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Current Affairs

 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 Mission exploring 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 King helicopters.
  • 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 successorto al-Qaeda’s current 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 bombs, air-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 security and 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 Howitzers and 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 falls under section 165 of CrPC, which lays down conditions under which a probe officer can proceed without a warrant.

On 9 May 2014, the ……Supreme Court ordered CBI to investigate the operations of deposit-taking firms in West Bengal and Odisha, including the Saradha Group, and asked the state government to extend cooperation.

Hours after the ……Supreme Court ordered ……in feb 2019  

–Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar to make himself “available” to the CBI for questioning in the chit fund scam cases .

-SC. barred the CBI from taking any coercive steps, including arrest, against Mr. Kumar.

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) 

The National Register of Citizens (NRC) is a register containing names of all genuine Indian citizens residing in Assam. The register was first prepared after the 1951.

The NRC is now being updated in Assam to include the names of those persons (or their descendants) who appear in the NRC, 1951, or in any of the Electoral Rolls up to the midnight of 24 March 1971 or in any one of the other admissible documents issued up to mid-night of 24 March 1971, which would prove their presence in Assam or in any part of India on or before 24 March 1971.

The update process of NRC started in the year 2013 under the strict monitoring of Supreme Court of India. On the midnight of 31 December 2017, Part Draft NRC was released and subsequently on 30 July 2018, the Complete Draft NRC was released .

The Supreme Court on  lashed out at the Centre ….after Attorney-General K.K. Venugopal urged the court to allow the …..NRC work to be kept in abeyance during the Lok Sabha election, observing that the ….Ministry of Home Affairs had been attempting to undermine “the Assam NRC process from the very beginning.”

The Bench of Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Rohinton Nariman reacted angrily after Mr. Venugopal sought to impress on the court the requirement for …..redeploying 167 companies of Central armed police forces, currently engaged in the NRC work, to other parts of the country during the general election

Home Minister Rajnath Singh said  that the government was committed to completing the process of National Register of Citizenship update in Assam within the stipulated time and would ensure that no foreigner was included or any Indian citizen excluded.

The court reiterated that the… July 31 -2019 …deadline for the completion of NRC exercise will not be extended.

In a statement, Mr. Singh said the government had taken forward the NRC process. After the signing of the Assam Accord in 1985, he said, the Centre and the State government had completed the NRC work that remained pending for more than 30 years and took it to the final stage.

Extradition of liquor baron Vijay Mallya-

British Home Secretary Sajid Javid has signed the order for the extradition of liquor baron Vijay Mallya to India.

The businessman — whose legal team had previously indicated their intention to appeal the extradition — will now have…. two weeks to lodge an appeal.

In making extradition decisions, the …..Minister has to consider issues including whether the death penalty would be involved or the person be extradited to a third country (neither of which would apply in this case).

An appeal can only be lodged after the signing of the order by the minister. 

Kingfisher Airlines owes over Rs9,000 crore ($1.25 billion) to a clutch of banks led by India’s largest lender, the State Bank of India (SBI). The creditors have labelled the 63-year-old businessman a “wilful defaulter” and taken legal recourse over non-payment of loans.

Apart from banks’ dues, Kingfisher Airlines, which never made any profit during the seven years when it was flying, also owes Rs300 crore in salaries to around 3,000 employees.

India and the UK had signed an extradition treaty in 1993, which hasn’t been used often

Venezuela’s interim President 

Mr Maduro was re-elected to a ….second six-year term in highly controversial elections in May 2018, which…..most opposition parties boycotted.

Many ……opposition candidates had been barred from running while others had been jailed or had fled the country for fear of being imprisoned and the opposition parties argued that the poll would be neither free nor fair.

Mr Maduro’s…. re-election was ….not recognised by …..Venezuela’s opposition-controlled… National Assembly.

The National Assembly argues that because the …election was not fair, Mr Maduro is a “usurper” and the presidency is vacant.

This is a line that is being pushed in particular by the new president of the National Assembly, 35-year-old Juan Guaidó.

Citing articles 233 and 333 of Venezuela’s constitution, the legislature says that in such cases, the head of the National Assembly takes over as acting president.

That is why Mr Guaidó declared himself acting president on 23 January,2019 .

Eleven European nations joined the U.S. in recognising opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s interim President  heightening a global showdown over…… Nicolas Maduro’s socialist rule.

What has the reaction been?

US President Donald Trump officially recognised Juan Guaidó as the legitimate president of Venezuela just minutes after the latter had said he would take over the executive powers.

The EU members’ coordinated move followed the expiry of an ultimatum for Mr. Maduro to call a new election and aligned them with Washington against Russia and China.

Mr. Guaido, who leads the ….National Assembly, declared himself caretaker leader .

 “Imposing some kind of decisions or trying to legitimise an attempt to usurp power is both direct and indirect interference,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Interim Budget 2019

Union Finance Minister Piyush Goyal presented an Interim Budget for 2019 in Parliament on 1st Feb 2019.

An ..Interim Budget usually doesn’t list out new schemes or doesn’t unveil any policy measures.

The government will present the vote on account for the next four-to-five months.

A full-fledged Budget will be presented after the House reassembles after the general election.

Here are the highlights from Mr. Goyal’s budget speech:

The government has pegged the fiscal deficit target at 3.4 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) for financial year 2019-20. which is also higher than 3.1% of the GDP as per the fiscal roadmap …

  • The current account deficit, against a high of 5.6 per cent six years ago, is likely to be only 2.5 per cent of GDP this year, the Union Minister said.
  • No income tax for earnings up to ₹5 lakh.
  • Individuals with gross income of up to ₹6.5 lakh need not pay any tax if they make investments in provident funds and prescribed equities
  • Standard tax deduction for salaried persons raised from ₹40,000 to ₹50,000
  • TDS threshold on ….interest on bank and post office deposits raised from ₹10,000 to ₹40,000
  • TDS threshold on… rental income increased from ₹1.8 lakh to ₹2.4 lakh
  • I-T processing of returns to be done in ….24 hours .
  • Within the next 2 years, all verification of tax returns to be done electronically …without any interface with the taxpayer
  • Package of ₹6000 per annum for farmers with less than ..2 hectares of land. Scheme to be called Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi.
  • Vande Bharat Express, an indigenously developed semi high-speed train, to be launched .
  • One lakh.. Digital villages planned in the …..next five years .

What exactly is a Digital Village? How does it benefit the villagers and the country? How can it be setup in a cost-effective manner, in a short time frame?

A Digital Village is often seen as an idea that can help remove the Digital Divide, enabling development to reach underdeveloped regions, and the country to leapfrog.

In physical terms, a ‘Digital Village’ generally refers to a village that has voice as well as data connectivity. Though not specified, the assumption is that both are of sufficiently high quality, with bandwidth available for most commonly used Internet applications to work on computers, tablets and mobile phones.

  • Fund allocation for the Northeast region increased to ₹ 58,166 crore, a 21% rise over last year for infrastructure development .
  • Anti-camcord (camera recorde)regulations to be introduced in the Indian Cinematograph Act to prevent piracy and contact theft of Bollywood films.
  • Single window clearance for ….Indian filmmakers.
  • 25 per cent of sourcing for government projects will be from the MSMEs, of which three per cent will be from women entrepreneurs.
  • National Artificial Intelligence portal ……..to be developed soon
  • ESI cover limit increased to ₹ 21,000. Minimum pension also increased to ₹ 1000.
  • Mega pension scheme for workers in the organised sector with an income of less than ₹15,000.

They will be able to earn ₹ 3000 after the age of 60. The scheme will be called Pradhan Mantri Shramyogi Maan Dhan Yojana.

  • 2% interest subvention for farmers pursuing animal husbandry.
  • All farmers affected by severe natural calamities to get 2% interest subvention and additional 3% interest subvention upon timely repayment
  • Decision taken to increase MSP (minimum support price) by 1.5 times the production cost for all 22 crops
  • The 22nd AIIMS to come up in Haryana .

National Kandhenu Yojana for Cows. In this article, we will discuss Mega Pension Scheme.

Pradhan Mantri.. Shram Yogi Maan Dhan Yojana (Mega Pension Scheme)

The government has announced to launch Mega Pension Scheme named Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan Dhan Yojana to the unorganized sector workers to provide a monthly pension after the age of 60.

Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan Dhan Yojana Objective

Actually, the central government has launched this scheme with an aim to provide financial security to the unorganized sector workers after the age of 60.

However, only Government employees were taking the benefits of Pension Schemes but now the unorganized sector workers will also be able to take the benefit of a monthly pension under Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan Dhan Yojana This scheme will be a mega pension scheme for unorganized sector workers.

Pradhan Mantri Shram Yogi Maan Dhan Yojana Benefits

  • In this scheme, on a monthly contribution of Rs 100, the workers will receive a pension of Rs. 3000 per month after the age of 60 years.
  • Under this scheme, about 10 million workers of the unorganized sector will be guaranteed a minimum pension after retirement.
  • The scheme benefit will be given to those workers who are working in the unorganized sector whose monthly income is less than Rs.15, 000.
  • This scheme will be a financial security scheme for the weakest 25% people in the unorganized sector.
  • This scheme will cover working people like domestic maids, drivers, plumber, electricity workers, who can earn less than 15000/-.

This scheme will be a mega pension scheme for unorganized sector workers. With the help of this scheme, the unorganized sector workers will be able to receive a monthly pension in their old age.

Martyrs Day

January 30 is celebrated as Martyrs Day to honour the brave martyrs of India who have sacrificed their lives for the country.

Why January 30 is celebrated as Martyrs Day?

January 30 marks the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. On January 30, 1948, at the age of 78, Mahatma Gandhiji, Father of the Nation was assassinated by Nathuram Godse. Godse held that Gandhiji favoured the political demands of India’s Muslims during the partition of India.

There were warnings about life threats to Gandhiji, Gandhiji refused to toe the government’s stand that he required security. Gandhiji threatened to leave Delhi if protection was thrust upon him. His associates cite that had he accepted security his assassination could have been averted.

How it is celebrated?

On the occasion of Martyrs Day, the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister, and the three Service Chiefs gather at the Gandhiji’s samadhi at Raj Ghat memorial and lay wreaths. Bugles are blown sounding the Last Post.

A two-minute silence in memory of Indian martyrs is observed across the country at 11 AM and participants hold all-religion prayers and sing tributes in the honour of Martyrs.

March 23 which is the death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, Shivaram Rajguru and Sukhdev Thapar is also celebrated as Martyrs Day in the State of Punjab.

International Year of the Period Table of Chemical Elements.

UNESCO has declared …2019 as the International Year of the Period Table of Chemical Elements to commemorate the 150th birthday of the periodic table of chemical elements. The Periodic table of the Chemical elements was first published by Russian scientist Dmitry Mendeleev in the year 1869.

What is this Periodic Table of Chemical Elements?

The Periodic Table of Chemical Elements is the tabular arrangement of the chemical elements, arranged by atomic number, electron configuration, and recurring chemical properties. The important features of the periodic table are:

  • The seven rows of the table are called as periods and generally accommodate metals on the left and non-metals on the right.
  • The columns of the table are called groups and contain elements with similar chemical behaviours.
  • The elements from atomic numbers 1 (hydrogen) to 118 (oganesson) have been discovered in nature or synthesized in laboratories.
  • The first 98 elements listed in the periodic table occur naturally, though some are found only in trace amounts and a few were discovered in nature only after having first been synthesized.
  • Elements from 99 to 118 have only been synthesized in laboratories or nuclear reactors.
  • Efforts are on to elements having higher atomic numbers these elements would begin the eighth row, and theoretical work has been done to suggest possible candidates for this extension.

To celebrate the International Year of the Period Table of Chemical Elements the UNESCO would be organising events like online competition to test high school students’ knowledge of the table, and scientific experiments brought to schools around the world.

Impact of global warming on El-Nino

El-Nino disturbs the atmospheric conditions across the world. El-Nino occurs every two-to-seven years with very strong El Niño’s occurring about every 15 years results in droughts, floods, wildfires, dust and snow storms, fish kill, and even elevated risks of civil conflicts.

The El-Nino is measured by studying the averages sea surface temperature anomalies over the central-eastern tropical Pacific. A study which analyses the impact of global warming on El-Nino has been published in the journal Nature in December 2018.

The important findings of the study are:

  • The study serves a warning to the countries on all continents that suffer from these extreme weather events during strong El Niño events such as the ones during 1982-83, 1997-98 and 2015-16.
  • The study notes that eagerly-awaited winter rain and snow storms over California did not occur during the latest extreme El Nino. Hence it is unclear whether global warming is already affecting El Nino and its remote impacts.
  • The study argues that it is unclear if the impact of global warming on El Nino can easily be extracted considering its intrinsic tendencies and its dependency on so many factors that are not easily predictable.

The study concludes that various models to study El-Nino deliver a slightly different rendition of El Niño compared to nature. Hence it is imperative that models be held to very stringent standards on their performance of El Niño behaviour during historic periods, especially the 20th century, as a test of their reliability for future projections. As a result it is difficult to conclude how reliably the models can project El Niño response to global warming in addition to how the models perform in reproducing floods and droughts of 20th century.

New chairman of BARC India

The Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC India) has elected Punit Goenka MD and CEO of Zee Entertainment Enterprises Limited (ZEEL) as the Chairman. Punit Goenka as a founder Chairman of BARC had played a key role in institutionalizing BARC.

Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC India)

Broadcast Audience Research Council of India (BARC India) is a collaborative Industry Company founded in 2010 by…. stakeholder bodies that represent Broadcasters, Advertisers, and Advertising and Media Agencies.

The promoters of BARC India are Indian Broadcasting Foundation, Indian Society of Advertisers and Advertising Agencies Association of India. BARC India was set up as per guidelines of the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting, Government of India.

BARC India has evolved a transparent, accurate, and inclusive TV audience measurement system on the foundation of robust and future-ready technology backbone. Together with the audience measurement system, BARC India provides a suite of Insight products designed for Broadcasters, Advertisers and Agencies.

National Statistical Commission

National Statistical Commission was established in 2005 based on the recommendations of the Rangarajan Commission. The commission was established through an executive order and it works under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.’

 

The Rangarajan Commission recommended the establishment of a permanent National Commission on Statistics to serve as a nodal and empowered body for all core statistical activities of the country, evolve, monitor and enforce statistical priorities and standards and to ensure statistical co-ordination among the different agencies involved.

Composition of the Commission

The Commission consists of a part-time Chairperson, four part-time Members, an ex-officio Member and a secretary. The Chief Statistician of India who is the Head of the National Statistical Office is the Secretary of the Commission and the Chief Executive Officer of the NITI Aayog is the ex-officio Member of the commission.

Mandate of the Commission

The mandate of the National Statistical commission include:

  • To identify the core statistics, which are of national importance and are critical to the development of the economy.
  • To constitute professional committees or working groups to assist the Commission on various technical issues.
  • To evolve national policies and priorities relating to the statistical system.
  • To evolve standard statistical concepts, definitions, classifications and methodologies in different areas in statistics and lay down national quality standards on core statistics.
  • To evolve national strategies for the collection, tabulation and dissemination of core statistics, including the release calendar for various datasets.
  • To evolve national strategies for human resource development on official statistics including information technology and communication needs of the statistical system.
  • To evolve measures for improving public trust in official statistics.

The commission has also been entrusted with the functions of the Governing Council of the National Sample Survey Office which include overseeing the conduct of National Sample Surveys (NSS) on various socioeconomic subjects through the NSSO and the State Directorate of Economics and Statistics.

Saudi Arabia, UAE to Launch First Common Digital Currency ‘Aber’ 

The central banks of the UAE and Saudi Arabia will launch a common digital currency called Aber. Aber will be used for …financial settlements between the two countries through Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers technologies.

Benefits of the Digital Currency

The digital currency would be launched to explore the following benefits:

  • The digital currency would aid in studying the impact on the improvement and reduction of remittance costs and the assessments of risks.
  • Aber will establish an additional means for the central financial transfer systems of the two countries and enable banks to directly deal with each other in conducting financial remittances.

Initially, the use of the digital currency will be restricted to a limited number of banks. By studying the various technical, economic and legal requirements, the use of the digital currency would be expanded.

Digital Currency Aber relies on the use of a distributed database between the central banks and the participating banks from both sides. Digital Currency is part of the efforts to adopt new technologies like Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence, Internet of Things, etc., in line with the Fourth Industrial Revolution that is reshaping governments and corporates around the world.

Beating Retreat Ceremony

The Beating Retreat Ceremony marks the conclusion of Republic Day celebrations. Through this ceremony, the defence forces which had come to the national capital to be a part of Republic Day celebrations are sent back to their barracks by the President.

The Beating Retreat Ceremony is held every year on January 29th  at Vijay Chowk. Traditionally the bands of the three wings of the military, the Indian Army, Indian Navy and Indian Air Force, and pipe bands from the Army participated in the Beating retreat ceremony.

A popular western tune ”Abide with me” would also be played by the bands. The ceremony comes to a conclusion with the popular tune ”Sare Jahan se Acha”. Once the bands conclude ”Sare Jahan se Acha”, the Raisina Hill complex would be lit up in the riot of colours.

Genesis in India

Beating Retreat is a centuries-old military tradition, at the sounding of retreat, the troops ceased fighting, sheathed their arms and withdrew from the battlefield, returning to their camps at sunset.

The Beating Retreat Ceremony was started in the early 1950s when the government had asked Indian army to design a ceremony for the display by the massed bands.

Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development

The Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development was inaugurated by the Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte at Rome. The centre has been opened by the Italian government in association with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).

About the Centre

The important aspects of the Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development are:

  • The centre’s origin can be traced to a declaration endorsed by the G7 meeting of the Environment Ministers in 2017. The centre would facilitate coordination among the G7 and African countries on common initiatives in Africa to achieve the goals set by the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.
  • The Centre would contribute towards addressing the needs of Africa by providing a platform for G7 countries to steer their cooperation to contrast environmental degradation and promote sustainable economic growth in the region.
  • The centre will provide a fast-track, demand-driven mechanism for African countries to access grant resources that support policies, initiatives, and best practices on climate change, food security, access to water, clean energy, and accelerating progress on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa.

The centre would be hosted by UNDP which would utilise its extensive country office network and programmatic hubs, and global expertise and knowledge, to enable the African countries to access the resources available through it.

Attaining the Sustainable Development Goals

Africa referred to as Dark Continent still has up to 330 million of its population living in poverty and up to 60% of unemployed Africans are young people. The centre will help to speed up progress and quickly resource national development priorities in the African countries to address these challenges and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

Corruption Perception Index 2018-

Corruption Perceptions Index of Transparency International ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt a country’s public sector and judiciary are perceived to be by experts and business executives.

It is the most widely used indicator of corruption worldwide and it does not consider corruption in the business sector. The corruption perception index draws on 13 surveys and expert assessments to measure public sector corruption in 180 countries and territories.

The Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index make the following observations:

  • Denmark is the world least corrupt country scoring 88 out of 100 points. Denmark is followed by…… New Zealand and Finland.
  • Somalia has been ranked last with a score of 10 behind South Sudan and Syria.
  • More than two-thirds of evaluated countries scored below 50 points, while the average score remained at last year’s level of only 43 points.
  • Estonia, Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Guyana demonstrated most improvements since 2012.
  • The 2018 rankings showed an increase in the perceived corruption in Australia, Chile and Malta.
  • For the first time since the United States dropped out of the top 20 and it was ranked at 22nd rank.
  • Along with Brazil, US was placed in the watch list by Transparency International.

Top and Bottom Countries

Region Wise Performance

 

The report highlights a connection between healthy democracies and successfully fighting corruption in the public sector and notes that corruption is much more likely to flourish where democratic foundations are weak.

The scores indicate the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0-100. A score of 0 points that a country is perceived as highly corrupt and a 100 points that a country has sound integrity systems.

Where does India stand?

The Corruption perception index makes the following observations about India:

  • India’s ranking increased from 81st in 2017 to….. 78 in 2018.( While China ranked 87 and Pakistan 117 in 2018) India had slid from 79th rank in 2016.
  • The report cities countries like India along with Malaysia, Maldives and Pakistan will be important to watch moving forward.
  • The report notes that all these countries mentioned above have witnessed massive public mobilisation against corruption coupled with significant political participation and voter turnout resulting in new governments that promised extensive anti-corruption reforms.
  • The report mentions that these encouraging developments are yet to show some tangible solid action, especially when it comes to combating elusive forms of grand corruption.
  • The report noted that since India gears up for general elections, there was a little significant movement in its CPI score, which moved from 40 in 2017 to 41 in 2018.
  • The report notes that in spite of spectacular public mobilisation in 2011, where citizens demanded the government to take action against corruption and advocated for the passage of the comprehensive Jan Lokpal bill, the efforts ultimately fizzled and fell flat, with little to no movement on the ground to build the specialist anti-corruption infrastructure required.

These findings gain importance at the time Supreme Court has set the ball rolling for the appointment of Lokpal by setting a deadline for the search committee to recommend names for selection committee headed by Prime Minister

Survey of Elephants in Captivity

The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change has submitted the affidavit with the findings of the first Survey of Elephants in Captivity to the Supreme Court.

Findings of the Survey

The Survey was undertaken after the order of the Supreme Court which had asked the Union Government to identify elephants in captivity and whether their owners have an ownership certificate while hearing a writ petition filed by Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre. The findings of the Survey are:

  • There are 2,454 elephants in captivity across the country of which 560 are in possession with forest departments and 1,687 with private individuals.
  • 664 of the total captive elephants in the country are without ownership certificate while there are 85 in zoos, 26 in circuses and 96 in temples.
  • 58 per cent of all captive elephants is concentrated in two states: 905 in Assam and 518 in Kerala.
  • The affidavit also points at some discrepancies in data especially from the State of Bihar.

The Survey was ordered after the Animal Welfare Board of India failed to produce data on the number of elephants held captive.

Animal Welfare Board of India was established under the Provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act,1960 to oversee the implementation of the animal welfare laws in the country.

The Board consists of 28 Members including 6 MPs (4 from Lok Sabha and 2 from Rajya Sabha). Previously based in Chennai, it is now headquartered at Ballabhgarh in Haryana.

 Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana

The Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM JAY)  proposes …three models through which the states can implement the scheme. They are

Insurance Model

Under this Model, the premiums are paid to the insurance company, which administers and pays the claim.

Trust-based model

Under this Model, each State forms its own trust to manage the scheme and claims will be disbursed from a corpus created from central and State government contributions.

Hybrid model

Under this Model, a part of the claim comes under the insurance model while the balance gets processed under the trust.

Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM JAY) is a scheme of the government under Ayushman Bharat which aims to reduce the financial burden on poor and vulnerable groups arising out of catastrophic hospital episodes and ensure their access to quality health services was conceived.

Under the PM-JAY scheme about 10.74 crore poor, deprived rural families and identified occupational categories of urban workers’ families as per the latest Socio-Economic Caste Census (SECC) data (approx. 50 crore beneficiaries) will have health benefit cover of Rs Five Lakhs per family per year at free of cost.

World’s longest expressway –

The government of Uttar Pradesh has approved the construction of the Ganga Expressway. The government has said that it would be the longest expressway in the world. The expressway will provide for better connectivity of the Prayagraj (Allahabad) to Western Pradesh.

Expressway

Expressways are the highest class of roads in the road network in India. National Expressways Authority of India under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways is responsible for the construction and maintenance of expressways.

Expressways are controlled-access highway, the highest-grade type of highway with access ramps, lane dividers, etc., for high-speed traffic.

This 600km Ganga Expressway would be constructed at an approximate cost of Rs 36,000 crores over 6,556 hectares of land. The expressway starting from Meerut will pass through Amroha, Bulandshahr, Badaun, Shahjahanpur, Farrukhabad, Hardoi, Kannauj, Unnao, Rae Bareli, Pratapgarh before reaching Prayagraj.

Amendments to Representation of People’s Act 1951

The Election Commission of India has sought an amendment to the Representation of People Act 1951 ………..to prevent print media, social media and other digital platforms from…. carrying political advertisements in ….the last 48 hours before the polling begins.

Why the amendment is necessary?

Section 126 of the Representation of People Act 1951 prevents electronic media from airing any political advertisements in the silent period (48 hours before polling begins),

The Election Commission has also made it mandatory to seek pre-certification of the campaign material to be published in newspapers during the 48 hours.

But the Social media platforms which are have gained huge prominence for their ability to influence election outcomes, are completely out of the purview of the pre-screening and prohibition rules.

What are the amendments sought?

The Election Commission of India has written to the Union Ministry of Law suggesting to extend the provisions under Section 126 to digital and print media as well. The Commission has sought inclusion of ‘print media’ and ‘other entities’ within the ambit of Section 126 (1) (b). The other entities would refer to all social media formats.

Pariksha Pe Charcha 2.0

The second edition Pariksha Pe Charcha 2.0 was held on January 29. On this occasion, Prime Minister Narendra Modi  interacted with several students, parents and teachers from across the country and shared his personal experiences with the young audience.

During the interaction, Prime Minister interacted with students, parents and teachers and responded to their queries on a host of subjects related to examinations particularly, dealing with exam-centric anxiety.

The event was held at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi where 2000 students, teachers and parents will gathered to interact with the Prime Minister. They were selected through the competitive route out of 1 lakh applicants.

Not just students from India, Indian students residing in Russia, Nigeria, Iran, Nepal, Doha, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Singapore also participated in the event.

Fastest Indian to reach 100 ODI wickets

Fast Bowler Mohammed Shami has become the fastest Indian to claim 100 wickets in One-day Internationals. Mohammed Shami achieved this feat in his 56th ODI game. Mohammed Shami’s wicket number 100 was New Zealand opener, Martin Guptill.

Iran Trade Promotion Plan

Three European Powers U.K., France and Germany are set to announce a plan to help companies trading to Iran to defy the sanctions on Iran.

US sanctions on Iran

US President Trump had unilaterally walked out of the Joint comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA) agreement and reimposed the sanctions on Iran. Under the JCPOA agreement, Iran had agreed to curb its nuclear activities in return for the lifting of sanctions that had been imposed by the UN, US and EU.

This unilateral action of US created a lot of resentment and other parties to agreement China, Russia, U.K., France and Germany reiterated their commitment to the deal. The sanctions would bar the companies with a presence in Iran to use the dollar as a medium of exchange.

Iran trade promotion plan –Iran trade promotion plan has been proposed by the U.K., France and Germany as part of their commitment to save the nuclear deal with Iran.

This plan proposes a special purpose vehicle to accept payments from companies that want to trade with Iran, either by receiving waivers for oil imports or permissible trade in goods like food and medicine. With no direct transfer of funds between Iran and European companies, it would theoretically insulate firms from U.S. penalties.

This plan would shield European companies keen to do business with Iran from U.S. sanctions that could result from dollar-based transactions.

Indonesia Masters Badminton Tournament 2019

The Indonesian Masters Badminton Tournament 2019 is organized by the Badminton Association of Indonesia. It was the third tournament of the 2019 BWF World Tour. The winners under the various categories are listed below:

  • Women’s Singles:  Saina Nehwal (India).
  • Men’s Singles: Anders Antonsen (Denmark).
  • Women’s Doubles: Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi (Japan).
  • Men’s Doubles: Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (Indonesia).
  • Mixed Doubles: Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong (China).

The tournament was held at the Istora Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta, Indonesia. from 22 to 27 January 2019 offered a total purse of $350,000.

Vande Bharat Express

India’s fastest indigenous train –Maximum speed -160 km/h , Train 18 named as Vande Bharat Express will ply between Delhi and Varanasi. Train 18 is an indigenously developed world-class train under Make in India.

The 16-coach train has been built completely in India by Indian engineers….. in a span of 18 months at the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai.

Features of the Vande Bharat Express

Vande Bharat Express is the energy efficient and the first locomotive-less train in the country and will be fully air-conditioned.  These trains run on electric traction like Metro trains and will start replacing the Shatabdi Express fleet from next year.

The fares in these world-class trains are 40-50 per cent higher than the Shatabdi Express. The train will cover 755 km distance in eight hours with stoppages at Kanpur and Prayagraj. It would be the fastest train on the route.

The new train provides number of features to enhance passenger comfort which include inter-connected fully sealed gangways, automatic doors with retractable footsteps, onboard Wi-Fi and infotainment, GPS-based passenger information system, modular toilets with bio-vacuum systems, rotational seats which can be aligned in the direction of travel (available only in the executive class), roller blinds and diffused LED lighting and disabled-friendly toil.

 

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