Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 2 January 2018

SSC CGL Current Affairs

Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 2 January 2018

::NATIONAL::

first draft of Assam NRC published

  • Nearly 32 years after the Assam Accord was signed, the first draft of an updated National Register of Citizens (NRC) for the State listed 1.90 crore names out of the 3.29 crore applicants. The updated NRC was published at midnight on December 31.
  • Assam is the only State in the country that prepared an NRC in 1951 following the census of that year and has become the first State to get the first draft of its own updated NRC.
  • The NRC, 1951, is updated in Assam with the names of applicants whose names appear in NRC, 1951, or any electoral rolls of the State up to midnight of March 24, 1971 and their descendants and all Indian citizens including their children and descendants who have moved to Assam post March 24, 1971.
  • Announcing the publication of the first draft of the updated NRC at a press conference, Registrar-General of India Sailesh told journalists that verification of the remaining applicants was under way and the subsequent draft would be published after the names were verified.
  • State NRC Coordinator PratikHajela allayed fears of those whose names did not appear in the first draft, saying the verification was a tedious process and there was a possibility that some names within a single family might not be included in the first draft. He appealed to all people not to panic as the verification process was still on.
  • The time frame for the publication of the NRC draft was set by the Supreme Court which has been monitoring the entire process of updating the 1951 NRC in Assam.
  • The court had turned down a plea by the Central government last month for an extension of the time frame till July 31, 2018, and directed that the first draft be published at the midnight of December 31.
  • Mr. Sailesh said the time frame for publication of the second draft would be decided in accordance with the directive of the Supreme Court, adding that the entire process would be completed in 2018. The court has fixed February 20 as the next date for the hearing.

The Mines failed to pay penalties Odisha govt. suspends operations

  • The Odisha government suspended operations in seven mines that failed to pay penalties by December 31 for illegal extraction of iron and manganese ores between 2000 and 2011.
  • The Supreme Court had on August 2 imposed a penalty on 150-odd iron and manganese ore lessees in the State for environment clearance violations.
  • The Odisha government had issued demand notices to the lease owners to pay compensation to the tune of Rs. 17,576.17 crore for mining of 215.5 million tonnes of iron and manganese ores.
  • “Of the Rs. 17,576.17 crore penalty, the government has received over Rs. 8,223 crore,” said Steel and Mines Minister Prafulla Kumar Mallick. Only 72 defaulters were able to meet the deadline, he said.
  • The government will submit a status report on fine collection to a Central Empowered Committee, appointed by the Supreme Court, in two to three days, director of mines Dipak Mohanty said.
  • The mines that were served notices included State-run PSU IDCOL’s Roida mine, ESSEL’s Koira mine, Mideast’s Roida mine and Serajuddin Co’s Balda mine.
  • The Enforcement Directorate has identified four companies allegedly incorporated at the instance of Gagan Dhawan, who has been arrested for his role in the Rs. 5,383-crore bank loan cheating case against Gujarat-based Sterling Biotech and others. The agency suspects that they are all shell companies.
  • The agency alleges that the account of one of these companies, Solpuri Furnishing Private Limited, was used to acquire a property in Gurugram. The other companies are HGV Security Systems Private Limited, Sturdy Infrastructure Private Limited and Orion Green Energy Private Limited.
  • The Directorate alleges that the accused misused loans received from an Andhra Bank-led consortium of public sector banks.

Odisha govt. releases calendar, almanac in Braille

  • The visually impaired in Odisha will get this year’s Odia calendar and almanac in the Braille format, printed and published by Computerised Braille Press in Berhampur.
  • Printing of the calendar, Braille Dinapanjhika 2018, has been sponsored by the Social Security and Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities Department of Odisha government.
  • The calendar was officially released and copies would be sent free by post to all blind schools in the state, educated visually impaired persons and social organisations working for the visually challenged. Any visually impaired person can register his or her address to get this calendar free every year.
  • Apart from days and dates as per Gregorian calendar, this Braille calendar in Odia also provides information about important days in the Hindu calendar such as purnima, amavasya, and samkranti.
  • All major festivals observed in Odisha have also been mentioned along with key national and international days. All government holidays have also been mentioned in the calendar.
  • Each page of the calendar includes famous excerpts from the works of renowned Odia writers. It also contains a section that lists all major schemes of the government for the visually challenged and the process to avail them.

NRC updating in Assam

  • The NRC is being updated in Assam to detect Bangladeshi nationals, who may have illegally entered the State after the midnight of March 24, 1971, the cut-off date. This date was originally agreed to in the 1985 Assam Accord, signed between the then Rajiv Gandhi government and the All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).
  • However, successive State governments failed to achieve much progress in detecting and deporting foreigners as set out in the Assam Accord. In 2005, another agreement was signed between the Centre, the then Tarun Gogoi government in Assam and the AASU where it was decided to update the NRC that was first published after the Census data of 1951 in post-Partition India.
  • Though the Gogoi government had started the NRC update as a pilot project in some districts, it was stopped after violence broke out in some parts of the State.
  • In July 2009, Assam Public Works (APW), an NGO, petitioned the Supreme Court for identification of Bangladeshi foreigners in the State and deletion of their names from the voters’ list.
  • The list published is the first draft of the updated NRC. Another list is expected by February-end or early March, with more names and details.
  • However, if a citizen’s name is missing, he or she can file an objection and request that the name be included after submitting the requisite documents to the NRC centre or online on the website www.nrcassam. nic.in
  • The Assam government did fear violence and hence requisitioned over 20,000 paramilitary personnel and requested the Army to be on standby to deal with any law-and-order issue.
  • However, Chief Minister SarbanandaSonowal said people, irrespective of their caste or religion, had taken part in the process and expressed confidence that the NRC update will not result in violence.
  • The security challenge, however, will emerge only when the process of updating the NRC gets completed and a large number of people are left out.
  • The publication of the first draft of the NRC by December 31, 2017 was ordered by the Supreme Court.
  • The top court has been hearing this case since July 2009 when Assam Public Works moved court to intervene in detecting and deporting Bangladeshis.
  • NRC is a process by which a bona fide Indian citizen can be distinguished from a foreigner.
  • If a person from Assam is living or working in another part of the country, it is advisable to get oneself registered and establish one’s legacy as an “inhabitant” of Assam.

NRC wins consensus, but not Citizenship Bill

  • There has been political consensus in Assam that an updated National Register of Citizens, as mandated by the Supreme Court, will help identification of Bangladeshi migrants, who are staying illegally in Assam after the midnight of March 24, 1971, and their expulsion in accordance with the Assam Accord. However, the actual number of illegal migrants in the State will not be known till the claims and objections of all those excluded in the final draft are settled by the NRC authorities.
  • The verification of the NRC for the subsequent draft will also decide on the applications from 29 lakh women, who have submitted certificates issued by Gaon (gram panchayat) secretaries and executive magistrates to support their claim of residency after migration post-marriage.
  • The Supreme Court allowed these documents after setting aside an order of the Gauhati High Court which declared these documents “invalid” and “ineffective in the process of the verification of claims for inclusion in NRC”.
  • The Supreme court, however, clarified: “The certificate issued by the G.P. secretary, by no means, is proof of citizenship. Such proof will come only if the link between the claimant and the legacy person (who has to be a citizen) is established. The certificate has to be verified at two stages.
  • The first is the authenticity of the certificate itself; and the second is the authenticity of the contents thereof. The latter process of verification is bound to be an exhaustive process in the course of which the source of information of the facts and all other details recorded in the certificate will be ascertained after giving an opportunity to the holder of the certificate.”
  • The publication of the first draft of the NRC came close on the heels of ruling coalition partner Asom Gana Parishad threatening to snap ties with the ruling BJP if the Centre pushed for passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016 that seeks to grant citizenship to Hindu Bangladeshis, who have entered Assam illegally post-1971.
  • All Opposition parties, including the Congress and the All India United Democratic Front, and student and youth organisations have opposed identification of illegal migrants on the basis of religion.
  • They have demanded withdrawal of the Bill on the ground that if made into an Act, it would render the updated NRC and the entire process of updating the citizenship register infructuous.

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::INTERNATIONAL ::

U.S. drastically cut aid to Pakistan

  • U.S. President Donald Trump’s New Year tweet is indicative that his administration is not satisfied by Pakistan’s response on terror. A month ago, U.S. Secretary of Defence James Mattis had told Pakistan during a visit that it “must redouble its efforts to confront militants and terrorists operating within the country”, according to a Pentagon statement.
  • There was significant scaling down of U.S. assistance to Pakistan in the later years of the Barack Obama administration. From $2.177 billion in 2014, it came down to $1.604 in 2015 and $1.118 billion in 2016. In 2017, it was $526 million.
  • The U.S. has also made disbursement of Pentagon’s Coalition Support Funds (CSF) conditional.
  • CSF pertains to reimbursement to Pakistan for its logistical and operational support for U.S.-led military operations.
  • In 2015, $300 million of the CSF was tied to a certification requirement that Pakistan was taking adequate action against the Haqqani network. That component increased in the following years — in 2016 it was $350 million out of $900 million and, in 2017, it was $400 million out of $900 million.
  • The Obama administration did not certify in Pakistan’s favour in 2015 and 2016. A decision by the Trump administration for 2017 is pending. In August 2017, the administration kept $255 million in military assistance to Islamabad in suspension as it demanded specific action against terrorists.
  • The defence budget for 2018 reduced the CSF allocation to $700 million and tied half of it to action against the Haqqani Network. A recent congressional move to include Lashkar-e-Taiba also in the same category of certification requirement was dropped after the Pentagon resisted it.
  • Unveiling his strategy for Afghanistan in August 2018, Mr. Trump had censured Pakistan and named India as a partner.

California legalised marijuana

  • The arrival of the new year in California brought with it broad legalisation of marijuana, a much-anticipated change that comes two decades after the State was the first to allow pot for medical use.
  • The nation’s most populous State joins a growing list of other States, and the nation’s capital, where so-called recreational marijuana is permitted even though the federal government continues to classify pot as a controlled substance.
  • Pot is now legal in California for adults 21 and older, and individuals can grow up to six plants and possess as much as an ounce of the drug.
  • About 90 businesses received state licenses to open on New Year’s Day.
  • Just after midnight, some Californians were raising blunts instead of champagne glasses.
  • In 1996, over the objections of law enforcement, President Bill Clinton’s drug czar and three former Presidents, California voters approved marijuana for medicinal purposes.
  • Twenty years later, voters approved legal recreational use and gave the State a year to write regulations for a legal market that would open in 2018.
  • 29 States have adopted medical marijuana laws. In 2012, Colorado and Washington became the first States to legalise recreational marijuana. Since then, five more States have passed recreational marijuana laws, including Massachusetts, where retail sales are scheduled to begin in July.

::BUSINESS AND ECONOMY ::

For asset valuation IBBI registration is must

  • Professionals carrying out asset valuations under Companies Act and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code will have to get themselves registered with Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) from April to conduct such activities, an official statement said.
  • “With effect from April 1, 2018, for conducting valuations required under the Companies Act, 2013 and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016, a person is to be registered with the IBBI as a registered valuer,” the Ministry of Corporate Affairs said in a statement.
  • A government notification in October had delegated powers and functions to the IBBI under Companies Act and designated it as the authority under the Companies (Registered Valuers and Valuation) Rules, 2017.
  • As per the notification, a valuer needs to have necessary qualification and experience, be a member of a recognised valuer organisation and should be registered with IBBI to carry out such activities.

FinMin permitted to rectify GST returns

  • The Finance Ministry has permitted businesses to rectify mistakes in their monthly returns — GSTR-3B — and adjust tax liability, a move that will help them file correct returns without fear of penalty.
  • This relaxation will give an opportunity to businesses to claim tax credit correctly by rectifying the mistakes made initially while computing GST liability.
  • Businesses have been finding it difficult to assess tax liability correctly after India moved to the Goods and Services Tax (GST) regime with effect from July 1.
  • Industry bodies have been demanding relaxation of norms and easier compliance provisions to help businesses adapt to the new system of filing tax returns online.
  • The CBEC, in a recent communication to field officers, has said “as return in Form GSTR-3B does not contain provisions for reporting of differential figures for past month(s), the said figures may be reported on net basis along with the values for current month itself in appropriate tables...”.

::SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY ::

Identified Unknown microbes in space

  • Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have for the first time identified microbes in space without having to send samples back to Earth for tests.
  • The ability to identify microbes in space could aid in the ability to diagnose and treat astronaut ailments in real time, as well as assisting in the identification of DNA-based life on other planets.
  • It could also benefit other experiments aboard the orbiting laboratory.
  • Identifying microbes involves isolating the DNA of samples, and then amplifying or making many copies of that DNA that can then be sequenced, or identified.
  • The investigation was broken into two parts: the collection of the microbial samples and amplification by Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), then sequencing and identification of the microbes.
  • NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson conducted the experiment aboard the orbiting laboratory, with NASA microbiologist and the project’s Principal Investigator Sarah Wallace and her team watching and guiding her from the U.S.
  • “Once we actually got the data on the ground we were able to turn it around and start analysing it,” said Aaron Burton, NASA biochemist.
  • The samples were returned to Earth soon after. Biochemical and sequencing tests were completed in ground labs to confirm the findings from the space station. Researchers ran tests multiple times to confirm accuracy.

Genes which may give corals new lease of life

  • Scientists have identified a gene that improves the heat tolerance of the algae that live symbiotically with coral species, and could potentially help the corals adapt to some warming.
  • Symbiodinium is a unicellular algae that provides its coral host with photosynthetic products in return for nutrients and shelter.
  • However, high sea temperatures can cause the breakdown of this symbiotic relationship and lead to the widespread expulsion of Symbiodinium from host tissues, an event known as coral beaching. If bleached corals do not recover, they starve to death, leaving only their white, calcium-carbonate exoskeleton.
  • Now, researchers from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Saudi Arabia have identified special genes, called retrotransposons, which could help the algae adapt more rapidly to heat stress.
  • During their study, most genes commonly associated with heat stress were turned off, while a small number of retrotransposons were turned on.
  • The team suggests that the activation and replication of Symbiodinium’s retrotransposons in response to heat stress could lead to a faster evolutionary response, “since producing more mutations increases the chance of generating a beneficial one that allows the symbionts to cope better with this specific stress,” said geneticist and principal investigator, Manuel Aranda.

Tacotron 2” Google’s new AI system

  • In a major step towards its “AI first” dream, Google has developed a text-to-speech artificial intelligence (AI) system that will confuse you with its human-like articulation.
  • The tech giant’s text-to-speech system called “Tacotron 2” delivers an AI-generated computer speech that almost matches with the voice of humans, technology news website Inc.com reported.
  • At Google I/O 2017 developers conference, the company’s CEO Sundar Pichai announced that the internet giant was shifting its focus from mobile-first to “AI first” and launched several products and features, including Google Lens, Smart Reply for Gmail and Google Assistant for iPhone.
  • According to a paper published in arXiv.org , the system first creates a spectrogram of the text, a visual representation of how the speech should sound.
  • That image is put through Google’s WaveNet algorithm, which uses the image and brings AI closer than ever to mimicking human speech. It can easily learn different voices and even generates artificial breaths. “Our model achieves a mean opinion score (MOS) of 4.53 comparable to a MOS of 4.58 for professionally recorded speech,” the researchers were quoted as saying.

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