1. WHO declared Public Health Emergency of International Concern over Zika virus outbreak
i. World Health Organisation (WHO) on 1 February 2016 declared Public Health Emergency of International Concern over the explosive spread of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects in the Americas.
ii. The UN health agency convened an emergency meeting of independent experts in Geneva to assess the outbreak of the virus. The meeting was convened after noting a suspicious link between Zika’s arrival in Brazil in 2015 and a surge in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads.
iii. This was the first meeting of the Emergency Committee (EC) convened by the Director-General under the International Health Regulations (2005) (IHR 2005).
iv. Zika virus (ZIKV) is a member of the virus family Flaviviridae and the genus Flavivirus, transmitted by daytime-active Aedes mosquitoes, such as A. aegypti. In case of humans, the virus cases mild illness known as Zika fever (Zika or Zika disease). It has been occurring since the 1950s within a narrow equatorial belt from Africa to Asia.
v. In 2014, the virus spread eastward across the Pacific Ocean to French Polynesia, then to Easter Island and in 2015 to Mexico, Central America, the Caribbean, and South America, where the Zika outbreak has reached pandemic levels.
vi. Earlier in last week of January 2016, WHO estimated that there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in Americas by 2017 but no recommendations didn’t issued travel restriction or trade.
2. Saroj Kumar Jha appointed Senior Director for Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group at World Bank
i. An Indian national Saroj Kumar Jha was in news as he was appointed as the Senior Director for the Fragility, Conflict and Violence Group at the World Bank on 1 February 2016.
ii. He was appointed to provide strategic leadership to address the challenge of fragility, conflict and violence, working across the Bank Group and in close collaboration with partnes.
iii. The WB President Jim Young Kim assigned him the new role. Earlier to this, he was the World Bank Regional Director for Central Asia based in Almaty, Kazakhstan since February 2012. He also worked as the World Bank’s Global Manager for Disaster Risk Management Practice.
iv. He is an Indian national and holds a dual degree in civil engineering and development economics from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur, India. He joined the World Bank in 2005 as a Senior Infrastructure Specialist in the Sustainable Development Network.
v. He had significant experience with the Government of India and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) as a senior executive in the field of public sector management, infrastructure financing, natural resources management, natural disaster prevention and environmental sustainability.
3. Himachal Pradesh to spend 15 crore rupees on Swachh Bharat Mission in Kinnaur
i. The Himachal Pradesh Government in the first week of February 2016 decided to spend 15 crore rupees on Swachh Bharat Mission in tribal district of Kinnaur.
ii. The funds will be utilized on capacity building and organizing of workshops for awareness. Under the Mission, target has been also fixed to involve all the schools, government institutions and villages.
iii. Under the Mission, the first instalment of four crore fifty lakh rupees has been received by the district authorities. Every single household will be given 12 thousand rupees for toilet construction for which survey was conducted in the year 2012.
iv. A special cleanliness drive will be launched under Swachh Bharat Mission with the help of Youth and Mahila Mandals in all the 65 Panchayats. Five Panchayats have been selected under Solid Waste Management where organic fertilizers will be made from the waste.
4. Archana Ramasundram became 1st woman to head paramilitary force
i. Tamil Nadu Cadre IPS officer Archana Ramasundram on 1 February 2016 was appointed as the Director General of the Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) that guards India’s frontiers with Nepal and Bhutan.
ii. With this appointment, Ramasundram became the first woman to head a paramilitary force. 58-year-old Ramasundram is currently the Director of National Crime Records Bureau.
iii. An order issued by Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) said that she has been appointed to the post till the date of her superannuation, that is, 30 September 2017.
iv. Besides, IPS officer K Durga Prasad was appointed as Director Generals of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Another IPS officer K K Sharma will be new Chief of the Border Security Force (BSF). They will take over after the incumbent chiefs of these forces retire on 29 February 2016.
v. Paramilitary forces in India are Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force and Indo Tibetan Border Police.
5. Alphabet officially dethrones Apple as the world’s most valuable company
i. Alphabet, the company that owns Google, has overtaken rival Apple in Monday’s extended trading to become the highest valued company in the world. Alphabet now comes before Apple atop the list of the world’s most valuable companies.
ii. Operating income from its core businesses rose 23% in 2015. Investors liked what they saw and shares spiked 8% in after-hours trading. The Mountain View, Calif. firm generated $21.3 billion in revenue, beating Wall Street estimates of $20.8 billion. Earnings were $8.67 per share, beating estimates of $8.09 per share. The company attributed its strong revenue growth to search ads, YouTube and programmatic advertising.
iii. By changing its name and structure last year, Alphabet Chief Executive Officer Larry Page has put the focus on the company’s main web business while giving more insight into investments in new areas such as artificial intelligence, self-driving cars, health technology and fast Internet access. Even though Apple has also been building expertise in cars and AI, the secretive company has kept much of that under wraps.
iv. Google and Apple have worked to improve mobile computing, and their competition has seen Apple’s iOS smartphone operating system fight out against Google’s own Android for dominance since the latter emerged on the market in 2008 and became the system of choice for Samsung. The South Korean tech giant is in turn Apple’s major competitor in smartphone production, and the two are involved in litigation over patent infringement.
6. SBI FlexiPay Home Loan launched
i. tate Bank of India has launched its “SBI FlexiPay Home Loan” aimed at youngsters with a rising income. The loan allows takers the option of only paying the interest on the loan for the first years.
ii. Targeted at the salaried-class, the interest rate is currently 9.55% – with women applicants having to pay a lower interest of 9.50%. The loan also has an additional rider in that the candidates gets 20% extra of the loan amount they are eligible for. “Say the person is eligible for a Rs 1 crore loan, then under FlexiPay loan – he can avail of a loan amount of Rs 1.2 crore,” he said.
iii. If the applicants wants to close the loan earlier than the time period of 25-30 years, then they can do so without incurring pre-payment charges.
7. Modi to open ayurveda meet at Kozhikode
i. Prime Minister Narendra Modi will arrive at Kozhikode early this afternoon to open the ‘vision conclave’ of the Global Ayurveda Fest.
ii. The ayurveda fest, being held from January 31 to February 4, is showcasing the ayurvedic tradition of healing, a major Kerala heritage, to the world. The show also aims to jack up export of ayurvedic products, especially to Europe.
iii. This is the first time Modi is visiting Kozhikode after taking over as Prime Minister. More than 1,000 police personnel are being deployed in Kozhikode to give a security cover to Modi.
8. S N Prasad assumes charge as CIL director
i. S N Prasad has taken over as Director (Marketing), Coal India Ltd, from February 1.
ii. According to a CIL release, Prasad has succeeded B K Saxena, who has retired.
iii. Prior to this elevation Prasad was General Manager (Sales & Marketing) in South Eastern Coalfields Ltd, the Bilaspur-based subsidiary of CIL.
9. Govt sets up two new tax committees to bring coherence in policies
i. The government has set up two new committees — Tax Policy Research Unit and Tax Policy Council in order to bring coherence and streamline the direct and indirect tax policy and administration.
ii. Led by the Finance Minister, the Tax Policy Council would suggest broad policy measures for taxation based on inputs from the Tax Policy Research Unit (TPRU).
iii. These would include Ministers of State for Finance and Commerce and Industry, Deputy Chairman, NITI Aayog, Chief Economic Adviser, Finance Secretary as well as Secretaries to the Departments of Revenue, Economic Affairs, Commerce and Industrial Policy and Promotion.
iv. The Chairpersons of the Central Board of Direct Taxes and the Central Board of Excise and Customs will be special invitees. Meanwhile, the TPRU will be a multi-disciplinary body to examine and analyse any fiscal or tax policy referred by the CBDT and CBEC and also prepare and disseminate policy papers and background papers on various taxation issues.
v. “It will assist Tax Policy Council in policy decisions and also liaise with State commercial tax departments,” said the Finance Ministry. The TPRU will include officials from the CBDT and the CBEC as well as economists, statisticians, operational researchers and legal experts.
10. National Pension System has 1.15 crore subscribers now
i. The National Pension System now has 1.15 crore subscribers, each with an average ? 95,000 of assets under management. “The total assets under management are worth ?1,09,140 crore while assets under management per subscriber is ?95,000 on an average,” said the Finance Ministry on Tuesday, adding that the total corpus of the National Pension System (NPS) is ?90, 327 crore.
ii. The scheme has 16,11,020 Central government employees as subscribers, amounting to 14.1 per cent of its total member base. They have a total corpus of ?34,754 crore.
iii. Meanwhile, 28,59,094 State government employees are members of the NPS, amounting to quarter of it total subscribers and having a corpus of ?45,486 crore. The NPS for private citizens has 5,76,993 subscribers — 4,48,509 members from the corporate sector and 1,28,484 from the unorganised sector.
iv. The largest chunk of subscribers to the retirement saving scheme comes from NPS Lite, which has 44,63,637, constituting 39 per cent of the total membership. It has now been discontinued and replaced with the Atal Pension Yojana that has 19,48,811, subscribers or 17 per cent of the total members.
11. Rishabh Pant slams fastest fifty in huge India win
i. India Under-19 opener Rishabh Pant had the fastest recorded U-19 international century comfortably in his sights when he was dismissed for 78 off 24 balls, having blown Nepal Under-19 away in a small chase.
ii. Pant did break the record for the fastest recorded U-19 fifty though, getting there in 18 balls, one faster than the previous mark.
iii. He added 124 in 9.1 overs with his captain Ishan Kishan, who scored 52 off 40 balls. India eventually chased down Nepal’s score of 169 with 179 balls to spare in Mirpur.
iv. His strike rate of 325 meant that had he scored 22 more runs in singles Pant would have still broken the record for the fastest u-19 hundred by seven deliveries.
Courtesy – Bankers Adda