1. American University announces APJ Abdul Kalam Fellowship for Indian students
i. The University of South Florida (USF) has announced a postgraduate fellowship in the name of former president Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam to support accomplished and talented Indian students looking to study abroad.
ii. Launching the fellowship at the Global Higher Education summit of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), USF provost Ralph Wilcox said "Dr. Kalam left an indelible mark on the academic community, one that will now continue over time through this most prestigious Kalam Fellowship".
iii. The fellowship is open to Indian students who wish to pursue PhD in specified fields in science and engineering at USF. Fellowship holders will receive a tuition waiver amounting to $84,500 in four years, plus a stipend of $18,000 per year. With this fellowship in place, the university is also looking to have a larger enrolment of Indian students, making US their preferred country for higher education. (USF currently has 800 Indian students.)The fellowship will be effective from the next academi.
iv. According to Provost Wilcox, "Dr. Kalam was an honoured visitor to the University of South Florida, and he spoke at great lengths about the importance of green energy and sustainability. We want to honour the great man and his extraordinary life through this award and offer a platform to support highly talented young Indians and the next generation of global innovators and entrepreneurs."
v. During his visit to India, Provost Wilcox and Dean Moez Limayem of USF's Muma College of Business also visited Infosys in Bangalore, Manipal University; Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies, H.R. College of Commerce and Economics in Mumbai for partnership discussions.
vi. The University of South Florida is a high-impact, global, research university dedicated to student success. USF is classified by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching in the top tier of research ..
2. International Migrants Day observed across the world
i. International Migrants Day was observed across the world on 18 December 2015. Since 2014, more than 5000 women, men and children lost their lives in search of protection and a better life while migrating.
ii. The year 2015 will be remembered as a year of human suffering and migrant tragedies. Tens of thousands have been exploited and abused by human traffickers. And millions have been made into scapegoats and become the targets of xenophobic policies and alarmist rhetoric.
iii. With the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, world leaders vowed to protect the labour rights of migrant workers, combat transnational criminal human trafficking networks and promote well-regulated migration and mobility.
iv. The UN General Assembly on 4 December 2000 took into account the large and increasing number of migrants in the world and proclaimed 18 December as the International Migrants Day. The International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families was adopted by the General Assembly on 18 December 1990.
3. Indian-origin official Sanjay Pradhan to lead Open Government Partnership
i. The Open Government Partnership (OGP) on 16 December 2015 selected Indian-origin World Bank official Sanjay Pradhan to lead the organization. Pradhan will help ensure that OGP continues to succeed in its mission to promote government transparency, accountability and responsiveness to citizens. Currently vice president for Change, Leadership and Innovation at the World Bank Group, Pradhan will assume the new charge by mid-2016.
ii. At present, Sanjay Pradhan leads the overall coordination of the internal reform process, and spearheads the leadership, learning and innovation for development agenda of the World Bank Group. Previously, he was the Vice President leading the World Bank Institute where he championed an open development approach centred around knowledge, learning, collaboration and innovation.
iii. Open Government Partnership is an international organization promoting multilateral initiative. It was formally launched on 20 September 2011, when the 8 founding governments (Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, the Philippines, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States) endorsed the Open Government Declaration, and announced their country action plans.
iv. It seeks strong commitments from participating government institutions to promote transparency, increase civic participation, fight corruption, and harness new technologies to make government more open, effective, and accountable.
4. RBI released final guidelines of Marginal Cost of Funds Methodology to calculate Interest Rates
i. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 17 December 2015 released the final guidelines on computing interest rates on advances based on the Marginal Cost of Funds Methodology. The guidelines will come into effect from 1 April 2016.
ii. The new methodology is aimed at bringing uniformity among BRs of banks so that they will be more sensitive to any changes in policy rates of the RBI like Cash Reserve Ratio (CRR), Statutory Liquidity Ratio (SLR), etc.
iii. All rupee loans sanctioned and credit limits renewed with effect from 1 April 2016 will be priced with reference to the Marginal Cost of Funds based Lending Rate (MCLR) which will be the internal benchmark for such purposes. The MCLR will be a tenor linked internal benchmark. Actual lending rates will be determined by adding the components of spread to the MCLR.
iv. The MCLR prevailing on the day loan is sanctioned will be applicable till the next reset date, irrespective of the changes in the benchmark during the interim period. Existing loans and credit limits linked to the Base Rate may continue till repayment or renewal, as the case may be. Existing borrowers will also have the option to move to the MCLR linked loan. Banks will continue to review and publish Base Rate as hitherto.
v. This new methodology will help improve the transmission of policy rates into the lending rates of banks. The guidelines are also expected to ensure availability of bank credit at interest rates which are fair to the borrowers as well as the banks.
5. WTO approved Afghanistan’s membership terms to join as 163rd member
i. World Trade Organisation (WTO) on 17 December 2015 unanimously approved Afghanistan’s WTO membership at the WTO’s Tenth Ministerial Conference (MC10) in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. With this, Afghanistan will become the 163rd WTO member and the ninth least-developed country to become a WTO member since the organization was established in 1995.
ii. The Protocol of Accession (PoA) was officially signed by Director General Roberto Azevedo and Afghanistan’s First Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Khan Rahmani.
iii. Now to be the full-fledged WTO member, Afghanistan will have to ratify the deal by 30 June 2016. After the ratification and notification of the acceptance of its PoA to the WTO Director Genral, it will have to wait for next 30 days.
iv. Afghanistan applied for WTO membership in 2004 and members of the Working Party concluded the negotiations on 11 November 2015.
6. Sahitya Akademi awards announced for the year 2015
i. Sahitya Akademi on 17 December 2015 announced the Sahitya Akademi Awards for the year 2015 in 23 languages. Poetry and short story writers dominated the awards.
ii. Among the winning books are six poetry collections, six books of short stories and four novels, besides two books each of essays and criticism.
iii. The awards were recommended by distinguished jury members representing 23 Indian languages and approved by the Executive Board of the Akademi, under its President Vishwanath Prasad Tiwari. The award in Bengali is to be announced at a later date.
iv. The award comprising an engraved plaque, a shawl and a cheque of one lakh rupees will be presented to the writers at a function on 16 February 2016 during Festival of Letters, the annual festival of the Akademi.
7. MLAs of Arunachal Pradesh Assembly passed resolution to remove Speaker Nabam Rebia
i. Out of the total 60 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) of the Arunachal Pradesh Assembly, 33 members on 16 December 2015 passed a resolution to remove the Speaker Nabam Rebia.
ii. The resolution was passed by voice vote by the 33 MLAs. Among them, 20 were rebel Congress MLAs, 11 belonged to the BJP and 2 were Independents. As per the article 179 (c) of the constitution, to remove the Speaker of the house, a resolution of the Assembly should be passed by a majority of all the then members of the Assembly.
iii. Though the majority of 33 MLAs satisfies, even exceeds by 3 members, the criterion of the article 179(c) the resolution became controversial due to the circumstances in which it was passed. The proceedings of the house, during the passage of the resolution, were boycotted by 27 members of the House, including the Chief Minister Nabam Tuki, his Ministerial colleagues and 16 MLAs of the ruling Congress.
iv. And, the House was also convened at the makeshift venue of a community hall after the district administration closed the Assembly Secretariat Complex in view of law and order problem.
v. By considering the above circumstances of passage of the resolution, the Guwahati High Court on 17 December 2015 put on hold all the resolutions of the Assembly and related decisions of the Governor in this regard. The court's bar will be applicable till 2 February 2016.
8. AP Shah Committee appointed to look into ONGC, RIL dispute on KG gas fields
i. Union Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas on 15 December 2015 appointed a single-member committee to look into the dispute between Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC) and Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) on Krishna Godavari (KG) gas fields. The committee will be headed by the Chairman of the 20th Law Commission of India Justice (retd) Ajit Prakash Shah.
ii. The committee will look into acts of omission and commission and recommend compensation to ONGC from the RIL on account of undue advantage the latter has received due to enrichment of its gas fields from the adjacent blocks belonging to ONGC. The recommendations of the committee will be based on D&M’s report on the dispute and will be submitted within three months from the date of its constitution.
iii. In the Krishna-Godavari Basin, ONGC owns Krishna Godavari basin KG-DWN-98/2 (KG-D5) and the Godavari-PML gas fields. These two fields are connected with Dhirubhai-1 and 3 (D1 & D3) fields located in the KG-DWN-98/3 (KG-D6) Block of RIL.iv. In 2014, the ONGC contended that RIL’s fields were being enriched due to migration of gas from its idle fields. Against this backdrop, the Union Government appointed the US-based consultant DeGolyer and MacNaughton (D&M) to look into the matter.
iv. D&M, which submitted its report on 30 November 2015, concluded that out of the 58.68 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas produced from KG-D6 block between 1 April 2009 and 31 March 2015, 49.69 bcm belongs to RIL and the rest 8.981 bcm could have come from ONGC’s fields.
9. CII-ITC Sustainability Awards 2015 for Excellence in Sustainable Business conferred
i. The Confederation of Indian Industry (CII)-ITC Awards 2015 for Excellence in Sustainable Business were conferred on 15 December 2015 in New Delhi. They were conferred on 26 awardees in 4 main categories and 9 sub categories.
ii. The awards are a part of the CII-ITC Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Development’s efforts to create awareness, promote policy and practices, and create capacity to mainstream sustainability practices.
iii. The Union Minister of Railways Suresh Prabhu was the special guest at the award presentation ceremony.
10. NSE launches three new group indices
i. The National Stock Exchange (NSE) has launched three separate indices on three corporate houses of India viz. Tata, Aditya Birla and Mahindra Group. The first of its kind three separate indices based on corporate houses have been designed to reflect the performance of companies belonging to the respective corporate group. Each of three indices will comprise all the companies of the respective business group.
ii. Nifty Tata Group Index: It includes 25 companies across 12 sectors with a total market capitalisation of 7.51 lakh crore rupees. It represents 7.83 per cent of the total market capitalisation of companies listed on the NSE.
iii. Nifty Aditya Birla Group Index: It consists of eight companies across seven sectors with the market capitalisation of 2.08 lakh crore rupees. It represents 2.17 per cent of the total market capitalisation of companies listed on the NSE.
iv. Nifty Mahindra Group Index: It consists of seven companies with a market capitalisation of about 1.64 lakh crore rupees. It represents 1.71 per cent of the total market capitalisation of companies listed on NSE.
v. These three indices have been created by the NSE’s group company India Index Services & Products Ltd (IISL). The company is planning to launch indices on other corporate groups and third-party products based on such indices.
11. R.K. Mathur appointed as CIC
i. Former Defence Secretary R.K. Mathur has been appointed as Chief Information Commissioner (CIC), breaking away from the convention of appointing the head from among the serving Information Commissioners.
ii. The post had fallen vacant after Vijai Sharma completed his tenure on December 1. “R.K. Mathur has been selected as Chief Information Commissioner,” Minister of State for Personnel Jitendra Singh told PTI. He will have tenure of about three years, till he attains the age of 65 years.
iii. The 62-year-old Mr. Mathur, a retired IAS officer of Tripura cadre, was made Defence Secretary for a fixed two-year term on May 28, 2013. Mr. Mathur, who did his graduation from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur and post graduation from IIT, Delhi, has held various positions in his cadre state and at the Centre.
iv. He had been Secretary in Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, and Defence Production and Supplies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led selection committee, which has Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and leader of Congress Party in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjuna Kharge, as its members, had on Wednesday finalised Mr. Mathur’s name.
v. President Pranab Mukherjee has given his assent for appointment of Mr. Mathur as CIC, official sources said. As per RTI Act, CIC is appointed by the President on the recommendation of the selection committee. The Central Information Commission had been headless twice since the BJP government came into power in 2014. Earlier, it was without a chief for nearly 10 months after completion of the tenure of the then Chief Information Commissioner Rajiv Mathur in August 2014.
12. Theatre artiste Chatla Sriramulu no more
i. Noted writer and theatre artiste Chatla Sriramulu (84) passed away at Secunderabad on Friday. He was a railway employee who hailed from Vijayawada city.
ii. Mr. Sriramulu was awarded ‘Best Actor’ twice by Andhra Nataka Kala Parishad and was also a recipient of Central Government’s Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1982. He was the first artiste from Andhra Pradesh to receive Emeritus Fellowship from the Human Resources Department of Government of India.
iii. He was awarded the certificate of ‘Producer and Teacher’ by the British Drama League, London in 1970. Mr. Sriramulu was instrumental in the establishment of popular literary and cultural organization Rasaranjani which dedicated to the field of theatre arts.
iv. He acted in and directed more than 100 plays and wrote several books on a wide range of subjects.
13. President Pranab Mukherjee earns Garwood Award for Outstanding Global Leader in Open Innovation
i. The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee received Garwood Award for ‘Outstanding Global Leader in Open Innovation’ from UC Berkeley-Haas School of Business today (December 17, 2015) at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Prof. Solomon Darwin, Executive Director Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation presented the award to the President.
ii. The University of California, Berkeley, one of the most prestigious educational institutes in the world, has established the Garwood Award to acknowledge individuals who have embraced, supported and encouraged open innovation in a significant and impactful way.
iii. In his acceptance speech, the President said that open innovation is a way to future as it captures knowledge-flow from all sources, both internal and external, in an organization. Open innovation is most essential for government entities, who are tasked to serve the citizens. Placing of data in the public domain without compromising the privacy, promotes transparency, innovation and opens up new avenues to solve problems of citizens efficiently and effectively.
iv. The President said that innovation is a critical driver of growth and development. Open innovation takes the innovation to next level and creates a new eco-system of access and equal opportunities to all. Open innovation has a potential to transform the global social landscape and help achieve the goal of a more fair and just world.