Current Affairs Today – December 17 2015

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CAT Dec 17

INDIAN AFFAIRS

Union Parliament passed Bill to create Commercial Benches in High Courts

The Lok Sabha has passed the Commercial Courts, Commercial Division and Commercial Appellate Division of High Courts Bill, 2015 which the government claimed would help bring in big foreign investments into the country and improve India’s global image on ease of doing business. The measure will help set up commercial benches in selected high courts to settle high value commercial disputes.

The demand was first made by the BJP’s Kirti Azad which was later supported by other members. The bill was, however, opposed by the BJD and RSP saying that it accorded special treatment and speedier justice for high-value commercial disputes and nothing for the common man.

Key Points:

  • Union law minister: Sadananda Gowda

Supreme Court bans registration of new diesel SUVs, luxury cars in Delhi

Delhi

After the National Green Tribunal (NGT) ordered a ban on the registration of all diesel cars in Delhi, the Supreme Court has banned the registration of all diesel SUVs and luxury cars with engine capacity of 2000 cc or more in the entire National Capital Region till March 31, 2016. However, vehicles less than 2000cc can be registered.

  • The court said its order overrides all the other orders passed by other forums, including the NGT.
  • The Supreme Court has also asked all the private cabs operating in the city to convert to Compressed Natural Gas or CNG by March 1 next year.

Union Cabinet gives nod for development of Underground Coal Gasification

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved a policy framework for development of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in coal and lignite bearing areas in the country.

  • UCG is a method of extraction of energy from coal/lignite resources which are otherwise regarded as uneconomical to work through conventional mining methods.
  • Development of UCG is envisaged to provide for energy security. An Inter-Ministerial Committee under the Ministry of Coal with members from concerned Ministries will be responsible for identification of the areas, deciding about blocks to be put to bidding or awarding them to PSUs on nomination basis.

Key Points:

  • Minister Responsible in Ministry of Coal: Piyush Goyal, Minister of State (Independent Charge)

UP Governor Ram Naik gave assent to state’s Revenue Code (Amendment) Ordinance 2015

Uttar Pradesh Governor Ram Naik has given his assent to UP Revenue Code (Amendment) Ordinance 2015. The state government had sent the ordinance to the Governor for his approval for the amendment in UP Revenue Code 2006.

  • According to a spokesman, the Governor took the decision keeping in view the urgency of the subject as there was possibility of convening winter session of UP Assembly in the last week of January.

Key points:

  • UP Chief Minister: Akhilesh Yadav

AP Shah Committee appointed to look into ONGC, RIL dispute on KG gas fields

AP Sha

The Justice (Retd) A P Shah panel has been constituted to look into acts of omission and commission and recommend compensation to ONGC whose natural gas from Bay of Bengal block had flowed to adjoining fields of Reliance Industries Ltd. (RIL).

  • The committee has been constituted after US-based consultant DeGolyer and MacNaughton (D&M) stated that as much as 11.122 billion cubic meters of natural gas, worth over Rs 11,000 crore, had migrated from idling Krishna Godavari fields of Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) to adjoining KG-D6 block of RIL.
  • The panel has been asked to look into legal, financial and contractual provisions and submit a report within three months.

Key Points:

  • Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas: Dharmendra Pradhan

Union Cabinet gives nod to amend Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950

The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its approval for introduction of a Bill for amendments to the Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950, in order to modify the list of Scheduled Castes in respect of the five states— Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Odisha and West Bengal.

The castes and communities that were found eligible for their inclusion in SC category:

  • From Chhattisgarh are Sais, who are also known as Sahis, Sarathi, Soot-Sarathi and Thanwar.
  • Two castes from Haryana have also been included in the SC list. These are Aheria, also called Aheri, Hari, Heri, Thori and Turi, and Rai Sikh.
  • In Kerala, Peruvannan caste has been included the SC list while Malayan from certain areas will also be entitled to the same benefits.
  • Castes, which have been excluded from the OBC list consequent upon their inclusion in SC list include Bariki and Kummari from Odisha, while the area restriction of the inclusion of Chain caste in West Bengal has been removed.

The proposal also seeks some changes in the Central List of Other Backward Classes of the states of Chattisgarh, Haryana and Kerala.

After the Bill becomes an Act, members of the communities included in the list of Scheduled Castes will be able to derive benefits meant for Scheduled Castes under the existing schemes.

Maharashtra announces 10512 crore rupees aid for farmers

  • The Maharashtra Government on 16 December 2015 announced a 10512 crore rupees relief package for more than 15000 drought-hit villages in 14 districts of the state’s Marathwada and Vidarbha regions.
  • The package was announced by state Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in the assembly in Nagpur during a discussion on the drought situation.
  • Of the 10512 crore rupees, 7412 crore rupees will be direct financial assistance to cotton and soybean farmers in Vidarbha and Marathwada. Out of the 7412 crore rupees, 2800 crore rupees will be given in the form of crop insurance to farmers and 1034 crore rupees aid will be given to those who have not insured their crops.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

India ranks 97th on Forbes’ best countries for business list

Forbes

  • India has ranked a low 97th out of 144 nations, behind Kazakhstan and Ghana, on Forbes’ annual list of the best countries for business in 2015, scoring poorly on metrics like trade and monetary freedom and tackling challenges like corruption and violence.
  • Denmark topped the list of the 144 nations on the Best Countries of Business in 2015 list by Forbes. The US has dropped four spots to number 22, continuing a six-year descent since 2009 when it had ranked second overall.
  • The US is the financial capital of the world and its largest economy at USD 17.4 trillion (China is second at USD 10.4 trillion), but it scores poorly on monetary freedom and bureaucracy/red tape.
  • India is ranked 97th on the list, with Forbes saying that while the country is developing into an open-market economy, traces of its “past autarkic policies” remain.

Afghanistan joins World Trade Organisation

  • The World Trade Organisation (WTO) on Thursday formally approved Afghanistan’s membership at its 10th ministerial conference in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
  • Afghanistan has become the 164th WTO member and the 36th least developed country (LDC) to join the global trade body after 11 years of negotiations.

BANKING & FINANCE

Federal Reserve of US increased interest rate by 0.25% for the first time since 2006

  • The Federal Reserve System, the central banking system of the USA, on 16 December 2015 increased interest rate by 0.25 percent. A decision in this regard was approved by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System chaired by Janet L Yellen.
  • With this, the interest rates in the US are now in the range of 0.25 – 0.50 percent as compared to zero to 0.25 percent range earlier. This is the first rate increase since 2006.

RBI liable to disclose information about banks under RTI Act: Supreme Court

  • The Supreme Court on 16 December 2015 held that the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is liable to disclose information about the banks and financial institutions for their action against the loan defaulters including industrialists under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005.
  • The Court further ruled that RBI has statutory duty to uphold public interest and not the interest of individual banks.
  • It has no legal duty to maximise the benefit of any public sector or private sector bank, and thus there is no relationship of trust between them.

BUSINESS

IRCTC partners Paytm for food payments

  • Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has tied up with Paytm to offer an additional payment gateway for food ordered through its e-catering facility.
  • To enable railway passengers to order food, IRCTC sends an email to passengers one day in advance about food order, which can also be placed during ticket reservations.
  • On an average, IRCTC clocks 5.5 to six lakh e-catering bookings daily.

AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS

President Pranab Mukherjee received Global leader award

President

President Pranab Mukherjee received Garwood Award for Outstanding Global Leader in Open Innovation from UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

  • Executive Director of Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, Prof. Solomon Darwin presented the award to the President, called a “champion of innovative thinking“.
  • Mr.Mukherjee said that “Open innovation” is most essential for government entities, which are tasked to serve the citizens. Placing of data in public domain without compromising the privacy, promotes transparency, innovation and opens up new avenues to solve problems of citizens efficiently and effectively.

APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS

Sumi Ghosh new CEO of Tata Starbucks

Tata Starbucks appointed Sumi Ghosh as its CEO with effect from January. The current CEO of Tata Starbucks, Avani Davda resigned from the position.

  • Sumi Ghosh was Vice President of Starbuck’s United States mid-west region. She has been with the group for eight years.
  • Tata Starbucks Private Ltd, a 50:50 joint venture between Starbucks Coffee Company and Tata Global Beverages. Tata Starbucks operates over 70 stores in India. Starbucks, world’s largest coffee chain operator entered in the country through its first outlet in 2012.

Justice Virendra singh appointed as Lokayukta of Uttar Pradesh

Uttar Pradesh Governor, Ram Naik appointed former High Court judge Virendra Singh as the new Lokayukta of the state. Lokayukta is an anti-corruption authority constituted at the state level.      

  • A bench led by Justice Ranjan Gogoi, chose a former Allahabad High Court judge, Virendra Singh as the new Lokayukta from a list of five members submitted by the state government.
  • Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav gave his approval after getting the copy of the SC order regarding appointment of Virendra Singh.

Lalit Modi reinstated as Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA) President        

Former IPL commissioner, Lalit Modi will be back as a president of the Rajasthan Cricket Association (RCA).

  • RCA Vice President, Amin Pathan withdrew the ‘no confidence’ motion against Modi. Former Justice Gyan Sudha Mishra said 15 RCA member-districts had withdrawn their ‘no confidence’ in the interests of the game.
  • Lalit Modi suspended by the Board of Control for Cricket in India for financial irregularities in 2013. The BCCI later suspended RCA after Modi was made its president. However, Team RCA is participating in tournaments under the court’s permission.

ACQUISITIONS & MERGERS

R-Infra acquires 17% more in Pipavav Defence

  • Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure (R-Infra) has acquired an additional 17 per cent stake in Pipavav Defence and Offshore Engineering Co Ltd (PDOC) for an estimated Rs 850 crore through an open offer, taking its total holding to nearly 35 per cent and acquiring sole management control of the company.
  • Major institutional investors have not opted to tender their shares for the open offer of PDOC and have decided to stay invested in the company as R-Infra, on 16 Dec 2015 announced the closing of the open offer period for the acquisition of PDOC, acquiring just 17 per cent of the shares against the offer to acquire 26 per cent.

ENVIRONMENT

Scientists discover new species of ‘Sail backed’ dinosaur in Spain

Scientists found fossils of a new species of ‘sail-backed’ dinosaur in Spain. The Scientists from National University of Distance Education (UNED) in Spain described the species Morelladon beltrani that lived a little over 125 million years ago.

  • Morelladon is a medium-sized styracosternan ornithopod of around 6 meter long, 2.5 meter tall and weighed two tons, similar in body length and proportions to its relative Mantellisaurus atherfieldensis.

BOOKS & AUTHORS

Book: “The Bose Brothers and Indian Independence – An Insider’s Account” by Madhuri Bose.

Madhuri Bose and Chandra Bose, grand-niece and grand-nephew of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose met the Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Parliament House complex.

  • Madhuri Bose presented a copy of her book titled “The Bose Brothers and Indian Independence – An Insider’s Account” to the Prime Minister.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office has already initiated steps to unveil 33 secret files related to Netaji on January 23, the birth anniversary of the freedom fighter.

IMPORTANT DAYS

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers

International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers is observed on December 17 every year.The day was launched in 2003 as as a memorial and vigil for the victims of the Green River Killer in Seattle Washington.

  • This day to highlight the need for action to end violence against sex workers.

Purpose : To remember those  lost this year and renew our commitment to the on-going struggle for empowerment, visibility, and rights for all sex workers.

Theme : Stigma & Discrimination