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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

18 Feb 2020


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Pak. Mission Issues Visas to Hindu Pilgrims to Visit Katas Raj Temples

  • The Pakistan High Commission issued visas to a group of Hindu pilgrims to visit Shree Katas Raj temples in Punjab province's Chakwal district.
  • The group is planning to visit Shree Katas Raj temples, also known as Qila Katas or complex of Katas temples, from February 19 to 25, the Pakistan High Commission said in a statement.
  • Katas Raj temples surround a pond which is considered sacred by the Hindus, it said.
  • A group of 88 Indian Hindu devotees had also visited Shree Katas Raj temples in 2019 from December 13 to 19.

UAE Issues Operating Licence for Arab World's First Nuclear Plant

  • The United Arab Emirates (UAE) issued an operating licence for the first reactor at the Arab world's first nuclear power plant, paving the way for it to start production later this year.
  • The Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi, which is being built by Korea Electric Power Corporation (KEPCO), was originally due to open in 2017 but the start-up of its first reactor has been delayed several times.

Trump Calls for Russia to Stop Backing Syrian Atrocities

  • President Donald Trump called for Russia to end its support for the Syrian regime's atrocities as he expressed US concern over violence in the Idlib region.
  • In a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Trump expressed concern over the violence in Idlib, Syria and conveyed the United States' desire to see an end to Russia's support for the Assad regime's atrocities. President Bashar al-Assad's forces made new gains in their offensive against the last major rebel bastion in the northwest region of Idlib.
  • Backed by Russian air strikes, Syrian government forces have kept up the assault in Idlib and areas of neighbouring Aleppo and Latakia provinces since December 2019.
  • According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, after clashes and air strikes, regime forces were in control of all the villages and small towns around Aleppo for the first time since 2012.
  • As per the United Nations, the Russian-backed offensive has triggered the largest wave of displacement in Syria's civil war, with 800,000 people fleeing since December 2019.
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India's Bird Population Suffers Long-term Decline

  • According to a new scientific report jointly released by 10 organisations, over a fifth of India's bird diversity, ranging from the Short-toed Snake Eagle to the Sirkeer Malkoha, has suffered strong long-term declines over a 25-year period, while more recent annual trends point to a drastic 80% loss among several common birds.
  • The State of India's Birds 2020 (SoIB) assessment raises the alarm that several spectacular birds, many of them endemic to the sub-continent, face a growing threat from loss of habitat due to human activity, widespread presence of toxins including pesticides, hunting and trapping for the pet trade. Diminishing population sizes of many birds because of one factor brings them closer to extinction because of the accelerated effects of others, the report warned. For every bird species that was found to be increasing in numbers over the long term, 11 have suffered losses, some catastrophically.
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Godrej Properties Buys Land in Delhi for Luxury Housing Project

  • In a big-ticket real estate deal, Godrej Properties acquired nearly 27 acre land parcel in the national capital for Rs. 1,359 crore to develop a luxury housing project.
  • The land parcel belonged to Rail Land Development Authority (RLDA).
  • Godrej Properties has added a new project in the residential market of Ashok Vihar, Delhi.
  • As per Godrej Properties, with the land acquisition value at Rs. 1,359 crore, this is one of the largest land transactions in India in recent times. The payment for this land will be made in instalments over several years as stipulated in the tender documents. This is Godrej Properties' second project in Delhi after the launch of Godrej South Estate in Okhla in 2019.

JSW Energy to Buy GMR Odisha Unit

  • JSW Energy entered into exclusive discussions with GMR Energy Limited (GEL) for potential acquisition of its subsidiary, GMR Kamalanga Energy Limited (GKEL), which owns and operates a 1,050 MW (3x350 MW) thermal power plant in Odisha, for an enterprise value of Rs. 5,321 crore.
  • Post-acquisition, the total installed power generation capacity of JSW Energy will increase to 5,609 Mw. This will expand the company's presence in the eastern region of the country and further diversify its fuel mix and off take arrangements.
  • Kamalanga is one the 36 identified stressed power assets that was undergoing debt resolution. The project was commissioned in 2014 and ran into trouble because of lack of coal supply. The coal block allotted to the project was cancelled by a Supreme Court judgment in the same year. It also didn't get any coal supply linkage from the Centre.
  • Built at a cost of Rs. 6,000 crore, it had a debt of Rs. 4,100 crore. The project has power purchase deal with Haryana, Odisha and Bihar.

India Becomes 5th Largest Economy, Overtakes UK and France

  • India emerged as the world's fifth largest economy by overtaking the UK and France in 2019, says a report.
  • A US-based think tank World Population Review in its report said that India is developing into an open-market economy from its previous autarkic policies.
  • India's economy is the fifth largest in the world with a GDP of $ 2.94 trillion, overtaking the UK and France in 2019 to take the fifth spot.
  • The size of the UK economy is $ 2.83 trillion and that of France is $ 2.71 trillion.
  • The report further said that in purchasing power parity (PPP) terms, India's GDP (PPP) is $ 10.51 trillion, exceeding that of Japan and Germany. Due to India's high population, India's GDP per capita is $ 2,170 (for comparison, the US is $ 62,794).
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India to Host 16-team FIH Junior Men's World Cup 2021

  • The International Hockey Federation (FIH) announced India as the host for the FIH Junior Men's World Cup 2021. In an official announcement, the international governing body also announced that the competition will be played towards the end of 2021.
  • The competition, which features the best young U-21 level talent from across the world, will again be heading to India, which won accolades from around the world for hosting one of the best FIH Senior Men's Hockey World Cups in 2018 held at the Kalinga Hockey Stadium, Bhubaneswar.
  • After having hosted the FIH Junior Men's World Cup in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh in 2016, where India lifted the coveted trophy, India will again be hosting the biggest Junior-level competition in hockey. The FIH Junior Men's World Cup will see a total of 16 teams compete for the title, out of which six will be from Europe, four from Asia including host India, two from Africa, two from Oceania and two from Pan America.

Faf du Plessis Steps Down as South Africa Captain across All Formats

  • South Africa's Faf du Plessis announced that he is stepping down from captaincy in both Tests and Twenty20 Internationals (T20Is) effective immediately to allow a new generation of leaders to develop in the side. The 35-year-old had already admitted earlier this year that he was not looking at his future in international cricket beyond the T20 World Cup in Australia in October.
  • Du Plessis's decision came a month after he had stepped down from the One-day International captaincy. Wicketkeeper-batsman Quinton de Kock, who was named South Africa's ODI captain last month, is the front-runner to fill in his boots.

Khelo University Games Anthem Launched

  • The Khelo India University Games (KIUG) anthem was launched by Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju at a function held at his residence. Sung, written and composed by former Haryana Ranji Trophy batsman Padamjeet Sehrawat, the peppy number exhorts the youth to participate in sports with an aim to shine and move ahead.
  • As per Kiren Rijiju, we have to have a structured format to improve Indian sport and the Khelo India University Games (starting February 22) is a step in that direction.
  • The KIUG will have 17 disciplines with 3399 athletes from 159 universities slated to participate.
  • Indian Oil Corporation is the main sponsor.
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Shaheen Bagh Row: Supreme Court Appoints Mediators to Convince Protestors

  • The Supreme Court appointed mediators to talk to the protestors at Shaheen Bagh. The Supreme Court said that it is important to talk to them (protesters). Supreme Court also said that whatever is the reason for the protest, it is not good to block a public road.
  • Supreme Court's bench comprising Justice S. K. Kaul and K. M. Joseph passed the order on February 17, 2020, in the petitions seeking removal of agitators from Shaheen Bagh and clearance of road. Protesters have been sitting on this road for over two months.
  • The Supreme Court has appointed a team of mediators to talk to Shaheen Bagh's protestors. According to the apex court's orders, Senior Counsel Sanjay Hegde and Advocate Sadhna Ramchandran will talk to the protestors as interlocutors. The Supreme Court said that these mediators will try to convince protestors to shift their demonstration site at an alternative place. The Supreme Court also said that both the lawyers have been given liberty to pick a third person to act as an interlocutor if required. The court has given them a week to submit their report.

Haryana Govt. to Give Rs. 6 Cr to Olympics Gold Medal Winners

  • Haryana Government announced that the state government will give Rs. 6 crore prize money to players that bag gold medals at the Olympic Games.
  • Apart from that, the Haryana government will also give Rs. 3 crore to those winning Gold Medal at Asian Games. Similarly, the state government will give Rs. 1.5 crore to those winning Gold Medal at Commonwealth Games.
  • Haryana Government also decided to give Rs. 15 lakh to each player participating in the Olympic Games. The Haryana Government believes that this will make state and country proud as well as encourage players.
  • Earlier, winners were given Rs. 5 crore. Apart from Gold Medalist, the silver medalist will get Rs. 1 crore more, while the bronze medalist will be given Rs. 50 lakh more.
  • The prize money for Asiad and Commonwealth Games winners has also been increased. The gold medalist in the Asian Games will now get Rs. 3 crore instead of two, while the gold medalist in the Commonwealth Games will get Rs. 50 lakh more.
  • The cash prize money will be given only to players representing Haryana.
  • According to the new sports policy of Haryana, a new provision has been added to honor the coaches of the players.
  • Apart from this, the player's stadium will also be given 10 percent of the amount he gets to improve the facilities.

Centre Lets Ladakh Appoint Non-gazetted Personnel

  • Following a shortage of personnel, the Union government empowered the Union Territory of Ladakh to formulate its own rules to appoint non-gazetted officials.
  • As per a senior official, the day-to-day work in Ladakh was getting hampered as the process to reallocate government officials had not been completed, and not many officials were willing to move to the Union Territory.
  • The erstwhile State of Jammu and Kashmir was bifurcated into the Union Territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh by Parliament on August 6, 2019. Thereafter, the Union government appointed a panel to find out officials' preference for posting.
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Peninsular Command by Next Year End, Theatre Commands by 2022

  • Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat spelled out a road map for restructuring the Armed Forces that would holistically counter threats along the borders with China and Pakistan as waell as in the Indian Ocean, backed by logistical agreements with other countries.
  • General Rawat said that an Indian Ocean-centered Peninsular Command, possibly formed by merging the Eastern and Western Naval Commands, should start shaping up by the end of next year.
  • Gen. Rawat said that India has signed several logistics agreements with a number of countries, which should be leveraged for operational turnaround.
  • Beginning with the logistics agreement with the U.S. in 2016, India has signed several such pacts, which are administrative arrangements for fuel and supplies, including with France, Oman and South Korea among others, and several more are under discussion.

India Will Purchase 110 New Fighter Jets in Staggered Manner

  • India will stagger the purchase of new foreign fighter jets for the Indian Air Force (IAF), General Bipin Rawat said as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) looks to also boost the domestic manufacturing industry.
  • "You should not go in for large numbers. Staggered acquisitions are important because when small orders are placed, it gives us time to take care of their downtime and also allow modernisation of the three services simultaneously," he said. The IAF is planning to acquire 110 new fighter jets.
  • However, a formal Request for Proposal (RFP) for the mega deal, valued at over USD 15 billion, is yet to be issued. The IAF has new budgetary constraints given that it saw a drop in its capital funds allocation in the latest Union Budget.
  • The IAF is considering proposals for Dassault Aviation's Rafale, Boeing's F/A 18, Lockheed Martin's F-21, the Eurofighter Typhoon, SAAB's Gripen E, and the Russian MiG-35 and Su-35.
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Sushil Chandra Named in J&K Delimitation Panel

  • Chief election commission (CEC) nominated election Commissioner Sushil Chandra as his nominee to the proposed delimitation commission for Jammu and Kashmir.
  • CEC Sunil Arora nominated Chandra upon the request of legislative department of the law ministry to take forward the exercise of setting up the commission.
  • The proposed Delimitation Commission will redraw assembly constituencies in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.The commission is likely to be set up by the home ministry. Delimitation is the process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country or a province with a legislative body.
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Taj Mahotsav

  • The Taj Festival in Agra is an annual extravaganza that reveals the rich cultural heritage of our country and displays the finest specimens of Indian craftsmanship. All year long the people of Uttar Pradesh wait expectantly for this festival held at Silpagram near Taj Mahal.
  • The Taj Festival in Agra begins from 18th - 27th Feb with a grand procession that makes one reminiscent of the magnificence of the Mughal era. Elephants and Camels are brilliantly decorated, drum beaters are adorned with finery, folk artistes blessed with immense talents and master craftsmen possessing remarkable dexterity in their respective fields are all gorgeously attired when they participate in this lavish procession.

Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana: 4th National Conference Held in Udaipur

  • The fourth National Conference of Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima yojana was held in Udaipur, Rajasthan. The Conference was organised by Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. The Conference was attended by more than 140 members. It included members from NABARD (National Bank of Agriculture and Rural Development), RBI (Reserve Bank of India), insurance companies, etc.
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Laureus Awards 2020

  • This is the 20th anniversary of the prestigious Laureus Award which celebrates the best in the world of sport.
  • The full list of winners is:
  • Laureus World Sportsman of the Year: Lewis Hamilton and Lionel Messi
  • Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year: Simone Biles
  • Laureus World Team of the Year: South Africa Men's Rugby Team
  • Laureus World Breakthrough of the Year: Egan Bernal
  • Laureus World Comeback of the Year: Sophia Flörsch
  • Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability: Oksana Masters
  • Laureus World Action Sportsperson of the Year: Chloe Kim
  • Laureus Best Sporting Moment: 'Carried on the shoulders of a nation' – Sachin Tendulkar
  • Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award: Dirk Nowitzki
  • Laureus Academy Exceptional Achievement Award: Spanish Basketball Federation
  • Laureus Sport for Good Award: South Bronx United
  • The most prestigious award of the night - the Laureus Lifetime Achievement Award was bagged by German basketball legend Dirk Nowitzki for his contribution to the sport. Widely regarded to be the greatest European basketball player ever, Nowitzki spent his entire 21-year career at the Dallas Mavericks. Nowitzki retired at the end of the 2018-19 season.
  • Sachin Tendulkar collected the Laureus Sporting Moment of the Year 2000-2020 for this World Cup-winning celebration in 2011. It was India's first WC win on home soil and its second cricket world title. Sachin was honoured by tennis legend Boris Becker and former competitor and good friend Steve Waugh.

Election Commission of India Gets 'Silver' Award

  • The Election Commission of India was awarded 'Silver' for Excellence in Government Process re-engineering for digital transformation for the year 2019-20. The award was given in February 2020.
  • The award seeks to recognise the projects that involved analysis and re-design of workflow and which resulted in improvement in outcomes related to efficiency, effectiveness of process, cost, quality, service delivery or a combination of these.
  • The award was presented during the 23rd National Conference on e-Governance held in February 2020 at Mumbai by Department of Administrative Reforms and Public Grievances (DARPG), Government of India.
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Odisha Passes Bill to Identify Socially Backward Classes

  • The Odisha assembly passed the Odisha State Backward Classes (Amendment) Bill to enable its newly constituted Backward Class Commission to conduct a survey for identifying socially and economically backward classes on the basis of their socio-educational status.
  • The bill was passed unanimously. The assembly also passed a resolution to take up the survey of social and educational conditions of people of backward classes. Officials said the amendment was necessary for conducting a survey of the households of backward classes. There are over 209 communities identified as socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC), but there are demands from several others for inclusion in the list.
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Chinese Doctors Using Plasma Therapy on Coronavirus

  • Doctors in Shanghai are using infusions of blood plasma from people who have recovered from the coronavirus to treat those still battling the infection, reporting some encouraging preliminary results.
  • A top emergency expert at the World Health Organization (WHO) said that using convalescent plasma was a "very valid" approach to test, but that it was important to get the timing right to maximize the boost to a patient's immunity.
  • The coronavirus epidemic is believed to have originated in a seafood market in the central city of Wuhan, capital of Hubei province, and has so far killed 1,770 people and infected more than 70,000 in mainland China.
  • Lu Hongzhou, professor and co-director of the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Centre said that the hospital had set up a special clinic to administer plasma therapy and was selecting patients who were willing to donate. The blood would be screened to check if he or she had other diseases like hepatitis B or C, he added.

Coronavirus: Largest Study Suggests Elderly and Sick are most at Risk

  • Health officials in China have published the first details of more than 70,000 cases of Covid-19, in the biggest study since the outbreak began.
  • Data from the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CCDC) found that more than 80% of the cases have been mild with the sick and elderly most at risk.
  • The research also points to the high risk for medical staff.
  • The findings put the overall death rate of the Covid-19 virus at 2.3%.
  • In Hubei, the worst affected province, the death rate is 2.9% compared with only 0.4% in the rest of the country.
  • China's latest official figures released on Tuesday put the overall death toll at 1,868 and 72,436 infections.
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Messiah Modi? A Great Tale of Expectations

  • Columnist Tavleen Singh's new book 'Messiah Modi? A Great Tale of Expectations' is out on the stands. As per the author, this is a "reporter's book" that assess the six years of Prime Minister Narendra Modi led BJP government's rule. While publishing the following sample after obtaining due permissions, The Quint has inserted subheadings to help readers with understanding the context. The excerpts encapsulate Tavleen Singh's assessment of Home Minister Amit Shah when he was the party president.
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Police, Uber Launch Himmat Plus app at IGI Airport for Passenger's Safety

  • To ensure safety and security of people travelling in cabs, the Delhi Police along with Uber launched the 'Himmat Plus' app at the Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport.
  • In case of an emergency, the police headquarters will receive the real-time location of a driver or a rider through this app so that a PCR van can be assigned to provide assistance.
  • Over 1,000 Himmat QR verification cards were distributed among drivers. Once a rider scans the QR card, they can access a driver's details and vehicle information on the Himmat App and can report their journey directly to police.
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