23 June 2016

23 June: United Nations Public Service Day

Every year 23 June is being observed as the United Nations Public Service Day by the United Nations (UN). 

Significance of the Day: 

The day seeks to mark the invaluable contributions of public servants and administrators to build a better world for all. This for the first time, the day is observed after the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (i.e. Sustainable Development Goals) were adopted by all member states of United Nations. On this occasion, the UN will hold a Public Service Awards ceremony to reward the creative achievements and contributions of public service institutions worldwide.

Ken Miyauchi appointed as President and COO of SoftBank Group

Ken Miyauchi has been appointed as the President and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank Group. He will succeed Nikesh Arora who had stepped down from his position after the Chairman and CEO of Group Masayoshi Son wanted to remain at the helm longer than first planned. Prior to this appointment, Ken Miyauchi was head of the SoftBank group’s Japanese telecommunications operations. He has been working with the SoftBank Group since October 1984. 

About SoftBank 

  • SoftBank Group is a Japanese multinational telecommunications and Internet corporation established in 1981 in Tokyo. 
  • It has operations in fixed-line telecommunications, broadband, Internet, e-commerce, technology services, media, finance and marketing, and other businesses. 
  • As of 2015, the group is the 62nd largest company in the world based on a composite of sales, assets, profit and market value.

Union Cabinet approves pact for avoidance of double taxation with Belgium

The Union Cabinet has given its approval to the signing of a Protocol amending the Agreement between India and Belgium for avoidance of double taxation. Decision in this regard was taken in the Union Cabinet meeting under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
 Key Facts 

  • The amendment in the Protocol will broaden the scope of the existing framework of exchange of tax related information between the two countries. 
  • It also revises the scope of existing treaty provisions on mutual assistance in collection of taxes and further help to curb tax evasion and tax avoidance. 
  • The Protocol will also revise the existing treaty provisions on mutual assistance in collection of taxes.

Union Cabinet approves Mega Spectrum Auction

The Union Cabinet under Chairmanship of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved mega auction of all available spectrum (more than 2300 Megahertz) across the seven bands. This decision will pave way for the largest-ever spectrum auction in the country and could potentially fetch the exchequer about 5.5 lakh crore ruppees going by the reserve price.

 Key Facts 

  • The airwaves in the seven spectrum bands to be auctioned are 700, 800, 900, 1800, 2100, 2300 and 2500 MHz. 
  • The auction of such a large quantity of spectrum will give a fillip for Digital India programme.
  •  It will also allow telecom operators to purchase spectrum at par with international holding values and end spectrum shortage. 
  • This auction for the first time will sell 700 MHz band which is preferred for offering high-speed broadband services.

Union Cabinet extends deadline of UDAY scheme

The Union Cabinet has approved proposal of extending the deadline for implementing the Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) by a year to March 31, 2017. With this decision, states shall take over 75% of ailing DISCOM (Power Distribution companies) debt as on 30th September, 2015 by 31st March, 2017 by issuing Bonds. It is considered as a significant step in realising the vision of proving 24X7 affordable and environment friendly Power for All. This intervention will also lower the interest burden of debt and allow states, which could not join UDAY earlier to put DISCOMs reforms on accelerated path.

 About Ujjwal Discom Assurance Yojana (UDAY) 
  • The UDAY scheme aims at bringing ailing power discoms to a state of operational efficiency, with state governments taking over up to 75% of their respective debt and issuing sovereign bonds to pay back the lenders.
  •  It is the most comprehensive power sector reform ever undertaken. It shall conceive permanently resolve all DISCOM problems in the past, present and future. 
  • The scheme is for the operational and financial turnaround of DISCOMs, which are the weakest link in the power value chain. It provides a clear roadmap and opportunity to DISCOMs to become profitable till 2019.
  •  Power is a concurrent subject and requires the active participation of the States. Though, the scheme is optional, several States/Union Territories have joined or agreed to join it.
  •  Under this scheme the turnaround of DISCOMs will be made possible through (i) Improving operational efficiencies of DISCOMs, (ii) Reduction in the cost of power (iii) Enforcing financial discipline on DISCOMs through alignment with State finances. 
  • So far, 19 states have given in principle approval to join the scheme, out of which 10 states have signed MoUs with the Union Government.

PayPal appoints AnupamPahuja as India Country Manager and MD

·        World’s leading payments platform PayPal announced the appointment of AnupamPahuja as the Managing Director (MD) and Country Manager for its India operations.

·        Pahuja will be responsible for all aspects of PayPal's business in India. He will also be responsible for further strengthening of the company's operations in the country.

·        Prior to joining PayPal, Pahuja worked as the India MD for SumTotal Systems.

Olympian Anju Bobby George resigned as president of Kerala Sports Council

·        Olympian Anju Bobby George resigned as President of the Kerala Sports Council.

·        The iconic long jumper, who in 2003 became the first Indian athlete ever to win a medal in a World Athletics Championships in Paris, resigned after being accused for corruption by the state's sports minister EP Jayarajan.

·        Bobby George was appointed president of the state's sports council in 2015, by the erstwhile OommenChandy government.

Freida to get International Icon Award at IIFA

·        Actress Freida Pinto is set to receive the 'International Icon Award' at the 17th edition of the IIFA awards ceremony, beginning in Madrid.

·        The actress has starred in films including 'SlumdogMillionnaire', 'Immortals' and 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes'.

·        Notably, this year's IIFA gala will mark Pinto's debut at the awards ceremony.

22 June 2016

Maharashtra Government grants minority status to Jews

Maharashtra Government has accorded minority status to Jews in the state as per the provisions of the Maharashtra State Minorities Commission Act, 2004. Decision in this regard was taken at the state cabinet meeting chaired by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in Mumbai. With this, Maharashtra becomes second state in the country to accord minority status to Jews after West Bengal.

 Key Facts

  •  As per the 2001 population census, there are 4,650 Jews in the country of whom 2,466 are based in Maharashtra. 
  • With minority status, the Jews in the state can be counted independently as a religious minority along with Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Sikhs, Parsis and Jains. 
  • The status will now make the community eligible to avail various development schemes that the state launches for the minority community.
  •  The community will now get benefits of merit-cum-means scholarship, post-matric scholarship, pre-matric scholarship, coaching and allied schemes and multi-sectoral development programme that the government runs for minorities. 
  • Educational institutes run by Jews now will be eligible to get benefit of minority status including reserving seats for members of their own community.

NASA discovers K2-33b, youngest exoplanet around a young star

Astronomers using NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope (KST) have discovered a newborn fully-formed exoplanet dubbed as K2-33b. 
K2-33b is only five to 10 million years old which makes it one of a very few newborn planets found so far.

 Key Facts 
  • K2-33b is just 5 to 10 million years old compared to Earth which is about 4.5 billion years old. 
  • It is little larger than Neptune and is about 10 times closer than Mercury is to the sun.
  •  It is locked into a tight orbit around its star and only takes about five days to complete a lap around its host star.
  •  Significance of Discovery: The newborn planet K2-33b will help astronomers to better understand how planets form. 
  • It will also help in better understanding the processes that led to the formation of Earth. 
  • So far astronomers have discovered and confirmed roughly 3,000 exoplanets. However, nearly all of them are hosted by middle-aged stars, with ages of a billion years or more.

Aadhaar to be linked with caste, domicile certificates

Union Government has asked all state governments to link Aadhaar with caste and domicile certificates to be issued to school students. It is the first-of-its-kind initiative to be undertaken by Union Government to issue these certificates to the students within 60 days when they are studying in Class V or VIII. 

Key facts
 Union Government is seeking support of state governments to link Aadhaar with caste and domicile certificates to curb harassment faced by citizens to obtain these certificates. It will also help to timely grant of scholarship to students belonging to the Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) without any delays. State government may also try to get the information of students if feasible to fed it into the meta data to be made online that may be further linked to Aadhaar enabled data.

Russia signs deal to build Hyperloop in Moscow

·   This makes Moscow Hyperloop's fourth engineering site after Finland, the UK and the US.

·   Hyperloop One is making vacuum pods that can travel upto 1,200 km/h

· Hyperloop One signed a deal with Russia's investment firm Summa Group to build a 70-kilometre high-speed transportation system in Moscow at a cost of $450 million to $607 million.

A Life in Diplomacy authored by MK Rasgotra

·        The book titled A Life in Diplomacy was in news in the third week of June 2016. The book was written by former Indian diplomat MaharajakrishnaRasgotra.

·        It is an insider's account of the personalities and policies that shaped Indian diplomacy.

·        The book provides a ringside view of the beginnings of ethnic violence in Sri Lanka, the last years of the Cold War, the negotiations on the formation of SAARC, Indira Gandhi's assassination and the Bhopal gas disaster.

ISRO launches record 20 satellites in a mission

·        The Indian Space Research Organisation launched a record 20 satellites in a single mission from the SatishDhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota.

·        The satellites included Cartosat-2 series satellite for earth observation and 19 co-passenger satellites from US, Canada, Germany, Indonesia and two Indian academic institutions.

·        The launch was made using ISRO's Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle.