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Important Current Affairs 27th December 2018

National

Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to have separate HCs
•    Following a Supreme Court order to the Centre to notify the bifurcation of the Andhra Pradesh and Telangana High Courts by January 1, President Ram Nath Kovind on Wednesday ordered the separation of the “common” Hyderabad High Court into the two separate High Courts of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
•    Both will function separately from January 1, 2019.
•    The principal seat of the Andhra Pradesh High Court is Amaravati, the capital of the State. The High Court in Hyderabad will function separately as the High Court of the State of Telangana.
•    Sixteen HC judges, including Justice Ramesh Ranganathan, who is now the Chief Justice of the Uttarakhand High Court, shall become judges of the Andhra Pradesh High Court from January 1.
•    The new Telangana High Court will have a strength of 10 judges.
•    The Presidential notification quoted Article 214 of the Constitution which provides that there shall be a High Court for each State.


Boogibeel Bridge – India’s Longest Rail-Road Bridge
•    Prime Minister Narendra Modi today inaugurated India's longest rail-road bridge in Assam as part of efforts to boost defence along the border with China.
•    The bridge, near the city of Dibrugarh, will enable the military to speed up the dispatch of forces to neighbouring Arunachal Pradesh, which borders China.
•    With the opening of the bridge, the rail journey from Dibrugarh to the Arunachal Pradesh capital Itanagar has been cut by 750 km. The bridge has been designed to bear the weight of India's heaviest 60 tonne battle tanks and so that fighter jets can land on it. 
•    Construction of the Bogibeel bridge was agreed by the government as part of a 1985 agreement to end years of deadly agitation by Assamese nationalist groups.
•    India opened its longest bridge, the 9.1 kilometre Dhola-Sadiya bridge, in 2017 to connect Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, also to boost tactical defences.
•    The 4.9 kilometre long Bogibeel bridge over the Brahmaputra river has taken nearly two decades and $800 million or Rs. 5,600 crore to complete.


Aadhaar Not Mandatory for School Admissions : UIDAI
•    Aadhaar issuing body UIDAI has asserted that schools cannot make the 12-digit biometric identifier a pre-condition for student admission and warned that doing so will be against the recent order of the Supreme Court.
•    In the verdict which upheld the constitutional validity of Aadhaar, SC had emphasised that Aadhaar would not be mandatory for school admissions, for examinations conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Examination, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for medical entrance and the University Grants Commission.


Coast Guard Deploys Faster Vessels in Sir Creek 
•    The hovercraft operate at high speeds between 30-40 knots (around 50-60 kilometres) per hour and can be highly useful in hot pursuit of any suspicious boat or individuals in the waters around there. 
•    Since the hovercraft can operate on both sea and shores, it would be easy for the troops deployed there to catch any rogue elements there
•    The Coast Guard chief also interacted closely with the fishermen community based around the new facility and sought to integrate them with the Coast Guard to enhance its eyes and ears in the sea for keeping an eye on any suspicious activity.
•    Traditionally, the Sir Creek area in the Kutch district of Gujarat has been used by the infiltrators from Pakistan to enter the Indian Territory. 
•    The Creek has been a contentious issue between India and Pakistan and the 1965 war with Pakistan also saw action here.


Draft IT Rules out for Public Feedback 
•    The Union Ministry for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) announced Monday that it will hold public consultations on the draft Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018, which are meant to replace the rules notified in 2011.
•    The Ministry said in a statement that the “consultation process is underway”, which started with inter-ministerial consultations, followed by discussions with major social media platforms like Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and WhatsApp, and associations representing intermediaries. 
•    It said the government “intends to consult all stakeholders” and that MeitY “has commenced public consultation” for which submissions must be sent by January 15, 2019.
•    Social media platforms are required to end the complete encryption system and remove any “unlawful content” for the sake of the country’s security.
•    The draft rules define intermediary as any platform that has more than 50 lakh users in India or is in the list of intermediary as notified by the government. Social media platforms such as Whatsapp, Facebook, Instagram and others fall under the definition of intermediary.
•    Whenever the government issues an order, within “72 hours of communication”, information or assistance concerning “security or cybersecurity” must be provided.
 

International

Mount Etna Volcano Triggers 4.8-Magnitude Quake in Sicily
•    Italy’s Mount Etna volcano erupted on 24th December 2018 resulting in more than 130 earthquakes of up to 4.3 in magnitude. 
•    The volcanic lava and ash spewed from a new fracture near its south-eastern crater for the first time in a decade and was visible for miles.
•    Mount Etna is Europe’s highest and most active volcano outside the Caucasus. Mount Etna is an active stratovolcano on the east coast of Sicily, Italy. The last major eruption was in 1992.


Tsunami Triggered by Mount Krakatau Volcano
•    Indonesia on Thursday raised the alert level for the erupting Anak Krakatau volcano to the second-highest, and ordered all flights to steer clear, days after it triggered a tsunami that killed at least 430 people.
•    A crater collapse on the volcanic island at high tide on Saturday sent waves up to 5 metres (16 feet) high smashing into the coast on the Sunda Strait, between the islands of Java and Bali.
•    The volcano has been rumbling on and off since July but has been particularly active since Sunday, spewing lava and rocks, and sending huge clouds of ash up to 3,000 metres into heavily overcast skies.
 

Awards

Rafi Award Conferred to Late Music Composer Laxmikant and Singer Usha Timothy
•    The Mohammed Rafi Award, instituted by an NGO headed by Mumbai BJP chief Ashish Shelar, was Monday bestowed upon late music composer Laxmikant Shantaram Kudalkar and playback singer Usha Timothy.
•    Kudalkar, of the Laxmikant-Pyarelal duo, was given the Mohammed Rafi Lifetime Achievement Award consisting of Rs 1 lakh and a trophy. The award was received by his daughter.
•    Timothy was honoured with the Mohammed Rafi Award and Rs 51,000 at a programme held in suburban Bandra Monday evening.
•    The awards, instituted by the NGO Spandan Arts, were handed over by Shelar.
 

Economy and Polity

Centre Tightens Norms for e-Commerce Companies for Sale of Products
•    Tightening norms for e-commerce firms having foreign investment, the government on Wednesday barred online marketplaces like Flipkart and Amazon from selling products of companies where they hold stakes and banned exclusive marketing arrangements that could influence product price.
•    The revised norms are aimed at protecting the interest of domestic players, who have to face tough competition from e-retailers having deep pockets from foreign investors.
•    The policy would be effective from February 2019.
•    The policy says a vendor will not be permitted to sell more than 25% of its products on an online platform of a single e-marketplace firm.

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India - Cyprus DTAA to be revised

Union Cabinet on 24 August 2016 approved the signing of an agreement and the protocol between the India and Cyprus for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income.
•    The approval will help India in its fight against tax evasion, round tripping and base erosion/profit shifting.
•    The approval will replace the existing Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) that was signed between the two nations on 13 June 1994. 
•    It will align the applicable provisions with the consistent policy followed by India and the revised international standards.
•    It will also prevent the abuse of beneficial provisions of the DTAA that can distort financial and real investment flows and create challenges in respect of tax collection.
•    It provides for source based taxation of capital gains on transfer of shares, instead of residence based taxation as provided in the existing DTAA.
•    The proposed DTAA also enables source based taxation of capital gains from transfer of shares of any company the property of which consists directly or indirectly principally of immovable property situated in a Contracting State.
•    It includes a provision for Assistance in Collection of Taxes.
•    It also provides for a revised provision for Exchange of Information that would enable the use of information exchanged for other purposes, with the permission of the Competent Authority of the country providing the information.
•    It expands the scope of the Permanent Establishments (PE) that enables source based taxation of business income.
 

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RBI has issued guidelines called Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A).

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) on 13 June 2016 issued the guidelines on the Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets.
The guidelines were issued with an aim to further strengthen the lenders’ ability to deal with stressed assets and to put real assets back on track.
•    RBI formulated the Scheme for Sustainable Structuring of Stressed Assets (S4A) as an optional framework for the resolution of large stressed accounts. 
•    The S4A envisages determination of the sustainable debt level for a stressed borrower.
•    It also envisages bifurcation of the outstanding debt into sustainable debt and equity/quasi-equity instruments which are expected to provide upside to the lenders when the borrower turns around.
•    In order to make sure that that the entire exercise is carried out in a transparent and prudent manner, S4A envisages that the resolution plan will be prepared by credible professional agencies.
•    An Overseeing Committee, set up by the Indian Banks Association, comprising of eminent experts will independently review the processes involved in preparation of the resolution plan for reasonableness and adherence to the provisions of these guidelines.
•    The scheme is applicable to those projects that have started commercial operations and have outstanding loan of over 500 crore rupees.
Resolution of large borrowal accounts which are facing severe financial difficulties may require coordinated deep financial restructuring which often involves a substantial write-down of debt and/or making large provisions. 

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