Current Affairs : February,2016

Current Affairs :February,2016

Important Days in February
Feb 02 : World Wetlands Day 
Feb 04 : National Day of Srilanka 
Feb 05 : Kashmir Day (Organised by Pakistan) 
Feb 13 : Sarojini Naidu's Birth Anniversary, World Radio Day 
Feb 14 : St. Valentine's Day
Feb 21: International Mother Language Day
Feb 24 : Central Exise Day
Feb 28 : National Science Day
Highlights of Union Budget 2016-17
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley released the Union Budget for the year 2016-17 in the Lok Sabha. Although, the Budget paid heed to most of the sectors, there was a special focus on presenting it as a pro-poor and pro-farmer fiscal policy. Here are the highlights of the Budget:
- Growth rate was confirmed to be 7.6 per cent for the year 2015-16. Jaitley stressed on his Government succeeded in bringing growth rate from stagranting 6.5 per cent in 2013-14 to 7.6 in less than three years.
- Current account deficit has come down from 18.4 billion dollars to 10.41 billion. This reduction was another key achievement highlighted by the Finance Minister.
- Jaitley recalled how CPI inflation stood at 9.6 per cent when Manmohan Singh Government was in its final year. In 21 months, BJP government succeeded to bring down inflation to 5.4 per cent.
- Making the first big announcement, Jaitley announced that the farming sector would be allocated Rs 35,000 crores.
- Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sichayee Yojana will enable irrigation in 28.5 lakh hectares of land in the nation. Government will ease out Rs 86,500 crores for the same in the next five years.
- A dedicated irrigation fund worth Rs 20,000 crore to be set up under National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD).
- Organic farming would be focussed upon by the Government. Around 5 lakh hectares of land would be used under organic farming.
 - 100 per cent electrification of all villages is targeted by May 1, 2018 under Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Antyodaya scheme.
- Rs 2,000 crores have been allocated for extending LPG connection in rural households. Jaitley also acknowledged five lakhs housholds who have gave up subsidy for the benefit of the nation.
- MNREGA was pumped in with Rs 38,500 crores. Specific teams will be set up to focus on water conservation projects, Jaitley said.
- For rural development as a whole, Rs 87,765 crores have been allocated by the Finance Ministry.
- Rs 500 crore have been allocated for Narendra Modi’s pet scheme – Start-up India and Stand Up India.
- Rs 3000 crore have been allocated for providing insurance to 1 lakh households under Atal Pension Yojana.
- The highest amount of allocation has been made in infrastructure sector. A mammoth Rs 2.21 lakh crores have been allocated. This includes Rs 97,000 crore for development of roads, Rs 55,000 crore for upgradation and the remaining amount for capitalization of Indian Railways.
- FDI to the extent of 100 percent has been permitted in the Food Processing and supply sector.
- Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana will be pumped with Rs 1,80,000 crore to complete the task of financial inclusion.
- Rs 25,000 crores have been allocated for recapitalization of banks reeling with the burden of non-performing assets.
- Tax burden reduced on those earning below Rs 5 lakh per annum. Tax rates would be reduced from Rs 5,000 to Rs 2,000.
- Tax rebate would be offered up on housing rent of Rs 60,000 per annum, instead of the earlier limit of Rs 24,000.
- Service Tax has been increased from 14.5 to 15 per cent. 13 additional cess have been eliminated to curb retrospective taxation.
- Excise duty on all tobacco related products will be increased by 10-15 per cent.

Highlights of the Railway Budget 2016-17
Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on 25 February 2016 presented the Railway Budget 2016-17 in the Parliament. This was the the second railway budget for Suresh Prabhu and third rail budget of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led NDA government.
Below are the highlights of this Budget:
Theme of the Budget: ‘Chalo, Milkar Kuch Naya Karen’ for overcoming challenges – Reorganize, Rejuvenate, Restructure Indian Railways
Three pillars strategy: Nav Arjan – New revenues, Nav Manak – New norms, Nav Sanrachna – New Structures.
Railway Fares
No new hike in passenger fares and Freight fares.
Promised to bring down freight rates and double non-tariff revenue for the ailing national transport. 
New Initiatives 
For the unreserved passenger: (i) Antyodaya Express superfast unreserved service. (ii) Deen Dayalu unreserved coaches with potable water facility and higher number of mobile charging points. 
For the reserved passenger:(i) Humsafar: Fully air-conditioned service with an optional service for meals. (ii) Tejas: It will operate at speeds of 130 kmph and above and shall showcase the future of train travel in India. It will offer onboard services such as local cuisine, entertainment, WiFi, etc. (iii) UDAY (Utkrisht Double-Decker Air-conditioned Yatri) Express: Overnight double-decker express on the busiest routes. Potential to increase carrying capacity by almost 40%. (iv) SMART (Specially Modified Aesthetic Refreshing Travel) Coaches: These coaches are designed to ensure higher carrying capacity and provision of new amenities including automatic doors, bio-vacuum toilets, bar-code readers, water-level indicators, accessible dustbins, ergonomic seating, vending machines, improved aesthetics, LED lit boards for advertising, entertainment screens, PA system.
Cleanliness: SMS service ‘Clean my Coach’, ranking of A1 and A railway stations based on periodic third party audit and passenger feedback, Awareness campaigns. Waste segregation and recycling centres, additional 30,000 bio-toilets etc.
Catering and stalls at stations: IRCTC will manage catering services in a phased manner; explore possibility of making catering services optional, build local ownership and empowerment. Railway is extending e-catering to all rail stations. IRCTC will make available local cuisine of choice, hygienic food. Travelling mothers, Children’s menu, baby foods, baby boards will be made available.
Women Quota: 33 per cent sub-quota for women will be provided under all reserved categories. Railways will also increase the quota of lower berths for women and senior citizens
Rail Mitra Sewa: Strengthening the existing services for enabling passengers to book battery operated cars, porter services, etc. Expanding Sarathi Seva in Konkan Railway to help the disabled and old passengers.
Ticketing: Capacity of e-ticketing system has been enhanced from 2000 tickets per min to 7,200 per min Railway introduces 1,780 ticket-vending machines. e-ticket facility for foreign debit, credit card holders
Mobile Applications: Integrating all facilities into two mobile apps that will deal with ticketing issues and for receipt and it will also redressal of complaints and suggestions.
Pilgrimage centres: The provisions of passenger amenities and beautification on stations at pilgrimage centres including will be undertaken on priority basis. Aastha circuit trains will connect important pilgrim centres.
High Speed Rail: From Mumbai to Ahmedabad will be undertaken with the assistance of the Government of Japan. Prime benefit would be providing technology advancements and new manufacturing capability.
Entertainment: Invite FM Radio stations for providing train borne entertainment. Extension of ‘Rail Bandhu’ in all regional languages to all reserved classes of travellers.
Rationalising the tariff structure: Tariff policy will be revived to evolve a competitive rate structure, signing long term tariff contracts customers using pre-determined price escalation principles with key freight.
Building terminal capacity:Developing Rail side logistics parks and warehousing in PPP mode, TRANSLOC (Transport Logistics Company of India) will develop 10 goods sheds in 2016-17.
India’s first rail auto hub will be inaugurated in Chennai.
Rail University will come at Vadodara, Gujarat. Development of cold storage facilities on vacant land near freight terminals in which local farmers and fisherman will be given preferential usage of the facility.
Nurturing customers: Appointing key Customer Managers to liaison major freight stakeholders. Each Zonal Railway will develop customer commitment charter indicating service level commitments of Indian Railways.
Travel Insurance to passengers: Optional travel insurance will be offered for rail journeys at the time of booking.
Process Improvements:
(i)             Finalization of EPC projects standard document to implement at least 20 projects in 2016-17. In future, endeavouring all works valuing above Rs. 300 crore through EPC contracts.
(ii)                Contracts based on performance output parameters in order to review service contracts to integrate them outcome focused and simpler.
(iii)               Leveraging technology for project management, using latest drone technology and Geo Spatial based satellite technology for remotely reviewing the physical progress across major projects. GPS-based digital display in coaches for showing upcoming stations.
(iv)              System-wide Information Technology integration through innovative partnership models.
Rail Development Authority: It will be established as statutory body to enable fair pricing of railway services and promote competition, protect customer interests and determine efficiency standards. Tourism: (i) Indian Railways will partner with State Governments for operating tourist circuit trains, promotion of tourism through UNESCO world heritage Railways and Railway museums. (ii) To spread awareness about our National Animal, the Tiger, complete packages including train journey, safaris and accommodation to cover the wildlife circuit comprising Kanha, Pench and Bandhavgarh will be offered.

Lok Sabha passes Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016
Lok Sabha has passed Election Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2016 to grant voting rights to people who became citizens of India following the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh.
The bill seeks to amend the Representation of the People Act (RPA), 1950 and the Delimitation Act, 2002. These Acts regulate allocation of seats to the Lok Sabha and state legislatures and delimitation (fixing boundaries) of parliamentary and state assembly constituencies.
Key facts
This bill aims to empower the Election Commission of India (ECI) to carry out delimitation in areas that were affected by the enactment of the Constitution (100th Amendment) Act, 2015.
Under the 2015 Act, enclaves were exchanged between India and Bangladesh. India received 51 enclaves from Bangladesh and transferred 111 enclaves to Bangladesh in July 2015.
The bill empowers ECI to amend the delimitation order for (i) Include in the relevant constituencies the Bangladeshi enclaves that were transferred to India. (ii) Exclude of relevant constituencies in the Indian enclaves that were transferred to Bangladesh.
The RPA, 1950 and Delimitation Act, 2002 provide the ECI the responsibility to maintain up-to-date delimitation orders. Delimitation orders specify the boundaries of territorial constituencies.

Union Government appoints 3 Information commissioners of CIC
The Union Government has appointed three Information Commissioners at the Central Information Commission (CIC). They were administered the oath of office by Chief Information Commissioner Radha Krishna Mathur.
With their induction, for the first time CIC has full strength i.e. the total number of Information Commissioners including the CIC has gone up to 11. Their appointments have been made for a term of five years or till they turn 65.
Appointees are
Amitava Bhattacharya: He is retired IAS officer who had served Chairman of the Staff Selection Commission (SSC)
Bimal Julka: He is retired IAS officer who had served as Information & Broadcasting Secretary.
Divya Prakash Sinha: He is retired IPS officer and counter-terror veteran who had served as Secretary (security) at the Cabinet Secretariat.

Union Cabinet approves $150 million Credit for Chabahar Port Development
 The Union Cabinet has approved 150 million dollars credit for Development of the strategically important Chabahar Port in Iran. In this regard, the Union Ministry of Shipping had forwarded the proposal for provision and operationalization of credit from EXIM Bank.
Union Cabinet also has authorized Union Ministers of Finance, Shipping and External Affairs to approve the final contract with Iran and for resolution of any issue arising in implementation of the project. Union Ministry of Shipping to form a Company in Iran for implementing the Chabahar Port Development Project and related activities.
Background- In 2003, India and Tehran had agreed to develop Chabahar Port located in the Gulf of Oman near Iran’s border with Pakistan. However the venture was delayed because of the sanctions imposed over Iran’s atomic programme.
But in May 2015, prior to lifting of the sanctions both countries had singed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to fasten the development process.
Significance- Chabahar Port will help India to expand maritime commerce in the region and enhance footprint of Indian companies in the region.
It will also facilitate growth in India’s trade and investment with Iran and other countries in the region. India will get sea-land access route to Afghanistan bypassing Pakistan in turn opening opportunities for Indian companies to explore Afghanistan’s mineral wealth.
 It will also enhance Afghanistan’s overall connectivity to regional and global markets significantly giving fillip to its on-going reconstruction and humanitarian efforts.
Union Cabinet approves establishment of Atal Innovation Mission and SETU in NITI Aayog
The Union Cabinet as given its approval for establishment of Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) and Self Employment and Talent Utilisation (SETU) in NITI Aayog. This move seeks to give substantial boost to the innovation ecosystem and to catalyse the entrepreneurial spirit in the country.
Key facts
AIM and AIM Directorate will be established that will help in implementation of mission activities in a focussed manner. Its headquarters will be in New Delhi. Its headquarters will be in New Delhi.
NITI Aayog will hire Mission Director and other appropriate manpower. Mission High Level Committee (MHLC) will guide the Mission. It will take all decisions related to approval of requisite guidelines and implementation of various elements of AIM and SETU.

India, UK institutions ink agreement for collaboration in Crop Sciences
Department of Biotechnology in the Union Ministry of Science and Technology has signed a MoU with a consortium of top United Kingdom (UK) research institutions for joint India-UK collaboration programme in crop science.
The consortium UK research institutions included representatives from Cambridge based National Institute for Agricultural Botany (NIAB), John Innes Centre, Norwich based University of East Anglia and Rothamsted Research Institute.
Key facts
The aim of the MoU is to promote knowledge exchange, enhance collaborative research and support capacity building to develop resilience in food security.
It foresees joint projects focusing on the fundamental science underpinning yield enhancement, drought resistance and disease resistance.
It also seeks to enhance research collaboration into crop re-breeding and translation of fundamental research into sustainable agriculture practice.
The MoU also contemplates the establishment of a joint Indo-UK Plant Science Centre in India.
Union Cabinet gives nod to India-Maldives double taxation Agreement on airlines
The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of an Agreement between India and Maldives for the avoidance of double taxation of income from international air transport. This agreement provides relief from double taxation for airline enterprises operating between the two countries.
Under the agreement
Airlines operating from India will be exempted from income derived from the operation of aircraft in international traffic in Maldives from Maldivian tax and vice-versa. Profits from the operation of aircraft in international traffic will be taxed in one country alone.
The taxing right is conferred upon the country to which the enterprise belongs. Tax certainty for airline enterprises of India and Maldives will be provided.
Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) will be also provided for resolving any difficulties or doubts arising as to the interpretation or application of the agreement.

Pakistan Parliament becomes first in world to run entirely on solar power
Pakistan’s Parliament building located in national capital Islamabad became the first in the world to completely run on solar power. It achieved this feat after Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif switched on solar-powered building of the parliament in a simple ceremony.
Key facts
The project to run parliament building on solar power is a venture supported by Pakistan’s close ally and strategic partner China. It was launched in 2015 when Chinese President Xi Jinping visited and addressed the Parliament.
The project was first announced in 2014 by Chinese government as an act of friendship with financial support of 55 million dollars The solar panels of parliament have installed capacity 80 Mega Watts (MW) of which 62 MW is sufficient for it while remaining 18 MW will be connected to national grid.
It is for first time since Pakistan became independent in 1947, the parliament became self-sufficient in electricity through solar power.

President Pranab Mukherjee declares Kerala as first digital state
President Pranab Mukherjee has formally declared Kerala as the country’s first digital state. It was announced by President after launching a digital empowerment campaign of state at a function to be held in Kozhikkode. The campaign aims at bridging the digital divide by 2020.
This declaration was made considering the rapid digital strides of the state which has achieved 100 percent mobile connectivity, 75 percent e-literacy, maximum digital banking, broadband connectivity upto the Panchayat level, linking bank accounts with Aadhar cards and e-district plan in all districts. Key facts
Kerala was able to achieve this feat due to the combined efforts of the government and various social organizations in the state State has successfully linked all villages in the state with broadband connectivity under the National Optical Fibre Network (NOFN) project.
It is first state in country to do so. The broadband connectivity has helped to provide high-speed internet in all gram panchayats and remote areas of the state.
Apart from NOFN it, two projects started by the government in 2002 viz. Akshayaand IT@School – also has helped it to attain high e literacy. Under these projects over 2,500 Akshaya service centres functioning in rural and urban areas have helped generate awareness in e-governance.
State also has over 600 e-governance applications covering almost all departments of state that play pioneering role in delivering e-services to citizens. As a digital state, Kerala has a mobile tele-density of 95% and Internet access covering over 60 % of the population.
Haryana set to become first state to complete Aquifer mapping
Haryana is set become the first state in the country to complete aquifer mapping for its groundwater resources by May 2016. Aquifer is an underground layer of water-bearing rock from which groundwater can be extracted.
Key facts
Aquifer mapping: It is scientific mapping of aquifers to asses the groundwater situation.
Objective: To prepare management plans in consultation with stakeholders and state governments to take measures to replenish the declining groundwater.
Nodal Agency: This aquifer mapping is undertaken by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) on the scale of 1:50,000 in 3D.
Technology: For this purpose, CGWB is using advanced technologies like heli-borne geophysical surveys and sophisticated software for preparing management plans.
Target: CGWB has set target to complete the aquifer mapping of the entire country by 2022. In the first phase (to be completed by 2017), 8 states have been selected for this kind of scientific mapping where groundwater situation has already reached a critical level. These states are Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka, Punjab, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and Telangana.
Four Bengali sweets to get GI tag
West Bengal government is planning to get Geographical Indication (GI) tag for four traditional sweet delicacies of the state. These four traditional sweet delicacies are Moa of Jainagar, Sarpuria of Krishnagar, and Mihidana and Sitabhog of Burdwan.
Key facts GI tag will help to protect these sweets from cheap imitations and also help preserve their quality. It will also help to boost their exports.
Jainagar-er moa: It is made of puffed rice and date palm jiggery. It is famous in Jainagar in South 24 Parganas district of West Bengal.
Sarpuria: Made of milk cream and is famous in Krishnagar area of Nadia district.
Sitabhog and Mihidana: They are rice-based sweets from Burdwan.
Geographical Indication (GI) tag: It is given to products that have a specific geographical origin and possess qualities or a reputation that are due to that origin. In India, GI registration is governed by the Geographical Indications of goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999.

Kalikho Pul sworn-in as the 9th Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh
Kalikho Pul has been sworn-in as the 9th Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh after Governor JP Rajkhowa used his discretionary powers to appoint him. He was administered oath to the office and secrecy by Governor in a simple function at Raj Bhawan in Itanagar.
Now Chief Minister Kalikho Pul has to prove majority in the 60 member state legislative assembly. He is being supported by 32 MLAs including the Congress rebels, BJP legislators and 2 independent legislators.
Earlier Kalikho Pul was in Congress Party and had served as State Finance Minister from 2003 until 2007 in the Government led by then Chief Minister Gegong Apang.

SBI Launches SBI e Smart SME to offer Ecommerce Loan
India’s largest lender State Bank of India (SBI) has launched SBI e-Smart SME to provide a working capital loan for sellers on ecommerce platforms.
It was launched by SBI in partnership with ecommerce platform Snapdeal in the presence of bank’s chairman Arundhati Bhattacharya and Snapdeal CEO Sri Kunal Bahl.
About SBI e-Smart SME
Sellers on ecommerce platforms can apply for the loan online and get instant sanctioning of the loan with KYC documents. In order to assess the sellers’ creditworthiness for loan sanctioning, the bank will use proprietary platform data and surrogates information from public domain.
It is exclusive and easy finance that will be made available at lowest interest rates.
Collateral free loan will be granted upto 10 Lakh rupees under MUDRA (Micro Units Development and Refinance Agency) scheme. Women entrepreneurs will be given concession of 0.25% on the loans.

RBI extends Currency Swap Arrangement with SAARC nations
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has extended currency swap arrangement to South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations till mid-November 2017. All 7 SAARC member countries including Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Maldives, Bhutan, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka can avail the facility.
Under the arrangement, RBI will be offering swap arrangement up to an overall amount of US 2 billion dollars both in foreign currency and Indian rupee. This move of RBI aims at enhancing economic cooperation and strengthening financial stability among the SAARC countries.
What is a Currency Swap? A currency swap involves exchange of principal and interest in one currency for the same in another currency. It is considered to be a foreign exchange transaction.
For example: Suppose a US based company needs to acquire Indian Rupees and India-based company needs to acquire US dollars. Then these two companies could arrange to swap currencies by establishing an interest rate, agreed upon amount along with a common maturity date for the exchange.

RBI rates unchanged in 6th bi-monthly monetary policy review
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in its sixth bi-monthly monetary policy review for year 2016 has maintained status quo in key policy interest rate. The key policy interest rates were kept unchanged on the basis of an assessment of the current and evolving macroeconomic situation in the country. RBI has kept its stance on the credit policy accommodative.
 Key policy rates are
Repo rate under the liquidity adjustment facility (LAF): unchanged at 6.75 per cent.
Reverse repo rate under the LAF: unchanged at 5.75 per cent.
Marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate has unchanged at 7.75 per cent.
Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) of scheduled banks: Unchanged at 4.0 per cent of net demand and time liability (NDTL).
Continuation of liquidity under overnight repos at 0.25 per cent of bank-wise NDTL at the LAF repo rate.
Continuation of liquidity under 14-day term repos as well as longer term repos of up to 0.75 per cent of NDTL of the banking system through auctions.
 RBI projections In Financial Year (FY) 2016 growth will be at 7.4% with downward bias and FY17 growth at 7.6 % despite headwinds. Inflation will be around 5% for FY 16-17 due to good monsoon projections that can pull the inflation down. The inflation rate has evolved closely along the trajectory set by the monetary policy stance of RBI.

Mumbai wins Ranji Trophy 2016
Mumbai has won the Ranji Trophy for a season 2015-16 by defeating Saurashtra. With this victory, Mumbai clinched Ranji title for record 41st time (10 of them being won with innings wins) after playing in record 45 finals. In the final match played a Gahunje Stadium of Maharashtra Cricket Association in Pune, Mumbai defeated Saurashtra by 21 runs.

Gianni Infantino elected as President of FIFA
Gianni Infantino (45) of Switzerland has been elected as new President of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), a global governing body of football. He was declared winner after winning a second-round vote by securing 115 of the 207 eligible votes in the 2016 FIFA Extraordinary Congress held in Zurich, Switzerland.
He defeated Sheikh Salman of Bahrain who got 88 votes followed by Prince Ali of Jordan had four and Jerome Champagne of France got zero votes.
 With this victory, Infantino becomes just the third President of FIFA after Sepp Blatter who headed it for 40 years from 1974 to 2015 and his predecessor João Havelange.
Punjab Warriors wins 2016 Hockey India League
The Jaypee Punjab Warriors has won the fourth edition of Coal India Hockey India League (HIL) title 2016. It was their maiden title.
In the final match played at the Birsa Munda Hockey Stadium in Ranchi, they defeated Kalinga Lancers by 6-1 goals.
In earlier two seasons, Punjab Warriors had finished runners-up after they had lost to Delhi Waveriders in 2014 and to Ranchi Rays in 2015.

Brendon McCullum hits fastest Test century February
 New Zealand Captain and Skipper Brendon McCullum has smashed the fastest ever Test century off only 54 balls.
He achieved this feat on in his final international match on day one of the Second Test Match between Australia and New Zealand at Christchurch.
With this, he broke previous record held by Viv Richards (West Indies) in 1986  and Misbah-ul-Haq (Pakistan) in 2014 made in 56 balls. In this match, he cracked total four sixes and 16 fours to post in his Second Test ton against Australia.

West Indies wins ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup 2016
West Indies for the first time has won the ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup by defeating three time champions India by five wickets played at Mirpur (Bangladesh).
In the final match West Indies team achieved the target of 146 runs set by India in in 49.3 overs. Earlier in the first inning, Indian team was bowled out for 145 in 45.1 overs.
Man of the match: Keacy Carty (West Indies)
Player of the tournament: Mehidy Hasan Miraz (Bangladesh)

Science & Technology
ISRO gears up for launch of India’s first solar mission Aditya-L1
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is set to launch the country’s first solar mission called Aditya-L1. It was announced by Union Minister of State (MoS) in PMO Jitendra Singh in the Lok Sabha.
About Aditya-L1 mission
As part of the mission, Aditya-L1 satellite will be placed in an orbit about 15 lakh kilometres from the earth in a halo orbit around the L1 Lagranian point. It will be launched by using the PSLV XL.
Its primary objective will be to study the solar corona and the chromosphere in different wavebands, dynamic nature of the sun’s outer most layers, and collect data about Coronal Mass Ejections (CME). The mission is a joint venture between ISRO and physicists from various institutes including Indian Institute of Astrophysics (Bengaluru), Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, (Mumbai) and Inter University Centre for Astronomy and Astrophysics (Pune).
Lagrangian points: They are the locations in space where the combined gravitational pull of two large masses roughly balance each other. There are 5 such points in Sun-Earth system and they are denoted as L1, L2, L3, L4 and L5. In this location, small mass remains at constant distances relative to the large masses.
Halo orbit: It is a periodic three-dimensional (3D) orbit near the Lagrangian points L1, L2 or L3.

ISRO successfully test cryogenic engine of GSLV Mark 3 rocket
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully conducted hotbed test of the indigenously developed high-thrust cryogenic engine (CE20) of the GSLV Mark 3 (LVM3) rocket for the upper stage.
The long-duration test was conducted at ISRO Propulsion Research Centre at Mahendragiri, Tamil Nadu and lasted for 640 seconds. It  was conducted with Mixture Ratio Controller (MRC) in a closed loop mode.
Key facts
The CE20 uses Liquid Hydrogen at -253 degrees C and Liquid Oxygen at -193 degrees C as propellants and generates power of approximately 2 MW.
It has been developed indigenously by Mahendragiri based Liquid Propulsion System centre (LPSC).

Indian origin scientist Ashutosh Tiwari discovers fast SnO conductor to replace silicon
A team of scientist in US led by an Indian-origin Ashutosh Tiwari has discovered Tin Monoxide (SnO) conductor to replace silicon. SnO is a new kind of 2D semiconducting material for electronics that opens the door for much speedier computers and smartphones that consumes less power.
Key discovery
SnO semiconductor is made of the two elements tin and oxygen. It is first stable P-type 2D semiconductor material ever in existence.
It is a layer of 2D material with thickness of only one atom and consumes less power. It has ability to allow electrical charges to move through it much faster (100 times) than conventional 3D materials such as silicon.
Applications: This semiconductor material can used in transistors which are the lifeblood of all electronic devices such as computer, graphics and mobile processors.

Japan launches ASTRO-H satellite to study black holes
Japan has successfully launched ASTRO-H space observation satellite to probe mysterious black holes. The satellite was launched by H2A rocket after it had successfully lifted off at the Tanegashima Space Centre.
Key facts ASTRO-H satellite has been developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) in cooperation with National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and others.
It will orbit earth at an altitude of about 580 kilometres and observe X-rays emanating mainly from black holes and galaxy clusters.
 It is cylindrically shaped and is 14 meters long and weighs 2.7 tonnes. It is the heaviest scientific satellite Japan has worked on. It will help unravel the mysteries of the universe.
The satellite has been equipped with four X-ray telescopes and two gamma-ray detectors and is designed to capture X-rays that cannot be detected on Earth because the planet’s atmosphere absorbs them.

Naval Exercise IBSAMAR 2016 between India, South Africa, Brazil kicked off in Goa
The fifth edition of IBSAMAR 2016 trilateral naval exercise between Brazil, India and South Africa kicked off in Goa. IBSAMAR is abbreviated as India-Brazil-South Africa Maritime.
This is the for the first time the exercise is held in India as all the previous editions were held in South Africa since it began in 2006.
Key facts
This trilateral naval exercise aims at increasing (i) Interoperability among navies of three countries (ii) Common understanding maritime security between them.
This edition of IBSAMAR naval exercise will be conducted two phases namely Harbour phase and Sea Phase. During harbour phase, wide range of professional interactions will be undertaken and during Sea Phase diverse range operational activities will be conducted off Goa coast. The thrust of the exercises will be on anti-submarine warfare (ASW), air defence, flying operations, surface firing, search and rescue and tactical procedures.
Indian navy is represented by INS Mumbai– a missile destroyer, INS Shalki– a Shisuhumar class diesel electric submarine and INS trishul– a stealth frigate.
The Brazilian Navy is represented by Brazilian Naval Ship (BNS) Amazonas embarked with Special Forces.
South African Navy is represented by SAS Spioenkop with integral helicopter and embarked with Special Forces.

DRDO to conduct captive flight trails of Anti-Radiation Missile
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has decided to conduct captive flight trials of an advanced, state-of-the-art Anti-Radiation Missile (ARM) in April-May 2016.
During captive flight trials DRDO scientist will evaluate performance of the missile’s heat seeker, structural capability, navigation and control system and aerodynamic vibrations. Later by end of 2016, actual ground testing will be conducted and later it will be fired from Su-30 during the actual flight trial.
About Anti-Radiation Missile
ARM is an air-to-surface tactical missile indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Laboratory (DRDL) including its heat seeker. It is capable of targeting enemy’s air defence capabilities by attacking radars and communication facilities by picking up the radiation or signals from these facilities.
The missile uses dual pulse propulsion system as in the case of LR-SAM (Long Range Surface-to-Air Missile) instead of thrust propulsion. ARM has range of 100 to 125 km and will be mounted on combat aircraft Sukhoi (Su-30) and Tejas-Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
The ARM missile will be inducted into Indian Armed Forces till 2018 after successfully conducting a number of developmental trials. On its induction, India will join other few nations including the US and Germany having ARMs.

Social Issues
President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurates India’s first Gender Park at Kozhikode
President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated India’s first Gender Park at Kozhikode district of Kerala. It is also the first of its kind gender equality convergence centre in Asia.
The park is an initiative of the Social Justice Department of the Kerala Government to promote research and other initiatives to enable total gender equality.
Key facts
The Gender Park seeks to encourage women to take part in developmental and decision making process. It has been launched as part of supporting the efforts of the State and Central governments in ensuring an inclusive, discrimination free society.
It covers issues pertaining to all three genders and in accordance with the 2015 gender and transgender policies of the state government.
The Gender Institute at the park will mainly focus on learning, research and capacity development. It seeks to bring together the state, civil society and academia on a common platform to promote studies and research on gender issues to address the gender issues.
This platform seeks to create an environment to share global knowledge and experiences in reducing gender inequalities.
It also seeks to create awareness of the critical linkages between gender equality, economic growth and poverty reduction to effectively address gender related issues in national development processes.
State Government under its Gender Policy is planning to roll out ‘She Taxi’ that aims solely at empowering women. Earlier in 2016, State government had launch ‘Gender Taxi’ that is owned and operated by transgenders under its Transgender Policy (first such policy in the country).

13th World Spice Congress begins in Ahmedabad
The 13th edition of World Spice Congress (WSC) will begin in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The theme of the three-day biennial event is ‘Target 2020: Clean, Safe and Sustainable Supply Chain’.
Key facts
 13th WSC has been jointly organized by the Spices Board, Cochin Hill Produce Merchants’ Association, and India Pepper and Spice Trade Association. It is supported by All India Spices Importers & Distributors Association and Indian Spices & Foodstuff Exporters’ Association.
It seeks to chalk out a credible and actionable road map to push further the growth of spices industry and address challenges faced by it across the globe. This edition of event will be attended by more than one thousand participants including domestic and overseas delegate, sponsors and exhibitors.

E-Tourist Visa Scheme extended to 37 more countries
The Union Government has extended e-Tourist Visa Scheme to 37 more countries. With this, the total count of countries under the scheme will become 150.
The new countries included in e-Tourist Visa scheme are Austria, Albania, Botswana, Brunei, Bulgaria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Comoros, Cote d’lvoire, Cape Verde,  Czech Republic, Croatia, Eritrea, Denmark, Gabon, Greece, Guinea, Gambia, Ghana,  Madagascar, Malawi, Iceland, Lesotho, Liberia, San Marino, Moldova, Namibia, Romania, South Africa, Swaziland, Switzerland, Senegal, Serbia, Slovakia, Trinidad & Tobago, Tajikistan, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
About E-Tourist Visa Scheme
Union Government had launched e-Tourist Visa Scheme (as Tourist Visa on Arrival scheme) in November 2014.
The e-Tourist Visa Scheme facilitates pre-authorization of Visa i.e. electronic travel authorisation given to foreigners prior to travel.
Under this scheme, an applicant registers for visa online and receives an email authorising him/her to travel to India after it is approved. On arrival, the visitor has to present the authorisation to the immigration authorities who will in turn allow them to enter into the country.
The scheme seeks to tap the vast tourism potential of India which still remains untapped and explored.

World’s 1st fast-acting Anti-Rabies drug to be launched in India
World’s first fast-acting anti-rabies drug Rabies Human Monoclonal Antibody (RMAb) will be launched in India. The drug has been developed by Pune-based Serum Institute of India (SII) and US-based MassBiologics of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.
About RMAb
RMAb drug is a human IgG1 monoclonal antibody that instantly deactivates rabies virus by specifically binding to a conformational epitope of G glycoprotein of the virus. It is 25% cheaper compared to the existing expensive human rabies immunoglobulin (hRIG) treatment.
It has advantage of automatically precluding the chances of transmitting blood-borne infections that are present in rabies immunoglobulin vaccines. The drug has been manufactured using recombinant DNA technology that includes inserting DNA encoding antigen (such as a bacterial surface protein) to the microbial DNA of cells in the body to stimulate immune response.
During various phases of human clinical trials of RMAb spanning 9 years in India and abroad, the drug was found to be safe and effective.
India remains world’s largest arms importer
India continues to remain the world’s largest arms importer, accounting for 14% of the global arms imports in the 2011-2015 timeframe. It was revealed by report on international arms transfers released by a global think-tank, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).
Key highlights
Top arms importers are: India (14%), China (4.7%), Australia (3.6%), Pakistan (3.3%), Vietnam (2.9%) and South Korea (2.6%).
India’s arms imports: It remains three times greater than those of its rivals Pakistan and China. Its biggest suppliers are Russia, United States (US), Israel and France.
This indicates India’s failure to build a strong domestic defence-industrial base (DIB) and Indian arms industry has failed to produce competitive indigenously-designed weapons. India has spent over 120 billion dollars on arms acquisitions over the last 15 years most of them from foreign suppliers.
China’s scenario: Earlier China used to be top on the imports chart but in past few decades it has gradually built a stronger DIB.
China has emerged as the world’s third largest arms exporter after United States and Russia. Pakistan is the main recipient of Chinese arms exports accounting for 35% of the total imports followed by Bangladesh (20%) and Myanmar (16%).
Russia is China’s largest arms supplier accounting for 59% followed by France (15%) and Ukraine (14%).

Sameer Anjaan creates world record by composing 3524 songs
Bollywood lyricist Sameer Anjaan has created world record by composing around 3524 different songs in 650 Bollywood movies.
Guinness Book of World Records has officially recognised him as the Most prolific Bollywood Lyricist Ever. With this he becomes first Guinness Record holder in this category
About Sameer Anjaan
Sameer Anjaan (Real name Shitala Pandey) had started his career as lyricist in 1983 after his song had appeared in the movie Bekhabar. Since then, his work has featured in around 650 Bollywood movies.
He came into limelight in 1990s for composing hit songs in films such as Dil and Aashiqui.
He has won three Filmfare Awards. First one for song Nazar Ke Saamne, second one in 1993 for the song Teri Umeed Tera Intezaar and third one in 1994 second for the song Ghunghat Ki Aad.

India’s first lightest gun Nidar launched
 India’s first indigenously developed lightest revolver (gun) Nidar weighing merely 250 grams was successfully launched. It has been designed and manufactured by the state-run Rifle Factory Ishapore located in West Bengal giving boost to the ‘Make in India’ initiative in small manufacturing sector.
 Key facts
Nidar is much lighter than ‘Nirbheek’ (500 grams) revolver which was exclusively designed for women. Features: It is .22 caliber gun (revolver) with a 40-mm barrel and is only 140mm in length. It has a range 7 meters with precise accuracy. It has cylinder capacity of eight bullets and made up of DTD5124 alloy of aluminium which is very light in weight and has supreme metal strength.

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