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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

15 Mar 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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MPs Reject Second Referendum Proposal

  •  The rollercoaster week for British politics continued, as a motion in Parliament enabling the government to seek an extension to the Brexit process has turned into an opportunity for MPs to seek alternatives, including a second referendum, and Parliament wresting control of the Brexit process from the government.
  • It came after the government suffered another significant and surprising defeat as MPs voted to reject a no-deal Brexit at any time, overriding the government's initial motion that ruled out no-deal but only on March 29 and left open the possibility of it taking place at a later stage.
  • Speaker John Bercow has selected four amendments to the new government motion due to be voted on, including one calling for a second referendum, with the choice of remaining in the EU as one of the options.

U.S. Senate Votes to End Emergency

  •  The U.S. Senate passed a proposal to terminate President Donald Trump's declaration of an emergency at the southern border, with 12 Republicans defying the President, and Mr. Trump vowing a veto.
  • The 59-41 vote marks the second Senate rebuke of Mr. Trump in two days. Senators approved a resolution seeking to end U.S. support for the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in the war in Yemen, rejecting Mr. Trump's policy toward the kingdom.
  • During the first two years of his term, the Republican-led Congress mostly accommodated Mr. Trump, who has not yet used his veto pen.

U.K. Lifts Cap on PhD-level Work Visas

  •  Indians are among the largest group of professionals set to benefit from a new U.K. government plan to remove any limit on the number of PhD-level work visas to be granted.
  • U.K. Chancellor Philip Hammond announced in a Budget update, referred to as the annual Spring Statement, that from later this year all such highly-qualified roles will be exempted from any cap on the numbers that can apply and come to work in Britain.
  • From Autumn 2019, PhD-level occupations will be exempt from the Tier 2 (General) cap, and at the same time the government will update the immigration rules on 180-day absences so that researchers conducting fieldwork overseas are not penalised if they apply to settle in the U.K.

ENVIRONMENT

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A Climate Vulnerability Index for India

  •  The Department of Science and Technology (DST) will be commissioning a study to assess the climate risks faced by States in India.
  • This follows an assessment of the global warming risks faced by 12 Himalayan States, and discussed at last year's U.N. climate change conference in Poland, that found States such as Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand vulnerable to climate change.
  • Last year the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) at Mandi and Guwahati, and the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bengaluru, coordinated with State authorities in Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, the hill districts of West Bengal, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Jammu and Kashmir, to evolve a common methodology, and determine how districts there are equipped to deal with the vagaries of climate change.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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SEBI Orders Religare Entities to Recall Loans

  •  The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has directed Religare Enterprises and Religare Finvest to recall loans totalling Rs. 2,315.09 crore from various entities, including Malvinder Singh and Shivinder Singh.
  • The Singh brothers, among others, have been directed to disassociate themselves from the affairs of the Religare entities and also not to dispose any assets or divert any funds till further directions.
  • The order follows a SEBI probe that found that funds amounting to Rs. 2,315.09 crore were diverted from the books of Religare Finvest (RFL) for the utilisation of promoters and promoter group entities of Religare Enterprises (REL).

Reliance Infra to Sell Delhi-Agra Toll Road

  •  Anil Ambani-led Reliance Infrastructure Ltd. has signed a definitive binding agreement with Singapore-based Cube Highways and Infrastructure III Pte. Ltd. for the sale of its 100% stake in Delhi-Agra (DA) Toll Road Private Limited for an enterprise value of Rs. 3,609 crore.
  • In addition, DA Toll Road Pvt. Ltd. claims against NHAI worth Rs. 1,200 crore would flow directly into Reliance Infrastructure.
  • After the completion of the transaction, Reliance Infrastructure's debt would reduce by 25% to less than Rs. 5,000 crore.
  • The transaction is in line with Reliance Infrastructure's strategic plan of monetising non-core business and focusing on major growth areas like engineering and construction (E&C) business.
  • The transaction is subject to all requisite permissions and approvals, the statement added.

NTPC Signs Pact with Indian Railways

  •  NTPC has teamed up with the Indian Railways for fly ash transportation, a move that will help enhance ash utilisation at Rihand and Vindhyachal Super Thermal Power plants.
  • NTPC had signed a memorandum of understanding with Hazipur-based East Central Railway Zone for transportation of fly ash under Indian Railways' Special Freight Train Operator scheme.

SPORTS

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Dipa Karmakar Qualifies For Final Round

  •  India's Dipa Karmakar made it to the vault finals after finishing third in the qualifying round of the Artistic Gymnastics World Cup.
  • Dipa who had finished fourth in the event at 2016 Rio Olympics, performed a higher difficulty Handfront 540 vault for the first time in the competition.
  • American Jade Carey took the top spot in the qualifying round while Alexa Moreno of Mexico took the second spot.
  • The top eight finishers in the qualification round will compete in the final.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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India Wants Visa-free Travel to Kartarpur

  •  India has urged Pakistan to grant visa-free travel rights to Indian pilgrims visiting the Kartarpur shrine.
  • The proposal was part of the Indian agenda at the meeting between delegations from both countries at Attari where the draft agreement for the Kartarpur Corridor was discussed.
  • The delegations held detailed and constructive discussions on the proposed agreement and agreed to work towards expeditiously operationalising the corridor.
  • The Indian delegation emphasised that the access be visa-free and the provision apply to Indians as well as people of Indian origin.
  • The Indian delegation also insisted that the shrine be kept open throughout the year and sought assurance that access for at least 5,000 pilgrims on any day throughout the week be provided.
  • Infrastructure to enable 10,000 more pilgrims on 'surge' days like Baisakhi and other important festivals, is also being made ready by India.

UP Government Sanctions Fast Track Courts

  •  The Uttar Pradesh government has paved way for constitution of one fast track court each in all the 75 districts of the state to adjudicate cases involving women.
  • These courts will hear cases including those related to violence against women.
  • A government order to this effect was issued on March 8, the International Women's Day.
  • The state government has sanctioned 648 posts for these courts.
  • These posts include 81 of judicial magistrates.

DEFENCE

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Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile

  •  The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully test-fired Man Portable Anti-Tank Guided Missile (MPATGM) in the desert ranges of Rajasthan.
  • According to the Defence Ministry, the MPATGM launched from the shoulder is low weight, fire and forget.
  • Developed by DRDO, the missile is equipped with many advanced features, including ultra-modern imaging infrared radar seeker with integrated avionics.
  • The MPATGM is a third-generation anti-tank guided missile (ATGM), which comes loaded with a high-explosive anti-tank (HEAT) warhead.
  • It has a maximum engagement range of about 2.5 kilometers.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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 M. R. Kumar New Chairman of LIC

  •  M. R. Kumar, the newly-appointed chairman of Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC), has taken charge.
  • Mr. Kumar, who had joined LIC as a direct recruit officer in 1983, took over from Hemant Bhargava who had been the acting chairman since January 2019. The government had also named two MDs for LIC, Vipin Anand and T. C. Suseel Kumar.
  • Mr. Kumar was the zonal manager of north zone at LIC while Mr. Suseel Kumar was the zonal manager of south-central zone.
  • Mr. Anand was the zonal manager of the western zone.

O'Rourke to Join Race for Presidency

  •  Beto O'Rourke, a skateboarding former punk rocker feted as one of the Democratic Party's rising stars, announced that he is running for President.
  • Mr. O'Rourke now enters a pool of 14 other Democrats seeking to oust President Donald Trump.
  • They include several U.S. Senators — Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, and the leader among current candidates, liberal powerhouse Bernie Sanders. 

Maate Mahadevi Passes Away

  •  Maate Mahadevi, a prominent woman pontiff of Lingayat community and seer of the 'Basava Dharma Peetha', died at a private hospital following cardiac arrest.
  • She was at the forefront of the movement demanding separate religion status for the Lingayat community that erupted in the state in 2017-18.
  • Installed as 'Jagadguru' in the 1970s, Maate Mahadevi launched several educational and religious institutions and published several books.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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World Consumer Rights Day

  •  Every year 15th March is celebrated as the World Consumer Rights Day.
  • World Consumer Rights Day was inspired by President John F Kennedy, who sent a special message to the US Congress on 15th March 1962, in which he formally addressed the issue of consumer rights.
  • He was the first world leader to do so.
  • The consumer movement first marked that date in 1983 and now uses the day every year to mobilise action on important issues and campaigns.
  • World Consumer Rights Day is an annual international event that signifies celebration and solidarity in the international consumer movement, demanding that, consumer rights are to be respected and protected.
  • The event also gives a chance to protest against the market abuses and social injustices which undermine those rights.
  • This year the theme promoted is "Trusted Smart Products".

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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President Presents Gallantry Awards

  •  President Ram Nath Kovind presented the Gallantry Awards and other distinguished service decorations at the Defence Investiture Ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan in the national capital.
  • The Kirti Chakra and Shaurya Chakra were the two Gallantry Awards given.
  • Kirti Chakra is India's second highest peacetime gallantry award and the Shaurya Chakra is the third highest peacetime gallantry award.
  • Fifteen officers and jawans from the Army and CRPF were also decorated with the Shaurya Chakra.
  • Besides these, Param Vishisht Seva Medal was given to 15 officers, Uttam Yuddh Seva Medal to one and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal to 25 officers. 

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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IIT-Kharagpur to Start Course on Safe Mining

  •  The department of mining engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, is launching a new M.Tech programme in 'Safety, Health and Environment'.
  • The course will address safety measures in mining operations and emerging methods for safety management to deal with risk assessment in the industry.
  • The course is scheduled to start from the July semester and will have an intake capacity of 11.
  • The department will launch another M.Tech programme in Geomechanics for Mineral and Energy Resources.

IIM Indore's Highest Package for Post Graduate Programme

  •  The highest package at Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Indore final placements 2019 touched a whopping Rs. 89.25 lakh per annum (LPA). The institute, however, did not disclose which company or in which domain was this offer made.
  • IIM Indore's final batch of Post Graduate Programme (PGP) and five-year Integrated Programme in Management (IPM) comprised of 607 students, the largest graduating batch across all IIMs, all of whom were successfully placed.
  • More than 200 recruiters, including 57 first time recruiters, participated in the placement process.  

Zydus Cadila Gets USFDA Nod

  •  Zydus Cadila has received a tentative USFDA nod to market generic Sitagliptin and Metformin Hydrochloride extended-release tablets used for controlling blood sugar levels.
  • The product is the generic version of Janumet XR tablets.

BOOKS AND AUTHORS

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Book on Titan Company

  •  A book titled 'Titan: Inside India's most successful consumer brand,' was released by T. K. Balaji, CEO and MD, Lucas TVS Ltd.
  • The book, which traces the 30-history of the watch company, is authored by Vinay Kamath, Associate Editor, The Hindu Business Line.

Book on War Gets Campbell Prize

  •  Writer Raghu Karnad has won the Windham-Campbell Prize under non-fiction category for his work 'Farthest Field: An Indian Story of the Second World War' published in 2015.
  • He is one of eight recipients of the award handed out by Yale University to English language writers from around the world.
  • The book was earlier shortlisted for the Hessell-Tiltman Prize for 2016, and was awarded the Sahitya Akademi Yuva Puraskar for a writer in English the same year.
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