Today Current Affairs 8th July 2016

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IDFC Mutual Fund has appointed Vishal Kapoor, a senior executive from Standard Chartered Bank, as its chief executive officer, who would assume charge from September this year.  Vishal : Vishal has over two decades of rich experience in Financial Services across functions and businesses including asset management, banking and consumer marketing with a successful track record of building strong teams and sustainable businesses . Kapoor is now serving with Standard Chartered Bank as the managing director, head of wealth management, India.  Vishal was associated with American Express and ITC Threadneedle AMC, working across geographies. Vishal is a management graduate from IIM-Ahmedabad and a Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) from St. Xavier's College, Kolkata.  Vishal will be responsible for driving accelerated growth of IDFC AMC, heading a seasoned senior management team including Kalpen Parekh, Anoop Bhaskar and Suyash Choudhary .IDFC Mutual Fund is ninth ranked with total assets under management now at Rs 54,142 crore. About three-fourth of its assets are in debt fund schemes. 

Union Cabinet Ministers and Ministers of State who assumed office following expansion of Council of Ministers and changes in portfolios are Cabinet Ministers  :  Venkaiah Naidu : Ministry of Information & Broadcasting  Ananth Kumar : Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs  Prakash Javdeka r: Ministry of Human Resource Development  Ravi Shankar Prasad : Ministry of Law & Justice  Narendra Singh Toma r: Ministry of Rural Development Ministry  Smriti Zubin Irani : Ministry of Textiles Ministers of State  :  Vijay Goel : Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports (Independent Charge)  Piyush Goyal : Ministry of Mines (Independent Charge)  Anil Madhav Dave : Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (Independent Charge).  Santosh Kumar Gangwar : Ministry of Finance  Faggan Singh Kulaste : Ministry of Health & Family Welfare S. Ahluwalia : Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs  Ramdas Athawale : Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment  Rajen Gohain : Ministry of Railways  Jayant Sinha : Ministry of Civil Aviation Arjun Ram Meghwal : Ministry of Finance and Corporate Affairs  Mahendra Nath Pandey :  Ministry of Human Resource Development Ajay Tamta : Ministry of Textiles  Anupriya Patel : Ministry of Health & Family Welfare R. Chaudhary : Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food & Public Distribution  P. Chaudhary : Ministry of Law & Justice

The second anti-drug working group meeting of heads of anti-narcotics agencies of BRICS countries began in New Delhi to discuss issues related to narco-terrorism and money laundering.  The one day meeting was inaugurated Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh. It has been organised by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) of India. The meeting will see participation of delegates from the BRICS (Brazil-Russia-India-China-South Africa) member countrie. The Indian delegation will be headed by Rajeev Rai Bhatnagar, Director General of Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB).  It will comprise officers from the Department of Revenue, Union Ministry of Finance, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, Union Ministry of Health and Family welfare and Narcotics Control Bureau, Union Ministry of Home Affairs. The anti-drug working group meeting of heads of anti-narcotics agencies has been organised by India in accordance with the ‘eThekwani Declaration’ adopted during the BRICS summit in March 2013 at Durban, South Africa. Under the ‘eThekwani Declaration’ BRICS countries had decided to explore economic issues and various new areas of cooperation among the member States including drug-related issues.  

India and Mozambique have signed three Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) in areas of drug trafficking, pulse trading and sports. These MoUs were signed between two countries at Maputo, Mozambique in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Filipe Nyusi, President of Mozambique. Signed Agreement  : MoU on long term agreement for purchase of pulses. MoU on cooperation in the field of youth affairs and sports. MoU on reduction of drug trafficking and psychotropic substances and related materials. The MoU on long term agreement for purchase of pulses will promote the production of Tur (Pigeon Peas) and other pulses in Mozambique to encourage trading of pulses.  It will also play an important role in augmenting domestic availability of pulses in India and thereby stabilising its prices. The contract will be valid for five financial years i.e. till 2020-21 and pulses under it will be imported by India either through the Government-to-Government (G2G) or private channels nominated by two countries. Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Mozambique as part of his first leg of the five day official four African nations tour viz. Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Kenya. PM Narendra Modi’s African countries tour agenda is on energy, food security, trade, maritime cooperation and diaspora interactions.

A team of international astronomers for the first time have sighted a Jovian planet orbiting a triple star system. The planet has been named as HD 131399Ab. The strange planet was sighted by team of astronomers led by University of Arizona using the SPHERE instrument on European Southern Observatory’s (ESO) Very Large Telescope in Chile. Significance of Discovery : Usually binary solar systems (having two stars or suns) are relatively common in the universe, but solar systems involving three stars or more are very rare. Planet HD 131399Ab is located about 340 light years from Earth in the constellation Centaurus. It is believed to be relatively young, about 16 million years old. This makes it one of the youngest planets discovered outside our solar system to date. HD 131399Ab has mass four times that of the gas giant Jupiter, our solar system’s largest planet. It orbits the brightest of the three stars on a very long and wide path. SPHERE instrument :  SPHERE stands for Spectro-Polarimetric High-Contrast Exoplanet Research Instrument. It is one of the world’s most advanced instruments dedicated to finding planets around other stars. It is sensitive to infrared light which makes it capable of detecting the heat signatures of young planet. It has ability to correct the image distortion (twinkle) introduced by the Earth’s atmosphere. This technique is called direct imaging.  

South African writer, filmmaker and photographer Lidudumalingani has won the 17th edition of prestigious Caine Prize 2016. He was bestowed with this prestigious award for his short story “Memories We Lost”.   The winning short story explores how traditional beliefs are used to tackle schizophrenia. The story highlights the mental health through the relationship of two sisters in a South African village, one of whom is schizophrenic and the other her protector.  As the sister’s situation deteriorates the protector sister trusts a local man who employs traditional techniques to rid people of their demons. Caine Prize  : The Caine Prize is an annual literature prize awarded to an African writer of a short story published in the English language. It is famously referred as the African Booker. It was established in 2010 in the United Kingdom and was named in memory of Sir Michael Harris Caine, former Chairman of Booker Group plc.  The award carrying £10,000 prize seeks to encourage and highlight the richness and diversity of African writing by bringing it to a wider audience internationally.

Search Giant Google has acquired Moodstocks on 6 July 2016, a startup based out of Paris that develops machine-learning based image recognition technology for smartphones. Moodstocks' application programming interface (API) for developers are described as the Shazam for images. With this acquisition, Moodstocks’ API and SDK will be discontinued soon. Highlights : The terms of the deal were not disclosed.Moodstocks' on-device image recognition software for smartphones will be phased out as it joins Google. Moodstocks' team will also move over to Google's R&D center in Paris.  Moodstocks : Moodstocks was co-founded by Denis Brule and Cedric Deltheil.The company has developed technology that aids smartphones in identifying the objects captured by their cameras. In 2012, it introduced on-device image recognition and has been working on object recognition through the use of machine learning and computer vision.

The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has  unveiled India’s first Centre of Excellence focused on Internet of Things (CoE- IoT) on 7 July 2016,at its Startup Warehouse in Bengaluru. The centre was launched in a bid to encourage start-ups to come up with tech solutions centred on Internet of Things (IoT). Highlights : The centre is a joint initiative between the Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeITY), Education and Research Network (ERNET) and NASSCOM. It is also supported by Accenture, Cisco, Intel, HCL Technologies, Qualcomm, TCS and L&T Technology Services, among others. It will function as an enabler of funding, accelerating, and mentoring for start-ups in this area. The CoE laboratory, along with the Nasscom 10000 Startups Warehouse, has the capacity to incubate up to 40 start-ups. The buzz around Internet of Things is gaining momentum globally as well as in India as companies see the benefit of installing sensors embedded in their systems that can help them get better insights of their systems. Industry estimates point out that there are 120 IoT focused companies, addressing an expected market opportunity of 15 billion US dollars by 2020.

Noted music director Om Prakash Sonik, also known as Omi, part of the Sonik-Omi duo, died in Mumbai on 7 July 2016. He was 77. Sonik–Omi was an Indian composer working in duo consisting of Master Sonik (a blind music director) and his nephew Omi. The duo was known for their work on Hindi film soundtracks. Some of their best-known works are Bhakti Mein Shakti, Dharma, Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya, Sawan Bhadon, Aabroo, and Raftaar. Born in Sialkot (now in Pakistan), he along with his family had moved to India after Partition in 1947. The Sonik-Omi team gave music to over 100 Hindi films in the 1950-1980s period. The duo were known for their work on Hindi film soundtracks. Some of their best-known works are Bhakti Mein Shakti, Dharma, Dil Ne Phir Yaad Kiya, Sawan Bhadon, Aabroo, and Raftaar.

Zee Learn, education branch of Essel Group, on 6 July 2016 appointed Debshankar Mukhopadhyay as Chief Executive Officer (CEO). Essel Group is among India’s most prominent business houses with a diverse portfolio of assets in media, packaging, entertainment, education etc. Debshankar Mukhopadhyay : Debshankar Mukhopadhyay holds over 20 years of experience in educational and financial sectors across South Asia. Prior to joining Zee Learn, he was the Head of Educational Sales, Financial Services and Insurance at Manipal Global Education Services.He has also been associated with Max Life Insurance, Western Union, Scholastic India, Zee Interactive Learning Systems and DHL Worldwide.  Zee Learn : Zee Learn is India’s leading company in education segment. It operates chain of K-12 schools, such as Mount Litera Zee School and Kidzee, which is Asia’s No 1 chain of pre-school network. Mount Litera Zee School was awarded as the K-12 School Chain of the Year at Indian Educational Congress in 2015.

The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has designated top officials of the North Korean regime along with Kim Jong-Un and for their ties to North Korea’s notorious abuses of human rights on 6 July 2016.  This is the first time that US has sanctioned North Korean leader over human rights abuses. The designated ones include ten other individuals, and five entities. They were sanctioned under the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 on the basis of its findings in its report on Serious Human Rights Abuses or Censorship in North Korea. OFAC has previously designated four individuals and three entities also highlighted in the State Department report.  The measures freeze any property the individuals have in the US and prevent US citizens doing business with them. North Korea is already under an extensive sanctions regime for its nuclear activities, but analysts see the latest move as an escalation of US efforts to isolate the nation.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has launched ‘MySpeed’ mobile application for measuring real time mobile Internet speed that consumers get. This is the first application to be launched under the Digital India initiative, which is directly trying to tackle the issue of poor data speeds. Features : Consumers using this app can check the speed of their 3G or 4G connection or the home broadband’s Wi-Fi speed. The application allows user to send coverage, data speed and network information along with device and location to a TRAI analytics portal.  It is available for download on Mobile Seva app store and also on Google Play store. It is compatible with smartphones running on Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and above The data collected from this app will be directly relayed to TRAI’s analytics portal and keep them apprised of the internet speeds throughout India.

The 139th Rath Yatra of Lord Jagannath commenced on 6 July 2016 in Puri, Odisha. The nine-day-long Rath Yatra will see congregation of more than 10 lakh devotees from India and abroad. The annual festival is celebrated on Ashadha Shukla Paksha Dwitiya (second day in bright fortnight of Ashadha month). During the Rath Yatra, Lord Jagannath his brother Balbhadra and sister Subhadra will be brought out of the temple to be taken to Gundicha temple, the place of their aunt's house. During the journey, the chariots on which the deities are carried will be pulled by thousands of devotees. The three deities will stay in the Gundicha temple for a week and then return. The return journey of Puri Jagannath Ratha Jatra is known as Bahuda Jatra. The three chariots of Balabhadra, Subhadra and Jagannatha are newly constructed every year with wood of specified trees. They are customarily brought from the ex-princely state of Dasapalla by a specialist team of carpenters who have hereditary rights and privileges for the same.The three chariots are decorated as per the unique scheme prescribed and followed for centuries stand on the Bada Danda, the Grand Avenue. Lord Jagannatha's chariot is called Nandighosa. It is forty-five feet high and forty-five feet square at the wheel level. It has sixteen wheels, each of seven-foot diameter. It is decorated with a cover made of red and yellow cloth. The chariot of Lord Balarama is called as the Taladhwaja. It has fourteen wheels. It  is covered with red and blue cloth.The chariot of Subhadra is known as Dwarpadalana. It has twelve wheels. It is covered with red and black cloth. Jagannath Temple : The Jagannath Temple was built in the 12th century.The construction of the temple was initiated by the ruler of Kalinga, Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva. The temple is sacred to the Vaishnava traditions and saint Ramananda who was closely associated with the temple.The temple records state that the Jagannath temple at Puri has been invaded and plundered eighteen times.

Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti has inaugurated 231 projects under the Namami Gange Programme on 7 July 2016 . The projects were inaugurated from Haridwar, Uttarakhand in various locations in different states namely Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Haryana and Delhi. These projects involve modernization and redevelopment of Ghats and crematoriums, development of sewage infrastructure and treatment, afforestation, tree plantation, pilot drain project, interceptor drain project, trash skimmers and conservation of biodiversity. Projects launched : 47 such projects were inaugurated at various locations in Dehradun, Garhwal, Tehri Garhwal, Rudraprayag, Haridwar and Chamoli districts of Uttrakhand. 20 projects will be inaugurated at various locations in North 24 pargana, Nadia, South 24 pargana and Howrah districts of West Bengal.26 projects were inaugurated at various locations in Buxar, Vaishali, Saran, Patna and Bhagalpur districts of Bihar.112 projects under Namami Gange programme were inaugurated at various locations in Amroha, Bijnor, Hapur, Muzaffarnagar, Meerut, Mathura, Allahabad, Varanasi, Farukhabad and Kanpur districts. Features of Namami Gange Programme (NGP) : It is an Integrated Ganga Conservation Mission which integrates the efforts to clean and protect the Ganga River in a comprehensive manner.It will result in socio-economic benefits in terms of job creation, improved livelihoods and health benefits to the vast population that is dependent on the river. Its focus is on pollution abatement interventions namely Interception, diversion and treatment of wastewater through bio-remediation or appropriate in-situ treatment or use of innovative technologies such as sewage treatment plants (STPs) or effluent treatment plant (ETPs).It has a budget outlay of 20000 crore rupees for 2015-20. This is a significant four-fold increase over the expenditure in the past 30 years as the Union Government incurred an overall expenditure of approximately 4000 crore rupees on this task since 1985. These projects will help in boosting the Namami Gange Programme that was launched in May 2015 by Union Government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

China inducted its largest indigenously-built transport aircraft named as Y-20, marking a crucial step in its Air Force history for improving its strategic power projection capability.  It is also considered as a breakthrough for Chinese defence sector especially in military aviation technology which will allow the world’s largest force to transport cargo and troops over long distances in diverse weather conditions. The indigenously designed and developed Y-20 officially joined the PLA Air Force in Chengdu. It is ideal for transporting cargo and personnel over long distances in diverse weather conditions. It has a maximum take-off weight of 200 tonnes. The plane is comparable to the Russian-made IL-76 and US made C-17. It is more advance than the IL-476.  Its induction will make easier for Chinese PLA to deploy troops, enable military to act more promptly and respond to emergencies in a better manner The Y-20 had undergone its maiden flight in January 2013 and since then it had undergone trials runs, including in the rugged Tibetan terrain, It had made its debut at the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in November 2014.

Scientists has named a newly discovered species of tarantula (a big hairy spider) was named as Kankuamo Marquezi after the famed Colombian novelist and 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The species was discovered in large number in an isolated mountain range in Caribbean Colombia.  It was named after him as homage to the country where it was found. It was discovered by a group of Uruguayan and Colombian scientists, led by Carlos Perefan from the University of the Republic of Uruguay. Kankuamo Marquezi : The arachnid has a defence mechanism that includes releasing stinging hairs that dig into predators’ eyes and people’s skin.It carries as scary look but its non-aggressive body is three centimeters long with legs of the same length, which make its overall size to nine centimeter (3.5 inches). It was discovered in the upper area of a mountain, 2200 meters high, in a rainy, cold environment.Kankuamo is a noun in apposition and refers to the indigenous people of the Chibcha family from the Caribbean region of Colombia.It inhabits the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, whose language and culture are at endangered. Tarantulas comprise a group of large and often hairy arachnids belonging to the Theraphosidae family of spiders, of which approximately 900 species have been identified.  Gabriel Marquez : He was a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, known affectionately as Gabo or Gabito throughout Latin America.He is an author of the classic novels One hundred Years of Solitude (for it he was awarded the 1982 Nobel Prize in Literature) and Love in the Time of Cholera. He was born on 6 March 1927 in Aracataca, Colombia’s northern coast and started out as a journalist in Cartagena. He was widely seen as the master of magical realism, which refers to literature in particular that, portrays magical or unreal elements as a natural part in an otherwise realistic or mundane environment.He died at the age of 87 in April 2014 in Mexico.He won the Nobel Prize for literature for helping put Latin America on the literary map.  The new genus and species was described by the scientists in the journal ZooKeys.

1982 batch IAS officer Deepak Singhal was appointed as the Chief Secretary of Uttar Pradesh on 6 July 2016 . Singhal succeeds 1978 batch officer Alok Ranjan, who retired on 30 June 2016 after a three-month extension of service. He will also hold additional charge of Principal Resident Commissioner of UP in New Delhi, and chairman of the Pradeshiya Industrial & Investment Corporation of UP (PICUP). Deepak Singhal : Before this appointment, he was serving as the Principal Secretary to Department of Irrigation under Shivpal Yadav. He was overseeing the Gomti Riverfront project in Lucknow and strengthening and fortifying UP's canal networks, the river rejuvenation programme.  He had been heading the irrigation department since the beginning of the present SP regime. Singhal started his career as assistant magistrate of Mathura in the undivided UP in 1983. Since then he has held key posts in Departments like Electricity and commercial tax. He has also served as the commissioner of Meerut, Agra and Bareilly. Singhal was on Central deputation between 2006 and 2011.

Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Nitin Gadkari launched the National Green Highways Mission (NGHM) on 1 July 2016 ,in New Delhi. Under this initiative, plantation drive on 1500 km of National Highways was launched at a cost of about 300 crore rupees. Besides, the minister also launched the following initiatives on this occasion. i. Guidelines for Implementation ii. Vision Document iii. Knowledge Reports of the mission iv. Adopt a Green Highway Program v. Kisan Harit Rajmarg Yojana vi. National Green Highways Mission Mobile App Features of National Green Highways Mission : It was launched under the Green Highways Policy that was unveiled in September 2015 to actualize the vision of developing eco-friendly and green National Highways. The greening project has a huge potential to generate jobs and can prove to be a game-changer for agriculture and rural economy.Greening of one km of highway provides employment to ten people. The initial launch on the 1500 km stretch will employ 15000 people. The government has made it mandatory to set aside 1 per cent of the total project cost of any NH contract to a Green Fund corpus that will be used for plantation purposes. The afforestation is expected to help in sequestering approximately 12 lakh metric ton carbon annually.In future, the mission will be linked with the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee scheme. Other initiatives Vision Document : It comprises strategy, mission and action plan for 2016-2026, focuses on core issues, future roadmaps and success indicators for effective implementation of the project. Knowledge Report : It was jointly prepared by the NGHM and Yes Bank. It puts transplantation at the centre of discussion in the mission of greening our highways.The report presents a compelling case for taking up transplantation as the preferred technique for plantation along the highways. Adopt a Green Highway Programme : It seeks to engage corporates, public sector units, Government organizations and other institutions for developing green corridor along National Highways through plantation and allied activity on avenue, median and other available nearby land patches. Kisan Harit Rajmarg Yojana : It is aimed at extending green belt beyond the existing ‘Right of Way’ of highways by engaging farmers and providing alternative livelihood option to the nearby communities. National Green Highways Mission Mobile App : It will enable the management to monitor all the projects with real time data from the fields. The technology will assist in identifying the bottlenecks quickly and ensure speedy and successful implementations of the projects.

The Union Finance Ministry has constituted four members committee to examine the feasibility and desirability of having a new financial year. The committee has been tasked to examine the merits and demerits of various dates for the commencement of the financial year including the existing date (April to March) by taking into account the various relevant factors. Composition : The committee will be headed by Dr. Shankar Acharya (former Chief Economic Adviser). Besides it will consist of PV Rajaraman (former Finance Secretary, Tamil Nadu), KM Chandrasekhar (former Cabinet Secretary) and Dr. Rajiv Kumar (Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research) as its members. Terms of Reference of Committee : Take into consideration genesis of the current financial year and the earlier studies made in the past on the desirability of change in financial year. It will take into consideration suitability of the financial year from point of view of  i) Correct estimations of receipts and expenditure of Union and State Governments.  (ii) Effect of the different agricultural crop periods.  (iii) Relationship of financial year on the working season.  (iv) Impact on business.  (v) Taxation systems and procedures.  (vi) Statistics and data collection.  (vii) Convenience of the legislatures for transacting budget work.  (viii) Other relevant matters Recommend the date of commencement of the financial year which in its views is most suitable for the country. In case the committee recommends change in financial year, it will also work out on the modalities for effecting the change. It will include (i) Appropriate timing of change (ii) determination of transistional period (iii) Changing tax laws during transitional period (iv) Amendments needed in various statues (v) Changes in coverage of the recommendations of the Finance Commission. It can interact with experts, institutions, Government Departments and others as deemed necessary. The committee will submit its report to the Union Government by 31st December 2016.

Indian gymnast Dipa Karmakar was named a ‘Gymnaste de Classe Mondaile’ (World class gymnast) by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG). In this regard, she received the official letter confirming the distinction from the federation on 6 July 2016. With this, she also became the first-ever Indian gymnast to receive the honour. Dipa Karmakar : She is an Indian artistic gymnast from Agartala, Tripura.She rose to recognition when she won a bronze medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games becoming the first Indian female gymnast to do so in the history of the games.She won a bronze at the Asian Gymnastics Championships and finished 5th at the 2015 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. With this, she became the first Indian finalist at the World Artistic Gymnastics Championships.In April 2016, Karmakar became the first female Indian gymnast ever to secure an Olympic berth by garnering a total score of 52.698 points. She is the first woman in the gymnast history to land the Produnova, one of the most dangerous vaults.She won 10 gold medals at two national games. She received the Arjuna Award in August 2015.

India was placed at 91st position in the recently released 2016 Networked Readiness Index (NRI) by the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF).  The index was released as the part of the WEF’s Global Information Technology Report. It measures countries’ success in creating the necessary conditions for a transition to a digitised economy and society. Top-ten countries in 2016 NRI : Singapore (1st) while Finland (2nd), Sweden (3rd), Norway (4th), United States (5th), Netherlands (6th), Switzerland (7th), UK (8th), Luxembourg (9th) and Japan (10th). Among BRICS : Russia (41st), China (59th), South Africa (65th) and Brazil (72nd). Thus, India was ranked the lowest. India related Facts : India’s position on the list has come down for the fourth consecutive year in a row, from 89th in 2015, 83rd in 2014 and 68th in 2013. In different parameters of Index, India has scored better in terms of political and regulatory environment (78th position). It ranked very high (8th) place in terms of affordability. India’s performance in terms online services (57th) and allowing e-participation (40th). It scored worse in terms of business and innovation environment (110th). In terms of infrastructure it even scored worse (114th) place. India also fares poorly on sub-indices for levels of skills (101st) and individual usage (120th).