Current Affairs for BANK, IBPS Exams - 21 September 2017

Bank Exam Current Affairs

Current Affairs for BANK, IBPS Exams - 21 September 2017

::National::

Department of Science and Technology (DST) to fund a project to develop quantum computers

  • Keen to tap into the next big advance in computing technology, the Department of Science and Technology (DST) is planning to fund a project to develop quantum computers.
  • A quantum computer, still largely a theoretical entity, employs the principles of quantum mechanics to store information in ‘qubits’ instead of the typical ‘bits’ of 1 and 0.
  • Qubits work faster because of the way such circuits are designed, and their promise is that they can do intensive number-crunching tasks much more efficiently than the fastest comparable computers.
  • For instance, to sort a billion numbers, a quantum computer would require 3.5 million fewer steps than a traditional machine, and would find the solution in only 31,623 steps.
  • Solving other problems, many having to do with computing physics, becomes possible on quantum machines, the authors say, whereas they might never be possible on traditional computers.
  • While the Physics departments at the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, and the Harish Chandra Research Institute, Allahabad, have only forayed into the theoretical aspects of quantum computing, a DST official said that “the time has come to build one.”
  • Experts from across the country are expected to gather this month in Allahabad for a workshop to develop such a computer, and to discuss the costs and the time it would take to build one. Internationally, Canada’s D
  • Wave Systems, is a pioneer in developing quantum computers and has sold machines to Lockheed Martin and Google.
  • Experts, however, say that ‘true quantum computers’ are still years away, and existing systems use principles of quantum computing to solve very limited problems. The DST official, who didn’t want to be identified, said the project was part of a forthcoming mission in the DST to fund research areas that would create the next generation of technology jobs in India.

Large part of transitional credit claims under GST ineligible for refunds

  • A “large part” of the Rs. 65,000 crore of transitional credit claims received by the government under the Goods and Services Tax regime are ineligible for refunds.
  • Firms can claim transitional credits for inputs bought and taxes paid before GST rollout. The official pointed out that even where claims were accepted, refunds would be done in a staggered manner over months, and not as a single lump sum.
  • He explained that this was because the accumulated credit was more than what could be claimed on manufacturing output in a single month.
  • “The investigation and audit of these [Rs. 65,000 crore worth of] transitional credit claims are under way, but we have already found that a large amount of them are not eligible for refunds,” the senior official said on condition of anonymity as the audit was still on.
  • Tax experts say that the reason behind so many ineligible claims being submitted was the constantly changing rules and deadlines relating to the form for the availing of transitional credit — the TRAN-1 form —and that the audits being conducted so far were causing undue panic among businesses since the deadline to revise the filings is still more than a month away.

HC restrained authorities from conducting by-elections

  • The Madras High Court extended its stay on conducting a floor test in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly until further orders and also restrained authorities from conducting by-elections to 18 constituencies, which were declared vacant, pursuant to the disqualification of dissident AIADMK MLAs. Counsel for Governor, Chief Minister and the petitioners consented to it.
  • Justice M. Duraiswamy passed the common interim order on a batch of writ petitions filed by the 18 affected persons challenging the Speaker’s decision and another writ petition filed by DMK working president M.K. Stalin seeking a direction for a floor test at the earliest.
  • The judge passed the order after senior counsel Aryama Sundaram, representing Mr. Dhanapal, sought time till October 4 for filing a counter affidavit.
  • Referring to an interim order passed in Mr. Stalin’s case, staying a floor test till Wednesday, the judge said the authorities concerned “shall not conduct floor test for the trust vote until further orders of this court.”
  • There shall not be any election notification for conducting the election for the 18 Legislative Assembly constituencies pursuant to the impugned order (Speaker’s decision published in the gazette) dated September 18, 2017, which is the subject matter in the writ petitions, until further orders of this court.
  • Earlier, when the judge wanted to know whether such an order could be passed without the Election Commission being a party before the court and especially when the Assembly Secretary had declared all the 18 seats vacant, Mr. Sundaram replied in the affirmative.
  • Mr. Sundaram sought an adjournment till October 4 when senior counsel Dushyant Dave, representing four disqualified MLAs, was on his feet arguing the case on merits. He said there was no possibility of by-elections being held before October 4.
  • Concurring, senior counsel C.S. Vaidyanathan, appearing for the CM, said there was no need for interim orders on the issue of floor test too since his client had not placed any such request with the Speaker. Immediately, senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing Mr. Stalin, rose from his seat to stress the need for an interim order in the case.

India is bound by Paris Climate change agreement

  • India reaffirmed its commitment to the landmark Paris climate change agreement, saying it was willing to “work above and beyond” the pact to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during a UN ‘Leadership Summit on Environment Pact’, said India had been at the forefront of the debate on environment and development.
  • Her remarks came amid uncertainty over the U.S. role in the deal after President Donald Trump in June announced that America was withdrawing from the Paris deal, arguing that it gave undue advantage to countries like India and China.
  • India, which is the world’s third largest carbon polluter, reached a pact, along with more than 190 nations, in December 2015 with an aim to prevent an increase in the global average temperature and keep it well below 2 degrees Celsius.
  • The deal, which replaced the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, was ratified last October.
  • Participating in the UN meet hosted by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Ms. Swaraj said India was willing to work “above and beyond” the Paris agreement.
  • During the day, Ms. Swaraj had a series of bilateral meetings with leaders from Mexico, Norway and Belgium. She also called on Mauritius Prime Minister PravindJugnauth.
  • There were some discussions on the possibility of a high-level visit from Belgium to India later this year.
  • Sushma Swaraj is also scheduled to participate in several multilateral meetings including that of the G-4 (Brazil, Germany, India, and Japan) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Foreign Ministers.

Releasing Genetically modified mustard is unlikely any time soon

  • Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan has indicated that a decision on releasing genetically modified (GM) mustard commercially was unlikely any time soon.There are compelling arguments from those who support it and those against it.
  • Dr. Harsh Vardhan, who holds the Science portfolio, took over the Environment Ministry after the death of Anil Dave. That makes him the final government arbiter on allowing GM mustard to be made available commercially. GM mustard was developed by scientists at Delhi University and the project was part-funded by the Department of Biotechnology, a division of the Science Ministry.
  • A fresh consultation with environmental groups, scientists and farmers’ bodies before taking a call on the release of GM mustard.
  • The Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), India’s regulator for genetically modified seeds, had on May 12 this year cleared GM mustard for environmental release and use in fields. Though it was cleared by scientists, the Environment Minister’s approval is required.
  • The Centre told the Supreme Court that it was considering various aspects and was still to take a final call on the commercial release of GM mustard.
  • A Parliamentary Standing Committee, headed by Renuka Chowdhary of the Congress, said that there was a paucity of studies on the impact of GM crops on human health. Should the Minister’s consent be obtained, GM mustard would be the first transgenic food crop to be allowed for commercial cultivation in India.
  • It could pave the way for several other GM food crops in the country. Dhara Mustard Hybrid (DMH -11), the transgenic mustard in question, has been developed by a team of scientists at Delhi University under a government-funded project.

Chahbahar port to be completed as fast as possible

  • Indicating a firm commitment, India declared that it would intensify work on the Iranian port of Chahbahar where it was developing facilities as part of regional connectivity plans.
  • Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari said that his priority was to complete the work on time, allowing India to overcome the lack of land access to Central Asia and Russia.
  • Chahbahar is a good opportunity for the Indian market. Top five companies of India have good presence in Iran and they are having a dialogue with their Iranian counterparts. Iranian investors are also going to benefit immensely.
  • Comments on India-Iran ties came a day after U.S. President Donald Trump said that the Iran nuclear deal, which opened up the Iranian economy for investment, was “embarrassing”, casting a shadow on Iran’s emerging global stature and its international partnerships.
  • India had historical ties with Iran and Afghanistan and after Chahbahar, the region would emerge as a growth engine for Afghanistan, India and Iran.
  • Not just Central Asia, even Russia can be accessed by truck through Chahbahar, and Europe too can be accessed through Russia
  • The Minister indicated that the port for which India and Iran signed an MoU in Tehran on May 6, 2015 would help India find a secure all-weather connection between India and the Eurasian continent.

To stop open defecation there is a need for Behaviour change

  • Sanitation experts laid emphasis on bringing about a sustained behaviour change in the local communities to achieve the target of making the villages, towns and districts Open Defecation Free (ODF) in Rajasthan. The harmful impacts of open defecation on people’s health and children's nutrition should be brought to their notice.
  • The occasion was the State-level inauguration of “Swachhta Hi Sewa: Swachh Yuva Diwas” on the Rajasthan University campus here. State Rural Development Minister Rajendra Rathore said six districts had so far been declared open defecation free, while 10 more would be given the ODF status by December this year.
  • Of the 9,851 village panchayats in the State, 6,375 have been declared open defecation free. The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan would succeed if the youth adopted it as a movement.
  • UNICEF-Rajasthan chief Isabelle Bardem said that against the access of 27.3% households to sanitary toilets in 2012 in the State, 87% households had sanitary toilets built in their premises till this month. “Stopping open defecation will restore women's dignity and protect them against harassment and sexual offences,” she said.
  • A massive rally of the university and college students was organised on the campus and the theatre artistes staged a presentation on the community-led total sanitation process.
  • The event was organised jointly by UNICEF and the university's Centre for Mass Communication.

Reluctance to transfer proprietary technology could complicate building fighter jets

  • A recent letter by a U.S. business body to the Defence Ministry expressing its reluctance to transfer proprietary technologies could complicate India’s efforts to build a fighter jet locally with technology transfer from abroad. Both the competing aircraft have significant U.S. components.
  • This is a test for the ambitious new Strategic Partnership (SP) model for promoting domestic defence manufacturing under which multi-billion dollar deals are about to be initiated.
  • The letter was written early last month by the US-India Business Council (USIBC) to then Defence Minister, Arun Jaitley, in which the companies raised the issue of having control over proprietary technologies.
  • Without real technology transfer, the whole idea of SP will fall apart. We will once again be doing assembling as has been happening for the past four decades
  • In the next couple of months, the Air Force is expected to initiate the process to select a single-engine fighter jet under the SP model which will be built in India with significant technology transfer. The deal for over a 100 jets is estimated to cost over Rs. 60,000 crore by present projection, but the final order could end up at around 200 jets.
  • The contenders in the race are Lockheed Martin with its F-16 and Sweden’s SAAB with its Gripen. While the F-16 is a U.S. military platform, the Gripen is powered by engines built by General Electric of the U.S. In addition, the same engines have been selected to power the indigenously developed Tejas Light Combat Aircraft, 123 of which have been already ordered by the IAF.
  • While SAAB has promised full transfer of technology, it would still require U.S. government clearance for transferring specific components.

First of its kind - a ‘Boat Lab’ to study Brahmaputra

  • Soon, it will be possible to cruise along the Brahmaputra along while doing some serious science.
  • The Department of Biotechnology will commission a two-tiered barge that will roughly be the size of two large conference rooms and host scientists and a full-fledged lab that will allow those on board to collect samples from various stretches of the river, perform tests on water quality and biodiversity of the wider ecosystem.
  • The proposed vessel, now only known as the Brahmaputra Biodiversity Biology Boat (B4), would also be linked to smaller boats and research labs, said Union Science Minister Harsh Vardhan at a press conference.
  • The first experiments will likely begin this December and will have the boat a re-purposed one trawl Pasighat, Dibrigarh, Neemati, Tejpur and Guwahati in Assam and managed by the Indian Institute of Technology, Guwahati. The “B4” will also have a teaching laboratory for school and college children.
  • There would also be ‘mobile labs’ that would run along the tributaries of the Brahmaputra to feed in data to the B4.
  • For a river of the size and diversity of the Brahmaputra, there is very little research done to understand its hydrology, water quality and biodiversity. The idea for it came from a scientist who’s of Chinese and Indian-origin and based in Shillong.
  • The boat of this nature would be one of its kind in the world though there were a few precedents in China and mobile laboratories that studied the Amazon river.
  • The government aimed to spend Rs. 200 crore across a range of programmes.

::INTERNATIONAL::

Hasina proposes ‘safe zones’ for Rohingya

  • Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina called upon members states of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to take a united stand to resolve the Rohingya issue “before it is too late” and placed a set of proposals.
  • The proposals, placed at the OIC Contact Group at the United Nations headquarters on Tuesday, included a call for an immediate end to atrocities against Rohingya Muslims, the creation of ‘safe zones’ in Myanmar for the protection of civilians and an immediate and unconditional implementation of the recommendations put forward by the Kofi Annan Commission.
  • Stating that that the crisis has its roots in Myanmar and hence its solution also has to be found in Myanmar, she said, “We want to see an end to the ‘ethnic cleansing’.”
  • She also criticised Myanmar for labelling Rohingya as “illegal migrants” and “Bengalis from Bangladesh”. She said historical records clearly suggest that the Rohingya have been living in Rakhine for centuries.
    “Myanmar is forcibly driving out the Rohingya Muslims through a planned and organised process. First, they were excluded from the list of recognised ethnic groups of Myanmar. Then in 1982, they were denied their right to citizenship. Later, they were sent to IDP camps in their own country,” she said.
  • Referring to her recent visit to the Cox’s Bazar refugee camps, she said it was reminiscent of 1971. “When the Pakistani forces burned down our houses and killed our people, around 10 million people crossed the border into India. Now they (Rohingya) are in danger and we definitely need to give them shelter.”
  • Also, Bangladesh’s ruling 14-party alliance rejected the speech of Myanmarese leader Aung Sang Suu Kyi. The alliance’s spokesperson Mohammad Nasim said on Wednesday that it was unfortunate that Ms. Suu Kyi did not even mention the word ‘Rohingya’ in her speech.

::ECONOMY::

Mobile operators unhappy with cutting termination charge

  • Terming telecom regulator TRAI’s decision to cut mobile termination charges by 57% “retrograde”, leading telecom operators Bharti Airtel and Vodafone said the move would benefit just one operator and would worsen the financial health of the already stressed industry.
  • They are extremely disappointed with the latest regulation on the IUC, especially at a time when the industry is facing severe financial stress.
  • Bharti added that the interconnect usage charges (IUC) rate of 6 paise fixed by TRAI had “been arrived at in a completely non-transparent fashion and benefits only one operator which enjoys a huge traffic asymmetry in its favour.”
  • The sharp drop in the rate would only help transfer part of “its [the beneficiary operator’s] cost to other operators, thereby further worsening the financial health of the industry.”
  • “This is yet another retrograde regulatory measure that will significantly benefit the new entrant alone while adversely affecting the rest of the industry as a whole,” Vodafone said in a statement. Unless mitigated, the decision would have serious consequences for investment in rural coverage, undermining the government’s vision of Digital India, Vodafone added.
  • While Reliance Communications welcomed the move.
  • With voice calling becoming free, TRAI’s move will provide a level-playing field , Reliance said.
  • While the top operators had pitched for doubling mobile termination charges (payable by the operator whose subscriber makes a call to the operator whose subscriber receives the call) “to recover their cost,” the newer rival had suggested zero charges and shifting to the bill-and-keep regime.
  • Asked about the impact the move may have on the stressed telecom sector, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “I have not had the benefit of reading the full reasoning, so it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment... It is for the concerned players to explore whatever remedies are there for them.”

69 anchor investors got shares from SBI

  • SBI Life Insurance Company has allotted 3.18 crore equity shares aggregating to Rs. 2,226 crore as part of the anchor allocation. The shares were allotted at the upper end of the price band at Rs. 700.
  • The anchor allocation saw participation of a total of 69 investors that included HDFC Mutual Fund, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund, Government of Singapore, Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, Wells Fargo Emerging Markets Equity Fund, Aranda Investments Pte, Reliance Mutual Fund, Birla Sun Life Mutual Fund and Kuwait Investment Authority Fund among others. A total of 14 mutual funds applied through 49 schemes for the anchor portion.
  • Meanwhile, the public issue of SBI Life, which opened, was subscribed 0.9 times on the first day with bids received for 83.66 lakh shares against 8.82 crore shares on offer in the price band of Rs. 685 to Rs. 700 per share. The IPO will close for subscription on Friday.
  • At the upper end of the price band, the issue will mop up Rs. 8,400 crore. Post the public issue, the promoter stake will come down to 84.1% from the current 96.1%.
    Since 2010, SBI Life has been the country's largest private life insurer, in new business premium generated each fiscal. According to HDFC Securities, in fiscal 2016-17, the company had a market share of individual rated premium of 20.69% among private life insurers and 11.16% of the entire life insurance industry in India.

Peer-to-peer lending platforms will be treated as NBFCs’

  • Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) platforms will be treated as non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and thus regulated by the RBI.
  • P2P lending is a form of crowd-funding used to raise loans which are paid back with interest. It can be defined as the use of an online platform that matches lenders with borrowers in order to provide unsecured loans.
  • The Reserve Bank of India specifies a non-banking institution that carries on ‘the business of a peer to peer lending platform’ to be an NBFC.
  • As per the RBI, the business of a P2P lending platform is defined as the service of loan facilitation, via online medium or otherwise, to “the participants who have entered into an arrangement with that platform to lend on it or to avail of loan facilitation services provided by it.”
  • The RBI had floated a consultation paper in April 2016 on such lending platforms.

Significant oil discovery by ONGC in Arabian sea

  • State-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (ONGC) has made a significant oil discovery to the west of its prime Mumbai High fields in the Arabian sea.
  • The discovery in the well WO-24-3 is estimated to hold an in-place reserve of about 20 million tonnes.
  • Mumbai High, India’s biggest oil field, currently produces 205,000 barrels of oil per day (just over 10 million tonnes per annum) and the new find would add to that production in less than two years time.
  • In all, nine objects or zones were tested and all of them were found to be hydrocarbon bearing. The last object tested flowed 3,300 barrels of oil.
  • ONGC is carrying out a further appraisal of the discovery and has intimated upstream regulator Directorate General of Hydrocarbons.
  • This is a mid-sized discovery but a significant one.The new find, which comes almost 50 years after ONGC began production in Mumbai High, will help the company maintain production levels from the basin for a longer time than currently estimated.

::SPORTS::

BCCI recommended Dhoni for Padma Bhusan

  • M.S. Dhoni has been recommended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for the Padma Bhushan, the country’s third highest civilian honour. Apart from the Padma Shri, Dhoni has received the Arjuna Award and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.
  • Dhoni was conferred the Padma Shri award in 2009 and he became eligible for the Padma Bhushan a few years ago. Presently there is no other cricketer more deserving than him (Dhoni).
  • While India’s highest decorated cricketer is Sachin Tendulkar (Bharat Ratna, 2014), Dhoni is likely to join a group of illustrious cricketers who have been awarded the Padma Bhushan.

 

::ENVIRONMENT::

Octlantis an Underwater ‘city’ built by octopuses

  • Scientists have discovered Octlantis — an underwater site built entirely by octopuses, where they communicate with each other by posturing, chasing or colour changes.
  • Researchers from the University of Illinois in the U.S. found the site in the waters off the east coast of Australia, that is the home of up to 15 gloomy octopuses. It is the second gloomy octopus settlement found in the area, and the discovery lends credence to the idea that octopuses are not necessarily loners.
  • The first gloomy octopus site was found in Jervis Bay off the east coast of Australia in 2009. The new site is located just a few hundred meters away from the first site, and has been dubbed Octlantis.

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