Current Affairs Update – 17th & 18th March 2016

Hello and welcome to ExamPundit. Here are the Important Current Affairs of 17th and 18th March.


Current Affairs at a Glance– 17th & 18th March 2016
  1. In a move that will hit the common man, the government Friday slashed interest rates payable on small savings including PPF and Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) in a bid to align them closer to market rates. As a part of its February 16 decision to revise interest rates on small savings every quarter, the interest  rate on Public Provident Fund (PPF) scheme will be cut to 8.1% for the period April 1 to June 30, from 8.7%, at present. Similarly, the interest rate on KVP will be cut to 7.8% from 8.7%, according to a Finance Ministry order.
  2. The Reserve Bank of India today revised rules pertaining to revival of advances to small businesses and asked lenders to form district-level committees to resolve stressed loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs). The rules have been revised for "revival and rehabilitation of MSMEs having loan limits up to Rs 25 crore". "Restructuring of loan accounts with exposure of above Rs 25 crore will continue to be governed by the extant guidelines on Corporate Debt Restructuring (CDR) or Joint Lenders' Forum (JLF) mechanism," the notification said.
  3. India on 17 March 2016 signed loan agreement of 35 Million dollars with the World Bank for Madhya Pradesh Citizen Access to Responsive Services Project. The objective of the project is to improve access and quality of public services in the state.
  4. Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on 17 March 2016 launched the Online Depot System in New Delhi to automate all the operations of Food Corporation of India (FCI) depots. The cost of the project is estimated to be 63 crore rupees.
  5. Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s largest mobile phone operator, on 17 March 2016 announced the acquisition of Videocon Telecommunications Ltd’s entire spectrum for 4428 crore rupees.
  6. London & Partners, the official promotional company for London, on 15 March 2016 announced that India has emerged as the second biggest investor in London after the US.
  7. Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara - all in Gujarat - are among the 10 cleanest railway stations in India, according to a survey released by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu here on Thursday. While Surat and Rajkot came out first and second respectively among the category AI railway stations, i.e. those that have Rs 60 crore annual earnings, Vadodara was 8th in the ranking.
  8. Ministry of Railways has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) for developing Remote Sensing and geographic information system (GIS) for Remote Sensing at unmanned railway crossing and other uses.
  9. Infosys Foundation, the philanthropic arm of tech major Infosys, has signed a pact with Asia Heart Foundation to enable the adoption of robotics in healthcare.
  10. TIME magazine on 16 March 2016 unveiled its second annual 30 Most Influential People on the Internet list. The list has been topped by the artist and entrepreneur Kanye West. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasting more than 18 million Twitter followers and over 32 million Facebook likes stood at 15th in the list.
  11. The United Nations Social Development Network (UNSDN) on 17 March 2016 released World Happiness Report (WHR) 2016 in Rome. The fourth edition of WHR was released ahead of the UN World Happiness Day, which will be observed on 20 March 2016. According to the report, Denmark topped the list as the happiest place in the world, while Burundi was ranked at the bottom as the least happy nation. In the report, India was ranked 118th out of 156 countries compared to 117th out of 158 countries in the 2015 World Happiness Report.
  12. AirAsia India on 17 March 2016 announced the appointment of Amar Abrol as its chief executive officer with effect from 1 April 2016.
  13. Lloyd's appoints Shankar Garigiparthy as country manager for India
  14. President Barack Obama on 16 March 2016 nominated appeals court judge Merrick Garland to be the next US Supreme Court Justice. 63-year-old Garland will be 113th Supreme Court justice of the US.
  15. Fazle Kabir on 15 March 2016 was appointed the 11th Governor of the Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of Bangladesh.
  16. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on 15 March 2016 appointed award-winning action heroine Michelle Yeoh as its Goodwill Ambassador.
  17. British mathematician Sir Andrew Wiles on 15 March 2016 was named as the winner of the 2016 Abel Prize by the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters in Oslo.
  18. Famous magician Paul Daniels passed away on 17 March 2016 due to brain tumour. He was 77.
  19. Eminent Shehnai exponent Ustad Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan died on 16 March 2016 in Kolkata. He was 77.
  20. American singer Frank Sinatra Junior died due to heart attack on 16 March 2016 in Daytona Beach in Florida. He was 72.



Finance/Industry –

Interest rate on Public Provident Fund cut to 8.1% from 8.7%


  • In a move that will hit the common man, the government Friday slashed interest rates payable on small savings including PPF and Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) in a bid to align them closer to market rates.
  • As a part of its February 16 decision to revise interest rates on small savings every quarter, the interest rate on Public Provident Fund (PPF) scheme will be cut to 8.1% for the period April 1 to June 30, from 8.7%, at present.
  • Similarly, the interest rate on KVP will be cut to 7.8% from 8.7%, according to a Finance Ministry order.
  • While the interest rate on Post Office savings has been retained at 4%, the same for term deposits of one to five years has been cut.
  • The popular five-Year National Savings Certificates will earn an interest rate of 8.1% from April 1 as against 8.5%, at present.


RBI revises rules for resolution of stressed MSME loans


  • The Reserve Bank of India today revised rules pertaining to revival of advances to small businesses and asked lenders to form district-level committees to resolve stressed loans to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
  • "In order to enable faster resolution of stress in an MSME account, every bank shall form Committees for Stressed MSME," RBI said in a notification.
  • The rules have been revised for "revival and rehabilitation of MSMEs having loan limits up to Rs 25 crore".
  • "Restructuring of loan accounts with exposure of above Rs 25 crore will continue to be governed by the extant guidelines on Corporate Debt Restructuring (CDR) or Joint Lenders' Forum (JLF) mechanism," the notification said.
  • Just like in the case of large borrowers, RBI has asked banks to look for stress from an early stage by identifying loans of over Rs 10 lakh as special mention accounts, right from 30 days' non-payment of principal and interest onwards.
  • The committee will have to come up with a corrective action plan for the account, which shall look at rectification, restructuring, recovery and also additional finance if needed, the apex bank said.



India, WB signed USD 35 Million loan agreement for MP Citizen Access to Responsive Services Project

  • India on 17 March 2016 signed loan agreement of 35 Million dollars with the World Bank for Madhya Pradesh Citizen Access to Responsive Services Project. The objective of the project is to improve access and quality of public services in the state.
  • The project has been designed as a result based financing programme, under which funds will be released on achievement of agreed results.

Objective of the Project
  • To improve access and quality of public services in Madhya Pradesh through implementation of the 2010 Public Service Delivery Guarantee Act.
  • To deliver key results in terms of improving access to services and citizen outreach, simplification of Government services, performance management and strengthening the capacity of implementing agencies.


Union Minister Ram Vilas Paswan launched FCI’s Depot Online System


  • Union Minister of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ram Vilas Paswan on 17 March 2016 launched the Online Depot System in New Delhi to automate all the operations of Food Corporation of India (FCI) depots.
  • The key objective of the Depot Online System is to align with Digital India vision for transformation of food distribution supply chain in India.
  • The system, which efficiently captures data online on a real time basis, will bring total transparency in the working of FCI. Besides, it will also help in better monitoring and supervision to reduce leakages and losses.

Key highlights of Depot Online System
  • The online depot system will eliminate usage of manual registers.
  • The cost of the project is estimated to be 63 crore rupees.
  • The Depot Online System will be rolled out in all 554 FCI-owned godowns by July 2016.
  • It will also be implemented in godowns owned by state-run Central Warehousing Corporation and State Warehousing Corporations as well as hired ones by March 2017.


Bharti Airtel acquired Videocon's spectrum in 6 circles for 4428 crore rupees

  • Bharti Airtel Ltd., India’s largest mobile phone operator, on 17 March 2016 announced the acquisition of Videocon Telecommunications Ltd’s entire spectrum for 4428 crore rupees.
  • It is the second such acquisition in India’s fragmented telecom sector after the Union Government allowed trading of airwaves in October 2015.
  • The deal gives Bharti Airtel the rights to use 2x5MHz spectrum in the 1800 megahertz (MHz) band in six licence areas, which are Bihar, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, eastern Uttar Pradesh, western Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat.
  • After the deal, Bharti Airtel’s 4G coverage will go up to 19 circles from the current 15.


India became second biggest investor in London

  • London & Partners, the official promotional company for London, on 15 March 2016 announced that India has emerged as the second biggest investor in London after the US.
  • The company revealed that there has been a 117 per cent increase in Indian companies across all business sectors investing in London since 2005. Also, there has been a 133 per cent increase in tech companies investing in the city, which accounts for 46 per cent of all projects.
  • Software testing service Cigniti Technologies and customer support company Kayako and many others invested majorly in technology sector.
  • The figures were released at the inaugural India Emerging 20 (IE20) event that brought together leading entrepreneurs from India and Britain.


Cisco to set up Internet of Everthing innovation centre in Vizag

  • Cisco will set up an internet of everything (IoE) Innovation centre in Visakhapatnam to drive regional innovation and will enable partners and start-ups to build solutions around IoE and engage in rapid prototyping.
  • The innovation centre is one of the initiatives proposed by the company in an MoU signed with Andhra Pradesh government on Thursday.
  • Among other initiatives, Cisco will also invest in an advanced Technology centre of Excellence and Research Lab in the Institute of Digital Technology at Tirupati, focused on cyber security, smarty city and manufacturing solutions.
  • The MoU was signed as a part of the inauguration of India's first statewide broadband project-AP Fiber Net, in Visakhapatnam in the presence of Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu and Cisco executive chairman Irving Tan among others.



India –

Surat, Rajkot cleanest railway stations in India: Survey


  • Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara - all in Gujarat - are among the 10 cleanest railway stations in India, according to a survey released by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu here on Thursday.
  • While Surat and Rajkot came out first and second respectively among the category AI railway stations, i.e. those that have Rs 60 crore annual earnings, Vadodara was 8th in the ranking.
  • The survey was conducted in line with the announcement made in the railway budget 2016-17. It was commissioned by Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) and carried out by TNS India Pvt Ltd, official sources said.
  • Among 75 stations that have Rs 60 crore annual earnings, Varanasi railway station in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's constituency figures among the last in terms of cleanliness.
  • Varanasi station, however, is cleaner than Raipur, Muzaffarpur, Bhopal, Kanpur Central, Sealdah and Guwahati stations, the report said.
  • Among other stations in the Category A1, Bilaspur, Solapur, Mumbai Central (main), Chandigarh, Bhubaneswar, Madurai and New Jalpaiguri came out with flying colours.


Railways signs MoU with Isro to leverage technology to support its operations


  • Ministry of Railways has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro) for developing Remote Sensing and geographic information system (GIS) for Remote Sensing at unmanned railway crossing and other uses.
  • The MoU, for effective use of space technology in Remote Sensing and GIS based governance application, was signed after the Railway minister's special mention in his Budget announcement regarding geospatial and enhanced use of space technology in various sectors of governance.
  • The MoU aims for developing applications in the field of Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) for Remote Sensing at unmanned railway crossing including, all geospatial solutions and customized software solutions for providing reliable, efficient & optimal solutions to Railways in it various areas of operation thereby benefiting the rail user.


Goa government classified its country liquor, Feni as Heritage Spirit of Goa


  • Goa government on 17 March 2016 classified the country liquor, Feni as Heritage Spirit of Goa.  Feni is the form of spirit produced exclusively in the coastal state.
  • Feni is the first liquor product in the country to obtain such status and got its Geographical Indication (GI) certification in 2000.
  • It used in various cultural traditions, cuisines and is well known for its medicinal value also. Hence, the Government opined not categorise it as country liquor as it is presently defined under the Goa Excise Duty Act, 1964 and proposed to bring an amendment to the Act.


NRDC signed License Agreement with Kudos Laboratories for commercialization of anti-diabetic drug Ayush-82

  • The National Research Development Corporation (NRDC) on 16 March 2016 signed a License Agreement with Kudos Laboratories India for commercialization of Ayush-82, an Ayurvedic formulation for prevention and management of diabetes.
  • The agreement will now allow Kudos Laboratories India to commercialize the drug under their trade name with due acknowledgement to Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic Sciences (CCRAS), Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India.
  • Ayush-82 was developed by CCRAS. The CCRAS is an apex organization for research in Ayurveda under the Ministry of AYUSH.


Infosys Foundation donates Rs 8 crore to Asia Heart


  • Infosys Foundation, the philanthropic arm of tech major Infosys, has signed a pact with Asia Heart Foundation to enable the adoption of robotics in healthcare.
  • As part of the MoU, the foundation has granted Rs 8 crore to Asia Heart Foundation.
  • The grant will be used to purchase high-end equipment — the IS 3000 da Vinci Si system to enable robotic surgeries, the Foundation said in a statement here.
  • The da Vinci system of surgery facilitates affordable and high quality, minimally invasive surgeries to a large number of people who currently do not have access to it, it said.


Reports/Indexes/Lists –

TIME magazine released 30 Most Influential People on the Internet list


  • TIME magazine on 16 March 2016 unveiled its second annual 30 Most Influential People on the Internet list. The list has been topped by the artist and entrepreneur Kanye West.
  • India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi boasting more than 18 million Twitter followers and over 32 million Facebook likes stood at 15th in the list. The list says, unlike some of his contemporaries, he often uses social media to break news and conduct diplomacy.
  • Editors from TIME compiled the list based on two primary criteria that are global impact through social media and overall ability to drive news.

Time's 30 Most Influential People on the Internet list:
  1. Kanye West
  2. Joy Cho
  3. James Corden
  4. Laci Green
  5. Josh Holz and Daniel Lara
  6. DJ Khaled
  7. Johnetta Elzie and DeRay Mckesson
  8. J.K. Rowling
  9. Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg (a.k.a. PewDiePie)
  10. 10 Donald Trump


UNSDN released 2016 World Happiness Report


  • The United Nations Social Development Network (UNSDN) on 17 March 2016 released World Happiness Report (WHR) 2016 in Rome. The fourth edition of WHR was released ahead of the UN World Happiness Day, which will be observed on 20 March 2016.
  • According to the report, Denmark topped the list as the happiest place in the world, while Burundi was ranked at the bottom as the least happy nation.
  • In the report, India was ranked 118th out of 156 countries compared to 117th out of 158 countries in the 2015 World Happiness Report. In terms of Changes in Happiness from 2005-2007 to 2013-2015, India has been ranked at 120th position out of 126 countries.

Main Highlights of the Report
  • The report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels and reflects growing global interest in using happiness and subjective well-being as primary indicators of the quality of human development.
  • The report also found that countries where there was less inequality were happier overall.
  • Denmark that was displaced by Switzerland in 2015 after being at top in 2012 and 2013 is followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Canada, Netherlands, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden.


UNESCO released eAtlas of Gender Inequality in Education


  • The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Institute of Physics (UIS) on 2 March 2016 released the eAtlas of Gender Inequality in Education.
  • The eAtlas shows gender gaps from primary to tertiary education and educational pathways of girls and boys in more than 200 countries and territories.

Highlights of eAtlas of Gender Inequality in Education
  • If the current trend continues, almost 16 million girls between the ages 6 and 11 will never get the chance to learn to read or write in primary school compared to about 8 million boys.
  • Gender disparities remain highest in the Arab States, sub-Saharan Africa and South and West Asia. Across sub-Saharan Africa, 9.5 million girls will never set foot in a classroom compared to 5 million boys.
  • The gender gap is even wider in South and West Asia, where 80 per cent of out of schoolgirls will never enter formal education compared to 16 per cent of out-of-school boys.
  • One out of eight children between the ages of 6 and 15 are denied a basic education, and girls are the first to be excluded. More than 63 million girls are out of school and data suggest that the number is rising.


Appointments –

Amar Abrol appointed as CEO of AirAsia India


  • AirAsia India on 17 March 2016 announced the appointment of Amar Abrol as its chief executive officer with effect from 1 April 2016.
  • Abrol will succeed Mittu Chandilya, who led AirAsia India from 1 June 2013 and ends his contract on 31 March 2016.
  • Besides, AirAsia India also announced the appointments of Ankur Khanna as the Chief Financial Officer and Kiran Jain as the Head of Commercial.


Lloyd's appoints Shankar Garigiparthy as country manager for India


  • Lloyd's, the world's specialist insurance and reinsurance market, announced the appointment of Shankar Garigiparthy as Country Manager for India. In this new role, he will be responsible for market development, representing Lloyd's in discussions with regulators and building business relationships as Lloyd's seeks to grow its presence in India.
  • Arun Agarwal, Lloyd's General Representative in India, will continue in his role providing expert guidance and counsel to Lloyd's. Garigiparthy brings over 23 years' experience in financial services to the role and was most recently Regional Compliance Manager in Singapore for Lloyd's.
  • Prior to this, Shankar was Director of Insurance Supervision at the Qatar Financial Centre Regulatory Authority, where he set up the regulatory framework for insurance companies in the QFC.


Pfizer India names S Sridhar as MD

  • Pfizer India has appointed S Sridhar as  the managing director.
  • A chartered accountant by profession, Sridhar has been on Pfizer India board since May 2013.
  • He has also concurrently led the company's distribution function for 3 years and is also currently leading company's anti-infective, cardio vascular, ophthalmology business.
  • Sridhar assumed charge today and his appointment is subject to the approval of company shareholders.


Ramesh Iyer re-designated as vice-chairman at Mahindra Finance

  • Ramesh Iyer, managing director (MD) at Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services Ltd (Mahindra Finance), has been re-designated as vice-chairman and managing director of the Board of Directors at financial sector arm of M&M group.
  • Iyer was appointed as chief executive officer in May 1999 and then elevated as managing director of from April 30, 2001, Mahindra Finance said in statement.
  • Meanwhile, Dhananjay Mungale, independent director, will be the new chairman at the finance company.  Mungale has been on Board of Mahindra Finance since March 1999.
  • Mungale succeeds Bharat Doshi, former group chief financial officer at M&M. Doshi was recently appointed as director on the central board of Reserve Bank of India.


Obama nominated Merrick Garland for Chief Justice of US Supreme Court


  • President Barack Obama on 16 March 2016 nominated appeals court judge Merrick Garland to be the next US Supreme Court Justice. 63-year-old Garland will be 113th Supreme Court justice of the US.
  • Garland, who is the Chief Judge on the US Court of Appeals in D.C. Circuit, will succeed Justice Antonin Scalia who died on 13 February 2016.
  • Justice Garland is viewed as a moderate and has won praise from senior Republican figures. The appointment has to be ratified by the Senate, but its Republican majority has vowed to block a vote on any Supreme Court nominee from Obama.


Fazle Kabir appointed Governor of Bangladesh Bank


  • Fazle Kabir on 15 March 2016 was appointed the 11th Governor of the Bangladesh Bank, the central bank of Bangladesh.
  • Kabir replaced Atiur Rahman, who had resigned after taking moral responsibility over electronic theft of 101 million US dollars from the central bank's account with the New York Federal Reserve Bank.


UNDP appointed Michelle Yeoh as Goodwill Ambassador


  • The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on 15 March 2016 appointed award-winning action heroine Michelle Yeoh as its Goodwill Ambassador.
  • With this, Yeoh joined the current roster of UNDP Goodwill Ambassadors that include Spanish actor Antonio Banderas, US actress Connie Britton, Japanese actress Misako Konno, soccer legends Didier Drogba, Iker Casillas, Ronaldo, Marta Vieira da Silva and Zinedine Zidane.
  • As an ambassador, Yeoh’s mission is to mobilize support for the Sustainable Development Agenda 2030 that was approved by the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015.


Awards & Honors –

British mathematician Sir Andrew Wiles won 2016 Abel Prize


  • British mathematician Sir Andrew Wiles on 15 March 2016 was named as the winner of the 2016 Abel Prize by the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters in Oslo.
  • Wiles won the award for solving a centuries-old hypothesis, Fermat's Last Theorem.
  • Crown Prince Haakon will present the award to Wiles in May 2016 for an achievement that the academy described as an epochal moment for mathematics.


10th Asian Film Awards announced; The Assassin won maximum awards


  • The 10th Asian film awards were presented on 17 March 2016 in Macau, China. 'The Assassin', a movie about a highly trained female assassin bagged prizes for, best actress and best director.
  • The movie took home more than half of the prizes, eight out of 15 trophies, at one of Asia's leading film awards.
  • Hong Kong Action Choreographer-director Yuen Wo-ping and Japanese Actress Kiki Kirin received the Lifetime Achievement Award on the occasion.

List of winners of the 10th Asian Film Awards
  1. Best Film: The Assassin
  2. Best Director: Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Assassin
  3. Best Actor: Lee Byung-hun for The Inside Men
  4. Best Actress: Shu Qi for The Assassin


World –

Bangkok to impose curfew during Songkran festival, the world’s biggest water festival

  • Songkran festival, often referred to as the world's biggest water fight festival, was in news in the third week of March 2016. The festival came in news after the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration decided to impose a curfew during the festival season that will be celebrated in April 2016.
  • The Songkran festival is celebrated in Thailand as the traditional New Year's Day from 13 to 15 April. The word "Songkran" comes from the Sanskrit word saṃkrānti literally "astrological passage", meaning transformation or change.
  • It coincides with the rising of Aries on the astrological chart, the New Year of many calendars of South and Southeast Asia. The festive occasion is in keeping with the Buddhist/Hindu solar calendar.


Obituaries –

Famous magician Paul Daniels passed away

  • Famous magician Paul Daniels passed away on 17 March 2016 due to brain tumour. He was 77.
  • Daniels was best known for his BBC TV series The Paul Daniels Magic Show, which ran from 1979 to 1994.


Shehnai exponent Ustad Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan died

  • Eminent Shehnai exponent Ustad Ali Ahmad Hussain Khan died on 16 March 2016 in Kolkata. He was 77.
  • Ustad Khan was known as one of the best-known players of the instrument after the legendary Bismillah Khan (1916-2006).


American singer Frank Sinatra Junior died

  • American singer Frank Sinatra Junior died due to heart attack on 16 March 2016 in Daytona Beach in Florida. He was 72.
  • Junior, who carried on his father Frank Sinatra’s legacy with his own career in music, was due to give a concert Sinatra Sings Sinatra at Peabody Audito in Florida.
  • He followed his father in the music business as a teenager, and later became his father's musical director and conductor.






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