Current Affairs 12th December 2016

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Virat Kohli racked up his third double century of the year, his third in as many series as well in the morning session of day four of the fourth Test against England off 302 deliveries at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai . With this milestone, Kohli became the first Indian captain to score three double hundreds. Kohli started the day on 147 and reached a double century helping India to a lead of 179 over England at lunch. Kohli also surpassed his highest Test score of 211 made against New Zealand and is unbeaten on 212 when lunch was taken on Day 4. Along with Jayant Yadav (92*), Kohli has stitched together a partnership of 215 runs for the eighth wicket - the highest for India. Kohli's maiden double came against the West Indies (200) in July and went on to smash his second double ton against New Zealand (211) in October. And with a double against England, Kohli now has become first batsman in Test history score 200s in three successive series.

President Pranab Mukherjee has flagged off a ‘100 Million for 100 Million’ Campaign organised by the Kailash Satyarthi Children’s Foundation. The Campaign aims at mobilising 100 million youth and children for the upliftment of 100 million underprivileged children across the world. ‘100 Million for 100 Million’ Campaign seeks to end child slavery, labour and violence and promote the right of every child to be safe and educated, over the next five years. The campaign was flagged off in presence of Nobel Laureate Kailash Satyarthi and spiritual leader Dalai Lama.  11 December was celebrated as the 81st birth anniversary of President Pranab Mukherjee. On the occasion of President Mukherjee's birthday, a number of programmes were organised by the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Programmes included President Pranab Mukherjee, Vice President Hamid Ansari and Prime Minister Narendra Modi released three books titled 'From Raj to Swaraj', 'Life at Rashtrapati Bhavan' and 'Indradhanush- Volume-2'. The President also inaugurated a new Museum for vintage tapestries and carpets and a new Hall for encouraging innovation in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. The museum displays Zardari canopies and spreads belonging to the early 1900s, for the 1911 Delhi Durbar of King George VI, a collection of Buddhist art, paintings, carvings and assorted gifts presented to different Presidents and much more.

Chandababu Naidu launched the website of the Andhra Pradesh Economic Development Board (APEDB) . The website is  aimed at providing a repository of knowledge on investing in Andhra Pradesh, policies of various sectors and also give the investor the various investment opportunities the state has to offer The APEDB formed under the Chairmanship of the Hon'ble Chief Minister is the single point of contact for investments and partnerships in the state of Andhra Pradesh.  The Chief Minister said that "This website will provide valuable insights to the investor seeking to invest in the state of Andhra Pradesh and will also help the investor track the opportunities that exist in the state. This website will also act as a single point of reference to investing in the state of Andhra Pradesh." the Chief Minister added. J Krishna Kishore said that We are excited about our new website launch and the robust information it provides for investors, partners, governments and media.  We believe this website will allow our visitors to have a very informative experience about investing in the sunrise state of Andhra Pradesh.  

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has launched Narmada Seva Yatra at Amarkantak. The five months long Yatra aims at turning the Narmada river pollution free and unceasing river. He also went to ashrams of religious leaders to invite them to join the Yatra. The Chief Minister said that he will join the campaign every week. He also said that the participation of public and society will be ensured in it. The Narmada Sewa Yatra will create awareness about the conservation of the river. It will cover more than 1,900 kilometres in 16 districts. All the villages along the river will have Narmada Sewa Samiti to take follow up action on measures to be undertaken for its preservation. Trees will be planted along the banks of the Narmada and sewage water will be treated before it flows into the river.  

After a TV channel and a website to promote digital payments, a nationwide toll-free helpline number '14444' will be launched soon to educate people and provide support related to cashless mode of transactions. Government had sought Nasscom's help in providing support on a mass scale to people. We had requested a single nationwide helpline should be set up which now assigned by the DoT which is 14444. We are putting call centre support at the back-end. It is fairly advance stage of operation. To educate people on digital transactions, Ministry of Electronics and IT on Friday launched free-to-air channel DigiShala which will be available on Doordarshan's DTH platform and 'Cashless India' website to educate people about digital transactions.

According to the India Social Development Report (SDR) 2016, about 45% of all persons with disabilities (PWD) in India are illiterate. They remain illiterate mainly because of lack of support services. The theme for this edition of report was ‘Disabilities Rights Perspectives’. The number of PWDs in India are 26.8 million or 2.2% of the population. However, the World Bank estimates it is 4 to 8% of the population. Men formed 56% of the PWDs and 70% of the disabled population is in rural areas. Movement disability accounted for the largest number of PWDs in India. It was followed by hearing disability and visual impairment. 38% of all male PWDs were illiterate and the illiteracy rate was 55% for female PWDs. Whereas, India’s total literacy rate is 74 per cent.  For each category of disability, a greater proportion of women in it are illiterate than men. 76% of women with multiple disabilities are illiterate. Interestingly, even in Kerala, which has near-total literacy, 33.1% of the PWDs were illiterate. It estimated one-third are children with disabilities of the 75 million children of primary school age are out of school. State governments must ensure availability of minimum support such as accommodation, assistive devices and transport for disabled children to complete their schooling. The report data was based on number of sources, including the census, National Sample Survey (NSS), data-sets of India Human Development Survey, and National Family Health Survey. Besides it also included the new data from fresh empirical studies.

The Committee on Digital Payments headed by Ratan P. Watal has submitted its final report to the Union Finance Ministry. It was 11-member committee notified in August 2016 by the Finance Ministry.  It was tasked to review existing payment systems in the country and recommend appropriate measures for encouraging Digital Payments. It was having representatives from Reserve Bank of India (RBI), Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), tax department and various industry bodies in the payments space. The Committee has recommended medium term strategy for accelerating growth of Digital Payments in India. The strategy must be backed with regulatory regime which is conducive to bridging the Digital divide by promoting competition, interoperability and open access in payments.  It also recommends inclusion of financially and socially excluded groups and assimilation of emerging technologies in the market. It calls for need of safeguarding security of Digital Transactions and providing level playing to all stakeholders and new players who will enter this new transaction space.  It has suggested inter-operability of payments system between banks and non-banks, up-gradation of digital payment infrastructure and institutions. It also recommends a framework to reward innovations for leading efforts in enabling digital payments.

Japan’s space agency (JAXA) successfully launched a Kounotori 6 (HTV-6) spacecraft that will deliver a large magnetic tether, a space junk collector technology into orbit. The spacecraft was launched on board of H-IIB rocket from Tanegashima Space Center.   It was also carrying essential supplies for International Space Station (ISS). The space junk collector (electromagnetic tether) will perform Kounotori Integrated Tether Experiments (KITE) in order to test out new technology. It is an experimental space scavenger that aims to study possibility of getting rid of space junk (debris) left into orbit by earlier space exploration missions. It has been designed by JAXA engineers in collaboration with Nitto Seimo Co., a Japanese fishing net company.  The space scavenger is large magnetic tether made from thin wires of stainless steel and aluminium. It is designed to redirect space junk towards Earth’s atmosphere. In theory, the net-like tether will generate enough slowing effect to influence the trajectory of space debris toward Earth’s atmosphere where they will burn up. More than 5 decades of human space exploration since the first Soviet-launched Sputnik satellite in 1957 has produced this hazardous belt of orbiting debris in the space. There are estimated to be more than 100 million pieces are circling our planet in the lower orbit, posing a growing threat to future space exploration. These pieces of debris travel at high speeds.  A relatively small piece of orbital debris can inflict a great deal of damage on satellites or spacecrafts orbiting in the space. This phenomenon is Kessler Syndrome which describes a self-sustaining cascading collision of space debris in low earth Orbit.  

The Union Government has waived the import duty on wheat to zero from 10 per cent for an indefinite period. This move aims to improve domestic availability in the wake of rising prices and concerns about the wheat crop in 2016-17.  The duty was waived because of uncertainty over the wheat output this year. Despite a rise in area sown, questions are raised over condition of the wheat crop, low fertiliser and pesticide use due to and fears of a warm winter.  The waiving of import duty will make wheat imports (especially from Australia and Ukrainian) considerably cheaper. This will fuel imports to over 6 million tonnes in 2016-17. This will be the highest wheat imports in the 10 years. The wheat production in the country will be around 93.50 million tonnes in 2016-17 as per the government estimates. However, many experts have pegged the figures around 90 million tonnes due to year-on-year droughts in 2014 and 2015. Moreover, Union Government’s own wheat stocks are at an all-time low due to less procurement.

Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister of Canada, on 9 December 2016 announced that his government and the majority of Canada’s provinces had agreed on a national carbon pricing plan. PM Trudeau has been working on a national carbon pricing plan with the provinces for months. He termed the framework agreement on the carbon tax as a historic pact. However, Canada's 10 provincial leaders are not unanimous in agreeing to Trudeau's carbon tax. Brad Wall, Saskatchewan Premier, had refused to agree to the tax, while Manitoba’s premier said he hasn’t signed on yet because it wants more money for health care. On the other hand, British Columbia Premier Christy Clark hesitated at first before reaching a compromise. As per reports, Trudeau wants to impose a national carbon tax which would rise to Canadian dollar 50 (USD 38) by 2022. Trudeau’s plan to come up with the national carbon pricing is being haunted with the worries that the US is heading in an opposite direction. Worries are about the incoming administration of Donald Trump who ones called global warming a hoax. Trump said that he carries plans to abandon the US commitment to reduce carbon emissions as part of the international agreement signed in Paris in 2015.

China has launched a new cargo service connecting Tibet and Nepal. On the occasion of the launch, dozens of trucks carrying goods worth 2.8 million dollars left the Tibetan border port of Gyirong en route to Kathmandu. The trucks are responsible for the remaining 870 kilometre of the journey, carrying goods to Gyirong and then to the final stop in Kathmandu, Nepal's capital. Besides, a train carrying several products like clothes, shoes, furniture, hats, appliances, electronics’ and building materials travelled the 5200-kilometer distance between Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province, and Xigaze in Tibet. The new rail and road cargo service that connects Guangdong, Tibet and Nepal, was launched with the objective to enhance trade with the South Asian neighbour in line with China's Belt and Road (Silk Road) initiative. This was the first consignment that was sent to Nepal by China after the Prachanda government took over the charge from former Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. The transit trade deal was signed between Nepal and China in March 2016 during Oli’s tenure as Prime Minister of Nepal. The deal was signed to end India’s hegemony in regard to Nepal’s dependence on trade. During the signing ceremony of the agreement, China agreed to Oli’s request of building a strategic railway link between the two nations from Gyirong and Nepal. Gyirong is the last Tibetan county, which chares its border with Nepal.  

To enhance the bilateral ties between the two nations, India and Vietnam on 9 December 2016 signed a civil nuclear cooperation agreement. The agreement was signed in New Delhi in presence of Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan and visiting President of Vietnam's National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan. Ngan is the first woman to head the National Assembly of Vietnam. The MoU on civil nuclear cooperation was inked by Secretary of Department of Atomic Energy Sekhar Basu and Deputy Minister of Science and Technology of Vietnam Pham Cong Tac. This is the second nuclear pact signed by India within a month. Earlier in November 2016, India signed a similar civil nuclear agreement with Japan. Vietnam is the 14th country with which India signed the civil nuclear deal. Apart from this civil nuclear agreement, the two nations also signed three other agreements to enhance aviation links, to jointly work in the area of energy efficiency and promotion of parliamentary cooperation. Besides, Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan also called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. During the meeting, Modi welcomed increased Parliamentary interactions between the two countries and called for instituting an exchange programme for young parliamentarians.  

The Rajasthan High Court struck down Special Backward Classes (SBC) reservation given to Gujjars and five other communities in the state. The division bench of Justice MN Bhandari and JK Ranka on 9 December 2016 held that the special reservation beyond the permissible limit of 50 percent cannot be made. It also said that the OBC commission report of the state was calculated to favour these communities. While terming the OBC commission’s report as favourable for these communities, the court also held that it earlier asked (on 22 December 2012) the state to review the entire reservation granted and not only a quantifiable report. The Rajasthan Cabinet on 28 November 2012 decided to provide a separate 5 percent quota to the SBCs without touching the 21 percent reservation which is available to other Backward Classes. The decision took the overall reservation in jobs and education to 54 percent. The community, currently enjoying OBC status, had initially demanded its inclusion in the Scheduled Tribes and was later persuaded to accept the creation of a new reserved category for it. Earlier in 2008, the state tried to increase five percent reservation over and above the prescribed limit, which was stopped by the High Court.

Union Information and Technology Minister Ravishankar Prasad in December 2016 launched Digishala TV Channel. Digishala TV is a free-to-air channel which will educate people about digital payment and is available on DD free DTH service. The channel was launched with an aim to encourage people for digital payment in their everyday life. It will be airing shows targeted at the rural and suburban population to inform them of various aspects of going digital like UPI, e-wallet, AADHAAR, USSD and usage of cards through talk shows and demonstrations. Apart from Digishala TV Channel, the minister also launched Digi Dhan Abhiyan. The Abhiyan seeks to enable every citizen, small traders and merchants to adopt digital payments in their everyday financial transactions. During the campaign, the citizens will be informed about various modes of digital payments. People will be educated to download, install and transact digital payments via their mobile. While launching Digishala TV Channel and Digi Dhan Abhiyan, the minister said digital mode of payment has witnessed an unprecedented upsurge from four hundred to one thousand percent. According to him, since demonetisation, the e-wallet has gone up to 63 lakh from 17 lakh transaction per day after demonetization. Transactions through Rupay cards have also gone up from 3.85 lakh to 16 lakh per day.

The Supreme Court of India has modified its order on the National Anthem and exempted physically handicapped persons from standing before screening of a movie in cinema halls across the nation. It also clarified that its direction to close the entry gates of cinema halls when the national anthem is played did not amount to bolting the door. The previous order of 30 November 2016 was modified by a bench comprising of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Amitava Roy. The previous order was modified, while the bench was hearing a plea seeking a recall of its order mandating playing of the National Anthem before films. Highlights  : A physically challenged/handicapped person need not stand up if he is incapable of standing, but he/she must show such conduct which is proportionate with respect for the national anthem. To define the term physically-handicapped persons, the court highlighted Sections 22(i) and 2(t) of the Persons with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities, Protection of Rights and Full Participation) Act, 1995. The Acts Section 2(i) defines disability as low vision, blindness, hearing impairment, leprosy-cured, loco motor disability, mental illness and mental retardation. However, Section 2 (t) defines a ‘person with disability’ as somebody suffering from not less than 40 percent of any disability as certified by a medical authority. Besides, the Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi informed the apex court that the Union Government will issue guidelines within ten days on how physically challenged persons should show respect to the National Anthem. The court posted the application for recall of its November 30 order for detailed hearing on 14 February 2016. Earlier on 30 November 2016, the apex court ordered that all cinema halls across the nation will have to play the National Anthem before screening of a movie. It said that everyone present at the moment will have to stand in respect of the Anthem. In its direction, it said that the practice would instil a feeling within one a sense of committed patriotism and nationalism.