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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

15 Jun 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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48th Coordination Conference between BSF and BGB

  •  The 48th Director General Level Border Coordination Conference between BSF (India) and BGB (Bangladesh) was organised by BGB at Dhaka, Bangladesh.
  • A 10-member delegation of India headed by Rajni Kant Mishra, Director General, BSF alongwith senior officials of the Ministry of External Affairs and other law enforcement agencies met members of BGB headed by Gen Md Shafeenul Islam, NDC, PSC, Director General, Border Guards Bangladesh.

ENVIRONMENT

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Russia Uncovers 40,000 Year-old Wolf Head

  •  About 40,000 years ago, a wolf died in what we know as Siberia. Now its severed head was found, and because of the freezing conditions, it is so well preserved that its fur, teeth, brain and facial tissue are largely intact.
  • A Yakutia resident, Pavel Yefimov, found the head last summer on the banks of the Tirekhtyakh River, close to the Arctic Circle in the region of Yakutia.
  • The head was shown in public this week in footage provided to Reuters TV by the academy.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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RBI to Impose Penalty for Keeping ATMs Dry

  • In what could bring respite to people facing cash crunch at ATMS, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has told banks that they will have to pay penalty for keeping ATMs dry.
  • Banks cannot keep ATMs out of cash for more than 3 hours, doing which will attract penalty and the penalty will be imposed region-wise.
  • Small cities and rural areas are faced with severe cash crunch many a times with ATMs running dry for several hours to few days.
  • This results in serpentine cues in branches which have running ATMs.

HDFC Sells Stake in Gruh

  •  Mortgage lender HDFC sold more than 4.22% stake in subsidiary Gruh Finance Ltd. (Gruh), which is proposed to be amalgamated with Bandhan Bank, for Rs. 899.43 crore.
  • The sale of 3,10,00,000 equity shares representing 4.22% of the issued and paid-up share capital of Gruh was carried out through stock exchanges at the prevailing market price.
  • HDFC had sold 6.1% stake in Gruh earlier in May 2019 for Rs. 1,327.89 crore.

Trade Deficit Widens

  •  According to official data released, India's trade deficit widened in May 2019 to $15.36 billion, with imports growing faster that exports during the period.
  • Exports grew 3.93% in May to $30 billion compared with $28.86 billion worth of exports in the same month last year.
  • The industries that saw a major growth in exports include electronic goods (50.97%), organic and inorganic chemicals (20.64%), and readymade goods of all textiles (14.15%).

Retaliatory Tariffs on 29 US products

  •  New Delhi has decided to impose long pending retaliatory tariffs on 29 US products.
  • Washington had withdrawn duty-free benefits for Indian exports under its Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) effective June 5.
  • The duty hikes will come into effect in normal course as the notification to postpone the hikes will expire on 15 June 2019. 

Retaliatory Tariffs on US Could Worsen Trade Ties

  •   India's move to impose retaliatory tariffs on the United States could worsen the trade-related problems between the two countries because the Trump administration is not in a mood to relent on international trade and may not shy away from a confrontation, according to trade analysts in Washington and New Delhi.
  • The trade deficit between India and the US stood at roughly $21.3 billion in India's favour in 2018.
  • Though some trade between the two countries has increased in recent months, the problem largely hovers around three issues that could have long-term implications.
  • The first is the disagreement over medical devices.  India, in 2017, put certain cost caps on certain procedural and remedial equipment largely to benefit poorer patients. The most important among the devices was the cap on stents, which affected large US multinationals such as Abbot and Boston Scientific. India's medical devices market is estimated to be about $5 billion, and one fallout of the cap on priensure ces is the non-availability of drugeluting stents in India. Even as the two sides try to hammer out a deal, this is an issue that could also impact India's booming medical tourism sector.
  • Second, on the investment front, India's recent rules on e-commerce have inconvenienced US-based firms Walmart and Amazon, which run India's top two e-commerce marketplaces. Walmart, in 2018, completed a $16 billion acquisition of Flipkart. India's new e-commerce rules say that online marketplaces must treat all vendors equally by providing the same terms. This effectively stops these companies from forcing sellers to feature products exclusively on their platforms, thereby limiting control over inventory. It's an issues that has become another irritant between the countries.
  • Third, data localization rules by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) -- all system providers must ensure that the entire data related to payment systems are stored in a system only in India to ensure better monitoring of service operators – have become a point of contention.
  • In April, the US criticised the norms, describing them as discriminatory and trade-distortive. 
  • In this backdrop, on June 1, US President Donald Trump issued the presidential proclamation and withdrew preferential duty benefits — Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) — to India.
  • The trade analysts cited above said that a retaliatory tariffs response by India may be good from a political standpoint, but could inflict long-term damage to trade between the two countries.

Hexaware Acquires Mobiquity

  •  Information technology (IT) services company Hexaware Technologies Ltd has acquired US-based digital services firm Mobiquity for $182 million in an all-cash deal.
  • Hexaware is majority owned by private equity firm Baring Private Equity Asia. As of March 31, Baring owned 62.59% in Hexaware.
  • With a presence across three continents, Mobiquity is one of the largest independent customer experience consulting firms specializing in creating frictionless multi-channel digital experiences using cloud technologies.
  • Mobiquity creates digital products for well-known global brands such as Amazon Web Services, Rabobank, Philips, Wawa, Backbase and Otsuka.
  • The transaction involves an upfront payment of $131 million and deferred payouts of $51 million.
  • In the near term, Hexaware will focus on growing revenue through cross-selling and up-selling services across the two platforms, as well as by creating new services.

Facebook's Cryptocurrency gets New Backers

  • Facebook Inc. has enlisted more than a dozen companies including Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. to back its new cryptocurrency.
  • Each company will invest around $10 million in a consortium that will govern the cryptocurrency. 
  • The money will fund the creation of the coin, which will be pegged to a basket of government-issued currencies.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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 World's Highest Weather Station

  •  Climate scientists have created a history by installing world's highest operating weather station at Mount Everest's Death Zone, including five other automated stations on other parts of the mountain.
  • Tom Matthews and Baker Perry, along with a crew of engineers, stood on the Mount Everest's flank at 27,650 feet (8,430 metres), and erected seven-foot- building of a weather station that can withstand extreme winds and cold weather.
  • The weather station will record data on temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed, and wind direction.
  • Besides, the new weather stations will also give scientists direct observations to understand jet stream, and will also help understand how the climate change is affecting the Himalayas.
  • The other five weather stations that are located in the Mount Everest are in Balcony area (8,430 m), South Col (7,945m) at Phortse (3,810 m), Everest Base Camp (5,315 m) and Camp 2 (6,464 m).

App to Detect Twitter Bots in any Language

  •  Researchers have developed a new application that uses Machine Learning to detect Twitter bots in any language.
  • The study shows that the application is able to detect auto-generated tweets independent of the language used.
  • This enhances the quality of data and paints a more accurate picture of the reality.
  • Twitter Bots are non-personal and automated accounts that post content to online social networks. It has been estimated that around 5 to 10% of all users are bots and these accounts generate about 20-25% of all tweets posted. 

App to put an orchestra in living room

  •  "NomadPlay" is all down to an algorithm which separates out the sound components of a score to remove any instrument as desired, fading out an oboe or piano part for instance, and allowing the home musician to join the fray.Clothilde Chalot and Hannelore Guittet started Digital Music Solutions in Paris five years ago. 'Their app can be downloaded for free that offers albums, ranging from Beethoven's Fifth Symphony to Schubert's Fantasia in F Minor.
  • The concept is similar to that of karaoke, where fans grab the mic to provide their own vocals to the original track. Yet the NomadPlay app is more elaborate.
  • First off, you can search by level — beginner, intermediate, experienced or expert — or by instrument, as well as by composer. You can increase or slow down the tempo, repeat a bar or part of a bar and even annotate the score.
  • The app is brimming with educational promise as it can help budding musicians "learn a work more quickly". For professionals, the system offers a "huge time gain" as "when you practise with the others, you already have the reflexes".
  • "This digitally-pushed evolution eliminated the frontier between creator/artist and consumer

SPORTS

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Altibox Norway Chess Tournament

  •  Viswanathan Anand defeated an out of sorts Alexander Grischuk while Magnus Carlsen sealed the title at the Altibox Norway chess tournament with a round to spare.
  • Anand's chances to be in top three had ended after he lost to American Fabiano Caruana in the previous round.
  • Carlsen won his sixth title of the year, defeating Yu Yangyi of China in the Classical game itself.
  • While it was only his second Classical win here, Carlsen also won all the six matches in the Armageddon stage.

Tendulkar Sues Aus Bat Maker

  •  Sachin Tendulkar has filed a civil lawsuit against an Australian bat manufacturer, accusing it of using his name and image to promote products and then failing to pay him $2 million in royalties.
  • In Federal Court papers filed in June and reviewed by Reuters, Tendulkar said Sydney based Spartan Sports International agreed in 2016 to pay him at least $1 million a year to use his image, logo and promotional services to sell "Sachin by Spartan" sporting goods and clothing.
  • The retired star batsman soon went to work promoting the products, and appeared at a range of promotional events in places such as London and the Indian financial hub of Mumbai, the documents showed.
  • However, by September 2018, Spartan had failed to make a single payment owed, and he made a formal request for payment. When none came, he ended the agreement, asking the company to stop using his name and likeness.
  • Yet Spartan continued to do so, according to the documents.

India Book Olympic Qualifiers Berth

  •  India used better skills and greater experience to establish ascendancy and thrashed the Asian Games gold medallists Japan 7-2 to clinch their appointed place in the final and thus claiming a berth in the Olympic qualifiers,, to be held in October-November.
  • In the final, India will meet South Africa, who edged past USA 2-1 in the other semi-final.

Toronto Raptors first from outside the US to win NBA Finals

  •  Leonard and the Toronto Raptors captured the country's first major title in 26 years with their most remarkable road win yet in the franchise's NBA Finals debut, outlasting the battered and depleted two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors 114-110  in a Game 6 for the ages.
  •  A Canadian team stood on top of one of the traditional major sports leagues for the first time since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.

Rose Equals Tiger's Record

  •  Justin Rose roared home with three straight birdies to match Tiger Woods' record for the lowest US Open round ever shot at Pebble Beach, a six-under par 65 that gave him a one-shot lead after the first round.
  • England's Rose, who won the 2013 US Open at Merion, vaulted over a quartet of players sharing second on five-under-par 66 as Pebble Beach showed a welcoming face in overcast conditions with little wind.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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Cong Makes First Major Appointment After LS Polls in Maharashtra

  •  Senior Congress leader Balasaheb Thorat was named Congress Legislature Party leader in Maharashtra, the first appointment in the grand old party after its drubbing in the Lok Sabha elections.
  • This was also a rare occasion when the name was cleared by the All India Congress Committee, and not the party chief.
  • Thorat replaced arch-rival Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil, who quit the CLP leader's post days after his son Sujay joined the Bharatiya Janata Party and successfully contested the Lok Sabha polls from Ahmednagar.
  • The Congress also appointed Vijay Namdeorao Waddetiwar, currently its deputy leader in the assembly, as the floor leader and Mohammed Arif Naseem Khan will be his deputy.

Channels Get Advisory on Credit Language

  •  The ministry of information and broadcasting (MIB) has issued an advisory to all private television channels to carry credits at the end of programmes in the language in which the programmes are telecast for the benefit of viewers who cannot read English.
  • The channels will be free to also carry the credits in English.
  • Union MIB minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted that this was being done to promote Indian languages. He said the government was not "restricting" the channels to use only Hindi or regional languages, but "adding" more languages.
  • A similar order will be issued to cinemas as well. 
  • It came to the notice of ministry of information and broadcasting that several Hindi and Regional Language TV channels display the castings/credits/ titles of Hindi and Regional language TV serials only in English.
  • This practice tends to deprive people versed with Hindi and Regional languages of the valuable information about casting of TV serials/programmes.
  • The ministry had underlined that since these films were made in Hindi, people not familiar with English should not be deprived of information about actors and crew and other production details.

Karnataka Cabinet Inducts 2 Independents

  •   Karnataka chief minister H D Kumaraswamy expanded his cabinet  by inducting two independent MLAs in an apparent move to give stability to his 13-month-old wobbly government.
  • R Shankar and H Nagesh were sworn in as cabinet ministers, months after they withdrew support to the government and sided with the BJP before making a U-turn to move close to the ruling coalition.
  • Shankar was inducted from the Congress' share and Nagesh from the JD(S) quota in the ministry. Under the coalition arrangement, of the total 34 ministerial positions, the Congress and JD(S) have shared 22 and 12 berths respectively.
  • With the two independents in the government, the coalition strength in the 224-member assembly stands at 118 (Cong-78, JD(S)-37, BSP-1 and Independents-2), besides the Speaker. The BJP has 105 MLAs.

NRDC Inks MoA with IIPE Vishakhapatnam

  •  National Research Development Corporation (NRDC), New Delhi, under the Ministry of Science & Technology, signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with Indian Institute of Petroleum and Energy (IIPE), Visakhapatnam under Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas, Govt of India at Visakhapatnam during the Industry-Academy Interaction meet, which was inaugurated by Vice President of India M Venkaiah Naidu.
  • The MoA assures that NRDC assists IIPE in filing their patents and commercialising their IPs/technologies to industry and promoting incubation and start-ups.

DEFENCE

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US Warns India on Acquisition of S-400

  •  A senior Trump administration official said that there were "serious concerns" about India's planned acquisition of Russian S-400 missile defence systems that could not only leave India vulnerable to sanctions but also "limit" interoperability between US and Indian militaries, a key focus of growing ties between the two countries.
  •  The threat to defence interoperability is a new and developing argument Americans are deploying to up the ante for India by saying it could be risking growing defence ties marked by the signing last year of the Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement that allows sharing of classified defence intelligence.

Def Minister Forms Panel for Revision of OROP Structure

  •  Defence minister Rajnath Singh  constituted a committee to work out the modalities and methodology for the next revision of pensions to the over 25 lakh ex-servicemen and widows under the OROP (one rank, one pension) scheme.
  • The committee, headed by the Controller General of Defence Accounts (CGDA) and including representatives from the three services, will submit its report in July 2019.
  • The move comes in the backdrop of the CGDA having asked the department of ex-servicemen welfare in the MoD to clarify "whether any logic exists to initiate the process of OROP revision once the pension of past and current pensioners was equated with effect from January 1, 2016" during the implementation of the 7th Central Pay Commission.
  • OROP was implemented by the NDA-I government with effect from July 1, 2014.
  • The government, however, did not accept the case made by veterans for "pension equalisation or adjustment" every year, and notified that it will be done only at five-year intervals.

PERSONS IN NEWS

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JD(U) Spokesman Resigns

  •  JD(U) leader Ajay Alok resigned from the post of party spokesperson stating that he does not wish to cause embarrassment to Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, who heads the party.
  • He shared his resignation letter, addressed to the party's state unit chief Vashishtha Narayan Singh.

SEBI Bars Prannoy and Radhika Roy

  •  The Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) barred Prannoy Roy and his wife Radhika Roy from holding any directorship in New Delhi Television Ltd. (NDTV) for a period of two years.
  • Mrs. and Mr. Roy, along with their holding firm RRPR Holdings, have also been barred from accessing the securities' market for two years for allegedly concealing material information from shareholders while entering into loan agreements between 2008 and 2010.
  • Mr. Roy and his wife have also been restrained from being directors in any listed entity for a year.

Shivpal Yadav Rules out Merger

  •  Shivpal Yadav asserted that he would not be merging his party with the Samajwadi Party (SP) or any other outfit, putting to rest speculation over the issue.
  • Mr. Yadav, who is the younger brother of SP founder Mulayam Singh, also said that his party would contest the 2022 Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections alone.
  • His assertion puts to rest the possibility of an early patch-up with Akhilesh.

Sarah Sanders Quits

  •  White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders is quitting after a rocky two-year tenure marked by loyalty to US President Donald Trump, sharp exchanges with reporters, accusations of lying and being turned away by a restaurant.

AWARDS AND HONOURS

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Akshaya Patra Wins BBC Award

  •  Akshaya Patra, a non-profit organisation running one of the world's largest school meals project in India, was awarded the BBC World Service Global Champion Award for the programme.
  • The award, presented at the BBC Food and Farming Awards in Bristol, recognises a person or project that is changing the way the world produces, processes, consumes or thinks about food for the better.
  • The Bengaluru-based NGO was selected by an international panel of judges from nominations sent in by the World Service audience around the world.
  • Other projects on the shortlist included UK charity WRAP and Food 4 Education working in Kenya.

Indian-origin Man Honoured with Star of Jerusalem Award

  •  Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has conferred Indian-origin Sheikh Mohammad Munir Ansari with the Star of Jerusalem medal - one of the highest honours given to foreign nationals by the Palestinian Authority - for strengthening Indo-Palestine ties.
  • Ansari, 91, is the Director of Indian Hospice, a unique and historic monument in the heart of Jerusalem, which has become a symbol of India's heritage and presence in the third holiest city for Muslims going back to over 800 years.
  • Abbas said the Ansari family's presence in the old city of Jerusalem reflects the strong traditional ties between Indian and Palestinian people. He called upon for strengthening people-to-people contact between the two sides.
  • In 2011, India honoured Ansari with the Pravasi Divas Samman, the highest honour conferred on overseas Indians.

GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

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Bihar- First State to Launch Old-age Pension Scheme for all

  •  Bihar became the first Indian state to launch a universal old-age pension scheme, one that will put Rs 400 per month in the bank accounts of persons aged 60 years and above, irrespective of financial or caste status, provided they do not already receive a state or central government pension.
  • In other states, old-age pensions are provided only to members of BPL families, SCs/STs, widows and the disabled.
  • But in Bihar every male and female above 60 years, if they are not getting any other pension from the state or central government, will be entitled to a pension under the new scheme, named "Mukhyamantri Vridhjan Pension Yojana".
  • Each male and female aged 80 years and above will get a pension of Rs 500 per month directly in his or her bank account under the new scheme. 

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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Task Force on Women's Safety

  •  Days after announcing a scheme making public transport free for women in the city, the Delhi government  set up a task force on women safety and improving quality of public transport for women in the national capital. 
  • The task force will conduct both off and on ground review and monitoring of all existing schemes for women's safety in Delhi and propose news plans for strengthening them. The task force is meant to ensure safety and improve quality of commuting for women travellers in public transport in the Capital.
  • The task force, which will be constituted under Delhi transport minister Kailash Gahlot, will be looking into key safety features in public transport such as CCTVs in buses, panic buttons, efficiency of the bus marshal scheme and issues pertaining to women safety in general.

ART AND CULTURE

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Project to Document Bengali Theatre in city

  •  When Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore visited Delhi in 1932, the ladies of 'Sen bari' (the family of the famous Dr Hem Chandra Sen) presented a play, 'Balmik Pratibha' for him, in what is believed to be the first instance of a Bengali play being staged in Delhi.
  • Since then, Bengali theatre in Delhi has grown into a genre of its own. The Chittaranjan Parkbased socio-cultural platform Shapno Ekhon (loosely translated as 'dreaming now'), in collaboration with historians Narayani Gupta and Swapna Liddle, has started a project to document and archive the close to one-hundred-year-old history of Bengali theatre in Delhi.
  • Begun on May 16 this year, 'Bengali theatre in Delhi — A Journey in Time' aims to features, styles, and content unique to Delhi.
  • At present, there are around 30 groups engaged in practising Bengali theatre in the city.
  • 'Ishhworer khoje' (Waiting for God) directed by Harihar Bhattacharya, 'Lenin er daak' (The Call of Lenin) by the group Dhumketu, and Manusher Odhikar (The Rights of Humankind) directed by Shakti Mukherjee are a few among the many plays created by playwrights of Delhi in original style and form.
  • The project, which hopes to take advantage of this scattered movement and helm it into something tangible and substantive, is expected to be completed in three years and will be compiled in the form of multiple publications, an archive of oral history accounts, an anthology of plays in multiple volumes written by playwrights of Delhi, and a database of audio-visual material of plays by practitioners in Delhi.

TOURISM AND HOTEL INDUSTRY AWARENESS

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Amarnath pilgrims to be tagged for a safe trek

  •  In a first, each of the 300,000-odd pilgrims expected to visit the Amarnath Shrine in 2019 will be tracked from the base camp to the shrine and back, using a unique card, even as nearly 45,000 security personnel will be deployed to protect them, a senior home ministry official said on the condition of anonymity.
  • The annual pilgrimage to the cave shrine begins on July 1.
  • Each pilgrim will be personally tracked through a unique card. The cards will be given to them when they set out from the base camp and they will have to swipe at five locations leading up to the cave.
  • The Amarnath Cave can be approached from two routes – Baltal and Pahalgam. The former is 14 km whereas the other route is 42 km long.
  • The personal trackers will give the exact location of the pilgrim, indicate which part the pilgrims are crossing for the entire route. It will help to track them adding to the security and also help us in crowd management.
  • Last year, all vehicles from different states carrying pilgrims were radio-tagged. The radio frequency identification tags of vehicles carrying pilgrims helped the administration map the entire journey — from the moment they entered the state to base camps.
  • Besides tags and personal trackers, nearly 320 companies of the paramilitary force — each company comprising about 100 policemen — are being deployed to secure the Yatra. In addition, the Jammu and Kashmir Police will also be deploying thousands of men as well. This is the largest ever deployment of security personnel to secure the yatra in recent years.
  • The Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) is alone deploying nearly 150 companies whereas the Border Security Force (BSF) will be deploying about 70 companies.
  • Besides, the Indian Army will deploy between 3-4 battalions — each comprising about 650-700 soldiers — to secure the mountain ridges along Yatra. Helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) will also be pressed into service.

ART AND CULTURE

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After 100 years, Badrinath divided on who wrote aarti

  •  The identity of the man who wrote the century-old aarti  'Pawan Mand Sugandh Sheetal'  has become a matter of great debate in the temple town after the BJP-led Uttarakhand government said in May 2019 that a local writer, Dhan Singh Barthwal, had penned the verse.
  • This goes against popular belief that Fakhruddin Siddiqui, a postmaster at Nandprayag in Chamoli, composed it sometime in the 1860s. Siddiqui, who later people called 'Badruddin', was a devotee of Lord Badri.
  • The state government concluded that Barthwal was the writer after his great-grandson, Mahendra Singh Barthwal, approached the administration with a manuscript with the Badrinath aarti on it.
  • A carbon dating test was conducted following which chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat declared that the manuscript was from 1881, around the time the aarti became popular.
  • The government also said since Badruddin's family was unable to furnish proof, claims made by Barthwal's kin were true.
  • However, a book published in 1889 — which contains the aarti and lists Badruddin's uncle as its custodian — is there in a private museum in Almora.
  • Priests from Badri-Kedar Temples Committee (BKTC), which manages the shrine, also said general consensus over the years has been that Badruddin is the author.
  • Badruddin's descendants are disheartened that they have been "robbed of the family legacy".
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