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Current Events 25 February 2017

 

NEWS 

25 FEBRUARY 2017 

Sr. No.

Topic

News

1.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-USA

Indian shot dead in U.S. hate crime

2.

GS II : GOVERNANCE POLICY

Plan to allow larger firms to shut shop sans govt. nod

3.

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA- BANGLADESH

Delhi allows Dhaka use of border roads

4.

GS III : S&T - IT

India building a supercomputer juggernaut

5.

GS III : SECURITY

NIA team quizzes Nepal businessman Hoda

6.

GS III :  BILATERAL INDIA-  PAKISTAN

Baloch leader says he’ll seek India’s help

7.

GS III: ECONOMY- ENERGY

Wind tariffs at a low of Rs. 3.46 per unit

8.

GS III: ECONOMY -IMF

Note ban sucked cash like vacuum cleaner: IMF

9.

GS III: ECONOMY-BANKING

‘Bad bank’ to help speed up stressed-assets resolution: Fitch

10.

GS III: ENVIRONMENT CLIMATE CHANGE

 Arctic vault receives new seed deposits

11.

GS III: S&T SPACE

Rare luminous nebula poses cosmic puzzle

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-USA

Indian shot dead in U.S. hate crime

  • An apparent act of racial hatred left an Indian engineer dead and another injured in Olathe city in Kansas in midwestern U.S. on 22 February 2017 night.
  • Srinivas Kuchibhotla (32) had gone to a bar with his friend Alok Madasani after the day’s work.
  • He was shot allegedly by a 51-year-old Navy veteran who shouted, “get out of my country,” before the act.
  • Ian Grillot, a 24-year-old white man who took a bullet on his chest trying to stop the shooter, has emerged the hero in the tragic episode that snuffed out the dreams of the Hyderabad-born Kuchibhotla, whose wife is five months pregnant.
  • The police arrested attacker Adam Purinton on murder charges, and the case is being investigated as a possible hate crime.

 

GS II : GOVERNANCE -POLICY

Plan to allow larger firms to shut shop sans govt. nod

  • The Labour Ministry has proposed that factories with up to 500 workers be allowed to lay off workers or shut shop without seeking government permission, in a bid to give firms flexibility in hiring and firing employees.
  • At present, factories with up to 100 workers are allowed to go in for retrenchment, lay-off or closure without seeking government permission, according to the Industrial Disputes Act, 1947.
  • The Ministry is set to discuss the proposed Labour Code on Industrial Relations at the next meeting of the Group of Ministers (GoM), scheduled for March 8, a senior Ministry official said.
  • The GoM is headed by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
  • In May 2015, the Labour Ministry had proposed integrating three labour laws —

1.     the Trade Unions Act,

2.     the Industrial Disputes Act and

3.     the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act — into a single code for industrial relations.

  • It had then also proposed allowing factories with up to 300 workers to retrench workers or close down without seeking official sanction.
  • However, the Centre had put the proposals on the back-burner after series of protests from the central trade unions on the proposed labour law reforms.
  • The Labour Ministry may back its latest proposal to increase the threshold limit for applicability of chapter V-B of the Industrial Disputes Act, citing hard data from Sixth Economic Census released in 2016.
  • The data shows that around 99% of a total of 4.53 crore non-agricultural establishments employed less than 100 workers in 2013-14 and were allowed to retrench workers or close without government permission.
  • “Most of the establishments in India needn’t take government permission to retrench workers or close their set up. So, the amendments will only impact a very small proportion of the total establishments. But a political call needs to be taken on increasing the threshold limit for the I-D Act,” the official added.

 

GS II : BILATERAL INDIA-BANGLADESH

Delhi allows Dhaka use of border roads

  • In a rare gesture, India has decided to throw open its border roads to help Bangladesh construct border outposts in Chittagong hill tracts, known for its inhospitable terrain.
  • Some areas in Chittagong, bordering Tripura and Mizoram, have no motorable roads and India has decided to allow the Border Guard Bangladesh to construct 13 border outposts using the road connectivity available in the two States.
  • While six BOPs would come across the Tripura border, another seven would be along the Mizoram border.
  • “The proposal has initially been accepted for a year and if the need arises then the time-frame might be extended,” said the official.
  • The Border Security Force, deployed along the Bangladesh border, will monitor the construction activities.
  • India has on multiple occasions handed over details of insurgent camps operating from the Bangladesh soil, particularly in the dense Chittagong Hill Tract area. Following the leads, the neighbouring country has acted against these camps and demolished them.
  • During talks in Dhaka last week, the BSF is learnt to have handed over a list of 21 insurgent camps. But the latter denied the presence of any such camp.

 

 

GS III : S&T - IT

India building a supercomputer juggernaut

  • Come June, India will likely unveil its most powerful supercomputer.
  • If its processors operate at the full capacity of 10 petaflops (1 followed by 15 zeroes of floating point operations per second), a clock speed a million times faster than the fastest consumer laptops, it could earn a place among the world’s top 10 fastest supercomputers.
  • Though India has built or hosted supercomputers since the 1990s, it held a ‘top 10’ spot only once, in 2007, thanks to the EKA built by the Computational Research Laboratories, which is part of the Tata group.
  • This position was lost, though several ultra-fast machines exist in Indian academic institutions: they feature in the 100s or 200s in global rankings.
  • The as-yet-unnamed machine will be jointly hosted at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Pune and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting at Noida in Uttar Pradesh.
  • For the first time, colleges and other research institutions can log in and harness its power to address problems, ranging from weather modelling to understanding how proteins fold.
  • The government has sanctioned Rs. 400 crore for the project this year. Most of the machine’s computing power will help in monsoon forecasting, using a dynamical model.
  • This requires simulating the weather for a given month — say March — and letting a custom-built model calculate how the actual weather will play out over June, July, August and September.

 

 

GS III : SECURITY

NIA team quizzes Nepal businessman Hoda

  • A team from the National Investigation Agency (NIA) questioned Nepalese businessman Shamshul Hoda alleged to be a prime suspect in recruiting Indians to plant explosives on railway tracks at the behest of Pakistan’s ISI.
  • A two-member NIA team visited Nepal and quizzed Hoda, who was arrested at the Kathmandu international airport on his return from Dubai on February 2 in connection with a double murder.
  • A source said that while Hoda admitted that he was asked by a Pakistani man, identified as Shafi Sheikh, to plant explosives on railway tracks in Ghorasahan and Nakardehi, both in Bihar, he did not admit to planting explosives at Pukhrayan, near Kanpur, and at Kuneru in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Over 140 people died when the Indore-Patna Express derailed at Pukhrayan on November 20 last year and 41 persons were killed when the Jagadalpur- Bhubaneswar Hirakhund Express derailed at Kuneru in Andhra Pradesh on January 21.
  • While an IED, packed in a pressure cooker, which was planted at Ghorasahan on October 1 was defused, a low intensity explosion took place at Nakardehi without inflicting any damage.
  • The Nepal police have been sceptical of claims by Indian agencies on Hoda’s links to the train derailments in Kanpur and Andhra Pradesh.
  • The Nepal police had told that they were not sure of Indian agencies’ claims that Hoda was working on ISI’s behalf but they confirmed that the accused regularly met a Pakistani person Shafi Sheikh in Dubai.
  • The NIA is yet to complete its investigation into three rail accidents — Ghorasan, Kanpur and Kuneru.
  • The investigation was handed over to the NIA after Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu shot off a letter to Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, alleging sabotage in at least six train accidents. 

 

GS III :  INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Baloch leader says he’ll seek India’s help

  • One of the key voices demanding Balochistan’s freedom has said that he would approach friends like India to seek help for their cause.
  • Amir Ahmed Suleman Daud, officially known as His Highness the Khan of Kalat, welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s intervention in favour of Balochistan during his Independence Day address from the Red Fort last year.
  • Mr. Daud, who has been living in exile in Wales in the U.K. for the last few years, indicated that he plans to approach India and other friendly countries like the U.S. to seek help for the cause of Balochistan’s independence.
  • He accuses Pakistan of “colonising” the sovereign state of Kalat.

 

GS III: ECONOMY - ENERGY

Wind tariffs at a low of Rs. 3.46 per unit

  • Wind power tariffs closed at Rs. 3.46 per kWh in India’s first ever auction for wind energy projects as the country aims to tap renewable energy to overcome its power shortages.
  • The bid was called by government- owned Solar Energy Corporation of India for 1 GW of wind capacity.
  • Mytrah Energy, Green Infra, Inox and Ostro Energy each won the rights to set up 250 MW of wind capacity in a location of their choice and to sell the energy generated to state-run Power Trading Corporation.
  • Sources say that the two states under consideration for these projects are Tamil Nadu and Gujarat.
  • Such low tariffs in wind energy come on the back of historically low solar tariffs achieved in a recent auction of a total capacity of 750MW.
  • The reverse auction completed in Rewa in Madhya Pradesh saw solar tariffs fall to Rs. 2.97 per unit and Rs. 3.3 per unit when levelised over the 25-year power purchase agreement period.
  • The auctions have been hard fought and have led to tighter pricing than one would have foreseen even a few months earlier. This speaks to the growing confidence of the players in their ability to deliver projects on terms that are globally competitive.
  • However low tariffs could prove to be a problem for developers since the focus will now have to shift to ensuring low costs.
  • “Prima facie, the viability would depend on the plant load factors, capital costs, and getting long-term debt at competitive rates,” Girish Kadam, vice president at ICRA said.

 

GS III: ECONOMY

Note ban sucked cash like vacuum cleaner: IMF

  • India’s demonetisation led to huge cash shortages that have “adversely affected” consumption and like a “vacuum cleaner” it sucked in cash and then was slowly replacing the currency, a senior IMF official has said.
  • “You’ve heard about so called ‘helicopter drops’ of money with unconventional monetary policies, so one way to characterise this demonetisation initiative is as a vacuum cleaner,” he said.
  • “That’s led to a lot of cash shortages that have adversely affected consumption,”
  • IMF said the repercussions from India’s currency exchange initiative will likely persist through the first quarter of 2017. Real GDP growth is projected to slow to 6.6% in FY2016/17 and then rebound to 7.2% in FY2017/18, due to temporary disruptions (primarily to private consumption) caused by cash shortages accompanying the currency exchange initiative.
  • “These effects are expected to gradually dissipate by March 2017 as cash shortages ease,” it said.

 

 

GS III: ECONOMY BANKING

‘Bad bank’ to help speed up stressed-assets resolution: Fitch

  • The creation of a ‘bad bank’ will speed up resolution of stressed assets in the banking system, but it will also require significant capital infusion in the state-run banks to meet any shortfall, says a report.
  • The recent economic survey mentioned about formation of a bad bank that will purchase stressed assets and take them to resolution.
  • The country’s banks have significant asset quality problems that are putting pressure on profitability and capital, as well as constraining their ability to lend.
  • The rating agency Fitch said the banking sector will require around $90 billion in new total capital by financial year 2018-19 to meet Basel III standard and ongoing business needs.
  • This estimate is unlikely to be significantly reduced by the adoption of a bad-bank approach, and could even rise if banks are forced to crystallise more losses from stressed assets than currently expected, the rating agency said.
  • It said bad bank’s most likely form would be that of a centralised asset-restructuring company (ARC).
  • Bad bank’s proponents believe it could take charge of the largest, most complex cases, make politically tough decisions to reduce debt, and allow banks to refocus on their normal lending activities.

 

 


 

GS III: ENVIRONMENT CLIMATE CHANGE

Arctic vault receives new seed deposits

  • Nearly 10 years after a “doomsday” seed vault opened on an Arctic island, some 50,000 new samples from seed collections around the world, including India, have been deposited in the world’s largest repository built to safeguard against wars or natural disasters wiping out global food crops.
  • The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a gene bank built underground on the isolated island in a permafrost zone some 1,000 kilometres from the North Pole, was opened in 2008 as a master backup to the world’s other seed banks, in case their deposits are lost.
  • The latest specimens sent to the bank, located on the Svalbard archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole, included more than 15,000 reconstituted samples from an international research centre that focuses on improving agriculture in dry zones.
  • They were the first to retrieve seeds from the vault in 2015 before returning new ones after multiplying and reconstituting them. The specimens consisted of seed samples for some of the world’s most vital food sources like potato, sorghum, rice, barley, chickpea, lentil and wheat.
  • Speaking from Svalbard, Aly Abou-Sabaa, the head of the International Center for Agricultural Research, said that borrowing and reconstituting the seeds before returning them had been a success and showed that it was possible to “find solutions to pressing regional and global challenges.”
  • The agency borrowed the seeds three years ago because it could not access its gene bank of 141,000 specimens in the war-torn Syrian city of Aleppo, and so was unable to regenerate and distribute them to breeders and researchers.
  • “The reconstituted seeds will play a critical role in developing climate-resilient crops for generations,” Mr. Abou-Sabaa said.
  • The newly deposited 50,000 samples were from seed collections in Benin, India, Pakistan, Lebanon, Morocco, Netherlands, the US, Mexico, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Belarus and Britain. It brought the total deposits in the snow-covered vault with a capacity of 4.5 million to 940,000.

 

 

 

GS III: S&T SPACE

Rare luminous nebula poses cosmic puzzle

  • Astronomers have spotted an enormous, glowing blob of gas in the distant universe, with no obvious source of power for the light it is emitting.
  • Called an “enormous Lyman-alpha nebula” (ELAN), it is the brightest and among the largest of these rare objects, only a handful of which have been observed, the researchers said.
  • The newly discovered nebula was found at a distance of 10 billion light years in the middle of a region with an extraordinary concentration of galaxies.
  • Researchers found this massive overdensity of early galaxies, called a “protocluster,” through a novel survey project.
  • The newly discovered ELAN is known as MAMMOTH-1.
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