Current Affairs 25th August 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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The Union Cabinet has been apprised of the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and South Africa to establish cooperation in Grassroots Innovation.  The MoU was signed in pursuance to the Inter-Government Agreement between two countries for cooperation in Science & Technology in July, 2016 at Pretoria, South Africa. Both countries will jointly organise various programmes such as forums, workshops, seminars and training on matters related to innovation.  They will also share open source technologies with each other and jointly develop projects to assist innovators in converting their ideas into commercially viable innovations.  The MoU also provides a mechanism and help in creating an ecosystem that will promote inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship at the grassroot level in both countries.  It gives particular focus on Indigenous knowledge systems and Agriculture Biotechnology.

The Union Cabinet approved a revised Double Tax Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income between India and Cyprus.  The revised DTAA provides for source-based taxation of capital gains on transfer of shares instead of one based on residence.  Thus, it is considered as a major step in the fight against tax evasion, round tripping and base erosion/profit shifting. It also allows India to have the right to tax capital gains arising in India.  It further removes distortion caused by the provisions in the earlier treaty for residence-based taxation for the sake of avoiding tax. India and Cyprus had signed DTAA in 1994. Cyprus is a major source of foreign funds flows in India. From April 2000 till March 2016, India received foreign direct investment (FDI) to the tune of Rs 42,680.76 crore from Cyprus. Cyprus is considered a major haven for money laundering, round-tripping, and profit-shifting. The revised DTAA assumes significance coming soon after the signing of the revised pact with Mauritius. Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) :  A DTAA is a bilateral economic agreement between two nations that aims to avoid or eliminate double taxation of the same income in two countries. It is also referred to as a Tax Treaty.

Colombian government and the rebel group Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) has signed a historic peace accord to end more than five decades of conflict on 24 August 2016. As per the terms of agreement, FARC will give up its armed struggle and join the legal political process. The agreement was signed by the head of the Colombian delegation, Humberto de la Calle, and the chief FARC negotiator, Ivan Marquez in the Cuban capital Havana, Cuba. Now, the deal will need approval of Colombians via a referendum that will be held on 2 October 2016. A joint statement released after signing of the accord said both sides have agreed to work together to address social exclusion, to deliver justice to the victims of the conflict and build a stable and enduring peace. The left-wing rebels have been fighting Colombian government since 1964. The conflict has killed an estimated 220000 people and displaced millions. The peace accord was reached after the two sides earlier in June 2016 signed the bilateral ceasefire agreement. Over the past four years, peace negotiators have managed to reach agreement on six areas and they are land reform, political participation for ex-rebels, justice for victims of the conflict, fighting drug trafficking, disarmament and the implementation and monitoring of the accord.

Akhlaq Ur Rahman (AR) Kidwai, who served as Governor of States including Bihar, West Bengal and Haryana, passed away on 24 August 2016 following a brief illness. He was 96. Kidwai is survived by two sons and four daughters.He was a Rajya Sabha member from 2000 to 2004.  Akhlaq Ur Rahman Kidwai : He was born in 1920 in Baragaon village of Barabanki district in Uttar Pradesh.He served as Governor of several States for a record period of 17 years- in Bihar (twice from 1979 to 1985 and 1993 to 1998), West Bengal (1998 to 1999) and Haryana (2004 to 2009).   He also held the temporary charge of Governor of Punjab and of Rajasthan and Administrator of Delhi and of Chandigarh.He also served as the Chairman of Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) from 1974-78.He had also served as the chancellor of the Aligarh Muslim University.  In January 2011, he was awarded the Padma Vibhushan, the country's second highest civilian award for his outstanding contribution towards public affairs.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) has announced to commemorate the joyous Hindu festival of Diwali with the launch of Forever stamp  on 23 August 2016. The first-day-of-issue dedication ceremony of the Forever Stamp will take place at the Consulate General of India, New York on 5 October 2016. The launch of this stamp is an important recognition for the more than 3 million Indian-Americans who celebrate Diwali every year in US. The Diwali stamp will be issued as a Forever stamp. This Forever stamp will also be equal in value to the current First Class Mail 1-ounce price. The stamp design is a photograph featuring a traditional diya oil lamp beautifully lit, sitting on a sparkling gold background.

The Union Cabinet has  approved the introduction of the Surrogacy (Regulation) Bill, 2016 on 24 August 2016. The Bill will ensure effective regulation of surrogacy, prohibit commercial surrogacy and allow ethical surrogacy to the needy infertile couples. Provisions of the Bill : It will regulate surrogacy in India by establishing National Surrogacy Board at the central level. It will also establish State Surrogacy Boards and Appropriate Authorities in the State and Union Territories.  All infertile Indian married couple who want to avail ethical surrogacy will be benefited.  The rights of surrogate mother and children born out of surrogacy will be protected.  It shall apply to whole of India, except the state of Jammu and Kashmir.   The commercial surrogacy will be prohibited including sale and purchase of human embryo and gametes.It will control the unethical practices in surrogacy. India has emerged as a surrogacy hub for couples from different countries. However, there have been reported incidents concerning unethical practices, exploitation of surrogate mothers, abandonment of children born out of surrogacy and rackets of intermediaries importing human embryos and gametes. The 228th report of the Law Commission of India recommended for prohibiting commercial surrogacy and allowing ethical altruistic surrogacy to the needy Indian citizens by enacting a suitable legislation.

The Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy (PCIM&H) and the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) on 24 August 2016 signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for co-operation in traditional medicine. The MoU was signed by Rajiv Kumar Sharma, Director of PCIM & H and Dr KV Surendra Nath, Senior Vice President, Global Sites, USP. Highlights of the MoU : It aims at collaborating, identifying, and development and dissemination of science-based standards in medicines field.  It will promote the safety, quality and integrity of traditional medicines and botanical dietary supplements. It will improve public health in India, US and worldwide by working together to increase awareness and understanding of traditional and herbal medicines, botanical dietary supplements and their products.  It will help to harmonize the Pharmacopeia in terms of international conventions.  Pharmacopoeia Commission for Indian Medicine and Homoeopathy (PCIM&H) : The PCIM&H  comes under the AYUSH (Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddhant and Homeopathy) Ministry.It is an autonomous organisation with a primary mandate to develop pharmacopoeial standards for drugs and formulations used under AYUSH.  On the other hand, United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) is a global health organisation and its public standards provide scientifically validated test methods and cover over 250 botanical ingredients and dosage forms including ashwagandha, turmeric, turmeric extract and others.

Forbes has released the list of The World's Highest-Paid Actresses 2016 on 23 August 2016. Jennifer Lawrence topped the Forbes magazine list for the second straight year with earnings of 46 million US dollars. Indian actress Deepika Padukone is the only newcomer to the World’s Highest-Paid Actresses list and the only Indian star to make the cut. Highlights of the list : The list is topped by Hunger Games star Jennifer Lawrence with 46 million US dollars in her pocket.The second position is grabbed by Ghostbusters star Melissa McCarthy (33 million US dollars) followed by Scarlett Johansson (25 million US dollars) and Jennifer Aniston (21 million US dollars) at third and fourth position respectively.  Chinese actress Fan Bingbing (17 million US dollars) took the fifth spot in the list. This year, Sandra Bullock, Angelina Jolie, Reese Witherspoon and Kristen Stewart are drop-offs from the 2015 list. 30 percent of the list hail from outside the US; while Charlize Theron, a dual citizen of South African and the US returns to the list for the first time since 2013. India’s Deepika Padukone is the only newcomer to the ranking and the only Indian in the list. She joined the list with Bollywood hits such as Bajirao Mastani.  Together, the world’s 10 highest-paid actresses tallied a combined 205 million US dollars between June 2015 and June 2016, before fees and taxes. Half of the list is filled by women with the age over 40 and Jennifer Lawrence is the youngest list member and the only one under 30 years. There were also some noteworthy near misses: Kristen Wiig, Renée Zellweger and Cate Blanchett all narrowly missed the 10 million US dollars cut off for this year’s ranking.

Sakshi Malik, the woman wrestler who won the bronze medal at 2016 Rio Olympics in the 58 kg category, was named as Haryana’s brand ambassador for Beti Bachao, Beti Padao campaign. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal made this announcement on 24 August 2016 at Bahadurgarh where he awarded Malik with 2.5 crore rupees and Commendation Certificate. He also offered her a class two level job in the state government. Her coaches Mandeep and Kuldeep were also presented cheque of 10 lakh rupees each by the Chief Minister. Besides, the Chief Minister also announced that a sports nursery and a stadium would be set up at Mohra, native village of Sakshi in Rohtak district.

The Telangana state has become the first south-Indian state to have dedicated children's court. After Goa and national capital Delhi, Telangana is the third state of the country which has a child-friendly court with features like separate waiting rooms video camera trial for the accused, mandated under the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POSCO) Act-2012. The 'child-friendly' courtroom was jointly inaugurated at the Nampally Criminal Courts Complex in Hyderabad by Acting Chief Justice Ramesh Ranganathan of High Court of Judicature at Hyderabad and Director General of Telangana Police Anurag Sharma. POCSO stipulates child-friendly court rooms be put in place across all states at the earliest in the interest of children in need of care. At present, there are over 1640 cases under POCSO Act that were pending at various stages in different district courts of Telangana till 2015.

The US-headquartered pharma major Pfizer Inc has entered into an agreement to acquire Medivation Inc, a biopharmaceutical company focused on developing and commercialising small molecules for oncology, for a total enterprise value of approximately $ 14 billion. The merger will give a boost to Pfizer’s consolidation effort through a series of acquisitions, especially after its bid to take over Allergan Plc in a $150 billion deal late last year fell apart when the Obama administration prevented the proposed combination with new rules.

The Delhi Assembly has ratified the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill on 24 Aug 2016. GST bill for the first time recognises Delhi as a state under the new Constitutional amendment to Art 366 - step in right direction finally. Delhi Assembly passes the resolution to ratify 122nd Constitution amendment bill passed by both Houses of Parliament for creation of GST. Earlier in the day, the Madhya Pradesh Assembly also passed the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Amendment Bill. The GST Bill, seen as single biggest tax reform in a long time, needs to be ratified by at least 15 state legislatures before the President can notify the GST council which will decide the new tax rate and other issues.

Eminent scientist P D Gupta was today appointed as Vice Chancellor of Mumbai-based Homi Bhabha National Institute (HBNI).  He has been appointed to the post for five years, an order issued by Department of Personnel and Training . The HBNI is an aided institution of the Department of Atomic Energy and is a deemed to be university under the UGC Act.  The institute is dedicated to encourage pursuit of excellence in sciences (including engineering sciences) and mathematics in a manner that has major significance for the progress of indigenous nuclear technological capability.

Mathrubhumi former editor K K Sreedharan Nair passed away. He was 86.  The end came at a private hospital in Kochi. He started his carrer in Journalism as a sub-editor in Mathrubhumi in 1953. Beginning his journalism career as a sub-editor in Mathrubhumi in 1953, Nair had an illustrious career in various capacities including Chief Sub-Editor, News Editor and Deputy Editor.  Nair, who was appointed Editor of the daily in 1990, continued in the post for 10 years. 

China's unmanned submersible has dived to a depth of 10,767 metres at the world's deepest ocean point, setting a new record for the country to enable it to explore ocean beds for minerals and other natural resources. "Haidou-1" set the record at the Mariana Trench in the West Pacific, the deepest area in the world, during a scientific expedition from June 22 to August 12, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS).  During the trip the submersible dived over 8,000 metres below the sea surface once, 9,000 metres twice and 10,000 metres twice.  This makes China the third country after Japan and the US to have built submersibles capable of reaching depths in excess of 10,000 metres.  It is another milestone in our maritime science journey after Jiaolong manned submersible," said Liu Xincheng, a scientist with CAS and head of the expedition.  During the expedition, scientists also collected over 2,000 biological samples from 5,000 meters to 10,000 meters below sea level, including some unidentified species.  China has been striving to master the technology in deep sea diving to explore the ocean beds for minerals and precious metals.  Last year Jiaolong carried out 118 day voyage in the southwest Indian Ocean where it reported to have discovered large deposits of precious metals like gold and silver.  During its mission in March last year, Jiaolong successfully carried out 13 dives to observe different hydrothermal areas, the characteristics of hydrothermal fluids and deep-sea biodiversity, gathering a huge amount of data and more than 700 samples. China has gained a 15 year approval ISA in 2012 to explore a 10,000 sq km polymetallic sulphide ore deposit in an international seabed region of the southwest Indian Ocean.  China also has obtained exclusive rights to prospect in a 75,000-square-km polymetallicnodule ore deposit in the east Pacific Ocean in 2001. 

Madhya Pradesh Assembly has unanimously ratified 122nd Constitution Amendment Bill on Goods and Service Tax (GST), the seventh state to do so, with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan terming it as a process towards economic integration of the country.  The day-long session was called and the GST Bill was unanimously ratified by the members with a voice vote after a discussion.  Earlier, the bill was tabled by Law and Legislative Affairs Minister Rampal Singh for ratification by the House following which Congress' acting Leader of Opposition raised the demand for discussion on alleged Simhastha scam and the grim flood situation in the state.  However, the Speaker turned down their demand on the ground that the purpose of the day-long session was only to ratify the Constitution Amendment Bill on GST.  Madhya Pradesh is the seventh state to ratify 122nd Constitution Amendment Bill, Mallaiya later told reporters. 

National Career Service (NCS) signed a Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) with strategic partners for enhancing quality and reach of employment services through the NCS network.  These MoUs were signed with job portals companies Indeed, First Job, Freshersworld, Merajob and HT Shine etc. to enhance quality and reach of its employment generation services. Earlier, the NSC had partnered with leading organisations like Uber, Monster.com, Saral Rozgar, Quikrjobs, Indian Staffing Federation etc for  the same purpose. National Career Service (NCS) : NCS project is being implemented by the Union Ministry of Labour and Employment. It was launched in 2015. It is an ICT based portal developed to provide a wide variety of employment related services to job seekers and youth through technology.  NCS portal facilitates registration of job seekers, job providers, skill providers, career counsellors, etc. free of cost. Since its launch, the NCS has grown significantly with over 3.6 crore job seekers, 9 lakh employers. It had mobilised over 1 lakh jobs in the last few months.

The Union Government has launched Accessible E-Library ‘Sugamya Pustakalaya’ for Divyang under Prime Minister’s Sugamya Bharat Abhiyan. It was jointly launched by Union Ministers Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Javadekar and Thawar Chand Gehlot at a fucntion in New Delhi. Sugamya Pustakalaya : Sugamya Pustakalaya is an online library for Divyang and houses publications across diverse subjects and languages and multiple accessible formats. The online library has been created in collaboration with National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH), member organisations of Daisy Forum of India and Bookshare and is powered by TCS Access.  In this online library books will available in accessible formats for people with visual impairment and other print disabilities. It will house over 2 lakhs books in diverse languages. It will also integrate libraries across India and the Globe, including the largest international library Bookshare. National Institute of Visually Handicapped (NIVH) : It is a premier Institute in the field of visual disability working under the administrative control of the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. It objective is to promote rights and dignity of persons with visual impairments.

The two-day meeting of Ministers of Disaster Management (MDM) of BRICS countries concluded in Udaipur, Rajasthan with the adoption of the Udaipur Declaration. This was the second meeting and in the follow up of the first meeting of the BRICS MDM convened by the Russia in St. Petersburg in April, 2016. BRICS nations to set up a dedicated Joint Task Force for Disaster Risk Management for regular dialogue, exchange, mutual support and collaboration among them. The meeting was a new milestone in collaboration and cooperation among BRICS countries in the field of disaster management. The roadmap for implementation of the three-year Joint Action Plan for BRICS emergency services (2016-18) was also finalised. Highlights of 2nd BRICS MDM meeting Objective: (i) Share experiences on flood-risk management, current systems in each country for forecasting extreme weather events. (ii) Identify opportunities for collaboration between institutions of respective BRICS countries in the area of flood risk management and extreme weather-related events. It focused on two themes: (i) ‘Flood Risk Management‘ and (ii) ‘Forecasting of Extreme Weather Events in the context of Changing Climate‘. Three technical sessions were held on areas of disaster risk management challenges, forecasting and early warning on flood and disaster risk in a changing climate.

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