Daily Current Affairs - 14th January, 2016


International

Conference of Quadrilateral Coordination Group (QCG) on Afghan Peace and Reconciliation process was held in Islamabad on 11 January 2016. The purpose of the conference was to explore ways to create consensus for talks between the Taliban and Afghanistan's government. The conference was participated representatives from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US. The group will again meet in Kabul on 18 January 2016 to hold discussions on a roadmap. The talks for peace process aims at preserving Afghanistan’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity. 

Quadrilateral Coordination Group: 
• The four-nation group was set up in 2015 to expedite the process of reconciliation in the war-torn country after decades of bloodshed. 
• The first round was held in July 2015 but the process was suspended in the same month after news of Taliban Chief Mullah Omar's death was announced. The group also reiterated their commitment to the realization of objectives expressed in their statement from the quadrilateral meeting held on the sidelines of the Heart of Asia Conference in Islamabad on 9 December 2015. 


National


Kerala has become the first State in India to attain complete primary education. Vice-President Dr. Hamid Ansari formally declared the State as the first one to achieve the target. Kerala was declared the first fully literate State in the country in April 1991. 



Jharkhand government has decided to add the ongoing crisis of drinking water in the list of special local disasters of the State. The decision was taken in a Cabinet meeting and it will cover those districts where the rainfalls have been less than 75 percent of the normal or where the groundwater level has gone below by four meters or more. 



The 20th National Youth Festival was on 12 January 2016 inaugurated by Union Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari at Rajyostav Sthal in Naya Raipur, Chhattisgarh to mark the National Youth Day. The five day long annual festival is celebrated by the Union Government in partnership with a state government on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. 

For the 20th National Youth Festival, Chhattisgarh was chosen as the partner state with the theme "India Youth for Skill, Development and Harmony." 

• On this occasion, Tata Group announced that it would establish 40 skill centres. 
• Mascot: Wild Buffalo, the state animal of Chhattisgarh, in famous dancing pose was chosen as the mascot of the event. 
• The mascot was named as Sanghi (friend), which symbolises strength, gives message of physical fitness to youth of nation and its dancing pose signifies festive zeal. 



Reliance Defence Ltd, a unit of Anil Ambani led Reliance Infrastructure Ltd led on 10 January 2016 signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Andhra Pradesh Government to set up a world class naval facility in the state. The announcement regarding the MoU was made at Andhra Partnership Summit in Visakhapatnam. 

The proposed facility will be established with an initial investment of 5000 crore rupees. And, it will be setup on the East Coast of India at Rambilli, which is 70 kilometers south of Visakhapatnam. Earlier, in March 2015, Reliance acquired the Pipavav shipyard on West Coast in Gujarat. These two facilities will build submarines and aircraft carriers and also provide services including maintenance and refitting of ships. 



Union Minister for Fertilizers and Chemicals Ananth Kumar on 12 January 2016 announced the sanction of -
1. Greenfield petrochemical complex and National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) in Visakhapatnam and 
2.  Central Institute of Plastics Engineering & Technology (CIPET) in Vijayawada. 

The announcement was made at Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) partnership summit 2016 in Visakhapatnam. The proposed petrochemical complex will be constructed by public sector companies Hindustan Petroleum Corporation Limited (HPCL) and Gas Authority of India Limited (GAIL). This would be an additional Medical Devices Park to the prior announced one in Gujarat in December 2015. Greenfield petrochemical complex, will have a potential investment of 20000 crore rupees will be manufacturing medical devices and NIPER would help meet the demand for specialized manpower for making Visakhapatnam as a pharmaceutical hub.



The 22nd edition of Confederate of Indian Industry (CII) Partnership Summit -cum-Sunrise Andhra Pradesh Investment Summit was concluded on 12 January 2016 at Vishakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh. The summit was held in cooperation with the Government of Andhra Pradesh and the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Government of India. The summit, which commenced on 10 January 2016, was organised to showcase investment opportunities in Sunrise Andhra Pradesh. 

Key highlights of the Summit: 
• Medical devices manufacturing park will be established in Andhra Pradesh with a potential investment of 20000 crore rupees. 
• Andhra Pradesh became first state to release retail policy. 
• Anil Ambani-led Reliance Group signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Andhra Pradesh to set up naval facility in Vishakhapatnam. 
• Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Limited inked MoU with Andhra Pradesh Government for investment of 38500 crore rupees. 
• Union government announced the sanction of greenfield petrochemical complex and National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER) in Visakhapatnam and a Central Institute of Plastics Engineering & Technology (CIPET) in Vijayawada. 



Nitin Gadkari, Minister for Shipping and Transport said that the government has set a target to increase waterways transportation from 3.5 per cent to 15 per cent by this year. He was speaking in a conference on Coastal Shipping and Inland Waterways organised in Mumbai. Quoting water transportation in other countries, he said that China has 47-49 per cent waterways transportation whereas Korea has 43-44 per cent, European countries have 40 per cent. 

He also said that government has zero tolerance policy in corruption. While asserting that port development is a must to boost GDP, Mr Gadkari announced that three major ports will soon be started. The one is Wadhavan port in Maharashtra and two other are Kolachal and Sagar port in Kerala. 

Around Rs 18 to Rs 20 crore will be invested in these ports. He further said that tenders for the same will be invited in March and from late April everything work will be started. Gadkari also announced 40 percent subsidy for development of ports and other infrastructure for inland river waterways through which employment for around 50 lakh is expected to be generated across the country. 



The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the ‘Pradhan MantriFasalBima Yojana’ - a path breaking scheme for farmers’ welfare. 

The highlights of this scheme are as under: 
i) There will be a uniform premium of only 2% to be paid by farmers for all Kharif crops and 1.5% for all Rabi crops. In case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, the premium to be paid by farmers will be only 5%. The premium rates to be paid by farmers are very low and balance premium will be paid by the Government to provide full insured amount to the farmers against crop loss on account of natural calamities. 
ii) There is no upper limit on Government subsidy. Even if balance premium is 90%, it will be borne by the Government. 
iii) Earlier, there was a provision of capping the premium rate which resulted in low claims being paid to farmers. This capping was done to limit Government outgo on the premium subsidy. This capping has now been removed and farmers will get claim against full sum insured without any reduction. 
iv) The use of technology will be encouraged to a great extent. Smart phones will be used to capture and upload data of crop cutting to reduce the delays in claim payment to farmers. 

Remote sensing will be used to reduce the number of crop cutting experiments. The new Crop Insurance Scheme is in line with One Nation – One Scheme theme. It incorporates the best features of all previous schemes and at the same time, all previous shortcomings/weaknesses have been removed. 



The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for India becoming a member country of the International Energy Agency - Ocean Energy Systems (IEA-OES) by signing the Implementing Agreement (IA). The nodal agency for the membership would be Earth System Science Organisation - National Institute of Ocean Technology (ESSO-NIOT) under the Ministry of Earth Sciences. 

By becoming a member of the IEA-OES, India will have access to advanced R&D teams and technologies across the world. India will partner in developing test protocols along with other countries. This will help in testing Indian prototypes as per international requirements and norms. Joint cooperative programs with institutes of member countries could be taken up. India's own research projects with specific targets can be taken up in conjunction with other countries. 

The IEA is an inter-governmental organization with a broad role of promoting alternate energy sources (including renewable energy), rational energy policies and multinational energy technology co¬operation and acts as energy policy advisor to 29 member countries. 

The OES, launched in 2001, is an intergovernmental collaboration between countries, which operates under framework established by the International Energy Agency. This initiative is to advance research, development and demonstration of technologies to harness energy from all forms of ocean renewable resources, as well as for other uses, such as desalination etc. through international cooperation and information exchange. 



First meeting of “National Medical & Wellness Tourism Promotion Board” was held under the Chairmanship of Dr. Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State (I/C) for Tourism & Culture & Civil Aviation. 


Bilateral


The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its ex-post facto approval for the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Maldives which was signed in January, 2014 on cooperation in the field of Health. 

The Memorandum of Understanding covers the following areas of cooperation:- 
i. Exchange & training of medical doctors, officials, other health professionals and experts; 
ii. Assistance in development of human resources and setting up of health care facilities; 
iii. Medical and health research development; 
iv. Management of healthcare sector and public health services; 
v. Procurement of generic and essential drugs and assistance in sourcing of drug supplies; vi. Health promotion and disease prevention; 
vii. Traditional and; complementary Medicine 
viii. Telemedicine; and 
ix. Any other area of cooperation as may be mutually decided upon. 

This MoU will facilitate greater cooperation between the two countries, especially for assisting Maldives for development of human resources and facilities for healthcare. Enhanced cooperation in the field of health will foster great friendship and relations between the two countries.



The Government signed a loan agreement with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for pollution abatement of River Mula-Mutha in Pune under National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) in the presence of Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Shri Prakash Javadekar. The Government of Japan has committed to provide a soft loan of 19.064 billion Yen (about Rs. 1000 crore) to Government of India for the project at an interest rate of 0.30% per annum. Speaking soon after the agreement was signed, Shri Javadekar termed it a ‘historic agreement’. 

The Minister also said that it marked the beginning of a new chapter of cooperation with Japan. The loan assistance for the project has been approved by the Union Finance Ministry at an estimated cost of Rs. 990.26 crore. The project cost will be shared between Government of India and Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC), the implementing agency for the project, in the ratio of 85:15 respectively. The share of Central Government in project will be Rs. 841.72 crore and share of PMC would be Rs. 148.54 crore. The loan has to be repaid by Government of India in a period of 40 years, including a 10-year grace period. The project is scheduled to be completed by January, 2022. 


Economy

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said that the focus will continue on governance reforms in banking and there is considerable improvement in opening of basic savings bank deposit accounts under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana. During his Pre-Budget Consultative Meeting with the representatives of Banks and Financial Institutions in New Delhi, Mr Jaitley said that Basic Savings Bank Deposit Accounts reached 440 million for the period ended September 2015. 

The Finance Minister said the setting-up of Bank Board Bureau will replace the Appointment Board for appointment of Whole time Directors as well as Non-Executive Chairman of Public Sector Banks to formulate appropriate strategies for their growth and development.



In order to weed out a large number of illiquid stocks, capital market regulator, SEBI has relaxed the de-listing norms for small companies with thinly traded shares. Under the revised norms, small listed firms in which trading has been less than 10 per cent of the total shares in the last 12 months can delist from stock exchanges. 

Till now, only those companies whose shares had not been traded for the preceding one year were allowed to de-list. There are more than 1,000 small companies where trading has been negligible for several years. However, the exit price for such delisting should not be lower than the floor price determined through the reverse book building process. 


Awards


Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan on 12 January 2016 was bestowed honorary life membership of Kolkata’s soccer outfit Mohammedan Sporting. Sporting president Sultan Ahmed handed over the club’s life membership to Bachchan. Bachchan was also invited to be the chief guest of the club’s 125th anniversary gala event to be held later in 2016. 

About Mohammedan Sporting Club: 
• Mohammedan Sporting Club was founded in 1891 at Kolkata. 
• It is one of the oldest and leading football clubs in India. 
• At present, the club plays in the I-League 2nd Division and premier division of Calcutta Football League(CFL). 
• It was the first Indian club to win CFL in 1934 and continued their run till 1938 season. 
• The club also became the first Indian club to win the Durand Cup in 1940. 
• After Independence, the club also became the first Indian club to win on foreign soil by lifting the Aga Khan Gold Cup in 1960. 
• Mohammedan Sporting along with Mohun Bagan A.C. and East Bengal F.C. are tagged as the Big Three. 



The Employees’ Provident Fund Organization won the National Award on e-Governance 2015-16 for launching the Universal Account Number (UAN). The Union Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions will present the award in the 19th National Conference on e-governance to be held in Nagpur on 22 January 2016. The EPFO bagged the national award in the   category and the retirement body will get a cash prize of 200000 rupees. 

What is Universal Account Number (UAN)? 
• UAN is an e-initiative of EPFO, launched in July 2014. 
• In this initiative, all active employees are provided a universal number which can be linked to various provident fund account numbers provided to them while working in different organisations.
• Statistically, 5.65 crore employees in 457000 organisations were allocated with UAN till November 2015. 
• A single account number can be used through all of workers’ employments with various organisations. 
• It enables the employees to switch their provident fund deposits automatically, when they change their job, just by providing UAN to the new employer. 
• It also allows employees to have access to their provident fund account to view their balance and deposits on the portal, without going through the Employer. 
These are presented every year to recognize and promote excellence in implementation of e-Governance initiatives. 

The purpose of the award is to: 
• Recognize achievements in the area of e-Governance 
• Disseminate knowledge on effective methods of designing and implementing sustainable e-Governance initiatives 
• Encourage incremental innovations in successful e-Governance solutions 
• Promote and exchange experiences in solving problems, mitigating risks, resolving issues and planning for success. 
There would be two awards for each category: 
Gold Award: It carries a certificate for the Project and one certificate to each team member not exceeding seven in numbers (including Project Head) along with cash award of 200000 rupees to be shared equally among eligible team members. 
Silver Award: It carries a certificate for the Project and one certificate to each team member not exceeding seven in numbers (including Project Head) along with cash award of 100000 rupees to be shared equally among eligible team members. 

Categories of awards
• Excellence in Government Process Re-engineering 
• Outstanding performance in Citizen-Centric Service Delivery 
• Innovative Use of Technology in e-Governance 
• Incremental Innovations in existing projects 
• Best District level initiative in citizen-centric service delivery through ICT 
• Innovative use of GIS Technology in e-Governance 
• Innovative use of mobile technology in e-Governance 
• Sectoral Award: (Focus Sector for 2015-16: Financial Inclusion) 
• Innovative Use of ICT by Central Government PSUs 
• Innovative Use of ICT by State Government PSUs/Cooperatives/Federations/Societies 
• Outstanding e-Governance initiative by Academic and Research institutions 
• Use of ICT for Development by Non-Government Institutions.


Person in News


Hall of Famer Monte Irvin, an outfielder who starred for the New York Giants in the 1950s, died on 11 January 2016 in Houston, Texas, the USA. He was 96. Irvin was the oldest living former Negro Leagues player. He lived in a retirement community in Houston prior to his death. 



The U.S.-India Business Council (USIBC) Board of Directors on 12 January 2016 selected Council board members Edward Monser, President of Emerson, and Punit Renjen, CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited (Deloitte Global), as USIBC Vice Chairs. 



Retired Lieutenant General and a key architect of India's victory in 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, JFR Jacob passed away in Army Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi. Jacob, then a Major General also served as the Chief of the Indian Army's Eastern Command. During his 36-year career in the army, he also fought in World War II and the Indo-Pakistan War of 1965. JFR Jacob later served as the Governor of the Indian states of Goa and Punjab. 


Science & Technology

An international team of scientists led by Indian-American Sukanya Chakrabarti devised a new method, galactoseismology, to detect dwarf galaxies dominated by dark matter. The method also explains ripples on the outer disk of the galaxy. Sukanya Chakrabarti, an assistant professor at Rochester Institute of Technology, New York, presented her findings at a press conference hosted by the American Astronomical Society meeting in Kissimmee on 7 January 2016. Findings were submitted to The Astrophysical Journal Letters. 

The discovered method use waves in the galactic disk to map the interior structure and mass of galaxies, much similar to seismologist who uses seismic waves to gather details about the interior of the earth. This method will help in the hunt for the mysterious space phenomenon. In the process, the team used the spectroscopic observations to calculate the speed of three Cepheid variables in the Norma constellation.  

Cepheid variables are the stars that are used as yardsticks to calculate the distance of galaxies. The team used Cepheid variables to locate the dark matter dominated dwarf galaxy some 3 lakh light years away. In contrast, the disk of Milky Way Galaxy terminates some 48000 light years away from earth. The study tracks a cluster of Cepheid variables which are travelling at an average speed of 450000 miles per hour (MPH), that is, 437000 MPH faster than the stars in stellar disk of the Milky Way. Later they explained that the radial velocity is the proof they have been looking for, and it can be concluded that it is not a part of our galaxy. 

Dark Matter: Dark Matter is a hypothetical kind of matter that can’t be seen with telescopes but make up about 85 percent of the mass of the universe. It is one of the biggest quirks of modern day physics and has not been understood completely. The existence and properties of dark matter are inferred from its gravitational effects on visible matter, on radiation, and on the large-scale structure of the universe. Dark matter has not been detected directly, making it one of the greatest mysteries in modern astrophysics. 



Project Tango: Google’s 3D technology project that allows users to explore their physical environment on mobile devices without using external signals like GPS. The term Project Tango was in news in the second week of January 2016 as Lenovo, a Chinese multinational computer technology company, announced that it entered into a partnership with Google for the project. As part of the partnership, Lenovo will launch a new smartphone that can “see” and map out surroundings without external signals like satellite-based global positioning system (GPS). 

Features of Google’s Project Tango
• It gives a mobile device the ability to navigate the physical world, similar to how we do as humans, without using GPS or other external signals. 
• The project was unveiled by Google in June 2014 and has features like motion tracking, depth perception, area learning that are based on 3D technology. 
• It brings a new kind of spatial perception to mobiles and tablets by adding advanced computer vision, image processing, and special vision sensors. 
• The project works on various Android device platforms that run C, Java, and Unity. 
• It is an open project in the sense that it allows technology partners and developers community to develop to create new user experiences. 



NHAI has signed Memorandum of Understanding with National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) under Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and North East Centre for Technology Application and Research (NECTAR) for use of spatial technology for monitoring and managing National Highways. NHAI has been entrusted with National Highways Development Project (NHDP), along with other projects for development, maintenance and management of National Highways across the country. To accomplish this mandate, it is required to use advanced and multiple technologies to expedite project preparation, monitor construction progress, operation and maintenance and optimal management of its assets. 

ISRO is the nodal agency appointed by Govt. of India for Space Technology. National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC), a part of ISRO, is the focal point for distribution of remote sensing satellite data products in India. The NRSC supplies satellite data products acquired by Indian Satellites (ISRO) and also by the foreign satellite product companies. North East Centre for Technology Application and Research (NECTAR), Department of Science and Technology uses Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) for acquiring aerial images for infrastructure planning. 

The use of satellite data and geospatial technology will be useful in providing inputs in highway and infrastructure projects for preparation of DPR, prefeasibility status in new alignment, upgrade/road widening, monitoring of road segments under construction and Road Asset Management System. The use and benefits of unmanned aerial vehicle technology will be useful in monitoring, construction progress, Road Asset Management, feasibility report and DPR preparation, immediate assessment and remedy of problematic spots etc. 

NHAI will take up some pilot projects with both the organisations to identify and finalise actual use and benefits of both satellite data & geospatial technology and UAV technology in highway and infrastructure sector. A technical cell would also be set up which will run 24x7 to provide relevant project specific data using this technology to project report Consultants, Engineers, staff and users. 


Books


The book titled "Jawaharlal Nehru and The Indian Polity in Perspective" was released by the Vice President of India, Hamid Ansari on 12 January 2016 at Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala. 

The focus of the book is on the role of Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, on shaping the polity of modern India. The book was edited by Prof Alexander and with contributions from eminent persons like Justice K T Thomas, Dr Rajan Kurukkal, Dr B Vivekanandan, M G Radhakrishnan and others. It was published by T M Varghese Foundation. 


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