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General Awareness

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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

27 Jan 2020


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Palestinians Threaten to Quit Oslo Accords

  • Palestinian officials threatened to withdraw from the Oslo Accords signed with Israel if President Donald Trump announces his Middle East peace plan this week.
  • The Palestinian Authority's foreign ministry called for a clear international declaration rejecting 'the deal of the century'" that it said would endanger regional stability.
  • Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said that the Palestine Liberation Organisation reserved the right "to withdraw from the interim agreement" if Trump unveils his plan.
  • As per Erekat, the US deal was "an attempt to destroy the two states", and would "open the doors of one person one vote from the river Jordan to the Mediterranean".
  • The Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement, signed in Washington in 1995, sought to put into practice the first Oslo peace deal agreed two years earlier.
  • Sometimes called Oslo II, the interim agreement set out the scope of Palestinian autonomy in the occupied West Bank and Gaza.
  • Hamas leader Ismail Haniya said that the Middle East peace plan "will not pass" and could lead to renewed Palestinian violence.

UN Slams Ongoing Libya Arms Embargo Violations

  • According to the United Nations mission to the North African country, weapons are pouring into Libya in violation of an arms embargo and despite commitments made last week by world powers.
  • World leaders met in Berlin last weekend and committed to ending all foreign meddling in Libya and to upholding the 2011 UN Security Council weapons embargo as part of a broader plan to end the country''s conflict.
  • They also agreed to a permanent ceasefire and steps to dismantle numerous militias and armed groups, as well as a political process under the auspices of the UN.
  • As per the UN mission in Libya, UNSMIL, over the last 10 days, numerous cargo and other flights have been observed landing at Libyan airports in the western and eastern parts of the country providing the parties with advanced weapons, armoured vehicles, advisers and fighters.
  • Libya has been mired in chaos since a 2011 NATO-backed uprising that killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi, with two rival administrations vying for power.
  • The conflict deepened last year when military strongman Khalifa Hafter, who controls much of the south and east of Libya, launched an assault in April 2019 to seize Tripoli, base of the UN-recognised Government of National Accord.

Rockets Hit Near US Embassy in Iraq Capital

  • A volley of rockets landed near the US embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, in the latest unclaimed attack on American installations in the country.


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Nearly 50 Dead in Brazil Storms

  • At least 46 people have died in Brazil and more than 25,000 have been displaced due to widespread flooding following storms and heavy rains that have swept across the south east of the country. Most of the casualties were in the state of Minas Gerais, including the capital Belo Horizonte, which had its heaviest rainfall over a 24-hour period on 24-01-2020 since records began 110 years ago.

Search for Relatives of Galapagos Tortoise

  • A scientific expedition to the Galapagos Islands will spend ten days searching for relatives of two tortoise species believed to be extinct, including those of the archipelago's Lonesome George.
  • George, the last known member of the Pinta tortoise species, died in 2012 at over 100 years of age after refusing to mate in captivity with females from related subspecies.
  • Park rangers and scientists from the Galapagos National Parks (PNG) and Galapagos Conservancy will tour the Wolf Volcano on Isabela Island in hopes of locating and removing a group of giant tortoises with partial lineage to the extinct Pinta and Floreana species.


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DCIL to Sell Away its Building in Vizag

  • The building constructed by the Dredging Corporation of India Limited (DCIL) in the Seethammadhara Housing Board Colony to run its corporate office has been put up for sale.
  • The DCIL, in which a consortium of four major ports led by Visakhapatnam Port Trust (VPT) acquired 73.47% equity in 2019 by paying little over Rs. 1,000 crore, has entrusted the job of finding a buyer through online sale to Metal Scrap Trading Corporation (MSTC), according to its Chairman Rinkesh Roy.
  • Mr. Roy, the Chairman of Paradip Port Trust, said that they were expecting a good response to sell away the five plus two basement building constructed with green technology.

Govt. Eyes Unspent Funds to Tread Fiscal Tightrope

  • Money allocated for government schemes in the 2019-20 financial year that is lying unspent may help in keeping the Union government's fiscal math in order ahead of the upcoming budget despite the current economic slowdown and an expected fall in revenue receipts, according to two people aware of the matter.
  • As on November 2019, the total unspent money was Rs. 9,66,292 crore, or 34.7% of the Rs. 27,86,349 crore budgeted for 2019-20, according to official data of the Controller General of Accounts (CGA). Total unspent money during the corresponding period in 2018-19 was Rs. 7,83,572 crore, or 33.9% of the budgeted expenditure of Rs. 23,11,422 crore.
  • While a major portion of allocated money is often spent towards the end of the fiscal, the Union finance ministry has this year tightened its cap on rush expenditure. The finance ministry issued an instruction to all ministries not to indulge in the last minute spending considering the fiscal position of the government in the current financial year (2020-21).
  • According to the order, ministries cannot spend more than 15% of the budget estimate (BE) in two months (i.e. January and February 2020) and 10% of BE in the last month (March 2020) with some exemptions.

AMC Marks Down Investment in Vodafone Idea

  • Franklin Templeton Mutual Fund, which marked down its investment in the securities issued by Vodafone Idea to zero, said that its board has approved the creation of segregated portfolios (or side pockets) to hold these securities in six of its schemes. The move would help prevent the distressed assets from damaging the returns generated from more liquid and better-performing assets. The board of trustees of Franklin Templeton MF approved the creation of segregated portfolios in six schemes—Franklin India Low Duration Fund, Franklin India Dynamic Accrual Fund, Franklin India Credit Risk Fund, Franklin India Short Term Income Plan, Franklin India Ultra Short Bond Fund and Franklin India Income Opportunities Fund. With effect from Jan. 24, various securities issued by Vodafone Idea in the schemes will be segregated from the total portfolio. The decision has been taken in order to protect the value for existing unitholders in these schemes, it added. On January 16, Franklin Templeton, which had an exposure of over Rs. 2,000 crore to Voda Idea, had marked down its investment in the securities issued by the telecom player to zero.


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Boeing's 777X Jetliner Successfully Completes Maiden Flight

  • Boeing Co successfully staged the first flight of the world's largest twin-engined jetliner in a respite from the crisis over its smallest model, the grounded 737 MAX.
  • The 777X, a larger version of the 777 mini-jumbo, touched down at the historic Boeing Field outside Seattle after a debut at Boeing's revamped wide-body assembly lines north of the city.
  • The decision to take advantage of a gap in clouds to start the months of testing needed before the jet can carry passengers came after two attempts had to be postponed due to high winds.
  • While eyeing hundreds of sales this decade, Boeing's new 406-seater must overcome hurdles from regulators and buyers. The 777X will be the first major aircraft to be certified since the role of software flaws in two fatal 737 MAX crashes.

Scientists Race to Find Out How Wuhan Victims Became Ill

  • Scientists are urgently seeking data to resolve one critically important aspect of the coronavirus outbreak that has killed at least 54 people and infected well over 1,000 since emerging in Wuhan, China.
  • Researchers say they desperately need to find out whether most cases have been caused by repeated spillover of the virus from animals into humans, or whether most cases are now being triggered by secondary human-to-human transmission.
  • If most cases detected so far were caused by direct infections from animals, then there is a prospect the new epidemic could peter out fairly quickly. But if new cases are now being triggered by human-to-human transmission, the chances that a major global epidemic is now under way will be raised dramatically. Chinese president Xi Jinping has already warned that the spread of the deadly new virus is accelerating.


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Anand Draws with Kovalev at Tata Steel Masters

  • Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand played out a draw with Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus to share the sixth spot after the 12th and penultimate round of the Tata Steel Masters chess tournament.
  • USA's second seed Fabiano Caruana took an unsurpassable 1.5-point lead over Magnus Carlsen and ensured the title with a round to spare.
  • Caruana (9) defeated Poland's Jan-Krzysztof Duda to reach nine points. Carlsen (7.5) drew with Russia's Vladislav Artemiev.
  • In the Challengers category, Surya Shekhar Ganguly (6.5) lost to Pavel Eljanov (7.5) and Nihal Sarin (6) drew with Vincent Keymer. Spain's David Anton Guijarro (8) continued to lead despite losing to Max Warmerdam.

Ghosal into Final of Pittsburg Open Squash

  • India's Saurav Ghosal made his way into the final of Pittsburgh Open squash tournament with a hard-fought win over Egypt's Omar Mossad.
  • Ghosal, seeded second, defeated the fifth seed Eyptian in a thrilling 1 hour 13 minute contest.
  • Ghosal, who is searching for his first World tour win, will now take on top seed Egyptian Fares Dessouky in the summit clash.


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Peace Accord with Bodo Factions

  • The Centre is expected to sign a peace accord with all four factions of the banned National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), a remark that came on a day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that insurgency in the north-east has reduced substantially and many of those who picked up arms have returned to the mainstream.
  • Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal, senior minister Himanta Biswa Sarma, Bodoland Territorial Council (BTC) chief Hagrama Mohiliary and senior bureaucrats flew to the national capital to participate in the signing of the peace pact with the groups that have been demanding a separate state.
  • According to Biswajit Daimary, a Rajya Sabha member from the Bodoland Peoples Front (BPF), the deal is expected to be signed. Last-minute discussions are still on in Delhi with all the four groups and other Bodo organisations. This deal will bring the issue of a separate Bodoland to its conclusion.
  • The accord, which is expected to bring peace in the Bodo-dominated areas of Assam, is likely to be signed in the presence of Union home minister Amit Shah, Sonowal, Sarma, Mohiliary and senior bureaucrats. Pramod Bodo, president of the powerful All Bodo Students Union (ABSU), is expected to be a signatory to the accord besides leaders of all four NDFB factions — B Sawraigra, Gobinda Basumatary, Ranjan Daimary and Dhiren Bodo.
  • This will be the third Bodo accord signed in the past 27 years since the movement for a separate Bodoland for the state's largest tribe began over four decades ago.

Kerala CM Seeks Compensation from Nepal

  • Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sought the intervention of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) for suitable monetary compensation from the Nepal government to relatives of eight tourists from Kerala who died at a resort in that country.

Cabinet Likely to Take a Call on Council

  • The Cabinet meeting is likely to take a decision on abolishing the Legislative Council. The government may table a resolution in the Assembly to this effect after a short discussion on the developments that followed the passage of the decentralisation and repeal of CRDA Bills in the House. The Legislative Council's decision to refer them to a select committee kicked up a controversy.
  • The ruling YSR Congress Party is seriously contemplating abolishing the Council in the wake of the recent developments. The government would first initiate a discussion on the subject before tabling the resolution. Parliament would have to approve the resolution passed in the Assembly and abolish the Council. "I don't see any hurdle in getting it cleared in Parliament. It is a matter of days," said a senior leader.
  • Chief Minister Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy had dropped hints that the Council would be abolished. Reddy had said in the Assembly that we need to seriously think whether we need to have such a House which appears to be functioning with only political motives. He further said that it was not mandatory to have the Council. So let us discuss the issue further and take a decision on whether or not to continue the Council.


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Anti-drone System Used for First Time this R-Day Parade

  • National security planners deployed anti-drone weapons to secure VVIPs during the Republic Day parade — the first instance of India attempting to neutralise the growing threat from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).

Army Stocking up Ammunitions for 40-day War

  • The 13-lakh strong Army is now slowly but steadily building its ammunition stocks ranging from rockets and missiles to high-caliber tank and artillery shells to ensure it can comfortably fight a full-blown war for over 10 days, with the eventual aim to have adequate stockpiles in place to last 40 days.
  • As per defence ministry sources, all the different types of ammunition for the Army will be built up to "10(I) levels", which mean adequate stocks to undertake 10 days of "intensive" full-spectrum fighting, by 2022-2023, as per the latest assessment.
  • The next target will be to gradually achieve 40(I) levels after some major rationalisation because not all types of ammunition are needed in such large numbers. Holding large reserves is neither economically nor logistically feasible.
  • The MoD is also in the process of contracting the domestic private sector to manufacture with foreign collaboration eight different types of tank, artillery and infantry ammunition worth around Rs 1,700 crore per year for a decade from 2022-2023 onwards.

Indian Navy to Soon Get First Batch of Indigenously-built Torpedo Varunastra

  • Indian Navy will soon get the first batch of indigenously-built heavyweight anti-submarine torpedo Varunastra, giving it crucial firepower to the naval forces. The first batch will be delivered to the Navy soon and will be fitted onto Sindhu class submarines and other navy ships. This will make India one of the eight countries to have such indigenously-designed and built system.
  • Varunastra is capable to destroy any target, including ships and submarines, up to the range of 40 kilometres in waters. The torpedo was successfully inducted in the navy in July 2018, following which an order of 63 such systems for Rs. 1187 crore was placed.


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Kobe Bryant Killed in Helicopter Crash

  • Basketball icon Kobe Bryant died in a helicopter crash in Southern California. He was 41. Bryant's 13-year-old daughter, Gianna, also died in the crash.
  • The NBA family is devastated by the tragic passing of Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna.
  • He was one of the most extraordinary players in the history of the game with accomplishments that are legendary: five NBA championships, an NBA MVP award, 18 NBA All-Star selections, and two Olympic gold medals. But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability.
  • Bryant won five NBA championships for the Lakers and amassed a number of accolades. He was the NBA's Most Valuable Player in 2007-08, a 15-time All-NBA selection, 18-time All-Star and 12-time All-Defensive team member. He twice was named MVP of the NBA Finals and was the All-Star Game MVP four times.
  • Bryant played in 1,346 career games and retired as the third-leading scorer in NBA history with 33,643 points. Lakers star LeBron James passed had him on the all-time list when he scored 29 points against the Philadelphia 76ers. Bryant stands behind Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and James on the all-time list.


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International Holocaust Remembrance Day

  • International Holocaust Remembrance Day is an international memorial day on 27th January commemorating the tragedy of the Holocaust that occurred during the Second World War. It commemorates the genocide that resulted in the deaths of 6 million Jews and 11 million others, by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. It was designated by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 60/7 on 1st November 2005 during the 42nd plenary session. The resolution came after a special session was held earlier that year on 24th January 2005 during which the United Nations General Assembly marked the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi concentration camps and the end of the Holocaust.
  • On 27 January 1945, Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated by the Red Army.
  • Prior to the 60/7 resolution, there had been national days of commemoration, such as Germany's Tag des Gedenkens an die Opfer des Nationalsozialismus (The Day of Remembrance for the victims of National Socialism), established in a proclamation issued by Federal President Roman Herzog on 3rd January 1996; and the Holocaust memorial day observed every 27th January since 2001 in the UK.
  • The Holocaust Remembrance Day is also a national event in the United Kingdom and in Italy.
  • This year marks the 75th year since Soviet troops liberated the death camp.


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Bembem Devi Delighted with Padma Shri Recognition

  • Former India captain Oinam Bembem Devi is one of the recipients of the Padma Shri award this year (2020).
  • A flag-bearer of Indian women's football for over two decades, Bembem was also conferred with the Arjuna award in 2017.
  • Making her National debut at the age of 15, she donned the National colours until 2016. She won three SAF Cup titles (2010, 2012, and 2014) and two South Asian Games gold medals (2010, 2016).
  • Bembem is also a two-time AIFF Women's Player of the Year (2001, 2013).
  • In 2018, Bembem led Eastern Sporting Union to the final of the Indian Women's League as a coach.
  • In 2019, she coached the under-17 side Cheetahs in the Women's Championship held in West Bengal.

President's Medals for Service, Gallantry

  • Eleven officers of the Delhi Fire Services (DFS) were awarded on Republic Day.
  • According to DFS director Atul Garg, who won the President's fire service medal for distinguished service, only once in the past have there been so many awards for gallantry among the city's fire officers on Republic Day. "We won 11 awards in 2017 as well. But this time we won five medals for gallantry, unlike in 2017, when we won four.
  • The President's fire service medal for gallantry is awarded to those fire service officers who have displayed bravery while dealing with fire situations.
  • This year, late fireman Vijender Pal Singh has been conferred the award posthumously. Vijender Pal died in a cylinder blast while fighting a fire in an industrial area along Rohtak Road in Delhi in May 2017.
  • Assistant divisional officer Avtar Singh too received the gallantry award for the same incident.
  • Three other officers, Anil Kumar, Ram Kumar and Arvind Dagar were among the recipients of the gallantry award for their role in saving 13 people from a burning building in Masudabad in outer Delhi in October 2017.
  • Director Garg and deputy chief fire officer Virendra Singh were awarded the President's fire service medal for distinguished service.

Billie Eilish Sweeps the Board at the 2020 Grammys

  • Pop star Billie Eilish swept the board at the 2020 Grammys, winning five awards, including best new artist and song of the year.
  • The 18-year-old also won album of the year for her debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go.
  • She replaced Taylor Swift as the youngest person ever to win the award.
  • Eilish triumphed in all of the Grammys "big four" marquee categories - song of the year, record of the year, album of the year and best new artist.
  • Her elder brother, Finneas O'Connell, also picked up producer of the year for his work on Eilish's album.
  • Other big winners included Lil Nas X, who won video of the year for Old Town Road, and Lizzo, who scooped three prizes including best pop solo performance for her breakout hit, Truth Hurts.


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Countering Malware Threat Focus of Cyber Security Policy

  • Authorities are putting the finishing touches to the Cyber Security Policy, 2020, which will lead to the creation of a centralised repository for detecting, reporting and analysing malware in India, and for devising countermeasures.
  • The policy seeks to create safe, secure, trusted, resilient and vibrant cyberspace for India's economic progress.
  • The new policy will focus on issues such as mandatory courses in schools and colleges on cyber hygiene, which relate to online security, and indigenization, especially of anti-virus programmes.
  • The new policy will be circulated among ministries before it is placed before the Union cabinet for its clearance. The new policy is likely to come up before the Cabinet in a couple of weeks. A cyber security policy adopted earlier in 2013 was aimed at creating safe and secure cyberspace.
  • The new policy will lay special stress on cybersecurity awareness among young adult. The human resources development ministry will be roped in to design and run mandatory courses in schools and colleges on "cyber hygiene". "Cyber hygiene is critical in an increasingly connected world and [good cyber] habits will have to be developed from a very young age," the second official said on condition of anonymity.

Maharashtra Launches Rs. 10 Lunch Plate Scheme

  • The Shiv Sena-led Maharashtra government launched its much-awaited 'Shiv Bhojan' scheme, which is aimed at providing a meal to the poor for just Rs. 10, on the occasion of the 71st Republic Day.
  • Under the scheme, which was launched on a pilot basis, thalis or lunch plates would be available to people at designated centres/canteens during a stipulated time in all the districts.
  • Launching of the scheme was one of the poll promises made by the Shiv Sena, which shares power with the NCP and Congress in a coalition government.
  • In Mumbai, district guardian minister Aslam Shaikh inaugurated the "Shiv Bhojan Thali" canteen at the civic-run Nair hospital.
  • A similar centre was unveiled by Tourism Minister and Mumbai suburban district guardian minister Aaditya Thackeray at the collector's office in Bandra.
  • Guardian ministers of Pune and Nashik, Ajit Pawar and Chhagan Bhujbal formally launched the scheme in their respective districts.


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Centre Enrols Hospitals Run by Railways, PSUs in PMJAY

  • As per reports, India is aiming to plug significant gaps in providing healthcare in smaller cities and towns under the ambitious Ayushman Bharat programme by signing up hospitals operated by state-run companies and Indian Railways.
  • NITI Aayog adviser Alok Kumar had raised concerns about the world's largest health insurance programme at an industry event in November. He said that a number of hospitals in smaller cities—including those run by state-run enterprises—are underutilised, even though there is strong demand for their services in these regions especially because of the insurance programme.
  • Singrauli, the power capital of India, has hospitals of NTPC and Coal India Ltd; all of them underutilised (like) shells standing. Railway hospitals (are like) shells standing but not being utilised efficiently enough.
  • Since the letter was written, 236 hospitals have got themselves empanelled under the health insurance scheme, officially called Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PMJAY), while nearly 700 more that are left are in talks to join the scheme.
  • The 236 hospitals operated by public sector undertakings (PSUs) include 91 operated by the ministry of railways, in places such as Itarsi in Madhya Pradesh, Ajmer, Kota, Jodhpur and Jaipur in Rajasthan, Gaya and Garhara in Bihar, Gonda and Moradabad in Uttar Pradesh, among others, according to a document seen by Mint. Another 36 hospitals under ministry of coal, at places like Korba, Churcha, Bisrampur and Kurasia, have also been empanelled.

India Steps up Vigil on Borders after Nepal Confirms First Coronavirus Case

  • Over 29,700 passengers from 137 flights were screened for novel coronavirus infection at seven identified airports in the country but no positive case was detected.
  • Over 100 people have been kept under observation in Kerala and Maharashtra following screening for a possible exposure to novel coronavirus (nCov) as the Prime Minister's Office reviewed India's preparedness to deal with any situation amid mounting global concern over rising cases in China.
  • In response to confirmed case of #nCoV2019 in #Nepal, India has stepped up vigil in districts bordering Nepal. Health Teams were deployed at BOP with Nepal at Jhulaghat and Jauljibi, Dist Pithoragarh, #Uttarakhand.

Discussion on Constitution Compulsory in Schools

  • The Chhattisgarh government made it mandatory for all educational institutions in the state to have an hour of "discussion sessions" on the Indian Constitution. The state education department conveyed the decision in a letter addressed to collectors and divisional commissioners
  • The discussions are to be held every Monday after the morning assembly, said the letter by the Chhattisgarh education department. The letter also tells what is to be discussed every week, starting with the Preamble in the first week.


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Tableaux Showcase Diversity and Heritage

  • The festivals of India's youngest state, Telangana, the architectural and cultural heritage of Jaipur which won the Unesco World Heritage tag in June 2019, Jammu & Kashmir's 'back to village' programme, were some of the themes among the 22 tableaux that rolled down Rajpath to mark the country's 71st Republic Day.
  • While 16 states and Union Territories showcased their cultural heritage and motifs, six departments and ministries of the Union government displayed themes that best represent the work they have done or aspire to do.
  • While the Punjab tableau showcased the ideology of Guru Nanak, Gujarat put displayed its ancient architectural style in the form of 'Rani ki vav', a Unesco World Heritage Site in Patan city.
  • Meghalaya themed its tableau around the state's interactions with nature in the form of the double decker living root bridge, while Goa put on display its government's 'save a frog' initiative.
  • Among the Union government departments, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) made a debut with a tableau showcasing the flood rescue team in action. The department of drinking water and sanitation on the other hand, underlined the government's 'Jal Jeevan Mission' initiative, which aims at providing functioning tap connections to every house by 2024.
  • The department for promotion of industry and internal trade on the other hand, emphasised the value of start-ups in India.
  • Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, the ministry of shipping, and department of financial services are some of the other tableaux that marched down Rajpath.
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