International Current News
- Sharada Peeth: It is an abandoned Hindu temple and ancient centre of learning in the Pakistani administered territory of Azad Kashmir. The Pakistan government approved a proposal to establish a corridor that will allow Hindu pilgrims from India to visit Sharda Peeth, an ancient Hindu temple and cultural site in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The Sharda Peeth corridor, when opened, will be the second religious tract after Kartarpur corridor in Pakistan-controlled territory that will connect the two neighbouring nations. India had already sent a proposal to Pakistan to open the temple corridor, the Express Tribune reported quoting sources in Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Established in 237 BC during the reign of Ashoka, the 5,000-year-old Sharada Peeth is an abandoned temple and ancient centre of learning dedicated to the Hindu goddess of learning. Between the 6th and 12th centuries CE, Sharada Peeth was one of the foremost temple universities of the Indian subcontinent. It is also one of the three famous holy sites for Kashmiri Pandits, the other two being the Martand Sun Temple in Anantnag and the Amarnath temple. Kashmiri Pandit organisations have been demanding opening of the Sharda Peeth corridor for many years now.
- NBCTF : It is an acronym for Nuclear, biological, chemical training facility. It was inaugurated at INS Shivaji in Lonavala by Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Sunil Lanba. The NBCTF, which is termed as Abhedya, impenetrable in Sanskrit, will help train personnel of naval ships fitted with nuclear, biological and chemical detection and protection systems. In a statement, the Navy said the facility will provide realistic training to naval personnel in detection, protection against and decontamination of nuclear, biological and chemical agents. Admiral Lanba launched the INS Shivaji’s website on the Indian Navy portal. He also released the platinum jubilee logo, with the theme Propelling the Indian Navy since 1945, for the premier technical training establishment. INS Shivaji is celebrating its platinum jubilee year in 2019-20.
- Grand Order of the King of Tomislav: It is a highest civilian award from Croatia. President Ram Nath Kovind was honoured with Croatia’s highest civilian award — the Grand Order of the King of Tomislav. Kovind is in Croatia as a part of his eight-day three-nation visit to Croatia, Bolivia and Chile to further strengthen bilateral ties between India and the three countries. Making the annoucement, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Ravish Kumar said, ‘ President of India honoured with highest civilian order in Croatia! During his State Visit to Croatia, Presidentkovind is honoured with Grand Order of the King of Tomislav, the highest award of Croatia. President Kovind dedicated it to India-Croatia friendship’. The civilian order is awarded to heads of state for their important contribution towards the development of state relations between Croatia and their respective countries. Kovind, who is the first-ever Indian head of state to visit Croatia, was earlier accorded a ceremonial welcome here. He is in the European nation from March 25 to March 28.
- Islamic State: It is a Salafi jihadist militant group and former unrecognised proto-state that follows a fundamentalist, Salafi doctrine of Sunni Islam. The Islamic State group has been defeated in Syria by Kurdish-led forces. Kurdish-led forces announced the end of Islamic State’s nearly five-year-old caliphate after forcing diehard jihadists from their last stronghold in Eastern Syria. According to an official statement, ‘Syrian Democratic Forces declare total elimination of [the] so-called caliphate and 100% territorial defeat of ISIS. The SDF had taken full control of Baghouz, a small village on the Euphrates where diehard jihadists made a last stand’. At its height, the Islamic State group ruled a third of both Syria and Iraq, holding millions of people hostage to violent interpretations of Islamic law. The group carried out large-scale massacres. During a rampage through Iraq’s Sinjar region in 2014, it captured thousands of women and girls from the Yazidi religious minority and forced them into sexual slavery and many remain missing even today. The group also used its caliphate as a launch pad for attacks around the globe – including the 2015 assaults in Paris that killed more than 130 people. Fighters from the US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance raised their yellow flag in Baghouz early today to celebrate the landmark victory.
National Current News
- Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF): It is a banned organisation founded by Amanullah Khan and Maqbool Bhat. Originally a militant wing of the Plebiscite Front, it changed its name to JKLF in Birmingham. Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has banned Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF). According to an official, JKLF was banned under the anti-terror law, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 (UAPA). The move comes days after the Centre banned Jamat-e-Islami (JeI-J&K) under Section 3(1) of the UAPA. It is believed that murders of Kashmiri Pandits by the JKLF in 1989 triggered their exodus from the Valley. Yasin Malik was the mastermind behind the purging of Kashmiri Pandits and is responsible for their genocide. The JKLF was also banned under the same sections, which gives power to the Centre to declare any association as unlawful by notifying it in the Official Gazette.
- Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE): It is a national level board of education in India for public and private schools and it is controlled and managed by Union Government of India. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Early Childhood Care Education (ECCE) and Yoga will be included by Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for academic session 2019-20. AI will be introduced as an optional sixth subject for Class IX whereas ECCE and Yoga are being introduced as elective subjects at senior secondary level. The circular of CBSE notes that AI in the past few years has gained geo-strategic importance and a large number of countries are striving to stay ahead with their policy initiatives to get their country ready. There is a huge requirement for yoga professionals and early childhood educators. Yoga will also teach a way of living that aims towards a healthy mind in a healthy body. Early Childhood Education prepares the students to teach children of nursery and kindergarten classes’ happy education or other systems of child-centric education.
- Election Commission of India (ECI): It is an autonomous constitutional authority responsible for administering election processes in India. The Election Commission has announced a series of guidelines to the media related to the poll. The advisory to the media announced that exit polls can only be telecast after the final phase of polling for the Lok Sabha elections ends on May 19. The advisory is also applicable for Assembly elections in Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Odisha and Sikkim. TV, radio channels, cable networks, websites and social media platforms should ensure that the contents of programmes telecast during the 48-hour period before the end of polls in each phase do not contain any material, including views or appeals by participants that may be construed as promoting or prejudicing the prospect of any particular party or candidate. The advisory included guidelines to websites and social media for the first time.
- Tashigang : Tashigang, a small Himachal Pradesh village has got the distinction of the highest polling station in the world. According to an official release, Tashigang is located at an altitude of 15,256 feet. It falls in Buddhist-dominated Lahaul-Spiti and forms part of the Mandi Lok Sabha seat, the second largest constituency in India. Tashigang is situated at about 29 km from the India-China border and the polling station covers two villages— Tashigang and Gete. The polling station has 48 voters, of which 30 are men and 18 women. Even though Tashigang has all necessary facilities like power and water supply but lacks mobile connectivity and election officials will use a satellite phone during polls on May 19. Initially, election officials had intended to set up the polling booth at Gete village but shifted it to Tashigang as the government school building there was not found safe. Earlier the tiny settlement of Hikkim in Himachal Pradesh positioned at an altitude of about 14,400 ft, was the highest polling station in the country.
Science and Technology Current News
- Young Scientist Programme: It is a special programme for School Children launched by Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). It is also known as Yuva Vigyani Karyakram. The Program is primarily aimed at imparting basic knowledge on Space Technology, Space Science and Space Applications to the younger ones with the intent of arousing their interest in the emerging areas of Space activities. ISRO has chalked out this programme to Catch them young. The residential training programme will be of around two weeks duration during summer holidays and it is proposed to select 3 students each from each State/ Union Territory to participate in this programme covering state, CBSE, and ICSE syllabus. Those who have just finished 9th standard (in the academic year 2018-19) and waiting to join 10th standard (or those who have started 10th Std just now) will be eligible for the programme. The selection will be based on the 8th Std marks. A few seats are left for the programme from various states. The interested students can register online from 25th March 2019 (1800 hrs) to 03rd April 2019 (1800 hrs). The selection is based on the academic performance and extracurricular activities. Students belonging to the rural area have been given special weightage in the selection criteria. The list of the provisionally selected candidates from each state will be announced on 06th April 2019. The provisionally selected candidates will be requested to send the supporting documents through E-mail to ISRO. This Email ID will be intimated to selected candidates. After verifying the relevant certificates the final list will be published on 13th April 2019. The progamme is planned at 4 centres of ISRO during the second half of May 2019. For more information log on to www.isro.gov.in
- Biomedical Research Career Programme (BRCP) : It is programme developed by India for attracting high quality Indian scientists working abroad to return to India. The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi has approved the continuation of the Biomedical Research Career Programme beyond its initial 10-year term from 2008-09 to 2018-19 to a new five year phase from 2019-20 to 2023-24. The programme is run by the Department of Biotechnology and UK- based biomedical research charity – Wellcome Trust. With the extension, the DBT would be increasing its commitment to the programme by two times, in comparison to that of the Welcome Trust. The total financial implication of the same will be Rs 1092 crore with DBT and WT contributing Rs 728 crore and Rs 364 crore respectively.
- Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules 2019: It is the new notification announced by Union Health Ministry for promoting clinical research in the country. The new rules will apply to all new drugs, investigational new drugs for human use, clinical trials, bio-equivalence studies and ethics committees. The highlights of the notification includes reduction in time for approving applications, which has now come down to 30 days for drugs manufactured in India and 90 days for those developed outside the country. Also, in case of no communication from Drugs Controller General of India, the application will be deemed to have been approved. As per the new rule the requirement of a local clinical trial may be waived for approval of a new drug if it is approved and marketed in any of the countries (EU, UK, Australia, Japan and US) specified by the Drugs Controller General with the approval of the government. The new rules will ensure patient safety and an ethics committee will monitor the trials and decide on the amount of compensation in cases of adverse events. Meanwhile, the Indian Society for Clinical Research (ISCR) said that the new Clinical Trial Rules are well balanced and will further the conduct of ethical and quality clinical trials in the country which, in turn, will benefit patients.
- Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO): It is the space agency of the Government of India headquartered in the city of Bengaluru. ISRO will launch 29 satellites including the primary payload EMISAT, on the first of April. Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, PSLV-C45 will take off from Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota tentatively at 9:30 AM carrying the satellites onboard. EMISAT has been developed for monitoring radar network by India. An ISRO release says, EMISAT, weighing 436 kg, is intended for electromagnetic spectrum measurement. It will be placed in an orbit of about 753 km altitude. The customer payloads are from Lithuania, Spain, Switzerland and the US. They will be hurled into space at an altitude of about 505 km. After all the satellites are put into orbits, the fourth stage of the rocket will be propelled to a different elevation and will be used as a platform for different experiments by Indian institutions, including ISRO. Indian Institute of Space Science (IISc) and the Radio Amateur Satellite Corporation are the other two institutions that will have their devices on the experimental platform. Normally the rocket engine is left redundant as space debris once the launch mission is over. But ISRO uses it for such experiments for the second time in a series. During the last PSLV mission also it adopted the same innovative method.
- Chinook Heavy Lift Helicopter: It is an all-weather capable Chinook heavy-lift helicopter made in the US. The Chinook, twin-engine, tandem rotor, is multi-role, vertical-lift platform, which is used for transporting troops, artillery, equipment and fuel. The helicopter can carry out military operations not only during the day but at night too.The all weather capable Chinook heavy-lift helicopters made in the US were inducted into the Indian Air Force (IAF). The first four of the 15 CH-47F (I) Chinook helicopters, which were ordered from Boeing in September 2015, were commissioned into the IAF’s 126 Helicopter Unit (HU). Speaking at the function here, Dhanoa said, “Our country faces a multitude of security challenges, we require vertical lift capability across a very diversified terrain. Induction of Chinook will be a game changer the way the Rafale is going to be in the fighter fleet. The IAF operates from bases which are from sea level to very high altitude advance landing grounds. The helicopter will give the IAF quantum leap in terms of ability to transport cargo to precarious high altitude locations. The aircraft is one of its best in its category’. The all-weather capable aircraft can also be used for humanitarian and disaster relief operations and in missions such as transportation of relief supplies and mass evacuation of refugees.
- Mission Shakti: It is an operation led by the Defence Research and Development Organisation. It was aimed at strengthening India’s overall security. According to the mission, India has shot down a low-orbit satellite through an Indian anti-satellite weapon A-SAT. The mission operation was called ‘Mission Shakti’ lasted for just 3 minutes. The significance of the test is that India has tested and successfully demonstrated its capability to interdict and intercept a satellite in outer space based on complete indigenous technology. With this test, India joins an exclusive group of space-faring nations consisting of USA, Russia and China. India has become the fourth country to execute a low-orbit satellite destruction in space.
- Dhanush Howitzer: It is an indigenously developed Howitzer in India. The gun was inducted in Indian army. According to officials these guns have been tested to withstand extreme conditions like rainfall and snow, and have also been built for use in multiple terrains, from plains, to sand and especially in hilly areas. According a Defence expert when questioned about the Bofor, he said, ‘It is not fair to compare the ‘Dhanush’ guns to Bofors as the former are far more technologically superior to Bofors due to the modifications made to the barrel to help improve its accuracy’. The Dhanush gun system is based on designs of the Bofors howitzer which was inducted in the Army in 1980s and would be the third type of artillery gun to be inducted into the force after the K-9 Vajra and the M-777 ultra-light howitzers, as per inputs. The 155mm x 45mm calibre artillery gun is capable of firing projectiles at a relatively higher angle with a steep angle of descent.
- Fitch Ratings: It is a statistical rating agency based in US. It is one of the ‘Big Three credit rating agencies’, the other two being Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s. Fitch Ratings has predicted the India’s economic growth rate around 6.8 percent for the year 2019-20. Top rating agency has 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. Making the announcement, through its Global Economic Outlook, it said ‘While we have cut our growth forecasts for the next fiscal year (FY20, ending in March 2020) on weaker-than-expected momentum, we still see Indian GDP growth to hold up reasonably well, at 6.8%, followed by 7.1% in FY21’. Fitch Ratings cut India’s FY19 GDP growth forecast to 7.2% from 7.8% on December 6. The rating agency has also cut growth forecasts for FY20 and FY21 to 7% from 7.3% and 7.1 per cent from 7.3%, respectively. According to Fitch, the RBI, has adopted a more dovish monetary policy stance and cut interest rates by 0.25 percentage at its February 2019 meeting, a move supported by steadily decelerating headline inflation.
- Reserve Bank of India (RBI): It is India’s central banking institution, which controls the issuance and supply of the Indian rupee. RBI defers Indian Accounting Standards implementation by banks. In a desperate attempt that would spare the country’s banks from adding another layer to the USD 190 billion pile of bad loans on their books, India delayed the introduction of tough new accounting rules for the second year running, the Reserve Bank of India said that legislative amendments needed to implement the new Indian Accounting Standards are still under consideration by the government. The new rules based on the IFRS9 standards created in the aftermath of the financial crisis were supposed to kick in at the start of the new fiscal year that starts on April 1, after being delayed last year. According to Fitch Ratings’ local unit, India’s state-run lenders would have had to increase provisions by as much as 1.1 trillion rupees (USD billion) in the fiscal first quarter ending June 30 if the rules had gone ahead. That would have forced public sector lenders to raise ‘substantial’ amounts of extra capital, beyond the estimated 1.9 trillion rupee infusion already committed by the government for the two-year period to the end of this month. It should be noted that the RBI delayed the implementation of the new standards a few days into the start of the current fiscal year, citing the need for legal changes and more preparatory work by the country’s banks.
- Punjab National Bank: It is an Indian multinational banking and financial services company. The RBI has slapped a penalty of Rs 2 crore on Punjab National Bank (PNB) for non-compliance of regulatory directions with regard to SWIFT operations. In a regulatory filing, the PNB said the Reserve Bank in a letter dated March 25 has informed the bank about the penalty. In the matter of violations of regulatory directions by Punjab National Bank observed during assessment of implementation of SWIFT- related operational controls, the Reserve Bank of India, (imposes) an aggregate penalty of Rs 20 million … on Punjab National Bank. SWIFT is a global messaging software used for transactions by financial entities. The massive Rs 14,000-crore fraud perpetrated by billionaire jeweller Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi at the PNB was a case of misuse of this messsaging software.
- Regulatory Sandbox: It is a new platform proposed by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) which will function as platform for the fintech companies to test their new products and services on the small group of people before expanding and scaling it. According to RBI governor Shaktikanta, the regulatory Sandbox will now going to help the financial technology company’s to launch the innovative products at lower costs in less time. The sandbox will also enable the financial tech companies to do virtual testing of their new products and services. The companies will now be able to test the viability of the product without any expensive methods.
- Baroda Kisan: It is a new agri-digital platform to be created by Bank of Baroda in order to provide solutions for all major agricultural requirements. According to an official release, six companies Skymet Weather Services, Weather Risk Management Services, BigHaat, Agrostar India, EM3 Agri Services and Poorti Agri Services have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the bank for this project. The agri-digital platform will be executed by IT Centre of Excellence (ITCoE) of Bank of Baroda in partnership with IBM India. The digital platform will give an holistic approach towards solving agricultural plights by means of providing reliable and customised information, inputs for use, convenience of renting farm equipment and market linkage for sale of agri-produces. Explaining the reason, Bank of Baroda Managing Director and CEO P S Jayakumar said, ‘Digitization of agri services will have a huge impact on the Indian economy and this collaboration is an effort towards keeping up with the use of technology in the field of agriculture’.
- Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA): It is an autonomous organisation, established in New Delhi in 1954 by Government of India to promote and propagate understanding of Indian art, in and outside the country.15 Winners were announced by the Lalit Kala Akademi (LKA) for the 60th Annual Academy Awards. All the awardees will be honoured with a plaque, a shawl and prize money of Rs 1 lakh at the 60th National Exhibition of Art, scheduled from March 25 to April 8 at the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) and Sir JJ School of Art. The winners will also display their artworks at the exhibition. The awardees selected by the two-tier jury are Chandan Kumar Samal (Odisha), Gouri Vemula (Telangana), Hemant Rao (Madhya Pradesh), Hiren Kumar Chotu Bhai Patel (Gujarat), Jaya Jena (Odisha), Jayesh K.K (Kerala), Jitendra Suresh Sutar (Maharashtra), Douglas Maryan John (Maharashtra), Pratap Chandra Chakraborty (West Bengal), Rashmi Singh (Uttar Pradesh), Sachin Kashinath Chaudhari (Maharashtra), Sunil Kumar Viswakarma (Uttar Pradesh), Tabassum Khan (Bihar), Vasudeo Taranath Kamath (Maharashtra) and Veenita Sadguru Chendvankar (Goa). This year, the Akademi received over 6,100 entries by 2,836 artists. The figures almost doubled from last year’s 1,433 applicant artists. The 60th National Exhibition of Art this year will exhibit artistic brilliance and provide a platform to give appreciation and recognition to outstanding artists on a nationwide scale. The works to be displayed have come to the forefront, both in terms of material application and aesthetic appeal.