Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 17th December 2023

 National News 

1.India’s Uma Sekhar elected to Governing Council of UNIDROIT 

  • In a historic moment for India, Ms. Uma Sekhar has secured a remarkable victory by garnering 45 out of 59 votes in the initial round of elections for the Governing Council of the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law (UNIDROIT) held in Rome, Italy. 
  • This win not only signifies Ms. Sekhar’s individual achievement but also elevates India to a prominent position on the Governing Council for the term spanning 2024-28. 
  • Securing a position on the Governing Council required a minimum of 21 votes, and Ms Uma Sekhar’s substantial support of 45 votes underscores the confidence and trust vested in her capabilities. 
  • The Governing Council, comprising 25 positions occupied by distinguished legal experts, holds a pivotal role in shaping international legal frameworks. 
  • The election featured a competitive field with 32 contestants, including representatives from influential nations such as the USA, China, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and France. Notably, candidates from Russia, the USA, and China failed to secure positions, underscoring the significance of Ms Sekhar’s successful bid for India. 


  • UNIDROIT, the International Institute for the Unification of Private Law, functions as an independent intergovernmental organization headquartered in Rome, Italy.
  •  Its core mission involves studying the needs and methods for modernizing, harmonizing, and coordinating private and commercial law among States and groups of States. 
  • UNIDROIT actively formulates uniform law instruments, principles, and rules to achieve these objective 

2.Delhi police arrest sixth accused, I police arr say conspiracy on for two years 

  • The Delhi police on Saturday arrested Mahesh Kumawat, a 33-year-old associate of Lalit Jha, the alleged "mastermind" of the conspiracy behind Wednesday's security breach in Parliament. Mr. Kumawat has been booked for conspiracy and destruction of evidence. 
  • While seeking custody of Mr. Kumawat, the police told the Patiala House Court that the conspiracy had been ongoing for the past two years. The accused group had held multiple meetings in various locations in Mysuru, Gurugram, and Delhi and their sole aim was to create anarchy and compel the government to meet their "illegal demands". 
  • These submissions were made by Public Prosecutor Akhand Pratap Singh in the court of Hardeep Kaur, an Additional Sessions Judge and special NIA judge. 
  • The Delhi Police sought 15 days of custody for Mr. Kumawat, citing the need to recover the destroyed and damaged electronic devices used to plan the security breach. The court remanded him in police custody for seven days. 
  • Mr. Kumawat was provided with legal aid, as he did not have a lawyer 
  • The police said that Mr. Kumawat and his cousin Kailash had provided shelter to Mr. Jha fled from the national capital immediately after the security breach. 
  • According to police sources, Mr. Jha left Delhi on a bus to Kuchaman City in western Rajasthan, where he met Mr. Kumawat, who had also been supposed to join the group at Parliament on December 12, but had been unable to make it to Delhi since his mother had stopped him. 
  • "Mahesh and his cousin Kailash took Jha to a rented room in Nagaur where they destroyed the phones. The two then informed Kailash that they were going to surrender before the Parliament," said a senior police officer. Mr. Kailash was detained on Thursday. 

3.School of happiness to take root in Assam 

  • A first-of-its-kind school for imparting lessons on humanity and societal happiness will take root in the Bodoland Territorial Region (BTR) of Assam at the dawn of 2024. 
  • The foundation of the International School of Peace and Happiness is scheduled to be laid in the first week of January at Bijni in Chirang district of western Assam, one of five in the BTR. The project would be initiated after a year of planning by the Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC), which administers the BTR. 
  • "Conflicts of the kind Manipur has been experiencing are heart-wrenching for the region. The areas now under BTR went through a similar phase over 50 years of movement (for Statehood)," BTC's chief executive member, Pramod Boro said on Saturday. 
  • The BTR areas have had a history of ex- tremism resulting in ethnic conflicts, especially between the Bodos, the largest plains tribe in the northeast, and migrant Muslims, and between the Bodos and Adivasis. Hundreds were killed and more than 500,000 people were displaced in major communal clashes in 1993, 2008, and 2012. 
  • Mr. Boro said the idea of a school specializing in peace-building and spreading happiness had germinated since his party, the United People's Party Liberal, formed the BTC government with the BJP and the Gang Suraksha Party three years ago. 
  • "The objective was to instill in youth and community leaders the human values for co-existence in a region and country inhabited by people of diverse faiths, cultures, languages, and ethnicity all interdependent. We felt such values needed formal schooling through which a team of peace ambassadors can be produced toward resolving conflicts at the micro and macro levels," he said. 

4.Sub-strain JN.1 of SARS-CoV-2 traced in Kerala woman 

  • A case of SARS-CoV-2 subvariant JN. 1 has been detected in Kerala as part of an ongoing routine surveillance activity of the Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genomics Consortium (INSACOG), a senior official from the Indian Council of Medical Research said on Saturday.
  • The case was detected in an RT-PCR positive sample from Karakulam in Thiruvananthapuram district on December 8, Rajiv Bahl, Director-General of the ICMR, said. 
  • The sample had tested RT-PCR positive on November 18, he added.
  • The 79-year-old woman had mild symptoms of influenza-like illness (ILI) and has since recovered from COVID-19. 
  • "There has been an increasing trend of COVID-19 cases from Kerala in the past few weeks. This has been attributed to an increase in the number of samples from ILI cases being referred for testing," Dr. Bahl said. 
  • A majority of these cases are clinically mild and the patients are recovering on their own at their homes, he added. 
  • As part of a regular exercise of the Union Health Ministry, a drill at all health facilities in the States is under way to assess their public health and hospital preparedness measures. 
  • This activity, which started on December 13, is being carried out under the overall supervision of the district collectors and is likely to be completed by December 18, Dr. Bahl said. 
  • The Union Ministry is in regular touch with the Kerala Health Department and monitoring various entry points to the State. 
  • The INSACOG is a net- work of genomic laboratories that has been monitoring COVID-19 in India from a genomic perspective. 

5.Modi flags off Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra in 5 States, says focus will be on smaller cities 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said that hundreds of small cities would play a key role in strengthening the grand edifice of a developed India. 
  • After interacting with beneficiaries of the Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra (VBSY) via video conferencing, Mr. Modi said the cities had a huge role to play in the determination of a developed India. "Whatever development took place for a long time after Independence, its scope was limited to some big cities of the country. But today, we are focusing on the development of Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities in the country," he said. 
  • He cited the AMRUT Mission and Smart City Mission to upgrade basic facilities in small cities. "These upgrades are directly improving ease of living, ease of travel, and ease of doing business," Mr. Modi said. 
  • He flagged off the campaign in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Telangana, and Mizoram, where it was not initiated in view of the Assembly elections. He had launched the nationwide campaign in Jharkhand on November 15. Addressing the gathering, the Prime Minister said "Modi ki guarantee" vehicles were now reaching all parts of the country, and had so far covered thousands of villages and nearly 1,500 cities, including smaller cities and towns. 
  • The Prime Minister highlighted the assistance provided by the Union government during the COVID-19 pandemic; the disbursal of thousands of crores into the bank accounts of about 20 crore women; ensuring free COVID-19 vaccines; free rations for poor families; and assistance worth lakhs of esses. crores to small businesses. 
  • "Modi's guarantee begins when expectations from others cease," he said. Mr. Modi said street vendors and hawkers had been connected to the banking system, and could now get loans easily under the SVANidhi Yojana, under which over 50 lakh people had so far benefited. 
  • On the issue of social security for urban dwellers, the Prime Minister said the Atal Pension Scheme had six crore subscribers, ensuring ₹5,000 monthly pension after the age of 60. 
  • "Centre is committed to saving money for urban families, be it exemption in income tax or low-cost treatment," he said, adding that crores of urban poor had been covered under the Ayushman Bharat scheme, and it had helped them save 1 lakh crore on medical expenses. 

6.Thousands protest over call for Hatti tribal status 

  • Over 5,000 demonstrators participated in the 'Hatti Akrosh Maha rally' in Himachal Pradesh's Sirmaur district on Saturday to demand the implementation of the Hatti tribal status law, protest organizers said. 
  • Leaders of the Kendriya Hatti Samiti, an organization of the Hatti community, announced that they would intensify the agitation further since the State government was refusing to address their demands. 
  • The Hatti tribals predominantly reside in the 154 panchayats of the trans-Giri area in Sirmaur district. 
  • Over 5,000 members of the Hatti community gathered at the PWD rest house ground at Shillai in Sirmaur on Saturday morning, members of Kendriya Hatti Samiti said.
  • After holding the public meeting, the protesters marched towards the office of the sub-divisional magistrate to raise their demand for the implementation of the Hatti tribal status law, which they have been raising for the past four months, they added. 
  • Addressing the gathering, Ami Chand Kamal, president of Kendriya Hatti Samiti, alleged that the Congress-led State government was sitting on the Hatti tribal status law for many months. 
  • The gazette notification was issued by the President of India in this regard on August 4, 2023, after a constitutional amendment by the Parliament. 

7.CT scans associated with increased risk of blood cancers 

  • Ever since physicians started using computed tomography (CT) for medical imaging, its use grew rapidly. The benefits of CT imaging in clinically needed cases are well known. However, its potential for increased cancer risks and relatively high cumulative doses from multiple scans have raised concerns among the medical and scientific community. Sensitive sections such as children, adolescents and young adults are vulnerable and technologists must use appropriate protocols for them while they undergo CT scans. Radiation doses at moderate (over 100 mGy) to high (over 1 Gy) values are known to cause hematological malignancies (blood cancers) in both children and adults and other cancers. However, there has been uncertainty about risk at low doses less than 100 mGy) that are typically associated with diagnostic CT examinations. A recent study (Nature Medicine, 9 November 2023) suggests that even low doses of radiation have a small probability of causing blood cancer. "Our results strengthen the body of evidence of increased cancer risk at low radiation doses and highlight the need for continued justification of paediatric CT examinations and optimisation of doses," the researchers asserted. 
  • "This is especially concerning given that CT scanning is the largest Contributor to the world's average annual effective dose per person from medical radiation sources, in both children and adults.” 
  • The final study covered about 1.3 million CT scans in nearly 9,00,000 patients. They estimated the radiation doses to the active bone marrow of each subject based on the body part scanned, patient characteristics, time period and inferred CT technical parameters. Fifty-one percent of the cases were younger than 20 years at diagnosis, whereas 88.5% were younger 30 years. 
  • The energy absorbed in ofie Gy of radiation is one Joule per kg of tissue. Since Gy is a large unit, milli (one-thousandth) or micro (one-millionth) of a Gy are commonly used. Researchers estimated that "for every 10,000 children examined today (mean dose 8 mGy), one-two persons are expected to develop a hematological malignancy attributable to radiation exposure in the subsequent 12 years.” 
  • In the present study, the distribution of dose to the active bone marrow (referred to as ABM dose) was such that most individuals received low doses. The mean and median cumulative ABM dose at the end of the follow-up was 15.6 mGy and 10.7 mGy, respectively, in the cohort and 20 mGy and 13.0 mGy among the overall cases. 
  • First, it is a large-scale multi-centre study designed to estimate directly the risk of blood cancers associated with ionizing radiation exposure from CT examinations during childhood and young adulthood; it aims to address criticisms of previous studies related to dosimetry, statistical power and potential biases. Second, the size of the study (nearly one million patients) has considerably increased the statistical power compared with previous national studies. The results showed a clear doseresponse between cumulative ABM dose and risk of hematological malignancies, both lymphoid and myeloid, with increased risk at doses as low as 10-15 mGy. 
  • It is a curtain down on the dose-effect controversy, low dose ionizing radiation causes a finite risk not greater than what was estimated thus far from various studies. This small risk is acceptable given clinical benefits to the patient. Patients must realize that denying to undergo CT scans needed to diagnose disease is also harmful. The study highlights the need for diligently following the basic principles of radiation protection. 

International News 

8.Taiwan to receive $300 million worth equipment from U.S. 

  • The U.S. The State Department has approved a $300 million sale of equipment to help maintain Taiwan's tactical information systems, the Pentagon said on Friday, the latest U.S. assistance for the island's defenses.
  • The U.S. is bound by law to provide Chinese claimed Taiwan with the means to defend itself and arms sales are a frequent source of tension between Washington and Beijing. 
  • The Pentagon's Defence Security Cooperation Agency said the sale was for follow-on life cycle support to maintain Taiwan's 
  • Command, Control, Communications, and Computers, or C4, capabilities. The support would improve Taiwan's capability to "meet current and future threats by enhancing operational readiness'' and maintain existing C4 capabilities that provide secure flow of tactical information, it added. 
  • "The Chinese communists' frequent military operations around Taiwan presents a serious threat to us," the Taiwan's Defence Ministry said, adding it expected the sale to "take effect" in one month and expressed its thanks to the U.S.. The U.S. Congress will be notified and the sale is likely to go ahead. 

9.Significance of an influenza A (HIN2)v case in the U.K. 

  • On 27 November 2023, the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reported the first known human case of influenza A (HIN2)v in the UK, a variant of the influenza virus previously not known to cause infections in humans. Following detection, public health agencies in the UK are now working rapidly towards characterizing the pathogen and assessing the risk it may present to human health. 
  • The case of influenza A (HIN2)v was detected as part of the comprehensive national influenza surveillance in the UK led by UKHSA. The patient, a 75- year-old individual, who has now fully recovered, presented with mild respiratory and flu-like symptoms. Genome sequencing revealed that the virus belonged to a distinct clade 18.1.1 of influenza viruses. While distinct from recent human cases of A(HIN2), its genetic makeup showed similarity to swine influenza viruses found in the UK and no other mutations of concern have been detected in this variant. Although the patient resides in an area in proximity to pig farins, no direct contact with animals could be established. Instances of human-to-human transmission of the virus have also not yet been detected, however, the detection of the virus in a case with no contact with animals could possibly mean that a limited and undetected human-to-human transmission may have occurred. "But there is no definitive evidence," says the WHO. 
  • According to the UKH SX, the variant influenza virus presents a low risk to the general public. However, people with direct regular exposure to pigs may be at a higher risk of acquiring this virus. Influenza viruses have the potential to spill over into human populations and cause severe illnesses although the variant virus detected in the U.K. does not show any characteristics suggestive of pandemic potential. As public health authorities in the UK. continue to follow up on the case, It is important to underscore comprehensive surveillance of pathogens, particularly rapidly evolving respiratory viruses like influenza and ability to rapidly characterize viral variants using genome sequencing forms the cornerstone of public health action and preparedness and our ability to mitigate the risk of a global outbreak 

Defence News 

10.Junta down but not out 

  • Chin (Chin National Front) and Karenni (Karenni National Progressive Party) supported the NUG, fighting the ty and forming anti-coup militias. They did so while rejecting an NUG proposal for a single Federal Army under a unified NUG command The Shan State based Ta'ang. 
  • National Liberation Army (TNLA), representing the interests of the Falling people, the Kokang-based Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA); and other northern groups ps in in Shan Shan State, State, besides the Rakhine State-based AA, used the post-coup situation to strengthen themselves without provoking the junta. These groups are also loosely allied with the United Wa State Army (UWSA), one of the largest ethnic armed forces, which has repudiated any ties with the NUG and retains its pre-coup relationship with the junta, On October 27, 2023, however, these three groups the MNDAA, the TNLA and the AA-launched coordinated attacks against military bases across northern Shan State. The attacks, termed "Operation 1027 denoting the date of (the operations, denot October 27, by the Three Brotherhood Alliance, as the three groups called their collective, led to serious setbacks for the junta's forces. 
  • This situation where the Tatmadaw has been stretched thin n by the coordinated attacks from different armed groups, and to its alarm, even in its Ramar strongholds, has led to some analysts excitedly suggesting that the military has finally received an existential threat dominance. But other seasoned observers of Myanmar have taken a cautionary stance. One such observer, veteran journalist Bertil Lintner, argues that the Myanmar army remains the "most effective and best-armed fighting force in the country". 
  • A UN report in May 2023 said arms worth $1 billion were used by the military against the people of My bar with the bulk of them (more than 500%) from entities from three countries (Russia 41%, China 27%, and Singapore 25%). Supplies from India amounted to $51 million. 
  • The war metho crimes-committing junta has used Eidater planes and artillery to bomb its rural people using g scorched-earth scores to deter the rebels. The PDFs, meanwhile, were using locally sourced arnus and Mr. Lintner also argues that there was significant lack of cohesion among the ethnic armies. 
  • The Tatmadaw's recent history can be traced to the formation of the Burma Independence Army (BIA) that was founded in 1941 by a group of activists along with Japanese help to take on the British. Led by Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, the BIA her stalwarts for the post, has come up the RSS and BJP ranks and programmes at ground level, winning him the leadership's trust. 
  • As the State's wres wody chief, be is creor promoting the In style wrestling or wrestling in soils over the years coordinated the visits of top RSS and BJP leaders to the Mahakal Temple in Ujjain, which brought him close to top functionaries of the Sangh such as Suresh Soni and Mr. Nadda He is a staunch RSS man, and his decisions have reflected the Sangh's ideology of promoting the Sanatan culture; whether it was the project to develop less-known places related to Lord Krishna in Madhya Pradesh or to include the Ramayana and the Mahabharata as optional subjects in higher education of mating started his politi zer with student pol 1982 in Ujjain, and becoming a function the ABVP in 1984, eventually its national army in 1991-92, Mr. has come up for the RSS and the He has been a loyal of the Sangh and ty. In 2003, former ma Bharti had been given cket from Ujjain's gar Assembly consti institutes in 2021. 
  •  But he returned it His first decisions after initially fighting in the Second World War against the British alongside the Japanese and renamed itself as the Burma Defence Army which later on joined the Allied forces against Japanese occupation by 1945. 
  • After substantive neonganisation in a period marked with conflict with ethnic insurgent groups, the military led by General Ne Win led a coup against the civilian civilian government government (thent led by U Nu) in 1962 to form a unitary state led by the military and that espoused a "Burmese socialist" regime based on dirigiste principles. The unitary state allowed for only a single party that was dominated by the military and this ruled the country for 26 years, pursuing policies of international isolation, autarky and rule by dictatorial fiat. With Myanmar's economy rapidly deteriorating, a massive civilian uprising occurred in 1988 against the military rule. It was put down with force and by September 1988, martial law was declared. The military now ruled through a new regime called the State Law and Order Restoration Council that metamorphosed into the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) in 1997. The SPDC, with senior general Than Shwe at the helm, consisted of Il senior military official and effectively controlled the reins of government till 2011, when following a Constitution on in 2010, power was handed over in a sequence of steps to a hybrid civilian-military regime led by forster general Thein Sein. 
  • NLD victory In 2015, the NLD won a supermajority of seats in the combined national Parliament and sought to restrict the military's overarching powers gradually but was rebuffed by military chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who went on to become chairman of the SAC, the new iteration of the Tatmadaw regime that captured absolute power in 2021. 
  • While the international sanctions against its leaders, the e wrath of the Myanmar diaspora due to its failures. and excesses as the ruler of the country which include the genocidal policies against minorities such as the Rohingya and the support for the NUG have thrown up a strong challenge against the junta, its successful use of ethnic divisions, besides its resourcefulness, has ensured its hegemony despite a lack of popular support in Myanmar. This is perhaps why observers like Mr. Lintner argues that Myanmar is in for a prolonged war of attrition unless there is an internal split within the Tatmadaw for the pro-democracy and pro-federal para-federal force forces to exploit for a decisive military win. And even then, the task to build a post junta, federal and democratic Myanmar will be enormously complicated. 

11.Navy deploys plane, warship after vessel reports hijack in Arabian Seas 

  • The Navy has swiftly responded to a call for help following a hijack involving a Malta-flagged cargo vessel with 18 crew on board in the Arabian Sea, officials said on Saturday.
  •  The Navy swung into action after receiving a Mayday message (distress call) on the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operation (UKMTO) portal on December 14. The vessel, m.v. Ruen indicated that six 'pirates' had illegally boarded it, the officials said. 
  • The Navy's maritime patrol aircraft undertook surveillance missions in the area and its warship on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden were deployed to locate and assist m.v. Ruen. 
  • The Navy said its aircraft flew over the hijacked vessel and movement of the vessel is being monitored. It said the vessel is now heading towards the coast of Somalia. 
  • "Responding swiftly to the developing situation, the Indian Navy diverted its naval maritime patrol aircraft undertaking surveillance in the area and its warship on anti-piracy patrol in the Gulf of Aden to locate and assist m.v. Ruen," a naval spokesperson said. 
  • "The aircraft overflew the hijacked vessel on the early morning of December 15 and the aircraft has been continuously monitoring movement of the vessel, which is now heading towards the coast of Somalia," he said. 
  • The official said the Navy's warship deployed in the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy patrol also intercepted m.v. Ruen on Saturday morning. The situation is being monitored in coordination with other agencies in the area, he said. It is learned that the Navies of Spain and Japan have also responded. 
  • "The Indian Navy remains committed to being a first responder in the region and ensuring safety of merchant shipping, along with international partners and friendly foreign countries," the official said. 

Economy News 

12.WPI inflation in Nov at 0.26%, returns to positive territory after 7 months 

  • India’s wholesale price index (WPI)-based inflation came in at 0.26 percent, according to the data released by the released by the Ministry of Commerce and Industry. 
  • It has returned to positive territory after seven months. Earlier in March, the WPI-based inflation was 1.34 percent. 
  • In October, the WPI inflation was -0.52 percent, the lowest in three months. In September, it was -0.07 percent. 
  • The rise in WPI-based inflation was led by food inflation. The index in this category rose steeply by 4.69 percent in November as compared to 1.07 percent in October and 1.88 percent in September. 
  • The positive rate of inflation in November 2023 is primarily due to increase in prices of food articles, minerals, machinery & equipment, computer, electronics & optical products, motor vehicles, other transport equipment and other manufacturing etc. 
  • CPI-based inflation is projected at 5.4 pecent for 2023-24, with Q3 at 5.6 percent and Q4 at 5.2 percent, according to RBI. 

Recent WPI-based Wholesale inflation in India 

  • June 2023 – (-) 4.12% 
  • July 2023 – (-) 1.36% 
  • August 2023 – (-) 0.52% 
  • September 2023 – (-) 0.26% 
  • October 2023 – (-) 0.52% 
  • November 2023 – 0.26% 

Schemes and Committee News 

13.Autorickshaw drivers in Telangana irked by Mahalakshmi scheme 

  • The new A. Revanth Reddy-led Congress government's Mahalakshmi scheme, under which women and transgender persons can travel free of cost on Telangana State Road Transport Corporation (TSRTC) buses, has been a roaring success so far. Its popularity, however, has a flip side, a growing disquiet among the State's auto rickshaw drivers. Working women who used to take shared autos for their commute are now availing of free bus rides, said Kalaghetty Ashok, an auto-driver and member of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC)-led Auto Union. "We are not against the new Congress scheme but we are certain that it will bring down the number of women passengers," said the union leader, adding that the union plans to meet Transport Minister Ponnam Prabhakar to discuss their ordeal. 
  • According to TSRTC officials, there has been an increase of about 25% in passenger traffic on average since the introduction of the scheme; 22 lakh women traveled in buses between December 9 and 11, and women's share in ridership is expected to increase from the present 40% to 55% by year end. 
  • "Autos in rural areas will take a bigger hit than city based autos. Those carrying people from villages to mandal headquarters will now struggle to find women passengers as they will prefer to travel longer distances for free. In the city, working women will still opt for autos because of rush during office hours," said R. Kishan Rao, an AITUC member. 
  • Telangana Automotors Drivers Trade Union president Vemula Maraiah urged the Chief Minister to provide a 'livelihood allowance' of 15,000 per month as he claimed that the Mahalakshmi scheme will bring down female passengers in autos by nearly 40%. 

Banking News 

14.SBI signed 70-million-euro LoC with KfW for solar projects 

  • State Bank of India (SBI) has signed a 70-million-euro (about Rs 630 crore) Line of Credit (LoC) with German Development Bank KfW for promoting solar projects in the country. 
  • The Line of Credit (LoC) is specifically tailored to bolster Solar Photovoltaics (PV) projects in India, aligning with the nation’s commitment to clean and renewable energy sources.
  • This collaboration between SBI and KfW reflects a shared vision of promoting sustainable practices and reducing the carbon footprint through solar initiatives. 

Recent MoU in Banking Sector 

  • SBI signed 70-million-euro LoC with Germany Bank’ KfW for solar projects 
  • Reliance Industries partners with DBS Bank for financing programme
  • Intellect signs ₹80-crore deal with Indian Bank to deploy cash management system 
  • U GRO Capital joined hands with Laghu Udyog Bharati to empower MSMEs 
  • Union Bank collaborates with Accenture to boost operational efficiency 

15.Reliance Industries partners with DBS Bank for financing programme 

  • Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) and DBS Bank India have collaborated to establish a financing programme customized to the requirements of the compressed biogas project initiated by RIL. 
  • The financing will enable the ecosystem development for vendor partners to aggregate agri-residue as inputs for the Reliance compressed biogas production plants across India. 
  • The company targets to establish 100 compressed biogas (CBG) plants in the next five years, consuming 5.5 million tonnes of agro-residue and organic waste. The move would help in mitigating nearly 2 million tonnes of carbon emissions and producing 2.5 million tonnes of organic manure annually. 
  • Reliance Industries Limited is setting up world-class biogas facilities at multiple locations in Uttar Pradesh by using surplus agro residue and organic waste. These facilities will be linked to a network of biogas dispensing stations operated by Reliance Jio BP. 
  • Reliance has set up a flagship CBG production facility in Barabanki, Uttar Pradesh, which is expected to cut down CO2 emissions by 40,000 tonnes annually. 

About Development Bank of Singapore (DBS) Bank 

  • Founded – 1968 
  • Headquarters – Singapore 
  • Chairman – Peter Seah 
  • ECO – Piyush Gupta 
  • DBS Bank India’ CEO- Surojit Shome 

Award News 

16.Must ask why no Indian won Abel Prize or Fields Medal’ 

  • Infosys founder N.R. Narayana Murthy on Saturday said it was time to ponder why no Indian resident has ever won an Abel Prize for mathematics or the Fields Medal, which is often described as the Nobel Prize in mathematics. 
  • "Can we produce winners whose lifetime work is done right here in India? Can we produce another Ramanujan, who had the foresight to propose what came to be called Ramanujan's master theorem?" He asked mathematicians at the inaugural of the three-day Alladi Ramakrishnan Centenary conference at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences (IMSc). 
  • Mr. Murthy urged mathematicians to find solutions, adding that the National Education Policy gave hope that India could find its rightful place in mathematics. 

17.BBG Foundation becomes winner of Telangana Business Awards 

  • In recognition of its outstanding commitment to empowering girls through education, BBG Foundation has been honored with the prestigious title of Best Girl Child Empowerment Program Initiative of the Year. 
  • The award was presented by Telangana Business Awards (TBA), a distinguished platform dedicated to recognizing excellence in various sectors. 
  • Telangana Business Awards serves as a beacon for enhancing productivity and quality in companies, entrepreneurs, and service providers, acknowledging their remarkable achievements and performance in their respective fields. 
  • The awards aim to promote business excellence by providing a structured framework for assessment. 
  • BBG Bangaaru Thalli, a non-profit organization founded in 2019 by Mallikarjuna Reddy and a team of dedicated experts, is dedicated to revolutionizing girls’ education in rural and educationally disadvantaged areas of India. 
  • Focused on making a lasting impact in Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, the organization is passionately committed to mobilizing communities and empowering girl children. 
  • BBG Bangaaru Thalli stands out for its unwavering dedication to the cause, channeling both life and business profits toward the single-minded purpose of empowering 2,000,000 girls by the year 2040. 
  • The organization believes in the transformative power of education and aims to unlock the potential of young girls, fostering a brighter future for individuals and the nation. 

Recent Awards 

  • Karmaveer Chakra Medal by ICONGO – Dr. Hemachandran Ravikumar 
  • Rex Karmaveer Global Fellowship by ICONGO – Dr. Hemachandran Ravikumar 
  • Diwali ‘Power of One’ Awards 2023 – Ban Ki-moon 
  • International Gender Equality Prize 2023 by Finland – Afghanistan NGO 
  • Padmapani Lifetime Achievement Award at Ajanta-Ellora Film Festival – Veteran Javed Akhtar 

18.Federal Bank as the top performer of the 2023 Climate Assessment for Financial Institutions (CAFI) Awards 

  • International Finance Corporation (IFC), a World Bank Group has recognized Federal Bank as the top performer of the 2023 Climate Assessment for Financial Institutions (CAFI) Awards for Climate Reporting. 
  • Out of the 258 financial institutions globally participating in climate reporting through the CAFI tool, Federal Bank emerged as a standout performer. 
  • Federal Bank secured two positions on the global stage i.e. Highest Climate Loan Amount Reported and Most GHG Mitigated category. 
  • Furthermore, in the South Asian region, Federal Bank clinched four prestigious recognitions in the following categories: 

Most Transactions Reported 

  • Highest Climate Loan Amount Reported 

Most GHG Mitigated 

  • Best Achievement vs Climate Targets 
  • These achievements underscore Federal Bank’s proactive approach to addressing climate change and its commitment to measuring and investing in impactful climate projects. 
  • Federal Bank is a premier private sector bank in India with a rich legacy spanning over nine decades. The franchise boasts of 16 million plus growing customers, 1400 plus branches and a global footprint. It houses Representative Offices in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, an IFSC Banking Unit in GIFT City, Gujarat, and holds a significant role in handling one-fifth of total NR remittances to India. 

Indian polity News 

19.MPs suspension, security breach not linked, says Speaker 

  • Informing members of the Lok Sabha that a "high-powered committee" will review various aspects of security in the Parliament complex to formulate an action plan to prevent a repeat of the December 13 incident, Speaker Om Birla on Saturday asserted that there was no link between the suspension of Opposition MPs and the security breach. 
  • In a two-page letter to all members, he said the MPs were suspended not for raising the issue, but for "carrying placards and creating ruckus". 
  • Panel under CRPF D-G Mr. Birla said the report of the high-level inquiry committee, set up by the Union Home Ministry under CRPF Director-General Anish Dayal Singh, into the breach will "soon" be shared with the House.
  • "In addition, I have also constituted a high-powered committee which will review various aspects of security in the Parliament complex and formulate a concrete action plan to ensure that such incidents do not recur," Mr. Birla said. 
  • In his letter, the Lok Sabha Speaker said: "It is indeed unfortunate that some honorable members and political parties are linking the decision of the House to suspend some honorable members from the service of the House to the incident, which occurred on 13th December, 2023. This is unwarranted.” 

20.Panel seeks vacancy details in Ministry, and child rights and women's commissions 

  • A parliamentary panel has asked the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development to submit a detailed plan on filling existing vacancies within the Ministry and the autonomous bodies affiliated to it.
  • Un its report submitted on December 13, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Education, Women, Children, Youth and Sports noted that it had previously flagged the existing vacancies against the sanctioned positions in the Ministry and in autonomous bodies such as the National Commission for Women (NCW), National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (NCPCR), the Central Adoption Resources Authority (CARA), and the National Institute of Public Cooperation and Child (NIPCCD).] Development is?
  • In an action-taken report, however, the Ministry had informed the panel that it still has 44 vacancies despite engaging in regular correspondence on filling them with the Department of Personnel and Training. The NCPCR has filled up three positions against six vacancies, of which one has already resigned. The CARA still has 12 vacancies and the NCW has 14. The NIPPD still has 214 vacant posts. 
  • Not accepting the go- vernment's replies, the committee recommended that a "detailed plan to monitor and speedily expedite the process of filling these vacancies be shared with the Committee". 
  • "These defined Guidelines will be helpful in creating clear, measurable parameters for the corporates to follow towards investing in building Anganwadi centers and in allocating CSR funds that are in alignment with the interests of corporates, the government, and local communities, thereby sup porting the development and well-being of children and women across the nation," it said. 

Obituary News 

21.Kuwait Emir, Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al Sabah, dead 

  • Kuwait's ruling emir, the 86-year-old Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah, died on Saturday after a three year, low-key reign focused on trying to resolve the tiny, oil-rich nation's internal political disputes, Authorities gave no Cause of death. 
  • Kuwait's deputy Fuller and his half-brother, Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber, now 83, is believed to be the world's oldest crown prince, He is in line to take over as Kuwait's ruler and represents one of the Gulf Arab countries' last octogenarian leaders 

Agreement News 

22.Optimistic on trade agreement ahead of elections: Swiss, Norway Ministers 

  • A timeline can be given on the conclusion of talks between India and four Nordic countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) for a Trade and Economic Partnership Agreement (TEPA), said the Trade Ministers of Switzerland and Norway during a visit to Delhi. However, they still hope differences can be resolved in the next few months, before the election process gets underway in India. 
  • Government officials indicated that though the most recent round of talks between trade negotiators from India and the four countries Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland-saw the process "gain momentum", several issues remain. Briefing journalists about the outcome of talks this week, the Commerce Ministry officials also said that discussions on "trade in goods and services, trade and sustainable development, SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) measures, trade remedies and associated trade facilitation, and rules of origin" are still going on. 
  • In EFTA (all four countries] understand each other when it comes to Research & Development (R&D), and so for us, it's always a key issue. I tell Minister Goyal, it is a bread and butter issue for us to secure the best possible in IPRs," said Helene Budliger Artieda, Swiss Director of the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), speaking to The Hindu in an interview given jointly with Norwegian Trade Minister Jan Christian Vestre. CIPRs are always a challenge for Switzerland and (negotiations with] India are not unique in that. We are known as the most innovative country and have quickly moved from an agricultural country into industrialisation and Switzerland is one of the leading R&D nations," Ms. Artieda added, as she said the two sides are closer to an agreement than "ever before, but there are still some remaining topics'' to be ironed out.
  • CEPTA-India negotiations for a TEPA, that began 15 years ago, are among several trade agreements that the government's negotiators are working on simultaneously as they try to meet various deadlines ahead of the election process, which is likely to slow down all the talks, including with the U.K., Australia, European Union, Gulf Cooperation Council, and others after February, When asked whether talks with EFTA could take a backseat to the others, especially the U.K. and Australia, which have both already missed several deadlines in the past year, Mr. Vestre said that it was "up to the Indian side to decide their priorities. 
  • Speaking at an event in Kolkata last week, Switzer land's Ambassador to India Ralf Heckner had said that he remained "positive that the deal would be wrapped up before the [2024] election, and sources had indicated a new push for the agreement last year could bring EFTA leaders to the Vibrant Gujarat Global Summit (VGGS) to be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi early next year. However, the timeline has been pushed back slightly, the sources said, given the introduction of new lines into the list of goods in trade, and the continuing issues over India 
  • Both the Norwegian and Swiss Trade Ministers stressed the mutual benefits of a trade agreement, especially given India's large market size and the amount of business the four countries already generate. According to their figures, EFTA nations that rank eighth worldwide in terms of combined merchandise trade, generate more than 2,00,000 jobs in India. In addition, Norway hopes to engage with India about its plans for the mining of critical minerals that China currently has a monopoly on, which could be a key component of India's plans for 50% of its energy capacity to come from renewables by 2030. 

23.India and Oman in talks to sign an economic partnership agreement 

  • India and Oman are on track to sign a comprehensive economic partnership agreement, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Saturday. Welcoming Sultan Haitham bin Tarik the ruler of Oman to his first state visit to India, Mr. Modi said that the presence of a large number of Indians in Oman is a living example of the healthy relation between the two countries. 
  • "Our proximity is not just geographical and indeed reflects in our thousands of years' old trade and cultural links. This also reflects in the way, we always give priority to each other," the Prime Minister said in his speech welcom- ing the ruler of Oman. In a briefing after the official meeting, Foreign Secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra said that this is the first state visit to India by an Omani ruler in 26 years. 
  • Sultan Haitham bin Ta rik took charge in 2020 after the death of Sultan Qaboos, who was known for his friendly attitude to India 
  • The same year, Sultan Qaboos was honored with the Gandhi Peace Prize by India. 
  • Bilateral discussions held at Hyderabad House included the situation in israel and the Palestinians, Mr. Kwatra explained that India is closely following Agency Ing, the situation. The two sides signed on fine documents that include of o ed an agreement between the Financial Intelligence Attar Unit of India and the Na after he national Centre for Financial Information (NCI) so prevent money laundering, ha a gesture to celebrate the ancient relation between India and Oman the two slides also took up a proposal by the Ministry of Culture to recreate the mark crore, time voyage of a stitched ship which is expected to sail from Mandvi in Gujarat to Muscat during 2025-26. Mr. Modi and Sultan Haith am bin Tarik "strongly condemned terrorism in all its forms and manifestations". 
  • They underscored the significance of fostering the universal values of peace, moderation, coexistence and tolerance," a Joint Statement said.

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