Today Current Affairs 16th December 2016

16th December Current Affairs 2016: Instantly obtain Latest Current Affairs December 16, 2016 with all essential info, Be the first to know all the Current affairs December 16, 2016 top news, Major Issues, Current happenings, Important events in National as well as International level with clear explanation. For all competitive exams and Interviews, equip yourself with the Latest Current Affairs December 16, 2016 granted here.

Andhra Pradesh has registered 5 %  more growth in comparison to all India growth rate, this was revealed at a meeting held with Principal Secretaries, Secretaries and Heads of various departments at the Velagapudi Secretariat on 15 December 2016 during which Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu discussed the achievements.

Sahaj International School in Kochi in will be the first residential transgender school in the country.  The school will initially accommodate 10 transgender children, who will study under the National Open School system.  The school will be inaugurated on December 30 by transgender rights activist and artist Kalki Subramaniam.

V G Kannan on Wednesday took charge as Chief Executive of the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). He succeeds M V Tanksale who demitted office as Chief Executive on August 9, 2016 after being at the helm for three years. Kannan had retired as Managing Director & Group Executive (Associates & Subsidiaries) of State Bank of India on July 31, 2016. IBA is a self-regulatory organisation of banks. The 70-year old body has 237 members comprising public sector banks, private sector banks, foreign banks having offices in India, co-operative banks, regional rural banks, and all India financial institutions.  

A woman Indian physics teacher makes it to the list of the top 50 contenders from around the world for a global prize of $1 million in the UK for her experiential method of teaching physics. Kavita Sanghvi has been recognised for her experiential method of teaching physics as a principal of MET Rishikul Vidyalaya in Mumbai by The Global Teacher Prize 2017. She helped her students grasp the application of textbook concepts in real life situations. The Global Teacher Prize, now in its third year, was set up by Indian-origin entrepreneur Sunny Varkey to recognise one exceptional teacher who has made an outstanding contribution to the profession as well as to shine a spotlight on the important role teachers play in society

An Indian-American woman has been elected the new mayor of Californian city Cupertino, the worldwide headquarters of Apple. Savita Vaidhyanathan, a Cupertino resident for more than 20 years, was sworn in last week in a ceremony attended by her mother who had flown in from India. She takes over from Barry Chang who had served as mayor from 2015. Vaidhyanathan was working as a high school Maths teacher and an officer in a commercial bank.

The ‘Thal Favang Kut’ festival organised by Department of Tourism, Government of Mizoram began in state capital Aizawl with enthusiasm and fervour.  It is a post-harvest festival which is celebrated after harvesting the paddy. It is celebrated every year in to thank the almighty as well as to promote tourism in the state.

Former Information & Broadcasting Secretary Sunil Arora has been appointed as the Director General and CEO of the Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA), a think tank that comes under the Corporate Affairs Ministry.  IICA focuses on matters impacting functioning of corporates and work towards capacity building with various stakeholders including regulators and professionals, among other activities. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved the appointment of Sunil Arora as Director General & Chief Executive Officer of IICA, an order issued by the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT). He has been appointed in the "apex scale of Rs 80,000/- for a period of five years or till attaining 65 years of age or until further orders, whichever is the earliest," it added.  A 1980-batch IAS officer of the Rajasthan cadre, Arora retired as I&B Secretary earlier this year and was also serving as an advisor at Prasar Bharati.

VK Sharma, the acting chief of Life Insurance Corporation of India, is the new chairman and managing director of the nation's biggest insurer and investor, for five years. Sharma's future decisions would be keenly followed by investors as the government has plans to use the behemoth's funds to build infrastructure.  LIC's role in corporate governance would also be keenly tracked, especially since it owns substantial stakes in many of India's prominent corporate houses. Infact, it had remained a mere spectator in the tussle between Ratan Tata and Cyrus Mistry in the ongoing battle at Tata Sons and the group companies.  His appointment comes at a time when private sector rivals such as ICICI Prudential, SBI Life are trying every trick to gain market share amid falling returns.  Life Insurance Corporation of India : Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) is an Indian state-owned insurance group and investment company headquartered in Mumbai. It is the largest insurance company in India with an estimated asset value of ₹1,560,482 crore (US$230 billion).[2] As of 2013 it had total life fund of Rs.1433103.14 crore with total value of policies sold of 367.82 lakh that year. The Life Insurance Corporation of India was founded in 1956 when the Parliament of India passed the Life Insurance of India Act that nationalised the private insurance industry in India. Over 245 insurance companies and provident societies were merged to create the state owned Life Insurance Corporation.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Indian Air Force (IAF) personnel cannot sport a beard on religious grounds. The judgment was pronounced by a bench comprising the Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice L Nageswara Rao. In the judgment, the bench reasoned that the personal policies on appearance are not intended to discriminate against religious beliefs but to ensure uniformity and discipline which are indispensable to every armed force. The bench further observed that for the effective functioning of a large combat force, the members must bond together by a sense of esprit-de-corps. There should not be any distinctions on the basis of caste, creed, colour or religion. The bench concluded that while on duty, every member of the Indian Air Force is required to wear the uniform and not display any sign distinguishing one from another. By a 26 August 26 2005 communication, the IAF directed that an airman was not permitted to have a beard on religious grounds. Two Muslim personnel of IAF - Airmen Mohammed Zubair and Ansari Aaftab Ahmed filed a petition against this directive in the Punjab and Haryana High Court. The litigants appealed in the court for quashing the directive of the IAF. The court ruled that there was no merit in the appeals as the litigants were unable to show that their case falls within the ambit of Regulation 425(b). The regulation says that the personnel whose religion prohibits the cutting of the hair or face shaving will be permitted to grow hair or retain beard.The litigants appealed in the Supreme Court against the order of the High Court  

Assam’s island district, Majuli will now become India's first ever Carbon neutral district by 2020. The project titled ‘'Sustainable Action for Climate Resilient Development in Majuli' (SACRed, Majuli) was launched by Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, A K Johari on 14 December 2016. It was initiated by Assam’s department of Environment and Forest to fight against climate change and reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. According to Johari, the project would start with afforestation, reforestation, and conservation of the existing flora and fauna, followed by other methods to ensure sustainable development over the next three years. The implementation of the project will happen in partnership with other departments of the district, for which the government has created a special district level committee under the leadership of the Majuli’s Deputy Commissioner Pallav Gopal Jha. During the project’s launch meeting, Jha emphasised on the importance of climate-based decision making and highlighted the need for low emission development strategy for Majuli. Majuli district : Situated on the Brahmaputra River, the district is the world’s largest river island and India's first Island district.  It is located towards the east of Assam’s largest city – Guwahati.   It was formed due to change in the course of Brahmaputra and its tributaries.  It is inhabited mostly by the members of Mising tribe, who migrated from Arunachal Pradesh to the region centuries back.  The sole mode of transportation that connects the district to the mainland is ferry service.  Over the period, the district has modernised, especially with the setting up of medical centres and educational institutions.

The UN cultural body UNESCO has accorded world heritage status to Brazilian city of Rio de Janeiro (nicknamed as Marvelous City).  It has been registered as “Carioca Landscapes between Mountain and Sea” on the UNESCO world heritage list. Rio de Janeiro has been accorded this status in recognition of its extraordinary fusion of man-made and natural beauty, soaring granite cliffs, urban rainforest and beaches. It also had hosted 2014 football World Cup and 2016 Summer Olympics. The UNESCO status to Rio de Janeiro was announced in 2012. It became official after the Brazilian authorities were given four years to report on their plans for protecting Sugarloaf Mountain, Flamengo Park,  Corcovado, Copacabana beach, Botanical Garden and Tijuca forest. NESCO World Heritage Sites :  The UNESCO World Heritage Sites are sites having special cultural or physical significance. The list is maintained by international World Heritage Programme administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. The committee comprises of 21 UNESCO member states which are elected by the General Assembly. Each World Heritage Site included in the list remains part of the legal territory of the state where it is located. But inclusion of sites in the list by UNESCO is in the interest of the international community to preserve each site. Presently, Italy with 50 sites is home to the greatest number of World Heritage Sites.  

The sixth edition of Asia Pacific Ministerial Conference on Housing and Urban Development (APMCHUD) began in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by Union Urban Development Minister M Venkaiah Naidu. The three days conference seeks to address issues ranging from crowded city centres to peripheral expansion, metropolitan based urban population growth, megacities and urban corridors etc. In this conference ministers and senior officials from 68 countries in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to deliberate on challenges of urban planning and management. It will adopt Delhi Declaration and implementation plan for aligning urban development strategies of member countries with New Urban Agenda adopted at Quito, Eucador. During the conference, five working groups will deliberate on different sub-themes like Integrated Planning, Management and Governance Structures. They will also be ensuring sustainable and natural disaster resilient urban development including climate change. The conference assumes significance considering that Asia Pacific Region accounts for 60% of the world population and 55% of global urban population. New Urban Agenda It was adopted at the UN Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (also known as “Habitat III” conference) held in Quito, Ecuador. It sets the global vision of sustainable urbanization for the next 20 years. It is a set of 175 commitments that countries need to adhere to tackle challenges of urbanization. It is considered as roadmap for building cities that can serve as engines of prosperity and centres of social and cultural well-being while protecting the environment. It provides guidance for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and provides the underpinning for actions to address climate change. APMCHUD  : APMCHUD is an intergovernmental mechanism for collaboration and cooperation in the field of housing and development among Asia Pacific countries. It was established under the aegis and support of UN-Habitat. It is consultative mechanism on the promotion of sustainable development of housing and urban development in Asia-Pacific region.  

Scientists for the first time have detected trace amounts of ammonia in the upper troposphere, the lowest atmospheric layer of Earth. It was detected by team of researchers from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in Germany. They had analysed satellite data collected from various parts of the troposphere between June 2002 to April 2012. The ammonia (NH3) was released into the atmosphere as agricultural emission from livestock farming and fertilisation.  It was found in highest concentrations above Asian monsoon regions of India and China. Similar levels of ammonia were detected nowhere else on Earth. The ammonia concentration was up to 33 pptv (33 ammonia molecules per trillion air molecules) above Southeast China and North India. The ammonia released due to agricultural processes survives all the way to the troposphere, where it ends up in monsoons. It is not washed out completely when air ascends in monsoon circulation. It enters the upper troposphere from the boundary layer close to the ground, where the gas occurs at relatively high concentrations.  The detected ammonia may be playing a role in formation of aerosol (tiny particles made from super-fine solid particles) in the troposphere. The aerosol may have influence cloud formation and altering properties of existing clouds It is thought that accumulation of ammonia in the troposphere could have a cooling effect. It can be compensating in part for the human-caused greenhouse effect. Thus, it can help to mitigate the effects of global warming

India has offered tsunami early warning-system to South China Sea (SCS) countries like Vietnam, Malaysia and Philippines as part of soft-diplomacy. India already provides earthquake and tsunami-warning alerts to several countries in the Indian Ocean neighbourhood, as do Japan and Australia Features of Tsunami early warning-system  : Developed by scientists at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS). It warns concerned authorities of any large earthquake in the Ocean and threat it poses. Uses mathematical model to estimate if an earthquake in India’s oceanic neighbourhood can result in a tsunami.  It sends out a series of graded warnings to warn officials of danger based on data received form sensors lodged on the ocean floor. These sensors can measure actual earthquake signals and based on it generates warnings. The South China Sea (SCS) is a controversial region on which China exerting territorial rights over its large part. Some of these territorial claims have been challenged by Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines. On this issue, India considers that all countries must abide by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which governs how countries must respect ocean boundaries and international waters of countries. India and China are signatory to this convention.

A deep water port built in Myanmar’s Sittwe by India is ready to be commissioned. Thus, open Kolkata-Mizoram trade route via Myanmar. The Sittwe port is starting point for the Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project in Myanmar. Once shipments arrive at Sittwe port from Kolkata, they will be transferred to smaller freight carriers which would sail upstream into Mizoram. Significance  : Provides alternative route to India to ship goods to the landlocked north-eastern States. Significantly lower the cost and distance of movement from Kolkata to Mizoram and beyond. Reduces dependency on only route narrow strip dubbed as the Chicken’s Neck in West Bengal, sandwiched between Bhutan and Bangladesh. India has piped post Chinese endeavour to create a deep-sea berthing infrastructure and SEZ at Kyaukphyu in Rakhine. Sittwe is the capital of Rakhine State situtated in south-western Myanmar. It is located at the mouth of the Kaladan river, which flows into Mizoram in north-eastern India. The work on Kaladan Multi Modal Transit Transport Project was conceived in 2010. Construction of the sea port is the first phase of an integrated $500-million project being funded by a long-term interest-free loan provided by India.

Pokemon Go, the game that has hooked the attention of millions of people worldwide since its launch in July 2016, is finally going to make its debut in India. It will be entering the India market on 14 December 2016 in partnership with telecom operator Reliance Jio. Highlights : It will be available for download on Google Play and App store.  All the Reliance digital stores and a select of its partner locations will be designated as 'PokeStops' or 'Gyms'.Owners of Jio Sim will be able to download and play the game without paying any data charges till 31 March 2017. Jio users will also have access to an exclusive Pokemon Go Channel through its social messaging app JioChat, which will enable the game’s users to collaborate and form a community of players. This news comes as a relief to thousands of Pokemon Go players in India. Though until now the game was not officially available in the country it didn’t stop Indians from playing it. Fans downloaded it anyway using other means. However, its official launch will make the downloading process easier and it will also make crossing game levels a smooth process, especially with the increase in PokeStops and Gyms. Despite its innovative and interactive concept, the game has attracted a lot of controversies. Its users being fully engrossed in the game have often met with accidents or stumbled into dangerous locations or become a public nuisance, leading some countries to ban it altogether. Pokemon Go : It is a location-based augmented reality game, which has been developed in collaboration between Niantic and the Pokémon Company. It was released in July 2016 in only select countries like the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.  In order to play, users have to use their mobile’s GPS and walk around to locate and capture Pokémon and then train them subsequently to fight in the gyms. The virtual creatures appear on the screen in the same real-world location as the player. It has been downloaded more than 500 million times across the world.  

The state government of Gujarat has passed a law proposing tough action against those who illegally make, sell or transport alcohol in the dry state. The law also proposed to take strong action against the corrupt officials who assist such criminals escape raids on liquor dens.  The move came after an ordinance seeking amendments in the Gujarat Prohibition Act was approved by the state’s cabinet on 15 December 2016.  Highlights : The ordinance sought an increase in penalty and jail term for those involved in the illegal sale, purchase and transportation of liquor. Those found guilty of such charges will now have to serve a maximum jail term of 10 years and pay a fine of Rs 5 lakh instead of the 3-years jail term stated under the current Act. Even the liquor den operators and those assisting them will face up to 10 years of maximum jail term. People who create a public nuisance after drinking will also now face a maximum jail term of 3 years and a minimum of one year. The punishment for the same according to the current law is 3 months of jail term and a fine of Rs 200- 500. The corrupt officials assisting liquor peddlers escape raids will face up to 7 years of jail term and a fine of Rs 1 lakh. Vehicles used for transporting liquor will also be confiscated permanently by the government. Gujarat is the first Indian state to impose total prohibition on the consumption, storage, manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. The legislation was passed in 1958 after a number of people lost their lives following the consumption of methyl alcohol. However, the ban didn’t stop liquor consumption as illegal liquor dens flourished, leading to the formation of a full-grown underground liquor business.  

The Indian Council of Food and Agriculture (ICFA) on 15 December 2016 presented 'Global Agriculture Leadership Award 2016' to Ratan Tata in Mumbai. Tata was conferred with the prestigious award for his transformational role in scaling Tata Group as the globally admired group during his stint of 20 years as Chairman. The Leadership Awards Jury was chaired by Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, pioneer of India's Green Revolution. Indian Council of Food and Agriculture : The Indian Council of Food and Agriculture was launched as an apex body to act as think tank, policy research, trade facilitation, development catalyst and monitoring centre for food and agriculture sector. The body also serves as global platform for partnerships. It also focuses on farmers and agri-entrepreneurs towards helping them connect with the market opportunities.  

The Union Power and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal has announced that the government sanctioned over Rs 30 crore for solar cities programme. The funds were sanctioned between December 2014 and November 2016 to 21 states and union territories (UTs). Solar City Programme : It is also called as the Development of Solar Cities Programme.The programme aims to consolidate all the previous initiatives of the Union Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to address the energy problem of urban areas in a holistic manner. It is designed to support and encourage Urban Local Bodies to prepare a road map to guide their cities in becoming renewable energy cities. A solar city is defined as a city which achieved a minimum 10% reduction in the projected demand for conventional energy. The goal is achieved through a combination of enhancing supply from renewable energy sources in the city and adopting energy efficiency measures. In a solar city, all types of renewable energy based projects like solar, wind, biomass, small hydro, waste to energy etc. may be installed. The city is identified based on city population, potential and commitment for the adoption of renewable energy and energy conservation in the city activities.The cities may have a population between 50000 to 50 lakh. However, relaxation could be considered for North-Eastern and hilly States, Islands and UTs. A total of 60 cities will be developed under this programme. At least one city in each State to a maximum of five cities in a State may be supported by the Ministry.Up to Rs 50 lakh per city is provided depending upon population and initiatives decided to be taken by the city administration.

India batswoman Smriti Mandhana was named in the International Cricket Council (ICC) Women's Team of the Year 2016. With this inclusion, she became the first Indian woman cricketer to figure in the prestigious list. Women's Team of the Year 2016 : The team will be captained by Stafanie Taylor of West Indies. Besides the captain and Smriti, the team features three players from New Zealand, two players each from Australia, England and South Africa. Other members of the team are - Suzie Bates, Rachel Priest and Leigh Kasperek (New Zealand), Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry (Australia), Heather Knight and Anya Shrubshole (England) and Deandra Dottin and Sune Luus (South Africa).Rachel Priest of New Zealand is the wicket-keeper of the team. Kim Garth of Ireland was included in the list as the 12th player.The 12-member team was selected based on their performance between 14 September 2015 and 20 September 2016. In the selection process, more weightage was given to players’ performance in ICC Women's World Twenty20 and the ICC Women's Championship which were conducted in this period. The list was prepared by a panel consisting of Clare Connor (Chair), Mel Jones and Shubhangi Kulkarni.The list was announced by ICC chief executive David Richardson at the ICC headquarters in Dubai.

The Union Cabinet headed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 14 December 2016 approved the Major Port Trust Authorities Bill, 2016. The bill replaces the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963. The purpose of the legislation is to reform and improve the efficiency of major ports by giving greater autonomy and reforming the institutional structure. Features of Major Port Trust Authorities Bill, 2016 :  It is more compact in comparison to the Major Port Trusts Act, 1963 as the number of sections were reduced from 134 to 65 by eliminating overlapping and obsolete sections. The new Bill has proposed a simplified composition of the Board of Port Authority. The bill reduced the number of board members from the 17-19 members to 11 members. The Boards of the Port Authority have been delegated full powers to enter into contracts, planning and development of ports. The bill empowers the Board to make its own master plan in respect of the area within the port limits. It empowers the board to undertake construction of pipelines, telephones, communication towers, electricity supply and transmission equipment in port limits. The board is empowered to lease land for port-related use for up to 40 years and for any purpose other than the purposes specified in section 22 of the Act for up to 20 years.The role of Tariff Authority for Major Ports [TAMP] has been redefined. Under the bill, the authority will be given powers to fix tariff for purposes of bidding for public-private partnership (PPP) projects.  

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) put a temporary nationwide ban on the use of manja on 14 December 2016. The order was passed by a bench chaired by NGT Chairperson Swatanter Kumar, who said that the sharp glass coated manja used for flying kites poses a serious threat to humans, birds and animals alike. The panel stated that the ban would apply on nylon, cotton and Chinese manjas that are coated with glass and metal. Apart from this, the Manja Association of India has been told to submit a report on the harmful effects of the kite strings to the Central Pollution Control Board. The move followed a plea by senior advocate Sanjay Hedge and advocate Shadan Farasat on the behalf of the animal rights body -People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)-seeking a ban on the use of the kite strings, especially since Makar Sankranti is approaching and manja would be used then for flying kites. The advocates also sought a ban on the manufacture, sale, import and use of the kite strings and referred to Allahabad High Court’s November 2015 order, which banned the use of Chinese manja in Uttar Pradesh, to support their case. PETA in its petition had stated that the glass-coated string poses a great danger to both humans and animals and causes numerous deaths every year. PETA also laid out the danger the string poses when it comes in contact with live overhead electric wires, as it often acts as a good conductor of electricity and can lead to the electrocution of the kite flyer or any passer-by who comes in contact with the wire. The animal rights body also raised concerns regarding minors employed by the cottage industry for manja manufacturing, as due to inhaling of harmful substances, they are more susceptible to respiratory problems. Acting on the same, the green tribunal had earlier issued notices to all state governments, asking for their response on PETA’s plea.  

Amazon, the American e-commerce company, has introduced Amazon Prime Video Service in India, posing a tough competition to other online streaming services like Netflix and Hotstar. Amazon Prime video will provide Amazon Prime users with the access to the largest collection of ad-free new releases including Bollywood and Hollywood movies, television shows and award-winning Amazon original series and kid’s programmes. The app is available for download on both Google Play store and Apple app store. The decision was announced by the Director and Country Head of Amazon Video India, Nitesh Kripalani. The best part about this service is that it will be provided to the Prime members on top of the unlimited free one-day and two-day delivery options that they have already been given, with no extra charge. So, the Prime members can enjoy unlimited ad-free streaming by just paying Rs 499 annually. The website is also giving an option of a 30-day free trial to those who aren’t Prime members. Users will be able to access Prime Video through multiple devices such as laptop, gaming consoles, mobiles and smart TV. With this, Amazon has come into direct competition with Netflix, the American online streaming service, which launched in India in January this year. While a Netflix user has to pay Rs 650 for a month’s subscription, Amazon Prime Video user will just have to pay Rs 499 for a year. While Amazon Prime Video definitely sounds more feasible for a cash sensitive market like India, it will all come down to the kind of exclusive content both publish on their respective platforms. Amazon has announced that its new Indian Amazon original series will feature top Indian actors and filmmakers and it has also collaborated with various authors, writers, producers and directors to develop more fresh shows.

Union Cabinet has approved the protocol for amending the agreement between India and Tajikistan for avoidance of double taxation. Moreover, the agreement also aims at the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income. Once the protocol enters into force, it will enable sharing of information, that is exchanged under Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA), with other law enforcement agencies for non tax purposes. India-Tajikistan Relations : The bilateral relations between India and Tajikistan have usually been close and cordial. These ties have been strengthened from time to time through high level visits between the two countries.   In September 2009, President Pratibha Patil paid a visit to Tajikistan and in September 2015,  External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Tajikistan for the Council of Heads of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Dushanbe.   From the Tajikistan side, President Rahmon visited India in September 2012 for the fifth time after making the visits in 1995, 1999, 2001 and 2006 and Foreign Minister Sirodjidin Aslov visited India in May 2015. Recently, the relations were further strengthened with the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Tajikistan in July 2015.  

The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs in an alert alleged that Pakistan intelligence agencies are spying on Indian security forces using four mobile applications. The Home Ministry stated that these intelligence agencies are sending malwares through gaming, music and entertainment apps like Top Gun, Mpjunkie, Bdjunkie and Talking Frog to steal confidential information. The Ministry also added that when users having these apps use mobile banking on their smartphones, chances of cyber crime become higher. So, in order to prevent such a fraud these apps should be deleted immediately. A similar alert was issued by Minister of State for Home Affairs, Haribhai Parathibhai Chaudhary during Lok Sabha proceedings earlier in May this year. At the time, he had said that the Indian security forces have been made aware of such fraud applications and a set of guidelines have been issued to all ministries and departments to prevent such cyber attacks. Chaudhary had also added then that the Pakistan’s spy agencies are attempting to lure ex-servicemen into spying for them by bribing them with job opportunities and financial aid. He said that at least seven ex-servicemen have been arrested for the same between 2013- 2016. In addition to it, India recently expelled a Pakistani high commission official after detaining him on charges of spying. This initiated a diplomatic spat between the two nations.  Malware :  It is short for malicious software used to disrupt regular computer or mobile operations in order to gain access to classified information.   It refers to a variety of hostile software like computer viruses, worms, spyware and Trojan horses.  Once it infects a device, it damages it completely.  

Sarbananda Sonowal, the Chief Minister of Assam, on 14 December 2016 inaugurated a Solar Battery Station at Bindhakata Tengapukhuri village in Dibrugarh. The Solar Battery Station, which is one of the biggest projects in Assam, would help in fulfilling the power requirements of 287 households of four villages of the area, namely Gerekigaon, Mulukghat, Mirigaon and Tengabri. Highlights of Solar Battery Station : The project has installed two solar battery charging stations of 6-kilowatt capacity. The two central battery-charging stations have been installed in two different buildings with a provision of two lights and one fan in each household along with one solar battery. In addition to the solar battery station, the Chief Minister also inaugurated a Community Development Centre in the city. While inaugurating the two facilities in Dibrugarh, the Chief Minister said ‘the area is highly affected by flood and erosion and his government is taking up the issue of dredging the Brahmaputra with the Union Government. He also reiterated his government’s commitment towards inclusive development with a prime focus on rural areas. He stressed on maximum utilisation of Brahmaputra waterways for expediting the growth of the state.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) stated in its annual report that the planet’s poorest countries are falling further behind in comparison to the rest of the world and would require more aid and favourable trade deals. The report further revealed that only four countries have graduated from the United Nation’s list of least developed countries (LDC), which was developed almost 45 years ago. The four nations are Botswana, Maldives, Cape Verde and Samoa. Economic development in the remaining 48 countries has been very slow. Almost half of the total poor globally reside in these impoverished nations. The poor have been defined as people living on less than USD 1.90 per day. According to UNCTAD, poverty is the main factor that is hampering the growth of these countries and because they aren’t able to develop themselves, they are unable to eliminate poverty. So, in order for them to break this vicious circle, they would require international support in sectors such finance, trade, and technology. Only three countries so far look to be on the path of lifting themselves up from the LDC list, two of which are Angola and Equatorial Guinea that have witnessed a rise in their Gross national income due to oil wealth. The third country is Vanuatu, an island nation lying on the south of Pacific Ocean. Overall, the current list of LDC includes 24 African countries, 9 Asian countries, 4 from the Pacific region and Haiti.

The 9th edition of Indra Navy exercise between Indian Navy and Russian Navy began on 14 December 2016 in the Bay of Bengal. This annual bilateral maritime exercise will continue till 21 December 2016.  The main aim of this exercise is to enhance the inter-operability between the two navies and develop common understanding for maritime security operations. The first edition of this maritime exercise between India and Russia was first held in 2003. Highlights :   Its scope includes extensive specialized interactions in harbor phase and on the other hand a diverse canvas of operational activities at sea.  The Indian Navy will be represented by guided missile destroyer INS Ranvir, indigenous frigate INS Satpura and indigenous Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) corvette INS Kamorta.  Additionally, P8I Long Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft, Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer, Dornier Short Range Maritime Patrol Aircraft, a submarine and other integral rotary wing helicopters are also scheduled to participate in this bilateral exercise. While, the Russian Federation Navy (RuFN) will be represented by Rear Admiral Eduard Mikhalov, Deputy Chief of Flotilla, Pacific Fleet and ships from the Pacific Fleet which are based at Vladivostok.  RuFN ships Admiral Tributus (cruiser) and Boris Butoma (fleet tanker) arrived at Visakhapatnam on 14 December 2016. It will be conducted in two phases- the Harbour Phase (14 to 18 December 2016) at Visakhapatnam and the Sea Phase (19 to 21 December 2016) off Visakhapatnam.  The Harbour Phase will include table-top exercises, planning conferences, and professional interactions prior progressing to sea.  While, Sea Phase will be focused on Air Defence Drills, Surface Firings, visit Board Search and Seizure (VBSS) and Tactical procedures. It will help to further strengthen mutual confidence and will also enable sharing of best practices between both navies.

The World Bank Group (WBG) has halted the two concurrent processes initiated by India and Pakistan under the Indus Water Treaty. The Bank initiated this move in order to protect the treaty. A communication in this regard was sent by the World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim to finance ministers of both the countries. The Union Government welcomed this decision. India planned to construct Kishanganga and Ratle hydroelectric power plants on Indus River System in Jammu Kashmir. Pakistan raised objections against these projects claiming that they would alter the river flows and affect the Pakistan adversely. To resolve the differences India and Pakistan asked the World Bank to appoint a Neutral Expert and a Court of Arbitration respectively. The Bank in its earlier communication to both the countries said that the necessary processes will be put in place by 12 December 2016. However, the Bank withdrew its earlier communication and announced that the concurrent process will make the treaty unworkable over time. Hence, these processes must be stopped. Indus Water Treaty : It is a water distribution treaty between India and Pakistan. It was brokered by the World Bank.The treaty was signed on 19 September 1960 by the then Indian Prime Minister Jawahar Lal Nehru and the President of Pakistan Ayub Khan. As per the treaty, the control over the three western flowering rivers of the Indus River System – Indus, Jhelum and Chenab were vested in Pakistan, while the control over the eastern flowing rivers – Ravi, Beas and Sutlej is in India’s hands.   The treaty provides for dispute resolution mechanism at three levels viz., Questions, Differences and Disputes. The Questions will be resolved in the Permanent Indus Commission which will be represented by India and Pakistan. The unresolved Questions i.e. Differences will be resolved through the appointment of a neutral expert.The Disputes will be resolved through a Permanent Court of Arbitration. In September 2016, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced stopping the meetings of Permanent Indus Commission against the backdrop of Pathankot and Uri terrorist attacks.  

With assembly elections right around the corner, the Uttar Pradesh cabinet chaired by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav approved the recommendations of the seventh pay commission on 13 December 2016. The decision is expected to benefit around 24 lakh government employees and pensioners, who will see a 15-20% hike in their income. The hike will be effective starting January 2017. Yadav in his announcement stated that though the decision will put a heavy burden on the state exchequer, it was taken to benefit lakhs of government employees and these people will then help him form the government again with a complete majority so that they continue to get the benefits. He also added that the upcoming UP Assembly election will be historic. A report recommending the same decision was submitted to the Uttar Pradesh CM earlier by a committee constituted by the state government. The committee was headed by retired IAS officer GB Patnaik. The minimum salary of any employee joining the UP government will henceforth be Rs 18000 per month. The maximum salary would be lesser than 2.25 Lakh, which is the salary of the State Chief Secretary.  The employees would be assured at least three career promotions after 10 years, 16 years and 26 years of service. Apart from this, the Cabinet also gave its nod to the ‘Samajwadi Beema Yojana’ with which those registered under the Party’s Pension Scheme would get an insurance cover of about Rs 2 lakh for critical illness. It also gave a go ahead to the proposal to provide separate compensation amounting to about Rs 5 lakh to parents of police personnel who died on duty.

Madonna’s biopic, titled Blond Ambition, was named as the best unproduced film script available at present in the Hollywood system. The biopic of Madonna topped the list of 73 scripts with 48 votes in the newly published annual Black List. Blond Ambition is written by Elyse Hollander who is a newcomer in the industry. As per reports, he had written and directed a series of short films.  As per IMDb, he has acted as an uncredited directors’ assistant in Birdman. Blond Ambition : The biopic describes struggles of Madonna of 1980s to get her first album released. The book doesn’t narrate the complete life of Queen of Pop but talks about fame, romance and a music industry that views women as disposal. The black list is an annual list that invites film executives to vote on their favourite scripts that will not start shooting before the end of the year. Since 2005, this annual list is being released by film executive Franklin Leonard on second Friday of December. Franklin Leonard is a development executive who subsequently worked at Universal Pictures and Will Smith's Overbrook Entertainment. As per reports, approximately 1000 screenplays have been included in the Black List since its introduction. Nearly, one-third of the listed screenplays were produced as theatrical films like Slumdog Millionaire, Argo, Spotlight, American Hustle, Juno, The King's Speech and The Revenant. Other script in 2016 Black List Three scripts were jointly placed at the second position with 35 votes each. They are The Olympian authored by Tony Tost. It is a story of an underdog rower who tried to make into the 1984 Olympics. Life Itself authored by Dan Fogelman. It is a drama that weaves numerous characters whose lives intersect with each other over a course of time from New York to the countryside of Spain and back. The Post authored by Liz Hannah. It is a story of the publication of the Pentagon Papers and the Washington Post. Madonna : Born on 16 August 1958 in Bay City, Michigan, Madonna is an American songwriter, singer, actress and businesswoman. She is known for reinventing her image as well as music and maintaining autonomy in the music industry. Madonna, who is referred as the “Queen of Pop”, is often cited as an influence by other artists.Few albums of Madonna include Ray of Light and Confessions on a Dance Floor.She also acted in few films like Desperately Seeking Susan, Dick Tracy and Evita.  

The Indian Railways has tied-up with the State Bank of India (SBI) to install at least 10000 Point of Sale (POS) machines using debit or credit cards at the Public Reservation System (PRS) counters of Railways. This tie-up was undertaken to promote Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision to promote cashless transactions. Highlights : In the first phase, 40 POS will be installed on priority at A1, A and B category stations in the division.  With this, passengers will be able to carry out cashless transactions while booking tickets. However, cash will also be accepted. No extra fee will be charged from travellers, however, railways will pay 0.75 percent Merchant Discount Rate (MDR) through debit cards up to and above Rs 2000. This MDR will be 1.50 percent and 2.50 percent respectively for transactions through credit cards and foreign cards. Nagpur division of Central Railway installed around 15 POS machines in one go, out of which, 6 were installed in Nagpur, four in Ajni, two in Wardha and one each in Chandrapur, Sindhi and Ballarshah. In Eastern Railways, PRS counters from Bihar's Bhagalpur to the Bangladesh border will be covered, and all the unreserved ticketing system (UTS) counters will also be brought under the cashless system.  The West Central Railway (WCR) has already introduced PoS machines at four railway stations in Madhya Pradesh.  Southern Railway will install a total of 48 machines to give an option for travellers to make their advanced bookings through e-payment mode.  

The Union Government has extended the facility of e-Tourist Visa (e-TV) Scheme for citizens of 161 countries. It was announced by Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.  The reply also mentioned that number of foreign tourist arrivals on e-TV during January to November 2016 was 9,17,446. This period registered a growth of 168.5% over same period of previous year. This indicates success of the e-TV Scheme. E-Tourist Visa Scheme  : Union Government had launched e-Tourist Visa Scheme (as Tourist Visa on Arrival scheme) on November 27, 2014. The scheme facilitates pre-authorization of Visa i.e. electronic travel authorisation is given to foreigners prior to travel after applicant registers for visa online. After registration applicant receives an email authorising him or her to travel to India after it has been approved.  The tourist can travel with a print-out of this authorisation. The scheme aims to tap the vast tourism potential of India which still remains untapped and explored.

Qatar has abolished the controversial Kafala labour system. The system has been replaced with a new contract-based labour system to ensure enhanced rights to the migrant labourers. Kafala System became controversial : Kafala is based on sponsorship model. Under this, every immigrant worker to Qatar required a local sponsor. The sponsor may be in the form a company or an individual. An immigrant worker needed the permission of the sponsor to switch jobs or leave the company.  The discretionary power on the part of the sponsor was misused a lot of times. The sponsors used to exploit the expatriates physically, financially and emotionally. Hence, the kafala system was identified as modern-day slavery. Features of the Contract-based system : Under this system, an immigrant worker needs to enter into a contract with a company or an individual to obtain work visa. Under this system, a worker can change job easily by fulfilling obligations under the contract. Exit from the country is guaranteed as the worker is no longer required the prior approval of the company or individual employer. New system benefit Qatar : The adoption of the contract based labour system will enable smooth flow of immigrant workers across the borders.  It improves the investor confidence in the country’s labour practices and will eventually lead to more foreign direct investment (FDI) as well as foreign portfolio investment (FII). It will facilitate the timely completion of stadiums, roads and other infrastructure projects related to the upcoming FIFA World Cup. The mega event will be held across 7 cities of Qatar in 2022. India is the major beneficiary of the new system as 7 lakh out of the total 2.1 million foreign workers belong to India. Most of the migrants from India are prone to exploitation because of low literacy levels and poverty. Hence, legal safeguards under the new system will improve their working conditions.

Walter Swinburn, one of the most renowned jockeys of his generation and rider of the Shergar, passed away on 12 December 2016 following a prolonged illness. He was 55. He was famously known for winning the Epsom Derby horserace three times in his career as a jockey. Walter Swinburn : He was nicknamed as the 'Choirboy'. Swinburn was just 19 when he rode Shergar, a brilliant British-trained racehorse, to a memorable 10-length victory in the 1981 Derby at Epsom.  He suffered a terrible fall at Sha Tin in February 1996 when the River Liffey flooded through the rails.  However, he returned to win on his first ride back on Talathath at Windsor just six months after the calamity. Later, he also won the Derby on Shahrastani in 1986 and Lammtarra in 1995.  After retiring as a flat-racing jockey in 2000, he worked as a trainer between 2004-11.  He got the training licence from his father-in-law Peter Harris in November 2004, however he handed over his licence at the end of 2011, citing financial reasons. He also enjoyed a successful period as part of the Channel 4 Racing team where he was working with former National Hunt great John Francome among others. He also enjoyed international success by winning the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe in 1983.