Today Current Affairs 23rd December 2016

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The national capital has emerged as the most well-read city in India for the fourth consecutive year with Bengaluru and Mumbai taking the second and third spot, respectively, says a survey conducted by Amazon India. According to the ‘Annual Reading Trends Report for 2016’ conducted by, Karnal, Vadodara and Patna are first-time entrants in the Top 20 list having bought more books than cities like Coimbatore, Visakhapatnam and Lucknow this year.

Hrithik Roshan has become the highest advance taxpaying actor.  He has paid an advance tax of Rs 80 crore till December 15, 2016, compared to Rs 50 crore last year.  After Hrithik, it is Aamir Khan, who has paid Rs. 74 crore.  Ranbir Kapoor, who paid Rs 37 crore as advance tax till December is at 3rd position. Amitabh Bachchan, Shah Rukh Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra were not revealed.

The world's first solar road made with 30,000 square feet of solar panels has been opened in the French village of Normandy.  The one-kilometre long road took five years and cost $5.2 million to develop.  It will be used for a two-year test period to check if it can generate enough energy to power street lighting in the village.

The Union Ministry of Coal has launched Coal Mitra, a web portal for allowing flexibility in utilization of domestic Coal. It was launched by Union Minister of State (IC) for Power, Coal, New & Renewable Energy and Mines Piyush Goyal in New Delhi. The Coal Mitra Web Portal aims at optimum utilisation by private as well as public power companies of the coal. It facilitates transfer of the coal reserves to more cost efficient State/Centre owned or Private sector generating stations.  The portal allows coal swapping between PSUs and the Private Sector in transparent manner and also helps to reduce operational and logistic costs, bringing power tariffs down for the consumers.  It facilitates state/Central Gencos to display information about normative fixed and variable charges of electricity for the previous month.  They can also display margin available for additional generation so as to enable the utilities identify stations for transfer of coal. It will host data on Quantity and source of supply coal to the power plant, Operational and Financial parameters of each coal based station and Distance of Power plant form the Coal mine.

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) imposed a complete ban on burning of waste in open places across the country and announced a fine of Rs. 25,000 on each incident of bulk waste burning. The green panel’s judgement was given on the petition seeking directions to local bodies in states and Centre for improving solid waste management methods. Complete prohibition on open burning of waste on lands, including at landfill sites. For each such incident, violators will pay environmental compensation of Rs. 5,000 in case of simple burning and Rs. 25,000 in case of bulk waste burning, States and UTs to enforce and implement Solid Waste Management Rules, 2016 in a time-bound manner.  Union Environment Ministry and all States must pass appropriate directions in relation to the ban on short-life Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and chlorinated plastics within a period of six months.  Establish and operationalise of plants for processing and disposal of the waste and selection and specifications of landfill sites Non-biodegradable waste and non-recyclable plastic should be segregated from the landfill sites. It must be used for construction of roads and embankments in all road projects all over country. National Green Tribunal (NGT)  : NGT is a statutory body established by a Government Notification using the powers of Section 3 of the NGT Act 2010. It is a special fast-track court to handle the expeditious disposal of the cases pertaining to environmental issues. It has been established to assure the right to a healthy environment to the citizens of India as enshrined in Article 21 of Constitution.

Recently released Global Wage Report 2016-17 released by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) has found that India suffers from huge gender pay gap. It shows that India has among the worst levels of gender wage disparity (men earning more than women in similar jobs) with the gap exceeding 30%. Singapore has among the lowest gender wage disparity at 3%. Among major economies, South Korea only fared worse than India, with a gap of 37%. India’s position: In India, women formed 60% of the lowest paid wage labour, but only 15% of the highest wage-earners. It means that women are not only poorly represented in the top bracket of wage-earners but also gender pay gap at the bottom is also very wide in India. In other words, not only were women paid less, there were fewer women in highly paid occupations. International Labour Organisation (ILO) :  The ILO is a United Nations agency dealing with labour issues, particularly international labour standards, social protection, and work opportunities for all. It was established in 1919 as an agency of the League of Nations and is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.

Sheva Keshavan, the Winter Olympian from India, won the gold medal at Asian Luge Championship on 23 December 2016. He braved an injury to clinch the gold at the championship in Nagano. Keshavan who dominated the event finished the 2 heat race in 1:39.962 seconds. 103.4 km/hr was his top speed in the race. Tanaka Shohei of Japan clinched the silver medal in the event with a combined time of 1:44.874 seconds. His top speed was 124.6 km/hr. On the other hand, the bronze medal went to Chinese Taipei’s Lien Te-An. He completed the race in 45.120 with a top speed of 126.3 km/hr. Asian Luge Cup : It is an annual Luge competition for Asian countries and it came into existence in 1998. The competition is held in different formats, namely men’s and women’s single events and men’s double events. All editions of the competition are held by Spiral bobsleigh luge, and skeleton track at Nagano, Japan.

The White House in the fourth week of December 2016 permanently banned all new oil and gas drilling in the US-owned waters of the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans. This ban is being termed as a final effort to lock in environmental protections before current President Barack Obama hands over his office to president-elect Donald Trump. To implement the ban on the two Oceans, an area that is roughly equal to the size of Thailand or Spain on Arctic and 31 sea canyons in the Arctic, Obama used a law of 1953 under which a president can block the mining and sale of new offshore drilling rights. The law makes it difficult for his/her successors to reverse the decision. The ban was jointly announced by Obama and Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister. Outgoing President Obama’s decision comes at a time of his departure from his office holds its ground. It holds ground because of his difference, in relation to policies related to the environment, between him and the president-elect Trump. Obama, who signed the Paris climate agreement in 2015, supports the ambitious plan of reducing the global warming. But Trump had a different opinion on the agreement and has threatened to cancel the Paris climate agreement. The president-elect has said that he will use the untapped energy reserves of the country and exploit its fossil fuels. This decision of Obama will act as a blockade for Trump and his dream of exploiting the fossil fuels of these two oceans. For revocation of the ban, Trump will have to challenge the action in the court. The action came at the backdrop of demand of climate scientists, who urged incumbent-President Obama to come up with some regulations or executive order that can protect his climatic legacy. They term Trump’s presidency as a disaster to the planet.

Amul, the popular Indian dairy cooperative is planning to invest Rs 200 Cr in a Centralised Milk Processing Plant in West Bengal. The plant is located at Kandua Food Park in Howrah district’s Sankrail town. The work on the plant is expected to start in 2017 and be completed by the end of 2018. The proposed plant will process milk and other products such as UHT milk, ghee and yoghurt. Kandua Food Park : It has been developed by WBIDC to cater to the needs of producers and manufacturers of food and agricultural products.  Built on the concept of an industrial cluster, the park is an attempt to bring together different agricultural processing units and their support facilities to one single location so that they all benefit from the shared infrastructure. It comprises 25 plots with all facilities, including a fire station. The sizes of the plots vary from 0.5 acres to 4.45 acres. Amul : Formed in 1946, the brand is owned by Kaira District Cooperative Milk Producers (KDCMPUL), the first Cooperative Milk Producers Union in Gujarat. It is managed today by the Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF), which was created by KDCMPUL in 1973.  The brand initiated the White Revolution, which made India the world’s largest producer of milk and its products.  It is currently known as the country’s largest food brand.  The brand recently ventured into the overseas online market through a partnership with one of the world’s largest e-commerce companies-Amazon.   The brand’s success is largely credited to Verghese Kurien, who is the founder and chairman of the GCMMF.

The Union Cabinet has approved the ordinance amending Payment of Wages Act, 1936 for allowing certain business and industrial establishments to pay salaries and wages through cheques or through the electronic mode. With the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016, employers will also have the option to pay wages in cash.This ordinance is valid for the period of six months only and the government is required to get the bill passed in Parliament within this period only. The Bill was introduced by the Labour Minister Bandaru Dattatreya amidst the ruckus over the demonetisation issue that has engulfed the whole country with the cash crunch.  Provisions of the Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016 : It seeks to amend Section 6 of Payment of Wages Act, 1936 to enable employers to pay wages to employees through cheques or by crediting the salaries to their bank accounts electronically. It will allow the State Governments to specify industrial or other establishments that adopt cashless way for salary payments. •The new procedure will serve the objective of digital and cashless economy.  

The government of Tripura has decided to adopt for cashless payment in all public transactions, starting from 1 January 2017. The government has already initiated the process of opening bank accounts including issuing RuPay cards to people who do not have any bank accounts. According to the Chief Secretary of the state, Yashpal Singh, 80% people in Tripura already have at least one bank account. So, the state government took the initiative of opening bank accounts for those who don’t have such as the tea garden and brick kiln workers. By New Year, the government plans to convert the state into a cashless economy by ensuring that all its state departments deal mostly in digital payments. Apart from this, the government is also building digital infrastructure in the Agartala government medical college & hospital, Tripura medical college and hospital and Indira Gandhi Memorial hospital. The move has been made to help families of patients, to enable them to make digital payments. The government has also asked all government, semi-government, and private enterprises to install point-of-sale machines to discourage cash transactions and encourage digital payments. In fact, even hotels, handicraft outlets, tourist lodges and showrooms have been asked to convert to cashless business. With this, Tripura becomes the second state to attempt to adopt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cashless drive. Goa was the first state to announce that it will operate completely cashless, starting 31 December 2016.

The Samajwadi Party government of Uttar Pradesh led by Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav on 22 December 2016 passed a resolution to transfer 17 sub-castes in Other Backward Castes (OBCs) into Scheduled Castes (SC) category. The decision was taken in a cabinet meeting that was chaired by CM Akhilesh Yadav. This inclusion of sub-castes in OBC was one of the main commitments of the SP government in 2012 when it came to the power. 17 sub-castes which the government wants to be included in the SC category include Kashyap, Kewat, Batham, Gaur, Kahar, Nishad, Bhar, Bind, Rajbhar, Prajapati, Majhi, Tura, Mallah, Kumhar, Dheemar and Machua. In addition to this, the state government also moved another resolution to send this proposal to the Union Government for further consideration. The proposal is being sent the Union Government because it has the power for the category change. Now, this inclusion of these 17 sub-castes into SC category rests in the hand of the Union Government. As per the political pundits, this move of the government is a political stunt to increase the vote count of Samajwadi Party in the upcoming assembly poll. BSP supremo Mayawati termed the decision as unfortunate and condemnable. The decision is aimed at deceiving these communities. She termed it as a mere drama. This is not the first time that the SP government has tried to work in this direction; earlier in 2005, it had amended the UP Public Services Act, 1994. The act was amended to include as many as 17 castes in the OBCs to the SC category. But the then decision of the state government failed to crop-up because the power to declare any caste as 'Scheduled' rests in the hands of the Union Government. The decision was proved futile as it was taken without the consent of the Union government. Later, the Allahabad High Court quashed the decision declaring the move unconstitutional and void.

India has defeated South Korea 3-0 to secure the bronze medal at the 4th Women's U18 Asia Cup 2016 hockey tournament in Bangkok. After the win, Hockey India announced cash rewards of Rs.1 lakh for each player. It also announced Rs.50000 for each member of the support staff. In the first half of the game, both teams played were goalless. The best chance of the half fell to India’s Mahima Choudhary. India took the lead minutes after the break as Ritu scored the opener off a penalty corner. Sangita Kumari scored in the 55th and 58th minutes. China was the winner of the Women Under-18 Asia Cup. The country emerged victorious with a 4-2 victory over defending champions Japan in the final at the National Hockey Training Centre. Asian Hockey Federation : The Asia Cup is an international men's and women's field hockey tournament governed by the Asian Hockey Federation (ASHF). The Asian Hockey Federation was formed during the Asian Games of 1958 in Tokyo when hockey was first played in the Games. The first five member countries of the ASHF were India, Japan, Korea, Malaysian and Pakistan. Earlier on 18 December 2016, India defeated Belgium 2-1 in the final to lift the 2016 Men's Hockey Junior World Cup.

Kyrgyzstan President Almazbek Atambayev has invited Indian businesses to invest in the Central Asian country which can act as a gateway to region. He also promised protection to those investing in Kyrgyzstan. Kyrgyzstan is a small country but is the key to the gate of Central Asia. India and Kyrgyzstan have firmed up broad contours of pacts covering a range of areas to combat the challenge of terrorism, extremism and radicalism.  Both countries are aiming to strengthen ties in areas of defence, security, mining, IT, agriculture and energy.

Ravichandran Ashwin has won both the ICC Cricketer of the Year and the ICC Test cricketer of the Year award after he was named as the only Indian in ICC’s Test Team of the Year.  Virat Kohli was named captain of the ICC ODI Team of the Year.  Misbah-Ul-Haq won the ICC Spirit of Cricket Award at the 2016 ICC Awards as he became the first Pakistan player to win the award. Catch live updates of ICC Awards.

Japan's space agency has announced successfully launched a 26-metre-long rocket named Epsilon-2, which put a satellite that helps study radiation belts in orbit.  Epsilon-2 is part of a new generation of solid propellant rockets which can reduce launch costs up to one-third. Reduction in cost can allow countries to put more communication and weather satellites in space.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has penalised five foreign banks a total of Rs 60,000 for violation of the central bank's instructions on reporting requirements of the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999 (FEMA).  Germany's Deutsche Bank was penalised the highest Rs 20,000 while US' Bank of America-Merrill Lynch, UK's Royal Bank of Scotland, Japan's Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi and UK's Standard Chartered were asked to pay a fine of Rs 10,000 each.  The Reserve Bank had issued a show cause notice to the banks, in response to which the banks submitted written replies and also made oral submissions thereon. After considering the facts of the cases and the banks' replies in the matter, Reserve Bank came to the conclusion that the violations were substantiated and warranted imposition of penalty.

India’s Arjun Bhati (12) secured the first position in Kids Golf World Championship 2016 held in Malaysia defeating South Africa’s Methu Denish. In this event 21 countries had participated.  Arjun has been playing golf for about three and half years and so far he has played a total of 82 tournaments.  Kids Golf World Championship is a world competition organised by US Kids Golf Foundation for boys and girls between ages 5 to 18 years.

The Minister of State for AYUSH Shripad Yesso Naik has formally inaugurated the North Eastern Institute of Ayurveda and Homoeopathy (NEIAH) in Shillong, Meghalaya. The objective of the NEIAH is to provide good quality medical graduates in traditional medicine generate employment and promote tourism in the North East. North Eastern Institute of Ayurveda and Homoeopathy (NEIAH) :  It is an autonomous Institute under Union Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH). • With this inauguration, the institute has become the second Ayurvedic College in the North East Region with a Homeopathy college.It is the only Central Academic Institute of AYUSH in the North East Region. Its primary aim is to produce quality human resource in the area of AYUSH in general and the Ayurveda and Homeopathy in particular. The establishment of this Institute will solve the problem of scarcity of doctors in remote areas of the North Eastern regions to a great extent. The institute will suitably help in implementing and improving the execution of national health policies.The NEIAH helps in preserving folk and traditional health practices of the region which is home to rich flora. It helps in scientific validation of these health practices based on ethnobotanical and scientific research with practical suitability for clinical practices.The research and development activities of the institute will help in the development of herbal-agro based industry which ultimately promotes the cultivation of medicinal plants in this region. The establishment of the institute is a boon for this region which is most climatically suitable for a large number of medicinal plants from high altitude to mid-level altitude of the hilly areas.The NEIAH will also work with priority to popularize Panchakarma and Yoga along with the production of skilled para-medical staff. Promotion of Panchakarma therapy for curative, preventive and promotional areas boost health care sector as well as promote health tourism industries.  

Indian Railways, National High Speed Rail Corporation and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) on 21 December 2016 signed a Memorandum for General Consultancy. Under the tripartite consultancy agreement, JICA promotes smooth implementation of the Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Railway Project. Highlights of the Memorandum for General Consultancy  : The general consultancy involves providing design and bidding assistance for the public works and systems required for the construction of the project. The JICA will bear the cost of general consultancy up to 2020. The memorandum is an outcome of the Japan-India Summit level talks in December 2015. Mumbai-Ahmedabad High Speed Railway Project : It is India’s first high speed railway line project.It is a 508 km line project linking Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Out of the total project cost of Rs 97636 crore, Japan offered an assistance of over Rs 79000 crore. The project is expected to be completed by 2023. Apart from the general consultancy, Japanese agencies will be involved in a wide range of other services like human resource training, technology transfer, etc.  Japan International Cooperation Agency : It is a governmental agency of Japan that coordinates the official overseas development assistance. It has 4 missions viz., addressing the global agenda, reducing poverty through equitable growth, improving governance and achieving human security. To achieve these missions the JICA follows 4 strategies viz., integrated assistance, seamless assistance, promoting development partnerships and enhancing research and knowledge-sharing. It is playing a key role in strengthening bilateral relations between India and Japan. In India, the JICA is actively involved in infrastructure development and poverty alleviation programmes. JICA is providing assistance to realize Japan-India cooperation such as the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor (DMIC) and the Chennai-Bengaluru Industrial Corridor (CBIC).It is involved in strengthening Japan-India academic-industry networks and human resources development for industries such as manufacturing. JICA is extending its assistance to contribute to stronger relations between Japan and India.