December 2014 - National News I

1 December 2014:

  • World Aids Day - December 1, 2014.
    • The 2014 theme for World AIDS Day is “Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.”
  • Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Karnataka account for 3.6 lakh HIV cases, about 50% of the patients in the country. 
  • Hundreds of floodlights along the border fencing and posts manned by BSF at the India-Pakistan border will soon get lighted with solar energy. Union home ministry as pilot project has approved to set up solar power house of five mega watt capacity at Tala area at Jaisalmer in Rajasthan.
  • In a legal opinion to the Law Ministry, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has recommended the repeal of an 18-year-old law on arbitration procedures in tune with the government’s larger push to provide a business-friendly environment for foreign investors.
    • The country’s top law officer, whose opinion was sought by the Ministry on the Arbitration and Conciliation Act 1996, advised replacement of the present law with a new one stressing timely settlement of business disputes and fixing greater onus on arbitrators against delay.
  • Toeing the UPA line, the NDA government has refused to make the files on Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose public, saying the revelations would “prejudicially affect” relations with foreign countries. The Prime Minister’s Office has shared only a list of 41 such files. 
    • The PMO has shared a list of files created from 1953 to 2000, the last two “Top Secret” files being on Justice Mukherjee Commission of Inquiry report.
    • The other two top secret papers are on correspondences with and about Netaji’s widow and daughter (last amended in 1971) and the transfer of his ashes to India (created in 1998).

2 December 2014:

  • The launch of Agni-IV, India's strategic missile, from the Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast was a success. This was the fourth success in a row for the Agni-IV missile, which has a range of more than 4,000 km.
  • A high-powered committee comprising Prime Minister Narendra Modi, leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge and Chief Justice of India H L Dattu will meet to select the new CBI director. This is the first time that the PM-led panel will be selecting the CBI director. 
    • The composition of the selection panel, which was earlier headed by the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC), was revised when Lokpal & Lokayuktas Act was passed earlier this year, amending provisions the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act.
  • A day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed that his government will go ahead with the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh; the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs tabled its report, recommending a Constitution amendment Bill to enable the swapping of enclaves and end a 67-year-old dispute between the two countries. 
    • The swap will involve handing over 17,000 acres of land to Bangladesh in return for 7,000 acres in 111 enclaves in West Bengal, Assam, Tripura and Meghalaya, and was first decided under the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh, but never ratified by Parliament.
  • The Supreme Court ruled that any person who has faced a criminal case cannot get a job in the police force, even if he or she is acquitted or reaches a settlement under the law.
  • Victims of crimes and their families can look forward to a helping hand from the government to put the agonising memories behind them and be able to start life afresh. The Supreme Court has directed all states and Union Territories to implement without delay the scheme meant to compensate injured victims and families of those killed in crimes. 
    • The governments are obligated to disburse compensation under Section 357A of the Code of Criminal Procedure whereby a court can issue such orders to help victims of crime rehabilitate.

3 December 2014:

  • India has marginally improved its ranking on the global Corruption Perception Index this year, on the back of prosecutions of high-level officials and hope that the new leadership will reduce corruption, according to Transparency International. 
    • India now ranks 85 among 178 countries, with countries like Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burkina Faso for company.
    • Denmark ranks first, as it did in 2013, while Somalia and North Korea share the bottom spot. 
    • India is ranked better than all its South Asian neighbours except Bhutan. 
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led Appointments Committee of Cabinet approved the appointment of Anil Sinha as the new Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) chief.
  • The Union Cabinet cleared four bills that are likely to be introduced in Parliament during the current session, including a comprehensive legislation against high jacking, which provides for death in extreme cases, and amendments to the Companies Act to make life simpler for the corporate sector.
    • In addition, bill to replace the ordinance for auction of coal mines following a Supreme Court order cancelling blocks and amendments to the Regional Rural Banks (RRBs) Act were approved by cabinet.
  • The Punjab and Haryana high court has told the Punjab government that it cannot put the language criterion above all while selecting a good nurse. 
  • The maiden user trial of long range strategic missile Agni-IV was conducted successfully by the Army’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC) for a shortened range of 3,000 km as against its full range of 4,000 km from the Wheeler Island, off the Odisha coast. 
  • Surfing the internet is set to become faster and easier at the New Delhi railway station from Dec 4, 2014.

4 December 2014:

  • Inter-faith prayer meetings and protest rallies marked the observance of the 30th anniversary of the Bhopal gas disaster that killed thousands.
  • India has marginally improved its ranking on the global Corruption Perception Index this year, on the back of prosecutions of high-level officials and hope that the new leadership will reduce corruption, Transparency International said. With a score of 36, India now ranks 85 among 175 countries. Denmark ranks first, as it did in 2013, while Somalia and North Korea share the bottom spot. 
  • The Supreme Court set up a special Bench, called the Social Justice Bench, comprising two judges devoted to the delivery of speedy justice in a range of social issues related to the downtrodden and socially marginalised groups. Social Justice Bench will be headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur. It is the brainchild of Chief Justice of India H.L. Dattu.
  • Anil Kumar Sinha took charge as Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation.
  • The Times Higher Education BRICS & Emerging Economies Rankings 2015 covering 18 countries showed that India now has four universities in the top 40 – IISc, IIT Bombay, IIT Roorkee and Panjab University, Chandigarh – and seven more in the top 100. China tops the list with 27 universities in the top 100. The Indian Institute of Science (Bangalore) is India’s top ranked university but stands at 25th in a ranking of universities from BRICS and other emerging economies. 
  • Moti Darwaza door caves in. The once impregnable Golconda Fort suffered damage when one side of its huge door fell due to ‘rust and decay’. 

5 December 2014:

  • Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has scrapped the supply of subsidised kerosene through the Public Distribution System (PDS). The Centre plans to write to States asking them to provide subsidised kerosene only to un-electrified households.
  • The legendary jurist V.R. Krishna Iyer, who took up the cause of the poor and the underprivileged in his capacities as a Minister in Kerala, a Supreme Court judge, and post-retirement, a human rights activist, is no more. He was 99.
  • In its ‘Freedom on the Net 2014’ report of Freedom House, an independent US-based watchdog group, ranked the countries on 21 categories under three broad heads – obstacles to access, limits on content and violations of individuals’ rights. The improvement in India’s score, from 47 out of 100 in 2012-13 to 42 out of 100 in 2013-14, is the largest by any country.

6 December 2014:

  • Government has approved dedicated air support for ITBP to help the force take on superior infrastructure capabilities of China on the Sino-Indian border. 
  • Cabinet Secretary Ajit Seth has been given a further six-month extension in service. 
  • Frontline magazine of The Hindu Group has been selected as the ‘Most Promising Brand of the Year’ in the Media & Entertainment (English Magazines, India) category by the World Brands Review Corporation, a Noida-based branding organisation. 
The award will be presented at the World Brands Summit 2014 to be held in Dubai.
  • India refused to take a deadline for capping its carbon emissions unlike China, saying the ongoing climate meet in Lima was not to discuss peaking year and hoped the world would reach a deal to cut down carbon emissions. Nations are discussing steps for a new deal in Paris to replace the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. 
  • The Finance Ministry was planning to take forward the previous government’s policy of phasing out subsidised kerosene by withdrawing it from the public distribution system. The government may write to the States to provide subsidised kerosene only to households without electricity.

7 December 2014:

  • Observing that Muslim girls who attain puberty or complete 15 years of age are eligible for marriage under the Muslim law, the Gujarat High Court has upheld the marriage of a minor girl from the community.
  • The Second National Lok Adalat held across the country on 6th December  amicably settled about 1.25 crore pending and pre-litigation cases and brought financial relief of over Rs. 3,000 crore to ordinary litigants in a single day. 
  • National Legal Service Authority (NALSA) 
  • In 2011, the Planning Commission selected the G.B. Pant Institute of Studies in Rural Development, for a study on child marriage in India.
    • The 2005-06 National Family Health Survey had shown that 46 per cent of young women were married before the legal age of 18, and the Planning Commission sought to understand why this was occurring. The institute recently submitted its report to the govt. 
    • A majority of parents who get their children married before the legal age do not even seek their consent, and among those who do, the child not consenting does not stop the marriage, new data has shown.
  • The decline in vulture populations in West Bengal and Assam has been arrested thanks to the efforts of the Vulture Conservation and Breeding Centre (VCBC) set up in these States.
    • The Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS) had set up these centres in 2005 and 2007 respectively when use of the painkiller, diclofenac, in cattle turned fatal for the scavenging birds resulting in an alarming decline in vulture population.

8 December 2014:

  • Acclaimed Carnatic vocalist Nedunuri Krishnamurthy passed away. He was 87.
  • The format for declaration of assets and liabilities by government employees under the Lokpal rules may be simplified, following concerns raised by several departments. 
    • The rules notified under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act say all public servants should declare their assets and liabilities, along with those of their spouses and dependent children. However, several Ministries and departments and other stakeholders have raised concerns about the complexity involved in furnishing the desired details in the form prescribed under the rules.
  • A law degree obtained by a homoeopathic doctor after obtaining licentiate course in homoeopathy will not entitle him/her to practise as an advocate, the Supreme Court has held. 
    • One can pursue law, but for obtaining licence to practise, he or she must fulfil all the conditions prescribed by the Bar Council.
  • The government formally moved to bury the Planning Commission before January 26 with strong support from regional parties. 
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who discussed the role of the Planning Commission with chief ministers, had announced the government's intent to replace the plan panel with a new entity in his Independence Day address. 
    • He made it clear that there was a need to replace the top down approach in planning with a "bottom to top" approach with states given a key role. He argued for cooperative federalism and strengthening "Team India".

9 December 2014:

  • In the aftermath of the scrapping of the Planning Commission, the Modi government is mulling whether the role of allocating plan funds across States can be given to the Finance Commission. 
    • It would like the new body that will replace the Plan panel to be a ‘think-tank in the era of liberalisation’ that could possibly be merged with the National Development Council (NDC).
    • The NDC is the highest development policy planning body, comprising the Prime Minister, Union Cabinet Ministers, State Chief Ministers and State Finance Ministers.
  • The Lok Sabha cleared The Repealing and Amending (Second) Bill, 2014, to remove 90 redundant Amendment Acts from the statute book despite a demand from the Congress and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) to refer the draft legislation to a Parliamentary Standing Committee.
  • The Supreme Court said false complaints under Section 498A of Indian Penal Code against innocent in-laws alleging cruelty and harassment at matrimonial homes were increasingly making the husbands adamant not to take back their wives.
  • The Rajya Sabha Select Committee finalised its draft report on the Insurance Bill. The Bill seeks to raise foreign direct investment in insurance joint ventures from 26 to 49 per cent.
  • Vice President Hamid Ansari conferred on former Supreme Court judge and a member of the International Court of Justice, Dalveer Bhandari, the first Justice Nagendra Singh International Peace Award. 
    • The award was instituted by the International Goodwill Society of India (IGSI), a non-political, cultural and academic organization, which claims its objective is to float a global movement and awakening for a total nuclear ban and revival of ancient Indian cultural heritage. 
    • Bhandari cited a few judgements he had sat upon at the ICJ, to which he was elected member in 2012. These include a pending 200 year-old boundary dispute, a temple dispute between Thailand and Cambodia, a maritime dispute between Peru and Chile and a recent settlement between Australia and Japan on the issue of whaling. 
    • Such is the role of the ICJ in building and maintaining peace and justice in the world. The threat to peace is so imminent that UN agencies alone cannot ensure peace and security.

10 December 2014:

  • BJP government has earmarked Rs 5,000 crore for the north-eastern region and Rs. 3,500 crore for the Left Wing extremism-affected states to improve the communication network. 
  • Giving relief to the steel industry, the WTO has ruled against the US which had imposed high duty on imports of certain steel products from India. The Appellate Body of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has ruled that the duty imposed by the US on the Indian steel products is "inconsistent".
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November 2014 Current Affairs

National

Business & Economy

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November 2014: National Affairs

  • The comptroller and auditor general has faulted Robert Vadra's land deals in Haryana, saying he reaped nearly Rs 44 crore in windfall gains because an indulgent Congress government allowed him to do so in breach of law, and did not insist on recovering Rs 41.51 crore of the profit he made by quickly selling the land to DLF Universal.
  • The Union Culture Ministry will set up a National Cultural Audio-Visual Archives in Jodhpur to identify and preserve the cultural heritage of India.
  • From November 1, Bangalore will officially be known as Bengaluru. On the eve of Kannada Rajyotsava (State Formation Day), the State government has issued a notification effecting change of names to Bangalore and 11 other cities in the State.
  • Telangana Government on launched Aasara, a massive initiative of the government to provide financial assistance to the aged and the physically handicapped persons.The government is to spend nearly Rs. 4,000 crore annually under this scheme.
  • As a part of Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana programme, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has adopted Jayapur village, in his Parliamentary Constituency of Varanasi.
  • Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana programme was launched by the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi on the birth anniversary of Jayaprakash Narayan, on October 11, 2014
  • An estimated 60 per cent of all deaths in India in 2012 were owing to Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) shows the World Health Organisation’s data, but India’s response to these preventable diseases has been “largely underfunded” says a report released by the World Economic Forum and the Harvard School of Public Health. The report ‘The Economics of Non-Communicable Diseases in India’ says India stands to incur a cost of $4.58 trillion between 2012 and 2030 due to NCDs and mental health conditions.
  • The Prime Minister’s Council on Climate Change, which was defunct for the last three years, has been reconstituted by the Government. This comes ahead of key climate change talks set to take place in Lima, Peru, in December and in Paris, France in 2015.
  • The law commission has submitted its third report to the government recommending repeal of 73 outdated laws. This takes the total to 258 laws that the panel has advised the government either fully or partially repeals.
  • A team of scientists from the United States arrived in Gorakhpur on to gather information about encephalitis that has claimed several lives in different districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  • For the first time in the country’s history, a special squad of women troops has been deployed deep inside jungles to undertake active and prolonged operations against Naxalites. 
  • President of India Pranab Mukherjee has laid foundation for the world’s tallest Krishna shrine in the holy town of Vrindavan.
  • With 356 million 10-24 year-olds, India has the world’s largest youth population despite having a smaller population than China. The report titled 'The power of 1.8 billion', said 28 per cent of India's population is 10 to 24 year-olds, adding that the youth population is growing fastest in the poorest nations.
  • N. Srinivasan was not involved in match-fixing or illegal betting and did not attempt to scuttle the probe into corruption in the Indian Premier League (IPL), the Justice Mukul Mudgal panel's inquiry report has said.
  • The Army will be network-enabled by 2017 and fully network-centric by 2020 in spite of the delays in the modernization process.
  • The Nanavati panel, probing the communal riots in Gujarat in 2002, gave its final report on the matter, after 12 years of investigations. The panel is headed by retired Supreme Court judge G T Nanavati and has retired Judge Akshay Mehta.
  • Confederation of Real Estate Developers Associations’ of India (CREDAI), the apex body of housing and habitat providers with over 9,000 members spread across 23 states and 151 city chapters, is set to launch a campaign for ‘zero garbage in the housing complexes’ being developed by its members. CREDAI has pledged to provide vocational and technical training to labour on-site through a special initiative named 'KUSHAL', a joint venture by CREDAI and NSDC which will look to increase the skilled manpower for construction industry and reduce the existing gap between the demand and supply of skilled manpower.
  • The Telangana government has declared state symbols.
    • Official State Bird- Palapitta (Indian Roller)
    • Official State Tree- Jammi (Prosopis cineraria)
    • Official State Flower- Tangedu (Cassia auriculata)
    • Official State Animal- Deer
  • Union Law Minister D.V. Sadananda Gowda confirmed the government’s decision to amend the provisions of the Lokpal Act and the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act to do away with the requirement of quorum in the high-profile committees to select the anti-corruption ombudsman and the CBI Director, respectively.
  • A panchayat attended by former khap heads in the Muzaffarnagar district of Uttar Pradesh issued a diktat instructing girls not to wear jeans and to avoid using mobile phones. A declaration asking people in general to not use social media platforms like Face book and Whatsapp was also made.
  • The Supreme Court has described a juvenile law that prescribes “admonition” and “group counseling” as punishment for even grave and heinous offences as “far too liberal.” Accepting that juvenile offenders require the protection of the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2000, a Bench of Justices Dipak Misra and U.U. Lalit, however, said law must “satisfy the desire of society” and prescribe a punishment befitting the gravity of the crime.
  • The civil aviation ministry restored the name of the domestic terminal after N.T. Rama Rao.
  • Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Ranjit Sinha was removed by the Supreme Court from the telecom scam cases, saying the allegations against him of protecting some accused appear to be "prima facie credible".
  • The Supreme Court approved the Centre’s reconstituted National Board for Wildlife, paving the way for the clearance of over 140 big infrastructure projects.
  • The Centre introduced Aadhar-enabled biometric attendance system in its offices across the country. The system will be installed at all the offices in Delhi by December 31. At other places it may be installed by the Republic Day, January 26, next year. The manual system of attendance would be phased out accordingly.
  • Mangalyaan has been named among the best inventions of 2014 by Time magazine which described it as a technological feat that will allow India to flex its “interplanetary muscles.”
  • Nalini Nadkarni, forest ecologist and college professor helped develop the ‘Blue Room’ with Snake River Correctional Institution in Oregon for inmates in solitary confinement, who for 23 hours a day see nothing but a tiny, white-walled cell, an experience some research suggests heightens mental illness and makes prisoners prone to suicide attempts and violence.
  • Terror activities in India have increased by 70 per cent during 2012-2013 with the number of deaths rising from 238 to 404, most of which were caused by Naxals. According to the Global Terrorism Index 2014, prepared by Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the number of attacks also increased with 55 more incidents in 2013 than in 2012. However, the majority of terrorist attacks in India have low casualties.
  • The Andhra Pradesh government announced that it had entered into an agreement with the UK-based Eros Investments Limited (EIL), a subsidiary of NYSE-listed Eros International Plc, to set up an Entertainment City in the state.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched "Jeevan Pramaan" - an "Aadhar-based Digital Life Certificate" for pensioners in a move that could eventually benefit over a crore pensioners. The proposed digital certification will do away with the requirement of pensioners having to submit a physical "Life Certificate" in November each year, in order to ensure continuity of pension being credited into their accounts.
  • Gujarat has become the first State to make voting compulsory in local bodies after Governor O.P. Kohli recently gave his sanction by signing the controversial Gujarat Local Authorities Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2009.
  • The ministry of road transport and highways launched a modified e-rickshaw based on the new rules notified through amendments in the Motor Vehicles Act. It notified the Central Motor Vehicles (Sixteenth Amendment) Rules, 2014, which paves the way for plying of “special purpose battery operated vehicles”.
  • Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said the World Bank has agreed in principle to consider a mega project in the state under Assam Agricultural Competitiveness Project (AACP) proposed by the state. The new project, 'Assam Agricultural Commercialization and Rural Transformation Project', worth Rs. 12,000 crore, was submitted to the Centre on June 4.
  • The Union government has frozen the Budget subsidy for cooking gas at Rs. 20 a kg, raising the prospect of an increase in its price.
  • Epilepsy in India is highly stereotyped in terms of gender with 60 per cent married epileptic women facing divorce and the rest having to suffer through adversely affected relationships. The study also found that women with epilepsy in India become object of prejudice and are discriminated against, thereby leading to poorer quality of life.
  • According to the Survey of National Council for Applied Economic Research only 5% of Indians said they had married a person from different caste. It is the first direct estimate of inter-caste marriages in India. The IHDS (India Human Development Survey) is the largest non-government, pan-Indian household survey. It covers over 42,000 households, representative by class and social group.
  • India is making rapid strides in overcoming the problem of malnutrition, with the number of stunted children under the age of five declining by over 10 million, says a ‘Global Nutrition Report’.
Second International Conference on Nutrition in Rome from November 19-21. The conference is being organized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization.
  • The Union Power Ministry is set to sanction Rs. 1,350 crore for developing a Green Energy Corridor in Andhra Pradesh to strengthen the network for renewable projects—particularly solar and wind units.
  • The Army sentenced five of its personnel, including two officers, to life imprisonment for staging the killing of three Kashmiri civilians in the Macchil area of Kupwara district in 2010 and branding them as foreign militants for rewards and remunerations.
  • The Supreme Court named ICC Chairman and BCCI president-in-exile N Srinivasan, his son-in-law Gurunath Meiyappan, Rajasthan Royals owner Raj Kundra and cricket administrator Sundar Raman as having been probed by the Justice Mudgal committee which had found “some misdemeanour by certain persons” and indicted them in the IPL-6 scam.
  • Tamil Nadu recorded an overwhelming number of deaths post-sterilization. Between 2008 and 2012 the deaths are more than 130 women. The fatality count in the State is the highest in the country, according to data released by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a new scheme for specially abled students, while speaking in 'Maan ki baat'. He announced a special scholarship scheme for specially-abled students, wanting to go for technical education. It has also been decided to give Rs. 1 lakh to each of Kendriya Vidyalaya and Central Universities to create necessary infrastructure for specially-abled students.
  • For the cleaning of Ganga, Centre will constitute 25 special teams to check the sources of pollution. The teams will be drawn from different wings of the Ministry of Water Resources.
  • The World Bank estimates that the health costs of water pollution in India equal three percent of India's GDP. It has also been suggested that eighty percent of all illnesses in India and one-third of deaths can be attributed to water-borne diseases.
  • In December 2009 the World Bank agreed to loan India US$1 billion over the next five years to help save the Ganges river.
In November 2008, the Ganges, alone among India's rivers, was declared a "National River", facilitating the formation of a National Ganga River Basin Authority that would have greater powers to plan, implement and monitor measures aimed at protecting the river.
  • In July 2014, the Government of India announced an integrated Ganga development project titled Namami Ganga and allocated Rs. 2,037 crore for this purpose.
  • The unique identity number ‘Aadhaar’ will be included in the service book of every Government servant.
  • Aadhaar is a 12-digit individual identification number issued by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on behalf of the Government.
  • Telangana and Chhattisgarh have inked a pact for purchase of 1,000 MW power. A MoU was signed for the purchase of power, and exchanged between the respective Energy secretaries of both States – S.K. Joshi and Aman Singh. As per the MoU, Chhattisgarh will supply 1,000 MW of power from the State-owned generation company to Telangana on a long-term basis.
  • The Union Cabinet recommended dissolution of the Delhi Assembly. The Cabinet meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gave its nod to Lt. Governor Najeeb Jung’s recommendation to dissolve the 70-member House.
  • Pictographs of the Sindu (Harappan) culture have been discovered on rocks at the world famous Hampi.As many as 20 drawings were found on a boulder on top of a hill near Talwarghatta, adjacent to river Tungabhadra.
  • The Surat Municipal Corporation (SMC) has roped in players like Antrix Corporation (the marketing arm of ISRO) and Scanpoint Geomatics for geo-mapping of the city. Earlier this year, Microsoft Corp had selected Surat to develop it as a ‘smart city'.
  • A team of scientists from the United States arrived in Gorakhpur to gather information about encephalitis that has claimed several lives in different districts of eastern Uttar Pradesh.

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June 21 as International Day of Yoga

Twenty First June will be observed as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations every year. 

The UN General Assembly on the night of 11 Dec 2014 adopted a resolution in this regard with a record number of 175 country as co-sponsors.

The idea for declaring an International Day of Yoga at the United Nations was formally proposed by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his maiden address to the General Assembly on 27th of September this year.

The resolution on 'International Day of Yoga' was introduced by India's ambassador to UN Asoke Mukerji and had 175 nations joining as co-sponsors, the highest number ever for any general assembly resolution.

Mr. Modi, in his address, had said that Yoga is an invaluable gift of ancient Indian tradition. It embodies unity of mind and body; thought and action; restraint and fulfillment; harmony between man and nature; a holistic approach to health and well being. By changing lifestyle and creating consciousness, it can help deal with climate change. 

He had indicated that:
21st June, one of the two solstices, which is the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere, has special significance in many parts of the world, and could be considered for adoption as the International Day of Yoga by the United Nations.

It is for the first time that such an initiative has been proposed and implemented by any country in the UN General Assembly in less than 90 days.

Through the resolution, adopted under the agenda of 'Global Health and Foreign Policy,' the 193-member general assembly decided to proclaim June 21 every year as the 'International Day of Yoga'.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has welcomed the UN decision of declaring 21st June as International Day of Yoga. He profusely thanked all Nations that co-sponsored the resolution. Mr. Modi said, countless people across the world made Yoga an integral part of their lives and this will inspire many more people towards Yoga which has the power to bring the entire humankind together. The Prime Minister said, Yoga beautifully combines Gyan (knowledge), Karm (work) and Bhakti (devotion).


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Ebola virus disease

Key facts

  • Ebola virus disease (EVD), formerly known as Ebola haemorrhagic fever, is a severe, often fatal illness in humans.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
  • The average EVD case fatality rate is around 50%. Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.
  • The first EVD outbreaks occurred in remote villages in Central Africa, near tropical rain forests, but the most recent outbreak in west Africa has involved major urban as well as rural areas.
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralise the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.
  • There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines but 2 potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.

Background

The Ebola virus causes an acute, serious illness which is often fatal if untreated. Ebola virus disease (EVD) first appeared in 1976 in 2 simultaneous outbreaks, one in Nzara, Sudan, and the other in Yambuku, Democratic Republic of Congo. 
The latter occurred in a village near the Ebola River, from which the disease takes its name.
The current outbreak in west Africa, (first cases notified in March 2014), is the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in this outbreak than all others combined. It has also spread between countries starting in Guinea then spreading across land borders to Sierra Leone and Liberia, by air (1 traveller only) to Nigeria, and by land (1 traveller) to Senegal.

The most severely affected countries, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have very weak health systems, lacking human and infrastructural resources, having only recently emerged from long periods of conflict and instability. On August 8, the WHO Director-General declared this outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

A separate, unrelated Ebola outbreak began in Boende, Equateur, an isolated part of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The virus family Filoviridae includes 3 genera: 
  • Cuevavirus
  • Marburgvirus 
  • Ebolavirus
There are 5 species that have been identified: 
  • Zaire
  • Bundibugyo
  • Sudan
  • Reston
  • Ta├» Forest
The first 3, Bundibugyo ebolavirus, Zaire ebolavirus, and Sudan ebolavirus have been associated with large outbreaks in Africa. The virus causing the 2014 west African outbreak belongs to the Zaire species.

Transmission

It is thought that fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family are natural Ebola virus hosts. Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats, monkeys, forest antelope and porcupines found ill or dead or in the rainforest.
Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.

Health-care workers have frequently been infected while treating patients with suspected or confirmed EVD. This has occurred through close contact with patients when infection control precautions are not strictly practiced.

Burial ceremonies in which mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased person can also play a role in the transmission of Ebola.

People remain infectious as long as their blood and body fluids, including semen and breast milk, contain the virus. Men who have recovered from the disease can still transmit the virus through their semen for up to 7 weeks after recovery from illness.

Symptoms of Ebola virus disease

The incubation period, that is, the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms is 2 to 21 days. Humans are not infectious until they develop symptoms. 

First symptoms are:
  • the sudden onset of fever fatigue
  • muscle pain
  • headache
  • sore throat


This is followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes.

Diagnosis

It can be difficult to distinguish EVD from other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever and meningitis. Confirmation that symptoms are caused by Ebola virus infection are made using the following investigations:
  • antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
  • antigen-capture detection tests
  • serum neutralization test
  • reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay
  • electron microscopy
  • virus isolation by cell culture
Samples from patients are an extreme biohazard risk; laboratory testing on non-inactivated samples should be conducted under maximum biological containment conditions.

Treatment and vaccines

Supportive care-rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids- and treatment of specific symptoms, improves survival. There is as yet no proven treatment available for EVD. However, a range of potential treatments including blood products, immune therapies and drug therapies are currently being evaluated. No licensed vaccines are available yet, but 2 potential vaccines are undergoing human safety testing.

Prevention and control

Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilisation. Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Raising awareness of risk factors for Ebola infection and protective measures that individuals can take is an effective way to reduce human transmission. Risk reduction messaging should focus on several factors:

Reducing the risk of wildlife-to-human transmission from contact with infected fruit bats or monkeys/apes and the consumption of their raw meat. Animals should be handled with gloves and other appropriate protective clothing. Animal products (blood and meat) should be thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Reducing the risk of human-to-human transmission from direct or close contact with people with Ebola symptoms, particularly with their bodily fluids. Gloves and appropriate personal protective equipment should be worn when taking care of ill patients at home. Regular hand washing is required after visiting patients in hospital, as well as after taking care of patients at home.

Outbreak containment measures including prompt and safe burial of the dead, identifying people who may have been in contact with someone infected with Ebola, monitoring the health of contacts for 21 days, the importance of separating the healthy from the sick to prevent further spread, the importance of good hygiene and maintaining a clean environment.

Controlling infection in health-care settings:

Health-care workers should always take standard precautions when caring for patients, regardless of their presumed diagnosis. These include basic hand hygiene, respiratory hygiene, use of personal protective equipment (to block splashes or other contact with infected materials), safe injection practices and safe burial practices.

Health-care workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed Ebola virus should apply extra infection control measures to prevent contact with the patient’s blood and body fluids and contaminated surfaces or materials such as clothing and bedding. When in close contact (within 1 metre) of patients with EBV, health-care workers should wear face protection (a face shield or a medical mask and goggles), a clean, non-sterile long-sleeved gown, and gloves (sterile gloves for some procedures).

Laboratory workers are also at risk. Samples taken from humans and animals for investigation of Ebola infection should be handled by trained staff and processed in suitably equipped laboratories.

WHO response

WHO aims to prevent Ebola outbreaks by maintaining surveillance for Ebola virus disease and supporting at-risk countries to developed preparedness plans. 

When an outbreak is detected WHO responds by supporting surveillance, community engagement, case management, laboratory services, contact tracing, infection control, logistical support and training and assistance with safe burial practices.


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International Film Festival Of India

The 1st edition of IFFI was organized by the Films Division, Government of India, with the patronage of the first Prime Minister of India. Held in Mumbai from 24 January to 1 February 1952, the Festival was subsequently taken to Madras, Delhi and Calcutta. In all it had about 40 features and 100 short films. 


In Delhi, the IFFI was inaugurated by Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru on 21 February 1952.

Since its beginnings in 1952 the IFFI has been the biggest event of its type in India. Subsequent IFFI’s were held in New Delhi. From the 3rd edition in January 1965, IFFI’s became competitive. In 1975 the Filmotsav, non-competitive and to be held in other filmmaking cities in alternate years, was introduced. Later, Filmotsavs were merged in IFFI’s. 

In 2004 the IFFI was moved to Goa. Since then the IFFI has been an annual event and competitive.


The IFFI aims at providing a common platform for the cinemas of the world to project the excellence of the film art; contributing to the understanding and appreciation of film cultures of different nations in the context of their social and cultural ethos; and promoting friendship and cooperation among people of the world.



The IFFI’s founding principles centre on discovery, promotion and support of filmmaking of all genres – thus bringing together the diversity of the forms, aesthetics and contents.

The Festival is an assembly of people and nations where the world’s greatest film artistes hold hands with emerging talents on an equal footing. It is also a forum for film professionals to communicate face to face with film lovers around the world.

IFFI aims to nurture, encourage and inspire Indian cinema and introduce it to the world outside as well as the many audiences that coexist in this vast and diverse country. 

With rapid technology changes, the importance of this festival will only grow as it will bring viewers and filmmakers together and expose them to emerging technologies and the challenge of the emerging new media.

New interactions are envisaged; new strategies would be formulated so that with each edition of the IFFI, the viewing experience is enhanced, enlarged and enriched.


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Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAANJHI)

On India’s Independence Day, the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, made a commitment to launch the Saansad Adarsh Gram Yojana (SAANJHI). Holding true the commitment made, he is launched the Scheme on 11th October, 2014 - Lok Nayak Jai Prakash Narayan Ji’s birth anniversary – at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.

The goal is to develop three Adarsh Grams by March 2019, of which one would be achieved by 2016. Thereafter, five such Adarsh Grams (one per year) will be selected and developed by 2024.

Inspired by the principles and values of Mahatma Gandhi, the Scheme places equal stress on nurturing values of national pride, patriotism, community spirit, self-confidence and on developing infrastructure. The SAANJHI will keep the soul of rural India alive while providing its people with quality access to basic amenities and opportunities to enable them to shape their own destiny.

The Scheme is unique and transformative as it has a holistic approach towards development. It envisages integrated development of the selected village across multiple areas such as agriculture, health, education, sanitation, environment, livelihoods, etc. Far beyond mere infrastructure development, SAANJHI aims at instilling certain values, such as people’s participation, Antyodaya, gender equality, dignity of women, social justice, spirit of community service, cleanliness, eco-friendliness, maintaining ecological balance, peace and harmony, mutual cooperation, self-reliance, local self-government, transparency and accountability in public life, etc. in the villages and their people so that they get transformed into models for others.

The Members of Parliament (MPs) are the pivots this Scheme will run on. Gram Panchayat would be the basic unit for development. It will have a population of 3000-5000 in plain areas and 1000-3000 in hilly, tribal and difficult areas. In districts where this unit size is not available, Gram Panchayats approximating the desirable population size may be chosen. The MP will identify one Gram Panchayat to be taken up immediately, and two others to be taken up a little later. Lok Sabha MP has to choose a Gram Panchayat from within his/her constituency and Rajya Sabha MP a Gram Panchayat from the rural area of a district of his/her choice in the State from which he/she is elected. Nominated MPs may choose a Gram Panchayat from the rural area of any district in the country. In the case of urban constituencies (where there are no Gram Panchayats), the MP will identify a Gram Panchayat from a nearby rural consitutency. Primarily, the goal is to develop three Adarsh Grams by March 2019, of which one would be achieved by 2016. Thereafter, five such Adarsh Grams (one per year) will be selected and developed by 2024.
The MPs will engage with the community, facilitate the Village Development Plan and mobilise the necessary resources. The Development Plan will place a special emphasis on enabling every poor household to come out of poverty. Prior to the plan formulation, there will be a systematic environment creation and social mobilisation, which will be led and guided by the MP himself/herself. The planning process in each village will be a participatory exercise coordinated by the District Collector. The MP will play an active facilitating role in this exercise.

The MPs will also directly support activities at village level like health camps, organising grievance redressal camps, community mobilisation etc. They will give a direction to holistic development and our ingenuous villagers will pave their own path through their hard work and entrepreneurial skills. Some of the crucial features of the SAANJHI are highlighted below.

SAANJHI gives focus to community participation. Social mobilization of village community can trigger a chain of other development activities in the village. For instance, reducing risk behaviours like alcoholism, smoking, substance abuse (drugs/tobacco/gutka etc) among all age groups of population.

Strengthening of local democracy through strong and transparent Gram Panchayats and active Gram Sabhas and facilitating good governance is also an important objective of SAANJHI. Women participation in the decision-making process will be encouraged. In fact the Scheme envisages holding Mahila Sabhas and Bal Sabhas to discuss women and children specific issues and concerns. E-governance will also be given a push.

Ensuring universal access to education facilities, adult literacy, e-literacy are also important goals of SAANJHI. In addition to this the Scheme also pays attention to providing infrastructure in schools like toilets, libraries, and supporting smart schools. It is important for our young generation to inculcate a sense of confidence and values such as respect for women, martyrs and elders, good hygiene, respect for the environment, good reading habits etc. Apart from education, these villages will have quality health care. The outcomes will include 100% immunization, 100% institutional delivery, reduced IMR, MMR, reduction in malnutrition among children etc.

To create vibrant and harmonious society within the village activities like honouring village elders, folk art festivals, having a village song etc. will be promoted. Personal development through sports, regular physical exercise, balanced nutrition, personal hygiene is another unique aspect of the Scheme.

Adoption and adaptation of technology and introduction of innovations are critical to this programme. This will include use of space application and remote sensing for planning, mobile based technology for monitoring, agriculture technology for increasing productivity etc.

Since the SAANJHI has activities cutting across different spheres, in order to implement the Scheme successfully close coordination and convergence will be required across different Ministries, departments, Schemes of the Government of India, MPLADS, State Government and the private sector. Tied and untied funds for e.g. untied resources of the Gram Panchayats like own revenue, Central and State Finance Commission grants etc must be used to optimise implementation. Ministry of Rural Development will be nodal Ministry coordinating and monitoring the Scheme closely to ensure its efficient implementation. In order to operationalize the strategies the central sector and centrally sponsored schemes along with the state schemes will have to be implemented in a convergent and integrated manner to generate maximum synergy. The Ministries/Departments concerned will take appropriate action to make suitable changes in the Guidelines to enable priority to be given to the Adarsh Gram.

At the national level, a separate, real time web based monitoring system will be put in place for the scheme covering all aspects and components. The Ministry will put in place a specially designed capacity building programme for Government functionaries at different levels including Gram Panchayats. In addition to preparing detailed handbooks for operationalizing the Scheme, the Ministry will also be conducting orientation workshops for MPs over the next few months. The Guidelines of the Scheme are a blueprint for implementation and provide a broad strategy and expected outcomes. At the state level there will be an Empowered Committee headed by the Chief Secretary consisting of the relevant Departments and including experts, as required with at least two Civil Society representatives. The Secretary of the Rural Development Department of the state will be the member convenor. The district Collector will be the nodal officer for implementing the SAANJHI. He will conduct a monthly review meeting with representatives of the participating Line Departments. The Members of Parliament concerned will chair the review meetings.

It is also proposed to have a mid-term evaluation of performance through a competent independent agency. Also a post project assessment of performance and outcomes would be similarly undertaken.

Four kinds of awards have been decided to be given in the following categories:-

  1. Best practices
  2. Best Charge Officers
  3. Best District Collectors
  4. Best Adarsh Grams.

It is hoped that the Adarsh Grams will be replicable and sustainable models. In the days to come there would be hundreds of innovations and stories of success from these model villages.



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