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Current Affairs - 29 December 2014

The United States and NATO on 28 December 2014 marked the formal end of the war in Afghanistan with a ceremony at their military headquarters in Kabul. These western troops have been in Afghanistan since 2001 and had unseated the Taliban regime following the 11 September New York attacks. What was the official name of this force led by the United States?
  • International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)
    International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was set up in 2001 after the U.S.-led invasion as an umbrella for the coalition of around 50 nations that provided troops and took responsibility for security across the country. From 1 January 2015 its combat role in Afghanistan would end and it will change into a training and support mission for Afghan forces. Around 3,500 soldiers belonging to ISAF were killed in 13-year long operation including 2,224 American soldiers. However, the insurgency that ISAF has fought in Afghanistan for last 13 years remains as ferocious and deadly as at any time since the 2001 invasion.

BJP’s Raghubar Das took over as the 10th Chief Minister of Jharkhand on 28 December 2014. He was administered oath of office by Governor Syed Ahmed at capital Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Football Stadium. What is an important fact associated with Raghubar Das becoming Chief Minister of Jharkhand?
  • He is the first non-tribal Chief Minister of the state
    Other than being a non-tribal, he originally hails from neighboring Chhattisgarh state. This BJP-led government marks first stable government in the state which was carved out of Bihar in November 2000. Jharkhand has had nine governments and three stints of President’s Rule since 2000. The BJP and the All Jharkhand Student’s Union (AJSU) won the state polls, getting 42 seats in the 81-member assembly. The BJP emerged as the single largest party with 37 seats while the AJSU won five seats.

An AirAsia plane with 161 people on board lost contact with ground control on 28 December 2014 while flying over the Java Sea. This plane was on its regular flight for Singapore from which provincial city in Indonesia?
  • Surabaya
    AirAsia is a Malaysian low-cost carrier with presence in several Southeast Asian countries. One of its Airbus A320-200 aircrafts (flight QZ8501) lost communication with Jakarta’s air traffic control at 7.24 a.m. (Singapore time), about an hour before it was scheduled to land in Singapore. The plane had six crew and 155 passengers, including 16 children and one infant. The plane lost contact when it was believed to be over the Java Sea between Kalimantan and Java islands. The whereabouts of the plane were not made till early morning of 29 December 2014. This is the third major air incident for Malaysia this year. On 8 March 2014 Malaysia Airlines flight 370 went missing soon after taking off from Kuala Lumpur for Beijing. It remains missing until this day with 239 people in one of the biggest aviation mysteries. Another Malaysia Airlines flight, also a Boeing 777, was shot down over rebel-controlled eastern Ukraine while on a flight from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on 17 July 2014. A total of 298 people on board were killed.

One woman was killed and three were injured in a low-intensity blast that was set-off by suspected terrorists using an improvised explosive device (IED) in a crowded street of Bangalore on 28 December 2014. This blast was set-off just outside which popular eating joint of the city?
  • Coconut Grove
    The improvised explosive device (IED) was kept wrapped in a piece of cloth behind a flower bush in front of Coconut Grove, a popular joint on Bangalore’s Church city. The blast took place at 8:35 pm and people ran helter-skelter after the blast. The blast is being investigated as no organisation has claimed responsibility for it till late hours of 28 December.

What is the name of the Director of Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT Delhi) who resigned during December 2014 amid a controversy following reports in a section of media that attributed it to two alleged requests from the Union Govt.?
  • RK Shevgaonkar
    RK Shevgaonkar submitted his resignation more than two years before the end of his tenure. It was alleged in some sections of media that he resigned due to friction with the Union Government after two alleged requests from it. The first request was allegedly for land in the institute’s premises for a cricket academy which will be run by former cricketer Sachin Tendulkar and second was for settling a salary dues case with BJP leader Subramanian Swamy. However, Union Govt. as well as Sachin Tendulkar denied these media allegations.

Who declared Power tariff at MIHAN to be the cheapest in the state of Maharashtra?  

  • Chief Minister Fadnavis
    “What has really changed about Nagpur? It had MORE tigers than now 50 years ago; denser forests, it was even then at the heart of the country and had the zero milestone. It had coal, power plants based on it came up many years ago – so what is new? Devendra Fadnavis, a ‘Nagpuri’ as Chief Minister is what is new. ” When Mr. Krishna Kumar Taori, Group Managing Director of Hasan Juma Backer, whose company’s very modern township near MIHAN is almost near completion, said this he was echoing the words and sentiments of all Nagpuris, Indian as well as expats, who had gathered in Nagpur for the first Global Nagpur Summit of 2014. Today, for the second day’s deliberations many members of CII Maharashtra were present too. The CII team was headed by Mr. Sanjay Kirloskar who had won over everyone by declaring that he was born in Nagpur so technically is a ‘Nagpuri’ too!
    The out pouring of respect and affection for the young CM was palpable when he joined the gathering at the Chitnavis Centre in the post lunch session. Originally, he had been scheduled to inaugurate the morning’s session but he had to be in Jharkhand for the new BJP Chief Minister’s swearing but rushed back to be able to make it for the Global Nagpur conclave, a subject very close to his heart.What is the biggest incentive (for industries) to come to Vidarbha?” Asked Devendra. Then he answered his own question ” Because the CM is from here”.
    In his brief talk, he deliberated at length about  why Maharasthra had lost its allure as a desirable destination for the country and the world. He said among 189 countries that were surveyed by some American Banks for ease of doing business India came in at a shocking 180. Right at the bottom. “This is very shameful for us, specially when we learnt that the only Indian city they were surveying was Mumbai. So the conditions in Mumbai were determining the status of the whole country.”
    The reason Mumbai had started lagging in getting industries was total governance deficit, said Fadnavis. Rules had become so cumbersome and overwhelming that new entrepreneurs had to get 76 permissions and wait for two years to be able to start their industries. “How can any business house sustain for so long?” Asked Fadnavis. As soon as he became the CM, he called a meeting of the concerned bureaucrats and told  them strictly that they had to reduce the red tape within 15 days or he would do it. He was happy to declare that the number of permissions had now come down to 35, but he they still needed to be reduced further.
    He also informed the gathering that for many of the clearances he has made a new rule – if the applicant does not hear back from the Government agency concerned in three days, the clearance will be deemed to have been granted.
    Another big concession was that if an existing industry wanted to expand and land was available near the MIDC area, they would not have to wait for the status of the land to change before acquiring it. He also said that industries as a rule would be permitted to increase their FSI without having to get prior permission.

(General Awareness For Bank's Exams) National Events November - 2014

PM Modi among world’s most powerful people, ranked 15th: Forbes

    •  Prime Minister Narendra Modi made his debut among the world’s most powerful people, ranked 15th on the Forbes list topped by Russian President Vladimir Putin who pipped his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama for a second year in a row.
    •  The list of 72 most powerful people in the world also included the names of Reliance Industries Chairman Mukesh Ambani at 36th, ArcelorMittal Chairman and CEO Lakshmi Mittal at 57th and Microsoft’s Indian-born CEO Satya Nadella at 64th.

Blue Revolution can start from Kerala: Radha Mohan Singh

    •  Kerala is the right place for a start to India’s Blue Revolution, said Union Minister for Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh in Kochi.
    •  He said that issues related to the makeover of the fisheries sector would be discussed before the next Union Budget. He was speaking at the inauguration of the three-day Global Agro Meet and exhibition of organic products BIOFACH India 2014 at Kurkutty, near Angamaly.
    •  The Blue Revolution envisages transformation of the fisheries sector, chiefly marine fisheries and the Centre had appointed a committee to review India’s marine fisheries policy.

SC issued notice to Health Ministry on rigging in MCI election

    • The Supreme Court issued notice to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Medical Council of India (MCI) on a PIL seeking a CBI investigation into alleged rigging in MCI election in 2013.
    •  A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu also sought the response of Dr. Ketan Desai, former president of MCI, to the PIL filed by NGO People for Better Treatment. The NGO alleged that Dr. Desai had a role in the tainted poll process.
    •  The petitioner has also sought prosecution of all the MCI members involved in the alleged rigging and amendment to Section 3 of the Indian Medical Council Act.
      ‘Make in India’ programme will meet Russia’s ‘Eastern pivot’
    •  The government’s “Make in India” programme and Russia’s “Eastern pivot” will meet as Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin will discuss more cooperation on energy, the co-production of fighter aircraft and nuclear cooperation with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.
    •  During the visit, Mr. Rogozin will chair the 20th commission (IRIGC-TEC) along with Ms. Swaraj, as well as draw up the plan for “deliverables” for President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Delhi, expected in December for the annual India-Russia summit.
    •  Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected at the end of November as well. “Each of these fields, from defence production to nuclear and space programmes, are fields India is looking to Russia for closer cooperation, and so Mr. Rogozin’s visit is important,” an official told.

Harappan drawings discovered near Hampi

    •  Pictographs of the Sindu (Harappan) culture have been discovered on rocks at the world famous Hampi. As many as 20 drawings were found on a boulder on top of a hill near Talwarghatta, adjacent to river Tungabhadra.
    •  Experts in Gondi script, including Dr. Moti Ravan Kangale and Sri Prakash Salame of Nagpur, have identified them as Sindu (Harappan) culture-based script in Gondi dialect.

Charges framed in 2G-Scam

    •  A special court framed charges against former Telecom Minister A. Raja, DMK Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi and Dayalu Ammal, wife of party president M. Karunanidhi, for allegedly laundering money in the 2G scam.
    •  Special Judge O.P. Saini fixed November 11 as the date for recording of prosecution evidence.
    •  According to the complaint filed by the Enforcement Directorate, Kalaignar TV, in which Ms. Dayalu Ammal and Ms. Kanimozhi had stake, received Rs. 200 crore as illegal gratification from connected companies of

Swan Telecom.

    •  Swan Telecom was allotted Unified Access Services licences allegedly in an illegal manner in 13 service areas with the connivance of Mr. Raja and others.
    •  The complaint said Kalaignar TV had received the alleged bribe on behalf of Mr. Raja. It had later returned the money through the same routes through which it had come with an interest amount of Rs. 31.36 crore to show that it was a genuine loan transaction, the complaint said.
    •  The Rs. 200-crore bribe had also been transferred to Kalaignar TV in the same manner after deducting interest amounts to show that it was loan transaction, the complaint added.
      Chennai will host Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) in May 2015
    •  The Tamil Nadu Government announced that the Global Investors’ Meet (GIM) would be held during May 23-24 next year in Chennai to showcase the ample endowments and boundless potential of the State.
    •  Among the sectors that would be highlighted were electronics and electronics hardware, textiles, agro and food processing, IT/ITES, automobiles and auto components, chemicals and petrochemicals, engineering and heavy engineering, Infrastructure including roads and minor port development, industrial parks and SEZs, urban infrastructure and renewable energy.
    •  The government, in the budget for 2014-2015, set apart Rs. 100 crore for the proposed event.

India will take ideas from Barcelona for ‘smart city’ model

    •  As foreign countries line up to offer their expertise in ‘smart cities,’ India will next be looking at Barcelona to borrow best practices for its own model.
    •  Union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu has been invited by the Mayor of Barcelona to attend the Smart City World Conference to be held between November 18 and 20.
    •  “Contrary to the perception that we are behind time in shaping the contours of the smart cities plan, we have a fair idea of what the smart cities are going to look like,” Mr. Naidu told.

PM promises visa-on-arrival facility

    •  India’s Prime Minister Narendra assured Australia a visa-on-arrival facility for tourists, and announced a two–month deadline for the long–pending merger of OCI and PIO status to woo the Indian diaspora from whom he sought support for his Swachh Bharat Abhiyan.
    •  Addressing a frenzied crowd of around 20,000 in the packed Allphones Arena here, Mr. Modi took a dig at the previous governments saying while they were happy to make laws he was “happier to remove” them.

Kisan Vikas Patra Scheme (KVP) relaunched

    •  Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Communication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad relaunched the Kisan Vikas Patra (KVP) investment scheme to tap household savings for funding infrastructure development in the country and to lure them away from ponzi schemes.
    •  The savings instrument will be available in the denomination of Rs. 1000, Rs. 5,000, Rs. 10,000 and Rs. 50,000. There will be no upper ceiling on investments an investor can make in them. However, no tax benefits would be available on these investments.
    •  Banks will accept these certificates as pledged security for loans.

DOPT clarifies on CSE

    •  The Centre’s decision in February to allow two additional attempts to all categories of candidates for the Civil Services Examination (CSE) with effect from 2014 rendered infructuous the Group of Ministers’ decision last December to lower the upper age limit for eligibility from CSE 2015.
    •  While the age limit earlier was 30, 35, 33 and 40 years respectively for the unreserved, SC/ST, OBC and the physically challenged categories, consequential changes in the age limit due to provision of two additional attempts are 32 years for the unreserved, 37 for the SC/ST, 35 for the OBC and 12 additional years (30+12 for General, 35+12 for SC/ST and 33+12 for OBC) for the physically challenged candidates in each category.

Nanavati panel submits its report on Gujarat riots

    •  Twelve years after it was constituted, the Nanavati Commission of Enquiry probing the 2002 post-Godhra riots submitted its final report to Chief Minister Anandiben Patel.
    •  Justice Nanavati and Commission member Justice Akshay Mehta met Ms. Patel at her residence and handed over the report. Justice Nanavati told PTI that the report was over 2,000 pages, but did not divulge anything further.
    •  “The report will be forwarded to the Home department. The department will review it and place the report before the Assembly,” K. Kailashnathan, Chief Principal Secretary to the Chief Minister told.
    •  The Commission’s term expired on October 31 after 24 extensions. It submitted the first part of its report related to the Sabarmati Express in 2008, which said that the train burning was a “planned conspiracy.”
    •  The same year, after the death of Justice K.G. Shah, retired HC Justice Akshay Mehta was appointed to the Commission.

Connaught Place is connected with Wi-Fi

    •  Visitors to Connaught Place can now stay connected to the Internet while they eat, work, shop or just lounge around Central Park as the entire market is now a Wi-Fi zone.
    •  Member of Parliament from New Delhi constituency Meenakshi Lekhi launched the service on Sunday evening at an event organised at central park.
    •  The project has been taken up by Tata Teleservices Limited as part of their corporate social responsibility in association with New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC).The service was initially supposed to be launched by Lieutenant-Governor Najeeb Jung but the BJP MP took his place instead.

Union Home Ministry supports Aadhaar scheme

    •  In a U-turn, the Union Home Ministry has come out in full support of the Aadhaar scheme, saying it will facilitate “anytime, anywhere, anyhow” authentication of beneficiaries.
    •  In a letter to the States, the Ministry said that every person got only one Aadhaar number, universal verification of identity was made possible. The Aadhaar number enabled the deprived and the needy to access services such as banking.
    •  “Since Aadhaar is based on the demographic and biometric information of an individual, it eliminates the threat of any fraud and bogus activity,” the letter said.

627 names on black money list; SIT probe is next

    •  A day after the Supreme Court rapped the Centre for “providing a protective umbrella to foreign bank account holders,” the Union government submitted, in a sealed cover, a list of 627 Indians holding black money abroad. The Centre also gave a status report on the investigations against such account holders.
    •  A Bench comprising Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justices Ranjana Desai and Madan B. Lokur made it clear to Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi that it did not intend to open the envelopes, and asked the Registry to send them to the Special Investigation Team.
    •  It directed that the envelopes be opened only by the SIT chairman, Justice M.B. Shah, and vice-chairman, Justice Arijit Pasayat, to conduct a further investigation.

Centre announced relaxation in FDI rules in construction

    •  Giving a significant push to affordable housing and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s dream project, smart cities, the NDA government announced relaxation in foreign direct investment (FDI) rules in the construction sector.
    • The proposal — first made by the UPA government — seeks to reduce the minimum built-up area from 50,000 sq. metres to 20,000 sq. metres. The minimum capital requirement for such projects has also been brought down to $5 million from $10 million.
    •  The relaxations are expected to facilitate the infusion of funds into the debt-burdened sector, thereby, ensuring faster completion of projects. The Union Cabinet approved the new limits in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

NCW chief L. Kumaramangalam wants legalisation of sex work

    •  The chairperson of the National Commission for Women (NCW), Lalitha Kumaramangalam, has advocated legalising sex work to regulate the trade and ensure better living conditions for women engaged in commercial sex work. Legalising the trade, she says, will also bring down trafficking in women and lower the incidence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.
    •  Ms. Kumaramangalam said she would put forth the proposal at the empowered committee meeting of the Cabinet on November 8. “It [legalisation] is meant to regulate the trade. A vast majority of women in sex trade are trafficked; if it is legalised then commercial trafficking can be dealt with stringently,” she told.
    •  In the absence of regulation, she said sex workers were forced to serve clients in unhygienic and unhealthy conditions and without condoms, which led to the spread of HIV and other STDs.

Government may clear some Bills in winter session

    •  The Narendra Modi government has an ambitious agenda for the winter session of Parliament for which the Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) has recommended 22 sittings, starting November 24 and concluding on December 23.
    •  The government hopes to clear over 30 Bills that are likely to include the long-pending Insurance Amendment Bill, the Constitution Amendment Bills relating to national Goods and Services Tax (GST) and the Land Border Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh.
    •  At Monday’s CCPA meeting, convened by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who heads the committee, the 67 Bills pending in both the Houses were discussed. Later, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu was asked to circulate the list to all Ministries concerned and seek their response within a week.
    •  Interestingly, when the UPA government was in power, the BJP had blocked the LBA Bill citing reservations of its State units in Assam and West Bengal, which share a border with Bangladesh, while some BJP-ruled States, including Gujarat (the Bill requires ratification by at least half the States), had objected to the GST Bill.
    •  The government also hopes to bring the Small Factories (Regulation of Employment and Condition of Services) Bill, 2014 to govern small factories employing less than 40 workers.
    •  The key issue as far as Constitution Amendment Bills are concerned is that the NDA is well short of a majority in the Rajya Sabha, and the upcoming 11 biennial elections for Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand announced will not change the composition in the NDA’s favour.

Newborns to get free treatment till age one in Rajasthan under JSSY

    •  Extending the scope of the Janani Shishu Suraksha Yojana (JSSY) with an aim to bring down the infant mortality rate (IMR) in the State, the Rajasthan government has decided to provide free treatment to newborns till they complete one year. This will include diagnostics, medicine and free transportation facilities.
    •  The scheme is applicable to all children born in public health facilities. The decision comes amidst reports of suspected diphtheria deaths in Alwar district over the past few days.
    •  As many as six children have reportedly died of diphtheria in Gothri village in Laxmangarh block of Alwar and over a dozen are being treated for similar symptoms in the local hospital.
    •  Officials said swab samples have been sent to SMS Hospital, Jaipur, to ascertain whether they are suffering from diphtheria. Health authorities have launched an immunisation campaign in the area where cases have been reported.
    •  The JSSY, launched by the United Progressive Alliance government in 2011, provides free treatment for a mother and her newborn for up to one month in a public healthcare facility.
    •  In a directive issued to all Chief Medical and Health Officers in the State, Mission Director, National Health Mission (NHM) Navin Jain has asked them to implement the provisions with immediate effect.
    •  The move may also help Rajasthan achieve the millennium development goal (MDG) targets to bring down IMR from 49 deaths per 1,000 live births at present to 28 deaths by the end of 2015. Similarly, the under-five mortality rate that is currently 59 per 1,000 live births at present has to be brought down to 38.

Delhi Declaration pushes for better education

    •  Education Ministers and officials of eight South Asian countries have resolved to collaborate on increased use of information technology and improving the quality of education.
    •  At the second meeting of Education Ministers of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), representatives of Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka issued a joint statement titled “The New Delhi Declaration on Education.” Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani chaired the meeting.
    •  The priority areas of action decided upon include enhancing the learning and development readiness of pre-school children, ensuring education for all, expanding skill development, facilitating mutual recognition of qualifications and mobility of students and teachers and expanding alternative ways of learning such as open and distance education.
    •  The Ministers discussed India’s use of information and communication technology in education, development and sharing of e-resources, connectivity, e-learning and Massive Open Online Courses.
    •  Agencies reported that Mukhtar Ahmed, Chairman of Pakistan’s Higher Education Commission, proposed a SAARC education and research network for sharing information.
      ‘One rank, one pension’ scheme pushes up centre’s defence pension bill
    •  The implementation of one rank, one pension has pushed up the Centre’s defence pension payments by a record 40 per cent, posing fresh challenges to Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley’s resolve to keep the Centre’s fiscal deficit within the budgetary target of 4.1 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product.
    •  The armed forces pensions bill for the first six months of the current fiscal, from April to September, has turned out to be about Rs. 8,000 crore higher than for the corresponding period last year. Mr. Jaitley had provided only Rs. 1,000 crore for the whole year towards the scheme in the Budget he presented on July 10.
    •  The Finance Ministry is revising upwards its Budget estimate for the outgo on account of the scheme that benefits nearly 24 lakh pensioners of the armed forces.
    •  The defence pensions bill for 2014-15 can be roughly expected to go up by about Rs. 16,000 crore over last year’s, the source said. The Budget estimated defence pensions during 2014-15 to be Rs. 50,966.95 crore as against Rs. 44,475.95 crore the previous year.
    •  The austerity measures do not cover pensions and the challenge for Mr. Jaitley will be to find fresh resources for the rapidly rising bill.
    •  “Defence pensions payments normally do not go up so drastically. Though some increase was expected on account of the new scheme, the rise is turning out to be manifold,” the source said
    •  One rank, one pension means soldiers of the same rank and the same length of service get the same pension, irrespective of their retirement date.

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