Current Affairs Current Affairs - 22 December 2015 - Vikalp Education

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Current Affairs - 22 December 2015

General Affairs 

North India To Have Its First Cable-Stayed Bridge on December 24
  • North India To Have Its First Cable-Stayed Bridge on December 24JAMMU:  Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will dedicate the first cable-stayed bridge of North India to the nation on December 24, providing close connectivity between three northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab.

    "The cable-stayed bridge at Basholi situated on Dunera- Basohli-Bhadharwah road will be inaugurated by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on December 24 at 0930 hours," a Defence Spokesman said today.

    The Basohli bridge will be fourth of its kind in India and first in North India and Jammu and Kashmir.

    Currently India has three cable-stayed bridges - Hooghly bridge at Kolkata, Naini Bridge in Allahabad and Rajiv Gandhi Sea Link in Mumbai.

    With the completion of cable-stayed bridge over river Ravi in Basholi, the connectivity and tourism is expected to get a boost.

    The work on the maiden cable stay bridge of the state was started in September 2011 on the persistent demand of people of Basohli where over 22 villages got submerged in water and were evacuated to other places after the construction of Ranjit Sagar dam.

    The 592-meter span bridge is being constructed by Border Roads Organization (BRO) at a cost of Rs. 145 crore.

    It is a joint venture of IRCON a Railway Company and SP Singla Construction group.

    Out of 592 m, 350 m span is cable-stayed while rest is plain bridge.

    "A typical cable-stayed bridge is a deck with one or two pylons erected above the piers in the middle of the span," a senior officer said adding "the cables are attached diagonally to the girder to provide additional supports".

    "The pylons form the primary load-bearing structure in these types of bridges. Large amounts of compression forces are transferred from the deck to the cables to the pylons and into the foundation," he said.

    The officer said the Cable stayed-bridges have a low center of gravity, which makes them efficient in resisting earthquakes.

    "Cable-stayed bridges provide outstanding architectural appearance due to their small diameter cables and unique overhead structure," he added.

    "The peculiarity of this bridge is that the main span and back span are balanced by cable and this bridge has been designed by Canadian Company, Infinity Engineers. IIT New Delhi had approved the design of this bridge", he said.

    The officer said nearly 300 ton specially designed cables are needed for this bridge which are being procured from Japan and Spain.

    "The span layout is symmetric (121 meter - 350 meter - 121 meter), with pylons positioned at the top of the river banks. Two inclined cable planes splay outwards from each pylon in a semi-fan configuration, connecting to the superstructure at 14-meter spacing in the main span and 10.3 meters in the side spans," he said.

    "Near the abutments, three sets of intermediate piers spaced at just over 20 meters form a secondary support system. When complete, the bridge will accommodate two lanes of traffic as well as two footpaths," he said.

DDCA Row Echoes in Parliament, Kirti Azad Asks For Time Bound Probe
  • DDCA Row Echoes in Parliament, Kirti Azad Asks For Time Bound ProbeNEW DELHI:  The row over alleged financial bungling in Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) resonated in Parliament today with BJP member Kirti Azad embarrassing the ruling side by demanding time-bound Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe while Congress pressed for resignation of Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley who dismissed charges against him as "baseless" and "wrong".
    Congress staged a walkout in Lok Sabha which was led by party chief Sonia Gandhi.

    While the Rajya Sabha was adjourned repeatedly over the issue, in the Lok Sabha, Kirti Azad, a known detractor of Mr Jaitley, egged on Congress to seek a time-bound SIT probe. Congress members were already shouting slogans in the Well, demanding resignation of the finance minister, who formerly headed the DDCA.
    Ruling out Mr Jaitley's resignation, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said that the Finance Minister is known for his "impeccable character, honesty and maintaining high standards in public life".
    Mr Jaitley said, "The charges (against me) are baseless and wrong. This is all I have to say."

    Kirti Azad was apparently not impressed by Jaitley's defence that Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) probe found nothing wrong, saying it had looked only into the civil matters and that recently Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had issued a notice to DDCA.

    The issue was raised in the Lok Sabha by KC Venugopal of Congress who claimed that there were "gross irregularities" in Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) when Mr Jaitley headed it and alleged his involvement.
    "A laptop was hired for Rs. 36,000 for a day, printer for Rs. 3000 and a 'puja ki thali' for Rs. 5,000 for a day. 14 companies did not exist or information about them was not correct," Mr Venugopal alleged.
    In reply, Mr Jaitley noted that it cost Rs. 114 cr to build Kotla stadium, which was merely a "field" prior to the construction, he attacked Congress, saying the Nehru stadium was renovated at a cost of Rs. 900 cr and the Dhyanchand stadium for Rs. 600 cr. The Kotla stadium has a seating capacity of 42000, the Dhyanchad stadium seats only 14000 people.

    As Congress members began their protest in the midst of his reply, an upset Mr Jaitley asked them to sit down, saying "you should have courage to listen. Why do you find my reply so inconvenient? It is not a charge against you."

'Chillai Kalan' Begins With Season's Coldest Night in Kashmir
  • 'Chillai Kalan' Begins With Season's Coldest Night in KashmirThe traditional 40-day period of extreme cold, known as 'chillai kalan', began in Kashmir today as mercury dipped several degrees across the state.

    Night temperatures have fallen below the freezing point in most places including Srinagar where minimum temperature fell to minus 5.6 Degree Celsius.

    The temperature at famous ski resort of Gulmarg in north Kashmir plunged to -11 degree Celsius.

    During this period, people brace up to face the bitter cold and expectantly look forward to heavy snowfall that would replenish rivers, streams, springs and lakes in Kashmir.

    "All perennial reservoirs of Kashmir in the mountains, those feed the local rivers, streams, lakes and springs during summer months are replenished by the snowfall during chillai kalan, Mansha Nisar, a teacher of environmental sciences, told IANS.

    "The snowfall during this 40-day period gets frozen and lasts longer. It is this snowfall that adds to the glaciers of the Valley. Any snowfall after the chillai kalan does not last long," she added.

    Srinagar, Kargil & Leh highway has also been closed because of snowfall.

    Icicles hanging from rooftops, frozen water bodies and snow games are a major tourist attraction during this season.

    People start lighting small fires around water taps to de-freeze them in the mornings and before the first trickle starts, another freeze hits the water tap.

    Most residents leave their water taps half running during the nights to prevent freezing of drinking water supply pipes.

    It is not just chillai kalan that heralds the extreme cold in Kashmir. This 40-day period is followed by 'chillai khurd' which last 20 days and then 'chillai bachcha' that last another 10 days.

Government Hopes Congress Would Help In Passing Pending Bills
  • Government Hopes Congress Would Help In Passing Pending BillsNEW DELHI:  The government today hoped that the Congress and other opposition parties would stand by their "promise" and help in passing of the pending bills as there is no possibility of extension of Parliament "as of now".

    "There are around 16 bills which are pending. 12 of them have been passed in the Lok Sabha and they are all important bills concerning the welfare of the people," Parliamentary Affairs Minister Venkaiah Naidu said.

    He hoped that all the parties will go by the spirit of the House.

    Mr Naidu noted that Congress and others have given positive signal that they will pass some of the important bills.

    "I hope they will stand by their word and see to it that the bills are passed," he said speaking to reporters. Mr Naidu pointed out that there are only three more working days for the Parliament.

    "Within the three days also, if all us decide, we can discuss and decide about all these bills," he said, adding that if there are amendments, some of the bills will have to go back to the Lok Sabha.

    On the possibility of extension of the Winter session of Parliament, Mr Naidu said, "As of now there is no possibility of immediate extension of Session because 25th is Christmas and people from far off places like Kerala, North East have to travel a lot. That is why we thought of closing the session by the 23rd," he said.

    "And depending on whats going to happen, we will decide about the subsequent session," he said.

    Mr Naidu said, "the party has taken note of" BJP lawmaker Kirti Azad's comments against Arun Jaitley.

2015, A Transformative Year For India-US Relationship
  • 2015, A Transformative Year For India-US RelationshipWASHINGTON:  In the annals of Indo-US ties, 2015 would be remembered as a transformative year which set the tone for a new dimension of active engagements at the top leadership level and a growing defence partnership that is set to become an anchor of global security.

    The year started with a historic India visit of US President Barack Obama wherein he attended the annual Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on January 26. By this he not only became the first American president to attend the top Indian parade, but also only the first one to visit India twice.

    President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi decided to establish a hotline between them and launch a Strategic and Commercial Dialogue and renew India-US Defence partnership agreement; thus giving a new dimension to this strategic bilateral ties at a time when China is flexing its muscle in disputed South China Sea.

    The results were visible by the time when curtain came down on 2015.

    President Obama and PM Modi had met thrice during the year - the two subsequent meetings were in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and one in Paris on the sidelines of the climate change summit.

    "What we are witnessing in the US-India partnership is the culmination of years of effort - actually decades of hard work - that has yielded important results for both nations.  This past year, in particular, was especially transformative," US Ambassador to India, Richard Verma said.

    This Fall India and the US launched the first-ever Strategic and Commercial Dialogue, bringing a whole-of- government approach.

    In December, Manohar Parrikar became the first Indian defense minister to visit the Pacific Command headquarters in Hawaii and given a rare insight of a nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

    US Defence Secretary Ashton Carter himself accompanied Mr Parrikar to America's top nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Eisenhower and give his Indian counterpart a ride on his personal plane. Bilateral defence trade this year crossed Rs. 92,000 crore (USD 14 billion).

    "Our cooperation became more regular, even routine, which had the effect not only of building a certain durability and resiliency in our relationship that is critical to moving to the next level, but also in resolving disputes," Mr Verma said.

    Bilateral trade between India and the US is now around Rs. 6,63,000 crore (USD 100 billion), rising five-fold in the last decade. President Obama and PM Modi have set a goal of taking it to USD 500 billion in the next few years.

Business Affairs 

Sensex ends 216 points up; Nifty above 7,800; ICICI top gainer
  • Sensex ends 216 points up; Nifty above 7,800; ICICI top gainerThe S&P BSE Sensex wiped out all initial losses to end the day 216 points higher, while broader CNX Nifty closed above its key support level of 7,800 as aggressive buying by domestic funds also lent support to the market.
    Dalal Street benefited from renewed investor risk appetite. Investors seemed more sure-footed as months of uncertainty over the timing of a hike in US interest rates got over last week after the Federal Reserve raised rates for the first time in nearly a decade.
    The 30-share index settled the day at 25,735.90, up 216.68 points, while broad-based 50-share index quoted 7,834.45, up 72.50 points.
    Market breadth remained positive with 27 of the 30 Sensex components ending the day in green. 
    A holiday-shortened week and hopes that Parliament would pass the crucial bankruptcy bill also boosted sentiment.
    "Most of the global players are on vacation now and domestic investors are supporting the market with buying action in mid-caps, so the markets seem more favourable," said Deven Choksey, managing director, K R Choksey Securities.
    Gains were led by blue-chip stocks such as ICICI Bank , which added 3.24 per cent.
    Shares of utility vehicle maker Mahindra and Mahindra (M&M) recovered after a torrid last week over a court ruling temporarily banning diesel vehicle registrations in the capital. M&M shares gained 2.64 per cent.
    Miner Vedanta rose 2.61 per cent on upbeat Chinese markets.
    On Friday, US stocks extended losses for second straight day on concerns over declining oil prices. The Dow Jones closed down 367.25 points, or 2.1 per cent, the S&P 500 lost 36.34 points, or 1.78 per cent and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 79.47 points, or 1.59 per cent.
    Lowdown on markets today:
    2:00 pm
    Sensex at 25,722.80, up 203 points
    Nifty at 7,825.50, up 64 points
    12:00 pm 
    Sensex at 25,671.22, up 152 points
    Nifty at 7,808.35, up 46 points
    9:24 am
    Sensex at 25,497.51, down 21.71 points
    Nifty at 7,761.65, down 0.30 points

Government introduces bill for bankruptcy law in Parliament
  • India introduces bill for bankruptcy law in parliamentThe government on Monday introduced a bill in parliament aimed at bringing sweeping changes to an outdated and overburdened bankruptcy system, setting deadlines for the first time for processing insolvency cases.
    At present, country has competing laws with unclear jurisdictions to deal with the liquidation or revival of companies.
    This often results in the process dragging on for years, inflating costs for investors and taxpayers.
    The bill, introduced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the lower house, seeks to enact a single bankruptcy code.
    Under current rules, even deciding whether to save or liquidate an ailing company can take years, leaving it in the hands of managers who can - and do - strip assets with impunity.
    Foreign and domestic investors say the difficulty in exiting ventures is a deterrent in their investment decisions.
    Jaitley over the weekend told business leaders that the government was planning to pass the bankruptcy bill in the current parliament session that concludes on Wednesday.

Over 27 lakh new assesses brought under income tax net country-wide
  • Over 27 lakh new assesses brought under IT net country-wideOver 27 lakh new assessees from across the country have been brought under the tax net by the Income Tax department as part of its ambitious drive to bring one crore fresh taxpayers within its ambit this financial year.
    Top sources in the Finance Ministry, quoting official data, said the maximum number of new assessees have been added from the western states like Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra.
    "More than 27 lakh new assessees have been identified and added to the existing tax base till recently. These new individuals and entities have been included after the department had launched a drive in the middle of this year to bring at least one crore new taxpayers under the net within this financial year," sources said.
    Admitting that achieving the target was a "tough task", they said the I-T department's field offices have informed the Finance Ministry that about 60-70 per cent of it would be reached by the set deadline.
    "The western region of the country comprising Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra have taken an early lead. It is expected that other regions will get good numbers by the end of this fiscal on March 31, 2016," they said.
    The department is extensively taking the help of a special electronic module called 'non-filers management' to identify and detect financial and other links to get hold of those who have the potential to pay Income Tax but are not paying.
    As part of government's initiative to broaden the tax base, the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT), the policy- making body of the IT department, had directed all its field offices to achieve the goal with the Pune region being given the maximum target of bringing in over 10 lakh new assessees.
    Pune, Maharashtra's second largest urban centre, is followed by north-western states comprising Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Punjab and Haryana with over 9.30 lakh new assessees, while the newly bifurcated states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have been asked to contribute 7.93 lakh new taxpayers.
    Similarly, Gujarat region had been given a target of getting more than 7.86 lakh taxpayers, Tamil Nadu over 7.64 lakh, West Bengal and Sikkim over 6.91 lakh, and Mumbai region 6.23 lakh assessees. The target for the national capital has been set at 5.32 lakh new assessees.
    The tax department has a total of 18 regions for purposes of collection of revenue under the major heads of Income Tax, Wealth Tax and Advance Tax for large entities like corporates.
    The Board has asked the taxman to adopt a multi-pronged strategy to achieve this 'not-so-easy' target by holding meetings with trade associations and professional bodies and obtaining data on under-reporting assessees through technical and human intelligence.
    The strategy in this regard was deliberated upon and formally launched in May this year when CBDT told the tax department about the government's desire to have at least 25 lakh new assessees each month.

Accel Partners sells $100-mn stake in Flipkart: Report
  • Accel Partners sells $100-mn stake in FlipkartVenture capital firm Accel Partners has sold a small stake in Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart to sovereign wealth fund Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) for $100 million, the Economic Times reported on Monday, citing two people aware of the transaction.
    The deal values Flipkart, country's biggest online marketplace, at $15 billion, the newspaper reported.
    Accel, the first venture investor in Flipkart, remains the second-largest shareholder after New York-based hedge fund Tiger Global Management following the deal, the Economic Times reported.
    Flipkart, Accel and Qatar Investment Authority did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
    "From time to time, Accel Partners, globally, has sold a small fraction of our holdings in some of our portfolio companies, as secondary transactions," Subrata Mitra, partner at Accel Partners in India told the newspaper in an emailed reply.
    "All we can confirm to you right now is that no such transaction is in process."
    Meanwhile, Flipkart has denied the report. "This information is incorrect. There has been no such transaction," a Flipkart spokesman told Reuters in an emailed statement.

Brent crude hits lowest intraday level since July 2004
  • Brent crude hits lowest intraday level since July 2004Brent crude prices fell on Monday to their lowest level since July 2004 on renewed worries over a global oil glut, with production around the world remaining at or near record highs and new supplies looming from Iran and the United States.
    Brent futures fell as low as $36.17 per barrel around 11:00 am IST, while US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) futures were down 33 cents at $34.40 per barrel.
    Analysts said a strong dollar following last week's US interest rate hike, which makes oil consumption more expensive for countries using different currencies, as well as a renewed increase in US oil rig counts were weighing on crude prices.
    "The US oil rig count bounced back this week, up by 17 (to 541), putting an end to four consecutive weekly declines," Goldman Sachs said.
    "The increase in rig count even in a low crude oil price environment suggests shale producers are committed to maintaining production levels. The resilient production data reflect rising US crude stockpiles, which have surged to 491 million barrels, the most for this time of year since 1930," ANZ bank said.
    The US glut adds to global oversupply as the main producers, including Russia and the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), pump hundreds of thousands of crude every day in excess of demand.
    Russian production has surpassed 10 million barrels per day (bpd), its highest since the collapse of the Soviet Union while OPEC output also remains near record levels above 31.5 million bpd.
    Adding to the existing glut is that new oil is likely to become available soon, with Iran hoping to ramp up sales in early 2016 once sanctions against Tehran are lifted.
    Iran will export most of its enriched uranium to Russia in coming days as it rushes to implement a nuclear deal and secure relief from international sanctions, Tehran's nuclear chief was quoted as saying over the weekend.
    This comes only days after the US voted to lift a 40-year-old ban on crude exports which could see some of its excess production dumped on the global market.
    On the demand side, there are also bearish factors as most of the northern hemisphere is experiencing an unusually mild start to the winter due in part to the El Nino weather phenomenon, denting heating oil demand.

General Awareness

14th Meeting of Heads of Governments of SCO Member

    • The 14th Meeting of the Heads of Governments (Prime Ministers) of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization Member States on Regional Economic Cooperation was held in Zhengzhou, China.
      Participants – PM of Kazakhstan K Masimov, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, PM of Kyrgyzstan T Sariev, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, PM of Tajikistan K Rasulzoda and First Deputy PM of Uzbekistan R Azimov and representatives of observer states. India, which is a complied state at present, was represented by Minister of State for External Affairs Gen V K Singh.
      14th Meeting of Heads of Governments of SCO MemberKey discussions
      • Exchanged views on a wide range of issues of international and regional economic growth.
      • Discussed prospects and measures for improving economic and humanitarian cooperation for further strengthening of mutual understanding and traditional friendship between peoples of the SCO member states.
      • Leaders issued a joint statement on regional economic cooperation which emphasized the importance of China’s One Belt, One Road initiative* for developing infrastructure in the region.
      *China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) project aims to recreate the ancient Silk Road trade and infrastructure networks across central, west and south Asia.
      About Shanghai Cooperation Organization
      The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) or Shanghai Pact is an intergovernmental organization founded in Shanghai 2001 by the leaders of China, Russia, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.
      • This year India and Pakistan were allowed accepted as the full members of the organization.
      • There are four observer states at present – Afghanistan, Belarus, Mongolia and Iran.
      The main objectives of the SCO:
      • Strengthen relations among member states.
      • Promote cooperation in political affairs, economics and trade, scientific-technical, cultural, and educational spheres as well as in energy, transportation, tourism, and environmental protection
      • Safeguard regional peace, security, and stability.

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