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Current Affairs March 2022

Current Affairs March – 2022

INDEX

  • INTERNATIONAL ( WORLD)
  • POLITY
  • ECONOMY
  • HISTORY , ART & CULTURE
  • APPOINTMENTS
  • SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
  • DEFENCE
  • RANKS AND REPORTS
  • SCHEMES
  • BIODIVERSITY AND ENVIRONMENT
  • AWARDS AND HONOURS
  • BOOKS
  • OBITUARIES / DEATHS
  • SPORTS/ GAMES
  • IMPORTANT DAYS
  • STATE’s News
  • MISCELLANEOUS

INTERNATIONAL/WORLD NEWS

Ukraine has filed an application before the International Court of Justice (ICJ)

  • Ukraine has accused Russia of falsely claiming that “acts of genocide have occurred in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of Ukraine”, and of using that as a pretext to recognise the independence of these regions and of going to war against Ukraine.About ICJ
  • The ICJ is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN).
  • The court is the successor to the Permanent Court of International Justice (PCIJ). Like the PCIJ, the ICJ is based at the Peace Palace in The Hague. It is the only one of the six principal organs of the UN that is not located in New York City.
  • The ICJ has 15 judges who are elected to nine-year terms by the UN General Assembly and Security Council, which vote simultaneously but separately.
  • It was established in June 1945 by the Charter of the United Nations and began work in April 1946.
  • The judgment of ICJ is final, binding on the parties to a case and without appeal (at the most it may be subject to interpretation or, upon the discovery of a new fact, revision).
  • Note : the ICJ has no way to ensure compliance of its orders, and its authority is derived from the willingness of countries to abide by them.
  • First Case: The first case, which was brought by the UK against Albania and concerned incidents in the Corfu channel — the narrow strait of the Ionian Sea between the Greek island of Corfu and Albania on the European mainland — was submitted in May 1947.
  • Indian Judges at ICJ: Four Indians have been members of the ICJ so far : Sir Benegal Rau (1952-53), Nagendra Singh (1973-88), R S Pathak (1989-91), Justice Dalveer Bhandari (currently serving since 2012).

International Criminal Court (ICC)

  • Amid mounting calls to prosecute Russian president Vladimir Putin, the International Criminal Court (ICC) launched an investigation into the alleged war crimes committed following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.About ICC :
  • HQ: The International Criminal Court (ICC) is a permanent judicial body based at The Hague in the Netherlands.
  • Background: It was created by the 1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (its founding and governing document), and began functioning on 1 July 2002 when the Statute came into force.
  • Mandate: The forum was established as a court of last resort to prosecute offences that would otherwise go unpunished, and has jurisdiction over four main crimes: genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression.
  • Members: 123 nations are States Parties to the Rome Statute and recognise the ICC’s authority.  Note : The USA, China, Russia, and India are not the members.
  • Judges: 18; Elected for 9-year term.
  • Relation with UN: While not a United Nations organization, the Court has a cooperation agreement with the United Nations. When a situation is not within the Court’s jurisdiction, the United Nations Security Council can refer the situation to the ICC granting it jurisdiction.

India and ITU

  • The Government of India and ITU have signed a Host Country agreement for setting up an Area Office and Innovation Centre for ITU in New Delhi. The area office will serve South Asian countries namely Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Iran, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India.
  • The office will help provide greater access and engagement to India and South Asian countries in global policy and standard formation in the field of telecommunication. International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU) is the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies – ICTs. It was originally established in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union.It is one of the oldest international organizations in operations. (HQ: Geneva, Switzerland)
  • Members: It is open to all Member States of the United Nations. There are currently 193 Member States of the ITU. India was a founding member of ITU.

Cluster Munitions  and Thermobaric Weapons

Human rights groups Amnesty International and Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States has accused Russia of using cluster bombs and vacuum bombs in the ongoing war.

What are Cluster Munitions?

  • Cluster Munitions are non-precision weapons that are designed to injure or kill human beings indiscriminately over a large area and to destroy vehicles and infrastructure such as runways, railway or power transmission lines.
  • They can be dropped from an aircraft or launched in a projectile that spins in flight, scattering many bomblets as it travels.
  • Many of these cluster bombs end up not exploding, but continue to lie on the ground, often partially or fully hidden, posing a threat to people for long after the fighting has ceased.

Is using Cluster munitions illegal?

  • There is a Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM). It is an international treaty adopted in 2008. It prohibits the use, transfer, production, and stockpiling of cluster bombs. Currently, 110 states are parties to the convention and 13 other countries have signed up but are yet to ratify it. Neither Russia nor Ukraine are signatories.
  • India has not signed the convention and is not a party to it. Other countries that are not parties are the US, Russia, China, Pakistan and Israel, among others.
What are Thermobaric Weapons?

  • Thermobaric weapons — also known as aerosol bombs, fuel-air explosives, or vacuum bombs — use oxygen from the air for a large, high-temperature blast.
  • A thermobaric weapon causes significantly greater devastation than a conventional bomb of comparable size.

Is using  Thermobaric Weapons illegal ?

  • Thermobaric weapons are not prohibited by any international law or agreement, but their use against civilian populations in built-up areas, schools or hospitals, could attract action under The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.

Montreux Convention

  • Turkey is set to activate the Montreux Convention in response to Russia’s War over Ukraine.
  • The declaration that situation in Ukraine had become a war, authorizes Turkey to activate the Montreux Convention and ban Russian war vessels from entering the Black Sea through the Bosporus and Dardanelles straits.
  • Bosporus and Dardanelles straits, also known as the Turkish Straits or the Black Sea Straits, connect the Aegean Sea and the Black Sea via the Sea of Marmara. It is the only passage through which the Black Sea ports can access the Mediterranean and beyond. Over three million barrels of oil, about 3% of the daily global supply, mostly produced in Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan, pass through this waterway every day. The route also ships large amounts of iron, steel, and agricultural products from the Black Sea coast to Europe and the rest of the world.

Details of Montreux Convention

  • The international agreement was signed by Australia, Bulgaria, France, Greece, Japan, Romania, Yugoslavia, the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union and Turkey and has been in effect since November 1936.
  • The Montreux Convention Regarding the Regime of the Straits gives Turkey control over the water route between the Black Sea.
  • Russia has a major navy base at Sevastopol, on the Crimean Peninsula.
  • However, for ships to move to and from the Mediterranean – and beyond – they have to pass through two straits controlled by Turkey under the Montreux Convention.
  • It sets limits on the passage of civilian vessels and military warships through the Dardanelles and the Bosporus straits. The key elements in the Montreux Convention are:
  • In the event of a war, the pact gives Turkey the right to regulate the transit of naval warships and to block the straits to warships belonging to the countries involved in the conflict.
  • Any country with coastline on the Black Sea – Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, Russia or Ukraine – must notify Turkey eight days in advance of its intention to send vessels of war through the straits.  Other countries, the ones that don’t border the Black Sea, must give Turkey 15 days’ advance notice.
  • Turkey has used the convention’s powers before. During World War II, Turkey prevented the Axis powers from sending their warships to attack the Soviet Union – and blocked the Soviet navy from participating in combat in the Mediterranean.

Permanent Indus Commission Meeting

  • The 117th Meeting of Permanent Indus Commission (PIC) between India and Pakistan was held.
  • Both sides discussed the exchange of hydrological and flood data during which the Indian side underscored that all its projects are fully compliant with the provisions of the Indus Waters Treaty.
  • The issue of the Fazilka drain was also discussed and Pakistan assured that all necessary action will continue to be taken to ensure the free flow of Fazilka drain into the river Sutlej. ( Fazilka drain is one of 22 drains and water bodies, where untreated water of Malwa district (Punjab, India) is discharged. The drain is closed at the borderline of countries, leading to stagnation in the shape of ponds and deterioration of quality of groundwater in the border area).
  • Technical discussions were held regarding ongoing projects including Pakal Dul, Kiru and Lower Kalnai.
    1. The Pakal Dul Hydro Electric Project (1000 MW) is proposed on river Marusudar, a tributary of Chenab river in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir.
    2. Kiru Hydro Electric Project (624 MW) is proposed on River Chenab, located in Kishtwar district of Jammu & Kashmir.
    3. Lower Kalnai project is a hydroelectric power project in the Doda and Kishtwar districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
  • The Indian side explicitly conveyed that as an upper riparian State, India has been providing information on extraordinary discharges of water from reservoirs and flood flows every year, as mandated under the treaty.

Permanent Indus Commission?

  • It is a bilateral commission of officials from India and Pakistan, created to implement and manage goals of the Indus Waters Treaty, 1960. The Commission, according to the treaty, shall meet regularly at least once a year, alternately in India and Pakistan.

Indus Water Treaty (IWT)?

  • It was signed between then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former Pakistan President Ayub Khan on 19th

September 1960. The Treaty was brokered by the World Bank and is one of the most durable agreements between both nations and has survived several wars and disruptions in bilateral relations over the decades.

  • It sets out a mechanism for cooperation and information exchange between the two countries regarding their use of the rivers.
  • According to provisions of the Treaty,
  • The water of the eastern rivers (Sutlej, Beas, and Ravi) is allocated to India for unrestricted use.
  • The water of western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, and Chenab) is allocated largely to Pakistan.
  • Under the treaty, India has been given the right to generate hydroelectricity through the run of the river projects on the western rivers subject to specific criteria for design and operation. It is allowed to use 20% water of the western rivers for irrigation, power generation and transport purposes.

UN Human Rights Council

  • Recently, India abstained on a vote at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Council moved the resolution to set up an international commission of enquiry into Russia’s actions in Ukraine.
  • Note : India has also abstained from similar resolutions in the United Nations General Assembly and United Nations Security Council.
  • The Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the United Nations system responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the world. The Council was created by the United Nations General Assembly in 2006. It replaced the former United Nations Commission on Human Rights.
  • The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) serves as the Secretariat of the Human Rights Council. OHCHR is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
  • Members: It is made up of 47 United Nations Member States which are elected by the UN General Assembly (UNGA).

Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power plant (NPP)

  • The Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in southeastern Ukraine is the largest nuclear power plant in Europe and among the 10 largest in the world. Recently, Russian forces seized it.
  • The plant generates nearly half (40%) of the country’s electricity derived from nuclear power, and more than a fifth of total electricity generated in Ukraine.
  • Location : It is located on the banks of the Dnieper river, just 200 kilometers from the conflicted Donbas region where Russian-backed separatists and Ukrainian forces have been fighting.
  • Zaporizhzhya is one of the four operating NPPs in the country and has been operating since 1984.
  • The Zaporizhzhya NPP consists of six Pressurised Water Reactor (PWR) units commissioned between 1984 and 1995, with a gross electrical capacity of 1,000MW each.

Humanitarian corridors

  • Russia has declared a temporary ceasefire in the Russia-Ukraine War to provide “Humanitarian Corridors” for civilians.
  • Humanitarian Corridors are demilitarized zones in a specific area and for a specific time. They are created when both sides of an armed conflict agree to them. The United Nations considers humanitarian corridors to be one of several possible forms of a temporary pause of armed conflict.
  • Need: The corridors are necessary when cities are under siege and the population is cut off from basic food supplies, electricity and water.
  • Purpose: Through these corridors, either food and medical aid can be brought to areas of conflict, or civilians can be evacuated.
  • Sets up by, In most cases, humanitarian corridors are negotiated by the United Nations. Sometimes they’re also set up by local groups.
  • Access to corridors: Access to humanitarian corridors is determined by the parties to the conflict. It’s usually limited to neutral actors, the UN or aid organizations such as the Red Cross.
  • Concerns: There is a risk of military or political abuse. For example, the corridors can be used to smuggle weapons and fuel into besieged cities.

1954 Hague Convention and “Blue Shield” emblem: 

UNESCO is in contact with Ukrainian authorities to mark cultural sites and monuments with the distinctive “Blue Shield” emblem of the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict to avoid deliberate or accidental damages. 1954 Hague Convention

  • The convention for the Protection of Cultural Property in the Event of Armed Conflict also known as the Hague Convention was adopted in 1954 under the auspices of UNESCO.
  • Aim: To protect cultural property such as monuments of architecture, art or history, archaeological sites, works of art, manuscripts, books and other objects of artistic, historical or archaeological interest, as well as scientific collections of any kind regardless of their origin or ownership.
  • Significance: It is the first and the most comprehensive multilateral treaty dedicated exclusively to the protection of cultural heritage in times of peace as well as during an armed conflict.
  • India is a party to this convention.

Blue Shield

  • Blue Shield was founded in 1996. It is an independent, neutral, non-governmental, non-profit, international organization which strives to protect heritage during armed conflicts and disasters across the world.
  • This includes all forms of cultural property including museums, monuments, archaeological sites, archives, libraries and audiovisual material, and significant natural areas, as well as intangible heritage.
  • The 1954 Hague Convention designates an emblem for a cultural property that should be protected, and for identification of those working to protect it. The Blue Shield organization took up the emblem of the Convention as a symbol of their protective work, set in a blue circular background.

Grey List

  • The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) has retained Pakistan on its ‘greylist’ or ‘increased monitoring list’. The FATF included the United Arab Emirates (UAE), with which India signed a free trade agreement in February 2021.
  • There are 17 countries on the grey list of the FATF.
  • Zimbabwe has been excluded from the list after a review found it compliant on all parameters.
  • Financial Action Task Force : it is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 during the G7 Summit in Paris. It assesses the strength of a country’s anti-money laundering and anti-terror financing frameworks, however it does not go by individual cases.

India-Canada Relations

  • Joint Statement was issued at the conclusion of the 5th India-Canada Ministerial Dialogue on Trade & Investment held in New Delhi on March 11, 2022.
  • The Ministers agreed to formally re-launch the negotiations for India-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and also consider an Interim Agreement or Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) that could bring early commercial gains to both the countries.
  • The Interim Agreement would include high level commitments in goods, services, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, and dispute settlement, and may also cover any other areas mutually agreed upon.
  • Canada also agreed to examine expeditiously the request for Conformity Verification Body (CVB) status to APEDA (Agricultural and Processed Food Products Export Development Authority) for facilitating Indian organic export products.
  • India-Canada Bilateral Center will be set up for dedicated science and technology activities between the two countries. India has already established such bilateral centres in countries like US, Germany and France.

Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR)

  • S. and others in the Group of Seven (G7) advanced economies would end normal trade relations, known as Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Russia as it pursues its invasion of Ukraine.
  • PNTR is USA’s version of Most Favored Nation (MFN).
  • In international trade, MFN status (or treatment) is awarded by one nation to another.
  • Most Favoured Nation status designation means two countries have agreed to trade with each other under the best possible terms: low tariffs, few barriers to trade and the highest possible imports allowed.
  • A nation with MFN status will not be discriminated against and will not be treated worse than any other nation with MFN status.  In USA’s case, granting of permanent normal trade relations status is automatic, except where specifically denied by law.
  • The move would pave the way for the US to impose tariffs on a wide range of Russian goods, heightening pressure on an economy on the brink of deep recession.
  • Note : The G7 is the group of developed western countries (UK, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US) established in 1975.

Russia withdrawing Support from International Space Station

  • Recently, after Russia invaded Ukraine, the US imposed sanctions on Russia including a ban on transfer of technology and on Russian banks.

Following this, the Russian space agency Roscosmos held that the State Corporation will not cooperate with Germany on joint experiments in the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS). What is Russia’s role in maintaining the ISS?

  • The ISS is built with the cooperation of scientists from five international space agencies — NASA of the US, Roscosmos of Russia, JAXA of Japan, Canadian Space Agency and the European Space Agency.
  • Each agency has a role to play and a share in the upkeep of the ISS. Both in terms of expense and effort, it is not a feat that a single country can support.
  • Russia’s part in the collaboration is the module responsible for making course corrections to the orbit of the ISS.
  • Further, the Russian segment ensures that the space station’s orbit is corrected to keep it away from space debris, roughly 11 times a year.
  • It also ferry astronauts to the ISS from the Earth and back.

Phosphorus Bombs

  • Recently, Ukrainian police have accused Russian forces of launching phosphorous bomb attacks in the eastern regions of Lugansk & and Donetsk, collectively called the Donbas.
  • International law prohibits the use of white phosphorus shells in heavily populated civilian areas but allows them in open spaces to be used as cover for troops.
  • White Phosphorus: It is a colourless, white or yellow, waxy solid. It does not occur naturally. It is manufactured using phosphate rocks. It is a highly combustible substance that reacts with oxygen in the air. It can catch fire at temperatures as low as 10 to 15 degrees above room temperature. Due to its combustible nature, every country has strict regulations regarding its manufacturing and handling.
  • Applications: Their primary aim is to create thick smoke that can hide military forces or mark targets. Other applications may include as a component in fertilisers, food additives and cleaning compounds. Initially, it was also used in pesticides and fireworks, but many countries have banned its use in several sectors.
  • Not Listed under OPCW: The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which is an intergovernmental organisation and the implementing body for the Chemical Weapons Convention, has not listed White Phosphorous in any of the three Schedules of Chemical Weapons.
  • Concern: White phosphorus munitions can cause injuries in two main ways: burn injuries and vapour inhalation.

Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC):

  • It is a multilateral treaty banning chemical weapons and requiring their destruction within the stipulated time. Negotiations for the CWC began in 1980 at the United Nations Conference on Disarmament. The convention was drafted in September 1992 and opened for signature in January 1993. It became effective from April 1997.
  • It makes it mandatory to destroy old and abandoned chemical weapons. Members should also declare the riot-control agents (sometimes referred to as ‘tear gas’) in possession of them.
  • India signed the treaty in January 1993. The Chemical Weapons Convention Act, 2000 was passed to implement the CWC.
  • Chemical Weapons Convention Act, 2000: Establishment of National Authority for Chemical Weapons Convention
  • Note : Apart from CWC, Australia Group seeks to check proliferation of chemical or biological weapons.

MANPADS

  • The United States and North Atlantic Treaty Organization(NATO) are shipping weapons into Ukraine, including highly sensitive items such as shoulder-fired missiles called Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems (MANPADS) that can take down aircraft.
  • MANPADS are short-range, lightweight and portable surface-to-air missiles that can be fired by individuals or small groups to destroy aircraft or helicopters.
  • They help shield troops from aerial attacks and are most effective in targeting low-flying aircraft.
  • The first MANPADS were introduced by the United States and the Soviet Union in the 1960s.
  • Russia is by far the biggest exporter of MANPADs. Countries such as India, Pakistan, Germany, the UK, Turkey and Israel have also used MANPADS in their defence efforts.

Key Features of MANPADS

  • Range: MANPADS have a maximum range of 8 kilometres and can engage targets at altitudes of 4.5 km.
  • Shoulder-Fired: They can be shoulder-fired, launched from atop a ground vehicle, fired from a tripod or stand, and from a helicopter or boat.
  • Light Weight: They are fairly lightweight as compared to other elaborate weapon systems, making them easy to operate by individual soldiers.
  • Fire and Forget Guidance Systems: Most of them have passive or ‘fire and forget’ guidance systems, meaning that the operator is not required to guide the missile to its target, enabling them to run and relocate immediately after firing.
  • Infrared (IR) Seekers: The missiles are fitted with infrared (IR) seekers that identify and target the airborne vehicle through heat radiation being emitted by the latter. Concerns with MANPADS

Civilian Attacks: According to a 2019 study, more than 60 civilian aircraft have been hit by MANPADS since the 1970s, claiming the lives of more than 1,000 civilians.

  • Illicit Use by Non-State Actors: Over time, non-state actors such as rebel and terrorist groups are known to have illicitly acquired MANPADS using them during civil wars and other high-intensity conflicts.

14th  India – Japan summit

  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived in India for his first visit to the country as the head of government. He met PM Narendra Modi for bilateral talks.
  • India and Japan set an investment target of Rs 3.2 lakh crores  / “five trillion yen” ($42 billion) in the next five years, the leaders announced after a meeting in New Delhi for the 14th annual summit, where several agreements were signed.
  • The two sides also exchanged six agreements on cybersecurity, economic partnerships, waste-water management, urban development, a clean energy partnership and an agreement on promoting bamboo-based products from the northeast region.
  • An MoU has been signed to introduce Johkasou technology in India by Japanese companies for decentralised wastewater treatment. It is used in areas where sewage infrastructure has not yet been developed.
  • The “2+2” meeting of Foreign and Defence Ministers in the next few months is due to take forward agreements on the strategic partnership. The Japanese Prime Minister invited PM Modi for the QUAD Summit Meeting in Tokyo.
  • The Japanese PM stressed the importance of early entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT). The Treaty intends to ban all nuclear explosions – everywhere, by everyone. It will enter into force after all 44 States listed in Annex 2 to the Treaty will ratify it. India has not yet signed the Treaty.

‘Finlandization’ : a possible option for Ukraine ?

  • The French President has suggested Finlandization might be a realistic outcome for Ukraine if and when the RussiaUkraine war ends.
  • Finlandization refers to the policy of strict neutrality between Moscow (Russia) and the West that Finland followed during the decades of the Cold War.
  • The principle of neutrality was rooted in the Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance (YYA Treaty) that Finland signed with the USSR in 1948. YYA Treaty was the main instrument in implementing the Finnish policy called Paasikivi–Kekkonen doctrine. Under the treaty, the Soviets sought to deter Western powers from attacking the Soviet Union through Finnish territory and the Finns sought to increase Finland’s political independence from the Soviet Union.  The treaty obligated Finland to resist armed attacks by “Germany or its allies” (in reality interpreted as the United States and allies) against Finland or against the Soviet Union through Finland. If necessary, Finland was to ask for Soviet military aid to do so. The agreement also allowed Finland to pursue the path of democracy and capitalism while staying out of the conflict between the great powers. In return, Finland did not participate in the Marshall Plan. It took neutral positions on matters on which the Soviet Union and  West disagreed. It stayed aloof from NATO and used this positioning to ward off pressure from Russia to become part of the Soviet bloc or the Warsaw Pact. The treaty came to an end in 1992 with the signing of a new treaty between Finland and post-Soviet Russia.

Ukraine and Finlandization

  • Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State from 1973 to 1977 had given some suggestions to settle Ukraine Crisis. These suggestions are:
    • Ukraine should have the right to freely choose its economic and political associations, including with Europe.
    • Ukraine should not join NATO. It should be free to create a government compatible with the expressed will of its people.
    • Ukraine should pursue a posture comparable to that of Finland. This will leave Ukraine with no doubt about its fierce independence and cooperates with the West in most fields but carefully avoids institutional hostility toward Russia.

BUCHAREST NINE (B9)

  • The envoys to India of nine Eastern European countries jointly wrote an article on March 25 to “acquaint the Indian public with the basic facts on the ground about the unjustified Russian aggression in Ukraine”.
  • The “Bucharest Nine” is a group of nine NATO countries in Eastern Europe that became part of the NATO (US-led military alliance) after the end of the Cold War. The Bucharest Nine or Bucharest Format, often abbreviated as the B9, was founded on November 4, 2015, and takes its name from Bucharest, the capital of Romania. The group was created on the initiative of Klaus Iohannis, who has been President of Romania since 2014, and Andrzej Duda, who became President of Poland in August 2015.
  • The B9 are, apart from Romania and Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and the three Baltic republics of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. All nine countries were once closely associated with the now dissolved Soviet Union, but later chose the path of democracy.
  • All members of the B9 are part of the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

The Bucharest Nine (B 9) rejected the Russian claim about the eastward “expansion” of North-Atlantic Treaty Alliance organisation (NATO). They underlined that NATO is not an organisation that “expanded” to the east”, rather, these countries as the independent European states that decided on our own to go west.

India-Oman

  • Recently, India and Oman signed a Programme of Cooperation (POC) in the fields of Science and Technology for the period 2022 – 2025.
  • The POC for Cooperation in the fields of Science and Technology was signed in pursuance of the Agreement for Cooperation in Science and Technology(S&T) concluded on 5th October, 1996 between Oman and India.

Australia Defence Space Command Agency

  • Australia has announced a new Defence Space Command Agency to counter the growing influence of Russia and China in space. Set up in January this year, the agency began functioning in March 2022.
  • The Defence Space Command was set up on January 18, 2022, for Australia to achieve strategic space ambitions and “lead the effort to assure Australia’s access to space.
  • Defence Space Command brings members of Air Force, Army, Navy and the Australian Public Service together under an integrated headquarters reporting to the Chief of Air Force, as the Space Domain Lead.
  • The agency will come under the Air Force. It will help Australia in developing and advocating space-specific priorities within the government, industry, allies and even international partners.
  • The agency will provide training to people to become space specialists, help conduct strategic space planning, and be able to be a part of any developments regarding the refinement of space policy. Does India have its own Defence Space Agency?
  • India’s Defence Space Agency is a tri-service agency of the Indian Armed Forces. It was set up in 2018 and became operational in 2019.
  • Purpose: The agency is tasked with operating the space warfare and Satellite Intelligence assets of India. The DSA draws personnel from all three branches of the Armed Forces.
  • Headquarters: Bengaluru, Karnataka.

INDIA, UAE trade pact (CEPA)

  • Recently, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) got finalised.
  • India-UAE CEPA was signed on 18th February 2022, during the India-UAE Virtual Summit. The Agreement is expected to enter into force on 1st May 2022. This pact aims to boost bilateral trade to $100 billion in the next five years from current $60 billion.
  • Under this, domestic exporters of as many as 6,090 goods from sectors such as textiles, agriculture, dry fruits, gem and jewellery would get duty-free access to the UAE market.
  • The two countries have agreed to set up a technical council on Investment, Trade Promotion and Facilitation, as part of the agreement signed. Overall, the UAE is offering duty elimination on over 97% of its products which account for 99% of Indian exports here in value terms.
  • Immediate duty-free access covers all labour-intensive sectors such as gems and jewellery, textiles and apparel, agricultural and fish products, leather, footwear, and sport goods, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, and many engineering products.
  • Currently, India is exporting about $26 billion worth of goods to the UAE, almost 90% of them will get total tariff (or customs duty) elimination on Day 1 itself. Going forward, the rest of the 9.5% (about 1,270 goods) will also get zero duty.

Maldives – India relations

  • India’s External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar was on a two-day official visit to the Maldives till March 27, where he engaged in the review of the progress of various areas of bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
  • During the visit, the National College of Policing and Law Enforcement (NCPLE) in Addu City, was inaugurated in the southernmost atoll of the Indian Ocean archipelago, that was established under Indian grant assistance.
  • The establishment of the police academy had, till recently, been India’s largest grant-funded project prior to the Greater Male Connectivity Project for which India extended a $400 million line of credit in 2020.
  • In addition to the inauguration of this academy, an MoU was signed between the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy (SVPNPA), the prestigious training institute in Hyderabad, and the Maldives Police Service.

BRICS Media Forum

  • Recently, the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) launched a three-month-long training programme for journalists. The programme was an initiative of the BRICS Media Forum.
  • The Forum was established in 2015 by media organisations from five countries, including The Hindu (India), Brazil’s CMA Group, Russia’s Sputnik, China’s Xinhua and South Africa’s Independent Media.

Fifth BIMSTEC Summit : Colombo

  • The summit concluded virtually (online) in Colombo.
  • The signing of the BIMSTEC charter was the main outcome of this summit. Under this Charter, the members were expected to meet once in every two years. With the Charter, the BIMSTEC now has an international personality. It has an emblem, it has a flag. It has a formally listed purpose and principles that it is going to adhere to. It represents significant evolution of the grouping.
  • India will be the “security pillar” of the BIMSTEC. For developing the organisation into a formal structure, the leaders of the member-countries had agreed to divide the working of the grouping into seven segments, with India providing leadership to the security pillar.
  • The Prime Minister Modi called for a Free Trade Agreement among the member countries. The summit saw the declaration of the Master Plan for Transport Connectivity that would provide a framework for regional and domestic connectivity. He mentioned the necessity for coastal shipping ecosystem and electricity grid interconnectivity, as two of the necessary components of the evolving shape of the BIMSTEC.
  • BIMSTEC : The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organisation comprising seven Member States: five deriving from South Asia, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka and two from Southeast Asia, including Myanmar and Thailand.
  • The BIMSTEC Secretariat is in Dhaka.
  • This sub-regional organisation came into being on 6 June 1997 through the Bangkok Declaration.
  • With 21.7% of the world’s population and a combined Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of USD 3.8 trillion, BIMSTEC has emerged as an influential engine of economic growth.

India – Sri lanka

  • Recently, India’s External Affairs Minister visited Sri Lanka. The visit finalized an MoU with Sri Lankan counterpart G.L. Peiris that provided India to set up hybrid power projects in three Islands (Nainativu , Delft or Neduntheevu , and Analaitivu) off Jaffna.
  • In this Project, India will effectively replace the Chinese venture.
  • It is the third Indian energy project coming up in Sri Lanka’s north and east, after the recent agreements for National Thermal Power Corporation’s solar venture in the eastern Sampur town, and the Adani Group’s renewable energy projects in Mannar and Pooneryn in the north.
  • In January 2021, Sri Lanka’s Cabinet decided to award renewable energy projects in Nainativu, Delft or Neduntheevu, and Analaitivu islands to Chinese firm Sinosoar-Etechwin.
  • India was quick to express concern over the Chinese project coming up in the Palk Bay, barely 50 km off Tamil Nadu. India offered to execute the same project with a grant rather than a loan.
  • Note : Earlier, India extended a USD1-billion short-term concessional loan to Sri Lanka to help the island nation cope with one of the worst economic crisis in decades.

Russia destroyed “AN-225 Mriya”

  • During Russian invasion to Ukraine, Russia destroyed the largest plane in the world called “Ukraine’s Antonov-225 cargo plane” (“AN-225 Mriya” ). The aircraft was unique to the world. The An-225 aircraft was located at Hostomel Airport when Russia launched an attack on the Ukrainian airport.

GOVERNANCE 

Nationwide implementation of the ABDM

  • Recently, the Union Cabinet has approved the countrywide implementation of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Mission (ABDM) with the budgetary allocation of Rs 1,600 crore for five years.
  • Implementing Agency : The National Health Authority (NHA) under the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
  • Background : The pilot project of the ABDM had been announced by the Prime Minister from the ramparts of the Red Fort on 15th August 2020. So far, the project is being implemented in the pilot phase in six States & Union Territories.
  • Health ID: Under ABDM, a health ID will be issued for every citizen that will also work as their health account. This health account will contain details of every test, every disease, the doctors visited, the medicines taken and the diagnosis. Health ID is free of cost, voluntary. It will help in doing analysis of health data and lead to better planning, budgeting and implementation for health programs. Significance
  • Importance of technology: In COVID backdrop, CoWIN, Arogya Setu and e-Sanjeevani demonstrated the role technology can play in enabling access to healthcare.
  • Linked records: Citizens will be able to create their ABHA (Ayushman Bharat Health Account) numbers, to which their digital health records can be linked. This will enable creation of longitudinal health records for individuals across various healthcare providers, and improve clinical decision making by healthcare providers.
  • Secure: It is creating a seamless online platform through the provision of a wide-range of data, information and infrastructure services, duly leveraging open, interoperable, standards-based digital systems while ensuring the security, confidentiality and privacy of health-related personal information
  • Better decision making: It will facilitate evidence-based decision making for effective public health interventions,
  • Employment generation: It will catalyse innovation and generate employment across the healthcare ecosystem.

Challenges

  • Digital Divide: This could lead to exclusion of digitally illiterate and unconnected remote, hilly and tribal areas.
  • Data Breach/Privacy issues: The lack of a data protection bill could lead to the misuse of data by private firms.
  • Huge requirement of skilled labours: Need for skilled manpower in the digital domain that are well versed with latest computer skills.
  • Inadequate Primary Health Care data: Lack of infrastructure and staff at primary level.

Conclusion : The mission is expected to improve equitable access to quality healthcare by encouraging use of technologies such as telemedicine and enabling national portability of health services. 

Rules for Deputation of DIGs

  • Recently, the Centre has issued another order on the central deputation of Deputy Inspector General-level IPS officers.
  • The order held that IPS officers coming to the Centre at the DIG level would no longer be required to be empanelled at that level with the Union Government.

What is the Order?

  • According to existing rules, a DIG-ranked IPS officer with a minimum experience of 14 years could only be deputed to the Centre if the Police Establishment Board empanelled them as DIGs at the Centre. The board chooses the panel on the basis of officers’ career and vigilance records.
  • Till now, only the Superintendent of Police-level officers does not require empanelment at the Centre.
  • The new order makes the entire pool of DIG-level officers in a state eligible for central deputation.
  • However, this would not automatically allow DIGs to come to the Centre. Officers would still have to be put on the offer list for central deputation which is decided by the states and the Centre in consultation.

National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board 

  • In order to provide dedicated institutional framework to take forward the cause of promotion of Medical Tourism, Ministry of Tourism has constituted a National Medical and Wellness Tourism Board with the Hon’ble Minister (Tourism) as its Chairman.

Agreement to develop indigenous Air Traffic Management System

  • Recently, the Airports Authority of India (AAI), under its R&D initiative, has signed an agreement with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) to jointly develop indigenous Air Traffic Management System.
  • Air traffic management and control primarily involves the control of traffic in and around airports, airport terminals and airspace.

Tax on lotteries

  • The Supreme Court held that a State legislature has the right to impose tax on lotteries conducted by other States within its jurisdiction. The Bench observed that ‘lotteries’ is a “species of gambling activity”. The court said ‘betting and gambling’ is part of the State List in the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.  The power to tax is on all activities which are in the nature of ‘betting and gambling,’ including lotteries.
  • Since, there is no dispute that lotteries, irrespective of whether it is conducted or organised by the Government of India or the Government of State is ‘betting and gambling’, State legislatures have the power to tax lotteries under Entry 62 of the State List.

POLITY (Articles or Sections in News)

Article 80 of Constitution

  • Recently, the Chandigarh Municipal Corporation has approved a proposal to amend Article 80 of the Constitution so that its councillors could send a representative to the Rajya Sabha.
  • Article 80 of the Constitution of India deals with the composition of the council of states also called the Upper House and Rajya Sabha (Upper House).
  • Since Chandigarh does not have a legislative assembly, it has no representation in the Rajya Sabha (as we know that the members of legislative assemblies of states and UTs constitute the elector college of Rajya Sabha MPs).
  • Chandigarh has representation in Lok Sabha only.
  • A Private Member Bill is introduced by Congress MP from Anandpur Sahib, Punjab, Manish Tewari to amend the provision of Constitution so that Chandigarh can get representation in Rajya Sabha. The bill (Private Member Bill) sought the adding of a provision provided that the representative of the Union Territory of Chandigarh in the council of states shall be elected by an electoral college. The electoral college should consist of elected members of the Municipal Corporation of Chandigarh constituted under the Punjab Municipal Corporation (Extension to Chandigarh) Act, 1994 in Article 80 of the Constitution. An amendment has also been sought to the Fourth Schedule of the Constitution with ‘Entry 32, Chandigarh. Legal issues :
  • The elected Municipal Corporation Councillors do not form the electoral college for selecting a member for Upper house (Rajya Sabha) because it is beyond the powers of the Municipal Corporation. Selecting Rajya Sabha MP, is beyond the listed scope of functions of the municipal corporation.
  • Note : Between 1966 and 1990, MPs for Rajya Sabha in Delhi were selected by the members of the Metropolitan Council of Delhi. (There is a difference between the Metropolitan Council and Municipal Corporation).

Sealed cover jurisprudence

  • While hearing a criminal appeal against the Bihar Government, Chief Justice of India (CJI) N.V. Ramana admonished a counsel for submitting a ‘sealed cover report’ to the court.
  • Sealed cover jurisprudence is a practice used by the Supreme Court and sometimes lower courts, of asking for or accepting information from government agencies in sealed envelopes that can only be accessed by judges.
  • While a specific law does not define the doctrine of sealed cover, the Supreme Court derives its power to use it from Rule 7 of order XIII of the Supreme Court Rules and Section 123 of the Indian Evidence Act of 1872.
  • It is stated under the said rule that if the Chief Justice or court directs certain information to be kept under sealed cover or considers it of confidential nature, no party would be allowed access to the contents of such information, except if the Chief Justice himself orders that the opposite party be allowed to access it.
  • It also mentions that information can be kept confidential if its publication is not considered to be in the interest of the public.

Criticism:

  • Critics of this practice contend that it is not favourable to the principles of transparency and accountability of the Indian justice system, as it stands against the idea of an open court, where decisions can be subjected to public scrutiny.

Reasonable Accommodation Principle

  • The Karnataka High Court has ruled in favour of the State’s circular that students in educational institutions should only wear prescribed uniforms, and where no code was prescribed, they should wear “such attire that would accord with equality and integrity and would not disrupt public order”.
  • The decision effectively upheld the denial of entry to students wearing the hijab. The court rejected an argument in support of permitting Muslim girls to wear head-scarves that was based on the principle of ‘reasonable accommodation’.  The Karnataka High Court decision effectively upheld the denial of entry to students wearing the hijab.
  • The court rejected an argument in support of permitting Muslim girls to wear head-scarves that was based on the principle of ‘reasonable accommodation’. What is Reasonable Accommodation?
  • ‘Reasonable accommodation’ is a principle that promotes equality, enables the grant of positive rights and prevents discrimination based on disability, health condition or personal belief.

Translation of India’s Constitution into Ol Chiki Script (official writing system for Santhali language)

  • Sripati Tudu, an assistant professor in the Santali language at the Sidho-Kanho-Birsha University in Purulia, West Bengal, has translated the Constitution of India in the Ol Chiki script. He wanted the document to be more accessible and available for a wider group that may not necessarily be familiar with languages in which a translation of the Constitution is available.
  • There is a lot of demand for the Constitution in Santali among students in the higher secondary level. Educators who intend to teach political science in schools to Santali students will find the translation indispensable.

About Santali language

  • Santali (Santhali) was a mainly oral language until the development of Ol Chiki by Pandit Raghunath Murmu in 1925. Ol Chiki is alphabetic, sharing none of the syllabic properties of the other Indic scripts, and is now widely used to write Santali in India.
  • In 2003, the 92nd Constitutional Amendment Act added Santhali to 8th Schedule to the Constitution of India, which lists the official languages of India, along with the Bodo, Dogri and Maithili languages.

– This addition meant that the Indian government was obligated to undertake the development of the Santali language and to allow students appearing for school-level examinations and entrance examinations for public service jobs to use the language.

  • According to the 2011 Census of India, there are over 70 lakh (seven million) people who speak Santali across the country.
  • The Santhali community is the 3rd largest tribe in India (found in 7 states).
  • The community is also spread across Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.
  • Santhals are the largest scheduled tribe in the Jharkhand state of India in terms of population and are also found in the states of Assam, Tripura, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and West Bengal.
  • In 2005, India’s Sahitya Akademi started handing out awards every year for outstanding literary works in Santali, a move that helped preserve and give more visibility to the community’s literature. How can someone translate constitution of India in other languages ?
  • Any Indian national can translate the Constitution in their own language. The department of Official Languages under the

Union Ministry of Home Affairs oversees the implementation of the provisions of the Constitution relating to official languages and the provisions of the Official Languages Act, 1963. No permission is needed for translations. The individual also has the right to generate income by selling their translation of the Constitution. 

Article 355

  • Citing post-poll violence in Birbhum district, West Bengal, many political leaders have urged the president to invoke Article 355 of the Constitution to ensure that the state government functions in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution.
  • The petitioner has asked for imposition of Article 355 on account of breakdown of constitutional machinery.
  • Article 355 refers to the provision in the Constitution that states that “It shall be the duty of the Union to protect every State against external aggression and internal disturbance and to ensure that the government of every State is carried on in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution”.
  • The Article 355 is part of emergency provisions contained in Part XVIII of the Constitution of India, from Article 352 to 360.

Identification of Minorities in India

  • Recently, the Supreme Court took up a petition seeking identification of minorities at the state level. Central Government’s stand:
  • The Central government has told the Supreme Court that certain States, where Hindus or other communities are less in number, can declare them as minorities within their own territories, to enable them to set up and administer their own institutions. Putting the onus on States, the Central government in an affidavit stated that State governments have the power to declare communities as a minority.
  • Basis of plea: The plea was filed in 2020, that as per the 2011 Census, Hindus were a minority in Lakshadweep, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Jammu and Kashmir, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Punjab. They should be given minority status in these states in accordance with the principle laid down by the SC in its 2002 TMA Pai Foundation and 2005 Bal Patil Case ruling. The validity of Section 2(f) of the National Commission for Minority Education Institution Act 2004, is challenged in the petition for giving unbridled power to the Centre and being manifestly arbitrary, irrational and offending.
  • Past Examples: States can also declare a religious or linguistic group as a minority community within its territory, as Maharashtra did in the case of Jews in 2016. Karnataka notified Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Marathi, Tulu, Lamani, Hindi, Konkani, and Gujarati languages as minority languages

Criminal procedure (identification) bill, 2022

  • The Criminal Procedure (Identification) Bill, 2022, that would allow the police and prison authorities to collect, store and analyse physical and biological samples, including retina and iris scans, was introduced in the Lok Sabha.
  • The Bill also seeks to apply these provisions to persons held under any preventive detention law.
  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) will be the repository of physical and biological samples, signature and handwriting data that can be preserved for at least 75 years.
  • The Bill seeks to repeal the Identification of Prisoners Act, 1920 whose scope was limited to recording finger impressions and footprint impressions of limited category of convicted and non-convicted persons and photographs on the order of a magistrate.
  • Criticism : Opposition members termed the Bill “unconstitutional”. Opposition members argued that the Bill was beyond the legislative competence of Parliament as it violated fundamental rights of citizens, including the right to privacy. The Bill, which implied use of force in collection of biological information, could also lead to narco analysis and brain mapping, and claimed that it violates Article 20 (3) of the Constitution as well as the Supreme Court judgment in the K.S. Puttaswamy case.

Constitution (scheduled tribes) order (amendment) bill, 2022

  • The Lok Sabha passed a Bill to include the Darlong community as a sub-tribe of the Kuki tribe on the list of Scheduled Tribes of Tripura.
  • Moving the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order (Amendment) Bill, 2022, in the Lok Sabha, Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda said the Union government was working towards betterment of living conditions of the tribal communities.
  • The bill has been passed by amending Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order, 1950.
  • Darlong is a tribal community of Tripura, which has a population of 11,000.
  • The community has a high prevalence of education and cultural activities and members of the community serve in senior positions in the local administration. For example, a tribal musicologist and Rosem (a tribal instrument) maestro Thanga Darlong was awarded the prestigious Padam shree a few years ago for his contributions to culture.

High Court’s ruling on 3 capital issues of Andhra Pradesh

  • The Andhra Pradesh High Court directed the State government to construct and develop Amaravati, the capital city of the State, and the capital region within six months.
  • In a significant observation, the High Court held that the State legislature lacked the competence to make any legislation for shifting, bifurcating or trifurcating the capital.

Why Andhra Pradesh High court gave this ruling ?

  • Earlier, the Andhra Pradesh Legislative Assembly passed the AP Decentralisation and Inclusive Development of All Regions Bill, 2020. The Bill intends to give shape to the state government’s plan of having three capitals — executive capital in Visakhapatnam, legislative in Amaravati and judicial in Kurnool. According to the government, multiple state capitals will allow the development of several regions of the state and hence leading to inclusive growth.
  • Amravati : Amaravati is the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. It is located on the banks of river Krishna in Guntur District. Amaravati formerly known as ”Dhānyakatakam” was an important Buddhist holy learning site. Its history dates back to 2nd Century BCE when it was the capital of the Satavahana Dynasty of the (Andhras), one of the earliest Indian empires and the ancestral dynasty of Andhra Pradesh.

National Youth Parliament Festival 2022

  • Lok Sabha Speaker, Shri Om Birla addressed the valedictory function of the 3rd edition of National Youth Parliament Festival -2022 in the Central Hall of Parliament, New Delhi.
  • The National Youth Parliament Festival (NYPF) is organised to hear the voice of the youth, who will join various careers in coming years, including public services.
  • NYPF is based on the idea given by the Prime Minister in his Mann Ki Baat Address on 31st December, 2017.
  • Taking inspiration from the idea, the 1st edition of NYPF was organised from 12th January to 27th February, 2019 with the theme “Be the Voice of New India and Find solutions and Contribute to Policy”.
  • 2nd edition of NYPF was organized from 23rd December, 2020 to 12th January, 2022 with the theme “YUVAAH- Utsah Naye Bharat Ka” through virtual mode.
  • 3rd edition of NYPF was launched on 14th February 2022 at District level through virtual mode.

ECONOMY NEWS 

Market Infrastructure Institutions (MIIs)

  • Recently, SEBI noted that the NSE is a systemically important market infrastructure institution (MII).
  • Market Infrastructure Institutions (MIIs) : Stock exchanges, depositories and clearing houses are all Market Infrastructure Institutions(MIIs) and constitute a key part of the nation’s vital economic infrastructure.
  • SEBI lists seven stock exchanges including BSE, NSE, Multi Commodity Exchange of India and the Metropolitan Stock Exchange of India as MIIs.
  • Central Depository Services Ltd. and the National Securities Depository Ltd has been listed as MIIs.
  • SEBI lists seven clearing houses including the Multi Commodity Exchange Clearing Corporation as MIIs.

Why are governance norms critical in the regulation of MIIs?

  • Any failure of MIIs could result in an overall economic downfall that could potentially extend beyond the boundaries of the securities market. Hence, the governance and oversight of MIIs are absolutely critical, and they need to be of the highest standards.

FDI in LIC

20% under the “automatic route” in Life Insurance Corporation (LIC)

  • Note : LIC is fully owned by the government. It was set up in 1956. It has the biggest share in India’s insurance business.
  • At present, the FDI policy does not prescribe any specific provision for foreign investment in LIC which is a statutory corporation established under LIC Act, 1956.

UPI123Pay and ‘Digisaathi’

  • Reserve Bank of India has launched new UPI service for feature phones called UPI123Pay. It has also launched a 24×7 helpline for digital payments called ‘Digisaathi’.
  • UPI123Pay : UPI 123PAY is a three-step offline method to initiate and execute transactions that will work on simple feature phones. It will allow users to use feature phones for almost all transactions except scan and pay. The service does not need an internet connection for transactions. Users just need to link their bank account with their phones to use the service.
  • Digisaathi : DigiSaathi has been set up by the National Payments Corporation of India(NPCI). It is a 24 x 7 Helpline for providing information on digital payment products and services. It will use AI technology to answer any questions related to all types of digital transactions. Currently, it is available in English and Hindi language.

National Land Monetisation Corporation (NLMC): 

  • The Union Cabinet has approved the creation of a new company to hold and monetise surplus land and buildings of the government agencies and the Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs). The concept of National Land Monetisation Corporation (NLMC) was earlier announced by the Finance Minister of India in her budget speech of 2021. The new company will have the highest degree of professional standards to do efficient land monetisation. It would help the CPSEs and other government agencies to effectively realise the true value of un-utilised or underutilised land parcels. What is Asset Monetisation?
  • Monetisation refers to the process of turning a non-revenue-generating item into cash. In the context of monetisation of public assets, it means the process of creating new sources of revenue for the Government and its entities by unlocking the economic value of un-utilised or underutilised public assets. A public asset can be any property owned by a public body, roads, airports, railways, stations, pipelines, mobile towers, transmission lines, etc. and land that remains unutilised.
  • Land Monetisation simply involves monetisation of surplus land and building assets. Monetising of land can either be by way of direct sale or concession or by similar means.

What is the current status of Monetisation in India?

  • The NITI Aayog has identified two kinds of assets under the National Monetisation Pipeline, Core and Non-core Assets. Assets which are central to the business objectives of such entity and are used for delivering infrastructure services to the public/users are considered as Core Assets. Infrastructure asset classes such as transport (roads, rail, ports, airports), power generation, transmission networks, pipelines, warehouses etc. are the core assets. The other assets, which generally include land parcels and buildings, can be categorised as non-core assets.
  • While the monetisation of core assets is steered by NITI Aayog, the initiative for monetisation of non-core assets has been hitherto steered by the Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (DIPAM). At present, CPSEs hold considerable surplus, unused and underused non-core assets in the nature of land and buildings. Under the National Monetization Pipeline launched in August 2021, the public sector enterprises have realised about INR 26,800 crore as of February 2022; with another INR 15,000 crore to be realised soon by the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways. The target for FY23 is INR 1.62 trillion.
  • So far, CPSEs have referred 3,400 acres of land and other non-core assets for monetisation. This includes various CPSEs like MTNL, BSNL, BPCL, B&R, BEML, HMT Ltd, Instrumentation Ltd.

What is National Land Monetisation Corporation?

  • The National Land Monetisation Corporation (NLMC) is being set up with the purpose of monetising surplus government-owned land. It is being set-up as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) and will be set up as a wholly-owned Government of India company. It will have an initial authorised share capital of INR 5,000 crore and paid-up share capital of INR 150 crore.
  • The new company will be set up under the administrative jurisdiction of the finance ministry. The Board of Directors of NLMC will comprise senior Central Government officers and eminent experts to enable professional operations and management of the company.
  • The chairman, Non-government directors of the NLMC will be appointed through a merit-based selection process. It will be a lean organisation with minimal full-time staff, hired directly from the market on a contract basis.

What would be the role of the NLMC?

  • The National Land Monetisation Corporation will undertake monetisation of surplus land and building assets of Central Public Sector Enterprises (CPSEs) and other government agencies.
  • It is expected to own, hold, manage and monetise surplus land and building assets of CPSEs under closure and the surplus non-core land assets of government-owned CPSEs under strategic disinvestment.
  • It will also advise and support other government entities (including CPSEs) in identifying their surplus non-core assets and monetising them in a professional and efficient manner to generate maximum value realisation.
  • It will hire professionals from the private sector just as in the case of similar specialised government companies like the National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF) and Invest India. This would be done as real estate monetisation requires specialised skills and expertise in areas such as market research, legal due diligence, valuation, master planning, investment banking and land management.
  • It is expected that NLMC will act as a repository of best practices in land monetization.
  • Why should the government focus on Land Monetisation?
  • Huge potential: There exists huge portions of land that are lying vacant with government agencies or are being utilised in an improper manner. Various estimates in the public domain peg the extent of land held by various government agencies in excess of 5 lakh hectares.
  • Additional Revenue: With monetization of non-core assets, the government would be able to generate substantial revenues by monetising unused and under-used assets.
  • Realising the true value of Disinvestment: For CPSEs undergoing strategic disinvestment or closure, monetisation of these surplus land and non-core assets is important to unlock their value.

RBI’s $5 billion dollar-rupee swap

  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) conducted a $ 5 billion dollar-rupee swap auction as part of its liquidity management initiative, leading to infusion of dollars and sucking out of the rupee from the financial system.
  • The RBI sold $5.135 billion to banks on March 8 and simultaneously agreed to buy back the dollars at the end of the swap settlement period.
  • When the central bank sells dollars, it sucks out an equivalent amount in rupees, thus reducing the rupee liquidity in the system. Dollar inflow into the market will strengthen the rupee which has already hit the 77 level against the US dollar.
  • The swap auction can be done in the reverse way also when there is shortage of liquidity in the system. The RBI then buys dollars from the market and releases an equivalent amount in the rupees.
  • The central bank’s move will reduce the pressure on inflation and strengthen the rupee.
  • With the rupee under pressure and inflation posing a big risk to the economy, the central bank is expected to come out with more such measures to rein in inflation and prevent a big slide in the rupee.

Microfinance Institutions(MFI)

  • Recently, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) allowed Microfinance Institutions(MFI) the freedom to set interest rates they charge borrowers, with a caveat that the interest rates should not be usurious (too high).
  • The guidelines will take effect 1st April 2022.
  • Earlier in 2021, the RBI proposed to lift the interest rate cap on MFI.
  • Definition of a Microfinance Loan: The RBI revised the definition of a microfinance loan to indicate a collateral-free loan given to a household having annual income of up to Rs. 3 lakh.
  • Earlier, the upper limits were Rs.1.2 lakh for rural borrowers and Rs.2 lakh for urban borrowers.  Note : MFI is an organisation that offers financial services to low income populations.

Wings India 2022 : Hyderabad

  • Coinciding with the Azadi Ka Amith Mahotsav, the fifth edition of the biennial event will be held with the main theme,

“India@75: New Horizon for Aviation Industry”.

  • Organizers : Ministry of Civil Aviation, Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) is jointly organising Wings India 2022 from 24th – 27th March 2022, Begumpet Airport, Hyderabad, India.
  • It is Asia’s largest event on Civil Aviation (Commercial, General and Business Aviation).
  • Focussing on new business acquisition, investments, policy formation, and regional connectivity, the WING India is expected to provide a much-desired fillip to aviation. Wings India will serve to synchronize policy formation and address concerns of the stakeholders in the civil aviation sector.

Reserve Bank Innovation Hub (RBIH) inaugurated  in Bengaluru

  • Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Shaktikanta Das inaugurated the Reserve Bank Innovation Hub (RBIH) in Bengaluru which is intended to encourage and nurture financial innovation in a sustainable manner through an institutional set-up.
  • RBIH is a wholly owned subsidiary of the RBI set up with an initial capital contribution of ₹100 crore. The new unit has an independent board with Gopalakrishnan as Chairman.
  • Aim : RBIH aims to create an ecosystem that focusses on promoting access to financial services and products for the low-income population in the country.

Shrinkflation

  • Companies are resorting to the strategy of Shrinkflation to reduce the impact of rising input costs.
  • Shrinkflation is a combination of two words, “shrink” and “inflation”. It is the practice of reducing the size of a product while maintaining its sticker price. Shrinkflation is basically a form of hidden inflation.
  • Examples of Shrinkflation: Shrinkflation is done most commonly in the food and beverage sector, though it may occur in any industry:
    • The size of a chocolate bar is reduced from 60 grams to 55 grams, with no resultant decrease in price. o The pages of a notebook are changed from 1000 to 800 and the price remains unaltered.
    • The size of the cold drink bottle is dropped to 750ml from 800ml and no change in price is done.

The main reasons for shrinkflation are: 

  • Increase Production Costs: Due to the increase in the various elements of production costs such as raw materials, labour, power cost, and so on, the manufacturers are compelled to follow shrinkflation as the increasing costs eat up their profit margins.
  • Strong level of Competition: Another main reason that leads to shrinkflation is high competition in the industry. To attract customers by maintaining the prices, the producers can maintain their profit margins by adopting this strategy.

What are the implications of Shrinkflation?

  • Shrinkflation makes it harder to accurately measure price changes or inflation. The price point becomes misleading since the product size cannot always be considered in terms of measuring the basket of goods.

NaBFID as fifth AIFI

  • Reserve Bank of India has announced that National Bank for Financing Infrastructure and Development

(NaBFID) will be regulated and supervised by it as an All India Financial Institution (AIFI) under the RBI Act, 1934. NaBFID will be regulated and supervised by RBI as an AIFI under Sections 45L and 45N of the Reserve Bank of India Act, 1934.

  • Presently RBI has four AIFIs under it namely EXIM Bank, NABARD, NHB and SIDBI. NaBFID will be the fifth AIFI under RBI. NaBFID has been set up as a Development Financial Institution (DFI) to support the development of longterm infrastructure financing in India.

HISTORY, ART AND CULTURE 

Theyyam

  • Kerala Tourism department has started live-streaming Theyyam performances to promote cultural tourism.
  • Theyyam is a popular ritual form of dance worship in Kerala and Karnataka. It consists of thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs.
  • The people consider Theyyam itself as a channel to a god, and they thus seek blessings from Theyyam.
  • There are about 456 types of Theyyam. Theyyam is performed by males, except the Devakoothu theyyam. It is the only Theyyam ritual performed by women. It is performed only in the Thekkumbad Kulum temple(Kerala).
  • Performance: The dance or invocation is generally performed in front of the village shrine. It is also performed in the houses as ancestor worship with elaborate rites and rituals.
  • Some popular Theyyams o Vishnumoorthi: It is the most popular Vaishnava Theyyam. This theyyam narrates and performs the story of Hiranyakashipu’s death by Lord Vishnu in his avatar of Narasimham.
    • Sree Muthappan Theyyam: It consists of two divine figures and is considered as the personification of two divine figures— the Thiruvappana or Valiya Muttapan (Vishnu) and the Vellatom or Cheriya Muttapan (Shiva).
    • Gulikan: Gulikan represents Yama, the Hindu god of death, called Yama. The Benkanakavu in Nileshwar is the most famous temple dedicated to Gulikan.

Pal-Dadhvav massacre

  • On March 7, the Gujarat government marked 100 years of the Pal-Dadhvav killings, calling it a massacre “bigger than the Jallianwala Bagh”.
  • Pal – Dadhvav massacre took place on March 7,1922 in Pal-Chitariya and Dadhvaav villages of Sabarkantha district, then part of Idar state (present-day Gujarat). On this day, villagers from Pal, Dadhvav, and Chitariya had gathered on the banks of River Heir as part of the ‘Eki movement’ led by one Motilal Tejawat. The movement was to protest against the land revenue tax (lagaan) imposed on the peasants by the British and feudal lords. However, the British Paramilitary force was on the hunt for Tejawat. They heard of this gathering and reached the spot. Nearly 2000 Bhil Tribals under the leadership of Tejawat lifted their bows and arrows. But the Britishers opened fire on them. Nearly 1,000 tribals (Bhils) fell to bullets. But Tejwat was taken safely from there, and later he returned to the spot to christen it ‘Veer Bhumi’.

Recognition of Pal-Dadhvav massacre

  • The Pal-Dadhvav massacre was brought into focus at the Republic Day parade this year.
  • The Republic Day tableau featured a seven-ft statue of Tejawat, inspired by the statue at the memorial. A song describing Tejawat as ‘Koliyari no Vanio Gandhi’ was also sung at the tableau.

35th Surajkund International Crafts Mela 2022

  • The 35th Surajkund International Crafts Mela 2022 is being held from 19th March, 22 to 4th April, 2022 in Faridabad, Haryana.
  • This fair is held every year in the month of February, however, the schedule was revised this year due to the Coronavirus. The annual fair in Faridabad was last held in 2020.
  • The Mela was initiated in 1987 to promote the pool of skilled artisans, who used indigenous technology, but were suffering due to the cheaper machine-made imitations. The fair was upgraded to an international level in 2013.
  • The Surajkund Mela showcases the richness and diversity of the handicrafts, handlooms and cultural fabric of India, & is the largest crafts fair in the world.
  • Jammu & Kashmir is the ‘Theme State/UT’ and Uzbekistan is the “Partner Nation” for the year 2022.

Malabar Rebellion

  • The Indian Council for Historical Research (ICHR) has deferred its decision on a recommendation to remove the 1921 Malabar Rebellion martyrs, including Variamkunnaathu Kunhahamad Haji and Ali Musliyar, from the list of India’s freedom fighters.
  • The subcommittee had recommended the removal of the Malabar Rebellion leaders, mostly Muslims, from the list. The panel was of the view that the rebellion that took place at Malabar was a one-sided attack on Hindus. Just two Britishers were killed during the unrest and hence the rebellion could not be considered as part of the freedom struggle.
  • This is viewed by some as an attempt to distort history.
  • Note : The Malabar rebellion or Mappila riots occured between August 1921 and 1922 in the southern part of the Malabar district of the Madras Presidency (now part of Kerala). The uprising was by the Mappila peasantry (mainly Muslims) against the prevailing feudal system in the region controlled by upper-caste Hindus, whom the British had also appointed in positions of authority for their support.
  • Note: See your notes of Modern India to read about this topic in detail

Bamiyan Buddhas

  • The Taliban regime in Afghanistan has said it would protect the ancient Buddha statues in Mes Aynak. This is the site of a copper mine where the Taliban are hoping for Chinese investment.
  • This Taliban’s position is in marked contrast to the time they ruled Afghanistan earlier. Earlier, they brought down the Bamiyan Buddhas statues using artillery, explosives, and rockets.

What are Bamiyan Buddhas?

  • The Bamiyan Buddha Statues were situated in the Hindu Kush mountains, in the central highlands of Afghanistan.
  • They were great examples of a confluence of Gupta, Sassanian and Hellenistic artistic styles.
  • They are said to date back to the 5th century AD and were once the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.
  • They were called Salsal and Shamama by locals. Salsal means “the light shines through the universe”; Shamama is  “Queen Mother”.

What had happened to the Bamiyan Statues?

  • In 2001, the Taliban destroyed the Bamiyan Buddhas statues. Following the fall, UNESCO included the remains in its list of world heritage sites in 2003, with subsequent efforts made to restore and reconstruct them.

What is the significance of Bamiyan?

  • Bamiyan is situated in the high mountains of the Hindu Kush in the central highlands of Afghanistan.
  • The valley, which is set along the line of the Bamiyan River, was once integral to the early days of the Silk Roads, providing passage for not just merchants but also culture, religion and language.
  • When the Kushana Empire spread, Bamiyan became a major trade, cultural and religious centre.
  • As China, India and Rome sought passage through Bamiyan, the Kushans were able to develop a syncretic culture.
  • Moreover, during the rapid spread of Buddhism between the 1st to 5th centuries AD, Bamiyan’s landscape reflected the faith, especially its monastic qualities.

APPOINTMENTS and RESIGNATIONS

Madhabi Puri Buch

  • Former ICICI Banker, Madhavi Puri Buch has been appointed s new Chairperson of SEBI, replacing Ajay Tyagi.
  • She is the first woman chief of SEBI and also the first non-IAS to head the regulatory body. She has over three decades of experience in the financial markets and was SEBI whole-time member (WTM) between April 5, 2017, and October 4, 2021. During her tenure at SEBI, she handled portfolios such as surveillance, collective investment schemes and investment management.
  • About SEBI : In April, 1988 the SEBI was constituted as the regulator of capital markets in India under a resolution of the Government of India. It became autonomous and given statutory powers by SEBI Act 1992.
  • Note : in January 2022, SEBI launched Saa₹thi – a mobile app on investor education.

Professor Bhushan Patwardhan

  • The University Grants Commission (UGC) has appointed educationist and research scientist Professor Bhushan Patwardhan as chairman, of the executive committee of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC), Bengaluru.

Bhagwant Mann : 18th chief minister of Punjab

  • He sworn in at the ancestral village of Bhagat Singh in the presence of Governor Banwarilal Purohit.
  • The Aam Aadmi Party won 92 seats in the 117-member Punjab Assembly.

N Biren Singh  : Chief Minister of Manipur

  • Senior BJP leader N Biren Singh took the oath as Chief Minister of Manipur for a second consecutive five-year term on March 21, 2022. The ruling BJP party contested all 60 seats in the Manipur Assembly election in 2022 and won 32 seats.

Pushkar Singh Dhami : takes oath as 11th Chief Minister of Uttarakhand

  • He takes oath for second term in a row. The BJP won 47 seats out of 70 in 70-member House legislative assembly of Uttarakhand.
  • Note : Dhami himself got defeated his assembly seat (Khatima constituency in the Uttarakhand).

Yogi Adityanath : took oath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh

  • Yogi takes oath as chief minister of Uttar Pradesh for his second term in office. Governor Anandiben Patel administered the oath of office and secrecy to Adityanath at Lucknow’s Atal Bihari Vajpayee Ekana Stadium in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Ministers Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh and other central ministers.
  • Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brajesh Pathak also took oath as the Deputy Chief Ministers in the new government.
  • The BJP-led NDA secured 274 seats out of 403, becoming the first party in over three decades to form a government for a second consecutive time in the state.

Pramod Sawant : took oath as the Chief Minister of Goa  for the second term.  

  • Sawant led the BJP in the recently concluded 2022 Goa Assembly elections and won 20 seats in the 40-member Goa Assembly.

AK Sikri

The Supreme Court of India has named Justice (retd) AK Sikri as Chairperson of the High Powered Committee (HPC), of the Chardham project.

Debasish Panda (former financial services secretary): Chairman of the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI).

Ajay Bhushan Pandey :  chairman of the National Financial Reporting Authority (NFRA).

N Chandrasekaran (chairman of Tata Sons), :  appointed as the chairman of Air India.

Jayati Ghosh   : United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres has announced the appointment of Indian development economist Jayati Ghosh as a member of the UN’s newly established Advisory Board on Effective Multilateralism.

Gilbert Houngbo from Togo : will be the next Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Himanta Biswa Sarma : re-elected as President of Badminton Association Of India

T Raja Kumar : a Singaporean, has been named president of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), the world’s anti-money laundering and anti-terrorism financing agency.

Katalin Novak :  first-ever female president as well as youngest president in the history of Hungary. Yoon Suk Yeol : President of South Korea Gabriel Boric Font :  36th President of Chile.

Serdar Berdimuhamedow :  President of Turkmenistan

SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY

Daylight Harvesting Technology

  • Daylighting is basically bringing natural sunlight inside the rooms. Daylight Harvesting is one of the most advanced techniques used in sustainable lighting designs for contemporary buildings.
  • It automatically adjusts the brightness of light in conjecture to the amount of light available in that space.
  • In news : Recently ,Skyshade Daylights Private Limited – the only Start-up company in India for Daylight Harvesting Technologies signed an MoU with Technology Development Board (a statutory body of the Department of Science & Technology).

Indigenously developed Kavach System

  • Union Minister of Railways has inspected the trial of ‘Kavach’ working system in Secunderabad Division of South Central Railway.
  • KAVACH is an indigenously developed Automatic Train Protection(ATP) System for Indian Railways.
  • It is a set of electronic devices and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) devices installed in locomotives, in the signalling system as well as the tracks.
  • Main Function of Kavach: It is designed to bring a train to a halt automatically when it notices another train on the same line within a prescribed distance.
  • Kavach is one of the cheapest, Safety Integrity Level 4(SIL-4) certified technologies with the probability of an error being 1 in 10,000 years.
  • Developed by: Research Design and Standards Organisation(RDSO) of the Ministry of Railways in collaboration with Indian industry.
  • Note : The Kavach system was announced in the 2022 Union Budget as a part of the Atmanirbhar Bharat initiative. Around 2,000 km of rail network is planned to be brought under the indigenous system to enable safety and capacity augmentation in 2022-23.

HANSA-NG

  • HANSA-NG aircraft has successfully completed the sea level trials at Puducherry.
  • HANSA-NG is India’s first indigenous Flying Trainer aircraft.
  • Developed by: CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories,Bangalore under the aegis of Council of Scientific and Industrial Research
  • Features: The aircraft is powered by Rotax Digital Control Engine with unique features like Just-In-Time Prepreg (JIPREG) Composite lightweight Airframe, Glass Cockpit, Bubble Canopy with wide panoramic view, electrically operated flap among others.
  • Significance: The aircraft is designed to meet the Indian flying club needs, and it is an ideal aircraft for Commercial Pilot Licensing(CPL) due to its low cost and low fuel consumption.

‘PARAM Ganga’ established at IIT Roorkee

  • PARAM Ganga is a supercomputer designed by the Centre for Development of Advanced Computing(C-DAC) under Phase 2 of the National Supercomputing Mission (NSM).
  • It has a supercomputing capacity of 66 Petaflops (1 petaflop equals a quadrillion or 1015 operations per second).
  • This supercomputer will accelerate the research and development activities with a focus on providing computational power to the user community of IIT Roorkee and neighbouring academic institutions.

National Supercomputing Mission(NSM)

  • Launched in 2015, it aims to empower national academic and R&D institutions spread over the country by installing a vast supercomputing grid comprising more than 70 high-performance computing facilities.
  • Nodal Ministries: The mission is being steered jointly by the Ministry of Electronics & Information Technology (MeiTY) and the Department of Science and Technology (DST).
  • Implemented by: Centre for Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) and Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore.
  • India’s first supercomputer was PARAM 8000. Globally, China has the maximum number of supercomputers and maintains the top position in the world, followed by the US, Japan.
  • In 2020, PARAM Siddhi, the High-Performance Computing-Artificial Intelligence (HPC-AI) supercomputer, achieved global ranking of 62nd in Top 500 most powerful supercomputer systems in the world.

Argon-40 in Moon’s atmosphere

  • Chandra’s Atmospheric Composition Explorer-2(CHACE-2), a payload onboard Chandrayaan-2, has made the first-ofits-kind discovery on the distribution of one of the noble gasses, Argon-40.

Chandrayaan-2

  • Chandrayaan-2 is the second lunar exploration mission launched by ISRO in 2019.
  • Objective: To demonstrate ISRO’s capability to make a soft landing on the moon.
  • The mission had a lander and a rover component that was supposed to carry out a number of experiments on the lunar surface. However, due to technical glitches in the final moments ahead of the touchdown, the lander was unable to make a soft landing. Instead, it crash-landed and got destroyed.
  • But the Orbiter is continuing to carry out its scientific experiments. It is carrying eight instruments, including CHACE-2, for different kinds of measurements.

Science behind jets of plasma over Sun’s chromosphere unravelled

  • Scientists have unravelled the science behind the jets of plasma.
  • Plasma is often called the fourth state of matter (beyond the conventional solids, liquids and gases).

What are Jets of Plasma?

  • Jets or spicules appear as thin grass-like plasma structures that constantly shoot up from the surface of the sun and are then brought down by gravity. The amount of energy and momentum that these spicules can carry is of fundamental interest in solar and plasma astrophysics.
  • However, the processes by which plasma is supplied to the solar wind and the solar atmosphere is heated to a million degrees Celsius still remain a puzzle.

What did the scientists find out about these Jets of Plasma?

  • Scientists have explained the origin of ‘spicules’ or ‘jets’ on the Sun.
  • They explained that the plasma right below the visible solar surface (photosphere) is perpetually in a state of convection, much like boiling water in a vessel heated at the bottom. This is ultimately powered by the nuclear energy released in the hot-dense core.

SARAS 3 radio telescope

  • Indian astronomers have refuted the recent claim of a discovery of a radio wave signal from Cosmic Dawn ( the time in the infancy of our Universe when the first stars and galaxies came into existence.
  • Note : In 2018, a team of researchers from Arizona State University (ASU) and MIT in the US detected a signal from stars emerging in the early universe using data from the EDGES radio telescope.
  • SARAS 3 radio telescope did not find any evidence of the radio wave signal claimed by the EDGES experiment.
  • SARAS 3 Radio Telescope : it was invented and built by the astronomers at Raman Research Institute, an autonomous research institute engaged in research in basic sciences. The telescope was designed, built and deployed in India to detect extremely faint radio wave signals from the depths of time, from our “Cosmic Dawn” when the first stars and galaxies formed in the early Universe.

Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV)

  • Toyota Kirloskar Motor Pvt. Ltd. along with International Center for Automotive Technology (ICAT) are conducting a Pilot project to study and evaluate the world’s most advanced Fuel Cell Electric Vehicle (FCEV) Toyota Mirai which runs on hydrogen, on Indian roads and climatic conditions.
  • This is a first of its kind project in the country aimed at spreading awareness about Hydrogen, FCEV technology and disseminating its benefits to support hydrogen-based society for India.
  • Union Minister of Road Transport & Highways Nitin Gadkari inaugurated this pilot project and also demonstrated Toyota Mirai FCEV on 16th March’2022 in New Delhi.

Fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV)

  • Fuel cell electric vehicle (FCEV) is an electric vehicle that uses a fuel cell, sometimes in combination with a small battery or supercapacitor, to power its onboard electric motor.
  • Fuel cells in vehicles generate electricity generally using oxygen from the air and compressed hydrogen. Most fuel cell vehicles are classified as zero-emissions vehicles that emit only water and heat.

Deep Ocean Mission (DOM)

  • Recently, the Ministry of Earth Sciences has launched the Deep Ocean Mission (DOM).
  • DOM is a mission mode project to support the Blue Economy Initiatives of the Government of India. o Blue Economy is the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health.

What are the Major Components of DOM?

  • Development of Manned Submersible Vehicle: o A manned submersible will be developed to carry three people to a depth of 6,000 metres in the ocean with a suite of scientific sensors and tools.
    • NIOT & ISRO is jointly developing a Manned Submersible Vehicle.
    • National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), an autonomous institute under the Ministry of Earth Sciences.
  • Development of Technologies for Deep Sea Mining: o An Integrated Mining System will be also developed for mining polymetallic nodules at those depths in the central Indian Ocean. (Polymetallic nodules are rocks scattered on the seabed containing iron, manganese, nickel and cobalt).

Significance of DOM?

  • Leveraging Ocean Resources: Oceans, which cover 70% of the globe, remain a key part of our life. About 95% of the Deep Ocean remains unexplored.

ExoMars 2022 Mission delayed

  • The European Space Agency’s ExoMars 2022 mission won’t launch in September, 2022 as planned after the agency suspended all cooperation with Russia’s space program Roscosmos.
  • ESA and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) were the original ExoMars collaborators, but NASA dropped out in 2012 due to budgeting problems. Russia took NASA’s place in the project in 2013.
  • The primary aim of this mission is to check if there has ever been life on Mars and also understand the history of water on the planet.
  • Note : ecently, the Russian space agency Roscosmos held that it will not cooperate with Germany on joint experiments in the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS).

Mutation in viruses

  • According to a recent study, it has been stated that RNA viruses have a higher rate of mutations compared with DNA viruses. However, unlike other RNA viruses, Corona viruses have fewer mutations. This is because coronaviruses have a genetic “proofreading mechanism” that corrects some of the errors made during replication.
  • This is applicable to SARS-CoV-2 viruses too.
  • As a result, SARS-CoV-2 viruses have more accurate mutations or attained more fitness than that of other singlestranded RNA viruses. Increased fitness of the virus means increased infectiousness of the virus and the ability of the mutations to allow the virus to escape from immunity.
  • Such mutations that provide increased fitness to the virus increase in numbers and become the dominant strain or variant.
  • Further, when a person is simultaneously infected with two different SARS-CoV-2 variants or strains or sub-lineages, chunks of genetic material from one variant can get mixed with the other. This is called recombination. For example, recombination of Delta and Omicron variants.

Kinzhal Missile : Russian hypersonic missile used against Ukaraine

  • Hypersonic missile : Hypersonic missiles are manoeuvrable weapons that fly at least at the speed of Mach 5 i.e. five times the speed of sound. (Note: The speed of sound is Mach 1 and speeds above Mach 1 are supersonic and speeds above Mach 5 are hypersonic)

How are Hypersonic weapons different from Ballistic Missiles?

  • Ballistic Missiles travel much faster. But they follow a fixed trajectory and travel outside the atmosphere to re-enter only near impact.
  • Hypersonic weapons travel within the atmosphere and can manoeuvre midway. They can travel at high speeds, thus making their detection and interception extremely difficult. I.e., Radar and air defences cannot detect them till they are very close and have only a little time to react.

What are the types of Hypersonic weapons?

  • There are two types of hypersonic weapons systems. 1) Hypersonic Glide Vehicles (HGV): These are launched from a rocket before gliding to the intended target, 2) Hypersonic Cruise Missiles: These are powered by air-breathing highspeed engines or ‘scramjets’ after acquiring their target. Which countries possess Hypersonic weapons?
  • Russia has announced its hypersonic missile ‘Kinzhal’ or Dagger in 2018 and has now used it for the first time in battle conditions in Ukraine. China is also said to have tested a Hypersonic weapon in 2021.
  • The US has also tested hypersonic weapons for decades. However, U.S. hypersonic development programmes are lagging behind China and Russia because most U.S. hypersonic weapons are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead.
  • Apart from these countries, a number of other countries including Australia, India, France, Germany, and Japan — are also developing hypersonic weapons technology.

About the Indian hypersonic missile programme

  • India operates approximately 12 hypersonic wind tunnels and is capable of testing speeds of up to Mach 13.
  • India is also developing an indigenous, dual-capable hypersonic cruise missile as part of its Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle(HSTDV) programme and successfully tested a Mach 6 scramjet in 2019 and 2020.
  • A hypersonic version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, joint development of India and Russia, is also under development.

INS Shivaji recognized as CoE

  • The Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship(MSDE) has recognised INS Shivaji as the Centre of Excellence(CoE) in the field of Marine Engineering(ME).
  • INS Shivaji is an Indian naval station located in Lonavala, Maharashtra. It is located close to the Bhushi Dam.
  • It houses the Naval College of Engineering, which trains officers of the Indian Navy and the Indian Coast Guard. It was commissioned in 1945 as HMIS Shivaji.
  • INS Shivaji has three premier institutions viz. Centre of Marine Engineering and Technology (CMET), Centre of Excellence (CoE) and Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Defence (NBCD) School.
  • INS Shivaji’s Centre of Excellence (Marine Engineering): It was established in 2014 with a broad mandate that included the induction of niche technologies for naval applications, quality research in collaboration with R&D and academic institutes of high reputation.

– The larger goal is to improve the skills of the personnel across the Indian Navy, Friendly Foreign Navies, and the entire ecosystem.

  • What is the Centre of Excellence(CoE)?
    • Recognised by: Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
    • Purpose: It is a body that provides leadership, best practices, research, support, training of trainers, and skill training for a specific sector or sector.
    • As per the National Policy for Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, 2015, it was decided that National Skills Universities and Institutes will be promoted in partnership with States as centres of excellence for skill development and training of trainers.

Artemis programme

  • On March 17, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) rolled out its Artemis I moon mission to the launchpad for testing at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, United States.
  • The Space Launch System (SLS) rocket and Orion capsule of the mission were hurled out to the launchpad by NASA’s Crawler-Transporter 2 vehicle.
  • NASA’s Artemis mission is touted as the next generation of lunar exploration, and is named after the twin sister of Apollo from Greek mythology. Artemis is also the goddess of the moon.
  • Artemis I is the first of NASA’s deep space exploration systems. It is an uncrewed space mission where the spacecraft will launch on SLS — the most powerful rocket in the world — and travel 2,80,000 miles from the earth for over four to six weeks during the course of the mission.
  • The Orion spacecraft is going to remain in space without docking to a space station, longer than any ship for astronauts has ever done before.
  • With the Artemis programme, NASA aims to land humans on the moon by 2024, and it also plans to land the first woman and first person of colour (a non-white person) on the moon.
  • With this mission, NASA aims to contribute to scientific discovery and economic benefits and inspire a new generation of explorers.
  • Besides NASA, other space agencies involved in the Artemis programme are :Canadian Space Agency , European Space Agency,  Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

GSAT-7B satellite

  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has given the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for procurement of a GSAT 7B satellite, along with equipment like Night Sight (image intensifier), 4X4 light vehicles, and Air Defence Fire Control Radar (light).
  • The GSAT 7B will primarily fulfil the communication needs of the Army. Currently, the Army is using 30 per cent of the communication capabilities of the GSAT 7A satellite, which has been designed for the Indian Air Force (IAF).The satellite would help the Indian Army enhance its surveillance in border areas.
  • Currently, India has only two dedicated military satellites — the GSAT-7 (Rukmini) and GSAT-7A (Angry Bird) — used by the Indian Navy and Air Force respectively.
  • GSAT 7 series of satellites are advanced satellites developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) to meet the communication needs of the defence services.
  • GSAT-7 (Rukmini) : It is India’s first military satellite launched in August 2013 from an Ariane 5 ECA rocket from Kourou in French Guiana. It is a 2,650 kg satellite which has a footprint of nearly 2,000 nautical miles in the Indian Ocean region. This satellite is mainly used by the Indian Navy for its communication needs. This satellite carries payloads in UHF, C-band and Ku-band, and helps the Navy to have a secure, real time communication link between its land establishments, surface ships, submarines and aircraft.
  • GSAT 7A (Angry Bird) : it was launched in 2018 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota (Andhra Pradesh). It helps in boosting the connectivity between the ground radar stations, airbases and the airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C) of the IAF (Indian Air Force).

Pacer Initiative

  • The Minister of Earth Sciences has informed Rajya Sabha about the Polar Science and Cryosphere Research(PACER) Initiative.

What is PACER Initiative?

  • Launched by: Ministry of Earth Sciences
  • Objective: To study various aspects relating to Polar and the Cryosphere with special emphasis on the Antarctic, Arctic and Glaciers of the Himalayas.
  • Programmes: The important programmes under the initiative include: the Antarctic program, Indian Arctic program, Southern Ocean program and Cryosphere and Climate program.
  • Implementing Agency: National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR)
  • Duration of the Initiative: The initiative has been approved for continuation during 2021- 2026. India’s Arctic Missions:
  • India launched its first scientific expedition to the Arctic Ocean in 2007.
  • India opened a research base named “Himadriin Svalbard, Norway in July 2008 to carry out studies in disciplines like Glaciology, Atmospheric sciences & Biological sciences.

India’s Antarctic Missions:

  • India officially acceded to the Antarctic Treaty System on 1st August 1983.
  • On 12th September 1983, India became the fifteenth Consultative Member of the Antarctic Treaty.
  • India is expanding its infrastructure development in Antarctica.
  • The newest base commissioned in 2015 is Bharati.
  • India is rebuilding its station, Maitri, to make it bigger and last for at least 30 more years.
  • Dakshin Gangotri, the first Indian base established in 1984, has weakened and become just a supply base.
  • Sagar Nidhi: In 2008, India commissioned the Sagar Nidhi, for research.

Free access of MATLAB Software allowed for Academic Users

  • For the first time in the country, academic users in India will be able to access the MATLAB software suite at no cost through the Indian Science Technology and Engineering facilities Map (I-STEM) portal.
  • MATLAB is a proprietary multi-paradigm programming language and numeric computing environment developed by MathWorks.
  • The software suite is hosted on the cloud server of I-STEM to provide user friendly access from anywhere in India.
  • It is expected to assist many students and researchers in the country, especially those in the more remote and lessendowed institutions, thereby enhancing learning outcomes and promoting Research & Development efforts across India.

Project NETRA

  • Indian Space Research Organization(ISRO) is building up its orbital debris tracking capability by deploying new radars and optical telescopes under Project NETRA.
  • Full-Form: NETRA stands for Network for Space Object Tracking and Analysis.
  • Purpose: It is an early warning system in space to detect space debris and safeguard India’s functional satellites in lowearth orbits.
  • Facilities under this Project: Under NETRA, ISRO plans to put up many observational facilities such as:
    • Space debris tracking radar: It will be capable of detecting and tracking objects 10 cm and above in size. It will have a range of 1,500 km.
    • Optical telescopes: These will be inducted as part of establishing an effective surveillance and tracking network.
    • Data processing units.
    • Space Situational Awareness Control Centre. What is Space Debris?
  • Space Debris consists of rocket bodies that are used to launch satellites, defunct satellites, materials released during mission operations, fragments from on-orbit breakups of space objects, and fragments from Anti-Satellite (ASAT) tests.
  • These space objects move with an average speed of 27,000 km per hour in Low Earth Orbits, therefore, a collision with even a centimetre sized tiny fragment can be catastrophic to an operational space asset.
  • According to ISRO, the volume of space debris is likely to go up in the coming years with the increase in space missions globally. Globally, 2021 saw the highest space object-to-launch ratio. In other words, more space objects are placed in orbit per launch.

Wright Mons : Pluto

A mountainous feature named Wright Mons was found on Pluto, which rises 4-5km above its surroundings. It is about 150km across its base and has a central depression (a hole) 40-50km wide, with a floor at least as low as the surrounding terrain.

  • Wright Mons, was informally named by the team of ‘New Horizons’ in honour of the Wright brothers.
  • Note : The only spacecraft to visit Pluto is NASA’s New Horizons, which passed close by in July 2015.
  • Scientists claim that Wright Mons is a volcano, and cite the lack of impact craters as evidence that it is not likely to be older than 1-2 billion years. An impact crater is formed when an object like an asteroid or meteorite crashes into the surface of a larger solid object like a planet or a moon.

GOES-T

  • NASA launches next-generation GOES-T satellite to track hazardous weather  Goes stands for Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite.
  • Once the satellite gets positioned in its geostationary orbit it will be renamed from GOES-T to GOES-18.

Noor-2

  • Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) successfully launched a military satellite, Noor-2, into orbit at an altitude of 500 kilometres (311 miles) from the earth.
  • This is the second military satellite launched by the Islamic Republic. The first military satellite, Noor, was launched in April 2020 at an orbit of 425km (265 miles) above the earth’s surface. Noor means light in the Persian language.

DEFENCE 

INS Visakhapatnam

  • The Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh has dedicated INS Visakhapatnam to the nation in a formal ceremony held at Naval Dockyard.
  • INS Visakhapatnam (commissioned on 21st November 2021 ) is the name of the first indigenously designed and constructed stealth guided-missile destroyer ship under Project 15B. The ship has been named after the City of Destiny – Visakhapatnam. The crew of the ship abides by her motto ‘Yasho Labhasva’ – a Sanskrit phrase that translates to ‘Attain Glory’.

Key Features of the ship

  • INS Visakhapatnam is first of the four ‘Visakhapatnam’ class destroyers.
  • It is the most technologically advanced guided destroyer in the world with a displacement of 7,400 tonnes.
  • These ships are equipped with BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and long-range Surface-to-Air Missiles (SAM).
  • It also has anti-submarine warfare capabilities.
  • It is also equipped to be deployed to fight in Nuclear, Biological and Chemical (NBC) warfare conditions.

“Exercise Dharma Guardian-2022”,

  • A Joint Military Exercise, between India and Japan conducted at foreign training node Belagavi (Belgaum, Karnataka).
  • Note : JIMEX (naval) and SHINYUU Maitri (Air Force) are other defence exercises between India & Japan.

Defense Expo 2022

  • 12th edition of DefExpo was to be held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat in March 2022, but postponed due to logistics problems being experienced by participants.
  • Note : 11th edition of DefExpo was held at Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) in 2020.

SLINEX -22

  • The 9th Edition of India – Sri Lanka Bilateral Maritime Exercise SLINEX (Sri Lanka–India Naval Exercise) is being conducted at Visakhapatnam.
  • The 8th edition of SLINEX was conducted off Trincomalee, Sri Lanka in October 2020.
  • Other Exercises between India and Sri Lanka?
  • Exercise MITRA SHAKTI (Military Exercise)
  • Dosti Trilateral Exercise (Coast guard India, Maldives and Sri Lanka).

Exercise Vayu Shakti  postponed

  • Due to ongoing crisis in Ukraine, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has decided to postpone its firepower demonstration, Exercise Vayu Shakti. The exercise was scheduled in the Pokhran ranges in Rajasthan.
  • The last edition of Vayu Shakti was held in February 2019.
  • Ex Vayu Shakti is a triennial exercise once every three year. It is aimed at showcasing the capability of the IAF to conduct full spectrum operations (Day and Night), and to see the participation of aircraft and helicopters,transport aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Exercise Lamitiye 2022

An Indian Army contingent has arrived in Seychelles for the ninth edition of the Joint Military Exercise Lamitiye 2022 between the Indian Army and Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF).

Exercise-DUSTLIK

  • The 3rd edition of joint training exercise between Indian and Uzbekistan armies, EX-DUSTLIK is being conducted at Yangiarik, Uzbekistan from 22nd to 31st March 2022.
  • Note : The last edition of DUSTLIK was conducted in Ranikhet (Uttarakhand) in March 2021.

IONS Maritime Exercise 2022 (IMEX 22)

  • The maiden edition of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium(IONS) Maritime Exercise 2022 (IMEX-22) was conducted at Goa and in the Arabian Sea.
  • Aim: To enhance interoperability in Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) operations among member navies.
  • Participating Countries: The exercise witnessed participation of 15 out of the 25 member nations of IONS.
  • The exercise comprised a Harbour Phase at Marmugao port, Goa, followed by a Sea Phase in the Arabian Sea.
  • Significance: The exercise is seen as a significant stepping stone for regional navies to collaborate and respond collectively to natural disasters in the region, and paves the way for further strengthening regional cooperation.
  • About IONS : IONS is a premier forum for cooperation and collaboration among navies of littoral states of the Indian Ocean Region. The inaugural IONS Seminar was held in New Delhi in February, 2008.

‘Cold Response 2022’  

  • Massive military drill (exercise) of The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) held in Norway

Balikatan 2022

  • Military exercise between the armies of United States and Philippines.

Missile misfires

  • Pakistan recently made the claim that an unarmed Indian missile landed 124 km inside its territory, which India has conformed and cited technical malfunction as the reason that led to the accidental firing of a missile.

What are the protocols that countries need to follow before conducting tests?

  • According to the ballistic missiles agreement signed in 2005, o Each country must provide the other an advance notification on a flight test it intends to take for any land or sea launched, surface-to-surface ballistic missile. o The pre-notification has to be “conveyed through the respective Foreign Offices and the High Commissions, as per the format annexed to this Agreement.
  • However, regarding this incident, there was no prior contact between the two countries.
  • One of the reasons for this may have been that for the kind of missile that was tested, there was no mandatory clause to pre inform. Both the countries has not disclosed the type of missile that was involved in the incident. What may be the probable reasons for the change of missile’s trajectory?
  • This can happen due to various reasons like wrong target coordinates, target data fed into the missile gets corrupted.

Kamikaze Drone

  • Recently, US supplied Kamikaze or suicide drones to Ukraine to assist their fight against Russia.
  • Also called Switchblade drones, these are small unmanned aircraft that are packed with explosives that can be flown directly at a tank or a group of troops that are destroyed when it hits the target and explodes. They are called Switchblade because their bladelike wings spring out on launch.
  • These small lethal drones are difficult to detect on radar, and they can even be programmed to hit targets without human intervention, based on facial recognition.

MRSAMs (Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missiles)

  • Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test-fired two Army-version Medium Range Surface-to-Air Missiles (MRSAMs) from the Integrated Test Range at Chandipur in Odisha.
  • The flight tests were carried out as part of live-firing trials against high-speed aerial targets.
  • The missiles intercepted the targets and destroyed them completely, registering direct hits at both the ranges. The first missile hit a medium-altitude long-range target and the second a low-altitude short-range one.
  • This MRSAM version is developed jointly by the DRDO and the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for the Army.
  • The system comprises multi-function radar, mobile launcher system and other vehicles.

Key details of MRSAM:

  • It is a high response, quick reaction, vertically launched supersonic missile, designed to neutralize enemy aerial threats – missiles, aircraft, guided bombs, helicopters.
  • Supersonic missiles exceed the speed of sound (Mach 1) but they are not faster than Mach-3.  It is used by the Army, Navy and Air Force as different variants.

In May 2019, Indian Navy, DRDO and IAI conducted the maiden co-operative engagement firing of the naval version of the MRSAM.

  • It is a land based variant of the Barak Air and Missile Defence System (AMD).
  • India buys Barak AMD from Israel, it was designed and developed by Israel to protect its economic zones and strategic facilities from various threats.
  • The missile’s management system uses the radar to track and correctly identify the target, calculates the distance from it and gives all the information to the Commander for a decision to be made on interception.
  • The missile itself is 4.5 metres in length with a weight of around 275 kg.
  • It is equipped with fins and canards to stabilise its flight and provide it manoeuvrability.
  • The missile is powered by a solid propulsion system coupled with a thrust vector control system.
  • It can engage multiple targets upto a range of 70 km.

RANKING AND REPORTS 

International Intellectual Property Index  2022

  • Recently, India has improved its overall International Intellectual Property (IIP) score from 38.4% to 38.6%, and the country is ranked 43rd out of 55 countries on the International Intellectual Property Index.
  • International Intellectual Property Index is an annual report compiled by the US Chambers of Commerce.  This year (2022) the index is topped by the US with 95.4%.

‘Democracy Report 2022: Autocratisation Changing Nature

  • According to the this report released by the V-Dem Institute at Sweden’s University of Gothenburg, the level of democracy enjoyed by the average global citizen in 2021 is down to 1989 levels, with the democratic gains of the postCold War period eroding rapidly in the last few years.
  • Liberal Democratic Index (LDI) : Sweden topped the LDI index however India was ranked 93rd.

Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR)

  • The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) of India has declined by 10 points, says a special bulletin released by the RegistrarGeneral of India. It has declined from 113 in 2016-18 to 103 in 2017-19, an 8.8% decline.
  • The country has been witnessing a progressive reduction in the MMR from 130 in 2014-16, 122 in 2015-17 and 113 in 2016-18 to 103 in 2017-19, said the release issued on Monday.
  • With this persistent decline, India is on the verge of achieving the National Health Policy (NHP) target of 100 per lakh live births by 2020 and certainly on the track to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) target of 70 per lakh live births by 2030.
  • The number of States that have achieved the Sustainable Development Goal target has now risen from five to seven — Kerala (30), Maharashtra (38), Telangana (56), Tamil Nadu (58), Andhra Pradesh (58), Jharkhand (61), and Gujarat (70).
  • There are now nine States that have achieved the MMR target set by the National Health Policy, which includes the above seven States and Karnataka (83) and Haryana (96).
  • Uttarakhand (101), West Bengal (109), Punjab (114), Bihar (130), Odisha (136) and Rajasthan (141) have MMR between 100 and 150, while Chhattisgarh (160), Madhya Pradesh (163), Uttar Pradesh (167) and Assam (205) have the ratio above 150.
  • Encouraging achievement has been reported by Uttar Pradesh, which has shown the highest decline of 30 points, Rajasthan (23), Bihar (19), Punjab (15) and Odisha (14).
  • Registrar General of India : It is under the Ministry of Home Affairs. Apart from conducting the Population Census and monitoring the implementation of the Registration of Births and Deaths in the country, it has been giving estimates on fertility and mortality using the Sample Registration System (SRS).
  • Maternal death : As per the World Health Organisation, maternal death is the death of a woman while pregnant or within 42 days of termination of pregnancy, from any cause related to or aggravated by the pregnancy or its management.
  • Maternal Mortality Ratio (MMR) is defined as the number of maternal deaths during a given time per 1,00,000 live births during the same time.

Periodic Labour Force Survey

  • Recently, the latest Periodic Labour Force Survey (PLFS) released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) shows that the unemployment rate had shot up sharply during the nationwide lockdown in 2020 during the first wave of the pandemic.
  • NSO is the central statistical agency of the Government-mandated under the Statistical Services Act 1980 under the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

World Happiness Report 2022 ( India ranked 136th)

  • Published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

Publishing since 2012, the report usually ranks 150 countries based on several factors such as real GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption. This year, the report ranked 146 countries.

  • Best performer : Finland has been named the world’s happiest country for the fifth year running followed by Denmark.
  • The biggest gains in happiness have taken place in Serbia, Bulgaria and Romania.
  • Worst performers : Afghanistan was ranked as the unhappiest nation, followed by Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Botswana, respectively.
  • India’s Performance: India saw a marginal improvement in its ranking, jumping three spots to 136, from 139 a year ago.

World Air Quality Report

  • Prepared by :  Swiss-based air quality technology company IQAir
  • Most polluted country in the world in 2021 : Bangladesh
  • In terms of particulate matter in the air, Bangladesh recorded an average PM2.5 level of 76.9 micrograms per cubic metre in 2021 against the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended maximum permissible level of 5 micrograms per cubic metre.
  • Earlier, in 2018, 2019 and 2020 also Bangladesh was found to be the most polluted country in the world. However, the PM2.5 level has shown a decline in Bangladesh from 77.1 micrograms per cubic metre in 2020 which was even higher at 83.3 in 2019 and 97.1 in 2018.
  • The data reveals that not a single country in the world managed to meet the WHO’s air quality standard in 2021. All over the world, 93 cities reported PM 2.5 levels at 10 times the recommended level.
  • Most Polluted city : Delhi
  • Among the cities, Dhaka was the second most polluted city in the world with a PM 2.5 level of 78.1 just below New Delhi which had a PM 2.5 level of 85.1 in 2021.
  • IQAir analysed data from 6475 cities across 117 countries for air quality in 2021 to arrive at the conclusion. Countries and regions in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia suffered from the highest annual average PM2.5 concentration weighted by population.

Report requiring Skills

  • According to a new report, about 27.3 million workers, representing 7% of the country’s workforce, will require digital skills training for their jobs over the next year.
  • The report named ‘Building Digital Skills for the Changing workforce’ has been prepared by AlphaBeta and commissioned by Amazon Web Services, Inc (AWS), an Amazon.com company.

Export Preparedness Index for 2021 : NITI Aayog

  • Gujarat has been named India’s top State in terms of export preparedness for the second year in a row as per an index released by the NITI Aayog.
  • Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu were ranked second, third and fourth in the index, as coastal States with higher industrial activity and access to sea ports account for a majority of India’s exports.
  • The Export Preparedness Index for 2021 is based on States’ ratings on four major parameters pertaining to exports promotion and facilitation, including policy support, business and export ecosystem and the actual performance in outbound shipments
  • The index identifies three major challenges to India’s export promotion efforts. These are intra- and inter-regional differences in export infrastructure; weak trade support and growth orientation across States; and lack of R&D infrastructure to promote complex and unique exports.

State of World Population Report 2022

  • The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) has released its flagship State of World Population Report 2022 titled “Seeing the Unseen: The case for action in the neglected crisis of unintended pregnancy”.

key findings of the report

  • Women’s sexual and reproductive health rights: Only 57% of women are able to make their own decisions over their sexual and reproductive health and rights.
  • Abortions: Globally, 29% of all pregnancies — both intended and unintended combined — end in abortion. This amounts to an estimated 73 million abortions per year, on average, in 2015–2019.
  • Lack of Safe, Modern Methods of Contraception: Globally, an estimated 257 million women who want to avoid pregnancy are not using safe, modern methods of contraception.
  • Rising Unintended Pregnancies: Between 2015 and 2019, there were roughly 121 million unintended pregnancies occurred globally each year.
  • Report on India: Unsafe abortions are the third leading cause of maternal mortality in India, and close to 8 women die from causes related to unsafe abortions each day. Between 2007-2011, 67% of abortions in India were classified as unsafe. One in seven unintended pregnancies in the world take place in India.

World Energy Transitions Outlook Report : IRENA

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) released the World Energy Transitions Outlook report.

  • Previewed at the virtual Berlin Energy Transition Dialogue, which began on March 16, 2021, the report proposes energy transition solutions for the narrow pathway available to contain the rise of temperature to 1.5 degree Celsius.
  • The COVID-19 crisis offers an unexpected opportunity for countries to decouple their economies from fossil fuels and accelerate the shift to renewable energy sources,
  • It estimated that by 2050, 90% of total electricity needs would be supplied by renewables, followed by 6% from natural gas and the remaining from nuclear.
  • The agency has identified 30 innovations for the integration of wind and solar PV in power systems.

Sustainable Development Report 2021.

  • India has been ranked at 120th position in the Sustainable Development Report 2021. The Index has been topped by Finland.
  • Last year India’s rank was 117. The Index measures the country’s total progress towards achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
  • In this Index, countries are ranked by a score out of 100. India has a score of 60.07.

 ‘Annual Frontier Report, 2022’

Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh, has been ranked as the most noise polluted city globally, according to the recent ‘Annual Frontier Report, 2022’ published by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).  UP’s Moradabad ranked second.

SCHEMES and Programmes in News.

“Sagar Parikrama” Program

  • The Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying is organizing the “Sagar Parikrama” program on the occasion of the 75th Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsava.
  • It is a navigation journey to be conducted in all coastal states/UTs through a pre-decided sea route to demonstrate solidarity with all fisherfolk, fish farmers and concerned stakeholders.
  • It is envisioned as a part of ‘Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsava’ saluting our great freedom fighters, sailors and fishers.
  • The first leg of ‘Sagar Parikrama’ shall begin on 5th March 2022 from Mandvi (Gujarat) and end at Porbandar on 6th March 2022.
  • Sagar Parikrama program is proposed to be celebrated in all coastal states/UTs.

Focus:

  • Sustainable balance between the utilisation of marine fisheries resources for food security of the nation and livelihoods of coastal fisher communities
  • Protection of marine ecosystems.

“SAMARTH” : Special Entrepreneurship Promotion Drive for Women

  • On the occasion of International Women’s Day 2022 (8th March), the Union Minister for MSME has launched “SAMARTH”.
  • Purpose: It is a Special Entrepreneurship Promotion Drive for Women to provide them with an opportunity to be selfreliant and independent by undertaking self-employment opportunities.
  • Key features of the scheme: Under the initiative, the following benefits will be available to aspiring and existing women entrepreneurs:
  • 20% of Seats in free Skill Development Programs organized under skill development schemes of the Ministry will be allocated for Women.
  • 20% of MSME Business Delegations sent to domestic & international exhibitions under the schemes for Marketing Assistance implemented by the Ministry will be dedicated to women-owned MSMEs.
  • 20% Discount on annual processing fee on National Small Industries Corporation’s (NSIC) Commercial Schemes such as Single Point Registration Scheme, Raw Material Assistance and Bill Discounting, Tender Marketing among others.
  • Special Drive for registration of women-owned MSMEs under Udyam Registration.
  • Significance of the Scheme: Through this initiative, the Government is planning to train more than, 7500 women candidates from rural and sub-urban areas in FY 2022-23. Besides, women will also be getting marketing opportunities to showcase their products in domestic and international exhibitions.

Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP)

  • Recently, the National Institute of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development (NIESBUD has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) to develop a sustainable model for promoting entrepreneurship at the grass roots by initiating the Start-up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP).
  • NIESBUD is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE).
  • Rural entrepreneurs will be able to access banking systems for receiving financial support for starting their enterprises, including support from MUDRA bank.

Start-Up Village Entrepreneurship Programme (SVEP)

  • Implementation: It is implemented by Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana –National Rural Livelihoods Mission (DAYNRLM), Ministry of Rural Development.
  • It acts as a sub scheme of the DAY-NRLM being implemented since 2016..
  • Objective: To support the rural poor coming out of poverty, supporting them to set up enterprises and provide support till the enterprises stabilize. SVEP focuses on providing self-employment opportunities with  financial assistance and training in business management and soft skills while creating local community cadres for promotion of enterprises.

MSME Innovative Scheme

  • Union Minister for MSME Shri Narayan Rane launched the MSME Innovative Scheme (Incubation, Design and IPR) along with the MSME IDEA HACKATHON 2022. About:
  • The MSME Innovation Scheme will act as a hub for innovation activities facilitating and guiding development of ideas into viable business proposition which benefits society directly.
  • MSME Innovative is a holistic approach to unify, synergize and converge 3 sub-components and interventions with a single purpose.

Details of the sub-schemes are as under:

  • Incubation: The primary objective of the scheme is to promote and support untapped creativity and to promote adoption of latest technologies in MSMEs that seek the validation of their ideas at the proof-of-concept level. Financial assistance up to Rs. 15 lakh per idea and up to Rs. 1.00 crore for relevant plant and machines will be provided.
  • Design: The objective of this component is to bring Indian manufacturing sector and Design expertise/ Design fraternity on to a common platform. Financial assistance up to Rs. 40 lakh for design project and up to Rs. 2.5 lakh for student project will be provided.
  • IPR (Intellectual Property Rights): The objective of the scheme is to improve the IP culture in India with a view to enhance the awareness of Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) amongst the MSMEs and to encourage creative intellectual endeavor in Indian economy.

Strengthening of Pharmaceutical industry (SPI) scheme

  • Chemicals and Fertilizers Ministry has released guidelines for the scheme Strengthening of Pharmaceutical Industry.
  • The scheme will extend support required to existing pharma clusters and Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises across the country.
  • The objective of the scheme to improve productivity, quality and sustainability of the pharma industries with a total financial outlay of five hundred crore rupees for the period from financial year 2021-22 to 2025-26.
  • The scheme will establish the country a global leader in pharma sector by providing financial assistance to pharma clusters for creation of common facilities. This will not only improve the quality but also ensure the sustainable growth of clusters.
  • In order to upgrade the production facilities of industries, interest subvention or capital subsidy on their capital loans will be provided.
  • Pharmaceutical Technology Upgradation Assistance Scheme component of the scheme will facilitate pharma industries of proven track record to meet national and international regulatory standards.

TEJAS skilling project

  • The Union Minister has launched the TEJAS skilling project at the Dubai Expo.
  • Full-Form: TEJAS stands for Training for Emirates Jobs And Skills.
  • Launched by: It is a skill India International Project to train overseas Indians.
  • Aim: The project is aimed at skill enhancement, certification and overseas employment of Indians.

– It also aims at creating pathways to enable the Indian workforce to get equipped for skill and market requirements in the UAE.

Target: The project has a target of creating a 10,000 strong Indian workforce in the UAE during the initial phase. 

‘Stree Manoraksha Project’

  • The Ministry of Women and Child Development (MoWCD) and NIMHANS Bengaluru launched the ‘Stree Manoraksha Project’  with the goal of improving women’s mental health in India.

 BIODIVERSITY , ENVIRONMENT & GEOGRAPHY 

Dugong (‘Sea Cow’) conservation

Recently, the Tamil Nadu government has decided to go ahead with the establishment of India’s first conservation reserve for the Dugong in Gulf of Mannar, Palk Bay.

  • Distribution and Habitat: They are found in over 30 countries and in India are seen in the Gulf of Mannar, Gulf of Kutch, Palk Bay, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
  • Conservation Status of Dugong : IUCN Red List status: Vulnerable, Wild (Life) Protection Act, 1972: Schedule I, CITES: Appendix I.

Threat of Climate Change to Great Barrier Reef, Australia

  • Recently, a report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) states that the Great Barrier Reef is in crisis and suffering grave impacts from climate change.
  • The report points to three previous mass bleaching events from 2016 to 2020 that caused significant coral loss, and warns that there has been “mass mortality” of some coral species. Warming ocean temperature is causing frequent and severe coral bleaching. Great Barrier Reef
  • It is world’s largest coral reef complex, located in the Pacific Ocean off northeastern Australia.
  • It is the world’s most extensive and spectacular Coral Reef ecosystem composed of over 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands. It can be seen from outer space and is the world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms.  It was selected as a World Heritage Site in 1981.
  • Note : Coral reefs are called rainforests of the ocean as their biodiversity is greater than tropical rainforests.
  • Note : Most of the world’s coral reefs are in tropical waters. More than one-third of the world’s coral reefs are located in the territories of Australia, Indonesia and Philippines.

Glycosmis Albicarpa

  • A team of scientists from the Botanical Survey of India (BSI) has discovered a new gin berry species named Glycosmis albicarpa from the Kanyakumari Wildlife Sanctuary in Tamil Nadu.
  • The species is endemic to the southern Western Ghats. The species belongs to the Orange family, Rutaceae. Many of the related plants of these taxonomic groups are being utilised for their medicinal values and food.

Amazon rainforest

  • A study (analyzed 30 years of satellite data ) published recently says that a significant part of the Amazon rainforest has been heading towards a tipping point since the early 2000s. It may be losing its ability to bounce back from extreme events such as drought or fire, threatening to become a dry savanna-like ecosystem.
  • Note : The Savannah ecosystem is a tropical grassland with warm temperatures year-round and with its highest seasonal rainfall in the summer.

Kudankulam nuclear power project (KKNPP)

  • After Chief Minister M.K. Stalin wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, urging him to halt the construction of the ‘Away From Reactor’ (AFR) facility at the Kudankulam Nuclear Power Project (KKNPP) site for storing nuclear waste, the Kudankulam Village Panchayat, under which the project site falls, has passed a resolution against setting up the facility. In the resolution, the ward members also condemned the KKNPP administration for going ahead with the construction of the facility despite opposition from the State government to storing highly radioactive nuclear fuel waste.
  • Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant is the largest nuclear power station in India, situated in Kudankulam in the Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu.
  • Construction on the plant began on 31 March 2002, but faced several delays due to opposition from local fishermen.
  • KKNPP is scheduled to have six VVER-1000 reactors built in collaboration with Atomstroyexport, the Russian state company and Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited (NPCIL), with an installed capacity of 6,000 MW of electricity.

What is an AFR site?

  • The scheme for the storage of spent fuel in a nuclear power plant is two-fold:
  • One facility is located within the reactor building/service building, generally known as the spent fuel storage pool/bay.
  • Another is located away from the reactor, called the Away From Reactor (AFR) Spent Fuel Storage Facility, but within the plant’s premises.
  • The spent fuel storage pool inside the reactor building has a limited capacity and is used for immediate storage of the spent fuel removed from the reactor during refueling.
  • The fuel remains in the pool initially for a few years for it to be cooled sufficiently before it is shifted to the facility.
  • The AFR Spent Fuel Storage Facility is functionally similar to the ‘Spent Fuel Pool’ inside the reactor building, except in terms of capacity.

Why is the State Government and Village Panchayat opposing the facility?

  • Tamil Nadu Government and village panchayat are of the view that the AFR site would lead to radioactive pollution (spread of radioactivity) and spoil the groundwater, which is used for drinking water and irrigation. What are the Arguments of the Union Government?
  • The proposed AFR facility at KKNPP reactors 1 and 2 is for storage of spent fuel only and not for storage of nuclear waste, as perceived by a few.
  • The design ensures that there would not be any adverse impact of the facility on the personnel, the public and the environment.

Par-Tapi-Narmada river linking project

  • The Par Tapi Narmada link project was envisioned under the 1980 National Perspective Plan under the former Union Ministry of Irrigation and the Central Water Commission (CWC).
  • The project proposes to transfer river water from the surplus regions of the Western Ghats to the deficit regions of Saurashtra and Kutch.
  • The excess water in the interlinked Par, Tapi and Narmada rivers which flow into the sea in the monsoon would be diverted to Saurashtra and Kutch for irrigation.
  • It proposes to link three riversPar, originating from Nashik in Maharashtra and flowing through Valsad, Tapi from Saputara that flows through Maharashtra and Surat in Gujarat, and Narmada originating in Madhya Pradesh and flowing through Maharashtra and Bharuch and Narmada districts in Gujarat.
  • The link mainly includes the construction of
    • seven dams (Jheri, Mohankavchali, Paikhed, Chasmandva, Chikkar, Dabdar and Kelwan),
    • three diversion weirs (Paikhed, Chasmandva, and Chikkar dams),
    • two tunnels (5.0 kilometers and 0.5 kilometers length),
    • the 395-kilometre long canal (205 kilometre in Par-Tapi portion including the length of feeder canals and 190 km in Tapi-Narmada portion), and v six powerhouses.
  • Of these, the Jheri dam falls in Nashik, while the remaining dams are in Valsad and Dang districts of South Gujarat.

Why are Tribals opposing the Project?

  • Tribals settled along the river bank have developed the forest land allotted to them into agricultural farms by incurring the substantial expenditure. With the construction of the reservoirs, their farmland will be submerged, and they will lose their income. It will also result in their displacement.

Fossil of  octopuse named after Joe Biden

  • Recently, a fossil unearthed in central Montana (US) of a species named Syllipsimopodi bideni represents the oldestknown relative of today’s octopuses and boasts 10 arms, with two twice as long as the other eight. It has been named after the US president, Joe Biden.

India’s Solar Capacity

  • India added a record 10 Gigawatt (GW) of solar energy to its cumulative installed capacity in 2021. This has been the highest 12-month capacity addition, recording nearly a 200% year-on-year growth.
  • India has now surpassed 50 GW of cumulative installed solar capacity, as on 28 February 2022.
  • This is a milestone in India’s journey towards generating 500 GW from renewable energy by 2030, of which 300 GW is expected to come from solar power.  India’s capacity additions rank the country fifth in solar power deployment, contributing nearly 6.5% to the global cumulative capacity of 709.68 GW.
  • Of the 50 GW installed solar capacity, an overwhelming 42 GW comes from ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, and only 6.48 GW comes from roof top solar (RTS); and 1.48 GW from off-grid solar PV.

Himalayan Griffons Vultures

  • About 100 Himalayan griffon vultures have died of suspected poisoning in Assam. o Scientific Name: Gyps himalayensis
  • It is a rare and largest bird native to the Himalayas
  • Habitat: It lives mainly in the higher regions of the Himalayas and the Tibetan Plateau at the elevation of above 1500 metres. This species is distributed from western China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan, east through the Himalayan mountain range in India, Nepal and Bhutan, to central China and Mongolia.
  • Protection Status: IUCN Red List: Near Threatened (NT)

Mahatma Gandhi Green Triangle

  • Mahatma Gandhi Green Triangle’ has been unveiled in Madagascar to mark Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.
  • The word green in the plaque (a flat piece of stone or metal) signifies their commitment to sustainable development and saving the environment.
  • The naming of this park as Mahatma Gandhi Green Triangle is a tribute to Mahatma Gandhi.
  • Gandhi was a ‘Pravasi’ who returned to India from South Africa, led India’s freedom struggle.
  • Madagascar has a large diaspora from the Indian state of Gujarat and it is fitting that a green triangle named after Gandhi, who hailed from Porbandar in the state, is being unveiled in the capital of Madagascar (Antananarivo).
    Madagascar voiced appreciation for efforts by the Indian Embassy in greening the area, saying it meets the objective of the Urban Municipality of Antananarivo to create the maximum green space in the capital city of Madagascar.

Biological diversity in areas Beyond National Jurisdiction(BBNJ) Treaty

  • The meeting of the Intergovernmental Conference (IGC-4) was held in New York to conclude a draft of the instrument on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas Beyond National Jurisdiction(BBNJ).
  • Note: The IGC-4 is convened under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). What is Biological diversity in areas Beyond National Jurisdiction(BBNJ) Treaty?
  • The BBNJ Treaty also known as the “Treaty of the High Seas”, is an international agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction currently under negotiation at the United Nations.
  • This treaty is being developed within the framework of the UNCLOS, the main international agreement governing human activities at sea.
  • The treaty will cover the high seas beyond the exclusive economic zones or national waters of countries.
  • The negotiations under the treaty are centred around a package of elements namely: o the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction, in particular, together and as a whole, marine genetic resources, including questions on the sharing of benefits
    • area-based management tools, including marine protected areas o environmental impact assessments
    • capacity-building and the transfer of marine technology What is the need for the BBNJ Treaty?
  • High Seas encompass all areas that lie beyond national waters – specifically, they are outside the exclusive economic zone of any country.
  • According to the IUCN, high seas areas account for almost half of the Earth’s surface.
  • However, the high seas areas are largely unexplored, vastly deep and filled with marine life. At the same time, they are under increasing threat from overfishing, mining, climate change, and pollution.
  • There is a lack of clear rules, persisting governance gaps and a lack of effective enforcement in the high seas, so only around 1% are currently protected.

What is the High Seas Alliance?

  • High Seas Alliance was founded in 2011. It is a partnership of organizations and groups aimed at building a strong common voice and constituency for the conservation of the high seas.
  • The Alliance is currently made up of 40+ NGOs plus the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Boma Technique

  • Recently, Africa’s Boma technique was undertaken at Keoladeo National Park in Rajasthan’s Bharatpur district.
  • It was undertaken for capturing chitals or spotted deer and translocating them to Mukundara Hills Tiger Reserve, so as to improve the prey base. The IUCN Red List Status of Chital is Least Concern.
  • Boma capturing Technique : The Boma capturing technique is popular in Africa. It involves luring animals into an enclosure by chasing them through a funnel-like fencing. The funnel tapers into an animal selection-cum-loading chute, supported with grass mats and green net to make it opaque for animals, which are herded into a large vehicle for their transport to another location.

Why the deer are being captured and transferred to Mukyndra hill Tiger reserve ?

  • The move will lead to herbivores (deer) populating the forests ahead of the proposed shifting of two tigers to Mukundara.
  • The National Tiger Conservation Authority’s (NTCA) technical committee has approved a proposal to shift two tigers from Ranthambhore National Park to Mukundara, which lost two tigers and two cubs in 2020 and is now left with an eight-year-old tigress.

Lead Poisoning : Kabwe mine Zambia

  • Recently, high levels of lead were found in the blood of thousands of children living around the Kabwe mine in Zambia.
  • Lead is a highly toxic metal and a very strong poison: Lead poisoning is a serious and sometimes fatal condition. It occurs when lead builds up in the body.
  • Source: Lead is a metal that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust, but human activity such as mining, burning fossil fuels and manufacturing has caused it to become more widespread.
  • Lead was also once used in paint and gasoline and is still used in batteries, solder, pipes, pottery, roofing materials and some cosmetics.
  • Vulnerability: Lead poisoning usually occurs over a period of months or years. It can cause severe mental and physical impairment. Young children are most vulnerable.
  • Lead is more harmful to children younger than 6 years because their brains and nervous systems are still developing.
  • Lead exposure also causes anaemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive
  • Treatment: Lead poisoning can be treated, but any damage caused cannot be reversed.

Zoji la Pass

  • Recently, Zoji la pass has been opened for Civilian Traffic. It is located in Drass, Ladakh at an altitude above 11,650 ft and historically remains closed for the major part of the winter season.
  • This year, BRO has opened the pass just after 73 days of its closure. It is due to relentless snow clearance operations amidst tough weather conditions. Usually, the Zoji La Pass used to remain closed for around 160-180 days during winters on account of heavy snowfall.
  • Zoji La is a high mountain pass located in the Kargil district of Ladakh. The pass links Leh and Srinagar and provides an important link between Union Territories of Ladakh and Kashmir. Zoji la is known as the “Mountain Pass of Blizzards”. Zojila pass remains closed during winters due to heavy snowfall, cutting off Ladakh region from Kashmir.
  • In 2018, the Zojila tunnel project was launched. The tunnel is Asia’s longest and strategic bi-directional tunnel, which will provide all-weather connectivity between Srinagar, Kargil and Leh.

KOYNA PROJECT

  • Delay in the grant of Revised Administrative Approval to an incomplete hydroelectric project in Maharashtra, on which an expenditure of ₹250.03 crore has been incurred, resulted in the funds being lying blocked for more than six years, said the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India on Compliance Audit.

Koyna dam:

  • Location: It is largest dam in Maharashtra located in Satara district. The dam is dam constructed on Koyna River.
  • The dam has created the Shivasagar Lake.

Koyna River:

  • The Koyna River is a tributary of the Krishna
  • Course of the river: The river originates in Mahableshwar, Satara district and meets the Krishna River in Karad, satara district.  Koyna and Krishna river originate at Mahabaleshwar, they diverge at their origin, and travel for about the same distance to meet again in Karad which is 100 km from mahabaleshwar.
  • Krishna and koyna river’s confluence is called Preeti Sangam, meaning Confluence of Love. Karad is well known for sugar production.
  • Direction: Unlike most of the other rivers in Maharashtra which flow East-West direction, the Koyna river flows in North-South

MICROPLASTICS

  • A study by researchers from The Netherlands found the presence of Microplastics in human blood. The study looked at the most commonly used plastic polymers. These were polyethylene tetraphthalate (PET), polyethylene (used in making plastic carry bags), polymers of styrene (used in food packaging), poly (methyl methylacrylate) and poly propylene. This is the first indication that we have polymer particles in blood.   What are microplastics?
  • Microplastics are tiny bits of various types of plastic found in the environment. The name is used to differentiate them from “macroplastics” such as bottles and bags made of plastic.
  • There is no universal agreement on the size that fits this bill — the U.S. NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the European Chemical Agency define microplastic as less than 5mm in length.
  • Microplastics can latch on to the outer membranes of red blood cells and may limit their ability to transport oxygen.
  • The particles have also been found in the placentas of pregnant women, and in pregnant rats they pass rapidly through the lungs into the hearts, brains and other organs of the foetuses.
  • Microplastics or microbeads’ are considered harmful to marine ecosystems.

Mange Disease in desert foxes

  • Wildlife conservationists have expressed concern after locals spotted a few desert foxes, found in the scrub forests of Rajasthan’s Jaisalmer district, suffering from a loss of fur due to the Mange Skin Disease.
  • Mange is a type of skin disease of animals caused by parasitic mites. The disease is characterized by inflammation, itching, thickening of the skin and hair loss.
  • Caused by: The most severe form of mange is caused by the parasitic mite Sarcoptes scabiei, which also causes human scabies.
  • Transmission: The disease is transmitted between animals by direct contact and by objects that have been in contact with infected animals.

– Humans can also catch sarcoptic mange from dogs, but the mites involved cannot complete their life cycle in human skin. As a result, the issue can cause some skin irritation in humans, but it does not last long.

Treatment: The treatment of mange requires both oral medicines as well as the application of skin medicine. 

Sariska Tiger Reserve

  • In news : Recently, a massive fire broke out inside the Sariska Tiger Reserve.
  • Sariska Tiger Reserve is located in Aravali hills and forms a part of the Alwar District of Rajasthan.

Sariska was declared a wildlife sanctuary in 1955 and was declared the tiger reserve later in 1978, making it a part of India’s Project Tiger. The Reserve houses ruined temples, forts, pavilions and a palace.

  • Kankarwadi fort is located in the centre of the Reserve and it is said that Mughal emperor Aurangzeb had imprisoned his brother Dara Shikoh at this fort in struggle for succession to the throne.

AWARDS NEWS

Deepak Dhar first Indian to get Boltzmann Medal

  • Physicist Professor Deepak Dhar has become the first Indian to be awarded the Boltzmann Medal. He shares the medal with John J Hoefield of Princeton University, USA..

What is the Boltzmann Medal?

  • Boltzmann Medal was initiated in 1975. It is awarded by the Commission on Statistical Physics (C3) of the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics. The award is given to physicists that obtain new results concerning statistical The award is given only once to a person and on the condition that that person has not won the Nobel prize so far.
  • The award comprises medals and honours for the contribution to Statistical Physics. It also consists of the gilded Boltzmann medal with the inscription of Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann.
  • Note: Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann was an Austrian physicist and philosopher. His greatest achievements were the development of statistical mechanics and the statistical explanation of the second law of thermodynamics.

Why was Professor Deepak given this award?

  • He is serving as a professor in Indian Institute of Science Education and Research, (IISER). He has been given the award for his seminal contributions to several areas of statistical physics, including exact solutions of self-organized criticality models, inter-facial growth, universal long-time relaxation in disordered magnetic systems among others.

WTI Awards

  • NITI Aayog organized the fifth edition of the Women Transforming India (WTI) Awards.
  • Aim of WTI awards : WTI awards are initiated by NITI Aayog to highlight the commendable and ground-breaking endeavours of India’s women leaders and change-makers. Since 2018, the Awards have been hosted under the aegis of Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) with a special focus on entrepreneurship.
  • The Women Entrepreneurship Platform (WEP) anthem titled ‘Nari Shakti’-written, composed and sung by Kailash Kher was presented at the event.

Prof Wilfried Brutsaert bags Stockholm Water Prize 2022

  • He is Professor in Engineering Emeritus at Cornell University, USA.
  • The Stockholm Water Prize is the world’s most prestigious water award and is often described as the Nobel Prize of water.

3rd National Water Awards  

  • Uttar Pradesh has been awarded first prize, followed by Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.

‘Writing with Fire’

A documentary about the Dalit-led, all-woman newspaper Khabar Lahariya, “Writing With Fire” became the first Indian documentary to be nominated at the Oscars.  It is produced by Ticket Films and directed by filmmakers Rintu Thomas and Sushmit Ghosh.

Bangladeshi Rizwana Hasan to get US International Women of Courage Award 2022.

Sportstar Aces 2022

  • Tokyo Olympic gold medallist, Neeraj Chopra claimed the coveted ‘Sportstar of the Year (Male)’ award at the 2022 Sportstar Aces Awards.
  • Weightlifter Mirabai Chanu, who claimed the silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, received the ‘Sportstar of the Year (Female)’ award.

Devendra Jhajharia and Avani Lekhara

  • Devendra Jhajharia became the first para-athlete to receive the Padma Bhushan award. He has won many Paralympic medals, including gold at the 2004 Paralympics in Athens and 2016 Rio Games, and a silver medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
  • Avani Lekhara (para-shooter) was also awarded the Padma Shri award in the Sports category. She is the first Indian woman to win two Paralympic medals in the same Games, as well as the first Indian woman to earn Paralympic gold.

Abel Prize for the year 2022

  • The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters has awarded the Abel Prize for the year 2022 to American Mathematician Dennis Parnell Sullivan for his groundbreaking contributions to topology.

Other awards: 

  • Mirabai Chanu : won ‘BBC Indian Sportswoman of the Year’ award 2021
  • Karolina Bielawska from Poland has won the title of Miss World 2021.
  • Suresh Raina felicitated with ‘Sports Icon’ award by Maldives government.

Author Geetanjali Shree’s translated Hindi novel “Tomb of Sand” (‘Ret Samadhi’ ) is among 13 books nominated for the International Booker Prize. It is the first Hindi language work of fiction to get nominated for the prestigious literary prize.

BOOKS  and Auhors

Book Author
 “The Millennial Yogi” Ex-soldier Captain Deepam Chatterjee
‘The Blue Book’ Journalist Amitava Kumar
 “Role of Labour in India’s Development” Bhupender Yadav (Minister of Labour and Employment and MoEFCC)
 ‘Monsoon’ Abhay K. (Indian poet-diplomat )
‘Spoorthi Pradatha Sri Somayya’ Syam Prasad
“The Queen of Indian Pop (“Ullas Ki Naav”): The Authorised Biography of Usha Uthup” Vikas Kumar Jha

 OBITUARY / DEATHS

General S F Rodrigues He had served as Chief of the Indian Army from 1990 to 1993. He was also the Governor of Punjab from 2004 to 2010.
Kumudben Manishankar Joshi Former Governor of Andhra Pradesh,
R C Lahoti 35th  Chief Justice of India
B.B. Gurung Former CM of Sikkim
Shahabuddin Ahmed Former President of Bangladesh
Rafiq Tarar Former Pakistani President and Supreme Court judge.
Stephen Wilhite, creator of the Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) format
Jaiprakash Chouksey Film critic, writer
Sonny Ramadhin Legendary West Indies spinner

SPORTS

  • 19 year old Priyanka Nutakki from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh becomes the 23rd Woman Grandmaster of India.
  • A national-level shooter and an environmentalist hailing from Delhi, Aarushi Verma has been selected to represent India at the 2041 Climate Force Antarctica Expedition which is set to be held in March 2022.
  • India pacer S Sreesanth has announced his retirement from all forms of domestic cricket.
  • India’s P.V. Sindhu has defeated Busanan Ongbamrungphan of Thailand to win the women’s singles title at the Swiss Open Super 300 badminton tournament.
  • SAFF U-18 Women’s football Championship title 2022 won by Indian women’s team
  • Indian Shuttler (badminton player) Lakshya Sen has won silver after losing to Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand, 18-21, 15-21, in the men’s singles final at the German Open 2022.
  • Pankaj Advani won Asian Billiards title for 8th time
  • Indian shooter, Saurabh Chaudhary has won the gold medal in Men’s 10m Air Pistol event at the ongoing 2022 International Shooting Sport Federation (ISSF) World Cup in Cairo, Egypt.
  • Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI)’s, Indian Premier League (IPL) Governing Council has announced National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)‘s flagship product RuPay as an official partner for the Tata IPL 2022.
  • Indian women cricket captain, Mithali Raj has become the first woman to appear in six World Cups. She is the only third cricketer overall to play six world cup after Sachin Tendulkar and Javed Miandad.
  • Famous Golfer, Tiger Woods of USA was formally inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame.
  • Hyderabad FC has clinched their maiden Indian Super League title (football) after defeating Kerala Blasters.
  • Australian female tennis player Ashleigh Barty has announced retirement from tennis at the age of 25 years.

Pro Kabaddi League Season 8

  • Winner : Dabang Delhi K C (won cash prize of 3 crores.)
  • Runner up : Patna Pirates
  • Pawan Sehrawat was awarded with the Raider of the season award for his 304 raid points in 24 matches.

Olympic award stripped

  • The International Olympic Committee has stripped Russian President Vladimir Putin of the Olympic Order award in response to the invasion of Ukraine. International Olympic Committee urged sports federations and organisers to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes and officials from international events following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Para-archer, Pooja Jatyan :
  • first Indian to win a silver in an individual section of the Para Archery World Championships in Dubai, UAE.

IMPORTANT DAYS

3 March : World Wildlife Day

  • Theme 2022 : Recovering key species for ecosystem restoration.

3 March  : World Hearing Day ( by WHO) 

  • Theme :  “To hear for life, listen with care”

4 March  : National Security Day (Rashtriya Suraksha Diwas)

  • It is celebrared every year, in the honor of the Indian Security Forces.

7th March : 4th Jan Aushadhi Diwas

  • Theme :  “Jan Aushadhi-Jan Upyogi”.

8 March : International Women’s Day

  • Theme 2022 : “Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow”,
  • The government launched a nation-wide campaign called Kanya Shiksha Pravesh Utsav on this day.
  • The aim of the campaign is to bring back four lakh out-of-school adolescent girls in the 11-14 years age group into the education system.
  • Note : The Women and Child Development Ministry celebrates the International Women’s Day week from the 1st of March as an Iconic Week as a part of Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, till the 8th of March.

10 March : International Day of Women Judges

  • Note : In high courts, the percentage of women judges is a mere 11.5%, while in the Supreme Court there are four sitting women judges out of 33 in office. Out of 1.7 million advocates registered, only 15% are women.

11 March : 37th Foundation Day of National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) .

  • NCRB, headquartered in New Delhi, was set-up in 1986 under the Ministry of Home Affairs to function as a repository of information on crime and criminals so as to assist the investigators in linking crime to the perpetrators. It was set up based on the recommendations of the National Police Commission (1977-1981) and the MHA’s Task Force (1985).

15 March : International Day to Combat Islamophobia

  • Recently, the UN General Assembly approved a resolution for setting March 15th as the International Day to Combat Islamophobia.
  • The resolution was introduced by Pakistan’s Ambassador Munir Akram under agenda item Culture of peace on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). India’s concern :
  • India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador S. Tirumurti said in the General Assembly that India hoped the resolution adopted “does not set a precedent”, which will lead to multiple resolutions based on selective religions and divide the United Nations into religious camps. Mr. Tirumurti said while India condemns all acts motivated by antisemitism, Christianophobia or Islamophobia, such phobias were not restricted to Abrahamic religions only. He pointed to the emergence of anti-Hindu, anti-Buddhist and anti-Sikh phobias.

16 March   : National Vaccination Day /  National Immunisation Day 

  • Theme :  “Vaccines Work for all”. 

20th March : World Sparrow Day

  • It is observed to raise awareness and protect the house sparrows.
  • Theme for 2022: I love sparrows.
  • Note : The first World Sparrow Day was organised in 2010.

21 March : celebrated as International Day of Forests (IDF) by the United Nations (UN)

  • Theme for 2022 :   ‘Forests and sustainable production and consumption’.

22 March : celebrated as the World Water Day by the United Nations (UN) Theme: Groundwater: making the invisible visible.

  • The World Water Day aims to support the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal 6: water and sanitation for all by 2030. Sujalam 2.0
  • ON this day, the Ministry of Jal Shakti launched a Sujalam 2.0 – a countrywide project to reuse grey water.
  • Grey water is the wastewater that is produced from household processes (e.g. washing dishes, laundry and bathing).
  • The campaign would focus on the creation of institutional level greywater management assets in Panchayat Ghar, healthcare facilities, schools, Anganwadi Centres (AWCs), community centres and other government institutions.
  • Creation of individual and community greywater management assets will be encouraged.
  • Note : Sujlam 1.0 campaign which was started in August 2021 which achieved a great success.

“H2Ooooh”  initiative :

  • On the occasion of World Water Day (22nd March), National Mission for Clean Ganga, UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and other partners released three animation films under its initiative “H2Ooooh! – Water Wise program for the Children of India”.
  • The films are based on the stories submitted by school students focusing on protection and conservation of Indian Rivers.

It was launched by UNESCO in July 2021, jointly with the National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) and others. H2Ooooh! is a unique program crafted for Indian school students from Standard 1-8.

23 March : World Meteorological Day

  • Theme for 2022: “Early warning and early action” – it emphasises the critical necessity of hydrometeorological and climate information for disaster risk reduction.

23 March : Shaheed Diwas / Martyrs’ Day or Sarvodaya Day

  • It was on this day that Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thappar and Shivram Rajguru were executed by the British government in 1931. They were hanged to death for assassinating John Saunders, a British police officer in 1928. They had mistaken him for British police superintendent James Scott.
  • It was Scott who had ordered lathi charge, which eventually led to the death of Lala Lajpat Rai.
  • Note : Martyrs’ Day is also observed on 30th January, the day Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated.

24 March  : World Tuberculosis (TB) Day

  • Theme : “Invest to End TB. Save Lives.”
  • On this day in the year 1882, Robert Koch announced the discovery of the bacteria (Mycobacterium tuberculosis) that causes TB. It paved the way for diagnosis and cure of this deadly disease.
  • Last year (2021) , Centenary celebration was observed for the Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) vaccine, which is presently the sole vaccine available for the prevention of TB.
  • Efforts by WHO : The WHO has launched a joint initiative “Find. Treat. All. #EndTB” with the Global Fund and Stop TB Partnership. WHO also releases the Global Tuberculosis Report. India’s Efforts:
  • India accounts for around 26% of the total TB cases across the world.
  • National Strategic Plan (NSP) for Tuberculosis Elimination (2017-2025), The Nikshay Ecosystem (National TB information system), Nikshay Poshan Yojana (NPY- financial support), TB Harega Desh Jeetega
  • Currently, two vaccines VPM (Vaccine Projekt Management) 1002 and MIP (Mycobacterium Indicus Pranii) have been developed and identified for TB, and are under Phase-3 clinical trial.

187th Raising Day  of Assam Rifles

  • The Oldest Paramilitary Force Assam Rifles has celebrated its 187th Raising Day from 24 to 26 Mar 2022.
  • Assam Rifles is a Central Paramilitary Force under the Central Armed Police Forces. It is the watchdog of the North East. It came into being in 1835, as a militia called the ‘Cachar Levy’, to primarily protect British Tea estates and their settlements against tribal raids.
  • The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) refers to seven security forces in India under the authority of the Ministry of Home Affairs, those are : Assam Rifles (AR), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), National Security Guard (NSG), Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB).
  • Other important fact about Paramilitary in India : Recently, the Government of India told the Lok Sabha that nearly 1,200 paramilitary troopers died by suicide in last 10 years. Also, more Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF) personnel died by suicide in the Covid-19 pandemic years of 2020 and 2021. Domestic problems, illness and financial problems are some of the contributory factors among others behind the incidents of suicide.

Earth Hour

  • Every year on 26th March, people around the planet take an hour off electricity by switching off their lights at homes and offices as a show of support for conservation of energy during the World Earth Hour.
  • 2022 Theme: Shape Our Future
  • Earth Hour is an annual initiative of World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF)’s  that began in 2007.               Note : WWF for Nature was established in 1961 and is headquartered at Gland, Switzerland     It is held every year on the last Saturday of March.
  • It encourages people from more than 180 countries to switch off the lights from 8.30 pm to 9.30 pm as per their local time. The idea is to refrain from the use of non-essential lighting to save energy in a symbolic call for environmental protection.
  • Note : Earth Hour is different from Earth Day which is celebrated on 22nd April.

STATE’S NEWS

Himachal News   

Other states 

Konark Sun Temple to Run on Solar Energy : Konark is going to be the first model town in Odisha to shift from grid dependency to green energy.

  • Nagaland has created history by becoming the first State Assembly in the country to implement the National e-Vidhan Application (NeVA) programme to become completely paperless.
  • The Haryana government has launched the Meri Fasal-Mera Byora e-procurement portal. Due to this portal, Haryana has become the first state in India where as many as 14 crops are procured at the Minimum Support Price (MSP). These crops include wheat, mustard, barley, gram, paddy, maize, bajra, cotton, sunflower, moong, groundnut, tur, urad and sesame.
  • Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, while presenting the state budget, has announced a ‘Sushma Swaraj Award’ for women for their significant achievements or contribution in different walks of life in the international and national spheres. The Sushma Swaraj Award will carry an award money of Rs 5 lakh along with a commendation.
  • ‘Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti organisation’ established by Ambassador of Peace, Eminent Jainacharya Dr Lokeshji will establish India’s first World Peace Center in Gurugram,
  • Haryana government has announced Matrushakti Udaymita Scheme to provide support to women entrepreneurs, on International Women’s Day.
  • The Sikkim government is set to announce a scheme (Bahini) to install vending machines to provide free sanitary pads to cover all girls studying in Classes 9-12. It aims at providing “100% access to free and safe sanitary pads to secondary and senior secondary school going girls”. It is also aimed to curb dropout of girls from schools and raise awareness about menstrual hygiene.
  • The government of Karnataka has launched ‘Women@Work’ program to provide five lakh jobs within 2026 to women with necessary employable skills.
  • Andhra Pradesh has retained its number one spot in the SKOCH State of Governance rankings for the second consecutive year. The second rank was bagged by West Bengal and Odisha was ranked 3
  • The Assam government has extended the contentious Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act, 1958 (AFSPA) in the state for six more months. The notification came into effect from February 28.
  • India`s largest reclining statue of Lord Buddha is being built in Bodh Gaya. Built by Buddha International Welfare Mission, the statue will be 100 feet long and 30 feet high. Lord Buddha is in the sleeping posture in the statue.
  • Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, M K Stalin has inaugurated India’s largest floating solar power plant constructed at a cost of Rs 150.4 crores. It is established in SPIC factory at Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu to provide clean energy.
  • Tamil Nadu’s Narasingapettai Nagaswaram (a wind instrument) got geographical identification tag.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has virtually inaugurated Biplobi Bharat Gallery at Victoria Memorial Hall in Kolkata on the occasion of Shaheed Diwas. The gallery will highlight the important role played by the revolutionaries.
  • Kerala is set to become the first state in the country to introduce carbon-neutral farming methods in selected locations, for which the government has set aside Rs 6 crore in the 2022-23 Budget.
  • Delhi : Recently, the National Commission for Women (NCW) in collaboration with Delhi State Legal Services Authority (DSLSA) has launched a Legal Aid Clinic. It is a single-window facility for resolving grievances of women by offering them free legal assistance. NCW is also planning to set up similar legal services clinics in other State Commissions for Women.
  • India’s first ambulance for street animals has been launched in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. It has been started by the Blue Cross of India in collaboration with the international animal welfare organization “Four Paw”.
  • The 19th edition of the India-US Military Cooperation Group (MCG) meeting was conducted in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.
  • Ujjain in Madhya Pradesh has created a Guinness record by lighting 71 lakh clay lamps (diyas) in 10 minutes. The diyas were lighted as part of the ‘Shiv Jyoti Arpanam Mahotsava’ on the occasion of Mahashivratri.
  • Herath celebrated in J&K : Herath or the ‘Night of Hara (Shiva)’, generally known as Maha Shivratri, is the main festival celebrated by the Kashmiri Pandits across Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The festival marks the marriage anniversary of Lord Shiva and Goddess Uma (Parvathi).
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unveiled a tall statue of great Maratha warrior Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj in Pune, The Statue is made up of 1,850 kg of gunmetal and is about 9.5-feet tall.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched a 12-km stretch of 32.2-km-long metro rail project at a total cost of more than ₹ 11,400 crores in Pune. Pune Metro is the first project in India to have aluminium body coaches, indigenously manufactured under the ‘Make in India’.
  • PM Modi also laid the foundation stone for the rejuvenation and pollution abatement of the Mula-Mutha River projects in Pune.
  • The state government of Maharashtra has announced to set up the country’s first medical city named as ‘Indrayani Medicity’ in Pune, to provide all kinds of specialised treatment under one roof.
  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has dedicated to the nation a new campus building complex of the Rashtriya Raksha University (RRU) at Lavad village near Gandhinagar, Gujarat.
  • Surat, Gujarat, features a road created entirely of steel waste, which is one of the best instances of sustainable development.
  • According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS)-5, Odisha became the top state in the list of full immunizations in India with 90.5% coverage under Mission Indradhanush.

MISCELLANEOUS (in News) 

  • Operation Ganga : The evacuation of thousands of Indian students in Ukraine.
  • Impact of Russian-Ukraine war on Chip (semiconductor) supplies : Ukraine supplies rare gases used to produce semiconductor fab lasers, and Russia exports rare metals like palladium to make semiconductors.
  • One Rank One Pension (OROP) : OROP means the payment of the same pension to military officers for the same rank for the same length of service, irrespective of the date of retirement. Before OROP, ex-servicemen used to get pensions as per the Pay Commission’s recommendations of the time when they had retired.
  • The Centre has approved the continuation of the Swatantrata Sainik Samman Yojana (SSSY), under which freedom fighters and their eligible dependents are given pension and other financial benefits, till 2025-26.
  • Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority(PFRDA) is preparing to launch “Minimum Assured Return Scheme (MARS)” which will provide savers and people from the salaried class an option for their investments.
  • Indian Army has commenced the implementation of the Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging of its ammunition inventory in order to not improve the lot management but also make ammunition storage safer.
  • Japan and India have renewed the Bilateral Swap Arrangement (BSA) the size of which is up to USD 75 billion. The BSA is a two-way arrangement where both authorities can swap their local currencies in exchange for the US Dollar.
  • Google has announced the launch of ‘Play Pass’ subscription service in India that will provide Android device users access to over 1,000 applications and games without ads, in-app purchases, and upfront payments.
  • The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind has inaugurated a newly developed ‘Arogya Vanam’ at the President’s Estate, (Rashtrapati Bhavan) in New Delhi. The objective of this Arogya Vanam is to promote the importance of Ayurvedic plants and their effects on the human body. Spread in 6.6 acres, the Arogya Vanam has been developed in the shape of a human sitting in the Yoga Mudra.
  • Congress leader Rahul Gandhi launched the first volume of Tamil Nadu chief minister MK Stalin’s autobiography Ungalil Oruvan (One Among You) in Chennai.
  • MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) Unveils Special Logo for 75 Years of Indo-Dutch Diplomatic Relation. The logo features the national flowers of both the countries, the lotus and the tulip. The chakra in the heart of the logo represents our friendship, and the flag colours emphasise the ties that exist between Indians and Dutch people.
  • The granddaughter of Mahatma Gandhi ‘Sumitra Gandhi Kulkarni’ has inaugurated the web portal ‘Modi Story’.

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One comment

  1. IsmaelNeexy

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