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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

25 Oct 2019


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India, Pakistan Sign Historic Agreement To Open Kartarpur Corridor

  •  India and Pakistan signed a pact to open a land corridor between the two countries that will allow Indian pilgrims to visit Darbar Sahib Gurdwara in Kartarpur, in Narowal district of Pakistan, a move that is expected to boost people-to-people contact at a time of tense relations between the neighbours.
  • The signing of the pact caps months of negotiations between the two uneasy neighbours and was concluded despite spikes in tensions on two occasions, including the air raid by India on a terrorist training camp in Pakistan's Balakot region in retaliation to the attack on a Central Reserve Police Force convoy in Pulwama that killed 40 security personnel.
  • The Kartarpur corridor connects the Darbar Sahib Gurdwara with the Dera Baba Nanak shrine in Gurdaspur district in India's Punjab province, facilitating visa-free movement of Indian pilgrims who just need a permit to cross over to Pakistan.

Science Pact With US, Cooperation With EU For Railways On The Cards

  •  The Union Cabinet has approved the proposal for a Science and Technology Cooperation pact between India and the US.
  • The Cabinet also gave a go-ahead to some other proposals including administrative arrangement on cooperation in the field of Railways with the EU, the review of Indo-Tibetan Border Police, capacity building and strengthening of accounting base with Kuwait and cooperating with St. Vincent & the Grenadines in the field of Traditional Systems of Medicine.
  • The Agreement on Science and Technology Cooperation with the US will open a new chapter in bilateral relations as both sides will leverage complementary strengths.

Political Outsider Saied Sworn In As Tunisia's President

  •  Tunisia's newly elected president has been sworn in during a ceremony at the country's parliament.
  • Kais Saied delivered a message of "hope" for the country in his speech at the Assembly of People's Representatives.
  • After sweeping 72.71% of the vote in the runoff, Saied has won a clear mandate to fight corruption and promote social justice, even though his role focuses on security and diplomacy.
  • A constitutional law professor whose rigid and austere demeanor earned him the nickname "Robocop," Saied has no real experience in foreign policy.


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White Bellbird, The World's Loudest Bird

  •  Bellbirds have the loudest bird calls yet documented in the world, according to a study which found that their mating songs pack more decibels than the screams of howler monkeys and the bellows of bisons.
  • According to the study, published in the journal Current Biology, the male white bellbird's mating call is about three times louder than screaming phias — the previously loudest bird singer.
  • The researchers, including those from the University of Massachusetts in the U.S., said that the bellbird's calls were so loud that they wondered how the females of the species listened to them at close range without permanent damage to their hearing.


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Fitch Rating Slashes India's GDP Growth Forecast To 5.5% For FY20

  •  Fitch Ratings slashed India's GDP growth forecast in the current fiscal to 5.5 per cent saying a large credit squeeze emanating from shadow banks has pushed economic growth to a six year low.
  • Fitch, which had in June 2019 put India's GDP growth at 6.6 per cent for the fiscal year that began in April 2019, said the recent government measures to boost economy including a cut in corporate tax rates will gradually nudge growth.

RBI Tells Banks To Not Send Agents To Do KYC For Retail Loans, Credit Cards

  •  The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has prohibited banks from deploying direct selling agents (DSAs) to sell retail loans and verifying borrowers' documents.
  • Currently, a substantial proportion of retail assets namely personal loans, credit cards and consumer credit are sourced via the DSA conduit.
  • The development has been communicated by the RBI in response to the queries of the banking industry.
  • The aim is to bring down cases of data theft and reduce operational risks. But the lenders are afraid that this might lead to deceleration of consumer loans and credit cards.
  • Meanwhile, banks are planning to approach the apex bank and the government regarding this matter.

Credit Suisse: Top 1% Own Nearly 50% Of Global Wealth And China's Wealthy Now Outnumber America's

  •  For the first time, China has overtaken the United States to become the country with the largest number of people in the top 10% of world's most wealthy people.
  • China now has a cohort of 100 million individuals who are in the top 10% of global wealth distribution, compared to 99 million for the U.S.
  • In addition, China has surpassed Japan as the country with the second-largest number of millionaires.
  • The annual global wealth report was released by Credit Suisse and provides a comprehensive review of the world's wealth.
  • In all, there are now 46.8 million adult millionaires globally, with China showing explosive growth over the past nine years.
  • In 2010, the number of Chinese millionaires was only 38 thousand, while the number in 2019 is now 4.4 million.
  • The number of millionaires in the rest of the world are - Africa has 171 millionaires, Latin America has 673, India has 759, Asia-Pacific has 7,505, Europe has 13,290 and North America has 19,946.


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US, France Join Forces To Develop Traffic Management System For Space

  •  France's National Center for Space Studies (CNES) has agreed to work with the United States to develop systems on space situational awareness and traffic management for the commercial space industry.
  • Ross signed a letter of intent with CNES President Jean-Yves Le Gall on the sidelines of a Washington event hosted by the International Astronautical Congress.
  • Ross explained that the United States is seeking other international partners in addition to France to prepare for an anticipated USD 1 trillion commercial space economy.
  • The agreement outlines principles and goals for the relationship including regular coordination and exchange of information regarding SSA, STM, and other space activities.


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By-Election Results Throw Up a Rude Surprise For Some Turncoats

  •  Results of the two Lok Sabha and 51 Assembly seats were mixed for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as well as the Opposition. An undercurrent, however, was some of the turncoats losing in the bypolls.
  • The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) retained the Satara Lok Sabha in Maharashtra, while the Lok Janshakti Party, an ally of the BJP, retained the Samastipur seat. NCP's Shriniwas Patil defeated BJP's Udayanraje Bhosale in Satara. Bhosale, a descendant of Maratha warrior king Shivaji, quit the NCP in September 2019 and resigned from his Lok Sabha seat to join the BJP, which fielded him on the seat.
  • In Gujarat, of the six seats where bypolls were held, the BJP and the Congress were leading on three seats each. The BJP's OBC leader Alpesh Thakor lost from Radhanpur seat. He had won the seat in 2017 Assembly polls on a Congress ticket. His close aide Dhavalsinh Jhala, who too switched over to the BJP, also lost the by-election from Bayad Assembly seat.
  • The ruling AIADMK in Tamil Nadu won both the seats that went to bypolls on October 21, 2019, while the Congress won the lone seat that went to polls in Puducherry. The AIADMK candidates won the Vikravandi and Nanguneri Assembly seats while the Congress won the Kamaraj Nagar seat in Puducherry. AIADMK candidates won the Vikravandi and Nanguneri seats with healthy margins.
  • In Bihar, the ruling BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) had a dismal performance in bypolls to five Assembly seats, which were touted as the "semi-final" before the Assembly polls in 12 months' time. However, Lok Janshakti Party's (LJP's) Prince Raj won the Samastipur Lok Sabha seat comfortably. The AIMIM won the Kishanganj seat, while the Rashtriya Janata Dal has won in Simri Bakhtiarpur and Belhar seats.
  • There was good news for the BJP in Uttar Pradesh, with the party winning seven of the 11 seats that had bypolls, while its ally Apna Dal (Soneylal) won one. The Samajwadi Party won three.
  • In Telangana, the ruling Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS) wrested the Huzurnagar seat from the Congress. In Rajasthan, the ruling Congress won the Assembly bypoll to Mandawa seat while the Rashtriya Loktantrik Party (RLP) retained the Khinwsar constituency. In Sikkim, the BJP won two seats and the Sikkim Krantikari Morcha one.

Maharashtra Election Results: BJP-Shiv Sena Combine Set To Retain Power; NCP Improves Tally

  •  In the 288-member Assembly, the BJP won 104 seats, while ally Sena bagged 56. The NCP bagged 54 seats and the Congress emerged victorious in 43 seats.
  • In the 2014 polls, the BJP had won 122 seats, the Sena 63, the Congress 42 and the NCP 41.
  • The BJP and Sena had then contested separately. The Sena joined the BJP-led government over a month after it was formed.

Haryana Gets Hung Assembly, BJP Needs Six More To Form Govt

  •  Haryana ended up with a hung assembly with the ruling BJP emerging as the largest party with 40 seats, but still six short of the halfway mark needed to form the next government.
  • The Congress won 31 seats, the Jannayak Janta Party 10, the Indian National Lok Dal and Haryana Lokhit Party one each. The Aam Aadmi Party, which contested 46 seats, was decimated.


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Union Cabinet Approves Cadre Review Of ITBP

  •  The Union Cabinet has approved cadre review of Group A General Duty (Executive) Cadre and Non-Gazetted cadre of Indo-Tibetan Border Police, ITBP.
  • It has also decided to create two new Commands (Western Command at Chandigarh and Eastern Command at Guwahati) to be headed by Additional Director General and assisted by Inspector General.
  • After the creation of these Group A posts in ITBP, the supervisory efficiency and capacity building of the Force will be enhanced.


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Bureaucratic Reshuffle -New Appointments

  • Senior IAS officer Arvind Singh has been appointed as the chairman of Airports Authority of India and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu will head the National Highways Authority of India as part of a major bureaucratic reshuffle effected by the Centre.
  • Singh is at present working in his cadre-state Maharashtra. He has been appointed as the chief of AAI in the rank and pay of additional secretary, an order issued by the personnel ministry said.
  • Sandhu is a 1988-batch IAS officer of Uttarakhand cadre. He is currently additional secretary, department of higher education, ministry of human resource development.Sandhu has been appointed as the NHAI chairman against the vacancy caused due to the appointment of Nagendra Nath Sinha, who was earlier appointed as the secretary, department of border management.
  • Ganji Kamala V Rao, at present in his cadre-state Kerala, has been named the chairman and managing director, India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC) Ltd.
  • Pramod Kumar Tiwari, joint secretary, department of food and public distribution, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution will be the director general of the Bureau of Indian Standards in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution.
  • Debashri Mukherjee, joint secretary in the Prime Minister's Office has been appointed as the additional secretary, department of water resources in the river development and Ganga rejuvenation, Ministry of Jal Shakti. She has been appointed in place of T Rajeshwari on her appointment as additional secretary, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.
  • IAS officer Amit Yadav, joint secretary in the department of telecommunications, has been appointed as the director general, directorate general of foreign trade.
  • Rakesh Sarwal will be additional secretary in the department of higher education in place of Sandhu.
  • Ashish Upadhyay, a 1989-batch IAS officer of Madhya Pradesh cadre, has been appointed as additional secretary & financial advisor in the Ministry of Power. He is joint secretary in the Ministry of Power.
  • Senior bureaucrat K Sanjay Murthy, additional secretary in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs will be chief executive officer and managing director, Delhi Mumbai Industrial Corridor Development Corporation under the Ministry of Commerce and Industry.
  • Keshav Kumar Pathak, who is serving in his cadre-state Bihar, has been appointed as managing director, National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd. under the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.
  • K Moses Chalai, additional secretary in the Ministry of Women and Child Development will be secretary, North Eastern Council Secretariat.
  • Bureaucrat S Gopalakrishnan, joint secretary in the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology has been named as additional secretary, Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology.
  • Rachna Shah, joint secretary, Cabinet Secretariat will be additional secretary in the same department. B Srinivas has been named as the managing director, National Horticulture Board, department of agriculture, cooperation and farmers welfare.
  • Satya Brata Sahu, who is director, National Highways & Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited will be additional secretary, department of land resources.
  • IAS officer Vijayendra will be chairman & managing director,National Small Industries Corporation Ltd. He is at present joint secretary, department of defence production.

BR Sharma Appointed as SSC Chairman

  •  Former Chief Secretary Braj Raj Sharma, has been appointed Chairman of the Staff Selection Commission (SSC). BR Sharma was presently posted as Secretary, Border Management, in the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • A 1984-batch IAS officer, Braj Raj Sharma has served as Chief Secretary in the Jammu and Kashmir government from September 7, 2015, to April 28, 2017.
  • Later he was appointed as Adviser to former Chief Minister- Mehbooba Mufti. 


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World Pasta Day

  •  World Pasta Day is celebrated annually on October 25.
  • This is a day for carb lovers to rejoice and celebrate their love for pasta. It is a very versatile food as it comes in many shapes and sizes and can be served hot or cold, as a main dish, side dish or salad.

October 25 is International Artist Day

  • October 25 has been declared International Artist Day by a group of artists who thought wisely that artists needed their own special day.
  • Coincidentally, it's also Picasso's birthday. 

National Breadstick Day

  •  National Breadstick Day recognizes the delicious goodness of dunkable pieces of warm and tender enjoyment.
  • This celebration is observed on the last Friday in October (25 October 2019). Breadsticks come in many forms. They can be soft or crunchy.


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Ruth Bader Ginsburg To Receive $1 Million Berggruen Prize For Philosophy And Culture

  •  Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is the winner of this year's $1 million Berggruen Prize for philosophy and culture.
  • The award announced by the Los Angeles-based Berggruen Institute honors Ginsburg for her pioneering legal work for gender equality and her support for the rule of law. The institute says Ginsburg will direct the money to charity.
  • The 86-year-old Ginsburg has been on the Supreme Court since 1993.
  • She is the court's oldest justice, but maintains an active public speaking schedule that took her to the San Francisco Bay Area. Ginsburg has been treated for cancer twice in the past 10 months.

E.U.'s Sakharov Human Rights Prize Awarded To Jailed Uighur Intellectual, Probably Angering China

  •  The European Union awarded its highest human rights prize to the imprisoned Uighur intellectual Ilham Tohti in a move that pointedly rebuked China's treatment of the Muslim ethnic minority and may draw a reprisal from Beijing.
  • Tohti, an economist who advocated greater autonomy for the Uighurs of Xinjiang in western China, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2014 on separatism charges.
  • He had spent years criticizing Chinese government restrictions and crackdowns on Uighur culture and calling for dialogue between his people and the Han ethnic majority in China.
  • In a statement announcing the 2019 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought, European Parliament President David Sassoli called Tohti "a voice of moderation and reconciliation" and noted that China has detained more than 1 million Uighurs in internment camps since 2017.

Sadin-Pratidin's Lifetime Achievement Award to Homen Borgohain

  •  Every year, the Sadin-Pratidin group award is conferred on persons who have excelled in their chosen area of activities ranging from literature to corporate, and from culture to sports.
  • This time the Lifetime Achievement Award was conferred on eminent writer-intellectual Homen Borgohain.
  • The ceremony was attended by Governor Prof Jagadish Mukhi and Chief Minister Sarbananda Sonowal while former President Pranab Mukherjee joined with a video link due to his indisposition.


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Government Plans To Set Up PM KISAN Call Centre

  •  The Modi government is planning to set up a call centre to respond to farmers' queries about the PM Kisan minimum income support scheme, under which beneficiaries get Rs 6,000 a year in three equal installments.
  • It plans to have a dedicated round-the-clock interactive voice response (IVR) system. At present there is a helpline number for farmers to register complaints and seek information, but there have been complaints galore that farmers have not been getting any response from the helpline.
  • The database of beneficiaries is huge now. Around 75 million farmers have registered for this scheme. So, there is need for a dedicated call centre to deal with their issues and problems.
  • The 24X7 call centre will be multilingual and have multiple entry checks so that it cannot be misused.


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QS India University Rankings 2020

  •   The annual university rankings published by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) were released. The QS India University Rankings 2020 saw several IITs dominating the list.
  • IIT Bombay, Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore and IIT Delhi were ranked as the top three educational institutes in India.
  • IIT Madras and IIT Kharagpur made it to ranks 4 and 5 respectively. The institute published a separate ranking for India for the first time in 2019 and IIT Bombay had topped the India list even then; the premier technical institute was ranked number 8 among top institutions in BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).
  • At least 11 institutions had achieved a perfect score of 100 under the criterion of 'staff with PhD' indicator, which showed that many top Indian institutions had their focus as strong research.
  • The list also saw two West Bengal government-run universities, namely Calcutta University (CU) and Jadavpur University (JU) appearing on the list.


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A New Book Entitled "Ten Studies In Kashmir: History And Politics" Released

  •  An Indian historian, educationist and Padma Shri recipient, Kashi Nath Pandit's new book entitled "Ten Studies in Kashmir: History and Politics", is published by Academic Foundation.
  • A new book looks at the riveting history of Jammu and Kashmir from the time of its political and geographic consolidation to the abrogation of the state's special status.
  • The book, which comes after the scrapping of Article 370 provisions in August 2019, will shed light on the happenings from 1947 till the revocation of the special status of the state.
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