Today Current Affairs 9th November 2016

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India’s first eco-friendly liquefied natural gas (LNG)-driven bus was launched in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The first pilot run of the eco-friendly bus was jointly flagged off by Union Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The LNG-driven bus was rolled out as part of the Centre’s plans to use LNG. Thus, it opens new chapter in the country’s transport sector which moves towards clean fuel. The project has been a joint effort of Petronet LNG Limited (PLL), Indian Oil Corporation Ltd (IOL) and Tata Motors Ltd.  As it is a pilot project, the LNG-driven bus will run on a trial basis and later after certification it will be launched for commercial application. LNG is considered to be a cleaner and safer fuel which emits 50% less carbon, for mass transportation. It eco-friendly and more economical compared to diesel for public transportation.

Asian Development Bank will provide the second tranche loan of USD 48 million to Assam to help the state expand and upgrade its power distribution system.  This is the second tranche loan of the USD 300 million multi-tranche financing facility for the Assam Power Sector Investment Programme that was approved by the ADB Board in July 2014.  The project will help Assam to enhance capacity and efficiency of its power distribution system to improve electricity service to end users. An agreement regarding the second tranche was signed between Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Union Government on Monday to help Assam continue its drive to improve access to efficient and reliable power, it added. In the first tranche, ADB had provided loan of USD 50 million in February last year. Increased access to reliable and modern power supply for remote communities can help meet growing demand. This loan will help strengthen Assam’s distribution system, improve energy efficiency and reduce technical and commercial losses. The project  is expected to be completed by December 2019 will help APDCL add an additional substation capacity, expand and improve medium voltage network. It will also reduce system losses by 3 per cent and enhance energy efficiency through renovation and modernisation of existing 33/11 kV substations.

China has decided to once again block India’s bid for Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) membership ahead of plenary meet of NSG in Vienna, Austria. Earlier, China along with few other member countries of NSG had blocked India’s membership proposal in the plenary meet of NSG in Seoul, South Korea in June 2016. NSG is an elite group or cartel of countries concerned with reducing nuclear proliferation by controlling the export and re-transfer of materials that may be used for development of nuclear weapons.  It was set up in 1974 as a reaction to India’s first successful nuclear tests (code name Smiling Buddha conducted on 18 May 1974) to stop so called misuse of nuclear material meant for peaceful purposes. NSG’s members are allowed to trade in and export nuclear technology. Currently, NSG has 48 members (including China) and works by consensus. Benefits for India by joining NSG :  NSG membership will be a significant boost for India which is seeking to expand its atomic energy sector. It will pave the way for India to access to the advance technology for a range of uses from medicine to building nuclear power plants. With this advance technology, India can commercialize the production of nuclear power equipment which will in turn boost innovation and high tech manufacturing in India.  It will give big boost to Make in India programme and exports as India will have ability to offer its own nuclear power plants to the world. It will make domestic nuclear industry companies comply with international norms and make it easier for them to trade in international market.  It will help realise India’s commitment to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and reduce burden of oil and gas for energy security. It will also help to realise India’s commitment to reduce dependence on fossil fuels to meet its commitment to tackle the issue of the climate change. Besides, it will recognition to India’s clean record track record in nuclear non-proliferation without being signatory of non-Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT) .  

The 9th Annual Meeting of International Regulatory Cooperation for Herbal Medicines (IRCH) was inaugurated in New Delhi. It has been organised by the Union Ministry of AYUSH and was inaugurated by Minister of State (MoS) for AYUSH Sripad Naik. In this meeting 19 member countries of IRCH with 36 delegates including experts from WHO are participating. The event would be utilized to show case AYUSH strength to these countries. International Regulatory Cooperation for Herbal Medicines (IRCH) :  IRCH is a global network of regulatory authorities created by World Health Organization (WHO) responsible for regulation of herbal medicines. It was established in 2006.  Its mission is to protect and promote public health and safety through improved regulation for herbal medicines. India is member of IRCH network since 2007. Objectives of IRCH: Globally promote and facilitate the safe use of herbal medicines, through regional initiatives, sharing information and fostering dialogue. Facilitate and strengthen cooperation between national regulatory authorities by sharing experience, knowledge and information related to regulation, efficacy, quality and safety of herbal medicines. Discuss existing standards and requirements to promote the efficacy, quality and safety of herbal medicines.  Recommend future activities to WHO related to the quality and safety of herbal medicines; Refer issues to the International Conference of Drug Regulatory Authorities and other bodies, where ever needed related to the quality herbal medicines.  Development of a process that addresses and resolves questions related to the regulation and safe use of herbal medicines; Establish communication network that fosters dialogue on the regulation and safe use of herbal medicines among the IRCH members. Develop efficient links between National Drug Regulatory Authorities and information focal points among the IRCH member countries through WHO.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has issued new series of notes for 500 rupees and 2,000 rupees denomination with improved features and newer sizes. These new series of notes was issued following Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s announcement that Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes now in use will no longer be legal tender. Both the designs of 500 rupees and 2,000 rupees notes is very friendly towards the visually-impaired by having features which make it accessible for all sections. 2,000 rupees note : It will be for the first time 2,000 rupees note denomination has been issued. It will be called as the ‘Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series’. The base colour of the note is magenta. Size of the new note is 66mm*166mm. It has a motif of the Mangalayan, the low-cost mission of ISRO to Mars on the reverse side and Mahatma Gandhi on front side. 500 rupee note : It has different colour, size, theme, design and location of security features compared to the old notes. It has portrait and electrotype watermarks. It will be in a stone grey in colour. The motif Delhi’s Red Fort is on reverse side and Mahatma Gandhi on front side. Size of the new note is 63mm*150mm.  

Billionaire-turned-politician Donald Trump has been elected the 45th President of the United States.  The Republican party candidate secured the support of 276 of the 538 members of the electoral college, beating Democratic party rival Hillary Clinton.  President-elect Trump will formally take charge of the Oval Office on January 20, 2017, dubbed as the 'Inauguration Day'. Donald John Trump : Donald John Trump is an American businessman, television producer. Trump was born and raised in New York City and received a bachelor's degree in economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. In 1971 he was given control of his father Fred Trump's real estate and construction firm and later renamed it The Trump Organization, rising to public prominence shortly thereafter. Trump has appeared at the Miss USApageants, which he owned from 1996 to 2015, and has made cameo appearances in films and television series. He sought the Reform Party presidential nomination in 2000, but withdrew before voting began. He hosted and co-produced The Apprentice, a reality television series on NBC, from 2004 to 2015. As of 2016, he was listed by Forbes as the 324th wealthiest person in the world, and 156th in the United States.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has notified withdrawal of legal tender of 500 and 1000 rupees denominations of Bank Notes of the existing series issued by RBI with effect from 9 November 2016. The withdrawal came following the Gazette Notification No 2652 dated 8 November 2016 issued by Union Government. However, a new series of Bank Notes called Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series having different size and design, highlighting the cultural heritage and scientific achievements of the country, will be issued.  Bank branches will be the primary agencies through which the members of public and other entities will be exchanging the Specified Bank Notes for Bank Notes in other valid denominations or depositing the Specified Bank Notes for crediting to their accounts till 30 December 2016.  In order to enable the members of public and other entities to exchange their existing 500 and 1000 rupees notes, the following arrangements will be made by the banks: 9 November 2016 will be a non-business working day for all banks. However, branches will function on that day to carry out preparations for implementing the scheme as per this circular. The Specified Bank Notes stocked in ATMs, Cash Deposit Machines, Cash Recyclers, Coin Vending Machines, CIT Companies and Business Correspondents will be called back forthwith.   All ATMs, Cash Deposit Machines, Cash Recyclers and any other machine used for receipt and payment of cash shall be shut on 9 and 10 November 2016.  All ATMs and cash dispensing machines will be re-configured to disburse bank notes of 100 and 50 rupees denominations prior to reactivation of the machines on 11 November 2016. Every banking company defined under the Banking Regulation Act, 1949 shall complete and forward a return showing the details of the Specified Bank Notes held by it at the close of business as on 8 November 2016 to the concerned Regional Office of RBI.   The return should include details of Specified Bank Notes recalled from ATMs, Cash Deposit Machines, Cash Recyclers, Coin Vending Machines, CIT Companies, Business Correspondents, etc. Arrangement will be made by the branches to promptly deposit these Specified Bank Notes with the linked RBI and get the amount credited to their account. Cash Deposits machines should continue to accept Specified Bank Notes up to 30 December 2016. Information Material, for educating the public regarding withdrawal of Legal Tender character of the Specified Bank Notes and salient features of the Mahatma Gandhi (New) Series Bank Notes, is required to be printed in adequate quantity and distributed to the public. Banks should identify the staff for managing the exchange counters and brief them properly about the scheme and the procedure to be followed.  Banks should provide adequate number of note counting machines, UV Lamps, note sorting machines etc. at their counters to take care of the work load and timely detection of counterfeit notes. Bank branches will commence normal operations on 10 November 2016.  Banks have to accord top priority to provide facility for exchanging deposits of Specified Bank Notes and open additional counters to meet the public demand and keep the counters open for extended ours. The specified bank notes of aggregate value of 4000 rupees or below may be exchanged for any denomination of bank notes having legal tender character, with a requisition slip in the format specified by RBI and identity proof. There shall not be any limit on the quantity or value of the specified bank notes to be credited to the account maintained with the bank by a person. Cash withdrawal from a bank account over the counter will be restricted to 10000 rupees per day subject to an overall limit of 20000 rupees a week from the date of the notification until the end of business hours on 24 November 2016, after which these limits will be reviewed. There shall be no restriction on the use of any non-cash method of operating the account of a person including cheques, demand drafts, credit or debit cards, mobile wallets and electronic fund transfer. Withdrawal from ATMs will be restricted to 2000 rupees per day per card up to 18 November 2016 and the limit will be raised to 4000 rupees per day per card from 19 November 2016. Any person who is unable to exchange or deposit the specified bank notes in their bank accounts on or before the 30 December 2016 shall be given an opportunity to do so at specified offices of the Reserve Bank or such other facility until a later date as may be specified by it. While crediting the value of Specified Bank Notes to Jan Dhan Yojna Accounts, the usual limits will apply mutatis mutandis.  

Janwaar is a sleepy little village in rural Bundelkhand, and is one of 57 hamlets located in the moderate zone of the Panna National Tiger. Started by Ulrike Reinhard, a German who has lived and worked in the US, Janwaar Castle is rural India’s first skate-park for children, where they are also taught languages, music, dance, painting, 3D modelling, and general life-skills. The park is a place for unrestricted fun, but has two strict ground rules. Rule number one: girls first. And rule number two: no school, no skateboarding The children from both the caste today, withholding any sort of caste barricades, skate barefoot. There has been a visible positive change in the village now.

Tata has announced that Tata Literature Live! Lifetime Achievement Award for 2016 will be conferred on acclaimed author Amitav Ghosh. The award will be presented to Ghosh at Tata Literature Live!’s annual awards ceremony to be held on 20 November 2016 at the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA), Nariman Point, Mumbai. Amitav Ghosh : Amitav Ghosh is an Indian-American author best known for his work in English fiction.He was educated at the all-boys The Doon School where he edited The Doon School Weekly. His contemporaries at Doon included author Vikram Seth and Ram Guha. He received degrees from St. Stephen's College, Delhi University, and Delhi School of Economics.He then won the Inlaks Foundation scholarship to complete a D. Phil. in social anthropology at St Edmund Hall, Oxford, under the supervision of Peter Lienhardt.In 1986, he wrote his debut novel titled The Circle of Reason.His other famous works in fiction are The Shadow Lines, The Calcutta Chromosome, The Glass Palace, The Hungry Tide, Sea of Poppies, among others. His notable non-fiction writings are In an Antique Land, Dancing in Cambodia and at Large in Burma, Countdown, and The Imam and the Indian.His book The Circle of Reason won the Prix Medicis etranger, one of France's top literary awards.The Shadow Lines won the Sahitya Akademi Award and the Ananda Puraskar. Sea of Poppies was shortlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize.The Government of India awarded him the civilian honour of Padma Shri in 2007. Tata Literature Live! : The award has been instituted by the festival to recognise and honour outstanding contributions in the Indian literary space.Past recipients of the award include legendary writers Kiran Nagarkar in 2015, MT Vasudevan Nair in 2014, Khushwant Singh in 2013, Sir VS Naipaul in 2012 and Mahasweta Devi in 2011. Since its inception, Tata Literature Live! The Mumbai LitFest has instituted awards to honour achievements by Indian writers, both emerging and accomplished.  

The Supreme Court has asked the Union Government to devise a common minimum programme to deal with rising pollution. It has given 48 hours to the government to respond. The court suggested that the common minimum graded response will come into action at different levels. The direction was passed, by a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court led by Chief Justice TS Thakur, while hearing a plea on the rising level of pollution in Delhi and adjoining areas. Justice AK Sikri and Justice SA Bobde were the other members of the bench. The Apex Court also asked the government to apprise it about the policy, if any, to tackle the issue of rising pollution. The plea was filed by the Environment Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) which has sought a proper monitoring of worsening pollution levels in these areas. EPCA that described the situation as a public emergency has urged the court to consider taking stringent action. The court in its observation said that the air pollution limits have gone beyond permissible levels and the pollution in the capital should be dealt with as a public health emergency.

Praveen Kumar Sharma was today appointed as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of Central Registry of Securitisation Asset Reconstruction and Security Interest of India (Cersai).  Sharma is General Manager, State Bank of India. The Appointments Committee of Cabinet has approved his appointment for three years, an order issued by Department of Personnel and Training said.  Cersai is providing the platform for filing registrations of transactions of securitisation, asset reconstruction and security interest by the banks and financial institutions.  Any person can also search and inspect the records maintained by the registry on payment of prescribed fees.

Mohanlal starrer adventure film “Pulimurugan” has become the first Malayalam film to enter the Rs 100 crore club. This movie is made with a budget of Rs 25 crore, deals with man animal conflict with Mohanlal in the lead role of Murugan, a hunter. Kamalini Mukherjee,Jagapati Babu, Bala and Lal appear in key supporting roles. It is the first independent screenplay written by Udayakrishna of the Udayakrishna-Siby K. Thomas  The film is produced by Tomichan Mulakupadam through the production house, Mulakupadam Films. The score and soundtrack are composed by Gopi Sunder, while cinematography is handled by Shaji Kumar. The filming started in Hanoi, Vietnam in July 2015. The film was released on 7 October 2016.

Life Insurance Corp,has been the country’s most attractive brand in the banking and financial services segment for the third year in a row. Another public sector entity, the State Bank of India, saw an improvement of 17 ranks to 48th rank in its overall attractiveness ranking. HDFC grabbed the third position in the BFSI category, and made it to the top 50 Most Attractive Brands list at 49th rank.  The findings are part of the most attractive brands 2016 report, the third in its series, published by TRA Research (formerly Trust Research Advisory), a leading research organization dedicated to brand analytics. This year’s study covered 2338 consumer-influencers across 16 cities in India, generating 5 million datapoints and 10,000 unique brands from which the top 1,000 brands have been listed in this year’s report.  The private sector bank, ICICI bank saw an improvement of 4 ranks from 61st in 2015 to 57th in 2016. Other private banks that made it to the top 10 list include Axis Bank, Yes Bank, and Kotak Mahindra Bank.  This year, the BFSI category has seen the entry of four public sector units in the top ranks, with LIC maintaining its leader status while private banks like Axis and Yes Bank have seen an improvement in their rankings since last year,” said N. Chandramouli, CEO, TRA. “This year also saw the entry of two new categories – Broking, with Angel Broking as the only brand, and Venture Capital Fund, with Softbank as the only brand listed in it. 

President Pranab Mukherjee on 7 November 2016 presented the Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Awards to the winning children of IGNITE competition at Rashtrapati Bhavan. IGNITE competition was organized by the National Innovation Foundation (NIF). This year, a total of 31 students have been awarded for their ideas/innovations. Overall, 55,089 submissions of students from 458 districts of all the states & Union Territories of India were received during the IGNITE 16 competition, which ran from 1 September 2015 to 31 August 2016. Dr APJ Abdul Kalam IGNITE Award is an effort to focus primarily on the creativity of the children and promote inclusive and compassionate thinking among them.  

The 7th Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP7) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) started in Greater Noida, Uttar Pradesh.  It is for the first time India is hosting COP meeting of FCTC. It is the world’s biggest convention on tobacco control policy in which 180 countries are participating.  It was inaugurated by the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare J.P Nadda and was attended by Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena. HO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) :  The FCTC is the world’s first public health treaty under the World Health Organisation (WHO).  It provides a new legal dimension for international cooperation in healthcare in combating the tobacco epidemic. It has successfully helped to co-ordinate and energize the global struggle against tobacco.  It is considered as one of the most widely embraced treaties in the history of WHO and UN. It is an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health and was developed in response to globalization of tobacco epidemic.  Under it, the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products was adopted to address the increasing illegal trade in tobacco products in November 2012. Currently, it has 13 Parties and shall come in force 90 days after 40 Parties ratify it. Conference of the Parties (COP) :  The COP is the FCTC’s governing body and is comprised of all 180 Parties. The regular sessions of COP are held at two yearly intervals.  It regularly reviews the implementation of the Convention and takes action to promote its effectiveness. India’s challenges :  Tobacco use kills around 6 million people a year globally and the cost to treat tobacco-related diseases is whopping $22 billion. In case of India, there are nearly 275 million tobacco users and close to one million deaths every year due to its direct or indirect use. India is pushing for stricter control on smokeless tobacco. In India, implementation of 85% pictorial warnings on cigarette packets has been mandatory. The new Juvenile Justice Act makes sale of tobacco products to minors punishable offence with 7 years of rigorous imprisonment.

The Defence Acquisitions Council (DAC), under the Union Government, on 7 November 2016 approved the guidelines for suspension or banning of business dealings with arms companies. With the passage of new guidelines, the Union Government will no longer impose blanket bans on armament companies suspected of corruption. Highlights of the blacklisting norms : The armament companies will be blacklisted only for a year at a time, instead of the existing norm of 10 years at a go, with fast-track investigations into the charges against them. The decision to blacklist a company will not be an executive one. It will be done in a collegiate manner by a committee which will also include the vice-chiefs of the Army, Navy and IAF.The operational implications of blacklisting a company will be considered before a final decision is taken. Blacklisting will be for a specific equipment or service, without blanket bans. Under the new nuanced blacklisting norms, procurement of spares for platforms and equipment already purchased from a company under the scanner will be allowed. Moreover, companies already blacklisted will now also be able to appeal to the government for a review, based on merits of a case. Moreover, blacklisting will be done for a specific period of not more than a year at a time, with the aim to complete investigations into the charges against a company within six months.  This easing of the blacklisting norms will be a marked departure from the indiscriminate 10-year blanket bans imposed earlier.  Presently, four major global firms like Singapore Technologies Kinetics, Israeli Military Industries, Rheinmetall Air Defence, Zurich, and Corporation Defence, Russia are blacklisted till 2022. Major Approvals : The DAC also accorded initial approvals or acceptance of necessity to modernisation projects worth 82117 crore rupees.  Tejas Light Combat Aircraft :  It accorded initial approval for procurement of 83 Tejas Mark-1A fighters from Hindustan Aeronautics for 50025 crore rupees.The improved 83 Mark-1A jets will be inducted from 2020 to 2026.IAF has inducted 2 Tejas till now. By 2018, it will get the 1st full squadron (20 jets). T-90 Bhishma main-battle tanks :  It accorded initial approval for procurement of 464 T-90 tanks from Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) for 13448 crore rupees. 657 T-90S tanks were imported from Russia for 8525 crore rupees from 2001 onwards. Next 1000 tanks will be licensed by Avadi Heavy Vehicles Factory.New 464 tanks will add to 536 already ordered tanks from OFB (300 inducted till now). Pinaka multiple-launch rocket systems :  It approved the tender for 6 more Pinaka regiments for 14633 crore rupees.Army has already inducted 2 of the 4 Pinaka regiments cleared earlier. Pinaka, with 40-km strike range, was developed by DRDO and was manufactured by Tatas and L&T. Light Combat Helicopters : It provided initial approval for procurement of 15 helicopters from HAL for 2911 crore rupees It also provided approval to acquire 10 choppers for IAF & 5 for Army. Over 100 to be progressively ordered. Mini-UAVs :  It accorded initial approval for procurement of 598 mini-UAVs for Army for 1100 crore rupees. Earlier, India rejected Raven/Cheel mini-UAVs being offered by the US. Now, tender will be issued to Indian companies for the mini drones. Man-portable drones, with operational radius of 10-km, will provide surveillance for infantry soldiers.  

Indian archaeologists are planning to use high-end lasers to map Bihar’s ancient city of Rajgir. The plan is a part of their inter-disciplinary Rajgir Archaeological Survey Project (RASP), which includes surveying the archaeological evidence and the flora and fauna of the area. To achieve the same, archaeologists are planning to make use of a remote-sensing technique, Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR), which uses laser light to survey the earth’s surface.  The LIDAR device will have to be mounted on drones or helicopters to get the expected result, for which necessary permissions are required. RASP Project : It is a collaborative project between the society and Nalanda University in co-ordination with Bihar’s Ministry of Art, Culture and Youth. It aims to establish a better understanding of the historic city’s landscape by studying the existing archaeological remains through a comprehensive survey.   It will examine the multi-phased development of Rajgir as an urban, political and religious centre. The preliminary work in the project involves making a grid map of the entire Rajgir Hills, a work that is going to be undertaken by experts from different fields.  History of Rajgir :  Located in Bihar’s Nalanda district, Rajgir is one of India’s most significant tourist places for Buddhist pilgrims. It was the first capital of the Magadha Empire. Gautama Buddha spent many years of his life in the city and delivered several sermons as well. The city was also the venue of the first Buddhist Council. Aside from Buddhism, the ancient city is also known for its association with Jainism, as its founder Lord Mahavira spent fourteen years of his life there.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that 1000 and 500 rupees notes will cease to be legal tender from midnight 9-10 November 2016. The announcement was made via a special nationwide televised address on 8 November 2016.  PM Modi in his announcement appealed that those who are in possession of these notes can deposit the notes in their accounts in banks and post offices from 10 November to 30 December 2016. He also said that those who are unable to deposit the notes within the deadline for some reasons can change them till 31 March 2016 by furnishing ID proof (Aadhaar card and PAN card).   Besides, he also announced that new currency notes of 500 and 2000 rupees denomination will be introduced. The major objective behind the Government's decision to ban the existing currency denomination is to curb black money in the market and cease out face currencies. Important facts about Rs 500 & Rs 1000 notes banned from 08 November 2016 from 12 PM They will cease to be legal tender from tonight; Existing currency can only be deposited in banks account, head and sub-post offices; You can exchange them in banks & post offices between Nov 9 and Dec 30, 2016; ATMs will dispense only Rs 2000 a day, later to be increased to Rs 4000 per day; Those who miss the Dec 30 deadline, can exchange old Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes through RBI on the basis of declaration; Till Nov 11 midnight, Hospitals will accept Rs 500 & Rs 1000 notes and on basis of prescription can buy medicines from drug stores on hospital shops; Govt buses ticket booking counter, airlines will accept them for booking tickets till Nov 11 midnight; Petrol & CNG outlets, crematoriums, international airports will also have leeway to accept Rs 500 & Rs 1000 notes till Nov 11; Non-cash transactions (cheques, demand draft, card payments) not to be affected; ATMs to be closed on Nov 9 & 10; All banks closed on Nov 9 for public transactions