Today Current Affairs 30th December 2016

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Peoples' Party of Arunachal (PPA) MLA Takam Pario is likely to be the next chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh. The final statement is yet to come out after the PPA meeting. Khandu, who became chief minister in July after exiting from the Congress along with 42 other MLAs to join the PPA in September.  

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) signed two unilateral Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) with Indian taxpayers pertain to the Information Technology and automobile sectors. The international transactions covered in these two agreements include software development services, IT enabled services (ITES), manufacturing and business support services. With this, the total number of APAs signed by the CBDT has reached 117. This includes 110 Unilateral APAs and 7 bilateral APAs. In the current 2016-17 financial year, total of 53 APAs (4 bilateral and 49 unilateral) were signed. Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs)  : The APA Scheme was introduced in the Income-tax Act in 2012 to provide a predictable and non-adversarial tax regime and to reduce litigation in case of transfer pricing. The ‘Rollback’ provisions were introduced in 2014.  The scheme aims to provide certainty to taxpayers in the domain of transfer pricing by specifying the methods of pricing and setting the prices of international transactions in advance. Boost to economy and ease of doing business. Strengthen Government’s mission of fostering a non-adversarial tax regime. Introduces certainty in tax law by reducing compliance costs and make tax regime investment friendly. Provides certainty to taxpayers regarding transfer pricing to avoid disputes between taxpayer and tax regulator.

The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) has approved six Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) proposals worth Rs 1,200 crore. Decision in this regard was taken by FIPB meeting headed by Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das.  It has approved the proposals of, Star Den Media Services, Sanofi Synthelabo India, Idea Cellular Infrastructure Services, Menarini India, Boehringer Ingelheim India and Recipharm Participation. India allows FDI in most sectors through the automatic route, but in certain segments considered sensitive for the economy and security, then those proposals first have to be cleared by FIPB.  The Union Government has taken a slew of measures in the recent past to boost foreign direct investment into the country. The FDI in the country has grown to $40 billion in the financial year 2015-16 as against $30.94 billion in the previous FY 2014-15. Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB)  : The FIPB is inter-ministerial body that offers a single window clearance for applications on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that are under the approval route. The finance secretary is the chairman of the FIPB. It is housed in the Department of Economic Affairs, Union Ministry of Finance.  Presently, FDI proposals up to 3,000 crore rupees are cleared by the FIPB. However, those proposals involving FDI of more than 3,000 crore rupees are given final clearance by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA).

President Pranab Mukherjee has given assent to Payment of Wages (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016, to enable industries to pay wages by cheque or credit into the bank accounts of workers. The ordinance amends the Payment of Wages Act, 1936 to encourage cashless transactions. With this assent the ordinance becomes law as per article 123 of the Constitution. Allows industries to pay wages to workers earning up to Rs. 18,000 per month, without taking their explicit consent as required under present Act. Empowers the Union and State governments to specify industries or establishments where wage payments can be made mandatory through banks. However, it is not mandatory for employers to make wage payments through the banking system and they can still pay in cash. The Union Government had decided to take the ordinance route because after demonetisation of the Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 banknotes in November 2016 had led to a cash crunch, and employers were finding it tough to pay workers in cash. The Payment of Wages (Amendment) Bill, 2016, introduced in Parliament was also not able get passed during winter session of the Parliament.

The Union Government has proposed setting up Financial Data Management Centre (FDMC) based on recommendation of a committee set up under the Department of Economic Affairs (DEC).  The Committee was headed by Ajay Tyagi, Additional Secretary in Union Finance Ministry and has submitted its report and a draft bill titled The Financial Data Management Centre Bill, 2016.  Standardise data from all financial sector regulators in a single database and provide analytical insights based on the data to ensure stability in the economy.  Take measures to standardise data from regulators, enable financial service providers to submit data in a standardised electronic format, analyse data and maintain a financial system database. Establish, operate and maintain the financial system database along with collecting financial regulatory data and providing access to it. Provide analytical support to the Financial Stability and Development Council (FSDC) on issues relating to financial stability. In 2015, FSDC first had suggested the creation of such a body, after Reserve Bank of India (RBI) had objected to share company-specific data with FSDC.  RBI had given reason that FSDC is not a statutory bod in nature, and sharing such data would be a breach of confidentiality. To resolve this issue, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his 2016-17 Budget Speech announced setting up of statutory FDMC under the aegis of the FSDC to facilitate integrated data aggregation and analysis in the financial sector.

The Union Ministry for Petroleum & Natural Gas has met the 1.5-crore target for LPG connections that were to be added under the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in the 2016-17 financial year.  This Target was achieved within a span of less than eight months since the launch of the scheme which is implemented across 35 States/UTs. Since the launch of the PMUY, the LPG coverage across the country has increased to 70% as of December 1, 2016 from earlier 61% as of January 1, 2016. Top five States with highest number of LPG connections are: Uttar Pradesh (46 lakh), West Bengal (19 lakh), Bihar (19 lakh), Madhya Pradesh (17 lakh) and Rajasthan (14 lakh). These states constitute nearly 75% of the total connections released. 14 States/UTs with LPG coverage less than the national average. They are J&K, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and all North-East States. They have been identified as priority States for implementing PMUY. The households belonging to SC/ST constitute the large chunk of beneficiaries of this scheme with 35% of the connections being released to them.  Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY)   : The scheme provides free LPG connection with financial assistance of Rs. 1600/- per connection to an adult woman member of BPL family identified through Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data. It was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2016 from Balia, Uttar Pradesh. PMUY is the first welfare scheme being implemented by the Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas.  The tagline of scheme is Swachh Indhan, Behtar Jeevan. It seeks to empower women and protect their health by shifting them from traditional cooking based on unclean cooking fuels or fossil fuels to clean cooking gas. It is being implemented over three years’ time frame i.e. in the FY 2016-17, 2017-18 and 2018-19 with budgetary allocation of allocated Rs, 8,000 crore announced in the Union Budget 2016.

Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds, mother of actress Carrie Fisher, passed away on 28 December 2016 following a brief illness. She was 84. Her death came just one day after the death of her daughter Carrie Fisher, who died on 27 December 2016 following a heart attack. Debbie Reynolds : She was born as Mary Frances Reynolds in April 1932. It was Warner Brothers who changed her name to Debbie.She made her feature acting debut in 1950 in The Daughter of Rosie O`Grady. She was signed by MGM in 1950 and that year, Reynolds performed the hit duet Aba Daba Honeymoon with Carleton Carpenter.  Reynolds rose to stardom in the film Singin` In the Rain in which she starred opposite Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Tony Curtis, Donald O`Connor, Fred Astaire, and Dick Van Dyke.  Her fame grew with leading roles in Susan Slept Here with Dick Powell, The Tender Trap with Frank Sinatra, Bundle of Joy with then-husband Fisher, It Started with A Kiss with Glenn Ford and The Pleasure of His Company with Astaire. She was nominated for Best Actress performance in Academy Awards for the 1964 musical The Unsinkable Molly Brown.

Union Government has constituted a High-Level Committee (HLC) to review institutionalisation of Arbitration Mechanism in India. The committee constituted in the Ministry of Law and Justice will be chaired by Justice BN Srikrishna, Retired Judge of Supreme Court. In addition to this, Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs will be the member secretary of the committee. The Committee will have to submit its report within a period of 90-days. Review and analyse the effectiveness of existing arbitration mechanism. Review the resources, facilities, funding and manpower of existing ADR institutions. Review working of the institutions that is funded by the Union Government for arbitration purposes.It will also assess the skill gaps in ADR and allied institution for both international and national arbitration. It will evaluate information outreach and efficacy of the legal framework for arbitration that exists at present. Based on the abovementioned, the committee will also : Suggest measures for the institutionalisation of arbitration mechanism, national and international, in India so as to make the country a hub of international commercial arbitration. To encourage International Commercial Arbitration (ICA), it will identify the required amendments in other laws that are needed. c) It will also formulate an action plan for implementation of the law to ensure speedier arbitrations. It will also recommend revision of institutional rules and regulations and their funding support. Advice on empanelment of international and national arbitrators for time bound arbitral proceedings will be given by the committee. It will also suggest a road map for strengthening of R&D (research and development) that impacts the domain. It will enlist the steps that are required for augmenting skill sets and professional manpower buildup for the sector.It will also recommend measures that are required to make arbitration widely available in curricula and study materials. It will have a focus on the role of arbitrations in matters that involve the Union of India like bilateral investment treaties (BIT) arbitrations and make recommendations where necessary. It will evolve an effective arbitration ecosystem that would expedite resolution of international and domestic commercial disputes. Other members of the committee include  Justice RV Raveendran, Retired Judge, Supreme Court Justice S Ravindra Bhat, Judge, Delhi High Court KK Venugopal, Senior Advocate, Supreme Court PS Narasimha, Addl Solicitor General of India Indu Malhotra, Senior Counsel, Supreme Court Araghya Sengupta, Director, Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy Representative of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) Representative of Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)

Beipanjiang Bridge, the world’s highest bridge that connects the province of Guizhou and Yunnan in the remote mountainous part of China was opened to traffic on 29 December 2016. The bridge spans 1850 feet (564 meters) above a gorge over the Beipan River. Build at an expense of about USD 146.7 million dollars Beipanjiang Bridge will help in reducing the road travel time between Xuianwei to Liupanshui from five hours to two. As per reports, the bridge surpassed the 1837-foot-tall Sidu River Bridge for its world record title. Beipanjiang Bridge : The bridge that hangs above the Beipan River was developed in three years.The 1341-meter long bridge is a four-lane roadway. The bridge is named after Beipan River over which it was developed. The bridge is a part of 2115 mile Hangrui Highway that will connect Hangzhou to the China-Myanmar border crossing in Ruili. As per reports, may be Beipanjiang is the highest bridge in the world, but France’s Millau viaduct remains the world’s tallest bridge at a height of 1125 feet. China is a home of eight of the world’s 10 highest bridges. Maximum of these bridges is available in the rural region of the country. List of top ten bridges of the world Beipanjiang Bridge, ChinaSidu River Bridge (was world's highest bridge since 2009 until opening of Beipanjiang bridge), China Puli Bridge, China Qingshui River Bridge, China Hegigio Gorge Pipeline Bridge, Papua New Guinea (It was World's highest bridge from 2005 to 2009 and at present; it is world's highest pipeline bridge) Baluarte Bridge, Mexico (It is highest cable-stayed bridge in the world and also the highest bridge in the Americas)Baling River Bridge, China Beipan River Guanxing Highway Bridge, China (it was world's highest bridge from 2003 to 2005)Liuchong River Bridge, China Dimuhe River Bridge, China Aizhai Bridge, China (It is world's highest tunnel-to-tunnel bridge)

Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) has suspended Chief Minister Pema Khandu along with six other MLAs from the primary membership of the party. They were suspended due to anti-party activities. With this suspension, CM Khandu ceased to be the leader of the PPA Legislature Party. Other suspended from the party includes Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein and MLAs, namely Chow Tewa Mein, Passang Dorjee Sona, Jambey Tashi, Zingnu Namchom and Kamlung Mossang. In an order, PPA President Kahfa Bengia said they were placed under temporary suspension from the primary membership of the party with immediate effect. Disciplinary proceedings will be initiated against them. According to this suspension order, Khandu will not be exercising any of the powers that were conferred on him as the leader of the legislature party. As per reports, Bengia also said that the party would elect a new legislature party leader. On 17 July 2016, Khandu replaced Nabam Tuki as the Chief Minister of the state.  Pema Khandu, the son of the former CM late Dorjee Khandu, is one of the 42 former Congress leaders who rebelled from the party and joined PPA in mid-September 2016. The rebellion played a major role in ousting the congress government in the state. Peoples’ Party of Arunachal (PPA) : PPA is a regional political party in Arunachal Pradesh. It was founded by Bakin Pertin and Tomo Riba in 1979. At present, the party is a member of the North East Democratic Alliance (NEDA), a political coalition formed by the Bhartiya Janata Party along with several other regional parties.

Sir Bradley Wiggins, British former professional road and track racing cyclist, in the last week of December 2016 announced retirement from cycling. In his 16-year career as a professional, Wiggins won the Tour de France and a record eight Olympic medals. Bradley Wiggins : Born on 28 April 1980, Sir Bradley Marc Wiggins is a British former professional road and track racing cyclist.He competed professionally between 2001 and 2016.The cyclist has been nicknamed as Wiggo. He commenced his cycling career on the track. However, later he made the transition to road cycling. He is one of the few cyclists to gain significant success in both the forms of professional cycling. He is the first British cyclist to win the Tour de France and the time trial at the Olympic Games. He is the only cyclist to have combined winning both World and Olympic championships on both the track and the road, as well as winning the Tour de France. His first Olympic medal was a silver in the team pursuit in Sydney 2000. Later, he won three medals including the gold in the individual pursuit at the Athens 2004. At the Beijing 2008, he grabbed two golds in the individual and team pursuit. In June 2015, he set a new hour record with a distance of 54.526 km. In 2009, he was awarded a CBE, the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. In 2012, he was honoured with the Vélo d'Or award for best rider of the year, the BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award.In the 2013 New Year Honours, he was awarded the knighthood.

Coca-Cola India has signed Bollywood actor Ranveer Singh as brand ambassador for its Thums Up brand.  The company has launched new thematic campaign starring Ranveer Singh in its 'Toofani' series, Coca-Cola India said in a statement, nearly four months after ending association with Bollywood superstar Salman Khan. Coca Cola India and Khan had issued a joint statement confirming their parting of ways as the actor was committed to an existing relationship with a daily TV show, which this year happens to be sponsored by a brand that competes with the Coca-Cola India product portfolio . The new Thums Up campaign has been conceptualised by team Leo Burnett. 

US’s next president Donald Trump appointed Thomas Bossert to his national security circle and a figure from the Trump Organization to make international deals. Bossert will work as an assistant to the president for homeland security and counterterrorism He will work closely with Trump’s pick for national security adviser, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn.  He is currently president of the risk management consulting firm CDS Consulting. He previously served as deputy assistant to the president for homeland security under Bush.

Chinese major e-commerce entity, Alibaba is to set up its first Indian office at Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) in Mumbai, to take the advantage of the growing e-commerce market in the city. The company has rented 3,221 sq ft of office space at Platina building owned by the TheWadhwa Group and would pay Rs 275 per sq ft on a monthly basis. The rent of the building is expected to be a little over Rs 1 crore per month. Alibaba’s biggest rival Amazon India too has a 30,000 sq ft head office in the same BKC area. Alibaba aims to have some share of the growing e-commerce market which is currently dominated by home-grown Flipkart, followed by Amazon and Snapdeal.

The government has removed the minimum export price (MEP) of potato, which was imposed in July, to boost shipments of the kitchen staple. Export of potatoes, fresh or chilled, should be permitted for exports without any MEP. In July, the government had imposed MEP of $360 (abour 24,000) per tonne on potato to increase domestic availability and cool prices.  Although India was the world’s second largest potato producer at 48 million tonnes (mt) in 2014-15, its exports were less than one per cent of the output.  India exported 0.18 mt  of potato in financial year 2015-16, which was lower than 0.30 mt in the previous year.

State-run power equipment maker BHEL has successfully commissioned another 600-MW coal-based thermal power plant in Telangana. The unit has been commissioned at the 2x600 MW Singareni Thermal Power Project (TPP) located in Adilabad district in Telangana. The project has been developed by Singareni Collieries Company Ltd (SCCL), India’s second largest coal mining company According to the statement, this is the second 600-MW unit commissioned by BHEL at Singareni TPP. The first unit of the project was commissioned in March 2016. BHEL-built 600-MW rating sets comprise a 4-cylinder turbine designed in-house. So far, the company has contracted 21 sets of 600 MW each, of which 17 have already been commissioned. A large number of similar sets ensure easy availability of spares and operator’s familiarity. The company is a major contributor to Telangana’s power sector with over 85 per cent of the coal-based power stations amounting to 5,740 MW. Reposing confidence on BHEL’s capability of setting up power plants, proven technological excellence and superior performance of equipment, the Telangana state utility has placed orders to the company for executing around 6,000 MW of thermal power projects in the State on a EPC basis. BHEL has established its engineering prowess by successfully delivering higher-rated units such as 600 MW, 660 MW, 700 MW and 800 MW thermal sets, having a high degree of indigenisation

State-run Bank of Baroda and Heritage Foods Ltd (HFL) today signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide dairy loans to farmers through the lender's branches across the country.  Heritage Foods is in the business of procurement, processing and sale of milk and milk products. BoB and HFL will work jointly to provide dairy loans to the farmers which will benefit them in increasing their productivity and earnings under allied activities

To further provide some relief to people hit by demonetisation, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on December 28 gave borrowers another 30 days in addition to 60 days for repayment of housing, car, farm and other loans worth up to Rs 1 crore. RBI had provided additional 60 days for repayment of loans worth up to Rs 1 crore in November. So, borrowers together get 90 days to get relief from getting the account classified under non-performing asset (NPA) category. According to the notification, the exemption will apply to dues payable between 1st November and 31st December and the running working capital accounts or crop loans with the sanctioned limit of Rs 1 crore or less would be eligible for the benefit. Besides, term loans for business purposes with the same limit, loans by non banking finance companies and micro finance institutions can avail the benefit. Dues payable after January 1, 2017 will be covered by the instructions for the respective entities.

In an effort to ease the process of securing Indian Visas for Bangladesh visitors, the High Commission of India will now allow all Bangladesh travelers with confirmed air, train or bus travel tickets to submit their tourist visa applications directly without prior appointments from January 1, 2017. The initiative also includes that the date of journey should be after 7 days but within one month of submission of the visa application form. The Indian Visa Application Centre in Mirpur will receive walk-in tourist visa applicationsfrom confirmed travellers and senior citizens from January 1.

The state Government of Haryana signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Andhra Pradeshon December 29 to assist the state in compiling a centralised databaseof its population to ensure efficient and effective implementation of welfare programmes.  The MoU for State Resident Data Base (SRDB) was signed by Haryana Principal Secretary, Information Technology Devender Singh and Secretary Andhra Pradesh, Information Technology, Vijayen in the presence of Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar and Andhra’s N Chandra Babu Naidu in Andhra Pradesh. Andhra already has such kind of database.  It is a comprehensive portal for managing demographic (name, gender, age, photograph and address) and biometric information for facilitating “Unique ID” based identity authentication.

Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar inaugurated the Digital Investigation, Training and Analysis Centre (DIATC) on December 28 at a function at Gurugram toboost the state police’s capabilities to solve cyber crime cases. The centre has been set up in collaboration with the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) of Government of India. The centre has a state-of-the-art cyber forensic laboratory and a high-tech facility in its premises to train officers from the state and other police forces. Apart from this, the Centre has a social media monitoring lab for enhancing technological capabilities of the Haryana police.

The four-day World Bhojpuri Conference began in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh on December 29, 2016 and will continue till January 1, 2017. High Commissioner of Mauritius to India, Jagdishwar Goburdhun informed that participants from over 18 countries are participating in the conference. ii. The Conference has been organised at a private school in Badalalpur where a large number of Bhojpuri speakers residing in different parts of the world will deliberate over culture, religion, language and business among other issues. To strengthen the links of the people of Indian-origin, who once belonged to the Bhojpuri-speaking belt in India and had migrated to different parts of the world. A museum would also be set up along with a library and a committee hall for the preservation and promotion of the language. During the conference, a ‘Bhojpuri Ratna’ award and ‘World Bhojpuri Karmayogi’ award will be conferred on over 25 people including Mauritius Prime Minister Anerood Jugnauth, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, Bihar CM Nitish Kumar, Chhattisgarh CM Raman Singh, Jharkhand CM Raghubar Das, BJP MP and Bhojpuri actor Manoj Tiwari, Bollywod actors Amitabh Bachchan and Shatrughan Sinha and other personalities.