1. RBI extended deadline to exchange pre-2005 notes to 30 June 2016
i. The Reserve Bank of India on 23 December 2015 extended the deadline for exchanging pre-2005 currency notes of various denominations by another six months to 30 June 2016. The decision to extend the deadline was notified by the apex bank in a statement issued in Mumbai.
ii. RBI in an official statement said that the notes can be exchanged for their full value. It has also clarified that all such notes continue to remain legal tender. Soliciting cooperation from members of public in withdrawing these banknotes, it also urged them to deposit the old design notes in their bank accounts or exchange them at a bank branch convenient to them.
iii. Earlier on 25 June 2015, the Reserve Bank had set the last date for public to exchange pre-2005 banknotes notes as 31 December 2015.
iv. The Reserve Bank pointed out that it is standard international practice not to have currency notes from multiple series in simultaneous circulation. The Reserve Bank will continue to monitor and review the process so that the public is not inconvenienced in any manner.
2. North India's first cable bridge inaugurated at Basohali town of J&K
i. The Basohali town which is located in Kathua district of Jammu and Kashmir was in news on 24 December 2015 as the Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar dedicated the first cable-stayed bridge of North India to the nation.
ii. The 592-metre bridge was constructed over river Ravi on Dunera- Basohli-Bhadharwah road. It would provide close connectivity between three northern states of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. It is fourth of its kind in India and first in North India and Jammu and Kashmir.
iii. It was constructed by Border Roads Organization (BRO) at a cost of 145 crore rupees. The work on the cable stay bridge of the state was started in May 2011 and its completion is expected to boost the connectivity and tourism in the area.
3. India’s first indigenously designed & built warship INS Godavari decommissioned
i. India’s first indigenously designed and built warship Indian Navy Service (INS) Godavari was on 23 December 2015 decommissioned in Naval Dockyard Mumbai. It was commissioned into the Navy on 10 December 1983.
ii. With her decommissioning, INS Godavari (F-20) will complete its full life cycle, meeting all responsibilities and duties assigned, proving the success of Indian ship design and construction. It was the lead ship of her class of three guided-missile frigates of the Indian Navy. The other two warships are INS Ganga and INS Gomati.
iii. Godavari class frigates were armed with potent surface to surface and surface to air guided missiles. She was also among of the first frigates in the world capable of carrying two Sea King helicopters (well known as the ‘Flying Frigate’, because of its integral firepower and sensor suite). Over the 32 years of the service, it was successfully deployed in numerous operations.
iv. They operations include Operation Jupiter – 1988 (Sri Lanka), Operation Shield and Operation Bolster - 1994 (de-induction of Indian Army from Somalia) and Patrol of Gulf of Aden (PoG) – 2009, 2011 (anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden).
v. In 1988, in an operation called ‘Operation Cactus’, India successfully thwarted a coup d’état against Maldivian Government. Godavari and Betwa intercepted and arrested the mercenaries, who tried to flee Male onboard the Merchant Vessel Progress Light.
4. OPEC released 2015 OPEC World Oil Outlook
i. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) on 23 December 2015 released the 2015 OPEC World Oil Outlook (WOO). First published in 2007, the WOO offers a thorough review and assessment of various scenarios related to the medium and long-term development of the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil industry.
ii. As per the report, oil and gas, combined, are expected to supply around 53 percent of the global energy demand by 2040. Global energy demand is set to increase by almost 50 percent in the period to 2040, with the overall energy mix continuing to be led by fossil fuels at almost 78 percent.
iii. Medium-term oil demand is revised upward, compared to the WOO 2014, rising above 97 million barrels a day (mb/d) by 2020. Oil demand is projected to be at 110 mb/d by 2040.
iv. Non-OPEC liquids supply increases from 56.5 mb/d in 2014 to around 60 mb/d in 2020, a downward revision of 1 mb/d compared to the WOO 2014. By 2040, non-OPEC liquids supply falls below 60 mb/d. OPEC crude expands by 10 mb/d to a level of 40.7 mb/d by 2040 – an increase of 1 mb/d compared with 2014 publication.
v. The long-term value of the OPEC Reference Basket is assumed to rise from more than 70 US dollars per barrel in 2020 to 95 US dollars per barrel by 2040 (both in 2014 dollars). At the global level, oil-related investment required to cover future demand for oil over the forecast period 2015–2040 is estimated at almost 10 trillion US dollars, in 2014 prices.
5. Indian American Rakesh K Jain selected for US National Medal of Science 2015
i. Indian American professor Rakesh K Jain was on 22 December 2015 selected for the National Medal of Science 2015 of United States (US). Jain is a professor at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Tumour Biology Laboratory at Massachusetts General Hospital.
ii. He will receive the honour along with 16 other winners of the National Medal of Science and National Medal of Technology and Innovation at a White House ceremony in 2016. Professor Jain holds a B.Tech degree in Chemical Engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology- Kanpur.
iii. Prof. Jain is regarded as a pioneer in the area of tumour micro-environment and widely recognized for his seminal discoveries in tumour biology, drug delivery, in vivo imaging and bioengineering. His work includes uncovering the barriers to the delivery and efficacy of molecular and nano-medicines in tumours and developing new strategies to overcome these barriers.
iv. A mentor to more than 200 students from over a dozen different disciplines, he has received 75 awards from engineering and medical professional societies and institutions. He is a member of all three branches of the US National Academies- the National Academy of Medicine, the National Academy of Engineering and the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
v. he National Medal of Science was created by statute in 1959 and is administered for the White House by the National Science Foundation. Awarded annually, the Medal recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to science and engineering.
6. 30th National Consumers Right Day observed
i. 30th National Consumers Right Day was observed across India on 24 December 2015. The day provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of the consumer movement and the need to make every consumer more aware of their rights and responsibilities.
ii. The Consumer Protection and Action Committee (CPAC) celebrated the day by distributing complaints forms, information brochures and other consumer rights literature freely to the public.
iii. The day is being observed annually on 24 December, since the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 was enacted on 24 December1986. The Consumer Protection Act was enacted with the objective of providing better protection of consumer’s interest.
iv. The act provides effective safeguards to the consumer, against various types of exploitations and unfair dealings, relying mainly on compensatory rather than a disciplinary or preventive approach.The act applies to all goods and services unless specifically exempted, which covers the private, public and cooperative sectors. It also provides speedy and inexpensive adjudication. The Act envisages the promotion and protection of rights of consumers such as Right to Safety, Right to be informed, Right to Choose and Right to be heard.
7. Idea became third mobile operator to launch 4G services in India
i. Idea Cellular on 23 December 2015 became the third mobile operator in India to launch 4G services in India. Earlier, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India had launched 4G services in India.
ii. Idea, the third largest mobile operator in terms of revenue and subscriber base, launched the 4G services across 75 towns in the 4 telecom circles of South India, namely Andhra Pradesh & Telangana, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu.
iii. Idea customers with 4G devices in these 75 towns can now start experiencing superfast speeds by simply upgrading their existing SIM cards to new 4G SIM cards.
iv. The company intends to roll out of 4G Services in 6 more Telecom service areas from January to March 2016 and seeks to expand 4G footprint to 750 towns by June 2016 across 10 Telecom circles.
v. Idea Cellular currently holds 1800 MHz 4G spectrum in these 10 Telecom circles which cover 50% of telecom market but over 60% of Idea’s gross revenue.
8. Gautam H Bambawale appointed as India's High Commissioner to Pakistan
i. Gautam H Bambawale was on 23 December 2015 appointed as the High Commissioner of India to the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. He is presently serving as the Indian ambassador to Bhutan.
Bambawale will succeed TCA Raghavan, who will retire at the end of December 2015.
ii. Bambawale is an Indian Foreign Service officer of 1984 batch. Before serving in Bhutan, he was the Joint Secretary (East Asia) in the Union Foreign Ministry Headquarters from December 2009 to July 2014.
iii. In the past, Bambawale has worked in Germany, US and China. He became the first Consul General of India in Guangzhou, China, in 2007.
9. Bihar Government banned 15-year-old diesel vehicles from plying on Patna roads
i. Bihar government on 23 December 2015 banned 15-year-old diesel vehicles from plying in the Capital, Patna. The decision was taken in view of increasing pollution.
ii. The decision was made during the review meeting of the environment and forests department under the chairmanship of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. The execution was pending since October 2013, when the state transport authority had reached a decision regarding this.
iii. The Chief Minister also instructed State Machinery to chalk-out a plan to control pollution. He said there will also be restriction on burning of plastic and solid waste.
iv. The Bihar State Pollution Control Board (BSPCB) on 14 December 2015 sent an advisory to the Chief Secretary stating that the air quality index of Patna crossed 400 in November-December 2015. It said that the rise broke all its past record.
v. Index is an assessment of the air quality taking into account eight pollutants - PM2.5 (particulate matter less than 10 micron), PM10 (particulate matter less than 10 micron), nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ozone, carbon monoxide, ammonia and lead.
10. UN adopted resolution to observe 5 November as World Tsunami Awareness Day
i. The United Nations General Assembly on 22 December 2015 adopted a resolution to observe 5 November every year as World Tsunami Awareness Day. The creation of the day is aimed at raising awareness among people in the world of the dangers of tsunami and stressing the importance of early warning systems in order to mitigate damage.
ii. The proposal was first suggested by the Japanese Government after the Third UN Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Sendai, Japan in March 2015.
iii. Japan suffered heavy losses as a result of tsunamis, most recently the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami of 11 March 2011. It claimed over 15000 lives, disrupted the nuclear power industry and left many thousands homeless.
iv. On 26 December 2004, Indian Ocean tsunami claimed some 230000 lives which had its epicenter off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. It affected lives and the natural environment in six countries in the region including India, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Thailand and Maldives.
11. Biocon launched generic version of hepatitis-C drug Harvoni in India
i. Biocon Limited on 24 December 2015 launched the generic version of hepatitis – C drug in the Indian market. The generic version of the drug named Harvoni will be sold under the brand name CIMIVIR-L.
ii. The generic drug Harvoni is an improved version of Gilead’s hepatitis-C drug Sovaldi or sofosbuvir and will come in fixed-dose combination of ledipasvir-sofosbuvir of 90mg and 400mg, respectively.
iii. The sale of ledipasvir-sofosbuvir combination was recently approved by the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI), which is being manufactured in India under a license from Gilead.
iv. Harvoni has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) for the treatment of chronic hepatitis-C genotype-1 infection and it has shown high cure rates of around 90 percent.
v. Earlier in the year 2015, Biocon entered into a non-exclusive licensing agreement with Gilead Sciences to manufacture and market chronic hepatitis-C medicines, including Sovaldi and Harvoni, for India and 91 other developing countries by paying 7 percent royalty on sales.
vi. According to Biocon, the CIMIVIR-L, a once-a-day oral therapy, will offer a convenient, effective and safe alternative to people infected with the Hepatitis-C virus (HCV).
12. Lok Sabha passed The Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015
i. The Lok Sabha on 22 December 2015 passed The Payment of Bonus (Amendment) Bill, 2015. The Bill will allow doubling of wage ceiling for calculating bonus of factory workers.
ii. The Bill seeks to amend the Payment of Bonus Act, 1965. The Bill 2015 was introduced in Lok Sabha on 7 December 2015. It seeks to raise the eligibility limit for payment of bonus from a salary of 10000 rupees to 21000 rupees a month.
iii. It seeks to raise this calculation ceiling of bonus to 7000 rupees per month or as per the minimum wage notified for the employment under the Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (whichever is higher).
iv. It seeks to mandate prior publication of rules made by the Union Government in the Official Gazette to allow for more public consultation. It will have retrospective effect and will come into force on 1 April 2015.