Daily GK Update: 29th December, 2015 Important Current Affairs

1. Union Government links LPG subsidy to income
i. Union Government has announced to link LPG subsidy to income of consumers in order to ensure that the subsidy benefits go to the targeted group. Henceforth, the LPG subsidy will not be available to LPG consumers if the consumer or his/her spouse has taxable income of more than ten lakh rupees.
ii. This income would be as per the previous financial year computed under Income Tax Act, 1961. This decision will be given effect to initially on self-declaration basis of LPG consumers while booking cylinders January 2016.
iii. This move will affect at least 60 lakh LPG consumers of the total 16.5 crore LPG consumers in the country and Government will save upto Rs. 113 crore from this decision.
iv. Earlier under the ‘Give it Up’ campaign many LPG consumers had given up their subsidy voluntarily but Government felt that consumers in the higher income bracket should get LPG cylinders at the market price. So far, 57.50 lakh LPG consumers have opted out of LPG subsidy voluntarily under the campaign that aims to ensure that the subsidy benefits go to the targeted group.

2. Ministry of Women and Child Development launches e-office
i. Union Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has introduced e-office, an initiative which will help provide efficient services to the people by digitizing more than 12,000 files. It was formally launched by WCD Minister Maneka Sanjay Gandhi in New Delhi on the lines with the spirit of Good Governance initiative of Union Government.
ii. The e-office project of the Ministry was initiated in July, 2015 and more than 12,000 files of the Ministry have been digitized. Various modules of this e-office are Knowledge Management System, File Management System, Leave Management System and Tour Management System.
iii. Personnel Information Management System module of this e-office is likely to start from the 1 January, 2016. All the attached offices of the ministry are also going to come under the e-office platform.
iv. The e-office will result in substantial decrease of processing time which will directly affect the delivery mechanism of the WCD Ministry. It would also result in better accountability and transparency and will ultimately result in higher manpower efficiency.

3. 18th India-Iran Joint Commission Meeting held in New Delhi
i. The 18th Session of the India-Iran Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) was held on 28 December 2015 in New Delhi. The session was co-chaired by External Affairs Minister of India (EAM) Sushma Swaraj and Ali Tayebnia, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance of Iran.
ii. Both the leaders reviewed the progress in trade and economic cooperation and a number of related matters. They also discussed the possibilities in cooperation in railways, including by supply of rails, rolling stock and signaling.
iii. India stressed that connectivity afforded by Indian participation in Chahbahar Port will facilitate linking Afghanistan and Central Asia with India. The Iranian side suggested participation of India’s public and private sectors in development of Chahbahar Port and Chahbahar Free Trade Zone (FTZ) and in setting up industrial units in the FTZ.
iv. India emphasized the need for early completion of all necessary procedures for India’s participation in Farzad-B field and pointed out India’s desire to participate in other oil and gas explorations in Iran as well. They reviewed works related to India’s participation in Chahbahar – Zahedan -Mashhad railway line.
v. This is the first JCM since the conclusion of the Vienna Agreement. The agreement was reached between P5+1 countries and Iran on 14 July 2015 and paves the way for peaceful resolution of outstanding issues related to Iran’s nuclear programme.

4. Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler passed away
i. Oscar-winning cinematographer Haskell Wexler died peacefully in his sleep on 27 December 2015 in California, US. He was 93. He was one of the America’s most influential cinematographers. He was best known for his work in films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and American Graffiti.
ii. He was born on 6 February 1922 in Chicago, US. He was known for his work on films like Coming Home and In the Heat of the Night. He had worked as director of photography on films including The Best Man and Mulholland Falls. He also produced and directed 1969’s Medium Cool.
iii. He was also recognised for his documentary work on the Emmy-winning Paul Jacobs and the Nuclear Gang and Interviews with My Lai Veterans for which he won Academy Award.
iv. He won Oscar Awards for his films including Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? (1966) and Bound for Glory (1976). He was first cinematographer to receive star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1996.

5. Report of Vijay Kelkar Committee on Revisiting & Revitalizing PPP Model released
i. The Union Ministry of Finance on 28 December 2015 released the report of the Committee on Revisiting and Revitalising Public Private Partnership (PPP) Model. The 9-member committee was headed by former Finance Secretary Vijay Kelkar and submitted its report on 19 November 2015.
ii. The committee was constituted on 26 May 2015 to review the experience of PPP Policy and suggest measures to improve capacity building in Government for their effective implementation. More importantly, the committee recognized the PPP Model in infrastructure as a valuable instrument to speed up infrastructure development in India.
iii. Hence, it called for PPP contracts need to focus more on service delivery instead of fiscal benefits alone. The recommendations of the committee are of relevance to the overall growth of the economy as PPP projects have become the preferred mode to develop large scale infrastructure projects.
iv. At present, over 12007 PPP projects are under implementation across the country, involving about 7.2 lakh crore rupees worth of investment.
v. The committee recommended the Government may take early action to amend the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 which does not distinguish between genuine errors in decision-making and acts. This is necessary to make only malafide action by public servants punishable and not errors.
vi. The Committee strongly endorsed setting up of the “3PI” which can, in addition to functioning as a centre of excellence in PPPs, enable research, review and roll out activities to build capacity, etc.
vii. The committee advised against adopting PPP structures for very small projects, since the benefits of delivering small PPP projects may not be commensurate with the resulting costs and the complexity of managing such partnerships over a long period.

6. RBI released report of Deepak Mohanty Committee on Medium-term Path on Financial Inclusion
i. The Reserve Bank of India on 28 December 2015 released the Report of the Committee on Medium-term Path on Financial Inclusion. The committee was constituted on 15 July 2015 by the RBI with the objective of working out a medium-term (five year) measurable action plan for financial inclusion. The 14-member committee was headed by RBI Executive Director Deepak Mohanty.
ii. Banks have to make special efforts to step up account opening for females, and the Government may consider a deposit scheme for the girl child – Sukanya Shiksha - as a welfare measure. Given the predominance of individual account holdings (94 per cent of total credit accounts), a unique biometric identifier such as Aadhaar should be linked to each individual credit account.
iii. Account lined Aadhaar and the credit information should be shared with companies to enhance the stability of the credit system and improve access. To improve ‘last mile’ service delivery and to translate financial access into enhanced convenience and usage, a low-cost solution should be developed by utilisation of the mobile banking facility for maximum possible G2P payments.
iv. In order to increase formal credit supply to all agrarian segments, digitisation of land records is the way forward. This should be backed by an Aadhaar-linked mechanism for Credit Eligibility Certificates to facilitate credit flow to actual cultivators.
v. A scheme of ‘Gold KCC’ (kisan credit card) with higher flexibility for borrowers with prompt repayment records, which could be dovetailed with a government-sponsored personal insurance, and digitisation of KCC to track expenditure pattern. Encourage multiple guarantee agencies to provide credit guarantees in niche areas for micro and small enterprises (MSEs), and explore possibilities for counter guarantee and re-insurance.
vi. State Level Bankers Committees (SLBCs) are advised to focus more on inter-institutional issues, livelihood models, social cash transfer, gender inclusion, Aadhaar seeding, universal account opening, and less on credit deposit ratio which is a by-product. As a part of second generation reforms, the government can replace the current agricultural input subsidies on fertilisers, power and irrigation by a direct income transfer scheme.

7. Amitabh Kant got additional charge of CEO of NITI Aayog
i. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet, presided by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on 28 December 2015 gave Amitabh Kant the additional responsibility of being Chief Executive Officer of NITI Aayog, effective 31 December 2015.
ii. Kant will replace the incumbent NITI Aayog CEO Sindhushree Khullar whose extended tenure will end on 31 December 2015. The IAS officer of 1980 Batch of Kerala Cadre, Kant is currently serving as Secretary, Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). He is set to superannuate on 28 February 2016.
iii. The National Institution for Transforming India Aayog (NITI Aayog) is a Government of India policy think-tank. It was formed on 1 January 2015 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to replace the Planning Commission.
iv. The Aayog aims at fostering involvement and participation in the economic policy-making process by the State Governments of India. One of the important mandates of NITI Aayog is to bring cooperative competitive federalism.

8. Renowned science-fiction writer George Clayton Johnson died
i. Popular science-fiction writer George Clayton Johnson, who penned the script for the first Star Trek episode, The Man Trap, passed away on 25 December 2015 due to cancer in Los Angeles, California. He was 86.
ii. Born on 10 July 1929 in Cheyenne, Wyoming, Johnson debuted into the entertainment business in 1959 when he wrote the I’ll Take Care of You episode for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.
iii. The renowned writer is also known for co-writing the novel Logan's Run with William F. Nolan, the basis for the MGM 1976 film. Besides, his television scripts for The Twilight Zone including Nothing in the Dark, Kick the Can, A Game of Pool, and A Penny for Your Thoughts earned him immense fame.
iv. Johnson was also the proprietor of Cafe Frankenstein, and co-created the comic book series Deepest Dimension Terror Anthology with cartoonist and author Jay Allen Sanford for Revolutionary Comics.

9. Globe Soccer Awards 2015 conferred
i. The Globe Soccer on 27 December 2015 presented the sixth edition of Globe Soccer Awards 2015 to the winners at a ceremony held in Dubai, UAE. Awarded for excellences in the field of football, Globe Soccer Awards are the first and only awards for the Best Club Director and the Best Agent of the Year.
ii. The awards conferred were based on the performance of the players and football clubs in 2015. Globe Soccer was created and built by BC Bendoni Consulting to facilitate intercontinental dialogue among the main players in the football world, with opportunities to meet and discuss for the game’s institutions, clubs, leagues and transfer market operators.
Best Player of the Year - Lionel Messi
Best President of the Year - Josep Maria Bartomeu
Best Club of the Year - F.C. Barcelona
Best Media Attraction in Football - F.C. Barcelona
Best Coach of the Year - Marc Wilmots
Best Agent of the Year - Jorge Mendes
Best Referee of the Year - Ravshan Irmatov
Best Academy of the Year - Benfica


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