Current Affairs February 2017
Union Budget 2017
i.Finance Minister Arun Jaitley presented the Union budget 2017-2018 in Lok Sabha today (01 February 2017).
ii.This is the fourth budget by the Narendra Modi government. It was broadly focused on 10 issues farming sector, rural population, youth, poor and health care for the underprivileged, infrastructure, financial sector for stronger institutions, speedy accountability, public services, prudent fiscal management and tax administration for the honest.
Basant Panchami is being celebrated today (01st February 2017)
i.Basant Panchami is being celebrated today (1 February 2017). The festival marks the beginning of the spring season. The festival is celebrated every year on the fifth day of the month of 'Magha'. Basant means spring and Panchami means "the fifth day".
ii.On this day, Hindus wearing yellow clothes visit temples and pray to Goddess Saraswati the goddess of knowledge, and celebrate the day as Saraswati Puja. Schools and educational institutes celebrate Saraswati Puja. Kite flying competitions will also be held. iii.The festival is mostly celebrated mostly in northern states of Punjab and Bihar.In Allahabad, Basant Panchami bathing is taking place at the confluence of Ganga and Yamuna and other Ghats of holy rivers from this morning. Besides elaborate arrangements for the bathing, security has been tightened at the Sangam area. Police and paramilitary forces are keeping vigil and drones and CCTV cameras have been put into service in the area.
Fiscal deficit reaches 94% of the budget estimate
i.Fiscal deficit in the first nine months of 2016-17 touched 93(point)9 per cent of the Budget estimate. The fiscal deficit had stood at 87.9% in the corresponding nine months a year ago. The fiscal deficit is the gap between expenditure and revenue.
ii.According to data released by the Controller General of Accounts, tax revenue was 71.4% of the full-year budget estimate. Total expenditure, Plan and Non-Plan, was 74.3% of the government's full-year estimate. The revenue deficit during April-December 2016 stood at 100.1% of the budget estimate.
Rajasthan, Telangana bag eGov awards
i.This year (2017), under the State category, Rajasthan and Telangana emerged Winners of Excellence while the Award of Recognition went to Odisha and Nagaland.
ii.Instituted by the Computer Society of India’s (CSI) Special Interest Group with sponsorship from Nihilent Technologies, these awards help recognise the efforts of eGovernance practitioners from across central and state departments, projects and in district administrative units as well.
Railway Ministry Requests Separate Fund for Rashtriya Rail Safety Fund
i.The Ministry of Railway has proposed the Finance Ministry to create a non-lapsable safety fund named ‘Rashtriya Rail Sanraksha Kosh’ over five years with initial corpus of Rs. 20000 crore and contribute a portion to fund it in the Budget 2017 .
ii.The decision to set up the safety fund is based on the recommendation of a high-level safety review committee under the chairmanship of Dr. Anil Kakodkar, former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission.
SAARC programming committee meeting begins in Kathmandu
i.The programming committee meeting of South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) has began at Kathmandu.Senior officials of all eight member countries are participating in the meeting.
ii.Indian delegation is lead by Shri Prashant Agarwal, Joint Secretary (SAARC).During the two day meeting number of issues including budget of SAARC secretariat and its 5 regional centres and regular activities of the Associtation will be discussed.
iii.This is the first senior level meeting of Association since postponement of 19th SAARC Summit in November last year. Nepal, the current chair of SAARC had postpone the summit after Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh and India had decided to boycott SAARC summit scheduled in Islamabad last year.
Ministry of Defence to Set up Rs 1500 cr Defence Unit in Madhya Pradesh
i.The Union Minister for Panchayati Raj and Rural Development, Narendra Singh Tomar stated that the Ministry of Defence is set to open its Defence Unit in Morena district of Madhya Pradesh.
ii.The unit would be set up in Kailaras and Sabalgarh tehsil areas and span over 969.735 hectare of land at a cost of Rs. 1500 crore.
E-Paathsala Launches Unique Technology-Backed Services for Educational Institutions in India
Bangalore based Start-up firm E-paathsala has launched an integrated accreditation and ERP technology solution for the colleges and universities to enable them better manage their multiple accreditation standards in an easy, efficient and fast manner and bridge the gap identified for specific accreditations.
Income Tax Department (ITD) launches Operation Clean Money
i.Income Tax Department (ITD) lead by Sushil Chandra has launched Operation Clean Money to verify the cash deposited in the banks during November 9th to December 30th 2016.
ii.An online Verification process will be carried out by comparing the demonetisation data CBDTwith information in ITD databases.This information will be available at the portal https://incometaxindiaefiling.gov.in.
iii.The PAN holder can view the information using the link ‘Cash Transactions 2016’ under ‘Compliance’ section of the portal.
Textile Ministry Inaugurates Meghalaya’s First Ever Apparel and Garment Centre at Ampati
i.Meghalaya’s first ever Apparel and Garment Making Centre was inaugurated on January 30, 2017 jointly by Union Textiles Minister Smriti Zubin Irani and Chief Minister of Meghalaya Dr. Mukul Sangma near Ampati in South West Garo Hills.
ii.The centre would enable to create job opportunity for both men and women of the region and make them economically empowered.The facility has been set up in an area of 45,000 sq feet at an approximate cost of Rs 14.26 crore. It has been set up under North East Region Textiles Promotion Scheme (NERTPS).
Lakshmi Vilas Bank Partners with Fisdom for Mission FINFIT
i.The private sector lender Lakshmi Vilas Bank in partnership with Bangalore based fin-tech startup firm Fisdom, has launched a mobile application Mission FINFIT to offer the customers of the bank financial planning and personal wealth management services based on Robo advisory.
ii.The mobile app would enable the customer of the bank to plan their finances in an effective manner using the online platform for wealth management thus encouraging them to invest smarter.
ICRA Estimates Banks Credit Growth to Remain Subdued at 5-6% in FY17
i.As per the report of the rating agency, ICRA, the bank credit growth rate is likely to float between 5-6% in the current fiscal year (2017).
ii.The reason cited includes weak loan demand as the rate of return offered by debt market is better in comparison to banks.Besides, the deposit rate was also projected to drop to 12% from the current 14.7% this fiscal ending March 2017 due to better cash flow in the system and cut in the deposit rate by the banks.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh Presents 2016 National Entrepreneurship Awards
i.The First ever National Entrepreneurship Awards 2016 was presented by the Union Home Minister Shri Rajnath Singh at Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi on January 30, 2017.
ii.Shri Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Minister of State (I/C) for Skill Development and Entrepreneurship was the guest of honour on the occasion.The National Entrepreneurship Awards was instituted by the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MoSDE) to recognize and honor the entrepreneurial spirit of India’s youth and encourage more and more young Indians to become entrepreneur.
iii.The awards were given in 11 different categories divided into two groups: Award Track and Recognition Track.
UNICEF launches 3.3 bln USD to aid millions of children
i.UN children's agency UNICEF has launched an appeal for 3.3 billion US Dollar to help 48 million children caught up in crises worldwide amid fears of a funding cut from top donor the United States. This year's appeal represents a 18% increase from the initial request for funding in 2016.
ii. Donors contribute to the appeals on a voluntary basis. The United States is by far the top donor to UNICEF, followed by Germany, Britain and the European Commission. According to UNICEF, Almost one in four of the world's children now lives in a country affected by conflict or disaster.
Alok Verma takes charge as new CBI Director
i.Former Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Verma today took charge as the new CBI Director. He will hold the charge of the premier investigating agency for a period of two years.
ii. A 1979-batch IPS officer, Mr Verma was selected by a three-member committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Justice J S?Khehar and Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge.
Moussa Faki Mahamat appointed as new African Union AU head
US House of Representatives Introduces H-1B Visa Reform Bill
i.The US House of Representatives has introduced a legislation on January 30, 2017 making it mandatory to raise the minimum salary of the H-1B visa holders to more than double at USD 1,30,000 from the previous USD 60,000.
ii.If the legislation is passed, it would highly impact American companies as they may face difficulty in replacing the American employees with foreign workers including IT professionals from India.
iii.The High-Skilled Integrity and Fairness Act of 2017 introduced by California Congressman Zoe Lofgren prioritises
Ireland became the world’s first country to stop investing in fossil fuels
Former Minister E Ahamed Dies After Suffering Cardiac Arrest
Former Union Minister E Ahamed, who collapsed in parliament, has died. He was 78. Mr Ahamed was admitted at Delhi's Ram Manohar Lohia (RML) hospital after he suffered a cardiac arrest while both houses of parliament were being jointly addressed by President Pranab Mukherjee.
Govt to launch TIES to fund export infrastructure
i. A new scheme will be introduced by Govt of India to create infrastructure for exports, a move aimed at reducing transaction costs for traders. A new and restructured central scheme with a focus on export infrastructure namely Trade Infrastructure for Export Scheme (TIES) will be launched in 2017-18.
ii. Indian exporters face huge challenges in terms of infrastructure, particularly in states.Inadequate infrastructure pushes their transactions costs, impacting competitiveness of Indian goods in the global markets.Exporters body Federation of Indian Export Organisations (FIEO) said the scheme will help create modern infrastructure like last mile connectivity to ports, testing labs and certification centres.
Agri credit raised to record Rs 10 lakh crore in Financial Year 2018
i. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced a whopping Rs 1 lakh crore hike in the credit target for the next financial year to Rs 10 lakh crore as part of the government's efforts to double farm incomes in the next five years.
ii. The target for agricultural credit in 2017-18 has been fixed at a record level of Rs 10 lakh crore, Jaitley stated in his Budget speech.The government provides short-term crop loans up to Rs 3 lakh at subsidised interest rate of 7% per annum.
iii. An additional incentive of 3% is provided to farmers for prompt repayment of loans within due date, making an effective interest rate for them at 4%. The Finance Minister noted that the agriculture sector is expected to grow at 4.1% during the current financial year on good monsoon. Sowing of both kharif and rabi crops has been higher.
iv. Jaitley said the allocation for new crop insurance scheme 'Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana', which was launched in 2016, has been increased to Rs 13,240 crore this financial year from budgeted Rs 5,500 crore. The allocation for the next financial year has been earmarked at Rs 9,000 crore.
Govt to set up dairy development fund with corpus of Rs 8,000 cr
i.To augment income of farmers budget has proposed setting-up of a Dairy Processing and Infrastructure Development Fund with a corpus of Rs 8,000 crores over three years.
ii.Dairy is an important source of additional income for the farmers. A Dairy Processing and Infrastructure Development Fund would be set-up in NABARD with a corpus of Rs 8,000 crores over 3 years stated Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his budget speech, 2017.
Rs. 10,000 cr allocated for PSB recapitalisation
i.The Union Budget has allocated Rs. 10,000 crore towards recapitalisation of public sector banks in FY2017-18.
ii.Under Indradhanush roadmap announced in 2015, the government stated to infuse Rs. 70,000 crore in state banks over four years while they will have to raise a further Rs. 1.1 lakh crore from the markets to meet their capital requirement in line with global risk norms, known as Basel III.
iii.In line with the blueprint, public sector banks has been given Rs. 25,000 crore in each fiscal, 2015-16 and 2016-17. Besides, Rs. 10,000 crore each would be infused in 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Govt proposes Payments Regulatory Board in RBI
i. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has proposed creation of a six-member Payments Regulatory Board in the RBI, headed by RBI Governor Urjit Patel as part of bringing about structural reforms in the payment eco-system.
ii. For the purpose, necessary amendments are proposed in the Finance Bill 2017 to create a Payments Regulatory Board in the Reserve Bank of India by replacing the existing Board for Regulation and Supervision of Payment and Settlement Systems.
iii.In his Budget Speech, Jaitley stated a Committee on Digital Payments constituted by Department of Economic Affairs has recommended structural reforms in the payment eco system, including amendments to the Payment and Settlement Systems Act, 2007.
Air India to get Rs. 1,800 cr from govt in 2017-2018
i. National carrier Air India will receive Rs 1,800 crore as equity infusion in 2017-18 under the government’s ongoing financial assistance and the amount is slightly higher than the allocation for 2016-2017.
ii. The allocation has been made in the Union Budget for 2017-18, which was presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.For 2016-17, the government had allocated Rs 1,713 crore to the airline against a demand of Rs 3,911 crore.The government-owned airline has been allocated Rs 1,800 crore as part of the Rs 30,0231 crore financial bailout package.
Budget 2017 pushes Nifty above 8,700 for 1st time since October 25, 2016
i. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced in his Budget 2017 speech with Nifty50 reclaiming its crucial 8,700 mark for the first time since October 25, 2016, while S&P BSE Sensex ended comfortably above its key 28,000 level.
ii. To the relief of investors, Jaitley made no reference to long-term capital gains tax on equities and also set a comfortable fiscal deficit target of 3.2% for the fiscal year 2017-18. The Sensex closed the day at 28,141 up 486 points while Nifty50 settled at 8,716 up 155 points.
Arun jaitley unveils education reforms, to set up National Testing Agency
i. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley unleashed measures to revamp the country's education system, including setting up of a National Testing Agency to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions.
ii. Unveiling the budgetary proposals for 2017-18 in Parliament, Jaitley stated that government proposes to establish a National Testing Agency as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions.
iii.This would free CBSE, AICTE and other premier institutions from these administrative responsibilities so that they can focus more on academics.The government proposes to leverage information technology and launch the SWAYAM platform with at least 350 online courses.
Surajkund International Crafts Mela Kicked off in Faridabad, 20 countries to participate
i. The 31st edition of Surajkund International Crafts Mela started with amid tight security.To be inaugurated by Haryana chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar, the carnival is a 15-day affair in faridabad, Haryana.
ii. Over 20 countries are participating in the event with Egypt as a partner country this year, 2017 and Jharkhand as the theme state. Every year, one country becomes the partner country ands an Indian state is selected to set the theme of the mela.
British PM Theresa May receives UK Parliament's approval to begin Brexit process
i.UK Prime Minister Theresa May has received Parliament's first stage approval to begin the process of Britain's exit from the European Union (EU) after winning a crucial vote in the House of Commons last night.
ii. British MPs voted in favour of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill.498 MPs voted in favour of Brexit Bill, while 114 voted against it.
Researchers Discover Oldest Human Ancestor
i. Researchers have discovered microscopic sea animal Saccorhytus, the earliest known ancestor of humans along with a vast range of other species.
ii. The exquisitely well preserved fossilised traces of this 540-million-year-old creature were discovered.
iii. This balloon-like sea is the earliest known step on the evolutionary path that led to fish and eventually to humans.
Rs 10,000 penalty for late filing of income tax returns
i. As with the presentation of the Union Budget 2017, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has made it easier for the small tax-payers, the budget has however proposed a fee for delayed filing of income tax return. If the income tax return is furnished after the due date but on or before the December 31 of the assessment year, there will be a fine of Rs 5,000 imposed. In other cases, there will be an imposition of a fine of Rs 10,000.
ii. However, in a case where the total income does not exceed Rs 5 lakh, the Budget proposed that the fee amount shall not exceed Rs 1,000.
Sanjeev Sanyal appointed Principal Economic Adviser
i. Sanjeev Sanyal, former global strategist and Managing Director of Deutshe Bank, was today appointed as Principal Economic Adviser. The Appointments Committee of Cabinet has approved Sanyal’s appointment for three years on contract basis, an order issued by Personnel Minister said. Sanyal will work under the Department of Economic Affairs.
Lakshya Sen becomes World No.1 Junior Badminton player
i. India's Lakshya Sen has become the World No 1 Junior Badminton player. He achieved the distinction in the latest rankings of the Badminton World Federation (BWF). Fifteen-year-old is the first shuttler from Uttarakhand to attain the numero uno spot at the international level.
ii. Lakshya, who is considered as the shining future star of Indian badminton, moved ahead of Chia Hao Lee of the Chinese Taipei, to attain the top spot. According to BWF current rankings, Lakshya has 16,903 points in eight tournaments he has played in the season. Chia Hao, who is at the second spot, has 16,091 points.
Apple to start manufacturing in India
i. Tech giant Apple has reached an agreement with the Karnataka government to set up a manufacturing plant in Bengaluru, Karnataka. "Apple’s decision on initial manufacturing in Bengaluru has further enhanced the reputation of Bengaluru as the most preferred destination for foreign investment," the Karnataka government said. Apple is reportedly expected to start production for the Indian market in April.
Tata Motors launches TAMO; to unveil first sportscar on March 7
i. As a core element of its transformation journey 'FutuReady', Tata Motors presented on 02nd February 2017 its new Passenger Vehicle strategy and introduced its new sub-brand - TAMO.
ii. TAMO will act as an incubating centre of innovation towards new technologies, business models and partnerships in order to define future mobility solutions. The first product developed by TAMO will premiere at the upcoming 87th Geneva International Motor Show on March 7, 2017.
GDP growth likely at 7.1% in 2017-18: HSBC
i. India is expected to clock GDP growth of 7.1 per cent in 2017—18 as the country gets sufficiently remonetised and the schemes in the Budget play a supportive role, says an HSBC report.
ii. The uptick in the growth numbers would be largely driven by the remonetisation process, which is expected by April-end, as this in turn would boost the consumption levels in the country. HSBC expect GDP to grow at 7.1 per cent year-on-year in 2017-18, up from 6.3 percent in 2016-17, as the country gets sufficiently remonetised (by April-end), and consumption moves back to pre-demonetisation levels.
Budget 2017-18 allocation to WCD hiked by nearly 26 pc
i. The Women and Child Development Ministry has received a nearly 26 per cent increase in budget allocation this year with the total money set aside climbing to Rs 22,095 crore from Rs 17,640 crore last year.
ii. The amount budgeted for 'Indira Gandhi Matritva Sahyog Yojana' saw a four times jump with Rs 2,700 crore being set aside this year as compared to Rs 634 crore in 2016-17. As per this scheme Rs 6,000 will be provided for mothers who seek institutionalised delivery and vaccination.
Sula Fest begins in Maharashtra
i. The tenth edition of Sula Fest has began on 03rd February at the Sula Vineyards in Nashik, Maharashtra. The line-up for the three-day festival, which will also feature professional wine tastings and grape stomping, includes artists Infected Mushroom and Nucleya. Tickets for Sula Fest, which is offering a camping stay facility, range from RS. 1500 to Rs. 4900.
India recorded highest domestic air passenger growth in 2016
i. Emerging as a stand-out performer, India witnessed the highest growth of 23.3 per cent in domestic air travel demand worldwide in 2016 twice that of neighbouring China, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA).
ii. The global airlines’ grouping has stated that domestic India market topped the growth chart for the second year in a row with passenger volumes surging twice as that of China. “Domestic air travel rose 5.7 per cent in 2016. Capacity rose 5.1 per cent and load factor was 82.2 per cent, up 0.5 percentage points over 2015.
Survival of India-Pakistan Indus water treaty appears ‘weak’: UN report
i. The 40-year-old Indus Waters Treaty between India and Pakistan has been an outstanding example of conflict resolution but scarcity of water in the basin states since the early 1990s has brought the agreement under strain and its “survival appears weak”, according to a UN report. “The treaty fails to address two issues: the division of shortages in dry years between India and Pakistan, when flows are almost half as compared to wet years, and the cumulative impact of storages on the flows of the River Chenab into Pakistan,” said the UNDP report titled ‘Development Advocate Pakistan’.
ii. Wular Barrage and Kishenganga project on the Jhelum and Neelum rivers present a similar problem whereby water storage during the Rabi season is critical as flows are almost one-fifth of the Kharif season, according the report, which was released on 01st February 2017.
World's most expensive saree was sold for Rs 40 lakh
i. The most expensive silk saree was made by Chennai Silks and was sold for around Rs.40 lakh in January 2008, according to Guinness World Records. The saree featured reproductions of 11 paintings by Indian artist Raja Ravi Varma and took about 4,760 man-hours to produce. The saree, studded with gold, diamond, emerald, and other precious stones, weighed around 8 kilograms.
Sports Ministry budget hiked by Rs 350 crore
i.The Sports Ministry budget got a substantial hike of Rs 350 crore in the union budget for 2017-18, presented by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Parliament. Jaitley allocated a total of Rs 1943 crore, compared to Rs 1592 crore earmarked last year.
ii. The steep increase in the budgetary allocation comes at a time when Indian athletes are preparing for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2018. The hike also comes in the wake of India’s dismal showing at the Rio Olympics where it won just two medals – a silver and bronze.