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Current Affairs Today – December 1 2016

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cat-december-1-2016INDIAN AFFAIRS

Union Cabinet Approvals – December 1 2016
i. The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the negotiating position adopted by the Government of India at the 28th Meeting of Parties(MoP) to the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention for Protection of Ozone Layer that took place during 6-14 October, 2016, in Kigali, Rwanda. 
ii. The Union Cabinet lead  by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi has approved a Central Assistance of Rs. 2000 crore for 36,384 displaced families from Pakistan occupied areas of Jammu & Kashmir (POJK) and Chhamb based on an announcement of Prime Minister’s Development Package for Jammu & Kashmir-2015 in November, 2015.
iii. The Union approved the liberalisation, simplification and rationalisation of the country’s visa regime to stimulate economic growth and ease travel for foreigners
iv. Central Government approved inclusion of 15 new castes and modification in 13 other castes in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).

Himachal Pradesh Raj Bhawan adopts cashless system for all kinds of Transactions
i. Himachal Pradesh, Governor Acharya Devvrat has directed the Raj Bhawan staff in Shimla to adopt cashless system or cheque in all kind of payments to ensure that all transactions are made online.
ii. Governor has also appealed students, teachers and NGO’s to make common people aware about cashless system
iii. He stressed on the need for adopting a cashless system across the state and welcomed the decision of Prime minister Narendra Modi to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes to eliminate black money.
iv. Himachal Rajbhawan is the first in country to adopt these cashless techniques so promptly.

UP Government Flags off Trial Run of Lucknow Metro Service
i. The opening ceremony of the Uttar Pradesh government’s Lucknow Metro Service was held at Transport Nagar Metro depot, near Amausi airport in Lucknow, on December 1, 2016.
ii. The trial run of the metro was flagged off up to 8.5 km stretch Charbagh station by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and his father Mulayam Singh Yadav.
iii. Top Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC) officers were closely monitoring the test runs of the newly-acquired gleaming silver and red-ribbon coaches on the 700-metre track inside its state-of-the-art Transport Nagar Metro Depot.
iv. However, (LMRC) officers announced that the metro train service will be available to service Lucknow people in 2017 and March 26,2017 will be the date of commencement of the Metro Train service in Lucknow..
v. Lucknow metro service, a 23-kms long North-South corridor having 21 stations, will add to the city’s infrastructure after Gomti Riverfront Development and Agra-Lucknow Expressway.

Hornbill Festival Kicks Off In Naga Heritage Village Of Kisama
i. The 10-day long Hornbill Festival began at the Naga Heritage village Kisama on December 1, 2016, which is coinciding with the Statehood Day of Nagaland.Hornbill Festival
ii. Objective: To revive, protect and preserve the richness and uniqueness of the Naga heritage.
iii. The festival was inaugurated by Guru Sangyusang Pongener of Ungma village under Mokokchung district while the inaugural celebrations of ‘Unity in Culture’ was presented by Sky Entertainment.
iv. The festival is a tribute to the revered bird for the Nagas ‘Hornbill’ for its qualities of alertness and grandeur

Delhi HC sets aside Centre’s ban on 344 drugs
i. The Delhi High Court on December 1, 2016 agreed with pharmaceutical companies to  set aside the ban  on  344 fixed dose combination (FDC) drugs like Corex cough syrup, Vicks Action 500 extra and D’Cold.
ii. The FDC is banned under Section 26A (Power to Prohibit Manufacture of Drugs and Cosmetics in Public Interest) of Drugs and Cosmetics Act,
What is FDC:
A fixed-dose combination (FDC) is a combination of two or more active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) combined in a single dosage form, which is manufactured and distributed in fixed doses

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

IISc First Indian Institue to break into top 15 in Times varsity rankings of 2017
i. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) has become the first Indian institute to  be placed in the top 15 universities among top 300 universities in the latest Times Higher Education’s (THE) BRICS and Emerging Economies University Rankings 2017.
ii. The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) is placed 14th, up two spots from a year ago when it debuted in the top 20.
iii. With this India is the second-most represented country with 27 universities represented among the top 300 universities. However, China tops the rank with 52 universities in top 300 and 6 in top 10 and 44 universities in top 200.
Indian institutes in the top 100 rank include:

The Indian Institute of Science (IISc) 14
IIT Bombay 26
IIT Delhi and IIT Kanpur both ranked 32
IIT Madras 35
IIT Roorkee 62
IIT Kharagpur 71
Jadavpur University 99

Pakistan-China start direct rail and freight service
i. China and Pakistan launched the direct rail & sea freight service between Kunming and Karachi as a part of China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project (CPEC) which was launched in 2015
ii. The first cargo train loaded with 500 tonnes of commodities left Kunming, capital of Yunnan, an inland province in south-west China departed for KarachiChina & Pakistan
iii. It will reduce the transport cost by over 50 per cent
Pakistan :
♦ Capital: Islamabad
♦ Currency: Pakistani rupee
♦ Prime minister: Nawaz Sharif
♦ President: Mamnoon Hussain

British Scientists Gives Green Signal to the use of Three Parent Baby
i. British scientists on December 1, 2016, gave green signal to the use of “three-parent baby” fertility treatments, thus becoming the first in the world to officially introduce the procedures.
ii. The treatment will involve the embryo to receive the usual “nuclear” DNA from the mother and father, as well as a small amount of healthy mitochondrial DNA (mDNA) from a female donor
iii. Mitochondria are structures in cells which generate vital energy and contain their own set of genes called mDNA which is passed through the mother and can cause diseases ranging from poor vision to diabetes and muscle wasting.
iv. An independent panel of experts were tasked to review the safety of mitochondrial gene therapy who recommended that the practice should be “cautiously adopted” only in specific circumstances where inheritance is likely to cause death or serious disease and where there is no other alternatives.
v. The technique could enable women with mitochondrial disease  to have a healthy child, without the fear of passing on the disease to new born babies with conditions having multiple disabilities and indeed life-limiting impairments.
vi. However, David Clancy, from the faculty of health and medicine at the University of Lancaster, predicted the technique to be “currently imperfect” since one in 30 women who receive the treatment could still give birth to a child with an inherited disease.
First Country to use the Technique
♦ The first baby conceived using mitochondrial donation was born earlier in the year 2016 in Mexico, where there is no regulation on its use, but Britain would be the first to officially authorize it.

BANKING & FINANCE

Yes Bank launches new product ‘SIMsePAY’ for money transfer through feature phones
i. Private sector lender Yes Bank has launched a new digital transaction service through mobile phones named SIMsePAY, that allows any account holder to do money transfers, pay utility bills and other mobile banking services, without the need for smart phones or internet.
ii. The technology is based on wafer-thin sticker attached to any SIM card of a telecom provider that sources information from a co-branded prepaid wallet linked to it.
iii. The service is based on a “sim-sleeve” technology, in association with Taisys Technologies, who holds global patent for the same, and has implemented the same successfully in other countries including Kenya and China.
iv. The co-branded prepaid wallet or card that can be loaded up to Rs 50,000 will be issued by Yes Bank or the co-operative banks account by the customer to carry out various types of transactions.
v. Yes Bank has launched the services with the District Co-operative Bank, Dehradun, and subsequently plans to launch pilots in Bihar, Arunachal Pradesh and Goa over the next 10 days.
vi. The product will be offered to customers in a phased manner. The first phase will involve collaboration with Co-operative and Regional Rural Banks to target those among whom adoption rates of smart phones, internet connectivity, and access to financial services (or bank accounts) is low and limited.
vii. Over the next few weeks, Yes Bank plans to tye up with various Co-operative banks across the country to facilitate a pan-India roll out of the product to existing bank customers.
YES BANK
♦ Yes Bank is India’s fifth largest private sector Bank, founded by Rana Kapoor in 2004.
♦ Headquarter: Maharashtra
♦ CEO: Rana Kapoor

The Competition Commission of India approves SBI-Bharatiya Mahila Bank Merger
i. The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has approved the merger of Bharatiya Mahila Bank Ltd (BMBL) with the country’s largest lender State Bank of India.
ii. The SBI board in August confirmed the merger of Bharatiya Mahila Bank Ltd (BMBL) and that of five associate lenders with itself.
iii. The merger is in the form of an amalgamation where the business of BMBL, including its assets and liabilities, will be acquired by the SBI.
iv. Both the banks offer various banking products to their retail and corporate customers. However, while SBI has global presence across the country, BMBL has only a token presence with 4-5 branches in each state set up in November 2013
v. Besides, SBI is to merge five associate lenders — State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur (SBBJ), State Bank of Mysore (SBM), State Bank of Travancore (SBT), State Bank of Patiala (SBP) and State Bank of Hyderabad (SBH) — with itself.
vi. After the merger of the six entities, including BMBL with SBI, about Rs 8 lakh crore (about $120 billion) would be added to SBI’s assets. The banking organisation will have a network of more than 24,000 branches, 2,70,000 employees and total assets of Rs 30 lakh crore.

RBL Bank Launches Aadhaar Payment Bridge System for cashless loan disbursements
i. Maharashtra based private sector lender RBL Bank has launched Aadhaar Payment Bridge System (APBS) on November 30, 2016, for small ticket micro-finance loan disbursements.
ii. According to bank Head Rajeev Ahuja, it is the first bank to launch the APBS on its platform to implement the government’s idea of digital banking.
rbl-bank-launches-aadhaar-payment-bridge-system-for-cashless-loan-disbursementsiii. APBS system aims towards cashless loan disbursements, which otherwise is dominated by physical cash.
iv.The APBS system can now enable Micro Finance Institutions (MFIs) to disburse loan amounts directly in Aadhaar-enabled bank accounts through RBL Bank.
v. It has been developed by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) mainly to process government subsidies or direct benefit transfer (DBT) to various government scheme beneficiaries.
vi. The APBS is of great significance at a time when cash availability in the market is actually reducing due to governments recent decision to abolish Rs 500/1000 banknotes from circulation to check black money and widen the tax base.
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)
♦ NPCI is a not-for-profit organisation registered under section 25 of the Companies Act 2013 for all retail payment systems in India, to allow all Indian citizens to have unrestricted access to e-payment services.
Founded: 2008
♦ Headquartered: Mumbai, Maharashtra

India’s GDP Rises 7.3% in Q2 FY17 : CSO
i. The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Indian economy has grown at the rate of 7.3% in the second quarter of 2016-2017, which is up from the 7.1% recorded in the previous three months.
ii. The GDP was 7.6% in the second quarter of last fiscal.
iii. The Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation estimated the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter (July-September) of 2016-17.
iv. The improvement in performance is due to improved performance of manufacturing, services and trade sectors.
v. The sectors of the economy which registered more than 7% growth in the second quarter are: public administration, defence and other services; financial, insurance, real estate and professional services; manufacturing; and trade, hotels and transport and communication and services related to broadcasting.

BUSINESS

TeamIndus signs Launch Contract with ISRO
i. Bangalore-based space tech firm TeamIndus on December 1, 2016 signed a verified commercial launch contract with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for its mission to land a spacecraft on the moon.
ii. The move is an attempt to win Google Lunar XPRIZE, a competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs from around the world to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration.TeamIndus signs Launch Contract with ISRO
iii. TeamIndus is the only Indian team competing for the $30 million “Google Lunar XPRIZE.” This will be the first time ISRO has given a dedicated PSLV to any private entity. TeamIndus will launch its Moon-bound spacecraft aboard ISRO’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) in late 2017.
iv. The total cost of the venture is expected to be around USD 60 million. The company has so far raised USD 15 million and is in talks with investors to raise more funding.
v. TeamIndus’ rover has been designed and developed in Bengaluru by a 100-person engineering team including 20 retired ISRO scientists.
vi. The goal of the USD 30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE is to start a new era of space exploration by lowering the cost.
vii. In order to win the prize, privately funded teams must land their spacecraft on the moon, travel 500 meters and broadcast high definition video, images and data back to Earth.

India-US inks Rs 5000 Crore deal for 145 M777 howitzers
i. India and United States (US) has signed a deal to buy 145 M-777 Ultra-Light Howitzers worth $750 million (Rs 5,000 crore) under the Foreign Military Sales programme that will be deployed in high-altitude areas in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, bordering China.
ii. The deal was signed at the two-day meeting of the 15th India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG) held in New Delhi on November 30, 2016.
iii. India-US MCG is a forum established to promote Defence Cooperation between HQ Integrated Defence Staff (India) and US Pacific Command at the strategic and operational levels.
iv. This is the first defence deal signed by India for purchasing artillery guns since the Bofors scandal in 1980s. The deal was recently cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
v. Under this deal M777 howitzers manufacturer BAE Systems will invest an estimated amount of about USD $200 million.
vi. 25 guns will come to India in a fly-away condition. Remaining 120 guns will be assembled at the proposed Assembly Integration and Test facility for the weapon system in India. The first two howitzers will be delivered within six months of the contract being inked, while rest will be delivered at the rate of two per month.
Ultra-Light Howitzers (ULH) artillery Guns
♦ It is manufactured by BAE Systems’ Global Combat Systems division.
♦ It is smaller and lighter with a weight of 4,100 kg and can be easily transported by helicopters.
♦ It has effective firing range of 24 km. These guns will give Indian defence forces a much needed operational advantage and an access to state of art technology.

BHEL commissions first unit of Pulichintala hydro power plant in Andhra Pradesh
i. New Delhi based BHEL has commissioned the first unit of the 4×30 MW Pulichintala Hydroelectric project (HEP) on December 1, 2016 in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh on the river Krishna.
ii. The greenfield project is being set up by TSGENCO and the project design, manufacture, supply, supervision of erection, testing and commissioning of Electrical & Mechanical (E&M) package work is undertake by BHEL.
iii. BHEL has commissioned 983 MW of hydro power projects in Telangana
BHEL :
♦ Headquarters: New Delhi
♦ CEO: Atul Sobti
♦ Founded: 1964

AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS

UNESCO Includes Cuba’s rumba, Belgian beer into its Intangible Cultural Heritage List
i. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) added Cuba’s rumba dance and Belgian beer to its coveted list of “intangible” cultural heritage at the meeting held in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on November 30, 2016.
ii. The Cuban delegation dedicated the rumba’s selection for the list to its long time leader Fidel Castro, who passed away recently at the age of 90.
iii. The UN body also included Portuguese pottery and Ugandan traditional music into the Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding.
iv. The UNESCO stated that the rumba brings a sense “grace, sensuality and joy” in mind and since the rumba existed from poor communities in Cuba, the dance is an enduring “expression of resistance and self-esteem”.

Pranab Mukherjee conferred Chinese Professor with 2nd ICCR ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Award
i. The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee presented the second ICCR ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Award to Prof. Yu Long Yu of the People’s Republic of China on December 1, 2016 at a function held at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi.
2nd ICCR ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Awardii. The President said that the contribution of foreign scholars to the development of Indology has been critical and their efforts have led to the worldwide awareness of India’s rich cultural and civilizational past.
iii. From religion and philosophy to science and social science, language, grammar and aesthetics, ancient India had theories and answers about the whole range of complexities of human life.
iv. ICCR instituted the annual ‘ICCR Distinguished Indologist Award’ in 2015 to recognize eminent Indologists working abroad who have made outstanding contribution to the study/teaching/research in India’s philosophy, thought, history, art, culture, Indian languages, literature, civilization, society etc. This award includes US$ 20000 and a Citation.
v. The first ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Award was presented to Prof. Heinrich Freiherr Von Stietencron of Germany last year
About Prof. Yu Long Yu
♦ Prof. Yu Long Yu, Professor and Director at the Centre for Indian Studies, Shenzhen University, has studied Indology for half a century and is the pioneer for Indology in South China.
♦ He has translated Indian novels, dramas literature of more than 300 thousand Chinese characters and published more than 80 academic articles.
♦ He is the author of several books. He has set up the Centre for Indian Studies and Tan Yunshan Sino-Indian Friendship Museum in Shenzhen University.

APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS

Former CBEC head Praveen Mahajan is new AITA President
i. Senior bureaucrat Praveen Mahajan is appointed as the President of the All India Tennis Association on December 1, 2016. She will replace Anil Khanna.
ii Mahajan became the second woman preseident of AITA after Rajkumari Amrit Kaur.
Former CBEC head Praveen Mahajan is new AITA Presidentiii. She was the first woman chief of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) and she is currently working as administrative member of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) in Jodhpur.
AITA :
♦ The All India Tennis Association, is the governing body of tennis in India. It was established in 1920
♦ Tennis was introduced in India in the 1880s by British Army and Civilian Officers

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

ISRO’s drones to help North Eastern States – map disasters
i. Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Shillong-based North-Eastern Space Applications Centre (NE-SAC) has tested Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVS) to map various problems and disasters ranging from measuring diseased paddy fields to damage caused by frequent landslides in the north eastern region of the country.
ii. NE-SAC has taken the initiative for design and assembling of drones (UAVs) for various applications. UAVs can perform efficient surveys for disaster-prone or physically inaccessible areas, quick damage assessment of landslides, floods and earthquakes and enable timely relief measures.
iii. Using the drones, NE-SAC mapped the area affected by landslides along the North eastern State of Meghalaya’s life line, NH40. It gave the extent of damage caused to pest-infested paddy fields in Naramari village of Assam.
iv. Drone-based studies are new and currently confined to few north-eastern States. Data from ISRO’s remote sensing satellites are generally combined with ground-based details and use of drones will help to cut down the much leg work that ground surveyors must take up.
v. However, the area studied by a drone will be smaller compared to the area assessed from space by satellites since the processing and storage of large amounts of data given by a drone are a problem.
About NE-SAC
♦ NE-SAC, located at Umiam (near Shillong), Meghalaya, was started in the year 2000. It is a joint initiative of Department of Space DOS and North Eastern Council to provide developmental support to the North Eastern region using space science and technology.
♦ At present, NE-SAC is providing developmental support by undertaking specific application projects using remote sensing, GIS, satellite communication and conducting space science research.

Periodic Table Expands With 4 Elements Named After Japan, Moscow, Tennessee
i. On November 30, 2016, the periodic table got larger after four new elements were officially named and added to the chart, including ‘nihonium’ which is the first ever element to be discovered by Japanese scientists.
ii. Newly included elements are: nihonium, moscovium, tennessine and oganesson.
iii. The new name for element 113, nihonium, symbol Nh, a highly radioactive element with an extremely short half-life, comes from Japan’s name in Japanese ‘nihon’, literally ‘the land of the rising sun’.
iv. A joint team of Russian and US scientists named element 115 moscovium,  symbol Mc  after the Russian capital
v. They also named element 117 tennessine,  symbol Ts  after the US state of Tennessee.
vi. The third one they discovered, element 118, was named oganesson, symbol Og  in homage to Russian nuclear physicist Yuri Oganessian, in recognition of his “pioneering contributions” in elements research.
vii. The periodic table, studied by science students the worldwide, arranges chemical elements in the order of their atomic number.
viii. The discovery of these four new elements has a strong candidature for this year’s Nobel Chemistry Prize.

SPORTS

Magnus Carlsen defeats Sergey Karjakin to Win World Chess Championship
i. World champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway won the world Chess championship which was played in New York City, USA between 11 and 30 November, 2016 by defeating Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin.
Magnus Carlsen defeats Sergey Karjakin to Win World Chess Championshipii. This was his third win of the world championship match. Carlsen found the moves of Russia’s Karjakin, extremely difficult to break down and had played a brilliant queen sacrifice to force a checkmate for the win.
iii. The players were tied 6-6 after 12 classical length games, thus the match went into 4 rapid play playoff games. Carlsen won the rapidplay 3-1, winning the final two games after two draws.
iv. In 2013, Carlsen previously world champion Vishwanathan Anand to take the title, while again in 2014 defended his crown against Anand.
v. Karjakin, who changed his nationality from Ukrainian to Russian in 2009, was a potential challenger for the world title as a child, becoming the world’s young grandmaster at the age of 12 years, 7 months.

OBITUARY

Marathi cinema veteran Shriram Gojamgunde no more
i. Noted Marathi film maker and actor Shriram Gojamgunde passed away in Mumbai on December 1, 2016. He was 71.
ii. Gojamgunde well known for the movie “Zatpat Karu De Khatpat”, which led to other film makers from the region take up producing films.
iii. He had acted in a Marathi film with late Smita Patil. In 1974, he essayed the title role in Marathi film “Raja Shiv Chhatrapati”, based on the life of the Great Maratha warrior.
iv. He founded the Rasbahar drama group, which won three best play awards at the state level.

Tamil poet Inkulab passes away
i. Legendary poet and activist Makkal Pavalar Inkulab passed away in Chennai on December 1, 2016. He was a rationalist writer and professor of Tamil literature.
ii. His original name was Shahul Hameed . He was known for his poems like Naanga Manushangada (We are human beings) and Avvai, a drama.
iii. He was also involved in vocal expression of discontent over the removal of statue of Tamil legendary icon Kannaki in 2002 by the then All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) government of Tamil Nadu.

IMPORTANT DAYS

World AIDS Day – December 1 2016
i. World AIDS Day is observed 1st  December every year to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection, and mourning those who have died of the disease.World AIDS Day - Dec 1
ii. Aim : To show support to and solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV
iii. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day held for the first time in 1988.
iv. 2016 Theme : Hands up for #HIVprevention
e-blood bank software :
♦ Assam Health Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma launched an e-blood bank software on the occasion of World AIDS Day
♦ It will interconnect all blood banks located at different places of the state and help maintain a centralised database.