Current Affairs, News & Facts of 18 Dec 2015

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  • Reva Khetrapal appointed as the Lokayukta of  Delhi

     

    Reva Khetrapal appointed as the Lokayukta of  Delhi

    Former Delhi high court judge justice Reva Khetarpal has been appointed as the Lokayukta of Delhi. As per Delhi Lokayukta and Uplokayukta Act, 1995, term of Lokayukta is for five years. Lt. governor Najeeb Jung administered the oath at a function where Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal was also present. 

    The post of Lokayukta was vacant since November 2013, when retired Justice Manmohan Sarin relinquished office. A four—member panel, comprising Chief Justice of Delhi High Court G Rohini, Kejriwal, Jung and Gupta had in October chosen Khetrapal’s name for the post of Lokayukta.Thereafter, Jung had recommended her name to President Pranab Mukherjee for appointing her as Delhi’s Lokayukta.

    Facts about Reva Khetrapal :

    Khetrapal was additional judge in the Delhi High Court between February 28, 2006 and September 22, 2014. She was also Additional District and Sessions Judge in 1991 and was posted as Special Judge (Narcotics) in 1994.

    Who is Lokayukta ?

    • The Lokayukta  is an anti-corruption ombudsman organization who along with the Income Tax Department and the Anti Corruption Bureau, mainly helps people publicise corruption among the Politicians and Government Officials.
    • Maharashtra was the first state to introduce the institution of Lokayukta through The Lokayukta and Upa-Lokayuktas Act in 1971. This was followed by similar acts being enacted by states of orissa, Rajasthan, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Delhi.
    • The Lokayukta of Maharashtra is considered as weak due to lack of powers, staff, funds and no independent investigating agency.  Karnataka Lokayukta is considered as the most powerful Lokayukta in the country.
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  • Lok Sabha passes Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015

     

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

    The Lok Sabha has passed by a voice vote the Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015, which aims  at making dispute resolution in the country quicker and easier.

    Objective of  Arbitration and Conciliation (Amendment) Bill, 2015 :

    The bill seeks to amend Arbitration and Conciliation Act, 1996 to make the arbitration process friendlier and cost effective for investors, ensuring speedy disposal of cases thus making India a hub for international commercial arbitration.

    Key facts of the Bill

    • Under the amendments, an arbitrator will have to settle a case within 12 months but if there is sufficient cause this period can be extended by 6 months.
    • The Bill has a provision to reward arbitrators with extra fees in case the matter is disposed of within 6 months and the parties agree to pay more. As per the amendment, any application challenging the award would have to be disposed of by the court within one year. 
    • Under the existing law, a principal civil court or a high court with original jurisdiction is the relevant court for handling arbitration matters, the bill makes the high court the relevant court for international arbitration.
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  • French President Francois Hollande to be chief guest at 2016 Republic Day parade 

     

    French President Francois Hollande to be chief guest at 2016 Republic Day parade

    French President Francois Hollande will be the Chief Guest at the 67th Republic Day parade of January 26, 2016. This was announced by Union Ministry External Affairs (MEA) after the French President accepted the invitation to witness Republic Day celebration as chief guest.

    It will be Hollande’s second visit to India. He was previously in New Delhi on a state visit in February 2013. This is the fifth time that a French leader will be the chief guest at the event after, Prime Minister Jacques Chirac (1976), President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing (1980), President Jacques Chirac (1998) and President Nicolas Sarkozy (2008) .

    France holds the distinction of being the guest of honour on Republic Day parade for record five times followed by Bhutan (four times); Mauritius and USSR/Russia (three times each).

    Indo- France relations :

    France was the first country with which India established a Strategic Partnership in 1998 after New Delhi did nuclear tests. The two countries have close cooperation in defence, space, civil-nuclear and security issues along with strong trade and investment and cultural ties. France is also the first country with which India entered into a civil nuclear energy cooperation in 2008 after obtaining the waiver from Nuclear Suppliers Group

    Earlier Chief guests of Republic Day parades: 2015-Barack Obama (US President), 2014- Shinzo Abe (Japanese Prime Minister), 2013-Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck (King of Bhutan), 2012-Yingluck Shinawatra (Then Prime Minister of Thailand), 2011- Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono (Then President of Indonesia).

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  • Central Government gives in principle approval to Google’s Loon project

     

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

    Government Of India has given in principle approval to Google’s Loon project which aims to provide Internet connectivity across the country by using large balloons.

    The announcement in this regard was made by Google CEO Sunder Pichai in New Delhi after meeting Union Communication and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad. The project will be initially started on a pilot basis with state run Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) as it's partner.

    What is "Project Loon" ?

    • 'Project Loon', uses balloons, floating at a height of 20 kilometers above earth's surface, to form a network, that then beams down internet straight to smartphones on the ground. Google has already tested project Loon in New Zealand, California and Brazil.
    • The project uses high-altitude balloons placed in the stratosphere at an altitude of about 18 km (11 mi) to create an aerial wireless network with up to 4G-LTE speeds
    • The system aims to bring Internet access to remote and rural areas which are poorly served by existing provisions. It also aims to improve communication during natural disasters to affected regions.
    • Along with "Project Loon", Google has  also partnered with the Common Service Centre (CSC) and Internet Sathi programme (ISP) to expand Internet reach in 3 lakh villages particularly for women training. Google is also focusing on bringing its various products in many more Indian languages.
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  • United Nations adopts resolution to cut off Islamic State funding

     

    United Nations adopts resolution to cut off Islamic State funding

    The UN Security Council has unanimously adopted a resolution to cut off funds for the Islamic State the extremist group, and other Al-Qaeda-linked terror outfits through illicit activities like raising funds through oil smuggling, trading in antiquities and kidnapping for ransom. The 15-nation Council adopted the Russian-drafted resolution, which provides for a range of tools that make the financing of IS a serious criminal offence.

    This resolution is a response to the threat posed by the Islamic State,  the resolution focuses extensively on terrorist financial support networks, particularly IS' raising of funds through oil smuggling, looting of antiquities, kidnapping for ransom and other illicit activities.

    Key Facts of the resolution :

    The 28-page resolution, sponsored by the United States and the Russian Federation, condemns any direct and indirect trade, in particular of oil and oil products, with IS, Al Nusra Front (ANF) and other Al-Qaeda-linked groups and threatens to impose sanctions on those who engage in any such trade with the terror groups, including those involved in the oil trade with IS.

    • It emphasises that all states must freeze all assets of the terror groups as well as those of their agents including their oil, oil products, modular refineries, and related material.
    • The resolution calls for increased international cooperation in stopping illicit oil trafficking benefiting IS, ANF, and Al-Qaeda-related groups by sharing information on smuggling routes and providing capacity building assistance to counter smuggling.
    • The resolution bans the illicit trade of antiquities from Iraq and Syria so that  the destruction of cultural heritage and religious sites by IS could be stopped.
    • The resolution urges that member nations  not to supply IS, ANF, and Al-Qaeda-related groups with arms in particular man-portable surface-to-air missiles as such things can be danger to International peace.
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  • Union Cabinet approves development of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) 

     

    Union Cabinet approves development of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG)

    The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has approved a policy framework for development of Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) in coal and lignite bearing areas in the country.

    What is Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) ?

    • UCG is a method of extraction of energy from coal/lignite resources which are otherwise regarded as uneconomical to work through conventional mining.
    • Underground coal gasification (UCG) is an industrial process which converts coal into product gas such as methane, hydrogen, CO and CO2 that are combusted for electricity generation.
    • The process of  Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) is carried out in non-mined coal seams using injection of oxidants, and bringing the product gas to surface through production wells drilled from the surface.

    Facts about UCG Policy Framework :

    • The UCG Policy Framework has been formed on the lines broadly similar to the existing policy for Coal Bed Methane (CBM) development on revenue sharing basis.
    • Development of UCG is envisaged to provide for energy security and will be adopted for offering the blocks through competitive bidding.
    • An Inter-Ministerial Committee under the Ministry of Coal with members from concerned Ministries will be responsible for identification of the areas, deciding about blocks to be put to bidding or awarding them to PSUs on nomination basis
    • Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL) will be the nodal agency for all business related proposals and regulations.

     

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  • Union Cabinet approves MoU with BRICS countries for energy conservation

     

    Union Cabinet approves MoU with BRICS countries for energy conservation

    Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given it's ex-post facto approval to a pact signed between India and BRICS  (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) counterparts for enhancing cooperation in building energy efficiency.

    Facts realted to the MoU :

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

    Under the present MoU, the BRICS countries intend to examine the practicability of development of the comprehensive programme of cooperation in energy saving and energy efficiency promotion including specific common projects, applicable methods and instruments of energy saving promotion and energy efficiency increase in their economies.

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  • Union Cabinet gives nod to amend Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950

     

    Union Cabinet gives nod to amend Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950

    The Union Cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has given it's approval for the introduction of Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order Amendment Bill, 2015 in the Parliament.

    The Bill seeks to amend Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 in order to modify the list of Scheduled Castes in respect of 5 States viz. Chhattisgarh, Haryana, Kerala, Odisha and West Bengal. The Bill also modifies the Central List of Other Backward Classes of three states, i.e., Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Kerala. The following castes/communities, as per approved modalities, were found to be eligible for their inclusion in the list of Scheduled Castes:

    • Chhattisgarh: Sais, Sarathi, Soot-Sarathi and Thanwar are eligible for their inclusion in SC category. 
    • Haryana: Aheria (also called Aheri, Hari, Heri, Thori and Tur) and Rai Sikh have been included in the SC list.
    • Kerala: Peruvannan caste has been included the list and Malayan community area has been extended. 
    • Odisha: Bariki and Kummari castes have been excluded from the OBC list.
    • West Bengal: The area restriction of the inclusion of Chain caste has been removed. 

    The members of these communities will be included in the list of Scheduled Castes after the Bill becomes an Act. They will be able to derive benefits meant for Scheduled Castes under the existing Government schemes. In addition they will also be entitled to the benefits of reservation in services and admission to educational institutions.

    Constitutional provision regarding Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes :

    • The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (STs) are official designations given to various groups of historically disadvantaged people in India. The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes comprise about 16.6 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively, of India's population.
    • The complete list of castes and tribes was made via two orders: The Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 and The Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950, respectively.
    • As per Constitution (Scheduled Castes) Order, 1950 lists there are  1,108 castes across 29 states in its First Schedule and 744 tribes across 22 states.
    • As per Article 341 1st list of Scheduled Castes in relation to a States/UTs has to be issued by a notified Order of the President after consultation with the respective State Government.
    • Clause (2) of Article 341 says that  any subsequent inclusion or exclusion particular community from the list of Scheduled Castes can be envisaged through an Act of Parliament.
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