Today Current Affairs 1st October 2016

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Arundhati Bhattacharya, who took over as Chairperson and Managing Director of the State Bank of India, and was due to retire in early October, has been granted a year's extension. Bhattacharya, who took over as the first woman to head the country's largest bank and an India-based Fortune 500company on October 7, 2013, had joined the bank in September 1977, as a probationary officer at age 22.  She has held several positions during her 36-year career with the bank, including working in foreign exchange, treasury, retail operations, human resources and investment banking.  This included positions like chief executive of the bank's merchant banking arm- State Bank of India Capital Markets; chief general manager in charge of new projects. She has also served at the bank's New York office.  She has been involved in the launch of several new businesses such as SBI General Insurance, SBI Custodial Services and the SBI Macquarie Infrastructure Fund.  

Javelin thrower Annu Rani smashed her own national record and in the process became the first Indian woman to cross the 60m mark on the third and penultimate day of the 56th Open National Athletics Championships in Lucknow on 29 Sept 2016. Annu, who won a bronze in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games, threw the javelin to a distance of 60.01m to erase her own earlier national mark of 59.87m which she made in July during the National Inter-State Championships in Hyderabad. 24-year-old Annu was representing Railways. Today's effort was his fourth national record in two years. Poonam Rani of ONGC won the silver with an effort of 56.73m while the bronze went to another Railway woman K Rashmi with 51.56m. In men's jump, for the first time in Indian athletics history, all the top three finishers cleared 2.20m. Tejaswin Shankar of Delhi went on to win the gold with an effort of 2.22m while Chetan of Services and Sreenith Mohan of Kerala bagged the silver and bronze respectively by clearing 2.20m.

According to the recent publication released by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Tamil Nadu accounts for the highest number flowering plants in the country. The publication titled Endemic Vascular Plants of India also revealed that almost one of every four species of flowering plants found in India are endemic to the country. Of the total 18,259 flowering plants reported in the country, 4,303 (over 23%) are found only in India or they are endemic to the country. Of these, Tamil Nadu accounts for the highest number of species with 410, followed by Kerala (357 species) and Maharashtra (278 species).  In case of the geographical distribution of endemic plants, Western Ghats tops the list with about 2,116 species, followed by the Eastern Himalayas with 466 species.  These two regions are among the biodiversity hot spots of the country. At least 37 species of Black plum Syzyguim (Jamun), 274 species of orchids and 10 varieties of Musa (banana) are found only in the country.  Four different varieties of roses, 2 herbs and 2 climbers and 12 species of jasmines are exclusively found in India. There are 45 species of black pepper family, 19 species of ginger and 13 different kinds of large cardamom endemic to India.  There are also 40 species of bamboos (Bambusoideae) endemic to India. Some of the plants species are restricted to only certain areas of the country like an insectivorous plant Nepenthes khasiana which is only found in the Khasi hills of Meghalaya.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated India Sanitation conference (INDOSAN) in New Delhi ahead of second anniversary of Swachh Bharat Mission. PM Modi in his inaugural speech highlighted need of behavioural change to achieve the dream of Swachch Bharat and also need to ensure a dirt free India like Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha which was instrumental for the end of colonialism. Award Winner List :  The Prime Minister also gave away cleanliness awards to Sindhudurg District (Maharashtra), Mandi district (Himachal Pradesh), Pune, Chandigarh and Mysore Municipal Corporations, Gangtok city (Sikkim), National Cadet Corps (NCC), Surat railway station, PGIMER Chandigarh,  heritage site Rani ki vav in Gujarat and Kendriya Vidyalaya FRI Dehradun. India Sanitation conference (INDOSAN) :  INDOSAN is envisaged as an annual national event, that seeks to brings together all stakeholders working in sanitation.  Thus, it will be one platform for a shared vision for Government, NGOs, academicians, researchers, partner agencies and corporates. It will create an opportunity for collective understanding, collective vision of the key elements of the Swachh Bharat Mission programme as sanitation is seen as a citizen movement with involvement of all sectors of the society.  INDOSAN will discuss on all these approaches, learnings, emerging innovations for the benefit of all. Besides, each state will share their approaches most suitable to them to reach the goal of making India Open Defecation Free (ODF) by the year 2019 which marks 150th Birth Anniversary of Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi.

Pakistan has postponed the 19th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Summit after India and four other countries announced to boycott the Summit.  The summit was schedule to be held on November 9th and 10th, 2016 in Islamabad, capital city of Pakistan. Besides, it was also announced that new set of dates for holding the summit at Islamabad will be announced soon by Nepal, the Chair of SAARC. Pakistan’s decision is a boost for India’s diplomatic efforts to corner Pakistan over the terror attack at Ur. It also comes a day after Pakistan suffered humiliating Indian cross-border raids (surgical strikes) on terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK). Earlier India and three other countries Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Bhutan in a synchronized effort, had informed the SAARC Secretariat that their leaders will not attend the summit citing concerns over cross-border terrorism in the region.  Later, Sri Lanka also expressed its unwillingness to attend the Summit. The move by the five countries means the Summit cannot go ahead as the SAARC charter mandates that all decisions of the regional bloc must be made unanimously. The absence of even one member-state leads to the automatic postponement or cancellation of a Summit. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)  : SAARC is regional intergovernmental organization and geopolitical union in South Asia. It promotes development of economical and regional integration. As of 2015, SAARC member countries compromise of 3% of the world’s area, 21% of the world’s population and 9.12% of the global economy.

The European Union (EU) ministers have approved the ratification of Paris Agreement (on Climate Change).  This decision brings the Paris Agreement closer to entering into force. Once approved by the European Parliament, the EU deposit its ratification instrument before national ratification processes which are completed in each member state. As of now, only 5 EU nations have ratified the agreement at the national level. The 28 EU member nations together account for close to 12% of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The addition of EU will take the cumulative emissions of ratifying parties of the agreement well beyond the 55% minimum required for the treaty to enter into force.  The Paris Agreement has been already crossed the first condition of 55 countries ratifying the treaty to enable its entry into force. As of now, 61 countries, accounting for almost 48% of global GHG emissions have ratified the deal.  India, which accounts for 4.1% of global GHG emission also has agreed to ratify it on October 2, 2016. Together with the EU, total global GHG emissions covered by ratifying parties will make the treaty ready to enter into force.

The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) reached an agreement to cut oil production for the first time since 2008 after an informal meeting in Algiers, Algeria. It was decided that OPEC would reduce output to a range of 32.5 to 33.0 million barrels per day (bpd) from its current output at 33.24 million bpd.  However, how much each country will or reduce its output will be decided at the OPEC’s next formal meeting scheduled in November 2016. In this meeting, special invitation will be sent to Russia (non-OPEC member) to join cuts in production. India, being the 3rd largest importer of crude oil imports 85% of total oil and 95% of natural gas from OPEC nations. In recent time due to cheaper oil prices in international market due to overproduction and non-coordination among OPEC countries Indian economy had immensely benefited.  However, this decision may result in spike in oil prices which can have major implications for the India’s current account deficit and overall economy in general. In recent times, lower oil prices kept the Indian economy on the shining path and managed to keep inflation under control making it fastest growing economy in G20 countries. Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) :  The OPEC is an intergovernmental organization of 14 oil-exporting developing nations that coordinates and unifies the petroleum policies of its member countries Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia (the de facto leader) Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates (from Asia); Ecuador and Venezuela (from Latin America). As of 2015, these 14 OPEC member countries accounted for an estimated 43% of global oil production and 73% of the world’s oil reserves. Two-thirds of OPEC’s oil production and reserves are in its six Middle Eastern (west Asian) countries that surround the oil-rich Persian Gulf.`

The Union Finance Ministry has decided that sports infrastructure will be included under the harmonised master list of infrastructure sub-sectors. Earlier, the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports Affairs had moved the proposal for inclusion of sports in the list to address the issue of deficit of sports infrastructure in the country. It will include sports stadia and infrastructure for academies for training and research in sports and sports-related activities in the infrastructure sub-sectors.  With this, sports sector becomes eligible for obtaining long term financial support from banks and other financial institutions on same principle available to other infrastructure projects.  It will also encourage private investment in a public good which has socio-economic externalities in a country with young population.  It will also bolster investment in sports infrastructure sector which will contribute to the economy and help in promotion of health and fitness of the people.  It will also provide opportunities for employment in the new and existing sectors. Besides, investment from private sector will widen the platform from where the country can become a sporting power in future.

Mohit Kampani, the former managing director of Spencer’s Retail, is joining Aditya Birla Retail (ABRL), the operator of the More chain of supermarkets and hypermarkets, as chief executive officer.  Kampani is set to take charge of food and grocery retail business of the $41 billion conglomerate from October 3. He will report to the group’s director for retail and apparel business, Pranab Barua, according to an internal email.  Kampani’s predecessor, Vishak Kumar, is becoming CEO for Aditya Birla Fashion and Retail, the entity that emerged after consolidation of branded apparel businesses of the Aditya Birla Group comprising of Madura Fashion, Pantaloons Fashion & Retail and Madura Fashion & Lifestyle.  The changes were announced internally in an email to employees on Wednesday. An email sent to Aditya Birla Group seeking comment did not elicit a response until Wednesday press time. Kampani declined to comment.  Kampani’s first major goal will be to turn More profitable and organise the business amid increased competition from ecommerce companies. ABRL reported revenue of Rs 2,948 crore in 2014-15, a net loss of Rs 571 crore and total debt of Rs 5,232 crore. It is reducing losses at the store level.  ABRL is the fourth-largest supermarket chain in the country, after Future Group, Reliance Retail and D’Mart, operating about 700 stores covering about 2 million square feet of retail space. 

A new Guinness World Record for the largest Lego sculpture has been set in the UK, where a 13-metre high replica of the London's iconic Tower Bridge was created using an astounding 5,805,846 individual pieces.  The structure beats the previous record by 470,646 bricks. Laid end to end, the bricks used in the construction would stretch for almost 200 miles  the equivalent distance from Tower Bridge in London to Paris.  The new record beats the previous title holder - a replica of a Star Wars X-wing fighter, built from 5,335,200 bricks in 2013 to promote the Star Wars: Clone Wars cartoon.  The original Tower Bridge in London was built in 1886-1894. It crosses the River Thames close to the Tower of London and is about 244 metres long and 65 metres high.

Karnataka Bank Ltd has inked a memorandum of understanding with Birla Sun Life Asset Management Company for distribution of mutual fund products. LIC Mutual Fund Asset Management Company has also tied up with Karnataka Bank for distribution of its mutual fund products. The distribution will be through over 730 branches of the bank across India. The tie-up would be a forward looking step for the bank to provide a complete financial solution for customers and increase the option for customers to choose from a bouquet of financial solutions.

The US and Vietnamese navies have begun the 7th annual Naval Engagement Activity NEA, Vietnam 2016 at Tien Sa Port in Da Nang.  The US Navy has released, that the exercise will focus on non-combatant events and include seminars in military medicine and maritime law as well as subject matter expert exchanges in navigation, shipboard medicine and damage control. The exercise will also include Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea and search and rescue scenarios.

Pakistan’s lower house of Parliament has passed a landmark bill giving its small Hindu minority the right to register marriages, the last major hurdle on the way to enacting a law aimed at protecting women’s rights. The National Assembly passed the bill on Monday after 10 months of deliberation. The Senate is expected to pass the law without any significant delay The new bill sets the minimum age for marriage for Hindus at 18. The minimum legal age for marriage for citizens of other religions is 18 for men and 16 for women. The new law also legalises remarriage for a widow six months after her husband’s death.

Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mehbooba Mufti has launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) in the state to provide free LPG connections to BPL households. Minister of State for Petroleum and Natural Gas Dharmendra Pradhan and Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office Jitendra Singh gave away free LPG connections to 11 women from BPL households. For Jammu and Kashmir, a target of 35 lakh connections has been set under PMUY out of which one lakh connections are to be provided during next 15 days. Under the scheme, the enrolment of the BPL families have been made constituency wise all over the state and the deserving people shall be given free LPG connections along with a gas stove and a regulator. PMUY was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May, 2016. Under PMUY, five crore LPG connections will be provided to BPL families across the country during the next three years.