Today’s Current Affairs: 2nd Jan 2024 for UPSC IAS exams, State PSC exams, SSC CGL, State SSC, RRB, Railways, Banking Exam & IBPS, etc
Table of Contents
World’s Largest Lithium Reserve:
The U.S. Department of Energy recently discovered the world’s largest Lithium reserve beneath California’s Salton Sea.
- Salton Sea is a shallow, saline lake located in the lower Colorado Desert, southern California,
- It is a geological depression tucked between mountain ranges and lying below sea level.
- The Salton Sea is an important stopping point for migratory waterfowl and serves as a critical habitat for birds moving south to Mexico and Central America.
- It is a soft, silvery-white metal that heads group 1, the alkali metals group, of the periodic table of the elements.
- It has the lowest density of all metals.
- It is the lightest of the solid elements.
- It reacts vigorously with water.
United Nations Relief And Works Agency For Palestinian Refugees In The Near East:
India recently announced that it has provided US $ 2.5 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East or the UNRWA for the welfare of Palestinian refugees.
- United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is a UN agency that supports the relief and human development of Palestinian refugees.
- Following the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, UNRWA was established by United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 302 (IV) of 8 December, 1949, to carry out direct relief and work programmes for Palestine refugees.
- The agency began operations on 1 May, 1950.
- In the absence of a solution to the Palestine refugee problem, the UNGA Assembly has repeatedly renewed UNRWA’s mandate, most recently extending it until 30 June, 2023.
- It is one of the largest United Nations programmes, with a population of approximately 5 million registered Palestine refugees under its mandate and over 30,000 staff.
- It provides services in its five fields of operations: Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including the East of Jerusalem.
- UNRWA is unique in that it delivers services directly to its beneficiaries.
- It encompasses education, health care, relief and social services, camp infrastructure and improvement, microfinance, and emergency assistance, including in times of armed conflict.
- It is funded almost entirely by voluntary contributions from UN Member States.
- It also receives some funding from the Regular Budget of the United Nations, which is used mostly for international staffing costs.
- It reports only to the UNGA.
- It was originally headquartered in Beirut, Lebanon, but was moved to Vienna, Austria, in 1978. In 1996, the General Assembly moved the agency to the Gaza Strip to demonstrate the Assembly’s commitment to the Arab-Israeli peace process.
Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana:
The Government recently raised the interest rates on the Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana (SSY) scheme by 20 basis points to 8.2 percent from the existing 8 percent.
- Sukanya Samriddhi Yojana is a savings scheme launched in 2015 under the Government of India’s “Beti Bachao Beti Padhao” campaign, which aimed to promote the education of girl children.
- SSY is a small-deposit scheme tailored specifically for the girl child.
- This scheme enables guardians to open a savings account for their girl child with an authorized commercial bank or India Post branch.
- The girl must be an Indian resident.
- The account can be initiated by the parent or legal guardian of the girl child.
- The girl child must be below the age of 10 at the time of opening the account.
- Only one SSY account is allowed per girl child.
- A family is limited to opening a maximum of two SSY scheme accounts.
- NRIs are not eligible to open these accounts.
- The girl must operate the account once she attains the age of 18 years.
- The minimum and maximum deposits that can be made in an account in a financial year are 250 and Rs.1.5 lakh, respectively.
- The deposits can be made in multiples of 100.
- Deposits towards the scheme should be made for a period of 15 years.
- However, the scheme matures after 21 years.
- No interest will be payable once the account completes twenty-one years from the date of opening.
Maulana Azad National Fellowship:
Researchers and doctoral students from about 30 universities across the country have written separate letters to the Union Minority Affairs Minister to increase the scholarships under Maulana Azad National Fellowship
- The objective of the Maulana Azad Fellowship Scheme (MANF) is to provide five year fellowships in the form of financial assistance.
- It is given to students from six notified minority communities viz. Buddhist, Christian, Jain, Muslim, Parsi and Sikh, notified by the Central Government, to pursue M. Phil and Ph.D.
- The scheme covers all Universities/Institutions recognized by the University Grants Commission (UGC)
- The Fellowship will cater to the minority community students pursuing regular and full time research studies leading to award of M.Phil/Ph.D degree within India only.
Indian Olympic Association : Three-Member Ad Hoc Committee
The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) formed a three-member ad hoc committee to run the day-to-day affairs of the Wrestling Federation of India
- Indian Olympic Association (IOA) is the governing body for the Olympic Movement and the Commonwealth Games in India.
- As an affiliated member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), and Association of National Olympic Committees (ANOC), the IOA administers various aspects of sports governance and athletes’ welfare in the country.
- IOA oversees the representation of athletes or teams participating in the Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, and other international multi-sport competitions of the IOC, CGF, OCA, and ANOC.
- Beyond participation in the Games, the IOA has also established various initiatives with different stakeholders for the development of sports education and Olympic studies.
- IOA is recognised by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports.
- The members of the IOA include National Sports Federations (NSFs), State Olympic Associations, IOC Members, and other select multi-sport organisations.
- In accordance with the Olympic Charter, the membership NSFs mostly include NSFs that govern sports featured in the sports programme of the Summer Olympic Games, Winter Olympic Games, Asian Games, and Commonwealth Games.
Know India Programme:
The Secretary (CPV & OIA) recently addressed the Valedictory Session of the 70th edition of the Know India Programme (KIP) at a function held at the Ministry of External Affairs.
- KIP is a flagship programme of the Ministry of External Affairs for engagement with Indian origin youth (between 18 and 30 years old).
- It is a three-week orientation programme for diaspora youth conducted with a view to promoting awareness of different facets of life in contemporary India.
- The programme has been in existence since 2003.
- As a part of the programme, the applicants finalized through the selection process visit India for a 21-day schedule.
- 90% of the cost of international airfare for KIP participants visiting India is borne by the Ministry, while the remaining 10% is borne by the applicants themselves.
- During the period of their stay in India, the Ministry provides for their accommodation, meals, and domestic transportation by road/air.
- During the period of their stay in India, the KIP participants are given insights into their understanding of India’s political system, economy, society, and developments in various key sectors.
- Further, they are also provided exposure to India’s history and heritage by visiting places of historical and cultural significance.
- The Ministry also facilitates their interactions with students and professionals from various fields, along with arranging for meetings and call on visits with senior officials and leadership.
- The KIP participants are also taken for a 7–10-day state visit to one or more Indian states as a part of the Programme.
National Transit Pass System:
The Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change launched the National Transit Pass System (NTPS) pan-India.
- National Transit Pass System is to facilitate the seamless transit of timber, bamboo, and other forest produce across the country.
- The transit permits are issued for transport of timber and forest produce based on state specific transit rules.
- The NTPS is envisioned as a “One Nation-One Pass” regime, which will enable seamless transit across the country.
- This initiative will streamline the issuance of timber transit permits by providing a unified, online mode for tree growers and farmers involved in agroforestry across the country, contributing to the ease of doing business.
- It offers seamless transit permits, managing records for both inter-state and intra-state transportation of timber, bamboo and other forest produce obtained from various sources like private lands, government owned forest and private depots.
- The QR coded transit permits generated under NTPS will allow check gates across various states to verify the validity of the permits and allow seamless transit.
- It is designed for user convenience, featuring desktop and mobile applications for easy registration and permit applications.
- Transit permits will be issued for tree species which are regulated, while the users can self-generate No Objection Certificates for exempted species.
- Presently, 25 States and Union Territories have embraced the unified permit system, streamlining interstate business operations for producers, farmers, and transporters.
- Nodal Ministry: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change
Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana:
Ministry of Health & Family Welfare has released some statistics regarding Ayushman Bharat Pradhan Mantri — Jan Arogya Yojana (AB PM-JAY).
Key Highlights of the AB PM-JAY Statistics:
- Women account for approximately 49% of the total Ayushman cards created and approximately 48% of total authorised hospital admissions.
- As of December 2023, approximately 28.45 Crore Ayushman Cards have been created since the inception of the scheme, out of which, approximately 9.38 crore Ayushman Cards have been created during the year 2023.
- 55 crore individuals corresponding to 12 crore families are covered under the scheme and many states and union territories implementing AB PM-JAY have further expanded the beneficiary base, at their own cost.
- A total of 6.11 crore hospital admissions amounting to Rs 78,188 crores were authorised of which 1.7 crore hospitals admissions worth over Rs 25,000 crores were authorised during the year 2023 (Jan-Dec 2023).
About Ayushman Bharat-PMJAY:
- PM-JAY is the world’s largest health insurance scheme fully financed by the government.
- Launched in 2018, it offers a sum insured of Rs.5 lakh per family for secondary care and tertiary care.
- Health Benefit Packages covers surgery, medical and day care treatments, cost of medicines and diagnostics.
- It is an entitlement-based scheme that targets the beneficiaries as identified by latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data.
- The National Health Authority (NHA) has provided flexibility to States/UTs to use non- Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) beneficiary family databases with similar socio-economic profiles for tagging against the leftover (unauthenticated) SECC families.
- The funding for the scheme is shared – 60:40 for all states and UTs with their own legislature, 90:10 in Northeast states and Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal and Uttarakhand and 100% Central funding for UTs without legislature.
- Nodal Agency: The National Health Authority (NHA) has been constituted as an autonomous entity under the Society Registration Act, 1860 for effective implementation of PM-JAY in alliance with state governments.
Litchi Cultivation : Expanded
The National Research Centre on Litchi (NRCL), has successfully expanded litchi cultivation to 19 states in India.
- Litchi cultivation for commercial production has commenced in states such as Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, and others.
- Litchi (Litchi chinensis) is a small, oval roundish fruit that is native to Southeast Asia.
- It is a member of the soapberry family (Sapindaceae) and is also known as lychee or lichee.
- Litchi is a sensitive fruit, influenced by temperature, rainfall, humidity, and soil conditions.
- The fruit primarily grows in the foothills of the Himalayas, with Bihar alone contributing nearly 40% of India’s litchi production.
Maharishi Valmiki International Airport In Ayodhya : Inauguration
The Indian Prime Minister inaugurated the newly constructed Maharishi Valmiki International Airport in Ayodhya.
- Pioneering sustainability features including LED lighting, rainwater harvesting, solar power, and a sewage treatment plant ensure a GRIHA – 5 star rating for the terminal, promoting environmental consciousness.
- Maharishi Valmiki, also known as Adi Kavi (the first poet), is revered as the author of the ancient Indian epic, the Ramayana.
- He is celebrated as a revered sage and a significant figure in Hindu mythology and literature.
New Epaulettes For Admirals : Indian Navy
The Indian Navy has unveiled new epaulettes for Admirals, inspired by the naval ensign and Chhatrapati Shivaji’s rajmudra, as part of an initiative to reflect India’s rich maritime heritage and move away from British nomenclature.
- The design features an octagon, a golden navy button top, an Indian sword, a crossed telescope, and stars denoting ranks.
- The earlier epaulettes for the same ranks did have a red backing for the national emblem, but not an octagonal one. Moreover, the button at the top of the epaulette reflected the old crest of the Navy which had a fouled anchor a colonial era vestige.
- The old epaulettes carried a baton and a sword, but new ones carry an Indian sword and a telescope.
- The stars on the new epaulettes are also designed differently than the older ones.
- The new Navy button reflects the new crest, sans the fouled anchor which was a colonial era vestige.
- As per the Navy, the red octagon reflects the eight cardinal directions indicative of an all-round long-term vision.
- It is inspired by the new naval ensign that was unveiled last year and inspired from the Rajmudra of Maratha ruler Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj who had built the massive Maratha Navy which has a rich maritime legacy.
Argentina Rejects BRICS Membership:
Argentina has formally rejected the invitation to join the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) group of major emerging economies.
- New Argentinian President Milei, during his election campaign, Milei had expressed a geopolitical alignment with the United States and Israel, emphasizing a reluctance to ally with communists.
- The decision aligns with his campaign promises and reflects a shift in foreign policy from the previous administration.
- The membership of Argentina, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates was due to take effect from January 1, 2024.
Japan’s Kuril Islands : Earthquake
An earthquake of magnitude 6.3 on the Richter Scale jolted Japan’s Kuril Islands, the National Centre for Seismology (NCS) informed
- The Kuril Islands stretch from Japan’s Hokkaido to Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula, separating the Okhotsk Sea from the North Pacific Ocean.
- They are part of the Pacific’s Ring of Fire, with over 100 volcanoes, 35 active, and numerous hot springs. The Southern Kuril Islands are disputed between Russia and Japan.
- The islands have been under Russian administration since their 1945 invasion by the Soviet Union near the end of World War II.
- Japan claims the four southernmost islands, including two of the three largest (Iturup and Kunashir), as part of its territory, as well as Shikotan and the unpopulated Habomai islets, which has led to the ongoing Kuril Islands dispute.
- The disputed islands are known in Japan as the country’s “Northern Territories”