Today Current Affairs 4th November 2016

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The Union Government has imposed anti-dumping duty on imports of steel wire rods from China to protect domestic manufacturers from cheap in-bound shipments. In this regard, the Department of Revenue (DoR) has issued a notification mentioning that dumping duty has been imposed for six months. Chinese imports were taken based on the recommendation of Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD). DGAD in its investigation had found that steel wire rods were being exported by China below normal value and the domestic industry suffered material injury because of such cheap imports. Wire rod of alloy or non-alloy steel finds applications in many sectors such as automotive components, fasteners, welding electrodes, binding wires for construction industry and armoured cables. Anti-dumping duty is an import duty imposed by government on imported products which have prices less than their normal values or domestic price. Thus, it is protectionist and counter import measure used by a country under the multilateral World Trade Organisation (WTO) regime to protect its domestic producers and market from below-cost/cheap imports. It varies from product to product and from country to country. In India, anti-dumping duty to be levied is recommended by the Union Ministry of Commerce (i.e. by DGAD), while the Union Finance Ministry imposes it. So far, India has initiated maximum anti-dumping cases against “below-cost” imports from China.

Seventh century Chinese Buddhist pilgrim and scholar Xuan Zang (also spelled Hsuan Tsang)  stayed a couple of years in Bezawada (the old name of Vijayawada) to copy and study Buddhist scriptures.  In 630 AD, Xuan Zang came to India through Kashmir after visiting Central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan through the Silk Route. He had travelled from north to east during his 14-year stay and lived in Bihar for a couple of years.  At Nalanda University, Xuan Zang had interacted with scholars and students, mastered local languages and discovered Buddhist stupas. Xuan Zang travelled to Andhradesa to visit the Viharas (monasteries) at Amaravathi and Nagarjunakonda around 640 CE and stayed at Amaravathi for a couple of years.  During his stay, he had studied and copied the Abhidhammapitakam, the last of the three pitakas (Pali for baskets) constituting the Pali canon, the scriptures of Theravada Buddhism. British chronicler and collector of Kistna Gordon Mackenzie in his manual written in 1883 recorded that Xuan Zang in his writing spoke about the kingdom of Anta-lo (Andhra) with its capital Ping-ki-lo (Vengi) and in Dhanakacheka (Dharani Kota?).  He also recorded that Xuan Zang described two Poorasaila (eastern hill) and Aparasaila (western hill) Buddhist monasteries. According to V.V. Krishna Sastry, former director of the united Andhra Pradesh Archaeology department these two monasteries are actually Moghalrajpuram caves and Akkannna Madanna caves located in the heart of Vijayawada. These Buddhist monasteries (Viharas) were converted into Hindu Cave temples during the reign of the Vishnukundins (reign was from 420 to 624). The writings of Xuan Zang about his travels in India are detailed accounts of the life of the people in the 7th century. Chinese government has used his work to establish that the relationship between India and China is 1,400 years old.  

The first titanium project of India has started its test production Ganjam district of Odisha. The project has been established by Saraf Group. This is first of its kind titanium plant and the only one in the country. During the test run, one of its four furnaces became functional. After inception, this plant is expected to produce 36,000 tons of titanium slag and 20,000 tons of pig iron per year. The raw material of the plant ilmenite would be procured from Odisha Sands Complex (OSCOM), a unit of Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL) in Ganjam district of Odisha as well as a private company which has its unit in Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.  Earlier in August 2015, Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) had fully commissioned and started commercial production at the first indigenous Titanium Sponge Plant at Chavara in Kerala.   This plant had commercially started producing Titanium Sponge exclusively for the space programme and strategic areas especially in aerospace and defence areas. With this commissioning India became the seventh country in the world producing Titanium sponge commercially.

Maharashtra has become the first state in the country to have a cyber-police station in each district to take on cyber criminals. In this regard, state government is converting 42 state-of-the-art cybercrime labs into cyber police stations simultaneously.  These cyber police stations will also be set up at police commissionerate and Range IG offices. Any offence related to cybercrime will be registered in these police stations at district level. Besides, additional cyber police stations will also be set up in some cities. The cyber-crime wing of Maharashtra government had proposed to set up 51 cyber-crime labs across the state take on cyber criminals. These included 34 labs at the district level, 7 labs at Inspector General’s offices, 9 labs at Commissioner of Police offices and 1 lab at the state police headquarters. Earlier in August 2016, state government had inaugurated 34 well equipped cyber labs in all districts. In last few years, cyber-crime in Maharashtra has risen by a whopping 142.1%. Even cybercrime cases in tier-II cities and also in rural areas also have increased in Maharashtra. For the normal local police stations, tackling cyber-crimes is a daunting task owing to lack technical knowledge and of proper training.  However, the cyber labs have trained manpower and modern equipment to deal with the new age crimes in the cyber world.

The GST council has approved four tier tax structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28 percent under the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST). There will be two standard tax rates- 12 percent and 18 percent under the GST. Under the tax structure of 5, 12, 18 and 28 percent, the lower rates will be applicable for essential items and the highest for luxury and de-merits goods that will also attract an additional cess. Highlights : Essential items including food, which presently constitute roughly half of the consumer inflation basket, will be taxed at zero rate. The lowest rate of 5 percent will be for common use items while there will be two standard rates of 12 and 18 percent under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime. Most white goods like washing machines, air conditioners, refrigerators, shampoo, shaving stuff and soap will be taxed at 28 percent (with riders).The highest tax slab will be applicable to items which are currently taxed at 30-31 percent (excise duty plus VAT). Demerit goods or sin goods such as luxury cars, pan masala, aerated drinks, and tobacco and tobacco products, will invite a tax of 28 percent plus the cess which could vary between 40 percent and 65 percent. There has been no consensus yet on tax rate for gold. The collection from this cess as well as that of the clean energy cess will create a revenue pool which will be used for compensating states for any loss of revenue during the first five years of implementation of GST. The cess will be lapsable after five years. Goods and Services Tax :  The GST is a single indirect tax, which will subsume most of the Central and State taxes such as the Value Added Tax (VAT), excise duty, service tax, central sales tax, additional customs duty and special additional duty of customs. The Tax was formed through the Constitution 122nd Amendment) (GST) Bill, 2014This bill was passed by both houses of Parliament in August 2016 and was ratified by 19 states. The bill needed ratification by the legislative assemblies of at least 50 percent of the states. The states that ratified the bill include Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Himachal Pradesh, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Nagaland, Maharashtra, Haryana, Sikkim, Mizoram, Telangana, Goa, Odisha, Rajasthan, Arunachal Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh.

Legendary Sri Lankan singer and composer Pandit Amaradeva passed away on 3 November 2016 following a cardiac arrest. He was 88. He had been the recipient of many international honours including Padma Shri for his contribution to music. Pandit Amaradeva : Pandit Amaradeva was born as Wannakuwatta Waduge Don Albert Perera. He drew inspiration from classical Indian ragas as well as Sri Lanka’s own rich traditions of folk music and went on to create Sinhala music.He was considered to be the creator of a unique music style which was later practiced by artists like Victor Ratnayake, Sunil Edirisinghe and Sanath. He represented Sri Lanka in many forums including the UNESCO Manila Symposium in 1967.   He also composed the music for the Maldivian National Anthem (Gaumii salaam) in 1972 at the request of Maldivian Government.  He received several awards including the Ramon Magsaysay Award (2001), Padma Shri (2002) and Sri Lankan President’s Award of Kala Keerthi (1986) and Deshamanya Award (1998).

The Paris Agreement officially entered into force on 4 November 2016. The agreement deals with greenhouse gases emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance. The Paris Agreement’s entry into force comes a month after countries representing 55 per cent of the world’s emissions committed to joining the deal. As of November 2016, 192 states and the European Union have signed the Agreement; 97 of those parties have ratified or acceded to the Agreement, most notably China, the United States and India. Paris Agreement : The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The language of the agreement was negotiated by representatives of 195 countries at the 21st Conference of the Parties of the UNFCCC in Paris and adopted by consensus on 12 December 2015. It was opened for signature on 22 April 2016 in a ceremony in New York City. As of November 2016, 193 UNFCCC members have signed the treaty, 97 of which have ratified it.  After the European Union ratified the agreement in October 2016, there were enough countries that had ratified the agreement that produce enough of the world's greenhouse gases for the agreement to enter into force. Significance of the agreement : The global environmental protocol took into account the principle of common but differentiated responsibility (CBDR) to ensure climate justice which has been advocated by India for a long time. It strikes the right balance between national developmental needs of developing and small island nations and global environmental necessities by incorporating the INDCs under which countries will publicly outline what post-2020 climate actions they intend to take.It was adopted in the light of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in particular its goal 13 that advocates for urgent action to combat climate change.  

An Inter-Ministerial Committee of the Information and Broadcasting Ministry in the first week of November 2016 asked for one-day ban on a leading Hindi News Channel, NDTV India from 12.01 A.M. of 9 November to 12.01 A.M. of 10 November 2016. The channel is facing the possibility of a complete blackout for 24 hours for revealing strategically-sensitive information during its coverage of the anti-terror operations at the Pathankot airbase in January 2016. The telecast under scanner was aired on 2 January 2016 when Indian military forces were preparing their counter attack strategy at the Pathankot airbase. The order by the Inter-Ministerial Committee claimed that the channel revealed several confidential details like location of the ammunition depot, details of arms cache and fighter planes, details of schools and residential areas located around the airbase, endangering lives of both civilians and defense personnel. According to the Committee, such an act is in clear violation of the programme code under Cable TV Network Rules, 1994 that prevents live coverage of any anti-terrorist operation by security forces. The rules also limit the media to carrying only the periodic briefing given by designated government officials like Deputy Inspector General of Police (DIG) or National Security Guard (NSG) until the operation is concluded. If the order does indeed get carried out, then it would be the first order against a broadcaster for its coverage of anti-terror operations.  Pathankot Terror Attack 2016  : The 2016 Pathankot Terror Attack was committed on 2 January 2016 by a heavily armed Islamist militant group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, which attacked the Pathankot Air Force Station. The attack was followed up by a swift anti-terror operation by Indian security forces that ran up until 5 January 2016 and ended with the killings of all 6 terrorists. 7 Indian jawans were also martyred in the gun battle.

The Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, will be hosting the Seventh Session of the Conference of Parties (COP7). The Conference will be inaugurated by J P Nadda, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare. The Conference will be held from 7 November to 12 November 2016, at India Exposition Mart, Greater Noida, District Gautam Buddha Nagar, Uttar Pradesh. It is the first occasion that a Conference of Parties meeting is being held in India. It signals a strong commitment of the Government of India to increase international co-operation and awareness of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) globally and especially in the WHO South-East Asia Region. The Conference will lead into Delhi Declaration for supporting measures for tobacco control. WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control  : The WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is the first global evidence-based public health treaty.It recognises the right of all people to the highest standard of health. The Treaty was developed by countries in response to the globalization of the tobacco epidemic. There are currently 180 Parties to the Convention.  India has been the forerunner in ratification of the public health treaty and was the 7th Country to ratify the Convention in 2004. India ratified the treaty on 27th February 2005 and is therefore obligated to comply with the treaty provisions and its guidelines to reduce tobacco consumption globally. India provided a leadership role in the negotiations of FCTC and was also the Regional Coordinator for the South-East Asia Region. Conference of Parties : The Conference of the Parties (COP) is the Governing Body of the WHO FCTC and is comprised of all Parties to the Convention.  It keeps under regular review the implementation of the Convention and takes the decisions necessary to promote its effective implementation. It may also adopt protocols, annexes and amendments to the Convention.The regular sessions of COP are held at two yearly intervals.  

Indian researcher Shamik Chowdhury in the last week of October 2016 was awarded the German Green Talent Award. His name is among the list of 25 young researchers who have been honoured with the award. The award was conferred to Shamik Chowdhury by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research for his innovative approach in sustainable development, resource efficiency, cleaner production and eco-innovation. Shamik Chowdhury : Shamik Chowdhury is currently doing his PhD in environmental engineering from the National University of Singapore (NUS). He also holds a BTech and Mtech degree in Biotechnology. His main area of focus is creating green technologies based on renewable feedstocks to improve quality of urban living.  He was previously awarded with the Sustainable Technology Award from the Institution of Chemical Engineers (Singapore) in 2015 for his research on carbon capture using innovative absorbents.He was also conferred with the President’s Graduate Fellowship by NUS for his doctoral study and research. He has written and reviewed manuscripts for prominent journals and presented papers at several international conferences. Green Talents Award : The Green Talents Award is an award hosted by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) every year to promote international exchange of innovative green ideas.  The year 2016 saw the eighth edition of the award. Conducted with support of Minister Professor, Johanna Wanka, the award gives recognition to the achievements of young researchers from countries world over. The winners are selected by a jury consisting of high- ranking German experts.

High Court of United Kingdom has ruled that Government does not have the power to invoke Article 50 of the European Union treaty on 3 November 2016. It held that Prime Minister Theresa May can’t start the BREXIT process without approval from Parliament. Britain's plans to leave the European Union hit a large speed bump when the High Court ruled that the Government cannot start exit negotiations without a vote in Parliament. Britain votes to exit European Union in historic referendum High Court’s decision came while hearing a plea of a group of British citizens who opposes BREXIT. The court’s ruling also opens a major constitutional battle over the balance of power between Parliament and the government. Earlier, Prime Minister May has said that she will use centuries-old powers known as royal prerogative to invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty, which launches two years of exit negotiations, by the end of March 2017. The powers - traditionally held by the monarch but now used by politicians - enable decisions about international treaties and other issues to be made without a vote of Parliament. Government’s response : The government has said that high court’s decision will be challenged in the Supreme Court.  It also said that the ruling could frustrate its timetable for BREXIT. The Supreme Court is expected to hear the Government's appeal in December 2016. BREXIT Secretary, David Davis said that 17.4 million Leave voters had given the government the biggest mandate in history to leave the EU. BREXIT referendum : People of Britain in a referendum on 24 June 2016 voted in favour of leaving European Union (EU). The referendum ‘to leave’ or ‘to be a member’ of EU saw 51.9% votes in favour compared to 48.1% in against.  Referendum turnout was higher than at 2015 general election. Northern Ireland, London and Scotland voted strongly to stay back with the EU while the Wales and the English shires backed Britain exit (Brexit) from the EU.  

Lebanon’s newly elected president charged former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to form a new government after he secured a majority in parliament. Hariri was endorsed by 110 members of the 127-seat parliament, with only the Shiite Hezbollah movement, the Syrian Social National Party and the Lebanese Baath party  all supporters of Syria’s government  declining to back him as prime minister. Hariri returns to the post of prime minister five years after his last cabinet collapsed when his longtime rival Hezbollah and its allies pulled their ministers from a unity government that had taken months to form. He is the son of former prime minister Rafik Hariri, who was assassinated in a massive seaside bombing in 2005 in Beirut.

State Bank of India (SBI) has cut home loan rates to a 9.1% -the lowest in six years -as part of a festive scheme. The rate cut comes on the back of a general interest rate reduction last week when SBI reduced its benchmark rates by 15 basis points . In terms of the festival scheme, home loans for women (or loans with women as co-borrowers) will be available for 20bps above the benchmark rate, which translates into 9.1%. For all other borrowers, home loans will be available at 9.15%. The festival rates will be available for loans sanctioned in November and December 2016 and where disbursement is taking place in a month.  SBI's cheapest home loans are now 20bps lower than ICICI Bank and HDFC's cheapest home loan rate of 9.3%.  SBI's aggressive cut in home loan rates comes at a time when the banking sector is seeing an extremely sluggish growth in loans.  The corporate loan books of most banks have shrunk as companies are shifting to the bond market. Despite negative growth in corporate loans, overall bank credit has grown by 1.6% in FY17 (as of mid-October) due to home loans which are growing at 18%.  The latest round of rate cut will be available only for new borrowers as the bank has done this by revising the spread over the benchmark. SBI's benchmark rate is the one-year Marginal Cost of Lending Rate (MCLR), which has been effective from April 2016. Earlier, loans were priced in relation to the older benchmark -the base rate. The MCLR is revised every month for new borrowers. But once a customer avails of a loan, he is locked into the MCLR for a year.  While lower home loan rates reduce SBI's margins, they help the bank in deploying resources which are piling up as bank deposits are growing at a faster clip compared to bank loans. 

BSE aimed to operationalise the international exchange by early next year. Mock trading for the same commenced from October 3. The BSE board at its meeting held on May 5, 2016, had approved creation of two fully-owned subsidiary companies for the purpose of setting up the first international exchange and clearing corporations. BSE in August had announced that its international stock exchange would provide a platform to trade on equity, commodity and currency and interest rate derivatives for Indian and foreign investors. The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) is the regulator for the securities market in India. It was established in the year 1992 and given required  powers on 12 April 1992 through the SEBI Act, 1992.

The 10th Command Level Navy Coast Guard (COMNAVGUARD) meeting was held in Visakhapatnam on November 2, 2016 to discuss inter-operatability issues between Navy and Coast Guard. The meeting was co-chaired by Chief of Staff, Eastern Naval Command (ENC), Vice Admiral Atul Kumar Jain and Inspector General Rajan Bargotra, Commander, Coast Guard Region (East) and Inspector General K R Nautiyal, Commander Coast Guard Region (North East), along with senior officers of Navy and Coast Guard. They are also discussed to enhance synergy of operation, sharing of resources and futuristic plans to enhance effectiveness of the Naval and Coast Guard operations on the east coast.

The joint military training exercise “Sampriti-2016” will be conducted between India and Bangladesh at Tangail, Dhaka, Bangladesh from 05 to 18 November 2016.  Exercise SAMPRITI is an important bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and Bangladesh and will be the sixth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.

An Indian Foreign Service (IFS) Sanjiv Arora has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Republic of Lebanon by Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).  Lebanon, officially known as the Lebanese Republic, is a sovereign state in Western Asia. It is bordered by Syria to the north and east and Israel to the south, whilst Cyprus is west across the Mediterranean Sea.  

Leading global professional network LinkedIn  has signed an agreement with the human resource development ministry to create more job opportunities for Indian students. As part of the MoU, LinkedIn’s ‘Placements’ product will be adopted by all Indian colleges affiliated with All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE). Placements’ provides a level-playing field for all students, regardless of their location or college and allows them to take an online assessment test, which gives them direct access to thousands of openings in 35 top corporates in India. Placements’ was piloted in November 2015 and then LinkedIn opened the product in September 2016 to students at all colleges and universities in India. In less than eight weeks from the launch, over two lakh students registered for the product and there were over 1.2 million job applications.

Union Government has decided to launch a 2 billion US dollar clean energy equity fund. The fund is being created to support government's ambitious target of adding 175 GW renewable energy generation capacity by 2022. The government will launch the fund jointly with state-run power entities namely, National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC), Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) and Power Finance Corporation Limited (PFC). As per reports, the New and Renewable Energy Ministry has already processed the proposal and sent it to the Finance Ministry to initiate a 2 billion dollar clean energy equity fund to push renewable energy capacity addition as envisaged by the union government. The report also says that the initial seed funding will be done by the union government to set up this fund from the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund. In addition, the government is also seeking to collect 4 billion dollar per year in the next 3-4 years for a clean energy fund.  Ahead of the Paris climate talks in November 2015, Power, Coal, New and Renewable Energy Minister Piyush Goyal had said that the government is planning a 1 billion dollar private equity fund for the renewable energy sector.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has presented the Ramnath Goenka Awards for Excellence in Journalism at a function in New Delhi. The honour acknowledges exceptional work across 28 categories in print, broadcast and online journalism in English, Hindi and regional languages. Ramnath Goenka was an Indian newspaper publisher. He launched The Indian Express and created the Indian Express Group with various English and regional language publications. Award Winner  Prakash Rakesh Kardaley Memorial Award for Civic Journalism Christin Mathew Philip (The Times of India) Uncovering India Invisible Print: Ashwaq Masoodi (Mint) Broadcast: Sarada Lahangir (Kalinga TV) Hindi Print: Santosh Kumar (India Today) Broadcast: Sanjay Nandan (ABP news), Syeda Afifa Khatoon (NEWS24) Regional Languages Print: Firos Khan M (Madhyamam Daily), Nileena Atholi (Mathrubhumi) Broadcast: Pramod Shastri G (TV9) Sports Journalism Print: Devendra Pandey (The Indian Express) Broadcast: Sanjeeb Mukherjea (CNN-IBN) Reporting from J&K and the Northeast Print: Esha Roy (The Indian Express) and Maddipatla Rajshekhar ( Broadcast: Shubhajit Sengupta (CNN-IBN) Environmental reporting Print: Pritha Chatterjee, Aniruddha Ghoshal (The Indian Express) Broadcast: Sushil Chandra Bahuguna (NDTV India) Business and Economic Journalism Print: Khushboo Narayan (The Indian Express) and Rajeev Dubey (Business Today) Broadcast: Archana Shukla (CNBC TV18) Foreign Correspondent covering India Print: Victor John Mallet (Financial Times) Investigative reporting Print: Maneesha Pandey, Sandeep Pai (Newslaundry) Broadcast: Ganesh Suratchand Thakur (ABP news) On-the-spot reporting Print: Nayantara Narayan ( Broadcast: Aamir Rafiq Peerzada, Rakesh Solanky (NDTV) Feature writing: Shamik Bag (Mint), Sreedevi TV (Malayala Manorama) Reporting on Politics and Government Print: Ashutosh Bhardwaj (The Indian Express) Broadcast: Halimabi Abdul Kureshi (IBN Lokmat) Photo Journalism Burhan Kinu (Hindustan Times) Commentary and interpretative writing Anna MM Vetticad (BLink), Pramit Bhattacharya (Mint) Books Author: Akshaya Mukul (Non-fiction) Book: Gita Press & The Making of Hindu India Publication: Harper Collins Sanjiv Sinha Memorial Award for Excellence in Reporting Aditi Vatsa (The Indian Express) Priya Chandrashekar Memorial Award for Excellence in Editing Saikat Kumar Bose (The Indian Express)