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Current Affairs Today – January 4 2017

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Cabinet Approvals on January 4 2017
i. The Union Cabinet under PM Modi approved signing of an agreement between India and Uruguay for cooperation and mutual assistance in Customs Matters.
ii. Government also gave its approval for signing of an agreement for cooperation in the field of Agriculture and allied sectors between India and Portugal.
iii. Central government also approved signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Kenya on bilateral cooperation in the field of Agriculture and Allied Sectors.

Centre Approves new Projects for Ganga Cleaning over Rs. 370 Crore
i. The National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG)  has approved many new projects at an estimated cost of over Rs 370 crore for its ongoing Ganga rejuvenation programme in Haridwar and Varanasi and also decided to include six more cities\towns under surface cleaning exercise of the river using trash skimmers.
ii. In Haridwar, 68 MLD sewage treatment plant (STP) in Jagjeetpur and 14 MLD STP in Sarai have been approved at an indicative cost of Rs 110.30 crore and Rs 25 crore respectively under Hybrid Annuity based PPP mode.
iii .Under this model, payments are made on annuity basis to ensure that contractors do not abandon projects midway.
iv. In-principle approval for the implementation of 50 MLD sewage treatment plant at Ramana in Varanasi has been given at an indicative cost of Rs 120 crore under Hybrid Annuity-based PPP mode.
v. The ‘Namami Gange’ programme was launched as a mission to achieve the target of cleaning river Ganga in an effective manner by involving all stakeholders, especially five major Ganga basin states namely Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, Bihar and West Bengal.
vi. The programme is responsible for river surface cleaning, STP infrastructure, river front development, bio-diversity, afforestation and public awareness.

Swachh Bharat survey, Swachh Survekshan 2017 Begins in 500 cities
i .In order to encourage competition for improving sanitation standards in the respective area, the government started, Swachh Survekshan 2017 from January 4, 2017.
ii. The survey will be conducted by Quality Council of India to rank 500 cities across the Swachh Bharat surveycountry on cleanliness.
iii. The cities will be judged on the basis of data provided by Municipal bodies which will caryy 900 marks, direct observations and independent assessment would carry 500 marks and citizen feedbacks with 600 marks.
iv. The areas to be evaluated includes waste collection, sweeping and transportation carrying 40 Percent marks, Open defecation free and toilets will carry 30 Percent marks, municipal solid waste-processing and disposal 20 Percent, information, education and behaviour change, and Capacity building – Swachh Bharat Mission e-learning portal with 5 Percent.
v .The citizens can give their feedback by either giving a missed call on 1969 to record their response or by filling up a feedback form on the Swachh Survekshan website.

Telangana and Assam Joins UDAY Scheme
i. Assam and Telangana signed a pact with the Power Minister, Piyush Goyal to join the UDAY scheme on January 4, 2017 in New Delhi in a bid to improve the performance of state run power distribution companies (DISCOM).
ii. Since the launch of the UDAY Scheme, the Power Ministry has signed Agreements with 18 states to join the Scheme. With the joining of Assam and Telangana, the total states covered under the scheme rose to 20.
iii. The scheme envisages the State Governments to bear 75% of their respective DISCOM debt outstanding as on September 30, 2015.
iv. The Government of Telangana would take over Rs. 8,923 crore of the total Rs. 11,897 crore of DISCOM Debt while the Assam government would take over Rs. 928 crore out of total Rs. 1,510 crore DISCOM Debt  and the balance debt would be re-priced or issued as State guaranteed DISCOM bonds.
v. This would enable Telangana and Assam to save an annual interest cost of about Rs 387 and Rs 37 crore, respectively. Telangana will also reduce its Aggregate Technical and Commercial (AT&C) losses and Transmission losses to 9.95% and 3% respectively which would bring additional revenue of around Rs. 1476 crores.
vi. Similarly additional revenue of Rs. 699 crore would accrue to Assam on reduction of AT&C losses and transmission losses to 15% and 3.4% respectively.
vii. The two states is also expected to have a gain of around Rs. 1200 crores & Rs. 260 crores respectively through Demand Side interventions in UDAY such as usage of energy-efficient domestic as well as industrial/commercial equipment

National Green Tribunal Imposes Stay on Pune Metro rail project
i. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench on January 3, 2017, issued an interim stay on any construction activity in relation to the Pune Metro rail project passing through the Mula-Mutha river bed in the city.
ii. The Tribunal’s West Zone bench comprising Justice U D Salavi and Dr Ajay Deshpande granted interim stay Pune Metro route of corridor between Vanaz and Ramwadi passing through the riverbed, after an Environmental Interest Litigation (EIL) was filed by a group of prominent personalities.
iii. The group of applicants objected to the Pune metro rail route alignment proposed through a 1.7 km stretch of the Mutha river bed and argued that construction on the river bed would destroy the eco-system of the river and cause environmental damage. 
iv. However, there is no restriction on the planning or approval process of the project. The next hearing has been scheduled on January 25, 2017.
National Green Tribunal (NGT)
♦ The National Green Tribunal is a statutory body established under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010 for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources
♦ Founded: 18 October 2010
♦ Chairman: Justice Swatanter Kumar

Reign of King Kansa kickstarts largest open-air theatre fest in Odisha
i. The 11-day world’s largest open air theatre festival  ‘Reign of King Kansa’ began in  Reign of King KansaBargarh district, Odisha.
ii. This festival is based on Krishna Leela and Mathura Vijay which are enacted in 14 main places at Mathura and four places in Gopapura
iii. The festival is a symbolic representation of the triumph of good over evil, and is a post-Independence phenomenon to mark the end of British rule.
iv. 75 artistes have been selected to play various characters in the Dhanu Yatra at Mathura while 45 artistes would perform at Gopapur and 3,000 artistes from 120 cultural troupes will perform at the Raj Durbar and Ranga Mahal.
Odisha State Festival :
♦ Dola Yatra, Jagannath Rath Yatra, Konark Dance Festival

Election Commission of India Announces Assembly polls Dates for Five States
The Chief Election Commissioner, Dr Nasim Zaidi on January 4, 2017, announced the schedule of upcoming Assembly elections in five states including Goa, Uttarakhand, Manipur, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.
♦ The Union Government’s demonetisation decision and the fight against black money would have great impact on the Assembly elections.
Announcements made by the Election Commissioner
i. Polling Dates
1.Uttar Pradesh: Polling will be held in seven phases from 11 February, 15 February, 19 February, 23 February, 27 February, 4 March and 8 March
2.Manipur: Polling will be held in two phases between 4 March and 8 March
3.Uttarakhand: 15 February
4.Punjab: 4 February
5.Goa: 4 February
ii. All elections will be held simultaneously and the candidates will have to open bank accounts because any expenses above Rs 20,000 will have to be made through the bank accounts and through cheques only. Election Commission would strictly monitor election expenses by candidates to curb Black money.
iii. Candidates would not be allowed to use loudspeakers after 10 pm. The police and electoral officers would ensure strict actions against those violating the direction.
iv. Candidates can spend up to Rs 28 lakh in UP, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Rs 20 lakh in Manipur and Goa.
v. Assembly Elections will be Persons with Disabilities-friendly. The Commission would also set up all women-managed polling stations. However, the number of such polling stations has not yet been declared yet.
vi. The commission has increased the height of voting compartments by 30 inches for secrecy.


Supreme Court of Nepal Gives Go Ahead Nod to Government on crucial Constitution amendment bill
i. Nepal’s Supreme Court on January 2, 2017 gave a go ahead signal to the government with a crucial Constitution amendment bill, to accommodate the demands of the agitating Madhesi and ethnic groups.
ii. A division bench of Chief Justice Sushila Karki and Ishwor Prasad Khatiwada issued the order that the judiciary could not bar the legislature from using its wisdom in the formulation of legislation, on the basis of the principle of separation of powers.
iii. The bill, which was registered at the Parliament Secretariat in November 2016, aims to resolve the issues relating to citizenship and provincial boundary demarcation among others put forth by the Madhesis.
♦ Capital: Kathmandu                 ♦ Prime minister: Pushpa Kamal Dahal
♦ Currency: Nepalese rupee        ♦ President: Bidhya Devi Bhandari

Finland become 1st country in world to pay basic income to randomly picked citizens on national level
i. Finland has become the first country in the world to give some basic income to
unemployed citizens  to ensure a universal income offering greater security, especially as technological advances reduce the need for human labour.
ii. Aim : To tackle unemployment, which stands at 8.1 percent in a nation of 5.5 million.
Finland become First country in world to pay basic income to Citizensiiii. This programme will be started from this month. Under this, every month 2,000 selected unemployer will get 560 euros.
Finland :
♦ Capital: Helsinki
♦ Currency: Euro


Munich Re to open reinsurance branch office in Mumbai
Germany based Munich Reinsurance Company is planned  to open its branch office in Mumbai to provide the property-casualty, life, health reinsurance markets across India.
♦ Munich Re is one of the first foreign reinsurers to receive approval for a dedicated branch in India following the 2015 amendment of the Insurance Bill.
About Munich Re :
i. Munich Re Group or Munich Reinsurance Company is one of the world’s leading reinsurers.
ii. The reinsurer is present in the Indian market since 1950s.
iii. It has joint venture with HDFC Ergo and health insurance in the form of Apollo Munich Health.

Yes Bank ties-up with Bajaj Electricals for vendor financing using block chain
i. Yes Bank has entered into a tie-up with Bajaj Electricals for vendor financing using blockchain solution.
ii. There is an over 70 per cent cost reduction because of blockchain and the payback for our investments is 6-8 months.
iii. Blockchain solutions is a distributed database that maintains a continuously-growing list of ordered records called blocks
iv. ICICI Bank is the India’s first bank to execute its first transaction on blockchain.
Yes Bank:
♦ Headquarters: Maharashtra
♦ CEO: Rana Kapoor

Rs 5 discount on online payment of LPG cylinder 
i. Cooking gas customers can now avail an upfront discount of Rs 5 on every refill booked and paid for online.
ii. Indian Oil, Bharat Petroleum and Hindustan Petroleum have begun offering the price discount to cooking gas customers.
iii. The discounted amount will be seen on customers’ screens as well as the cash memo accompanying the cylinder.
iv. State oil companies are already offering 0.75% discount on the purchase of petrol and diesel to customers paying digitally

Paytm Gets final approval from RBI to Start Operating as Payment Bank
i. Mobile commerce and payments company, Paytm received the final approval from the Reserve Bank of India on January 3, 2017 to launch Paytm Payment Bank.
ii. Paytm Payments Bank Ltd is expected to start its operation in next 30-60days with its first branch in Noida, Uttar Pradesh.
iii. Paytm Payments Bank is held 51% by Sharma and 49% by One97 Communications Pvt.Paytm Ltd. It has already received investments of Rs 220 crore from One97 Communication and its Vijay Shekhar Sharma.
iv. Paytm Payments Bank aims to build a new business model in banking, focused on bringing financial services to hundreds of millions of unserved or underserved Indians.
v. Paytm Payments Bank has set a target of 200 million accounts, across current and savings accounts, and mobile wallets, within 12 months of the launch. It aims to touch half a billion accounts by 2020. Paytm already has close to 150 million electronic wallets.
vi. Paytm’s digital wallet will now be part of Paytm Payments Bank Ltd in keeping with the directions of RBI. The bank will sell products such as loans, wealth management and insurance to drive revenues.


Azure Power Commissions Largest Solar Power Project (150MW)
i. Solar power producer Azure Power commissioned 150 MW solar power project in Punjab, which is its largest in North India.
ii. Azure Power had signed a solar power implementation agreement with Punjab Energy Development Agency (PEDA) under its Solar Policy Phase III.
iii. The 150 MW solar power plant represents a portfolio of three projects of 50 MW each.
iv. The weighted average tariff on these projects is Rs 5.63 per kWh or unit and the company will supply power to Punjab State Power Corp for 25 years.

Output growth of India’s Core sector slows to 4.9% in November 2016
iIndia’s core sectors including coal, steel and electricity, register a growth of 4.9% in November 2016. However the rate of growth was smaller in comparison to the growth in October 2016 mainly due to the crash crunch caused by demonetization.
ii. As per the data released by the Commerce and Industry Ministry on January 2, 2017, the growth rate of eight infrastructure sectors comprising coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement and electricity was 6.6% in October 2016.
iii. The Refinery output grew just 2%, compared with a growth of 15.1% in October. Cement output fell sharply and rose a mere 0.5% in November after a 6.2% rise in October.
iv .Coal rose at 6.4% after three continuous months of decline. Electricity production grew the
fastest at 10.2%, up from 2.8% growth in October. The Steel output expansion also slowed to 5.6% from 16.9% in October.
v. Fertiliser output rose 2.4% in November, compared to a mere 0.8% growth in October. Crude oil and Natural gas continued to fall at 5.4% and 1.7%, respectively.

Google India launches My Business and Digital Unlocked tool for small and medium businesses in India.
i. Google India on 4 January 2017 has launched two new initiatives named My Business and Digital Unlocked for the small and medium businesses in India.
ii. Using My Business tool small businesses would be able to set up website from their Digital Unlockedmobile devices i.e smart phones. This toll has been first launched in India and from here it will taken to other countries.
iii. Digital Unlocked programme will impart mobile and online courses to help small businesses. Google in association with FICCI and Indian School of Business has launched this programme. It is a digital training programme to enable the small businessman to adapt them with the changing technologies.
iv. Rajan Anandan(vice-president – India and Southeast Asia, Google) who was also present during the launch along with Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and MeitY secretary Aruna Sundararajan said that businesses with a digital presence see profits grow twice as fast.


5 Indian Americans Takes Oath as Members of US Congress
i. Five Indian Americans, hailing from a Minority Ethnic Community which is just 1 percent of the entire US population, have created history as they took oath as US Congress Members.
ii. They are Kamala Harris, Ami Bera, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi and Pramila Jayapal
iii. American politician, Paul Ryan was re-elected on January 3, 2017 as speaker of the House of Representatives by the US lawmakers for the 115th session of the Congress.
iv. U.S. President-elect Donald Trump named Robert Lighthizer as US Trade Representative on January 3, 2017.

Jovenel Moise elected as the President of Haiti
i.  Jovenel Moise has been elected as the President of Haiti. The electoral tribunal officially declared the winner on 3 January 2017.
ii. Jovenel Moise is a businessman from Haiti capital city of Port-au-Prince and is related to
banana export business.  Mr. Moise who is from Bald Heads Party (PHTK) has won 55.6% of the total votes casted. Jude Celestin remained at the second spot in the race of Presidential election with only 19.5% votes.
iii. Mr. Moise will take over from the interim president Jocelerme Privert who took the position in February 2016 after the former president Michel Martelly left the position without announcing his successor.
iv. Some people were of the view that Mr Moise has won with help of some fraud and hence some protesters marched against the result. But electoral tribunal officials dismissed allegations of fraud.
v. Port-au-Prince has been suffering from political instability since decade and is vulnerable Jovenel Moise elected as the President of Port-au-Princeto natural disasters. In October 2016 Hurricane Matthew killed up to 1,000 people. Amidst of fraud allegations and natural disaster Mr Moise will have to work very hard to improve the condition of impoverished Caribbean nation
Haiti :
♦ Capital: Port-au-Prince
♦ Currency: Haitian gourde

RBI Appoints Surekha Marandi As Executive Director
i. India’s central banking institution Reserve Bank of India(RBI)  was appointed Surekha Marandi as its Executive Director (ED). She replaced U S Paliwal .
ii. Prior to this, Marandi was working as the Principal Chief General Manager and Chief Vigilance Officer in the Reserve Bank.
iii. She has worked in Consumer Education and Protection Department, Financial Inclusion and Development Department, and Secretary’s Department.
iv. She has also served on the Boards of United Bank and Bank of Baroda.
Key People:
♦ Governor : Dr. Urjit R. Patel
♦ Deputy Governors: R. Gandhi, S. S. Mundra, and N. S. Vishwanathan

Ivan Rogers, Britain’s Ambassador to the EU resigns
i. The UK’s ambassador to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, has resigned.
ii. The diplomat was appointed by David Cameron in 2013 and was due to stay in office until November.
UK :
♦ Capital: London
♦ Currency: Pound sterling
♦ Prime minister: Theresa May


District Administration of Ludhiana develops Mobile App for Election Commission of India
i. The District Administration of Ludhianahas developed a mobile application named “ECI360” for the benefit of voters, candidates, election staff as well as the Election Commission of India(ECI).
ii. The App has been developed by Harpreet Singh Chandoke on behalf of the district administration and deputy commissioner Ravi Bhagat.
iii. The ECI360 will help bring transparency and accountability regarding the elections and voting.
iv. Besides, a web-based application, RoNET, was also developed to be used by ECI, CEO, DEO and RO that would enable the candidates to know what exactly they are required to do and when without the burden of creating an additional reporting forum.

Power Minister Piyush Goyal Launches Mobile APP and Web Portal on UDAY
i. Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Power, Coal & New and Renewable Energy and Mines, Piyush Goyal launched the Web Portal and the Mobile App for Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme on January 4, 2017.
ii. Aim: The main objective of the Portal and App would be to protect the state power distribution companies suffering financial losses and to boost their operational revenues.
iii. The App and the web portal will provide all details regarding the scheme including the number of states joining the scheme as well as the progress achieved by each state under various parameters listed under the scheme, including AT&C losses, cost of electricity, bonds issued and others.
iv. The Government of India started the Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana (UDAY) scheme in November 2015 to improve the operational and financial turnaround of the state power distribution companies (DISCOMS).
v. Besides the launch of the Mobile App and the Portal, two MoUs were also signed between the Power Ministry and the state of Telangana and Assam to join the Uday scheme.


Australian Cricketer Arthur Morris Inducted into ICC Cricket Hall of Fame
i. Former Australian cricketer Arthur Morris was inducted into the International Cricket Council’s Hall of Fame on January 3, 2017, by Steve Waugh during the tea break on the arthur-morrisopening day of the third Test between Australia and Pakistan in Sydney.
ii. Morris, who became the 82nd player to be inducted into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame, was given the honour posthumously. The opening batsman passed away at the age of 93 on August 22 in 2015.
iii. His wife Judith Morris received a personalised cap from Waugh who himself is an ICC Cricket Hall of Famer.


United Nation Recognizes 2017 as Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development
i. The United Nations 70th General Assembly has recognized the year 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development.
ii. The declaration by the UN of 2017 as the International Year of Sustainable Tourism for Development is a unique opportunity to raise awareness among decision-makers and the public about the contribution of sustainable tourism towards development along with mobilizing all stakeholders to work together in making tourism a catalyst for positive change.
iii. The International Year also aims to support a change in policies, business practices and consumer behavior towards a more sustainable tourism sector than can contribute to the universal 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
iv .The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), the United Nations Specialized Agency for Tourism, has been mandated to facilitate the organization and implementation of the International Year, in collaboration with Governments, relevant organizations of the United Nations system, international and regional organizations and other relevant stakeholders.

Google Dedicates Doodle to Savitribai Phule’s 186th Birth Anniversary on January 3
i. Technology Giant Google dedicated its doodle to renowened social reformer, a poet, Savitribai Phule’s 186th birth anniversary on January 3, 2017.
ii .She was born on 3 January 1831. Savitribai was married to 12-year-old Jyotirao at a tender age of nine years. She was taught to read and write by him. She played an important role along with her husband in the social reform movement during British Raj.
iii. Phule and her husband founded the first all women’s school at Bhide Wada, Pune in 1848 and later she went on to become India’s first woman teacher and headmistress. The University of Pune was renamed as Savitribai Phule University in 2014 as a mark of tribute to her.
iv. The Government of Maharashtra has instituted an award in her name to honour women social reformers. Also, a stamp was released by India Post in honour of Savitribai on March 10, 1998.

World Braille Day – January 4 2017
i. Every year World Braille Day is observed on 4th January  across the world to World Braille Daycommemorate the birthday of Louis Braille who is credited with inventing the Braille language which helps blind people to read as well as write.
ii. Objective : To raise awareness about issues facing the blind and the importance of continuing to produce works in Braille, providing the blind with access to the same reading and learning opportunities as the sighted.
iii. The language developed by Louis Braille is today known as the Braille language which was very useful for those with visual impairment.