WBCS Current Affairs 11th November to 17th November 2017
3) The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs had organised Hunar Haat at India International Trade Fair (IITF) at Pragati Maidan, New Delhi. It displayed exquisite pieces of handicraft and handloom prepared by master artisans from across the country. Hunar Haat: The Union Ministry of Minority Affairs is organising Hunar Haat under Upgrading the Skills & Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development (USTTAD) scheme at different parts of country. It has become successful mission to provide employment and employment opportunities and national as well international markets for thousands of master artisans, craftsmen and culinary experts. It has provided platform to master artisans and craftsmen to display their rich heritage and skills. It is also providing domestic and international markets to these artisans and craftsmen. USTTAD scheme: USTTAD scheme of Ministry of Minority Affairs aims at preserving and promoting the rich heritage of traditional arts & crafts of the Minority communities. In light of globalisation & competitive market, these crafts have gradually lost their employability. It also envisages at boosting skill of craftsmen, weavers and artisans who are already engaged in traditional ancestral work.
4) The Petroleum Ministry in consultation with Public Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) has decided for preponement of BS-VI grade auto fuels in National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi from 1st April 2018 instead of 1st April 2020. This decision was taken into account the serious pollution levels in Delhi and adjoining areas and as part of government’s concerted efforts to reduce vehicular emissions and improve fuel efficiency with an aim to reduce the carbon footprints and keep a healthy environment. Bharat Stage Norms: Bharat stage norms are emission standards instituted by Government to regulate output of air pollutants from internal combustion engine equipment, including motor vehicles. The standards and timeline for implementation are set by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) under Ministry of Environment & Forests and climate change. The standards are based on European regulations and were first introduced in 2000. Since then, various stages Bharat Stage compatible fuel and ungraded and modified vehicles were introduced throughout the country. The harmful emissions that are identified for regulations in different Bharat Stages (BS) are carbon monoxide (CO), unburnt hydrocarbons (HC), Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) and Particulate matter (PM). Each stage specifies a certain limit on the pollutants released, Higher the Bharat Stage goes lesser it emits pollutants. BS-I, BS-II and BS-III stages were launched in 2000, 2005 and 2010 respectively. BS VI Norms: The BS-IV compliant fuels have Sulphur concentration of 50 parts per million (ppm). It will come down to 10 ppm in BS-VI compliant fuels and auto engines. It will result in lower level of harmful emissions and reduced incidence of lung diseases. Moreover, switch to BS-VI norms will also reduce concentration of carbon monoxide (CO), unburnt hydrocarbons, nitrous oxide (NOx) and particulate matter from emissions.
5) RBI Governor Urjit Patel was appointed to Financial Stability Institute Advisory Board (FSAB) or Bank of International Settlement (BIS). BIS is international financial organisation owned by 60 member central banks across world. The Financial Stability Institute (FSI) of BIS assists financial sector authorities worldwide in strengthening their financial systems. Since beginning of 2017, FSI has been implementing new strategy that includes achieving closer interaction with central banks and financial supervisory agencies. FSI Advisory Board: The FSI was jointly established by BIS and the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision in 1998. Its mandate is to promote cross- sectoral and cross-border supervisory contacts and cooperation. The advisory Board will provide strategic advice to help FSI continue to meet its mandate in way that is responsive to changing needs of its key stakeholders around the world. It will comprise small diverse group of central bank Governors, heads of financial sector supervision and chairs of standard-setting bodies and regional supervisory groups. Bank for International Settlements (BIS): BIS is international financial organisation owned by 60 member central banks, representing countries from around the world including India. It fosters international monetary and financial cooperation and serves as bank for central banks. It carries out its work through its meetings, programmes and through Basel Process – hosting international groups pursuing global financial stability and facilitating their interaction. Its headquarter is in Basel, Switzerland.
6) India Road Assessment Programme (IndiaRAP) was unveiled by Global Charity to rate highways’ safety levels and to eliminate the most unsafe roads. It aims to make Indian roads safer and curb fatalities. Since 2010, teams from global organisation have already undertaken star rating assessments on more than 10,000 km of roads across several states in India. Key Facts: The IndiaRAP programme is supported by FedEx Express and will be hosted by Asian Institute of Transport Development. It will work with government agencies as well as investors, researchers and NGOs to assess existing highways and promote use of better design to make roads safer. The IndiaRAP ratings will range from five-star roads (safest) to one-star roads (least safe). The ratings are assigned on the basis of level of safety which is ‘built-in’ to a road for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians.
7) The Union Ministry of Power launched National Power Portal (NPP), a Centralized Platform for Collation and Dissemination of Indian power sector information. The system has been conceptualized, designed and developed by National Informatics Centre (NIC). It can be accessed at http://npp.gov.in. Central Electricity Authority (CEA) is nodal agency for implementation and operational control of NPP. National Power Portal (NPP): NPP is centralised system for Indian Power Sector. It will facilitate online data capture, input (daily, monthly, annually) from generation, transmission and distribution utilities in country. It will also disseminate Power Sector Information (operational, capacity, demand, supply, consumption etc) through various analysed reports, graphs, statistics for generation, transmission and distribution at all India, state, regional level for central, state and private sector. NPP is integrated with associated systems of CEA, Power Finance Corporation (PFC), Rural Electrification Corporation (REC) and other major utilities. It will serve as single authentic source of power sector information to apex bodies, utilities for purpose of analysis and planning, monitoring and for public users. The NPP Dashboard has been designed and developed to disseminate analyzed information about sector through Geographic Information System (GIS) enabled navigation and visualization chart windows on capacity, generation, transmission, distribution at national, state, DISCOM, town, feeder level and scheme based funding to states. The Dashboard will act as single point interface for all Power Sector applications launched previously by Power Ministry like TARANG, UJALA, GARV, URJA, VIDYUT PRAVAH, MERIT. The system will be available 24×7 and ensures effective and timely collection of data. It will standardized data parameters and formats for seamless exchange of data between NPP and respective systems at utilities.
8) Search engine giant Google doodle celebrated the 151st birthday of Cornelia Sorabji, the first woman to practice law in India and England. She was pioneer who helped open up higher education as well as the legal profession to women. She was first woman to graduate in law from India as early as 1892 and first Indian national to attend British University. Cornelia Sorabji: Cornelia was born on November 15, 1866 in Nashik in the erstwhile Bombay Presidency of colonial India.She was the first woman to study law at Oxford University and Bombay University.In India, she took the LLB exams under the Bombay University to get law degree, one which she was denied in Oxford. She was first woman to practice law in India and England. Her career in law was not free from trials and tribulations. She was barred from practising her profession in both Britain and India. Even after clearing the law examination in Allahabad High Court in 1899, she was not acknowledged as barrister. Her contributions include: She took cause of purdahnashins, veiled women who were forbidden to interact with men outside their families. She helped widowed purdahnashins get their rightful share of the property, helped them pursue education and secure employment. She succeeded in pursuing the government to appoint Lady Assistants to the courts to help women litigants. Autobiographies: She had published two autobiographies viz. India Calling: The Memories of Cornelia Sorabji, India Recalled, a biography of her parents. She died on July 6, 1954.
9) The Union Government launched BHARAT-22 Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) managed by ICICI Prudential Mutual Fund targeting an initial amount of about Rs. 8,000 Crore. Bharat 22 Index comprise of 22 stocks including those of central public sector enterprises (CPSEs), public sector banks (PSBs) and its holdings under the Specified Undertaking of Unit Trust of India (SUUTI). Key Facts: ETF has been created Index S&P BSE BHARAT-22 INDEX. It is unique blend of shares of key CPSEs, Public Sector Banks (PSBs) and also Government owned shares in blue chip private companies. It is well-diversified ETF spanning six sectors — basic materials, energy, finance, industrials, FMCG and utilities with a 20% cap on each sector and a 15% cap on each stock. The sector wise weightage in the Bharat 22 Index is basic materials (4.4%), energy (17.5%), finance (20.3%), FMCG (15.2%), industrials (22.6%), and utilities (20%). This combination makes the Index broad-based and diversified. It has retirement fund as separate category of Investors. The banking segment includes stocks from State Bank of India (SBI), Axis Bank, Bank of Baroda (BoB), Indian Bank, Rural Electrification Corporation and Power Finance Corporation. The energy segment includes Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC), Indian Oil Corporation (IOC), Bharat Petroleum (BP), and Coal India. The BHARAT-22 ETF is expected to benefit long term and retail investors by providing an opportunity of participation in equity stocks of Government run companies and earn stable returns. It will help to speed up Government’s disinvestment programme budgeted to raise a record Rs 72,500 crore in the FY 2018. Exchange Traded Fund (ETF): ETF is index funds that offer the security of a fund and liquidity of stock listed and traded on exchanges. Much like index funds they mirror the index, commodity, bonds or basket of assets. They are similar to mutual funds in a certain manner but are more liquid as they can be sold quickly on stock exchanges like shares. The ETFs trading value is based on the net asset value of the underlying stocks that it represents. Their price changes daily as they are traded throughout the day.
10) The 15th Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team (APCERT) Conference was held in New Delhi. It is first ever conference to be held in India and South Asia. It was organised by Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) under the aegis of Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology. Key Facts: The theme of conference was “Building Trust in the Digital Economy”. 300 delegates from 21 economies especially from Asia Pacific region, USA, Europe, Industry, Academia, Government and Media attended the conference. This conference covered contemporary topics around strategies of CERTs, Technology and Instruments for building trust in digitally evolving economies and best practices for handling cyber security in mobile and social media. Asia Pacific Computer Emergency Response Team (APCERT): APCERT is coalition of CERTs (Computer Emergency Response Team) and CSIRTs (Computer Security Incident Response Teams) located in Asia Pacific region. It operational mandate is to contribute to the Internet security with in the region, based on information sharing, trust and cooperation. Currently, APCERT consists of 30 Operational Members from 21 economies and 3 Supporting Members. It aims to help create a safe, clean and reliable cyber space in the Asia Pacific Region through global collaboration.
11) The 10th South Asia Economic Summit (SAES-2017) was held in Kathmandu, Nepal with theme “Deepening Economic Integration for Inclusive and Sustainable Development in South Asia”. The 3-day summit was organised by National Planning Commission and Ministry of Commerce of Nepal and South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment, Nepal. Key Facts: Approx 200 participants including ministers, members of parliament, former MPs, ambassadors, government officials, researchers, eminent experts and thinkers will attend the summit. The summit is a regional platform for discussing and analyzing economic and development issues and challenges faced by South Asian countries and advancing the cause of regional integration and cooperation. South Asia Economic Summit: South Asia Economic Summit is like Davos- World Economic Forum event in South Asia. It was started in 2008. It brings together stakeholders from government, research, private sector, academics and civil society to generate innovative and actionable ideas for consideration by region’s policymakers and SAARC.
12) The Governments of Odisha and neighbouring West Bengal conducted joint security exercise named ‘Sagar Kavach’ to further tighten the existing coastal security mechanism along the 630 km long coastline. It was security exercise to check efficacy of security parameters and preparedness of various security forces like Indian Navy, Marine police force, Indian Coast Guard (ICG), Forest Department, Fisheries and district administration. Key Facts: In the exercise, they had organised simulated terror attack named ‘red force’ at random place along Odisha or West Bengal coast and check effectiveness of marine policing. The participants in drill were personnel from Indian Navy, ICG at Paradip and Haldia, 18 marine police stations in Odisha and 12 police stations of West Bengal. Moreover, teams of Customs and port officials, fisheries department officials will also take part in the drill. The drill re-valuated xisting Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) mechanisms.
13) India’s first Tribal Entrepreneurship Summit was organised at Dantewada in Bastar region of Chhattisgarh. The summit is part of 8th Global Entrepreneurship Summit being held in India. The event was organized by National Institute of Transforming India (NITI) Aayog in partnership with Government of United States of America (USA). Key Facts: Tribal Entrepreneurship Summit in Dantewada was organised with motive to inspire, nurture and promote spirit of entrepreneurship in tribal youth. It aims to ensure another step towards tribal-centric sustainable and inclusive development. The summit saw participation of tribal entrepreneurs from various sectors across country and abroad. It was addressed by eminent speakers from NITI Aayog, health and agri-pharma sectors. The summit not only provided platform to tribal youth but also addressed issues faced by tribal community in pragmatic and progressive ways.
14) India and Philippines have signed four agreements in areas of defence, agriculture, small and medium enterprises and tie-up between think-tanks. The defence agreement is to have private and public enterprises to cooperate in the defence sector, including on the off-shore patrolling vessels. These agreements were signed after bilateral meetings between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in Manila on sidelines of the ASEAN and related summits that are underway in Philippines capital. It was first bilateral visit by Indian PM to Philippines in 36 years after visit of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1981, though Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had visited the southeast Asian country in 2007 for ASEAN summit. Highlights Visit: PM Modi contributed two Indian rice seed varieties to gene bank of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Philippines which is working towards mitigating global poverty and hunger by improving cultivation of key grain. He also visited IRRI in Los Banos, an urban locality around 65 km from Manila and interacted with several Indian scientists working there. He also inaugurated ‘rice field laboratory’ named after him as Narendra Modi Resilient Rice Field Laboratory.
15) The 37th India International Trade Fair (IITF) was held at Pragati Maidan in New Delhi. The 14-day annual event was inaugurated by President Ram Nath Kovind. It is organised by India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO). The theme of fair is “Startup India Standup India”. Vietnam is partner country, while Kyrgyzstan is focus country for this edition of fair. Jharkhand is participating as partner state in the event. Key Facts: As many as 7,000 participants from 22 countries will showcase their products ranging from electronics to textiles. Thirty-two of India’s states and Union territories will be also represented. Institutions that will be participate range from self-help groups to big business houses, and from small and medium manufacturing enterprises (SMEs) to digital start-ups. This year number of business days have been reduced from five to four days to accommodate more visitors from general public during the fair. India Trade Promotion Organisation (ITPO): It is the nodal agency of the Government of India under aegis of Ministry of Commerce and Industry for promoting country’s external trade. It is Mini-Ratna Category-1 Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) with 100% shareholding of Government. It is headquartered at Pragati Maidan.
16) The Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports released India Youth Development Index (IYDI) and Report 2017 to track the trends in Youth Development across the States. The Index has been developed by Rajiv Gandhi National Institute of Youth Development (RGNIYD), Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu. Key Facts: The India Youth Development Index will enable to recognize high and low performing states, identify weak domains and inform the policy makers the priority areas of intervention for youth development in the states. It was constructed using latest definition of youth as used in National Youth Policy 2014 and World Youth Development Report of Commonwealth (15–29 years) as well as using the Commonwealth Indicators in order to facilitate Global comparison. In IYDI 2017, the first five dimensions are retained same as that of Global YDI. The indicators and weights were modified based on availability of data at sub-national level and importance of indicators in explaining Youth Development with the aim of capturing the multidimensional properties that indicate progress in youth development at state level. Significance: YDI for India adds a new domain, social inclusion to assess inclusiveness of societal progress as structural inequalities persist in Indian society. Its construction will help to identify gaps that require intensification of policy intervention. The index also measures achievements made besides serving as advocacy tool for youth development and facilitates to identify priority areas for development of Policy and Interventions. Besides, the report has immense value to enable comparisons across geographical areas and categories as human development index (HDI) has done in comparing development situation across regions, nations and localities. As an effective decision support tool, YDI-2017 will enable policy makers track national and regional progress as well setbacks in youth development policies, planning, priority identification and implementation strategies. It will also provide insights to suggest alternatives and options and also aid in judicious allocation of resources.
17) The World Diabetes Day was observed every year across the world on 14 November to raise awareness about diabetes. Observance of day aims to pursue multilateral efforts to promote and improve human health and provide access to health-care treatment and education. The theme for year 2017 is “Women and diabetes – Our right to a healthy future’. It aims to promote affordable access to essential diabetes medicines and technologies for all women with diabetes to achieve optimal diabetes outcomes and strengthen their capacity to prevent type 2 diabetes. Women and Diabetes: Diabetes is ninth leading cause of death in women globally, causing 2.1 million deaths each year. Currently, there are over 199 million women living with diabetes and it is projected to increase to 313 million by 2040. Two out of every five women with diabetes are of reproductive age which accounts for over 60 million women worldwide. Women with diabetes have more difficulty conceiving and may have poor pregnancy outcomes. Background: The World Diabetes Day was instituted by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in 2007 by passing resolution A/RES/61/225. The resolution had encouraged Member States to develop national policies for prevention, treatment and care of diabetes. Diabetes: Diabetes is a chronic, progressive non-communicable disease (NCD) characterized by elevated levels of blood sugar (blood glucose). It occurs when (i) the pancreas does not produce enough of the insulin hormone, which regulates blood sugar (ii) the body cannot effectively use the insulin it produces. Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t make enough insulin, and type 2 diabetes occurs when the body doesn’t make or use insulin very well, causing glucose to remain in the blood, which can lead to serious problems.
18) The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided not to pursue a proposal to introduce Islamic banking in India. Decision in this regard was taken after considering wider and equal opportunities available to all citizens to access banking and financial services. Islamic banking: Islamic banking is banking or banking activity that is consistent with the principles of sharia and its practical application through the development of Islamic economics. Sharia prohibits the fixed or floating payment or acceptance of specific interest of fee for loan of money. It is different from regular banking in that it prohibits earning of interest (or riba) through the business of lending. Background: The proposal to introduce Islamic banking was first made in 2008 by a committee on financial sector reforms chaired by former RBI Governor Raghuram Rajan. The committee had recommended that interest-free banking techniques should be operated on larger scale to give access to those who are unable to access banking services, including those belong to economically disadvantaged section of society. The 2015 World Bank report estimates Sharia-compliant financial assets to be in range of US 2 trillion dollars, covering bank and non-bank financial institutions, capital markets, money markets and insurance. The Islamic Finance Industry is expanding at rate of 10%-12% annually.
19) The India Expert Advisory Group on Measles & Rubella (IEAG-MR) has commended India on progress of measles and rubella vaccination campaign. It reviewed existing strategies and efforts towards measles elimination and control of rubella. It concluded that India is on the right track. IEAG-MR as advised for MCV (measles containing vaccine) to cover whole country by 2018. Presently, 13 states have been covered by the vaccination campaign. MR vaccination campaign: The campaign is largest ever in any campaign against MR, targeting around 41 crore children across country. Under it, children are given single shot of MR vaccination free-of cost irrespective of their previous vaccination status or disease status. The target group covered under it are all children aged between 9 months and less than 15 years. Two doses of Measles vaccine fully protect children against measles infection. In past while the first dose coverage was close to 90% and 2nd dose lagged behind by 45%. Measles and Rubella: Measles is a deadly disease and one of the important causes of death in children. It is highly contagious and spreads through coughing and sneezing of an infected person. Measles can make a child vulnerable to life threatening complications such as pneumonia, diarrhoea and brain infection. Globally, in 2015, measles killed an estimated 1, 34,200 children—mostly under-5 years. In India, it killed an estimated 49,200 children. Rubella is generally a mild infection, but has serious consequences if infection occurs in pregnant women, causing congenital rubella syndrome (CRS), which is a cause of public health concern. CRS is characterized by congenital anomalies in the foetus and newborns affecting the eyes (glaucoma, cataract), ears (hearing loss), brain (microcephaly, mental retardation) and heart defects, causing a huge socio-economic burden on the families in particular and society in general.
20) As per study published by researchers at University of Maryland, US, India is overtaking China to become world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic Sulphur Dioxide (SO2). SO2 is an air pollutant that causes acid rain, haze and many health-related problems. It is produced predominantly during burning of coal to generate electricity and vehicular emissions. Key Highlights of study: Researchers had combined emissions data generated by using two different methods in order to generate an accurate profile of emissions over India and China. The first method is based on collection of estimated emission amounts from inventories of number of factories, power plants, automobiles and other contributors to SO2 emissions. The second method is based on data obtained from Ozone Monitoring Instrument (OMI) on NASA’s Aura satellite, which detects a variety of atmospheric pollutants including sulphur dioxide. India’s emissions of SO2 has increased by 50% since 2007 India opened its largest coal-fired power plant in 2012 and has yet to implement emission controls, while China’s fell by 75%. The rapid decrease of emissions in China far exceeds expectations and projections. It can be attributed to emission control measures undertaken by China. While, India is yet to implement emission control measures. China and India are world’s top consumers of coal, which typically contains up to 3% sulphur. The SO2 emissions are generally product of coal-fired power plants and coal-burning factories. Beijing, China’s capital suffers severe haze problems due to coal-burning factories and power plants. India’s increased SO2 emissions are not causing as health or haze problems as in China because largest emission sources are not in most densely populated area of India. However, with growing demand for electricity in India, impact may worsen.
21) The Indian Railways has launched Project Saksham, country’s largest time-bound “upskilling” exercise for its employees to boost their efficiency. Project Saksham aims to upgrade the skillsets of 13 lakh-strong workforce of Indian Railways with a single drive spanning nine months. It will start in January 2018 and go on till September 2018. Need: Indian Railways is constantly getting bad publicity on account of derailments, accidents, poor services and inefficiency of its employees. The mass skilling exercise aims for image makeover of Indian Railways by increasing the productivity and efficiency of its employees. Key Facts: Under Project Saksham, over the next one year, all employees in each zone will be put through a week’s training in skills and knowledge relevant to their work area. It will be a five-day-on-the-job or classroom training in Railway Training Centres, depending on the nature of their employment. The nature of short-duration training will range from refresher courses, with eye on evolved global practices in respective areas, to skills in existing lining of functioning. Employees from rank of a peon to higher echelons of Railway Board Members will undergo the training.
22) Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated rice field laboratory named after him International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Banos in Philippines during his three-day visit to attend ASEAN-India and East Asia summits. India is setting up regional centre of IRRI in Varanasi to develop high-yielding rice varieties to increase farmers’ income by enhancing and supporting rice productivity, reducing cost of production, value addition, diversification and enhancement of farmers’ skills. International Rice Research Institute (IRRI): IRRI is international agricultural research and training organization known for its work in developing rice varieties that contributed to Green Revolution in 1960s. It was established in 1960 and has offices in 17 countries. It aims to reduce poverty and hunger, improve health of rice farmers and consumers, and ensure environmental sustainability of rice farming. IRRI is one of 15 agricultural research centres in world that form CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research centres, a global partnership of organizations engaged in research on food security. It is also the largest non-profit agricultural research centres in Asia. Large number of Indian scientists are working in IRRI.
23) The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development will celebrate Child Rights Week (Hausla 2017) from 16th to 20th November, 2017. In India, Children’s Day is celebrated on 14 November and International Child Rights Day is celebrated on 20 November every year. The period between these two important events will be celebrated as Child Rights Week by WCD Ministry). Key Facts: The commemoration of “Hausala 2017” festival will provide an occasion to showcase talents of children from Child Care Institutions (CCIs) from various child care institutions across country and provide them space to express their dreams and aspiration. Under this festival, children will participate in various events like Bal Sansad, athletics meet, painting competition, football, chess competition and speech writing.
24) Former French Culture Minister Audrey Azoulay (45) was appointed as Director General of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). She replaces outgoing DG Irina Bokova. She is the 11th Director-General of UNESCO and the second woman to occupy this position. She is also first Jewish Director of UNESCO. Audrey Azoulay: Azoulay was born on 4 August 1972 in Paris toMoroccan Jewish family from Essaouira. She is the daughter of Andre Azoulay, an adviser to king Mohammed VI of Morocco. She had earned master’s degree in management sciences from Paris Dauphine University in 1994 and master’s degree in business administration from Lancaster University. She also studied at Sciences Po and École nationale d’administration (ENA). She was France’s Minister of Culture from February 2016 to May 2017. United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO): UNESCO is UN organization that helps preserve historical and cultural sites worldwide. It is special multi-country agency, formed in 1945 and based in France. It promotes literacy and sex education as well as improving gender equality in countries around world. It is also known for recognising world heritage sites and work to preserve cultural and heritage sites such as ancient ruins, villages and temples, and historic sites.
25) The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit was held in Da Nang, Vietnam. The theme of summit was ‘Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future’. Leaders of 21 Pacific Rim countries attended this meeting. This was second time Vietnam hosted APEC summit, having hosted the event previously in 2006. Next year’s APEC summit will be held in Papua New Guinea. Key Highlights of Summit: The summit laid emphasis on collaborative activity, such as provision of support for small businesses, promoting sustainable growth and deepening economic integration. US and China, two economic powers in the region held opposing views on deepening economic integration. China expressed support to further globalisation, US called for support to ‘fair trade’. Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC ): It is regional economic forum of 21 Pacific Rim member economies that promotes free trade throughout the Asia-Pacific region. These 21 member countries collectively account for nearly 50% of world’s trade and about 57% of GDP. It was established in 1989 in order to leverage growing interdependence of Asia-Pacific region’s economies and promote free trade in the region. Its headquarters are in Singapore. 21 Members Economies: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, United States, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Chile, Peru, Russian and Vietnam. India is observer of APEC since 2011 and has applied for membership.
26) Ace Indian cueist Pankaj Advani won 2017 IBSF World Billiards Championship held at Doha. In the final match, he defeated Mike Russell of England 6-2 to defend the 150-up format title which he had won in Bengaluru in 2016. In the semi-finals, he had defeated fellow Indian Rupesh Shah by 5-2 score, while Mike Russell got the better of Singapore’s Peter Gilchrist 5-1. It was Pankaj Advani’s overall 17th world title. He is winner of maximum number of world titles in any sport by an Indian. Pankaj Advani: He is Indian professional player of English billiards and a former professional snooker player. He is only player in the world to win world titles in all formats of both, Billiards and Snooker. He is the first cueist in the world to win the Grand double three times in 2005 and 2008 respectively. In recognition of his achievements in sports, Union Government has bestowed several awards upon him including Arjuna Award (2004), Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna (2006) and Padma Shri (2009).
27) The World Pneumonia Day is observed globally every year on November 12 to generate awareness about the ‘pneumonia’ disease. The observance of day aims to highlight the severity of pneumonia and bring together the people from all over the world to promote the prevention and treatment of the disease. Significance of Day: Raise awareness about pneumonia, the world’s leading killer of children under age of five. Promote interventions to protect against, prevent and treat pneumonia and Generate action to combat pneumonia. Background: The World Pneumonia Day was first observed in 2009 after more than 100 organisations joined together form Global Coalition against Child Pneumonia. At present, global coalition comprises of over 140 NGOs, academic institutions, government agencies and foundations. Pneumonia: Pneumonia is a form of acute respiratory infection that affects the lungs. It is caused by inflammation of the airspaces in the lungs. Lungs are made up of small sacs called alveoli, which fill with air when healthy person breathes. When an individual has pneumonia, alveoli are filled with pus and fluid, which makes breathing painful and limits oxygen intake. It is caused by number of infectious agents, including viruses, bacteria and fungi. The most common are Streptococcus pneumoniae (most common cause of bacterial pneumonia in children), Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) (second most common cause of bacterial pneumonia), Respiratory syncytial virus is most common viral cause of pneumonia. Vaccinations are available against several common organisms that are known to cause pneumonia. Besides, antibiotics can also treat pneumonia by controlling the bacterial or fungal infection.
28) Haryana became India’s first state to treat Hepatitis-C patients of all categories through oral medicine. This is for first time, state government has included oral medicine in government hospitals. This oral medicine will be provided free of cost for permanent residents of all categories at the district level. The medicine and treatment costs about Rs 28,000 to Rs 30,000 in market, but state government will provide it free. Hepatitis: Hepatitis is a medical condition in which there occurs inflammation of liver cells and its complications vary with type of infection. There are 5 types of hepatitis viz. A, B, C, D and E. Each type is caused by a different hepatitis virus. It is mostly caused by a group of viruses called hepatitis viruses and also be caused by intoxicants like drugs, alcohol, chemicals and other infections and autoimmune diseases. The disease mostly spreads through infection and blades used by barbers were also responsible for this.
29) Urdu was declared second official language in Telangana. It was announced by Telangana Chief Minister K Chandrashekhar Rao in the state Assembly. Every office in the state will now have an Urdu speaking officer. State government will appoint Urdu officers in all offices over next 60 days to receive petitions from public and reply them in Urdu. Apart from this, all competitive examinations in the state will also be conducted in Urdu. Constitutional provision of Official Language: Article 345 of the Constitution deals with Official language or languages of a state which empowers state legislature to adopt ‘any one or more of the languages in use in the State or Hindi as the language or languages to be used for all or any of the official purposes’ of the concerned State.
30) The Union Cabinet approved continuation and restructuring of National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP). The programme will cover all the Rural Population across the country. The purpose of continuation and restructuring is to make it outcome-based, competitive and better monitored with increased focus on sustainability of schemes to ensure good quality service delivery to rural population. National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP): NRDWP will be continued co-terminus with 14th Finance Commission cycle till March 2020. It will enable the country to reach the goal of increasing coverage of sustainable Piped Water Supply. A sum of Rs. 23,050 crore has been approved for the programme. Its focus will be on piped water supply, increase level of service delivery, thrust on coverage of water quality affected habitations, coverage of Open Defecation Free (ODF) declared villages, Integrated Action Plan (IAP) districts, Border Out Posts (BOP) with piped water supply and Institutional set up for proper O&M of water supply assets etc. The restructuring will make programme flexible, result-oriented, competitive, and will enable the Ministry towards to reach the goal of increasing coverage of sustainable Piped Water Supply. Background: The NRDWP is a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with major emphasis on ensuring sustainability (source) of water availability in terms of potability, adequacy, convenience, affordability and equity. It was launched in 2009. It has provision of 50: 50 fund sharing between Centre and the States. The aim and objective of NRDWP is to provide every rural person with adequate safe water for drinking, cooking and other basic domestic needs on sustainable basis. Under it water will be supplied with minimum quality standard, which is conveniently accessible at all times and in all situations.
31) The Union New and Renewable Energy Ministry has commissioned 1.5 MW Small Hydro Power (SHP) Plant in Biaras Drass, Kargil area of Jammu & Kashmir. It is first project to be commissioned under Prime Minister’s Ladakh Renewable Energy Initiative. Key Facts: The Biaras SHP project was developed by Kargil Renewable Energy Development Agency (KREDA) under Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC). It will power Drass town in Kargil, which is one of coldest places in India. Power from it will be sufficient to meet normal power requirement of about 1000 families, which would make them comfortable in extreme winter season. Such projects will be able to replace use of diesel to great extent at least for about 8 months in year and reduce greenhouse emissions in region. Prime Minister’s Ladakh Renewable Energy Initiative: It aims to minimize dependence on diesel in Ladakh region to meet power requirement by diverting to local renewable sources. The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy is implementing project. The approach is to meet power requirements through small/micro hydel and solar photovoltaic power projects and use solar thermal systems for water heating/space heating/cooking requirements. It also envisages setting up of 10 solar photovoltaic power plants in defence establishments.
32) The Second Meeting of Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister (EAC-PM) has spelt out ‘clear road map’ for government to ramp up job creation and infrastructure financing avenues while investing more resources in health, education and skill development. The meeting was chaired by Dr. Bibek Debroy, Member NITI Aayog. Key Facts: The deliberations of EAC-PM took stock of economic and social analysis done by theme groups and evolving initiatives led by different Members. It identified key issues, strategies and recommended interventions in respect of these themes. EAC-PM spelt out clear road map for stepping up skill development, job creation; enhanced resource investment in social sector- including for Health and Education and for boosting Infrastructure financing. It formulated far reaching recommendations to guide evolving framework for 15th Finance Commission, including incentivization of states for achieving Health, Education and Social Inclusion outcomes. It is also evolving design of a new Economy Tracking Monitor, linking economic growth indicators with social indicators for last mile connectivity. It held that improvements are needed in National Accounts and innovative steps for unlocking growth, exports and employment potential including through transformation of India’s Gold Market. EAC-PM: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has constituted five member EAC-PM in September 2017 as an independent body to provide advice on economic issues to the government, specifically to the Prime Minister. It consists of economists of high repute and eminence. It serves as an independent institutional mechanism, to provide informed advice to the Prime Minister on addressing issues of macroeconomic importance and related aspects.
33) The Union Cabinet approved creation of National Testing Agency (NTA) as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions. It will be society registered under Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860. Features of NTA: The NTA will initially conduct entrance examinations currently being conducted by CBSE. Other examinations will be taken up gradually after NTA is fully geared up. These examinations will be conducted in online mode at least twice a year to give adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best. In order to serve requirements of the rural students, it will locate centres at sub-district and district level and as far as possible it will undertake hands-on training to the students. Composition: NTA will be chaired by an eminent educationist appointed by Ministry of Human Resource Development. The CEO will be Director General (DG) appointed by Government. Besides, there will be Board of Governors comprising members from user institutions. The DG will be assisted by 9 verticals headed by academicians and experts. Finances: NTA will be given one-time grant of Rs.25 crore from Union Government to start its operation in first year. Thereafter, it will be financially self-sustainable. It will be subjected to Comptroller and Auditor General (GAG) audit. Impact: NTA will benefit about 4 million students appearing in various entrance examinations. It will relieve AICTE, CBSE, and other agencies from responsibility of conducting these entrance examinations. It will bring in high reliability, standardized difficulty level for assessing intelligence, aptitude and problem solving abilities of students. Background: Finance Minister in his Budget speech of 2017-18 had announced setting up of NTA as autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct all entrance examinations for higher educational institutions in view to have specialized body in India like most advanced countries.
34) The Union Cabinet approved appointment of Second National Judicial Pay Commission (SNJPC) for subordinate judiciary in country. It will be headed by Justice (Retd) J P.Venkatrama Reddi, former Judge of Supreme Court. R Basant, former Judge of Kerala High Court will be its member. Terms of References: The Commission will examine present structure of emoluments and conditions of service of Judicial Officers in States and UTs. It aims to evolve principles which will govern pay structure and other emoluments of Judicial Officers belonging to subordinate judiciary of country. It also aims at making pay scales and conditions of service of Judicial Officers uniform throughout country. It will examine the work methods and work environment and variety of allowance and benefits in kind available to Judicial Officers in addition to pay and to suggest rationalization and simplification. It will also devise its own procedures and formulate modalities necessary for accomplishing task. Comment: The Commission will make its recommendations to State Governments preferably within period of 18 months. The recommendations will help in promoting efficiency in Judicial Administration, optimizing size of judiciary etc. and to remove anomalies created in implementation of earlier recommendations.
35) The Union Cabinet approved signing of Joint Interpretative Declaration (JID) between India and Colombia regarding existing Agreement for Promotion and Protection of Investments. The agreement was signed between them signed in November 2009. Key Features of JID: The JID will help to impart clarity on interpretation of existing Agreement as it includes interpretative notes to be jointly adopted for many clauses. It includes definition of investor, investment, Fair and Equitable Treatment (FET), Most Favoured Nation (MFN) treatment, National Treatment (NT), expropriation, Investor-State Dispute Settlement provision and Denial of Benefits. Joint Interpretative Declarations/Statements: JIDs in general play important supplementary role in strengthening investment treaty regime. Issuance of such statements will have strong persuasive value before arbitration tribunals as Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) disputes are increasing. Such pro-active approach by partners can foster more predictable and coherent reading of treaty terms by arbitration tribunals.
36) The Union Cabinet approved protocol amending Agreement between India and Kyrgyz for avoidance of double taxation and prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income. The Protocol amending Double Taxation Avoidance Agreement (DTAA) aims to update Article 26 (Exchange of Information) of DTAA to international standards. Key Facts: The updated Article 26 of DTAA provides for exchange of information to widest possible extent. The new paragraphs 4 and 5 have been inserted into Article 26 to make mandatory for States to provide information which is requested. Such information cannot be denied on ground that it has no domestic tax interest in that information or held by bank or a financial institution, etc. The Protocol further empowers India to use information received under DTAA for other law enforcement purposes on supplying state authorizing such use. Background: The existing DTAA between India and Kyrgyz Republic was notified in February 2001. The Protocol amending DTAA for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income has been agreed to be signed between two countries.
37) The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) has named Debjani Ghosh its president-designate. She will succeed R Chandrashekhar after his tenure ends in March 2018. It will make her first female president global trade body representing software companies. She is former Managing Director of Intel South Asia. She is also member of NASSCOM’s Executive Council and a trustee of NASSCOM Foundation. National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM): NASSCOM is global non-profit trade association (organisation) of Indian Information Technology (IT) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) industry. It facilitates business and trade in software and services and encourages the advancement of research in software technology. It is registered under the Indian Societies Act, 1860. Its headquarters are in New Delhi. It has regional offices in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune and Thiruvananthapuram. The global trade body has over 2000 members, of which over 250 are companies from the China, EU, Japan, US and UK. NASSCOM’s member companies are in the business of software development, software services, software products, IT-enabled/BPO services and e-commerce.
38) The Union Cabinet approved signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Philippines in field of agriculture and related fields. It will improve bilateral cooperation in field of agriculture and will be mutually beneficial to both countries. Key Features: The MoU provides for cooperation in fields of rice production and processing, dryland farming systems, multi cropping system, bio-organic farming, solid and water conservation and management, soil fertility, agro forestry, sericulture, livestock improvement etc. The MoU will promote understanding of best agricultural practices between both countries and help in better productivity as well as improved global market access. It provides for constitution of Joint Working Group (JWG) composed of equal number of representatives. The JWG will meet once every two years alternatively in Philippines and India.
39) The Union Cabinet approved Agreement between India and Hong Kong, special administrative region of China for Avoidance of Double Taxation and Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to taxes on income. The agreement will stimulate flow of investment, technology and personnel from India to HKSAR & vice versa. It will also prevent double taxation and provide for exchange of information between them. It will also improve transparency in tax matters and will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance. Background: The Section 90 of Income Tax (IT) Act, 1961 empowers Central Government to enter into agreement with foreign country or specified territory for avoidance of double taxation of income and for exchange of information for prevention of evasion or avoidance of income-tax chargeable under IT Act, 1961. This Agreement is on similar lines as entered into by India with other countries.
40) India was re-elected as member of executive board of United Nations educational, scientific and cultural organization (UNESCO). Executive board is UNESCO’s top decision-making body. The election was held at 39th session of General Conference of UNESCO in Paris, France. General Conference: UNESCO’s General Conference consists of representatives of States Members of organisation. It meets every two years. It is attended by Member States and Associate Members, together with observers for non-Member States, intergovernmental organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The General Conference determines policies and main lines of work of organisation. Its duty is to set programmes and budget of UNESCO. It also elects members of executive board and appoints, every four years, director-general. Each country has one vote, irrespective of its size or extent of its contribution to budget. United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO): UNESCO is UN organization that helps preserve historical and cultural sites worldwide. It is special multi-country agency, formed in 1945 and based in France. It promotes literacy and sex education as well as improving gender equality in countries around world. It is also known for recognising world heritage sites and work to preserve cultural and heritage sites such as ancient ruins, villages and temples, and historic sites.
41) The social networking giant Facebook Inc. has rolled out Disaster Maps for India in a bid to help communities recover and rebuild faster in aftermath of natural disasters. It was launched at Facebook’s first Disaster Response Summit in India along with National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to improve disaster response and disaster management in India. Government has claimed that India will be first country to partner with Facebook on disaster response. Facebook will initially join hands with NDMA and SEEDS (Sustainable Environment and Ecological Development Society) in India to share data about its users with them in times of disasters. Globally Facebook has partnered with organizations like Red Cross for such initiative. Need: According to UN Development Programme (UNDP) data, India is third-worst affected country by natural disasters like floods, earthquakes, cyclones, drought and landslides. Moreover, response time during and after these crises is often slow and it takes significant time and resources to understand where help is needed most. Facebook has 2 billion-plus users globally and its users in India have crossed 240 million mark, making it largest audience country for social media company. Disaster Maps: Disaster Maps, powered by Facebook’s technology and intensive research will help to address this critical gap in information (data) that government organizations face when responding to crisis or disasters. It was introduced globally in June 2017. It aims to help communities across country recover and rebuild from natural disasters faster by sharing critical pieces of data sets with humanitarian agencies in timely manner. It provides multiple types of maps during disaster response efforts, which include aggregated location information chosen by people to share with Facebook. This helps NGOs and relief agencies get precise location of people affected by disaster so they can determine where resources like food, water and medical supplies are needed. So far, Facebook researchers have built three kinds of maps. They are Location density maps: They show location of people before, during and after disaster. This information can be compared to historical records, like population estimates based on satellite images. Comparing these data sets can help response organizations understand areas impacted by a natural disaster. Movement maps: These illustrate patterns of movement between different neighbourhoods or cities overperiod of several hours. By understanding these patterns, disaster response organizations can better predict where resources will be needed, gain insight into patterns of evacuation or predict where traffic will be most congested. Safety Check: These maps are based on locations where Facebook community uses Safety Check to notify their friends and family that they are safe during disaster. Using this de-identified data in aggregate, it will show where more or fewer people check in safe, which may help to understand where people are most vulnerable and where help is needed. ASK-DIV (Disaster Information Volunteers) scheme: Facebook is also supporting pilot of ASK-DIV (Disaster Information Volunteers) scheme with SEEDS. Under it, SEEDS will establish a network of trained volunteers to provide real-time, first-hand information on disasters in their local communities. It will provide supplementary information to inform relief efforts through Facebook Workplace platform. The programme will be piloted in two disaster-prone States — Assam and Uttarakhand.
42) The Union Government is working on adopting land-pooling methodology as an alternative mechanism for development and expansion of airports. This is being done to overcome challenges that come with unavailability of land due to surge in land compensation cost after Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (or Land Acquisition Act, 2013) came in to force. If this proposal receives Government approval then states will probably have to adopt some of features of land-pooling in their respective state acts to give it legal teeth. Need for Land pooling: Currently airports across country are facing high passenger traffic growth and will further grow in future. Most of current functional airports are located in congested parts of cities with no scope for growth and reach saturation point even after being expanded for lack of land availability. Land acquisition in fully constructed areas around airports is very difficult causing severe capacity constraint for expansion of infrastructure at various airports. So Government is looking at land-pooling method as alternative to land acquisition for developing airport infrastructure. Land Pooling: Under land pooling mechanism, group of land-owners pool their land and hand it over to government agency for development of infrastructure projects. After the development of land, the agency redistributes the land after deducting some portion as compensation towards infrastructure costs. Generally, people who part with their land parcels get 60-70% of their holdings back after infrastructure is developed on it. This is done to develop potential infrastructure to reduce the load on the existing congested and saturated areas. This method already has been used in Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra.
43) Olive Ridley turtles have started arriving in large at Gahirmatha beach in Odisha’s Kendrapara district for breeding season. Gahirmatha beach is known as world’s largest rookery of this species. During the breeding season, large numbers of turtles arrive at Gahirmatha beach for mating. Later, they scale sand slope in large numbers to lay eggs in January and February. In 2016-17 season, around 9.75 lakh Olive Ridley turtles came out from sea to lay eggs along Odisha coast. Olive Ridley: Olive Ridley turtle (Lepidochelys olivacea) is smallest and most abundant of all sea turtle found in world. It gets its name from its olive coloured carapace, which is heart-shaped and rounded. It is found in warm waters of Pacific and Indian oceans. It spends entire lives in ocean and migrates thousands of kilometers between feeding and mating grounds in course of a year. Though found in abundance, their numbers have been declining over the past few years. It is recognized as Vulnerable by IUCN Red list. In India, it is protected under Wildlife (Protection) Act. The breeding season of Olive Ridley turtle commences its journey from Indian Ocean towards Bay of Bengal during their mating season in October and November every year. A single female can lay upto 100 to 150 eggs in a pit dug on beaches. The destination for majority of turtles for laying egg is Gahirmatha in Odisha. The sandy stretches of Hope Island of Coringa Wildlife Sanctuary also have turned into a breeding area. Six weeks later these eggs hatches and newly hatched turtles start journey to their Indian Ocean habitat.
44) The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has simplified Foreign Exchange Management (Transfer or Issue of Security by a Person Resident outside India) Regulations to make it easier for foreign investors to invest in the country. It was done by putting all 93 amendments under one notification. The new regulation combines earlier two regulations on foreign investments. They are FEMA 20 (investment in Indian company or partnership or in a limited liability partnership) or FEMA 24 (investment in a partnership firm). It also introduces late submission fee that could allow investor to regularise any contravention due to non-reporting, by paying the fee. Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA): The Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA) was passed by Parliament in 1999 and so far was amended 93 times. It had replaced FERA (Foreign Exchange Regulations Act), 1973 which had become incompatible after economic reforms and pro-liberalization policies of Government. It aims at facilitating external trade and payments and for promoting the orderly development and maintenance of foreign exchange market in India. It makes offenses related to foreign exchange civil offenses. It enables new foreign exchange management regime consistent with emerging framework of World Trade Organisation (WTO).
45) The second meeting of Island Development Agency (IDA) was held in New Delhi. It was chaired by Rajnath Singh. It reviewed concept development plans and detailed master plans for holistic development of 9 islands. These 9 islands include four in Andaman & Nicobar Islands (Smith, Ross, Long, Avis) and five in Lakshadweep (Minicoy, Bangaram, Thinnakara, Cheriyam, Suheli). Key Facts: In the meeting, it was decided that Naval air station at Shibpur near Diglipur in northern Andaman & Nicobar Islands will be co-used as Joint User Airport. It was also decided to develop PPP package including airport (Joint User Airport) at Minicoy Island, to unlock the tourism potential. It was agreed to promote tuna fishing industry for improving livelihoods in Lakshadweep. All concerned agencies were directed to expedite implementation of ongoing key infrastructure projects in islands and develop community based tourism in consultation with local stakeholders. NITI Aayog was also asked to drive the formulation of PPP projects and proposed detailed guidelines to boost private sector participation. It aims at promoting and implementing development based on sustainable approach to building thriving maritime economy of project islands. Island Development Agency (IDA): The IDA was set up in June 2017 following Prime Minister’s review meeting for the holistic development of islands. Its first meeting was held in July 2017 were directions were given to identify and execute infrastructure and connectivity projects together with provisioning of water and electricity. The meetings of the agency are chaired by the Union Home Minister. Members of IDA include cabinet secretary, home secretary, secretary (environment, forests and climate change), secretary (tourism) and secretary (tribal welfare).
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