Current Affairs 8th October 2016 - Banking, SSC, UPSC Affairs

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The Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued directions barred political parties from using public resources that amount to advertisement for parties or propagating their election symbols.  The ECI has issued these directions in the wake of the High Court July 2016 order and considering the views of political parties. ECI order bars political parties from using public space, public funds or government machinery for carrying out activities propagate party election symbols or advertise them. It has clarified that above directions violates the lawful direction of it within the meaning of paragraph 16A of the Election Symbols (Reservation & Allotment) Order.  The clause 16A of the Order confers power on ECI to suspend or withdraw recognition of a recognised political party fails to follow its lawful directions and instructions or to observe Model Code of Conduct. The Delhi High Court in July 2017 had issued an order in Common Cause vs Bahujan Samaj Party case requesting ECI to issue appropriate directions or guidelines for preventing the recognised political party in power from using public resources for propagating the party’s election symbol.  Delhi HC had mentioned that utilising public resources for promoting any political party or its election symbol is antithetical to the concept of free and fair election and the principle of level playing field for all stakeholders.

Maharashtra became 17th state to Central Government’s Ujwal Discom Assurance Yojna (UDAY) scheme. It will help Maharashtra to reap benefits worth Rs 9,725 crore by way of cheaper funds, transmission losses, energy efficiency and coal reforms during the period of the turnaround. Under the UDAY Scheme, Maharashtra has committed to take more than 75% of the discom’s non-capex debt of around 6,600 crore rupees in the current year. The balance 25% debt will be converted into bonds or re-priced at cheaper rates which will reduce the interest burden by 595 crore rupees. Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojna (UDAY)  : UDAY Scheme was launched by Union Ministry of Power for financial restructuring of debt of Power Distribution companies (DISCOMs). It aims for financial revival and turnaround of DISCOMs and also ensures a sustainable permanent solution to the problem. Power DISCOMs of states by joining this scheme can convert their debt into bonds which can be issued in market as well as roll out number of measures to improve efficiency at power plants.  It will make DISCOMs financially and operationally healthy so they can supply adequate power at affordable rates. It will help in reduction in interest cost of DISCOMs and enforcing financial discipline in DISCOMs through alignment with State finances.

The Supreme Court has stayed the commercial release of Genetically Modified (GM) mustard crop till October 17, 2016. It has asked the Central Government to seek public opinion before releasing the variety for cultivation purpose.  Order in this regard was issued by SC Bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar on petition filed by Aruna Rodrigues. The petition had alleged that sowing of the GM Mustard seeds will be undertaken without relevant tests and without entire bio-safety dossier for commercial launch GM mustard. It also had urged the SC to prohibit open field trials and the commercial release of Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crops, including HT Mustard DMH 11 and its parent lines/variants. Mustard is one of India’s most important winter crops sown between mid-October and late November. It a self-pollinating crop difficult to hybridise naturally as it cross-pollinate. It is largest edible oil yielding crop of India. DMH (Dhara Mustard Hybrid)-11 is genetically modified variety of mustard developed by Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants at Delhi University.  It was Government sponsored project. But researchers at Delhi University have created hybridised mustard DMH-11 using “barnase / barstar” technology for genetic modification. It is Herbicide Tolerant (HT) crop. In February 2016, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GMEC) had allowed the commercial production of another GM crop viz. Mustard DMH-11. DMH-11 yields about 30% more than a traditional reference mustard variety. Help in boosting edible mustard oil production thus, reduce huge import bill for edible oil. Help to boost government-led scientific researches in Agriculture. Approval to GM mustard would open a gate to several genetically modified food crops. Environmentalists are raising biosafety concern with GM crops as their introduction may adversely affect environment, human and animal health. As DMH-11 has external gene that makes the plant resistant to herbicide.  Thus  it will force farmers to use only select brands of agro-chemicals. Technical expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court in this regard earlier had found that HT crops completely unsuitable in the Indian context. The herbicide-resistant crops may adversely impact the manual labourers, for whom weeding provides livelihood.  

A new termite species Glyptotermes Chiraharitae was discovered at Kakkayam in the Malabar Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala. It has been named ‘Chiraharitae’ after the tropical evergreen forests of the Western Ghats, where it was spotted. Termites are of three types —damp wood, dry wood and subterranean. Glyptotermes Chiraharitae species are of the damp wood category.  They infest parts of woods with high moisture content, the decaying or rotting areas in particular. They are exclusively wood dwelling and do not require any contact with soil. The flying adults of this species are approximately 10 mm long, while the soldiers are around 9.5 mm long.  Its relatives are known to attack mango, sal, Rhododendron, banyan trees, Artocarpus, silver oak, and jamun trees. Compared with other insect groups, termites are not a multifarious speciose. In India there 285 species of termites and among them 61 are documented from Kerala.

The Air Force Day 2016 was on 8 October 2016 observed across India. This is the 84th celebration of the Day that began in 1932. On this day, the most renowned aerobatics display teams, Red Arrows of the Royal Air Force (RAF), enthralled audience at Indian Air Force Day celebrations in New Delhi. They flew Hawk jets, which are single-engine advanced trainer aircraft. Besides, the Indian Air Force air displayed various aircrafts at Air Force Station Hindan in Uttar Pradesh.The Air Force Day was officially celebrated for the first time on 8 October in the year 1932 as an auxiliary air force of Indian Empire.  The day was observed to increase the awareness about the importance of Indian air force in any organization of the national security by both officially and publicly.  

Lieutenant-Governor (L-G) Najeeb Jung has dissolved the Delhi Waqf Board on 7 October 2016. Jung referred the Board’s constitution to a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe for alleged corruption and procedural irregularities in functioning. The L-G declared the reconstitution of the Board and announced the appointment of its Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and members as illegal and void ab initio. In view of the deliberate and persistent acts of illegality, violation of rules, allegations of corruption, possibility of malafide, etc., the entire matter related to the Delhi Waqf Board is referred to the CBI for investigation. The L-G has further directed Divisional Commissioner A. Anbarasu to set up a committee to review the legality and propriety of all decisions and action taken by the Board after its constitution in March 2015, and submit a report within a month. Waqf : Waqf is a permanent dedication of movable or immovable properties for religious, pious or charitable purposes as recognized by Muslim Law, given by philanthropists. The grant is known as mushrut-ul-khidmat, while a person making such dedication is known as Waqf.The State Wakf Boards are established by the State Governments in view of the provisions of section 13 & 14 of the Waqf Act, 1995. However, the Waqf Act 1995 is not applicable to Jammu & Kashmir. At present, there are 30 Wakf Boards across the country in twenty-nine states/Union territories. The States like Goa, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim and the UT Daman & Dieu have no Waqf Board at present.

The U.S. has lifted sanctions against Myanmar that have been in place for nearly two decades on 7 October 2016. The move came after President Barack Obama’s announcement that the US was ready to lift sanctions on the Asian country during Myanmar State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit to Washington in September 2016. As a result of Obama’s announcement, the Treasury Department stated that the economic and financial sanctions administered by the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control were no longer in effect. Lifting economic and financial sanctions will support trade and economic growth in Myanmar. Treasury will continue to work with Burma to implement a robust anti-money laundering regime that will help to ensure the security of its financial system. The step eased restrictions on Myanmar’s financial institutions, allowed certain transactions related to US individuals living in the country, and removed seven state-owned enterprises and three state-owned banks from the US blacklist.

UN Security Council adopted a resolution authorising the European Union and individual countries to seize migrant smuggling vessels on the high seas off Libya for another year. The resolution was adopted following continued loss of life due to migrant smuggling and human trafficking off the coast of Libya. The resolution, adopted on 6 October 2016 by a vote of 14-0 with Venezuela abstaining, stressed that the council's aim is to disrupt the organized criminal enterprises engaged in migrant smuggling and human trafficking and prevent loss of life. By the terms of the text, the Council also urged States and regional organizations whose naval vessels and aircraft operate on the high seas and airspace off the coast of Libya, to be vigilant for migrant smuggling and human trafficking, encouraging them to increase and coordinate their efforts to deter those acts, in cooperation with Libya. The Council emphasized that all migrants, including asylum seekers, should be treated with humanity and dignity and that their rights should be fully respected, and urged all States in this regard to comply with their obligations under international law, including international human rights law and international refugee law. Further, the Council called on all States, with relevant jurisdiction under international law and national legislation, to investigate and prosecute persons responsible for migrant smuggling and human trafficking at sea, consistent with States' obligations under international law. The Council called for Member States to consider ratifying or acceding to the Protocol against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Sea and Air, which supplements the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, as well as the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children. The State Parties to these protocols are urged to implement them. The Council requested States to update the Security Council every three months on the progress of actions undertaken, and asked the Secretary-General to submit a report eleven months after the adoption of this resolution on its implementation. Britain's UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said after the vote that he wanted to make clear that the EU's Operation Sophia is only targeting smugglers and empty boats. He said migrants found during the operation are taken to Europe. Since the UN authorised the interdictions in October 2015, the Operation Sophia flotilla has directly apprehended 90 suspected smugglers and has made over 300 smuggling vessels unusable.

Arunachal Pradesh government has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the National Institute of Electronics and Information Technology, an autonomous body under the Ministry of Communication & Information Technology, for skill development of local people.  This agreement will facilitate development of skill to 1,600 people of Arunachal Pradesh in the first of a four year project under a scheme for 'Skill Development in Electronics System Design and Manufacturing (ESDM) Sector'. It would enhance skill development capacity in ESDM sector through public and private sectors for students or unemployed youth, an official release said here.  With the signing of the MoU, it is expected that the skill to be imparted through various training partners would generate a good number of skilled manpower in ESDM sector in the state.

The Union Home Minister proposed training facilities for Indian Police Officers in Switzerland Police Academies/other Training Institutes in the fields of Anti-Hijacking and Cyber Forensic etc. Shri Rajnath Singh said India looks forward for cooperation with Switzerland on the issue of exchange of tax information since the black money issue is the main corruption issue which needs to be tackled. On the occasion, the two sides signed three agreements including Mutual Visa Exemption Agreement for Holders of Diplomatic Passports, Technical Arrangements on Identification and Return of Illegal Migrants and Arrangement for Dependent Person of Diplomatic, Consular, Technical and Administrative Staff of Diplomatic and Consular Mission to Perform Gainful Employment. Shri Rajnath Singh also sought a more liberal visa regime for Indian business people since Indiahas been offering multi-year multiple entry visas to Swiss businesses in a bid to enhance bilateral trade and investment. Other subjects of interest to the two countries were also discussed. These included cooperation in transfer of sentenced persons and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty in Criminal matters that would help in combating terrorism, transnational organized crimes and corruption including money laundering.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has notified entities that have been granted a payments bank (PB) licence will need to take specific approval for products they would be offering to customers. In this regard, RBI has issued separate operating guidelines for payments banks in view to focus on financial inclusion. Employee of Payment Bank should be available for sufficient duration at a fixed location to attend customers. They must at least have 25% of access points in un-banked rural areas. The main mandate of Payment Banks is to offer remittance services.  They will be not allowed to lend. Payment Banks can also offer simple financial products like insurance and mutual funds. The RBI may place suitable restrictions on the design, functioning, or other features of the product of Payment Banks.  RBI may even discontinue the product launched by Payment banks if it feels that the product is not suitable for customers. RBI it will have no objection to payments banks making arrangements with other scheduled commercial bank or small finance bank.

India has reacted sharply to the extension of the “technical hold” on banning Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar by the United Nations 1267 Sanctions Committee.  It clearly mentioned that being a global body, UN will be sending a “dangerous message” if it fails to act upon India’s demand for his designation as a global terrorist. India also criticised the complete non-transparent and anonymous manner of designating individuals by the UNSC 1267 Sanctions Committee.  It also mentioned that, UN Sanctions Committee has already proscribed Pakistan-based JeM a terrorist organisation. However committee ignored the need to take action against the organisation’s main leader, motivator and financier who continues his terrorist actions unhindered. In March 2016, India told the 1267 Committee of UN to designate Masood Azhar as an international terrorist citing to act against its main leader, financier and motivator of terrorist organisation. India had pressed case against Masood in UN following the January 2016 Pathankot attack which it blamed on the outfit JeM.  Masood was also blamed as the mastermind behind recent September 2016 Uri attack in Jammu Kashmir. However in March 2016, China a veto-wielding permanent member of UNSC had blocked India’s move to put a ban on Azhar Masood under the al-Qaeda Sanctions Committee. China was the sole member in the 15-nation UNSC to put a hold on India’s application while the rest 14 members of the UNSC supported India’s bid. United Nations Security Council 1267 Committee : The UNSC 1267 Committee was established pursuant to resolution 1267 (1999). It is also known as the AlQaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee. It was established for the purpose of overseeing the implementation of sanctions measures imposed on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for its support of Osama bin Laden.  However in course of time, the 1267 sanctions regime has been modified and strengthened by subsequent resolutions.  If an individual or terrorist organisation is included in this list, it helps in restricting their movement, financial penalties and assets freeze among others. The Committee comprises all 15 members of the UNSC and makes its decision by consensus and secretly. If single member opposes it there is no consensus. That’s why China opposition to India’s bid is not allowing UNSC to designate Masood Azhar as an international terrorist and freeze his assets and travel ban. The committee is being criticised for being non transparent and in recent time there is demand for its reforms to address procedural shortcomings especially from India.  

The Union Ministry of Urban Development has approved projects worth Rs.114 crore under HRIDAY scheme for improving infrastructure facilities around core heritage sites in five cities.  These five cities are : Varnasi (Uttar Pradesh), Amritsar (Punjab), Dwaraka (Gujarat), Puri (Odisha) and Warangal (Telangana). Projects in these districts were selected based on recommendation of inter-Ministerial HRIDAY National Empowered Committee. Heritage Infrastructure Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY)  : HRIDAY is a Central Scheme that aims to preserve and rejuvenate the rich cultural heritage of the country.  The scheme will be completely funded by the Central Government to create infrastructure and provide facilities around the heritage sites to attract more tourists. It aims to bring urban planning, economic growth and heritage conservation together for heritage cities. It seeks to promote an inclusive, sustainable and integrated development of heritage sites, focusing on maintenance of monuments and advancement of their entire ecosystem. Objectives of Scheme : (i) Bring urban planning, economic growth and heritage conservation together for heritage cities. (ii) Beautification of heritage cities in an inclusive and integrated manner with prime focus on livelihoods, skills, cleanliness, security, safety, accessibility and faster service delivery. (iii) Guide conservation, restoration, future use and development of heritage cities. (iv) Create improved connectivity platform and access to tourists. It will help to harness full potential of India’s tourism sector which has total 35 UNESCO recognized natural, cultural and mixed heritage sites. India ranks second in Asia and fifth in the world interms of heritage sites.

The 2016 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country's more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that took away the lives of at least 220000 Colombians and displaced nearly six million people. The civil war in Colombia is one of the longest civil wars in modern times and the sole remaining armed conflict in the Americas.  President Juan Manuel Santos's role in Columbian War : President Santos initiated the negotiations that culminated in the peace accord between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas as he consistently sought to move the peace process forward.  The accord was controversial, however he was instrumental in ensuring that Colombian voters were able to voice their opinion concerning the peace accord in a referendum.  The outcome of the vote was not what President Santos wanted as a narrow majority of the over 13 million Colombians voted against the accord.  Despite the "No" majority vote in the referendum, President Santos brought the bloody conflict significantly closer to a peaceful solution. His endeavours to promote peace thus fulfil the criteria and spirit of prize.  

Hurricane Matthew after claiming lives of at least 300 people in the Caribbean nation Haiti lashed Florida with winds of 125 mph on 7 October 2016. More than two million people were evacuated from the coastal areas of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. North Carolina could also be affected as the storm moves north. President Barack Obama on 6 October 2016 declared a federal state of emergency in Florida as Hurricane Matthew's powerful winds began to be felt along the state's southeast coast. Hurricane Matthew that made its landfall in Haiti on 4 October 2016 with raging winds and storm leveled 80 percent of buildings in the peninsula’s main city, Jeremie. In Sud province 30000 homes were destroyed. The region's strongest storm in almost a decade made landfall on Haiti's Tiburon Peninsula as a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 145 mph. Haiti : Haiti, the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, is already struggling to regain its footing almost seven years after an earthquake and ensuing cholera epidemic ravaged the nation. It is one of the most deforested countries in the world. The country is located on the island of Hispaniola, in the Greater Antilles archipelago of the Caribbean. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic. With an estimated 10.6 million people, Haiti is the most populous country in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the second-most populous country in the Caribbean as a whole.  

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