1. UNESCO designated Varanasi and Jaipur as members of Creative Cities Network
i. Two Indian cities, Varanasi and Jaipur, on 11 December 2015 have made it to the Creative City Network of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for the first time ever. Varanasi and Jaipur made it to the network in the categories, City of Music and City of Crafts and Folk Art respectively.
ii. UNESCO Director-General, Irina Bokova, announced the designation of 47 cities from 33 countries as new members of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network. India had applied for the first time to UNESCO in these categories in 2015.
iii. Varanasi was advocated as a perfect example of India's intangible cultural heritage as a combination of a temple city with its rich tradition in music. The Varanasi School of Music or the Benaras Gharana is named after the holy city of Varansi. Semi classical genres like Hori, Chaiti, Tappa, Daadra trace city’s rich musical heritage.
iv. The Government of Rajasthan nominated Jaipur under the Creative Cities Network for its art and craft. The city identifies 36 varieties of crafts including the ones related to Sculpture, Pottery Textiles and Jewellery making. Right from King Sawai Jai Singh II of Jaipur in 18th Century to his successors, the city has been nurtured as a centre of artistic excellence.
2. National Commission for Safai Karamcharis recommended to make it a Permanent and Statutory Body
i. National Commission for Safai Karamcharis presented its Annual Report 2014-15 to the Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot on 11 December 2015.
ii. It recommended make the Commission a permanent and statutory body with powers of Civil Court to lend it more credibility. The Contract system should be abolished and ensure payment of minimum wages for Safai Karamcharis. Death victims among Safai Karamcharis should be compensated with a minimum 10 lakh rupees as has already been ordered by the Supreme Court
iii. National Commission for Safai Karamcharis was constituted on 12 August 1994 for a period of 3 years under the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis Act, 1993. It was constituted to promote and safeguard the interests and rights of Safai Karamcharis.
iv. The Commission comprises of a Chairperson, a Vice-Chairperson and five Members. All the members of the Commission are nominated from amongst the persons of eminence connected with the socio-economic development and welfare of Safai Karamcharis, by the Central Government. It also provides that at least one of the Members shall be a woman.
3. Prakash Kumar Singh is new SAIL chairman
i. After remaining headless for over three months, state-run Steel Authority of India (SAIL) on Thursday got a new chairman in 57-year-old Prakash Kumar Singh.
ii. The task of the new chairman would be daunting considering the current state of affairs of the industry and the company which has reported a net loss for the first two quarters of the current fiscal and is set to report a net loss after a gap of 13 years.
ii. SAIL has incurred a net loss of R1,378 crore in H1, FY16 which includes a net loss of R1,056 crore during the second quarter. The situation of the industry is unlikely to change in the immediate future in the face of galloping imports and subdued consumption. Though the government has tried to rein in inward shipment through various trade barriers, these are yet to beard desired results.
iii. From a management trainee appointed in 1980, P K Singh was chosen to become the chairman of the country’s largest steelmaker in the public sector by government head-hunter Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) recommended in September the name of Singh.
iv. The post of permanent chairman in the company has been lying vacant since incumbent CS Verma was refused an extension by the government in June.
4. India, Japan sign deals on bullet train, defence, civil nuclear energy
i. Taking their robust bilateral ties to a new level, India and Japan on Saturday inked a number of pacts in key areas of defence and nuclear energy as well as building of first bullet train network between Mumbai-Ahmedabad at a cost of about Rs 98,000 crore.
ii. The strategic pacts were inked after the summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Japanese counterpart Shinzo Abe during which they also discussed international and regional issues of mutual importance including UN security reforms.
iii. Addressing a joint press meet with Abe, Modi said, “No friend will matter more in realising India’s economic dreams than Japan” while describing Abe as “a personal friend and a great champion of India-Japan partnership”.
iv. The bullet train network will link the India’s financial hub Mumbai with Ahmedabad, the capital of Modi’s home state, Gujarat. Bullet train between the two cities will cut travel time on the 505 kilometre route from eight hours to around three. The approx. cost of the project is estimated to be around Rs 98,000 crore.
v. The two sides also inked agreements - one concerning the Transfer of Defence Equipment and Technology and another related to Security Measures for Protection of Classified Military Information.
5. Salman Rushdie honoured with Mailer Prize for Lifetime Achievement
i. India-born author Salman Rushdie on 10 December 2015 was awarded the prestigious Mailer Prize for lifetime achievement. American experimental performance artist Laurie Anderson presented the award to Rushdie at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York City. The prestigious Mailer Prize honours writers who fully exercise their freedom of creativity and thrive on dialogue and debate.
ii. Rushdie is the author of famous books like, Booker Prize winner Midnight’s Children, and controversial The Satanic Verses. His most recent novel, Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights, was published in the English language in September 2015.
iii. He is a Fellow of the British Royal Society of Literature. He has received the Whitbread Prize for Best Novel (twice), the Writers’ Guild Award, the European Union’s Aristeion Prize for Literature, the London International Writers’ Award and a US National Arts Award.
iv. The Mailer Prize is an American literary award established in 2009 by The Norman Mailer Center and The Norman Mailer Writers Colony. The prize is named after renowned American writer Norman Mailer, considered among the most influential writers of the second half of the 20th century.
v. The prize is given to writers whose work over the years has challenged readers’ perspectives on the world around them.
6. India and Japan signed protocol to amend double taxation avoidance pact
i. The Government of India and the Government of Japan on 11 December 2015 inked a protocol for amending the existing convention for the avoidance of double taxation and for the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income.
ii. The existing convention was signed in 1989. The protocol was signed by Dr Hasmukh Adhia, Revenue Secretary on behalf of India. Kenji Hiramatsu, Ambassador of Japan signed the protocol on behalf of the Government of Japan.
iii. The protocol provides for internationally accepted standards for effective exchange of information on tax matters including bank information and information without domestic tax interest.
iv. It provides that the information received from Japan in respect of a resident of India can be shared with other law enforcement agencies with authorisation of the competent authority of Japan and vice versa.
v. It also provides that India and Japan will lend assistance to each other in the collection of revenue claims. It provides for exemption of interest income from taxation in the source country with respect to debt-claims insured by the Government/Government owned financial institutions.
7. Wipro won 2015 Aegis Graham Bell Award for innovation in IoT
i. Global software giant Wipro on 11 December 2015 announced that it won the 2015 Aegis Graham Bell Award for developing a solution for the Internet of Things (IoT). Wipro’s IoT solution, Universal Data Parser (UDP), fetched the prestigious award.
ii. The Aegis School of Business established the Aegis Graham Bell Awards as a tribute to the father of the telephony, Sir Alexander Graham Bell.
iii. The award is intended to promote innovation, entrepreneurship in the field of Telecom, Internet, Media & Edutainment (TIME) and to provide recognition for outstanding contributions in this field in India.
iv. The awards are organized with support of Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), and Telecom Centres of Excellence (TCOE) India.
8. Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma inaugurates India-Laos conference in Delhi
i. India values its relations with Laos as the two countries share a long history of cultural relations over centuries, Union Tourism and Culture Minister Mahesh Sharma said today.
ii. Inaugurating an international conference on 'India-Laos: Inter-Cultural Relations', he said, "Laos is a peace-loving country and we value our relation with Laos in a big way. We have a long heritage and cultural relations over centuries."
iii. Stating that India has several cultural linkages in Indonesia, Laos and other East Asian countries such as sculptures and temples, Sharma said, "A lot needs to be done with regard to existence of our cultural heritage present in those parts of the world." The event organised by Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts was attended by delegates from Laos, Cambodia, France, Vietnam as well as scholars from various parts of the country.
iv. Ambassador of Lao People's Democratic Republic Southam Sakonhninhom narrated the elements of cultural linkages between his country and India as he appreciated the organisers for holding the seminar on the subject.
v. Prof Sachchidanand Sahay, who gave the keynote address at the seminar, highlighted the rich cultural linkages between India and many other South East Asian countries, including linguistic and architectural.
9. Myanmar launched its first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Inle Lake
i. Myanmar on 11 December 2015 launched its first UNSECO Biosphere Reserve Inle Lake in Shan state. The Inle Lake was designated as UNESCO Biosphere reserve in Paris in June 2015. With this, Myanmar fulfilled its commitment to bio-diversity and eco-system conservation under the UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere Prorgamme.
ii. The inscription of Inle Lake as one of the world natural heritage sites by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) came after that of Myanmar's three Pyu ancient cities in June 2014.
iii. The Inle Lake is spread in an area of 489721 hectares and located in Nyaungshwe township, Taunggyi district in Myanmar's eastern Shan state. The lake gets funding from the government of Norway under the framework of the Inle Lake Conservation and Rehabilitation project.
iv. The wetland ecosystem of this freshwater lake is home to 267 species of birds, out of which 82 are wetland birds, 43 species of freshwater fishes, otters and turtles. The Inle Lake is reported to be the nesting place for globally endangered Sarus crane.
10. Elizabeth Susan Koshy clinched gold in 59th National Shooting Championships
i. Kerala’s Elizabeth Susan Koshy on 11 December 2015 won the Women's 50m Rifle 3 Positions Gold at the 59th National Shooting Championships held at the Dr Karni Singh Shooting range in New Delhi. Haryana’s Anjum Moudgil won the silver medal and Gaayathri N of Tamil Nadu fetched the bronze in the championship.
ii. On the other hand, Commonwealth Games gold medalist Tejaswini Sawant along with veteran Anjali Bhagwat and Priyal Keni won the team gold for Maharashtra in the event, in which the Railways won silver and Haryana won bronze.
iii. Born on 10 May 1994, Koshy made her international debut at the Junior meet in Germany in 2011. In 2011, she won five gold medals in Thiruvananthapuram at the State championship.
iv. She won silver in the Asian Shooting Championships and represented India in the 2013 and 2014 World Cups. She won gold in the 2015 National Games women's 50m Rifle Prone event, the first for Kerala.
11. Indian cyclist Deborah Herold became World No. 4 Cyclist
i. Indian cyclist Deborah Herold on 11 December 2015 became the first Indian female cyclist to be ranked fourth in the World Elite Women Ranking for the 500m time trial event. The ranking was issued by cycling world body International Cycling Union (UCI).
ii. Besides, the Indian team also improved its world ranking to 13th. India is the highest ranking Asian country in 500m time trial. China fetched the 15th spot in the ranking.
iii. 20-year-old Deborah is a tribal girl from Andaman and Nicobar Islands who survived the 2004 Tsunami that devastated the islands. She was trained at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) centre in Andaman and emerged as one of the rising stars of Indian cycling.
iv. In October 2015, Deborah became the first ever Indian to win five medals at the Taiwan Cup Track International Classic, including a gold, three silver and a bronze. In November 2014, the Indian cyclist had won four gold medals at the Track Asia Cup Cycling Championship 2014.