Current Affairs Today – December 23 2015

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Current Affairs Today 23 December 2015INDIAN AFFAIRS

President dedicates NIMHANS to the nation

President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee dedicated the Bangalore based National Institute of Mental Health and Neurological Sciences (NIMHANS) to the nation as an Institute of national importance.
(Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare – Jagat Prakash Nadda)

  • He also inaugurated the Magneto Encephalography Research Center and NIMHANS Heritage Museum in Bengaluru.

Lok Sabha passes The Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015

The Lok Sabha passed the Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015. The bill will allow doubling of wage ceiling for calculating bonus of factory workers.

  • The Bill seeks to amend the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965.

Provisions of Bill:

  • It seeks to raise the eligibility limit for payment of bonus from a salary of 10000 rupees to 21000 rupees a month.
  • It seeks to raise this calculation ceiling of bonus to 7000 rupees per month or as per the minimum wage notified for the employment under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (whichever is higher).
  • It seeks to mandate prior publication of rules made by the Union Government in the Official Gazette to allow for more public consultation.
  • It will have retrospective effect and will come into force on 1 April 2015.

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar approved Patna Metro Rail project

Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar approved the Patna Metro Rail project’s proposal. The state government will now send the proposal for the union government’s clearance.

  • The Rail India Technical and Economic Service (RITES) last year submitted the DPR on the project to the Bihar government, reducing the project estimates to Rs 14,000 crore from Rs 17,000 crore earlier.

Key Highlights:

  • The Metro proposal aims at two corridors in the first phase covering a total distance of 31km.
  • The first corridor will run east to west over 5 Kilometres from Mithapur bus stand to Saguna Mor via Bailey Road and Patna Junction.
  • The second north-south corridor will run from Patna Junction to the proposed bus stand at Bairiya on Patna-Gaya road via Ashok Rajpath, Gandhi Maidan and Rajendra Nagar Terminal over 16.5km.
  • A corporation on the lines of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation will be formed for monitoring the construction of the project in Patna.

Union Cabinet approves Lucknow Metro project

Union Cabinet has approved the Lucknow Metro Rail Project Phase – 1 A. It will cover a length of 22.878 km with 22 stations.

Project Outlay – Rs 6928 crore

  • The cost of project will be supported by Government of India with Rs 1300 crore in the form of equity and subordinate debt.
  • The Project will be implemented by Lucknow Metro Rail Corporation (LMRC), which will be reconstituted into a 50:50 jointly owned company of of India and Govt. of Uttar Pradesh.
  • It will have total 19 elevated and 3 underground metro stations.

The project will come under the legal framework of the Metro Railways (Construction of Works) Act, 1978; the Metro Railways (Operation and Maintenance) Act, 2002 and the Railways Act, 1989.

Union Cabinet approves to expand visa-free diplomatic travel to more countries

Union Cabinet approved a model agreement on exemption from visa requirements to expand the envelope of visa-free travel for holders of diplomatic and official passports to other countries.

  • This would facilitate visa-free entry, transit and stay up to 90 days (or less) in any period of 180 days (or more) in the territory of India or signatory country for holders of diplomatic and official passports of either country

Visa free agreements have been signed with 69 countries. There are still more than 130 countries with which India is yet to enter into or sign similar agreements.

CCEA approves Rs 3,000 crore scheme for fisheries sector

Government approved an integrated scheme for the development and management of fisheries sector as it seeks to bring ‘blue revolution’ in the country.The scheme will benefit the entire fisheries sector covering about 14.50 million fishers.

Outlay: Rs 3,000 crore

Aim: To focuse and integrate approach for development and management of fisheries and aquaculture sector to ensure a sustained annual growth rate of 6-8 per cent in the 11th Five Year Plan period.

6 broad components of the scheme:

  1. National Fisheries Development Board (NFDB) and its activities
  2. Development of Inland Fisheries and Aquaculture
  3. Development of Marine Fisheries, Infrastructure and Post Harvest Operations;
  4. Strengthening of Database & Geographical Information System of the Fisheries Sector
  5. Institutional Arrangement for Fisheries Sector
  6. Monitoring, Control and Surveillance (MCS) and other need-based interventions.

Highlights:

  • The components of the scheme would be implemented by the Department of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries (DADF) with 100 per cent central funding.
  • The scheme has suitable linkages and convergence with the ‘Sagarmala Project’ of Shipping Ministry, MGNAREGA, Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) and National Rural Livelihoods Mission ( NRLM) etc.
  • Fish production in the country in 2014-15, while the export earnings from the sector registered at Rs 33,441 crore in 2014-15.

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

Union Cabinet approves revised cost estimates of Salma Dam Project in Afghanistan

Union Cabinet approves revised cost estimates of Salma Dam Project in AfghanistanThe Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved the reconstruction and completion of Salma Dam Project in Afghanistan. It will lead to the overall economic development of the western region of Afghanistan and generate goodwill for India in Afghanistan.

  • Revised Cost Estimates (RCE): 1775.69 crore.

Background:

  • Situated on the upper reaches of Hari Rud River in Herat province, Salma Dam project involves construction of a 5 meter high earth and rock – fill dam and a 42 MW power House with three units of 14 MW each.
  • It also has a provision for releasing water for irrigation of 75,000 hectares of land.

Indo-Lanka ties witness bonhomie in 2015

Indo-Lanka relations gained momentum in 2015 after Maithripala Sirisena’s stunning upset win over strongman Mahinda Rajapaksa in Sri Lanka’s polls as the strain in ties gave way to bonhomie with exchange of top-level visits and signing of a nuclear pact.

  • Four bilateral agreements were signed during Sirisena’s visit with the most significant being a civil nuclear cooperation pact which Prime Minister Narendra Modi described as “another demonstration of our mutual trust”.

Indo-Lanka Ties 2015:

  • Modi become the first Indian Prime Minister to visit the country after Rajiv Gandhi in 1987.
  • Modi became the first Indian Prime Minister and the third Indian leader to visit the Tamil-dominated former war-zone, after Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • Modi also raised contentious issues with the government, including the release of Tamil political prisoners and returning the civilian lands used for military purposes.
  • Modi inaugurated the reconstructed Northern Province railway line as part of India’s promise on infrastructure development in the war-ravaged north.
  • Wickremesinghe also chose India to be his first overseas destination after being elected to office.

W Bank to give USD35m to Pak for Indus River Basin

In a bid to support improved management, planning and development of water resources in the Indus river basin in Pakistan, Washington, D.C. headquartered World Bank has approved an additional financial assistance of $35 million.

  • This $35 million is in addition to the $38 million given earlier towards improvement of water resources management in the Indus river system.

Aim of Project: The project aims to strengthen the Indus system’s institutional and regulatory framework and enhance the technical capacity of the Ministry of Water and Power, the Indus River System Authority, the Water and Power Development Authority and the Water Section of the Planning Development and Reform Division.

  • It will act as a support system to climate-change adaptation and mitigation measures.
  • Pakistan is among the most affected countries by climate change as its water, food and energy security is largely dependent on its glacial resources located in the Himalaya-Karakoram range.

BANKING & FINANCE

RLIC instigated “Lifelong Savings Plan”

Reliance Life Insurance Company (RLIC), part of Reliance Capital Limited, announced the launch of “Reliance Lifelong Savings Plan”.

  • The plan is a non-linked, participating endowment-cum-whole life plan aimed to offer goal based saving and protection to policy holders and their family.
  • The plan’s unique feature offers lifelong cover, bonus and two sums assured – one at maturity and one at death.
  • In the event of a financial crisis, the plan provides flexibility to liquidate the policy by availing a loan.

RBI created Dedicated Helpline for guiding Start-ups in India on Forex Matters

The Reserve Bank has created a dedicated helpline to assist start-ups undertaking cross-border transactions.

  • It should provide complete information to the RBI and mention the specific issues on which they need guidance from the RBI in relation to the Foreign Exchange Management regulations.
  • This would enable the personnel attending the helpline to offer timely and effective information.
  • Cross-border transactions of resident are subject to the regulatory regime provided by the Foreign Exchange Management Act, 1999.

AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS

ICC Awards 2015 announced

The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced the winners for the 2015 ICC Awards in Dubai, UAE to honour the biggest names in men’s and women’s international cricket.

  • The awards were based on performance of individuals and teams, both men and women, between 18 September 2014 and 13 September 2015.
  • Each award is voted by a specially selected panel, respected members of the media and an elite umpire and match referee.

Indian-origin software engineer wins UK award

An Indian-origin software engineer Nandagopal Lakshminarayanan has won a prestigious award in the UK for creating an innovative electronic smart key system which enables the creation and management of keys and locks that cannot be copied or picked.

  • He has been working as a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP) associate at Lincoln Security Ltd for the past two years.

About Electronic smart key system:

  • The software for the electronic locking system called eLOQ has been created jointly by the University of Lincoln’s School of Computer Science and Lincoln Security under the KTP.
  • eLOQ enables the creation and management of electronic keys and locks that cannot be copied .
  • The locks contain no batteries and do not require rewiring as all of the power is taken from the key and allows all areas to be controlled.

APPOINTMENTS

Pawan Kumar Agarwal appointed as CEO of FSSAI

Senior IAS officer Pawan Kumar Agarwal was appointed as chief executive officer of food regulator food safety and standards Authority of India (FSSAI), as part of senior level bureaucratic reshuffle effected by the government .

About Pawan Kumar Agarwal :

  • Agarwal, a 1985 batch IAS officer of West Bengal cadre is presently joint secretary in ministry of skill development and
  • He has been appointed in place of Yudhvir Singh Malik, an order issued by department of personnel and training.

About FSSAI :

  • TheFood Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) is an agency of the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India. The FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.
  • The FSSAI has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 .
  • HQ : New Delhi

Jet Airways appointed Amit Agarwal as Chief Financial Officer

Jet Airways appointed Amit Agarwal as its chief financial officer (CFO). A chartered accountant with 24 years of experience Agarwal(47) will be responsible for all financial and fiscal management aspects of Jets business.

  • Presently Agarwal was the CFO of Suzlon Energy prior to that he had held leadership roles at Arcelor Mittal – Europe and Essar Steel.

ACQUISITIONS & MERGERS

Piramal Enterprises acquires five OTC brands for Rs 92 crore

Piramal Enterprises Ltd’s (PEL) Consumer Products Division announced acquisition of five brands from Organon India Pvt Ltd and MSD BV for Rs 92 crore to beef up its offerings in the over-the-counter (OTC) healthcare segment.

  • The acquisition includes mainly the brands Naturolax, Lactobacil and Farizym, which PEL intends to continue in the Gastro-Intestinal (GI) segment through the over-the-counter (OTC) route.
  • Piramal Enterprises aim to be a top 3 player in theOTC market by 2020 and the addition of this portfolio of brands will help us move swiftly towards that objective.

Piramal Enterprises :

Piramal Enterprises Limited, formerly Piramal Healthcare Limited, is a diversified company headquartered in Mumbai, India and also a member of the Piramal Group.

Wipro to acquire Viteos Group for $130 mn 

Wipro announced to  acquire the US-based Viteos Group for USD 130 million (nearly Rs 861 crore), a move that will help the country’s third-largest IT services firm strengthen its position in the capital markets outsourcing space.

About Viteos Group :

  • Viteos Group is a BPaaS provider for the Alternative Investment Management Industry.
  • Founded in 2003 and headquartered in Somerset, New Jersey.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals and will be completed in the quarter ending March 2016.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Philippines – First Asian country to approve sale of “Dengvaxia”

The Philippines became the first Asian country to approve the sale of the world’s first-ever dengue vaccine “Dengvaxia” for the prevention of disease caused by four dengue types in individuals from 9-45 years of age.

  • Dengvaxia is manufactured by French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi.
  • The vaccine is approved by Philippines’ Food and Drug Administration.

India’s first indigenously designed & built frigate INS Godavari Decommissioned

India’s first indigenously designed and built warship Indian Naval Ship Godavari is decommissioned on December 23, 2015.

About INS Godavari :

  • Godavari’s keel was laid on 03 November 1978 by Adm J Cursetji, CNS, and it was launched on 15 May 1980. It was commissioned in December 1983.It would have served the country for little over 32 years. 
  • It was showcased around the world as a symbol of India’s growing military might and self-reliance.

Godavari has successfully been deployed in numerous operations :

‘Operation Jupiter’ – 1988 (Sri Lanka), ‘Operation Shield’ and ‘Operation Bolster’ – 1994 (de-induction of Indian Army from Somalia) and ‘Patrol of Gulf of Aden’ (PoG) – 2009, 2011 (anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden).

SPORTS

Mexico City Grand Prix 2015 clinched by duo Manu and Sumeeth

India’s men’s doubles pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy ended the season on a high by clinching their maiden Grand Prix title with a straight-game win over Thailand’s Bodin Issara and Nipitphon Puangpuapech by 22-20 21-18 in a 35-minute battle in the finals of $50,000 Mexico Open.

Indian-origin footballer Dhanda gets Liverpool contract

Indian-origin footballer Dhanda gets Liverpool contractIndian-origin footballer Yan Dhanda has become the first player to sign a professional contract with English football powerhouse Liverpool.

Highlights:

  • The England youth international recently turned 17 and has entered into a two-and-a-half-year contract with the Anfield club, bbc.co.uk .
  • He is the second British Asian with a professional contract at the top level after Swansea’s Neil Taylor. Dhanda joined Liverpool’s academy in July 2013 from West Bromwich Albion club.
  • The attacking midfielder has played for England at the Under-16 and Under-17 levels and won the up-and-coming player category at the Asian Football Awards in 2013.