1, December 2016

1.Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention for Protection of Ozone Layer

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister has given its ex-post facto approval to the negotiating position adopted by the Government of India at the recent Meeting of Parties (MoP) to the Montreal Protocol of the Vienna Convention for Protection of Ozone Layer.


    • The negotiations at Kigali were aimed at including Hydrofluoro Carbons (HFCs) in the list of chemicals under the Montreal Protocol with a view to regulate their production and consumption and phase them down over a period of time with financial assistance from the Multilateral Fund created under the Montreal Protocol.


  • HFCs are not ozone depleting but global warming substance and if controlled, can contribute substantially to limiting the global temperature and advance actions for addressing climate change.


The Cabinet also approved the proposal of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change to argue for adoption of an appropriate baseline years from out of 3 options within a range of 2024 to 2030 with freeze in a subsequent year.

Baseline year:


  • There  would be two set of baselines or peak years for developing countries and India will have baseline years of 2024, 2025, 2026.
  • This decision gives additional HCFC allowance of 65% that will be added to the Indian baseline consumption and production.


    • The freeze year for India will be 2028, with a condition that there will be a technology review in 2024/2025 and, if the growth in the sectors using refrigerants is above certain agreed threshold, India can defer its freeze up to 2030.


  • On the other hand, developed countries will reduce production and consumption of HFCs by 70% in 2029.


  • As per the decisions taken in Kigali, India will complete its phase down in 4 steps from 2032 onwards with cumulative reduction of 10% in 2032, 20% in 2037, 30% in 2042 and 85% in 2047.


Montreal Protocol, formally Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, international treaty, adopted in Montreal on Sept. 16, 1987, that aimed to regulate the production and use of chemicals that contribute to the depletion of Earth’s ozone layer.

The meeting called for international cooperation in research to convention of Ozone layer


  • Involving ozone-depleting chemicals (ODCs) and
  • Empowered the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to lay the groundwork for the Montreal Protocol


Deplete Ozone layer

Ozone layer depletion, is simply the wearing out (reduction) of the amount of ozone in the stratosphere. Unlike pollution, which has many types and causes, Ozone depletion has been pinned down to one major human activity.

There are other Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) such as methyl bromide used in pesticides, halons used in fire extinguishers, and methyl chloroform used in making industrial solvents.

Other chemicals that naturally destroy Ozone are Noy, Hox, Clx, which belong to the Nitrogen, Hydrogen and Chlorine families.

2.Putting GSAT-19E into Orbit

Source: PIB

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is working towards putting into orbit an indigenous communication satellite GSAT-19, weighing 3.3 tonne and carrying Ka/ Ku band payloads.

The launch campaign for the first developmental flight of GSLV Mk-III has commenced on September 29, 2016 at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC), Sriharikota.

  • ISRO is working towards increasing the payload capacity of GSLV Mk-III beyond four tonnes in the coming years.
  • The strategies identified to achieve the increased payload capacity include performance improvement of propulsion systems, inert mass optimisation and miniaturisation of avionics system.
  • The Chandrayaan-2, comprising of Orbiter, Lander and Rover, with a total payload mass of 3250 kg is planned to be launched onboard GSLV Mk-II during the first quarter of 2018

3.National anthem must be played before screening of films: Supreme Court

Source: The Hindu

The Supreme Court has ordered all cinema halls across the country to play the national anthem before the screening of films and that all present must “stand up in respect” till the anthem ended.

The court has also asked the Cinema halls to display the national flag on screen when the anthem is played.


The petition had focused on the commercial exploitation of the anthem. It had claimed that the national anthem is sung in various circumstances which are not permissible and can never be countenanced in law.

  • It had referred to the Prevention of Insults to the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 and Article 51 (A) of the Constitution to contend that it was the duty of every person to show respect when the anthem was played.
  • It pointed out that the national anthem was being played under unacceptable circumstances.
  • The petitioner had sought the apex court’s intervention to ensure that the protocol laid down in the Prevention of Insults to National Honour Act, 1971 was followed.

Supreme Order

SC took note of Article 51(A) and held that national anthem is a symbol of the constitutional patriotism and national quality. It held that cinemas should also display the national flag on screen when the anthem is played and never play any abridged version of anthem.

  • In order to prevent any kind of disturbance when the anthem is played all doors in a cinema hall should remain closed. It event banned exploitation of national anthem for financial benefit.
  • SC ordered that there should be no dramatisation of the anthem or its inclusion as part of any variety show. The anthem or part of it should not be printed or displayed in places as it is “disgraceful” to its status.

4.Union Cabinet approves inclusion of 15 new castes in Central OBC list

Source: PIB

The Union Cabinet has given its approval for inclusion of 15 new castes and modification in 13 other castes in the Central list of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in respect of 8 states.

  • These states are Assam, Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir and Uttarakhand.
  • The Union Cabinet took this decision based on the recommendation of the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).

National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC)

The NCBC was set up as per the NCBC Act, 1993 in pursuance to the Supreme Court judgement in the Indra Sawhney case (1992).

It consist of five Members, comprising of a Chairperson; social scientist; two persons having special knowledge in matters relating to backward classes and Member-Secretary. Chairperson must be or has been a judge of Supreme Court or High Court.


It examines requests for inclusion of any class of citizens as a backward class in the lists of OBCs. It also hears complaints of under-inclusion or over-inclusion of any backward class in such lists and tenders such advice to the Union Government as it deems appropriate. The advice of the NCBC is ordinarily binding upon the Union Government.

So far based on recommendation of NCBC, Government has notified total of 2479 entries including its synonyms, sub-castes, etc. in Central List of OBCs in 25 States and 6 UTs.

5.Naidu-led CMs’ panel formed

Source: The Hindu

The NITI Aayog has constituted a 13 member Committee on promotion of cashless society and digital economy. It will be headed by Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu.

Chief Ministers of Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Sikkim, Puducherry and Maharashtra representing different political parties are its members.

It been constituted in line with the Union Government’s thinking

  • To promote financial inclusion, transparency and healthy financial ecosystem nationwide.
  • To give a boost to adoption of digital payments systems by people at grass root levels and small businesses.

Terms of Reference of the Committee

  • Identify best global practices for economy based on digital payment and examine possibility of adopting them in the country.
  • Identify and outline measures for rapid expansion and adoption of system of digital payments like Debit and Credit cards, internet banking, Digital-wallets, UPI, banking apps etc and broadly indicate road map to be implemented in one year.
  • Evolve an action plan to reach out to public at large with the objective to create awareness and help them to understand benefits of switchover to digital economy.
  • Prepare a roadmap for the administrative machineries in the States to facilitate adoption of digital modes of financial transactions;
  • Identify and address bottlenecks pertaining to adoption of the steps required to move towards a digital payments economy and also indicate solutions for it.

Benefits of digitization of payments

  • Enhances financial inclusion by overcoming physical barriers
  • Enhances access to financial services rapidly.
  • Enables formalization of all financial transactions
  • Increases transparency and plugging leakages from the system.

6.Trade costs of India remain high: UN body

Source: The Hindu

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) said, in its recently released Asia-Pacific Trade and Investment Report 2016,  that international and intra-regional trade costs of India remained higher compared with the trade costs of best-performing economies in Asia and the Pacific, although a declining trend has been observed since 2009.

Highlights of the report:

  • FDI inflows to India expanded by 10% on average during 2010-2015, while in 2015 inflows recorded an even stronger expansion at 27.8%, which was significantly higher than the Asia-Pacific region’s average 5.6%.
  • The services, construction development, computer software and hardware, and telecommunications sectors attracted the highest investments.
  • In addition to India’s robust economic growth and large domestic market, the Government’s “Make in India” initiative and easing of FDI regulations for about 15 sectors including aviation, defence and pharmaceuticals may contribute to the FDI attractiveness of India.
  • However, in 2015, Indian goods exports shrank by 17.2%, which was close to twice as much as the Asia-Pacific region decline of 9.7%. But, India was the largest partner with several economies in South Asia, such as Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. Since India is the fastest-growing emerging economy, it is somewhat expected to start filling the void in demand for intraregional exports that will emerge with the rebalancing of China’s trade patterns.

Asia Pacific:

The Asia-Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), previously named the Bangkok Agreement, signed in 1975 as an initiative of ESCAP, is a preferential tariff arrangement that aims at promoting intra-regional trade through exchange of mutually agreed concessions by member countries.

APTA has five members namely Bangladesh, China, India, Republic of Korea, Lao People’s Democratic Republic and Sri Lanka. ESCAP functions as the secretariat for the Agreement.  

  • Asia-Pacific trade flows were wavering amid sluggish global economic and trade growth, downward movement of world commodity prices and an uncertain policy environment, the report said. Sluggish growth in trade is expected to continue through to the end of 2016.
  • However, rebounding somewhat, exports from Asia-Pacific are expected to increase by 4.5% and imports by 6.5% in developing countries of Asia and the Pacific in 2017, but the Report forecasts more modest growth in exports and imports in volume terms, at 2.2% and 3.8%.      

According to the report, a worrying trend is the increased usage of restrictive trade policies, especially non-tariff measures, within the Asia-Pacific region, which is partly driven by past distortive trade measures and current excess capacity in several key sectors.

Additionally, the region is seeing a proliferation of preferential trade agreements (PTA), with Asia and the Pacific rim contributing to almost 63% of world PTAs, curbing a momentum towards region-wide free trade.

7.Afghanistan, India hope to corner Pakistan

 Source: The Hindu

New Delhi’s choice of Amritsar seems aimed at sending out a message to Pakistan, which has been seen as the main deal breaker when it comes to integrating south Asia

In the wake of the brazen Nagrota attack, India and Afghanistan are planning to seek to isolate Pakistan on terror at the upcoming two-day Heart of Asia conference in Amritsar as the two countries have pitched for a regional counter-terror framework to effectively deal with the menace.

  • Finance minister Arun Jaitley will lead the Indian delegation at the two-day Sixth Heart of Asia (HoA) conference to be held in Amritsar.
  • Afghanistan has been pushing for finalising an effective counter-terror framework to deal with terror at the conference which will be attended by representatives from over 30 countries including China, the US, Russia, Pakistan and Iran.

Tension over the cross-border terrorism has increased between India and Pakistan in the past few months. This is also seen as the biggest challenge to peace and security in the region.

Heart of Asia conference:

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA) was founded on November 2nd, 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey. The Heart of Asia provides a platform for sincere and results-oriented regional cooperation by placing Afghanistan at its center, in recognition of the fact that a secure and stable Afghanistan is vital to the prosperity of the Heart of Asia region.


  • The  participating countries include Pakistan, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, China, India, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan and the United Arab Emirates.


  • The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process articulates a set of principles, such as respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, and promoting cooperation in the areas of common challenges and shared interests in the region.
  • It provides a platform for discussing key regional issues among participating states.

The countries which support the initiative are Australia, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, France, Finland, Germany, Iraq, Italy, Japan, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Britain and the US. Four countries Uzbekistan, Latvia, Bulgaria and Austria are attending the conference as guests.

Pillars of Heart of Asia:

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process has three main pillars, which work together to build regional consensus on how we can achieve our shared goals. They include:

  1. Political Consultations
  2. Confidence Building Measures (CBMs)
  3. Cooperation with Regional Organizations.

Why Heart of Asia will have no love for Pakistan

  • Identifying terror emanating from Pakistan as the “greatest threat” to regional peace and stability, India and Afghanistan have said that setting up an effective counter-terror framework to deal with the challenge will be a major focus at the two-day Heart of Asia conference.
  • The  annual conference of the Heart of Asia Istanbul Process, a platform to assist Afghanistan in its transition, will extensively deliberate on threat from terror networks operating from Pakistani soil and may push for some concrete action to deal with it.
  • On his part, the Afghan envoy said there was a need to take collective measures to fight terrorism and uproot the “breeding ground” of the menace and its “safe sanctuaries”, in obvious reference to Pakistan
  • The conference, whose theme is security and prosperity, will also deliberate on major connectivity iniatives including Chabahar project, a five nation railway project. There may be deliberations on TAPI (Turkmenistan–Afghanistan-Pakistan–India) gas pipeline project.

  1. President of India to present second ‘Distinguished Indologist’ award
  • The President of India, Shri Pranab Mukherjee will present the second ICCR ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Award to Prof. Yu Long Yu of the People’s Republic of China on December 1, 2016 at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
  • The annual ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Award has been instituted by ICCR to recognize eminent Indologists working abroad who have made outstanding contribution to the study/teaching/research of India’s philosophy, thought, history, art, culture, languages, literature, civilization, society etc. The Award amount is US$ 20000/-.
  • The first ‘Distinguished Indologist’ Award was presented to Prof. Heinrich Freiherr Von Stietencron of Germany last year. A World Indology Conference was also organized by ICCR and hosted at Rashtrapati Bhavan from November 21 to 23, 2015.

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR):

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), is an autonomous organisation of the Government of India, involved in India’s external cultural relations, through cultural exchange with other countries and their peoples.

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