1. A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between India and Myanmar which aimed at developing Myanmar’s Rakhine state. The MoU comes in backdrop of massive migration of Rohingya refugees from violence-wracked Rakhine to Bangladesh. MoU was signed by Foreign secretary S Jaishankar and Myanmar’s deputy minister for social welfare, relief and resettlement U Soe Aung. This MoU is first government to government (G2G) agreement signed by Myanmar with a cooperation partner focussed on socio-economic development and livelihood initiatives in Rakhine State. Under this MoU, India has proposed to take up projects to build prefabricated housing in Rakhine State to meet immediate needs of returning people and also in Chittagong in Bangladesh.
2. Naseem-Al-Bahr (Sea Breeze) 2017- The 11th edition of Naval exercise between India and Oman was held at Said Bin Sultan Naval Base, Wudam in Oman. The Indian Navy had deployed two naval ships – INS Trikand and INS Teg in this edition of bilateral exercise for the harbour phase. For the first time, an Indian Navy had deployed submarine as well as the versatile P8I, long range maritime aircraft are participating. The first exercise Indian Navy with Royal Navy of Oman was conducted in 1993. This year marks 24 years of Indian Navy-Royal Navy of Oman bilateral exercises.
3. Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed by the Lok Sabha. The bill replaces Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 promulgated by President Ram Nath Kovind in November 2017 and amends Indian Forest Act, 1927. The bill omits bamboo (taxonomically a grass) grown in non-forest areas from definition of trees. The omission, thereby exempts it from requiring permits for felling or transportation of bamboo grown in non-forest areas. With this, bamboo grown in non-forest areas ceases to be tree. It will encourage bamboo plantation by farmers, which will contribute to doubling farmers income by 2022. Though, bamboo was taxonomically a grass, it was earlier defined as a tree under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and its felling and transit required permission. It was major impediment for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land. This bill will remove legal and regulatory hardships being faced by farmers and private individuals. It will create viable option for cultivation in 12.6 million hectares of cultivable waste land and in creation of job opportunities in the country.
4. The proposal for first ever National Rail and Transport University (NRTU) is going to set up by the Ministry of Railways in Vadodara to skill its human resources and build capability was approved by the Union Cabinet. The funding of the new University will entirely come from Ministry of Railways. It will set up on existing land and infrastructure at National Academy of Indian Railways (NAIR) at Vadodara, Gujarat. In its full enrolment, it is expected to have 3000 full time students. The University will be set up as Deemed to Be University under de novo category as per UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations, 2016. The first academic program is expected to be launched in July 2018. It will support ‘Startup India’ and ‘Skill India’ by channeling technology and delivering knowhow, and foster entrepreneurship, generating large scale employment opportunities.
5. The Financing Agreement with a Credit of US $125 million (equivalent) for Skills Strengthening for Industrial Value Enhancement Operation (STRIVE) Project was inked by India with World Bank for International Development Association (IDA). The objective of project is to improve access to quality and market-driven vocational training and apprenticeships. The closing date for the project is 30th November, 2022.
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6. The Union Cabinet has approved extension of term of Commission to examine the issue of sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes (OBCs), by 12 weeks i.e. upto 2 April, 2018. The Commission headed by retired Chief Justice of Delhi High Court G. Rohini was constituted under Article 340 of Constitution with approval of President Ram Nath Kovind in October 2017. The extension of tenure will enable Commission to submit a comprehensive report on issue of sub-categorization of OBCs, after consultation with various stakeholders. Sub-categorisation of OBCs aims to ensure more equitable distribution of reservations in government jobs and educational institutions so that dominant groups among OBCs do not corner all benefits. The exercise will involve sub-categorisation of 5,000 castes in central OBC list.
7. The Union Cabinet chaired by PM Modi has given its ex-post –facto approval for a memorandum of understanding between India and Italy on co-operation in the field of health and medical sciences.
8. The Union Cabinet chaired by PM Modi has given its ex-post –facto approval for a memorandum of understanding between India and Cuba on co-operation in the field of health and medical sciences.
9. The Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Bill 2017 was passed by the Parliament with Rajya Sabha, the Upper House approving it on 19th Dec 2017. The Lower House of the parliament already passed the bill in July 2017 during its monsoon session
10. The Ministry of External Affairs ( MEA) has launched a new program SAMEEP ( Students and MEA engagement program) to make the student understand India’s place in the world and its golden ambitions and also to look at diplomacy as a career option.11.Scientists discovered new frog species Odorrana arunachalensis. The new species discovered from Talle Valley Wild life sanctuary (WLS), Arunachal Pradesh’s lower Subansri district is one of the 5 discovered species in India in recent times and 59th in the World.There are over 50 species belong to this genus Odorrana.