Today Current Affairs 22nd December 2016

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Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s cabinet approved approved 5.13 trillion yen ($43.6 billion) in defence spending for the fiscal year starting in April 2017.  It is Japan’s highest annual defence budget announced so far. It is up by 1.4% from the initial budget for the current fiscal year. Now it will be sent to Parliament (Diet) for debate and approval. Under the new budget, Japan aims to beef up its ballistic missile defences, allocating funds for a new interceptor missile under joint development with the United States. It also earmarks funds to dispatch extra personnel to the Philippines and Vietnam to increase gathering and sharing of information.  The funds have been increased monitoring operations and to maintain mastery of air and sea to counter attacks against “island areas” which are disputed territory. Separately, Japanese Coast Guard will increase security around the islands by allocating a record 210 billion yen, which includes two new patrol ships and the hiring of 200 more personnel. It marks the fifth straight annual increase in annual defence budget in the face of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats and a territorial row with China. Japan is on constant alert against neighbouring North Korea, a rouge nuclear state which has conducted two underground nuclear tests and more than 20 missile launches in the year 2016.  The defence budget rise also reflects the hawkish Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s attempt to build up Japan’s military, which since World War II has been constitutionally limited to self defence. PM Abe is also pushing revisions to the pacifist constitution of Japan, strongly backed new security laws for making it possible for Japanese troops fight abroad for the first time since the end of the war.

China successfully launched TanSat, a global carbon dioxide (CO2) monitoring satellite to understand the effects of climate change. It was launched on board of Long March-2D rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China’s Gobi Desert.   It was the 243rd mission of the Long March series rockets. With this, China became third country after Japan and United States to have its own satellite to monitor greenhouse gases (GHGs). TanSat satellite  : TanSat will thoroughly examine global CO2 levels every 16 days, accurate to at least 4 ppm (parts per million). It weighs 620-kg and will be located in sun synchronous orbit about 700 kms above the earth. It has three-year mission life.  It will thoroughly monitor the concentration, distribution and flow of CO2 levels every 16 days, accurate to at least 4 ppm (parts per million) in the atmosphere.  The satellite will help understanding of climate change and provide China’s policy makers with independent emissions data in first-hand and share it with researchers worldwide. It will give China a louder voice on climate change, carbon reduction negotiation and bigger say on carbon trading.

Union Minister of Power Piyush Goyal has launched the GARV-II mobile app with an aim to provide village-wise and habitation-wise base line data on household electrification for all the states. This GARV-II mobile app is an upgraded version of the GARV mobile app that was launched in October 2015 for the efficient monitoring of the village electrification programme. This version has till now mapped the data of only 18452 un-electrified villages. Highlights of the GARV-II mobile app : Data of about 6 lakh villages having 17 crore people has been mapped in the app for tracking progress on household electrification in each of the habitations of the villages.  Status of village-wise works sanctioned under the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Gram Jyoti Yojana and release of funds to the states for these projects has been mapped in the app to monitor the progress. All the data will be made available in the app to ensure transparency and enhance accountability of various stakeholders along with facilitating view of real time progress. Citizen Engagement Window ‘SAMVAD’ : The Union Ministry also launched the Citizen Engagement Window SAMVAD with an aim to enhance the participation of public at large.  This window will take in the feedback and suggestions from the people which will be then automatically forwarded to the concerned Managing Director and Superintending Engineer. The information will be given through SMS and e-mail for online monitoring and further action. Moreover, on the same occasion, the Ministry presented awards to the best performing Grameen Vidyut Abhiyanta (GVAs). It also presented the Digital India Award 2016 to GARV mobile app for getting featured in the Top 3 best Mobile Apps that played revolutionary role in bringing Good Governance.  

Lieutenant Governor of Delhi Najeeb Jung submitted his resignation to the Union Government on 22 December 2016. He resigned 18 months short of his tenure. He didn’t cited ant reason for his resignation. In an official press release, he thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for all his cooperation during his tenure as Lt Governor. He also thanked Arvind Kejriwal, the Chief Minister of Delhi, for his association in past two years. He also thanked people of Delhi for their support especially during the one year’s President Rule in Delhi. Najeeb Jung : He was serving Delhi as its 20th Lieutenant Governor of the National Capital Territory of Delhi. He assumed charge of Lt Governor of Delhi on 9 July 2013.  He also served Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) as its 13th Vice-Chancellor between 2009 and 2013. JMI is a central university in Delhi. He is a former civil servant. He joined the Indian Administrative Service in 1973 and worked in Madhya Pradesh and with the Union Government.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced to issue Rs 500 denomination banknotes in Mahatma Gandhi (new) series with inset letter 'R' in both the number panels. These new notes will bear the signature of Urjit R Patel, Governor of Reserve Bank of India. The year of printing '2016' will be printed on the reverse side of the banknote. The design of these notes will be much similar in all respects to the Rs 500 banknotes in Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series which are currently in legal tender. However, all Rs 500 bank notes issued earlier after 8 November 2016 in the Mahatma Gandhi (New) series will continue to be a legal tender. These banknotes came with the inset letter 'E' in both the number panels. Swachh Bharat Logo was also printed on the reverse side of the note. Earlier in the first week of December 2016, the Reserve Bank of India announced to issue new Rs 100, Rs 50 and Rs 20 denomination banknotes as well.  Issuance of these small value currencies acted as a big relief for the people who were finding it difficult to meet their daily requirements after the implementation of the demonetisation plan of the Union Government, that is the ban on old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes. These small value notes along with the new Rs 500 currency notes will not only deal with the cash crunch but will also pour in liquidity in the country at the time when almost 86 percent of the cash has been wiped off from the market.  

Praful Patel, President of the All India Football Federation (AIFF), announced on 21 December 2016 that Jeje Lalpekhlua has been nominated as the 2016 AIFF Player of the Year. The announcement was made at the AIFF Annual General Body Meeting held at the AIFF Football House in New Delhi. Jeje will be presented a prize of Rs. 2.5 lakh along with a trophy. On the other hand, Sasmita Malik was chosen for the 2016 AIFF Woman Footballer of the Year. She will be bestowed with a prize of Rs. 2 lakh along with a trophy. Also, AIFF selected Gurpreet Singh Sandhu and Uvena Fernandes for the 2016 AIFF Award for Special Recognition awards. They will be bestowed with Rs. 1 lakh besides a trophy. Gurpreet is the first Indian to feature in a Europa League fixture. He represented Stabaek FC in the Europa League. On the other hand, Uvena is the first Indian Official to officiate in a World Cup final match. The 2016 AIFF Emerging Player of the Year went to Rowllin Borges, whereas Sanju was selected for the 2016 AIFF Emerging Women Footballer of the Year award. The Punjab Football Association was honoured with the 2016 AIFF Award for Best Grassroots Programme. The 2016 AIFF Award for long-time contribution to Indian Football was given to Nike. Pranjal Banerjee from the Indian Football Association won the 2016 AIFF Award for Best Referee. On the other hand, Joseph Tony was selected for the 2016 AIFF Award for Best Assistant Referee. All India Football Federation : The AIFF manages the game of association football in India. It sees over the India national football team and also controls the I-League, India's premier domestic club competition, besides other competitions and teams. It was founded in 1937. In 1948, it gained FIFA’s affiliation.

The Additional Chief Secretary and Commissioner of Land Administration, Girija Vaidyanathan has been appointed as the new Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu state, replacing P Rama Mohana Rao. The announcement was made through an official statement by the government of Tamil Nadu. Along with being the Chief Secretary, Girija will also hold the position of Vigilance Commissioner and Commissioner for Administrative Reforms. This appointment follows the shocking removal of P Rama Mohana Rao from the top post. Rao was sacked a day after an Income Tax raid seized hidden cash and gold from his residence and other properties in Chennai on 21 December 2016. A total of Rs 30 lakh cash in the new currency and 5 kg of gold was recovered during the raid, following which opposition parties started demanding for his removal. Girija Vaidyanathan : She is an officer of the 1981 batch of Indian Administrative Service (IAS) with a postgraduate degree in physics.  She has been serving as the Commissioner of Land Administration since the year 2013 and was actively involved in the formation of rules for the Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act of 2013.   She has previously also held the position of Health Secretary of the state for one year in 2011 under the AIADMK government.  She played a significant role in the launch of the Chief Minister’s Comprehensive Health Insurance Scheme.  Other positions that she has held include School Education Secretary from 2005 to 2006 and Member of the State Planning Commission between the years 2007 and 2008. She still has around two and half years before taking up retirement. Though there are reports suggesting that Rao would be facing suspension from service, no official decision on the same has been announced.  

Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja  made it a rare instance of two Indian bowlers topping the ICC Test rankings. Jadeja’s maiden 10-wicket match haul against England in the Test match on 20 December 2016 in Chennai made him achieve the second position in the rankings. His performance earned him 66 points and brought him within eight points of Ashwin, who is grabbing the first position in the rankings. Interestingly, it is the second time that the top two spots in the ICC Player Rankings for Test Bowlers are occupied by India players. In 1974, left-arm spinner Bishan Singh Bedi and leg-spinner Bhagwath Chandrasekhar were ranked one and two in the rankings, respectively. Also, Jadeja gained one place in the recent rankings to reach a career-best third rank in the list of all-rounders, which is also led by Ashwin.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone of a Madan Mohan Malviya Cancer Center in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The dedicated cancer centre will be built at an expense of Rs 500 crore. After laying the foundation stone of the cancer centre, Modi said that the role of technology in medical science has increased and that’s why his government is making all efforts to provide best medical facilities across India. This is a time when quality and affordable healthcare should be provided to people, especially the poor. Modi is on a one-day visit to his Parliamentary constituency Varanasi. Highlights  : PM Modi visited Swatantrata Bhavan of Banaras Hindu University (BHU). He laid the foundation of super speciality block of Institute of Medical Science of BHU. He attended a cultural event being organised under Rashtriya Sanskriti Mahotsav from BHU premises. During his visit to BHU, Prime Minister called upon people to adopt digital economy for cashless transactions. This adoption would help him to curb regeneration of black money. Besides, he will also visit Kabir Nagar locality to inspect the underground cabling work and heritage lighting system. The cabling work is being carried out under integrated power development scheme and heritage development scheme. Later, the Prime Minister will reach DLW ground, where he will lay the foundation of ESIC upgraded Super Specialty hospital. He will also inaugurate the trade facilitation centre and crafts museum in the last leg of his program.

Nepal is all set to hold its first-ever military exercise with China on 10 February 2017. The decision to initiate this new level of bilateral engagement was taken during Nepal’s Army Chief General Rajendra Chhetri’s visit to Beijing in March 2016. The military exercise called Pratikar-1 will focus on training Nepali forces in dealing with extreme situations like hostage situation involving international militant groups. This will make Kathmandu more prepared in dealing with terror attacks like the one that happened in Dhaka’s Holey Artisan bakery in July 2016, causing the death of numerous innocent civilians. Nepal has conducted similar military drills with India as well. Though this new relationship between Nepal and China does not violate the 1950 Indo-Nepal Treaty of Peace and Friendship, it does not stand well for India either due to its strained relationship with the latter. India- China Disputes : The region of Tibet has played a huge role in straining the Relationship between the two nations: India’s move of providing a safe haven to Tibetan leader Dalai Lama invited a lot of flak from the Chinese government, leading to the Sino-Indian war of 1962. Lama was allowed to be in India on a condition that he will not be involved in any political activity.Apart from this, the two nations share a very sensitive border relation: One major area of dispute is the Aksai Chin region in Ladakh. At present, Aksai Chin is under the administration of China. China’s growing closeness with Pakistan is another issue of contention for India. Despite the ongoing tensions, both the nations have successfully developed good trade relations and also extended their strategic and military relations. Initially, Nepal too shared a strained relationship with China over the Tibet issue. However, their relationship has improved significantly over the years. In March this year, both the nations signed a transit trade treaty and very recently on 9 December 2016, China launched a new cargo service connecting Tibet and Nepal.

Sahitya Akademi has announced the Sahitya Akademi Awards for the year 2016 in 24 languages. Eight books of poetry, seven books of short stories, five books of novel, two books of criticism, one book of essays and a book of play have won the prestigious awards for the year. The awards were recommended by distinguished jury members representing 24 Indian languages and approved by the Executive Board of the Sahitya Akademi, under the Chairmanship of Dr. Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari, President of the Akademy. The prestigious award will be presented to the winners at a special function to be held on 22 February 2017 in New Delhi. The Award includes a casket containing an engraved copper-plaque, a shawl and a cheque of Rs. 100000. Complete list of winners: Author Title of books Genre Language Jnan Pujari Meghmalar Bhraman Poetry Assamese Nrisinghaprasad Badhuri Mahabharater Astadahi Essay Bengali Anju (Anjali Narzary) Ang Maboroi Dong Dasong Poetry Bodo Chhatrapal Cheta Short Story Dogri Jerry Pinto Em and the big Hoom Novel English Kamal Vora Anekek Poetry Gujarati Nasira Sharma Paarijat Novel Hindi Boluwaru Mohammad Kunhi Swatantryada Ota Novel Kannada Aziz Hajini Aane Khane Criticism Kashmiri Edwin J.F. D’souza Kale Bhangar Novel Konkani Shyam Darihare Barki Kaki at Hotmail Dot Com Short Story Maithili Prabha Varma Shyamamadhavan Poetry Malayalam Moirangthem Rajen Cheptharaba Eshingpun Short Story Manipuri Asaram Lomate Aalok Short Story Marathi Gita Upadhyay Janmabhumi Mero Swadesh Novel Nepali Paramita Satpathy Prapti Short Story Odia Swarajbir Masia Di Raat Play Punjabi Bulaki Sharma Murdjat Ar Dujee Kahaniyan Short Story Rajasthani Sitanath Acharya Kavyanirjhari Poetry Sanskrit Gobinda Chandra Majhi Nalha Poetry Santali Nand Javeri Akhar Katha Poetry Sindhi Vannadhasan Oru Siru Isai Short Story Tamil Papineni Sivasankar Rajanigandha Poetry Telugu Nizam Siddiqui Mabad-e-Jadidiat Se Naye Ahed Ki Takhliqiyat Tak Criticism Urdu   Sahitya Akademi Award : The Sahitya Akademi Award is a literary honour in India. It is conferred annually on writers of the most outstanding books of literary merit published in any of the major Indian languages recognised by the Sahitya Akademi. The Award was established in 1954. Indian film-maker Satyajit Ray is designer of the plaque awarded by the Sahitya Akademi.  

Shri Thaawarchand Gehlot, Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment released the first issue of a National Newspaper ‘Saanjhi Saanjh’, dedicated to Senior Citizen, in the National Capital on December 19, 2016. Releasing the newspaper, Shri Gehlot congratulated the publisher and editor for bringing out such a valuable newspaper especially for elderly people and wished them good success. The Newspaper is edited by Ms. J.V Manisha Bajaj, Secretary, Harikrit, an NGO for elderly people.  This bilingual newspaper has got 8 pages which will be published from Delhi by Harikrit publishers. The newspaper will carry inspirational stories besides important and useful news concerning elderly persons. It will serve as a bridge between old and new generations.  

Gujarat Government has announced Aerospace and Defence Policy 2016. The policy was announced with an aim to attract investment into fields of aerospace and defence design, development and manufacturing in the state. The policy announced a fortnight ahead of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit is offering several incentives and benefits to the investors. Highlights : 100 percent reimbursement will be provided to Investors on stamp duty and registration charges that are paid for purchase, lease or mortgage of land that is meant for setting up/developing the facility in the areas of Aerospace and Defence (A&D). In cases where the manufacturing facility will be established in government lands, the investors will be allotted the land at 50 percent of prevailing market rate (jantri rates) decided by the government. To conduct tests and trials of the equipment that is manufactured in the state, the government will provide all the required assistance for developing the infrastructure on PPP model. MSME units will be provided with a cash subsidy of 25 percent on capital investment for setting up their facility in the Aerospace and Defence sector. For a period of five years, all mega and A&D projects will be entitled to 2 percent interest subsidy on external borrowings. On the tax front, the policy says that all units would be given reimbursement up to 100 per cent of the Central Sales Tax or net Value Added Tax. The policy says, “The reimbursement will be limited to 90 percent of the fixed capital investment made by the unit within three years for mega A&D units, 2 years for large A&D units and one year for SME”. For a period of five years, all A&D units would be provided 100 percent exemption on electricity duty. This exemption will be provided from the date of commencement of production. Besides, the entrepreneurs will be provided with a subsidy of 50 percent of the construction cost of the R&D centre. The facility will be provided to encourage research and development activities in the state.  

Union government is all set to launch its second centre of excellence for sericulture in Bengaluru. This will provide a fillip to Karnataka’s status as the premier sericulture hub of India. The first such centre was set up in Ranchi, Jharkhand. The Central Silk Board has set up the centre to boost the silk industry, which is going through a tough phase. “Union minister for Textiles Smriti Irani would launch the centre on Tuesday. She would also launch the automatic reeling machine at the Central Silk Board premises in the city. It will enable the Board to attain self-sufficiency and bring silk import to zero level by 2020,” Central Silk Board chairman K M Hanumantharayappa said here on Monday. “The country now imports nearly 4,000 metric tonnes of high quality raw silk from China,” he added. The automatic reeling machine can produce about 20 metric tonnes of silk per year utilizing cocoons produced by around 200 local farmers. “Indigenously manufactured machine costs `65 lakh as compared to `75 lakh of those imported from China. The Board would offer 50 per cent subsidy to those who install such machines,” Hanumantharayappa said. At present, the country is producing nearly 4,000 tonnes of 4A grade of silk, equivalent to the top grade of silk imported from China.

The New Development Bank, jointly found by the BRICS countries approved USD 75 million (525 million yuan) loan for a solar power project in Shanghai, China on December 20, 2016. The power project ‘Shanghai Lingang Distributed Solar Power Project’ is being developed by Shanghai Lingang Hongbo New Energy Development Co. The loan with a maturity period of 17 years was approved under an agreement signed between New Development Bank (NDB), the Ministry of Finance and the Shanghai municipal government. The project by Shanghai Lingang Hongbo New Energy Development is a solar photo-voltaic power plant with total capacity of 100 MW.

With over 10 months to go for the launch of FIFA Under-17 World Cup India 2017, the Bank of Baroda7 has become the first Indian company to sign up as a national supporter.  The first ever FIFA event in India, scheduled to kick start in October 2017 will see participation from 24 countries and matches will be played at six different venues.  While FIFA already has international sponsors for all events, including Coca-Cola, Adidas, and Wanda, BOB is the first Indian supporter.  This will be FIFA's single largest investment in India, for development for the game. The way FIFA works, it makes the central government, state governments and the association commit for the promotion of sports. In total, Rs 400 crore will be spent easily for football over the next year.  Bank of Baroda is an Indian state-owned banking and financial services company headquartered in Vadodara in Gujarat, India.It is the second largest bank in India, next to State Bank Of India. 

India will host the fifth edition of the Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCSS) in 2017 in which over 100 countries are expected to participate, IT and Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad . India has been selected for hosting Global Conference on Cyber Space (GCCS) in 2017. It is recognition of India's emerging role as big cyber power accelerated by Digital India which has gained international fame. The UK had hosted the first GCCS in 2011 followed by Budapest in 2012. South Korea hosted the event 2013 and the Netherlands in 2015.  Over 100 countries participate in it with ministerial level delegation, Prasad said.  The minister further said that he today met the Netherlands Ambassador Alphonsus Stoeling who formally handed over GCCS hosting to India.  GCCS will deliberate on issues related to promotion of cooperation in cyberspace, norms for responsible behaviours in cyberspace and to enhance cyber capacity building.  The conference is likely to be held in last quarter of 2017 but the government will decide on venue and dates for it shortly

Kaisa Matomaki and Maksym Radziwill have been jointly won the 2016 SASTRA-Ramanujan award for mathematics for their ‘revolutionary’ collaborative work on short intervals in number theory. Their mathematical work dwells on properties of numbers in “short intervals.”  The two mathematicians worked with Fields medallist Terence Tao in making a breakthrough on the Chowla conjecture.  They were presented with this prestigious award at inauguration of International Conference on Number Theory at SASTRA University at Kumbakonam. Kaisa Matomaki from Finland’s University of Turku is first woman to receive this prize since it was instituted in 2005.  Maksym Radziwill is Assistant professor at McGill University, Canada. SASTRA Ramanujan Prize : It is an annual award bestowed on young mathematicians for his outstanding contributions to areas of mathematics influenced by the Srinivasa Ramanujan. It was established in 2005 by Shanmugha Arts, Science, Technology & Research Academy (SASTRA) University.  It is named after great Indian Mathematician autodidact Srinivasa Ramanujan. Criteria: The age limit for the prize is 32 because Ramanujan had achieved so much in his brief life of 32 years. The prize is given annually to recipient at Kumbakonam which is Ramanujan’s hometown.

According to report submitted by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology, there is alarming rise in forest fires across India. It says that the number of forest fires have touched 24,817 in 2016 from 15,937 fires in 2015. It shows alarming rise 55% in the past year. The report primarily focuses on the prevention and containing of fires in the Himalayan forests spread across Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. There increase in forest fires is seen even though 2015 was considered a drought year. But there is decline in frequency of forest fires by around 16%. The three central States of Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha contribute a third of the forest fires. Madhya Pradesh has seen a nearly ten-fold increase in forest fires, from just 294 in 2015 to more than 2,600 in 2016. In Himachal and Uttarakhand, over 17,502 acres have been ravaged in 2016 due to forest fires, a rise of over 171%. Large number of posts of front line forest staff were lying vacant, while fire-fighting equipment is rudimentary in many cases. National policy on managing forest fires must be framed. Replacing pine reserve forests areas with “broad-leaf” plants. Procurement of sweeping machines to clear roadsides of Chir pine needles. Advocating large-scale incentives and programmes (including under MNREGA) to collect pines for use as fuel, and other incineration. The committee was formed after a series of devastating forest fires earlier in the year 2016 including the prolonged one that had charred 4,000 hectares of forest land across 13 districts of Uttarakhand in May 2016. The committee was headed by Rajya Sabha MP Renuka Choudhary.

The National Mathematics Day is observed every year on 22nd December to celebrate birth anniversary of great Indian autodidact Mathematician Srinivasa Ramanujan. This year, it is 129th birth anniversary of Srinivasa Ramanujan. Srinivasa Ramanujan was born on 22nd December, 1887 in Erode district of Tamil Nadu. He died at young age of 32 on 26 April 1920. He was considered as doyen of number theory, infinite series, mathematical analysis, and making formulas and equations without any formal training in pure mathematics. He in the same league as great mathematicians such as Euler and Gauss. He was deeply religious person and had credited his mathematical capacities to divinity. He had once said ‘”An equation for me has no meaning, unless it expresses a thought of God.” Key contributions: As a mathematical genius, he had compiled more than 3900 mathematical results and equations.  His Ramanujan Prime and Ramanujan theta discoveries have inspired further research on this mathematical subject. Along with British Mathematician Godfrey Harold Hardy, Ramanujan had discovered the smallest number represented as sum of two cubes 1729 which is known as Hardy-Ramanujan number.  Autobiography and Movie: The feature film “The Man Who Knew Infinity” was based on his life. It was based on his biography “The Man Who Knew Infinity: A Life of the Genius Ramanujan” written in 1991 by Robert Kanigel.

The Union Cabinet has approved a draft ordinance to empower states and allow industries to pay workers’ wages digitally, through a direct bank transfer to accounts or by cheque in a bid to encourage cashless transactions.  The draft ordinance proposes changes to the Section 6 of the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 to encourage cashless transactions. It will need the President’s assent to become law as per article 123 of the Constitution. It will allow industries to pay wages to workers earning up to Rs. 18,000/ month, without taking their explicit consent as required under present Act.  However, wage payment through the banking system will only be optional, until State governments or Union Government come up with a notification for specific industries since Labour is in the concurrent list. The present law (1936 Act) states that all payment of wages should be in cash. Under it has mandatory provision asking employers to obtain written permission of the worker to pay either by cheque or by crediting wages to his or her bank account. The payment of wages through cheque or DBT of employed persons has twin motives  i.e. it will reduce complaints regarding non-payment or less payment of minimum wages and serve purpose of digital and less cash economy.  The move is significant in view of the Union Government is promoting cashless transactions after its decision to scrap the old high value Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes. Earlier Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016 introduced in the Lok Sabha during 2016 winter session but was not cleared owing to the impasse in Parliament.

Hong Kong, a China-administered special territory has decided to withdraw visa-free facility for Indians from January 23, 2017. This decision was taken on the ground to prevent illegal immigration as number of Indian asylum seekers was on the rise.  Over half a million Indians visit Hong Kong for business, trade and holidays. Under the new rules, Indian travellers will have to complete a pre-arrival registration. Such pre-registration would not be necessary for those transiting through the Hong Kong airport without leaving the airport transit area.  Earlier, Hong Kong used to be part of a block of countries that gave Indians unconditional visa-free entry.  Indians were permitted to enter Hong Kong with a valid passport for a period up to 14 days without a visa. However in recent times, it was found that Indian nationals were overstaying in Hong Kong by violating visa norms. Hong Kong’s unilateral decision came a year after its government had sent a delegation headed by the Assistant Director of Immigration from the Immigration Department and Hong Kong Police in December 2015 to India.  It had informed concerns about “illegal employment” and “human trafficking” involving Indians in Hong Kong to India’s External Affairs Ministry. They even had expressed concern that many Indians taking up jobs even though Hong Kong does not allow visitors to work.

The Reserve Bank of India has withdrawn the Rs 5000 limit it had imposed on deposit of money in old currency notes for those holding KYC accounts. In a newly released report, the RBI has stated that KYC (Know Your Customer) complaint account holders will not be questioned while depositing more than Rs 5000 in old 500 and 1000 currency notes. The decision is said to have been taken after the Central body reviewed its previous call. It was only two days back on 19 December that RBI had issued a statement announcing a limit on the deposit of old notes effective immediately.  According to its earlier statement, the deposit of old currency notes exceeding the amount of Rs 5000 will only be allowed once per account till 30 December and that too with a reasonable explanation on why the money had not been deposited up until now. Apart from this, RBI announced that it would be issuing of a new batch of Rs 500 notes in Mahatma Gandhi series. These notes will have inset letter ‘R’ in both the number panels, bearing the signature of the current RBI Governor Urjit R Patel and the year of printing ‘2016’ printed on the reverse. In a separate notification, the bank also announced its decision of issuing new Rs 50 denomination notes, similar to the ones issued earlier in Mahatma Gandhi Series-2005. The new banknotes will also have inset letter ‘R’ and ‘L’ in both the number panels. RBI also confirmed that old Rs 50 notes will continue to be legal tender.

The National Green Tribunal has decided to impose a fine of Rs 50000 on the airline whose aircraft empties its human waste tank while still being in the air. The direction came on 20 December 2016, following a plea by a retired Lt. Gen Satwant Singh Dahiya who sought strict action against airlines for splattering human waste on houses near the IGI airport while landing. He termed the act as a health hazard and a violation of the Prime Minister’s ‘Swachh Bharat’ drive. Highlights : The NGT has directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to issue notices to all the involved airlines to pay Rs 50,000 as compensation and to ensure that they do not release any waste from the tanks anywhere near the terminals of the IGI Airport.   The decision was taken by a bench chaired by NGT chairperson Swatanter Kumar.  Though normally, the collected waste from the aircraft is disposed of by the ground staff after the plane lands, there are cases when there is a leak in the lavatory. To ensure the implementation of the same, the DGCA will be conducting surprise inspections in airplanes once they land to check whether their human waste tanks are empty or not.  The aircraft found violating the direction will be subjected to pay the compensation amount. The DGCA would be required to submit a quarterly report on their findings and also set up a helpline number to address similar complaints. The amount collected from these fines will then be deposited with the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to be used for the purpose of environment protection. Apart from this, the NGT has also directed CPCB to send a senior environmental engineer to inspect the petitioner’s house and collect samples of human waste if there is still any left for further analysis.

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on 14 December 2016 notified the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016. These rules replace the Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2010 and seek to address the issues related to the conservation and development of wetlands in a comprehensive manner. Highlights of Wetlands (Conservation and Management) Rules, 2016 : The wetlands shall be conserved and managed in accordance with the principle of ‘wise use’ for maintaining their ecological integrity. Wise use of wetlands means preserving the ecological character of wetlands through the implementation of ecosystem approaches. However, the strategies adopted to preserve wetlands should be within the context of sustainable development.The rules prohibit any diversion or impediment to natural water inflows and outflows of the wetland. Activities having or likely to have an adverse impact on the ecological character of the wetland are also prohibited. Wetland Authority will be set up by the State Governments or UTs to deal with wetland conservation, regulation and management.In a state, the authority will be headed by the respective Chief Minister. For the purpose of managing wetlands having multiple issues, the concerned State Government or UT Administration may, if required, constitute a specific Wetland Authority.  

Merriam-Webster's dictionary on 19 December 2016 named surreal Word of the Year for 2016. As per Merriam-Webster, the word surreal saw major spikes following Brussels terror attacks in March 2016, the coup attempt in Turkey and the terrorist attack in Nice. However, the largest spike in lookups for surreal was noticed after the U.S. election in November 2016. The word surreal is relatively new word in English, only dating back to the 1930s, derived from descriptions of the artistic movement of the early 1900s known as surrealism, which means “a style of art and literature developed principally in the 20th century,” and “stressing the subconscious or nonrational significance of imagery arrived at by automatism” or “the exploitation of chance effects.” The definition of surreal on Merriam-Webster is “marked by the intense irrational reality of a dream.”  It is a word that is used to express a reaction to something shocking or surprising. Earlier in November 2016, the word ‘Post Truth’ was named as word of the year 2016 by Oxford Dictionaries. Later in the month, the website named the word 'Xenophobia' as the Word of the Year for 2016.