Today Current Affairs 4th January 2017

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The 13th edition of Nepal’s five-day Chitwan Elephant Festival has kicked off in Kathmandu with the participation of over 50 elephants.  The annual festival which brings fun, sports and adventure together inaugurated in Sauraha, the gateway to Chitwan National Park. 

Bunkar Mitra helpline started functioning on 4 January 2017. The helpline is meant to extend professional expertise to distressed handloom weavers. The helpline was launched by the Union Textiles Minister Zubin Irani on 25 December 2016 on the occasion of Good Governance Day. Bunkar Mitra helpline helps handloom weavers : This helpline can be accessed by dialing the toll-free number 1800-208-9988.The helpline service is available in seven languages. They are Hindi, English, Tamil, Assamese, Kannada, Bengali and Telugu. It seeks to address handloom weavers’ queries and grievances free of cost. The users can avail this service anywhere from across the country between 10 am and 6 pm. The helpline also works as a policy input mechanism for the government on the problems faced by handloom weavers. It was designed and operationalised by the Office of the Development Commissioner (Handlooms). The following 6 services are available through this helpline - 1) Assistance on technical issues 2) Raw material supply 3) Availing credit facility 4) Quality control 5) Access to marketing linkages 6) Information about various schemes and procedure to avail benefits

H S Mahadev Prasad Minister for Cooperation and Sugar of Karnataka, passed away on 3 January 2017 following a cardiac arrest at a resort in Chikkamagaluru. He was 59.He was there in Chikkamagaluru to attend the silver jubilee celebrations of the Transport Cooperative Society at Koppa. H S Mahadev Prasad : Born in August 1958, Prasad was elected from the Congress in Chamarajnagar district  from the Gundlupet constituency. He was an active Congressman and five term member of Karnataka Legislative Assembly representing Gundlupet assembly constituency.He became a Minister in the Siddaramaiah government in 2013.  He also served as the In Charge Minister of Chamarajanagar District. Before joining Congress, he was a leader of Janata Party and Janata Dal. He also held the position of the Kannada and Culture Minister in the BJP coalition government headed by HD Kumaraswamy during 2005-07. He left the Janata Dal party and joined the Congress party along with the then Chief Minister in 2007. He successfully contested the Assembly Elections from Gundlupet constituency five times in his career in 1994, 1999, 2004, 2008 and 2013.

Tech giant Google has honoured social reformer Savitribai Phule on the occasion of her 186th birth anniversary.  The colourful Doodle showcased a simple Savitribai spreading her sari 'pallu' wide to include women from all sections of society for empowerment.She was the first woman teacher of the first women’s school in India and a pioneer in modern Marathi poetry. Savitribai taught in the school which was started by her itself along with her husband Jyotirao Phule in 1848. Savitribai Phule : Born in 1831 in Maharashtra, Savitribai was married when she was just nine to Jyotirao, who was 12.She had set up a care centre for widows and even encouraged them to remarry. She also fought for the rights of the untouchables.  Savitri also opened a clinic to treat the sick when the bubonic plague spread in Pune in 1897. In 1852, the British government honoured the her and Jyotirao for their contribution to the cause of women’s education.  She was once again honoured when a stamp was released by India Post on Savitribai on 10 March 1998. Moreover, the Maharashtra Government instituted an award in her name to honour women social reformers.  In 2014, the Maharashtra government, in honour of Savitribai, renamed Pune University to Savitribai Phule University.

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on 4 January 2017 announced the dates of assemble polls of five states including Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Uttrakhand, Manipur and Goa. As per the estimates of ECI, over 16 crore people will vote in this year's assembly elections.  Goa-4 February 2017 Punjab-4 February 2017 Uttarakhand-15 February 2017 Manipur (2 phases)-4 March 2017, 8 March 2017 Uttar Pradesh (7 phases)-11 February 2017, 15 February 2017, 19 February 2017, 23 February 2017  The limit for expenses for candidates is Rs 28 lakh for UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Rs 20 lakh for Manipur and Goa respectively.  Election Commission will focus on paid news and Press Council of India will help the commission in detection of paid news. The commission will undertake strict expenditure monitor mechanism to curb black money. With the announcement of dates, the Model code of conduct comes into effect hereafter. Article 324 of the Constitution : It vests authority of superintendence, direction and control of the preparation of the electoral rolls for and the conduct of elections to Parliament, State Legislature of every state and of elections to the offices of President and Vice President to the Election Commission.

The United Nations has designated the year 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development. The announcement was made during the International body’s 70th General Assembly. The theme has been given to increase awareness on the contribution of sustainable tourism to development, especially among the public and the decision makers of the public and private sector while mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a channel for positive change. Highlights : The International Year aims to bring a change in policies, consumer behaviour and business practices to create a more sustainable tourism sector. The theme is perfectly in accordance with the 2030 Universal Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The International year will promote tourism’s role in the following areas: Inclusive and sustainable economic growth Social inclusiveness, employment and poverty reduction Cultural values, diversity and heritage Resource efficiency, environmental protection and climate change Mutual understanding, peace and security. The responsibility of the execution of the International Year has been given to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), the United Nations Specialised Agency for Tourism. The International body will ensure the implementation of the same in collaboration with governments and relevant organisations of the United Nations as well as international and regional organisations and relevant stakeholders. The year of 2016 was designated as the International Year of Pulses. 2016’s theme : The United Nations had declared the year 2016 as the International Year of Pulses (IYP) in its 68th General Assembly. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was given the responsibility for the implementation of the Year’s theme in collaboration with governments, relevant organisations, non-governmental organisations and relevant stakeholders. The International Year was aimed at heightening the awareness of the public regarding the nutritional benefits of pulses, as a part of its sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition.

The Union government of India has launched a Swachh Bharat survey in 500 cities and towns across the country to assess levels of sanitation and the progress made towards achieving ‘Open Defecation Free’ status. The Swachh Survekshan-2017, conducted by Quality Council of India (QCI), aims to improve sanitation standards in the country by instilling a sense of competition between the cities. Highlights : The QCI will judge the cities on the basis of the data provided to them by three different sources: Data provided by Municipal bodies, which will carry 900 marks. Data collected through primary observation and independent assessment, which will carry 500 marks. Data collected on the basis of citizen feedback, which will carry 600 marks. Areas of evaluation include: Waste Collection, sweeping and transportation with 40 per cent marks. Open defecation free status and toilets with 30 per cent marks.  Municipal Solid Waste processing and disposal with 20 per cent marks. Information, education and behaviour change with 5 per cent marks Swachh Bharat Mission e-learning portal with 5 per cent marks.   The citizens will be able to give their feedback by giving a missed call on the number-1969 and recording their response or they can also opt to fill up a feedback form available on the main website of Swachh Survekshan.     Last year, the survey saw participation from about 1 lakh citizens. Among 73 cities surveyed, 15 cities scored more than 70% of the total marks and were categorised as leaders and 20 cities that had a score ranging between 60-70% were categorised as aspiring leaders. The cities with scores in the range of 50-60% were labelled as cities that need to speed up their efforts and those who scored below 50% were categorised as slow movers who need to work harder to improve sanitation standards in their areas. Mysuru was declared as the cleanest city, followed by Chandigarh and Tiruchirapalli at second and third rank respectively. Metropolitan cities of Delhi and Mumbai also found a place in the leader’s category with Delhi at rank 4 and Mumbai at 10. Dhanbad, Asansol and Itanagar were ranked the lowest.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced pan-India expansion of Maternity Benefit Programme (MBP) to benefit pregnant and lactating mothers across the country. The announcement was made by the Modi in his address to the nation on 31 December 2016. The expanded programme will come into force on 1 January 2017. Maternity Benefit Programme : The programme was formulated by the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development as per the provisions of Section 4(b) of National Food Security Act, 2013. The cash incentive of Rs 6000 is payable in three instalments for the first two live births. The conditional cash transfer scheme provides cash incentives to pregnant and lactating women For the wage loss so that the woman can take adequate rest before and after delivery To improve her health and nutrition during the period of pregnancy and lactation To breastfeed the child during the first six months of the birth It is applicable to all pregnant women and lactating mothers (PW&LM), excluding the Pregnant Women and Lactating Mothers who are in regular employment with the Central Government or State Governments or Public Sector Undertakings or those who are in receipt of similar benefits from the government. Significance of the programme : A woman’s nutritional status has important implications for her health as well as the health and development of her children. An under-nourished mother almost inevitably gives birth to a low birth-weight baby.When poor nutrition starts in-utero, it extends throughout the life cycle, particularly in women. Owing to economic and social distress many women continue to work to earn a living for their family right up to the last days of their pregnancy. Furthermore, they resume working soon after childbirth, even though their bodies might not permit it. In order to address these concerns, the Union Government formulated the Maternity Benefit Programme to address nutritional needs of vulnerable communities.

Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar  was sworn in as the 44th Chief Justice of India (CJI). He will retire from his office on 27 August 2017. Justice Khehar succeeds T S Thakur who retired on 3 January 2017 after tenure of a year. Justice Khehar is the first Chief Justice of India from the Sikh community. Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar : Jagdish Singh Khehar has been serving as a judge of the Supreme Court of India since 13 September 2011. He had led the five-judge constitution bench of the SC that annulled the National Judicial Appointments Commission (NJAC) Act for the appointment of judges. In January 2016, he also led the bench that set aside the imposition of President’s rule in Arunachal Pradesh. He also headed the bench that gave a verdict of equal pay for equal work for the benefit of people engaged as casual and contractual employees. Chief Justice of India : The Chief Justice of India is the head of the judiciary of India and the Supreme Court of India. The CJI is responsible for the allocation of cases and appointment of constitutional benches, which deal with important matters of law. As per the Article 145 of the Constitution of India and the Supreme Court Rules of Procedure of 1966, the CJI allocates work to the other judges who are bound to refer the matter back to him/her in any case where they require it to be looked into by a larger bench of more judges.

Finland has become the first country in the world to pay a basic income to randomly picked citizens on a national level in an aiming at dismissing poverty, motivate people to join the workforce and decrease unemployment.It is conducted with 2,000 randomly picked unemployed participants between the ages of 25 and 58.  The plan aims to find ways to reshape the social security system in response to changes in the labour market, according to the website of the Social Insurance Institution or Kela, which manages the project. It also seeks to reduce the bureaucracy and simplify the complicated benefits system, Kela says. The scheme, which was launched on January 1, hopes to create an incentive for more Finns to work, since the fear of losing welfare benefits make many citizens act picky about the job they would accept.

The Reserve Bank of India has appointed Surekha Marandi as its Executive Director (ED) in place of U S Paliwal, who retired on December 31 last year. Marandi, who assumed charge on Monday, will look after Consumer Education and Protection Department, Financial Inclusion and Development Department, and Secretary's Department. She has also served on the Boards of United Bank and Bank of Baroda. Prior to being promoted as ED, Marandi was Principal Chief General Manager and Chief Vigilance Officer in the Reserve Bank. She has, over a span of three decades, served in regulatory and supervisory, financial inclusion and development and human resource management areas in the Reserve Bank.

Shri Sanjiv Ranjan (IFS: 1993), presently Ambassador of India to Argentina, has been concurrently accredited as the Ambassador of India to the Oriental Republic of Uruguay, with residence in Buenos Aires (Argentina). Mr. Ranjan, presently serving Ambassador of India to Argentina and he will take up his assignment shortly.

Coca-Cola India and its largest bottling partner Hindustan Coca-Cola beverages have partnered the State Bank of India (SBI) to enable over 2.6 million retailers and 5000 distributors in conducting business transactions digitally.  All our distributors remit to us on an electronic basis only so all that is already digitized. This whole approach is to ensure that the consumer to retailer transactions become digital so that the payment from the retailer to the distributor can also be digital . As per the agreement, SBI will educate retailers on digital transactions and even a customised payment solution for retailers and distributors selling Coca-Cola products will be developed.  As an incentive for going cashless, retailers and merchants will also be able to access loans and other financial services from the bank . The initiative will be rolled out state-wise starting February. 

HDFC has tied-up with artificial intelligence firm Niki.ai to launch a chatbot called OnChat on Facebook’s Messenger platform, that will allow users to recharge phones, pay utility bills, book cabs from Ola or Uber etc., through a chat. The chatbot is available for non-HDFC bank users as well. The chat opens a payment gateway through which transactions can be made using any bank account. The chatbot is available on Facebook messenger where it can be used for e-commerce transactions like booking a cab, ordering food or making mobile recharges, bill payments for electricity, water, gas, DTH etc. For payments, the platform prompts users to pay either via Paytm, Freecharge or PayuMoney, using which users can pay via debit/credit cards etc. Thus the chatbot facilitates the transaction via another payment portal.

China launched its first freight train to London (Britain) with an aim to improve China-Britain trade ties, strengthen connectivity with Western Europe.  The train departed from Yiwu West Railway Station in eastern Zhejiang Province of China. It will travel for about 18 days and more than 12,000 kilometers before reaching its destination in Britain.  On its way, the train will pass through Kazakhstan, Russia, Belarus, Poland, Germany, Belgium and France before arriving in London.  It is mainly carrying goods, including household items, garments, cloth, bags and suitcases produced in Yiwu. London is the 15th city in Europe added to China-Europe freight train services.  The success of this train will further give impetus to China’s One Belt and Road Initiative (OBOR), an infrastructure and trade network connecting Asia with Europe and Africa along ancient trade routes.

According to recently released HSBC Expat survey 2016, India ranks third among the countries offering the highest average annual salary to expatriates.  The list was topped by Switzerland followed by Hong Kong. The surveyed expatriates (foreign workers) living in India received average salary of $145,057. Whereas, foreign workers in Switzerland were highest paid who got an average salary of $188,275, followed by Hong Kong at $169,756.  Switzerland’s average annual expat salary was almost twice the global average. It has topped the expat career ranking for a second year because of the combination of high salaries and excellent work culture.

The Minister of State (I/C) for Youth Affairs and Sports Mr Vijay Goel constituted  a committee for the improvement in National Sports Development Code after the recent controversial appointments of Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Chautala as life presidents of Indian Olympic Association. The decision comes after the recent controversial appointments of Suresh Kalmadi and Abhay Chautala as life presidents of Indian Olympic Association. The move aims to avoid any further disturbances caused by the decisions of any sports council and maintain good governance, transparency and cleanliness in sports. The committee, which will be chaired by Sports Secretary, Injeti Srinivas, will submit its report within one month on the basis of suggestions and feedback given in these meetings so that sports bodies act according to the public expectations for the promotion of sports in the country.

The Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis unveiled the portrait of social reformer ‘Prabodhankar Thackeray’ in the general assembly hall of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) on January 2, 2017 and paid rich tributes to him. Keshav Sitaram Thackeray, famously known as Prabodhankar was born in September 1885. He was a social reformer, author and key leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra Samiti which successfully campaigned for the linguistic state of Maharashtra. He is the father of late Shiv Sena supremo Bal Thackeray. Before this, the corporation hall had only two portraits, one of philanthropist and pioneer of Mumbai’s development Nana Shankarseth and other of Dadasaheb Donde, one of the leaders of the Samyukta Maharashtra movement. Besides, a revamped portal was also launched of the civic body by the Civic Commissioner Ajoy Mehta along with several other initiatives to facilitate Ease of Doing Business while an Automatic Napkin Vending Machines was also launched.  

Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 104th Indian Science Congress at Tarakarama Stadium of Sri Venkateswara University in Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh on January 3, 2017. The theme for the five-day event is ‘Science and Technology for National Development’. The Congress would conclude on January 7, 2017. The basic aim of the 104th Congress was to focus on strengthening the scientific research in the country to make India among top three countries in the world in the field of Science and Technology by 2030. He appealed Research and Development institutions to strengthen their basic research in line with leading global standards to help achieve inclusive and sustainable growth. PM also laid stress on the need to address the rapid global rise of Cyber-Physical Systems. There is a need to develop and exploit these technologies in services and manufacturing sectors. Six Nobel Prize winners along with 14,000 scientists and scholars from around the country took part in the mega event. The Prime Minister also felicitated Nobel laureates at the conclave. He also inaugurated ‘Pride of India’ exhibition as a part of the Congress. This is the second time that the city of Tirupati is hosting the event, first time being in 1983.  

Australia's former opening batsman Arthur Morris on 3 January 2017 was inducted into International Cricket Council's (ICC) Hall of Fame. With this, Morris became the 82nd cricketer to be inducted into ICC Hall of Fame. The Australian cricketer was given the honour posthumously during the first day of the third Test between Pakistan and Australia in Sydney. Arthur Morris : Born on 19 January 1922, Arthur Robert Morris played 46 Test matches between 1946 and 1955.He is regarded as one of Australia's greatest left-handed batsmen. He is best known for his pivotal role in Don Bradman's Invincibles side, which made an undefeated tour of England in 1948. Morris was the leading scorer in the Tests on the tour and scored three centuries. In 2000, he was named in the Australian Cricket Board's Team of the Century. In 2001, he was inducted into the Australian Cricket Hall of Fame. His career was interrupted by the Second World War, during which he served in the Australian Army.He resumed his career in cricket in 1946.He made his Test debut against England and quickly became a key member of the team. He passed away at the age of 93 on 22 August 2015. International Cricket Council's Hall of Fame : The ICC Cricket Hall of Fame "recognises the achievements of the legends of the game from cricket's long and illustrious history" It was launched by the ICC on 2 January 2009 as part of the ICC's centenary celebrations. It was launched in association with the Federation of International Cricketers' Associations (FICA). Its initial inductees were the 55 players included in the FICA Hall of Fame.  However, further members are added each year during the ICC Awards ceremony. The inaugural inductees included from W. G. Grace, Graham Gooch, and others. There are six women in the Hall of Fame. Former England women's cricket team captain Rachael Heyhoe-Flint is the first woman in the Hall of Fame.

Li Xiaoxia, the table tennis Olympic champion from China, on 3 January 2017 announced her retirement from the game. She announced her retirement through social media. Li helped China win the team gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. In the tournament, she also finished as the runner-up in the singles event. Li Xiaoxia :  She is the 8th table tennis Grand Slam winner in history with singles crowns from the 2008 World Cup in Kuala Lumpur, 2012 Olympics in London. She also won the 2013 world championships in Paris.  She also has several doubles and teams world titles to her name.

The Supreme Court has passed a ruling stating that re-promulgation of an ordinance was a fraud on the Constitution and that the ordinances passed by the President and the State Governors by bypassing the legislature are not immune from judicial review. The decision was taken by a constitution bench comprising seven justices headed by Chief Justice TS Thakur with a majority of 6-1. The bench stated that since an ordinance has the same force as a law passed by the legislature, it will now be mandatory to place it before the Parliament or the State legislature. Justice DY Chandrachud, who delivered the majority judgement, stated that the failure in placing the ordinance before the Parliament and the state legislature would be taken as a serious constitutional violation. Apart from Justice CJ Thakur, all others including Justices SA Bobde, Uday Umesh Lalit, L. Nageswara Rao and Adarsh Kumar Goel agreed to the decision. Justice Chandrachud stated that court would review whether the satisfaction of the President or the Governor to implement the ordinance was based on relevant material or was it influenced by any ulterior motive. The court also stated that no legal rights would be given to the beneficiaries of the ordinance after its expiry or withdrawal. The ruling came in reference to a case that raised the constitutionality of seven successive re-promulgations of the Bihar Non-Government Sanskrit Schools Ordinance of 1989. The Bihar state government had approached the Supreme Court following Patna court’s verdict, which stated that repeated re-promulgation of the ordinances was unconstitutional. The same was confirmed by the Supreme Court. However, another Justice, Madan B. Lokur challenged the verdict by saying that there may be several situations where re-promulgation of the ordinance would seem necessary so, the act cannot be wholly declared as unconstitutional.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the month of December 2016 captured a spectacular image of the International Space Station (ISS) making its way in front of the Sun. The International Space Station was travelling at a speed of about 28968 kilometres per hour. At that time, NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Peggy Whitson, Russian cosmonauts Andrey Borisenko, Sergey Ryzhikov, Oleg Novitskiy and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet were onboard. The image was captured by Noel Kowsky, a lens man working for NASA. He captured the photograph just when it was about to make a transit in front of the Sun on 17 December 2016. The ISS was transiting the Sun when he was able to capture several images of the event. Around ten images out of the whole lot were combined to make a single composite view of the ISS transiting across the Sun. International Space Station (ISS) : International Space Station (ISS) is considered to be the largest man-made structure ever to be built in space.It revolves around the earth 15 times in a day at a speed of about 8 km/second. The ISS orbits the Earth at an altitude of about 330 to 435 kilometres which makes it very difficult to see it directly without the help of a high-powered telescope at times. It serves as a space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology and other fields. There is also the challenge of knowing where the space station will be relative to Earth and at what time. Stargazers often use a tracker to find out the location of the ISS.