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National Current Affairs
EC constitutes Umesh Sinha Committee for considering social media expansion
The Election Commission (EC) has constituted 14 member committee headed by Umesh Sinha to suggest changes to Section 126 of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (RP Act) in view of social media expansion.
- Section 126 of RP Act, 1951 prohibits displaying any election matter by means of television or similar apparatus, during the period of 48 hours before the hour fixed for conclusion of poll in a constituency. It does not include social and new media under its ambit.
- The committed will study impact of new media and social media during the “silence period” i.e. during 48 hours period prior to elections and its implication in view of Section 126 of RP Act, 1951. It will suggest modifications to the RP Act, 1951and model code of conduct (MCC).
- It will also examine difficulties faced in regulating media platforms during the prohibitory 48 hours in a multi-phase election It will submit its report within three months.
Ministry of Petroleum launches Saksham 2018 Campaign
The Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas has launched month long Saksham 2018 (Sanrakshan Kshamta Mahotsav).
- Saksham is annual flagship event of PCRA with active involvement of Oil & Gas PSUs along with other stakeholders like State Governments.
- Saksham aims at creating focused attention on fuel conservation through people centric activities and sensitize masses about conservation and efficient use of petroleum products leading to better health and environment.
- It also aims to intensify efforts for making citizens aware about conservation and effective utilization of petroleum products.
- It seeks to enthuse masses with new energy coupled with all-out effort for saving precious fuel, which will also contribute in keeping our environment green.
Karnataka tops states with investment intentions of Rs. 1.49 lakh cr
Karnataka topped all states with investment intentions of Rs. 1.49 lakh crore till October 2017, which was 43 per cent of the country’s total investment intentions.
- Karnataka has topped in FDI inflows and has performed well in exports, contributing about 40 per cent in electronics and software services.
- Both, goods and services put together, its contribution is about 19 per cent, which places the State in the second rank in the country.
- Thrust will be given on rural economy by accelerating agricultural sector. So, farmers, agri-food processing industries, and exporters will be benefited and in turn exports as well as GDP will improve.
North Koel Reservoir Project: Water Resources Ministry ink MoU with Bihar and Jharkhand
The Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation has inked Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bihar and Jharkhand for completion of balance works of North Koel reservoir project.
- Moreover, supplementary Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed between Ministry of Water Resources, National Water Development Agency, NABARD with both states for funding under Long Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) for the project.
- The project is scheduled to be completed in 30 months at the estimated cost of Rs. 1622.27 crores.
- Of this Rs. 1013.11 crores will be borne by Union Government as grant from LTIF under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY).
- 60% will be financed by Central Government from LTIF and remaining 40% of cost will be borne by the States through loan financed by NABARD.
- The project is situated on North Koel river, tributary on Sone River. It aims to provide irrigation to 111,521 hectares of land annually in most backward and drought prone areas in Jharkhand and Bihar.
NITI Aayog to rank 115 aspirational districts by April 2018
Government think-tank National Institution for Transforming India (NITI) Aayog has announced to rank 115 backward (aspirational) districts by April 2018. It was announced at ‘Transformation of Aspirational Districts’ conference.
- These 115 backward districts include 35 districts affected by Left Wing Extremists (LWE) violence, 55 districts just affected by LWE and another 15 including districts in Jammu and Kashmir and northeast affected by terrorism.
- These 115 backward districts will be ranked on 10 socio-economic parameters which will include nutrition, education and health.
- Moreover NITI Aayog will also set up a mechanism for real-time monitoring of government’s development programmes by April 2018.
- It will also create dashboard which will reflect change in ranking of districts on continuous basis by the end of March 2018.
Fourth ASEAN-India Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture & Forestry held in Delhi
The 4th ASEAN-INDIA Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry was held at NASC Complex, New Delhi. It was attended by representatives from 10 ASEAN countries.
- The aim of the meeting was to facilitate promotion of joint research for development of technologies for increasing production and productivity of crops, livestock and fisheries, and natural resources management, among others in the region.
- It also aimed at development of joint ventures, exchange of technologies, expertise and material.
- The meeting also aimed to enhance cooperation on exchange of expertise to promote resilience in food security to address the price volatility of food supplies in the region.
- The meeting held discussions focused on enhancing cooperation on exchange of expertise to promote resilience in food security and to address the price volatility of food supplies in the region.
Mumbai to host first summit on ‘Createch’ in India
First-of-its-kind India-UK Createch Summit will be held in Mumbai on February 6, 2018 held by United Kingdom’s (UK’s) Department for International Trade (DIT).
- Objective of this summit is to celebrate and explore the convergence of creativity and technology, ‘Createch’ and its application across a range of areas.
- Finale of the TECH Rocketship Awards 2017-2018 will also be held during this summit. TECH Rocketship Awards 2017-2018 will honour India’s best and brightest talent in technology scale-up companies.
- Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex will attend this Summit as a special guest.
International Film Festival on Art and Artist begins in Odisha
On January 12, 2018, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated 12th International Film Festival on Art and Artist in Bhubaneswar.
- This three-day festival has been organised by Bhubaneswar-based Jatin Das Centre of Art (JDCA).
- Several short, long, narrative, documentary, animation, and film essays will be showcased during the course of this festival. Besides, panel discussions, lectures and workshops will also be conducted.
- 12 Odia films, 12 films in other Indian languages and nearly 39 films of 11 countries in 15 foreign languages will be screened during the festival.
- Short film stories written by eminent writers Manoj Das and Gourahari Das will also be presented by Jatin Das Centre of Art (JDCA).
India, Bhutan jointly unveil ‘Special logo’ for Golden Jubilee celebrations
On January 12, 2018, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Bhutan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Lyonpo Damcho Dorji jointly unveiled the ‘Special logo’ for the Golden Jubilee celebrations in New Delhi and Thimphu through video-conference.
- Golden Jubilee of the establishment of formal diplomatic relations between Bhutan and India is being celebrated in the year 2018.
- The Special logo was unveiled to mark the launch of Golden Jubilee celebrations.
- During 2018, India and Bhutan will conduct several high-level exchanges. Besides, a series of special commemorative initiatives, exhibitions, cultural activities and seminars will be held throughout the year in both the countries.
International Current Affairs
Nepal starts receiving internet connection from China
Nepal has started accessing internet from China after commercial operation of Nepal-China optical fibre link via Rasuwagadhi gateway across Himalayan Mountains became operational.
- The commercial operation of Chinese bandwidth project now ends Nepal’s sole dependence on India for internet bandwidth.
- It is considered as loss for India, both revenue wise and strategically.
- The actual volume of Chinese internet bandwidth that Nepal will receive has not been disclosed. It believed that initial speed by Chinese fibre link will be 1.5 Gigabit per second (gbps), less than 34gbps provided by India.
- Chinese internet bandwidth will provide alternative source for Nepal to meet ever-increasing bandwidth demand as use of Internet has been increasing rapidly in the Himalayan country.
- Chinese Internet gateway is also expected to facilitate service providers in Nepal to establish bandwidth connection with other countries via China.
- It is also considered as milestone for developing internet infrastructure in Nepal and boost bilateral relations between both countries.
US, Japan Hold Joint Military Iron Fist Drill amid Korea Tensions
On January 12, 2018, American and Japanese military forces launched 13th annual Iron Fist joint exercises in California, US.
- Around 500 U.S. Marines and sailors and about 350 members of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force are participating in this exercise wherein they will be trained in fire support operations and amphibious assaults.
- The main training event will be a mock amphibious assault launched from the USS Rushmore amphibious landing ship, in coordination with an inland helicopter assault.
- It is to be noted that recent nuclear and ballistic missile tests conducted by North Korea have put South Korea, US and Japan on high alert.
Kazakhstan beats Iraq to be OPEC’s biggest oil over-producer
Kazakhstan has overtaken Iraq as the biggest over-producer in the pact between Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies to curb oil output.
- Kazakhstan’s output in November and December last year was about 130,000 barrels a day above the target agreed with OPEC. Notably, Kazakhstan had pledged to pump 20,000 barrels a day less under the pact.
- Earlier, Iraq had produced nearly 70,000 barrels a day more than its target. Recently, the OPEC pact was extended throughout 2018.
- The members ignored Kazakhstan’s non-compliance with the pact as all the member countries’ combined output target was fulfilled, in spite of Kazakhstan’s over-production.
India gives $45.27 million aid to develop KKS harbour in Sri Lanka
India has extended a fresh financial assistance of USD 45.27 million for upgrading Kankesanthurai (KKS) Harbour in northern Sri Lanka into a commercial port and strengthening the country’s efforts to become a regional maritime hub.
- The upgradation project would make KKS Harbour a full- fledged commercial port, further strengthening Sri Lanka’s efforts to become a regional maritime hub.
- It would also assist in reconstruction efforts in northern Sri Lanka.
- In terms of the MoU between India and Sri Lanka for rehabilitation of KKS Harbour, four out of the six phases of the rehabilitation have already been completed under India’s grant assistance.
- This includes preparation of Detailed Project Report (DPR), works related to Geo-technical studies, wreck removal and disposal, dredging and hydrographic survey.
- The fresh assistance of USD 45.27 million would be used for the remaining two phases involving works relating to the rehabilitation of the breakwater and existing pier, construction of a new pier for commercial cargo handling, installation of port infrastructure facilities, etc.
Banking & Finance
Home loans: Highest NPAs in ‘up to Rs. 2 lakh’ slab – RBI study
According to a RBI study, housing loans in the up to ₹2 lakh slab had the highest level of non-performing assets (NPAs).
- Further, public sector banks (PSBs) reported higher NPAs than housing finance companies (HFCs) in the last two fiscal years
- In the up to ₹2 lakh housing loans slab, NPAs of PSBs and HFCs collectively stood higher at 10.4 per cent in FY17 against 9.8 per cent in FY16.
- In the aforementioned slab, NPAs at PSBs in FY17 were at 11.9 per cent (12 per cent in FY16) while that of HFCs were at 9.8 per cent (8.6 per cent).
- NPAs were the lowest in the above ₹25 lakh slab for PSBs and HFCs put together at 0.9 per cent (0.6 per cent in FY16).
- As per the study as the loan size increased, the NPAs fell.
YES Bank announces Rs 7.5-cr grant for NGOs, social enterprises’
YES Foundation, the social development arm of YES Bank launched a programme to inculcate the spirit of responsible youth citizenship and drive social impact through the medium of films.
- The fifth edition of ‘YES! i am the CHANGE’ (YIAC) aims at providing youth, NGOs/ social enterprises with a platform to use films as a storytelling medium to drive social impact,
- The foundation has invited participation in the ‘YIAC Social Filmmaking Challenge’, to depict stories of change in a three-minute film.
- Through this process, the bank hopes to identify 25-30 deserving NGOs/social enterprises which operate in areas of climate change, livelihood generation, gender equality etc.
- The selected entities will receive a grant of Rs 7.5 crore, for scaling up and capacity building and will also receive three-year mentoring for creating onground tangible social impact.
IIP growth hits 17-month high of 8.4% in November 2017
India’s factory output, measured by the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) rose to 8.4% in November 2017 from 2% in October 2017.
- It was due to robust performance by manufacturing and capital goods sectors.
- According to data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), it was highest growth registered by IIP in 17-months. The previous high was recorded at 8.9% in June, 2016.
- IIP Growth in November 2017:
- Manufacturing sector: Recorded an impressive growth of 10.2%.
- Mining output: Recorded 1.1% growth.
- Electricity generation: Recorded 3.9%.
- Capital goods output: It is a barometer of investment. It grew by 9.4%.
- Consumer durables output: It grew just by 2.5%. It reflected weakness in urban demand….
- Consumer non-durables production: Recorded growth of 23.1%.
Appointments & Resigns
Anil Khanna to head IOA Finance Commission
On 12th January 2018, Anil Khanna was appointed as the Chairman of the Finance Commission of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
- The Finance Commission is headed by Anil Khanna.
- Mukesh Kumar, President, Judo Federation of India, has been made the Chairman of the Games Technical Conduct Committee for National Games.
- Pawan Deep Singh Kohli, was appointed as the Chairman of the Medical Commission.
Acquisitions & Mergers
IDFC Bank, Capital First to merge in share swap deal
On January 13, 2018, boards of directors of IDFC Bank (a private sector bank) and Capital First (a non-banking financial firm) approved a merger of Capital First with IDFC Bank.
- The merged entity will have assets under management of Rs 88000 crore customer base of over 5 million and branch network of 194.
- As per the deal, IDFC Bank will issue 139 shares for every 10 shares of Capital First.
- Vaidyanathan, the founder and current chairman of Capital First will become the chief executive of the merged entity.
- IDFC Bank has so far been heavily reliant on wholesale lending. Acquisition of Capital first will give a boost to its retail lending activities and will help in its transformation from being a dedicated infrastructure financier to a well-diversified universal bank.
Science & Technology
Indian Navy decommissions INS Nirbhik and INS Nirghat warships
Indian Navy has decommissioned INS Nirbhik and INS Nirghat warships at Naval Dockyard, Mumbai (Maharashtra), after a glorious 30 and 28 years respectively in the service of the nation.
- During their glorious service over almost three decades, these ships had participated in numerous operations including Operations Parakram and Vijay.
- INS Nirbhik and INS Nirghat in their new avatars were commissioned at Poti in erstwhile USSR (now in Russia) in December 1987 and December 1989 respect.
- These ships belonged to Killer squadron and were forward deployed off Gujarat on numerous occasions for patrolling.
- These ships were inheritors of proud legacy as their original avatars were flag bearers of naval offensive action on Karachi Harbour during India-Pakistan war in 1971.
ISRO successfully lifts off its 100th Satellite Cartosat-2 from Sriharikota
On January 12, 2018, Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO’s) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSL-C40 successfully lifted off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.
- PSLV-C40 carried total 31 satellites, out of which three were Indian satellites and 28 satellites from six other countries.
- 710 kg Cartosat-2 Series Satellite, the primary satellite carried by PSLV-C40 marked ISRO’s 100th satellite launch.
- It is a remote sensing satellite and has a similar configuration to earlier satellites in the series
China launches two BeiDou-3 navigation satellites into space
China has successfully launched two BeiDou-3 satellites to provide navigation and positioning services to countries along Belt and Road initiative (BRI) by the end of 2018.
- The two satellites were designated as BeiDou-3 M7 and BeiDou-3 M8 (26th and 27th satellites) in BeiDou Navigation Satellite System (BDS).
- These two satellites were launched on board of Long March-3B carrier rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in southwestern province of Sichuan.
- This was first launch of the BeiDou satellites in 2018. China is plannig to send 18 BeiDou-3 satellites into space in 2018.
- These two satellites were based on newly-developed dedicated satellite bus and weigh about 1 metric ton each.
- Both spacecraft had two deployable solar arrays and are designed to be operational for about 12 years. These newly-launched satellites represent third phase of BDS system (BeiDou-3).
- The first BeiDou-3 satellite was launched in March of 2015.
China commissions new missile frigate “Rizhao”
On 12th January 2018, “Rizhao”, a new missile frigate, was commissioned by the People’s Liberation Army Navy in a naval port in Dalian, China.
- The missile frigate Rizhao is 140 metres long and 16 metres wide. Rizhao was designed and made by China.
- Rizhao has a displacement of nearly 4,000 tonnes. It is China’s indigenous missile frigate.
- It consists of advanced weapons systems and has the ability to attack enemy ships and submarines on its own or in coordination with other naval forces. It got its name from the Rizhao city in Shandong Province of China.
Environment Ministry refuses captive breeding of Chiru
The Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has refused to allow captive breeding of Chiru (Tibetan antelope), whose underfur is used for making famous shahtoosh shawls.
- The suggestion for captive breeding was made by Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science & Technology, Environment & Forests asking to consider captive breeding as it will add to livelihood of people of Kashmir.
- The Parliament panel was of view that MoEFCC should conserve and breed Chiru goat, which can then be given to shawl makers for collecting hair.
- This would increase number of these goats but would also add to sustainable livelihood opportunities of people of Kashmir, who are lot dependant on the handicraft of embroidered shawls.
- It also cited that China and Mongolia are breeding Chiru goats for its wool, which is very expensive. The cost of an embroidered shahtoosh shawl can run into crores of rupees.
ASSOCHAM-Football Delhi MoU to strengthen commercial profile
On January 12, 2018, Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and Football Delhi, governing body for football in Delhi signed a memorandum of understanding for the development of the sport in the Capital.
- Under this MoU, ASSOCHAM will help Football Delhi to connect with corporate and industry.
- Grass root level participation will be encouraged by organizing sports events, seminars and forums for development of football industry in Delhi.
- Greater engagement with industry members and stakeholders will be sought in the field of infrastructure development and sports science.
- Both the entities will jointly initiate skill development programmes to create employment opportunities for the football industry, including sports goods manufacturing sectors.
- Efforts will also be made for tapping Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for football.
Sarjubala Devi claims gold in National Women’s Boxing Championship
Sarjubala Devi has won gold medal and the best boxer trophy in the National Women’s Boxing Championship, in Rohtak, Haryana.
- Manipur’s Sarjubala Devi defeated Haryana’s Ritu 3-2 and won gold medal in the 48-51 kg Flyweight category. She also won the best boxer trophy.
- This is her second consecutive national title. She is a former world silver-medallist. The Railways Sports Promotion Board were declared as overall champions.
Veteran Hindi writer Doodhnath Singh passes away
On 12th January 2018, Hindi writer Doodhnath Singh, passed away following a cardiac arrest in Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh.
- Doodnath Singh hailed from Ballia, Uttar Pradesh. He did post-graduation in Hindi from Allahabad University. Later he became a professor in the Allahabad University.
Books & Authors
Sanjay Manjrekar launches autobiography, titled ‘Imperfect’
On 10th January 2018, Sanjay Manjrekar launched his autobiography named ‘Imperfect’, in Mumbai.
- The book ‘Imperfect’ was released by Dilip Vengsarkar, Sanjay Manjrekar’s first international captain.
- The book was published by Harper Collins. Sanjay Manjrekar has played 37 Test matches. His first test appearance was in the Delhi Test against the West Indies.