1. World Bank Expert Mr. Iyer To Lead Swachh Bharat Mission
i. The government has appointed World Bank’s water and sanitation specialist, Parameshwaran Iyer, as the new Secretary of the Drinking Water and Sanitation Department.
ii. Ignoring the case of serving bureaucrats, Iyer, World Bank’s Practice Manager for Water for the South Asian region , has been given the post by PM Narendra Modi for two years to steer the Swachh Bharat Mission.
iii. 56-year-old Iyer is a key architect of the framework of the $1,500 million proposed loan from World Bank for the Swach Bharat Mission which is pending Cabinet approval.
iv. Iyer’s appointment is expected to create more synergy between the Swachh Bharat Mission and the objectives of the World Bank project . An IAS officer of the UP cadre, who launched Jal Suraj program here, Iyer took voluntary retirement in 2009 and joined the World Bank.
v. Before that, he worked with the UN World Food Programme (UNWFP) for nearly a decade till 2006 as a Senior Rural Water Sanitation specialist on foreign assignment. He was then served a show-cause notice by the Indian government to return and he quit in 2009.
2. Aruna Sethi appointed as first women head of Indian Cost Accounting Service
i. Aruna Sethi, the Principal Adviser (Cost), on 1 February 2016 took over charge as the head of Indian Cost Accounts Service (ICoAS). With this appointment, she became the first woman to occupy the post.
ii. Prior to the present elevation, Aruna, a 1985 batch ICoAS officer, held important portfolios in Government of India including Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Corporate Affairs, Ministry of Finance, Department of Expenditure, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Ministry of Defence etc.
iii. Indian Cost Accounts Service is one of the six organized accounting services of the Government of India. It is comparatively young accounting service constituted in 1978.
iv. The ICoAS Officers have the requisite skill by virtue of their professional background and experience gained in managing the multifarious and complex issues relating to financial and cost management matters.
v. Office of Chief Adviser Cost is one of the divisions functioning in the Department of Expenditure. It is a professional body staffed by qualified Cost/ Chartered Accountants.
vi. This Office is responsible for advising the Ministries and Government Undertakings on cost accounts matters and to undertake cost investigation work on their behalf.
3. India to participate in Cobra Gold 2016 military exercise in Thailand
i. The term Cobra Gold was in news on 3 February 2016 as India confirmed its participation in the annual amphibious military exercise in 2016. The decision in this regard was conveyed to Thailand, the host country, during Vice President Hamid Ansari’s visit to the country.
ii. It is the largest Asia-Pacific military exercise and held in Thailand every year. It is among the largest multinational military exercise in which the United States participates.
iii. As of 2014, Cobra Gold has three distinct activities, namely, the Combined Arms Live Fire Exercise (CALFEX), Command Post Exercise (CPX) and activity related to assisting the local Thai population.
iv. It was first held in 1982 to improve coordination between the armed forces of the USA and Thailand in both hostile military and humanitarian efforts. As of 2015, the exercise expanded to include 26 nations – Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, South Korea, and other South Asian and Pacific Ocean countries among others.
v. China was admitted to the exercise for the first time in 2015. The exercise was proven effective in improving coordinated military response to natural disasters, including the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2011 T?hoku tsunami, and disaster relief provided to the Philippines after Typhoon Haiyan struck in November 2013.
4. DJ Pandian appointed Vice President of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
i. Former chief secretary of Gujarat DJ Pandian was appointed vice-president and chief investment officer of the newly-created Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on 3 February 2016.
ii. His appointment as vice-president and chief investment officer was approved by AIIB. The retired 1981-batch IAS officer of Gujarat cadre had worked on deputation with the World Bank in Washington. He was also the MD of Gujarat State Petroleum Corporation (GSPC).
iii. The Beijing-based 100 billion dollar multi-lateral lender, AIIB was set up in Beijing on 25 December 2015. It was established to boost lending for infrastructure projects such as energy, transportation, urban construction and logistics as well as education and healthcare.
iv. China had nominated its former finance minister Jin Liqun as the first president of AIIB.
v. The three largest shareholders of the bank are China (30.34 percent), India (8.52 percent) and Russia (6.66 percent). Their voting shares are calculated at 26.06 percent, 7.5 percent and 5.92 percent, respectively.
5. Manipuri documentary Phum-Shang won Golden Conch Award at MIFF 2016
i. Manipuri documentary film Phum-Shang on 3 February 2016 bagged the prestigious Golden Conch Award for the best documentary film at the 14th Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Animation and Short Films (MIFF 2016).
ii. The film is directed by Haobam Paban Kumar, an alumnus of the Satyajit Ray Film & Television Institute, Kolkata. The 52-minute film critically examines the serious environmental problems faced by the Loktak lake, the largest freshwater lake in northeast India. The lake is characterised by its unique floating biomass, known as Phumdi, which is the primary source of livelihood for fishermen who live on huts built on the Phumdis.
iii. Paban Kumar was presented with the Golden Conch Award and a cash prize of 3 lakh rupees by the Governor of Maharashtra Chennamaneni Vidyasagar Rao and State Cultural Minister Vinod Tawde at a ceremony in Mumbai.
iv. Swiss film My Name Is Salt and an Indian film Placebo shared the Golden Conch Award for the best feature length documentary film.
My Name Is Salt is directed by Farida Pacha, It is a film about the journey of thousands of families to the Rann of Kutch to extract the whitest salt in the world. The film also won the award for best cinematography.
v. The story of Placebo revolves around the stress and pressure faced by medical students due to intense competition.
6. Dhirubhai Ambani Centre for Innovation and Research in Bangalore
i. Reliance Group Chairman Anil Ambani announced the establishment of Dhirubhai Ambani Centre for Innovation and Research in Aerospace at Whitefield in Bengaluru.
ii. According to Ambani, “The centre, the first-ever of its kind in the private sector in India, will be a world class facility for research, development and innovation in aerospace technology.”
iii. The centre would also generate more than 1,500 highly skilled jobs and support government’s plan for indigenous design, development and manufacture of defence equipment.
7. BSE, IFC jointly develop corporate governance scorecard
i. BSE and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) have partnered to develop a corporate governance scorecard. The scorecard seeks to help companies assay their corporate governance performances against national or international-benchmarked practices.
ii Using the scorecard, companies can identify areas of further improvement and track progress over time. It can be used to make board processes more efficient, improve strategy, aid decision-making, and manage risks. Companies can better understand the way in which governance affects their operations.
iii. Improved governance frameworks result in development of efficient capital markets and increased access to capital enables new investments, improves economic growth, and creates jobs.
iv. The scorecard can be used by a wide range of stakeholders, including regulators, promoters, and investors. Ashishkumar Chauhan, MD & CEO, BSE said, “The collaboration with IFC to develop the scorecard is a revolutionary step towards benchmarking companies in India. The scorecard will result in increased transparency and boost investor confidence.
v. IFC is implementing a South Asia Regional Corporate Governance Project with donor support from Japan’s Ministry of Finance. This five-year project provides advisory services to individual firms and partners with local institutions, such as the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs, to strengthen sector-level work on corporate governance.
8. Government To Infuse About Rs. 5000 Cr. In PSU Banks This Quarter
i. The government will infuse about Rs.5,000 crore capital in the public sector undertaking (PSU) banks in the current fiscal to strengthen their balancesheet. “As committed, banks will get fund infusion in the fourth quarter. Banks will get about Rs.5,000 crore,” financial services secretary Anjuly Chib Duggal said on the sidelines of an event.
ii. Funds would be infused after Parliament approves third Supplementary Demand for Grants in the upcoming Budget session. Last year, the Government announced a revamp plan ‘Indradhanush’ to infuse Rs70,000 crore in state-owned banks over four years, while they will have to raise a further Rs 1.1 lakh crore from the markets to meet their capital requirements in line with global risk norms Basel III.
iii. As per the blueprint, PSU banks will get Rs.25,000 crore this fiscal and also in the next fiscal. Besides, Rs.10,000 crore each would be infused in 2017-18 and 2018-19. Of the Rs.25,000 crore earmarked for 2015-16, the government has pumped in about Rs.20,088 crore in 13 public sector banks so far.
iv. The government had arrived at Rs 1.8 lakh crore capitalization needs for PSU banks assuming credit growth rate of 12 per cent for the current year and 12-15 per cent for the next three years depending on the size of the bank and their growth ability. Talking about various initiatives taken by the government to deepen the social security net, Duggal said banks are addressing last mile connectivity issues.
v. The department of financial services is having discussions with banks on a regular basis to sort out the issues as soon as possible, she said. Banks like State Bank of India and Andhra Bank are currently addressing issue of Internet connectivity in the 800 identified areas. Besides, steps are being taken to strengthen Internet connectivity in various parts so that direct benefit transfer is made seamless.
9. SBI, Thomas Cook team up for ‘inflation-proof’ holidays
i. State Bank of India has tied up with Thomas Cook to offer online customers a recurring deposit that helps them save toward an `inflation proof’ holiday. Availing the holiday on maturity of the recurring deposit is optional as customers can choose either to travel or redeem their savings. For those who stay on, Thomas Cook will top up the last instalment to pay for their holiday.
ii. “Customers will be offered an inflation-proof holiday as they pay for a future holiday at today’s prices while earning interest on the linked e-recurring deposit,” SBI said in a statement. The holidays are all inclusive packages in the domestic and international circuit.
iii. According to Rajnish Kumar, md, SBI besides helping people save for vacations this scheme would compel them to plan ahead and avail of lower prices. “We find that people don’t plan their holidays in advance and end up taking last minute loans to finance the same. Also, they could’ve have saved on the cost of the holiday had they booked early,” he said.
iv. Madhavan Menon, chairman, Thomas Cook India, said that the tie up with SBI will enable Thomas Cook extend its reach to over 2.5 crore online customers of SBI. “The unbeatable advantage of paying for a future holiday at today’s prices, ensures SBI’s customers inflation-proof holiday while enjoying attractive interest rates, a zero exit clause and a free top up from Thomas Cook on the 13th month!” Mr Menon added.
10. Budget session to commence on Feb 23, Union Budget on Feb 29
i. The Budget Session of Parliament will commence on February 23 that will focus largely on the financial business of the government, which will present the General Budget on February 29.
ii. But there will be no curtailment of the session or the recess period on account of Assembly elections in five states due shortly. This was decided at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs, chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.
iii. “The Budget Session of Parliament will commence on February 23. The Rail Budget will be presented on February 25, the pre-Budget Economic Survey on February 26 and the General Budget on February 29. “The first part of the Budget session will end on March 16 and the second part will be convened from April 25 to May 13,” Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu told presspersons after the meeting of the CCPA.
iv. He said there were suggestions for curtailing the recess period due to Assembly elections in five states but the government as well as political parties wanted a full session.
v. “In 2011, the then government had decided not to refer bills to Standing Committees in the Budget Session when states were going to polls and there were demands to curtail the session. “But the government today decided that bills will be referred to standing committees for examination during the recess period,” Naidu said.
11. It’s billion users for WHATSAPP
i. Mobile messaging app WhatsApp said it has crossed the one billion user milestone globally with the addition of 100 million users in last five months. “As of today, one billion people are using WhatsApp.
ii. That’s nearly one in seven people on Earth who use WhatsApp each month to stay in touch with their loved ones, their friends and their family,” WhatsApp said in a blogpost.
iii. In February 2014, WhatsApp was acquired by social networking site Facebook, its biggest buyout till date, for a whopping $19 billion. In a post on Facebook, WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum said 42 billion messages were sent, 1.6 billion photos and 250 million videos shared everyday on the platform.
12. Sarangi maestro Pandit Ram Narayan gets Bhimsen Joshi Award
i. Sarangi maestro Pandit Ram Narayan has been chosen for the prestigious Bharat Ratna Pandit Bhimsen Joshi classical music award for 2015-2016, Maharashtras Cultural Affairs Minister Vinod Tawde announced on Wednesday.
ii. The annual award, instituted by the Maharashtra government, is given to individuals who have excelled in classical vocal or instrumental music, the minister said.
iii. Pandit Ram Narayan, 88, has been playing the sarangi since his childhood, and over the years acquired global acclaim for his music for which he was conferred Indias second higest civilian honour, Padma Vibhushan, in 2005. Pandit Ram Narayan popularized the bowed instrument sarangi as a solo concert instrument in Hindustani classical music and became the first internationally successful sarangi player.
iv. In 1944, All India Radio, Lahore, hired him as an accompanist for vocalists. He became a concert solo artist in 1956. He recorded solo albums and began to tour America and Europe in the 1960s.
Courtesy – Bankers Adda