent Union Government’s announcement of taxation incentives for the offshore fund managers willing to relocate to India.

Chinese brands take 50% of India’s smartphone market

According to the tech research firm Counterpoint, Chinese mobile brands have taken control of 50% of India’s $10-billion smartphone market in late 2016. Chinese smartphone brands like Lenovo, Oppo, OnePlus and Gionee collectively too market share of over 50%, compared with just 19% in 2015. Samsung, the single most popular smartphone brand in India, which had commanded a roughly 30% market share in 2015 slipped to 21%. The main reason Chinese brand are able to capture market is due to low cost, improved technology of their smartphones followed by advertising blitz with celebrity endorsements along with huge sponsorship campaigns.

Hindustan Zinc gets green nod for Zawar mines

The world’s second largest zinc producer Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL) of Vedanta Group has received environment clearance for its Rs. 1,200 crore Zawar Mines expansion project in Rajasthan. The Union Environment Ministry gave its nod based on the recommendations of the expert advisory committee. This approval allows HZL to expand the production capacity of lead-zinc and ore beneficiation from 1.5 million tonnes per annum (MTPA) to 4 MTPA at its Zawar underground mines. The Zawar group of mines located in Sarada district of Rajasthan are the oldest lead-zinc mines in the country. It has reserves of 13.71 million tonnes and resource of 73.67 million tonnes as on April 1, 2015.

States Current Affairs

Andhra Pradesh announces Rs.100 crore prize to anyone from state who wins Nobel Award

Andhra Pradesh Government has announced a monetary reward of Rs 100 crore to anyone from the state government who wins Nobel Prize. It was announced by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu while addressing the inaugural function of the children’s science congress on the sidelines of the 104th session of the Indian Science Congress in Tirupati. This reward is about 17 times more than the prize money given out with the Nobel award which is about Swedish kronor 8 million (Rs 5.96 crore). With this Andhra Pradesh becomes first state in India to announce such a grand offer to its scientists.

Delhi Government approves fourth phase of Delhi Metro

Delhi government has approved the Phase IV of the Metro project, featuring six corridors and measuring over 103 kilometres. A decision to this effect was taken at a Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. The proposed corridors in Phase IV are Rithala-Narela (21.73 km), Inderlok-Indraprastha (12.58 km), Lajpat Nagar-Saket G-Block (7.96 km), Tughlakabad-Aerocity (20.20 km), Mukundpur-Maujpur (12.54 km) and Janakpuri (west)-RK Ashram (28.92 km). It will have 72 new stations and will take the network of metro to the outer areas of the national capital and make the airport more accessible. With the completion of Phase IV, the total length of the metro corridor in the Delhi will cross the 450-km mark.

Persons in News

Virat Kohli named captain of Indian ODI, T20I teams

The national selection committee of the BCCI has named Virat Kohli as captain of India’s One Day International (ODI), T20I teams. Notably, Kohli is also captain of India’s test team and with this appointment will lead Indian cricket team in all three formats. His appointment comes after Mahendra Singh Dhoni stepped down after more than nine years at the helm. The selection committee also announced the squad for the home series against England beginning January 15, 2017. MS Dhoni has been included as wicketkeeper-batsman in the squad. It also features Yuvraj Singh. Suresh Raina has been excluded from ODIs but has been named in the T20I squad.

US First Lady picks Indian-American Swetha Prabakara for education campaign

US First Lady Michelle Obama has selected Indian-American Swetha Prabakaran (16) to serve in the inaugural Student Advisory Board’s ‘Better Make Room’ education campaign. She is among seventeen students selected by the White House for the campaign that seeks to provide educational opportunities for teenagers in US. She is the only Indian-American in the list. Swetha Prabakaran was selected in recognition of her efforts to educate youth in the field of computer sciences. She is the founder and CEO of Everybody Code Now!, a non-profit body working to empower the next generation of youth to become engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs.

NASA to send African-American for first time to space station

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is sending African-American astronaut Jeanette Epps to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018. She will be the first African-American to go into space station. Epps will head to the ISS as a flight engineer in 2018 and her commander will be veteran astronaut Andrew Feustel. She was selected in July 2009 as one of 14 members of the 20th NASA astronaut class. Jeanette Epps holds a PhD in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland. She is a physics and science whiz and earlier had worked with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) as a technical intelligence officer. So far dozen of African-American astronauts have traveled on different US space missions but not on the space station.

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