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Current Affairs Today – December 17 2016

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Post-Harvest Festival ‘Thal Favang Kut’ Celebrated in Mizoram
i. The ‘Thal Favang Kut’ festival of Mizoram, which marks the completion of weeding of the farmland by cultivators in the state, was held in Aizawl with enthusiasm and fervor from December 15-17, 2016
ii. The three-day festival was organized by the Department of Tourism, Government of Mizoram, and was inaugurated by the Mizoram minister for environment, forest and climate change Lalrinmawia Ralte, at Tuirial airfield in Aizawl.
iii .It is a post-harvest festival which is celebrated after harvesting the paddy. It is celebrated every year to thank the almighty as well as to promote tourism in the state.
iv. The festival provides an opportunity to people residing in far-flung areas of the state to participate in various events and showcase their talent.
v. The Centre had allocated Rs 50 lakh for Mizoram for celebrating two important festivals Thalfavang Kut and the Anthurium fete.
Mizoram :
♦ Animal: Serow(Saza)
♦ Bird: Hume’s pheasant
♦ Tree: Indian rose chestnut(Herhse)
♦ Flower: Red Vanda (Senhri)

6th BRICS Health Ministers Meeting concluded in New Delhi
The two-day 6th BRICS Health Ministers Meet was held from December 16- December 17, 2017 in New Delhi.The meeting was attended by the health delegates of BRICS nation-Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa along with other Senior Officers of representative department.
Addressing the meeting, the Union Health Minister Shri J P Nadda highlighted
the gains made by India in healthcare sector. He said India has achieved substantial improvements in human development index and impressive gains in health in the past several years.
Since 1990, under-five mortality rate and maternal mortality ratio have declined by over 60%. New HIV infection among adult population has declined by 57%. Cases of kala-azar has declined by 11% in 2015 from 2014 and 78% since 2006. Leprosy has been eliminated in 84% of all districts.
Basic Features of the Conference
i. Health Minister stressed on adopting innovative strategies to resolve Non-Communicable Diseases that pose danger to our country. A high level meeting on traditional medicinal knowledge was also held.
ii. BRICS countries agreed to cooperate for combating mental disorders, including autism and neuro-development disorders.
iii. They agreed to enhance cooperation amongst the BRICS countries for capacity development of human resources in public health and clinical medicine.
iv. The BRICS also agreed to adopt the TB cooperation plan to create a research consortium on TB, HIV/AIDS and Malaria.
v. The Ministers agreed to support the Global Ministerial Conference on the fight against TB to be held in Moscow in 2017 and the UN High-Level Meeting on TB at United Nations Headquarters in 2018.
vi. The 7thBRICS Health Ministers meeting and Meeting of Senior Health Officials will be held in China in 2017.

Suresh Prabhu Flagged off First Humsafar Express from Gorakhpur via Video conference
i. Indian Railways’ new train, Humsafar Express, was flagged off from Gorakhpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu via video conferencing in Rail Bhawan, New Delhi on December 16, 2016.
ii. The first Humsafar Express, with 16 AC III tier coaches and two power cars, would run between Hamsafar ExpressAnand Vihar in Ghaziabad to Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh.
iii. The special service train made up entirely of AC III coaches will run for inter-city overnight journeys and has been designed specifically for middle-class passengers.
iv. The first group of Humsafar coaches, including power cars, has been manufactured at Modern Coach Factory in Raebareli, Uttar Pradesh.
Features of the Train
The train would provide various luxury to middle-class passengers such as CCTV, Global Positioning System (GPS)-based passenger information system, mobile and laptop charging points, integrated braille display of seat number for the visually impaired, smoke detection and suppression system and a high quality exterior and interior design among others.
The train also comes with an optional meals-on-wheels equipped with hygienic lavatories with odour flushing system, auto vending machine and a mini pantry with an oven and a fridge.
The fares of the train are higher than the regular AC III tier coaches as the cost of building one Humsafar coach is Rs2.58 crore as compared to Rs 2.39 crore of a regular AC III coach. The fare will be charged based on dynamic fare system as in Rajdhani, Shatabdi and Duronto.
At the time of Railway Budget 2016,  the government had decided to launch four new trains—Humsafar, Antyodaya, UDAY and Tejas.

Center Plans to Deploy Zila Swachh Bharat Preraks to Boost Swachh Bharat mission
i. In a move to boost Swachh Bharat mission started by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the Central government has planned to deploy around 600 ”young professionals” in each district of India.
ii. The professionals will be called “Zila Swachh Bharat Preraks (ZSBPs)”. They will be responsible to provide their technical and management support to the respective districts collectors among other authorities to implement the goals by coordinating the various sanitation-related activities in the district.
iii. The ZSBPs would also ensure integration of the youth in the mission to bring in fresh ideas, energy and enthusiasm to the Mission and hence accelerate the progress of achieving an Open Defecation Free (ODF) India.
iv. The joint announcement was made in the presence of the Union Minister, Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation, Narendra Singh Tomar and the Chairman, Tata Trusts, Ratan Tata.

Manipur Chief Minsiter inaugurates two new districts amid Naga protests
i. Manipur Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh inaugurated two new districts Pherzawl and Noney on December 16, 2016.
ii. Pherzawl carved out of Churachandpur district, and Noney from Tamenglong district in Manipur.Now, the total number of district is 11.
iii. Manipur government resolved to create Kangpokpi, Jiribam, Noney, Tengnoupal, Pherzol, Kamjong and Kaching districts by carving up seven of the existing nine districts of the state on December 8, 2016
Manipur Geographical facts:
♦ Loktak Lake is the largest freshwater lake in Northeast India
♦ Khangkhui Cave is a natural limestone cave in Manipur
♦ Keibul Lamjao National Park and Keibul-Lamjao National Park

Government forms high-level task force on Indus Water Treaty headed by Nripendra Mishra
i. The Central Government has formed an inter- ministerial task force to look into all the strategic aspects of Indus Water Treaty (IWT) with Pakistan on December 17, 2016
ii. The Task force will be headed by PM Narendra Modi’s Principal Secretary Nripendra Mishra. Other team members included NSA Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar and Secretaries in ministries of Finance, Environment, Power and Water Resource.
iii. It is mandated with taking all important strategic and policy decisions. It is an all-powerful body which will take decisions regarding the treaty

Karnataka CM inaugurates first air ambulance service in Bengaluru 
i. Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah formally launched the state’s first air ambulance H130 helicopters at HAL Airport in Bengaluru on December 16, 2016.
ii. The air ambulance service will start its operation from January 2017.The emergency number of air ambulance service is 155350.Air Ambulance
iii. H130 helicopters are medically configured with emergency medical services, advanced life
support medical equipment and a stretcher.It will have a doctor and a paramedic.
Cost of the Service:
♦ Individual subscription – Rs 9,000 per Year
♦ Family subscription – Rs 18,000 per Year
♦ Individuals without subscription – Rs 1.75 lakh per hour.

Environment Ministry Notifies Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2016
i. The Union Environment minister, Anil Madhav Dave, on December 16, 2016, announced the notification of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Pet Shop) Rules, 2016. 
ii. Aim: To regulate the pet shops across the country and prevent cruelty against animals kept in such pet shops.
iii. As per the rules, it will be mandatory for all pet shop owners to register themselves with the State Animal Welfare Board of the respective State Government. Such a registration will only happen after inspection by the representatives of State Board, a veterinary practitioner and a representative of Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
iv. The rules will specify space requirement for birds, cats, dogs, rabbits, guinea pig, hamster, rats and mice in the pet shops and also define the basic amenities, power back-up, general care, veterinary care and other operational requirement for animals kept in pet shops.
v. It will be made mandatory for pet shop owners to maintain a proper record of sale, purchase, death of animals in pet shop, sick animals and will be required to submit yearly report to the State Board.
vi. Non-compliance of the proposed rules will lead to cancellation of registration of pet shop and pet animals shall be handed over to an Animal Welfare Organisation, or a rescue centre recognised by the Board.

Supreme Court Validates State Government Imposing Tax on Mobile Towers
i. The Supreme Court on December 16, 2016, passed an order that stated that the state governments can impose property tax on mobile towers as the tax was not on the use of the plant and machinery but on the land and building.
ii. A Bench comprising Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice P C Pant made the provision to impose tax on mobile towers after setting aside the 2013 verdict of the Gujarat High Court holding that the levy of property tax on mobile towers by state government was beyond its competence.
iii. The apex court delivered its judgement after setting aside the 2013 verdict of the Gujarat High Court holding that prohibited the State Government to levy property tax on mobile towers by state government. However, it allowed to levy  tax on cabin on the tower.
iv. The apex court notified that though a mobile tower was certainly not a building but under Entry 49 List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution, it can be considered as a building to levy tax.
v. List II of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution enumerates the items on which a state government can make law and Entry 49 refers to land and buildings.
vi. The tax was not on the use of the plant and machinery in the mobile tower but on the use of the land or building on which the tower is set up. The tax was imposed on the person engaged in providing telecommunication services through such mobile towers as it is the occupier and not the owner of the land and building.


Chinese Navy seizes Underwater drone of US Navy in South China Sea
i. Navy of China has seized an Underwater drone of US Navy on 15 December 2016 South China Shipfrom northwest of Subic Bay which is an extension of South China Sea.
ii. The unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) drone that the Chinese Navy has seized had to return to USNS Bowditch (an oceanographic survey ship). But before that it was seized.
iii.  As per US Navy official the UUV drone was conducting lawful military survey in the South China Sea. The drone was used to collect oceanographic data, including salinity, temperature and clarity of the water.
iv. The UUV (unmanned underwater vehicle) is a sovereign immune vessel of the United States and it has a marking in English language that it is a US property and should not be removed from water. Despite this the Chinese sailors who came in a small boat seized the drone and they did not respond to the radio contact made by US Navy.

UNSC gives 1 year extension to Peacekeeping mission in South Sudan
i. The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) has given one year extension to the Peacekeeping mission of South Sudan. The UN adopted Resolution 2326 (2016) unanimously.
ii. Known as the United Nations Mission in the Republic of South Sudan (UNMISS)
has been extended till 15 December 2017. UNMISS can now continue to include a Regional Protection Force and authorized the Mission to use all necessary means to carry out its tasks.
iii. The Peacekeeping mission aims at ending the political crisis of South Sudan which started in December 2013, when the President of South Sudan accused his vice president of an attempted military coup.
iv. Since then a lot of violence has spread across South Sudan and has displaced many people.  South Sudan attained independence from Sudan in 2011 with a strong support from The US.
v. US Ambassador, Samantha Power described the extension as an upgrade to the UNMISS mission under which new regional force of 4,000 troops will be deployed.
South Sudan
Capital: Juba
President: Salva Kiir Mayardit
Currency: South Sudanese pound


Number of E-Governance transaction in India crosses 1000 crore in 2016
i. The Electronics and IT Ministry, on December 16, 2016, informed that electronic transactions for availing government service increased by 33 per cent in 2016, crossing over Rs. 1000 crore.
ii. It indicates the adoption of digital medium of transaction by the citizens for easy and convenient method of consuming e-Governance services and also indicates the speed of digital transformation in the Government.
iii. The data was based on the information by ETaal, the web portal for circulating the information about e-Transactions statistics of National and State level e-Governance Projects, indicated the total number of e-Governance transactions in India for the year 2016 has crossed 1000 crores.
iv. ETaal receives transaction statistics from web based applications periodically on near real time basis. It takes into account all e-Transactions delivering public services from the Government to Citizens across categories such as agriculture, health, transportation, telecommunication, MNREGA, etc.
v. The total e-transactions in 2014 were around 350 crores and increased to 760 crore in the year 2015.
vi. The top five States that contributed to the e-Transactions in 2016 are Telangana, Gujarat, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.

RBI Slashes Charges on Debit Card Payment and MDR to Boost Digital Transaction
i. To encourage digital transactions, the Reserve Bank on December 16, 2016, has announced several measures that would come into effect from January 1 to March 31, 2017.
ii. RBI has directed the banks to cut MDR charges on payments made through debit RBI slashes card chargescard. The Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) for debit card payments, including for payments made to government, will be capped at 0.25 per cent for transactions up to Rs 1,000 and 0.5 per cent between Rs 1,000-2,000.
iii. The existing MDR cap is 0.75 per cent for transactions up to Rs 2,000 and 1 per cent for over Rs 2,000. However, there is no RBI cap on MDR on credit card payments.
iv. Merchant discount rate is the rate charged to a merchant by a bank for providing debit and credit card services. The rate is determined based on factors such as volume, average ticket price, risk and industry.
v. RBI has also asked banks and prepaid payment instrument issuers not to levy any charges for transactions up to Rs 1,000 using Immediate Payment Service (IMPS), USSD-based *99# and Unified Payment Interface (UPI) systems from January 1 to March 31, 2017.However, these measures will not apply to ATM transactions.


Journalist Arnab Goswami launched a new venture called ‘Republic’
i. Noted television journalist and talk show host Arnab Goswami  announced the launch of his ‘new venture’ called ‘Republic’, on December 15, 2016, a month after resigning as editor-in-chief of Times Now.
ii. At a conference held at the 10th anniversary of IEEMA ( Indian Electronic Arnab GoswamiEquipment Manufacturer’s Association), the apex body for the power equipment industry, Swamy informed that Republic will be launched on 26 January, 2017.
iii. Republic will be a global media venture, parellel to the BBC and CNN.On November 1, Goswami had resigned as the editor-in-chief of Times Now, and announced his plans to start a venture of his own. He was presided over by Rahul Shivshankar as editor-in-chief of Times Now. 

NALCO and NTPC Signs MoU to set Power Plant in Odisha
i. Central PSUs, National Aluminium Company Limited (Nalco) and NTPC Limited signed a MoU in New Delhi on December 16, 2017, to set up a 2400 MW (8×300 MW) power plant at Gajmara in Dhenkanal district, Odisha.
ii. The pact was inked in the presence of Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Power Minister Piyush Goyal.
iii. The estimated investment in all these projects will be approximately Rs 36,000 crores.
iv. The coal based power project would fulfill the power requirement of NALCO for the brownfield expansion of its 5 lakh tonne aluminium smelter at Angul at an investment of Rs 10,000 crore and development of a greenfield-smelter of 6 lakh tonne at Kamakhyanagar in Dhenkanal, Odisha costing Rs 12,000 crore.
v. The less-developed region of Odisha would experience industrial growth after establishment of this power plant.
NTPC Limited is an Indian PSU Public Sector Undertaking, a Maharatna Company, engaged in the business of generation of electricity and allied activities.
Founded: 1975
Headquarters: New Delhi, India
CEO: Gurdeep Singh
National Aluminium Company Limited, abbreviated as NALCO, is a mining company having units in Odisha at places like Angul and Damanjodi. It was incorporated as a public sector enterprise of the Ministry of Mines, Government of India in 1981.


Maharashtra Chief Minister, Devendra Fadnavis, Selected for SIES- Kanchi Seer Award
Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Devendra Fadnavis, UK-based scholar John Ralston Marr, ISRO chairman A S Kiran Kumar and Hari Katha exponent Kamala Murthy has been selected for the SIES-Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswati National Eminence Award and will be presented the award at a function at the Shanmukhananda auditorium in Mumbai on December 18, 2016.
The awardees have been selected for different categories of award.
1.Devendra Fadnavis: Public Leadership
2.A S Kiran Kumar: Science & Technology
3.Hari Katha exponent Kamala Murthy: Social Thinkers, Philosophers and Pravachana Karthas
4.John Ralston Marr: will be felicitated for his work in the International category.

VIT University, First Indian University to be accredited with QS 4-star rating
i. VIT University, Vellore, has become India’s first academic institution to be certified with QS 4-star rating due to its excellence in fields of teaching, innovation and employability.
ii. The Regional director of Quacqarelli Symonds(QS) Ashwin Fernandes handed over the QS 4 Star Rating Certificate to the founding Chancellor of VIT University G Viswanathan in presence of Union Minister of State for Finance Santosh Gangwar.
iii. The University has also received 5 star category rating across 5 different categories namely Teaching, Innovation, Facilities, Employability and Inclusiveness.

Coimbatore City Municipal corporation to receive Digital India Silver Award
i. The Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation(CCMC) in Tamil Nadu has been selected for Digital India Silver Award instituted by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology in the category of “Most Innovative Citizen Engagement
ii. The corporation was chosen for installing and implementing free WiFi Scheme in its various Digital Indiaoffices.
iii. The award will be received Corporation Commissioner and Special Officer, Dr Vijay Karthikeyan from Union I& T minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on December 19, 2016
Digital India Silver Award :
♦ The Digital India Awards is constituted by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology, acknowledges exemplary initiatives/practices of various states/UTs in the realm of e-governance.
♦ The Awards have been instituted under the ambit of the National Portal of India. The awards also aim to spread awareness about such initiatives.


Audi India appoints Rahil Ansari as India head
i. German automobile manufacture company Audi appointed Rahil Ansari is appointed as Head of Indian Operation. It will effect from February 1, 2017.
ii. Ansari succeeAudi Indi Headds Joe King, who will move back to Germany. He has a broad range of experience in finance, sales, network development, retail operations and after sales business.
About Audi :
♦ Volkswagen group,  Audi that designs, engineers, produces, markets and distributes luxury vehicles.
♦ Headquarters: Germany.
♦ Founder: August Horch


India and Russia Agree to Extend Brahmos Range Beyond 300 KM
i. India and Russia have agreed to undertake joint technical development work to extend the range of Brahmos supersonic cruise missiles beyond the range of current 300 km.
ii. The agreement was reached after India joined the Missile Technology Control Regime MTCR in June as a full member.
iii. Brahmos is a short-range ramjet supersonic cruise missile that travels at speeds of up to Mach 3.0. India and Russia are also planning to develop a new generation of these missiles that could likely have an ability to hit protected targets with pinpoint accuracy.
iv .The Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) is a multilateral export control regime. It is an informal and voluntary partnership among 35 countries to prevent the proliferation of missile and unmanned aerial vehicle technology capable of carrying above 500 kg payload for more than 300 km.