Facts in news is published on a weekly basis that consists a gist of all crucial news articles from ‘The Hindu’ that may bear relevance to Civil Services Preparation.

Here is the Summary of all current happenings from around the world for the Third week of January 2018.

Download Facts in News PDF file here.

International relations
Israel seeks ‘big data’ from India, signs 4 agreementsContext:
• India-Israel sign bilateral agreements on energy, cyber security.
• Boosting measures to counter cyberthreats and to “revolutionise” Indian farm production, Israel has proposed to access India’s “big data.”
• Israel proposed to track individual Indian farmer.
• Both sides joined hands to use a similar data-driven method to fight cybercrimes.
MoU signed:
• The two countries also inked 9 MoUs in areas like oil and gas, air transport, space, etc.
• The two leaders also expressed desire to scale up the existing Centers of Excellence in India.
What is Big data?
• Big data is data sets that are so voluminous and complex that traditional data processing application software are inadequate to deal with them.
• Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis.
• Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.
India admitted to Australia GroupContext:
• India was recently admitted as the 43rd member of the Australia Group.
• Its entry would be mutually beneficial and further contribute to international security and non-proliferation objectives.
What is Australia Group ?
• The Australia Group is a multilateral export control regime (MECR).
• It is an informal group of countries established in 1985.
• It was established to help member countries to identify those exports which need to be controlled so as not to contribute to the spread of chemical and biological weapons.
• The group, initially consisting of 15 members.
• It held its first meeting in Brussels, Belgium, in September 1989.
• With the incorporation of India on January 19, 2018, it now has 43 members.
Significance for India:
• India is now part of three of the four key export control groups in the world.
• This includes the Missile Technology Control Regime.
• MSTCR regulates trade in sensitive equipment and technologies to ensure there is no proliferation of missile.
Can eco hotspot tag save lakes in city?Context:
• For the first time, the State of Environment Report 2015, prepared by EMPRI (Environmental Management & Policy Research Institute).
• It has selected four ‘environment hotspots’ which are undergoing ‘the most evident and dramatic changes’.
Selected hotspots:
• Kudremukh National Park
• Talacauvery Wildlife Sanctuary
• Ballari mining areas
• Bellandur-Varthur lakes
What is hotspot?
• A hotspot is a physical location where people may obtain Internet access, typically using Wi-Fi technology, via a wireless local area network (WLAN) using a router connected to an internet service provider.
A new weapon in the carbon fightContext:
• The ability of soils to sequester carbon as a win-win strategy must be recognised by policymakers
• Policy is usually focussed on reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from the electricity sector, transport and industry.
• Increasing soil carbon offers a range of co-benefit can help us transition to a zero-carbon lifestyle.
What is carbon pools?
• Carbon pools are reservoirs of carbon that have the capacity to both take in and release carbon.
• A Carbon pool is a reservoir with a capacity to restore and release carbon such as soil, terrestrial vegetation, the ocean and the atmosphere.
• The amount of carbon in these carbon pools is measured in gigatonnes (GtC).
• Carbon pools on earth are found in the earth’s crust, oceans, atmosphere and land-based ecosystems.
• Increasing SOC through various methods can improve soil health, agricultural yield, food security, water quality, and reduce the need for chemicals.
• Currently, the world is on a path to be about 3ºC warmer than pre-Industrial times even if there was follow through on all the commitments made at the Paris climate conference in 2015.
Approaches to increase SOC:
• Reducing soil erosion, no-till-farming,
• use of cover crops,
• nutrient management,
• applying manure and sludge,
• water harvesting and conservation, and agroforestry practices.
Carbon sequestration:
• Carbon sequestration in soils has the potential to offset GHG emissions from fossil fuels by up to 15% annually.
• SOC in India has reduced from 30% to 60% in cultivated soils compared with soils that are not disturbed.
Industrial changes to agriculture have led to a range of adverse effects:
• loss of biodiversity
• elimination of beneficial microbes and insects
• reduction in yield
• contamination of water bodies and soils
• and increasing toxicity and deaths from chemical use in farm households.
Sustainable agricultural practices:
• India has a large number of successful sustainable agricultural practices that are consistent with ecological principles.
• These include natural farming, permaculture and organic farming.
• Personal and online reports indicate that the improvements to soil health and profits occur rapidly.
Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture:
• The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture in its 2016 report recommended “revision of the existing fertiliser subsidy policy and promotion of organic fertilizers”.
Soil Health Card Scheme:
• The government has been promoting a Soil Health Card scheme.
• The purpose is to measure the health of the soils in different parts of the country and in each farm.
International Solar Alliance Forum:Context:
• The International Solar Alliance (ISA) is hosting an event ‘International Solar Alliance Forum’ at the Future World Energy Summit (WFES) 2018.
What is International Solar Alliance (ISA)?
• The alliance is a treaty based inter-governmental organization.
• The Paris Declaration establishes ISA as an alliance dedicated to the promotion of solar energy among its member countries.
• The ISA’s major objectives include global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity and mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.
• When the ISA Framework Agreement entered into force on December 6th, 2017, ISA formally became a de-jure treaty based International Intergovernmental Organization, headquartered at Gurugram, India.
• The alliance is also called International Agency for Solar Policy and Application (IASPA)
Who were eligible so far?
• When the International Solar Alliance was announced in 2015, 121 nations situated between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn and receiving 300 days of sunlight were deemed eligible for membership.
The ISA’s major objectives include :
• Global deployment of over 1,000GW of solar generation capacity.
• mobilisation of investment of over US$ 1000 billion into solar energy by 2030.
• The focus is on solar power utilization.
• It sends a strong signal to the global communities about the sincerity of the developing nations towards their concern about climate change and to switch to a low-carbon growth path.
• India has pledged a target of installing 100GW by 2022 and reduction in emission intensity by 33–35% by 2030 to let solar energy reach to the most unconnected villages and communities and also towards creating a clean planet.
Face recognition for Aadhaar validationContext:
• The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) recently said it will enable Aadhaar authentication using face recognition from July 1 onwards.
• This feature will be used only in “fusion mode”, along with one more existing mode of authentication such as fingerprint, iris or one-time password (OTP).
• UIDAI will release necessary details for implementation for AUAs by March 1, 2018.
Rationale behind this decision:
• It will also provide software development kits that will have the ability to capture face image, check liveness, and create digitally signed and encrypted authentication input.
• The decision has been taken “so that people facing difficulty in other biometric authentication could easily authenticate.
• Some people are not able to biometrically authenticate due to their worn out fingerprints, old age or hard working conditions.
• The face authentication provides additional option for all residents to have inclusive authentication.
Virtual ID:
• The move comes a few days after UIDAI introduced the concept of a virtual ID.
• Through VD an Aadhaar holder can use in lieu of his/her Aadhaar number at the time of authentication, and sharing of ‘limited KYC’ with certain agencies.
• This was aimed at eliminating sharing and storing of Aadhaar numbers.
• Camera is now available on laptops and mobiles, making face capture feasible for Authentication User Agencies (AUAs) without any additional hardware.
Wholesale inflation eases to 3-month low of 3.58%Context:
• Wholesale price-based inflation (WPI) has cooled in December, 2017 to a three-month low of 3.58%
• This prompted India Inc to demand lowering of interest rates.
• In November, the annual rate of inflation based on monthly WPI, was 3.93% (provisional), while in December 2016 it was 2.1%.
• Inflation in food articles eased to 4.72% in December 2017 from 6.06% in November 2017.
Inflation driven on account of supply side:
• Inflation numbers is driven largely on account of supply side factors.
• Lowering of repo rate in the upcoming monetary policy is critical to boost investments.
• Consumer price index -based inflation had surged to a 17-month high of 5.2% in December due to increased inflation in food, housing and personal care items.
• WPI for October was revised upwards to 3.68% from the provisional estimate of 3.59%.
What is wholesale price index- inflation ?
• The wholesale price index is an index that measures and tracks the changes in the price of goods in the stages before the retail level.
• WPI shows the average prices change of goods included in the index and is often expressed as a ratio or percentage, and the change is one indicator of a country's level of inflation.
• In the Indian context, 5 national indices are accounted for inflation measure that includes WPI and other four CPI indices.
• WPI index reflects average price changes of goods that are bought and sold in the wholesale market.
• WPI in India is published by the Office of Economic Adviser, Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
• The purpose of the WPI is to monitor price movements that reflect supply and demand in industry, manufacturing and construction.
• This helps in analyzing both macroeconomic and microeconomic conditions.
Nine more cities selected for ‘Smart City’ missionContext:
• Government of India has named nine new smart cities.
• The number of cities picked under the project now stands at 99.
Cities chosen:
• Bareilly, Moradabad and Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh, Erode in Tamil Nadu, Bihar Sharif in Bihar, Silvasa in Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Diu in Daman and Diu, Kavarati in Lakshadweep and Itanagar in Arunachal Pradesh.
• Silvasa topped the list of winners in this round.
Smart City mission
• Under the scheme that was launched in 2014, around 100 cities in the country will be developed.
• Smart Cities Mission is an urban renewal and retrofitting program by the Government of India.
• The aim of mission is to develop 100 cities across the country making them citizen friendly and sustainable.
• The Union Ministry of Urban Development is responsible for implemention.
• The mission in collaboration with the state governments of the respective cities.
• Under the scheme, each city will get Rs 500 crore from the Centre for implementing various projects.
• An equal amount, on matching basis, will have to be contributed by the state or urban local bodies.
Centre to declare 2018 as ‘national year of millets’Context:
• Nutrient-rich millets have got a boost with the Union government deciding to declare 2018 as the ‘national year of millets’.
• This decision has been taken following a request by Karnataka, which is the country’s leader in the millet sector.
• Millet is a common term to categorize small-seeded grasses that are often termed nutri-cereals or dryland-cereals.
• It includes sorghum, pearl millet, ragi, small millet, foxtail millet, proso millet, barnyard millet, kodo millet and other millets.
India mulls ‘mini meet’ of 40 WTO membersContext:
• India is considering holding a mini-ministerial meeting of about 40 World Trade Organization (WTO) members.
• The purpose is to discuss ways to increase global trade.
• The purpose is to find out how to create new big trade volumes in the world.
• The idea of the meeting was to deliberate on ways to “create bigger markets,” rather than finding out ground of contentious issues.
‘Direct tax collections jump 18.7% this fiscal’Context:
• Direct tax collections during the first nine-and-a-half months of the current fiscal have risen by 18.7% to Rs. 6.89 lakh crore, the tax department said recently.
Total collection:
• The collections till January 15, 2018, represent over 70% of the Rs. 9.8 lakh crore revenue targets from direct taxes.
• The provisional figures of direct tax collections up to January 15, 2018, show that net collections are at Rs. 6.89 lakh crore, which is 18.7% higher than the net collections for the corresponding period last year.
• Gross collections (before adjusting for refunds) have increased by 13.5% to Rs. 8.11 lakh crore during April 2017 to January 15, 2018.
• Refunds amounting to Rs. 1.22 lakh crore have been issued during this period.
• Growth rate of total gross collections has improved from 10% in Q1, to 10.3% in Q2, to 12.6% in Q3 and to 13.5% as on January 15, 2018.
• The growth rate of total net direct tax collections has climbed up from 14.8% in Q1, to 15.8% in Q2, to 18.2% in Q3 and to 18.7% as on January 15, 2018.
What is direct tax?
• A direct tax is paid directly by an individual or organization to an imposing entity.
• A taxpayer pays direct taxes to the government for different purposes, including real property tax, personal property tax, income tax or taxes on assets.
• Direct taxes are different from indirect taxes, where the tax is levied on one entity, such as a seller, and paid by another, such as a sales tax paid by the buyer in a retail setting.
International Centre for Entrepreneurship and Technology (iCreate)Context:
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Netanyahu inaugurated the iCreate centre in Ahmedabad.
Aim :
• To promote and nurture entrepreneurs by providing them finance, mentors and technology.
• iCreate aims to develop an ecosystem in India to generate quality entrepreneurs.
What is iCreate?
• It is a joint venture between Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation Limited (GMDC) and Gujarat Entrepreneurship and Venture Promotion Foundation (GEVPF).
• iCreate is an independent centre to promote ‘Start-up India’ scheme.
Nirman – Samvaad:Context:
• Nirman Samvad is a one-day Mega Conclave.
• It is a first ever interaction between the Ministry of Railways and the Construction Industry.
• The conclave was held recently in New Delhi.
• It was a major event aimed at taking measures to ensure expeditious implementation of ambitious Railway Infrastructure Development Plans.
• It aims to streamline procedures and remove bottlenecks to ensure the fast track implementation of projects on the railways.
Health issues
No clarity on probe into clinical trial violationsContext:
• Drug regulator refuses to share its findings under the RTI
• The Indian drug regulator, the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) began investigating nine Andhra-based clinical research organisations (CROs).
• Earlier, over allegations of coercing people into joining clinical trials, it has refused to share its findings under the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
Sections 8(1)(e) and (h) of the RTI Act:
• These two sections, respectively, exempt a public authority from disclosing information if such disclosure violates the authority’s “fiduciary relationship”.
• The fiduciary relationship is one of trust, but a regulator’s relationship with a company it is regulating is not one of trust — it is merely enforcing the law.”
Election Commission recommends disqualification of 20 AAP MLAsContext:
• The Election Commission of India (ECI) has recommended to President Ram Nath Kovind that 20 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs be disqualified on the office-of-profit charge.
What is office of profit?
• The term 'office of profit' originated from House of Commons in England.
• The term 'Office of profit' has been mentioned in Indian Constitution too.
Article 102 and 191:
• Article of the Constitution says that a person shall be disqualified for being chosen and for being a member of the House if he holds any office of profit under Government of India or any state government.
• But the most ironical thing is that neither our Constitution nor any statute defines the term 'Office of Profit' in India.
• Hence one has to depend on the interpretations of the Supreme Court which judges made while pronouncing judgments in certain cases.
New Governor of Madhya PradeshWhy in news?
• The President of India has appointed Smt Anandiben Patel as the Governor of Madhya Pradesh.
Governor and his powers:
• Governor is the head of the Executive power of any state in India, just like the President who is the head of the executive power in the Union.
• Governor is the nominal head of a state, unlike the Chief Minister who is the real head of a state in India.
• According to an amendment in the Constitution of India, brought about in 1956, the same person can be the Governor of two or more states.
• The governors and lieutenant-governors are appointed by the president for a term of 5 years.
Govt. to revisit Malimath reportContext:
• Panel proposed reforms in criminal justice system
• A 2003 report of a Committee on reforms recommended admissibility of confessions made before a police officer as evidence in a court of law is being revisited by the Centre.
About Malimath Committee:
• The Committee on Reforms of the Criminal Justice System, was constituted by the Home Ministry in 2000.
• It was headed by Justice V.S. Malimath, former Chief Justice of the Karnataka and Kerala High Courts.
• The Malimath panel had made 158 recommendations but these were never implemented.
• The Committee also suggested constituting a National Judicial Commission and amending Article 124 to make impeachment of judges less difficult.
Article 124: Establishment and Constitution of Supreme Court
1- There shall be a Supreme Court of India consisting of a Chief Justice of India and, until Parliament by law prescribes a larger number, of not more than seven other Judges.
2- Every Judge of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal after consultation with such of the Judges of the Supreme Court and of the High Courts in the States as the President may deem necessary for the purpose and shall hold office until he attains the age of sixty-five years:
SC condemns conduct of caste panchayatsContext:
• Any collective attack by a khap panchayat on an adult for choosing to marry the person of their choice is absolutely illegal and condemned, the Supreme Court said recently.
• The court was hearing a PIL plea filed by NGO Shakti Vahini against honour killing and the role of khap panchayats in it.
SC verdict:
• An adult man and woman are free to marry. No society, no khap panchayat, no parent can impose their will on them.
• The apex court said it would not tolerate any manner of collective and regressive conduct by khap panchayat or such group of persons.
Government policies and schemes
100 accessible websites of various state governments/UTs under accessible India campaign launchedContext:
• Even after two years of its launching Accessible India Campaign has not shown good response.
Accessible India Campaign (AIC):
• Accessible India Campaign (AIC) is the nationwide flagship campaign.
• It comes under the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
• Accessible India Campaign is in line with the Article 9 of UNCRPD(UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities) to which India is a signatory since 2007.
• It was created for universal accessibility for Persons with Disabilities.
• The campaign has been divided into three verticals:
1- Built Environment;
2- Transport and
3- Information & Communication Technology (ICT) ecosystem.
Purpose of the Campaign:
• The aim of the Campaign is to make a barrier free and conducive environment for Divyangjans all over the country.
• For providing equal opportunities for the growth and development of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) .
Jiyo Parsi’ schemeWhy in news?
• The population of Parsis plunged from 1.14 lakh in 1941 to 57,264 in 2011.
• There is a sharp decline in the birth rate of the community.
• The community mainly located in Maharashtra’s Mumbai and parts of Gujarat – is attributed to socio-psychological reasons.
Jiyo Parsi scheme:
• Jiyo Parsi is a Government of India supported scheme.
• It is to arrest the decline in population of the Parsi Zoroastrian Community in India.
Three components:
• The Jiyo Parsi Scheme comprises of three components
1- Advocacy Component
2- Health of the Community Component and
3- Medical Component.
Bharat Ke Veer initiativeContext:
• The government has launched an official anthem for “Bharat Ke Veer”,
Bharat Ke Veer:
• It is an initiative with a corpus fund to help the families of paramilitary troopers killed in the line of duty.
• It is a web portal and mobile application.
• The portal is an IT based platform.
• To enable willing donors to contribute towards the family of a brave heart who sacrificed his/her life in line of duty.
• This website is technically supported by National Informatics Centre (NIC) and powered by State Bank of India.
Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA)Context:
• Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan (PMSMA) has crossed one crore mark in antenatal check-ups
• The programme has been successful in reaching out to the difficult and remote areas of India.
• Out of the 1 crore checkups across the country, more than 25 lakh check-ups were conducted in high priority districts identified by the Health Ministry for focussed attention.
• The Pradhan Mantri Surakshit Matritva Abhiyan has been launched by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW).
Objectives of PMSMA:
• The program aims to provide assured, comprehensive and quality antenatal care, free of cost, universally to all pregnant women on the 9thof every month.
• PMSMA guarantees a minimum package of antenatal care services to women in their 2nd/3rd trimesters of pregnancy at designated government health facilities.
• The programme follows a systematic approach for engagement with private sector. It includes:
1- It includes motivating private practitioners to volunteer for the campaign;
2- developing strategies for generating awareness and
3- Appealing to the private sector to participate in the Abhiyan at government health facilities.
Science and Technology
Kilopower Project:Context:
• NASA has announced new tests are underway for the Kilopower project.
• This is a program designed to create small nuclear power sources to fuel further space exploration.
• A prototype, which was created by NASA and the Department of Energy, has completed non-nuclear tests and is now running with a real reactor core at a facility in Nevada.
About Kilopower project:
• The Kilopower project is a near-term technology effort to develop preliminary concepts.
• Technologies that could be used for an affordable fission nuclear power system to enable long-duration stay on planetary surfaces.
• The principal goal of the project is to sufficiently develop and test nuclear power system technologies.
MEITY launches Cyber Surakshit Bharat to strengthen CybersecurityContext:
• The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), announced the Cyber Surakshit Bharat initiative.
• It was in association with National e-Governance Division (NeGD) and industry partners at an inaugural event in Delhi .
Aim of the Cyber Surakshit Bharat
• To strengthen the cybersecurity ecosystem in India.
• To spread awareness about cybercrime.
• Building capacity for safety measures for Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs)
Three principles:
• Cyber Surakshit Bharat will be operated on the three principles of Awareness, Education and Enablement.
• It will include an awareness program on the importance of cybersecurity.
• Cyber Surakshit Bharat is the first public-private partnership of its kind.
• It will leverage the expertise of the IT industry in cybersecurity.
Automated mooringsContext:
• Automated ocean pollution observation system will be operational very soon.
• The system will become functional by April this year .
• The cost of the project is estimated to be at Rs. 100 crore.
• It will help keep a tab on ocean pollution levels apart from offering insights on how the marine system is changing.
• The system will do away with the present practice of collecting water samples from sea.
• It will also provide data that will help scientists to understand how the marine system is changing.
INSV TariniContext:
• An all-woman Indian Navy team on Indian Naval Sailing Vessel (INSV) Tarini has successfully crossed the notoriously rough Drake Passage, as they rounded Cape Horn off the Southern tip of South America, sometimes called the Mount Everest of sailing.
About INSV Tarini:
• INSV Tarini is the second sailboat of the Indian Navy.
• It was constructed at Aquarius Shipyard located in Goa
Navika Sagar Parikrama
• Navika Sagar Parikrama is the name of expedition for circumnavigation the globe on INSV Tarini by Indian Navy's Women Naval Officers.
• The six-member all-woman team will circumnavigate and manage the whole operation in this first ever global journey.
• The voyage is expected to be finished around March 2018, with only 4 port calls in Fremantle Australia; Lyttelton, New Zealand; Port Stanley, Falklands; and Cape Town, South Africa.
• It aims to showcase ‘Nari Shakti’ on the world platform.
• And also to help revolutionise societal attitudes and mindset towards women in India by raising visibility of their participation in challenging environs.
Social issues
Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2017Context:
• Fourteen per cent of rural youth in the age group of 14-18 failed to identify the map of India, says the 2017 Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)
• It was brought out by Pratham.
• The study covered 1,084 children in 936 households in 60 villages in Mysuru district.
• The study was conducted in 28 districts across 24 States in India.
• ASER 2017 focuses on an older age group: youth who are 14 to 18 years old.
Highlight of the survey:
• Significantly, 36% of those surveyed did not know that Delhi is the capital of India.
• While 88.3 % could tell time with regard to what hour of the day it was, only 67.6% could tell time in terms of hours and minutes.
• Also, 82.9% could count money (86.4% male and 80.4% female).
• At age 14, only 5.3% are not enrolled, but by age 17 this percentage quadruples to 20.7% and further increases to 30.2% at age 18.
• The report also highlights the gender aspect of enrolment, with the number of girls falling sharply with age.
• About 25% of this age group still cannot read basic texts fluently in their own language.
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