Current Affairs Today – December 18 2015

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CAT Dec 18

INDIAN AFFAIRS

Lok Sabha passes Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015

The Lok Sabha has today passed the Arbitration and Reconciliation (Amendment Bill), 2015 by voice vote. The Bill seeks to make the arbitration process more investor-friendly, cost effective and suitable for expeditious disposal of cases.

  • It will also facilitate in making India a hub of international commercial arbitration. Courts will also be asked to decide disputed arbitral awards within a year.
  • It may be noted that the President had promogulated an ordinance for amending the earlier prevalent act, the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996 related and for matters connected there with or incidental thereto.

Key points:

  • Union Law Minister: D.V. Sadananda Gowda

DAC gives nod to purchase of Russian S-400 Air Defence Missile Systems

Russia

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar cleared the purchase of five S-400 Triumf long-range air defence systems from Russia.

  • The defence deal worth Rs. 40,000 crore is one of the biggest of its kind to be approved by the Modi government.
  • Mr. Modi government has been leveraging defence deals to reach out and further strategic cooperation with other nations. During his visit to France last year, he surprised everyone with the announcement for the direct purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets.

Union Cabinet gives nod to MoU with BRICS countries for energy conservation

Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given its ex-post facto approval to a pact signed between India and BRICS members for enhancing cooperation in building energy efficiency.

  • The MoU includes cooperation in joint scientific and technological research, conferencing and holding of lectures and seminars, capacity building and technology transfer and technology development, sharing policies and best practices.
  • The agreement will also encourage use of energy efficient and energy saving approaches and instruments in the work of the business entities of the BRICS countries, carried out within the BRICS countries in consultation with the host country.

Key points:

  • BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa

Union Government gives in principle approval to Google’s Loon project

Union Government has given nod to Google’s Loon project in the country which was proposed by Google’s newly-appointed chief Sundar Pichai, while on his first visit to India.

Under the project Loon, Google has proposed to provide internet connectivity in hard to access areas of the country from balloons floating at a height of 20 km using LTE or 4G technology.

  • Although there are some technical and security concerns over the project, Union minister for telecom and IT Mr. Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the telecom ministry would help Google in obtaining clearances from civil aviation and the defence ministries for approvals. He also said he had also proposed a partnership with state run BSNL for Project Loon.
  • Google had earlier announced a project to connect 400 Railway stations in the country through Wi-Fi along with Indian Railways technology arm RailTel which is on track and the first 100 stations will be connected by the end of 2016.

AP cabinet decided to abolish VAT, CST on sugar factories

Andhra Pradesh has decided to abolish VAT, CST on Sugar factories and permit foreign institutions to establish their campuses in the state. The decisions were taken at the State Cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu.

  • The other decisions the Cabinet approved includes hiking of wages of Anganwadi workers, permitting 15 top foreign universities and 20 top universities in the country to establish their campuses in the state and extend the lease of land given to the industrial purpose to 99 years.

Green Peace India released report on National Air Quality Index of 17 cities

Greenpeace India has released a ranking of the 17 cities covered by the National Air Quality Index (NAQI). The report reveals data to challenge the complacence of the Central and State Governments regarding cities other than Delhi: as many as fifteen of the 17 Indian cities with NAQI stations showed levels of air pollution that far exceed the prescribed Indian standards.

  • The report is the first analysis of air pollution levels in Indian cities carried out using the NAQI system. Greenpeace India said that the shockingly high pollution figures recorded between April and November indicate the continuing severity of the “air pollution disaster”.

Key points:

  • NAQI was launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to monitor quality of air in major urban centres.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

UNSC unanimously adopt resolution to cut-off supply of funds to IS group

The UN Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution to cut off funds for the Islamic State the extremist group, in a firmer move by the international community to fight terrorism.

  • The resolution was adopted by the 15-nation UN body at an open meeting chaired by US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, whose country holds the rotating council presidency for December.
  • The resolution called for enhanced actions, from closing financial system loopholes to stopping the abuse of charitable causes, as well as updating the existing ISIS and Al-Qaeda Sanctions List.
  • It also called for increased international cooperation in sharing information and closer collaboration with the private sector to identify suspect transactions.

2015 World Internet Conference held in China

2015 World Internet Conference held in China

The 2nd World Internet Conference held at Wuzen in China. It was jointly organized by the Cyberspace Administration of China and the People’s Government of Zhejiang Province.

  • China’s President Xi Jinping delivers keynote speech at WIC. Theme of the three-day long conference is “An Interconnected World Shared and Governed by All—Building a Cyberspace Community of Shared Destiny.”
  • The conference focused on issues such as the spread of Internet culture, innovative development of the Internet, digital economy cooperation, Internet technological standards and cyber governance.

UN welcomes historic signing of Libyan Political Agreement

Representatives from a broad range of Libyan society signed a United Nations-brokered agreement on forming a national unity government.

  • The agreement will lead to the establishment of a single Government of National Accord and national institutions that will ensure broad representation. It is a critical step incontinuing Libya’s post-revolution transition after months of turmoil and uncertainty.
  • UN Secretary General, Ban ki Moon said that the door will remain open to those who wish to join on the road to peace. We will continue to work to broaden the basis of support for the new Government.

ILO released Global Estimates on Migrant Workers

The Geneva based International Labour Organization (ILO) has released a report of new global estimates on migrant workers.

  • The report shows migrant workers account for 3 million of the world’s approximately 232 million international migrants.
  • The statistical study provides estimates of the proportion of labour migrant workers among the total number of migrants worldwide. It outlines the regions and industries where international migrant workers are established and includes a specific focus on migrants in domestic work with updated numbers.

Key Points:

  • ILO Headquarters: Geneva
  • ILO Director-General: Guy Ryder
  • International Migrants Day: December – 18

BANKING & FINANCE

IISL launches three new corporate group Indices

India Index Services & Products Ltd (IISL), an arm of National Stock Exchange (NSE), has launched three indices of Tata Group, Aditya Birla Group and Mahindra Group.

  • The Indices namely Nifty Tata Group Index, Nifty Aditya Birla Group Index and Nifty Mahindra Group Index are used to track the performance of all the companies of respective groups
  • These Indices are based on full market capitalization method and include all the companies of the respective groups listed on the NSE.
  • Nifty Tata group consists of 25 companies across 12 sectors. Nifty Aditya Birla group contains 8 companies across seven sectors while Nifty Mahindra Group index includes seven companies across six sectors.

RBI announces Marginal Cost of Funds Methodology to calculate base rate

RBI announced a new Marginal Cost of Funds Methodology to calculate base rate. The guidelines come into effect from April 1, 2016. These measures are expected to improve transparency in the methodology followed by banks for determining interest rates on advances. Some of the guidelines are:

  • All rupee loans sanctioned and credit limits renewed with effective from April 1, 2016 will be priced with reference to theMarginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rate (MCLR) which will be the internal benchmark for such purposes.
  • Banks will review and publish the lending rate every month on a pre-announced date
  • Actual lending rates will be determined by adding the components of spread to the MCLR.

Dena bank ties up with SBI Life Insurance

Dena bank has tied up with SBI Life Insurance Company in order to provide Group Life Insurance coverage to its housing loan borrowers under the ‘Dena Grihaswami Suraksha Yojana’. According to the MoU, the insurance cover will be given to all housing loan borrowers at a very low premium.

  • Single premium for the entire period of the loan at the time of entry into the scheme.
  • In case of death of the borrower during the term of cover, outstanding loan is set off against the policy proceeds settled by SBI Life Insurance.
  • If the amount of death claim exceeds the outstanding loan, the excess amount is paid to the nominee of the borrower.

AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS

Sahitya Akademi Awards for 2015 announced

Sahitya Academy has announced the names of 23 poets and authors who will be honored with 2015 Sahitya Akademi Award.

  • This award has recognised premier works in 23 Indian languages that includes 6 books of short stories, 6 of poetry, 4 novels, 2 books each of essays, criticism and plays and 1 memoir.

Vatican to confer sainthood on Mother Teresa as Pope recognises her second miracle

Vatican announced to Sainthood to Mother Teresa. She will be made a saint of the Roman Catholic Church in September 2016.

  • Pope Francis has approved a decree recognising a miracle attributed to her intercession with God.
  • Mother Teresa, who died in 1997 at the age of 87, was beatified in 2003 by the late Pope John Paul. Beatification, which requires one miracle is the last step before sainthood.
  • Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity to help the poor on the streets of Kolkata and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979.

Husband-wife duo Claude and Norma Alvares awarded with 2015 Sanctuary Lifetime Service Award

The husband-wife duo of Claude and Norma Alvares on 18 December 2015 were honoured with the 2015 Lifetime Service Award by Sanctuary Asia magazine.

  • On the other hand, Ashok Kumar, one of the pioneers of the fightback against wildlife crimes in India and chairman emeritus of the Wildlife Trust of India, was named the Sanctuary Legend. It is a new category in the list of Sanctuary Wildlife Awards for 2015.

CII Industrial Innovation Awards 2015 conferred upon 35 companies

The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) on 15 December 2015 conferred Industrial Innovation Awards 2015 upon 35 companies. Among them 10 were start-ups and 25 were big and small companies.

  • Delhi-based start-up Right Track Admizzionz Campuz won the top award in the start-up category, while the pharma major Zydus Cadila was adjudged the Most Innovative Company of the Year.
  • The awards were instituted by CII in 2014 to recognize and celebrate innovative Indian enterprises across industry segments. These premier awards seek to recognize and honor the Indian Industry’s brightest stars and to identify the top Innovative Organizations in the country.

APPOINTMENTS

Reva Khetrapal appointed as Delhi’s Lokayukta.

Former Delhi High Court judge, Justice Reva Khetrapal, took oath as Delhi’s new Lokayukta (anti-corruption ombudsman) at Raj Niwas. She will serve for five years.

  • A four-member panel had chosen Khetrapal’s name for the post of Lokayukta.
  • Delhi Governor Najeeb Jung administered the oath taking ceremony.
  • Chief MinisterArvind Kejriwal, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Leader of Opposition Vijender Gupta, high court judges, Delhi cabinet ministers, senior judicial officers and senior bureaucrats were also present at the oath taking ceremony.

Former Defence Secretary R K Mathur appointed new CIC

Former Defence Secretary R K Mathur appointed new CIC

Former Defence Secretary R K Mathur has been appointed as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), breaking away from the convention of appointing the head from among the serving Information Commissioners.

  • The post had fallen vacant after Vijai Sharma completed his tenure on December 1.
  • He will have tenure of about three years, till he attains the age of 65 years.

Indian-origin official Sanjay Pradhan to lead Open Government Partnership

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) on 16 December 2015 selected Indian-origin World Bank official Sanjay Pradhan to lead the organization.

  • Pradhan will help ensure that OGP continues to succeed in its mission to promote government transparency, accountability and responsiveness to citizens.
  • Currently vice president for Change, Leadership and Innovation at the World Bank Group, Pradhan will assume the new charge by mid-2016.

ACQUISITIONS & MERGERS

HUL to acquire Indulekha for Rs 330 crore

Hindustan Unilever (HUL) on 17 December 2015 announced that it signed an agreement with Mosons Group to acquire its flagship brand Indulekha for 330 crore rupees.

  • The proposed acquisition is in line with HUL’s strategic intent to strengthen its leadership position in Personal Care.

Highlights of the deal

  • The deal includes the acquisition of the trademarks Indulekha and Vayodha, intellectual property, design and knowhow.
  • HUL will pay Mosons Group 300 crore rupees upon closing of the transaction and a deferred consideration of 10 percent on the domestic turnover of the brands each year, payable annually for a five-year period commencing Fiscal Year 2018.
  • Mosons will continue to manage the business until the completion of the transaction.

IMPORTANT DAYS

International Migrants Day observed on 18th December 2015

International Migrants Day observed on 18th December 2015

International Migrants Day observed on 18th December 2015. The day was established in the year 2000 as adopted its resolution by UN General Assembly.

  • To mark this year’s International Migrants Day, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) is calling on the international community to come together and remember the refugees and migrants who have lost their lives or have disappeared while trying to reach safe harbour after arduous journeys across seas and deserts.