Today Current Affairs 6th October 2016

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Arjun Vajpai, the professional Indian mountaineer, on 4 October scaled the world's sixth highest mountain Cho Oyu. The mountain is located on the China-Nepal border at an altitude of 8188 meters above the sea level. The 23-year-old reached the summit before dawn along with his sherpas namely Pasang Norbu Sherpa and Lakpa Sherpa after leaving from Camp 3 in mid-night. With the Cho Oyu summit, Arjun has climbed five mountains that tower over 8000 meters above the sea level. There are 14 highest in the world are over 8000 metres and all these mountains are located in the Karakoram and Himalayan mountain ranges. Besides, Arjun also holds the world records as the youngest summiteer on Mount Lhotse, Mount Manaslu and Mount Makalu. He is also the third youngest Indian to scale the Mount Everest. He scaled the highest mountain of the world in 2010 at the age of 16 years, 11 months and 18 days. The Mount Cho Oyu 2016 expedition was a personal challenge for the young mountaineer because he had suffered a paralytic attack during his first attempt in 2011 and Arjun had to work his way back to physical fitness to climb again. Mount Cho Oyu :  It is the sixth highest mountain in the world at 8188 metres (26864 ft) above sea level.Cho Oyu means "Turquoise Goddess" in Tibetan. The mountain is the westernmost major peak of the Khumbu sub-section of the Mahalangur Himalaya 20 kilometer west of Mount Everest. The mountain was first climbed on 19 October 1954, via the north-west ridge by Herbert Tichy, Joseph Jochler and Sherpa Pasang Dawa Lama of an Austrian expedition.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its approval to an acquisition by ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) for 11% stake in JSC Vankorneft from Rosneft Oil Company (Rosneft), Russia’s national oil company  on 5 October 2016. The OVL will pay 930 million US dollar for acquiring 11 per cent in Vankorneft. The acquisition is in line with ONGC’s stated objective of adding high quality international assets to India's exploration and production portfolio. Earlier in May 2016, OVL completed the formalities for acquisition of 15% stake in Vankorneft at a cost of 1.284 billion US dollar, which gave OVL 4.11 MMTOE. The acquisition of stake in Vankorneft will provide 3.2 Million Tonnes of Oil Equivalent (MMTOE) to OVL by 2017.  It will also provide an opportunity to the Indian public sector oil and gas companies to acquire new technologies from Rosneft.

The Union Cabinet has approved setting up of a Medical Devices Manufacturing Park (Medipark) at Chengalpattu, Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu through a special purpose Vehicle. For this purpose, HLL Lifecare Ltd, a Mini Ratna PSU under Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, will sub-lease 330.10 acres of land at Chengalpattu. The shareholding of HLL in the project will be above 50 percent. Highlights  : The Medipark project will boost the local manufacturing of hi-end products at a significantly lower cost, resulting in affordable healthcare delivery to a large section of people.  It will contribute to the development of medical devices and technology sector and allied disciplines in the country. HLL will sublease the land to investors, through a transparent bidding process to investors desirous to set up manufacturing units for Medical equipment and devices.  It will be developed in phases, spread over seven years for completion. In the first phase, physical infrastructure will be developed and plots will be leased from third year onwards. In the initial phase, the land cost to the qualifying entrepreneurs from Medical Device and Equipment, Manufacturing Industry will be at a subsidized rate.Knowledge management center will be developed in the second phase, with grants and assistance from departments, which funds similar initiatives.  It will reduce the dependence on imports and create a strong base for the growth of indigenous and domestic industry by providing access to state of art infrastructure and technology.

The United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) on 5 October 2016 released a report stating that nearly 69 million new teachers are needed to provide quality universal primary and secondary education by 2030, the deadline of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The report was prepared by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS). It was released on the occasion of World Teacher's Day, held under the theme Valuing Teachers, Improving their Status. Highlights of the Report : According to the UIS data, sub-Saharan Africa has the largest teacher gap and the region will need about 17 million primary and secondary teachers by 2030. More than 70 percent of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa region face acute shortages of primary school teachers, 90 percent of them face serious shortages in secondary education. Similarly, Southern Asia has the second-largest teacher gap, especially at the secondary level. Only 65 percent of youth across the region are enrolled in secondary education. The pupil-teacher ratio of Southern Asia is estimated at 29:1 (based on 2014 estimates), far higher than the global average of 18:1. The region needs another 15 million teachers by 2030. In Western Asia, persistent armed conflicts in a number of countries, including the Syrian Arab Republic and Iraq, are causing chaos. Large parts of entire education systems have been destroyed. Number of pre-primary, primary and secondary schools in Syrian Arab Republic fell from 23000 to 15000 between 2012 and 2016, and the number of students from 5.6 million to 4.1 million.  In Northern Africa, 0.2 million teachers are needed to fill new positions to achieve universal primary education by 2030. The countries facing the biggest teacher shortages in the region are: Algeria (0.2 million) for primary education and Egypt (1.1 million) for secondary education. India needs to recruit at least three million primary teachers and over eight million secondary teachers in next 14 years to ensure that every child is in school and learning well.

M. Venkaiah Naidu, Minister for Information and Broadcasting, on 4 October 2016 released the book titled Modi’s Midas Touch in Foreign Policy. The book is authored by Ambassador Surendra Kumar. The book draws round the progress and the indelible imprint on the conduct of India’s Foreign Policy by the Prime Minister Modi in the last two and a half years. It maps the different policy initiatives focusing on the vision of developing India into a strong economically developed nation. Collating the 3D advantages of democracy, demography and demand, the book outlines how the PM established India as the fastest growing economy and the biggest FDI destination in the world.  

Union Finance Ministry has constituted a Public Debt Management Cell (PDMC) on 4 October. The cell was created to streamline government borrowings and better cash management with the overall objective of deepening bond markets. The Joint Secretary (Budget), Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance would be the overall in-charge of the ODMC. As an interim arrangement, the PDMC will be housed at the RBI's Delhi office. In about two years, the PDMC will be upgraded to a statutory Public Debt Management Agency (PDMA). Highlights of PDMC : The interim arrangement will allow separation of debt management functions from RBI to PDMA in a gradual and seamless manner, without causing market disruptions.It will have only advisory functions to avoid any conflict with the statutory functions of RBI.  It has been tasked to plan government borrowings, including market borrowings and other borrowings, like Sovereign Gold Bond issuance.It will also advise government on matters related to investment, capital market operations, administration of interest rates on small savings among others.The middle office of the Budget Division will be subsumed into PDMC with immediate effect. The transition process from PDMC to PDMA would be implemented by a Joint Implementation Committee (JIC), which will be chaired by Joint Secretary (Budget). Other members of the JIC will be from Government and RBI. As per the circular issued by the ministry, the JIC would operate under the supervision of the Monitoring Group on Cash and Debt Management (MGCDM) with Secretary, Economic Affairs and DG, RBI as co-chairpersons. The PDMC would be staffed by 15 debt managers from Budget Division, RBI, current Middle Office and other government units.  

Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres was unanimously selected by the UN Security Council as the next UN Secretary-General on 5 October 2016. Guterres will succeed Ban Ki-moon on 1 January 2017. The 15-nation Security Council's decision will be sent, following the formal approval, to the 193-member General Assembly for final formal approval. Antonio Guterres : Antonio Manuel de Oliveira Guterres is a Portuguese politician.He served as the Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002. He also served for a time as President of the Socialist International. He served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015. Secretary-General of the United Nations : The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the United Nations Secretariat.The Secretary-General also acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader of the United Nations. Their role is laid out by Chapter XV (Articles 97 to 101) of the United Nations Charter. The Secretary-General was envisioned by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a world moderator. Article 97 under Chapter XV of the United Nations Charter states that the Secretary-General shall be the chief administrative officer of the Organization, but does not dictate their specific obligations.

Oil India Limited (OIL) has signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the University of Houston (USA), one of the leading universities on oil and gas of the world on 5 October 2016. The MoU was signed by OIL with an intent of augmenting its reserves base and maximising recovery from its aging oilfields. Highlights of the MoU :  It is focused to collaborate in the fields of Improved Oil Recovery & Enhanced Oil Recovery for production enhancement from matured fields & reservoir characterisation studies.   It will help OIL to further consolidate and upgrade the various initiatives the Company has undertaken to improve production and contribute significantly to the energy security of the country.  It will also contribute towards national obligation as set by Prime Minister to reduce import dependency of oil and gas by 10% by 2022.

Lt Governor Kiran Bedi  urged residents and other sections of people to ensure there was no open defecation as the government was keen on enabling construction of toilets in households in the Union Territory. Declaring Velrampet Lake, a major waterbody in Mudaliarpet Assembly segment here, as an open defecation free zone, she said the government was implementing the Swachch Bharat and Swachch Puducherry schemes on a fast track. It is the initiative of Puducherry government to ensure that the whole Union Territory becomes open defecation free by October 2, 2017. The lake and the neighbourhood areas have been given a facelift and it is now an open defecation free zone. The Union Territory government has spent Rs 75 lakh to spruce up the vast stretch of the lake. Stating that Swachch Bharat Abhiyan was being implemented fast,he said each of the 50,000 households lacking toilets would have them through a Rs 120 crore project, for which funds have been earmarked by the Centre. Each household would be given subsidies to construct the toilets so that Puducherry and its outlying regions of Karaikal, Mahe and Yanam became open defecation free by October 2, 2017.  

The Centre has constituted a high-level technical team to visit the Cauvery basin area to assess the ground realities there. Central Water Commission Chairman GS Jha heads the team, constituted by the Ministry for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation. The team was set up in pursuance to the October 4 Supreme Court order asking the Cauvery Supervisory Committee to visit the river basin area in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu to assess the ground situation and report back to it by October 17.  The team members will converge at Bengaluru on October 7 for a preparatory meeting. It will submit its report to the Supreme Court on October 17.  The team will inspect Hemavathi, Harangi, Krishna Raj Sagar and Kabini reservoirs in Karnataka and is likely to inspect water stock at Mettur, Lower Bhavani Dam and Amaravati reservoirs in Tamil Nadu from October 6 to October 15.

After a long gap of 20 years of her Booker win, Arundhati Roy has announced her next novel, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness which was prepared to release in June 2017. Arundhati’s publisher announced the news on twitter that actually vanished every reader’s Monday blues.The Man Booker Prize-winner expressed that the she was glad to report that the mad souls (even the wicked ones) in The Ministry of Utmost Happiness had found a way into the world, and that I had found my publishers. It was been almost twenty years and Arundhati has invested a lot of time in many other things including a number of social causes, in India and abroad. Over these years, Arundhati wrote several non-fiction essays, interviews and has set the high standards in the field of ‘real’ Journalism. Arundhati is known to create a fantasy world with her words and all of us had witnessed her magic previously.  

In a first-of-its-kind initiative in the country, social networking site Facebook is partnering with the Election Commission of India in five states going to polls next year to run a voter registration drive aimed at encouraging youth to participate in the democratic exercise. Facebook is collaborating with the Election Commission and the office of Chief electoral officers in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand for the first time in the country to run a voter registration drive. With over 155 million people in India on Facebook, the Register to vote button is designed to encourage citizens across these five states to exercise their vote in the upcoming elections. From October 6 to 9, Facebook users in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Manipur and Uttarakhand who are 18 years and above will receive a reminder in their News Feed to register to vote. The feature will be available for people on Facebook in Punjab on October 6, for those in Manipur on October 7, for those in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh on October 8 and in Goa on October 9. Election commission in collaboration with Facebook is conducting a special drive in Uttarakhand to register young people as voters who will attain the age of 18 years on January 1, 2017. 

Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis Sunday declared Nagpur as the first digital district of India.All 29,000 gram panchayats across Maharashtra would be digitally transformed by December 2018. All 776 gram panchayats in Nagpur district have been digitally transformed, paving the way for better healthcare and education through high intensity communication and connectivity. During his visit to San Francisco last month, Fadnavis said, multinationals like Oracle and Cisco agreed to partnering the project both through investments and by sharing technology knowledge. The state has added 169 new online services under the Right to Information Act, taking the total number of services to 369. Through Aaple Sarkar portal that was launched last year, individuals across the state can avail any of these 369 services online.

The Union Government hasappointed Indian Revenue Service officer Sushil Chandra as the Chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). Chandra will take over from the current CBDT Chairperson Rani Singh Nair, who will retire on 31 October 2016. Chandra is currently posted as Member, CBDT. Central Board of Direct Taxes : The Central Board of Direct Taxes provides essential inputs for policy and planning of direct taxes in India. It is the policy-making body of the Income Tax Department under the Union Finance Ministry.It is a statutory authority functioning under the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963. The Chairperson of the CBDT is the senior-most IRS civil servant in the Government of India.The Chairperson of Central Board of Direct Taxes is the ex officio Special Secretary to the Government of India and also cadre controlling authority of the Indian Revenue Service.The CBDT Chairperson is placed above the officers of the rank of Lieutenant-General, Vice-Admiral or Air Marshal, CBI Director and Deputy Comptroller and Auditor General in the Order of Precedence.

India has successfully launched the communication satellite GSAT-18 on 6 October 2016. The satellite was launched by a heavy duty rocket of Arianespace from the spaceport of Kourou in French Guiana. The European launcher Ariane-5 VA-231 injected GSAT-18 into a Geosynchronous Transfer Orbit (GTO) shortly after orbiting co-passenger Sky Muster II satellite for Australian operator, National Broadband Network. After its injection into GTO, ISRO's Master Control Facility (MCF) at Hassan took control of GSAT-18 and performed the initial orbit raising maneuvers using the Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) of the satellite, placing it in circular Geostationary Orbit. GSAT-18 is designed to provide continuity of services on operational satellites in C-band, Extended C-band and Ku-bands.Weighing 3404 kilograms at lift-off and having a mission life of about 15 years, GSAT-18 will strengthen ISRO's current fleet of 14 operational telecommunication satellites.It carries 48 communication transponders to provide services in Normal C-band, Upper Extended C-band and Ku-bands of the frequency spectrum. GSAT-18 carries Ku-band beacon as well to help in accurately pointing ground antennas towards the satellite. It will enable the continuity of the vital communication services in the country by replacing the currently ageing satellites. GSAT-18 is the 20th satellite from ISRO to be launched by the European space agency and the mission is the 280th for Arianespace launcher family. ISRO, which has been dependent on Ariane-5 rocket for carrying its heavier satellites, is developing GSLV Mk III for this purpose. GSAT-18's co-passenger Sky Muster II, built by Space Systems Loral in California, is aimed at bridging the digital divide, especially in the rural and isolated regions of Australia. Kourou is a French territory located in northeastern coast of South America. The launch, which was originally scheduled for 5 October 2016, was deferred by 24 hours due to unfavourable weather conditions at Kourou.  

Russian Tennis star Maria Sharapova's doping ban was reduced from two years to 15 months on 4 October 2016. The Court of Arbitration for Sport cut nine months off the suspension imposed on Sharapova, who was tested positive for a banned substance - Meldonium - at the 2016 Australian Open in January 2016. Earlier, the five-time Grand Slam winner was banned for two years by the International Tennis Federation for two years after testing positive for meldonium at the 2016 Australian Open. Sharapova in a statement said that she had been taking the drug since 2006 for health related problems but never tried it to enhance her performance. Ruling by the Court of Arbitration for Sport means that Sharapova can come back in Tennis court on 26 April 2017 and return to Grand Slam play at the French Open. The CAS panel found that Sharapova bore some degree of fault for the positive test, saying a 15-month sanction was appropriate. Sharapova, a five-time Grand Slam champion, had appealed to CAS in June seeking to overturn or reduce the suspension imposed by the International Tennis Federation. Meldonium :  Meldonium is a heart disease drug also known as mildronate and was banned by World Anti-Doping Agency's (Wada) on 1 January 2016.