1. 19th National Conference on e-Governance begins in Nagpur
i. The nineteenth edition of National Conference on e-Governance has begun on 21 January 2016 in Nagpur, Maharashtra. It was inaugurated by the Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari and the Minister of State for Personnel, Public Grievances & Pensions Dr. Jitendra Singh.
ii. This edition of conference has been organised by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG) in in association with the Government of Maharashtra.
iii. The two day conference aims at discussing various aspects of e-Governance ranging from Technology Enabled Services to Cyber Security framework. More than 600 delegates have participated in the conference including 150 delegates from Maharashtra and 250 from other States and 50 participants from the Private Sector.
iv. The Conference also included an exhibition and brainstorming sessions on-Governance by subject experts. Four books on e-Governance were also released at the inaugural session. National Awards for e-Governance for the Year 2015-16 in eighteen categories including 10 Gold and 8 Silver under various categories were presented during the Valedictory Session.
i. Moldovan parliament on 20 January 2016 appointed Pavel Filip as the Prime Minister. He would be the third prime minister of Moldova in less than a year.
ii. The appointment follows the rise and fall of two prime ministers in 2015, namely Chiril Gaburici ( June 2015) and Valeriu Strelet (October 2015). The small ex-Soviet state and Europe's poorest country was in a political turmoil after the fraudulent disappearance of 1 billion US dollars from the banking system and then government was brought down in a no-confidence vote in October 2015.
iii. Pavel Filip, a member of the main pro-European coalition and a former IT and communications minister in the last government, followed the rejection of two previous candidates. His Candidature as a compromise figure was resisted by opposition as he was close aide of Vladimir Plahotniuc.
iv. Plahotniuc is one of Moldova's richest but most unpopular men, who was believed to be behind the banking scandal. and the subsequent political crisis.
3. Ravi Chellam took charge as Executive Director of Greenpeace India
i. Noted environmentalist Ravi Chellam on 20 January 2016 took charge as the Executive Director of Greenpeace India, a Non-Government Organisation (NGO). Chellam succeeds former Executive Director Samit Aich, who had resigned in June 2015 following an internal review of the organisation's handling of two sexual harassment cases.
ii. Chellam is a wildlife biologist and conservation scientist by training. He has undertaken governance roles in various conservation organisations. Prior to joining Greenpeace, he has worked with the Wildlife Institute of India and United Nations Development Programme.
iii. He has also worked with Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment, Wildlife Conservation Society (India Program) and Madras Crocodile Bank Trust. Greenpeace, which has been in India for 15 years, has been embroiled in legal battles with the Union Government led by Narendra Modi over its funding and local operations.
iv. Earlier in 2015, the government suspended Greenpeace’s foreign funding licence and froze its domestic bank accounts for alleged rule violations.
v. However, the group later succeeded in removing those legal blocks. In the most recent case, the Madras high court in November 2015 temporarily halted a government order cancelling the group’s licence in the country, allowing it to continue operating.
4. Nai Manzil Scheme launched in Jammu and Kashmir
i. The Nai Manzil scheme was on 20 January 2016 launched for the first time in Jammu and Kashmir. The scheme was launched for girls in Srinagar in three institutions- Skill Development Centre, University of Kashmir and two Madarsas.
ii. The two Madarsas are Madarsa Shahi-i-Hamdan in Pampore and Madarsa Imam Sadique in Shadipur, Bandipora.
iii. Under the scheme, girls from minority communities will be imparted three month skill development training in seven identified sectors relevant to the region. These include training in saffron processing, food processing, embroidery, computers IT (both software and hardware), Tourism/hospitality, electronics and plumbing. Trainees will also be given stipend of 4500 rupees for the course.
iv. Nai Manzil Scheme is an integrated Education and Livelihood Initiative for the Minority Communities. It was announced by the Union Budget 2015-16. The scheme aims to benefit the minority youths who are school-dropouts or educated in the community education institutions like Madrasas.
5. IRS officer Atulesh Jindal appointed as Chairman of CBDT
i. Senior revenue service officer Atulesh Jindal on 21 January 2016 was appointed chairman of Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT). Jindal will succeed A K Jain, who completes his term at the end of January 2016.
ii. The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Jindal as chairman of the apex policy-making body of the income tax department.
iii. Jindal is a 1978 batch Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer. He is currently working as member (revenue) in the CBDT. He will have a tenure of six-months until he retires in July 2016.
iv. The Central Board of Direct Taxes is a statutory authority functioning under the Central Board of Revenue Act, 1963. The officials of the Board in their ex-officio capacity also function as a Division of the Ministry dealing with matters relating to levy and collection of direct taxes.
v. The Chairperson of CBDT is the senior-most IRS civil servant in the Government of India. The Chairperson of CBDT is the ex officio Special Secretary to the Government of India and also cadre controlling authority of the Indian Revenue Service.
6. Italian film director Ettore Scola died
i. Italian director Ettore Scola passed away on 19 January 2016 following a prolonged illness in Rome. He was 84. As a filmmaker, he was considered to be among the last of a generation of Italian greats with a keen eye for the issues facing his country.
ii. Born in Southern Italy, he directed some of the world's greatest actors including Sophia Loren, Marcello Mastroianni, Fanny Ardant and Jack Lemmon. Scola started work as a screenwriter in 1953 and directed his first big film Let's Talk About Women in 1964.
iii. One of his most acclaimed films was the 1977 A Special Day that was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign film. A Special Day won the Golden Globe for best foreign film in 1977. His several Oscar-nominated films chronicled the growing pains, class divisions and frustrated idealisms of 20th century Italy.
iv. While none of his films ever clinched an Oscar, however they won many awards at European film festivals such as Cannes and Berlin. He directed 41 films over nearly 40 years and finally took retirement in 2011.
7. Jodhpur's Umaid Bhawan Palace named the world's best hotel of 2016
i. Umaid Bhawan Palace in Jodhpur, Rajasthan, on 21 January 2016 won the award of the world's best hotel at the Travellers' Choice award organised by TripAdvisor. The winners of Travellers' Choice Award, which entered its 14th year, were determined on the basis of the reviews and opinions collected in a single year from TripAdvisor travellers worldwide.
ii. Named after Maharaja Umaid Singh, grandfather of the present owner Gaj Singh of the palace, Umaid Bhawan Palace has 347 rooms. The palace serves as the principal residence of the erstwhile Jodhpur royal family. Umaid Bhawan Palace was called Chittar Palace during its construction due to use of stones drawn from the Chittar hill where it is located.
iii. Henry Vaughan Lanchester was commissioned as the architect to prepare the plans for the palace. Ground for the foundations of the building was broken on 18 November 1929 by Maharaja Umaid Singh and the construction work was completed in 1943. The Palace was built to provide employment to thousands of people during the time of famine.
iv. The palace was designed as an extraordinary blend of western technology, and many Indian architectural features. The estimated cost of building the palace was 11 million rupees. When it opened its gilded doors in 1943, it was considered as one of the largest royal residences in the world.
v. The palace was built with dun-coloured (golden – yellow) sandstone with two wings. Makrana marble has also been used and Burmese teak wood has been used for the interior wood work.
vi. The Palace is divided into three functional parts: the residence of the royal family, a luxury Taj Palace Hotel, and a Museum focusing on the 20th century history of the Jodhpur Royal Family.
8. EPFO wins award for e-governance
i. The Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation has won the National Award for e-Governance 2015-16 for its Universal Account Number programme.
ii. Minister of State for Labour and Employment Bandaru Dattatreya noted that more than six crore UAN have been allotted to EPF members of which nearly 2.25 crore UAN have also been activated by the subscribers.
iii. Meanwhile, Central Provident Fund Commissioner KK Jalan said that other e-initiatives of the EPFO include SMS service, inoperative account helpline desk, automatic updation of accounts and a mobile app for subscribers.
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