Today Current Affairs 12th January 2017

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The Supreme Court has described side effects of Endosulfan, a highly toxic agrochemical (pesticide) as devastating. It has directed Kerala government to release entire Rs. 500 crore compensation to over 5,000 victims in three months who have suffered from various deformities and health complications due to use of Endosulfan in the state.  It also asked the state to consider setting up a centre to provide lifelong medical treatment to all the victims.  The major numbers of victims were reported to be affected in Kasargode (Kerala) after Endosulfan was aerially sprayed by state owned company on cashew plantations adjoining habitats where the victims are located. The apex court in 2011 had passed order to ban the production, distribution and use of endosulfan. Endosulfan is a most toxic pesticides having hazardous effects on human genetic and endocrine systems. The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants in 2011 added it in list of banned substances and phasing it out as an agrichemical. It is banned in over 80 nations due to its ‘high toxicity.  It is sprayed as pesticide on crops like cotton, fruits, tea, paddy, cashew, tobacco etc. for control of pests in agriculture such as whiteflies, aphids, beetles, worms etc.  Hazardous effects: In case of humans it causes delayed reproductive development, autism, bioaccumulation, endocrine disruption (stunting of hormones), long-range contamination, neurotoxicity, long-range contamination and sensory Loss. It blocks the inhibitory receptors of the Central Nervous System, disrupts the ionic channels and destroys the integrity of the nerve cells. The spraying of endsosulfan also destroys biodiversity of the area.  

The Regional Conference of Labour Ministers of Southern States was held on 11 January 2017 in Chennai. The conference was held under the chairmanship of Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya. The conference was attended by labour ministers and principal secretaries of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Lakshadweep and Puducherry. In the conference, Bandaru Dattatreya explained in detail the various initiatives and reforms taken up by the government including the technology based initiatives such as Shram Suvidha Portal, National Career Service (NCS) and Universal Account Number (UAN). Major initiatives of the Union Government to improve conditions of labour are -The minimum wages for all sectors in the central sphere has been increased by more than 42% ESI coverage on wage ceiling has been increased from Rs. 15000 to 21000Minimum pension under EPS has been revised to Rs. 1000 Bonus ceiling has been enhanced from Rs. 3500 to 7000 and the eligibility limit has been raised from Rs. 10000 to 21000 Employees' Deposit Linked Insurance (EDLI) benefit increased from 3.6 lakh to 6.0 lakhTime limit reduced to 20 days from 30 days for EPF claim settlements Optional Deferment of age for drawing pension increased from 58 years to 60 years with 4% per year incentive Under the revised scheme for the rehabilitation of bonded labour, the quantum of financial assistance has been increased from the symbolic level of Rs. 20000 to Rs. 3 lakh. The Union Cabinet approved the Model shops and establishment (Regulation of Employment and conditions of Service) Bill, 2016.The Model bill gives freedom to establishments to operate 365 days in a year. The government is also planning to simplify 43 labour laws by dividing them into 4 major codes like code on wages, code on Industrial relations, code on Social Security and Welfare and Code on safety and working conditions.  

KM Philip, former whole-time director on the board of Madras Rubber Factory(MRF) Limited, passed away on 11 January 2017 following age related illness at Chennai. He was 104. He is survived by two sons. He was known as the doyen of the rubber industry.  KM Philip : Born in May 1912, Philip served on the MRF board since its inception in 1961 and went on serving till 2015.  He was a founding member of the All India Rubber Industries Association.  He played a vital role in the establishment and growth of the domestic rubber and tyre industries.  In recognition of his services, the All India Rubber Industries Association instituted the KM Philip Medal & Award on his 90th birthday. He had served on the Rubber Board of India for more than 15 years. He was a Padma Shri Awardee and a noted philanthropist. He received the Padma Shri in 2001. He was the first Asian to become the President of the World Alliance of YMCAs by succeeding former Ethiopian Prime Minister Endelkachew Makonnen in 1974. His work had also been recognised through a number of awards including Award of Fellowship from AIRIA and Royal Chartered Institute of Materials (UK). He was also bestowed with the Hancock Medal based on a worldwide assessment of his contributions to the development of the Rubber Industry.

The world’s first Gender Literature Festival (GLF) will be held in Patna, Bihar from 6 March to 8 March 2017. The function will be organised at NIFT, Patna. The Gender Resource Centre of Bihar’s Women Development Corporation will be organising the first of its kind festival. Top policy makers, bureaucrats, social workers, activists, authors, artists, students, literature and art enthusiast from the city of Patna and beyond will attend the unique festival. The initiative aims at creating a platform to exchange ideas and to share and learn experiences of renowned people in the field of gender literature. The GLF will also act as a platform to increase visibility for gender equity and advocacy in Bihar. The organisers of the festival believes that literature, art and culture are a strong medium to promote the message of gender sensitivity. They, when combined together, can create a strong platform for disseminating information in an effective way. Gender Literature Festival is, therefore, World’s first Literature festival around gender. It intends to educate people about gender and associated issues through talks and panel discussions. It also looks forward to engage the audience around gender issues through contests, activities and entertainment programmes.

India and Kenya has  signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in agriculture and allied sectors. The MoU was signed after successful summit level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta in New Delhi.Uhuru Kenyatta is on an official visit to India. Since 1981, this is the first State visit from Kenya to India. On this occasion, both the countries also signed a line of credit agreement worth US $100 million. Under the agreement, India will take steps for mechanisation of agriculture in Kenya. In addition to the MoU and the line of credit agreement, both the leaders released a joint statement. Highlights of the joint statement are  : Both the countries discussed long term arrangements for production and import of pulses. These arrangements will be of much help for India that imported Rs 25,000 crore worth pulses from African and Asian nations to meet nutrition demands. India will explore means to share best practises in organic farming with Kenyan farmers. In the health sector, Bhabhatron machine was delivered to the Kenyatta National Hospital for cancer treatment. Related capacity building of the Kenyan doctors will be undertaken under India Africa Forum Summit initiative. Kenya's support to the International Solar Alliance (ISA) was appreciated by the Indian government. The ISA is a multilateral platform launched by India in December 2015 to harness solar energy for economic growth. Both countries will explore opportunities in blue economy. Blue economy conceptualises oceans as development spaces by integrating oil and mineral wealth extraction, bio-prospecting and energy production. India and Kenya will cooperate in specific areas of priority such as hydrography, communications networks, anti-piracy, capacity building, exchanges and defence medical cooperation. A joint working group will meet to discuss cooperation on cyber security, counter terrorism, combating drugs, narcotics, human trafficking and money laundering.

A group of scientists recently discovered a new species of gibbon living in south-west China’s rainforests. The animal has been studied for some time. However, a completed genetic and physical comparison with other gibbons confirmed it to be a new species. The study was published on 10 January 2017 in the American Journal of Primatology. The new species is named the Skywalker hoolock gibbon. It is named so because the Chinese characters (Hoolock tianxing) of its scientific name mean Heaven's movement, and also the discoverers of the species are Star Wars fans. It is estimated that around 200 Skywalker gibbons live in China and also potentially in neighbouring Myanmar. The scientists go on to state that the species should already be classified as endangered. Fragmentation and habitat loss is also putting the gibbons at risk of extinction. The researchers stated that the all hoolock gibbons have white eyebrows and some have white beards; however, the Chinese primates' markings differed in appearance.Their songs also had an unusual ring. Gibbons : Gibbons are apes in the family Hylobatidae.The family is split into four genera and 17 species. Gibbons are found in tropical and subtropical rainforests from eastern Bangladesh and northeast India to southern China and Indonesia. In certain anatomical details, the gibbons superficially more closely resemble monkeys than great apes do. However, gibbons are tailless like all apes. Gibbons' fur coloration varies from dark to light brown shades depending on species and sex. However, a completely white gibbon is extremely rare. They are social animals. However, they are strongly territorial. They defend their boundaries with hearty visual and vocal displays.  

INS Khanderi, the second Scorpene class submarine was launched at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is the second of the six submarines being built at MDL in collaboration with France’s DCNS as part of Project 75 of Indian Navy. It has been named Khanderi, after the Island fort of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji which played had vital role in ensuring their supremacy at sea in late 17th century. Khanderi is also name for Tiger Shark. The state-of-the-art features include superior stealth and ability to launch a crippling attack on the enemy using precision guided weapon.  The attack from it can be launched with torpedoes, as well as tube-launched anti-ship missiles, whilst on surface or underwater.  The stealth features gives it invulnerability, unmatched by many submarines. The submarine is designed to operate in all theatres, including the tropics. All means and communications are provided to ensure interoperability with other components of a Naval task force. It can undertake multifarious types of missions typically undertaken by any modern submarine such as anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare, intelligence gathering, area surveillance, mine laying etc.

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has confirmed the appointment of former captain Jimmy Adams as its new director. The 49-year-old, who recently stepped down as head coach of English County side Kent after four years in charge, has replaced controversial Englishman Richard Pybus, who did not seek a renewal of his contract, reports CMC. News of Adams' appointment had been widely reported last month. The Jamaican, who will be based in Antigua, officially started his new role on Tuesday on a three-year contract and said he was keen to undertake his duties. Adams, a gritty left-hander during his playing career, represented the West Indies in 54 Tests between 1992 and 2001, scoring 3,012 runs at an average of 41 with six centuries. He led the side in 15 Tests, winning four, losing eight and drawing three. Following his retirement, Adams managed the West Indies Under-19s, headed up the international players association (FICA), before overseeing Jamaica's cricket programme as technical director. According to the WICB, Adams will "oversee and manage all cricket matters, to include development of all teams, all coaching and cricket education and other technical programmes Pybus, who was a member of the panel that selected Adams, said the new director of cricket was entering the role at an "exciting time". Pybus, who spent three years in the role, reportedly endured a strained relationship with players and was once criticised by the West Indies opener Kieran Powell over his controversial exclusion from the regional squad. Former head coach Phil Simmons also hinted at a breakdown in his relationship with Pybus months before he was sacked last September.

Vikram Pawah, 45, has been appointed as the president of BMW Group India, effective March 1, 2017. He will take over from Frank Schloeder, who will assume new position at BMW Group headquarters in Germany. Pawah brings 25 years of international experience both in the automotive and non-automotive industry. Previously, he has worked with Honda Cars in India and Australia. Most recently, he was the Managing Director of Harley-Davidson India. Schloeder, acting President, BMW Group India will return to BMW Group Headquarters in Germany, where he will assume the position of Head of Business Steering - Luxury Class. India is a growing market with great potential for mobility products and services. With his broad experience in the automotive industry and his country specific know-how, Mr Pawah brings excellent preconditions to strengthen our position in the Indian market.  

Shalabh Seth has appointed as the CEO of Ola Fleet Technologies on January 11, 2017 by Indian online transportation network company Ola  Seth will drive supply growth through leasing and other driver focused initiatives to consolidate Ola’s position as the market leader in the Indian ride sharing space. Prior to this, Shalabh was the managing director in SABMiller India and he responsible for business expansion and growth in the country.  He has also worked with ITC for over eight years across operations, supply chain and sales.

HDFC ERGO General Insurance Company launched a new policy, Trade Credit Insurance Policy, on January 9, 2017 to which safeguards businesses against the risks of non-payment for the goods or services delivered to the buyers. India’s third largest private sector non-life insurance provider informed that the policy would offer cover against payment defaults and insolvency, apart from providing political risk cover to exporters. Under the new policy, the insurer covers a portfolio of buyers and pays an agreed percentage of the invoice or receivables that remain unpaid as a result of insolvency, bankruptcy or protracted default. Already two state-owned companies New India and United, and private sector players like ICICI Lombard, Bajaj Allianz and Iffco Tokio offer similar products.

Indian Standard on gold hallmarking has been revised by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) on January 9, 2017 and has been made effective for implementation with effect from January 1, 2017. From now the hallmarked gold jewellery will be available in three grades: 14 carat, 18 carat and 22 carat. These caratage would also be mentioned on the jewellery besides the fineness for the convience of the customers. For 22 carat jewellery 22K will be marked in addition to 916 (22K916), for 18 carat jewellery 18K will be marked in addition to 750 (18K750) and for 14 carat jewellery, 14K will be marked in addition to 585 (14K585). Besides, Hallmark on gold jewellery will now have four marks: BIS Mark, purity in carat and fineness, assaying centre’s identification mark and jeweller’s identification mark.

The Telangana government has signed a MoU with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airports Authority of India on January 11, 2017 under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) for air connectivity by developing small airports and airstrips in the state. The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was between Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and Telangana Minister for IT and industries K T Rama Rao in New Delhi. The RCS would be in operation for a period of 10 years and provide connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports. The Central Government would be providing concessions in the form of reduced excise on VAT, service tax and flexibility of code sharing at the RCS airports to reduce the cost of operation.  State governments would also lower the VAT besides other concessions. The fare for a one hour journey of approximately 500 km on a fixed wing aircraft or for a 30 minute journey on a helicopter would be capped at Rs 2,500, with proportionate pricing for routes of different lengths.

The Delhi Airport on January 10, 2017 informed that has adopted a unique performance and benchmarking digital platform, ARC, and claims that it is first in the world to adopt such platform. The dynamic platform, developed at the Airport’s Terminal 3, has been developed byGreen Business Certification Inc (GBCI) and US Green Building Council (USGBC). These are the global certifying body for all Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects. The platform would enable the airport operator to measure, manage and improve performance of airport regarding resource consumption, carbon emissions and quality of passenger space. Airport authorities can benchmark their performance with international best performance of similar type. In 2011, the Delhi Airport’s Terminal 3 had earned LEED Gold certification under the new construction category.

National Youth Day was observed on 12 January 2016 to mark the 154th birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda. The day is observed with an aim to recognise the ideals and teachings of Vivekananda and project him as a role model for the Indian youth. In 1984, the Union Government declared that 12 January, i.e. the birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda will be observed as the National Youth Day. His birthday has been celebrated as the National Youth Day since 12 January 1985. On this occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his tweet said, “We offer salutations to the great Swami Vivekananda & remember his powerful thoughts & ideals that continue shaping the minds of generations’. Swami Vivekananda : He was an Indian monk and a chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian spiritualist Ramakrishna.He is India’s foremost social reformer, thinker and philosopher. As a representative of India, he introduced the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the western world. He is also credited with raising interfaith awareness and providing recognition to Hinduism among other major religion of the world. He is also considered as a source of inspiration that created a concept of nationalism in colonial India.He was the founder of the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is recognised in the world mainly due to his speech at the Parliament of the World's Religions in Chicago in 1893 where he introduced Hinduism to the world. He is perhaps best known for his speech which began, "Sisters and brothers of America.

The Indian men’s hockey team captain PR Sreejesh on 11 January 2017 became a member of International Hockey Federation (FIH) Athletes’ Committee. The nomination of Indian men's hockey team captain to the FIH Athletes' Committee was confirmed by the FIH Executive Board. The FIH Athletes' Committee consists of a total of eight current and former hockey players. They have the responsibility to act as a liaison between the FIH and the athletes. They also make sure that the athletes have voice in the federation's decision making process. In addition, the team will also develop, collate, provide and promote resources for athletes on topics of direct concern including athlete health and welfare, anti-doping, betting, match-fixing, career preparation and management. PR Sreejesh :  Parattu Raveendran Sreejesh is plays as a goalkeeper in the Indian national team. He is also the current captain of the team.He plays for Uttar Pradesh Wizards in the Hockey India League. He made into the Junior National Team in 2004 in a match against Australia in Perth. He made his debut in the Senior National Team in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Colombo.He was a part of the team that won silver medals at the 2014 Commonwealth Games. He was handed over the responsibilities of the captain of Indian hockey team On 13 July 2016.He captained the team that won the silver medal at the 2016 Men's Hockey Champions Trophy.  International Hockey Federation : The International Hockey Federation is the international governing body of field hockey and indoor field hockey. It also looks over field hockey's major international tournaments, notably the World Cup. It is headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland. Its current President is Narinder Batra.

The Union Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu launched new passenger mobile application named ‘IRCTC Rail Connect app’ to promote ease of ticketing through digital transactions. The new mobile-based application will replace the old existing IRCTC connect app. It has been developed for reserved booking and to increase the ease to users. The application has developed to bring the power of next generation e-ticketing system like high performance and enhanced security. It has features like 24/7 service with no time-based checks, synchronisation of mobile app with NGET (Next Generation e-Ticketing) for ticket booking.  It also has simple and easy user interface and supports general, ladies, Tatkal and Premium-Tatkal quota. The sports other features like advanced security of self-assigned PIN (Personal identification number) to login without entering the username and password on each login.  It will be integrated with IRCTC e-wallet for faster and hassle free transactions. It will also be inter-connected with IRCTC AIR, Food on Track mobile apps to facilitate booking of air tickets and food through e-catering. It will provide payment gateway to over 40 banks to facilitate payments through net Banking, credit or debit cards and wallets like Paytm, PayU, Mobikwik.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India’s first international exchange India INX at the International Financial Service Centre (IFSC) of GIFT (Gujarat International Financial Tech) City Gandhinagar, Gujarat. India INX is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). It will enable Indian firms to compete on equal footing with offshore firms. India INX will initially trade in equity derivatives, currency derivatives, commodity derivatives including index and Stocks. Subsequently, it will offer depository receipts and bonds once required infrastructure is ready.  It will work for 22 hours in a day working from sunrise to sunset i.e. starting when Japan exchanges begin and close when US markets end. It will have 250 trading members including commodity and overseas brokers. India INX is one of the most advanced technology platforms with turnaround time of 4 seconds.  It will facilitate international investors and NRIs to trade from anywhere in the world.\ It will provide benefits in terms of waiver of security transaction tax, commodity transaction tax, dividend distribution tax, long term capital gain tax and income tax.

According to scientists, a new plate boundary may be forming on the floor of the Indian Ocean in Wharton Basin as a result of the 2012 earthquake that shook the Andaman-Sumatra region.  The discovery was based on the study of seismic data recorded before, during and after the 2012 quakes and sea floor depth analysis by venturing into the ocean aboard a research vessel. Scientists created a high-resolution imagery of the sea floor by using data which unveiled deformations that had occurred on the Indo-Australian Plate. It showed that the plate had broken along a 1,000 km fracture zone due to 2012 earthquakes, resulting in a new plate boundary and likely to be the site of future fault-slip earthquakes.  The analysis showed a new fault system had developed in the area off the coast of Sumatra that was involved in the 2012 earthquakes.  The new fault system can trigger more quakes in the future. Slip-strike earthquake occurs when two plates slide horizontally against one another. As a result, earthquake causes deformations that occur in plates distant from fault lines as pressure builds up across a plate.  These earthquakes can lead to inter-plate earthquakes and cause a plate to break, resulting in a new boundary and this in turn can lead to even more quakes. This similar scenario is believed to happened in 2012 when two earthquakes struck the Andaman-Sumatran regio (north-west part) of the Indian Ocean which was the largest inter-plate earthquakes ever recorded.