Haj Pilgrimage via Sea route
Saudi Arabians approved India’s proposal to revive option of Haj pilgrimage through sea route to Jeddah. Saudi Arabia Haj minister Dr. Mohammed Bentin and India’s Union Minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, who is on the Saudi Arabia visit, have signed bilateral annual Haj 2018 agreement in Makkah. Muslim women from India for first time will go to Haj without Mehram, male companion. The practice of ferrying Haj pilgrims between Mumbai and Jeddah by waterways was stopped from 1995.

Ecuador Gives Assange Citizenship 
Ecuador has granted citizenship to Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks. He has been living in the Ecuadorian embassy in London since 2012, when he was faced with extradition to Sweden for allegedly sexually assaulting two women. Ecuador has sought to give Assange diplomatic status, but Britain has rejected the request. Diplomatic immunity would allow him to leave the embassy without the possibility of being arrested for jumping bail in 2012.

Gender gap widening in opening accounts
According to World Bank latest report, the gender gap in opening accounts in Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana is widening. The gap is about 10%. The paper titled ‘Making It Easier To Apply For A Bank Account: A Study of the Indian Market (2017)’ put the number of women applying for accounts at 63%, against 73% for men. The largest gap was recorded in Madhya Pradesh, with 21% less women applying for accounts under the scheme.

e-Sansad and e-Vidhan Legislatures proposedThe Government has proposed rolling out of e-Sansad in Parliament and e-Vidhan in State Legislatures to digitize and make their functioning paperless. Parliamentary Affairs Minister inaugurated the 18th All India Whips’ Conference on 7th January in Udaipur, Rajasthan and will considered rolling out of e-Sansad and e-Vidhan in Parliament and State Legislatures.

Matunga Railway station enters into Records The Matunga suburban station on the Central Railway of Mumbai division has figured in the Limca Book of Records 2018 for having an all-woman staff. The achievement comes six months after Matunga became the first railway station in the country to be run by an all-woman staff. A team of 41 women staffers at the station includes personnel from the RPF, commercial and operating departments.

Indonesia and India call for ending state sponsorship of terrorismIndia and Indonesia, called on all countries to stop providing state sponsorship of terrorism. Both the countries indirectly pointed Pakistan and also emphasized that countries should prevent their territories being used for establishing terrorist safe havens. The fifth Joint Commission between India and Indonesia was held on 5th January, it was cochaired by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, participated by Indonesian Minister Retno Marsudi.

Call for deeper cooperation: The 5th Round Table of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) India Network of Think Tanks in Jakarta was held in which Sushma Swaraj attended. She said that India wants to evolve a regional architecture based on the twin principles of shared security and shared prosperity in South-East Asian region and India stresses on enhancing maritime security, trade and investment, education and cultural heritage among the grouping of ASEAN

CSO forecasts GDP growth at 6.5% in current fiscal The Central Statistics Office (CSO) estimated GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth rate for 2017-18 at 6.5 per cent. The GVA, or Gross Value Added for the current fiscal was projected at 6.1 per cent. GVA is GDP minus net taxes. The annual growth rate for the fiscal 2016-17 was 7.1 per cent. The growth rate in per capita income is estimated at 5.3 per cent during 2017-18, as against 5.7 percent in the previous year.

Gujarat tops logistics performance indexGujarat has topped the logistics index chart, an indicator of the efficiency of logistical services necessary for promoting exports in particular and economic growth in general. Union Minister for Commerce & Industry Suresh Prabhu released the report in New Delhi on 8th January. Among 22 states, Gujarat is followed by Punjab, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra on the index. The ranking is based on the analysis of perception with regard to eight parameters, including infrastructure, services, regulatory process and safety of cargo.

India’s fastest computer Pratyush unveiled India on 8th January unveiled Pratyush, an array of computers that can deliver a peak power of 6.8 petaflops. It is the fourth fastest supercomputer in the world dedicated to weather and climate research, and follows machines in Japan, USA and the United Kingdom. It will also move an Indian supercomputer from the 300s to the 30s in the Top500 list. With the new system, it would be possible to map regions in India at a resolution of 3 km and the globe at 12 km.

Aanchal Thakur wins Aanchal Thakur made history by winning India’s first-ever international medal in skiing in Turkey. She clinched bronze in the Alpine Ejder 3200 Cup organised by Federation International Ski Race. She won the medal in the slalom race category.

Sivan: Rocket scientist K. Sivan, currently Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre, is to be the next Secretary of the Department of Space, and Chairman of the Space Commission and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), with a term of three years.

T.S. Tirumurti: Diplomat T.S. Tirumurti, the India’s High Commissioner to Kuala Lumpur was appointed as Economic Relations Secretary in the External affairs Ministry on 5th January.

Sunny Verghese: Singapore-based Indianorigin businessman Sunny Verghese has been appointed as the Chairman of the Genevabased World Business Council for Sustainable Development. Verghese, Co-Founder and the CEO of Singapore’s agri-business group Olam International Limited, is the first World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) Chair from the agrisector.

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