Today Current Affairs 21st January 2017

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The World Economic Forum (WEF), NITI Aayog, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and Cornell University will work to develop an India Innovation Index to provide impetus to states to drive innovative spirit.  Based on the WEF’s GII (Global Innovation Index), the India Innovation Index will be tailored to better reflect of India’s ground reality and include metrics well suited to the Indian context for innovation. The India Innovation Index will measure and rank the innovation performance of all states in India with the aim of moving India towards an innovation-driven economy. It will be based on key pillars of innovation and sub-indices that together will assist in tailoring policies for innovation that inturn will promote inclusive growth.  The pillars of index include the capacity of human capital and research, strength of institutions, supporting infrastructure and the level of business sophistication, among others. Each partnering organization will nominate a working group member to work on the index.  The first ranking of Indian states will released at the India Economic Summit to be held in October 2017. This index will encourage states to compete with each other and, in turn, lead to better policies for inclusive growth.  It will create a transparent benchmark of innovation for Indian states and spur competition among states. It will also ensure progress towards innovation at the local level in India.  

Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) member-states have finalised Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) for cooperation in small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) sector.  The MoUs were finalised during the Workshop on MSME Cooperation amongst IORA member countries held in New Delhi. They will take effect for each party upon signature by 5 countries. Finalise linkages and alliances amongst MSMEs organizations, associations and various institutions engaged in MSME development in IORA countries.  Exchange best practices, programs and policies for MSME development. Exchange greater involvement of MSMEs in the global supply chain and increase their market access. Promote women and youth’s economic empowerment.  Encourage synergies with the IORA forum. IORA Secretariat at Mauritius will be the coordinating agency for the implementation of the MoU. Besides, for to carrying out activities envisaged under this MoU, IORA special fund will be created by member countries. It was organised by Union Ministry of Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) and was attended by around 29 delegates from 14 IORA member-states. Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)  : IORA is an international organisation consisting of coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean established in 1997 to promote cooperation in the Indian Ocean region. It was formerly known as the Indian Ocean Rim Initiative and Indian Ocean Rim Association for Regional Cooperation (IOR-ARC).  Its coordinating Secretariat is located at Ebene, Mauritius. It is a regional forum, tripartite in nature that brings together representatives of Government, Business and Academia, for promoting co-operation and closer interaction among them.  It is based on the principles of Open Regionalism for strengthening economic cooperation particularly on trade facilitation and investment, promotion as well as social development of the region. IORA comprises 21 member states and 7 dialogue partners, Indian Ocean Research Group and the Indian Ocean Tourism Organisation have observer status.

Ministry of AYUSH has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI). The MoU was inked with an aim to curtail the malpractices in the advertisement of AYUSH drugs. As per the MoU, ASCI will comprehensively monitor advertisements the cases of misleading advertisements of Ayurveda, Unani, Yoga and Naturopathy, Siddha and Homoeopathy drugs, treatments and related services, advertised across print and electronic media. The MoU was signed in New Delhi in the presence of Secretary AYUSH Ajit M Sharan. Signatories of the MoU wereDr, Dinesh Chan Katoch, Advisor (Ayurveda) at Ministry of AYUSH Srinivasan K Swamy, Chairman, ASCI ASCI was given a self-monitoring mandate to identify potentially misleading advertisement in the AYUSH sector. It will process its complaints through its Consumer Complaints Council (CCC). Complaints of misleading advertisements received by the Ministry of AYUSH will be redirected to the ASCI, which will be reviewed using ASCI’s code and guidelines. ASCI will report all advertisements in potential violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies (Objectionable Advertisements) Act, 1954 and Rules to the Ministry of AYUSH. The violation will also be reported under non-compliance of ASCI’s CCC recommendations for the Ministry of AYUSH to take further action. Ajit M Sharan said that the MoU is an important step to ensure that Indian consumers have access to safe and effective medicines. This arrangement will also help in ensuring that any misleading advertisement will be brought under the attention of Ayush Ministry. SK Swamy informed that AYUSH is among top three sectors high incidence of misleading advertisements is found. He also said that some of the advertisements in the AYUSH sector claiming treatment of certain diseases in violation of the Drugs and Magic Remedies Regulations have been a cause for concern.

TeamIndus, a space start-up based in Bengaluru, has proposed an opportunity to its donors to leave their name on moon. For this purpose, people will have to pay Rs 500.  As per the plan, names of the donors will be micro-engraved on a small-sized aluminium object and placed on the lunar surface which will land on moon on 26 January 2018. As per Sheelika Ravishankar, Jedi Master - Marketing and Outreach of TeamIndus, the plan is part of a crowd-funding effort.  It is an effort to make people aware about their ancestors, whenever people will start travelling to the moon. Apart from finding the name of ancestors via the box with their names, the future moon-combers may find other artefacts like spacecraft debris of Soviet, US, European and Japan, rovers that died like China’s Chang’e-3 among others. The mission will be launched on 28 December 2016 on the PSLV rocket and travel 3.84 lakh kilometres from the earth.The robotic rover will send back videos and photos. The lunar craft will land on the Mare Imbrium (Latin for Sea of Showers), which is a large dusty plain on the sun lit lunar belly. As per reports, that some 10000 people have sent their names for the project. TeamIndus is a group or people with an extraordinary dream of engineering path-breaking solutions that take on critical challenges for humanity. This start-up has a belief that solutions for tomorrow can be achieved after breaking away the dogmas of past, collaborate by questioning what is and merge the old with new inspiring ways. TeamIndus is the only Indian team competing for the $30M Google Lunar XPRIZE, which is a global competition to challenge and inspire engineers and entrepreneurs to develop low-cost methods of robotic space exploration. To win the XPRIZE, a privately funded team will have to place a robot on the Moon that explores at least 500 meters and transmits high-definition video and images back to Earth.

With an aim to make the state addiction-free, the state government of Bihar on 21 January 2017 launched a Nasha Mukt campaign in the state. The Nasha Mukt campaign saw participation of about two crore people. The participants including Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, all teachers and students of schools and colleges formed human chains across the state. The total length of the chain was 11292 kilometres. It will cover all panchayats of the state. In view of the human chain, traffic will be stopped from 10 AM to 3 PM on the day. Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has said that ‘nasha mukti’ in Bihar will herald a new era in the state as no one will be permitted to use intoxicating substance and tobacco products. Earlier on 19 January 2017, the Patna High Court described the state government’s decision to form a human chain as a publicity exercise. The human chain against alcoholism and other addictions were termed as a publicity exercise by a division bench of Chief Justice Hemant Gupta and Justice Sudhir Singh. The observation was made while hearing a PIL filed by NGO Forum for Public Interest Litigation against the government’s move to ban traffic movement on highways and involve school children to succeed the event. The court termed the event as a publicity exercise after the DGP, who was summoned along with chief secretary to the court, informed it that emergency services along with government and media vehicles would be exempted from the five-hour traffic restrictions. Terming the exemption of media vehicles from restrictions, the court questioned, since when the media has turned up to be an emergency service? This exemption of media vehicles shows that the event is a public exercise.

Union Government gave its approval for a Tamil Nadu’s draft proposal, which seeks to amend the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The proposal is primarily aimed at removing legal hurdles to jallikattu, a bull taming sport practiced in Tamil Nadu.The draft proposal was accepted by the Union Government in the wake of ongoing protests in various parts of Tamil Nadu over ban on jallikattu. The proposal seeks to de-notify bulls from the prohibited category mentioned in the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister O Panneerselvam discussed about the draft proposal with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 19 December 2017. Since the subject falls in the concurrent list of the Constitution, it has become mandatory for Tamil Nadu to get the Centre’s nod before proceeding with amendments to the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act. The proposal was forwarded by the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and the Union Ministry of Law and Justice for approval. After receiving the necessary clearances from both the ministries, the MHA headed by Rajnath Singh gave formal approval to Tamil Nadu’s proposal. Now, the draft proposal will be notified by Tamil Nadu government in the form of an ordinance. For this, the ordinance must be approved by the Tamil Nadu cabinet and promulgated by Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao. The ordinance doesn’t require the President Pranab Mukherjee’s assent as the prior approval of the Union Government has been taken by Tamil Nadu Government.This legal process is expected to be completed by 22 January 2017. At present, Ch Vidyasagar Rao is the governor of Maharashtra. He was sworn in as acting governor of Tamil Nadu in September 2016 after the end of tenure of K Rosaiah on 31 August 2016.  

The first China-to-Britain freight train run by Yiwu Timex Industrial Investment arrived in London after completing a 7,500-mile journey in 18-days.  This marks a milestone in China’s push to build commercial links across Europe and Asia.  The train had started its journey from Yiwu, a wholesale market town in the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang and passed through Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium, France and the English Channel to reach Britain.  The train was carrying cargo of small commodities including household items, clothes, fabrics, bags, and suitcases. This successfully journey of freight train from China, makes London the 15th European city to have a direct rail link with China as part of its ambitious One Belt, One Road (OBOR) initiative.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has delivered an inaugural address on a three-day National Conference of Central and State Ministers and Secretaries of Tourism, Culture and Sports in Kutch, Gujarat.  He addresses the program through video conferencing and also interacts with the participants at the end of the conference.  The Conference aims at achieving the necessary convergence among tourism, culture, youth affairs and sports areas and synergy between the Centre and state. 

Ahead of the visit of the UAE crown prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan , who will be the Chief Guest at the Republic Day function this year (26 january 2017),  India UAE is scheduled to hold their first strategic dialogue in New Delhi. The two countries have been moving closer for security, counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing and trade and during this visit of the Crown Prince ,  India and UAE will also be looking to boost economic ties. Indians are the largest expatriate community in UAE comprising of nearly 20% of its migrant population.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has imposed a Rs 75 lakh penalty on Bombay Mercantile Co-operative Bank Ltd., Mumbai for violations of Know Your Customer/Anti-Money Laundering (KYC/AML) directives. RBI had issued a show cause notice to the bank, in response to which the bank submitted a written reply and also made oral submissions thereon. After considering the facts of the case and the bank’s reply in the matter . substantiated and warranted imposition of penalty," the central bank said without giving details on the exact nature of the violations.   

The Credit Suisse Research Institute published its “Getting over Globalization Report” on January 20, 2017 that ranks global economy in terms of being an influencer in the global system and moving towards multi polar world. India has achieved a very low rank of 2 among the countries across the world while the list was topped by countries such as US, UK, Japan. The index ranks each country on a scale between 1-5 with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest.  It also considers 5 broad criteria, economic size, hard power, soft and diplomatic power and governance quality & distinctiveness. South Africa India, Brazil and Russia China UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain and Japan US, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Belgium, Ireland, Denmark, Iceland

President Pranab Mukherjee has inaugurate the 28th Dantan Gramin Mela in West Midnapore district in West Bengal. He is on a four-day visit to West Bengal. The fair display the rural handicraft skills of the people of the region. The different goods ranging from textile to terracotta will be on display.  

The Union Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation led by Uma Bharti has formed a Negotiations Committee on January 19, 2017 to determine the availability and utilization of waters of the river Mahanadi and its tributaries. The committee has been asked to submit its report within three months. The committee would be consisting of 11 members under the chairmanship of a representative from Water Planning and Projects Wing (WP&P) and Central Water Commission (CWC).  Besides the other member would comprise of member from the States of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, Union Ministries of Agriculture, Environment Forest and Climate Change, Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation, India Meteorological Department and Central Water Commission. The committee will also be responsible to examine the existing water sharing agreements on river Mahanadi and consider the claims of Odisha, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand regarding availability and utilization of waters of these rivers. The decision regarding the constitution of the committee comes after the complaint of State of Odisha under section 3 of the Inter-state River Water Disputes (ISRWD) Act, 1956 regarding utilisation of waters of Mahandi Basin.

 The Central Government has sanctioned special assistance of Rs 2,207.30 crore to Jammu & Kashmir during 2016-17 in order to help the state to complete the area-specific schemes in speedy manner. In 2015-16 the Central Government had released Rs.1194.37 crore for the State of Jammu & Kashmir to fulfill the need of the state in completing the damaged /severely damaged/partially damaged houses.  Again with the release of Rs. 2,207.30 cr the total amount provided to J&K becomes Rs. 3401.67 cr. Besides a similar special assistance of Rs. 1,129.40 cr was provided by the Center for the completion of a project in Bihar in 2016-17. So far Bihar has been given Rs 6,934.61 crore help. Other states that received such benefit includes Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu and Odisha.

Union Minister of Micro Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Shri Kalraj Mishra inaugurated a Workshop on MSME Cooperation amongst Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Member countries on January 19, 2017 in New Delhi The Ministry of MSME finalised the MoU on MSME Cooperation with Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) member countries on January 20, 2017.  This finalized MoU will be signed at an appropriate forum soon. The MoU will come into effect after 5 countries signs it. The IORA Secretariat at Mauritius will be the coordinating agency for the implementation of the MoU.  Special funds have also been created by IORA for the member countries to utilize the fund for implementing the MoU. India has already signed Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) with 18 countries for cooperation in MSME sector.  The National Small Industries Corporation of India, Public Sector Enterprise under the Ministry of MSME has 34 MoUs with its counterpart organizations of foreign countries for cooperation in MSME sector.  

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Chinese e-commerce firm Alibaba Group entered into a long-term partnership through 2028  at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.  This makes Alibaba the worldwide sponsor of Olympic Games through 2028.  The partnership was agreed between IOC President Thomas Bach, Alibaba Group Founder and Executive Chairman Jack Ma and Alibaba Group Chief Executive Officer Daniel Zhang.  With this Alibaba has become the first company in the world to make a long-term commitment to the IOC through 2028 as well as first Chinese company to commit to theOlympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.

The Inter-ministerial body Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approved six investment proposals envisaging foreign investments of Rs 1,186.5 crore.  Decision in this regard was taken by FIPB meeting headed by Economic Affairs Secretary Shaktikanta Das.  It has approved the proposals of Sanofi Synthelabo India, Star Den Media Services, Idea Cellular Infrastructure Services, Boehringer Ingelheim India Pvt. Ltd, Menarini India Private Limited and Recipharm Participation B.V. Netherlands. India allows FDI in most sectors through the automatic route, but in certain segments considered sensitive for the economy and security, then those proposals first have to be cleared by FIPB.  The Union Government has taken a slew of measures in the recent past to boost foreign direct investment into the country. The FDI in the country has grown to $40 billion in the financial year 2015-16 as against $30.94 billion in the previous FY 2014-15. Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB)  : The FIPB is inter-ministerial body that offers a single window clearance for applications on Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) that are under the approval route. The finance secretary is the chairman of the FIPB.  It is housed in the Department of Economic Affairs, Union Ministry of Finance. Presently, FDI proposals up to 3,000 crore rupees are cleared by the FIPB. However, those proposals involving FDI of more than 3,000 crore rupees are given final clearance by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) headed by Prime Minister.

Physicists from Austria have created new form of Hydrogen i.e. negatively charged hydrogen clusters. It is a previously unseen form of hydrogen. For the past forty years, existence of hydrogen in ion clusters was known and is positively-charged clusters have already exists. Researchers first injected cold liquid helium droplets with hydrogen molecules to form clusters with a neutral charge. Then they exposed these hydrogen-infused droplets to an electron beam.  This caused some hydrogen molecules to ionize and be flung out into the surrounding vacuum as negatively charged hydrogen ions.  Soon, the nearby hydrogen molecules started clustering around the negatively charged ions to create negatively charged hydrogen clusters that could boast a few, or many molecules each.  The newly created negatively charged hydrogen clusters existed only for microseconds (1 microsecond = 0.000001 seconds). But it was enough time for researchers to determine their geometric structures. It will help researchers to easily identify the clusters in nature.

According to the United Nations World Economic Situation and Prospects (WESP) 2017 report, India’s economy is projected to grow by 7.7% in fiscal 2017 and 7.6% in 2018 India will remain the fastest growing large developing economy due to its strong private consumption and gradual introduction of significant domestic reforms.  The UN flagship report has not mention of the withdrawal of the high-denomination Rs. 500 and Rs. 1,000 currency notes nor its impact on the country’s economic growth. India has positioned itself as the most dynamic emerging economy among the largest countries and is expected to remain the fastest growing.  However, incase of India, low capacity utilisation and stressed balance sheets of banks and businesses will prevent a strong investment revival in the short term. China’s growth is projected to remain stable at 6.5% for fiscal years 2017 and 2018 due to domestic demand and accommodative fiscal measures, including off-budget fiscal support through policy banks and public-private partnerships.  Implications of China’s ongoing economic rebalancing will inevitably be felt by the region in medium and long-run through trade (including commodity prices) and financial channels. Earlier, International Monetary Fund (IMF) had cut India’s growth rate for FY2017 to 6.6% from its previous estimate of 7.6% due to the “temporary negative consumption shock” of demonetisation. The World Bank also too decelerated India’s GDP growth for 2016-17 fiscal to 7% from its previous estimate of 7.6% citing the impact of demonetisation.

Donald Trump was sworn-in as the 45th President of the United States on 20 January 2017. He was administered the oath of office by Chief Justice John Roberts. In the ceremony, Trump placed his left hand on two bibles including the historic Abraham Lincoln Bible and recited the oath of the office to become the most powerful man on this Earth. With this swearing-in, Trump took over the reins from Barack Obama amid expectations of radical change in policies and apprehension at home and abroad. Apart from Trump, Mike Pence was also sworn-in as the Vice President of the United States. He took the oath of the office before Trump. The oath-taking ceremony was held in front of about 8 lakh people who visited the National Mall in the centre of the capital to celebrate the occasion. Highlights of Trump’s maiden address to the nation : Trump who addressed the nation from the US Capitol has promised to rebuild the nation. He also promised to bring back their dreams wherein America First will be the key to his governance. He also said that he will address the ills which are plaguing the nation like drugs, crime and gun violence.He said his administration will follow two simple rules - buy American and hire American. In addition to this, Trump also renewed his promise to attack the radical Islamic terrorism. He said that he will eradicate it completely from the face of Earth. He assured the world that his administration does not want to impose its governance over other countries. He said America will seek friendship with the world while recognising that countries abroad had a right to govern themselves as they see fit.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh on 19 January 2017 declared Dharamsala town of Kangra district as the second Capital of the State. Dharamsala is located at some 250 km from the state capital Shimla. It has its own significance and history to make it the second capital of the state. Dharamsala : This announcement is significant as 25 out of 68 assembly seats of the state fall in Kangra, Una and Hamirpur districts and Dharamsala was important for lower areas of Himachal Pradesh including Kangra, Chamba, Hamirpur and Una districts.  The people of these areas will now be benefitted of this special status as now they will no longer travel longer distance to Shimla for their work. Dharamsala is a city in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh and was formerly known as Bhagsu. Kangra is the largest district in the state with 15 of 68 assembly seats. Dharamsala's prominence is known not only in the map of India but also in the world for being the place for Dalai Lama's abode. Moreover, prominent personalities of the world visit this hilly town throughout the year. It also owes much of its significance to religious, natural and adventurous tourism. A complete Vidhan Sabha building is already existing in Dharamsala. The foundation of this building was laid during the previous tenure of Virbhadra Singh in 2006.  This town had already witnessed 12 winter sessions of the Himachal Pradesh state assembly so far since the introduction of the practice of annual winter sojourn in 1994. It was also selected as one of the hundred Indian cities to be developed as a smart city under PM Narendra Modi’s flagship Smart Cities Mission.

The Supreme Court of India in its order of 19 January 2017 said, ‘the decrees of divorce given by ‘Church Courts’ or ecclesiastical tribunals under Christian personal law are not valid as it cannot override the law’. The judgement was passed while hearing a 2013 PIL filed by Clarence Pais, a former president of a Karnataka Catholic association. The PIL sought a judicial declaration that divorce decrees passed by ecclesiastical tribunals are valid and binding. In his plea, Pais said that divorce granted by a Church is set up under its personal law and it should be considered valid under the Indian common law. To support his case, he exemplified the case of triple talaq for granting a divorce to Muslim couples.He also put a question in front of the court. In his question, he asked when the dissolution of marriage by pronouncing talaq three times under Mohammedan Law, which is a Personal law of the Muslims, is recognised by the courts of India then why the purpose of dissolution of marriage under Canon Law can’t be recognised, it is a personal law of the Indian Catholics. Dismissing the plea, the Supreme Court bench comprising Chief Justice JS Khehar and Justice DY Chandrachud said that the issue was settled by it in its 1996 verdict delivered in the case of Molly Joseph versus George Sebastian. Judgement of 1996 : In its ruling in 1996, the court ruled that the Canon Law (personal law of Christians) can have theological or ecclesiastical implications to the parties. But after the Indian Divorce Act, 1869 came into force, dissolution or annulment granted under such personal law cannot have any legal impact as the statute has provided a different procedure and a different code for divorce or annulment. Canon Law (personal law of Christians) : It is a Canon Law is a Christian Personal Law and it deals with marriage, divorce, adoption, guardianship and succession. Its provisions for marriage are recognised as the personal law of Catholics in India, except Goa. Under the canon law, the Catholics are required to marry in Catholic Church and seek nullity in the canonical court/tribunal. Christians across India except Goa are governed by the Christian Marriage Act of 1872.

NCR Punjab Royals on 19 January 2017 were crowned the champions of the Pro Wrestling League Season 2. The Punjab Royals triumphed over Haryana Hammers 5-4 at the K D Jadhav Indoor Stadium in New Delhi. The winners were presented with the Champions trophy along with a prize money of Rs. 1 crore and 90 lacs. The runners up were awarded the prize money of Rs. 1 crore and 10 lacs. Pro Wrestling League : The Pro Wrestling League (PWL) is the initiative of ProSportify and Wrestling Federation of India. The first season of this league was among 6 city-based teams. Around 66 wrestlers from different countries of the world took part in the Season One. Three-time women's world champion Adeline Gray of USA called the league a "historic move in international wrestling that, by bringing in huge sums of money, has taken a bold step in popularizing the sport at world level." There are six teams who compete in the League. Each team consists of a total of 1 Icon and 8 other players. Among them, there are 5 Indians and 4 foreign players. They consist of 5 men and 4 women. The six teams for the Season 2 were: Haryana Hammers, NCR Punjab Royals, Mumbai Maharathi, Jaipur Ninjas, Colors Delhi Sultans, UP Dangal. There are 5 weight categories (57 kg, 65 kg, 74 kg, 97 kg, 125 kg) for men, and 4 weight categories (49 kg, 53 kg, 58 kg, 69 kg) for women. Revanta Mumbai Garuda was the winner of the Pro Wrestling League Season 1.