Current Affairs News in Brief (21-31 March 2018)

Sri Lanka has received the second advanced offshore patrol vessel from India’s shipbuilder Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL), 25 days ahead of schedule.  The Sri Lanka Offshore Patrol Vessel (SLOPV) project for building two large size ships is one of the most significant defense cooperation between India and Sri Lanka and one of the largest export contracts, being executed by GSL currently for any friendly country.

Pankaj Advani has defended his Asian Billiards Championships title. In the summit clash at Yangon in Myanmar, Advani defeated his practice partner B Bhaskar 6-1. With this win, Advani remains the reigning Indian, Asian and world champion in billiards for 2017-18. This is Advani’s 11th gold medal at the Asian level of cue sports. His continental billiards title tally has gone up to seven, in addition to the back-to-back Asian Games gold medals in 2006 and 2010, one 6-red snooker title and a snooker team gold.

In Snooker, India’s Amee Kamani won the Asian Women’s title by blanking her Thai opponent Siripaporn Nuanthakhamjan 3-0.

India’s pistol sensation Manu Bhaker claimed the individual Gold in women’s 10 metre Air Pistol event, as well as team gold medal at the ISSF Junior World Cup in Sydney . Manu shot 235.9 to finish top of the podium in the individual event.

The government has fixed the agriculture credit target of 11 lakh crore rupees for the year 2018-19 against last year’s target of 10 lakh crore rupees.  With a view to ensuring agriculture credit at a reduced interest rate of 7 per cent per annum to farmers, the government is implementing an interest subvention scheme for short-term crop loans up to three lakh rupees. jThe scheme provides interest subvention of two per cent per annum to banks on use of their own resources. 

US President Donald Trump has issued orders to ban most transgender people from serving in the military except under limited circumstances. This follows Mr Trump’s last year’s controversial proposal that sparked a widespread backlash by LGBT rights groups.

In Spain, thousands of protesters descended on the streets of Catalonia after the country’s Supreme Court detained five separatist leaders for their role in last year’s independence bid.  The crisis was sparked by a referendum, banned by Madrid, which led to the declaration of independence. Following the declaration, Spanish authorities suspended the Autonomy of Catalonia and imposed direct rule over the region.

Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO) has received the ‘Most Informative Pavilion’ Award in Pride of India Expo organized as part of the 105th Indian Science Congress held from 16 to 20 March 2018 at Manipur University, Imphal. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi had inaugurated this annual mega event on 16 March 2018.

As informed by banks, as on 28.2.2018, 31.20 crore accounts have been opened under Pradhan Mantri Jan-Dhan Yojana (PMJDY) with aggregate deposit balances Rs. 75,572.09 crore. Of these, 25.18 crore (81%) Jan-Dhan accounts are operative. Banks are committed to enhance the number of operative Jan-Dhan accounts.  Public Sector Banks have reported that by February 2018 only about 59 lakh (1.9%) Jan–Dhan accounts have been closed since launch of the scheme.

Prime Minister launched PMAY (G) on November 20, 2016 (14 months ago) from Agra, Uttar Pradesh.  The target was to complete one crore houses by March 31, 2019.  Since some Indira AawasYojana (IAY) houses were still incomplete, Department of Rural Development was given a target of 1.02 crore houses, which included completion of two lakh incomplete IAY houses.  This was broken up in 51 lakh houses in 2017-18 and 51 lakh houses in 2018-19.

The First meeting of the inter-departmental group of stakeholders on implementation of strategy on resource efficiency was held at NITI Aayog on March  22. After detailed discussion,a road map for implementation of the RE in the country was evolved. The meeting was Chaired by Shri Ratan P. Watal, Principal Adviser, NITI Aayog.

The Ministry of Tourism has identified following 12 sites for development under Iconic Tourist Sites Project:  1.         Taj Mahal & Fatehpur Sikri (Uttar Pradesh), 2. Ajanta and Ellora (Maharashtra), 3. Humayun Tomb, Qutub Minar and Red Fort (Delhi), 4.  Colva Beach (Goa), 5. Amer Fort (Rajasthan), 6.  Somnath and Dholavira (Gujarat), 7.  Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh), 8.   Hampi (Karnataka), 9.   Mahablipuram (Tamil Nadu),  10.  Kaziranga (Assam),  11.  Kumarakom (Kerala), 12.   Mahabodhi Temple (Bihar).

India will be self-reliant in the production of silk by 2020.. The Union Cabinet’s decision approving the Integrated Scheme for Development of Silk Industry will help increase the production of Bivoltine silk (high quality) by 62 percent by 2020. The government is to increase the number of people engaged in the silk sector from 85 lakhs to one crore in the next three years. She said, 50 thousand people will be trained in this sector. 

An exhibition on the theme – “Nature for Water” was organized by National Museum of Natural History, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, in collaboration with National Zoological Park for school and college students of Delhi at National Zoological Park (Delhi Zoo) on March 22, 2018.

BrahMos, the formidable supersonic cruise missile with indigenous seeker was successfully flight tested at 0842 hrs on March 22, 2018 at the Pokhran test range in Rajasthan. The supersonic cruise missile and the seeker have been developed jointly by DRDO and BrahMos Aerospace.

36 Sites from India are inscribed on the World Heritage List which include 28 Cultural, 7 Natural and 1 Mixed category site. There are 3686 monuments/sites under the protection of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI). During the last three years, the Archaeological Site of Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) at Nalanda (Bihar); The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier, an Outstanding Contribution to the Modern Movement, Chandigarh and Historic City of Ahmedabad under cultural category and Khangchendzonga National Park, Sikkim under mixed category are added to the World Heritage List and the Vishnu Temple, Wynad (Kerala) is added to the protection list of ASI.

The President of India, Shri Ram Nath Kovind,presented the Standard to the 51 Squadron and Colours to the 230 Signal Unit of the Indian Air Force at Halwara, Punjab on March 22, 2018.

Twenty seven antiquities have been retrieved from foreign countries during the last three years (2014-2017), out of which eleven antiquities are of Tamil Nadu.

Myanmar’s President U Htin Kyaw has resigned after two years in office on March 21.  Mr Kyaw, who is a close aide of State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, became the President in 2016 following landmark elections that saw the end of decades of military leadership in the country. Ms Suu Kyi was jailed for years under the military junta and is banned from the top job.

India Post paid tribute to theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking by issuing a special cover on him on March  21. Chief Post Master General of Maharashtra and Goa Circle H C Agrawal and Director of the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Dr Sandip Trivedi jointly issued the special cover at an event held in the GPO Mumbai.

The Union Cabinet  has given its approval for closure of India Development Foundation of Overseas Indians (IDF-OI) to enhance synergies in channelizing Diaspora’s contributions to Government of India’s flagship programmes such as National Mission for clean Ganga and Swachh Bharat Mission. IDF-OI was set up by Government of India with the approval of Cabinet in 2008 as an autonomous not-for-profit Trust, to facilitate Overseas Indian philanthropy into social and development projects in India. (March 21)

The Union Cabinet  has approved the second and final extension of the term of the Commission constituted to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes in the Central List, beyond 27th March 2018 for a period of twelve weeks i.e. upto 20th June, 2018.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Communication Minister Manoj Sinha on March 21, launched free Wi-Fi service for Sansad Adarsh Gram, in Udwada village of Valsad district in Gujarat through video conferencing in New Delhi. 

The Union Cabinet  has been apprised (21 March) of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in Renewable Energy between India and Guyana. The MoU was signed on 30th January, 2018 in New Delhi by Shri R. K. Singh, Minister of State (IC) for Power and New and Renewable Energy (NRE) and H.E. Mr. Carl B. Greenidge, 2ndVice President and the Foreign Minister of the Co-operative, Guyana.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has given its approval (21 March) for continuation of Centrally Sponsored Scheme of RashtriyaUchchatarShikshaAbhiyan (RUSA) from 1.04.2017 to 31.03.2020.  RUSA seeks to increase the Gross Enrolment Ratio of the country to 30% by 2020. It also seeks to increase the spending on higher education by the State Governments. The scheme, in its 2nd phase, aims at creation of 70 new model degree colleges and 8 newprofessional colleges; Enhancing quality and Excellence in 10 select State universities and 70autonomous colleges, providing infrastructural support to 50 universities and 750 colleges etc.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs  has accorded the  approval to the Target Energy Norms under New Urea Policy-2015(NUP-2015) for 11 urea units to be implemented w.e.f. 1st April, 2018. The extension of present energy norms with token penalties, under the New Urea Policy-2015 for a further period of two years for 14 urea manufacturing units which failed to achieve the Target Energy Norms. hree Naphtha based urea units are also allowed the existing energy norms for another two years/till gas pipeline connectivity. The target energy norms as per NUP-2015 will be continued for 5 years w.e.f. 1st April, 2020.

The Union Cabinet on March 21 gave its approval for formation of 100% owned C- TCIL in USA. C Corporation will be earning precious foreign exchange for the country and increasing profitability of TCIL which is a Government PSU. C Corporation is formed in the state of Texas, USA in connection with the execution of Projects in USA. Total investment of USD 5 Million will be made by TCIL in the form of Equity from its internal resources.

The Union Cabinet chaired on March 21, 2018 approved the continuation of the National Health Mission – with effect from 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2020 with a budgetary support of Rs. 85,217 crore as Central Share over this period.

The Union Cabinet on March 21, 2018 approved continuation of the Prime Minister’s Development Package for Jammu & Kashmir 2015 – “Stepping up of support under creation of Infrastructure in District Hospitals, Sub-district Hospitals and Primary Health Centers over 5 years” – with effect from 1st April 2017 to 31st March 2020 with a budgetary support of Rs. 625.20 crores as total centrally-funded scheme.

ISRO along with academic institutions is doing experimentation on potential structures for lunar habitation (Igloo). Various options are being studied about the requirements and complexities of habitats. The study is more towards futuristic developments.

During the current Sugar Season 2017-18, the sugar production in the country is estimated to be substantially higher than the estimated domestic consumption. Sufficient surplus stock of sugar may be available for export. In order to promote exports with the objective of evacuating surplus stocks from the country, the Government has decided to remove customs duty on export of sugar from its current level of 20% to zero percent. This will also help in maintaining demand and supply balance and thereby stabilising the domestic sugar prices in the country.

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has granted approval to amend the regulation for admission to PG medical courses in order to expand the scope of persons with disabilities getting benefit of reservation. The percentage of seats to be filled up by persons with disabilities has been increased from 3% to 5% in accordance with the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act, 2016.

Shri Satya Pal Malik, Governor of Bihar has been given additional charge of the Governor of Odisha. Odish Governor Shri S.C. Jamir has completed his tenure on March 20, 2018.

The government has signed 96 contracts with Indian vendors and 58 with foreign vendors for capital procurement of defence equipment for Armed Forces in the last three years.

Union Minister Jitendra Singh on March 21, 2018 inaugurated a three-day International Yoga Fest in New Delhi. The fest being organised by Ministry of Ayush is the curtain raiser for this year’s International Yoga Day which will be celebrated on 21st June.

According to the Observer newspaper the company Cambridge Analytica had allegedly improperly mined 50 million Facebook users’ data to predict and influence voters actions.

The Rajasthan government has made a provision for financial assistance to export units for participating in exhibitions organised abroad. The move is set to benefit export-oriented sectors such as gems and jewellery, textiles and dimensional stone.

The Union Cabinet on March 21, 2018 has approved the opening of 18 new Indian Missions in Africa over a four year period from 2018-2021. The 18 new Indian Missions in Africa will be opened in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania, Rwanda, Sao Tome& Principe, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Swaziland and Togo over a four year period from 2018-2021 thereby increasing the number of Resident Indian Missions in Africa from 29 to 47.

Jawaharlal Nehru University and University of Hyderabad are the two Central institutions that will be granted the highest autonomy as Category-1 institutions under the new scheme of higher autonomy for quality institutions. Banaras Hindu University, Aligarh Muslim University and the English and Foreign Languages University, Telangana, are in Category-2, which too enjoys high autonomy. As per UGC’s February 2018 notification on graded autonomy, quality institutions will get the freedom to start their own courses, departments, centres and schools, provided they generate their own funds rather than demand these from the government.

The Jammu and Kashmir government on March 20, gave its in-principle approval for adopting the Restructured Weather Based Crop Insurance Scheme for horticulture crops such as apple and saffron.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on March 20, 2018 informed the Rajya Sabha that the 39 Indians, who had been abducted in Iraq in 2014, are dead. In her suo motu statement in Parliament, Ms. Swaraj said that while it was not immediately known when the Indians were killed, their bodies had been recovered from a mound in Badush, around 30 km from Mosul.

Joshna Chinappa and Velavan Senthilkumar figure in the Asian Squash Federation’s list of performance awards for 2017. Joshna will get the Dato Alex Lee award (outstanding performance of the year, senior) while Velavan has been chosen for the Hassan Musa Award (junior category).

Current Affairs News in Brief (11-20 March 2018)


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