Today Current Affairs 3rd January 2017

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India and Sri Lanka have expressed confidence for finding a long-lasting solution to the issue of fishermen between the two countries. In this regard, talks co-chaired by Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and Sri Lankan fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera were held in Colombo, Sri Lanka. It has reached an understanding to ensure that there was no physical harm or loss of life while arresting fishermen for poaching into each other’s waters. India will phase out bottom trawling, practiced mainly by fishermen from Tamilnadu in a graded time-bound manner. Sri Lankan to consider the request from Indian side to immediately release the fishing vessels in each other’s custody. Both countries to operationalize a hotline between the two coast guards and to set up a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) to release the fishermen in each other’s custody. The fishermen issue between India and Sri Lanka has been lingering for long. Fishermen from Southern states of India have been demanding release of their fellow fishermen and trawlers. Sri Lanka has been asserting that bottom trawling used by Indian fishermen has caused extensive damage to the marine eco system. Earlier both countries had agreed to resolve the issue through a structured mechanism of meetings between both sides.  For this they had agreed to set up a Joint Working Group (JWG) on Fisheries and annual meeting of foreign ministers of both countries.

The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs has launched Mobile App for Haj Pilgrimage. The app will provide information and facilitate e-payments for the pilgrimage. This is for the first time digital push has been given to the Haj application process. It is also a major initiative in the government’s ‘Digital India’ programme. The main features of the app include applying for Haj, enquiry and information, news and updates and e-payment. It is available on Google Play store. The application can be made directly on the app. Using five adults and two infants can apply as a group.  After registration a PDF copy of the form will go to applicant’s email and after affixing the photo, the printout with documents is to be sent to the State Haj committees. Registration fees can also be paid through it.

A new research reveals that ‘The Tragedy of Hamlet’, a popular play written by William Shakespeare was dated wrongly. The research claims that the final version of the play actually came 2 years later than the assumed date, as a result of which scholars overlooked the message that was hidden in it for centuries. According to the popular belief, Shakespeare wrote Hamlet in early 1601, at a time when Queen Elizabeth I still sat on the throne. However, the researchers now claim that Shakespeare did not release the final version for another two years and that he may have used it to flatter the newly crowned King James I in 1603. The researchers claim that Shakespeare would have started working on the play right after the coronation of James I, following Queen Elizabeth’s death. In fact, to support their theory researchers point out that the play’s ending which saw dead Norwegian King’s son Prince Fortinbras take over the throne after the death of the entire royal family was intended as a direct parallel to the coronation of James I, who also assumed power after Elizabeth’s death. According to Gary Taylor, a research professor at Florida State University in the United States of America, the transition from the old regime to new regime brought on by Prince Fortinbras of a neighbouring country in the play seems to be an intentional reference to James VI of Scotland taking over as King James I of England.

Former President of Pradesh Congress Committee (NPCC) K V Pusa passed away on 2 January 2016 following a brief illness. He was 63. He is survived by his wife, two sons and a daughter. Other than serving the political career, Pusa was also associated with social activities such as leading various students, farmers and sports organizations. K V Pusa : He was the sitting member of All India Congress Committee.He had served as Minister for Veterinary and Animal Husbandry during 1998-1999. He was Minister for Roads and Bridges during 2000-2003 in S C Jamir led Congress government in Nagaland.  Before joining Congress in 1998, Pusa won the state assembly elections for the first time in 1993 as an independent candidate from Southern Angami Assembly Constituency under Kohima district.  In government service, he served as PRO/PS of Chief Minister during 1979-82 and as a Protocol Officer from 1984 to 1988. He was also the member of Nagaland Assembly in the opposition bench for two terms from 2003-08 and 2008-2013.He was the Chairman of renowned educational institutions like Baptist English and Mezhur HSS.  

The Union Budget session 2017-18 will commence from 31 January 2017. The decision was made at a meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi. As per sources, the general budget will be presented on 1 February 2016. The first part of the budget session will run until 9 February 2016. The recommendations for the budget session have been sent to President Pranab Mukherjee for assent. It is expected the first part of the budget, that is, Economic Survey will be presented on 31 January 2017. This survey will set the scene for the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to present his fourth annual budget on 1 January 2017. The CCPA meet was also attended by Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ananth Kumar.This is the first year that the budget will be presented in a merged form, i.e., Rail and Union Budget will be presented in a combined form. Earlier on 21 September 2016, the Union Cabinet approved the merger of Rail budget with Union Budget and also decided to advance the date of presentation of the annual budget from the last day of February to start of February. This merger will end the century-old practice of presenting separate Rail and Union Budget. The new practice is being adopted to ease the way to cut populist subsidies and push through structural reforms.

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) is soon going to introduce trash skimmers to clean the surface of Ganga in six more Indian cities in the first week of January 2017.  The announcement was made through an official statement by the Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation.According to the statement, the new cities to get the trash skimmers include Rishikesh, Garh Mukhteshwar, Sahibganj, Haridwar, Navdweep and Kolkatta. Urban local bodies have been given the responsibility of monitoring the work. While State Programme Management Groups (SPMGs) will be overseeing the project at the state level under the aegis of the NMCG, the Collectorate office will be responsible for its progress and completion at the district level.  River Surface Cleaning (RSC) work was first introduced last year to clean the Ganga basin in cities including Allahabad, Kanpur, Mathura-Vrindavan and Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh and Patna in Bihar. Trash skimmers were used to collect tonnes of floating waste, which was later disposed off in an organised manner.  This project was carried forward as a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and produced extremely effective results. The exercise will be extended to other towns and cities as well in the coming days.  National Mission for Clean Ganga : NMCG is the implementation wing of National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA). It implements the mandate dictated by the NGRBA.  It is a registered body originally formed by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change on 12 August 2011.  The Secretary to the Government of India and Ministry of Water Resources is the current Chairman of NMCG’s Governing Council.  The programme was launched mainly to clean the Ganga river basin in states through which the river flows such as Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand and West Bengal.  It may in the future be extended to even those states that host the tributaries of the river.

Air Marshal SB Deo taking over as Vice Chief of the Air Staff (VCAS) at the Air Headquarters (Vayu Bhawan) on January 2, 2017. Air Marshal SB Deo was commissioned as a fighter pilot in the IAF on 15 Jun 79. Prior to this he was the AOC-in-C of Western Air Command (WAC). He was awarded with Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Vayu Sena Medal, Vishisht Seva Medal and ADC by the President of India. Air Marshal C Harikumar assumed charge as the chief of the Western Air Command (WAC) and Air Marshal Anil Khosla took over the charge of the Indian Air Force’s Shillong-based Eastern Air Command (EAC).

David R Syiemlieh has been appointed today as the Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) by President Pranab Mukherjee.  Syiemlieh, a UPSC member, has been asked to take over charge on January 4 and will remain the head of the organisation till his retirement on January 21, 2018 or till further orders.  The President has appointed Prof David R Syiemlieh, Member, Union Public Service Commission, to perform the duties of the post of Chairman, Union Public Service Commission, with effect from the forenoon of January 4, 2017 till further orders or till completion of his term as member on January 21, 2018 whichever is earlier . He will take over from Alka Sirohi, a former IAS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre. 

The Supreme Court  has removed BCCI President Anurag Thakur and Secretary Ajay Shirke from the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on January 2, 2017, for failing to implement the reforms suggested by the RM Lodha panel to reform BCCI. Supreme Court Bench comprising of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice A.M.Khanwilkar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud has also issued a showcause notice to be replied until January 19 in regards to perjury charges and violating courts order levied against the duo. On July 18, 2016, the Supreme Court had passed its judgment and asked BCCI to implement a majority of Lodha Committee proposals within four to six months for transparent functioning of BCCI. The Lodha committee was formed in January, 2015 by the Supreme Court to suggest sweeping reformsin the structuring and governance of cricket in the country. On December 15, 2016 Supreme Court observed that the BCCI and state board officials have failed to implement its orders to bring transparency and accountability in the cricket body. Anurag Thakur was charged for committing perjury, that is he was found guilty of lying under oath in an attempt to obstruct the Lodha Committee reforms. Meanwhile, senior-most Vice President of BCCI will act as President and Joint Secretary will act as Secretary. The SC has also appointed senior advocates Fali S Nariman and Gopal Subramaniam to suggest the names capable of administering the BCCI.

Public sector lender Bank of Baroda has entered into a partnership with CNX Corporation (CNX) with an objective to provide collateral management services towards the loans against warehouse receipt sanctioned to the farmers through the network of the bank's branches across the country.  CNX is engaged in providing warehouse management services relating to commodities and inventories which include collateral management services, field warehousing arrangements, inventory audit services, storage and preservation services, procurement services, testing and certification services, inspection services, monitoring services.  We have entered memorandum of understanding with CNX Corporation to work jointly to provide loans against warehouse receipt through collateral management services.  This relationship of Bank of Baroda, one of the premier banks of our country, with CNX Corporation (CNX) will immensely benefit the farmers from distress sale of their commodities   

According to latest data released by Finance Ministry over 26 crore accounts have been opened under Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) across the country till date. Of the total, nearly 16 crore accounts are in rural areas and more than 10 crore in urban.  Over 71 thousand 500 crore rupees have been deposited in these accounts and zero balance accounts has come down to nearly 24%.  Around 20 crore RuPay Debit cards have also been issued under the scheme.  The PMJDY was launched by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in August 2014 with the objective of financial inclusion for covering all households with at least one bank account.

The British Treasury has decided to introduce a new 12-sided one-pound coin at end of March 2017 and scrap the 30 year old one pound coin by October 2017 A new coin will be produced by the Royal Mint in Wales and a total of 1.5 billion coins will be issued in the first minting. New One Pound Coin : The new coin will have 12-sided shape, recognizable even by touch and it is made of two metals, the outer ring is gold-coloured (nickel-brass) and the inner ring is silver-coloured (nickel-plated alloy). If the coin is tilted it shows a latent image like a hologram, which changes from a pound sign to the number one. It will feature the 5th coinage portrait of Queen Elizabeth II.

Maharashtra Government has declared to ban the use of Purse Seine Nets for fishing across Maharashtra from January 1, 2017 to safeguard the Fingerlings, a fish species. The move is aimed at curbing the exploitation of fish by safeguarding the fingerlings and its eggs to increase their population. The decision is expected to benefit the traditional fisherman community that use much smaller nets in shallow waters. It will increase fish catch and protect the fish population as larger pores will allow fishlings and eggs to slip out during the daily catch. Purse seine nets are large fishing nets used to catch fish in bulk. It can stretch from 500 metres up to 1 kilometres and sometimes fishermen attach two or three such nets and cover an area of 3 kilometres to catch large proportion of fish population.  The nets have mesh spanning from 25 mm to 35mm that blocks small fish, fishlings and fish eggs from falling back into the ocean, thereby stopping them from multiplying.

The World famous 11-day gala festival Bargarh Dhanua Jatra began on 2 January 2017 in western Odisha. All rituals were performed before Goddess Samaleswari, the presiding deity of the event. Dhanu Jatra is an annual drama-based open air theatrical performance celebrated in and around Bargarh city spanning over an area of 6 km radius. It is considered to be the world’s largest open air theatrical festival. The 11-day gala event showcases all mythological places related to Lord Krishna by arranging a huge stage in the city. Bargarh stages Mathuranagari and Ambapalli area is staged as Gopapur, the parenting place of Krishna. Jeera River is considered as river Yamuna and Hatapada mandap is taken as the Raj darbar of king Kansa.

Chandrababu Naidu, Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh launched a new health scheme, Arogya Raksha Scheme on January 1, 2017 at Tummalapalli Kalakshetram in Vijayawada to provide the medical treatment to the people of the Above Poverty Line at Rs. 1200 premium per annum. The Arogya Raksha Scheme would provide health insurance coverage to about 35 Lakh Above Poverty Line families in the state. Under the scheme, an end-to-end cashless service would be rendered to a total of 1044 diseases covered under the scheme. Unlike other insurance schemes pre existing disease will not be considered. To avail the Arogya Raksha scheme benefits, every individual of the family would be required to pay Rs. 100 per month or Rs. 1200 per annum as policy premium.

An atomic clock at National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in New Delhi added ‘leap second’ (extra one second) to the Indian Standard Time (IST) at 5:29.59 hours on 1 January 2017 to synchronise with the Earth’s rotational clock. The clock was programmed to add an extra second to the year 2017 in order to compensate for a slowdown in the Earth’s rotation. The Earth and rotation around its own axis is not regular, as sometimes slows down and sometimes speeds up due to various factors, including moon’s gravitational forces and earthquakes.  As a result, astronomical time (UT1) gradually falls out of sync with atomic time (UTC).  When the difference between UTC and UT1 approaches 0.9 seconds, a leap second is added to UTC through atomic clocks worldwide to match both times. Adding leap second’ or second barely has an impact on the daily life. However, this one second shift is critical for applications requiring time accuracies in the nanosecond scale, which are critical in the fields of astronomy, satellite navigation, communication networks.

India successfully test-fired its home-grown long range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Agni-IV from the Abdul Kalam Wheeler Island off Odisha coast. The test was aimed at revalidating new technologies incorporated in Agni-IV system and checking the readiness of armed forces to launch the missile on its own. Agni-IV missile Agni-IV is two-stage surface-to-surface nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missile. It has been designed and developed indigenously by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).  It is 20 metres long and weighs 17 tonnes. It has many cutting-edge technologies which can meet global standards including Pershing missile of US. It is fire and forget missile navigated using a jam proof ring laser gyroscope. Its re-entry heat shield can withstand temperatures in the range of over 4,0000 It is equipped with state-of-the-art Avionics, 5th generation on-board computer and distributed architecture. It has the latest features to correct and guide itself for in-flight disturbances.  Equipped with most accurate ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system (RINS) and supported by highly reliable redundant micro navigation system (MINGS) that ensures it hit target within two-digit accuracy.   It can carry a one-tonne nuclear warhead over a distance of 4,000 kilometres. Operability: The missile can be fired from locations deeper in the Indian hinterland, making it very difficult for the enemy to track and destroy it.  The missile also possesses a submarine launch capability. It was the sixth test of the missile and the previous test was conducted on November 09, 2015 by the specially formed strategic force command (SFC) of Indian Army.

The Supreme Court of India has ruled that no politician can seek the vote in the name of caste, creed, religion community or language. By a 4-3 majority ruling, a seven-judge Constitution bench of the court held that the candidate will be disqualified if he/she was found violating the order. The bench was headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur. The court's verdict came while it was hearing several petitions in the Hindutva case. The bench comprised of Chief Justice Thakur, Justice SA Bobde, Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and Justice L Nageswara Rao, Justice Madan B Lokur, Adarsh Kumar Goel, Justice UU Lalit and Justice DY Chandrachud. The court further said election is a secular exercise and its way and process should be followed. It said, secular ethos of the Constitution must be upheld. Highlights of the verdict : It held that the Constitution forbids the country from mixing religion with politics.It said that being a secular in character, the country can identify itself with any one of the religions or religious denominations. Being a secular exercise similar as the functions of elected representatives, elections should be secular in practice as well as outlook. Justice Thakur wrote in his opinion, “This necessarily implies that religion will not play any role in the governance of the country which must at all times be secular in nature”. The bench said any appeal for votes on the ground of religion amounts to corrupt practices under electoral laws. It said, the relationship between man and God is an individual choice and interference in such an activity by the State is forbidden.

Portugal’s former Prime Minister Antonio Guterres on 1 January 2017 took over as the ninth Secretary-General of the United Nations. Guterres took over for a five-year term that can be renewed by member states for an additional five years. He succeeds Ban Ki-moon. In October 2016, the 193 member states of the UN General Assembly had adopted a resolution by acclamation, appointing Guterres as the ninth UN Secretary-General. Antonio Guterres : Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres is a Portuguese politician. From 1995 to 2002, he served as the Prime Minister of Portugal. He also served as President of the Socialist International, which is a worldwide association of political parties. From June 2005 to December 2015, he served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Secretary-General of the United Nations : The UN Secretary-General is the head of the United Nations Secretariat.He/She acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader of the United Nations. His/Her role is laid out by Chapter XV (Articles 97 to 101) of the United Nations Charter. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt envisioned the Secretary-General as a world moderator. Article 97 under Chapter XV of the United Nations Charter states that “the Secretary-General shall be the chief administrative officer of the Organization, but does not dictate their specific obligations.”