November 2016

Committee of Chief Ministers to examine measures to implement digital payment systems

NITI Aayog has constituted a Committee of Chief Ministers with representatives drawn from different political parties to examine measures to implement and promote the use of digital payment systems in the country. The move is to give a fillip to the adoption of digital payments systems by people at the grass root levels and small businesses.

The committee will include Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog, CEO of NITI Aayog and other experts. Chandrababu Naidu (Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh) has been appointed as the Convener of the Committee. The other members include Naveen Patnaik (Chief Minister of Odisha), Shivraj Singh Chouhan (Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh), Pawan Kumar Chamling (Chief Minister of Sikkim), V. Narayanasamy (Chief Minister of Puducherry), Devendra Fadnavis, (Chief Minister of Maharashtra). Apart from the chief ministers, experts from various fields have also been included in the committee.

Different modes of digital payment currently available are: Cards, USSD, digital wallets, Aadhar Enabled Payment System (AEPS) and Unified Payment Interface (UPI).



7th World Ayurveda Congress to be held in Kolkata

The 7th World Ayurveda Congress (WAC) will be held in Kolkata from 2nd – 4th December, 2016. The Congress is organized by the World Ayurveda Foundation with support of Ministry of AYUSH, and the West Bengal government. The Congress is being held to facilitate development and growth of AYUSH system of medicine. The focus of this year’s edition will be ‘Strengthening the Ayurveda Ecosystem’. This edition’s Ayurveda Congress will be the largest ever when compared with the previous year’s editions held at Kochi (2002), Pune (2006), Jaipur (2008), Bengaluru (2010), Bhopal (2012) and Delhi (2014).


Oil prices rise as OPEC agrees on output cuts

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has agreed to cut 1.2 million barrels of oil a day from its output to 32.5 million barrels beginning from January. This has lead to a surge in the global oil prices. This is the first such cut made by OPEC in the last eight years. OPEC plays very important role in the determination of Global oil prices. OPEC raises the oil price by agreeing to reduce production.

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) is an intergovernmental organization of twelve oil-producingcountries made up of Algeria, Angola, Ecuador, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela.

GDP grows at 7.3% in September quarter

The Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has come up with the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) estimates for the second quarter (July-September) of 2016-17. Accordingly, the Indian economy has grown at the rate of 7.3% in the second quarter. This is up from the 7.1% recorded in the previous three months. The improvement in performance is due to improved performance of manufacturing, services and trade sectors. The GDP was 7.6% in the second quarter of last fiscal.

The Gross Value Added (GVA), which is estimated at the basic price, recorded growth of 7.1% in the second quarter of 2016-17. It was 7.3% in the last fiscal. Under the new methodology, the GDP growth data is being calculated at market price. On the other hand, GVA is computed primarily at factor cost.

GDP = GVA plus taxes on products, minus subsidies on them.

The sectors of the economy which registered more than 7% growth in the second quarter are: public administration, defence and other services; financial, insurance, real estate and professional services; manufacturing; and trade, hotels and transport and communication and services related to broadcasting.

15 new castes included in Central OBC list

The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister has approved the inclusion of 15 new castes in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs). Modifications in another 13 castes in the Central list were also approved. The National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC) had recommended 28 changes with respect to 8 states: Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand. The changes made to the list will enable the beneficiaries to avail the benefits of reservation in Government services, Central Educational Institutions, benefits under the various welfare schemes, scholarships etc.

The National Commission of Backward Classes (NCBC) examines requests for inclusion in the central list of backward classes and hears complaints of over-inclusion or under-inclusion of any backward class in the list. The advice of NCBC is binding upon the Central Government.


Facebook tests Express Wi-Fi in India

According to facebook, the company’s “Express Wifi” is live in India. Express Wi-Fi is part of Facebook’s larger mission. It aims to bring internet connectivity throughout the world, especially in the remote areas. The company has been testing Express Wi-Fi in other parts of the world as well.

Express Wi-Fi is not a free service like Google’s Wi-Fi at the railway stations. It makes use of the old cable operator model and works with the local entrepreneur with technology, business solutions and marketing to get Express Wi-Fi working. It thus helps the local entrepreneurs to provide quality internet access and make a steady income. The users need to be present in a community area to access the Internet. The company is only creating the Wi-Fi access point for users with their software. In that process, it still depends on the local Internet service providers for the data. This model is implemented in more than 100 villages across India.

Free Basics was also part of this mission. Free Basics was criticized for allegedly violating net neutrality.


It will offer quality internet access in rural parts of the country at the same time supporting local entrepreneurs to earn a steady income.

Supreme Court: National anthem must be played in cinema halls before screening of films

The Supreme Court has ruled that the national anthem be played in cinema halls before the screening of a film and people should stand up when the anthem is played as a mark of respect. National Flag must be shown on the screen at that time of playing and all exits must be shut during that time. Further, there should not be any dramatisation of the anthem and it should not be printed or displayed on undesirable objects. Similarly, commercial benefits cannot be accrued by playing the anthem. Acting on a petition by Shyam Narayan Chouksey, the Supreme Court has directed the Centre to give effect to the order in a week’s time and circulate it to all the States and Union Territories.

National Anthems were traditionally played in the cinema halls in the 1960s but the practice got faded away in due course of time. In some states like Maharashtra, single theatres still play the anthem.

The national anthem, Jana-gana-mana, was composed originally in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore. It was adopted in its Hindi version by the Constituent Assembly as the national anthem of India on Tuesday, 24 January 1950. Playing time of the full version of the National Anthem is approximately 52 seconds.


Taiwan carries out Rescue Exercise in Disputed South China Sea

Taiwan carried out a search-and-rescue exercise in the South China Sea to cement its hold over Taiping in the Spratly island group. Even though Taiwan claims all of the Spratlys, it only occupies Taiping. It carried out a drill simulating a fire onboard a ship that forced crew members to seek refuge on Taiping. Taiwan wants to make Taiping into a base for humanitarian relief missions in the area.

The South China Sea is part of Pacific Ocean with eight littoral countries / territories viz. China, Taiwan, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam. It is made of some 200 tiny islands, coral reefs, sholas, sandbanks etc. grouped into three archipelagos of Spratlys, Paracels and Pratas. China has been aggressively claiming the entire South China Sea as its own. The other countries that claim the various territories in the South China Sea are Taiwan, Indonesia, Vietnam, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.


Gross Non-Performing Assets of PSU banks touch over 6 lakh crores

The government has said that the Gross Non-Performing Assets (NPA) of public sector banks as of September 2016 has touched nearly six lakh thirty thousand crore rupees. The total number of NPA accounts in the country is around 66 lakh 40 thousand.

To tackle the menace of NPAs, the government has taken sector specific measures like enactment of Insolvency and Bankruptcy code and the amendment of Recovery of Debts due to Banks and Financial Institutions Act, to improve the resolution and recovery of bank loans. In addition, six new Debt Recovery Tribunals (DRTs) have been established.

The assets of the banks which don’t perform are called Non-Performing Assets (NPA) or bad loans. If customers don’t pay either interest or part of principal or both, the loan is said to be a bad loan. According to RBI, terms loans on which interest or instalment of principal remains overdue for a period of more than 90 days from the end of a particular quarter is called a Non-performing Asset.

Gross NPA is the amount which is outstanding in the books, regardless of any interest recorded and debited.


Biggest Ever Coral Die-Off Recorded On Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

It is estimated that warm seas have killed nearly two-thirds of a 700 km stretch of coral in the reef’s north in the past nine months. This is the worst die-off ever recorded in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef and is said to be the largest ever recorded anywhere. It is expected to give a major blow to the tourism in the region.

Bleaching of Coral occurs when the sea becomes too warm. Warm seas cause Corals to expel living algae and calcify turning into white. Scientists are concerned that climate change is killing the barrier reef. Rising temperatures by global warming increase the damage to the coral reefs harming the sensitive underwater ecosystem. Due to its dependence on coal-fired power plants for energy needs, Australia has become one of the largest carbon emitters per capita.

Coral reefs are huge deposits made up dead shells and secretions of marine organisms like Corals, Calcareous algae, stomato pteroids, gastropods Molluscs etc. The deposits are mostly made up of Calcium Carbonate. Conditions required for their growth: Warm tropical oceans located between 30 degree north and 25 degree south latitudes where a minimum temperature of 20 degree is found and this temperature favour the growth of coral organisms; Oceanic water free of sedimentation; Transparent parts of ocean bodies; Relatively low salinity ocean bodies.

The Great Barrier Reef is the biggest coral reef in the world. It was recorded as a World Heritage site in 1981. The reef is located in the Coral Sea and covers an area of approximately 348,000 sq km. It is visible from the outer space and is credited as the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms.