Current Affairs Update – 25-26-27-28-29-30 Dec, 2014

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Finance/Business/Economy News
1. President signs
insurance, coal ordinances
  • Paving the way for additional foreign investment in
    insurance and to move ahead with the re-allocation of cancelled coal mines,
    President Pranab Mukherjee today signed the two ordinances in this regard.
  • The Government had decided to promulgate these ordinances
    to move ahead with reforms in the two sectors, as respective bills could not
    get through during the just-concluded Parliament Session that ended on Tuesday.
  • The President has signed the two ordinances, Press
    Secretary Venu Rajamony said.
  • The Cabinet had approved promulgation of the Ordinance on
    Insurance Bill and re-promulgation of the Coal Ordinance on Wednesday, a day
    after the conclusion of the Winter session of Parliament.
  • Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had expressed the hope that
    hiking of the foreign investment cap in the insurance sector to 49 per cent,
    which has been pending since 2008, will result in capital inflow of $6-8
    billion. Earlier, this foreign investment limit was capped at 26 per cent.
  • The Insurance Laws Amendment Bill, 2008 could not be
    taken up for discussion in Parliament despite being approved by the Select
    Committee of the Rajya Sabha because of the uproar over the conversion and
    other issues.
  • The Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014 has
    already been approved by the Lok Sabha during the session but could make no
    progress in the upper House.
  • The re—promulgation of ordinance on coal will facilitate
    e—auction of coal blocks for private companies for captive use and allot mines
    directly to state and central PSUs.

2. GAIL, CIL, RCF and
FCI signed JV to set up Coal gasification-cum-fertiliser complex in Odisha
  • Four Public Sector Undertakings (PSUs) on 23 December
    2014 signed joint venture agreements to set up an integrated coal gasification-cum-fertiliser
    and ammonium nitrate complex in Talcher, Odisha.
  • GAIL (India) Ltd, Coal India Ltd (CIL), Rashtriya
    Chemicals and Fertilizers (RCF) and Fertilizer Corporation of India (FCI)
    singed joint venture agreements.
  • The integrated coal gasification-cum-fertiliser and
    ammonium nitrate complex will be set up with an estimated combined investment
    of 9000 crore rupees.
  • The execution of construction activities of the projects
    will start in 2015-16 and expected to complete by 2019.

Highlights of the
Joint venture agreements
  • First Joint Venture (JV) GAIL Coal Gas (India) led by
    GAIL will set up the Upstream Coal Gasification and Gas Purification section
    for production of Ammonia Syn Gas for downstream fertilizer unit.  The JV will invest around 3000 crore rupees.
  • Second JV Talcher Chemicals & Fertilizers led by
    Rashtriya Chemicals & Fertilizers (RCF) will set up Ammonia-Urea, Nitric
    Acid-Ammonium Nitrate plants. The JV will be initiated with an estimated
    investment of 6000 crore rupees and majority stake will be held by RCF &
    CIL.
  • The overall project comprises of 3850 MTPD Urea plant,
    2700 MTPD Ammonia plant, 850 MTPD Nitric Acid plant and 1000 MTPD Ammonium
    Nitrate plant.
  • The entire project will produce 3850 tonne of urea, 2700
    tonne of ammonia, 850 tonne of nitric acid and 1000 tonne of ammonium nitrate
    per day respectively.

3. RBI released
Financial Stability Report December 2014
  • The Reserve Bank of India on 29 December 2014 released
    the Financial Stability Report December 2014. The report also includes the
    Trend and Progress of Banking in India during 2013-14.

Highlights of the
Report
Macro-Financial Risks:

  • The current weak global growth outlook may prolong easy
    monetary policy stance, that is, low interest rate regime in most advanced
    economies (AEs).
  • Low risk premia resulting from low interest rate in AEs
    may lead to accumulation of vulnerabilities, and sudden and sharp overshooting
    in markets cannot be ruled out.
  • Financial risk taking has not translated into
    commensurate economic risk taking.
  • Increase in portfolios flows to emerging market against
    the backdrop of low interest rates in AEs may increase the risk of reversals on
    possible adverse growth or financial market shocks, thus necessitating greater
    alertness.
  • On the domestic front, macroeconomic vulnerabilities have
    abated significantly in recent months on the back of improvement in growth
    outlook, fall in inflation, recovery in the external sector and political
    stability.
  • Growth in the banking business and activity in primary
    capital markets remain subdued due to moderate investment intentions.


Financial
institutions: Developments and stability:
  • The growth of the Indian banking sector moderated further
    during 2013-14. Profitability declined on account of higher provisioning on
    banks’ delinquent loans and lackluster credit growth.
  • Urban co-operative banks exhibited improved performance,
    however, the performance of primary agriculture credit societies and long term
    rural credit co-operatives remained a matter of concern with a further increase
    in their losses coupled with deterioration in asset quality.
  • The asset size of the non-banking financial companies (non-deposit
    taking-systemically important) showed an expansion, however, asset quality
    deteriorated further during the period of review.
  • The banking stability indicator suggests that overall
    risks to the banking sector remained unchanged during the first half of
    2014-15.
  • Although the liquidity position improved in the system,
    concerns remain on account of deterioration in asset quality along with
    weakened soundness.
  • The profitability dimension of the indicator showed an
    improvement but it remained sluggish.
  • The stress tests suggest that the asset quality of banks
    may improve in the near future under expected positive developments in the
    macroeconomic conditions and banks may also be able to meet expected losses
    with their existing levels of provisions.
  • The asset quality of scheduled commercial banks may
    worsen from the current level if the macroeconomic conditions deteriorate
    drastically, and banks are likely to fall short in terms of having sufficient
    provisions to meet expected losses under adverse macroeconomic risk scenarios.
  • Analysis of the interconnectedness indicates that the
    size of the interbank market in relation to total banking sector assets has
    been on a steady decline.
  • Contagion analysis with top five most connected banks
    reveals that the banking system could potentially lose significant portion of
    its total Tier-I capital under the joint solvency-liquidity condition in the
    event of a particular bank triggering a contagion.

Financial sector
regulation and infrastructure:
  • The capital to risk weighted assets ratio (CRAR) of the
    scheduled commercial banks at 12.8 per cent as of September 2014 is
    satisfactory
  • The banking sector, particularly the public sector banks
    would require substantial capital to meet regulatory requirements with respect
    to additional capital buffers.
  • With the increased regulatory focus on segregating the
    cases of willful defaults and ensuring the equity participation of promoter(s)
    in the losses leading to defaults, there is a need for greater transparency in
    the process of carrying out a net economic value impact assessment of large
    Corporate Debt Restructuring (CDR) cases.
  • Another aspect that impinges upon the banks’ asset
    quality is corporate leverage and its impact on banks’ balance sheets,
    particularly ‘double leveraging’ through holding company structures and the
    pledging of shares by promoters.
  • Indian stock markets have seen a rapid growth in recent
    months. While the retail investor base still remains comparatively low, India’s
    stock markets have been attracting substantial amounts of foreign investments,
    increasing the risk of reversal.
  • The Securities and Exchange Board of India has introduced
    an additional safety net in the form of core settlement guarantee fund to
    mitigate risks from possible default in settlement of trades and to strengthen
    risk management framework in the domestic capital markets.
  • With a view to improving participation of actual users /
    hedgers and the quality of price discovery in the market, the Forward Markets
    Commission has revised position limits which are linked to estimated production
    and imports of the underlying commodities.
  • To deal with issues relating to unauthorised deposit
    acceptance and financial frauds, the State Level Coordination Committee (SLCC)
    mechanism has been strengthened under the initiative of the Financial Stability
    and Development Council (FSDC).

4. RBI liberalised
norms for Overseas Direct Investment by Indian companies
  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 29 December 2014
    liberalised norms for Indian companies investing abroad. The liberalization of
    norms was part of series of amendment done by RBI from time to time in the
    Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of any Foreign Security)
    (Amendment) Regulations, 2004.

Liberalised norms

  • Bank may permit creation of charge on the shares of the
    Joint Venture/Wholly Owned Subsidiary/Step down Subsidiary (JV/WOS/SDS) of an
    Indian party in favour of a domestic or overseas lender for securing funded
    and/or non-funded facility.
  • The loan availed by the JV/WOS/SDS from the
    domestic/overseas lender shall be utilized only for its core business activities
    overseas and not for investing back in India in any manner whatsoever.
  • Bank may permit creation of charge on the domestic assets
    of an Indian party in favour of an overseas lender for securing the funded
    and/or non-funded facility.
  • Bank may permit creation of charge on the overseas assets
    (excluding the shares) of the JV/WOS/SDS of an Indian party in favour of a
    domestic lender for securing the funded and/or non-funded facility.

5. India became second
largest foreign trading partner of Dubai after China
  • India became second largest foreign trading partner of
    Dubai after China. This was revealed by the figures released by Dubai Customs
    on 28 December 2014 that provides trade data for the first nine months of 2014.
  • The figures show that China was Dubai’s top foreign trade
    partner with a trade value of 34 billion US dollars. As a result, the share of
    China increased 27 percent over the year 2014.
  • India followed next with a trade value worth 21.78
    billion US dollar. However, among the Arab nations, India was at the top with
    trade volume worth 10 billion US dollars.
  • Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade in the first nine months of
    2014 was around 269 billion US dollars, with imports having the biggest share
    at 169 billion US dollars, exports at 23.41 billion and re-exports 76.23
    billion US dollars.
  • Dubai’s foreign trade scored steady growth in the first
    nine months of 2014 with top trading partners. Dubai’s trade statistics for the
    first nine months of 2014 clearly show the Emirate’s solid foothold as a regional
    and international trading and investment hub. It maintained a high value
    despite the global decline in commodity prices.
  • This reflects Dubai’s trading capability to increase the
    volume of foreign trade, including imports, exports and re-exports, to compensate
    for any drop in prices.

6. L&T Hydrocarbon
won offshore contract from ONGC worth 894 crore rupees
  • Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Hydrocarbon on 29 December
    2014 won offshore contract from Oil & Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) worth
    894 crore rupees for additional development of the Vasai East project.
  • The project includes the work to improve recovery factor
    of Vasai East field where production was started in 2008 and it is scheduled to
    be completed by April 2016.
  • L&T Hydrocarbon Engineering (LTHE) bagged the
    contract on complete turnkey basis from ONGC. LTHE is a fully owned subsidiary
    of L&T.
  • The contract includes total engineering, procurement,
    construction and installation of two wellhead platforms, subsea pipelines and
    modification of existing facilities in Heera-Panna-Bassein block of Mumbai
    offshore.
  • The 2500 crore rupees project will result in incremental
    oil production of 1.83 million metric tonne (MMT) and incremental gas
    production of 1.971 billion cubic metres (BCM) by 2030.

7. Gujarat Pipavav
Port Limited tied up with NYK Auto Logistics to set up Ro-Ro terminal
  • Gujarat Pipavav Port Limited (APM Terminals Pipavav) on
    26 December 2014 tied-up with NYK Auto Logistics (India) Ltd to set up a
    dedicated Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro-Ro) automobile terminal at Pipavav port in
    Gujarat.


Highlights of the
agreement

  • Gujarat Pipavav Port sub-leased 85000 square meters of
    land for 10 years inside its premises to NYK Auto to develop a dedicated common
    user integrated Ro-Ro terminal.
  • The facility will also have a pre-delivery inspection
    (PDI) unit and a vehicle processing centre (VPC).
  • The terminal will be commissioned in mid-2015. It will
    have an annual designed capacity of 2.50 lakh vehicles.
  • Gujarat Pipavav Port will provide all the port and
    related facilities for ensuring smooth and seamless flow of automobile cargo.

About APM Terminals
Pipavav

  • Located in Gujarat, APM Terminals Pipavav is the first
    Public Private Partnership (PPP) port in India.
  • APM Terminals Pipavav is part of an integrated Global
    Terminal Network of 56 ports and 154 inland facilities in 63 countries.
  • Port Pipavav is managed and operated by APM Terminals,
    the ports and terminals company of the maritime giant the A.P. Moller-Maersk
    Group.
  • It has two facilities in India currently- India’s largest
    container terminal, APM Terminals Mumbai in JNPT at Nhava Sheva, Mumbai and
    Port Pipavav in Gujarat.

8. Sanjiv Sarin
appointed as CEO and MD of Tata Coffee Limited
  • Sanjiv Sarin was on 29 December 2014 appointed as the
    Managing Director (MD) and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Tata Coffee
    Limited with effect from 8 January 2015.
  • His appointed was approved by the Board of Directors of
    Tata Coffee Ltd. Sanjiv Sarin will succeed Hameed Huq, who will retire on 31
    March 2015.
  • Sarin is currently the Regional President for South Asia
    in Tata Global Beverages Ltd, the holding company of Tata Coffee Ltd.

9. Trevor Bull
appointed as CEO and MD of Aviva India Life Insurance
  • Trevor Bull was on 26 December 2014 appointed as the
    Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Managing Director (MD) of Aviva India Life
    Insurance Ltd.
  • He succeeded TR Ramachandran who led Aviva India since
    October 2008. Bull will take charge of the post from January 2015.

10. Foreign Exchange
Reserves of India reached 320 billion US dollars
  • Foreign Exchange Reserves of India reached 320 billion US
    dollars on the back of a massive jump in foreign currency assets. This was
    revealed by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) data on Foreign Exchange released on 26
    December 2014.

As per the data on
foreign exchange
  • During the week 8 December to 19 December 2014 the flow
    of foreign exchange hit 3.163 billion US dollars enabling total foreign
    exchange reserves to reach 319.997 billion US dollars.
  • The foreign currency assets (FCAs), which are a major
    constituent of overall reserves, jumped by 3.310 billion US dollars to reach
    295.670 billion US dollars during the week ended 19 December 2014. FCA is
    expressed in dollar terms that include the effect of appreciation and
    depreciation of non-US currencies such as the euro, pound and yen, held in
    reserves.
  • The gold reserves remained unchanged at 18.985 billion US
    dollars.

News Related to India and Indian Polity
11. Union Government
observed 25 December 2014 as Good Governance Day
  • Union Government observed 25 December 2014 as Good
    Governance Day. The day was observed to celebrate the 90th birth anniversary of
    Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  • The ministry also organised Multimedia Exhibition on
    former Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee to mark Good Governance Day at
    the IGNCA complex.
  • Union Ministry of Ministry of Information and
    Broadcasting organised the rich repository of archival footage on eminent
    personalities . The footage will be available with the Ministry of Information
    and Broadcasting to the public through Doordarshan, All India Radio and Social
    Media platforms of the New Media Wing.
  • The Exhibition also witnessed screening of three films
    based on the life of Shri Vajpayee provided by the Film Division of the
    Ministry. Photo Division provided the photos being mounted at the Exhibition.
    The Song and Drama Division of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting
    gave cultural performances during the Exhibition. Publication Division
    organized a Book Exhibition at the venue. Doordarshan provided short-films to
    highlight the achievements of the former Prime Minister Shri Vajpayee.
  • The Multimedia Exhibition on former Prime Minister Shri
    Vajpayee was an example of the innovative approaches being adopted towards
    information dissemination by different Media Units of the Ministry. The
    Exhibition reiterated the integrated communication approach being practiced for
    effective outreach and impact.
  • At the closing ceremony, prizes were awarded to children
    who participated in painting competition organized at the venue during the
    Exhibition. The theme of the painting competition was Swachhta and National
    unity.

12. Union Ministry of
Science and Technology launched SMS-based cyclone warning system
  • Union Ministry of Science & Technology and Earth
    Sciences on 25 December 2014 launched an SMS-based warning system which will
    provide alerts on cyclones, tsunami and other weather-related natural
    calamities.
  • The system was launched on the occasion of Good
    Governance Day as part of Prime Minister’s Digital India Programme.

Highlights of the
SMS-based cyclone warning system

  • Under this web-based operational system, the Indian
    Meteorological Department (IMD) will send SMS to individuals who register
    themselves at the weather forecaster’s official website www.imd.gov.in.
  • The meteorological department will utilize Mobile Seva of
    Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY) for SMS based
    cyclone warnings.
  • The information on warnings will be disseminated to
    officials involved in administration, district magistrates/collectors besides
    fishermen, farmers and general public.
  • This system is part of the IMD’s initiatives for
    improvement in weather forecast and warning services based on latest tools and
    technologies including information and communication technology.

13. Union Ministry of
Health and Family Welfare launched Mission Indradhanush
  • Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on 25 December
    2014 launched Mission Indradhanush to achieve full immunization coverage for
    all children by 2020.
  • The Mission Indradhanush aims to cover all those children
    who are either unvaccinated or are partially vaccinated against seven vaccine
    preventable diseases including diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio,
    tuberculosis, measles and hepatitis B.
  • The Mission was launched on Good Governance Day that
    marks the birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Madan Mohan Malaviya and birthday
    of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Highlights of the
Mission Indradhanush

  • Under Mission Indradhanush, four special vaccination
    campaigns will be conducted between January and June 2015 with intensive
    planning and monitoring of these campaigns.
  • The ministry has identified 201 high focus districts that
    have nearly 50 percent of all unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children.
    These districts will be targeted by intensive efforts to improve the routine
    immunization coverage.
  • Out of the 201 districts, 82 districts are in just four
    states of UP, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and nearly 25 percent of the
    unvaccinated or partially vaccinated children of India are in these 82
    districts of 4 states.
  • 201 districts will be covered in the first phase of the
    mission, 297 districts will be targeted for the second phase in the year 2015.
  • The Ministry will be technically supported by WHO,
    UNICEF, Rotary International and other donor partners.
  • Mass media, interpersonal communication, and sturdy
    mechanisms of monitoring and evaluating the scheme are crucial components of
    Mission.

14. Sushaasan Express
flagged off by the Union Ministry of Mines and Steel
  • The Sushaasan Express was on 25 December 2014 flagged off
    by the Union Ministry of Mines and Steel. The Sushaasan (good governance)
    Express was launched from Gwalior, the birth place of former Prime Minister
    Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
  • The train will run between Gwalior and Gonda via Hazrat
    Nizamuddin and Lucknow. The train was launched on the occasion of Good
    Governance Day that marks the birthday of Bharat Ratna Atal Bihari Vajpayee and
    birth anniversary of Bharat Ratna Madan Mohan Malaviya.

Other announcements
made during the function

  • On the same occasion, Union Railway Minister Suresh
    Prabhu sanctioned 29 crore rupees for the development of railways in Gwalior.
  • Besides, another announcement was that the Union tourism
    ministry has approved a plan worth 24.93 crore rupees proposed by the Madhya
    Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation to develop Gwalior as a mega tourist
    centre.

15. Union Ministry of
Consumers Affairs announced to set up Grahak Suvidha Kendras
  • Union Ministry of Consumers Affairs on 25 December 2014
    announced to set up Grahak Suvidha Kendras in each zone of the country. The
    move is aimed to provide a number of services to the consumers.
  • The proposed zones where the Government decided to set up
    the Kendras are North, South, West, East, North East, Central and the National
    Capital.
  • The Kendras will provide counseling to consumers in
    redressal of their grievances and assist them in registering their complaints
    in the appropriate consumer forums. The government will also be authorized to
    take up complaints with private companies and service providers on behalf of
    the government.
  • The Ministry has invited applications from registered and
    eligible Voluntary Consumer Organizations for setting up the Kendras.
  • It has also drawn several other plans and programmes for
    empowerment of consumers and their welfare. Initiative has been taken on
    mainstreaming consumer advocacy in the policy decisions of other seven sectors
    of housing and health.

16. Amitabh Bachchan
honoured with Yash Chopra Memorial Award

  • Megastar Amitabh Bachchan was honoured with the Yash
    Chopra Memorial Award on 23 December 2014.
  • Maharashtra Governor C Vidyasagar Rao honoured him with
    the award.
  • Amitabh Bachchan is the sceond recipient of the award.
    The award was first conferred to melody queen Lata Mangeshkar in 2013.
  • The Yash Chopra Memorial Award has been instituted by the
    TSR Foundation of T Subbarami Reddy in the memory of the late producer-director
    in 2013. Yash Chopra died in 2012.

17. Indian Army
launched Operation All Out against Bodo militants in Assam

  • Union Government in the fourth week of December 2014
    decided to launch Operation All Out against Bodo militants. The decision to
    launch the operation was taken during the meeting of Army chief General Dalbir
    Singh Suhag and Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh in Delhi.
  • The meeting was to review the security situation in Assam
    after National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) militants’ on 23 December
    2014 massacred at least 81 tribal people in two districts of Assam, Kokrajhar
    and Sonitpur.
  • The two-tier armed operation will be carried on by about
    9000 soldiers of Indian Army and paramilitary troopers on the Assam-Arunachal
    Pradesh border to flush out militants of the NDFB (Songbijit Brahma group).
  • Apart from this, authorities have also mulled coordinated
    action with armies of Bhutan and Myanmar to hunt the NDFB(S) militants, as the
    group has its bases in the two countries. Bhutanese Prime Minister Tshering
    Tobgay has assured its support to India in its action against the Bodo
    militants.

18. Union Cabinet approved
promulgation of ordinance on amendments to Land Acquisition Act, 2013
  • The Union Cabinet on 29 December 2014 approved
    promulgation of an ordinance that amends the Right to Fair Compensation and
    Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement (RFCTLARR)
    Act, 2013.
  • The amendments were approved in a cabinet meet chaired by
    Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The decision to amend the act was taken in the
    backdrop of suggestions that came up in interactions with the State Revenue
    Ministers and key implementing Ministries, who faced difficulties in
    implementing the Act.
  • The proposed amendments will serve both objectives
    namely, farmer welfare and along with the strategic and developmental needs of
    the country.

Main amendments in the
RFCTLARR Act, 2013
  • Certain provisions of the Act were relaxed and Section 10
    A was added to the legislation
  • It also removes Consent Clause (CC) and Social Impact
    Assessment (SIA) for acquiring land for five purposes, but compensation and
    rehabilitation and resettlement packages will be applicable as per the new Land
    Acquisition Act for acquiring land for these purposes.

The five cases
include 
  1. National security
  2. Defence
  3. Rural infrastructure including electrification
  4. Industrial corridors
  5. Building social infrastructure including PPP where
    ownership of land continues to be vested with the government

19. First Municipal
Elections in 60 years held in Myanmar
  • First Municipal Elections in 60 years were held in
    Myanmar on 27 December 2014 for electing the Yangon City Development Committee
    (YCDC).
  • The ballot for the YCDC was the first chance for the
    residents of Yangon, the biggest city of Myanmar, to vote under the country’s
    quasi-civilian government which replaced outright military rule in 2011.
  • However, the voters voted under severe voting
    restrictions and limited power of the councilors being elected.
  • Voting was limited to one person per household and the
    age of the candidates were narrowly prescribed. Further there was a ban on
    political parties taking part in the campaign.
  • As a result, only 4 lakh of the Yangon’s several million
    residents were eligible to vote for the elections.
  • Also only 300 candidates, among them businessmen, retired
    civil servants and activists, are competing for 115 positions on the
    committee.  Though, the top posts will
    remain largely appointed.

20. 16 States ratified
National Judicial Appointments Commission Bill, 2014
  • 16 States have ratified the National Judicial
    Appointments Commission (NJAC) Bill, 2014. The information related to this was
    revealed by Union Ministry of Law and Justice on 28 December 2014.
  • The NJAC Bill, 2014 also called Constitution (121st
    Amendment) Bill 2014 seeks to replace the present collegiums system with
    National Judicial Appointments Commission to appoint the judges of higher
    judiciary.
  • Although the names of all the states which have ratified
    the bill were immediately not known, however, Goa, Rajasthan, Tripura and
    Gujarat had ratified the bill in October 2014. Also, UP assembly had ratified
    the bill with an amendment. The NJAC Bill was ratified by Telangana in December
    2014.
  • Earlier in August 2014, the Rajya Sabha Secretariat had
    sent the bill to the states for ratification after Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha
    had cleared the bill.

21. DeitY announced to
set up Fast Track Task Force to boost mobile manufacturing
  • The Department of Electronics and Information Technology
    (DeitY) on 29 December 2014 announced to set up a Fast Track Task Force to
    re-establish and catalyse significant growth in mobile handset and component
    manufacturing eco-system in India.
  • As part of boost mobile manufacturing, the task force
    aims to achieve production of 500 million units of mobile handsets by 2019.
  • It includes promotion of large scale
    manufacturing/assembly activity to achieve production of annual manufacturing
    output of 150000 crore rupees to 300000 crore rupees.
  • It is estimated that this large scale production can
    create employment opportunity for 15 lakh people.
  • Composition of the Task Force
  • The Chairman of the Task Force is Pankaj Mohindroo, the
    President of Indian Cellular Association (ICA). The Co-Chairmen of the task
    force are Josh Foulger, the President of Nokia SEZ and Hari Om Rai, the
    Co-founder of Lava mobile handsets.

The members of the
Task Force

  1. BD Park, Managing Director, Samsung India
  2. Kenichiro Hibi, Managing Director, Sony India
  3. Sandeep Bhargava, Microsoft Devices Director for
    Government relations
  4. Soon H Kwon, Managing Director, LG India
  5. Vikas Jain, Co-founder of Micromax Informatics

The Department of Electronics and Information Technology
(DeitY) Directors SK Marwah and Asha Nangia will represent government in this
task force.
22. Department of Disabilities
Affairs renamed as Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities
  • Union Government on 29 December 2014 renamed the
    Department of Disability Affairs (Nishaktata Karya Vibhag) as Department of
    Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Viklangjan Sashaktikaran Vibhag).
  • This department is functional under the Union Ministry of
    Social Justice & Empowerment.

About Department of
Disability Affairs

  • The Union Government in June 2012 created the Department
    of Disability Affairs under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. The
    department was created to act as the nodal agency for matters pertaining to
    disabilities. The department had several institutes functional under it like
    Institutes for the differently-abled, visually challenged, mentally challenged,
    and empowerment of persons with multiple disabilities.
  • The decision to create Department of Disability Affairs
    was taken in accordance to Census 2001 that revealed that over 21 million (2.1
    crore) people in India (12.6 million males and 9.3 million females) are
    suffering from one or the other kind of disability. This population was
    equivalent to 2.1 percent of the population.

23. Eminent
educationist Saiyid Hamid died
  • Noted educationist and former Vice Chancellor of the
    Aligarh Muslim University Saiyid Hamid died on 29 December 2014 following a
    prolonged illness. He was 94.


Saiyid Hamid

  • Born in Faizabad, Uttar Pradesh in 1920, Hamid worked for
    the educational uplift of Indian Muslims.
  • After retiring from the Indian Administrative Service
    (IAS) in 1980, he was appointed as the vice chancellor of Aligarh Muslim
    University (AMU).
  • He later succeeded Hakeem Abdul Hameed as the Chancellor
    of Hamdard University in Delhi.
  • Saiyid Hamid was one of the members of the high-level
    Rajendra Sachar committee appointed by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in
    2005 on the state of Muslims in the country.

24. Raghubar Das
sworn-in as first non-tribal Chief Minister of Jharkhand

  • BJP leader Raghubar Das was sworn-in as tenth Chief
    Minister of Jharkhand on 28 December 2014. 59-year-old Raghubar Das is the
    first non-tribal Chief Minister of Jharkhand since the state came into being on
    15 November 2000.
  • The oath of office and secrecy was administered by the
    Jharkhand Governor Syed Ahmed at a ceremony held at the Birsa Munda football stadium
    in Morhabadi in Ranchi.
  • Apart from Das, four ministers (three from the BJP and
    one from the All Jharkhand Students Union (AJSU) were sworn-in as ministers.
    They are
  • Ranchi MLA and former speaker of Jharkhand assembly – CP
    Singh of BJP
  • Dhanbad MLA – Dr Louis Marandi of BJP
  • Khunti MLA – Neelkanth Singh Munda of BJP 
  • Ramgarh MLA and former minister – Chandra Prakash
    Choudhary (only MLA from AJSU party)

About Raghubar Das

  • Raghubar Das is a five-time MLA from East Jamshedpur
  • In August 2014, he was elected as BJP national vice
    president
  • He also served as BJP President in Jharkhand
  • After the 2009 Assembly elections, he was appointed as
    the deputy chief minister in the Shibu Soren government
  • He had served as a minister in Jharkhand in the
    governments led by Babulal Marandi, Arjun Munda and held portfolios of finance,
    labour and urban development during his stint as cabinet minister
  • For the first time, he was elected as MLA to the
    undivided Bihar assembly in 1995
  • He also has served Tata Steel in Jamshedpur as a Grade 4
    employee
  • Das belongs to the influential Vaishya community
  • Das, during his education days at the Jamshedpur
    Co-operative College was an active student union leader and joined the student
    movement launched by Loknayak Jaiprakash Narayan in 1974.
  • He was born on 3 May 1955 in Bhalubasa area of Jamshedpur

25. Union Government
launched Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching
  • Union Government launched Madan Mohan Malviya National
    Mission on Teachers and Teaching on 25 December 2014. Prime Minister Narendra
    Modi launched the mission at Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi.
  • The mission was launched the mission with an outlay of
    900 crores rupees during 12th five year plan. It envisages to addressing
    comprehensively all issues related to teachers, teaching, teacher preparation,
    professional development, Curriculum Design, Designing and Developing
    Assessment & Evaluation methodology, Research in Pedagogy and developing
    effective Pedagogy.
  • On One hand, the mission will address current and urgent
    issues such as supply of qualified teachers, attracting talent intoteaching
    profession and raising the quality of teaching in schools and colleges.
  • On another hand, the mission will pursue long term goals
    of building a strong professional cadre of teachers by setting performance
    standards and creating top class institutional facilities for innovative
    teaching and professional development of teachers.
  • The Mission will focus on both urgent issues and long
    term goals in a holistic manner dealing with the whole sector of education
    without fragmenting the programmes based on levels and sectors as school,
    higher, technical etc.
  • The mission is an umbrella scheme will create synergies
    among the various ongoing initiatives on Teachers and Teaching under Union
    Ministry of Human Resources Development and other autonomous institutions.
  • The Mission  will
    have the components such as  Schools of
    Education (in Central Universities), Centres of Excellence for Curriculum and
    Pedagogy,) Inter-University Centres for Teachers’ Education, National Resource
    Centre for Education, Centres for Academic Leadership and Education Management,
    Innovations, Awards, Teaching Resource Grant, including Workshop & Seminar
    and  Subject Networks for Curricular
    Renewal and Reforms.
  • Besides, Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Campus
    Connect wi-fi of Banaras Hindu University by remote control. He unveiled the
    plaque of the Inter-University Centre and also launched the Varanasi Mahotsav.

26. Vrinda Sarup
appointed as Secretary to Department of School Education and Literacy

  • Senior IAS officer Vrinda Sarup on 29 December 2014 was
    appointed as Secretary to the Department of School Education and Literacy under
    Union Ministry of Human Resource Development. Her appointment was approved by
    the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
  • She succeeded R Bhattacharya who is due to retire on 31
    December 2014. R Bhattacharya is a 1978 batch IAS officer of Andhra Pradesh
    cadre.
  • She will take the charge with immediate effects.
  • Vrinda Sarup is a 1981 batch IAS officer of Uttar Pradesh
    cadre. She is presently working as Special Secretary to the Department of
    School Education and Literacy under the Union Ministry of Human Resource
    Development.
  • Department of School Education & Literacy is
    responsible for development of school education and literacy in the country.
    The Department has its eyes set on the universalisation of education and making
    better citizens out of our young brigade.

27. Oldest litigant in
Babri Masjid case Mohammad Farooq died
  • The oldest litigant in the Babri Masjid case Mohammad
    Farooq passed away on 24 December 2014 due to old age-related ailments. He was
    100.
  • Farooq, a resident of Ayodhya, was one of the seven main
    litigants from Muslim side in the 1949 Babri Masjid case regarding placing of
    Lord Rama idols in the premises.
  • Now, the eldest son of late Farooq, Mohammad Saleem will
    inherit his legacy of the case and may become litigant in place of his father
    as per Uttar Pradesh’s Additional Advocate General and convener of Babri Masjid
    Action Committee Zafaryab Jilani.

Background
  • On the night of 22 December 1949, an idol of Lord Rama
    mysteriously appeared inside Ayodhya’s Babri Masjid. This incident had set in
    motion a chain of events in the Indian politics.
  • Farooq was one of the seven main litigants from the
    Muslim side who filed civil suits pledging their respective claims to the site.
    The rest of the six main litigants are Hashim Ansari, Ashhad Rashidi, Maulana
    Mahfuzurur Rahman, Mufti Hasbullah, Mahmud and Sunni Central Waqf Board.

28. Malayalam Film
Actor Narayanan Lakshmi Balakrishnan Died
  • Malayalam film actor Narayanan Lakshmi (NL) Balakrishnan
    died on 25 December 2014 following a prolonged illness. He was 72.
  • Being a diploma-holder in painting, Balakrishnan began
    his career as a still photographer and later turned to acting.
  • He was associated with over 180 films as still
    photographer and appeared in major and minor roles in around 100 movies.
  • His performances in movies like Kakkothikkavile Appooppan
    Thadikal, Pattanapravesham and Joker won him appreciation.
  • He worked as a photojournalist in Kerala Kaumudi for
    eleven years  from 1968 to 1979.
  • Balakrishnan has also published a book titled Black and
    White in 2011.

29. Noted Hindi poet
Nand Chaturvedi died

  • Noted Hindi poet and a litterateur Nand Chaturvedi died
    on 26 December 2014 following a brief illness. He was 91.
  • Born in 1923 in Jhalawar, Chaturvedi done his Master of
    Arts in Hindi from Rajasthan University.
  • He retired as Professor of Hindi from Vidya Bhawan Rural
    Institute.
  • Apart from teaching, he wrote poems and essays including
    Yeh Samai Mamuli Nahin, Shabd Sansar ki Yayavari- a collection of essays,
    Imandar Dunya Ke Liye.
  • He was given Bihari Puraskar of K K Birla Foundation for
    his poem Yeh Samai mamuli nahin in 1996 and he also received Prasaran Sanmaan
    by Prasar Bharati.
  • He was also honoured with Mira Puraskar, the highest
    literary honour of Rajasthan Government.

International News
30. Tenth anniversary
of Indian Ocean Tsunami observed on 26 December

  • Tenth anniversary of Indian Ocean Tsunami was observed on
    26 December 2014. The tsunami was struck off the coastal countries of Indian
    Ocean triggered by a 9.1magnitude earthquake in 2004.
  • In Sri Lanka, the day was observed as the National Safety
    Day with a series of commemoration functions across the nation. Memorial
    ceremonies are held for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami in Indonesia,
    India, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
  • In Banda Aceh of Indonesia, thousands of people gathered
    at the Great Mosque, a19th Century building and paid homage to the victims of
    tsunami. In India also paid homage to the victims of tsunami especially in
    Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa.

About Tsunami 2004

  • Tsunami or Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea mega
    thrust earthquake that occurred on 26 December 2004, with an epicentre off the
    west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia.
  • Tsunami was triggered by a 9.1magnitude earthquake, which
    struck off the costal countries of Indian Ocean such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka,
    India, Thailand and others. This was among the deadliest natural disasters in
    human history with at least 290000 people killed or missing in 14 countries
    bordering the Indian Ocean.
  • Tsunami was also known as the Sumatra–Andaman earthquake
    and it has given various names, such as South Asian tsunami, Indonesian
    tsunami, the Christmas tsunami and the Boxing Day tsunami.

31. Ukrainian
Parliament adopted Bill to join NATO
  • Ukrainian Parliament, Rada, on 24 December 2014
    overwhelmingly adopted a bill that enables the country to join North Atlantic
    Treaty Organisation (NATO). The bill was adopted by 303 to eight votes.
  • With this, Ukraine dropped the non-aligned status to join
    NATO. The non-aligned status was adopted by Ukraine in 2010 under Russian
    pressure. The status of non-aligned prevents states from joining any military
    alliances.
  • During his election campaign in early 2014, President
    Petro Poroshenko had vowed to put Ukraine under Western military protection.

32. Russia, Belarus,
Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan finalised creation of Eurasian Economic
Union
  • Russia and four other ex-Soviet nations, viz., Belarus,
    Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan on 23 December 2014 finalised the creation
    of Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).
  • The decision to finalise the creation was taken during
    the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organization) meeting in Moscow, Russia.
  • The creation of this economic alliance is intended to
    bolster their integration among the ex-Soviet states and will come into
    existence on 1 January 2015.
  • The EEU will also help promote free trade among the
    member countries.
  • Besides, it will help coordinate the financial systems
    and regulate the industrial and agricultural policies along with labour markets
    and transportation networks among the member countries.
  • The new union will have a combined economic output of 4.5
    trillion US dollars and bring together 170 million people.

33. INT-Russia
successfully test-launched Angara-A5 rocket

  • Russia successfully test-launched Angara-A5 rocket from
    Plesetsk in northern Russia on 23 December 2014. The rocket was designed to succeed
    Proton and other Soviet-era launchers. The Angara is billed as the first rocket
    to have been completely built after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
  • The rocket Angara was named after a Siberian river
    flowing out of Lake Baikal. It was expected to launch a payload of two tonnes
    into space. The rocket was developed with a view to launch manned spacecraft.
  • The test launch of the light version of the Angara rocket
    ended in embarrassment in June due to a sudden automatic launch abort.
  • The Angara-A5 is the first space-booster designed from
    scratch since the Soviet era. It took two decades of design work and scientific
    research. The test launch cost approximately 3 billion US dollar.
  • The clean engine eco-friendly Angara rocket family is
    capable of delivering up to 25 tonnes to a low orbit.

34. Access to Gmail
blocked in China
  • Access to Google Inc’s Gmail was blocked in China on 26
    December 2014 after months of disruptions. The access to the Gmail was
    supposedly blocked by Great Firewall of China which is the world’s most
    sophisticated internet censorship mechanism.
  • As part of it, large numbers of Gmail Web addresses were
    cut off in China from 26 December 2014 and the service was still down on 29
    December 2014.
  • The update was confirmed by GreatFire.org, a China-based
    freedom of speech advocacy group. Also, Google’s own real-time traffic to
    Google services displayed a sharp drop-off in traffic to Gmail from China.
  • The U.S. State Department expressed concern over China’s
    actions which could make email communication difficult for companies operating
    in China.
  • However, Chinese Foreign Ministry expressed that it is
    unaware of the development and it is committed to providing a good business
    environment for foreign investors.
  • The disruptions of almost all of Google’s services in
    China began since June 2014, that is, since the run-up to the 25th anniversary
    of the government’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators around
    Beijing’s Tiananmen Square on 4 June 1989.
  • Yet the Gmail users could still access emails downloaded
    via protocols like IMAP, SMTP and POP3. These had let people communicate using
    Gmail on apps like the Apple iPhone’s Mail and Microsoft Outlook.
  • Also, people can get around China’s internet censorship
    by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) which allows unhindered access to
    blocked sites and services.

Sports News

35. Mahendra Singh
Dhoni announced retirement from Test cricket

  • Mahendra Singh Dhoni on 30 December 2014 announced
    retirement from International Test Cricket with immediate effect.
  • Dhoni decided to retire from Test Cricket by citing the
    strain of playing all formats of Cricket. Now he wants to concentrate on ODI
    and T20 formats.
  • His decision to retire from Test Cricket came after the
    Third Test against Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). Although
    the match ended in a draw, however, Dhoni surpassed Kumar Sangakkara record of
    stumping 134 players in all the three formats.
  • Virat Kohli will be the captain of the Indian Team for
    the Fourth and Final Test against Australia that will be played in Sydney from
    6 January 2015. India has already lost the series.

Mahendra Singh Dhoni
in Test Cricket

  • He is widely regarded as one of the greatest finishers in
    limited-over cricket
  • He made his Test debut on 2 December 2005 as
    wicket-keeper against Sri Lanka
  • Under his leadership India became the No. 1 team in the Test
    Rankings
  • He became the captain of Indian Test Cricket team in 2008
  • In his Test career, he has played 90 matches and scored
    4876 runs in 144 innings
  • His highest Test score is 224 runs

36. BCCI banned
spinner Pragyan Ojha from bowling in competitive cricket

  • The BCCI (Board of Control for Cricket in India) on 28
    December 2014 banned left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha from bowling in competitive
    matches. He was banned after his bowling action was found illegal.
  • Ojha’s action was tested at the ICC-recognised centre in
    Chennai and the test concluded that Ojha’s elbow flexed more than the permissible
    limit of 15 degrees.
  • BCCI officially informed Ojha’s home state association
    Hyderabad that his action needs remedial measures. Ojha will now head to
    Chennai for taking corrective measures.

About Pragyan Ojha
  • Ojha is the quickest Indian bowler to reach to 100-wicket
    milestone in Tests
  • He has taken 113 wickets in 24 Test matches and 21
    wickets from 18 ODIs
  • He played his first One Day International match against
    Bangladesh on 28 June 2008 in Karachi

37. Ankita Raina won
NECC International Tennis Association Singles title

  • Ankita Raina on 29 December 2014 won the International
    Tennis Association (ITF) singles title of the World Tennis Association circuit
    held in Pune. This was her first maiden 25000 US dollars ITF singles title.
  • Ankita defeated Katy Dunne of British 6-2, 6-2 in the
    final to win the title. With this, she also became the first Indian to clinch
    the title in the NECC-ITF women’s tournament after 14 years.
  • Radhika Tulpule was the first Indian to won the NECC-ITF
    title in the inaugural year of the tournament in 2001.

About NECC ITF
  • The NECC ITF International Women’s Tournament is a tennis
    tournament on the ITF Women’s Circuit, under the tier of the WTA Tour, played
    on outdoor hard-courts. It is held annually since 2001 in Pune, India.

38. Former England
cricketer Geoff Pullar died
  • Geoff Pullar, the former England opening batsman died on
    25 December 2014. The left handed batsman died at the age of 79.
  • The former Lancashire and Gloucestershire batsman made
    his first international debut against India in July 1959 in Headingley. In 1960,
    he was voted as one of the Wisden’s Cricketers of the Year in 1960.

About Geoff Pullar

  • He appeared in 28 Test matches for his country between
    1959 and 1963
  • His knock of 131 against India at Old Trafford in his
    second Test made him the first Lancastrian to score a century on his home
    ground of Old Trafford

39. India won Gold in
World Youth Under-16 Chess Olympiad
  • India won Gold in World Youth Under-16 Chess Olympiad on
    22 December 2014. India won against Turkey 3.0-1.0 in the final round at the
    FIDE (Federation Internationale des Echecs) tournament held at Gyor, Hungary.
  • Russia defeated Ukraine 3.5-0.5 in the final round to
    come at second place and win the Silver medal. The third place was clinched by
    Iran while Hungary finished at fourth place in the tournament.
  • In the final round, three Indians International Master
    (IM) Murali Karthikeyan, IM Aravindh Chithambaram and Kumaran Balaji won their
    respective matches to clinch the Gold. Only IM Diptayan Ghosh lost to Vahap
    Sanal of Turkey.
  • Karthikeyan won against Ali Marandi, Chithambaram against
    Volkan Sevgi and Balaji against Tuna Tuncer. Chithambaram was the best among
    the Indians in the 10-round tournament who scored eight points in the nine
    games (8 wins, 1 loss). Karthikeyan also scored eight points in the ten 10
    games (6 wins, 4 draws).

40. Phillip Hughes’
bat to be taken to top of Everest
  • In a unique tribute to Phillip Hughes, the Cricket
    Association of Nepal (CAN) is planning to place a bat belonging to the late
    Australian cricketer on top of the Mount Everest.
  • CAN has written a letter to Cricket Australia (CA) and
    they are working on the initiative.
  • In the letter addressed to CA chairman Wally Edwards, CAN
    outlined how it wanted to honour the fallen Test opener with a 63-over tribute
    match.
  • Meanwhile, Cricket Australia trademarked the phrase “63
    not out” to stop people from making money at the expense of the former Test
    opener, who died after being hit by a bouncer during a domestic match in
    Sydney. He was on 63 when he was hit by the ball.
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