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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

04 Jan 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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On-arrival Visas for Afghans Abolished

  •  Pakistan  scrapped the long-standing facility of on-arrival visas for Afghan nationals, citing security risks amid a spike in terror attacks. 
  • Citizens from 24 countries are now issued 'on-arrival' visas in Pakistan.

Ireland to Seek EU Aid

  •  As per the Agriculture Minister, Ireland will seek hundreds of millions of euros in aid from Brussels if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.
  • The emergency aid would aim to buttress sectors such as beef, dairy and fishing — those most exposed to customs and regulatory changes likely to arise if Britain severs all ties.
  • Nearly 80% of Irish exporters deliver products to Britain, according to 2016 government figures. 

US House Passed Bills

  •  The US House of Representatives approved legislation to end a partial government shutdown that began nearly two weeks ago at several federal agencies and fund the Department of Homeland Security through February 8.
  • Under the bills, the departments of State, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor, Treasury and other agencies would be funded through September 30, the end of the current fiscal year.
  • Hours before the vote, advisers to President Donald Trump would recommend that he veto the measure if Congress passed it without any additional money for Trump's proposed wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Main Challenges for Start-ups

  •  According to a report by citizens' engagement forum LocalCircles, a large number of start-ups, small and medium enterprises view corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies, securing loans as well as funding as major challenges in 2019.
  • The report, based on responses from over 15,000 start-ups, SMEs and entrepreneurs found 45% respondents saying that corruption or bureaucratic inefficiencies are the top challenges, followed by securing loans and funding (37%), and business growth (18%).
  • Angel tax is one area that falls under corruption and bureaucratic inefficiencies as it takes the focus of entrepreneurs away from building a product or service to responding to tax notices and filing appeals, something that start-ups can clearly do without.

CESC Wins Distribution Bid

  •  CESC Ltd. has won the bid for distribution franchisee in the Malegaon Circle in Maharashtra.
  • India's oldest power utility has a 600 MW independent power plant in Chandrapur in Maharashtra, and is engaged in power distribution in Noida (through a subsidiary) and Kota,
  • Bikaner and Bharatpur in Rajasthan (as a franchisee), besides West Bengal where it has a 567 sq.km distribution area with 3.2 million customers. Its consumer base is more than 4.3 million. 

Hyderabad Airport Stake Sale Pact with GMR Cancelled

  •  Malaysia Airports Holding Berhad (MAHB) terminated the share purchasing agreement with GMR Group for selling its 11% stake to the latter, as the Indian infra major did not fulfil obligations before December 31.
  • GMR Airports Ltd. entered into a pact with MAHB and its subsidiary to acquire 11% of the stake the Malaysian firm holds in GMR Hyderabad International Airport, for $76 million.

Solar Power Projects in Leh and Kargil

  •  Leh and Kargil districts of the Ladakh region will soon have solar power projects under the state-run Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI).
  •  As a part of its ambitious plan to build 23 GW solar power projects in Ladakh, SECI issued tenders for construction of 7.5 GW solar power projects in the first phase.
  • As per the tender document, two solar power projects will be built in Phase-1 -- a 2.5 GW capacity project in the Zangla region of Kargil and a 5 GW project in the Pang region of Leh.
  • SECI will sign a 35-year power purchase agreement with the project developers, who will get a maximum of 54 months to get the projects running.

Suit against Nestle Revived

  •  The Supreme Court spelt trouble for the Indian branch of the Swiss food giant Nestle by resuscitating a Rs. 640-crore class-action suit filed by the government on behalf of thousands of consumers of the iconic Maggi noodles.
  • The suit was filed by the Department of Consumer Affairs, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) in August 2015 against Nestle India Limited on grounds of unfair trade practices, sale of defective goods and sale of Maggi Oats Noodles to the public without product approval.
  • The suit was filed under Section 12(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. This provision allows the Centre or a State, either in its individual capacity or as a representative of the interests of the consumers, to file a complaint in the consumer forum.
  • A bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud revived the suit in the NCDRC, which would hear it on the basis of a report filed by the Mysuru-based Central Food Technological Research Institute in 2016.

Sun Pharma Acquired Pola Pharma

  •  Sun Pharma completed acquisition of Japan-based Pola Pharma to strengthen its presence in dermatology segment across the globe.
  • The acquisition of 100 per cent shares of Pola Pharma Inc Japan by the company's wholly owned subsidiary has been concluded.
  • Pola Pharma's portfolio mainly comprises dermatology products. It has two manufacturing facilities in Saitama with capabilities to manufacture topical products and injectables.
  • Sun Pharma had forayed into the Japanese prescription market in 2016 with the acquisition of 14 established prescription brands from Novartis.

Printing of Rs. 2,000 Notes Reduced

  •  As per reports, the printing of Rs. 2,000 banknotes, introduced post-demonetisation in November 2016, has been reduced to "minimum" by the Reserve Bank.
  • The Reserve Bank of India and the government, from time to time, decided on the quantum of currency to be printed on the basis of money in circulation.
  • According to RBI data, there were 3,285 million pieces of Rs. 2,000 notes in circulation at end-March 2017.
  • A year after (on March 31, 2018), there was only a marginal increase in the number at 3,363 million pieces.
  • Of the total currency in circulation amounting to Rs. 18,037 billion at end-March 2018, Rs. 2,000 notes accounted for 37.3%, down from 50.2% at end-March 2017.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Chinese Space Probe Landed on Dark Side

  •  A Chinese space probe landed on the far side of the moon, making it the first spacecraft to touch down on the part of moon, which is never visible from earth.
  • The soft-landing by the Chang'e-4 probe on the dark side of the moon is an important milestone in China's rapidly developing space programme and contribution to the world's exploration of the moon.
  • Previous space expeditions had seen the "dark" side of the moon but none had landed there.

SPORTS

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Qatar Open

  •  Novak Djokovic defeated Georgia's Nikoloz Basilashvili to continue his unbeaten start to the year and progress to the Qatar Open semi-finals.
  • Djokovic will play Spain's Roberto Bautista Agut in the semi-finals, who beat three-time Grand Slam winner Stan Wawrinka. 

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Retirement Age of Judges

  •  According to the Law Ministry, there was no proposal as of now to increase the retirement age of Supreme Court judges from 65 to 67 and of High Court judges from 62 to 65.
  • The Ministry was responding to the recommendation of a Parliamentary Standing Committee that raising the retirement age of judges would help retain the existing judges, which in turn would help in reducing both vacancy and pendency of cases in short run.

DEFENCE

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 LCA Gets Green Light for Production

  •  On December 31, Light Combat Aircraft 'Tejas' quietly progressed towards manufacture in an enhanced, battle standard format.
  • A new 'limited' clearance from military airworthiness certifier CEMILAC for the Indian fighter green-lights its production in a superior lethal version, multiple sources associated with the LCA programme confirmed.
  • Hindustan Aeronautics Limted (HAL), which is mandated to produce the LCAs for the Indian Air Force (IAF), aims to get the first aircraft out in late 2019 in the just-cleared standard.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Delhi Congress Chief Resigned

  •  Senior Congress leader and party's Delhi unit Chief Ajay Maken resigned from his position citing health reasons.
  • Maken met Congress president Rahul Gandhi to hand over his resignation, which was accepted. He had earlier voiced his wish to resign from his position because of deteriorating health but his resignation was not accepted by the party high command then.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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World Braille Day

  •  Each year, January 4 is celebrated as World Braille Day. It marks the birthday of Louis Braille (1809-1852), the French inventor of the reading and writing code for the blind.
  • In Louis Braille's time, the code was only used at the Parisian school for the blind where he studied and later taught.
  • Today, there are Braille codes for virtually every written language in the world, so that blind people everywhere can become literate and acquire the opportunities that literacy brings.
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