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Daily Current Affairs - 6th Jan, 2016

International


Sri Lanka and Pakistan on 5 January 2015 signed 8 Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) to enhance the cooperation between the two countries in several fields in Colombo. The MoUs were signed at the Presidential Secretariat in the presence of President of Sri Lanka Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif and Sri Lankan Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe. 

Following are the MoUs signed between the two countries: 
1. MoU between the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research of Sri Lanka and the Ministry of Science, Technology and Research of Pakistan on Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation 
2. MoU for Scientific and Technological Cooperation between the National Science Foundation (NSF) of Sri Lanka and Pakistan Science Foundation 
3. Agreement on Cooperation in the field of health between the governments of Sri Lanka and Pakistan 
4. MoU between the Financial Intelligence Unit of Sri Lanka and Financial Monitoring Unit of Pakistan on the cooperation in the exchange of financial intelligence related to money laundering and terrorism financing 
5. MoU between the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Wayamba Development and Cultural Affairs of Sri Lanka and Ministry of Information, Broadcasting and National Heritage of Pakistan on cultural cooperation 
6. MoU between the Export Development Board (EDB) and the Trade Development Authority of Pakistan (TDAP) regarding trade cooperation 
7. MoU on sharing of statistical census data between the Department of Census and Statistics of Sri Lanka and the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics 
8. MoU on cooperation between the Gem and Jewelery Research and Training Institute of Sri Lanka and Pakistan Institute of Fashion and Design. 



The book "Go Set a Watchman" written by Harper Lee was in news in the first week of January 2016 as it topped the 2015 US bestseller list. Around 1.6 million copies of the book were sold in the USA since it was published in July 2015. 



The world's largest blue star sapphire that weighs 1404.49 carats was discovered in a mine in Sri Lanka. The sapphire was found in August 2015 near Ratnapura city in the South of Sri Lanka. The stone is worth at an estimated cost of 100 million US dollars but could be valued up to 165 million US dollars. 

The sapphire has been named as The Star of Adam by its current owner. The name came from a Muslim belief that Adam arrived in Sri Lanka after being sent away from the Garden of Eden. As per the myth, Adam lived on the slopes of a mountain now known as Adam’s Peak, about 15 miles from Ratnapura. The Star of Adam Sapphire has also been certified by the Gemology Institute of Columbo, Sri Lanka. Current record of Blue Sapphires Prior to this discovery, the biggest blue star sapphire in the world was of 1395 carats. 

About Star Sapphires: 
• A star sapphire is a type of sapphire that has a star in the middle due to a light reflection phenomenon known as asterism. 
• The value of a star sapphire depends on the weight of the stone and also on the body color, visibility, and intensity of the asterism. 


National


The Department of Pension & Pensioner’s Welfare has launched an online software, ‘Anubhav’ for showcasing outstanding work by retiring employee and sharing experience of working with the Government. The software has been launched on the directions of the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi. It is envisaged that over a period of time, this will create a wealth of institutional memory with replicable ideas and suggestions. This tool in addition, gives opportunity to the retiring employee to invest his experience, skill and time for growth of social capital of the country. 

Workshops on ‘Anubhav’ have been organized during early last year for the Head of Offices/ Head of Departments of Ministries/ Departments and retiring employees to introduce the concept and the software application as well as to facilitate submission of write-ups by retiring employees. Ministries/ Department have been requested to conduct workshops on ‘Anubhav’ for their retiring employees to facilitate them to upload their write-ups. 

The Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi in his address to civil servants on Civil Service Day celebrations on 21st April 2015 desired that ‘Anubhav’ be nurtured and promoted as tool for creating a wealth of institutional memory. 



The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, on 6 January 2016 approved the “Stand Up India Scheme” to promote entrepreneurship among SC/ST and Women entrepreneurs. The Scheme is intended to facilitate at least two such projects per bank branch, on an average one for each category of entrepreneur. It is expected to benefit atleast 2.5 lakh borrowers. The expected date of reaching the target of at least 2.5 lakh approvals is 36 months from the launch of the Scheme. 

The Stand Up India Scheme provides for: 
• Refinance window through Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) with an initial amount of Rs. 10,000 crore. 
• Creation of a credit guarantee mechanism through the National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company (NCGTC). 
• Handholding support for borrowers both at the pre loan stage and during operations. This would include increasing their familiarity with factoring services, registration with online platforms and e-market places as well as sessions on best practices and problem solving. 

The details of the scheme are as follows: 
• Focus is on handholding support for both SC/ST and Women borrowers. 
• The overall intent of the approval is to leverage the institutional credit structure to reach out to these under-served sectors of the population by facilitating bank loans repayable up to 7 years and between Rs. 10 lakh to Rs. 100 lakh for greenfield enterprises in the non farm sector set up by such SC, ST and Women borrowers. 
• The loan under the scheme would be appropriately secured and backed by a credit guarantee through a credit guarantee scheme for which Department of Financial Services would be the settler and National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Ltd. (NCGTC) would be the operating agency. 
• Margin money of the composite loan would be up to 25%. Convergence with state schemes is expected to reduce the actual requirement of margin money for a number of borrowers. 
• Over a period of time, it is proposed that a credit history of the borrower be built up through Credit Bureaus. 

Background: 
The "Start up India Stand up India" initiative was announced by the PrimeMinister in his address to the nation on 15th August, 2015. 

The Stand up India component is anchored by Department of Financial Services (DFS) to encourage greenfield enterprises by SC/ST and Women entrepreneurs. 



The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved the proposal for taking up Hybrid Annuity based Public Private Partnership (PPP) model under Namami Gange Programme which aims to reform the wastewater sector in India. Marking a paradigm shift in the implementation mode, Hybrid Annuity based Public Private Partnership (PPP) model will now be adopted to ensure performance, efficiency, viability and sustainability. 

In this model, a part of the capital investment (upto 40%) will be paid by government through construction linked milestones and the balance through an annuity over the contract duration upto 20 years. Keeping in view the specialized nature of this model and to scale it up in future on sustainable basis, the Government is establishing a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) to plan, structure, procure concessionaires, monitor implementation of such PPP projects and develop market for treated waste water through appropriate policy advocacy under overall guidance of National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG). 

The SPV will be established under Indian Companies Act 2013 for providing required governance framework and enabling functional autonomy. The SPV would enter into a Tripartite Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with participating State Governments and concerned Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) for taking up individual projects. 



The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for the creation of a Credit Guarantee Fund for Micro Units Development Refinance Agency (MUDRA) loans and to convert MUDRA Ltd. into MUDRA Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) Bank as a wholly owned subsidiary of SIDBI. The Fund is expected to guarantee more than Rs 1,00,000 crore worth of loans to micro and small units in the first instance. 

The salient features of the scheme are as follows: 
(i) Establishment of Credit Guarantee Fund for MUDRA Units(CGFMU) for guaranteeing loans sanctioned under Pradhan Mantri Mudra Yojana with effect from 8th April, 2015 with the objective to reduce the credit risk to Banks / NBFCs / MFIs / other financial intermediaries, who are Member Lending Institutions (MLIs). 
(ii) The National Credit Guarantee Trustee Company Ltd. (NCGTC Ltd.), a wholly-owned company of Government of India, constituted under the Companies Act, 1956 (2013) to manage and operate various credit guarantee funds, shall be the Trustee of the Fund. 
(iii) The guarantee would be provided on portfolio basis to a maximum extent of 50% of Amount in Default in the portfolio. 

The MUDRA (SIDBI) Bank will undertake refinance operations and provide support services with focus on portal management; data analysis etc. apart from any other activity entrusted/ advised by Government of India. 

About MUDRA: 
MUDRA Bank and a Credit Guarantee Fund was proposed to be set up with a refinance corpus of Rs. 20,000 crore and a corpus of Rs.3,000 crore respectively as per the Budget Speech for 2015-16. 

As a precursor to the launch of the Pradhan Mantri MUDRA Yojana (PMMY) in April, 2015, MUDRA Ltd. was set up as a corporate subsidiary of SIDBI in March, 2015. 

The RBI has allocated Rs 20,000 crore and the first tranche’ of Rs 5000 crore has been received by MUDRA as refinance. 



Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) has decided to deploy about 300 women commandos for undertaking anti-Naxal operations in select Left-wing Extremism-affected states. The decision was announced on 5 January 2016 by CRPF Director General Prakash Mishra while announcing the hosting of 7th National Conference of Women in Police. 

The women squad, comprising about three companies (300 personnel) will be based in areas of West Bengal and Jharkhand where the anti-Naxal offensive is not as tricky and challenging as may be in Chhattisgarh and Bihar. The women personnel, once deployed, will be operating from active CRPF bases and will carry arms and undertake patrols like their male counterparts. 

There are specific reasons and operational benefits for deploying women combatants in Left Wing Extreme areas. They can interact with the local women folk which not only helps in gathering good intelligence, it also helps in bringing forces closer to the locals and villagers. Recently, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) had also announced that it will post its women personnel in full combat role at its units along the Sino-Indian border. 



Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh on 5 January 2016 approved the 33 percent posts at constable level to be filled up by women. The step was taken with a view to enhance representation of women in Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs). 

According to an official statement, the 33 percent reservation of women constable level posts would be in CRPF and CISF and 14-15 percent posts would be in border guarding forces that is BSF, SSB & ITBP. This reservation would be horizontal. Background The Committee on Empowerment of Women in its Sixth Report (Recommendation No.84) of the (2010-11) had recommended urgent need to provide due representation to women in paramilitary forces. 



The Union Minister of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation Uma Bharti on 5 January 2016 launched Ganga Gram Yojana at Village Puth in Hapur district of Uttar Pradesh (UP). Under the scheme, 1600 villages of UP situated along the banks of river Ganga will be developed. 

Highlights of the Ganga Gram Yojana: 
• In the first phase of the progamme, 200 villages have been selected initially. 
• In these villages, open drains falling into river Ganga will be diverted and alternative arrangements for sewage treatment will be made. 
• The villages will have toilets in every house hold. 
• It is proposed to incur the expenditure of 1 crore rupees on every village. 
• These villages will be developed under the Sichewal model.

Sichewal is situated in Punjab, where cooperation of the villagers has been solicited for the water management and waste disposal. The Ministry also deployed first company of Ganga Task force Battalion at Garhmukteshwar as a major initiative towards fast track implementation of Namami Gange Programme. Moreover, three such companies will be soon deployed at Kanpur, Varanasi and Allahabad. 



The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for offering attractive VRS / VSS packages at 2007 pay scales to mitigate the hardships being faced by the employees of HMT Watches Ltd., HMT Chinar Watches Ltd. and HMT Bearings Ltd. and close their operations. The movable and immovable assets of the companies will be disposed of as per the Govt. policy. With a cash assistance of Rs. 427.48 crore, the three loss making subsidiaries of HMT Ltd. namely HMT Watches Ltd,, HMT Chinar Watches Ltd., HMT Bearings Ltd., will attain closure after separation of about a thousand employees through attractive VRS /VSS and settlement of their dues. 

Background: 
There are 31 CPSEs under the Department of Heavy Industry engaged in manufacturing, consultancy and contracting services. Out of these, 12 are making profits. The remaining 19 CPSEs are incurring losses. 

The Department of Heavy Industry has been undertaking appraisals of each loss making CPSE to assess the prospects of revival. As a part of this exercise, the loss making CPSEs having the potential of turn around are revived and those found chronically sick are disinvested or closed down after payment of due compensation to employees.


Corporate


The Competition Commission of India (CCI) on 5 January 2016 gave its approval to Reliance Capital Asset Management's proposed acquisition of Goldman Sachs' mutual fund business in India for 243 crore rupees

CCI approved the acquisition as the deal may not have an adverse impact on competition in the country. After CCI’s nod, Reliance Capital Asset Management (RCAM) will seek the final nod of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to complete the takeover. 


Bilateral


The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its ex-post facto approvalfor signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which was signed in November, 2015 between Airports Authority of India (On behalf of Government of India) and Singapore Cooperation Enterprise (On behalf of Government of Singapore) in Civil Aviation during Prime Minister’s visit to Singapore.  

The objective of this MoU is to establish mutual cooperation in the field of civil aviation, which will cover, to begin with, the airports of Jaipur and Ahmedabad. This cooperation will be extended to other airports with mutual consent. 

The salient features of the MoU include collaboration in Civil Aviation Sector in the areas of (a) Master-planning and design (b) Traffic development (c) Commercial development (d) Service quality improvement (e) Training and development (f) Cargo handling and Management (g) Maintenance, repair and overhaul (h) Operation and management and (i) any other areas with mutual consent. 

Government of Singapore owns one of the best managed airports in the world, which has consistently maintained its ranking for last many years. A need was felt that in order to ensure high standards of service at Ahmedabad and Jaipur airports, Airport Authority of India (AAI) may enter into operation and maintenance (O&M) contracts, either with or without the responsibility of maximization of non-aeronautical revenue in the terminal building (excluding land on city side and air side).



The Union Cabinet under the Chairmanship of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its ex-post facto approval to the Agreement between India and Bahrain on Cooperation in Combating International Terrorism, Transnational Organized Crime and Trafficking in Illicit Drugs, Narcotic and Psychotropic Substances and Precursors Chemicals and its ratification. The MOU shall come into force from the date of exchange of the instruments of ratification. 

The Agreement aims to improve the effectiveness of both countries in the prevention, investigation, prosecution and suppression of crimes including crime relating to terrorism, transnational organized crime and drug trafficking. It will help establish framework for enhancing cooperation between the officials of intelligence and law-enforcement agencies of the two countries. 



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 Bangladesh for:
(i) MoU and Mode of Operation of Border Haats signed on 23.10.2010 with Bangladesh for setting up Border Haats on India-Bangladesh Border, 
(ii) addendum to the MoU signed on 15.5.2012; 
(iii) to establish new Border Haats after identification of suitable locations in consultation with Government of Bangladesh and concerned State Governments and 
(iv) to modify/revise the terms and condition of the above MoU/Addendum in consultation with relevant State Governments/Central Government agencies and Government of Bangladesh. 

The Border Haats aim at promoting the well-being of the people dwelling in remote areas across the borders of two countries, by establishing traditional system of marketing the local produce thorough local markets in local currency and/or barter basis. Though not significant as a percentage of bilateral trade, these measures help to improve economic well-being of marginalised sections of society.

The following Border Haats are already operational: 
1. Kalaichar (Meghalaya-Bangladesh border) 
2. Balat (Meghalaya-Bangladesh border) 
3. Kamlasagar (Tripura-Bangladesh border) 
4. Srinagar (Tripura-Bangladesh border) 

In addition, both the Government agreed to further establish two Border Haats in Tripura and four Border Haats in Meghalaya on the Bangladesh border. 


Economy


To improve capacity utilisation of pellet plants and boost the sector, Union Government on 5 January 2016 reduced export duty on iron ore pellets to zero from 5 percent. A notification in this regard was issued by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC). The move will make the commodity more competitive amid subdued demand and weakening prices. Iron ore pellet makers as well as some miners had earlier sought a reduction in the export duty on iron ore to make it more competitive. 

Steel and its related raw material market is facing a tough time on account of subdued demand and high production, adversely impacting the prices. Earlier in 2014, the government levied a 5 percent export duty on iron ore pellets, which are value-added products of leftover material or low-grade iron ore and are used in steel-making. 



Andhra Bank on 6 January 2016 launched Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) across all its branches in association with the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI). The service makes payments possible within fraction of seconds with all the standards and integrity maintained for security.

National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI):
National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) is an umbrella organization for all retail payments system in India. It was set up with the guidance and support of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). NPCI was incorporated in December 2008 and the Certificate of Commencement of Business was issued in April 2009. It was incorporated as a Section 25 company under Companies Act 1956 (now Section 8 of Companies Act 2013) and is aimed to operate for the benefit of all the member banks and their customers. 

Immediate Payment Service Immediate Payment Service (IMPS) is one of the electronic funds transfer systems of India. It was started in November 2010. The service enables an instant, 24X7, interbank electronic fund transfer through mobile, internet and ATM. The service is not only safe but also economical both in financial and non financial perspectives. 


Sports


15-year-old Pranav Dhanawade of Mumbai on 5 January 2016 became first cricketer ever to score 1000 runs in an innings. With this he became the world’s highest individual scorer in all forms of cricket. Pranav, batting for KC Gandhi Higher Secondary School for over two-days, scored unbeaten 1009 runs in a match against Arya Gurukul in the Bhandari Cup inter-school tournament. The event was organised by the Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA). The epic knock ended when his school declared at 1465/3, which is also a world record. His school went past Victoria’s 1107 against New South Wales made in 1926. 

• Pranav scored an unbeaten 1009 in 323 balls with strike rate of 312.38 which comprised of 129 fours and 59 sixes. 
• At the international level, he broke the 116-old cricketing record of 628 (not out) made by AEJ Collins in 1899 for Clark House against North Town House of the UK. 
• At the national level, he surpassed Prithvi Shaw’s 546 runs scored made against St Francis D’Assissi in the Harris Shiled game in 2013. 
• Before Pranav’s innings, it had been the highest individual score in any form of cricket in the country. 


New Appointments


Lieutenant General Suresh Sharma has taken over as the 24th Director General Border Roads (DGBR) on 6 January 2016. Lt Gen Suresh Sharma was commissioned into Corps of Engineers from Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and has attended all prestigious courses of the Indian Army including Staff Course at Defence Service Staff College, Wellington, Higher Defence Management Course at College of Defence Management, Secunderabad and the National Defence College, New Delhi. 



Filippo Grandi on 1 January 2016 took over as the new High Commissioner for the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Grandi succeeded Antonio Guterres, a former Portuguese Prime Minister, who retired on 31 December 2015 after heading the Refugee Agency for 10 years. Grandi took over the position amid unprecedented displacement challenges, with worldwide forced displacement of people reaching a new post-World War-II high of 59.5 million.


Awards


The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on 5 January 2016 presented the ninth BCCI Awards 2014-15 at a ceremony held in Mumbai. The awards were presented by the BCCI president, Shashank Manohar. The awards recognise and honour the best Indian international and domestic cricketers of the past year.

Award
Winner
Col. C.K. Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award
Syed Kirmani
Polly Umrigar Trophy for International Cricketer-of-the-Year
Virat Kohli
Lala Amarnath Award for Best All-Rounder in Ranji Trophy
Jalaj Saxena (Madhya Pradesh)
Lala Amarnath Award for Best all-Rounder in Domestic Limited-Over Competitions
Deepak Hooda (Baroda)
Madhavrao Scindia Awards for Highest Scorer in Ranji Trophy
Robin Uthappa (Karnataka)
Madhavrao Scindia Awards for Highest Wicket-Taker in Ranji Trophy
R. Vinay Kumar (Karnataka)
 Shardul Thakur (Mumbai)
MA Chidambaram Trophy for Best under-23 Cricketer
Almas Shaukat (Uttar Pradesh)
MA Chidambaram Trophy for Best under-19 Cricketer
Anmolpreet Singh (Punjab)
MA Chidambaram Trophy for Best under-16 Cricketer
Shubman Gill (Punjab)
MA Chidambaram Trophy for Best Woman Cricketer-Senior
Mithali Raj (Railways)
MA Chidambaram Trophy for Best Woman Cricketer-Junior
Devika Vaidya (Maharashtra)
Best Umpire in Domestic Cricket
O. Nandan



Former Indian Wicket-Keeper Syed Kirmani was on 5 January 2016 awarded with the 2015 Col. CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award. On the other hand, Test captain Virat Kohli bagged the Polly Umrigar Trophy for Cricketer of the Year in the BCCI awards. 

About Col. CK Nayudu Lifetime Achievement Award: 
• It was instituted by the BCCI in 1994 to celebrate the birth centenary of Col. Cottari Kanakaiya Nayudu, the country’s first test captain. 
• It honors individuals for their unparalleled contribution to Indian cricket, on and off the field. 
• It comprises a trophy, citation and cheque for 25 lakhs rupees. 
• The award in 2014 was received by Dilip Vengsarkar. 


Science & Technology


Astronomers have spotted two huge waves of gas being burped by the black hole at the heart of a nearby galaxy. The swathes of hot gas, detected in X-ray images from Nasa's Chandra space telescope, appear to be sweeping cooler hydrogen gas ahead of them. 

This vast, rippling belch is taking place in NGC 5194, a small, neglected sibling of the Whirlpool Galaxy, 26 million light years away. That makes it one of the closest black holes blasting gas in this way. The findings, presented at the 227th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Florida.


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