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15 to 21 January 2020 - Current Affairs

International :
  • Henley Passport Index 2020 recently released the rankings of the world’s most powerful passports. Indian passport has ranked 84th in the list while Japan’s passport ranked 1st in the index. The rankings of these passports are based on data collected from the International Air Transport Association (IATA). The Henley and Partners said the list included passports of 199 countries and 227 tourist places. This list has been prepared based on new visa policies. The list included the most powerful and weakest passport of the world. 

    Highlights : 
    • According to the Henley Passport Index, Japan has the most powerful passport in the world.
    • Japan’s passport holders can visit 191 countries without any visa.
    • Top 10 countries in the index are – Singapore, Germany, South Korea, Italy, Finland, Spain, Luxembourg, and Denmark.
    • India is ranked 84th in this index. In 2006, India has been ranked 71st in this index. Currently, Indian passport holders can go to 58 countries without obtaining a visa.
    • UAE’s passport has witnessed the highest growth from 65th position in 2010 to 18th in 2020.
    • Nigeria’s passport ranked 199th as the weakest passport in the world.

  • India continued to be the top sourcing market for Sri Lankan tourism with Indian tourists constituting maximum 19 per cent of total tourist arrivals to the island nation in 2019. The latest data released by Sri Lankan Tourism revealed that 3,55,002 Indian tourists visited Sri Lanka last year against total arrival of around 1.91 million. Over 48 thousand Indians visited Sri Lanka during last month of December alone including over thousand by sea route.

  • A ten-day-long art exhibition commemorating 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi was inaugurated on January 8, 2020 in Dhaka. The art exhibition has been organised by the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh in association with the Bangladesh Shilpkala Academy.

  • The World Future Energy Summit will begin on January 13, 2020 in Abu Dhabi. 33,500 participants from 170 countries and 800 specialist exhibitors are expected to attend the four-day annual event. The theme for this year's summit is "Rethinking Global Consumption, Production, and Investment." World Future Energy Summit is the Middle East’s largest future energy and sustainability event. Held annually at Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre, the 2020 edition includes exhibition and forum programmes across five main pillars: energy, solar, water, waste and smart cities, hosting an unrivalled gathering of top-level government and business leaders. The event is starting to set an example for best practice, supporting the circular economy through recycling, and acting to remove single-use plastics from the event. Also held alongside the World Future Energy Summit are the Climate Innovations Exchange, ‘CLIX’ for short and the Future Sustainability Summit. The event will showcase 42 of the world’s most disruptive innovations, selected from 1,402 global submissions from 128 countries, related to the future of energy, food, agriculture and sustainability in space.

National :
  • The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare released a policy draft on January 13, 2020, on rare diseases. The objective of this policy draft is to provide Rs. 15 lakh help to the poor people who can’t afford the expenses of treatment. According to the reports published, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) will be established. This council will prepare a database of beneficiaries of the Ayushman Bharat Scheme. Rare disease policy will be helpful for lakhs of poor people in the country. 

    The ICMR will identify people suffering from rare diseases and provide financial assistance up to Rs 15 lakh for their treatment. The draft highlights the fact that hospitals will be selected through crowd-funding and for the treatment of rare diseases to provide financial assistance to the victims. The draft proposes to set up a separate digital platform for voluntary crowd-funding. The draft states that the government wants to create an alternative mechanism for providing financial facilities to provide maximum health services to the people. A digital platform will be formed under this scheme.

  • The Union Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani launched Yashaswini Scheme for women entrepreneurship and Swasthya Sakhi project in Goa on January 11, 2020. A breast screening initiative was also launched during the occasion. The Yashaswini Scheme for Women entrepreneurship aims to support women Self Help Groups (SHGs) with interest-free loans up to Rs 5 lakh & handholding from experts. The scheme aims to strengthen the socio-economic empowerment of women in Goa. 
    The Swasthya Sakhi Project aims to ensure the wellness and welfare of women, especially during pregnancy. It aims to promote a healthy lifestyle, which will benefit both mother and child.

  • Union Consumer Minister Ram Vilas Paswan announced on January 14, 2020, that Indian jewellers will be allowed to sell hallmarked gold artifacts made of 14, 18 and 22-carat gold only. He said that it will become mandatory for all jewellers in the country but they will be given one year to get mandatory hallmark. The notification regarding this rule of consumer affairs will be issued on January 16, which will provide mandatory hallmarking of gold jewellery from January 15, 2021. At present, gold hallmarking is voluntary. 

    Gold hallmarking is a purity certification by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). The BIS symbol certifies that the jewellery has BIS standards. Therefore, one must ensure that jewellery has a BIS hallmark. It has a triangular mark as a purity certification of gold. Apart from that, the year of manufacturing of the product and the logo of the producer are also there. There are several assessments and hallmarking centers in 234 district locations in India. However, only 28,849 jewellery vendors have BIS registration. Hallmarking will curb frauds and fake gold jewellery. As per the data released by the World Gold Council (WGC) India’s gold import in the first nine months of 2019 was 496.11 tonnes. It was 523.9 tonne in the year 2018. On the other hand, according to the World Trade Organization's global trade rules, member countries have to notify their quality control order.

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah has signed a historic pact for permanent solution of Bru refugees’ issue. Amit Shah announced a package of Rs. 600 crore under this agreement. More than 30,000 Bru tribes who fled Mizoram and residing in Tripura’s refugee camps will no longer be forced to return. According to the agreement between representatives of the central government, Tripura, Mizoram and Bru tribes, they will now be settled in Tripura. Earlier, an agreement was signed in 2018 to send them back but it could not be implemented due to their protest. 

    Highlights of Agreement :
    • Amit Shah said in a press conference that as per the agreement the Bru tribes would be given land to reside in Tripura.
    • A fixed deposit of Rs. 4 lakh will be given to each family as an amount of government aid. They will be able to withdraw this amount after two years.
    • According to the agreement, each of the displaced families will be given 40x30 sq ft residential plots.
    • Apart from them, each family will be given Rs. 5,000 cash per month for two years.
    • The agreement highlights that each displaced family will also be given free ration for two years and aid of Rs. 1.5 lakh to build their houses.
    • The Tripura state government will provide land for residential settlement.

  • The central government and Assam state government signed a USD 88 million loan agreement with the World Bank on January 16, 2020 to implement the Assam Inland Water Transport Project. The project aims to modernise the infrastructure and services of Assam's passenger ferry sector, which operates on its rivers including the Brahmaputra. Assam has more than 361 ferry routes and a majority of them cross the Brahmaputra or serve its islands. The service is a crucial means of transport for thousands of commuters in both the urban and rural areas of the state.

  • Ladakh Food Processing Summit titled Building Partnerships for Inclusive Growth in Food Processing Sector was held on 16 January 2020. The summit was organized by the Department of Industries & Commerce, Ladakh in association with the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, Government of India and Invest India. It is aimed to carry out a value chain mapping of food processing in Ladakh. It recommends strategies for integrating the local population into food processing and agriculture activities, to maximize the potential of the sector.

  • In Madhya Pradesh, the state government has decided to set up Gandhi chairs and Gandhi pillars dedicated to father of the nation in universities and colleges across the state. Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath will inaugurate the Gandhi Chairs at a symbolic function on January 30, the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. The ‘Gandhi Chair’ will be set up under the political science department of the universities. Under the aegis of Gandhi Chair, scholars who are doing research focusing Mahatma Gandhi will be given incentive of Rs 60 thousand per annum.

  • ‘Saksham’, an annual one-month long, people-centric fuel conservation mega campaign of Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas is going to be launched on 16th January by Minister of Petroleum & Natural Gas and Steel Shri Dharmendra Pradhan in a function to be held in Delhi. PCRA in association with Institute of Petroleum-Dehradun has developed high energy efficient PNG burner/Gas stove for household where piped gas is supplied which will save gas as compared to modified LPG stove for PNG.

  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has unveiled infrastructure projects worth 102 lakh crore rupees that will be implemented in the next five years as a part of the government's spending push to the infrastructure sector. The Finance Minister informed this while releasing the Report of the Task Force on National Infrastructure Pipeline, NIP for 2019-2025. Ms Sitharaman said that in his Independence Day speech the Prime Minister spoke about investing 100 lakh crore rupees in infrastructure. Ms Sitharaman said, energy projects worth nearly 25 lakh crore rupees have been lined up and another 20 lakh crore rupees in road and about 14 lakh crore rupees in railway projects have also been lined up.

  • Government has slashed import duty on refined palmolein from 50 per cent to 45 per cent and crude palm oil (CPO) from 40 per cent to 37.5 per cent with immediate effect. A notification in this regard has been issued by the finance ministry. The duty cut has been made under the ASEAN agreement and the India-Malaysia Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (IMCECA). The domestic palm oil refining industry has opposed the move saying it will hurt them and oilseeds farmers.

  • Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, TRAI has made amendments to the new regulatory framework for cable and broadcasting services with a view to protect the consumer interests. Under it, cable TV users will be able to access more channels at lower subion price. The Authority has also capped at 160 rupees the amount consumers will have to pay monthly for all free to air channels. TRAI, in a statement, said that Consumers have also highlighted huge charges taken by Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) in the form of Network Capacity Fee -NCF for a multi-TV home. 

    TRAI said, the homes where more than one TV connection is working in the name of one person, it will charge maximum 40 per cent of declared NCF for second and additional TV connections. Authority has also permitted DPOs to offer discounts on long term subions which is for 6 months or more. TRAI has also reduced the maximum NCF charge to 130 rupees excluding taxes for 200 channels. In addition, it has also been decided that channels declared mandatory by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting will not be counted in the number of channels in the NCF. The Authority said that only those channels which have an MRP of 12 rupees or less will be permitted to be part of the bouquet offered by broadcasters.

  • Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Ashwini Kumar Choubey has said that two to three crore premium Gold cards will be issued under the Central Government’s flagship Ayushman Bharat scheme. The minister said that Gold card holders will be able to avail free medical services in hospitals anywhere in the country. Shri Choubey also revealed that nine new medical colleges are being started in Tamilnadu including one each in Rameswaram and Nagapattinam. He also said that permission has been accorded for setting up a 1000 bedded super specialty hospital in Mayiladuthurai. The minister said that one lakh doctors will finish training in these medical colleges by 2024.

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah dedicated the new campus of National Fire Service College (NFSC) under Ministry of Home affairs in Nagpur. Mr Shah said, NFSC campus spread across 42 acres is fully equipped with the international standards and this modernized campus will be a proud moment not just for the Nagpur but also for the whole nation. He informed that four-year Bachelor level course in Fire Engineering approved by the All India Council for Technical Education along with the short and long-term courses in Emergency Management, Medical Life Support Management and Disaster Management will be taught in this college.

  • In the year 2019, India’s rank in Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index of World Economic Forum has moved to 34th position from 65th rank in 2013. Foreign Tourist Arrivals also registered a growth of 3.2 percent last year. The government is working to develop thematic circuits under the Swadesh Darshan Scheme and 77 projects amounting over Rs 6035 crore have been sanctioned till date under this scheme. An initiative called - 'Adopt a Heritage: Apni Dharohar, Apni Pehchaan' has been launched for developing tourist amenities at heritage and tourist sites and making them tourist-friendly. E-visa has been further liberalized and visa fee on e-visa has been substantially reduced to increase tourism competitiveness of the country. The Government has also opened more than 120 mountain peaks for mountaineering and trekking for promoting adventure tourism in the country.

  • UJALA and Street Lighting National Programme (SLNP) of the central government completed five successful years of illuminating the country. Over 36.13 crore LED bulbs have been distributed across the country through the UJALA initiative. This has resulted in estimated energy savings of 46.92 billion kilowatt-hour per year. Unnat Jyoti by Affordable LEDs for All (UJALA) project brought the market transformation in the energy efficiency sector. Prices of LED bulbs being distributed under UJALA programme have fallen to one-tenth of their rates, from 310 rupees in 2015 to 38 rupees in 2018. The switch from inefficient incandescent bulbs to LEDs is helping families reduce their electricity bills while also enabling them to access better brightness in homes. More than 1.03 crore smart LED streetlights have been installed till date under the Street Lighting National Programme. This has enabled an estimated energy savings of 6.97 billion kilowatt-hour per year. LED streetlights have been installed in various states across the country, helping in generating approximately 13,000 jobs to support Make in India initiative.

  • Tamil Nadu government has decided to appoint music, dance and art teachers in all schools. State Cultural Development Minister K Pandiarajan said that the government has already been its in- principle approval to the proposal.

  • A Yoga Science meet was organised on 6 January, 2020 as part of the ongoing Indian Science Congress in Bengaluru. The head of SVYASA Yoga deemed University Dr. HR Nagendra spoke on the benefits of Yoga in busting stress.

  • The Centre has released 5,908 crore rupees of Central assistance to seven states which were affected by floods, landslides, cloudburst during the previous year(2019). The financial assistance has been given to Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Tripura and Uttar Pradesh from the National Disaster Response Fund, NDRF. During this financial year, the Central Government has so far released 8,068 crore rupees to 27 states as Central share from State Disaster Response Fund.

  • The 182-meter tall Statue of Unity in Gujarat has been included in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation's '8 Wonders of SCO' list, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar announced.

  • President Kovind lays foundation stone to Lakshadweep's first Super Specialty Hospital at Kavaratti.

  • Cabinet has approved promulgation of Mineral Laws (Amendment) Ordinance 2020. The Ordinance will amend Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation ) Act 1957 and Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Act 2015. The Ordinance will ease rules for auctioning of coal mines and to open up to all sectors. Mr Joshi said, the government has also done away with end-use restrictions of the mining blocks.

  • The Cabinet gave its approval for an Agreement between India and Mongolia on Cooperation in the Exploration and Uses of Outer Space for Peaceful and Civilian Purposes. The agreement was signed in New Delhi on 20th September last year during the visit of the President of Mongolia to India. 

    The Cabinet also gave its approval for signing a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department for International Development Government of the United Kingdom for enabling Energy Self-Sufficiency for Indian Railways. 

    The Cabinet was apprised of the Agreement on cooperation in polar science between Ministry of Earth Sciences, Government of India and Ministry of Education and Research, Sweden. The MoU was signed on 2nd of last month during the visit of King and Queen of Sweden to India. 

    The Cabinet gave its approval for the ratification of Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement between India and France. The Agreement was signed in March 2018 during the State visit of the French President to India. 

    The Cabinet also gave its ex-post-facto approval on the Memorandum of Cooperation between Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on cooperation in the field of Health signed in November last year. 

    The Cabinet was apprised of information about the amendments moved to the Motor Vehicles (Amendment) Bill, 2019 as passed by the Rajya Sabha. Amendments will ensure concurrence of the State Governments while formulating National Transport Policy and making schemes for national, multimodal and inter-state transportation of goods and passengers by the Central Government. 

    The Cabinet approved conferring the status of Institution of National Importance to a cluster of Ayurvedic institutions at Gujarat Ayurved University campus in Jamnagar. The strengthening of Ayurveda will reduce government expenditure on health as Ayurveda is cost-effective because of its preventive and curative approaches. A bill to that effect will be introduced in the ensuing Session of Parliament.

  • Kashmir will be connected to rest of the country through Railway network by December next year(2021) as the government has set a fresh deadline for completion of the world's highest Railway bridge. The Rail line is expected to be 35 metres taller than the Eiffel Tower. Designed to withstand wind speeds of up to 260 kilometres per hour, the 1.315 km-long engineering marvel will connect Bakkal (Katra) and Kauri (Srinagar). The bridge forms a crucial link in the 111-kilometre stretch between Katra and Banihal, which is part of the Udhampur-Srinagar-Baramulla Rail Link Project.

  • Union Minister for Communications, Electronics and Information Technology Ravi Shankar Prasad inaugurates works on laying of submarine cables from Chennai to Andaman Nicobar Islands in Chennai. The submarine cables will be initially laid from Chennai to Port Blair covering a distance of 1,450 kilometres. Afterwards it will be extended to Rangat, Long Island, Swaraj Island, Hut Bay, Car Nicobar, Kamorta and Campbell Bay in the Union Territory, covering an additional distance of 800 kilometres. The works are expected to be completed by June this year. The cables are of four-fibre pairs, with the capacity to transfer 6.4 tera-bytes of data per second by each fibre-pair. At the initial stage of commissioning of the project itself, the islands can get a data speed of 400-gigabytes per second.

  • Census India-2021 will begin on 1st of April this year and will end on 30th of September. It will be conducted through a mobile phone application, moving away from the traditional pen and paper. Enumerators of the census will seek the information of mobile number of the head of the family, information related to toilets, TV, Internet, vehicles owned, source of drinking water besides asking other questions during the house listing phase of the exercise.

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah inaugurated various people centric projects of Gujarat Police and Indian Postal Department at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar. He said the two projects VISWAS and AASHVAST will play a key role in preventing crimes in the state. The projects include Video Integration and StateWide Advance Security-VISWAS project, ‘Netrang’ project to establish Command and Control Room in 33 districts, online portal to pay E Challan and Cyber Crime Prevention Unit-AASHVAST which will have a dedicated service helpline for victims of cyber crimes.

  • The Kolkata Port has been renamed as Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Port. The Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi announced this in Kolkata on the occasion of 150th years celebrations of the Kolkata Port Trust. Mr. Modi launched several Port led development projects worth Rs 600 cr rupees to mark the day.

  • The Centre is implementing Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) to provide financial support to farmers suffering crop loss or damage arising out of unforeseen events. The scheme has been launched in February 2016 after the Union Cabinet approved the new scheme on this day, 13th of January in 2016. The scheme provides comprehensive insurance coverage against crop loss on account of non-preventable natural risks, thus helping stabilise farmers income. It will also encourage them to adopt innovative practices. Under it, there is a uniform premium of only 2 per cent to be paid by farmers for all Kharif crops and 1.5 per cent for all Rabi crops. In case of annual commercial and horticultural crops, the premium to be paid by farmers will be only 5 per cent. The premium rates to be paid by farmers are very low and balance premium will be paid by the Government to provide full insured amount to farmers against crop loss on account of natural calamities. The new Crop Insurance Scheme is in line with One Nation - One Scheme theme. It incorporates the best features of all the previous schemes and at the same time, previous shortcomings and weaknesses have been removed.

  • Union Territory Ladakh is hosting the first ever Food Processing Summit to attract investors to the region. With the help of Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Food Processing Industries, the UT Administration of Ladakh is organizing the Summit. Ladakh region has vast scope for investment in food Processing Industries in horticulture products like Apricot, SeabuckThorn, Apple and agricultural produce like buckwheat and barley. Ladakh Commerce and industries Commissioner secretary Saugat Biswas said over hundred entrepreneurs from Leh and Kargil are participating in the Summit. The event is aimed at encouraging the entrepreneurs to begin a StartUp to tap the potential in the Food Processing Industries in Ladakh. Invest India will explain the procedures of investment processes along with Government support.

Bilateral :
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Myanmar capital Naypyitaw on 17 January, 2020 on a two day visit. It is President Xi's first visit to Myanmar also the first visit by a Chinese president to Myanmar in 19 years. During the visit of President Xi Jinping China speedy implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is on top of the agenda as Myanmar occupies an important strategic location for China at the junction of South and South East Asia. Myanmar formally joined the BRI in September 2018 after signing a 15-point memorandum of understanding (MoU) with China. The 1700 km long China Myanmar Economic Corridor (CMEC), as part of the BRI, will connect Kunming, the capital of China’s Yunnan Province, to Myanmar’s Mandalay and Yangon which are its major economic hubs, and to the Kyaukphyu Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State. Under the CMEC, Myanmar has agreed to implement nine projects including the Kyaukphyu SEZ which will provide a direct access to China to the Indian Ocean. 

    During the visit, the two countries are expected to sign a dozen agreements including the Kyaukphyu SEZ, $1.3 billion deep-sea port at Kyaukphyu in central Rakhine state, border cooperation zones, trade, road upgrade projects among others. Xi is scheduled to meet 

  • The first Session of India-Norway Dialogue on Trade & Investment (DTI) was convened in New Delhi on 15-16 January, 2020. The session was based on the Terms of Reference (ToR) signed between India and Norway on 8th January, 2019 in New Delhi, during the visit of Prime Minister of Norway. This was the first meeting after the signing of DTI. The first Session was preceded by an industry interaction on 15th January, 2020 with the representatives from Indian industry, where discussions were held on various areas of mutual interest like blue economy, shipping & maritime, ICT, renewable energy, fisheries and MSME.

  • In continuation of the cultural exchange programme between India and Iran, Sahitya Akademi in collaboration with Embassy of Iran organized an Indo-Iranian Writers' Meet in New Delhi. The objective of the meet is to further deepen cultural ties between the two nations and heighten literary awareness among the readers at both sides. The meet was also aimed at providing a platform for meaningful-dialogue between writers of both countries. Culture Counsellor of Iran Mohammad Ali Rabbani, Secretary Sahitya Akademi K Sreenivasarao and eminent writer and scholar Nasera Sharma were present in the meet. The events also witnessed a panel discussion on Indo-Iranian Cultural Bonds. 

  • External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar and Foreign Minister of Iran Dr. Mohammad Javad Zarif held a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi. Both the leaders recalled positive outcomes of Mr Jaishshankar's recent visit to Tehran for the 19th Joint Commission Meeting especially for strengthening bilateral trade and promoting connectivity initiative through Chabahar port. Both sides have also agreed to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the bilateral Treaty of Friendship this year. The two sides also exchanged views on regional and global issues of mutual interest, including the recent developments in the West Asia region and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Dr Jaishankar reiterated Indian interests in the region and support for efforts to maintain peace, security and stability in the region.

  • Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena on January 9, 2020 met External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi. Mr Gunawardena is on a three-day visit to India. Cooperation in economic projects, investment by Indian companies, issue of fishermen and stability in the Indian Ocean region are among the main issues expected to be discussed between the two countries during the visit.

  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had a telephonic conversation with the Japanese Minister of Defence Taro Kono. The two Defence Ministers had discussions on enhancing the bilateral security cooperation under the framework of the India-Japan Special Strategic and Global Partnership. The Ministry of Defence said, both leaders also exchanged views on regional security situation.

  • A high level military delegation led by Lt. General Ranbir Singh, Commander of Indian Army’s Northern Command visited Xinjiang, the politically important north-west province of China bordering Pakistan occupied Kashmir on January 10. 2020. The visit is part of agreed Defence engagements between both sides agreed during Annual Defence dialogues. The visit is aimed at enhancing confidence building measures between armies of both sides, mainly Northern Command in India and Western Theatre Command in China to understand each other’s sensitivities on the ground and avoid misunderstandings along border.

  • Indian Consulate in Dubai will issue passports under the tatkal scheme on the same day with certain conditions. The announcement was made by Consul General Vipul on the occasion of the Pravasi Bhatiya Divas celebrations on January 9, 2020. The Consul General was addressing the Indian expats who had gathered in large number on the occasion. However, he said that the application for the passport had to be made before noon and additional fees will be charged for the service. The passport will be given to the applicant by the evening. Passports under the Tatkal scheme in any case were being given within 24 hours. The announcement came as a boon especially for people who have to travel under emergency condition. The Consulate in Dubai receives about 850 applications for passport applications. In 2019, the consulate issued more than 200,000 passports, over 2500 emergency certificates (one-way travel document), over 2,800 police clearance certificates and provided 72,000 attestation services including registration of births and deaths.

  • India signed an Memorandum of Understanding with Bangladesh for content exchange programme between All India Radio and Bangladesh Betar. An MoU between National Film Development Corporation, India and Film Development Corporation, Bangladesh, was also signed. The MoUs were signed in the presence of Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar and Bangladesh Information Minister Muhammad H Mahmud in New Delhi. 

    During the meeting, two Ministers also discussed about the jointly produced film on the life and works of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. India and Bangladesh is co-producing the biopic expected to be released by March this year. Mr.Javadekar said, India and Bangladesh are organic friends and share great legacy. He said the MoU between All India Radio and Bangladesh Betar will give more dimension to content exchange between the two countries.

  • India-China bilateral trade has continued to make steady growth in 2019. As per Chinese official data released, China-India bilateral trade stood at 639.52 billion yuans in 2019 which is 1.6 per cent increase year on year. However, in US dollar terms, it has dipped by 3 billion US dollars as compared to 2018 as overall global trade was moderated in 2019. Bilateral trade is projected to be about 92.68 billion dollars in 2019 while it was 95.7 billion US dollars in 2018, a record high till now. India’s Trade deficit with China also declined to about 56.77 billion US dollars in 2019 as compared to about 58 billion US dollars in 2018. Trade deficit has become a major concern in India-China bilateral relations. It is India’s biggest single trade deficit running with any country. India’s trade deficit is two-pronged, the sheer size of the deficit and its continuous widening year after year to reach 58.04 billion US dollars in 2018. 

  • The US has signed the first phase of a trade deal with China, concluding more than a year of tough negotiations including several months of suspension of talks between the two largest economies of the world. In his remarks, President Donald Trump called the trade agreement signing a momentous step to a future of fair and reciprocal trade. The first phase of the trade deal includes Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Enforcement, rebalancing the US-China trade relationship and effective dispute resolution. The deal was signed by President Trump and Chinese Vice Premier Liu He in Washington. However, President Trump has refused to roll back the massive tariff imposed on the import of Chinese goods. During a signing ceremony at the White House, Trump said he will roll back the tariffs only if the second phase of the trade deal is signed between the two countries. The trade deal is considered as a major political and diplomatic victory for Trump. US President asserted that he will continue with his policies on tariffs.

Economy :
  • Reserve Bank of India has asked banks and other card-issuing companies to provide facility to customers to switch on and off their debit or credit cards, a move aimed at enhancing security for digital transactions. The RBI said that at the time of issue or re-issue, all cards (physical and virtual) should be enabled for use only at contact based points of usage ATMs and Point of Sale (PoS) devices within India. 

    The central Bank said issuers should provide cardholders a facility for enabling card not present (domestic and international) transactions, card present (international) transactions and contactless transactions. It said, the channels should include mobile application, internet banking, automated teller machines, or interactive voice response. The RBI further said that for existing cards, issuers may take a decision, based on their risk perception, whether to disable the card not present (domestic and international) transactions, card present (international) transactions and contactless transaction rights.

  • The government has constituted a five-member Advisory Board to vet all alleged frauds of a magnitude of at least Rs 50 crore in state-run banks and public financial institutions before these are referred to investigative agencies such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a move aimed at distinguishing honest business decisions of bankers from the not-so-honest ones. The formation of the board was announced in an order issued by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC).

  • The GST revenue collection has crossed one lakh crore rupees in December last year, which is a growth of 16 per cent over the revenue collected in the same month in 2018. The total GST collected during last month was one lakh three thousand and 184 crore rupees. Finance Ministry said, a total of over 81 lakh GSTR 3B returns were filed for the month of November up to 31st December 2019.

  • Gujarat has received Rs.24,012-crore Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) during the first half of FY 2019-20. This is double the amount of Rs.12,612- crore FDI received during the entire previous FY 2018-19. This was revealed in a report of Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT) under the Union Ministry of Commerce and Industry. According to official release, 734 major industrial estates had been set up in Gujarat as against 2,574 units in the entire country following the the progressive, transparent, pro-people and industries friendly policies of the state government. The incentives extended to the entrepreneurs include facilitating land and necessary permissions for setting up industrial units, in more liberal terms than extended in other states. The state earned recognition as Manufacturing and Auto Sector Hubs due to the State Government’s holistic policies of no pendency and good governance.

  • The Indian economy is estimated to grow at 5 per cent in 2019-20 as against 6.8 per cent in the previous fiscal. According to the first advanced estimates of the national income released by National Statistical Office (NSO), the decline has been mainly on account of deceleration in manufacturing sector growth, which is expected to come down to 2 per cent in 2019-20 from 6.2 per cent in the year-ago fiscal. The deceleration was also witnessed in sectors like agriculture, construction and electricity, gas and water supply. Whereas, some sector, including mining, public administration, and defence, showed minor improvement.

  • The 13th tranche of electoral bonds sale will take place from 13th to 22nd of January 2020. Electoral bonds have been pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties as part of efforts to bring transparency in political funding. Finance Ministry said, State Bank of India has been authorised to issue and encash electoral bonds through its 29 authorised branches. The sale of the first batch of electoral bonds took place in March 2018. According to provisions of the scheme, electoral bonds can be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India. Registered political parties that have secured not less than 1 per cent of the votes polled in the last election of the Lok Sabha or Legislative Assembly will be eligible to receive electoral bonds. A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly, with other individuals. An electoral bond will be valid for 15 days from the date of issue. No payment would be made to any payee political party if the bond is deposited after expiry of the validity period. The bond deposited by any eligible political party into its account would be credited on the same day.

  • Retail inflation rose to about five-and-half year high of 7.35 per cent in December 2019, surpassing the RBI's comfort level, mainly due to rise in prices of vegetables as onions. As per the data released by National Statistical Office (NSO) on January 13, 2020, the spike in inflation in the vegetable segment was 60.5 per cent during the month compared to December 2018. The overall retail inflation based on Consumer Price Index (CPI) was 2.11 per cent in December 2018 and 5.54 per cent in November 2019. As per the data released by the NSO, the overall food inflation rose to 14.12 per cent in December as against (-) 2.65 per cent in the same month of 2018. The food inflation was 10.01 per cent in November 2019. The previous high in retail inflation was witnessed at 7.39 per cent in July 2014, the year Narendra Modi-led Government assumed office for the first term. 

    The inflation in 'pulses and products' was recorded at 15.44 per cent, while in case of meat and fish it was nearly 10 per cent. The Central Government has mandated the Reserve Bank of India to keep inflation in the range of four per cent with a margin of two per cent on the either side. The RBI, which mainly factors in the CPI-based inflation, is scheduled to announce its next bi-monthly monetary policy on 6th of February. In its December policy, the Central Bank, which had been reducing rates, had kept the repo rate unchanged citing inflationary concerns.

  • Wholesale prices based inflation surged to 2.59 per cent in December 2019, as against 0.58 per cent in November due to increase in prices of food articles like onion and potato. The annual inflation, based on the monthly wholesale price index (WPI), was at 3.46 per cent during December a year ago. According to the data released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the rate of price rise for food articles rose to 13.12 per cent during December 2019 as against 11 per cent a month earlier, while for non-food articles it rose nearly four-fold to 7.72 per cent from 1.93 per cent in November. Among food articles, vegetable prices surged by 69.69 per cent mainly on account of onion, which witnessed around 456 per cent jump in prices, followed by potato at around 45 per cent. The consumer price index-based retail inflation, as per data released, spiked to over a 5-year high of 7.35 per cent in December 2019 due to costlier food products.

Business :
  • Inc will invest $1 billion in digitising small- and medium-businesses in India and expects to export $10 billion worth of India-made goods by 2025. Amazon has committed $5.5 billion in India investments and sees the country as a key growth market.

  • The industrial output grew 1.8 per cent in November last year, turning positive after three months of contraction, on account of growth in the manufacturing sector. According to the National Statistical Office (NSO) data released on January 10, 2020, the growth in the manufacturing sector was 2.7 per cent as against a contraction of 0.7 per cent in November 2018. The Index of Industrial Production (IIP) had grown by 0.2 per cent in November 2018. In November 2019, Electricity generation turned negative (-) 5 per cent as against a growth of 5.1 per cent in November 2018. Mining sector output decelerated to 1.7 per cent from 2.7 per cent in the year ago month. The IIP growth during April-November period of the current fiscal came in at 0.6 per cent, down from 5 per cent in the same period of 2018-19.

  • Fair trade regulator Competition Commission of India, CCI has ordered a probe against Flipkart and Amazon for alleged malpractices, including deep discounting and tie-ups with preferred sellers.

Appointments :
  • The government has appointed Michael Debabrata Patra as the Deputy Governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI). The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved his name for a three-year tenure.

  • Senior Indian Advocate Harish Salve has been appointed as the Queen's Counsel (QC) for the courts of England and Wales. The title of the Queen's Counsel is conferred upon those who have demonstrated particular skill and expertise in the legal field. Harish Salve’s appointment was announced when the UK’s Ministry of Justice released the new list of silk appointments on January 13, 2020. The renowned lawyer will be formally appointed to the position on March 16, 2020.

  • Vinod Kumar Yadav has assumed the charge of Chairman, Railway Board after being reappointed.

Persons :
  • Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen secured a landslide victory in presidential elections with voters resoundingly handing its first female leader a second term.

  • In the West African state of Guinea-Bissau, Opposition leader Umaro Sissoco Embalo has won presidential elections, picking up 53.55 per cent of votes. His rival Domingos Simoes Pereira, head of the country's ruling party PAIGC, bagged 46.45 percent votes.

  • Former Governor of Karnataka T N Chaturvedi passed away.

  • IPS officer Anand Prakash Maheshwari took over as the new director general of the CRPF. CRPF is the world's largest paramilitary force with about 3.25 lakh personnel.

Day :
  • India is celebrating 72nd Army Day on January 15, 2020. Mr Modi said, the Indian Army is the pride of Mother India. This day is celebrated every year on this day because Field Marshal KM Cariappa took command of the Indian Army from General Francis Butcher on the same day in 1949. The Indian Army was formed in 1776 by the East India Company in Kolkata. The Indian Army is among the world's three largest armies including China and the United States. Indian Army is deployed on the Siachen Glacier which is five thousand meters above sea level. It is the highest battlefield in the world. The motto of the Indian Army is 'Service Before Self'.

  • The nation is celebrating birth anniversary of Swami Vivekananda on January 12, 2020. Swami Vivekananda’s birth anniversary is also celebrated as National Youth Day in the country.

Awards :
  • ICC Awards 2019 - List if winners :
    Sir Garfield Sobers Trophy - Ben Stokes
    ODI Cricketer of the Year – Rohit Sharma
    Test Cricketer of the Year - Pat Cummins
    Spirit of Cricket Award - Virat Kohli
    Associate Cricketer of the Year - Kyle Coetzer
    ICC Men's Emerging Cricketer - Marnus Labuschagne
    T20I Performance of the Year - Deepak Chahar
    2019 Umpire of the Year - Richard Illingworth 

    ICC ODI Team of the Year 2019: Jonny Bairstow, Rohit Sharma, , Virat Kohli (c), Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Ross Taylor, Ben Stokes, Mustafizur Rahman, Rashid Khan, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah 

    ICC Test Team of the Year 2019: Mayank Agarwal, Tom Latham, Marnus Labuschagne, Virat Kohli (c), Steven Smith, Ben Stokes, BJ Watling, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Neil Wagner, Nathan Lyon

  • Screen Actors Guild Awards: The 26th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards (SAG) were presented at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California on January 19, 2020. 

    South Korean film Parasite is the first foreign-language film to win the SAG Award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture. 
    Renée Zellweger won the 'Best Actress' for Judy
    Joaquin Phoenix won 'Best Actor' for Joker. 

    In television awards, Crown won the SAG award for 'Best Ensemble in Drama Series'
    Jennifer Aniston won 'Best Actress' in drama series for her role in the Morning Show and 
    Peter Dinklage won 'Best Actor' for his role in the popular TV series, Game of Thrones.

    Game of Thrones took home two key awards- Best actor in a drama series and Best action. 
    Avengers: Endgame won SAG award for 'Best Action in a motion picture'. 

  • Sindhi writer Vasdev Mohi has conferred with 29th Saraswati Samman for his short stories collection 'Chequebook'. The short stories collection talks about the agonies and sufferings of marginalized sections of the society. SaraswatiSamman is given annually by the KK Birla Foundation. It carries a cash award of Rs.15 lakh rupees, a citation, and a plaque.

  • Nari Shakti Puraskar 2019 to be conferred on March 8. The awards will be conferred on the 8th of March on the occasion of International Women’s Day. The national award is given annually to individuals, groups, institutions in recognition of their exceptional work towards the women empowerment, especially for vulnerable and marginalized women.

  • India-born author Jasbinder Bilan has bagged a coveted UK children's book award for her debut novel 'Asha and the Spirit Bird'. The story set in the Himalayan territory of her Indian roots and inspired by the special childhood bond with her grandmother. Bilan will receive 5,000 pounds as the winner of the award.

  • Nitin Gadkari presents National Highway Excellence Awards 2019. During the event, Minister of State for Road, Transport and Highway, V.K. Singh said, infrastructure is important for the economy and it accelerates the economic activity in the country. Instituted in the year 2018, National Highway Excellence Awards aim to recognize the well-performing companies in the field of construction, operations, maintenance, toll collection and road safety on National Highways.

Defence :
  • India successfully test fired nuclear-capable, K-4 ballistic missile off the coast of Andhra Pradesh on January 19, 2020. It has a strike range of 3500km. The K-4 ballistic missile was launched from an underwater platform in the sea. It can be launched from a submarine. It will be deployed on the fleet of the Arihant Class nuclear submarines being built by India. The missile was developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The missile launch is aimed at strengthening India’s capabilities to hit enemy targets from submarines. With this, India has moved a step further in inducting the ballistic missile on the INS Arihant class of nuclear submarines. 

    K-4 is one of the two underwater missiles that India is developing for its submarine force. While one has a strike range of 3500km, the other one will have a strike range of 700km. The three-meter tall missile carries a nuclear warhead of over one tone. It has a circular error probability far lower than that of the Chinese ballistic missiles. The submarine-launched ballistic missile is extremely significant for India’s air, land and sea nuclear triad and it is at the front of India’s second-strike capability. Till now, only the US, Russia and China have submarine-launched ballistic missiles with a strike range of 3,500km.

  • The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has partnered with the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) to produce the Saras engine.

    1.) CSIR will take up the project jointly designing and developing an aero-engine which is a highly complex task.
    2.) All major systems of the Saras engine, except the power plants, are indigenous.
    3.) The prototype version of the Saras is being developed by the CSIR's National Aeronautical Laboratory (NAL).
    4.) The engine is powered by two Canadian Pratt and Whitney PT6A turboprop engines.
    5.) These are mounted on the rear of the fuselage instead of the wings and face rearwards.
    6.) A 14-passenger Saras plane which is currently undergoing flight trials will also have the capability to taxi in reverse. This special feature is not very common in aircraft.
    7.) Taxiing in reverse requires the jet blast from the engines to be directed forwards.
    8.) Before approving the design, the NAL will conduct 20 test flights of the Saras.
    9.) The engine will be produced by the state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

  • Defence Minister Rajnath Singh flagged off 51st K9 VAJRA-T Gun from Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Armoured System Complex at Hazira, Gujarat on 16 January 2020. The participation of the private sector in defence manufacturing is toward fulfilling the government's commitment to make India an arms manufacturing hub and net defence exporter. 

    51st K9 VAJRA-T gun weighs 50 tonnes. It can fire 47kg bombs at 43 kilometre distant targets. It can also turn around at zero radius. In 2017, L&T won the Rs.4,500 crore contract from the Ministry of Defence to supply 100 units of K9 Vajra-T 155 mm/52 calibre tracked self-propelled gun systems to the Indian Army. The K9 Vajra contract involves the delivery of 100 such systems in 42 months. This is the largest contract awarded to a private company by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

  • The Indian Army conducted the airborne Exercise Winged Raider in the North-Eastern theatre on 10th January 2020. It is the Army's biggest airborne exercise. It comprises of more than 500 Special Forces troops. It was conducted from 6-10 January. The exercises focused on the frontier with China.

  • The Japan Coast Guard Ship ‘Echigo’ has arrived Chennai on January 14, 2020, on a five-day goodwill visit. It will be participating in the Annual Joint Exercise ‘Sahyog-Kaijin’ with the Indian Coast Guard of Chennai. This is the 19th such exercise being conducted between the two Coast Guards since 2000. It is being witnessed by Admiral Takahiro Okushima, Commandant, Japan Coast Guard and the Director-General of Indian Coast Guard Krishnaswamy Natarajan. Four Indian Coast Guard ships, their aircraft and a vessel from the Chennai-based National Institute of Ocean Technology - NIOT are participating in the exercise along with the Japanese vessel. 

    It is aimed at further strengthening bilateral ties and mutual understanding between the two Coast Guards. It is set to enhance interoperability in communication and Search and Rescue procedures and sharing of best practices. It will help both the Coast Guards to work together in protecting shared interests whenever such need arises, in responding to threats of piracy or humanitarian crisis.

  • The naval version of indigenous Light Combat Aircraft, LCA, made its first successful landing on the aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya on January 11, 2020. This aircraft is developed by the Defence Research and Development Organization, DRDO. With the successful landing of Light Combat Aircraft, LCA on aircraft carrier INS Vikramaditya, India has entered into the club of selected nations having the capability to design a fighter jet which can land on an aircraft carrier. Commodore Jaideep Maolankar conducted the maiden landing. LCA is the smallest and lightest Multi-Role Supersonic Fighter Aircraft of its class. The LCA programme intends to further expand and advance India's indigenous aerospace capabilities.

  • India to acquire 200 fighter jets for Air Force. Defence Secretary Ajay Kumar has said, the government is in the process of acquiring around 200 aircraft to cope with the depleting aerial inventories of the Indian Air Force.

  • The Indian Army Ocean Sailing Expedition from Mumbai to Okhain Gujarat was flagged off in Mumbai on January 15, 2020. The team will be sailing inthe Arabian Sea and will return to Mumbai on January 27. The 13-day exercise will test the skill of sailors on high seas. The 43-member expedition, comprises four more officers, twoJunior Commissioned Officers and 35 other ranks from various arms and servicesto include Engineers, Electronic Mechanical Engineers, Signals, Sikh LightInfantry and Maratha Light Infantry troops. The team will sail in four non-motorised Seabird class boats,supported by ground support team, which will move along the coastal land routefor immediate support.

Science & Technology :
  • The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched ‘GSAT-30’ from French Guiana on January 17, 2020. The launch of the high power communication satellite is ISRO’s first satellite launch of the year 2020. The GSAT-30 communication satellite will aim to provide high-quality telecommunications, television and broadcasting services. GSAT-30 communication satellite was launched aboard Ariane 5 launch vehicle (VA 251) from French Guiana early morning on January 17. The satellite with an approximate weight of 3357 kg will have a mission life of more than 15 years. GSAT 30 will serve as a replacement to INSAT-4A spacecraft services with enhanced coverage. The satellite was launched along with the European Space Company’s telecommunication satellite- Eutelsat Konnect. 

    • GSAT-30 is an operational communication satellite with a mission life of up to 15 years. It has been configured to give a boost to communication services such as television uplink, DTH, digital satellite news and VSAT. It weighs approximately 3357 kg.
    • The satellite derives its heritage from ISRO's previous INSAT/GSAT satellite series. It will replace INSAT-4A spacecraft services with enhanced coverage.
    • It will mainly provide Indian mainland and island coverage in Ku-band. It will also provide extended coverage in C-band, which will help television broadcasters to broadcast their programmes across India, Australia, Gulf nations and a large number of Asian countries.
    • The satellite was launched by ISRO in collaboration with the European aerospace company Arianespace. The launch marks Ariane V launch vehicle’s 107th flight.
    • The launch vehicle first placed GSAT-30 in its designated orbit, followed by the release of Konnect. The full mission lasted for approximately 38 minutes and 25 seconds from liftoff to final separation. GSAT 30 successfully separated from the upper stage of Ariane 5.

  • Ministry of Road Transport and Highways has announced that it will provide support to state governments to help them set up monitoring centres that will track public service vehicles including buses and cab operators like Ola and Uber. The move aims to ensure the safety of passengers using public transport in the country. Earlier, due to lack of funds, the State governments were not able to set up vehicle monitoring centres. The Centre aims to provide a grant to states for effective implementation of the system. States like Kerala and Uttarakhand have established the centres but was not even able to know if public vehicles have these features since there is no body established to monitor these 

    Transport vehicles monitoring centres :Supreme Court-mandated all public transport vehicles to have vehicle tracking systems and emergency buttons with effect from 1 January 2020. All the states have made small progress in setting up the monitoring centres. Hence, the transport ministry is to provide financial support under the Nirbhaya Fund which is managed by the Ministry of Women & child development. The estimated cost of the project is Rs.463 crore. Out of the total estimated amount, the Centre will bear Rs.332 crore, while the states will share Rs.131 crore.

  • Scientists discovered a new species of bone-eating worm during a study to investigate the deep ocean's ecosystem. The bone-eating worm is yet to be named. It is the first of its kind found in the Gulf of Mexico. The bone-eating worm belongs to the Osedax family, a genus of deep-sea bone worms.

  • NASA’s planet hunter satellite TESS has discovered an exoplanet orbiting two stars instead of one - and it was identified by a high school intern. But the newly found planet's size alone — it is 6.9 times larger than Earth, almost the size of Saturn — makes it unlikely to be livable. Named TOI 1338 b, it is the only planet in the TOI 1338 system, which lies 1,300 light-years away in the constellation Pictor, and orbits its stars every 95 days. The two stars orbit each other every 15 days. One is about 10 percent bigger than our Sun, while the other is cooler, dimmer and only one-third the Sun’s mass. TOI 1338 b was identified by Wolf Cukier.

  • Border Roads Organization (BRO) has inducted hi-tech snow clearance and cutting machines in Jammu and Kashmir which are state of the art snow clearance equipment that clear one kilometre of snow in just three hours. Snowfall in winter blocks important strategic roads including the Srinagar-Leh, Jammu-Srinagar, Gurez-Bandipora and Kupwara-Karnah highways which takes a lot of time for clearance. To deal with the problem, seven high-tech snow cutter FRESIA machines have been purchased by the BRO from Italy for swift snow cutting and clearance of these important highways and passes. BRO so far have received four of the machines and the rest will be imported soon. The machines have been put to use at Jawahar tunnel on Jammu-Srinagar National Highway, Tregbal in Bandipora-Gurez road, Nowgam in Handwara and Sadhna Pass in Tanghdar, Kupwara. These machines can operate at an altitude of even 18,500 feet and above and have the capability of clearing 5,000 tonnes of snow per hour.

Sports :
  • Anshu Malik won silver in 2020 Rome Ranking Series. Indian teenage wrestler Anshu Malik won in the women's 57kg freestyle event of the season 's first major competition, the Ranking Series in Rome. She lost to Nigeria's Odunayo Adekuoroye for the score 10-0. Rome Ranking Series 2020 was announced by the United World Wrestling. The event is being held from 15-18 January 2020. The event included all three wrestling styles: freestyle, women's wrestling, and Greco-Roman and will influence seeding for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The Series will influence the top four seeds at the Tokyo Olympic Games.

  • Former India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni was picked as captain of ESPN Cricinfo's ODI and Twenty20 teams of the decade, while Virat Kohli was named the leader in Tests. Former skipper Mithali Raj and fast bowler Jhulan Goswami were named in the same women's team picked for both the ODIs and T20s. Australia's inspirational cricketer, Meg Lanning was named the captain of the side.

  • Indian Blind Sports Association (IBSA) is organizing week-long sports events for the blind from 6 to 11 January, 2020 in the premises of The BlindRelief Association, Delhi, Lal Bahadur Shastri Marg, near the Oberoi Hotel, NewDelhi. Over 400 participants, including 85 female blind sports persons from 7 states, namely, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra,Rajasthan, Tamilnadu and Telangana will be taking part in these events.

  • Ace shooter Saurabh Chaudhary has won the men's 10 metres air pistol gold at the 63rd National Shooting Championship in Bhopal. The 17-year-old from Uttar Pradesh shot a classy 246.4 to finish on top. Second-placed Sarabjot Singh of Haryana was well behind with a score of 243.9, while world number two Abhishek Verma settled for bronze in a high-quality final. Abhishek and Sarabjot together won the team gold for Haryana. Sarabjot also won the junior men's gold for a profitable day. Haryana and Uttar Pradesh picked up a clutch of golds as well.

  • India's P Magesh Chandran lifted the title in the 95th edition of the prestigious Hastings International Chess Congress at Hastings in England.

  • The first edition of Khelo India University Games is scheduled to be held at the KIIT University in Bhubaneswar from February 22nd to March 1st.

  • India finished the year 2019 as the top shooting nation in the world, leaving behind Olympic heavyweights China and the USA. In terms of overall medals, the tally stood at 21 gold, six silver and three bronze as India topped all the Rifle-Pistol World Cups and Finals in a unforgettable year. While India leads the standings with 30 medals overall, China is second with 11 gold, 15 silver and 18 bronze for a total of 44 podium finishes. The USA is placed third with 15 medals including six gold six silver and three bronze.

  • Ladakh is going to witness a unique game event termed as 'The Last Game' of Ice Hockey on 15th January 2020. This game is to raise the awareness on the impact of climate change on fragile environment of the region. In collaboration with the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and Randstad, the event is hosted by the Hockey Foundation and Ladakh Winter Sports Club. United Nations Climate Change has chosen a unique way to create awareness on Climate Change impact on the world through the Last Game of Ice Hockey. The Himalayas, also known as third pole of the world, are susceptible to the adverse effects of Climate Change.

Environment :
  • The Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) has announced to relax the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) rules to get Blue Flag certification. These rules restrict the construction work around sea beaches. MoEF selected 13 beaches of India for the Blue Flag certification in 2019. The CRZ rules of India do not allow any infrastructure on sea beaches and islands. Blue Flag certification asks to create some fundamental infrastructures at beaches like solar water plants, portable toilets, CCTV, etc. 

    ‘Blue Flag’ is an international certification of environmental properties and cleanliness on beaches. A ‘Blue Flag’ beach provides hygienic and clean bathing water, basic infrastructure to tourists and sustainable development in the area. This concept was started in France in 1985 while Europe adopted the ‘Blue Flag’ program in 1987. However, South Africa was the first outside European country that joined the program in 2001. Spain has the largest number of 566 Blue Flag beaches while Greece and France have 515 and 395 such blue flag beaches respectively. Chandrabhaga beach located on the Konark coast of Odisha is the first beach in the country to receive 'Blue Flag Certification'. 
    Highlights :
    • The central government has issued a notice that some construction activities and facilities will be allowed for Blue Flag certification.
    • However, the government has made it clear that these construction activities should have a distance of 10 meters from the High Tide Line.
    • Earlier, in 2019, the government selected 13 Indian beaches for Blue Tag certification.

  • Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recently issued guidelines to establish petrol pumps. These instructions have been issued because of the poor impact of petrol pumps on the environment. The Central Pollution Control Board has issued new guidelines keeping in view the directives of the National Green Tribunal. 

    CPCB guidelines:
    • Oil marketing companies must ensure that new petrol pumps should be at least 50 meters away from schools, hospitals, and residential areas.
    • All these oil companies have been directed to install the Vapor Recovery System (VRS) at all those stations where about 300-kilo liters of oil is sold every month.
    • According to the new guidelines, the State Pollution Regulatory Board will impose an environmental penalty equal to the price of VRS in case of non-installation of VRS.
    • These guidelines have been issued by a committee consisting of members of IIT Kanpur, The Energy and Resource Institute (TERI), National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), CPCB and Ministry of Petroleum.

  • Jammu and Kashmir has figured among top five states of the country in terms of increase in its forest cover area over past two years which is a significant achievement in forest conservation. As per biennial report of Forest Survey of India, Dehradun, J&K has figured among the top five states that have registered a maximum increase in forest cover during the last two years. Dr. Mohit Gera, Pr. Chief Conservator of Forests, J&K informed that as per the report, J&K has tree growing stock of 144.16 cubic meter per hectare which is the highest among all the States and UT's of the country. Commissioner Secretary Forest, Ecology & Environment, Manoj K. Dwivedi appreciated the efforts of officers and frontline staff of the Forest Department in protecting and managing the forest effectively.

  • Environment and Forests Ministry has approved the release of Grant-in-Aid of 2.6 crore rupees to J&K Pollution Control Board. Under this scheme, the JK PCB shall provide financial assistance to 3742 number of Eco Clubs of registered schools in both the regions of J&K along with 96 Eco-Clubs for registered Colleges. The environment education, awareness and Training scheme of Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Govt. of India for National Green Corps (Eco-Clubs) which was closed for over a decade has been revived for J&K.

  • India for the first time ranks among the top ten in the Climate Change Performance Index, CCPI, which goes further to prove that all efforts and activities being currently undertaken by the government are setting a tone of vast improvements. Government aims to increase the share of non-fossil fuels to 175 GigaWatt by 2022 and further take it to 450 GW. A time bound national level strategy for pan India implementation to tackle the increasing air pollution problem in a comprehensive manner in the form of National Clean Air Programme was launched last year. India is among few countries in the world where forest cover is consistently increasing. The total forest and tree cover rises to over 24 percent of the total geographical area of the Country. Government is taking all possible steps to protect the tiger. According to the latest tiger census data -2018, the total tigers in India has risen to around three thousand. In a major boost towards promoting afforestation and achieving green objectives of the country, government handed over 47 thousand crore rupees of Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority, CAMPA funds to various states in August last year.

  • Assam state zoo first to breed endangered Hargila. The Assam State Zoo cum Botanical Garden and Aaranyak has jointly attained a landmark achievement by successfully hatching a pair of Greater Adjutant chicks in an artificial platform within the zoo enclosure, in the first ever experiment of its kind. This rarest of storks, the Hargila is currently on the brink of extinction due to habitat loss stemming from indiscriminate felling of big trees and dwindling wetlands.

  • The Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), has launched paperless licensing process for road tankers for transportation of petroleum. This is a significant move towards paperless and green India that will provide simpler mechanism, ease of living and business to the petroleum road tanker owners. Moving towards digitization, the process will include filing the applications online. Applicants, at each stage of processing of the application, will be intimated via SMS and email, whether discrepancy or grant of licence or approval. This initiative is directly going to benefit more than one lakh petroleum road tanker owners.

  • Department of Cane Development has started farmer awareness campaign to protect the sugarcane crop from locust or Grasshopper in Uttar Pradesh. In view of the outbreak of this pest in Gujarat and Rajasthan, state Commissioner, Cane and Sugar, Sanjay R. Bhoosreddy issued instructions to all departmental officers and scientists of Sugarcane Research Centers to conduct awareness campaign among farmers to protect the sugarcane crop from these pests in the state. Farmers have been advised to clean the grass on boundary of fields to protect it from Grasshoppers, as it lays eggs in the grass. Grasshoppers are afraid of noise. Therefore, in the event of their widespread outbreak, drum, plate etc should be played so that they run away out of fear.

  • The world's oceans were the warmest in 2019 than any other time in recorded human history. This was disclosed by a study published in the journal Advances inAtmospheric Sciences. The researchers noted that the year 2019 broke theprevious records set in prior years for global warming, and the effects arealready appearing in the form of more extreme weather, rising sea levels andharm to ocean animals. The study also found that the past ten years have been the warmest on recordfor global ocean temperatures, with the last five years holding the highestrecord.

  • The West Bengal government is planning to set up dedicated green corridors for hassle-free movements of transport during medical emergencies. According to State Transport Department sources, the step is being taken in coordination with the State Pollution Control Board and Kolkata Police following a rise in the number of organ transplantation cases in the city over last two years. The route for the corridors has been identified and work has begun to design a GPS supported mobile app to run the project. The dedicated corridor will ensure that patients reach hospitals at the shortest possible time.



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