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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

17 Mar 2020


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Switzerland Declares State of Emergency

  • The Swiss government declared a state of emergency lasting until April 19. "A strong reaction is needed across the country. And we need it now," Swiss President Simonetta Sommaruga told a press conference. All shops, restaurants, bars, and entertainment and leisure facilities are to shut down, with the exception of grocery stores, pharmacies and health facilities. Switzerland will also tighten its border controls with Germany, France and Austria.
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RBI Directs Banks/FIs to Assess Impact on Balance Sheet, Asset Quality Due to Coronavirus Outbreak

  • Reserve Bank of India asked all banks and financial institutions to assess the impact on their balance sheet, asset quality, liquidity, among others, in the wake of the potential threat arising out of the spread of coronavirus disease in India.
  • Several confirmed cases have also been detected in India, which highlight the need of a co-ordinated strategy for handling the emerging situations for protecting the resilience of the Indian financial system, RBI said in a notification addressed to banks, urban cooperative banks, NBFCs, payment and small finance banks.
  • RBI asked financial entities to encourage their customers to use digital banking facilities as far as possible.

Federal Reserve Cuts Rates to Zero

  • The Federal Reserve, saying "the coronavirus outbreak has harmed communities and disrupted economic activity in many countries, including the United States," cut interest rates to essentially zero and launched a massive $700 billion quantitative easing program to shelter the economy from the effects of the virus.
  • The new fed funds rate, used as a benchmark both for short-term lending for financial institutions and as a peg to many consumer rates, will now be targeted at 0% to 0.25% down from a previous target range of 1% to 1.25%.
  • Facing highly disrupted financial markets, the Fed also slashed the rate of emergency lending at the discount window for banks by 125 basis points to 0.25%, and lengthened the term of loans to 90 days.

Flipkart Teams up with Aegon Life Insurance to Sell Quick-access Life Insurance Policies

  • Flipkart, an E-commerce company partnered with Aegon Life Insurance to sell comprehensive insurance solutions to customers seeking instant digital policies with an assured sum up to Rs. 10 lakh.
  • One of the major problems faced by the insurance industry is the idea that buying is expensive and complicated which is followed by long, difficult tenures and mis-selling.
  • This partnership aims to overcome this issue & make life insurance more convenient & transparent for customers at the click of a button.
  • The life insurance policies have diverse offerings- sums assured ranging from Rs. 1 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh, premiums starting from Rs. 129 for Rs. 1 lakh sum insured.
  • The policies are available to the existing customers of Flipkart between the ages of 18 and 65 years.
  • With instant life insurance cover through a digital policy as its core value proposition, such policies do not require medical tests or paperwork.
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Parliament Nod for Three Central Sanskrit Universities

  • Parliament passed a bill to upgrade three deemed Sanskrit universities into central universities. The Central Sanskrit Universities Bill, 2019 was passed by voice vote in Rajya Sabha. Earlier the bill was passed by Lok Sabha.
  • The Bill seeks to upgrade three deemed to be universities in Sanskrit -- Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, Sri Lal Bahadur Shastri Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth, and Rashtriya Sanskrit Vidyapeeth Tirupati -- into central universities.
  • The bill was moved in Rajya Sabha by Human Resource Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank.

India Bans Entry of Indians from EU, Turkey and the UK

  • India further extended its ban on arriving international passengers and said that it would not provide entry to even Indian passport holders residing in the United Kingdom, Turkey and whole of Europe till the end of March.
  • According to aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), travel of passengers from member countries of the European Union, the European free trade association, Turkey and the United Kingdom to India is prohibited with effect from March 18, 2020. No airline shall board passengers from these nations to India with effect from 1200 GMT on March 18, 2020. The airline shall enforce this at the port of initial departure. Both these instructions are temporary measures and shall be in force till March 31, 2020, and will be reviewed subsequently.
  • This ban follows a recent ban on entry foreign passport holders and Overseas Indian Citizen (OCI) cardholders into the country starting Friday last week. However, Indian passport holders were allowed to enter India.
  • This ban is set to impact flight operations of many airlines, who will now have to cancel flights into India till the end of this month.

Government Nominates Ex-CJI Ranjan Gogoi to Rajya Sabha

  • The government nominated former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi to Rajya Sabha.
  • A notification to this effect was issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
  • The vacancy was created due to retirement of KTS Tulsi.
  • Gogoi headed a five-judge bench that gave the verdict on the sensitive Ayodhya land dispute in November 2019.
  • He retired as CJI later in November 2019.
  • He also headed the benches that ruled on matters like entry of women in Sabarimala temple and Rafale fighter jet deal.
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IAF Posts Open for All Officers Including Women

  • Minister of State for Defence Shripad Naik informed Rajya Sabha that all posts in the Indian Air Force (IAF) are open to all officers including women.
  • "All officers in the IAF including women are combatants by definition, who may also hold administrative positions at various stages in their career," he added. Naik further said that the posts which are not yet open to women in the Indian Army are in the Armoured Corps, Infantry Mechanised Infantry and Artillery.
  • On the issue of recruitment of women in the Indian Navy, Naik said: "Women in Indian Navy are not being inducted in the sea-going avenues Executive Branch (General Service, Submarines Hydro and Information Technology), Engineering Branch (General Service and Submarines) and Electrical Branch."

India, Japan Developing Hypersonic Missiles to Counter Looming Chinese Threats

  • After the US and Russia first began developing hypersonic missiles, China too jumped on the bandwagon and the latest to enter this race are Japan and India. Experts, however, suggest that hypersonic missiles can have a severe impact on the global security with India and Japan also looking to acquire the technology.
  • Hypersonic weapons refer to weapons that can travel at a speed faster than Mach 5 or in other words systems that can travel five times the speed of sound. The reasons why hypersonic weapons are considered deadly are because they comprise the capacities of both, the ballistic as well as cruise missile wherein they have the speed of a ballistic missile and the manoeuvrability of a cruise missile.
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Ravinder Singh Dhillon CMD of PFC

  • The Appointments Committee cleared the appointment of Ravinder Singh Dhillon as Chairman and Managing Director of Power Finance Corporation (PFC).
  • Dhillon, posted as Director (Projects), has been cleared for appointment as the Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) in PFC with effect from the date of assumption of charge of the post on or after June 1 till the date of his superannuation on May 31, 2023, or until further orders, whichever is earlier.
  • In a separate order, the ACC has approved the appointment of 1997-batch Indian Foreign Service Officer Somnath Ghosh as officer on special duty in the Department of Defence for an overall period of three years up to September 11, 2022 or until further orders.
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Paramananda Majumder Conferred the Moghai Ojah Aaward

  • Eminent researcher and writer Dr. Paramananda Majumder was presented the 10th Moghai Ojah Award at a function held at the auditorium of Jorhat Science Centre and Planetarium. He was awarded for his significant role in raising issues of public interest and society's betterment. Majumder compiled the first book on the life and works of folk musician Moghai Ojah. The award recognized his invaluable contribution in bringing dhol maestro Moghai Ojah and his magnificent skill of playing the dhol back to the public domain by compiling a book on him. Moghai Ojah award: The Moghai Ojah award was instituted in 2011 by the Jorhat district unit of the Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP). The award is annually presented on 15 March, on the death anniversary of Ojah. The award carries a cash prize of Rs.21,000, a citation, a gamosa, a seleng chadar, and a memento.
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Biren Singh Announces CMAST and CMAT Schemes for Welfare of Sportspersons and Artistes

  • Manipur Chief Minister Nongthombam (N) Biren Singh announced the Chief Minister's AkhannabaSanaroisingiTengbang (CMAST) and Chief Ministergi Artiste SinggiTengbang (CMAT) to provide benefits to sports persons and artistes who have brought laurels to the State and country.
  • CMAST Scheme (for sportspersons)
  • This project is estimated to cost around Rs. 7.36 crore.
  • Under this scheme the government provides suitable employment in government services to sportspersons winning medals in the notified categories of international events based on the criteria set by the state government.
  • It will support athletes to purchase expensive sports items such as cycle, bow, rifle, pistol etc.
  • Enhanced cash awards to Olympians winners who receive gold, silver, bronze and Olympic participants will also receive Rs. 1 crore, Rs. 75 lakh, Rs. 50 lakh and Rs. 10 lakh respectively.
  • CMAT Scheme (for artistes)
  • The project is estimated around Rs. 5.7 crore.
  • This scheme is designed to recognise the renowned artistes and to encourage the artistes in performing arts, literary arts, visual arts & their associated institutions. It targets to benefit about 4000 artistes a year.
  • Pension to be extended to around 1000 artistes who are 60 years and above.
  • It will provide financial assistance to cultural groups or organizations for training and production in various fields, to students of Government Dance college to develop the state's talented emerging artists and to award winners in the national competition and festivals.

Lok Sabha Passes Appropriation Bill

  • The Lok Sabha passed the Appropriation Bill 2020-21, authorising the government to draw funds from the Consolidated Fund of India for its working as well as implementation of its programmes and schemes.
  • The house passed the bill after the Speaker applied 'guillotine' on demands of grants for various ministries.
  • Once the speaker applies the guillotine, all the outstanding demands for grants, whether discussed or not, are put to vote at once. After this, appropriation bill is taken into consideration.
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JNU Renames Campus Road

  • Students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) raised objections after a road on the campus was named after Hindu leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar.
  • JNU students' union president Aishe Ghosh said that it was a shameful move.
  • The decision to rename the road was taken in the 283rd Executive Council meeting held in November 2019.

Extramarks Learning App Launches Go-To-School Campaign

  • Extramarks, the leading global education technology company, launched the 'Go-To-School' campaign. This campaign will give all students full and free access to the entire Extramarks - The Learning App until April 30, 2020, and to JEE and NEET crash courses, starting March 20 and 23 respectively.
  • Extramarks has given free access of all our learning apps to students till April 30, and of our technology platform to schools so that they can conduct online classes, under the Go-To School campaign.

US Begins First Human Trial of Coronavirus Vaccine

  • Supported by a global coalition founded by India and Norway, the US has begun the phase one clinical trial of an investigational vaccine designed to protect against the coronavirus disease which has claimed the lives of over 7,000 people globally.
  • The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), is funding the trial. The open-label trial will enroll 45 healthy adult volunteers aged 18 to 55 years over approximately six weeks.
  • According to the NIH, the study is evaluating different doses of the experimental vaccine for safety and its ability to induce an immune response in participants. This is the first of multiple steps in the clinical trial process for evaluating the potential benefit of the vaccine.
  • The vaccine is called mRNA-1273 and was developed by the NIAID scientists and their collaborators at the biotechnology company Moderna, Inc., based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
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Book Titled "An Extraordinary Life: A biography of Manohar Parrikar" to be Released

  • A book titled "An Extraordinary Life: A biography of Manohar Parrikar" was written by senior journalists Sadguru Patil and Mayabhushan Nagvenkar. The book was published by Penguin Random House India and to be released in April 2020.
  • Late Manohar Gopalkrishna Prabhu Parrikar was the former Chief Minister (CM) of Goa and also served as the Defense Minister in the Modi Government from the year 2014 to 2017.
  • Sadguru Patil, is serving as bureau chief with the Goa edition of Lokmat and also worked as chief reporter with Dainik Gomantak. He has been working with various Marathi newspapers since 1955.
  • Mayabhushan Nagvenkar serves as the state correspondent for the Indo-Asian News Service based in Goa & has been a journalist for nearly 22 years in Delhi, Goa and Mumbai.
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