Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 14th January 2024


1. Near-complete dam of Ken-Betwa project yet to get environmental nod 

  • A major dam project of the Madhya Pradesh government, which is part of the Centre's marquee Ken-Betwa river interlinking pro- ject, was found to be in violation of environment clearance laws by an expert committee of the Union Environment Ministry, The Hindu has learnt from a perusal of publicly available documents. 
  • The Centre has invoked a set of controversial orders whose legality is being examined by the Supreme Court. The sequence of events demonstrates the confusion among the States in interpreting the Centre's environment clearance processes and how this results in ad-hoc fixes being applied as amends. 
  • In 2019, the Madhya Pradesh government began constructing the Lower Orr dam part of the second phase of the Centre's ambitious Ken-Berwa river Interlinking project-only to be told by an expert appraisal committee (EAC), tasked with assessing the environmental impact of projects, in 2022 that the State had not taken a formal clearance from the Environment Ministry for the project. The expert committee, in December 2022, recommended that the Environment Ministry "consider taking necessary action on the violation against the project proponent as per law", 
  • The project proponent here was the National Water Development Agency (NWDA), a Jal Shakti Minis try body. Following a site visit, the committee reported that about 82% of the dam and 33.5% of the canal network had been completed without a clearance from the Ministry. The NWDA also did not have a 'consent to operate' certificate. 
  • The EAC recommended that the project developers undertake a fresh environment appraisal process, assess the ecological damage that had ensued and lay out a 'damage restoration' plan. These recommendations derive from a slew of executive orders issued by the Environment Ministry in 2017, 2021 and 2022 whereby a standard operating procedure was put in place to allow companies private and State-led-who had violated the terms of their environment clearance or were operating without one, to legalize their activities. 
  • Along with the fresh set of conditions, the new orders required companies to pay a fine that worked out to a percentage of the cost and turnover of the commissioned projects. Nearly a year after this recommendation, in a meeting of the EAC in December 2023, the body recommended that the Lower Orr project be subject to a fresh evaluation and that the NWDA submit more data calculating the potential damage that may have ensued from the construction. The Supreme Court, on January 2 this year, put all orders of the Ministry on hold as part of the proceedings in another case filed by NGO Vanshakti where such post-facto clearances accorded to mining companies have been challenged. The next hearing of this case is scheduled in four weeks. 

2. Versatile classical singer Prabha Atre passes away at 92 

  • Legendary classical singer and Padma Vibhushan recipient Prabha Atre, considered the doyen of the Kirana gharana, passed away on Saturday in Pune, aged 92. 
  • Atre suffered a cardiac arrest in her sleep at her residence. 
  • "She was rushed to Dinanath Mangeshkar Hospital in Mumbai, where she was declared dead at 5.30 a.m.," said a medical source. 
  • She was due to participate in a programme in Mumbai on Saturday. 
  • The much-feted Atre, who played a significant role in popularizing classical music across the globe, won the Padma Shri in 1990, the Padma Bhushan in 2002 and the Padma Vibhushan in 2022, during a rich career spanning seven decades. 
  • Born in September 1932 in Pune, Maharashtra, she received her training in classical music from Sureshbabu Mane, a prominent exponent of the Kirana gharana. 
  • Educationist, author Established as one of the "grand dames" of Indian classical music by the early 1970s, what made her different from peers like the renowned Kishori Amonkar was her sheer versatility and ability in innovating hoary traditions in Indian classical music, making it fresh and supple with her trailblazing renditions. 
  • A music educationist and thinker, who wrote prolifically, Atre straddled the worlds of classical music, dance and theater with consummate ease. 
  • She had a brief stint as a singing stage-actor early in her career, essaying roles in Marathi theater classics, while having formal training in Kathak. 
  • Prabha Atre died at a Mumbai hospital after suffering a cardiac arrest. 
  • She was equally proficient in different classical genres, be it khyal, tarana, thumri, dadra, ghazal and bhajan, citing the influence of Ustad Amir Khan (founder of the Indore gharana) for khyal and Bade Ghulam Ali Khan (Kasur gharana) thumri. 
  • In keeping with the gu-ru-shishya tradition, Atre ran the Swaramayi Guru-kul in Pune to train students, which birthed several notable classical singers. 
  • Deputy Chief Minister De vendra Fadnavis, who presented Atre with the Atal Sanskriti Award on December 25, said the singer's death was "very painful" 'Set new standards' Paying tributes, Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath. 
  • Shinde announced a state funeral for Atre. "Her contribution to Indian classical music is of the highest order. She set new standards in the field with her extraordinary talent, and heavenly and mesmerizing singing... Her demise will be a great void and loss for Indian music," Mr. Shinde said. 
  • "Indian music will always be indebted to her, I pay my heartfelt tribute to her, and may God give strength to her family to bear this loss," he said. 
  • Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar said Atre's de- mise "marked the end of a glorious era of classical music". 
  • Her last rites will be performed in Purie on January 16. 

3. Centre yet to take a call on beginning HPV vaccination campaign for girls 

  • The Ministry said on Se runoday that it was yee to take a decision on starting a vaccination coma virus (HPVA, despite reports that it is s the vaccine from the second quarter of this year The Civil Technical Advisory Group & Ization (NTAGE) has recommended vaccinatie advies cent giris between the ages of nine and 14 
  • The Ministry earlier said in June 20022 that after eval unting the fresh evidence on the cervical cancer bur dea and the effectiveness of a single dose of HPV vaccine, including clinical trial data and Sikkim's experience with the vaccine, the NTAGI recommended the vaccine's inclusion in the government's universal immunization programme. 
  • This would inede a one-time catch-up shot for girls in the nine-to-14 age group, followed by a routine introduction for etèrers at the age of nine The WHO's Strategic Advisory Group of Experis on humuumization (SAGE) has said that the HPV vaccine is highly effective for the prevention of HPV sero types 16 and 18, which cause 70% of cervical cancer 
  • Fishy' vaccine trials In India, the vaccine faced a major backlash over a decade , and the government got a rap on the knuckles from the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Health and Family Welfare in its 2013 report, titled "Alleged irregularities in the conchict of shr dies using human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine by PATH in India" 
  • The committee took note of the reported deaths of some girls and adolescents in Khammam district of Andhra Pradesh following HPV vaccine trials carried out by an American agency, the Programme for Appropriate Technology in Health (PATH), in collaboration with the government. The committee bad kind the entire matter wry miriguing and fishy", it observed that the choke of countries, and population groups, with unlimited marker potential and opportunities in universal immunization programmes, were all pointers to a well-planned scheme to commercially exploit the situation. It addest that if PATH had then been successful in getting the HPV vaccine included in the universal immunization programme of countries such as India, this would have generated windfall profits for the vaccines manufacturers by way of automatic sales, year after year, without any promotional or marketing expenses. 
  • The project was report edty funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, an American charity 
  • Globally, cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer in women, In India, cervical cancer is the second most common cancer in women, and India contributes to the largest proportion of the global cervical cancer burden, according to the Union government's data. 
  • The vaccination can be provided at a health facility, while for out-of-school girls, the campaign can be conducted through community outreach and mobile teams, the Ministry had said while alerting State governments to its efforts to initiate the campaign. 
  • "HPV vaccination works well and has the potential to prevent more than 90% of HPV attributable cancers," said Sanjeev Kumar, a surgical oncologist at Manipal Hospital in Delhi. "Since HPV vaccination was first recommended in 2006, around 125 countries have introduced HPV vaccines, offering access to one in three girls aged 9 to 14 worldwide. Trials conducted in India and abroad have results that show an SI% reduced risk of HPV- associated cancer in vaccinated women," Mr., Kumar said. 

4. Received details from India on social security pact, more work required on subject: USTR 

  • The U.S. Trade Representations tive (USTR), Katherine Tai, on Saturday said the U.S. had received information from India recently on the proposed social security agreement and there was much work to be done on the subject. 
  • Social security totalisation agreement is one of the key tasks from the Indian side in the meeting of the Trade Policy Forum (TPF) here, as it will significantly contribute towards enhancing services trade between countries and help Indian IT professionals who temporarily work in the US. India has submitted all the relevant data on its social security schemes which was sought by the U.S. to start negotia on the agreement. 
  • We have the information and the ball is back in our court, but it's just landed in our court. So there is a lot more work to do" to facilitate the conversation on India's proposal, Ms. Tai told presspersons. She was here for the 14th TPF meeting. Minister of Commerce and Industry Piyush Goyal and Ms. Tai co-chaired the meeting. the TPF 
  • Under the agreement, an expatriate in either country need not contribute to the social security scheme of the host country. It will benefit a number of Indians, particularly from the IT sector, who are working in America and paying social security but are unable to get any bene- fit out of it.
  • Asked about the issues being raised by the U.S. side on India's import management system for specified IT hardware, Ms. Tai said they had asked India to hold consultations with them and other stakeholders on such matters. 
  • She added that the consultation would ensure that such decisions did not disrupt the regulatory environment, which is important for both sides. 
  • Mr. Goyal, at the TPF meeting, elaborated on India's objectives, including those related to national security concerns on the matter. 
  • A joint statement issued after the TPF meeting said the two Ministers expressed commitment to launch future joint initiatives in certain areas, including critical minerals and trade in high-tech products, in which the U.S. and India will develop a forward-looking road map for enhanced cooperation. As part of the road map, she said, "We are going to begin with fact-finding exploration and establishing a common vocabulary." Asked about agriculture-related issues on both sides, the USTR said America was looking at greater market access for products such as almonds, walnuts, blueberries, cranberries. and India has issues with regard to grapes, mangoes and pomegranates in the U.S. market. 
  • On India's concerns over delays in the visa process for Indian businesses, Ms. Tai said the USTR office facilitated the conversation on this subject with the parts of the U.S. admi- nistration that were res- ponsible for these issues. 

5. Union government reconstitutes EPFO governing body 

  • The Union government reconstituted the Central Board of Trustees (CBT) of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) by excluding representatives of the Indian National Trade Union Congress (INTUC), All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) and All India United Trade Un- ion Centre (AIUTUC) from the panel. The All India Manufacturers Association, an organization of employers started by legendary engineer M. Visvesvaraya in 1941, also could not find a place on the new panel. Laghu Udyog Bharati, an organization of employers supported by the RSS, has managed to send two members to the panel, said the notification released by the Union Labour Ministry on Saturday. The new panel will get a five-year tenure. Both the employees and the employers have 10 representatives each in the panel, apart from representatives of the Union and State Labour departments. Union Labour Minister Bhupender Yadav is the Chairman of the CBT. 
  • INTUC president G. Sanjeeva Reddy said the Centre had done it an injustice. "We represent millions of workers. By excluding us, the Centre has excluded workers," he said. On the outgoing panel, three posts had been kept vacant for the INTUC. The Centre has been claiming that INTUC is not included in government pa- nels as there are several different groups claiming leadership over it. 
  • Government sources indicated that the selection of members was done after consultation with the trade unions. In the place of INTUC, AITUC and AIUTUC, the Centre has newly inducted to the panel the Trade Union Coordination Centre, Self Employed Women's Association and the National Front of Indian Trade Unions, 

6. Jaishankar to visit Iran as U.S., U.K. target Houthis 

  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will visit Tehran on Sunday and Monday, the Ministry of External Affairs announced on Saturday. The visit indicates continued engagement between New Delhi and Tehran even as the Iranian government faces verbal attacks from Israel, India's other partner in the region. 
  • The Ministry's announcement said Dr. Jaishankar would meet his counterpart, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, to discuss "bilateral, regional and global issues". This is the first Minister-level visit to Iran from India since the beginning of the Gaza crisis on October 7. Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra visited Tehran on November 26 to participate in the Foreign Office Consultation. Iran recently included India among countries whose citizens will not require a visa to travel to the country. 
  • India's engagement with Iran has remained on track despite continuous criticism of Tehran by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. 
  • Kerman claimed more than a hundred lives. Significantly, when an "explosion-like" incident took place near the Embassy of Israel in Delhi on December 26, online supporters of Israel quickly blamed Iran for it. India has not revealed any Iranian connection to that incident so far. 
  • Dr. Jaishankar's visit is also significant as it comes two days after the U.S. and U.K. began bombing "Houthi controlled areas of Yemen". A joint statement by the mainly western alliance said the actions were in line with the "broad consensus" reached at the UN Security Council meeting on December 19, 2023, which was attended by 44 countries. The Indian side has not made any official comment in support of the operation. On its part, India has deployed 10 ships in the overall Arabian Sea area indicating that it is willing to safeguard its commercial interest in the region separately from any kind of alliance with any of its partner countries in or outside the region. 

7. India's oldest living city found in Vadnagar: multi-institution study 

  • A joint study by five prominent institutions has found evidence of a cultural correlation in Vadnagar în present-dayl Gujarat even after the collapse of the Harappan civilisation, thus making it likely that the "Dark Age was a myth. 
  • "From deep archaeological excavation at Vadna gar, a consortium of scientists from the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, Archaeological Survey of India (ASD, Physical Research Laboratory, Jawaharlal Nehru Universit ty, and Deccan College has now found evidence of a human settlement that is as old as 800 BCE contemporary too late-Vedic/preBuddhist Mahajanapadas or oligarchic republics," the IIT said on Friday. 
  • "The study also indicates that the rise and fall of different kingdoms during the 3,000-year period and recurrent invasions of India by central Asian warriors were driven by severe changes in climate like rainfall or droughts. The findings [have been) just published in a paper titled 'Climate, human settlement, and migration in South Asia from early historic to medieval period: evidence from new archaeological excavation at Vadnagar, Western India' in the prestigious Elsevier journal Quaternary Science Reviews," it said, 
  • While the excavation was led by the ASI, the study was funded by the Directorate of Archaeology and Museums (Government of Gujarat), entrusted with building India's first experiential digital museum at Vadnagar. 
  • The IIT said the research at Vadnagar and Indus Valley Civilisation has also been supported by "generous funding" from Sudha Murthy (former chairperson of the Infosys Foundation) for the past five years. 
  • "Vadnagar was a multicultural and multireligious (Buddhist, Hindu, Jain and Islamic) settlement. Excavation in several deep trenches revealed the presence of seven cultural stages (periods) namely, Mauryan, Indo-Greek, In do-Scythian or Shaka Kshatrapas (Satraps"), descendants of provincial governors of ancient Achaemenid Empires, Hin du-Solankis, Sultanate Mughal (Islamic) and Gaek wad-British colonial rule and the city endures even today. One of the oldest Buddhist monasteries has been discovered during our excavation. We found characteristic archaeologi cal artefacts, potteries, copper, gold, silver and iron objects and intricately designed bangles. We also found coin molds of the Greek king Appollodatus during the Indo-Greek rule at Vadnagar," said ASI archeologist Abhijit Ambekar, co-author of the paper. 
  • The period between the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilisation and the emergence of the Iron Age and cities such as Gandhar, Koshal, and Avanti is often depicted as a Dark Age by archaeologists.
  • "Archaeological records are rare, the earliest one being the rock-inscription of Emperor Ashoka at Sudarsana Lake, Girnar hill, Gujarat. Our evidence makes Vadnagar the oldest living city within a single fortification unearthed so far in India. Some of our recent unpublished radiocarbon dates suggest that the settlement could be as old as 1400 BCE contemporary to the very late phase of posturban Harappan period. If true, then it suggests a cultural continuity in India for the last 5500 years and the Dark Age may be a myth," said Professor Anindya Sarkar of the IIT, the lead author of the paper, 

8. Centre planning to promote less-known tourist attractions 

  • The Union Tourism Ministry is creating awareness of less known tourist attractions in the country by holding special festivals and conventions at these places every three or four months. Sources in the Ministry say the events will be Director-General, Tourism Ministry held in collaboration with the State governments at places that are not so popular with tourists as yet but have the potential to emerge as major centers of tourism. 
  • They include wetlands such as those in Sultanpur in Haryana, places of mythological significance such as Kurukshetra in Ha ryana, and cultural heritage sites such as Vijayawada in Andhra Pradesh. 
  • On January 9 and 10, a conference in Kurukshetra hosted tour operators, opinion makers and social media influencers across India, along with officials of the Tourism Ministry, the Haryana Tourism Department, and the local administration. 
  • "The endeavor was to create awareness of the tourism potential and religious significance of the area. The stakeholders discussed various aspects, including infrastructure, accommodation, tourist amenities, inflow of tourists to this area, travel and tourism sustainability, responsible tourism, the involvement of the local community, sensitisation, and training of the service providers for promotion and marketing of the region," R.K. Suman, Regional Director North, Ministry of Tourism, said. 
  • All visitors to northern India always head to spots such as Jaipur and Agra, Manisha Saxena, Director General, Tourism Ministry, pointed out. 
  • "This conference aimed to explore, promote and highlight Kurukshetra and places of significance related to the Mahabharata as a preferred tourist destination among domestic tourists and overseas visitors," Ms. Saxena said. 

9. Ruling party candidate wins Taiwan V polls, vows to fend off 'China threats’ 

  • Taiwan's Presidentelect Lai Chingte vowed on Saturday to defend the self-ruled island from "intimidation" from China, after voters defied warnings from Beijing and swept him to election victory. 
  • Mr. Lai, branded by Beijing as a threat to peace in the flashpoint region, secured an unprecedented third consecutive term for the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) after a raucous campaign in which he pitched himself as the defender of Taiwan's democratic way of life. 
  • Communist China claims Taiwan, separated from the mainland by a 180-km strait, as its own and refuses to rule out using force to bring about "unification", even if con international press conference 'U.S. does not support Taiwan independence' 
  • U.S. President Joe Biden said the U.S. does not support the independence of Taiwan. "We do not support independence..." Mr. Biden said, when asked for reaction to Saturday's elections. 
  • he said are day the U.S. had warned "it would be unacceptable" for "any" country to interfere in the election. The U.S. is Taiwan's most important international backer and arms supplier despite the lack of formal diplomatic ties with the island. 
  • Beijing, which before the poll called Mr. Lai, a "severe danger" and urged voters to shun him, said on Saturday the result would not stop "the inevitable trend of China's reunification". 
  • In his victory speech Mr. Lai said he would maintain peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait but pledged to defend the island from Chinese belligerence. 
  • "We are determined to safeguard Taiwan from continuing threats and intimidation from China," he told supporters. 
  • With votes from all poll- ing stations counted, the Central Election Commission said Lai won 40.1% of votes, ahead of Hou Yu-ih of the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) on 33.5%. 
  • Mr. Lai thanked the Taiwanese people for "writing a new chapter in our democracy" by defying one party China's threats and warnings. "We are telling the international community that between democracy and authoritarianism, we will stand on the side of democracy," he said, adding that he will also try to pursue exchanges with China. 

10. Sarbananda Sonowal Laid Foundation Stone Of The Regional Research Institute For Homoeopathy At Guwahati 

  • Union Ayush Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has laid the foundation stone of the permanent campus of the Regional Research Institute for Homoeopathy and Integrated Ayush Wellness Centre at Azara, Guwahati.
  • A total amount of Rs. 53.89 cr has been sanctioned for this project. 
  • This Institute was established as a Clinical Research Unit of Homeopathy in 1984 in the rented building at Odalbakra, Guwahati. Presently it is situated at Bhetapara, Guwahati in old building of Central Ayurveda Research Institute. 
  • The Institute is providing laboratory services at very nominal rates and successfully completed clinical trials on Skin disorders, Cholera /Gastroenteritis, chronic sinusitis & bronchitis, Influenza like illness, uterine fibroid, otitis media, Hypertension, vitiligo, psoriasis, migraine etc. 

Sarbananda Sonowal in News 

  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches Port Health Organization under Sagar Setu 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches 3rd edition of Global India Maritime Summit 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurates DGNSS “SAGAR SAMPARK 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches ‘SAGAR SAMRIDDHI’ 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal flags off India’s 1st International Cruise Vessel from Chennai to Sri Lanka 

11. Uttar Pradesh To Welcome 5 New Airports In Expansion Drive 

  • Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia has announced the inauguration of five new airports in Uttar Pradesh. 
  • New airports in Azamgarh, Aligarh, Moradabad, Chitrakoot, and Shravasti aim to improve air connectivity in the state, facilitating greater accessibility and economic development. 

About Uttar Pradesh

  • Capital – Lucknow 
  • Chief Minister – Yogi Adityanath
  • Governor – Anandiben Patel 

12. 2024 Is ‘Year Of Technology Absorption’ For Army 

  • The year 2024 will be observed as the “Year of Technology Absorption” by the Indian Army. 
  • This theme underscores our commitment to leverage technology as a catalyst for transformative change, as well as to utilize in-house expertise to innovate solutions to our operational and logistic requirements and give shape to these projects in collaboration with the domestic defence industry. 
  • The Indian Army personnel are being trained to leverage technology and exploit the cyber domain effectively through institutionalized, procedural and technological measures. 
  • Project SAMBHAV is an end-to-end, secure, network-agnostic mobile ecosystem to provide secure communication with instant connectivity on the move. 
  • Operating on state-of-the-art contemporary 5G technology, it represents a significant leap forward in India’s defence capability. 
  • A project that will not only set the stage for productive and fruitful employment of more than 62,000 Indian Army soldiers retiring every year but also empower the skilling & employment of our veterans. 

13. Which are the least powerful passports in the world? 

  • The least powerful passport in the world is Afghanistan. It ranked at 104th spot with access to 28 countries. It is followed by Syria (103), Iraq (102), Pakistan (101) and Yemen (100). 

Which passports have shown the most improvement in ranking? 

  • The United Arab Emirates was the fastest climber over the past decade, jumping to 11th place and offering access to 183 destinations without a visa. China, up two spots this year to 62nd place, has visa-free access to 85 destinations — almost twice as many as ten years ago. 

Recent index 

  • Mercer’s Quality of Living City Index 2023 – Rank 1. Vienna (Austria), Rank 2. Zurich (Switzerland), Rank 3. Vancouver (Canada), Hyderabad (153rd), Pune (154th), Chennai (161st), Mumbai (164th), Kolkata (170th), New Delhi (172nd), Khartoum (Sudan) at the bottom-most position (241st spot). 
  • Climate Change Performance Index 2023 – India ranked 7th 
  • World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2023 – India ranked 49th; topped by US
  • Global Unicorn Rankings – Rank 1. USA, Rank 2. China, Rank 3. India 
  • Inclusiveness index by US varsity – India ranked 117th; topped by – New Zealand 

14. Greece Drafts Bill To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage 

  • Greece will publish a bill shortly that will legalize same-sex marriage in a bid to eliminate discrimination based on sexual orientation, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said. 
  • Greece has implemented a series of reforms over the past decade to improve LGBT+ rights in the country where the Orthodox Church has long opposed equal rights for same-sex couples. 
  • Mitsotakis, who is trying to break away from the traditional image of a conservative leader, has drafted a national strategy on LGBT+ rights that may win support from the left but create opposition in more conservative quarters. 
  • In 2015, Greece recognised cohabitation agreements for same-sex couples providing them with some rights and benefits, but they are still not allowed to have or adopt children as a couple. 

About Greece 

  • Capital – Athens 
  • Currency – Euro (€) 
  • Official languages – Greek, Modern Greek 
  • Prime Minister – Kyriakos Mitsotakis 

15. Sheel Vardhan Singh Assumes Role As UPSC Member 

  • The Central government has appointed former Central Industrial Security Force Director General Sheel Vardhan Singh as a member of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). 
  • Singh is a 1986-batch IPS officer. 
  • The President appointed Sheel Vardhan Singh as Member Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) under Article 316 (11) of the Constitution of India. 
  • The term of his appointment will be regulated in accordance with the provisions of Article 316(2) of the Constitution of India, and the conditions of service will be governed by UPSC (Members) Regulations 1969 as amended from time to time.
  • The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) conducts civil services examination annually to select officers of IAS, Indian Foreign Service (IFS) and Indian Police Service (IPS), among others. 
  • The Commission is headed by a chairman and it can have a maximum of 10 members. 
  • A UPSC member is appointed for a term of six years or until attaining 65 years of age. 

About UPSC 

  • Establishment – 1 October 1926 
  • Headquarters – New Delhi 
  • Chairman – Manoj Soni 
  • UPSC is the central recruitment agency in India for Group ‘A’ officer posts under the Government of India. 
  • It is established as a constitutional body under Article 315 of the Indian Constitution. 
  • Chairman – Manoj Soni 

16. Maheshwar Rao Appointed As MD Of Bangalore Metro 

  • The Union Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has appointed Maheshwar Rao as the full-time managing director of Bangalore Metro Rail Corporation Limited (BMRCL). 
  • The appointment addresses the demand for a full-time MD, which has been persistent since the former MD, Anjum Parvez, assumed the additional chief secretary role in rural development last year. 
  • Rao has served as the commissioner of industrial development and director of industries and commerce. He has also served as the deputy commissioner and district magistrate in Dakshina Kannada and Mandya districts. 
  • BMRCL recently reached a new milestone when it recorded a whopping 2 crore ridership in December 2023—around 6.8 lakh passengers on an average daily—fetching a fare revenue of Rs 55 crore. 
  • The boost in ridership came after BMRCL opened the missing link between Baiyappanahalli and KR Puram, which increased the ridership from 6.4 lakh in October to 6.6 lakh in November last year. 
  • Bengaluru’s metro network spans 73.81 km with phase 1 connecting Kadugodi and Challaghatta (East-West corridor) with Silk Institute and Nagasandra (South-North corridor). 

Recent Appointment 

  •  MD of Experian India – Manish Jain 
  • Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution – Bharat Harbanslal Khera 
  • Additional Secretary as well as Mission Director for the Dept of Drinking Water and Sanitation’s Jal Jeevan Mission – Chandra Bhushan Kumar 
  • Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation – Puja Singh Mandol 
  • Additional Secretary of Home Ministry – Sanjeev Kumar Jindal 
  • Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Women and Child Development – Tripti Gurha 

17. Vivek Murthy Appoints As US Representative On WHO Board 

  • President Joe Biden has reappointed Indian American Surgeon General Vivek Murthy to serve as Representative of the United States on the Executive Board of the World Health Organization. 
  • The White House re-sent Murthy’s nomination as a representative to WHO as his confirmation has been pending in the Senate since October 2022. He will continue his duties as Surgeon General. 
  • The first Surgeon General of Indian descent, Vivek Hallegere Murthy, was confirmed by the US Senate in March 2021 to serve as the 21st Surgeon General under Biden. He previously served as the 19th Surgeon General under President Barack Obama. 

Recent Appointment in Foreign 

  • Secretary General of BIMSTEC – Indra Mani Pandey (replace Tenzin Lekphell, Bhutan) 
  • ‘Class C’ Director on Board of Directors of Federal Reserve Bank of New York – Rajiv Shah 
  • Executive Director of Asian Development Bank (ADB) – Vikas Sheel (for 3 years) 
  • Adviser to the Executive Director of ADB – Smita Sarangi 
  • Counsellor (Economic) in the Embassy of India in Beijing – Kalyan Revella (for 3 years) 
  • Ambassador/Permanent Representative (PR) in World Trade Organization (WTO) – Senthil Pandian C 

18. Varanasi wins ‘Cleanest Ganga Towns’ Award 

  • The spiritual city of Varanasi has secured the top spot in the Cleanest Ganga Town category of Swachh Survekshan 2023, surpassing Prayagraj. 
  • Despite this achievement, Varanasi faced a setback, slipping to the 41st position from the 21st spot in the national ranking for cities with a population exceeding 10 lakh. 
  • Last year witnessed an improvement for Varanasi, climbing nine positions to secure the 21st rank. In 2021, the city held the 30th position. 
  • While Varanasi excelled as the ‘Best Ganga Town’ in Swachh Survekshan 2021, it relinquished the top spot to Hardwar in 2022. 
  • In the latest survey, among Indian cities with a population exceeding 10 lakh, Noida secured the 14th position, Ghaziabad 38th, Aligarh 40th, Varanasi 41st, and Lucknow 44th. 
  • This is a great achievement because a total of 13 cities in the country have received this national award out of which two are from UP. 
  • The Swachh Survekshan, evolving since its initiation in 2016 with 73 major cities, now encompasses 4,477 cities in 2023. The recent ranking underscores the focus on addressing legacy dumpsites, effective plastic waste management, and the implementation of the principles of reduce, reuse, recycle. 
  • Howrah, West Bengal, is ranked as the dirtiest city in India according to the annual cleanliness survey. The bottom spots were occupied by Shillong, Khagaria, and Sitamarhi. 
  • Indore clinched the title of the cleanest city for the seventh time, followed by Surat, Navi Mumbai, Visakhapatnam, and Bhopal.

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