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Current Affairs Today – December 28 2016

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CAT DecemberINDIAN AFFAIRS

Cabinet Approvals – December 28, 2016
i. The Cabinet on December 28, approved promulgation of an ordinance to make possession of a large number of scrapped banknotes a penal offence beyond March 31, imposing a penalty and a possible jail term.
ii. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approved a Centrally Sponsored Scheme namely “Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism (LWE) Affected Areas” to improve the rural road connectivity in the worst LWE affected districts from security angle.
iii. Union Cabinet gave its ex post facto approval to the proposal of Ministry of New & Renewable Energy for ratification of the International Solar Alliance’s (ISA) Framework Agreement by India.
iv. The Centre has approved the re-designation of the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor Project Implementation Trust Fund as National Industrial Corridor Development & Implementation Trust (NICDIT).
v. The Ministry of Urban Development has approved the Annual Action Plan of Delhi for 2016-17 under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT) scheme. It has approved an investment of Rs 266 crore for improving water supply and sewerage networks.

Haryana Government to set up country’s first Caterpillar Train
i. Haryana Government has decided to set up a pilot corridor for an innovative concept of “Caterpillar Train” that will fly over city’s traffic, in Gurgaon city.
ii. The concept of Caterpillar Train, also known as C-Train, was co-developed by an Indian Railways engineer Ashwani Kumar Upadhyaya along with Emil Jacob, both PhD Caterpillar Trainscholars at MIT, for which they won a global award at the MIT in the United States earlier in 2016 for this innovative idea.
iii. The Haryana Chief Minister has directed the authorities to find a way out and put the idea into implementation.
iv. The state government is planning to set up the pilot corridor near the regularly busy and congested Huda City Centre and Sushant Lok.
v. The cost estimate is about $3 million for a pilot system and about $20 million for a full-fledged automated system.
vi. The C-Train includes a citywide network of lightweight, elevated train coaches running at about 100 kmph on a track supported by poles bent into arches.

Maharashtra Approves Proposal to Create New Ministry for VJNT OBCs & Special Backward classes
i. The State Government of Maharashtra on December 27, 2016, decided to create a new ministry for welfare of Vimukta Jati and Nomadic Tribes (VJNT) OBCs and Special Backward classes.
ii. The proposal to create the new ministry was approved by the cabinet which was presided over by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. The separate ministry would be headed by an independent minister.
iii .In another decision, the cabinet sanctioned dissolution of the Nagpur Improvement Trust. The cabinet also approved hike in the grant provided for Ramai and Shabri Awaas Gharkul Yojana.
iv .Besides, it was also decided that State Agriculture Corporation land will be available for allocation to those affected by notified projects as compensation.
v. Government would provide financial assistance to Ramdas Athavale backward cotton  producers’ co-operative cotton mill in Digras. A committee headed by the textile minister will be formed to discuss approvals to cotton mills in the revised textile policy.
vi. Cabinet also decided to grant extension to individuals, companies and institutions who have been given government land on lease or ownership for carrying out constructions.

Kerala Government Seeks Centre’s approval to Use Antlers for Ayurveda Medicine
i. The Kerala State Board for Wildlife (SBWL) under chairmanship of CM Pinarayi Vijayan held a meeting on December 27 to decide over a proposal of using antlers of spotted deer and sambar for Ayurveda medicines.
ii. The State Government decided to approach the Union Government to get the proposal approved as it requires clearance by the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) and Ministry of Environment and Forests.
iii. SBWL seeks to get the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 amended to get the permission for using the antlers for medicinal purposes.
iv .The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, includes antler in the definition of wildlife trophy. A wildlife trophy is defined as the “whole or any part of any captive animal or wild animal”.
v .The Section 39 of the Act states that “no person shall, without the previous permission in writing of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the authorized officer acquire or keep in his possession, custody or control or transfer to any person, whether by way of gift, sale or otherwise or destroy or damage such property.”
vi. Wildlife and wildlife trophies are considered as owned by the government. The Act also prescribes imprisonment up to three years and fine of Rs. 25,000 for offence involving wildlife trophies.
vii. Antlers are the extensions of the skull of the deer. The three kinds of deer varieties found in Kerala, including spotted deer, sambar, and barking deer, shed their antlers annually. It helps in strengthening bones/muscles and boosting blood flow.

24th National Children’s Science Congress inaugurated in Pune by Harsh Vardhan
i. The Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan inaugurated the 24th National Children’s Science Congress (NCSC) at Vidyapratisthan’s Institute of Information Technology in Baramati, Pune on December 27, 2016.
ii .The five-day congress was jointly organised by Vidya Pratishthan and Environmental Forum of India. It is organised every year.
iii. The focal theme for 2016 NCSC is ‘Science, Technology and Innovation for Sustainable Development, with special emphasis on Accessibility for Persons with Disability.
iv. The five-day Science Congress was participated by over 700 child scientists of India, ASEAN & GULF showcase their talents.
v. The Congress would conclude by shortlisting the top 25 projects and respective students will be provided with training support. The Centre would provide all necessary support to the growth of science and technology in the country.
vi.  NCSC is a flagship programme of department of Science & Technology, Ministry of Science and Technology. Though the congress is for Indian school students aged between 10 to 17 years but it has also been seeing good participation from Asian countries.

India Signs Agreement with Bhutan for green and sustainable construction
i. India and Bhutan has signed an agreement for bilateral technical cooperation in infrastructure engineering.
ii. The MoU was signed between Central Public Works Department (CPWD), under India’s Ministry of Urban Development and the Department of Engineering Services, under Bhutan’s Ministry of Works and Human Settlements.
iii.The MoU was signed by Abhay Sinha, Director General of CPWD in the presence of Zhabtog Lyonpo DorjiChoden, Minister of Works and Human Settlements of Bhutan.
iv. Under the MoU, CPWD will assist Bhutan in green and sustainable construction of infrastructure in Thimpu.
v. It would also help in promoting sustainability and capacity building through training of India & BhutanBhutanese manpower along with bench-marking in building and road sectors besides deputing engineering experts to Bhutan.
Bhutan :
♦ Capital: Thimpu
♦ Prime minister: Tshering Tobgay
♦ Currencies: Bhutanese ngultrum, Indian rupee

Uttar Pradesh CM lays the Foundation Stone of Film Television and Liberal Arts Institute
i.Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh,  Akhilesh Yadav, laid the foundation stone for Film Television and Liberal Arts Institute on December 27 in Lucknow.
ii. A token amount of Rs 10 crore has been allotted by the state government for the institute and 14 acres has been allotted for the institute under Awadh Vihar Yojna near Lucknow Haat on Shaheed Path.
iii. To promote the shooting of films in the state, the Chief Minister also distributed Rs 9.41 crore to film industry people.
iv. CM Akhilesh Yadav highlighted the various developmental projects taken during his rule including Lucknow metro and Lucknow-Agra Expressway and claimed his government is committed for the development of the state.
v. Present on the foundation ceremony were veteran Bollywood actress Jaya Bachchan, her son Abhishek Bachchan, film director Anurag Kashyap and Bhojpuri actor Ravi Kishen among others.

HRD Ministry Sets up a new Regional Institute of Education at Nellore
The Ministry of Human Resource Development is setting up a new Regional Institute of Education (NIE) at Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. HRD Minister, Shri Prakash Javadekar laid down the foundation stone on December 27 jointly with Shri. M. Venkaiah Naidu, the Union Urban Development Minister.
♦ The State Government has allotted 50 acres of land free of cost on the National Highway at Kanupuru Bit-II, near NH-16 Venkatachalm Mandal, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh for the institute.
Benefits of the Project
i. The apex body of Government of India on School Education, NCERT, currently has 5 RIEs in the country at Ajmer, Bhopal, Bhubaneswar, Mysore and Shillong. With the establishment of the new RIE would strengthen the education system within the state as well as neighbouring states of Telegana, Tamil Nadu, Pudduchery etc.
ii. The new institution at Nellore shall offer teacher education programmes like B.Sc/BA B.Ed, M.Ed, Ph.D etc. and would undertake research and development of Resource Materials on school and teacher education.
iii. The institute will help in capacity building of Teachers and Teacher Educators besides strengthen implementation of Government of India Schemes like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), Rashtriya Madhyamik Shiksha Abhiyan (RMSA), ICT in schools.
iv. It would also strengthen linkages among State Education Agencies besides addressing educational needs of the States.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Report finds India as second largest arms purchaser after Saudi Arabia
i. As per the report of ‘Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations 2008-2015′ released by Congressional Research Service (CRS), India has emerged as the second largest purchaser of arms among developing nations after Saudi Arabia.
ii. According to the report, between 2008 and 2015, India purchased defence equipment worth $34 billion while in the same period, Saudi Arabia’s purchase was worth $93.5 billion.
iii. The report highlights the recent Indian efforts to diversify its procurement of arms, of which the US has been a major beneficiary. India is planning for continuous modernisation plan for its defence forces.

China operationalises world’s longest bullet train line
i. China has started the operations of the longest east-west high-speed railway, which connects eastern coast to the less-developed southwestern part of the country.It is one of the world’s longest high-speed railways.
ii. The Shanghai-Kunming line is 2,252 km in length with the maximum speed of 330 kmph and traverses the five provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guizhou and Yunnan and cuts travel time from Shanghai to Kunming from 34 to 11 hours.
iii. China has built more than 20,000 km of high-speed rail lines.It also planned to increase the mileage to 45,000 km by 2030.
Points to Remember :
♦ World’s highest and longest glass-bottomed bridge has opened in central China.
♦ China commissions world’s largest radio telescope “Five-hundred-meter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST) in the remote Pingtang county in southwest China’s Guizhou province.

BANKING & FINANCE

Twitter partners with ICICI Bank for advanced customer care
i. Social Networking Service Twitter and Mumbai based ICICI Bank announced a partnership to enable customers with direct online response to their queries and feedback in real-time.
ii. With this ICICI Bank become the first bank in India to implement the Twitter based customer serives @ICICIBank_Care.
iii. Twitter has introduced the new customer care features for businesses includes Display a ‘Message’ button on their profile for customers to send a Direct Message, Indicate to customers that tTwitter & ICICIhe business provides support on Twitter, Guide users from a public conversation to a private message with one button, Get instant Customer Feedback after a service interaction
iv. Last year ICICI bank introduced money transfer services on Twitter for the first time in Asia.
Key People :
♦ ICICI Bank CEO :  Chanda Kochhar
♦ Twitter CEO :Jack Dorsey

Kerala’s Nedumkayam tribal colony becomes country’s first digital colony
i. The Nedumkayam tribal colony in Malappuram district of Kerala has become the first fully-digital tribal colony in the country. The district collector, Amit Meena on December 27 officially declared the colony as the first digital and cashless colony at a function held in the colony.
ii. In an attempt to go completely cashless, Malappuram district had launched a digital initiative to train the people of the village on digital transaction.
iii. Adequate training was imparted to the entire tribal people of the colony in cashless transaction and digital literacy. The training was completed with the support of National Service Scheme, volunteers of an Arts and Science College at Kondotty and Jan Sikshan Sansthan, of Malappuram district.
iv .The community centre of the colony was made WI-FI enabled with the assistance of NGO Jan Shikshan Sansthan (JSS) to help residents carry out cashless transaction without difficulty.
v. As part of formal launch of the project, every member of the colony sent Rs 5 to the account of district collector using smart phones and the collector returned Rs 25 to each of them through online transaction.
vi. The village in Malappuram district, located about 400kms from Kerala’s capital, though lags behind in many ways, but the colony has now become a model for the rest of the country.

AU Financiers (India) gets RBI’s final approval to start Small Finance Bank
i. Jaipur-based Non-Banking Finance Company (NBFC)Au Financiers (India), received final approval of the Reserve Bank of India on December 27 to start operations as Small Finance Bank in India.
ii. The company was among the 10 entities that received in-principle approval of RBI in September 2015 to set up small finance banks.
iii. Unlike payments banks, small finance banks can lend, besides taking deposits. These entities are expected to strengthen the banking network in the rural areas, which are mostly serviced by regional rural banks, co-operative banks and microfinance institutions (MFIs).
iv. Au Financiers(India) has operations in 10 states with 300 branches and finances commercial and personal vehicle loans, as well as caters to micro, small and medium enterprises.
v. On September 30, 2016, its net worth was Rs 1,678 crore while the assets under management were Rs 9,368 crore. The company offers commercial and personal vehicle loans and credit to micro, small and medium enterprises. It has earned a net profit of Rs 661 crore for the half-year ended September.

MobiKwik gets in-principle approval of RBI to set up Payment System
Mobiwiki launched mobile app 'MobiKwik Lite 'i. MobiKwik, a mobile wallet firm has received an in-principle approval from the RBI on December 28 to set up a Bharat Bill Payments Operating Unit (BBPOU).
ii. The company will now be integrated in Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS), a bill payment system by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), to offer interoperable and accessible bill payment service to customers through a network of agents.

RBI allows FPIs to invest directly in NCDs/bonds issued by Indian companies
i. Reserve Bank of India has issued notification allowed foreign portfolio investors to transact in non-convertible debentures/bonds issued by Indian companies either directly or in any manner as per the prevalent/approved market practice.
ii. Aim: Toproviding flexibility in regard to the manner in which such instruments issued by Indian companies can be acquired by FPIs

BUSINESS

Center cancels licences of 20,000 NGOs for violating FCRA
i. Home Minister Rajnath Singh on December 27 announced that the Centre has cancelled the licences of nearly 20,000 NGOs since 2015 for violating various provisions of Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA).
ii. These NGOs have been barred from receiving any foreign funds. Of the 33,000 such registered organisations in the country, only 13,000 NGOs are now legally valid to receive foreign funds.
iii. The Home Ministry took this decision after an inquiry was conducted into the functioning of the NGOs whose FCRA licenses had recently been renewed. This inquiry into the functioning of the NGOs started about a year ago and the process is still continuing.
iv .Of the 20,000 NGOs, FCRA licences of over 9,500 NGOs were cancelled in 2015 and the rest did not apply for renewal after their licence lapsed in 2016.
v. Among the 13,000 valid NGOs, around 3,000 have submitted applications for renewal while home ministry received 2,000 new applications for registration under the FCRA for the first time. An additional 300 NGOs are currently under prior permission category but not registered under the FCRA.
vi. FCRA licences of 16 NGOs were renewed by the MHA under the “automatic” routes, 14 NGOs have been put under the prior permission category while papers of two NGOs are under examination. FCRA licence is given for five years.
vii. As per FCRA, if an NGO is put under prior permission category, it is barred to receive foreign funding from abroad without taking permission from the home ministry.

APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS

Viral V. Acharya Appointed as the Fourth Deputy Governor of RBI
i. Government has appointed Viral V. Acharya, a professor of economics at New York University, as one of the Reserve Bank of India’s four deputy governors for a term of Viral V. Acharyathree years on December 28, 2016.
ii. The RBI had a vacancy for deputy governor after Urjit Patel was made RBI Governor to succeed Rajan with effect from September 4. The existing three Deputy Governors of RBI are S S Mundra, N S Vishwanathan and R Gandhi.
iii. Acharya teaches at the Stern School of Business in New York University. He has research interests in regulation of banks, corporate finance, credit risk and asset pricing.
iv. Acharya has also co-authored in the past at least three papers with the former RBI governor including ‘Sovereign debt, government myopia, and the financial sector’, ‘The Internal Governance of Firms’ and ‘Government Myopia and Debt in a Dynamic Setting.
v. The applications were invited from prospective candidates to fill the post by putting out an advertisement on September 29. RBI received nearly 90 applications of people belonging to diverse backgrounds till October 21, which was the last date for sending applications.

Soli Sorabjee re-elected IIC president
i. Former attorney general Soli J Sorabjee was elected president of the India International Centre (IIC) for a second consecutive term by the board of directors of IIC on December 26, 2016
ii. Sorabjee has been working for IIC for the last two decades.He is well known to have given up cases in the Supreme Court and Delhi High Court to be able to devote time for IIC affairs.
India International Centre (IIC) :
♦ The India International Centre (IIC) is a well known non-official organisation situated in New Delhi.
♦ Its foundation stone was laid in 1960 by Japanese prince Akihito

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Centre launches IVRS platform to address the problem of call drops 
i. Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has launched an Integrated Voice Response System (IVRS) system in Delhi, Mumbai, Punjab, UP, Uttarakhand, Maharashtra and Goa. It will be extended to others states.
ii. Aim : To obtain direct feedback from subscribers and use that feedback to solve the problem of call drops.
iii. Subscribers will receive an IVRS call from the short code 1955. They will be asked a few questions on the subject of call drops. The feedback of the subscribers will be shared with the Telecom Service Providers.

2 high-resolution remote sensing satellites successfully launched by China
i. China successfully launched two High-Resolution Remote Sensing Satellites on December 28, 2016 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre in Shanxi Province to get 2 high-resolution remote sensing satellites successfully launched by Chinacommercial images.
ii. The satellites, SuperView-1 01/02, blasted off on Long March 2D rocket. They are able to provide commercial images at 0.5-meter resolution.
iii. Before the launch of the satellite, a white paper was released on December 27 which included the report about the proposal of the nation’s government.
iv. The paper said that China plans to form a BeiDou network consisting of 35 satellites for global navigation services by 2020. It is expected to compete with America’s Global Positioning system.
v .China also has plans to start providing basic services to countries along the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st-century Maritime Silk Road in 2018, it said.
vi. Besides satellite services China will launch a lunar probe in 2018 to achieve world’s first soft landing on the far side of the Moon to show case its ambitious space programme, which included several manned missions, building permanent space station and reaching to Mars.

ENVIRONMENT

Study finds Birds with larger brain cope better in climate change than less brainy ones.
i. According to a study published in the journal Nature Communications, birds with larger brain better adjust in the fluctuating and harsh climate for finding food, shelter and protection from predators than the ones with smaller brains.
ii. As per a study conducted by Researchers from the University of Bath in the UK, over 1,200 bird species sample was surveyed to find whether large brains relative to body size are more prevalent in a harsh and unpredictable climate than smaller ones.
iii. The study found that birds living in highly seasonal environments such as in polar regions, have significantly larger brains than those at the equator.
iv. It also showed that birds living in habitats with an unpredictable climate, such as places where there are extreme fluctuations in weather from one year to the next, also had larger brains relative to their body size.

SPORTS

Meghalaya to host National Games 2022
i. Meghalaya CM Mukul Sangma handed over the documents to the Meghalaya State Olympic Association (MSOA) to begin the bidding process for hosting the National Games 2022.
ii. Mr. Sangama also handed over a cheque of Rs 50 lakh on behalf of the state government and letters of support to the MSOA.
iii. Only two states in North East have hosted the National Games, Manipur in 1999 and Assam in 2007.

Azhar Ali rewrites record books with historic double ton vs Australia
Azhar Alii. Azhar Ali became the first Pakistan batsman to score a double century in a Test in Australia and also became the fourth batsman to score a double ton at the MCG.
ii.  Mr.Ali also became the fifth Pakistan batsman to score a double century in Tests against Australia.iii. He joined Saleem Malik, Younis Khan, Javed Miandad and Taslim Arif as the other players to have smashed a double ton.

OBITUARY

Iconic ‘Star Wars’ Actress Carrie Fisher Dies at 60
i. Carrie Fisher, the actress best known as Star Wars‘ Princess Leia Organa, has died after suffering a heart attack. She was 60.
ii. She had recently been undertaking a book tour for her autobiography, “The Princess Diarist”, making headlines with her mischievous confessions about her youthful affair with Harrison Ford.

BJP Leader and Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Sunderlal Patwa Dies at 92
i. Veteran Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and two-times Madhya Pradesh chief minister Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Sunderlal PatwaSunderlal Patwa passed away at Bansal Private Hospital in Bhopal on December 28 after suffering a severe heart attack. He was 92.
ii. Sunderlal Patwa was born on 11 November, 1924 at Kukdeshwar in Mandsaur district of Madhya Pradesh.
iii. He was appointed chief minister for a brief period of two months in the year 1980 and again from 1990 to 1992.