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General Awareness

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General Awareness - Top Stories

19 Jun 2019

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

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U.S. Deploys more Troops to West Asia

  •  China and Russia warned about escalating West Asian tensions after Washington said that it would deploy 1,000 more troops to the region and renewed accusations that Iran was behind a tanker attack.
  • The U.S. move came as Iran set a 10-day countdown for world powers to fulfill their commitments under a nuclear deal abandoned by Washington, saying that it would otherwise surpass the uranium stockpile limit mandated by the accord.

Pak. Army Chief Gets more Say in Economic Matters

  •  In a move that would further expand the powerful Pakistani military's influence, Army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa was made a member of the newly-formed National Development Council (NDC) headed by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
  • The military is set to play a greater role in economic matters of Pakistan.
  • The 13-member NDC would set policies and strategies for development and provide guidelines for regional cooperation.
  • It would provide measures for local coordination and provincial Chief Ministers would also be invited to the council's meetings.

Independent Probe into Morsi's Death

  •  The UN human rights office called for an independent inquiry into former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's death while in state custody.
  • According to Rupert Colville, spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, any sudden death in custody must be followed by a prompt, impartial, thorough and transparent investigation carried out by an independent body to clarify the cause of death.
  • He noted that Morsi also appears to have been held in prolonged solitary confinement, and said that the investigation must encompass all aspects of the authorities' treatment of Morsi to examine whether the conditions of his detention had an impact on his death.

ENVIRONMENT

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DPCC Stops Free Registration

  • The Delhi Pollution Control Committee (DPCC) stopped the free online registration of non-polluting white category industries, after it came to light that a section of such units, operating from non-conforming areas, were misusing the facility to get themselves registered illegally without paying any charge.
  • Now owners of even white category industries would have to pay a registration fee of Rs. 10,000.
  • The DPCC would change its online software to ensure industries from non-conforming areas will not be able to register at all.
  • White category industries, introduced by the union government in 2016, are the least polluting among other categories, red, orange and green.

BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

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Bajaj Holdings Acquires Stake in Maharashtra Scooters

  •  WMDC (Western Maharashtra Development Corporation), a Government of Maharashtra undertaking, transferred its 27% stake in Maharashtra Scooters Ltd. (MSL) to Bajaj Holdings & Investment Ltd. (BHIL) for Rs. 71.58 crore plus 18% interest from January 2006.
  • WMDC transferred 3,085,712 shares at a price of Rs. 232 a share compared with Rs. 151.63 which BHIL was willing to pay previously.
  • Upon the acquisition of 27% stake of MSL from WMDC, BHIL's holding increased to 51% in MSL and thus, MSL has become a subsidiary of BHIL with effect from June 2019.

RBI Slaps Penalty on HDFC Bank

  •  The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) imposed a Rs. 1 crore penalty on private sector lender HDFC Bank for violating know your customer (KYC) and anti-money laundering (AML) norms.
  • RBI had received a reference from customs' authorities regarding submission of forged bill of entries (BoEs) by certain importers to the bank for remittance of foreign currency.

KSEB Signs Deal for Brahmapuram Plant

  •  Providing a new impetus to the government's ambitious project to establish Waste-to-Energy (WtE) plants across the State, the Kerala State Electricity Board (KSEB) signed a power purchase agreement with Kochi-based GJ Eco Power Pvt. Ltd., the agency implementing the project at the Brahmapuram solid waste treatment plant.
  • Under the agreement, the KSEB would purchase the power generated from the 9.76-MW WtE plant at a rate of Rs. 6.17 per unit for a period of 20 years from the commercial operation date. 
  • The company was roped in by the Kochi Corporation to implement the State's first WtE project in the public-private partnership mode.
  • The firm, which would be supplied with 330 tonnes per day (TPD) of municipal solid waste by the local body, is tasked with generating 47 million units (mu) of power. The proposed plant is expected to be commissioned within 18 months of the launch of its construction.

Boeing Signs First Deal

  •  Boeing is selling its 737 MAX planes again.
  • The company announced at the Paris Air Show that International Airlines Group, the parent company of British Airways and other carriers, signed a letter of intent for 200 Boeing 737 aircraft.
  • Boeing said that it is the first sale of the jet since the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 MAX in March 2019.
  • Another 737 MAX crashed in Indonesia last year (2018), and the planes are now grounded amid an investigation into problematic software.
  • The letter of intent is subject to final agreement but is a vote of confidence in Boeing as it struggles to win back trust.
  • The planes would be delivered between 2023 and 2027 to airlines owned by IAG. 

Facebook Plans to Launch Libra

  •  Facebook Inc revealed plans to launch a cryptocurrency called Libra, the latest development in its effort to expand beyond social networking and move into e-commerce and global payments.
  • Facebook linked with 28 partners in a Geneva-based entity called the Libra Association, which would govern its new digital coin set to launch in the first half of 2020.
  • Facebook also created a subsidiary called Calibra, which would offer digital wallets to save, send and spend Libras. Calibra would be connected to Facebook`s messaging platforms Messenger and WhatsApp, which already boast more than a billion users.

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

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Lunar Orbiter Spacecraft

  •  The mother orbiter spacecraft of Mission Chandrayaan-2 reached the launch port of Sriharikota from Bengaluru and would soon be joined by its lander and rover companions.
  • Their epic journey of 3.84 lakh km to Moon, to land on it and explore its surface would begin on July 15, 2019.

SPORTS

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Lingappa Passes Away

  •  Veteran athletics coach N. Lingappa passed away. He was 95.
  • Lingappa had trained several international athletes like D.Y. Biradar, P.C. Ponnappa, Uday Prabhu and Ashwini Nachappa during the course of his over 60-year career as a coach. Lingappa belatedly received the Dronacharya Award in 2014.
  • An athlete himself, Lingappa had qualified as a walker in the 1954 Manila Asian Games, but the event was cancelled.
  • Prabhu had won the silver medal in the men's 400m at the 1978 Asian Games.

Women's WC in 2021

  •  A total of 31 matches, including the semi-finals and the final, would be held when the ICC women's cricket World Cup 2021 begins in New Zealand in January.
  • This would be the fourth event to be fully or jointly hosted in New Zealand after two men's World Cups in 1992 and 2015, and women's event in 2000.
  • The 50-over tournament will run from January 30 to February 20, 2021, New Zealand Cricket (NZC). New Zealand  qualified automatically as hosts.
  • The top four teams, based on the ICC women's championship standings, will gain direct qualification.

Everest Summits Smash Records

  •   A record 885 people climbed Everest in May this year (2019), capping a deadly traffic-clogged season that also saw 11 climbers die on the world's highest mountain.
  • The number smashed last year's record of 807 summits despite a short weather window that resulted in fatal bottlenecks on the peak.
  • Everest, which straddles the border between Nepal and China, saw 644 people summit from the south, 81 more than last year.
  • Another 241 reached the top from the northern flank in Tibet.
  • At least 4 of the deaths this season, the deadliest since 2015 when massive earthquakes triggered avalanches that swept away climbers' camps, have been blamed on overcrowding.
  • Experts said that too many of the new wave of mountaineers were ill-prepared and inexperienced.
  • Others have called for a cut in the number of climbing permits, or tougher standards for guides.
  • Mountaineering in Nepal became a lucrative business since Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay made the first ascent of Everest in 1953. But under pressure, Nepal formed a committee to recommend changes to its regulations and rules.

Eoin Morgan Sets a World Record

  •  England captain Eoin Morgan set a world record of 17 sixes in an individual one day international innings as the World Cup hosts thrashed Afghanistan by 150 runs.
  • Victory at Old Trafford saw favourites England go ahead of Australia to sit top of the World Cup group table on net run-rate.

NATIONAL AFFAIRS

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NDA's Choice for Speaker's Post

  •  Two-term BJP MP from Rajasthan, Om Birla, would be the new Speaker of the Lok Sabha, after he was nominated by the ruling NDA for the post.
  • Mr. Birla has been a three-term MLA in the Rajasthan Assembly and represents the Kota constituency in the Lok Sabha. He would assume office after being elected by the House MPs.
  • Apart from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, and Roads and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari were the proposers of Mr. Birla's name.
  • Biju Janata Dal (BJD), Shiv Sena, National People's Party, Mizo National Front, Akali Dal, Lok Janshakti Party, YSRCP, Janata Dal (U), AIADMK and Apna Dal have signed the proposal.
  • The newly appointed leader of the Congress legislature party in the Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Choudhary, said that his party too would be supporting Mr. Birla's candidature.

More Finance Ministry Officials into Compulsory Retirement

  •  In another action aimed at cleaning up government service, the Union government sent 15 senior Finance Ministry officials into compulsory retirement.
  • This comes a week after President Ram Nath Kovind issued orders for the retirement of 12 senior officials of the Ministry for alleged corruption, extortion and sexual harassment.
  • While last week's action was against officers of the Income Tax Department, this time, senior officers of the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) faced action.
  • In exercise of the powers conferred by Clause (J) of Rule 56 of the Fundamental Rules, the President of India had retired 15 officers of Indian Revenue Service (C&CE) in public interest with immediate effect on completing 50 years of age.
  • The 15 officers, of the ranks of Assistant Commissioner, Principal Commissioner or Commissioner , are to be paid a sum equivalent to the amount of pay and allowances for a period of three months at the same rate at which they would have received immediately before their retirement.

TMC MLA and 12 Councillors Join BJP

  •  In yet another blow for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, TMC MLA from Bongaon, Biswajit Das and 12 councillors of the ruling party joined BJP in presence of senior BJP leaders Kailash Vijayvargiya and Mukul Roy.
  • Congress spokesperson Prasanjeet Ghosh also joined the saffron party.
  • The West Bengal CM and TMC supremo said that the councillors and MLAs who are quitting will not be accepted back in the party.

DEFENCE

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Ration to Military Officers Restored

  •  The supply of military rations to officers posted in peace stations, suspended two years ago, would be resumed in one of the first decisions taken by new Defence Minister Rajnath Singh.
  • Since July 2017, in line with a recommendation by the 7th Pay Commission, the Defence Ministry had suspended the supply of rations to military personnel in peace stations and instead been paying them a monthly allowance, which worked out to Rs. 117.29 in the ongoing fiscal year.
  • According to a Defence Ministry order, the supply of rations would be resumed. Restoring the supply would not come at an extra cost to the government.
  • The decision to suspend ration supplies had been criticised by military veterans.
  • The move led to logistic issues for the three forces, the Army, Navy and Air Force, which continuously carry out field exercises during peace postings. 

PERSONS IN NEWS

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Leader of Congress in LS

  •  Five-time MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury would be leader of the Congress party in the Lok Sabha. Chowdhury was entrusted with the post after a meeting of the parliamentary core committee at the residence of United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi. 
  • The Congress wrote to the office of the secretary general of the Lok Sabha, naming Chowdhury, who represents Berhampore in West Bengal, the leader of the party in the Lok Sabha. It also named Kerala MP K. Suresh as the chief whip of Congress parliamentary party. 
  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government decided not to give the Congress the status of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha because the party's tally of 52 seats fell short of the requisite number of 55, or 10% of the House's strength of 543, dictated by Parliamentary customs.

Boris Tops Vote for Next UK PM

  •  Favourite Boris Johnson retained the top spot in the second round of the first phase of the two-phase election to decide the next party leader and the United Kingdom's next Prime Minister to replace Theresa May.
  • Of the six candidates in the fray after the first round, Johnson polled 126 votes. Since the minimum votes needed to remain in the race was 33, Dominic Raab, who polled the least number of votes (30), was eliminated.
  • Conservative MPs (313) would vote in further rounds, when those with the least votes are eliminated, until two remain. The party's 1.2 lakh members would then vote on the two, to decide the next leader, who will also take over as the next Prime Minster.
  • The five candidates going forward to the next vote are: Johnson (126 votes), Jeremy Hunt (46 votes), Michael Gove (41 votes), Sajid Javid (33 votes) and Rory Stewart (37 votes).

GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

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India to be most Populous by 2027

  •  According to the World Population Prospects 2019 report, India is expected to add 273 million people by 2050, which will be the largest national increase in the world.
  • China, on the other hand, is expected to become smaller, dropping from its current 1.43 billion people to approximately 1.4 billion by 2050.
  • However, while India may have the highest absolute increase in numbers, its rate of growth is slowing. The Central and the Southern Asia region, of which India is a part, is expected to see a 25% increase in population between now and 2050.
  • The rate of population growth is the highest in sub-Saharan Africa, where the fertility rate stand at 4.6 births per woman over a lifetime.

Encephalitis toll Hits 113

  •  Simmering public anger over an outbreak of the acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in Bihar spilled over into the streets with protesters heckling Chief Minister Nitish Kumar outside a hospital as one of India's poorest states struggled to fight the disease that killed 10 more children, taking the toll to 113.
  • In Delhi, activists from different organisations protested outside Bihar Bhawan and demanded Kumar's resignation.
  • They accused the Centre and the Bihar government of not being serious about containing the outbreak, and said the health-care system in the state was mismanaged. 
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