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Current Affairs for 19 February 2016
February 19, 2016
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CLASSICAL MUSIC GURU USTAD ABDUL RASHID KHAN DIES AT 107

The grand old guru of Indian classical music, Ustad Abdul Rashid Khan, breathed his last in Kolkata on Thursday. He was 107 and is survived by his daughter and grandchildren. Condoling his death, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted: “Saddened at the passing away of veteran vocalist Padma Bhushan Abdul Rashid Khan. India has lost a great gem in the world of music.”

Khan, an exponent of the Gwalior gharana, was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2013, making him the oldest to receive the honour. Not just music, he was also known for his wrestling skills and poetry. Khan has written some 2,000 poems and used to write under the pseudonym of ‘Rasan Piya’.


 

CIPLA ACQUIRES TWO U.S. GENERIC DRUG COMPANIES

Cipla Ltd., acquired two U.S. generic drug companies, InvaGen Pharmaceuticals Inc., and Exelan Pharmaceuticals Inc., to increase its revenue and introduce new products for oncology and diabetes in the world’s largest pharmaceutical market, according to a company statement. The Mumbai-headquartered Cipla closed the transaction through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Cipla (EU) Ltd., according to the statement.

The combined revenue for the two companies for the year-ended 2015 was over $230 million.

The acquisitions will give scale to Cipla’s US business — currently 8 per cent of total revenue — as well as providing a launch pad to introduce Cipla’s pipeline of products in respiratory and injectables, among others, in the coming years, according to the statement.This is the second large scale acquisition in Cipla’s 80 year history — the first was Cipla Medpro, South Africa.


 

BELGIUM KEEN TO JOIN ‘CLEAN GANGA’ DRIVE

Belgium is keen to take part in the “Clean Ganga” campaign and a Belgian mission with companies specialising in sanitation will meet Indian government officials soon, a top Belgian official said.

Asked about the challenges, Mr. Vandeweyer, who is authorised to speak on behalf of Mr. De Crem, said, “First is cleaning up the actual pollution — there are certain companies that specialise in that. The second is preventing pollution to happen; that is a huge effort, but that will come.”

Asked whether the current events in the country, including the student protests, would hamper foreign investments in India, Jan Luykx, Belgium Ambassador to India, said protests were a part of democracy.


RELIANCE TO LIFT IRAN OIL AFTER 5-YR GAP

India’s Reliance Industries Ltd, owner of the world’s biggest refining complex, is preparing to lift oil from Iran next month after a gap of about five years, said an industry source with knowledge of talks between the two.

The Indian conglomerate, controlled by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, stopped Iranian oil imports in 2010 because it was worried that the threat of U.S. sanctions on companies doing business with the Islamic republic would complicate its efforts to boost market share for its fuels in the United States.

Now with an end this year to the Western sanctions that had halved Iran’s oil exports to about one million barrels per day (bpd), Tehran is trying to recoup lost market share and Reliance is keen to get Iranian barrels back into its crude diet.

Officials from India’s biggest private refiner recently visited Iran to chalk out the details for resumption of trade ties with Tehran, the source said, and to begin with, National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) will be supplying a million spot barrels each of condensate and crude oil to Reliance in a single cargo.

The shipment will make Reliance Iran’s first new Indian oil customer since the lifting of the sanctions.


MAHARASHTRA GETS FIRST ALL-WOMAN PANCHAYAT

For 26-year-old Sonali Shahpure, juggling household work with politics does not come naturally. She comes from a family of political non-starters. The political novice borrowed Rs 50,000 from the local bank to pool money into the village development fund set up by the 11 elected members of the Bubnal Gram Panchayat in Shirol Taluka, southern Maharashtra. All members who chipped in with their share had one thing in common — they were all women with no political background.

The village has taken a lead in women’s political participation by becoming first in the State to adopt 100% political representation for women at the Gram Panchayat level. Elders of the village, who had decided six months ago to elect these women posts unopposed to the panchayat feel the group has brought in more transparency and accountability. The members have pool together Rs 5.5 lakh as development fund and are now petitioning the State government to sanction an additional special fund of Rs 25,00,000 lakh for all future developments.


MRF CMD MAMMEN ELECTED ATMA CHAIRMAN

MRF Chairman and Managing Director K.M. Mammen has been elected as the Chairman of Automotive Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (ATMA), a lobby group representing the automotive tyre sector in India.

Mr.Satish Sharma, President (Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa) Apollo Tyres Ltd., has been elected as Vice Chairman of ATMA, according to a statement.

Mr.Mammen is the eldest son of the MRF Founder, the late K. M. Mammen Mappillai.

The Chennai-based tyre major reported net profit of Rs.388.15 crore on revenue of Rs.3,260.90 crore in the quarter ended December.

Mr.Mammen has held various executive positions in business associations in the country, including President of the Indo-Australian Chamber of Commerce.


 

CABINET APPROVAL FOR TRADE FACILITATION PACT RATIFICATION

The Cabinet has approved a proposal for ratification of the Trade Facilitation Agreement (TFA) of World Trade Organization (WTO), aimed at easing customs rules for expediting global trade flow of goods.

To facilitate domestic coordination and implementation of the TFA, the Cabinet meeting — chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi — also cleared the proposal to set up a National Committee on Trade Facilitation (NCTF) to be jointly chaired by the commerce and revenue secretaries. These objectives are also in consonance with India’s “Ease of Doing Business” initiative, according to an an official statement.The WTO member-countries in November 2014 adopted a “protocol of amendment” to incorporate the TFA on goods in the overall WTO Agreement.

For the TFA to be operational, two-thirds (or 108) of the 162 WTO members will have to ratify it. However, only 69 countries have ratified it so far.


PRESIDENT OBAMA PLANS HISTORIC VISIT TO CUBA IN MARCH

President Barack Obama will travel to Cuba next month, in the first such visit by a sitting American president in 88 years, the White House said Thursday.

Mr. Obama’s trip will come just 15 months after the U.S. and Cuba announced plans to restore ties after a diplomatic freeze lasting more than 50 years.

The White House issued an official announcement of the historic visit Thursday after revelations about the trip circulated in news reports Wednesday night.

 

Mr. Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will be in Cuba on March 21 and 22, and will travel to Argentina on March 23 and 24.


 

LIFE TIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR GOVT TEACHERS IN PUNJAB

Government school teachers in Punjab will be felicitated with a ‘Life Time Achievement Award’ in recognition of their contribution to education, Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal today said.

The award, carrying a cash prize of Rs 1 lakh, would encourage the teaching fraternity to excel in the field of education by upgrading their teaching skills and adopting innovative practices, and by creating a bonding between them and pupils, the Chief Minister said at launch of ‘Mukh Mantri Vigyan Yatra.

Badal said his government is enhancing the award money being given to the teachers conferred with state award from the government schools from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 every year.

The Chief Minister asked the Education Minister to put in place a mechanism for timely recruitment.


 

BADMINTON: INDIA BEATS CHINA, SCRIPTS HISTORY

The Indian men scripted history by notching up their first ever win over China in any team event with a 3-2 verdict in the league phase of the Happening Hyderabad Badminton Asia team championship at Gachibowli Indoor Stadium here on Thursday.

For the host, which made it to the knockout phase, captain and World No. 9 K. Srikanth finally got the better of World No. 8 Tian Houwei with a 21-11, 21-17 win in the first singles that lasted just 33 minutes.


 

FIVE NEW ‘HOT JUPITERS’ DISCOVERED

Scientists have discovered five new Jupiter-like planets that are similar in characteristics to our solar system’s biggest planet and orbit very close to their host stars.

Researchers from Keele University in the United Kingdom used the Wide Angle Search for Planets-South (WASP-South) instrument — an array of eight cameras observing selected regions of the southern sky, to study five stars showing planet-like transits in their light curve.

The newly discovered planets were designated WASP-119 b, WASP-124 b, WASP-126 b, WASP-129 b and WASP—133 b, ‘Phys.org’ reported.


 

MESSI PASSES 300 LIGA GOALS AS BARCELONA EXTEND LEAD

Lionel Messi moved past 300 La Liga goals as Barcelona moved six points clear at the top of the table with a 3-1 win at Sporting Gijon on Wednesday.

The five-time World Player of the Year struck either side of Carlos Castro’s well-worked equaliser in a three-goal burst in five first-half minutes.

Luis Suarez missed a second-half penalty days after famously converting Messi’s pass from a spot-kick against Celta Vigo, but made amends with a brilliant finish for Barca’s third.

Atletico Madrid are Barca’s closest challengers with Real Madrid a further point adrift in third.