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National Current Affairs
National Current Affairs Jan 1st Week 2018
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National Current Affairs Jan 1st Week 2018

1. India Hosting 10 ASEAN Leaders on Republic Day 2018.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday said that Republic Day celebrations on January 26, 2018 will ‘especially be remembered through the ages.’ Addressing the nation through the last ‘Mann ki Baat’ episode of the year, PM Modi said, “The Republic Day will be celebrated with leaders of all 10 ASEAN countries coming to India as chief guests. This is unprecedented in India`s history.”

The year 2017 has been special for both ASEAN and India. ASEAN completed its 50 years of formation in 2017 and in 2017, 25 years of India`s partnership with ASEAN were completed, he added. Modi said that the government will also be taking stock of the cleanliness programmes through a survey. He said. “Cleanliness Survey 2018, the largest in the world, will be conducted from January 4, 2018 to March 10, 2018 to evaluate achievements in cleanliness level of our urban areas. This survey will cover a population of more than 40 crores in more than four thousand cities.”

“During this survey, the matters to be surveyed include freedom from defecation in the open in cities, collection of garbage, transport facilities to lift garbage, processing of garbage using scientific methods, efforts to usher in behavioural changes, innovative steps taken for capacity building to maintain cleanliness and public participation in this campaign,” he added.

Explaining the mechanism that will be adopted, Modi said, “Separate teams will go to cities for inspection. They will talk to the people there and gather their reactions. They will analyse the use of the Cleanliness App and also about bringing reforms and improvements in various kinds of service centres. It will also be observed whether the cities have created a system wherein cleanliness of cities will became public habit, or the city`s habit for that matter.”

 

2. Arunachal Pradesh Declared Open Defecation Free.

Arunachal Pradesh welcomed 2018 by keeping its promise of making the state Open Defecation Free. It has become the second state in North-East after Sikkim to achieve ODF status. Upper Subansiri, Siang and Changlang -- were declared Open Defecation Free (ODF) officially today, an official release said.
 
Arunachal Pradesh has managed to do this before the deadline of October 2, 2019. The state government had cut short the national ODF target by one year and ten months ahead of the national target and set 31 December, 2017, as the final target to achieve ODF status in Arunachal Pradesh.
 
The project undertaken under Swachh Bharat Mission (Gramin) SBM (G) saw the light of day only after the state government extended an incentive of Rs 8,000 per toilet. This is in addition to the Centres support of Rs 12,000, raising the grant for constructing a toilet to Rs 20,000.
 
The state government also launched Swachh Arunachal Mission on October 2 this year at Tawang which envisaged the Swachh Protocol (Cleanliness Protocol) aimed at ensuring sustainability of assets created under SBM (Gramin).
 
"I am personally overwhelmed to find people participating in construction of toilets even in remote villages along the international borders like Vijaynagar, Taksing, Pipsorang despite communication bottlenecks requiring strenuous trekking for days together carrying construction materials along with ration on head load," Chief Minister Pema Khandu said.
 
 
3. Vinay Sahasrabuddhe named as ICCR Chief.
President Ram Nath Kovind on Friday appointed BJP leader Vinay Sahasrabuddhe as the President of Indian Council of Cultural Relations.
 
"President has appointed Sahasrabuddhe as the President of ICCR today (Friday)," a Bharatiya Janata Party leader said.
 
Sahasrabuddhe, the BJP`s national Vice President, is also a Rajya Sabha member from Maharashtra. 
 
ICCR, which was founded in 1950 by India`s first Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, who also served as its first President. Former Presidents Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma and K.R. Narayanan, former Prime Ministers P.V. Narasimha Rao and Atal Bihari Vajpayee have also held the post. 
 
The ICCR`s main objectives are to actively participate in the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes pertaining to India`s external cultural relations and to foster and strengthen cultural 
relations and mutual understanding between India and other countries.
 

4. State Bank of India Reduces Base Rate and Benchmark Prime Lending Rates Each by 30 bps.

Bringing the New Year cheer to its customers, SBI or State Bank of India today cut its base rate and Benchmark Prime Lending Rate (BPLR) by 30 basis points (bps). The new rates will be effective from January 01, 2018, said SBI, India`s biggest bank. SBI cut the base rate to 8.65 per cent from 8.95 per cent for existing customers and BPLR to 13.40 per cent from 13.70 per cent. Approximately, 80 lakh customers will benefit from this move, SBI noted. 

SBI has also extended an ongoing waiver on home loan processing fees till March 31, 2018 for new customers as well as other customers looking to switch their existing loans to SBI.

"The reduction in base rate is a new year gift to the bank`s loyal customers as a large number of consumers who have their loan linked to base rate will be benefitted by decrease in rates. This reduction is part of bank`s efforts to ensure transmission of reduction in the policy rates in the recent past. Approximately 80 lakh customers will be benefitted by this move," said PK Gupta, managing director for retail and digital banking at SBI.  

State Bank of India (SBI) is the largest commercial bank in India, ranked 217th on the Fortune Global 500 list of the world`s biggest corporations as of July 2017. It has a sizeable overseas presence with 198 offices in 35 countries across the world. SBI has a significant presence across the broad spectrum of the financial sector in India with subsidiaries/joint ventures in the area of life insurance, general insurance, investment banking, mutual funds, broking and depository services, custodial services, credit cards, pension fund management, factoring services etc. 

On April 1, 2017, SBI merged five of its associate banks - State Bank of Bikaner & Jaipur, State Bank of Hyderabad, State Bank of Mysore, State Bank of Patiala and State Bank of Travancore - and Bharatiya Mahila Bank with itself.

 

5. Women & Child Development Ministry Inaugurated Online Portal NARI.

Women and Child Development Minister Maneka Gandhi will inaugurate an online portal NARI in New Delhi today for the empowerment of women. Developed by the Ministry, the portal will provide women with easy access to information on government schemes and initiatives for women.

The portal summarises over 350 government schemes and other important information. It provides links to the Ministries, Departments and autonomous bodies offering these schemes as well as easy access to online applications and grievance redressal.

Also, there are tips on nutrition, suggestions for health check ups, tips for job search, investment and savings advice, information on crimes against women and reporting procedures, contacts of legal aid cells, adoption procedures and much more.

The Minister will also inaugurate e-Samvad portal developed to provide a platform for NGOs and civil societies to interact with the Ministry. Through e-Samvad portal, NGOs and civil society can provide their feedback, put up grievances and share best practices.

Our correspondent reports that initiatives like NARI and e-Samvad portals are intended to generate awareness and put together relevant information scattered at different websites.

 

6. Assamese and Manipuri Versions of PM Narendra Modi Official Website Launched.

he Assamese and Manipuri language versions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Official website, www.pmindia.gov.in, were launched on Monday. The website can now be accessed in Assamese and Manipuri in keeping with the requests from the citizens of the two states.

With the launch, the PMINDIA website is now available in 11 regional languages namely Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Odia, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu in addition to English and Hindi.

The eleven regional language websites can be accessed at the following links:

Assamese: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/asm/

Bengali: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/bn/

Gujarati: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/gu/

Kannada: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/kn/

Marathi: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/mr/

Malayalam: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/ml/

Manipuri: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/mni/

Odia: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/ory/

Punjabi: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/pa/

Tamil: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/ta/

Telugu: https://www.pmindia.gov.in/te/

The initiative is part of the on-going efforts of the Prime Minister to reach out to the people and communicate with them in their own language. It is expected to further enhance the interaction between people from all parts of the country and the Prime Minister on various issues concerning their welfare and development.

 

7. Pankaj Jain assumes Charge as IIFCL Managing Director.

Pankaj Jain, Joint Secretary in the Department of Financial Services (DFS), has assumed charge as the Managing Director of India Infrastructure Finance Company Ltd (IIFCL).

He will be holding additional charge of IIFCL along with his present position as Joint Secretary at DFS. IIFCL is a state-owned company focused on infrastructure financing and development.

The Government had in end December last year assigned the additional charge of the post of Managing Director of IIFCL to Pankaj Jain, a 1990 batch IAS officer of Assam-Meghalaya cadre.

 

8. India to purchase 240 bombs,131 Barak Missiles to strengthen its Defence.

A country grows strong when its defence sector is strengthened. Therefore PM Modi led central government right from the day one of its rules has taken various initiatives, decisions that have anonymously strengthened our country’s defence sector. Notably, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Tuesday cleared two procurement proposals in a bid to strengthen armed forces.

Minister Nirmala Sitharaman cleared all decks for two procurement proposals including a purchase of 240 bombs and 131 Barak Missiles with associated equipment from Russia and Israel respectively. The first proposal was related to procurement of 240 bombs, at a cost of Rs. 1254 cr. from M/s JSC Rosonboron Exports, Russia.

These bombs fall under the category of Precision Guided Munitions, are used by Indian Air Force (IAF). This procurement will address the deficiency of Precision Guided Munitions in the IAF arsenal, besides enhancing the offensive capabilities of the IAF.

While the second proposal pertained to the procurement of 131 Barak Missiles and associated equipment, under option clause from M/s Rafeal Advance Defence Systems Ltd., Israel, at a cost of Rs. 460 cr. These missiles are surface to air missiles designed to be used as a ship-borne anti-missile defence system against anti-ship missiles.

 

9. First Draft of National Register of Citizens in Assam Released.

A part of a much-awaited list that aims to separate the genuine residents of border state Assam and illegal Bangladeshi immigrants was released Sunday midnight.

The first part draft of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) for Assam that came out amid watertight security recognises 19 million people out of a total 32.9 million applicants as Indian citizens.

Registrar general of India Shailesh said there was no need to panic as the verification process for the rest of the applicants was underway. “Everybody should be patient to wait for the release of the final draft,” he said.

The NRC is being updated in Assam for the first time after 1951 with the aim of identifying those who may have entered the state from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971 — a sensitive issue that led to a movement by the state’s indigenous people in the 1980s. Many fear an unabated influx, which has been going on for close to a century, is a threat to Assam’s identity.

No timeline has been fixed for the release of the complete draft but officials say the process, which is being monitored by the Supreme Court, could take a few more months.

 

10. Eastern Railway arranges special trains for Ganga Sagar Mela.

Hindus from all over the world reaches the confluence of Ganges at Sagar Sangam situated in southern part of West Bengal in India during Gangasagar mela. It is often said that one visit to Gangasagar is worth lifetime. To control the rush of pilgrimages to Gangasagar, Eastern Railway has announced 13 special trains.

The island of Gangasagar is among the most popular Hindu pilgrimage places in the country. Each year on Makar Sankranti (mid-January), the large number of devotees from all over the nation, congregate at Gangasagar for a sacred dip at the convergence of the river Ganga and the Bay of Bengal. After the sacred dip, the pilgrims offer `Puja` at the Kapil Muni Temple or Ashram. In several Hindu myths, the name Gangasagar is mentioned, Gangasagar also finds itself in the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore.

The special trains will run from 12th January to 16th January. Eastern Railway statement says, on 12th January, two Gallopin local trains will be run in the Sealdah-Nana area. Three special trains will run between Namaha-Sealdah. Two special trains will be run in the Kolkata-named ones. One will run in Namaha-Lakshmikantpur. Another special train will be run on that day in Lakshmikantpur-Sealdah. The January 13 special train will be like 12th January schedule.

Special trains will run also on 14, 15 and 16 January. Also, on 14 and 15 January, 34981 Kakdeep-Laxmikantpur local will be stretched till Sealdah. Similarly, on 15 January, Nama-Laksmikantpur-Ballygunge Local will be run till Sealdah.

 

11. India exempts biometric enrolment for cruise tourists arriving with e-visa aims to boost tourism.

03 January 2018 Current Affairs: India an attractive cruise tourist destination the central government has exempted cruise tourists arriving with e-visa from the requirement of biometric enrolment for a period of three years i.e. till 31.12.2020.

The decision was taken by Ministry of Home Affairs on request of the Ministry of Shipping.

This will make immigration clearance of such passengers faster, leaving them with more time to spend on shore.

This is also an important factor that helps cruise lines decide whether or not to include a destination in their itinerary.

The Ministry of Shipping has been working towards simplifying the immigration clearance procedure and providing passengers with a customer friendly and hassle-free logistics process when they embark on or disembark from their cruise at the Indian ports. E-Visa has been in place in the five major ports of Mumbai, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, and Chennai.

Till now biometrics of passengers were required at a port of the first arrival for immigration clearance.

 

12. Reserve Bank of India Bonds Scheme Being Replaced by 7.75% Savings Bonds Scheme.

The Finance Ministry today clarified that the government was not closing 8 per cent saving bonds but replacing it with 7.75 per cent Savings Scheme. The clarification comes a day after the Ministry announced that it would stop the subscription for Savings (Taxable) Bonds from January 2.

On Monday, the Finance Ministry put out a statement, saying that `8 per cent GOI Savings (Taxable) Bonds, 2003 shall cease for subscription with effect from the close of banking business on Tuesday, the 2nd January, 2018.`

Soon after the announcement, Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram hit out at the Modi government and said: "GoI 8% taxable bonds have been the safe harbour of the middle class, especially retirees and senior citizens, since 2003. Government has taken away their only safety net."

He further said that the government has a duty to provide its citizens one safe and risk free instrument for savings. "Taking the only instrument away is a deplorable act," Chidambaram said.

 

13. One Hundred Seventy First Araadhanai Music Festival Begins in Tamil Nadu.

A six-day music festival organised by the Sri Thyagabrahma Sabha at Thanjavur commenced with Nadhasangamam (Confluence of Music) by seven artists on Friday.

Nadhasangamam with Saliamangalam G. Ramadoss, Kanchi Kamakoti Asthana Vidwan on veena, Kalyanapuram G. Srinivasan on Nagaswaram, Thennur N. Srinivasan on violin, Thanjavur G. Sankarasubramanian on Mrithangam, Kundakudi Solaimalai on Ghatam, Tenkasi H. Paramasivam on Ghanjira and R. M. Deenadayalan, Kanchi Kamakoti Asthana Vidwan on Mhursingh, captivated the audience at Jayaram Mahal where the programme was held for more than two hours.

The artistes established harmony of music with different instruments earning the appreciation of the audience.

The programme commenced with “Vathabhi Ganapathim” and reached its peak with the playing of “Entharo Mahanubavulu,” – a ‘pancharathna kriti’ of saint composer Sri Thaygaraja. The sabha has been organising the festival every year.

Art lovers thronged the auditorium to enjoy the music programme. S. Balasubramanian, Chairman, City Union Bank, inaugurated the festival by lighting the lamp.

He said that the music festival has been going on at Thanjavur for the past 65 years. While noting that bhakti and carnatic music could not be separated, he said that most of the patrons of music hailed from Thanjavur.

He expressed regret that now the number of artistes was on the declineat Thanjavur. “There were not enough teachers to teach music now. Youth should be taught music. Programmes like this will help in popularising carnatic music and evince interest among the youth,” he said. Shanthakumar, Assistant General Manager of State Bank of India launched the website of the sabha.

G. Naga Pillai, former president of the sabha was honoured on the occasion. V. Kannan, president and K. Padmanabhan, secretary participated.

Music programmes would continue every evening till July 29.

 

14. HDFC Bank Partners with Rajasthan Government to Promote Startup Culture.

HDFC Bank has announced a partnership with Rajasthan Government to promote and nurture startups in the state. Under this partnership, HDFC Bank will team up with the state government to provide end-to-end solutions like current accounts, credit cards and other solutions to startups under its SmartUp programme.

Furthermore, HDFC bank also plans to assist startups in showcasing their offerings to the general public through its various platforms.

The MoU was signed between Akhil Arora, principal Secretary - IT and Communication, Government of Rajasthan and Smita Bhagat, Head - Branch Banking, Government Business and Ecommerce at HDFC Bank , in presence of Satyen Modi, Zonal Head of HDFC Bank.

Commenting on the partnership, Smita Bhagat said, "We are happy to partner with the Government of Rajasthan in their endeavour to encourage Start-ups in the state. We believe that for startups to thrive, an ecosystem needs to created where relevant stakeholders come together to be with them right from the start of their entrepreneurial journey and create solutions that evolve as the company grows. We are confident that the customized solutions we can offer under SmartUp programme to startups will help nurture innovation in the state. The MOU is the first step towards a larger goal to encourage entrepreneurship and job creation in the state of Rajasthan".

As evident from her statement, this move is part of a larger effort by HDFC bank to create an ecosystem that can help startups across the country. In October 2017, it announced the launch of dedicated SmartUp Zones in its major branches The SmartUp Zones will be located within a specific area inside the branch and will deal with all activities and interests of startups.

HDFC`s Initiatives To Help Startups

The bank claims to be working with more than 150 startups across the country and is further looking to strengthen its presence in the rapidly growing startup ecosystem. In November 2017, it launched a fund for startups with an initial corpus of $25 Mn-$30 Mn.

Over the next few years, HDFC Bank will be launching SmartUp Zones in 65 of its branches across 30 cities, including tier II and tier III cities. In order to make businesses more scalable, the bank enables its customers to access the advanced SmartUp portal.

Recently the bank also announced the launch of Industry Academia, where it will work with the incubation and entrepreneurship cells at IIT Bombay, IIT Roorkee and IIM Ahmedabad to mentor startups at these institutions. The bank intends to take this programme across other leading educational institutions in India.

Currently, HDFC Bank also organises its Digital Innovation Summit annually. The two previous editions of the summit have showcased numerous promising startups from the Indian fintech space.

Lately, the Rajasthan government has also been coming up with startup-centric events like DigiFest and hackathons. With HDFC partnering with the Rajasthan government to promote startups in the state,, Rajasthan-based startups are set to greatly benefit from these initiatives.

 

15. NABARD sanctions Rs. 10,000 Crores loan for Odishas agriculture and rural infrastructural development.

To up the finance for farmers and agriculture, the National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) has sanctioned financial assistance of Rs 10,000 Crores to Odisha. Assistance has also been given by the NABARD for the creation of rural infrastructures such as roads and bridges, lift irrigation projects, rural piped drinking water project, warehousing and irrigation structures.

During the entire previous fiscal, the total assistance was Rs 14,715 Crores, a release issued by the bank said here on Monday. Under refinance channel, the NABARD has so far extended Rs 4,861 Crores to cooperative banks for production of crops by about 3 million farmers in the state.

Under Long-Term Refinance scheme of the NABARD, banks in Odisha have availed credit support of Rs 624 Crores, which have facilitated the creation of private sector farm assets. For infrastructure creation, the bank extended financial support to the tune of Rs 2118 Crores to the state government, the release said.

Since the inception of the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) in 1995-96, the NABARD has sanctioned cumulative financial assistance of about Rs 19,950 Crores to Odisha resulting in the implementation of about 2.24 lakh projects.

As an impact, roads of about 9700 kilometres, bridges of about 1.20 lakh meter and irrigation in 27.61 lakh hectare land have been created in the state out of RIDF Funds, the release said.

 

16. GAIL Commissions India`s Second-Largest Rooftop Solar Plant in Uttar Pradesh.

State-owned gas utility GAIL India Limited today said it has commissioned the country`s second-largest rooftop solar power plant.

The firm has installed a 5.76 MWp (Mega Watt peak) solar plant at its petrochemical complex at Pata in Uttar Pradesh, a company statement said.

The plant over the roofs of warehouses covers a total area of 65,000 square meters.

"With an expected PLF of around 15 percent annually, over 79 lakh KWh (or units) of electricity is targeted to be generated for captive use of India`s largest gas-based petrochemcials plant," it said.

Tata Power Solar had in December 2015 commissioned a 12 MW solar rooftop project in Amritsar, which produces more than 150 lakh units of power annually and offset over 19,000 tonne of carbon emissions every year.

India is planning to have 40 GW of rooftop photovoltaics (PV) by 2022. This is part of its target of having 175 GW of non-hydro renewables capacity by 2022 (made up of 60 GW onshore wind, 60 GW utility-scale solar, 10 GW bio-energy, 5 GW small hydro and 40 GW rooftop solar).

It currently has 60 GW of renewable energy capacity.

GAIL Chairman and Managing Director B C Tripathi said the company as a marketer of benign natural gas is thrilled to integrate captive solar PV towards achieving lower carbon footprint at its installations.

Captive solar power initiative of GAIL will reduce carbon emissions by 6,300 tonnes per annum and help India achieve climate goals, the statement said. "GAIL`s solar rooftop project is also a step under `Make in India` with Indian vendors entrusted for manufacture, supply and execution."

 

17. Madhya Pradesh to set tourism plan worth Rs 100 Crores.

In a move to ensure better facilities for tourists, Madhya Pradesh Tourism Minister Surendra Patwa has said that the government is likely to introduce a plan worth Rs 100 crore.

The plan is aimed at providing better facilities for the people visiting the state and to avoid inconvenience for pilgrims coming from across the country. He added that cleanliness will be the major focus of the plan.

"Religious tourism is increasing in the state and the chief minister has said that we will make a scheme worth almost Rs. 100 crore to ensure better facilities for visitors. In the coming time, we will be providing more and more facility to the pilgrims coming to Madhya Pradesh," Patwa told ANI.

He added that cleanliness should also be in to-do list because that was an essential part.

"By the end of March, we will be making our arrangements accordingly. Our plan will be presented in front of chief minister Chouhan. We will be giving first priority to all the religious places in the state.”

“We will take care of the law and order in Madhya Pradesh to avoid any kind of accident or sudden incident. We will plan accordingly so that pilgrims do not face any kind of problems," the minister stated.

Madhya Pradesh, often called the "Heart of India" is a state located in the central India. This historical land shares its boundaries with Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Rajasthan. Madhya Pradesh is known for its religious hubs of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Islam, Khajuraho temples, impregnable forts, exquisitely carved Jain temples, palaces, which are the glorious reminders of erstwhile era of the royal Rajas and Maharajahs. Endowed with immense natural beauty and splendour, Madhya Pradesh is also famous for its wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, which are home to a rich variety of flora and fauna.

 

 18. Central Government Contours of Electoral Bonds Scheme.

The union government on Tuesday announced details of political funding that can be routed by donors to parties through electoral bonds, a scheme announced by it in Union Budget 2017.

Electoral bonds will allow a political donor to purchase bonds from authorized banks. These can be redeemed only through the registered accounts of a political party in a prescribed time frame.

In line with the Election Commission’s recommendation, the government in last year’s budget session also capped anonymous cash donations to political parties at Rs2,000.

On Tuesday, finance minister Arun Jaitley said the electoral bonds, which are interest-free banking instruments, can be bought from specified branches of State Bank of India in multiples of Rs1,000, Rs1 lakh, Rs10 lakh or Rs1 crore.

The life of the electoral bonds will be 15 days and they can be encashed only by registered political parties through a designated bank account.

“The scheme has been placed before Parliament. Till today, people did not get explicit information on how much funds political parties got from which source and how they spent it. In 2001, we introduced a change to enable funding through cheque. But the share of anonymous funding is still high. The electoral bonds scheme is meant to change this,” Jaitley told reporters.

“Whoever wants to donate electoral bonds, can buy them from any of the notified branches of SBI. The validity of the bonds is kept at 15 days so that this does not become a parallel currency. Every political party will have to file returns to the Election Commission on how much funds have been received,” he said, adding that this was the “beginning” of reforms in political funding and hinted at more measures later.

The electoral bonds will be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the months of January, April, July and October, as specified by the government. Additionally, a 30-day period will be specified by the central government in the year of general elections.

Analysts said the move could end up bringing in more opacity in political funding and could be misused, given the lack of disclosure requirements for individuals purchasing electoral bonds.

“There are only three new pieces of information in what was announced today: the designated bank, life of the bonds and denominations. These do not help. Electoral bonds continue to be designed to make political and electoral funding even more opaque. It will bring more and more black money into the political system,” said Jagdeep Chhokar, founding member of the New Delhi-based Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR).

 

19. Union Cabinet approves establishment of new AIIMS at Bilaspur.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has given its approval for establishment of new AIIMS in Bilaspur (Himachal Pradesh) under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY). The cost of the project is Rs.1351 crore.

Salient features:

The new AIIMS will be completed in a period of 48 months with a pre-construction phase of 12 months, construction phase of 30 months and stabilization / commissioning phase of 6 months.

The Institution will consist of a hospital with a capacity of 750 beds and trauma center facilities.

It will have a Medical college with an intake of 100 MBBS students per year.

Nursing college with an intake of 60 B.Sc. (Nursing) students per year.

Residential complexes and allied facilities / services, broadly on the pattern of AIIMS, New Delhi.

The hospital will have 20 Speciality/Super-Speciality Departments including 15 Operation Theatres.

It will also have an AYUSH department with 30 beds for providing treatment facilities in traditional system of medicine. Impact:

The establishment of new AIIMS will serve the dual purpose of providing super speciality health care to the population while also help create a large pool of doctors and other health workers in this region that can be available for primary and secondary level institutions / facilities being created under National Health Mission (NHM).

Background:

Under this scheme, AIIMS have been established in Bhubaneshwar, Bhopal, Raipur, Jodhpur, Rishikesh and Patna while work of AIIMS Rae Bareli is in progress. Also, three AIIMS in Nagpur (Maharashtra), Kalyani (West Bengal) and Mangalagiri in Guntur (Andhra Pradesh) have been sanctioned in 2015, two AIIMS have been sanctioned at Bathinda and Gorakhpur in 2016 and an AIIMS in Kamrup (Assam).

 

20. India and Israel signed MoU on Cooperation in Oil and Gas Sector.

Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday approved the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Israel on cooperation in the oil and gas sector.

The signing of the MoU assumes importance as it comes close on the heels of Israel`s announcement of granting oil exploration license to a consortium led by ONGC Videsh (OVL) with Bharat PetroResources, Indian Oil and Oil India as other partners.

Also, the approval comes just ahead of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu`s proposed visit to India later this month. 

"The MoU is expected to provide impetus to India - Israel ties in the energy sector. The cooperation envisaged under the agreement will facilitate promotion of investments in each other`s countries, technology transfer, R&D, conducting joint studies, capacity building of human resources and collaboration in the area of Start-ups," an official statement said.

Indian state firms` decision to bid for Israeli fields came following a diplomatic push between the two countries to strengthen ties in various areas. A visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Israel in June was immediately followed by a visit in August by a delegation comprising Oil Ministry officials and state firms` executives to the Middle-East nation. The companies then evaluated the Israel`s invitation to participate in the exploration round and decided to bid.

The Indian consortium and Greek firm Energean were the only bidders in the 1st Israeli Offshore Licensing Round that closed in November. The auction, launched in November 2016, was extended twice to attract more bidders. It offered 24 blocks with an estimated in-place reserve of 6.6 billion barrels of oil and 2,137 billion cubic meters of natural gas.

The winners would get an exploration license for three years, which can be extended by additional three years if the licensee has implemented the work plan and commits to carry out drilling during the extension period. A license holder has to deposit a guarantee of $2.5 million to $10 million, depending on the work program commitments.

 

21. IICA, IPPB Sign MoU to Provide Training on Payment Banking.

The Indian Institute of Corporate Affairs (IICA) and India Post Payments Bank today signed an agreement for the training of employees of the latter in the area of payment banking.

"Under the agreement, IICA has been entrusted with the key responsibility of capacity building of IPPB through training of its officials/employees besides providing research support by instituting Research Chairs in the emerging area of payment banking," an official statement said.

"After green and white revolution, a financial revolution in India is all set to transform the rural economy," Corporate Affairs Secretary Injeti Srinivas said.

With massive network of post offices, India Post Payments Bank (IPPB) can very effectively remedy the lack of financial inclusion in India, he added.

"Mobilisation of household savings – a sound pillar giving strength to Indian economy – has been facilitated by Department of Posts since long," said A N Nanda, Secretary, Department of Posts.

IPPB is a flagship "financial inclusion" initiative of the government to cover major portion of the country`s population that is outside the ambit of formal banking, it said.

 

 22. Andhra Pradesh Grameena Vikas Bank Introduces Desktop ATMs in Rural India.

Move over independent ATMs, security and queues, here come desktop ATMs, that too in rural India. In a trendy initiative, the Andhra Pradesh Grameena Vikas Bank (APGVB) has operationalised it’s first desktop ATM at Kasibugga in Mandi Bazar of Warangal in Telangana on Tuesday.

The mini-ATM within the branch premises will facilitate customers to withdraw small amounts. At the same time regular bank account holders can withdraw money and do other banking activities. The model will be scaled up to 100 in the near future, said Narasi Reddy, Chairman. With these ATMs, there will be no need for separate ATM rooms, so there is no security issue.

This is another IT initiative that the bank, which is the biggest under the SBI and among the best regional rural banks (RRBs). There are 56 RRBs.

At present it’s a pilot exercise. Plans are to install 100 more desktop ATMs in different busy branches. 60 of them will be in Telangana State and 40 in AP branches. It can be installed in the lobby or any business establishment, he said.

The ATM is designed to work in harsh climatic conditions and minimum power requirements. They can dispense small denominations and cater to small cash needs of rural customers, who can use their Rupay ATM debit cards. Immediately, the branches in Nalgonda, Patancheru, Kancherpalem and Srikakulam branches will be equipped with these ATMs to assess their utility and performance.

“The APGVB has a total business of Rs 27,092 crore. Deposits are Rs 13, 805 crore and Advances Rs 13, 287 cr. It is in profit and has adequate reserves and capital adequacy ratio,” Narasi Reddy stated.

23. NABARD Sanctioned Rs 372.51 crore to Odisha.

Bhuabneswar, Jan 3 (PTI) The NABARD has sanctioned Rs 372.51 crore loan assistance under the Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) to Odisha towards irrigation and rural bridge projects for the last quarter of this fiscal. A total number of 17,322 lift irrigation projects including bore wells, shallow tube wells, digging wells, micro river lifts shall be taken up with Rs 130.17 crore from the assistance, the bank said in a release here today. This will provide assured irrigation to about 36,440 hectares of agricultural land directly benefiting about 40,000 farmers of our state. This apart, NABARD has also sanctioned 14 Rural Bridge Projects under Biju Setu Yojana with RIDF loan assistance of Rs 242.34 crore which would add 6222.89 metres of bridge length, benefiting about 4.56 lakh population in 322 villages of the state, it said. The NABARD has provided financial assistance of Rs 10,000 crore to Odisha by the end of the third quarter of the current financial year. During the previous fiscal, the total assistance was Rs 14,715 crore, officials said. Since inception of RIDF in 1995-96, NABARD has sanctioned cumulative financial assistance of about Rs 19,950 crore to Odisha resulting in implementation of about 2.24 lakh projects, a bank official said. PTI SKN PR LNS

 

24. Namami Gange Projects Worth Rs. 295 crore Approved by NMCG.

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) has approved five projects worth Rs. 295.01 crore. Three projects pertain to sewage management in West Bengal at an estimated cost of Rs 278.6 crore, one relates to sewage management in Uttarakhand at an estimated cost of Rs 4.68 crore and one project worth Rs 11.73 crore is related to ghat improvement works in Varanasi.

With these approvals, all projects related to sewage management in high pollution load towns along river Ganga have been sanctioned.

In West Bengal, sewage management works in Kamarhati and Baranagar Municipalities (60 MLD STP, de-silting of sewer lines etc.) at an estimated cost of Rs 172.10 crore under PPP-based Hybrid Annuity mode, pollution abatement works for river Ganga in Berhampore Municipality (3.5 MLD STP and sewer network) at an estimated cost of Rs 52.2 crore and sewage management works in Nabadwip Municipality (9.5 MLD STP and renovation of 10.5 MLD STP) at an estimated cost of Rs 54.3 crore have been approved.

In Uttarakhand, approval was given to one project for laying of sewer lines in some of the uncovered areas in Haridwar at an estimated cost of Rs 4.68 crore.

In Varanasi, a project worth Rs 11.73 crore for repair and retrofitting of various ghats was approved. This project aims to strengthen the poor condition of ghats through bolder pitching and stone steps to ensure improved life of ghats apart from avoiding risk and inconvenience to the visitors and pilgrims.

 

25. Himachal Pradesh to settle 52-year-old power arrears with Punjab and Haryana.

The Himachal Pradesh Cabinet on Thursday approved settling over half a century old electricity arrears with Punjab and Haryana in three Bhakra Beas Management Board (BBMB) projects in compliance with a Supreme Court order in terms of differential energy return.
 
The differential energy quantum of 13,066 million units would fetch Rs 3,266 crore to the state at an average rate of Rs 2.50 per unit, an official statement said.
 
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur presided over the cabinet meeting which also approved negotiations with both the neighbouring states for payment of the entire differential energy within 10 to 12 years.
 
It also agreed for negotiations towards payment of liability of Rs 111.53 crore as computed by the Central government in its affidavit in equal annual instalments during the period of return of power.
 
In case Punjab and Haryana insist for repayment with interest, Himachal Pradesh will go in for return of power with a premium of six per cent and with no further additional liability for receiving this differential energy of 13,066 million units, said the statement.
 
The Cabinet approved the proposal of Punjab and Haryana on return of differential power from October 1 to March 31 owing to their constraints of paddy harvest season and also the requirement of Himachal Pradesh during winter months in public interest.
 
The Supreme Court had raised Himachal`s share to 7.19 per cent of the power generated by the projects -- Bhakra, Beas (Dehar) and Beas (Pong) -- against the 2.5 per cent it was earlier getting.
 
In its order on September 27, 2011, it had upheld the hills state`s claim and directed compensation for denial of the state`s legitimate share from November 1, 1966.

26. Telangana to address water crisis in Tungabhadra region of Karnataka.

In order to mitigate the acute water crisis in the Tungabhadra region of Karnataka, Telangana government has agreed to fulfill the requirement of Karnataka with the help of Rajolibanda Diversion Scheme. On Thursday, Karnataka state delegation which includes Water Resources Minister M B Patil called on, Telangana T Harish Rao who looks after the Water Resources department and briefed about the ground situation.

Speaking to the media, Karnataka minister said that Telangana government has responded positively and official will take the final call after due consultation with Chief Minister K Chandrasekhar Rao. Patil expressed that urgent intervention would resolve the burning issue of drinking water and irrigation demands of the Tungabhadra region.

Patil assured that Karnataka would extend all the support required for the modernization works of Rajolibanda diversion scheme. On this occasion, Karnataka education minister Tanveer Sait, Labour minister Santosh S Lad, Karnataka MLAs and Telangana special chief secretary SK Joshi were present at the meeting.

27. Meghalaya signs host city contract for 39th National Games in 2022.

Meghalaya on Wednesday signed the “Host City Contract” with the Indian Olympics Association (IOA) for the 39th National Games 2022.

Following the signing of the contract between the Meghalaya government, Meghalaya State Olympics Association (MSOA) and IOA, the syaye government also handed over a cheque of Rs. 4.5 crore as contract fee for holding the event.

Meghalaya will be hosting the National Games 2022 coinciding with the 50th year of the creation of the state.

“Without doubt the National Games 2022 will put Meghalaya in the Olympic Map with the National Games as a catalyst. History will talk about a Meghalaya before the National Games and a much better Meghalaya after the National Games,” said MSOA Working President John F. Kharshiing.

Sports and Youth Affairs Director, Matsiewdor War Nongbri said that all actions as per timelines set in the contract will be taken up which include creation of the National Games Olympics Committee (NGOC) before April 3, 2018, NGOC Emblem and mascot(s) by July, 2018 besides IOA to establish a Coordination Commission by March, 2018

Nongbri said the government would also submit a master plan including the sports programme of the Games to the IOA for its approval within January 2019.

IOA Secretary General Rajeev Mehta said that under the agreement there will be milestones and each work will have to be finished within a fixed timeline.

“The host city will have to complete building of infrastructures by 2021 a year ahead of the Games.A There is also a penalty clause of Rs two crore per year in case of delay in hosting the games,” Mehta told journalists.

He said the central government will provide 30 percent of the total budget for the National Games while the remaining 70 percent funds would have to be raised by the state government on its own.

“The state government can maybe raise these funds through sponsorships from various private companies’ through corporate social responsibility initiatives,” Mehta added.

Meghalaya will be the third northeastern state after Manipur and Assam hosted the National Games in 1999 and 2007, respectively.

It had co-hosted the 2016 South Asian Games with its neighbouring Assam.

An estimated 14,450 athletes and officials ies expected to visit Meghalaya during the Games.

28. Goa to Host 3rd Edition of Science Film Festival.

Goa will be hosting the third edition of the Science Film Festival of India between January 16-19. 

The festival, titled SCI-FFI Goa, is being organised by the state-based Vidnyan Parishad, Goa`s Department of Science and Technology, the Entertainment Society of Goa and the Goa College of Art. 

Organisers said today that a highlight of the festival would be the Science Film Making Competition with two categories where films of a duration of five minutes and those above five minutes will be included. 

An organiser said that there would be cash prizes for the best film apart from awards for categories including Direction/Research Presentation, Cinematography, Editing and Design. 

"Total prize money is Rs one lakh and will be given away during the opening ceremony on January 16," the organisers said. 

"Since this competition aims to boost the culture of science films, all the films submitted should be related to science and technology," he said. 

"The subject matter should be related to any aspect of science pursued in Goa, like research, analysis or innovations or even notable personalities from the field of science and technology," he added. 

School students have been invited to submit films shot on a mobile phone on any topic of science to win prizes, the organisers added. 

29. Defence Ministry clears Rs.2420 Crore worth contracts for Navy, Army.

Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman cleared on Thursday a Rs 1,950-crore project for buying full motion simulator from US defence firm Boeing to train aircrews for missions on the Indian Navy’s P-8I submarine hunter planes, a government spokesperson said.

The P-8I ‘training solution’ contract includes 10-year comprehensive maintenance service.

“It will help Indian Navy train and realistically rehearse for sophisticated missions involving P-8I aircraft, at a fraction of the cost of live aircraft trainng,” the spokesperson said.

The navy operates a fleet of eight Boeing P-8I planes based at the Naval Air Station Rajali in Tamil Nadu. And four more P-8Is - a military derivative of the 737-800 commercial aircraft - are on order.  The planes, a replacement for the Soviet-era Tu-142 fleet, are expected to be in naval service beyond 2050.

The P-8I is the Indian Navy variant of the P-8A Poseidon operated by the US Navy.

Sitharaman also cleared a proposal to upgrade the army’s communications infrastructure to effectively deal with advanced communications systems being used by terrorist groups, the spokesperson said. The army will but low intensity conflict electronic warfare system (LICEWS) from Bharat Electronics for Rs 470 crore. 

30. RBI Introduces New Rs10 Banknote in Mahatma Gandhi Series.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) presented the new Rs 10 banknote under the Mahatma Gandhi (New) series on Friday. The central bank has announced that it will launch the new currency note as legal tender soon. The reformed Rs 10 currency note is in line with the government policy to reissue notes after demonetisation with changed designs.

The new Rs 10 note is chocolate brown in colour, and it will bear the signature of RBI Governor Urjit Patel. The back of the note features motif of Sun Temple in Konark, `depicting the country`s cultural heritage`. Apart from these, there are several other changes in the design and geometric patterns on the new note. Dimensions of the note are 63mmx123mm, as opposed to the older notes 63mmx137mm.

Here are the features that will be seen on the new Rs 10 note:

Front

1. See through register with denominational numeral 10

2. Denominational numeral `10` written in Devnagari

3. Portrait of Mahatma Gandhi at the centre

4. Micro letters `RBI`, `INDIA`, and `10`, along with `Bharat` in Devnagari

5. Windowed demetalised security thread with inscriptions `Bharat` in Devnagari and RBI

6. Guarantee Clause, signature of RBI Governor Urjit Patel with Promise Clause and RBI emblem towards right of Mahatma Gandhi portrait

7. Ashoka Pillar emblem on the right

8. Mahatma Gandhi portrait and electrotype (10) watermarks

9. Number panel with numerals growing from small to big on the top left side and bottom right side

Back

1. Year of printing of the note on the left

2. Swachh Bharat logo with slogan

3. Language panel

4. Motif of Sun Temple, Konark

5. Denominational numeral `10` written in Devnagari

The older Rs 10 notes from the previous series will continue to be legal tender, though. Meanwhile, RBI is also emphasising on getting more of its new notes in circulation. The central bank recently ordered banks to expedite recalibrating their ATMs to dispense new Rs 200 notes. The Rs 100 note, the only currency note to be overhauled, will also get design changes, reportedly next year.

31. India GDP Growth Likely at 6.5% in 2017-18: CSO.

The Indian economy is expected to decelerate to 6.5% in 2017-18 from 7.1% in the previous year, marred by the twin policy blow of demonetisation and hasty implementation of the goods and services tax (GST).

In the first half (April-September) of the financial year ending 31 March, the economy grew at 6%, indicating that it will accelerate in the second half (October-March) of the financial year.

Data released by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) showed that the agriculture sector is expected to grow at 2.1% in FY18, slower than 4.9% in the previous year, while manufacturing is likely to grow at 4.6%, compared with 7.9% a year ago. Electricity and trade, hotels sectors are the only sectors that will grow at a faster rate of 7.5% and 8.7% in FY18 than in FY17.

The nominal GDP, or gross domestic product at market prices, is expected to grow at 9.5% against 11.75% assumed in the 2017-18 budget presented last year. This may make it difficult for the government to achieve the fiscal deficit target of 3.2% of GDP in a fiscally tight year.

The nominal GDP will be used as the benchmark for most indices in Union Budget 2018 to be presented by finance minister Arun Jaitley on 1 February.

32. Defence Ministry Clears Arms Procurement Contracts worth Rs2,420 crore for Navy and Army.

 Top acquisition body of the ministry of defence on Saturday approved army’s modernization projects of worth over Rs. 2800 crore.

Defence Acquisition Council(DAC) headed by the Defence Minister Arun Jaitley cleared projects including equipping armoured fighting vehicles(BMP) used by infantry with night fighting capabilities and Ordnance Factory, Medak will undertake the deal worth over Rs 2,400 crore. The same factory will also manufacture command and control posts for directing artillery fire and the cost is Rs 406 crores.

According to defence ministry official, the two projects falling under the category of Buy India category that the Medak factory in Telangana will provide upgrade which will render the armour fighting vehicles (BMP) achieve better night fighting capabilities and achieve better accuracy.  The cost of the project is Rs 2,400 crore. These vehicles ferry infantry troops into the battlefield and protect them from enemy fire.  At present, the Army has more than 2,750 BMPs made in collaboration with Russia.  The armoured carriers fitted with medium machine guns can accommodate at least 11 soldiers including three crew members.

DAC also gave its nod to the carrier command posts on tracked vehicles for technical control of artillery fire.  The Medak factory will manufacture the command posts equipped with latest communication systems and computers to enable the commander to effectively direct fire at targets.  The posts will also have unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) to assist the commander to gather precise information about the battlefield scenario in real time, sources said.

These command posts will give a boost to the Army’s artillery modernization plan. It aims to procure 2,800 to 3,000 artillery guns including 814 truck mounted guns, 1,580 towed guns, 100 tracked self-propelled gun, 180 wheeled self-propelled guns and 145 ultra-light howitzers.

In fact, the Army acquired the first lot of howitzers in May this year after a gap of more than 31 years when artillery modernization plan came to a standstill in the wake of Bofors gun controversy.  The first two pieces of M-777 howitzers manufactured in the US arrived in India in May and are now undergoing field trials in Rajasthan.  The contract for the howitzers is over 737 million dollars.

 

33. West Bengal CM Unveils Official Emblem of West Bengal Government.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday unveiled the official emblem of the state government, which was recently approved by the centre.

The logo highlights the Ashoka emblem on the top with the theme of "Biswa Bangla" at the centre. Ms Banerjee has also contributed to the design of the emblem.

"Bengal begins a new journey today with a new identity...This historic achievement is indeed a new feather in Bengal`s cap after a long wait of 70 years since independence. You will be happy to know that I have made a small contribution in design of the emblem...(sic)," the chief minister said in a Facebook post.

34. TIHCL Gets RBI Nod to Operate as NBFC.

Telangana Industrial Health Clinic Ltd (TIHCL), a State government initiative, has got RBI clearance to register and function as a non-banking finance company (NBFC).

It will be the first State promoted and co-financing NBFC, according to B Yerram Raju, TIHCL’s advisor and director. TIHCL was floated in 2017 with a corpus of ?100 crore, which included contributions from the State and Central governments, financial institutions, industrial units and high networth individuals.

Lenders such as Karur Vysya Bank, Vijaya Bank, Canara Bank, Union Bank, SBI and SIDBI have evinced interest in partnering with TIHCL.

TIHCL’s innovative institutional intervention to resolve the stressed assets in micro and small manufacturing enterprises attracted the attention of policymakers at the national level, said Yerram Raju.

It had won the SKOCH Platinum Award in September 2017 under the smart governance category in the MSME segment, he added.

In the past couple of months, its proof of concept resulted in 23 micro and small enterprises contributing to the share share capital to an extent of ?2.30 lakh.

TIHCL advised these enterprises in the resolution of the stress they faced from banks — the SARFAESI Act 2000 notice was vacated for a few while for others it helped get over stress from improper management decisions, he told BusinessLine.

The Telangana government sponsored it as an SPV of the State Industrial Development Corporation initially and registered it as a public company under the Companies Act of 2013 with an investment of ?10 crore from the State budget.

TIHCL expects to pursue a multipronged strategy of filling in the credit gap that exists for micro manufacturing enterprises, help small enterprises access equity markets as well as revive and restructure viable manufacturing MSEs.

On the revival front, Yerram Raju said, TIHCL will provide bridge finance, but not to those entrepreneurs who are wilful defaulters.

 


 

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