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Current Affairs Power Capsule – January 2015 (The Hindu Review)

1. Arvind Panagariya took charge as Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog. He became the first vice-chairman of the National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog, which replaced the Planning Commission on 1 January 2015. NITI Aayog comprises of Prime Minister as chairperson, one vice-chairman, two full-time members, four ex-officio members (Union ministers) and three special invitees.

2. Hari Shankar Bramha was appointed as the new Chief Election Commissioner. Brahma succeeds V.S. Sampath.
3. Filmmaker Pahlaj Nihalani was appointed as the Chairman of Central Board of Film Certification. Nihalani will succeed Leela Samson.

4. RBI cut its benchmark rate by 25 basis points to 7.75 per cent. RBI’s growth estimate for 2014-15  is 5.5 per cent.
a. Bank Rate – 8.75 % (0.25% Decreased)
b. Cash Reserve Ratio – 4 % (Unchanged)
c. Statutory Liquidity Ratio – 22 % (Unchanged)
d. Repo Rate – 7.75 % (0.25% Decreased)
e. Reverse Repo Rate – 6.75 % (0.25% Decreased)
f. Marginal Standing Rate – 8.75 % (0.25% Decreased)

5. United Nation Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Indian sociologist Saraswathi Menon in peace-building panel.

6. Nepali Congress leader Deep Kumar Upadhyay was appointed as Nepal's ambassador to India.

7. Anupam Shrivastava was appointed as CMD of BSNL.

8. Senior bureaucrat Sindhushree Khullar was appointed as the Chief Executive Officer of NITI Aayog with effect from 1 January 2015. She will serve the position for one year.

9. AS Kiran Kumar was appointed as Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). Kiran Kumar became eighth Chairman of ISRO after succeeding K Radhakrishnan.

10. KK Paul was sworn in as the sixth Governor of Uttarakhand. He succeeded Aziz Qureshi.

11. Atul Khare was appointed as the United Nations Under-Secretary-General, Department of Field Support.

12. Sutirtha Bhattacharya took charge as Coal India Limited’s Chairman and Managing Director.

13. Modibo Keita was appointed as the Prime Minister of West African nation Mali.

14. R. Koteeswaran took charge as new Chairman and Managing Director of public sector Indian Overseas Bank.

15. R K Srivastava took over as the new chairman of Airports Authority of India.

16. A.K. Mittal was appointed as the Chairman of Railway Board. He succeeded Arunendra Kumar.

17. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh adopted Pachim Bekeli Gaon Panchyat under Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojna (SAGY). Pachim Bekeli Gaon Panchyat is located in Kamrup district of Assam.

18. Actor Amitabh Bachchan was presented with the Social Media Person of the Year Award 2015 by the Internet and Mobile Association of India.

19. Union Government removed Avinash Chander, the Chairman of Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).

20. Pallewatte Gamaralalage Maithripala Yapa Sirisena (Maithiripala Sirisena) was sworn-in as the 7th President of Sri Lanka. Leader of the United National Party Ranil Wickramasinghe took the oath as Prime Minister of Sri Lanka. 

21. Larry Page, the chief executive officer and cofounder of Google was named as the Business person of the Year for 2014 by Fortune magazine.

22. Prime Minister of Bhutan Lyonchhen Tshering Tobgay visited India from 10 January to 18 January 2015. He also attended the Vibrant Gujarat Summit 2015.

23. Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited South Korea on 28 December 2014 to attend the 8th India-Republic of Korea (RoK) Joint Commission meeting held in Seoul. The Meeting was co-chaired by Sushma Swaraj and Yun Byungse, Minister of Foreign Affairs (FM) of South Korea.

24. Saudi Arabia King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz passed away. After the death of Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, his brother and Crown Prince Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud was named as the new king.

25. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited Chairman R.K. Tyagi was conferred with the JGBS-Top Rankers' Excellence Award for CEO of the year 2014.

26. 21st Screen Awards - Shahid Kapoor for Haider and Priyanka Chopra for Mary Kom won the Best Actor Award for Male and Female category respectively. Best Film award was given to film Queen, while its Director Vikas Bahl won the Best Director award. Hema Malini was honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award.

27. Sanskrit scholar Prabhu Nath Dwivedi was named as the winner of the Sahitya Akademi Award 2014 for Sanskrit language.

28. The Mars Orbiter Mission Team of Indian Space Research Organization won the 2015 Space Pioneer Award in the Science and Engineering category.

29. RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan received the Governor of the Year Award for 2015.

30. The director of Satish Dhawan Space Centre, MYS Prasad was selected for the Vikram Sarabhai memorial award 2015.

31. Amitabh Bachchan was honoured with the Yash Chopra Memorial Award.

32. Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, Ex-Foreign Minister of Pakistan, authored a book titled Neither a Hawk nor a Dove.

33. The Red Sari, an unauthorized biography of Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi, was released by Roli Books. The book has been written by Spanish author Javier Moro.

34. Book titled The Indian Parliament – A Critical Appraisal was released by Vice President Hamid Ansari. The book is authored by Prof. Sudha Pai and Avinash Kumar.

35. AirAsia flight number QZ8501 went missing with 162 people on board en route from Indonesian city Surabaya to Singapore on 28 December 2014. Indonesian searchers discovered the wreckage of plane by using Sonar equipment also spotted some bodies floating with the debris in the Java Sea off the Indonesian part of Borneo.

36. 7th Vibrant Gujarat Summit was held from 11 January to 13 January 2015 in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

37. 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas 2015 concluded in Gandhinagar Gujarat. The chief guest of the 13th PBD was Guyana President Donald Ramotar. The theme of 2015 PBD was Bharat ko jano and Bharat ko mano.

38. 102nd Indian Science Congress was held from in Mumbai. The theme of the ISC was Science and Technology for Human Development.

39. The International Hindi Conference will be hosted by New Jersey in April 2015.

40. International Labour Organisation released a report titled World Employment and Social Outlook – Trends 2015. By 2019, more than 212 million people will be out of work, up from the current 201 million.

41. Anti-poverty charity Oxfam released study titled Wealth: Having it all and wanting more. The study highlighted that the wealthiest 1% will soon own more than the rest of the world's population by 2016. Currently, 85 billionaires have the same wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population.

42. The first of the indigenously-built Light Combat Aircraft Tejas was handed over to the Indian Air Force. LCA Tejas was handed over to the Air Force after Initial Operational Clearance-II. It is expected that the aircraft will receive its Final Operational Clearance by December 2015.

43. The four member high-level committee headed by Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanium was appointed to review environmental laws.

44. The Lunchbox was nominated for British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards 2015 under non-English best film category. The Lunchbox, starring Nimrat Kaur and Irrfan Khan is directed by Ritesh Batra.

45. PM Narendra Modi inaugurated a state-of-the-art museum Dandi Kutir opposite Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

46. Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojna made it to Guinness Book of World Records. Indian Banks opened 11.50 crore accounts under the Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana in a short span of five months. Out of the total account opened, 5.68 crore accounts (49.37 %) belonged to male and 5.82 (50.63%) crore account belonged to females.

47. All-women contingent of Indian army will march for the first time on 2015 Republic Day parade.

48. Prime Minister Narendra Modi released Commemorative Postage Stamps to mark 100 Years of Mahatma Gandhi’s return from South Africa to India. A set of two Commemorative Postage Stamps were released during the 13th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. The coins are of denomination of 100 rupees and 10 rupees, while the stamps are of value of 25 rupees and 5 rupees.

49. Kailash Satayarthi dedicated his Nobel Peace Prize to the Nation. The medal was presented by Satyarthi to the President at a ceremony held at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

50. Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical weekly magazine, was in news due to attack by terrorist. The magazine has been under threat since 2006, the year when it published cartoons on Prophet Mohammad.

51. The Union Ministry of Urban Development launched the National Heritage Development and Augmentation Yojana (HRIDAY) that seeks to preserve and rejuvenate the rich cultural heritage of the country. In the initial phase of HRIDAY, 12 heritage cities have been identified.

52. Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a small deposit scheme Sukanya Samridhi Yojana for girl child under the Beti Bachao Beti Padhao campaign. Yojana will enable parents to open bank accounts of girls who are under 10 years of age. Account will fetch an interest rate of 9.1 percent and provide income tax rebate. It can be opened at any time from the birth of a girl child till she attains the age of 10 years with a minimum deposit of 1000 rupees and maximum of 1.5 lakh rupees. The account will remain operative for 21 years from the date of opening of the account or marriage of the girl child after attaining 18 years of age. To meet the requirement of higher education expenses, partial withdrawal of 50 percent of the balance amount will be allowed after the girl child has attended 18 years of age.

53. Union Minister for Railways Suresh Prabhu inaugurated India’s first compressed natural gas (CNG)-powered train on the Rewari – Rohtak link of Northern Zone.

54. President Pranab Mukherjee signed the Ordinance that amends’ Citizenship Act, 1955. The ordinance provides life-long Indian visa facility to Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and exempts them from appearing before the local police station on every visit.

55. IRDA was renamed as Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India.

56. The Union Cabinet approved promulgation of an ordinance that amends the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013. It removes Consent Clause (CC) and Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for acquiring land for five purposes, but compensation and rehabilitation and resettlement packages will be applicable as per the new Land Acquisition Act for acquiring land for these purposes. The five cases include National security, Defence, Rural infrastructure including electrification, Industrial corridors and Building social infrastructure including PPP where ownership of land continues to be vested with the government.

57. Union Government launched Madan Mohan Malviya National Mission on Teachers and Teaching.

58. The World Bank has approved $ 75 million credit for the Andhra Pradesh Rural Inclusive Growth Project.

59. Online marketplace Snapdeal has partnered India Post to jointly work on bringing thousands of weavers and artisans from Varanasi through its website.

60. For the first time in history, the BJP has more State legislators than the Congress across the country. With over 1,000 MLAs, the BJP has gone from being regionally concentrated to geographically widespread.

61. SEBI has passed an order providing the exit to Bangalore Stock Exchange as a stock exchange.

62. National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO) 2011-12 data on Nutritional Intake shows that per capita calorie consumption rose to 2099 kilocalories per day in rural areas and 2058 kilocalories per day in urban areas. Both numbers are still below a Planning Commission benchmark of 2,400 kilocalories per day.

63. BJP leader Raghuvar Das was sworn in as Chief Minister of Jharkhand in Ranchi.

64. Amending the rules for voluntary disclosure of assets and liabilities by government employees under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, the Department of Personnel and Training has made revealing of foreign bank deposits mandatory. The form for the disclosure has thus been changed and the deadline extended by four months from December 31.

65. Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh summoned Pakistan High Commissioner Abdul Basit and conveyed India’s “strong concern” at the lack of “effective action” by Pakistani prosecuting authorities to keep Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi in custody.

66. The Delhi Government Transport Department modified the law governing radio taxis plying in the Capital, paving the way for the return of web-based services, such as Uber, after weeks of deliberations post the rape of a 27-year-old MNC executive.

67. The Union Cabinet approved infusion of Rs.60 crore in Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI) Ltd. to make it a government company. It would raise the shareholding of the Centre to 51 per cent.

68. After Lucknow, Metro rail will run in Kanpur, Agra, Meerut and Varanasi in UP.

69. President gave his assent to the setting up of the National Judicial Appointments Commission as a constitutional body. The commission gives the executive an equal role in the appointment of judges to the highest judiciary. The NJAC has the Chief Justice of India as chairperson and two senior-most judges of the Supreme Court as members, apart from the Union Law Minister and two eminent personalities, one of whom would be nominated from among the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes, minorities, the Other Backward Classes or women.

70. Modi government set up NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) in place of the Planning Commission. The Prime Minister will head the new institution tasked with the role of formulating policies and direction for the government. Its governing council will comprise the Chief Ministers and the Lieutenant Governors of Union Territories. The Prime Minister will appoint the Aayog’s Vice-Chairperson and Chief Executive Officer.

71. After taking action against the international environment group Greenpeace, the government has clamped down on four American NGOs working in the same field — Avaaz, Bank Information Centre (BIC), Sierra Club and 350.org.

72. The Reserve Bank of India extended the deadline for submission of applications for licensing of Small Finance Banks and Payments Banks to February 2.

73. The Centre has extended the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 declaring Assam as a ‘disturbed area’ for another year beyond November 3.

74. U.S. imposed new sanctions on North Korea in retaliation for a cyber-attack on Hollywood studio Sony Pictures.

75. The Union Cabinet approved the largest ever telecom spectrum auction that is targeted to fetch at least Rs.64,840 crore from the sale next month.

76. The eurozone slipped into deflationary territory in December for the first time since the height of the financial crisis in 2009.

77. ICICI Bank launched the country’s first contactless debit and credit cards that use the near-field communication technology.

78. SEBI proposed e-IPO norms, where investors can bid for shares through Internet and eventually on mobiles, while already listed public sector undertakings (PSUs) will be provided a ‘fasttrack’ route for share sales to meet the disinvestment targets. Under the new norms, SEBI has proposed to drastically cut the timeline for listing of shares within 2-3 days of the IPO, as against 12 days currently.

79. The shareholders of Kotak Mahindra Bank and ING Vysya have approved the amalgamation of ING Vysya with Kotak Mahindra Bank.

80. Jammu and Kashmir came under Governor’s rule with no political party coming forward and staking claim to form the government and National Conference leader Omar Abdullah asking to be relieved as caretaker Chief Minister.

81. SunEdison Inc, the U.S.-headquartered solar energy services firm, and India’s Adani Group have come together to invest $4 billion or Rs. 25,000 crore in setting up one of the world’s largest solar photovoltaic (PV) manufacturing facility in Gujarat.

82. The Government of Gujarat, the Government of India and the World Bank have entered into a tripartite agreement in support of Gujarat’s ‘swachhta abhiyaan’ and smart city initiatives.

83. The government informed the Supreme Court of its decision to accept the Election Commission's recommendation to allow Non-Resident Indians to vote from overseas through e-postal ballots or proxy voting.

84. Ramesh Abhishek has been given a three-month extension as the Chairman of the Forward Markets Commission.

85. According to World Bank report, India will catch up with China’s growth at 7 per cent in 2016–17. World Bank Chief Economist and Senior Vice President Kaushik Basu told “China’s growth will remain high, but it will begin to taper very gently, reaching 6.9 per cent in 2017”.

86. The Indian Olympic Association-appointed Games Technical Conduct Committee gave the all clear signal to Kerala for the conduct of the 35th National Games from January 31 to February 14.

87. The Union Cabinet cleared the third phase of auction of FM radio channels, expected to fetch Rs. 550 crore to the government.

88. India has taken strong exception to the European Parliament’s resolution accusing India of “a serious breach of human rights” in its treatment of two Italian marines accused of killing two Indian fishermen off the coast of Kerala in February 2012.

89. BJP declared India’s first woman IPS officer Kiran Bedi as its chief ministerial candidate in Delhi.

90. Rajni Kothari, preeminent political theorist and activist, died.

91. Mali’s Health Minister says the West African country is Ebola-free after recording no new cases for 42 days, the period required for the World Health Organization to declare an outbreak officially over.

92. Microfinance company Bandhan Financial Services is set to get Rs.1,600 crore equity infusion from the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund.

93. The Reserve Bank of India asked banks to notify the Base Rate, or the minimum lending rate, at least once in every three months based on the cost of funds.

94. The seven-month ban on Indian mangoes, imposed last year by the European Union, has been lifted well in advance of the deadline set for the ban, which was originally till December 2015.

95. The first full-year budget of the Modi government will be presented on February 28, five days after the budget session of Parliament begins on February 23.

96. The Centre decided to give flexibility to State governments to set retail price of PDS sugar that has been kept unchanged at Rs. 13.50 per kg since 2002.

97. Switzerland assured India of full cooperation on tax information exchange and agreed to discuss the issue of black money stashed in Swiss banks.

98. Indian-American author Jhumpa Lahiri won the $50,000 DSC Prize for Literature, one of South Asia’s top literary awards for her book, The Lowland.

99. RBI asked banks to disclose more information on lending rates and fees on their websites, “for promoting transparency in the operations of the banks.” These guidelines will come into effect from April 1, 2015.

100. Government will release next month a new series of Consumer Price Index (CPI) with 2012 as base year for computing the retail inflation rate.

101. Foreign exchange reserves jumped by a massive $2.66 billion to touch an all-time high of $322.135 billion in the week ended January 16.

102. US President Barack Obama arrived on a two-day visit during which both sides will seek to break the deadlock in operationalising the civil nuclear pact, firm up a defence cooperation agreement besides broadening ties in areas like trade and investment. Obama will be the first US President to grace the Republic Day parade as the Chief Guest.

103. Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked bankers to speed up the process of linking all Jan Dhan bank accounts to Aadhaar and indicated that these accounts would be used for providing credit, insurance and pension services in the second phase of the scheme.

104. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has issued draft regulations to facilitate full mobile number portability (MNP) which is to come into effect from May 3.

105. Ahead of the Budget, the Expenditure Management Commission, headed by Bimal Jalan, has recommended to the government that it cut fiscal deficit to 3.6 per cent of the GDP during 2015-16.

106. World Bank said it will commit USD 1 billion in the Narendra Modi government’s Swachh Bharat (Clean India) campaign.

107. The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the fair and remunerative price (FRP) of sugarcane — payable by sugar mills for the 2015-16 season — to be fixed at Rs. 230 per quintal, as compared with R220 for the 2014-15 season.

108. In a bid to augment supply of environment friendly fuel, the government allowed private manufacturers of bio-diesel to sell it directly to consumers like Indian Railways.

109. The Supreme Court asked a group of major companies — including Reliance Communications, Bharti Infratel, Ambuja Cement, Ultratech Cements, Reliance Infratel, Vodafone Essar South, Adani Wilmar and Dalmia Cements — to pay up 50% of the tax demanded by the Rajasthan government by way of entry tax for now.

110. Retail inflation moved up marginally to 5 per cent in December as prices of some food items, including fruits and vegetables, increased.

111. Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said his ministry will come out with a brand new “simplified and time-bound” defence procurement procedure (DPP) by March 2015 that will help smoothen defence procurement.

112. RBI said dilution of government holding in public sector banks (PSBs) might not be sufficient for meeting Basel III capital adequacy norms. It has been reported recently that the government is contemplating scaling down their holdings in PSBs to 52%.

113. The Narendra Modi government has reportedly raised the solar generation target five-fold from the earlier target of 20,000 MW in 2022 envisaged in the Solar Mission.

114. Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the ‘ICICI Digital Village’ to the nation at an event which was organised to celebrate the ICICI Group’s 60 years of ‘partnering India’ in its progress. It has created the ‘ICICI Digital Village’ at Akodara in Sabarkantha district of Gujarat.

115. LPG consumers across the country will from 1st January get cash subsidy directly into their bank accounts so that they buy the cooking fuel at market price. Domestic LPG users will get Rs 568 in the bank account the moment they join the Direct Benefit Transfer Scheme for LPG, which has now been renamed PAHAL. PAHAL or ‘Pratyaksh Hanstantarit Labh’ was rolled out in 54 districts from November 15 and will extend to rest of the country from January 1.

116. Following the tradition, the winners of Padma Awards 2015 announced on the eve of India's 66th Republic Day. Padma Awards are one of the highest civilian Awards of the country. The awards are conferred in three categories, namely, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Padma Shri.

117. Padma Vibhushan List – 1. Shri L. K. Advani 2. Shri Amitabh Bachchan 3. Shri Prakash Singh Badal 4. Dr. D. Veerendra Heggade 5. Shri Dilip Kumar 6. Shri Jagadguru Ramanandacharya Swami Rambhadracharya 7. Prof. Malur Ramaswamy Srinivasan 8. Shri Kottayan K. Venugopal 9. Shri Karim Al Hussaini Aga Khan (Foreigner).

118. 66th Republic Day Celebrations
India celebrated its 66th Republic Day and showcased before the chief guest US President Barack Obama and the world its military might and cultural diversity with a splendid display of land and naval weaponry, fighter and reconnaissance aircraft.

Obama was the first ever US President to attend the parade as Chief Guest on the second day of his three-day visit, as light rains and overcast skies failed to dampen the enthusiasm of thousands of spectators who gathered along the Rajpath to watch the pomp-filled spectacle.

Smartly attired all-female units from the Army, Navy and Air Force marched for the first time in this year’s parade, as the country’s military hardware with carnival-style floats featuring achievements in diverse fields as well as tribal dancers and traditional music rolled past in a show of ‘unity in diversity’.

A highlight of this year’s parade was the display for the first time of the recently acquired long-range maritime surveillance and anti-submarine P-8I aircraft and the long-range advanced MiG-29K fighter plane.

Prime Minister Modi’s “Make in India” campaign to boost the country’s manufacturing industry and create much-needed jobs was featured in one of the tableau's.