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Current Affairs Today – December 15 2016

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NITI Aayog Launches Two Schemes for Customers and Merchants to Boost Digital Transaction
i. NITI Aayog, a Government of India policy think-tank on December 15, 2016, announced the launch of two schemes, ‘Lucky Grahak Yojna’ and ‘Digi Dhan Vyapar Yojna’, to give cash awards to for consumers and merchants who use digital payment instruments for any transaction.
ii. Lucky Grahak Yojana (Consumers) : This scheme is for the consumers who will conduct daily transaction using electronic medium.
iii. Digi-Dhan Vyapar Yojana (Merchants): This scheme is applicable for those merchants who make digital transaction at merchant establishments.

Assam Launches Solar battery station & Community development centre
i. Chief Minister of Assam, Sarbananda Sonowal, on December 14, 2016, inaugurated a solar battery station and a community development centre at Bindhakata Tengapukhuri village in Dibrugarh.Assam Launches Solar battery station & Community development centre
ii. The project implemented by Sri Sri Rural Development Programme (SSRDP) Trust of Art of Living Foundation in collaboration with Cooper Foundation  has installed two solar battery charging stations of 6 kilowatt capacity, one of the biggest project in Assam.
iii. It would fulfill power requirements of 287 households of four villages comprising of Mulukghat, Mirigaon, Gerekigaon and Tengabri.
iv. The two stations have been installed in two different buildings with a provision of two lights and one fan in each household along with one solar battery.
v. Besides, two skill development training centres are also planned to be installed to impart training on tailoring and computers, which will provide opportunity for self employment.

Assam to Make Majuli Country’s First Carbon Neutral District
i. Assam government has initiated a project on December 14, 2016, to make river island Majuli the country’s first ever Carbon Neutral district by 2020.
ii.The project titled ‘Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development in Majuli’ (SACReD, Majuli) was initiated by Assam’s department of Environment and Forest and was launched by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Biodiversity and Climate) A K Johari at Majuli.
iii. The aim of the project is to combat climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
iv. Initially the carbon neutral agenda will focus on mitigation through forestry activities and biodiversity conservation, followed by other interventions over the next three years.
v. The project will be designed and implemented in partnership with other departments of the district for which a district level committee under the chairmanship of Deputy Commissioner has been constituted.

Centre sanctions Rs 30 crore for 21 states and union territories under the Solar Cities Development Programme.
i. The Government of India on December 15, 2016, announced that funds worth over Rs 30 crore have been sanctioned for 21 states and union territories under the Solar Cities Development Programme.
ii. The funds were sanctioned since last three years till November 30 2016.Power and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal announced in Lok Sabha that out of the total sanctioned amount of Rs 30.36 crore, around Rs 12.98 crore have been released.
iii. 60 places have been included in the solar cities programme including Gaya (Bihar), Mysore (Karnataka), Kochi (Kerala), Pune (Maharashtra), Panaji City (Goa), Howrah (West Bengal), Imphal (Manipur), Aizawl (Mizoram), Kohima (Nagaland), Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu) and Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh).
iv. Atleast one city in each state would be included in the solar cities programme for which Central Financial Assistance (CFA) of up to Rs 50 lakh is extended for each solar city.

Center to Extend e-TV to 161 Countries
i. The Government on December 14, 2016, announced that it has extended the facility of e-Tourist Visa for citizens of 161 countries.
ii. The number of foreign tourist arrivals on e-Tourist Visa (e-TV) during January to November 2016 was 9,17,446, registering a growth of 168.5 per cent over same period of 2015.
iii. The Government of India has extended the facility of e-Tourist Visa for the citizens of 161 countries including Japan for which facility of Visa on Arrival is also available.
iv. The e-visa scheme was launched on November 27, 2014.Under the scheme, an applicant receives an email authorising him or her to travel to India after it has been approved. The tourist can travel with a print-out of this authorisation.
v. On arrival, the visitor has to present the authorisation to the immigration authorities who would then stamp the entry into the country.

Supreme Court Bans Liquor Shops on National & State Highways
i. The Supreme Court on December 15, 2016, passed an order to ban all liquor shops on national as well as state highways across the country as a measure to control the road mishaps that takes place every year.
Liquor banii. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T. S. Thakur and comprising of Justices D.Y.Chandrachud and L. Nageswara Rao directed that the licenses of exsisting liquor shops across the highways will not be renewed after March 31, 2017.
iii. The bench also directed that all signages indicating presence of liquor vends will also be prohibited on national and state highways.
iv. The apex court’s order was passed after a petition was filed by an NGO called ‘Arrive Safe’ for public interest.
v. ‘Arrive Safe’ said that over 1.5 lakh people die annually in road accidents, many of which are caused by drunk driving. The NGO said the easy availability of liquor from stores on highways was a major reason for drunk driving.

Indian Air Force personnel cannot keep beard: SC
i. The Supreme Court bench led by Chief Justice of India T S Thakur informed that Indian Air Force(IAF) officers do not carry beard. 
ii. The regulations do not interfere with religious rights of individuals and that they have the sanctity of ensuring discipline.


5th Edition of India-Arab partnership conference held in Muscat, Oman
i. The 5th India-Arab Partnership Conference was held on December 14-15 2016 in in Muscat, Oman.
ii. The Conference was organized in collaboration with the Oman Foreign Ministry, Arab League Secretariat, the Ministry of External Affairs in India, the General Union of Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the Arab Countries (GUCCIAC) and Federation of the Arab Business (FAB).
iii. Theme of the conference: ‘Partnership towards innovation and cooperation in IT’.
iv. Aim: to enhance flow of investments from both sides, accelerating the investment projects at a number of prioritized sectors, activate the existing joint ventures, provide conducive environment for export promotion and share expertise.
v. About 500 Arab and Indian government officials, academicians, businessmen and investors participated in the conference.
vi. The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) was the coordinating chamber of commerce from the Indian side while other side had Oman Chamber of Commerce. The nine other chambers from the Arab States also participated in the conference.
♦ Capital: Muscat
♦ Currency: Omani rial

India Tops Asia, Third in the World as Innovation Destination
i. India has emerged as the tops most country in Asia for innovation while third biggest country globally according to a research done by Capgemini Consulting’s Digital Transformation Institute in collaboration with Fahrenheit 212 and in partnership with Brian Solis of Altimeter.India Tops Asia, Third in the World as Innovation Destination
ii. The ‘Silicon Valley’ of the east, Bengaluru, which is 5th largest hub at global level, saw most of the innovations in 2016 including opening of 3 new centres between March and October 2016, apart from setting up of startup accelerator by Apple.
iii. Jaipur, Pune and Hyderabad each experienced opening of two new centres. The four cities accounts for 27% of Asia’s new innovation centres.
iv. 9 new innovation centres were opened in India in 2016, leading the total number of innovation centres to 25.
v. The US leads the list of global innovators with 146 centres, followed by Britain with 29 and India is at third place with 24 centres.

Seventh Edition of bilateral Exercise ‘EKUVERIN’ commences in Maldives
i. Seventh edition of India and Maldives bilateral Exercise ‘EKUVERIN’ began at Kadhdhoo, Laamu Atoll, Maldives on December 15, 2016.
ii. The 14 day platoon level joint military exercise will conclude on December 28, 2016. The exercise is conducted between the Indian Army & the Maldives National Defence Force on a yearly basis.
iii. Aim: to enhance interoperability between the two armies by conducting military training with emphasis on amphibious & counter insurgency and counter terrorism operations.
iv. The Indian representative in the exercise comprise of Force from BIHAR Regiment while Maldives is represented by the Maldivian National Defence Force.
v. The sixth edition of the exercise was conducted at Trivandrum, Kerala, India
Maldives : 
♦ Capital: Male
♦  Currency: Maldivian rufiyaa
♦  President: Abdulla Yameen

Indus Waters Treaty processes between India & Pakistan paused by World Bank
i. The World Bank has paused the Indus Waters Treaty processes initiated by India and Pakistan to allow the two countries to consider alternative ways to resolve their disagreements.It was announced by Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. 
ii. It was paused to resolve conflicting interests under the Treaty and its application to two hydroelectric power plants
iii. Now it would hold off from appointing the Chairman for the Court of Arbitration or the Neutral Expert.
Work Bank cancelled $100 million loan to Pakistan
The World Bank has cancelled a $100 million loan to Pakistan for a natural gas efficiency project which to be carried out by Sui Southern Gas Company (SSGC)
Pakistan :
♦ Capital: Islamabad
♦ Currency: Pakistani rupee


India, ASEAN set target of $100 billion trade to be achieved by 2020 
i. India and ASEAN have set a target of trading at 100 billion dollar to be achieved by 2020 while current trading between India and ASEAN is 57 billion dollars.
ii. It was announced by Mr. AKP Mochtan,the Deputy Secretary-General, ASEAN ahead of its 25th anniversary in 2017
iii. India and ASEAN countries are planning to enhance people to people contact.
♦ The Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN) is a regional organisation comprising ten Southeast Asian states which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic integration amongst its members.
♦ Members :  Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam
♦ Founded: 1967


Prime Minister Narendra Modi Ranks among Forbes’ Top 10 Worlds Most Powerful People
Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi has been ranked among the top 10 most powerful people in the world by Forbes. Modi ranked 9th on the Forbes list of 74 Most Powerful People in the World. Forbes said that India’s populist prime minister is hugely popular in his country of 1.3 billion people.
Top 5 Most Popular People List

1Vladimir PutinRussia
2Donald TrumpUnited States
3Angela MerkelGermany
4Xi JinpingChina
5Pope FrancisRoman Catholic Church

Madonna’s biopic, Blond Ambition, voted as best unproduced script of 2016
i. Madonna’s biopic, titled Blond Ambition, has been named the most admired unproduced film script of 2016 in the Hollywood system by Black List.
Madonna’s biopicii. Blond Ambition, written by Elyse Hollander topped the list of 73 scripts with 48 votes. The biopic describes the struggle of Madonna of 1980s to get her first album released.
iii. Besides, three scripts shared joint second place with 35 votes each.
♦ Life Itself by Dan Fogelman
♦ The Olympian by Tony Tost
♦ The Post by Liz Hannah.
Black List
Black List invites film executives to vote their favourite scripts that will not begin shooting before the end of the year. This List is being released since 2005 by film executive Franklin Leonard mainly on second Friday’s of December

19 Metre Highest Ever Wave Sets World Record
i. The United Nations World Meteorological Organization on December 13, 2016, announced that a 19-metre-high (62.3 ft) wave in the North Atlantic Ocean has set a world record for being the highest-ever measured by a buoy.
ii. The wave crushed the previous record of 18.275 meters (59.96ft) wave measured in December 2007 in the North Atlantic.
iii. Taller than a six-storey building, the mighty wave occurred after a “very strong” cold front passed through the area, producing winds up of 43.8 knots (81 kilometers, 50.4 miles per hour).


VK Sharma Appointed Chairman of LIC
i. Managing Director of state-owned Life Insurance Corporation (LIC), V K Sharma was on December 14, 2016, appointed as the Chairman (LIC) for five years by the Government of India.
ii. Sharma was already acting as chairman since September 16 when the then chairman S K Roy was relieved of his duties after he resigned in June, nearly two years ahead of his retirement.
iii. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) approved the proposal of the Department of Financial Services for appointment of V K Sharma, as Chairman, LIC in fixed VK Sharma Appointed Chairman of LICpay of Rs 80,000 (pre-revised) for a period of five years.
iv. VK Sharma joined LIC as a direct recruit officer in 1981, and has served as the chief executive of its mortgage subsidiary LIC Housing Finance and zonal manager in charge of the south zone. He has been serving as LIC’s MD since November 2013.
About LIC
♦ LIC is the largest financial institution in the country with over Rs 22.10 lakh crore in assets, which is over 15 per cent of India’s GDP of Rs 134 lakh crore. LIC is the most profitable entity in the country, next only to the RBI.
♦  With such huge asset base and no debt, even a 10 per cent divestment in LIC can net the government billions of dollars and can massively boost the market capitalisation on BSE.
Founded: September 1, 1956

PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi inducted into US’s advisory council
i. Indian-American PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi(61)has joined Donald Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum to implement Trumph’s economic agenda
ii. Nooyi along with Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and SpaceX and Tesla chairman Elon Musk are joined the member of 19-member President’s Strategic and Policy Forum
iv. The forum, composed of some of America’s most highly respected and successful business leaders and it will be chaired by Stephen A Schwarzman, chairman, CEO, and co-founder of Blackstone.


Pakistan Successfully Test Fires Babur Cruise Missile
The Pakistan Army successfully test-fired an enhanced version of an indigenously-designed cruise missile ‘Babur’ on December 14, 2016. The missile is named after the first Mughal emperor and founder of Mughal dynasty.
Features of the Missile
i. The missile is part of Babur Weapon System version- 2. It incorporates advanced Pakistan Successfully Test Fires Babur Cruise Missileaerodynamics and avionics that can hit targets at 700 kms both at land and sea with high accuracy.
ii. It is a low flying, terrain hugging missile, which carries certain stealth features and is capable to carry various types of warheads.
iii. The missile is equipped with navigational technologies of Terrain Contour Matching (TERCOM), Digital Scene Matching & Area Co-relation (DSMAC), which enables it to point out various type of targets with accuracy even in the absence of GPS navigation.


Desert National Park records 11 Great Indian Bustard in Rajasthan
i. The Desert National Park (DNP) in Jaisalmer has records the successful birth of 11 Great Indian Bustards or Godawn which is the state bird of Rajasthan
ii. Rajasthan government has started “Project Godawan” for its conservation.
iii. The number of critically endangered species Godawn now increases to 151. Remaining 140 birds are founded in Dehradun Wildlife Institute of India.
Rajasthan :
♦ Dance: Ghoomar
♦ Animal: Camel and Chinkara
♦ Bird: Godawan
♦ Flower: Rohida
♦ Tree: Khejri Game Basketball


Smriti Mandhana Named in first-ever ICC Women’s Team of the Year
i. Indian batswoman Smriti Mandhana has been named in the Women’s Team of the Year  2016 by the International Cricket Council (ICC) on December 14, 2016 in Dubai.
ii. The ‘Women’s Team of the Year’ is a new and novel award by ICC to acknowledge and appreciate the top performers in cricket in a 12-month period starting from September Smriti Mandhana Named in first-ever ICC Women's Team of the Year2015. This twelve month period included the ICC Women’s World Twenty20 and the ICC Women’s Championship.
iii. The team was selected by a panel consisting of Clare Connor (Chair), Mel Jones and Shubhangi Kulkarni who based on the performances of the athletes between September 14, 2015 and September 20, 2016, inducted eleven players into the team.
iv. Mandhana scored 264 runs in five one day internationals at an average of 52.80 while in T20 Internationals, she scored 183 runs in 10 innings at 22.87 during the 12 month period and is the only Indian women player to be inducted in the team.
v. Women’s Team of the Year (in batting order) : Suzie Bates (New Zealand), Rachel Priest (New Zealand, wicketkeeper),Smriti Mandhana (India), Stafanie Taylor (West Indies, captain), Meg Lanning (Australia), Ellyse Perry (Australia), Heather Knight (England), Deandra Dottin (West Indies), Sune Luus (South Africa), Anya Shrubsole (England), Leigh Kasperek (New Zealand). 12th player: Kim Garth (Ireland).
International Cricket Council
♦  The International Cricket Council is the international governing body of cricket.
♦  Chairperson: Shashank Manohar
♦  CEO: Dave Richardson
♦  Headquarters: United Arab Emirates
♦  Founded: June 15, 1909


Eminent Economists Thomas Schelling Dies in Maryland at 95
Eminent Economists Thomas Schelling Dies in Maryland at 95i. Thomas Schelling, an economist who won a Nobel Prize for using game theory to explain nuclear strategy, died on December 14, 2016 at his home in Bethesda, Maryland. He was 95.
ii. Schelling, was former Harvard University professor as well as University of Maryland professor
iii. Schelling was awarded the Nobel Prize in economics in 2005.