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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

21 May 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Volodymyr Zelensky Calls Snap Elections

  •  Ukraine's new President Volodymyr Zelensky used his inaugural speech to call snap parliamentary polls after shooting to power in a country wracked by a separatist conflict and severe economic problems.
  • Mr. Zelensky announced his first priority was ending the five-year conflict with Moscow-backed separatists in the industrial east that has claimed over 13,000 lives.
  • He announced he would dissolve Parliament in order to call early elections, originally scheduled for October.

JVP to Move Trust Vote

  •  As per reports, Sri Lanka's Janata Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) will move a 'no-confidence motion' against President Maithripala Sirisena, Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and the Cabinet.
  • The move was sparked by government's neglect of prior warnings on the Easter attacks, and the security lapse that resulted in the loss of over 250 lives in April.
  • The party's parliamentary group will submit the motion to the Speaker.

US Sanctions Hit India-Kazakhstan Plans

  •  Kazakhstan's efforts to forge greater connectivity with India via an eastern expansion of the North-South corridor running through Iran have hit a speed bump because of US sanctions.
  • Despite the hiccup, Astana continues to be hopeful of building closer trade and transit ties with New Delhi through Iran's Bandar Abbas Port and even extending connectivity to the strategic Chabahar Port once a new railway link is built.
  • Kazakhstan is focusing on India to attract investments and to access the country's market of more than one billion people.
  • Bilateral trade was worth almost $1 billion in 2017.
  • Kazakhstan is the largest supplier of uranium to India and both sides have strong defence and strategic ties.
  • India has been keen on the eastern expansion of the International North-South Trade Corridor (INSTC), and there are plans to connect Gujarat's Mundra port to Bandar Abbas and then link it to the Iran-Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan railway link to cut the time for transporting goods from Central Asia and to access markets in the landlocked region.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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ORIX Offers to Buy Out IL&FS Wind Assets

  •  ORIX Corporation of Japan (ORIX), owner of 49% stake in each of the seven operating wind power plants (SPVs) of the IL&FS Group, has expressed its intent to buy out the remaining 51% stake held by IL&FS Wind Energy Limited (IWEL).
  • This intent to buy 51% stake is in exercise of ORIX's right under the terms of an existing MoU wherein ORIX can match the price offered by the highest bidder for purchasing IWEL's Stake in the Wind SPVs.

Government to Divest Stake in RailTel

  •  The government is looking to divest up to 25% stake in RailTel Corporation, and is scouting for merchant bankers to manage the listing process.
  • The government will appoint up to three merchant bankers to manage the listing process and has invited bids from them.
  • The paid-up share capital of the Railway PSU stands at Rs. 320.93 crore and profit after tax for 2017-18 was Rs. 156 crore.

Under Armour in Talks with Myntra

  •  The US sportswear brand Under Armour is in talks with the fashion e-commerce platform Myntra to become the first large international brand that Myntra's new leadership team will manage offline in India.
  • Myntra is keen to tie up with the brand as it is focusing on opening stores in mall locations as opposed to on high streets which typically have higher rents. The business is also concentrating on a younger customer base which the Under Armour brand caters to.
  • If the partnership goes through, Under Armour would be the first large foreign brand to sign up with Myntra since Walmart acquired the business' parent company Flipkart in 2018. 
  • Under Armour currently has one store in India in New Delhi which opened in March 2019. The brand first entered India two years ago selling exclusively on Amazon India.  

India Unlikely to Give Additional Seats to Foreign Airlines

  •  India is unlikely to grant additional seats to foreign carriers, over and above the numbers agreed to under bilateral pacts, even though Indian expatriates in some of these countries are facing the prospect of having to pay sharply steeper airfares during the peak travel season this year following the grounding of Jet Airways.
  •  The authorities in the UAE have written to the Indian government requesting additional capacity for its Dubai-based airlines Emirates and FlyDubai.
  • Qatar Airways announced that it had approached Indian authorities for more seats on high volume routes such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru on a temporary basis.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Google Cuts Android Support to Huawei

  •  Hundreds of millions of smartphone users will be affected by Google's decision to sever its Android operating system ties with Chinese handset maker Huawei.
  • The decision, in the midst of a United States trade war with China, means that Huawei users will start losing access to Google's proprietary services such as Gmail and Maps, and be shut out of future upgrades to Android on their phones.
  • The move by the California internet giant on the software front was compounded by news that US chipmakers have stopped supplying Huawei, hitting the hardware of its phones.

India adopts New Definition for Kilogram

  •  India, along with the rest of the world, adopted new definitions for four base units, the kilogram, kelvin, mole and ampere, which were released by scientists at the General Conference on Weights and Measures in France in November 2018.
  • The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research's National Physical Laboratory has sent the new definitions to the ministry of human resource development for the engineering course syllabus and to the National Council of Educational Research and Training for adoption in schools. 
  • The new units were adopted on the occasion of World Metrology Day.

SPORTS

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Anirudh and Poonacha Pair Wins Title

  •  Top seeds Anirudh Chandrasekar and Niki Poonacha won the title, beating Simon Carr and Ryan James Storrie in straight sets in the ITF men's Futures tennis tournament.
  • It was the maiden international title for Anirudh, while it was fourth doubles title for Poonacha.

Indian Boxers Make Strong Start

  •  Indian boxers made a strong start to their campaign at the India Open with seven of them entering the quarter-finals on the opening day of the competition in Guwahati.
  • Sonia Lather, the 2016 World Championships silver medallist, and Asian Championships bronze medallist Manisha Moun led the charge in the women's section.
  • In the men's competition, Thailand's two-time Olympian and former Asian champion Chatchai Decha Butdee asserted his supremacy in with a win over Nepal's Surendra Rai.
  • As many as 10 Indian boxers have already confirmed a medal each with six in men and four in women entering the semi-finals straightaway because of the smaller size of the draw.

Official Sponsor for 2019 ICC Men's World Cup

  •  The International Cricket Council (ICC) announced that Uber, the world's largest personal mobility company, would be an official sponsor of the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019.
  • The partnership will make Uber the first mobility and food delivery app to strike a sponsorship deal with the ICC for the Men's Cricket World Cup, one of the most watched sporting events, which will be played in England and Wales from May 30 to July 14.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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India Cuts Off UN Panel

  •  Reacting angrily to a submission from the Geneva-based Human Rights Council (HRC) on the alleged violations in Jammu and Kashmir, India has informed the United Nations body that it will no longer entertain any communication with the HRC's Special Rapporteurs on its report.
  • The report from the UN body came at the same time a report from two NGOs in the State on the alleged cases of torture was released in Srinagar, which was endorsed by a former UN Special Rapporteur.
  • The current Special Rapporteurs on Extrajudicial Executions, Torture, and Right to Health, Agnes Callamard, Dainius Puras and Nils Melzer, had referred to a June 2018 report of the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR) and written to the government in March 2019, asking about steps taken by New Delhi to address the alleged human rights violations listed in the report.
  • In addition, the Special Rapporteurs had listed 13 cases of concern from 2018 alone, in which four children were among eight civilians killed by members of the security forces.

EC Appoints Five Observers

  •  As preparations for the counting on May 23 are underway, five observers for nine assembly constituencies have been appointed by the Election Commission of India.
  • Under the vigil of five IAS-rank election officials, counting will take place in Gurugram, Pataudi, Sohna, Badshahpur, Nuh, Ferozepur Jhirka, Punhana, Bawal, and Rewari.
  • The district election office said that 25 rounds of vote counting would take place for Punhana and Badshahpur constituencies, while 23 rounds would take place for Gurugram.
  • In Bawal, 19 vote counting rounds will take place, followed by 18 in Rewari, Pataudi, and Firozpur Jhirka and 17 in Sohna. A minimum of 14 rounds will take place in Nuh constituency.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Mueen Pakistan's New Envoy to India

  •  Pakistan's ambassador to France, Mueen-ul-Haq, has been named the country's new High Commissioner to India.
  • Mueen is a career diplomat and previously served as the chief of protocol at the foreign office.
  • The post of High Commissioner to India fell vacant after Sohail Mehmood was appointed the foreign secretary in March 2019.
  • Prime Minister Imran Khan approved the appointments of over two dozen ambassadors in various countries.

Yogi Adityanath sacks Om Prakash Rajbhar

  •  Chief minister Yogi Adityanath sacked Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party chief Om Prakash Rajbhar from his Cabinet, two days after a case was filed against him for allegedly threatening and abusing Bharatiya Janata Party workers and a day after he predicted the state's ruling party would fare poorly in the Lok Sabha elections.
  • Adityanath also removed all members appointed to various boards in Uttar Pradesh on Rajbhar's recommendation.
  • Rajbhar has considerable clout in eastern Uttar Pradesh.
  • He has been upset over the denial of seats of his choice, and fielded 39 candidates in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh phases of the Lok Sabha elections.
  • The departments that Rajbhar headed have been given to BJP MLA and minister of state Anil Rajbhar.

DAYS AND EVENTS

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Anti Terrorism Day

  •  The Anti Terrorism Day is celebrated every year on May 21 in India to raise awareness among all sections of people, about the danger of terrorism, violence and its dangerous effect on the people, the society and the nation as a whole.
  • On this day, in 1991, the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a suicide squad of Liberation of Tamil Tigers Eelam (LTTE), while attending a rally in Sriperumbudur, Tamil Nadu.

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Delhi Schools Get Nod to Hike Fees

  •  The Directorate of Education (DoE) allowed as many as 59 private schools to increase their tuition fees by 5-10% after auditing their accounts. The requests for another 177 schools were rejected after it was found the institutions were sufficiently funded.
  • Private schools built on Delhi Development Authority (DDA) land need prior approval from DoE to increase fees, 266 of 301 such schools had applied for permission to hike fees.
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