1. Sustained co-operation needed for cleaning Ganga: Bharati
i. Union Water Resources Minister Uma Bharati today called for sustained co-operation from the HRD Ministry for ensuring successful implementation of the 'Namami Gange' programme, by intervening in areas like rural sanitation and adult education on environment.
ii. Addressing a meeting regarding role of IITs and educational institutes in the ambitious programme here today, she mentioned areas where HRD's intervention is "specifically" required.
iii. Bharati also mentioned the major challenge before the government is to keep the Ganga clean with approximately 20 crore people taking dip in it every year. "Small stretches of rural areas can be adopted by educational institutes for treatment of small drains carrying rural sewage and solid waste and facilitate in providing 100 per cent rural sanitation," the ministry quoted Bharti as saying in a statement.
iv. Speaking on the occasion Union Minister for HRD Smriti Irani proposed a three-pronged approach for the involvement of her ministry in the programme. It was mutually agreed that secretaries of both the ministries will discuss these possible approaches and identify actionable points through which HRD Ministry can be involved in the programme. The action plan will include 'goal posts' for three months and review of the progress every six months.
2. ADB released Asian Economic Integration Report 2015
i. Asian Development Bank (ADB) on 8 December 2015 released a report entitled Asian Economic Integration Report 2015: How Can Special Economic Zones Catalyze Economic Development? The report examined current trends in trade, finance, migration, remittances and other economic activities in the region, with a special chapter on the role of special economic zones (SEZs).
ii. Asia’s income elasticity of trade declined from 2.69 before the global financial crisis (2008-09) to 1.30 in 2015. The value of Asia’s intermediate goods trade—almost 60 percent of total trade—contracted 2.6 percent in 2014.
iii. Structural factors for the above decline include a general trend of rebalancing away from export and investment toward consumption and services. And, the slowdown in the expansion of global and regional value chains after decades of rapid expansion and China’s growth moderation.
iv. However, regional trade integration is moving steady and Asia in general trades more with regional partners than outside the region. Asia has become an important source of outbound investment, with FDI outflows outstripping inflows, growing over 45 percent between 2010 and 2014.
v. Special economic zones (SEZs) can be a driving force for increased trade, investment and economic reform in Asia at a time the region is experiencing a slowdown in trade, provided the right business environments and policies are put in place. The expansion in the number of SEZs from about 500 in 1995 to over 4300 in 2015 shows the strong and rising interest to this form of policy experiment, though the success record is somewhat mixed.
3. 2016: UK-INDIA Year of Education, Research and Innovation launched
i. India and United Kingdom on 9 December 2015 launched a joint initiative 2016: UK-INDIA Year of Education and Research in New Delhi. It was launched by visiting Secretary of State, Business Innovation and Skill of the UK Sajid Javid along with Human Resource Development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani.
ii. In 2016, it will allow UK academicians to come to India under Global Initiative of Academic Networks (GIAN) programme. It will enhance partnership in research work in ten research priority areas under IMPRINT (IMPacting Research Innovation and Technology).
iii. It will help the two nations to deepen their bilateral relationship across education, research and innovation. To increase employability in India, the programme will help in development of community colleges and polytechnics of India, blended learning courses. These things will be done with the help of United Kingdom with focus on manufacturing and service sectors, which will help in meeting the requirements of Make in India.
iv. Javid also said that he looks forward to launch third phase of UK-India Education and Research Initiative (UKIERI-III) which could build upon good work already done under earlier phases of UKIERI. The third phase of UKIERI-III, with higher budgetary allocation of 3 million Pounds per year from each side, will commence on 1 April 2016.
v. Apart from 2016: UK-INDIA Year of Education and Research, Sajid Javid also announced the launch of 20th year of Chevening Gurukul Fellowship programme for Leadership and Excellence.
4. India’s Kartik Sawhney and Neha Swain won 2016 Queen's Young Leaders Award
i. Two Indians, Kartik Sawhney and Neha Swain, have won the 2016 Queen's Young Leaders award in the United Kingdom which will be presented by the British monarch in Buckingham Palace in June 2016. Sawhney and Swain have won the prestigious award for their exceptional work in transforming the lives of others and making a lasting difference in their communities.
ii. Kartik Sawhney was born blind. He discovered that blind students were unable to pursue science after Grade 10. Therefore, he appealed and enrolled as India's first Grade 11 blind science student. He founded Project STEMAccess, which offers hands-on science workshops in India, as well as virtual training sessions. He is acknowledged for his exceptional work highlighting universal access to education for all.
iii. Neha Swain is a youth facilitator and co-founder of NGO Rubaroo. The NGO provides an inclusive space for young people, irrespective of their socio-economic background, to develop their leadership skills through interactive workshops. Her team provides workshops to schools in India free of charge and has so far worked with nearly 2000 young people in Hyderabad.
iv. The Queen’s Young Leader Award recognises and celebrates exceptional people aged 18-29 from across the Commonwealth. The award is given to youths who are taking the lead in their communities and using their skills to transform lives.
5. Luxembourg became the 10th country to ratify AoA of Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank
i. Luxembourg on 8 December 2015 became the 10th country to ratify the Articles of Agreement (AoA) that will lay the legal framework for the China-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). Apart from Luxembourg, Australia, Austria, Brunei Darussalam, China, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Singapore and United Kingdom ratified the 60-article agreement so far.
ii. These 10 countries are among the 57 founder-member countries of the multilateral bank that has its headquarters in the Chinese capital Beijing. Among the 57 founder-member countries, except the Philippines all other 56 countries have signed the AoA and 46 countries are yet to ratify it.
iii. Earlier, on 29 June 2015, delegates of 50 countries signed the AoA enmasse including India. Though the Union Cabinet on 18 November 2015 gave its approval for the ratification and submitting of the AoA, formalities in this regard are yet to be completed.
iv. Representatives from 21 Asian countries signed the Memorandum of Understanding on Establishing Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) on 24 October 2014 in Beijing. It is designed to finance infrastructure building in Asia and is headquartered in Beijing.
6. Mahela Jayawardene awarded honorary lifetime membership of MCC
i. Former Sri Lanka captain Mahela Jayawardene on 9 December 2015 was awarded with an honorary life membership of the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC). MCC awarded the honorary life membership of the club to recognise Jayawardene's stellar career in which he played 149 Test matches and scored 11814 runs at an average of 49.84.
ii. Jayawardene became the 14th Sri Lankan to be awarded with MCC Honorary Life Membership. Kumar Sangakkara, Muttiah Muralitharan and Chaminda Vaas were awarded with the same.
iii. MCC is a cricket club in London. It was founded in 1787. It owns, and is based at, Lord's Cricket Ground in St John's Wood, London NW8. It was formerly the governing body of cricket both in England and Wales as well as worldwide. In 1993, many of its global functions were transferred to the International Cricket Council (ICC).
7. IISc Banglore bagged solar panel research and development contract from US Military
i. The prestigious Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Banglore on 9 December 2015 bagged a US military contract for research and development on solar powered micro-grid. It is one of the rare instances that an Indian scientific institute has been awarded a federal contract by the US military.
ii. The federal contract worth 52900 US dollars was awarded by the US Pacific Air Forces, Yokota Air Base in Japan. The contract is awarded to develop solar powered micro-grid with battery and supercapacitor energy storage system.
iii. Indian Institute of Science is a public university for scientific research and higher education located in Bengaluru. The institute was established by Jamsetji Tata in 1909. It acquired the status of a Deemed University in 1958.
iv. As per the criteria of Citations per Faculty in 2014 and 2015, the institute has been ranked at number 11 and 18 respectively worldwide. It was the first Indian institute to feature on Times Higher Education World University Rankings for engineering and technology in the year 2015-16 at 99th position.
8. Human Rights Day observed across the world
i. Human Rights Day was on 10 December 2015 observed across the world. It aimed to promote and raise awareness of the two Covenants of Human Rights Day- International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
ii. On the occasion of the day that marks 50th anniversary of these two International Covenants, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office launched Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always, a year-long campaign to shine a light on the inalienable and inherent rights of global citizens.
iii. The Our Rights. Our Freedoms. Always campaign revolves around the timeless themes of rights and freedom and the relevance of the work that continues in securing and ensuring them.
iv. At its core, FREEDOM underpins the International Bill of Human Rights- freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom of worship and freedom from want.
v. Human Rights Day commemorates the day on which the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. In 1950, the Assembly passed resolution 423 (V), inviting all States and interested organizations to observe 10 December of each year as Human Rights Day.
9. TIME Magazine named German Chancellor Merkel as 2015 ‘Person of the Year’
i. German Chancellor Angela Merkel was named as 2015 Person of the Year on 9 December 2015 by Time Magazine. The magazine cited her role in Europe’s crisis over migration and Greek debt.
ii. The announcement was made by Editor Nancy Gibbs, who in praise of Merkel said that Merkel had provided steadfast moral leadership in a world, where it is in short supply. Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was named runner-up and third place went to US Presidential candidate Donald Trump.
iii. With this, Merkel, 61, joined the list of former winners, including Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin,Mahatma Gandhi, Winston Churchill and Richard Nixon. She is only the fourth woman since 1927 to be named winner outright and the first in 29 years. The other women to win were Wallis Simpson (1936), Queen Elizabeth II (1952) and Corazon Aquino (1986).