The Union Ministry of Textiles has decided to establish a Bunkar Mitra-Handloom Helpline Centre where experts in the field of textiles will answer professional queries of weavers.
This helpline initially will be provided in 7 languages viz., English, Hindi and 5 other regional languages Tamil, Telugu, Kannada Bengali and Assamese.
This helpline aims to overcome the problem of unavailability of single point of contact where weavers can seek solutions for their technical issues/problems.
Currently there 28 Weavers’ Service Centres (WSCs) functioning across the country to provide technical assistance to handloom weavers in improving their skills. But for seeking assistance, weavers have to personally visit the WSCs.
According to Indus Valley Civilisation expert Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Harappa was peaceful in comparison with all other first civilisations cities because of its urban planning. The efficient water supply, proper sewage treatment and good drainage systems in Harappa were main reason for conflict avoidance.
Experts believe that this strategy is an important lesson to be learnt from the Harappans. Thus, it suggests that Harappan concept of cleanliness and wells and drains is not so much about hygiene but also conflict avoidance.
Harappa was an Indus Valley civilization’s urban centre. It lies on an old bank/bed of the River Ravi in Punjab Province of Pakistan.
It was the first site of the civilization to be excavated in 1921 led by team led by Daya Ram Sahni. The civilization had diversified social and economic system. Its main feature was town planning were it had well grid locked pattern planned straight roads and a system of drainage.
It also significant as there was use of baked as well as sundried bricks. It had a fortified citadel. Houses with kitchens and wells, tanks or water reservoirs were also found. Presence of wheel made pottery and practice of burying the dead is also seen.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has expressed confidence that a prototype vaccine for Ebola may be 100% effective in protecting against the deadly virus.
The vaccine was initially developed in Canada by public health authorities before being taken over by pharmaceutical giant Merck.
Earlier in a major experimental human clinical trial of this vaccine conducted on nearly 6,000 people in Guinea in 2015 was found to successfully. It was observed that no one from the 6,000 people contracted again to the lethal disease.
The test results of the trial were released in The Lancet magazine. This new vaccine has not yet been approved by any regulatory authority. But it is said that the vaccine could become available in 2018 under a fast-track approval process.
However, this new vaccine has some flaws as it appears to work against only one of the two most common strains of the Ebola virus. Thus, it may not give long-lasting protection and some of patients who were given this vaccine have reported side effects like joint pain and headaches.
Ebola virus : Ebola virus disease (EVD) is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. It was first identified in 1976 in the Democratic Republic of Congo in a village near the Ebola River, from which it takes its name. It is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. Fruit bats are natural host of this virus.
It spreads through contact with body fluids of inflected persons such as blood, urine and saliva. Symptoms faced by people who have contracted the Ebola virus include high fever, bleeding and central nervous system damage. In 2014, Ebola virus had erupted periodically mainly across west and east Africa mainly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. It was the deadly outbreak of the virus in the history that had killed 11,000 people.
The Goods and Services Tax (GST) Council has approved the draft Central GST (CGST) and State GST (SGST) laws along with Compensation Bill to bring the GST into implementation, country’s biggest indirect tax reform. The CGST and SGST laws contains total of 197 provisions and five schedules. They were approved at the seventh GST Council meeting presided by Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in New Delhi.
GST Council agreed upon : The draft CGST and SGST laws do not include division of administrative turf between states and the centre. The Compensation Bill will have 2015-16 as base year and compensation to States for the loss of revenue from the GST rollout will be paid every two months. It provides legal backing to the centre’s promise to compensate states if their revenue growth rate were to fall below 14% in the first five years of GST. However few issues were left to be settled, such as source of compensation fund.
The next meeting of the Council scheduled early January 2017 will try to resolve the issue of dividing the administrative powers between the Centre and states. It will also take up the Integrated GST (IGST) Bill. It will also discuss the most contentious issue of ‘dual control’ or ‘cross empowerment’.
GST Council : As per Article 279A of the Constitution, GST Council is joint forum of the Centre and the States. Composition: Union Finance Minister (Chairperson), Union Minister of State (MoS) in-charge of Revenue of finance (Member) and Minister In-charge of taxation or finance or any other Minister nominated by each State Government (Members). Functions: They are mention in Article 279A (4) of the Constitution. It will make recommendations on important issues related to GST, like (i) Goods and services that may be subjected or exempted from GST. (ii) Model GST Laws. (iii) Principles that govern Place of Supply, threshold limits, GST rates. (iv) GST rates will including the floor rates with bands and (v) Special rates for raising additional resources during natural disasters/ calamities, special provisions for certain States, etc.
The National Consumer Day is observed every year in India on 24th December. On this day the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 had received the assent of the President. Observance of this day provides an opportunity for individuals to highlight the importance of the consumer movement and promote the basic rights and responsibilities of all consumers
The Department of Consumer Affairs under the Union Ministry of Consumer Affairs Food and Public Distribution is celebrating this day this year with the theme Alternate Consumer Disputes Redressal.
The enactment of this Act was considered as a historic milestone in the consumer movement in the country.
This Act aims to provide consumers with effective safeguards against different types of exploitation such as defective goods, unsatisfactory services and unfair trade practices. It provides consumers with speedy and inexpensive redressal grievances mechanism and specific relief or award of compensation.
It recognizes six of the eight rights of the consumer as provided in the UN charter. It envisages following rights of consumers (i) Right to Protection. (ii) Right of Information. (iii) Right of Choice. (iv) Right of Hearing. (v) Right of Redressal. (vi) Right of Education.
The Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has announced new passport rules by changing Passport Rules, 1980 in order to streamline, liberalize and ease the process of issue of passport.
The new rules aim to speed up and simplify the passport delivery process and will help single mothers, orphaned children, and sadhus obtain passports with ease.
It will also eliminate the role of non-government agents and touts. Besides, passport-related grievances will now be handled on the social media platform of Twitter.
Birth certificate is no longer mandatory for getting passport. Applicants can submit PAN Card, birth certificate, voter id, Aadhaar, driving licence. Henceforth, applicant of online passport application will only need to provide the name of only one parent and not both or of legal guardian. This will enable single parents to apply for passports for their children.
Besides, married applicants will not be required to provide any marriage certificate. The application form does not require the applicants to provide the name of their spouse in case of separated or divorced persons
Married applicants can apply for passport without attaching their marriage certificate. Holy men can now apply for a passport with the name of their spiritual guru, instead of biological parents. However, they have to provide a document such as voter ID, which records the name of the guru against the column for parent’s name.
The NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayoga along with Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has rolled out Performance on Health Outcomes index to rank States on the basis of their performance on measurable health indicators.
The index was developed with inputs from domestic and international experts, including academicians and development partners as well as feedback from States.
Capture the annual incremental improvements of the states, rather than focusing on historical achievements. Includes indicators in the domains of health outcomes governance and information and a few key inputs and processes. Envisioned to bring about the much required improvements in social sector outcomes, which have not so far kept pace with the economic growth of the country.
Mainly will be used to propel actions of states to improve health outcomes and improve data collection systems. Includes monitorable indicators that form part of Sustainable Development Goal in Health.
Serve as an input for providing performance-based incentives, assist in State-level monitoring of performance and improvement in health outcomes. Involves the participation of several partners including technical assistance from the World Bank, mentor agencies to hand-hold states and third party organisations to validate the data submitted prior to calculation of the index.
Eminent modern Bengali poet Shankha Ghosh was chosen for the prestigious Jnanpith Award for the year 2016. He is the 52nd recipient of Jnanpith Award. He is sixth Bengali litterateur to bag this prestigious literary award after Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay (1966), Bishnu Dey (1971), Ashapoorna Devi (1976), Subhash Mukhopadhyay (1991) and Mahasweta Devi (1966).
Shankha Ghosh : Born on 6 February 1932 in Chandpur now in Bangladesh. He is prolific poet, critic and academician. He is regarded a leading authority on Rabindranath in addition to being one of the most prolific writers in Bengali. He is considered as a poet with an eye to social milieu and his poems record both his time and space in a rare poetic style.
His poems are often laden with messages, but are free from polemics. Some of his famous poems are ‘Adim lata-gulmomay’, ‘Kabir abhipray’, ‘Murkha baro, samajik nay’, ‘Mukh dheke jay bigyapane’, ‘Babarer prarthana’, Dinguli Raatguli and ‘Nihita Patalchaya’ His works have also been translated widely into several Indian languages including Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Assamese and Malayalam, as well as into some foreign languages. He also been awarded Sahitya Akademi Award, Saraswati Samman, Narsingh Das Puraskar and Rabindra Puraskar among others.
Jnanpith Award : Jnanpith Award is India’s highest literary honour. Its name has been taken from Sanskrit words Jnana and Pitha which means knowledge-seat. It was instituted in 1961 by Bharatiya Jnanpith trust founded by the Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain family that owns the Times of India newspaper group.
It is bestowed upon any Indian citizen who writes in any 22 official languages of India mentioned in VIII Schedule of Constitution of India and English. Prior to 1982, the award was only given for a single work by a writer. But after 1982, the award is given for lifetime contribution to Indian literature. The award carries cash prize of 11 lakh rupees, a citation plaque and a bronze replica of Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge and wisdom Note: Bengali novelist Ashapoorna Devi was the first woman to win this award in 1976. She was honoured for her 1965 novel Pratham Pratisruti (The First Promise), the first in a trilogy.
Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, on December 22, addressed a meeting at the Jayadev Bhawan to mark five years of completion of the Mamata Yojana.
The state government added 25 lakh new beneficiaries under the Mamata Yojana and electronically transferred Rs 1,100 crore to the bank accounts of these beneficiaries.
The Chief Minister also announced a onetime incentive of Rs 1,000 and Rs 500 for Anganwadi workers, Anganwadi assistants and Asha workers respectively to promote the scheme.
This incentive will benefit 70,000 Anganwadi workers, 60,000 Anganwadi assistants and 48,000 Asha workers.
He also inaugurated the Mamata software that will transfer Rs 3,000 to enrolled pregnant women in the first phase at six months of pregnancy and Rs 2,000 in the second phase at the tenth month of pregnancy.
This has become the largest Direct Benefit Transfer programme in the country aimed at pregnant and expectant mothers.
Mamata Yojana : It is a scheme which aims to provide monetary support to the pregnant and lactating women tom enable them to seek improved nutrition and promote health seeking behavior.
It was launched by Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik in October 2011. Under the Mamata Scheme, the government provides Rs. 5,000 to pregnant and lactating women in rural areas.
The Mamata scheme has been very helpful in making sure that the mothers are not only healthy, but also self-dependent and empowered.
A Pakistani Sikh has proven his mettle and has become the first individual from the community to secure a place in the prestigious National Cricket Academy in Lahore.
Mahinder Pal Singh, who hails from Nankana Sahib in Lahore, is among the list of top 30 emerging cricketers in the country
The country’s cricketing history has only seen seven non-muslim cricketers playing at the international level. The last non-Muslim player to have played for Pakistan in the recent past is Danish Kaneria
APIS India, a leading producer, distributor and exporter of honey under APIS Himalaya brand, has roped in Indian badminton champion and Rio Olympics silver medalist PV Sindhu as its brand ambassador.
The 21-year-old sports star said, “We both believe in giving our best and proving our mettle on the international stage. There is an absolute sync in our ideologies and being identified by them is recognition in itself. A trusted association helps a player in the right directions and keeps all other worries off the court.
As part of focusing on the domestic market, the company has recently introduced two honey variants – APIS Himalaya and APIS Himalaya Gold – in the retail market. The products are available at more than 80,000 counters across general and modern trade chains.
ICICI Bank has launched a mobile application, eazypay, for merchants, which includes all modes of payments, including digital wallets, Unified Payments Interface (UPI), QR code, and credit & debit cards.
The app is first of its kind that introduces an all-in-one acceptance platform formerchants. Eazypay is a one-stop solution for all merchants to collect payments from their customers.
It is designed for business to allow multiple users to connect to the same account. This makes it possible to be used for cash-on-delivery payments.
It is a mobile based application which allows to quickly raise an invoice so that customers can pay immediately through any convenient payment mode including Unified Payment Interface (UPI), Credit Card, Debit Card, Internet Banking or Pockets wallet.
ICICI Bank will be selling this to merchants in 2,300 towns and cities where it is present.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik on December 22, launched “Biju Sishu Surakshya Yojana” for care and protection of HIV positive orphan children in the state.
Important aspects of the scheme
Under the scheme, the children would get financial support from the state
government for their studies till higher secondary along with Rs. 20,000 reward after passing higher secondary.
State government would provide Rs. 7,000 to Rs 40,000 for technical education to the beneficiary to meet the expenses like admission and tution fee, study material and other related expenses
The scheme also includes scholarship to 3 meritorious students every year in each district.
The state will bear the cost of marriage in case the beneficiary is a girl. Rs 1,000 per year would also be deposited in the Sukanya Samridhi Account of the girl child till she attains the age of 18 years.
Apart from this, the scheme provides for one time token assistance of Rs 50,000 for girls and Rs 40,000 for boys on completion of 18 and 21 years respectively to facilitate marriage ceremony.
Popular bollywood actor Salman Khan topped the 2016 Forbes India Celebrity 100 List. As per the list released by the Forbes magazine on 23 December 2016, 50-year-old Salman Khan retained the top spot due to the commercial success of his two big releases - Sultan and Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo.
Salman Khan’s total earnings constituted 9.84 percent of the total wealth of all the top 100 celebrities for the year.
While the top 100 celebrities cumulatively earned Rs 2745 crore, Salman earned Rs 270.33 crore in one year period.
Top 10 celebrities of the list in accordance with ranks are -
Shah Rukh Khan
The rankings are based on two parameters - Estimates of entertainment-related earnings of celebrities and estimates of their fame.
The period under consideration for both was between 1 October 2015 and 30 September 2016.
A celebrity’s earnings were calculated on the basis of independent earnings from multiple sources such as industry insiders, talent management agencies, film and TV production companies, publishers, etc.
A celebrity’s fame was calculated based on media visibility of celebrities across print, television and social media reach such as Facebook and Twitter.
India won the Asian Cricket Council Under-19s Asia Cup title. In the final played at R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka, India defeated hosts Sri Lanka by 34 runs.
Opting first after winning the toss, India Under-19 team posted a competitive score of 273 runs for a loss of eight wickets in their 50 overs. In reply to it, the Sri Lankan side was bowled out for a score of 239 in 48.4 overs.
Foundation of India’s total was based on the first five batsman, especially due to the score of 71 and 70 by Himanshu Rana and Shubham Gill respectively. Later, the fine bowling efforts by Indian spinners helped the Indian side in dismissing the Under-19 team of Sri Lanka and clinch the trophy.
Skipper Abhishek 4 for 37 produced a fine display of slow left-arm orthodox bowling and was assisted ably by leg-spinner Rahul Chahar, who returned with impressive figures of three for 22 from his quota of 10 overs to dismantle the Lankans.
For Sri Lankan Under-19 team, pacer Nipun Ransika and left-arm spinner Praveen Jayawickrama took three wickets each.
Man of the Match: Abhishek Sharma (India Under-19)
Player of the series: HJ Rana (India Under-19)
Youth ODI debuts: KL Nagarkoti, RD Chahar and HJ Patel (India Under-19)
2016 Under-19 Asia Cup : The 2016 Under-19 Asia Cup was an international cricket tournament that was held in Sri Lanka from 15 to 23 December 2016. It formed part of the qualification process for the 2018 Under-19 World Cup.
The tournament saw the participation of eight teams of which six Asian teams that were part of the 2016 Under-19 World Cup. The other two teams were from the 2016 Asia Division Two event.
France became the first country in the world to use drones for national mail service.
In this regard, French postal service announced a drone delivery program to deliver parcels on a 14-kilometre route once a week to reach mountainous regions.
These mail drones will have a range of 19 km and a top speed of 30.5 kmph. They also have parachutes for safe emergency landing.
The Union Water Resources Ministry has reconstituted a committee that was tasked with assisting the Krishna River Management Board (KRMB).
The new committee will be headed by A.K. Bajaj, former chairman of the Central Water Commission (CWC). Besides, Gopala Krishnan, R.P. Pandey, Pradeep Kumar Shukla and N.N. Rai will be its members.
Assist KRMB to prepare a manual on how projects, common to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, ought to be handled. Decide how the Godavari waters ought to be transferred to the Krishna Basin in accordance with the Godavari Water Disputes Tribunal Award.
The committee was reconstituted based on the demand of Telangana government after it had opposed the earlier Mohile committee’s recommendation considering it as one-sided and biased against Telangana.
The earlier committee was constituted in September 2016 to suggest a mechanism for facilitating the effective functioning of the KRMB as per the provisions of the Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation Act, 2014.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently launched National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) during his recent visit to Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh. The scheme aims to provide apprenticeship training to over 50 lakh youngsters in order to create more jobs. It has budgetary outlay of Rs 10000 crore.
National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS) : NAPS is implemented by Director General of Training (DGT) under the aegis of Union Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE). Under it, Central Government for the first time will provide financial incentives to the employers to engage actively in apprenticeship training.
Central Government will also directly share 25% of the total stipend (maximum of 1,500 rupees per month per apprentice) payable to an apprentice with employers. In addition, it will support basic training which is considered an essential component of apprenticeship training.
The Central Government will bear the 50% of the total expenditure incurred on providing basic training to an apprentice. All transactions including registration by employers, apprentices, registration of contract and payment to employers will be made in online mode.
UK-based researchers have found that stem cells harvested from pregnant woman’s amniotic fluid can be used to strengthen weak bones. Amniotic fluid is the protective fluid that surrounds baby in the uterus and helps it to develop inside the mother’s womb. It also contains stem cells that are the building blocks of other tissues.
Bones are constantly formed in body with cells called osteoclasts which break down old bone and form new bones. However, incase due to brittle bone disease, osteoporosis process becomes lazy leading to fracture bones.
The researchers collected the amniotic stem cells from material left over from screening tests during pregnancy. Then they injected these cells into diseased mice having fractured bones due to brittle bone disease (a genetic disorder that results in fragile bones that break easily). It was found that mice injected with these cells have 78% fewer fractures. Thus, the amniotic stem cells can be used to improve strength, plasticity, and structure of bones.
Potential Application : This discovery can help treat astronauts who lose bone mass in space. It is said that astronauts can lose 2.5% of their bone density for every month in space. It can also help babies with genetic diseases and elderly people.
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology has recommended a national policy on managing and curbing forest fires.
This move has come following the committee’s latest report on ‘forest fires and its effect on the environment, forests, biodiversity and wildlife’, which revealed that there has been about 55 per cent rise in forest fires.
The report, submitted on 16 December 2016, mainly focuses on the prevention of fires, especially in the Himalayan forests that stretch across the states of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu & Kashmir.
The number of forest fires has touched 24817 in 2016, in comparison to 15937 in 2015.
A total of around 17502 acres of land has been destroyed this year due to the spread of the forest fire.
The increase is alarming, as 2015, which was in fact considered a drought year, had seen about 16 percent fall in the frequency of the blazes.
The three states that contribute about one third to the total number of forest fires are Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Chhatisgarh.
Out of these, Madhya Pradesh alone has seen almost a 10-fold increase in forest fires, from 194 in 2015 to 2600 in 2016.
The committee recommended the framing of a national policy to manage forest fires.
It also suggested clearing the forests of Chir pine needles, as according to the report the inflammable needles play a huge role in the spread of forest fires.
To ensure the same, the report suggested the use of sweeping machines to clear Chir pine needles from the roadside. The report also suggested alternative usage of pine such as fuel.
Apart from this, the committee has also suggested the replacement of pine reserve forest areas with broad leaf plants.
It has also observed that there are a number of front line forest staff posts that are lying vacant.
The committee was formed following a series of destructive forest fires, of which one destroyed almost 4000 hectares of forest land, stretching across 13 districts of Uttarakhand.
The Government of Andhra Pradesh has allotted land for the construction of nuclear power plant at Kovvada in Andhra Pradesh.
In this regard, the Government Order 1179 was issued giving advance possession of land under its control to the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL).
The GO facilitates the NPCIL to take possession of 1473 acres of government land and pay for it as per the value fixed by the Revenue Department.
Kovvada N-Plant : The nuclear power plant will be set up at Kovvada in Ranasthalam block of the coastal district of Srikakulam in Andhra Pradesh.
In 2009, the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) of the Union Government gave an in-principle approval to the project.The ambitious project will be executed at an estimated cost of Rs 60000 crore.
The 6600 MW project will be executed by the Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL). Russia is expected to join the NPCIL in design and implementation of the project.
The project constitutes setting up of nuclear power plants, establishing a township and rehabilitating the displaced families.
The 5 villages located in the Project Affected Zone are Ramachandrapuram, Gudem, Kotapalem, Tekkali and Jeeru Kovvada.
The rehabilitation of people in the project affected zone is a complex issue before the government as the people who would be displaced are dependent on agriculture and fishing.
Nuclear energy in India : The Kovvada project is a part of the government’s efforts to promote clean and renewable energy. It helps the government to accomplish its mandate under the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs).
As per the INDCs submitted by India to UNFCCC, about 40% cumulative installed electric power will be achieved by non-fossil fuel sources by 2030.India will achieve this target with the help of transfer of technology and low-cost international finance.
At present, there are 21 operational nuclear reactors in India with an installed capacity of 6780 MW.