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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

29 Sep 2020


EU, Britain Far Apart as Key Week of Brexit Talks Begins

  • The European Union and Britain both said that a post-Brexit deal was still some way off as they began a decisive week of talks in Brussels.
  • Britain left the EU last January and is locked in negotiations on a new trade deal from 2021, as well as on implementing its divorce agreement with the bloc.
  • EU national leaders are scheduled to assess the state of play at a summit next month, with a no-deal Brexit still possible.
  • Negotiations have stumbled over fisheries, fair competition and settling disputes, and Brexit talks descended into chaos this month when London proposed draft laws that would undermine its earlier EU divorce bill.
  • Britain's Brexit supremo Michael Gove held talks with Maros Sefcovic, a deputy head of the bloc's executive Commission.
  • The UK's positions are far apart from what the EU can accept. I have repeated the EU's request to withdraw the contentious part of the draft Internal Markets Bill by the end of September.
  • EU leaders meeting in Brussels are expected to authorise more negotiations before their next summit on October 15-16.
  • They will then assess whether to focus on pushing for a deal or preparing for a hard Brexit at the end of the year.

Pakistan Court Indicts Former President Zardari in Money Laundering Case

  • An anti-corruption court in Pakistan indicted former President Asif Ali Zardari and his sister Faryal Talpur in a money laundering case, a move described by his party as "victimisation" of opposition leaders.
  • The development comes just ahead of the planned protests next month by Opposition parties to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
  • The case is about the alleged use of fake accounts by the former president and other accused to park and launder the allegedly ill-gotten wealth.
  • The 63-year-old husband of the country's first woman Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and his 62-year-old sister Talpur were present in the court.
  • Judge Muhammad Azam Khan of the accountability court in Islamabad indicted them.
  • The court also indicted Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed and his son, Abdul Ghani Majeed.
  • The development comes just ahead of the planned protests next month by Opposition parties to demand the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan.
  • The case is about the alleged use of fake accounts by the former president and other accused to park and launder the allegedly ill-gotten wealth.
  • The 63-year-old husband of the country's first woman prime minister Benazir Bhutto and his 62-year-old sister Talpur were present in the court.
  • Judge Muhammad Azam Khan of the accountability court in Islamabad indicted them.
  • The court also indicted Omni Group Chairman Anwar Majeed and his son, Abdul Ghani Majeed.
  • All the accused pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.

Amnesty International to Halt India Operations

  • Amnesty International said that it has been forced to halt its India operations due to "reprisals" from the government.
  • The watchdog has also accused the government of indulging in a witch-hunt of human rights organisations.
  • Amnesty said that its bank accounts have been frozen and it's been forced to lay off staff in the country, and suspend all its campaign and research work.
  • The government is yet to respond to the allegations.
  • According to Rajat Khosla, the group's senior director of research, advocacy and policy said that we are facing a rather unprecedented situation in India. Amnesty International India has been facing an onslaught of attacks, bullying and harassment by the government in a very systematic manner.
  • This is all down to the human rights work that we were doing and the government not wanting to answer questions we raised, whether it's in terms of our investigations into the Delhi riots, or the silencing of voices in Jammu and Kashmir.
  • In a report, the group said police in the Indian capital, Delhi, committed human rights violations during deadly religious riots between Hindus and Muslims in February.
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Sri Lanka Returns Hazardous Waste to the UK

  • Sri Lanka said that it is sending 21 containers of waste back to the UK after they were found to contain hazardous material.
  • As per customs officials, hospital waste was discovered in many of the 263 containers imported by a private firm.
  • The shipment was meant to be made up of used mattresses, carpets and rugs for potential recycling.
  • Most of the containers have been stored in warehouses, with only a small amount of material having been re-exported.
  • The authorities said there was also plastic and polythene waste in the containers.
  • England's Environment Agency said that it was committed to tackling illegal waste exports.
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HDFC Bank Launches India's First Warehouse Commodity Finance App

  • In a first of its kind in the country, HDFC Bank launched a Warehouse Commodity Finance App which will enable customers in drawing down and managing the loan against pledge of commodities online without physical intervention or multiple visits to a Bank branch. This in turn will bring in enhanced efficiencies and time savings for the agri value chain. The new app will greatly benefit agri processors, traders and farmers who are primary beneficiaries of WHR loans (Warehouse Receipt Loans).
  • The App has been launched at a time when large parts of India are still unlocking, and travel restrictions are still in place. At a time like this the agri industry which is crucial to economic revival has to function uninterrupted. Warehouses which store goods help maintain price stability in an uncertain economic environment by ensuring a steady supply of goods to the market. Especially essentials like rice, wheat, soyabean, cotton, pulses and oilseeds. Warehouse financing is the lifeblood of this business as banks are able to sanction loans against these commodities which are stored safely. Similarly, on repayment of the loan, the Pledged commodities will be released digitally. This helps in timely delivery of goods and timely consumption of the same for agri processing.
  • The App will be offered to both existing as well as new customers of the Bank who avail warehouse receipt/commodity pledge loan from HDFC Bank. While existing customers who have already been sanctioned loans can avail these by just logging on to the App in just 3 simple steps, new customers can get the pledge loan sanctioned from HDFC Bank and register for the Warehouse Commodity Finance app.

RBI ropes in Amitabh Bachchan for Customer Awareness Campaign

  • After sport stars, the Reserve Bank has roped in Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan for the customer awareness campaign to prevent gullible account holders from being duped by fraudsters. As part of the public awareness initiative of RBI, the regulator keeps informing about dos and don'ts that have to be followed by customers to transact safely and securely.
  • Besides its main twitter handle, RBI has another twitter account called 'RBI Says'. Here, Big B shared a message saying "the cost of awareness is hardly a penny, but ignorance can cost you hard earned money."
  • The regulator has been running the campaign for more than a year not only in English and Hindi but in various regional languages for maximum reach. It keeps on repeating the message so that people don't forget their rights and responsibilities.
  • Bachchan promoted digital banking during the lockdown period urging people to adopt digital payment and be safe.
  • RBI has emerged as the most popular central bank on twitter, beating US Federal Reserve and European Central Bank in terms of number of followers.

RBI Okays Three-member Panel to Run LVB Operations

  • After shareholders ousted seven directors of the Board, the RBI has approved appointment of three-member Committee of Directors (CoD) to run the daily affairs of debt-ridden Lakshmi Vilas Bank (LVB). This CoD will exercise the discretionary powers of MD & CEO in the ad-interim. The RBI appointed the CoD composed of three independent directors Meeta Makhan, Shakti Sinha and Satish Kumar Kalra, adding that the committee will be headed by Meeta Makhan. On Friday, shareholders of LVB ousted seven directors, including its MD & CEO and auditors at the AGM.
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Himalaya Chandra Telescope Completes Successful 20 Years

  • The Himalayan Chandra Telescope is located at the Indian Astronomical Observatory (IAO). It has been scanning the night sky in search of comets, stellar explosions, exo-planets and asteroids.
  • It operates using delicate satellite communication link from Centre for Research and Education in Science and Technology (CREST), IIA (Indian Institute of Astrophysics). The telescope marked 20 years of successful operation with more than 260 research papers published using data obtained from it.
  • The Indian Astronomical Observatory is located at Hanle, Ladakh. The telescopes located at the observatory are as follows
  • Himalayan Chandra Telescope
  • Global Relay of Observatories Watching Transients Happen (GROWTH) India
  • Imaging Cherenkov Telescope (MACE)
  • Gamma-Ray Array Telescope (HAGAR)
  • It is located on Mt Saraswati at an altitude of 4,500 metres. It is operated by the Indian Institute of Astrophysics, Bangalore. It was installed by IIA, Bangalore in 2000. The telescope has three major science instruments namely Near-IR Imager, Himalayan Faint Object Spectrograph and Optical CCD Imager.
  • The telescope is remotely operated by INSAT-3B satellite link that allows operation even in sub-zero temperatures.
       • It generated 1000 GB of data in a year.

China's Unmanned Plateau Helicopter Makes Maiden Flight

  • China's first homemade unmanned helicopter focusing on high-altitude areas has successfully completed a maiden flight in a plateau region.
  • The AR-500C prototype completed its first plateau flight at the Daocheng Yading Airport, which is the world's highest civilian airport with an elevation of 4,411 metres.
  • This flight broke the record for the elevation at which a domestically built unmanned helicopter took off and landed.
  • During the 15-minute flight, the drone completed a series of tests, including climbing, hovering, rotating and other operational manoeuvres, before steadily landing.
  • This demonstrated the AR-500C's general ability to fly in all types of terrain.
  • The maiden flight comes at a time when India and China are locked in a military standoff in eastern Ladakh since early May this year.
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Tokyo Olympic Torch Relay to Start its Journey on March 25

  • The International Olympic Committee (IOC) announced that the Olympic Torch Relay will start its journey on March 25, 2021, from the J-Village National Training Centre in Fukushima Prefecture, and then traverse all 47 prefectures across Japan over a period of 121 days.
  • In principle, the route and the schedule of the Relay will remain as originally planned. As 2021 will mark the 10th anniversary of the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, the rescheduled Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay will aim to showcase the recovery of the areas worst affected by the disaster, in line with the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Torch Relay concept of "Hope Lights Our Way".
  • The torch will reach Tokyo on July 9 in time for the flame to light the cauldron in the Olympic Stadium at the Opening Ceremony of the Games on July 23.
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Namami Gange: Six Mega Projects, "Ganga Avalokan" to be Inaugurated

  • PM Modi is to inaugurate six mega projects under Namami Gange Mission through video conference.
  • The projects to be inaugurated are as follows
  • • Construction of 68 MLD STP
  • • Upgradation of 27 MLD at Jagjeetpur, Haridwar
  • • Construction of 68 MLD Jagjeetpur Project
  • • Inauguration of 26 MLD in Rishikesh
  • • Construction of 18 MLD STP at Darai, Haridwar
  • • Inauguration of 5 MLD STP at Chirpani. Also, two STP at Badrinath.
  • MLD is Million Litres per Day and STP is Sewage Treatment Plant.
  • The PM Modi along with these projects is to inaugurate Ganga Avalokam. It is the first museum of Ganga that is dedicated to showcase the biodiversity, rejuvenation and culture in Ganga river. The museum is located in Haridwar.
  • The Prime Minister will also launch a book "Rowing Down the Ganges" that was co-published by National Mission for Clean Ganga and Wildlife Institute of India.
  • The Prime Minister will also release a logo of Jal Jeevan Mission, Magdarshika for Gram Panchayats and Paani Samitis under Jal Jeevan Mission.

India Inks First Green Pact with Denmark

  • India and Denmark decided to elevate their bilateral ties to a "green strategic partnership", the first of its kind, during a virtual summit between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Mette Frederiksen.
  • Niche pollution control solutions being offered by Denmark include those to curb stubble burning. "Danish companies are already talking to Indian companies to take it forward," said MEA's Joint Secretary (Central Europe).
  • PM Modi in his address indicated that Indian expectations from Denmark went well beyond pollution control initiatives and partnerships. Mentioning the extensive reforms in the manufacturing, labour, regulatory and taxation sectors, he recalled Denmark's constant attendance at the Vibrant Gujarat Summit since 2009 and cautioned against the risks of overdependence on a single source.
  • The PM then spoke of virtual conferences with India, Japan, Australia and France to diversify supply chains and invited other like-minded democracies to join this endeavour.
  • PM Modi observed that India and Denmark could set up energy parks where a large number of Danish companies were present. India had recently intensified its conversation with Denmark and the groundwork for this summit was laid during talks between the two Foreign Ministers in January, followed up with more online interactions.

Negate Farm Bills with Your Own Laws: Sonia to Cong-ruled States

  • A day after President Ram Nath Kovind granted his assent to the controversial farm Bills, Congress president Sonia Gandhi asked states ruled by her party to negate the agriculture-related Central laws by passing their own legislations.
  • Congress president has advised the Congress-ruled states to explore the possibilities to pass laws in their respective states under Article 254(2) of the constitution which allows the state legislatures to pass a law to negate the Anti-Agriculture Central laws encroaching upon State's jurisdiction under the Constitution.
  • Sonia Gandhi has told the states ruled by Congress that enacting their own legislations would enable bypassing the unacceptable anti-farmers' provisions in the three "draconian agricultural laws", including the abolition of MSP and disruption of APMCs in Congress-ruled states.
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India, US, Japan and Australia Hold Meet on Indo-Pacific under Quad Framework

  • Senior officials of India, the US, Japan and Australia held a virtual meeting under the framework of Quadrilateral coalition or "Quad", focusing on ways to promote peace, security, stability and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region. The meeting took place in the backdrop of China's growing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • The foreign ministers of the four member nations of the "Quad" are set to hold talks in Tokyo next month to further boost their cooperation in the Indo-Pacific.
  • In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the officials reaffirmed their commitment towards a "free, open, prosperous and inclusive" Indo-Pacific region based on shared values and principles and respect for international law.
  • The MEA said the officials reiterated their firm support for ASEAN-centrality and ASEAN-led mechanisms for the Indo-Pacific, and their readiness to work with ASEAN and all other countries towards realising a common and promising vision for the Indo-Pacific.
  • Ten-nation regional grouping Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a major stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific region.
  • A statement by the US said the four countries explored ways to work together in the Mekong sub-region, in the South China Sea, and across the Indo-Pacific to support international law, pluralism, regional stability, and post-pandemic recovery efforts.

Indian Navy, Air Force to Get Indigenous 'Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon' With 100 Km Range

  • At its meeting the Defence Acquisition Council, headed by the Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, cleared the procurement of the indigenously developed 'Smart Anti-Airfield Weapon' or SAAW for the Indian Navy and the Indian Air Force.
  • Developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), SAAW has a range of around 100 km and weighs around 125 kg. The weapon, which is being procured at an approximate cost Rs. 970 crore, will give the Air Force and the Navy the capability to hit enemy airfields and runways from a standoff distance with high precision during conflicts.
  • Given that this weapon can be launched from standoff ranges, the aircraft launching it can remain at a safe distance from the enemy target. In many cases, the weapon can be fired by IAF fighters from within the Indian air space.
  • Apart from SAAW, the DAC also cleared the procurement of Static HF Trans-receiver sets for field units of the Indian Army and the Air Force at an approximate cost of Rs. 540 crore to enable seamless communication.
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P. D. Vaghela New Chairman of TRAI

  • Senior IAS Officer P. D. Vaghela was appointed as the TRAI (Telecom Regulatory of India) Chairman. He succeeded R. S. Sharma.
  • Vaghela is a Gujarat-Cadre IAS Officer. He is currently in the Department of Pharmaceuticals that operates under Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers. Prior to this, he was the commissioner of commercial tax in Gujarat. He played a key role in the roll out of GST, 2017.
  • Usually, the TRAI chairman is appointed for a term of three years. However, RS Sharma was provided a rare two-year extension till 30th September, 2020 though he turned 65 in 2018 and attained the age of retirement. Prior to chairman of TRAI, Sharma led the creation of Aadhar. He was the director of UIDAI (Unique Identification Authority of India) between 2009 and 2013.

Assam's Sole Woman CM Syeda Anwara Taimur Passes Away

  • Syeda Anwara Taimur, the only woman Chief Minister of Assam, died in Australia after a prolonged illness. She was 84.
  • As per reports, Taimur, Chief Minister from December 6, 1980 to June 30, 1981, was residing in Australia with her son for the past few years.
  • A teacher of economics in Debicharan Barua Girls College in Jorhat before joining politics, she had an illustrious career spanning over four decades.
  • Elected to the Assam Assembly four times — 1972, 1978, 1983 and 1991 — as nominee of the Congress, she also served as state Public Works Department (PWD) minister from 1983 to 1985.
  • In 1988, she was nominated to the Rajya Sabha. In 2011, the veteran leader left the Congress and joined the All India United Democratic Front. She figured in the headlines after her name was found missing from the NRC (National Register of Citizens) list in 2018.
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Amit Shah Inaugurates the "Destination North East-2020" Festival

  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah inaugurated Destination North East 2020, a four-day festival to promote and showcase the region's tourism, culture, heritage and business.
  • The inauguration took place through video conferencing and was attended by Union Minister for Development of North East Region (DONER) Jitendra Singh and the Chief Ministers of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland and Sikkim.
  • Mr. Shah said that people in the region have preserved and promoted their rich and diverse languages, traditions and culture beautifully despite a lot of challenges. I am sure with the initiatives taken by our government, the region will become one of the most sought after tourist destinations in coming years.
  • Destination Northeast is an annual festival organised by the DONER ministry with the objective of showcasing and celebrating the region to other parts of the country in order to strengthen national integration.
  • The theme for this year's event is 'The Emerging Delightful Destinations' and will be a virtual event due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • The festival held earlier at Varanasi, Chandigarh and Delhi had attracted lots of visitors and educated people in those places about the northeast.

World Heart Day

  • World Heart Day is annually observed on September 29 around the globe in an effort to raise public awareness about cardiovascular diseases, their prevention and global impact. Cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) claim the lives of around 17.9 million people each year, as per data collected by the World Health Organisation (WHO), and it results in 31% of all global deaths. These diseases, which manifest primarily as heart attacks and strokes, are triggered by excessive use of tobacco, unhealthy diets, a lack of physical activity and alcohol abuse. All of these unhealthy lifestyle choices result in raised blood pressure, elevated blood glucose, overweight and obesity, and risks detrimental to good heart health.
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Yamuna Menon Sets Record with 18 Gold Medals at NLSIU Convocation

  • A student from Kerala created history by winning a staggering 18 gold medals at the National Law School of India University's (NLSIU) 28th annual convocation held virtually.
  • Among these are the prizes for the Best Outgoing Student, Best Outgoing Undergraduate Student, and Best Outgoing Female Student, apart from her first rank gold.
  • As per the Bengaluru-based premier law school, the 18 gold medals won by Yamuna Menon, a graduate of BA LLB (Hons), are the most awarded to a student in the NLSIU history.
  • A native of Thrippunithura, Ernakulam, Menon was one of the two students chosen by the NLSIU under its new scholarship programme in 2015 after she bagged the 28th rank in CLAT 2015. She a topper throughout the course.
  • The convocation saw 576 students graduate from the NLSIU. A total of 48 gold medals were awarded to graduates from different law programmes.
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Mehr Chand Polytechnic Inks Pact with Australian Varsity

  • Mehr Chand Polytechnic inked a pact has signed a MoU with Edith Cowan University, Australia, for a period of three years for exchange of technical education.
  • The MoU has been signed by professor Daryoush Habibi, executive dean, school of engineering, Edith Cowan University, and Dr. Jagroop Singh, principal, Mehr Chand Polytechnic College, Jalandhar. Jagroop Singh said that under the agreement diploma passed students in any discipline could seek admission in Edith Cowan University through lateral entry directly in 2nd year. Moreover, the university would provide special scholarship to lateral entry students.
  • The university officials said that a special team would visit Mehr Chand Polytechnic College once or twice in a year.

Can Ayurvedic Medicines Cure COVID-19, Clinical Trial Shows Surprising Results

  • In a significant development, an interim report on a clinical trial has shown that coronavirus COVID-19 patients undertaking natural treatment are resolving most symptoms earlier than those using allopathic medicines. The clinical trial was conducted at three hospitals.
  • The interim report said that combination treatment of an Ayurvedic remedy called 'Immunofree' by Corival Life Sciences, and Nutraceutical called 'Reginmune' by Biogetica have shown better results than the conventional medicines approved by the government for coronavirus treatment.
  • The interim report also added that tests such as C reactive protein, Procalcitonin, D Dimer and RT-PCR are also showing 20 to 60 per cent better improvement for the natural treatment when compared to conventional treatment of COVID-19 patients.
  • According to the report, over 85% of patients on the natural protocol tested negative for coronavirus on day 5 when compared to 60 per cent of patients undergoing conventional treatments. Notably, all patients tested negative when they were tested on the 10th day.
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