Asian Regional Plan adopted
The three-day Asian Ministerial Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) 2016 came to an end with the adoption of the ‘New Delhi Declaration’ and the ‘Asian Regional Plan for Implementation of the Sendai Framework’.
1. This was the first Asian Ministerial Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction (AMCDRR) after the advent of the Sendai Framework for DRR (SFDRR).
2. The SFDRR (2015-2030) was adopted by at the Third World Conference on DRR at Sendai in Japan in March, 2015.
3. It identifies targets and priority action areas towards reducing disaster risk by ‘reducing the damage caused by natural hazards like earthquakes, floods, droughts and cyclones, through an ethic of prevention’.
Asian Regional Plan
1. The ‘Asian Regional Plan for Implementation of the Sendai Framework’ focuses on the ‘How to’ reduce disaster risk at national and local levels.
2. It has arrived at a longer term road map of cooperation and collaboration, spanning the 15-year horizon of the Sendai Framework, as well as a two-year action plan to further disaster risk reduction with specific, actionable activities.
3. Voluntary action statements of stakeholder groups towards a ‘shared responsibility’ approach in implementation of the SFDRR were also made.
4. The Conference also commemorated the first World Tsunami Awareness Day to spread awareness on tsunami.
5. The observance of the day stressed on the importance of early warning systems and preparedness of communities in order to mitigate damage from the often devastating natural hazard.
6. Established in 2005, the AMCDRR is a biennial conference jointly organized by different Asian countries and the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR).
7. The next AMCDRR will be held in Mongolia in 2018.
Paris Agreement to enter into force
The Paris Agreement enters into force on November 4, a UN Environment Programme report released on 3 November 2016 has shown that global emissions have continued to rise despite some signs of emissions from fossil fuels and industries stabilising. The “emissions gap” for 2030 is 12 to 14 GtCO2e (gigatonne CO2 equivalent) compared with 2°C scenarios, and for 1.5°C the gap is three GtCO2e larger, the report shows.
1. Emissions gap is the difference between the emissions levels in 2020 necessary to meet climate targets, and the levels expected that year if countries fulfill their promises to cut greenhouse gases. So, the emissions gap reveals how much more needs to be done by countries in order to meet the target of keeping global warming levels below the 2°C safe limit as agreed in the Paris climate accord last year.
2. The UNEP report further shows that even if fully implemented, the unconditional Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) - the voluntary climate action targets of countries - are only consistent with staying below an increase in temperature of 3.2°C by 2100, which can have disastrous consequences for the climate.
3. The report has therefore emphasised on pre-2020 action by countries. Raising ambition before 2020 “is likely the last chance to keep the option of limiting global warming to 1.5°C,” the report notes. This means that in the next three years countries must take sufficient emissions reduction action to aim for the more ambitious target of keeping temperature rise below 1.5°C in the Paris Agreement.
4. Three of the G20 parties – China, the EU, and India – are on track to meet these pledges without purchasing offsets, according to available analyses, UNEP has said. Three more – Brazil, Japan, and Russia – are on track, according to most estimates, the report says.
Third ODF state in the country
Kerala has been declared “Open Defecation Free” (ODF) by chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan declared on 1 November 2016. The state government had constructed about 175,000 toilets in the last four months to make Kerala the first among the big states to claim ODF status. So far, two other states—Sikkim and Himachal Pradesh—have been able to officially declare they free from open defecation.
1. The day marked the 60th anniversary of the state. On the occasion, the state also launched four major programmes—Parippida Mission, Haritha Keralam, Ardram and Life—in the education, health, housing and sanitation sectors.
2. Under “Parppida Mission”, the government plans to ensure housing for all, while “Ardram” proposes to upgrade basic facilities in government hospitals without inflating rates.
3. At least 1,000 schools are supposed to be elevated to international standards under “Life”, a scheme that will focus on improving liveability conditions.
4. “Haritha Keralam”, which means “Green Kerala”, aims to look at effective methods of waste disposal, popularizing organic vegetable farming and conservation of forest and water resources. All schemes have a five-year deadline.
Paris agreement becomes international law
The Paris Agreement to combat climate change becomes international law on 4 November 2016 — a landmark that the United Nations says signals the beginning of a new chapter for humankind and demonstrates that countries are serious about addressing global warming.
1. So far, 96 countries, accounting for just over two thirds of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, have formally joined the accord which seeks limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). Many more countries are expected to come aboard the coming weeks and months.
2. UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon plans to commemorate “this historic day for both the people and the planet” by holding a conversation with civil society organizations about how they can contribute to the objectives of the Paris agreement.
A joint military training exercise between India and Bangladesh ‘SAMPRITI 2016’ was conducted at Tangail, Dhaka, Bangladesh from 05 to 18 November 2016. Exercise SAMPRITI is an important bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and Bangladesh and it was the sixth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.
1. The joint exercise SAMPRITI 2016 simulates a scenario where both nations are working together in a Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorism environment under the UN Charter.
2. The exercise curriculum is progressively planned where the participants will initially get familiar with each other’s organizational structure and tactical drills.
3. Subsequently, the training will advance to joint tactical exercises wherein the battle drills of both the armies will be practiced.
CCI selected to host ICN 2018
Recognising the growing stature of Competition Commission of India (CCI) in the world, International Competition Network (ICN) has accepted the proposal and decided that Competition Commission of India would host the 2018 ICN Annual Conference. This will be held at Delhi in March –April 2018. ICN is an international body comprising 132 members from 120 competition jurisdictions exclusively devoted to international competition enforcement.
1. By virtue of this event, CCI has also been inducted as an ex-officio member of the steering group member of the ICN for a period of 3 years. CCI eagerly looks forward to hosting this international event which will provide a rare opportunity to attract domestic and international competition enforcement experts to deliberate on international best practices and host of competition issues being faced by the Competition agencies the world over.
2. CCI has been set-up to prevent practices having adverse effects on competition and to promote and protect interest of consumers and to ensure freedom of trade carried on by other participants in markets in India. The Act also mandates an extra territorial jurisdiction to the Commission.
3. CCI is a member of the ICN since 2003. ICN provides competition authorities with a specialised yet informal platform for addressing practical competition concerns, sharing experiences and adopting international best practices. Its members are national competition authorities and NGA (Non-governmental Advisers) which include reputed law firms, eminent persons, and think tanks of international repute.
The Supreme Court on 10 November 2016 said Punjab has no right to unilaterally terminate a 1981 arrangement signed for sharing of water from the Ravi and Beas rivers with neighboring Haryana through the Sutlej Yamuna Link Canal. The ruling by a five-member constitution bench of the top court is a setback for the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal government in the state as it prepares for assembly elections early next year.
1. The court said Punjab was under legal obligation to complete the project. In case, the state chooses obdurately not to do so, the court made it clear that the Centre would have to step in and complete it.
2. The Punjab assembly had in 2004 brought in a law terminating the agreement after the Supreme Court refused to absolve it of the legal obligation to build the canal.
3. The Haryana stretch of the canal is already complete. The Punjab stretch is nearly complete but heavily silted due to disuse. Some Rs 700 crore has already been spent on the project.
4. Under the 1981 agreement, Punjab was entitled to 4.22 million acre feet of water and Haryana 3.50 MAF. The existing Bhakra Main Canal supplies Haryana with only 1.62 MAF of water. The rest was to flow from SYL.
5. But Punjab expressed fears that the actual usage would be more than the allocated amount and that the water flow in the rivers had changed substantially over the years and has stubbornly refused to implement the agreement. Instead, it demanded that the water-sharing issue be referred to a tribunal again to be decided afresh after taking into account the current flow of water.
6. The state made repeated attempts to wriggle out of legal commitments, but hasn’t succeeded.
7. It lost a case in the top court in 2002 and again in 2004. It then brought in the law to abrogate the 1981 agreement, but has not received the assent of the governor.
India to preside next edition of COP7
The eighth edition of the Conference of Parties (COP7) to WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) will be held in Switzerland's Geneva under the presidency of India.
1. The global anti-tobacco conference is likely to be held in the later part of 2018.
2. India will preside the eighth edition of the Convention of Parties of WHO which will be held in Geneva.
3. The World Health Organisations Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the world's biggest convention to frame the anti-tobacco policies.
4. The COP elects at each regular session its President as well as five vice-presidents. These officers, each representing a WHO region, constitute the Bureau of the Conference of the Parties.
5. According to Rule 21 of the Rules of Procedure of the COP, they shall commence their term of office at the closure of the session and shall serve until the closure of the following regular session of the Conference of the Parties, including for any intervening extraordinary session.
6. The Seventh Session of COP7 to WHO FCTC was hosted by India for the first time and culminated on 12 November 2016.
7. About 1,500 delegates participated in the conference from around 180 countries along with other observers in official relations with the WHO FCTC Secretariat in Geneva.
INS Vikramaditya completes first refit
The aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya has successfully completed its first routine maintenance, a 43-day short refit, at the Cochin Shipyard, and is at a high level of operational competence and preparedness. The maiden dry-docking of the vessel after its induction into the Navy in November, 2013, had put to rest apprehensions about the feasibility of carrying out its first cycle of underwater maintenance within India, he told the media on board Vikramaditya,
1. The ship arrived in Kochi in early September, and was dry-docked at Cochin Shipyard on September 23 close on the heels of the soon-to-be-retired aircraft carrier INS Viraat was undocked following its decommissioning refit.
2. After the first cycle of preventive maintenance, which involved a thorough inspection of the carrier’s underwater package, was over, the vessel was undocked on November 5. Vikramaditya, a steamship, has a large number of pipes and underwater openings. The hull plates that are in contact with the corrosive medium of seawater – all got inspected.
Union Government extends AFSPA
The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has extended the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) in three districts of Arunachal Pradesh. These districts are Tirap, Changlang and Longding. They have been “disturbed area” under Section 3 of the AFSPA.
1. The Parliament had enacted AFSPA in 1958 to confer special powers upon the armed forces in disturbed areas declared under the Act.
2. It provides army officers and jawans legal immunity for their actions in disturbed areas.
3. Under this act, a member of the Indian armed forces cannot be prosecuted or tried in any criminal or civil court for any act committed by him or her while performing duty in a disturbed area. Moreover, no court or quasi-judicial body can question the government’s decision to declare any area disturbed.
4. Presently, the AFSPA is in force in Assam, Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland, Manipur (except Imphal municipal area), Arunachal Pradesh (in above 3 districts plus a 20-km belt bordering Assam) and Meghalaya (along 20-km area bordering Assam).
Food Security Act implemented throughout country
The Union Government has announced that the National Food Security Act (NFSA), 2013 which envisages supply of subsidised foodgrains has been implemented across the country. Announcement in this regard was made by Union Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan after last two remaining states Kerala and Tamil Nadu rolled out the NFSA from November 2016.
About National Food Security Act (NFSA)
1. The NFSA aims to provide subsidized food grains to approximately two thirds of the population (75% in rural areas and 50% in urban areas).
2. It converts into legal entitlements for existing food security programmes of the Central Government.
3. It includes the Midday Meal Scheme, Integrated Child Development Services scheme and the Public Distribution System.
4. Grains like wheat, rice and coarse grain will be distributed at the subsidized price of 3 Rs. 3, Rs. 2 and Rs. 1. Pregnant women and lactating mothers and children are entitled to get meals under the prescribed nutrition by MDM and ICDS.
5. NFSA 2013 will provide high nutrition food to the children from age group of 6 months to 14 years.
6. Pregnant women and lactating mothers will be entitled to get maternity benefit of not less than Rs. 6,000
India, Japan sign landmark civil nuclear deal
India and Japan signed a landmark civil nuclear cooperation deal after talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his counterpart Shinzo Abe, a move that will boost bilateral economic and security ties and facilitate US-based players to set up atomic plants in India.
1. The two countries had reached a broad agreement for cooperation in civil nuclear energy sector during Abe's visit to India in December last year, but the deal was yet to be signed as some issues were yet to be worked out.
2. The deal would allow Japan to export nuclear technology to India, making it the first non-NPT signatory to have such a deal with Tokyo. It would also cement the bilateral economic and security ties as the two countries warm up to counter an assertive China.
3. There was political resistance in Japan - the only country to suffer atomic bombings during World War II - against a nuclear deal with India, particularly after the disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in 2011.
4. Japan is a major player in the nuclear energy market and an atomic deal with it will make it easier for US-based nuclear plant makers Westinghouse Electric Corporation and GE Energy Inc to set up atomic plants in India as both these conglomerates have Japanese investments.
5. Other nations who have signed civil nuclear deal with India include the US, Russia, South Korea, Mangolia, France, Namibia, Argentina, Canada, Kazakhstan and Australia.
First Baltic Sea country to link with OBOR
Latvia has become the first country in the Baltic Sea area to sign a Memorandum of Understanding to link up with China’s One Belt and One Road (OBOR) Initiative. The MoU was signed after Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s meeting with his Latvian counterpart Maris Kucinskis in Riga (capital of Latvia). It was Chinese Premier’s first visit to the European Union country. Besides, Latvia and China also singed five agreements on cooperation in such areas as small and medium-sized enterprises, transportation and logistics.
About OBOR Initiative
1. OBOR initiative is China’s ambitious development strategy and framework that aims to boost its connectivity and trade across Asia, Africa and Europe.
2. It comprises two components viz. the Silk Road Economic Belt and the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.
3. It was proposed by Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2013.
4. OBOR initiative is part of China’s revived 21st century Silk Road diplomacy that seeks to push it to take a bigger role in global affairs as a major global power.
India, Britain sign MoUs on IPR
India and Britain signed memoranda of understanding (MoUs) on intellectual property rights (IPR) and ease of doing business following delegation-level talks led by Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Theresa.
1. The MoU on IPR envisages establishing a mechanism for furthering cooperation between the intellectual property offices of India and Britain in the field of intellectual property and related information technology services.
2. It will include exchange of best practices, experience and knowledge of intellectual property awareness among the public, businesses, industry, research and development organisations and educational institutions, as well as on processes for disposal of applications for patents, trademarks, industrial designs and geographical indications.
3. The MoU on ease of doing business intends to make expertise from different departments of the British government which have led the ease of doing business drive in the Britain available to the relevant departments and agencies of the Indian government, according to the ministry.
4. Important areas of cooperation include support to businesses and start-ups, tax administration, regulatory regimes, and competition economics.
5. First bilateral visit outside of Europe since she assumed the Prime Minister's office in July this year.
Gwadar port inaugurated
Pakistan government inaugurated the operational activities of the revamped strategic Gwadar port in the south-western Balochistan Province. After operetional of the deep sea port, the multi-billion dollar China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), linking western China to the Arabian Sea became a reality.
1. The port was operationalised after a Chinese commercial ship laden with around 250 containers set off for West Asia and Africa.
2. The ship was carrying Chinese goods which were ferried by major trade convoy that started from Kashgar in western China on 30 October 2016 reached Gwadar on 12 November 2016.
3. It was considered as watershed moment in the history of Pakistan and symbol of Pakistan’s commitment to China’s ‘One Belt-One Road’ (OBOR) initiative, of which CPEC is a key port.
4. The CPEC would ultimately integrate South Asia, China and Central Asia. India’s concern: The CPEC is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).
Indo-Japan MOU for JAMSTEC
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) and the Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India has been approved by the Cabinet. The advancement of academic research in the field of Earth Sciences for the benefit of the peace and human welfare is the prime objective of the MOU.
1. The collaboration with JAMSTEC will not only enhance capability in the field of atmospheric and climate research, ocean technology observation and hazard mitigation but also provide much needed exposure and hands-on experience to Indian scientists.
2. The cooperation between parties and under Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) will be pursued primarily through joint survey, cruise and research and development activities, exchange of scientific visits, joint scientific seminars, workshops and meetings or exchange of information and data.
3. Earlier, a Letter of Intent (LOI) was signed between Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India and Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) in 2014 to encourage collaboration in the areas of mutual interest.
4. A joint statement was signed by the Prime Ministers of India and Japan during the annual summit meeting held in New Delhi during 11-13 December, 2015.
Bilateral Trade agreement between India and Bhutan
Commerce and Industry Minister Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman and H.E. Tengye Lyonpo Lekey Dorji, Minister for Economic Affairs, Royal Government of Bhutan signed the Agreement on Trade, Commerce and Transit between India and the Royal Government of Bhutan in the presence of H.E. Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay, Prime Minister of Bhutan at the Gyalyong Tshokhang in Thimphu on 12 November, 2016.
1. The first Agreement on Trade and Commerce between Bhutan and India was signed in 1972. Since then, the Agreement has been renewed four times.
2. The last Agreement was renewed on July 28, 2006 and was valid till July 29, 2016. The validity of the Agreement was extended for a period of one year or till the date of coming into force of the new Agreement, whichever is earlier, by exchange of diplomatic notes between the two countries.
3. The new bilateral Trade Agreement aims to enhance trade between the two countries through trade facilitation by improving procedures, cutting down on documentation and adding additional exit/entry points for Bhutan’s trade with other countries. It is also expected to further strengthen the excellent relations between the two countries.
Pulsar navigation satellite XPNAV-1 launched
China successfully launched a navigation satellite which will conduct in-orbit experiments using pulsar detectors to demonstrate new technologies. The X-ray pulsar navigation satellite — XPNAV-1 — weighing more than 200 kilogrammes, was sent skyward at atop a Long March 11 solid-fuelled rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s northwest.
1. The satellite operates in a Sun-synchronous orbit and will conduct in-orbit experiments using pulsar detectors to demonstrate new technologies.
2. It was carried by a Long March-11 rocket, the 239th flight mission by a Long March carrier rocket series.
3. While in orbit, the satellite will undergo tests on its detector functions and space environment adaptability.
4. It weighs more than 200 kilogrammes and carries two detectors, China Academy of Space Technology said.
5. X-ray pulsar navigation is an innovative navigation technology in which periodic X-ray signals emitted from pulsars are used to determine the location of a spacecraft in deep space.
Indo-China joint military training exercise
India-China Joint Military Training exercise, ‘Hand in Hand 2016’ will be held in pune from 15 November to November 27. The exercise is in continuation of the series of joint exercises between India and China, a Defence release issued in Pune said on 14 November 2016. “This will be the sixth joint training exercise by the Indian Army with People’s Liberation Army of China. It is held annually, alternately, in India and China.
1. The first exercise was held in China at Kunming of Yunnan province in 2007 and the last exercise was held in October 2015 in Kunming Military Academy, Yunnan Province in China, it said.
2. The exercise is planned at the company level with respective battalion headquarters controlling the training. The exercise is supervised by a Joint Directing Panel comprising senior officials of both the countries.
3. ‘Exercise Hand in Hand 2016’ will be conducted in three phases. The first phase consists of familiarisation with the weapons and equipment. The second phase consists of the conduct of basic training which includes combat conditioning, firing of personal weapon, support weapon and practice of drills like establishment of covert observation post, house clearing, cordon & search and humanitarian and disaster relief operations.
4. The third phase is the conduct of joint exercise. The exercise will be attended by the senior military observers of both the countries.
RBI allows banks to issue masala bonds
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) allowed banks to issue rupee denominated bonds, or masala bonds, in the overseas market to shore up their capital base as well as for financing infrastructure and affordable housing. To strengthen their capital base, banks can raise perpetual debt instruments, which can be considered for calculating a bank’s additional tier 1 capital, or debt capital instrument that can go into calculating a bank’s tier-2 capital. These bonds will be issued as per the Basel III norms and therefore, will have loss absorption clause. Under this clause a bank can chose not to honur the coupon payment in case of financial stress.
1. For financing infrastructure and affordable housing, the banks can issue long term bonds, which doesn’t have the loss absorption clause.
2. The central bank had first announced its intention for letting banks tap the overseas market with rupee bonds on August 25 when RBI announced a slew of measures to develop the bond and currencies market. Companies were already allowed to raise money through masala bonds and a few issuances totaling Rs 7,472 crore have been done.
3. The rupee bond route will allow banks an additional avenue to raise funds and will help develop the market of rupee denominated bonds overseas, RBI said.
4. The borrowing by the banks would still has to be within the overall limit of foreign investment in corporate bonds, which is pegged at Rs 2,44,323 crore at present. Out of this amount, foreign investors have exhausted Rs 1,66,120 crore so far.
First firm to get debt recast under S4A Scheme
Hindustan Construction Company (HCC) became India’s first firm to get debt recast under RBI’s new Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A). The RBI-mandated Overseeing Committee (OC) under the S4A has approved HCC’s Rs. 5,000-crore debt recast passed by an ICICI Bank-led joint lender forum in September 2016. Under this debt recast of HCC 52% of the debt (nearly Rs. 2,600 crore) was found to be sustainable and can be serviced as per original terms and conditions, including about interest rate and tenure. Out of the remaining 48% (Rs.2,400 crore) debt, 1,000 crore debt will be converted into equity for banks, which could eventually give them 25% stake in the company’s post-scheme equity capital. The remaining debt of Rs. 1,400 crore would get converted into optionally convertible debentures to be issued to the lenders.
GST Council decides on 4-tier tax structure
A 4-tier GST tax structure of 6, 12, 18 and 28 per cent, with lower rates for essential items and the highest for luxury and de-merits goods that would also attract an additional cess, was decided by the all- powerful GST Council. With a view to keeping inflation under check, essential items including food, which presently constitute roughly half of the consumer inflation basket, will be taxed at zero rate.
1. The lowest rate of 5 per cent would be for common use items while there would be two standard rates of 12 and 18 per cent under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime targetted to be rolled out from April 1, 2017.
2. Announcing the decisions arrived at the first day of the two-day GST Council meeting, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said highest tax slab will be applicable to items which are currently taxed at 30-31 per cent (excise duty plus VAT).
3. Luxury cars, tobacco and aerated drinks would also be levied with an additional cess on top of the highest tax rate.
4. The collection from this cess as well as that of the clean energy cess would create a revenue pool which would be used for compensating states for any loss of revenue during the first five years of implementation of GST. The cess, he said, would be lapsable after five years.
5. Jaitley said about Rs 50,000 crore would be needed to compensate states for loss of revenue from rollout of GST, which is to subsume a host of central and state taxes like excise duty, service tax and VAT, in the first year.
India on global biz optimism index
India improved its ranking by one spot in a global index of business optimism, with policy reforms and Goods and Services tax (GST) expected to become a reality soon, says a survey. According to the latest Grant Thornton International Business Report, India was ranked second on the optimism index during the third quarter (July-September 2016).
1. Indonesia took the top spot, with the Philippines coming in third.
2. India was ranked third during the April-June period after being on top for two consecutive quarters.
3. The improvement in the optimism ranking in the recent past clearly reflects that the reform agenda of the government and its efforts on improving the climate for doing business are having an impact.
4. High business optimism was also complimented by the rise of employment expectations. India regained its top position on this parameter, from second position in the April-June period, while profitability expectations also moved up.
5. India continues to be amongst the top five countries citing regulations and red tape as a constraint on growth, for the first time in the year, the country's ranking on this parameter has dropped from second to fourth.
6. The report is prepared on the basis of a quarterly conducted global business survey of 2,500 businesses across 36 economies.
7. India is much ahead of China where only 30 per cent respondents expect an increase in revenue, whereas in India, 85 per cent respondents have voted in favour of increasing revenue.
8. Globally, business optimism stands at net 33 per cent, rising 1 percentage point from the previous quarter but falling 11 percentage points over the year.
Supreme Court upholds entry tax
The Supreme Court upheld the demand of entry tax by states for allowing goods and raw materials into their territories. A nine-judge Constitution Bench declared it did not restrict freedom of trade or other constitutional provisions on inter-state trade.
1. States are well within their right to design their fiscal legislations to ensure that the tax burden on goods imported from other States and goods produced within the state fall equally. Such measures, if taken, would not contravene Article 304(a) of the Constitution. The question whether the levies in the present case indeed satisfy this test is left to be determined by the regular benches hearing the matters.
2. According to estimates, states would gain about Rs 35,000 crore from entry tax after this verdict.
3. The majority verdict said if taxing law is non- discriminatory, it can be said to be constitutionally valid without the legislation having to go through the test or the process envisaged by Article 304(b).
4. Constitutional validity of any taxing statute has, therefore, to be tested only on the anvil of Article 304(a) and if the law is found to be non-discriminatory, it can be declared to be constitutionally valid without the legislation having to go through the test or the process envisaged by Article 304(b).
5. The majority verdict said “the compensatory tax theory evolved in Automobile Transport case and subsequently modified in Jindal's case has no juristic basis and is therefore rejected”. It said that only such taxes as are discriminatory in nature are prohibited by Article 304(a) and it follows that levy of a non-discriminatory tax would not constitute an infraction of Article 301.
6. Jindal Steels Ltd was the first to challenge the entry tax levied by Haryana in 2002. Later, other manufacturing companies such as Vedanta, Reliance, Steel Authority of India Ltd and Hindalco followed. According to these firms, it was beyond the power of the states to impose entering its territory.
7. The apex court held that "a non-discriminatory tax does not per se constitute a restriction on the right to free trade, commerce and intercourse guaranteed under Article 301.
Ujjivan gets final RBI nod
Ujjivan Financial Services was received the final licence from Reserve Bank of India to start small finance bank. Ujjivan belongs to the top three league of India's microfinance sector.
1. This approval from RBI has taken us a step closer to our mission of providing comprehensive financial inclusion to the segments we wish to serve.
2. Ujjivan is now in the process of executing the final building blocks for the transition and is testing technology, operations & mobility solutions created specifically for banking operation.
3. The Bangalore-based lender reported 90% jump in its second quarter net profit at Rs 73 crore and 59% rise gross loan book growth to Rs 6,486 crore.
4. It is the fourth entity to receive the final licence after Capital Small Finance Bank, Equitas Small Finance Bank and Suryoday Microfinance Pvt. Ltd.
5. So far only Capital and Equities have started operations.
6. Ujjivan plans to start operationsin the first quarter of the next calendar year, as reported by Mint on 29 September.
Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana for entrepreneurs launched
The Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship has launched of Pradhan Mantri Yuva Yojana (PMYY) to scale up an ecosystem of entrepreneurship for youngsters. PMYY is MSDE’s flagship scheme on entrepreneurship education and training. It will provide entrepreneurship education and training to over 7 lakh students in 5 years through 3,050 institutes. It will provide easy access to information and mentor network, incubator, credit and accelerator and advocacy to create a pathway for the youth. The institutes under the PMYY include 2,200 institutes of higher learning (colleges, universities, and premier institutes), 500 ITIs, 300 schools and 50 entrepreneurship development centres through Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).
Science and Technology
New type of atomic bond discovered
Scientists have for the first time observed a weak atomic bond – in which an electron can grab and trap an atom – that was theorised 14 years ago. Researchers at Purdue University in the US observed a butterfly Rydberg molecule, a weak pairing of two highly excitable atoms that they predicted would exist more than a decade ago.
1. Rydberg molecules are formed when an electron is kicked far from an atom’s nucleus. Chris Greene, Professor of Physics and Astronomy at Purdue, and colleagues theorised in 2002 that such a molecule could attract and bind to another atom.
2. For all normal atoms, the electrons are always just one or two angstroms away from the nucleus, but in these Rydberg atoms you can get them 100 or 1,000 times farther away. Following preliminary work in the late 1980s and early 1990s, we saw in 2002 the possibility that this distant
3. Rydberg electron could bind the atom to another atom at a very large distance.
4. This electron is like a sheepdog. Every time it whizzes past another atom, this Rydberg atom adds a little attraction and nudges it towards one spot until it captures and binds the two atoms together,” said Greene.
5. A collaboration involving Greene and his postdoctoral associate Jesus Perez-Rios at Purdue and researchers at the University of Kaiserslautern in Germany has now proven the existence of the butterfly Rydberg molecule, so named for the shape of its electron cloud. “This new binding mechanism, in which an electron can grab and trap an atom, is really new from the point of view of chemistry. It’s a whole new way an atom can be bound by another atom,” Greene said.
6. The researchers cooled Rubidium gas to a temperature of 100 nano-Kelvin, about one ten-millionth of a degree above absolute zero. Using a laser, they were able to push an electron from its nucleus, creating a Rydberg atom, and then watch it.
India ahead in registering domain names
India is growing at a faster pace in registering new domains compared to other countries, revealed a study by management consulting firm Zinnov. At a compound annual growth rate of 11.9 per cent, compared to a global average of 8.7 per cent, during the period between 2013 and 2016, the study stated that India has about 4.9 million domains of the 335 million worldwide.
1. The study stated that more than 55 per cent of the domain names registered in India is on .com extension.
2. The states with comparatively better internet penetration, including Maharashtra, Delhi/NCR and Karnataka, accounted for more than 38 per cent of the total market share.
3. About 40 per cent of the total registered domain names in India are used for creating a website, while 10-12 per cent of them are used for professional emails. Only about three to four per cent of the domains are utilized for creating mobile-enabled websites.
4. The rapidly growing internet user base as well as the ever-increasing number of technology enabled SMBs has helped India witness significant growth in domain name adoption over the last few years. Increased awareness about various usage of domain names including websites, professional email, redirects to social media pages and trade portal etc. will further help drive the market.
World’s first synthetic nanorobot developed
Researchers have developed the world’s first light-seeking synthetic nanorobot that can help surgeons remove tumours and enable more precise engineering of targeted medications. With size comparable to a blood cell, these tiny robots have the potential to be injected into a patient’s body, the study said.
1. The nanorobot developed by a team of researchers led by Jinyao Tang from the University of Hong Kong, used light as the propelling force.
2. Light is a more effective option to communicate between microscopic world and macroscopic world. We can conceive that more complicated instructions can be sent to nanorobots which provide scientists with a new tool to further develop more functions into nanorobot and get us one step closer to daily life applications,” Tang said.
3. In the study, the researchers demonstrated the unprecedented ability of these light-controlled nanorobots as they are “dancing” or even spell a word under light control.
4. The nanorobots are composed of two common and low-price semiconductor materials: silicon and titanium oxide. During the synthesis, silicon and titanium oxide are shaped into nanowire and then further arranged into a tiny nanotree heterostructure.
New type of HIV test developed
Scientists in Britain have developed a type of HIV test using a USB stick that can give a fast and highly accurate reading of how much virus is in a patient's blood. The device, created by scientists at Imperial College London and the privately-held US firm DNA Electronics, uses a drop of blood to detect HIV, then creates an electrical signal that can be read by a computer, laptop or handheld device. The researchers say the technology, although still in the early stages, could allow patients to regularly monitor their virus levels in a similar way to diabetes patients checking their blood sugar levels.
1. It could be particularly useful in remote settings to help HIV patients manage their treatment more effectively, since current tests to detect virus levels take at least three days and involve sending a blood sample to a laboratory.
2. Monitoring viral load is crucial to the success of HIV treatment. At the moment, testing often requires costly and complex equipment that can take a couple of days to produce a result," said Graham Cooke, who co-led the research from the Imperial's department of medicine.
3. The test, which uses a mobile phone chip, requires a drop of blood to be placed onto a spot on the USB stick. Any HIV in the sample triggers an acidity change, which the chip transforms into an electrical signal. This is sent to the USB stick, which shows the result on a computer or electronic device.
4. Current AIDS drugs, called anti-retrovirals, reduce virus levels in a patients blood to near zero.
45th President of United States
Real estate mogul-turned politician and Republican Party candidate Donald Trump (70) was elected as 45th President of United States of America (USA). He will be the first President of USA without political experience since Dwight D. Eisenhower (34th President). Besides, he will oldest first term President of USA. He will succeed Barack Obama and is scheduled to take office as the President of the USA on 20 January 2017.
India's first LNG-powered bus rolls out
India's first liquefied natural gas-driven bus was launched in Kerala. Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan jointly flagged off the first pilot run of the eco-friendly bus on the sidelines of the fourth meeting of the Group of Ministers, set up by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
1. The LNG-driven bus was rolled out as part of the Centre's plans to use LNG, considered to be a cleaner and safer fuel which emits 50 per cent less carbon, for mass transportation.
2. It has been a joint effort of Petronet LNG Limited (PLL), Indian Oil Corporation Ltd and Tata Motors Ltd to introduce LNG as a fuel in commercial vehicles in the state capital.
3. As it is a pilot project, the LNG-driven bus will run on a trial basis before it can be certified for commercial application.
4. The LNG pipeline was one the major topics of discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pinarayi Vijayan during the latter's first New Delhi visit after taking charge as Kerala Chief Minister, the minister said.
5. There are nine terminals/ depots, seven LPG bottling plants and eight aviation fuel stations in the state to meet the growing demand of petroleum products.
6. The PNG connections would increase to 41,000 by 2020.
India has third largest pictorial warning
India is third among countries with the largest pictorial warning on tobacco products, according to a report released on 10 November 2016. The report said that India has moved to the third position out of 205 countries from its earlier ranking of 136 in 2014 and 123 in 2012. “Nepal now has the largest warning requirements in the world at 90 per cent of the package front and back. The Cigarette Package Health Warnings International Status Report was released on 10 November 2016 by Canadian Cancer Society at the 7th session of the Conference of the Parties to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), being held at Greater Noida.
1. Vanuatu will implement 90 per cent pictorial warnings in 2017.
2. India and Thailand are tied for third, requiring 85 per cent pictorial warnings.
3. In the 2014 report, Thailand was top ranked at 85 per cent,” the report said.
4. The report ranks 205 countries and territories on the size of their health warnings on cigarette packages and lists countries and territories that require graphic picture warnings.
5. The report shows a significant global momentum towards plain packaging with 4 countries requiring plain packs and 14 working on it.
6. The report also shows that 105 countries and territories have required picture health warnings on cigarette packages. “By implementing 85 per cent pictorial health warnings front and back on all tobacco packages, Indian Government has set up an example for making India a global leader and sending a strong message to the global community about India’s commitment to reducing tobacco use and the sickness and poverty it causes”, said Bhavna B Mukhopadhyay, Chief Executive, Voluntary Health Association of India.
IVAC report on Pneumonia and Diarrhoea
India has the highest number of pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths among children in the world with nearly 3 lakh children dying in 2016, a new report released ahead of World Pneumonia Day on November 12 said. The Pneumonia and Diarrhoea Progress Report for 2016 which was released by International Vaccine Access Centre(IVAC), Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said that the top five countries with highest global burden of child pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths are India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola.
1. The top 15 countries contributing to the global burden of child pneumonia and diarrhoea deaths were unchanged between 2015 and 2016.
2. These 15 highest burden countries consist of India, Nigeria, Pakistan, DRC, Angola, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Chad, Afghanistan, Niger, China, Sudan, Bangladesh, Somalia, and United Republic of Tanzania," it said.
3. The report said that only six of the highest-burden countries (Angola, Ethiopia, India, Niger, Sudan and Tanzania) have introduced rotavirus vaccines in their routine immunisation program to help prevent a substantial portion of diarrhoea deaths and hospitalisation.
4. India introduced rotavirus vaccines in four states in 2015, it said.
5. "Fifteen years after pneumococcal conjugate vaccines' (PCV) first introduction globally in 2000 (the United States was first to implement the vaccine), five of the highest pneumonia burden countries (India, Indonesia, Chad, China and Somalia) are still not using the vaccine in their routine immunisation programs," the report said.
6. In 2015, pneumonia and diarrhoea together led to one of every four deaths globally that occurred in children under five years old.
Assocham study on diabetes
A study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industries (Assocham) has found that an average of one in every 10 children in the age group of 5-16 years in urban areas, are overweight and more prone to diabetes. The reasons for rise in childhood diabetes, according to the study, is high calorie diet, junk food, less outdoor games and more of indoor games.
1. According to the findings released by Assocham, about 72 per cent urban children don’t exercise regularly. Obesity is also a common factor and it has grown over 65 per cent among the children.
2. The study was conducted in private and public schools in Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata among 10,000 children.
3. The study has found that about 69 per cent of Delhi’s children are prone to diabetes and it is 56 per cent in case of Mumbai, 49 per cent in Ahmadabad, 39 per cent in Bengaluru and 28 per cent in Chennai.
First Indian president of FIH
Narinder Batra has become the first Indian to be elected president of the Fédération Internationale de Hockey (FIH). He was voted to the top post by an overwhelming margin during the penultimate day of the 45th FIH Congress on 12 November 2016.
1. Mr. Batra, who is the president of Hockey India, defeated David Balbirnie of Ireland and Australia’s Ken Read to become the 12th FIH president.
2. His win means that the power centre of the sport will now move to Asia from Europe, which was ruling international hockey for decades.
UN report on climate change
Urging the developing countries to know their capacities in achieving the goals for adaptation and mitigation of climate change and emissions by 2018, a report cited lack of funds and resources as a major stumbling block in meeting the global goal on adaptation (GGA), a key component of the Paris Agreement.
As per a United Nations report
1. The cost of adaptation in developing countries could range between $140 billion to $300 billion by 2030 and between $280 billion and $500 billion by 2050, depending on levels of mitigation ambition.
2. Developed countries have failed to undertake the measures required to achieve the global temperature goals. The adaptation costs and needs of developing countries will continue to grow unless significant action is undertaken," said the report "Global Goal on Adaptation."
3. The report released at the 22nd Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22) by Action Aid, CARE International and WWF highlighted the need for urgent action on the GGA for increasing support to vulnerable countries, populations and ecosystems.
4. While the developing countries are already making significant investments in adaptation, this can also divert resources away from other development priorities, the report said.
5. The report recommended that by 2018, all developing countries should have available assessments of their existing capacity and projected gaps to develop adaptation strategies and meet adaptation needs, with clear requirement of international support to be provided.
Limit for iron particles in tea increased
Food safety regulator FSSAI has raised the upper limit for iron particles in tea powder to 250 mg per kg from the existing 150 mg, with effect from current month. Iron fillings enter tea due to wear and tear of the processing machinery. The continuous presence of iron filings in tea has raised safety concerns and there have been many demands to fix an upper limit.
1. In a circular, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said: "The revised limit of iron filings in tea up to level of 250 mg per kg has been approved by the Scientific Committee."
2. These standards of iron filings in tea have been made operational with effect from this month. They will supersede the earlier limit operationalised on April 22, 2016.
3. The limit has been raised after taking into consideration the comments and suggestions received from various stakeholders.
4. FSSAI had recently conducted a large-scale laboratory analysis of tea powder for determining the limit on iron filling.
5. The tea leaves are dried in a sieve fitted with mesh and leaves are cut using iron rollers. Factories use huge magnets to remove iron fillings from tea powder.
6. Tea production in India, the world's second largest tea producer after China, stood at 795.89 million kg during April-September period of this fiscal, while 101.04 million kg of tea was exported in the same period.
7. The country had produced 1,233 million kg in the entire 2015-16 fiscal, of which 232.92 million kg was exported.
Indian-origin gets Global Citizen Award
An Indian-origin man in South Africa, who founded the internationally-lauded Gift of the Givers Foundation, has been awarded the prestigious Global Citizen Award for his “innovative and visionary” contribution to the global community. Imtiaz Sooliman was honoured at the end of the 10th annual Global Residence and Citizenship Conference in London.
1. The award Consist a specially-made commemorative medal, an award certificate signed by the president of the independent Award Committee and a USD 50,000 monetary prize, of which USD 25,000 is donated to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
2. “Sooliman is certainly a worthy recipient of the award as his work is innovative and visionary. He has demonstrated extraordinary courage and commitment, and the work of his foundation has had a significant impact on the lives of the most vulnerable in our global community,” Kalin said.
3. Since his foundation’s beginnings in August 1992, Sooliman has grown the Gift of the Givers into Africa’s largest disaster relief organisation, raising more than ZAR 2 billion (USD 150 million) in life-saving aid for 42 countries around the world, including war-ravaged states such as Syria, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, and Bosnia.
China sells two submarines to Bangladesh Navy
Bangladesh Navy acquired its first submarines from China, as Dhaka sought to boost its naval power in the resource-rich Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh Navy chief Admiral Nizamuddin Ahmed received the two submarines during a ceremony at Liao Nan Shipyard in northeast China's Liaoning province's Dalian city, the Inter Services Public Relation Directorate spokeswoman Syed Taposhi Rabeya said.
1. The type 035G class submarines will become part of the country's naval fleet at the beginning of next year.
2. The submarines will be named 'BNS Nabajatra' and 'BNS Joyjatra' respectively, Dhaka Tribune reported. Bangladesh is said to have paid nearly USD 203 million for the two submarines, the report said.
3. Type 035G-class submarines area, also known as Ming- class, is a class of diesel-electric submarines of China's People's Liberation Army Navy.
4. The primary weaponry for Type 035G is Yu-3 torpedo, and French sonar DUUX-5 and its Chinese-built version were used on later units, 12 of which were completed between 1990 and 1999.
Biggest and brightest Supermoon observed
The Supermoon was observed after the moon was closest to the Earth at 356,509 km. This is for the first time moon came closest to Earth since 1948. Last time, the moon came closer to earth on 26 January 1948. Next time the supermoon will be observed on 25 November 2034. During this time moon will be even closer than this year.
1. Supermoon or perigee full moon is a phenomenon that occurs when a full moon coincides with the moon being the closest to the Earth on its orbit.
2. In terms of diameter, the width of the moon is about 14% wider than the smallest full moons.
National Women Premier Chess Championship
International Master Padmini Rout has won the 2016 National Women Premier Chess Championship. She has scored a hat-trick in the National Women Premier Chess Championship. Earlier she had won the championship in 2014 and 2015. She was representing Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) and to secure a hat-trick of title wins after hard fought draw with her PSPB teammate Eesha Karavade.
India International Trade Fair begins
The 36th edition of India International Trade Fair (IITF) has started at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi on 14th November 2016. The fair was inaugurated by the President Pranab Mukherjee. The theme of 2016 IITF is Digital India. 150 companies from 27 countries are taking part in the fair.
1. The Fair has been organised by the India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO), under aegis of Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
2. This year’s partner country is South Korea and focus country is Belarus.
3. Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand are partner states and Haryana is focus state.
4. This year’s theme highlights country’s persistent efforts to alleviate poverty through meaningful convergence of digital technologies and e-governance.
New President of INTERPOL
Meng Hongwei, high-level police official from China has been elected as the new President of International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). With this, he becomes first Chinese citizen to hold the four-year post. He was elected at the INTERPOL’s 85th annual general assembly held in Bali, Indonesia and succeeds Mireille “Ballen” Ballestrazzi.
1. Interpol is global police co-operation agency and a non-governmental organization (NGO).
2. Its work focuses on public safety and battling terrorism, crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes, environmental crime etc.
3. It was established as the International Criminal Police Commission (ICPC) in 1923.
4. Its headquartered is located at Lyon, France.
5. It is the 2nd-largest international organization after the United Nations in terms of international representation with 190 member countries.
India’s first banking robot
India’s first banking robot named Lakshmi was launched by the Kumbakonam-based City Union Bank (CUB) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It will be first on-site huamanoid (robot) in India. Currently, CUB has readied only one version of huamanoid banker and but is planning to deploy 25-30 robots at key branches by end of year if Lakshmi proves a hit with customers. Lakshmi is artificial intelligence powered robot. It can speak English, gesture and engage in a life-like manner in conversations.
What is artificial intelligence?
1. Artificial intelligence is the branch of computer science concerned with making computers behave like humans.
2. In contrast to normal hardware and software, artificial intelligence enables a machine to perceive and respond to its changing environment.
3. The artificial intelligence machines learn automatically like humans during their processing by assimilating large volumes of information.
Water on metallic asteroid Psyche discovered
Scientists have detected the presence of water on Psyche, the largest metallic asteroid in our solar system. It was detected based on the new observations from the NASA’s Infrared Telescope Facility (IRTF) in Hawaii. The telescope observations show evidence of water or hydroxyl on its surface.
1. The source of these hydroxyl or water molecules on Psyche remains a mystery.
2. Researchers believe that Water-rich minerals detected on Psyche may have been delivered by carbonaceous asteroids that may have impacted it in the distant past.
3. Based on the previous observations of Psyche, it was believed that the asteroid did not have water-rich minerals on its surface.
Surgical Strike on Black Money
The Union Government has announced that Rs. 500, Rs. 1,000 notes will cease to be legal tender. It was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in a surprise address to nation. The demonetisation drive of these two currency units was taken to root out the menace of black money, corruption and fake currency from the country. The currency notes of 100, 50, 20, 10, 5, 2 and 1 rupee will remain unaffected by this decision and remain legal tender. Persons holding old 500, Rs. 1,000 notes must deposit these notes in their bank or post office accounts from 10th November till 30th December 2016 without any limit. Those who are not able to deposit 30th December 2016 can go to the specified offices of RBI up to 31st March 2017 and deposit the notes after submitting a declaration form.
Asian Champions Trophy 2016
Indian Women’s hockey team has won the 2016 Asian Champions Trophy held in Singapore. It was the maiden win of Indian Women’s hockey team in Asian Champions Trophy. In summit clash held in Singapore, India defeated China by 2-1 goals. The first goal for India was scored by Deep Grace Ekka in the 13th minute which was equalised by China’s Zhong Mengling in the 44th minute. The second and winning goal was scored by Deepika Thakur that gave the India formidable lead to win the tournament. The Asian Hockey Champions Trophy is held annually by the Asian Hockey Federation since 2011. The tournament features the Asian Games top six field hockey teams competing in a round robin format. In women’s category, South Korea has won most titles for two times in 2010 and 2011.
First state to launch cyber police stations in all districts
Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to have a cyber-police station in each district to take on cyber criminals. In this regard, state government is converting 42 state-of-the-art cybercrime labs into cyber police stations simultaneously.
1. These cyber police stations will also be set up at police commissionerate and Range IG offices.
2. Any offence related to cybercrime will be registered in these police stations at district level. The cyber-crime wing of Maharashtra government had proposed to set up 51 cyber-crime labs across the state take on cyber criminals.
India’s first titanium project starts test production in Odisha
The first titanium project of India has started its test production Ganjam district of Odisha. The project has been established by Saraf Group. This is first of its kind titanium plant and the only one in the country. During the test run, one of its four furnaces became functional.
1. This plant is expected to produce 36,000 tons of titanium slag and 20,000 tons of pig iron per year.
2. The raw material of the plant ilmenite would be procured from Odisha Sands Complex (OSCOM), a unit of Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) in Ganjam district of Odisha as well as a private company which has its unit in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
3. Earlier in August 2015, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had fully commissioned and started commercial production at the first indigenous Titanium Sponge Plant at Chavara in Kerala.