Current Affairs 19th November 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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World Toilet Day was observed on 19 November 2016 with an aim to motivate millions across the world on issues of sanitation. The theme for 2016 World Toilet Day is ‘toilets and jobs’. The theme, toilets and jobs, focuses on how sanitation or the lack of it can impact livelihoods of people. The day also calls for action to help about 2.4 billion people who live without a toilet. Important Fact : The Sustainable Development Goals, which was launched in 2015, also includes a target to ensure everyone everywhere has access to toilets by 2030. Sanitation is a global development priority. World Health Organization (WHO)/UNICEF 2015 report says that 2.4 billion People live without improved sanitation. It also says that one in every ten people has no choice but to defecate in the open. WAS-Hwatch 2016 says that diarrhoea caused by poor sanitation and unsafe water annually kills 315000 children.International Labour Organization (ILO) 2003 report says poor sanitation and hygiene practices helps in transmitting disease at work. This transmission causes 17 percent of all workplace deaths. Hutton 2012 report says that loss of productivity due to illnesses caused by lack of sanitation and poor hygiene practices is estimated to cost many countries up to 5 percent of GDP UN General Assembly in July 2013 adopted the “Sanitation for All’ Resolution (A/RES/67/291), designating 19 November as World Toilet Day. The Day is coordinated by UN-Water in collaboration with Governments and relevant stakeholders Availability of toilets, play an important role in improving health as well as in protecting people’s safety and dignity, particularly women’s and girls’. It also helps in creating string economy.  

The world’s first Genetic Garden of Halophytes (naturally occurring salt-tolerant plants) was inaugurated at the coastal town of Vedaranyam in Tamil Nadu. The first of its kind garden in the world was inaugurated by Mauritius President Ameenah Gurib Fakim through video-conferencing. The garden has been set up by M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) founded by eminent agriculture scientist Prof M S Swaminathan, father of Indian Green Revolution.  It will have over 1,600 species belonging to 550 genera and 117 families of Halophytes plants. Initially it will comprise halophytes occurring along the coasts of India including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Halophytes are salt-tolerant or salt-resistant plants. They can thrive and complete their life cycles in soils or waters containing high salt concentrations.  They constitute two per cent of terrestrial plant species. Significance Halophytes plants are important in the context of increasing salinisation of land especially due sea level rise because of climate change and global warming. In recent times, alarming rise in the sea level has prompted agriculture scientists to call for the cultivation of saline-tolerant crops in light danger of sea intrusion. In future, anticipatory research of these plants could reap rich rewards to mitigate impact of climate change as they can provide food for people, fodder for livestock, bio fuel and also can be used for ornamental purposes.  

The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) signed three Bilateral Advance Pricing Agreements (APAs) with the Competent Authority of United Kingdom (UK) to reduce tax litigation.  Earlier both countries had exchanged mutual agreements amongst them under the Mutual Agreement Procedure (MAP) Article of the India-UK Double Taxation Avoidance Convention (DTAC). With this, CBDT so far has entered into 111 APAs.  These three APAs cover international transactions in the nature of payment of intra-group service charges and pertain to the telecom industry. They also have a roll-back provision. The APA Programme was introduced by Finance Act, 2012 with a view to provide a predictable and non-adversarial tax regime and to reduce litigation in Indian transfer pricing arena. Rollback of APAs was announced in the Budget in July 2014.  An APA is usually signed between taxpayer and central tax authority on an appropriating transfer pricing methodology for determining the value of assets and taxes on intra-group overseas transactions. An APA can be entered into for a maximum of 5 years at a time. It seeks to introduce certainty in tax law by reducing compliance costs and make tax regime investment friendly. It provides certainty to taxpayers regarding transfer pricing that aim to avoid disputes between taxpayer and tax regulator. Boost to economy and ease of doing business. Provide alternative path to the investors with rollback provision to reduce litigation Strengthen Government’s mission of fostering a non-adversarial tax regime.

The Union government has appointed Jagdish Singh Khehar, a judge of the Supreme Court, as the new Executive Chairman of the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA). He succeeds Anil R. Dave who retired as Judge of Supreme Court after completing tenure of over six years. National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)  : NALSA provides for free legal aid to the poor and weaker sections of the society. It has been constituted under the Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987.  Its aim is to ensure that opportunities for securing justice are not denied to any citizen by reasons of economic or other disabilities. NALSA also identifies specific categories of marginalised and excluded groups and formulates various schemes for implementation of legal service programmes.  It provides services of free legal aid in civil and criminal matters for the poor and marginalised people who cannot afford the services of a lawyer in any court or tribunal. It also organises Lok Adalats for amicable settlement of disputes. It works in close coordination with various State Legal Services Authorities, District Legal Services Authorities and other agencies.

The COP22 to the UNFCC, 12th session of COP of Parties to Kyoto Protocol (CMP 12), and first session of COP of Parties to the Paris Agreement (CMA 1) were held in Marrakech, Morocco. Nearly 200 nations attending the COP22 to the UNFCC have adopted Marrakech Action Proclamation for Our Climate and Sustainable Development. The 11-day meeting concluded with all participating member nations collectively reaffirming their commitment to climate action under Paris Agreement adopted in November 2015. It is urgent duty of countries to respond global warming which is warming the climate at an alarming and unprecedented rate. It is necessary for rapid entry into force of the Paris Agreement with its ambitious goals, its inclusive nature and its reflection of equity and common but differentiated responsibilities. Countries affirm their commitment to full implementation of the Paris Agreement which also reflects respective capabilities in light of different national circumstances of countries. The nations demanded solidarity with those countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It highlighted the need to support efforts aimed at enhancing their adaptive capacity, to strengthen resilience and to reduce vulnerability of most vulnerable countries. The countries called for an increase in the volume, flow and access to finance for climate projects, alongside improved capacity and technology. Developed Country Parties, reaffirm our $100 billion mobilisation goal. The nations, who are parties to Kyoto Protocol (which does not include the US) should ratify of the Doha Amendment, with its focus on pre-2020 action. Called for urgently raising ambition and strengthening cooperation among the countries to close the gap between current emissions trajectories. Strengthen and support efforts to eradicate poverty, ensure food security and to take stringent action to deal with climate change challenges in agriculture. The adaptation of Marrakech Action Proclamation sends out a strong signal to the world on climate action and shift towards a new era of implementation and action on climate and sustainable development. India has welcomed Marrakesh Action Proclamation as most of its demands including the issue of providing finance to developing nations to tackle climate change has been incorporated. It was made for extending the obligation of the developed countries under Kyoto Protocol to make targeted cuts in their greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions by 2020. The Kyoto Protocol adopted in 1997 had initially assigned GHGs emission cut targets to the developed countries only till 2012. Developing countries are putting pressure on developed countries not to ignore their commitments under Kyoto Protocol which ends in 2020 and after which Paris Agreement come into existence. Unlike the Kyoto Protocol, Paris Agreement is not legally-binding and it does not assign any emission cut targets on any country. Under Paris Agreement, every country decides for itself the actions that it wants to take to fight climate change.

Federal Bank and digital payment server Oxigen have joined hands to allow over 3 lakh retail outlets of the latter to remit cash collected from customers to the bank through its e-collection platform.  As per the arrangement, three lakh plus retail outlets of Oxigen can now remit their cash collection at the Federal Bank branches pan India. This helps the outlets to get replenished their running limits on the spot enabling them to continue to serve the customers hassle free. Federal Bank will leverage its e-collection platform to validate the details of the outlets on a real time basis, before accepting the payment.  Oxigen deals in services like money transfer, domestic money remittance, digital payments as well as facilities like making payments for utility services.  Our powerful e-collection platform is supporting synergistic partnerships like the one with Oxigen which is the largest e-collection arrangement that the bank has done till date. We are giving added thrust at Delhi and NCR for more such corporate partnerships and alliances. Federal Bank is giving added thrust at Delhi and NCR for more such corporate partnerships and alliances.

Yes Bank has partnered with Crownit, amerchant discovery and privileges platform, to launch digitised meal vouchers. The app based digital meal wallet can be linked with a Meal Debit MasterCard which enables employees to avail unlimited food, beverage & grocery redemption options . While eliminating the hassle of managing and distribution of paper currency for the employer, there is an integrated dashboard which allows them to update employee details and distribute meal vouchers with a single command. For employees, the solution promises ease of access and use, along with tax savings ranging up to INR 10,000 per employee per year.  Ritesh Pai, Senior President and Country Head Digital Banking, YES BANK has always been at the forefront of digital payments for which we have partnered with Crownit enabling us to focus on contributing towards digitally driven economy whilst driving delightful customer experiences. This system is a step towards paperless transactions thus being environment friendly along with simplifying the complicated process of distribution and maintenance for employers while delivering multiple benefit.   

 Indian Cricketer Sachin Tendulkar inaugurated projects worth Rs 6 crore at his adopted village of Puttamrajuvari Kandriga in Andhra Pradesh. On this occasion he was adopted Gollapalli village in the same state under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna .It would be developed with an amount of Rs 3.05 crore Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna : Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAGY) is a rural development programme . This Yojana launched by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi on the birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan, on 11 October 2014 The distinct feature of this Yojana is that it is (a) demand driven (b) inspired by society (c) based on people's participation.

Bharti Airtel has merged its unit in Bangladesh with Robi Axiata Ltd., a unit of Axiata Group Berhad, a move which will form a strong No. 2 mobile phone operator in what is a fiercely competitive market led by Telenor unit Grameenphone.  Post the merger, Axiata and Airtel will hold 68.7% and 25% stake, respectively, in the combined entity which will have around 32.2 million customers and operate under the Robi Axiata brand. The remaining 6.3% stake will be held by Japan’s NTT DoCoMo . The merger is a part of Airtel's initiative to restructure operations in all markets where it trails one or more market leaders. The Indian market leader had entered Bangladesh by acquiring 70 per cent stake in Warid Telecom in 2010, which it raised to 100% in 2013.  Prior to the merger, Airtel was the fourth largest in Bangladesh among six operators, while Robi Axiata was ranked No. 2.  The Sunil Mittal-led telco said the merger was completed following the fulfilment of the condition precedents to the agreement and filing of the merger order with the Registrar of Joint Stock Companies and Firms of Bangladesh Court  Bharti Airtel's shares rose 2.2% to Rs.Earlier in January, Bharti Airtel's Managing Director and CEO (India and South Asia) Gopal Vittal had said that there was a compelling rationale for bringing together the strengths of both entities. He had then said that the combined entity will be well positioned to leverage the operational synergies to serve customers better.  Moody's Investors Service said that the merger of Bharti Airtel and Axiata Group's telecom units in Bangladesh will be "credit positive" for both parent companies.  It added that the Robi-Airtel merged entity will be the largest spectrum holder in both 900 Mhz and 1800 Mhz bands with 12 units and 17 units of such airwaves respectively. 

Iran for the first time ever has surpassed Saudi Arabia to become India’s top crude oil supplier. It was revealed by ship tracking data and a report compiled by Thomson Reuters Oil Research and Forecasts. Earlier, Iran used to be India’s second-biggest oil supplier after Saudi Arabia till 2010-11. However, it had ceded its position to Iraq after the tougher western countries sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear development programme. India’s oil imports from Iran have shot up after sanctions were lifted in January 2016. In October 2016, oil imports from Iran surged more than threefold as compared October 2015. In October 2016, India imported 7,89,000 barrels per day (bpd) from Iran compared to 6,97,000 bpd supplied by Saudi Arabia. In the January to October 2016 period, Saudi Arabia still holds India’s top supply spot, at an average of 8,30,000 bpd against Iraq’s 7,84,000 bpd and Iran’s 4,56,400 bpd. Iran produces almost 4 million bpd of oil and exports 2.4 million bpd. Its arch rival Saudi Arabia, has increased its capacity to refine oil rather than exporting more crude. Iranian price discounts has attracted purchases from India’s programme to build up its strategic petroleum reserves (SPR). For the SPR stocks, India imported 2 million barrels of Iran and is going to import another 4 million barrels in November 2016. Besides, buyers of Iranian oil which had stopped imports during the sanctions period again have returned. It includes, Indian refiners including Reliance Industries Ltd, operator of the world’s biggest refinery complex at Jamnagar.  

Scientists have improved the photosynthesis process in the plants to produce faster-growing crops. The breakthrough was published in the journal Science. They had used genetic modification technology to improve photosynthesis in the plants. This modification increased amount of sunlight energy crop plants can channel into food production. Significance The breakthrough has increased the yield in the experimental crop by 15 per cent. This is seen as a critical step towards increasing crop production to feed a growing global population. Photosynthesis :  Photosynthesis is a chemical process through which plants produce glucose and oxygen from carbon dioxide and  water, in presence of the light as a source of energy. Some bacteria and algae also produce their own food using photosynthesis.  The photosynthesis process is extremely important for plants to carry out essential growth and other life processes. It is also important for life on earth as it provides the oxygen that all other life depends on. Scientists had targeted plant’s natural Sun-protection mechanism. This mechanism evolved in plants along with its ability to produce food using sunlight energy. The Sun-protection mechanism evolved in plants to protect them from Sun damage by slowing down the photosynthesis by losing the excess heat. Scientists inserted extra copies of the genes responsible for this heat-loss switch in the plants to remove inefficiencies in crops resulting in loss of the excess heat. This gene stopped heat-loss switch and stopped the heat loss and used excess heat for enhancing photosynthesis.

The International Conference on Brucellosis 2016 and the 69th meeting of the International Society on Brucellosis was inaugurated in New Delhi. The three day conference has been organised by the Department of Biotechnology (DBT) in collaboration with Indian Council for Agriculture Research (ICAR). Provide a technical platform for scientist and experts from all over the world including Participants from 26 countries. Help endemic countries in designing effective control strategies and eradication methods as per the laws governing the livestock production systems. The conference is result of DBT’s network programme on Brucellosis launched in 2012 to address the epidemiology and development of new generation of vaccines and diagnostic kits. On the sidelines of the conference, Brucella Free Villages programme was also launched. It will be implemented on pilot scale in 50 villages covering 10 states. This programme will be supported by guidelines and standard operating practices along with an IT enabled application. Brucellosis  : Brucellosis is a dreadful disease caused by genus of bacteria known as Brucella. It infects various species of Brucella cows, buffalos, goats, sheep, pigs, dogs and other animals and also humans. Human become infected by this disease by coming in contact with animals or animal products (meat and milk) contaminated with these bacteria. The persons who are exposed to high risk of brucellosis infection are dairy man, veterinarians, butchers and other animal handlers. Human become infected by this disease by coming in contact with animals or animal products (meat and milk) contaminated with these bacteria. The persons who are exposed to high risk of brucellosis infection are dairy man, veterinarians, butchers and other animal handlers. Often it is diagnosed after ruling out all other fevers such as those caused by typhoid, malaria, dengue etc. Chronic brucellosis can be treated with triple-antibiotic therapy.

The 2016 World Internet Conference concluded on 18 November 2016 in Wuzhen, China. The theme of the 3rd World Internet Conference, which commenced on 16 November 2016, was Innovation-driven Internet Development for the Benefit of All – Building a Community of Common Future in Cyberspace. On the other hand, the World Internet Conference Internet Culture Forum was held in the Wuzhen Internet International Conference and Exhibition Center on 17 November 2016. The theme of the Forum was Mutual-learning among Civilizations and Development of the Internet Culture. The forum consisted of three parts with an opening at the beginning. Two panel discussions titled Enhancing People-to-People Exchanges, Promoting Mutual Learning Among Civilizations and Pushing for Better Cyberculture were conducted subsequently. World Internet Conference : The World Internet Conference is an annual event organized by government agencies in China. It is organised to discuss Internet issues and policy. It was first held in 2014.

The world’s earliest known complete stone inscription of Ten Commandments was sold at an auction in Beverly Hills, California for 850000 US Dollars on 16 November 2016. Weighing 200 pounds, the two-foot-square marble tablet, designated as Israel’s ‘national treasure’ was one among many Biblical artifacts owned by the Living Torah Museum in Brooklyn that went up for auction.  The opening bid on the piece was 300000 US Dollars. Tablet :  It is inscribed with 20 lines of letters in an early Hebrew script called Samaritan, jointly derived from Hebrew and Aramaic.   It famously lists the Ten Commandments, a set of biblical principles that play an important role in religions such as Judaism and Christianity.   Going by its letter forms, researchers believe that it was probably carved during the late Roman or Byzantine era (300-500 CE) to adorn the entrance of a synagogue, which was destroyed by the Romans between 400 and 600 CE or by the Crusaders during the 11th century.  It was first discovered in 1913 during an excavation for a railroad station near Yavneh in western Israel.   It was initially used by an Arab as a part of flooring in his private courtyard. Constant stepping wore out some of the letters at the centre of the slab. Y Kaplan acquired it in 1943, after which he got in experts and scholars to study it.  An antiquity dealer Robert Deutsch bought it in 1990s after which it was obtained by Rabbi Saul Deutsch for his Living Torah Museum in 2005.  Israeli Antiquities Authorities had allowed the export of the tablet to the United States in 2005 with just one condition that it should be displayed in a public museum.  The auction doesn’t imply that the stone inscription will be hidden away from public. In fact, going by the condition laid down by Israeli Antiquities Authorities, the new owner will have to display it for the public’s benefit.  Besides the ancient inscription, the auction also displayed other rare antiques including a nine-spouted ceramic oil lamp dating back to first century CE, which according to the experts is the earliest known Hanukkah menorah.

India is not inclined to automatically grant the coveted ‘Market Economy Status’ (MES) to China under World Trade Organisation (WTO) norms in December 2016. The main reason India is reluctant to grant MES to China is that it will severely curb India’s ability  to impose anti-dumping duties on “unfairly priced” Chinese imports. Earlier, US and the EU also had opposed to grant MES to China on the same issue. Market Economy Status (MES) :  Under WTO norms, once a country gets MES status, exports from it are to be accepted at the production costs and selling price as the benchmark. Prior to this status, country is considered as a Non Market Economy (NME). Under the WTO norms, the importing countries are allowed to use alternative methodologies for the determination of normal values for the exports from NME country. It often leads to imposition of higher anti-dumping duties by importing countries to protect its domestic market. MES issue of China :  As per the 2001 agreement (Protocol on accession of China to the WTO), WTO-member countries had then decided to deem China as a ‘market economy’ from December 2016. The 15-year time period (i.e. till December 2016) was given to China to carry out internal reforms and transition into a ‘market economy.’ This period allowed WTO member nations to ignore selling price and production costs in China for 15 years in calculating the ‘normal value’ of the exported goods. It also gave permission WTO member nations to compare prices or costs with external benchmarks to calculate the ‘normal value’ and ‘dumping margin’. However, unlike in ‘market economies’ where prices of items are market determined there is still a significant government influence in the Chinese market. So many countries are opposing to give MES status to China. main reasons for opposition :  Chinese government influence is still seen in its market which in turn causes distortions in international trade and export of cheap goods to other countries. It includes government subsidies for various sectors, currency ‘manipulation’ and the related ‘price fixing’, bad loans of banks and absence of transparency in lending rates, minimum wages and property rights, lack of proper business accounting standards etc. MES status to China, will severely limit India’s ability to resort to anti-dumping on cheap imports from China. It will have negative impact on India’s manufacturers in chemicals, steel, electrical and electronics sectors as they will be severely hurt by unfairly low-priced imports from China.

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