Rustom-II successfully completes test flight
Rustom-II, India’s indigenously developed long-endurance combat-capable drone, on 16 November 2016 successfully completed its maiden-flight, giving a boost to India’s development programme for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). The DRDO successfully carried out the maiden-flight of TAPAS 201 (RUSTOM–II), a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV.
1. It has an endurance of 24 hours and can conduct surveillance and reconnaissance missions for the country’s armed forces.
2. The UAV can also be used as an unmanned armed combat vehicle on the lines of the US’s Predator drone.
3. The test flight took place from Aeronautical Test Range (ATR), Chitradurga, 250 km from Bangalore, which is a newly developed flight test range for the testing of UAVs and manned aircraft.
4. The flight accomplished the main objectives of proving the flying platform, such as take-off, bank, level flight and landing among others, a statement by the Defence Ministry said.
5. TAPAS 201 has been designed and developed by Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), the Bangalore-based lab of DRDO with HAL-BEL as the production partners.
6. The UAV weighing two tonnes was put into air by a dedicated team of young scientists of DRDO.
7. It was piloted (external and internal) by the pilots from the armed forces.
8. It is also the first R&D prototype UAV which has undergone certification and qualification for the first flight from the Center for Military Airworthiness & Certification (CEMILAC) and Directorate General of Aeronautical Quality Assurance (DGAQA).
9. TAPAS 201, a multi-mission UAV is being developed to carry out Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR)roles for the three armed forces with an endurance of 24 hours. It is capable to carry different combinations of payloads like Medium Range Electro Optic (MREO), Long Range Electro Optic (LREO), Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), Electronic Intelligence (ELINT), Communication Intelligence (COMINT) and Situational Awareness Payloads (SAP) to perform missions during day and night.
10. Many critical systems such as airframe, landing gear, flight control and avionics sub-systems are being developed in India with the collaboration of private industries. Rustom-II will undergo further trials for validating the design parameters, before going for User Validation Trials.
Marrakech Action Proclamation
The nearly 200 nations attending the UN climate summit in Marrakech, Morocco, adopted the Marrakech Action Proclamation late on 17 November 2016 evening, sending out a strong signal to the world on climate action. Responding to an invitation to this end by the King of Morocco, Mohammed VI, heads of state from close to 90 countries and delegations from other UN member countries issued this proclamation, a key document emerging from the negotiations at COP22, to signal a shift towards a new era of implementation and action on climate and sustainable development.
1. Referring to the momentum on climate change worldwide, and in many multilateral fora, the Proclamation said that this momentum was irreversible, being driven not only by governments, but by science, business and global action of all types at all levels.
2. The Proclamation stressed on nations having to rapidly build on the post-Paris momentum, and move forward purposefully to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to foster adaptation efforts, thereby benefiting and supporting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that was adopted at the UN headquarters in New York last year.
3. Countries also demanded solidarity with those countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, highlighting the need to support efforts aimed to enhance their adaptive capacity, strengthen resilience and reduce vulnerability.
“Housing for All” in Rural launched
Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi formally launched “Housing for All” in rural areas under which the Government proposes to provide an environmentally safe and secure pucca house to every rural household by 2022. Named the Pradhan Mantri Awaas Yojana (Gramin), in its first phase the target is to complete one crore houses by March 2019. The unit cost for these houses has been significantly increased and now through convergence a minimum support of nearly Rs. 1.5 lakh to Rs. 1.6 lakh to a household is available. There is also a provision of Bank loan upto Rs. 70,000/-, if the beneficiary so desires. The selection of beneficiaries has been through a completely transparent process using the Socio Economic Census 2011 data and validating it through the Gram Sabha.
1. PMAY-G is a major step forward in bringing together Skill India, Digital India, Make In India, IT/DBT Aadhaar platform and Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY).
2. The programme provides for skilling 5 lakh Rural Masons by 2019 and allows over 200 different housing designs across the country based on a detailed study of housing typologies, environmental hazards and the households’ requirements.
3. A large scale use of local materials is envisaged along with a complete home with cooking space, electricity provision, LPG, toilet and bathing area, drinking water etc through convergence.
4. The programme targets the poor households and uses ICT and space technology to further confirm correct selection of beneficiaries and progress of work.
5. The entire payments are through IT/DBT mode with Aadhaar linked Bank accounts with consent, to ensure complete transparency and accountability.
6. There is a provision for orientation of beneficiaries. A 45 days on site hands-on skill training of Rural Masons helps poor households to move up the skilling ladder.
7. The PM saw over 40 of the over 200 building designs and interacted with newly trained Rural Masons and beneficiaries which were showcased near dais. He also distributed Sanction Certificates to a few beneficiaries from Agra District.
Four type’s sonars inducted
Navy on 18 November 2016 formally inducted four types of indigenously developed sonars that will boost its underwater surveillance capability.
1. With the induction of these four systems, the underwater surveillance capability of the Indian Navy will get a boost, besides providing a fillip to the quest for self-reliance in this critical area of technology.
2. Abhay is an advanced active-cum-passive integrated sonar system designed and developed for the smaller platforms such as shallow water crafts and coastal surveillance/patrol vessels.
3. It is capable of detecting, localizing, classifying and tracking sub-surface and surface targets in both its active and passive modes of operation.
4. The prototype of this compact sonar installed on board a nominated naval platform has successfully completed all user evaluation trials to demonstrate the features as per the Naval Staff Qualification Requirements.
5. Indian Navy has proposed to induct this SONAR on three of the Abhay class ships. Intensifying the command over the high seas is the Humsa -UG that is designed for upgrading the existing Humsa sonar system. This system is proposed to be installed on seven ships of three different classes of ships.
6. AIDSS is distress sonar is an Emergency Sound Signaling Device which is used to indicate that a submarine is in distress and enable quick rescue and salvage.
7. It is a life-saving alarm system designed to transmit sonar signals of a pre-designated frequency and pulse shape in an emergency situation from a submarine for long period, so as to attract the attention of passive sonars of ships or submarines in the vicinity and all types of standard rescue vessels in operation. It is also provided with a transponder capability.
India ranks 20th on CCPI
India has been ranked 20th on Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2017, which underlined that countries like India are making "great efforts" in the fields of renewables and energy efficiency.
1. With the historic Paris Agreement having recently entered into force, the latest CCPI confirms a boost for renewable energy and positive developments in energy efficiency.
2. The publication was issued by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe.
3. While these encouraging trends are happening on a global scale, the necessary energy revolution is still happening too slowly, the publication said.
4. "Morocco (rank eight) continued its upward trend. With massive investments in renewable energy and ambitious mid-term and long-term targets, Morocco is a frontrunner in Africa,” the publication said.
5. Positive trends are seen as well among emerging economies of G20 like India (rank 20), Argentina (36) and Brazil (40), which all improved their ranking.
6. Some developing countries like Morocco, India, and South Africa are starting to catch up and are already making great efforts in the fields of renewables and energy efficiency.
7. In terms of climate policy, India, Sweden, Luxembourg, Norway, and Germany managed to hold their positions.
8. All countries are now expected to put forward national emissions reduction plans, and the G20 countries have to take a leading role in doing so by 2018.
9. Although, India belongs to the ten largest CO2 emitting countries, per capita emissions are still relatively low, resulting in a good performance in this category.
10. National experts value that the Indian government runs one of the largest renewable capacity expansion programmes in the world, which leads to a good policy performance for the country, it said.
11. Canada (55), Australia (57) and Japan (60) are in the bottom group (rated "very poor") of the index while Japan once again dropped two places as national experts criticize their government for a very poor climate policy.
National Software Policy unveiled
The government has issued the draft of first ever National Software Policy with an aim to increase share of Indian software products in global market by 10 fold to estimated $148 billion and create employment opportunity for 3.5 million people by 2025.
1. The policy will “strive for a tenfold increase in share of the global software product market by 2025 by promoting easy access to local domestic/international market for software product” and “create 3.5 million direct and indirect jobs by 2025”.
2. The software product industry is estimated to be $411 billion globally today and is expected to reach around $1 trillion by 2025. “However, in India the software product industry is still in its infancy stage. The total revenue of software product industry in India is $6.1 billion, out of which $2 billion is from exports,” the draft said.
3. The draft policy aims to create conducive environment for creation of 10,000 technology start-ups to develop software products that are globally competitive and thereby generating a direct and in-direct employment for 3.5 million persons.
4. The policy targets to achieve a goal of creation of 1,000,000 jobs by 2017, and additional 2,500,000 by 2025.
5. The draft policy has provision to create a specialised talent pool of 1,000,000 professionals by 2025 conversant with nuances of software product development that can support the growth of software product industry.
India’s first payments bank
Airtel Payments Bank Ltd on 23 November 2016 became the first payments bank to start operations, offering services in Rajasthan in a limited scale. The payments bank is testing systems and processes ahead of a full scale, pan-Indian launch, the company said in a statement. Customers will be offered an interest rate of 7.25% on deposits in savings account, higher than the 4-6% commercial banks are offering.
1. The pilot will run at 10,000 Airtel retail outlets where basic banking services will be provided. Airtel Payments Bank is planning to expand its merchant network in Rajasthan to 100,000 by the end of the year.
2. Bank accounts can be opened by customers without documents using Aadhaar based e-KYC. The subscriber’s mobile number would function as a bank account number and transfer from Airtel to Airtel phone numbers would be free.
3. The bank is not offering any debit card facility right now, it said. The bank was the first applicant to receive the final licence from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in April. Kotak Mahindra Bank holds 19.9% in the Airtel Payments Bank.
4. The retail outlets, which will act as banking points, will offer account opening services, cash deposit and withdrawal facilities. As a payments bank it cannot perform lending activities, except while giving loans to its employees on approval of the board.
5. The bank can, however, accept deposits of as much as Rs1 lakh.
6. According to RBI guidelines issued in November 2014, a payments bank will maintain cash reserve ratio with the central bank. Apart from it, they will be required to invest minimum 75% of their deposits in statutory liquidity ratio eligible government securities with maturity up to one year and hold maximum 25% in current and time deposits with other scheduled commercial banks for operational purposes and liquidity management, the guidelines said.
7. In August last year, the central bank had given in-principle approval to 11 applicants to set up payments bank by February 2017. Out of the 11 applicants, Cholamandalam Investment and Finance Co., Tech Mahindra Ltd and billionaire Dilip Shanghvi have already given up their approvals.
India becomes associate member of CERN
India became an associate member of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), the world’s largest nuclear and particle physics laboratory. The agreement was signed on 21 November 2016 by Sekhar Basu, Chairman of Atomic Energy Commission and Secretary of Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), and CERN Director General Dr Fabiola Gianotti at the DAE’s office.
1. Last year, the Union Cabinet green-lit the proposal for India officially entering the Geneva-based body, following which the CERN Council accepted India as an associate member.
2. India had ‘observer’ status till September this year, when the CERN Council adopted a resolution upgrading its position.
3. There are three major activities going on in our laboratory– accelerators, detectors and computing. Indian scientist fraternity is good at all the three areas; hence we have taken decision to upgrade the status,” Gianotti told reporters.
4. Becoming associate member of CERN will enhance participation of young scientists and engineers in various CERN projects. It will also open opportunities for Indian industries to participate directly in CERN projects, Gianotti said.
5. The industries now can directly bag contracts for specified requirements of CERN. Earlier, the supply of required material, components and services was in the form of kind (without any charge). Now, the companies can directly bag the order and provide the services, she added.
6. After becoming a associate member, India also has to contribute a certain amount of money for research activities. “This would involve annual contribution of 11.5 million Swiss frank from Indian government to CERN,” Gianotti said.
7. The membership comes at a time when there was criticism within the scientific community over the delay in India accepting the membership. Pakistan became an associate member of the body in 2014.
SC refuses to accept rejection of Collegium
The Supreme Court on 18 November 2016 said that it has not accepted the Centre's stand of rejecting the 43 names recommended by the apex court Collegium for their appointment as judges of the various high courts and these have been sent back for reconsideration. 43 names for the appointment as judges of high courts which were rejected by the government and have been sent back for reconsideration," a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and A R Dave said.
1. The apex court stated this after Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi reminded the bench about the statement made by him during the last hearing on 15 November 2016.
2. The Centre on 15 November 2016 told the court that it has cleared 34 names out of the 77 recommended by the collegium for appointment as judges in various high courts in the country.
3. Out of total 77 names, 34 names have been cleared for the appointment and rest 43 recommendations have been sent back to the apex court collegium for reconsideration, AG, appearing for the Centre, had told the bench.
4. Maintaining that the appointment process "cannot be stalled" due to non-finalisation of the MoP, the court had criticised the tardy progress in processing files pertaining to judges' appointment and even warned that it may summon the Secretaries of the PMO and the Ministry of Law and Justice to ascertain the factual position.
Twin trial of Prithvi-II missile
India on 21 November 2016 successfully test-fired its indigenously developed nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile twice in quick succession as part of a user trial by the army from a test range at Chandipur in Odisha. In salvo mode, the two surface-to-surface missiles which have a strike range of 350 km and are capable of carrying 500 kg to 1,000kg of warheads were successfully test-fired in quick succession from mobile launcher from launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range (ITR).
1. A similar twin trial had been conducted on 12 October, 2009 from the same base where both tests were successful.
2. The missile is thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engines. It uses advanced inertial guidance system with maneuvering trajectory to hit its target.
3. The missiles were randomly chosen from the production stock and the entire launch activities were carried out by the specially formed strategic force command (SFC) and monitored by the scientists of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as part of training exercise.
4. The missile trajectory was tracked by the DRDO radars, electro-optical tracking systems and telemetry stations located along the coast of Odisha.
5. The downrange teams on board the ship deployed near the designated impact point in the Bay of Bengal monitored the terminal events and splashdown.
INS Chennai commissioned
INS Chennai, a Kolkata-class destroyer ship, was commissioned into the Indian Navy's combat fleet on 21 November 2016. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar commissioned the warship at the naval dockyard in Mumbai.
1. INS Chennai is the largest-ever warship to be built in India.
2. Built at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Ltd in Mumbai, the ship's construction also marks the end of the Project 15A to build Kolkata-class guided missile destroyers.
3. The ship is equipped with a decoy that can divert a missile attack. Nearly 60% of the ship was built at Mazagon Dock, while weapons and sensors were brought from Israel and Russia. Destroyers are second only to aircraft carriers in projecting raw combat power.
4. The ship is designed to carry and operate up to two multi-role combat helicopters.
5. The Navy plans to become a 200-warship force with around 600 aircraft and helicopters by 2027.
6. INS Chennai will be placed under the operational and administrative control of the Western Naval Command.
7. The ship will undergo certain additional sea trials of the ship-borne systems before being assigned to the Western Fleet and based in Mumbai.
8. INS Chennai is 164 meters long with a displacement of over 7,500 tonnes, and sails at a top speed of over 30 knots (around 55 kms) per hour.
9. Armed with supersonic surface-to-surface BrahMos missiles and Barak-8 Long Rang Surface-to-Air missiles, its undersea warfare capability includes indigenously developed anti-submarine weapons and sensors, prominently the hull-mounted sonar HUMSA-NG, heavyweight torpedo tube launchers, rocket launchers and towed array sonar capability.
10. For defence against enemy missiles, INS Chennai is fitted with 'Kavach' chaff decoy system and for protection from enemy torpedoes, has 'Mareech' torpedo decoy system, both developed in India.
11. The ship's crest depicts the outline of the iconic Fort St George of Chennai in the background, a part of the adjacent beach and a sloop on blue and white waves.
12. The crew of the ship abides by the Sanskrit motto 'Shatro Sanharaka' meaning Vanquisher of Enemies, epitomizing the warrior spirit and strong resolve to prevail and succeed in combat.
International Conference on Brucellosis 2016
The Minister of State for Science & Technology and Earth Sciences Shri Y.S. Chowdary was inaugurated International Research Conference on Brucellosis in New Delhi. He expressed concern that Brucellosis is endemic in India and that it could spread to humans. They also launched programme of “Brucella Free Villages” for implementation on pilot scale in 50 villages covering 10 states. This programme will be supported by guidelines and standard operating practices along with an IT enabled application.
1. Brucellosis is a dreadful disease caused by the genus of the bacteria known as Brucella infecting various species of Brucella cows, buffalos, sheep, goats, deer, pigs, dogs and other animals as well as humans. The disease causes economic losses of about Rs. 28000.00 Crores.
2. Human become infected by coming in contact with animals or animal product like meat and milk contaminated with these bacteria.
3. Dairy man, veterinarians, butchers and other animal handlers are exposed to high risk of brucellosis infection.
4. In humans brucellosis can cause range of symptoms that are similar to the flu and may include fever, sweats, headache, back pain and physical weakness.
5. Severe infections of the central nervous system or lining of the heart may also occur. Quite often brucellosis is diagnosed after ruling out all other fevers such as those caused by malaria, typhoid, dengue etc. Therefore, the disease is under reported and many medical professionals are not even aware of the problem.
6. The International Conference on Brucellosis, beginning on 18 November 2016 is being organized by the Department of Biotechnology in collaboration with Indian Council for Agriculture Research.
7. The conference is result of DBT’s network programme on Brucellosis launched in 2012 to address this epidemiology and for development of new generation of vaccines and diagnostic kits.
First state to pass resolution for demonetisation
Chhattisgarh became the first state in the country to pass a resolution from its state legislative assembly in support of demonetisation that Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on November 8. Chief Minister Raman Singh moved a resolution in the Chhattisgarh Legislative Assembly in support of Prime Minister’s move. Chhattisgarh had become the first state to exempt VAT on the POS.
Hand –in- Hand 2016 Begins
Sixth India China Joint Training Exercise “Hand – in – Hand 2016” was held at the parade ground in Aundh Military Camp, Pune. Maj Gen Y K Joshi, Additional Director General of Military Operations of Indian Army and Maj Gen Wang Haijiang of the People’s Liberation Army and other senior army officers of both the countries were present. The aim of the joint exercise is to acquaint both the Armies with each other’s operating procedures in the backdrop of counter terrorism environment.
1. The 13 day schedule is focused upon training on crossing of obstacles, special heliborne operations, firing of various weapons, handling & neutralization of improvised explosive devices and conduct of cordon & search operations in insurgency and terrorism environment.
2. The basic objective of the training is enhancing confidence and trust between the two armies which may be called upon to grapple with anti terrorism operations under the UN mandate. The conduct of Joint Military Exercises is also an important step to uphold the values of Peace, Prosperity and Stability in the region.
India test-fires Agni-I ballistic missile
India on 22 November 2016 successfully test-fired its indigenously built nuclear capable Agni-I ballistic missile, which can hit a target 700 km away, as part of a user trial by Army from a test range off Odisha coast. The surface-to-surface missile, powered by solid propellants, was test-fired from a mobile launcher at from launch pad-4 of the integrated test range (ITR) at Abdul Kalam Island (Wheeler Island).
1. The launch was undertaken as periodic training activity by SFC to further consolidate operational readiness.
2. The trajectory of the trial was tracked by a battery of sophisticated radars, telemetry observation stations, electro-optic instruments and naval ships from its launch till the missile hit the target area with accuracy.
3. Agni-I missile is equipped with sophisticated navigation system which ensures it reaches the target with a high degree of accuracy and precision.
4. The missile, which has already been inducted into armed forces, has proved its excellent performance in terms of range, accuracy and lethality.
5. Weighing 12 tonnes, the 15-metre-long Agni-I is designed to carry a payload of more than one tonne. Its strike range can be extended by reducing the payload.
6. Agni-I was developed by a premier missile development laboratory of DRDO in collaboration with the Defence Research Development Laboratory and Research Centre Imarat and integrated by Bharat Dynamics Limited, Hyderabad.
7. The last trial of Agni-I was conducted successfully on March 14, 2016.
15 new castes in Central OBC list
The government on 30 November 2016 approved inclusion of 15 new castes and modification in 13 other castes in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the proposal.
1. The National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended a total of 28 changes in respect of 8 states —Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand.
2. Out of these 28, 15 were new entries, 9 were synonyms or sub-castes of the castes which were already in the list and 4 were corrections.
3. The changes will enable the persons belonging to these castes/communities to avail the benefits of reservation in Government services and posts as well as in Central Educational Institutions as per the existing policy.
4. They will also become eligible for benefit under the various welfare schemes, scholarships etc. being administered by the Central Government, which are at present available to the persons belonging to the Other Backward Classes.
5. On the NCBC recommendation, a total of 2479 entries for inclusion, including its synonyms, sub-castes, etc. in the Central List of OBCs have been notified in 25 States and 6 Union Territories.
6. The last such notification was issued till September, 2016.
7. NCBC examines requests for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class in the lists and hear complaints of over-inclusion or under-inclusion of any backward class in such lists. Its advice is binding upon the Central Government.
8. The Centre is already considering relaxing the creamy layer norms for the OBC and note in this regard was already under consideration.
Nod to buy Dornier surveillance
The Cabinet Committee on Security gave its nod to buy 12 upgraded Dornier surveillance aircraft for Indian Navy at a cost of about Rs 2,500 crore. The proposal was first given Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) by the Defence Acquisition Council in October 2014 and has finally being approved by the CCS.
1. The aircraft will be manufactured by state-run Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) at its Transport Aircraft Division (TAD) in Kanpur, where over 120 of the type have been produced since 1984.
2. Maritime surveillance and patrol variants of the Do-228 have been modified by HAL to cater for a host of equipment demanded by the navy including surveillance radar, FLIR (forward looking infrared), ESM (electronic support measures), satellite communications, data links, speech secrecy equipment, TCAS (traffic collision avoidance system) and EGPWS (enhanced ground proximity warning system).
Russia withdraws backing for ICC treaty
President Vladimir Putin signed an executive order on 16 November 2016 removing Russia’s signature from the International Criminal Court’s founding treaty, piling pressure on a court that is already reeling from withdrawals by some African countries. Moscow never ratified the treaty, which it signed in 2000, meaning it never became a member subject to its jurisdiction. But the symbolic move coincided with the opening day of the general assembly of member states.
1. The ICC angered Moscow by referring to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea as an armed conflict. It is also examining allegations of war crimes committed by Russian and Georgian forces during a brief 2008 war.
2. Unfortunately, the court has not justified the hopes attached to it and has not become a genuinely independent authoritative organ of international justice,” the Foreign Ministry said.
3. It is revealing that in its 14 years of work the ICC has pronounced just four verdicts and spent over $1 billion.
4. Russia is under international pressure over its campaign of air strikes in Syria, with some human rights activists and U.S. officials accusing it of bombing civilians and civilian targets. Russia has denied those allegations.
5. The ICC, based in The Hague, Netherlands, was founded when 120 countries adopted its founding treaty in 1998. It is seen as a successor to the Nuremburg trials after World War II and ad-hoc U.N. war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.
Former Cuban President Fidel Castro dies
Former President Fidel Castro, who led a rebel army to improbable victory in Cuba, embraced Soviet-style communism and defied the power of 10 US presidents during his half century rule, has died at the age of 90. Castro's reign over the island-nation 90 miles from Florida was marked by the US-backed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961 and the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. The bearded revolutionary, who survived a crippling US trade embargo as well as dozens, possibly hundreds, of assassination plots, died eight years after ill health forced him to formally hand power over to Raul.
1. Castro overcame imprisonment at the hands of dictator Fulgencio Batista, exile in Mexico and a disastrous start to his rebellion before triumphantly riding into Havana in January 1959 to become, at age 32, the youngest leader in Latin America. For decades, he served as an inspiration and source of support to revolutionaries from Latin America to Africa.
2. His commitment to socialism was unwavering, though his power finally began to fade in mid-2006 when a gastrointestinal ailment forced him to hand over the presidency to Raul in 2008, provisionally at first and then permanently.
3. "Socialism or death" remained Castro's rallying cry even as Western-style democracy swept the globe and other communist regimes in China and Vietnam embraced capitalism, leaving this island of 11 million people an economically crippled Marxist curiosity.
4. Castro attended Jesuit schools, then the University of Havana, where he received law and social science degrees. His life as a rebel began in 1953 with a reckless attack on the Moncada military barracks in the eastern city of Santiago.
5. The US was among the first to formally recognise his government, cautiously trusting Castro's early assurances he merely wanted to restore democracy, not install socialism.
6. The American government imposed a trade embargo, banning virtually all US exports to the island except for food and medicine, and it severed diplomatic ties on January 3, 1961.
7. On April 16 of that year, Castro declared his revolution to be socialist, and the next day, about 1,400 Cuban exiles stormed the beach at the Bay of Pigs on Cuba's south coast.
8. As the end of the Cold War eased global tensions, many Latin American and European countries re-established relations with Cuba. In January 1998, Pope John Paul II visited a nation that had been officially atheist until the early 1990s.
Income tax law amendments passed
The taxation laws (second amendment) bill was passed by the Lok Sabha on 29 November 2016 without debate amid sloganeering by opposition parties, which demanded the government first discuss fallout of the scrapping of high-value notes. While moving the bill, Union finance minister Arun Jaitley said the new legislation attempts to plug loopholes in existing laws to ensure tax evaders cannot legalize their black money.
1. The aim is to ensure this money comes into the mainstream. The rich’s black money will be used for welfare of the poor.
2. The bill, which was tabled as a money bill in the Lok Sabha on 28 November 2016, allows taxpayers to declare their undisclosed income but with stringent penalties and at higher tax rates than in the last income disclosure scheme. Part of the proceeds from the scheme will be used for welfare of the poor.
3. The bill also proposes amendments to the Income Tax Act and the Finance Act to plug loopholes which may have provided tax evaders a way to legalize black money.
4. Under the new income disclosure scheme, a declarant can declare his undisclosed income, pay a tax of 30% and penalty of 10% on it and a surcharge called ‘Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Cess’ of 33% on the tax, all of which totals up to around 50%. In addition, the declarant will have to deposit 25% of undisclosed income in a zero-interest deposit scheme that will be called Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Deposit Scheme, 2016.
5. This money will be utilized for developmental activities such as irrigation, housing, construction of toilets and infrastructure, primary education and primary health.
6. In case the assessee does not declare the illegal income, the government proposes a tax of more than 82% and a stringent penalty in cases where such income is unearthed through search-and-seizure operation.
Global Enabling Trade Report 2016
India has improved its ranking by four places to 102nd position among 136 economies in terms of enabling cross border trade, with Singapore leading the list, the World Economic Forum (WEF) said on 30 November 2016. Among the Brics nations, India, China and South Africa have improved their ranking from the previous edition.
1. India's position has jumped four slots to 102, that of South Africa has improved three places to 55 while that of China stood at 61 compared with the previous ranking of 63.
2. Brazil's ranking has slipped to 110 from the earlier 97 while that of Russia dropped to 111 from the 105th position.
3. The 'Global Enabling Trade Report 2016' -- published by WEF and the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation -- assesses the performance of 136 economies by way of Enabling Trade Index (ETI).
4. The index assesses the extent to which economies have in place the factors facilitating the free flow of goods over borders and to their destinations. It takes into consideration various factors, including domestic and foreign market access, border administration, transport and digital infrastructure and operating environment.
5. Singapore is leading the top ten economies that are enabling trade across borders followed by the Netherlands and Hong Kong SAR at second and third places, respectively. Others are Luxembourg (4), Sweden (5), Finland (6), Austria (7), the United Kingdom (8), Germany (9) and Belgium (10).
6. The US is placed at the 22nd position.
7. With regard to India, the report said most problematic factors for import include high cost or delays caused by domestic transportation, crime and theft, corruption on the border and burdensome import procedures.
8. Six others, home to 2.4 billion people, rank beyond the 100th mark - India (102nd), Brazil (110th), Russia (111th), Pakistan (122nd), Bangladesh (123rd), and Nigeria (127th)," it noted.
9. Published every two years, the report said increased integration into the global economy has made the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region a more accessible market for trading goods than either the European Union or the US.
10. Free trade remains the most powerful driver of global economic development and social progress.
IBBI sets up two advisory panels
Putting in place the operational framework for insolvency and bankruptcy law, IBBI is being assisted by two advisory panels with inputs on various aspects, including on service providers and corporate liquidation. IBBI has been set up under the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code that seeks to consolidate and amend laws relating to reorganisation as well as insolvency resolution of corporate persons, partnership firms and individuals in a time-bound manner. Pushing ahead with implementation of the Code, the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) is gathering inputs from experts. In this regard, two high-level committees have been set up.
1. The nine-member advisory committee on service providers is headed by educationist Mohandas Pai while the panel on corporate insolvency and liquidation is chaired by noted banker Uday Kotak.
2. Members of the panel on service providers include National Institute of Public Finance and Policy's Professor Ajay N Shah, National Stock Exchange Vice-Chairman Ravi Narain, Sebi's Executive Director J Ranganayakulu and senior lawyer Amarjit Singh Chandiok.
3. IBBI, which expects to soon operationalise the Code, has already notified three sets of regulations.
4. These rules are for Insolvency Professionals, Insolvency Agencies and Model Bye-Laws and Governing Board of Insolvency Professional Agencies.
5. A not-for-profit company, having minimum net worth of Rs 10 crore, will be eligible to be an insolvency professional agency.
India and Switzerland sign bank information sharing deal
In a big step towards fighting black money stashed overseas, Switzerland on 22 November 2016 agreed to automatic sharing of information with India on Swiss bank accounts of Indians as of September 2018 and onwards. They will not share details about accounts held prior to that period, while the first such exchange will happen in September 2019.
1. The 'Joint Declaration' for implementation of AEOI signed on 22 November 2016 between India and Switzerland provides that both countries will start collecting data in accordance with the global standards in 2018 and exchange it from 2019 onwards.
2. While Switzerland has conformed to the global standards on automatic exchange of information with the signing of the declaration, India, on its part, has promised to safeguard the confidentiality of the data.
3. It will now be possible for India to receive from September, 2019 onwards, the financial information of accounts held by Indian residents in Switzerland for 2018 and subsequent years, on an automatic basis," said a Finance Ministry statement.
4. The Swiss Federal Department of Finance said in a statement that the signing of the joint declaration with India confirms Switzerland's international commitment to implementing the automatic exchange of Information (AEOI) standard.
5. Switzerland is thus strengthening its network of AEOI partner states. India meets in particular the high demands in terms of adherence to the principle of speciality and the safeguarding of confidentiality for the data delivered, which are prerequisites for the introduction of the AEOI.
6. Switzerland, which has always been at the centre of the debate on black money allegedly stashed by Indians abroad, used to be known for very strong secrecy walls till a few years ago around its banking practices.
7. The Switzerland Department of Finance said the automatic exchange of information with India will be implemented based on the Multilateral Competent Authority Agreement on the Automatic Exchange of Financial Account Information (MCAA).
8. The MCAA is based on the international standard for the exchange of information developed by the OECD.
9. On June 6, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met Swiss President Johann Schneider-Ammann at Geneva and discussed the need for expeditious exchange of information for combating tax evasion together with an early start to negotiations on the Agreement for Automatic Exchange of Information.
India-US resolves 100 tax dispute cases
India and the US have resolved more than 100 tax dispute cases involving Rs 5,000 crore under the bilateral Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP). A meeting of the Bilateral Competent Authority MAP or Advance Pricing Agreement (APA) between India and the US was held in Washington last month, and these long pending cases were resolved, a finance ministry said.
1. During the meeting, 66 MAP cases relating to Transfer pricing issues and 42 MAP cases relating to Treaty Interpretation issues were agreed to be resolved successfully.
2. MAP, under the Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), is an alternative dispute settlement mechanism available to authorities and foreign investors.
3. The total amount that was locked up in dispute in these cases is approximately Rs 5,000 crore and these cases were related to Assessment Years ranging from AY 1999-2000 to AY 2011-12.
4. The resolved cases pertain to various issues like transfer pricing adjustments made to the international transactions in the nature of payment of royalty, management fees, cost contribution arrangements, engineering design services, contract R&D services, investment advisory services, Marketing Support Services, Software Development Services.
5. The treaty interpretative issues were in the nature of presence of permanent establishment in India and profit attribution to such PEs, disputes pertaining to royalty income v/s business income of foreign companies, etc.
6. During the meeting, India and US also reached an agreement on the terms and conditions of the first ever bilateral APA.
7. Though India started its bilateral APA process with the USA by accepting applications from the Indian taxpayers from FY 2012-13, the USA started its bilateral process with India only in February 2016 by way of accepting applications from US taxpayers, the statement said.
8. APA, introduced in the Income Tax Act in 2012, is a pact between a taxpayer and the tax department on a transfer pricing procedure for determining the value of assets and ensuing taxes on intra-group overseas transactions.
9. APAs could be a unilateral agreement between the company and Indian tax authorities or a bilateral agreement involving a foreign country.
RBI introduces incremental CRR
In order to absorb the surge in liquidity in banking system following demonetisation of high value notes, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced an incremental Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR) of 100 per cent for the fortnight beginning on 26 November 2016. CRR is the portion of the deposits which banks are required to park to the RBI. Currently it is at four per cent.
According to the RBI guidelines
1. On the increase in NDTL (net demand and time liabilities) between September 16 and November 11, scheduled banks shall maintain an incremental CRR of 100 per cent, effective the fortnight beginning November 26, 2016. According to the estimates, this could be Rs 3.5 lakh crore.
2. RBI said it will review the decision on December 9 or earlier, as the incremental CRR is intended to be a temporary measure within RBI’s liquidity management framework to drain excess liquidity in the system. The regular CRR would however continue to be at four per cent.
3. With the withdrawal of the legal tender status of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 denomination bank notes beginning November 9, 2016, there has been a surge in deposits relative to the expansion in bank credit, leading to large excess liquidity in the system, it said.
4. RBI also observed that the magnitude of surplus liquidity available with the banking system is expected to increase further in the fortnights ahead.
5. This is intended to absorb a part of the surplus liquidity arising from the return of now defunct Rs 500/1000 notes to the banking system, while leaving adequate liquidity with banks to meet the credit needs of the productive sectors of the economy, it said.
Science and Technology
New way to create fuel from water
In a breakthrough, scientists have found an economically viable way to create fuel from water by splitting it into oxygen and hydrogen, using an ultrathin catalyst. Just as solar light can generate electricity, the water splitting process could do the same via the generation of clean chemical fuel such as hydrogen, said Huijin Zhao, Director of Griffith University’s Centre for Clean Environment and Energy (CCEE) in Australia.
1. While it is already scientifically possible to split water in this way, highly efficient catalysts are the key to moving the system to one that is economically viable, researchers said.
2. Heterogeneous electrocatalytic gas evolution reactions hold a key for clean energy generation and storage technologies, but their efficiencies are severely hindered by high overpotentials caused by slow gaseous products detachment from catalyst surface.
3. Overpotentials represent the extra energy required to make a chemical reaction to occur. The higher the overpotential, the higher the energy consumption.
4. This project aims to tackle this critical issue by developing novel two-dimensional ultrathin porous electrocatalysts with superior gas detachment properties and low overpotentials.
5. The outcome of the project will provide sound scientific basis to design and develop high performance electrocatalysts for fuel gas production.
How the solar system formed
A low-mass supernova — a star exploding at the end of its life-cycle — triggered the formation of our solar system, says a study based on new models an evidence from meteorites. Supernova left forensic evidence in meteorites that formed at the birth of our solar system. For the study, a research team led by University of Minnesota Professor Yong-Zhong Qian examined telltale patterns of short-lived radionuclides that stellar explosion produced and which are preserved today as isotopic anomalies in meteorites.
1. As the debris from the formation of the solar system, meteorites are comparable to the leftover bricks and mortar in a construction site. About 4.6 billion years ago, some event disturbed a cloud of gas and dust, triggering the gravitational collapse that led to the formation of the solar system.
2. The researchers realised that previous efforts in studying the formation of the solar system were focused on a high-mass supernova trigger, which would have left behind a set of nuclear fingerprints that are not present in the meteoric record.
3. However, only a low-mass supernova triggering the formation of the solar system is consistent with the overall meteoritic record, said the study published in the journal Nature Communications. Meteorites tell us what the solar system is made of and in particular, what short-lived nuclei the triggering supernova provided.
‘Super Earth’ found orbiting nearby star
Scientists have discovered a new ‘super Earth’ planet with a mass around 5.4 times that of the Earth, orbiting a very bright star near to our Sun. The exoplanet, GJ 536 b, is not within the star’s habitable zone, but its short orbital period of 8.7 days and the luminosity of its star make it an attractive candidate for investigating its atmospheric composition, researchers said. The star, GJ 536, is a red dwarf which is quite cool and near to our Sun, they said.
1. During the research, a cycle of magnetic activity similar to that of the Sun has been observed, but with a shorter period, three years.
2. So far, the only planet we have found is GJ 536 b, but we are continuing to monitor the star to see if we can find other companions,” said Alejandro Suarez Mascareno from the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) and the University of La Laguna (ULL) in Spain.
3. Rocky planets are usually found in groups, especially around stars of this type, and we are pretty sure that we can find other low-mass planets in orbits further from the star, with periods from 100 days up to a few years,” Mascareno said.
4. This rocky exoplanet is orbiting a star much smaller and cooler than the Sun. But it is sufficiently nearby and bright.
5. To detect the planet, the researchers had to measure the velocity of the star with accuracy of the order of a meter per second.
6. The planet was detected in a joint effort between the IAC and the Geneva Observatory, using the HARPS (High Accuracy Radial velocity Planet Seeker) spectrograph on the 3.6M ESO Telescope at La Silla in Chile and HARPS North, on the Telescopio Nacional Galileo (TNG) at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, Garafia in Spain.
Underground Ocean on Pluto discovered
Scientists have found evidence that tiny, distant Pluto harbours a hidden ocean beneath the frozen surface of its heart-shaped central plain containing as much water as all of Earth's seas. The finding, reported on 16 November 2016 in two research papers published in the journal Nature, adds Pluto to a growing list of worlds in the solar system beyond Earth believed to have underground oceans, some of which potentially could be habitats for life.
1. Pluto's ocean, which is likely slushy with ice, lies 93 to 124 miles (150 to 200 km) beneath the dwarf planet's icy surfaceand is about 62 miles (100 km) deep, planetary scientist Francis Nimmo of the University of California, Santa Cruz said in an interview.
2. With its ocean covered by so much ice, Pluto is not a prime candidate for life, added Massachusetts Institute of Technology planetary scientist Richard Binzel, another of the researchers. But Binzel added that "one is careful to never say the word impossible."
3. Liquid water is considered one of the essential ingredients for life.
4. It shows that nature is more creative than we are able to imagine, which is why we go and explore," Binzel said. "We see what nature is capable of doing."
5. Pluto has enough rock that there's quite a lot of heat being generated, and an ice shell a few hundred kilometers thick is quite a good insulator," Nimmo said. "So a deep subsurface ocean is not too surprising, especially if the ocean contains ammonia, which acts like an antifreeze."
6. Scientists made the discovery as they were trying to figure out why a 621-mile (1,000-km) wide impact basin known as Sputnik Planitia, which contains the curious heart-shaped region, was located in its present position near Pluto's equator.
7. Computer models showed the basin likely filled with ice, which caused Pluto to roll over, cracking its crust. That could happen only if Pluto possessed a subsurface ocean.
8. New Horizons is on its way to another frozen world in the Kuiper Belt region of the solar system about 1 billion miles (1.6 billion km) past Pluto. A flyby of the object, known as 2014 MU69, is scheduled on Jan. 1, 2019.
Four out of five mails written at work is on cloud
Four out five emails Indians write at work every day is stored in the cloud. As more Indian organisations across different sectors are adapting to cloud over traditional storage systems, a recent survey by Cloud Security Alliance and InstaSafe Technologies has found out that more than 83 per cent of organisations have moved their email services to the cloud. The survey is conducted among 123 organisations in India across sectors like IT, banking and financial services, manufacturing, retail, telecom, insurance hospitality, transport and others.
1. The two other important works or applications moved now moved to the cloud are human resource management (HRM) and customer relationship management (CRM). While more than 48 per cent organisations said they moved HRM to the cloud, 45 per cent of the organisations taken CRM to the cloud from the existing set-up. More than 38 per cent firms have moved Enterprise Resource Planning to the cloud.
2. Organisations across the world and in India are slowly adapting to cloud computing as it does not require substantial investments in hardware and infrastructure for software, unlike the traditional set-up.
3. The survey finds out that 62 per cent of the Indian organisations (of the 123 surveyed) are active cloud users, a little less than one- third of the organisations have adopted to cloud for less than a year.
4. Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform continue to be the top three cloud platforms used by Indian organisations. Netmagic is the top Indian cloud provider.
5. Indian organisations, however, are "extremely concerned" about the data breach and data loss while shifting applications on the cloud.
6. The study says a lot of the existing and prospective cloud users are worried about the adequate protection of sensitive information.
7. The recent data breach of debit cards and credit cards of Indian is an example of such lack of information security. Analysts say such an incident calls for greater focus on ensuring security and cloud service providers are working on that front.
H5N8 expands its reach
India has reported an outbreak of a highly contagious bird flu virus in Karnataka the Paris-based World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), citing a report from the Indian Agriculture Ministry. The virus, H5N8, spreads through direct contact with secretions from infected birds, their feed, etc. So far there are no reported cases of H5N8 affecting people. The virus is caused by Type “A” influenza and is a subtype of the H5N1 virus. With nearly 50 ducks dying of the virus last month at Delhi zoo, the State government had issued a health advisory asking people to not consume uncooked chicken or eggs.
1. In Karnataka, the H5N8 virus was confirmed among birds in the village of Itagi, in Hosapete taluk; all 1,593 of the birds at risk from the disease died or were culled, according to the report posted by the OIE.
2. The H5N8 bird flu strain has been found in several countries in Europe and West Asia in recently, leading some states to order poultry flocks to be kept indoors.
3. The same virus had previously affected livestock in Haryana, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Kerala.
Swachh Bharat awareness campaign in urban areas
Aligarh leads 500 cities in undertaking Swachh awareness generation activities under the fortnightly thematic activities as required under the Swachh Survekshan-2017, launched by the Ministry of Urban Development. During the evaluation of IEC (Information, Education and Communication) activities by the Ministry, Aligarh has scored the maximum marks. IEC performance has been assessed by the Ministry while evaluation of other parameters of Swachh Survekshan-2017 will be done by the Quality Council of India.
1. All the cities were required to furnish reports on IEC activities involving citizens along with evidence of media coverage relating to ensuring cleanliness at parks, government of offices, residential colonies, tourist places, schools etc., and welfare of sanitary workers, for evaluation.
2. The other cities in the top 10 in this regard are: Vasai–Virar (Maharashtra), Hyderabad, Gurugram, Chandigarh, Madurai (Tamil Nadu), Vadodara and Rajkot (Gujarat), Tirupati (Andhra Pradesh) and Mysuru (Karnataka).
3. These cities were given scores under the 50% of weightage allocated for IEC under Survey-2017.
4. Ministry of Urban Development has informed all the 500 cities included in Swachh Survekshan-2017 that remaining 50% of the weightage for IEC component under this ranking will be given to the efforts towards community participation for making individual, community and public toilets functional during the current cleanliness fortnight that commenced
Puri ranked 36th in Fortune's top bizmen list
HDFC Bank's Aditya Puri has been ranked 36th in the US magazine Fortune's top 50 business persons list for 2016, and is the only Indian among three persons of Indian origin in the global rankings.
1. Puri, who has led the second largest private sector lender since its inception in 1994, has been ranked 36th in the list, which evaluates corporate leaders' business performance.
2. Facebook's Mark Zuckerburg leads the list, Microsoft's chief executive Satya Nadella has been ranked fifth. AO Simith's Ajita Rajendra is at 34, followed by Mastercard's Ajay Banga at 40.
3. According to the magazine, HDFC bank delivered $1.9 billion profits under Puri last year and its American depository receipts had a 15-year run which took them up 2,200 per cent before some easing.
4. 66-year-old Puri, one of the highest paid bankers in the country, had undergone a cardiac surgery earlier this year.
Cyber Security Insights Report
Over 55 per cent of millennials (born between 1980-2000) in India have experienced cybercrime in the past year and globally, millennials are the most commonly affected victims, with 40 per cent experiencing it last year, a report revealed on 19 November 2016. According to the ‘Norton Cyber Security Insights’ report by security software firm Norton by Symantec, “39 per cent Indian millennials have either experienced ransomware themselves or know someone who has”.
1. Millennials emerged as the password sharing generation in India with 34 per cent of them admitting to sharing passwords of various accounts. Of those who have experienced ransomware, 80 per cent of the millennial victims did so in the past one year alone.
2. Further, 18 per cent of millennial victims paid the ransom, yet, did not gain access to their files, the findings showed. When it comes to Wi-Fi usage, 30 per cent millennials agreed to have used their neighbour’s Wi-Fi network without their permissions, compared to 22 per cent of the overall respondents.
3. In order to protect your information, Norton recommends these practices — avoid password promiscuity, do not pay the ransom and backup, be in control when online, know the ins and outs of public Wi-Fi networks — to millennials.
India opposes UN resolution for moratorium on death penalty
India has opposed a UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty, saying it goes against Indian law and the sovereign right of countries to determine their own laws and penalties. “The resolution before us sought to promote a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty,” Mayank Joshi, a counsellor at India’s UN Mission said. “My delegation, therefore, has voted against the resolution as a whole as it goes against Indian statutory law.”
1. The resolution was adopted by the General Assembly’s committee dealing with humanitarian affairs by 115 votes to 38 with 31 abstentions after an acrimonious debate and the adoption of an amendment to recognise the sovereign rights of nations to determine their own laws, which virtually nullified it.
2. India supported the amendment and Joshi told the committee: “Every State has the sovereign right to determine its own legal system and appropriate legal penalties.”
3. The amendment passed by a vote of 76 to 72 with 26 abstentions. However, it did not mollify India, which voted against the amended resolution.
4. In the last 12 years only three executions – all of them of terrorists – have been carried out in the nation of 1.2 billion.
5. Last year Yakub Memon, who financed the 1993 Mumbai bombings, was executed. Muhammad Afzal, convicted of plotting the 2001 attack on India’s Parliament, was hanged in 2013 and Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, one of the terrorists involved in the 2008 Mumbai attack was executed in 2012.
6. An independent judiciary hears the cases where death penalty can be imposed and appeals are permitted at several levels, Joshi said. Moreover, the Supreme Court has decreed that “poverty, socio-economic, psychic compulsions, undeserved adversities in life” should be considered as mitigating factors in imposing the death penalty, he added.
7. The amendment about the sovereign right of nations to have their own legal systems was introduced by Singapore. Its delegate said that the original resolution was one-sided and tried to impose the values of one group of countries upon others.
8. New Zealand, echoing the sentiments of several other countries, said that sovereignty did not absolve nations from complying with international norms of human rights and the death penalty violated it.
9. The United States also opposed the resolution saying that capital punishment was legal under international law and dealing with it was a domestic matter.
Sri Sri Ravishankar gets international peace prize
Spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravishankar was on 20 November 2016 honoured with an international peace prize for his efforts in ensuring world peace. Home Minister Rajnath Singh gave away the "Dr Nagendra Singh International Peace Award" to the spiritual leader at a function at Vigyan Bhawan. The award has been instituted in the memory of Dr Nagendra Singh, first Indian judge at International Court of Justice, Hague.
Report on “Children in Difficult Circumstances”
Every second child in the western states of Maharashtra, Goa, Gujarat, and Madhya Pradesh has been subjected to one or more forms of sexual abuse, a report compiled by NGO Plan India states. The report on “Children in Difficult Circumstances” also says that Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Bihar, Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Sikkim, Jharkhand and West Bengal accounted for a whopping 61 percent of total human trafficking crimes.
As per report
1. An average 48 percent of children who went missing in these states remained untraced.
2. In the northern states, child marriage remains a grave concern. In Rajasthan, 57.6 percent of women in the age group of 20-24 years were married before the age of 18, the highest in the country.
3. In Uttar Pradesh, the child marriage figures are at a staggering 54.9 per cent, followed by 28 per cent in Haryana.
4. Uttar Pradesh also has the highest number of child labourers with a massive 1.8 million against the country’s total of 4.3 million.
5. The findings are the result of consultations held over three months with over 2,000 civil society organisations including government departments working with children living in difficult circumstances.
6. The consultations were conducted in 28 states and four Union Territories with participation of 1500 representatives.
Antarctic hasn’t lost much sea ice: Report
The area of sea ice around Antarctica has barely changed in size in the past 100 years, researchers have found. According to estimates by climate scientists at the University of Reading in London, Antarctic has lost only 14 per cent summer sea ice since the early 1900s. It may be because Antarctic sea ice is much less sensitive to the effects of climate change than that of the Arctic, which in stark contrast has experienced a dramatic decline during the 20th century.
1. Since satellite observations began, Antarctic sea ice has increased slightly over the past 30 years, said lead author Jonathan Day from the University of Reading. “Scientists have been grappling to understand this trend in the context of global warming, but these new findings suggest it may not be anything new,” Day added.
2. The study revealed that the levels of the continent’s sea ice in the early 1900s were in fact similar to the present, at between 5.3 and 7.4 million square km. However, Weddell Sea did have a significantly larger ice cover, the study said.
3. In the study, the team examined the ice observations recorded in the ships’ logbooks of explorers such as the British Captain Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton and the German Erich von Drygalski to compare where the Antarctic ice edge was during the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration (1897-1917) and where satellites show it is today.
4. The missions of Scott and Shackleton are remembered in history as heroic failures, yet the data collected by these and other explorers could profoundly change the way we view the ebb and flow of Antarctic sea ice.
India second unequal country in the world
India is the second most unequal country in the world with the top 1% of the population owning nearly 60% of the total wealth, according to a report. According to Global Wealth Report 2016 compiled by Credit Suisse Research Institute, the gap between the world's haves and have-nots does not appear to be getting any narrower and a mere 0.7% of the global population owns nearly half the world's wealth. The report identified Russia as the world's most unequal country with a huge 74.5% of the nation's wealth controlled by the richest 1% of people.
As per report
1. In India and Thailand the top 1% own 58.4% and 58% of the wealth, while the figure was 47.9% for Brazil and 43.8% for China.
2. Switzerland remained as the wealthiest country in the world, per capita.
3. While the bottom half collectively own less than 1% of total wealth, the wealthiest top 10% own 89% of all global assets.
4. Currently, an estimated 9% of adults globally are net debtors, which is without a doubt a worrying development. Our calculations suggest that 80% of adults in India and Africa belong to the bottom half of the global wealth distribution.
5. The contrast between China and India may also come as a surprise, given their similarities in terms of huge populations and rapid growth.
6. Their representation in the global bottom half is very different, and the discrepancy is even greater in the bottom quintile which covers 31% of Indians but only 7% of Chinese.
7. Personal wealth in India is dominated by property and other real assets, which make up 86% of estimated household assets.
8. There is still considerable wealth poverty, reflected in the fact that 96% of the adult population has wealth below $10,000, whereas this percentage is only 68% in China.
9. India's wealth has grown quite quickly since the turn of the century, except during the global financial crisis, it said, adding that wealth per adult fell in USD terms in China, India, Russia, and the UK, largely due to exchange rate changes.
Full fledged Bench of AFT launched
Army on 25 November 2016 launched a full fledged Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) at a Military Station in Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir. Justice N Paul Vasanthakumar, Chief Justice of High Court of Jammu and Kashmir, inaugurated the full fledged Bench of the AFT at the Sunjuwan Military Station. The ceremony was presided over by Justice B P Katakey, Officiating Chairperson, AFT, New Delhi.
1. The Government of India in the second phase had sanctioned two Regional Benches, one at Jabalpur in Madhya Pradesh, which was notified on July 9, this year, and the Srinagar Bench at Jammu on November 17.
2. The Bench since then has functioned as a circuit Bench of Chandigarh Bench.
3. The establishment of the full fledged Regional Bench has mitigated the problem relating to long journey to Chandigarh faced by the Armed Forces Personnel and their families.
4. The official notification issued by the Ministry of Defence, under SRO 12(E): “In exercise of the powers conferred by sub-section (4) of section 5 of the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007 (55 of 2007), the Central Government hereby notifies the Bench of the Armed Forces Tribunal, Srinagar with effect from the 17th day of November, 2016, which shall have jurisdiction within the territorial limits of the State of Jammu and Kashmir.”
5. The Bench thanked the efforts of Jang Bahadur Singh Jamwal, Former Registrar of this Bench for his sincere and dedicated efforts to find the present building to house it.
6. It is for the first time, in the history of the AFT that on the date of inauguration of the Bench, the free Legal Aid Clinic has been inaugurated.
7. Besides the Principal Bench in New Delhi, AFT has Regional Benches at Chandigarh, Lucknow, Kolkata, Guwahati, Chennai, Kochi, Mumbai and Jaipur.
First time World Robot Olympiad in India
The 13th edition of the World Robot Olympiad, which is being held in India for the first time, aims to find innovative solutions using robotics technology to reduce manage and recycle waste. Organised by National Council of Science Museums (NCSM) in collaboration with the India STEM Foundation (ISF), the three-day international championship that begins on 25 November 2016, will see participation by over 2000 students from 54 countries.
1. Students in the age group of 9 to 25 years will be participating in four categories – regular category (Elementary, Junior High, and Senior High), WRO football, open category and advanced robotics challenge.
2. According to organisers, the theme ‘Rap the Scrap’ is in line with Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission.
3. A science, technology, and education event, the Olympiad brings together young minds from across the world to develop their creativity and problem solving skills through challenging and educational robotics competition.
4. This platform is a tremendous learning ground for students and will provide numerous opportunities to them to nurture for a lifetime.
5. Before the final competition, preliminary rounds were held in Delhi, Lucknow, Tirupati, Trivandrum, Chennai, Kolkata, Varanasi, Guwahati, Bangalore, Surat, Mumbai, Bhopal and Chandigarh over a span of three months from August to October 2016.
6. About 245 teams from India qualified for the National Championship held at Netaji Indoor Stadium, Kolkata and 27 teams qualified for WRO International Championship in different categories.
7. The contest that is set to continue till November 27, is being held at the India Expo Mart, Greater Noida.
Constitution Day Celebrated
26 November 2016 celebrated as the constitution day. This day is officially the second Constitution Day in Indian history. In 2015, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government at the centre declared 26 November as Constitution Day by a 19 November gazette notification. The day was earlier commemorated as National Law Day, after a resolution by the Supreme Court Bar Association, a lawyers’ body, in 1979. Sixty-seven years ago, on 26 November 1949, the Constitution of India was adopted.
Facts about the Constitution
1. 9 December 1946: The Constituent Assembly started its first session for the Constitution.
2. 11 sessions: Number of sessions the Constituent Assembly had to complete the Constitution.
3. 17: Number of committees formed in the Constituent Assembly.
4. 299: Number of members of the Constituent Assembly.
5. 284: Number of members who finally signed the Constitution.
6. 15: Number of women in the Constituent Assembly.
7. 165: Number of days for which the Constituent Assembly held meetings.
8. 2 years, 11 months, 17 days – The time it took to finish the Constitution.
Pakistan’s 1st census postponed
Non-availability of army personnel due to Indo-Pak tensions has forced authorities to indefinitely postpone Pakistan’s census, the first in 17 years, according to a media report. The Pakistan Bureau of Statistics (PBS) has not been able to come up with a concrete time frame for conducting the long-awaited sixth population and housing census in the country.
1. The last census was held in Pakistan 17 years ago.
2. Following the decision to involve the army in the census exercise, the PBS estimated it would need around 167,000 army personnel to go door-to-door. In addition, the bureau estimated it would need additional 20-30,000 personnel to supervise the census operation.
3. A PBS official said that the army had estimated the total manpower for the census at around 300,000, but given the prevailing conditions on the LoC, it would be next to impossible to spare such a large chunk of human resource from the armed forces. Asked about the fate of the census, the official said it was up to the CCI to decide whether to go ahead without the army or not. But he was of the opinion that the involvement of army personnel would make the census results more acceptable and transparent.
4. The first census in Pakistan was conducted in 1951, the second in 1961 and the third in 1972 instead of 1971, due to political turmoil.
5. The fourth census was held in March 1981 and the fifth, which was due in 1991, was conducted in March 1998 with the help of the army.
6. Under the Constitution, the government is bound to conduct the population census every 10 years.
UP tops list in mobile manufacturing
Uttar Pradesh has emerged as mobile manufacturing hub in the country accounting for around half of mobile devices production capacity in the country, as per a report released by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion. 38 new mobile manufacturing units with over 20 million units per month capacity have been set up since September 2015. These units have generated 38,300 employment opportunities, the report said.
As per report
1. The total production capacity installed in the country is 20.7 million out of which UP alone accounts for 10 million mobile production capacity followed by Haryana with 2.5 million capacity.
2. UP alone houses 13 of 38 mobile manufacturing units established in the country. Delhi follows up with 6 mobile manufacturing units, Andhra Pradesh 4 units, Haryana and Uttarakhand 3 each, Maharashtra 2, Telangana 2, 1 each in Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Daman.
3. Out of 39 units 15 plants are located in UP including that of Samsung, Lava, Intex with total monthly production capacity of 13.1 million units.
4. AP has 5 units with 2 million capacity, Haryana 3 with 2.5 million capacity, Uttarakhand and Delhi 4 each with 3 million and 1.1 million capacity, 2 units each in Telangana and Maharashtra with 0.8 million and 0.3 million capacity respectively.
5. There are single units in Tamil Nadu, HP, West Bengal and Daman.
6. Mobile handset manufacturing in the country has registered growth of approximately 185 per cent in value and 90 per cent in volume in 2015-16 over 2014-15.
7th World Ayurveda Congress
The 7th World Ayurveda Congress (WAC) was held from 2nd – 4th December, 2016 at Science City, Kolkata. The mega event was organized by the World Ayurveda Foundation with support of Ministry of AYUSH, and the State Government of West Bengal. To facilitate development and growth of AYUSH system of medicine, the Ministry of AYUSH is also organised AROGYA Expo from 1st-4th December, 2016 at Science City, Kolkata to coincide with the 7th World Ayurveda Congress.
1. The focus of this 7th World Ayurveda Congress is – ‘Strengthening the Ayurveda Ecosystem’ and the congregation will bring together stakeholders in the Ayurveda sector from India and abroad.
2. There are three major components of the program this year (1) Public Outreach session which comprises of the Ayurveda Expo, the Ayurveda Clinics for the general public and Public Lectures. (2) Influencing Policy and (3) Promoting Science.
3. This year’s World Ayurveda Congress will be the largest ever as compared to the earlier World Ayurveda Congress at Kochi 2002, Pune 2006, Jaipur 2008, Bengaluru 2010, Bhopal 2012 and Delhi 2014.
4. Over 3500 delegates, including over 350 international delegates from 24 countries representing the Global Ayurveda fraternityare expected to participate.
5. Other participants would be Students, Ayurvedic practitioners, traditional healers, academics, research scientists, policy makers, industry, cultivators and collectors of medicinal plants, agricultural and forestry experts, buyers from overseas, regulators from developed nations and members of society in and around Kolkata interested in Ayurveda.
6. More than 1893 scientific papers of international caliber are being considered for presentation in over 30 multi-track scientific sessions.
7. AROGYA EXPO will showcase the best that Ayurveda sector has to offer in products and services to the society. Leading companies from all over India will display their best in Ayurvedic innovation. Medical and Educational institutions will demonstrate their health care options for a healthy life in today’s high pressure Lifestyle. Visitors at the AROGYA EXPO would also be enthralled about the great traditional science and may also partake free health checkups at the AYUSH Clinics set up and manned by experienced practitioners of AYUSH Systems and manufactures of Ayush medicines.
Playing National Anthem Mandatory: SC
The Supreme Court on 30 November 2016 ordered that “all the cinema halls in India shall play the national anthem before the feature film starts and all present in the hall are obliged to stand up to show respect to the national anthem” as a part of their “sacred obligation”. Discarding notions of “any different notion or the perception of individual rights”, a bench of Justices Dipak Misra and Amitava Roy added that the movie screen shall have the image of the national flag when the anthem is being played and that doors of the halls will remain shut during the anthem so that no disturbance is caused.
1. The directions are issued, for love and respect for the motherland is reflected when one shows respect to the National Anthem as well as to the National Flag.
2. The court order, however, does not entail any penalty or punishment for not standing when the national anthem is played and hence, it remains to be seen how public authorities and those managing private cinema halls would ensure the direction is followed “in letter and spirit.”
3. Issuing a string of interim orders on a PIL filed by a retired engineer from Bhopal, Shyam Narayan Chouksey, the apex court further prohibited “commercial exploitation” of the anthem for incurring commercial benefits or using an abridged version of it, while adding the anthem cannot be dramatized and used in variety TV shows.
4. It granted 10 days for states and union territories to give effect to the directions, the bench would take up the petition next in February, 2017.
Kala Utsav 2016 concludes
The Kala Utsav 2016, an annual festival to celebrate the talent of school children all over the country, concluded on November 18, 2016 evening with the presentation of the first, second and third prizes in four segments of music, dance, theatre and visual arts to the schools teams representing their States and Union Territories at the Siri Fort Auditorium in New Delhi. The first prize comprised of a golden trophy shield with a cash prize of Rs. 1.25 lakhs, second prize a silver trophy with Rs. 75,000 and third prize a bronze trophy with Rs. 50,000. The prizes were awarded by Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey, the Minister of State for Human Resource Development. The 3-day Utsav was earlier inaugurated on November 15 by The Union HRD Minister, Shri Prakash Javadekar and Shri Upendra Kushwaha, MoS Ministry of HRD.
1. Students from Leh-Ladakh region of J&K participated for the first time. Their dance performance was a great entertainment and eye-catching. This Kala Utsav attracted school students from every corner of the country with all States and Union Territories except Lakshdweep making their presence felt. The number of participants too was about three hundred more than last year.
2. Another highlight was the song performance of Kajari Art-form (which also won second prize) by the Kumharar Girls High School Patna Team which was comprised of all divyang blind girls with only one male who was an instrument player.
In the Visual Arts
1. Andaman & Nicobar Islands (Body Ornaments of the Tribes) presented by Govt. Model Senior Secondary School, Aberdeen Bazaar, South Andaman won the first prize
2. Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (Traditional Bronze Craft) presented by Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Canacona, South Goa received the second
3. Team Haryana (Traditional Visual Arts) from GHS, Durjanpur, District Bhawani won the third prize.
In Dance segment
1. The first place went to West Bengal (Ranpaa Dance presented by Somruk Shital Chandra Institution, P.O Somruk, P.S Uluberia, Howrah)
2. Second to Himachal Pradesh (Laaldi Dance presented by Govt. Senior Secondary School (Girls) Sultanpur, District Kullu)
3. Third to Andaman & Nicobar Islands for Life & Culture of Jarawa Tribes presented by Govt. Model Senior Secondary School, Aberdeen Bazaar, South Andaman).
1. The first honour went to Goa (Shree Brahmadurga High School, Paz-Shiroda)
2. Second to Bihar (Antrijyoti Girls High School, Kumharar, Patna)
3. Third to Jammu & Kashmir Bilawar).
1. Karnataka (Government High School, Kyalakonda, Tq: Shiggaon, District Haveri) went away with the first prize
2. Kerala (Vivekodayam Boys HSS Thrissur) with the second
3. Tamil Nadu (Govt. Higher Secondary School, Elachipalayam Post, Tiruchengode Taluk, Namakkal) with the third.