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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

25 Feb 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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India-built Houses Handed over to Sri Lanka

  •  As many as 155 houses, built as part of India's ongoing housing project in Sri Lanka, were handed over to estate workers in Hatton, located in the Central Province.
  • The effort is part of India's pledge to help construct 63,000 houses in Sri Lanka, including 46,000 homes built in the war-hit north and east, with a grant of $350 million, the largest Indian grant assistance project in any country abroad.
  • Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe, Minister for Hill country New Villages, Infrastructure and Community Development Palani Digambaram and Indian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Taranjit Singh Sandhu were present at the ceremony held on Sunday, to mark the completion and handing over of the 155 houses.
  • The newly-constructed houses will enable families of estate workers to move out of the cramped, colonial-era line rooms, into individual units.

Venezuelan opposition looks to foreign allies for next steps

  •  International pressure mounted against Venezuela's leader Nicolás Maduro, with Washington vowing to take action after Opposition efforts to bring humanitarian aid into the country descended into chaos.
  • Self-declared interim President Juan Guaidó called on the international community to consider all measures to free Venezuela after clashes at the border crossing left at least two people dead.
  • Mr. Guaidó announced he would participate in Lima Group meeting of mostly Latin American countries in Bogotá, and called on the international community to be prepared for all possibilities regarding Mr. Maduro. U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence will represent Washington at the meeting.
  • Mr. Maduro claims the aid is a smokescreen for a U.S. invasion, and has ordered several crossings on Venezuela's borders with Colombia and Brazil closed.

JuD and FIF Bypass Ban

  •  As per reports, Hafiz Saeed's extremist groups continue to function in Pakistan despite a recent ban.
  • Days after the government of Imran Khan reimposed a ban on Jamat-ud-Dawa (JuD) and its charity arm Falah-e-Insaniyat Foundation (FIF) against the backdrop of the Pulwama terror attack, the Daily Times of Pakistan reported that the groups continue to operate with impunity in various parts of Pakistan.
  • JuD and FIF outlets have put up new banners outside offices and collection centres and are continuing to work as before.
  • In various places, the two organisations have re-branded themselves as Al Madina and Aisar Foundation.

ENVIRONMENT

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World's Biggest Bee Found Alive

  •  The world's biggest bee has been re-discovered, after decades thought lost to science.
  • The giant bee - which is as long as an adult's thumb - was found on a little-explored Indonesian island.
  • Known as Wallace's giant bee, the insect is named after the British naturalist and explorer Alfred Russel Wallace, who described it in 1858.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Mine Expansion Programme

  • HCL is now pursuing a Rs. 5,500 crore mine-expansion plan that will increase its capacity to 20 million tonnes by 2024.
  • Mining and ore exploration are HCL's key growth areas.
  • The company's mine expansion plan aims to take ore capacity from 3.8 million tonnes in 2018 to 20 million tonnes by 2024.
  • The capital outlay is phased over five years. About Rs. 1,000 crore has already been invested.
  • The strategy involves expansion of existing mines, reopening of closed mines in Jharkhand and development of new mines.
  • The expansion projects are located in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan. Most of the funding would be through internal accruals.

GST Rates on Real Estate Slashed

  •  The Goods and Services Tax Council decided to cut the tax on under-construction houses to 1% for properties valued up to Rs. 45 lakh and to 5% for those in the premium segment in order to boost the troubled real estate sector and provide relief to aspiring homebuyers.
  • The rates will be brought down from the existing 8% and 12%, respectively.
  • The new GST rates will be applicable from April 1.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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ISRO Set to Launch First 3 Orbit Mission

  •  Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is all set to launch PSLV-C45 in March which will put 30 satellites in three different orbits. The PSLV-C45 will also carry a satellite for electronic intelligence.
  • Sivan said that the launch of Chandrayaan-2, India's second moon mission, the Bengaluru-based space institute is set to launch the mission by April end.
  • Sivan also talked about the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle (SSLV), which will launch two 'strategic purpose' satellites in July-August this year.
  • SSLV is a small satellite launcher. The first launch will take place in July-August where two small satellites will be launched. They are for a strategic purpose and will be used for monitoring and mapping.

Israel's Beresheet Moon Mission

  •  The first privately financed mission to the Moon has lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida.
  • The Israeli robot was put on a path to the lunar body by a Falcon rocket - a trip that will take two months.
  • Beresheet, as it's known, will try to land on the lunar surface, take some pictures and conduct some experiments.
  • Only government space agencies from the US, Russia and China have previously managed soft touchdowns. 

SPORTS

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ATP Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship

  •  Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Purav Raja won two rounds to qualify for the doubles main draw of the $2,887,895 ATP Dubai Duty Free tennis championship in the UAE.
  • Leander Paes and Benoit Paire of France have got a wild card entry and will play Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan.
  • In singles, Ramkumar Ramanathan, who got a wild card, will play Roberto Bautista Agut.

President of Wrestling Federation of India

  •  Brijbhushan Sharan Singh was elected unopposed as president of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) for a third time. All office-bearers were elected unopposed and will serve a three-year term.
  • List of office-bearers:
    President: Brijbhushan Sharan Singh; senior vice-president: I. D. Nanavati; secretary-general: V. N. Prasood; treasurer: Satyapal Singh Deshwal; vice-presidents: Asit Kumar Saha, Hamza Bin Omer, N. Phoni, N. Khalo, R. K. Hooda, Bhola Nath Singh, Karan Bhushan Singh, B. S. Langde.

Mayank Markande Makes Debut

  •  Mayank Markande made his debut for the Indian cricket team as he was handed the cap by the team seniors ahead of the first T20I encounter against Australia in Visakhapatnam.
  • With Kuldeep Yadav not playing in the series, Markande became the latest wrist spinner to make his way into the side.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Registration Office for Foreign Tourists

  •  Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur has inaugurated a registration office for Tibetans and foreign tourists. The office is located at SP Complex in Dharamshala. 
  • The Chief Minister also inaugurated the Administrative Office Block at Police Lines Dharamshala.

DEFENCE

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Air Force Commissions Aerial Surveillance

  •  The Indian Air Force has commissioned the development of an aerial surveillance system for monitoring suspicious movements under dense foliage cover along the international border and some parts within the country.
  • This hyper spectral imagery programme, a first for the country, seeks to locate and identify suspicious movements and is expected to be operational in the next two years.
  • The programme would mean that the data gathered from aerial sources would be processed within minutes, and researchers would be able to tell security forces on the ground of unwanted human presence in the area, their numbers and locations, among other inputs.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Princess Reema Ambassador to U.S

  •  Saudi Arabia appointed a Princess Reema as its new Ambassador to the United States, the first time the kingdom had named a woman to such a post.
  • The appointment of Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan by royal decree came amid strained relations between Saudi Arabia and the United States over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul in October.
  • Princess Reema will replace Prince Khalid bin Salman, a son of King Salman and a younger brother of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), who took the post in 2017.
  • Also in a royal decree on Saturday, Prince Khalid was named Deputy Defence Minister under the Crown Prince, who heads the Ministry.

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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Oscars 2019

  •  'Period. End of Sentence', a documentary that tackles the stigma around menstruation in rural India, has won the Best Documentary Short Subject at the 91st Academy Awards.
  • The film has been co-produced by Guneet Monga and directed by 25-year-old Rayka Zehtabchi.
  • The documentary feature is set in Hapur village outside Delhi, where women lead a quiet revolution as they fight against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation.
  • For generations, these women did not have access to sanitary pads, which lead to health issues and girls dropping out from schools.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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Banned Unregulated Deposit Schemes

  •  In a bid to clamp down on Ponzi and fake deposit schemes, the government has, through an ordinance, banned unregulated deposit schemes.
  • The ordinance has also put in place a mechanism that will penalise the operation and advertisement of such unregulated schemes with jail time as well as monetary fines.
  • The Banning of Unregulated Deposit Schemes Ordinance 2019 states that any deposit scheme not registered with the government would be treated as an unregulated deposit scheme and would, as such, be banned.
  • This extends to the entire country except Jammu and Kashmir and is to come into force immediately.
  • As per the ordinance, no deposit taker shall directly or indirectly promote, operate, issue any advertisement soliciting participation or enrolment in or accept deposits in pursuance of an unregulated deposit scheme.

Direct Cash Benefit Scheme

  •  Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the Rs. 75,000 crore Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) cash transfer scheme for small and marginal cultivators.
  • The scheme was announced in the interim budget on February 1 ahead of national polls due this summer.
  • Rs. 6,000 would annually be transferred in three installments into bank accounts of farmers with less than two-hectare land holdings.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Resilient Futures India Initiative

  •  Queen Mary University of London has launched the Resilient Futures India Initiative in New Delhi.
  • Experts from India and the U.K. were invited to discuss complex challenges facing vulnerable communities, in areas such as urbanisation, gender equality, health and environmental sustainability.
  • The initiative aims to harness local and global knowledge to tackle critical challenges with policy makers, entrepreneurs and civil society leaders in both countries.
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