1. Sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik's Santa Claus sculpture featured in Limca Book of Records
i. Well-known sand artist Sudarsan Pattnaik’s Santa Claus sculpture on 29 December 2015 found a place in Limca Book of World Records. Pattnaik claimed that he had created a 45 feet high sand Santa Claus at Puri beach on 24 December 2015, which was recognised as the largest sand Santa Claus as of today by the Limca Book of World Records.
ii. Pattnaik was assisted by 20 of his students from the Sudarsan Sand Art Institute of Puri to build the giant structure. It took him 22 hours to build the structure which will be on display till 1 January 2016.
iii. The artist had also created sculptures of Jesus and Mother Mary near Santa Claus. Pattnaik had already created eight world records registered with the Limca Book of World Records.
iv. Sudarsan Pattnaik is a world-renowned Indian sand artist from Odisha. Born on 15 April 1977, he self-taught himself the art of sand sculpture. He established The Golden Sand Art Institute which is first of its nature in India.
v. His sculptures include environmental crisis, famous festivals, national integrity and religious tolerance. He has represented India in 50 international Sand Sculpture championship and festivals all around the world and won 27 championship prizes for the country.
vi. In 2013, he won gold medal at Saint Peters Burg in 12th International sand sculpture competition at Russia. His sand sculpture on Black Taj Mahal earned him accolades all over the world. In 2014, he was awarded the Padma Shri by Government of India.
2. Cabinet clears formation of JVs between Indian Railways and states
i. The Cabinet on Wednesday approved the formation of joint venture companies with various state governments to mobilise resources for undertaking rail infrastructure projects.
ii. The initial paid-up capital of the Ministry of Railways will be limited to Rs. 50 crore for each state. The joint venture companies would be formed with equity participation from the Ministry of Railways and the state governments concerned. Each joint venture will have an initial paid-up capital of Rs. 100 crore and based on the projects to be undertaken, further fund infusion would be done on approval of the project.
iii. The joint ventures will be allowed to form project-specific special purpose vehicles with equity holding from other stakeholders such as banks, ports, public sector undertakings, mining companies, and others.
iv. “This would ensure greater participation of state governments in implementation of railway projects, both in terms of financial participation as well as the decision-making process. This will also facilitate faster statutory approvals and land acquisition,” an official statement added.
v. Meanwhile, the Cabinet also approved signing of various memorandums of understandings in the field of urban development. One such MoU is between SITNEF, Norway, and Central Public Works Department for cooperation in development of human resource capacity building and scientific research in recycling of construction and demolition waste in India.
3. WHO officially declared Guinea Ebola-free
i. The World Health Organization (WHO) on 29 December 2015 declared the end of Ebola virus transmission in the Republic of Guinea. The organization took the decision after observing that 42 days have passed since the last person confirmed to have Ebola virus disease and tested negative now.
ii. Guinea now enters a 90-day period of heightened surveillance to ensure that any new cases are identified quickly before they can spread to other people. The decision came after more than 2500 people died from the virus in the West African nation. With this, Liberia becomes the only country still counting down for an end to this ruinous epidemic.
iii. The end of Ebola transmission in Guinea marks an important milestone in the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The original chain of transmission started two years ago in Gueckedou, Guinea in late December 2013.
iv. The outbreak later spread to neighbouring countries Liberia and Sierra Leone and ultimately travelled to seven other countries. The total number of people infected with Ebola eventually totalled more than 28000. And the number of people who died from the disease reached more than 11200.
v. In addition to the original chain of transmission, there have been 10 new small Ebola outbreaks between March and November 2015. These appear to have been due to the re-emergence of a persistent virus from the survivor population. This is for the first time that all three countries Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have stopped the original chains of transmission that were responsible for starting this devastating outbreak.
4. Online virtual science lab for school students
i. Students who have opted for the Science stream at the high school level, but have no access to physical labs now have the option to perform experiments in a virtual science-lab. Thanks to the educational technology initiative - “Online Labs” - developed by Amrita CREATE (Centre of Research in Advanced Technologies for Education) in association with CDAC (Centre for Development of Advanced Computing).
ii. OLabs or Online virtual Science Labs allows students to repeat the experiments as many times as they wish; it includes simulators, videos, animation, theory and quiz. It is based on the premise that lab experiments can be taught over the Net in a cost effective and efficient manner.
iii. According to Venkat Rangan, Vice Chancellor, Amrita University – the initiative is aimed at helping students understand complex science concepts and build scientific temper. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Minister of Communications and Information Technology launched this elearning programme on Tuesday. Under this nationwide initiative, Amrita has set a target of preparing around 30,000 science teachers from across the country on how to use OLabs, so they can in turn help students perform experiments in a virtual lab.
iv. OLabs has been officially endorsed by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) as a teaching aid for all its schools. It is expected to be available in Hindi, Malayalam and Marathi and offered in both urban and rural schools.
v. Online Labs technology has an offline tablet-based component as well, which ultimately would allow the trained faculty to take the labs to remote pockets, where connectivity is still an issue. Amrita is hoping that in a span of three years at least 10000 schools across the country would be provided free access to OLabs. The Online Labs is said to have over 80,000 registered users already.
5. Ian Fraser Lemmy Kilmister, founding member of metal band Motorhead, died
i. Ian Fraser Lemmy Kilmister, founding member and singer in the British heavy metal band Motorhead, passed away on 28 December 2015 after battling cancer. He was 70. Popularly known as Lemmy, he played furiously on platinum-selling Motorhead albums like Ace of Spades , Overkill and Iron Fist.
ii. He was born in December 1945 in Staffordshire, England. He joined the English psych-rock band Hawkwind in 1971, but got kicked out several years later for abusing amphetamines drug. In response, he formed Motorhead in 1975.
iii. Motorhead has released 22 studio albums with Lemmy as its only constant member. His last album was Bad Magic in 2015. He was regarded as the godfather for rock n roll endurance and genres like thrash and speed metal.
6. Noted Gujarati writer Raghuveer Chaudhary selected for 51st Jnanpith award
i. Eminent Gujarati litterateur Raghuveer Chaudhary was on 29 December 2015 selected for the 51st Jnanpith award for his contribution to the Indian literature.
ii. The decision was taken in a meeting of the Jnanpith Selection Board chaired by noted scholar Namwar Singh. Other members of the selection board are Shamim Hanfi, Harish Trivedi, Suranjan Das, Ramakant Rath, Chandrakant Patil, Alok Rai, Dinesh Misra and Leeladhar Mandloi.
iii. Chaudhary is the fourth Gujarati litterateur to bag this prestigious award after Uma Shankar Joshi (1967), Pannalal Patel (1985) and Rajendra Shah (2001).
iv. Born in 1938 in Gujarat, Raghuveer Chaudhary is a novelist, poet, critic, a prominent figure on contemporary Gujarati literary scene and a Gandhian. His talent has been influenced by works of Govardhanram Tripathi, Kaka Kalelkar, Suresh Joshi, Prof Ramdarash Mishra and Prof GN Dickey.
v. He authored more than 80 books and some of his notable novels include Amrita, Venu Vatsala, Purvarang and Laagni Samjyaa Vinaa Chuuta Padvanu. He also had worked as a columnist for numerous newspapers such as Sandesh, Janmabhumi, Nirikshaka and Divya Bhaskar.
vi. He was a teacher at the Gujarat University until his retirement in 1998. He has received numerous awards including Sahitya Akademi Award for his novel Trilogy Uparvaas in 1977.
7. China launched Gaofen-4 dual-use geostationary satellite
i. China on 29 December 2015 successfully launched Gaofen-4 Earth observation satellite toward a geostationary orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in the south-western province of Sichuan. The Satellite was launched aboard a Long March-3B carrier rocket.
ii. Launched as a part of the China High-resolution Earth Observation System (CHEOS), Gaofen-4 is located at the orbit 36000 kilometres away from the earth and moves synchronously with the earth.
iii. It can see an oil tanker on the sea with a huge CMOS camera, reaching the best imaging level among global high-orbit remote sensing satellites. It will be used for disaster prevention and relief, surveillance of geological disasters and forest disasters, and meteorologic forecast. It will offer optical spatial resolution of better than 50 metres and infrared sensing capabilities from geostationary orbit.
iv. It is designed to operate for eight years at an altitude of almost 36000 km above the Earth. The satellite was launched as a part of Gaofen project that aims to launch seven high-definition observation satellites before 2020. Gaofen-1, the first satellite of the project, was launched in April 2013.
8. Veteran singer Subir Sen passed away
i. Veteran singer Subir Sen passed away on 29 December 2015 due to lung cancer in Kolkata. He was 81. He is survived by his wife and a daughter. Sen was condemned to be clone of senior and talented Hemant Kumar. From the 1950s till the 1980s, the melodious singer had sung a number of hit songs. He had also sung duets with Asha Bhonsle and Lata Mangeshkar.
ii. A hit film Aas ka Panchhi marked the peak of Sen’s popularity. Similarly, Chhoti Bahen had several duets by him and Lata Mangeshkar which dominated the charts of the time.
iii. Some of Sen’s well-known songs include Aa ja re nain dware from the Dev Anand-Waheeda Rehman starrer Roop Ki Rani Choron Ka Raja and Main rangeela pyar ka raahi in Chhoti Bahen.
iv. He was also known for his Bengali songs like Dhoronir pathey pathey, Monalisa tumi ki bolona and Saradin tomay cheye.
9. Ex Chief of Indian Army General Om Prakash Malhotra passed away
i. General Om Prakash Malhotra, former Punjab Governor and ex-Chief of Army, passed away on 29 December 2015 due to old age. He was 93. He is survived by his wife and two children. General Om Prakash Malhotra was the 13th Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army from 1978 – 1981.
ii. He was born in Srinagar, Kashmir, in August 1922 and attended Government College in Lahore before being selected to join the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun. He was commissioned into the Regiment of Artillery. He commanded different Artillery Regiments between November 1950 and July 1961.
iii. He was the Military Attache at the Indian Embassy in Moscow for over three years from June 1962. He served as the Ambassador of India to Indonesia from 1981 - 1984. He was appointed as the Governor of Punjab and Administrator of Chandigarh from 1990 - 1991.
iv. He was also the President of the Equestrian Federation of India for nearly nine years. For his outstanding services to the nation and the Indian Army, he was honoured with Param Vishsist Seva Medal in 1976. In 1994, he was conferred with the Degree of Doctor of Letters (Honours Causa) by the University of Jammu.
10. Indian Navy successfully test fires Barak-8 long range missile from INS Kolkata
i. In a boost to India’s maritime prowess, the Navy today successfully test-fired the nearly 70 KM range Surface to Air Missile Barak 8 from INS Kolkata, paving the way for installation of the system, developed jointly by India and Israel, on board country’s frontline warships. The Navy described the maiden firing of its newly developed Long Range Surface to Air Missile (LR SAM) as a significant milestone in enhancing its anti-air warfare capability.
ii. The firing was undertaken on the Western Seaboard by INS Kolkata, wherein the missile successfully intercepted an aerial target at extended ranges, a statement by Navy said. Two missiles were fired yesterday and today on high speed targets, during naval exercises being undertaken in the Arabian Sea.
iii. Apart from the missile, the system includes a Multi Functional Surveillance and Threat Alert Radar (MF STAR) for detection, tracking and guidance of the missile. The firing trial of the LR-SAM has been jointly carried out by the Indian Navy, DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries.
iv. Israel made MF-STAR radar system is capable of simultaneously tracking hundreds of airborne targets to a range of more than 250 KM. DRDL, Hyderabad, a DRDO Lab, has jointly developed this missile in collaboration with Israel Aerospace Industries. The LR-SAM has been manufactured by M/s Bharat Dynamics Limited.
v. With the successful proving of these systems, the Indian Navy has become part of a select group of Navies that have this niche capability, which would provide a fillip to India’s maritime operations. The firing trial of the LR SAM has been jointly carried out by the Indian Navy, DRDO and Israel Aerospace Industries. It is expected that India and Israel are likely to win orders worth billions of dollars for the multi-purpose Barak-8 missile system.
vi. A Barak-8 battery, including the Adir radar system made by IAI subsidiary Elta Systems, a command and control system, and the missile launchers, is already installed on the deck of Israeli Navy ship Lahav, from which the new interceptor was fired last week as part of a complete trial of the system.
11. HAL ties up with Russian firm Rostech to build 200 Kamov helicopters
i. Under the "Make in India" initiative, Russian firm Rostech State Corporation has tied up with India's Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) to manufacture 200 Kamov 226T light helicopters. The new fleet of Kamovs will replace the ageing Cheetah and Chetak helicopters.
ii. The deal is estimated to be worth $1 billion, according to Press Trust of India report. It is believed Rostech will organise the production of the Kamov helicopters for at least 200 units.
iii. Last week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The two leaders signed a deal for Russian Kamovs to be manufactured in India under the "Make in India" initiative. The agreement also proiveded for maintenance, operation and repair facility of the helicopters in India.
iv. Of the 181 Cheetah and Chetak helicopters held by Indian Army, 51 were approximately 40 years old and 78 were between 30-40 years old, Press Trust of India quoted a CAG report as saying. "Rostech's competitive advantage lies in the fact that we are ready to deal with not only the localisation of helicopters in India, but also offer our partners the localisation of production technology," Rostech's CEO said in an official statement.
v. The Kamov 226T helicopters have a unique capability of operating in dense urban areas to mountainous regions such as Siachen, a Hindustan Times report stated. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate a helicopter production facility at Tumakuru in Karnataka on Sunday, Press Trust of India reported.
12. Rakhi Haldar, Kavita Devi bagged gold at National Weightlifting Championship
i. Rakhi Haldar and Kavita Devi on 29 December 2015 bagged gold in their respective weight categories in the Senior National Weightlifting Championships held in Patiala, Punjab.
ii. Haldar lifted 94 kilograms in the snatch and 119 kilograms in clean and jerk to come up with a total lift of 213 kilograms in Women's 69 kilograms to grab the gold medal. Lalchhanhimi bagged the silver with a total lift of 210 kilograms, while Rajwant Kaur finished with a bronze with an overall effort of 201 kilograms.
iii. In Women's 75 kilograms category, Devi lifted 95 kilograms in snatch and 122 kilograms in clean and jerk for a total of 217 kilograms to win the top medal. Sushila Panwar and Daljit Kaur bagged the second and third positions with lifts of 213 kilograms and 198 kilograms, respectively.
iv. On the other hand, V A Christopher clinched the gold medal in Men's 105 kilograms with an overall lift of 329 kilograms, while Laljit Singh accumulated 317 kilograms to settle for silver. Rashpal Singh, who also came up with a total lift of 317 kilograms, had to settle on a bronze.
13. Gujarat clinched maiden Vijay Hazare Trophy
i. Gujarat on 28 December 2015 clinched the Vijay Hazare Cricket Trophy. It is the first time that Gujarat won the trophy. In the final of the limited overs tournament, Gujarat defeated Delhi by 139 runs at M Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bengaluru. The 2015–16 Vijay Hazare Trophy was the 14th season of the Vijay Hazare Trophy.
ii. The Vijay Hazare Trophy is also known as the Ranji One Day Trophy.
iii. It was started in 2002–03 as a limited-overs cricket domestic competition involving state teams from the Ranji Trophy plates.
iv. From the tournament's inaugural edition during the 1993–94 season through to the 2001–02 season, no finals were held, and teams consequently played only within their zones, with no overall winner named.