Daily GK Updates: 24th Sept 2014

1.    India's Mars mission successful on 1st attempt, history made
i. India on Tuesday created space history by successfully placing its low-cost Mars spacecraft in orbit around the Red Planet in its very first attempt, catapulting the country into an elite club of three nations.

ii. Watched by Prime Minister Prime Minister Narendra Modi, ISRO scientists successfully ignited the main 440 Newton Liquid Apogee Motor (LAM) and eight small thrusters that fired for 24-minutes from 7.17 AM and slowed down the speed of Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) spacecraft 'Mangalyaan' for it to slip into a smooth orbit around the Red Planet after almost an year-long voyage. 
iii. India's MOM is the cheapest inter-planetary mission, costing a tenth of NASA's Mars mission Maven that entered the Martian orbit on September 22. 
iv. It aims to study Mars' surface and mineral composition, and scan its atmosphere for methane, a chemical strongly tied to life on Earth. 
v. Given the high rate of failures --only 21 of the total of 51 missions sent to Mars by various countries being successful, the success of MOM has given a boost to India's global standing in Space. 
Note:i.  With the success of "Mangalyaan", India has become the first country to go to Mars in the very first try. European, American and Russian probes have managed to orbit or land on the planet, but after several attempts.
ii. The first Chinese mission to Mars, called Yinghuo-1, failed in 2011. 

2. SC formed 5-member committee to evaluate damage caused by floods in J&K

Who: 5-member committee headed by Sr. Registrar of J&K High Court
Where: to work in Jammu and Kashmir
What: constituted by the Supreme Court of India
When: 24 September 2014
Why: to evaluate the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir in aftermath floods.
The Supreme Court of India on 24 September 2014 formed a five member committee to evaluate the damage caused by devastating floods in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) in September 2014.

The 5-member committee will comprise a senior Registrar of J & K High Court posted at Srinagar, Secretary of the J&K Department of Revenue, Relief and Rehabilitation, a nominee of the central government and the presidents of the bar associations of Sringar and Jammu regions.

The committee will assess the ground situation in J&K after floods and submit the report to the SC within two weeks. The interim report of the committee will also be submitted to the J&K High Court

The committee was formed by SC bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha while hearing the J&K government’s counsel on J&K floods.

Earlier, the court in its hearing said that such a huge a calamity and disaster witnessed by Jammu and Kashmir during floods deserves national response.
3.   Union Government appointed Debroy Panel to suggest ways for restructuring the Railway Board
Who: Union government
What: appointed Debroy Panel
When: 23 September 2014
Why: to suggest ways for restructuring the Railway Board

The Union government on 23 September 2014 appointed Debroy Panel to suggest ways for restructuring the Railway Board. The Panel has been tasked to suggest measures to reorganize the Railway Board and its departments so that policy making is separated from day-to-day operations.

The Panel would submit its report till the end of 2015. The seven-member panel will be headed by economist Bibek Debroy.

The other members are former cabinet secretary K M Chandrasekhar, Gusharan Das, former CMD of P&G, Ravi Narain, former MD of National Stock Exchange and Partha Mukhopadhyay, Senior Fellow of Centre for Policy Research, as other members.

Terms of reference of the Panel

• The panel has been mandated to estimate the financial needs of railways and ensure policies to raise resources, internally and otherwise to meet future demands.
• To suggest ways to reorganize and restructure the Board and subsequently the department so that policy-making and operations are separated.
• It has been asked to look into promoting exchange of officers between railways and other government ministries and departments.
• The panel will also suggest modalities for setting up the Rail Tariff Authority.


The Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget Speech on 10 July 2014 had announced to restructure the railway board to infuse efficiency in the transport behemoth's top decision-making body and run it on professional lines.

Indian Railways works on a top-down hierarchical model. A six-member Railway Board creates, implement and monitor policies in this segment and takes all key decisions.

The railways is categorised into 16 geographical zones, employing about 1.4 million people. It operates on a cadre-based system (mechanical, engineering, electrical departments, etc), with no separation of passenger and freight businesses.

The Railway Board was earlier restructured in 1988. At that time, an additional post of member (electrical) was created, though the structure largely remained the same as that during the British era.


The constitution of Debroy Panel comes in addition to many other expert committees formed in the past to restructure Indian Railways. All the previous committees had suggested restructuring but faced stiff resistance from railway bureaucracy.

The past committees formed were Tandon Committee of 1990's, Rakesh Mohan Committee of 2001, Anil Kakodkar Committee of 2011 and Sam Pitroda Committee of 2012.
The Rakesh Mohan committee of 2001 sought corporatisation of the railways with separate freight and passenger operations.

Sam Pitroda committee sought reorganisation of the Railway Board, with separate members for passenger, freight, technology and business development. It called for scrapping the position of chairman of the Railway Board and replacing it with a chief executive officer.

Other key suggestions of the Pitroda panel included appointment of an ombudsman for all private-public partnership projects.
4.     SBI, ICICI allowed kids to operate bank accounts independently 

Who: State Bank of India (SBI) and Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI)
What: allowed kids to operate bank accounts independently
When: 24 September 2014
State Bank of India (SBI) and Industrial Credit and Investment Corporation of India (ICICI) on 24 September 2014 allowed kids to operate bank accounts independently.

The bank account is available for all kids above 10 who can sign uniformly. A uniform signature is a prerequisite since the banks are not making any allowance in signature variation for children and cheques can be returned where signatures do not match.

On 5 September 2014, SBI had launched new accounts Pehla Kadam and Pehli Udaan for kids.

Now, ICICI Bank has launched Smart Stars account and Federal Bank Limited has Young Champ Account for minors.
Further, ICICI Bank has imposed a debit transaction limit of 50000 rupees annually for minor-operated accounts. If the account is operated with a guardian's consent, the annual limit is enhanced to 2 lakh rupees.

The banks are offering full-fledged services to minors, including photo debit cards and access to mobile and net banking.

These minor-operated accounts were allowed by the Reserve Bank of India in May 2014 to inculcate savings behaviour among the young.

The only condition was that minors should not be given any overdraft or credit facility.
5.    Kuala Lumpur to host ICC WCL Division 3
i. International Cricket Council has announced that ICC World Cricket League, WCL Division 3 will be held in Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur from 23rd to 30th October. 
ii. Uganda was supposed to host the six-team competition from October 26 till November 2. However due to security reasons the event has been shifted to the Malaysian capital. 
iii. ICC Chief Executive David Richardson told in Dubai today that safety and security of players and officials is of utmost importance to the ICC. 
iv. Hence despite the assurances from the Ugandan government and the Uganda Cricket Association, the World Cricket League, division 3 matches have been shifted due to Malaysia due to security reasons. 
v. The six teams competing in the event are Bermuda, Malaysia, Nepal, Singapore, Uganda and the USA.
6.    Asian Games, 2014: India bags Bronze in Rowing
i. On 5th day of Incheon Asian Games, India has bagged a Bronze in Rowing. This was India's 10th Bronze of the Incheon Games. So far, India has got 1 gold, 1 silver and 10 Bronze. India saw Dushyant Dushiant finishing third in the lightweight Men's Single Sculls category of rowing, making it first medal of the day.

7.UN Climate Change Summit 2014 held in New York

Who: UN Climate Change Summit 2014
Where: New York, US
What: Held
When: 23 September 2014

UN Climate Change Summit 2014 was held at UN headquarters in New York on 23 September 2014 to put the planet on course towards reversing global warming.

The purpose of the 2014 Climate Summit was to raise political momentum for a meaningful universal climate agreement in Paris in 2015. Moreover, it aimed to galvanize transformative action in all countries to reduce emissions and build resilience to the adverse impacts of climate change.

It is the largest gathering of world leaders on climate change after the Copenhagen conference on climate change that ended in disarray in 2009. However, absence of leaders of China and India puts the cloud over the event.

Hollywood star Leonardo DiCaprio was also present on the UN summit on climate change.  UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon hosted the summit of all 120 leaders.

Contributions announced by the world leaders in the summit
  • A new coalition of governments, business, finance, multilateral development banks and civil society leaders announced their intent to mobilise over 200 billion US dollars for financing low-carbon and climate-resilient development.
  • Countries strongly reaffirmed their support for mobilising public and private finance to meet the 100 billion US dollar goal per annum by 2020.
  • Leaders expressed strong support for the Green Climate Fund and many called for the Fund’s initial capitalization at an amount no less than 10 billion US dollars. Six others committed to allocate contributions by November 2014.
  • The European Union committed 3 billion US dollars for mitigation efforts in developing countries between 2014 and 2020.
  • The International Development Finance Club (IDFC) announced that it is on track to increase direct green/climate financing to 100 billion US dollars a year for new climate finance activities by the end of 2015.
  • Leading commercial banks announced their plans to issue 30 billion US dollars of Green Bonds by 2015, and announced their intention to increase the amount placed in climate-smart development to 10 times of the current amount by 2020.
  • A coalition of institutional investors committed to decarbonizing 100 billion US dollars by December 2015.
  • The insurance industry committed to double its green investments to 84 billion US dollars by the end of 2015.
  • Three major pension funds from North America and Europe announced plans to accelerate their investments in low-carbon investments across asset classes up to more than 31 billion US dollars by 2020.
UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
The summit talks are separate from the negotiations held under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to negotiate 1997 Kyoto Protocol. UNFCCC will culminate with the Paris conference in December 2015.

8.AAI signed MoU with US Trade & Development Agency

Who: Airports Authority of India
What: Signed MoU with US Trade & Development Agency
When: 23 September 2014

Airports Authority of India (AAI)  on 23 September 2014 signed  a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) agreement with the  US Trade & Development Agency (USTDA).

The agreement was signed for the development of Aviation Security Equipment Testing and Evaluation Programme. This will enable AAI and Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) to create clear standards, specifications and testing procedures in accordance with the Indian standards of aviation security.

The whole procedure will be in alignment with international practices for three types of aviation security equipment. These three equipment are designed to scan carry-on luggage, checked baggage and passengers.

US Trade & Development Agency (USTDA)
  • USTDA is an independent US Government foreign assistance agency that is funded by the US Congress.
  • Its mission is to help companies create US jobs through the export of US goods and services for priority development projects in emerging economies.
  • USTDA provides grant funding to overseas project sponsors for the planning of projects that support the development of modern infrastructure and an open trading system.

9.World population to reach 11 billion by 2100: UN study

Who: World population
What: Will reach 11 billion by 2100 by UN study
When: 18 September 2014

World population will reach 11 billion by 2100 and it was highly unlikely that global population will stabilize by the end of 2100. This was revealed by a UN study titled World population stabilization unlikely this century. The study was published in the online edition of Journal Science on 18 September 2014.

The UN study projected the population growth on basis of data until 2012 and a Bayesian probabilistic methodology. Analysis of these data reveals that, there is an 80 percent probability that world population, now 7.2 billion, will increase to between 9.6 and 12.3 billion in 2100.

Main Highlights
• The World will have 2 billion more people on Earth than expected due to high birth rates in Africa.
• Sub-saharan Africa is anticipated to be the fastest growing region, with population to rise from one billion in 2014 to four billion by 2100.
• There is an 80 percent chance that the population in Africa will be between 3.5 and 5.1 billion people by 2100.
• In Asia the population is projected to peak at around 5 billion people in 2050 and then start decline.
• The North America, Europe, and Latin America and the Caribbean are all expected to be under one billion each.
• The issue of ageing population will also affect countries whose populations are very young today. Brazil, for example, currently has 8.6 people of working age for every person over 65, but that will fall to 1.5 by 2100, well below the current level in Japan. China and India will face the same issue as Brazil.

10.IFC raised 100 million US dollars through Maharaja Bonds

Who: International Finance Corporation
What: Raised 100 million US dollars through Maharaja Bonds
When: 23 September 2014

The International Finance Corporation (IFC) on 23 September 2014 raised 100 million US dollars (600 crore rupees) from international and domestic institutional investors through its first onshore rupee bond named Maharaja Bonds.

This is the first international AAA issuance in India wherein HSBC, ICICI securities, and SBI Caps are the lead- arrangers.

These bonds will be listed on the National Stock Exchange by September 2014.

Characteristic features of the Maharaja Bond
• The Maharaja Bonds were issued under the 2.5 billion US dollars programme of World Bank spread over five years.
• These bonds will help develop infrastructure for the domestic capital markets.
• These bonds offer an innovative structure to attract different types of investors to the domestic capital markets.
• There are four different tranches with different maturities under the same issuance: (i) five-year bullet bond of 25 million US dollar; (ii) ten-year bullet bond of 25 million US dollar; and (iii) two Separately Tradeable Redeemable Principal Parts (STRPPs) with maturities ranging from 13 to 20 years.
• IFC can increase the size of issuance according to its funding needs under the STRPP structure.
• The bonds proceeds issued under STRPP structure will be used for infrastructure investments in India.

On the successful completion of the 2013 global rupee bond programme of the World Bank in early 2014, IFC received a mandate to issue Maharaja Bonds, under the 2.5 billion US dollar programme, over the next five years. Under the programme, launched in 2013, IFC raised 1 billion US dollar in rupee-denominated overseas bonds from investor globally for infrastructure.

About International Finance Corporation
IFC is a member of the World Bank Group established in 1956. It is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries.

IFC has 184 member countries. The aim of IFC is to allow the companies and financial institutions in emerging markets to create jobs, generate tax revenues, improve corporate governance and environmental performance, and contribute to their local communities.

11. 5/20 rule likely to be scrapped by Union government

Who: 5/20 rule prevailing in the Indian aviation industry
What: Union government is thinking to scrap the rule

5/20 Rule: On the verge of being scrapped
5/20 rule prevailing in the Indian aviation industry was in news recently Union government is thinking to scrap the rule fulfilling the demand of few private airlines who were asking to relax the rule.

As per the 5/20 rule, a carrier must be five-year-old and have at least 20 aircraft in its fleet before being allowed to fly abroad.

The UPA-II Government had initiated the process of scrapping 5/20 rule but could not finish the task. Now, the new government called a meet of CEO of all the Indian Airlines to look into the issue.

During the Meeting, the four airlines i.e. Air India, Jet, IndiGo and SpiceJet sought retention of the 5/20 rule whereas the new airlines of Tatas, one with Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia and other with Singapore Airlines, sought removal of this rule.

12. German Embassy organised Ehsaas-e-Kashmir concert to raise funds for the Valley

Who: Ehsaas-e-Kashmir concert
Where: in New Delhi
What: a concert organsied by German Embassy
When: 23 September 2014
Why: to raise funds for the flood affected Valley
Ehsaas-e-Kashmir: a concert organised by German Embassy to raise funds for the Valley
German Embassy of India on 23 September 2014 organised a concert for Kashmir named Ehsaas-e-Kashmir to show solidarity with the people of Kashmir and raise funds for rehabilitation and relief work of Kashmir’s who were affected by the floods.

The concert was organsied at the residence of German Ambassador to India, Michael Steiner. The performers of the concert were Kashmiri musicians Bhajan Sopori and Abhay Sopori along with their team. The music presented had Sufi elements and was mixed with a bit of folk.

Apart from this, the German Embassy had given 25 lakh rupees for basic healthcare in Kashmir in cooperation with German doctors, who are working in the region as a part of an NGO. The Embassy has also set up a special bank account for those who wish to donate.

13. Merck KGaA announced to acquire US based Sigma-Aldrich for 17 billion US dollar

Who: Drugs and chemicals maker Merck KGaA
What: announced to acquire U.S. based Sigma-Aldrich Company for 17 billion US dollar
When: 22 September 2014
Why: to boost its lab supplies business
Drugs and chemicals maker Merck KGaA on 22 September 2014 announced to acquire U.S. based Sigma-Aldrich Company for 17 billion US dollar in cash to boost its lab supplies business.

The deal is the biggest ever takeover in the German group's history. The deal will help Merck to focus on supplying major pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions with chemicals and services.

The deal will see Merck acquire all shares for 140 US dollar a piece in cash. Further, the deal was approved by Sigma-Aldrich's management and needed approval from more than 50 percent of the target's shareholders.
Sigma is the world's largest supplier of biochemicals and organic chemicals to research laboratories.

Sigma provides big pharma groups including Pfizer and Novartis with lab substances such as cell culture substrates.
 It also makes high-purity inorganic chemicals for the high-tech sector and food and beverage testing products.


Merck's new Merck Millipore lab supplies business would gain more exposure in North America, which accounts for half of the world's life science market, and to Asia's emerging markets, taking on global players such as Thermo Fisher.

14. Govind Mishra received Saraswati Samman 2013 for novel Dhool Paudhon Par

Who: Govind Mishra
Where: in New Delhi
What: received Saraswati Samman 2013
When: 24 September 2014
Why: for his novel Dhool Paudhon Par

Govind Mishra, the renowned Hindi author was given the Saraswati Samman in New Delhi on 23 September 2014. He was given the Samman by Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh for his novel Dhool Paudhon Par that was published in 2008.

Govind Mishra is the second Hindi author to be conferred with this honour after Harivansh Rai Bachchan in 1991 for his autobiography in four volumes in Hindi.

About novel Dhoop Paudhon Par

The novel illustrates the struggle of modern Indian women and carries an artistic blend of reality and romance. It is a novel that can be read both for the realistic portrayal of the plight of Indian women in modern times and for a love story also.

About Govind Mishra

• Mishra was born on 1 August 1939 in Atarra of Banda, Uttar Pradesh
• He completed his BA and MA (English) at the University of Allahabad
• In 1962, he was selected for the Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax) where he attained the post of Chairman, Central Board of direct taxes and retired from his office in 1997
• Post retirement, he dedicated himself solely for the literary pursuits in Bhopal

Published works of Mishra includes
• 11 novels
• 14 short story collections that contains 100 stories
• Five travelogues
• Five collections of literary essays
• One poem collection
• 2 story books for children

His first novel was Wo Apna Chehra and was published in 1969 and the much talked novel was Lal Peeli Zameen published in 1976.

Govind Mishra is a recipient of several awards that includes
• Vyas Samman (1998)
• Sahitya Akademi Award (2008)
• Bharat-Bharti Samman (2011)

About Saraswati Samman
Saraswati Samman is an annual award that is given in recognition of outstanding prose or poetry literary works in Indian languages that are listed in Schedule VIII of the constitution of India. This Samman is given for the literary works of last 10 years. The award was established in 1991 by K. K. Birla Foundation and carries a prize amount of 10 lakh rupees along with a certificate.

The KK Birla Foundation has instituted three awards in the field of literature. These are Saraswati Samman, Vyas Samman (for Hindi) and Bihari Puraskar (for Hindi and Rajasthani writers of Rajasthan).

On 2 August 2013 the Saraswati Samman 2012 was given to Sugathakumari, the Malayalam poetess for Manalezhuthu (the Writings on the Sand), a collection of poems in Malayalam.

15. PM Narendra Modi inaugurated India Food Park in Tumkur

Who: Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Where: Karnataka
What: inaugurated India Food Park
When: 24 September 2014
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 September 2014 inaugurated India Food Park at Tumkur in Karnataka. Through this park, Indian farmers will get access to global markets.

The motive behind setting up the park is to empower the farmers by facilitating value addition through creation of appropriate infrastructure including rural connectivity, storage and warehousing.

Moreover, Food Processing Ministry will approve 17 such food parks across the country over the next few months attracting investments of about 2100 crore rupees. Each park is estimated to attract a minimum investment of about 125 crore rupees.

About the India Food Park
•    The food park is a public private partnership programme of the Union ministry of food processing industries.
•    The food park is an initiative of Future Group chief Kishore Biyani. The Future Group invested 140 crore rupees for its construction and another 120 crore rupees will be invested before it is fully commissioned.
•    Karnataka government has allotted the land under the Karnataka Industrial Areas Development Board (KIADB).
•    The park will provide infrastructure facilities for food processing along the value chain from the farm to the market.
•    This 110 acre park will be equipped with 60 medium-sized food processing units that make ready-to-eat products. Moreover, there will also be in-house pulping, milling, flouring, spice and dal units.