Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 31st January 2024

National News 

1.Educationist nominated to Rajya Sabha 

  • President Droupadi Murmu has nominated Founder Chancellor of Chandigarh University and Education Minister Satnam Singh Sandhu to the Rajya Sabha. 
  • The Union Home Ministry announced the decision in a notification here on Tuesday. 1. Azali Assoumani becomes President of Comoros for the fourth time 
  • Comoros President Azali Assoumani has won a fourth term with 63% of the vote. However, the opposition boycotted the vote, calling it "fraudulent". 
  • Turnout was a remarkable 16%, largely due to the opposition boycott. 
  • The opposition has accused Assoumani of ballot stuffing and early closure of polls, while international observers maintain the overall fairness of the election despite reported irregularities.
  • Following the announcement, clashes broke out between security forces and protesters in the capital Moroni. Protesters blocked roads and the house of a former minister was set on fire. “We can't talk about the results because no elections were held,” opposition candidate Mouigny Baraka Saïd Solei declared. 
  • The World Bank estimates the population at 836,000. According to the Election Commission, only 55,259 of the 189,000 registered voters – only 16% – participated in the presidential election. 
  • Mr Assoumani is a former military officer who first came to power in a coup in 1999 and won his first election in 2002. He dropped out of politics in 2006, before making a comeback with a presidential victory in 2016. 
  • He was able to seek a fourth term in 2018 after presidential term limits were removed following a controversial referendum that led to widespread protests in the country. 

2.India-U.S. ties will make the democratic world order stronger’ 

  • The capital and technological know-how from the U.S. can help India achieve its goal of becoming a developed country by 2047, while investments here can give the American companies high returns and an avenue of de-risking, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said on Tuesday. In addition, he said that India-U.S. cooperation will act as a force multiplier for a rules-based world order. 
  • "India is the largest democracy in the world, and the U.S. is another big democracy. When two big democracies cooperate with each other, it will definitely make the democratic world order stronger. This will act as a force multiplier for rules-based order across the globe. Our work together will be beneficial not only to us, but for the entire world," Mr. Singh said while addressing a conference on "Strengthening Indo-U.S. Relationship in Amrit Kaal Aatmanirbhar Bharat '' organized by Indo-American Chamber of Commerce.
  • Stating that American investments can play a vital role in realizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi's vision of Viksit Bharat, Mr. Singh termed it a win-win situation for both the coun- tries, stating that India's fast-growing economy, its demographic dividend, skilled workforce, and huge domestic market guarantee high returns to the 200 North beda Croak U.S. companies. 
  • Mr. Singh described India and the U.S. as natural partners who must move forward together in both business and strategic sectors amidst the current global geopolitical scenario. 
  • "India and the U.S. support a free, open and rules based international order. Due to this, there is a lot of alignment in our strategic interests. Besides, our eco- nomic relationship is a win-win proposition for both the countries. The current relationship is driven by twin congruence of shared values and aligned interests, which is a guarantee for long sustainability and robustness of ties," Mr. Singh said. 
  • Atmanirbhar Bharat The Defence Minister clarified that the aim of 'Atma Nirbhar Bharat' is not to cut off from the global system and not to work in isolation. He stressed th based on collabo with friendly count shared security and perity. 

3.India Placed 93rd Among 180 Nations In 2023 Corruption Index 

  • Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) offers valuable insights into India’s standing in the global arena of public sector integrity. 
  • India’s placement in the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2023 remained largely unchanged, securing the 93rd position out of 180 countries. 
  • For the sixth consecutive year, Denmark has retained its top position on the index, securing a score of 90, credited to its robust “well-functioning justice systems.
  • The CPI, curated by Transparency International, evaluates nations based on their perceived levels of public sector corruption, utilizing a scale from 0 to 100, where 0 signifies high corruption and 100 represents very clean governance. 

4.President Nominates Shri Satnam Singh Sandhu As Rajya Sabha Member 

  • In a significant move, the President of India nominated Shri Satnam Singh Sandhu as a member of the Rajya Sabha. This decision recognizes Sandhu’s remarkable contributions to education, philanthropy, and community development. 
  • Satnam Singh Sandhu, son of a farmer, rose to become one of India’s prominent educationists. Overcoming personal struggles, he founded Chandigarh Group of Colleges (CGC) in 2001 and established Chandigarh University in 2012. 
  • He champions social causes through his NGOs, “Indian Minorities Foundation” and “New India Development (NID) Foundation,” focusing on health, wellness, and communal harmony. 

5.MoHA extends ban imposed on Students Islamic Movement of India for 5 years 

  • The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) extended the ban against the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) for another five years. 
  • The organisation was declared an “unlawful association,” under the anti-terror law Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) for the first time in 2001. 
  • SIMI has been found involved in fomenting terrorism, disturbing peace and communal harmony to threaten the sovereignty, security and integrity of Bharat. 

6.India’s employable youth up from 33.9% in 2014 to 51.3% in 2024: DEA 

  • The Department of Economic Affairs, in its January 2024 review of the economy, said there is ample scope to mainstream skilling into education curriculum and upskilling a large chunk of the existing workforce into future-relevant skills on the back of a transformative journey in skill development in India in the last decade. 
  • According to the report, the push to mass skilling since 2014 has begun to pay dividends. “The employable percentage of final-year and pre-final-year students increased from 33.9% in 2014 to 51.3% in 2024,” it said citing the findings of the online Wheebox National Employability Test. 
  • Further, the across-the-board progress in skilling has manifested in India’s rising position in WorldSkills Competitions, from 39 in 2011 to 11 in 2022. 
  • Combined with the rising enrolment in higher education (from 3.2 crore in 2013-14 to 4.1 crore in 2020-21), rising employability implies that India’s young workforce is both expanding and becoming increasingly employable. 
  • According to the report, India has 50.2% of men and 41% of women with ten or more years of schooling in the 15-49 age group. 
  • There is an opportunity to make the education-skill continuum the greatest weapon in the Indian Miracle by reaching out to each of these youth who only need to attend finishing schools for employability. 

7.Ola launches e-Bike taxi service in Delhi & Hyderabad 

  • Ride-hailing platform Ola has launched e-bike services in Delhi and Hyderabad. 
  • Ola e-bike fares start from ₹25 for 5 km, ₹50 for 10 km and ₹75 for 15 km. 
  • The company will deploy 10,000 electric scooters in both cities in the coming months. 
  • Ola launched its e-bike taxi service in Bangalore on a pilot basis in September 2023. Within 3 months, the company saw a 40% market expansion, with over 1.75 million rides. 
  • Ola has set up 200 charging stations in Bangalore. 

International News 

8.Sultan Ibrahim Of Johor State Installed As Malaysia’s 17th King 

  • Sultan Ibrahim of Johor state has been installed as Malaysia’s 17th king. This event marks a significant moment in the nation’s constitutional monarchy system, where the throne rotates among the rulers of the nine Malay states. 
  • The installation ceremony of Sultan Ibrahim as the 17th King of Malaysia was a grand and culturally rich event, attended by high-ranking officials, dignitaries, and members of the royal families from across the country. 
  • Sultan Ibrahim is a respected figure in Malaysia, known for his commitment to the welfare of his people and his efforts in developing Johor state. Prior to his installation as the King of Malaysia, he served as the Sultan of Johor, a position he has held since 2010. 

9.Graziers confront Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh 

  • Indian graziers were stopped by Chinese soldiers in the Kakjung area of Ladakh along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) earlier this month, according to a video shot by the local people that was shared on X by Chushul councilor Konchok Stanzin Tuesday. 
  • In the video, the herders can be seen confronting the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers when the latter ask them to go back claiming it to be Chinese territory. The local people, who can be heard speaking in a Tibetan language, are seen throwing rocks at the Chinese soldiers. 
  • The incident occurred on January 2 near Patrolling Points 35 and 36 at Kakjung under the Nyoma constituency in Ladakh, Mr. Stanzin said. While Chinese soldiers with their vehicles can be seen in the video, there is no presence of Indian security forces. 
  • Ishey Spalzang, councilor, Nyoma, told The Hindu that the area is within India's perception of the LAC. 
  • He said that after the face-off, the sarpanch, the sub-divisional magistrate, and officials of the Indian Army and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) visited the grazing site on January 12. "It is a valley and is essential for winter grazing of cattle. In 2019, the Chinese had tried to stop the graziers but we had pitched tents to assert our claim. The nearest Army unit is present around five to seven kilometers from this place. That particular day they were not present," Mr. Spalzang said, adding that the herders had started from their village around 20 days ago before they reached the location. 
  • Mr. Stanzin said on X, "See how our local people are showing their bravery in front of the PLA claiming that the area they are stop- ping is our nomad's graz- ing land. PLA stopping our nomads from grazing in our territory. Seems it is never a never-ending process due to different lines of perceptions. But I salute our nomads, who always stand to protect our land and stand as the second guardian force of the nation." He later told The Hindu that the place where the incident happened is within one kilometer of the Indian claim on the line of the border with China. 
  • A defense source said the video is of an incident that happened in the first week of January where "nomad graziers (with livestock] from our side are seen in conversation with PLA soldiers". 
  • Such incidents are commonplace and happen on both sides whenever graziers stray across the LAC on account of the differing perceptions of the LAC, the source said. Such incidents are dealt with appropriately as per established mechanism. 

10.WHO Honors Countries For The First Time For Eliminating Industrially Produced Trans Fats 

  • In a significant milestone, the World Health Organization (WHO) has issued its first-ever certificates acknowledging advancements in eliminating trans fatty acids (TFA), both industrially produced and naturally occurring. 
  • Five countries—Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and Thailand—have been commended for their pioneering efforts in demonstrating effective policies and robust monitoring and enforcement mechanisms in their TFA elimination strategies. 
  • While the ambitious target set in 2018 to fully eradicate TFA from the global food supply by the end of 2023 was not met, significant strides have been made globally. 

State News 

11.Punjab Govt Launches ‘Sadak Surakhya Force’ (SSF), First Of Its Kind To Cut Road Deaths 

  • Under the visionary leadership of Punjab Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann, a groundbreaking initiative has been unveiled to enhance road safety across the state.
  • The inauguration of the Sadak Surakhya Force (SSF) marks a significant leap forward in safeguarding lives and preventing accidents on Punjab’s extensive road network. 
  • At the helm of this initiative, CM Bhagwant Mann has orchestrated the deployment of the Sadak Surakhya Force (SSF) along the sprawling 5,500 km stretch of national and state highways in Punjab. 
  • Emphasizing the urgency of timely assistance, CM Bhagwant Mann has championed the SSF’s commitment to reaching accident sites within the critical 15-minute window. This rapid response capability is poised to significantly reduce fatalities and ensure prompt medical attention to those in need. 

12.North American 'Laughing Gull' bird seen for the first time in the country in Kasaragod, Kerala 

  • 'Laughing Gull', a migratory bird from North America, has been seen for the first time in the country at the Chittari estuary in Kasaragod district of Kerala. Bird lover and school teacher C. Srikanth spotted the bird and photographed it. 
  • This bird, known for its unique laughter-like sounds, has traveled thousands of kilometers from North America to the coastal region of the state. These birds are found primarily on the Atlantic coast of North America, the Caribbean, and northern South America. 
  • They are opportunistic carnivores and scavengers. They mainly eat fish, shellfish, crabs, mollusks, insects, birds' eggs and young birds. 
  • Srikant said, “On closer examination, the bird had a black upper body, black legs, a long hooked beak and a dark spot on the back of the head, which confirmed it to be a laughing seagull. " 
  • He then reached out to J Praveen, chief editor of Indian Birds, Journal of South Asian Ornithology, and bird experts G Jinu, John Garrett, Adent Kiely and Hans Larsen, who confirmed the discovery. 
  • The e-Bird application, dedicated to collecting scientific bird information, played an important role in disseminating this discovery. The discovery brings the total number of bird species found in India to 1,367, with Kasaragod district contributing 400 species to the state's total count of 554. 
  • Srikant has about 20 years of bird watching experience. He had earlier visited The Asian House Martin in Paithalmala, Kannur. Nine rare bird species, including the Egyptian vulture, were spotted in the district last year. 

Defence News 

13.Preeti Rajak became the first woman Subedar of the Indian Army 

  • Trap shooter Preeti Rajak has become the first woman Subedar of the Indian Army after an out-ofturn promotion following her silver medal performance at the 19th Asian Games held in Hangzhou. 
  • Rajak joined the Army in the Military Police Corps in December 2022 on the basis of her performance in trap shooting, and she was also the first female sportsperson from the shooting discipline to join the rank of Subedar, Havildar of the Mhowbased Army Marksmanship Unit. 
  • Apart from Rajak, those who trained at AMU include Olympic medalist Colonel Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (now Rajasthan BJP MLA) and Subedar Major Vijay Kumar. 
  • Preeti Rajak, currently ranked sixth in India in the trap women's event, continues to hone her skills at the Army Marksmanship Unit (AMU) in preparation for the upcoming Paris Olympics in 2024. 
  • In a separate development, Subedar Major and Honorary Lieutenant Jitu Rai were also promoted to the prestigious rank of Subedar Major and Honorary Captain. He was also honored with Padmashree and Arjuna Award. 

14.SARVATRA: Indian Army’s Mobile Bridge System 

  • The Indian Army, under the Ministry of Defence, stands vigilant against external threats, prioritizing cutting-edge equipment like SARVATRA – a Multispan Mobile Bridging System. 
  • Crafted by Armament and Combat Engineering Systems under the Defence Research and Development Organisation, SARVATRA epitomizes innovation in bridging solutions, ensuring seamless connectivity for the Indian Army. 
  • SARVATRA emerges as a beacon of innovation, designed to bridge gaps swiftly, especially over water bodies, enhancing connectivity and logistical efficiency for the Indian Army. 
  • Developed in collaboration with Bharat Earth Movers Limited (BEML), SARVATRA epitomizes the synergy between government agencies and the private sector in bolstering national defense. 

15.Military Regimes of Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso Withdraw from ECOWAS

  • The military regimes in Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger have announced their immediate withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), citing the bloc as a threat to member states. 
  • The leaders of the three nations justified their withdrawal as a “sovereign decision,” criticizing ECOWAS for an “irrational and unacceptable posture” in imposing sanctions. They formed an “Alliance of Sahel States” to strengthen their stance. 
  • The joint statement accused ECOWAS of failing to assist in tackling jihadist threats and claimed the bloc, influenced by foreign powers, had strayed from its founding principles. 

Economy News 

16.A glowing 10-year report card must not stoke complacency 

  • A head of the Interim Budget for 2024-25 on Thursday, the Finance Ministry's 10-year review of the economy with some forward outlook, serves as a proxy to the annual Economic Survey. The review signals GDP will grow close to 7% in 2024-25, with scope to go 'well above' 7% by 2030. From about $3.7 trillion this year, India's economy will expand to $5 trillion in three years, making it the world's third largest, and could hit the $7 trillion dollar mark by 2030, it reckons. Splicing India's growth story into two phases 1950-2014, and a 'decade of transformative growth' since 2014 the review stresses that the state of the economy was 'far from encouraging' when Prime Minister Narendra Modi 'assumed power'. Growth was hobbled by structural constraints such as tardy decision- making, ill-targeted subsidies and a large informal sector, while inflation was unpalatable high. Post-2014 reforms have restored the economy's ability to grow healthily with "longer and stronger" economic and financial cycles, and made India the fastest growing G-20 nation, it argues. The review asserts that India's 7% growth when the world is growing 2%, is 'qualitatively superior' to 8%-9% achieved when the global economy grows 4%, perhaps, hinting at a few years of the UPA era. This is debatable as India's economy is generally delinked from the world with domestic activity driving growth more than exports. 
  • Now that the twin-balance sheet problem inherited from the UPA days has turned into an 'advantage', as the review stresses, it must translate into a wider private investment revival. That would hinge on a broad-based consumption rebound rather than the K-shaped recovery the government vehemently dismisses. Four years of 7%-plus growth, post-pandemic, would be com- mendable indeed. However, India needs to grow faster to create jobs at the scale its youth need and ensure that a rising growth tide lifts most boats, if not all. The review expects an 'all-inclusive welfare approach' to help enlarge the consumption base by expanding the middle class. But those dependent on handouts, such as the 800 million that need free food by the Centre's reckoning, must progressively shrink for growth to be meaningful and equitable. The report rightly mentions reforms in learning outcomes, health, easier compliances for smaller firms, as priorities, with some critical changes at the 'sub- national government' level to accelerate growth. It is also essential that flaws in reforms such as GST are fixed and some of the blunt policy tools deployed, for instance, import licenses and price controls on deregulated products, that send convoluted signals about India's 'open market with predictable policies' pitch, are reconsidered. 

Schemes and Committee News 

17.Odisha government approves Rs 100 crore ' LABHA scheme' for purchasing minor forest produce 

  • Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik led state government has approved the launch of “Laghu Baan Jatya Dravya Kray” – LABHA scheme with a budget of Rs 100 crore towards the development and empowerment of around one crore tribals. 
  • LABHA is a 100% state-funded Minimum Support Price (MSP) for Minor Forest Produce (MFP). Under this scheme, the state government will set the minimum support price every year for minor forest produce. 
  • Tribal primary collectors will sell the minor forest produce at MSP through procurement centers managed by TDCCOL (Tribal Development Cooperative Corporation of Odisha Limited). 
  • It will help in systematic collection, processing and marketing of minor forest products and play a major role in livelihood and economic development. 
  • On behalf of the state government, TDCCOL will procure forest products through women SHGs, who will get a benefit of 2 percent. This will benefit more than 30000 primary collectors and 1000 SHGs (women) in 119 blocks of 14 predominantly tribal districts. 
  • The amount collected will be transferred to the beneficiary's account through Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT), with the SHG or designated agencies getting 2% commission. 
  • TDCOL will conduct e-tendering for onward sales, exploring value addition and processing units to maximize returns. 
  • The state government plans to set up a Rs 25 crore tamarind processing plant in Rayagada, using MFPs from the LABHA scheme for value addition. 
  • The State Cabinet approved the proposal to constitute a Commission for the Preservation and Promotion of Tribal Languages of Scheduled Tribes of Odisha. The state cabinet also approved the proposal to encourage multilingual education. 
  • The Odisha Cabinet decided to withdraw the decision taken on November 14 last year regarding the 1956 rules that allowed transfer of tribal land to non-tribals. 

Appointment News 

18.Sharat Chauhan appointed as Puducherry’s New Chief Secretary 

  • Sharat Chauhan (Principal Commissioner, Finance, Planning and Investment Department, Arunachal Pradesh) is the new Chief Secretary of the Union Territory of Puducherry. 
  • The outgoing Chief Secretary, Rajeev Verma, has been posted as Adviser to the Administrator in Chandigarh. 
  • Chauhan belongs to the 1994 AGMUT (Arunachal Pradesh-Goa-Mizoram and Union Territory) cadre. 
  • Chauhan has also served as an Executive Officer to the Regional Director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), South East Asia Region. 

Recent Appointment 

  • Chairman of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) – Anil Kumar Lahoti (replace PD Vaghela) 
  • Indian Army’s 1st Woman Subedar – Preeti Rajak 
  • CMD for Colliers Project Leaders Middle East – Sankey Prasad 
  • CEO of Jindal Stainless Ltd – Tarun Khulbe 
  • CEO of PepsiCo India – Jagrut Kotecha (replace Ahmed El Sheikh) 

19.NTPC Limited gets certified as a Top Employer 2024 in India 

  • The 2024 Top Employers of the Top Employers Institute have been announced and NTPC Limited has been certified as a Top Employer in India by the institute.
  • NTPC completed the following steps in order to qualify for the certification: HR Best Practice Survey, Validation and Audit. 
  • NTPC’s performance score was rated against an international standard and NTPC has achieved Top Employer status. 
  • NTPC Limited, formerly known as National Thermal Power Corporation, is an Indian central Public Sector Undertaking under the ownership of the Ministry of Power and the Government of India, which is engaged in the generation of electricity and other activities. 
  • The headquarters of the PSU are situated at New Delhi.
  • NTPC is India’s largest energy conglomerate with roots planted way back in 1975 to accelerate power development in India. 

20.Government Appoints Four Key Members Of The Sixteenth Finance Commission 

  • The government has taken a significant step in shaping the Sixteenth Finance Commission (SFC) by appointing 4-key members, three of whom are designated as full-time members. 
  • The Commission, headed by Shri Arvind Panagariya, former Vice-Chairman of NITI Aayog, was constituted on December 31, 2023. 

Banking and financial News 

21.Mahila Samman Savings Certificate collected over ₹14,500 crore in 9 months 

  • Over 22.5 lakh accounts have been opened under the Mahila Samman Saving Certificate Scheme (MSSCS) in the first nine months of the fiscal with a deposit of over ₹14,500 crore. 
  • The scheme was announced in the budget 2023. The scheme was notified on March 31 and made available through 1.6 lakh post offices from April 1. 
  • Data shows, Maharashtra circle leads in opening accounts under MSSCS with over 4.5 lakh accounts and deposits of over 2,800 crore followed by Tamil Nadu circle (around 3.5 lakh accounts, around ₹1,600 crore of deposits), Odisha circle (over 2.5 lakh accounts, over ₹1,000 crore of deposits), Karnataka circle (around 1.7 lakh accounts, around ₹1,200 crore of deposits) and Andhra Pradesh circle (over 1.3 crore accounts, over ₹600 crore of deposits). 
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her speech for the 2023-24 Union Budget announced: “For commemorating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, a one-time new small savings scheme, Mahila Samman Savings Certificate, will be made available for two years up to March 2025. 
  • This will offer a deposit facility up to ₹2 lakh in the name of women or girls for a tenor of two years at a fixed interest rate of 7.5 per cent with partial withdrawal option. 
  • TDS (tax deducted at source) is not applied on interest earned on MSSCS, but interest income will be added to total income for tax calculation. 

Important Day News 

22.31 January – International Zebra Day 

  • International Zebra Day is observed annually on January 31.
  • Objective – To raise awareness about the conservation of zebras.
  • These unique animals, easily recognizable by their black and white stripes, are an integral part of Africa’s wildlife and ecosystem. 
  • According to the African Wildlife Foundation, their population has decreased by approximately 54% over the past three decades. Science and technology News 

23.Scientists Discover New Kangaroo Lizard Species In Western Ghats: A “Diminutive Dragon” 

  • In a remarkable discovery, scientists have identified a new species of tiny lizards in the biodiverse forests of the Western Ghats, describing them as “diminutive dragons.” 
  • The newfound species, named Agasthyagama edge or the northern kangaroo lizard, belongs to the Agamidae family, characterized by its diminutive size with a maximum snout-vent length of 4.3 cm. 
  • This species marks the second in the Agasthyagama genus, following the previously reported A. beddomii found in the Sivagiri hills of Tamil Nadu. The recent discovery was made by a collaborative team of scientists from various institutions in India and abroad, conducting research in the southern Western Ghats at Kulamavu in Idukki. 

24.Elon Musk’s Neuralink Implants Brain Chip In First Human 

  • In a groundbreaking development, Neuralink, the neurotechnology company co-founded by Elon Musk, has successfully implanted its first brain chip into a human being. 
  • This marks a significant step forward in the field of brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) and opens up a myriad of possibilities for the future of medical treatment and human enhancement. 
  • The primary goal of Neuralink’s brain chip is to address various neurological conditions, such as epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, and spinal cord injuries. By recording and stimulating brain activity, the Link could offer new treatment options for patients suffering from these conditions. 

Ranks and Reports News 

25.After four years of survey, India's snow leopard count put at 718 

  • India has an estimated 718 snow leopards in the wild, according to a first-of-its kind, four-year-long estimation exercise, the results of which were made public on Tuesday. 
  • The snow leopard is known to be an elusive cat and located in mountainous terrain that is hard to access, and the exercise for the first time marks a base threshold for the animal's numbers in India. 
  • The highest number of cats was estimated to be in Ladakh (477), followed by Uttarakhand (124), Himachal Pradesh (51), Arunachal Pradesh (36), Sikkim (21), and Jammu and Kashmir (nine). The current estimate puts the number of Indian snow leopards between 10% and 15% of the global population. 
  • The exercise involved setting up cameras, or camera traps, in 1,971 locations and surveying 13,450 km of trails which teams surveyed for recording signs of snow leopards such as scat, hair and other body markers. Much like the approach used in surveys to estimate tiger numbers, the States conducted the surveys and the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India, an autonomous body of the Union Environment Ministry, used software and statisti- cal methods to estimate the number of individual cats that are present but not caught on camera and combined them with those caught on camera. 
  • "Essentially we use a similar statistical approach to that being used in the tiger surveys for the past 20 years. It's a rigorously tested equation and not dependent on guesswork," V.B. Mathur, former head of the WII, involved in the study, told The Hindu. 
  • "Over the years, technology and statistics has improved leading to better estimates. What we now have is a good, scientifically established baseline that will be a reference for future surveys," he added. 
  • The Snow Leopard Population Assessment in India (SPAI) began in 2019 and involves the World Wide Fund for Nature-India and the Nature Conservation Foundation, Mysuru, along with the WII. 
  • The snow leopard is classified as 'vulnerable' by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and faces threats from free- ranging dogs, human-wildlife conflicts, and poaching. 

26.Center starts survey on participation of women in workforce 

  • The Union Minister of Labour & Employment and Women & Child Development have started a joint survey on increasing women participation in the workforce. The survey was announced by Union Minister Smriti Irani here on Tuesday at a function, "Women in the workforce for Viksit Bharat ''. 
  • The survey is being undertaken to assess the spread of women employee-friendly practices in the country. Various in- ternational agencies and trade unions, including the International Labour Organization, had expressed concern over the decrease in participation of women workforce in the country. 
  • The latest results of the Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS), released by the Labour Bureau last October, showed a considerable increase in women participation. In 2017-18, the participation rate was 23.3% and in 2022-23, 37%. The survey, conducted by the Union Labour Ministry through the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation and other government agencies, has asked questions to the subscribers of government schemes about policies or initiatives for women by the companies they are employed with. 
  • The government is seeking details such as formation of the internal complaints committee for prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, creche for children, equal pay for equal work, flexible or remote working hours for women and transportation facilities during late hours. 
  • A senior officer said the survey is carried out in a confidential manner. "We are not asking the names of [the women] or any other identification details, except their gender," the officer said. The name of the company, its location and address are also sought in the survey. 

27.Finance Ministry Issues ‘Indian Economy – A Review’ Report Instead Of Economic Survey 

  • In 2024, India will not have the usual Economic Survey traditionally presented before the Union Budget. Instead, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present an interim budget, known as a vote-on-account, on February 1. 
  • The reason for not presenting the Economic Survey this year is the election context. 2024 is an election year in India, and presenting the Economic Survey could lead to politicization due to the potential change in government after the elections. This could disrupt the regular Budget process. 
  • However, the Ministry of Finance has released an alternative report titled “Indian Economy – A Review,” prepared by the office of Chief Economic Advisor (CEA) V Anantha Nageswaran. 

Miscellaneous News 

28.Scottish 2-Year-Old Sets Record: Youngest To Reach Everest Base 

  • A remarkable feat unfolded as two-year-old Carter Dallas from Scotland etched his name into the annals of mountaineering history by becoming the youngest person to reach the Mount Everest base camp. Accompanied by his parents, Ross and Jade, Carter embarked on an extraordinary journey that captured the world’s attention. 
  • Traversing the rugged terrain of Nepal, the Dallas family, with Carter securely on Ross’s back and Jade by their side, made their way to the south side of Mount Everest. At an altitude of 17,598 feet above sea level, Carter achieved a feat that defied his tender age, surpassing the previous record held by a four-year-old from the Czech Republic. 

Sports News 

29.Khelo India Winter Games 2024 Mascot Unveiled 

  • The Khelo India Winter Games 2024, a significant event in the Indian sports calendar, is all set to commence, bringing with it the thrill and excitement of winter sports.
  • The mascot for the Khelo India Winter Games 2024 is the majestic snow leopard, named ‘Sheen-e She’ or ‘Shan’ in the Ladakh region. Native to the high-altitude areas of J&K and Ladakh, the snow leopard symbolizes the spirit of the Games and brings attention to the conservation of this endangered species. 
  • The logo, adorned with the Indian tricolor, encapsulates the beauty of the Himalayan landscape and the diverse sports of the Games. It features a Dharmachakra (turning wheel of Dharma) atop a hill in Chanspa, Leh, the venue of the Games, representing the unity and strength of the nation. 

Obituaries News 

30.Historian R. Champakalakshmi Passes Away 

  • The academic community is mourning the passing of R. Champakalakshmi, a revered historian, former president of the Indian History Congress, and professor at the Centre for Historical Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University. 
  • R. Champakalakshmi’s career was distinguished by her deep and varied expertise in subjects such as archaeology, iconography, ideology, statecraft, and trade. 
  • She was known for her ability to bridge the gap between traditional and modern approaches in historiography, contributing significantly to the understanding of early and medieval South India. 

31.First hockey Olympian of Chandigarh dies 

  • Chandigarh’s first hockey Olympian, Sukhbir Singh Gill passed away at the age of 48. 
  • Sukhbir Singh Gill, who represented the Indian men’s hockey team at the Sydney 2000 Olympics and the 2002 Hockey World Cup in Kuala Lumpur. 
  • He also helped the Indian team to a gold medal finish at the 2001 Men’s Hockey Champions Challenge in Malaysia. 

Agreement News 

32.NTPC Green Energy Inks Rs 80,000 Cr MoU With Maharashtra Govt For Green Hydrogen 

  • NTPC Green Energy Ltd (NGEL), a subsidiary of NTPC, recently inked a groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) worth Rs 80,000 crore with the Maharashtra government. 
  • This strategic collaboration aims to pioneer green hydrogen projects within the state, aligning closely with the government’s vision outlined in its Green Investment Plan. 
  • The MoU encompasses a comprehensive plan to develop green hydrogen projects and their derivatives, such as green ammonia and green methanol. 
  • The agreement also includes the establishment of pump hydro projects and the development of renewable energy (RE) projects, further solidifying Maharashtra’s commitment to sustainable energy solutions.

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