Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 25 December 2017

SSC CGL Current Affairs

Current Affairs for SSC CGL Exams - 25 December 2017

::National::

SC directed Centre to place on record the amended draft of the Central Tribunal

  • The Supreme Court has directed the Centre to place on record the amended draft of the Central Tribunal, Appellate and other Authorities Rules, 2017, which is under challenge for modifying the terms of appointment and functioning in various statutory tribunals, including NGT.
  • Appearing before a Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Attorney General K.K. Venugopal submitted that the government would amend the Rules and place the draft of the changes on January 4, 2018 before the Supreme Court.
  • The court, on December 15, ordered the government to give copies of the amended Draft Rules to senior advocates Arvind Datar and Mohan Parasaran, who were appointed amicus curiae, in the case.
  • They are to peruse the proposed amendments and, if necessary, point out anything contrary to the Attorney General’s submission before the matter is taken up by the court.
  • The court emphasised that the amendments should be in consonance with its past decisions in tribunal appointments.
  • The development came on several petitions, primarily one by Congress MP Jairam Ramesh, challenging the provisions of the 2017 Rules and the Finance Act, 2017 introducing the modifications in key tribunal appointments.
  • Mr. Ramesh specifically challenged Sections 182, 183, 184 and 185 of the Finance Act, 2017 as well as the 2017 Rules framed under Section 184.
  • He contended that Section 184 clothed the government with “uncanalised and unguided power to make rules to provide for qualifications, appointment, term of office, salary, allowances, resignation, removal and other terms and condition of service of chairpersons and members of several other tribunals and appellate tribunals.
  • But now, the Centre, through the Finance Act, had gifted to itself the power to control the functioning of the tribunal itself and, that too, when the government was itself a party in most cases before the tribunal, Mr. Ramesh had contended.

Centre asked High Courts to set up a mechanism to fast-track the maintenance to women

  • Expressing concern over delay in disbursing money awarded as maintenance to women by courts, the Centre has asked the High Courts to set up a mechanism to fast-track the process.
  • Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has written to the Chief Justices of all High Courts flagging the issue of “procedural delays” first pointed out by Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi.
  • The Law Minister asked High Courts to advise district courts to monitor timely disbursal of maintenance and speedy execution of warrants awarded by the court.
  • Acting on the Law Minister’s letter, several High Courts have set up committees to now monitor the process of disbursal of maintenance to women.
  • “To take care of the concern shown in the letter, the High Court has issued a circular to all the principal district and sessions judges in the State where they have directed to monitor the disbursal of the money awarded to the women as maintenance by the courts,” Chief Justice BadarDurrez Ahmed of the Jammu and Kashmir High Court said.
  • “The High Court is also compiling data relating to pending cases pertaining to average time taken in awarding/actual payment of maintenance in such proceedings,” wrote Chief Justice Ahmed.

Jaipur Thakur to be the Chief Minister of Himachal Pradesh

  • His name was announced by the party’s central observers and Union Ministers Nirmala Sitharaman, Narendra Tomar and J.P. Nadda in the presence of State party in-charge Mangal Pandey, all MPs and other senior leaders at a meeting in Shimla.
  • Mr. Thakur’name was proposed by the former Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal and seconded by sitting MP Shanta Kumar, Mr. Nadda and State president SatpalSatti.
  • Mr. Dhumal had made his position clear that he would no longer be a contender for the top post. It was then believed that Mr. Nadda would be the high command’s choice.
  • However, the high drama and suspense going on since December 18 ended when Mr. Thakur’s name was unanimously accepted by the elected MLAs and the high command.
  • It is believed that the Prime Minister did not want to spare Mr. Nadda from his duties at the Centre and his organisational role at the top.
  • A relatively younger leader, Mr. Thakur having the required RSS backing became the automatic choice for the top post. An agriculturist by profession, he had also remained State BJP president and a Minister of Panchayati Raj and Rural Development in the second Dhumal government of 2007-12.

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::Business and Economy::

Parliamentary panel asked the government to take urgent remedial measures for NPA

  • Concerned over rising NPAs of banks, a Parliamentary panel asked the government to take urgent remedial measures to reduce the volume of stressed assets in the system and strengthen its vigilance mechanism.
  • The Committee on Petition in its reports said that it is constrained to note that even after having a ‘vigilance mechanism’ in vogue in the banking system, there are incidences of fraud relating to non-performing assets.
  • “In this regard, the Committee opined that merely issuing of guidelines or advisories by the government or the RBI for averting the incidences of fraud relating to NPAs do not seem to have yielded the desired results and the RBI — being a Regulator — does not seem to have succeeded insofar as implementation and enforcement of its own guidelines is concerned,” it said.
  • The Committee, therefore, recommended that the government impresses upon the Reserve Bank of India to monitor and follow up strict compliance of relevant instructions with banks and financial institutions on a regular basis, the panel added.
  • It also recommended that the existing vigilance mechanism be revisited and, if required, be amended, to provide more teeth to it.

Problems arose in the WTO meet

  • Asked recently by the fashion and lifestyle publication Vogue about her ‘recurrent nightmare’, the late music icon Michael Jackson’s daughter Paris said, “Trump,” and then, quipped, “Oh wait, that’s reality...”
  • Though far removed from the lofty world that Ms. Jackson inhabits, weary trade officials — from more than a hundred developing countries, including India — were also hit by a somewhat similar reality towards the latter stage of the intense negotiations in Buenos Aires.
  • They had converged in the Argentine capital earlier this month for the meeting of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) apex decision-making body called the Ministerial Conference (MC), an event attended by trade officials from all the 164 WTO member countries.
  • On the cards was a decision, without many stringent riders, to enable developing countries to safeguard the livelihood of poor farmers and meet their population’s food security needs. This was considered ‘low-hanging fruit’ as there was already a Ministerial mandate to arrive at such a decision by 2017.
  • Trump administration reneged at the last minute on an earlier commitment by the U.S., and instead sought many onerous conditions — in proposed WTO norms relating to public stockholding of food grains — that developing countries could not accept as binding rules.
  • Rewind to the beginning of this year. In January, the Trump administration withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a mega-regional free trade agreement signed by the Obama administration along with 11 other nations.
  • With such startling moves, the Trump administration has given further credence to the notion that it favor’s bilateralism over multilateralism, and protectionism over free trade.
  • It has also signalled that it would not hesitate to take decisions that upset the continuity of or consistency with earlier U.S. policies.
  • In a much criticised stand, the Trump administration decided to block the appointment of judges to the WTO’s Appellate Body, under the Dispute Settlement Mechanism (DSM) on grounds including that the U.S. was losing far too many cases — something that many have contested.
  • Multilateral agreements within the WTO framework have far-reaching implications on global trade unlike bilateral deals. So when biennial WTO Ministerial Conferences (MC) end in a deadlock like what was seen in Buenos Aires, it affects the credibility of the multilateral rule-based trading system.
  • Decisions at the WTO are taken by consensus among all member countries. Though all are considered equal, countries like the U.S. wield considerable influence in the manner in which consensus is arrived at.
  • So, when the U.S. decides that sectoral agreements at the WTO is the way forward, it could in turn change the very DNA of the global body and spell the end of WTO in its current form.
  • Facing such a prospect, what are the options before India, which, along with several other nations, has been opposing the introduction of new and the so-called 21st Century trade issues such as e-commerce, investment facilitation and proposed norms on small firms, without resolving outstanding Doha Round issues such as food security?
  • He said India needed to quickly forge a larger alliance on issues such as e-commerce and investment facilitation in addition to planning a strategy to counter the moves that are against India’s interests.
  • On a more fundamental point, Mr. Dhar warned that global rule-making will face a serious problem if countries take actions that lead to loss of trust in having a constructive dialogue process.

::Science and Tech::

China’s home-grown AG600, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft

  • China’s home-grown AG600, the world’s largest amphibious aircraft in production, took to the skies for its maiden flight.
  • The plane, codenamed ‘Kunlong’, according to state news agency Xinhua, took off from the southern city of Zhuhai and landed after roughly an hour-long flight.
  • With a wingspan of 38.8 metres and powered by four turboprop engines, the aircraft is capable of carrying 50 people and can stay airborne for 12 hours.
  • The amphibious aircraft has military applications but will be used for firefighting and marine rescue, with at least 17 orders placed so far with state-owned manufacturer Aviation Industry Corp of China, state media reported.
  • While it is around the size of a Boeing 737, the AG600 is considerably smaller than billionaire Howard Hughes’ flying boat, better known as the Spruce Goose, which had a wingspan of 97 metres and a length of 67 metres but only made one brief flight, in 1947.
  • The AG600’s flight capabilities put all of China’s island-building projects in the South China Sea well within range.
  • The aircraft can fly to the southernmost edge of China’s territorial claims — the James Shoal — in just four hours from the southern city of Sanya, state-ownedGlobal Times reported.
  • The shoal is also claimed by Taiwan and Malaysia, and is currently administered by Malaysia. The collection of submerged rocks lies roughly 80 km from Malaysia’s coastline and about 1,800 km from the Chinese mainland.

Chip to dramatically improve the efficiency of teaching machines

  • Scientists have developed a new type of neural network chip that can dramatically improve the efficiency of teaching machines to think like humans.
  • The network, called a reservoir computing system, could predict words before they are said during conversation, and help predict future outcomes based on the present.
  • Reservoir computing systems, which improve on a typical neural network’s capacity and reduce the required training time, have been created in the past with larger optical components.
  • Researchers from University of Michigan in the U.S. created their system using memristors, which require less space and can be integrated more easily into existing silicon-based electronics.
  • Memristors are a special type of resistive device that can both perform logic and store data. This contrasts with typical computer systems, where processors perform logic separate from memory modules.

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