1. Veteran actor Om Puri passed away following massive cardiac arrest in Mumbai, Maharashtra. He was 66. His acting credits include appearances in commercial Indian, British, and Hollywood, independent films and art films. He was credited for being part of parallel, new-wave cinema along with Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi and Smita Patil that brought change in the film industry back in the 1980s.
2. The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) has declared the year 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The declaration recalls the potential of tourism sector to advance the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Key Facts The International Year aims to support a change in business practices, policies and consumer behaviour towards a more sustainable tourism sector that can contribute effectively to achieve targets of the SDGs. It will promote tourism sector’s role in five key areas: (i) Inclusive and sustainable economic growth (ii) Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction (iii) Cultural values, diversity and heritage (iv) Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change (v) Mutual understanding, peace and security. Tourism is under three targets of the SDGs: They are (i) Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all. (ii) Goal 12: Sustainable Consumption and Production and (iii) Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. The tourism sector accounts for 7% of worldwide exports, 10% of the world’s GDP and one in eleven jobs. If managed well, it can foster inclusive economic growth, social inclusiveness and protection of natural and cultural assets.
3. Scientists from Ireland have claimed discovery of a new human organ named the mesentery that exists in the digestive system. It will be human body’s 79th organ. Mesentery connects the intestine to the abdomen. The organ was previously thought to consist of fragmented and disparate structures. Key Facts Mesentery is a fold of the peritoneum which attaches the stomach, small intestine, pancreas, spleen,and other organs to the posterior wall of the abdomen. Its discovery will help in better understanding and further scientific study of the mesentery which could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery and lower overall costs. The reclassification of this organ will also aid better understanding and treatment of abdominal and digestive diseases. During the initial research, researchers found that the mesentery was one continuous organ. Previously, it was considered as the fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts. It was found that mesentery has simply one continuous structure. However, its function is still poorly understood. Following the discovery the world’s best-known series of medical textbooks, Gray’s Anatomy was updated to include the new definition of this organ.
4. The Union Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman launched an Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) Enforcement Toolkit for Police. This toolkit will be provided to all state police departments across the nation to assist them in dealing with the cases relating to Trademarks and Copyrights infringements.
5. Internet giant Google launched two new initiatives My Business and Digital Unlocked to train and help small and medium businesses (SMBs) in India capitalise on the digitisation wave faster. These initiatives were launched by Google CEO Sundar Pichai in New Delhi in presence of Union IT and law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in New Delhi. Key Facts My Business Websites: Under it, Google will provide free websites and web tools to small businesses in order to bolster their digital presence. This will help SMBs create a free, mobile optimised website. Digital Unlocked: It is a training programme launched in association with industry body FICCI. It will provide Indian SMBs essential digital skills to enable them to get online and connect to customers in different parts of the country. The trainings will be certified by Google, Indian School of Business and FICCI. In addition, Google also launched Primer, a free mobile application designed to teach digital marketing skills in a quick, easy and interactive way. It also works offline and is currently available in English and Hindi languages.
6. The Union Cabinet has given its approval for signing of an Agreement for cooperation (AoC) between India and Portugal in the field of Agriculture and allied sectors. Decision in this regard was taken by Union Cabinet meeting chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.
7. The Union Cabinet has approved signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Kenya on bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors. Decision in this regard was taken at the Union Cabinet Meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi.
8. The World Braille Day is observed very year across the world on 4 January to mark the birth anniversary of Louis Braille, inventor of Braille script or Braille code. Observance of the day helps people to spread the importance of Braille language and also help people to produce works in this language to allow visually impaired people to read the works. To commemorate this day several NGOs as well as other organizations come together to raise awareness about the apathy towards blind people and to help them be equal among rest of the people.
9. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has announced the dates for the assembly elections in five states– Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Manipur and Goa. With the Election Commission announcement the Model code of conduct has come into effect. Counting of votes for all five states will take place on 11 March 2017. Key facts There will be single phase elections in Uttarakhand, Goa and Punjab. Goa (40 Seats) and Punjab (117 Seats) will go to polls on 4 February 2017 while polling in Uttarakhand for 70 seats will be held on 15 February 2017. Uttar Pradesh: The biggest state in the country will go to polls in seven phases for 403 seats on 11th February, 15th February, 19th February, 23rd February, 27th February, 4th March and on 8th March 2017. Manipur: The northeastern state will go to polls for 60 seats in two phases on 4th and 8th March. Over 16 crore voters are eligible to vote in the five states. The limit for expenses for candidates is Rs 28 lakh for Punjab, Uttarakhand, UP and Rs 20 lakh for Goa and Manipur. ECI will focus on paid news and Press Council of India will help the commission in detection of paid news. It also has launched a large number of IT applications to facilitate voters, candidates, political parties. Article 324 of the Constitution: It vests authority of superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for and the conduct of elections to Parliament, State Legislature of every state and of elections to the offices of President and Vice President to the Election Commission.
10. The Union Ministry of Urban Development launched Swachh Survekshan 2017 to rank 500 cities/towns across the country on cleanliness with a population of 1 lakh and above The survey will be conducted by Quality Council of India (QCI) under the Swacch Bharat Abhiyan in a bid to encourage competition to improve sanitation. Key Facts Swachh Survekshan 2017 will judge cities on the basis of data provided by Municipal bodies, data collected through direct observations and independent assessment and citizen feedbacks. Data provided by Municipal bodies will carry 900 marks, data collected through direct observations and independent assessment will carry 500 marks and citizen feedbacks will carry 600 marks. Areas of evaluations: Waste collection, sweeping and transportation (40% marks), Open defecation free (ODF) and toilets (30%), Municipal Solid Waste-processing and disposal (20%) and Information, education and behavior change and Capacity building-Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) e-learning portal (5% each). The citizens can also give their feedback by either filling up a feedback form on the Swachh Survekshan website or by giving a missed call on 1969 to record their response. Swachh Survekshan 2016 had ranked 73 cities across the country and Mysore was ranked on top followed by Chandigarh. 1 lakh citizens had participated and gave their feedback.
11. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has approved new projects under Namami Gange programme in Haridwar (Uttarakhand) and Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh). In Haridwar, 68 MLD sewage treatment plants (STP) and 14 MLD STP in Sarai was with Central government funding and also under Hybrid Annuity based PPP mode. Besides, 50 MLD sewage treatment plant at Ramana in Varana under Hybrid Annuity-based PPP mode was also approved.
12. Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar was sworn in as 44th Chief Justice of India (CJI). He was administered oath to the office by President Pranab Mukherjee at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi. With this, he became the first person from Sikh communitry to become the CJI. Justice Khehar succeeded Tirath Singh Thakur who retired on 3 January 2017. He will remain in office from January 4, 2017 till August 4, 2017 i.e. till he attains the age of 65.
13. The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has appointed Surekha Marandi as its Executive Director (ED). She was appointed in place of U S Paliwal who retired on December 31, 2016. In her new role, she will look after Consumer Education and Protection Department, Financial Inclusion and Development Department, and Secretary’s Department of the RBI.
14. The Supreme Court has sacked Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President Anurag Thakur and BCCI secretary Ajay Shirke after they failed to implement the reforms recommended by the Justice Lodha committee. The apex court held that Mr. Thakur and Mr. Shirke are unfit to continue at helm of BCCI for their obstructionist attitude and their incapacity to make affiliated State associations fall in line with Lodha committee. Key Facts SC ordered them to forthwith cease and desist from associating themselves with Indian cricket’s most powerful sporting body. With this, SC set the stage for a revamp of the country’s top cricketing body. It said a committee of administrators having experience and integrity for the committee will be appointed to run the BCCI. Till the committee will be formed, the seniormost vice-president of the BCCI to take over as BCCI president and the joint secretary to replace him. Once the committee of administrators is formed, the SC appointed Lodha committee’s recommendations will be confined to overall policy-making. Besides, the court found Mr. Thakur prima facie guilty of both contempt of Supreme Court proceedings and perjury (fabrication of false evidence). The court also concluded that BCCI President had apparently acted to garner evidence that the SC appointed Lodha Committee’s interventions in the working of the BCCI amounted to “governmental interference.”
15. The Supreme Court in its latest verdict has held that election candidates cannot seek votes on the grounds of the religion, caste, creed, community or language of voters. The ruling was given by a 4-3 majority of the seven-judge Constitution bench headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur. It held that if the candidate is found violating the order will result into call for his disqualification. Background The apex court’s verdict came while it was hearing several petitions in the Hindutva case seeking interpretation of Section 123 (3) of the Representation of the People Act. This provision says that if a candidate or his agent or any other person, with his consent, appeals for votes on religious or such grounds it would amount to a ‘corrupt practice’. Earlier in the Hindutva case, SC had held that canvassing votes in name of ‘Hindutva/Hinduism’ was not a corrupt electoral practice, as Hinduism was not a religion but a way of life in India. What SC verdict says? The state being secular in character will not identify itself with any one of the religions or religious denominations. The relationship between man and God is an individual choice. It implies that religion will not play any role in the governance of the country and state must at all times be secular in nature. Election is a secular exercise, therefore this process should be followed and elected representatives must be secular in both outlook and practice to maintain this fabric. The word ‘his’ only in Section 123 (3) of RPA means complete ban on any reference or appeal to religion, race, community, caste and language during elections. It also extended to social, linguistic and religious identity of voter also. Significance The ruling can potentially overturn the traditional rules of the game for electoral politics in India. Traditionally parties did not hesitate to employ religion, caste and ethnicity to woo voters. With this SC verdict, greater clarity will emerge once the Election Commission of India, implement this decision and spells out the electoral rules.
16. President Pranab Mukherjee has appointed Prof David R Syiemlieh as the Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) as per Article 316 of Constitution. He will take over from Alka Sirohi and shall remain the head of the organisation till his retirement on January 21, 2018 or till further orders. Prior to this appointment, he was functioning as a UPSC member from June 25, 2012. Prof David R Syiemlieh is academician, author and historian. He is a former Vice Chancellor, Rajiv Gandhi University, Doimukh, Arunachal Pradesh. He is author of several books and articles on the history of North East India. He is credited with discovering the date of death and other details of the last days of Tirot Sing, the Khasi chief of Nongkhlaw who resisted British colonial expansion.
17. Andhra Pradesh Government has launched NTR Arogya Raksha Scheme to provide the medical treatment to the people below Above Poverty Line (APL) at Rs. 1200 premium per annum. It was launched by Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu in Vijayawada. The new health scheme offering medical insurance to those who were not covered under any of the existing health schemes of the state government. Key Facts NTR Arogya Raksha Scheme covers 1044 diseases and offers up to `2 lakh and free treatment. One can register for the scheme at any of the Mee Seva centres till February 2017. People below Above Poverty Line (APL) can avail its benefit by paying Rs. 1200 premium per annum i.e. monthly instalment of Rs. 100 per month per head. Under it, medical treatment for 1,044 diseases and medical ailments will be offered free of cost at corporate and government hospitals. A similar service ‘Arogya Raksha’ has been provided to employees and journalists in the form of health cards and for those, who are not being covered by any such scheme.
18. India and Sri Lanka have expressed confidence for finding a long-lasting solution to the issue of fishermen between the two countries. In this regard, talks co-chaired by Union Agriculture Minister Radha Mohan Singh and Sri Lankan fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera were held in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
19. India successfully test-fired its home-grown long range intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) Agni-IV from the Abdul Kalam Wheeler Island off Odisha coast. The test was aimed at revalidating new technologies incorporated in Agni-IV system and checking the readiness of armed forces to launch the missile on its own. About Agni-IV missile Agni-IV is two-stage surface-to-surface nuclear capable intercontinental ballistic missile. It has been designed and developed indigenously by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Feature: It is 20 metres long and weighs 17 tonnes. It has many cutting-edge technologies which can meet global standards including Pershing missile of US. It is fire and forget missile navigated using a jam proof ring laser gyroscope. Its re-entry heat shield can withstand temperatures in the range of over 4,0000 It is equipped with state-of-the-art Avionics, 5th generation on-board computer and distributed architecture. It has the latest features to correct and guide itself for in-flight disturbances. Equipped with most accurate ring laser gyro-based inertial navigation system (RINS) and supported by highly reliable redundant micro navigation system (MINGS) that ensures it hit target within two-digit accuracy. Range: It can carry a one-tonne nuclear warhead over a distance of 4,000 kilometres. Operability: The missile can be fired from locations deeper in the Indian hinterland, making it very difficult for the enemy to track and destroy it. The missile also possesses a submarine launch capability. It was the sixth test of the missile and the previous test was conducted on November 09, 2015 by the specially formed strategic force command (SFC) of Indian Army.
20. An atomic clock at National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in New Delhi added ‘leap second’ (extra one second) to the Indian Standard Time (IST) at 5:29.59 hours on 1 January 2017 to synchronise with the Earth’s rotational clock. The clock was programmed to add an extra second to the year 2017 in order to compensate for a slowdown in the Earth’s rotation. Why extra second was added? The Earth and rotation around its own axis is not regular, as sometimes slows down and sometimes speeds up due to various factors, including moon’s gravitational forces and earthquakes. As a result, astronomical time (UT1) gradually falls out of sync with atomic time (UTC). When the difference between UTC and UT1 approaches 0.9 seconds, a leap second is added to UTC through atomic clocks worldwide to match both times. Significance Adding leap second’ or second barely has an impact on the daily life. However, this one second shift is critical for applications requiring time accuracies in the nanosecond scale, which are critical in the fields of astronomy, satellite navigation, communication networks. Background In India, leap second is added to the Indian clock by the NPL, Functioning under the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). The NPL is one of the oldest laboratories in the country, has five atomic clocks of the nearly 300 such pieces exist across the globe. Atomic clocks have high precision and the margin of error in its functioning is just of a second in 100 million years.
21. India and Pakistan exchanged the list of their nuclear installations and facilities under the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear installations. This is the 26th consecutive exchange of such list between the two countries after the first list was exchanged on 1 January 1992. This exchange is done every year on 1st of January between them to prevent them from attacking each other’s nuclear facilities. Both countries also exchanged the lists of nationals (including civil prisoners and fishermen) of each country lodged in their respective jails as per provisions of the Agreement on Consular Access.
22. Following the tough decision to demonetise Rs 500 and Rs 1000 currency notes, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today thanked citizens for undertaking sacrifice to cleanse the economy of black money. In his address, he announced a number of welfare sops to help the poor, the rural sector, small businesses and other citizens to lighten the burden of demonetization. Some of the few announcements are Rural and Urban Housing for poor: PM announced two new housing schemes for the urban poor. Under Pradhan Mantri Aawaz Yojana (PMAY), the poor and middle class in cities will get 4% exemption on interest for home loans up to Rs 9 lakh and 3% exemption for home loans up to Rs 12 lakh. Under PMAY, 33% more houses will be built in villages. Home loans up to Rs 2 lakh will get 3% exemptions for building a new house and also for renovation in villages. Farmers: 3 crore Kisan credit cards will be converted into RuPay cards in coming 3 months. Government will bear 60 days interest on select farm loans. Government will add Rs 20,000 crore more to fund created by NABARD of Rs 21000 crore for giving loans to cooperative banks and societies at low interest rate. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME): To give boost to the small entrepreneurs credit guarantee for small businesses doubled to Rs 2 crore. Banks have been asked to raise cash credit limit for small business to 25% from 20%. Banks also have been asked to increase working capital loans from 20% of turnover to 30% for enterprises that transact digitally. Women and elderly: Pregnant women and lactating women in above 650 rural districts will get Rs 6,000 in bank accounts to meet medical expenses and reduce child, woman mortality. Senior citizens will get guarantee of 8% interest rate on deposits up to Rs 7.5 lakh for 10 years.
23. General Bipin Rawat took charge as the new 27th Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) of India. He succeed General Dalbir Singh Suhag who retired from the service. He had superseded two seniormost Lt Generals, Praveen Bakshi and PM Hariz. His appointment goes against the long-held convention of appointing the senior-most eligible officer to the topmost post. About General Bipin Rawat He is an infantry officer from the 5/11 Gorkha Rifles. Prior to this appointment, he was the Vice Chief of the Army. He has held key appointments in the Army headquarters and with the UN peacekeeping force. He hails from Uttarakhand and had received the ‘sword of honour’ when he passed out from the Indian Military Academy in 1978. General Rawat has tremendous hands on experience of serving in combat areas and at various functional levels in the Indian Army over the last three decades. He has handled various operational responsibilities in many areas, including along the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, LAC (Line of Actual Control) with China and in the North-East.
24. Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa took charge as the 22nd Chief of the Air Staff (CoAS) of the Indian Air Force (IAF). He succeeded Arup Raha who retires from the service. He is the third person from Sikh community to head the IAF after Arjan Singh and Dilbag Singh. Prior to this appointment he was Vice-Chief of IAF. About Birender Singh Dhanoa He is an alumnus of Rashtriya Indian Military College (RIMC) and National Defence Academy (NDA). He was commissioned into the fighter stream of IAF in June 1978. Since then he has served in various squadrons, and in the Intelligence Directorate of Air Headquarters. Before being appointed as Vice Chief he was the Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the South Western Air Command. Earlier, he had served as Chief Instructor (Air) at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington in Tamil Nadu, Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (Intelligence) at Air Headquarters and Senior Air Staff Officer of two operational Commands. He had commanded a fighter squadron and had flown numerous night-strike missions during the Kargil operations in the mountainous terrain. He is recipient of Presidential awards Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Yudh Seva Medal and Vayusena Medal for his distinguished services.
25. Two new Hindi writers Shraddha and Ghyansham Kumar Devansh have been chosen for Bharatiya Jnanpith Navlekhan Award for the year 2016. Shraddha was chosen for her short story ‘Hawa Mein Phadphadati Chitthi‘ and Devansh for his poem ‘Akash Mein Deh‘. They were unanimously chosen by a selection panel chaired by eminent poet Vishnu Nagar. They were selected from the shortlisted from the list other writers work that included short stories ‘Amarbel Ki Udas Shakhein’ by Amiya Bindu and ‘Bohani’ by Bhumika Dwivedi, besides two works of poetry ‘Anantim Geet Ke Beech’ by Sujata and ‘Ek Atirikt’ by Reshmi Bharadwaj. About Bharatiya Jananpith Navlekhan award The award is given to young authors in Hindi for their first creations. It was instituted in 2006 by Bharatiya Jnanpith trust. It consists of a statue of Goddess Saraswati, a citation and a cash prize each. Besides Jnanpith publishing their works
26. An Indian-origin British professor of chemistry and DNA expert at Cambridge University Shankar Balasubramanian received Knighthood from Queen Elizabeth II for their contributions. He was recognised for his work as a co-inventor of Next Generation DNA sequencing (also known as Solexa sequencing), described as the most transformational advance in biology and medicine for decades.