Today Current Affairs 2nd September 2016

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India has been placed at the 35th rank in the World Bank’s 2016 Logistics Performance Index (LPI) among 160 countries. The index was recently released by World Bank in its report titled ‘Connecting to Complete 2016’.  India has leapfrogged by 19 spots to 35th rank compared with 54th rank in 2014 LPI. Logistics Performance Index (LPI) : LPI is released by World Bank as part of its report every two years based on a world-wide survey of stakeholders. It is based on the ground providing feedback on the logistics friendliness of the countries in which they operate and those with which they trade.  The index measures countries across six components— Customs, infrastructure, international shipments, logistics quality and competence, tracking and tracing, and timeliness. It is an interactive benchmarking tool that helps countries to identify challenges and opportunities in trade logistics and also to improve their performance. India’s ranking in 2016 LPI : It stood at 38, 36, 39, 32, 33 and 42 in the components of Customs, infrastructure, international shipments, logistics quality and competence, tracking and tracing, and timeliness respectively.

The Guinness World Records has declared Assam's Majuli as the largest river island in the world on 1 September 2016. The island is located in the Brahmaputra River. As per the Guinness World Records, the island lost around one-third of its area in the last 30-40 years due to frequent flooding of the river. Majuli : Majuli had a total area of 1250 square kilometres at the beginning of the 20th century. However, it had lost significantly to erosion. It had an area of only 352 square kilometres in 2014. The island is formed by River Brahmaputra in the south and the Kherkutia Xuti, an anabranch of the Brahmaputra, joined by the Subansiri River in the north. The island is accessible by ferries from the city of Jorhat.It was formed due to course changes by the river Brahmaputra and its tributaries, mainly the Lohit. It is the abode of the Assamese neo-Vaisnavite culture.

South Korea's LG Electronics Inc has  tied-up with Inc on smart-home services on 2 September 2016. This tie-up will help enabling the services of Amazon such as the Alexa virtual assistant on some of the electronics maker's devices. Highlights of the Partnership :  Alexa will work with its SmartThinkQ Hub, an LG device used to connect with home appliances over the internet. It will allow users to control the South Korean firm's home appliances via voice-recognition technology.It would add's Dash feature on its SmartThinQ Sensors, which enabled smart features on appliances to allow users to quickly order household items such as laundry detergent or drinks.

TVSN Prasad committee constituted to look into the alternatives to pellet guns submitted its report to Home Secretary Rajiv Mehrishi on 30 August 2016. As per reports, the committee was not in favour of completely removal of the pellet guns in the Kashmir Valley but suggests that it should be replaced with polymer, rubber and paper bullets. It suggests that the pallet guns should be used in rarest of rare cases.It suggests for use of other non-lethal weapons, like chilli grenade shells, for crowd control.It asks for use of Pelargonic Acid Vanillyl Amide (PAVA) also called Nonivamide and other non-lethal ammunition like 'stun lac cells'.  It calls for use of Long Range Acoustic Device (LARD), which create deafening noise to paralyse people, in rural areas as it could prove dangerous for old buildings in downtown Srinagar.It suggests that tear gas shells should be made of plastic so that it may melt on being fired and cannot be picked up. It was suggested, as at present, the protests pick up the existing shells and throw them back at forces.It also suggests for change of the gas in tear gas shell to make it more effective. Earlier on 26 July 2016, the Joint Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) constituted a seven-member expert committee on use of pallet guns. It was constituted after the use of pellet guns blinded and injured many in the Valley during the protests over killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani on 8 July 2016.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on its Cape Canaveral launch pad during a test on 1 September 2016. The explosion destroyed a commercial satellite that Facebook had planned to use to extend Internet access in Africa. It was the second time in just over a year that SpaceX has lost a Falcon 9 rocket, which is slated to launch NASA astronauts for the first time in 2017. SpaceX : Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) is an American aerospace manufacturer and space transport services company. The company is headquartered in Hawthorne, California, United States.It was founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk. The company was founded with the goal of creating the technologies to reduce space transportation costs and enable the colonization of Mars. It has developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles, both designed to be reusable. SpaceX is funded by government subsidiaries and contracts. SpaceX's achievements include the first privately funded, liquid-propellant rocket (Falcon 1) to reach orbit in 2008.

India and Egypt has signed an agreement on Maritime Transport on 2 September 2016. The agreemnt would help the two nations to step-up co-operation on the seas not only in terms of maritime commerce but also in transit of naval vessels.  The agreement was signed after delegation level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and visiting President of Egypt Abdel Fattah El-Sisi in New Delhi. President Sisi is on a three-day visit (1-3 September 2016) to India at an invitation of President Pranab Mukherjee. Earlier in October 2015, the Union Cabinet gave its approval for signing of an agreement between India and Egypt on Maritime Transport. It was decided that the agreement would be signed on a mutually convenient date and venue. The proposal was approved with a view to strengthening cooperation and to render sustained mutual assistance and advice on merchant shipping and other related maritime matters. Besides, the two leaders agreed that a special and enlarged "India by the Nile Festival" would be held in 2017 to commemorate the 70th anniversary of India's independence. They also called for the proposal to have the inaugural "Egypt by the Ganga Festival" in 2017.

Reliance Industries Limited has launched the Reliance Jio Service offering free voice calls and zero roaming charges for its customers as a part of Jio Welcome Offer on 1 September 2016 .  The Jio Welcome Offer will be effective from 5 September 2016 up to 31 December 2016. As part of the Jio Welcome Offer, users will have access to unlimited LTE data and national voice, video and messaging services along with the full bouquet of Jio applications and content free of cost. Reliance tied up with around 20 smartphone  brands including Samsung, Micromax and LG to bundle Jio SIM cards with them with free voice and data for three months.  Specification of Reliance Jio Service :  Domestic voice calls to any network across the country would be free for Jio subscribers even beyond the Jio Welcome Offer.  Domestic roaming services would also not be charged separately.  Average data prices would be around  50 rupees for 1 GB, which would be amongst the lowest in the world. In addition to fixed and wireless broadband connectivity, Jio will also offer end-to-end solutions in key domains such as education, healthcare, security, communication, financial services, and entertainment. Jio's 4G network covers 18000 cities and towns, and over 2 lakh villages. The Jio-Apps bouquet, which is worth 15000 rupees for an annual subscription, will be available complimentary for all active Jio customers up to 31 December 2017.  The JioFi router has been launched at just 1999 rupees. New Lyf devices starting at 2999 rupees only.  More than 70% of all devices sold in India support 4G LTE. And that soon that will be 100 percent. 1 million wifi hotspots across India. A special student discount offer, with 25 percent more data on the main tariff plans, would be offered to all students. 2.8 million songs, 6000 movies and thousands of magazines and newspapers to be added for Jio customers  Reliance launched Jio Money for customers to go cashless with the help of this digital wallet There will be no blackout dates for Jio customers. No extra charges for festive days. Customers can access their bill at real-time after every transaction.  Reliance Jio Infocomm Limited :  It is a subsidiary of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and the first telecom operator to hold pan India Unified License. It has created a legacy free, next-generation voice and broadband network which can be seamlessly upgraded even to 5G and beyond.  It will be the only company in the world providing next generation digital services over an end-to-end all-IP network at this scale.

The Union Defence Ministry has sanctioned the construction of a National War Memorial and National War Museum in New Delhi.  The National War Memorial will honour the memory of all soldiers of the Indian Armed Forces who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the nation. The National War Museum will combine architectural aesthetics and public sentiment.  It will serve as a place for people to show their respect for soldiers, for their extraordinary efforts. The selected site of the memorial is located in the heart of New Delhi, within the C-Hexagon that lies in the close vicinity of India Gate and Chattri.  It will be an institution to collect, preserve, interpret and display military artifacts. Besides, it will portray significant events of our nation’s wars and related objects of historical importance for education and promoting patriotism.

The Goa Legislative Assembly has unanimously passed a resolution ratifying the amendments to the Constitution to pave way for the presidential assent to the Goods and Services (GST) Bill, 2016.  Goa is the 15th State Assembly to ratify the Bill. With this, 50% of States have passed the Bill paving way for the presidential assent. GST is a tax levied when a consumer buys a good or service. It is meant to be a single, comprehensive tax that will subsume all the other smaller indirect taxes on consumption like service tax, excise duty etc. This is how it is done in most developed countries.  It will be a comprehensive nationwide indirect tax on the manufacture, sale, and consumption of goods and services.  The aim is to have one indirect tax for the whole nation, which will make India a unified common market.

Sbi Mutual Fund has appointed Anuradha Rao as its Managing Director and chief executive.  Rao was Deputy Managing Director at Sbi handling New Business Portfolio. She has also worked as the Chief General Manager of personal Banking at the bank. She took charge from Dinesh Kumar Khara, who has been appointed Managing Director of State Bank Of India (Associate & Subsidiaries).  Rao has been appointed as the new MD and CEO of Sbi Funds Management Pvt Ltd effective August 25, 2016. Rao has over three decades of vast experience in Banking and allied sectors.  SBI Mutual Fund : SBI Mutual Fund is a bank sponsored fund house with its corporate headquarters in Mumbai,India. It is a joint venture between the State Bank of India, an Indian multinational, Public Sector banking and financial services company and Amundi, a European asset management company.

Odisha CM, Naveen Patnaik, would share his thoughts on different issues through the radio for 10 minutes every month.  This was decided at a meeting chaired by Mr Patnaik. The State government has decided to launch ‘Biju Goan Radio’ through which the Chief Minister would address the people soon. The programme would provide information on agriculture, cooperation, health, education, irrigation and culture.  It would be broadcast from 6 pm to 7 pm for one hour every day. The repeat broadcast would be held from 8 pm to 9 pm on the same day.

Renowned sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik has won the people's choice prize for his sand sculpture titled "Mahatma Gandhi- World Peace" at the ninth Moscow Sand Sculpture Championship 2016. Sudarsan has already won a gold medal for the 15-foot-high sculpture which he created at the championship held in April 2016. The sand art depicted the message of non-violence and peace. In the People's Choice category, the sand sculpture got 60,000 votes of a total of 80,000 votes. At least 20 sand artists from countries around the world participated in the championship. Pattnaik has also been honoured with a Padmashri  India's fourth highest civilian award. He runs a sand art school at Puri beach in Odisha.

A group of researchers have concluded that the gravest threat to groundwater in India is not over-exploitation but arsenic and salt contamination. The study titled Groundwater quality and depletion in the Indo-Gangetic Basin mapped from in situ observations was published on 29 August 2016 in the journal Nature Geoscience. The study was concluded after analysing groundwater levels from 3429 wells and spatial data in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh. The study also highlights the fact that unsustainable levels of groundwater extraction are largely limited to urban agglomerations in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. Highlights of the study :  About 23% of the 300 Billion Cubic Metre (BCM) is extremely saline about 40% is contaminated by arsenic. Compiled water-table records indicate substantial spatial variability. Canals built in the 19 and 20 centuries significantly influenced groundwater trends. Water accumulated at the origins of the canal tended to leak out. The leakage led to high recharge and sometimes floods.The largest water depletion occurred in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Pakistan’s Punjab.

A software industry veteran Ajei Gopal was named the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of a leading US company ANSYS on 30 August 2016. Gopal will take over the charge of the Pennsylvania-based company with effect from 1 January 1 2017. James Cashman, who has served as ANSYS’ CEO since 2000, will become Chairman of the Board of Directors, effective from January 2017. Ajei Gopal :  Gopal began his career as a member of the technical staff at Bell Communications Research.He has served as a member of the ANSYS Board since 2011.Previously, he served as interim president and COO at California-based technology company Symantec. He was senior vice president and general manager at Hewlett-Packard from 2011. He worked at IBM from 1991 to 2000. He has 23 US patents to his name. He has obtained a doctorate in computer science from Cornell University. He holds a bachelor’s degree from the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay.  ANSYS : ANSYS produces engineering simulation software used for testing product designs across a wide spectrum of industries including rockets and wearable technology. The company was founded in 1970 by John A. Swanson as Swanson Analysis Systems, Inc (SASI). SASI developed its business in parallel with the growth in computer technology and engineering needs.In 1994, SASI was sold to TA Associates.The new owners took SASI’s leading software, called ANSYS, as their flagship product and designated ANSYS, Inc. as the new company name.

The Gujarat government has signed a tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Airport Authority of India (AAI)  on 1 September 2016 to develop 11 small airports and airstrips under the Centre’s Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS).The MoU was signed to boost regional air connectivity in the State. Highlights of the MoU : MoU was signed to develop the 11 air-strips / airports which are in working or not in working position, so that the state aviation sector may develop to provide easy connectivity to the passengers of state.  Airports of Bhavnagar, Bhuj, Jamnagar, Surat, Porbandar, Mehsana, Mandvi, Amreli, Kandla, Keshod and Deesa will be developed, which fall under un-served-underserved category.  The Centre will provide the financial resources under viability gap funding of the RCS.The infrastructural development will take place as per the RCS of civil aviation ministry.Apart from developing infrastructure at the 11 airports, the Union Government will provide subsidies to airline operators, including cheaper fuel. With this MoU, Gujarat became the third State after Jharkhand and Maharashtra to have signed such an agreement to seek the Centre’s support to provide financial assistance to create infrastructural facilities in small airports.

The Union Government has notified National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme on 1 September 2016. It is for the first time a scheme has been notified to offer financial incentives to employers. The Scheme has an outlay of 10000 crore rupees with a target of 50 Lakh apprentices to be trained by 2019-20. The National Policy of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, 2015 launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi focuses on apprenticeship as one of the key components for creating skilled manpower in India. The policy proposes to work pro-actively with the industry including MSME to facilitate tenfold increase opportunities in the country by 2020. Apprenticeship Training is considered to be one of the most efficient ways to develop skilled manpower for the country. It provides for an industry led, practice oriented, effective and efficient mode of formal training. Highlights of the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme :  It provides for incentivizing employers to engage apprentices.25% of the total stipend payable to an apprentice would be shared with employers directly by Union Government.It also supports basic training, which is an essential component of apprenticeship training. 50% of the total expenditure incurred on providing basic training would be supported by Union Government.  

Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu has launched an insurance scheme for passengers travelling on e- ticket on 1 September 2016 . The insurance cover will be up to 10 lakh rupees. The insurance coverage will be available in case of train accidents and other untoward incidents, including terrorist attack, dacoity, rioting, shooting or arson. Features of the Scheme : A person booking a train ticket through the IRCTC website will be eligible for the travel insurance and it is optional.To avail the facility, train passengers will have to pay 92 paisa premium. The insurance cover will not be applicable for children up to 5 years of age and foreign citizens.The facility will be available only for confirmed and RAC ticket passengers.There will be no refund of the premium in case of ticket cancellation. The scheme offers travellers or nominees a compensation of 10 lakh Rupees in the event of death or total disabilty, 7.5 lakh Rupees for partial disability, up to 2 lakh Rupees for hospitalisation expenses and 10000 rupees for transportation of mortal remains from the place of a train accident. The compensation claim has to be made within four months of the incident and the insurance company is required to process the claim within 15 days of receipt of the require documents. Shriram General Insurance Company, ICICI Lombard and Royal Sundaram General Insurance have been roped in by Indian railways for providing the insurance cover.

The Indian Army has set up Army Design Bureau (ADB) in an attempt to indigenise procurements and reduce import dependence.  It has been established as part of the government’s ‘Make in India’ initiative and will integrate various stake holders in its long-term requirements. Army Design Bureau (ADB)  : ADB will provide a better understanding of the Army’s requirements to the academia, research organisations and the industry for developing high tech defence products. It will be the interface of the Indian Army for a single point contact for all stakeholders which would help R&D fraternity in developing indigenous solutions.  ADB comes in the wake of rapid changes in technology and consequent changes in war fighting techniques.  It will help the Indian Army to be constantly involved at every stage from conceptualisation to design to development trails and production to sustenance for its modernisation needs.

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for simplification and liberalisation of the Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) Policy, 2016 in various sectors announced in June, 2016. The radical amendments to FDI policy are meant to liberalise and simplify the FDI policy so as to provide ease of doing business in the country. Its main aim is to allow larger FDI inflows in the country that will contribute to growth of investment, incomes and employment. Changes in FDI Policy regime Defence Sector : FDI beyond 49% has been permitted through government approval route, in cases resulting in access to modern technology in the country or for other reasons. The condition of access of state of the art technology has been removed and it has been modified to access to modern or for other reasons. FDI limit also has been made applicable to Manufacturing of Small Arms and Ammunitions covered under Arms Act, 1959.  Food Products manufactured or produced in India : 100% FDI under government approval route for trading in respect of food products manufactured in India.  Pharmaceutical Sector : 100% FDI under automatic route in greenfield pharmaceuticals. FDI up to 100% under government approval in brownfield pharmaceuticals also has been approved and 74% FDI under automatic route in Brownfield pharmaceuticals.  Civil Aviation Sector : 100% FDI under automatic route in Brownfield Airport Projects. FDI limit raised to 100% in Scheduled Air Transport Service and regional Air Transport Service.   Animal Husbandry : 100% FDI allowed in Animal Husbandry (including breeding of dogs), Aquaculture, Pisciculture and Apiculture under Automatic Route without requirement of controlled conditions.  Private Security Agencies : 49% FDI permitted under automatic route and FDI beyond 49% and up to 74% will be permitted through government approval route.  Establishment of branch office, liaison office or project office : No approval from Reserve Bank of India or separate security clearance would be required. This exemption will be application in cases where FIPB has approved it or license and permission already has be given by the concerned Ministry.  Single Brand Retail Trading : Entities undertaking single brand retail trading have been relaxed from local sourcing norms up to 3 years.  Entities engaged in of single brand retail trading of products having ‘state-of-art’ and ‘cutting edge’ technology have been relaxed from local sourcing norms up to 5 years. Comment With these radical changes in FDI Policy, Union government has permitted 100% FDI under government approval route for almost every sector, including defence.  However there is still exception in few sectors mentioned in the small negative list. FDI continues to be prohibited in atomic energy, lottery, gambling, real estate and Real Estate Investments Trusts (REIT) and railways operations.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has imposed penalties on 10 cement companies and their umbrella association - Cement Manufacturers Association (CMA) for cartelisation.  The CCI has levied penalties on 10 cement companies viz. ACC, ACL,  Binani, Century, India Cements, JK Cements, Lafarge, Ramco, UltraTech and  Jaiprakash Associates. The Builders Association of India (BAI) had filed complaint against the cement companies and the CMA alleging in fixing collectively prices of cement.  It was alleged that these cement companies and the CMA shared details relating to prices, capacity utilisation, production and dispatch and thereby restricted output and supplies.  Their collective was contravention of certain provisions of the Competition Act, 2002. It was also detrimental to the interests of consumers and the economy as cement is a critical basic input in construction and infrastructure industry. Competition Commission of India (CCI)  : The CCI is quasi-judicial statutory body established under The Competition Act, 2002.  It established in 2003 to eliminate practices that adversely affect competition in different industries and protect interests of consumers and ensure freedom of trade.  Its predecessor was the MRTPC (Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission) which was functional prior to 1991 Economic Reforms.