Today Current Affairs 2nd June 2016

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A study by Indian researchers at major excavated site of Bhirrana, Haryana suggests that the Indus Valley Civilization is much older than thought before and climate was not only the cause behind collapse of Harappa civilization. The study was conducted by a research team from IIT Kharagpur, Institute of archaeology, Deccan College Pune, Physical Research Laboratory and Archaeological Survey of India. The finding was published in prestigious journal Nature Scientific report on 25 May 2016. Dated Potteries as old as 8000 years old : Bhirrana site shows preservation of all cultural levels of Indus Valley Civilization from Pre-Harappan Hakra phase through Early Mature Harappan to mature Harappan time The study of dated potteries of Early Mature Harappan time by a technique called optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) suggests that these were nearly 6000 years old, the oldest known pottery so far. The study of levels of Pre-Harappan Hakra phase was dated to be as old as 8000 years. This means that the Indus Valley civilisation is 2500 years older than previously believed and the Indus Valley settlements that spread across Pakistan and northern India is older than the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilisations. Climate Change not led to abrupt collapse of Harappa civilization : Researchers used oxygen isotope composition in the bone and tooth phosphates of these 2 remains found at Bhirrana to unravel the climate pattern.The study revealed that the monsoon became progressively weaker from 7000 years onwards but surprisingly the civilization did not disappear, rather they continued to evolve even in the face of declining monsoon conditionIn the event of weakening of monsoon changed their subsistence strategy. They shifted their crop patterns from the large-grained cereals like wheat and barley to drought-resistant species of small millets and rice. As a result of lower yield of these later crops the organized large storage system of mature Harappan period was abandoned. In its place more individual household based crop processing and storage system arose. It is this factor which could have acted as catalyst for the de-urbanisation of the Harappan civilization rather than an abrupt collapse. The present studies put the flourishing of post-Neolithic Bronze Age Harappan civilization between 5700-3300 BC.It spread along the Indus Valley of Pakistan through the plains of NW India, including into the state of Gujarat and up to the Arabian Sea.  In the Indian subcontinent the major centers of this civilization include Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in Pakistan and Lothal, Dholavira, Kalibangan and Rakhigarhi in India.  Many archaeologists believe that weakening of the summer monsoon after ~5000 years and a major drought around 4200 years throughout the Asia probably were the reason behind the Harappan collapse. The late Harappan phase witnessed large scale deurbanization, population decrease, abandonment of many established settlements, lack of basic amenities, interpersonal violence and disappearance of Harappan script.

 Scientists have discovered one of the most symmetrical Einstein rings a rare astronomical phenomenon created by a galaxy located 10,000 million light years away that is hidden behind a more massive galaxy. Einstein rings, predicted by Einstein's theory of General Relativity, are quite rare but scientifically interesting. The one discovered by Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias (IAC) and the University of La Laguna (ULL) in Canary Islands is named the "The Canarias Einstein ring". An Einstein ring is a distorted image of a very distant galaxy, which is termed "the source". The distortion is produced by the bending of the light rays from the source due to a massive galaxy, termed "the lens", lying between it and the observer. The strong gravitational field produced by the lens galaxy distorts the structure of space-time in its neighborhood, and this does not only attract objects which have a mass, but also bends the paths of light. The chance discovery was made by Margherita Bettinelli, of IAC when she was examining data taken through the "Dark Energy Camera" (DECam) of the 4m Blanco Telescope at the Cerro Tololo Observatory in Chile. This "Canarias Einstein ring" is one of the most symmetrical discovered until now and is almost circular, showing that the two galaxies are almost perfectly aligned, with a separation on the sky of only 0.2 arc seconds. The source galaxy is 10,000 million light years away from us. Due to the expansion of the universe, this distance was smaller when its light started on its journey to us, and has taken 8,500 million years to reach us. Studying these phenomena gives us especially relevant information about the composition of the source galaxy, and also about the structure of the gravitational field and of the dark matter in the lens galaxy.

An arrangement between the authorized governmental agencies of the Government of India and United States of America (USA) for exchange of terrorist screening information was signed on 2 June 2016. The arrangement was signed by the Union Home Secretary, Rajiv Mehrishi and Richard Verma, Ambassador of the United States of America to India. As per this arrangement, both sides shall provide each other access to terrorism screening information through the designated contact points, subject to domestic laws and regulations. The arrangement would enhance the counter terrorism cooperation between India and USA.

Former Cricket Association of Bengal pitch curator Prabir Mukherjee has passed away aged 86 on  31 May 2016. Mukherjee was in charge for nearly 25 years and had also served as the manager of the Bengal and East Zone teams. His association with CAB began in 1979. Mukherjee was suffering from liver problems for the last few years. He retired from his long-held post amidst acrimony and on a bitter note after a T20 international match washout against South Africa last October. Eden's old and crumbling drainage system, coupled with the groundsmen's failure to prepare the ground at a short notice when the rain stopped, were blamed for the no-show. Mukherjee was, in principal, held responsible for the fiasco, which the octogenarian, famous for his uprightness and scatter-gun mouth, took offense insisting the ground was playable and it was the umpires who played truant by abandoning the match. The drama escalated when Indian captain MS Dhoni and team director Ravi Shastri said it was sad the famously passionate fans were robbed of action and refused to call the no-show a "collective failure". Former India skipper Sourav Ganguly butted into the controversy, saying the failure was a team effort and not squarely depended on the groundsmen. Mukherjee was in the midst of numerous controversies during his long tenure and ended his innings on an indistinct note after the rain abandoned match. Curator Sujan Mukherjee took over the reins after his withdrawal. Known for his fluctuating temper, he has famously stopped cricketers, from inspecting the pitch or entering onto the wicket.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has launched a mobile application for telecom subscribers to register their complaints against disturbing calls and SMS to tighten the noose on telemarketers. According to TRAI Chairman R S Sharma, the new mobile app will help people in easily filing complaints and help the authority in monitoring such activities. He said, it will ease filing of complaints and also help us in monitoring action taken by telecom operators on complaints. The DND (do not disturb) services mobile app is an easy alternative for filing disturbing calls and SMS complaints. Earlier, subscribers had option of filing complaint by forwarding SMS to 1909 which they received from telemarketers and mention mobile number from which they have received it along with date of receiving.  The SMS option was not available for pesky calls. As per rule, TRAI has mandated all telecom operators to disconnect telephone numbers from which a pesky call or SMS has originated on receipt of the first complaint.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval for a new broad gauge line between Mau Station of North Eastern Railway and Tarighat Terminal station of East Central Railway. The total length of this new broad gauge line will be 51 kilometers.  The estimated cost of the project is Rs.1765.92 crore and expected completion cost is Rs.2109.07 crore with 5 percent escalation per annum. The project is likely to be completed in the next six years during 12th and 13th Plan period.  Highlights of the MoU : This project will provide alternative, shorter convenient and better transport infrastructure to the area separated by river Ganga so as to remove the transport difficulties in the area and to boost the socio economic development.  The catchment area of project line will serve passenger requirement and will facilitate the people of the area for travelling to different parts of the country. In addition, this new line will provide an alternative route connecting Northern and East Central railway via NE Railway.  This project line has huge potential in enhancing railway traffic and also gives opportunity to develop this area by providing more efficient transportation system.  The new line crosses the river Ganges at the downstream of existing road bridge for NH 97 and is located almost parallel to it and joins the existing BG line from Tarighat to Dildar Nagar. This line will be alternative route for train passing from Howrah to New Delhi and back. Construction of this line will provide a link to Allahabad-Patna double line electrified section. It will also decongest the Allahabad-Mugalsarai-Patna route particularly around Mugalsarai yard. 

India has gifted 2,000 bicycles to poor dalit girls in different government schools of Nepal to encourage them to enrol in schools and enhance the literacy rate among them. The bicycles gifting programme received a total financial assistance of NRs 13.65 million by the Government of India under its Small Development Project scheme. Apart from this, the Government of India has been extending assistance to various programmes for improvement of education and health services in all districts of Nepal, like gifting 59 ambulances, 7 buses and one eye care van in four districts to cater the medical and educational needs of the local people.  The projects are the part of India-Nepal Economic programme which has an outlay of over NRs 76 billion with more than 529 large and small development projects completed or currently being implemented all across Nepal. 

Novak Djokovic had 100 million reasons to celebrate reaching the French Open quarter-finals on Wednesday albeit two days later than expected  as players made a mad dash to clear the fourth-round backlog created by the fickle Parisian weather. The Serbian world number one became the first tennis player to bank $100 million in prize money after his 3-6, 6-4, 6-1, 7-5 win over Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut tipped him over the magic number.  However, the fourth-round winner's cheque is a far cry from the real prize Djokovic has his eyes on this week. What he desperately wants is to get his hands on the Musketeers' Cup to complete his Grand Slam collection.  After winning a match that was originally scheduled for Monday, began on Tuesday and was finally completed on 1 June 2016, the 29-year-old will have to play four days in succession if he is to reach Sunday's title showdown. With only two hours of play possible over the previous two days as Parisians were hit by monsoon-like showers, the women in top seed Serena Williams' half of the draw had also been left stranded in the fourth round for 48 hours. 

This was announced on 1 June 2016 by the Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. He said that the cricket icon has given his consent to use his name to strengthen the campaign against liquor and drug abuse in the state. This agreement was reached when Tendulkar along with three other co-owners of the Kerala Blasters Football Club (KBFC) met Vijayan at the state secretariat. The other co-owners of KBFC are actor-turned politician Chiranjeevi, actor Akkineni Nagarjuna and Prasad. Besides, KBFC also agreed to set up a residential Football Academy to train young talents in the state.

A new book The Unseen Indira Gandhi authored by Dr KP Mathur was released in May 2016. Dr KP Mathur was personal physician of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for nearly 20 years till her assassination in 1984.   The Book was published by Konark Publishers. The book provides some interesting peeps into the responses of Mrs Gandhi’s to challenges both personal and political.The foreword of the book was written by her granddaughter Priyanka Gandhi Vadra. The 151-page book describes that Mrs Gandhi was very tense, a bit confused and not sure of herself in early years of her power in 1966. It covers several milestone moments in Indira’s life: the Bangladesh War of 1971; Pokhran Nuclear tests of 1974, imposition of Emergency; death of Sanjay Gandhi and circumstances in Maneka’s walk out of the family. The Doctor in his book said that Mrs Gandhi’s was always more fond of her elder Daughter in Law, Sonia Gandhi, but after Sanjay’s death she became a little more inclined towards Maneka and wanted Maneka to come and help her in politics. The book is interspersed with messages and written instructions on paper bits which were collected by the author.The book also covers former PM’s relations with foreign counterparts including Margaret Thatcher who was former PM of the United Kingdom.

The Union Cabinet on 1 June 2016 approved the proposal for Extension of Corridor-1 of Chennai Metro Rail Phase-I Project from Washermanpet to Wimconagar. It covers a length of 9.051 km at a total cost of 3770 crore rupees. Highlights of the Proposal : The project will be executed by the existing SPV of Government of India and the Government of Tamil Nadu having 50:50 equity of Chennai Metro Rail Ltd. This extension will provide improved access to public transport for dense population comprising predominantly industrial workers to move towards the central business district of the city for work.  In the total project cost, Government of India's (Gol) share will be 713 crore rupees and Government of Tamilnadu's (GoTN) share will be 916 crore rupees.  The share of GoTN included cost of Land and R&R of 203 crore rupees.The balance amount of 2141 crore rupees will be met from loan from multilateral/bilateral/domestic funding agency.The estimated ridership will be 1.6 lakh passengers per day in first year of operation.The project is scheduled to be completed by March 2018.

The Union Cabinet on 1 June 2016 gave its approval for signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Qatar for strengthening cooperation in the field of Tourism. The main objectives of the MoU are : It will create favourable conditions for long-term co-operation in the field of tourism for the mutual benefits.It will help in exchange of expertise, publications, information/data and statistics related to tourism. It will encourage cooperation through the exchange of programmes, propaganda and advertising materials, publications, films, promotion and marketing of their tourism products via media etc. It will help in exchange visits of tour operators/media/opinion makers for promotion of two way tourism. It will help in encouraging the co-operation between tourism sectors, tour operators, travel agents and other tourism private sector's firms and bureaus in the two countries. It will also help in encouraging public and the private sectors to invest in tourism. Other Cabinet approvals related to MoU with Qatar : Cooperation in Skill Development and Recognition of qualifications: It will facilitate workforce mobility, skill development and placement of youth in overseas jobs in Qatar. Signing and ratification of Agreement on Co-operation and Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters: It aims at entering into a bilateral Agreement on co-operation Customs matters. It will help in availability of relevant information for the prevention and investigation of Customs offences. It will also facilitate trade and ensure efficient clearance of goods traded between the countries.

The Union Cabinet has approved setting up of the India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) as a Public Limited Company under the Department of Posts, with 100% Government of India (GOI) equity on 1 June 2016 . These banks will be established at an expense of 800 crore rupees and rolled out in the entire country in a phased manner. The IPPB will obtain banking licence from RBI by March 2017 and by September 2017. India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) : It will allow all citizens of India, especially the 40% of the country's population that is outside the ambit of formal banking in the country will benefit from this project. Its services will be available across the country through 650 payments bank branches, linked post offices and alternative channels riding on modern technology including mobiles, ATMs, PoS/m-PoS devices etc and simple digital payments. It will help is furthering the cause of financial inclusionIt will generate new employment opportunities for skilled banking professionals and will generate opportunities for propagating financial literacy across the country. It will create the largest bank in the world in terms of accessibility and in time, will encourage the move towards a less cash economy. Setting-up of the IPPB to further financial inclusion was one of the budgetary announcements during 2015-16. The Department of Posts had obtained the "in-principle approval" of the RBI in September 2015 to set up the India Post Payments Bank. The India Post Payments Bank will leverage the Department’s network, reach, and resources to make simple, low-cost, quality financial services easily accessible to customers all over the country.  

The state government has decided to create more than 500 new panchayats to streamline administration at the grassroots level.  A decision to this effect was taken at the meeting of the state cabinet presided over by chief minister Naveen  Patnaik. Proposal for necessary amendment of the Odisha Gram Panchayat Act to facilitate creation of more panchayats was approved. The panchayats having more than 10,000 population will be bifurcated in line with the poll manifesto of Biju Janata Dal (BJD) to create smaller panchayats. The 2014 BJD poll manifesto said all gram panchayats with a population of 1000 or more will be converted into gram panchayats in a phased manner to improve local governance and service delivery. Reservation of panchayats will now be decided after one term instead of the provision of two terms earlier. Besides, it was decided that no-confidence motion in a panchayat cannot be moved against a  sarpanch before two and a half years instead of the existing provision of two years. The Odisha Gram Panchayat Act will have to be amended to incorporate the changes. Sources said the state government is likely to amend the Act in the ongoing budget session of the assembly. A proposal to set up a health university also received cabinet nod. All medical colleges of the state will function under the new health university which will have its headquarters in the capital city. Counselling, registration, administration and internal examinations will be managed by the new university. The Housing and Urban Development department to amend to the Bihar  Orissa Places of Pilgrimage Act was approved at the meeting. As per the decision, the Puri Collector will henceforth look after the lodging of ‘Habisyalis' visiting Puri instead of the revenue divisional commissioner (RDC).   Besides, a proposal to recruit established sportspersons in Group-B government jobs and state owned public sector undertakings also got the Cabinet approval. The cabinet also approved a proposal for cash credit of Rs15 crore to the Aska sugar factory.

The New Development Bank (NDB) of the BRICS countries is set to issue its first yuan-denominated bonds with plans to release more bonds in local currencies including in Indian Rupee. The Shanghai-based bank founded by Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) and headed by eminent Indian banker K V Kamath plans to finance sustainable development projects in the emerging markets and developing countries. The bank’s first five-year yuan-denominated bonds, also referred as green bonds, will be issued after receiving a rating from international ratings agencies as well as getting authorities’ approval, said Paolu Nogueira Batista, the bank’s vice president for economic research, strategy and partnerships and chief risk officer. More bonds denominated in local currencies of the BRICS countries, including the rupees in India, will be issued if the bank’s board and local authorities endorse the project plans, he said while outlining bank’s plans on Monday at the closing ceremony of the Shanghai Forum, an annual meeting of officials, academics, business chiefs and world opinion leaders, state-run ‘China Daily’ reported. The New Development Bank is established with initial subscribed capital of USD 50 billion with total paid-in capital of USD 10 billion. The founding members of the NDB have already brought in capital of USD one billion as initial contribution. The bank announced its first batch of loans on April 16, providing USD 300 million to Brazil, USD 81 million to China, USD 250 million to India and USD 180 million to South Africa.Together with the China-backed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), the NDB was expected to contribute to infrastructure development, specially in the Asian region along with IMF, World Bank and Asian Development Bank. India is the only country among the BRICS countries whose GDP continues to grow above seven per cent while the rest of the economies including that of China reported sharp slowdown.Chinese economy slipped to 6.9 per cent last year. The NDB aims to be a global lender instead of being limited to being an institution for just a handful of countries, Batista said. It wants to expand and be involved in more countries in the future, on condition that the emerging markets and developing countries take a majority of shares and voting rights in the bank

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA), chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 1 June 2016 approved for Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for Kharif Crops of 2016-17 season. The prices will come into effect from effective from 1 October 2016.  The higher MSPs would increase investment and production through assured remunerative prices to farmers. The approved MSP is based on recommendations of Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) which takes into account the cost of production, overall demand-supply among others. Above the recommendations of the CACP, the CCEA decided to give a bonus of 425 rupees per quintal for Kharif pulses like Arhar (Tur), Urad and Moong, a bonus of 200 rupees per quintal for Sesamum and a bonus of 100 rupees per quintal for kharif oilseeds like Groundnut-in-shell, Sunflowerseed, Soyabean, and Nigerseed.  This is expected to give a strong price signal to farmers to increase acreage and invest for increase in productivity of pulses and oilseeds. Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) :  It is an attached office of the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare which came into existence in January 1965. It is mandated to recommend minimum support prices (MSPs) to incentivize the cultivators to adopt modern technology, and raise productivity and overall grain production in line with the emerging demand patterns in India.CACP submits its recommendations to the government in the form of Price Policy Reports every year, separately for five groups of commodities namely Kharif crops, Rabi crops, Sugarcane, Raw Jute and Copra.

The Union Cabinet on 1 June 2016 gave its ex-post facto approval to the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Directorate General of Civil Aviation of India (DGCA) and the French Civil Aviation Authority. The MoU was signed to implement Technical Cooperation Programme for promotion and implementation of Standards and Recommended Practices of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).  Highlights of the MoU : The Technical Cooperation programme will be beneficial for enhancement of skills and expertise of DGCA’s officers.  This MoU is also beneficial for implementation of the cooperation between the two parties for imparting training of engineers, technicians, managers etc. It will also include any other subject that is relevant to the common DGAC and DGCA areas of interest.  The specific activities to be performed by DGCA of India and French Civil Aviation Authority under this MOU will be carried out by mutual consent.The MoU would be for a term of four years.  Actions agreed upon by both sides for implementation of MoU  : By exchanging information concerning the various techniques used to reach the objectives By sending French experts or instructors to India for training missions By receiving experts, or instructors of India, in France for training missions.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has released the National Disaster Management Plan (NDMP). The plan aims to make India disaster resilient and reduce loss of lives  on 1 June 2016. It is the first of its kind of national plan prepared in India. It emphasizes on a greater need for Information, Education and Communication activities to prepare communities to cope with disasters. The plan is based on the four priority themes of the Sendai Framework namely: a.Understanding disaster risk, b. Improving disaster risk governance, c.Investing in disaster risk reduction (through structural and non-structural measures), d. Disaster preparedness, early warning and building back better in the aftermath of a disaster. Features of the Plan :  It covers all phases of disaster management: prevention, mitigation, response and recovery. It provides for horizontal and vertical integration among all the agencies and departments of the government.The plan also spells out the roles and responsibilities of all levels of government right up to Panchayat and Urban Local Body level in a matrix format. The plan has a regional approach that will be beneficial for disaster management along with development planning. It is designed in such a way that it can be implemented in a scalable manner in all phases of disaster management. It also identifies major activities such as early warning, information dissemination, medical care, fuel, transportation, search and rescue, evacuation, etc. to serve as a checklist for agencies responding to a disaster.It also provides a generalized framework for recovery and offers flexibility to assess a situation and build back better.

Rahul Johri on 1 June 2016 assumed charge as first ever chief executive officer (CEO) of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in Mumbai.  He was appointed on the recommendation of the Justice Lodha Committee. About Rahul Johri : He will be report to the BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke and will be based at headquarters of BCCI in Mumbai.He will be responsible for “smooth functioning of operations, stakeholder management and building robust strategies for promoting of sport.Before joining BCCI, he served as Asia Pacific's Executive Vice-President for Discovery Networks and General Manager for South Asia.He had an experience in the media industry over 20 plus years.He is widely respected in the broadcasting industry for converting Discovery to a 11-channel bouquet.He was associated with Discovery Networks for the last 15 years and was leading South Asia operations for the past eight years.