Weekly Current News Updates (4th January ‐11th January)
Weekly Current News Updates
Date: 4th January to 11th January
NATIONAL NEWS UPDATES
1.Supreme Court to handle Ayodhya title dispute only as a ‘land issue’
The Supreme Court conveyed its clinical approach to the 70-year-old Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri Masjid title dispute, exhorting the parties on either side of the fence to treat it merely as a “land issue.” The Hindu parties and sects involved in the dispute believe Lord Ram was born on this land. Kar sevaks razed the 15th century Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992. In September 2010, a three-judge Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court attempted to bring quietus by pronouncing a three-way partition of the disputed site. But this judgment had only led to appeals and cross appeals filed by parties in the Supreme Court.
2.Delhi govt schools to teach ‘happiness lessons’
Starting from the next academic session, Delhi government schools will teach a “happiness curriculum” to students from nursery till Class VIII. The Delhi government has commissioned a team of experts, including government school teachers, to prepare a framework for the happiness curriculum. The entire curriculum will be purely activity-based and no formal examinations will be conducted on it. The children’s progress will be assessed periodically sing a “happiness index”.
3.Government launches National Deworming initiative
The National Deworming Day is a single fixed-day approach to treating intestinal worm infections in all children aged 1- 19 years and is held on 10 February and 10 August each year. Having conducted five rounds of National Deworming Day since February 2015, the mass deworming program aims to reach all children at schools and anganwadis with the deworming treatment. Any child not dewormed on National Deworming Day due to absenteeism or sickness, will be dewormed on mop-up day, 15 February. The Ministry had first launched National Deworming Day (NDD) in 2015 which was implemented in 11 States/UTs across all Government and Government-aided schools and Anganwadi centres targeting children aged 1 to 19 years. Since then the program has been scaled up throughout the country. The National Deworming Day will mobilize health personnel, state governments and other stakeholders to prioritize investment in control of Soil Transmitted Helminth (STH) infections—one of the most common infections. It aims to create mass awareness about the most effective and low-cost STH treatment-administering Albendazole tablets. The tablet has no side effects and in case the dose gets missed, MoHFW carries out ‘mop-up’ sessions, to ensure no child is left out. Along with Albendazole administration, behaviour change practices in terms of cleanliness, hygiene, use of toilets, wearing shoes/chappals, washing hands etc. is also important to reduce incidents of re-infection.To prepare for National Deworming Day, teachers and anganwadi workers have been trained to administer the tablet to children, while ASHAs and other functionaries will generate awareness and mobilize children to be dewormed on the day. Other ministries and departments from Panchayati Raj, Youth affairs are also deploying their resources of panchayat members, youth volunteers and other community-based groups to engage communities towards a worm free India.
4 India and Palestine ink six agreements in different areas
India and Palestine signed six agreements in different areas, including in health and education. The MoUs include setting up of an India-Palestine Super-specialty hospital at Beit Sahour in Bethelhem Governorate, construction of India-Palestine Centre for Empowering women and setting up of a new National Printing Press at Ramallah
5. Nod for 24 new medical colleges, more seats
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) gave its approval for setting up 24 new medical colleges in underserved areas, increasing the under and post graduate medical seats by 18,058 and adding 248 nursing and midwifery schools. It has been planned to ensure at least one medical college for every three to five Parliamentary Constituencies and at least one Government medical college in a State. The Cabinet has also given the green signal for setting up 112 Auxiliary Nursing and Midwifery (ANM) Schools and 136 General Nursing Midwifery (GNM) Schools by 2019-20 in underserved districts.
6. Cabinet approves enhancement of target under Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved to enhance of the target of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) from five crore to eight crore with an additional allocation of Rs. 4,800 crore. The decision comes in the wake of huge response to Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) from the women particularly in rural areas and to cover such households not having LPG connection. The revised target of Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) will be achieved by 2020. The Cabinet approved to expand the Scheme to cover all SC/ST households, beneficiaries of PMAY (Gramin), Antyoday Anna Yojana (AAY), Forest dwellers, Most Backward Classes (MBC), Tea and Ex-Tea Garden Tribes, people residing in Islands and rivers etc. in addition to SECC identified households.
Under the PMUY, the original target was to release 3 crore connections by the end of FY 2017-18, but as a result of efficient scheme implementation and monitoring, more than 3.35 crore connections have been released till date across all States/UTs, largely benefitting SC/ST communities. The Cabinet has decided to enhance the target from 5 crore to 8 crore with an additional allocation of Rs. 4800 crore.
7. Cabinet approves Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury
The Union Cabinet chaired has approved the proposal for ratification of Minamata Convention on Mercury and depositing the instrument of ratification enabling India to become a Party of the Convention. The approval entails Ratification of the Minamata Convention on Mercury along with flexibility for continued use of mercury-based products and processes involving mercury compound up to 2025. The Minamata Convention on Mercury will be implemented in the context of sustainable development with the objective to protect human health and environment from the anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The Convention protects the most vulnerable from the harmful effects of mercury and also protects the developmental space of developing countries. Therefore, the interest of the poor and vulnerable groups will be protected.
The Minamata Convention on Mercury will further urge enterprises to move to mercury-free alternatives in products and non-mercury technologies in manufacturing processes. This will drive research & development, and promote innovation.
8. Kerala, Punjab, T.N. top NITI Aayog’s health index report
Kerala, Punjab and Tamil Nadu were the top rankers in NITI Aayog’s latest Health Index report which has, for the first time, attempted to establish an annual systematic tool to measure and understand the heterogeneity and complexity of the nation’s performance in the health sector. The document, developed by NITI Aayog with technical assistance from the World Bank and in consultation with the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, indicates that Jharkhand, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh showed the maximum improvement in indicators such as Neonatal Mortality Rate, Under-five Mortality Rate, full immunisation coverage, institutional deliveries, and People Living with HIV (PLHIV) on Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART). The next report will be released in June this year and district hospitals too would be ranked. Manipur registered maximum incremental progress in indicators such as PLHIV on ART, first trimester antenatal care registration, grading quality parameters of Community Health Centres, average occupancy of key state-level officers and good reporting on the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme (IDSP). Lakshadweep showed the highest improvement in indicators such as institutional deliveries, TB treatment success rate, and transfer of National Health Mission funds from the state treasury to implementation agency. Kerala ranks on top in terms of overall performance but sees the least incremental change as it had already achieved low levels of Neonatal Mortality Rate, Under-five Mortality Rate and replacement level fertility, leaving limited space for any further improvement. Common challenges for most States and Union Territories include the need to focus on addressing vacancies in key staff, establishment of functional district cardiac care units, quality accreditation of public health facilities and institutionalisation of human resources management information system. Additionally, almost all larger states need to focus on improving the Sex Ratio at Birth. This Index is expected to nudge states towards further achieving a rapid transformation of their health systems and population health outcomes.
9. Narendra Modi began his three nation-West Asia tour
Prime Minister Narendra Modi began his three-nation West Asia with a stopover in the Jordanian capital, Amman, where he met King Abdullah II. He will travel to Ramallah in the West Bank, the headquarters of the Palestinian Authority, where he will hold talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Mr. Modi is the first Indian Prime Minister to visit Ramallah.
10. India Health Fund to boost research on TB, malaria
The India Health Fund (IHF), an initiative by Tata Trusts, in collaboration with the Global Fund has come forward to financially support innovations and technologies designed to combat tuberculosis and malaria. The IHF aims to support new products and strategies that impact the entire lifecycle of TB and malaria, from prevention to post-cure recovery. It has recently invited project proposals. TB and malaria pose long-standing health challenges for India. The two diseases account for over 4.23 lakh deaths and around 15 million lab-confirmed cases every year. The quantum of funding might increase in the future depending on new partners joining the IHF initiative. The four areas of research for which applications are invited are: use of technology and data science to strengthen surveillance of TB and malaria, inform early warning systems, and improve early detection and prompt treatment; promotion of robust molecular diagnostic facilities feasible for primary healthcare in low-resource settings; innovations on effective communication strategies that will prevent transmission of TB and malaria, and enable people to protect themselves from the diseases, and, finally, research on innovative approaches to vector surveillance.
11.Haryana to set up ‘Kisan Kalyan Pradhikaran’
In an attempt to increase farm productivity and farmers’ income, the Haryana government announced the setting up of ‘Haryana Kisan Kalyan Pradhikaran’, an authority which will undertake measures to make agriculture remunerative. The Pradhikaran will undertake all possible measures to enhance farm productivity and mitigate the physical, financial and psychological distress of farm households and landless workers. It will also maintain close liaison with line departments for implementation and monitoring of schemes, programmes and projects thorough the Agriculture Advisory Council and issue necessary guidelines from time to time.The Chief Minister will be the chairperson of the Pradhikaran and the Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare Minister would be its ex-officio vice-chairman. The body will oversee regulations, guidelines and procedures for farmers’ welfare and suggest amendments in the statute governing farmers’ welfare in the State in consonance with Central Acts.
12. Karnataka flag awaits Cabinet nod
With the nine-member flag committee zeroing in on a tricolour State flag, the Karnataka government is all set to make a formal application to the Centre seeking a separate flag for Karnataka. Once they get Cabinet approval, the government will make a formal application to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, under whose purview the issue falls.
The chosen design of the flag incorporates red and yellow strips, with white in the middle. The State emblem is at the centre, but without ‘Satyameva Jayate’, keeping various norms in mind. The committee opted for a design which carries the ‘spirit of the existing yellow-and-red Kannada flag’ with white colour at the centre. The State emblem would figure on the white. The committee, comprising of Secretaries of the Departments of Personnel and Administrative Services, Home, Law, Parliamentary Affairs; president of the Kannada Sahitya Parishat; chairman, Kannada Development Authority; Vice-Chancellor, Kannada University, Hampi; and Director, Department of Kannada and Culture, submitted its report to the government.
13. Bhutan, Nepal, Bangladesh to be part of India’s tiger census
India’s tiger census, which began late last year, will see coordination with Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh in estimating the territorial spread of the animal in the subcontinent.
While India has engaged with Nepal and Bangladesh in previous tiger counts, this is the first time all countries are uniting in arriving at tiger numbers, particularly in regions with shared borders. Since 2006, the WII — a Union Environment Ministry-funded body — has been tasked with coordinating the tiger estimation exercise. The once-in-four-years exercise calculated, in 2006, that India had only 1,411 tigers. This rose to 1,706 in 2010 and 2,226 in 2014 in later editions on the back of improved conservation measures and new estimation methods. The survey — divided into four phases — began last winter and is expected to reveal its findings in early 2019. Commissioned by the Union Environment Ministry’s National Tiger Conservation Authority, the Rs.10 crore exercise this year involves 40,000 forest guards traversing 4,00,000 sq. km. of forests; wildlife biologists independently assessing them; approximately a year’s duration of field work; 14,000 camera traps; and coordination with 18 States. Along with tigers, the survey also collects information on the prey population of deer and other animals.
14. Centre grants Rs.1,269 crore for Andhra Pradesh projects
The Centre has released a sum of Rs.1,269 crore to Andhra Pradesh under different heads in the past few days, amid a strain in ties between the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and its ally, the Telugu Desam Party (TDP), over allocation given to the State in the Union Budget. The gross grant included Rs.417.44 crore for the Polavaram multipurpose project.The Centre, through the Polavaram Project Authority, has so far released Rs.4,329 crore for the project, while the State government said it spent over Rs.7,200 crore after it was declared a national project
15. Gobardhan Yojana to support farmers
The Haryana government has launched the ‘Gobardhan Yojana’ to provide organic manure and cow urine with an aim to benefit farmers. A provision of Rs. 11 crore has been made to provide benefits of various projects under this scheme.
16. Government sets up Mechanism in CSIR to interact with Small-Scale Industry for transfer of Technology from CSIR Labs
The central government has set up a mechanism in CSIR for regular interface with small-scale industry for transfer of technologies from CSIR laboratories. A nodal officer in CSIR will coordinate with the small-scale industry and CSIR labs for appropriate technology required by them. CSIR laboratories have patented over 1, 000 processes and technologies, which are available for commercial exploitation. Some of these technologies have been commercialised. In addition, 139 fast track translational research projects are in progress, which will address the needs of the society, that have not been met. CSIR labs are willing to work with user industries to develop applications and products to meet the needs of the market. CSIR covers a wide spectrum of science and technology – from radio and space physics, oceanography, earth sciences, geophysics, chemicals, drugs, genomics, biotechnology and nanotechnology to mining, materials, aeronautics, instrumentation, environmental engineering and information technology.
17. Prime Minister Modi’s book ‘Exam warriors’ released.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s book ‘Exam warriors’ was released. The book offers ’25 mantras’ to the students as he urged them to treat examinations as “a festival” and “celebrate it”. The book has been published by Penguin Random House.
18.Centre was picking up online Budget chatter
As Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley stood up to deliver the Budget speech this year, a real-time monitoring of public online conversations around the word “Budget” was being carried out by a small unit set up by Minister Smriti Irani in the Information and Broadcasting Ministry. The Budget speech spawned many talking points and reactions, much of which was tagged online by this group of some six IT professionals, with interesting results. The tracking shows not just the volume of chatter but also breaks it down to geographical location and whether the comments are positive, negative or neutral. What this would do is give pointed directions to where government communication could be focussed and some veracity in the feedback. The reports of this unit are sent to departments concerned. The unit was set up just this week and may expand its work later.
19. Health insurance: Centre, States to split Rs. 10,000-cr annual funding 60:40, says NITI Aayog
The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), the insurance scheme with a Rs.5 lakh-cover each for ten crore poor families announced in Budget 2018-19, will require an annual funding of Rs.10,000 crore, the NITI Aayog has estimated. The Centre’s share will be 60%, about Rs.6,000 crore, while the rest will come from the States. The beneficiaries will not have to pay anything. The calculations have been made with an estimated premium payment of Rs. 1,000 -1,200 per family. States will also have to decide whether to run the NHPS in Trust mode, where all modalities are taken care of by the Trust, or the insurance company mode, where the company that wins a bid is in charge, as per NITI Aayog. The scheme will get Cabinet approval by March and stakeholder consultations will happen in the same month. Data preparation, preparation of guidelines and revision of package rates will happen in April. State preparation and work on tenders will happen in July.Once the NHPS is implemented, the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, which is the Centre’s existing health insurance scheme with an insurance cover of Rs.30,000, will come to an end.The provision of Rs.2,000 crore plus the amount generated by imposition of the additional health and education cess will take adequate care of the funds required for the scheme.In the first year of the scheme’s implementation, the Centre hopes to cover 50-55% of the eligible population. It would cost the Centre approximately Rs.3,000 crore in first year. The 1% increase in cess will mop up additional resource of Rs.11,000 crore, which will be used in the revised estimate state to supplement the health budget depending upon the implementation speed.
20. Graduates from IIT, NIT to teach in rural areas
More than 1,200 youngsters with Ph.D and M. Tech degrees from institutions like Indian Institutes of Technology, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, and National Institutes of Technology will spend the next three years teaching at 53 government engineering colleges in rural areas of districts lagging behind in technical education. These teachers had already joined the colleges. The teachers will be there on a three-year contract and get paid Rs.70,000 a month. Later, they can either choose to stay in academics or join the corporate world. This initiative, entailing an expenditure of Rs.370 crore, is a result of the Centre helping state governments fill up vacancies in backward districts in 11 states where engineering students were suffering because of dearth of teachers. The focus is on states like Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Tripura, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha and the Andaman and the Nicobar Islands.
21. Centre opens gates wider for Tibetans going abroad
In a move aimed at discouraging Tibetans from applying for Indian passports, the Centre has eased the regulations for Tibetan refugees who wish to travel and study abroad. Travel regulations are also being simplified for relatives of Tibetans living in foreign countries to help them make visits. According to the Home Ministry, there are approximately 1.10 lakh Tibetan refugees who live either in 45 settlements spread in different parts of the country or in places outside. In 2017, the Delhi High Court ruled that Tibetans born in India between 1950 and 1987 were eligible for Indian passports. The court ruling came on a petition filed by a journalist, Lobsang Wangyal. Following this, the Regional Passport Office in Himachal Pradesh received a large number of applications from Tibetans for Indian passports. The same year, the Ministry of External Affairs also notified rules that Tibetans seeking an Indian passport would need to surrender the “Registration Certificates” issued to them, leave the settlements and forfeit the privileges and benefits from the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) — the Tibetan government-in-exile headquartered at McLeodganj in Himachal Pradesh. The rules were being changed for the first time since the Tibetan refugees began pouring into India in the wake of the flight of the Dalai Lama from Tibet in 1959. The government had then decided to give them asylum as well as assistance towards temporary settlement. Tibetans who wish to travel abroad are issued an Identity Certificate (IC) in place of a passport and a Registration Certificate (RC) to allow their stay in India. In 2015, the government for the first time sanctioned a scheme of providing grant-in-aid of Rs.40 crore to the Dalai Lama’s Central Tibetan Relief Committee (CTRC) for five years. The Centre has released Rs.16 crore in the past two years to meet the administrative and social welfare activity expenses of 36 Tibetan settlement offices in different States. As per the present norms, foreigners who intend to visit Tibetan settlements and camps should seek prior permission of the Home Ministry and procure Protected Area Permit (PAP) as per the provision of Section 3 of the Foreigners Act, 1946 (31 of 1946).
22. Task force set up to study AI application in military
The Department of Defence Production constituted a task force headed by Tata Sons Chairman N Chandrasekaran to study use of artificial intelligence, which it said has potential to provide military superiority apart from driving technology-driven economic growth. To study the whole gamut of issues surrounding strategic implications of AI in national security perspective, in global context, it has been decided to constitute a multi-stakeholder task force. Apart from Chandarsekaran, the 17-member task force comprises National Cyber Security Coordinator Gulshan Rai, representatives from the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Airforce, chairman and managing director of Bharat Electronics Ltd, other representatives from Indian Space Research Organisation, Atomic Energy Commission and defence ministry. Apart from these, the task-force will also include representation from academic institutes such as Indian Institute of Science-Bengaluru, and Indian Institutes of Technology at Mumbai and Chennai.
ECONOMY NEWS UPDATES
23. Down Syndrome boy is brand ambassador
Lucas Warren of Dalton, Georgia, won Gerber’s annual photo contest over 140,000 entries with his “winning smile and joyful expression. He suffers from Down syndrome and has been named by baby food maker Gerber as its “Spokesbaby” for 2018. This action is hailed by advocates for people with the genetic condition. Gerber has held the photo contest since 2010. Gerber was bought in 2007 by Swiss food and beverage company Nestle. The Warren family will receive $50,000 from Gerber, and Lucas will take “a front seat” on the company’s social media channels.
24. Cabinet approves proposal for Amendment to the Micro, Small and
Medium Enterprises Development Act, 2006 to change the criteria of classification and to withdraw the MSMED (Amendment) Bill, 2015
The Union Cabinet has approved change in the basis of classifying Micro, Small and Medium enterprises from ‘investment in plant & machinery/equipment’ to ‘annual turnover’. This will encourage ease of doing business, make the norms of classification growth oriented and align them to the new tax regime revolving around GST (Goods & Services Tax). Section 7 of the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises Development (MSMED) Act, 2006 will accordingly be amended to define units producing goods and rendering services in terms of annual turnover as follows:
- A micro enterprise will be defined as a unit where the annual turnover does not exceed five crore rupees;
- A small enterprise will be defined as a unit where the annual turnover is more than five crore rupees but does not exceed Rs 75 crore;
- A medium enterprise will be defined as a unit where the annual turnover is more than seventy five crore rupees but does not exceed Rs 250 crore.
- Additionally, the Central Government may, by notification, vary turnover limits, which shall not exceed thrice the limits specified in Section 7 of the MSMED Act.
At present the MSMED Act (Section 7) classifies the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) on the basis of investment in plant and machinery for manufacturing units, and investment in equipment for service enterprises. The criterion of investment in plant and machinery stipulates self declaration which in turn entails verification if deemed necessary and leads to transaction costs. In addition the amendment will provide flexibility to the Government to fine-tune the classification of MSMEs in response to changing economic scenario without resorting to the amendment of MSMED (Micro, Small & Medium Enterprises Development) Act. The change in the norms of classification will enhance the ease of doing business. The consequent growth and will pave the way for increased direct and indirect employment in the MSME sector of the country.
25. NSE unveils 72 indices for MFs
The National Stock Exchange (NSE) has unveiled a series of fixed income and hybrid indices that track fixed income assets including government securities, treasury bills, corporate bonds of different credit rating categories, commercial papers, certificate of deposits and overnight rate. The exchange has introduced a total of 72 indices, which could act as benchmarks for the mutual fund industry that has to realign many of the existing schemes to comply with the recent regulatory diktat related to scheme categories and constituents. While a total of 38 indices have been created to track corporate bonds of different ratings and sector, another six would cover government securities. Commercial papers and certificate of deposits would be covered by five indices each while four indices will track treasury bills. The exchange has also launched composite indices that are aggregates of these fixed income asset indices. Further, the Nifty Hybrid Index series comprises three indices that blend Nifty 50 and the composite fixed income indices in various proportions to reflect performance of hybrid portfolios investing in both – debt and equity – asset classes.
26. Google fined Rs.136 crore by Competition Commission for ‘infringing anti-trust conduct’
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) imposed a fine of Rs. 136 crore on search engine major Google for unfair business practices in the Indian market for online search. Globally, this is one of the rare cases where Google has been penalised for unfair business ways. It was alleged that Google is indulging in abuse of dominant position in the market for online search through practices leading to search bias and search manipulation, among others.v The penalty amount of Rs.135.86 crore translates to 5% of the company’s average total revenue generated from India operations from its different business segments for the financial years 2013, 2014 and 2015, according to the CCI order. The CCI said it has given thoughtful consideration on the submissions made by Google on issue of penalty and found it appropriate to impose a fine.
27. India successfully test-fires nuclear capable Prithvi-II
India successfully test-fired its indigenously developed nuclear capable Prithvi-II missile as part of a user trial by the Army from a test range in Odisha. The trial of the surface-to-surface missile, which has a strike range of 350 km, was carried out from a mobile launcher from launch complex-3 of the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur near Balasore. All mission objectives were met during the test launch. The perfect test launch came after successful trial of Agni-5 on January 18 and Agni-1 missile conducted from Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast on February 6. Prithvi-II is capable of carrying 500-1,000 kilogram of warheads and is thrusted by liquid propulsion twin engines. The state-of-the-art missile uses advanced inertial guidance system with manoeuvring trajectory to hit its target. The missile was randomly chosen from the production stock and the entire launch activities were carried out by the specially formed Strategic Force Command (SFC) of the Army and monitored by the scientists of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) as part of training exercise, they said. Inducted into the Armed forces of the country in 2003, the nine-metre-tall, single-stage liquid-fuelled Prithvi-II is the first missile to have been developed by the DRDO under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP).
28. Bescom to launch charging stations for electric vehicles
The Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (BESCOM) will launch fast-charging stations for electric vehicles from this month, and Bescom claims to be the first government power utility in the country to do so. The first such station will be opened in the Bescom office at K.R. Circle, and Bengaluru will get 11 stations overall. The first station is likely to be launched on February 15. Bescom has proposed a ‘Time of Day tariff’ system under which motorists can be charged Rs.4.5 per unit during day time and Rs.4 at night.
29. Advisory committee on defence procurements
To expedite capital acquisitions in defence procurement, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has constituted a 13-member Raksha Mantri Advisory Committee on Ministry of Defence Capital Projects (RMCOMP). The committee will present an initial status report on the identified projects to the Defence Minister by March 31, 2018. The report shall include -apart from the current status of the projects- issues, remedial measures and follow-up strategy. The committee will have a tenure till the end of August. The terms of reference include the mandate to undertake independent review and status check of identified ongoing critical capital projects above Rs.500 crore in various categories under the Defence Procurement Procedure.
30. RBI keeps repo rate unchanged at 6%
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) held the policy repo rate at 6% as the central bank’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) raised the estimate for fourth-quarter inflation and flagged concerns about the future outlook for price gains. The Reverse repo rate remains at 5.75 % and marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and Bank Rate at 6.25 %.
31. Agni 1 test-fired off the Odisha coast
India successfully test-fired its short-range nuclear capable ballistic missile Agni-1 with a strike range of over 700 km from a test range off the Odisha coast. The indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile was launched as a part of a periodic training activity by the Strategic Forces Command (SFC) of the Army to consolidate operational readiness. The sophisticated Agni-I missile is propelled by a solid rocket propellant system and is equipped with a specialised navigation system that ensures it reaches the target with a high degree of precision.
32. Launch of Startupindia Ranking Framework
Three new tools for States and Union Territories for ranking of startups in the country was launched. The tools are: the State and Union Territory Startup Ranking Framework, the Compendium of Good Practices for Promoting Startups in India and the Startup India Kit. These will act as catalysts to help the Startup India initiative to drive India’s economic growth. The key objective of the Startup States and UTs Ranking Framework is to encourage States and UTs to take proactive steps towards strengthening the Startup ecosystems at the local level. The Ranking Framework will measure the impact of each step initiated at the local level for building a strong Startup ecosystem. The Ranking Framework will also enable continuous learning through the dissemination of good practices. The State and UT Ranking Framework is based on the feedback collected from Startup ecosystem stakeholders, which include startups, mentors, investors, accelerators, incubators and the government bodies. Areas which should be given greater thrust like seed funding support, women entrepreneurship are given more score. The parameters of this feedback focus on all the actions and initiatives undertaken by states on or before March 2018. These include having a startup cell or helpline and a mobile or web portal for queries, the size of the startup mentor network created by the state government and the number of key incubators for incubation support to startups. The Startup India Hub portal will provide a platform for the launch of the Ranking Framework. The Startup India Kit is primarily a one-stop guide on all Startup India offerings. It offers vital information, advice and assistance through website links, statistics, tools, templates, events, competitions and a glossary on startup terms. All the benefits available to startups from the Startup India initiative can be found in the kit.
33. Railways to create database of contract workers
In a first, Railways is coming up with a database of contract workers in nonoperational areas such as housekeeping, cleaning, consultancy, training and other such services, thus keeping an eye out for any violation of labour rights. The new database is called the Digital Contract Labour Management System.
34. Mumbai airport becomes world’s busiest single-runway airport
On January 20, Mumbai airport created a new world record for single-runway operations by handling 980 arrivals and take-offs in 24 hours, or almost one flight every minute. With this, the Mumbai Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International airport bettered its own feat of 974 flights in 24 hours, recorded on December 6, 2017.
35. CBEC to be renamed CBIC by April
Through Finance Bill 2018, the government will be amending the Central Boards of Revenue (CBR) Act, 1963, as well as the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017, replacing CBEC with CBIC. Since the CBR Act provides for constitution of separate boards of revenue for direct taxes and excise and customs, the name of CBEC has to be replaced with CBIC in the Act. Rechristening of the apex indirect tax policy making body CBEC to Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) is likely to happen by April after the budgetary exercise gets Parliament nod. The Finance Bill is likely to get Parliament approval in the second leg of Budget which is slated to begin on March 5 and end on April 6. With excise duty, service tax, alongside nearly a dozen other central and state levies being subsumed in the Goods and Services Tax (GST) rolled out from July 1, the ambit of the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) has widened.
36. SEBI gets teeth to act against exchanges, new market outfits
As part of the proposed amendments in the Finance Bill 2018, the government has given more power to the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to impose monetary penalties on important market intermediaries such as stock exchanges and clearing corporations and also act against newer categories of participants likes investment advisers, research analysts, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and Infrastructure Investment Trusts (InvITs).
The proposed amendments to the SEBI Act and the Securities Contracts (Regulation) Act now allow SEBI to impose a monetary penalty of at least Rs.5 crore on stock exchanges, clearing corporations and depositories for non-compliance with regulatory norms.
The penalty can go up to Rs.25 crore or three times the amount of gains made out of such failure or non-compliance. Hitherto, SEBI only had the power to censure or warn against any form of failure. Incidentally, the new powers come at a time when the National Stock Exchange is under the SEBI scanner in the co-location matter, with regard to which it has been alleged that a certain set of brokers were given preferential access allowing them to make undue gains. The amendments also allow SEBI to act against entities that furnish false or incomplete information to the regulator. Earlier, it could act only if the entity did not furnish any information. The whole-time members of SEBI have also been given additional powers to act against wrongdoers. Incidentally, REITs and InvITs along with research analysts and investment advisers, will have to be more careful now as the Finance Bill allows SEBI to impose a penalty of up to Rs.1 lakh per day for the period of non-compliance. Interestingly, the government has also allowed the regulator to pursue cases against the legal representatives of defaulters if in case a defaulter passes away during the course of regulatory proceedings.
37. India contributes $1 mn to UN Development Partnership Fund
India has contributed an extra $1 million to the India-UN Development Partnership Fund reserved for South-South collaboration. The contribution made to increase its associations with other creating nations. India has sworn a multi-year commitment of $100 million to the store set up in June 2017, as indicated by the UN Office of South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), and has just given $6 million inside the seven months since its dispatch. The store is likewise assisting with recreation endeavors in storms influenced nations. Its first project is a Climate Early Warning System for Pacific Island Countries.
38. IWAI inks pact with the World Bank for Jal Marg Project on Ganga
Inland Waterways Authority of India (IWAI) inked pact with the World Bank for Jal Marg Vikas Project to enhance navigation on National Waterway-1 from Varanasi to Haldia. The signing of the pact follows the Cabinet nod for implementation of the USD 800 million JMVP for capacity augmentation of navigation on National Waterway-1 (River Ganga) from Varanasi to Haldia. The JMVP, which is expected to be completed by March, 2023, is being implemented with the financial and technical support of the World Bank. The project will enable commercial navigation of vessels with the capacity of 1,500-2,000 tonne on NW-I. The project includes development of fairway, multi-modal terminals at Varanasi, Haldia and Sahibganj, strengthening the river navigation system, conservancy works, modern river information system (RIS), digital global positioning system (DGPS), night navigation facilities, modern methods of channel marking and construction of a state-of-the-art navigational lock at Farakka etc.
39. CRISIL, SIDBI Launch India’s First MSE Sentiment Index
CriSidEx , India’s first sentiment index for Micro and Small Enterprises ( MSEs) developed jointly by CRISIL & SIDBI was launched. CriSidEx is a composite index based on a diffusion index of 8 parameters and measures MSE business sentiment on a scale of 0 (extremely negative ) to 200 ( extremely positive) . The parametric feedback was captured through a survey of 1100 MSEs in November –December. CriSidEx will have 2 indices , one for the ‘survey quarter’ and another for the ‘next quarter’ once a trend emerges after few rounds of the survey , providing independent time series data. The crucial benefit of CriSidEx is that its readings will flag potential headwinds and changes in production cycles and thus help improve market efficiencies. And by capturing the sentiment of exporters and importers , it will also offer actionable indicators on foreign trade.
40. Malaysia Airports to sell stake in Hyderabad airport operator for Rs.484 crore
GMR Airports Ltd. has entered into an agreement to acquire 11% stake from Malaysian Airports Holding Berhard and its subsidiary MAHB (Mauritius) Pvt Ltd.
GMR Airports will purchase 4,15,80,000 shares from the two Malaysian entities for a consideration of Rs 484 crore.
41. Centre’s plan may boost farmers’ solar power use
The Centre has announced a Rs.1.4 lakh-crore scheme for promoting decentralised solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers. The Centre will spend Rs.48,000 crore on the ten-year scheme which was announced in the Union Budget 2018-19. Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan or KUSUM scheme would provide extra income to farmers, by giving them an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands. It would help in de-dieselising the sector as also the DISCOMS.India had about 30 million farm pumps that include 10 million pumps running on diesel. The scheme would also promote energy efficiency and water conservation and provide water security to farmers. The components of the scheme include building 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands and providing sops to DISCOMS to purchase the electricity produced, ‘solarising’ existing pumps of 7250 MW as well as government tube wells with a capacity of 8250 MW and distributing 17.5 lakh solar pumps. The 60% subsidy on the solar pumps provided to farmers will be shared between the Centre and the States while 30% would be provided through bank loans. The balance cost has to be borne by the farmers.
42. Alibaba leads $300-m funding in BigBasket
Online supermarket BigBasket has raised $300 million in a fresh round of funding led by Chinese e-tailer Alibaba and other investors. The online supermarket has also strengthened its B2B business by expanding to the HoReCa (Hotels, Restaurants and Caterers) segment and partnering with kirana stores in an effort to transform them into technology-enabled modern retail stores. Bollywood superstar Shahrukh Khan, the company’s brand ambassador for the past two years, has extended his agreement with the firm for the third year.
43. GAIL places Rs.440-cr order for pipeline to Urja Ganga
GAIL (India) Ltd has placed an order worth Rs.440 crore for laying 350-km pipeline from Vijaipur in Madhya Pradesh to Auraiya in Uttar Pradesh. This is part of the spurline of 665 km from Vijaipur to Phulpur in Uttar Pradesh to the existing upgradation pipeline system.
The pipeline laying contracts for the 315-km stretch from Auraiya to Phulpur was awarded in November 2016. The Vijaipur to Phulpur pipeline will provide the gas feed to the ongoing 2,655-km-long Jagdispur-Haldia-Bokaro-Dhamra pipeline (JHBDPL) project of GAIL, also known as the ‘Pradhan Mantri Urja Ganga’ project.
44. Govt makes PAN mandatory for transactions over Rs.2.5 lakh
The government has made Permanent Account Number (PAN) mandatory for any entity conducting financial transactions of Rs.2.5 lakh or more. Adding that an Aadhaar-like identity number is being developed for enterprises, the government said PAN will also be used as a Unique Entity Number for non-individuals from April 1.
INTERNATIONAL NEWS UPDATES
45. Maldives President declares emergency
The Maldives government declared a state of emergency for 15 days. Former Maldives President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom was arrested shortly after the state of emergency was declared. He was President for 30 years until the country’s first democratic elections in 2008. The developments come after the Supreme Court ordered the immediate release of nine Opposition leaders, including exiled former President Mohamed Nasheed. The court also ordered that 12 MPs, expelled earlier, be reinstated. Emergency rule gives security officials extra powers to arrest dissidents. This is the second time Mr. Yameen has declared a state of emergency. He last took the step in November 2015 after an alleged attempt to assassinate him.
46. Japan launches smallest rocket ever to carry satellite into orbit
Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has successfully launched the smallest-ever rocket to carry a satellite into orbit from the Uchinoura Space Center. The rocket SS-520 is about the size of a ‘utility pole,’ measuring about 10 meters in length and 50 centimeters in diameter.
47. Bhutan opens consulate in Guwahati
Bhutan became the second country after Bangladesh to open a consulate in Guwahati. Bhutan has had a consulate in Kolkata for years besides a High Commission in New Delhi.
48. Canada moves to make its national anthem gender-neutral
Canada’s Senate has passed a bill making the country’s national anthem gender-neutral. The first few lines of the English version originally read: O Canada! / Our home and native land! / True patriot love in all thy sons command. The bill changes the phrase “in all thy sons command” to “in all of us command.”
49. UAE Launches World’s Longest Zip Line
The United Arab Emirates made a record by opening the world’s longest zip line, measuring 2.83 km in length. The Jebel Jais Flight takes thrill-seekers atop the country’s largest mountain peak, from a launch pad 1,680 meters (5,512 feet) above sea level. Guinness World Records officials certified the zip line in Ras al-Khaimah
50. Shyam Benegal receives lifetime achievement award at MIFF
Shyam Benegal has been conferred with V Shantaram Lifetime achievement award at the 15th Mumbai International Film Festival for Documentary, Short and Animation Films. The award carries a trophy, a citation and cash prize of Rs 10 lakh.
51. Shabnam Asthana wins Times Power Woman 2017 award
Shabnam Asthana was awarded the ‘Times Power Women of the Year 2017’- Pune for Global PR. These awards were initiated to celebrate the victories of women who have been a great source of inspiration. These awards focused on the women of Pune and the prestigious list included 34 select women with power, supremacy, command and control. These awardees have been instrumental in working towards the improvement of the socio economic, art, health, education, fashion, scientific and intellectual potential of the society.
52. Khelo India School Games
Khelo India, an initiative launched by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports was launched with an aim to bridge the gap between sports at the school level and professional sports. On January 31, Narendra Modi kicked off Khelo India School Games (KISG) at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium. After an intense battle among the participating states and their athletes, Haryana emerged as the overall champions, finishing with 102 medals, which included 38 gold, 26 silver and 38 bronze medals. It was a three-way fight between Haryana, Maharashtra and the hosts Delhi vying for the top honours, but the boy and girl boxers from Haryana
53.India won the U-19 World Cup for the fourth time in a row
India beat Australia by eight wickets to become the only side in history to lift the coveted title for a record fourth time. The past three wins were in 2000, 2008, 2012. Manjot Kalra was named the Man of the Match. Rahul Dravid is the coach of U-19 World cup team.
54. India ranked 44th out of 50 countries in US industry body’s intellectual property index
The US Chamber of Commerce’s intellectual property rights advocacy arm, Global Innovation Policy Centre, has ranked India 44th out of 50 countries in terms of suitability of IP climate. India, however, gives no formal recognition to such rankings and has in the past even dismissed criticism heaped on its IPR regime by the US government as part of its annual US 301 report.India improved its score as it passed guidelines to strengthen the patentability environment for technological innovations, improved the protection of well-known marks, and initiated IP awareness and coordination programs, thereby implementing some tenets of the 2016 National IPR Policy.
55. Justice Abhilasha Kumari is Manipur HC’s first woman chief justice
Justice Abhilasha Kumari is Manipur HC’s first woman chief justice. She is the third full-time chief justice of Manipur high court. She is the daughter of former Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh–has served as a Gujarat high court judge and chief justice of Tripura high court. Justice Kumari enrolled as an advocate in 1984 and practised cases concerning civil, criminal, consumer affairs, industrial insurance and company affairs in Himachal high court and the Himachal Pradesh administrative tribunal. She also served as additional advocate general of Himachal Pradesh after the Congress government came to power in March 2003.
56. ICC appoints Indra Nooyi as first independent female director
PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi has been appointed to the International Cricket Council (ICC) Board as the governing body’s first independent female director. Nooyi will join the Board in June 2018 to align with the term of the ICC Independent Chairman. The introduction of an Independent Director, who must be female, was approved by the ICC Full Council in June last year as part of wide ranging constitutional change aimed at improving the governance of the sport. The Independent Director will be appointed for a two-year term although she may be re-appointed for two further terms with a maximum six-year consecutive period of service.
57. Scientists grow human eggs to full maturity in laboratory
Scientists have succeeded for the first time in growing human eggs in a laboratory from the earliest stages in ovarian tissue all the way to full maturity — a scientific step that had previously been taken in mice. The results were published in the journal Molecular Human Reproduction . It could one day help in developing regenerative medicine therapies and new infertility treatments. In previous studies, scientists had developed mouse eggs in a laboratory to the stage where they produced live offspring, and had also matured human eggs from a relatively late stage of development.This latest work, by scientists at two research hospitals in Edinburgh and the Center for Human Reproduction in New York, is the first time human eggs have been developed outside the human body from their earliest stage to full maturity.
58. Bermuda becomes first country in world to repeal same-sex marriage
Bermuda has become the first country to legalise and then repeal same-sex marriage. A bill to reverse the right of gay couples to marry was signed by the governor. This was done despite a supreme court ruling last year authorising same-sex marriage.
59. International bird fest at Dudhwa National Park
The 2018 International Bird Festival was held at the Dudhwa National Park in Lakhimpur Kheri, Uttar Pradesh from February 9 to 11 with nearly 200 leading ornithologists attending it. The purpose of the bird fest is to promote eco-tourism in Dudhwa and to give it a distinct international identity besides highlighting. Dudhwa is home to 456 bird species, including some rare ones such as the Bengal Pelican and the Adjutant Stork.
60. Transgender Vidya Kamble first from Nagpur to become Lok Adalat judge
Vidya Kamble became the first transgender woman from Nagpur to be selected as the member judge at Lok Adalat. Kamble, who’s the first in Maharashtra and mostly fourth in the country, would be a part of the 10-day pre-discussion talks of the mediating panel that aims at resolving issues between parties at National Lok Adalat. The pre-discussion talks would be held in Nagpur on February 10.
61. Pakistan’s iron lady Asma Jehangir passes away
Pakistan’s top lawyer and human rights activist Asma Jehangir passed away due to a cardiac arrest in Lahore. Known for her bold stance, Asma was the country’s symbol of resistance and a human rights activist who spoke against military dictators and abusers of law for the past five decades. She headed the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and remained the Supreme Court Bar Association chairperson. She was also appointed as UN Rapporteur in the region during the 1990s. She remained in jail during the dictatorial rule of General Zia-ul Haq in 1983 for raising her voice for the democrats. She was a vocal advocate for peace between Pakistan and India.
62. Mumbai is 12th richest city globally with total wealth at $90 bn
According to a report by New World Wealth, India’s financial capital Mumbai, with a total wealth of USD 950 billion, has been named among the top 15 wealthiest cities globally, while New York topped the list. Mumbai is the 12th wealthiest city, followed by Toronto with a total wealth of USD 944 billion, Frankfurt (14th, USD 912 billion) and Paris (15th, USD 860 billion). Total wealth, refers to the private wealth held by all the individuals living in each city. It includes all their assets (property, cash, equities, business interests) less any liabilities. Government funds are excluded from the figures. Mumbai, also features among the top 10 cities in terms of billionaire population. The city is home to 28 billionaires, individuals with USD 1 billion or more in net assets. London ranked second in the list with USD 2.7 trillion, followed by Tokyo (USD 2.5 trillion), and San Francisco Bay area (USD 2.3 trillion). Others in the list include Beijing (USD 2.2 trillion), Shanghai (USD 2 trillion), Los Angeles (USD 1.4 trillion), Hong Kong (USD 1.3 trillion), Sydney (USD 1 trillion), Singapore (USD 1 trillion) and Chicago (USD 988 billion).
63. Forbes releases list of the richest in the cryptocurrency world
Forbes has come out with the first-ever list of the richest people in the cryptocurrency market. The cryptocurrency list names various secretive freaks, geeks and visionaries who rode on to the crypto-wave to spectacular highs and pocketed billions. The top-ten richest people in the cryptocurrency world listed by Forbes:
- Chris Larsen: The 57-year old co-founder of Ripple, a technology that facilitates global payments for banks using blockchain technology, has an estimated cryptocurrency net worth of $7.5-$8 billion. Larsen was the chairman and former CEO of Ripple.
- Joseph Lubin: The 53-year old co-founder of popular cryptocurrency Ethereum and founder of Consensys holds an estimated cryptocurrency net worth of $1-$5 billion. He is a former Goldman Sachs executive.
- Changpeng Zhao: The 41-year old CEO of Binance (cryptocurrency exchange) holds an estimated crypto- net worth of $1.1.2 billion. He is known to establish world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange in just 7-months.
- Cameron & Tyler Winklevoss: The 36-year old twins and founder of Winklevoss Capital own $900 million-1.1 billion net worth of cryptocurrency.Winklevoss brothers, the identical twins, are said to be the first public figures who became millionaires through their investments parked in the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin. The brothers entered limelight after they sued Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg alleging he stole their idea to create popular social media platform Facebook.
- Matthew Melon: The 54-year old individual investor holds $900 million-1.billion net worth of cryptocurrency.
- Brian Armstrong: The 35-year old CEO of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase holds $900 million-1 billion net worth of cryptocurrency.
- Matthew Roszak:The 45-year old co-founder of Bloq and founder of Tally Capital holds $900 million-1 billion net worth of cryptocurrency.
- Anthony Di Iorio: The 43-year old co-founder of Ethereum and founder of Jax and Decentral holds own $750 million-1 billion net worth of cryptocurrency.
- Brock Pierce:The 37-year old chairman of Bitcoin Foundation holds $700 million-1 billion net worth of cryptocurrency.
- Michael Novogratz: The 53-year old CEO of Galaxy Digital holds $700 million-1 billion net worth of cryptocurrency.
64. Jhulan Goswami becomes first cricketer ever to claim 200 ODI wickets in history of women’s cricket
Indian women’s pacer Jhulan Goswami became the first cricketer to claim 200 ODI wickets in the history of women’s cricket. Jhulan achieved the feat during the 2nd ODI against South Africa women.
65. Google unveils security campaign to protect users from cyberbullying, fraud
Google has unveiled a public safety initiative in India to create awareness around Internet safety and protect the netizens. The programme called ‘#SecurityCheckKiya’ is targeted at young and first-time users to protect themselves from account hijacking. It is also aimed at shielding their Android mobile devices from malicious apps and secure all their personal data if they lose them.Google has recommended three simple steps that can help everyone start their journey towards internet safety and safeguard their online experience. This includes reviewing security settings and Google account activity with one click for all Android devices and Gmail users. Google Security check helps users to automatically scan for any vulnerability and guides them to keep their account safe in few minutes.
66. Four Indian sportspersons in Forbes India 30 Under 30 list
Indian athletes Jasprit Bumrah, Harmanpreet Kaur, Savita Punia and Heena Sidhu made it to this year’s Forbes India 30 Under 30 list. The list prepared by Forbes is based on three broad criterias: the extent of impact of their achievements, and their ability to disrupt the status quo; scalability of the business or line of work and; their potential to stay a long-term player. Another criteria for making it to the list was not belonging to the category of well-established names, next-generation entrepreneurs and having access to an influential lineage.
67. Global Investors Summit 2018
The two-day Global Investors Summit was held in Guwahati. The Summit was the largest ever investment promotion and facilitation initiative by the Government of Assam. It aimed at highlighting the geo-strategic advantages offered to investors by Assam.
68. World Cancer Day-4 Feb
4 Feb has been commemorated internationally as World Cancer Day, it was founded under the direction of the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC) with the aim of supporting the World Cancer Declaration goals written in 2008. People across the world have ever since come together on this day to ensure optimal awareness and significantly reduce illness and deaths caused by cancer by 2020. For 2016-2018, the theme for observing World Cancer Day is ‘We Can. I can.’ Under this theme, people are expected to, individually and collectively, understand and work towards lessening the impact and harmful effects of the condition globally.
69.First ever International Kala Mela inaugurated in New Delhi
The First ever International Kala Mela was inaugurated in New Delhi. The International Kala Mela has been organised by the Lalit Kala Akademi in partnership with IGNCA of the Ministry of Culture. More than 800 artists from across the world are taking part in the Festival.
70.Surajkund Crafts Mela to be held from February 2-18
The annual 32nd Surajkund International Crafts Mela will be held at Surajkund in Haryana’s Faridabad district from February 2 to 18. Uttar Pradesh will be the theme state this year at Surajkund, adjoining Delhi. The Mela’s focus will be on safety and security of children. There will be zero tolerance towards child rights violations. At least 20 countries and all states of India will participate. The Crafts Mela is organised by the Surajkund Mela Authority in collaboration with the Union Ministries of Tourism, Textile, Culture and External Affairs, Haryana Tourism Department and Haryana Tourism Corporation.
71.World Wetlands Day- 2 February
World Wetlands Day is celebrated every year on 2 February. This day marks the date of the adoption of the Convention on Wetlands on 2 February 1971, in the Iranian city of Ramsar on the shores of the Caspian Sea. Since 1997, the Ramsar Secretariat has provided outreach materials to help raise public awareness about the importance and value of wetlands. The Standing Committee of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands approved “Wetlands for a Sustainable Urban Future” as the theme for World Wetlands Day in 2018.