The Daily Brief – 17th February, 2017

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  • Ending the political impasse in Tamil Nadu, Governor Ch. Vidyasagar Rao administered the oath of office to Edappadi K. Palaniswami as the 13th Chief Minister along with a Council of 30 Ministers. Mr. Palaniswami said he would take a floor test in the Assembly at 11.a.m. on 18th February to prove his majority, ostensibly to ensure that there is no room for horse trading by the rebel camp headed by former Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam.
  • As part of the Indian Railways drive to tap alternative form of energy to go green, the Mysuru division of the South Western Railway will soon have about 20 railway stations fuelled by solar energy.
  • The Supreme Court ordered three Internet giants — Google, Microsoft and Yahoo — to immediately set up their own in-house expert bodies to keep tabs on and delete online pre-natal sex determination advertisements. The court said the intent of the order was to make these search engines “responsive to Indian law.” Section 22 of the Pre-conception and Pre-natal Diagnostic Techniques (Prohibition of Sex Selection) Act of 1994 prohibits advertisements relating to pre-natal determination of sex and imposes punishment. However, ads continue to appear online, rendering the law toothless.
  • The Supreme Court has introduced a self-supporting scheme for providing legal services to the middle and relatively lower income groups, according to the Union Law Ministry. The “Middle Income Group Scheme” is meant to provide legal services to litigants in the Supreme Court whose gross income does not exceed Rs. 60,000 per month or Rs. 7.5 lakh per annum.
  • Reliance Aerostructure Limited has incorporated a 51:49 joint venture with Dassault Aviation to capture a major share of the offset business arising from the €7.87 billion deal for Rafale fighter jets. The joint venture, Dassault Reliance Aerospace Limited (DRAL), will have Mr.Eric Trappier, Chairman of Dassault Aviation France, as its chairman and Mr. Anil Ambani, chairman of Reliance Group, as its co-chairman. India and France signed a purchase agreement for the supply of 36 Rafale fighter jets for €7.87 billion in September last year. The contract includes a 50% offset obligation or about Rs. 30,000 crore, the largest-ever offset contract in India. DRAL will aim to grab a major share of this business, including components and parts.
  • Tata Motors and software major Microsoft entered into a strategic partnership wherein the Indian automaker will leverage latter’s connected vehicle technologies. These technologies bring together artificial intelligence (AI), advanced machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities on the global hyper-scale Azure cloud, to create a safer driving experience.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has permitted multilateral and regional financial institutions (FIs) to invest in ‘masala bonds’, rupee denominated bonds issued by Indian entities. This decision will allow multilateral agencies like Asian Development Bank (ADB) and BRICS led New Development Bank (NDB) to invest in these bonds. It also provides more choices of investors to Indian entities issuing rupee-denominated bonds abroad.
  • Renowned Hindi Scholar, litterateur and playwright Surendra Verma (75) was selected for the prestigious Vyas Samman 2016. He was chosen for this award for his novel Kaatna Shami Ka Vriksha : Padma Pankhuri Ki Dhar Se, published in 2010.
  • India’s vaccine regulatory body NRAI (National Regulatory Authority of India) was given the maximum ratings by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for vaccine regulations.
  • India was ranked 143rd out of 186 economies in the annual Index of Economic Freedom 2017 that measures the degree of economic freedom in the countries of the world. The index was released by top US based Think Tank, The Heritage Foundation. In this edition, India’s overall score was 52.6 points, 3.6 points less than scored in 2016 when it was ranked 123rd.
  • India and Afghanistan took a hard line at the six-nation talks in Moscow, opposing the dominant view from Russia, China and Pakistan to involve the Taliban in reconciliation efforts. Another point of contention that emerged was over the composition of the talks hosted by Russia. Afghanistan made a strong pitch for the United States to be included as one of its most important partners. It said it was a necessary part of all processes to “end war and usher in sustainable peace in Afghanistan”.
  • At least 70 people were killed and 200 injured in a terror attack on a popular Sufi shrine in Sindh province. This is the seventh terrorist strike in Pakistan since Monday. The Islamic State (IS) has claimed responsibility for the attack, the first time it has done so for a strike in Pakistan.
  • The UAE has unveiled plans to build the first city on Mars by 2117 as the energy-rich country looks to transport people to the Red Planet over the next few decades. The 100-year plan will involve scientific research programmes to nurture national cadres specialised in space sciences at universities in the UAE. It will also entrench a passion for space in younger generations.
  • Antarctic sea ice extent has shrunk to the lowest recorded-level in last four decades. According to data from the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC), sea ice in the frozen continent covered just 2.26 million square kilometres, dipping below the earlier 1997 record low.

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