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Important Current Affairs of 24th March

BANKS AND ECONOMICS:

State Bank of India Signed MoU with Bank of China For Business Opportunities.

• State Bank of India has signed a pact with the Bank of China to boost business opportunities. SBI signed an MoU to enhance business synergies between both the banks. Through this pact, both SBI and BoC will gain direct access to their respective markets of operation. Both banks’ clients will be able to use the vast combined network to expand their businesses abroad.

Exim Bank gives USD 83 million line of credit to Congo to finance 3 solar power projects.

• Export-Import Bank of India (Exim Bank) signed a loan agreement on behalf of the government of USD 83.11 million to Congo for financing three solar power projects in the central African country. It aims to provide support for financing three solar photovoltaic power projects with a total capacity of 35 megawatts in the three provinces — Karawa, Mbandaka, and Lusambo.

RBI Governor called for permanent status to Finance Commission.

• Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Shaktikanta Das called for permanent status to Finance Commission. RBI Governor Shaktikanta Das is also the member of the fifteenth finance commission.  The permanent status will ensure consistencies between finance commissions so that there is some certainty in the flow of funds to states.

• The permanent status will also provide for continuity between the successive finance commissions. The establishment of the finance commission through permanent status will also enable it to address issues arising from the implementation of the recommendations of the finance commission during the intervening period.

• The RBI governor also called on for a robust expenditure planning without compromising on fiscal consolidation as fiscal federalism gathers momentum in the era of uniform goods and services tax (GST). The planning is to address the socio-economic challenges without diluting the goals of fiscal consolidation.

INTERNATIONAL:

Operation Sunrise: India and Myanmar jointly destroy insurgent’s camps.

• 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 military action carried out was codenamed Operation Sunrise.

Threats to Bumphead Parrot Fish in Andaman.

• Bumphead parrotfish, Bolbometopon muricatum, is an important component of 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). A group of researchers recently studied the distribution, abundance and dangers to this species in the waters of Andaman and Nicobar islands.

British PM welcomes EU decision to postpone Brexit beyond 29 March.

• British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed the EU decision to postpone Brexit beyond 29th March.  The UK will be offered a delay until 22nd May, if MPs approve the withdrawal deal negotiated with the EU next week.  In a press conference along with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, European Council President Donald Tusk said that British Prime Minister Theresa May has accepted the offer from EU

WHO panel calls for registry of all human gene editing research.

• World Health Organization experts said it would be irresponsible for any scientist to conduct human gene-editing studies in people, and a central registry of research plans should be set up to ensure transparency.

• After its first two-day meeting in Geneva, the WHO panel of gene editing experts, which was established in December after a Chinese scientist said he had edited the genes of twin babies, said it had agreed a framework for setting future standards

Pakistan to receive over 2 billion US Dollars loan from China.

• Cash-strapped Pakistan will receive over 2 billion US Dollars loan from China to provide a boost to its ailing economy. Pakistan's Finance Ministry has announced that all procedural formalities for the transfer of the  2.1 billion US Dollars loan being provided by the Chinese government have been completed, and the funds will be deposited in the State Bank of Pakistan's account by Monday.

• Pakistan has received 1 billion US dollars each from Saudi Arabia and the UAE, as part of the bailout packages by the two Gulf nations to help shore up Islamabad's dwindling foreign currency reserves. Islamabad is also in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a bailout package. Earlier, Pakistan officials said that Islamabad would seek around   8 billion US dollars from the IMF which would be the biggest package by the Fund for Islamabad.

AWARDS AND HONOUR:

Leeladhar Jagudi will be honoured with the Vyas Samman 2018.

• Hindi writer Leeladhar Jagudi honoured with Vyas Samman 2018 for his collection of poems ‘Jitne Log Utne Prem’. He was awarded Padma Shri in 2004 apart from other awards, including Sahitya Akademi Award, Akashvani National Award and Uttarakhand Gaurav Samman. Vyas Samman: The award is given annually to outstanding literary work in Hindi authored by Indian citizen which has been published in the last decade. It was started in 1991 by the KK Birla Foundation. It carries monetary amount of Rs. 4 lakh.

Indian American Neomi Rao sworn in as judge of District of Columbia Court.

• Neomi Jehangir Rao, a prominent Indian-American lawyer, has been sworn in as U.S. Circuit Judge for the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals. She has become the second from the community to be a part of the powerful court considered next only to the U.S. Supreme Court.

NATIONAL:

Delhi police get hi-tech bus worth Rs 3.7 crore for emergency situations.

• In a first-of-its-kind bus, the Delhi police inducted a Mobile Command and Control Vehicles (MCCV) with all modern equipment into service. The bus, built by Bengaluru-based firm Mistral at the cost of ₹3.7 crore, is fitted with latest equipment including Integrated Communication System (ICS), voice logger and CCTV surveillance among others.

EV charging stations to be established in Bengaluru.

• In order to reduce the burden for the electric vehicle users who hunt for charging stations in the city Electric Vehicles charging Stations has been planned to be established in Bengaluru, Andhra Pradesh. The 112 EV charging stations that have been proposed to provide the infrastructure needed to encourage the use of EVs will be readied by August-end.

Daiki Aluminium Industry to set up plant in Sri City Andhra Pradesh.

• Japan-based Daiki Aluminium Industry Co. Ltd., through its Indian subsidiary, is to set up an aluminium alloy plant at Sri City in Andhra Pradesh. Daiki Aluminium Industry India Pvt. Ltd. would make an initial investment of Rs.250 crore.

•  To be built on a 20-acre plot in the domestic tariff zone, the plant is expected to go on stream by February 2020.

• The plant will produce aluminium alloy ingots. It will have an annual capacity of 84,000 tonnes. The products will be exported to automobile companies in ASEAN and Japan.

• The plant is expected to generate direct employment for about 600 people with 80% of them being women. Daiki plans to capture the demand requirements of aluminium alloy in the country and expand the market in stages. 

SPORTS:

Neeraj Chopra to lead Indian athletics team in Asian Championships.

• Star javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra was named to lead a 39-member Indian athletics team for next month's Asian Championships in Doha, with sprint sensation Hima Das also making the cut in 400m despite her recent below-par show.  National record holders, Mohd Anas (400m), Jinson Johnson (800m and 1500m), Dharun Ayyasamy (400m hurdles), Avinash Sable (3000m steeplechase), Tajinder Pal Singh Toor (shot put) and Annu Rani (javelin throw) as well as Dutte Chand (200m) were also among those named in the team.

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Important Current Affairs of 23th March

NATIONAL:

Uttarakhand plans to introduce caravans in major spots to boost tourism.

• The government of Uttarakhand in a bid to promote tourism will be introducing mobile caravans or motor homes equipped with every facility you can expect to find in a regular house. The portable homes will enable you to access remote locations. The plan also includes the development of parks for the caravans to be stationed.

• These complexes will provide water, electricity and waste disposal facilities. This way, coupled with the government’s endeavour to build homestays in and around popular tourist spots, soon most Himalaya vistas will be enjoyable from your windowsill. We are working on a plan to introduce fleets of mobile caravans equipped with all facilities available in homes, which will be introduced soon.

Corporate Affairs Ministry releases national guidelines on responsible business conduct

• Union Ministry of Corporate Affairs released the National Guidelines on responsible business conduct and revised the National Voluntary Guidelines on social, environmental and economic responsibilities of business, 2011.

• These guidelines on responsible business conduct aim to urge businesses to actualise the following principles in letter and spirit:

•  Businesses should conduct and govern themselves with integrity in a manner that is ethical, transparent and accountable.

• Businesses should provide goods and services in a manner that is sustainable and safe.

•   Businesses should respect and promote the well-being of all employees, including those in their value chains.

•  Businesses should respect the interests of and be responsive to all their stakeholders.

•  Businesses should respect and promote human rights.

•  Businesses should respect and make efforts to protect and restore the environment.

CSK to donate IPL opener proceeds to families of Pulwama attack.

• The cricket extravaganza Indian Premier League begins on Saturday with its 12th edition. Defending champions Chennai Super Kings will take on Royal Challengers, Bangalore at Chennai in the opening game.  According to the CSK director, the entire ticket proceeds of this match will be given to the families of CRPF personnel killed in the February 14 terror attack in Pulwama. Another IPL team, Kings XI Punjab, recently donated five lakh rupees each to families of five CRPF soldiers killed in the Pulwama attack.

India Post released stamp cover on Ice Stupa in Leh.

• India Post released a special stamp cover on Ice Stupa in Leh at an event in the presence of Himalayan Institute of Alternatives Ladakh founder Sonam Wangchuk who spearheaded the Ice Stupa initiative.  Ice Stupas refer to artificial glaciers. The water from these artificial glaciers melt in the springtime, just when the fields need Leh lies in the cold desert region and most villages in the region face acute water shortage in the streams whereas in June there is an excess of water and even flash flooding due to the fast melting of the snow and glaciers in the mountains. By September all farming activities end and yet a smaller stream flow throughout the winter steadily but wastefully going into the Indus river without being of use to anybody.

• Ice Stupas are aimed at reducing water crisis in the region and also to convey a message to the world that how the Mountain people are forced to do such innovative ideas to solve the water crises, Ice Stupas also sends a message to all the people who live in big cities to not use resources in such a way that it creates problem for mountain people.

INTERNATIONAL:

New Zealand Bans Assault Weapons.

• New Zealand imposed an immediate ban on assault weapons following the Christchurch massacre that claimed the lives of 50 mosque-goers. Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern announced assault rifles and military-style semi-automatic weapons would be banned with immediate effect, making a pledge to ensure that nothing like Christchurch massacre ever occurs in the Pacific nation again. About New Zealand Capital: Wellington Currency: New Zealand dollar.

SPORTS:

BWF badminton rankings 2019: Lakshya, Riya break into top 100.

• Young Indian shuttlers Lakshya Sen and Riya Mookerjee broke into the top-100 among Men’s and Women’s singles players in the latest World Badminton Rankings. Making a massive jump of 28 places, Lakshya Sen is placed 76th. Riya Mookerjee climbed up 19 spots to be placed 94th. In the women's singles rankings, P V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal are static with Sindhu at sixth and Saina at ninth position.

• Japan's Kento Momota is leading the men's chart while Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying is topping the women's singles list. Among men, B Sai Praneeth also moved up three places to 19th. Kidambi Srikanth remains static and is the best placed Indian in the men's rankings at seventh. He is followed by Sameer Verma (14th), H S Prannoy (24th), Subhankar Dey (43rd), Parupalli Kashyap (48th), Ajay Jayram (52nd) and Sourav Verma (53rd).

India to face Nepal for title clash at SAFF Women's Championship.

• In football, India clinched the SAFF Women's Championship for the fifth time in a row, defeating hosts Nepal 3-1 in the final at Biratnagar. In the first half, Dalmia Chhibber of India scored the first goal of the match which was equalled by Nepal's Sabitra Bhandari at the 33rd minute. In the second half, Grace Dengmei scored the second goal at 63rd minute and Anju Tamang scored third and decisive goal in the 76th minute.

BANKS AND ECONOMY:

Fitch Cuts India GDP Growth Forecast For FY20 To 6.8%.

• Fitch Ratings cut India’s economic growth forecast for the next financial year starting April 1, to 6.8% from its previous estimate of 7%, on weaker than expected momentum in the economy. The rating agency also cut growth forecasts for FY20 and FY21 to 7% from 7.3% and 7.1% from 7.3%, respectively.

Defence Ministry clears proposal to buy 10 lakh 'Made in India' hand grenades for Army.

• The Rs 500 crore proposal comes shortly after the Defence Ministry cleared the acquisition of assault rifles and signed a joint venture with Russia to manufacture AK-203 rifles for the infantry units of the Indian Army. The new hand grenades will replace the existing inventory, HE-36 grenades manufactured by the Ordnance Factory Board.

• The multi-mode grenades have been developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). Recently, the government also signed a contract worth Rs 700 crore for procurement of 70,000 Sig Sauer assault rifles with a US manufacturer.

RBI denies IDBI Banks proposal to name change.

• The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has turned down IDBI Bank’s proposal to change its name following the transfer of a controlling 51% stake to LIC, insurance behemoth, from the government of India.  The board of IDBI Bank had, last month, sought the RBI’s approval for a change in the name of the lender to either LIC IDBI Bank or LIC Bank following the takeover by Life Insurance Corporation (LIC). However, RBI did not elaborate on the reasons for denial by the regulator for changing the name.

PFC to buy 52.63 percent govt shares in REC for Rs 14,500 crore by March-end.

• State-owned Power Finance Corporation (PFC) will acquire the entire 52.63 per cent shares of the government in REC for Rs 14,500 crore by the month-end, a move that will help the centre to meet its disinvestment target.

• REC Limited is a public Infrastructure Finance Company in India’s power sector. The company is a Public Sector Undertaking and finances and promotes rural electrification projects across India. The government proposes to raise Rs 80,000 crore from disinvestment during the fiscal ending March 19 and has so far raised Rs 56,473.32 crore. With completion of PFC-REC deal, the amount will increase to over Rs 70,000 crore.

AWARDS:

Brazilian astronomer Marcelo Gleiser wins 2019 Templeton Prize.

• Brazilian physicist and astronomer Marcelo Gleiser (60) was awarded 2019 Templeton Prize worth $1.4 million for his work on blending science and spirituality. It makes him first Latin American to win this award. Templeton Prize is awarded annually on person for outstanding his/her contributions in affirming life's spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery, or practical works. Mother Teresa was the first winner in 1973. Some of its other recipients include Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (1975), Dalai Lama (2012) etc. In 2018, it was awarded to King Abdullah II of Jordan.

OBITUARIES:

India-Pakistan war hero, Captain M.N. Samant died aged 89 years.

• Captain Mohan Narayan Rao Samant of the Indian Navy, a 1971 India-Pakistan war hero, who was honoured by Bangladesh as a ‘Friend of Liberation War’, has passed away at the age of 89. The Maha Vir Chakra awardee was instrumental in India waging a covert maritime war against shipping in the then East Pakistan. He had trained over 400 Bengali college students as maritime commandos for carrying out mass raids and inflicting damages to Pakistani shipping vessels in the run up to the 1971 war.

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Important Current Affairs of 22th March

NATIONAL:

Lok Sabha passed the Indian Forest Amendment Bill, 2017.

• The Lok Sabha passed the Indian Forest (Amendment) Bill, 2017. The bill replaces Indian Forest (Amendment) Ordinance, 2017 promulgated by President Ram Nath Kovind in November 2017 and amends Indian Forest Act, 1927.

• Though bamboo was taxonomically a grass, it was earlier defined as a tree under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and its felling and transit required permission. It was a major impediment for bamboo cultivation by farmers on non-forest land.

• The bill omits bamboo grown in non-forest areas from the definition of trees. The omission thereby exempts it from requiring permits for felling or transportation of bamboo grown in non-forest areas. With this, bamboo grown in non-forest areas ceases to be a tree.

• It will encourage bamboo plantation by farmers, which will contribute to doubling farmers income by 2022.  The Indian Forest Act, 1927 consolidates laws relating to forests, the transit of forest-produce and duty to be levied on them. Under it, the definition of the tree includes palms, stumps, bamboos, brush-wood, and canes.

Indias to fight hypothermia, Bracelets from Bengaluru saving babies in Papua New Guinea

• Bempu is made in India Hypothermia alert device and the Bempu was invented in 2016 by Bengaluru-based Ratul Narain, who is an alumnus of Stanford University. Currently, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) is using the device extensively in PNG, in southwestern Pacific to save newborns from extreme cold and sudden drop in temperature.

•  The facility has so far been used largely in Henganofi district, Eastern Highlands province of the country. It was used for children with less than 2.5kg birth weight. Eastern Highlands province was chosen for the pilot as it’s one of the coldest terrains in PNG.

CBSE launches app Shiksha Vani.

• Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) launched its podcast app, 'Shiksha Vani'. It will be used to send out major announcements made by the board and is expected to be the quickest way to information. The first official circular on the app confirmed the beginning of the evaluation process of the 2019 Board Examinations.

ADB to invest USD 50 million in Avaada Energy for expansion of solar projects in India.

• The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will invest $50 million in Indian renewable energy independent power producer Avaada Energy Private Limited, to expand its solar energy generation capacity in India. Avaada is a developer of utility-scale, rooftop, and off-grid solar projects. According to the ADB, this investment will contribute to the Indian government’s goal to increase the share of renewable energy generation capacity from about 20% in 2018 to 40% by 2030. It will also help to reduce India's emission intensity of its gross domestic product by 33-35 per cent by 2030. The company has secured power purchase agreements of about 1,700 megawatts.

India's deepest shaft cave discovered in Meghalaya.

• India's deepest shaft cave Krem Um Ladaw has been discovered in Meghalaya's East Khasi Hills district during the annual 'Caving in the Abode of the Clouds Expedition'. The cave has a 105 m deep shaft entrance passage.

• This comes a year after the world's longest sandstone cave Krem Puri was discovered in Meghalaya. With all these discoveries, Meghalaya has become on of the top caving regions of the world. Meghalaya has 1,700 caves and cave locations of which over 1000 have been explored or partially explored.

INTERNATIONAL:

FAO expressed its concerns over armyworms.

• The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has expressed concerns over the increasing menace of Crop-damaging armyworms in Asia. Farming in several Asian countries is under threat from Armyworms, a type of crop-damaging insects that have munched their way from America and across Africa.  These flying insects arrived in India in July and have since spread to Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, and China's Yunnan province.

• These insects feed mostly on maize and can feed on several species of crops, including rice and sugarcane. Armyworms which are native to the Americas have been moving eastwards since 2016 sweeping across Africa where they caused $1-3 billion in damage, before arriving in Asia. 

• The FAO had convened a meeting of officials from affected countries and experts for discussing ways to limit armyworm infestations amid a "growing sense of alarm". FAO called on the nations to work together since pest has no respect for international boundaries and it threatens food security, economy, domestic and international trade

India signals to boycott China's Belt and Road Forum for second time.

• China's second Belt and Road Forum for a second time, saying no country can participate in an initiative that ignores its core concerns on sovereignty and territorial integrity. India boycotted the first Belt and Road Forum (BRF) in 2017 after protesting to Beijing over the controversial China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) which is being laid through the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) overriding New Delhi's sovereignty concerns.

• Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently said that next month China plans to hold a much bigger, second BRF which will also be attended by Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan. Speculation is rife whether India would attend the second BRF as China has deepened its commitment to expand the USD 60 billion CPEC, which aims to connect China's Xinjiang province with Pakistan's Gwadar port with a host of road, rail, gas and oil pipelines. China has also undertaken a host of energy projects under the aegis of the CPEC.

India and Sri Lanka to conduct joint military exercise Mitra Shakti VI.

• India and Sri Lanka is to conduct joint military exercise Mitra Shakti VI from 26 March to 8 April at Sri Lanka.  At the Military Exercise Mitra Shakti VI India would be represented by the Bihar Regiment. Gemunu Watch Battalion of Sri Lankan Army will be representing the Sri Lankan side. The exercise aims to build and promote close relations between armies of both the countries and to enhance the ability of joint exercise commander to take military contingents of both nations under command.

Jagmeet Singh made history in the House of Commons.

• Indian-origin Jagmeet Singh made history in the House of Commons, a component of Canada’s Parliament, as the first non-white leader of a major opposition party in the country. Singh, 40, the leader of the New Democratic Party, was elected in federal by-elections held on February 25. Singh’s first words as an elected lawmaker were about last week’s terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand.

First ever High-Level Dialogue on Indo-Pacific Cooperation (HLD-IPC) held in Jakarta, Indonesia.

• The Government of Indonesia hosted the first ever High-Level Dialogue on Indo-Pacific Cooperation (HLD-IPC) in its capital city Jakarta.

• The theme of the HLD was “Towards a Peaceful, Prosperous, and Inclusive Region”.

• It was inaugurated by Indonesia’s Vice President Jusuf Kalla.

• The representatives from India, Australia, US, Brunei Darussalam, Japan, South Korea, Russia, New Zealand and China apart from 10 member ASEAN countries.

• The main objective behind this meet was to urge all participating governments to talk openly about their plans for increasing cooperation and for building trust in the Pacific Ocean and Indian Ocean region.

SPORTS:

Former hockey Captain Sardar Singh appointed in Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) standing committee.

• A total of 13 Indian Olympic Association members, including former India hockey captain Sardar Singh, have been named in various Standing Committees of the Olympic Council of Asia at its 38th General Assembly in Bangkok.

• Singh has been elected in the athletes standing committee, while IOA secretary general Rajeev Mehta was named in the culture standing committee. Hockey India secretary general Mohd. Mustaque Ahmad is in the media standing committee, while Athletics Federation of India president Adille Sumariwala and Lalit Bhanot have been elected in the sports for environment and sports standing committees respectively. All the members have been elected for a four-year term from 2019 to 2023.

Abu Dhabi signed to host T10 League for next five years.

• Zayed Cricket Stadium, Abu Dhabi, will be the new home of T10 cricket for the next five years, starting with the 2019 season. The first match of the T10 League 2019 will be held on October 23. In Cricket, there are two short formats so far, that is, ODI and T-20. Now, brace for T-10. T10 was first introduced to the UAE in 2017. With eight squads vying for victory in games with an explosive pace, players featured have included Chris Gayle, Shoaib Malik, Shane Watson and Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed.

DAYS:

World Down Syndrome Day observed on March 21.

• Recognizing the need to support people suffering from Down Syndrome, the WHO (world Health Organization) on 20th December 2007, recognized March 21st as ‘World Down Syndrome Day’. Following the decision of WHO, the United Nations General Assembly also designated the same date as “World Down Syndrome Day” on 19th December 2011.

• Since 2012 “World Down Syndrome Day” has been observed annually on 21st March. World Down Syndrome Day 2019 theme is “Leave no one behind”. Down Syndrome is a genetic disorder causing a delayed physical and mental growth in individuals.

• Children or adults suffering from Down Syndrome have lower IQ and learning ability along with characteristic facial features. A young adult with Down Syndrome has an average IQ of 50; equivalent to that of a normal 9 years old child.

World Water Day is celebrated on 22nd March.

• The World Water Day designated by the United Nations is celebrated on 22nd March every year. The first World Water Day was commemorated in 1993. The theme for World Water Day 2019 is ‘Leaving no one behind’. This is an adaptation of the central promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: as sustainable development progresses, everyone must benefit. Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG 6) aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030.  To ‘leave no one behind’ focus on taking efforts towards people including those who have been marginalized or ignored.  Regulatory and legal frameworks must recognise the right to water for all people, and sufficient funding must be fairly and effectively targeted at those who need it most.

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Important Current Affairs of 21 March

INTERNATIONAL:

India attacks UNSC for Progressively Undermining UN General Assembly in finding solutions for global challenges.

• India and UN General Assembly must take lead in finding solutions to the challenges faced by the world, slamming the Security Council for "progressively undermining" the authority of the 193-member global body. India's deputy permanent representative K Nagaraj Naidu said on Monday the growing number of complex challenges facing the world, like those related to peace and security, climate change and sustainable development that cut across boundaries and regions can be addressed only through a genuine multilateral and participative process.

• The prerogatives and authority of the General Assembly have been progressively undermined by the Security Council through its frequent attempts to redefine its scope of competence through wider and permissive interpretations of what constitutes a threat to international peace and security and by engaging in discussions on issues that clearly fall within the purview of the General Assembly.

Cyclothon held on the occasion of World Sparrow Day.

• A colourful cyclothon was organised in Berhampur on the occasion of World Sparrow Day, March 20th, to mark the progress of making Ganjam the first sparrow-friendly district of Odisha. The event aimed at spreading awareness about the rising number of vehicles causing air pollution, which, in turn, affects the avian population.

• A large number of cyclists donning sparrow masks along with a sparrow mascot took part in this cycle rally organised by youth environmental organisation Anchalika Vikash Parishad (AVP) and the Forest Department.

Nirav Modi was denied bail in London.

• ndian businessman Nirav Modi who was accused in the Rs.13,000 crore Punjab National Bank fraud case was denied bail in London, despite offering the court assurances including £500,000 as security.  Mr.Modi is now due to appear before Emma Arbuthnot, the Chief Magistrate of Westminster Magistrates Court, who ordered Vijay Mallya’s extradition on March 29.  The hearing before District Judge Marie Mallon took place a day after Mr. Modi was arrested at a bank branch in London by the Metropolitan Police.

SAIL launched Smart Garbage Bins.

• Steel Authority of India Ltd (SAIL) has launched smart garbage bins made of stainless steel which integrates technology for smart waste management. Smart Garbage Bins The IOT (Internet of Things) enabled Gazelle sensors Smart Garbage Bins will send signals to the garbage collection vehicle about the 'fill-up' position of the bin. This provides for better cleaning and lower human intervention.

• These Smart Garbage Bins made up of SAIL SALEM stainless steel will be installed in underground Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC) pits at the Smart Garbage Station. This will help prevent the spread of stink and diseases. There will be separate bins for recyclable and non-recyclable wastes.  Initially, these Smart Garbage Bins will be placed at one each at Kamala Nagar in North and BhikajiCama Place in South Delhi.

Kazakhstan renames capital Astana as 'Nursultan' after ex-President.

• Kazakhstan's Parliament has voted to rename the country's capital Astana as 'Nursultan', in honour of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev. Kazakhstan's new President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev had proposed the move to rename the capital in honour of Nazarbayev, who announced his resignation on March 19 after 30 years in power. Nazarbayev's daughter, Dariga, was elected speaker of the Senate.

Google unveiled video game streaming service Stadia.

• Google unveiled its on-demand video-game streaming service Stadia, built for Chrome, Android and TVs, at the 2019 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, California. Stadia's 'Crowd Play' feature will let people, watching a YouTube live stream, to actually join the streamer's game. The service will initially be launched this year in the US, Canada, the UK and Europe.

Italy to join China's Belt and Road Initiative.

• Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pledged to make Italy the first Group of Seven nation to join China's ambitious Belt and Road initiative (BRI). This move will help rebalance Italy's trade with the Asian nation. Four Italian ports could reportedly be opened to Chinese investments for BRI. The US has warned Italy against joining the Chinese initiative.

BANKS AND ECONOMICS:

South Indian Bank to issue Basel III compliant bonds.

• South Indian Bank plans to raise up to Rs.250 crore by issuing Basel III compliant bonds. The Committee approved the information memorandum for issuance of rated, unsecured, redeemable, non-convertible, Basel III compliant, lower tier 2 bonds up to Rs.150 crore with an option to retain an over-subscription aggregating up to Rs.100 crore, aggregating to total issue size of Rs.250 crore.

Vodafone Idea approves terms for Rs. 25,000 Crore worth Rights Issue at 60 percent discount.

• India's largest telecom firm Vodafone Idea announced its board has approved ₹25,000 crore rights issue at a discount of around 60% to the current share prices. Vodafone Group and the Aditya Birla Group would contribute ₹11,000 crore and ₹7,250 crore, respectively. The issue will increase the number of Vodafone Idea shares by 229%. Vodafone Idea stock fell as much as 7.6 per cent to Rs. 29.60, its steepest intraday fall in almost two months.

Mizoram Assembly passed Mizoram Maintenance of Household Registers Bill, 2019 to detect illegal foreigners

• Mizoram Assembly passed a new bill named Mizoram Maintenance of Household Registers Bill, 2019 with an objective to detect foreigners illegally residing in Mizoram,who takes away the benefits of the citizen of Mizoram. As per the Bill, the Assembly will create the 2 registers namely one for the citizen residents and another for non-citizen residents of a village/area/town. This register comprises the name, details and passport size photographs of every individual in the state.

NATIONAL:

Social Media platforms to prevent violation of Code of Ethics during polls.

• Social Media platforms and internet mobile Association of India (IAMAI) have adopted a Voluntary Code of Ethics for the forthcoming general elections. According to the code submitted to the election Committee, IAMAI and Social Media platforms, including Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter and Google, will create a high priority dedicated reporting mechanism and appoint dedicated teams during the polls for taking expeditious action on any reported violations

• No political campaign will be allowed to run on major social media platforms in the last 48 hours before polling ends. It has also been agreed to provide a mechanism for political advertisers to submit pre-certified advertisements issued by the Media Certification and Monitoring Committee. 

• The code also promises to facilitate transparency in paid political advertisements. The social media companies will take action on content reported by the nodal officer, expeditiously, in accordance with the law. IAMAI will act as the liaison between social media firms and the poll panel. Our correspondent reports that the code, which comes into operation with immediate effect, has been developed to ensure free, fair and ethical use of social media platforms to maintain the integrity of the electoral process. 

Shark-faced plane lands at Delhi airport for the first time.

• A shark-themed plane, an Embraer E190-E2 commercial jet, landed at the Delhi's Indira Gandhi International Airport for the first time. Last year, the shark-themed aircraft landed at Lhasa's Gonggar Airport (Tibet), one of the world's highest airports at 11,713 feet. E190-E2 is manufactured by Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer.

IND INDO CORPAT 2019 was inaugurated at Port Blair.

• The 33rd edition of India-Indonesia coordinated patrol (IND-INDO CORPAT) was inaugurated at Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands. The IND-INDO CORPAT 2019 is held from 19 Mar to 04Apr 2019.  Navies of both countries have been carrying out coordinated patrolling twice a year since 2002 in an effort to keep the Indian Ocean region (IOR) safe and secure for commercial shipping and international trade.  It also enhances mutual understanding and interoperability between the two navies.

•  IND-INDO CORPAT 2019  From the Indonesian Side Naval Ship, KRI Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin and Maritime Patrol Aircraft CN-235 are taking part. Commodore Ashutosh Ridhorkar, Naval Component Commander, Andaman and Nicobar Command is leading the Indian side. During the exercise ships and aircraft from both the countries would undertake the patrolling on the respective sides of 236 nautical miles long International Maritime Boundary line.

SpiceJet becomes first Indian low-cost airline to join IATA as a member.

• Budget carrier SpiceJet has joined global airlines' grouping International Air Transport Association (IATA), becoming the first Indian low-cost carrier to get the membership. The membership would help SpiceJet, which has ambitious expansion plans, to have codeshares and agreements with other carriers. IATA has over 290 airlines as members. Other Indian members of the IATA include Air India, Jet Airways and Vistara.

Indian-Omani group signs USD 3.8 billion deal to build Sri Lanka refinery.

• India's Accord Group and Oman's oil ministry have signed a $3.85 billion deal to build an oil refinery in Sri Lanka. This is the biggest single pledge of FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) ever made in the country. The project will be located near the southern Sri Lankan port of Hambantota, which was handed over on a 99-year lease to a state-owned Chinese company. Privately-owned Accord Group will control 70 per cent of the joint venture and the Sultanate of Oman's Ministry of Oil and Gas the rest. The refinery is expected to produce 9 million metric tonnes of refined products a year for export from the Hambantota port, which serves the busiest East-West shipping route.

India ranked 140th in the happiest country in the world 2019 list.

• Finland has been ranked as the happiest country in the world 2019 for the second year in succession. The report was released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network for the United Nations on March 20. India secured 140th place, seven spots down from last year, on UN World Happiness Report- 2019. Indians are not as happy in 2019 as they were in 2018 and the country figures at 140th place, seven spots down from last year, on UN World Happiness Report- 2019

•  The UN’s seventh annual World Happiness Report, which ranks the world’s 156 countries on “how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be”, also noted that there has been an increase in negative emotions, including worry, sadness, and anger. Pakistan is ranked 67th, Bangladesh 125th and China is placed at 93rd position, according to the report. People in war-torn South Sudan are the most unhappy, ranked 156th, with their lives.

Mumbai social worker Gauri Sawant designated as first transgender election ambassador

• A 38-year-old transgender activist Shree Gauri Sawant from Mumbai appointed as first transgender election ambassador by The Election Commission of India. There was no separate classification of transgenders as voters till 2014 but after that transgenders were first enrolled as voters along with males and females. Automotive Tyre Manufacturers’ Association (ATMA) appointed as Mr. K M Mammen as Chairman. Automotive Tyre Manufacturers Association (ATMA) appointed as Chairman & Managing Director of MRF Ltd Mr. K M Mammen as their chairman.

SPORTS:

Tokyo 2020 Olympics torch unveiled.

• Tokyo 2020 Olympics unveiled a cherry-blossom shaped torch for the Games as the city prepares for the famed flower season to begin in coming days. The top part of the torch is shaped in the traditional emblem of the sakura, or cherry blossom using the same cutting-edge technology as in the production of Japan's bullet trains, the organisers said.

• The shiny rose-gold torch, which is 71 centimetres (28 inches) long and weighs 1.2 kilograms (2 pounds 10 ounces), uses aluminium construction waste from temporary housing built for victims of the 2011 quake and tsunami. Fukushima was chosen as the starting point for the Olympic torch relay.  Japan has dubbed the 2020 Games the "Reconstruction Olympics" and wants to showcase recovery in regions devastated by the disaster.

India bags over 350 medals at Special Olympics World Games.

• India got more over than 350 medals at the Special Olympics World Games 2019 at Abu Dhabi in UAE, making the history for the country. The current medal tally stands at 85 Gold, 153 Silver and 124  Bronze totalling 362 medals. Some of the biggest names in world music will perform at the spectacular Closing Ceremony at Zayed Sports City.

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Important Current Affairs 20th March 2019

INTERNATIONAL:

INCOIS and French scientists discovered existence of a new sea level oscillation.

• Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) researchers, in collaboration with scientists from France, have discovered the existence of a ‘synchronous oscillation’ of sea level across the entire Tropical Indian Ocean with a time period of 30 to 80 days during winter months of December to April.

• In these months, Indian Ocean routinely gains/losses 3 trillion tonnes of water from the Pacific Ocean every 30-80 days accompanied by a sea level rise/fall of 4 cm which is 30% of total sea-level change. This process is driven by intense winds hovering over a small area in the eastern Indian Ocean. This wind is associated with tropical weather phenomenon called Madden-Julian Oscillation (MJO). MJOs, being a low-pressure system, is known to facilitate cyclone formation over the Indian Ocean. The study said the waves gain more relevance since MJOs are gradually getting more intense in the warming climate.

British Army to create a new Battalion by recruiting more than 800 Nepalese Gurkha.

• The British Army has announced that it would create a new Specialised Infantry Battalion by recruiting more than 800 Nepalese Gurkha servicepersons.  Gurkhas have completed 200 years of service in the British Army and currently, they comprise upto 3% of the British Army.

• Gurkha and British Army During the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814-16, Gorkha Kingdom had inflicted heavy casualties on the British Army even though they had lost the war. British India decided to recruit these soldiers starting in 1815 and the Gurkhas have fought on the side of the British Empire in almost every war, including both World Wars.

• The Gurkhas are recruited every year by the British Army and Gurkhas are held in high esteem in the British Army. Gurkhas have the same service conditions as the regular British Army, with the option of British citizenship upon retirement.

BANKS AND ECONOMY:

RBI says Forex swap for liquidity has been received well.

• The recent decision of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to inject rupee liquidity through long-term foreign exchange (forex) swap, a first of its kind in liquidity management policy, has been received well.  On 26th March auction the feedback of the forex swap will be received. The central bank will conduct a dollar-rupee buy/sell swap auction of $5 billion for a three-year tenor, on March 26.

Hyundai and Kia to invest USD 300 million in Ola.

• Hyundai Motor Company and Kia Motors Corporation together plans to invest $300 million in cab aggregator Ola. This will be the biggest combined investment by the two firms of the South Korean Hyundai Motor Group.  As part of the strategic collaboration, the three companies will work on developing unique fleet and mobility solutions, besides building India-specific electric vehicles and infrastructure.

• Hyundai Motor Group expects to accelerate its transition from a ‘car manufacturer’ into a ‘Smart Mobility Solutions Provider’, as the partnership’s initiatives will allow it to engage in all aspects across the entire mobility value chain, including vehicle production, fleet operation, and mobility services.

GST Council approves transition plan for new GST rates.

• GST council approved a transition plan for new goods and services tax rates on residential properties under which developers of under-construction buildings may either opt to shift to the revised lower rates without input tax credit or stick to the previous rates. Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey told media that for housing projects launched on or after the first of April this year, the developers will have to adhere to the new GST rates recommended by the council last month.

• Developers can also opt for different GST options for separate buildings in a project depending on if construction started before or after 31st March this year. Mr Pandey added that there will be no revenue loss to the government due to the new GST structure for under-construction housing.

SPORTS:

Gopi Thonakal qualified for World Athletics.

• In marathon, India's Asian champion Gopi Thonakal has qualified for the World Athletics Championships to be held in the Qatari capital Doha in September-October this year. He achieved qualification after finishing 11th in the Seoul International Marathon, clocking his personal best time of 2 hours 13 minutes 39 seconds. Gopi’s time is the second best ever by an Indian after the four-decade old national record of 2:12:00, which is held by Shivnath Singh.

IPL franchise Rajasthan Royals to Academy in England.

• Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise Rajasthan Royals has tied up with the Star Cricket Academy in Surrey, England. The tie-up is to re-launch the facility as the ‘Rajasthan Royals Academy’. The centre has a state-of-the-art cricket centre named the Jarrett Centre.

• It is an indoor cricket training centre run by former professional batsman Siddharth Lahiri, along with his team of coaches including former England international and mentor to the academy, Keith Medlycott.  The franchise is also keen to create an exchange programme across India and UK wherein the children from the UK will receive an opportunity to come to Institute of Sport, Nagpur.

APPOINTMENT AND RESIGNATION:

Japanese Olympic chief quits amid corruption allegations scandal.

• Tsunekazu Takeda, the head of Japan's Olympic Committee (JOC), is stepping down over corruption allegations relating to the awarding of the 2020 Games to Tokyo. Takeda is being investigated by French prosecutors who are looking into claims that a €2 million (£1.7 million) bribe was paid to secure Tokyo's winning bid for the Olympic Games. Takeda was head of the Tokyo bidding committee when it was awarded the Games in 2013, defeating rival bids from Madrid and Istanbul.

Kazakhstan's 1st and only President resigns after 29 yrs in power.

• Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan's first and only President, announced his resignation on March 19 after 29 years in power. He has been Kazakhstan's President since 1990 and was formally elected in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. He received 98 percent of the votes. Nazarbayev would continue to chair the Security Council and remain the leader of the Nur Otan party. Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, speaker of the upper house of parliament, will take over as the country's acting president for the remainder of his term in line with the constitution

NATIONAL:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi to address 25 lakh Chowkidars.

• Prime Minister Narendra Modi will address over 25 lakh Chowkidars through audio bridge medium on Wednesday and share the colours of Holi with them.  The Party's media head and Rajya Sabha MP Anil Baluni this is a part of a series of initiatives under the 'Main Bhi Chowkidaar' outreach programme.

IIPHG to launch Conquer Exam, Be a Warrior app.

• Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar, Gujarat, (IIPHG) joined hands with National Mental Health Program, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Gujarat for developing a mobile application called as ‘Conquer Exam, Be a Warrior’ to reduce the exam pressure for the student. This application creates awareness as well as help students to analyze their weak point and overcome from the exam pressure by providing assistance.

Uttar Pradesh to take census of Otters for the first time.

• For the first time, Uttar Pradesh is taking a census of Otters in its protected areas. The census has begun in the Pilibhit Tiger Reserve (PTR).

•  Otters  Otters live on fish and spend much of its time in or close to water bodies. A growing or healthy population of otters means the water bodies are pollution-free. Clean water bodies mean a healthy ecosystem of the forest.

• India is home to 3 of the 13 species of otters found worldwide. These are: 1) Eurasian Otter (Lutra lutra) - IUCN status: Near Threatened 2) Smooth-coated Otter (Lutra perspicillata) - IUCN status: Vulnerable 3) Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus) - IUCN status: Vulnerable.

ICF Chennai becomes worlds largest rail coach manufacturer.

• Integral Coach Factory (ICF), the rail coach manufacturing factory at Chennai, which became famous for manufacturing Train 18, has become the single largest rail coach manufacturer in the world surpassing top Chinese manufacturers. The manufacturing facility of Indian Railways in Chennai manufactured 2,919 coaches from April 2018 to February 2019 against 2,600 coaches manufactured by top Chinese manufacturers.

•  ICF has set a target to manufacture 3,200 coaches in this financial year 2019. The ultra-modern ‘Train 18’ is engine less, with self-propelled coaches like metro was indigenously made at Integral Coach Factory (ICF), Chennai. Integral Coach Factory in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, was established in 1952 and is owned and operated by the Indian Railways.

International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure IWDRI 2019 held in New Delhi.

• International Workshop on Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (IWDRI), a two-day workshop organised by 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 was held at New Delhi.

• The objectives of the workshop were 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.

♦ Build a forum for members to work on areas of common interest and make specific commitments. The first IWDRI was held in January 2018 and IWDRI 2019 built upon some of the ideas generated at the IWDRI 2018 as a crucial milestone towards the establishment of the Coalition for Disaster Resilient Infrastructure (CDRI). 

DAY:

International Day of Happiness is celebrated on 20th March.

• International Day of Happiness is celebrated every year on March 20. The theme for IDH 2019 is ‘Happier Together’. This year the focus will be on what we have in common, rather than what divides us. It is celebrated by all 193 UN Member States. Since 2013, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness as a way to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.

• It was conceptualized and founded by philanthropist, activist, statesman, and prominent United Nations special advisor Jayme Illien to inspire, mobilize, and advance the global happiness movement.

AWARDS:

Irfan Ramzan Sheikh who fought against 3 terrorists as 14-yr-old awarded Shaurya Chakra.

• Jammu and Kashmir's Irfan Ramzan Sheikh, who fought off three armed terrorists in 2017, when he was 14 years old, was awarded Shaurya Chakra by President Ram Nath Kovind. Sheikh fought off the terrorists who wanted to kill his father and didn't let them enter his house. The terrified terrorists left one of the terrorists' body and ran away.

Mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck becomes 1st woman to win prestigious Abel Prize.

• Mathematician Karen Uhlenbeck (76-year-old) has become the first woman to win the Abel prize, sometimes called the Nobel prize of mathematics, for the impact of her work on "analysis, geometry and mathematical physics". She is also an advocate for gender equality in science and mathematics.

•  About Abel Prize: It is named after Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel and directly modeled after the Nobel Prizes. It comes with a monetary award of 6 million Norwegian Kroner. Established: 23 August 2001 First awarded‎: ‎2003 Country: Norway Awarded for: Outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics Presented by: Government of Norway

MOUS:

MoU signed by Ola and Telangana Govt. to strengthen traffic infrastructure in Hyderabad

• A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between Ola and the Government of Telangana to support the government’s initiative to implement smart solutions to enhance mobility experience further strengthening traffic infrastructure in Hyderabad. Under the MoU, the first pilot project proposed is the dynamic mapping of riding quality of various major roads in Hyderabad through the network of vehicles operating on the Ola platform.

IBBI and SEBI signed an MoU for effective implementation of IBC.

• The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The IBBI and the SEBI seek effective implementation of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code, 2016 (Code) and its allied rules and regulations, which have redefined the debt-equity relationship and aims to promote entrepreneurship and debt market.

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Important Current Affairs of 19th March

NATIONAL:

NCLT approved ArcelorMittal to buy Essar Steel.

• The National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLT) gave a conditional nod to a Rs.42,000-crore offer by world’s largest steelmaker ArcelorMittal to buy Essar Steel. NCLT said that the acceptance of the resolution plan submitted by ArcelorMittal and partner Nippon Steel & Sumitomo Metal Corp. would be subject to its final order in the appeal filed by the promoters of debt-laden Essar Steel against the move.

Indian Navy stand behind the cyclone hit Mozambique.

• India decides to divert three Indian naval ships to the port city of Beira in Mozambique to provide humanitarian assistance to the people affected by tropical cyclone ‘#IDAI’. The coastal city of Beira on Friday, 15 March.

• The city's power grid has currently crashed, the airport has been shut and most roads are inaccessible. The Indian Navy diverted ships to the African country for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) work. The Navy Spokesperson tweeted about the mission and on being the first-respondents for disaster relief.

Assam gets digital awareness, launches i-help initiative to promote electoral literacy.

• Assam launched an initiative ‘i-help’ to promote digital electoral literacy in the state launched in view of the forthcoming Lok Sabha polls. The 'i-help' is a joint initiative of the Office of the Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) and Common Service Centres (CSC) in Assam.

• The CSCs are internet-enabled access points spread throughout the country delivering various government and non- government digital services to the citizens and is uniquely positioned in rural areas to significantly extend the awareness and outreach activities of CEO, Assam.

• The CSC has a presence in all the 2,528-gram panchayats in the state and there are 4,587 functional centres at present.

Microsoft Launched Project Sangam To Boost Indias Swachh Bharat Mission.

• Microsoft announced that it has partnered with The Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA) to promote its Project ‘Sangam’ which is developed to accelerate Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) in India. It is one of the world’s largest Cleanliness Programme. About Microsoft Industry: Computer software Headquarters: Hyderabad, India Key people: Bhaskar Pramanik (Chairman)

NGT questioned MoEF for not furnishing proper data.

• The National Green Tribunal (NGT) questioned the Union Environment Ministry for not furnishing proper data on monitoring mechanism for compliance of conditions of environment clearance granted by the Ministry.  The observations came following submissions by the Ministry that a mechanism existed to periodically monitor the compliance of environmental clearance conditions which was being strengthened.

• The tribunal had in January directed the MoEF to furnish data on the same following which it submitted that a total of 6,779 projects were monitored between 2013-2014 and 2018-19. The Ministry informed the Bench that while in 2013-14, 843 projects were monitored, in 2018-19, it was 1,002.  A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel instructed Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC) to appear before the tribunal on April 29.

INTERNATIONAL:

Vijit becomes the first Indian Coast Guard ship to visit Indonesia.

• This visit of the coast guard ship follows from the first-ever-visit of Naval Ship INS Sumitra to Sabang in July 2018

• Vijit's visit to Sabang, Indonesia, also highlights strengthening cooperation in the area of maritime security and safety between New Delhi and Jakarta. ICGS Vijit is the 2nd in the series of 90 meter Offshore Patrol Vessels and was commissioned at Goa on 11 Dec 2010.

• 'Vijit' meaning "Winner or Victorious" is the testimony of India's shipbuilding capabilities and the resolve of Govt of India to safeguard country's maritime interests.

UNEA has adopted two resolutions piloted by India.

• The United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) has adopted two resolutions piloted by India on single-use plastics and sustainable nitrogen management. The resolutions were passed at the fourth session of the United Nations Environment Assembly (UNEA) which was held in Nairobi. The theme of the fourth session of UNEA was Innovative Solutions for environmental challenges and sustainable production and consumption. 

Joint military exercise, Sary Arka Antiterror 2019, to be held in Uzbekistan.

• The decision to hold Sary-Arka-Antiterror 2019, the first joint military exercise of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was announced at the during the 34th meeting of the RATS council held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. The exercise is to be held Sary Arka, Kazakhstan.

Astronomers discover 83 supermassive black holes 13 billion light-years away from Earth

• Astronomers have discovered 83 quasars powered by supermassive black holes 13 billion light-years away from the Earth, from a time when the universe was less than 10 per cent of its present age. A professor at Princeton University in the US, Michael Strauss said, it is remarkable that such massive dense objects were able to form so soon after the Big Bang.

•  A statement that the understanding of how black holes can form in the early universe, and just how common they are, is a challenge for the cosmological models. This finding, published in the Astrophysical Journal, increases the number of black holes known at that epoch considerably, and reveals, for the first time, how common they are early in the universe's history.

•  In addition, it provides new insight into the effect of black holes on the physical state of gas in the early universe in its first billion years. The Supermassive black holes, found at the centres of galaxies can be millions or even billions of times more massive than the Sun. A supermassive black hole becomes visible when gas accretes onto it, causing it to shine as a quasar.

Cyclone Idai affected over 1.5 million people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.

• Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi have been hit by a vicious cyclone that has killed nearly 150 people, left hundreds more missing and stranded tens of thousands. According to the UN and government officials, Cyclone Idai has affected more than 1.5 million people in the three southern African countries. The port city of Beira in Mozambique was hit the hardest. The deaths are mainly in Zimbabwe's Chimanimani, a mountainous area along the eastern border with Mozambique that is popular with tourists.

Soyuz successfully placed astronauts in ISS.

• Russian Soyuz spacecraft carrying NASA Astronaut Nick Hague and Christina Koch, and Cosmonaut Alexey Ovchinin successfully docked International Space Station (ISS).  Soyuz Spacecraft is a Russian Spacecraft carries people and supplies to and from the space station. Soyuz Spacecraft also function as lifeboats and one Soyuz spacecraft is always docked to the space station, so that in case of emergency the crew can return to earth through the spacecraft.

• After the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011, the Soyuz spacecraft has become the sole means of transportation for crew members going to or returning from the orbiting laboratory.  The International Space Station is a habitable artificial satellite in low Earth orbit. The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada). The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory.

AWARDS:

Indian writer Raghu Karnad won Windham Campbell Prize.

• Indian Writer Raghu Karnad has won the Windham-Campbell Prize $165,000 under the non-fiction category for his debut book, The Farthest Field: An Indian Story Of The Second World War. Raghu Karnad is the second Indian to receive the award. Earlier in 2016, Jerry Pinto had won the award for his novel, Em And The Big Hoom.

•  Karnad is one of the eight winners chosen across four categories: fiction, non-fiction, drama, and poetry. The other awardee in the non-fiction category was American writer Rebecca Solnit for the diverse body of work she has produced over her career.  The Windham-Campbell Prize is administered by the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University in the US.

•  It was established in 2013. The award was constituted with the generous gift from writer Donald Windham in memory of his partner Sandy Campbell. The jury selects two winners each for each of the category.

MOUS AND POLICY:

India & Afghanistan Signed an MOU On Digital Education Initiatives.

• The Ministry of Human Resource Development has signed a memorandum of understanding(MoU) with the Afghanistan government to work on digital education initiatives, which include many prominent programs developed by Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).  The MoU was signed at IIT-Madras. 

About Afghanistan

• President: Ashraf Ghani

• 1st Vice President: Abdul Rashid Dostum

• 2nd Vice President: Sarwar Danish

• Chief Executive Officer : Abdullah Abdullah

New hydro policy will help to meet renewables target.

• The Union Cabinet approval to the new hydroelectricity policy that, among other things, included large hydro projects within the ambit of renewable energy. Prior to the policy, only small hydro projects of a capacity of less than 25 MW were treated as renewable energy.

•  Large hydro projects were treated as a separate source of energy.  India’s renewable energy sector had an installed capacity of 75,055.92 MW as of February 2019, according to data with the Central Electricity Authority. This made up about 21.4% of the overall energy mix, with the rest coming from thermal, nuclear and large hydro sources.

•  With the inclusion of large hydro in renewable energy, the energy mix changes drastically. Renewable energy capacity would now be 1,20,455.14 MW or 34.4% of the overall energy mix.

APPOINTMENT:

Goa Speaker Pramod Sawant sworn-in as new Chief Minister of Goa.

• Pramod Sawant (45), former Speaker of Goa legislative Assembly and MLA from Sankhelim in North Goa was sworn-in as 13th Chief Minister of Goa, succeeding Manohar Parrikar, who died on March 17 after a prolonged battle with advanced pancreatic cancer. Sudin alias Ramkrishna Dhavlikar of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Vijai Sardesai of Goa Forward Party were sworn in as Deputy Chief Ministers. Nine other leaders also took oaths as cabinet ministers.

SPORTS:

For the first time ever Bengaluru FC crowned ISL Champions.

• Bengaluru FC clinched their maiden Indian Super League title as Rahul Bheke found a championship-winning header in the dying minutes of the final against FC Goa, in Mumbai. The two teams were locked 0-0 after 90 minutes. Even the first extra time saw no goals but Bengaluru got better of a 10-men Goan team 1-0, four minutes from the end of the second extra half.

India finished second in medal tally at Asian Youth Championships.

• Indian youth team finish second in the overall medals tally with a total of 26 medals including eight gold, nine silver and nine bronze medals. China topped the overall medals tally with 31 medals that included 12 gold, 11 silver and eight bronze medals. Japan finished third with 20 medals that included 6 Gold, 8 Silver and 6 bronze. Asian Youth Athletics Championships 2019 was held in Hong Kong.

Indian shuttler Sai Praneeth finished runner-up at Swiss Open.

• Indian shuttler Sai Praneeth won the silver medal at the Swiss Open after losing the men's singles final to world number two and top-seeded Chinese shuttler Shi Yuqi in Basel, Switzerland. About 2019 Swiss Open: The 2019 Swiss Open, officially the YONEX Swiss Open 2019, was a badminton tournament which took place at St. Jakobshalle in Basel, Switzerland and had a total purse of $150,000.

Valtteri Bottas Won Australian F1 Grand Prix 2019

• Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas beat his world champion teammate Lewis Hamilton to clinch the season-opening Australian Formula One Grand Prix. Bottas, who claimed his first race win since Abu Dhabi in 2017claimed the extra point for the fastest lap in the race.

India bags 188 medals at Special Olympics World Games.

• India won a total of 188 medals at the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi. The medals include 50 gold, 63 silver and 75 bronze medals. In table tennis India won four gold and one silver medal. In Judo, Sonu Kumar from Rohtak, Haryana won the gold medal by winning all three bouts. Muskan bagged a silver.

• Four Silver medals were bagged by Santoshi Vijay Kauthankar from Goa in the female category. India sent a 378-strong contingent that is participating in the 15th edition of the Games. The closing ceremony of Special Olympics World Games is scheduled for March 21. 

Mukesh Ambani Tops Forbes List of Worlds Richest Sports Team Owners.

• The chairman and managing director of Reliance Industries Limited (RIL), Mukesh Ambani tops with a net worth of around $50 billion. Ambani bought the Indian Premier League (IPL) team Mumbai Indians for over $100 million through RIL's 100 percent subsidiary IndiaWin Sports. The team had won the IPL crown in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

• Former Microsoft CEO, Steve Ballmer who own the Los Angeles Clippers team placed at the second spot in the list. He purchased the basketball team for about $2 billion after he retired from Microsoft. Red Bull energy drink company founder Dietrich Mateschitz followed at number three spot. He owns Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, Formula One team Red Bull Racing and MLS club New York Red Bulls.

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Important Current Affairs of 18th March

NATIONAL:

New hydro policy will help to meet renewables target.

• The Union Cabinet approval to the new hydroelectricity policy that, among other things, included large hydro projects within the ambit of renewable energy. Prior to the policy, only small hydro projects of a capacity of less than 25 MW were treated as renewable energy. Large hydro projects were treated as a separate source of energy.

•  India’s renewable energy sector had an installed capacity of 75,055.92 MW as of February 2019, according to data with the Central Electricity Authority. This made up about 21.4% of the overall energy mix, with the rest coming from thermal, nuclear and large hydro sources.  With the inclusion of large hydro in renewable energy, the energy mix changes drastically. Renewable energy capacity would now be 1,20,455.14 MW or 34.4% of the overall energy mix.

NGT directed 6 states to submit action plans for bringing air quality standards.

• The National Green Tribunal (NGT) has directed six States to submit by April 30 action plans for bringing air quality standards within the prescribed norms, failing which they would be liable to pay environment compensation of Rs.1 crore each.  A Bench headed by NGT Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel ordered the Chief Secretaries of Assam, Jharkhand, Maharashtra, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Nagaland governments to submit their plan within the stipulated time

Second Scorpene submarine Khanderi ready for induction.

• The Navy is set to induct the second Scorpene submarine Khanderi by early May. The remaining submarines in the series are in advanced stages of manufacturing and trials. Khanderi was launched into the water in January 2017 and has since been undergoing a series of trials.

• Also, the fourth submarine Vela is ready to be launched into the water for trials around the same time depending on the ocean tide.  Mazagon Dock Limited (MDL), Mumbai, is manufacturing six Scorpene submarines under technology transfer from Naval Group of France under a 2005 contract worth $3.75 bn.

• After a series of delays in the project, the first submarine of the class Kalvari joined service in December 2017. The entire project is expected to be completed by 2020.

India and Maldives agreed to cooperate on defence, development, health.

• India and the Maldives discussed measures to strengthen ties and agreed to collaborate in the fields of defence, development cooperation, capacity building and health as External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with the country’s top leadership, including her Maldivian counterpart Abdulla Shahid.

• Ms. Swaraj and Maldivian Foreign Minister Shahid reviewed progress on important bilateral issues, including implementation of agreed outcomes of President Solih’s visit to India during 2018. She unveiled a plaque dedicating the renovated IGM Hospital to the people of Maldives in the city of Male. IGMH is the first and largest government health-care facility in the Maldives, built with Indian assistance.

Nara Lokesh, Poonam Mahajan among Indians in Young Global Leaders list.

• Andhra Pradesh IT minister Nara Lokesh, BJP MP Poonam Mahajan and Xiaomi India head Manu Kumar Jain are among the Indians featuring in the list of Young Global Leaders, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). Telangana government's Chief Innovation Officer Phanindra Sama, SaveLife Foundation's Piyush Tewari and Kaleidofin's co-Founder Sucharita Mukherjee are also in the list. The list has 127 of the world's "most promising social activists, business leaders, public servants, artists and technologists under the age of 40".

Climate Vulnerability Index Highest For Assam And Mizoram.

• Indian scientists have developed a common framework for the assessment of climate change vulnerability in all the states in the Himalayan region. The assessment shows that the vulnerability index is the highest for Assam (0.72) and Mizoram (0.71). Sikkim is the least vulnerable state with the index being 0.42. Assam is highly vulnerable to climate change because of factors like low per capita income, deforestation, large number of marginal farmers, least area under irrigation, lack of alternative sources of income and high rates of poverty.

ANNOUNCEMENTS AND LAUNCHES:

Aviva Life Insurance launches Special Mentorship Programme Wings.

• Aviva Life Insurance announced the launch of ‘Wings’, a specially designed mentorship program to empower the female workforce. Wings program is an initiative of the SHE division of Aviva Life Insurance for mentoring all the women employees in Aviva.

BCCI announced Dream11 as official partner of VIVO IPL.

• The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), announced Dream11, India’s Biggest Sports Game, as the Official Partner for the VIVO Indian Premier League (IPL). This 4-year exclusive partnership will begin with the upcoming IPL 2019 season. Additionally, the ‘Official Fantasy Game’ of IPL will also be powered by Dream11.

APPOINTMENTS:

Santosh Jha appointed as The Next Ambassador Of India to the Republic Of Uzbekistan.

• Santosh Jha presently Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Washington appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Republic of Uzbekistan. Presently, Mr Jha working as Deputy Chief of Mission, Embassy of India, Washington DC USA.

Kotak Mahindra Bank has appointed KVS Manian, Gaurang Shah as board directors.

• KVS Manian and Gaurang Shah appointed as Kotak Mahindra Bank ’s whole-time directors for a three-year term effective from the date of approval from the Reserve Bank of India. He is currently working as the president – corporate, an investment bank and Gaurang Shah is the president- group chief risk officer of the bank

Pinaki Chandra Ghose named as Indias first Lokpal.

• Pinaki Chandra Ghose is likely to be India’s first anti-corruption ombudsman or Lokpal. He is the former Supreme Court judge and current member of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). The decision was made by the PM-led high-level selection committee.  Mr.Ghose was appointed as judge of the Calcutta High Court in 1997 and went on to become Chief Justice of Andhra Pradesh before his elevation to the Supreme Court in 2013. The Lokpal Act, which was passed in 2013 after a nationwide anti-corruption movement.

• The act provides for setting up of Lokpal at the centre and Lokayuktas in the States to probe corruption complaints against top functionaries and public servants. A Lokpal is an anti-corruption authority or ombudsman who represents the public interest. The Lokpal has jurisdiction over all Members of Parliament, central government employees, including the Prime Minister and the Chief Ministers in cases of corruption.

SPORTS:

Diksha, 18-yr-old becomes 2nd Indian golfer to win on Ladies European Tour.

• Diksha Dagar became the second Indian woman golfer to win an event on Ladies European Tour after clinching South African Women's Open in Cape Town. Aditi Ashok was the first Indian to win on the Ladies European Tour after clinching Hero Women's Indian Open in Gurugram in 2016.

OCA reinstated Chess in Asian Games 2022.

• Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) decided to reinstate the Chess game to the Asian Games fold for the 2022 edition in Hangzhou. The top players welcomed the return of Chess.

• The OCA General Assembly met in Bangkok on March 3 and its president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad Al-Sabah officially confirmed the development to World Chess Federation (WCF) president Arkady Dvorkovich.

• Chess was a part of the Asian Games programme at the 2006 edition in Doha and 2010 in Guangzhou. India won two gold medals at Doha, and two bronze in the 2010 edition at Guangzhou.

T. Irfan became first Indian athlete to qualify for Tokyo Olympics.

• A 29-year-old Indian athlete from Kerala, K.T. Irfan qualified for the Tokyo Olympics as he finished fourth in the men’s 20 kilometre category at the Asian Race Walking Championships in Nomi, Japan. He got qualified for next year's Tokyo Olympics.

• He made the cut after finishing fourth at the Asian Race Walking Championship at Nomi in Japan.  The fourth-place finishes also ensured a berth in the upcoming International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) World Championship in Doha that begins in September. The Two other Indian race walkers, who qualified for the World Championship are Devinder and Ganapati.

BANKS AND ECONOMICS:

RBI allows HDFC Bank to hold only 9.9 percent in Bandhan Bank.

• HDFC, India’s largest mortgage lender, which has agreed to merge its low-cost arm Gruh Finance Pvt. Ltd. with Bandhan Bank, can hold 9.9 percent in the bank, according to its exchange filing. That’s the maximum a non-banking finance company can own in a private bank. HDFC had sought approval for 14.96 percent.

AWARDS:

Former ISRO scientist Nambi Narayanan received Padma Bhushan from President.

• President Kovind presented Padma Bhushan to Shri Sankaralingam Nambi Narayanan for Science & Engineering. Shri Narayanan is an accomplished scientist with more than three decades of experience in Indian Space Research Organisation. The scientist was instrumental in developing the Vikas engine that would be used for the first PSLV that India launched.

• But, Nambi Narayanan, who was falsely implicated in the ISRO spy case, was accused of selling state secrets comprising confidential test data from rocket and satellite launches. In 1994, Narayanan was arrested by Kerala police over espionage charges, which were dismissed by CBI in 1996. The Supreme Court declared him not guilty in 1998 and ordered Kerala to pay ₹50-lakh compensation over "mental torture" in 2018

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Important Current Affairs 17th March 2019

NATIONAL:

India sets aspirational target for engineering exports at USD 200 bn by 2025.

• India can achieve a three-fold "aspirational" increase in its engineering exports to reach $200 billion by 2025, if concerted efforts are made by the government and industry to develop a conducive ecosystem, and ensuring inputs at competitive prices, according to an EEPC India-Deloitte strategy paper. India's engineering exports, which contribute 25 per cent to the overall merchandise shipments, are projected to touch about $80-82 billion in the current financial year ending March 31.

West Bengal has maximum first-time voters in Lok Sabha polls.

• According to Election Commission, West Bengal has the maximum number of first-time voters, around 20.1 lakh, in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. WB is followed by Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh, with around 16.7 lakh and 13.6 lakh first-time voters, respectively. The number of people eligible to vote has reportedly increased by 8.4 crore as compared to 2014 General Elections. Over 1.5 crore voters are in the age group of 18-19 years. These "young voters" constitute 1.66 per cent of the total electors.

AFINDEX 2019 held at Pune.

• Africa-India Joint Field Training Exercise (AFINDEX-19) between the Indian Army and 16 African nations will be conducted in Pune from March 18 to 27. The joint exercise would be held at Pune's Foreign Training Node at Aundh Military Station and College of Military Engineering in Kirkee. 

Features of AFINDEX-19:

♦ 10 personnel, each from the participating nations from the African continent and personnel of Maratha Light Infantry of the Indian Army will participate in the joint exercise

♦ The exercise aims to train the participating contingents in Humanitarian Mine Assistance (HMA) and Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) under the United Nations Charter through practical

♦ Contingents from Egypt, Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Sudan, South Africa, Tanzania, Namibia, Mozambique, Uganda, Niger & Zambia are part of the joint exercise together with officers from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar as Observers

Erode Turmeric received GI tag.

• Erode Turmeric has finally received GI tag from the Geographical Indication Registry. Erode is the city in the state of Tamil Nadu. The product to acquire GI tag has to indicate that a product of a particular origin has a certain quality or reputation or some other characteristics, which is essentially attributable to its geographical origin.

The uniqueness of the Erode Turmeric:

♦ Erode Turmeric is golden yellow in colour with resistance to pests after boiling

♦ Erode turmeric contains 2.5 to 4.5% of curcumin content

♦ Erode Turmeric is grown in hot moist conditions prevalent in the area with temperature ranging from 20 degrees to 37.9 degrees Celsius with an average of 600 to 800 mm rainfall in a year Geographical Indication defines the goods as originating in the territory of a country or a region or locality in that territory, provided a given quality reputation or other characteristics of the product are attributable to its geographical origin.

Income Tax dept cracks down on terror funding in Kashmir valley.

• Income Tax Department conducted search actions at 5 locations in the Kashmir Valley. Few places in Jammu were also searched. In a release, the CBDT said, these actions are part of the Department’s continued drive against use of black money by disruptive elements in the State.

• It said, the operations also send a message of deterrence and obviation to those intending to vitiate the democratic process of free and fair elections.  The preliminary results are extremely encouraging. In the aggregate, undisclosed cash of one crore 44 lakh and unaccounted jewellery of 2.48 crore rupees has been seized.

NITI Aayog and USAID organised IEMF.

• Niti Ayog in association with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) organized the first workshop on the development of the India Energy Modelling Forum (IEMF). The workshop was organized under the Sustainable Growth Pillar of the India-U.S. Strategic Energy Partnership.

•  IEMF aims to improve cooperation and coordination between modelling teams, the Government of India, knowledge partners and think-tanks, build the capacity of Indian institutions, and identify issues for joint modelling activities and future areas of research. The workshop featured eight expert sessions which saw discussions around the various aspects of setting up an India-centric energy modelling platform and was attended by various central government ministries and agencies.

SPORTS:

South Africas Duminy announces retirement from ODIs after 2019 World Cup.

• The 2019 World Cup will be Duminy's third appearance in the tournament, having featured for South Africa in 2011 in the subcontinent and in 2015 in Australia and New Zealand. Allrounder Jean-Paul Duminy had already retired from Test cricket in September 2017 after featuring in 46 matches. Duminy has played 193 ODIs so far - scoring 5047 runs at an average of 37.39 - in addition to bagging 68 wickets.

Argentina, Colombia set to co-host Copa America in 2020.

• Argentina and Colombia have been chosen in principle to co-host the 2020 Copa America. The 2020 Copa América will be the 47th edition of the Copa América. 2019 Copa América will be  staged in Brazil between June 14 and July 7. The Copa América is the world's oldest international football tournament. The event was first held in 1916 in honour of the 100th anniversary of Argentina's independence—with Uruguay winning the inaugural title.

Sourav Ganguly appointed as advisor of Delhi Capitals for IPL 2019.

• Former India captain Sourav Ganguly was appointed as the advisor of Delhi Capitals (formerly known as Delhi Daredevils) for the upcoming edition of Vivo Indian Premier League (IPL), where he will work closely with the team’s head coach Ricky Ponting. With Captain Shreyas Iyer, Delhi Capitals will be facing Mumbai Indians on 24th March 2019 at the Wankhede Stadium.

BANKS AND ECONOMY:

State Bank of India launched YONO Cash for cardless withdrawal of cash.

• State Bank of India launched ‘YONO Cash’ for cardless withdrawal of cash at over 16,500 SBI ATMs across the country. With this facility, customers can initiate the cash withdrawal process on the YONO app and set a six-digit YONO Cash PIN for the transaction.  They will also get a six-digit reference number for the transaction on their registered mobile number via SMS. The withdrawal has to be completed in the next 30 minutes at the nearest ATM. The initiative will also address their concern of using debit card at the ATMs for cash withdrawals by eliminating possible risk associated with it.

AWARDS:

Manmohan Singh presented the Business Line Changemaker of the Year award to Arun Jaitley.

• Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley received the award over successful implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST). The award was also presented to the petitioners against Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalised homosexuality.

Indian Embassy in Nepal awarded 200 scholarships to meritorious Nepali students.

• The Indian Embassy in Nepal has announced 200 scholarships to meritorious Nepali students for continuing various undergraduate courses at colleges and universities. The scholarships were granted under the Golden Jubilee Scholarship scheme.

• Golden Jubilee Scholarship scheme was initiated by the Indian Embassy in Nepal to mark the completion of 50 years of India-Nepal Economic Cooperation. This year the scholarship programme covered 36 undergraduate courses including MBBS, BDS, BE, BSc and BBA The recipients of the scholarships represent 50 districts of Nepal. Under the scheme, an MBBS/BDS student receives NRs. 4,000/- per month for five years, a BE student receives NRs. 4,000/- per month for four years and a student studying in other undergraduate courses receives NRs. 3,000/- per month for three years. Those provided scholarship included 45% of girls and 8% differently-abled students.

INTERNATIONAL:

India welcomes France's decision to sanction Masood Azhar.

• India welcomed the decision taken by France to sanction Jaish-e-Mohammed Chief Masood Azhar.  In a tweet, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, Azhar who is a Pakistan-based and his outfit is UN proscribed terrorist organisation who is responsible for the Pulwama terrorist attack. Earlier, France has decided to freeze all assets of Pakistan based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed, JeM chief Masood Azhar, in the application of the country's Monetary and Financial Code.

• The French government's Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, France always been and always will be by India's side in the fight against terrorism.  France has decided to sanction Masood Azhar at the national level by freezing his assets in the application of the Monetary and Financial Code.                                  

OBITUARIES:

Goa CM Manohar Parrikar Passes Away Aged 63 After Battle with Pancreatic Cancer.

• Manohar Parrikar, Goa Chief Minister and former defence minister, has passed away at the age of 63 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Parrikar was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in February 2018 and had been in and out of hospitals in Goa, Mumbai, Delhi and New York since.

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Important Current Affairs of 16th March

NATIONAL:

Kent RO receives the Best Domestic Water Purifier Award 2019.

• Kent RO Systems Pvt. Ltd. has been bestowed with the Best Domestic Water Purifier Award 2018-19 for its RO (Reverse Osmosis)+ UV + UF (Ultra Filtration) technology at the Water Digest Water Awards organized at The Lalit, New Delhi. Water Digest Water Awards is backed by the Ministry of Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation and UNESCO.

• Reverse Osmosis (RO) removes the all pollutants and contaminants from water, UV also known as Ultra Violet Radiation kills bacteria and virus and Ultra Filtration, an additional layer of security which works without electricity, filters remnants of microbial bodies. Thus, a combination of all three provides multistage purification which makes the water 100% safe and pure.

Students of IIT Kharagpur developed app to detect Fake Notes.

• The Students from IIT- Kharagpur has devised a code for a Smartphone application to address the problem of detecting fake Indian currency. Detecting Fake Currency Students of IIT- Kharagpur has developed an image processing application which can detect counterfeit currency.

•  A user can upload a currency note image and the mobile app would verify its authenticity using 25 features extracted from the front and rear side of the currency note. If the app finds the discrepancies with the features it reports about the failure checkpoints.  Smart India Hackathon 2019 organised by Ministry of Human Resource and Development in association with AICTE, i4c and Persistent Systems. It provides an unique Open Innovation Model for identifying new and disruptive technology innovations to solve the challenges faced in the country.

NGT suspended the expansion of Udupi thermal plant.

• The Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal (NGT), New Delhi, has ordered the suspension of the Environmental Clearance of August 1, 2017, granted for the expansion of the thermal plant of Udupi Power Corporation Ltd. (UPCL) at Yellur in Udupi district by addition of 2 x 800 MW units to raise ultimate capacity to 2,800 MW.  The move is after the appeal of an NGO which opposed the thermal power plant at Yellur in Udupi district. The tribunal held that clearances granted for the setting up of the power plant were illegal. It directed the State government to conduct a study of carrying capacity of the area. It also ordered the company to pay Rs.1 lakh as cost to the petitioners.

Karnataka government plans for cloud seeding project.

• The government of Karnataka is planning for cloud seeding project due to drought and to influence the upcoming monsoon and capture as much water as possible from the rain clouds. The State government has called the tenders for cloud seeding operations to enhance rainfall during the monsoons of 2019 and 2020. The cost is expected to be Rs.50 crore per year.

• Earlier Efforts of Karnataka Karnataka had undertaken a similar exercise through Project Varshadhare in 2017.  Cloud Seeding is a process of intervening chemically to induce precipitation rain or snow from clouds. Cloud seeding aims to facilitate and accelerate the process by making available chemical nuclei for condensation to take place.

• The agents used as nuclei are iodides of silver or potassium, dry ice (solid carbon dioxide), or liquid propane.

Joint exercises to be conducted by US army and NSG in Hyderabad.

• The US military forces and the Indian National Security Guard (NSG) is conducting joint exercises in Hyderabad. This would be a part of the US-India security partnership. The aim of these exercises is to enhance preparedness and tackle any crisis that affects the public health and safety. The exercise is witnessing participation by the 1st Battalion and the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) stationed out of Okinawa, Japan. The exercise will be overseen from the US Embassy, New Delhi and US Special Operations Pacific Command at Camp HM Smith in Hawaii.

President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Gandhinagar.

• President of India Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the Festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (FINE) in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. 10th Biennial National Grassroots Innovation awards were also distributed by the President on the occasion.

• The event will provide a platform to the innovators for building the linkages with potential stakeholders whose support can improve the prospects in the coming years for the betterment of the society. FINE is a unique initiative of the Office of the President of India to recognize, respect and reward grassroots innovations and foster a supportive ecosystem. President Kovind awards National Grassroots Innovators.

• For innovations in new varieties of agriculture crops, Prakash Singh Raghuvanshi from Uttar Pradesh has been awarded lifetime achievement award.

USFDA approved Glen marks generic version of acne treatment gel.

• Glenmark Pharmaceuticals received its final approval from the United States Food & Drug Administration (USFDA), the US health regulator, for its generic version of BenzaClin gel used in the treatment of acne.

• The approval granted to Glenmark Pharmaceuticals Inc, USA (Glenmark) by the USFDA is for Clindamycin and Benzoyl Peroxide Gel, 1 per cent|5 per cent, a generic version of BenzaClin1 Gel, 1 per cent/ 5 per cent, of Valeant Bermuda. Citing IQVIATM sales data, Glenmark said BenzaClin Gel, 1 per cent/ 5 per cent had sales of $99.4 million in the 12-month period ended January 2019. Glenmark’s current portfolio consists of 151 products authorised for distribution in the US with 53 ANDAs (Abbreviated New Drug Applications) pending approval with the USFDA.

SPORTS:

India to host FIFA Under-17 Women's World Cup in 2020.

• International Football Federation (FIFA) President Gianni Infantino announced that India will host the U-17 Women's World Cup in 2020. The tournament in India will be the seventh edition. By virtue of being the host country, India will take part in the tournament for the first time in its history. This will be the second FIFA tournament India will be hosting, after the U-17 Men's World Cup in 2017. The U-17 women's tournament began in 2008, when New Zealand hosted it. Spain are the current champions.

ESPN World Fame 100 list: Virat Kohli the only Indian in Top 10.

• This year’s ESPN World Fame 100 list, an annual list of the most famous athletes on the planet, placed the Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo at the top spot, followed by former Basketball player Lebron James and FC Barcelona captain Lionel Messi. Indian skipper, Virat Kohli, stands on the seventh position and is the only Indian athlete in the top 10 club, whereas Dhoni is placed on the 13th position. There were only three women in the list- Serena Williams (17), Maria Sharapova (37) and Sania Mirza (93); making Sania Mirza the only Indian woman athlete to feature in the list.

Karnataka defeated Maharashtra to win Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy.

• Karnataka defeated Maharashtra to win their maiden Syed Mushtaq Ali Trophy at the Holkar Cricket Stadium in Indore. With the win, Karnataka set a record of most number of wins in a row by an Indian domestic team as they won 14 T20 matches to lift the coveted T20 trophy.

Narasimha appointed as mediator to resolve disputes of cricket administration by SC.

• Supreme Court appointed senior advocate P. S. Narasimha, as a mediator for resolving various disputes related to cricket administration in the country. A bench of Justices S. A. Bobde and A. M. Spare was informed by P. S. Narasimha that former apex court judge Justice (retd) D. K. Jain has assumed charge as the ombudsman of Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI). The bench also asked P. S.

Winners list of 2019 All England Open Badminton Championships.

• All England Open Badminton Championships 2019 was held from 6 Mar 2019 to 10 Mar 2019 at Arena Birmingham, Birmingham, United Kingdom. The Winners in the various categories of the are: Men's Singles: Japan's Kento Momota Women's Singles: China's Chen Yufei Men's Doubles: Indonesia's Mohammad Ahsan & Hendra Setiawan Women's Doubles: China's Chen Qingchen & Jia Yifan Mixed Doubles: China's Zheng Siwei & Huang Yaqiong All England Open Badminton Championships All England Open Badminton Championships held annually in England is the world's oldest badminton tournament. The genesis of the tournament can be traced to open tournament held in the English town of Guildford in 1898, the success of this tournament paved the way for the All England's inaugural edition, which was held at London's Horticultural Halls in 1899.

INTERNATIONAL:

India gets first TIR shipment via Chabahar Port from Afghanistan.

• he first shipment under the United Nations ‘Transports Internationaux Routiers’ (TIR) convention arrived in India from Afghanistan through Iran’s Chabahar Port. TIR allows goods to be sealed in compartments and requires no need for physical checking of the contents.

• This enables shipments to pass through countries without being opened at borders. India joined the TIR Convention (the United Nations Customs Convention on International Transport of Goods under cover of TIR Carnets) on June 15, 2017. India took over the operations of a part of Shahid Beheshti Port, Chabahar in Iran in December 2018.

Geographical Indication (GI) tag granted to Coorg Arabica Coffee and 4 other varieties of Coffee by the Geographical Indications Registry.

• Geographical Indication (GI) tags have been granted to Coorg Arabica Coffee, Wayanad Robusta Coffee, Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee, Araku Valley Arabica Coffee and Bababudangiris Arabica Coffee, by the Geographical Indications Registry on 1st March 2019. Coorg Arabica Coffee is grown in Kodagu, Karnataka. Wayanad Robusta Coffee is grown in Wayanad, Kerala. Chikmagalur Arabica Coffee and Bababudangiris Arabica Coffee are grown in Chikmagalur, Karnataka.

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Important Current Affairs of 15th March

NATIONAL:

Brookfield acquires RILs East West Pipeline

• India Infrastructure Trust, an infrastructure investment trust (InvIT), sponsored by Brookfield, will acquire the East West Pipeline for Rs. 3,000 crore.

• The pipeline is owned by Reliance Industries Ltd’s promoters’ family.  As a part of the transaction, the InvIT would acquire 100% equity interest in Pipeline Infrastructure Private Ltd. which currently owns and operates the pipeline.

• Following this acquisition by Brookfield, the existing pipeline usage agreement has been reworked.  Now, reserved capacity will be cut to 33 Million Metric Standard Cubic Meter Per Day (MMSCMD) against 56 MMSCMD and any unutilised capacity payment by RIL will be the difference between Rs.500 crore a quarter and actual revenue earned by PIPL.

DRDO successfully test fired Man Portable Anti-tank Guided Missile

• Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test-fired Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) in the desert ranges of Rajasthan.

• The MPATGM is a third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) comes loaded with a high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead. It has a maximum engagement range of about 2.5 kilometers. The indigenously developed missile has features like a state-of-the-art imaging infrared radar seeker with integrated avionics.

Arecanut Gets Its First GI Tag For Sirsi Supari

• Registrar of Geographical Indications, Government of India, accorded a GI tag, ‘Sirsi Supari’, to arecanut grown in Sirsi, Siddpaur and Yellapur taluks of Uttara Kannada district in Karnataka. The Totagars’ Cooperative Sale Society (TSS) Ltd, a Sirsi-based agri cooperative, is the registered proprietor of the GI ‘Sirsi Supari’.

NTPC partners with Indian Railways for fly ash transportation

• State-run National Thermal Power Corporation Ltd. (NTPC) has teamed up with the Indian Railways for fly ash transportation. The partnership is to help enhance ash utilisation at Rihand and Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power plants.  NTPC had signed a memorandum of understanding with Hazipur-based East Central Railway Zone for transportation of fly ash under Indian Railways’ Special Freight Train Operator scheme.

IFFM to be from 29th March at Malappuram, Kerala

• The 77th International Film Festival of Malappuram (IFFM) organised by the Rasmi Film Society will be held at Malappuram, Kerala on March 29, 30 and 31. Actor Indrans will inaugurate the festival at the Municipal bus-stand auditorium, named after filmmaker Mrinal. Sen.V.C. Abhilash’s Aalorukkam will be the inaugural film. There will be 11 films in the World, Indian and Malayalam categories.

RInfra to sell Delhi-Agra Toll Road in Rs 3,600 crore deal

• Reliance Infrastructure (RInfra) has signed a "definitive binding agreement" with Singapore-based Cube Highways and Infrastructure for sale of its 100 per cent stake in Delhi-Agra (DA) Toll Road Pvt Ltd. The deal is valued over Rs 3,600 crore.

• In addition, NHAI claims of Rs 1,200 crore to be filed by DA Toll Road will flow directly to Reliance Infrastructure. DA Toll Road Pvt Ltd is the special purpose vehicle (SPV) of RInfra, which operates the 180 kilometre long six-lane road that connects the national capital with Agra on National Highway-2.

ECI to launch Observer App

• The Election Commission of India (ECI) is to launch the Observer App, a mobile application, that will help poll observers to submit reports.

•  The poll observers will get all the important notifications and alerts through the ‘Observer App’. It will also help them get their deployment status and download the ID card. As the observers will be involved in real-time disposal of cases of violation of the Model Code of Conduct and expenditure received through another mobile application ‘cVIGIL’, those details will also be available on the ‘Observer App’.

BANK AND ECONOMICS:

Russia releases coin commemorating annexation of Crimea.

• A new coin that features the Crimea or Kerch Strait Bridge released by Russia’s central bank, to mark Crimea’s reunification with Russia. Two million new five ruble (about $0.08, €0.07) coins were pressed which depict an outline of the peninsula which was annexed by Russia in 2014.

RBI categorises IDBI Bank as private sector lender

• IDBI Bank has been categorised as a private sector bank for regulatory purposes with effect from January 21, 2019.

• This follows  Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) acquiring 51 per cent of the total paid-up equity share capital of the bank. In April 2005, IDBI Bank was categorised under a new sub-group, ‘other public sector banks,’ by the RBI.

• The Bank has a high proportion of bad loans. In another release, the RBI announced that the State Bank of India, ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank will continue to be identified as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs). D-SIB means that a bank is 'too big to fail'.

DAY:

World Consumer Rights Day is observed on 15th March

• The consumer movement marks 15th March with World Consumer Rights Day every year, as a means of raising global awareness about consumer rights and needs. The theme for World Consumer Rights Day 2019 is ‘Trusted Smart Products’.

• The day demands that the rights of all consumers are respected and protected, and to protest against market abuses and social injustices which undermine those rights. World Consumer Rights Day was inspired by President John F Kennedy, who sent a special message to the US Congress on 15th March 1962, in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights. He was the first world leader to do so.

• This World Consumers Rights Day highlights what consumers want and need from a connected world. This year over 100 members in over 90 countries are coming together to mark World Consumer Rights Day.

AWARDS AND APPOINTMENTS:

M.R.Kumar takes charge as Chairman of LIC

• M.R.Kumar, the newly-appointed chairman of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), has taken charge on 14th March. Mr.Kumar took over from Hemant Bhargava who had been the acting chairman since January 2019. Mr.Kumar had joined LIC as a direct recruit officer in 1983.  The government had also named two MDs for LIC, Vipin Anand and T.C. Suseel Kumar.

Sweden's 16-year-old Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

• Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student and activist has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in climate activism and fighting global warming. She began her weekly protest in August 2018 by riding her bicycle to the Swedish Parliament with ''School strike for climate'' sign.

• The #FridaysForFuture movement went viral and spread over 80 countries. If she were to win, she would be the youngest recipient since Pakistan's Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.

Padmanaban Gopalan bagged the Commonwealth Youth Award for the Asian region

• Social entrepreneur from Tamil Nadu, Padmanaban Gopalan, founder of No Food Waste named the winner of the Commonwealth Youth Award for the Asian region worth 3,000 Pounds at a ceremony at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London. He was given the honour for his work towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of Zero Hunger with his innovative system of recovering excess food to distribute to those in need. 

Army Chief Bipin Rawat conferred PVSM by President Kovind

• Army Chief General Bipin Rawat was conferred with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), the highest military medal award in recognition of peace-time service not accounting to gallantry, by President Ram Nath Kovind. President also awarded three Kirti Chakras and 15 Shaurya Chakras to armed forces personnel for displaying gallantry.

• Two Kirti Chakras were posthumously awarded to Sepoy Vramha Pal Singh of the Rajput Regiment and Rajendra Kumar Nain, a constable with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). A Shaurya Chakra was also posthumously awarded to Ravindra Dhanawade by the President, who is the Supreme Commander of the armed forces.

Three Kirti Chakras and 15 Shaurya Chakras awarded by the President to Army Personnel

• President Ram Nath Kovind conferred 3 Kirti Chakras and 15 Shaurya Chakras to Armed Forces Personnel for displaying conspicuous gallantry, indomitable courage and extreme devotion to duty at the Defence Investiture Ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.  2 Kirti Chakras and 1 Shaurya Chakra were given posthumously. 15 Param Vishisht Seva Medals, 1 Uttam Yudh Seva Medal and 25 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals were also conferred on senior officers of the Armed Forces for their distinguished service by the President.

INTERNATIONAL:

Special olympics World Game began in UAE

• Special Olympics World Games 2019 is held at Abu Dhabi, from March 14 to 21. The Games were declared open by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. There are 7,500 athletes from 190 countries taking part at the Games this year. Team India is the second largest contingent after the host UAE with 387 players, along with coaches and other staff. The Special Olympics takes place every two years and alternates between summer and winter.

UK removes cap on PhD level work visas

• U.K. announced in a Budget update, referred to as the annual Spring Statement, that from later this year all PhD-level highly-qualified roles will be exempt from any cap on the numbers that can apply and come to work in Britain.

• Indians are among the largest group of professionals set to benefit from a new U.K. government plan to remove any limit on the number of PhD-level work visas to be granted.  A key pillar of the plan is backing Britain to remain at the forefront of the technology revolution that is transforming the economy. In Order to support that ambition, the country completely exempt PhD-level roles from the visa caps.

Vienna topped the Most Liveable Cities index for the 10th year

• The Austrian capital Vienna has topped Mercer's index of most liveable cities for the 10th year in a row. Zurich in Switzerland, is placed second in the index, while Auckland, Munich and Vancouver came joint third. Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu is ranked at 105 in Mercer's Quality Of Living Index and is the number one city from India.

• Luxembourg was named the safest city in a separate personal safety league table. Global consulting firm Mercer surveyed in 231 cities across the globe and were ranked them based on factors such as healthcare, education, public services, recreation, crime, housing and personal freedom. The ranking was based on data analysed between September and November 2018.

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