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Quarterly Current Affairs – January to April 2019

Quarterly Current Affairs – January to April 2019

POLICIES & SCHEMES 2019

Ujjawala Sanitary Nappins initiative
 
Objective: To educate women on female hygiene and health, improve the accessibility of low cost eco-friendly sanitary pads and boost rural employment and the economy.
Petroleum and Natural Gas Minister launched ‘Ujjwala Sanitary Napkins’ initiative to make Odisha’s 2.25 crore women empowered and self-reliant. The initiative is a part of the CSR initiative of OMCs in Odisha – IOCL, BPCL and HPCL.
Key highlights of the scheme:
► Under the initiative, which will cover 93 blocks in 30 districts of Odisha, oil marketing companies (OMCs) will set up 100 manufacturing units at the Common Service Centres (CSC) at an estimated cost of Rs 2.94 crore.
► At least 10 Ujjwala beneficiary women will get employment at each CSC. Each facility will have a capacity to produce 1,200-2,000 pads per day.
► The CSCs are also being provided with raw material, enough to make 45,000-50,000 pads. These napkins will be priced at Rs. 40 per pack, each containing eight pads.
► The Ujjwala pads will be made of virgin wood pulp sheet, non-woven white sheet and a gel sheet which are all biodegradable in nature and will leave a minimal carbon footprint.
Atal Solar Krushi Pump Yojana
 
Objective: To reduce losses due to non-payment of electricity bills and also promote solar energy
Maharashtra government has launched Atal Solar Krushi Pump Yojana.
About Atal Solar Krushi Pump Yojana:
► Under the scheme, the government of Maharashtra has decided to give two LED bulbs, a DC fan and a mobile charging socket as freebies to farmers.
► The scheme provides a subsidy of up to 95% on solar pump sets. The State plans to install one lakh solar pumps.
► Eligibility: Under the Scheme, farmers with less than five acres will have to pay 5% of the cost of a 3 HP solar pump while farmers with more than five acres will get a 5 HP solar pump for Rs 30000.
► The Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd (Msedcl) is the implementing agency.
Menstrual Hygiene for Adolescent girls Scheme
 
Objective: To address the need for menstrual hygiene among adolescent girls residing primarily in rural areas, the Government of India is supporting the Menstrual Hygiene Scheme
Key Points:
► Under this scheme, funds are provided to States/UTs through National Health Mission.
► The napkins packs are provided at subsidized rates as per proposals received from the States and UTs in their Program Implementation Plans.
► This scheme encompasses the following: Increasing awareness among adolescent girls on Menstrual Hygiene
Improving access to and use of high-quality sanitary napkins by adolescent girls in rural areas.
Ensuring safe disposal of Sanitary Napkins in an environmentally friendly manner.
Provision of funds to ASHAs to hold a monthly meeting
with adolescents to discuss issues related to menstrual hygiene.
.ASHAs across the country are trained and play a significant role in the promotion of use and distribution of the sanitary napkins.
► Department of Health Research, under the Ministry of Health, is involved in the assessment of all newer, alternative, environment-friendly menstrual hygiene products to look into their safety and acceptability features.
‘Ama Ghare LED’ scheme
Date: 14th January 2019
Objective: To provide each family 4 LED bulbs free of cost
Odisha has launched the ‘Ama Ghare LED’ scheme, under which about 95 lakh families in the State will each get four LED bulbs free of cost.
Key features of the scheme:
► Under the scheme, 9-watt LED bulbs will be distributed to the beneficiaries registered under the National Food Security Act (NFSA) and the State Food Security Scheme (SFSC).
► Odisha Power Transmission Corporation Ltd (OPTCL) will implement the scheme and the bulbs will be distributed through camps and PDS outlets across the State.
► Biometric authentication: The beneficiaries will have to produce biometric authentication to get the benefits of the scheme.
Hunar Haats
Date: 14th January 2019
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley recently inaugurated Hunar Haat organised by Minority Affairs Ministry at State Emporium Complex in New Delhi.
About Hunar Haats:
► Hunar Haats are organised by the Ministry of Minority Affairs under USTTAD (Upgrading the Skills & Training in Traditional Arts/Crafts for Development) scheme.
► The USTTAD scheme aims at preserving & promoting the rich heritage of the traditional arts & crafts of the Minority communities. This is one of the flagship programmes of the Ministry.
► Hunar Haats have become a successful mission to provide employment and income generation opportunities with platforms for marketing the products of master artisans, craftsmen and culinary experts belonging to the minority communities.
► It envisages at boosting the skill of craftsmen, weavers and artisans who are already engaged in the traditional ancestral work.
One family One Job scheme of Sikkim
Date: 14th January 2019
Sikkim has announced the One family one job scheme to provide employment to the youth of Sikkim.
About the Scheme:
► One family one job scheme entitles one government job for every family in the state.
► Eligibility: Only members of those families which do not have a government job at present are eligible for government employment under the scheme.
► The government has announced that the nature of the job is not temporary and would be regularised after five years.
► Sikkim is the first state in the country to launch an exclusive programme which entitles every family in the state with a government job and Sikkim earmarks 70% of its revenues towards salaries for state government employees.
Womaniya on GeM
Date: 16th January 2019
Objective: To develop women entrepreneurship on the margins of society to achieve gender-inclusive economic growth
The Union Government launched the ‘Womaniya on Government e Marketplace (GeM)’, an initiative to enable women entrepreneurs and Women Self-Help Groups (WSHGs) to sell handicrafts, handloom, accessories, and other products directly to Government departments and institutions.
Key features of the initiative:
► The initiative – Womaniya on GeM – seeks to develop women entrepreneurship on the margins of society to achieve gender-inclusive economic growth.
► The initiative would enable women entrepreneurs and women self-help groups to sell handicrafts and handloom, jute and coir products, home décor and office furnishings, directly to various government ministries, departments and institutions.
About GeM:
► It is an online marketplace to facilitate the procurement of goods and services by various Ministries and agencies of the Government.
► The platform offers online, end to end solution for procurement of commonly used goods and services for all central government departments and state governments, public sector units and affiliated bodies.
Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA)
Date: 16th January 2019
Objective: To accelerate agricultural prosperity and to reduce poverty in the State
The Odisha Government Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) scheme aiming to accelerate agricultural prosperity and to reduce poverty in the State.
About KALIA scheme:
► All the small and marginal farmers of the State will be covered under the scheme. An amount of Rs 10,000 per family at the rate of Rs 5,000 for Kharif and Rabi shall be provided as financial assistance for taking up cultivation.
► 10 lakh landless households will be supported with a unit cost of Rs 12,500 to take up activities like small goat rearing units, mini layer units, duck units, fishery kits for fishermen and women, mushroom cultivation and beekeeping.
► An annual financial assistance of Rs 10,000 per household will be provided to take care of sustenance of farmers not able to take up cultivation due to old age, disability, disease or other reasons
► Deserving families will be identified and selected by gram panchayats. About 10 lakh households will be covered over two years.
► The KALIA scheme also include life insurance cover of Rs 2 lakh and additional personal accident cover of Rs 2 lakh will be provided to both cultivators and landless agricultural labourers
► The crop loan up to Rs 50,000 will henceforth be interest free.
Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana
Date: 24th January 2019
Objective: To promote religious tourism in the country
Govt. has launched the Pravasi Teerth Darshan Yojana, under which a group of Indian diaspora will be taken on a government-sponsored tour of religious places in India twice a year.
Key Highlights:
► The group will be taken to the religious places of all major religions in India.
► The tour would be completely government sponsored.
► Eligibility criteria: all people of Indian-origin, aged between 45 and 65 can apply and a group will be selected out of them.
► The first preference will be given to people from ‘Girmitiya countries’.
► Girmitiyas are the descendants of indentured Indian labourers brought to Fiji, Mauritius, South Africa, East Africa, the Malay Peninsula, Caribbean and South American countries to work on plantations by European colonizers.
Yuva Swabhiman Yojana
Date: 28th January 2019
Madhya Pradesh government has launched ‘Yuva Swabhiman Yojana’ for the youths of the weaker section in urban areas of the state.
Key Points:
► The scheme was launched in Chhindwara district of the state. It aims to provide employment to the youth belonging to the weaker section of the society mainly in urban areas of the state.
► Under this scheme, 100 days of employment will be provided.
► Apart from this 100 days employment, they will also be given skill training by the government.
Swadesh Darshan scheme in Sikkim
Objective: To develop quality infrastructure in the country to provide better experience and facilities to the visitors and foster economic growth.
First project in Sikkim under the Swadesh Darshan scheme has been inaugurated at the Zero Point, Gangtok.
Highlights:
► The project is officially named as “Development of North East Circuit: Rangpo– Rorathang- Aritar- Phadamchen- Nathang-Sherathang- Tsongmo- Gangtok – Phodong- Mangan- Lachung- Yumthang- Lachen- Thangu-Gurudongmer- Mangan- Gangtok -Tuminlingee- Singtam”.
► Under this project, the Ministry has developed tourism infrastructure facilities like Tourist Information Centre, Meditation Centre, Organic Eco Tourism centre, Log Huts, Zip Line, Flower Exhibition Centre, Walkways, Souvenir Shops, Cafeteria, Rain Shelters, Wayside Amenity, Last Mile Connectivity, Parking, Public Toilets etc.
► Swadesh Darshan Scheme is one of the flagship schemes of Ministry of tourism for development of thematic circuits in the country in a planned manner.
Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan Yojana
Pradhan Mantri Shram-Yogi Maandhan Yojana social security scheme announced in the interim budget 2019
Key Points:
► The scheme for the unorganised sector workers with monthly income up to Rs 15,000. A sum of Rs 500 crore has been allocated for the Scheme.
► This scheme shall provide an assured monthly pension of Rs 3,000 from the age of 60 years on a monthly contribution of a small affordable amount during their working age.
► An unorganised sector worker joining pension yojana at the age of 29 years will have to contribute only Rs 100 per month till the age of 60 years. A worker joining the pension yojana at 18 years, will have to contribute as little as Rs 55 per month only.
► The Government will deposit equal matching share in the pension account of the worker every month.
► It is expected that at least 10 crore labourers and workers in the unorganised sector will avail the benefit of the scheme within next five years making it one of the largest pension schemes of the world.
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi
Objective: To provide an assured income support to the small and marginal farmers.
Government has announced the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).
Highlights:
► Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land up to 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
► This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs. 2,000 each.
► Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this.
► It would not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer
families, but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season.
► It would pave the way for the farmers to earn and live a respectable living.
New e-commerce policy comes into effect
 
Objective: To level the playing field in the retail space, as heavy discounting on online retail sites was causing heavy losses to the small and medium brick and mortar stores.
India’s new e-commerce policy came into effect on February 1, 2019. A new set of policy rules have been formed for the e-commerce companies. DIPP gave them a 60-day window period for aligning themselves to the government’s modified foreign direct investment (FDI) rules.
Highlights:
► The police bar online retailers from selling products through vendors in which they have an equity interest.
► It also bars them from entering into exclusive deals with brands for selling products only on their platforms.
► All online retailers will be required to maintain a level playing field for all the vendors selling their products on the platform, and it shall not affect the sale prices of goods in any manner.
► Disallows e-commerce players to control the inventory of the vendors. Any such ownership over the inventory will convert it into inventory based model from marketplace based model, which is not entitled to FDI.
► Under the new rules, the e-commerce retailer shall be deemed to own the inventory of a vendor if over 25 per cent of the purchases of such a vendor are through it.
► Restricts marketplaces from influencing prices in a bid to curb deep discounting. With this, special offers like cashback, extended warranties, faster deliveries to some brands will be prohibited, with the view to provide a level playing field.
Rashtriya Gokul Mission
 
Objective: To conserve and develop indigenous bovine breeds
The Finance Minister Piyush Goyal announced the allotment of Rs. 750 crore to the Rashtriya Gokul Mission (RGM).
Highlights:
► Government has launched ‘Rashtriya Gokul Mission’ under the National Programme for Bovine Breeding and Dairy Development (NPBBD).
► Rashtriya Gokul Mission will be implemented through the “State Implementing Agency (SIA viz Livestock Development Boards). State Gauseva Ayogs will be given the mandate to sponsor proposals to the SIA’s (LDB’s) and monitor implementation of the sponsored proposal. All Agencies having a role in indigenous cattle development will be the “Participating Agencies” like CFSPTI, CCBFs, ICAR, Universities, Colleges, NGO’s, Cooperative Societies and Gaushalas with best germplasm.
► Funds under the scheme will be allocated for the establishment of Integrated Indigenous Cattle Centres viz “Gokul Gram”.
► Gokul Gram will act as Centres for development of Indigenous Breeds and a dependable source for supply of high genetic breeding stock to the farmers in the breeding tract.
Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS)
 
Objective: To identify and support potential medal prospects for upcoming Olympic Games.
The Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports is implementing Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) within overall ambit of National Sports Development Fund (NSDF) for providing financial assistance to elite athletes included in TOPS for their customized training in world class training institutes/ academies within the country and abroad.
Key Points:
► Launched by Ministry of Sports within the ambit of National Sports Development Fund (NSDF)
► It will provide selected sportspersons customized training at institutes having world class facilities and also other necessary support is being provided to the elite athletes. It will also provide a benchmark for selection of athletes on par with international standards.
► Under it, Sports Authority of India (SAI) and federations, which are members of Mission Olympic Cell (MOC), will be nodal agencies for disbursal for fund. They will make payments directly to beneficiary person and institution concerned on behalf of athletes.
Safe City project
Empowered Committee of Officers for Nirbhaya funds scheme has approved pilot Safe City projects in eight selected metropolitan cities, namely, Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Lucknow with a view to provide safety to women in public places.
Key Points:
► The project would be implemented as a Centrally Sponsored Scheme with Centre and State sharing the funding in 60:40 ratio.
► The major components of the Safe City project include:Setting up an Integrated Smart Control Room;
Setting up Pink Out-posts (exclusively administered by Women police) for facilitating ease of filing complaint by women;
Pink Patrols of Women police;
Setting up Women Help Desks in all Police Stations with Counsellors;
Augmentation of existing Asha Jyoti Kendra;
Implementing Safety measures in buses, including Cameras;
Improving Street Lighting in identified Hot Spot areas;
Setting up Pink Toilets;
Integration of Women power-help line with single Emergency number.
Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog
Objective: To increase growth of livestock sector which will be more inclusive and beneficial to women and small and marginal farmers
Cabinet approved the proposal for establishment of Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog for Conservation protection and development of cows and their progeny.
Key Points:
► The Aayog will work in collaboration with Veterinary, Animal Sciences or Agriculture University or departments or organizations of the Central/State Government engaged in the task of research in the field of breeding and rearing of cow, organic manure, biogas etc.
► It will take up scientific activities for genetic upgradation and increasing productivity of cows.
► It will provide the policy framework and direction to the cow conservation and development programmes in the country and ensure proper implementation of laws with respect to the welfare of cows.
► Union Minister, in interim budget, announced that Rs 750 crore would be allocated for the Rashtriya Gokul Mission. Under the scheme, a ‘Rashtriya Kamdhenu Aayog’ would be set up.
Ujjwala Utsav
Ujjwala Utsav observed to celebrate the stellar role played by various stakeholders in making Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana (PMUY) a success.
Key Points:
► The event was organised under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas to encourage, motivate as well as felicitate all frontline field force for their outstanding contribution to PMUY.
► The occasion also saw the launch of the PMUY anthem – Ujjwala Bharat Ujjwala – composed and developed by Kailash Kher.
► PMUY is the central government’s flagship program to provide LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) connections to poor households.
Atal Bhujal Yojana
 
Objective: To improve groundwater management in specific areas of the country through community participation.
World Bank has approved Atal Bhujal Yojana (ABHY), a Rs.6000 Crore scheme, for sustainable management of ground water with community participation.
Key Points:
► ABHY is designed as a Central Sector Scheme.
► It is proposed to be implemented with World Bank assistance.
► The funding pattern is 50:50 between Government of India and the World Bank.
► It envisages active participation of the communities in various activities such as the formation of ‘Water User Associations’, monitoring and disseminating groundwater data, water budgeting, preparation & implementation of Gram-panchayat-wise water security plans and IEC activities related to sustainable groundwater management.
► Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) is regulating groundwater development in India.
KUSUM Scheme
Date: 11th February 2019
Objective: To further the production of solar power in India and also to give the benefits of solar farming to farmersThe Central Government has announced the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan or KUSUM scheme to install grid-connected solar power plants each of Capacity up to 2 MW in the rural areas
Key Facts:
► Kusum Scheme is implemented by The Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
► Initially, the government will distribute 1.75 million off-grid agricultural solar pumps.
► 10000 Megawatts Solar plants will be put up on lands that are barren.
► The state electricity distribution companies, also called, DISCOMS will buy the additional solar power produced by the farmers on barren lands. DISCOMS will get sops to buy this electricity.
► Tube wells and existing pumps of the government will be converted to run on solar power.
► Farmers will get a subsidy of 60% on solar pumps. It shall be deposited to their bank accounts directly. This subsidy is going to be shared by the central and the state governments. 30% of the cost will be obtained as a bank loan. Hence, only the rest 10% will have to be borne by the farmers themselves.
Credit linked capital subsidy scheme
Date: 14th February 2019
The Central government will continue the “Credit Linked Capital Subsidy and Technology Upgradation Scheme” for micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSEs) beyond the 12th Plan period for three years from 2017- 18 to 2019-20.
Key Points:
► The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the continuation of the scheme with a total outlay of Rs 2,900 crore.
► The scheme is to facilitate technology up-gradation in MSEs by providing an upfront capital subsidy of 15 per cent (on institutional finance of up to Rs 1 crore availed by them) for induction of well-established and improved technology in the specified 51 sub-sectors/ products approved.
► The major objective is to upgrade their plant & machinery with state-of-the-art technology, with or without expansion and also for new MSEs which have set up their facilities with appropriate eligible and proven technology duly approved under scheme guidelines.
► The Scheme is a demand driven one without any upper limit on overall annual spending on the subsidy disbursal.
Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi
Date: 25th February 2019
Objective: To provide assured income support to the small and marginal farmers.
The Government has unveiled the Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN).
Key Points:
► Under this programme, vulnerable landholding farmer families, having cultivable land up to 2 hectares, will be provided direct income support at the rate of Rs. 6,000 per year.
► This income support will be transferred directly into the bank accounts of beneficiary farmers, in three equal instalments of Rs. 2,000 each.
► The complete expenditure of Rs 75000 crore for the scheme will borne by the Union Government in 2019-20.
► Around 12 crore small and marginal farmer families are expected to benefit from this.
► It would not only provide assured supplemental income to the most vulnerable farmer families but would also meet their emergent needs especially before the harvest season. It would pave the way for the farmers to earn and live a respectable living.
Draft e-commerce policy
Date: 25th February 2019
The Department of Industry and Internal Trade has released the draft National e-commerce Policy that sends a clear message that India and its citizens have a sovereign right to their data.
Key features:
► It bars the sharing of sensitive data of Indian users with third party entities, even with consent.
► All e-commerce websites, apps available for download in India to have a registered business entity here. Non-compliant e-commerce app/website to be denied access here.
► Location of the computing facilities like data centres, server farms within India. Firms to get 3 years to comply with local data storage requirements.
► FDI only in marketplace model. No FDI in inventory model.
► Curbs on Chinese e-commerce exports. Gifting route, often used by Chinese apps, websites, banned for all parcels except life-saving drugs. Integrating Customs, RBI and India Post to improve tracking of imports through e-commerce.
► E-commerce startups may get ‘infant industry’ status raising the limit for courier shipments from Rs 25,000 to boost e-commerce export.
Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan
Date: 25th February 2019
The government of Gujarat has launched the second edition of the water conservation scheme Sujalam Sufalam Jal Sanchay Abhiyan.
Key Points:
► The scheme aims to deepen water bodies in the state before monsoon to increase storage of rainwater to be used during times of scarcity.
► It involves cleaning and desilting of riverfronts, sprucing up of Irrigation canals.
► During the first edition against its anticipated target of 16,616 works of deepening of ponds and lakes across the state, 18,220 works were accomplished. The first edition witnessed an increase in the water storage capacity of more than 11,000 lakh cubic feet rainwater through different sources like ponds, reservoirs, check dams, bori bandh and others.
SHREYAS program
Date: 28th February 2019
The Ministry of Human Resources Development has launched the Scheme for Higher Education
Youth in Apprenticeship and Skills (SHREYAS) for providing industry apprenticeship opportunities to the general graduates exiting in April 2019 through the National Apprenticeship Promotional Scheme (NAPS).
Key Points:
► The program aims to enhance the employability of Indian youth by providing ‘on the job work exposure’ and earning of stipend.
► The programme basket comprising the initiatives of three Central Ministries, namely the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship and the Ministry of Labour & Employment viz. the National Apprenticeship Promotion Scheme (NAPS), the National Career Service (NCS) and introduction of BA/BSc/BCom (Professional) courses in the higher educational institutions.
► It is a programme conceived for students in degree courses, primarily non-technical, with a view to introduce employable skills into their learning, promote apprenticeship as integral to education and also amalgamate employment facilitating efforts of the Government into the education system.
► To clear pathways towards employment opportunities are available to students during and after their graduation.
Yuva Sahakar scheme
Date: 28th February 2019
Objective: To attract youth to cooperative business ventures.
National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC) launched ‘Yuva Sahakar’ scheme.
Highlights:
► It has created a dedicated fund with liberal features enabling youth to avail the scheme.
► It would provide more incentives for cooperatives of North Eastern region, Aspirational Districts and cooperatives with women or SC or ST or PwD members.
► The funding for the project will be up to 80 percent of the project cost for these special categories against 70 percent for others.
► The scheme envisages 2 percent less than the applicable rate of interest on term loan for the project cost up to Rs 3 crore including 2 years moratorium on payment of principal.
► All types of cooperatives in operation for at least one year are eligible to avail of the scheme.
► It would encourage cooperatives to venture into new and innovative areas.
National Mineral Policy, 2019
 
Objective: To have a more effective, meaningful and implementable policy that brings in further transparency, better regulation and enforcement, balanced social and economic growth as well as sustainable mining practices.
The Union Cabinet has approved National Mineral Policy 2019. The policy is aimed at bringing about more effective regulation to the mining sector as well as a more sustainable approach while addressing the issues of those affected by mining.
Highlights:
► It focuses on Make in India initiative and Gender sensitivity in terms of the vision.
► National Mineral Policy 2019 replaces the National Mineral Policy 2008. In 2017, the Supreme Court had directed to review NMP 2008.
► Important features of the new policy include: Introduction of Right of First Refusal for RP (Reconnaissance Permits)/ PL (Prospecting Licenses) holders.
Encouraging the private sector to take up exploration and attract private investment through incentives.
Auctioning of virgin areas on a revenue sharing basis.
Development of online public portal with provision for generating triggers at higher level in the event of delay of clearances.
Encourages dedicated mineral corridors to facilitate the transportation of minerals
Introduces the concept of Inter-Generational Equity that deals with the well-being of present as well as future generations.
Proposes to constitute an inter-ministerial body to institutionalize the mechanism for ensuring sustainable development in mining.
FAME-India Scheme
Objective: To provide fiscal and monetary incentives for adoption and market creation of both hybrid and electric technologies vehicles in the country.
The Union cabinet has approved the proposal for implementation of scheme titled ‘Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India Phase II (FAME India Phase II)’ for the promotion of Electric Mobility in the country.
Key Points:
► The scheme is with a total outlay of Rs 10000 Crores over the period of three years.
► It is the expanded version of the present scheme titled ‘FAME India1 which was launched in April 2015.
► The scheme proposes to give a push to electric vehicles (EVs) in public transport.
► It seeks to encourage the adoption of EVs by way of market creation and demand aggregation.
► FAME India is a part of the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan. The main thrust of FAME is to encourage electric vehicles by providing subsidies.
National Policy on Software Products 2019
Objective: To develop India as the global software product hub, driven by innovation, improved commercialisation, sustainable Intellectual Property (IP), promoting technology startups and specialised skill setsThe Union Cabinet has approved the National Policy on Software Products 2019 to develop India as a Software Product Nation.
Highlights:
► Initially, an outlay of Rs 1500 crore is involved to implement the programmes and schemes envisaged under this policy over a period of 7 years.
► The amount will be divided into Software Product Development Fund (SPDF) and Research & Innovation Fund.
► The policy will lead to the formulation of several schemes, initiatives, projects and measures for the development of software products sector in the country as per the envisaged roadmap.
► Policy will Promote the creation of a sustainable Indian software product industry, driven by intellectual property (IP), leading to a ten-fold increase in India share of the Global Software product market by 2025.
► It will nurture 10,000 technology startups in the software product industry, including 1000 such technology startups in Tier-II and Tier-III towns and cities and generate direct and indirect employment for 3.5 million people by 2025.
Pradhan Mantri Jl-VAN yojana
Objective: To provide financial support to Integrated Bioethanol Projects using lignocellulosic biomass and other renewable feedstock.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the ‘Pradhan Mantri JI-VAN (Jaiv Indhan- Vatavaran Anukool fasal awashesh Nivaran) Yojana’.
Key Points:
► The scheme focuses to incentivise 2G Ethanol sector and support this nascent industry by creating a suitable ecosystem for setting up commercial projects and increasing Research & Development in this area.
► Apart from supplementing the targets envisaged by the Government under EBP programme, the scheme will also have the following benefits: Meeting Government of India vision of reducing import dependence by way of substituting fossil fuels with Biofuels.
Achieving the GHG emissions reduction targets through progressive blending/ substitution of fossil fuels.
Addressing environmental concerns caused due to burning of biomass/ crop residues & improve the health of citizens.
Improving farmer income by providing them remunerative income for their otherwise waste agriculture residues.
Creating rural & urban employment opportunities in 2G Ethanol projects and Biomass supply chain.
Contributing to Swachh Bharat Mission by supporting the aggregation of nonfood biofuel feedstocks such as waste biomass and urban waste.
Indigenizing of Second Generation Biomass to Ethanol technologies.
Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme
 
Objective: To sensitize the stakeholders of the scheme i.e. Programme Implementing Agencies (PIAs), District level officers & State Government officers.
National Conference on “Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)” was held at New Delhi. The Conference was organised by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Key Points:
► “Scheme to Promote Voluntary Action for Persons with Disabilities” was revised and renamed as the “Deendayal Disabled Rehabilitation Scheme (DDRS)”.
► It aims to create an enabling environment to ensure equal opportunities, equity, social justice and empowerment of persons with disabilities.
► Encourage voluntary action for ensuring effective implementation of the People with Disabilities (Equal Opportunities and Protection of Rights) Act of 1995.
► Provide financial assistance to voluntary organizations to make available the whole range of services necessary for rehabilitation of persons with disabilities including early intervention, development of daily living skills, education, skill-development oriented towards employability, training and awareness generation.
► With a view to inclusion of persons with disabilities in the mainstream of society and actualizing their potential, the thrust would be on education and training programmes.
Atal Innovation Mission (AIM)
 
Objective: To serve as a platform for the promotion of world-class Innovation Hubs, Grand Challenges, Start-up businesses and other self-employment activities, particularly in technology driven areas.
Cabinet approves Continuation of Atal Innovation Mission.
Highlights:
► It is Government of India’s endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship.
► The Mission has been set up under NITI Aayog.
► AIM has multiple programs to encourage and support innovation in the country.
► State of the art Atal Tinkering Labs (ATLs) are being established in thousands of schools, world-class Atal Incubation Centres (AIC) and Atal Community Innovation Centers (ACIC) are being established for universities and industry.
► It includes another programe Self-Employment and Talent Utilization (SETU) in it.

BILLS & ACTS 2019

Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016
 
A Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) has adopted a report clearing the contentious Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, 2016, which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act, 1955.
About the Bill:
► The Citizenship Amendment Bill 2016 seeks to allow illegal migrants from certain minority communities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan eligible for Indian citizenship.
► The Citizenship Amendment Bill seeks to allow illegal migrants belonging to the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian religious communities coming from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan to not be imprisoned or deported.
► It also appeals for the minimum years of residency in India to apply for citizenship to be lessened from at least 11 to six years for such migrants.
► The Bill, however, does not extend to illegal Muslim migrants. It also does not talk about other minority communities in the three neighbouring countries, such as Jews, Bahais, etc.
► The Citizenship Amendment Bill has not been sitting well with the Assamese as it contradicts the Assam Accord of 1985, which clearly states that illegal migrants heading in from Bangladesh after March 25, 1971, would be deported.
Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018
 
The Lok Sabha has passed the Personal Laws (Amendment Bill), 2018, which seeks to remove leprosy as a ground for divorce. Leprosy is being removed as a ground for divorce as it is now a curable disease as against the earlier notion of it being incurable.
Highlights:
► Personal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2018, seeks to end the discrimination against leprosy persons in various central laws: the Divorce Act, 1869; the Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act, 1939; the Special Marriage Act, 1954 etc.
► The Bill eliminates leprosy as a ground for dissolution of marriage or divorce.
► The condition under Section 18 (2) (c) of the Hindu Adoptions and Maintenance Act, that a Hindu wife is entitled to live separately from her husband without forfeiting her claim to maintenance if the latter is suffering from a virulent form of leprosy has been omitted.
► The amendments introduced in the Bill omit the provisions which stigmatise and discriminate against leprosy-affected persons.
Union Cabinet cleared the redrafted Citizenship Amendment Bill
Date: 8th January, 2019
The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared the redrafted Citizenship Amendment Bill thus providing Indian citizenship to non- Muslims from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Bill was first introduced in Parliament in 2016 which seeks to amend the Citizenship Act 1955. The Bill enables grant of Indian nationality to people from minority communities — Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis and Christians— from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan after 6 years of residence in India instead of 12 years even if they don’t possess any proper document. This would, however, nullify the 1985 Assam Accord under which any foreign national, irrespective of religion, who had entered the state after 1971 should be deported.
Several organizations from Assam staged protests, with some of the demonstrators stripping naked, outside Parliament against the central government’s move to amend the Citizenship Amendment Bill.
One Hundred And Twenty- Fourth Amendment Bill, 2019
Date: 10th January 2019
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019 passed by the parliament.
Highlights:
► 10% seats reserved for poor in higher education institutions, including private aided or unaided institutions
► 10% of state jobs reserved for poor. Reservation only in the initial appointment
► 10% reservation for ‘economically weaker sections’ will be in addition to the existing reservation.
► ‘Economically weaker sections’ to be defined by the State from time to time on the basis of family income and other indicators of economic disadvantage.
► Eligibility criteria: Those with annual family income below Rs 8 lakhs; Owning less than five acres of land.
Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2019
Date: 17th January 2019
The Right of Children to Free and Compulsory Education (Amendment) Act, 2019 has received the assent of the President of India. The bill mainly seeks to do away with the no-detention policy in schools.
Key features:
► The Bill seeks to amend the Right to Education (RTE) Act to abolish the “no-detention” policy in schools. Under the current provisions of the Act, no student can be detained up to class VIII.
► As per the amendment, it would be left to the states to decide whether to continue the no-detention policy.
► The bill provides for regular examination in classes V and VIII, and if a child fails, the amendment bill grants a provision to give her or him additional opportunity to take a re-examination within two months. Such children will be provided with two-month remedial teaching to perform better in the re-examinations. If the students still do not pass the exam, the state government may decide to detain them.
National Institutes of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2019
 
The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of National Institutes of Food Technology, Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2019.
Key Points:
► The legislation would provide for functional autonomy to the institutes to design and develop courses, undertake research activities and leverage enhanced status in their academic pursuits, so that they become world class institutes.
► The institutes would implement the reservation policy of the Government and would also undertake special outreach activities for the benefits of concerned stakeholders.
► It would enable the institutes to provide world class teaching and research experience by adopting innovative practices.
The Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill
 
The government has introduced Constitution (125th Amendment) Bill in Rajya Sabha to increase the financial and executive powers of the 10 Autonomous Councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of the northeastern region. The amendment will impact one crore tribal people in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
Key Facts:
► The proposed amendments provide for elected village municipal councils, ensuring democracy at the grassroot level.
► The village councils will be empowered 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 Finance Commission will be mandated to recommend devolution of financial resources to them.
► The Autonomous Councils now depend on grants from Central ministries and the State government for specific projects. At least one-third of the seats will be reserved for women in the village and municipal councils in the Sixth Schedule areas of Assam, Mizoram and Tripura after the amendment is approved.
Bill to amend Cinematograph Act
Date: 13th February 2019
The union government has introduced a bill in the Rajya Sabha to amend the Cinematograph Act and impose strict penalty to combat the menace of film piracy.
Highlights:
► The Bill seeks to amend provisions of Cinematograph Act, 1952, in order to tackle film piracy by including penal provisions for unauthorized camcording and duplication of films.
► It aims to check piracy, particularly the release of pirated versions of films on
the internet that causes huge losses to the film industry and the exchequer.
► The bill proposes to make film piracy offences punishable with imprisonment of up to three years and fines that may extend to Rs. 10 lakh or both.
► The proposed amendment states that any person, who without the written authorisation of the copyright owner, uses any recording device to make or transmit a copy of a film, or attempts to do so, or abet the making or transmission of such a copy, will be liable for such a punishment.
Registration of Marriage of NRI Bill, 2019
Date: 14th February 2019
The Union Cabinet has approved the introduction of Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indian (NRI) Bill, 2019 to create more accountability to Indian citizens living abroad.
Key Points:
► Amendment of the legal framework to act as a deterrent to the erring NRI spouses and creating more accountability and offer protection against exploitation of Indian Citizens, especially women married to NRIs.
► Under the new bill, a marriage between an NRI and an Indian citizen will have to be registered in India or Indian missions and posts abroad within 30 days from the date of marriage. If the marriage isn’t registered within 30 days, the passport of the NRI will be revoked, summons and warrant be issued.
► After the bill’s passing, the necessary changes would be carried out in the Passports Act, 1967 and Code of Criminal Procedure 1973 by insertion of Section 86A.
► The bill would amend the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, solving a major problem of serving judicial summons for court proceedings in India.
SOCIAL
POLITY
BOOKS AND AUTHORS

DECEMBER 2018
BooksAuthors
A Rural ManifestoVarun Gandhi
“Early Indians: The Story of Our Ancestors and Where We Came From”Tony Joseph
JANUARY 2019
We Are DisplacedMalala Yousafzai
NTR A BiographyK. Chandrahas & K. Laxminarayan
Universal Brotherhood through YogaCompiled by Bharatiya Sanskrit Pitham
The Great March of Democracy: Seven Decades of India’s ElectionsS.Y. Quraishi
India and the EU: An Insider’s viewBhaswati Mukherjee
The Story of the Reserve Bank of IndiaRahul Bajoria
Not Quite Not White; Losing and finding Race in AmericaShalmila Sen
Reclaim your LifeShelja Sen
Treasures EpistlesK Natwar Singh
The Fuzzy and the TechieScott Hartley
FEBRUARY 2019
Undaunted: Saving the Idea of IndiaP. Chidambaram
Simplicity & WisdomDinesh Shahra
Quality, Accreditation and RankingH. Chaturvedi
The Syrian Conflict: The Role of Russia, Iran and the US in a Global CrisisGhaidaa Hetou
Rethinking Pluralism, Secularism and Tolerance: Anxieties of Co-existenceNeera Chandhoke
The Bombay PlanSanjay Baru and Meghnad Desai
Race Course RoadSeema Goswami
Broken Man: In Search of HomelandLoknath Yashwant
MARCH 2019
Mann Ki Baat–A Social Revolution on RadioPublished by BlueKraft Digital Foundation

OBITUARIES

KO CHANNABASAPPA
Date: 24th February 2019
KO Channabasappa, known for his contribution to the freedom struggle of the country and unification of Karnataka passed away. He was 97.
About KO Channabasappa:
► Channabasappa was known as one of the main forces behind Karnataka unification.
► As a student leader, he participated in the ‘Quit India’ movement and was jailed by the Britishers.
► After his release, he went to Belagavi to pursue his graduation in law and registered as an advocate in Bombay High Court.
► He was not only a freedom fighter and an advocate, but also a leader of Karnataka unification movement, a journalist, a farmer activist, a front-line leader of social and religious functions.
BINAPANI DEVI
Matua community matriarch, Binapani Devi ‘Boroma’ passed away.
Key Points:
► Matua Mahasangh, a primarily low-caste Hindu refugee community from Bangladesh, are considered to be Bengal’s second most influential Scheduled Caste community.
► The community commands over 70 lakh votes in various southern districts and plays a sizeable role in determining the electoral fortunes in at least 74 of the state’s 294 Assembly seats.
► The Matuas, led by Boroma who shares a good rapport with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, acted as a big political force behind the Trinamool Congress’ win in the 2011 and 2016 Assembly elections.
► Prime Minister Narendra Modi met her on February 2 during his visit to North 24 Parganas district.
MANOHAR PARRIKAR
Date: 17th March 2019
Goa Chief Minister and former Union Defence Minister, Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar passed away. He was 63.
About Manohar Parrikar:
► Manohar Parrikar was a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
► Parrikar did his graduation in metallurgical engineering from IIT Bombay in 1978. He is the first IIT alumnus to serve as CM of Goa.
► Parrikar resigned as Goa Chief Minister in 2014 to contest the 2014 elections where he won from his constituency in Uttar Pradesh.
► He served as Defence Minister from 2014-17 on the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. During his stint as Defence Minister, Indian Army carried out surgical strikes across LoC after Pakistani terrorists killed 19 soldiers at Uri on September 18, 2016.
► He returned to State politics in March 2017 as the Goa Chief Minister for the fourth time in his political career to lead a coalition government of distinct parties and independents headed by the BJP.
► He represented the Panaji constituency in the Legislative Assembly of Goa.

INTERNATIONAL

MICHAEL ATIYAH
Date: 16th January 2019
Noted British mathematician Michael Atiyah passed away aged 89.
About Michael Atiyah:
► Michael Atiyah was one of the foremost mathematicians whose work encompassed topology and geometry. He worked with several Indian mathematicians during his career.
► Atiyah, who was based at Oxford and Cambridge, among several universities, during his career, is best known for his contribution to a branch of mathematics called topological K-theory and the Atiyah-Singer index theorem.
► “For his work, he received many awards, notably the Fields Medal, Abel Prize and the Royal Society’s highest accolade, the Copley Medal.”
RUSSELL BAKER
Date: 24th January 2019
Pulitzer winning author, a well-known columnist in The New York Times passed away at the age of 93.
About Russell Baker:
► An Amerian columnist, author, and TV host Russell Baker is accredited for his satire and humour.
► Baker became known for his “Observer” column in The New York Times for which he won a Pulitzer prize in 1979.
► 1983, he again won Pulitzers for his critically acclaimed autobiography “Growing Up”.
► Baker won his first Pulitzer Prize for Commentary—the first Commentary Pulitzer given to a humorist.
ALBERT FINNEY

► Five-time Oscar nominated actor Albert Finney died at the age of 82.
About Albert Finney:
► Finney received four best actor and one supporting actor Oscar nominations and won three Golden Globes.
► He gave memorable portrayals of Belgian detective Hercule Poirot, British prime minister Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens’ miser Ebenezer Scrooge and Pope John Paul II.
► The veteran actor was best known for his roles in Tom Jones, Erin Brockovich and Annie.
JERRY MERRYMAN
 
Jerry Merryman, one of the inventors of the handheld electronic calculator passed away.
Key Points:
► He’s one of the three men credited with inventing the handheld calculator while working at Dallas-based Texas Instruments.
► The team was led by Jack Kilby, who made way for today’s computers with the invention of the integrated circuit and won the Nobel Prize.
► The prototype built by the team, which also included James Van Tassel, is at the Smithsonian Institution.
OTHER OBITUARIES

DECEMBER 2018
Name of the Person Profession Country
Dipali BorthakurSingerIndia
Paddy AshdownPoliticianUnited Kingdom
Captain Jai Narain Prasad NishadFormer Union MinisterIndia
Dwijen MukhopadhyayBengali singerIndia
Prof Hamidi KashmiriUrdu literatureIndia
Mrinal SenFilmmakerIndia
Norman GimbelLyricistAmerica

JANUARY 2019

EVENTS

TRADE & COMMERCE
India’s stock market overtakes Germany
Date: 23rd December
► Overtaking Germany for the first time in seven years Indian Stock market achieved another milestone to become the world’s seventh largest stock market. This move reflects India’s positive returns this year as companies dependency on domestic demand enabled them to avoid meltdown in other emerging markets spurred due to U.S. – China trade war. South Asian Giant, India is projected to grow at 7.5 % in 2018 and 7.3 % in 2019 whereas Germany managed to achieve a growth rate of only 1.6 % in 2018. After the exit of United Kingdom from European Union, now European Union has only one country in top seven economies of the world. The move also highlights the challenges facing the EU, including its future relationship with the UK, a standoff with Italy over budget allocations and separatist clashes in Spain.
SPACE
China launched first satellite to provide space-based broadband
Date: 23rd December
Objective: To provide broadband internet services worldwide
China has launched its first communication satellite, from a Long March 11 carrier rocket, to rival Google and other firms in broadband services. It is the first in the Hongyun project planned by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC). Satellite has the weight of 247 kilograms and works in a sun-synchronous orbit about 1,100 kilometers above earth. It is powered by solar arrays, the satellite would verify basic designs of Hongyun satellite and demonstrating low-orbit broadband communications technologies with a life span of more than 1 year. The Hongyun project, started in September 2016, aims to build a space-based communications network to provide broadband internet connectivity to users around the world, especially those in the underserved regions.
ENVIRONMENT
Dermophis donaldtrumpi: Blind amphibian is named after Donald Trump
Date: 24th December
► A newly-discovered blind amphibian from Panama will be named after Donald Trump in recognition of the US president’s stance on climate change. The Panamanian underground amphibians are particularly vulnerable to global warming. Dermophis donaldtrumpi, 10 centimetres in length and belonging to group of snakelike animals called caecilians, was recently found in Panama by a group of scientists. The small creature is blind and has an ability to bury its head in the ground.
► Its naming rights were auctioned off in a fundraiser for Rainforest Trust, a non-profit rainforest conservation organization. The winning bid of USD 34,478 was made by Aidan Bell, the head of a UK-based sustainable building materials company called
EnviroBuild. According to Bell, the features of the creature match the US leader’s opinion on climate change. Trump in June last year withdrew the US from the Paris climate change agreement, which commits countries to keeping a limit on rising global temperatures.
ECONOMY
55th SKOCH Summit
► Date: 24th December, 2018The 55th SKOCH Summit was held in Constitution Club of India, New Delhi. On 22nd December, the Summit was hosted by SKOCH group, the think tank for socio-economic issues with focus on inclusive growth. It had 3 sub sessions focusing on the following themes:
► Economic Manifesto,
► Deciphering Digital Economy Policy,
► Banking and Finance: The Next Five Years.
► A book titled India 2030 was also released on the occasion. Recognizing the efforts and contributions of the different people and states, awards were also distributed. West Bengal won 31 SKOCH awards for its performance in different fields. Following shows the list of awardees:
Category
► Skoch Golden Jubilee Challenger Award
► Skoch Chief Minister of the Year Award
► SKOCH Award for hydel project in Purulia
► SKOCH Sprinter of the Year
► Skoch IT minister of the Year
► SKOCH Governance Person of the Year
Awardee
► Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu
► Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banerjee
► West Bengal State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (WBSEDCL)
► Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu
► Nara Lokesh
► K T Rama Rao
BANKING
RBI shortlists 6 IT companies for setting up Public Credit Registry
Date: 24th December, 2018
Objective: To capture details of all borrowers and willful defaulters
Reserve Bank of India has shortlisted six major IT companies, such as TCS, Wipro and IBM India, Capgemini Technology Services India, Dun & Bradstreet Information Services India, and Mindtree Ltd. to set up a wide-based digital Public Credit Registry (PCR). Public Credit Registry will include data from entities like market regulator SEBI, Corporate Affairs Ministry, Goods and Service Tax Network (GSTN) and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) to enable banks and financial institutions to get a 360-degree profile of the existing as well as prospective borrowers on a real-time basis. The non-performing assets in the banking system stand at about Rs 10 lakh crore. PCR assumes significance of rising bad loans in the financial system. CRILC is a borrower-level supervisory dataset that keeps record of loans of Rs 5 crore and above.
SPACE
India successfully test-fires nuclear-capable Agni-IV missile
Date: 25th December, 2018
India successfully test fired its nuclear capable long range ballistic missile Agni-IV with a strike range of 4,000 km. The strategic surface-to-surface missile was flight tested from the Integrated Test Range (ITR) at Dr Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast earlier known as Wheeler Island and it is 20 meter long with a weight of 17 tonnes. This was the 7th trial of Agni-IV missile. The last trial conducted by the strategic force command (SFC) of the Indian Army from the same base on January 2, 2018 was successful.
Agni-IV missile is equipped with advanced Avionics, 5th generation On Board Computer and distributed architecture. It has the latest features to correct and guide itself for in -flight disturbances. The accurate Ring Laser Gyro-based Inertial Navigation System (RINS), supported by highly reliable redundant Micro Navigation System (MINGS), ensures the vehicle reaches the target with accuracy.
TRANSPORT
Bogibeel Bridge, India’s longest rail-cum-road bridge
Date: 26th December, 2018
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated Bogibeel Bridge, the longest rail-cum-road bridge on Brahmaputra river, on December 25. The foundation stone of the bridge was laid in 1997 by the then Prime Minister HD Deve Gowda. However, the construction started in 2002 when then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee inaugurated the construction works. The 4.98 km-long bridge is situated 17 km downstream of Dibrugarh and Dhemaji. It crosses the Brahmaputra River and will connect Assam’s Dibrugarh town with Dhemaji. The bridge is expected to act as an alternative to the Kolia Bhomora Setu in Tezpur. The bridge also will facilitate faster movement of troops and supplies to Arunachal Pradesh, the country’s eastern-most state that shares the border with China.
Bogibeel Bridge is the India’s longest rail cum Road Bridge which is based on the design of Oresund Bridge that connects Sweden and Finland across the Oresand strait. It is designed to withstand tremors up to 7 and beyond. It falls in seismic zone-V which is known to be the most vulnerable to earthquakes with magnitudes in excess of seven on the Richter scale.
IT
Draft rules of IT (Intermediary Guidelines [Amendment] Rules), 2018
Date: 27th December, 2018
Objective: To end the complete encryption system to trace ‘unlawful’ activities for better national security
The Union Ministry for Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) has announced draft rules of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines) Rules 2018. These drafts rules will amend and replace the Information Technology Act, 2000 and would include the inter-ministerial consultations, followed by discussions with major social media platforms such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, Yahoo and WhatsApp and associations representing intermediaries.As per the amended rules under Section 79 of the IT Act, It will be mandatory for online platforms to deploy technology to enable access to content seen as “unlawful”. The parameter to judge unlawful acts would be Article 19 (2) of the Constitution, which places restriction on freedom of speech and expression. Online platforms will keep a record of “unlawful activity” for a period of “180 days”, double the 90 days in the older version.
GOVERNANCE
Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme
Date: 31st December, 2018
The Ministry of Women and Child Development in collaboration with the Ministry of Home Affairs has approved the proposals of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Mizoram, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and Madhya Pradesh for implementation of Mahila Police Volunteer Scheme (MPVs). The scheme will envisage the engagement of Mahila Police Volunteers (MPVs) as a link between police and community and help women in distress with one MPV engaged per Gram Panchayat across the country. As per the provision of the Scheme, the Mahila Police volunteer is required to mobilize community to form Mahila and Shishu Rakshak Dals (MASRD) to act as community watch groups. Mahila Police Volunteer
would be given a monthly honorarium of Rs 1,000.They should be atleast 21 years old and qualify 12th Class. The first state which adopts the initiative was Haryana. The scheme was started for the first time at Karnal and Mahindergarh District on a pilot basis under Nirbhaya Fund during the financial year 2016-2017. The MPV are selected through a laid out procedure from among the empowered, responsible, socially aware women who will facilitate police outreach on gender concerns and the guidelines for operationalizing of MPVs were finalized in consultation with Bureau of Police Research and Development (BPR&D).
EDUCATION
Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC)
DATE: 1st January 2019
The Ministry of Human Resource Development has introduced the Scheme for Promotion of Academic and Research Collaboration (SPARC).
Key Points:
► It facilitates academic and research collaborations between Indian Institutions and top leading Universities of the world.
► The scheme aims to support around 600 joint research proposals and will have a major impact on providing the best international expertise to address major national problems.
► Expose Indian academicians to the best collaborators abroad, provide Indian students with an opportunity to work in world-class laboratories, develop strong bilateral relationships in research, and improve the international ranking of Indian Institutions.
ECONOMY
Coastal Regulation Zone Notification 2018
The Union Cabinet has approved the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) Notification, 2018 which seeks to replace the existing CRZ Notification of 2011. The move comes in the backdrop of a series of representations received by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change from the various Coastal States/UTs, besides other stakeholders, for a comprehensive review of the provisions of the CRZ Notification, 2011.
Salient Features:
► Densely populated rural areas to be afforded greater opportunity for development.
► Temporary tourism facilities such as shacks, toilet blocks, change rooms, drinking water facilities etc. have now been permitted in beaches.
► The procedure for CRZ clearances has been streamlined.
► A No Development Zone (NDZ) of 20 meters has been stipulated for all Islands.
► All Ecologically Sensitive Areas have been accorded special importance.
► In order to address pollution in Coastal areas treatment facilities have been made permissible activities.
► Defence and strategic projects have been accorded necessary dispensation.
SPACE
Space Activities Bill, 2017
Objective: To encourage enhanced participation of non-governmental/ private sector agencies in space activities in India
The government is likely to introduce the Space Activities Bill, 2017, which will allow commercial use of space, in the budget session of 2019.
Features of the bill:
► The provisions of this Act shall apply to every citizen of India and to all sectors engaged in any space activity in India or outside India.
► A non-transferable licence shall be provided by the Central Government to any person carrying out commercial space activity.
► The government will maintain a register of all space objects (any object launched or intended to be launched around the earth) and develop more space activity plans for the country.
► It will provide professional and technical support for commercial space activity and regulate the procedures for conduct and operation of space activity.
► It will ensure safety requirements and supervise the conduct of every space activity of India and investigate any incident or accident in connection with the operation of space activity.
► It will share details about the pricing of products created by space activity and technology with any person or any agency in a prescribed manner.
► If any person undertakes any commercial space activity without authorisation they shall be punished with imprisonment up to 3 years or fined more than `1 crore or both.
SPACE
ISRO launches “Samwad with Students” (SwS)
As part of the enhanced outreach programme of Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), a new platform named “Samwad with Students” (SwS) was launched in Bengaluru.
About the SwS Initiative:
► Through the initiative, ISRO aims to constantly engage youngsters across India to capture their scientific temperament.
► The new conversation mission will inspire students cutting across schools and colleges.
► During the Samwad, the students are briefed about the Indian space program and their benefits to the common man.
► The Q&A session was followed on a series of topics ranging from rockets, satellites, Chandrayaan, Gaganyaan and various space applications.
► The first SwS event saw 40 wards and 10 teachers from select schools interact with ISRO Chairman Dr K Sivan at the Antariksh Bhavan.
SOCIAL
Women’s Wall in Kerala
Kerala government had on January 1st organised the Women’s Wall or Vanitha Mathil to “protect renaissance values.
Key Points:
► Around thirty lakh women formed a human chain across the National Highway from Kasargod to Thiruvananthapuram, around 620-kilometre long, extending their support to the state government’s resolve to implement the Supreme Court’s verdict allowing women of all ages access to Sabarimala and to protect the secular and progressive values of Kerala.
► It was organised by the government and supported by various social organisations having links with the renaissance movement.
► The Women’s Wall is an attempt by the government to defend the state from communal forces.
BANKING
Survey on Retail Payment Habits of Individuals (SRPHi)
Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has launched a survey named ‘SRPHi’ to capture the payment habits of individuals in six cities, including four metropolitan towns.
Key facts:
► The survey will cover a sample of 6,000 individuals from various socioeconomic backgrounds across six cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Guwahati.
► The survey seeks qualitative responses from individuals on their payment habits.
► The findings may provide some idea about awareness and usage habits of digital payment products.
BANKING
Amalgamation of Vijaya, Dena & Bank of Baroda0
The Union Cabinet has approved the scheme of amalgamation for amalgamating Bank of Baroda, Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank.
Highlights:
► The amalgamation will be the first-ever three-way consolidation of banks in India, with the amalgamated bank being India’s second largest Public Sector Bank.
► The amalgamation will help create a strong globally competitive bank with economies of scale and enable the realisation of wide-ranging synergies.
► Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank are transferor banks and BoB is transferee bank.
► The scheme shall come into force on 1.4.2019.
SOCIAL
Rashtriya Yuva Sashaktikaran Karyakram
Objective: To develop the personality and leadership qualities of the youth and to engage them in nation building activities
The Union Cabinet has approved the continuation of Rashtriya Yuva Sashaktikaran Karyakram Scheme for the Period 2017-18 to 2019-2020.
Highlights:
► In consultation with Ministry of Finance and NITI Aayog, the eight schemes were brought under the umbrella scheme of Rashtriya Yuva Sashaktikaran Karyakram as sub-schemes.
► The Rashtriya Yuva Sashaktikaran Karyakram Scheme is an ongoing Central Sector Scheme of the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports and has been continuing since the 12th Five Year Plan.
► Following are eight sub-schemes under Rashtriya Yuva Sashaktikaran Karyakram:Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan (NYKS)
National Youth Corps (NYC)
National Programme for Youth & Adolescent Development (NPYAD)
International Cooperation
Youth Hostels (YH)
Assistance to Scouting & Guiding Organizations
National Discipline Scheme (NDS)
National Discipline Scheme (NDS)
IT
Bhoomi Rashi Portal
Objective: To fully digitize and automate the entire process of land acquisition and expedite land acquisition process
Ministry of Road Transport & Highway has developed a web-based Utility – Bhoomi Rashi.
About the System:
► The portal developed by MoRTH and NIC, comprises the entire revenue data of the country, right down to 6.4 lakh villages.
► The entire process flow, from submission of draft notification by the State Government to its approval by the Transport Ministry and publication in e-Gazette, is online.
► The portal, created for expediting the process of publication of notifications for land acquisition, is now being fully utilised for issuing the notifications.
► Bhoomi Rashi portal has been instrumental in reducing the time taken for approval and publication of notifications pertaining to land acquisition.
ENVIRONMENT
Parivesh for clearance for entrepreneurs
‘Parivesh’ an ambitious web-based single-window system will be rolled-out at state levels by January 15, bringing an end to the clearance nightmare for entrepreneurs. The automated system for submission, clearance and monitoring has already been implemented at the Central level.
Key features:
► It is a Single-Window Integrated Environmental Management System for Environment, Forest, Wildlife and CRZ clearances.
► This has been developed in pursuance of the spirit of ‘Digital India’ and capturing the essence of Minimum Government and Maximum Governance.
► “PARIVESH” is a workflow based application, based on the concept of web architecture. It has been rolled out for online
submission, monitoring and management of proposals submitted by Project Proponents to the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MOEFCC), as well as to the State Level Environmental Impact Assessment Authorities (SEIAA).
► It seeks to give various types of clearances (e.g. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and Coastal Regulation Zone Clearances) from Central, State and district-level authorities.
► The system has been designed, developed and hosted by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, with technical support from the National Informatics Centre (NIC).
► It provides single registration and single sign-in for all types of clearances (i.e. Environment, Forest, Wildlife and CRZ).
ARTS & CULTURE
Monuments of national importance
The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) added six structures to the list of monuments of national importance, taking the total number to 3,693. With 506 monuments under its belt, Karnataka continues to top the list in South India, followed by Tamil Nadu (413). Nationally too, Karnataka is in the second place after Uttar Pradesh, which has 745 such monuments.
The six monuments are:
► Old High Court Building in Nagpur, Maharashtra.
► Haveli of Agha Khan in Agra.
► Haveli of Hathi Khana in Agra.
► Neemrana Baori in Rajasthan’s Alwar district.
► Group of Temples at Ranipur Jharail in Odisha’s Bolangir district.
► Vishnu Temple in Kotali, Pithoragarh district, Uttarakhand.
AGRICULTURE
Green – Ag Project to transform Indian Agriculture
Objective: To transform India’s agricultural sector for global environmental benefits; to support the conservation of critical biodiversity and forest landscapes.
The Government has launched the “Green – Ag project in association with Global Environment Facility (GEF).
About the Project:
► The project would be implemented in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in high-conservation-value landscapes of five States namely — Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand.
► The Green-Ag project seeks to integrate biodiversity, climate change and sustainable land management objectives and practices into Indian agriculture.
► The project supports harmonization between India’s agricultural and environmental sector priorities and investments to realise the national and global environmental benefits without compromising on India’s ability to strengthen rural livelihoods and meet its food and nutrition security.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Indian Science Congress
Objective: To advance and promote the cause of science in India; to publish proceedings, journals, transactions and other publications on science
106th ‘Indian Science Congress (ISC)’ session held at Jalandhar, Punjab.
Key Points:
► It was based on the theme ‘Future India: Science and Technology’.
► Indian Science Congress is organised by the Indian Science Congress Association every year in the first week of January.
► The event will play a pivotal role in stimulating scientific research effort and raising the scientific temperament in the country and the world.
► Women’s Science Congress will be part of the event to showcase the contribution of women in Science, Technology and the Society.
HEALTHCARE
Mission Indradhanush gets recognition at Partner’s Forum
‘Mission Indradhanush’ has been selected as one of the 12 best practices globally and has been featured in a special issue of the British Medical Journal titled ‘Improving vaccination coverage in India: lessons from Intensified Mission Indradhanush, a cross-sectoral system strengthening strategy’.
Key Points:
► Mission Indradhanush was showcased during the ‘Partner’s Forum’ held at New Delhi on 12th-13th December 2018 which was attended by around 1200 international and national delegates working on Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health.
► To strengthen and re-energize the programme and achieve full immunization coverage for all children and pregnant women at a rapid pace, the Government of India launched “Mission Indradhanush” in December 2014.
► The ultimate goal is to ensure full immunization with all available vaccines for children up to two years of age and pregnant women.
► The Government has identified 201 high focus districts across 28 states that have the highest number of partially immunized and unimmunized children.
GOVERNANCE
Legal status for SSC
A Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) has recommended statutory status to the Staff Selection Commission (SSC), one of the largest recruitment agencies in the country.
Key Points:
► The SSC was created to ease the burden of the UPSC by taking over the recruitment for posts below the Group ‘A’ level. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) and all State Public Service Commissions either have constitutional or legal status.
► There has been a phenomenal increase in the workload of the SSC, from 9.94 lakh candidates in 2008-09 to over 2 crores in 2016-17.
► While the workload and responsibilities of the SSC have increased exponentially over the years, it has remained an “attached body” under the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), and has to depend entirely on the government for all its needs, with no autonomy.
► Giving statutory status to the SSC would contribute to greater functional autonomy, faster decision-making and efficiency in the overall performance and delivery of results by the SSC in the recruitment process.
HEALTHCARE
‘one-time financial assistance’ for Rare Diseases
The government has announced a ‘one-time financial assistance’ for Rare Diseases. The standing finance committee has approved a proposal for adding a sub-component under the umbrella scheme of Rashtriya Arogya Nidhi (RAN) for the provision of one-time financial assistance to those below the threshold poverty line for specified rare diseases which require one-time treatment.
Key Points:
► A rare disease also referred to as an orphan disease, is any disease that affects a small percentage of the population.
► Most rare diseases are genetic, and are present throughout a person’s entire life, even if symptoms do not immediately appear. In Europe, a disease or disorder is defined as rare when it affects less than 1 in 2000 citizens.
► Rare diseases are characterised by a wide diversity of symptoms and signs that vary not only from
disease to disease but also from patient to patient suffering from the same disease. Relatively common symptoms can hide underlying rare diseases, leading to misdiagnosis.
► The most common rare diseases recorded in India are Haemophilia, Thalassemia, sickle-cell anaemia and primary immunodeficiency in children, auto-immune diseases, Lysosomal storage disorders etc.
IT
PhotoDNA
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) sent an official request to social media platforms to use Microsoft’s PhotoDNA for purposes of the investigation in regular criminal cases.
Key Points:
► PhotoDNA is a technology developed and owned by Microsoft, to be used exclusively to identify child exploitation images.
► It is mainly used to prevent child pornography from being uploaded on the web and is free to use.
► The company has restricted the use of this software beyond this purpose in all countries.
► The software creates a unique digital signature of an image and then compares it to other photos to find a similar one.
► It is used by giants like Google and its applications Twitter, Facebook and Adobe Systems.
► This initiative assists in narrowing the focus of child pornography law enforcement investigations through the use of this technology.
GOVERNANCE
The New International Arbitration Centre Bill, 2018
Objective: To promote research, provide training and organise conferences and seminars in alternative dispute resolution matters; to provide facilities and administrative assistance for the conduct of arbitration, mediation and conciliation proceedings.
The Lok Sabha has passed the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Bill to set up a revamped International Arbitration Centre at New Delhi with an aim to make India the hub of arbitration.
Key features of the Bill:
► The Bill seeks to provide for the establishment of the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) to conduct arbitration, mediation, and conciliation proceedings. The Bill declares the NDIAC as an institution of national importance.
► International Centre for Alternative Dispute Resolution (ICADR) is a registered society to promote the resolution of disputes through alternative dispute resolution methods. The Bill seeks to transfer the existing ICADR to the central government.
► NDIAC will consist of seven members including a Chairperson who may be a Judge of the Supreme Court or a High Court or an eminent person with special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration.
► The members of NDIAC will hold office for three years and will be eligible for re-appointment. The retirement age for the Chairperson is 70 years and for other members is 67 years.
► Functions of the NDIAC will include: (i) facilitating conduct of arbitration and conciliation in a professional, timely and cost-effective manner; and (ii) promoting studies in the field of alternative dispute resolution.
INFRASTRUCTURE
Mandal Dam project
Objective: To get around one lakh eleven thousand hectares of agricultural land in Jharkhand and Bihar irrigation facilities
Prime Minister has laid the foundation stone for the Mandal Dam on the North Koel River. Bihar and Jharkhand state to get the benefit of the project.
About the Mandal Dam Project:
► The Mandal Dam project will help around one lakh eleven thousand hectares of agricultural land in Jharkhand and Bihar to get irrigation facilities.
► Funding: 60% of the project cost would be financed by the central government as a grant from Long-Term Irrigation Fund (LTIF) under Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMKSY). Remaining 40% will be borne by the States through loan financed by NABARD.
► North Koel River originates on Ranchi plateau in Jharkhand and joins the Sone River, a few miles north-west of Haidarnagar in Jharkhand. The river meanders through the northern part of Betla National Park. The principal tributaries of the North Koel River are Auranga and the Amanat.

INTERNATIONAL

ENVIRONMENT
Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
India recently submitted its Sixth National Report to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).
Highlights:
► India is among the first five countries in the world, the first in Asia and the first among the biodiversity-rich megadiverse countries to have submitted the report.
► The report provides an update of progress in the achievement of 12 National Biodiversity Targets (NBT) developed under the convention process in line with the 20 global Aichi biodiversity targets.
► India has exceeded/ overachieved two NBTs, it is on track to achieve eight NBTs and with respect to two remaining NBTs, the country is striving to meet the targets by the stipulated time of 2020.
► India has exceeded the terrestrial component of 17% of Aichi target 11, and 20% of corresponding NBT relating to areas under biodiversity management.
► India has been investing a huge amount on biodiversity directly or indirectly through several development schemes of the central and state governments, to the tune of Rs 70,000 crores per annum as against the estimated annual requirement of nearly Rs 1,09,000 crore.
ECONOMY
Panda Bonds issued by Pakistan
Objective: To raise foreign exchange
Pakistan government has approved a new financial strategy called Panda Bonds. These bonds will become the new and favourable method to raise foreign exchange.
Key Points:
► A Panda bond is a Chinese renminbi-denominated bond from a non-Chinese issuer, sold in the People’s Republic of China.
► These bonds were first issued in 2005 by the International Finance Corporation and the Asian Development Bank.
► The Chinese government had been negotiating for several years about implementation details before permitting the sale of such bonds; they had been concerned about the possible effects on their currency peg.
► The bonds will help Pakistan’s government to diversify the current investor base in capital market insurance and will also be used as a source of raising Renminbi.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities
Both India and Pakistan have exchanged their list of nuclear installations. The exchange was in accordance with the Agreement on Prohibition of Attacks against Nuclear Installations and Facilities between Pakistan and India.
Key Points:
► The exchange is done each year on January 1, under the Agreement on the Prohibition of Attack against Nuclear Installations and Facilities, also referred to as the Non-Nuclear Aggression Agreement.
► The agreement, which was signed on December 31, 1988, and entered into force on January 27, 1991, provides that the two countries inform each other of nuclear installations
and facilities to be covered under the pact on the first of January of every calendar year.
► The need for the agreement had been felt against the backdrop of Israel’s 1981 bombing of Iraq’s Osirak reactor near Baghdad. The strike, carried out by Israeli fighter jets over hostile airspace, had set Iraq’s nuclear weapons programme significantly.
► The agreement had also come at a time of deep anxiety for Pakistan. Islamabad had been rattled by the memory of the 1972 defeat, and military developments in India.
DEFENCE
Asia Reassurance Initiative Act of 2018
Objective: To increase engagement in the Indo-Pacific region and strengthened support including arms sales for U.S. allies in the region
U.S. President Donald J. Trump has signed into law the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act (ARIA).
The ARIA Act, specifically, calls for America’s increased engagement in the Indo-Pacific region and strengthened support, including arms sales, for U.S. allies in the region.
The act develops a long-term strategic vision and a comprehensive, multifaceted, and principled United States policy for the Indo-Pacific region.
Key highlights of the Act:
► Authorizes US$ 1.5 billion annually for 5 years to enhance U.S. presence in the Indo-Pacific.
► Reaffirms U.S. security commitments to its allies in the Indo-Pacific, including Japan, South Korea, and Australia and builds security partnerships with nations in Southeast Asia.
► Establishes a policy goal to peacefully denuclearize North Korea through the campaign of maximum pressure and engagement.
► Enhances the U.S. diplomatic, economic, and security relationship with India.
► Enforces U.S. freedom of navigation and overflight rights in the Indo-Pacific.
► Expresses support for regular arms sales to Taiwan and to enhance the economic, political, and security relationship between Taiwan and the United States
► Promotes robust cybersecurity cooperation with its allies in the region.
► Sets U.S. policy to pursue effective arms control and nuclear nonproliferation policies in the Indo-Pacific region.
INFRASTRUCTURE
India, Myanmar, Thailand Trilateral Highway
The 1360 km long India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway is an initiative pertaining to India, Myanmar and Thailand.
Key Points:
► India is undertaking construction of two sections of the Trilateral Highway in Myanmar namely.
► Construction of 120.74 KM Kalewa-Yagyi road section, and Construction of 69 bridges along with the approach road on the 149.70 KM Tamu-Kyigone-Kalewa (TKK) road section.
► Both these sections were awarded on Engineering, Procurement and Construction mode in May 2018 for Kalewa-Yagyi section and November 2017 for the TKK section.
► The projects are funded by Government of India under Grant Assistance to the Government of Myanmar.
SOCIAL
Panj Tirath declared as national heritage by Pakistan
Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provincial government has declared the ancient Hindu religious site of Panj Tirath in Peshawar as national heritage. The government also announced a fine of up to Rs 2 million and five years’ imprisonment for anyone found guilty of damaging the historic site.
About Panj Tirath:
► Panj Tirath, which got its name from the five pools of water present there, also contains a temple and a lawn with date palm trees.
► It is believed that Pandu, a mythical king in the Mahabharata, belonged to this area and Hindus used to come to these pools for bathing during the month of Karteek and worship for two days under the trees.
► The site was damaged during the reign of the Afghan Durrani dynasty in 1747, however, it was restored by local Hindus during the period of Sikh rule in 1834 and worship started again.
ENVIRONMENT
Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) 2019
Objective: To encourage political and social pressure on those countries which have, up to now, failed to take ambitious actions on climate protection as well as to highlight countries with best-practice climate policies.
The 2019 edition of the Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) has been released.
Highlights of the report:
► The Climate Change Performance Index (CCPI) is an instrument covering 58 countries and supposed to enhance transparency in international climate politics.
► Only a few countries have started working towards limiting global warming below 2°C or even at 1.5°C.
► Globally, Sweden is in top position, followed by Morocco and Lithuania in the CCPI 2019.
► The bottoms five in the list are Saudi Arabia, U.S., Iran, South Korea and Taiwan.
India’s Performance: India ranks 11th in this year’s CCPI, improving its standing by three places compared to the previous edition.
DEFENCE
China develops its own ‘Mother of All Bombs’
China has developed a massive bomb, said to be the country’s answer to the US-built ‘Mother of All Bombs’, the most powerful non-nuclear weapon. It is dubbed as the Chinese version of the “Mother of All Bombs” due to its huge destructive potential that is claimed to be only second to nuclear weapons.
Key Points:
► Last year, while waging war against militants in Afghanistan, the US military dropped a GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB) weapon, more commonly known as the “Mother of All Bombs,” on the Islamic State.
► Although China is using the same nickname for its bomb, said to weigh several tonnes, the Chinese weapon is smaller and lighter than its American counterpart.
► The Moab or GBU-43/B is the world’s largest non-nuclear weapon.
► It is designed to destroy heavily reinforced targets or to shatter ground forces and armour across a large area.
► Its blast is equivalent to 11 tons of TNT. By comparison, the nuclear weapon dropped on Hiroshima had a blast yield of 15 tons of TNT.
► While it has a blast radius that stretches a mile in each direction the bomb leaves no lasting radiation effect because it is non-nuclear.
► To match the U.S. weapon, Russia developed the “Father of All Bombs” which is both bigger and thermobaric, meaning it uses gas to create a huge fireball rather than a shockwave.
SPACE
Yutu 2
Objective: To carry out a string of experiments on the far side of the moon
China has named the lunar rover, deployed to carry out a string of experiments on the far side of the moon, as ‘Yutu-2’. The rover’s touchdown is part of China Chang’e-4 lunar probe.
Key facts:
► It follows the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System — China’s homegrown Global Positioning System that started worldwide service last month.
► The rover has been programmed to launch ground penetration radar that would help map the moon’s inner structures.
► It would also analyse soil and rock samples for minerals, apart from activating a radio telescope to search for possible signals from deep space.
ENVIRONMENT
Japan quits International Whaling Commission
Japan announced to quit from the International Whaling Commission and resume commercial whaling.
Highlights:
► The withdrawal comes into effect by June 30, 2019.
► The International Whaling Commission is an Intergovernmental Organization whose purpose is the conservation of whales and the management of whaling.
► The legal framework of the IWC is the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
► The IWC allows non-zero whaling quotas for aboriginal subsistence and also member nations may issue ‘Scientific Permits’ to their citizens.
► All member countries of the IWC are signatories to this Convention, the IWC has a current membership of 89 Governments from countries all over the world.
► India joined as a member of International Whaling Commission in 1981.
COMMUNICATION
Hongyun Project
China has launched its first communication satellite to provide broadband internet services worldwide.
Highlights:
► The project aims to build a space-based communications network to provide broadband internet connectivity to users around the world, especially those in the underserved regions
► The satellite is the first in the Hongyun project planned by China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp (CASIC).
► Hongyun will cover the whole world and offer round-the-clock communication services to users in Polar Regions, who now have difficulties accessing telecommunication and internet services, even from on board an aircraft or a ship or in a remote area.

NATIONAL

EDUCATION
70 Point Grading Index to assess states on schooling system
Objective: To prioritize areas for intervention to ensure that the school education system is robust at every level.
The government has launched a 70 point Performance Grading Index (PGI) to assess areas of deficiency in each state’s school education system so that targeted interventions can be made at every level from pedagogy to teacher training.
About the Performance Grading Index (PGI):
► Aim: The index is aimed at helping states understand where they may be lagging behind and prioritise areas for intervention.
► The Union Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry is compiling this schooling index.
► The Index will assess states on a 1,000 point grading system with 10-20 points per parameter.
► Areas: The 70 indicators will grade state schooling systems on areas like number of existing teacher vacancies, number of direct entry recruitments especially at leadership positions, school infrastructure and so on.
► The Niti Aayog which was earlier developing its own School Education Quality Index will be using 33 of the 70 criteria under the PGI for their own assessments.
SOCIAL
National Policy on Domestic Workers
Objective: To give recognition to domestic workers besides making them eligible for minimum wages, social security and safe working conditions
In a bid to give recognition to domestic workers besides making them eligible for minimum wages, social security and safe working conditions, labour ministry is drafting the national policy.
Salient features:
► The inclusion of Domestic Workers in the existing legislation.
► Domestic workers will have the right to register as unorganized workers. Such registration will facilitate their access to rights & benefits.
► Right to form their own associations/unions
► Right to minimum wages, access to social security
► Protection of Domestic Workers from abuse and exploitation.
► Domestic Workers to have access to courts, tribunals for grievance redressal
► Establishment of a grievance redressal system for domestic workers.
BANKING
RBI panel on digital payment
Objective: To suggest a strategy for deepening of digital payments in the country.
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has set up a five-member committee headed by Nandan Nilekani to suggest a strategy for deepening of digital payments in the country.
Highlights:
► The panel will review the existing status of digitisation of payments in the country, identify the current gaps in the ecosystem, and suggest ways to bridge them.
► The panel will assess the current levels of digital payments in financial inclusion, undertake cross country analyses to identify the best practices that can be adopted in to accelerate digitisation and financial inclusion through greater use of digital payments.
► The panel will also suggest measures to strengthen the safety and security of digital payments.
► Provide a roadmap for increasing customer confidence while accessing financial services through digital modes.
SOCIAL
Indian Forest and Tribal Service
Objective:
The Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions has initiated an inter-ministerial consultation note to rename the Indian Forest Service as Indian Forest and Tribal Service. The consultation note also contains the proposal to train the cadre to be more receptive towards tribals and forest dwellers.
Key Points:
► The renaming is based on the recommendation made by the NCST which highlights the close ties between tribals, the forest and forest ecosystem.
► Merging forest and tribal welfare administrations will further the participation of ‘tribals’ in forest management.
► Renaming will also engender greater sensitivity on the forest department’s part towards the needs of ‘tribal’ communities.
SOCIAL
DNA technology Bill
 
Objective: To expand the application of DNA-based forensic technologies to support and strengthen the justice delivery system of the country.
Highlights of the Bill:
► As per the Bill, national and regional DNA databanks will be set up for maintaining a national database for identification of victims, suspects in cases, undertrials, missing persons and unidentified human remains.
► Usage: As per the bill, all DNA data, including DNA profiles, DNA samples and records, will only be used for the identification of the person and not for “any other purpose”.
► The bill’s provisions will enable the cross-matching between persons who have been reported missing on the one hand and unidentified dead bodies found in various parts of the country on the other, and also for establishing the identity of victims in mass disasters.
► The Bill establishes a DNA Regulatory Board to accredit the DNA laboratories that analyse DNA samples to establish the identity of an individual.
► Punishment: According to it, those leaking the DNA profile information to people or entities who are not entitled to have it, will be punished with a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to Rs. 1 lakh. Similar, punishment has also been provided for those who seek information on DNA profiles illegally.
EMPLOYMENT
National Career Service (NCS) Project
Objective:
The Ministry of Labour & Employment is implementing the National Career Service (NCS) Project to provide a variety of employment-related services like job matching, career counselling, vocational guidance, information on skill development courses, etc.
Highlights of NCS Project:
► It includes the establishment of Model Career Centers by the State Government/Institutions of repute to provide a variety of employment-related services using technology.
► The NCS project has also been enhanced to interlink the Employment Exchanges with NCS portal and organizing job fairs.
► Employment Exchanges/Model Career Centers – functions under the administrative control of the State Governments/Institutions and they are organizing job fairs locally for the benefit of the job seekers from time to time.
► A National ICT based portal is developed primarily to connect the opportunities with the aspirations of youth. The portal facilitates registration of job seekers, job providers, skill providers, career counsellors, etc.
ECONOMY
National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA)
Objective: To ensure the reduction in the rate of tax or the benefit of the input tax credit is passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.
The National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA) has been constituted under Section 171 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.
Key Points:
► NAA is the institutional mechanism under GST law to check the unfair profit-making activities by the trading community.
► The Authority’s core function is to ensure that the benefits of the reduction in GST rates and proportional change in the Input tax credit passed on to the ultimate consumers and recipient respectively by way of reduction in the prices by the suppliers.
► It is also mandated to ensure that traders are not realizing an unfair profit by charging high price from consumers in the name of GST.
► The responsibility of NAA is to examine and check such profiteering activities and recommend punitive actions including cancellation of Registration.
SPORTS
Khelo India Youth Games 2019
Date: 10th January 2019
Khelo India Youth games 2019 are being held at Shree Chhatrapati Sports Complex in Pune.
Highlights:
► Khelo India Youth Games is a part of the revamped national programme for development of sports, Khelo India.
► After the resounding success of the Khelo India School Games in 2018, it is back in 2019 in a much bigger and better version as the Youth Games.
► For the first time students from colleges and universities are participating, and will have a total of 9000 participants.
► It is part of Khelo India programme, which was introduced to revive the sports culture in India at the grass root level by building a strong framework for all sports played in our country and establish India as a great sporting nation.
SOCIAL
Web- Wonder Women Campaign
Date: 10th January 2019
Objective: To discover and celebrate the exceptional achievements of women, who have been driving positive agenda of social change via social media
The Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India has launched an online campaign Web- Wonder Women to discover and celebrate the exceptional achievements of women, who have been driving positive agenda of social change via social media.
About the Campaign:
► The Campaign has been launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India in association with the NGO Breakthrough and Twitter India.
► Through the campaign, the Ministry aims to recognize the fortitude of Indian women stalwarts from across the globe who have used the power of social media to run positive & niche campaigns to steer a change in society. The Campaign is aimed at encouraging, recognizing and acknowledging the efforts of these meritorious Women.
► Selection: Based on the nominations received from a large number of categories including Health, Media, Literature, Art, Sports, Environmental protection, fashion, the entries would be shortlisted. Then the shortlisted entries will be open for public voting on Twitter. The finalists would then be selected by the panel of judges.
TOURISM
Gangajal Project
Date: 10th January 2019
Objective: To develop and enhance Tourism infrastructure in Agra
Giving a major push to develop and enhance Tourism infrastructure in Agra, Prime Minister launched a series of development projects worth Rs. 2900 Crores for the Agra city and the adjoining areas.
About Gangajal Project:
► It aims to bring 140 cusecs of Ganga Water to Agra which will help meet the drinking water demands in the city.
► It will provide Agra with better and more assured water supply, at an estimated cost of Rs. 2880 crores.
► The project was launched in 2005 in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency and was scheduled to be completed by March 2012 but the project has missed several deadlines.
► Under the Gangajal project, Agra will get 140 cusec water supply per day from Palra headworks in Bulandshahar Upper Ganga canal.
ENVIRONMENT
National Clean Air Program
Date: 11th January 2019
Objective: To frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target
The government has announced the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP). This is the first ever effort in the country to frame a national framework for air quality management with a time-bound reduction target.
Key features of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP):
► Achieve a national-level target of 20-30% reduction of PM2.5 and PM10 concentration by between 2017 and 2024.
► Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) will execute this nation-wide programme.
► The programme has been launched with an initial budget of ` 300 crore for the first two years.
► The plan includes 102 non-attainment cities, across 23 states and Union territories, which were identified by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.
► Non-attainment cities are those which have been consistently showing poorer air quality. These include Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Noida, Muzaffarpur, and Mumbai.
TRANSPORT
National Rail & Transport Institute (NRTI)
Date: 11th January 2019
India’s first rail and transportation university, National Rail & Transport Institute (NRTI) has been set up in Vadodara, Gujarat.
Key Facts:
► It was established as a Deemed to be University under the de Novo category in 2018 to create a resource pool of best-in-class professionals for the railway and transportation sector.
► NRTI seeks to forge collaboration with leading international institutions in the areas of Joint research and faculty and student exchange.
► It is planning to offer two fully-residential undergraduate courses – BSc. in Transportation Technology and BBA in Transportation Management.
► These three-year degree programs have interdisciplinary curricula, benchmarked with leading institutions in the world, consisting of foundation, core and elective courses.
INFRASTRUCTURE
Renuka dam
Date: 12th January 2019
The Centre has signed an agreement with Chief Ministers of five States — Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh — to restart construction of the Renuka multipurpose dam project in the Upper Yamuna Basin.
About the Renuka dam project:
► The Renuka dam project has been conceived as a storage project on the Giri river (a tributary of the Yamuna) in Sirmaur district of Himachal Pradesh.
► The project envisages making a 148-metre-high dam for supplying water to Delhi and other basin states. It will also generate 40 MW of power.
► Funding: Around 90% of the cost of irrigation/drinking water component of the project will be provided by the Central government and the remaining by the rest of the basin states.
► After the construction of the dam, the flow of the Giri river will increase by about 110%.
► Water from the Renuka dam will be used by these states from Hathnikund barrage, Wazirabad barrage and Okhla barrage.
SOCIAL
Women of India Festival 2019
Date: 14th January 2019
Objective: To promote women farmers and entrepreneurs in the organic sector from the remotest parts of India.
The Ministry of Women and Child Development is organising the three-day 6th ‘Women of India Organic Festival’ in Chandigarh.
Key Points:
► The Festival will offer on sale the biggest selection of organic products ranging from food, fabrics and furniture to wellness, personal care and solar products.
► It is being organised and sponsored by the Union Ministry of Women & Child Development.
► This initiative is a move to benefit women entrepreneurs, and also actively promote organic food and products.
► The Women of India Festival is also intended to highlight the health and environmental advantages of organic goods, provide a platform for women engaged in this economy and encourage the development of sustainable and easily accessible sales outlets for organic producers from remote areas.
SOCIAL
National Youth Parliament Festival 2019
Date: 14th January 2019
National Youth Parliament Festival 2019 has begun, thereby beginning the celebration of the National Youth Day 2019. Theme: “Be The Voice of New India” and “Find solutions and contribute to policy”.
Key Points:
► Youth in the age bracket of 18-25 years are invited to participate in the District Youth Parliaments.
► The National Youth Parliament Festival will encourage the youth to engage with public issues, understand the common man’s point of view, form their opinion and express these in an articulate manner. Relevant and effective voices on the vision of New India would be captured and documented to make these available to policy makers and implementers to take it forward.
► The National Service Scheme and Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan organizations will be involved at different levels in its conduct and management.

INTERNATIONAL

ENVIRONMENT
CITES — Washington Convention
India has proposed to remove rosewood (Dalbergia sissoo) from Appendix II of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a multilateral treaty to protect endangered plants and animals.
Key Points:
► The species is currently part of Appendix II of CITES that has species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival. But, India doesn’t want that for rosewood.
► The species grows at a very fast rate and has the capacity to become naturalised outside its native range, even it is invasive in some parts of the world. The regulation of trade in the species is not necessary to avoid it becoming eligible for inclusion in Appendix I in the near future and the harvest of specimens from the wild is not reducing the wild population to a level at which its survival might be threatened by continued harvesting or other influences.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Gulf Regional Dialogue Forum
Date: 10th January 2019
In a diplomatic initiative to address the lingering conflicts and mistrust in the Gulf region, Iran has proposed a new platform for regional peace-building.
About the proposed Forum:
► The announcement of Persian Gulf Regional Dialogue Forum is significant as it comes in the wake of the continued erosion of the Gulf Cooperation Council, which in the recent years has been divided between the Iranian and the Saudi spheres.
► The new forum could focus on the promotion of peace and prosperity in the region. Such a forum should offer membership to countries based on a set of general principles to address real issues that affect people of the region and the world.
► Admission to such a forum should be based on accepting generally-recognised principles and shared objectives, notably respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political independence of all states.
► It will connect people of various member countries cutting across all traditional boundaries.
TRADE & COMMERCE
India poised to become third-largest consumer market: WEF
Date: 10th January 2019
WEF has released a report titled Future of Consumption in Fast-Growth Consumer Market – India.
Highlights of the report:
► As per the report, domestic private consumption that accounts for a major portion of India’s GDP, is expected to develop into a $6 trillion growth opportunity that would make India the world’s third-largest economy by 2030. Currently, it is at $1.5 trillion.
► The potential, however, offers both challenges and opportunities as India would have to address critical societal issues, including skill development and employment of the future workforce, socio-economic inclusion of rural India and creating a healthy and sustainable future for its citizens.
► If realised, this would make India’s consumer market, the third-largest in the world, behind the U.S. and China.
ART & CULTURE
World Hindi Day 2019
Date: 10th January 2019
World Hindi Day is celebrated on January 10 every year, marking the anniversary of first World Hindi Conference which was held in 1975 by then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. World Hindi Day was first observed on January 10, 2006. Since then, it is celebrated on January 10 every year.
Key Points:
► National Hindi Diwas is celebrated every year on September 14. On that day in 1949, the constituent assembly adopted Hindi, written in Devanagari script, as the official language of the Union.
► While the focus of the World Hindi Day is to promote the language at the global stage, the National Hindi Diwas, which is held across the country at a national level, marks adaptation of Hindi, written in Devanagari script as the official language.
TRADE & COMMERCE
Indo-Japan Bilateral Swap Arrangement
Date: 11th January 2019
Objective: To maintain an appropriate level of balance of payments for meeting short-term deficiency in foreign exchange.
The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for entering into an Agreement for Bilateral Swap Arrangement (BSA) between India and Japan. Agreement authorises the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to sign the Agreement for Bilateral Swap Arrangement between the RBI and the Bank of Japan for a maximum amount of USD 75 billion.
Benefits:
► It will assist each other in times of difficulty and for restoring international confidence.
► The facility will enable the agreed amount of Capital being available to India on tap for use.
► The prospects of Indian companies would improve in tapping foreign capital as there would be greater confidence in the stability of the country’s exchange rate.
► It will enhance the RBI’s ability to manage exchange rate volatility.
► It will be a milestone in mutual economic cooperation and special strategic and global partnership between India and Japan.
SOCIAL
Henley Passport Index
Date: 11th January 2019
Henley Passport Index 2019 has been released. The Index is based on data provided by
the International Air Transport Authority (IATA) and covers 199 passports and 227 travel destinations. The Henley Passport Index (HPI) is a global ranking of countries according to the travel freedom for their citizens.
Rankings of various countries:
► India jumped two positions from 81st in 2018 to 79th this year.
► Japan retained its top spot as the world’s most travel-friendly passport due to the document’s access to 190 countries.
► Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nepal ranked at 104, 102 and 94 respectively.
GOVERNANCE
Democracy Index 2018
Date: 11th January 2019
Democracy Index 2018 has been released. It is released annually by The Economist.
Key Points:
► The EIU Democracy Index provides a snapshot of the state of world democracy for 165 independent states and two territories.
► The Democracy Index is based on five categories: electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
► Based on their scores on 60 indicators within these categories, each country is then itself classified as one of four types of regime: full democracy; flawed democracy; hybrid regime; and authoritarian regime.
Performance of India:
India is ranked at 41 – a notch above last year. It is still classified as a ‘flawed democracy’ according to the index. India ranks below the US (ranked 25th in the index) and other so-called ‘flawed democracies’ like Italy, France, Botswana and South Africa.
IT
Sino-Indian Digital Collaboration Plaza
Date: 12th January 2019
The Sino-Indian Digital Collaboration Plaza (SIDCOP) has been launched by the National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) in association with Municipal Governments of Guiyang and Dalian.
About the SIDCOP:
► The initiative aims to bring Indian IT companies and Chinese enterprises closer to each other on a single AI enabled platform. This platform will be managed by a joint venture comprising of one Indian and Chinese company.
► The initiative aims to encash the expertise of Indian IT enterprises in business transformation and operational optimization by using IT tools in complex business environments.
► It offers a boundary-less marketplace for Chinese enterprises in order to assist them in operational optimization and adopting industry best practices in business solutions by connecting with Indian enterprises.
TRADE & COMMERCE
Partnership Summit
Date: 12th January 2019
The 25th edition of the Partnership Summit held in Mumbai. It is being organized by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion, Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India, Government of Maharashtra and Confederation of Indian Industry.
Key Points:
► The Partnership Summit provides for a global platform to dialogue, debate, deliberate and engage Indian and global leaders on economic policy and growth trends in India.
► It is expected to build new partnerships and explore investment opportunities through high-level exchanges and B2B meetings.
► It will showcase India in the present landscape of an emerging “New India”, the “New Global Economic Address”.
► New India Rising to Global Occasions is the theme this edition of the Summit.
ENVIRONMENT
Asian Waterbird Census (AWC)
Date: 14th January 2019
A waterbird survey conducted in the Upper Kuttanad region of Kerala has recorded 16,767 birds of 47 continental and local species. The survey, conducted as part of the annual Asian Waterbird Census, has spotted three new species — Greater flamingo, Grey-headed Lapwing, and Blue-cheeked bee-eater.
About AWC:
► Asian Waterbird Census is an annual event in which thousands of volunteers across Asia and Australasia count waterbirds in the wetlands of their country. This event is held every January and is coordinated by Wetlands International and forms part of the global waterbird monitoring programme called the International Waterbird Census (IWC).
► Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) was started in the year 1987. Its main focus is to monitor the status of waterbirds and the wetlands. AWC also aims to create public awareness on various issues concerning wetlands and waterbird conservation.
► In India, the AWC is annually coordinated by the Bombay Natural history Society (BNHS) and Wetlands International.
CONFERENCES & SUMMITS
Raisina Dialogue
Date: 15th January 2019
The fourth edition of the Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship annual conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, titled ‘World Reorder’, was held in New Delhi.
Key Points:
► The United States Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) launched a new innovation initiative at the Raisina Dialogue in New Delhi.
► The initiative, titled “Fair Value for Innovation”, would enable breakthrough innovation, and explore how policymakers can harness innovation capital in India and around the globe through research, advocacy, partnerships, and programs.
About the Raisina Dialogue:
► This is an annual geopolitical event, organised by the Ministry of External Affairs and Observer Research Foundation (ORF).
► It is designed to explore prospects and opportunities for Asian integration as well as Asia’s integration with the larger world.

NATIONAL

TOURISM
A Spiritual circuit in Kerala
Date: 16th January 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated a project for the development of spiritual circuit comprising three important pilgrimage centres of Sree Padmanabha Swamy Temple, Aranmula and Sabarimala in Kerala. The project is being implemented under the Swadesh Darshan scheme of the tourism ministry.
About Swadesh Darshan Scheme:
► A spiritual circuit linking 133 religious places spread over 14 districts in the State has been given the nod by the Union Ministry of Tourism under the Swadesh Darshan scheme.
► The proposed spiritual circuit III, the sixth project under the Swadesh Darshan scheme in the State, will get Rs. 85.23 crore from the Centre for upgrading infrastructure around these places of worship.
► Under the project annadana mandapams, community hall, multi-purpose hall, toilets, cafeteria, parking space, landscaping, pathways, the lighting of the premises, signage, and dustbins would be created.
INFRASTRUCTURE
Global Housing Technology Challenge
Date: 16th January 2019
Objective: To enable adoption of construction techniques for housing that are affordable and take minimum time for construction
The government has launched the Global Housing Technology Challenge. The challenge is undertaken under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U).
Key Facts:
► The move aimed at introducing best technologies that seek to construct houses in a shorter period of time with lower cost.
► It is undertaken under the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana Urban (PMAY-U).
Key features:
► GHTC aims to fast-track the construction of affordable housing and meet the target of constructing 1.2 crore houses by 2022.
► GHTC focuses on identifying and mainstreaming proven demonstrable technologies for lighthouse projects and spotting potential future technologies for incubation and acceleration support through ASHA (Affordable Sustainable Housing Accelerators) — India
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
National level Initiatives in the field of science communication
Date: 16th January 2019
Objective: To elevate science into a celebration and bring it close to everyday life.
The Department of Science and Technology (DST) along with Doordarshan (DD), Prasar Bharati launched two science communication initiatives, DD Science and India Science.
Key Points:
► The two channels will have science-based documentaries, studio-based discussions, and virtual walkthroughs of scientific institutions, interviews and short films and will be completely free to access.
► The channels have been conceived and supported by the DST and are being implemented and managed by Vigyan Prasar, an autonomous organisation of DST.
► DD Science is a one-hour slot on Doordarshan National channel that will telecast on Monday to Saturday from 5 pm to 6 pm.
► India Science is an Internet-based channel and will offer live, scheduled play and video-on-demand services.
ENVIRONMENT
Fire Alert System (FAST) Version 3.0
Date: 17th January 2019
Objective: To identify, track and report serious forest fire incidents so as to help monitor such fires and also seek timely additional assistance that may be required to contain such fires
The Forest Survey of India (FSI), a body under the Environment Ministry, which is responsible for assessment and monitoring India’s forest resources, launched the beta-version of the Large Forest Fire Monitoring Program.
Key Points:
► The programme is part of the Fire Alert System (FAST) Version 3.0, where the FSI will monitor forest fire events using real time data from the SNPP-VIIRS satellite.
► FSI will track large fire events across the country and disseminate specific Large Fire alerts
► Large Fire tracking aims to improve tactical as well as strategic response to large forest fires
► The FAST 3.0 is a collaborative effort between NASA, ISRO and FSI.
HEALTHCARE
National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023)
Date: 17th January 2019
The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has drafted the National Action Plan for Drug Demand Reduction (2018-2023) for addressing the problem of drug and substance abuse in the country.
Highlights:
► Aim: employ a multi-pronged strategy involving education, de-addiction and rehabilitation of affected individuals and their families to address the issue.
► Focus on preventive education, awareness generation, counselling, treatment and rehabilitation of drug-dependent people, besides training and capacity-building of service providers through the collaborative efforts of the Centre, state and NGOs.
► Coordination with implementing agencies for controlling the sale of sedatives, painkillers and muscle relaxant drugs, holding awareness generation programs and checking online sale of drugs by stringent monitoring by the cyber cell are proposed under the Action Plan.
► Awareness generation through social, print, digital and online media, and engagement of celebrities, besides strengthening the national toll-free helpline for drug prevention. The Action Plan calls for persuading principals, directors, vice chancellors of educational institutions to ensure that no drugs are sold within/ nearby the campus.
► Increase community participation and public cooperation in the reduction of demand by involving Panchayati Raj institutions, Urban Local Bodies, Nehru Yuva Kendra Sangathan and other local groups like Mahila Mandals, self-help groups, etc. to tackle the menace of drugs.
► A steering committee would be constituted under the chairmanship of the secretary, Social Justice Ministry, and with representatives from several other Ministries to monitor the implementation of the Action Plan.
HEALTHCARE
Kyasanur Forest Disease
Date: 17th January 2019
Karnataka is currently reeling under an outbreak of monkey fever or Kyasanur forest disease (KFD).
About the Disease:
► Kyasanur Forest Disease (KFD), also referred to as monkey fever is an infectious bleeding disease in monkey and human, caused by a highly pathogenic virus called KFD virus (KFDV).
► KFDV is transmitted primarily by an infective tick (Haemaphysalis spinigera).
► Rodents, shrews, monkeys and birds upon tick bite become a reservoir for this virus.
► A high number of these monkeys’ death was seen in the Kyasanur Forest region of Shimoga District of Karnataka in 1955 that is why named KFD.
► Transmission to humans may occur after a tick bite or contact with an infected animal, most importantly a sick or recently dead monkey. No person-to-person transmission has been described.
ENERGY
Saksham 2019
Date: 17th January 2019
Saksham (Sanrakshan Kshamta Mahotsav) is an annual flagship event of Petroleum Conservation Research Association (PCRA) under the aegis of Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Government of India.
Objectives of the program:
► Saksham actively involves the Oil & Gas PSUs along with other stakeholders like State Governments.
► To create focused attention on fuel conservation through people-centric activities.
► To sensitize the masses about the conservation and efficient use of petroleum products leading to better health and environment.
ART & CULTURE
SANJHI – MUJH MEIN KALAKAR campaign
Date: 17th January 2019
Sangeet Natak Akademi (SNA) the National Academy of Music, Dance and Drama launched the second phase of the Web Campaign ‘SANJHI-MUJH MEIN KALAKAR’.
About the campaign:
► It is an initiative to document and promote the Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) and diverse cultural traditions of the country by direct public-participation.
► The literal meaning of the term SANJHI is “to share” and “to partner”.
► It intends to bring forth such forms that are aligned with the domains of intangible cultural heritage as per the Convention of Safeguarding the ICH under UNESCO:
► The second phase of this campaign has its main focus area like the folk, traditional, customary, socially events and ritualistic art forms – woven as a cultural fabric around the harvest festival season of January.
AWARDS & HONOURS
Gandhi Peace Prize for years 2015, 2016, 2017 & 2018
Date: 17th January 2019
The Gandhi Peace Prize for the years 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 has been announced by the Union Ministry of Culture. The 2018 Gandhi Peace Prize was conferred on Yohei Sasakawa.
About the Gandhi Peace Prize:
► The Gandhi Peace Prize was instituted in the year 1995 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
► This annual award is given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.
► The award carries a cash prize of Rs 1 crore, a citation and a Plaque as well as an exquisite traditional handicraft/ handloom item.
► The Award for every year is selected by a Jury under the Chairmanship of the Prime Minister.
Winners:
► 2015- Vivekananda Kendra, Kanyakumari
► 2016- Akshaya Patra Foundation & Sulabh International
► 2017- Akai Abhiyan Trust
► 2018- Goodwill Ambassador of the WHO for Leprosy Elimination, Yohei Sasakawa.
TRANSPORT
Road safety robot ROADEO
Date: 18th January 2019
The Chennai Traffic Police deployed ROADEO, a robot that will help create awareness on road safety.
Highlights:
► It will help police in traffic management and assist pedestrians in Chennai roads.
► Named ROADEO, the robot will make the pedestrians, especially children feel safe while crossing the roads.
► It will also ease the work of traffic police as these robots can be integrated with the traffic signals, as well as can be operated manually, through a Bluetooth app.
► The robot has two hands to interact with the people and show traffic signs. It has highly expressive eyes to create a feel of a neighborhood helper and also a display to show important messages.
► The robot has been developed by schoolchildren of a private robotics lab in Chennai.
► With this introduction, Chennai became second city after Mumbai to deploy robots in traffic management.
SPACE
UNNATI Program
Date: 18th January 2019
Objective: To offer a simplified and increased exposure to satellite fabrication technologies
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched the UNNATI (UNispace Nano-satellite Assembly and Training by ISRO) programme at the UR
Rao Satellite Centre, Bengaluru. UNNATI is a capacity building programme on nanosatellite development.
About the programme:
► The UNNATI Programme is to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the first United Nations Conference on the Exploration and Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (UNISPACE+50).
► UNNATI program is planned to be conducted by U R Rao Satellite Centre (URSC) of ISRO for 3 years in 3 batches and will target to benefit 90 officials from 45 countries.
► It aims to provide a theoretical course on satellite technology and hands-on training to assemble, integrate and test a low cost, modular nanosatellite.
EDUCATION
Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018
Date: 18th January 2019
The Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2018 has been published by education non-profit Pratham. The survey shows the prevalence of learning deficit and the poverty of basic reading and arithmetic skills among students in Indian schools.
Highlights of the report:
► Indian students, especially those in elementary school (Classes I-VIII), are not learning enough. To cite a metric, only half (50.3%) of all students in Class V can read texts meant for Class II students.
► There seems to have been some improvement in learning levels, especially among students of Class III and Class V, in 2018 compared with those of the previous five years. However, the improvement is not visible at a higher level, for example among students of Class VIII.
► The deficit is across government and private schools. Traditionally, students in private schools have fared better than their government school counterparts, but that’s a relative situation. For example, while 40% of Class VIII students in government schools can do simple division, the figure is 54.2% in private schools.
► However, there is a gradual improvement in some segments and in some states. The reading ability among Class V students in Kerala jumped 10 percentage points in 2018 from that in 2016. In Himachal Pradesh, the growth is nearly 8 percentage points and in Chhattisgarh and Odisha, it is around 7 percentage points between 2016 and 2018.
► While 30.9% of students in the 6-14 age group were in private schools in 2018, the figure was 30.6% in 2016 and 30.8% in 2014. This is less than a percentage-point growth since 2014.
ENERGY
India’s First Lithium Ion Gigafactory
Date: 19th January 2019
Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) and Libcoin to build India’s first Lithium-ion Battery Gigafactory
Highlights:
► The project will bring energy independence by replacing oil imports with abundant renewable.
► This project also includes “Made by India, for India”, with focus on core-cost components manufactured domestically.
► It will create integrated manufacturing ecosystem resulting in self-reliance and lower cost.
► The supply chain in combination with cutting edge digital technologies to replace high CAPEX and high OPEX processes.
► It is one of the major steps taken into its energy security and clean energy commitment to the world.
ECONOMY
Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC)
Date: 19th January 2019
The Government of India recently concluded the silver Jubilee Celebrations of the Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC).
The consortium:
► The Government established Small Farmers’ Agri-Business Consortium (SFAC) as a Society in January 1994.
► To facilitate agri-business ventures by catalysing private investment through Venture Capital Assistance (VCA) Scheme in close association with financial institutions.
Main functions:
► Promotion of development of small agribusiness through VCA scheme.
► Helping formation and growth of Farmer Producer Organizations (FPOs) / Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs).
► Improving availability of working capital and development of business activities of FPOs/FPCs through Equity Grant and Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme.
► Implementation of National Agriculture Market (e-NAM) Electronic Trading platform.
ART & CULTURE
Arunachal govt declares Pakke Hornbill Fest as ‘state festival’
Date: 22nd January 2019
The government of Arunachal Pradesh declared the Pakke Paga Hornbill Festival (PPHF) – the state’s only conservation festival as a “state festival”
Objective:
► To recognise the role played by the resident Nyishi tribe in conserving hornbills in the Pakke Tiger Reserve (PTR).
► To devise alternative sources of income for a region that relies on hunting and logging.
► To tell the rest of the country about the wonders of the PTR and its surrounding areas.
► The festival had helped in creating awareness on nature conservation.
SPACE
ISRO’s Young Scientist programme
Date: 19th January 2019
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) has launched the Young Scientist Programme. The programme is part of ISRO’s’ efforts to reach out to the student community. On the New Year day 2019, ISRO had organised ‘Samwad with Students’ and an announcement was made about the student outreach programme.
About Young Scientist Programme:
► Aim: Inculcate and nurture space research fervour in young minds.
► It would be a one month programme. The students will be exposed to the practical experience of building small satellites.
► Eligibility: Mostly 8th standard passed out students will be given lecturers and access to research laboratories.
► 3 students from each of the 29 States and 7 Union Territories will be selected for the Young Scientist program.
TRADE & COMMERCE
Project ReWeave
Date: 22nd January 2019
Microsoft India has launched a new e-commerce platform ‘re-weave.in’ under project ReWeave to help handloom weavers.
The significance of the platform:
► Connect artisans to the buyers directly enabling them to expand to newer customers and markets.
► Provide a platform to showcase signature collections created by the weaver communities, showcase traditional designs and products created from natural dyes to a broad set of customers.
► Aid in weavers in increasing their income and earning a sustainable livelihood while also reviving traditional forgotten Indian art.
INFRASTRUCTURE
Mekedatu dam project
Date: 23rd January 2019
Objective: To supply drinking water to Bengaluru and recharge the groundwater table in the region.
The Karnataka Government has submitted a detailed project report
(DPR) of the Mekedatu project to the Central Water Commission (CWC). As per the DPR, the total project cost will be the Rs 5,900 crore.
About Mekedatu dam project:
► The project is being set up by the Karnataka government, near Mekedatu, in Ramanagara district, across the river Cauvery from Tamil Nadu.
► Tamil Nadu is opposing the project. Their argument is that the construction of the reservoir would result in impounding of the flows in the intermediate catchment below the Krishnaraja Sagar and Kabini reservoirs.
► Tamil Nadu also suspects that with the proposed project Karnataka intends to extend the area under irrigation.

INTERNATIONAL

INFRASTRUCTURE
World Dynamic City 2019
Date: 17th January 2019
6th City Momentum Index which identifies World Dynamic Cities has been released by the property consultant JLL.
Highlights:
► It measures momentum for 131 of the world’s most commercially active cities.
► This is done by tracking a range of socio-economic and commercial real estate indicators over a three-year period to identify the urban economies and real estate markets undergoing the most rapid expansion.
► Silicon Valley of India, Bengaluru has emerged as the world’s most dynamic city.
► The absence of European and American cities demonstrates a marked East-West growth divide, reflecting Asia’s continued rapid urbanization and economic growth, driven by globalization, innovation and demographic factors.
► Overall, Indian and Chinese cities dominate the rankings, accounting for three-quarters of the top 20.
► Asia continues to show strong momentum, in terms of attracting capital, companies and people. Tech sector is a key driver of both real estate and economic momentum.
CONFERENCES & SUMMITS
Global Aviation Summit 2019
Date: 17th January 2019
Global Aviation Summit 2019 held in Mumbai, Maharashtra.
Key Points:
► The theme of the Global Aviation Summit 2019 is ‘Flying for all – especially the next 6 Billion’.
► The summit is being organised by the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation, Airport Authority of India (AAI) in association with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).
► The objective of the Summit is to provide a platform to the aviation industry to discuss the challenges faced in the newly developing growth spots and understand how technology-driven innovations will change air travel in the future.
REPORTS & SURVEYS
Global Risks Report
Date: 18th January 2019
The Global Risks Report 2019 has been released by the World Economic Forum (WEF).
About the report:
► Based on the work of the Global Risk Network, the report describes changes occurring in the global risks landscape from year to year and identifies global catastrophic risks.
► The report explores the interconnectedness of risks and is intended to raise awareness about the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to the mitigation of global risk.
► Top 10 risks by likelihood as per the latest report:Extreme weather events.
Failure of climate change mitigation and adaptation.
Major natural disasters.
Massive incidents of data fraud/theft.
Large scale cyber attacks.
Man-made environmental damage and disasters.
Large-scale involuntary migration.
Major biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.
Water crises.
Asset bubbles in a major economy.
REPORTS & SURVEYS
ILO Commission’s Future of Work Report
Date: 23rd January 2019
The Global Commission on the Future of Work released its report. The document calls on governments to take steps to address the challenges caused by unprecedented transformations going on in the world of work.
Highlights of the report:
► Due to the unprecedented transformational change in the world of work, there are several transformational challenges that are bound to occur.
► Artificial intelligence, automation and robotics will lead to job losses, as skills become obsolete.
Key recommendations:
► A universal labour guarantee that protects fundamental workers’ rights, an adequate living wage, limits on hours of work and safe and healthy workplaces.
► Guaranteed social protection from birth to old age that supports people’s needs over the life cycle.
► Managing technological change to boost decent work, including an international governance system for digital labour platforms.
► Greater investments in the care, green and rural economies.
► A transformative and measurable agenda for gender equality.
► Reshaping business incentives to encourage long-term investments.

NATIONAL

SOCIAL
National Girl Child Day
Date: 24th January 2019
National Girl Child Day (NGCD) was observed on 24th January with an aim of generating awareness on the issue of declining Child Sex Ratio (CSR) and create a positive environment around valuing the girl child. It also coincides with the anniversary of Beti Bachao Beti Padhao (BBBP) Scheme. National Girl Child Day was first initiated in 2008.
Theme: “Empowering Girls for a Brighter Tomorrow”.
Objectives:
► To increase the consciousness of the people and offer new opportunities to the girl child in the society.
► To remove all the inequalities faced by the girl child.
► To ensure that the girl child should get all their human rights, respect and value in the country.
► To work regarding gender discrimination, to educate people.
ECONOMY
National Bench of the GST Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT)
Date: 24th January 2019
Objective: To bring uniformity in redressal of disputes arising under the GST regime.
Cabinet has approved the creation of the National Bench of the Goods and Services Tax Appellate Tribunal (GSTAT).
Key facts:
► It will be situated in New Delhi.
► Presided over by its President it will consist of one Technical Member (Centre) and one Technical Member (State).
► It is the forum of the second appeal in GST laws and the first common forum of dispute resolution between Centre and States.
► The appeals against the orders in first appeals issued by the Appellate Authorities under the Central and State GST Acts lie before the GST Appellate Tribunal, which is common under the Central as well as State GST Acts.
DEFENCE
Exercise Sea Vigil
Date: 24th January 2019
India conducted its largest coastal defence drill, Exercise Sea Vigil, to test its preparedness along the entire 7,516.6 km-long-coastline and exclusive economic zone of the country.
Highlights:
► It was conceptualised and led by the Indian Navy and Coast Guard.
► It saw the simultaneous activation of India’s entire Coastal Security apparatus across all nine Coastal States and four Union Territories.
► Central and State agencies including the MHA, MoD, Customs, CISF, Dept of Fisheries, DGLL, DG Shipping, Port authorities and the Coastal police of all participating states participated in the exercise.
► This exercise would be now be conducted every two years in addition to the state-focussed Sagar Kavach series of exercises.
ARTS & CULTURE
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose Museum
Date: 24th January 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Subhas Chandra Bose Museum to mark the 122nd Birth anniversary of freedom fighter Subhas Chandra Bose at Red Fort in Delhi.
Key Points:
► The museum features different artefacts related to the Subhas Chandra Bose and Indian National Army (INA).
► The Prime Minister also inaugurated two more museums –”The Yaad–e-Jallian Museum” and “1857 War of Independence Museum”.
► The Yaad-e-Jallian Museum is made in the memory of people died in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar, Punjab in 1919.
► The 1857 War of Independence Museum showcases the heroism, sacrifices and valour shown by Indian Soldiers in the 1857 War of Independence.
SOCIAL
15th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas 2019
Date: 24th January 2019
The 15th edition of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas held at Varanasi in January.
Highlights:
► Pravasi Bharatiya Divas is observed on 9th January to mark the contribution of the overseas Indian community towards the development of India. The day commemorates the return of Mahatma Gandhi from South Africa to Mumbai on 9 January.
► This year PBD 2019 has been delayed to facilitate the dignitaries to participate in the Kumbh Mela being held at Prayagraj and Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi.
► The theme for PBD 2919 was ‘Role of Indian Diaspora in Building New India’.
► The opening day on 21st January marked the Youth PBD with the focus on the ‘generation next’ especially from Uttar Pradesh
► Chief Guest: Prime minister on Mauritius, Pravind Jugnauth was the Chief Guest of PBD 2019.
AWARDS & HONOURS
Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar 2019
Date: 24th January 2019
8th Battalion of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) located at Ghaziabad has won Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar for the year 2019 for its commendable work in Disaster Management.
About the award:
► Subhash Chandra Bose Aapda Prabandhan Puraskar, an annual award, has been instituted by the government. The award is announced every year on 23rd January on the birth anniversary of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
► Eligibility: All Indian Citizens and organizations, who have excelled in areas of Disaster Management; like Prevention, Mitigation, Preparedness, Rescue, Response, Relief, Rehabilitation, Research/ Innovations or Early Warning are eligible for the award.
► The Award recipient receives a certificate and a cash prize of Rs. 51 lakh.
DEFENCE
INS Kohassa
Date: 25th January 2019
INS Kohassa has been commissioned at Diglipur on North Andaman.
About INS Kohassa:
► The new airbase, named ‘INS Kohassa’ at Diglipur, will be used to handle operations of helicopters and small aircraft like the Dornier.
► The airport at Diglipur will be utilised for both Defence and civil aircraft.
► It will be used for both Defence and civil aircraft. Earlier, Naval Air Station at Shibpur was manned by utilizing the manpower from INS Utkrosh. Now, the airbase will function as an independent unit.
► With the inauguration of INS Kohassa, Andaman and Nicobar Command will further strengthen its defence capabilities in the region.
SPACE
ISRO launched Kalamsat, Microsat-R satellites
Date: 25th January 2019
In its first mission of 2019, India’s Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C44) successfully has injected ‘Microsat-R’ and ‘Kalamsat-V2’ satellites into space.
Highlights:
► Microsat-R is a small Indian earth observation satellite built for the Indian military Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO).
► Kalamsat is an experimental satellite built to study the communication system of nanosatellites. The satellite has been contributed by Space Kidz India, a Chennai-based students’ organization.
► So far, ISRO has sent up nine satellites built by students, but this is the first to be launch in the new PSLV variant.
► PSLV-C44 is the 46th Flight of PSLV and 1st flight of PSLV-DL (with two strap-ons).
► PSLV-C44 was launched from the First Launch Pad (FLP) at Satish Dhawan Space Centre (SDSC) SHAR, Sriharikota.
► PSLV-C44 placed the 740-kg primary satellite Microsat-R in a 274-km polar sun-synchronous orbit.
SOCIAL
National Voters’ Day
Date: 25th January 2019
Objective: To encourage, facilitate and maximize the enrollment, especially for the new voters.
9th National Voters’ Day was celebrated on 25th January 2019
Key Points:
► The National Voters’ Day (NVD) is celebrated all over the country on January 25 every year since 2011 to mark the Foundation day of Election Commission of India, which was established on 25th January 1950.
► Dedicated to the voters of the country, the Day is utilized to spread awareness among voters for promoting informed participation in the electoral process.
► The theme of this year’s National Voters Day: ‘No Voter to be left behind’.
POLITY
70th Republic Day
Date: 26th January 2019
On 26th January 2019, India Celebrated its 70th Republic Day. This Day honours the date on which the Constitution of India came into effect on 26th January 1950
Theme: ‘life of Gandhi’ which is a tribute to the father of the nation Mahatma Gandhi on his 150th birth anniversary.
Chief guest: President Cyril Ramaphosa, President of the Republic of South Africa. This is the second time a South African leader is Chief Guest at Republic Day — Nelson Mandela was the chief guest in 1995.
Highlights:
► The 70th Republic Day parade witnessed the highest number of women officers participating in the celebrations with Lt. Bhavana Kasturi leading a contingent of 144 male personnel. This was the first time in the history of Indian Army that a woman was leading the Army services corps.
► An all-women contingent of Assam Rifles, India’s oldest paramilitary force, participated for the first time.
AWARDS AND HONOURS
Bharat Ratna 2019
Date: 26th January 2019
Bharat Ratna award for the year 2019 has been bestowed upon Pranab Mukherjee, Nanaji Deshmukh and Bhupen Hazarika. Nanaji Deshmukh and Bhupen Hazarika were awarded posthumously.
Pranab Mukherjee: A veteran congressman, Pranab Mukherjee had held various key portfolios like Finance, Defence and External affairs as Union Minister.
Nanaji Deshmukh: Deshmukh was a social activist and a long-time member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), who also played a key role in the JP Movement.
Bhupen Hazarika: Bhupen Hazarika was a singer, balladeer, poet, lyricist and filmmaker who was widely admired not only in native Assam but across the country.
HEALTHCARE
DAMaN initiative: Model for malaria control
Date: 28th January 2019
According to the World Health Organisation’s World Malaria Report of 2018 – India is the only country among the 11 highest-burden countries that saw substantial progress in reducing disease burden. India saw a 24% decrease in 2017 compared to 2016.
Key Points:
► Odisha has emerged as an inspiration in the fight against malaria.
► It has dramatically scaled-up efforts to prevent, diagnose and treat malaria through its Durgama Anchalare Malaria Nirakaran (DAMaN) initiative
► It involved accredited social health activists (ASHAs), who helped distribute approximately 11 million bed nets in 2017, which was enough to protect all the residents in areas that were at the highest risk.
► Odisha recorded an 80% decline in malaria cases and deaths in 2017.
TRANSPORT
Train 18 named as ‘Vande Bharat Express’
Date: 28th January 2019
India’s first engineless train, ‘Train 18’ has been named ‘Vande Bharat Express’, to acknowledge its made-in-India status.
Key Points:
► The train is manufactured by the Integral Coach Factory (ICF) under the ‘Make in India’ initiative.
► It is India’s first semi-high speed train equipped with world-class passenger amenities.
► It will run between Delhi and Varanasi.
► Train 18 or the Vande Bharat Express is regarded as a successor to the 30-year-old Shatabdi Express.
SOCIAL
Jiban Sampark Project of Odisha
Date: 28th January 2019
Objective: To generate awareness among Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) in Odisha on various development and welfare initiatives
The Chief Minister of Odisha has launched Jiban Sampark project for the welfare of the Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups at the annual Adivasi Mela-2019.
Key features:
► The Project is being undertaken in association with UNICEF.
► The focus areas of the Project are skill development, empowering communities, cooperation and innovation among the groups.
► Among the 75 listed PVTG’s the highest number are found in Odisha (13), followed by Andhra Pradesh (12).
EDUCATION
India to participate in PISA 2021
Date: 29th January 2019
The Union Human Resources Development Ministry has signed an agreement with Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) for India’s Participation in Programme for International Student Assessment- PISA 2021.
Key Points:
► The students will be selected by PISA through random sampling. The schools run by Kendriya Vidyalaya Sangathan (KVS), Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti (NVS) and schools in the UT of Chandigarh would be participating.
► India’s participation in PISA- 2021 would lead to recognition and acceptability of Indian students and prepare them for the global economy in the 21st century.
► It is an international assessment that measures 15-year-old students’ reading, mathematics, and science literacy every three years.
EDUCATION
National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP)
Date: 29th January 2019
Objective: To support participating agricultural universities and ICAR in providing more relevant and higher quality education to Agricultural University students.
The Indian Council for Agricultural Research ICAR has launched Rs 1100 crore ambitious National Agricultural Higher Education Project (NAHEP).
Key Points:
► The project will be funded by the World Bank and the Indian Government on a 50:50 basis.
► Aim: To attract talent and strengthen higher agricultural education in the country.
► In addition, a four-year degree in Agriculture, Horticulture, Fisheries and Forestry has been declared a professional degree.

INTERNATIONAL

SOCIAL
UN-WEF report on e-waste
Date: 26th January 2019
The UN-World Economic Forum report on e-waste titled, ‘A new circular vision for electronics’, said, “It’s uncommon to throw away gold, silver or platinum jewellery, but that is not true about electronic and electrical goods containing the same precious metals; up to 7 per cent of the world’s gold may currently be contained in e-waste.”
Highlights:
► It notes that the waste stream has already reached 48.5 million tonnes (MT) in 2018, and the figure is expected to double if nothing changes.
► Moreover, only 20 percent of global e-waste is recycled.
► Due to poor extraction techniques, the total recovery rate of cobalt from e-waste is only 30 per cent.
► “The metal is however in great demand for laptop, smartphone and electric car batteries,” the report said, highlighting the fact that not only does the precious metal go wasted, but it also leads to more mining for the same.
► “In 2015, the (fresh) extraction of raw materials accounted for 7 percent of the world’s energy consumption,” it said.
TRANSPORT
Bandar Abbas to host IONS
Date: 26th January 2019
Navy commanders of the Indian Ocean littoral states will convene in Bandar Abbas (IRAN) next month for participating in the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS).
Key Points:
► IONS, the 21st century’s first significant international maritime security initiative launched in February 2008, provides a forum for discussion of regional maritime issues and promotes friendly relationships among member nations.
► It is a voluntary initiative that seeks to increase maritime co-operation among navies of the littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region by providing an open and inclusive forum for discussion of regionally relevant maritime issues.
► The 35 member nations of the IONS are grouped into four sub-regions- South Asian, West Asian, East African and South East Asian and Australian. There are nine states with observer status.
SOCIAL
Corruption Perceptions Index 2018
Date: 31st January 2019
The 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released by Transparency International.
Highlights:
► It reveals that the continued failure of most countries to significantly control corruption is contributing to a crisis of democracy around the world.
► More than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of only 43.
► Denmark and New Zealand top the Index with 88 and 87 points, respectively.
► Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria are at the bottom of the index, with 10, 13 and 13 points, respectively.
► India has been ranked at 78th place out of 180 countries against 81st in the Year 2017. India marginally improved its score to 41 (from 40 in 2017).
TRANSPORT
‘The Future of Rail’ Report
Date: 31st January 2019
‘The Future of Rail’ Report has been released by the International Energy Agency (IEA). It examines how the role of rail in global transport might be elevated as a means to reduce energy use and environmental impacts associated with transport.
Highlights:
► The report analyses the current and future importance of rail around the world through the perspective of its energy and environmental implications.
► The report reviews the impact of existing plans and regulations on the future of rail and explores the key policies that could help to realise an enhanced future rail.
► This first-ever global report has a focus on India, elaborating on the unique social and economic role of rail in India.
CONFERENCES & SUMMITS
Africa Centre for Climate and Sustainable Development
Date: 31st January 2019
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).
Key Points:
► 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. 
ISSUES
SOCIAL
India fifth-most deadliest place for journalists: RSF
Date: 23rd December, 2018
► According to the report released by Reporters without Borders (RSF), Journalists have never before been subjected to as much violence and abusive treatment as in 2018. The figure increased by 8 % to 80, and by 15 %, in the category of number of professional journalists killed, from 55 in 2017 to 63 in 2018. The numbers had been declining for the previous 3 years. The most deadliest place for journalist is Afghanistan, 15 journalists were killed in 2018.The list is followed by Syria, where 11 of the Journalist were killed. In Mexico, 9 Journalist were killed, 8 Journalists were killed in Yemen, and 6 were killed in India as well as in United States. The number of journalists detained worldwide at the end of the year – 348 – is up from 326 at this time last year.As in 2017, more than half of the world’s imprisoned journalists are being held in just five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Turkey. China remains to be the world’s biggest jailer of journalists with the number as high as 60.
POLITY
Rajasthan cabinet scraps education criteria for civic poll
Date: 31st December, 2018
The newly elected government of Rajasthan has abolished the condition of a minimum educational qualification to contest local body elections. The decision was taken considering the constitutional right of every individual to take part in the democratic process. In 2015, the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government had introduced a system through which the 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. Now the election of mayors and chairpersons in corporations would be held through the direct system instead of the indirect method introduced by the previous BJP government.
U.S., Israel quit UNESCO citing bias
Date: 1st January, 2019
0n the last day of 2018, The United states of America (USA) and Israel officially quit the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) amid concerns that the organization fosters anti-Israel bias. UNESCO was established in 1945 just after the end of World War II to support peace and it is best known for its World Heritage programs which designates cultural sites and aims to preserve traditions. USA, one of the founding members of UNESCO has demanded “Fundamental Reform” in the organization. USA and Israel stopped paying dues to UNESCO after Palestine which is in dispute with Israel was voted in as a member state of UNESCO in 2011. Both the countries filed the notice to withdraw from the organization in 2017. According to report, the total due that is not paid by USA and Israel is over $600 mn. So, this move will not affect UNESCO because it has been already dealing with funding slash ever since 2011.
IT
Cyber frauds in Indian banking sector hiked over 50% in FY18
Date: 5th January, 2019
The volume of cyber frauds at banks has increased with the rise in digital transactions and their spread to the interiors of
the country. In 2017-18, cyber frauds at banks saw a big spike over the previous year. According to a report by the Reserve Bank of India, a total of 2,059 cases of cyber fraud were reported in 2017-18 amounting to Rs 109.6 crore. The number of cyber fraud cases in 2016-17 was 1,372 amounting to Rs 42.3 crore. Spike in cyber frauds is bigger than most other types of bank frauds. The total bank frauds reported in 2017-18 is nearly one-third of cyber frauds. To check these frauds, the RBI is planning to set up a compliance and tracking system portal to tackle the proliferation of cyber frauds and seeks to establish a better redressal mechanism for consumers. This would address cyber security complaints from all regulated entities including Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPIs) and mobile banking interfaces. The process of redressal mechanism will be directed under the Internal Ombudsman Scheme of 2018.
SOCIAL
Vijay Mallya first person to be named ‘fugitive economic offender’
Date: 6th January, 2019
Vijay Mallya has become the first person to be declared a ‘fugitive economic offender’ under Section 12 of the Fugitive Economic Offenders’ Act, 2018 by a special Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA) Court in Mumbai. The Enforcement Directorate (ED) had filed an application before the court in November, 2018 and this declaration was made by Special judge MS Azmi. The ED had also sought immediate confiscation of about Rs 12,500 crore worth of assets.Vijay Mallya is wanted in India for defaulting on Rs. 9,000 crore in loans to his failed Kingfisher Airlines from a consortium of 12 banks led by the State Bank of India. Mallya sought a stay on the hearing of the ED’s plea but it was turned down by the special court on October 30. Mallya then appealed in the Bombay High Court, which on November 22 dismissed his plea seeking a stay on the ED’s request to declare him a fugitive economic offender and confiscate his properties.
BANKING
Nepal to declare banned new Indian currency notes legal
Date: 9th January, 2019
The Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB), the Nepal’s central monetary authority, has written a letter to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to legalize Indian currency notes of denominations higher than Rs 100 in Nepal.
The Nepal Rastra Bank has asked the India’s central bank to issue a notification under the Foreign Exchange Management Act (FEMA), that will make Indian bank notes of denomination more than Rs 100 legal tender in Nepal and to provide the exchange facilities to get bills of such denominations. Before the demonetisation of Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 bank notes in November 2016, the RBI had issued a FEMA notification allowing Nepali citizens to carry Rs 25,000 worth of such bank notes.
After the demonetisation of these Indian currency notes, circulation of new bank notes of denominations Rs 200, Rs 500 and Rs 2,000 was started by the Indian government but they were not legalized in Nepal which led to the government of Nepal to ban usage of notes of higher denominations.
HEALTHCARE
Formalin in Fish
Date: 15th January 2019
Bihar’s health department has imposed a blanket ban for 15 days on the sale of fish from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal in capital Patna after samples were found to be contaminated with formalin. The ban includes the storage and transportation of fish from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.
About Formalin:
► Formalin is a toxic, colourless solution that is derived by dissolving formaldehyde gas in water.
► It is a cancer-inducing chemical used to preserve fish and is used as a disinfectant. It is used in
the manufacture of pesticides, fertilisers, glue, paper and paint, among other products.
► Formalin causes irritation in the eyes, throat, skin and stomach. Continued exposure in the long run causes harm to the kidneys, liver and even cancers.
► Formaldehyde is a highly reactive, flammable gas, which means it can become a fire hazard when exposed to flame or heat.
Why is fish laced with formalin?
► Fish is a highly perishable commodity. If it isn’t maintained at the proper temperature of 5 degree Celsius, it gets spoilt. To avoid that and increase its shelf life, the sellers now use chemicals such as formalin and ammonia.
► If the point of sale is far from the place of catch, formalin is used as a preservative. Meanwhile, ammonia is mixed with the water that is frozen to keep fish fresh.

NATIONAL

ENVIRONMENT
2018 the sixth warmest year in India and fourth warmest globally since 1901: IMD
Date: 19th January, 2019
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) in its report titled Climate of India during 2018’, on 16th January, 2019 has announced that 2018 was the sixth warmest year in India since 1901. In 2018 1,428 people died due to extreme weather events. It was the fourth warmest year globally on record. As per the government’s data, the average temperature over India during 2018 was significantly above normal. The annual mean surface air temperature during the year was 0.41°C above (1981-2010) average and it showed an increase of 0.6°C per 100 years in during 1901-2018. The reports show that the country’s average season mean temperatures were also “above the average” with the winter season (January- February, +0.59 degree Celsius) being the fifth warmest since 1901 and the pre-monsoon season (March-May) the seventh warmest. All the six warmest years on record in India were in the last 10 years and 11 out of 15 warmest years were during the recent past 15 years (2004-2018). As per the data available, the five warmest years on record are: 2016 (+0.72 degree Celsius), 2009 (+0.56 degree Celsius), 2017 (+0.55 degree Celsius), 2010 (+0.54 degree Celsius) and 2015 (+0.42 degree Celsius).

INTERNATIONAL

BIODIVERSITY
Death of George the tree snail marked the first extinction of 2019
Date: 15th January, 2019
George, a 14 years Hawaiian tree snail—and the last known member of the species Achatinella apexfulva—died on New Year’s Day. George was born in a captive breeding facility at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa in the early 2000s, and soon after, the rest of his kin died. He got his name after Lonesome George the Pinta Island tortoise who was also last of his species. For a decade, researchers searched in vain for another member of the species for George to mate with, to no avail. (though these snails are hermaphrodites, two adults must mate to produce offspring, and researchers refer to George as a “he.”) Throughout his life, George was a public face for the struggles facing Hawaiian land snails. His death highlights both the vast diversity of indigenous snails—and their desperate plight.

NATIONAL

SOCIAL
Andhra Pradesh Govt. to give quota to the Kapus community
Date: 23rd January, 2019
The Andhra Pradesh State Cabinet has decided to give 5% quota for Kapu community and another 5% to the Economically Backward Classes (EBCs) among the forward castes.
The cabinet has also approved the decision of doubling welfare pensions given under the NTR Bharosa Scheme. Pensions of Rs 1,000 and Rs 1,500 will now be doubled to Rs 2,000 and Rs 3,000 respectively. The cabinet has also decided to provide exemption of life tax for autos and quarterly tax
for tractors and motor vehicle tax arrears. Kapu are a social group of agriculturists found primarily in the southern Indian states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana and are considered to be a Shudra community in the traditional Hindu ritual ranking system known as Varna. They are classified as a Forward Caste in Andhra Pradesh.

INTERNATIONAL

ENVIRONMENT
Scientists Warn of Climate “time bomb” for World’s Groundwater
Date: 23rd January, 2019
Scientists from Cardiff University and a team of international collaborators warn that if climate change is to have a significant effect on the world’s groundwater reserves, the future generations could be faced with an environmental time bomb”. Scientists have conducted research on groundwater and said that it could take over 100 years for groundwater systems to completely respond to current environment.
Groundwater as we know is the largest source of usable freshwater which is found in the underground cracks in soil, sand and rocks and More than 2 billion people in the world rely on groundwater as a source of drinking and irrigation water. Researchers found that groundwater in wetter, more humid locations will respond to climate change in short period of time while regions where water was naturally scarce had much more ability to deal with the situation.
HEALTHCARE
Ten threats to Global Health in 2019: WHO
Date: 24th January, 2019
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has recently released a list of “Ten threats to global health in 2019”. As per its report Air pollution is the gravest risk, with 9 out of 10 people breathing polluted air across the world. With 18% of the world’s population, India sees a disproportionately high 26% of the global premature deaths and disease burden due to air pollution. The average life expectancy in India would have been 1.7 years higher if air pollution levels were lower than the minimum level causing health loss.
Non-communicable diseases (NCD) such as diabetes, cancer, and heart disease kill 41 million every year. This is over 70% of deaths worldwide, including 15 million premature deaths of people in 30-69 age groups. India, notably, remains the diabetes capital of the world. At present India is estimated cancer burden – over 1.5 million new cases. Global influenza pandemic has also warned of another influenza pandemic in the world.
Fragile, vulnerable settings – More than 22% of the global population live in places where prolonged crises and weak health services leave them without access to basic care. India, China, and the Russian Federation accounted for 47% of the global incidence of Multi-drug-resistant (MDR) in 2016.
HEALTHCARE
India accounts more than half leprosy cases globally: WHO
Date: 26th January, 2019
World Health Organization (WHO) in its report published on 25th January this year has stated that more than half of the leprosy cases globally were reported by India although there is a steady decline worldwide in the number of leprosy cases which is estimated to be around 2 Lakh. As per its report, significant leprosy cases have been detected in South-east Asia region, Brazil, Sub-Saharan Africa and Pacific apart from India. Leprosy is often equated with serious deformity and disability, the percentage of patients having these symptoms is down to six %, demonstrating the disease is being diagnosed earlier than ever. WHO has stated that disease is 100% curable if detected early but discrimination, stigma and prejudice were the most powerful barriers in ending the disease. Leprosy is a chronic infectious disease which mainly affects the skin, the peripheral nerves, mucosal surfaces of the upper respiratory tract and the eyes.WHO has made Global Leprosy Strategy 2016-2020’ that aims at ending leprosy related discrimination, stigma and prejudice first as it plays a powerful role to achieve a leprosy free world. 
IDEAS

NATIONAL

One District, One Product scheme in UP
Date: 31st December, 2018
Objective: To promote traditional industries synonymous with their respective districts
► Uttar Pradesh is the place where many region specified products are found – like the ancient and nutritious ‘Kala namak’ rice, the rare and intriguing wheat-stalk craft, world-famous chikankari, zari-zardozi work on clothes, and the intricate and stunning horn and bone work that uses the remains of dead animals.
► Many of these products are GI-tagged. UP government’s One District, One Product scheme aims to encourage such indigenous and specialized products and crafts. The Scheme is aimed at creating product-specific traditional industrial hubs across 75 districts of Uttar Pradesh that will promote traditional industries that are synonymous with the respective districts of the state. It also aims at preserving and development of local crafts/skills and promotion of the art that will increase in income and local employment.
► Under the ODOP scheme, the state government has set a goal of providing employment to 25 lakh people in five years through the financial assistance of Rs 25,000 crores. Through this scheme the Govt. is planning to create a large number of employment opportunities for the youth and strengthen the inclusive and sustainable development of Uttar Pradesh.
TRADE & COMMERCE
Export promotion cell for MSMEs
Date: 1st January, 2019
Objective: To create a sustainable ecosystem for entire MSME development.
Minister of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME), Giriraj Singh has informed the parliament that the MSME ministry has established an Export Promotion Cell to promote entire MSMEs development. Export Promotion Cell will benefit in the evaluation of readiness of MSMEs to export their products and services, recognition of areas where improvements are required in order to be able to export effectively and efficiently and integration of MSME into global value chain. Referring the data available from the Directorate General of Commercial Intelligence and Statistics (DGCIS), the minister stated that the current value of export from MSME related products is USD 147,390.08 million and share of MSME related products in the country’s exports was 48.56% during 2017-18. The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) also proposed to formulate a governing council chaired by Secretary MSME and comprising of senior officials and members from MSME, Export Development Authorities, Commodity Boards, and other bodies to ensure efficient and effective delivery of all MSME export related interventions. Ministry also has proposed an action plan to be put in place to achieve target of USD 100 billion of exports from India by 2020.

INTERNATIONAL

IT
France introduced GAFA tax on global internet, technology firms
Objective: To ensure the global giants pay a fair share of taxes on their massive businesses in Europe.
France has introduced a new “GAFA tax” named after the large internet and technology companies Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon. The new tax would be operational from 1st January, 2019. According to Bruno Le Maire, the finance Minister of France, the new tax would raise 500 million euros
(570 million dollars) in 2019. The unilateral move came after the deal for European Union (EU) wide tax which required the support of all 28 EU states, crumbled earlier this month, with opposition from countries including Ireland, home to the European headquarters of Google and Apple. While other European Union member states such as Britain, Spain and Italy are working on national versions of a digital tax, Asian countries such as Singapore and India are also planning their own schemes.
SPACE
US scientists launch telescope from Antarctica
Date: 6th January, 2019
Objective: To detect Cosmic X-rays arriving from distant neutron stars, black holes and other exotic celestial bodies. US scientists have successfully launched a telescope from Antarctica that analyses X-rays arriving from distant neutron stars, black holes and other exotic celestial bodies. The X-Calibur instrument launched from the McMurdo Station in Antarctica and is carried aloft on a helium balloon intended to reach an altitude of 130,000 feet. The team hopes that by this instrument they will gain new insights into how neutron stars and black holes in a binary orbit with stars grow by gobbling up stellar matter. Scientist will combine observations from the balloon-borne X-Calibur with simultaneous measurements from three existing, space-based satellites. “The results from these different observatories will be combined to constrain the physical conditions close to the neutron star, and thus to use Vela X-1 as a laboratory to test the behavior of matter and magnetic fields in truly extreme conditions.
X-Calibur is designed to measure the polarisation — or, roughly, the orientation of the electric field — of incoming X-rays from binary systems.

NATIONAL

IT
‘Rail Kumbh Seva Mobile App’ launched
Date: 8th January, 2019
Objective: To help the attendees of the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj city in navigation for reverent came in Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj
The North Central Railway, (NCR) has launched a mobile application the ‘Rail Kumbh Seva Mobile App’ that will help the attendees of the Kumbh Mela in Prayagraj city to navigate from January 15- March 4, 2019. The App will also provide information regarding all the ‘Mela special’ trains that will be run during the period. It also will provide a link to the user to buy both unreserved and reserved train tickets. The users of the App will not only get to know their current location, but will also be able to reach to all railway stations, the mela zone, major hotels, bus stations and other facilities within Prayagraj. The mobile App will also provide the pictures of previous Kumbh Melas.
IT
Reliance Jio introduces ‘Kumbh JioPhone’ app for pilgrims
Date: 9th January, 2019
Reliance Jio introduced the ‘Kumbh JioPhone’ application that will enrich the spiritual experience of pilgrims who will congregate during this year’s Ardh Kumbh Mela at Prayagraj.
The Kumbh JioPhone contains information on Kumbh, real-time travel information (special trains, buses etc.), booking tickets and receiving updates, ‘Yatri Ashray’ at stations, emergency helpline numbers, area routes and maps, pre-published bath and religious day schedules and railway camp mela. Another important feature of the app called ‘Khoya Paya’ (Lost and Found) helps users to reunite with their family and friends, in case they are not able to trace them. There will be important news alerts and announcements in and around Kumbh at the fingertips of users. The Kumbh JioPhone would also have devotional content such as the ‘Kumbh Darshan’ that ensures telecast of special Kumbh events and programs on JioTV along with
previous archives of Kumbh Mela. The users can access devotional songs and hymns 24 X 7 through the help of Kumbh Radio. There would be a daily Kumbh Quiz section in the app where users can answer questions of their interests and win exciting prices.
SOCIAL
“Web-Wonder Women” campaign launched
Date: 10th January, 2019
Objective: To discover and celebrate the exceptional achievements of women, who have been driving positive agenda of social change through the social media
The Union Ministry of Women and Child Development, partnered with the Breakthrough and Twitter India have launched an online campaign, ‘Web-Wonder Women’ also known as ‘#www’. Through the campaign, the Ministry and the Campaign’s Partners aim to recognise the strength of Indian women stalwarts from across the globe who have used the power of social media to run positive campaigns to steer a change in society. The meritorious Women will have been recognized and acknowledged by this campaign. The Campaign invites Entries through nominations from across the world as per the laid out criteria. Nominations will be open till January 31, 2019. Women of Indian origin, working or settled anywhere in the world, are eligible for nomination. Nominations have been invited in a large number of categories including Health, Media, Literature, Art, Sports, Environmental protection, and fashion among others. The shortlisted entries will be open for public voting on Twitter and the finalists will be selected by a specialised panel of judges.
IT
‘Police-E-Eye’ app launched
Date: 10th January, 2019
Objective: To enable report of traffic violations
Bringing public participation into reducing traffic offences, Coimbatore city traffic police has launched an Android mobile app ‘Police E-Eye’. The App was developed by Aveon Infotech Pvt. Ltd., under its Corporate Social Responsibility. Using the app, the public now can report visible traffic violations such as riding two-wheeler without using helmet, riding triple, using cellphone while driving, obstructing free flow of traffic, buses carrying passengers on footboard and jumping signal by sending the photo of the violation to the police.
The violations so filed can be photographed which will be sent to the police along with the location, time and date with the help of GPS. Once a traffic violation is successfully submitted, an electronic challan will be generated by the traffic police that will have the photo of the violation and the fine to be paid. Police E-Eye is expected to be an answer for various limitations faced by the police in controlling traffic violations. Shortage of manpower was one of the hurdles faced by the police in controlling traffic violations. The app can be downloaded to smart phones with Android platform using their Google account. According to the police, 1,500 challans were issued by the police during the trial stage and fines were collected.
ENVIRONMENT
Odisha celebrates 1st Turtle Festival
Date: 15th January 2019
First Odisha Turtle Festival was held in Puri to create awareness and promote ideas on the conservation of olive ridley turtles. The festival was organised by Cox & Kings Foundation in association with Humane Society International/India and Action for Protection of Wild Animals (APOWA).
Key Points:
► Odisha has half of the world’s Olive Ridley turtle population and 90% of India’s turtle population lives in the state.
► Despite that, no actions have been taken for their conservation.
► The programme was aimed to fetch the government’s attention to develop some infrastructure near the turtle nesting sites at
Devi and Rusikulya rivers, the two major nesting grounds.

NATIONAL

TRANSPORT
ROADEO: Pune Gets India’s First ‘Robo Cop’
Date: 15th January, 2019
Objective: To help in traffic management and assist citizens
Chennai Traffic Police has introduced a road safety robot named ROADEO to handle traffic around the city as well as continuously display traffic rules and offences. The concept is a brainchild of Pune-based laboratory, SP Robotics Maker Labs, which trains people to learn Robotics and build tech. Six children from Classes VII and VIII from Pune, named Aadi Kanchankar, Parth Kulkarni, Rachit Jain, Shourya Singh, Shruten Pande and Vinayak Krishna have built the Roadeo. They will be sharing details of their experience during the public launch of the robot.
The robot has16-inch LED display to show various traffic rules and other vital messages like ‘Wear a helmet’, ‘do not jump the signal’, etc. The hands of the Robot have been engineered to move and display signs of stop to vehicles. Further, the robot also includes a siren, obstacle sensors and skid-steering wheels.
CINEMA
First National Museum of Indian Cinema inaugurated
Date: 20th January, 2019
Objective: To put together a century-old journey of movies in India
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched the Country’s First National Museum of Indian Cinema in Mumbai, Maharashtra. The museum is housed in two buildings – the New Museum Building and the 19th century historic palace Gulshan Mahal – in the Films Division campus in Mumbai. It was built under the guidance by the Museum Advisory Committee headed by noted film maker Shyam Benegal. An innovation Committee headed by lyricist Prasoon Joshi was also constituted to provide an upgrade to NMIC. The Museum has four exhibition Halls i.e. Mahatma Gandhi and his impact on Indian cinema, Children’s Film Studio, Technology creativity and Vibrant cinematographic culture across India.
The objective to build the Museum is to take its visitors through an absorbing journey of over a century of Indian cinema in a story telling mode with the help of visuals, graphics, artifacts, interactive exhibits and multimedia expositions.
EDUCATION
Dell Launches India’s First Policy Hack for Teachers
Date: 22nd January, 2019
Objective: To provide with innovative solutions to problems faced by teachers inside and outside the classroom
Dell, as a part of its three-city PolicyHack series, has hosted an interactive hackathon, where teachers focused on their learning journey. Dell has partnered with the UNESCO Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) and Ignus, to create a platform where teachers, school representatives and a cross-sectional group expert related to education can interact with each other. PolicyHack in India was conducted at two levels: over 80 schools pan-India took part in it. On the evaluation parameters, top 20 shortlisted schools represented themselves in front of the jury. The initiative allows the teaching fraternity to come up with solutions for problems faced by teachers at any place. Dell is also planning to present three more PolicyHacks in other regions of the country in 2019, in an endeavor to foster and cultivate innovative ideas on how teachers can leverage technology for themselves and for the benefit of their students. The main objective of the PolicyHack is to enable an ecosystem-wide understanding of key problems that impact the learning journey of a teacher.
SOCIAL
Roshni, an Android app for Visually Impaired
Date: 27th January, 2019
Objective: To help the visually impaired to recognise Indian currency notes
The IIT, Ropar, has developed an app called Roshni that is available in beta on the Google Play Store to help the Visually Impaired recognise currency notes both old and new. The app gives audio information as to which note you are holding in your hands. This App utilises an adaptable deep learning framework, which further uses the patterns and features embedded on the notes to differentiate and determine the currency denomination. The user has to bring the currency note in front of phone camera and the App would provide audio notification intimating the currency note denomination to the user. The app has also the facility to change the language to Hindi.
BUSINESS
India’s first GI store in Goa
Date: 29th January, 2019
Objective: To promote GI registered product as well as regional product of India
Union Civil Aviation minister Suresh Prabhu has inaugurated India’s 1st Geographical Indication store at Goa International Airport in Dabolim. The store is jointly set up by Airports Authority of India and The Cashew Export Promotional Council of India. At present there are 270 GI registered products in the country and the store will be a boon for the global tourists. As per the govt. plan, all products of GI tags and the products from the self-help groups, artisans and farmers’ produce will also be displayed on the store at a concessional rate. The GI store will be a boon for the global tourists. The govt. is planning to have such type of stores at all 101 existing airports and another at 100 airports that will be started in next few years.
TRANSPORT
Western Railways provides ‘segway’ to RPF
Date: 29th January, 2019
Objective: To keep an eye on every nook and corner of the railway stations
The two-wheeled, self-balancing and battery powered electric vehicles- Segway have been provided by Western Railways to Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel posted in all major railway stations in Mumbai. The vehicle will help RPF in keeping an eye on every corner of the railway station particularly on the stations having long platforms. Segways will help the security personnel to carry out their duties more efficiently. RPF personnel will be able to move faster in the premises of the railway station. At present, Segways are used by Marine Drive Police in South Mumbai. The officials need sufficient training to operate these vehicles. Railway Protection Force (RPF) personnel on Western Railway would be seen patrolling major suburban railway stations on Segways.
This is the first-of-its-kind initiative by the Indian Railways. The Segways will primarily be used when the stations are not overcrowded. The six Segways that have already arrived will be used by RPF personnel at Churchgate, Mumbai Central, Bandra Terminus, Andheri and Borivali stations. The other five will be deployed at Bandra, Goregaon, Malad, Virar and Surat stations.
ECONOMY
UAE, Saudi Central banks launch common digital currency called ‘Aber’
Date: 31st January, 2019
Objective: To make financial settlement easier, secure and efficient between the countries
The central banks of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia have launched a common digital currency called ‘Aber’. It will be used in financial settlements between the two countries through Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers technologies. It will also enable banks to directly
deal with each other in conducting financial remittances. The use of Aber will be restricted to a limited number of banks in each state. In case that no technical obstacles are encountered, economic and legal requirements for future uses will be considered. The project will also enable considering the possibility of using the system as an additional reserve system for domestic central payments settlement system in case of their disruption for any reason.
The central banks of some countries such as Sweden, Bahamas, Uruguay and Russia have already begun pilot projects to explore the dimensions of Blockchain and distributed ledger technologies in the circulation of digital currencies.
ENVIRONMENT
First Captive Elephant Survey: Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF)
Date: 31st January, 2019
Objective: To stop rising elephant deaths and human-elephant conflicts, particularly in Kerala and Assam.
As per the report of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) that has submitted to the Supreme Court, 58% of all Elephants are concentrated in two states i.e., 905 in Assam and 518 in Kerala. Of these, one-third are in private custody without any ownership certificate mandated by law; zoos, circuses and temples account for 207 elephants in captivity. Supreme Court had directed the MoEF 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. According to the affidavit submitted by MoEF there are 2,454 elephants in captivity, 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. 
WHAT IS MFN?
• Most Favoured Nation or MFN status is related to rules of World Trade Organisation (WTO) that prohibits countries from discriminating between their trading partners.
• MFN principle of the WTO’s General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) sates that, each of the WTO member countries should “treat all the other members equally as ‘most-favoured (MFN)’ trading partners.”
• Every member country of the WTO is required to accord the MFN status to all other member countries, as specified in Article 1 of GATT, 1994.
• The primary condition under MFN is that a country must charge the same tariff rate on imports irrespective of their origin.
• Recently the MFN was in news as Government of India withdrew the MFN status accorded to Pakistan in 1996, following the Pulwama terrorist attack in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed and several injured.
• After the revoking of MFN status the Indian government hiked the basic customs duty on all goods originating from Pakistan to 200 %.
• Although India granted MFN status to Pakistan 22 years ago, it was never reciprocated by the latter.
PEOPLE
ART & CULTURE
Catriona Gray
Date: 17th December, 2018
WHY IN NEWS : Won Miss Universe 2018 Title
Catriona Gray wins Miss Universe 2018 Title. She beat 93 other aspirants to the 2018 Miss Universe crown in ceremonies staged at the Impact Arena in Bangkok, Thailand, on 17th December, 2018. She is the fourth Filipino woman to win the title. She received her crown from last year’s winner, Demi-Leigh Nel-Peters of South Africa. Nel-Peters’ compatriot Tamaryn got second position while Venezuela’s Sthefany Gutierrez came in third position. The 94-candidate haul this year is the biggest in the pageant’s 66-year-history.
SPORTS
PV Sindhu
Date: 17th December, 2018
WHY IN NEWS: Became the first Indian to win the BWF World Tour Finals
On 16th December, PV Sindhu became the first Indian to win the BWF World Tour Finals.
Sindhu claimed the coveted gold medal with a win over 2017 world champion Nozomi Okuhara in straight sets of 21-19, 21-17. The 23-year-old had beaten Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon 21-16, 25-23 in the semi-final, held on December 15. With the win, Sindhu claimed her 14th title overall and the first for this year, which had followed up with a series of disappointments after she was unable to win even a single tournament.
About PV Sindhu
PV Sindhu is the first Indian lady to win a silver medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics and the second badminton player to ever win an Olympic medal, the first being Saina Nehwal, who won bronze in the 2012 edition. She also won silver in the women’s singles at Commonwealth Games 2018, after losing to Saina Nehwal. She was also a silver medallist in 2018 Asian Games 2018 which were held in Indonesia. Sindhu had come into international attention when she broke into the top 20 of the BWF World Ranking in September 2012 at the age of 17.
ART & CULTURE
Shree Saini
Date: 17th December, 2018
Why in News: Crowned the Miss India Worldwide 2018
Punjab born Indian American Shree Saini has been crowned the new Miss India Worldwide 2018 at 27th annual global pageant held in the Fords City of New Jersey. It is organised by the New York-based India Festival Committee (IFC). Sakshi Sinha from Australia and Anusha Sareen from the United Kingdom won first and second runner-up, respectively.
SPORTS
Anup Kumar
Date: 20th December, 2018
Why in News: Announced his retirement from the sport of Kabaddi
Indian Kabaddi player and former World Cup winning captain, Anup Kumar has announced his retirement from the sport with immediate effect on 19th December, 2018.
About Anup Kumar
Mr. Anup Kumar known to be one of the most efficient players and has led his team to victory on several occasions and contributed to the overall growth of the sport in the nation. He began his international career in Kabaddi in 2006 at the South Asian Games in Sri Lanka. He was appointed as the captain of the Indian National team in 2014 and it was during his tenure that the team won 2 gold medals at Asian Games in 2014 and the Kabaddi World Cup in 2016.
He also led the UMumba franchise for the first five years taking the side to three consecutive finals, a record that has not been achieved by any other captain in the league.
SPORTS
Woorkeri Venkat Raman
Date: 21st December, 2018
Why in News: Appointed as the new Head coach of the Indian women’s national cricket team
Woorkeri Venkat Raman, the former Indian opener was on 20th December, 2018 appointed as the new Head coach of the Indian women’s national cricket team. The announcement was made by the Board of Control for Cricket in India. He has been brought on with a two-year contract. He took over the role from Ramesh Powar, whose contract was not renewed after the controversies and fall-out with senior women’s cricket team player Mithali Raj. Raman’s first assignment in his new post would be the tour of New Zealand, which starts on January 24, 2019. About Woorkeri Venkat RamanVenkat Raman is a former Indian cricketer. He represented Tamil Nadu where he started his first career spanned from 1982 to 1999. Raman made his Test debut in his hometown Chennai against West Indies in 1987–88, top-scoring in the second innings with 83 and taking a wicket in his first over itself. He was relatively unsuccessful in ODIs on the international stage. His only international century, 113, was against South Africa in 1992–93. However he was a successful batsman in domestic cricket scoring three double centuries, including 313 against Goa, in the 1988–89 season of the Ranji Trophy. He retired from all forms of cricket in 1999 after being axed from the TN Ranji Team. After retirement, WV Raman took to a successful career in coaching. He has coached the Tamil Nadu and Bengal cricket teams in the Ranji Trophy and the Indian U-19 team. Currently, he is the coach for the Bengal Ranji team. In the IPL, He was the assistant coach of Kings XI Punjab in the IPL, 2013 and the batting consultant of Kolkata Knight Riders in 2014. Since 2015, he has been working as the batting consultant at the National Cricket Academy.
SPORTS
Vedangi Kulkarni
Date: 24th December, 2018
Why in News: Becomes the fastest Asian to cycle the globe
The 20-year-old Indian Vedangi Kulkarni has become the fastest Asian to cycle the globe. She completed the 29,000 kilometers’ distance required to qualify as bicycling across the globe on 23rd December, 2018. Kulkarni spent 159 days peddling up to 300 km a day in 14 countries. Starting off from Perth in July, she will now be flying back to the Australian city to complete the record by cycling a 15 km distance to reach the same place from where she started.
Kulkarni’s Route Map
Starting off from Perth, Kulkarni cycled across Australia, through the outback, to reach Brisbane from where she flew over to Wellington, New Zealand, for doing the entire country north to south. A short flight took her across the international dateline to Western Canada’s Vancouver, from where she continued her eastward journey till Halifax, a port city.Europe beckoned next and she chose chilly Iceland to start it all up and later cycled through Portugal, Spain France, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Finland to enter Russia. From Russia, she flew to India to do the last 4,000 km. She encountered temperatures ranging from -20 degree Celsius to 37 degrees Celsius during the ride.
SPORTS
B V P Rao
Date: 25th December 2018
Why in News: Elected as the President of Archery Association of India (AAI)
B V P Rao was elected as the President of Archery Association of India (AAI), the election was held under the Supervision of former Chief
Election Commissioner S. Y. Quraishi. BVP Rao earlier served as vice president of the archery association of the northeastern state. He was also earlier associated with Sports Authority of India in various capacities.

NATIONAL

SPORTS
Smriti Mandhana
Why in news: Won the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year and the ICC Women’s ODI Player of the Year.
About Smriti Mandhana:
► Smriti Mandhana won the Rachael Heyhoe Flint Award for the ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year and also been named as the ICC Women’s ODI Player of the Year.
► The cricketer had played a crucial role in India’s semi-final appearance at the ICC Women’s World T20 in the West Indies.
► Smriti Mandhana is India’s second female cricketer who won the ICC Player of the Year title after former Indian fast bowler Jhulan Goswami. Jhulan Goswami achieved this feat in 2007.
► She is currently ranked fourth in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Players Rankings for ODI Batters and 10th in the MRF Tyres ICC Women’s Players Rankings for T20I.
APPOINTMENTS
U K Sinha
The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) set up an expert committee under former SEBI chairman U.K. Sinha.
Highlights:
► The committee has been set up to suggest long-term solutions for the economic and financial sustainability of the MSME sector.
► The eight-member committee will also examine the factors impacting credit flow to MSMEs and propose measures for leveraging technology in accelerating the growth of the sector.
► They will identify the ‘structural problems’ affecting the growth of the small-scale sector.
► The committee will submit its report by the end of June 2019.
GOVERNANCE
Sudhir Bhargava
Why in news: Appointed as the new Chief Information Commissioner of India
About Sudhir Bhargava:
► The government has appointed Sudhir Bhargava as the Chief Information Commissioner, along with four information commissioners, all of whom were bureaucrats, in the Central Information Commission.
► Mr Bhargava is a retired bureaucrat, having worked as a Secretary to the Ministry of Social Justice.
► He has been an Information Commissioner since June 2015 and has now taken over as the ninth chief of the CIC.

INTERNATIONAL

POLITY
Jair Bolsonaro
Why in news: Sworn in as the new President of Brazil
About Jair Bolsonaro:
► Jair Bolsonaro was sworn in as Brazil’s President in a ceremony at Brazil’s National Congress Building.
► Bolsonaro is a former Army captain and admirer of the country’s 1964-1985 military dictatorship.
► Bolsonaro, 63, was a seven-term fringe congressman who rode a wave of anti-establishment anger to became Brazil’s first far-right president since a military dictatorship gave way to civilian rule three decades ago.
RESIGNATIONS
Kevin Sweeney
Why in news: Resigned from the post of the chief of staff of the US Department of Defence
Key Highlights:
► Defense Secretary Chief of Staff Kevin Sweeney served in this role since January 2017.
► He is now the third senior Pentagon official to step down since President Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from Syria.
► His resignation closely follows that of US Secretary of Defense James Mattis who stood down in December after acknowledging policy differences with the US president.

INTERNATIONAL

SPORTS
Mary Kom
Date: 10th January 2019
Why in news: Became ‘World No 1’ Boxer in latest AIBA World Rankings
About Mary Kom:
► MC Mary Kom became the World No 1 Boxer in 45-48 kg category in the latest International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) World Rankings released in January 2019.
► She was placed by AIBA at top of the charts in the 45-48 kg category weight division with 1700 points.
► Mary became the most successful boxer in world championships history when she claimed the 48kg category top honours in November 2018, her unprecedented sixth world title triumph.
► An Indian Olympic boxer from Manipur, Mary Kom is the only woman to become World Amateur Boxing champion for a record six times.
► She is also the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the seven world championships.
APPOINTMENTS
Gita Gopinath
Why in news: Appointed as the chief economist of the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
About Geeta:
► Geeta Gopinath is an Indian-American Economist, Born in Mysore.
► Prior to her present role as the Chief Economist of IMF, she was serving as Professor of International Studies and Economics at Harvard University.
► She holds a B.A. degree from Lady Shri Ram College, University of Delhi, a Masters in economics from Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi.
► She also completed M.A. at the University of Washington and PhD from Princeton University.
► She is the first woman to occupy the post of chief economist of IMF.
► She is the 11th chief economist of the IMF.
POLITY
Sheikh Hasina
Why in news: Becomes the prime minister of Bangladesh for the fourth time
Key Points:
► Sheikh Hasina was sworn in as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh for the fourth time after her Awami League’s landslide victory in the recent elections.
► President Abdul Hamid administered the oath to her at the Durbar Hall of Bangabhaban.
► Sheikh Hasina became first elected prime minister in 1996 and then again in 2008 and 2014.
AWARDS & HONOURS
Purna Chandra Thapa
Date: 13th January 2018
Why in news: Conferred the honorary rank of ‘General of the Indian Army’
Key Points:
► President Ram Nath Kovind conferred the honorary rank of ‘General of the Indian Army on General Purna Chandra Thapa, chief of the Nepalese army.
► The honour was given for his commendable military prowess and immeasurable contribution in fostering Nepal’s long and friendly association with India.
► Mr. Thapa took command of the country’s army in September last year. He has also worked as the Force Commander at the United Nation’s Disengagement Observer Force.

NATIONAL

SPORTS
Satyarup Siddhanta
Date: 16th January 2019
Why in news: Became first Indian and the youngest man to climb the seven highest peaks and volcanic summits across all continents
About Satyarup Siddhanta: On January 16, 2019, software engineer and mountaineer Satyarup Siddhanta, hailing from Haridevpur in South Kolkata, became the first Indian and youngest man to climb the seven highest peaks and volcanic summits across all continents.
► This feat was obtained after he conquered Antarctica’s highest point, Mount Sidley.
► He achieved the feat at the age of 35 years and 262 days.
► In 2018, Satyarup had scaled the highest volcanic peak in North America, Pico de Orizaba.
► He beat the record of Australia’s Daniel Bull who had done it at the age of 36 years 157 days.
SPORTS
D Gukesh
Date: 16th January 2019
Why in news: Became the youngest Grandmaster in India and second in the world
About D Gukesh:
► On January 15th 2019, a 12-year-old Tamil Nadu boy D Gukesh became the youngest Grandmaster in India and second in the world.
► He achieved this feat by beating D K Sharma at 17th Delhi International Open Chess tournament in Delhi.
► D Gukesh became India’s 59th Grand Master. Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine is the world’s youngest Grandmaster.
► This was D Gukesh’s third Grandmaster norm. His first GM norm was during the Bangkok Open in 2018.
APPOINTMENTS
Manu Sawhney
Date: 18th January 2019
Why in news: Appointed as the ICC’s new chief executive officer
About Manu Sawhney:
► Manu Sawhney, a veteran media professional, has been appointed the next chief executive officer of ICC.
► Sawhney will join the organisation in February and take formal charge of his position in July, once incumbent David Richardson steps down following the World Cup.
► Indian-born Sawhney was the unanimous choice of the nomination committee, which met in London this week to finalise the pick from a shortlist of four candidates.

NATIONAL

SOCIAL
Nahid Afrin
Date: 24th January 2019
Why in news: UNICEF appoints her as the first ‘Youth Advocate’ for the North East region.
Highlights:
► Popular singer Nahid Afrin of Assam has been appointed as the first ‘Youth Advocate’ of the northeastern region by the UNICEF to fight for child rights.
► The UNICEF engages ‘Youth Advocates’ to harness their voice as agents of change in society.
► Nahid made her playback debut in the 2016 Bollywood film ‘Akira’ starring Sonakshi Sinha in the lead.
► She received the best female playback singer award at the Assam state Film Award 2018.
INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Cyril Ramaphosa
Date: 26th January 2019
Why in news: Invited to be the chief guest at Republic Day parade 2019 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi
About Cyril Ramaphosa:
► South African President Cyril Ramaphosa was the chief guest at India’s 70th Republic Day celebrations.
► Mr Ramaphosa was invited to be the chief guest by Prime Minister Narendra Modi when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires.
► This is the second time a South African leader is Chief Guest at Republic Day — Nelson Mandela was the chief guest in 1995. 
TIMELINE-NATIONAL EVENTS

DECEMBER 2018
26th DecemberIndia’s longest rail-road bridge ‘Bogibeel Bridge’ over the Brahmaputra River in Assam to boost defence along the border with China.
27th DecemberNITI Aayog released the Second Delta Ranking of the Aspirational Districts Programme (ADP).
28th DecemberThe Union Cabinet approved the proposal for Amendment in the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences (POCSO) Act, 2012 to make punishment more stringent for committing sexual crimes against children.
JANUARY 2019
1st JanuaryThe Competition Commission of India (CCI) appointed Pramod Kumar Singh as its secretary.
2nd JanuaryPM renamed three islands of Andaman and Nicobar – Ross Island, Neil Island and Havelock Island after Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose.
3rd JanuaryCabinet approved the setting up of a high-level committee for the implementation of clause 6 of the Assam Accord and measures envisaged in the Memorandum of Settlement, 2003.
The Union Cabinet approved the restructuring of existing National Health Agency as “National Health Authority”
5th JanuaryThe Lok Sabha passed Aadhaar and other laws (Amendment Bill) 2018 and Companies Amendment Bill 2018.
‘Swachh Survekshan 2019’ the 4th edition of the annual nationwide cleanliness survey of urban India launched.
8th JanuaryThe Lok Sabha passed the DNA Technology (Use and Application) Regulation Bill, 2019
10th JanuaryThe Union Ministry of Women and Child Development launched an online campaign, ‘Web – Wonder Women’ also known as ‘#www’.
12th JanuarySix states- Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Delhi, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand signed an agreement for Renukaji Dam Multipurpose Project. The project is aimed at meeting the drinking water needs of these states.
14th JanuaryPM released a commemorative silver coin of Rs 350 and stamp on Tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh Ji to mark his 352nd birth anniversary.
15th JanuaryDBT, ICAR sign MoU for cooperation in agricultural biotechnology research and education.
The Constitution (103rd Amendment) Act, 2019, the Act providing 10 percent reservation in government jobs and educational institutions to Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) of General Category.

FEBRUARY 2019

industrialisation.
► Clean Rivers with safe drinking water to all Indians.
► Coastline and ocean waters powering India’s development and growth.
► Space programme – Gaganyaan.
► Making India self-sufficient in food and organic farming.
► Healthy India – Ayushman Bharat Scheme.
► Minimum Government Maximum Governance.
ENERGY
Ladakh connected to National Grid
PM Narendra Modi dedicated the 220 kV Srinagar- Alusteng – Drass- Kargil – Leh Transmission Line to the Nation. With this, Ladakh is now connected to the National Grid.
Key Points:
► The project has been completed by the Power Grid Corporation of India Limited (POWERGRID), a Navratna Company of Government of India, under Ministry of Power.
► It will result in minimizing the massive use of diesel generating sets during winters, and thus will help in protection of beautiful environment, of pristine Ladakh region. This would also give huge boost to the tourism sector and enhance socio-economic development of Ladakh.
SOCIAL
Know My India Programme
Objective: To help the children deal with the post-traumatic stress, provide them life tools to manage their emotions and eliminate disturbing impressions of the past events.
The National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH) is organizing a special workshop for 42 Youth in the age group of 15 to 22 years, who have been victims of communal violence in the past, under the Know My India Programme.
Key Points:
► The programme is being organized in collaboration with the Art of Living Foundation.
► The Youth come from 6 states including Jammu & Kashmir, Manipur, Assam, Chhattisgarh, Bihar and Gujarat along with 10 official mentors.
► It is a unique programme initiated by the NFCH to bring together financially assisted children of the Foundation from different States/Regions of the country to promote oneness, fraternity and national integration.
► The programme is all about familiarization with the environment, family life, social customs, etc. of the people living in different parts of the country; developing understanding of the common historical and cultural heritage of the country.
ART AND CULTURE
Bharat Rang Mahotsav (BRM)
20th edition of Bharat Rang Mahotsav is being held in New Delhi. It is being organized by National School of Drama (NSD).
Key Points:
► It is the annual international theatre festival of India organized by the National School of Drama (NSD).
► It was established two decades ago to stimulate the growth and development of theatre across India.
► Originally a national festival showcasing the work of the most creative theatre workers in India, BRM has evolved to international scope, hosting theatre groups from around the world, and is now the largest theatre festival of Asia.
SOCIAL
Operation Smile
Objective: To trace the missing children and rescue child labourers, Operation Smile-V
was launched on January 1 across Telangana.
Key Points:
► The ‘Operation Smile-V’ initiative launched by Hyderabad Police has helped in rescuing 325 children, who were either working as labourers or begging on the streets, since January 1 this year.
► Operation Smile also called as Operation Muskaan is an initiative of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to rescue/rehabilitate missing children.
WILDLIFE
Elephant corridors
► Asian Elephant Alliance, an umbrella initiative by five NGOs, has come together to secure 96 out of the 101 existing corridors used by elephants across 12 States in India.
Key Points:
► The joint venture aims to secure the 96 remaining elephant corridors, old and new, in the next ten years.
► The alliance joined hands to raise the mammoth sum as money was the main constraint in securing the land.
► NGOs Elephant Family, International Fund for Animal Welfare, IUCN Netherlands and World Land Trust have teamed up with Wildlife Trust of India’s (WTI) in the alliance.
► Elephant corridors are narrow strips of land that connect two large habitats of elephants. Elephant corridors are crucial to reduce animal fatalities due to accidents and other reasons. So fragmentation of forests makes it all the more important to preserve migratory corridors.
COMMUNICATION
GSAT-31 launched
Objective: To provide continuity to operational services on some of the in-orbit satellites in order to help bridge the digital divide in the Indian subcontinent.
Indian Space Research Organisation’s latest communication satellite, GSAT-31 has been successfully launched by Arianespace aboard its launch vehicle Ariane 5 from the spaceport in French Guiana.
Highlights:
► GSAT-31 is a telecommunications satellite designed and manufactured by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).
► India’s 40th communication satellite and derives its heritage from ISRO’s earlier INSAT/GSAT satellite series.
► It will be placed in Geostationary Orbit (36,000 km above the equator) using its onboard propulsion system.
► It has a unique configuration of providing flexible frequency segments and flexible coverage. Hence, it will provide communication services to Indian mainland and islands.
► It will also provide DTH Television Services, connectivity to VSATs for ATM, Stock-exchange, Digital Satellite News Gathering (DSNG) and e-governance applications. The satellite will also be used for bulk data transfer for a host of emerging telecommunication applications.
BANKING
A unified authority for regulating all financial services in IFSCs
The Union Cabinet has approved establishment of a unified authority for regulating all financial services in International Financial Services Centres (IFSCs) in India through International Financial Services Centres Authority Bill, 2019.
Highlights:
► Currently, the banking, capital markets and insurance sectors in IFSC are regulated by multiple regulators, i.e. RBI, SEBI and IRDAI.
► The dynamic nature of business in the IFSCs necessitates a high degree of inter-regulatory coordination. It also requires regular clarifications and frequent amendments in the existing regulations governing financial activities in IFSCs.
► The development of financial services and products in IFSCs would require focussed and dedicated regulatory interventions.
► Therefore, a unified financial regulator for IFSCs in India would provide world class regulatory environment to financial market participants. This also be essential from an ease of doing business perspective.
► The unified authority would also provide the much needed impetus to further development of IFSC in India in-sync with the global best practices.
► A draft Bill has been prepared to set up a separate unified regulator for IFSCs.
ECONOMY
Income-Tax Ombudsman
The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for Abolition of Institution of Income-Tax Ombudsman and Indirect Tax Ombudsman.
Key Points:
► The approval comes in the wake of alternative complaint redressal mechanisms chosen by public and the institution of Ombudsman could not prove to be more effective than regular existing parallel channels of grievance redressal.
► The Institution of Income-Tax Ombudsman was created in the year 2003 to deal with grievances of public related to settlement of complaints relating to Income Tax. However, the Institution of Ombudsman failed to achieve its objectives.
► Ombudsman was established for resolution of complaints relating to the Income Tax Department like an overdue refund.
► It was autonomous and hence independent of the jurisdiction of the Income tax department.
TRADE AND COMMERCE
Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund (AMIF)
The Cabinet Committee of Economic Affairs has given its approval for the creation of a corpus of Rs. 2000 crore for Agri-Market Infrastructure Fund (AMIF).
Key Points:
► The fund will be created with NABARD for development and upgradation of agricultural marketing infrastructure in Gramin Agricultural Markets and Regulated Wholesale Markets.
► AMIF will provide the State/UT Governments subsidized loan for their proposal for developing marketing infrastructure in 585 Agriculture Produce Market Committees (APMCs) and 10,000 Grameen Agricultural Markets (GrAMs).
► States may also access AMIF for innovative integrated market infrastructure projects including Hub and Spoke mode and in Public Private Partnership mode.
SOCIAL
‘Darwaza Band – Part 2’ Campaign
Objective: To encourage behaviour change in men who have toilets but are not using them and to encourage women to stand up for this issue in their villages.
The part two of Darwaza Band campaign which aims to promote the use of toilets and sustain the open defecation free status of villages across India has been launched.
Highlights:
► The campaign has been launched under the aegis of Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin initiative of Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation.
► The campaign symbolically stands for shutting the door for open defecation.
► The Darwaza Band campaign is designed to encourage behaviour change through television ads, radio jingles, outdoor publicity and digital campaigns.
► The campaign is launched in association with World Bank.

INTERNATIONAL

ECONOMY
Aber- the new digital currency
The central banks of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia have launched a common digital currency called ‘Aber’.
Highlights:
► It will be used in financial settlements between the two countries through Blockchains and Distributed Ledgers technologies.
► The use of the currency will be restricted to a limited number of banks in each state.
► In case that no technical obstacles are encountered, economic and legal requirements for future uses will be considered.
► It aims to promote financial inclusion, engender trust in a cashless economy, and make cross-border financial transactions safer, faster and more cost-efficient.
ENVIRONMENT
Giant cavity in Antarctic glacier
NASA scientists have discovered a gigantic cavity, almost 300 metres tall, growing at the bottom of the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.
Highlights:
► The size of a cavity under a glacier plays an important role in melting. As more heat and water get under the glacier, it melts faster.
► Thwaites Glacier is currently responsible for about 4% of global sea level rise.
► The cavity indicates rapid decay of the ice sheet and acceleration in global sea levels due to climate change.
► It will affect the biodiversity and weather phenomenon.
ENVIRONMENT
Polar Vortex
A record-breaking cold wave has swept through the US Midwest, with 22 states hitting sub-zero temperatures.
Highlights:
► Among cities, Chicago dropped to a low of -30°C, slightly above the city’s lowest-ever reading of -32°C from 1985. Minneapolis recorded -32°C.
► The extreme cold has been caused by a blast of Arctic air, which in turn is a result of what is known as a “polar vortex” event.
► The polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles.
► The system has a whirling mass of cold air circulating in the mid- to upper-levels of the atmosphere, flowing counter-clockwise.
► This flow of air helps in containing the colder air within the poles.
ENVIRONMENT
UN global assessment of environmental laws
United Nations (UN) has released in its first ever global assessment of environmental laws.
Highlights:
► The world fares poorly on implementation of environmental laws and regulations despite the fact that 38 times more green laws have been framed and approved in the last four decades.
► As many as 88 countries have adopted the constitutional right to a healthy environment and more than 350 environmental courts and tribunals exist in around 50 countries. But, failure to fully implement and enforce the environmental laws is one of the greatest challenges towards mitigating climate change, reducing pollution and preventing widespread species and habitat loss.
► Underlining the growing resistance to environmental laws, the report also advocated on behalf of the environmental activists and whistleblowers. It said 908 people, including forest rangers, government inspectors, and local activists, were killed in 35 countries between 2002 and 2013 and 197 were killed in 2017 alone.
Indian scenario: India serves as a perfect example to this
issue. India’s people and the environment have been paying the price for their lethargic and poor state of environmental governance. This is reiterated by a high-level committee set up by the environment ministry in 2014.
REPORTS AND SURVEYS
Best Practices in Budget survey
The Transparency International conducted a survey to analyse the best practices followed by the states in the Budget Formulation. The survey was based on 4 parameters which include public disclosure, budgetary process, post-budget fiscal management and efforts to make the budget more transparent and citizen-friendly.
Highlights:
► The top slot in the survey was occupied by Assam. Assam was followed by Andhra Pradesh and Odisha.
► Meghalaya, Manipur and Punjab figured in the bottom list.
► Assam is the only state out of the 29 states and 2 UTs, which has published a Citizens Budget in the public domain. Also, the government of Assam is the only government that has conducted budget awareness campaigns across 17 districts.
ART & CULTURE
Guru Padmasambhava
An international conference and exhibition of rare artefacts about the life and legacy of 8th century Buddhist sage Guru Padmasambhava held in New Delhi.
Key Points:
► Guru Padmasambhava is known as the Second Buddha because he played a seminal role in spreading Buddhism and Buddhist teachings across the Himalayan region including Northeast India, Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet.
► In Tibetan, Guru Padmasambhava is generally referred to as Guru Rinpoche, which means “precious master.”
► The exhibition showcased Thangka paintings, sculptures and photographs portray the life and teachings of the Guru.
► The conference also celebrates the 50 years of diplomatic relations between India and Bhutan.
CONFERENCES AND SUMMITS
Asia LPG Summit
Objective: To bring together academia and private sector to exchange their views on the use of LPG and how pathbreaking initiatives such as ‘Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana’ can bring remarkable socio-economic transformation.
2nd edition of the Asia LPG Summit held in New Delhi.
Key Points:
► The summit was organized by the World LPG Association (WLPGA) in association with major Indian public-sector oil companies (OMCs) Indian Oil, Hindustan Petroleum, and Bharat Petroleum.
► The summit offered a unique opportunity to the global LPG industry to interact with development agencies, NGOs and non-profit organizations who have facilitated last-mile access to LPG for the beneficiaries.
► The World LPG Association (WLPGA) is the authoritative global voice for the liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) industry and the worldwide industry association which represents the interests of the LPG industry globally.
► The WLPGA promotes the use of LPG to foster a cleaner, healthier and more prosperous world.

NATIONAL

TRANSPORT
Indian Railways announced its Second Longest Rail Tunnel
Objective: To improve rail and port connectivity in order to increase trade and commerce
The second longest railway tunnel of the country is coming up near the Balaramapuram station on the Kanyakumari-Thiruvananthapuram railway line.
Highlights:
► The proposed 10.7 km railway line, which includes a 9.02 km long tunnel, connecting the upcoming Vizhinjam International Multipurpose Deepwater Seaport with the Railway network is set to become the second longest railway tunnel in India.
► It will be a single line and will be sufficient for the movement of 9 to 10 rakes daily through the corridor for the next 20 years.
► Pir Panjal tunnel connecting Banihal and Hillar shahabad is the largest rail tunnel in India.
TRANSPORT
River Information System
The second phase of river information system (RIS) was inaugurated between Farakka and Patna to boost cargo movement on Ganga.
Key Points:
► It is a combination of modern tracking equipment related hardware and software designed to optimize traffic and transport processes in inland navigation.
► RIS is being implemented under the overall responsibility of Inland Waterway Authority of India, a statutory body administered by the Ministry of Shipping.
► The system enhances swift electronic data transfer between mobile vessels and shore (Base stations) through advance and real-time exchange of information.
IT
India’s first ‘career portal’
Rajasthan government has launched India’s first ‘career portal’.
Highlights:
► It is aimed at addressing the needs of secondary and higher secondary students for information on scholarships and career choices.
► The portal is expected to help the students take “informed decisions” about their academic and professional pursuits.
► It was launched with the support of the United Nations Children’s Fund.
► The career portal will serve the needs in the educational stream, enabling the students to choose their career path matching with their aspirations, interest, inclination and aptitude.
HEALTHCARE
Mera Aspataal / My Hospital app
Objective: To find a mechanism to gauze patient reaction to the services offered in the hospital and help improve the services by taking corrective measures
Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has launched the “Mera Aspataal / My Hospital” application.
Highlights:
► The ranking of Hospitals in the Mera Aspataal Application for the facilities is done on the basis of Patient Satisfaction Score (PSS).
► The PSS is calculated as a weighted average of the number of satisfied and dissatisfied patients based on the feedback collected in a particular facility.
► The ranking keeps changing every month based on the feedback received from the patients.
► National Institute Ranking Framework of Ministry of Human Resource Development, AIIMS, Delhi has been ranked as number one institute.
► The patients’ feedback including, areas requiring improvement are shared with the respective State Governments
and Central Government hospitals for ensuring remedial follow-up actions.
HEALTHCARE
National Deworming Day (NDD)
Date: 10th February 2019
The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is conducting its eighth round of National Deworming Day (NDD).
Key Points:
► NDD is observed bi-annually on 10th February and 10th August in all states and UTs followed by mop-up activities.
► This year the NDD is being conducted on 8th February and mop up day on the 14th February.
► The National Deworming Day is a single fixed-day approach to treating intestinal worm infections in all children aged 1- 19 years.
► It is a cost-effective program at a scale that continues to reach crores of children and adolescents with deworming benefits through a safe medicine Albendazole.
TRADE & COMMERCE
E-cocoon app
Ministry of Textiles launched a mobile application ‘e-cocoon’ for quality certification in the silkworm seed sector.
Highlights:
► It will help quality certification in silkworm sector.
► The application will be used by the Seed Analysts and Seed Officers nominated under Central Seed Act for system and product certification through real-time reporting.
► India is the second largest producer of silk after China and the largest consumer of silk.
► India’s silk production capacity is expected to reach about 38,500 tonnes by 2020 from the current level of 32,000 tonnes.
ENVIRONMENT
Asiatic Lion Conservation Project
The Centre and the Gujarat government have announced Rs. 97.85 crore Asiatic Lion Conservation Project
Key Points:
► Key aspects of the conservation project include undertaking “habitat improvement” measures, making more sources of water available, creating a wildlife crime cell, and a task force for the Greater Gir region. ‘Greater Gir’ that includes, other than the existing Gir National Park, sanctuaries in Girnar, Pania and Mitiyala.
► It would also involve having in place a GPS-based tracking system, which would look at surveillance tracking, animal and vehicle tracking. There would also be an automated sensor grid that would have magnetic sensors, movement sensors and infrared heat sensors.
► A key outcome of the project is to have a dedicated veterinary institute, lion ambulances and back-up stocks of vaccines that may be required.
TRANSPORT
Sela Tunnel
Date: 11th February 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone for the strategically important Sela Tunnel Project in Arunachal Pradesh.
Highlights:
► The project, costing Rs 687 crore is being constructed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) and would be completed in the next three years.
► Once the 12.04-km tunnel is complete it will give a fillip to the overall development of the area as it will provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang and other areas.
► It will also reduce the travelling time from Tezpur to Tawang by more than an hour and boost tourism and related economic activities in the region.
► Till now, the entry to the area was only through the 13,700-
feet Sela Pass, which is covered in snow in the winters making the movement of vehicles difficult.
‘GIVEITUP’ CAMPAIGN
Date: 12th February 2019
As on 06.02.2019, nearly 1.04 crore LPG consumers have voluntarily surrendered their LPG subsidy under ‘GiveItUp’ campaign.
Key Points:
► ‘Give it Up’ scheme encourages well-to-do households to voluntarily give up their liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) subsidy so that it could be targeted to the poor who remain reliant on polluting cooking fuels such as wood, dung, crop residues and coal.
► The money surrendered under this movement will be utilised for poor to get LPG connection in rural as well as in urban areas who are still using firewood for cooking.
DEFENCE
Defence Innovation Hubs
Date: 12th February 2019
The Defence Innovation Organisation set up under Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) framework has announced setting up of two Defence Innovation Hubs (DIHs) in Tamil Nadu (Coimbatore) and Maharashtra (Nashik).
Key Points:
► The Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) framework of the Government envisages setting up and managing independent Defence Innovation Hubs (DIHs).
► These DIHs will serve as platforms where innovators can get information about needs and feedback from the Services directly and create solutions for India’s major defence platforms. This structure is also geared towards attracting more innovators to work for the defence sector in India.
► The Framework to Fund Defence Innovation Hubs under iDEX is approved by the Board of Defence Innovation Organisation (DIO).
SOCIAL
Akshaya Patra Foundation
Date: 12th February 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently unveiled a ceremonial plaque to mark the serving of “3rd billionth meal” by Akshaya Patra Foundation at Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir campus.
Key Points:
► Funded by International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Akshaya Patra is a Bengaluru-based not-for-profit organisation that works with the government on mid-day meal schemes. It has a state-of-the-art kitchen in Vrindavan.
► Today, Akshaya Patra is the world’s largest (not-for-profit run) Mid-Day Meal Programme serving wholesome food every school day to over 1.76 million children from 14,702 schools across 12 states in India.
DEFENCE
DRDO’s ‘Dare to Dream’ contest
Date: 12th February 2019
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has launched ‘Dare to Dream’, a contest to encourage startups and individuals to come up with innovative defence and aerospace technologies.
Key Points:
► Applicants are invited to send innovative, workable proposals that can impact various related domains. The winning entries, which should specify the plan of executing it into a prototype, stand to get one of five prizes ranging from Rs. 3 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh in two categories.
► The military R&D organisation has asked for solutions in the areas of Artificial Intelligence, Autonomous Systems, Cybersecurity, Hypersonic Technologies, Smart Materials, Quantum Computing, and Soldier as a System.
HEALTHCARE
e-AUSHADHI portal
Date: 14th February 2019
The Ministry of AYUSH launched the e-AUSHADHI portal for online licensing of Ayurveda, Siddha, Unani and Homoeopathy drugs and related matters.
Key Points:
► The timelines will be fixed for processing of application through this portal with SMS and e-mail status updates at each step of the process.
► The initiative is a milestone towards e-governance, ease of doing business and Make in India.
► The portal will aid the licensing authority, manufactures and consumers.
► It will provide real-time information of the licensed manufactures and their products, cancelled and spurious drugs, contact details of the concerned authority for specific grievances.

INTERNATIONAL

REPORTS AND SURVEYS
International Intellectual Property Index 2019
U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Global Innovation Policy Center (GIPC) has released The International IP Index 2019.
Highlights:
► The Index evaluates the IP infrastructure in each economy based on 45 unique indicators, which are critical to the growth of effective IP systems.
► The indicators encompass 8 categories of IP protection: patents, copyrights, trademarks, trade secrets, commercialization of IP assets, enforcement, systemic efficiency, and membership and ratification of international treaties.
► The 2019 Index demonstrates the close correlation between effective IP protection and economic growth, global competitiveness, and the creation of 21st century knowledge-based economies.
► India is placed at rank 36th this year. In 2018, India was ranked 44 out of 50 countries. In the first edition of the report in 2014, India had ranked last in the ranking of 25 countries.
► Among major global economies, most substantial movement can be seen from India, which has surged almost 20% and climbed eight places in the IP Index rankings from 44th to 36th.
ENVIRONMENT
‘India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative’ to combat Marine Pollution
Date: 11th February 2019
Objective: To combat marine pollution which is one of the fastest growing environmental concerns.
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change signed a Letter of Intent (LoI) with the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to launch the ‘India-Norway Marine Pollution Initiative’.
Highlights:
► The initiative will seek to support local governments in implementing sustainable waste management practices.
► To develop systems for collecting and analyzing information about sources and scope of marine pollution and improve private sector investment.
► Support will also be directed towards beach clean-up efforts, awareness-raising campaigns and pilot project using plastic waste as fuel substitution for coal in cement production and developing frameworks for deposit schemes.
POLITY
Macedonia signs accord to join NATO
Macedonia has signed accession papers with NATO. The signing of accession papers allows Macedonia to take part in NATO ministerial meetings as an invitee.
Key Points:
► To acquire full membership, all 29 current members must ratify the accession protocol.
► Russia has raised concerns against Macedonia becoming part of NATO. Russia has always accused NATO of destabilising the Balkans by pushing Macedonia and Montenegro to join NATO.
► NATO is an intergovernmental military alliance headquartered at Brussels, Belgium.
DEFENCE
Exercise Cutlass Express
The annual multinational maritime exercise ‘CUTLASS EXPRESS – 19’ was held recently.
Key Points:
► It is an exercise designed to assess and improve combined maritime law enforcement capacity, promote national and regional security in East Africa as well as information sharing, planning and operating.
► Sponsored by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and is conducted by U.S. Naval Forces Africa.
► The aim of the exercise is to improve law enforcement capacity, promote regional security and progress interoperability between the armed forces of the participating nations.
► The Indian Navy was represented in the exercise through INS Trikand.
AWARDS AND HONOURS
BAFTA Awards 2019
Date: 12th February 2019
72nd British Academy of Film and Television Arts Awards ceremony, popularly referred to as BAFTA Awards 2018 was held on 10th February 2019 in Royal Albert Hall, London, United Kingdom.
Highlights:
► Netflix drama ‘Roma’ won the best film prize along with director, Alfonso Cuaron and co-stars Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz won in their respective categories.
► With seven BAFTAs, The Favourite by the director Yorgos Lanthimos emerged as the top winner on the awards night.
► BAFTA 2019 Winners list:
► Best Film — Roma
► Best Director — Alfonso Cuaron (Roma)
► Best Actress — Olivia Colman (The Favourite)
► Best Actor — Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody)
AWARDS AND HONOURS
2019 Grammy Awards
Date: 12th February 2019
The 61st Annual Grammy Awards Ceremony to recognize the best recording, compositions and artists of the eligibility year (1st October 2017 to 30th September 2018) was held at Staples Center in Los Angeles, USA.
Highlights:
► Childish Gambino and Kacey Musgraves won the most awards (4 each).
► On 8th February 2019, Dolly Parton was conferred with the ‘MusiCares Person of the Year.’
► For the first time both “Song of the Year” and “Record of the year” was awarded to a rap song, “This is America”.
► List of Winners:
► Album of the Year — Golden Hour by Kacey Musgraves
► Record of the Year — “This is America”, Childish Gambino
► Best New Artist — Dua Lipa
► Best Rap Album — Invasion of Privacy by Cardi B
CONFERENCES AND SUMMITS
LAWASIA Human Rights Conference
Date: 12th February 2019
The first LAWASIA Human Rights Conference was organised by LAWASIA, in association with the Bar Association of India recently.
Highlights:
► The conference aims to provide a unique opportunity for lawyers and associated professional
members to exchange insights and expertise on topics of significant importance to all.
► Theme: “State Power, Business and Human Rights: Contemporary Challenges”.
► The conference explored a wide range of human rights issues of relevance in the Asia Pacific region.
► LAWASIA is a regional association of lawyers, judges, jurists and legal organisations and it advocates for the interests and concerns of the Asia Pacific legal profession.
SOCIAL
WHO and ITU issued new standard for Music Devices
Date: 15th February, 2019
Objective: To prevent hearing loss among 1.1 billion young people
Nearly 50% of people aged 12-35 years – or 1.1 billion young people – are at risk of hearing loss due to prolonged and excessive exposure to loud sounds, including music they listen to through personal audio devices. Ahead of World Hearing Day (3 March), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) have issued a new international standard for the manufacture and use of these devices, which include smartphones and audio players, to make them safer for listening.
Key points:
► The motto behind this move is to avert hearing loss among 1.1 billion young people who use musical devices most often. As 50% of the people who lie in age group of 12-35 are at risk of getting deaf due to prolong and immoderate exposure to loud sounds, they listen via their music devices.
► It is estimated that by 2050, around 900 million people will have loss of hearing.
► This new standard for music device was develop under WHO’s “Make Listening safe” initiative, drawing on the latest evidences and consultations. These standards will recommend Sound allowance function, Personalized profile, Volume limiting options, general information and guidance.
DEFENCE
India to procure 72,400 Assault Rifles from US
Date: 15th February, 2019
Objective: To overhaul the army’s inventory of frontline rifles
Indian Govt. has signed a contract with a US firm for 72,400 assault rifles at a cost of around Rs 700 crore. The rifles, being used by US forces as well as several other European countries are being bought under the fast-track procurement procedure. The Indian Armed Forces are currently equipped with 5.56×45 mm INSAS Rifle. There is an urgent requirement of replacing the in-service 5.56X45 mm INSAS Rifle with a 7.62X51mm Assault Rifle which is compact, robust, and modern in technology and simple to maintain in field conditions. Assault Rifle will be used by the army troops deployed along the 3,600 km China’s border. As the contract is made under Fast-Track Procurement (FTP), the assault rifles will be made and supplied within a year. Around 66,000 out of 72400 rifles are for the Indian Army and rest 2000 for Indian Navy and 4000 for the Indian Air Force.
BIODIVERSITY
A new snake species “Hebiuslacrima” discovered
Date:15th February, 2019
Recently the Herpetologists have discovered a non-venomous snake species in Arunachal Pradesh. The Snake has been named as “Crying Keelback (Hebiuslacrima)” due to the presence of black spots below the snake’s eye which is taken as an allusion for crying.The 48 mm long Snake is found in “jhum” (shifting) cultivation areas in the Basar area West siang district of Arunachal Pradesh. The Discovery of snake is published
in a peer reviewed journal for animal taxonomy known as “Zootaxa”.
SOCIAL
National Minimum Wage to be Rs. 9,750 p.m.
Date: 16th February, 2019
Objective: To improve financial condition of labourers
An expert committee led by Anoop Satpath appointed by government suggested Rs. 9,750 per month or Rs. 375 per day as National Minimum Wage (NMW) for a worker. The Present NMW is Rs. 4,576. National minimum wage has been proposed at various regional level in the range of Rs.8,892 to Rs. 11,622 per month, with supplementary house rent allowance of Rs. 1,430 per month for urban workers. The recommendations could form the basis for a national minimum wage covering all workers irrespective of skills, sectors, occupations and rural-urban areas. According to Committee’s formula, a family with 3.2 units of consumption requires food of Rs.2400, minimum 50 gm of protein and 30 gm of fat every day. The Labour ministry has proposed a statutory minimal wage which will be calculated by NMW calculator to address varying economic conditions at state and regional levels through a Code on Wages Bill.
TRANSPORT
India’s fastest train Vande Bharat Express flagged off
Date: 16th February, 2019 The semi-high-speed Train 18 or Vande Bharat Express was flagged off by Prime Minister NarendraModi on 15th February 2019, from the New Delhi railway station. Vande Bharat Express will travel from Delhi to Varanasi in 9 hours and 45 minutes, with stoppage points at Kanpur and Prayagraj.Vande Bharat Express can run up to a maximum speed of 160 km/hour. The train had been produced indigenously at the Integral Coach Factory, Chennai in 18 months.

INTERNATIONAL

POLITY
India withdraws ‘Most Favoured Nation’ status from Pakistan
Date: 16th February, 2019 India has withdrawn ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) to Pakistan just a day after the terror attack in Pulwama, Jammu & Kashmir in which 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CPRF) personnel lost their lives.
Key Points:
Most Favoured Nation’ or MFN is a status or level of treatment accorded by one state to another in international trade to ensure non-discriminatory trade between all partner countries of the WTO.
► MFN status makes sure that any country with this status avoids any disadvantageous situation in comparison to the other partners in trade.
► It was in 1996 India granted MFN status to Pakistan. Decades of conflict, mistrust and war has resulted, withdrawal of Pakistan from in the MFN status.
ECONOMY
Indianmoney.com Group to enter Insurance Business
Date: 18th February, 2019
Objective: To operate as insurance broker
IndianMoneyInsurance.com, a subsidiary of the India-based IndianMoney.com Group, has obtained the insurance broking licence from the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI) to foray into insurance broking business. Now, the company is planning to start its online insurance brokerage business. The company will recruit around
2,000 staff by the end of this year to support the business. Additionally, the company has set aside approximately INR400m ($5.06m) to be invested on establishing insurance purchase 500 centers across India.

INTERNATIONAL

ECONOMY
India boosts Customs Duty to 200% on goods imported from Pakistan
Date: 18th February, 2019
Objective: To strike Pakistan’s exports to India On 16th February, 2019, India with immediate effect has boosted the Customs Duty on all the goods imported from Pakistan to 200% has followed day after India repealed Most Famous Nation (MFN) status from Pakistan. This punitory move followed by the Pulwama Terrorist attack on 14th February, 2019 that led to the death of 40 CRPF (Central Reserve Police Force).
Pakistan’s exports to India were $381 million in the April-Nov period and for overall FY18, it was $489 million. This 200% tariff rate is higher than the average bound rate of 113.5% for agriculture products and 34.6% for non-agriculture products. The MFN applied rates are 32.8% and 10.7%, respectively for farm and non-farm products.
BIODIVERSITY
106 Coastal and Marine sites under National Wildlife Action Plan
Date: 18th February, 2019
Objective: To conserve the endangered species of marine and coastal areasThe Centre has identified over 106 coastal and marine sites as conservation reserves under its National Wildlife Action Plan for 2017-2031. In this regard a biennial report has been released by the government.
Key highlights of the report
► As per the second biennial update report (BUR) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, submitted to the UN body on climate change in December 2018.
► India is encouraging participation of local communities in governance by recognising the conservation reserves.
► India is implementing measures to sustainably harness the potential of blue economy while building the climate resilience of the ecosystems and local coastal communities.
► According to report, India has been successful to sustain the ecosystem when it is at its edge of disappearing at an alarming rate. Also it will further conserve the coastal and marine ecosystems from the impact of climate change.
► Both the coastal and marine areas provide fish protein to population and contribute to global food baskets, thus providing valuable foreign exchange in turn.
POLITY
Rajasthan govt to scrap minimum education qualifi-cation for Civic polls
Date: 19th February, 2019
Objective: To end the minimum education criterion for panchayat and civic polls candidates.
The Rajasthan Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and the Rajasthan Municipality (Amendment) Bill, 2019 have been passed in the Rajasthan Assembly in order to do away with the currently existing minimum education criterion for panchayat and civic poll candidates.
Key points:
► As per the Rajasthan Panchayati Raj Amendment Bill 2015, a candidate must have passed class X for municipal elections, class VIII for panchayat polls for the post of sarpanch and class X for Zila Parishad elections.
► It was stated to be against the basic principles of the constitution and was potentially capable of creating a division in the society on the basis of education.
ART & CULTURE
Himachal Pradesh makes Sanskrit as the second official language
Date: 20th February, 2019
Objective: To bring Sanskrit language in main stream
Himanchal Pradesh has passed a bill to make Sanskrit the second official language of the state.
Key Points:
i Mahender Singh Thakur, the Irrigation and Public Health minister introduced the bill Himachal Pradesh Official Language Bill, 2019 (Amendment).
ii. The bill was introduced in the absence of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur and was passed without discussion.
iii. With this, Himachal Pradesh became the second state to adopt Sanskrit as the second official language of the state after Uttarakhand.

NATIONAL

EDUCATION
Operation Digital Board
Date: 22nd February 2019
Objective: To convert a classroom into a digital classroom and provide e-resources at any time and at any place to students.
Union Human Resource Development Ministry has launched Operation Digital Board to leverage technology in order to boost quality education in the country.
Highlights:
► The Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) recently passed a resolution to take steps towards Operation Digital Board on the lines of Operation Blackboard of 1987.
► The idea of Operation Digital Board is aimed at providing better digital education in all schools.
► This will offer new opportunities and new ways of teaching and learning to schools.
► Operation Digital Board would be launched with the involvement of the Central and State governments, CSIR and community support.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG)
Date: 22nd February 2019
Navratna Defence PSU Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL) has unveiled its new product, the Atmospheric Water Generator (AWG), an innovative solution to meet the ever-increasing need for drinking water worldwide.
Key Points:
The Atmospheric Water Generator is being manufactured by BEL in collaboration with CSIR-IICT and MAITHRI, a start-up company based in Hyderabad.
► BEL’s Atmospheric Water Generator employs a novel technology to extract water from the humidity present in the atmosphere and purify it.
► It uses heat exchange for condensing the atmospheric moisture to produce pure, safe and clean potable water.
► The AWG comes with a Mineralisation Unit, which is used to add minerals which are required to make the water potable.
► The AWG is configurable in static and mobile (vehicular) versions and is available in 30 litres/day, 100 litres/day, 500 litres/day and 1,000 litres/day capacities.
HEALTHCARE
HOPE Portal
Date: 22nd February 2019
National Accreditation Board for Hospitals and Healthcare Organizations (NABH) has revamped Entry-Level Certification Process of hospitals to make it simpler, digital, faster and user-friendly.
Key Points:
► The revamped certification process is driven through a new portal called HOPE – Healthcare Organizations’ Platform for Entry-Level-Certification.
► It is an online platform for smooth and secure registration which provides a self-explanatory questionnaire to be filled by the HCO/SHCOs.
► It ensures quality at nascent stages by enrolling a wide range of hospitals across the country.
► HOPE also enables them to comply with quality protocols, improve patient safety and the overall healthcare facility of the organization.
REPORTS AND SURVEYS
Environment
Date: 22nd February 2019
According to a Parliamentary committee report, Green India Mission, aimed at “protecting, restoring and enhancing India’s diminishing forest cover and responding to climate change” is grossly underfunded.
Highlights:
► The scheme is proposed for 10 years with an outlay of Rs 60,000 crore. During 2017-18, Rs 47.8 crore has been allocated for the scheme which is grossly insufficient as the committed liability for 2015-16 and 2016-17 is Rs 89.53 crore which is much more than the budget allocated.
► The panel also raises concerns about the targets set by GIM on India’s Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) submitted to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
► According to the NDC, India has a target to sequester 2.523 billion tonnes of carbon by 2020-30. Our current forest cover is 75 million hectares and to meet our target of carbon sequestration, 30 million hectares of additional land would be required for forests. The report also found that in 2015-16 and 2016-17, the GIM missed its targets by 34%. Instead of the targeted 67,956 hectares, only 44,749 hectares of land got green cover.
► The committee also points out that the afforestation done under the mission was only aimed at increasing tree count without considering the soil and weather conditions.
ENVIRONMENT
Waste to Wonder Park
Date: 22nd February 2019
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated a new park which houses the replicas of Seven Wonders of the World at Sarai Kale Khan.
Highlights:
► The park has been built by South Delhi Municipal Corporation (SDMC)
► The park sets an example of the creation of ‘wealth from waste’.
► Scrap from automobile parts and other metal waste such as fans, rods, iron sheets, nut-bolts, bicycle & bike parts — weighing 150 ton — was used to create the replicas of the seven wonders of the world viz. Taj Mahal, the Great Pyramid of Giza, the Eiffel Tower, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer statue, Rome’s Colosseum, and New York’s Statue of Liberty.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Drone Olympics Competition
Date: 22nd February 2019
Objective: To encourage the UAV industry to connect with potential buyers and business partners in the country and also provide an opportunity for the Armed Forces to assess the capabilities of UAVs.
First ever ‘Drone Olympics’ competition for UAVs was held recently at Air Force Station, Bengaluru alongside the Aero India exhibition.
Key Points:
► It was organized by the Ministry of Defence.
► The competition was held in two categories: Hybrid Designs and Fixed VTOL, which was further classified into two weight categories- 4 kg and 4-7 kg. Besides there was also UAV formation flying challenge and weight-drop challenge.
► The prize money for the three competition categories ranged between Rs 50,000 and Rs 3 lakh.
► Theme – ‘The Runway to a Billion Opportunities’
ENVIRONMENT
Super-Efficient Air Condition-ing programme
Date: 22nd February 2019
Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) has launched its Super-Efficient Air Conditioning Programme for residential and institutional consumers in the BSES area.
Key Points:
► Under the programme, Super-Efficient Air Conditioners are distributed. They are 40% more efficient than the 3-star ACs currently available in the market (ISEER 3.8).
► Besides promoting energy efficiency, the Super-Efficient AC programme will also help reduce the peak power demand in South and West Delhi by 22MW, enabling the two organisations to harness synergies to promote energy security and sustainability.
► The programme directly addresses the prospect of the nearly four-fold increase in energy consumption from buildings and cooling appliances in India by 2032.
IT
Param Shivay supercomputer
Date: 22nd February 2019
The ‘Param Shivay’ Supercomputer has been built under the National Supercomputing Mission at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Banaras Hindu University (BHU).
Key Points:
► The ‘Param Shivay’ will include 1 petabyte secondary storage.
► India’s first supercomputer called PARAM 8000 was launched in 1991.
► The problems of common man related to relevant social issues such as irrigation schemes, traffic management, health, an affordable drug will be taken care of with this supercomputer centre.
► Scientists, teachers and research students, government research laboratories in adjacent engineering colleges to IIT-BHU can avail benefits of the projects.
ENERGY
RUCO (Repurpose Used Cooking Oil) initiative
Date: 23rd February 2019
Dehradun-based Indian Institute of Petroleum has successfully finished a pilot test to convert used cooking oil into bio-aviation turbine fuel (Bio-ATF), which can be blended with conventional ATF and used as aircraft fuel.
Key Points:
► The test assumes importance as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has launched the Repurpose Cooking Oil (RUCO) initiative to collect and convert used cooking oil into biofuel.
► The RUCO initiative will enable the collection and conversion of used cooking oil to biodiesel.
► Under this initiative, 64 companies at 101 locations have been identified to enable collection of used cooking oil. For instance: McDonald’s has already started converting used cooking oil to biodiesel from 100 outlets in Mumbai and Pune.
► FSSAI wants businesses using more than 100 litres of oil for frying, to maintain a stock register and ensure that UCO is handed over to only registered collection agencies.
IT
India to launch a public DNS server
Date: 23rd February 2019
► The government will soon launch a public domain name system (DNS) server that could protect users from any malware or phishing with enhanced
security features as well as faster response time.
► The new platform is an upgraded version with enhanced inbuilt security features compared to the earlier created by the National Informatics Centre (NIC) and has a capability to host as many as 5 million users that can be scaled up further if needed.
► The new DNS will be placed across the country to minimise outage and would be available round the clock. Users can simply use it by typing the IP number into the Internet browser.
SOCIAL
EVM is ‘information’ under the Right to Information Act
Date: 25th February 2019
An Electronic Voting Machine is “information” under the Right to Information Act and can be demanded by an applicant from the Election Commission of India on payment of Rs 10, the Central Information Commission has ruled.
Key Points:
► The machine is covered under the definition of “information” and can be demanded from the ECI.
► As per Section 2(f) and 2(i) of the RTI Act, the definition of ‘information’ and ‘record’ also includes ‘any model or any sample’ held by a public authority.
► Section 2(f) of the RTI Act defines ‘Information’ as any material in any form, including records, documents, memos, e-mails, opinions, advice, press releases, circulars, orders, logbooks, contracts, reports, papers, samples, models, data material held in any electronic form and information relating to any private body which can be accessed by a public authority.
IT
Rail Drishti Dashboard
Date: 25th February 2019
Ministry of Railways launched Rail Drishti dashboard, encompassing all the digitisation efforts in Indian Railways and promoting transparency and accountability.
Highlights:
► It brings information from various sources on a single platform and gives access to key statistics and parameters to every citizen of the country.
► It has been developed by the Centre for Railway Information System (CRIS).
► It is very well optimized and user friendly so that those in remote villages can also access and know everything about railways.
► It can be accessed using desktop/laptop or a mobile device such as phone or tablet.
IT
Mobile App “cVIGIL”
Date: 25th February 2019
Election Commission of India launches Mobile App “cVIGIL” to enable citizens to report on the violation of election code of conduct
Key Points:
► cVIGIL will allow anyone in the election-bound state to report violations of Model Code of Conduct (MCC).
► By using this app, citizens can immediately report on incidents of misconduct within minutes of having witnessed them and without having to rush to the office of the returning officer to lodge a complaint.
► The vigilant citizen has to click a picture or record a video of up to two minutes duration of the scene of violations of the model code.
► The photo or video is to be uploaded on the app.
► The automated location mapping will be done by the app using the Geographic Information System.
► After its successful submission through the app, the vigilant citizen gets a Unique ID to track and receive the follow-up updates on her or his mobile.
► A citizen can report many incidents in this manner and will get a unique id for each report for follow up updates.
► The identity of the complainant will be kept confidential.
TRADE & COMMERCE
New items added to MSP for minor forest produce scheme
Date: 26th February 2019
The Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) has added nine minor forest produce (MFP) items to its minimum support price (MSP) for MFP scheme. The total number of MFPs covered under the list is 49.
Key Points:
► The MSP for MFP scheme was started by the Centre in 2013 to ensure fair and remunerative prices to MFP gatherers.
► The scheme is designed as a social safety net for improvement of livelihood of MFP gatherers by providing them a fair price for the MFPs they collect.
► The scheme has been started with the objective of providing fair price to MFP gatherers, enhance their income level and ensure sustainable harvesting of MFPs.
► The MSP scheme seeks assurance of buying at a particular price, primary processing, storage, transportation etc while ensuring sustainability of the resource base.
ARTS & CULTURE
World’s largest Bhagavad Gita
Date: 27th February 2019
The Prime Minister recently inaugurated the world’s largest and heaviest Bhagavad Gita at the Delhi ISKCON temple.
Key facts:
► The book measures 2.8 meters by 2 meters and has 670 pages and weights at 800 kg.
► It is also the world’s largest sacred book.
► The book has been printed in Milan, Italy, on YUPO synthetic paper so as to make it untearable and waterproof.
► The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), known colloquially as the Hare Krishna movement, is a worldwide confederation of more than 400 temples and runs 100 vegetarian restaurants and a wide variety of community-serving projects.

INTERNATIONAL

HEALTHCARE
Global Health Expenditure Database (GHED)
Date: 23rd February 2019
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new report on global health expenditure. The Global Health Expenditure Database (GHED) provides internationally comparable data on health spending for close to 194 countries, since 2000. Health spending consists of government expenditure, out-of-pocket payments (people paying for their own care), and sources such as voluntary health insurance, employer-provided health programmes, as well as activities by non-profits.
Highlights:
► According to the report, global spending on health has increased in low- and middle-income countries by 6% and in high income countries by 4%. However, worryingly, people are still paying too much out of their own pockets.
► While the total amount of aid that middle-income countries receive has increased, aid per capita has fallen.
► According to the report, the roles of external and domestic funding are evolving; however, external funding is declining in middle-income countries.
► There are huge variations across countries in public spending on primary health care, which is intended to give people access to quality care, including access to medicines, as needed.
► The data indicates that nearly half of donor funds for health and about 20% of public spending on health went to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.
ENVIRONMENT
The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture report 2019
Date: 23rd February 2019
The State of the World’s Biodiversity for Food and
Agriculture report 2019 has been published by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Highlights:
► Global biodiversity — the variety of life at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels — is under severe threat.
► The proportion of livestock breeds at risk of extinction is increasing, and plant diversity in farmers’ fields is decreasing.
► Many species of pollinators, natural enemies of pests, soil organisms and wild food species are vanishing due to the destruction and degradation of habitats, overexploitation and pollution.
► In many parts of the world, biodiverse agricultural landscapes are being replaced by monoculture.
► Forest loss represents a major global threat to biodiversity. Though rates of loss have decreased (and gone into moderate reverse in some regions), the global forest area continues to decline.
► The main cause of deforestation is conversion to agriculture.
► With the decline in forests, wild foods, an important source of food for many rural households, are vanishing.
AWARDS & HONOURS
India-based documentary ‘Period. End Of Sentence’ wins Oscar
Date: 25th February 2019
Creating history at the 91st Academy Awards, India-based documentary ‘Period. End of Sentence’ has won the Oscar award in the Best Documentary Short Subject category.
Key Points:
► The movie revolves around the story of Indian women fighting the stigma surrounding menstruation and hence, beginning to manufacture sanitary pads.
► The film directed by award-winning Iranian-American filmmaker Rayka Zehtabchi, follows girls and women in Hapur in northern India and their experience with the installation of a pad machine in their village.
► It has Guneet Monga as one of the producers. Guneet was also the producer of Masaan and Lunchbox.
SPACE
NASA New Horizons
Date: 26th February 2019
NASA has captured the sharpest-ever image of Ultima Thule. The new image shows circular pieces of terrain, deep pits and other details that were previously elusive.
Key Points:
► Ultima Thule is located in the Kuiper belt in the outermost regions of the Solar System, beyond the orbit of Neptune.
► It measures approximately 30 km in diameter and is irregularly shaped.
► Ultima Thule has a reddish colour, probably caused by exposure of hydrocarbons to sunlight over billions of years.
► Ultima Thule belongs to a class of Kuiper belt objects called the “cold classicals”, which have nearly circular orbits with low inclinations to the solar plane.
SPACE
Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope
Date: 26th February 2019
New NASA mission Wide Field InfraRed Survey Telescope (WFIRST) could find more than 1,000 planets.
Key Points:
► With 300-megapixel Wide Field Instrument, the telescope will be able to map the Milky Way and other galaxies 100 times faster than the famous Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched in 1990.
► The telescope will scan a small piece of the universe – about two square degrees – at a resolution higher than any similar mission in the past.
► Nasa’s new telescope could find as many as 1,400 new planets outside our solar system, enabling humans to find the largest, deepest and clearest picture of the universe as well as the existence of extraterrestrial life.
► WFIRST is a NASA infrared space observatory currently under development.
► The mission is scheduled for launch in the mid-2020s.
REPORTS AND SURVEYS
Warming imperils clouds that deter ‘hothouse’ conditions
Date: 27th February 2019
A study by California Institute of Technology has found that Marine clouds that protect us from hothouse Earth conditions by reflecting sunlight back into space could break up and vanish if CO2 in the atmosphere triples. Computer modelling shows that marine stratus clouds could disappear if atmospheric CO2 levels climb high enough, raising global temperatures.
Highlights:
► Stratocumulus clouds cover about 20% of subtropical oceans, mostly near western seaboards such as the coasts of California, Mexico and Peru. When they disappear, Earth warms dramatically, by about eight degrees Celsius — in addition to the global warming that comes from enhanced greenhouse concentrations alone.
► A temperature increase of that magnitude would melt polar ice and lift sea levels tens of metres.
► The last time the planet was that hot, some 50 million years ago during the Eocene Epoch, crocodiles roamed the Arctic. Even half that much warming would overwhelm humanity’s capacity to adapt.

ISSUES
EMPLOYMENT
Unemployment rate at four-decade high in 2017-18: NSSO Survey
Date: 1st February, 2019
As per the National Sample Survey Office’s (NSSO’s) periodic labour force survey (PLFS) of the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation, India’s unemployment rate hit a 45-year-high of 6.1 % in 2017-18. According to the report, which has not been made public yet, the unemployment rate was at its highest level since 1972-73. The latest survey on unemployment in India, which is yet to come in public domain, is the first comprehensive survey on employment conducted by a government agency after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced demonetisation in November 2016. According to a report mentioned in Business Standard, unemployment was higher in urban areas (7.8%) as compared to 5.3% in rural areas of the country. For educated rural females, the unemployment rate was between 9.7% and 15.2% during 2004-05 to 2011-12, which rose to 17.3 % in 2017-18. In case of rural educated males, the joblessness rate surged to 10.5 % in 2017-18 from 3.5-4.4% between 2004-05 and 2011-12.
ENVIRONMENT
Global warming’s impact on El Nino in 2019
Date: 1st February, 2019
As per the report of the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), El Nino between December 2018 and February 2019 is found to be about 75-80 %. The Ministry of Earth Sciences also pointed out that the year begins the chill that covered large parts of India are likely to dissipate. The temperature is likely to be above normal. El Nino is one factor of this happening. We have been witnessing above normal temperatures every day. According to the report each passing year since 2015 has recorded high temperatures. From 2015 to 2017, every year was recorded to be the hottest. According to report of Meteorological Department of India, “In an El Nino year, summers and winters witness above normal temperatures.”
El Nino is a climatic chain characterized by high air pressure in the Western Pacific and low air pressure in the eastern. El Nino occurs once in every 15 years and results in heavy drought, flood, dust and snow storm resulting in millions of dollar loss to the public in Tropical Pacific region. According to certain reports, El Nino is forecasted to give a rise in vector-borne diseases, including those spread by mosquitoes, in Central and South America. On the basis of current research it is also said that drought caused by El Nino can be widespread, affecting southern Africa, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands.
DEFENCE
US pulls out of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia
Date: 5th February, 2019
The United States of America has pulled out of Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty with Russia. This was announced by the US on 20 October 2018. Russia also pulls out of treaty on 2nd February 2019.Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces treaty was between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics on the elimination of their Intermediate-Range and Shorter-Range Missiles. This treaty was signed on 8th December 1987 in Washington D.C. by President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. It prohibits the US and Russia from possessing,
producing or test-flying a ground-launched cruise missile with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. It also covers all land-based missiles including those carrying nuclear warheads.

NATIONAL

POLITY
Rohingya Issue to Affect India-Bangladesh Discussions
Date: 8th February, 2019
The Rohingya issue dominated meetings that the Bangladesh Foreign Minister held in Delhi. Interacting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen sought continued support in resolving the humanitarian disaster that has brought more than a million refugees to Chittagong.
Momen thanked Prime Minister Modi for India’s humanitarian assistance to the Rohingya and sought India’s support for early repatriation of the Rohingya to the Rakhine state of Myanmar. The Minister will participate in the fifth round of the Joint Commission meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
India-Bangladesh relations have been on an upward trajectory in the last few years. India is committed to work with Bangladesh to build on this momentum during the new term in office of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
SOCIAL
91 Percent of Urban Migrants Not Registered to Vote
Date: 8th February, 2019
91% of urban migrants are not registered to vote in the place where they live, though 75% would like to be able to vote in the 2019 general election, according to a study.
An overwhelming majority of urban migrants (73%) don’t know how to register as a voter in the city where they now live. 60% of migrants thought they cannot vote if they move to a new city. Only 40% were aware that they could get their place of registration changed. Many even believe that having a voter ID made them eligible to vote from anywhere.
Among the major reasons migrants don’t vote is the lack of knowledge about how to register, not having the necessary documents to establish residency, and disinterest in politics. Migrants in Bengaluru seem to be more proactive in getting their voter IDs than their counterparts in Delhi, Mumbai and Pune. About 53% of respondents had valid voter IDs in Bengaluru, compared to 52% in Mumbai-Pune and 47% in Delhi.
SECURITY
40 CRPF Men Killed In Terror Attack in Pulwama
Date: 14th February, 2019
Nearly 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel were killed and many others injured when terrorists targeted a convoy with a car bomb at Awantipora in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama district. Reports suggested that the vehicle used by the terrorists was a Mahindra Scorpio carrying more than 60 kg of explosives. The injured have been moved to the army base hospital in Srinagar, 20 km from the attack site. Pakistan-based terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammed has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Home Ministry’s investigation revealed that terrorists triggered the car bomb while 78 vehicles with over 2,500 CRPF men were on the Srinagar-Jammu highway. The stretch on which the incident occurred had been sanitized earlier in the morning, and authorities have termed it as a “serious breach” of security.
– causing 19 deaths. The Indian army had responded with a cross-border surgical strike in which several terror launch pads were destroyed.

INTERNATIONAL

ENVIRONMENT
Global Warming Is Making Air Quality Bad
Date: 8th February, 2019
Rising temperatures increase the concentration of aerosols in the atmosphere that cause air pollution, according to a study which highlights another effect of climate change. While climate change is warming the ocean, it is warming the land faster, which is bad news for air quality all over the world, according to the University of California, Riverside in the US.
The study, published in ‘Nature Climate Change’, reveals that the contrast in warming between the continents and sea, called the land-sea warming contrast, drives up the aerosol concentration in the atmosphere. Aerosols are tiny solid particles or liquid droplets suspended in the atmosphere. They can come from natural sources, like dust or wildfires, or human-made sources such as vehicle and industrial emissions.
Aerosols affect the climate system, including disturbances to the water cycle, as well as human health. They also cause smog and other kinds of air pollution that can lead to health problems.
POLITY
Indus Water Treaty Dispute
Date: 18th February, 2019
In response to Pulwama terror attack, the Centre has decided to stop India’s share of water that used to flow to Pakistan. The government would divert water from eastern rivers to Jammu and Kashmir. The government’s decision will not impact Pakistan’s share of water under the Indus Water Treaty between the two nations. The sharing of water of the six rivers– Indus, Chenab, Jhelum, Beas, Ravi and Sutlej– between India and Pakistan is governed by a treaty the two countries signed in 1960. The deal was brokered by the World Bank after nine years of negotiation.
Under the treaty, India has control over water flowing in the eastern rivers– Beas, Ravi and Sutlej. Pakistan has control over the western rivers– Indus, Chenab and Jhelum. As per the treaty, the water commissioners of Pakistan and India are required to meet twice a year and arrange technical visits to projects’ sites and critical river head works. Both the sides share details of the water flow and the quantum of water being used under the treaty. The treaty sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers. Of the total 168 million acre-feet, India’s share of water from the three allotted rivers is 33 million acre-feet, which constitutes nearly 20 per cent. India uses nearly 93-94 per cent of its share under the Indus Waters Treaty. The rest of the water remains unutilised and goes to Pakistan.
HEALTHCARE
Teens using Cannabis have Higher Risk of Depression
Date: 17th February, 2019
Teenagers who use cannabis have a higher risk of developing depression and suicidal thoughts as young adults and should be made aware of those risks by parents and doctors. About 7% of cases of adolescent depression could be averted if cannabis use was eliminated, according to an analysis of data on mental illness among young people in the US, Britain and Canada who used cannabis in their teens.
Although the size of the negative effects of cannabis can vary, it is not possible to predict the exact risk for teenagers. Cannabis is the most commonly used recreational drug by teenagers worldwide. In Canada, over 20% of teens aged 15 to 19 years say they have used it in the past year. In England, for those aged 11 to 15, about 4 percent of people used cannabis in the last month.
ECONOMY
FDI reduces by 7% during Apr-Dec 2018
Date: 22nd February, 2019
According to the report of Ministry of Commerce and Industry, Foreign direct investment (FDI) into India fell by 7% to USD 33.49 billion during April-December in the current fiscal as Foreign Fund Inflows during this period stood at USD 35.94 billion. Singapore was the largest source of FDI during this period USD 12.97 billion inflow, followed by Mauritius (USD 6 billion), the Netherlands (USD 2.95 billion), Japan (USD 2.21 billion), US (USD 2.34 billion), and the UK (USD 1.05 billion). As per the report, the key sectors that received the maximum foreign investment during the period are:
► Services (USD 5.91 billion),
► Computer software and hardware (USD 4.75 billion)
► Telecommunications (USD 2.29 billion)
► Trading (USD 2.33 billion)
► Chemicals (USD 6.05 billion)
► Automobile industry (USD 1.81 billion)
Polity India stops its share of Indus water to Pakistan
Date: 24th February, 2019
Just after the Pulwama terror attack, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has announced that India has decided to stop the flow of its share of water to Pakistan. In this regard, Centre is planning to build projects on 3 rivers flowing into Pakistan to divert water towards Yamuna. According to the plan, the water will be diverted from the eastern rivers and supplied it to Indians in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab. Under the Indus Waters Treaty, India shares water of the Beas and Sutlej rivers with Pakistan.
SPORTS
IOC bars India from hosting future sporting events
Date: 23rd February,2019
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has suspended all Indian applications to host future events and urged international sports federations not to stage competitions in the country after two Pakistanis were denied visas to compete in New Delhi.
The decision was taken after India denied visa requests of two shooters from Pakistan who were due to take part in the 25m Rapid Fire Pistol Competition during International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup event held in New Delhi. The IOC Executive Board has decided to suspend all discussions with the Indian National Olympic Committee (NOC) and Government regarding the potential applications for hosting future sports and Olympic–related events in India, until clear written guarantees are obtained from the Indian government to ensure the entry of all participants in such events in full compliance with the rules of the Olympic Charter. The Indian Olympic Association last year laid out an ambitious road-map to host the Youth Olympics in 2026, the Asian Games in 2030 and the Summer Olympics for the first time in 2032.
SPORTS
FIFA banned Chelsea for breaching transfer rules
Date: 24th February, 2019
The FIFA disciplinary committee has banned the English Premier League club Chelsea from signing players in the next two transfer windows.The decision came after the club was found to have breached FIFA rules relating to international transfer and registration of players under the age of 18. Now Chelsea will not be able to register new players at both national and international level for next two registration periods. Excluding the ban, the club has been fined with $599,535 and is given 90 days to regularise the situation of the minor players concerned.The ban is applicable to the whole club except for women’s and futsal teams.
IDEAS

NATIONAL

HEALTHCARE
Artificial Pancreas Smartphone App developed
Date: 1st February, 2019
Objective: To analyze blood sugar levels in diabetes patients.
Scientists have developed an ‘artificial pancreas’ smart-phone app that can interface wirelessly with glucose monitors and insulin pump devices, to regulate blood sugar levels in diabetes patients. In a clinical trial done by Scientists recently, it is found that the artificial pancreas system (iAPS) app is safe and effective in regulating glucose levels under challenging conditions and is suitable for use in unconstrained environments. The report has published in the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, showed that the system can interface wirelessly with leading continuous glucose monitors (CGM), insulin pump devices, and decision-making algorithms. The Scientist from Harvard University in the US found that the system showed an improved time in the target glucose range (70-180 microgrammes per decilitre and yielded a statistically significant reduction in time below 70 microgrammes per deciliter).
HEALTHCARE
Kerala to set up a price monitoring and research unit (PMRU)
Date: 5th February, 2019
Objective: To track violation of prices of essential drugs and medical devices.
Kerala has become the first State to set up a price monitoring and research unit (PMRU). The move comes more than five years after the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) proposed such a system for the States and the Union Territories. Govt. has decided to register a society to get Central assistance for the functioning of the unit. The Chairman of the society and the Drugs Controller would be its member secretary. Its members include a State government representative, representatives of private pharmaceutical companies, and those from consumer rights protection fora. The society would also have an executive committee headed by the Drugs Controller.
The new watchdog will offer technical help to the State Drug Controllers to monitor notified prices of medicines, detect violation of the provisions of the Drugs Price Control Order (DPCO). This move is taken by the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA).
SOCIAL
National Testing Agency (NTA) introduces mobile app
Date: 6th February, 2019
Objective: To make aspirants of rural areas more familiar to online tests National Testing Agency.
(NTA) has developed a mobile app named as NTA Student, to enable candidates practice mock tests for JEE Main, UGC NET, NEET and CMAT exams. Along with the mock tests, the model of the exams is also available on the app. In the test, candidates need to answer about 50 questions in the duration of one hour. After the exam is over, candidates can also self-evaluate their mock test/ model paper.
The candidates who wish to take UGC NET, JEE Main, NEET or CMAT mock test on their mobile phones can download NTA Student app from Google Play Store. Thereafter, candidates can register on the app and start with their mock test. It may be noted that mock tests are completely free of cost for candidates. The candidates have also the option of choosing five suitable TPCs on the app in case they wish to take UGC NET mock test at the centre.

INTERNATIONAL

HEALTHCARE
A Tortoise-like Pill May Replace Injections
Date: 8th February, 2019
Objective: To deliver medicine inside the body without using injection
Scientists may have found a solution that delivers drugs in a capsule a person can swallow. Their inspiration is a tortoise that always rights itself after rolling over.
Key features:
► The test device called Soma is shaped like the tortoise’s shell. Inside is a miniature post made of insulin.
► After the tiny device positions itself against the stomach wall, the post pops out and injects insulin. The device then travels through the colon and eventually is eliminated by the patient.
► The device works in rats and pigs, the investigators reported in the journal ‘Science’.
► The device that would hold it is small, the size of a pea, which restricted how much drug it could contain.
IT
ITA Game That Helps AI Learn Common Sense
Date: 9th February, 2019
Objective: To make artificial intelligence learn common sense that would enhance decision-making ability
For the first time in the world, scientists are using the popular drawing game Pictionary to teach artificial intelligence common sense. AI researchers at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence developed a version of the game called Iconary in order to teach its AllenAI artificial intelligence abstract concepts from pictures alone.
Key highlights:
► AllenAI is capable of both understanding and producing a nearly infinite combination of real world scenarios.
► Human players can either choose to draw an image or guess a picture that the AllenAI has drawn.
► The AI has never seen the phrases before and must either guess them from images drawn by the human player, or convey them through its own images.
► The difficulty in teaching AI common sense has proved to be one of the key stumbling blocks in developing chatbots and voice assistants.
SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
Battery-less Phones Can Be Developed Soon
Date: 10th February, 2019
Objective: To develop battery-less phones that would do away with the need of frequently charging itScientists have made a huge breakthrough that allows them to convert radio signals into power. The discovery could allow for phones and other devices that don’t use batteries as well as entirely new ways of using smart technologies. Scientists in the US developed the device, known as a “rectenna” from a semiconductor.
Key highlights:
► Wi-fi signals captured by an integrated antenna are transformed into a DC current suitable for electronic circuits.
► The device could be used to provide battery-less power for smartphones, laptops, medical devices and wearable technology, according to the US-led team.
► It could also be fabricated to cover large areas. This has major implications for the future of electronic intelligence..
► Professor Tomas Palacios, director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will develop electronic systems that will bring electronic intelligence to everything in the world.
SOCIAL
Tinder for Cows Helps Them Breed
Date: 13th February, 2019
Objective: To let farmers find breeding matches by viewing pictures of cattle with details of their age, location and owner
Key highlights:
► Cows and bulls searching for “moo love” now have a mobile app to help their breeders.
► A UK farming startup introduced a Tinder-style app called Tudder, which allows farmers find breeding matches by viewing pictures of cattle with details of their age, location and owner.
► Users hear a mooing sound as they swipe to show they’re interested or left to reject possible matches.
► Tudder is a new swipe-led matchmaking app, helping farm animals across the UK find breeding partners in the quest for moo love.
► The listing website includes information on the animal’s character and any health issues.

INTERNATIONAL

SPACE
Astrocomb to Help Hunt for Planets, Aliens
Date: 15th February, 2019
Objective: To measure frequencies or colours of light that can help search for Earth-like planets and perhaps extraterrestrial life
Scientists have developed an astrocomb which can help widen the search for Earth-like planets, and perhaps extraterrestrial life.
Key highlights:
► The custom-made frequency comb, developed by researchers from National Institute of Standards and Technology in the US, provides the precision needed for discovering and characterising planets orbiting M dwarf stars, which comprise 70% of the stars in the galaxy and are plentiful near Earth.
► The tools should allow us to find habitable planets around the most ubiquitous stars in our galaxy.
► To search for planets orbiting distant stars, astronomers look for periodic changes in this characteristic “fingerprint”, which is small variation in the apparent colours of starlight over time.
► These oscillations in colour are caused by the star being tugged to and fro by the gravitational pull of an unseen orbiting planet.
► This apparent wobble is subtle, and measurements are limited by the frequency standards used to calibrate spectrographs.
HEALTHCARE
AI to Assist Docs in Diagnosing Rare Conditions
Date: 18th February, 2019
Objective: To use artificial intelligence in diagnosing rare diseases
Key features:
► A group of researchers in the United States and China has tested artificial intelligence for all-too human frailties.
► In a paper published in Nature Medicine, the scientists reported that they had built a system that automatically diagnoses common childhood conditions -from influenza to meningitis after processing the patient’s symptoms, history, lab results and other clinical data.
► President Donald Trump signed an executive order meant to spur the development of AI across government, academia and industry in the United States.
► As part of this “American AI Initiative,” the administration will encourage federal agencies and universities to share data that can drive the development of automated systems.
► After reshaping internet services, consumer devices and driverless cars, deep learning is moving rapidly into myriad areas of health care. Many organisations including Google are developing and testing systems that analyse electronic health records in an effort to flag medical conditions such as osteoporosis, diabetes, hypertension and heart failure.
ENERGY
Lithium-air Batteries to Power Future Cars and Houses
Date: 19th February, 2019
Objective: To explore a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to store energy and power electric vehicles, houses, and industries of the future
Scientists say that Lithium-air batteries, which run on ambient oxygen, may be a sustainable and environmentally friendly way to
store energy and power electric vehicles, houses, and industries of the future.
Key highlights:
► Current lithium-ion battery technology will probably not be able to handle the coming decades’ huge demand for energy.
► It is estimated that by 2050, electricity will make up 50 per cent of the world’s energy mix.
► Installed capacity for renewable energy production is expected to increase fourfold. This will require batteries that are more efficient, cheaper and environmentally friendly.
► According to researchers from the University of Campinas in Brazil, one of the alternatives being studied today in many parts of the world is the lithium-air battery.
► The lithium-air battery, currently functioning only on a laboratory scale, uses ambient oxygen as a reagent. The battery stores additional energy through an electrochemical reaction that results in the formation of lithium oxide.
► Some European countries are also thinking about banning combustion engines.

NATIONAL

SECURITY
India inducts its first RoboCop in Kerala
Date: 22nd February, 2019
Objective:To make Indian Police world class
Chief Minister Vijayan welcomed the Sub Inspector (SI) ranked robot into the service with an honorary salute and the ‘Robocop’ responded with a perfect salute. It has been named KP-Bot.With induction of Robocop the Kerala State Police Headquarters has become the first police department in the country to use a robot for police work. The robot’s gender is declared female and she will perform Front Office duties of the police headquarters like receiving visitors and direct them as required. She can directly interact with visitors and will capable of tasks like fixing appointments with officers, provide ID cards and open new files based on the grievances. She can also identify higher officials and greet them with a salute.
The Kerala Police Cyberdome and Kochi based Asimov Robotics joined hands to develop this humanoid police robot. The robot is equipped with face detection technology.
SECURITY
Bihar to deploy dog squad
Date: 25th February 2019
Objective: To Check Liquor Smuggling
Bihar is seeking help from specially-trained dogs to check smuggling of liquor which goes on unabated despite total prohibition enforced some three years back. Right now, a total of 20 liquor-tracker dogs which were imparted rigorous training for nine months in Hyderabad have been deployed in various sensitive points across the state. This is for the first that Bihar has raised a special dog squad which can detect alcohol hidden anywhere.
The police department was compelled to raise this special dog squad alarmed at the continuous flow of liquor in “dry” Bihar despite its draconian law to ban liquor in the state.

INTERNATIONAL

SCIENCE & TECHNOLGY
XinXiaomeng: Becomes World’s First Female AI News anchor
Date: 23rd February, 2019
Objective: To deliver content via artificial intelligence
Chinese news agency Xinhua has unveiled the world’s first female AI news anchor XinXiaomeng. She has been developed by Xinhua in collaboration with SogouInc, a search engine company. She was modelled after real-life Xinhua news anchor QuMeng. She is expected to make a debut in March, during the upcoming meetings of China’s national legislature.
Earlier, Xinhua also developed QiuHao,the world’s first male AI news anchor at the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen held in November 2018, who is capable of mimicking human facial expressions and mannerisms while reading out news reports.
ECONOMY
Zimbabwe begins Trading New Currency RTGS dollar
Date: 24th February 2019
Objective: To resolve a long-term monetary crisis.
Zimbabwe’s central bank has announced the discontinuation of its official currency, quasi-currency bond note officially pegged at parity with the U.S. dollar and launched a new currency called RTGS dollars. The currency was launched at an initial rate of 2.5 RTGS dollars per US dollar. This step was undertaken to do away with hyperinflation and fiscal deficit issues the country had been facing and the shortage of dollars which had been negatively impacting the economy. The new currency replaces electronic bank savings called digital dollars and the bond notes and was named after the real-time gross settlement system that banks use to transfer money between each other.
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PEOPLE

NATIONAL

AWARDS AND HONOURS
Lalith J. Rao
Why in news: Awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards for 2017Lalith J. Rao is an Indian classical singer and a representative of the Agra Gharana.
► She was awarded the Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards 2017 under the category ‘Hindustani Vocal Music’.
SOCIAL
Aparna Kumar
Why in news: Became the first woman Indian Police Service (IPS) and ITBP officer to successfully conquer the South PoleAparna Kumar is an IPS officer of Utter Pradesh cadre and hails from Karnataka.
► The officer is serving ITBP on deputation as Deputy Inspector General (DIG).
► Aparna has already become the first officer of the All India Services to have successfully scaled Antarctica’s highest peak Mount Vinson Massif in 2016 and then climbed Mount Manaslu in the west-central part of Nepal in 2017.
► The South Pole is the southernmost point on the surface of the Earth and is the centre of the Southern Hemisphere. Situated on the continent of Antarctica South Pole is the coldest and driest place on Earth.
APPOINTMENTS
Rishi Kumar Shukla
Why in news: Appointed as new CBI directorRishi Kumar Shukla, a 1983-batch IPS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, has been appointed as the new chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation
(CBI). He will be serving for a fixed term of two years.
► Shukla’s appointment to the post was approved by a high-level committee chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The IPS officer has previously served as the DGP of Madhya Pradesh.
► He has been appointed in the place of former CBI Director Alok Kumar Verma, who was removed from the post.

INTERNATIONAL

AWARDS AND HONOURS
Francois Laborde
Why in news: Conferred with France’s highest civilian honourAbout Francois Laborde:
► A 92-year-old priest, from Bengal, Francois Laborde, has been conferred the Légion d’Honneur (Legion of Honour) the highest civilian award of France in recognition of his work for specially-abled children.
► He is the third person from the state to have been awarded the honour after film maestro Satyajit Ray and actor Soumitra Chatterjee.
► Father Francois Laborde has set up the Howrah South Point, an organisation working for the development of specially-abled children, the destitute and the most deprived sections of the society.

NATIONAL

APPOINTMENTS
Sushil Chandra
Date: 14th February 2019
Why in news: Appointed as the new Election CommissionerAbout Sushil Chandra:
► Sushil Candra’s appointment fills the vacancy caused after the retirement of O.P. Rawat as Chief Election Commissioner (CEC)
► Sushil Chandra is currently serving as the chairman of the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT).
► He is the second Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer to be appointed the the Commission after T.S. Krishnamurthy, who went to become the CEC in 2004.
AWARDS AND HONORS
Siddhartha Lal
Date: 14th February 2019
Why in news: Won the EY Entrepreneur of the year 2018About Siddhartha Lal:
► MD & CEO of Eicher Motors has won the EY Entrepreneur of the year 2018 after transforming Eicher Motors and helping the company resurrect the Royal Enfield motorcycle brand in India and making it a global brand icon.
► Lal will now represent India to compete for the coveted EY World Entrepreneur of the year (WEOY) award at the annual WEOY event in Monte Carlo from 6-8 June, 2019.
► EOY is a global business award program which is celebrated across 60 countries.
AWARDS & HONOURS
Sanjay Subrahmanyam
Date: February 2019
Why in news: Got Israel’s prestigious Dan David Prize for his work on inter-cultural encountersAbout Sanjay Subrahmanyam:
► Mr Subrahmanyam, son of strategic analyst K Subrahmanyam and brother of former foreign secretary S Jaishankar, won the award in the category of ‘’past time dimension’’ for his work in macro history.
► He shares the USD 1-million award in this category with Prof Kenneth Pomeranz of University of Chicago.
► The international Dan David Prize is awarded annually to those who have made outstanding scientific, technological and humanistic accomplishments in fields representing the past, present and future of human achievement. Three Dan David Prizes are given every year.

INTERNATIONAL

ELECTION
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Date: 11th February 2019
Why in news: Elected as the new chairperson of African UnionKey Points:
► Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi took over as the chair of the African Union (AU) at Addis Ababa.
► Egypt’s tenure as chair of the African Union is expected to concentrate more on security and peacekeeping and focus less on financial and administrative reforms.
► The Egyptian President will be taking over from outgoing chair, Rwandan President Paul Kagame who focused on creating an Africa wide free-trade zone during his tenure.
► Post his appointment, Amnesty International warned that Sisi’s chairmanship might undermine the African Union’s human rights mechanisms.
POLITY
Sushil Chandra
Date: 15th February, 2019
Why in News: Appointed as the new Election Commissioner of India
President Ram NathKovind has appointed Sushil Chandra, as the new Election Commissioner on 14th February. Prior Mr. Chandra was appointed CBDT Chairman. He is an IIT graduate and is a1980 batch officer of the Indian Revenue Service (Income Tax cadre), was recently retired from CBDT.With his appointment, the EC now has Sunil Arora as the Chief Election Commissioner and Ashok Lavasa and Chandra as fellow commissioners.
DEFENCE
Hina Jaiswal
Date: 17th February, 2019
Why in News: Commissioned as the first Indian Woman Flight Engineer of the Indian Air Force (IAF).
Flight Lieutenant Hina Jaiswal from Chandigarh, was commissioned in the IAF’s engineering branch in 2015 and completed the 6-month Flight Engineer course from the 112 Helicopter Unit attached to the Air Force Station in Yelahanka, Bengaluru. Hina was commissioned in the engineering batch of the IAF on January 5, 2015. Jaiswal has served as the chief of firing team
and the battery commander in a frontline surface to Air Missile Squadron.
TRADE & COMMERCE
Anirban Mukherjee
Date: 21st February 2019
Why in News: Appointed as the CEO of PayU India
Anirban Mukherjee, presently the co-chief executive of Reliance Payments has been appointed as the CEO of PayU India owned by Naspers. He will succeed Amrish Rau. The urgent responsibilities at hand would be the management of $100 million worth of business, witnessing a growth rate of 30% currently, formulating investment plans and gauging potential technological partnerships. The company has also highlighted the plan to double its loan book to about $2 billion over the next few years.

NATIONAL

APPOINTMENTS
Justice DK Jain
Date: 22nd February 2019
Why in news: Appointed as the new ombudsman of BCCIKey Points:
► The Supreme Court appointed its former judge Justice D K Jain as the ombudsman for the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).
► He is the first ombudsman under the new BCCI Constitution approved by Supreme Court.
► The ombudsman will be resolving any issue that comes with regard to the players, and also financial issues.
► The BCCI’s first Ombudsman will also look into allegations of misconduct against board officials.
AWARDS & HONOURS
Narendra Modi
Date: 23rd February 2019
Why in news:
Awarded the prestigious Seoul Peace Prize for 2018 Key Points:
► PM Modi is the 14th recipient of the award and the past laureates included former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and renowned international relief organizations like Doctors Without Borders and Oxfam.
► PM Modi is the first Indian to receive the award.
► The Seoul Peace Prize was established in 1990 to commemorate the success of the 24th Olympic Games held in Seoul, South Korea.
► To crystallize Korean people’s yearning for peace on the Korean Peninsula and in the rest of the world.
► Awarded biennially to those individuals who have made their mark through contributions to harmony of mankind, reconciliation between nations and world peace.

INTERNATIONAL

AWARDS AND HONOURS
Yohei Sasakawa
Date: 26th February 2019
Why in news: Honoured with Gandhi Peace Prize for 2018 Key Points:
► WHO Goodwill ambassador Yohei Sasakawa to get Gandhi Peace Prize for 2018.
► The award was given to Mr Sasakawa in recognition of his work towards the eradication of the disease in India and across the world.
► This annual award is given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.
Omar al-Bashir
Date: 25th February 2019
Why in news: Declaring a 1-year countrywide state of emergency Key Points:
► He has also dissolved central and state governments.
► More than 50 people have been killed by Sudanese security forces since the protests started.
► The government has also been accused of jailing hundreds of activists, opponents and critics of al-Bashir, and of shutting down press outlets and barring foreign reporters from covering the uprising.
► He is in power since 1989.
► Omar is facing war crimes charges and is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) of ordering genocide in the Darfur conflict in 2003 in which the UN estimates 3 lakh people had died and more than two million displaced.
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ENVIRONMENT
CAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT AND ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION GO TOGETHER?
Life starts with its complete dependence on natural resources for its needs and sustenance. Humans also use these natural resources for fulfilling their basic demands. When people started civilization, it required more resources for their social and economic development. After that, this chain of development continued. Before the industrial revolution there were no such negative consequences of development on environment and also have not been noticed. But, after the industrial revolution pressure on natural resources was increased.
In 20th century, many big factories were established across the world; primarily in Europe and US. In the race of rapid development, environmental concern was totally neglected. Trees were cut down in large numbers for establishing new industries, exploring the minerals, expansion of railway lines and for new urban settlement. On the other hand, carbon emissions increased continuously. Increase in rapid population during the 19th and 20th century became a major cause of environmental degradation. For ensuring the food security, more agricultural lands were required. Again, trees were cut down to suit the needs of agricultural land. In this ruthless development, humans ignored the very environment which is essential for the survival of life and it also led to an increase in the atmospheric temperature due to increase in greenhouse gases emission.
In the latter half of 20th century, various scientific reports started showing that the earth is in danger due to uncontrolled use of natural resources. Humans are using more resources than the earth can generate in a specific time. The concept of sustainable development was first introduced in 1987 in the form of Brundtland Report. In this report, the way forward to save the environment was explained. Simply, sustainable development means fulfilling the need of present generation without compromising with the needs of future generation.
Now the sustainable development has gained momentum over the past few years. It includes poverty alleviation, betterment of living conditions and minimizing social instability to name a few. As economist Amartya Sen points out “Economic growth is one aspect of the process of economic development. We should hand over quality air, land and environment to future generation.”
In the late 20th century, leaders of various nations began serious attempts to protect the earth. In these attempts, various summits took place. In 1992, Earth Summit was held in Rio de Janeiro, where 10,000 representatives of 100 countries participated. Before 1992, Stockholm Conference was held in 1972. Five Earth Summit agreements have been made after the Rio Summit. These are –
1. Climate Change Framework – USA is not a signatory to this agreement.
2. Biological Diversity Agreement
3. Management, Conservation and Sustainable Development of all types of forests
4. The Earth Charter – It includes 27 clauses.
5. Agenda-21 Sustainable Development – It’s also known as Agenda 21. This was the main focus during the 1992 Earth Summit.
The first two agreements are legal in nature while the rest three are non-binding agreements. The UN Commission on Sustainable Development had been established as a result of Earth Summit to make the earth resources sustainable. Many conferences on climate change have taken place after this from time to time.
In December 1987, the Montreal Protocol was signed. This agreement is for reducing the level of chlorofluorocarbons from the environment to combat the ozone layer depletion. The Kyoto Protocol of Climate Change was signed in 1997 in the Kyoto city of Japan. Under the Kyoto Protocol, emission caps
were set for each Annex-I countries, amounting in total to an average reduction of 5.2% below the aggregate emission level in 1990. Montreal Action Plan of 2005, Bali Summit of 2007, Poznan Summit of 2008, Copenhagen Summit of 2009 and Cancun Summit of 2010 are some of the major environment summits to formulate environment protection policies and thereby ensure sustainable development.
China has been one of the major growing economies during the last one decade and its carbon footprint has also been enormous. Moreover, developed countries from the European Union and USA who have contributed in large numbers to the Greenhouse Gases emissions and increased carbon footprint since the Industrial development era, have not shown any sincere and significant efforts to combat environmental degradation. On the other hand, India has been committed towards reducing its carbon emissions and promoting green energy. It has therefore set up International Solar Alliance in collaboration with France and has also planned to come up with Bharat Stage VI (BS-VI) standards for automobiles and vehicles by 2020 to reduce air pollution in major metro cities. It is also focusing on using biofuels and implying research and innovation in creating third generation fuels for industrial and domestic purposes.
Developed countries though have shown their concern over pollution, global warming and climbing sea level, they have not yet exactly played their part fairly in helping the developing nations financially. Since, they are technologically advanced, it’s their moral obligation as well as duty to provide aid and technical support to the smaller and developing countries in order to face this challenge.
The smaller island countries like Maldives are the major sufferers from the climate change. They are battling for their economic development on one hand, and on the other hand they have to face the menace of rising sea level which is not created by them. Rather the big economies of the world, especially the US which has ignored environmental concerns and degraded major portions of its resources to taste the glory of success and power has recently opted out from the Paris Agreement. It has plainly stated that if US is pressurized more, then it would opt out from other global agreements as well. This shows the irresponsible and immoral behavior of world’s developed economies, who in order to get development have compromised with the environmental ethics. And at crucial times like these when they have to take the lead in coming up with relevant solutions, they choose to not speak and shift the burden on the developing or less developed countries.
To maintain the balance between sustainable development and environmental protection, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) set the timeline till 2030 to achieve 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These are:
1. No Poverty
2. Zero Hunger
3. Good Health and Wealthy
4. Quality Education
5. Gender Equality
6. Clean Water and Sanitation
7. Affordable and Clean Energy
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
9. Industrial Innovation and Infrastructure
10. Reduce Inequalities
11. Sustainable Cities and Communities
12. Responsible Consumption and Production
13. Climate Action
14. Life below Water
15. Life on Land
16. Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions
17. Partnership for the Goals
These are also known as ‘Global Goals’ and are a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
Protection of environment is basic requirement for sustainability and it is not less significant from the economic development by any means because protection of environment ensures healthy and standard living. This can also reduce social and economic inequalities. If better research and development initiatives are focused at, then economic growth will surely be positive. Achieving the economic development is very essential for any society or country but it cannot be acceptable at the cost of environmental degradation. Environment protection and sustainable development must go hand-in-hand.
AGRICULTURE
WHY DOES AGRICULTURE REMAIN DEVOID OFPROFITABILITY DESPITE PRODUCTIVITY GAINS?
At the time of independence the condition of Indian agriculture was very dismal, due to the colonial rule. Agriculture sector was totally ignored by the British government; even they didn’t have any good policy for the primary sector. The British left India in such a worse condition that the country was unable to feed its own population despite the availability of large cultivable land in India. Initially India was dependent on other countries, especially on United States to fulfil the food requirement of the country. Now, six decades have passed and Indian agriculture sector has achieved milestone in the food production. Today, India has become net food exporter and has successfully stepped out from the tag of food dependent nation.
The first Green Revolution in the 1960s gave thrust to the production of food grains. The major beneficiaries of the first Green Revolution were Punjab, Haryana and Western Uttar Pradesh where the production of wheat increased. Modern technology, methods and equipments were adopted by the farmers in their fields, such as high-yielding varieties of seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and tractors. Irrigation system was developed by the help of the central and state governments. The first Green Revolution in India was led by the agricultural scientist M.S. Swaminathan. Without his efforts, it was difficult to bring such revolution. After the first agricultural revolution, there was a sequence of revolutions in the allied sectors like Yellow Revolution for oilseeds production (during the early 90s). The sudden increase in the production of edible oil was recorded due to the use of hybrid oilseeds like mustard. Further, Grey Revolution helped in increasing the production of fertilizers, due to which the import of fertilizers was reduced. It also gave a boost to the Green Revolution.
In the later period, government policies supported the farmers and encouraged them to improve their agricultural production. Land reforms were introduced by the government to transfer the land to the actual tillers of the soil. The reforms included:
1. Abolition of intermediaries
2. Tenancy reforms to :-
(a) regulate rents paid by tenants to landlords
(b) provide security of tenure to tenants
(c) confer ownership rights on tenants
3. Imposition of ceilings on holding in a bid to procure land for distribution among landless labourers and marginal farmers.
Rural employment programmes were run to increase the purchasing power of the poor villagers. It also initiated the poverty alleviation programme to enhance the living conditions of the farmers. Fourth Five-Year Plan onwards, programmes like Small Farmer Development Agency, National Rural Employment Programme, Integrated Rural Development Programme and Employment Insurance Scheme were introduced by the government for enhancing the livelihoods of the poor rural people.
National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD) was set up for providing institutional credit to the farmers. Further, nationalization of various banks helped in eliminating the role of local moneylenders. The announcement of Procurement and Minimum Support Price (MSP) was done to ensure the fair return to the agricultural products and to provide incentives to the farmers to further expand their production. Farmers could thus not be ‘penalized’ for their surplus production.
In 1965, Food Corporation of India (FCI) was established under the Food Corporation Act, 1964 in order to fulfil three major requirements.
1. effective price support operation for safeguarding the interests of the farmers.
2. distribution of food grains throughout the country for public distribution.
3. maintaining satisfactory level of operational and buffer stock of food grains to ensure national food security.
In the past six decades, the government took major steps at policy level and also farmers changed their traditional methods of farming. Even, many farmers started practising organic farming, yet lots of problems are still present in the agricultural sector and lot of work is to be done by the government. If a farmer grows surplus agricultural product, but is not able to gain the fair price of his produce then at times this situation leads to loss to the farmers. For example, in off-season, prices of tomato go up to even Rs.100 per kg but in the season of tomato, it is available at Rs.20 per kg and so and if the production is at record level, then the prices may decrease to Rs. 2 or 3 per kg. In this situation, the farmers who have cultivated tomatoes face huge loss and they cannot even earn their minimum production cost.
Under the Minimum Support Price, very few crops are included such as rice, wheat, pulses to name a few. Even under this scheme, small farmers are unable to take the advantage. Red-tapeism and the role of middleman lead to corrupt practices and the farmers do not get the real value of their crops. In the remote areas, there is lack of basic amenities, infrastructure, cold storage facility and warehouse facility.
The cold storage even if available, are out of reach of the small and marginal farmers. Due to lack of storage facilities, the farmers are thus forced to sell their produce at very minimal rates. If they do not do so, their produce is at a risk of getting spoilt due to rain or unhygienic open conditions. The godowns of FCI are already overloaded and there is additional burden of food storage which leads to spillage and deterioration of food crops if stacked haphazardly.
People involved in black marketing buy huge stock at very low prices from the farmers to store them and create an artificial shortage in the market. Thus, when the demand increases leading to the rise in price, then these black marketers release these stocks at their self-determined prices and earn huge profits.
Moreover, farmers are in the habit of overusing the fertilizers assuming that it will yield them huge crops. But, this has led to the decline in competitiveness of such crops in international market, especially in Europe and America as these countries are more inclined towards organic food. For example, few years back Alfonso mango was banned by some European countries.
Government is still working to solve the structural issues related to agricultural sector. For example, e-NAM trading platform or National Agriculture Market has been launched to eliminate the role of intermediaries and help farmers in better price discovery. It also provides facilities for smooth marketing of their produce and facilitates online trading. Further, Soil Health Card introduced by the centre has helped to keep a check on the soil quality and incentivize the farmers based on their soil productivity. Doubling of farmers’ income by 2020 and minimum income support scheme for the poor and marginal farmers by providing Rs 6000 annually to those having less than 2 hectares of land, are progressive steps.
Much needs to be done to create awareness to treat agriculture as a profession and not merely a substitute. Contract farming has so far benefitted the farmers and so it should be promoted further to bring better results. A 24/7 helpline must be launched in regional languages so that farmers can get the information of the market anytime. Farmers and rural youth should be given training to use modern equipments and technology such as smart phones so that they can get benefits of different apps related to agriculture.

MARCH 2019

EVENTS

NATIONAL

BANKING
National Housing Bank
 
The Cabinet has approved payment of the face value of the subscribed share capital of Rs.1450 crore in National Housing Bank(NHB) to Reserve Bank of India (RBl) consequent to amendments made to the NHB Act, 1987 in 2018.
Key Points:
► The wholesale financing role of NHB will get strengthened with the transfer of ownership to Government, thereby making possible augmented funding support to housing finance companies.
► The change in ownership from RBI to Gol will also segregate RBI’s role as a banking regulator and as the owner of NHB.
ECONOMY
Tax info exchange agreement inked between India and Brunei
Date:1st March, 2019
Objective: To stop tax evasion and tax avoidance
India and Brunei have recently signed an agreement for the exchange of information in tax matters. The pact will enable the exchange of information, including banking and ownership information between the two countries for tax purposes. The agreement also provides for mutual assistance in the collection of tax revenue claims between both countries. The agreement will enhance mutual co-operation between India and Brunei Darussalam by providing an effective framework for exchange of information in tax matters, which will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.
BUSINESS
Bancassurance Agreement signed by IDBI Bank and LIC
Date:1st March, 2019
Objective: To create enormous value for shareholders, customers & employees of both entities
LIC of India and IDBI Bank Ltd. have signed a bancassurance agreement to offer LIC’s insurance products through IDBI Bank’s branches. Now IDBI bank will get a window to provide LIC’s entire gamut of insurance offerings to the Bank’s 1.80 Cr customer base spread over 1800 branches across the country. Further, the Bank will become the preferred bank for LIC premium payments and function as premium point to boost sale of LIC products.
IDBI Bank is fundamentally strong, having a young, energetic and talented work force that will help in selling the LIC products. This will enable the bank to add to its revenue growth and simultaneously help LIC in increasing its Bancassurance business. It’s a win-win situation for both the organisations. LIC and IDBI Bank are committed to serve the interests of all its stakeholders.
BANKING
EASE (Enhanced Access and Service Excellence) reform index
 
Government’s EASE (Enhanced Access and Service Excellence) reform index has been released.
Highlights:
► EASE index is prepared by the Indian Banking Association (IBA) and Boston Consulting Group and commissioned by the Finance Ministry.
► It is a framework that was adopted last year to strengthen public sector banks and rank them on metrics such as
responsible banking, financial inclusion, credit offtake and digitisation.
► Punjab National Bank has topped the list. It is followed by Bank of Baroda, State Bank of India (SBI), and Oriental Bank of Commerce.
► The EASE Index report also noted PSU banks’ strengthening of the bad-loan recovery process, pointing to the success of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code (IBC) in fast-tracking the resolution process.
IT
Smart India Hackathon 2019
The 3rd edition of highly successful Smart India Hackathon initiative has been started. Smart India Hackathon 2019 is a nationwide initiative to provide students with a platform to solve some of pressing problems we face in our daily lives, and thus inculcate a culture of product innovation and a mindset of problem-solving.
Key Points:
► In SIH 2019, the students will have the opportunity to work on challenges faced within the private sector organisations and create world-class solutions for some of the top companies in the world, thus helping the Private sector hire the best minds from across the nation
► SIH is an initiative by Ministry of HRD, AICTE, Persistent Systems, i4c and Rambhau Mhalgi Prabodhini
► Involves 1 Lakh+ technical students, 3000+ technical institutions, 200+ organizations from across India
► It is world’s biggest Software and Hardware hackathon
CONFERENCES AND SUMMITS
Construction Technology India (CTI)
Prime Minister has inaugurated the Construction Technology India- 2019 Expo-cum-Conference in Delhi.
Key Point:
► The conference identifies proven, innovative and globally established technologies for use in the Indian context.
► Technology providers, researchers, start-ups, developers, academia, public sector agencies and other domain experts participated in the event.
► The Construction Technology India (CTI) will be a biennial event.
► National Real Estate Development Council (NAREDCO) and Confederation of Real Estate Developers’ Associations of India (CREDAI) took the lead with the support of Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs in hosting this event.
ARTS & CULTURE
Kumbh Mela 2019
The Prayagraj Kumbh Mela 2019 has secured place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest crowd management; largest sanitation drive and largest painting exercise of public sites.
Key Points:
► Kumbh Mela made its way into the Guinness Records by parading 500 special buses non-stop in Prayagraj to break the record of the United Arab Emirates.
► Sanitation workers set a Guinness World Record when 10,000 of them got together for a three-minute cleaning drive at Kumbh. The event was organised by the Kumbh Mela administration and the state Health Department.
► Kumbh Mela also set a Guinness World Record for the “most contribution to a handprint painting on the theme of ‘Jai Gange’ in eight hours. A part of ‘Paint My City’ initiative, the handprint community activity saw the participation of 7,664 people from all age groups.
SPORTS
Centre for Disability Sports to be set up
A ‘Centre for Disability Sports’ will be set up at Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh. The proposal regarding setting up of it has been approved by the Government.
Key Points:
► It will be registered under the Societies Registration Act, 1860, which is to function under the name of Centre for
Disability Sports.
► Improved sports infrastructure created by this Centre will ensure effective participation of Persons with Disabilities (PwDs) in sports activities and also enables them to compete at national and international levels.
► Setting up of the Centre will develop a sense of belonging in Divyangjan to facilitate their integration in society.
SECURITY
BOLD–QIT Project
Project BOLD-QIT (Border Electronically Dominated QRT Interception Technique) under CIBMS (Comprehensive Integrated Border Management system) has been inaugurated on India-Bangladesh border in Dhubri District of Assam.
Key Points:
► BOLD-QIT is the project to install technical systems under the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS), which enables BSF to equip Indo-Bangla borders with different kind of sensors in unfenced riverine area of Brahmaputra and its tributaries.
► The concept of CIBMS is the integration of manpower, sensors and command and control to improve situational awareness and facilitate quick response to emerging situations.
► Among major components of CIBMS is the ‘virtual fence’. The second component is the command and control, which will help in optimum use of resources for border management.
► The implementation of this project will not only help BSF to curb all types of cross border crimes but also provide respite to the troops from round the clock human surveillance.
POLICIES AND SCHEMES
Swachh Bharat Gramin
The National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) 2018-19, conducted by an Independent Verification Agency (IVA) under the World Bank support project to the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G), has found that 96.5% of the households in rural India have access to a toilet use it.
Highlights:
► The survey was conducted between November 2018 and February 2019 and covered 92040 households in 6136 villages across States and UTs of India.
► The survey used the PPS (Probability Proportion to Size) sampling methodology, which yields results within a confidence interval of 95%.
► The NARSS confirmed the Open Defecation Free (ODF) status of 90.7% of villages which were previously declared and verified as ODF by various districts/ states.
► 1% of households were found to have access to toilets during the survey period (the corresponding figure as per the SBMG MIS in November 2018 was 96%)
► 5% of the people who had access to toilets used them.
► 7% of villages which were previously declared and verified as ODF were confirmed to be ODF. The remaining villages also had sanitation coverage of about 93%.
Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) for Specified Agriculture Products Scheme
The Centre has notified a scheme for Transport and Marketing Assistance (TMA) for specified agriculture products that will provide assistance for the international component of freight and marketing of agricultural produce.
Highlights:
► The scheme will be available for exporters from March 1, 2019 to March 31, 2020.
► All exporters, duly registered with relevant Export Promotion Council as per Foreign Trade Policy, of eligible agriculture products shall be covered under this scheme.
► The assistance is available for most agricultural product exports with some exceptions such as live animals, products of animal origin, milk, cream,
curd, butter, buttermilk, whey, rice, wheat, tobacco and garlic.
► The assistance, at notified rates, will be available for export of eligible agriculture products to the permissible countries, as specified from time to time. The assistance shall be admissible only if payments for the exports are received in Free Foreign Exchange through normal banking channels.
► The scheme shall be admissible for exports made through EDI (Electronic Data Interchange) ports only.
► The scheme covers freight and marketing assistance for export by air as well as by sea.
HEALTHCARE
Janaushadhi Diwas
7th March 2019 was celebrated as ‘Janaushadhi Diwas’ across India. As part of the celebrations, PM Narendra Modi interacted with owners of Janaushadhi Kendras and beneficiaries of Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) across the country.
Key Points:
► ‘Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana’ is a campaign launched by the Department of Pharmaceuticals, Govt. of India, to provide quality medicines at affordable prices to the masses through special kendra’s known as Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra.
► Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Jan Aushadhi Kendra (PMBJK) have been set up to provide generic drugs, which are available at lesser prices but are equivalent in quality and efficacy as expensive branded drugs.
► Bureau of Pharma PSUs of India (BPPI) is the implementing agency of PMBJP.
SOCIAL
Web- Wonder Women Campaign
The Ministry of Women and Child Development hosted a felicitation event for Web Wonder Women.
Highlights:
► The Campaign has been launched by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, Government of India in association with the NGO Breakthrough and Twitter India.
► Through the campaign, the Ministry aims to recognize the fortitude of Indian women stalwarts from across the globe who have used the power of social media to run positive & niche campaigns to steer a change in society.
► The Campaign is aimed at encouraging, recognizing and acknowledging the efforts of these meritorious Women.
SPORTS
National Sports Federation
Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has granted provisional recognition to Kudo International Federation India (KIFI) as National Sport Federation with immediate effect.
Key Points:
► The recognition means granting a major role to KIFI Association for promotion and Development of Kudo sport in India.
► National Sports Federations (NSFs) are autonomous bodies registered under the Societies Registration Act 1860. The Government does not interfere in their day to day affairs.
► Government has issued guidelines imposing age and tenure limits in respect of office bearers of NSFs, including those of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA).
► These have further been reiterated in the National Sports Development Code of India, 2011, which has been made effective from 31.1.2011.
AWARDS & HONOURS
Swachh Survekshan Awards 2019
The Swachh Survekshan awards 2019 were recently conferred by President Ram Nath Kovind. Swachh Survekshan 2019 covered all urban local bodies in the country, making it the largest such cleanliness survey in the world.
Highlights:
► Indore was adjudged India’s cleanest city for the third straight year. The second and third positions in the category were grabbed by Ambikapur in Chhattisgarh and Mysuru in Karnataka.
► Bhopal is country’s Swachh capital.
► New Delhi Municipal Council area was given the ‘Cleanest Small City’ award.
► Uttarakhand’s Gauchar was adjudged the ‘Best Ganga Town’.
► The ‘Cleanest Big City’ award has been bagged by Ahmedabad, while Raipur is the ‘Fastest Moving Big City’.
► Ujjain has been the adjudged the ‘Cleanest Medium City’ and Mathura-Vrindavan bagged the tag of the ‘Fastest Moving Medium Cities’.
SOCIAL
National Rural Economic Transformation Project
India has signed a $250 million loan agreement with the World Bank for the National Rural Economic Transformation Project (NRETP) that aims to help women in rural households shift to a new generation of economic initiatives by developing viable enterprise for farm and non-farm products.
Key Points:
► The National Rural Economic Transformation project is additional financing to the $500 million National Rural Livelihoods Project (NRLP) approved by the World Bank in July 2011.
► The project will support enterprise development programs for rural poor women and youth by creating a platform to access finance including start-up financing options to build their individual or collectively owned and managed enterprises.
► The project will involve developing financial products using digital financial services to help small producer collectives scale-up and engage with the market.
► It will also support youth skills development in coordination with the Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Grameen Kaushalya Yojana.

INTERNATIONAL

LAW & JUSTICE
New Delhi International Arbitration Centre Ordinance, 2019
The Union Cabinet has approved promulgation of an Ordinance for establishing the New Delhi International Arbitration Centre (NDIAC) for the purpose of creating an independent and autonomous regime for institutionalised arbitration.
Key Points:
► In order to facilitate the setting up of NDIAC, the Ordinance envisages the transfer and vesting of the undertakings of the ICADR in the Central Government. The Central Government will subsequently vest the undertakings in NDIAC.
► NDIAC will be headed by a chairperson who has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or a Judge of a High Court or an eminent person, having special knowledge and experience in the conduct or administration of arbitration law or management, to be appointed by the Central Government in consultation with the Chief Justice of India.
► There will be two Full time or Part time Members from amongst eminent persons having substantial knowledge and experience in institutional arbitration, both domestic and international.
► Also, one representative of a recognised body of commerce and industry shall be chosen on a rotational basis as Part time Member.
► Secretary, Department of Legal Affairs, Financial Adviser nominated by the Department of Expenditure and Chief Executive Officer, NDIAC shall be ex-officio Members.
ENERGY
Arun-3 Hydro Electric Project
Cabinet approved investment proposal for transmission component of Arun-3 Hydro Electric Project (Nepal portion) by Sutlej Jal Vikas Nigam(SJVN) Limited.
Key Points:
► The investment will be done by state-owned Sutlej Jal Vikas Nigam (SJVN) which has been carrying out the construction work at the plant.
► The power from the project will be exported from Dhalkebar in Nepal to Muzaffarpur in India. This will not only provide surplus power to India but also strengthen the economic linkages with Nepal.
► The Arun-3 Hydro Electric project (900 MW) is a run-of-river located on Arun River in Eastern Nepal.
► A Memorandum of under-standing (MoU) was signed between Government of Nepal and SJVN Limited for the project in 2008 for execution on Build Own Operate and Transfer (BOOT) basis for a period of 30 years including five years of construction period.
SPACE
ARTEMIS Mission
Scientists used NASA’s ARTEMIS mission and suggest that the solar wind and the Moon’s crustal magnetic fields work together to give the Moon a distinctive pattern of darker and lighter swirls.
Key Points:
► ARTEMIS stands for “Acceleration, Reconnection, Turbulence and Electrodynamics of the Moon’s Interaction with the Sun”.
► ARTEMIS is made up of two probes P1 and P2. They were originally members of the successful mission THEMIS in Earth orbit studying Earth’s aurora but were redirected to the moon in an effort to save the two probes from losing power in Earth’s shade.
► Through this new mission, scientists look to learn more about the Earth-moon Lagrange points, the solar wind, the Moon’s plasma wake and how the Earth’s magnetotail and the moon’s own weak magnetism interact with the solar wind.
Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE)
Objective: To study and focus on airglow, a colourful band of light in Earth’s atmosphere to determine what combination of forces drive space weather in the upper atmosphere.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has selected a new mission – Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) – that will help scientists understand and ultimately forecast the vast space weather system around the Earth.
Key Points:
► It will be launched in August 2022 and will be attached to the exterior of Earth-orbiting International Space Station (ISS).
► It will be the first such experiment to obtain global observations of an important driver of space weather in the dynamic region of Earth’s upper atmosphere that can cause interference with radio and GPS communications.
► AWE is a Mission of Opportunity under NASA’s Heliophysics Explorers Program, which conducts focused scientific research and develops instrumentation to fill the scientific gaps between the agency’s larger missions.
SECURITY
Mainamati Maitree Exercise 2019
Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) recently concluded a three-day ‘Mainamati Maitree Exercise 2019’ as a part of ‘Confidence Building Measures’ between the two border guards.
Key Points:
► The exercise was named after Mainamati hill range situated 8 km west of Comilla Township in Bangladesh, which is home to an ancient Buddhist archaeological site in the region.
► The objective of Mainamati Maitree Exercise 2019 was to plan and conduct anti-smuggling and anti-criminal activities related operations with an aim to achieve better joint operational efficiency and border management in the area.
► A series of joint exercises and exchanges are being held in the Tripura-Bangla frontier illegal incursions by Rohingya people.
CONFERENCES & SUMMITS
Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue
Objective: To provide a platform for substantive and insightful discussions pertaining to the geopolitical developments affecting the maritime domain of the Indo-Pacific, and provide policy-relevant inputs to the policy-makers and the public at large.
In continuation of the process of engaging the global strategic community in an annual review of India’s opportunities and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, the second edition of Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) – 2019 was held in New Delhi.
Key Points:
► The idea of an Indo-Pacific Regional Dialogue (IPRD) was first conceptualised and conducted in 2018, as the apex level conference of the Indian Navy, organised by the National Maritime Foundation as the Navy’s Knowledge Partner.
► The permanent theme of this annual dialogue is a review of India’s opportunities and challenges in the Indo-Pacific region.
► The aim is to focus attention on the Indo-Pacific, as a maritime geographical-entity, while deliberating aspects of great relevance to regional geopolitics.
► Indo-Pacific is a multipolar region that is contributing more than half of world GDP and population. Countries falling in the direct catchment of the vast Indian and Pacific oceans can be termed as Indo-Pacific countries.
DEFENCE
Exercise Sampriti 2019
As part of the ongoing India Bangladesh defence cooperation, a joint military exercise Sampriti-2019 will be conducted at Tangail, Bangladesh.
Key Points:
► Exercise Sampriti-2019 is an important bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and Bangladesh and this will be the eighth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.
► The exercise is aimed to strengthen and broaden the aspects of interoperability and cooperation between the Indian and Bangladesh Armies.
► The exercise will involve tactical level operations in a counter insurgency and counter terrorism environment under the UN mandate.
ENVIRONMENT
World Wildlife Day 2019
Objective: To provide an opportunity to celebrate the beautiful and varied forms of wild fauna and flora to raise awareness of benefits that conservation provides to people.
World Wildlife Day 2019 was observed on March 3rd with the theme ‘Life below water: for people and Planet.’
Key Points:
► Every year the World Wildlife Day is observed on 3rd of March to remind the world of the urgent need to step up the fight against wildlife crime and human-induced reduction of species, which have a wide-ranging economic, environmental and social impact.
► The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on December 2019 decided to proclaim 3rd March as World Wildlife Day.
► March 3rd is the day of the adoption of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
ENVIRONMENT
The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019
India and four rhino range nations have signed a declaration ‘The New Delhi Declaration on Asian Rhinos 2019’ for the conservation and protection of the species at the recently held Second Asian Rhino Range Countries meeting. The meeting was held at New Delhi and organised by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of Government of India in collaboration with the IUCN Asian Rhino Specialist Group, WWF- India and Aaranyak.
Key Points:
► India will collaborate with Bhutan, Nepal, Indonesia and Malaysia to increase the population of three species of Asian rhinos, including the Greater one-horned rhinoceros found in the Indian subcontinent.
► The declaration was signed to conserve and review the population of the Greater one-horned, Javan and Sumatran rhinos every four years to reassess the need for joint actions to secure their future.
► The declaration includes undertaking studies on health issues of the rhinos, their potential diseases and taking necessary steps; collaborating and strengthening wildlife forensics for the purpose of investigation and strengthening of transboundary collaboration among India, Nepal and Bhutan for the conservation and protection of the Greater one-horned rhino.
ENVIRONMENT
World Air Quality Report 2018
Objective: To measure the presence of fine particulate matter known as Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, which has been recorded in real-time in 2018.
IQAir AirVisual and Greenpeace have released World Air Quality Report 2018.
Highlights:
► The report, based on a study of 3000 cities, said that 64 percent of the cities exceeded the World Health Organisation’s annual exposure guideline for PM 2.5. In South Asia itself, 99 percent of the cities exceeded the WHO’s safe standard exposure of 10 micrograms/cubic metre annually.
► Of the 10 cities with highest pollution, seven are in India, while one is in China and two are in Pakistan.
► India’s Gurugram led the list of most polluted cities in the world in 2018, followed by Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Noida, and Bhiwadi in the top six worst-affected cities.
► Delhi was ranked at number 11 on the pollution chart.
► Among the top 30 most polluted cities, India makes up for 22 with five in China, two in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh.
► The only non-Indian city in the top five list is Faisalabad, Pakistan.
► Delhi was ranked as the most polluted capital in the world, with Dhaka at second and Kabul at third position.
REPORTS AND SURVEYS
UNODC
The latest report released by United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) says that India is one of the major hubs of illicit drug trade ranging from age-old cannabis to newer prescription drugs like tramadol, and designer drugs like methamphetamine.
Key findings:
► While the global trend of purchasing drugs over the internet, particularly on darknet trading platforms using cryptocurrencies has already spread across South Asia, it is particularly rampant in India.
► India is also a transit country for illicitly produced opiates, in particular heroin. The route used by traffickers to smuggle opiates through South Asia is an alternative part of the so-called “southern route”, which runs through Pakistan or the Islamic Republic of Iran, via the Gulf countries, continues to East Africa and on to destination countries.
► Also, India, Australia, France and Turkey accounted for 83% of global production of morphine-rich opiate raw
materials in 2017. The stocks were considered sufficient to cover 19 months of expected global demand by manufacturers at the 2018 level of demand.
ENVIRONMENT
Nitrogen Pollution
The annual Frontiers Report 2019 published by the United Nations (UN), has included a chapter on nitrogen pollution in its latest edition. The report was released by the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi.
Highlights:
► Pollution caused by the reactive forms of nitrogen is now being recognised as a grave environmental concern on a global level.
► It highlights that growing demand on the livestock, agriculture, transport, industry and energy sector has led to a sharp growth of the levels of reactive nitrogen — ammonia, nitrate, nitric oxide (NO), nitrous oxide (N2O) — in our ecosystems.
► The report claims that the total annual cost of nitrogen pollution to ecosystem and healthcare services in the world is around $340 billion.
► The report also warns that the scale of the problem remains largely unknown and unacknowledged outside scientific circles.

NATIONAL

ARTS AND CULTURE
Dictionary of Martyrs
Objective: To nurture and recall the brave deeds of the heroes of our freedom struggle.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently released the Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle.
Key Points:
► The project for the compilation of “Dictionary of Martyrs” of India’s Freedom Struggle was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, to the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the uprising of 1857.
► In this dictionary, a martyr has been defined as a person who died or who was killed in action or in detention or was awarded capital punishment while participating in the national movement for the emancipation of India.
► It includes ex-INA or ex-military personnel who died fighting the British.
► It includes the martyrs of 1857 Uprising, Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (1919), Non-Cooperation Movement (1920-22), Civil Disobedience Movement (1930-34), Quit India Movement (1942-44), Revolutionary Movements (1915-34), Kissan Movements, Tribal Movements, Agitation for Responsible Government in the Princely States (Prajamandal), Indian National Army (INA, 1943-45), Royal Indian Navy Upsurge (RIN, 1946), etc. Information of about 13,500 martyrs has been recorded in these volumes.
ENVIRONMENT
Flood Management and Border Areas Programme (FMBAP)
Objective: To assist the State Governments to provide a reasonable degree of protection against floods in critical areas.
The Union Cabinet has approved the “Flood Management and Border Areas Programme (FMBAP)” for Flood Management Works in the entire country and River Management Activities and works related to Border Areas for the period 2017-18 to 2019-20.
Highlights:
► The Scheme “FMBAP” has been framed by merging the components of two continuing XII Plan schemes titled “Flood Management Programme (FMP)” and “River Management Activities and Works related to Border Areas (RMBA)”.
► The works under the scheme will protect valuable land from erosion and flooding and help in maintaining peace along the border.
► The Scheme aims at the completion of the on-going
projects already approved under FMP. Further, the scheme also caters to Hydro-meteorological observations and Flood Forecasting on common rivers with the neighbouring countries.
► The Scheme also includes survey and investigations, preparation of DPR etc. of water resources projects on the common rivers with neighbouring countries like Pancheshwar Multipurpose Project, Sapta Kosi-Sun Kosi Projects in Nepal which would benefit both countries.
ENERGY
Kiru Hydro Electric (HE) Project
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the investment sanction for construction of Kiru Hydro Electric(HE) Project (624 MW) in Jammu & Kashmir.
Key Points:
► The project is located on River Chenab in Kishtwar district of Jammu & Kashmir.
► It envisages construction of a 135 m high concrete gravity Dam above deepest foundation level.
► The project shall provide much-needed power in the northern grid
► It shall accelerate the process of development of remote areas of Jammu and Kashmir.
► The Project is scheduled to be completed in a period of 4 1/2 years.
► The project is envisaged as a Run of River (RoR) Scheme, designed complying with the requirements of Indus Water Treaty 1960.
Ethanol production gets a leg-up
Objective: To boost sugar mills’ ethanol-production capacity and help them pay off mounting arrears to cane farmers.
The Union government has approved `3,355 crore in incentives. The CCEA has approved `2,790 crore for bank loan interest subvention to mills, and `565 crore for loan interest subvention to the molasses-based standalone distilleries.
Key Points:
► Banks will be able to extend soft loans worth `15,500 crore to mills and distilleries under the scheme. This is likely to benefit 268 mills and create an additional 300-400 crore litres of ethanol capacity, according to industry estimates.
► The decision to encourage ethanol production would have a longer-term impact, with the creation of 300-400 crore litres of ethanol capacity in addition to the existing 355 crore litres. This will help the sugar industry reduce surplus production by diverting the surplus sugarcane for ethanol.
► Increased ethanol blending in petrol has many benefits including reduction in import dependency, support to the agricultural sector, more environment-friendly fuel, lesser pollution and additional income to farmers.
TRANSPORT
Regional Air Connectivity- UDAN
Objective: To facilitate/stimulate regional air connectivity by making it cheap and affordable.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved the extension of time and scope for revival and development of un-served and under-served airstrips of State Governments, Airports Authority of India (AAI), Civil enclaves, CPSUs, helipads and water aerodromes.
Key Points:
► The revival of these un-served and under-served airstrips will be carried out under the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) – UDAN (Ude Desh ka Aam Naagrik).
► UDAN, launched in April 2017, is a flagship scheme of the Union Government to enable air operations on unserved routes, connecting regional areas, to promote balanced regional growth and to make flying affordable for masses.
► The UDAN Scheme is a key component of the National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) which was launched in June 2016.
AWARDS AND HONOURS
Nari Shakti Puraskar 2018
To acknowledge Women’s achievements, the Government of India confers Nari Shakti Puraskars on eminent women and institutions in recognition of their service towards the cause of women empowerment.
Key Points:
► The award is given by the Ministry of Women and Child Development.
► The Nari Shakti Awards were initiated in the year 1999.
► The award carries a cash award of Rs.1 Lakh and a certificate for individuals and institutions.
► The award is conferred on eminent women and institutions rendering distinguished service to the cause of women especially belonging to the vulnerable and marginalized sections of the society.
► Nari Shakti Puraskar 2018 was presented to 44 awardees including two institutions namely One Stop Centre of Lucknow and Tamil Nadu State Social Welfare and Nutritious Meal Department.
IT
‘Bolo’ app
Google has launched a new application called ‘Bolo’ that aims to help children in primary school to read in Hindi and English.
Key Points:
► The app, which is being launched in India first, uses Google’s speech recognition and text-to-speech technology.
► It comes with a built-in fun and helpful reading buddy, an animated character called ‘Diya’. The reading material available on the app will be completely free of cost.
► The app aims to help improve the reading ability of children, as the lack of it can significantly impact further education and ultimately children’s ability to realise their full potential.
DEFENCE
India, Russia sign deal on nuclear submarine
India has sealed a $3-billion deal with Russia for leasing a nuclear-powered attack submarine for the Indian Navy for a period of 10 years.
Key Points:
► Under the pact, Russia will deliver the Akula class submarine, to be known as Chakra III, to the Indian Navy by 2025.
► It will be the third Russian submarine to be leased to the Navy. India Navy has taken two more submarines from Russia on a lease.
► The first Russian nuclear-powered submarine — christened INS Chakra — was taken in 1988 under a three-year lease.
► A second INS Chakra was taken on lease in 2012 for a period of 10 years.
TRANSPORT
National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage
Date: 10th March 2019
The Union Cabinet has approved setting up of a National Mission on Transformative Mobility and Battery Storage.
Key Points:
► The Mission will have an Inter-Ministerial Steering Committee chaired by Chief Executive Officer (CEO), NITI Aayog to promote clean, connected, shared, sustainable and holistic mobility initiatives.
► The Mission will also launch the Phased Manufacturing Programmes (PMP) for Batteries and for Electric Vehicle components.
► The mission will finalise and implement strategies for transformative mobility and Phased Manufacturing Programmes (PMP) for electric vehicles, their components and batteries.
► The Mission will have a ‘Make in India’ strategy for EV components as well as battery technologies.
INDUSTRY
Idukki’s Marayoor Jaggery gets GI tag
Date: 10th March 2019
The Marayoor Jaggery, the traditional and handmade product from Idukki district of Kerala, has received the Geographical Indication (GI) tag from the Central Government.
Key Points:
► The Jaggery is produced in Marayoor, a town in Idukki district of Kerala. It is made from sugarcane and no chemicals are added during the manufacturing process.
► It is not produced in modern factories or using modern equipment. It is prepared in sheds located on the sugarcane farm.
► The Marayoor jaggery got the GI status after two years of effort by the Kerala Agricultural department. The GI tag will provide more windows of opportunity to the traditional sugarcane farmers in Marayoor.
ARTS AND CULTURE
Kashi Vishwanath Corridor
Date: 11th March 2019
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has laid the foundation stone for the Kashi Vishwanath Corridor.
Key facts:
► 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.
► 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.
ENERGY
BEE Star Ratings
Date: 11th March 2019
The Ministry of Power has announced that two more electrical appliances microwave ovens and washing machines will now be assigned star ratings based on their energy efficiency metrics.
Key Points:
► The programme of star rating of Microwave Ovens and Washing Machines will be implemented on a voluntary basis and will be valid up to December 31, 2020.
► Star ratings are provided to all the major kind of appliances in the form of labels. These star ratings are given out of 5 and they provide a basic sense of how energy efficient each product is, just in a single glance.
► The manufacturers are officially required to put these labels as per the Standards and Labelling Program introduced in 2006.
IT
India Urban Observatory & Video Wall
Date: 11th March 2019
Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs has launched the state-of-the-art India Urban Observatory and Video Wall.
Key Points:
► It is an important component of the recently launched DataSmart Cities strategy that envisions creating a ‘Culture of Data’ in cities, for intelligent use of data in addressing complex urban challenges.
► The strategy aims to lay down the basic premise, three foundational pillars vis. People, Process, Platform.
► It will plug into the myriad sources of data from cities, both from real-time and archival sources.
► It will suggest a roadmap for cities to improve their readiness for the intelligent use of data.
► Making cities ‘DataSmart’ is key to realizing the full potential of technology interventions and innovation ecosystems in cities.
COMMUNICATION
National Knowledge Network
Date: 12th March 2019
Objective: To connect all universities, research institutions, libraries, laboratories, healthcare and agricultural institutions across the country to address such a paradigm shift.
India has decided to extend its National Knowledge Network to Bangladesh.
Key Points:
► It is a multi-gigabit pan-India network which facilitates the development of India’s communications infrastructure, stimulates research and creates next-generation applications and services.
► The role of NKN includes connecting all higher centres of learning and research by bringing together all stakeholders from science, technology, higher education, healthcare, agriculture and governance to a common platform.
► To optimally utilise the potential of institutions engaged in generation and dissemination of knowledge in various areas, such as research laboratories, universities and other institutions of higher learning, including professional institutions.
► To build quality institutions with requisite research facilities and create a pool of highly trained persons.
ECONOMY
Consumer Price Index Numbers
Date: 12th March 2019
► The Central Statistics Office (CSO), Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation has revised the Base Year of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) from 2010=100 to 2012=100 with effect from the release of indices for the month of January 2015.
Key Points:
► The Consumer Price Index (CPI) is a measure that examines the weighted average of prices of a basket of consumer goods and services, such as transportation, food and medical care.
► It is calculated by taking price changes for each item in the predetermined basket of goods and averaging them.
► CPI is widely used as an economic indicator. It is the most widely used measure of inflation and, by proxy, of the effectiveness of the government’s economic policy.
► The CPI gives the government, businesses and citizens an idea about prices changes in the economy, and can act as a guide in order to make informed decisions about the economy.
► The CPI and the components that make it up can also be used as a deflator for other economic factors, including retail sales, hourly/weekly earnings and the value of a consumer’s dollar to find its purchasing power.
ECONOMY
Sovereign Patent Fund (SPF)
Date: 12th March 2019
The National Electronics Policy (NEP) 2019 aims to create a Sovereign Patent Fund (SPF).
Key Points:
► It is a State-led investment fund that will acquire Intellectual Property (IP) assets important to national economic objectives.
► It can develop a domestic innovation ecosystem, acquire critical IP and reduce the knowledge gap.
► It will help in generating new businesses based on the IP assets owned by Indian corporate.
► It will support the MSME players largely by making cutting edge technologies available at a low cost.
► In the global scenario, SPFs were first launched in South Korea, followed by France and Japan.
ENERGY
Rooftop solar scheme
Date: 13th March 2019
Objective: To Achieve total rooftop solar power generation capacity of 40,000 megawatt (MW) by 2022.
The government has approved the second phase of the scheme to set up grid-connected rooftop solar power projects with the central financial support of Rs 11,814.
Key Points:
► Setting up 4,000 MW grid-connected rooftop solar plants in the residential sector with central financial assistance.
► Incentives to DISCOMS based on achievement for installing additional grid-connected rooftop capacity in all sectors over and above the base level.
► The government is working on a target to achieve 175 gigawatts (GW) of renewable energy generation capacity by 2022.
► That includes 100 GW of solar, 60 GW of wind, 1 GW of biomass-based plants, and 5 GW of small hydro.
► The solar power capacity target includes 40 GW of rooftop solar projects.
DEFENCE
Pinaka Guided Weapons
Date: 12th March 2019
The indigenously developed Pinaka Guided Weapons System was successfully test fired at Pokhran desert in Rajasthan.
Key Points:
► Pinaka rocket systems are developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The rocket system was named after Pinaka, the bow of Lord Shiva.
► It was initially a 30 to 40 km range rocket. Its range was increased 70 to 80 km with Pinaka Mark II.
► It is equipped with a guidance kit comprising an advanced navigation and control system.
DEFENCE
Combat Casualty Drugs
Date: 13th March 2019
DRDO’s medical laboratory has come up with a range of ‘combat casualty drugs’ that can extend the golden hour of gravely wounded security personnel till the trooper is shifted to hospital. It has been developed at the Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Sciences, a laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
Key Points:
► The spectrum includes bleeding wound sealants, super absorptive dressings and glycerated salines, all of which can save lives in the event of warfare in a jungle and high altitude areas as well as in terror attacks.
► Glycerated saline is a battlefield intravenous fluid that does not freeze till -18 degrees Celsius and is useful in handling trauma cases in high altitude areas. Glycerated saline, unlike normal saline, reduces inflammation. The drug can be lifesaving, particularly if traumatic oedema, the collection of fluid in tissues and cavities of the body, is in the brain or lungs.
► A special medicated dressing material, in the kit, is 200 times more absorptive than normal dressings during bleeding wounds. These cellulose fibre-based dressings are more effective in stopping bleeding and keeping the wound clean. Additionally, antiseptics, antibiotics and curcumin can be impregnated in the dressing which acts as a slow drug release system.
TRADE & COMMERCE
Arecanut gets its first GI tag for ‘Sirsi Supari’
Date: 13th March 2019
For the first time in the arecanut sector, ‘Sirsi Supari’ grown in Uttara Kannada has received the Geographic Indication (GI) tag. Totgars’ Cooperative Sale Society Ltd., Sirsi, is the registered proprietor of the GI.
Key Points:
► The arecanut grown in these taluks have unique features such as a round and flattened coin shape, particular texture, size, cross-sectional views, taste, etc.
► These features are not seen in arecanut grown in any other regions. Its average dry weight is 7.5 g and average thickness is 16 mm.
► This particular variety has a unique taste due to differences in chemical composition.
► It is cultivated in Yellapura, Siddapura and Sirsi taluks.
ECONOMY
Exchange Traded Fund (ETF)
Date: 14th March 2091
The Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM) is slated to launch a fresh tranche of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSE) Exchange Traded Fund (ETF) to raise Rs 4,000-5,000 crore in disinvestment.
Key Points:
► ETFs are index funds that are listed and traded on stock exchanges just like regular shares.
► They are a basket of stocks with assigned weights that reflect the composition of an index.
► The ETFs trading value is based on the net asset value of the underlying stocks that it represents.
► They enable investors to gain broad exposure to entire stock markets in different countries and specific sectors with relative ease, on a real-time basis and at a lower cost than many other forms of investing.
► The ETF is aimed at helping speed up the government’s disinvestment programme.
ENERGY
First Workshop on India Energy Modelling Forum
Date: 15th March 2019
Objective: To improve cooperation and coordination between modelling teams, the Government of India, knowledge partners and think-tanks.
The NITI Aayog and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) organized the first workshop on the development of the India Energy Modelling Forum (IEMF), which has been envisaged as a pan-stakeholder platform for debating ideas, scenario-planning & discussing India’s energy future.
Key Points:
► The forum seeks to provide a platform for leading experts and policymakers to study important energy and environmental issues and ensure induction of modelling and analysis in informed decision-making process.
► It aims to build the capacity of Indian institutions, and identify issues for joint modeling activities and future areas of research.
► The session featuring representatives of key central government ministries laid special emphasis on ensuring social, environmental and economic costs of energy production and consumption are accurately calculated to future-proof decision making and policy planning.
► The workshop included extensive discussions about the framework of an India Energy Modelling Forum and its institutional, coordination and funding mechanisms.
IT
ECI launches Observer App
Date: 15th March 2019
The Election Commission has for the first time started using a mobile application titled ‘Observer App’ that will help poll observers to submit reports.
Key Points:
► The IAS, IPS and IRS officials, besides some others from the Central services, who are to be deployed as observers in the coming Lok Sabha and State Assembly polls.
► These officers are being deployed as general, police and expenditure observers.
► They will get all the important notifications, alerts, and urgent messages through the “Observer App”.
► It will help them get their deployment status, download the ID card and update their profile.
► The observers will be closely involved in real-time disposal of Model Code of Conduct and expenditure violation cases received through another mobile application “cVIGIL”, those details will also be available on the “Observer App.”
► The observers can make a written observation after the flying squads have investigated the matter.
► They needed to ensure that no mistakes were committed in the process of conducting elections.

INTERNATIONAL

INFRASTRUCTURE
India launches third IT corridor in China
Date: 11th March 2019
India has launched its third IT corridor in China. The corridor will facilitate partnerships between Indian and Chinese companies.
Key Points:
► The National Association of Software and Services Companies (NASSCOM) entered into a partnership with China’s Xuzhou city to help develop the IT corridor.
► The primary aim of this IT corridor will be to facilitate partnerships between Indian and Chinese companies.
► The IT industry body has already launched such corridors at Dalian and Guiyang cities to cash in on the burgeoning Chinese IT industry market. Through its previous similar initiatives in China, NASSCOM has brought to the fore opportunities with over 300 companies where more than 10 Indian SME companies have signed deals worth 31 Million RMB (USD 4.5 million).
REPORTS AND SURVEYS
Trends in International Arms Transfers-2018
Date: 12th March 2019
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has released the Trends in International Arms Transfers 2018 Report. The assessment was done for a five-year period (2014-2018).
Highlights:
► India was the world’s second largest importer of major arms in 2014-18 and accounted for 9.5% of the global total.
► After eight years of holding the position of the largest importer of weapons, India has been superseded by Saudi Arabia and dropped down to become the second largest importer of weapons in the world. Last year (for the period 2013-17), India accounted for 13% of all imports and was the world’s largest importer.
► China, which is now the fifth largest exporter of weapons, has been aiding Pakistan and Bangladesh in stepping up their military prowess in the region.
REPORTS AND SURVEYS
World Gold Council (WGC)
Date: 12th March 2019
World Gold Council (WGC) has released a report on gold holdings of various countries.
Key Points:
► India, which is the world’s largest consumer of gold, has the 11th largest gold reserve, with the current holding pegged at 607 tonnes.
► International Monetary Fund (IMF) is third on the list with total gold reserves of 2,814 tonnes.
► Top slot is occupied by the U.S., which boasts of gold reserves of 8,133.5 tonnes, followed by Germany with 3,369.7 tonnes.
► Among Asian countries, China and Japan have more reserves of the precious metal when compared to India.
► Pakistan, with its gold reserves of 64.6 tonnes, occupies the 45th position.
HEALTHCARE
WHO Strategy to Fight Flu Pandemics
Date: 13th March 2019
The World Health Organization has launched a strategy to protect people worldwide over the next decade against the threat of influenza, warning that new pandemics are “inevitable”.
Key Points:
► The strategy meets one of WHO’s mandates to improve core capacities for public health, and increase global preparedness and was developed through a consultative process with input from the Member States, academia, civil society, industry, and internal and external experts.
► Influenza epidemics, largely seasonal, affect around one billion people and kill hundreds of thousands annually. WHO describes it as one of the world’s greatest public health challenges.
► Through the implementation of the new WHO global influenza strategy, the world will be closer to reducing the impact of influenza every year and be more prepared for an influenza pandemic and other public health emergencies.
TRADE & COMMERCE
India gets first TIR shipment via Chabahar Port
Date: 14th March 2019
The first shipment under the United Nations ‘Transports Internationaux Routiers’ (TIR) convention arrived in India from Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar Port. The consignments arrived at port of Nhava Sheva, Mumbai and Mundra.
Key Points:
► TIR is ‘Transports Internationaux Routiers’ which is a UN convention that allows goods to be sealed in compartments and requires no need for physical checking of the contents.
► Customs clearance can take place at internal Customs locations thereby avoiding clearances at Border Crossing Points and ports that may often be congested.
► Movement under the TIR can be allowed by checking only the seals and the external conditions of the load compartment or the container thereby reducing border delays, transport and transaction cost thereby leading to increased competitiveness and growth for the trade and transport sectors.
ENVIRONMENT
Global Environmental Outlook 2019
Date: 14th March 2019
The most comprehensive and rigorous assessment on the state of the environment report titled Global Environmental Outlook completed by the UN in the last five years was published.
Highlights:
► The report stated drastically scale up environmental protections, or cities and regions in Asia, the Middle East and Africa could see millions of premature deaths by mid-century.
► It warns that pollutants in our freshwater systems will see anti-microbial resistance become a major cause of death by 2050 and endocrine disruptors impact male and female fertility, as well as child neurodevelopment.
► The report highlights the fact that the world has the science, technology and finance it needs to move towards a more sustainable development pathway, although sufficient support is still missing from the public, business and political leaders who are clinging to outdated production and development models.
ENERGY
Six U.S. nuclear power plants to be set up in India
Date: 14th March 2019
India and U.S have agreed on a proposal to build six nuclear power plants in India.
Highlights:
► India and the United States have committed to strengthen bilateral security and civil nuclear cooperation, including the establishment of six US nuclear power plants in India.
► US reaffirmed its strong support for India’s early membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group. This commitment was made at the 9th round of the India-US Strategic Security Dialogue held in Washington DC.
► India and US also exchanged views on a wide range of global security and nonproliferation challenges. They reaffirmed their commitment to work together to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and their delivery systems and to deny access to such weapons by terrorists and non-state actors.
ENVIRONMENT
The Global Chemicals Outlook II
Date: 15th March 2019
The second edition of the Global Chemicals Outlook has been released.
Highlights:
► The Global Chemicals Outlook II – From Legacies to Innovative Solutions: Implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, mandated by the
UN Environment Assembly in 2016.
► It seeks to alert policymakers and other stakeholders to the critical role of the sound management of chemicals and waste in sustainable development.
► It takes stock of global trends as well as progress made and gaps in achieving the global goal to minimize the adverse impacts from chemicals and waste by 2020.
► It finds that the global goal to minimize adverse impacts of chemicals and waste will not be achieved by 2020.

NATIONAL

IT
National Supercomputing Mission (NSM)
Date: 16th March 2019
IIT Kharagpur has signed an MoU with Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) to set up a 1.3 Petaflop high-performance computing facility and data centre funded under the National Supercomputing Mission. The new supercomputing system would be used for specific challenge domains like cryptography, chemistry, molecular dynamics, drug discovery, artificial intelligence and data sciences where the new system would be utilized.
Key Points:
► National Supercomputing Mission, approved in 2016, is being implemented and steered jointly by the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and Department of Electronics and Information Technology (DeitY).
► The Mission envisages empowering national academic and R&D institutions spread over the country by installing a vast supercomputing grid comprising of more than 70 high-performance computing facilities.
► These supercomputers will also be networked on the National Supercomputing grid over the National Knowledge Network (NKN). The NKN is another programme of the government which connects academic institutions and R&D labs over a high-speed network.
► The Mission includes the development of highly professional High-Performance Computing (HPC) aware human resource for meeting challenges of development of these applications.
DEFENCE
TROPEX 19
Date: 18th March 2019
Objective: To test the combat readiness of the combined fleets of the Indian Navy, and the assets of the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and the Indian Coast Guard.
► Theatre Level Readiness and Operational Exercise (TROPEX) is an inter-service military exercise involving the participation of the Indian Army, Air Force, Navy and the Coast Guard.
Key Points:
► The exercise generally commences at the beginning of each year and lasts a month.
► Exercise will have ships and aircraft of both the Western and Eastern Naval Commands, as also assets from the Indian Air Force, Indian Army and the Indian Coast Guard exercising together.
► The exercise is being conducted off the Western Seaboard.
► It will strengthen inter-operability and joint operations in a complex environment.
INS Khanderi: Second Scorpene submarine ready for induction
Date: 18th March 2019
The Navy is set to induct the second Scorpene submarine Khanderi by early May.
INS Khanderi is the second of the Indian Navy’s six Kalvari-class submarines being built in India.
Key Points:
► It is a diesel-electric attack submarine which is designed by French naval defence and energy company DCNS and being manufactured at Mazagon Dock Limited in Mumbai.
► INS Khanderi, named after Maratha king Chhatrapati Shivaji’s island fort Khanderi.
► Six Scorpene class submarines are being built under Project 75 by the Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDSL), Mumbai, under a $3.75 billion technology transfer signed in October 2005 with the Naval Group of France.
► The Scorpene class is the Navy’s first modern
conventional submarine series in almost two decades since INS Sindhushastra was procured from Russia in July 2000.
ENERGY
Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahaabhiyan or KUSUM scheme
Date: 19th March 2019
The government has cautioned against fake websites claiming to be registration portal for Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM) scheme and said such websites may be misusing the collected data.
Key Points:
► It is a Rs. 1.4 lakh-crore scheme for promoting decentralised solar power production of up to 28,250 MW to help farmers.
► It would provide extra income to farmers, by giving them an option to sell additional power to the grid through solar power projects set up on their barren lands. It would help in de-dieselising the sector as also the DISCOMS.
► The components of the scheme include building 10,000 MW solar plants on barren lands and providing sops to DISCOMS to purchase the electricity produced, ‘solarising’ existing pumps of 7250 MW as well as government tube wells with a capacity of 8250 MW and distributing 17.5 lakh solar pumps. The 60% subsidy on the solar pumps provided to farmers will be shared between the Centre and the States while 30% would be provided through bank loans. The balance cost has to be borne by the farmers.
► Expected positive outcomes of the scheme include promotion of decentralised solar power production, reduction of transmission losses as well as providing support to the financial health of DISCOMs by reducing the subsidy burden to the agriculture sector. The scheme would also promote energy efficiency and water conservation and provide water security to farmers.
ENVIRONMENT
Parrotfish in Andaman
Date: 19th March 2019
Fishing and coral reef degradation threaten parrotfish in Andaman. A new study says the presence of a protected area, live coral and algal cover, significantly influences distribution and abundance of the specie.
Key Points:
► Bumphead parrotfish (Bolbometopon muricatum), is an important component of the coral reef ecosystem but is highly endangered globally. It is categorized as ‘vulnerable’ in the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
► This fish is a highly prized resource but is threatened due to limited knowledge about its distribution and abundance in Indian waters.
► Ban night fishing for the species and implement regulations regarding reef fishing. Considering the vulnerable status of Bumphead parrotfish globally, the species could be a flagship for educational campaigns focusing on the importance of conserving similar fish groups and protecting the coral reefs.
ARTS AND CULTURE
India Post releases special stamp cover on Ice Stupas
Date: 19th March 2019
Objective: To create awareness about depleting glaciers affecting the ecology around the Himalayas.
Global warming and ecological imbalance have caused irreparable damage to the Himalayas in the past several years.
India Post releases ‘special stamp cover on ice stupas’. The stamp was released by Jammu and Kashmir’s Chief Postmaster General during a function organised at the Ice Stupa site at Gangles Village in Leh.
Key Points:
► Ice Stupas also known as artificial glaciers, are being built with an aim to reduce the problem of water shortage, faced by Ladakhi farmers due to the receding of glaciers.
► Over 12 villages in Ladakh have built Ice Stupas this year in various villages.
► The idea of the Ice Stupa project was conceptualised by HIAL founder Sonam Wangchuk to reduce problems of Ladakhi farmers in spring.
► The Ice Stupa team of Himalayan Institute of Alternatives, Ladakh (HIAL) with support and cooperation from Leh-Phodo society and Army, has built an Ice Stupa at Gangles village.

INTERNATIONAL

ENVIRONMENT
Bomb Cyclone
Date: 16th March 2019
A powerful bomb cyclone has impacted several parts of the US causing heavy floods.
Key Points:
► The term is used by meteorologists to indicate a mid-latitude cyclone that intensifies rapidly.
► A bomb cyclone happens when atmospheric pressure in the middle of the storm drops at least 24 millibars over 24 hours, quickly increasing in intensity. The lower the pressure, the stronger the storm.
► Deep drops in barometric pressure occur when a region of warm air meets one of cold air. The air starts to move and the rotation of the earth creates a cyclonic effect. The direction is counterclockwise in the Northern hemisphere leading to winds that come out of the northeast.
UN Environment Assembly
Date: 18th March 2019
The Fourth Environment Assembly was held in Nairobi, focusing on the theme “Innovative solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable consumption and production”.
Key Points:
► The United Nations Environment Assembly is the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment. It addresses the critical environmental challenges facing the world today.
► The Environment Assembly meets biennially to set priorities for global environmental policies and develop international environmental law.
► The Assembly is the governing body of the UN Environment Programme (UN Environment) and the successor of its Governing Council, which was composed of 58 member States. The UN Environment Assembly, with universal membership, is now composed of 193 Member States.
► The United Nations Environment Assembly was created in June 2012, when world leaders called for UN Environment to be strengthened and upgraded during the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, also referred to as RIO+20.
ENVIRONMENT
India pilots resolutions on single-use plastics, sustainable nitrogen management
Date: 18th March 2019
India has piloted resolutions on two key global environmental issues, single-use plastics and sustainable nitrogen management, at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA). The UN Environment adopted both the resolutions with consensus.
Key Points:
► Nitrogen, which is a vital macronutrient for most plants, is the most abundant element in the atmosphere. A little over 78% of dry air on Earth is nitrogen. But atmospheric nitrogen, or dinitrogen, is unreactive and cannot be utilised by plants directly.
► Until the beginning of the 20th century, farmers depended on a natural process called nitrogen fixation for the conversion of atmospheric nitrogen into reactive nitrogen in the soil: nitrogen-fixing bacteria like rhizobia live symbiotically with leguminous plants, providing nitrogen to the plant and soil in the form of reactive compounds like ammonia and nitrate.
► But the natural nitrogen cycle was inadequate to feed the growing population. Scientists Fritz Haber and Carl Bosch solved this problem by producing ammonia by combining atmospheric nitrogen with hydrogen gas at high temperature and pressure—known as the Haber-Bosch process. The Green Revolution, which was instrumental in establishing food security in the developing countries in the 1960s, was driven by artificial nitrogen-fixation. Today, about half of the world’s population depends
on this process for its nutrition.
► India and the US can now exchange country-by-country (CbC) reports filed by the ultimate parent corporations based in either of the countries.
SECURITY
Kaladan Project
Date: 18th March 2019
The Indian and Myanmar’s armies have, in a coordinated operation, destroyed at least 10 camps belonging to an insurgent group in Myanmar, which had become a threat to India’s mega Kaladan Project in the neighbouring country. The operation was also undertaken keeping in view the safety of Indian workers engaged in the project. The military action carried out was codenamed Operation Sunrise.
Key Points:
► The Kaladan project connects Sittwe Port in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border.
► The project was jointly initiated by India and Myanmar to create a multi-modal platform for cargo shipments from the eastern ports to Myanmar and to the North-eastern parts of the country through Myanmar.
► It is expected to open up sea routes and promote economic development in the North-eastern states, and also add value to the economic, commercial and strategic ties between India and Myanmar. This project will reduce the distance from Kolkata to Sittwe by approximately 1328 km and will reduce the need to transport goods through the narrow Siliguri corridor, also known as Chicken’s Neck.
ENVIRONMENT
United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR)
Date: 19th March 2019
An International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI) is being organised by the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) in collaboration with United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), and in partnership with the Global Commission on Adaptation, United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank.
Key Points:
► It will bring together countries from different parts of the world, multilateral development banks, UN agencies, academia and research institutions, the private sector, academics and policy think tanks to discuss and collaborate on promoting policies and practices towards achieving disaster resilience of large infrastructure systems (transport, telecom, energy, water).
► This will also be a great opportunity to learn from the unique experiences of different countries.
► The workshop aims to:
► identify good practices of disaster risk management in key infrastructure sectors,
► identify specific areas and pathways for collaborative research on DRI (Transport, Energy, Telecom and Water),
► discuss and co-create the broad contours of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI) as well as a notional roll-out plan for the next three years, and iv) build a forum for members to work on areas of common interest and make specific commitments.
SECURITY
Sary-Arka-Antiterror 2019 – SCO joint anti-terrorism exercise
Date: 19th March 2019
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization’s (SCO) member states will hold a joint anti-terrorism exercise “Sary-Arka-Antiterror 2019.” The decision to hold a joint exercise was announced during the 34th meeting of the RATS council held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.
Key Points:
► Chaired by Russia, the meeting also declared plans to hold the first stage of the joint border operation “Solidarity 2019-2021,” the 7th meeting of the heads of the border services, and training workshops on identifying and preventing the use of the Internet for terrorist, separatist and extremist purposes.
► RATS, established in 2004, is a permanent organ of the SCO which serves to promote cooperation of member states against the three evils of terrorism, separatism and extremism. It is headquartered in Tashkent.
SPACE
Hayabusa2
Date: 19th March 2019
Objective: To characterize the asteroid from remote sensing observations (with multispectral cameras, near-infrared spectrometer, thermal infrared imager, laser altimeter) on a macroscopic scale and to analyse the samples returned from the asteroid on a microscopic scale.
Japan’s Hayabusa2 spacecraft will follow up last month’s touchdown on a distant asteroid with another risky mission — dropping an explosive on the asteroid to make a crater and then collect underground samples for possible clues to the origin of the solar system. Hayabusa2 made history on 22 February when it successfully touched down on the boulder-strewn asteroid and collected some surface fragments.
Key Points:
► It is an asteroid sample-return mission operated by the Japanese space agency, JAXA.
► It was launched on 3 December 2014 and rendezvoused with near-Earth asteroid 162173 Ryugu on 27 June 2018.
► It is in the process of surveying the asteroid for a year and a half, departing in December 2019, and returning to Earth in December 2020.
► Hayabusa2 carries multiple science payloads for remote sensing, sampling, and four small rovers that will investigate the asteroid surface to inform the environmental and geological context of the samples collected.
SOCIAL
Africa-India Field Training Exercise 2019
Date: 19th March 2019
Objective: To practice the participating nations in planning and conduct of Humanitarian Mine Assistance and Peace Keeping Operations under Chapter VII of the United Nations Peace Keeping Operations.
The inaugural Africa-India Field Training Exercise-2019 for India and African nations called AFINDEX-19 is being held at Aundh Military Station, Pune.
Key Points:
► Contingents of the 17 African Nations. Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe came together for the opening ceremony along with a contingent of Maratha Light Infantry representing India.
► The exercise will focus on the exchange of best practices between the participating nations, team building and tactical level operations in conducting United Nations mandated tasks to include establishment of a new mission, siting of a United Nations Headquarters for Peace Keeping operations, siting of Military Observer sites during the peace keeping missions, protection of civilians, nuances of standing combat deployment, convoy protection, patrolling aspects and aspects related to Humanitarian Mine Assistance.
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ISSUES
ENVIRONMENT
7 of the top 10 most polluted cities in the world in India
Date: 6th March, 2019
As per the World Air Quality Report 2018 released by IQAirAirVisual and Greenpeace, seven of the top 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India. Of the 10 cities with highest pollution, seven are in India while one is in China and two are in Pakistan. Among the Indian cities are Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Bhiwadi, Noida, Patna and Lucknow. The other three are Hotan in China and Lahore and Faislabad in Pakistan.
India’s Gurugram led the list of most polluted cities in the world in 2018 while Delhi was ranked at number 11 on the pollution chart.The main objective behind the report was to measure the presence of fine particulate matter known as Particulate Matter (PM) 2.5, which has been recorded in real-time in 2018. The report, based on a study of 3000 cities, said that 64 % of the cities exceeded the World Health Organisation’s annual exposure guideline for PM 2.5. In South Asia itself, 99 % of the cities exceeded the WHO’s safe standard exposure of 10 micrograms/cubic metre annually. Among the top 30 most polluted cities, India makes up for 22 with five in China, two in Pakistan and one in Bangladesh.

INTERNATIONAL

TRADE & COMMERCE
US Plans to end India’s Preferential Trade Status
US president Donald Trump set to open a new front in trade wars with a plan to end preferential trade treatment for India and Turkey. Washington “intends to terminate India’s and Turkey’s designations as beneficiary developing countries under the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) programme because they no longer comply with the statutory eligibility criteria.
Under the GSP programme, certain products can enter the US duty-free if countries meet eligibility criteria including “providing the US with equitable and reasonable market access. According to the statement of Office of the US Trade Representative, India has failed to provide assurances that it would allow required market access, while Turkey is “sufficiently economically developed” that it no longer qualifies.
Under the GSP programme, “certain products” can enter the US duty-free if countries meet eligibility criteria including “providing the US with equitable and reasonable market access”.
SOCIAL
High Gender Pay Gap observed in India: MSI Survey
As per Monster Salary Index (MSI) Survey that has recently been released, a high gender pay gap (GPG) is observed in India, as women earn 19% less than men; men earn Rs 242.49 and women earn Rs 196.3, that is Rs 46.19 lesser than men.
Highlights of Survey
► The gap in 2018 was 20% and has narrowed by only 1% in 2019.
► Semi-skilled work shows no gender pay gap, however, the gap touches 20% for skilled women and 30% for highly skilled occupations. It increases with experience and is highest at 15% in favour of men for talent with 10 and more years of experience.
► This index is complemented with the key findings from the third annual survey titled ‘Women of India Inc’
undertaken by Monster.com.The survey witnessed maximum share of participation from Mumbai at (24%), followed by Bengaluru (23%) and Delhi/NCR at (18%). The participation from non-metros was only at about 29%.
► In the sectoral analysis of the GPG it is observed that wage inequalities in favour of men are present in all the relevant sectors including IT/ITES services (26%); manufacturing (24%); healthcare, caring services and social work (21%). Financial services, banking and insurance are the only industries where men earn just 2% more.
SOCIAL
MP approves ordinance to hike OBC quota
Date: 11th March 2019
Madhya Pradesh governor, Anandiben Patel has approved an Ordinance to increase reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
Key Points
► As per the ordinance the reservation of OBC will be increased to 27% from 14%. It made Madhya Pradesh the only state in India to have 27% quota for OBCs.
► The government assured 10% reservation for economically weaker section in the general category will soon get implemented.
► State Minister for Law and Legal Affairs P C Sharma has announced the ordinance. The ordinance got its approval just before Lok Sabha election model code of conduct picks on.
ENVIRONMENT
Chemical Production to double by the year 2030: GCO Report
Date: 12th March 2019
The United Nations’ Environment Assembly, commenced in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 11, 2019 with a wakeup call — the world will miss the globally agreed target of minimising adverse impacts of chemicals and waste by 2020.
Highlights
► As per the second Global Chemicals Outlook (GCO II) report, chemical production across the world will double by 2030. Chemical industry is the world’s second largest manufacturing sector. At present world has the capacity to produce 2.3 billion tonne chemicals.
► According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 1.6 million lives were lost in 2016 due to diseases related to chemicals.
► The first Global Chemicals Outlook report (GCO-I) was released in 2013. Since then, instead of reducing the use of chemicals to meet the agreed target, its use has gone up.
► In 2015 the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) — 17 of these goals relate to chemicals and its waste management.
► An assessment by UNEP and the International Council of Chemical Associations in 2018 showed that there were 40,000-60,000 chemicals being commercially used globally.
► Projected growth will be highest in Asia, with China estimated to account for almost 50 % of global sales by 2030.

INTERNATIONAL

ENVIRONMENT
Sixth Global Environment Outlook released
Date: 15th March 2019
The report is published in time for the Fourth United Nations Environmental Assembly, UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook (GEO), 2019, calls on decision makers to take immediate action to address pressing environmental issues to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals as well as other Internationally Agreed Environment Goals, such as the Paris Agreement. GEO-6 builds on the findings of previous GEO reports, including the six regional assessments (2016), and outlines the current state of the environment, illustrates possible future environmental trends and analyses the effectiveness of policies. This flagship report shows how governments can put the world on the path to a truly
sustainable future. It emphasizes that urgent and inclusive action is needed by decision makers at all levels to achieve a healthy planet with healthy people.
POLITY
China, Pakistan to discuss Pulwama fallout
Date: 18th March 2019
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi will hold talks under the first China-Pakistan Strategic Dialogue in Beijing. The recent India-Pakistan tensions after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack that killed 40 CRPF troopers is expected to figure in the talks between the Chinese and Pakistani Foreign Ministers which will begin on March 19. The meet comes at a time when India’s ties with China and Pakistan, who are close allies, have come under strain after the suicide attack was claimed by the Pakistan-based terror outfit, Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). China had recently once again blocked a motion passed by three permanent members of the UNSC to designate JeM chief Masood Azhar as an international terrorist.
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IDEAS
SCIENCE &TECH
India’s first indigenous 4G/5G semiconductor chips unveiled
Date: 2nd March, 2019
Objective: To develop transceiver chip for high performance wireless standards
SIGNALCHIP, a Bengaluru based semiconductor company has unveiled India’s first Indigenous Semiconductor Chips for 4G/LTE and 5G NR MODEMs. SIGNALCHIP has launched the following four chips as part of its SCBM34XX and SCRF34XX/45XX series, code-named Agumbe’:
i. SCBM3412: a single chip 4G/LTE modem including the baseband and transceiver sections in a single device
ii. SCBM3404: a single chip 4X4 LTE baseband modem
iii. SCRF3402: a 2X2 transceiver for LTE
iv. SCRF4502: a 2X2 transceiver for 5G NR standards
The Agumbe series builds up on SCRF1401, India’s first RF transceiver chip. These chips put India into an elite group of countries that own this widely used fundamental technology. These chips are optimally designed to support evolving network architectures like Open RAN/CRAN with flexible interface configurations. Through the IPs created for this device, the company now has the potential to design products for multiple related fields and is currently forging ahead with additional chipsets for advanced 5G NR features.
India’s first policy to protect bank locker launched
Date:2nd March, 2019
Objective: To protect the contents of a bank locker such as jewellery, title documents, and other valuables
IFFCO Tokio General Insurance has recently launched ‘bank locker protector policy’, the first stand-alone bank locker cover offered by any insurance company. The policy offers a cover against various risks including fire, earthquake, burglary, and holdup infidelity by a bank staff or any act of terrorism. Important documents kept in a locker can also be insured under the policy as an add-on cover. The policy can be sold both as a retail and a group policy for banks. It offers 7 options of sum insured ranging from Rs 3 lakh to Rs 40 lakh and above and the premium rate is affordable with a cover of Rs 3 lakh available at just Rs 300, which is less than Rs 1 per day.
TRANSPORT
IRCTC’s own payment aggregator launched
Date: 2nd March, 2019
Objective: To promote government’s Digital India initiative.
The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has launched its own payment aggregator system named IRCTC iPay.
Key Points
► It will provide an improved online digital payment convenience and ease of doing business to passengers availing online travel related services through the IRCTC website.
► It provides payment options like credit card, debit card, UPI (Unified Payment Interface), International Card and an option of IRCTC prepaid card cum wallet. Auto debit will also be available soon.
► The back-end support will be provided by Delhi based MMAD communications, IRCTC’s technology partner.
DotBook: India’s first Braille laptop created
Date: 3rdMarch, 2019
Objective: To enable the visually-impaired get to feel everything a website has by touching the pad
Suman Muralikrishnan, from Chennai and Pulkit Sapra, from Delhi, former students and researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi have created a laptop for visually-impaired called “DotBook”. It is claimed to be the first in India.
Key Features
► The laptop has an interface in form of dots or Braille instead of a visual one.
► Instead of a screen, the laptop displays embossed text in Braille through a touchpad and the users get to feel everything a website has by touching the pad.
► It is built in Linux and comes with 4 GB internal storage which is expandable up to 64 GB and it can be connected with mobile phones and other laptops to provide a visual display for sighted persons.
► They have launched two versions of the laptop, one with 20 cell version (Rs 40,000) and another 40-cell version (Rs 60,000) — each referring to the number of characters displayed in one line.
► The 20-Cell Braille Variant has Perkins Keys while the 40-Cell Braille Variant with QWERTY keyboard.

INTERNATIONAL

SPACE
SpaceX launched Crew Dragon
Date: 4thMarch, 2019
Objective: To assure astronauts’ safety in future flightsCrew Dragon capsule has been launched by SpaceX for the first time. The name of the mission is ‘Demo-1’ and it was launched on a Falcon 9 rocket from NASA Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, USA.
Key Features
i. The capsule did not consist of any humans on board, only a dummy called ‘Ripley’ that consists of sensors which help SpaceX visualise the journey to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
ii. NASA’s Commercial Crew program consists of two test flights – Demo1and Demo 2. Demo 2 which is going to be the first crewed flight will be launched in July.
iii. Crew Dragon is slated to autonomously dock to the ISS. It is carrying about 400 pounds supplies and equipment to the space station.
► The mission hopes to kickstart NASA’s long-delayed goal to resume human spaceflight from US soil later this year.
TRANSPORT
National Common Mobility Card (NCMC)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a National Common Mobility Card (NCMC).
Key Points:
► Dubbed as ‘One Nation One Card’, the inter-operable transport card would allow the holders to pay for their bus travel, toll taxes, parking charges, retail shopping and even withdraw money.
► This card runs on RuPay card. With the advent of this indigenously-developed and one-of-its-kind card, the country is no longer required to be dependent on foreign technology.
► The stored value on card supports offline transaction across all travel needs with minimal financial risk to involved stakeholders.
SPACE
ISRO’s Young Scientist programme
ISRO has launched a special programme for school children called Yuva Vigyani Karyakram or Young Scientist Programme.
Highlights:
► The programme aims at imparting basic knowledge on space technology, space science and space applications to the younger ones with the intent of arousing their interest in the emerging areas of space activities.
► Under the programme, three students each will be selected to participate in it every year from each state and union territory, covering CBSE, ICSE and state syllabus.
► The eligibility for being chosen for the programme includes those students who have finished 8th standard and are currently studying in the 9th standard.
► The selection will be based on the academic performance and extracurricular activities of the students.
► The students belonging to rural areas have been given special weightage under the selection criteria set by ISRO.
BANKING
India’s first 20 rupee coin unveiled
Objective: To identify coins by visually impaired
Apart from new Rs 20 coin, the Govt. has unveiled a new series of visually impaired-friendly coins of denominations Re 1, Rs 2, Rs 5 and Rs 10. All the new series coins will be issued for circulation only through the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) in terms of the RBI Act.
Features of Coin
► New Rs 20 coin is in polygon shape of 12 edges with a design of grains denoting the agricultural dominance of the country.
► The outer ring of 20 rupee coin is made up of nickel silver and the central piece is made of nickel brass. The outside diameter of this coin is 2.7 centimeters having the weight of about 8.54 grams.
► The ‘Lion Capital of Ashoka Pillar’ is minted on the face of new 20 rupee coin with ‘SatyamevJayate’ inscribed below it in Hindi and, while, the denomination value of 20 is minted in international numerals along with the Indian Rupee symbol on the reverse side of the new 20 rupee coin.
► ‘Bharat’ in Hindi and ‘India’ in English is minted on the left and right periphery on the face of new Rs 20 coin and the year of minting is inscribed on the center of left periphery.
► The coins are designed by the National Institute of Design and minted at state-owned mints at Mumbai, Alipore (Kolkata),Saifabad (Hyderabad), Cherlapally (Hyderabad) and Noida (UP).
SOCIAL
Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle in 1857-1947 released
Objective: To remember the Martyrs forever
The Dictionary of Martyrs of India’s Freedom Struggle (1857-1947) has been released by Prime Minister NarendraModi, at Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi. The dictionary comprises of 5 volumes full of information about martyrs involved during 1857-1947, the period on India’s war of Independence.This is the first time that such a large-scale compilation of names of martyrs is being done.The project for compilation of “Dictionary of Martyrs” of India’s Freedom Struggle was commissioned by the Ministry of Culture, to the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR) to commemorate the 150th anniversary of uprising of 1857.
SCIENCE & TECH
An app to detect fake currency notes created
Date: 11th March 2019
Objective: To make people aware of fake currencies
A group of six students from the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at IIT Kharagpur have developed an app to detect fake currency. The app has been demonstrated at nationwide competition Smart India Hackathon 2019.
The app works as follows:
► Upload the image of the currency note.
► The app would then perform verification of its authenticity with the help of 25 features that have been extracted from both the sides of the note.
► If a fake note is detected, a notification will be sent to the user.
SOCIAL
India’s first LGBTQ Clinic and HIV treatment centre inaugurated
Date: 12th March 2019
Objective: To treat HIV patients under one roof.
Humsafar trust, a non Govt. organization in Mumbai, Maharashtra has recently launched the first HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) treatment centre and holistic clinic for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ). The centre is supported by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) and Family Health International 360.The center will be open for all and it will provide counselling. It will provide the free HIV medications distributed by NACO. This centre can now diagnose, provide the pills, carry out testing and assessment and provide counselling and Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) therapy all under one roof. ART therapy is a HIV medicine to treat infection.
SOCIAL
Bank of Baroda to launch crèche /daycare facility
Date: 13th March 2019
Objective: To increase women participation in senior posts Bank of Baroda has launched Crèche – Child Daycare facility within its Mumbai Corporate Office premises in Bandra Kurla Complex. With this Bank of Baroda has become one of the first public sector banks to launch a crèche/child daycare facility for children of its employees.The bank has tied up with Klay Prep Schools and Daycare for launching this facility.The bank will bear 60% of costs for each child, the rest to be borne by parent. The day care is one of the many initiatives of the bank in creating an environment that is conducive to working women and parents, in general. It offers full-day support for kids, while engaging them in activities in a safe, progressive and fun environment.

NATIONAL

BANKING
YONO Cash for cardless ATM withdrawal launched
Date: 15th March 2019
Objective: To eliminate the risk of skimming and cloning as well as maximizing convenience and enhancing the banking experience for its customers
A new service called ‘YONO Cash’ has been launched by The State Bank of India for its customers. Using this service customers can withdraw money from ATMs without using debit cards.
Key Points
► This facility is available over 16,500 of its ATMs through the You Only Need One (YONO), mobile app platform for the first time in the country. The ATMs enabled for this service will be called as YONO Cash Point.
► Customers can initiate the cash withdrawal process on the YONO app and set a six-digit YONO Cash pin for the transaction.
► After initiating the process, the customers will get a six digit reference number for the transaction on their registered mobile number via SMS, which has to be used within 30 minutes at the nearest YONO cash point.
► Transactions using this service will be secured with two-factor authentication and will also eliminate the risk of skimming and cloning, at the same time it also maximizes convenience and enhances the banking experience for its customers.
WATER MANAGEMENT
Device that creates water from thin air launched
Date: 16th March 2019
Objective:To provide drinking water in future
Scientists from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin, US have developed a novel solar-powered harvesting system that absorbs moisture from the air and converts it into clean, usable water. Researchers led by Guihua Yu at Austin used hydrogels that are both highly water absorbent and can release water upon heating.This unique combination successfully worked in humid and dry weather conditions and is crucial to enabling the production of clean, safe drinking water from the air.The collected water will remain stored in the hydrogel until you expose it to sunlight. After about five minutes under natural sunlight, the water releases. This technology builds upon a 2018 breakthrough made by the researchers in which they developed a solar-powered water purification innovation using hydrogels that cleans water from any source using only solar energy.
IT
“Observer App” for observers launched
Date: 16th March 2019
Objective: To facilitate the submission of the relevant documents and materials to Election Commission by Electoral Observers directly
The Election Commission has launched a mobile application named ‘Observer App’ through which the Electoral Observers can submit the relevant documents and material to Election Commission directly.
Key Points
► The app will provide notifications, urgent messages and alerts to the poll observers. The app will also help to get their deployment status, download the ID card and update their profile.
► A written observation can be made by the observer to the election commission through the app, after the flying squads investigate the matter.
► Earlier ‘cVIGIL’ a mobile application was also launched by Election Commission of India and it allowed the citizens to report on violation of model code of conduct.
IT
‘i-help’ initiative launched in Assam
Date: 18th March 2019
Objective: To create awareness about digital electoral literacy
Assam CEO (Chief Electoral Officer) has launched the ‘i-help’ initiative.
Highlights
► It is a joint initiative of the office of the Chief Electoral Officer, Assam and Common Service Centres (CSC), Assam to promote digital electoral literacy in the State.
► The CSCs are internet-enabled access points spread throughout the country delivering various government and non-government digital services (e-Services) to the citizens.
► Through its vast network, particularly in rural areas, CSC is uniquely positioned to significantly extend the awareness and outreach activities of CEO, Assam under Systematic Voters’ Education and Electoral Participation (SVEEP) in the State. It is geared up to ensure that no voter is left behind.
► This particular initiative will fill the digital divide and fulfil the objective of turning the General Election, to be held in April 2019, more inclusive and participatory.
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PEOPLE

NATIONAL

APPOINTMENTS
Ajay Narayan Jha
Why in news: Joined the Fifteenth Finance Commission as its Member.
About Ajay Narayan Jha:
► He joins in place of Shaktikanta Das who had resigned as a member of the Commission after being appointed as governor, Reserve Bank of India.
► Mr. Jha, a 1982 batch IAS officer of Manipur cadre, superannuated as a finance secretary to the Government of India in February 2019.
► Jha had also served as the secretary to the 14th Finance Commission which was headed by former RBI Governor Y V Reddy.
► Set up in November, 2017, the 15th Finance Commission, headed by former Planning Commission member N K Singh, is mandated to recommend distribution of net proceeds of taxes between the Union and the states, for a period of five years – April, 2020 to March, 2025, among others.
Justice S.A. Bobde
Why in news: Nominated as Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA).
Key Points:
► The President of India Ram Nath Kovind has nominated Justice SA Bobde of the Supreme Court as Executive Chairman of National Legal Services Authority (NALSA)
► Justice A K Sikri who is currently the Executive Chairman of NALSA is retiring on March 6, 2019.
► As per Legal Service Authorities Act, the Chief Justice of India shall be the Patron-in-Chief and a serving or retired Judge of the Supreme Court nominated by the President in consultation with the Chief Justice of India shall be the Executive Chairman.
Ajit Kumar Mohanty
Why in news: Appointed as the new Director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre.
Key Points:
► Distinguished scientist Ajit Kumar Mohanty has been appointed Director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC).
► Mohanty has been appointed for the post for a period of three years.
► Currently, he is the Director, Physics Group in BARC.
► The BARC is India’s premier nuclear research facility based in Mumbai.
► It is a multi-disciplinary research centre with extensive infrastructure for advanced research and development covering the entire spectrum of nuclear science, engineering and related areas.

INTERNATIONAL

APPOINTMENTS
Ramesh Chand
Why in news: Nominated to head Food and Agricultural Organisation
Key Points:
► Presently, Ramesh Cand is member of NITI Ayog.
► Mr Chand’s candidature is challenged by China, Cameroon, France and Georgia.
► To get elected to the post of Director-General of FAO, the candidate needs to secure a simple majority of the 194 members.
► The only Indian to head the FAO is Binay Fanjan Sen, who was the Director General from 1956 to 1967.
► FAO is a specialized agency of the United Nations which leads international efforts to defeat hunger. FAO aims to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high quality food to lead active healthy lives.
OBITUARIES
Zhores Alferov
Russian Nobel physics prize winner Zhores Alferov passed away. He was 88.
About Zhores Alferov:
► Zhores Alferov won the Nobel physics prize for his work in semi-conductor and laser technologies in 2000.
► When Alferov took the prize in 2000, he was the first Russian to win a Nobel since Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was given the peace award in 1990.
► Alferov was honoured for his pioneering work with technology now used in everything from satellites to mobile phones and bar-code scanners.

NATIONAL

APPOINTMENTS
Subash Chandra Garg
Why in news: Named as the new Finance Secretary.
About Subash Chandra Garg:
► The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved designating Subash Chandra Garg as the Finance Secretary.
► Garg, an IAS officer of Rajasthan cadre, earlier has been working as the Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs.
► He will replace Ajay Narayan Jha who was superannuated in February. Jha has taken over as a member, 15th Finance Commission.

INTERNATIONAL

APPOINTMENTS
Padma Lakshmi
Why in news: Appointed as the UNDP Goodwill Ambassador.
Key Points:
► The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has appointed Indian-American television personality and food expert Padma Lakshmi as its new Goodwill Ambassador, in support of its fight against inequality and discrimination around the world.
► In her new role, the award-winning author will help mobilise support for the Sustainable Development Goals with a focus on fighting inequality, discrimination and empowering the disenfranchised.
► Padma Lakshmi is an Indian-American author, actress, model, television host, and executive producer.
► Besides, she is also a New York Times bestselling author, a Visiting Scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an ambassador for the American Civil Liberties Union advocating for immigrants’ rights.
POLITY
Mohammad Shtayyeh
Date: 11th March 2019
Why in news: Named as the new Prime Minister of Palestine.
Key Points:
► Shtayyeh, a long time ally of the Abbas, is the member of the central committee of the President’s Fatah party.
► Shtayyeh replaces Rami Hamdallah, who had been prime minister since 2014.
► The announcement comes after Hamdallah gave his resignation from the post and of his Unity government to President Mahmoud Abbas in January 2019, underscoring the failure of Hamas and Fatah to implement a power-sharing deal.

NATIONAL

APPOINTMENTS
Pinaki Chandra Ghose
Date: 19th March 2019
Why in news: Becomes India’s first Lokpal
Key Points:
► India gets its first Lokpal six years after the passage of Act, former Supreme Court judge, Pinaki Chandra Ghose was appointed as India’s first Lokpal.
► Ghose’s appointment was approved by the President Ram Nath Kovind. The President also appointed four judicial and four non-judicial members of the Lokpal.
► Currently, Ghose is serving as a Member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). He was appointed as a Judge of the Calcutta High Court in 1997. He served as the Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court before his elevation to the Supreme Court in 2013.
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WHAT IS GSP?
• Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) is a trade program designed to promote economic growth in the developing nations.
• This preferential tariff system is extended by 29 developed countries like the US, Canada, Russia, UK and others to beneficiary developing nations and territories which involves reduced Most Favoured Nation (MFN) tariffs.
• GSP was instituted on January 1, 1976, by the Trade Act of 1974.
• In order to benefit from GSP, a good must be either wholly obtained or sufficiently manufactured in a GSP country.
• Recently the GSP was in news as US has revoked GSP benefits for countries including India and Turkey pertaining to 94 products.
• This means various Indian made goods including agricultural, leather, textiles, and chemicals worth $ 70 million will no longer enjoy duty-free access to US market.
• Under the GSP regime India was enjoying zero tariffs on worth $ 5.6 billion of exports to the US in past years.
• The GSP is advantageous for US importers as well as they enjoyed nearly $ 894 million in savings on import duties under the GSP program in 2017 in form of tax savings.
 

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