Call Us : 9827239801, 0755-4055002
Login/Register

Current Affairs

Iraq’s Babylon listed as UNESCO’s World Heritage Site…

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s (UNESCO) World Heritage Committee has voted to list sprawling Mesopotamian metropolis of Babylon as a World Heritage Site (WHS) after 30 years of lobbying efforts by Iraq.

Key Highlights

Since 1983 Iraq had been trying to have Babylon site recognised by UNESCO.

The World Heritage Committee met in Baku (capital of Azerbaijan) to consider Babylon and another 34 sites, including in Brazil and Burkina Faso, for World Heritage List.

After the successful vote Babylon, the cradle of civilization was chosen.

Significance: Putting Babylon on WHS List will encourage research and development of the site.

About Babylon

It is a massive 10sq-km complex of which just 18% has been excavated thus far.

It was the Centre of ancient Babylonian empire more than 4,000 years ago. The excavation of site began in early 1800s and artefacts were sent abroad.

The city straddles Iraq’s Euphrates River and is about 100 kilometres south of Baghdad.

Babylon developed as a walled city of mudbrick temples and towers. It is the largest populated city in ancient history.

It is internationally known for its hanging gardens, the Ishtar Gate and Tower of Babel.

India to train Bangladeshi Civil Servants at Mussoorie…

A batch Bangladeshi civil servant will be trained at the National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG), Mussoorie in Uttarakhand for a period between 2019-2025. NCGG is an institute under Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG).

Key Highlights

Background: This training is based on a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in February 2019 between National Centre for Good Governance (NCGG) and Ministry of Public Administration, Government of Bangladesh, in this regard during 5th meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission (JCC).  This is 2nd time that NCGG has signed an MOU for a training programme for Bangladesh civil servants.  Under the 1st MOU signed 5 years ago, 1,500 Bangladesh civil servants were trained by NCGG.

Training Areas: public policy and implementation, e- governance and service delivery, information technology (IT), decentralization, ethics in Administration, urban development and planning and challenges in implementation of sustainable development goals (SDGs).

The training batch will consist of a total of 1800 Bangladeshi mid-career civil servants.

The 1st batch consisting of 30 civil servants leaving for a two-week long training programme at Mussoorie have already paid a visit to Indian High Commission in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Centre fixes price for Sovereign Gold Bonds at Rs.3,443 per gram…

Government of India has fixed the price at Rs.3,443 per gram for the new series of Sovereign Gold Bonds (SGBs) opening July 8.

Key Highlights

Union Finance Ministry recently announced that Centre in consultation with Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has decided to allow a discount of Rs.50 per gram from issue price to those investors who apply online and payment which is made via digital mode. This implies that for such investors, the issue price of gold bond will be Rs.3,393 per gram of gold.

On 30 may 2019 RBI announced calendar for issuance of SGB for 1st half of current financial year (2019-2020).

The SGB’s will be issued every month from June 2019 to September 2019.

About Sovereign Gold Bond Scheme

It was launched by Government of India in November 2015 with the goal of reducing the demand for physical gold and shifting a part of domestic savings, used for purchase of gold, into financial savings.

Under the SGB scheme, bonds are denominated in units of 1 gram of gold and multiples thereof.

Minimum Investment: in bonds is 1 gram and a maximum limit of subscription of 500 gram/person/fiscal year (April-March).

Maximum Limit: of subscription is 4 kg for an individual and Hindu Undivided Family (HUF) and 20 kg maximum subscription limit for trusts and similar entities per fiscal (April-March).

Annual Ceiling: includes bonds subscribed under different tranches during initial issuance by centre and those purchased from secondary market.

Operation Sudarshan

Border Security Force (BSF) has launched a massive exercise, code named as Sudarshan, to fortify Anti-Infiltration Grid along Pakistan border in Punjab and Jammu. The operation was launched on 1 July and is expected to be finished within a fortnight.

Operation Sudarshan

Name: The exercise has been named Sudarshan drawing from Sudarshan Chakra (or mythological cutting wheel) of Lord Krishna.

Coverage Area: It will cover entire over 1,000-km length of India-Pakistan International Border out of which Jammu shares about 485-km of border with Pakistan and about 553-km of border front is in Punjab. The

About BSF

It was formed on 1 December 1965 in the wake of India-Pakistan 1965 War, for ensuring security of India’s borders and for matters connected there with.

Function: It is the country’s primary border defence organisation. It is responsible for guarding India’s land border during peacetime as well as preventing transnational crime.

It is a Government Agency under administrative control of Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). It is one of the 7 Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) of India and currently stands as world’s largest border guarding force.

FIFA Women’s World Cup: U.S.A beats Netherlands…

The United States of America (USA) won FIFA Women’s World Cup 2019 title after beating Netherlands in final at Lyon, France. US won with 2-0 goals scored by from Megan Rapinoe penalty and Rose Lavelle.

Key Highlights

US retained the women’s World Cup title with help of penalty scored by Megan Rapinoe and strike byRose Lavelle that gave holders a 2-0 victory.

The victory underlines USA’s status as dominant force in international women’s football as they claim World Cup title for 4th time (earlier 1991, 1999 and 2015) in 8 editions.

US were already the 1st team to appear in 3 consecutive finals. Also Coach Jill Ellis becomes 1st coach to win back-to-back World Cups in men’s or women’s game since Italy’s Vittorio Pozzo in 1930s.

USA was the only non-European team to make it to quarter-finals in France.

Megan Rapinoe: She won the Golden Boot after finishing with 6 goals and 3 assists, and she also took Golden Ball award for best player of tournament.

Six Sigma Institute of Mountain Medicines and High-Altitude Rescue to be set up at Uttarakhand…

Asia’s 1st Six Sigma Institute of Mountain Medicines and High Altitude Rescue to be established at Rudraprayag district in Uttarakhand. This comes after Chief Minister of Uttarakhand Trivendra Singh Rawat recently accepted and agreed to a proposal for establishling the mountain institute.

                       

About Six Sigma Institute of Mountain Medicines and High Altitude Rescue

It will be a high altitude institute of mountain medicine, training and research center.

First of its Kind: This state of art institute when once completed would be dealing with health issues related with high altitudes would be first of its kind in Asia.

Training: The institute would also train armed forces as well as para-military personnel in Mountain Medicines. It would also offer courses in mountains medicines and high altitude rescue. It will also train local people, schools and colleges in high altitude rescue and disaster.

Services: It would provide necessary high altitude medical services to pilgrims and tourists visiting the state. The institute would also help in enchansing high altitude communications (HAM) and endeavour to develop better food product and beverages.

This mountain institute will create 1200 employment, Specialised healthcare, advance education and Rescue Training in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand.

About Six Sigma health care

It is a company which at present is operating hospitals in Kedarnath, Tungnath and Madhymaheshwar. It has proposed to set up mega Rs.750 cr project in Rudraprayag district of Uttarakhand.

Six Sigma team also handed over Kedarnath Medical Intelligence Report to Uttarakhand Chief Minister and gave following suggestions to Uttarakhand Chief Minister-

  • Medical screening of Yatris and Empanelment of Hospitals across country for medical checks
  • Provision of Air Ambulances for Emergencies
  • Establishment of Bhandara for better food services in Kedarnath Yatra
  • Increase of Hospital bed strength at Kedarnath and Permanent Medical Post at Tungnath and Madhymaheshwar

Copa America…

Brazil have defeated Peru with 3-1 to win this year’s Copa America football trophy. This is Brazil’s 9th Copa America title after a gap of 12 years since 2007.

Key Highlights

Gabriel Jesus and Richarlison scored a goal each for Brazil.

Brazil has won the title every time they hosted the tournament and this is its 5th title at home. The last time they won Copa América at home was in 1989 against Uruguay.

Since 2007 Brazil’s only other title came in 2013 Confederations Cup which was also at home.

Brazil had not made it past Copa América’s quarterfinals since beating Argentina with 3-0 in 2007 final in Venezuela. In 2016 Brazil did not even get past group stage.

This is also Brazil’s 1st tournament success since winning a gold medal at 2016 Olympics.

Player of the Final: Everton. He also finished as one of tournament’s top scorers with three goals.

Player of the Tournament: Dani Alves, Brazil’s veteran right-back

Uruguay are Copa América’s most successful nation with 15 titles (one more than Argentina).

About Copa América

It is an international men’s association football championship.

It is organized by South America’s football ruling body CONMEBOL.

2019 Copa América: was 46th edition of Copa América. It was held in Brazil between 14 June to 7 July 2019 at 6 venues across the country.

Final positions-

  1. Champions- Brazil (9th title)
  2. Runners-up- Peru
  3. 3rd place-Argentina
  4. 4th place- Chile

Jaipur listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site…

The Walled City of Jaipur, known for its iconic architectural legacy and vibrant culture, made an official entry into UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site list.

The decision was taken at 43rd session of UNESCO World Heritage Committee, underway in Azerbaijan from June 20 up to July 10. During this session, in addition to Jaipur, Committee examined 36 nominations for inscription on UNESCO’s World Heritage List.

About Jaipur

Founded: It was founded in 1727 CE under the patronage of Maharaj Sawai Jai Singh II. It serves as capital city of culturally-rich state of Rajasthan.

Why Selected?

The Pink City Jaipur was nominated for its value of being an exemplary development in architecture and town planning that demonstrates an amalgamation and important exchange of ideas in late medieval period.

The city shows an interchange of ancient Hindu, Mughal and contemporary Western ideas in town planning that resulted in the form of city.

 World Heritage Committee

It is composed of representatives of 21 States Parties to World Heritage Convention.

The representatives meet annually and the committee is in charge of implementing the Convention.

As of date total 1092 sites in 167 countries have been inscribed on UNSECO’s World Heritage List.

Utkarsh 2022

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) board has finalised Three Year Roadmap to improve supervision and regulation, among other functions of central bank. This medium term strategy is named as Utkarsh 2022.

Worldwide, all central banks strengthen regulatory and supervisory mechanism and everybody is formulating a medium-term plan and a long-term plan. So, RBI also decided to formulate a pragramme to outline what is to be achieved in the next three years.

About Utkarsh 2022

It is a 3-year road map for medium term objective to be achieved for improving regulation, supervision of RBI.

This medium term strategy is in line with Global central banks’ plan to strengthen regulatory and supervisory mechanism.

An internal committee to identify issues that needed to be addressed over next 3 years was formed, which was anchored by Viral Acharyaoutgoing Deputy Governor of RBI.

Idea behind Utkarsh 2022 is that central bank plays a proactive role and takes preemptive action to avoid any crisis and can avoid situations like IL&FS debt default issue and crisis of confidence non-banking financial sector faced in aftermath.

National Museum of Indian Cinema’s news bulletin launched…

A fortnightly bulletin of the National Museum of Indian Cinema as “NMIC Bulletin“, brought out by the Films Division was launched in Mumbai, Maharashtra.

About NMIC Bulletin

National Museum of Indian Cinema are not just about artefacts kept in them but are also about witnessing journey that made cinema possible as well as about narrating untold stories behind those cinemas.

Need: This bulletin will give several educational institutions and students of media studies who visit Museum regularly a physical document to cherish and to get relevant information.

Significance: India is a nation of great storytellers and produces largest number of films in world. Also, the diversity in Indian cinema can be found nowhere else. Thus need is to market Indian cinema better which this News Bulletin will help in.

Northeast Frontier Railway’s Plan Bee wins Best Innovation Award…

A unique strategy adopted by Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) called ‘Plan Bee’ to keep wild elephants away from train tracks has won the ‘Best Innovation Award’ in Indian Railways for the 2018-19 fiscal. The prize is awarded by Indian Railways and comprises of a citation and a cash award of Rs.3 lakh.

What is Plan Bee?

It is an amplifying system that imitates the buzz of a swarm of honey bees to keep wild elephants away from railway tracks.

Many studies suggest that elephants are scared of swarming bees thus this device was designed to generate amplified sound of honey bees audible from about 700-800 metres.

First such instrument was installed at a level crossing west of Guwahati in Assam on a track adjoining Rani Reserve Forest, an elephant habitat.

NFR now has 46 such devices installed at vulnerable points.

Significance: As per the study conducted Plan Bee device has been helpful in diverting herds of elephants, especially when trains approach and dashing becomes imminent. Also as per NFR officials, a mix of Plan Bee and other measures have helped them save 1,014 elephants from 2014 to June 2019.

Background

There are 29 earmarked elephant corridors with operating zone of Northeast Frontier Railway spread across north-eastern states of India and some parts of Bihar and West Bengal. Trains passing through are required to slow down at these corridors and adhere to speed specified on signs.

But in past elephants have ventured into path of trains even in non-corridor areas, often leading to accidents resulting in elephant deaths. NFR’s Rangiya Railway Division (one of the five railway divisions under NFR zone of Indian Railways) and Forest Department field officials have worked on certain deterrents and provide a solution to the problem.

But the desperation to find an ‘elephant repellent’ was triggered when 67 pachyderms were knocked down by trains from 2013 to June 2019. Most of these elephant deaths cases were reported from Assam and northern West Bengal.

MoEF recommends ‘in-principle’ approval for Uranium exploration…

A Union Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change (MoEFCC) panel has recommended for ‘in-principle’ permission for survey and exploration of Uranium in Amrabad Tiger Reserve in Telangana. Forest Advisory Committee (FAC) under MoEFCC made recommendation at its meeting on 22 May 2019.

Background

The Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) had earlier sought permission from Environment Ministry to carry out survey and drilling of boreholes around for exploration of uranium in Amrabad and Udimalla(Mahaboobnagar district) region upto 76 km besides 7 km in the adjoining Nagarjunasagar Tiger Reserve in Andhra Pradesh, for use in nuclear power generation.

Initially FAC under Environment Ministry observed that there are certain deficiencies in proposal. However, considering the fact that proposal to establish Uranium deposits is of critical importance from national perspective, thus it recommended for in-principle approval to the Atomic body subject to submission of all required document/information in due format.

Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research (AMD) Proposals

In its proposal AMD indicated that review of all areas of ongoing investigations and their assessment indicates that northern part of Cuddapah basin (second largest Proterozoic sedimentary basin in India) is the most promising and potential area in India for locating high grade, large tonnage uranium deposits.

The proposed forest land is one of the prime target for exploration of unconformity related U-deposits in the country.

Although in India, uranium deposit discovered till now was either of low grade or of low tonnage or of both low grade and low tonnage but keeping in view huge amount of electricity to be produced by nuclear route, economically feasible high grade deposits are to be found out expeditiously.

Criticism

Field Director, Project Tiger, after inspection of Amrabad region, confirmed presence of tigers in area based on pug marks and cattle kills, along with evidence of fauna like spotted deer, panther, sloth bear, wild boar, wild dog and sambar.

As per the report there are no existing roads in 3,800 hectares sought for exploration thus would make it difficult to transport drilling machinery.

Near Udumilla also, there was evidence of occasional visit by tigers at Nallavagu locality. Similar issues of transportation and tree felling will prevail at this location too. Noting that AMD proposes to dig a total of 4,000 bores, report noted that environmental impact of mining includes erosion, sink holes formation, biodiversity loss and contamination of soil, groundwater and surface water and which could affect wildlife.

Way Ahead

Currently FAC has given only “in principle” permission to AMD while “full and necessary permissions” are required for the department to allow exploration activities in Tiger Reserve. As per FAC after receipt of in-principle approval, the complete proposal may be soon placed before the Competent Authority for approval.

Dutee Chand wins 100m gold in World Universiade in Italy…

Dutee Chand, the Indian sprinter won gold medal in women’s 100m in World Universiade, 30th Summer University Games held in Naples, Italy. With this win she became 1st Indian woman to do so.

Key Highlights

The 23-year-old Indian athlete clocked 11.32 seconds to win gold as she led the race from start to finish.

She became 1st Indian woman track and field athlete to clinch a gold medal in World Universiade after winning this 100m dash event held in Napoli, Italy.

Indian Army places order for procuring Spike missiles from Israel…

Indian Army has placed an order for procuring Israeli Anti-Tank Spike missiles from Israel. The procurement was made under emergency purchases to meet operational preparedness of the army.

About Spike missile

It is known for their precision targeting with an ability to pierce even bunkers.

Range: It can hit targets at a range of 4 kilometers.

Terrain: It can be deployed in both mountains and plains.

Firing Platform: It can be fired from different platforms such as- vehicles, helicopters, ships and ground launchers. It can be deployed even along the Line of Control (LoC).

In April after Balakot strike, Indian Army cleared procurement of the missile and orders were placed in July 2019.

Indian Army is also prioritising purchase of precision guided kit for artillery ammunition.

Background

After 14 February 2019 Pulwama attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed, three armed forces were given powers to make emergency purchases. Under these emergency provision forces can make procurement up to Rs 300 crore.

CCEA approves 3rd phase of PMGSY…

Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved 3rd phase of Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) to consolidate 1,25,000 km of roads in the states.

Key Features of PMGSY-III Scheme

The 3rd phase of PMGSY (or PMGSY-III) involves consolidation of through routes and major rural links that connects habitations to Gramin Agricultural Markets (GrAMs), hospitals as well as Higher Secondary Schools.

Financial Implications-

Cost: An estimated cost of PMGSY-III would be Rs 80,250 crore over next five years out of which Central Share-Rs 53800 crore and State Share- Rs 26450 crore.

Fund: to be shared in ratio of 60:40 between Centre and State for all States except for 8 North Eastern and 3 Himalayan States (Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh & Uttarakhand) for which it is 90:10.

Implementation-

Project Target period: 2019-20 to 2024-25.

Parameter for Road Selection: A candidate road selection is based on sum total of marks obtained by particular road on basis of parameters of population served, educational and medical facilities, market, etc.

Construction of Bridges: up to 200 m in Himalayan and NE States and 150 m in plain areas proposed from existing provisions of 100 m and 75 m in Himalayan and NE States and plain areas respectively.

Memorandum of Understanding: States shall be asked to enter into MoU before launching of PMGSY-III in concerned State for providing adequate funds for maintenance of roads constructed under PMGSY post 5-year construction maintenance period.

Background

PMGSY-III scheme was announced by Union Finance Minister in Budget Speech for year 2018-19.

CCEA in its meeting held on 9th August, 2018 approved continuation of PMGSY-I & PMGSY-II beyond 12th FYP Plan and covering of balance eligible habitations under PMGSY-I by March 2019, PMGSY-II, and habitations under identified LWE blocks (100-249 population) by March 2020.

Progress under PMGSY: Under the scheme a total of 5,99,090 Km road length has been constructed since inception till April, 2019 inclusive of PMGSY-I, PMGSY-II and Road Connectivity Project for Left Wing Extremism Area (RCPLWEA) Scheme.

Japan’s Hayabusa2 Probe makes 2nd touchdown on asteroid Ryugu…

Japan’s Hayabusa2 probe has made a perfect touchdown on a distant asteroid named Ryugu, some 300 million kilometres from Earth. It collected samples from beneath surface in an unprecedented mission that could shed light on origins of solar system.

About Hayabusa2 Mission

Creating History: Before this touchdown by Hayabusa2 probe, a  sub-surface material from a celestial body further away than moon have never been gathered. Thus Japan became 1st country to do so. Hayabusa2 also made history with the creation of the crater on Ryugu’s surface.

Objective: It is intended to collect pristine materials from beneath surface of desolate asteroid as it is believed that collected material could provide insights into what solar system was like at its birth, some 4.6 billion years ago.

Background: It is the successor to JAXA’s (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) 1st asteroid explorer called Hayabusa which is Japanese word for ‘falcon’. In 2010 Hayabusa returned with dust samples from a smaller, potato-shaped asteroid. It was also hailed as scientific triumph despite various setbacks during its epic 7-year odyssey. Then Hayabusa2 Mission was launched in December 2014, with project cost around $270 million. Hayabusa2 mission is a complex multi-year which has also involved sending rovers and robots down to the surface. It is scheduled to return to Earth with its samples in 2020.

1st Touchdown of Hayabusa2: The recent brief landing is 2nd time Hayabusa2 has touched down on desolate asteroid Ryugu. The 1st touchdown was in February 2019, when it landed briefly on asteroid Ryugu and fired a bullet into surface to puff up dust for collection just before blasting back to its holding position.

Importance of 2nd Touchdown: The 2nd Touchdown required special preparations as any problems could have meant that probe would lose precious materials already gathered during its 1st landing. It is the last major part of Hayabusa2’s mission, and when probe returns to Earth in 2020 to drop off its samples, scientists hope to learn more about history of solar system and even origin of life on Earth.

Ryugu, in in Japanese means Dragon Palace. It refers to a castle at bottom of ocean in an ancient Japanese tale.

Sister City Partnership…

A Letter of Intent (LoI) was exchanged between Ahmedabad and Japanese city of Kobe for a sister city partnership. The LoI was exchanged in presence of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who visited Kobe to address a large Indian diaspora event.

Key Highlights

Authorities from Japanese city of Kobe exchanged Letter of Intent (LoI) with their counterparts in Ahmedabad for Ahmedabad-Kobe Sister City Partnership.

This development will further pave the way for an enhanced economic relationship as well as a cultural exchange between two vibrant cities as well as between India and Japan.

Ssister city?

The sister cities or twin towns concept is a legal and social agreement between towns, cities, oblasts, counties, provinces, prefectures, states, regions between two different countries to promote cultural as well as commercial ties.

This plan was conceived after World War II ended so as to promote peaceful coexistence and to encourage trade and tourism.

In diplomacy, the concept of sister cities is seen as a way for enhancing strategic ties between two nations, both cultural and economic.

India has signed sister city agreements with: China, Australia, United States, South Korea (RoK), Russia, Canada, Germany, Belarus, Mauritius, Hungary, Jordan, Bangladesh, Lithuania and Portugal.

Virat Kohli…

India captain Virat Kohli (30) became fastest batsman to reach 20,000 international runs, across formats. He achieved this milestone in only his 417th international innings ( comprising 131 in Tests, 223 in ODIs and 62 in T20Is.), surpassing previous record held by Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara. Both Tendulkar and Lara scored 20,000 international runs in 453 innings. With this, Kohli became overall 12th batsman and third Indian after Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid to reach 20,000 international runs.

Note: Sachin Tendulkar leads runs charts in ODIs and Tests with 18426 and 15921 runs respectively. He had scored 10 runs in only T20 international he played against South Africa. Rahul Dravid has scored 10889 and 13288 runs in ODIs and Tests, respectively. He also played one T20I and made 31 runs in it.

 Working group for revision of Wholesale Price Index

Indian Government has constituted Working Group for the revision of the current series of Wholesale Price Index (Base 2011-12). It will be chaired by Prof. Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog. Office of Economic Adviser, Department for Promotion of Industry & Internal Trade will be nodal office for Working Group. It will process report / recommendation of this Working Group for further necessary action.

Terms of Reference of the Working Group are:

  • It will select most appropriate Base Year for preparation of new official series Wholesale Price Index (WPI) and Producer Price Index (PPI) in India.
  • It will review existing commodity basket of current series of WPI and suggest additions and deletions of commodities in light of structural changes witnessed in economy since 2011-12.
  • It will also review existing price collection system for manufacturing sector and suggest changes for improvement. It will also decide on computational methodology to be adopted for monthly WPI/PPI.
  • It will examine existing Technical Advisory Committee on Series of Prices and Cost of Living approved compilation methodology of PPI approved and suggest further improvement in compilation and presentation.

Background

The current series of Wholesale Price Index (WPI) with 2011-12 as base year was introduced by Government in May 2017.  However, since 2011-12, significant structural changes have taken place in the economy. Therefore considering these factors it has become necessary to examine coverage of commodities, their weighting diagram and related issues pertaining to existing series of index numbers of WPI.

Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2019

Parliament has passed Special Economic Zones (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to allow trusts to establish units in Special Economic Zone (SEZs). It was first legislation to be passed by newly-constituted 17th Lok Sabha. It replaces Special Economic Zone (Amendment) Ordinance 2019 promulgated March 2019 and amends SEZ Act 2005.

Salient features of Bill

It amends definition of “person” under Section 2(v) of the SEZ Act 2005 to include ‘trusts’. Apart from trusts, it also includes any entity that central government may notify from time to time in the definition of ‘person’.

Section 3(2) of SEZ Act, 2005

The proposal for establishment of SEZ can be made by any “person”. Currently,  person under Section 2(v) of the SEZ Act 2005 is defined as individual, whether resident in India or outside India, Hindu undivided family, co-operative society, company (whether incorporated in India or outside India), proprietary, firm, concern, or association of persons or body of individuals, whether incorporated or not, local authority and any agency, office or branch owned or controlled by such individual.

11th tranche of Electoral Bonds sale –

Union Ministry of Finance recently announced the launch of 11th tranche(parts of a financial arrangement, ) of electoral bonds sale starting from 1-10 July. This is 1st issuance of electoral bonds after conclusion of 17th general elections and formation of new government.

What are Electoral Bonds?

Electoral bonds are being pitched as an alternative to cash donations made to political parties in a bid to bring transparency in political funding.

Background: The government notified the Electoral Bond Scheme in January 2018. As per the scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by a person who is a citizen of India or an entity incorporated or established in India. A person can buy electoral bonds, either single or jointly or even with other individuals.

Exclusive IssuerState Bank of India (SBI) is the only authorised bank to issue electoral bonds. In XI phase of electoral bonds sale, SBI has been authorised to issue and encash electoral bonds through its 29 authorised branches with effect from 1 to 10 July.

Eligibility: Those registered political parties that secured not less than 1% of votes polled in former election of Lok Sabha or legislative assembly will be eligible to receive electoral bonds.

Validity: Electoral bonds are valid for 15 calendar days from date of issuance and no payment is made to any payee political party if bonds are deposited after expiry of validity period. Electoral bond deposited by an eligible political party in its account will be credited on very same day.

Previous Tranche: The sale of 1st batch of electoral bonds was from 1-10 March 2018, 2nd phase 2-10 April, 3rd phase 1-10 May, 4th tranche 2-11 July, 5th 1-10 October, 6th phase 1-10 November, 7th phase 1-10 January and 8th phase 1-15 March, 9th phase 1-20 April and 10th between 6-15 May 2019.

All panchayats to have Broadband Connectivity by March 2020…

 Ministery Electronics and Information Technology  informed Parliament that all gram panchayats will be provided high speed broadband connections under BharatNet project by March 2020.

Key Highlights

As per the government, as of today 128870 gram panchayats have been connected with optical fibre under BharatNet Project.

In Phase I of BharaNet project government connected 1 lakh gram panchayats and the Phase II of project is under implementation, and a total of 2 lakh GPs (gram panchayats) are targeted to be completed by March 2020.

Background: On 19 July 2017 Union Cabinet approved a modified strategy for implementing BharatNet under which, remaining 1,50,000 (approx.) Gram Panchayats in India are to be provided broadband connectivity in Phase-II of the project. The government has set target date to complete roll out of optical based high speed broadband network across all panchayats as March 2019 which was later modified to 2020 following the delay.

 BharatNet?

The project seeks to provide affordable last mile high speed broadband connectivity to 2.5 lakh gram panchayats across the country.

Nodal Ministry: for implementation of project is Ministry of Communication.

Objective: to facilitate delivery of e-governance, e-education, e-health, e-banking, Internet and other services to rural India.

Funding: It is being funded by Universal service Obligation Fund (USOF).

Mandate: It was set up to improve telecom services in rural and remote areas of country.

Progress Made:

Till date Wifi spots have been installed in 44,140 gram panchayats.

Project’s Phase I was completed in December 2017 and 1 lakh gram panchayats were made service ready.

Phase II is under implementation with the target of covering a total of 2 lakh gram panchayats by March 2020.

Book by Former Navy Chief released…

A book titled ‘A Prime Minister to Remember- Memories of a Military Chief’, authored by former Navy Chief Admiral Sushil Kumar recently released highlights the key defence related decisions taken by former Prime Minister of India Late Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Admiral Kumar served as Navy Chief between 1998 and 2001 and also oversaw Kargil conflict in 1999.

Key Highlights from Book

The book by former Navy Chief Admiral Sushil Kumar reads that 1999 Kargil conflict was Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s “finest hour”.

He credits Vajpayee for turning the strategic tactical loss into a massive victory and for which he gave full credit to Armed Forces. Vajpayee instructed armed to not cross LoC (Line of Control), but drive them [Pakistan] away, telling this as his best master stroke Adm. kumar observed that Mr. Vajpayee knew the value of restraint.

In the wake of the Parliament terror attack (December 13, 2001) Vajpayee wanted to hit a Pakistani Army camp but was forced to drop plan at last moment as it got relocated.

Admiral kumar also says that while then External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh wanted India to support United States war on Afghanistan in wake of 9/11 terrorist attack, but the military chiefs disagreed and Vajpayee diplomatically went with latter option.

He mention that Operation Parakram that was called after Parliament attack was not the military’s finest hour.

India’s Forex reserves rise to a record high of $426.42 billion…

As per the data revealed by Reserve Bank of India (RBI), India’s foreign exchange (Forex) reserve rose to a life-time high of $426.42 billion (in week to 21 June 2019) after it surged by $4.215 billion boosted by higher foreign portfolio investments (FPI) and a stable rupee.

Key Highlights

Foreign Currency Assets: expressed in terms of dollars includes effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US units such as British pound, the Japanese yen and euro held in forex reserves. In reporting week of 21 June, foreign currency assets increased by $4.202 billion to $398.649 billion.

Gold Reserves: remained unchanged at $22.958 billion.

Special Drawing Rights (SDR): with IMF increased by $4.2 million to $1.453 billion. India’s reserve position with the fund also rose by $9.6 million to $3.354 billion..

Significance: According to market experts, with $427 billion, reserves can take care of imports for almost 10 months.

Foreign Reserves?

It is the reserve assets held by a central bank of country in foreign currencies which can act as a buffer and can help economy in challenging times. It can also be used to back liabilities on their own issued currency and to influence monetary policy of the country. Almost all countries across the world, regardless of size of their economy, hold significant forex reserves.

Importance: Forex reserves are one of the key revenue earning sources for a country central bank, which invests money in foreign government bonds and also with IMF and other secure investment class.

India’s FOREX Reserves includes components:

  1. Foreign currency assets (FCAs)- It constitutes largest component of Indian Forex Reserves and are expressed in US dollar terms.
  2. Gold Reserves
  3. Special Drawing Rights (SDRs)
  4. Reserve Tranche Position (RTP) of RBI with International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Higher forex reserves are must for a fast-growing economy such as India with higher imports and lower export earnings.

5-year Vision Plan on Quality Education by HRD Ministry…

The Higher Education Department of the Union Ministry of Human Resource Development has finalized and released a 5-year Vision Plan titled as Education Quality Upgradation and Inclusion Programme (EQUIP).

About EQUIP

This Vision Plan by HRD Ministry is in accordance with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s direction for finalizing a 5-year Vision plan for each Ministry.

10 Focus Areas: EQUIP report has been prepared after a detailed exercise done by Experts covering following ten areas:

  1. Strategies for expanding access
  2. Towards global best teaching/learning process
  3. Promoting Excellence
  4. Governance reforms
  5. Assessment, Accreditation & Ranking systems
  6. Promotion of research & innovation
  7. Employability & entrepreneurship
  8. Using Technology for better reach
  9. Internationalisation
  10. Financing higher education

Expert Groups: For aforementioned focus areas 10 Expert Group drawn from senior academicians, administrators and industrialists suggested over 50 initiatives that would transform country’s higher education sector completely.

Goals set for Higher Education Sector by Expert Group are-

  1. Doubling Gross Enrolment Ratio (GER) and resolving geographically and socially skewed access to higher education institutions in India.
  2. Promoting India as a global study destination.
  3. Upgrade Quality of Education to global standards.
  4. Positioning minimum 50 Indian institutions among Top-1000 Global Universities.
  5. Promote Research & Innovation ecosystems for positioning India in Top-3 countries globally in matters of knowledge creation.
  6. Introducing governance reforms in higher education for well-administered campuses.
  7. Accreditation of all institutions for assurance of quality.
  8. Doubling employability of students passing out of higher education.
  9. Harnessing education technology for expanding reach and improving pedagogy (method and practise of teaching).
  10. Achieving a quantum increase in investment in higher education.

Way Forward

For each of the initiatives mentioned the Expert Groups have recommended modalities for implementation, investments and timelines. This proposal would now be taken for inter-departmental consultations and appraisal through EFC (Expenditure Finance Committee) mechanism before being taken to Cabinet for approval.

 ‘Go Tribal’ campaign launched…

Go Tribal campaign, was launched by Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs and TRIFED (Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India) in association with Amazon Global.

Key Highlights about Campaign

Objective: To create awareness and promote tribal arts and crafts as well as help in socio-economic welfare of more than 700 Indian tribes, by promoting and making available tribal handcrafted textiles, jewellery, and other accessories via global online market spaces.

Organiser: The ‘Go Tribal’ camp was organised by TRIFED.

Global Launch of “TRIBES India”: Under the campaign, Tribes India and Amazon Global Marketing will launch TRIBES India products globally through website (Amazon.com) which will showcase an array of product range.

Amazon, an e-commerce giant company will market ‘Tribes India collections under sections of ‘Tribes of India Heritage Collection‘ which will include handcrafted textiles like ikats, silks and pashminas; tribal jewellery like dokras and banjaras, gifts and pottery and Tribes of India Natural Collection’ which will include Telangana coffees, Uttarakhand soaps, Karnataka spices and more.

Significance:

The careful precision and handcrafted intricacy of works of tribal master craftsmen from all over India will be showcased through ‘Go Tribal’ campaign.

Through this initiative government wants to promote Indian tribal communities and their art while helping them to go global and providing them opportunities to attain a sustainable livelihood. This could be achieved as online market has no geographical boundaries.

What is TRIFED?

TRIFED is an organization that functions under the aegis of Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs and is engaged in marketing development of tribal products including tribal art and craft under the brand name of TRIBES INDIA.

Indian Railways conducting trials of Tri-Netra technology…

Union Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal during Question Hour informed Rajya Sabha members that Indian Railways is conducting TRI-NETRA (Terrain Imaging for Drivers Infrared, Enhanced, Optical & Radar Assisted) technology for detecting obstructions on tracks.

RBI permits ARC to buy financial assets from Peers…

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has permitted Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARCs) to acquire financial assets from peers i.e. other such entities. However, RBI, the apex banking regulator cleared that all such transactions have to be settled in cash.

Key Highlights

The ARCs have been allowed to acquire financial assets from other ARCs, in the view of amendment to the Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest (SARFAESI) Act, 2002.

Conditions: for transfer of assets by one ARC to another includes-

  • Price discovery for such transaction shall not be disadvantageous to interest of Security Receipt holders. Also selling ARC must utilise proceeds so received for redemption of underlying security receipts.
  • Redemption date of underlying Security Receipts and total Period of Realisation (conversion of assets, goods & services into cash or receivables through sale) should not extend beyond a period of 8 years from date of acquisition of financial asset by 1st ARC.
  • All such transactions have to be settled in cash.

Significance: This decision by RBI will help improve liquidity in Asset Reconstruction Companies’ market.

SARFAESI Act, 2002?

It lets banks as well as other financial institutions (FIs) of India auction commercial or residential properties (of defaulters) for purpose of loan recovery.

Asset Reconstruction Companies (ARC) was established under this act.

It was made to identify and rectify problem of Non-Performing Assets (NPAs) via multiple mechanisms.

IOA President Narinder Batra elected to IOC…

Narinder Batra, President of Indian Olympic Association (IOA) was elected as a member of International Olympic Committee (IOC) in Lausanne, Switzerland. He secured 58 votes out of 62 polled.

About Narinder Batra

He was elected to prestigious seat during the 134th IOC Session being held in Lausanne, Switzerland.

His election is linked to his function in a National Olympic Committee that is president of Indian Olympic Association (IOA).

Indian IOC Members:

With Batra now being elected to IOC, the number of Indians who are currently active members of IOC will increase to two.

In 2016 Nita Ambani Chairperson of Reliance Foundation, was elected as an individual member of IOC. She is 1st Indian woman to be elected to prestigious seat.

Randhir Singh, Former IOA Secretary General has also served as a member of IOC from 2001 to 2014 and has been made an honorary member since then.

 International Olympic Committee

IOC is non-governmental sports organization that was founded on 23 June 1894 in Paris, France.

It is the supreme authority of Olympic Movement and is headquartered at Lausanne, Switzerland.

It acts as a catalyst for collaboration between all parties of the Olympic family and shepherds success through a wide range of programmes and projects.

It ensures regular celebration of Olympic Games, supports all affiliated member organisations of Olympic Movement and strongly encourages, promotion of Olympic values by appropriate means.

UK-India Awards 2019: Mark Tully gets Lifetime Achievement Award…

Veteran British journalist Sir Mark Tully was conferred with ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’ at UK-India Awards in London for his contributions to UK-India relationship.

 Mark Tully

He is the former Bureau Chief of BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) in New Delhi, India. Previously he had been knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in UK and conferred with Padma Bhushan in India.

About UK-India Awards

These are annual awards, which celebrate special talents and organisations that use their worldwide influence to strengthen ties between UK-India. It is invitation-only black-tie dinner and glittering awards ceremony that celebrates winning partnership between UK and India.

Award ceremony marked the conclusion of annual UK-India Week 2019, which kicked off with 1st ever ‘India Day’ in Houses of Parliament complex in London.

judiciary system serves as a bulwark against any such violations of human rights.

Goa Govt. approves amendment to Factories Act to allow Women in Night Shifts…

The state government of Goa recently approved an amendment to Factories Act 1948 which will allow deployment of women in night shifts (from 7pm to 6 am) in industries. It is a welcome step taken by Goa government towards women empowerment.

Key Highlights

The Amendment Bill was approved by state cabinet and is set to be tabled during upcoming Legislative Assembly session.

Need: Specific provision restricting employments of women at night have had a deterred effect on employment of women.

Importance:

The amendment will allow deployment of women in night shifts in industries and might end the discrimination against female workers as far as job opportunities are concerned.

It will give trouble-free space to women to excel in their careers and will also help women get more jobs.

It is a revolutionary step which might bring about equality at workplace.

What is Factories Act 1948?

Administration: It is administered by Union Ministry of Labour and Employment via Directorate General Factory Advice Service & Labour Institutes(DGFASLI), which advises Central and State Governments on administration of Factories Act and coordinates factory inspection services in States. In state the act is administered by State Governments through their factory inspectorates.

Amendment: It was amended by Factories (Amendment) Act, 1987 and serves to assist in formulating national policies with respect to occupational safety and health in factories and docks in India.

Focus Area: It deals with different problems concerning health, safety, efficiency and well-being of persons at work places.

Covers: It is applicable to establishments with 10 or more workers, if premise is using power and to establishments with 20 or more workers, without electricity connection.

Donald Trump becomes 1st sitting US president to enter North Korea… –

United States President Donald Trump became 1st sitting US president to set foot in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (or North Korea) when he met its leader, Kim Jong Un, in Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) between North Korea and South Korea.

Key Highlights

President Donald Trump met North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at border village of Panmunjom in the Demilitarized Zone, South Korea and agreed to resume stalled nuclear talks.

This was the third meeting between two leaders in just over a year on old Cold War frontier that for decades has symbolised hostility between their countries, which are technically still at war.

Unique 3-way Gathering: Trump while escorted by Kim, briefly crossed a military demarcation line into North Korea and moments later, they returned to South Korean side and joined South Korea’s President Moon Jae-in for a brief chat, marking an unprecedented 3-way gathering.

About US-North Korea Meet

1st summit: In 2018 between North Korean Chairman Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump was held in Singapore city, called as North Korea–United States Singapore Summit or Singapore Summit. At the summit a joint statement was signed between two agreeing to security guarantees for North Korea, denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, new peaceful relations, recovery of soldiers’ remains, and follow-up negotiations between high-level officials.

2nd summit: In February 2019 in Hanoi, Vietnam called as 019 North Korea–United States Hanoi Summit, or Hanoi Summit. This meet was cut short and that no agreement was reached as two sides failed to narrow differences between US demand for North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons and a North Korea’s demand for relief of sanctions.

Why is meet Important?

Now for years North Korea has pursued nuclear and missile programmes in defiance of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and easing tensions with North Korea and denuclearisation of Korean peninsula is one of US president’s top foreign policy priorities.

North Korea (DMZ) was set up after 1950-53 Korean War ended in an armistice, not a truce, leaving North Korea and a US-led U.N.

Tamil yeoman: now Tamil Nadu’s State Butterfly…

Butterfly species Tamil yeoman (Cirrochroa thais) has been officially declared as state butterfly of Tamil Nadu. The southern State formally notified this by an order on lines of the State Tree (Palm), Bird (Emerald Dove), Flower (Gloriosa) and Animal (Nilgiri Tahr).

About Tamil yeoman

Scientific NameCirrochroa thais

It is also known as Tamizh Maravan (which means warrior).

This butterfly species is endemic to Western Ghats. It is among 32 butterfly species found in Western Ghats but mainly in the hilly areas.

Features: Uniformly orange in colour with a dark brown outer ring.

This butterfly species moves in groups in large numbers, but only in a few places.

Why Tamil yeoman?

It was chosen for honour after both Tamil Nadu Forest Department and state conservation groups decided to work together to identify a butterfly species that could be iconiceasily recognisable and easy to spot, and a the same time serve as another symbol of State.

Key Facts

For the 1st time Tamil Nadu has declared its state butterfly. With this it becomes only 5th in country to do so.

Maharashtra was 1st to declare Blue Mormon as its state butterfly, followed by Common peacock inUttarakhand, Southern bird wings in Karnataka and Malabar banded peacock in Kerala.

Japan resumes commercial whaling…

Japan has resumed commercial whaling after a period of 31 years, but will stay within country’s exclusive economic waters. Since 1988 Japan had switched to so-called research whaling. Though this move is slammed by anti-whaling activists but is welcomed by Japanese whaling communities.

Key Highlights

On 1 July 2019 Whaling boats embarked their first commercial hunts since 1988. This comes after Japan’s 6 month notice to withdraw from International Whaling Commission (IWC) took effect on 30 June 2019.

Japanese boats will not be allowed to venture more than 200 miles (321km) off Japan’s Pacific coast.

For a very long period Whaling has proved to be a diplomatic flashpoint for Tokyo, which justifies practice as a Japanese tradition and thus it should not be subject to international interference.

Way Ahead: The fate of commercial whaling depends on whether whale meat is widely accepted by consumers since it won’t be getting as much subsidies as it used to get.

Why Whaling is important for Japan?

During the lean times after World War II, Whale meat was an affordable source of protein and in 1962 its consumption peaked at 223,000 tons. But later whale was quickly replaced by other meats and in 1986 Whale meat consumption was down to 6,000 tons. In fiscal 2017 whaling in Japan involved only a few hundred people and accounted for less than 0.1% of total meat consumption. But still whaling is kept synonymous with Japan’s traditional lifestyle.

About International Whaling Commission

It is an international body set up underInternational Convention for Regulation of Whaling(ICRW), which was signed in 1946 in Washington, D.C., United States (US).

ICRW governs scientific, commercial, and aboriginal subsistence whaling practices of 59 member nations.

IWC Headquarters: Impington, England.

Objective: To provide for proper conservation of whale stocks and make possible orderly development of whaling industry.

IWC-JAPAN: In 1986, IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling to protect the world’s last remaining whales. The ban on commercial whaling nevertheless allowed Japan an annual whale quota for scientific reasons which meant that Japan could undertake whaling only for scientific reasons. In December 2018 Japan announced its decision to withdraw from IWC.

Jal Shakti Abhiyan for Water Conservation launched…

Union Jal Shakti Minister Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat recently launched Jal Shakti Abhiyan- a campaign for water conservation and water security in 1592 stressed blocks in 256 districts.

About Jal Shakti Abhiyan

It is a collaborative effort of various Union Ministries and State Governments, being coordinated by Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS).

Focus Area: is water stressed districts (256) and blocks (1592).

Team: Central government officers, led by joint secretaries and additional secretaries, are assigned to these 256 districts and district administration will also nominate 2 members to join the team. This team of officers from central government and district administration will visit and work on water stressed districts and blocks to ensure water conservation interventions.

Campaign is centred on 5 aspects

  1. Water conservation and rainwater harvesting
  2. Renovation of traditional and other water bodies/tanks
  3. Reuse of water and recharging of structures such as bore well
  4. Watershed development
  5. Intensive afforestation

Special Intervention: Water conservation efforts will also be supplemented with special interventions such as

  • Development of Block and District Water Conservation Plans
  • Promotion of efficient water use for irrigation
  • Better choice of crops through Krishi Vigyan Kendras.

Phases: Campaign will run through citizen participation during

  1. Monsoon season- from 1st July to 15th September, 2019.
  2. Additional Phase 2- from 1st October to 30th November, 2019 for States receiving North East retreating monsoons.

Large-scale Communications Campaign: has also been planned side by side with JSA, which will involve mass mobilisation of different groups such as swachhagrahis, school students, college students, youth groups (NSS/NYKS/NCC), Self Help Groups (SHG), Panchayati Raj Institution members, defence personnel, ex-servicemen and pensioners, among others.

Significance: With this initiative government aims to provide drinking water to every household on priority and in a sustainable manner. It is also expected to bring positive change in people for water conservation.

Campaign will help people to work for rain water harvesting, maintenance and upkeep of ponds and village tanks and conservation of water.

34th Sailing Championship inaugurated in Telangana-

The 34th edition of Hyderabad Sailing WeekNational Ranking Multi-Class Championship 2019 was inaugurated by Governor of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh, ESL Narasimhan in Hyderabad, Telangana.

About Hyderabad Sailing Week

The YAI Multi-Class (Ranking) Sailing Championship is one of oldest sailing competitions in India. It is held every year in twin cities of Hyderabad and Secunderabad is taking place at Hussain Sagar Lake.

Objective: of this Championship is to put Hyderabad into World sailing map.

Schedule: The event will take place between 2 to 7 July. The 2019 is a landmark year for EME Sailing Association as this year event has been accredited as YAI National Ranking Event hence participant’s sailor’s performance will be ranked and this will give them points for selection into National team.

Participants: includes 190 plus sailors, 16 sailing clubs with round 21 sailors from Telangana state alone. Technical part of championship is being taken care of by foreign sailing members.

Organiser: Event is jointly organised by Secunderabad Sailing Club and EME Sailing Association (EMESA) under the aegis of Laser Class Association of India supported by Sports Authority of Telangana State.

Why Hyderabad? The wind conditions in city are most favourable to hone sailor’s skills in yacht handling and understanding wind shifts.

About EME Sailing Association

EMESA was formed in 1964. It has produced a number of medal winners both at National and International level.

In year 1986 LCAI was founded with a view to promote sailing in India. Since then, event has been conducted continuously for last 33 years and is popularly known as “Hyderabad Sailing week”.

US Senate passes law to give India NATO ally-like status… –

The United States Senate (Upper Chamber of US Congress) has passed a legislative provision that brings India at par with America’s NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies and countries like South Korea, Australia, Japan and Israel for increasing defence cooperation.

This development to bring India at last with NATO ally comes amid a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Donald Trump during G20 in Osaka, Japan and visit by US Secretary of State (SoS) Mike Pompeo to New Delhi.

What is National Defense Authorisation Act?

The legislative provision called National Defense Authorisation Act (or NDAA) for fiscal year 2020 was passed by Senate in late June.

Purpose: NDAA provides for increased US-India Defence cooperation in Indian Ocean in areas of counter-piracy, counter-terrorism, humanitarian assistance and maritime security.

Significance: The move of elevating India to non-NATO status is vital towards advancement of US-India strategic partnership and will further boost collaboration between India and US in defence.

Way Ahead: The bill would be signed into law after both chambers of US Congress pass it. The House of Representatives is expected to take up its version of NDAA in July before legislators adjourn for August recess on July 29.

US-INDIA Relation

In 2016 United States recognised India as a Major Defence Partner, a designation that allows India to buy more advanced and sensitive technologies from US at par with that of US’ closest allies and partners.

In July 2018, US President Donald Trump-led administration granted India status of Strategic Trade Authorization-1 (STA-1) country. This made India the only South Asian nation to be given the said designation along with US’ NATO allies. This move would ease export controls for high technology product sales to India.

The increased engagement of US with India in multilateral frameworks seeks to promote regional security and defend shared values and common interests in rules-based order.

IMF Chief Christine Lagarde to now head European Central Bank…

International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director Christine Lagarde has been confirmed as new head of European Central bank (ECB). Her appointment would make her 1st woman to lead powerful institution of ECB.

Key Highlights

Following Lagarde’s nomination as President of ECB she announced to temporarily relinquish her responsibilities as head of IMF. She will now step down 2 years before end of her second five-year term as IMF Chief.

She would be succeeding Mario Draghi, whose term ends on 31 October 2019.

About Christine Lagarde

The 63 years old French, was the 1st woman to head International Monetary Fund (IMF) when she took the job in 2011.

In 2005 she was appointed France’s trade minister and in 2007 as finance minister.

She will next head European Central Bank starting November 2019.

About European Central Bank

It was established on 1 June 1998 with Headquarters in Ostend district, Frankfurt, Germany. It is the central bank of 19 European Union (EU) countries which have adopted Euro.

It is EU’s one truly federal institution which is responsible for administering of Euro and Monetary policy of Eurozone. It is one of the largest monetary areas in world.

After U.S. Federal Reserve, ECB is most influential central bank in world.

Mandate: To maintain price stability in Euro area and so preserve purchasing power of single currency.

ECB Presidency:

It is not just most powerful position in Europe, far more significant than European commission presidency but is one of the most significant policymaking positions in world.

The position is currently held by Mario Draghi, who was widely credited with saving the euro during the eurozone debt crisis.

SCR commissions Longest Electrified Railway Tunnel in India…

South Central Railway (SCR), one of the 18 zones of Indian Railways has commissioned the longest electrified tunnel in Indian Railways.

Key Features of Longest Electrified Railway Tunnel

The newly commissioned electrified tunnel measures 6.6 kilometres.

It is situated between Cherlopalli and Rapuru Railway stations in Nellore district, Andhra Pradesh. It will be helpful for decongesting traffic on Vijayawada-Gudur main line.

It is part of 113-km new railway line completed recently between Obulavaripalli– Venkatachalam – Krishnapatnam Port.  The tunnel construction was completed in a record time of 43 months.

The height of tunnel (rail level to roof) is 6.5 metres and Minimum height of contact wire is maintained at 5.2 metres.

The electrified tunnel is an engineering marvel which is constructed in a horseshoe design. It is constructed on New Australian Tunnelling Method, at a cost of ₹460 crore.

This new line would facilitate direct and viable connectivity between South Coast and West Coast Railway. It will aslo improve freight revenue of zone.

About South Central Railway

It is one of 18 Indian Railways zones. Its jurisdiction zone is spread over states of Maharashtra, Telangana, and some portions of Madhya Pradesh.

It has 3 divisions under its administration, which include Nanded, Secunderabad, Hyderabad.

Budget 2019-20

Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman presents the maiden budget of the second Narendra Modi government in the Lok Sabha on July 5, 2019.

Here are the updates:

-Fiscal deficit target is 3.3% of GDP, brought down from 3.4%.

17 taxes and 13 cesses became one tax under GST. In the initial phase, GST witnessed teething problems, and the Centre and States worked to make it better.

Relief of above 92,000 crore per year has been given. GST to be further simplified to a single monthly return.

The Minister reads out various exemptions under customs duty. Defence products not manufactured in India are exempt from basic customs duty.

Proposed to increase .custom duty on gold and other precious metals from 10 % to 12.5%.

Special additional excise duty on fuel of  rs 1 per liter.

On digital payments

TDS of 2% on cash withdrawals exceeding ₹1 crore in a year from bank accounts, to discourage business payments in cash.

Those in the highest income brackets will have to pay more surcharge for those in the ₹2-5 crore, and ₹5 crore and above, increasing the effective tax rate by 3% and 7% respectively.

-5 lakh minimum limit announced for taxpayers.

Additional deduction on loans upto March 31, 2020, for buying affordable houses giving ₹7 lakh benefit to home buyers .

Lower rate of 25% so far only applicable to companies with turnover of ₹250 crore. Propose to increase this limit to companies with annual turnover of ₹400 crore.

This will cover 99.3% of companies.

GST rate on electric vehicles already proposed to be lowered to 5%. Additional income tax deduction of ₹1.5 lakh on interest on loans taken to purchase electric vehicles.

To resolve the angel tax issue, startups will not be subject to any scrutiny in respect to valuation.  Funds raised by startups will not require any scrutiny by the I-T department.

Period of exemption for capital gains arising from sale of house for investment in startups to be extended to March 31, 2021.

Additional deduction of ₹1.5 lakh for interest paid on loans for affordable housing borrowed upto March 31, 2020. This will come up to enhanced interest reduction of upto ₹3.5 lakh on loans for affordable homes.

PAN and Aadhaar to be interchangeable, and to allow those without PAN to file income tax by using Aadhaar number.

India’s sovereign external debt to GDP is at less than 5%.

New 20 coins to be made available soon.

On banking and finance sector

Financial gains from cleaning up of banking sector are clearly visible. NPAs of commercial banks have come down by Rs1 lakh crore.

 Number of public sector banks reduced by 8, through consolidation.

-70,000 crore……. recapitalisation for public sector banks.

The National Housing Bank is also the regulator of the housing finance sector.

 She proposes the regulation to be returned to the RBI. ₹100 lakh crore investment in infratructure over the next five years.

Pension Fund Regulatory Authority to be separated from the National Pension Scheme Trust.

To improve capital inflows, govt to realign its holdings in CPFCs. Strategic disinvestment of select CPFCs will continue to remain a priority.

Air India disinvestment to be reinitiated. Govt sets an enhanced target of ₹1.05 lakh crore from disinvestment.

In March 2018, govt approved opening of 18 new Indian diplomatic missions in Africa. 4 embassies to be opened in 2019-20.

17 iconic tourism sites are being developed as world-class destinations. Digital repository proposed for preserving tribal history.

On women

Minister proposes to expand the women SHGs interest subvention to all districts in India. For every verified woman SHG member having a Jan Dhan account, an overdraft (Extra borrowing facility )of ₹5,000 shall be announced.

One woman in every SHG will be made eligible for a loan of upto ₹1 lakh under the Mudra scheme.

On ease of living

This government aims to bring greater ease of living in the lives of its citizens.

35 crore LED bulbs have been distributed through Ujala Yojana, leading to a cost-saving of ₹18,341 crore annually. India is going to be free of incandescent bulbs.

A massive programme for railway station modernisation to be launched.

On the youth

She cites the new National Education Policy. National Research Foundation to assimilate all research grants given by different ministries independent of each other.

Massive Open Online Courses through SWAYAM has been successful, she says.  She proposes the programme Study in India to bring in foreign students.

Draft legislation for setting up of Higher Education Commission will be presented later this year. 10 million youth to take up industry-relevant skill training under the Kaushal Vikas Yojana.

Multiple labour laws to be streamlined into four labour codes.

On the urban sector

Over 81 lakh houses at investment of Rs 4.83 lakh crore have been sanctioned and construction has started in about 41 lakh houses, under PMAY-Urban. More than 95% of all cities have declared themselves open defecation free.

Rashtriya Swachchta Kendra to be inaugurated at Gandhi Darshan on October 2, 2019.

Metro Rail initiatives to be enhanced by encouraging PPPs and faster completion. Dedicated freight corridor is almost complete.

On agriculture

Govt to support private entrepreneurs in agriculture. The Minister says the government will focus more on agricultural infrastructure.

“Ease of doing business and ease of living should apply to farmers.”

 She proposes zero-budget farming, as a model for farmers. “Steps such as this can help doubling farmers income.”

Zero-Budget farming is ..natural farming which is…. neither chemical-loaded nor organic with its reliance on manure.

Zero Budget‘ means without using any credit, and without spending any money on purchased inputs.

 It’s a form of gardening as a self-sustainable practice with minimum external intervention.

This concept of zero budget natural farming (ZBNF) was first propagated 25 years ago by Subhash Palekar as a movement for farmers who were in debt due to the Green Revolution and is now being used by a large number of farmers across the country.

It is believed that plants only receive 1.5% to 2% of their nutrient requirements from soil; the remaining is absorbed through water and air. Given that 98% of the nutrients do not come from soil, using fertilizers is not prudent.

We often come across huge trees in forests, their branches heavy with the weight of countless fruit despite the lack of fertilizers and pesticides. These trees are proof that plants can and do grow healthily without any chemical help.

The reason we do not witness the same in our farms is because the micro-organisms that convert raw nutrients into easy-to-digest form have been destroyed by the use of poisonous chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. Cultivation of soil by tractor has already proved to be detrimental to these micro-organisms.

One gram of cow dung is believed to have anywhere between 300 to 500 crore beneficial micro-organisms.

Over six years of research, Palekar found that:

  1. Only dung from local, Indian cows is effective on the soil. Dung from Jersey and Holstein cows is not as effective. If one is falling short of dung from local cows, one may use dung from bullocks or buffaloes.
    2. Dung and urine of the black coloured Kapila cow is believed to be the most effective.
    3. To get the most of the cow dung and urine, ensure that the dung is as fresh as possible and that the urine is as old as possible.
    4. An acre of land requires 10 kilograms of local cow dung per month. Since the average cow gives 11 kilograms of dung a day, dung from one cow can help fertilize 30 acres of land.
    5. Urine, jaggery and dicot flour can be used as additives.
    6. The lesser milk the cow gives, the more beneficial its dung is towards reviving the soil.

She says the Jal Shakti Ministry was created by integrating many water management ministries. To all rural households by 2024, water will be supplied. Govt will explore additional funds for Jal Shakti by accessing the Compensatory Afforestation Fund management and Planning Authority fund.

9.6 crore toilets have been constructed till now. More than 5.6 lakh villages have become open-defecation free. She proposes to expand Swachch Bharat to solid waste management in every village.

Over 2 crore rural Indians have been made digitally literate.

On the rural sector

The Minister moves on to the rural portion of the Budget. “Gaon, Gareeb aur Kisan at the centre of all our policies.”

“All villages and almost 100% of houses have been provided with electricity.”

To resolve the angel tax issue, startups will not be subject to any scrutiny in respect to valuation. Funds raised by startups will not require any scrutiny by the I-T department.

50 lakh crores proposed for Railway infrastructure.

By 2022, the 75th year of Independence, every single rural family, except those who are unwilling to take the connection, will have electricity and clean cooking facility.

The pension benefit will be extended to 3 crore retail traders under PM Karam Yogi Maan Dhan Scheme. It requires only Aadhaar numbers and bank accounts.

Global Investors Meet to happen in India.

Operation Sankalp in Persian Gulf… 

Indian Navy launched ‘Operation Sankalp’ in Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman to reassure safe passage of Indian flagged vessels transiting through area. This deployment is in the wake of following recent maritime incidents in region.

Key Highlights

Indian Naval Ships, INS Chennai (Kolkata-class stealth guided missile destroyers) and INS Sunayna (Saryu-class patrol vessel) have been deployed in region to undertake maritime security operations. In addition to this aerial surveillance is also being done in area by IN aircraft.

The Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region(IFC-IOR) of Indian Navy is also keeping a close watch on movement of ships in Gulf region. IFC-IOR, launched in December 2018, engages with partner nations to develop comprehensive maritime domain awareness and also share information on vessels of interest.

Need: Operation Sankalp has been launched in wake of escalating tension in Gulf of Oman, where two oil tankers, one Norwegian-owned and other Japanese-owned were attacked on 13 June 2019. This incident has led to heightened tensions between Iran and United States (US). Although, it remains unclear that who was responsible for attacks but US has put the blame on Iran, which, in turn, has denied all allegations.

Importance of Persian Gulf and Gulf of Oman

World’s major oil exporters and importers have a joint interest in security of Gulf of Oman this is because Gulf of Oman offers the only entrance from Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean into Persian Gulf.

Persian Gulf is an arm of Arabian Sea, lies between Arabian Peninsula and Iran, extending from Shatt al Arab delta to Strait of Hormuz.

Approximately 50% of world’s total oil reserves are estimated to be found here.

Induslnd Bank- BFIL merger to be effective from July

The merger of Induslnd Bank and Bharat Financial Inclusion Ltd (BFIL) will be effective from 4 July 2019. This decision to file National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) Order on 4 July, by lender IndusInd , BFIL and IFIL with Registrar of Companies was taken by the boards of IndusInd and BFIL.

Key Highlights

Background: In October 2018, IndusInd Bank decided to acquire India’s leading micro-finance player BFIL, earlier known as SKS Microfinance. On 10 June 2019, National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT), a quasi-judicial body in India that adjudicates issues relating to Indian companies, sanctioned Scheme of Arrangement among BFIL, IndusInd and IFIL and their respective shareholders and creditors.

WHO launches AWaRe tool to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance

The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently launched a global campaign urging governments all across the world to adopt its new online tool called …AWaRe (Access, Watch and Reserve), which is aimed at guiding policy-makers and health workers of country to reduce spread of antimicrobial resistance, adverse events and costs.

This AWaRe tool was developed by World Health Oraganisation’s Essential Medicines List (EML) to reduce spread of antimicrobial resistance, antibiotic-related adverse events, and also to make antibiotic use safer, cheaper and more effective for its consumer.

Key Highlights

Objective: to combat growing menace of antibiotic abuse and burgeoning resistance worldwide and to limit drugs those are at risk of resistance.

About: The WHO’s latest advisory, suggested adoption of AWaRe approach which classifies antibiotics into three groups –

  1. Access– which antibiotics to use for the most common and serious infections
  2. Watch– which ones should be available at all times in the healthcare system
  3. Reserve– those that must be used sparingly or preserved and used only as a last resort

Need:

As per WHO estimates, in most of the countries more than 50% of antibiotics are used inappropriately for treatment of viruses even when they only treat bacterial infections, or are wrong choice of antibiotic (broader spectrum), thus contributing to spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

Also, when antibiotics stop working effectively, treatments become more expensive and hospital admissions are increased, thus this may take a heavy toll on already stretched health budgets of developing countries.

Measures Undertaken:

This new campaign will strive towards increasing proportion of global consumption of antibiotics in Access group to minimum 60%, and towards reducing use of antibiotics most at risk of resistance from Watch and Reserve groups.

As Access antibiotics are narrow-spectrum antibiotics drugs (means that they target a specific microorganism rather than many), therefore, using Access antibiotics lowers the risk of resistance. They are also less costly than others as they are available in generic formulations.

India’s Efforts

Red Line Campaign: In India, Union Ministry of Health Affair has made it mandatory to display a 5mm-thick red vertical band (line) on packaging of prescription-only drugs (those which compulsorily require Doctors’ Prescription) so as to sensitise people and make them cautious while buying these Antibiotic medicines that are widely sold without prescriptions.

Operation Bandar

The preemptive non military air strike conducted by Indian Air Force (IAF) on a terrorist training camp in Balakot, Pakistan, on 26 February 2019 was code-named Operation Bandar (Monkey).

The code name was given as a nondescript, mundane tag to the air strikes, in order to maintain secrecy and ensure that plans about Balakot operations don’t leak out.

Although as per the defence officials there was not any specific reason behind the name chosen but in general a monkey have had a cultural significance and held a special place in India’s war culture such as in Ramayana, where Lord Rama’s lieutenant Lord Hanuman swiftly sneaked into Lanka and destroyed entire capital city of Ravana.

The Indian Air Force is planning to reward IAF pilots who took part in attack with Vayu Sena Medal (Gallantry) for their acts of bravery.

India’s Forest cover up by 1%- Environment Minister… 

Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister for Environment informed the Lok Sabha that India’s forest cover has increased by 1% in last one year period and over 24.39% of India’s geographical area now constitutes of green cover.

Key Highlights

Disputed Facts: Ms. Maneka Gandhi, BJP’s Member of Parliament disputed the fact presented by Environment Minister and cautioned him that satellite imagery could be misleading as it might have mistaken sugar cane crops for trees.

Response:

As per a latest report, more than 24.39% of India’s geographical area now constitutes of green cover and government further plans to plant 125 crore trees along highways to increase green cover.

What is Question Hour?

It refers to 1st hour of Lok Sabha’s sitting session, which is devoted to questions that Members of Parliament (MPs) raise about any aspect of administrative activity.

The concerned Minister (to whom question is raised) is obliged to answer to Parliament, either orally or in writing, depending on type of question raised.

National Freight Index: by Rivigo Logistics… 

Rivigo, a Gurgaon-based tech-enabled logistics start-up has launched National Freight Index (NFI) that will provide live freight rates for different lanes and vehicles across the country. Rivigo is a technology enabled logistics company, that owns a fleet of over 3,000 trucks, which works on ‘Relay Model’.

About National Freight Index

NFI is barometer of road freight market in India and is based on Rivigo rate exchange. It will provide live spot rates on more than 7 million lane and vehicle type combinations in India. This will be a step towards easing logistics sector crisis and also streamlining sector.

NFI offers a combined picture of both live rates and historical trends of spot price movements in India’s road freight industry.

Index is represented in two main forms-

  1. In terms of actual freight rates condensed to Rupees per tonne-km
  2. In terms of relative movement with respect to a base month.

Rates on both index and exchange are based on Rivigo’s economics powered pricing algorithms and machine learning, which uses factors such as millions of data points from historical transactions, current market dynamics, micro market insights etc. for computing thus are continuously improving on accuracy.

This is done with ultimate purpose of giving a fair and precise representation of the state of the spot market in India.

Need: There are high rate of inefficiencies in existing freight market, which in turn leads to a great loss of value. Thus using NFI will ensure unrestricted access by giving a fair and precise representation of state of country’s spot market and will bring transparency in road-freight marketplace.

Benefits:

It will also bring a pricing transparency, in a system where demand traditionally flows from transporters, brokers, fleet owners and then to drivers.

NFI will give historical spot price movements of country’s road freight industry. In India actual freight rates are in Rupee per ton-km and in terms of relative movement with respect to a base month, and this would be updated by NFI in real time.

Way Ahead:

Efficiency of spot freight marketplace will determine how the growth is compounded and National Freight Index will empower all stakeholders to realise its full potential. The NFI can be visited at nationalfreightindex.com.

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev pens Autobiography… 

Yoga guru Baba Ramdev recently made announcement about releasing his autobiography titled- ‘My Life, My Mission’. The book is co-authored with senior journalist Uday Mahurkar.

  

About ‘My Life, My Mission’

The autobiography of Baba Ramdev will unveil trials, tribulations, and triumphs of his life and provide insights into his childhood.

Brief:

The book addresses major controversies, turning points and achievements of Baba Ramdev’s life and is expected to be one of its kind personal narrative of life and times of yoga teacher.

In the book, Ramdev registers his journey from a small Haryana village to international stage, and pens about his passion for yoga and good health, friends and foes, and the Swadeshi campaign spearheaded by him.

Autobiography also highlights the journey of Ramdev’s venture, Patanjali Group of Institutions,with a turnover of about Rs 12,000 crores.

Publisher: It is being published by Penguin Random House and expected to hit stands in August 2019.

Asian Artistic Gymnastic Championship

Pranati Nayak of India won bronze medal in vault event held at Senior Asian Artistic Gymnastics Championships 2019 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

About Pranati Nayak

The 23-year-old Indian gymnast is from West Bengal, who had qualified for vault finals with a 6th place, in finals scored 13.384 to claim bronze medal. She had scored 13.400 and 13.367 in the 1st and 2nd vault respesctively.

Other Winner: China’s Yu Linmin (14.350) clinched the gold and Japan’s Ayaka Sakaguchi (13.584) won silver medal at event.

She now currently stands tall as India’s 3rd major vaulting medallist after Dipa Karmakar and Aruna Reddy.

She now eyes her biggest challenge of World Championships 2019 which is scheduled to be held later this year.

India gets new C-ATFM System

India now has a state-of-the-art …Central Command Centre for Air Traffic Flow Management (C-ATFM) in New Delhi, which will optimise utilisation of resources such as airspace and aircraft at the capacity-constrained Indian airports.

What is C-ATFM system?

It is a system that integrates flight data from various subsystems like ATC (Air Traffic Control) Automation System, flight updates and flight update messages so as to provide safe and orderly flow of traffic. It is a world class system where on one large screen anyone can see country’s all civil aviation infrastructure such as planes on ground, planes which are in air, etc. as all of it is integrated with the ATC (air traffic control). It also displays weather information along with static information about airports, airspaces and air routes.

Working: The centralised air traffic flow management system processes demand and capacity information along with static information about airports, airspaces and air routes and provides decision-making tools to ATFM flow manager for collaborative decision making and to ensure regulated flow of traffic at each airport in India.

ATFM system has connected all airports in India.

Principle: is fair distribution of slots and other available resources distributed to everyone.

ATFM network: C-ATFM system has actively connected top 36 airports of India that are handling traffic. These airports are physically connected to this network and rests of the airports are connected through internet.

This means that the system is supported by 36 Flow Management Positions (FMP) at various airports such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Chennai, and Hyderabad etc. The ATFM network also includes 8 defence airports, which are provided with FMPs.

Purpose: C-ATFM system is primarily meant to balance capacity against demand so as to achieve optimum utilization of airport, airspace and aircraft.

Need: As country’s major airports are facing a massive infrastructure crunch and capacity constraints, with terminals handling way more passengers than their capacity to handle. In such scenario this new system is expected to cut down on flight delays by synchronising aircraft movement with real time conditions.

Benefits

  1. Cutting down flight delays by balancing traffic demand.
  2. Solution to space crunch

Significance:

With the help of C-ATFM all aviation stakeholders who are connected through various means of communications, and through dedicated networks, all of them can now access same information and everyone has same visibility towards each other’s resource requirements and resource availability.

India has now become 7th country after the US, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Japan, Brazil to have a Centralised Air Traffic Flow Management System. This should now help ease up conditions at airports with maximum infra shortage such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore and for other terminals which are fast becoming new pain points for flyers such as Patna and Lucknow.

Mauritania holds election for 1st time in 60yrs

Mauritania, a country in Northwest Africa went to polls for the first time since the African nation gained independence from France nearly 60 years ago. Following the independence the country have mostly been ruled Non-elected military governments.

Presidential elections were held in Mauritania on 22 June 2019, with a second round planned for 6 July if no candidate had received more than 50% of the vote. The result was a first round victory for Ould Ghazouani who won in the first round with 52 percent of the vote. 

 With incumbent president Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz not running, the elections were reported to be the first peaceful transfer of power since the country’s independence from…..France in 1960.

Key Highlights of Elections

President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz (62), who seized power in a military coup in 2008, agreed to step down and abide by serving period of maximum two five-year elected terms. Under his reign he has positioned Mauritania, as an ally of West against Islamist militants.

Bound by term limits, Abdel Aziz threw his support behind 62-year-old Mohamed Ould Ghazouani. Ghazouani, a former general and defence minister was heavily tipped to replace outgoing President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz.

These elections are being held to choose a successor to a democratically-elected president. However, they are being criticized for being held in absence of international observers and printing of ballot papers by a company with ties to ruling party.

India women’s Rugby team record 1st-ever International win.

Indian Women’s Rugby team claimed their 1st ever international women’s 15s victory after beating Singapore in the Asian Women Rugby Championship Division 1 in Manila, Philippines.

Key Highlights

Sumitra Nayak kicked a penalty in the dying minutes to claim a narrow victory for India against Singapore with a 21-19 win for girls in blue.

This historic victory means India finished 3rd in tournament, therefore claiming a bronze medal.

The Championship Division 1 will double up as part of the qualification process for the Rugby World Cup 2021.

Rugby’s Future in India: India has a big following for Rugby game. India, China and USA together constitute 33% of 800 million followers of game globally. As per Nasser Hussain, former India captain and General Manager, Indian Rugby Union, the game is spread across 24 States with India having about 80,000 registered rugby players.

Nepalese nationals must have visa to enter India via Pakistan, China.

According to a notice issued by Nepalese Embassy in New Delhi, Nepalese nationals is required to have visa if they are entering India from Pakistan, China, Hong Kong and Macau. As per the Nepal foreign ministry, there are 4 million Nepalese working and studying in India.

Key Highlights

The Nepalese Embassy also notified that a citizen of Nepal who wants to pass immigration clearance of India while travelling to Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Lebanon, Oman, Kuwait and Bahrain are required to acquire No Objection Certificate (NOC) from respective Nepalese Embassies situated in those countries.

To get NOC, a traveler must have to submit an application to respective embassy along with relevant documents, including ticket and visa of the destination country, employment permit.

Reason: An open boarder allows Nepalese nationals an easy path to enter India and some of whom subsequently travel to Gulf countries for work. Thus, the decision that a Nepalese citizens now mandatory require NOC to enter Gulf countries via India, is taken amid raising security concerns. However in past, no separate permit was required to travel any country through Indian immigration clearance.

Background

As per existing rule, a citizen of Nepal entering India by land/air directly from Nepal does not require a passport/Visa, but is required to possess an identity card that establishes his/her identity as a Nepalese national. However, for security reasons a citizen of Nepal is generally asked for Passport when entering India from a place other than Nepal.

The ID documents which are considered valid for verifying individual’s identity includes Nepalese Passport, Nepalese Citizenship Certificate, Voter’s ID Card issued by Election Commission of Nepal and Limited Validity photo-identity certificate issued by Nepalese Embassy in India when deemed necessary.

For children between 10-18 years of age, who are travelling with their parents, photo ID issued by Principal of their School, are considered as valid travel documents.

Pankaj Advani

India’s Pankaj Advani defeated Thanawat Tirapongpaiboon of Thailand with 6-3 in final to clinch the 35th men’s Asian Snooker Championship.

Key Highlights

India’s ace cueist Pankaj Advani won men’s Asian Snooker Championship to complete a career grand slam in cue sports.

Record: With this win Advani has now become the only player to win Asian and World championships in all formats and also only one to do it in both billiards and snooker.

He has now claimed ACBS (Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports) Asian snooker events: 6-red (short format) and 15-red (long format) along with the IBSF World (Billiards and Snooker) Championships in both formats.

Although Pankaj had already accomplished it in billiards, but he was missing 15-red Asian snooker title from his bulging trophy cabinet.

Pankaj will now take part in IBSF World Cup 2019 scheduled to be held in late June in Doha, Qatar.

About ACBS Asian Snooker Championship

It is the premier non-professional snooker tournament in Asia that started from 1984. The Asian Confederation of Billiard Sports, sanctions the event series. In most of the seasons winner of tournament qualifies for next season of Professional Snooker Tour.

Vinit Goenka’s new book

Author Vinit Goenka released his new co-authored book titled ‘Function of Data Sovereignty: The Pursuit of Supremacy’. He is founder member of Centre for Knowledge Sovereignty (CKS), which is an endeavour to acquire knowledge through experts of eminence in respective field.

Key Facts about Data

Data Localization: The Book focuses in-depth on steps and concrete actions required to build highly capable data centres that will ensure data security, and implementation of well-thought-out policies, procedures, and laws on data sovereignty to ensure that India weakens all fear of Data Colonisation well in time. The impact of these steps would be a radical breakthrough in ease of doing data centre business in India.

Caution: India is one of the world’s biggest markets in data generation i.e. India generates data and consume data. Although data is the new fuel which runs world, it is also a double-edged sword hence author also cautioned against data colonisation being not too far.

Risk: It identifies risks and gaps in areas such as regulatory policies, energy, water resource, network bandwidth, and risk & management of natural disasters which prevent market forces in India from playing its due role.

It also attempts to set a clear objective for regulators to formulate a business-friendly, unambiguous, and strict policy environment for data centre business in India.

India and Data

India is becoming a substantial data consumption market with one-sixth of human population and one-fourth of data consumption of world. The digital data consumption in India is expected to increase two times as fast as global rate (from 0.6 zettabytes in 2013 to 6 zettabytes in 2020). The key drivers for digital data consumption growth are sectors such as insurance, banking, telecommunications, IT, digital commerce, social media, and government sector.

In 2018, Indian data centre infrastructure market was valued at US$27 billion, which by 2020 is expected to be second largest market within Asia-Pacific region.

NTPC , PGCIL sign MoU

The Indian Public Sector Undertaking’s (PSUs) National Thermal Power Corporation Limited (NTPC Ltd) and Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (PGCIL) have signed an agreement to set up National Electricity Distribution Company Limited (NEDCL).

Key Highlights

The forming of a joint venture to set up National Electricity Distribution Company by NTPC, a leading power generator, and Power Grid, which owns India’s largest power transmission network, paves way for two to get into consumer electricity supply business. As per the agreement NEDCL will be a joint venture of NTPC and PGCIL on 50:50 equity basis.

Objective: To undertake business for distribution of electricity in distribution circles in various states and Union Territories (UTs) and other related activities.

Significance: As the announcement about Joint venture comes at a time when existing reform scheme UDAY (Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana) has been declared as a failure by several agencies, thus this move could also hint at another round of power distribution reforms.

Reform Includes: Separation of content and carriage businesses in power distribution which means that the infrastructure builder for power supply and supplier to consumers would be two separate companies. This would make power distribution sector more competitive as separating content and carriage will bring more competition with more than one power supplier.

These measures have been suggested in latest amendments to Electricity Act, 2003, which is yet to be tabled in Parliament.

About UDAY

Ujwal DISCOM Assurance Yojana was launched by government of India in 2015 with aim of turning around the state-owned discoms financially and operationally as well as finding a permanent solution to financial mess that power distribution is in. Although the financial part was concluded with states’ taking over losses of distribution companies and issuing bonds but operational front is still facing challenges.

Current Status: At the end of Financial Year 2019, Losses of state-owned discoms grew by more than 40% (Rs.21,658 crore) but at the same time, the dues of discoms to power Generation company (gencos) stood at Rs.38,023 crore.

Unique Flood Hazard Atlas

Odisha has come out with a unique flood hazard atlas aided by satellite imagery, which is expected to help the coastal state manage floods more efficiently. The atlas was released by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik at the State-level Natural Calamity Meeting.

About Flood Hazard Atlas

Need: Atlas would serve as a useful resource of information for policy makers, planners and civil society groups.

Base Period: Atlas is compiled on basis of historic flood inundation captured via satellite imagery over 18 years period from year 2001 to 2018.

Methodology:

Firstly, all satellite data sets were analysed and flood layers were extracted from it, then all flood layers corresponding to a particular year were combined into one inundation layer, so that this layer represents maximum flooded area in 1 year period.

Then all such combined flood layers for a period of 18 years were integrated into flood hazard layer representing observed flood-inundated areas with different frequencies. This layer was integrated with digital database layers of Odisha.

Key Findings of Study

The National Remote Sensing Centre (NRSC) of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Hyderabad had undertaken a study on Odisha’s flood hazard zonation.

Floods in Odisha: Every year vast areas of Odisha are inundated when there is flooding in major rivers of state, viz. Mahanadi, Subarnarekha, Brahmani, Rushikulya and Baitarani. Also, as perOdisha State Disaster Management Authority (OSDMA), damages due to floods are mainly caused by Mahanadi, Brahmani and Baitarani, which have a common delta where floodwaters intermingle and when in series simultaneously cause havoc.

Flash Floods: Few districts in western and southern part of Odisha are prone to flash floods which are caused due to instant run-off from hilly catchments areas of rivers like, Vamsadhara and Budhabalanga.

Hazard Prone: The entire coastal belt is prone to storm surges, which is commonly accompanied by heavy rainfall which then makes estuary region vulnerable to both storm surges and river flooding. Few districts in Odisha’s western and southern part of are prone to flash floods.

Hazard Categories: As per NRSC analysis during 2001-2018, about 8.96% (13.96 lakh hectares) of land in Odisha was affected by floods. Out of this 13.96 lakh hectare flood-affected area nearly 2.81 lakh hectares of land falls under high inundated flood hazard categories (7-9 times) to very high inundated flood hazard categories (10-14 times).

Centre distributed free DD set top boxes

Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of Information and Broadcasting, along with Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) governor Satyapal Malik distributed Doordarshan (DD) Free Dish Set Top Boxes to people living in border areas of Jammu and Kashmir region in Srinagar.

Key Highlights

At an event organized by Doordarshan Kashir, Union Information and Broadcasting Minister launched a spectrum of initiatives for state along with distribution of 30,000 free DD set-top boxes. DD Kashir is a regional subsidiary television station of Doordarshan.

The Set Top Box will be provided free of cost and audience will be able to view over 100 channels for free.

DD Kashir launched a news bulletin titled Dogri News for Jammu region on channel, which will be telecasted every day at 6.15 PM on channel on digital mode.

Significance:

In small areas and districts where there is no mobile connection, no internet and no television this new step will help in providing information and making them aware.

The DD Free Dish service will help even those people who are living in remote and distant areas of J&K and further aims to cover even those areas in country where TV has not reached so far.

Dogri News Bulletin on satellite medium will helpDogri language reach people across the world. It will also give J&K’s composite culture and literature a boost as Kashmiri, Dogri and Ladakhi languages will be available on same channel.

DD DTH service

Doordarshan’s DTH service also known as DD Free Dish was launched in 2004. It and has been upgraded from time to time. At present it has capacity is 104 SDTV channels along with 40 Radio channels.

DD Free Dish has emerged as an empowering tool for masses and now it has reached more than 34 million households in India.

Indian Women’s  Hockey Team Wins FIH Series Finals

India clinched the women’s FIH Series Finals Hockey Tournament by beating hosts Japan 3-1 in summit clash at the Hiroshima Hockey Stadium in Japan.

The World No.9 Indian women had put a hard fought win over the Asian champions.

Captain Rani Rampal gave India lead in 3rd minute before drag-flicker Gurjit Kaur struck twice (45th and 60th minutes) late in match to set up win.

In last minutes of match Gurjit, the top scorer of tournament, scored her second goal of match through a penalty corner to make it 3-1 and closed the victory for India.

Kanon Mori scored only goal for Japan in 11th minute.

By entering final of FIH Series Indian women’s team have already secured its place in final round of 2020 FIH Olympics qualifiers.

Women’s FIH Series

The 2018–19 Women’s FIH Series Finals that were held in June 2019 are 2nd stage of 2018–19 editions of Hockey Series.

The event saw the participation of 24 teams (from 5 confederations) matches played were 52.

The venue was in 3 host cities- Hiroshima (Japan), Banbridge (Ireland) and Valencia (Spain).

The top two teams from each event qualified for 2019 FIH Olympic Qualifiers.

Saudi Arabia becomes 1st Arab country to get full FATF membership

Saudi Arabia has become 1st Arab country to be granted full membership of Financial Action Task Force (FATF) following FATF’s Annual General Meeting held in Orlando, Florida in United States (US).

Saudi Arabia and FATF

Background: Since November 2004, Saudi Arabia has been a founding member of Middle East and North Africa (MENA) arm of FATF group. At the beginning of 2015 Saudi Arabia had received an invitation from FATF as an observer member.

Now, the kingdom’s accession came as global money laundering watchdog celebrated 30th anniversary of its 1st meeting held in Paris (France) in 1989.

The full membership to Saudi Arabia comes after it was reported that Kingdom had made tangible progress for its efforts in implementing FATF’s guidelines.

What is FATF?

It was established in 1989, with headquarters in Paris, France.

Members: FATF comprises of 37-member jurisdictions and 2 Regional Organisations namelyGulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and European Commission (EC). With kingdom becoming a FATF member, the number of permanent members in group is now 39.

FATF Plenary: is FATF’s decision making body. It meets three times per year.

Function: The Financial Action Task Force is an international group responsible for issuing international standards, policies and best practices for combating money launderingterrorist financing and proliferation and other related threats to integrity of international financial system.

Recent Developments: FATF has notified that Pakistan failed to complete its action plan on terror financing and has strongly urged Pakistan to swiftly complete its action plan by October 2019 or else face consequences.

Japan gifts Manipur a Peace Museum built on WWII memories.

Japan gifted Manipur, one of India’s north eastern state a Museum of Peace built on the memories of Battle of Imphal, one of the fiercest battles of 2nd World War (WWII). The inauguration of Imphal Peace Museum marked 75th anniversary of Battle of Imphal.

Key Highlights

Location: The Imphal Peace Museum was inaugurated at Red Hill which lies about 20 km southwest of Imphal (Manipur capital).

Funding: The museum is funded by Nippon Foundation, a private, non-profit grant-making organization based in Japan.

Relics: Among the highlights of museum such as diaries and other memorabilia of those who returned to Japan safely, is a framed calligraphy by Shinzo Abe Japan’s Prime Minister, which reads heiwa- meaning peace in Japanese.

Why Red Hill?

About 70,000 Japanese soldiers, alongside those of Indian National Army (INA) of Subhash Chandra Bose, died in battles with British-led Allied forces in areas around Imphal and Kohima from March-June 1944. The last of these battles was fought at Red Hill in Imphal. In 1994 Japanese War Memorial was also built at Red Hill to mark 50th anniversary of battle.

Significance: Imphal Peace Museum symbolises the reconciliation between Japan and Britain and Japan and India. It will serve as a living memory of the tragic war which reinforces the message that history changes and will make the world learn from past which is required for a lasting peaceful world.

What is Battle of Imphal 1944?

Battle of Imphal took place in region around city of Imphal (Manipur’s capital) from March to July 1944. Japanese armies with an attempt to destroy Allied forces at Imphal invaded India, but were driven back into Burma (todays’ Myanmar) with heavy losses.

The Battle of Imphal together with simultaneous Battle of Kohima (also known as Stalingrad of the East) on road by which encircled Allied forces at Imphal were relieved, was the main turning point of 2nd World War’s Burma Campaign.

The Japanese faced the largest defeat up until that time at Kohima and Imphal with many of Japanese deaths resulting from starvation, disease and exhaustion suffered during their retreat.

IOC formally opens new Headquarters in Switzerland..

On Olympic Games’ 125th anniversary, International Olympic Committee (IOC) has formally opened its new headquarters in Lausanne, Switzerland. The innaugration of new headquarters comes exactly 125 years after Olympic Games were revived.

Key Highlights

The International Olympic Committee was founded by Pierre de Coubertin, who was a great visionary and brought together entire world together in one peaceful competition.

The Olympic Games are a symbol of hope and peace for all humankind, to signify this rooftop of headquarters takes the shape of a dove which is another universal symbol of peace.

Eco friendly construction: The Olympic House has been built on site of former Olympic headquarters, and 95% of old materials were reused and recycled. The renewable energy supplied to building is provided using solar panels on roof and pumps taking water from Lake Geneva.

Signature Feature: of building is a central staircase linking together 5 Olympic rings. It is designed by architecture firm 3XN of Denmark, the energy-efficient building has won international awards for sustainability. It also brings over 500 IOC employees together under one roof.

Cost: The new headquarters costs 145 million US Dollars.

On occasion of Olympic Day, another reason for IOC members to gather in Lausanne was to choose 2026 Winter Games host for which candidates are: Stockholm-Are (Sweden) and Milan-Cortina (Italy).

International Olympic Committee

It is a non-governmental sports organisation headquartered in Lausanne, Switzerland.

The Sport’s governing body was created by Pierre de Coubertin and Demetrius Vikelas on 23 June 1894 in Paris, France.

Function: It is the authority responsible for organising modern Summer and Winter Olympic Games.

Membership

Members: 95 active members, 44 honorary members, 2 honour members (Senegal and United States), 206 individual National Olympic Committees (officially recognised by IOC).

IOC is governing body of National Olympic Committees (NOCs). The NOC are national constituents of worldwide Olympic Movement.

Current President of IOC- Thomas Bach of Germany.

Vaishno Devi Shrine to have its own Disaster Response Force by 2020

Mata Vaishno Devi shrine located in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) will get a dedicated in-house disaster response force by September 2020. For this purpose NDRF and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in early 2019.

Key Highlights

MoU: The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed  between NDRF and shrine board in early 2019 was keeping in mind hilly terrain of region and emphasised the need for imparting Advanced Disaster Management Training to shrine board staff in batches so as to keep them in state of readiness for effectively and promptly responding to any disaster situation.

The 1st respondents in case of any eventuality will be staffs of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board. The training of board staffs has already begun at headquarters of 7th battalion of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) in Punjab.

Staff Selection: The Shrine board employees who are fit and have about 15-20 years of service remaining will undergo this training capsule. It includes staff from security, medical and assistance wings, sweepers, receptionists, salesmen and catering providers etc.

Training Undertaken:

NDRF is not charging any fee for training of shrine’s board staff that is being trained for ensuring a quick response in case of any fire incident, earthquake, landslides or any other emergency situation.

The 6 week training of 1st batch of 25 staff that started on 18 May 2019 is almost heading for completion. Now, the shrine board plans to train 180 employees by September 2020 to prepare a dedicated disaster response force for shrine.

The board also plans to set up an Emergency Operation Centre as part of its disaster preparedness.

Tasks Undertaken: For further augmenting disaster management preparedness an NDRF team would conduct a comprehensive audit of disaster management stores that are set up by Shrine board at various locations on pilgrimage track and in Bhawan area so that, wherever required, these are further replenished and strengthened by adding latest gadgets and equipment.

Mock Drill: In March 2019 an NDRF team conducted a mock exercise on yatra track near Bhawan area in order to analyze and evaluate level of preparedness to most effectively and promptly respond to any emergency situation.

About Mata Vaishno Devi

It is shrine is a dediacted to Vaishno Devi also known as Mata Rani, Trikuta and Vaishnavi, who is a manifestation of Hindu Goddess Mata Adi Shakti (or Mahalakshmi/Matrika Goddess).

The religious pilgrimage shrine lies atop Trikuta hills, in Reasi district of Jammu region.

In 2019, it attracts 86 lakh pilgrims from across the world which was highest in past 5 years.

Anupam Kher’s Autobiography

Bollywood actor Anupam Kher is coming out with his autobiography titled-‘Lessons Life Taught Me Unknowingly’ that is set to release on 5 August 2019. The book is expected to offer a kaleidoscopic peep into life and times of Kher as an actor and entertainer.

Key Highlights

Publishers: The book is being published byPenguin Random House.

The Book: It is expected to be an extraordinary, riveting and no-holds-barred saga in which the actor would make some behind-the-scenes revelations, and share anecdotes and rare nuggets from his life and the lessons it taught him.

About Anupam Kher

Achievements: The 64 year old actor is a winner of 2 National awards, 8 Filmfare awards and a BAFTA nomination. He is also a recipient of thePadma Shree (2004) and Padma Bhushan (2016) awards.

In his career spanning number of successful films in Bollywood he even and went on to feature in several mainstream Hollywood films such as Silver Linings Playbook, Hotel Mumbai, The Big Sick and The Family Man.

He also has a best-selling book ‘The Best Thing about You Is You!’ in his kitty. The book has been translated in 6 languages and is in its 22nd reprint.

NASA’s Mars Rover detects High Levels of Methane…

The Curiosity Rover of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), an independent federal agency of United States has found the largest amount of methane ever measured during its mission on Red Planet (Mars).

Key Highlights

Methane Level: Although Methane has been detected by the Curiosity team many times over the course of NASA’s Mars Exploration Program but this time unusually high’ levels of methane- about 21 parts per billion units by volume (ppbv) were reported. 1 ppbv means that if we take a volume of air on Mars then 1 billionth of volume of air is methane.

Findings: Curiosity Rover’s Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) tunable laser spectrometer came up with Methane level findings. The Sample Analysis at Mars team has also organised a different experiment to gather more information on what might be a transient plume.

Why Finding Methane is Important?

Finding such high level of methane is exciting because microbial life is an important source of methane on Earth, thus it may help scientist to look for possibility of life outside Earth.

Dilemma: The methane on Red Planet can also be created through interactions between rocks and water and since Curiosity does not have instruments that can definitively say what exactly is the source of methane, or even if it is coming from a local source within Gale Crater or elsewhere on planet, it becomes impossible to tell if methane source is either biology or geology, or whether it is even ancient or modern.

Scientists Study: Several previous research papers have documented how background levels of methane gas seem to rise and fall seasonally. They have also noted sudden spikes of methane gas, but again scientist team knows very little about how long these transient plumes last or why they are different from seasonal patterns.

Way Forward

Scientists involved in Curiosity Mission needs time to analyse these clues and conduct many more methane observations. They also need time to collaborate with other science teams such as with European Space Agency’s (ESA) Trace Gas Orbiter, which has been in its science orbit for just above 1 year.

Combining previous observations and current measurements from surface and from orbit could help scientists locate sources of gas on red planet and understand how long it lasts in Martian atmosphere.

About Curiosity Rover

It is part of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory mission.

It is a car-sized rover designed to explore a crater on Mars called Gale.

It was launched on 26 November 2011, and landed on Aeolis Palus inside Gale crater on Mars on August 2012.

Although the planned mission lifespan for Curiosity rover once it lands on Mars is 1 Martian year (i.e. 687 days) however in December 2012 curiosity’s 2 year mission was extended indefinitely and rover is still operational as of 25 June 2019.

Jaipur Foot Korea…

Bong-kil Shin, South Korean Ambassador to India launched Jaipur Foot Korea, a collaborative initiative between South Korea (or Republic of Korea) and Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti (BMVSS), a Jaipur-based prosthetic limb non-profit organisation.

Key Highlights

Republic of Korea (ROK) ambassador to India signed an agreement with BMVSS for providing assistance in prosthetic limbs sector.

Agreement: Under the agreement ROK will provide financial and technical assistance to further research and development (R&D) collaboration, technology transfer and facilitate and develop business between India and Korea in med-tech (medical technology) sector specifically in area of prosthetic limbs, bionic arms, 3-D printing-based Flat foot solution and mobility solutions.

Significance

The Korean ambassador emphasised that the agreement signed will open up access to Korean med-tech students to join various prosthetic fitment camps in various countries and participate in certificate programmes offered by Jaipur Foot.

The agreement will also open up many opportunities for overseas development assistance and grants from Government of ROK and donations from several private institutions and corporations from Korea to India.

About Bhagwan Mahaveer Viklang Sahayata Samiti

BMVSS is the world’s largest organisation rehabilitating more than 1.78 million disabled. It is a pan-Indian organisation having over 23 branches across country.

About Jaipur Foot

It is a lightweight and durable prosthetic limb/artificial limb.

It is a rubber-based prosthetic leg for people with below-knee amputations

Being inexpensive it is widely acceptable as prosthesis and has been widely used in India.

ESA tests device to rescue injured astronauts…

European Space Agency (ESA) recently tested a device called Evacuation System Assembly (or LESA), which is designed to assist in astronaut rescue missions on the surface of Moon. As per ESA, it is world’s 1st device aimed to help future incapacitated astronauts.

About LESA

Among other preparations for NASA’s 2024 Moon mission (Artemis Mission), scientists are testing the Lunar Evacuation System Assembly, or LESA device.

It is developed by European Space Agency (ESA), an intergovernmental organisation of 22 member states dedicated to space exploration.

Feature: LESA is a pyramid-like structure. It is designed in a way to be deployed just by a single astronaut in lunar gravity to rescue an incapacitated crew mate.

Need: On mission Astronauts wear Extravehicular Activities (EVA) suits that are bulky, heavy due to which they do not allow for a full range of movement. Thus while wearing an EVA suit, there is no way that an astronaut could carry their fallen crewmate over their shoulder.

Testing: NASA astronauts are testing LESA under sea. This is because, with its rocky, sandy terrain and warm salty water, the bottom of ocean floor bears much more similarity with lunar surface.

Significance:

In order to rescue a fallen colleague, LESA can be operated just by a single astronaut thus ensuring a rapid and safe rescue.

LESA can be transported like a golf caddy and placed close to the fallen astronaut, hence enabling an astronaut to lift their crewmate onto a mobile stretcher in less than 10 minutes, before carrying them to safety of a nearby pressurised lander.

Russia extends ban on EU Food Imports until end of 2020…

Russian President Vladimir Putin recently signed a decree for extending Moscow’s embargo on food products being imported from the European Union (EU) to the end of 2020. This decision was in continuation of Russia’s s retaliation against sanctions over Ukraine.

Key Highlights

A decree signed by President Vladimir Putin posted on Moscow’s official government website, reads that ban on produce, dairy, meat and most other foods imported from EU will now stretch to December 31, 2020.

Background: In 2014, following the international sanctions imposed by United States and other countries over Russia for its annexation of Crimea and support of east Ukraine’s separatists, Moscow in August 2014 imposed counter sanctions on most food imports from the European Union, US and several other countries. The international restrictions were primarily targeted at finance, energy and defense sectors of Russian economy.

Recently on 20 June 2019, EU further extended their punishing economic sanctions against Russia (over conflict in Ukraine) for a further 6 months period.

Sanction Result: The Western economic restrictions being faced by Russia as well as country’s own embargo have affected Russian economy by pushing up food prices. Western sanction have deprived Russian economy of $50 billion on the other hand EU has lost $240 billion.

Russia has now managed to benefit from Western economic pressure as it has started phasing out its imports and replacing them with domestically made products, even in sectors in which Moscow did not have any experience, thus giving boost to domestic producers.

Pakistan secures $3 billion bailout from Qatar…

Cash-strapped Pakistan has secured a financial assistance in form of a bailout package of $3 billion from oil-rich Qatar, a day after Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad concluded his visit to Pakistan.

Qatar’s financial assistance to Pakistan was announced by Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Foreign Minister of Qatar.

Key Highlights

Pakistan also conferred visiting Qatari Emir with the Nishan-e-Pakistan, country’s highest civil honour.

Pakistan and Qatar apart from stepping up cooperation in trade and economy also signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) to cooperate in field of exchange of financial intelligence related to money laundering and curbing terrorism financing.

During past 11 months, the Gulf state is 4th nation that has come forward at Pakistan’s rescue from default as when Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government tries to overcome a ballooning balance-of-payments (BOP) crisis.

Other Financial Aid to Pakistan:

China gave $4.6 billion aid to Pakistan in shape of deposits and commercial loans.

Saudi Arabia provided $3 billion cash deposit and $3.2 billion oil facility on deferred payments.

United Arab Emirates (UAE) also provided $2 billion cash deposit.

In May 2019 Pakistan reached a preliminary agreement with International Monetary Fund (IMF) for $6 billion bailout package that was aimed at supporting Pakistan’s finances and for strengthening a slowing economy.

Government to launch Universal Smart Card Driving License…

Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has decided to modify the format of driving licenses to smart card type driving licences so as to follow a standardised format nationwide.

Key Highlights

Nitin Gadkari, Road Transport and Highways Minister in a written reply in Rajya Sabha, notified that MoRTH has prescribed a common standard format and design of Driving Licence for Pan India.

Need: Around 30% of Indians drive with fake or bogus licenses. Police reports in just of Delhi NCR region suggests that, cases of underage driving have jumped to 589% and in 1st 15 days of January 2019, 61 unpermitted juvenile cases were registered and issued with challans. A report from Nissan India and road safety NGO SaveLIFE Foundation highlighted worrying part of underage driving. Thus, ministry’s move to this new format is expected to help curb this situation to some extent.

Proposed Changes: MoRTH seeks to modify current format of driving licenses to laminated card without chip or smart card type driving licences and which will include nationwide standardised format of placement of information, standardization of fonts etc.

For this purpose, RTOs (Regional Transport Offices) should issue a uniform format of driving licenses across nation using a universal smart card driving license format.

Implementation: The desired changes to Pan India Licence format will be implemented through MoRTH’s flagship application called SARATHI (for Driving License).

About SARATHI

The application is developed by NIC (National Informatics Centre).

It has a common countrywide database of all driving license holders, with almost 15 crore driving license records being available in its central repository, which is a part of National Registry.

No Duplication: SARATHI has a unique feature to identify duplicate records in real time online basis and can also access information about challans if any, this then facilitates licencing authority that offender drivers do not get a duplicate driving licence.

What is ‘goAML’…

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become 1st country in Gulf to launch new anti-money laundering platform called ‘goAML’ (Anti-Money Laundering). It is a one-stop solution, launched by UAE to crack down on organised financial crimes.

All about goAML

Developer: It is the new anti-money laundering platform was launched by UAE’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) and is developed by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to curb organised crimes.

Features:

It is a fully integrated software solution developed for use by UAE’s FIU. It is being considered as one of the UNODC’s strategic responses to financial crime, such as money laundering and terrorist financing.

It can be used for data collection, document management and analysis and will be used by financial institutions (like banks, finance companies) and law enforcement agencies such as police and designated non-financial businesses and professions (lawyers, accountants).

The platform is specifically customized to help FIU meet requirements of UAE’s Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorist Financing (AML/CFT) framework and other illicit financial activities.

goAML will facilitate the receipt, analysis and dissemination of suspicious transactions and activity reports.

Compulsory Registration: As per officials of UAE’s Central Bank (in Abu Dhabi) ‘goAML’ has been open for registration since May and all financial entities and Designated Non-Financial Businesses or Professions have to register on this new reporting platform system by 27 June 2019.

Over 900 entities including, banks, insurance companies and money exchange centres are required to register on goAML platform (nearly 50% of them have already registered).

Significance: This new system ensures that UAE financial system remains effective in fight against money laundering and terrorist financing.

About Financial Intelligence Units

Worldwide, FIUs play a leading role in prevention of anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorist financing (CTF) activities.

Function: They receive, process, and analyze reports made by financial institutions or other entities in accordance with requirements of domestic AML/CTF laws and regulations.

Council of Europe restores Voting Rights of Russia…

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe at Strasbourg (France) has voted in favour of restoring Russia’s voting rights, 5 years after they were revoked over its illegal annexation of Crimean Peninsula.

Key Highlights

Background: In 2014 following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Russia was stripped of its voting rights. Russia then responded by boycotting assembly and since 2017 the country also refused to pay its share of 33 million Euro to human rights watchdog.

Recently, Russia had also threatened the assembly of quitting the body altogether if it is not allowed to take part in election of a new secretary general to body.

Vote: The Parliamentary assembly voted with 118 in favour and 62 against, and 10 abstentions. The voting was undertaken despite strong opposition from Ukraine.

Outcome: This move now paves the way for Russia to participate in election of a new secretary general for pan-European rights body.

About Council of Europe

It is European continent’s leading human rights organisation whose stated aim is to uphold human rights, democracy and the rule of law in Europe. The organisation is separate from European Union (EU).

It was established in 1949 with Headquarters in Strasbourg, France.

Objective: to achieve a greater unity between its members countries for purpose of safeguarding and realising ideals and principles which are their common heritage and also to facilitate their economic and social progress.

Members: It includes 47 member states (including 28 members of European Union).

NITI Aayog’s Health Index 2019…

NITI Aayog has released the 2nd edition of report titled “Healthy States, Progressive India: Report on Rank of States and UTs”. The report has been prepared in collaboration with Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare along with technical assistance from World Bank.

The current edition of health index accounts for period 2015-16 (base year) to 2017-18 (reference year).

Key Findings of Report

Categories: The ranking was done under 3 categories so as to ensure comparison among similar entities.

  1. Larger states– Kerala has emerged as top ranking state while Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra emerged as 2nd and 3rd best states in terms of overall health performance respectively. While Haryana, Rajasthan and Jharkhand are top 3 ranking States in terms of annual incremental performance.

UP and Bihar, finished at bottom of List. Bihar occupied 2nd last position in ranking of 21 large states while UP stayed static at bottom of rankings.

  1. Smaller states– Mizoram was ranked 1st followed by Manipur on overall performance. While Tripura followed by Manipur were ranked top two states in terms of annual incremental performance. Sikkim and Arunchal Pradesh had biggest decrease in overall Health Index scores.
  2. Union territories (UTs)- Chandigarh ranked 1st in overall performance of Health India, while Dadra and Nagar Haveli improved most among UT’s. Sikkim and Arunchal Pradesh had biggest decrease in overall Health Index scores.

Empowered Action Group– contains 5 states namely, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha which saw decline in overall Health Index score between base year and reference year due to deterioration of performances of several indicator.

Indicators: The decline is attributed to deterioration of performances of several indicators such as total fertility rate (TFR), low birth weight, sex ratio at birth, TB (tuberculosis) treatment success rate, quality accreditation of public health facilities, time taken for NHM (National Health Mission) fund transfer etc.

Positive Correlation: was found between Health Index scores and economic development levels of States and UTs as measured by per-capita Net State Domestic Product (NSDP).

Wide Gap between Performances: Among large states, overall Health Index score of best-performing state is more than 2.5 times that of overall score of least-performing state. States like Kerala and Tamil Nadu have already reached 2030 Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target for neonatal mortality rate (NMR), which is 12 neonatal deaths per 1,000 live births.

Suggestions: Centre should spend 2.5% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healt and state governments should increase their spending on health from an average of 4.7% to 8% of their budget (net state domestic product) on health. Currently, India’s health spending is only 1.15-1.5% of GDP.

About NITI Aayog’s Healthy States, Progressive India Report

Background: The 1st edition of Health Index was released in February 2018. It measured annual and incremental performances of states and UTs for period 2014-15 (base year) to 2015-16 (reference year).

Methodology Adopted: Health Index is a weighted composite Index based on indicators in 3 domains – (1) Health Outcomes; (2) Governance and Information; (3) Key Inputs/Processes.

Way Ahead: NITI Aayog is committed towards establishing Health Index as an annual systematic tool so as to propel states towards undertaking multi-pronged interventions to bring better health outcomes.

Arvind Kumar 

The Appointment Committee of Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved appointment of senior IPS officer Arvind Kumar as Director of Intelligence Bureau (IB) for a fixed tenure of two years. He will succeed Rajiv Jain whose tenure comes to an end on 29 June 2019.

About Arvind Kumar

He is 1984-batch IPS officer from Assam-Meghalaya cadre. He has been working with IB since August 1991 and has also served in Indian Embassy in Moscow, Russia.

Prior to this appointment, he served as Special Director in IB and his job involved supervising administrative and personnel desks.

He is considered to be an expert on Kashmir and Naxal issues. He is the second most senior officer in IB after Rajiv Jain.

He is a recipient of President Police Medal for Distinguished Service.

About Intelligence Bureau (IB)

It is India’s internal intelligence agency. It functions under the aegis of Union Ministry of Home Affairs.

It was established in 1887 by British India Government and later recasted as the Central Intelligence Bureau in 1947.

It is headquartered in New Delhi.

Samanat Goel appointed as RAW Chief…

The Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved appointment of senior IPS officer Samant Kumar Goel as Director of  Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), external intelligence of India. He has been appointed for a fixed tenure of two years. He will take charge from Anil K Dhasmana.

About Samant Kumar Goel

He is 1984 batch IPS officer of Punjab cadre. He is at present the Special Secretary in RAW.

He had joined the RAW in 2001 and possesses rich experience in intelligence and operations.

He is instrumental in planning Balakot air strike after Pulwama attack in Jammu and Kashmir and surgical strikes in Uri.

He is recipient of the Police Medals for Gallantry and Meritorious Service.

About RAW

He is the primary foreign intelligence agency of India. It was established in 1968 following the intelligence failures of India-China and India-Pakistan wars. It is headquartered in New Delhi.

It is under the direct command of Prime Minister and reports on administrative basis to the Cabinet Secretary of India, who in turn reports to the Prime Minister.

Function: To gather foreign intelligence, engage in counter-terrorism, promote counter-proliferation, advise Indian policymakers and advance foreign strategic interests of India.

Bombay HC…

Bombay High Court (HC) upheld the reservation for Maratha community in government jobs and education constitutional valid but suggested to reduce the quota percentage from present 16% to 12-13%.

Key Highlights of Judgment

The reduced quota limit suggested by Bombay HC is as recommended by State Backward Classes Commission.

Legislative Competence: As per HC, state government possesses legislative competence to create a separate category of Socially and Educationally Backward Class (SEBC) and grant reservation.

The court was hearing petitions challenging Maharashtra government’s decision granting 16 per cent reservation to the Maratha community in government jobs and educational institutions.

Background

On 30 November 2018, following the state wide agitations by Maratha Community, the Maharashtra legislature passed a bill granting 16% reservation in education and government jobs for Marathas.  Maratha Community was also declared a socially and educationally backward class by government.

The government defended its decision by stating that quota was meant to alleviate Maratha community, which was socially and economically backward.

Petition:

HC gave the judgment upon hearing a bunch of petitions which challenged Maharashtra government’s quota decision of granting 16% reservation to Marathas.

The petitions argued that reservation provided violates the Supreme Court’s orders which states that reservation in any state should not exceed more than 50% per cent.

However, reservation to Marathas will be in addition to the existing 52% overall reservation in state and with additional 16% reservation, reservation quantum in state was expected to rise to 6

Amazon India Most Attractive Employer Brands in India 2019

According to  Randstad Employer Brand Research (REBR), e-commerce player Amazon India has been rated as India’s most ‘attractive employer brand, followed by Microsoft India which emerged as the runner-up.

Key Findings of Study

Top 10 most attractive employer brands in India for 2019 includes:  (1) Amazon, (2) Microsoft, (3) Sony, (4) Mercedes-Benz, (5) IBM, (6) Larsen & Toubro, (7) Nestle, (8) Infosys, (9) Samsung, (10) Dell

Coverage: The Randstad research for year 2019 covered 75% of global economy with 32 participating countries and over 2 lakh respondents worldwide.

For the Indian workforce while choosing an employer salary and employee benefits continue to be top driver, followed by work-life balance and job security.

Although the gender differences between men and women on top three aspects were minimal, but women, attributed more importance to salary and benefits (49%) and work-life balance (47%) as compared to their male counterparts who ranked these as top aspects at 46% and 46% respectively.

The most important finding was that work-life balance was accorded importance as a key factor while considering choosing an employer. This has increased largely (46%) compared to last two years and emergence of fact that Indian employees are willing to place a premium on job security.

There are 23% higher number of employees in India who indicate that they would be agreeable to a security versus compensation trade-off. This is higher than the broader Asia-Pacific (APAC) average.

About 52% of survey respondents showed their willingness to forfeit more than 10% of their salary for job security.

About Randstad Employer Brand Research (REBR)

REBR is world’s most comprehensive, independent and in-depth employer brand research. It identifies most attractive employers among thousands of companies.

The research captures views of more than 2 lakh respondents which include general public (aged 18-65) on 6,162 companies in 32 countries.

It provides insights into drivers and perceptions of choice of potential employees by finding answers to questions such as- Why do people prefer one company, or a specific industry, over another and What motivates them to stay with an employer/start looking elsewhere?

Himachal Pradesh makes GPS device mandatory for trekkers

The Himachal Pradesh (HP) government has made it compulsory for trekkers to carry a GPS (Global Positioning System) device to tackle any exigency. This decision was taken at a review meeting on preparedness for the monsoon

Key Highlights

Need: Being a disaster-prone state, it is essential for Himachal Pradesh to pay special heed to disseminating weather advisories as well as installing early warning systems in state. It is also important to restrict trekking and other yatras undertaken in state during adverse weather.

Significance: Since it would be made mandatory for trekkers to carry a GPS device with them, they could now be provided all possible help in case of any emergency.

Other Provision:

Early Warning Systems will soon be installated in Kullu district and Dalhousie town of state.

Towns of Rampur and Mandi have been zeroed in for setting up of relief and rescue base of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF). NDRF is a specialised force constituted under the Disaster Management Act, 2005. It is responsible for purpose of specialist response to a threatening disaster situation or disaster.

Facts about Himanchal Pradesh

Geography: It is bounded by Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) state to the north, China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to east, Uttarakhand to southeast, Haryana to its south, and Punjab to west.

It got the statehood on 25 January 1971, and became 18th state of the Indian Union.

Capitals: HP has two capitals, viz. Shimla and Dharamshala (Second Capital in Winter)

Earthquake Prone: According to BIS seismic zonation map, Himachal Pradesh falls in Zone IV(High Damage Risk Zone) and Zone V (seismically the most active region).

 Facebook’s Cryptocurrency ‘Libra’?

After months of speculations and rumours, Facebook has officially announced the details of its new global cryptocurrency called Libra. This Facebook owned cryptocurrency Libra will be launched by social media giant in 2020.

LIBRA Explained

The name Libra is a Roman unit of weight measure. Name is also tries to invoke a sense of financial freedom by using French stem “Lib,” which means free.

Libra: It will let its user to send or receive money and buy things at nearly zero fees. Users can pseudonymously buy/cash out their Libra online or even at local exchange points (ex- grocery stores), and can spend it using interoperable 3rd-party wallet apps or Facebook’s own Calibra wallet.

Objective: The mission behind launching Libra is to enable simple global currency and financial infrastructure to empower billions of people.

Subsidiary Company: Facebook is also launching its Subsidiary Co. called Calibra that will handle its crypto dealings. The Calibra will not share any information with its Parent company Facebook (i.e. will never mingle users Libra payments with your Facebook data) so as to protects users’ privacy so it can’t be used for ad targeting.

Digital Wallet: This new digital currency will be made available through a digital wallet Calibra that will be available in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp,(both owned by Facebook) and also as a standalone app. It is expected to be launch in 2020.

The Libra currency: A Libra is a unit of Libra cryptocurrency which is represented by  (a three wavy horizontal line). The Libra value is meant to stay largely stable, so that it stays a good medium of exchange, and merchants can also have confidence that they won’t be paid a Libra today that’s then worth less tomorrow.

Libra- A Stablecoin: Libra’s value is attached to a basket of bank deposits and short-term government securities for stable international currencies, such as dollar ($), pound, euro, Swiss franc and Japanese yen.

The Libra Association manages reserved that keep value of libra stable. It maintains basket of assets and can also change balance of its composition if necessary to offset major price fluctuations in any one foreign currency so as to keep value of a Libra consistent.

Other Cryptocurrency: Existing cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum were not properly engineered to scale to be a medium of exchange which made their unanchored price susceptible to huge and unpredictable swings further making it tough for merchants to accept as payment. But with Facebook’s deep relation with 7 million advertisers and 90 million small businesses and its user experience prowess, it is well-poised to tackle this problem.

 Minimum Education requirement for Transport Drivers

The Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH) has decided to remove requirement of minimum educational qualification (class 8th pass) for transport vehicle drivers in country.

Key Highlights

Background: Currently, as per the Central Motor Vehicle Rules, 1989, a transport vehicle driver must need to have passed Class VIII. Initially, Haryana state government had requested Centre for waiver of minimum educational qualification condition for drivers belonging to economically backward Mewat region of Haryana where the residing population is dependent for livelihood on low-income earning pursuits such as driving, and even though many people in region possessed required driving skill but not had required educational qualification, thus were finding it difficult to obtain driving license.

Benefits: This move will benefit skilled persons in economically backward areas and will open up employment opportunities for a large number of unemployed youth (especially rural areas), who may not have a formal education but are otherwise skilled and literate. It will also help meet shortage of nearly 22 lakh drivers in country’s transport and logistics sector, which is hindering economic growth.

Balancing Act: Although removing the minimum educational qualification requirement is being welcomed but emphasis must be laid upon training and skill testing of drivers so that road safety is not compromised in any way.

India extends $15 Million assistance to Niger for holding AU summit

India has for the first time extended $15 Million financial support to Niger as a support for organising African Union (AU) summit scheduled to be held in 7-8 July 2019 in Niamey (Capital of Niger). This will be the 1st time that Niger will be hosting an AU summit.

Key Highlights

The assistance in form of grant was symbolically handed over by Rajesh Agarwal, Indian Ambassador to Niger to Lamido Ousseini Bala Goga Salamatou, Niger’s Deputy Foreign Minister, in presence of Minister and Special Advisor to Niger President Mohammed Saidil Moctar at a ceremony held in Niamey.

The support extended by India was in response to a specific request by Niger government.

Significance: India’s grant assistance to Niger for organizing AU Summit will further contribute towards enhancing bilateral ties between two countries. This grant assistance is also reiteration of India’s firm commitment to its developmental partnership with Africa. This is more important at a time when India is competing for influencing the continent with China.

AU Summit: is also expected to launch historic African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). The AfCFTA is the largest free trade area in world in terms of participating countries since formation of the World Trade Organization (WTO), outlined in African Continental Free Trade Agreement among 52 out of 55 African Union (AU) nations.

India-Niger

Bilateral relations between India and Niger have expanded significantly since the opening of Indian Resident Diplomatic Mission in Niamey in 2009.

Both countries enjoys close relations and India has extended Lines of Credit to Niger worth $96.54 million, for projects in transport, electrification, solar energy and potable drinking water.

As per Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India and Niger, India is also establishing Mahatma Gandhi International Convention Centre (MGICC) in Niamey under grant assistance. The MGICC will be a landmark for Niger-India friendship and also a symbol of India’s firm commitment towards Africa.

This convention Centre by India in Niger is part of India’s plan to build chain convention centres across 20 African states as signature infrastructure projects which was until now an expertise for China.

IIT-Bombay best-ranked Indian institute in QS World Rankings

The Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay (IIT-Bombay), has emerged as best-ranked Indian institute globally at 152nd position in QS World University Rankings’ 2020. IIT-Bombay has been securing top position among all Indian institutes for past three years and in 2020 edition it has improved its rank by 10 moving up places from 2018 ranking.

Key Highlights

Globally Best: The world-class Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) created a history by topping QS World University Rankings for 8th consecutive year. As per QS, no other university has managed the top rank for such a long run. Other Universities retained their 2nd, 3rd and 4th positions in the world are Stanford University, Harvard University and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) respectively.

India’s Performance: This year too no Indian university was able to secure a place in top 100 best universities. In total, there are 23 educational institutions from India which featured in broader list of top 1000, with only nine in the top 500. Out of 23, only four have managed to improve their ranks. IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi and IISc-Bangalore are the only three institutions that have managed berths in the top 200 list of QS World Rankings.

IIT-Delhi emerged as 2nd-best ranking institute from India by at 182nd place, replacing Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.

IISc Bangalore lost 14 places in this year’s ranking and ended at 184th place even when it achieved world’s 2nd-best score for research impact and secured full 100 marks for citations per faculty metric. It is also 1st ever Indian institution to see its research cited over 1 lakh times in five-year period.

Other Indian Universities in top 500 list includes: IIT-Madras (271), IIT-Kharagpur (281), IIT- Kanpur (291), IIT-Roorkee (383), University of Delhi (474) and IIT-Guwahati (491).

About QS Global University Rankings

It is one of the two most sought after rankings for educational institutes globally.

It was launched in 2004 by London-based QS Group in collaboration with Times Higher Education, but the two parted ways in 2010. Since then both QS Group and Times Higher Education come up with separate rankings every year.

Raavana-1

Sri Lanka’s first ever satellite ‘Raavana-1’, designed and developed by two Sri Lankan engineers, was successfully placed into orbit. It was launched from International Space Station (ISS) along with two other BIRDS 3 satellites from Japan and Nepal.

About Raavana-1

Background: The satellite was officially handed over to JAXA (Japanese Aerospace and Exploration Agency) on February 18 and was sent to International Space Station on April 17, through assistance of Cygnus-1 spacecraft from United States.

Orbit: It was deployed to 400-km of orbit at an inclination of 51.6 degrees using JAXA (Japanese Aerospace and Exploration Agency) owned Kibo experiment module.

Engineer: It was designed and developed by two Sri Lankan engineers Tharindu Dayaratne and Dulani Chamika who are studying space engineering at Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology.

Features: It is a cube satellite measuring 11.3 cm x 10 cm x 10 cm, and weighs around 1.05 kg. It is expected to fulfil 5 missions including capturing pictures of Sri Lanka & its surrounding regions. It also has active attitude stabilization which will ensure that satellite’s attitude is stable under influence of external talks.

Life span: It is designed for a minimum lifespan of 1.5 years but is expected to be active for about five year.

About BIRDS 3 Project

The ‘Birds project’ is an acronym for ‘Joint Global Multi-Nation Birds Satellite project’, which is a cross-border interdisciplinary satellite project for non-space faring countries supported by Japan. It is first step towards creating an indigenous space program by designing, building, operating, testing and launching 1st satellite for participating nations.

The Birds 3 project is led by Japan’s Kyushu Institute of Technology and involves students from Sri Lanka, Nepal and Japan.

India population to cross China’s By 2027

According to United Nations report ‘World Population Prospects 2019’, India is projected to surpass China as world’s most populous country in just eight years i.e. by 2027.

Key Findings of Report

Global Population: Despite a slowing global birth rate world population is projected to increase by another 2 billion people by 2050 i.e. from 7.7 billion in 2019 to 9.7 billion by 2050. More than 50% increase will be concentrated in only 9 countries namely- India, Pakistan, the United States, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Egypt Tanzania, and Indonesia. The population of sub-Saharan Africa is also projected to nearly double in coming future.

India: According to report estimates India is expected to add 273 million people by 2050 and will remain most populated until the end of century (2100). In 2019, the estimated population of India is 1.37 billion and of China 1.43 billion, but India is projected to surpass China’s. Thus by 2050, India will be leading the set of nine countries that will make up for more than half of projected growth of global population.

Projected Populous Countries: Following India-China re-ordering in 2027, the ranking of 5 largest countries is projected to remain same until the end of century i.e. by 2100. Therefore, based on an estimated population top 5 world’s populous nation will be- India is projected to remain world’s most populous country with about 1.5 billion inhabitants, followed by China (1.1 billion), Nigeria (733 million), United States (434 million), and Pakistan (403 million).

Ageing Population: The report projects that overall world’s population is ageing at such a fast rate that by 2050, 1 in 6 people in world will be part of age group of 65 (and above) as compared to 1 in 11 in 2019. Also by end of 2100 world population is set to peak at a level of about 11 billion.

Shrinking Population: Between 2019 and 2050, nearly 55 countries are estimated to face population shrinking by at least 1%. As already since 2010, 27 countries have recorded a minimum 1% decline in population. This declining trend in population being experienced by growing number of countries is attributed to sustained low levels of fertility or even high rates of emigration. China will be the largest of these 55 countries whose population is projected to shrink by as much as 2.2% (about 31.4 million) by 2050.

About World Population Prospects 2019

It published by Population Division of the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA). WPP 2019 is 26th edition of United Nations population estimates and projections.

It presents population estimates from year 1950 to 2019 for 235 countries or areas by analysing historical demographic trends. WPPP 2019 revision presents population projections to year 2100.

This years WPPP’s presents population estimates and projections describe 2 out of 4 demographic megatrends– population growth and ageing other being migration and urbanization.

Importance: Collectively, these data make up a critical piece of evidence base for monitoring global progress towards achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) by 2030.

Namma Kolhapuri chappals

Kolhapuris, the sturdy ethnic leather chappal (footwear) that rose from its humble rural origins to occupy high table of fashion globally, now has a Geographical Indication (GI) tag. The GI tag approval was jointly received by Karnataka and Maharashtra for making these chappals.

Key Highlights

The Controller General of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks (CGPDTM) has granted GI tag for Kolhapuris to four districts in each state of Maharashtra and Karnataka.

Joint GI: There is a perception that Kolhapuris artisans are from Maharashtra alone, but a large number of them are from Karnataka as well, and have been making these chappals for centuries. Moreover, Maharashtra and Karnataka jointly applied for GI tag last year and it was approved few weeks back.

Benefits of GI Tag:

It will help artisans export these chappals and also tie up with e-commerce giants such as Flipkart and Amazon.

With GI tag now these local artisans get legal support. Thus, anyone who is going to copy this can be punished.

Significance of GI tag: Getting GI tag will open large markets, both domestic and international to artisans who produce Kolhapuris in 8 districts namely- Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur and Satara districts of Maharashtra and Belgaum, Dharwad, Bagalkot and Bijapur districts of Karnataka. Also, getting GI tag for Kolhapuri means that footwear produced only in these 8 districts will qualify to carry tag of being Kolhapuris.

Kolhapuri Chappal

Uniqueness: These sturdy leather chappals are hand-crafted and tanned using vegetable dyes and the art of making them is passed down one generation to another.

History: As per GI application made by two states of Maharashtra and Karnataka, Kolhapuris can be traced back to 12th century when King Bijjal ruled Bidar (in Karnataka). King’s Prime Minister Vishwaguru Basavanna, wanted to create a casteless society and remove stigma attached to cobbler community, thus, the community embraced Lingayat faith and used its skills to start producing footwear that came to be known equally for its ruggedness and regal bearing.

‘Kolhapuri’ as a Brand was created only at beginning of 20th century when footwear began to be traded in Kolhapur (Maharashtra). Later, Chhatrapati Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur encouraged its production and 29 tanning centres were opened during his rule in Kolhapur.

What is Geographical Indications?

GI is used on products/items which have specific geographical origin and possess qualities, reputation and distinctiveness which is essentially attributable to its origin in that defined geographical locality.

Validity: The tag is valid for a period of 10 years following which it can be renewed.

GI India: Recently Union Minister of Commerce and Industry launched logo and tagline for Geographical Indications (GI) of India. The 1st product to get a GI tag in India was Darjeeling tea (2004).

The sui generis Act for protection of GI in India is Geographical Indications of Goods (Registration and Protection) Act, 1999 (GI Act). This Act was enacted by India so as to comply with Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) by World Trade Organisation (WTO). The GI tag is granted protection under TRIPS.

NGO Akshay Patra wins BBC Award

Akshaya Patra, a Bengaluru-based non-profit organisation (NGO) running one of the world’s largest school meals project in India was awarded BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) World Service Global Champion Award for the programme.

Nomination: The Akshaya Patra NGO was selected by an international panel of judges from nominations sent in by BBC World Service audience from all over the world.

Award Ceremony: The Award was presented to Akshaya Patra at the BBC Food and Farming Awards in Bristol in London, UK.

About Akshaya Patra’s School Meals Project

Background: Akshaya Patra Foundation is an NGO in India was founded by Madhu Pandit Dasa in 2000. Since its establishment it is running mid-day meal programme across India. Almost 20 years ago it started with providing 1,500 free school lunches every day and today it feeds 1.75 million children all over India with freshly prepared meals.

Motto: With the motto of-Unlimited Food for Education, its stated mission is to ensure that no child is deprived of education because of hunger. This is in recognition to the fact that some children may drop off education to do menial jobs to earn enough money to eat, and even if they do make it to classroom, an empty stomach can make it hard to concentrate.

For many children Akshaya Patra’s mid-day meal programme will be their main source of nutrition and keep them in education.

FIFA latest Rankings

In the latest FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association) World Ranking Indian football team remains static at 101st place and Belgium continued to top.The FIFA Ranking ranks men’s national teams in association football.

About FIFA Ranking

It was first introduced in December 1992. It is a ranking system by FIFA, football’s world governing body, in which teams of member nations of FIFA are ranked based on their game results with the most successful teams being ranked highest.

Top 10 Countries in Latest FIFA Rankings-

(1) Belgium, (2) France (3) Brazil (4) England (5) Portugal (with +2), (6) Croatia (with -1), (7) Spain (with +2), (8) Uruguay (with -2), (9) Switzerland (with-1) and (10) Denmark

Key Highlights

Portugal climbed 2 places in latest FIFA rankings to 5th after it added the inaugural Nations League title to their European Championship crown.

Belgium: It continued to top overall world rankings after back-to-back wins (3-0) over Kazakhstan and Scotland in Euro 2020 qualifying.

France: The world champions France was ranked 2nd.

India: The Indian football team retained its 101st place in FIFA rankings (same as April 2019) even though India had finished 3rd in King’s Cup in Thailand, which was a FIFA-sanctioned tournament. At present Indian football team is at 18th spot among Asian countries, followed by Iran (20th).

Under newly appointed coach Igor Stimac, although Indian men lost to higher-ranked Curacao (by 1-3) before beating hosts Thailand 1-0, but still these results did not make any difference to India’s rankings as points made by India remained same at 1219 as that of previous list, issued on 4 April 2019.

Other Asian countries: Japan (28), Korea (37), Australia (43) and Qatar (55) form the top five countries in Asia.

Others: Germany is up to rank 11, which it holds as tie with Argentina. Italy rose 3 places to rank 14, which again is a tie with Netherlands which lost Nations League final. Mexico is ranked 18 ahead of Gold Cup 2019 and the United States drops six ranks to currently at 30.

RBI asks banks to grout ATMs to a structure for Security.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has asked banks to ensure their ATMs (Automated Teller Machines) are grouted to a structure preferably wall, pillar, or floor by 30 September 2019 in a move to enhance security of cash vending machines.

Key Highlights

Background: In October 2016, RBI had set up a Committee on Currency Movement (CCM), under the chairmanship of D K Mohanty, RBI’s executive director to review the entire gamut of security of treasure in transit. Based on the recommendations of Mohanty panel, RBI has now issued instructions aimed at enhancing security and mitigating risks in ATM operations.

Key Recommendations

ATM Grouting: All ATMs shall be grouted to a structure (wall/pillar/floor) by end of September 2019, except for those ATMs which are installed in highly secured premises (ex- airports) or places which have adequate CCTV coverage and are guarded by state or central security personnel.

Digital Locks: As part of security measures undertaken by the central bank all ATMs shall be operated for cash replenishment only with digital One Time Combination (OTC) locks.

e-Surveillance Mechanism: Banks may also roll out a comprehensive e-surveillance mechanism at ATMs to ensure timely alerts and quick response.

India to have its own Space Station

  1. Sivan, Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) recently announced that the country is planning to launch its own space station and modalities for it will be worked out after Gaganyaan Mission (India’s maiden manned mission to space).

Key Highlights

Mastering Technology: Although ISRO made announcement of space station recently but it has been quietly working on a key technology such as space docking & berthing technology 

 Extension: India’s space station project will be an extension of Gaganyaan Mission, which involves sending three Indian astronauts to space for 7 days in lower earth orbit (of 120-400 km). The government has already approved a cost of Rs.10,000 crore for Gaganyaan mission. Before the maiden flight with crew sometime in August 2022, there would be two unmanned (without crew) flights from Sriharikota, Andhra Pradesh.

The detailed project report on setting up India’s space station will also be submitted to government after Gaganyaan.

United States (US), Russia, China and a consortium of nations that own the International Space Station (ISS) are the only countries that have had space stations so far. After its successful launch India would become 4th country to launch a space station.

Features:

The proposed space station is anticipated to weigh about 20 tonnes, it would be placed in an orbit 400 km above earth and will serve as a facility where astronauts can stay for upto 15-20 days in space.

India is targeting 2030 as the date to launch country’s space station which will most likely be used to conduct microgravity experiments.

It is one of the most ambitious projects ever undertaken by India.

What is a space station?

It is a spacecraft that designed to remain in space for an extended period of time and can be used for other spacecraft to dock as well as capable of supporting crew members, the most commonly known being the International Space Station (ISS).

International Space Station: It is a habitable artificial satellite in low earth orbit (LEO). It is the largest human-made body in LEO that completes multiple orbits around Earth every day thus can often be seen with the naked eye from Earth. Its first component was launched into orbit in 1998 and since then it has been inhabited continuously.

Miss India World 2019: Rajasthan’s Suman Rao crowned

Suman Rao from Rajasthan won the Femina Miss India World 2019 beauty pageant during a ceremony held at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Indoor Stadium in Mumbai. She was crowned as Miss India 2019 by her predecessor Miss India 2018, Tamil Nadu’s Anukreethy Vas. Suman has now become 56th Miss India.

Key Highlights about Event

Operation Sunrise 2: Armies of India, Myanmar target NE Militants

Starting from 16 May 2019, the armies of India and Myanmar carried out a 3-week-long coordinated operation in their respective border areas called ‘Operation Sunrise 2’ to bust terror camps. The operation was targeted at militant groups operating in Manipur, Nagaland and Assam. This was the 2nd edition of Operation Sunrise.

Key Highlights

Participants: From Indian side besides Indian Army, troops from Assam Rifles were also part of operation.

Operation Against: During Operation Sunrise 2, the armies of India and Myanmar coordinated with each other to bust camps of several militant outfits, including NSCN-K (National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang), Kamtapur Liberation Organisation (KLO), United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) (I) and National Democratic Front of Boroland (NDFB).

Result: Atleast 6 dozen militants belonging to the groups mentioned were nabbed and some of their camps were destroyed during operation.

Background: In June 2015, days after NSCN-(K) militants killed 18 armymen in Manipur, Indian Army carried out an operation against the militants near Indo-Myanmar border areas. Since then operations against militants are actively undertaken. According to data provided by security agencies, there were more than 50 camps of insurgent groups from north-east in Myanmar till 2018.

First phase of Operation Sunrise

The ‘Operation Sunrise 1’ was conducted 3 months ago (February 2019) along the Indo-Myanmar border, during which a number of camps of north-east-based militant groups were busted.

In 1st phase of operation, Indian Army targeted members of Arakan Army (Myanmar’s insurgent group) who were opposed to Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project, which is viewed as India’s gateway to Southeast Asia.

India-Myanmar

Boundary: Four Northeast states of India share a 1,640-km long border with Myanmar with Myanmar namely, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram and militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur. Thus, Myanmar is one of the strategic neighbours of India.

For much efficient guarding of sensitive border, India for long has been pushing for a deeper coordination between armies of two countries while.

World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought..

The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (WDCDD) is being observed globally on 17 June 2019. According to United Nation (UN), Desertification means degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas and that Desertification does not refer to expansion of existing deserts.

Key Highlights

Background: WDCDD was proclaimed on 30 January 1995 by United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) resolution A/RES/49/115, after the day when United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) was drafted. In 2019, UNCCD also celebrates 25 years of progress made by countries on sustainable land management.

Theme for year 2019 is- Let’s Grow the Future Together, which reflects on 25 years of progress and envisioning next 25 years.

Objective: The day is observed every year to promote public awareness about presence of desertification and drought, highlighting methods of preventing desertification and also about international efforts to combat desertification.

Concern: As per United Nation (UN), world is losing 24 billion tons of fertile soil ever year and  National Domestic Product (NDP) in developing countries is reduced by up to 8 % annually due to dryland degradation.

Siginificance: WDCDD is a unique occasion that serves as a reminder global community that desertification can be effectively tackled and that solutions are possible with tools such as strengthening community participation and cooperation at all levels.

India’s efforts towards Combating Desertification

Various initiatives by government for tackling desertification issue includes- Per Drop More Crops (for proper water management), Soil Health Card Scheme and Neem Coated Urea for farmers that will help increase the area of cultivated land.

In last 5 years forest cover in India has increased and the government is committed towards improving it further as well for working towards betterment of farmer and environment protection.

India seeks to set an example in combating desertification and also shows readiness to cooperate with world in this direction.

Tariff War: India levies retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products

In a tit-for-tat trade battle between the United States (US) and India, latter imposed higher tariffs on 28 American goods including almonds, apples and walnut in retaliation to US tariffs.

Key Highlights

Among targeted US products imported, the custom duty on walnut is increased from 30% to 120%, and on chickpeas, masur dal and Bengal gram (chana) has been raised from 30% to 70%.

India is expected to get about $220 million of additional revenue from the new tarriffs on items imported from the US. Just minutes before the tariffs came into force, the government dropped only one item called artemia, a type of shrimp from the tariff list.

About India-US Trade War

Background: Initially the retaliatory tariff by India, were triggered by US announcing higher duties on Indian steel and aluminium in 2018 but were deferred multiple times in view of possible trade dialogue between the two countries.

Current Scenario: Lately, India had decided to levy higher tariffs following America’s withdrawal of $5.6 billion trade concessions given to India by US under the Generalised System of Preferences(GSP) programme in June 2019 which benefitted Indian Exports. This move comes ahead of meetings between Donald Trump, President of United States and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at upcoming G20 summit on June 28-29 in Osaka, Japan.

Concern: The strain in trade relation between two economies (India-US) comes at a time when the global economic growth rate is projected to slow down as trade tensions among other major economies (like between US and China) weighs on business confidence and investments. The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) World Economic Outlook (WEO, a biannual survey that is partly updated twice a year) in April 2019 forecasted a downfall in global growth to 3.3% for 2019, down from the 3.5% in January 2019.

Way Ahead: Also, by the end of June 2019 US Secretary of State (SoS) Mike Pompeo will be visiting India for bilateral talks with his Indian counterpart S. Jaishankar External Affairs Minister. Ahead of meet Mike stated that US was open to discussions on the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP).

India to host COP-14 of UNCDD in September 2019

For the first time ever India will be hosting the 14th session of Conference of Parties (COP-14) of United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) in September 2019, to address the issue of land degradation and desertification.

Key Highlights

Presidency: India will be taking over the COP presidency from China for the next two years until the next COP is hosted in 2021.

Participants: At least 5,000 delegates from nearly 197 countries will be participating in the event which will be held between rom 29th August to 14th September 2019 at India Expo Mart Limited, Greater Noida.

Function: One of the primary functions of COP-14 is to review reports submitted by Conference of Parties to convention and detailing how they are carrying out their commitments.

India’s Land Degradation Problems: India faces a severe problem of land degradation (meaning the soil becoming unfit for cultivation). The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) in its 2016 report found that over 29% of India’s land (in 2011-2013) was degraded which was 0.57% increase from year 2003-2005.

India’s Flagship Project:

Ahead of COP-14, Prakash Javadekar, Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) has launched a flagship project which is a part of a larger international initiative called ‘Bonn Challenge’.

It is aimed at enhancing India’s capacity for Forest Landscape Restoration (FLR). During the pilot phase of project (initial 3.5 years), it will be implemented in Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Nagaland and Karnataka. Thus initially, the project will be aimed at developing and adapting best practices and monitoring protocols for country, and building capacity within 5 pilot States. Later, it will eventually be scaled up across the country through subsequent phases of project. The project will be implemented by MoEFCC in partnership with International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

About Bonn Challenge

It is a global effort towards bringing 150 million hectares of world’s degraded and deforested land under restoration by the year 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030.

At COP-13 (2015) in Paris, India also joined the voluntary Bonn Challenge pledge and had committed towards restoring 13 million hectares (MH) of degraded and deforested land by year 2020, and an additional 8 million hectares (MH) by 2030. India’s pledge is one of the largest in Asia.

Major UN Conventions

The United Nations has 3 major Conventions-

  1. UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)
  2. UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
  3. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)– It was established in 1994, and at present has 197 parties working towards maintaining and restoring land and soil productivity as well as mitigating effects of drought. It is the only legally binding international agreement that links environment and development issues to land agenda.

DCC approves levy of penalty on Airtel, Vodafone Idea

The Digital Communications Commission (DCC), the highest decision-making body of Department of Telecom (DoT), has approved levying of penalty on Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd. for denial of interconnection to Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd. when the latter had entered market in 2016.

Key Highlights

Despite the approval for imposing penalty, the inter-ministerial panel of DCC has asked Telecom Regulatory authority of India (TRAI) to review penalty amount worth ₹3,050 crore considering the financial stress in telecom sector.

No Troubling Users: However, TRAI recommended penalty, instead of revoking operator’s license so as to avoid consumer inconvenience. The telecom regulator while recommended a fine for Airtel and Vodafone amounting to ₹1,050 crore each and for Idea it was ₹950 crore but since Vodafone and Idea have now merged to form Vodafone-Idea (becoming largest telecom carrier in India), the new entity will have to bear the combined burden.

Background

In October 2016, TRAI recommended total penalty of ₹3,050 crore on 3 Telephone Company namely Airtel, Vodafone and Idea, for violating their licence agreement and denial of interconnection to newer entrant Reliance Jio which complained that more than 75% of calls on its Jio network failed as its rivals did not releasing sufficient number of points of interconnect (PoI).

TRAI also upheld that the act of 3 operators was against public interest and in violation of their licence agreement, which warrants revocation of operator’s licence.

Since then TRAI’s decision had followed a prolonged battle between telecos- Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Celluar. Reliance Jio alleged that its subscribers were unable to make calls to other networks (Airtel/Vodafone/Idea) as those operators were not providing adequate inter connection points.

About Digital Communications Commission

DCC was formerly called ‘Telecom Commission’. It is the top decision-making body in Department of Telecommunications (DoT), under Union Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.

MembersTelecom secretary is ex-officio chairperson of DCC. The full-time members of panel include DoT’s Additional Secretary, Member (finance), Member (services) and Member (technology). The part-time members of body are NITI Aayog’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) secretary and Ministry of Electronics and IT secretary.

Tennis Ranking: Naomi Osaka, Novak Djokovic continue as World No. 1

In the latest Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) and Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) rankings Naomi Osaka of Japan’s and Novak Djokovic of Serbia continue to be as World Number 1.

Key Highlights

The latest ATP and WTA rankings were announced ahead of the 2019 Wimbledon Championships that is scheduled to take place at All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club in Wimbledon, London, United Kingdom (UK) starting 1 July 2019.

Naomi Osaka: retained the World No. 1 spot by being just 252 points ahead of world No.2 Ashleigh Barty of Australia in unchanged top 20 WTA rankings.

Novak Djokovic: leads the latest men’s ATP rankings ahead of Rafael Nadal (French Open winner 2019) and former World No. 1 Roger Federer. The top of ATP rankings remains unchanged even a week after Nadal claimed the Men’s Singles in Roland Garros title (French Open 2019) with victory over Australia’s Dominic Thiem in final. Roger Federer also lost to Nadal in semis in his first appearance in French Open 2019, Paris since 2015.

Wimbledon Preparations:

In preparation for upcoming Wimbledon Naomi and the French Open winner Ashleigh Barty are playing on grass in Birmingham, England this week.

Roger is currently playing on grass in Halle in Germany as the focus switches to Wimbledon build-up.

About WTA and ATP

Women’s Tennis Association (WTA)

It was founded in 1973 by Billie Jean King, to create a better future for women’s tennis. It is the principal organizing body of women’s professional tennis and is restricted to women. The body governs WTA Tour which is worldwide professional tennis tour for women

Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP)

It was founded in September 1972 by Jack Kramer, Donald Dell, and Cliff Drysdale (who became 1st President of body) to protect the interests of male professional tennis players. It is the principal governing body of men’s professional tennis.

Centre reconstitutes 8 key Cabinet Committees

Prime Minister Narendra Modi led NDA government which stormed back into power for a second term at Centre after recently concluded 17th Lok Sabha eletion, reconstituted eight key cabinet committees. He also reconstituted six previous Cabinet sub-committees and formed two new ones to deal with job creation and economic growth.

In newly-constituted eight cabinet committees, Home Minister Amit Shah is part of all cabinet committees while P M Modi is part of six committees, excluding Cabinet Committee on Accommodation and Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs.

The eight committees reconstituted includes-

  1. Appointments Committee of Cabinet– includes P M Modi and Amit Shah.
  2. Cabinet Committee on Accommodation– includes Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari (Minister of Road Transport and Highways), Nirmala Sitharaman (Finance Minister and Minister of Corporate Affairs), and Piyush Goyal (Railway Minister and Mniister of Commerce & Industry).

Special invitees to Cabinet Committee on Accommodation– includes Jitendra Singh, Minister of State in Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and Hardeep Singh Puri, Minister of State (I/C) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

  1. Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs – includes PM Modi (as chairman) and other member are Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Rajnath Singh (Defence Minister), Ravi Shankar Prasad (Minister of Communications and Information Technology), Harsimrat Kaur Badal (Minister of Food Processing Industries), D.V.Sadananda Gowda (Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers), Narendra Singh Tomar (Minister of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare), Dr. Subrahamanayam Jaishankar (Minister of External Affairs), and Dharmendra Pradhan (Petroleum, Natural Gas Minister).
  2. Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs- includes Shah, Sitharaman, Tomar, RS Prasad, Ramvilas Paswan (Consumer Affairs Minister), Thawar Chand Gehlot (Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment), Prakash Javadekar (Environment Minister) and Prahlad Joshi (Minister of Parliamentary Affairs).

Special invitees to Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs­– includes Ministers of State (MoS) Parliamentary Affairs Arjun Ram Meghwal and V Muraleedharan.

  1. Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs– includes P M Modi, Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Sitharaman, Ramvilas Paswan, Narendra Singh Tomar, RS Prasad, Harsimrat Kaur, Piyush Goyal, Harsh Vardhan (Health Minister), Arvind Ganpat Sawant (Heavy Industries and Public Enterprise Minister) and Prahlad Joshi.
  2. Cabinet Committee on Security– It is considered to be the most significant panel, includes the Prime Minister Modi, Rajnath, Shah, Sitharaman and Jaishankar.
  3. Cabinet Committee on Investment Growth– P M Modi, Amit Shah, Nitin Gadkari, Nirmala Sitharaman and Piyush Goyal.
  4. Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development– includes P M Modi, Amit Shah, Nirmala Sitharaman, Piyush Goyal, Narendra Singh Tomar, Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ (HRD Minister), Dharmendra Pradhan, Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey (Minister of Skill development and Entrepreneurship), Santosh Kumar Gangwar (Minister of State (I/C) Labour and Employment) and Hardeep Singh Puri.

Special invitees to Cabinet Committee on Employment and Skill Development– includes Union Ministers Nitin Gadkari, Prahlad Singh Patel, Smriti Zubin Irani, and Harsimrat Kaur Badal.

Andhra Pradesh CM allows CBI to enter state

The new state government under newly appointed Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh, Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy revoked previous governments’ order of barring Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) from conducting raids in state without state government permission.;

Background: The previous Telugu Desam Party (TDP) government headed by then Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu issued a government order number 176 ( GO 176), on 8 November 2018 withdrawing ‘general consent‘ to CBI officers for exercising jurisdiction in state and for investigating corruption charges against central government officials and private persons. This GO barred CBI from conducting raids or carrying out investigations in state without its permission.

Then CM and TDP President, N. Naidu accused Modi government of misusing central agencies such as CBI and Income Tax (IT) department to target TDP leaders, stating this as reason for the order.

CBI will now have all powers to take up corruption and other cases in Andhra Pradesh without requiring any state permission.

 PM Modi reconstitutes NITI Aayog

Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the reconstitution of government of India’s policy think tank NITI Aayog (or National Institution for Transforming India). The decision was taken ahead of first meeting of NITI Aayog’s governing council scheduled on June 15.

  • On 5 June, PM will chair 5th meeting of NITI Aayog’s Governing Council (first governing council meeting under new NDA government) to discuss various issues concerning agriculture, water management and security.
  • Rajiv Kumar will continue his designation as Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog.
  • Other members including V K Saraswat, Ramesh Chand and Dr. V K Paul were also reinstated barring economist Bibek Debroy.
  • Amitabh Kant, who served as CEO at NITI Aayog (in NDA-I) is not mentioned in reconstitution.
  • The NITI Aayog constitution is as follows-

Chairperson– Prime Minister Narendra Modi

Vice-Chairperson– Dr. Rajiv Kumar

Full-Time Members– includes (1) Shri V.K. Saraswat, (2) Prof. Ramesh Chand (3) Dr. V.K. Paul

Ex-officio Members (4) – includes (1)Rajnath Singh (Defence Minister), (2)Amit Shah (Home Affairs Minister), (3)Nirmala Sitharaman (Finance Minister and Corporate Affairs Minister), (4)Narendra Singh Tomar (Rural Development Minister, Panchayati Raj Minister and Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Minister)

Special Invitees to NITI Aayog (4) – includes (1)Nitin Gadkari (Road Transport and Highways Minister and MSME Minister), (2)Piyush Goyal (Railways Minister and Commerce & Industry Minister), (3)ShriThaawar Chand Gehlot (Social Justice and Empowerment Minister) and  (4)Rao Inderjit Singh (Minister of State (Independent Charge) of Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation and Minister of State (I/C) of Ministry of Planning).

Women’s Prize for Fictio

American novelist Tayari Jones won this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction for her fourth novel “An American Marriage“. It is one of the biggest international celebrations of women’s creativity.

  • Her book competed against five other shortlisted authors, including two former Booker prize winners namely Anna Burns(novel “Milkman” won booker prize for 2018) and Pat Barker’s new novel “The Silence of the Girls“.
  • Prize: She won £30,000 and ‘Bessie’, which is a limited edition bronze figurine.
  • Awards Ceremony: The Women’s Prize for Fiction event was hosted at Bedford Square Gardens, London (UK) by novelist and Women’s Prize founder-director, Kate Mosse.
  • Other winnerHelen Rogers was named as winner of Women’s Prize/Grazia First Chapter Competition for unpublished writers.
  • About Book: It is a powerful story about love and family, injustice and strength. It portraits a young African American’s wrongful conviction and how it affects his marriage.

Prayuth Chan-ocha elected as new Prime Minister of Thailand

National Assembly of Thailand (Thailand’s Parliament) elected 2014 coup leader Prayuth Chan-ocha as Prime Minister after military-backed party that nominated Prayuth won 2nd-highest number of seats in House of Representatives (lower house of Thailand’s Parliament) in a general election held in March 2019.

  • Prayuth was elected for a second term by a margin of 500 to 244 votes against his opponent Thanathorn Juangroongruangkit, leader of Future Forward party.
  • Prayuth was candidate of military-backed Palang Pracharath party that won 115 seats (in 500-member House of Representatives) against its rival, Pheu Thai party that won 136 seats is associated with self-exiled former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
  • His candidature was also supported by 11 small political parties in Thailand to form next government in Thailand.
  • Palang Pracharath party is seen as a proxy for Thai military, which seized power in a 2014 coup. Prayuth Chan-Ocha who was coup leader also served as prime minister in military government before becoming a candidate to run for office of head of an elected government.
  • Prayuth did not run for office in Thailand’s election that concluded in March 2019. The constitution enacted under military junta headed by him does not require that Prime Minister comes from Parliament.
  • Although the formation of new government headed by Prayuth Chan-Ocha will finally return Thailand officially to civilian rule but it will be done under a new political system enacted led by junta Prayuth and its appointees.
  • His appointment will become official when it is endorsed by recently crowned King Maha Vajiralongkorn of Thailand.

DMRC becomes India’s 1st project to receive Power from Waste-to-Energy

Delhi Metro has become first ever project in India to receive power generated from a waste-to-energy plant. The move is in continuation of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) efforts to establish an environment-friendly network

Steps Taken: Since beginning of June 2019, DMRC has started receiving 2 MW power from a 12 MW capacity waste-to-energy plant set up in Ghazipur (Uttar Pradesh). The power being received is being utilised at Vinod Nagar Receiving Sub-station (RSS) for meeting operational requirements of Pink Line of Delhi Metro.

Waste-to-energy Plant:

  • It is a state of the art facility, set up by East Delhi Waste Processing Company Limited (EDWPCL). It is based on a Public Private Partnership (PPP) model which involves government of Delhi, East Delhi Municipal Corporation (EDMC) and EDWPCL.
  • It can process over 1,500 tonnes per day (TPD) of waste and can generate 12 MW of green power. This plant is India’s first Euro norms compliant waste-to-energy facility.

Expectation:

  • DMRC is expected to use about 17.5 million units per annum from this plant but energy offtake will depend upon actual generation of plant.
  • The plant is estimated to mitigate more than 8 million tons of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) over the life of project thus combating global warming.

RBI Monetary Policy review

The Reserve bank of India (RBI) in its bi-monthly monetary policy review reduced repo rate by 25 basis points to 5.75% from current 6.0% with immediate effect. This is RBI’s third cut this year and has reduced Repo rate at lowest since 2010.

Key Highlights

  • Repo Rate adjusted to 5.75%,
  •  Reverse Repo Rate r Liquid Adjustment Facility (LAF) stands adjusted to 5.5% and 
  • Marginal Standing Facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 6.0%.
  • Cash reserve ratio(CRR) unchanged at 4%;
  •  Retail inflation forecast raised marginally to 3% -3.1% for first half (H1) of 2019-20) and 3.4% -3.7% for second half (H2).
  • GDP Growth Rate: RBI lowered Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth forecast for financial year 2019-20 to 7% from 7.2% in April Monetary Policy. This is in range of 6.4% to 6.7% for first half (H1) of 2019-20 and 7.2-7.5% for second half (H2) with risks evenly balanced. This lowered forecast was taking into account current weak global demand due to escalation in trade wars and weakened private consumption in rural areas.
  • The six member Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) headed by RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das unanimously decided to reduce policy repo rate and to change stance of monetary policy from neutral to accommodative.

SriLankan Airlines

SriLankan Airlines, the National Carrier of island nation has been named the ‘World’s Most Punctual Airline’ for second consecutive time.

Key Highlights

  • SriLankan Airlines, the flag carrier of Sri Lanka, has been named ‘World’s Most Punctual Airline’ for second consecutive time in less than 12 months with over 90% of its flights in May being “on time”. In September 2018 it achieved a punctuality rating of 91.37%.
  • It was named so by global flight tracker, ‘Flightstats’ which analysed data of over 41 carriers from Europe, North America, South America, Asia and Middle East including some of the world’s largest and most prestigious airlines, before drawing its conclusions on scale of punctuality.
  • Achieving punctuality rating of 90.75% by SriLankan Airlines in May 2019 was impressive as it was achieved despite facing challenges caused by heightened security at airline’s hub at Bandaranaike International Airport (in Sri Lankan capital Colombo) after math of April 21 Easter Sunday terror attacks that killed over 250 people.

Romila Thapar

Eminent historian and writer Romila Thapar has been elected as international member of American Philosophical Society (APS) at its Annual Spring Meeting.

  • She is Professor Emerita of history at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi.
  • She is renowned for her careful scholarship on emperor Aśoka, epigraphy of Mauryan period, and ground-breaking studies and multiple historiographies surrounding contested Hindu and Muslim history of Somnath.
  • She not only embraced contemporary philosophical debates, producing a model of open-minded .
  •  American Philosophical Society-
  • It is the oldest learned society in United States (US).
  • It was founded in 1743 by Benjamin Franklin(American polymath and one of Founding Fathers of US) for purpose of ‘promoting useful knowledge.’
  • It provides a forum for free exchange of ideas while holding conviction that intellectual inquiry and critical thought are inherently in best interest of public.

AU suspends Sudan

The African Union (AU) suspended Sudan until establishment of a civilian-led transition to democracy and also demanded to resolve an entrenched and bloody crisis.

 The decision was taken at AU’s peace and Security Council meet in Addis Ababa, (Ethiopia’s capital).

Key Highlights

  • Background: Since December 2018 Sudan has been rocked with anger over increasing bread prices and shortages, which then turned into protests against Omar al-Bashir(7th President of Sudan) and culminated in military removing him after a three-decade rule where he became a pariah in eyes of Western world. The military leadership then took control of Sudan after ouster of Omar in April 2019, but it had failed to hand over power to civilians.
  • Trigger: The call for action to be taken by African Union was mounted after recent military crackdown on protesters campaigning outside Army headquarters in Khartoum (Sudan’s Capital) killed dozens of individuals. As per a doctors’ group around 40 bodies were pulled from rive Nile, taking the total toll to at least 108.
  • Thus African Union’s Peace and Security Council with immediate effect suspended participation of Sudan in all AU activities until effective establishment of a Civilian-led Transitional Authority, as only way to allow Republic of Sudan to exit from current crisis. This move by AU intensifies global pressure on Sudan’s new military leaders to stand down after witnessing worst violence since Bashir’s fall.
  • AU also urged foreign powers to refrain from interference in Sudan’s affairs. The decision of AU in Sudan was by endorsed European Union (EU).

About African Union (AU)

  • It was established in 2002. It is a continental union with headquarter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
  • Members: 55 countries located on African continent (expect territories possessed by European located in Africa).
  • The highest decision-making organ of AU isAssembly of African Union, a semi-annual meeting of heads of state and government of its member states.
  • AU’s secretariat, called African Union Commission is based in Addis Ababa.
  • Official bodies within AU, includes AU Peace and Security Council and the Pan-African Parliament (a representative body).
  • Some of AU’s Objective is- promoting unity and solidarity among African States; coordinating and intensifing cooperation for development; safeguarding sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and promoting international cooperation within framework of United Nations (UN).

IAF inks Rs 300 crore deal to procure SPICE 2000 bombs from Israel

Indian Air Force (IAF) signed Rs.300 crore deal with Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, an Israeli defence firm to procure a batch of SPICE 2000 guided bombs.

Key Highlights

  • The order for bombs was placed under Special Financial Powers given by government to armed forces for emergency purchases. The bombs are expected to be supplied within next three months.
  • IAF used SPICE bombs for a non-military, pre-emptive strike on terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s (JeM) terrorist training camp in Pakistan’s Balakot region on February 2019. This Indian strike on JeM camp was conducted 12 days after JeM claimed responsibility for suicide attack on CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama region in which 40 CRPF soldiers were killed.

Background

  • Following Pulwama attack in February 2019, government granted emergency powers to all three defence services (Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy) for procuring weapons and military hardware so as to enhance their operational preparedness along border with Pakistan.
  • Government also eased certain rules to cut delays in military purchase such as allowing three services to procure required weapons and equipment from a single vendor.

About SPICE 2000

  • The SPICE stands for Smart, Precise Impact and Cost-Effective. It is guidance and maneuvering kit manufactured by Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.
  • SPICE can overcome errors in locating target, GPS jamming and also reduces collateral damage.
  • SPICE kit adds a sophisticated guidance system that consists of satellite guidance, inertial navigation and electro-optical sensors which can be used for pinpoint accuracy and adds control fins to a conventional unguided bomb (called as free-fall bomb/gravity bomb).
  • It is reportedly biggest conventional bomb that can be delivered by IAF and is used on French-origin Mirage-2000 jets.
  • The SPICE kit has two variants SPICE-1000 kit and SPICE-2000 kit. These two are difficult to detect by most ground-based radars.
  • SPICE-1000: meant for 500kg bombs and has glide range of about 100km.
  • SPICE-2000: meant for 1,000kg bombs and has a glide range of about 60km.

Pradhan Mantri Kisan Pension Yojana.

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved Pradhan Mantri Kisan Pension Yojana, a new Central Sector Scheme (CSS), to provide pension cover to farmers. This decision was taken at the first Cabinet meeting after formation of new Government (second term) of Modi Government.

Key Features of Scheme

  • It is voluntary and contributory pension scheme for all Small and Marginal Farmers (SMF) across the country.
  • Eligibility: Entry age of 18 to 40 years with provision of minimum fixed pension of Rs.3,000 on attaining the age of 60 years.
  • Contribution: Beneficiary farmer of this scheme is required to contribute Rs 100 per month at median entry age of 29 years. Central Government will also contribute to Pension Fund an equal amount as contributed by eligible farmer.
  • After subscriber’s death (while receiving pension), spouse of SMF beneficiary is entitled to receive 50% of pension received by beneficiary as family pension, provided he/she is not already an SMF beneficiary of this scheme. In case of death of subscriber happens during period of contribution, the spouse shall have the option of continuing scheme by paying regular contribution.
  • Synergy between PM Kisan Scheme:Beneficiary farmers of this scheme can opt to allow his/her monthly contribution to be made from benefits drawn from Pradhan Mantri KisanSAmman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) Scheme directly. Alternatively, beneficiary farmer can pay his monthly contribution by registering through Common Service Centres (CSCs) under Union Ministry of Information and Technology (MeitY).

Cabinet extends PM-KISAN to all farmers

 The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has comprehensively extended ambit of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi(PM-KISAN) to all land holding eligible farmer families who will avail benefits under the scheme (but subject to existing exclusion factor).

The revised scheme is expected to cover around 2 crore more farmers and increase total coverage of PM-KISAN to around 14.5 crore beneficiaries. It also costs Central Government around Rs. 87,217.50 crores for year 2019-20.

China launches Space Rocket from Yellow Sea for 1st time

China launched a space rocket named “Long March 11” from a mobile launch platform in Yellow Sea off Shandong province (China) for the first time. With this China became 3rd nation following the U.S. and Russia to successfully demonstrate ability to launch satellites into orbit from a floating platform.

 

Key Highlights

  • Background: In 2003, China became only 3rd nation to have capability of launching humans into space and in early 2019 became 1st nation to land a rover on far side of moon. The Long March rocket first flew in 2015, and this was its 7th launch but was China’s first attempt at an offshore launch of rocket into Earth orbit.
  • About: The Long March 11 rocket was launched by China from a ship deployed in Yellow Sea, making it first time that China has tested a launch vehicle at sea. This maiden sea launch by China has now unveiled its ambitious plans to build a research base on lunar surface, send a probe to Mars and build a space station in Earth orbit in coming future. Also, China now spends more than Russia and Japan on its civil and military space programmes.
  • Payload: The space rocket carried 2 experimental satellites (named Bufeng-1A and Bufeng-1B) and 5 commercial ones.
  • Advantages: Launching rockets from sea has a number of advantages over land-based rocket launches, like ability to send off rockets from a variety of locations on Earth, and benefit of reduced costs and risks (as rocket can lift off closer to equator,).

Maldives conferred Country’s highest honour on PM Modi

Prime Minister Modi was conferred with Maldives’ highest honour- ‘Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen‘ in Male, (Maldives capital) during his two-day state visit to the island country.

The prestigious award of Most Honourable Order of the Distinguished Rule of Nishan Izzuddeen is Maldive’s highest honour accorded to foreign dignitaries.

  • Background: Maldives is a valued partner of India with whom it shares deep bonds of history and culture. In February 2018, relations between India and Maldives deteriorated after the then President Abdulla Yameen took certain decisions which did not go down well with New Delhi such as imposing emergency, impositing restrictions on work visas for Indians and signing of a new Free Trade Agreement with Beijing. However, ties were restored under the incumbent Solih’s presidency.
  • Recent Visit to Maldives:
  • Although PM Modi visited Maldives in November 2018 to attend President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih‘s swearing-in, but the current visit is the first by an Indian prime minister at a bilateral level in past eight years.
  • The two-day state visit undertaken by PM Modi was aimed at further cementing ties with Indian Ocean archipelago.
  • Two countries held delegation-level talks as well as signed a slew of agreements to strengthen bilateral ties in a number of key areas including defence.
  • India’s concern: China views Maldives as key to its Maritime Silk Road (MSR) project in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) for which China has already acquired Hambantota port in Sri Lanka and Djibouti in Horn of Africa. Thus to keep check on China’s ambitious expansion in IOR, India needs to continue its good relations and partnership with its neighboring countries having strategic importance in IOR.

2019 ITTF World Tour Hong Kong Open

China claimed four gold medals at 2019 ITTF World Tour Hong Kong Open, covering both Men’s single & doubles and Women’s single & doubles.

In 2019 edition of ITTF (International Table Tennis Federation) World Tour Hong Kong Open, China sent only their young guns and made star players, like Ma Long, Fan Zhendong, Liu Shiwen and Ding Ning rest for next week’s Japan Open.

Key Highlights

  • Women’s Singles: Wang Yidi of China won her first women’s singles title on international level by defeating No.2 seed Mima Ito of Japan with a thunderous 4-0 scoreline.
  • Women’s Doubles: In wo   men’s doubles final, Chinese pair Chen Ke and Mu Zi overcame Jeon Ji-hee and You Eun-chong of Republic of Korea (South Korea), registering their first trophy as a pair.
  • Men’s SinglesLin Gaoyuan of China added another gold after he registered a six-set victory over Tomokazu Harimoto of Japan, to whom Lin lost at final hurdle of 2018 edition of ITTF World Tour Grand Final.
  • Men’s DoublesLiang Jingkun and Lin Gaoyuan of China won men’s doubles title by defeating Jang Woo-jin and Lim Jong-hoon of South Korea. It is the Chinese players’ first gold medal success as a pair on the ITTF World Tour.

 Imports from Pakistan to India decline by 92%

Pakistan to India have declined by 92% amounting to USD 2.84 Million in March 2019 after imposition of 200% customs duties on all products. The strong economic action against Pakistan was taken following Pulwama terror attack.

  • Background: On February 2019, in aftermath of Pulwama terror attack for which Pakistan based JeM terror group claimed responsibility, India revoked the MFN (Most Favoured Nation) status given to Pakistan. This further led to strong economic action against Pakistan such as India raised customs duty to 200% on all goods imported from Pakistan.
  • During 2018-19 fiscal year for January-March period, the imports from Pakistan declined by 47%, about USD 53.65 Million.
  • India’s Export: In March 2019, India’s exports to Pakistan also dipped by about 32% amounting to over USD171 million. However, Indian exports grew by 7.4% (over USD 2 billion) during 2018-19.
  • Commodities Imported: India raised 200% custom duty on goods imported from neighbouring country, including cotton, fresh fruits, cement, petroleum products and mineral. But the main commodities imported during month of March 2019 from Pakistan includes knitted fabrics, wool, articles of apparel and clothing, preparation of vegetables spices, chemicals, man-made filaments, and plastics.

Chaukhandi Stupa

According to a notification issued by Union Ministry of Culture, Chaukhandi Stupa, an ancient Buddhist site located in Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh (UP) has been declared as ‘protected area of national importance’ by Archaeological Survey of India (ASI).

For declaring the stupa as protected area government sought public feedback on 8 March 2019 for a period of two months.

About Chaukhandi  Stupa

  • Name: The Stupa is known as ‘Chaukhandi’ becaause of its four armed plan.
  • The stupa is an ancient Buddhist site which evolved from burial mounds and served as a shrine for a relic of Buddha. It appears to be in ruins and was originally constructed in 5th Century AD.
  • It also finds mention in account of Hiuen Tsang, celebrated Chinese traveler of 7th century AD.
  • Architecture:
  • It is widely belived that Stupa was originally built as a terraced temple during Gupta period (4th-6th centuries AD) to mark the site where Lord Buddha traveling from Bodh Gaya to Sarnath was reunited with panchavargiya bhikshus (Budhha’s five companions) who had previously deserted him at Rajgir.
  • After Gupta’s the stupa’s architecture was altered by Govardhan, son of Raja Todarmal,who modified stupa to its present shape by building an octagonal tower in commemoration of Humayun (Mughal ruler) visit.

French Open Tennis 2019… 

The 2019 French Open was the 123rd edition of a Grand Slam tennis tournament. It was held from 26 May to 9 June 2019, at Stade Roland Garros in Paris, France. It is played on outdoor clay courts. The tournament comprises of singles, doubles and mixed doubles play matches.

Men’s Singles title at French Open tennis

  • Spain’s Rafael Nadal won a historic 12th Roland Garros title or Men’s Singles title at French Open tennis and 18th Grand Slam crown with a 6-3, 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 victory over his opponent Dominic Thiem of Austria.
  • With this win, 33-year-old Nadal becomes 1st player, man or woman, to win same Slam 12 times.
  • Spaniard now stands just 2 behind Roger Federer’s all-time record of 20 majors and 3 ahead of Novak Djokovic who was defeated by Dominic in semi-finals of French Open. Nadal, the World Number 2 took his Paris record to 93 wins and just 2 losses having previously won title in 2005-2008, 2010-2014, 2017 and 2018.

Men’s Doubles title

Andreas Mies & Kevin Krawietz of Germany defeated Fabrice Martin & Jérémy Chardy of France in final with in final 6–2, 7–6(7–3) to win Men’s Doubles title at French Open tennis.

Women’s Singles title

Ashleigh Barty of Australia knocked off Marketa Vondrousova of Czech Republic in final with 6-1, 6-3 to win her 1st Women’s Singles title at French Open tennis 2019.

Women’s Doubles title

Hungary’s Tímea Babos & France’s Kristina Mladenovic defeated Zheng Saisai & Duan Yingying of China in final with 6–2, 6–3 to win Women’s Doubles title at French Open tennis.

Mixed Doubles title

Chinese Taipei’s Latisha Chan & Ivan Dodi goofCroatia defeated Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada & Mate Pavić of Croatia in final to win Mixed Doubles title at French Open tennis.

Formula One Canadian Grand Prix… 

Britain’s Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes won Formula One Canadian Grand Prix 2019 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. This was Hamilton’s seventh win on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve and now made him equalled Michael Schumacher’s record.

Key Highlights

  • Lewis Hamilton was followed by Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel of Germany in 2nd place and Charles Leclerc of Monaco in 3rd place.
  • Hamilton emerged victorious after a controversial penalty made by Sebastian Vettel gifted him a milestone win.
  • Penalty: Sebastian Vettel made an error on the limit and went off track on lap 48 of circuit, running across grass before rejoining and forcing off Mercedes’ Lewis Hamilton, who later emerged championship leader and eventual winner. For this he was hit with a 5-second penalty which ultimately led to his loss.
  • The next Grand Prix, is scheduled to be run in France on June 23 at the Le Castellet raceway. It will be 8th of the 21 that make up world circuit of 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

 2019 Canadian Grand Prix

It is a Formula One motor race held at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada. It was 7th round of 2019 FIA Formula One World Championship.

Virendra Kumar: Pro-tem Speaker of 17th Lok Sabha

The Bharatiya Janta Party’s (BJP) Member of Parliament (MP) from Madhya Pradesh Dr Virendra Kumar was the Pro-tem Speaker of 17th Lok Sabha.

Key Highlights

  • The 65 year old Virendra Kumar, is a seven-term MP. He won the 17th Lok Sabhaelection from Tikamgarh Lok Sabhaconstituency. Tikamgarh is one of the 29 parliamentary constituencies in Madhya Pradesh. He served as Minister of State(MoS) in previous Narendra Modi government (2014-2019).
  • The 1st all-party meet was convened on 16 June 2019, before the 1st session of 17th Lok Sabha that held from 17 June to 26 July 2019.
  • Function: As Pro-tem Speaker, he will preside over the 1st sitting of newly constituted Lok Sabha, administer the oath of office to newly elected MPs, and also oversee the election of LS Speaker.
  • In the first week of session of 17th Lok Sabha, the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker to Lok Sabha will be elected.

About Pro-tem Speaker

  • The word Pro-tem is a Latin phrase which in English means ‘for the time being’ of ‘temporary’. Thus a Pro-tem Speaker performs the duties of office of Speaker from commencement of 1st sitting of newly constituted Lok Sabha till the election of the Speaker. This is because Speaker of last Lok Sabha vacates his office before the 1st meeting of newly elected Lok Sabha.
  • The Article 94 of constitution states that previous Speaker must resign immediately before 1st sitting of the new Lok Sabha.
  • Article 93 of constitution states that, a Speaker and Deputy Speaker to Lower House of Parliament must be elected in 1st sitting of Lok Sabha.

Thawarchand Gehlot appointed as Leader of Rajya Sabha

Thawarchand Gehlot, Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment was recently appointed as Leader of Rajya Sabha (Council of States). The Leader of the Rajya Sabha is appointed by the party in power at Centre.

This position was occupied by senior BJP leader and former Union Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley in previous Narendra Modi-led government (2014-2019).

About Thawarchand Gehlot

  • The 71-year-old Gehlot, is leader from Madhya Pradesh has almost four decades of legislative experience.
  • Apart from being an experienced parliamentarian, he is a member & general secretary of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
  • He belongs to Scheduled Caste and is a Dalit face of saffron party.
  • He has been a member of state legislative assembly for several terms and has also served in Lok Sabha as well as Rajya Sabha.
  • He became a Rajya Sabha member in 2012 and was re-elected to Rajya Sabha from Madhya Pradesh in 2018. This new term of his will end in 2024. A member to Upper House of Parliament has a term of 6 years.

Bimal Jalan led panel defers report on RBI surplus funds

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) committee led by Bimal Jalan (former RBI governor) constituted for considering guidelines for transfer of central bank’s surplus funds to government delayed submitting its report after lack of consensus among its members. The panel was originally supposed to submit its report in April 2019.

Background

The RBI committee was appointed in December 2018 to review Economic Capital Framework (ECF) for central bank after then Union Ministry of Finance under Arun Jaitely advised RBI to transfer surplus funds to central government.

Arguments by Finance Ministry:  The finance ministry was of view that the buffer of 28% of gross assets maintained by RBI bank is well above global norm of about 14%. Thus, RBI board in its meeting held on 19 November 2018, decided to constitute a panel to examine Economic Capital Framework (ECF).

This led to loggerheads between government and RBI under its previous governor Urjit Patel (who later resigned) over Rs.9.6 lakh crore surplus capital that central bank keeps with itself.

About ECF Panel

Members: The six member committee headed by Bimal Jalan includes- Rakesh Mohan (former deputy governor of RBI) as vice-chairman, Subhash Chandra Garg (finance secretary), N S Vishwanathan (RBI deputy governor), and lastly RBI central board members Sudhir Mankad and Bharat Doshi.

Objective: The panel was entrusted to review best practices followed by central banks throughout the world in making assessment and provisions for risks.

Timeline: The ECF panel was required to submit its report to RBI within 90 days of its first meeting. The 1st meeting of ECF took place on 8 January 2019 following which the panel was given a 3 month extension.

Way Forward

The Bimal Jalan led panel will now meet one more time before submitting its report by end of June 2019 and the delay in finalising report which may be over difference of opinion will also be discussed.

Cabinet approves Governor’s Rule in J&K for another 6 months

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the extension of President’s rule under article 356(4) of Indian Constitution, in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) for a period of 6 more months, beginning from 3 July 2019. The decision was based on prevailing situation in state as stated in report of Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, Satya Pal Malik.

The present term of President’s Rule is expiring on 2 July 2019 but as recommended by J&K Governor, the President Rule in State may be extended for a further period of six months with effect from 3 July 2019 if it gets parliamentary approval.

Implementation: A resolution seeking approval of parliament for extending President’s Rule in J&K will be moved in both houses of parliament during the upcoming session.

Background

J&K was placed under Governor’s Rule after Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) pulled out of coalition government with J&K’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in June 2018. This Governor’s Rule was proclaimed under Section 92 of Constitution of J&K with concurrence of President of India.

It had resulted in Governor assuming to himself functions of Government as well as Legislature of J&K. During this time, State Assembly was initially suspended due to breaking of coalition government and was later dissolved by Governor in November 2018.

The President’s Rule under Article 356 of Indian Constitution was imposed in J&K after Governor’s rule imposed in June 2018 had ceased after six months period in December 2018. 

It was imposed because under Section 92 of J&K Constitution, there is no provision for further continuation of such Proclamation after six months period. Later, resolution imposing President rules in J&K was approved by Parliament, (separately by Lok Sabhaand Rajya Sabha).

Way Forward

The Election Commission of India (ECI) stated that under Article 324 of Indian Constitution and other extant laws/rules etc. it took unanimous decision of holding of Jammu and Kashmir Assembly elections later in this year. The EC now confirmed that election schedule for state will be announced after the conclusion of Amarnath Yatra in August 2019. The Commission will also keep regular and real-time monitoring of situation in J&K as well as taking inputs from all necessary quarters for successful conduction of election.

About President’s Rule

Article 356 of constitution of India empowers President to issue a proclamation of Present’s Rule (or State Emergency), if he is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which government of a state cannot be carried on in accordance with provisions of Constitution. Thus, President’s rule is also called Constitutional Emergency as it deals with failure of constitutional machinery in State. The President can act in accordance with or without the report of Governor of state.

President’s Rule in a state can continue for a period of 6 months at a time and after this period it can be extended for another term with approval of both houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) but for a maximum period of 3 years.

Amitav Ghosh conferred 54th Jnanpith Award..

Renowned author Amitav Ghosh was felicitated with 54th Jnanpith Award for his outstanding contribution to enrichment of Indian Literature in English. He was presented the award by Gopalkrishna Gandhi, former Governor of West Bengal who was the chief guest at a function held at the India Habitat Centre in New Delhi.

Key Highlights

Author Ghosh is 1st English language writer to become a Jnanpith laureate as all previous winners of prestigiuous award have been writers in Indian languages.

The 62 years old Kolkata-born author was described as a path-breaking novelist by the awarding body Bharatiya Jnanpith.

He was acknowledged for in his novels which treads through historical settings to modern era and weaves a space where past connects with present in relevant ways.

About Amitav Ghosh

Even though he is a social anthropologist by academic training, he has written extensively in both fiction and non-fiction sphere of literature.

Till date his works has been translated in over 30 languages. He also holds four honourary doctrates.

Awards: He has been awarded Sahitya Akademi Award (1990) for his book The Shadow Lines and Padma Shri (2007) for his services to literature and education.

Literary Themes: The major thematic concerns in is literature includes migration and interconnections across places, cultures and races, as well as human distress and suffering caused by historical turbulences, especially at level of girmitiyas, coolies and lascars.

About Jnanpith award

It is the highest literary award in India, presented annually by Bharatiya Jnanpith (a literary and research organization). It can only be conferred upon a citizen of India but with no posthumous conferral.

Prize: The award consists of a citation, shawl, goddess Saraswati statue and cah prize of cash prize of Rs.11 lakh.

Initially English language was not considered for the Award but after 49th Jnanpith Award, English language was added to the list of languages for consideration.

Background: It was instituted on 22 May 1961 and is given for best creative literary writing by any Indian citizen in any of the 22 Indian languages listed in Schedule 8 of Indian Constitution. After 1982 onwards, the award is given for overall contribution to literature as prior to that a specific work used to be cited.

1st winner of Jnanpith award was G.S. Kurup, famous Malyalam writer.

Chinese President conferred Kyrgyzstan’s Highest National Award… 

Chinese President Xi Jinping was conferred with highest national award of Kyrgyzstan titled Manas Order of the First Degree in Bishkek (capital of Kyrgyzstan). Kyrgyzstan has hosted the  19th Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) summit starting 14 June 2019.

Key Highlights

Sooronbay Jeenbekov, President of Kyrgyzstan awarded the country’s highest national prize to the Chinese counterpart (Xi Jinping) who is on a state visit to Kyrgyzstan and to take part in two-day 19th SCO summit.

Kyrgyz’s President reiterated his beilief that current Xi’s visit will open up a new chapter of bilateral ties between two countries.

Significance: President Jeenbekov, appreciated Xi’s special contributions to development of Kyrgyzstan-China comprehensive strategic partnership and acknowledged that Kyrgyzstan will never forget China’s long-running support and assistance.

China’s Response:

In response to the honour conferred, President Xi highlighted that medal has fully demonstrated Kyrgyz people’s profound friendship towards Chinese people and that China values it very much.

Xi showcased China’s readiness in joining hands with Kyrgyzstan so as to deepen traditional friendship between two countries and also towards pushing forward Kyrgyzstan-China comprehensive strategic partnership for new bilateral achievements which will benefit the people of two countries.

About Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)

It is a Eurasian political, economic and security alliance in which China plays an influential role.

The founding member of SCO includes China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.

India and Pakistan were admitted to Beijing-based regional security grouping in 2017.

The year 2019 will see the 19th SCO summit which is being hosted by Kyrgyzstan.

Global Peace Index 2019: India ranked 141

In the recently released Global Peace Index (GPI) of Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), India’s rank slipped by five places to 141 among 163 countries on GPI 2019 and Iceland was ranked 1st. India was ranked 136 in GPI 2018.

Key Findings of Report

Most Peaceful CountryIceland with rank 1st remains the most peaceful country in world. It has held this rank since 2008. Other countries at top of GPI are New Zealand, Austria, Portugal, and Denmark.

Least Peaceful Country: As per GPI 2019 Afghanistan is now ranked as least peaceful country in world. It has replaced Syria, which is now the 2nd least peaceful. Other least peaceful countries includes South Sudan, Yemen, and Iraq.

Countries with highest risk of multiple climate hazards: includes China, Japan, India, Philippines, Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

Countries with largest total military expenditure: United States (US), China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia.

South Asia: Bhutan topped the index in South Asia with its 15th rank. Other countries of region include Sri Lanka (72), Nepal (76) and Bangladesh (101). The neighbouring country Pakistan is ranked 153rd on index.

Both India and Pakistan had highest rating at five in the score for internal conflicts fought. Only deaths from internal conflict showed improvement, with fewer fatalities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India than the year before.

The report observed that China, India and Bangladesh score in bottom half of GPI and have significant exposure to climate hazards, with over 393 million people in high climate hazard areas

Report Analysis

As per the index findings, although global peacefulness improved for first time in past five years but world now remains less peaceful than a decade ago.

The GPI 2019 report includes new research on possible effects of climate change on peace. It also revealed that since 2008 global peacefulness has deteriorated by 3.78%.

While the state sponsored terror has declined significantly over the last decade, with 62 countries improving their scores and only 42 deteriorated but imprisonment data shows the opposite trend with 95 countries increasing the imprisonment rate compared to 65 that improved.

The score of South Asia for every indicator in ongoing conflict is less peaceful than total global average, with four out of six deteriorating in 2018 itself.

About GPI

It was founded by Steve Killelea, an Australian technology entrepreneur and philanthropist.

The report covers 99.7% of world’s population. It uses 23 quantitative and qualitative indicators from highly respected sources to compile the index.

Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP), an Australian think tank ranks countries according to their level of peacefulness. This is based on three thematic domains-

  • level of societal safety and security
  • extent of ongoing domestic and international conflict
  • degree of militarisation

Government clears setting up of Defence Space Research Agency… 

The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) of the Central Government of India headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has cleared setting up of new agency called Defence Space Research Agency (DSRO. The DSRO has been entrusted with task of creating space warfare weapon systems and technologies.

Key Highlights

Background: The decision to set up a new agency for developing space warfare weapon systems was taken some time ago at the topmost level and the agency has already started taking shape under a Joint Secretary-level scientist.

Function:

The Defence Space Research Agency would be provided with a team of scientists who would be working in close coordination with tri-services (Indian Army, Navy and Air Force) Integrated Defence Staff (IDS) officers. The IDS was set up in October 2001 under Ministry of Defence in aftermath of ‘Operation Vijay’ (Kargil Operations) as an organisation that will be responsible for fostering coordination and enabling prioritisation across all branches of Indian Armed Forces.

DSRA would be providing research and development (R&D) support to Defence Space Agency (DSA) which again comprises of members of tri-services.

It is also charged with finding and implementing defense related applications for India’s entire spectrum of space technologies.

Significance: This newly approved space agency DSRA will develop sophisticated weapon systems and technologies so as to enhance capabilities of armed forces to fight wars in space.

About Defence Space Agency (DSA)

It is being set up in Bengaluru under an Air Vice Marshal-rank officer and will gradually take over the space-related capabilities of the three armed forces.

DSA has been created to help India fight wars in the space.

In April, the government established DSA to command the space assets of tri services, including military’s anti-satellite capability. It is responsible for formulating strategy to protect India’s interests in space, including addressing space-based threats.

In March 2019, India carried out a successful Anti Satellite Test (ASAT) which demonstrated the country’s capability to shoot down satellites in space. With this test it joined an elite club of four nations (only United States, Russia, China, and India) with similar capability. The test also helped India to develop deterrence capability against adversaries who may want to attack Indian satellites to cripple systems in times of war.

World Investment Report 2019: UNCTAD

According to the World Investment Report 2019, released by United Nation Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) inflows to India grew by 6% to USD 42 billion in 2018. India was ranked among the top 20 host economies for FDI inflows in 2017-18.

Key Findings of Report

FDI to India: It grew by 6% to $42 billion in 2018 saw strong inflows in manufacturing, financial services sectors, communication and cross-border merger and acquisition activities.

FDI inflow to South Asia: It increased 3.5% to $54 billion dollars. It highlighted that the prospects for FDI inflows into South Asia are largely determined by expectations of growing investment into India. India has historically accounted for 70% to 80% of inflows that came to the South Asian region. Among other countries in South Asian region, FDI flows to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh rose to record level, to $1.6 billion and $3.6 billion respectively, but Pakistan witnessed a 27% decline in investment to $2.4 billion.

About UNCTAD

It was established in 1964 for integrated treatment of trade and development and related issues in areas of investment, finance, technology, enterprise development and sustainable development. It is organ of UN General Assembly (UNGA). There are 195 members in UNCTAD. Its mandate is to maximize trade, investment and development opportunities of developing countries and assist them in their efforts towards integrating into world economy on an equitable basis without any bias.

Australia, Qatar invited to 2020 Copa America

South America’s governing body of football CONMEBOL has invited Australia and Qatar to take part in 2020 COPA America. COPA 2020 will be co-hosted by Argentina and Colombia. The final of Copa 2020 will be played in one match and in one host city.

Key Highlights

The Copa America is contested between national teams from South America and usually features 12 teams but CONMEBOL only has 10 members which means that there is often pair of invitees to tournament. Qatar and Japan are guest teams at Copa 2019 scheduled to be held in Brazil. Qatar which is 2019 AFC Asian Cup champions and 2022 FIFA World Cup host will be making their Copa America debut at 2019’s edition of tournament. It will be Australia’s third time participation at Copa.

About Copa America Football

It is international football competition is played between men’s national football teams of South American Football Confederation (CONMEBOL). Since 1990s, tournament also sees the participation from Asia and North America. It was established in 1916 and is the oldest international continental football competition.

Spice Jet

No-frills airline SpiceJet became fourth Indian airline to have a 100 aircraft in its fleet after a recent induction of a Boeing 737 which became its 100th plane. The other three domestic airline with 100 Aircraft fleet are national carrier Air India, now grounded Jet Airways and IndiGo.

  • It is a Gurugram-based budget carrier (No-frills airline). It has an aircraft fleet of 30 Bombardier Q-400s, 68 Boeing 737s and two B737 freighters.
  • At present SpiceJet on an average operates 575 daily flights to around 62 destinations 53 domestic and 9 international. It last one month alone the airline has added some 23 planes.
  • SpiceJet is a key player in Union government’s regional connectivity scheme called UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik) as it operates 42 flights per day to and from various regional destinations.
  • In 2015, SpiceJet placed an order for 205 aircraft with Boeing (US) worth $22 billion which was followed by order for 50 Bombardier Q400 planes worth $1.7 billion.

States miss deadline for submitting Action Plan on Waste Disposal

Over 25 State governments missed the deadline for submitting their action plans on systematic disposal of plastic waste to Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). The April 30 deadline set by National Green Tribunal has expired and thus states may have to pay a fine as environment compensation of ₹1 crore each.

Background: In early 2019, National Green Tribunal(NGT) directed all States and Union Territories (except Sikkim, Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Puducherry) to submit an action plan for compliance of PWM (Plastic Waste Mnagement) Rules and submit the same to CPCB by 30 April 2019.

Moreover, NGT ordered that if any state fails to submit action plans within designated deadline it will have to pay the pollution body compensation at the rate of ₹1 crore per month after 1 May 2019.

Arguments by CPCB

  • The conditions of waste management in country are poor as states do not prioritise plastic and solid waste management rules. Waste management is considered last in the list of priorities of state’s municipal corporations.
  • Initially the States did not comply with CPCB orders, so it moved the NGT. Now the states are violating NGT orders, so they have to pay price for their laxity.
  • The CPCB will now inform NGT about non-compliance and make states pay heavy amount for default. In some cases punishment not just includes compensation but imprisonment too.

IAF’s AN-32 Aircraft Certified to Operate on Indigenous Bio-Jet Fuel

The Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) AN-32 aircraft was formally fleet certified to fly on blended aviation fuel which contain up to 10% of indigenous bio-jet fuel.

About: The Russian made AN-32 aircraft is IAF’s formidable workhorse. It received the approval certificate for flying on blended aviation fuel at the aero-engine test facilities at Chandigarh.

Background:

  • The indigenous bio-jet fuel was first produced in 2013 by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research-Indian Institute of Petroleum (CSIR-IIP) lab at Dehradun
  • Later in July, 2018, Chief of Air Staff (COAS) Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa formally announced Indian Air Force’s (IAF’s) intention of permitting use of all its resources for testing and certifying the indigenous fuel. Since then, The IAF’s engineers and flight test crew have undertaken a series of tests for evaluating the performance of this indigenous fuel against international standards.

Significance:

  • In last one year IAF undertook a series of evaluation tests and trials with this green aviation fuel. The scope of these evaluation tests and checks was in consonance with international aviation standards. The approval granted is an acknowledgement of meticulous testing using indigenous bio-jet fuel by IAF.
  • The recent certification is a huge step towards promoting the ‘Make in India’ mission as this bio-fuel would be produced indigenously from Tree Borne Oils (TBOs)which will be sourced from tribal areas and farmers and will further augment their income substantially.

Sudirman Cup 2019

In Sudirman Cup Badminton title 2019 China beats Japan in men’s doubles, women’s singles and men’s singles.

Key Highlights

  • The 2019 edition was hosted by China and it swept the finals with 3-0 victory against Japan. With this win China 11th Sudirman Cup title.
  • China’s Shi Yuqi whitewashed the world champion Kento Momota of Japan in the finale held in Nanjing City of China. The 23-year-old Shi holds world second-rank and the 24-year-old Momota is ranked world number one.
  • Japan has never won badminton world mixed-team championship and after this defeat their search still goes on.
  • China has for long-time been pre-eminent power in badminton and with this win in 2019 China reclaimed the trophy they lost to South Korea in 2017.

ISSF World Cup Rifle

India’s Apurvi Chandela won gold in women’s 10m Air Rifle at ISSF World Cup Rifle held in Munich, Germany.

Key Highlights

  • Apurvi Chandela of India beat Wang Luyaoof China with a score of 251 to win gold medal in 10m Air Rifle event at the 2019’s third International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup Rifle/Pistol stage held in Munich (Germany).
  • Winning Tally: This is Apurvi’s 2nd Shooting World Cup Gold of 2019 in Women’s 10m Air Rifle after the one she won with a world record score in New Delhi in February 2019. Overall this is her career’s fourth ISSF medal.
  • Tokyo 2020 Olympic quotas: Given that top four ranks consisted of two Indians and two Chinese have already secured maximum possible two quotas in these events they were not eligible for Olympic quotas thus Quotas available on the event day went toLaura-Georgeta Coman of Romania and Eszter Meszaros of Hungary who finished 5th and 6th respectively in the women’s 10m air rifle.
  • India already holds five Tokyo 2020 Olympic quota places in Rifle and Pistol competitions secured by Saurabh Chaudhary, Apurvi, Abhishek Verma Divyansh Singh Panwar and Anjum.

SpaceX launches First 60 satellites of its ‘Starlink’ Constellation

SpaceX launched a rocket carrying the first 60 satellites of its ‘Starlink’ constellation, from Cape Canaveral, Florida in US. The SpaceX’s new array of Starlink communication satellites is intended to provide Internet from space

Key Highlights

  • Launch Vehicle: The launch was conducted by SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets which began to release the satellites at an altitude of 280 miles (450 kilometers).
  • Orbit Position: The satellites later separated and used their thrusters to take up their positions in a relatively low orbit of 340 miles (550 kilometers).
  • The satellite orbit is slightly higher than International Space Station (ISS), but below the majority of terrestrial satellites placed. The highest of terrestrial satellites sit in a geostationary orbit of 22,400 miles (36,000 kilometers).
  • Satellite Features: Each of satellites weighs only 500 pounds (227 kilograms). They were built in-house in Redmond, near Seattle in US. Their weight makes them the heaviest payload carried aloft by SpaceX to date.
  • Starlink’s constellation: will become operational once over 800 satellites will be activated, which will require at least 12 launches carrying similar payloads. The 60 launched satellites are among the first of a planned 12,000-satellite megaconstellationwith aim to provide high-speed internet service from space to customers around the globe.
  • Significance: This launch made SpaceX an early forerunner, along with its rival OneWeb, a startup, but way ahead of Amazon’s Project Kuiper, the brainchild of Jeff Bezos.

Ireland votes to ease restrictions on Divorce Law

People in the Republic of Ireland have voted by an overwhelming majority to ease the constitutional restriction on country’s divorce law.

Key Highlights

  • Background: A 1995 referendum granted Irish couples the right to divorce by a slim majority of 50.3% and since then the mandated separation period was a hangover condition. In 2018 Ireland again held a referendum in which 66% voters cast votes in favour of repealing country’s constitutional ban on abortion.
  • Recent development: Now in 2019 around 82 % of Ireland voters casted their ballot in favour of removing a provision that requires couples to live separately for four out of previous five years before their marriage is dissolved.
  • Need: At present, Irish divorce law is regarded as among the most restrictive in Europe. It is considered to be responsible for Ireland having lowest separation rate of any European Union (EU) member state which is also evident by figures released by country’s Central Statistics Office for year 2015. The rate of low separation because of strict divorce law rate places an unfair emotional and financial burden on couples as well as families at a time when Irish rental and property prices are spiking.
  • Significance: The step is latest in a series of reforms taken up by Republic of Ireland to modernise the charter of the once-devoutly Catholic nation.
  • Way Forward: The Irish government now will bring a new legislation shortening requirement to two out of the prior three years for couples to live separately before dissolving their marriage.

Burnout classified as medical condition.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has for the first time recognised “burn-out” in its International Classification of Diseases (ICD). The decision was taken during the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva.

Key Highlights

Definition:

  • In latest update of WHO’s catalogue of diseases and injuries gloablly, WHO defined Burn-out as- syndrome conceptualised as resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.
  • As per the classification, Burn-out refers predominantly to phenomena in occupational context and should not be applied to describe an individual’s experience in other areas of life.

Three Dimensions: The syndrome is characterised by three dimensions –

  1. Feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion.
  2. Increased mental distance from one’s job, or feelings of cynicism or negativism related to one’s job.
  3. Reduced professional efficacy.

Significance: Classifying “burn-out” in ICD could help put to rest years of debate among experts about how to define burnout, and whether it should be considered a medical condition or not.

Nine Dots Prize 2019

Indian writer Annie Zaidi was announced as the winner of Nine Dots Prize 2019.

  • The name of this global book prize is in reference to the ‘nine dots puzzle’ which is a lateral thinking puzzle that can only be solved by thinking outside the box.
  • Objective: to promote, engage and encourage innovative thinking so as to address problems facing modern world. The prestigious book prize is awarded for creative thinking that tackles contemporary societal issues.
  • Selection Criteria: Entrants are asked to answer the given question in 3,000 words.
  • Eligiblility: All entrants with minimum 18 years of age and over are welcome to enter but responses and resulting book must be in English.
  • Cash Prize: The winner receives US$100,000 to write a short book expanding on their ideas. The Prize is sponsored by the Kadas Prize Foundation with support from the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge and Cambridge University Press.

Naveen Patnaik sworn in as Odisha Chief Minister

Biju Janata Dal (BJD) leader Naveen Patnaik takes oath as CM of Odisha for a record 5th consecutive term. BJD has been in power in Odisha since 2000.

Key Highlights

  • The 72 year old Naveen Patnaik is the longest-serving chief minister of coastal state. BJD has been in power in the state since 2000.
  • He won a clear mandate of 112 out of the 147 seats in the recently conducted Odisha state election that were held along with national elections.
  • Out of 20 Parliamentary seats Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) bagged 8 seats and BJD won 12.
  • Oath Ceremony: His oath was administered oath by Odisha’s Governor Ganeshi Lal at a function in Bhubaneswar. Unlike past low-key oath taking ceremonies this is the first time that swearing in was held in full public view, outside the Raj Bhavan. 20 newly elected BJD MLAs also took oath as ministers, including 11 of Cabinet rank.
  • The Decisive Mandate: The Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was once a part of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) between year 1998 and 2009. But later, maintained “equidistant” from BJP as well as the Congress. On Claiming that no party will get a majority in national election 2019 Mr Patnaik announced his support for any party or coalition that supports the Odisha’s development especially in aftermath of Cyclone Fani that left a trail of destruction in the state and killed 64 people.

Pema Khandu sworn-in as Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister

The Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) leader Pema Khandu was sworn-in as the new Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh.

  • Pema Khandu was sworn in as the first Chief Minister of an elected Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government in Arunachal Pradesh.
  • In chronology he is the 10th Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Oath Ceremony: The oath oath of office and secrecy was administered by A.P’s Governor Brigadier (Retd.) B.D. Mishra. Apart from Mr Khandu, Chown Mein who took Deputy Chief Minister designation and 10 others as ministers oath was also undertaken.
  • For the first time formal installation ceremony was held in Itanagar’s landmark convention centre, named after his father Dorjee Khandu instead of Raj Bhavan where his predecessors were sworn in.
  • The ceremony was ateended by chief ministers of five north-eastern States namely, Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya.

IMD World Competitiveness Rankings 2019

India has moved up one place to rank 43rd most competitive economy in world in annual competitiveness rankings compiled by International Institute for Management Development (IMD).

Key Highlights

  • India: has moved one notch higher to 43th rank (from its 44th position in 2018, 45th in 2017 and 41st in 2016.) in terms of competitiveness worldwide. This improved rank is result of India’s robust economic growth, a large labour force and its huge market size.
  • Singapore: The  chart was topped by Singapore that has toppled the Hong Kong and the United States to to take the top spot among the world’s most competitive economies.
  • Hong Kong: Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (SAR) has held onto its second position same as last year. This rank was due to countries benign tax and business policy environment and access to business finance.
  • US: The US slipped to the third place in 2019 edition of the IMD World Competitiveness Rankings.
  • Asia-Pacific: As per the study Asia-Pacific region has emerged as a global beacon with 11 out of 14 economies (that were studied) either improved or holded onto their ground.
  • Saudi Arabia: is the country that made its mark as the biggest climber of 2019. It advanced 13 places from 2018 currently to No. 26 this was due to strong investment in education.
  • Venezuela: embattled in turmoil hit by inflation, poor access to credit and a weak economy finished in last place.

IMD World Competitiveness Rankings were first started in 1989. It ranks 63 economies on 235 indicators which are incorporated from each of these economies. The indicators are used to evaluate country’s ability to foster an environment where enterprises can achieve desirable sustainable growth, generate employment and increase its citizen’s welfare.

Categories: The economies were judged in four categories

  1. Economic Performance
  2. Infrastructure
  3. Government Efficiency
  4. Business Efficiency.

Full list of ministers in the Narendra Modi Cabinet of 2019

BJP leader Narendra Modi  was sworn in as Prime Minister for the second time.  Fifty seven Ministers took oath with him.

By winning 303 seats, the Bharatiya Janata Party got the decisive mandate to rule the country for the next five years. Even though the party has the required numbers to form the government on its own, it has decided to accommodate its allies in the Ministries.

    

Here is the full list of ministers :

 RASHTRAPATI BHAVAN PRESS COMMUNIQUE

The President of India, as advised by the Prime Minister, has directed the allocation of portfolios among the following members of the Union Council of Ministers:-

Cabinet Ministers

1. Shri Raj Nath Singh Minister of Defence.
2. Shri Amit Shah Minister of Home Affairs.
3. Shri Nitin Jairam Gadkari Minister of Road Transport and Highways; andMinister      of     Micro,     Small      and     Medium Enterprises.
4. Shri D.V. Sadananda Gowda Minister of Chemicals and Fertilizers.
5. Smt. Nirmala Sitharaman Minister of Finance; and Minister of Corporate Affairs.
6. Shri Ramvilas Paswan Minister     of    Consumer     Affairs,     Food    and Public Distribution.
7. Shri Narendra Singh Tomar Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare; Minister of Rural Development; andMinister of Panchayati Raj.

 

8. Shri Ravi Shankar Prasad Minister of Law and Justice; Minister of Communications; andMinister     of     Electronics      and     Information Technology.
9. Smt. Harsimrat Kaur Badal Minister of Food Processing Industries.
10. Shri Thaawar Chand Gehlot Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment.
11. Dr. Subrahmanyam Jaishankar Minister of External Affairs.
12. Shri Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ Minister of Human Resource Development.
13. Shri Arjun Munda Minister of Tribal Affairs.
14. Smt. Smriti Zubin Irani Minister of Women and Child Development; and Minister of Textiles.
15. Dr. Harsh Vardhan Minister of Health and Family Welfare; Minister of Science and Technology; and Minister of Earth Sciences.
16. Shri Prakash Javadekar Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change; andMinister of Information and Broadcasting.
17. Shri Piyush Goyal Minister of Railways; andMinister of Commerce and Industry.
18. Shri Dharmendra Pradhan Minister of Petroleum and Natural Gas; and Minister of Steel.
19. Shri Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi Minister of Minority Affairs.
20. Shri Pralhad Joshi Minister of Parliamentary Affairs; Minister of Coal; andMinister of Mines.
21. Dr. Mahendra Nath Pandey Minister        of       Skill       Development         and Entrepreneurship.
22. Shri Arvind Ganpat Sawant Minister     of    Heavy    Industries     and    Public Enterprise.
23. Shri Giriraj Singh Minister of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.

 

 

24. Shri Gajendra Singh Shekhawat Minister of Jal Shakti.

 

Ministers of State (Independent Charge)

1. Shri Santosh Kumar Gangwar Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Labour and Employment.
2. Rao Inderjit Singh Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation; andMinister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Planning.
3. Shri Shripad Yesso Naik Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH); andMinister of State in the Ministry of Defence.
4. Dr. Jitendra Singh Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Development of North Eastern Region;Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office;

Minister      of     State      in     the     Ministry     of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions; Minister of State in the Department of Atomic Energy; and

Minister of State in the Department of Space.

5. Shri Kiren Rijiju Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports; andMinister of State in the Ministry of Minority Affairs.
6. Shri Prahalad Singh Patel Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Culture; andMinister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Tourism.

 

7. Shri Raj Kumar Singh Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Power;Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy; and

Minister of State in the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship.

8. Shri Hardeep Singh Puri Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs; Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Civil Aviation; andMinister      of     State      in     the     Ministry     of Commerce and Industry.
9. Shri Mansukh L. Mandaviya Minister of State (Independent Charge) of the Ministry of Shipping; andMinister      of     State      in     the     Ministry     of Chemicals and Fertilizers.

Ministers of State

1. Shri Faggansingh Kulaste Minister of State in the Ministry of Steel.
2. Shri Ashwini Kumar Choubey Minister of State in the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
3. Shri Arjun Ram Meghwal Minister      of     State      in     the      Ministry      of Parliamentary Affairs; andMinister of State in the Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.
4. General (Retd.) V. K. Singh Minister of State in the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
5. Shri Krishan Pal Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
6. Shri Danve Raosaheb Dadarao Minister of State in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
7. Shri G. Kishan Reddy Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs.

 

8. Shri Parshottam Rupala Minister      of     State      in     the      Ministry      of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
9. Shri Ramdas Athawale Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
10. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti Minister of State in the Ministry of Rural Development.
11. Shri Babul Supriyo Minister      of     State      in     the      Ministry      of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
12. Shri Sanjeev Kumar Balyan Minister of State in the Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.
13. Shri Dhotre Sanjay Shamrao Minister of State in the Ministry of Human Resource Development;Minister      of     State      in     the      Ministry      of Communications; and

Minister      of     State      in     the      Ministry      of Electronics and Information Technology.

14. Shri Anurag Singh Thakur Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance; andMinister of State in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
15. Shri Angadi Suresh Channabasappa Minister of State in the Ministry of Railways.
16. Shri Nityanand Rai Minister of State in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
17. Shri Rattan Lal Kataria Minister of State in the Ministry of Jal Shakti; and Minister of State in the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
18. Shri V. Muraleedharan Minister of State in the Ministry of External Affairs; and Minister of State in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs.
19. Smt. Renuka Singh Saruta Minister of State in the Ministry of Tribal Affairs.
20. Shri Som Parkash Minister      of     State      in     the      Ministry      of Commerce and Industry.

 

21. Shri Rameswar Teli Minister of State in the Ministry of Food Processing Industries.
22. Shri Pratap Chandra Sarangi Minister of State in the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises; and Minister of State in the Ministry of Animal Husbandry, Dairying and Fisheries.
23. Shri Kailash Choudhary Minister      of     State      in     the      Ministry      of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare.
24. Sushri Debasree Chaudhuri Minister of State in the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

India removed from US’s Currency Watchlist

In a recent announcement by United States, it has removed India and Switzerland from the currency monitoring lists. The US has retained other countries like China, Japan and Germany in the list.

Key Highlights

  • Background: It was in May 2018 when for the first time India was placed by US in its currency monitoring list of countries with potentially questionable foreign exchange policies, and because India had a bilateral trade surplus with US, which crossed country’s maximum limit of $20 billion. Other five other countries along with India included Japan, China, Switzerland, Germany and South Korea.
  • Objective:The list basically consists of major trading partners of US who are to be closely monitored for potentially questionable foreign exchange policies. The move is taken amid escalating trade tensions between the two countries.
  • About:In the latest semi-annual report on macroeconomic and foreign exchange (Forex) policies of major trading partners of the US, the country has removed India and Switzerland from the monitoring list. The list now includes other countries like Italy, Japan, Singapore, China, Malaysia, Ireland, Vietnam, Germany and Korea.
  • Reasons: US President Donald Trump’s administration cited reason for removal that India has taken certain steps and developments which address some of its major concerns over its currency practices and macroeconomic policies. According to analysis, in year 2018 both India and Switzerland saw a notable decline in the scale and frequency of foreign exchange purchases.
  • Criteria:The US includes major trading partners in its monitoring Currency List if they meet at least two of three criteria-
  1. If partner country has either a significant bilateral trade surplus with the US.
  2. If partner country has a material current account surplus.
  3. If partner country is engaged in “persistent one-sided intervention” in foreign exchange (Forex) market.

India-US Recent Trade Relation

  • Over the past two years, US has been putting pressure on India by increasing tariffs on products like steel and aluminum, and also ….removed India from US’s Generalized System of Preferences (GSP), that allowed Indian businesses certain trade benefits.
  • India attempts to reduce its trade surplus of over $20 billion with US. In May 2019 India stated that purchasing or imports of larger products like aircraft from US companies (like Boeing) could help offset it going forward. Thus showing a positive effort that at least on one front, India can be reassured that it will not be targeted with unilateral measures over currency issues.

New Wasp species identified in Goa- Kudakrumia rangnekari

Scientists have recently identified a new species of wasp from the genus Kudakrumia in Goa. The wasp species was collected from Western Ghats forest.

Key Highlights

  • Nomenclature: The wasp is dubbed as Kudakrumia rangnekari. It has been named after Parag Rangnekar, a Goa-based researcher.
  • Genus:It belongs to genus Kudakrumia. The Kudakrumia is a genus of primitive wasps that is described and previously known only from Sri Lanka.
  • Found:The new Wasp species was collected in the Western Ghats forests from Cotigao Wildlife sanctuary (located in South Goa district).
  • About Wasp: It is any insect of order Hymenopteraand suborder Apocrita which means neither a bee nor an ant. Wasps are proficient at controlling pest populations and thus are deployed to protect crops. For instance in Brazil, farmers control sugarcane crop borers with a kind of parasitic wasp.

About Parag Rangnekar

  • He is founder-president of the Goa Bird Conservation Network (GBCN). He has now undertaken documentation of dragonflies in State.
  • His quest to document butterflies in the Western Ghats region has resulted in a record of 220 species, of which 13 species had not been spotted earlier.

Sri Lanka, Japan, India signs MoC to develop East Container Terminal

Sri Lanka, India and Japan have signed an Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC) to jointly develop the East Container Terminal (ECT) at the Colombo Port in Sri Lanka.

Key Highlights

  • Background: The countries had been negotiating the deal to build ECT since 2018 but little success was met as India’s possible role in developing the terminal became a major flashpoint within the Sri Lankan government. Although even last year Japan was part of negotiations but project assumed a ‘Sri Lanka-India’ dimension, especially in the local media due to which negotiations seemed to have hit a roadblock. But the negotiations picked up pace once Japan stepped in more recently.
  • Location:The East Container Terminal is located some 3 km away from China-backed international financial city, popularly known as “Port City” which is being built on reclaimed land on Colombo’s sea front.
  • Ownership: The Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) will retain 100% ownership of East Container Terminal (ECT). However the company conducting its operations called ‘The Terminal Operations Company’ is jointly owned. Sri Lanka holds 51% stake in the project and other joint venture partners Japan and India will retain 49%.
  • Project Cost: The joint initiative is estimated to cost between $500 million and $700 million. Japan is likely to provide a soft loan with a 0.1 % interest rate for a period of 40-year which is one of the best loan terms Sri Lanka has obtained. The details about India’s contribution is still awaited.
  • Significance: More than 70% of the transhipment business at the strategically located ECT is linked to India thus the joint project holds a lot of commercial significance for India.
  • The specific terms of agreement for joint development of ECT will soon be finalised at a joint working group meeting.

Punjab bans Online Food Delivery without Hygiene Rating

The Punjab government has decided to make it mandatory for all online food aggregators to ensure that food supplied by them should compulsorily have hygiene rating as per Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) guidelines.

Key Highlights

  • Reason: The online food order and door to door delivery mechanism of food supply has created a physical disconnect between consumers and the food maker. Therefore, the onus of ensuring quality of food and that conditions under which food is prepared are hygienic has shifted to the intermediate food delivery mechanism.
  • About: Keeping this in mind, Punjab government has issued a direction to all online aggregators that all the online order and supply companies should display hygiene rating of all food business operators registered or affiliated with them.
  • Measures:Punjab’s Food and Drug Administration has sensitized companies operational in Punjab including Zomato, Swiggy, Uber Eats and Food Panda on the issue and also directed them to get the hygiene rating done of all the food business operators (FBO’s) registered with them.
  • Condition: The terms put forward includes that only those FBO’s who are at higher level of hygiene rating (bearing 3 or more smilies), should be allowed to supply food under the online food orders-delivery mechanism.

About Food Safety and Standards Authority of India

  • It is an autonomous body established in 2011 under the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare. It is responsible for protecting and promoting public health via regulations and supervisions of food safety.
  • It is headed by a non-executive Chairperson who is appointed by Central Government.

Puerto Williams: World’s Southernmost City

Puerto Williams in Chile has become world’s southernmost city after its status upgraded from hamlet to city. It took over the title from Ushuaiain Argentina which was world’s southernmost city till recently.

About Puerto Williams (or Port Williams)

It is a growing hamlet on remote southern tip of South American continent. The Chilean authorities upgraded Puerto Williams to the category of “city” thus making it the world’s southernmost city.

Geographical  Facts

  • It is the main settlement, port and naval base on Navarino Island in Chile.
  • It faces the Beagle Channel, which is a strait inTierra del Fuego Archipelago (shared by Chile and Argentina) on South America’s extreme southern tip.

Admiral Karambir Singh is 24th Chief of Indian Navy

Admiral Karambir Singh assumes charge as the new Chief of Indian Navy. With this appointment he now becomes 24th Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS).

Key Highlights

  • He took charge from outgoing Admiral Sunil Lanba, who stepped down upon his superannuation on 31 May 2019.
  • Term: The tenure of a Service Chief is three years or 62 years of age, whichever is earlier.
  • Conflict:His appointment super ceded the senior officer Vice Adm. Bimal Verma who has approached the Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) questioning the appointment.
  • The Army and Air Force too will see a change of guard at the end of 2019 as The Army Gen. Rawat and the Air Staff Air Chief Marshal B.S. Dhanoa set to retire in December 2019 and in October 2019 respectively.

About Admiral Karambir Singh

  • He his long and distinguished service in Indian Navy spans over period of 39 years during which he has served in a variety of Command, Staff and Instructional appointments.
  • He has commanded several Indian Coast Guard Ships (ICGS) Chandbibi, Missile Corvette Indian Navy Ship (INS) Vijaydurg and two Guided Missile Destroyers, INS Delhi and INS Rana.
  • He has served as member of Aircrew Instrument Rating and Categorisation Board (AIRCATS) and also as Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra and Gujarat Naval Area (FOMAG)
  • He is the most senior naval aviator and is the first helicopter pilot of the Indian Navy to become the Chief of the Naval Staff.
  • He was the Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C) of Eastern Naval Command, which is headquartered in Visakhapatnam just before his appointment as CNS.

ICMR calls for ban on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) recommended ‘complete’ ban on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS), including e-cigarettes. The recommendation is based on currently available scientific evidence.

On occasion of World Tobacco Day which was observed on 31 May, ICMR released a white paper (an authoritative report or guide that informs readers about an issue) about harmful effects of ENDS and e-cigarettes.

Government approves Monthly Pension Scheme for Traders… 

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi has approved Rs.3000 monthly pension scheme for small retail traders and shopkeepers after they attain the age of 60 years.

  • Significance: Since ages India has a rich tradition of trade and commerce and our traders make a strong contribution to India’s economic growth. Therefore, cabinet decision will benefit the trading community. This pension scheme is a part of Prime Minister’s vision to provide a robust architecture of universal social security.

Salient Features of Scheme

  • About: Under the scheme all small shopkeepers, retail traders and self-employed persons are assured a minimum of Rs.3,000 monthly pension after attaining 60 years of 60 years.
  • Beneficiary: The new pension scheme that offers pension coverage to the trading community will cover 3 crore small retail traders and shop keepers.
  • Eligibility: All small shopkeepers, self-employed persons and retail traders aged between 18-40 years and with Goods and Service Tax (GST) turnover below Rs.1.5 crore can enrol for pension scheme.
  • Enrollment: The scheme is based on self-declaration as no documents are required except bank account and Aadhaar Card. Also, the interested persons can enrol themselves via more than 3,25,000 Common Service Centres  (CSC) spread across India.
  • Government Contribution: The Central Government will make matching contribution (same amount as subscriber contribution) i.e. equal amount as subsidy into subscriber’s pension account every month.

UN extends sanctions against South Sudan

Despite resistance from Russia, China and African countries, United Nation Security Council (UNSC) has extended an arms embargo and sanctions on South Sudan for a year.

Key Highlights

  • Vote: A US-drafted resolution was adopted by UNSC after a vote of 10 in favour with five abstentions. As per the rule, in the 15-member council, a resolution presented for vote requires a minimum of nine votes for adoption.
  • Outcome: Post adoption of resolution an arms embargo is placed on South Sudan along with an assets freeze and global travel ban put on eight South Sudanese nationals for their role in fuelling the war. The measure adopted will renews until 31 May 2020.

About UNSC Sanction

  • Background: UN Security Council can take action to maintain or restore international peace and security under Chapter VII of United Nations (UN) Charter.
  • Objective: The UNSC places sanctions to constrain terrorism, support peaceful transitions, deter non-constitutional changes, protect human rights and promote non-proliferation.
  • UN Security Council’s Sanctions Committees: the United Nations Charter’s Article 29 sets out that UNSC may establish subsidiary bodies such as committees or working groups as and when needed for performing its functions. One of them is Sanctions Committees which comprises of 15 members of the Council whose mandate is to impose sanctions.

Two-day Yoga Mahotsava being celebrated

A Two-day Yoga Mahotsava which will be a Curtain Raiser for upcoming International Day of Yoga (IDY) 2019 was inaugurated by Shri Rajeev Kumar, Vice-Chairman, NITI AYOG at New Delhi. He also presented theme for IDY 2019 as ‘Yoga for Heart’.

Key Highlights

  • Objective: To sensitize the masses for celebration of IDY 2019, this will be observed on 21 June.
  • Organised by: The Yoga Mahotsav-2019 is being organised by Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga (MDNIY) under Ministry of Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy (AYUSH).
  • Significance: Yoga teaches us to live with nature rather than conquering it which makes the Indian Philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiv Kutubkam’ possible and promotes harmony and peace across globe.
  • Apps Launched: On the occasion Ministry of AYUSH announced two Applications elated to International Day of Yoga 2019-
  1. Yoga Locator– which is specially designed for IDY to record and show Yoga events across the world.
  2. Bhuvan App – which has been designed in collaboration with Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It will provide geo time location and documentation during IDY 2019.

Ex-President Pratibha Patil awarded Mexico’s Highest Civilian Honour

Former President of India, Pratibha Patil was conferred Mexico’s highest civilian honour for foreigners titled ‘Orden Mexicana del Aguila Azteca‘ (order of the Aztec Eagle).

Melba Pria, Mexico’s Ambassador to India, presented the award to Pratibha Patil at a special ceremony held in The Mahratta Chamber of Commerce Industries and Agriculture (MCCIA) Bhavan in Pune.

About Order of the Aztec Eagle Award

  • The award was created in 1993 by the then President of Mexico, Abelardo L. Rodriguez. The Royal Eagle is Mexico’s national animal and is sacred to ancient Aztecs. It is present on the National Emblem of Mexican flag.
  • The award is given in five degrees Sash of Special Category, Plaque, Collar, Sash, Venera and Insignia.
  • Purpose: It is the highest distinction which is conferred by Mexican government to foreigners for their prominent services to Mexico and to humanity and also for significant contributions to strengthening bilateral relations between Mexico and other countries.

Italy’s Volcano Mount Etna erupts on Island of Sicily

Europe’s Highest Volcano Mount Etna, in southern Italy erupted with burst into life, spews ash, fire, and spitting molten lava high into sky.

Key Highlights

  • This is 2019’s first eruption as the volcano on island of Sicily previously erupted in December 2018.
  • The lava came from two eruptive fissures on northeastern and south-southeastern sides of Mount Etna’s New Southeast Crater. Mount Etna burst into life, spitting molten lava high into sky.
  • Italy’s National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV) reported the lively spattering after volcano erupted and as fire and hot ash spewed high into sky which later slowed slightly but still posed risk to climbers. It also reported that latest lava show did not pose any problems for nearby residential areas or for flights at closest airport at Catania.

ONGC overtakes India Oil Corp as Most Profitable PSU

The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) overtook India Oil Corporation (IOC) by regaining crown of being India’s most profitable Public Sector Undertakings (PSU).

Key Highlights

  • In the previous two financial years (2016-17 and 2017-18) ONGC had lost the most profitable PSU tag to IOC.
  • In fiscal year 2018-19, ONGC’s net profits increased by 34% to Rs.26,716 crore in comparison to it IOC registered a net profit of Rs.17,274 crore for fiscal year ended March 31, 2019.
  • In Financial year 2018-19 IOC also lost its title of being India’s largest company by turnover tag to Mukesh Ambani led Reliance Industries. It was because IOC’s refining margins were under pressure due to falling oil prices. Thus with a 44% rise in revenue, RIL is now India’s biggest firm in terms of revenue, profit and market capitalisation.

Liverpool beats Hotspur to win UEFA Champions League

Liverpool beats Tottenham Hotspur with 2-0 to win UEFA Champions League football trophy final at Madrid, Spain. This was Tottenham first ever appearance in the Champions League final.

Key Highlights

  • In an all-English Champions League final the 2-0 win by Liverpool over Tottenham Hotspurwas result of an early goal from Mohamed Salah and a late one from Divock Origi. Liverpool’s coach Juergen Klopp received the Europe’s biggest prize.
  • With this win Liverpool claimed its sixth European Champions League title.
  • This title has further cemented their status as one of football’s most storied clubs. They now have more than Barcelona (or Bayern Munich) and twice as many as Manchester United club.

About UEFA Champions League (UCL)

  • It was founded in 1955 and is organised by Union of European Football Associations (UEFA).
  • It is an annual club football competition which is contested by top-division European clubs.
  • It is one of the World’s most prestigious tournaments and most prestigious club competition in European football which decides the best team in Europe.
  • It played by the national league champions (and, for some nations, one or more runners-up) of strongest UEFA national association wes.

14th Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit held in Mecca

The 14th summit of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) held in Mecca, Saudi Arabia was hosted by Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.

Key Highlights of Summit

  • Agenda: The official agenda of meeting was to address ‘current issues in Muslim world’ and ‘recent developments in a number of OIC member states. Also, amid soaring tension between Iran and the US and its Gulf allies the OIC summit discussed the regional security issues. The Mecca summit supported Palestinians and backed Saudis in Iran standoff.
  • Background: In December 2017, The United States President Donald Trump broke the decades of established protocol by recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. In May 2018 US embassy was transferred from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The suit was soon followed by Guatemala.
  • Political leaders and heads of state from Islamic nations unanimously condemned countries including United Sates decision of making “illegal and irresponsible decision” to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
  • In a joint statement at OIC summit in Saudi Arabia, the leaders called on countries  that have moved their embassies to Jerusalem (by recognizing it as Israel’s capital) to rethink their strategy and which OIC considered as a serious violation of international law and international legitimacy.

Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) meets in Bangkok

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue also known as Quad is an informal strategic grouping consisting of India, US, Australia and Japan recently met in Bangkok in Thailand.

Key Highlights of Meet

  • The meet in Bangkok was attended by senior officials of Quad (India, US, Japan and Australia).
  • At the meet countries held consultations on their collective efforts for a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The consultations also underscored Quad’s intention of continuing with close coordination and collaboration among themselves in support of sustainable, private sector-led development, maritime security of the region and of good governance.
  • The Quad (or QSD) is committed to preserving and promoting the rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region. At this meet they reaffirmed their shared commitment.
  • The Quad call for an open Indo-Pacific region (which is a biogeographic region) is because China has been trying to expand its military presence in the Indo-Pacific.
  • China claims almost all of the South China Sea (SCS) even though other countries of same region viz. Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have also countered China’s claims over it.

IAF AN-32 Aircraft Missing

Indian Air Force’s AN-32 transport aircraft goes missing after taking off from Jorhat in Assam. The airborne aircraft had total 13 people on board including eight aircrew and five passengers.

Key Highlights

  • AN-32 aircraft got airborne on 3 June from Jorhat at 12:27 p.m. for Mechuka Advanced Landing Ground (only 29 kms from the China border), in Mechuka Valley in West Siang District of Arunachal Pradesh. It last contacted ground agencies at around 1:00 p.m. after that there has been was no contact with the aircraft.
  • Since the aircraft lost the contact and did not reach the destination also Indian Air Force initiated overdue actions.

Search Operation:

  • C 130J Super Hercules aircraft, AN-32military transport aircraft, two Mi-17(medium twin-turbine transport helicopter)of Indian Air Force (IAF) and ALH (Advanced Light Helicopters) helicopter of Indian Army were launched to locate the missing aircraft.

CAG Rajiv Mehrishi elected External Auditor for WHO… 

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India Rajiv Mehrishi has been elected as external auditor of World Health Organization (WHO) for a period of four years from year 2020 to 2023.

Key Highlights

  • CAG Rajiv Mehrishi was elected at 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) held in Geneva, Switzerland on May 2019.
  • He will take over the charge from the Supreme Audit Institution of Philippines which is the incumbent External Auditor of WHO.
  • At 72nd WHA, CAG of India was elected with a majority of 90 votes out of 162 votes in first round of voting itself. Apart from India others competing for elected position includes Auditors General of United Kingdom (UK) of Great Britain, Congo, France, Northern Ireland, Ghana and Tunisia.
  • Other Appointments: In March 2019 the CAG was chosen for the post of External Auditor of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome Italy thus the external auditor of WHO is the second major international audit assignment for CAG in same year.
  • Currently, CAG Mehrishi is also on the Board of Auditors of United Nations (UN) and Vice-Chair of the UN Panel of External Auditors(UNPEA).

U.S. Visa process now needs Social Media Profiles.

Under a new rule, the United States has asked all Visa applicants to must provide information on their social media use and declare their social media profiles going back five years.

Key Highlights

  • Background: The new Visa rules originates from a March 2017 executive order issued by US President Donald Trump which was intended to put extreme vetting into place to curb immigration into US. Later in April 2018, the US State Department first published the rule to expand social media history data collection to all immigrant and non-immigrant visa applicants
  • Objective: The move is an attempt by US to enhance the careful examining of foreign nationals seeking Visa and to screen out terrorists and other dangerous individuals seeking entry into America.

Key Features:

  • Unlike earlier when only certain individuals whose applications required further review were required to provide social media information, now  the social media use information is required as part of all online visa applications including immigrant form DS-260 and non-immigrant form DS-160. This new policy of declaring social media profiles is adopted by US State Department.
  • Most visa applicant’s (even temporary visitors) will be required to list their social media identifiers in a drop down menu in addition to their other personal information.
  • If in any case the visa applicants do not use social media they will have the option to say so but if applicant lies about social media use, they could face serious consequences.  Also, in the future, visa applicants will be required to turn more extensive information on their travel history.
  • Coverage: The rule covers all applicants except those who are applying for certain official and diplomatic visas.
  • Significance: The new rule is a significant move to increase surveillance of those seeking to enter the United States and is expected to affect about 15 million people annually. With the new proposal in place a high volume of Indian applications are likely to be impacted.
  • Criticism: In the absence of any criteria to guide the use of social media information in visa adjudication process there is no evidence that such social media monitoring is effective or fair.

 Elephanta Festival of Art and Culture begins… 

The Elephanta Festival of art and culture commenced at the iconic Gateway of India in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The festival was inaugurated b   state Tourism Minister Jaykumar Rawal who highlighted government’s commitment towards boosting Elephanta island tourism in all possible ways.

Key Features

Background: The Elephanta Festival of art and culture was started in 2012 and since then is held every year to promote tourism and culture of Mumbai. It is held on Gharapuri island (also known as Elephanta Island) where Elephanta Caves are located.

The annual gala event is organised on Elephanta Island by Maharashtra Tourism Development Corporation (MTDC). It is promoted by Maharashtra government.

About Elephanta Caves

  • They are the rock-cut Caves and were constructed around the mid-5th to 6th centuries AD. They are a collection of cave temples primarily dedicated to Lord Shiv but also have Buddhist caves.
  • The island was renamed as Elephanta from Gharapuri (which means the city of caves) by Portuguese after they found a statue of an elephant on island.
  • Elephanta Caves is currently maintained by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Nilekani Panel suggests measures to encourage Digital Payments… 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) appointed Nandan Nilekani committee has submitted its suggestions on measures to encourage digital payments in India to RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das.

Background: In January 2019 the RBI had set up the five-member panel under the chairmanship of Nandan Nilekani to provide suggestions on deepening digital payments with a view of encouraging digitization of payments and of enhancing financial inclusion through digitization.

Key Recommendation by Nilekani Panel

  • The measures suggest by Nilekani Panel includes elimination of all charges, round the clock (24×7) RTGS (real time gross settlement) and NEFT (national electronic funds transfer) facility and duty-free import of point-of-sales (POS) machines.
  • As per the report within last five years many people have entered the Indian banking network system through the Financial Inclusion schemes like Pradhan Mantri Jan Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) and also lot of digital credit into bank accounts have been added due to direct benefit transfers (DBT), and digitization of government payments.
  • Customer Service: Panel suggested that there should be no convenience fee on payments made by customers to government agencies. It also recommended that to handle customer complaints payment systems should use machine-driven, online dispute resolution systems.
  • Payment Monitoring: It recommended that for monitoring the digital payment systems, the RBI and the government should put in place an appropriate mechanism and must make aggregated information (based on blocks, and PIN code), available to all players involved on a monthly basis, so that they can make the necessary adjustments in a timely manner.
  • Larger balances: Since digital transactions result in larger balances with banks, thus panel suggested that customers must be allowed to initiate and accept a reasonable number of digital payment transactions without levying any charges.
  • Digital Infrastructure: Although the banks have issued more than billion debit cards and 50 million credit cards but, with only about 3.5 million POS devices, and 2 lakh ATMs to accept cards there acceptance is still low from an infrastructure perspective. Thus to incentivize acquirers of cards in spite of the acute paucity of acquisition infrastructure in India, the committee suggests that regulator must intervene at regular intervals to fine tune interchange fee levied and to address other related issues, as well as to ensure that there is level playing field in market both for issuer and acquirer.
  • The features of ATMs much be enhanced such that it act as a complete Digital facilitation point. It includes features of ATMs such as from cash dispenser to support gamut of banking facilities as well as cash Deposit, tax deposits, bills payment, funds transfer, mobile recharge and customer support and grievance reporting
  • Suggested internationalization plan for Indian payment systems like RuPay and BHIM (Bharat Interface for Money) UPI(Unified Payment Interface applications) to ease the flow of remittances into India and also to help Indian travellers make payments abroad.

Google Maps launches new public transport features in Indian

Google Maps has announced three India-first public transport navigation features with an aim to ease daily commute of users. Starting from 5 June 2019, Google Maps users will be able to see bus travel times from live traffic across ten Indian cities, get live train status for Indian Railways and even get mixed-mode commute suggestions which now combines auto-rickshaw and public transport.

About Three New Feature for Commuters

  1. Real-time bus travel information
  • This is first of its kind product feature, launched first in India. It will enable commuters to know how long bus trip will take from their starting location to destination, by factoring in live traffic conditions.
  • This feature is now live across ten cities in India including Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Pune, Lucknow, Chennai, Mysore, Coimbatore, and Surat.
  • Indicators: The bus travel times from live traffic will show results in green (when running on time) or red (when delayed).
  1. Real-Time train information status for long-distance trains
  • With this India-specific feature Google Maps can now help users know real-time live running status of a train and check if it is delayed. This feature it will work only in case of a long distance train journey.
  • This feature was developed in partnership with ‘Where is my Train’ app that was acquired by the Google in 2018.
  1. Mixed-mode navigation Guidance with auto-rickshaw recommendation
  • This new feature will tell users if taking an auto-rickshaw is better or a different mode of transport such as metro, local train, or a bus when taking a journey.
  • It will indicate from/to which station or stop users should take an auto-rickshaw and their total journey time. It will also tell users what station/stop will be the most suitable for switching to other means of transport.
  • Users can also see rickshaw meter estimate and departure times for their transit connection.
  • Currently this feature will rolled out only in Delhi and Bangalore before being available to more cities later.

World Environment Day celebrated.

Every year World Environment Day is celebrated on 5 June globally. It is celebrated to raise awareness globally about environmental issues and action that has to be taken to tackle them. The day is organized around an annual theme in order to draw attention towards pressing environmental issues.

World Environment Day

  • Background: After the Conference on the Human Environment, or the Stockholm Conference in June 1972, the United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) adopted a resolution (A/RES/2994 (XXVII)) in December 1972 to designate June 5 as World Environment Day. The date 5 June coincides with the first day of landmark Stockholm Conference. The day was first celebrated in 1974, and since then it is widely celebrated in more than 100 countries and continues to grow to become a global platform for public outreach.
  • Theme for the World Environment Day 2019was ‘Beat Air Pollution’. It has been chosen by this year’s host, China. It is a call for action call to combat the global crisis.
  • According to United Nation the ‘Air Pollution’ topic invites people to consider how they can change their everyday lives to reduce the amount of air pollution and what effect their contribution will be towards global warming and on health.
  • Globally 9 out of 10 people are exposed to levels of air pollutants that exceed safe levels set by World Health Organization (WHO).

Indian Navy deploys P81 to increase Anti-Piracy Patrol

The Indian Navy recently deployed its P8I surveillance planes for carrying out anti-piracy patrol sorties from Salalah (in Oman) to patrol the Gulf of Aden and other piracy prone areas.

Key Highlights

  • Objective: The deployment is an expansion of Navy’s Mission Based Deployments (MBD) in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), to keep the region safe.
  • Background: Since 2008, India has been conducting anti-piracy patrols in the commercially and strategically crucial Gulf of Aden. This is the second time in 2019 that the P-8I was operated from Salalah for anti-piracy. First time it was operated in January 2019.
  • Services: Indian Navy provides escorting services to Indian flagged vessels as well as provides protection to ships of other countries. Till date Indian Navy has deployed 73 ships on anti-piracy patrols and has escorted over 3,440 ships, out of which 3,027 were of foreign flag and 413 were of Indian flag. Also, no ship under Indian escort has so far been hijacked by pirates.

About P-8I

  • Background: In 2012, India placed orders from United States for 12 ‘P-8’ India maritime surveillance and anti-submarine under a $2.2 Billion deal. The deal was later followed up with four more order of these planes.
  • Function: It is used for carrying out extensive surveillance of the Indian Ocean region (IOR) and the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ).
  • Features
  • It is long-range anti-submarine warfare, surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft capable of broad-area, maritime and littoral operations.
  • It is capable of providing a long-range Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).
  • It has also helped in detection of Chinese nuclear and conventional submarines operating in IOR and other regions close to India.

About Mission Based Deployments

With the increasing geo-strategic importance of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) Indian Navy regularly deploys ships for Presence and Surveillance Missions (PSM), off critical choke points or sea lanes in IOR. Under MBD concept, since August 2017 Indian Navy deployments in IOR have been further structured such as that Navy maintains a ship at every choke point in IOR at any point of time.

Nigeria’s UN envoy elected as President of UNGA 74th Session

Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, Nigeria’s Ambassador to the United Nations (UN) was elected asPresident of 74th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Key Highlights

  • Muhammad-Bande, was nominated by Nigeria and endorsed by African group, at the election.
  • The 193-member UNGA then elected him by acclamation with also supporting his candidature. During an informal interactive dialogue with the Nigerian envoy in May 2019, India described Bande as a great friend and a well-known son of Africa.
  • His election was in accordance with the rules of UNGA, that 74th session of General Assembly should be elected from among African States.
  • He will succeed Maria Fernanda Espinosaas President of next General Assembly session that will commence in September 2019.
  • His appointment comes at the time when world body gets ready to celebrate 75th anniversary of its establishment in 2020.
  • Address and Commitment: While addressing the 193-member General Assembly he reaffirmed that during his term he will try and hasten long-delayed reform process of 15-nation UN organ, UN Security Council (UNSC) which made little progress after Inter-Governmental Negotiations (IGN) a decade ago.
  • He also assured that major properties of his presidency will be implementation of existing mandates and 2030 Agenda with particular focus on peace and security, poverty eradication, zero hunger, quality education, climate action and inclusion

Way Forward

Under his presidentship, UNGA 74th session will see several high-level meetings including- high-level Political Forum, high-level events on Universal Health Coverage (UHC), Financing for Development, Secretary-General’s Climate Summit, and commemoration of Beijing+25 (25 year since Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 1995 was adopted).

3rd Advance Estimates of Major Crops production … 

 The Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmers Welfare under Union Ministry of Agriculture and farmers Welfare recently released the 3rd Advance Estimates of production of major crops for 2018-19.

Key Highlights of 3rd Advance Estimates

  • Based On: The assessment of major production of different crops is based on feedback received by department from States and is validated with information available from other sources.
  • For the agricultural year 2018-19, food grains production has been estimated at over 283 million tonnes. This estimation is higher by more than 17 million tonnes than previous five years average production of food grain in country.
  • As per third advance estimates, Agriculture Ministry notified estimations for following crops:-
  • Rice: total production of rice in country is estimated to be an all-time-high of over 115 million tonnes during 2018-19 crop year, breaking previous record of over 112 million tonnes achieved in 2017-18.
  • Wheat: total production of wheat is also estimated at record over 101 million tonnes, which is higher by 1.33 million tonnes as compared to 2017-18 year.
  • Pulses: total pulses production is estimated at over 23 million tonnes.
  • Oilseeds: production is estimated at 31.42 million tonnes in 2018-19, which is higher by 1.77 million tonnes than past 5 year average production.
  • Sugarcane: total production of Sugarcane during 2018-19 is estimated at record 400.37 million tonnes which is an increase by 20.46 million tonnes over 2017-18.

SDG Gender Index

In first-ever SDG Gender Index which measures progress made in achieving gender commitments against internationally set targets, India was ranked 95th out of a total 129 countries. The Index is developed by Equal Measures 2030, a partnership effort of regional and global organisations.

About Index

  • Indicators: It includes 51 indicators across 14 of 17 official Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
  • These indicators are those that are gender specific and those that are not but have an effect on girls and women like poverty, health, education, political representation and equality at the workplace.
  • Methodology: The overall scores of this Index are based on scale of 0–100. Score of 100 indicates achievement of gender equality in relation to underlying indicators while score of 50 indicate that a country is about halfway to meeting its goal.

Key Findings

  • The global average score of 65.7 out of 100 (means “poor”) shows that till date no country has fully achieved commitment about gender equality.
  • This shows that almost 40%, of world’s girls and women (around 1.4 billion) live in countries failing on gender equality and another 1.4 billion live in countries that barely pass the benchmark.
  • Top 10 countries: Denmark (1), Finland (2), Sweden (3), Norway (4), Netherlands (5), Slovenia (6), Germany (7), Canada (8), Ireland (9), and Australia (10).
  • Bottom 10 countries: Sierra Leone, Liberia, Nigeria, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Yemen, Congo, DR Congo and Chad.
  • India’s Performance: India’s overall score was 56.2 which means that it is among 43 countries that fall in the ‘very poor’ category.
  • India scores were highest in health (79.9), hunger (76.2) and energy (71.8). It performed poorly in partnerships (18.3), industry, infrastructure and innovation (38.1) and climate (43.4).

About Equal Measures 2030

It is partnership among regional and global organizations from civil society and development and private sectors. It includes Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, African Women’s Development and Communication Network, International Women’s Health Coalition and Plan International.

World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development observed

On 21 May, the World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development was celebrated. The year 2019 has been declared ‘International Year of Indigenous Languages’ by UN General Assembly, so as to bring awareness to importance of linguistic diversity.

Key Highlights

Background: In 2001, The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) adopted ‘Universal Declaration on Cultural Diversity’ as a result of the destruction of the Buddha statues of Bamiyan in Afghanistan in 2001. Then in December 2002, the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in its resolution 57/249, declared 21 May to be World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development.

Objective: To deepen our understanding of values of cultural diversity and to advance four goals of UNESCO ‘Convention on Protection and Promotion of Diversity of Cultural Expressions’, adopted in 2005-

  • To support sustainable systems and development of cultural governance.
  • To achieve balanced flow of cultural goods and services (G&S) and increase mobility of cultural professionals and artists.

Importance of Cultural Diversity

  • About Three-quarters (77%) of world’s major conflicts have cultural dimension. Thus bridging gap between cultures is necessary and urgent for peace, development and stability.
  • Cultural diversity is not only a driving force of development with respect to economic growth, but it also act as means of leading more fulfilling intellectual, emotional, and spiritual life.
  • Cultural diversity is thus an asset that is indispensable for poverty reduction and achievement of global sustainable development.

UAE and World Day for Cultural Diversity for Dialogue and Development

  • UAE celebrated the day highlighting its efforts in promoting tolerance and cultural diversity.
  • The 2019 event coincided with the country’s declaration of 2019 as the ‘Year for Tolerance’.
  • The UAE has cultural relations with many countries and is also an active member of UNESCO.

Japan’s 2nd Highest National Award conferred to Shyam Saran

Former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran is selected for Japan’s Second Highest National Award called ‘The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star’.

Key Highlights

  • The Government of Japan recently announced in its 2019 Spring Imperial Decorations, that it will confer the 72-year-old Former foreign secretary Shyam Saran, ‘The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star’.
  • He will be conferred for his contributions in strengthening strategic ties and enhancing mutual understanding between India and Japan.

About Shyam Saran

  • He served as India’s Foreign Secretary from year 2004 to 2006 during which he played an important role in elevating India-Japan relationship to a strategic partnership.
  • During his tenure Junichiro Koizumi, (then Japanese Prime Minister) visited India for first time in 5 years.
  • During his tenure as Deputy Chief of Mission of Embassy of India in Japan he contributed in strengthening mutual understanding between India and Japan. His contributions includes “India Festival“, that was held in Japan in 1988.
  • Since 2017 he has worked towards enhancing mutual understanding between two countries, by hosting events like an “India-Japan Colloquium“.

Golden Card’ PR Scheme: launched by UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) launched ‘Golden Card’ Permanent Residency Scheme in an attempt to woo wealthy individuals and exceptional talents from all over the world.

Key Highlights

  • About: The “Golden Card” programme was unveiled by UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum (who is also Dubai’s ruler).
  • The UAE has always opened its door to millions of people looking for pursuing their dreams and betterment of lives. The Golden Card is UAE’s way to welcome all those seeking to be a part of the UAE’s success story and making it a second home.
  • It is introduced keeping in mind that Residents are an indispensable part of country and thus will be permanent partners in UAE’s journey.
  • Reason: Expatriates in the UAE are usually given limited duration residence permits under a sponsorship system.

About ‘Golden Card’ Programme

  • It is open to investors and ‘exceptional talents’ like scientists, engineers, doctors, students and artists.
  • The Golden Card offers permanent residency and unprecedented benefits to cardholders as well as to their families while creating an attractive environment for growth and business. The benefits of PR also includes spouse and children of cardholder so as to ensure cohesive social ties.
  • As part of initiative, the first group of 6800 investors from more than 70 countries with investments of about 100 Billion Dirhams (USD 27 billion), were being given permanent residency.
  • Benefits: This new initiative will attract greater foreign investment (FI) and activate local economy, making it more efficient and attractive for investors. It will also increase UAE’s competitiveness on a global scale and will reaffirm country’s position as a global incubator.
  • The “Golden Card” visa includes five categories –
  1. General investors who will be granted a 10 year permanent residency visas .
  2. Real Estate Investors, who can get a visa for 5 year visa.
  3. Entrepreneurs and Talented Professionals like doctors, researchers and innovators can get 10 years visa.
  4. The fifth category is ‘outstanding students’. These will also be permitted 5 years permanent residency visas.
  5. All mentioned categories of visas can be renewed upon expiry.

BrahMos Air Launched Missile test fired from a Su-30 MKI.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully fired aerial version of supersonic BrahMos cruise missile from a Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft.

           

Key Highlights

  • About: The IAF successfully fired BrahMos Air Launched Missile from its frontline Su-30 MKI fighter aircraft.
  • Background: Earlier on 22 November 2017, the IAF became World’s first Air Force to successfully fire an air launched 2.8 Mach surface attack missile of this category on a sea target. Since then this was the second such live launch of weapon.
  • Result: The launch from Su-30 MKI aircraft was smooth and missile followed desired calculated trajectory before directly hitting land target.
  • Safety: The firing was successfully undertaken with dedicated support from Indian Navy which ensured that large number of monitoring ship are available for ensuring range safety clearance.
  • Significance: The capability of BrahMos missile coupled with superlative performance of Su-30MKI aircraft gives IAF its desired strategic reach.
  • Complex Process: The integration of missile weapon on aircraft was a very complex process which involved electrical, mechanical and software modifications on aircraft. The IAF engineers undertook software development of aircraft and Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) carried out mechanical and electrical modifications on aircraft.
  • Others involved: The dedicated and synergetic efforts of IAF, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) andBrahMos Aerospace Pvt. Ltd. (BAPL) proved the nation’s capability of undertaking such complex integrations.

MoU signed between DBT and DAE on Cancer Research.

The Department of Biotechnology (DBT) under Ministry of Science and Technology and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE), under Prime Minister of India has signed an memorandum of understanding (MoU) for supporting a joint collaborative research programmes in area of Cancer.

Key Highlights on  MoU

  • About: The MoU for Joint Collaboration on Cancer Research was signed between DBT and DAE. The DAE was represented by its Tata Memorial Centre, which also functions as coordinating centre on behalf of The National Cancer Grid of India.
  • Objective: to work towards common goal of tackling cancer and also to bring a quantum change in present scenario of cancer research.
  • Features:
  • The clinicians shall work in coherence with Researchers to identify and develop collaborative research programmes as well as public health initiatives for public awareness at large.
  • Activities: such as intensive workshops on clinical research methodologies, joint clinical fellowships and protocol development shall help towards creating a trained manpower community and will provide a platform to utilize their acquired skills in best possible manner.
  • MoU shall help strengthen various initiatives mandatorily for cancer by:
  1. Strategizing and prioritizing cancer research.
  2. Developing new and affordable technologies.
  3. Jointly designing and funding clinical trials.
  4. Coordinating and collaborating for translational research, interventions, training of manpower and infrastructure development.

JF-17 Fighter Jet: delivered to PAF by China

China has delivered the first overhauled multi-role JF-17 Thunder fighter jet the Pakistan Air Force (PAF). The delivery was part of a project undertaken by two nations more than a decade ago for development and manufacture of the aircraft.

Background:

  • In recent years JF-17 has become a mainstay of PAF when after US has restricted its sales of F-16 war planes post 1990 arms embargo imposed on Pakistan under Pressler Amendment. Pakistan is reported to have over 100 JF-17 planes with more in pipeline.
  • More than a decade ago China and Pakistan had begun joint development and manufacture of single-engine light JF-17 jets. In 2007 Beijing delivered its first batch and a number of them were later commissioned by PAF. After over a decade of use, it was time for first JF-17s to undergo overhauls and first overhaul started in November 2017 after a contract was signed between two nations in 2016.

Shaheen-II

Pakistan has successfully test-fired a land-based ballistic missile named ‘Shaheen-II’. The impact point of missile was in the Arabian Sea.

Key Highlights

  • Background: On 9 March 2004 Pakistan successfully test fires a medium-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile Shaheen-II from an undisclosed location. Now on 21 May 2019 Pakistan test-fired intermediate-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile which could 2,000 km (1,250 miles).
  • About: The test was conducted to ensure operational readiness of Pakistan Army’s Strategic Forces Command.
  • Shaheen-II is a highly capable missile as it fully meets Pakistan’s strategic needs towards maintenance of desired deterrence and stability in region.

UNGA resolution demands UK withdrawal from Chagos Archipelago

The United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) passed a non-binding resolution asking United Kingdom (UK) to return Chagos Archipelago in Indian Ocean to Mauritius.

    

Key Highlights

  • Background: On February 2019 International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of separation of Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius in 1965 when latter was a British colony. It also ruled the UK’s decolonisation of the Indian Ocean islands was unlawful. This advisory opinion was endorsed by UNGA

ADB to finance Railways Track Electrification Project in India

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has signed an agreement to electrify railway tracks in India under Railways Track Electrification Project. As per agreement ADB will provide $750 million (equivalent in Indian Rupee) long-term financing to Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC).

About ADB Loan Agreement

  • It is the largest single non-sovereign loan ever committed by ADB to a member country.
  • The proceeds of loan amount will be utilized by Indian Railway Finance Corporation (IRFC) to fund Railways Track Electrification Project.
  • About Project: It was launched as part of Railways broad modernization program which will help India’s railway sector to shift from dependence on fossil fuels towards electric power.
  • The electrification assets will be leased to Indian Railways (country’s national railway system) under a long-term lease agreement.
  • IRFC will use loaned amount to install electric traction equipment along 3,378 km of existing railway lines, so as to enable migration of passenger and freight traffic from diesel to electric traction.
  • Significance: This is a flagship project to demonstrate ADB’s strategy of supporting the key state-owned enterprises in strategic sectors and also reflects a major push by ADB’s private sector operations into transport infrastructure, and particularly railways.

Algeria and Argentina declared Malaria-Free

The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared Algeria and Argentina as ‘Malaria-Free’ countries after no cases of indigenous transmission of disease were recorded.

  • Background:The Malaria parasite was first discovered in humans in Algeria by a French physician named Charles Louis Alphonse Laveran in 1880. By 1960s, Malaria became Nigeria’s primary health challenge, with reporting almost 80,000 cases each year. The country then started it steps towards responding to disease. On the other hand, Argentina began is elimination efforts in 1970s.
  • The certificates will be presented to both countries on sidelines of the 72nd session of the World Health Assembly (WHA)which is being held in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Steps Taken: by both nations include-
  1. Improved surveillance which helped every last case of malaria to be rapidly identified and treated.
  2. Free diagnosis and treatment of patients ensured that no one was left behind. This helped to prevent, detect and cure the disease.
  3. The trained health workers were deployed to spray homes with insecticides and to also diagnose disease through microscopy.

ILO Report: Gender Diversity good for business and Economy

According to a recent report released by United Nation’s (UN) International Labour Organization (ILO), Companies that improve gender diversity especially at top perform better and rake in higher profits.

Key Highlights

  • About: The report released by UN’s ILO is titled as “Women in Business and Management: The business case for change.”
  • Based on: The report findings are based on a global survey conducted by ILO of about 13,000 companies across 70 countries. It also analysed data from 186 countries from a period between 1991 and 2017.
  • Key Findings of Report
  • Companies that improve gender diversity (i.e. equitable representation of people of different genders) especially in their management perform better and reported higher profits hikes in between 5% to 20%.
  • An analysis of data from 186 countries for period 1991-2017 showed that Countries that increase women employment see better economic growth.
  • As per 57% companies, growing number of women at top made it easier for company to attract and retain talent.
  • Over 54 % companies agreed that with effective gender inclusivity they improved in creativity, innovation and openness and enhanced their company’s reputation.
  • Significance: The report results are eye-opening as it shows that companies should look at gender balance as a bottom-line issue and not just as a human resources issue.

China continues to use Banned Ozone-Depleting CFC

According to a recent research published in journal Nature, China continues to use the banned ozone depleting chemical called CFC-11 in violation of Montreal Protocol.

Key Findings of Report

  • Despite being a signatory to Montreal Protocol, and agreeing to phase out the production of harmful CFC-11 in 2010, China continues to emit ozone depleting CFC-11 in violation of Montreal Protocol.
  • Suspicion: An initial study about a year ago reported new global emissions of CFC-11 gas, which many scientists, environmental groups and policymakers had suspected but were only able to locate source generally as East Asia.
  • Confirmation: New findings by international team of researchers confirmed about suspected region and claimed that emissions of ozone layer harming gas are coming from eastern China, primarily from its two heavily industrialised provinces namely Shandong province and Hebei province. These two provinces originate between 40% and 60 % of total global CFC-11 emissions from Eastern China.

Inertial Guided Bomb: successfully Flight-Tested by DRDO

The Defence Research and Defence Organisation (DRDO), under Ministry of Defence has successfully flight tested a 500 kg class Inertial Guided Bomb from Su-30 MKI Aircraft from Pokhran test range in Rajasthan.

Key Highlights

  • Background: The test firing of guided bomb is conducted just two days after Indian Air Force (IAF) successfully test fired aerial version of supersonic BrahMos cruise missile from a Sukhoi jet at Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • The weapon system is capable of carrying different warheads.
  • Result: The guided bomb achieved desired range and hit the target with high precision thus meeting all the mission objectives.

NASA unveils schedule for ‘Artemis’ 2024 Mission

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of United States (US) has unveiled the calendar for its forthcoming “Artemis” program.

Key Highlights

  • Artemis Program: The mission will return astronauts to Moon for first time in past 50 years, including eight scheduled launches and a mini-station in lunar orbit by 2024.
  • The schedule for Artemis Programme is as follows:
  • Artemis 1: It is planned for 2020. It will be an uncrewed flight test mission around Moon. It will demonstrate NASA’s capability of sending crew spaceship to lunar orbit ahead of its return to surface of Moon.
  • After Artemis 1, NASA is also targeting 2020 for launch of its powerful Space Launch System (SLS, rocket that will do the job) and Orion spacecraft (which will carry astronauts) together for the first time from a modernized Kennedy Space Center in Florida, US. The SLS will also deploy a number of CubeSats to perform experiments and technology demonstrations.
  • Artemis 2: is the next mission planned for 2022. It will orbit Earth’s satellite (moon) and will fly a different path than first test flight. It will be a crewed mission and around Moon for first time in 50 years.
  • Artemis 3: will follow Artemis 2. This is the ‘Artemis’ 2024 Moon mission which will return astronauts to lunar surface by year 2024, including first woman and the next man. So far only 12 humans (all American male) have walked on Moon.
  • All three missions will be launched into space by biggest rocket of all time, the Boeing-led Space Launch System (SLS). It is currently under development but has seen numerous delays and is being criticized by some as a bloated jobs program.

NewSpace India Limited: ISRO’s new Commercial Arm.

The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) new commercial arm called NewSpace India Limited (NSIL) was officially inaugurated in Bengaluru.

About New Space India Limited (NSIL)

  • Background: on 6 March 2019, the Department of Space (DoS) registered its second commercial entity called NSIL in ISRO. The first commercial venture of DoS was Antrix Corporation Limited, which was set up in September 1992 to market products and services of Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). The NSIL was incorporated for commercially utilising research and development (R&D) activities carried out by ISRO in area of space.
  • Capital: NSIL is provided an authorised share capital worth Rs.100 crore and initial paid up capital of Rs.10 crore.
  • Objective: NSIL’s main objective is to scale up industry participation in Indian space programmes.
  • NSIL Roles and Responsibilty:
    • It will act as an aggregator for all space related activities in industry. It will also develop private entrepreneurship in space related technologies.
    • It will be responsible for production and manufacturing of commercially successful Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV) and Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV)  spacecraft launchers via technology transfer mechanisms.
    • It will cater to emerging global market demand of commercial SSLV and will also provide satellite building and satellite-based services which includes outsource assembly of small satellites and upcoming SSLV, supply of sub-systems for various domestic and international application needs.
    • It will enable space technology spin-offs via Indian industry interface.
    • Upcoming Initiatives: NSIL would soon organise an interaction workshop with industry (in Bengaluru) where it would seek industry’s feedback and also their expression of interest to take a newer and larger share of work with ISRO.

Arunachal has 35% of India’s Graphite Deposits

The Geological Survey of India (GSI) in its report revealed that about 35 % of India’s total Graphite reserves is found in Arunachal Pradesh. This is the highest found in country.

Key findings of Report

  • About: The GSI presented the said data during its annual interactive meeting with the Department of Geology and Mining & Industries, Government of Arunachal Pradesh in Itanagar (Arunachal Pradesh Capital).

As per the reports China is undertaking huge graphite mining activities across the border in Tibet Autonomous Region. Therefore, road and infrastructure development towards the (Sino-India) international border should act as a boon for exploration and extraction of mineral at the same time meeting India needs and reducing imports.

  • Note: of the total 3,488 km border India shares with China, Arunachal Pradesh shares 1,126 km.

About Geological Survey of India (GSI)

  • It was founded in 1851 with primarily goal of finding coal deposits for the Railways.
  • It is an attached office to the Ministry of Mines and it is Headquartered in Kolkata.
  • Function: To create and update national geoscientific information and mineral resource assessment.
  • Services Undertaken: The objectives of GSI are achieved through various surveys like marine, air-borne, ground, and also by mineral investigations. It also undertakes multi-disciplinary studies like geo-environmental, geoscientific, geo-technical, and natural hazards, and carrying out fundamental research.

ICC World Cup 2019

For the first time in world cup history, each participating team at upcoming ICC World Cup 2019 will have a dedicated anti-corruption officer attached with it. The move is to deliver a corruption-free tournament.

  • About: The International Cricket Council(ICC) will attach an anti-corruption official to all the 10 participating teams. The officer will be with each team starting from warm-up matches till the end of World cup tournament.
  • Previous Structure:  Earlier, the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Anti-Corruption Unit had its personnel deployed at each venue, means that participating teams had to deal with a number of officials over course of a tournament.
  • New Structure: Now, the same anti-corruption official will be assigned to a team from warm-up matches (start of competition) till end of the competition. They will be staying in same hotel as that of players and also travelling with them to training and matches.
  • Significance: The move is aimed at delivering a corruption and fixing free World Cup.  By being with teams throughout the competition, it is possible that officials would be in better position to spot any potential corruptors who lurk might near players or back-room staff and thus identify any behaviour that may be seem suspicious to them.

US’s Berkeley Lab creates PDK, a Fully Recyclable Plastic

A team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of United States’ (US) Department of Energy’s (DOE) has designed a fully recyclable plastic which can be disassembled into its constituent parts at molecular level. The discovery was reported in journal named Nature Chemistry.

Key Facts

  • About: Scientists have created a next-generation plastic that can be fully recycled into new materials of any form, shape or colour without any loss of its performance or quality. The name of newly created recyclable plastic is… Poly (Diketoenamine), or PDK.
  • Fact: All conventional plastics (like automobile parts, water bottles) are made up of large molecules called polymers. The polymers are further composed of repeating units of shorter carbon-containing compounds called
  • Problem: On one hand most plastics were never made to be recycled and on other hand problem with many plastic is that chemicals added to make them useful like fillers (which makes plastic tough) or plasticisers (which makes plastic flexible) are tightly bound to monomers units and therefore stay in plastic even after it is been processed at a recycling plant. This makes the recycling difficult.

 e-Vidhan: Kerala Assembly to Digitize all its Records

The Kerala Legislative Assembly recently announced an initiative to digitize all its records and proceedings under its ambitious project called E-Vidhan which enables state legislature to go fully digital and completely paperless.

Key Highlights

  • Time: The first phase of digitization project is expected to be completed in next 14 months. But for functioning of library and all departments attached to Assembly to go completely paperless, it would take around two years.
  • Project Execution: Earlier, the state government sought Central governments aid to execute the project but it is now being executed by the state-owned fund. The mammoth work of digitizing has been awarded to Cyberpark, which is run by Ooralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society.
  • Benefits: It is expected that if Kerala Assembly shifts completely into e-space it will save time as well as printing costs of about Rs.35 crore to Rs.49 crore annually.

Government implements Project ‘SPARROW-CBIC’ for online writing of APAR

Government of India has now implemented Project ‘SPARROW-CBIC’ for online writing of Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) in SPARROW, for over 46,000 Group ‘B’ and Group ‘C’ Officers of Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) working in its various formations all across India. The term SPARROW stands for ‘Smart Performance Appraisal Report Recording Online Window’.

Key Features

  • Background: Online writing of Annual Performance Appraisal Report’s (APAR) in SPARROW for IRS (C&CE) Officers has already been implemented in year 2016-17. The Indian Revenue Service C&CE handles set of indirect taxes namely Service Tax, Central Excise, Customs etc.
  • Implemented By: The Directorate General of Human Resource Development (DGHRD), the Human resources Management (HRM) arm of Central Board of Indirect Taxes & Customs (CBIC) of Department of Revenue, Ministry of Finance (MoF) is the implementing agency. It is being implemented in more than 400 formations of CBIC throughout India.
  • About SPARROW-CBIC: It is a project for online writing of Annual Performance Appraisal Report (APAR) for Officers of CBIC. It is one of its kind project in terms of number and scale of employees covered as far as Central Government Departments are concerned. It seeks to bring a complete change in APAR management of large number of Group ‘B’ & Group ‘C’ Officers and Staff of CBIC. This would in turn lead to better Human resources
  • Significance: Project leverages modern technology for enhancing morale and overall efficiency of everyone working in Central GST and Customs formations of CBIC. It serves as an important milestone in journey towards digitisation and paper less working.

India Signs ‘Christchurch Call to Action’ Initiative

India has recently joined a major global initiative called ‘Christchurch call to action’ to combat extremism and terrorism online and make internet a safe and secure place. It was signed by a group of governments and major tech companies at a summit in Paris.

  • Background: New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and French President Emmanuel Macron recently launched an ambitious new initiative called “Christchurch Call”, which is aimed at curbing extremism online. The initiative was pushed by Ms Ardern in backdrop of extremist attacks on two mosques in New Zealand city on 15 March 2019, in which a white supremacist gunned down 51 people and broadcasted live footage on Facebook. This gave rise to growing realisation that current abuse of social media by extremists must be countered.
  • Participants: A total of 18 countries including European Union (EU) supported the initiative along representatives of online giants like Facebook, Google, YouTube, Microsoft, Amazon and Twitter.
  • Objective: To curb online extremism by stopping abuse of Internet by extremists. It also calls for an open, free and secure internet to foster economic growth, enhance social inclusiveness and promote connectivity.
  • Argument: The dissemination of such extremist content online has adverse impacts on the human rights of victims, on collective security of individuals involved as well as people all over the world.

About Christchurch Call Agreement

  • It is a non-binding set of agreements to combat spread of hate and violent content online. It was signed by a group of governments and major tech companies at a summit in Paris

Taiwan: First Asian country to Legalise Same-Sex Marriage

On May 17, 2019 in a landmark decision, Taiwan became the first country in Asia to legalise same-sex marriage thus giving gay couples the ‘Right to Marry’.

Key Highlights

  • About: The Taiwanese parliament took the historic step by passing a law in favour of same-sex couples and allowing them to form ‘exclusive permanent unions’.

As of 26 May 2019, same-sex marriage is legally performed and recognized (nationwide or in some jurisdictions) in ArgentinaAustraliaAustriaBelgiumBrazilCanadaColombiaDenmarkFinlandFranceGermanyIcelandIrelandLuxembourgMaltaMexico, the NetherlandsNew ZealandNorwayPortugalSouth AfricaSpainSwedenTaiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Uruguay. Same-sex marriage is also due to become legal in Costa RicaIsrael recognizes same-sex marriages entered into abroad as full marriage

  • Features:
  • The bill was passed on 17 May which is celebrated annually as the ‘International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia’.
  • The law contains a clause that allows couples to apply for a ‘marriage registration’ with the government agencies.

Geographical Facts: Taiwan

  • It is officially called as Republic of China(ROC) and is a self-governing island nation in East Asia.
  • States Neighbouring Taiwan: The Philippines in south, People’s Republic of China (PRC) in West, Japan in northeast.
  • It is in western Pacific Ocean and lies about 160 km off the coast of southeastern China (SCS).

US President unveils Merit-Based Immigration System

The United States President Donald Trump has proposed rolling out of a new immigration plan named ‘merit-based immigration system’. The announcement was made in his recent immigration policy address speech in Rose Garden at White House.

Key Highlights

  • About: The new ‘merit and point based immigration policy’ recently proposed by US President Trump will replace the existing green cards (given by US) with ‘Build America’ visa.
  • Criteria: As per President Trump under the proposed system of merit-based immigration, the permanent legal residency would be given based on the individual’s points for their age, civic sense, job opportunities and knowledge. Besides this all immigrants applying will be required to pass a civics exam prior to admission and learn English.
  • Benefits: The proposals will significantly increase quota for highly-skilled workersfrom existing nearly 12% to 57%. The merit-based immigration system will stand to benefit all the foreigners, including thousands of Indian skilled workers and working professionals wo are waiting to get permanent legal residency or Green Cards.
  • Difficulty: The proposals would still have to be approved by Congress where currently Democrats (opposition party to Trump’s Republican Party) control the lower house

MRSAM: successfully tested by Indian Navy

Indian Navy successfully conducted test firing of Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) on the Western Seaboard.

Key Highlights

  • About: The Indian Navy undertook its maiden cooperative engagement firing of Medium Range Surface to Air Missile (MRSAM) and has achieved a significant milestone in enhancing its Anti Air Warfare Capability.
  • These Surface to Air Missiles are for now fitted onboard Kolkata Class Destroyers(comprised of INS Kolkata, INS Kochi and INS Chennai) and in future would be fitted on all major warships of the Indian Navy.
  • Undertaken by: The firing trial was carried out jointly by the Indian Navy, Israel Aerospace Industries and Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
  • Undertaken on: The firing was undertaken on Western Seaboard by Indian Naval Ships (INS) Kochi and INS Chennai in which the missiles of both ships were controlled by one ship to obstruct different aerial targets at extended ranges.
  • Significance: By proving this cooperative mode of engagement and successful conduct of test, Indian Navy has now become a part of a select group of Navies that have this niche capability. This capability further enhances combat effectiveness of Indian Navy thus providing an operational edge over potential adversaries.

‘Buddha Purnima’

Buddha Purnima also known as Vaishak Purnima is the birth anniversary of Gautama Buddha (or Lord Buddha). 18 May 2019 witnessed the 2,563rd birth anniversary of the Buddha and is being celebrated across the world.

About Buddha Purnima

  • Background: Buddha Purnima festival is traditionally celebrated to commemorate birth of Siddhartha Gautama​, who later became Gautama Buddha and founded Buddhism. People celebrate Siddhartha’s (a king by birth) choice to embrace a spiritual quest when he witnessed the suffering of common people which inspired him to let go of his royal life. He then renounced all worldly pleasures and became a holy man.
  • It is celebrated every year on the full moon day (known as Purnima), in month of Vaishakha, according to Hindu Lunar calendar.
  • Reason: It is also celebrated as Vesak in South and Southeast Asia. The day commemorates birth, death as well as enlightenment of Lord Buddha, all of which is said to have taken place on same day. It is after this enlightenment that later Siddhartha earned the title Buddha which means ‘The Enlightened One’.
  • Significance: Celebrating Buddha Purnima is all about praying with purest of feelings, and adopting what Buddhism stand for which is peace, harmony and non-violence.

Nilekani Panel on Digital Payments submits report to RBI.

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) appointed committee on ‘suggestions on promoting digital payment’ has submitted its report to RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das. The committee was headed by Nandan Nilekani, also known as Aadhaar Architect.

Key Highlights

  • Background: In January 2019 RBI had set up a five-member panel headed by Nilekani, on deepening digital payments with a view of encouraging digitisation of payments and enhancing financial inclusion via digitisation.
  • Panel Members: Besides Nandan Nilekani(Infosys co-founder), H R Khan (former RBI deputy governor), Kishore Sansi (former MD and CEO of Vijaya Bank), Aruna Sharma(former secretary in ministries of IT and steel) and Sanjay Jain (chief innovation officer, Centre for Innovation, Incubation & Entrepreneurship (CIIE), IIM Ahmedabad).

ISRO announces Seven Mega Missions

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), recently announced its planned seven mega missions, including Chandrayaan-2 (India’s second lunar exploration mission) which will be conducted over a period of next 10 years. The ISRO has also prepared a roadmap for next 30 years.

Key Highlights

Out of seven missions Chandrayaan-2, will be flight ready by May 2019 and its spacecraft will be launched in July 2019. The rest six are classified as:

  1. Defined Missions – which include XPoSat (to study cosmic radiation in 2020) and Aditya-L1(to the Sun in 2021).
  2. Undefined Missions – which include missions which are still in planning stage namely Mangalyaan-2 (or Mars Orbiter Mission-2 in 2022), Lunar Polar Exploration (or Chandrayaan-3 in 2024), Venus mission (in 2023), Exoworlds (exploration outside the solar system in 2028).

SC Verdict: Foreigners Tribunal decision will prevail over NRC

The Supreme Court of India has held that a Foreigner Tribunal’s order declaring a person as an illegal foreigner will be binding and will prevail over government decision to include or exclude name from National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

Key Highlights

  • Argument: The SC bench constituted of Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi and SC Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna unanimously distinguished between decisions of NRC) and of foreigners tribunals and upheld that the tribunal’s order being the quasi-judicial one will prevail.
  • Verdict: As per SC the persons whose names are not included in NRC in Assam can produce documents including ones related to their family tree and thus seek review of tribunal’s decision. As per SC it cannot create an appellate forum for those, declared as illegal foreigners by the foreigners tribunal, by using its power under Article 142 of Indian Constitution.
  • Outcome: If the name of a person, included in NRC in Assam is deleted on ground that he was a foreigner, then principle of ‘res-judicata’ (a judicially decided issue cannot be re-agitated) would apply on decision taken by foreigners tribunal. Thus a person who has been declared an illegal immigrant cannot seek re-decision (right of appeal) against exclusion or dropping of his name in normal circumstances.

NASA: finds Evidence of Water on Ultima Thule

NASA has found evidence of a unique mixture of water ice, methanol, and organic molecules on Ultima Thule’s surface. This mixture is very different from most icy objects explored previously by spacecraft till date.

About Ultima Thule

  • Nomenclature: Its scientific name is (486958) 2014 MU69. The words ‘Ultima’ and ‘Thule’ is its nickname. Ultima Thule, is a Greco-Latin term which means a distant unknown world.
  • About: It is a trans-Neptunian object located in Kuiper belt (a circumstellar disc in outer Solar System). It is the farthest world ever explored by mankind. The flyby (close enough to record scientific data) of Ultima Thule is farthest exploration of an object till date. It is approximately 6.4 billion km from Earth.
  • Discovery: It was discovered in 2014 by astronomers using Hubble Space Telescope as part of their search for a Kuiper belt object for New Horizons mission (which was an interplanetary space probe launched by NASA). On 1 January 2019 NASA’s New Horizons space probe’s flyby Ultima Thule making it the farthest object in Solar System visited by a spacecraft.
  • Significance: The discoveries made about Ultima Thule are going to advance theories of solar system formation.

IMCOR: 8th Indo-Myanmar Coordinated Patrol Begins

The 2019 Indo-Myanmar coordinated patrol (IMCOR) is taking place from 20 May to 28 May 2019. This is the 8th edition of coordinated patrol (CORPAT) between India and Myanmar.

Key Highlights

Objective: The coordinated patrol (CORPAT) initiative between the Indian Navy and Myanmar Navy seeks to address issues of terrorism, human trafficking, poaching, illegal fishing, drug trafficking and other illegal activities harmful to interest of both nations.

Background: The CORPAT series was first started in Mar 2013. Since then it has fostered improved professional interaction and enhanced mutual understanding between the two navies for maritime interoperability.

IMCOR 2019

  • Time: The Indo-Myanmar coordinated patrol IMCOR will be conducted from 20 May 2019 to 28 May 2019.
  • For the ‘Opening Ceremony’ of 2019 edition, Myanmar Navy Ship namely UMS King TabinShweHtee (773) and UMS Inlay (OPV-54) arrived on 20 May 2019 in Port Blair at Andaman and Nicobar Command.
  • Naval Participants: It will be undertaken by Myanmar ships viz. UMS Inlay and UMS King TabinShweHtee with Indian Naval Ship, INS Saryu.

Vayoshreshtha Samman 2019

The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has invited nomination for Vayoshreshtha Samman 2019 which is the National Awards for Senior Citizens for both Individuals and Institutions categories. The nominations should be sent by 31st May 2019.

  • Background: The series of National Award-Vayoshreshtha Samman awards were instituted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment in 2005. In 2013 these were elevated to the level of national awards.
  • It is an annual award which is conferred in thirteen categories.
  • Nominees: The various Ministries and Departments of Government of India, their autonomous organistions, State Government, Union Territory’s (UT) Administration all can nominate suitable individuals and institutions for the said National Awards.
  • Awardees: These are conferred to eminent senior citizens and Institutions who are involved in providing distinguished services for the cause of elderly persons.
  • Awarded on: In general these are conferred by the President of India on 1st October each year on the occasion of International Day of Older Persons (IDOP).

Delhi HC: United Nation not State under Article 12

In a recent judgement the Delhi High court (HC) ruled that United Nations Organization (UNO) is not ‘State’ in    terms of Article 12 of the Indian Constitution and thus it is not amenable to its jurisdiction under Article 226.

About The Case

  • Case: The Delhi HC judgment adjudicated the petition filed concerning immunity enjoyed by UNO under United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947.
  • Petitioner: The plea in case is filed by a former UNO employee who was found guilty of misconduct following the findings of Procurement Task Force. He was then convicted by a US Federal Court and sentenced to 8 years of imprisonment and 2 years of mandatory probation, was later released and deported to India in May 2014. The petition filed by him claims that due process was not followed in his case.
  • Course Followed:
    • In November 2018, the petitioner sought permission of Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) to initiate a legal action against UNO under section 86 of Civil Procedure Code, 1908. This section 86 of CPC provides that a foreign State may be sued in any Court once the consent of Central government is obtained.
    • The MEA then stated that consent of Union Government was not required to initiate legal suit against UNO as it was not foreign State rather only an International Organization.
    • MEA although stated that UNO and its officials enjoyed immunity under United Nations (Privileges and Immunities) Act, 1947. It also added that as per Section 2 of Article II of the Schedule of Act, 1947, UNO enjoys immunity from every kind of legal process except insofar as in any particular case it has clearly waived its immunity. The same became subject matter of petition filed before the Delhi High Court.

India re-elected as an Observer to Arctic Council

At 11th Arctic Council ministerial meeting held at Rovaniemi in Finland, India was re-elected as an observer to intergovernmental forum Arctic Council. India promised its commitment towards contributing more to Arctic Council.

Major issues discussed at the Council meeting:

  • With growing tensions worldwide, how to deal with global warming and jurisdiction of Arctic’s wealth of minerals.
  • Concerns over renewed climate policies of US President Donald Trump.
  • China’s (an observing nation in Arctic Council) “Polar Silk Road” plan (as melting ice has opened up new northern shipping routes), which it outlined in 2018.
  • Russia’s Northern Fleet modernization and reopened Cold War military bases.

World renowned Chardham Yatra begins in Uttarakhand

The world renowned and much awaited chardham yatra  began in Uttrakhand. The Gangotri and Yamunotri dhams were opened for pilgrims on auspicious occasion of Akshay Tritya (also called ‘Teej’, is an annual spring time festival of Jains and Hindus).

About Chardham

  • It literally means four sacred pilgrimage centres.
  • The four pilgrim-destinations are Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath and Badrinath which are collectively called Chardham.
  • It is located in the great Himalayas in Uttarakhand.
  • Route Followed: As per traditions, this pilgrimage tour should begin from West and end in East. Therefore, Char Dham Yatra starts from Yamunotri, then proceeds to Gangotri and finally end towards Kedarnath and Badrinath.

Religious Deities: Each sites is devoted to a specific deity.

  • Yamunotri dedicated to Goddess ‘Yamuna’. It stands high up in deep left on western face of Bandarpunch Peak.
  • Gangotri dedicated to Goddess ‘Ganga’. The shrine overlooks River Bhagirathi.
  • Kedarnath dedicated to Lord Shiva. It is also a part of Panch Kedar. It is northern-most Jyotirlinga and is close to source of holy River Mandakini.
  • Badrinath dedicated to Lord Vishnu. It is situated on the bank of River Alaknanda (it is one of the two headstreams of Ganges other is Bhagirathi).
  • Importance: In accordance with Hindu conventions, devotees take up this pious tour of Char Dham yatra in hope to experience bliss (heaven) and successfully remove their souls of all worldly demons.

Iran announces Partial Withdrawal from JCPOA

Iran announced it will pull out of some commitments under 2015 international nuclear agreement signed with world powers, called Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA).

In a move of partial withdrawal from JCPOA Iran will pull out of some commitments such as:

  • It will stop suppressing its stocks of enriched uranium and heavy water, as these are needed by certain types of reactor for nuclear fission to take place.
  • Reason: As per Iran, such action is required as European Union (EU) and other countries did not have power to resist US pressure. Also, such measures are necessary to secure Iran’s rights and bring back balance after United States exited from agreement in 2018.
  • Iran’s Supreme National Security Council gave 60 days to remaining countries of deal, to implement their commitments, mainly in fields of banking and oil. It referred to commitments made by Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain, to lift sanctions on Iran in return if it curbs its nuclear activities.
  • The decision comes after US dispatched an aircraft carrier strike group to Middle East.
  • As per Iran this path is not that of war, but is of diplomacy with a new language and a new logic.

Recent Developments

  • China resolutely opposes unilateral US sanctions against Iran and called on all parties to uphold Iranian nuclear pact.
  • Russia has also denounced US pressure and stands by Iran nuclear deal.
  • Britain in contradiction has not welcomed Iran’s decision, as it could lead to new Western sanctions.

US Stand on Issue

  • In May 2018, US President Donald Trump announced that US will unilaterally pull out of from JCPOA, re-imposing US sanctions on Iran. His administration found the deal to be “defective to the core”.
  • US also announced to cancel waivers to countries (including India) who continue to purchase oil from Iran.

Reasons given for Withdrawal:

  • JCPOA does not have binding restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missile programme and it does nothing to prevent Iran from sponsoring terrorism in its region.
  • Most restrictions have a sunset-clause, which means that over the years JCPOA’s provisions will become less strict and this will enable Iran to move towards nuclear-weapon capability.

About JCPOA

  • It is an international nuclear agreement signed in 2015, between Iran and the P5+1. The P5+1 includes five permanent UNSC’s members (P5): China, Russia, France, United Kingdom (UK), and United States; and (+1) Germany.
  • Under it, Iran agreed to make certain changes to its nuclear programme which included stopping export of enriched uranium stock, in return for United Nations (UN), European Union (EU) and the US revoking their sanctions against it.
  • These Nuclear related sanctions on Iran were lifted by US from 1 January 2016.

Royal Bengal Tigers may not survive Climate Change

According to a recent UN report, Climate change and rising sea levels may eventually wipe out ‘The Sundarbans’, which is one of world’s last and largest tiger strongholds. The studies of report rely on climate change scenarios developed by Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for its simulation models.

Key Findings of Report

  • As per UN findings if greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions continued at current rate, the atmosphere would warm as much as 1.5C (above preindustrial levels) by 2040. This climate change would lead to rising sea level and existential threat to the Sundarbans.
  • In 2010, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF, a Non-governmental organization) estimated that sea level rise of 11 inches could reduce number of tigers in Sundarbans by 96% within a few decades.
  • By 2070, there will be not be any suitable habitats of tiger remaining in Bangladesh Sundarbans.
  • 70% of Sundarbans is just a few feet above sea level, thus faces grave threat due to climate changes. It is one of the prime habitats of Bengal tigers, who are among 500,000 land species whose survival is in question because of threats to their natural habitats due to climate change.

Taiwan: First Asian country to Legalise Same-Sex Marriage

Two Indian Navy ships INS Kolkata and INS Shakti carried out a six day long ‘Group Sail’ (starting from 3 May and ending on 9 May) with naval ships of USA, Japan and Philippines in South China Sea (SCS).

Singapore Criminalises Publication of Fake News

Singapore has passed a law (The Protection from Online Falsehoods and Manipulation Bill) which criminalises publication of fake news in country and allows government to block and order removal of such content.

Key Features of Law

  • It bans falsehoods (fake news) that are detrimental to Singapore or may likely influence elections.
  • Mandate: It requires service providers to immediately remove such content and allows government to block it.
  • Penalty: Offenders could face a jail term of up to 10 years and heavy fines.

Criticism:

  • It gives government too much power to determine what could be false and broadly defined public interest.
  • The order to remove or correct fake news is mostly directed at technology companies rather than on individuals who break a law without intent.
  • As per many Human Rights Watch it is a “disaster for online expression by ordinary Singaporeans” and a powerful step against independence of online news portals.

New Viper species Discovered in Arunachal Pradesh

A team of herpetologists (specialized in study of reptiles and amphibians) have discovered a more advanced new species of reddish-brown pit viperfrom Arunachal Pradesh. Their discovery was published in Russian Journal of Herpetology.

About the Viper

  • Scientific Name (of discovered Arunachal pit viper): Trimeresurus arunachalensis. This discovery of new species makes Arunachal Pradesh only Indian state to have a pit viper named after it.
  • Discovery: The research team from Pune-based Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, found the snake species while conducting biodiversity surveys in Eaglenest Wildlife Sanctuary, in in West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh.
  • Significance: The viper discovered is never described before therefore this single known specimen of this species makes it currently the rarest pit viper in the world.
  • Type: It is a species of reddish-brown pit viper, a venomous snake.
  • It has a unique heat-sensing system.

Republic of Ireland declares Climate Emergency

Republic of Ireland has become only the second country in world to declare a climate emergency. Earlier on 1 May 2019, Britain’s parliament became the first in world to declare a climate emergency.

Key Highlights

  • The climate emergency declaration was passed by both the government and opposition parties of Ireland unanimously. Both agreed to an amendment to ‘Oireachtas report on Climate Action’ (a parliamentary report on climate action). The ammendement was accepted without a vote.
  • Targets: to be undertaken includes- becoming carbon-neutral by 2030, introduce electric car hubs or build sustainable homes to try to achieve that goal.
  • The Oireachtas Climate Action report that started the Irish declaration came from a Citizens’ Assembly report. The Citizens’ Assembly will next be considering the issue of a biodiversity emergency.
  • The Citizens’ Assembly: It is the Ireland’s citizens’ assembly which was established in 2016 for considering several political questions like referendums, abortion, population ageing, fixed term parliaments, and climate change etc. The report produced by it to be considered by the Oireachtas (Ireland’s Legislature).
  • Next Move: The Ireland will next vote on a Climate Emergency Measures Bill, which seeks to limit oil and gas exploration.
  • Criticism: declaring a climate emergency will mean absolutely nothing unless there is action taken to back it up. Also, there is no single definition of what a climate emergency actually means.

Konkan Railways signs agreement with Nepal Railways

India and Nepal have inked a deal on procurement of demo train that operates on diesel. The contract agreement was signed between India’s Konkan Railways Corporation Ltd and Nepal’s Department of Railways to supply two 1600 HP Diesel Electric Multiple Unit (DEMU) train sets.

About Agreement

  • It was signed in Kathmandu in presence of Manjeev Puri, Indian Ambassador to Nepal and Madhusudan Adhikari, Nepal’s Secretary, Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport.
  • According to agreement, Nepal will procure two diesel-operated trains, which will arrive in Nepal within five months.
  • Manufacturer: The trains will be manufactured by Integrated Coach Factory (owned and operated by Indian Railways) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu.
  • Attachments: Each train set will comprise of three trailer cars with one air conditioned, one driving power car and one driving trailer car with standard accessories.
  • Route Undertaken: These trains will be used to operationalise 34 km long railway corridor stretch which links Jayanagar in Bihar, India and Kurtha in Dhanusa district, Nepal.
  • The 34 kms Jayanagar-Kurtha Railway Linkwas built by IRCON (Ircon International Limited, a construction and engineering PSU in transport infrastructure) with a financial grant from Indian Government under India-Nepal Development Partnership programme.

IAF gets first Apache Guardian attack helicopter from US

The Indian Air Force (IAF) was formally handed over its first AH-64E (I)-Apache Guardian helicopter at the Boeing production facility in Mesa, Arizona, USA. The first batch of about four-six Apache helicopters will be delivered to India in July 2019.

About ‘AH-64E Apache’

  • Background: In September 2015, India and US signed a deal worth $3 billion (at current prices) for inducting 22 Apaches Helicopters in Indian Air Force (IAF) by March 2020. The IAF has bought the latest version of the Apache, called as the AH-64E (I) Apache Guardian.
  • Made In US: In Apache deal there is no transfer of technology or “Make in India” component. The helicopter is entirely built in the US. But, US Army is providing training to IAF pilots and maintenance personnel (who will operate Apache fleet) at Fort Rucker, Alabama, US.
  • Features:
    • The AH-64E Apache is flown by the US Army and is one of the leading multi-role attack helicopters globally. It is even dubbed as the “flying tank”.
    • It is widely acknowledged as the world’s most lethal combat helicopter.
    • It has flown about a million mission hours in various conflicts, like from fighting in First Gulf War (in 1991) to ongoing fighting in Afghanistan.
    • It is armed with Hellfire Longbow air-to-ground missiles, stinger air-to-air missiles, guns and rockets.
    • It can be operated both by day and also by night with equal effectiveness. It can fly just metres above the ground and shelter behind trees and sand dunes.
    • It has advanced Longbow radar which can pick up enemy armoured vehicles and can then destroy them with air-to-surface rockets or anti-tank missiles or a chain gun that sends about 625 rounds per minute tearing into targets.
    • It has improved survivability, joint digital operability and cognitive decision-aiding.
  • Importance: The addition of AH-64 E (I)helicopter is a step towards modernisation of IAF’s helicopter fleet. The helicopter handed over to India has been customised to suit IAF’s future requirements and would also have significant capability in mountainous terrain. Also, the Apache is capable of transmitting and receiving battlefield picture to and from weapon systems by using data networking, this makes it a lethal acquisition.

Islamic State for first time claims ‘Province’ in India

The Islamic State (or IS, a Salafi jihadist militant group) for the first time has claimed that it has established a “province” in India. Although, ISIS began claiming attacks against Indian security forces in Kashmir since November 2017 but without any branch affiliation.

About the Claims

  • New ‘province’: claimed by Islamic State (IS) is called in Arabic as “Wilayah of Hind” (India Province), the dreaded terror outfit, (also known as ISIS and ISIL). The claims came after a militant with alleged ties to the group was killed in a clash between security forces and militants in the Kashmir region.
  • IS Claims: As per IS’s Amaq News Agency claims, the IS caused casualties on Indian army soldiers in Amshipora town in Shopian district of Kashmir. The claims by IS corresponds with killing of a militant named Ishfaq Ahmad Sofi in an encounter in Shopian. As per Military officials for more than a decade, Sofi was involved in other kashmiri militant groups before pledging allegiance to Islamic State.
  • Analysis:
    • According to Indian security experts analysis, claims by IS about establishment of a ‘province’ in Kashmir region,

Plastic Waste included in Basel Convention

After 12 days of negotiations under the patronage of United Nations (UN) around 180 governments agreed on a new UN accord to regulate the movement and export of plastic waste between their national borders.

Key Highlights

  • Participants: About 1,400 representatives from almost every country in world met for 12 days of discussions at a United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) meeting in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Agreement: Except the United States, about 180 governments, agreed to the deal which essentially updates (or amended) the 1989 Basel Convention on the Control Of Hazardous Wastes, to include plastic waste in a legally-binding framework, in a move to quickly reduce amount of plastic being washed into world’s oceans.
  • Legally Binding: The framework for reducing plastic waste signed is legally binding which means that countries will have to monitor and track thousands of types of plastic waste outside their borders.
  • Cause of Concern: Some 8 million tonnes (MT) of plastic waste ends up in oceans each year. For far too long the practice of plastic waste dumping or exporting their mixed toxic plastic wastes to developing Asian countries is being followed by developed countries like the US and Canada with claims that it would be recycled in receiving country. But since, much of this contaminated mixed waste cannot be recycled it is instead dumped or burned, or lastly finds its way into the ocean.
  • Analysis: As per IPEN umbrella group (The International POPs Elimination Network, a global network of NGOs which seeks to eliminate hazardous and toxic chemicals and persistent organic pollutants) this new amendment to Basel Convention would empower developing countries to refuse plastic waste dumping.
  • Other Key Decisions taken: The recent Geneva meeting also undertook to eliminate two toxic chemical groups namely Dicofol(organochlorine pesticide) and Perfluorooctanoic Acid (or PFOA, also known as C8, is a man-made chemical), and other related compounds. PFOA has wide variety of industrial and domestic applications like non-stick cookware and food processing equipment, and also as paints, carpets and paper.
  • Importance: The deal stroked sends a very strong political signal to rest of the world (including private sector, consumer market) that we need to take action.

About Basel convention

  • In 1989, the Conference of Plenipotentiaries(CoP) in Basel, Switzerland adopted The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal.
  • It was adopted in response to large public outcry after it was discovered that large deposits of toxic wastes were being imported from abroad into developing world.
  • The Basel Convention came into force in 1992.

Lewis Hamilton wins Formula One Spanish Gp

Lewis Hamilton won the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix at Circuit de Catalunya, in Barcelona and the Mercedes sealed its fifth consecutive one-two finish.

Key Highlights

  • At this Spanish Grand Prix, Mercedes matched the record of five successive Formula One one-twos. as Lewis Hamilton beat his teammate and pole-sitter Valtteri Bottas.
  • It is only the fifth time in Formula One (F1) history that a team has taken top two spaces for five straight races and only third instance of Mercedes achieving feat since 2014.
  • Lewis Hamilton overtook his teammate and pole-sitter, Valtteri Bottas at turn one and stayed in front, thus winning Spanish Grand Prix for a third consecutive year.
  • This was the five-time and defending champion, L. Hamilton’s 76th career victory. With this win he moved back to the top of drivers’ standings. Ahead of him only Michael Schumacher has more with 91 career victory.
  • The second and third places were held by Valtteri Bottas in his Mercedes and Max Verstappen in his Red Bull respectively.

About Spanish Grand Prix

  • The Formula One (or F1) is the highest class of single-seater auto racing in which term word “formula” name refers to set of rules which is to be met by all participants’ cars.
  • The Spanish Grand Prix is a Formula One (F1) race which was held at Circuit de Catalunya in Barcelona, Spain. It has a Circuit length of 4.655 km and Race length of 307.104 km.
  • The Grands Prix is the French word for ‘grand prizes’ or ‘great prizes’.

Mumbai Indians win Indian Premier League title 2019..

Mumbai Indians won Indian Premier League title by defeating Chennai Super Kings (CSK) in final at Hyderabad by 1 run.

Highlights

Mumbai Indians defeated Chennai Super Kings by only one run and won IPL 2019 title. This was Mumbai Indians 4th Indian Premier League (IPL) trophy and became first team to do so.

IPL Awards 2019

  • David Warner of Sunrisers Hyderabad won Orange Cap for most runs. He scored 692 runs.
  • Imran Tahir of Chennai Super Kings (CSK) won Purple Cap for taking most wickets. He was the highest wicket-taker in tournament with 26 wickets. Tahir also became the oldest player to feature in an IPL final and is only 2nd spinner after Pragyan Ojha to win Purple Cap.
  • Andre Russell of Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) was named Most Valuable Player. He scored 510 runs, took 11 wickets and hit the most sixes in 2019 season. He also won the title of Super Striker of the Season for a strike rate of 204.81
  • Shubman Gill of KKR was named Emerging Player of the IPL Tournament.
  • Sunrisers Hyderabad bagged the Fairplay award of IPL 2019.
  • Hardik Pandya of Mumbai Indians (MI) won Fastest Fifty of Season.
  • Kieron Pollard of MI won Perfect Catch of the Season.
  • Rahul Chahar of MI was named Game Changer of the Season.
  • KL Rahul of Kings XI Punjab was named Stylish Player of the Season.
  • All the award winners were handed over a cheque of Rs 10 lakh each.

About Indian Premier League (IPL)

  • It was founded by Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in 2008.
  • It is a professional Twenty20 (i.e. T20 format) cricket league which is played every year in India during month of March or April and May. In total it has 48 match days and about 60 matches.
  • It is contested by eight teams representing eight different cities in India. The participant players are from other countries as well.
  • This 2019 season was 12th edition of the IPL.

DRDO successfully conducts Flight Test of ABHYAS

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO, an agency under Ministry of Defence) conducted successful flight test of ‘ABHYAS’, a High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT). The test was conducted from Interim Test Range (ITR), at Balasore in Chandipur, Odisha.

Key Highlights of Test

  • The trial flight test was tracked by various Radars & Electro Optic Systems.
  • Results: Test proved its performance in fully autonomous waypoint (means a series of unique abstract GPS points that create artificial airways) navigation mode.
  • The system performance was as per the simulations carried out.
  • Importance: the test demonstrated the capability of ABHYAS to meet requirement of mission for a cost effective High-speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT).

About ABHYAS

It a high-speed expendable aerial target (HEAT), which offers a realistic threat scenario for practice of weapon systems. It is designed for autonomous flying (with help of an autopilot).

Features:

  • Configuration: It is designed on an in-line small gas turbine engine. For its guidance and navigation it uses indigenously developed Micro-Electro-Mechanical Systems (MEMS) based navigation system.
  • It has a Luneburg lens (a spherically symmetric gradient-index lens) in the nose cone which improves the radar cross-section of target for weapons practice.
  • It has an Acoustic Miss Distance Indicator(AMDI, a multi-role scoring system for gunnery training and weapons assessment) to indicate the distance it missed.

One of India’s Smallest Orchids discovered in Assam

Lecanorchis taiwaniana (The parasitic bloom), a type of orchid was accidentally discovered in Assam by Assam’s forest officer named Jatindra Sarma . He is also the Member Secretary of State Medicinal Plants Board.

Key Findings:

  • The orchid species is already known in Japan, Taiwan, and Laos. This is the first time it is discovered in India.
  • Its discovery was published in Japanese Journal of Botany with title as “new record for the flora in India”.

Characteristics

  • Lecanorchis taiwaniana is a mycoheterotroph, which means it is one of two known types of parasitic plants which have abandoned photosynthesis. As it derives nutrients and its energy from fungus, it may be of herbal importance.
  • It is a variant of a Japanese orchid.
  • It is India’s one of smallest botanically recorded orchids in terms of size and duration of bloom.

Importance: The discovery of Lecanorchis taiwaniana adds to the orchid wealth of northeast India (NEI). India has about 1,300 species of orchids out of which 800 are found in NEI, about 300 species are found in Western Ghats and 200 in northwestern Himalayas.

RBI sells entire stake in NHB, Nabard to govt 
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has sold its entire stakes in the National Bank for Agriculture & Rural Development (NABARD) and National Housing Bank (NHB) for Rs 20 crore and Rs 1,450 crore respectively.

Disinvestment by RBI

  • The decision to divest its entire stake was taken based on the recommendations of the second Narasimham Committee. The committee had stated that RBI could not own those entities which are regulated by it.
  • The government now holds a 100 per cent stake in both NHB and NABARD.

Earlier in June 2018, the government had bought out the entire 59.7 per cent stake in SBI from the Reserve Bank.

The RBI in 2010 divested 71.5% of 72.5% of its shares in NABARD and the remaining of were divested in February similarly RBI which held 100% in NHB, which was divested on 19 March 2019.

Ramayana Themed Stamp Released by Indonesia

Indonesia has released a special commemorative stamp on the theme of Ramayana to mark the 70th anniversary of the establishment of its diplomatic ties with India.

About the Stamp

  • The stamp is designed by renowned Indonesian sculptor Padmashri Bapak Nyoman Nuarta.
  • The stamp features a scene from Ramayana in which Jatayu valiantly fought to save Sita.
  • It is a specially signed version of the stamp will be on display at the Philately Museum in Jakarta.

India to stop Importing Crude Oil from Iran

In the backdrop of the US refusal to extend the sanctions waiver for India to import crude from Iran, the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has taken steps necessary steps to end the imports from Iran.

Even though India has urged the US to restore the sanction waivers it has decided to not to proceed with the purchase as the oil trade cannot happen in anticipation.

Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas has stated that a robust plan for an adequate supply of crude oil to Indian refineries is in place. It has been stated that shortfall will be met through alternate supply sources available in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE and Mexico.

IEPF Authority recovers Rs 1514 Cr of Depositors Money.

The Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF) Authority in a major success has recovered deposits worth Rs 1,514 crore from Kolkata-based Peerless General Finance and Investment Company. This money of depositors was pending with the company for the last 15 years.

Investor Education and Protection Fund Authority

  • Investor Education and Protection Fund (IEPF) was established by the central government under Section 125 of Companies Act 2013.
  • It is a statutory body established under the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
  • The Secretary in the Ministry of Corporate Affairs is the Chairperson of IEPF.
  • The authority aims to administer the Investor Education and Protection Fund with the objective of promoting Investor’s Education, Awareness and Protection.
  • It is empowered to undertake various initiatives to fulfil its objectives through Investor Awareness Programmes and various other mediums like print, Electronic, Social Media and Community Radio.

Further to enhance its reach, the IEPF Authority is also in the process of commissioning an online facility to collect primary information directly from retail investors about the deposits which have matured and are still pending with various entities for repayment or payment of interests.

Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2019

The Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize 2019 was awarded to author Rana Dasgupta for his 2010 novel “Solo” which is a tale of estrangement and the ultimate failure of material existence. It is the second edition of the Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize.

Rabindranath Tagore Literary Prize aims to revive poetry and books that can change lives. An amount of $10,000, a Tagore statue and a certificate for contribution to literature will be given to the awardee. Indian Poets, novelists and Playwrights writing in officially recognized languages or dialects of the Indian subcontinent, including English.

Rabindranath Tagore Awards

TagorePrize is founded and launched with a strong vision to be a platform and a vehicle for improving and inspiring World Peace, Literature, Art and Education. The prizes promotes the culture and beauty of literature just as Rabindranath Tagore had taught us to, but also, the culture and society of tolerance, harmony and non – discrimination.

BepiColombo Ready for Long Cruise to Mercury

The European Space Agency (ESA) – Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)’s BepiColombo mission has successfully completed a series of tests and has completed its near-Earth commissioning phase.

The BepiColombo mission is now ready for the operations that will take place during the cruise and, eventually, for its scientific investigations at Mercury.

About the Mission

BepiColombo is a joint mission of the European Space Agency (ESA) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to the planet Mercury. The mission comprises of two satellites launched together:

  • Mercury Planetary Orbiter (MPO)
  • Mercury Magnetospheric Orbiter (MMO)

The mission will undertake a comprehensive study of Mercury, including characterization of its magnetic field, magnetosphere, and both interior and surface structure.

Launched in October 2018, the mission is expected to arrive at Mercury in 2025. It will endure temperatures in excess of 350 °C and gather data during its 1-year nominal mission, with a possible 1-year extension.

Later next year BepiColombo will also perform the first of its two flybys of Venus — the second planned for August 2021. The flybys of Venus will provide an opportunity to operate some of the instruments on both orbiters and to collect scientifically valuable data to further study this fascinating planet while en route to the mission’s destination Mercury.

Insight Mars lander detects likely Marsquake

National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) InSight lander spacecraft has detected what’s believed to be a “marsquake” on the Red Planet. NASA scientists are still working to confirm the source of the faint trembling.

Scientists believe the trembling may not be due to wind or movement of the lander’s robotic arm but from below the Martian surface. If scientists confirm it would become the first seismic activity ever detected on Mars.

NASA’s InSight Lander Mission

NASA’s InSight stands for Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport is a Mars lander aimed to undertake the first-ever thorough checkup since it formed 4.5 billion years ago. Insight Mission will also measure tectonic activity and meteorite impacts on Mars.

NASA’s Insight is the first outer space robotic explorer to study in-depth the “inner space” of Mars: its crust, mantle, and core. Studying these internal structures will aid in answering the early formation of rocky planets in our inner solar system – Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars – more than 4 billion years ago, as well as rocky exoplanets.

1 million species risk extinction due to humans: Draft UN report

According to draft of UN report set to be released on May 6, 2019, up to One million world species are at risk of extinction due to human activity.  It highlights how humanity has undermined natural resources upon which its very survival depends.

This 44-page draft report which has summarized 1,800-page assessment of scientific literature on the state of Nature conducted by the UN  will be examined  on 29 April, 2019 by 130 nations that will meet in Paris, France.

Key Findings of Report

  • Extinction: It warns of forthcoming rapid acceleration in global rate of species extinction. With upto 1 million species at extinction risk, and one fourth of known plant and animal species already threatened, loss of species is tens to hundreds of times higher than it was, on average, over last 10 million years.
  • Causes: Direct cause of species loss are continuously shrinking habitat and land-use change, hunting for food, illegal trade in wildlife body parts, climate change and pollution.
  • Impact on Ecosystem: Almost three-fourth of land, half of marine environments and half of inland waterways have been ‘severely’ changed by human activity.
  • This is mainly due to human activities, like overconsumption, illegal poaching, deforestation and fossil fuel emissions, which further push ecosystems toward a point of no return.
  • Impact of Humans: Such depletion will harm humans, especially indigenous vulnerable groups and those living in poorest communities.
  • Threat equivalent to climate change: The accelerating loss of clean air, drinkable water, forests, pollinating insects, protein-rich fish and storm-blocking mangroves are a few of diminishing services offered by Nature, which poses threat not less than that by climate change.
  • Dependence on Nature: More than 2 billion people rely on wood fuel for energy, 4 billion rely on natural medicines, and 75% of global food crops require animal pollination.
  • It cautions against climate change solutions that may accidentally harm nature. Example-Biofuels use combined with “carbon capture and storage” (i.e. sequestration of CO2released when biofuels are burned) is a key in transition to green energy on a global scale. But land needed for growing biofuel crops may lead to cutting into food production, expansion of protected areas or reforestation efforts.

Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) not to be ratified by US

US President Donald Trump announced that USA will not abide by and will never ratify Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), a UN treaty aimed at regulating global arms trade.

With aim of regulating international trade in conventional arms (from small arms to battle tanks, combat aircraft and warships), it was entered into force in 2014.

-It establishes common standards for international trade of conventional weapons so as to reduce illegal arms trade.

-The member nations are required to keep records of international trade of weapons and prohibit cross-border shipments that can be used for human rights violations or attacks on civilians.

-It was originally signed by 130 countries but currently only 101 have ratified and joined it. India is not a signatory.

Arguments by US

ATT is misguided and is encroachment on US sovereignty. It does not place any restrictions on types or quantities of arms bought, sold, or possessed by states. It also does not impact state’s domestic gun control laws or other firearm ownership policies.

First International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace observed
First official ‘International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace’ was observed by United Nations (UN) on April 24, 2019.

 It was aimed at disseminating advantages of multilateralism and diplomacy for peace by educational and public awareness-raising activities. On this occasion, UN General Assembly convened one day high level plenary meeting to commemorate and promote day.

BACKGROUND

On 12 December, 2018 UN General Assembly (UNGA) officially proclaimed resolution A/RES/73/127 to observe 24 April ever year as International Day of Multilateralism and Diplomacy for Peace.

Preserving values of multilateralism and international cooperation supports UN Charter and 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (SDGs) and is fundamental in promoting and supporting 3 pillars of UN – Peace and Security, Development and Human Rights.

It reaffirms UN Charter and its principles of resolving disputes among countries by peaceful means and acknowledges use of multilateral decision-making and diplomacy in achieving peaceful resolutions to conflicts among nations.

World’s first Malaria Vaccine launched in Malawi, Africa

World’s first Malaria Vaccine named RTS,S (trade name Mosquirix) was launched in Malawi, Africa on occasion of World Malaria Day (observed on 25 April).

 It was launched as part of pilot programme aimed at immunizing children aged 2 years and below in three African countries Malawi, Ghana and Kenya. Other two countries will launch this vaccine in coming weeks.

About Pilot Programme

  • It is World Health Organization (WHO) coordinated three country pilot programme where risk of malaria is high.
  • It aims to vaccinate 360,000 children per year with RTS,S vaccine across three countries and give them partial protection against disease. Children will be vaccinated on time with 4 required doses.
  • The pilot programme is financed by collaboration of three key global health funding bodies: Gavi ( a public-private partnership Global Vaccine Alliance), Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, and Unitaid (global health initiative that works with partners to end world’s tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS, malaria and hepatitis C epidemics). Also, WHO, PATH and GSK will provide in-kind contributions.

World Intellectual Property Day observed.

The World Intellectual Property Day was observed globally on 26 April 2019 to spread awareness about important role played by intellectual property rights (IPRs) such as Patents, Trademarks, Industrial Designs and Copyrights in encouraging innovation and creativity. To celebrate this day, World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) had hosted different events and activities in collaboration with government agencies, NGOs, community groups and individuals.

Theme of WIPD 2019: “Reach for Gold: IP and Sports”. It seeks to explore how innovation, creativity and IP rights would support development of sport and its enjoyment.

Importance of IPR in Sports: In recent times, sports industries employing millions of people have become multi-billion dollars business. These sports businesses use patents and designs for development of new sports technologies, materials, training, and equipment. Therefore, it is important to secure business relationships built on IP rights help to further boost economic value of sports.

Women Military Police recruitment

The Indian Army for first time since independence has initiated women induction drive for Soldier General Duty (Women Military Police). It invited applications for recruitment of 1,700 women soldiers initially.

Key Facts

  • Recruitment rallies will be held in Ambala, Lucknow, Jabalpur, Bengaluru and Shillong to test candidates, and venue will be allotted based on their home districts. It will be mandatorily done through online registration.
  • Enrolled Women Military Police personnel released on or before expiry of 17 years of service, may carry reserve liability for 2 years after release.

Background

In 1993, women were inducted as Army officers and were given only Short Service Commission (a period of 10 years which can be extended up to 14 years) and inducted in combat support branches and support services. Later Army Aviation Corps was opened and permanent commission offered to women officers in Army Education Corps and Judge Advocate General’s branch. As there were no women in non-officer role in Army, demand of inducting women in Military Police was made in 2018. This demand was accepted by Ministry of Defence and formulated roadmap for women induction in Military Police. The success of this induction may be lead to more roles for women in Army in future.

China hosts 2nd Belt and Road Forum

Second Belt and Road Forum (BRF) was held in Beijing, China. It will serve as stocktaking exercise for China’s ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

It saw participation of 126 countries and 29 international organisations, increase from 60 countries and international organisations seen in in first edition of BRF 2017. India did not participate in this edition as well as in first edition of BRF.

BRF 2019

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s chaired leaders’ roundtable, high-level meeting and thematic forum in this edition of three day BRF event.

New Focus: Unlike earlier, with sole focus on building infrastructure projects, BRI’s broadened framework includes financial and humanitarian aid projects.

New Entrant: European countries such as Italy (joined BRI in March 2019) and Luxembourg have joined the project. Italy and China signed an MoU with deals worth 2.5 billion euros including working together to develop Italy’s port infrastructure, transport and logistics. 13 EU member states are already part of BRI.

Changed Funding model: China is proposing ‘third-party market cooperation’ under which investments are shared between more than one nation. Initially funds were sought from China-headed Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), and other financial institutions.

About Belt And Road Initiative

  • The BRI, (or yi dai yi lu) also called “21st Century Silk Road” or China’s Marshall Plan was announced by China in 2013.
  • It is made of “belt” of overland routes and maritime “road”, with aim to connect Asia, Europe and Africa, will impact countries comprising of half of world’s population.
  • “The Belt” means Silk Road Economic Belt comprising of three overland routes which connects China, Central Asia, Russia and Europe. It will connect China with Persian Gulf and Mediterranean Sea via Central Asia and West Asia, and link China with Southeast Asia, South Asia and Indian Ocean.
  • “The Road” means 21st Century Maritime Silk Road which would provide impetus to trade from China to Europe via South China Sea and Indian Ocean, and from China via South China Sea towards South Pacific.

Problems with BRI

  • Chinese enterprises faces operational problems in overseas port projects linked to BRI.
  • China’s debt-trap diplomacy: ‘Premature Mentality’ in evaluating commercial value of investment projects and inadequacies in debt evaluation leads to suspension, rethinking over project costs and finally to debt trap. Example: Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port was forced to lease to China for 99 years; complete suspension and rethinking of a billion dollar Malysian railway project; Projects costs in Maldives, Ethiopia, Pakistan, are worrtsome.
  • Lack of transparency in information and lack of evaluation on impact of regional social culture.
  • BRI also has negative impact over economic and political interests of various countries including US, Japan, Germany, Russia, and Australia.

Former Army Chief Dalbir Singh Suhag

Army General (Retd.) Dalbir Singh Suhag was appointed as High Commissioner of India to Republic of Seychelles. His appointment comes at the time when military ties between India and island nation have deepened in recent times. Dalbir Singh Suhag was Chief of Army Staff (CoAS) i.e. Army General from August 2014 to December 2016.

Appointment of former defence personnel as envoy to countries is not new. Previously, Indian Navy Chief Nirmal Kumar Verma had served as high commissioner to Canada, and his successor Suresh Mehta was high commissioner to New Zealand and former air chief N.A.K. Browne was ambassador to Norway.

Strategic Significance of Seychelles

Seychelles Islands is strategically lactated in Indian Ocean, northeast of Madagascar from where global shipping and commerce lanes pass. In recent times, it has become important base in fighting seaborne terrorism and piracy in IOR.

India and Seychelles had signed to build naval base (a coast guard facility) in Seychelles’ Assumption Island during PM Narendra Modi’s visit to island nation in 2015. This will enable India to increase its presence in strategically-key region of IOR and to counter increasing military presence China in the region.

FSS Voice Commerce

IT service management company Financial Software Services (FSS) has launched real time voice banking platform called FSS voice commerce. It uses machine-learning language processing techniques and offers meaningful, contextual, and personalized banking interactions to customers.

Benefits of FSS Voice Commerce

  • It provides secure financial transactions to prevent fraud and maintain integrity of transaction ecosystem it supports out-of-band multi-factor authentication like one-time passcodes (OTP) and biometrics.
  • It also delivers conversation-led banking by enabling customers to block cards, check rate of interest (RoI) for personal loan, real-time information of account and balance and make payment using Alexa or Google Assistant.

Politics of Jugaad: The Coalition Handbook’, released

The “Politics of Jugaad: The Coalition Handbook” new book authored by journalist Saba Naqvi examines possibility of coalition government after 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

About Book

It examines coalition government history in India to project possibility at the end of 2019 Lok Sabhaelection. It questions whether ‘coalitions’ are inevitable even when they have been proved unstable, or whether they hold promise of greater democratization in our diverse nation. It also analyses possibilities of coalition formation in different states and their chances of success and failure.

It strikes perfect balance between argument and prose, and discusses possible direction in politics and policy of India’s next coalition government. It also elaborates nature of transformation in Indian political parties and their role in contemporary times.

About Author

Saba Naqvi is one of India’s renowned journalists, best known author and political analyst. Other books written by her include In Good Faith (2012), Capital Conquest (2015), and Shades of Saffron (2018).

India finishes Asian Wrestling Championships 2019 with 16 medals

India finished Asian Wrestling Championships tournament held in Xian, China with a total of 16 medals which included eight (one gold, three silver and four bronze) won by men’s freestyle wrestlers, four bronze by women and three silver and one bronze by Greco-Roman wrestlers.

Key Highlights

India bagged two silver medals in Asian Wrestling Championships in Xian, China in men’s Greco-Roman category.

Wrestler Gurpreet Singh finished with second spot and won India a silver medal in Greco-Roman 77kg category after facing a 0-8 defeat by Hyeonwoo Kim of Korea in the finale.

Sunil Kumar in men’s 87kg category, registered victory in semi finale bout against Azamat Kustubayev of Kazakhstan with 6-6 but defeated by Hossein Ahmad Nouri of Iran in final clash.

India’s Greco-Roman wrestlers performed better than last edition where they clinched only a couple of bronze medals by Rajender Kumar (55kg) and Harpreet Singh (82kg).

Harpreet Singh won silver in 82kg after defeating Iran’s Saeid Morad Abdvali. while Gyanender won bronze in 60kg after beating Jui Chi Huang of Taipeion final day.

Only Bajrang Punia won gold medal after defeating Kazakhstan’s Sayatbek Okassov by 12-7 in 65kg men’s free style.

Bajrang Punia

India’s Bajrang Punia is first Indian wrestler to be invited by American wrestling body for a special fight at iconic Madison Square Garden in New York, US. He will be among other top wrestlers selected by American governing body for 6 May 2019 tournament.

He will take on two-time US national champion Yianni Diakomahlis in “Grapple at the Garden” Beat the Streets fight night event, which has become a major showcase for international wrestling since 2010.

Achievements

  • The 25-year-old, currently holds World No.1title in 65-kg weight category freestyle wrestling.
  • He has won eight gold medals from his earlier nine international tournaments including 2018’s Commonwealth and Asian Games. He also registered only gold medal won by India in recently concluded Asian Wrestling Championships, in 65kg men’s freestyle category.

Cyclone Fani

Extremely Severe Cyclonic Storm Fani was the strongest tropical cyclone to strike the Indian state of Odisha since Phailin in 2013.

The second named storm and the first severe cyclonic storm of the 2019 North Indian Ocean cyclone season, Fani originated from a tropical depression that formed west of Sumatra in the Indian Ocean on 26 April.

After moving away from the wind shear, Fani began to rapidly intensify, and became an extremely severe cyclonic storm on 30 April 2019, the first severe cyclonic storm of the season.

Fani reached its peak intensity on 2 May, as a high-end extremely severe cyclonic storm, and the equivalent of a high-end Category 4 major hurricane.

 Fani weakened before making landfall, and its convective structure rapidly degraded thereafter. On the next day, Fani passed just north of Kolkata as a cyclonic storm.

tropical cyclone is classified as making landfall when the center of the storm moves across the coast; in strong tropical cyclones this is when the eye moves over land. This is where most of the damage occurs within a mature tropical cyclone, such as a typhoon or hurricane, as most of the damaging aspects of these systems are concentrated near the eyewall.

 On 4 May, Fani weakened to a deep depression and moved into Bangladesh, before degenerating into a well-marked low later that day. Fani’s remnants dissipated on the next day.

Prior to its landfall, authorities in India and Bangladesh moved at least a million people each from Fani’s projected path onto higher ground and into cyclone shelters, which is thought to have reduced the resultant death toll.  As of 6 May 2019, 56 people are known to have been killed by Fani in Eastern India and Bangladesh.

India tops Medals Tally at ISSF World Cup Rifle/ Pistol 2019 held in China.

India finished top of medal tally at ISSF World Cup Rifle/ Pistol 2019 edition held in Beijing, China. Even after drawing a blank on final day India still topped the chart for second consecutive ISSF World Cup, third time in last two years. In last edition of Shooting World Cup held in New Delhi, India jointly topped standings with Hungary.

ISSF World Cup Rifle 2019

  • With its four medals (3 gold and 1 silver medals) India topped medals tally ahead of hosts China (2 gold, 2 silver, 1 bronze), who won five medals in total.
  • With this win India has now secured a total of five 2020 Tokyo Olympic quotas places.
  • Teenage pair of Saurabh Chaudhary and Manu Bhaker won gold in 10m Air Pistol Mixed Team Pistol event.
  • Anjum Moudgil and young Divyansh Singh Panwar won gold in 10m Air Rifle Mixed Team competition.
  • Divyansh Singh Panwar won India’s first individual medal by winning silver in men’s 10m Air Rifle.
  • India’s third gold was won by Abhishek Verma in men’s 10m Air Pistol event.

Centre increases Wheat Import Duty by 40%

With wheat production at record high, government has raised import duty on wheat from existing 30% to 40% to support local farmers interest. The higher duty will help offtake of domestically produced grain by discouraging milers to import wheat but to buy local produce and help protect farm prices. The oversupply in domestic market due to back to back bumper production of food grains has put wheat prices under pressure.

Key Highlights

  • India’s wheat production for 2018-19 crop year (which runs from July to June) is 2% higher than 2018, at a recored production of 99.12 million tonnes.
  • Food Corporation of India (FCI) which holds government’s wheat stocks already had 16.99 million tonnes in April and after next purchase by government its stock could reach 57  million tonnes by May end.
  • Reason for bumper production: In a bid to improve farm income government raised minimum support price (MSP) of wheat (rate at which FCI buys from farmers) by 6% (Rs.1,840 per 100 kg for 2019), which acted as a benchmark for open market in wheat.
  • For similar bumper crop in 2018, government increased import duty on wheat from 20% to 30% which resulted in sharp drop in wheat import.
  • In past India has imported wheat from Australia, Ukraine and Russia, but with global prices in addition to 40% duty would make import virtually impossible.
  • Earlier, in concern of its farm duty rates as well as on subsidies it gives to farmers,
  • In past Australia has taken India to WTO’s arbitration panel on its farm duty rates and subsidies given to farmers, but it hardly affects because India by right can raise duties on wheat up to 80% under a bound rate agreement it has signed at WTO.

Food Corporation of India

It is a statutory non-profit organization founded and run by Government of India and also run by state Governments. It was created in 1965 under Food Corporations Act 1964, to implement objectives of National Food Policy. Initially headquartered at Chennai it was later shifted to New Delhi. As it is a state-owned enterprise, it has presence in every state in India.

FCI Objectives

  • Safeguarding farmers interests by providing them remunerative prices.
  • Making food grains available at reasonable prices throughout the country (for public distribution system), particularly for vulnerable section of society.
  • Intervening in market for price stabilization.
  • Maintaining buffer stocks as a measure of Food Security.

IIT Madras researcher develops easy OCR system

A team of researcher at IIT-Madras headed by Professor V. Srinivasa Chakravarthy, developed a method for reading documents in Bharati Script by using a multi-lingual…. optical character recognition (OCR) scheme.

About Bharati

It is a unified script for nine Indian languages which is being proposed as a common script for India. The integrated script includes Devnagari, Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, Oriya, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam and Tamil. Urdu and English were not integrated so far because of their very different phonetic organisation.

Why was it needed?

Many European languages (English, French, German, Italian etc.) use Roman script as a common script, which eases communication across all nations that speak and write those languages. Similarly in a diverse nation like ours a common script for entire country can be hoped to bring down many communication barriers existing in India.

Optical Character Recognition (OCR) Schemes

First it involves separating/segmenting document into text and non-text. The text is then further divided into paragraphs, sentences words and letters. Each letter is recognized as character in some recognisable format like ASCII or Unicode. Each letter has different components like basic consonant, consonant modifiers, vowels etc.

In Bharati Script characters these different components are separable by design, therefore, OCR works quite accurately, giving almost 100% accuracy even with mild noise added.

Mukesh Ambani, Arundhati Katju, Menaka Guruswamy Among TIME’s List of 100 Most Influential People

Three Indians Menaka Guruswamy, Arundhati Katju and Mukesh Ambani have featured into TIME 100 Most Influential People list of 2019. Global prominent names that have featured in this list included US President Donald Trump, China President Xi Jinping, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Pope Francis, golfer Tiger Woods and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Mukesh Ambani: He is Chairman and largest shareholder of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), a Fortune Global 500 company. It is most valuable Indian company in terms of its market value.

Menaka Guruswamy and Arundhati Katju: They are Indian women lawyers who lead the legal battle to strike down colonial era’s Section 377 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalized gay sex.

 In September 2018, Supreme Court in  unanimous decision partly struck down IPC Section 377, thus removing ban imposed on consensual gay sex and affirming human rights of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community.

Sri Lankan President bans On Face-Covering in Public.

Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena used his emergency powers to issue an order to ban burqa, veil or covering of face in public places in any manner which prevents anyone from being identified.

Key Highlights

The order which came into immediate effect explicitly defines that any garment or item which obstructs identification of an individual’s face is barred. It is placed to ensure national security, establish peaceful and cohesive society and not aimed at inconvenience to any community people.

Air Marshal Rakesh K S Bhadauria appointed as new Vice Chief of Air Staff

On May 1, Air Marshal Rakesh Kumar Singh Bhadauria will take over as Vice Chief of Indian Air Force, after superannuation of incumbent Air Marshal Anil Khosla. Post induction he will be looking after all air operations being carried out by force.

Service and Tenure

RKS Bhadauria was commissioned into India Air Force fighter stream on 15 June 1980 with the Sword of Honour. He has held important designations like Commandant of National Defence Academy, Senior Air Staff Officer at Central Air Command and Deputy Chief of Air Staff from January 2016 to February 28, 2017. As Deputy Chief, he was chairman of Indian negotiating team for 36 Rafale combat aircraft deal with France. From March 2017 till august 2018, he served as Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief (AOC-in-C), Southern Air Command. He currently heads IAF’s Bengaluru-based Training Command.

Current State of Cybercrime Report 2019

According to whitepaper ‘Current State of Cybercrime-2019’, released by RSA Security (is an American computer and network security company of parent organization Dell Technologies), social media fraud has increased by 43% in 2018. It says the trend will continue in 2019 because of ease of using, absence of fees and multiple other benefits of these platforms.

            Key Findings

  • With Social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter and other legitimate messaging platforms emerging as new ground for criminal deception, cybercriminals are increasingly relying on them to communicate with each other, sell stolen identities, credit card numbers and other ill-gotten gains.
  • Artifice (fraud) from mobile apps has increased by 680% between 2015 and 2018, with frauds originating in mobile channels growing by 70% in 2018.
  • It cautioned against the increasing rise of use of rogue mobile applications to defraud consumers.
  • It highlighted that fraudsters are also undergoing their own form of digital transformation to make cybercrime activity more efficient

Steps taken by Government

Government has undertaken number of legislative, technical and institutional measures for addressing cyber security issues and strengthening cyber security system in country.

  • National Cyber Coordination Centre (NCCC)is an operational cyber security and e-surveillance agency in India which is intended to screen communication metadata and co-ordinate intelligence gathering activities of other agencies. It generates situational awareness about potential and existing cyber security threats and enables timely sharing of information for proactive, preventive and protective actions by individual entities.
  • National Cyber Security Coordinator (NCSC) under National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) coordinates with different agencies at the national level for cyber security matters.
  • Enacted Information Technology (IT) Act, 2000, to provide legal recognition for electronic communication, electronic commerce and cyber-crimes etc. IT Act has acted as deterrent provisions to deal with cyber threats and cyber-attacks.
  • Established National Critical Information Infrastructure Protection Centre (NCIIPC) for protection of critical information infrastructure in the country.
  • It formulated National Cyber Security policy (2013) framework to ensure a secure and resilient cyberspace for citizens, businesses and government.
  • Set up Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In) issues alerts and advisories regarding latest cyber threats and countermeasures on regular basis.
  • Launched Cyber Swachhta Kendra (which are Botnet Cleaning and Malware Analysis Centre) for detection of malicious programs and provide free tools for their removal.
  • Set up The Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), to issues alerts and advisories regarding latest cyber threats and countermeasures on regular basis. It conducts regular training programmes for network and system administrators and governments Chief Information Security Officers (CISOs) and critical sector organisations regarding securing the IT infrastructure and mitigating cyber attacks.
  • (CERT-In) has also entered into Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with its overseas counterpart agencies/Computer Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) for information exchange and collaboration for cyber security incident response.
  • Under Cyber Crime Prevention for Women and Children (CCPWC) Scheme, GoI released grants to States/UTs to set up a Cyber Forensic cum Training Laboratory and to organize capacity building programme on cyber awareness and cyber crime investigation.
  • A Division has been established under Ministry of Home Affairs to deal with Cyber and Information Security.

India’s Rare Life-Sized Stucco Sculpture unearthed in Telangana

Indian archaeologists recently unearthed a rare life-sized stucco sculpture from a Buddhist site at Phanigiri in Suryapet, Telangana.

Key Features of Stucco Sculpture

  • Till date it is the biggest stucco sculpture found in India. It is about 1.73 metres in height and 35 cm in width.
  • As per archaeologists, the life-size figurine represents a Bhodhisattva in Jathaka Chakra.
  • It was created nearly 1,700 years ago by craftsmen at Phanigiri at peak of Ikshavaku dynasty.

About Stucco

  • It is a material made from aggregates, binder, and water. It is applied wet and hardens in to a very dense solid.
  • Traditional stucco is made of sand, water and lime while Modern stucco is made of sand, water and Portland cement. To increase permeability and workability of modern stucco, Lime is added to it.
  • Uses: It is used as a decorative coating for walls and ceilings, and as a sculptural and artistic material in architecture.

Naruhito becomes Japan’s New Emperor marking beginning of Reiwa Era.

Naruhito became Japan’s new Emperor after historic abdication of his father Akihito. Emperor Naruhito’s ascending of Chrysanthemum Throne marked beginning of “Reiwa” era in Japan which takes effect from May 1, 2019.

Naruhito (59-year old) became Japan’s new Emperor after historic abdication (first in more than 200 years) of his father Akihito.

He is nation’s 126th emperor in world’s oldest hereditary monarchy (from 5th century).

Akihito (now 85 years old), took throne in 1989. He devoted his career correcting for a war fought in his father’s name. He even brought the aloof monarchy closer to people. He is first emperor in Japan’s modern history whose era did not have a war.

Japan has witnessed a large amount of changes from 1989 (when it last ushered in new era). Its major recent concern is battling sluggish growth, chronically low inflation coupled with ageing population. With population in continuous decline, Japan will soon become world’s first “ultra-aged” society, with 28% of people over 65 years of age.

 Reiwa

  • Stepping down of Emperor Akihito brings his “Heisei” era to an end and beginning of new “Reiwa” era with Naruhito’s accession.
  • The term “Reiwa” means “Beautiful Harmony”. It is derived from “Manyoshu”, an anthology of Japanese poems dating back 1,200 years that symbolises Japan’s profound public culture and long tradition.
  • It is the first time that the era name (also known as “gengo”) has been taken from a Japanese document, and not from Chinese classics, which is a break from more than 1,300 years old practice.
  • In a highly digitalized and globalized society while most Japanese prefer Western calendar over Japanese system, the era name is still widely used in government and business documents. Most elders often use it to identify their generations.

Chandrayaan-2

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) announced that India’s second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 is scheduled to be launched between July 9 and 16 2019. The Chandrayaan-2’s lander will touch down near Moon’s south pole on 6th September 2019.

  • It is India’s second lunar mission. It would be launched using India’s most powerful rocket GSLV MK-III from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota in Andhra Pradesh.
  • Mission Objective: Its payloads will collect scientific information on lunar (moon) topography, mineralogy, elemental abundance, lunar exosphere and signatures of hydroxyl and water-ice.
  • It has three modules (a detachable self-contained unit of a spacecraft) namely namely

– Orbiter,

-Lander named Vikram and

– Rover named Pragyan.

  • The Orbiter and Lander modules will be put together as an integrated module and accommodated inside GSLV MK-III a three stage launch vehicle equipped to lift heaviest satellites into orbit. The Rover is enclosed inside the Lander.
  • Once spacecraft is launched into earth bound orbit by GSLV MK-III, the integrated module will reach Moon orbit using Orbiter propulsion module.
  • Then, the Vikram Lander would separate from the Orbiter and will make soft landing at a predetermined site close to lunar South Pole.
  • The wheeled Pragyan Rover will roll out for carrying out scientific experiments on lunar surface.
  • Instruments are mounted on Lander and Orbiter for carrying out scientific experiments. The data collected by them would be relayed to earth.

Importance

  • Chandrayan-2 mission would land on southern pole of the moon, which is still unexplored by any of the countries. Therefore landing of spacecraft near lunar’s south pole would be historically significant as it would give ISRO opportunity to name that site on the moon.
  • All the three modules namely Orbiter, Lander (Vikram) & Rover (Pragyan) are developed by India.
  • Unlike Chandrayan-1 (India’s first lunar mission) launched using PSLV rocket and which involved only orbiting the moon, Chandryaan 2 would attempt a soft landing close to lunar south pole.

Masood Azhar listed as global terrorist after China lifts restrictions

The United Nation Security Council (UNSC) 1267 Committee designated Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar as a “global terrorist” after China lifted its prolonged hold on proposal to blacklist him. The move is a huge diplomatic win for India.

 It is also a symbolic victory for India in relation to terrorism spreading from groups in Pakistan as Masood Azhar is considered a blue-eyed boy of ISI (Pakistan’s spy agency).

Timeline

  • India first moved a proposal by itself to designate Azhar in 2009 but it didn’t get nod.
  • Later in 2016 India again moved the proposal with the P-3 (or group of three permanent UNSC members) the United States, the United Kingdom and France in UN’s 1267 Sanctions Committee to ban Masood Azhar.
  • In 2017, the P3 nations again moved a similar proposal but, on all occasions China, a veto-wielding permanent member of UN Security Council, blocked India’s proposal from being adopted by Sanctions Committee.
  • All big and small nations joined together for this and supported India’s move.
  • In 2019, P-3 moved a fresh proposal to declare Azhar as a global terrorist at UN in wake of the Pulwama terror attack for which Jaish-e-Mohammed had claimed responsibility. 40 CRPF personnel were killed in attack.
  • China again put a technical hold on P-3 proposal, and blocked it for the fourth time to designate Azhar.
  • Now, China lifted its technical hold after it found no objection to listing proposal by US, UK and France.

Masood Azhar

  • He is the mastermind behind attack on air base in Pathankot in January, 2016. He also claimed responsibility for 2019 Pilwama terror attack on CRPF personnel.
  • A “global terrorist” designation will subject Azhar to an assets freeze, travel ban and an arms embargo. It will be implemented by all UN member states.

United Nations Security Council 1267(UNSC) Committee

  • It was established when UNSC resolution 1267 was adopted unanimously on October 15, 1999. Listing of an individual or terrorist organization, helps in restricting their movement, financial penalties and assets freeze.
  • It is also known as AlQaida and Taliban Sanctions Committee.
  • It was initially established to oversee implementation of sanctions measures imposed on Taliban-controlled Afghanistan for its support of Osama bin Laden.
  • Later modified and strengthened by subsequent resolutions, it now is a consolidated list of people and entities which it has determined are associated with Al Qaeda or Taliban, and laws which must be passed within each member nation to implement sanctions. Since Masood Azhar has been linked to Osama bin Laden he can be sanctioned under it.
  • It comprises of all 15 members of UNSC and makes its decision secretly by consensus i.e. even if single member opposes there is no consensus. This is why China opposition to India’s bid was not allowing UNSC to designate Masood Azhar as an international terrorist.

Russia President Putin signs “Sovereign Internet” law

Russian President Vladimir Putin on 2 May 2019  signed into law a “sovereign internet” bill which will allow Russian authorities to isolate the country’s internet. The move expands Government Control of Internet, is being publicly denounced by all rights groups in country.

Key Highlights

  • The text of the law was published on 1 May 2019 but it will not come into effect until November.
  • Russian lawmakers support the new law as deeming it necessary to ensure security of Russia’s online networks.
  • It includes measures such as to create technology to monitor internet routing, to steer Russian internet traffic away from foreign servers, allegedly to prevent a foreign country from shutting it down.
  • In March 2019, Putin signed another controversial law which allowed courts to fine and briefly jail people who showed disrespect towards authorities, and also block media for publishing “fake news”.
  • These laws are part of an ongoing Kremlin clampdown on media and internet freedoms in which people are jailed even for sharing humorous memes.
  • The move would also target largely Telegram (a popular messaging app) widely used by Russians.

Criticism

  • It is being criticized as a vaguely worded bill which gives new censorship powers to government monitors and is aimed at restricting information and communication online.
  • It will allow greater surveillance by Russian intelligence agencies, and increase ability of state authorities to control information.

Reason

The government defended the legislation as a defensive move in case the United States would cut Russia off from the global Internet. Also, Russia must ensure its networks security after US President Donald Trump unveiled a new American cybersecurity strategy in 2018 which accused Russia of carrying out cyber-attacks with impunity.

The first part of 17th edition of bilateral exercise ‘Varuna’ 2019, is being conducted between Navies of India and France off the Goa coast from 1st to 10th May 2019.

Varuna: Indo-French joint naval exercise

  • The joint naval exercise was first initiated in 1983 and was named as ‘Varuna’ in 2001.
  • The objective behind conducting joint operations is to develop interoperability between two navies and to foster mutual cooperation by learning from each other’s best practices.
  • It plays a vital part in Indo-French strategic partnership.
  • It underlines shared interests and commitment of both nations in promoting maritime security.
  • It is in line with ‘Joint Strategic Vision of India-French Cooperation’ in Indian Ocean Region (IOR) signed by President Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his state visit to India in 2018.

VARUNA 2019

The year 2019 is 17th edition of exercise. It will be conducted in two phases, with

– first part of Varuna 19.1, conducted off the Goa coast from 1st to 10th May 19 and

-Second part, Varuna 19.2, is scheduled to be held at end of May 2019 in Djibouti.

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange sentenced in UK prison

Wikileaks co-founder Julian Assange was sentenced on 1 May 2019 to 50 weeks (about 1 year 1 month) in a British prison for breaching his bail by entering the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Key Facts

  • The 47-year-old Australian national was arrested when Ecuador terminated his asylum on 11th April 2019.
  • He spent about seven years holed up in Ecuadoran Embassy and was found guilty of breaching the UK’s Bail Act.
  • Ecuador granted him refuge in their London embassy in 2012 to avoid his extradition to Sweden on rape accusations.
  • He currently faces US federal conspiracy charges in response to allegations that he conspired with former US intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to download classified databases, which is one of the largest leaks of government secrets till date.
  • It is now up to UK to decide whether to extradite Assange to US where if found guilty and convicted he would face up to five years in US prison.

 Why a Clean Ganga Never Became a Reality

Rivers are a source of life and in India, this has become deadly resource due to rising levels of pollution in the rivers as tonnes of waste finds its way into them thereby polluting waters and further choking their natural flow. The pollution is a death sentence to all the flora and fauna who are part of the ecosystem. The Modi government did try to make some advance to address the issue but has miserably failed to record any progress.

Facts-

  • The pollution in Indian Rivers has gone up ever since 2015 as the Central Pollution Control Board has pinpointed 302 stretches of nearly 12,000 km in rivers across the country. This comprises 51 highly contaminated stretches where the quality of water is particularly hazardous.
  • The figures had shot up to 351 stretches in 2018 with 61 of them which were heavily polluted.
  • Water is a state subject under our Constitution. The river waters, however, are not confined to a particular state and they flow across these boundaries. Also, different ministries are handling different aspects of the management of river waters. E.g. the Environment Ministry is responsible for the cleaning of rivers, while the flow of river waters is managed by the Ministry of Water Resources. Thus, the National River Conservation Plan which brings the state governments together to tackle the issue of pollution of rivers is put forth by the Environment Ministry. Under the Modi government, the funding for overall NRCP was reduced due to the focus being shifted to River Ganga.
  • The governmental special focus on River Ganga is genuine as it considered as the most important river in India and also known as Holy to the Hindus. Ganga flows through 5 states in India namely, Uttarakhand, UP, Jharkhand, Bihar and finally West Bengal. Thus, a flagship programme was launched by the Modi government for Ganga rejuvenation. The National Ganga Council was also headed by the Prime Minister himself. It was under the Namame Gange programme that the government had promised to clean the river by 2019.
  • The latest data by the Central Pollution Control Board states that there is no recorded improvement in the quality of river water. In fact, the recent data suggests that the pollution in Ganga has increased after three rounds of testing of the biological water quality was taken up at different locations across the stretch of the river between 2014 and 2018. Also, out of the 61 live monitoring stations which had been set up in Ganga only 13 points were deemed fit for bathing in March 2019. This data has come after the claims by the government of absolute sanitation of about 4,465 villages on the banks of the river. The river despite being polluted does not have any faecal bacteria.

The governmental failure can be attributed to the fact that most of the funds earmarked for Namami Gange remain unspent i.e. the actual spending from a figure of Rs. 20,000 crores were far less. Even the Rs. 9000 crore which had been put aside in the last four years was not even spent half. The CAG report has added that the failure has been largely due to the shortage of staff and general mismanagement due to which the pollution kept mounting.

Pakistan to observe February 27 as ‘Operation Swift Retort’

Pakistan will observe the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) retaliatory action on 27th February 2019 against India as ‘Operation Swift Retort’.

Key Highlights

  • It was mentioned at PAF’s Air Staff presentation, which is held quarterly every year to take stock of operational preparedness of the force.
  • According to PAF, “swift response” demonstrates their firm resolve, capacity and capability in thwarting (opposing successfully) the criminal designs of adversary.
  • Although it alarmed that its response to any new “misadventure by the adversary” (in this case India) would be stronger than before.

Religious Freedom in India deteriorated in 2018: U.S. Commission

According to United States Commission on International Religious Freedom 2019 report, India saw an “overall deterioration of religious freedom conditions in 2018”. US Commission on International Religious Freedom is a bipartisan, independent federal government commission, created by International Religious Freedom Act of 1998.

  • India continues to remain a Tier II country. It is in same list since 2009.
  • Tier II countries are those in which during 2018 ‘violations engaged in or tolerated by government are serious and characterized by at least one of the elements of systematic, ongoing, and egregious (horrible)’. Other Tier 2 countries are Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Cuba, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Laos, Malaysia and Turkey.
  • India is facing declining religious freedom, apart from increased securitisation and politicisation of religion.
  • It is increasingly becoming difficult to separate religion and politics. It is a tactic which is sometimes intended by those who seek to discriminate against certain religious communities.
  • Over the last decade Minorities conditions have deteriorated in country. The reason is attributed to extremist groups, anti-conversion laws, cow-protection groups, mob lynching, concerns that millions from Assam will be incorrectly left out of NRC (National Register of Citizen) and a denying international NGOs registration.
  • The Chairperson of Commission, Tenzin Dorjee gave a dissenting view. He argued that India is an open society with a robust democratic and judiciary system where religious harmony exists. He cited “positive developments” like communal attacks dropped by 12 % in 2018 from 2017 levels, a 12% increase in budget of Ministry of Minority Affairs and Supreme Court’s push for a 11-point plan to counter mob violence.

Afghans call for ceasefire as “Loya Jirga” Peace Summit wraps up

Afghanistan on 29 April 2019 convened rare “Loya Jirga”, a four day long grand assembly or massive meeting for delegates from across country to discuss war and efforts of United States to forge a peace deal with Taliban. At the end of huge peace summit in Kabul, Afghan officials called for immediate and permanent ceasefire.

Loya Jirga

  • It is a centuries-old tradition in Afghanistan which is usually convened at times of national crisis or to settle national issues.
  • It means “grand council” in Pashto. It is a 4 day long grand assembly held at Kabul, Afghanistan.
  • Participants include ethnic, religious and tribal leaders, politicians and representatives from all over the country.
  • In past it has been used to approve new constitution, declare war, choose a new king, or to make social or political reforms.
  • In Loya Jirga 2019, more than 3,000 participants gathered under tight security to discuss possibility of peace, cease-fire and women’s rights in keeping with tenets of Islam.
  • Several committee leaders favored an immediate pause in violence, which still continues across Afghanistan even after various peace summits taking place.

Recent Developments

The Taliban, who were earlier not at talks, are meeting separately with US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad in Doha in May 1st week. It is seen as an effort to make a deal with US that could see withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan.

Apurvi Chandela

Indian shooting ace Apurvi Chandela attained world number one position in women’s 10metres Air Rifle event. Anjum Moudgil also now holds world number two rank in 10metres Air Rifle after winning her mixed team gold at ISSF World Cup in Beijing, China.

Apurvi Singh Chandela

  • She is an Indian sport shooter from Jaipur who competes in 10 metre air rifle event.
  • She is among five Indian shooters who have already secured 2020 Olympics quotas for India.
  • She held a world record score of 252.9 and clinched gold at International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup held at New Delhi in February 2019.
  • She was a gold medallist at 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Game, UK and a bronze medal winner in next edition of Commonwealth at Gold Coast.
  • She won a bronze medal in 10m mixed rifle event, in 2018 Asian Games held at Indonesia.

Kumar Sangakkara to become 1st Non-British President of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC)

Sri Lanka’s former captain Kumar Sangakkara will become first Non-British president of Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC).

Key Highlights

  • He will take up charge of president post on 1st October 2019 and will serve for 12 months period.
  • His tenure at Lord’s will witness two England test matches against West Indies and Pakistan and also the launch of ‘The Hundred’, an England and Wales Cricket Board’s new 100-ball cricket format.

Background

Now 41-year-old, Kumar Sangakkara was awarded Honorary Life Membership of the MCC in 2012. Later, he joined MCC’s World Cricket committee and remains an active member since then.

Marylebone Cricket Club

It was founded in 1787 and has been based at Lord’s (a cricket ground in London, UK). MCC owns Lord’s since 1814. It is the guardian (or custodian) of the Laws of the game.

Guided Missile Destroyer INS Imphal Launched

The Indian Navy has launched its third guided missile destroyer, INS Imphal at Mazgaon Docks as part of its Project 15B.

INS Imphal

  • INS Imphal has been designed indigenously by the Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design, New Delhi.
  • INS Imphal spans 163 metres in length, 17.4 metres at beam, and launch weight of 3037 tonnes can displace 7300 tonnes.
  • INS Imphal is propelled by our gas turbines to achieve speeds in excess of 30 knots.
  • INS Imphal destroyers incorporate new design concepts for improved survivability, sea keeping, stealth and ship manoeuvrability.
  • Enhanced stealth features have been achieved through shaping of hull and use of radar transparent deck fitting, which make these ships difficult to detect. INS Imphal ships will be equipped to carry and operate two multiple role helicopters.

Arab League pledges $100m to Palestine

The Arab League has pledged to pay $100 million a month to the Palestinian National Authority to plug the resulting gaps since Israel has blocked tax transfers earlier in the year. The Arab League has taken the measure to ensure Palestine can be isolated from the political and financial pressure it faces.

Why did Israel freeze tax transfers to Palestine?

In February 2019, Israel decided to put into effect on Sunday a law passed by the Israeli Parliament in July 2018 calling to freeze funds transferred to the Palestinian Authority.

Israel had accused Palestine of transferring the money provided by Israel to terrorists who were detained in Israel as well as to their families and to released prisoners.

But Palestine sees the transfer as a kind of welfare system for families who have lost a breadwinner. Israel which collects taxes on behalf of the Palestine Authority says that the terror salaries are encouraging further violence.

Arab League

Arab League is a regional organization of Arab states in and around North Africa, the Horn of Africa and Arabia. The league aims to “draw closer the relations between member States and co-ordinate collaboration between them, to safeguard their independence and sovereignty, and to consider in a general way the affairs and interests of the Arab countries”.

At present, the League has 22 members but Syria’s participation has been suspended since November 2011, as a consequence of government repression during the Syrian Civil War.

Iran and Pakistan to set up a Joint Border Reaction Force

Iran and Pakistan have agreed to set up a joint border reaction force following to counter the increasing number of deadly attacks by militant groups on their frontier.

Border Reaction Force

  • Border rapid reaction force would be set up for combatting terrorism since increased tensions over attacks on both sides of the frontier is causing heavy casualties.
  • The Iran-Pakistan border skirts the volatile southeastern Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan which has been the scene of frequent attacks on Iran’s security forces.

Iran- Pakistan relations have been strained in recent months and both sides have been accusing each other of not doing enough to stamp out militants allegedly sheltering across the border.

Hence together with increasing cooperation between border forces and intelligence agencies, both nations have decided to form a joint quick reaction force on the border of the two countries for fighting terrorism.

Departments to Conduct Review of Govt Guarantees

The Ministry of Finance has asked all the departments to undertake a review of government guarantees given by respective ministries to their Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) or entities.

Review of Government Guarantees

  • The review will look into aspects like whether the discharge of repayment obligations or interest obligations as per terms of the loan agreement and covenants and conditions met.
  • Further, the details of CPSEs or entities on due guarantee fee paid on time to the government should also be submitted.

Why there is a review of Government Guarantees?

  • Guarantees are contingent liabilities which have the potential to impact the financial performance of the government.
  • Further, the FRBM Rules stipulates that the government cannot guarantee more than 0.5 per cent of the GDP of the respective financial year to CPSE/entities.

Hence the Ministry of Finance has requested all ministries and departments to prioritised guarantee requirement for 2019-20 to include only such proposals where the loan agreement can be signed and guarantee agreement can be executed during the year.

US to End Sanctions Waivers to India

Reports suggest that the US could terminate the sanctions waivers it granted to some importers of Iranian oil after it re-imposed sanctions on Iran last year.

Ending of Sanction Waiver

  • Reports indicate that the US has already communicated to seven countries viz. Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Italy, Greece, China and India- that they will no longer be exempt from US sanctions if they continue to import oil from Iran after their waivers end on May 2.
  • The ending of sanction waiver is part of the US strategy to exert maximum pressure and isolate Iran.
  • The US has stated it wants to deprive the outlaw regime of the funds that it has used to destabilise the Middle East for decades and incentivise Iran to behave like a normal country.

The news of the ending of sanctions waiver exerted upward pressure on global prices of crude. Further. US has stated that the US along with Saudi Arabia and UAE have agreed to take timely action to assure that global demand is met as all Iranian oil is removed from the market.

SAECK

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has distributed over 3,100 special kits SAECKs for collecting blood and semen samples, besides other evidence, to carry out immediate investigations into sexual assault cases among states and Union Territories.

  • Sexual Assault Evidence Collection Kits (SAECKs) or ‘rape investigation kits’ are specially designed kits to carry out the immediate medico-legal investigation.
  • SAECKs also aid in furnishing evidence in sexual assault and rape cases.
  • The Kit comprises of essential items that will aid in furnishing evidence such as blood and semen samples in sexual assault and rape cases, thus helping the prosecution to gather evidence against the accused.
  • These kits are also expected to help law enforcement agencies in ensuring effective investigation in a timely manner for better prosecution and convictions in sexual assault cases.
  • The kit comprises of a set of test tubes and bottles, which mention contents and specifications together with instructions on collection of evidence from the crime scene.

The SAECKs are being procured with financial support under the Central government’s Nirbhaya Fund and the Ministry of Home Affairs has procured 3,120 SAECKs and distributed these to the states and UTs.

Dentists to be allowed to practice as General Physicians

Government’s Think tank Niti Ayog has agreed to the proposal of the Dental Council of India which had sought to allow dentists to practice as general physicians after a bridge course.

  

The proposal was in the backdrop of the call by the Prime Minister’s office to explore unconventional methods to address the shortage of doctors in the country, particularly in rural areas.

Proposal of Dental Council of India

The Dental Council of India had sent a similar proposal to the Medical Council of India last year. The proposal sought:

  • A bridge course of 3 years post Bachelor of Dental Science (BDS).
  • The admission would be either through a common entrance exam or through cumulative marks secured in the BDS course, or even a combination.
  • The syllabus curriculum, scheme of examination, method of evaluation, degrees and registration all these criteria will be the same as recommended for MBBS.

IMA opposes the Proposal

Indian Medical Association has vehemently opposed the proposal. Stating the figures the IMA has said that 63,250 MBBS graduates come out of 494 medical colleges every year and India has only 23,729 post-graduate seats. Unemployment among medical graduates is a cause for concern. The IMA has called the policy has flawed.

The 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings

Were a series of coordinated terrorist attacks that occurred on 21 April 2019, Easter Sunday, when three Christianchurches across Sri Lanka and three luxury hotels in the commercial capital Colombo were targeted in a series of suicide bombings.

 Later that day, there were smaller explosions at a housing complex in Dematagoda and a guest house in Dehiwala.

At least 359 people were killed including at least 39 foreign nationals[15] and three police officers, and at least 500 were injured.

The church bombings were carried out during Easter services in NegomboBatticaloa and Colombo; the hotels bombed were the Shangri-LaCinnamon GrandKingsbury and Tropical Inn.

 A minor explosion was also recorded in Savoy Cinema, Colombo during the raids conducted by police officers on 24 April 2019.

According to government officials, all seven of the suicide bombers in the near-simultaneous attacks were Sri Lankan citizens associated with National Thowheeth Jama’ath, a local militant Islamist group with suspected foreign ties, previously known for attacks against Buddhists.

 State Minister of DefenceRuwan Wijewardene said in parliament that initial investigations had revealed that the attack was in retaliation for the attack against Muslims in Christchurchon 15 March 2019.

 However, analysts believe the attacks to have been planned before the Christchurch attack.

  

Three of the major targets. From left: St. Anthony’s ShrineThe KingsburyShangri-La Hotel

On 23 April 2019, Amaq News Agency, a propaganda outlet for the militantIslamic terrorism organisation, Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), claimed that the bombers were ISIL fighters answering its call to attack citizens of the coalition which has intervened against the group .

 However, Sri Lanka was not part of the anti-ISIL coalition and the overwhelming majority of those killed were Sri Lankan citizens .

Localisation under FAME-II Scheme

The Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee of the National Mission for Transformative Mobility led by Niti Aayog chief executive officer Amitabh Kant has decided to incorporate localisation conditions to avail benefits under the FAME-II Scheme.

The Inter-Ministerial Committee of the National Mission For Transformative Mobility was formed following a cabinet decision to promote clean and sustainable mobility initiatives in the country. It consists of secretary of nine stakeholder ministries and director general of the Bureau of Indian Standards as its members.

Decision of the Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee

  • The steering committee has mandated that only companies that meet the 50% localisation threshold will be eligible for the incentives that will be available under the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid and Electric Vehicles (FAME-II) scheme to boost electric mobility as well as the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
  • The decision has been taken to ensure that the tax payer’s money is not used to subsidise imports and encourage local manufacturing.

In the discussions held with the automotive manufacturers while the two-wheeler makers have expressed their inability in meeting the criteria for 50% localisation citing their limitations, the makers of electric buses have agreed to localise.

NASA Spots 1st Molecule of the Universe.

The scientists have detected the first molecule to ever form from stray atoms in the universe. The first such molecule was helium hydride, a combination of helium and hydrogen. The discovery is a first step in unlocking the mystery of the universe’s chemistry.

About the Discovery

  • The research was published in the journal Nature.
  • The researchers used the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) SOFIA, the world’s largest airborne observatory, to detect helium hydride in NGC 7027, a planetary nebula about 3,000 light-years away from Earth.

SOFIA

Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) is a Boeing 747SP jetliner modified to carry a 106-inch diameter telescope.

Earth Day 2019

Earth Day 2019 observed on 22nd April 2019 marks the 49th annual Earth Day. Earth Day 2019 is observed with the theme Protect Our Species.

The theme Protect Our Species aims to highlight that nature’s gifts to our planet are the millions of species. But unfortunately, human beings have irrevocably upset the balance of nature. As a result, the world is facing the greatest rate of extinction and the rapid extinction of species in our world today is the result of human activity.

The Earth Day 2019 through the theme Protect our Species urges people to:

  • Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.
  • Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats.
  • Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values.
  • Encourage individual actions such as adopting a plant-based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use.

Earth Day

Earth Day was formally proposed by John McConnell at UNESCO conference on Environment in 1969. Later in 1971, a proclamation was signed to observe international Earth Day annually on the Vernal Equinox by UN Secretary-General U Thant and was first celebrated in 1970.

Since April 22nd  it is celebrated every year in more than 193 countries and the celebrations are coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.

Earth Day celebrations are a way to remind humans of the environmental deterioration caused by them and advise them to turn off the electronic devices that are not in use or taking public transport to reduce the emission levels. It recognises that Earth and its ecosystems provide its inhabitants with life and sustenanc

Asian Tea Alliance

Asian Tea Alliance, a union of five tea-growing and consuming countries was launched in Guizhou in China. The members of the alliance are the Indian Tea Association, China Tea Marketing Association, Indonesian Tea Marketing Association, Sri Lanka Tea Board and Japan Tea Association.

Objectives of the Alliance

  • To work towards enhancing tea trade, cultural exchanges, technology exchanges as well as globally promoting tea.
  • To work towards enhancing global consumption of tea, while creating a sustainability agenda for the future of Asian tea.

Earlier, Indian Tea Association and China Tea Marketing Association had signed an MoU to promote green and black tea consumption in major tea markets of Europe, the US, Russia and West Asia, besides India and China.

Referendum on Constitutional Amendments in Egypt

The Egyptians are voting for the constitutional amendments which were overwhelmingly approved by the Egyptian Parliament.

Amendments Proposed

  • The amendments extend presidential terms from four to six years.
  • The amendments incorporate a transitional article which would give the “current president” the right to two new terms totalling 12 years.
  • The president would be allowed to pick the heads of judicial bodies and to oversee a new council charged with looking after the affairs of judges.
  • The amendments confer a political role for the army to “protect” the constitution, democracy and the “civilian” nature of the state — code for preventing rule by Islamists.
  • The amendments introduce one or more vice presidents, revive the Senate and enshrine a 25 per cent quota for women in parliament’s lower, legislative chamber.

Criticisms against the Amendments

  • The sweeping constitutional changes show that Egypt is sinking deeper into dictatorship even though the supporters insist they are crucial for cementing stability.
  • The amendments effectively serve to destroy the constitutional separation of powers, concentrating all authority into the president’s hands and solidifying his authoritarian rule.
  • The amendment would formalise the military’s already considerable influence over public life.

The referendum comes eight years after a pro-democracy uprising ended Hosni Mubarak’s three-decade autocratic rule, and nearly six years after el-Sisi led a popular military overthrow Egypt’s first freely elected but divisive Islamist president, Mohammed Morsi.

Services lift Santosh Trophy Football

The Services have lifted the Santosh Trophy, beating Punjab 1-nil in the final at Ludhiana. On their way to finals, Punjab had defeated Goa 2-1 and Services had defeated Karnataka 4-3 in the semis via a penalty shootout.

Santosh Trophy Football

The Santosh Trophy is a football knock-out competition contested by the regional state associations and government institutions under the All India Football Federation (AIFF) which the Football governing body in India.

Santosh Trophy tournament is held every year with 31 teams divided into groups t qualified for the tournament proper through the preliminary round.

The tournament started in 1941 and is named after the president of the Indian Football Association (West Bengal’s football association) at the time, Sir Manmatha Nath Roy Chowdhary of Santosh. The runner-up trophy was donated by an ex-IFA president, S.K. Gupta. The trophy is known as the Kamla Gupta Trophy. The third-place trophy, the Sampangi Cup, was donated by the Karnataka State Football Association.

 Seychelles President Danny Faure’s underwater speech

Seychelles President Danny Faure delivered a speech from deep below the ocean’s surface. Seychelles President made a global plea for stronger protection of the Oceans which are beating blue heart of our planet.

The underwater speech comes at a time when many island nations including Seychelles threatened by global warming. Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands in the Indian Ocean, off East Africa. Small island nations like Seychelles are among the most vulnerable to the rise in sea levels caused by climate change.

The speech was made during a visit to an ambitious British-led science expedition, Nekton Missionexploring the Indian Ocean depths.

Nekton Mission

Nekton Mission is aimed at enhancing the humanities knowledge and understanding of the world’s oceans to speed up the protection and governance of our last great wilderness, the deep ocean.

Nekton is an independent, not-for-profit research institute working in collaboration with the University of Oxford.

Nekton’s missions are undertaken with host nations and combine scientific research, capacity development, ocean governance and public engagement.

Nekton Mission in the Indian Ocean named First Descent is a series of expeditions to explore and conserve the world’s most unknown and least protected ocean, the Indian Ocean.

The data from the Nekton Mission will be used to help Seychelles expand its policy of protecting 30% of its national waters by 2020.

Spacex to Launch NASA’s Asteroid-Smashing Mission

NASA has announced that SpaceX will fly its Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) planetary-defence mission. The total launch cost for NASA is estimated to be about $69 million.

DART

Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) is a planned space probe that will demonstrate the kinetic effects of crashing an impactor spacecraft into an asteroid moon for planetary defense purposes. The mission is intended to test whether a spacecraft impact could successfully deflect an asteroid on a collision course with Earth.

DART Planetary-Defense Mission

  • DART planetary-defence mission will be will launched by the Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in June 2021.
  • The spacecraft will slam into “Didymoon,” the 540-foot-wide (165 meters) satellite of the near-Earth asteroid Didymos which is located at about 4 million miles from Eart in October 2022.
  • Scientists will observe the impact with telescopes and measure the change in the Didymoon’s orbit around the asteroid.
  • Scientists hope to move it by just a fraction of a per cent off its path, which is enough to deflect any future asteroids off course since Didymos poses no threat to Earth.

DART won’t be the first spacecraft to wallop an asteroid. Earlier this month, Japan’s Hayabusa2probe smashed a copper cannonball into the space rock Ryugu, to unearth pristine subsurface material for study.

Ministry of External Affairs sets up Indo-Pacific Wing.

The Ministry of External Affairs has set up an Indo-Pacific division in the foreign office. The Indo-pacific division is intended to give a coherent architecture to the Indo-Pacific policy articulated by PM Narendra Modi at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2018.

Indo-Pacific Wing

  • The Indo-Pacific Wing is currently headed by joint secretary Vikram Doraiswami.
  • The Indo-Pacific Wing is a big step by the government and it is expected to give thrust to the Indo-Pacific centred policymaking.
  • The Indo-Pacific Wing integrates the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), ASEAN region and the Quad.

The Indo-Pacific diplomacy of India India has repeatedly placed ASEAN at the centre of its policy. Even the US has recently renamed its Pacific Command to the Indo-Pacific Command as it seeks to give teeth to its Indo-Pacific policy.

Pulitzer Prizes 2019

The winners of the 2019 Pulitzer Prizes have been announced. The winners in the category of Letters, Drama and Music are listed below:

  • Fiction: The Overstory, by Richard Powers (W.W. Norton).
  • Drama: Fairview, by Jackie Sibblies Drury.
  • History: Frederick Douglass: Prophet of Freedom, by David W. Blight (Simon & Schuster).
  • Biography: The New Negro: The Life of Alain Locke, by Jeffrey C. Stewart (Oxford University Press).
  • Poetry: Be With, by Forrest Gander (New Directions).
  • General Nonfiction: Amity and Prosperity: One Family and the Fracturing of America, by Eliza Griswold (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
  • Music: Prism, by Ellen Reid.

Singapore Open 2019

The winners of the Singapore Open 2019 are listed below:

  • Men’s Singles: Kento Momota (Japan)
  • Women’s Singles: Tai Tzu-ying (Taiwan)
  • Men’s Doubles: Takeshi Kamura and  Keigo Sonoda (Japan)
  • Women’s Doubles: Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara (Japan)
  • Mixed Doubles: Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai (Thailand)

The 2019 Singapore Open badminton tournament which took place at Singapore Indoor Stadium in Singapore had a total purse of $355,000.

NASA’s Exoplanet Mission Finds 1st Earth-Size Alien World.

The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) Mission of NASA has discovered its first Earth-size alien world.

About the Discovery

  • The planet, HD 21749c, is about 89 per cent of Earth’s diameter.
  • The planet orbits HD 21749, a K-type star with about 70 per cent of the Sun’s mass located 53 light years away in the southern constellation Reticulum.
  • HD 21749c is the second planet TESS has identified in the system.
  • HD 21749c is the 10th confirmed planet discovered by TESS, and hundreds of additional candidates are now being studied.
  • HD 21749c doesn’t seem to have good life-hosting potential as it circles its host star very tightly, completing one orbit every 7.8 Earth days, and is therefore probably quite hot.

TESS which was launched just about a year ago is already a game-changer in the planet-hunting business. TESS total tally is likely to end up topping that of Kepler has found about 70% of the 4,000 exoplanets discovered to date.

Mithali Raj

Cricketer Mithali Raj has been named as the goodwill ambassador of the Indian team for the Street Child Cricket World Cup. She will join former captain Saurav Ganguly and IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals in supporting the team India for the Street Child Cricket World Cup.

Street Child Cricket World Cup

The first ever Cricket World Cup for street children will take place ahead of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup in England and Wales.

Scientists Discover Oil-Eating Bacteria at the Bottom of the Ocean

Scientists from Ocean University in Qingdao, China and the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England have discovered a bacteria that eats oil.

Oil-Eating Bacteria

  • The oil eating bacteria was discovered in the western Pacific Ocean’s 10,994-meter-deep Mariana Trench.
  • The team from collected samples from the trench. In the samples, they found microorganisms that eat compounds similar to those in oil.

The expedition was organised by marine explorer and film director James Cameron.

Scientists Print First 3D Heart Using Patient’s Biological Materials

Researchers from the Tel Aviv University, Israel have printed the world’s first 3D vascularised engineered heart using a patient’s own cells and biological materials.

Why this is significant?

The 3D Heart was made from human cells and patient-specific biological materials. During the process, the patient-specific biological materials served as the bio-inks (substances made of sugars and proteins that can be used for 3D printing of complex tissue models).

Even though people had managed to 3D-print the structure of a heart in the past, but those attempts were not with cells or with blood vessels. The heart produced by researchers is about the size of a rabbit’s.

Even though many challenges remain before fully working 3D printed hearts would be available for transplant into patients. This successful demonstration underlines the potential for engineering personalized tissue and organ replacement in the future.

The challenge now before the researchers is to teach the printed hearts “to behave” like real ones. The cells are currently able to contract but do not yet have the ability to pump. Then they can undertake transplantation into animal models. When successful, there will be organ printers in the finest hospitals around the world, and these procedures will be conducted routinely.

GSLV Ph-4

The Union Cabinet has approved the continuation of the ongoing Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) programme phase-4 consisting of five rocket flights during 2021-2024.

  • The GSLV phase four will enable the launch of two-tonne class of satellites for geo-imaging, navigation, data relay communication and space sciences.
  • The total fund requirement for phase four has been pegged at Rs 2729.13 crores. The cost includes the cost of five Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicles (GSLVs), essential facility augmentation, programme management, and launch campaign, along with the additional funds required for meeting the scope of the ongoing programme.
  • The GSLV continuation programme is expected to meet the launch requirement of satellites for providing critical satellite navigation services, data relay communication for supporting the Indian human spaceflight programme and the next interplanetary mission to Mars.
  • The continuation programme will meet the demand for the launch of satellites at a frequency up to two launches per year.

The GSLV continuation programme was initially sanctioned in 2003, and two phases have been completed and the third phase is in progress and expected to be completed by the fourth quarter of 2020-21.

Raavana-1

Sri Lanka’s first satellite Raavana-1 was launched into space from NASA’s Flight Facility on Virginia’s east shore.

  • Raavana 1 weights around 1.05 kg and is 1000 cubic centimetres in size.
  • The minimum lifespan of the satellite is around one and a half years and it is expected to be active for five years.
  • Raavana 1 satellite was designed and built at the Kyushu Institute of Technology in Japan by two Sri Lankan research engineers.

The launch of Raavana-1 marks Sri Lanka’s entry into the global space age.

President Trump vetoes Bill to end U.S. support for Yemen War… 

President Donald Trump has vetoed the resolution from the US Congress which directed him to end U.S. support for the civil war in Yemen.

President trump has stated the following reasons for vetoing the US Congress resolution:

  • Yemen is at a breaking point as 10 million people on the brink of famine. There are more than 100 civilian casualties per week, and Yemenis are more likely to be killed at home than in any other structure.
  • U.S. support for the war between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and Iran-aligned Houthi rebels was necessary to protect the safety of the more than 80,000 Americans who reside in certain coalition countries.

President Trump has called the resolution as an unnecessary and a dangerous attempt to weaken his constitutional authorities. He further stressed that the resolution endangers the lives of American citizens and brave service members, both today and in the future.

It was the second veto during his presidency, earlier he had vetoed a congressional resolution which was aimed to reverse the border emergency President Trump had declared in order to secure more funding for his wall between the United States and Mexico.

Benjamin Netanyahu Appointed as Prime Minister of Israel

President of Israel Reuven Rivlin has formally handed Benjamin Netanyahu his letter of appointment to start building a coalition government following last week’s general election.

President has stated that during his consultation with the political parties elected to the incoming 120-seat parliament 65 MPs have recommended you Benjamin Netanyahu as PM whereas 45 members supported his main rivals from the Blue and White alliance led by ex-military chief Benny Gantz and the 10 members of the Arab parties recommending nobody.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to build a coalition of 65 seats comprising Likud (35 seats), the ultra-Orthodox Shas (8), United Torah Judaism (8), Union of Right-Wing Parties (5), Yisrael Beytenu (5) and Kulanu (4). The opposition is expected to comprise Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party (35), Labor (6), Hadash-Ta’al (6), Meretz (4) and Ra’am-Balad (4).

For the fifth time, Benjamin Netanyahu is going ahead with the task of putting together the government of Israel. Netanyahu will have 28 days to form a government, with the possibility of a two-week extension at the discretion of the president.

Nepal’s First Ever Satellite Launched into Space

Nepal’s first satellite NepaliSat-1 was launched into space from the Virginia-based station of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the US.

NepaliSat-1

  • NepaliSat-1 will start rotating around the Earths orbit to collect information about the country’s topography and Earths magnetic field.
  • The satellite also bears the Nepal flag and logo of  Nepal Academy of Science and Technology (NAST).
  • The satellite is equipped with a 5MP camera to capture Nepal’s topography and a magnetometer to collect data related to the Earth’s magnetic field.

Along with NepaliSat-1, Sri Lanka’s first satellite, Raavana 1was also launched into space. Raavana 1 marked the entry of Sri Lanka into space.

Mueller Report Released

The United States Department of Justice has released the special counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The report looks into alleged Russian collusion in the 2016 Presidential elections which saw incumbent US President Donald Trump rise to power.

What did the Mueller Report Say?

The report titled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election” makes the following observations:

  • The Report says that it was unable to clear US President Donald Trump in the matter, stating that the President’s action and intent “present difficult issues that prevent us from conclusively determining that no criminal conduct occurred.
  • President Trump’s campaign team knew they would benefit from Russia’s illegal actions to influence the action, but did not take criminal steps to help.
  • The report states that the Russian government-sponsored efforts to illegally interfere with the 2016 presidential election, but did not find that the Trump campaign or other Americans colluded in those schemes.

The report has stated that Mueller declined to subpoena the President because it would “delay” the investigation.

Antares Rocket takes off for International Space Station

Antares rocket built by Northrop Grumman lifted off from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore carrying the Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft to the International Space Station.

Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft

The spacecraft has successfully separated from the rocket and was flying on its way to the space station. Key facts about the Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft:

  • The Spacecraft carried about 7,600 pounds of supplies and scientific experiments to the station.
  • Few of the instruments will be used to examine astronaut’s health in microgravity. The instrument will perform on-orbit detection and quantification of cell surface molecules on a per cell and assess soluble molecule concentration in a liquid sample such as blood, saliva, or urine, thus sparing sample freezing and storing.
  • The experiments will also scrutinise ageing-like changes in many astronauts on the space station, including changes to their arteries, and examine effects of spaceflight on the function of antibody production and immune memory.

A NASA study has stated that long-duration spaceflight may change astronauts’ gene expression and pose other health risks. Hence it is necessary to take actions to prevent any damage to astronauts in a planned three-year space journey to Mars in 2030s.

Navy gets Virtual Reality Centre for Designing Warships

Navy chief Admiral Sunil Lanba inaugurated state-of-the-art Virtual Reality Centre (VRC) in New Delhi. The Virtual Reality Centre is expected to provide a major boost to indigenous warship design capabilities of the Navy.

Virtual Reality Centre

  • The VRC is housed at the Directorate of Naval Design (Surface Ship Group).
  • It seeks to provide impetus to self-reliance and greater fillip to warship construction under the Make in India initiative of the Indian government.
  • The VRC centre will facilitate collaborative design reviews for continuous interaction between designers and end-users to improve design and ergonomics onboard warships.

PM Narendra Modi Honoured

Russia has awarded PM Narendra Modi with ‘Order of St Andrew the Apostle’ to PM Narendra Modi for promoting the bilateral special and privileged strategic partnership.

The statement by the Russian Government has stated that Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi was decorated with the Order of St Andrew the Apostle – the highest state decoration of Russia – for exceptional services in promoting special and privileged strategic partnership between the Russian Federation and the Republic of India and friendly relations between the Russian and Indian peoples.

Bamboo rice shows up in Odisha

Nearly after four decades, Bamboo rice has shown up in Odisha. The state of Odisha had last witnessed Bamboo rice in 1979.

Harvesting Bamboo Rice

The Forest Authorities of Chandaka-Dampara Wildlife Sanctuary in Cuttack district have opened up the gates for the forest dwellers to collect the Bamboo rice. Whenever the bamboo rice shows up, it would be accompanied by the increase in the rat population which starts running over the bamboo rice. Hence to avoid the menace the forest authorities have allowed forest dwellers to harvest Bamboo rice.

Bamboo rice grows in a  tree at the end of its lifespan.
On average, A bamboo tree lives for 40 years and hence bamboo rice is a bit costly compared to conventional rice
Health benefits
1. It has ability to reduce joint pains and diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and swelling from wounds. ( My mom is using it and she told me that there is a significant reduction of pain in knees)
2. Reduces sugar level notably once you consume for a week.
3. Rich in antioxid

Further, the authorities are also planning to purchase bamboo rice from the forest dwellers to germinate bamboo trees in other areas of the state.

UNSC Votes to end Peacekeeping Operations in Haiti

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) voted unanimously voted for the resolution to completely end its peacekeeping operations in Haiti on October 15,2019 .

Republic of Haiti is at Caribbean Sea. It occupies the western three-eighths of the island, which it shares with the Dominican Republic.

 Haiti is 27,750 square kilometres (10,714 sq mi) in size and has an estimated 10.8 million people, making it the most populous country in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) .

It is a founding member of the United NationsOrganization of American States(OAS), Association of Caribbean States .

 Most recently, in February 2004, a coup d’état originating in the north of the country forced the resignation and exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

A provisional government took control with security provided by the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti(MINUSTAH).

The resolution also called for establishing a political mission to support government efforts to promote order and development in Haiti situated in Latin America.

UN Peace Keeping Mission in Haiti

U.N. Peace Keeping Mission in Haiti was known as MINUSTAH, a French acronym which stood for “The United Nations is not leaving.”

MINUSTAH began operations in Haiti in 2004, when a violent rebellion swept the country and forced then-President Jean-Bertrand Aristide out of power and into exile. The goals of MINUSTAH included restoring security and rebuilding the shattered political institutions.

The mission with additional help from the U.S. and other nations is credited with stabilizing the country, particularly after the January 2010 earthquake, and building up the national police force.

But the Peace Keeping Mission was viewed as an affront to national sovereignty. The Mission was also blamed for sexual exploitation. a UN report has even documented the sexual exploitation of nine children on the island from 2004-2007 at the hands of at least 134 peacekeepers. The Mission was also seen as responsible for inadvertently introducing the deadly cholera bacteria to the country

UNSC Resolution

UN military peacekeepers had already left Haiti on October 2017. But a stabilization group had stayed back to train national police, help the government strengthen judicial and legal institutions and monitor human rights.

The UNSC resolution gives a final six-month period for such operations and asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to plan a political mission.

CMFRI, ISRO ink MoU to protect Smaller Wetlands

The Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) and the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) have signed an MoU to map, validate and protect smaller wetlands in the coastal region and restore them through coastal livelihood programmes.

Smaller wetlands (which were smaller than 2.25 hectares) cover an area of more than 5 lakh hectares across the country, with Kerala alone having as many as 2,592 such wetlands.

About the MoU

  • As per the MoU, a mobile app and a centralised web portal with a complete database of wetlands in the country which were smaller than 2.25 hectares will be developed.
  • The two institutes will identify and demarcate the wetlands and restore the degraded ones through suitable livelihood options such as coastal aquaculture.
  • A mobile app will be used for real-time monitoring of the wetlands and giving advisories to the stakeholders and the coastal people.
  • The collaboration is part of the national framework for fisheries and wetlands recently developed under the National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA).
  • As per the agreement, National Wetland Atlas which has been already developed by the Space Applications Centre of ISRO will be updated with real-time data of physical, chemical and biological parameters of the wetlands to be provided by the CMFRI.
  • The collaboration will aid in developing a comprehensive wetland information system which could facilitate the village-level wetland advisories to the local people by scientific communities.

The National Innovations in Climate Resilient Agriculture (NICRA) is aimed at finding ways and means to mitigate the impact of climate change on marine fisheries and coastal region.

Homo Luzonensis

Researchers in the Philippines have discovered a species of ancient human Homo Luzonensis which was previously unknown to science.

Homo Luzonensis

  • Homo Luzonensis lived on the island of Luzon at least 50,000 to 67,000 years ago.
  • The hominin was identified from a total of seven teeth and six small bones and teeth from two adults and one child found in a cave on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.
  • Homo Luzonensis is boasted as an eclectic mix of features comparable to different species of hominins.
  • Homo luzonensis curved finger and toe bones portray a clear difference between the newly discovered species and most members of the Homo genus.

The discovery could mean primitive human relatives left Africa and made it all the way to South-East Asia, something not previously thought possible.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy Rocket Launches on First Commercial Flight.

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket successfully lifted off marking the towering booster’s second flight and its first commercial launch. For the first time, all three of the rocket’s reusable boosters returned safely to Earth.

The rocket deployed an advanced communications satellite, Arabsat-6A which will provide internet and communications services to residents of the ……Middle East, Africa and parts of Europe.

Falcon Heavy Rocket weighs more than 3.1 million pounds and is made up of three reusable boosters based on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, which has been ferrying cargo to the International Space Station since 2012.

SpaceX

SpaceX is a private American aerospace manufacturer and space transportation services company headquartered in Hawthorne, California. It was founded in 2002 by entrepreneur Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs. SpaceX has developed Falcon launch vehicle family and the Dragon spacecraft family to deliver payloads into Earth orbit.

Cologne Boxing World Cup 2019

India finished its campaign at the Cologne Boxing World Cup 2019 with a haul of five medals. The Cologne Boxing World Cup 2019 was held at Cologne, Germany.

Indian Medal Tally

  • Meena Kumari Maisnam (54kg) won the only gold medal for India in the tournament.
  • It was the only bout of the tournament for the Manipur pugilist Meena Kumari as she had been directly placed in the final due to a smaller draw.
  • Youth world champion Sakshi (57kg) and India Open gold medallist Pwilao Basumatary (64kg) lost their final bouts and finished with silver medals.
  • Pinki Rani (51kg) and Parveen (60kg) won bronze medals after losing their semi-final bouts.

Cologne Boxing World Cup earlier known as Chemistry Cup witnessed participation from more than 20 nations and 160 boxers in seven women and ten men weight classes. It is one of the strongest international events in Europe with nearly 50 years of traditions. The first edition was held in 1970.

Israel’s Beresheet Mission Crashes on the Moon.

World’s first privately funded lunar Mission Beresheet crashed on the Moon. Beresheet crashed during a landing attempt. It is said that the spacecraft had problems with its main engine during its descent that left it unable to slow down in time before it smashed into the lunar surface.

About the Mission    

  • Beresheet (Hebrew for the first phrase from the Book of Genesis, “in the beginning”) was an Israeli mission launched by a partnership between nonprofit SpaceIL and government-owned aerospace company Israel Aerospace Industries.
  • Beresheet lander had carried a science instrument provided by NASA, a retroreflector instrument scientists would have used to make precise measurements of the distance between Earth and the moon.
  • Beresheet mission’s design included risks. To make sure the spacecraft small enough to piggyback with another spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket, the engineering team had to design the craft without any backup systems.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and SpaceIL have announced that the team will now start working on Beresheet 2.0.

SC directs political parties to furnish receipts of electoral bonds in to EC

The Supreme Court has directed all political parties to furnish details about the receipts of electoral bonds in a sealed cover to the Election Commission.

Electoral Bond Scheme

  • The government had notified the Electoral Bond Scheme 2018 on January 2, 2018.
  • As per provisions of the Electoral Bond scheme, electoral bonds may be purchased by a person, who is a citizen of India or incorporated or established in India.
  • A person being an individual can buy electoral bonds, either singly or jointly with other individuals.
  • Political parties registered under Section 29A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 and which secured not less than one per cent of votes polled in the last general election to the House of the People or the Legislative Assembly of the State, shall be eligible to receive electoral bonds.
  • Electoral bonds shall be encashed by an eligible political party only through a bank account with an authorized bank.

Interim Order of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court was hearing a petition filed by an NGO which challenged the validity of the scheme and sought that either the issuance of electoral bonds be stayed or names of donors be made public to ensure transparency in the poll process.

In an interim order passed by the Supreme Court, the apex court has directed all political parties to provide details of the amount and bank account of donors by May 30 to the Election Commission.

Mohammed Ishtaye sworn in as New Palestinian PM

Mohammed Ishtaye was sworn in as the new Palestinian Prime Minister. He along with 24 ministers took the oath of office before President Mahmoud Abbas.

New Government of Palestine

  • It is the 18th Palestinian government since the establishment of the Palestinian Authority in 1995.
  • Ishtaye and the ministers separately took the oath vowing to respect the law and the Palestinian constitutional system.
  • The new government consisting of 24 ministers has representation from Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Abbas’ Fatah Party, the Palestinian People’s Party, the FIDA party, the Palestinian Popular Struggle Front, in addition to independent figures.
  • Islamic Hamas movement and Islamic Jihad are excluded from the new government since Hamas has been ruling the Gaza Strip since it violently seized control of the coastal enclave from Abbas’ security forces in 2007.

The Islamic Hamas movement has slammed the formation of a new Palestinian government is deepening the internal division. Hamas has said that the new government is far from any Palestinian national accord or any legal measure.

Criticising the government as further deepening the internal Palestinian division, Hamas has stated that it expects to get representation in the government to strengthen the national unity.

PMLA prevails over Bankruptcy Act and Insolvency Code: Delhi HC

The Delhi High Court has ruled that ….Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) prevails over the …Bankruptcy Act and insolvency code when it comes to…attachment of properties obtained as ‘proceeds of crime’.Thus HC set aside the PMLA Tribunal earlier order .

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had… challenged the orders of …PMLA appellate tribunal on the pleas of various banks.

 PMLA Tribunal had held that….third parties, banks in this case, which have legitimately created rights such as a charge, lien or other encumbrances, …..have a superior claim over such properties.

Observations made by Delhi High Court

  • PMLA, Recovery of Debt and Bankruptcy Act (RDBA), Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest (SARFAESI) Act and Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) must co-exist and be enforced in harmony.
  • The Delhi High Court has set aside the verdict of the PMLA tribunal and held that the objective of PMLA being distinct from the purpose of ……RDBA, SARFAESI Act and IBC.
  • RDBA ( Recovery of Debt and Bankruptcy Act (RDBA), SARFAESI Act  (he Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Securities Interest Act,2002 ) and… IBC(The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (IBC) doesn’t not prevail over PMLA
  • The attachment order under the PMLA will not be illegal only because a secured creditor has a prior secured interest [charge] in the property, within the meaning of the expressions used in RDBA and SARFAESI Act.
  • Also mere issuance of an order of attachment under the PMLA does not ipso facto render illegal a prior charge or encumbrance of a secured creditor, the claim of the latter for release [or restoration] from PMLA attachment being dependent on its bonafides.

Delhi High Court has stated that by the virtue of Section 71, PMLA has the overriding effect over other existing laws in the matter of dealing with “money-laundering” and “proceeds of crime”.

World’s Largest Airplane Completes First Test Flight

The world’s largest aircraft ROC, developed by aerospace venture Stratolaunch has successfully completed its first flight test.

World’s Largest Aircraft

  • The Aircraft has a dual fuselage design and a wingspan greater than the length of an American football field.
  • The Aircraft achieved a maximum speed of 189 miles (302.4 km) per hour, the plane flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet.
  • The aircraft has a world-record wingspan of 385 feet and is 238 feet long. It is wider than any airplane on the planet.

As part of the initial flight, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing successfully back at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch is an American space transportation venture developing a new air launch to orbit system.

Stratolaunch aims to develop an air-launch system with three primary components:

  • A carrier aircraft.
  • A multi-stage payload “launch vehicle” which would be launched at high altitude into space from under the carrier aircraft.
  • A mating and integration system.

Stratolaunch was founded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011.

The first successful flight test was performed on Saturday, April 13, 2019.[26] The aircraft flew for 2.5 hours, achieving a speed of 304 kilometers/hour and altitudes up to 5,181 meters (17,000 feet) .

Air launch to orbit is the method of launching rockets at altitude from a conventional horizontal-takeoff aircraft, to carry satellites to low Earth orbit. It is a follow-on development of air launches of experimental aircraft that began in the late 1940s. This method, when employed for orbital payload insertion, presents significant advantages over conventional vertical rocket launches, particularly because of the reduced mass, thrust and cost of the rocket.

The principal advantage of a rocket being launched by a high flying airplane is that

-It need not fly through the low, dense atmosphere, the drag of which requires a considerable amount of extra work and thus mass of propellant.

-Higher densities at lower altitudes result in larger drag forces acting on the vehicle.

-In addition, thrust is lost due to over-expansion of the exhaust at high ambient pressure and under-expansion at low ambient pressure; a fixed nozzle geometry cannot provide optimal exhaust expansion over the full range of ambient pressure, and represents a compromise solution.

Delhi HC seeks Centres Response on Plea over Assam Rifles

The Delhi High Court has sought the response from the Cabinet Committee on Security on a plea seeking directions to remove the dual control of Assam Rifles and bring it under the Ministry of Defence.

                       

Issue of Dual Control

  • Assam Rifles which is also referred to as the Sentinels of North East is the oldest paramilitary force of India.
  • The administrative control of Assam Rifles lies with the Home Ministry, while the operational control is with the Defence Ministry.
  • The plea filed by the All India Assam Rifles Ex-Servicemen Welfare Association alleges the dual control as the violation of the rights of the troopers of Assam Rifles.
  • The plea challenges the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 saying that it places Assam Rifles under the head ‘Police’, which is arbitrary, unreasonable and violates the rights of Assam Rifles ex-servicemen guaranteed under Article 14 of the Constitution of
  • The petition argues since the objective and functions of Assam Rifles were that of military and paramilitary force and its categorisation as a police force was arbitrary, unreasonable and in violation of the rights of its personnel.
  • The petition seeks a grant of pay, allowances, pension (including arrears) and ex-servicemen facilities to Assam Rifles personnel at par with the Indian Army.

Acting on the earlier order which had asked the Home and Defence Ministries to hold a meeting to resolve the matter and place before it the decision taken in an affidavit, the Home Ministry had stated that a note had been sent to the Cabinet Committee on Security on the issue. Therefore the Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the Cabinet Committee on Security to explain what decision it has taken on the note forwarded to it by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Saraswati Samman 2018

Telugu poet K Siva Reddy has been selected for the prestigious Saraswati Samman, 2018. He has been awarded for his work Pakkaki Ottigilite which is a collection of poetry.

K Siva Reddy was born in 1943 in a farmer’s family in Andhra Pradesh’s Guntur. He is considered as the most renowned modern poets in Telugu. Siva Reddy has also published critical essays on poetry.

Pakkaki Ottigilite was published in 2016. It is an anthology of 104 poems in blank verse. It captures the responses of the poet over the years to social change, the evolution of his own self and his dynamic relationship with the world.

Saraswati Samman Awards

Saraswati Samman Award was instituted by the KK Birla Foundation in the year 1991. It is given annually for an outstanding literary work written in any official Indian language and published during the preceding 10 years. It carries a cash purse of Rs 15 lakh, apart from a citation and a plaque.

Other popular literary awards constituted by the Birla Foundation are Vyas Samman (for Hindi) and Bihari Puraskar (for Hindi and Rajasthani writers of Rajasthan).

Three-person Baby Boy Born in Greece.

A team of doctors from Greece and Spain have reported the birth of a baby using DNA from three people. The baby boy has inherited the genetic material from two women and a man.

How did the new IVF method work?

Doctors used an egg from the infertile mother, the father’s sperm and another woman’s egg to conceive the baby boy. The doctors transferred genetic material with chromosomes from the mother to the egg of a donor whose own genetic material had been removed in a process.

A similar DNA switching technique was adopted in Mexico in 2016 to avoid transmission of a mother’s hereditary illness to her child. But this case from Greece is unique owing to the fact that for the first time an IVF (in vitro fertilization) technique using DNA from three people has been deployed to allow a mother otherwise unable to conceive to have a child.

In-vitro Fertilisation

In-vitro Fertilization is an artificial reproduction technique wherein the process of fertilization happens by extracting eggs, retrieving a sperm sample, and then manually combining an egg and sperm in a laboratory set-up. The embryo(s) is then transferred to the uterus.

New Year in India

Various Parts of India welcomed the New Year on 6th April. Ugadi, Gudi Padava etc were observed in different parts of the Country.

New Year in different Parts of the Country

Baisakhi

Baisakhi is the Punjabi New Year celebrated in the month of April by performing their folk dance, Bhangra and Gidda and feasting.

Puthandu

Puthandu is the Tamil New Year celebrated in the month of April by preparing Manga Pachadi a traditional food to ring in their new year.

Ugadi/Yugadi

Ugadi in Karnataka, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh falls in the Chaitra month and is celebrated by distributing jaggery and neem flowers which is symbolic to sharing both sweet and bitter experiences of life.

Gudi Padwa

Gudi Padwa which falls in the Chaitra month of Hindu calendar is celebrated in the state of Maharashtra by hanging Gudi on the right side of the entrance of their house. Gudi is a bright yellow cloth tied to the tip of a long bamboo and copper pot placed in inverted on it along with a sugar garland.

Bohag Bihu

Bohag Bihu is the Assamese New year celebrated by performing the folk dance Bihu and a grand buffet.

Pohela Boishakh

Pohela Boishakh is the Bengali New Year celebrated with making many sweetmeats.

Bestu Varas

Bestu Varas is celebrated in Gujarat on the day after Deepavali. Marwaris in Rajasthan also celebrate their new year during Deepavali.

Vishu

Vishu is the Malayali New Year celebrated in the state of Kerala in the month of April.

Losoong

Losoong is the Sikkimese New Year and falls in December at the end of harvesting. It is celebrated by performing Chham dance.

Navreh

Navreh is the Kashmiri New Year celebrated in the Hindu month of Chaitra.

Cheti Chand

Cheti Chand is the Sindhi new year celebrated on the second day of Chaitra month is to honour of the birth of Jhulelal.

US House votes to end American involvement in Yemen’s Civil War

The US House of Representatives has voted to end US involvement in Yemen’s civil war. The resolution to end the American Involvement in the civil war was approved by 247 to 175 votes. The resolution directs the US President to remove US Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen within 30 days. The resolution rejects the US Presidents support for the Saudi-led campaign in Yemen.

Since the mid-2000s, the United States has been carrying out …targeted killings of Al-Qaedamilitants in Yemen, although the U.S. government generally does not confirm involvement in specific attacks conducted by unmanned aerial vehicles as a matter of policy.

Concurrently, a …coalition led by Saudi Arabia  launched military operations by using airstrikes to restore the former Yemeni government; the United States provided intelligence and logistical support for the campaign.

 British and US military hardware is sustaining the Saudi campaign and Yemenis know it. The US also provides intelligence and refuelling for the coalition.

Yemen Civil War-

The conflict has its roots in the failure of a political transition supposed to bring stability to Yemen following an Arab Spring uprising that forced its longtime authoritarian president, ……Ali Abdullah Saleh, to hand over power to his deputy, …..Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, in 2011.

As president, Mr Hadi…… struggled to deal with a variety of problems, including attacks by…… jihadists, a separatist movement in the south, the continuing loyalty of security personnel to Saleh, as well as ….corruption, unemployment and food insecurity.

 

The Yemeni Civil War is an ongoing conflict that began in 2015 between two factions:

1-The internationally recognized …..Yemeni government, based in Aden led by… Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi(fled to Riyadh) .

 2-The…. Houthi armed movement….. members of the Zaidi Shia Muslim minority, along with their supporters and allies. Houthi forces controlling the capital… Sanaa .

Both claim to constitute the official government of Yemen.

 Houthi forces allied with forces loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have clashed with forces loyal to the government of Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, based in Aden.

The battle is being fought between Houthi rebels, members of the Zaidi Shia Muslim minority said to be backed by Iran, and        Yemeni government forces supported by a 10-nation coalition of mostly Sunni Muslim majority nations led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

 Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have also carried out attacks, with AQAP controlling swathes of territory in the hinterlands, and along stretches of the coast.

  The conflict has widely been seen as an extension of the Iran-Saudi Arabia proxy conflict and as a means to combat Iranian influence in the region.  

In 2018, the United Nations warned that 13 million Yemeni civilians face starvation in what it says could become “the worst famine in the world in 100 years.”

Yemen’s food supplies might run out in two months, charity warns

The foreign powers involved have been accused of exploiting the crisis to expand their respective spheres of interest within the region.

About 80% of the population – 24 million people – need humanitarian assistance and protection.

Saudi Arabia duly retaliated against the rebels in March 2015, raining down brutal air strikes as part of operation “Decisive Storm” at the instigation of Mohammed bin Salman, the country’s defence minister prior to his accession to position of crown prince.9

While the Saudi-led coalition began by targeting Houthi military strongholds, its bombing campaign quickly shifted to civilian targets . The countryside has meanwhile been littered with landmines and other explosive devices as a result of the fighting, posing a further threat to human life on terra firma and making the ploughing of fields impossible.

Why are the US and UK supporting Saudi Arabia?

While the UK, the US and France have called on the two sides to negotiate a peace settlement, all three have been roundly criticised for failing to stand up to Saudi Arabia to protect their commercial interests.

The UK has sold more than £4.6bn worth of arms to the Saudis since the beginning of the Yemeni conflict in March 2015, according to the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, including aircraft, drones, grenades, missiles and tanks.

On 14 April 2015, the United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution …..placing sanctions on Abdul-Malik al-Houthi and Ahmed Ali Saleh, establishing an arms embargo on the Houthis, and calling on the Houthis to withdraw from Sanaʽa and other areas they seized.

 The Houthis condemned the UN resolution and called for mass protests.

Russia called for “humanitarian pauses” in the coalition bombing campaign, bringing the idea before the United Nations Security Council  .

NIIF-Roadis to set up platform to invest in Road Projects

The National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and global transport infrastructure operator Roadis will jointly set up a platform to invest up to $2 billion of equity in road projects in India. The platform would target toll-operate-transfer models and acquisitions of existing road concessions.

Roadis is a fully owned subsidiary of the Public Sector Pension Investment Board which is one of Canada’s largest pension funds.

NIIF Funds

Currently, NIIF is managing the capital invested through three funds, namely:

  • NIIF Master Fund: It focuses mainly on core infrastructure and operating assets.
  • NIIF Fund of Funds: It invests in funds managed by third-party managers in the infrastructure and associated sectors.
  • NIIF Strategic Fund: It is a diversified investment strategy, including greenfield projects and debt platforms.

NIIF’s role in infrastructure funding has acquired great significance in recent years, in the backdrop of most public-sector banks are struggling to cope with toxic assets and IL&FS, a key infrastructure refinancer until last year been ridden by the crisis.

Enzyme to Arrest Bacteria Cell Growth Discovered

Scientists from the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) have discovered a new enzyme which helps in breaking cell walls of bacteria. This discovery offers the potential for a new drug delivery system to arrest the anti-bacterial resistance through existing antibiotic drugs.

Why the discovery is of great significance?

A lot of antibiotics are available in the market to combat various diseases like cholera typhoid, leprosy. Now there is a growing concern over the bacteria becoming resistant to antibiotics, which means that small infections can also become a threat to a patient.

The researchers have discovered a new enzyme “Murein EndopeptidiaseK” which would cut the bacteria cell wall. The enzyme Murein EndopeptidiaseK would act on the protein of the cell wall of the bacteria and it can be a potential drug target. This discovery of a new enzyme will ensure the cell wall synthesis would not occur.

Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology

Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) is a biotechnology research establishment in Hyderabad and operates under the aegis of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). CCMB is also a designated “Center of Excellence” by the Global Molecular and Cell Biology Network, UNESCO.

South Korea Launched the world’s First Nationwide 5G mobile Network

South Korea launched the world’s first nationwide 5G mobile networks on 11 pm April 3, 2019. Three top telecom providers SK Telecom, KT, and LG Uplus launched the 5G services.

South Korea launched the 5G services two days ahead of the schedule as there were speculations that US mobile carrier Verizon might start its 5G services early. Verizon began rolling out its 5G services in Chicago and Minneapolis on April 3, a week ahead of schedule. Reports suggest the 5G network in South Korea was launched in South Korea two hours ahead of the US.

Benefits of 5G

5G will provide smartphones with near-instantaneous connectivity, 20 times faster than 4G. This allows users to download entire movies in less than a second.

5G will deliver vastly increased capacity, lower latency, and faster speeds. 5G networks will operate in a high-frequency band between 28 GHz and 60 GHz. This range is known as the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum and the sub-6 GHz range that LTE calls home will also be used. As a result, a lot of bandwidth will be available to users.

In addition to greater bandwidth, the new 5G networks will have a dense, distributed network of base stations in the small cell infrastructure. This will allow more processing to happen on the edge, leading to lower latencies.

The 5G technology is crucial for the future development of devices such as self-driving vehicles and is expected to bring about $565 billion in global economic benefits by 2034.

UAE awards PM Narendra Modi

United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been conferred with the …prestigious Zayed medal by President of the UAE Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. PM Modi has been awarded in recognition of efforts in giving “a big boost” to bilateral relations between both the countries.

The statement issued by the UAE states that PM Modi has provided “exceptional leadership” in forging a new “strategic” relationship between the two nations. It lauds Modi’s foreign policy and the way New Delhi reached out to the Islamic world.

Zayed Medal

The ‘Order of Zayed’ is the highest civil decoration instituted by the UAE. It consists of a collar cantered by a medallion bearing the name ‘Zayed’ who is the founding father of the United Arab Emirates. The Order of Zayed is awarded to Heads of Government/Head of State for their international relations with UAE.

Japan names new imperial era as Reiwa

Japan has revealed the name of the era which will define the new emperor’s reign when he ascends the Chrysanthemum Throne next month following a historic abdication. The era has been named as ‘Reiwa’.

Reiwa

  • “Reiwa” consists of two characters: “Rei”, which can have meanings related to “order” but also “auspicious” and “Wa”, usually translated as “peace” or “harmony”.
  • Japan is still using imperial calendars for private and public documents as well as computer records.
  • Hence the new era has a huge impact on daily life and people tend to recall major events in public and private life by when they fell in a certain era
  • 2019 was known as Heisei 31, or the 31st year of current Emperor Akihito’s rule.
  • The name for the new imperial era, Reiwa was taken for the first time from an ancient Japanese book instead of from Chinese classics.

The era of “Reiwa” begins on May 1,2019 a day after 85-year-old Emperor Akihito abdicates and hands over the Chrysanthemum throne to his eldest son. Crown Prince Naruhito.

Maitri Bridge: Longest Suspension Bridge

Indian Army built the longest suspension bridge over Indus river in Leh in just 40 days and the bridge is named as Maitri Bridge.

  

Maitri Bridge

  • The bridge was constructed by the combat engineers of ‘Sahas aur Yogyata’ regiment of ‘Fire and Fury Corps’ of the Indian Army.
  • The bridge is 260-feet long.
  • This cable suspension bridge is expected to give a major boost to connectivity in remote areas in Ladakh.
  • The bridge is constructed using around 500 tonnes of bridge equipment and construction material.
  • Maitri Bridge has been dedicated to the people of India to commemorate the 20thyear of Kargil Vijay Divas.

The bridge is part of the central government plans to all-weather road connectivity in the region.

12 NCR districts, Agra switch to BS-VI Fuel

The Indian Oil Corporation has stated that Supply of ultra-clean BS-VI grade petrol and diesel has begun in cities adjoining the national capital. The rest of the country will follow suit from April 2020. New Delhi is the first city in the country to leapfrog from BS-IV grade petrol and diesel to BS-VI fuels.

Bharat Stage Norms

Bharat Stage norms are standards set by the government to regulate emission of air pollutants from motor vehicles. The norms set the limit for the release of air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons, particulate matter (PM) and sulphur oxides from vehicles using internal combustion engines. The Bharat stage norms are based on Euro norms.

Difference between BS-IV and BS-VI Norms

  • The extent of sulphur is the major difference between the Bharat stage IV and Bharat stage VI norms.
  • Bharat stage IV fuels contain 50 parts per million (ppm) sulphur whereas Bharat Stage-VI grade fuel only has 10 ppm sulphur.
  • Bharat Stage VI will bring PM in diesel cars down by 80 per cent when compared to Bharat stage IV.
  • Bharat Stage VI will bring down nitrogen oxides from diesel cars by 70 per cent and in petrol cars by 25 per cent.

In 2015 India had decided to leapfrog to BS-VI emission norm compliant petrol and diesel from April 2020, from the BS-IV grade by skipping BS-V norms. While the deadline for the rest of the country stands, the same for Delhi, which is choking on thick toxic smog, was brought forward.

US approves sale of 24 MH 60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters to India

The United States Department of State on Tuesday approved the sale of 24 multi-role MH-60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters to India at a price of $2.4 billion (Rs 16,516 crore).

Sale of MH 60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters

  • The Lockheed Martin-built helicopters will replace India’s ageing fleet of British-made Sea Kinghelicopters.
  • MH-60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters will provide the Indian defence forces with the capability to perform anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions.
  • MH-60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters are designed to operate from frigates, destroyers, cruisers and aircraft carriers along with the ability to perform secondary missions including vertical replenishment, search and rescue, and communications relay.
  • MH-60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters will add would add lethal capabilities of the Indian Navy, which experts say is also the need of the hour given the aggressive behaviour of China in the Indian Ocean region.

MH-60 Romeo Seahawk helicopters are considered as the most capable naval helicopter available today and are currently deployed with the US Navy as the primary anti-submarine warfare anti-surface weapon system for open ocean and littoral zones.

RBI Cuts Key Interest Rate

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has slashed the key interest rate, repo rate by 25 basis points or 0.25 per cent to 6 per cent and has decided to maintain the neutral policy stance.

Financial Statement of the RBI

  • RBI projected GDP growth at 7.2 per cent for the financial year 2019-20.
  • Reverse repo rate under the LAF stands adjusted to 5.75% and the marginal standing facility (MSF) rate and the Bank Rate to 6.25%.
  • RBI expects economic growth to be in the range of 6.8-7.1 per cent in the first half of the current financial year, and in the range of 7.3-7.4 per cent in the second half with “risks evenly balanced”.
  • Inflation is likely to remain benign in the short term. Assuming a normal monsoon in 2019, the RBI lowered its CPI inflation projection to 2.4 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2018-19.
  • For the first half of the current financial year 2019-20, RBI expects inflation at 2.9-3.0 per cent, and 3.5-3.8 per cent in the second half.
  • RBI to issue a fresh circular for Banks on how to tackle NPAs since 

Financial Sector Assessment Programme for India

The Report of the Financial Sector Assessment Programme for India by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) makes the following recommendations:

  • The level of non-performing loans in India remains high and the IMF has favoured bolstering the level of capitalisation of some banks, particularly government-owned banks.
  • Together with capitalisation, the report asks for resolution and the recognition of Non-performing loans as part of the process of cleaning up the banking system of non-performing loans,

The report notes that there were some steps that were taken by the authorities to boost capital buffers in banks and also to improve governance in state-owned banks that have had some positive impact.

RTI Act supersedes Official Secrets Law

Delivering a separate judgment in the Rafale case, Justice K.M. Joseph has made the following observations:

  • The Right to Information Act confers on ordinary citizens the….. ‘priceless right’ to demand information even in …..matters affecting national security and relations with a foreign state.
  • Justice Joseph’s judgment countered the claim made by the government for privilege over Rafale purchase documents under the Official Secrets Act (OSA), saying it affected national security and relations with France.
  • Justice Joseph said the….. Right to Information (RTI) Act overawes (frightens )the OSA.
  • Under Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, the government cannot refuse information if disclosure in public interest overshadows certain ‘protected interests.’

Justice Joseph in his judgment has stated that through Section 8(2) of the RTI Act, Parliament has appreciated that it may be necessary to pit one interest against another and to compare the relative harm and then decide either to disclose or to decline information. If higher public interest is established, it is the will of Parliament that the greater good should prevail though at the cost of lesser harm being still occasioned

State of World Population 2019

The United Nations Population Fund has released the State of World Population 2019 report.

Findings of the Report

  • India’s population grew at an average annual rate of 1.2 per cent between 2010 and 2019 to 1.36 billion. It was more than double the annual growth rate of China.
  • India’s population in 2019 stood at 1.36 billion. The population has grown from 942.2 million in 1994 and 541.5 million in 1969.
  • China’s population stood at 1.42 billion in 2019. China’s population increased from 1.23 billion in 1994 and 803.6 million in 1969.
  • China’s population grew at an average annual rate of 0.5 per cent between 2010 and 2019.
  • The total fertility rate per woman was 5.6 in 1969. It dropped to 3.7 in 1994 and 2.3 in 2019.
  • India has recorded an improvement in life expectancy at birth. The life expectancy at birth in 1969 was 47 years, growing to 60 years in 1994 and 69 years in 2019.
  • 27 per cent of India’s population was in the age bracket of 0-14 years and 10-24 years each, while 67 per cent of India’s population was in the 15-64 age bracket. Six per cent of India’s population was of the age 65 and above.
  • Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) in the country dropped from 488 deaths per 100,000 live births in 1994 to 174 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2015.
  • The absence of reproductive and sexual rights has major and negative repercussions on women’s education, income and safety in India, leaving them unable to shape their own futures.
  • Early marriage continues to present a major cultural obstacle to female empowerment and better reproductive rights.

The report for the first time has published data on women’s ability to make decisions over three key areas: sexual intercourse with their partner, contraception use and health care.

The Report Looking ahead to future challenges highlights the threat to women’s and girls’ reproductive rights posed by emergencies caused by conflict or climate disaster

Jamia Millia Islamia gets its First Woman Vice-Chancellor

The Ministry of Human Resources and Development has issued a statement about appointing Professor Najma Akhtar as vice–chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University (JMI) by the President of India. She has been appointed for a period of five years. Professor Najma Akhtar will be the first woman to hold the post.

Professor Najma Akhtar is a gold medallist from Aligarh Muslim University. She has a Ph.D in Education from Kurukshetra University.

Professor Najma Akhtar also has been a Commonwealth Fellow for University Administration Course at University of Warwick and Nottingham. She has also trained at the International Institute of Educational Planning (IIEP), UNESCO, Paris.

Utkarsh Bangla and Sabooj Sathi Schemes of West Bengal gets Global Recognition

The schemes of the West Bengal government ‘Utkarsh Bangla’ (skill training of youth) and ‘Sabooj Sathi’ (cycles for students) won the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) awards of UN.

Utkarsh Bangla got the topmost award and emerged as a winner in the Capacity Building category and the Sabooj Sathi was ranked in the first five as a champion project under ICT application: E-Government category.

Utkarsh Bangla

Utkarsh Bangla Scheme is aimed at providing vocational training to school dropouts. The beneficiaries of the scheme will be trained in driving, tailoring, repairing television and other electronic equipment’s, beautician courses etc.

Sabooj Sathi

Sabooj Sathi is a scheme of West Bengal government for distribution of bicycles to the students of class IX to XII studying in Govt. run and Govt. aided Schools and Madrashas.The scheme was launched in September 2015.

World Summit on the Information Society Awards

World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Awards were instituted as per requests from the WSIS stakeholders to create an effective mechanism to evaluate and recognize individuals, governments, civil society, local, regional and international agencies, research institutions and private-sector companies for outstanding success in implementing development oriented strategies that leverage the power of ICTs as an enabler of the development.

WSIS is a global multi-stakeholder platform facilitating the implementation of the WSIS Action Lines for advancing sustainable development. The summit is co-organized by ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, in close collaboration with other UN organizations.

The Summit provides an opportunity for information exchange, knowledge creation and sharing of best practices, while identifying emerging trends and fostering partnerships, taking into account the evolving Information and Knowledge Societies.

Alice G. Vaidyan awarded the Freedom of the City of London

Alice G. Vaidyan, Chairman and Managing Director of the General Insurance Corporation (GIC) of India, India’s reinsurance major, has been awarded the Freedom of the City of London in recognition of her work to promote insurance ties between India and the UK.

Alice G. Vaidyan holds post graduate degree in English literature and has been trained at Harvard Business School, Boston, USA. She is a Fellow of the Insurance Institute of India.

Alice G. Vaidyan was the first lady officer to assume the post of Chairman-cum-Managing Director of General Insurance Corporation of India. She was also the first lady chairman-cum-managing director in the public-sector insurance industry (non-life) under the Ministry of Finance in India.

Freedom of the City

Freedom of the City is an honour bestowed by a City of London Corporation upon a valued member of the community, or upon a visiting celebrity or dignitary.

The genesis of the ‘Freedom of the City of London’ is traced to the medieval time of around 1237. The honour enabled recipients to carry out their trade. Over the years, the award has evolved into an honour bestowed upon individuals who make an impact in the financial hub of London, referred to as the City or the Square Mile

Deepa Malik wins New Zealand PM’s Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship

Rio Paralympics silver medallist Deepa Malik was named as the recipient of the New Zealand Prime Minister’s Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship for 2019 in recognition of her inspiring achievements. Deepa Malik had won the silver medal in shot put event in Rio in 2016.

The citation states that the Deepa Malik exemplifies two values that make a great sportsperson: courage and a can-do attitude. Deepa is an inspiring achiever who can confidently and proudly carry forward our message of inclusivity and the pursuit of excellence.

Deepa Malik will be undertaking a series of visits to Paralympic sporting organisations, and engage with Kiwi athletes, students and the media as well as New Zealand’s significant Indian Diaspora community. Deepa Malik will promote cultural as well the people-to-people relationship between India and New Zealand.

New Zealand Prime Minister’s Sir Edmund Hillary Fellowship

The Fellowship Program is running since 2008 aims to strengthen the relationship between India and New Zealand by showcasing the different aspects of the warm friendship between the two countries. The fellowship aims to strengthen the ties between India and New Zealand.

Sir Edmund Hillary

Sir Edmund Percival Hillary was a New Zealand mountaineer, explorer and Philanthropist. Hillary and Nepalese Sherpa mountaineer Tenzing Norgay became the first climbers confirmed to have reached the summit of Mount Everest on 29 May 1953. They were part of the ninth British expedition to Everest, led by John Hunt.

Sir Edmund Hillary served as New Zealand’s High Commissioner to India and Bangladesh and concurrently as Ambassador to Nepal from 1985 to 1988.

Indian Cities and Air Pollution

The Air Pollution levels at the Indian cities are at an alarming level. Various Reports have time and again tried to shed light on the quantum of the problem.

Air Pollution and Indian Cities

  • A Delhi based Environment Body claims that the Varanasi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency, is ranked third on the WHO’s list of 15 most polluted cities and the situation is “deteriorating” as its MP has focused on beautification and infrastructure.
  • In the ‘Political Leaders Position and Action on Air Quality in India 2014-2019’ report, released by Climate Trends Delhi is ranked sixth on the list. The report states that there has been “laziness” on part of its elected caretakers in tackling air pollution in the city.
  • As per the World Health Organisation, (WHO) list of most polluted cities, 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are in India of which four are in Uttar Pradesh.
  • WHO report states that the Prime Minister’s parliamentary constituency Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh is witnessing a rise in the number of people suffering from allergies and respiratory problems due to a “lot” of construction in the city.
  • Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh is the most polluted city in the world. Kanpur is ranked one on the list. Faridabad in Haryana has been ranked second and Varanasi has been ranked third.
  • Gaya and Patna in Bihar are fourth and fifth on the list.
  • Delhi has been ranked sixth and Uttar Pradesh capital Lucknow is ranked seventh.
  • The report by climate trends claimed MPs of Lucknow and Kanpur — Home Minister Rajnath Singh and senior BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi respectively — have mostly been silent on the issue of air pollution in their respective constituencies.
  • Other cities in the WHO list of polluted cities are Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurugram, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur.

Air Quality Index

The Air Quality Index between 0 and 50 is considered “good”, 51 and 100 “satisfactory”, 101 and 200 “moderate”, 201 and 300 “poor”, 301 and 400 “very poor”, and 401 and 500 “severe”, as per pollution control authorities.

Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year for 2018

The Wisden has named  Virat Kohli as the Leading Cricketer of the Year for 2018.

Wisden Cricketer of the Year

  • Indian Skipper Virat Kohli is joined by Tammy Beaumont, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran and Rory Burns.
  • Indian player Smriti Mandhana bagged the Women’s Leading Cricketer of the Year.
  • Rashid Khan of Afghanistan bagged the Leading T20 Cricketer of the Year.

Hong Kong’s stock market overtakes Japan to be world’s third largest

Hong Kong’s equity market has overtaken Japan to be the world’s third largest in value, behind only the U.S. and mainland China. This is due to the rebound witnessed in Hong Kong stocks after their worst year since 2011.

Hong Kong Equity Market

Hong Kong’s market cap was $5.78 trillion  and Japan’s market cap was $5.76 trillion. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index climbed 17 per cent this year through Tuesday. The main driver behind the climb was Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd. which has witnessed a 22 per cent gain. Japan’s Topix Index advanced 8.3 per cent this year.

As the IMG released the World Economic Outlook April 2019 report, both markets witnessed a slowdown. The Hang Seng Index slipped 0.1 per cent and the Topix fell 0.7 per cent

 

RailTel turns 1600 railway stations into RailWire Wi-Fi zone..

RailWire Wi-Fi by RailTel is now live at 1600 railway stations across the country. The Santacruz railway station in Mumbai became the 1600th station to become a RailWire Wi-Fi zone.

RailWire

RailWire is a retail Broadband initiative of the RailTel. It envisages extending broadband and application services to the public. RailTel is working to establish bringing fast and free Wi-Fi at all stations (except the halt stations) within a year.

RailTel has provided high-speed Wi-Fi at 985 stations with its funding. The Wi-Fi at 415 A, A1 and C category stations has been provided in association with Google as the technology partner. Wi-Fi connections at 200 stations were provided with support from the Universal Service Obligatory Fund of the Government of India.

Universal Service Obligation Fund

Universal Service Obligation Fund was instituted  by the government of India to help fund projects to boost connectivity in rural areas. The money for this fund comes through a ‘Universal Access Levy,’ charged from the telecom operators as a percentage of various licenses fees being paid by them.

RailTel

RailTel Corporation of India Ltd. is a Miniratna public sector enterprise of Government of India. It is one of the largest neutral telecom infrastructure providers in the country owning a Pan-India optic fibre network on exclusive Right of Way (ROW) along Railway track.

New State of Matter Discovered

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh of Scotland using powerful computer simulations have discovered the existence of the state known as the chain-melted state.

Chain-Melted State

  • At the chain-melted state, atoms are both solid and liquid at the same time.
  • Scientists have discovered that when extreme pressure and temperature are applied to potassium, it can form a state in which most of the atoms form a lattice structure but a second set is in a fluid arrangement.
  • Scientists say that It would be like holding a sponge filled with water that starts dripping out, except the sponge is also made of water.
  • Over half a dozen elements including sodium and bismuth are thought to be capable of existing in the newly discovered state.

Researchers hope it can be further examined to find more uses for the unexpected discove

Namami Gange Bags Global Recognition

National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) or Namami Gange has received the distinction of “Public Water Agency of the Year” by Global Water Intelligence at the Global Water Summit in London.

The awards aim to recognise excellence across the international water industry and reward those initiatives in the water, wastewater, and desalination sectors, which can bring remarkable improvements in the lives of people.

An integrated mission for Ganga rejuvenation, theNamami Gange programme provides for a comprehensive multi-sector intervention with multi-stakeholder involvement and adopts a basin-based approach.

Global Water Summit

Global Water Summit is the annual business conference for the water industry worldwide. The summit attracts high-level executives from industry, municipalities and international water companies and provides the opportunity to connect with hard-to-reach industry insiders that will not attend any other water event.

The summit provides a platform for connecting the public and private sector and for accelerating change and innovation within the sector, it attracts the most influential industry representatives and also becomes a forum for business development and expanding your network.

Veer Parivar App Launched.

On the occasion of the 54th Valour Day (Shaurya Diwas) of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), President Ram Nath Kovind launched ‘Veer Parivar App’, a mobile application for families of CRPF personnel killed in the line of duty.

About the Veer Parivar App

  • The Veer Parivar App will act as an interface between the CRPF authorities and the next of kin of the slain personnel.
  • The Veer Parivar App will be installed securely on the phones of the slain personnel families and will not be available in the app stores.
  • The app will provide assistance to the families of the martyred CRPF personnel with regard to issuance of ex gratia, pension benefits etc.
  • The app will also provide all the necessary information regarding the welfare schemes introduced for them by the government.

The Android-based Veer Parivar App will provide assistance to the families on a real-time basis and the CRPF authorities will respond to the issues raised by the members of the families of the slain personnel.

PM May Repeats ‘deep regret’ Jallianwala Bagh

British Prime Minister Theresa May reiterated the UK government’s long-standing expression of ‘deep regret’ over the April 1919 Jallianwala Bagh massacre and called the massacre a ‘shameful scar’ on British Indian history. But the words of PM May fell short in issuing a formal apology.

Since 2019 was the centenary of the horrendous act there was a growing demand from many quarters for the formal apology including Indian diaspora and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.

The UK government has announced that on the centenary of the massacre British high commission in New Delhi would visit the memorial site on April 13 and lay a wreath. There would be a public acknowledgement of the centenary and the sense of ‘deep regret’ in events organised in the UK.

India seeks to push reforms at WTO.

The Ministry of Commerce and Industries is arranging a mini-ministerial meeting of developing countries on May 13-14 to discuss the future of the multilateral body, World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the development agenda.

India is expected to invite close to two dozen countries for discussions on May 13-14. It is second such initiative undertaken by India since talks collapsed in Buenos Aires in December 2017. Unlike the earlier initiative, the US and the European Union will not be part of the discussions this time.

Agenda for the Discussion

  • A global framework for e-commerce, an issue that is being pushed hard by the US. China is not averse to negotiations and maybe India would be willing for the discussions.
  • US proposal to do away with……. special and differential (S&D) treatment for developing countries such as India, China, Brazil and South Africa. The special and differential treatment allows developing countries to maintain higher duties and implement agreements at a slower pace than the developed world.
  • The US is arguing that the better-off developing countries are eating up the gains that should accrue to the poorer nations in the category.
  • Ensure that WTO remains the key fulcrum of global trade and attempts by the US to do away with the principle of a consensus-based approach.
  • Discussions around reform of the dispute settlement mechanism which the US is pushing for aggressively.

India and other countries are demanding that there was a need to ensure that S&D treatment remains as they are still home to a large number of poor and vulnerable sections.

Government clears procurement of 464 T-90 tanks.

The Cabinet Committee of Security has cleared the proposal for the procurement of the 464 T-90 tanks from Russia.

About the Procurement Deal

  • The cost of the acquisition is expected to be worth over Rs 13,000 crores.
  • The deal also includes a Make-in-India element for integration at the Heavy Vehicles Factory in Avadi near Chennai.
  • The acquisition will increase the new T-90 regiments by 10 more units.
  • The new T-90 tanks would be equipped with thermal imaging night sights to allow the tank commander to strike enemy locations during night battles.
  • T-90 battle tanks are expected to be deployed on the borders with Pakistan.
  • T-90 has emerged as the main battle tank of the Indian Army. It would be replacing the older variants of T-72 and T-55 tanks in the force

The acquisition is expected to tackle the problem of Indian Army’s 4000- strong tank fleet has been battling with night blindness in the past and these new tanks would help in doing away with that.

World Economic Outlook April 2019.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) in the World Economic Outlook 2019 April report has made the following forecasts:

  • The global growth will be 3.3% in 2019, down from 3.6% in 2018 and 4% in 2017.
  • The reduced growth rates are attributed to lower global expansion in the second half of 2018 caused by U.S.-China trade tensions, macroeconomic stress in Turkey and Argentina, tighter credit policies in China and financial tightening plus normalisation of monetary policy in advanced economies.
  • Global growth is expected to level out at 3.6% over the medium term beyond 2020. The growth would be driven by a moderation in expansion in advanced countries (caused by weak productivity growth and slow labour force growth) and the stabilisation of emerging market expansion at 2020 levels.
  • Advanced economies are expected to slow down to 1.6% growth by 2022 and remain at that rate thereafter.
  • Growth is expected to steady at 4.8% over the medium term For emerging markets and developing countries.
  • The emerging markets and developing countries are growing faster than advanced economies. Their contribution to global growth is expected to increase from 76% to 85% over the next five years.
  • China is expected to slow down to 5.5% by 2024 as it moves towards increasing private consumption and services and regulatory tightening.

Estimates for India

  • India’s economy will grow 7.1% in 2019-20 and is expected to accelerate to 7.3% growth this fiscal and to 7.5% in 2021-22. All the estimates are 0.2 percentage points less than its previous assessment in January.
  • IMF estimates are higher than those of the Reserve Bank of India. RBI had last week cut its growth forecast to 7.2% for this fiscal and 7.4% for FY21.
  • The reduction in India’s estimate is on account of the “the recent revision to the national account statistics that indicated somewhat softer underlying momentum”.
  • IMF suggests reforms to hiring and dismissal regulations to help incentivise job creation and absorb the country’s large demographic dividend.
  • India’s growth is expected to stabilise at 7.75% over the medium term, driven by structural reforms and the easing of infrastructure bottlenecks.

IMF calls for continued implementation of structural and financial sector reforms in order to lower public debt and aid growth.

Decolourisation of River Periyar

The River Periyar in Kerala is again witnessing the decolourisation. The decolourisation of River Periyar which provides drinking water to Kochi city and adjoining areas has become the cause of worry for the people and government of Kerala. The water turned pitch black in one stream, it was milky near the Pathalam regulator-cum-bridge.

Eutrophication

The pollution control Board (PCB) has attributed the change in colour to the poor quality of water as a result of eutrophication. PCB has stated that huge quantities of organic load in the form of sewage from nearby townships are regularly reaching the river system. This is contributing to the eutrophication resulting in the change of colour.

National Institutional Ranking Framework 2019

The National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) rankings have been released by the Ministry of Human Resource Development. The rankings list the best institutions and universities of India.

The NIRF ranking framework instituted in 2016 evaluates institutions on five broad generic groups of parameters, including Teaching, Learning and Resources, Research and Professional Practice, Graduation Outcomes, Outreach and Inclusivity and Perception.

Ranking of the Institutions

  • The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras has topped the overall rankings of higher education institutions and is followed by IISc Bangalore and IIT-Delhi ranked second and third in the overall rankings.
  • In the 2018 rankings, IISc Bangalore had topped the overall rankings.
  • Of top 10 institutes in the overall ranking, seven are IITs.
  • In the University Category, IISc Bangalore has been ranked one followed by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) and the Banaras Hindu University (BHU).
  • Miranda House of the Delhi University has topped the college’s rankings followed by Hindu College in Delhi and the Presidency College in Chennai.
  • In the Engineering institutions category IIT-Madras topped the ranking followed by Delhi and Eight of the top 10 engineering institutions are IITs.
  • In the category of Management Institutions, top six ranks have been retained by Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). IIM Bangalore (IIM-B) has bagged the top spot. IIM Ahmedabad (IIM-A) bagged the second spot and IIM Calcutta is on the third spot.
  • Jamia Hamdard has been announced as the top varsity for Pharmacy.
  • All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) has been adjudged as the best medical college.
  • National Law School of India University, Bengaluru, have been adjudged as the best medical college law school.

A total of 3,127 institutions participated in the ranking process under overall rankings, category-specific and domain-specific ranking and 4,867 applications for rankings were made by the total applicant institutions under various categories and domains.

SC directs EC to raise random matching of VVPAT slips

The Supreme Court has directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to increase the random matching of paper trail machine slips with EVM results from one to five polling booths in each assembly segment for the multiphase Lok Sabhapolls. The Supreme Court has said that the move will bring more “credibility” and “integrity” to the electoral process.

VVPAT machines are being used for the first time in any Lok Sabha elections. They were deployed in some parliamentary and assembly bypolls.

The polling station where VVPAT slips are matched with EVM results is decided by a draw of lots or lottery system in the presence of candidates.

Currently, the Election Commission was following one EVM per assembly segment guidelines wherein there was a random counting of VVPAT machines in one booth of each assembly segment.

VVPAT

Voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) is a device which dispenses a slip with the symbol of the party for which a person has voted for. The slip appears on a small window for seven seconds and then drops in a box. The voter cannot take it home. VVPAT displays candidate’s serial number, Name of the candidate and Corresponding symbol for whom the vote has been cast.

US to Designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards a Foreign Terrorist Group… 

President Trump Administration of US has announced its intent to designate the…… Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force, as a……. foreign terrorist organisation (FTO) in accordance with Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. The designation is expected to take effect from April 15.

The designation as FTO will impose sweeping economic and travel sanctions on the IRGC and on organisations, companies, and individuals that have links to it.

IRGC and Quds Force

IRGC is an ideologically-driven branch of the armed forces of Iran set up in 1979 after Ayatollah Khomeini’s Islamic Revolution to protect the newly established Islamic system from hostile foreign powers and internal dissensions. Quds Force or Qods Corps is an elite wing of the IRGC.

EC bans publication of Uncertified ads on Polling Day & Day Before

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has barred parties, candidates and others from publishing political advertisements on polling day and a day prior to it in each of the seven phases of Lok Sabha polls unless their contents are pre-certified by screening committees.

The Election commission has stated that the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee at the state and district levels be immediately activated to examine and pre-certify all such advertisements received from the political parties.

Why Ban?

  • Instances of advertisements of offending and misleading nature published in print media have been brought to its notice in the past.
  • Such misleading advertisements in the last stage of the election vitiate the entire election process. The affected candidates and parties will not have any opportunity of providing clarification/rebuttal in such a scenario.
  • To ensure that no untoward incident takes place because of any inflammatory or hate advertisements.

At present, electronic media is barred from showing election publicity material during the last 48 hours before the conclusion of polling. Using its constitutional powers, the Election Commission has directed no political party, candidates or others will publish any advertisement in the print media on the day and one day prior to polling day in all the phases unless they are pre-certified by the screening committees. The EC had taken such a decision for the first time in 2015 Bihar polls.

2019 Malaysian Open Badminton.

The 2019 Malaysia Open Badminton tournament was held at Axiata Arena in Malaysia from 2 to 7 April 2019 and has a total purse of $700,000.

Winners of the Tournament

  • Men’s Singles: Lin Dan (China)
  • Women’s Singles: Tai Tzu-ying (Taiwan)
  • Men’s Doubles: Li Junhui & Liu Yuchen (China)
  • Women’s Doubles: Chen Qingchen & Jia Yifan (China)
  • Mixed Doubles: Zheng Siwei & Huang Yaqiong (China)

The Malaysia Open is an annual badminton tournament that has been held since 1937 and it is also known as Malaysia Super Series.

India evacuates peacekeeping CRPF contingent from Libya

India has evacuated its entire contingent of peacekeeping forces comprising of 15 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel from Tripoli after the situation in the war-hit nation suddenly worsened.

Libyan Crisis

Ever since the 2011 uprising which overthrew and killed long-ruling dictator Muammar Gaddafi, Libya is engulfed in a crisis.

Even though there is an UN-backed internationally recognised government headed by Fayez al-Sarraj, Libya is governed by rival authorities in the east and in Tripoli, in the west, each backed by various armed groups.

Libyan National Army  (LNA) is backing the Tobruk-based parliament which governs the East of Libya and the UN-backed …..Government of National Accord (GNA) controls Libya’s western parts from Tripoli.

An agreement signed in 2015 created the GNA as the legitimate interim Libyan government. It was not wholly implemented due to disagreements with the Tobruk-based parliament.

The recent tipping point of the crisis was the attempts by the Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter led LNA to capture Tripoli which is the seat of GNA. The GNA determined to defend Tripoli struck back against LNA. This escalation led to the killing of 23 civilians and several others were injured.

Lalit Kala Akademi (60th National Academy Award winners)

Lalit Kala Akademi has announced the winners of the 15 winners of the 60th Annual Academy Awards. The winners were selected by a two-tier jury. The awardees will be honoured with a plaque, a shawl and prize money of Rs 1 lakh during the 60th National Exhibition of Art.

The winners of the 60th National Academy Awards conferred by Lalit Kala Akademi are Chandan Kumar Samal (Odisha), Gouri Vemula (Telangana), Hemant Rao (Madhya Pradesh), Hiren Kumar Chotu Bhai Patel (Gujarat), Jaya Jena (Odisha), Jayesh K.K (Kerala), Jitendra Suresh Sutar (Maharashtra), Douglas Maryan John (Maharashtra), Pratap Chandra Chakraborty (West Bengal), Rashmi Singh (Uttar Pradesh), Sachin Kashinath Chaudhari (Maharashtra), Sunil Kumar Viswakarma (Uttar Pradesh), Tabassum Khan (Bihar), Vasudeo Taranath Kamath (Maharashtra) and Veenita Sadguru Chendvankar (Goa).

India boycotts Pakistan National Day Events

India has boycotted the events of the Pakistan National Day in protest against the invitation to Hurriyat leaders for the National Day reception being held at New Delhi. India has strongly objected to the direct engagement of Pakistan with Hurriyat representatives who are spearheading a separatists movement in the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

India observes Shaheed Diwas

On March 23rd, India observed Shaheed Divas or Martyr’s Day as a tribute to the Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru on their death anniversary. The supreme sacrifice of these revolutionaries continues to inspire generations in India.

January 30 which marks the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi is also observed as the Martyrs Day to honour our brave martyrs who have sacrificed the… 

 Admiral Karambir Singh

The Defence Ministry has announced the appointment of Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next Navy chief. He has succeed Admiral Sunil Lanmba, who is retiring on 31 March.

The government has once again broken the tradition of appointing the senior-most officer to lead the contingent forces by overlooking the seniority of Vice Admiral Bimal Verma. Earlier the government had appointed General Bipin Rawat as the Army Chief by overlooking the seniority. General Bipin Rawat had superseded two officers to occupy the post of Army Chief.

Election Commission advisory to Media

The Election Commission of India (ECI) has issued guidelines to media on various issue related to elections like exit polls, publication of results etc.

Guidelines of Election Commission

  • Section 126A of the Representation of People Act 1951prohibits the conduct of……exit polls can only be telecast after the final phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections ends on May 19.
  • The ECI has asked the TV, radio channels, cable networks, websites and social media platforms to ensure that the contents of programmes telecast during the 48-hour period before the end of polls in each phase do not contain any material, including views or appeals by participants that may be construed as promoting or prejudicing the prospect of any particular party or candidate as per the Section 126 of Representation of People Act 1951.
  • The advisory warns that any violation by broadcasters will be reported to the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) by the Election Commission and will be dealt with by the NBSA under its regulations.
  • The news broadcasters are advised not to air any final or definite results until they are formally announced by the Election Commission. Further, such results should be carried with a disclaimer that they are “unofficial or incomplete or partial results or projections which should not be taken as final results.

The Election Commission has asked the political parties to not criticise other countries, or make any verbal attack on any community or religion, use defamatory or obscene remarks or incite violence during the broadcast time allocated in public broadcasting agencies.

World Meteorological Day 2019

World Meteorological Day 2019 was observed on March 23 with the theme “The Sun, the Earth and the weather”.

The theme recognises the critical role the Earth’s nearest star plays in what transpires on the planet. The energy from the Sun is taken up by all life forms to perform their biological functions. The Solar energy also regulates global climate, which, in turn, influences local weather conditions and the same energy is also absorbed by the oceans which carry it around the planet, creating further conditions for diverse marine life to exist.

Syrian Democratic Forces defeats Islamic State group

The… Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) backed by the US has defeated the Daesh [ISIS] by capturing the final shred of the territory of Baghouz in Syria. The forces have declared the end of the self-declared “caliphate” that once spanned a third of Iraq and Syria.

Even though the U.S.-backed forces have retaken nearly all the small pockets in Syria that were still under ISIS control, it doesn’t mean the end of ISIS.

Italy joins China’s Belt Road Initiative

Italy’s Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Rome, endorsing the global infrastructure-building scheme of China. Despite the warnings and pressure from the US and the Europen Union, Italy has joined the china’s mega connectivity scheme and has become the first G7 country to do so. Italy is the thirteenth European Union country and also the first from Western Europe to join China’s Belt Road Initiative.

Why did Italy join the initiative?

Italy has stated that its participation in the initiative through a non-binding agreement was aimed to “rebalance an imbalance” in Sino-Italian trade. There are a lot of ‘Made in China’ coming into Italy and too little ‘Made in Italy’ that goes into China. Italy hopes for a ..substantial and gradual increase in exports to balance out the trade imbalances.

The decision of Italy is seen as an attempt to address its financial woes which has onerous public debt. Italy fell into recession at the end of last year. The agreement is seen as a trade off wherein Italy needs investment and  China has those to provide. The agreement will aid Italy to underpin and strengthen its business ties with China.

The paper released by the EU’s diplomatic arm referred to Belt Road Initiative as a “systemic rival” and has threatened to tighten regulations on Chinese investment in Europe.

New Subjects added to CBSE curriculum

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has announced the introduction of ….Artificial Intelligence (AI), ….Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE), and …..Yoga as skill subjects in the school curriculum for academic session 2019-20.

AI will be introduced as an optional sixth subject for Class IX whereas ECCE and Yoga are being introduced as elective subjects at senior secondary level.

Rationale behind Introduction

  • The circular of CBSE notes that AI in the past few years has gained geo-strategic importance and a large number of countries are striving to stay ahead with their policy initiatives to get their country ready.
  • There is a huge requirement for yoga professionals and early childhood educators.
  • Yoga will also teach a way of living that aims towards a healthy mind in a healthy body.
  • Early Childhood Education prepares the students to teach children of nursery and kindergarten classes’ happy education or other systems of child-centric education.

Marcelo Gleiser wins Templeton Prize 2019

Brazilian physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser has been awarded the 2019 Templeton Prize for his work blending science and spirituality.

Marcelo Gleiser contends that science and religion are not only compatible, but that science is spiritual. The two realms of science and spirituality are intertwined for him.

For Marcelo Gleiser, science is one part of the tripod of human questioning, and that philosophy and religion have asked these same questions for far longer than science has existed. The answers those different disciplines yield may be starkly different, but they are parallel pursuits and science has its own way of connecting to the spiritual side.

NBCTF Abhedya Inaugurated

Indian Navy’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Training Facility (NBCTF) at INS Shivaji was inaugurated by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba.

Abhedya

  • NBCTF Abhedya will help train personnel of naval ships fitted with nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) detection and protection systems.
  • NBCTF Abhedya will provide realistic training to naval personnel in detection, protection against and decontamination of nuclear, biological and chemical agents.
  • Abhedya will enhance the training capability of the Navy to deal with dangerous situations on warships, including an attack.
  • Abhedya is the maiden NBC simulator of the Indian Navy.
  • The facility will help to train personnel in tackling nuclear, biological or chemical attack.

Abhedya means impenetrable in Sanskrit. It symbolizes the protective cover that is provided on Naval ships, which are fitted with nuclear, biological and chemical detection and protection systems.

AUSINDEX 2019

Third Installment of the Joint Naval Exercise of India and Australia AUSINDEX will be held off the coast of Vishakhapatnam from April 2 to 16. The joint exercise will focus on anti-submarine warfare, as part of efforts to ramp up bilateral naval cooperation in the strategic Indian Ocean region.

  • AUSINDEX 2019 will be held off the coast of Vishakhapatnam from April 2 to 16.
  • From the Australian side, HMAS Canberra (landing helicopter dock), Auxiliary Oiler Replenishment vessel, two frigates — HMAS Newcastle and HMAS Parramatta and P8I and P8 maritime patrol aircraft will be involved in the exercise.
  • A Kilo-class submarine, land-based Hawk aircraft that will provide the air attack element for the exercise, a Kamorta class anti-submarine vessel, besides a stealth destroyer will lead the Indian deployment for the exercise.
  • The exercise will feature the deployment of Australian personnel on Indian ships and vice versa.
  • The area of the exercise will be within 200 miles of Vishakhapatnam.

AUSINDEX 2019 will also witness the largest ever deployment of an Australian defence group to India, over 1000 Australian defence personnel will take part. To further strengthen the defence cooperation between India and Australia, Australia has also proposed logistics sharing pact with India.

Global Energy Transition Index 2019

The Global Energy Transition index 2019 report has been released by the World Economic Forum (WEF). The index compares the energy sectors of 115 countries and analyses their readiness for energy transition. The index benchmarks the countries energy systems based on an “energy triangle”, comprised of energy security and access, economic development and growth, environmental sustainability and how well they are set-up to succeed in the future.

The index takes into account six individual indicators: capital and investment, regulation and political commitment, institutions and governance, institutions and innovative business environment, human capital and consumer participation, and energy system structure.

Global Energy Transition Index 2019

  • Sweden has topped the index and is followed by Switzerland and Norway in the top three.
  • China is ranked even lower than India in the 82nd position.
  • The United Kingdom (UK) is ranked seventh and Singapore has been ranked thirteenth, while Germany, Japan and the US have bagged the seventeenth, eighteenth and the twenty-seventh place respectively.
  • Among the Asian Countries, Malaysia is ranked highest at 31st, Sri Lanka is 60th, Bangladesh 90th and Nepal 93rd.
  • India ranks 76th on WEF’s global Energy Transition index
  • The report states that the world’s transition to secure, affordable and sustainable energy has stagnated, with little or no progress achieved in the past five years.
  • The index notes that continued use of coal for power generation in Asia, increasing commodity prices and slower-than-needed improvements in energy intensity have contributed to this year’s stagnation in performance.
  • Even though more people across the globe have access to energy, this has been offset by reduced affordability and almost no progress in making energy systems environmentally sustainable.

IOC-BPRL acquires oil block in Abu Dhabi

The consortium of State-owned ……Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Bharat PetroResources Ltd (BPRL), Urja Bharat Pte Ltd has acquired an oil block in Abu Dhabi, where the two will invest USD 170 million.

About the Acquisition

  • Urja Bharat Pte Ltd has been awarded 100 per cent stake in the Abu Dhabi Onshore Block 1 Concession.
  • Both IOC and BPRL hold 50 per cent each in Urja Bharat Pte Ltd.
  • Urja Bharat Pte Ltd will make an investment of USD 170 million for the exploration activities and the concession is awarded for the period of four years effective from the date of March 24, 2019.
  • Onshore Block 1 covers an area of 6,162 square kilometres around Ruwais field and includes already discovered but undeveloped fields.
  • This Onshore Block 1 is located in the Al Dhafra region around Ruwais City and the refining complex, including the coastal region to the west. There are two existing undeveloped oil and gas fields in the area, named Ruwais and Mirfa, which will be appraised by the consortium.

The acquisition of the oil block by the consortium of State-owned Indian Oil Corporation (IOC) and Bharat PetroResources Ltd (BPRL), Urja Bharat Pte Ltd marks the entry of IOC as a joint operator in the highly prospective UAE region. The acquisition is consistent with its strategic objective of adding high-quality exploration and production (E&P) assets to its existing upstream portfolio.

Pakistan Approves Plan to Open Sharda Peeth Corridor… 

Pakistan government has approved a proposal to establish a corridor which would allow Hindu pilgrims from India to visit Sharda Peeth in the region of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). Sharda Peeth Corridor will be the second corridor to be established after the Kartarpur Corridor which provides access to Gurudwara Darbar Sahib at Kartarpur in Pakistan.

Sharda Peeth

Sharda Peeth is an abandoned Hindu temple and ancient centre of learning in Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK). The temple is dedicated to goddess Sharada, the Hindu goddess of learning.

Sharada Temple is located at Sharada village and it is here river Kishanganga and two streams Madhmati and Sargun meets. Goddess Sharada is the Kuldevi of Kashmiri pandits. It is also one of the three famous tirthas, or holy sites, for Kashmiri Pandits, the other two being the Martand Sun Temple and the Amarnath Temple.

Sharada Peeth is also revered as one of 18 Maha Shakti Peethas, or “Grand Shakti Peethas” which commemorates the location of fallen body parts of the Hindu deity Sati.

Sharada Peeth is believed to be a foremost centre of learning Between the 6th and 12th centuries CE hosting scholars such as Kalhana, Adi Shankara, Vairostana, Kumarajiva, and Thonmi Sambhota.

The temple is about 150 km from Muzaffarabad capital of PoK and 130 Km from Srinagar currently under the control of Pakistan.

IPL witnesses its first Mankading

The mega celebration of Cricket, Indian Premier League (IPL) witnessed its first ever Mankading in its history in the match of Kings XI Punjab and Rajasthan Royals. Rajasthan Royals opener Jos Buttler became the first victim of ‘Mankading’ in the history of the Indian Premier League (IPL).

Kings XI Punjab skipper Ravichandran Ashwin dismissed the Rajasthan Royals opener Jos Buttler through mankading.

What is Mankading?

Mankading is a kind of dismissal witnessed in the game of cricket. Mankading is the situation where a bowler run out a non-striker by hitting the bails before bowling when the non-striker is outside the crease, with no warning.

Even though it is a legal way of dismissing the batsmen, it is considered as unethical and against the spirit of the

RBI slaps penalty on PNB for violating SWIFT norms

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has fined Punjab National Bank (PNB) Rs 2 crore for violation of compliance with regulatory directions regarding SWIFT operations.

The RBI has toughened the stance against banks on all kind of regulatory norms post PNB fraud which put it to question the ability of the central bank. Earlier in March 2019, RBI had imposed a total monetary fine of Rs 8 crore on three banks- Karnataka Bank, United Bank of India and Karur Vysya Bank for not complying with the directions on Swift messaging software.

President Ram Nath Kovind honoured with highest civilian award of Croatia

President Ram Nath Kovind has been honoured with Croatia’s highest civilian award …the Grand Order of the King of Tomislav. The Indian President was honoured during his visit to Croatia to strengthen the bilateral ties.

           

Croatia’s highest civilian award the Grand Order of the King of Tomislav is awarded to heads of state for their important contribution towards the development of state relations between Croatia and their respective countries. President Kovind is the first-ever Indian head of state to visit Croatia.

Mission Shakti

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that India has successfully test-fired an anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile by shooting down a live satellite. The project named as Mission Shakti was led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was aimed at strengthening India’s overall security.

Key Facts about Mission Shakti

  • DRDO-developed A-SAT system successfully destroyed a live satellite in the Low Earth Orbit.
  • India is only the fourth country after the U.S., Russia and China to have the A-SAT technology.
  • The PM Narendra Modi in his address has made clear that the intent of DRDO’s “Mission Shakti” is to defend India’s space assets and not to start an arms race in space.
  • The indigenous development of the A-SAT technology will have many spin-offs that India can exploit for civilian commercial use.
  • The test was carried out from the Dr A.P.J Abdul Kalam Island launch complex off the coast of Odisha by the DRDO.
  • Since the test was done in the lower atmosphere, whatever debris that is generated will decay and fall back onto the earth within weeks.
  • Mission Shakti does not violate the 1967 Outer Space Treaty of which India is a signatory. The treaty prohibits only weapons of mass destruction in outer space, not ordinary weapons.

The ASAT test was not directed against any country. India’s space capabilities neither threaten any country nor are they directed against anyone. But as an added advantage the capability achieved through the anti-satellite missile test provides credible deterrence against threats to our growing space-based assets from long-range missiles and proliferation in the types and numbers of missiles.

Pentagon authorises fund transfer to build US-Mexico Border Wall

The Pentagon has notified the US Congress that it has authorised the transfer of USD 1 billion to begin building a new wall along the US-Mexico border. This transfer of funds is first under the national emergency declared by President Trumpto bypass Congress and build the border wall President Trump had pledged during his 2016 election campaign.

Increasing levels of Carbon dioxide and Wheat productivity

Scientists are worried over sustaining food production and productivity of major crops like wheat, paddy, and maize due to the increasing levels of carbon dioxide. Studies have shown that even though increased carbon dioxide levels…. stimulate wheat productivity, the consequent ……rise in temperatures would have a negative impact.

There has been optimism in tropical countries like Greenland, Canada, Northern China and Europe where annual temperatures are currently well below the optimum range for the growth of wheat and an increase in temperature would be beneficial to them with a possibility of a hike in wheat productivity.

 Whereas in tropical countries like India there is heightened concern as it is already hot enough and further rises in temperature could prove disastrous.

Study by Indian Institute of Technology- Kharagpur

The Indian Institute of Technology- Kharagpur explored the possibility of nutrient management as a way to sustain wheat productivity even at higher concentrations of carbon dioxide by creating an artificial carbon dioxide-rich environment and applied different levels of nitrogen to wheat crop along with the recommended dosage of fertilizers. The findings of the study are:

  • Wheat yield and growth parameters improved with increasing levels of nitrogen application despite elevated carbon dioxide conditions and higher temperatures.
  • Under ambient carbon dioxide concentration, increasing the dosage of nitrogen did not bring any improvement in growth and yield of the crop.
  • Elevated carbon dioxide levels increased crop growth rate and the fraction of leaf biomass and leaf nitrogen, especially with the nitrogen management using chemical fertilizer.

The study concludes that Wheat production under the elevated carbon dioxide environment in Eastern India might be maintained or improved through the normal and increased dose of nitrogen fertilizer application. However, there is a need for larger studies on the field with multi-location trials using different varieties, before any firm conclusion can be reached.

Multi-dimensional Poverty Index 2018

The Multi-dimensional Poverty Index 2018 report prepared by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative makes the following observations about India:

  • India has reduced its poverty rate drastically from 55% to 28% in 10 years, with 271 million people moving out of poverty between 2005-06 and 2015-16.
  • India still had 364 million poor in 2015-16, the largest for any country, although it is down from 635 million in 2005-06.
  • Poverty reduction among children, the poorest states, Scheduled Tribes, and Muslims was fastest.
  • Of the 364 million people who were MPI poor in 2015-16, 156 million (34.6%) were children whereas in 2005-06 there were 292 million poor children in India. This represents a 47% decrease or 136 million fewer children growing up in multidimensional poverty.
  • Even though poverty among Muslims and STs has been reduced poverty the most over the 10 years, these two groups still had the highest rates of poverty.
  • 80% of ST members were poor in 2005-06 and 50% of them were still poor in 2015-16. While 60% of Muslims were poor in 2005-06, 31% of them were still poor in 2015-16.
  • Bihar with more than half its population in poverty was the poorest state in 2015-16.
  • The four poorest states Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh were still home to 196 million MPI poor people, which was over half of all the MPI poor people in India.
  • Jharkhand had shown the greatest improvement, followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, and Nagaland.
  • Kerala, one of the least poor regions in 2006, reduced its MPI by around 92%.

Election Commission of India on Electoral Bonds-

An electoral bond is designed to be a bearer instrument like a Promissory Note — in effect, it will be similar to a bank note that is payable to the bearer on demand and free of interest. It can be purchased by any citizen of India or a body incorporated in India.

How do you use it?

The bonds will be issued in multiples of ₹1,000, ₹10,000, ₹1 lakh, ₹10 lakh and ₹1 crore and will be available at specified branches of State Bank of India. They can be bought by the donor with a KYC-compliant account. Donors can donate the bonds to their party of choice which can then be cashed in via the party’s verified account within 15 days.

What are the other conditions?

Every party that is registered under section 29A of the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951 (43 of 1951) and has secured at least one per cent of the votes polled in the most recent Lok Sabha or State election will be allotted a verified account by the Election Commission of India. Electoral bond transactions can be made only via this account.

The bonds will be available for purchase for a period of 10 days each in the beginning of every quarter, i.e. in January, April, July and October as specified by the Central Government. An additional period of 30 days shall be specified by the Central Government in the year of Lok Sabha elections.

In an affidavit filed before the Supreme Court, the Election Commission of India has made the following observations:

  • Electoral bonds, contrary to government claims, wreck transparency in political funding.
  • Electoral bondscoupled with the removal of the cap on foreign funding invites foreign corporate powers to impact Indian politics.
  • Electoral bondswould cause a “serious impact” on transparency in the funding of political parties.

The Election Commission of India further criticises amendments made to various key statutes through the two consecutive Finance Acts of 2016 and 2017.

RBI for Setting up Regulatory Sandbox

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) will be issuing guidelines within two months for the fintech companies to test their new products on a small group of users before scaling up.

This regulatory sandbox will help fintech companies to launch innovative products at a lower cost and in less time and enable fintech companies to conduct live or virtual testing of their new products and services.

Sandbox

regulatory sandbox is a framework. set up by a financial sector regulator1. to allow small scale, live testing of inno- vations. by private firms in a controlled environment (operating under a special exemption, allowance, or other limited, time-bound exception) under the regu- lator’s supervision.

Benefits from Regulatory sandbox

  • Regulatory sandbox will provide a well-defined space for the companies to develop new products.
  • Regulatory sandbox allows for experimenting with their products and fintech solutions. In case of failure, the consequences would be contained and the reasons will be analysed for betterment.
  • Regulatory Sandbox’ would benefit FinTech companies by way of reduced time to launch innovative products at a lower cost.

The RBI’s working group on FinTech and digital banking in 2017 had recommended that a regulatory sandbox/innovation hub be introduced within a well-defined space and duration to experiment with FinTech solutions, where the consequences of failure can be contained and reasons for failure analysed.

Dhanush Howitzers Inducted Into Indian Army

Four indigenous Dhanush Howitzer guns were inducted to the Indian Army. The induction of Dhanush Howitzer guns gives major fire-power boost to the Indian Armed Forces.

Dhanush Howitzers

  • Dhanush Long Range Artillery Guns are the first ever indigenous 155 mm x 45 calibre long-range artillery guns.
  • Dhanush Long Range Artillery Guns are equipped with inertial navigation-based sighting system, auto-laying facility, on-board ballistic computation and an advanced day and night direct firing system.
  • The self-propulsion unit on Dhanush allows the gun to negotiate and deploy itself in mountainous terrains with ease.
  • Dhanush is also electronically upgraded to enhance firing accuracies, laying speeds of the existing gun and to provide compatibility with various kinds of ammunition as well.
  • Dhanushhowitzer is an improved version of Bofors guns acquired by India between 1987 and 1991.
  • Dhanush howitzer is a reverse-engineered upgraded variant of the original Bofors design.

Dhanush makes outranged Pakistani artillery units more vulnerable to Indian counter-battery fire, while itself staying out of reach. Dhanush’s longer range and high rate of fire will also make it useful in tackling localised Pakistan Army’s offensives in sectors of the LoC where the terrain favours the Pakistani side.

World’s highest polling station

Tashigang, a small Himachal Pradesh village has got the distinction of the highest polling station in the world. Tashigang is located at an altitude of 15,256 feet.

Tashigang Polling Station

  • Tashigang polling station falls in Buddhist-dominated Lahaul-Spiti and forms part of the Mandi Lok Sabhaseat, the second largest constituency in India.
  • Tashigang is situated at about 29 km from the India-China border and the polling station covers two villages— Tashigang and Gete.
  • The polling station has  48 voters, of which 30 are men and 18 women.
  • Even though Tashigang has all necessary facilities like power and water supply but lacks mobile connectivity and election officials will use a satellite phone during polls on May 19.

Initially, election officials had intended to set up the polling booth at Gete village but shifted it to Tashigang as the government school building there was not found safe. Earlier the tiny settlement of Hikkim in Himachal Pradesh positioned at an altitude of about 14,400 ft, was the highest polling station in the country.

IEA Report on Co2 Emissions

The International Energy Agency (IEA) report on Carbon dioxide emissions makes the following observations:

  • India emitted 2,299 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018. India’s emissions carbon dioxide witnessed an increase of 4.8% rise from last year.
  • The rate of growth of carbon dioxide emission in India was higher than that of the United States and China which are the two biggest emitters in the world. This increase in the emission of carbon dioxide was attributed to coal consumption.
  • China, the United States, and India accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand.
  • India’s per capita emissions were about 40% of the global average and contributed 7% to the global carbon dioxide burden whereas the largest emitter the United States was responsible for 14%.
  • Under the INDC India has pledged to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 2030. But India’s energy intensity improvement declined 3% from last year even as its renewable energy installations increased 10.6% from last year.

As per estimates, India requires at least $2.5 trillion (Rs 150 trillion approx.) to implement its climate pledge which is around 71% of the combined required spending for all developing countries pledges.

Skytrax World Airport Awards 2019… 

Skytrax World Airport Awards which lists the Best 100 Airports of the World was released by the UK-based Skytrax, a consultancy firm which runs an airline and airport review and ranking site. The accolade was awarded at the Passenger Terminal Expo 2019 in London.

Best Airports of World

  • Singapore’s Changi Airport has been crowned the world’s best aviation hub for the seventh time in a row. Singapore Changi Airport is well known for its rooftop swimming pool, two 24-hour movie theatres and shopping spots.
  • Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), up one place from 2018 stood at the second place. The airport hub also won accolade as World’s Best Domestic Airport and World’s Cleanest Airport.
  • Incheon International Airport, down one place from its second-place spot in 2018 is the other entrant at number three. Incheon International Airport also won the accolade for World’s Best Transit Airport.

Indian Airports in the List

  • Indira Gandhi International Airport of New Delhi was eight points up this year after featuring at the 66th spot in 2018 and stood at rank 59.
  • Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport stood at 64, down one rank from the previous year.
  • Rajiv Gandhi Hyderabad International Airport stood at 66, up 10 ranks.
  • Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport at 69, down five ranks.

The Skytrax World Airport Awards are based on votes of customers in a global airport customer satisfaction survey.

Blockchain Based e-marketplace app for Coffee

The Ministry of Commerce and Industries has launched blockchain-based e-marketplace for coffee.

Blockchain Based e-marketplace

  • The e-marketplace helps farmers integrate directly with markets in a transparent manner, allowing them to realize fair prices for their produce.
  • The blockchain technologywill help in reducing the number of intermediaries between coffee growers and buyers and help farmers double their income.
  • The blockchain-based marketplace app for trading coffee brings transparency and maintains the traceability of Indian coffee from bean to cup.
  • The blockchain-based marketplace app by facilitating direct access to buyers, it will reduce growers’ dependency on intermediaries and help them get a fair price for their produce.
  • The coffee board has collaborated with Eka Plus for the development of the app.

India produces one of the best coffees in the world and a considerable portion of it comes from small coffee growers and tribal farmers. Although Indian coffee is highly valued in the world market, the share of farmers in the final returns from coffee is very low. The Blockchain Based e-marketplace app is expected to help farmers in gaining higher returns.

EU parliament approves ban on Single-use plastics.

The European Parliament has voted for an EU-wide ban on single-use plastic products such as the straws, cutlery and cotton buds that are clogging the world’s oceans. The law on single-use plastic ban sets a target to gather 90 per cent of plastic for recycling by 2029 and mandates the production of plastic bottles with 25 per cent recycled material by 2025 and 30 per cent by 2030.

The law also insists on polluters pay principle by insisting polluters to pay the costs of a clean-up. The measures are strengthened, particularly for cigarette manufacturers, who will have to support the recycling of discarded filters.

The “polluter pays” principle will be extended to manufacturers of fishing nets so that companies, not fishing crews pay the cost of nets lost at sea.

The products prohibited under the law represent 70 per cent of the waste that pours into the world’s oceans, posing a threat to wildlife and fisheries.

Why Ballot Papers will be used in Nizamabad instead of EVM?]

 While the entire Country will vote in EVMs in the Lok Sabha Polls 2019, the people of the Nizamabad in Telangana will vote through Ballot Papers.

Why Ballot Papers in Nizamabad?

For the Lok Sabha Polls 2019 in the Nizamabad Lok Sabha seat, there are 185 candidates in contention. As one EVM can accommodate only 16 candidates and a maximum of 4 EVMs can be used in one polling booth, the Election Commission is forced to switch back to the age-old practice of ballot papers.

Of the 185 candidates in contention 178 are farmers who cultivate Turmeric and Jowar. They are contesting polls to highlight their demand for the remunerative price for their crops.

The Nizamabad Lok Sabha Constituency had received around 200 nominations of these some were rejected and 189 candidates remained in contention after the scrutiny of nomination papers. Of these 4 candidates withdrew their nomination papers.

K Kavitha who is also the daughter of Telangana Chief Minister, Chandrashekhar Rao is the sitting MP from the Nizamabad seat.

Punjab and Haryana High Court bars stating of caste in Proceedings

The Punjab and Haryana High Court has instructed states of Punjab, Haryana and Union Territory Chandigarh to not mention the caste of the accused, victims or witnesses in proceedings before the court.

What did the High Court say?

The High Court while passing a ruling in a murder case where the Haryana police had mentioned the caste of the accused witnesses and the victim during the proceedings stated this is not permissible and the caste system was profoundly illogical and was also against the basic tenets of the Constitution.

The High Court stated that mentioning the caste separately in the criminal proceedings is a colonial legacy and requires to be stopped henceforth. The Constitution guarantees a casteless and classless society. All are born equal.

The High court directed the governments to issue instructions to all investigating officers not to mention the caste of the accused, victims or witnesses in recovery memos, FIRs, seizure memos, inquest papers and other forms prescribed under CrPC and Punjab Police Rules.

IUCN lists Hump-backed Mahseer as Critically Endangered… 

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed Hump-backed Mahseer as Critically Endangered in the Red List of Threatened Species.

Hump-backed Mahseer

The Hump-backed Mahseer is a species of freshwater ray-finned fish and is referred to as tiger of the water. The Hump-backed Mahseer is found only in the Cauvery river basin including Pambar, Kabini and Bhavani rivers. There are about 16 species of mahseer in India.

There is a need for strong willingness and cooperation from a range of stakeholders in three states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka across the River Cauvery which is one of India’s most contested rivers.

Shoal, an international organisation working to conserve freshwater species has initiated ‘Project Mahseer’ in collaboration with other stakeholders to enable conservation action for the hump-backed mahseer.

Why India needs watch-dog for Fiscal Discipline?… 

The Chairman of the Fifteenth Finance Commission N K Singh has pitched for a fiscal council to enforce fiscal rules and better manage public debt.

Why Fiscal Council?

  • For state government liabilities, Article 293 (3) provides a constitutional check over borrowings. But there are no such restrictions on the Centre Hence there is a need for an alternative institutional mechanism like Fiscal Council to enforce fiscal rules and keep a check on Centre’s fiscal consolidation.
  • An institutional mechanism for sound fiscal practices will bring in transparency, instil confidence among domestic and foreign investors and improve policy outcomes.
  • An institutional mechanism will also prevent practices such as accounting jugglery to show the Centre’s finances in better shape, undermining the sanctity of the budget numbers.
  • Even the CAG has underscored the need for proper disclosures, saying that budgets often understate fiscal deficits by misusing accounting loopholes.
  • The Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management (FRBM) Review Committee had also recommended setting up an autonomous council. Even the 13th and 14th finance commissions had favoured the setting up of a Council to keep tabs on budget forecasts and their veracity.

India’s debt-to-GDP ratio of the states and the Centre combined is also way too high at 70%. An independent Fiscal Council will streamline the fiscal discipline.

Earth Hour 2019

Earth Hour 2019 was witnessed on March 30 by turning off lights at 8:30 pm local time for an hour as a call for global action on climate change. The theme of Earth Hour 2019 is #Connect2Earth.

The theme signifies humanities connection to Earth and nature is undeniable: our planet’s gain is everyone’s gain. Nature not only provides us with all the things we need to live – from the air we breathe to the water we drink, and from the shelter we need to the economy we rely on – but also makes our lives better. However, its growing loss puts this all under threat.

World Wide Fund for Nature has partnered with the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to create connect2earth movement. The movement partners to engage millions of people worldwide to speak up on why nature matters and take the lead in action against the harm being done to the planet we all call home.

Earth Hour

Earth Hour is held annually by encouraging individuals, communities, and businesses to turn off non-essential electric lights for one hour, from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. on a specific day towards the end of March, as a symbol of commitment to the planet.

Earth Hour which began as a symbolic lights out event in Sydney in 2007 it is now the world’s largest grassroots movement for the environment, inspiring millions of people to take action for our planet and nature. Earth Hour is organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature.

Branches of Vijaya, Dena Bank to operate as outlets of Bank of Baroda

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has stated that all branches of public sector lenders Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank will function as branches of Bank of Baroda (BoB) from April 1, 2019, and the proposed merger Bank of Baroda with Dena and Vijaya Bank will be affected from April 1.

Plan of Merger

As per the proposed merger plan, shareholders of Vijaya Bank will get 402 equity shares of BoB for every 1,000 shares held and the shareholders of Dena Bank will receive 110 equity shares of BoB for every 1,000 equity shares held.

The boards of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank will stand dissolved. The entire share capital of Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank will stand cancelled and the shares of both these banks will also stand delisted from stock exchanges.

Following the merger of these state-owned banks, BoB will become the third largest bank in India after the State Bank of India and HDFC Bank.

The consolidated bank will have over 9,500 branches, 13,400 ATMs, 85,000 employees to serve 12 crore customers. The bank will have a business mix of Rs 15 lakh crore of balance sheet, with deposits and advances of Rs 8.75 lakh crore and Rs 6.25 lakh crore, respectively.

Zuzana Caputova elected first female President of Slovakia

Zuzana Caputova has won Slovakia’s presidential election, making her the country’s first female head of state. Ms Caputova defeated high-profile diplomat Maros Sefcovic, nominated by the governing party. She won 58% of the vote, with Mr Sefcovic trailing on 42%. Mr Sefcovic is the vice president of the European Commission.

Slovakia

Slovakia is a landlocked country in Central Europe. It borders Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, Hungary to the south, Austria to the west, and the Czech Republic to the northwest. Slovakia is a member of the European Union and NATO.

Slovakia was the “other half” of Czechoslovakia, which split into two countries in 1993.

Slovakia’s which spans about 49,000 square kilometres (19,000 sq mi) is mostly mountainous. The capital and largest city is Bratislava, and the second largest city is Košice. The official language is Slovak and Euro is its national currency.

GRSE becomes first Indian shipyard to deliver 100 warships

State-owned Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE) has become the “first Indian shipyard” to build and deliver 100 warships. The 100th warship ‘IN LCU L-56’ has been handed over to the Indian Navy.

GRSE had handed over its 99th warship, ‘ICGS Priyadarshini’, an advanced ‘Fast Patrol Vessel’ to the Indian Coast Guard.

Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers Ltd

Based in Kolkata, Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers Ltd (GRSE) is a shipbuilding company in India under the administrative control of the Ministry of Defence. GRSE primarily caters to the shipbuilding requirements of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard. In addition to its ship and warship building capabilities, GRSE is also engaged in engine production and other engineering activities.

In 1934, GRSE was incorporated under the Indian Companies Act, 1913 and was later acquired by the Government of India from Macneill & Barry Limited on May 19, 1960. In 2006, GRSE was conferred the status of Mini Ratna.

Over the years, GRSE has built around 780 platforms, including 100 warships to the Navy, the Coast Guard, and the Mauritius Coast Guard.

ISRO Successfully launched Emisat Satellite into Orbit… 

The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has successfully launched an electronic intelligence satellite ‘Emisat’ for the Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) along with 28 third party satellites.

      

About the Launch

The notable aspects of the launch were a new variant of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV); switching off and on the fourth stage engine couple of times; and the use of the fourth stage as an orbital platform carrying three experimental payloads.

PSLV first placed the 436 kg Emisat into a 749 km orbit. Then the rocket was brought down to put the 28 satellites into orbit, at an altitude of 504 km.

Then the rocket was brought down further to 485 km where the fourth stage/engine transformed into a payload platform carrying three experimental payloads:

  • Automatic Identification System (AIS) from ISRO – for maritime satellite applications capturing messages transmitted from ships.
  • Automatic Packet Repeating System (APRS) from AMSAT (Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation), India – to assist amateur radio operators in tracking and monitoring position data.
  • Advanced Retarding Potential Analyser for Ionospheric Studies (ARIS) from Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology (IIST) – for the structural and compositional studies of the ionosphere.

For the first time, the launch also demonstrated new technology of putting payloads into three different orbits with a new variant of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) rocket.

Sovereignty over the Chagos Archipelago

 is disputed between Mauritius and the United Kingdom. Mauritius has repeatedly asserted that the Chagos Archipelago is part of its territory and that the United Kingdom (UK) claim is a violation of United Nations resolutions banning the dismemberment of colonial territories before independence.

The UK government has stated that it has no doubt about its sovereignty over the Chagos, and has also said that the Chagos will be returned to Mauritius once the islands are no longer required for defence purposes. Given the absence of any progress with the UK, Mauritius has decided to “internationalise” the dispute and take up the matter at all appropriate legal and political forums.

The African Union and the Non-Aligned Movement have expressed unanimous support for Mauritius on the Chagos issue.

The Constitution of Mauritius states that the Outer islands of Mauritius includes the islands of MauritiusRodriguesAgalégaCargados Carajos and the Chagos Archipelago, including Diego Garcia and any other island comprised in the State of Mauritius. The Government of the Republic of Mauritius has stated that it does not recognise the British Indian Ocean Territory which the United Kingdom created by excising the Chagos Archipelago from the territory of Mauritius prior to its independence, and claims that the Chagos Archipelago including Diego Garcia forms an integral part of the territory of Mauritius under both Mauritian law and international law.

Brexit: MPs reject Theresa May’s deal for a second time

Brexit – “British” and “exit”) is the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU), which is scheduled to take place on 29 March 2019 at 11 pm UK time, when the period for negotiating a Withdrawal Agreement will end unless an extension is agreed.

 There is an ongoing debate about leaving with a Withdrawal Agreement that has been ratified by both parties as an international treaty between UK and EU or leaving with no such treaty.

On 14 March 2019, the House of Commons voted by a majority of 211 votes for the Prime MinisterTheresa May, to ask the EU for such an extension of the period allowed for the negotiation.

 On 15 January 2019, the House of Commons voted 432 to 202 against the deal, the largest parliamentary defeat in history for a sitting UK government.

 A second vote on 12 March was voted against 391 to 242, a loss of 149 votes, 81 less than the vote in January.

The broad consensus among economists is that Brexit will likely reduce the UK’s real per capita income in the medium term and long term, and that the Brexit referendum itself had damaged the economy. Studies on effects since the referendum show a reduction in GDP, trade and investment, as well as household losses from increased inflation.

 Brexit is likely to reduce immigration from European Economic Area(EEA) countries to the UK, and poses challenges for UK higher education and academic research.

 As of February 2019, the size of the “divorce bill“—the UK’s inheritance of existing EU trade agreements—and relations with Ireland and other EU member states remains uncertain. The precise impact on the UK depends on whether the process will be a “hard” or “soft” Brexit.

Analysis by HM Treasury has found that there is no Brexit scenario that is expected to improve the UK economic condition

Pakistan’s Masood Azhar: China blocks bid to call militant terrorist

China has blocked a bid to designate the leader of the group behind an attack which brought India and Pakistan to the brink of war a terrorist.

Masood Azhar is the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM), which carried out a suicide bombing last month killing 40 troops in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The UN security council has been asked to subject Masood Azhar to an assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo.

they didn’t even mention the system in flight manuals.

Six U.S. nuclear power plants to be set up in India

New Delhi and Washington have agreed on a proposal to build six nuclear power plants in India.

India and the U.S. signed a historic agreement to cooperate in civil nuclear energy in October 2008. The deal gave a fillip to bilateral ties, which have been on an upswing since.

A major aspect of the deal was the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) that gave a special waiver to India enabling it to sign cooperation agreements with a dozen countries.

Agreements signed with many nations

Post waiver, India signed civil nuclear cooperation agreements with the U.S., France, Russia, Canada, Argentina, Australia, Sri Lanka, the U.K., Japan, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan and South Korea.

On March 13,2019 the U.S. reaffirmed its strong support to India’s early membership in the 48-member NSG. Notably, China has blocked India’s pending membership to the elite grouping that seeks to prevent proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Christchurch mosque shootings

The Christchurch mosque shootings were two consecutive terrorist mass shootings at the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday Prayer on 15 March 2019.

 The attacks began at the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton at 1:40 pm, and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre at about 1:55 pm.

 The attacks killed 50 people and injured 50 more.

 A 28-year-old Australian man, described in media reports as a white supremacist (A supremacist is someone who believes that one group of people, usually white people, should be more powerful and have more influencethan another group.)and part of the “alt-right“, was arrested and charged with murder.

Alt Right are the…… people with extreme conservative viewsincluding extreme views aboutrace, who reject ordinary politics and use the internet to spread theiropinions. Alt-right is an abbreviation for “alternative right“:

The alt-right rejects mainstream conservatismbelieving that it under-represents the interests of white nationalists.

 The attacks have been linked to an increase in white supremacism and alt-right extremism globally observed since the mid-2010s.The suspect published a manifesto and live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern referred to the attacks as “one of New Zealand’s darkest days”. Politicians and world leaders condemned the attacks, with some attributing the attack to rising Islamophobia .

Venezuela’s to export oil to India in Rupees

India is considering Venezuela’s proposal to use rupee for trade payments to protect the current oil import from the South American nation facing hardening US sanctions. 

The US has imposed a series of sanctions on Venezuela to squeeze its oil revenue and force the nation’s President Nicolas Maduro to step down. The US, which recognised opposition leader Juan Guaido as the president of Venezuela in January, is now considering imposing new financial sanctions aimed at cutting the .. Latin American nation’s access to the international financial system. 

Current sanctions bar US firms from doing business with Venezuela but leave importers from India & other countries unhurt. The US, however, has been piling diplomatic pressure on India to cut import. Once the US cuts off Venezuela from the international financial system, Indian refiners will be forced to either stop import or build an alternative payment channel. 

India has already advised its refiners to  .. to avoid payment system controlled by the US .

 Only private refiners Reliance Industries  and Nayara Energy import…. Venezuelan oil, about 300,000 barrels per day .

New Goa CM  Pramod Sawant

Pramod Sawant (born 24 April 1973) is an Indian politician who is the 13th and current Chief Minister of Goa. Sawant represents the Sanquelim constituency in the Goa Legislative Assembly and is a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party.

 He is a Ayurvedapractitioner by profession. He was serving as the speaker of the Goa assembly before being sworn in as Chief Minister, after the death of the sitting chief minister Manohar Parrikar.

Why India needs 2,000 MPs instead of 543 ?

Article 81 of India’s Constitution laid down that every state and Union territory (UT) would be allotted seats in the Lok Sabha in such a manner that the ratio of population to seats should be as equal as possible across states.If the letter and spirit of the original provision were to be implemented today, the composition of the Lok Sabha would change drastically with states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Delhi gaining significantly more seats in the Lok Sabha, while southern states like 

Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Odisha and Telangana would lose out on seats.

This is how states are represented currently, what the representation should have been in 2019 and what it would be in the future.

But things did not play out as originally planned. The reason: In 1976, during  the Emergency, the 42nd amendment Act decreed that the population to be taken into consideration for the next 25 years would be the number in the 1971 census.

The rationale was that family planning was a national imperative and states would have little incentive to pursue it if success meant their share of political power would go down. The freeze on reapportioning seats between states and UTs was further extended by the 84th amendment Act in 2001 till 2026.

All votes are not equal

The result of this freeze is that the principle of “one man (or woman) one vote” has been diluted in India. At the time of the apportioning of seats based on the 1971 census, all big states had a Lok Sabha MP representing roughly 10 lakh people. The extent of the variation was from just over 10 lakh to about 10.6 lakh, hardly a huge disparity.

But in the last 40 years, seats have remained unchanged despite the increase in population. Today, based on 2016 mid-year population, the…. average MP from Rajasthan represents over 30 lakh people while the one in Tamil Nadu or Kerala represents less than …18 lakh.

This means the voter in Tamil Nadu and Kerala has more say than the one in Rajasthan. MPs from smaller states and UTs, of course, represent even fewer people, but that has always been the case and is inevitable since even the tiniest UT cannot have less than one MP.

Prior to the 2008 delimitation, the situation was arguably worse with even voters within the same state not having the same weight.

The most extreme extreme example of this was in Delhi, where the Chandni Chowk constituency had an electorate of just 3.4 lakh while Outer Delhi had ten times the number at 33.7 lakh.

Uttar Pradesh Begins Otter Census

For the first time, Uttar Pradesh is taking a census of otters in its protected areas. The census has begun in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR).

Otters

Otters live on fish and spend much of its time in or close to water bodies. A thriving population of otters means a healthy ecosystem. A growing or healthy population of otters means the water bodies are pollution-free. Clean water bodies mean a healthy ecosystem of the forest. Otters thriving and getting sufficient food to eat means the water bodies in the reserve are in a fine state and the aquatic life in them is healthy.

India is home to 3 of the 13 species of otters found worldwide. These are :

  • Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) – IUCN status: Near Threatened.
  • Smooth-coated Otter (Lutra perspicillata) – IUCN status: Vulnerable.
  • Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus) – IUCN status: Vulnerable.

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve spreads across Pilibhit district, Lakhimpur Kheri District and Bahraich District of Uttar Pradesh. The Northern edge of the reserve lies along the India-Nepal border while the southern boundary is marked by the river Sharada and Khakra.

Pilibhit Tiger Reserve is home to habitat for over 127 animals, 326 bird species and 2,100 flowering plants. The reserve is home to a myriad of wild animals including the endangered tiger, swamp deer, Bengal florican, hog deer, leopard, etc. The large carnivores are supported by a very large prey base consisting of cheetal, sambar, wild boar, hog deer, swamp deer, blue bull, etc. The bird life is very rich and diverse and hundreds of species of birds can be seen around.

Bomb Cyclone

The bomb cyclone swept has through the US Great Plains resulting in blizzard conditions, hurricane-like winds, snow and heavy rain and subsequent flooding.

Bomb Cyclone or Bombogenesis

Bomb Cyclone or bombogenesis refer to a rapidly intensifying area of low-pressure winter storm when there is a pressure drop by at least 24 millibars in 24 hours. The decrease of the pressure intensifies the storm. This pressure drop intensification and subsequent winter storms result in strong winds, beach erosion and coastal flooding, especially with high tide.

Bombogenesis storm can be tropical or non-tropical and proximity to a large body of water, particularly an ocean, during cold months contributes to the creation of a bomb cyclone.

Bomb Cyclone is caused by a collision of warm air and cold air which develop into rotating storm-like pattern and lead to an explosive deepening of pressure. Worldwide about 40 to 50 ‘bomb cyclones brew each year.

Specialised Gurkha Infantry Battalion in British Army

The British Army has announced that it would create a new Specialised Infantry Battalion by recruiting more than 800 Nepalese Gurkha servicepersons. Gurkhas have completed 200 years of service in the British Army and currently, they comprise up to 3% of the British Army.

NGT Directs CPCB to Prepare Noise Pollution Maps

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) to prepare a noise pollution map and remedial action plan to solve the issue across the country.

NGT Order

  • CPCB has been directed to prepare a noise pollution map and identify hotspots and categorise the cities with specified hotspots and propose a remedial action plan.
  • Noting the establishment of the noise monitoring mechanism in seven cities, NGT asked CPCB to consider setting up of such mechanisms in all cities where noise pollution is beyond permissible limits.
  • Further, the police departments of all the States and Union Territories are asked to obtain the noise monitoring devices within a period of three months and specification of such devices may be finalised in consultation with the respective state PCBs and pollution control committees.
  • NGT asked for setting up of public address systems with equipment that can monitor the noise pollution parameters and alert authorities once the prescribed limits are crossed.

NGT noted that the absence of implementation of noise pollution norms affects the health of citizens, especially infants and senior citizens. Noise pollution affects sleep, comfort, studies and other legitimate activities to address the issue of Noise Pollution.

Raghu Karnad wins Windham-Campbell Prize

Indian Writer Raghu Karnad has won the Windham-Campbell Prize $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize in the non-fiction category for his debut book, The Farthest Field: An Indian Story Of The Second World War. Karnad is one of the eight winners chosen across four categories—fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry. The other awardee in the non-fiction category was American writer Rebecca Solnit for the diverse body of work she has produced over her career.

Raghu Karnad is the second Indian to receive the award. Earlier in 2016, Jerry Pinto had won the award for his novel, Em And The Big Hoom. Raghu Karnad is the son of legendary writer and the Jnanpith awardee Girish Karnad.

Cyclone Idai

Tropical Cyclone Idai has caused huge deaths and economic losses in Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Cyclone Idai made landfall on Mozambique and later moved in a westerly direction. Idai is the deadliest Tropical cyclone witnessed in 2019.

Idai originated from a tropical depression that formed off the eastern coast of Mozambique and made landfall in Mozambique. The depression later reemerged into the Mozambique Channel and was upgraded into Moderate Tropical Storm.

Tropical Cyclone

Tropical Cyclone is an intense low-pressure area or a whirl in the atmosphere over tropical or sub-tropical waters, with organised convection, circulating either anti-clockwise (in the northern hemisphere) or clockwise (in the southern hemisphere).

The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) has adopted 2 resolutions piloted by India on single-use plastics and sustainable nitrogen management. The resolutions were passed at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) which was held in Nairobi. The theme of the fourth session of UNEA was Innovative Solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable production and consumption.

Resolution on Single-use Plastics

  • The resolution on Single-use Plastics rings the alarm about plastic waste since only nine per cent of the nine billion tonnes of plastics ever produced have been recycled and that most of it end in landfills, dumps and the environment.
  • The resolution notes the important role of key sectors such as plastics producers, retailers and the consumer goods industry, as well as importers, packaging firms, transport firms, and recyclers to contribute to the reduction of plastic waste, arising from their products and activities, as well as to provide information on the impacts arising from their products and encourages innovative approaches such as the use of extended producer responsibility schemes, deposit refund schemes and other initiatives.
  • The resolution also welcomes the global efforts to raise awareness about the negative impacts of plastic pollution and in that regard appreciating the 2018 World Environment Day held under the theme “beating plastic pollution” with India as its global host.

Resolution on Sustainable Nitrogen Management

  • The resolution recognises the multiple pollution threats resulting from anthropogenic reactive nitrogen, with adverse effects on the terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments, contributing to air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, while acknowledging the benefits of nitrogen.
  • The resolution notes the initiatives like the Global Partnership on Nutrient Management (GPNM), International Nitrogen Management System as a science support system for policy development across the nitrogen cycle and the initiatives taken by South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP).
  • The resolution calls for options to facilitate better coordination of policies across the global nitrogen cycle at the national, regional and global levels, including consideration of the case to establish an intergovernmental coordination mechanism on nitrogen policies, based primarily on existing networks and platforms and consider the case for developing an integrated nitrogen policy, which could enhance the gravity of common cause between multiple policy domains.

United Nations Environment Assembly

United Nations Environment Assembly was created in June 2012 during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also referred to as RIO+20. The United Nations Environment Assembly aims to bring the environment to the centre of the international community’s focus and prominence as issues such as peace, poverty, health and security.

SBI launches cardless ATM withdrawal with YONO Cash

India’s largest Bank State Bank of India (SBI) has announced the launch of YONO Cash through which customers can withdraw money from ATMs without using a card.

How does the Cardless Cash Withdrawal work?

  • This Cardless Cash Withdrawal process works with two-factor authentication and eliminates the risk of skimming and cloning.
  • The customers have to set a 6-digit Yono PIN for withdrawing cash through the Yono app.
  • Once the process is initiated the customer will receive a 6-digit reference code via SMS, which will then have to be entered into a Yono Cash Point.
  • The cash withdrawal must be completed within the next 30 minutes at an ATM using both the PIN and the reference number.
  • ATMs enabled with this service will be termed as Yono Cash Point.

This cardless cash withdrawal will address the concerns over using debit cards at ATMs for cash withdrawals by eliminating the possible associated risks and also maximizes convenience and enhances the banking experience for its customers.

 Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose

The name of former Supreme Court Judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose has been cleared by the Lokpal Selection Committee headed by the Prime Minister. The notification for the appointment is expected to be released soon. Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose would be the first Lokpal of India.

Salient features of the Lokpal Act 2013

  • The Lokpal Act provides for setting up of an anti-corruption ombudsman called Lokpal at the Centre and Lokayukta at the State-level.
  • The Lokpal would consist of a chairperson and a maximum of eight members of which 50 per cent shall be judicial members.  50 per cent of members of Lokpal shall be from SC/ST/OBCs, minorities and women.
  • The ambit of Lokpal would cover all categories of public servants, including the Prime Minister with the exception of armed forces.
  • The Lokpal Act mandated the states to institute Lokayukta within one year of the commencement of the Act.

Soyuz Spacecraft Successfully reach ISS

Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying  NASA Astronaut Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and Cosmonaut (Russian Crew members are called as a cosmonaut) Alexey Ovchinin successfully docked International Space Station.

Soyuz Spacecraft

Soyuz is a Russian Spacecraft carries people and supplies to and from the space station. Soyuz Spacecraft also function as lifeboats and one Soyuz spacecraft is always docked to the space station, so that in case of emergency the crew can return to earth through the spacecraft.

After the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the Soyuz spacecraft has become the sole means of transportation for crew members going to or returning from the orbiting laboratory.

International Space Station

The International Space Station is a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km (205 and 270 mi) by means of re-boost manoeuvres and circles the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day

The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).

The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, Physics, Astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.

SBI, ICICI, HDFC Bank to remain D-SIBs

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has announced that SBI, ICICI and HDFC Banks would continue as …Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs) for 2018.

D-SIBs

  • The recognition as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs) implies that banks are too big to fail. This creates an expectation of government support for them in times of financial distress.
  • As a result, banks enjoy certain advantages in funding markets. Inclusion in the list gives additional comfort to investors that these banks won’t be allowed to fail and therefore, borrowing costs of these banks from the markets are cheaper than their peers.
  • Inclusion in D-SIB also implies that the failure of any of these banks would have a cascading effect on the Indian financial system.
  • These D-SIBs are required to maintain an additional common equity requirement based on the bucket in which a D-SIB is placed.
  • SBI in the third bucket was setting aside 0.45 per cent of its assets as an additional capital requirement and have to set aside 0.60 per cent of its risk-weighted assets.
  • ICICI Bank and HDFC which are in the fifth bucket are required to set aside 0.20 per cent Bank’s capital requirement from 0.15 per cent now.

RBI had initiated the recognition as D-SIBs from 2015 and places these banks in appropriate buckets depending upon their Systemic Importance Scores (SISs).

GI tag for Coffee Varieties

The Geographical Indications Registry has approved the Geographical Indication (GI) tag for coffee varieties viz. Coorg Arabica Coffee, Wayanad Robusta Coffee, Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee, Araku Valley Arabica Coffee and Bababudangiri Arabica Coffee.

           

Coorg Arabica Coffee

Kodagu district of Karnataka is famous for Coffee cultivation. The unique biotic and abiotic conditions provide uniqueness to the Coffee grown in the region of Kodagu. The broader landscape provides it with a unique aroma and flavour to the coffee when roasted.

Wayanad Robusta Coffee

Wayanad Robusta Coffee both as a pure crop and as mixed crop along with pepper in the Wayanad region of Kerala. Wayanad produces almost around 90% of Kerala’s Coffee produce and forms the backbone of the coffee economy of Kerala.

Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee

Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee is grown in Chikmagalur district, Karnataka. It is the region in India where the coffee cultivation first began.

Bababudangiri Arabica Coffee

Bababudangiri Arabica Coffee is grown in the Bababudangiri region of Karnataka. Bababudangiri in Chikmanglur District of Karnataka is where the coffee was first grown in India. The coffee grown here is known for its unique flavour and aroma. Selectively hand-picked and processes by natural fermentation, the cup exhibits full body, acidity, mild flavour and striking aroma with a note of chocolate which makes it unique.

Araku Valley Arabica Coffee

Araku Valley Arabica Coffee has a pleasant acidity with a citrus note of grapefruit and a mild jaggery-like sweetness with light to medium strength. It is grown in regions of  Visakhapatnam district in Andhra Pradesh and Koraput district in Odisha.

West Nile Virus

A seven-year-old in Kerala has been detected with the West Nile Virus. The central government has sent the team to the state and is monitoring the case closely.

What is West Nile Virus?

West Nile Virus is a viral infection which typically spread by mosquitoes and results in neurological disease as well as death in people.

The Virus is the member of the flavivirus genus and belongs to the Japanese encephalitis antigenic complex of the family Flaviviridae. It was first detected in a woman in the West Nile district of Uganda in 1937 and was later identified in birds (crows and Columbiformes) in the Nile delta region in 1953.

Spread of Disease

The disease spreads through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes are infected when they feed on infected birds. The virus then circulates in blood and multiplies. The virus also travels to salivary glands from where it is injected into humans as well as animals through mosquito bites. There have been no reports of human-to-human transmission through casual contact till date. But a small proportion of human infections have reported through organ transplant, blood transfusions and breast milk while one case of transplacental.

Symptoms

People infected with WNV suffer from fever, headache, fatigue, body aches, nausea, vomiting, occasionally with a skin rash (on the trunk of the body) and swollen lymph glands. In case of severe West Nile disease, the patient suffers from headache, high fever, neck stiffness, disorientation, stupor, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. One in 150 persons infected with the virus will develop a severe form of the disease, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). There are no vaccines to prevent or medications to treat the infection.

Climate Vulnerability Index for India

Department of Science and Technology has decided to commission a study to assess the climate risks faced by States in India. This decision comes in the backdrop of completion of vulnerability study across 12 Himalayan States.

Vulnerability Study by the Himalayan States

The study was undertaken in the 12 Himalayan states viz. Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir. The vulnerability was measured on a scale 0-1 with 1 indicating the highest possible level of vulnerability. The study indicates that:

  • Assam and Mizoram with a vulnerability score of 0.72 and 0.71 topped the vulnerability index.
  • Sikkim with the score of 0.42 was relatively less vulnerable.
  • The scores of other states are Jammu & Kashmir (0.62), Manipur (0.59), Meghalaya and West Bengal (both 0.58), Nagaland (0.57), Himachal Pradesh and Tripura (0.51 both), Arunachal Pradesh (0.47) and Uttarakhand (0.45).
  • Assam is highly vulnerable to climate change because of factors like low per capita income, deforestation, a large number of marginal farmers, least area under irrigation, lack of alternative sources of income and high rates of poverty.
  • The report finds that low per capita income, low open forest area per 1,000 households and lack of irrigation coverage as the most important drivers of vulnerability in Himalayan states.
  • Other indicators include the percentage of area under slope, yield variability of food grains, forest cover, irrigation cover and access to healthcare.
  • In Arunachal Pradesh, the key factors are low female literacy and a high percentage of population above BPL.
  • In Nagaland, the key issues are the loss of forest cover, steep slope and high yield variability.

The vulnerability score was calculated based on eight parameters such as  percentage of area in districts under forests, yield variability of food grain, population density, female literacy rate, infant mortality rate, percentage of population below poverty line (BPL), average man-days under MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), and the area under slope > 30%.

Global Environment Outlook 2019: Findings about India

The United Nations Environment Programme has released the Global Environment Outlook 2019. The report makes the following observations about India:

  • India could save at least $3 trillion (Rs 210 trillion approx.) in healthcare costs if India implements policy initiatives which are consistent with ensuring that the globe didn’t heat up beyond 1.5 degrees Celsius by the turn of the century.
  • Among India’s commitments under INDC, India is on track to achieve the target of lowering the emission intensity of its GDP by 33-35% compared to 2005 levels by 2030 and increasing the total cumulative electricity generation from fossil-free energy sources to 40% by 2030.
  • To achieve the goal to limit the global temperature increase to 1.5.deg c, India needs to abandon plans to build new coal-fired power plants.

The Paris Accord of 2015 aims to keep global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius. But there has been limited progress by countries since then in committing to greenhouse gas emissions cut since then.

All England Open Badminton Championships 2019.

The Winners in the various categories of the All England Open Badminton Championships 2019 are:

  • Men’s Singles: Japan’s Kento Momota.
  • Women’s Singles: China’s Chen Yufei.
  • Men’s Doubles: Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan & Hendra Setiawan.
  • Women’s Doubles: China’s Chen Qingchen & Jia Yifan.
  • Mixed Doubles: China’s Zheng Siwei & Huang Yaqiong.

All England Open Badminton Championships

All England Open Badminton Championships held annually in England is the world’s oldest badminton tournament. The genesis of the tournament can be traced to open tournament held in the English town of Guildford in 1898, the success of this tournament paved the way for the All England’s inaugural edition, which was held at London’s Horticultural Halls in 1899.

Sirsi Supari gets GI Tag

The Sirsi Supari of Karnataka has got the GI tag by the  Registrar of Geographical Indications. Sirsi Supari is the first product from the Arecanut sector to get a GI tag.

Facts

  • Sirsi Supari is cultivated in Yellapura, Siddapura and Sirsi taluks.
  • Sirsi Supari is medium in size, somewhat flat and rounded in shape, somewhat ash coloured, and has a hard seed which makes it unique.
  • The Arecanut grown in Yellapura, Siddapura and Sirsi taluks have unique features like a round and flattened coin shape, particular texture, size, cross-sectional views, taste, etc which are not seen in arecanut grown in any other regions.
  • The average dry weight is 7.5 g and average thickness is 16 mm.
  • Sirsi Supari has a unique taste due to differences in chemical composition and the total average flavonoids content in it is around 90 whereas in others it is around 80.

The process to obtain the GI tag was initiated some 6 years ago in 2013 and it took six years to get it owing to scientific research proof to be submitted to prove its uniqueness.

Geographical Indication

Geographical Indication defines the goods as originating in the territory of a country or a region or locality in that territory, provided a given quality reputation or other characteristics of the product are attributable to its geographical origin. The product to acquire GI tag has to indicate that a product of a particular origin has a certain quality or reputation or some other characteristics, which is essentially attributable to its geographical origin

DRDO successfully test fires Indigenous Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile

Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has successfully test-fired indigenously designed and developed Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) in the deserts of Pokhran in Rajasthan.

Man-Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile

  • Man-Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) incorporates many advanced features, including, image infrared radar (IIR) seeker with integrated avionics.
  • MPATGM is a third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), developed by DRDO in association with VEM Technologies Ltd.
  • MPATGM is fitted with high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead.
  • MPATGM has a top attack capability and has a maximum engagement range of about 2.5 kilometres.
  • MPATGM capable of being fired from the shoulder and can be used during day and night.

MPATGM are being developed to replace the French origin anti-tank guided missile Milan and Soviet semi-automatic wire-guided missile Konkur in service with Indian Army. The test trail at Rajasthan was the fourth overall development trial of the MPATGM.

AFINDEX-19

Africa-India Joint Field Training Exercise (AFINDEX-19) between the Indian Army and 16 African nations will be conducted in Pune from March 18 to 27.

Features of AFINDEX-19

  • 10 personnel, each from the participating nations from the African continent and personnel of Maratha Light Infantry of the Indian Army will participate in the joint exercise.
  • The joint exercise would be held at Pune’s Foreign Training Node at Aundh Military Station and College of Military Engineering in Kirkee.
  • AFINDEX-19 aims to train the participating contingents in Humanitarian Mine Assistance (HMA) and Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) under the United Nations Charter through practical and comprehensive discussions and tactical exercises
  • Contingents from Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique, Uganda, Niger & Zambia are part of the joint exercise together with officers from

Erode Turmeric gets GI tag.

Erode Turmeric has finally received GI tag from the Geographical Indication Registry after a long and cumbersome process which lasted for about 8 years. Erode is the city in the state of Tamil Nadu.

Features of Erode Turmeric

The claim for the uniqueness of the Erode Turmeric highlighted the following characteristics:

  • Mean length of the fingers of Erode turmeric was about 4.15cm.
  • Mean circumference was about 3.03cm.
  • Mean bulb length of the mother rhizome is about 4.54cm.
  • Mean circumference is 6.54cm.
  • Erode Turmeric is golden yellow in colour with resistance to pests after boiling.
  • Erode turmeric contains 2.5 to 4.5% of curcumin content.
  • Erode Turmeric is grown in hot moist conditions prevalent in the area with temperature ranging from 20 degrees to 37.9 degrees Celsius with an average of 600 to 800 mm rainfall in a year.

Geographical Indication

Geographical Indication defines the goods as originating in the territory of a country or a region or locality in that territory, provided a given quality reputation or other characteristics of the product are attributable to its geographical origin. The product to acquire GI tag has to indicate that a product of a particular origin has a certain quality or reputation or some other characteristics, which is essentially attributable to its geographical origin

Cloud Seeding in Karnataka for Two Monsoon Seasons

.Reeling under drought the government of Karnataka is planning for cloud seeding project to influence the upcoming monsoon and capture as much water as possible from the rain clouds. The government of Karnataka has called the tenders for cloud seeding operations to enhance rainfall during the monsoons of 2019 and 2020. The cost is expected to be Rs 50 cr per year.

What is Cloud Seeding?

Cloud Seeding is a process of intervening chemically to induce precipitation rain or snow from clouds. Rain occurs when moisture in the air reaches levels at which it can no longer be held.

EU Adds 10 Countries to Tax Blacklist.

The European Union has expanded its tax haven blacklist by including 10 countries. The list now has 15 countries. The list was first drawn up by EU in 2017 in the wake of several scandals, including the Panama Papers and LuxLeaks, that pushed the EU into doing more to fight tax evasion by multinationals and the rich.

Expansion of the List

  • Seven countries Aruba, Belize, Bermuda, Fiji, Oman, Vanuatu and Dominica were moved from greylist to blacklist due to their inability towards reform commitments.
  • Three other countries added into the list are Barbados, the United Arab Emirates and the Marshall Islands.

EU list of Tax Blacklist or Tax Havens

Tax Havens provide taxpayers with opportunities for tax avoidance, while their secrecy and opacity also serve to hide the origin of the proceeds of illegal and criminal activities. Features of these Tax Havens include low or zero taxation, fictitious residences (with no bearing on reality) and tax secrecy.

EU initiated the naming and shaming tactics through Tax blacklist or Tax havens as a tool for securing a level playing field and as an external strategy for effective taxation by assessing, screening and listing third-country tax jurisdictions which are non-cooperative in tax matters.

Vastradan Campaign Sets Guinness World Record.

Vastradan Campaign initiated by the erstwhile royal family of Udaipur has set the Guinness World Record for the largest collection of clothes for donation. The campaign had collected more than 3 lakh items of clothing.

Vastradan Campaign

  • Through the Vastradan Campaign, over 3,29,250 pieces of clothing from over 76,000 donors were collected and distributed to the needy.
  • The campaign reached out to over 120 schools, 15 colleges and around 30 NGOs.

The certificate for the Guinness World Record was handed over to Lakshyaraj Singh Mewar, a descendant of Rajput ruler Maharana Pratap. The campaign was started as an innovative exercise in giving by reaching out to the citizens rather organizations. The campaign highlighted the empathy of the citizen’s especially young boys and girls.

Global Macro Outlook for 2019 and 2020

Moody’s has released its quarterly Global Macro Outlook for 2019 and 2020. The outlook highlights the following points about India:

  • Indian economy is expected to grow at 7.3 per cent in the calendar year 2019 and 2020. The proposed government spending ahead of elections in 2019 will support near-term growth.
  • India is less exposed to the slowdown in global manufacturing trade growth when compared to other major Asian economies emerging markets. India is poised to grow at a relatively stable pace in the two years.
  • In the financial year, 2018-19 Indian economy is estimated to have grown 7 per cent, lower than 7.2 per cent in 2017-18.

The report concludes that with range-bound oil prices, export growth has outpaced import growth for the last two years. Fiscal spending on infrastructure and the rural economy should continue to support domestic activity.

New Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Institute of Archaeology Inaugurated

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has inaugurated the new Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Institute of Archaeology at Greater Noida in Uttar Pradesh. On the occasion, he also unveiled the statue of Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya at the campus and visited the Deendayal Museum in the Institute campus.

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Institute of Archaeology

Pandit Deendayal Upadhyaya Institute of Archaeology is a state-of-the-art institution spread over 25 acres and built at an estimated cost of Rs. 289 crore. The Institute comprises of an auditorium with seating capacity of 1000 people, an open-air theatre and an Archaeological Museum.

Institute of Archaeology is an academic wing of the Archeological Survey of India under the Ministry of Culture. The Institute provides students with the necessary supportive, enthusiastic and challenging academic atmosphere which enables them to achieve their full potential in the field of Archaeology.

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI)

Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), under the Ministry of Culture, is the premier organization for the archaeological researches and protection of the cultural heritage in India.

The genesis of systematic archaeological pursuits in India can be traced to the efforts of Sir William Jones, who put together a group of antiquarians to form the Asiatic Society on 15th January 1784 in Calcutta. The first legislative attempt to make the government intervene in case of risks to monuments was through Bengal Regulation XIX of 1810.

ASI regulates all archaeological activities in the country as per the provisions of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1958 and Antiquities and Art Treasure Act, 1972.

Marayur Jaggery gets Geographical Indication Tag

The persistent efforts of the Intellectual Property Rights cell of the Kerala Agriculture University have finally yielded results. The Marayur Jaggery largely produced in the regions of Marayur and Kanthallur grama panchayats of Kerala has got the GI tag.

Geographical Indication

Geographical Indication (GI) is a name or sign used on products which correspond to a specific geographical location or origin. Geographical Indication act as a certification that the product possesses certain qualities, is made according to traditional methods or enjoys a certain reputation, due to its geographical origin.

Marayur Jaggery

Marayoor in the Idukki district of Kerala is known for its tensive sugarcane cultivation. In the regions of Marayur and Kanthallur, more than 2500 acres of land is under sugarcane cultivation.

The peculiar geographical location of Marayoor amid the forests of the Western Ghats gives the sugar cane a distinct geographical identity. The local people have integrated the age-old tradition have imparted age-old specialized skill to make Marayur Jaggery a distinct product in itself.

The distinct features of the Marayur Jaggery are high sweetness with less saltiness, high content of iron and less sodium. The produce is free of impurities and the sugar cane fields are free of chemical pesticides and fertilisers.

The Marayur Jaggery is produced without adding any chemicals has always been known for its high quality. Eyeing the market of the traditional Marayur Jaggery fake jaggery with a salty taste was being marketed as Marayur jaggery. The GI tag will now enable to initiate legal action against fake jaggery being sold as Marayur Jaggery.

India launches third IT corridor in China

India has launched its third IT corridor in China. The corridor will facilitate partnerships between Indian and Chinese companies. National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) entered into a partnership with China’s Xuzhou city from Jiangsu Province in China to help develop the IT corridor.

IT Corridor

  • IT corridor facilitates partnerships between Indian and Chinese companies by enabling Indian software and service industry associations to enter the Chinese market and seize the development opportunities in China.
  • The corridor facilitates will facilitate match-making between Indian companies wanting to collaborate with companies in China looking to adopt digital transformation from verticals such as manufacturing, retail, automotive, healthcare and utilities and help them create innovative product and solutions in the co-create mode.
  • The corridor will help create more jobs in China and India and facilitate talent transfer between the two countries.
  • The earlier two corridors launched at Dalian and Guiyang cities has brought to fore opportunities with over 300 companies where more than 10 Indian SME companies have signed deals worth 31 Million RMB (USD 4.5 million).
  • The first two corridors had enabled cooperation in co-create mode in the emerging technologies such as AI, IoT and Analytics in the Chinese market.

IT corridor project between India and China strengthens India-China Digital Cooperation by leveraging the respective strengths in hardware and software to build innovative products and solutions in Co-create mode.

Kashi Vishwanath Corridor

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone for the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor. The project envisions a massive makeover of the holy shrine and its surrounding areas. This massive makeover is the first after the 1780 AD when the Maratha queen Ahilyabai Holkar of Indore renovated the temple and the area surrounding it.

About the Project

  • The proposed 50-feet corridor will directly connect Ganga’s Manikarnika and Lalita Ghat to the Kashi Vishwanath Jyotirlinga Temple.
  • Along the corridor, pilgrims and travellers will see a newly built museum and depicting Varanasi’s ancient history and culture
  • New Yagyashalas for religious functions like havan and yagya are proposed under the
  • The project also includes lodgings for priests, volunteers and pilgrims together with an enquiry centre to help the tourists about the city and its other places of attractions and amenities
  • A massive auditorium for gatherings, meetings and temple functions.
  • Food Street to serve tourists and pilgrims luscious Banarasi and Awadhi dishes.

SC Proposes Mediation Panel for Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid Land Dispute Case

The Supreme Court has proposed a court-monitored mediation in the Ram Janmabhoomi-Babri Masjid land dispute case to arrive at a permanent solution to the politically and religiously sensitive issue.

The mediation panel consists of three members. Justice Kalifullah, Retired judge of the Supreme Court will chair the court-appointed and monitored mediation process and the other two members are spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and senior advocate Sriram Panchu.

The mediation panel will hold the proceedings at Faizabad ensuring full confidentiality. The mediation process is expected to start in a week. The status report of the mediation committee will have to be completed in four weeks with 8 weeks deadline to conclude the hearing.

NHPC to acquire Lanco Teesta Hydro Power Ltd (LTHPL)

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the acquisition of debt-laden Lanco’s 500 MW Teesta hydro-electric power project in Sikkim by state-owned NHPC.

Taking over of Lanco Teesta Hydro Power Ltd

  • NHPC will take over debt-laden Lanco’s 500 MW Teesta hydro-electric power project for Rs 907 crore in Sikkim.
  • CCEA has sanctioned the funds for the acquisition and execution of balance work of the Teesta Stage-Vl Hydro Electric Project by the NHPC Ltd.
  • The total cost of the project would be Rs 5,748.04 crore (at July 2018 price level), which includes a bid amount of Rs 907 crore for acquisition and estimated cost of balance work of Rs 3,863.95 crore, which includes Interest During Construction (IDC) and Foreign Component (FC) of Rs 977.09 crore

Teesta Stage-Vl Hydro Electric Project

  • Teesta Stage-Vl Hydro Electric Project is a Run of River (RoR) project in Sirwani Village of Sikkim to utilize the power potential of Teesta River Basin in a cascade manner.
  • The project involves the construction of a 26.5-metre high barrage across river Teesta.
  • The estimated power generation is 2,400 million units of electricity in a 90 per cent dependable year with an installed capacity of 500 MW (4x125MW).

NHPC

NHPC Limited, formerly known as National Hydroelectric Power Corp. was incorporated as Central Govt. Enterprise for development of Hydro Power in Central Sector on 7th November 1975. Over the years NHPC has evolved as the largest central utility for hydropower development in India. NHPC is mandated to plan, promote and organize an integrated and efficient development of power in all aspects through Conventional and Non Conventional Sources in India and abroad.

NHPC which is a premier organization in the country for the development of hydropower has an authorised capital of about Rs.15,000 crores and has a Miniratna status.

Al Nagah III Joint Military Exercise

Al Nagah III is the third in the series of the bilateral joint exercise between India and Oman. It will be held between March 12 to March 25 at Oman.

Al Nagah III

  • Al Nagah III will be held at  Jabel Al Akhdar Mountains in Oman.
  • The 14-day exercise will see both the armies exchanging expertise and experience in tactics, weapon handling and firing.
  • The exercise is aimed to enhance interoperability in counterterrorist operations in semi-urban mountainous terrain.
  • The Indian Army contingent is going to be represented by 10th Battalion of the Garhwal Rifles. Similar strength is also to be fielded by Jabel Regiment of Royal Army of Oman.

Al Nagah I was held at Muscat, Oman in January 2015 and Al Nagah II at Himachal Pradesh, India in March 2017.  The India-Oman bilateral security ties have continued to evolve and the joint military exercise will go a long way in enchaining understanding of capabilities and strengthening camaraderie between both the Armies.

The Boeing 737 MAX -8

The Boeing 737 MAX is an American narrow-body aircraft series designed and produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes as the.. fourth generation of the Boeing 737, succeeding the Boeing 737 Next Generation (NG).

 It performed its first flight on January 29, 2016. The new series gained FAA certification on March 8, 2017.

 The 737 MAX is based on earlier 737 designs.

On March 10, 2019, Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302, a 737 MAX 8 , crashed approximately six minutes after takeoff from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on a scheduled flight to Nairobi, Kenya killing all 149 passengers and 8 crew members on board.

 The aircraft was only four months old at the time.

 The cause of the crash is unclear as of March 10, 2019, though the …aircraft’s vertical speed after takeoff was reported to be unstable.

 The 737 MAX’s …Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System (MCAS), implicated for faulty…. angle-of-attack readings in the preliminary report into the Lion Air accident, came under renewed scrutiny due to the apparent similarity of the Ethiopian Airlines crash.

On March 11, 2019, in response to the Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines accidents, Indonesian, Ethiopian, Chinese, other regulatory agencies, and airlines suspended Boeing 737 MAX 8 operations, though other airlines continue to operate .

 20 most polluted cities-

Fifteen of the top 20 most polluted cities….. in the world are located in India, according to an analysis of air quality in several cities around the world.

Gurugram, in Haryana, topped the list with an average annual particulate matter (PM 2.5) quality of ….135 micrograms/cubic metre, in 2018.

Delhi — a frequent fixture on global pollution hotspots — was only the 11th most noxious city behind Lahore, Pakistan (10th) and Hotan, China (8th).

The other cities in India that made the list of 20 were …….Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Bhiwadi, Noida, Patna, Lucknow, Jodhpur, Muzaffarpur, Varanasi, Moradabad, Agra, Gaya and Jind.

When ranked by country, Bangladesh emerged as the most polluted followed by Pakistan and India respectively.

Of the cities analysed, 64% exceeded the WHO’s annual exposure guideline (10 micrograms/cubic metre) for fine particulate matter, also known as PM2.5. India’s annual guidelines range from 40-60 g/m3, depending on whether they are residential or industrial areas.

Banning  Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) –

The Pakistan government after facing severe pressure from the Financial Action Task Force, and calls from a number of countries to crack down on terror groups, especially after tensions with India, passed an  order to effectively ban ….Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) offshoots Jamat-ud Dawa (JuD) and Falah-i-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF).

The Statutory Regulatory Order (SRO) passed on March 4 ,2019 has provisions like – all “properties owned or controlled, wholly or partly, directly or indirectly, by a designated entity or designated individual” and any income from the assets including rent …would be frozen or physically seized by the Pakistani authorities.

Islamabad said it will “streamline” the banning of groups that have been proscribed by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), and ensure that all entities banned by UNSC 1267 Committee in particular will have their assets frozen.

In February 2018, the Pakistani government had passed a similar order as a Presidential Ordinance, but then allowed it to lapse six months later.

Hamza

Hamza bin Laden, is a son of Osama bin Laden. His father, as well as his brother Khalid, were killed in the 2011 Navy SEAL raid .The UN Security Council has designated Hamza bin Laden, the son of Osama bin Laden, under its sanctions list, calling him the “most probable successor” to al-Qaeda’scurrent leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

The UN Security Council’s 1267…. ISIS and Al Qaida Sanctions Committee listed Hamza , the day the U.S. announced a reward of up to $1 million for information about him.

Saudi Arabia  on 1 march 2019 also announced  that it had revoked the citizenship of Hamza via a royal decree.

A Security Council press release said Hamza has called for followers of al-Qaeda to commit terror attacks and is seen as the most probable successor to Zawahiri.

 

Taliban and the United States 

In 2019 negotiations between the Taliban and the United States began in an attempt to end the 17 year long War in Afghanistan.

The Taliban are a ..Sunni Islamic organization that operates in Afghanistan.

The group was mainly composed of students who had fought in the Soviet–Afghan War under the leadership of Mohammed Omar.

It is reported Al-Qaeda were granted sanctuary  by Talibans on the condition that it does not antagonize the United States, but Osama bin Ladenreneged on the agreement in 1998 when he orchestrated bombings of US embassies in East Africa..

The Taliban was fundamentally parochial while Al-Qaeda had its sights set on global jihad.

 The US with its NATO allies, launched the invasion code-named …Operation Enduring Freedom on October 7, 2001. The U.S. and its allies rapidly drove the Taliban from power by 17 December 2001, and built military bases near major cities across the country. 

International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) was later created by the United Nations Security Council to train ….Afghan National Security Forces to oversee military operations in the country so as to prevent any resurgence of the Taliban group.

 The Taliban has launched numerous attacks on the Afghan forces, government facilities and any organization that they believe are in alliance with the US.

The US has been on the ground and directly involved in the ..17-year old war that analysts have described as stalemate.

 Ending the 17-year conflict has eluded former …US presidents and Donald Trump has said that he considers the war too costly.

Negotiations

The Afghan Taliban announced in December 2018 that they will meet with American negotiators in the ..United Arab Emirates to find a peaceful solution to the 17-year armed insurgency in Afghanistan.

 They had previously stated they would not negotiate with the government of Afghanistan, who they considered a puppet government.

-On February 25, 2019, peace talks began between the Taliban and the United States in… Qatar, Taliban co-founder ….Abdul Ghani Baradais notably present. US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad reported that this round of negotiations were “more productive than they have been in the past” and that a draft version of a peace agreement had been agreed upon.

-The deal involved the withdrawal of US and international troops from Afghanistan and the

– Taliban not allowing other Jihadist groups to operate within the country.

 The Taliban also reported that progress was being made in the negotiations.

Taliban and officials from the United States resume Afghanistan peace talks in Doha  after a two-day break in a bid to end the 17-year war.

These talks mark the highest level negotiations between the two sides since the US ramped up peace efforts last year. 

India would ……not engage the Afghan insurgents directly, and had not changed its position on the issue.

In the previous talks  two former diplomats were sent at in …..Moscow for talks with Taliban .

 Russia to maintain support to Maduro

Russiato maintain support for the embattled regime of its Venezuelan “friend” President Nicolas Maduro, including with humanitarian aid supplies.

 “Russia will continue to assist the Venezuelan authorities in resolving social and economic problems, including through the provision of legitimate humanitarian aid,” Mr. Lavrov told a joint news conference with Ms. Rodriguez afterwards.

Battered by an economic meltdown, Venezuela descended into political crisis when opposition leader …..Juan Guaido declared himself interim President in January-2019  and asserted that Maduro was no longer legitimate.

Masood Azhar a global terrorist

Amid heightened tension between India and Pakistan over Islamabad’s denial and duplicity over terror groups flourishing under its watch, a fresh proposal by the…. P-3 nations viz… US, UK and France has been submitted at the ….United Nations Security Council or UNSC to designate …Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist.

If the proposal is passed, Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed or JeM chief Masood Azhar will get the tag of being a ‘UN-designated global terrorist’, which in turn would subject him to global travel ban, asset freeze and arms embargo.

The fresh proposal, moved  by the three permanent veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council, will also get Russia’s backing because Moscow has supported the ban on Masood Azhar in the past.

 All eyes, however, will be on China, which has repeatedly blocked similar proposals in the past.

The Security Council Sanctions Committee will have 10 working days to consider the fresh proposal submitted by the three members.

Sushma Swaraj  in OIC-

 External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj is in Abu Dhabi to attend the 46 th foreign ministers’ meet of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) states as a  guest of honour  where she has raised the issue of terrorism, amidst Indo-Pak tensions following the Pulwama terror attack.

Swaraj has attended the inaugural plenary of the two-day meeting of OIC . It is for the first time that India had been invited to a meeting of the OIC, an influential grouping of 57 Islamic countries, as the guest of honour.

Pakistan, a member of the OIC walked out from the meeting .

If we want to save humanity, we must tell the states who provide shelter and funding to the terrorists to dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist camps and stop providing funding and shelter to the terror organisations based in their country,” Ms. Swaraj said, hinting at Pakistan.

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation is an international organization… founded in 1969, consisting of 57 member states, with a collective population of over 1.8 billion as of 2015 with 40 countries being Muslim Majority countries .

 National Mineral Policy 2019.

The policy is aimed at bringing about ..more effective regulation to the sector as well as a more sustainable approach while addressing the issues of those affected by mining.

Some of the features in the policy include –

-The introduction of the…. right of ….first refusal for the ..reconnaissance permit (RP) and prospecting license holders,

-Encouraging the.. private sector to take up exploration and the auctioning of virgin areas on a revenue- sharing basis .

Reconnaissance Permit is a permit granted for the purpose of undertaking “reconnaissance operations” which means any operation undertaken for preliminary prospecting of a mineral through regional, aerial, geophysical or geochemical surveys and geological mapping, but does not include pitting, trenching, drilling 

SPV for the disinvestment of Air India-

-In a separate decision, the Union Cabinet gave its ex-post facto approval for the creation of a special purpose vehicle (SPV) for the disinvestment of Air India and its subsidiaries and joint ventures.

-The SPV, named …..Air India Assets Holding Ltd. (AIAHL), has been created for the purpose of warehousing the accumulated working capital loan not backed by any asset along with four subsidiaries (Air India Air Transport Services Ltd. (AIATSL), Airline Allied Services Ltd. (AASL), Air India Engineering Services Ltd. (AIESL) and Hotel Corporation of India Ltd. (HCI), according to the statement issued by the government.

-The government has decided to transfer…to the newly-created SPV the debt of Air India Limited amounting to Rs 29,464 crore” as well as “non-core assets, painting and artifacts and other non-operational assets of Air India Limited”.

-The government has been working on ways to revive the fortunes of Air India, which is estimated to have a debt burden of Rs 55,000 crore.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said  that Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, currently in Pakistan’s custody, will be released as per Geneva convention ON POW  .

“As a peace gesture, we are releasing the captured Indian pilot ” Mr. Khan told a joint session of Parliament.

The rules protecting prisoners of war (POWs) are specific. They were first detailed in the 1929 Geneva Convention and later amended in the third 1949 Geneva Convention following the lessons of World War II. 

According to the rules, the status of POW only applies in international armed conflict. 

“POWs are usually members of the armed forces of one of the parties to a conflict who fall into the hands of the adverse party,” the Convention states. 

Indian Air Force fighter pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was freed by Pakistan on Friday, two days after his MiG-21 fighter jet came down in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

“Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been handed over to us as per standard operating procedure of the IAF. He is now being taken for a detailed medical checkup.

North Korea –US talks

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un and U.S. President Donald Trump met for a  second summit to dismantle Pyongyang’s nuclear programme.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, …abruptly ended their second summit meeting after talks collapsed with the two leaders failing to agree on any steps toward nuclear disarmament or measures to ease tensions on the Korean Peninsula.

“Sometimes you have to walk,” Mr. Trump said at an afternoon news conference in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.

He said ……Mr. Kim had offered to dismantle the North’s most important nuclear facility ….if the U.S. lifted the harsh sanctions imposed on his nation — but would not commit to do the same for other elements of its weapons programme.

That, Mr. Trump said, was a deal breaker.

The Supreme Court  stay

The Supreme Court …….stayed its February 13 ,2019 ..order ……directing the eviction of lakhs of the Scheduled Tribes and …..other traditional forest-dwellers(OTFD), whose claims for forest land rights have been ….rejected under the ..Forest Rights Act, 2006.

But the Bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, emphasised that “the mighty and the undeserving,” who had encroached on forest lands, would be shown no mercy.

It acknowledged the need to delve into whether due process had been followed by the gram sabhas and the State authorities under the FRA before the claims for forest rights of the forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers were finally rejected.

Over 11 lakh people from the STs and OTFDs (Other Traditional Forest Dwellers)across 16 States faced the brunt of the February 13 order.

The AIM-120 Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile, or AMRAAM

(pronounced amm-RAM), is a modern American beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) capable of all-weather day-and-night operations.

Designed with a 7-inch (180mm) diameter form-and-fit factor, and employing active transmit-receive radar guidance instead of semi-active receive-only radar guidance, it has the advantage of being a fire-and-forget weapon when compared to the previous generation Sparrow missiles.

 It is used by f-16 fighter aircraft .

The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 

Is a interceptor aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. On 27 February 2019 during the 2019 India–Pakistan standoff, an Indian Air Force MiG-21 Bison was shot down by an unknown Pakistani aircraft. It is a 3rd generation aircraft .

The pilot wing commendar Abhinandan Varthaman was captured but later on released .

Air Force strikes in PoK-Surgical Strikes 2.0

Air Force strikes in Plkistan….. The Indian Air Force dropped multiple 1,000 kg bombs on ……Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps across the terror camps of Jaish-e-Mohammed in ………Balakot town of the……. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province …of Pakistan.…..Line of Control (LoC) in…. Muzafarabad &   Chakothi in retaliation for the Pulwama terror attack that claimed the life of 40 CRPF jawans.

 “At 0330 hours on 26th February, a group of… Mirage 2000 Indian Fighter jets struck a major terrorist camp across the LoC and completely destroyed it,” reported ANI

  

12Air Force Mirage-2000 fighter jets, made by….. Dassault Aviation, the French company who also manufactures the Rafale Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircrafts, entered Pakistani airspace and dropped 1,000-kg laser-guided bombs on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror launch pads across the Line of Control.

While India has …..many new-age fighter jets like the Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG 29, apart from the indigenously developed Tejas LCA in its arsenal, it was again the Mirage-2000 jet, which was used in the….. Kargil war, that was used for the unprecedented cross-border strike.

In comparison, Indi’as other fighter and more advanced fighter jet – the Russia made… Sukhoi Su30MKI has a speed of 2120 kmph (Mach 2), slower than the Mirage-2000 and is…. heavier too. This gives the Mirage-2000 an advantage in quick operations. 

The Mirage 2000 has a  fly-by-wire flight control system(Fly-by-wire is a system that replaces the conventional manual flight controls of an aircraft with an electronic interface) and has a Sextant VE-130 HUD, which displays data related to flight control, navigation, target engagement, and weapon firing.  

Why Mirage -2000 ?

In terms of the armament, the Mirage 2000 ….can carry laser guided bombsair-to-air and air-to-surface missiles and has a ….Thomson-CSF RDY (Radar Doppler Multi-target) radar on board and latest technology updates  . Currently Palkistan has F-16 aircraft .

Why Balakot?

The officials said the joint training camps of Jaish-e-Mohammed, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Hizbul Mujahideen in Balakot were targeted.targeted at the …“biggest training camp” of Pakistan-based militant outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed in the early hours of the day.

A “very large number of terrorists, trainers, senior commanders and groups of jihadis being trained for fidayeen action” were killed in the attack .

International reaction –

The European Union (EU) ..has called for……. ‘maximum restraint’ from India, Pakistan after the airstrike, reported AFP.

 France has also called for …..restraint but also supported India’s “legitimacy to ensure security” and asked Pakistan “to put an end to the operations of terrorist groups established on its territory”.

The Australian government also urged Pakistan to take “urgent and meaningful action against terrorist groups in its territory.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang told the media in Beijing that the country has “taken note of relevant reports”.

“I want to say that India and Pakistan are both important countries in South Asia. A sound relationship and cooperation between the two serves the interests of both the countries and peace and stability in South Asia,” he said.

USA-Tells palk to act against terror ..avoid escalation..at any cost .

Directs ECI to respond to appellant

The Central Information Commission has ruled that an Electronic Voting Machine (EVM) is “information” under the Right to Information Act, The Commission was hearing the appeal of an RTI applicant who had asked the Election Commission for an EVM but was denied.

Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) Sudhir Bhargava ruled that “the EVM which is available with the respondent [ECI] in a material form and also as samples … is an information under the RTI Act.”

Mr. Bhargava noted that the definition of information under Section 2(f) of the RTI Act includes “any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advices, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form…”

The CIC upheld applicant Razaak K. Haidar’s contention that the terms “models” and “samples” should apply to an EVM.

ECI Under-Secretary Soumyajit Ghosh admitted that “models/samples of EVM are available with the ECI, but the same are only kept for training purpose by the ECI, and not saleable to the general public.”

Aero India 2019

The Aero India 2019 was inaugurated by Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman at the Yelahanka Air Force Station in Bengaluru. 

 

The Aero India 2019 has a tagline “The Runway to a Billion Opportunities”  and has a logo inspired by the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft (LCA). The Ministry of Defence has planned following events as per the theme of the day during the Aero India 2019:

Drone Olympics provides an opportunity for all the UAV manufacturing enthusiasts to showcase the capabilities of the Drones they are manufacturing.

Technology Day would be observed on February 22 to provide an opportunity for the students involved in the aerospace sector, both civil and defence to showcase their projects.

A Photography contest would be held on the theme ‘Flying Objects’ for the general public during the closing day.

Three aircrafts Jaguar, Tejas and Su-30 Mki flew past in the missing man formation to pay tribute to the Wing Commander Sahil Gandhi who lost his life while carrying out a practice sortie for the Aero India 2019.

Capital Infusion of Rs. 48,239 Crore into 12 State-Run Banks

The government has approved the capital infusion of Rs. 48,239 Crore into 12 State-Run Banks. The capital inclusion has been undertaken to ensure the lenders are able to maintain regulatory capital requirement and step up lending and boost overall growth.

With this latest capital infusion, the government has now the government has now provided Rs 1,00,958 crore out of the Rs 1.06-lakh-crore bank recapitalisation plan. The remaining Rs. 5,000 crore capital infusion would be used as a buffer for any contingency or growth capital for Bank of Baroda which is in the process of merging Dena Bank and Vijaya Bank with itself.

RBI has lifted the curbs under the …Prompt Corrective Action framework on Bank of India (BoI), Bank of Maharashtra (BoM) and Oriental Bank of Commerce (OBC) in early 2019. Eight other PSBs — Allahabad Bank, United Bank of India, Corporation Bank, IDBI Bank, UCO Bank, Central Bank of India, Indian Overseas Bank and Dena Bank are still under PCA. PCA imposes curbs on expansion activities, among a number of other restrictions to help them get back to fiscal health.

The capital infusion has been undertaken to ensure that state-run lenders, which have emerged out of the PCA, remain above the triggers and help others such as Indian Overseas Bank, Central Bank, United Bank and UCO Bank meet minimum regulatory capital requirements.

Military Space Force

President Trump has signed a directive to create a …..Military Space Force. The directive orders the Pentagon to establish the Space Force as the sixth branch of the United States military, to go along with the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard.

The main goal of the Space Force is to secure and extend American dominance of the space domain. The features of the Military space force are:

  • Rather than deploying soldiers in space, the Space Force will focus on national securityand preserving the satellites and vehicles that are dedicated to international communications and observation.
  • Space could be a new warfighting domain and the US aims to be combat ready with Military Space Force.
  • The Space force will be responsible to deter and defeat threats in space and will organize, train, and Details about the Space Force like exactly how much it might cost remains unclear. The creation of military space force to materialise requires approval from the US Congress.

LCA Tejas

The Indian Air Force (IAF) has received the Final Operational Clearance (FOC) standard certification for Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Tejas from Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).

 The DRDO’s FOC certification testifies the combat-readiness of Tejas.

LCA Tejas is lightweight single-seat multi-role jet fighter powered by a single engine. It has tailless and compound delta wing design made entirely of composite structures. It is pegged as the world’s smallest and lightest supersonic fighter aircraft in its class.

LCA Tejas is first advanced fly-by-wire Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) designed, developed and manufactured indigenously by state-owned Hindustan Aeronautical Limited (HAL) and Aeronautical Development Agency (ADA) as part of LCA programme, started in the 1980s to replace India’s ageing MiG-21 fighters. It was named ‘Tejas’, which means ‘radiance’, by former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

It has many features of stealth fighter aircraft. Its radar cross section is very less compared to other aircrafts like MiG-29, F-16 due to its small size and extensive usage of carbon composites.  It incorporates a glass cockpit in which the pilot is fed with real-time information. It also has open architecture software for avionics which can be easily updated as and when required.

It has a limited reach of little over 400-km and will be mainly used for close air-to-ground operations (unlike Russian-origin Sukhoi-30MKIs or Rafale which have deep strike capability into enemy territory due to their long range).

It can fire air-to-air missiles, carry bombs and precision guided ammunition. DRDO has successfully tested fired Tejas with different kinds of weaponry and missiles including R-73 air-to-air missile, bomb dropping (including laser-guided bombs). DRDO also plans test firing of indigenous Astra missile from the Tejas.

Diesel-to-Electric Converted Locomotive

Prime Minister Narendra Modi flagged off the first ever diesel-to-electric converted locomotive at the Diesel Locomotive Works (DLW) at Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.

  • The 10,000HP freight locomotive was converted from two units of old diesel locomotives of 2600 HP each with indigenous technology.
  • The conversion was achieved in record time with the help of engineers from Research Designs and Standards Organisation (RDSO), Chittaranjan Locomotive Works(CLW), and BHEL.
  • The conversion has proved to be cost effective as it requires half of the rehabilitation cost of old locos and it is also environment-friendly with enhanced traction power to double the average speed of goods train.

CCEA approves launch of KUSUM scheme

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the launch of KUSUM, Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan scheme. The scheme aims to provide financial and water security to farmers through harnessing solar energy capacities of 25.75 gigawatts (GW) by 2022.

The scheme has three components:

  • 10,000 megawatt (MW) of decentralised ground mounted grid-connected renewable power plants (Component-A).
  • Installation of 17.50 lakh standalone solar powered agriculture pumps (Component-B).
  • Solarisation of 10 lakh grid-connected solar powered agriculture pumps (Component-C).

Component-B will be implemented in a full-fledged manner whereas Component-A and Component-C will be implemented on pilot mode for 1,000 MW capacity and one lakh grid-connected agriculture pumps, respectively.

Component-A

  • Renewable power plants of capacity 500 kilowatts (kW) to 2 MW will be set up by individual farmers, cooperatives, panchayats, or farmer producer organisations (FPO) on their barren or cultivable lands.
  • The power generated will be purchased by the distribution companies (Discoms) at tariffs determined by respective state electricity regulatory commissions (SERC).
  • The scheme will open a stable and continuous source of income to the rural landowners.
  • Performance-based incentives at Rs 0.40 per unit for five years will be provided to Discoms.

Component-B

  • Individual farmers will be supported in installing standalone solar pumps of capacity up to 7.5 horsepower (HP).
  • Solar PV capacity in kW equal to the pump capacity in HP is allowed under the scheme.

 Component-C

  • Individual farmers will be supported to solarise pumps of capacity up to 7.5 HP.
  • The farmer will be able to use the generated energy to meet the irrigation needs and the excess available energy will be sold to Discom.
  • This creates an avenue for extra income to the farmers, and for the states to meet their renewable purchase obligation (RPO) targets.

The scheme will have a substantial environmental impact in terms of savings of CO2 emissions. It is estimated that three components of the scheme combined together would result in savings of about 27 million tonnes of CO2 emission per annum.

National Rural Economic Transformation Project

The Union government has proposed a new rural Livelihood Scheme, the …National Rural Economic Transformation Project under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM).

The features of the National Rural Economic Transformation Project (NRETP) are:

  • The project would be undertaken with loan assistance from the World Bank.
  • The project aims to provide interventions to enhance the livelihoods promotion, access to finance and scale-up initiatives on digital finance and livelihood interventions.
  • Projects under NRETP would provide alternate channels of financial inclusion, creating value chains around rural products, introduce innovative models in livelihoods promotion and access to finance and scale-up initiatives on digital finance and livelihoods interventions.

Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) aims to create efficient and effective institutional platforms for the rural poor to increase household income through sustainable livelihood enhancements and improved access to financial services.

Originally called as Aajeevika – National Rural Livelihoods Mission, the programme was renamed as Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NRLM) in 2015.

DAY-NRLM aims to organize the poor into SHGs and make them capable of self-employment with a special focus on women empowerment including a dedicated component for promoting farm and non-farm based livelihoods for women farmers in rural areas.

The scheme aims to help rural poor to set up self-employment ventures by ensuring easy access to credit. It is implemented across the country in all States and Union Territories (except Chandigarh and Delhi) and it is one of the world’s largest initiatives to improve the livelihood of poor.

Regional Rapid Transport System

The Union Government has cleared the construction of Rs 30,274 crore Regional Rapid Transport System (RRTS) to connect the national capital with Meerut through Ghaziabad. The RRTS would enable to cover the 82 kilometre-stretch in less than 60 minutes by high-speed and green public transit.

The project would be undertaken by a ………Special Purpose Vehicle the ………National Capital Region Transport Corporation (NCRTC) as joint ownership of the Centre and State Governments with equal contribution.

Regional Rapid Transport System (RRTS) is a ………rail-based high-speed regional transit system. RRTS will be implemented for the first time in India in the New Delhi-Meerut stretch.

It aims to provide the fastest, comfortable and safest mode of commuter transport in the National Capital Region (NCR). Of the total 82.15 Kms stretch 68.03 kilometers would be elevated and 14.12 km would be underground.

  • The RRTS trains will reduce pollution and road congestion taking more than one lakh private vehicles off-road.
  • Provides efficient regional connectivity.
  • High speed mobility will also drive balanced socio-economic growth with increased economic activities and will improve the quality of life of citizens.
  • 18 kilometers stretch between Modipuram and Meerut South stations on the RRTS infrastructure will meet the local mobility needs of citizens of Meerut.

Delhi-Ghaziabad-Meerut RRTS corridor is first of the three prioritized corridors planned for implementation in Phase-1 and other two are Delhi-Gurugram-Alwar and Delhi-Panipat Corridors

New company to be established under Department of Space

The government has approved setting up of a new company under the Department of Space to commercially exploit the research and development work carried out by Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) Centers and constituent units of DOS.

The following avenues provide opportunities for commercial exploitation of ISRO programmes:

  • Small satellite technology transfer to industry. The new company shall take a license from DoS/ISRO and sub-license to industries.
  • Manufacture of the small satellite launch vehicle (SLV) in collaboration with the Private Sector.
  • Productionisation of Polar SLV through the industry.
  • Productionisation and marketing of Space-based products and services, including launch and applications;

Recently ISRO agreed to transfer technology on Lithium-Ion cell Batteries. Constituting a new company together with providing revenues will give a boost to the Make in India campaign.

Cabinet approves National Electronic Policy 2019

The Union Cabinet has approved a National Electronics Policy 2019. The Policy aims to position India as a global hub for Electronics System Design and Manufacturing – (ESDM) by encouraging and driving capabilities in the country for developing core components, including chipsets, and creating an enabling environment for the industry to compete globally.

  • Create eco-system for globally competitive ESDM sector and Promoting domestic manufacturing and export in the entire value-chain of ESDM.
  • Providing incentives and support for manufacturing of core electronic components in India.
  • Providing a special package of incentives for mega projects which are extremely high-tech and entail huge investments, such as semiconductor facilities display fabrication, etc.
  • Formulate suitable schemes and incentive mechanisms to encourage new units and expansion of existing units.
  • Promote Industry-led R&D and innovation in all sub-sectors of electronics, including grass root level innovations and early stage Start-ups in emerging technology areas such as 5G, loT/ Sensors, Artificial Intelligence (Al), Machine Learning, Virtual Reality (VR), Drones,   Robotics,   Additive   Manufacturing,   Photonics,   Nano-based devices, etc.
  • Providing incentives and support for significantly enhancing the availability of skilled manpower, including re-skilling.
  • Special focus on Fabless  Chip  Design  Industry,  Medical Electronic Devices Industry, Automotive The implementation of various schemes and programmes under the National Policy on Electronics 2012 (NPE 2012) has successfully consolidated the foundations for a competitive Indian ESDM value chain. The National Electronics Policy 2019 proposes to build on that foundation to propel the growth of the ESDM industry in the country.

Bhopal to host 79th Indian History Congress

The 79th Indian History Congress (IHC) was  held at Barkatullah University in Bhopal Madhya Pradesh from February 26. Earlier the 79th Indian History Congress was supposed to be held at Pune but was cancelled citing financial constraints to host the congress.

The primary objective of Indian History Congress is the “promotion and encouragement of the scientific study of Indian history”. The Indian History Congress holds annual sessions on five sections namely:

  • Ancient India
  • Medieval India
  • Modern India
  • History of Countries other than India
  • Archaeology

The Indian History Congress stands for collaboration with historians throughout the world and promotes the study in India of the history of other countries.

Foundation stone laid for Hastshilp complex in New Delhi

The Union Minister for Textiles, Smriti Zubin Irani laid the foundation stone of a Hastshilp Complex in New Delhi. The complex would be named after Deendayal Upadhyaya as Deen Dayal Antarashtriya Hastshilp Bhawan.

  • The complex will provide space for awardee artisans on a rotation basis and preference will be given to differently abled artisans. This would help in increasing the reach of the Artisans.
  • The complex will also house a separate research wing to carry out on endangered crafts and new and emerging handicraft products and markets.
  • The Hastshilp Bhawan will house 23 shops meant for artisans, one showroom for artisans from SAARC countries, one kiosk, five galleries and one conventional hall.

The construction of the Hastshilp Bhawan is being undertaken by NBCC at a cost of Rs.113.56 crores and the construction is expected to be complete in 18 months.

India, Argentina Sign MoU for Co-Operation in Nuclear Energy

During the visit of Argentine President Mauricio Macri, Argentina has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to boost cooperation in the sector of nuclear energy. The MoU signed was signed between the Department of Atomic Energy, India and National Atomic Energy Commission, Argentina.

  • Argentina has expertise in building small-capacity reactors and it is looking to work with India in some third country in tripartite projects.
  • The MoU for cooperation within the framework of Global Center for Nuclear Energy Partnership would bolster institutional linkages in civil nuclear research, development and capacity building.
  • The MoU will aid in enhancing and exploring cooperative ventures in the area of nuclear power and its societal uses in health, agriculture, industrial application, training and capacity building.

In the year 2010 India and Argentina had signed an agreement for cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

INVAP which is an Argentinean Company is working on the Fission Molly Project to build a molybdenum plant in Mumbai. The plant would primarily focus on creating isotopes. Argentina is also an exporter of some nuclear components used in Indian power reactors.

India, Argentina Sign 10 MoUs & Agreements

India and Argentina signed 10 MoUs and Agreements during the ongoing three-day visit of the Argentine President Mauricio Macri. President Mauricio Macri of Argentina held bilateral talks with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 18th February 2019. The visit of Argentine President Mauricio Macri also marks 70 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between New Delhi and Buenos Aires.

Six MoUs were signed between the two sides are:

  • MoU on ..defence cooperation was signed between the defence ministries of the two nations.
  • MoU on ..Tourism was signed for cooperation in the field of Tourism.
  • MoU on ..Broadcasting content was signed on Cooperation and Collaboration between Prasar Bharti, India and the Federal System of Media and Public Contents, Argentina.
  • MoU in ..pharmaceuticals was signed between the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation(CDSCO), GoI, and National Administration of Drugs, Food and Medical Technology, Argentina.
  • MoU on Antarctic Co-operation was signed between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Argentina and the Ministry of Earth Sciences of India.
  • MOU was signed between Global Centre for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCNEP), India, and CNEA, the Secretariat of Energy, Argentina.

Two work-plans have been agreed upon in the field of Agriculture –

  • Work Plan on Cooperation between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare of India and the Ministry of Production and Labour of Argentina.
  • Work Plan for the year 2019-21 between Indian Council of Agriculture Research and the State Secretary of Agro-industry of the Ministry of Production and Labour of Argentina

An Agreement was signed for the establishment of India-Argentina Centre of Excellence for Information and Technology.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Macri met for the fifth time. The last time they met was on the sidelines of the G20 Summit held in Argentina in December 2018. Prime Minister  Modi hailed the 70 years of Indo-Argentine ties in the joint statement. Both the nations strongly condemned terrorism, the recent incident being the Pulwama terrorist attack on 14th February 2019, which claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel.

Iran Unveils New ‘Fateh’ Submarine

The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has unveiled a “state-of-the-art” domestically produced submarine capable of firing cruise missiles. The launch has gained significance due to the skewed relations with the USA.

  • The launch was held in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas.
  • Fateh, which means ‘Conqueror’ in Farsi (Persian language) is Iran’s first submarine in the semi-heavy category.
  • It fills a gap between the light Ghadir-class and the heavy Kilo-class submarines that Iran possesses.
  • The underwater-vessel weighs nearly 600 tonnes and is equipped with torpedoes and naval mines in addition to cruise missiles.
  • The submarine can operate more than 200 metres below sea level for up to 35 days.
  • It has subsurface-to-surface missiles with a range of about 2,000 kilometres (1,250 miles), making President Trump Declares National Emergency in USA

The US president Donald Trump on 15th February 2019 had declared a national emergency to fund the US-Mexico border without congressional approval. This step has been described by the Democrats as unconstitutional and they have vowed to challenge it. 

What is the National Emergency in the USA?

The United States can be subjected to more than 30 national emergencies and can be declared for various reasons. The National Emergencies Act (NEA) 1976 formalizes the emergencies powers of the President. The Act empowers the President to activate special powers during a crisis but imposes certain procedural formalities when invoking such powers.

Since 1976, presidents have declared at least 58 states of emergency. Most of them were under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act which allows the president to impose economic sanctions. 

Why did President Trump Declare National Emergency?

  • President Trump had promised to construct a wall along the USA-Mexico border to stop illegal migration if voted to power.
  • This requires fencing of 322 km which costs about $ 5.7 billion.
  • The proposal was rejected by the US Congress and the country went into a 35-day partial government shutdown.
  • However, Congress passed a compromise bill providing President Trump with a mere $1.4 billion for a barrier along 90 kilometres of the border.
  • The declaration of the National emergency by President Trump would enable him to divert money from elsewhere from the federal budget, including funds for the U.S. military for the purpose of the construction of the wall along the border. 

Consequence of the National Emergency

President Trump is expected to face many legal and political challenges. Two lawsuits have already been filed against the National emergency. US Congress can also terminate a declared emergency by passing a joint resolution which is a difficult task.

The Democrats in power at the House of Representatives will have to convince the Republicans who control the Senate to join them in blocking the National Emergency. Then they would have to get a signature from the President himself who has declared the emergency. 

India Inks Security Protection Agreement with Sweden

India and Sweden signed a security protection agreement that will enable the two countries to share classified information with each other. The agreement was signed during the visit of the Indian Defence Minister  Nirmala Sitharaman to Sweden.

Sweden has similar agreements with over 30 countries around the world, as well as with the EU and NATO. The salient features of the agreement are:

  • The agreement will regulate how sensitive information is to be handled, processed and protected.
  • The pact will provide a framework for greater cooperation on the high end and cutting edge technology and manufacturing.

Indian has proposed dialogue to enable a greater understanding of the successful model of collaboration between government, industry and academia in building technologically advance ecosystem. 

India also thanked Swedish PM Lofven for his support to India’s bid for the permanent seat in the United Nation Security Council (UNSC) and the multilateral export control regime–Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) 

Sweden is a Scandinavian country with capital at Stockholm and currency Swedish krona.

In April 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had visited Stockholm and had held a meeting with his Swedish counterpart Stefan Lofven. Both the leaders agreed to enhance the cooperation in the field of defence, cyber-security and innovation. PM Lofven with his delegation had participated in the ‘Make in India’ programme in 2016.

National Cancer Institute Inaugurated in Haryana

Prime Minister, Narendra Modi inaugurated National Cancer Institute (NIC) at Badhsa in Jhajjar district of Haryana. It has 510 beds. It includes the facilities of surgical oncology, radiation oncology, medical oncology, anesthesia, palliative care, and nuclear medicine.There are 6 existing ESIC medical colleges at Kolkata, Faridabad, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, and Gulbarga

The need of Cancer hospital in Haryana?

According to 2018 survey, 38% of deaths due to cancer occur in Haryana. Some of the identified reasons are:

  • Rapid industrialization
  • Industries are disposing waste directly into the river without undergoing any sewage treatment process. This gives rise to air and water-borne diseases among which skin infection and cancer are most common.
  • Improper sanitation

Indian Army holds annual ‘Exercise Topchi

Indian Army on 12th February 2019 showcased its artillery firepower by using …ultra light Howitzersand indigenous Swathi weapon-locating radar at the annual “Exercise Topchi”. The exercise was held at Deolali Camp near Nashik. The aviation and surveillance capabilities were also showcased.

There were a showcase of display of rockets, missiles, surveillance and target acquisition radars, remotely piloted aircraft and hi-tech equipments in addition to gun fire. The precision displayed while delivering the explosives in the target area stunned all those present.

Ultra Light Howitzer M777 – is a towed 155 mm artillery piece that is used by the ground forces of Australia, Canada, India and Saudi Arabia.

Swathi Weapon Locating Radar  is a mobile artillery locating phased array radar developed by India. It is a counter-battery radar designed to detect and track incoming artillery and rocket fire to determine the point of origin for Counter-battery fire.

 Deolali Camp – is a small hill-station in the Nashik district of Maharashtra. It has one of the oldest military centres in India. It was established in 1869 and is situated on the banks of the River Darna. The prestigious School of Artillery is located in Deolali.

‘India – Spearheading Climate Solutions’

Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released a publication titled  “India – Spearheading Climate Solutions” on 12 February, 2019. This document mentions India’s key actions taken towards combating and adapting to climate change.

India’s Key Actions Towards Combating and Adapting Climate Change

  • India’s National Action Plan on Climate Change (NAPCC) that has eight major missions on Solar, Enhanced Energy Efficiency, Sustainable Habitat, Water, Sustaining the Himalayan Ecosystem, Green India, Sustainable Agriculture and Strategic Knowledge on Climate Change.
  • International Solar Alliance (ISA) – It is an alliance of 121 countries, most of them sunshine countries (i.e. lying either completely or partly between the Tropic of Cancer and the Tropic of Capricorn). It was founded in 2015 at Paris and was initiated by India. Membership now has been extended to all the members of the United Nations
  • State Action Plan on Climate Change (SAPCC)
  • FAME Scheme – It stands for Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles (FAME-India) Scheme, which was launched in 2015 under the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan (NEMMP). It aims to create the infrastructure for and promote e-mobility.
  • Atal Mission for Rejuvenation & Urban Transformation (AMRUT) –The scheme was launched in the year 2015 and is solely aimed for Smart Cities
  • Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana – The scheme was launched in 2016. It aims for providing access to clean cooking fuel
  • UJALA scheme – It stands for Unnat Jeevan by Affordable LEDs and Appliances for All and was started in 2015. Its aim is to embrace energy efficient LED bulbs
  • Swachh Bharat Mission – It is a nationwide campaign from 2014 to 2019 aiming to clean up India.
  • National Adaptation Fund for Climate Change (NAFCC) – It was launched in 2015-16 and aims to support robust adaptation techniques to reduce adverse effects of climate change.

Apart from the above, Government of India has taken an ambitious goal of generating 175 GW of renewable energy by 2022. India will leapfrog from Bharat Stage -IV to Bharat Stage-VI emission norms by April 2020. India’s renewable energy capacity stands at more than 74 GW today including about 25 GW from solar. Further, India submitted its Second Biennial Update Report (BUR) to UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) in December 2018 as per the reporting obligations under the convention, which stated that India’s GDP came down by 21% between 2005 & 2014. It also stated that India’s climate-goal for pre-2020 is well on track.

National Gas Grid.

The Union Government has envisaged the development of the National Gas Grid. The government is implementing various projects of about 14,239 Km gas pipelines which would add to the existing 16,788 Km natural gas pipeline.

Authorisation Authority

Under the Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board Act, 2006 Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board (PNGRB) has been recognised as the authority to grant authorization to the entities for the development of City Gas Distribution (CGD) network in Geographical Areas.

Petroleum and Natural Gas Regulatory Board identifies the geographical areas for authorizing the development of the CGD network in synchronization with the development of natural gas pipeline connectivity/ natural gas availability.

Objectives

The objectives of the National Gas Grid are:

  • To remove regional imbalance within the country with regard to access for natural gas and provide clean and green fuel throughout the country.
  • To connect gas sources to major demand centres and ensure availability of gas to consumers in various sectors.
  • Development of City Gas Distribution Networks in various cities for the supply of CNG and PNG.

The National Gas Grid together with providing gas connections to households will provide better infrastructure for automobiles using gas. The National Gas Grid will also aid in renewing of the fertilizer sector and also give a boost to the Power and Automotive sector.

 Mega Food Park inaugurated in Una

The Union Minister of Food Processing Harsimrat Kaur Badal inaugurated the Cremica Food Park in Una which is the first mega food park of Himachal Pradesh.

Cremica Food Park

The important features of the Cremica Food Park are:

  • The mega food park set up at a cost of Rs 107.34 crore will benefit people of Una district and nearby districts of Kangra, Hamirpur and Bilaspur.
  • The Mega Food park provides facilities such as bulk aseptic packaging (24 MT/ hour), Frozen storage (1,000 MT), Deep Freeze, Dry Warehouse, QC Laboratory and other food processing facilities.
  • The park has a common administrative block for office and other uses by the entrepreneurs and 3 Primary Processing Centers(PPC) at Solan, Mandi, and Kangra having facilities for primary processing and storage near the farms.
  • The mega food park at Una will leverage an additional investment of about Rs 250 crores in 25-30 food processing units in the park and generate a turnover of about Rs 450-500 crore annually
  • The mega food park will also provide direct and indirect employment to 5,000 persons and benefit about 25,000 farmers.

Mega Food Park Scheme

The Ministry of Food Processing is implementing Mega Food Park Scheme to give a major boost to the food processing sector by adding value and reducing food wastage at each stage of the supply chain with a particular focus on perishables.

These mega food parks create modern infrastructure facilities for food processing along the value chain from farm to market along with strong forward and backward linkages through a cluster-based approach.

GeM and CCI Sign MoU

Government e Marketplace (GeM) and Competition Commission of India (CCI) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding to enable a fair and competitive environment in the e-Marketplace.

Both CCI and GeM attach significant importance to the advanced analytical tools and processes for identification of malpractices like cartelization. Hence to pool their knowledge of the public procurement domain for detection of Anti-competitive practices GeM and CCI have signed a MoU.

Government e Marketplace (GeM)

GeM is a state-of-the-art national public procurement platform of Ministry of Commerce and Industries. GeM facilitates online procurement of common use Goods & Services required by various Government Departments / Organisations / PSUs.

GeM provides the tools of e-bidding, reverse e-auction and demand aggregation to facilitate the government users, achieve the best value for their money.

GeM aims to enhance transparency, efficiency and speed in public procurement and has used technology to remove entry barriers for bonafide sellers and has created a vibrant e-marketplace with a wide range of goods and services.

Competition Commission of India (CCI)

Competition Commission of India is a statutory body of the Government of India, responsible for enforcing the Competition Act, 2002 throughout the country and to prevent activities that have an adverse effect on competition. CCI consists of a Chairperson and 6 Members appointed by the Central Government.

Eight medical Equipment as Drugs by the Health Ministry

The government has notified the following eight medical equipments as Drugs after consultation with the Drugs Technical Advisory Board:

  • All implantable devices.
  • CT scan.
  • PET equipment.
  • MRI equipment.
  • Defibrillators.
  • Dialysis machines.
  • Bone marrow separators.
  • X-ray machine.

The notification has been made under Section 3 of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, with effect from April 1, 2020. The notification brings all the implantable and diagnostic devices will come under the regulatory framework. This is a big step forward as the majority of the medical devices were unregulated in India.

Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB)

DTAB is the highest statutory decision-making body on technical matters related to drugs in India. It was constituted under the provisions of the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, 1940. DTAB is part of the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

125th Constitutional Amendment Bill

The government has introduced the 125th Constitutional Amendment Bill in the Parliament to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the northeastern region.

Features

The salient features of the 125th Constitutional Amendment Bill which will impact one crore tribal people in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram are:

  • The amendments proposed provide for elected village municipal councils, ensuring democracy at the grass-root level.
  • The amendment empowers the village councils to prepare plans for economic development and social justice including those related to agriculture, land improvement, implementation of land reforms, minor irrigation, water management, animal husbandry, rural electrification, small scale industries and social forestry.
  • The amendment bill mandates the finance commission to recommend devolution of financial resources to these autonomous councils. The Autonomous Councils are dependent on grants from Central ministries and the State government for specific projects.
  • The amendment bill also reserve one-third of the seats for women in the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Mizoram and

The bill to empower the Autonomous Councils was announced by the government last month in the backdrop of the protests in the North-East following the passage of the Citizenship Amendment Bill, 2019, in the Lok Sabha.

US considers withdrawing Generalised System of Preferences from India

The United States is reportedly considering withdrawal of benefits to India under its Generalised System of Preferences amid a widening dispute over its trade and investment policies.

The US Trade Representative (USTR) is in the process of completing the review of India’s status as a GSP beneficiary and an announcement was expected over the next two weeks.

The withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preferences from India could be the strongest punitive action since President Donald Trump took office in 2017 vowing to reduce the US deficit with large economies. The Trump administration has repeatedly called out India for its high tariffs.

Generalised System of Preferences-.. instituted in 1976 under the Trade Act of 1974 is a U.S. trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing world by providing preferential duty-free entry for up to 4,800 products from 129 designated beneficiary countries and territories.

Impact on Trade with India

The withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preferences from India would result in the elimination of duty-free access for about 2,000 Indian product lines. This will hurt small businesses such as jewellery. This will adversely affect Indian exports to the US. After the withdrawal of the Generalised System of Preferences number of goods qualifying for preferential treatment could be reduced, or the whole programme could be withdrawn.

India’s exports to China set to touch Record High

India’s export to China is expected to reach an all-time high in the financial year 2018-19.

Increase in Exports

The increase in the exports to China is attributed to US-China trade spat creating new opportunities for exporters and Beijing removing some trade barriers in its effort to check the growing bilateral trade imbalance.

The growth of exports was driven by the following sectors which include marine products, organic chemicals, plastics, petroleum products, grapes and rice.

Bridging the Trade Deficit

Indian exports are expected to reach an all-time high in the current financial year. The exports between April and December stood at $12.7 billion which is closer to last year’s exports of $13.33 billion.

India feels that more efforts are required for greater market penetration in China to bridge the trade deficit. India’s trade deficit with China stood at $63 billion in 2017-18. This $63 billion trade deficit was more than a third of India’s total trade deficit. The exports to China stood at $13.3 billion and imports from China stood at $76.38 billion in 2017-18.

Acknowledging the need to take steps to check the deficit, the following steps have been initiated to bridge the deficit:

  • China signed three export protocols with India on rice, fishmeal and tobacco to allow imports of the three items.
  • An announcement regarding Chinese import quotas for sugar and rice for 2019 is expected soon which would aid in planning their exports well in time.
  • India is also expecting to sign a protocol for export of Indian soyabean meals, cakes and pomegranates to China in the near future.

To make the most of the US-China trade dispute, the Department of Commerce had taken the initiative to identify and share with Indian exporters and other stakeholders, specific lines where the US will lose competitiveness in China and where India had an export potential.

Chinook Helicopters 
The first batch of four Chinook military helicopters manufactured by the American aerospace major Boeing has arrived at the Mundra port in Gujarat. This first batch consignment will be ferried to Chandigarh, where they will be formally inducted into the Indian Air Force in 2019.

Chinook Helicopters

Chinook is a multi-role, vertical-lift platform, which is used for transporting troops, artillery, equipment and fuel. Chinook would be deployed for humanitarian and disaster relief operations and in missions such as transportation of relief supplies and mass evacuation of refugees.

The advanced multi-mission helicopter Chinook will provide the Indian armed forces with unmatched strategic airlift capability across the full spectrum of combat and humanitarian missions.

India had placed a mega contract to Boeing for the procurement of 22 Apache helicopters and 15 Chinooks for the Indian Air Force in September 2015. To deliver on the order, Boeing has strengthened its supply chain with over 160 partners in India. Boeing has also planned a joint venture to manufacture fuselages for Apache helicopters and the annual sourcing from India stands at $1 billion.

Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019

The government has introduced the Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian Bill, 2019 in the Parliament. The bill was introduced by the Minister of External Affairs Sushma Swaraj in the Rajya Sabha.

Features of the Bill

The Bill aims to arrest the cases of Indian women being trapped in fraudulent marriages with non-resident Indians (NRI). The important features of the bill are:

  • The bill mandates the Non-Resident Indians who marry an Indian citizen or a fellow NRI abroad to compulsorily register their marriages within 30 days.
  • Failure to register their marriage would face the prospects of their passports being impounded or even revoked.
  • The bill allows courts to attach movable and immovable properties of NRIs who are declared “proclaimed offenders” for failing to appear before the law.
  • The bill allows courts to send summonses and warrants to the accused through a specially designated website to be hosted by the Ministry of External Affairs.
  • The bill amends the Passport Act and the Code of Criminal Procedure to allow passport authorities to revoke or impound passport or travel documents of the accused, and allow courts to attach their properties.
  • The bill clearly states that if an NRI marries an Indian citizen here, the marriage has to be registered as per local laws and if the marriage takes place abroad, it has to be registered with designated officers to be appointed in foreign countries.

The Bill proposes to offer greater protection to Indian women married to NRIs and serve as a deterrent to NRIs against harassment of their spouses.

Ghumot to be declared Goa’s heritage musical instrument.

Goa, has announced that Ghumot, an indigenous earthen drum will soon be notified as a heritage instrument of Goa. Ghumot is an indigenous earthen drum fashioned as a designed clay pot, with the skin of the monitor lizard stretched taut across the pot’s mouth, forming a drumhead. Ghumot is a percussion instrument widely played during Ganesh Chaturthi Aarties.

Why Ghumot was banned?

The skin of monitor lizard is one of the key components of the Ghumot. Since the monitor lizard was classified as an endangered wildlife species and was listed in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, Ghumot was banned by the Forest Department of Goa.

In recent years attempts were made to revive the heritage instrument of Goa by replacing monitor lizard skin with the skin of a ..she-goat. This revival had spiked the interests about the instrument.

Taking forward the efforts to conserve the heritage musical instrument the government of Goa is taking steps to declare Ghumot as the heritage musical instrument of Goa.

Rajasthan Assembly Passes Bill to Scrap Minimum Education Qualification for Civic Polls

The Legislative Assembly of Rajasthan passed the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Rajasthan Municipality (Amendment) Bill, 2019 to end the minimum education criterion for panchayat and civic polls candidates.

What was the education criterion proposed?

As per the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Amendment Bill 2015, Candidates were:

  • Required to have passed Class X for contesting municipal elections, Class VIII for contesting panchayat polls for the post of a sarpanch, and Class X for contesting Zila Parishad or Panchayat Samiti elections.
  • Construction of toilets in their homes as mandatory for contesting polls to the panchayati raj institutions in the state.

Even the Supreme Court had upheld the constitutional validity of a similar law in Haryana which mandated education qualification for candidacy in local polls. The Supreme Court had said that “it is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good and bad”.

PM Modi serves the 3 Billionth Meal of Akshaya Patra

Prime Minister Narendra Modi served the three billionth meal of Akshaya Patra, an NGO that works with the government on Mid-Day Meal Scheme. The Prime Minister Served the food to about 20 schoolchildren who are the beneficiaries of the mid-day meal scheme at the  Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir campus in the holy city of Vrindavan. Prime Minister also unveiled a ceremonial plaque to mark the serving of “3rd billionth meal” by Akshaya Patra Foundation.

Akshaya Patra Foundation

Akshaya Patra Foundation is a Bengaluru-based not-for-profit organisation Funded by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON). Akshaya Patra Foundation is an implementation partner for the governments Mid-Day Meal Scheme.

Akshaya Patra Foundation has served meals to more than 1.76 million children in twelve states covering 14,702 schools since its inception. In the year 2016, Akshaya Patra commemorated the serving of 2 billion cumulative meals in the presence of the then President of India Pranab Mukherjee.

Akshaya Patra Foundation is the world’s largest not-for-profit run organisation serving wholesome food to over 1.76 million children every school day from over 14,000 schools across 12 states in India.

2019 Grammy Awards

The 61st GRAMMY Awards were held on February 10, 2019, at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The winners are:

  • Record of the Year: THIS IS AMERICA.
  • Album of the Year: GOLDEN HOUR.
  • Song of The Year: THIS IS AMERICA.
  • Best New Artist: DUA LIPA.
  • Best Pop Solo Performance: JOANNE (WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU’RE GOIN’?)
  • Best Pop Duo/Group Performance: SHALLOW
  • Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album: MY WAY
  • Best Pop Vocal Album: SWEETENER
  • Best Dance Recording: ELECTRICITY
  • Best Dance/Electronic Album: WOMAN WORLDWIDE

Grammy Awards

Grammy Awards are presented by the Recording Academy to recognize achievements in the music industry. The Grammys held for the first time on May 4, 1959, are the second of the Big Three major music awards held annually (between the American Music Awards in the Fall, and the Billboard Music Awards in the Summer).

BAFTA FILM AWARDS 2019

The British Academy of Film and Television Arts, BAFTA awards are presented in an annual award show hosted by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) to honour the best British and international contributions to film. The BAFTA FILM AWARDS 2019 have been announced. The awardees under the various categories are listed below:

  • Best Film: Roma
  • Outstanding British Film: The Favourite
  • Leading Actress: Olivia Colman, The Favourite
  • Leading Actor: Rami Malek, Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Supporting Actress: Rachel Weisz, The Favourite
  • Supporting Actor: Mahershala Ali, Green Book
  • Director: Alfonso Cuarón, Roma
  • Costume Design: The Favourite
  • Make Up & Hair: The Favourite
  • Original Music: A Star Is Born
  • Outstanding Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer: Michael Pearce and Lauren Dark, Beast
  • Animated Film: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
  • Adapted Screenplay: BlacKkKlansman
  • British Short Animation: Roughhouse
  • British Short Film: 73 Cows
  • Cinematography: Roma
  • Documentary: Free Solo
  • Editing: Vice
  • Film Not in the English Language: Roma
  • Original Screenplay: The Favourite
  • Production Design: The Favourite
  • Sound: Bohemian Rhapsody
  • Special Visual Effects: Black Panther
  • EE Rising Star Award: Letitia Wright, Black Panther/Infinity War (public vote)

The Special Award for Outstanding British Contribution to Cinema was given to Elizabeth Karlsen and Stephen Woolley and the Fellowship honor was presented to editor Thelma Schoonmaker.

Dera Baba Nanak Land Post Designated as Immigration Centre for visiting Kartarpur Sahib

The notification issued by the Union Home ministry has designated Dera Baba Nanak land post located in Punjab’s Gurdaspur district as an authorised immigration checkpoint to exit and enter for visiting Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara in Pakistan.

Kartarpur Sahib Corridor

The Kartarpur Sahib Corridor connects Kartarpur Gurdwara in Pakistan with Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India’s Gurdaspur district. The Kartarpur Sahib Gurdwara is located on the banks of the Ravi River, about three-four km from the border in Pakistan.

The proposed corridor was institutionalised to facilitate visa-free movement of Indian Sikh pilgrims between Kartarpur Gurdwara in Pakistan and Dera Baba Nanak shrine in India. The visitors are required to obtain a permit to visit Kartarpur Sahib where the Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, had spent more than 18 years of his life.  Dera Baba Nanak shrine was established in 1522 by Guru Nanak Dev.

As part of the trust-building exercise, the Pakistan new government had proposed to open the Kartarpur Sahib Corridor. Works to facilitate the opening the corridor began with Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu laying the foundation stone at the Indian side November 28 and Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan laying the foundation stone at the Pakistani side on November 28.

Rajasthan Backward Classes Amendment Bill, 2019

The Rajasthan Assembly has passed the Rajasthan Backward Classes Amendment Bill, 2019. The bill aims to address the demands of the Gujjars who are protesting for reservations.

Features of the Bill

The features of the Rajasthan Backward Classes Amendment Bill, 2019 are:

  • It provides five per cent quota in jobs and educational institutions to Gurjars, Banjaras, Gadia Lohars, Raikas and Gadaria communities.
  • The communities, namely Gurjars, Banjaras, Gadia Lohars, Raikas and Gadaria are currently provided one per cent reservation under More Backward Classes (MBC).
  • The Bill seeks to grant them an additional four per cent quota.
  • The statement on the objective and reasons for the bill said the five castes are the most backward and required a separate reservation in government jobs and educational institutes.
  • The bill increases the ceiling of creamy layer from Rs 2.5 lakh to Rs 8 lakh.
  • With the 5 per cent quota for Gurjars, Banjaras, Gadia Lohars, Raikas and Gadaria communities the backward classes’ reservation in the state has increased from present 21 per cent to 26 per cent.
  • The reservations in Rajasthan now crosses the 50 per cent cap on reservations set by the Supreme Court.
  • To avoid the possible legal tussle the Rajasthan Assembly passed a resolution and urged the Centre to incorporate it in the 9th schedule to ensure the reservation for these communities.

The statement on the objective and reasons for the bill notes that Parliament has amended the Constitution to exceed the limit of 50 per cent laid down by the Indra Sawhney case having regard to the compelling circumstances in which Economically Weaker Sections of the society are languishing.

Measures to Protect and Safeguard Land Rights of Scheduled Tribes.

The  protect and safeguarding the land rights and other rights of Scheduled Tribes who are the  most marginalized, isolated and deprived population, following constitutional and legislative measure have been put in place:

  • The Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 is being implemented to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land to forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes.
  • Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013 (RFCTLARR Act, 2013 in short) safeguards against displacement of Scheduled Tribes. Special provisions have been made for under Sections 41 and 42 of the RFCTLARR Act, 2013 to protect the interests of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  • The Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 mandates that the Gram Sabha or the Panchayats at the appropriate level shall be consulted before making the acquisition of land in the Scheduled Areas or development projects and before resettling or rehabilitating persons affected by such projects in the Scheduled Areas.
  • Constitutional provisions under Schedule – V also provide for safeguards against displacement of the tribal population because of land acquisitions etc. The Governor of the State, having scheduled Areas, is empowered to prohibit or restrict the transfer of land from tribals and regulate the allotment of land to members of the Scheduled Tribes in such cases
  • The Legal Services Authorities Act, 1987 provides for legal services to members of Scheduled Tribes.
  • Wrongfully dispossessing members of Scheduled Castes or Scheduled Tribes from their land or premises or interfering with the enjoyment of their rights, including forest rights, over any land or premises or water or irrigation facilities or destroying the crops or taking away the produce therefrom amount to atrocities and are subject to punishment under the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.

Further, the Ministry of Tribal Affairs is implementing several schemes and programmes for upliftment and development of Scheduled Tribes in the country.

Pulwama terror attack

On 14 February 2019, a convoy of vehicles carrying security personnel on the Jammu Srinagar National Highway was attacked by a vehicle-borne suicide bomberat Lethpora (near Awantipora) in the Pulwama districtJammu and Kashmir, India. The attack resulted in the death of 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel and the attacker. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based Islamist militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed. A local youth named Adil Ahmed Dar was identified as the attacker .

The 12-member National Investigation Agency team will probe the attack along with the Jammu and Kashmir Police.

Initial investigations suggested the car was carrying more than 300 kilograms (660 lb) of explosives, including 80 kilograms (180 lb) of RDX, a high explosive, and ammonium nitrate.

India revoked Pakistan’s most favoured nation status. The customs duty on all Pakistani goods imported to India were raised to 200%.

 The government of India plans to provide the Financial Action Task Force on Money Laundering with a dossier outlining Pakistan’s involvement in the attack.

The protests, bandhs and candle light marches were held across India.

The United States said it would work with India in counterterrorism efforts and criticised Pakistan. Nepal, Russia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, the United Arab Emirates, France, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and the Maldives condemned the attack, as did the United Nations .

One day after the Pulwama terror attack on 14thFebruary, 2019, India has taken a stern step of withdrawing the Most Favoured Nation or MFN Status of Pakistan. This move would enable India to increase customs duty on goods coming from Pakistan. The decision was taken in the meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) that took place on 15th February 2019.

  • The MFN status is given under WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). It is given to an international trade partner to ensure non-discriminatory trade amongst all the members of WTO.
  • As per the first clause in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), a country providing MFN status to another country has to provide concessions, privileges, and immunity in trade agreements.
  • WTO states that if a special status is granted to one trade partner, the country is required to extend it to all members of the WTO without discrimination or any special treatment.
  • An MFN status helps reduce trade barriers and results in a reduction in tariffs especially in customs duty. This in turn strengthens trade-ties between the two countries.
  • As India and Pakistan both are members of the WTO, both are required to grant MFN status to each other and other partner countries.
What is the State of MFN Status Between India and Pakistan?

India had granted MFN status to Pakistan in 1996, a year after the formation of WTO. But Pakistan hasn’t accorded MFN status to India till now. The reason for this is decades of conflict, mistrust and war. Now the total India-Pakistan trade has increased marginally to $2.41 billion in 2017-18 as compared to $ 2.27 billion in 2016-17. India had imported goods worth $488.5 million in 2017-18 and exported goods worth $ 1.92 billion in that fiscal. India’s exports mostly include cotton, dyes, chemicals, vegetables and iron and steel; while its imports include fruits, cement, leather, chemicals and spices. Given that Indo-Pakistan trade-ties is not very strong, this step of revoking the MFN status is only symbolic.

The Dassault-Reliance facility

The Dassault-Reliance facility in Nagpur has kick started production, with the delivery of major components for the Falcon 2000 LX executive jets that are currently being assembled in France. 

Internal calculations claim that the Make in India project can give a $5 million cost advantage due to lower labour and production costs at Nagpur as compared to the current facility in France. 

Supreme Court gives Clean Chit to NDA Government over Rafale Deal

Supreme Court has given clean chit to Modi government for purchase of 36 Rafale fighter Jets. The three Judge bench headed by Ranjan Gogoi, find nothing wrong on the purchase of 36 fighter jet instead of 126 from France.  The court gave …..clean chit on three aspects

– Purchasing of 36 Rafale jets …….instead of 126.

– Pricing of Rafale jets and

-Selection of Indian offset partners.

The litigation had questioned the deal on the ground of pricing mechanism, commercial favoritism and procurement of less number of fighter jets. The petition was first filed by Advocate M L Sharma. The petitioners demanded CBI to register a FIR for the said irregularities in deal.  The apex court rule has two main points – (1) It finds no evidence of commercial favoritism (2) It is not the job of court to deal with comparative pricing mechanism.

Rafale Deal- Dassault Rafale won the MMRCA competition in January 2012 to supply 126 Jet aircraft with additional 63 aircraft to Indian Air Force.

 First 18 aircrafts were to be supplied by Dassault and remaining were to be manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited. Dassault refused to ensure the quality of aircraft produced by HAL. In 2014 the price of deal increased to $30 billion. This created the price issue on the deal and deal couldn’t be signed.

Then after Modi government the deal was confirmed with the 36 multirole fighter aircraft of Rs. 58000 crores from France’s Dassault Aviation. The deal has been in controversy since its inception and supreme finally gave clean chit to government.

 Cut the policy repo rate

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI)  has cut the policy repo rate by 25 basis points to…. 6.25% in a bid to …………..revive economic growth as it projected retail inflation to remain below its target of 4% for the next 12 months. The rate reduction was the first since August 2017.

The RBI also simultaneously changed the stance of the policy to …….‘neutral’ ..from ‘calibrated tightening’, which indicates that the central bank remains………. ready to move in either direction based on incoming data.

Intra-Afghan dialogue-Mascow

Members of the …..Taliban and key Afghan power brokers, including former president Hamid Karzai, discussed their vision for the future of Afghanistan in  feb 2019  meeting in Moscow for talks aimed at ending the war. 

The meeting shifted the fragile peace process from the United States, whose special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad declared a potential breakthrough with the Taliban just days ago. Moscow seeks to reassert its influence in the region and probably would want a role in shaping any possible peace plan.

But the talks, being held over two days in a hotel maintained by the Russian government, included ..no representatives of President Ashraf Ghani’s government, inviting ….fierce criticism from the U.S.-backed Afghan leader. 

“A peace deal with the Taliban will not be implemented unless there is a nationwide consensus,” Ghani said, adding that any agreements made without the Afghan government were meaningless. “Let hundreds of such meetings be held.” 

India gains little by engaging the Taliban directly at this stage, says Amar Sinha , former Ambassador to Afghanistan and member of the National Security Advisory Board, countering Army chief General B.P. Rawat’s call for India to ‘join the bandwagon’ in talks.

In feb 2019  a two-day ‘intra-Afghan’ dialogue of ….Afghan leaders and the Taliban, which did not include the …..Ghani government, ended in Moscow.

India has taken a position on standing with the government in Kabul and ……not engaging the Taliban directly … has it been left out of the Taliban process as a result?

 The United States is hoping Afghanistan can strike a peace agreement including the Taliban before elections scheduled for July,2019 .

Ashraf Ghani, who was elected in a fraud-tainted poll in 2014, is seeking a second term in conflict-riven Afghanistan’s delayed presidential ballot.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)-30 th member

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) said  that its 29 members will  be Macedonia which will become  alliance’s 30th member, following its historic name change.

Last month’s accord with Greece to change the name of the former Yugoslav republic to ‘Republic of North Macedonia’ ended one of the world’s longest diplomatic disputes, paving the way for Skopje to join NATO and the European Union.

Supreme Court  on 103rd Amendment Act-

The Supreme Court in Feb 2019  declined to stay operation of ..the Constitution.. (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, which provides ….10% reservation in government jobs and educational institutions for the economically backward in the unreserved category, but agreed to an early hearing of the challenge to the law .

‘Pink revolution’

A ‘pink revolution’ is quietly taking shape in Maharashtra. The objective is to breed imported pigs to address the problem of protein deficiency in a sizeable section of the population that has been deprived of access to affordable meat besides providing livelihood to farmers.

Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade

The Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) has been renamed as the …Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade with a mandate to deal with matters related to start-ups, facilitating ease of doing business among others, an official order said. 
The newly-named department under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry will look into matters related to promotion of internal trade, including retail trade, welfare of traders and their employees, facilitating ease of doing  and start-ups, the order approved by President 

CBI   Vs Kolcutta police

Kolkata Police  detained ….CBI officials in feb 2019 , who had arrived at Kolkata Police commissioner Rajeev Kumar’s home to quiz him in connection with the …Saradha chit fund case.

 

Later on officials were released .

What’s the issue here?

The issue is whether CBI needed to take the West Bengal government’s permission before launching its operation.

In normal circumstances, police and public order are state subjects. But in this case, the probe was handed over by the top court to CBI, a central agency under the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, 1946.

 The ….state government withdrew general authorization to CBI in November-2018, which may mean …..it was expected to take the state’s permission, as this is required on a case-to-case basis.

Section 6 of the Act……. that requires ..CBI to take the state’s consent ……….doesn’t apply as the top court had ordered the probe.

The Delhi Special Police Establishment Act was therefore brought into force in 1946. The CBI’s power to investigate cases is derived from this Act.

 

The state government may rely on this once it comes up in court.

 CBI had issued a notice under section 160 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (CrPC), against which the state government moved the Calcutta high court.

The high court stayed the notice.

CBI may need to prove its case fall