India’s largest public sector lender, State Bank of India (SBI) has signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) with e-commerce giant Amazon. The MoU seeks to identify and tap the potential areas of collaboration for payments and commerce solutions between both signatory parties. Through this tie, SBI is seeking to enrich customers’ payment experience and opening up the windows of e-commerce to its small and medium enterprise (SME) customer’s base which is the largest in the country. While e-tailers like Amazon are set to gain even if a percentage of SBI’s SME customers after they adopt the online payment platform for their businesses. SBI is also looking to tap Amazon’s expertise and talent in order to connect potential buyers and sellers, along with efficient ways of sourcing raw materials for existing customers. SBI is also seeking to ink similar agreement with other e-commerce players such as Snapdeal and Paypal for similar payments and commerce solutions.
Eminent economist, policy advisor and noted academic Mrinal Datta Chaudhuri passed away in Pune, Maharashtra 19 May 2015. He had served as Director of Delhi School of Economics (DSE) and was a visiting professor of economics at the Universities of Harvard and Minnesota. He was popularly and affectionately called as ‘MDC’ among his circles. He had studied with Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen in Shantiniketan and later completed education from Kolkata’s Presidency College and had completed his Ph.D. from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). His numerous prescient papers on Indian planning had an enormous impact on former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. Dr. Chaudhuri was a policy advisor in the former Congress-led UPA governments and had served on many committees and advisory bodies of Union Government. He was part of the unofficial think tank that had helped usher in the policy of economic reforms of 1991.
Awards and Honours: Padma Bhushan (2005) in the field of Trade and Industry.
Indigenously-developed beyond visual range air-to-air Astra missile was successfully test fired at the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Odisha. In the test, the missile was fired from Sukhoi -30 MKI fighter jet in two developmental trials to prove its long range capability. In the first trial, the missile was released when the fighter jet was performing a very high-g manoeuvre and in the second trial it was fired when the manoeuvre was higher than in the first exercise. These tests were the part of seven developmental trials of the missile. After few more tests, including pre-induction trials the missile is expected to be inducted by 2016.
Indigenously developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and one of the smallest weapon systems developed by it. Single stage solid fuelled and has payload capacity of 15 kg conventional explosives. It is air-to-air beyond-visual-range (BVR) all-weather missile that can be launched from different altitudes. Capable of engaging and destroying highly maneuverable supersonic aerial targets and destroy enemy aircraft at supersonic speed of 1.2 Mach to 1.4 Mach.
It should be noted that it is radar homing missile It can engage targets in head-on up to 80 km and tail-chase up to 20 km modes and can reach up to 110 km when fired from an altitude of 15 km and 44 km when launched from an altitude of 8 km and 21 km when fired from sea level. The missile can be integrated with fighter aircraft including Sukhoi-30 MKI, Mirage-2000, MiG-29, Jaguar and the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA).
Mirage 2000 fighter jet of Indian air force (IAF) on 21 May 2015 landed successfully on Yamuna Expressway as part of developing road runaway for emergency landing. It’s a kind of first for military aviation in India. IAF conducted the successful trial run of landing on Yamuna Expressway near Mathura under the plan of use of national highways in emergency situations.
The operations were conducted with active support from the government of Uttar Pradesh, Yamuna Expressway Authority, toll authorities of JP Infratech and the civil police. This sucessful trial run gives a push to the planning of authorities to convert the upcoming Agra-Lucknow Expressway, which is the longest greenfield expressway in the country, as India’s first road runway. For this, Uttar Pradesh government had given a green signal on 11 May 2015.
The 308km Agra-Lucknow expressway is expected to cost 13000 crore rupees. It will pass through Firozabad, Shikohabad, Mainpuri, Etawah, Kannauj and Mohanlalganj.
For the road runway, the particular stretch of the road should be straight, level, located at a non-undulating round without any slope and also free of waterlogging and free of floods. The road runway segment will not have electricity poles, masts or mobile phone towers. There will be portable ground lighting systems that can be quickly placed on the roadsides to guide aircraft during landings.
China, Pakistan, Sweden, Germany and Singapore are among the countries that have road runways. Road runways assume importance if airbases are crippled during hostile situations.
Kepler and Swift spacecraft of NASA provided supporting evidence and the first direct measurement of supernovae (stellar explosions) which can enable scientists to understand what causes supernovae. This was revealed by studies published in journal Nature on 20 May 2015.
The studies proved that Type Ia supernovae, which produce unprecedented brightness, can either be caused by merging with another white dwarf or by pulling too much matter from a nearby companion star. A white dwarf is the Earth-sized remnant of a star like the sun.
The Kepler spacecraft, known for its planet-hunting prowess, has provided the data for three new and distant supernovae, viz., KSN 2011b, KSN 2011c and KSN 2012a. The dataset includes measurements taken before the violent stellar explosions even happened and this is the first direct measurement of supernova. These supernovae were identified as Type Ia supernovae with the aid of powerful telescopes at the Gemini and the WM Keck Observatories atop Mauna Kea in Hawaii.
On the analysis of dataset, scientists led by Robert Olling, research associate at the University of Maryland, found that shock wave generated in all directions by these explosions were not disrupted. This proved that there was no evidence of a companion star nearby and concluded the cause to be the collision and merger of two closely orbiting stars, most likely two white dwarfs.
Swift spacecraft captured the supernova designated iPTF14atg first on 3 May 2014 in the galaxy IC 831, located about 300 million light-years away in the constellation Coma Berenices. The Swift study led by California Institute of Technology (Caltech) graduate student Yi Cao, proved that Type Ia supernovae can also arise from single white dwarfs by pulling too much matter from a nearby companion star.
According to the analysis of Cao, when the supernova debris slammed into and swept around its companion star, it created a region of Ultra Violet (UV) emission and the peak temperature exceeded 19000 degrees Fahrenheit (11000 degrees Celsius) or about twice the surface temperature of the sun.
Type Ia supernovae are destructive explosions of carbon-oxygen white dwarfs and are used empirically to measure cosmological distances. The first direct measurement of such supernovae can help the scientists understand the mysteries of dark energy – a mysterious force that appears to be accelerating cosmic expansion.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Tathagata Roy on 20 May 2015 was sworn in as the Governor of Tripura. He became the 16th Governor of the state. The Chief Justice of Tripura High Court, Deepak Gupta, administered the oath of office at a ceremony held in Raj Bhavan.
Roy succeeded Padmanabh Balkrishna Acharya, who is also the Governor of Nagaland.
Roy, a university teacher before joining politics, was president of the West Bengal state unit of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) from 2002 till 2006. Currently, he is a member of the Bhartiya Janta party (BJP) National Executive, the party’s central policy making body.
Siddhivinayak temple of Mumbai on 20 May 2015 received International Organization for Standardization (ISO) 9001-2008 certification for best quality practices. The temple facilitates darshan and also funds various activities of public interest like education, drought management in state and others.
Siddhivinayak temple is the first temple in Mumbai to receive ISO certification. The certificate was presented by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to to the Siddhivinayak Trust chief officer Mangesh Shinde in an event held at the temple.
The Shree Siddhivinayak Ganapati Mandir is a Hindu temple dedicated to Lord Shri Ganesh. It is located in Prabhadevi, Mumbai, Maharashtra. It was originally built by Laxman Vithu and Deubai Patil on 19 November 1801.
Barack Obama debuted on Social Media Platform Twitter with @POTUS account. He beat the previous record, which was set in April 2014 by Iron Man star Robert Downey Jr., after the actor reached a million followers in 23 hours and 22 minutes.
The US President already has the account @BarackObama, which has amassed nearly 60 million followers. However, the new @POTUS account is associated with the presidential office – or as Obama puts it.
Ecologists on 20 May 2015 found a new species of fish called Pethia striata in Tunga River in the Kudremukh National Park, Karnataka. The discovery of the new species was published in the journal of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists by researchers from Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE).
The male of the species measures 3-4cm in length and is red in colour, while the female is grey with a striking pattern of scales. The species was distinct in several ways, but the most striking characteristics were the pattern of scales which form oblique bars and the black blotch just before the tail.
The fish from Western Ghats, a biodiversity hotspot, is currently known to be found only in the two streams of Mudba and Turad, a region populated by wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests. Pethia striata is found in small groups of 3-4 individuals in shallow pools and would be an addition to the largest family of fish, scientifically called Cyprinidae, which includes common carp, goldfish, and zebrafish.
Some of the recently discovered new species in the Western Ghats include a little jumping spider in the Southern Ghats, a new frog species in Central Ghats. In 2014, 14 new dancing frog species were discovered in the forests of Western Ghats.
Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the new headquarter of Coal India Ltd at New Town Rajarhat in West Bengal on 15 May 2015. The inauguration was held in the presence of Union Minister of state for Power, Coal and New and Renewable Energy Piyush Goyal and the Minister of State for Urban Development, Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation Babul Supriyo.
The new building came up at a sprawling 27000 Sq. Ft. area and it was built by the National Building Corporation (NBCC), a public sector company of Urban Development Ministry. Coal India Limited (CIL), a Maharatna company, is the largest coal producer company in the world. It contributes around 81% of the coal production in India.
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on 19 May 2015 announced that ASTROSAT will be launched in October 2015 by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) C-34 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
The ISRO also announced that the spacecraft is fully assembled and in the coming days it will undergo several environmental tests like Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) , Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC), Thermal Vacuum, Vibration, Acoustic tests.
9th Session of the India-South Africa Joint Ministerial Commission (JMC) was held in Durban on 19 May 2015. The session was co-chaired by Minister for External Affairs and Overseas Indian Affairs Sushma Swaraj and Foreign Minister of South Africa Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
Besides, prior to the JMC meet, Swaraj also met President Jacob Zuma and extended the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to him to attend the third India-Africa Forum Summit (IAFS-III) in October 2015 in New Delhi. The two ministers, Swaraj and Mashabane decided to hold the next Session of the Joint Ministerial Commission in India at mutually convenient dates in 2017.
Six of the world’s biggest banks were on 20 May 2015 fined 5.7 billion US dollars on Foreign Exchange Benchmark Rates manipulation charges by various authorities in the USA and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority.
The fines were imposed on Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays Plc, Royal Bank of Scotland Plc, UBS Group AG and Bank of America Corp. as part of the settlements they reached with the government agencies in which they pleaded guilty to the charges and agreed to pay fines. As part of the settlement with the US Justice Department the four banks viz., Citicorp, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Barclays Plc and Royal Bank of Scotland Plc agreed to plead guilty to felony charges of conspiring to manipulate the price of US dollars and euros in the international market. However, UBS Group AG of Switzerland, the first to cooperate with antitrust investigators, was granted immunity from the charges.
Two banks– Deutsche Bank AG and HSBC Holdings Plc are still under investigation facing similar charges.
The employees of the banks influenced global foreign exchange bench mark rates by aligning positions and pushing transactions through at the same time. They formed a cartel for this purpose and used online chat rooms to discuss their positions before the rates were set and suppress competition in the market. The severity of this illegal practice is compounded by the fact the four banks which pleaded guilty to charges have major stakes in the 5 trillion US dollars per a day world’s Forex market.
By the Anti Trust division of US Justice Department: Citicorp parent Citigroup Inc. will pay 925 million US dollars, the highest of the banks penalized. Barclays, JPMorgan and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc and UBS agreed to pay 650 million, 550 million and 395 million and 203 million US dollars respectively as fines.
By The Federal Reserve System: The country’s banking regulator imposed fines of more than 1.6 billion US dollars collectively on the five banks for unsafe and unsound practices. Besides, Bank of America Corp. was imposed a fine of 205 million US dollars for failing to detect and address conduct by traders who discussed the possibility of entering into agreements to manipulate currency prices.
BY DFS, CFTC, etc: As part of a settlement the London-based Barclays will pay 1.3 billion US dollars to the New York Department of Financial Services (DFS), the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. The bank also agreed to terminate the services of eight employees engaged in currency trading between London and New York.
The recent settlements bring the total fines and penalties paid by the five banks, excluding the Bank of America, to resolve the two-year old currency investigations to about 9 billion US dollars. In November 2014, the financial market regulators of USA and the UK imposed fines up to 3.4 billion US dollars on them.
V Shanmuganthan on 20 May 2015 was sworn in as 15th Governor of Meghalaya at the Raj Bhawan in Shillong. His oath of office and secrecy was administered by Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court Uma Nath Singh. Shanmuganthan was appointed as the new Governor on 12 May 2015.
For over four months, Meghalaya was without a permanent governor and West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi was given the additional charge of the state governor’s office after the former incumbent KK Paul was removed from the post in January 2015. Born on 21 November 1949, he joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1962. Later, he joined Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and served in many party positions and has been in-charge of the Defence, Research and Documentation and Overseas Friends of BJP Cells.
Shanmuganathan is a gold medalist post-graduate in Political Science and M Phil in same subject is a prolific writer and had written three books related to culture and social aspects in Tamil. One of these books titled A Remarkable Political Movement became very famous.
Uttar Pradesh Food Safety and Drug Administration (UP FDA) on 20 May 2015 asked Nestle India to withdraw a batch of snack Maggi noodles from the market. UP FDA ordered the removal of the batch of popular snack after it found that the product contained high level of lead in it. UP FDA said the order pertained to a 2014 batch of Maggi noodles. It also said that the batch of the noodles contained high levels of added monosodium glutamate (MSG), a taste enhancer.
During its routine tests conducted on two dozen packets of instant noodles in Kolkata, UP FDA found high lead concentration of 17.2 parts per million (ppm) in these packets, which is nearly seven times more that the permissible limit, which is between 0.01 ppm and 2.5 ppm.
Nestle India is a subsidiary of Swiss conglomerate Nestle SA, which sells noodle, ketchups, sauces, soups and other products under the Maggi brand. Its products covers around 60 percent market share in the instant noodle category. The Company was founded in 1866 by Henri Nestle in Vevey, Switzerland.
Nestle India have eight manufacturing facilities across India and they are in Moga (Punjab) set up in 1961; Choladi (Tamil Nadu) set up in 1967; Nanjangud (Karnataka) set up in 1989; Samalkha (Haryana) set up in 1993; Ponda and Bicholim (Goa) set up in 1995 and 1997, respectively; and Pantnagar (Uttarakhand) set up in 2006; and Tahliwal (Himachal Pradesh) set up in 2012.
Anti-Terrorism Day was observed across India on 21 May 2015. The day is annually observed on the death anniversary of seventh Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi who was assassinated at an election rally near Chennai by a suicide bomber from the LTTE on 21 May 1991. The day is observed to make people aware of the ongoing terrorist activities and the precautions to be taken by the commoners to prevent these acts of terrorism. Its motive is to promote unity, peace and harmony across the nation.
On this day, government employees are administered an anti-terror and violence pledge. Apart from this, several discussions, debates, cultural programmes and lecturers are held on the issue of terrorism and violence across the country.
State Government of Maharashtra on 20 May 2015 decided to make amend Section 66(1)(c) of the Factories Act, 1948, so that women employees can work in night shifts. Section 66(1)(c) of the Factories Act, 1948 restricted women from working at a factory between 7 PM and 6 AM.
The decision was taken following demands from several labour union leaders and politicians to allow women to work post 7 pm. However, the factory managements will have to provide security to women working in night shifts.With this decision, Maharashtra joined the league of selected states like Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh that allow women to work in night shifts or are in the process of doing so.
The decision of the state government to change the 67-year-old existing law will bring a much needed help for workers working in more than 14000 factories across the state.
A 1983 batch IPS officer TP Senkumar was on 20 May 2015 appointed as the Director General of Police (DGP) of Kerala. The decision was taken by the State Cabinet in a meeting held under the chairmanship of the Chief Minister Oommen Chandy.
He will succeed KS Balasubramanian, who is retiring on 31 May 2015. At present, Senkumar is the DGP (Prison) and has got service till June 2017.Earlier, he served the state in various capacities including as the chief of the intelligence wing and Kerala State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC).
He has investigated many high profile cases including Vithura and Pandalam sexual assault cases, Liz financial fraud case and French spy case among others. He obtained President’s police medal in 2009 for his services.
Hungarian writer Laszlo Krasznahorkai on 19 May 2015 won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for 2015. His name was announced as the sixth winner of the award at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
With this award, Krasznahorkai born in 1954 received a cash prize of 60000 pound. He joined the league of other awardees, namely Albanian novelist Ismail Kadare (2005), Nigerian writer Chinua Achebe (2007), Canadian author Alice Munro (2009), and American writer Philip Roth (2011) and American writer Lydia Davis (2013). Innovative Hungarian writer Krasznahorkai gained recognition in 1985 with his book Satantango, which later was adapted for the cinema in collaboration with the filmmaker Bela Tarr.
The judging panel for the 2015 Man Booker International Prize was chaired by writer and academic Marina Warner.
Man Booker International Prize is an international literary award given every two years to a living author of any nationality for a body of work published in English or generally available in English translation. The Man Booker International Prize is sponsored by Man Group plc, which also sponsors the Man Booker Prize for Fiction.
International Day of Families was observed on 15 May 2015 with theme Men in Charge? Gender Equality and Children’s Rights in Contemporary Families. The 2015 theme aims to highlight gender equality and rights of children within families. It also highlights prevention of family violence through fair family law frameworks and a variety of programme interventions.
The day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues related to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families. It highlights different areas of interest and importance of families. The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families.
On this day, a series of awareness-raising events like and conferences, radio and television programmes, newspaper articles and cultural programmes related to theme is held in different part of the world.
Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants have taken complete control of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra. The city is a UNESCO designated World Heritage site and home to some of the world’s most magnificent ancient ruins. With the seizure of entire ancient city, there are fears that the militants will destroy the ancient ruins as there is no presence of government troops who had entirely withdrawn from the city following an IS advance.
It should be noted that the ancient ruins are situated in a strategically important area on the road between Syria’s capital Damascus and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour. From the oil and gas fields located in Deir al-Zour, Syrian government uses it to generate electricity for areas under its control in the west of the country.
Earlier in March 2015, the militants had demolished several ancient sites that pre-date Islam in Iraq, including UNESCO World Heritage Sites Hatra and Nimrud.
Ancient ruins of Palmyra dates back to the first and second Century when it was under Roman rule. Palmyra was once a Silk Road hub and one of the cultural centres of the ancient world. The city occupies mythological status in Syria and is home to some of the most beautiful and well-preserved ruins of antiquity, including the Temple of Bel, built in 1st century.
Recently released UN World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) Report for Mid update -2015 has projected that India’s economic growth will surpass China’s growth in 2016. The report has projected India’s economy to grow by 7.6 per cent in year 2015 and 7.7 per cent in 2016. While, it has projected China’s economic growth will be 7 per cent in year 2015 and 6.8 per cent in 2016.
It has termed South Asia’s economic outlook as largely favourable as most economies in this region are expected to experience a strengthening of growth in 2015-16. The main reasons for strengthening of growth in this region will be because of stronger domestic consumption and investment, and increase in exports. The report has forecasted South Asian region’s GDP will grow by 6.7 per cent in 2015 and 6.9 per cent in 2016. It also projected that the global GDP will accelerate slightly from 2.6 per cent in 2014 to 2.8 per cent in 2015. While, the global consumer price inflation will be at an average of 2.5 per cent, the lowest level since 2009.
Akhil Amar, an Indian-American professor from Yale University has been appointed as a member of the prestigious National Council on Humanities of US by President Barack Obama. Presently, he is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at the Yale University.
Since 1985, he was also professor at both Yale College and Yale Law School. He had held various posts of professorships, including Southmayd Professor (1993-2008), Professor (1990-1993), Associate Professor (1988-1990) and Assistant Professor (1985-1988). Akhil Amar also had worked as a law clerk (1984-1985) to Judge Stephen Breyer, then of the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. He was co-editor of ‘Processes of Constitutional Decision-making’, constitutional law casebook. Apart from this he also had written several other books on constitutional law.
Amar is a member of the Board of Directors of the Coalition of Freedom Advisory Board of the National Constitution Center and Constitutional Accountability Center. In 2007, he was elected as a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and in 2000 was named a Senior Scholar by the National Constitution Center. He holds a BA degree from Yale College and a JD from Yale Law School.
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