Today Current Affairs 29th July 2016

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Astronomers in a new study claimed that Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a storm three times bigger than Earth, is hundreds of degrees hotter than anywhere else on the planet. The study was published in Nature on 27 July 2016.GRS, the largest storm in the solar system, was detected using an infrared telescope at Hawaii’s Mauna Kea Observatory. The storm is based in Jupiter’s lower atmosphere and spans 13670 miles by 7456 miles (22000 km by 12000 km). The top of its clouds reach altitudes of about 31 miles (50 km). The storms on Jupiter fail in making a landfall and dissipate, due to unavailability of land on the planet that is made almost entirely of hydrogen and helium. Unlike hurricane on Earth, the storm on Jupiter is calm but farther out winds reaches 270 mph to 425 mph (430 kmph to 680 kmph). It is like a wheel that is wedged between two conveyor belts running in opposite directions. This helps them to add momentum at the top and bottom. They also feed the vortex to them and help in keeping them alive. Based on the process of elimination, the study concluded that the newly found hot spot must be heated from below. However, the team concluded that the finding may fail to explain the real cause behind transfer of heat but provides a strong link between Jupiter's upper and lower atmosphere. Change in Colour : Based on previous reports, the team of scientists concluded that over the time it has been changing its colour, as in a 1900 report in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer it was described the oval storm as salmon pink. Recent images from the Hubble Space Telescope show it has become orange tinged and more circular.

Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology came in news in fourth week of July 2016. It came in news because it is celebrating its 40 years of opening its gate for the public. Madras Crocodile Bank Trust and Centre for Herpetology (or Croc Bank) : It is a non government environmental organization and was founded in 1976 by Romulus Whitaker.The Croc Bank currently consists of a large reptile park near Chennai, Southern India and several field projects located throughout the subcontinent reaching as far afield as the Nicobar Islands. It rears 17 out of the 23 different species of crocodiles in the world.It is a house of species like turtles, tortoises and iguanas. The main attraction is a 45 year old salt water crocodile called Jaws III which is 17 ft long and weighs 700 kg. It is also the largest crocodile in captivity in India.It also houses four Aldabra giant tortoises, which is the second largest tortoise species in the world. "They grow up to 5ft in length and 3ft in height.The park has anaconda babies and also the four komodo dragons. There are three field stations in the banks of the Chambal River for gharials, another one in the Western Ghats for king cobras and the third one is in the Andamans for projects related to marine biology.

T Nanda Kumar resigned from the post of Chairman of the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). Kumar had submitted his resignation on 29 June 2016. Kumar’s resignation was accepted by the Appointments Committee of Cabinet on 27 July 2016. Kumar, who had a five-year term ending in 2019, will be relieved on 1 August 2016. T Nanda Kumar : T Nanda Kumar is a retired 1972-batch IAS officer from the Bihar cadre.He retired from the IAS in 2010. He was appointed as the Chairman of the Board of NDDB in March 2014 after the exit of Dr Amrita Patel in February 2014. National Dairy Development Board : The National Dairy Development Board is an institution of national importance set up by an Act of Parliament of India in 1965. Its main office is in Anand, Gujarat. Its subsidiaries include IDMC Limited-Anand, Mother Dairy, Delhi, NDDB Dairy Services, Delhi and Indian Immunologicals Ltd., Hyderabad. It was founded by Verghese Kurien. NDDB launched its Perspective Plan 2010 with four thrust areas, which are Quality Assurance, Productivity Enhancement, Institution Building and National Information Network.

The Rajya Sabha has unanimously passed the Compensatory and Afforestation Fund (CAF) Bill, 2016 that allows States to access nearly 42000 crore rupees and channel into afforestation projects on 28 July 2016.The Bill was already passed by Lok Sabha on 3 May 2016. Provisions of the Bill : The Bill establishes the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of India, and a State Compensatory Afforestation Fund under the Public Account of each state. These Funds will receive payments for: (a) compensatory afforestation, (b) net present value of forest (NPV), and (c) other project specific payments.  The National Fund will receive 10 percent of these funds, and the State Funds will receive the remaining 90 percent.These Funds will be primarily spent on afforestation to compensate for loss of forest cover, regeneration of forest ecosystem, wildlife protection and infrastructure development. Issues pertaining to the Bill :  The Bill establishes the Funds for compensatory afforestation and forest conservation. However, there are several factors which affect compensatory afforestation and forest conservation. These factors are: Lack of planning and implementation : The state forest departments lack the planning and implementation capacity to carry out compensatory afforestation and forest conservation. Difficulty in procuring land : Procuring land for compensatory afforestation is difficult as land is a limited resource, and is required for multiple purposes, such as agriculture, industry, etc. This is compounded by unclear land titles. Decline in quality of forest cover : A High Level Committee on Environment Laws observed that quality of forest cover has declined between 1951 and 2014, with poor quality of compensatory afforestation plantations being one of the reasons behind the decline.  

Union Government has announced the formation of District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee (DDCMC) that will be known as ‘Disha’ on 28 July 2016. First meeting of Disha will be held on 13 August 2016. Disha was created for effective development and coordination of Central Government's programme, whether it is for infrastructure development or Social and human resource development. It will monitor the implementation of 28 schemes and programmes of Ministry of Rural Development and other Ministries to promote synergy and convergence for greater impact. The terms of references of the committee includesTo ensure that all programmes are implemented in accordance with the Guidelines.It will look into complaints/alleged irregularities received in respect of the implementation of the programmes. It will have the authority to summon and inspect any record for this purpose. The Committee may refer any matter for enquiry to the District Collector/CEO of the Zilla Panchayat/Project Director of DRDA (or Poverty Alleviation Unit). It can also suggest suitable action to be taken in accordance with the rules which should be acted upon by him within 30 days.It will closely review the flow of funds including the funds allocated, funds released by both Centre and the State, utilization and unspent balances under each Scheme. The main purpose of the committee is to coordinate with Central and State and local Panchayat Governments. Efforts will be made to ensure the participation of people’s representative at all levels and successful implementation of flagship programme of central government. The meetings of the committee should be held once in every Quarter (third Saturdays of April, July, October and February) and this has been made mandatory. DDCMC will supersede the District Vigilance & Monitoring Committee currently mandated by Ministry of Rural Development. Formation of District Development Coordination and Monitoring Committee (DDCMC) : Chairperson : He/she will be the senior most Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha) elected from the district, nominated by the Ministry of Rural Development. Co-Chairperson will include a) Members of Parliament (Lok Sabha) representing the district b) One MP (Rajya Sabha) representing the State and exercising option to be associated with the district level Committee of that district (on first come basis) Other members of the committee will include a) Members of the State Legislative Assembly elected from the district b) All Mayors/the Chairpersons of Municipalities c) Chairperson of the Zilla Panchayat d) Five elected heads of Gram Panchayat including two women e) One representative each of SC, ST f) Women to be nominated by the Chairperson  The Member Secretary of Disha should be the District Collector/District Magistrate/Deputy Commissioner except in cases where specific exemption has been given by the Union Government.

American author James Alan McPherson passed away on 27 July 2016 in Iowa City, U.S. He was 72. McPherson was the first black author to receive the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1978. James Alan McPherson : Born on 16 September 1943, James Alan McPherson was an American short story writer and essayist.In 1978, he won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his short story collection Elbow Room, becoming the first African-American to win the Pulitzer for fiction. He was the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981. In 1995, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2000, John Updike selected his short story Gold Coast for his collection Best American Short Stories of the Century.In October 2011, he was honoured as the inaugural recipient of the Paul Engle Award from the Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature. He was also a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship.  

International Tiger Day was observed on 29 July 2016. The day is held annually on 29th July to give worldwide attention to the reservation of tigers. The goal of the day is to promote a global system for protecting the natural habitats of tigers and to raise public awareness and support for tiger conservation issues. It was founded in 2010 at the St. Petersburg Tiger Summit, with the aim to double the big cat population by 2022. Statistic Details : As per latest data by tiger experts, the world has lost 97 percent of all wild tigers in a little over 100 years.The World Wildlife Fund and the Global Tiger Forum says that the number of wild tigers has gone up to 3890 from the earlier 2010 estimate of 3200.In 1915, the number of tigers was 1 lakh. Some species of tigers have already been extinct.India leads tiger population countries with an estimated population of 2226.Despite countries such as India, Nepal, Russia and Bhutan registering a rise in tiger population, the status of the animal remains endangered.  Poaching and loss of Habitat : Poaching has been the biggest threat to tigers in India. 81 tigers were victims to poachers in 2014, 25 in 2015 and by April 2016 it was 28.According to reports of United Nations Environment Programme and Interpol, the environmental crime industry, which includes illegal trade in wildlife, is worth 258 billion dollars. Expansion of cities and agriculture by humans led to loss of 93% natural habitat for tigers lostFewer tigers can survive in small, scattered islands of habitat, which make tigers more vulnerable to poaching, which lead to a higher risk of inbreeding.Sundarbans, a large mangrove forest area shared by India and Bangladesh on the northern coast of the Indian Ocean, is one of the world’s largest places where tiger populations is found.Sundarbans harbors Bengal tigers and protects coastal regions from storm surges and wind damage. Threat in Sundarbans : Rising sea levels that were caused by climate change threaten to wipe out these forests and the last remaining habitat of this tiger population.WWF study says that without mitigation efforts, projected sea level rise will go up by nearly a foot by 2070, which could destroy nearly the entire Sundarbans tiger habitat.

India has signed a one-billion dollar deal with the US defence and aerospace major Boeing for procuring four long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft , Poseidon-8I on 27 July 2016. First of the four new P-8I aircraft will be delivered in 50 months. Incidentally, India is P-8I's first international customer and was also Boeing's first military sale to India.  The contract was inked during the on-going visit of the US under secretary for defence on Acquisition Frank Kendall. The contract is a follow-on order to eight P-81 planes worth 2.1 billion dollars deal inked in 2009, already bought by India in a direct deal with the firm. These aircrafts were inducted by the Navy between May 2013 and October 2015. P-8I Aircrafts : P-8I is the Indian Navy variant of the P-8A Poseidon of the US Navy developed by Boeing.It was formerly called the Multi-mission Maritime Aircraft and is based on Beoing’s Next-Generation 737 commercial airplane. The long-range maritime reconnaissance aircraft has a maximum speed of 907 kmph and an operating range of 1200 nautical miles.P-8Is will provide the reach and flexibility to undertake extensive maritime surveillance and intelligence-gathering missions. It is currently extensively being used in search of AN 32 aircraft that went down in the Bay of Bengal with 29 defence personnel on board on 22 July 2016.The Navy is already using the eight P-8Is, armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges, to keep an "intelligent hawk-eye" over the entire IOR. India-US defence ties : The agreement will further expand and strengthen the ever engaging defence ties between India and the US. With this deal, the US has emerged as the biggest supplier of military hardware. The total value of defence deals signed with the US in the last decade comes to around 15 billion dollars. India in 2015 signed a 3 billion dollars contract with the US through Foreign Military Sales route for 22 Apache and 15 Chinook helicopters. India is also working on a deal to get 145 pieces of M777 light-weight howitzers from the US. Already Indian navy is using Boeing’s eight P-8I that are armed with deadly Harpoon Block-II missiles, MK-54 lightweight torpedoes, rockets and depth charges to keep monitor the entire Indian Ocean Region (IOR). The acquisition will enhance the Indian Navy’s surveillance powers in the IOR.

Anurag Thakur, BJP MP and BCCI President, is set for a new innings as an officer of the Territorial Army. 41-year-old Thakur will be commissioned into the Territorial Army (TA) as a regular officer on 29 July to become the first serving BJP Member of Parliament to join the military force. Thakur made it to the TA after clearing an exam and a personal interview conducted in Chandigarh and training held in Bhopal.  As a regular officer, the Lok Sabha member from Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh will have to undergo a mandatory training. The Territorial Army, the second line of defence after the regular army, is composed of volunteers who receive military training for about a month in a year so that in case of an emergency they can be mobilised for the defence of the country.

The Reserve Bank of India has come down hard on 13 banks and fined them for Rs 27 crore for violation of FEMA and lapses in know your client (KYC) rules.  The matter relates to irregularities in import remittances by several banks which came to light in October 2015. On the basis of inputs received from a public sector bank, the Reserve Bank undertook a scrutiny on advance import remittances in 21 banks in October/November 2015 . The RBI fined Bank of Baroda for Rs 5 crore, Punjab National Bank and Syndicate Bank have been fined Rs 3 crore each. UCO Bank, HDFC Bank, Allahabad Bank, Canara Bank and IndusInd Bank have all been fined Rs 2 crore each.  While the regulator did not impose any fine on SBI, ICICI Bank, Axis Bank, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Union Bank of India, among others, it advised these banks to ensure strict compliance of KYC (know your customer) requirements and FEMA provisions on an ongoing basis.  The regulator said its actions were based on deficiencies in regulatory compliance and is not intended to pronounce upon the validity of any transaction or agreement entered into by the bank and its customers.  RBI started an inspection of banks after Rs 6,100-crore import remittances were effected by Bank of Baroda's Ashok Vihar branch in New Delhi. This, after late last year, CBI conducted search and seizure operations across multiple bank branches of HDFC Bank and Bank of Baroda in relation to irregularities in advance import remittances in various banks.  Both CBI and the Enforcement Directorate are currently probing the huge remittances to Hong Kong from the bank. The amount was allegedly transferred in the garb of payments for imports that never took place, investigators suspect. 

State Bank has launched a payment system at its ATMs which will allow the account holders transfer money using mobile phone number as identifier.  The system works on instant money transfer (IMT) platform. The facility will enable a payment of up to Rs 10,000 from any SBI bank account and the recipient of this payment can withdraw funds instantly from an IMT-enabled ATM without using a debit card . SBI Group will be able to offer a unique payment option to our customers and expand our reach to those sections of the population who are either unbanked or do not have access to banking . Additionally, it offers a new form of convenience payment to the emerging younger generation as SBI seeks to address them through new options.  The IMT is a unique payment system launched by Eempays Payment Systems. The facility enables a payment to be made to a mobile phone from a bank account without the beneficiary having a bank account.   

Chinese electronics firm LeEco to buying American TV manufacturer Vizio for $2 billion. Under the deal, Vizio will be operated as an independent subsidiary, with the company's current executive team staying in place and working out of its offices in Southern California  sans Vizio founder and CEO William Wang, who is leaving the company.  No replacement has been named, but Wang will be taking the reins as chairman and CEO of Inscape,Vizio's data business, which is being spun out into a privately held company. LeEco will own 49 % of Inscape, with Wang owning the remaining 51 %. The LeEco deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter of this year.  Leshi Internet Information & Technology, also known as LeEco, is a Chinese technology company, and one of the largest online video companies in China. It is headquartered in Chaoyang District, Beijing.

The Hero Group  said that Sunil Kant Munjal, joint managing director of Hero MotoCorp and Chairman Hero Corporate Services will step down from the Board of Directors of the two-wheeler maker to focus on his independent core business and to pursue new business interests.  Hero Group as established by the late Dr Brijmohan Lall Munjal, the members of BML Munjal family have decided to realign their businesses to achieve future growth and expansion.  The statement added Sunil Kant Munjal has expressed his desire to step down as joint MD once his tenure comes to an end on August 16,2016.  Sunil Kant Munjal is the youngest son of Brijmohan Lall Munjal. During his lifetime itself the succession plan of Hero MotoCorp was decided with the elevation of Pawan Munjal as the Chairman of the company. 

The Gujarat government’s Centre for Entrepreneurship Development (CED) has selected the Ahmedabad-based e-commerce company Infibeam as knowledge partner for its e-commerce training and development programme, aimed at grooming budding entrepreneurs and individuals to set up their businesses. The state government had recently launched an e-commerce workshop programme ‘How To Start E-commerce Business’ in partnership with Infibeam Incorporation Ltd to create awareness on e-commerce. So far, CED has received over 40 registrations from participants in the first batch comprising professionals, entrepreneurs, business owners and individuals. The participants were trained on how to adopt the e-commerce platform and various modules that could help build their existing business and start new businesses as well. Promoted by the state government, CED is a pioneer in entrepreneurship development activity, particularly for first generation entrepreneurs.

The Union Cabinet has approved Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) between India and Cambodia to boost trade and business. Decision in this regard was taken during the Union Cabinet Meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi. The Treaty seeks to promote and protect investments in either country with the objective of increasing bilateral investment flows.  It also seeks to encourage each country to create favourable conditions (climate) for investors of the other country to make investments in its territory and also to admit investments in accordance with its laws.  This Treaty is the first Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) signed between both countries in accordance with the text of the Indian Model BIT which was approved by the Union Cabinet in December, 2015.

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for raising foreign shareholding limit from current 5% to 15% in Indian Stock Exchanges. The decision brings the investment limit of foreign entities at par with that of domestic institutions.  This enhanced limit is for a stock exchange, depository, banking company, insurance company and commodity derivative exchange. Additionally, the Union Cabinet also gave its approval for foreign portfolio investors to acquire shares through initial allotment, besides secondary market, in the stock exchanges. Implications  : Enhance global competitiveness of Indian stock exchanges. Enable Indian stock exchanges to acquire and adopt latest technology and global best practices. Pave way for better overall growth and development of the Indian capital market The Union Cabinet approval is in pursuance of implementation of the 2016-17 Budget Announcement made by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley. Finance Minister had made this announcement with regard to reforms in FDI Policy in order to enhance investment limit for foreign entities in Indian stock exchanges from 5% to 15%.

The Lok Sabha has passed comprehensive Benami Transactions (Prohibition) Amendment Bill, 2015 to curb domestic black money. The comprehensive amendment bill seeks to amend and strengthen Benami Transaction (Prohibition) Act, 1988 in terms of legal and administrative procedure. Features of Bill  : The Bill seeks to (i) Amend the definition of benami transactions to widen the scope for legal action (ii) Specify penalties for entering into benami transactions and (iii) establish adjudicating authorities and Appellate Tribunal to deal with benami transactions. It add other transactions which qualify as benami, such as property transactions where: (i) the owner is not aware or denies knowledge of the ownership of the property, (ii) transaction is made in a fictitious name (iii) person providing the consideration for the property is not traceable. The Bill also adds provisions to establish an Appellate Tribunal in order to hear appeals against any orders passed by the Adjudicating Authority.  Appeals against orders of the Appellate Tribunal will lie to the high court. The Bill specifies the penalty for providing false information. The punishment includes rigorous imprisonment ranging from 6 months up to 5 years, and a fine which may extend to 25% of the fair market value of the benami property. It also intends to effectively prohibit benami transactions and consequently prevent circumvention of law through unfair practices.  It empowers the Union Government to confiscate benami property by following due procedure. Therefore it promotes equity across all citizens. The Bill provides immunity under the Benami Act to those who declare their benami properties under income declaration scheme. ‘Benami’ Transaction :  In literally sense benami means ‘nameless’ or ‘without a name’. The benami transaction refers to property purchased by a person in the name of some other person. In such transactions, the person who pays for the property is directly or indirectly ultimate beneficiary of the property in the future.

The Union Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES) has announced that India Meteorological Department (IMD) will use supercomputer to forecast India’s annual summer monsoon. The forecast made by a supercomputer will be based on a dynamical monsoon model and will be operational from year 2017. This model will be used along with the present traditional ensemble model. Dynamical Monsoon Model  : The dynamical monsoon model works by simulating the weather on powerful computers (supercomputers) and extrapolating it over particular timeframes. This modern forecasting model is being tested at the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune.  The dynamical monsoon model is also called the Coupled Forecast System version 2. So far it has achieved only 60% accuracy in forecasting the monsoon. This method is widely used in forecasting weather over a few days. But using it to forecast the annual monsoon over 3 or 4 months has proved difficult. Ensemble model  : Currently, IMD relies on an ensemble model for forecasting monsoon. This traditional model uses a statistical technique. It uses an average of 6 meteorological values correlated to the monsoon such as sea surface temperatures in the Pacific, and North Atlantic sea level pressure.  These meteorological values are traditionally derived from century-old meteorological data linked to the historical performance of the monsoon. However, this traditional approach in has failed to predict monsoon recent decades (for instance in 2002 and 2004) leading meteorologists to call for a new, modern forecasting system. India Meteorological Department (IMD) : It is an official national weather forecaster of India. It was established in 1875. It is a division of Union Ministry of Earth Sciences.