Current Affairs Daily Digest: January 12, 2017

The Current Affairs Daily Digest for January 12, 2017 with important tid-bits on current affairs.

National Current Affairs

Saudi Arabia hikes India’s Haj quota by 34500

Saudi Arabia has increased India’s annual Haj quota by 34,500. It is the biggest hike in nearly three decades. With this size of India’s Haj quota increased from 1,36,020 to 1,70,520. In this regard, Union Ministry of Minority Affairs has inked an agreement Saudi Arabia Government. The latest increase in quota will be effective from the current year. Earlier in 2012, Saudi Arabia Government had slashed quotas for foreign pilgrims coming from each country by 20% in view of safety of the devotees due expansion of Grand Mosque. Accordingly, India’s quota was brought down to 1,36,020 from 1,70,000. In 2016 a total of 1,35,903 devotees from India performed Haj.

Effects of Endosulfan use devastating: SC

The Supreme Court has described side effects of Endosulfan, a highly toxic agrochemical (pesticide) as devastating. It has directed Kerala government to release entire Rs. 500 crore compensation to over 5,000 victims in three months who have suffered from various deformities and health complications due to use of Endosulfan in the state.  Read more

India, Kenya sign MoU in area of agriculture

India and Kenya signed Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for cooperation in the field of agriculture and allied sectors. India also announced $100 million Line of Credit (LoC) to Kenya for agricultural mechanization The agreement was signed after delegation level talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Kenyian President Uhuru Kenyatta in New Delhi. It was first official state visit of President from Kenya to India since 1981. Read more

Government releases draft Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing) Rules, 2016

The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has released draft notification of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (Dog Breeding and Marketing Rules), 2016. The objective of the Rules is to make dog breeders and their marketers accountable and to prevent infliction of any cruelty on dogs in this process. Read more

Tax break for political parties legal: SC

The Supreme Court observed that tax break given to political parties is legal as they require donations from followers to project their political ideas and represent the people. The ruling was given by three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice of India J.S. Khehar while dismissing a writ petition seeking to lift 100% tax exemption granted to political parties. The apex court held that it was up to the Union Government to decide what tax regime they need to impose. The petition had challenged certain provisions in the Income Tax Act and the Representation of the People Act and asked SC to decide why ordinary persons are taxed while political parties enjoy exemption from tax.

States Current Affairs

Telangana inks MoU with Aviation Ministry for Regional Connectivity Scheme

The Telangana state government has signed MoU with the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation and Airports Authority of India (AAI) for the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS). Under it air connectivity will be provided to smaller towns by developing small airports and airstrips. Warangal, Kothagudem and Adilabad airports in the states will be developed for better connectivity. The RCS of the Union Civil Aviation Ministry envisages providing connectivity to un-served and under-served airports of the country through revival of existing air-strips and airports. Under it, Union Government will provide concessions to the operators so that they could operate flights to the smaller towns.

For first time 46 UP constituencies to have Urdu electoral rolls

For first time as many as 46 constituencies in Uttar Pradesh (where Assembly elections is scheduled in February 2017) will have voters’ list printed in Urdu along with Hindi and English. So far the electoral rolls were usually printed in Hindi and English. But in case of a dispute arising in Urdu version, the Hindi version of the rolls will be held as authentic. This move will benefit at least 30% of Muslim voters in the State. These 46 constituencies span across 22 districts, mostly in western Uttar Pradesh, which has large pockets of Muslim population.

Environment, Science & Technology Current Affairs

New species of gibbon discovered in China

Scientists have discovered a new species of gibbon named as ‘Skywalker hoolock gibbon’ living in south-west China’s rainforests. Earlier it was believed that Skywalker gibbons belonged to gibbons species found in this region, but later full genetic and physical comparison with other gibbons confirmed that it is a new species.  Scientists estimate that about 200 Skywalker gibbons are living in China and also in Myanmar. This species already has been classified as endangered. Habitat loss and fragmentation due to human overpopulation is putting the gibbons at risk of extinction. Gibbons are renowned for their loud song, which they use to mark territory, and this also sounded unusual.

Hand-powered blood centrifuge developed

Engineers from Stanford University including those of Indian origin have built an ultra-low-cost, human-powered blood centrifuge. It separates blood into its individual components in only 1.5 minutes. It is created from 20 cents of paper, twine and plastic, a “paperfuge”. It can spin at speeds of 1,25,000 revolutions per minute and exert centrifugal forces of 30,000 Gs. It is claimed to be fastest spinning object driven by human power. It has potential to enable precise diagnosis and treatment of diseases such as malaria, HIV and tuberculosis in the poor regions where these diseases are most prevalent.

NGT orders test of cosmetics containing microbeads

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Union Government (Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation) to test cosmetic products containing microbeads, tiny plastic substances. NGT’s order comes after a plea sought a ban on the use of mirobeads in various cosmetics or personal care products on the ground they are extremely dangerous for aquatic life and environment. Microbeads are extremely tiny plastic substances measuring less than 5 millimetres. They act as exfoliators (agents which remove dead cells) on skin and teeth when used in soap, toothpaste and other products. They are made up of Polyethylene (PE) or Polypropylene (PP), polyethylene terephthalate (PET), polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and nylon. They usually escape the filtration and treatment processes for waste water and end up in rivers and oceans. When they are ingested in marine animals, the plastics break down and toxic substances resulting into hormonal imbalances and neurological breakdown, are released.

IGI Airport first in world to adopt digital platform Arc

Indira Gandhi International (IGI) Airport claimed to become the first aerodrome in the world to adopt Arc, an unique performance and benchmarking digital platform. The dynamic platform at T3 helps in tracking and monitoring building performance. It has been developed by Green Business Certification Inc (GBCI) and US Green Building Council (USGBC), the global certifying body for all Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) projects. It will be used by airport operator to measure, manage and improve performance of airport on resource consumption, quality of passenger space and carbon emissions. It will also allow the airport authorities to measure improvements and benchmark performance against other green building projects around the world.  IGI’s Terminal 3 had earned LEED Gold certification in 2011 under the new construction category.

On-road emission tests to be mandatory from 2020: ARAI

Government is going to make on-road emission tests for vehicles plying on Indian roads mandatory once the Bharat Stage VI norm kicks in from 2020. For this purpose, testing agency Automotive Research Association of India (ARAI) is developing a unified test cycle. The ARAI is devising ways to determine the on-road emission benchmarks in the wake of the 2015 Volkswagen emission cheating scandal. In 2015, the Union Heavy Industries Ministry had said that ARAI will conduct checks on emission levels of diesel passenger vehicles. In June 2016, German automaker Volkswagen had announced recall of 1.90 lakh vehicles sold in India out of a total of 3.23 lakh units due to the emission scandal.

Norway becomes first country to cease FM radio broadcasting

Norway became the first country in the world to cease FM (Frequency Modulation) radio broadcasting and switched to Digital audio broadcasting (DAB). The change to digital broadcasting is taking place county by county and Nordland country in the north of Norway became first to stop broadcasting using analogue frequencies. Capital Oslo will turn off FM broadcasting in September 2017, and the process will be completed nationwide by December 2017. DAB offers a wider range of broadcasting options and greater sound quality and also save money. The move to “radio digitization” was decided by the Norway’s Parliament in 2011 and timetable was announced in 2015. Part of the reason to switch away from traditional analogue transmission is to do with topographical difficulties. It is expensive to transmit FM signals to a small population of the country scattered around a landscape riven with a long and high mountains.

Defence Current Affairs

Second Scorpene class submarine INS Khanderi launched

INS Khanderi, the second Scorpene class submarine was launched at the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) in Mumbai, Maharashtra. It is the second of the six submarines being built at MDL in collaboration with France’s DCNS as part of Project 75 of Indian Navy. Read more

DEFCOM 2017 inaugurated in New Delhi

The 2017 DEFCOM was recently inaugurated in Delhi. This year the theme for the conference is ‘Infrastructure and Skilled Human Resource for Digital Army’. DEFCOM is an annual seminar organised jointly by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and Corps of Signals of Indian Army. It is considered as the most seminal forum for interaction between the officers of the Armed Forces, Indian Industry, Academia and Research & Development (R&D) organisations on matters related to operational communication systems for the Army.

Russia amend laws to provide spares support to India

Russia has amended its laws to allow long-term contracts for spares and support for military equipment supplied to India. It will allow Russian Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) to enter into long-term agreements for spares with Indian Companies. This will address long-standing concerns on the serviceability of the imported equipment. The change in law does away with current long and cumbersome procurement process of spares as India cannot deal directly with the OEMs but with designated intermediaries. Indian military largely comprises platforms and equipment of Russian origin and there is constant concern over the availability of spares for them.

Banking, Business & Economy

NITI Aayog projects 8% growth rate

The NITI Aayog has estimated a growth rate of 8% for 2016-17. The review, however, does not take into account the impact of demonetisation. The premier think tank of Government also laid out appraisal document for the Twelfth Five-Year Plan, flagging the lack of reforms in land acquisition, labour and simplification of administrative procedures as impediments to growth. The 12th Plan is the last five-year Plan and from 2017-18, the Union Government will adopt a three-year action plan and a fifteen-year vision document. National Institution for Transforming India (NITI Aayog) is premier policy think tank of Union Government. It has had replaced erstwhile six decade old Planning Commission.Noted Economist Arvind Panagariya is Vice Chairman of the NITI Aayog.

Jason Kothari named as Snapdeal strategy head

Snapdeal has appointed of former Housing.com CEO Jason Kothari as its Chief Strategy & Investment Officer. He will work alongside co-founders Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal in this key leadership role. In the new role, Kothari will be leading strategy, corporate development, including all investments and strategic partnerships; raising new capital for the company and portfolio management and also oversee firms Snapdeal wholly owns or has invested in. Snapdeal is domestic e-commerce company based in New Delhi. It is third largest e-commerce company in India after Aamzon and Flipkart. Snapdeal currently has 275,000 sellers, over 30 million products and a reach of 6,000 towns and cities across the country.

Vikram Pawah appointed as President of BMW India

German luxury carmaker BMW has appointed Vikram Pawah (45) as the President of India operations. He has rich international experience of more than 25 years both in the automotive and non-automotive industry. Most recently, he was the Managing Director of Harley-Davidson India. Pawah is graduate in Bachelor of Commerce (Honours) from Delhi University and holds an MBA in International and Strategic Management from Victoria University, Melbourne (Australia).

Air India to reserve seats for women

National carrier Air India will soon reserve six seats in the front rows of its aeroplane fleet only for women passengers for their safety. This is for the first time in the world’s aviation industry, seats will be reserved only for women passengers. The six seats will be reserved in third row in the economy class of the aircraft for female passengers travelling alone. This will be done without charging any additional fee.

Persons in News

Daniel Ortega sworn in for 3rd term as Nicaragua’s President

Daniel Ortega (71) was sworn in for a third consecutive term as President in Nicaragua. He is President of the Central American nation since 2007. Besides, his wife Rosario Murillo took oath as the new Vice President. With this, the married couple reins of power for the first time in the Central American country’s history. Ortega and Murillo were elected in November 2016 with 72.5% of the vote, but with a high rate of abstentions. Their party won 71 of the 92 seats in Parliament. Nicaragua is the largest country in the Central American isthmus set between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. Managua is the country’s capital city. It had gained independence from Spain in 1821. Since its independence, Nicaragua has undergone periods of political unrest, dictatorship, and fiscal crisis—the followed by revilutuib. At present Nicaragua is a representative democratic republic.

Sports Current Affairs

PR Sreejesh becomes member of FIH Athletes’ Committee

The Indian hockey team captain PR Sreejesh became a member of International Hockey Federation (FIH) Athletes’ Committee. The committee comprises a total of eight current and former hockey players. It has the responsibility to act as a liaison between the FIH and the athletes to make sure the players have voice in the FIH decision making process. It develops, collate, provide and promote resources for athletes on topics of direct concern including athlete health and welfare, career preparation and management, anti-doping, betting and match-fixing. Sreejesh had led the Indian team to a historic silver medal feat at the FIH Champions Trophy held in London in 2016.

Jimmy Adams appointed new West Indies Cricket director

Former batsman Jimmy Adams to was named as the new director of West Indies cricket. He replaces Richard Pybus who had been in the position since November 2013. Prior this he was head coach of English county side Kent for five year term which ended in October 2016. Adams had played 54 Test matches for the West Indies. However, the West Indies are still without a head coach after the departure of Phil Simmons in September 2016, just five months after their World T20 triumph.

Events and Observances

World’s first gender literature festival to be held in Patna

The world’s first ‘Gender Literature Festival’ will be held in Patna, capital of Bihar in the second week of April 2017. It will organised by the Gender Resource Centre of Bihar’s Women Development Corporation. The objective of this initiative is to create a platform to exchange ideas and to share and learn experiences of renowned people in the field of gender based literature. The festival will also act as a platform to increase visibility for gender equity and advocacy in Bihar.

January 12: National Youth Day

The National Youth Day is observed every year on 12 January to mark the birth anniversary of social reformer, philosopher and thinker Swami Vivekananda. Observance of the day seeks to propagate the philosophy and the ideals of Swami Vivekananda for which he lived and worked.  It will also help and act as a great source of inspiration for the Indian Youth. Read more

Pakistan to renovate Katas Raj Hindu temple

Pakistan Government has launched renovation project of Katas Raj Hindu temple in Chakwal district of Pakistan’s Punjab Province. The renovation work includes installation of a water filtration plant in the Amrat Jal area was inaugurated by Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Katas Raj temple is revered by Hindus across the globe as legend has it that the foundation of the sacred site was laid by Lord Shiva. Pakistan Government says that the temple is over 5,000 years old and had been the focal point of four civilisations. Even it is said that Persian scholar and polymath Al-Biruni had computed the earth’s circumference from here.

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