Current News in Brief (21-31 January, 2018)

  1. Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency Limited (IREDA) and Rewa Ultra Mega Solar Limited (RUMSL) signed an agreement on 31st January, 2018,  for financing the shared infrastructure of two large Solar Parks in Madhya Pradesh.
  2. Dennis Peron, the activist who fired up the movement to legalise medical marijuana in California (USA) died on 27 January in a San Francisco hospital. Also a prominent figure in San Francisco’s gay community, Peron was credited as a pioneer in recognising the health benefits of pot during the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.
  3. According to some reports, the German auto industry has conducted diesel exhaust tests on both monkeys and humans. The tests were reportedly carried out by a research group funded by major German auto companies. 
  4. Vijay Keshav Gokhale, an Indian Foreign Service officer of the 1981 batch, and an expert on China and East Asia, took charge as the foreign secretary on January 29, 2018. Gokhale succeeds S Jaishankar, who was the foreign secretary for three years. Gokhale served as secretary (economic relations) in the ministry of external affairs (MEA) earlier. Gokhale was India’s ambassador to China from January 20, 2016, to October 21, 2017 and has served as India’s envoy to Malaysia and Germany. He had played a key role in negotiations to resolve the 73-day-long Doklam standoff last year.
  5. 44 new cases of leprosy was detected during survey in Kerala. 
  6. The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, launched the Pulse Polio programme for 2018 by administering polio drops to children less than five years old, at the Rahstrapati Bhawan on the eve of the National Immunization Day, which is observed on 28 January. More than 17 crore children of less than five years across the country will be given polio drops as part of the drive of Government of India to sustain polio eradication from the country.
  7. The legendary Indian tradition of ‘teacher-and-student’, referred to as the “Guru-Shishya Parampara” will be celebrated in grand style at the Opening Ceremony of the inaugural Khelo India School Games (KISG) at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium on January 31.
  8. According to a report published by National Law University in Delhi, Maharashtra has overtaken Uttar Pradesh as the state with the most prisoners on death row.
  9. Renowned French Chef Paul Bocuse  died in Lyon, France at the age of 91 years. He rose to fame in the 1970s as a proponent of “nouvelle cuisine”, a healthier form of cooking.
  10. A US Republican senator, Rand Paul, has introduced a bill to block civilian aid to Pakistan. Paul’s bill proposes diverting $1.28 billion from the state department and $852 million from USAID meant for Pakistan towards building highways in the US. 
  11. Veteran Bengali film actress Supriya Devi died on 26 January, 2018. She was 85. Born in 1933, Supriya Devi was known for her work over five decades. She had made her debut in Uttam Kumar-starrer Basu Parivar in 1952 and never looked back after Sonar Harinopposite Uttam Kumar in 1959. Chowringhee, Bagh Bandi Khela and Meghe Dhaka Tara were among her classics. She received the Padma Shri and West Bengal government’s highest civilian award Banga Vibhushan, besides the Filmfare East Lifetime Achievement Award.
  12. American journalist Elizabeth Hawley, whose fifty years chronicling summits and tragedies in the Himalayas earned her the moniker “the Sherlock Holmes of the mountaineering world”, died on 26 January, 2018 aged 94 in Kathmandu. She built a reputation as one of the most authoritative voices on Himalayan mountaineering after moving to Nepal in 1959 as a journalist, where she continued to live up to her death.
  13. Paul Romer stepped down as the World Bank’s chief economist on 24  January, 2018, after he came under fire for saying that Chile’s rankings in a closely watched “Doing Business” report may have been deliberately skewed under socialist President Michelle Bachelet.
  14. Delhi lifted their maiden Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy after defeating Rajasthan by 41 runs. The final match was played at Eden Gardens, Kolkata.
  15. India and the United States are expected to hold the inaugural edition of the simultaneous meetings of their defence and external affairs ministers — called two-by-two — in Washington DC in April, 2018. 
  16.  Manipur chief minister N Biren Singh on 26 January, 2018 hoisted one of the ‘tallest’ and biggest illuminated national flags in Northeast India as part of the Republic Day celebrations. The Tricolour, measuring 20 ft by 30 ft, was hoisted on a 100ft pole on the premises of Imphal International Airport, 7km south of Imphal on 26 January, 2018.
  17. China on 26 January 2018, outlined its ambitions to extend President Xi Jinping’s signature Belt and Road Initiative to the Arctic by developing shipping lanes opened up by global warming. Releasing its first official Arctic policy white paper, China said it would encourage enterprises to build infrastructure and conduct commercial trial voyages, paving the way for Arctic shipping routes that would form a Polar Silk Road. 
  18. A 10-year-old Indian-origin boy Mehul Garg, nicknamed Mahi, in the UK has become the youngest applicant in a decade to get the highest score in Mensa IQ test, beating geniuses like Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. He scored the maximum score of 162 to become a member of Mensa, the High IQ Society. His score is two points higher than Einstein and Hawking and places him in the top one per cent of people in the world who achieve this distinction. 
  19. According to a study by scientists from New Delhi’s International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB), two Siddha medicines (Amukkara Churanam and Nilavembu Kudineer) commonly used in south India can prevent the dengue virus from replicating and the chikungunya virus from entering the body, resulting in no or very mild symptoms,.
  20. Visiting Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte showed keen interest in Aadhaar, India’s unique identity number programme, in a bilateral meeting with PM Narendra Modi.
  21. Actor Kamal Haasan has named his statewide political tour starting February 21 as ‘Naalai Namathey’ (Tomorrow is ours) after the title of the film starring MGR.
  22. The tiger population at Rajasthan’s Ranthambhore Tiger Reserve is now the highest in the park’s history at 67, with the numbers becoming more than what the park can handle, leading to tigers straying out into nearby areas.
  23. The results of underwater surveys by the Suganthi Devadason Marine Research Institute (SDMRI), Tuticorn, revealed that rising sea temperatures caused by climate change, which killed corals in different parts of the world during the third and longest global coral bleaching event between 2014 and 2017, also destroyed coral reefs in the Gulf of Mannar (GoM) and Konkan coast. A rise of 2-3 degrees Celsius in sea-surface temperatures killed 16% of corals in GoM between March and October 2016. An increase of one degree Celsius killed 8% corals around the Sindhudurg island fort in the Malvan Marine Sanctuary (MMS), in December 2015.
  24. Gujarati bus driver Sheikh Salim Gafur, who braved terrorists’ bullets and saved 48 Amarnath pilgrims on July 10 last year, will be awarded the Uttam Jeevan Raksha Padak, the second highest honour given to civilians for gallantry.
  25.  A dozen animals have been disqualified from Saudi Arabia’s annual camel beauty contest because their owners used botulinum toxin or Botox injections to make their lips and faces look more alluring.
  26. The National Technical Advisory Group on Immunization (NTAGI), an advisory body that recommends vaccines for India’s Universal Immunization Programme (UIP), has given the green signal to the introduction of the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine in the Universal Immunisation Programme.
  27. Odisha chief minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik on 24 January, 2018, suspended MP Baijayant Jay Panda from primary membership of the party for ‘antiparty activities’.
  28. No team competing in the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge will make a launch attempt to reach the moon by March 31.
  29. US fantasy and science fiction author URSULA K LE GUIN died  in Portland, Oregon, aged 88. She is best remembered for the global bestselling Earthsea series, in which an apprentice sorcerer fights against the powers of evil. In a career that spanned decades, she published more than 20 novels, wrote children’s books, dozens of short stories, volumes of poetry and collections of essays.

  30. SARAS PT1N (14 seater) designed and developed by CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (CSIR-NAL), a frontline aerospace research laboratory, has successfully made its maiden flight on January 24, 2018. The primary objective is to evaluate the system performance in about 20 flights and the data collected from this shall be used to freeze the design of production version aircraft.  The production version aircraft will be of 19 seat capacity and will undergo civil / military certification. 
  31. A Bengal variety of juvenile monitor lizard (Varanus Bengalensis) found mostly in the Indian subcontinent, was seize at Heathrow airport London.   Monitor lizards take several years to reach adult size but once fully grown they can be up to two metres long. 
  32. Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, Shri Rakesh Srivastava launched the Management Information System (MIS) portal for Anganwadi Services Training Programme in New Delhi on January 23. The Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with National Informatics Centre (NIC), has developed a Management Information System (MIS) portal for submitting applications/estimates by NGOs for carrying out Anganwadi Services (ICDS) Training through AWTCs/MLTCs.
  33. Election Commission of India (ECI) on 24 January, hosted a one-day International Conference on the subject ‘Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in the Election Process’ in New Delhi.
  34. As per a progress report, over 6 crore toilets have been built across rural India under the Swachh Bharat Mission. Two independent surveys by the Quality Council of India in 2017, and National Sample Survey Organization in 2016, have pegged the usage of these toilets at 91% and 95% respectively. As an outcome, over 3 lakh villages and 300 districts have been declared Open Defecation Free (ODF), across ten States and Union Territories, namely, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Kerala, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Arunachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Chandigarh and Daman & Diu.
  35. For the first time ever, the BSE Sensex closed above the 36,000-point level and the National Stock Exchange’s Nifty breached the 11,000 mark on 23 January, 2018. 
  36. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO) the Asia-Pacific region will add 23 million jobs between 2017-19, aided by employment growth in South Asian nations, including India, . But many of the jobs being created are of poor quality despite strong economic growth and some 77% of workers in India will have vulnerable employment by 2019. The report says that of the 535 million labour force in India in 2019, some 398.6 million will have poor quality jobs. The bigger concern in India is while the overall unemployment rate hovers between 3.4% to 3.5% between 2017-19, the unemployment rate in the 15-24 age group is much higher— increasing further from 10% in 2014 to 10.7% in 2019. 
  37. A data from the Union health ministry revealed that unexplained side effects to vaccines led to 10,612 child deaths nationally in 10 years since 2008. Nationally, Adverse Events Following Immunisation (AEFI) caused these deaths, with Andhra Pradesh (including Telangana) reporting the most cases (5,857), followed by Odisha (1,087), Bihar (752), Uttar Pradesh (561), and Karnataka (439). Maharashtra was eighth. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines AEFI as any untoward medical occurrence after immunisation and which does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the usage.
  38. According to the finance minister Arun Jaitley, India may become one of the three largest economies of the world in the next 25 years as it has demonstrated its capacity to grow even during times of adversity.
  39. US President Donald Trump on 22 January signed into law a short-term spending bill which would fund the federal government till February 8, ending a shutdown that overshadowed the first anniversary of his presidency.
  40. Mr Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, called on the President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind, at Rashtrapati Bhavan on January 24, 2018. 
  41. Legendary South African trumpeter, jazz singer and composer Hugh Masekela has died at the age of 78 on January 23, 2018 at Johanesberg. He was Often called the Father of South African jazz’. He was affectionately known locally as ‘Bra Hugh.’
  42. Around one lakh conventional air-conditioners will be replaced by super-efficient appliances that will consume 30% less power, said Union environment minister Harsh Vardhan on 23 January, 2018.
  43. The Minister of State (IC), for AYUSH, Shri Shripad Yesso Naik laid the foundation stone for Central Research Institute (CRI) in Jaipur on 22nd January 2018. This will be the third CRI under the aegis of Central Council for Research in Homoeopathy (CCRH), an autonomous body of Ministry of AYUSH for undertaking scientific research in Homoeopathy, with 23 institutes across the country. 
  44. The Government has decided to install super-efficient air-conditioners in 2, 500 of its buildings for the first time in the country. Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Science & Technology and Earth Sciences, Dr Harsh Vardhan said that one lakh conventional air conditioners will be replaced by super-efficient ACs that will consume 30% less power and will be environment-friendly.
  45. Wildlife Conservation Trust, has launched a mobile-based application, ‘Roadkills’, on January 21, that will help citizens to report  wildlife deaths by uploading geo-tagged photographs to a public forum. This can be used to identify crucial road or rail stretches that urgently require mitigation measures.
  46. Ministry of Railways has directed all Zonal Railway & Production units to achieve Zero scrap balance by end of March 2018.  General Managers of all the Zonal Railways/PUs have been advised to regularly monitor this activity and to intensify supervision at senior officers’ level so as to promptly identify scrap and offer it for e-auction. 
  47. According to the China’s National Bureau of Statistics, a total of 17.23 million babies were born in 2017, declining from 17.86 million in 2016 in China. In percentage terms, the birth rate dropped from 12.95% to 12.43%. Chinese birth rate declined despite marking two years of the end of the strictly enforced one-child policy.
  48. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Risk Report, the number of people in India impacted by flooding of rivers may increase five times in next 25 years. India was hit by at least 19 extreme weather events in 2017, says a report by India Meteorological Department.
  49. One of India’s most wanted criminals, the alleged co-founder of terror group Indian Mujahideen (IM) and the suspected mastermind behind the 2008 Ahmedabad serial blasts, Abdul Subhan Qureshi, alias Tauqeer has been arrested by Delhi police.
  50. To double farm income by 2022, the Modi government is working on training farmers so as to increase their income from secondary sources, and also not accounting for part-time farmers in its calculations
  51. Puducherry CM V Narayanasamy has accused Tamilnadu for denying Puducherry its share of Varaha river in Villupuram district. According to him, TN government was disrespecting an inter-state agreement for releasing water from the Veedur dam in Villupuram.
  52. The United Arab Emirates has launched a smartphone app for Indians seeking work visas that is aimed at streamlining the process and completing most of the procedures in India so that applicants can make a hassle-free entry into the workforce. The UAE is home to an Indian expatriate community of more than 2.6 million, the largest in the country. Professionally qualified workers make up about 20% of the community, followed by 20% white-collar non-professionals and the remainder are blue-collar workers.
  53. India and China, along with South Korea, will co-host a meeting of energy ministers from 60 countries in New Delhi in April 2018. The meeting, which will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will see ministers discuss global energy security and transition to renewables at the biennial International Energy Forum (IEF) on April 10-12. It will have representation from all major energy producers and consumers in the world.
  54. According to London mayor Sadiq Khan, Indian and other non-EU students, who typically pay at least three times the annual fee paid by British or EU students for academic courses, contribute £4.6 billion to London’s economy annually.
  55. According to the World Economic Outlook released by International Monetary Fund (IMF) India is forecast to grow 7.4% in FY19 against 6.7% this year, gaining pace to 7.8% in FY20,.  India’s growth will pick up in FY19. That will see the country regain the tag of fastest-growing major economy, backing the government’s revival theme. The IMF also said 2017 saw the best global growth in seven years.  The report was released with title, ‘Brighter Prospects, Optimistic Markets, Challenges Ahead’.
  56. The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) has made its First investment on 22 January, 2018. NIIF has partnered with DP World to create an investment platform for ports, terminals, transportation and logistics businesses in India. The NIIF is being operationalized by establishing three Alternative Investment Funds (AIFs) under the SEBI Regulations. The proposed corpus of NIIF is Rs. 40,000 Crores (around USD 6 Billion). GOI’s contribution to the AIFs under the NIIF scheme shall be 49% of the total commitment.
  57. The Government of India, the Government of Uttarakhand and the World Bank Board on 22 January, 2018 signed in New Delhi, a $120 million Loan Agreement which will help increase access to improved water supply services in peri-urban areas in the State of Uttarakhand.  
  58. Lakhs of people across Bihar formed a 14,000-km long human chain on 21 January, 2018 to spread awareness against social evils like child marriage and dowry, which have a high prevalence in the state, and to build an atmosphere against these practices.
  59. The N. R. Narayana Murthy committee of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) has recommended suitable tax as well as regulatory framework for alternative investment industry. 
  60. IPS officer Sudeep Lakhtakia was appointed as the new director general of National Security Guard (NSG) on on 19 January 2018. Lakhtakia is a 1984-batch IPS officer of Telangana cadre.
  61. A new report released by the NGO Toxics Link, says that the dry-cleaned clothes contains Perchloroethylene – a toxic chemical which also acts as a carcinogen and affects the kidney, liver and central nervous system. Perchloroethylene which is also known as PERC is a chemical used in the process of dry cleaning and is recognized globally as toxic to the human health and the environment.
  62. Ashok Lavasa has been appointed the Election Commissioner of India. Lavasa is the former Finance Secretary.
  63. According to the researchers from Australia, the building blocks of the Pentagon and the Empire State Building contain ancient microbes that lived long before the dinosaurs walked our planet. They  found that a common building material known as oolitic limestone is made up of tiny spheres of mineralized microbes, dating back as far as 340 million years ago. The findings also debunk the popular ‘snowball theory,’ which argued the millimetre-sized carbonate ‘ooids’ were formed as grains rolled across the sea floor.  

  64. The fourth edition of the India International Science Festival will be held in Lucknow.  The exact dates and other details will be decided later.   The decision to hold the Festival in Lucknow was taken at the first preparatory meeting for the 4th India International Science Festival (IISF) chaired by Union Minister for Science & Technology, Environment, Forest & Climate Change and Earth Sciences.
  65. Ministry of home affairs on January 20, launched the official anthem for the “Bharat Ke Veer” initiative, a corpus fund to help the families of paramilitary troopers killed in the line of duty. The anthem is, sung and composed by singer Kailash Kher.
  66. The Government of India has entered into an agreement with ONGC on 20 January, 2018 for the strategic sale of its 51.11% equity share-holding in HPCL at a consideration of Rs. 36,915 crore
  67. Manisha Singh, an Indian American lawyer, was sworn in as assistant secretary of state of USA for economic and business affairs on January 19, returning to head a department where she had once served in a junior position. The 45-year-old earlier served as the deputy to then department head Dan Sullivan, now Republican senator from Alaska.
  68. India won the fifth edition Blind Cricket World Cup 2018 defeating Pakistan by 2 wickets in Sharjah (UAE) on January 20, 2018. India chased the massive 308 run targets in 40 overs. Ajay Tiwari is the captain of Indian Blind Cricket team. India is defending champion of Blind Cricket Cup.
  69. Farmers protested under ‘Wir haben es satt’ (we are fed up) demonstration in Berlin, Germany on January 20, 2018. They were calling for more eco-logical agriculture.
  70. The Vice President of India, Shri M Venkaiah Naidu received the first copy of the book “Home at Last: A Journey to Higher Consciousness”, from the author Smt. Sarada Chiruvolu, on 20 January.
  71. Smoke billows out of the polluted Bellandur Lake in Bengaluru on 20 January.  
  72. The BJP’s new headquarters will be inaugurated at Deen Dayal Upadhyay Marg in New Delhi. Currently it is situated at Ashoka Road in New Delhi.
  73. Shri Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (I/C) for Housing and Urban Affairs along with the Chief Minister of Goa, Shri Manohar Parrikar on 20 January, 2018 launched the ‘Protocol for Star Rating of Garbage-Free Cities’ in Goa. The star-rating initiative, developed by the Swachh Bharat Mission – Urban will be rating cities on a 7-star rating system based on multiple cleanliness indicators for solid waste management, which will include Door to Door Collection, bulk generator compliance, source segregation, sweeping, scientific processing of waste, scientific land filling, plastic waste management, construction and demolition management, dump remediation & citizen grievance redressal system etc.

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