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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

03 Jan 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Taiwan's Unification with China

  •  President Xi Jinping said that Taiwan's unification with the mainland is inevitable, and warning against any efforts to promote the island's independence.
  • China would not renounce the option of using military force to bring it into the fold.
  • China still sees democratic Taiwan as part of its territory to be reunified, despite the two sides being ruled separately since the end of a civil war in 1949. 

Trump Wants another Meet with Kim

  •  President Donald Trump is looking forward to another summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.
  • The development comes after Mr. Kim, in his New Year speech, warned that Pyongyang could change its approach to nuclear talks if Washington persists with sanctions.

Advanced Warships for Pakistan

  •  As per reports, China is building the first of four "most advanced" naval warships for Pakistan as part of a major bilateral arms deal to ensure among other things "balance of power" in the strategic Indian Ocean.
  • Equipped with modern detection and weapon systems, it will be capable of anti-ship, anti-submarine and air-defence operations.
  • The under-construction ship is a version of the Chinese Navy's most advanced guided missile frigate.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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India Manufacturing PMI Slowed

  •  According to a private survey, Indian manufacturing activity expanded at a slower pace in December, as growth in new orders and output waned, despite factories cutting their prices.
  • The Nikkei Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index, compiled by IHS Markit, declined to 53.2 in December, below November's 54.0 reading and a Reuters poll median of 53.6. 

Subsidy to Merchant Exporters

  •  The government decided to provide 3% interest subsidy to merchant exporters to enhance flow of funds for them with a view to boost outbound shipments.
  • The decision was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs.
  • The proposal will entail benefits of around Rs. 600 crore to exporters on interest equalisation for the remaining period of the scheme.

China's Factory Activity Contracted

  •  According to a survey, China's factory activity contracted for the first time in 19 months in December as domestic and export orders continued to weaken.
  • The gloomy readings largely dovetailed with an official survey which showed growing strains on China's manufacturing sector, a key source of jobs.
  • The findings reinforce views that the economy is losing more steam.
  • The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI) for December fell to 49.7 from 50.2 in November, marking the first contraction since May 2017.

Shapoorji Pallonji Sold 720 Units

  •  Diversified firm Shapoorji Pallonji's real estate arm sold 720 flats worth Rs. 350 crore in its residential project in Pune, reflecting better demand for homes offered by big corporate houses and credible players.
  • The 8-acre project 'Joyville-Hinjawadi', scheduled to be completed by June 2022, is being developed by Joyville Shapoorji Housing, a $200 million platform of Shapoorji Pallonji Real Estate along with ADB, IFC and Actis. 

Merger of Three State-owned Banks Approved

  •  The cabinet approved the merger of state-run Vijaya Bank and Dena Bank with Bank of Baroda, in a step aimed at cleaning up the country's banking system.
  • The merger plan was announced last year amid growing concerns over rising bad loans in the banking sector.
  • Banking sector reforms are a major plank of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government's plans to revive lending which has slowed as banks struggle with bad debt.
  • The merged bank will become India's second largest public sector bank and will help create a strong globally competitive bank.
  • The merger will come into force on April 1.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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First Detailed Images of Ultima Thule

  •  The first detailed images beamed back from the US agency's New Horizons mission allowed scientists to confidently determine the body was formed when two spheres, or "lobes," slowly gravitated towards each other until they stuck together.
  • The New Horizons spacecraft flew past Ultima Thule, which was discovered via telescope in 2014 and is the farthest and potentially the oldest cosmic body ever observed by a spacecraft.

India Planning to Launch 32 Space Missions

  •  As per reports, India is planning to launch 32 space missions in 2019. The year 2019 promises to be challenging to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) community with 32 planned missions.
  • The missions include the second lunar mission Chandrayaan-2 to land on the moon with lander and rover.
  • India`s maiden human space mission in 2021-22, Gaganyaan, will also be pursued this year.

SPORTS

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FIFA Should Expand 2022 World Cup to 48 Teams

  •  According to the global governing body's president Gianni Infantino, FIFA should, if possible increase the size of the soccer World Cup in Qatar in 2022 to 48 from 32 teams.
  • Last month, Infantino had said that a majority of national soccer federations were in favour of expanding the tournament and a decision was expected ahead of the qualifying draw in March.
  • As per Infantino, FIFA was seeing whether it would be possible for some of Qatar's Gulf neighbours to host some of the matches because it would be difficult to stage an expanded tournament in Qatar alone.
  • This is because Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt launched a diplomatic and trade boycott of Qatar in June 2017 that has complicated the prospect of sharing the tournament.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Panel to Protect Assam's Heritage

  •  The Union Cabinet has approved the setting up of a high-level committee for the implementation of Clause 6 of the Assam Accord which provides for constitutional, legislative and administrative safeguards to protect, preserve and promote the cultural, social, linguistic identity and heritage of Assam.
  • It also recommended reserving Assembly seats for indigenous communities in the state.
  • Home Minister Rajnath Singh had assured Assam Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal in May 2018 that a committee would be set up at the earliest in consultation with the State government.

DEFENCE

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Deliveries of S-400 Air Defence Missiles

  •  According to the government, India will start receiving the S-400 Triumf air defence missile systems from Russia from October next year and the deliveries will be completed by April 2023.
  • India inked an agreement with Russia in October last year to procure a batch of the missile systems at a cost of Rs. 40,000 crore.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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U.K. Sinha Appointed Head of Panel

  •  RBI appointed an eight-member expert committee headed by former SEBI chairman U. K. Sinha to comprehensively review and propose long-term solutions for revival of the micro, small and medium enterprises (MSME) sector.
  • Other members of the panel are Ram Mohan Mishra, Pankaj Jain, P. K. Gupta, Abhiman Das, Sharad Sharma and Bindu Ananth. The committee will submit its report by the end of June 2019.
  • Among the terms of references, the panel would review the current institutional framework in place to support the MSME sector, and examine the factors affecting the timely and adequate availability of finance to the sector.

Sunil Kujur Appointed Chief Secretary

  •  The newly-elected Congress government in Chhattisgarh replaced the State's Chief Secretary, Ajay Singh, with Sunil Kujur, a 1986-batch IAS officer.
  • Mr. Singh has been made the Bilaspur Revenue Board chairman.

Ramakant Achrekar Passed Away

  •  Ramakant Achrekar, the celebrated cricket coach credited for discovering Sachin Tendulkar passed away. He was 87.
  • Achrekar competed in just one first-class match in his playing career but discovered and shaped the biggest batsman in international cricket after Sir Donald Bradman in Tendulkar.
  • Achrekar was bestowed the Padmashri Award in 2010. 

Moushumi Chatterjee Joins BJP

  •  Actress Moushumi Chatterjee joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This is the second stint of Moushumi Chatterjee in active politics as she had last contested an election on Congress ticket in 2004.
  • The BJP hopes that Moushumi Chatterjee's presence would boost the party. She may contest the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
  • Another actor, Rupa Ganguly, had joined the BJP in 2015. She is now a Rajya Sabha member.

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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Manoj Das Honoured

  •  Eminent English and Odia writer Manoj Das received the Kabi Samrat Upendra Bhanja National Award for Lifetime Achievement in Literature, instituted by the Berhampur University.
  • During the 53rd foundation day ceremony, the university also honoured noted folk dance guru Nabaghana Parida with Dakshin Odisha Loksanakruti Samman.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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Trade Unions Act to be Amended

  •  The Centre proposes to amend the Trade Unions Act, 1926, to facilitate recognition of trade unions at the Central and federal level. The Union Cabinet approved the amendments.
  • Most trade unions, however, vehemently opposed the proposed amendments, saying the government was trying to interfere in, and cripple, their functioning.
  • Ten Central trade unions had earlier written to the Labour Ministry objecting to the draft version of the amendment Bill; the only major standout was the Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Aadhaar Amendment BillĀ 

  •  The government introduced a Bill in the Lok Sabha that permits the individuals to voluntary offer Aadhaar as a means of identity verification for obtaining services such as opening a bank account and getting a mobile phone connection.
  • The bill, which seeks to amend three separate laws governing Aadhaar, telecom sector and banking regulation, also gives a minor an option to opt out of the 12-digit identity scheme on attaining the age of 18 years.
  • The Aadhaar and Other Laws (Amendment) Bill 2018, moved by Law and IT Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in the Lok Sabha amid concerns raised by the opposition, also provides for stiff penalties for violation of norms set for the use of Aadhaar.
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