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Bhitarkanika census finds an increase of saltwater crocodiles from last year
According to the recent census at the Bhitarkanika National Park, the population of salt water (or estuarine) crocodiles have increased to 1,757 as compared to 1,742 in 2018.
The crocodile count in the park has been increasing gradually. According to the census, in 2000, there were 1,192 crocodiles in the park.
The Park obtained the status of Ramsar site in 2002. It was the second area to get the status after Chilika lake. The Park is the second largest mangrove ecosystem in India. The IUCN status of salt water crocodile is Least Concern.
The park holds Guinness World Record of spotting largest male salt water crocodile in the world that weighed 2,000 kg in 2006.

CSC inks pact with Paytm Payments Bank for sale of FASTags
CSC e-Governance Services India has signed a memorandum of understanding with Paytm Payments Bank Ltd (PPBL) for sale of FASTags. The agreement will facilitate the sale of PPBL FASTags through the last mile network of 3.6 lakh CSCs, helping realise the government’s vision of cashless and smooth transit at all toll plazas across the country.
FASTags which work on Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology have been made mandatory at toll gates on national highways.

First-of-its kind turtle rehab centre comes up in Bihar
A turtle rehabilitation Centre is to be set up in Bihar’s Bhagalpur forest. The centre will shelter more than 500 turtles and is to be spread over half a hectare.
The rehab centre will act as home to sick and severely injured turtles that are being rescued from smugglers. Prior to the rehab, the forest officials were not able to monitor the rescued turtles before releasing them into rivers. The rehab centre will help in solving this problem.
According to a study of Traffic India, every year around 11,000 turtles are smuggled from India. They are targeted for their meat as turtle meat gives energy boost and keeps diseases away. The hard-shell turtles are poached for pet trade. They are in high demand in China, Japan and South East Asia.

Govt approves IOA’s proposal to host Commonwealth shooting in India
The government approved in principle the Indian Olympic Association’s proposal to host the Commonwealth shooting championships and archery events – which are not part of the 2022 Commonwealth Games roster – in March 2022.
Earlier, the IOA had withdrawn its threat to boycott the Birmingham Commonwealth Games over shooting’s omission and decided to submit a formal proposal to host a shooting championship, where the medals won will be counted in the tally of the 2022 edition.

India ranks 34th in Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index
In the year 2019, India’s rank in Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index of World Economic Forum has moved to 34th position from 65th rank in 2013. Foreign Tourist Arrivals also registered a growth of 3.2 percent last year.
Reducing E-visa fees, decreasing GST rates on hotel room booking and opening 120 new peaks for mountaineering are among the major highlights of Tourism Ministry in 2019. Along with these several steps taken under Swadesh Darshan, PRASHAD Scheme and various other events of Ek Bharat, Shresth Bharat were also undertaken during the year.

India Russia to sign MoUs on AK-203 assault rifles
The Indian Army will sign MoU with Russia to procure AK-203 assault rifles. According to the deal, around 1 lakh rifles are to be received directly from Russia and the rest will be manufactured in India.
The rifles will be manufactured at Korwa in Uttar Pradesh by a joint Venture (JV) called Indo-Russian Rifles Private Limited (IRRPL). Of the JV, 50.5% is to be owned by India and 49.5% by Russia.
Apart from the AK-203 rifles, the Indian army recently received the first batch of 10,000 SIG-716 assault rifles from US.

Iran names Esmail Qaani as new Commander
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei named the Deputy Head of the Revolutionary Guards’ foreign operations arm Esmail Qaani to replace Qasem Soleimani as its commander. Soleimani was killed in a pre-dawn US strike in Baghdad.
Qaani was one of the most decorated commanders of the Guards during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.

Irfan Pathan announces retirement from all forms of Cricket
Indian all-rounder Irfan Pathan announced his retirement from all forms of Cricket. Irfan, who has been out of favour from the Indian team for few years now, made his Team India debut at the age of 19 in 2003.
He last played for India in October 2012. He played 29 Tests, 120 ODIs and 24 T20Is. He was part of the victorious Indian team at the 2007 World Twenty20 and was the man-of-the-match in the final against Pakistan.

Isro signs pact with astrophysics institute to set up optical telescopes
The Indian Space Research Organization signed a pact with Indian Institute of Astrophysics to establish an optical telescope under “Project NETRA”. The organisation also tied up with NIT-Karnataka to set up a regional academic centre for space to promote research and development.
Project NETRA was launched by ISRO in September 2019. Under the Project, ISRO plans to set up observational facilities that will help in making early warnings to satellites about debris and hazards in their orbit.

Kochi to host global meet on marine ecosystem
The Marine Ecosystems-Challenges and Opportunities (MECOS), the third international symposium is to be held in Kochi. The symposium is conducted by the Marine Biological association of India.
The symposium is to focus on the Sustainable Development Goal of the United Nations, SDG-14. SDG-14 says, “Conserve and Sustainably use the oceans and its resources for sustainable development”.
Scientists, Fisheries researchers, Marine biotechnologists and oceanographers from all over the world are to participate in the meet. The symposium will act as a common platform for the experts to discuss on climate crisis, unusual warming of Arabian Sea, ocean acidification, etc.

Kolkata Police to start third edition of ‘Sukanya’ project
Kolkata Police will start the third edition of its ‘Sukanya’ project to provide girls studying in schools and colleges in the city with self-defence training.
Girl students of VIII, IX, XI and girls studying in the first year at educational institutions will be part of it.
Sukanya is an initiative of the Kolkata Police’s Community Policing Wing to provide self-defence training to girl students of city-based schools, colleges and universities.
The initiative is funded by Women and Child Development and Social Welfare Department of the state government.

National Pension Scheme for traders fails to gain traction
The National Pension Scheme for traders, Shopkeepers and Self-Employed persons, also called the Pradhan Mantri Laghu Vyapari Maan-dhan Yojana was launched in July 2019. It aimed at benefitting 3 crore small traders and shopkeepers.
The Government set a target of 50 lakh enrolment by the end of March 2020. However, only 25,000 persons have applied so far. Among all states Uttar Pradesh has highest registrations with 6,765 persons. No one has so far registered in the scheme in the states of Mizoram and Lakshadweep.
The scheme is being implemented by Ministry of Labour and Employment. In order to enrol in the scheme, GSTIN is required only for those whose turnover is above Rs 40 lakhs. Also, the participant of the scheme should not be an income tax payer.

Neutral pronoun ‘they’ voted Word of the Decade
Neutral pronoun ‘they’ has been voted word of the decade by US language experts, beating out other contenders.
“They” is used in English by a growing number of non-binary individuals, people who do not identify as either male or female. They prefer the plural neutral pronoun to bypass using the pronouns “he” or “she”.
The recognition comes after US dictionary Merriam-Webster in December named “they” as word of the year. The American Dialect Society had previously named “they” word of the year in 2015.

NHRC issues notice to Rajasthan govt on kids’ death
National Human Rights Commission has sent notice to the Rajasthan Government over the death of more than 100 children in the state-run hospital in Kota, Rajasthan in the month of December alone. The commission seeks a detailed report on the reasons behind the death.
The NHRC is a public body constituted in 1993 under the Protection of Human Rights act. The commission has powers to inquire violations of human rights by government of India and by any public servant.

Saurabh Chaudhary wins gold in men’s 10 m air pistol at 63rd National Shooting C’ship
Ace shooter Saurabh Chaudhary has won the men’s 10 metres air pistol gold at the 63rd National Shooting Championship in Bhopal. The 17-year-old from Uttar Pradesh shot a classy 246.4 to finish on top.
Second-placed Sarabjot Singh of Haryana was well behind with a score of 243.9, while world number two Abhishek Verma settled for bronze in a high-quality final.
Abhishek and Sarabjot together won the team gold for Haryana. Sarabjot also won the junior men’s gold for a profitable day. Haryana and Uttar Pradesh picked up a clutch of golds as well.

Sonam Malik stuns Sakshi Malik to seal place in Indian Team for Asian C’ship
In Wrestling, two-time World Cadet champion Sonam Malik stunned Rio Olympic bronze medalist Sakshi Malik in 62kg while another promising junior Anshu Malik knocked out World Championship medalist Pooja Dhanda in 57 kg to seal their places in the Indian team for the Asian Championship in Lucknow.

WB Govt to provide holy water of Ganga Sagar through an app
West Bengal Government has decided to provide holy water of Ganga Sagar on the occasion of Makar Sankranti.
The people who desire to have holy water may apply through the designated app of the Mela.Only courier charges will be taken for this purpose.
The Ganga Sagar Mela will take place on the 14th of January this year in West Bengal. West Bengal Government has also decided insurance coverage of pilgrims this year.

World Health Organisation designated 2020 as International Year of the Nurse and Midwife
The executive board of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has designated 2020 as International Year of Nurse and Midwife in honour of 200th birth anniversary of Florence Nightingale.
The WHO will also launch first-ever State of the World’s Nursing report in 2020 prior to the 73rd session of the World Health Assembly which is to be held in Geneva between February 3 and 8, 2020.
The International Nurse Day is being celebrated of Florence Nightingale. Every year, the day is celebrated on May 12.



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