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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

22 Dec 2020

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

India and Vietnam Draw Three-year Road Map to Upgrade Ties

  • India and Vietnam adopted a "Joint Vision for Peace, Prosperity and People" during an hour-long virtual summit between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
  • To implement this vision, a plan of action for the period 2021-2023 was also signed between the two Foreign Ministers, which identify concrete follow-up actions.
  • India and Vietnam also signed seven new agreements in areas, including scientific research, nuclear & renewable energy, petrochemicals, defence and cancer treatment.

Houston Post Office to be Named after Slain Sikh Police Officer

  • US President Donald Trump signed into law legislation to name a Texas post office after slain Sikh police officer Sandeep Singh Dhaliwal, who was gunned down in the line of duty during a routine traffic stop in Houston a year ago.
  • The post office named after Dhaliwal in Houston is only the second US post office to be named after an Indian American. The first one was named after the first Indian American Congressman Dalip Singh Saund in Southern California in 2006.

Opponents of Nepal PM's Challenge Constitutional Coup in Court

  • Opponents of Nepal's Prime Minister turned to the Supreme Court to challenge his dissolution of parliament and the calling of an election, denouncing it as a constitutional coup.
  • Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli's dissolution of parliament raises the prospect of months of political turmoil in the Himalayan country as it battles the novel coronavirus.
  • Seven government ministers stepped down after Oli's dissolution saying it was violation of the "popular mandate" given to them in a 2017 general election.
  • Under the Constitution, the Prime Minister has no prerogative to dissolve parliament.
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ENVIRONMENT

Gujarat to Feature World's Largest Zoo

  • The Reliance Industries Limited is going to build one of the world's largest zoos in Gujarat's Jamnagar.
  • The world's tallest statue is in Gujarat (Statue of Unity in Kevadiya). Now, one of the world's biggest zoos, in terms of number and species of animals at one place, is coming up very shortly in Jamnagar.
  • The zoo will be called 'Greens Zoological Rescue and Rehabilitation Kingdom' and will be spread over 250.1 acres.

Leopard Population in India Grows

  • India now has 12,852 leopards, 60 per cent more since their previous estimate in 2014, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said while releasing the 'Status of Leopards in India 2018' report.
  • The minister said that the rise in leopard numbers following similar reports on tigers and lions show the country was protecting its ecology and biodiversity well.
  • According to the report, India's leopard population in 2018 was estimated at 12,852, with Madhya Pradesh leading the pack at 3,421 followed by Karnataka 1,783 and Maharashtra 1,690.

Australia to Fund 'Ecological Arks' to Save Great Barrier Reef

  • The Australian government has announced a plan to save islands in the Great Barrier Reef, located off the coast of Queensland state, from the effects of climate change.
  • As per report, the government will spend A$5.5 million ($4.2 million) building ecological arks across the iconic coral reef.
  • Sussan Ley, the Minister for the Environment, said that the survival of the reef was at a critical juncture.
  • A report published earlier this month by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said that a third (33 per cent) of natural World Heritage sites are threatened by climate change, including the world's largest coral reef, the Great Barrier Reef, assessed as having a critical outlook for the first time.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

US Telcos Ordered to Rip and Replace Huawei Components

  • The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ordered certain US telecommunications companies to remove Huawei equipment from their network.
  • The FCC has also started the process of revoking China Telecom's authorization to operate in the US.
  • The rip and replace order is the latest US move against Huawei made on national security grounds.
  • The order includes subsidies for smaller carriers for removing and replacing the equipment.
  • However, the commission cannot actually implement the reimbursements without the approval of funding from congress.

European Union Gives Approval to Fiat Chrysler and PSA Merger

  • The European Union gave conditional approval to the mega-merger of car giants Fiat Chrysler (FCA) and Peugeot Citroen (PSA), after the firms promised to address competition fears.
  • The tie-up, which was announced late last year and planned to be completed in early 2021, will create Stellantis, set to be the world's fourth-largest automaker in terms of volume, and number three in terms of sales.
  • The combined company unites brands such as Peugeot, Citroen, Fiat, Chrysler, Jeep, Alfa Romeo and Maserati into a global giant, each of which will continue under its own marque.
  • The decision to approve the deal came after it had carried out an in-depth investigation over concerns it might stifle competition.
  • The approval is conditional on full compliance with a commitments package offered by the companies.
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

SLS: Crucial Test for NASA's Mega-rocket

  • The core of a giant NASA rocket that will return astronauts to the moon has undergone a crucial test.
  • For the first time, engineers fully loaded a core stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket with super-cold liquid propellant, controlled it and then drained the tanks.
  • That propellant is fuel and an oxidizer — a chemical that makes the fuel burn.
  • Engineers wanted to check things worked as expected before the SLS makes its maiden flight in about a year's time.
  • It was part of a testing programme known as the Green Run that is being carried out at NASA's Stennis Space Center, near Bay St Louis in Mississippi.
  • This evaluation, known as the wet dress rehearsal (WDR), was the seventh of eight tests on the core stage.
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SPORTS

Indian Men to Finish 2020 in 4th Position, Women 9th in FIH Rankings

  • The Indian men and women hockey teams will finish 2020 in fourth and ninth positions, respectively, after a major part of the year was disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The International Hockey Federation (FIH) confirmed that Belgium men's team and the Netherlands' women will finish the year at the top of the world rankings.
  • In January, the world body introduced its new match-based model for calculation of world rankings, with the FIH Hockey Pro League matches that were played in the early part of the year.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

Bypolls to Ahmed Patel, Abhay Bhardwaj's Rajya Sabha Seats

  • Elections for two Rajya Sabha seats in Gujarat which fell vacant following the demise of MPs Ahmed Patel and Abhay Bhardwaj will be held separately. Both Patel and Bhardwaj passed away earlier this month.
  • Political activity in Gujarat over the vacant Rajya Sabha seats has picked up the pace.
  • The Central Election Commission has directed the Gujarat state election commission to appoint a returning officer for the Rajya Sabha by polls and make all other necessary arrangements.
  • In addition, the CEC has also directed the Gujarat SEC to conduct bye-elections for the two seats separately. Dates for the bye-elections are yet to be announced.
  • Ahmed Patel was elected to the Rajya Sabha till August 18, 2023 while Abhay Bhardwaj was elected to the Upper House of Parliament till June 21, 2026.
  • If the bye-elections were to be held at the same time, both the BJP and the Congress would have gained one Rajya Sabha seat each. With separate elections, either the BJP or the Congress will require the support of at least 91 MLAs. At this time, the BJP has 111 MLAs while the Congress has 65 MLAs in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly.
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DEFENCE

BoB Signs MoU with Defence Forces for New Baroda Military Salary Package

  • Public sector lender Bank of Baroda (BoB) has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Indian Navy and Indian Coast Guard under which the bank would offer customised services along with a host of facilities to account holders. The bank has also renewed its existing MoU with the Indian Army to offer specially customised banking services through 'Baroda Military Salary Package'.
  • Services under 'Baroda Military Salary Package' will be offered to serving and retired personnel of Indian Armed Forces through the Bank's network of over 8,200 domestic branches and around 20,000 business correspondent touch points.
  • The package offers very attractive benefits including free Personal Accidental Insurance cover, Permanent Total Disability cover, Partial disability Cover and Air Accident Insurance Cover of sizeable amounts, as well as Higher Education Cover and Girl Child Marriage Cover on death in case of serving personnel.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Congress Leader Motilal Vora Passes Away

  • Senior Congress leader Motilal Vora passed away at the age of 93. 
  • He served as the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh from 1985 to 1988 before he was made a minister in the union cabinet. He was also the Governor of Uttar Pradesh from 1993 to 1996.
  • Furthermore, he was among the senior-most Congress leaders, who had vast administrative and organizational experience in a political career that spanned decades.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

National Mathematics Day

  • National Mathematics Day is celebrated every year on December 22, honouring the birth anniversary of mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan.
  • Before he died at the age of 32 from tuberculosis, he had already given the world around 3500 mathematical formulae that scientists have still not been able to completely prove. The main objective behind celebrating the day is to raise awareness among people about the importance of mathematics for the development of humanity.
  • This was announced by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in February 2012 at Madras University, to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of the Indian mathematical genius Srinivasa Ramanujan. On this occasion Singh also announced that 2012 would be celebrated as the National Mathematics Year.
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AWARDS AND HONOURS

US President Donald Trump Presents Legion of Merit to PM Narendra Modi

  • US President Donald Trump has presented the prestigious Legion of Merit to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his leadership in elevating the strategic partnership of the two countries and emergence of India as a global power.
  • India's Ambassador to the US, Taranjit Singh Sandhu, accepted the award on behalf of the Prime Minister from the US National Security Advisor Robert O'Brien at the White House.
  • The Chief Commander of the Legion of Merit is given only to the Head of State or Government.
  • Trump also presented the Legion of Merit to Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and the former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. The awards were received by their respective ambassadors in Washington DC.
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

General Category Employment in Government Services Open to All: SC

  • The Supreme Court has said that the general category vacancies in public employment is open to all, including aspirants belonging to reserved categories like other backward classes (OBCs) and Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs). A bench comprising justices U. U. Lalit, Ravindra Bhat and Hrishikesh Roy said that disallowing meritorious candidates of reserved categories to migrate and get selected under general category would amount to communal reservation.
  • "The principle that candidates belonging to any of the vertical reservation categories are entitled to be selected in 'Open or General Category' is well settled. It is also well accepted that if such candidates belonging to reserved categories are entitled to be selected on the basis of their own merit, their selection cannot be counted against the quota reserved for the categories for the vertical reservation that they belong," Justice Lalit, who wrote for himself and Justice Roy, said.

PM Janjatiya Vikas Mission Jobs to Tribals in Remote, Moist Areas

  • The Centre will soon launch the Pradhan Mantri Janjatiya Vikas Mission to provide employment opportunities to tribals in remote, maoist-infested areas. PMJVM will be an amalgam of a number of existing schemes for a more targeted approach to generate employment for tribals in villages, based on the recommendations of a group of ministers on employment generation. It would focus on 100 most backward tribal-dominated districts.
  • The Centre will use unutilised funds earmarked for providing minimum support price for minor forest produce, district mineral fund and grant-in-aid under Article 275 (1) of Constitution for tribal areas to implement a number of initiatives. They would include acquiring minor forest produce at different village markets, setting up value-added centres by involving self-help groups in villages, setting up of food parks to market and sell the tribal products at district and state levels.
  • PMJVM would involve the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Tribal Cooperative Marketing Development Federation of India and the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises. 
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

BCI Releases Dates for All India Bar Exams

  •  The Bar Council of India, the apex lawyers' body and regulator of law education in the country, said that it will hold All India Bar Exam-XVI on March 21, 2021. 
  • The online registration will start from December 26, 2020 and the last date for registration will be February 21, 2021. 
  • The Admit Cards shall be released online on March 6, 2021.
  • The council, meanwhile, said that All India Bar Exam-XV, which has been postponed on number of occasions due to COVID-19 pandemic, will be held on January 24, 2021 which is the scheduled date.
  • The examination is to be held on about 140 centers in 50 cities of the country.

Diploma Programme in Geodesy

  • Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kanpur has announced to launch a new programme- Diploma of IIT (D-IIT) in Geodesy, the science of measuring the Earth. The programme will be under the Department of Civil Engineering and divided into three broad areas: Geodesy, Navigation and Mapping, and Remote Sensing and GIS.
  • The science of Geodesy has applications in monitoring earthquake, volcanic, landslide, and weather hazard recognition and response; soil health, water resources, and drought surveillance; climate change including monitoring the polar ice cover; oil spill clean-ups; GPS timing and autonomous vehicle development.
  • The new D-IIT programme will be open to candidates from different backgrounds including Civil Engineering, Computer Science, Information Technology, Electrical and Electronics, Mining, Geoinformatics, Physics, Mathematics, Earth Science, Environmental Science, Geography, etc., with requirements as for the MTech / MS(R) programme of Geoinformatics specialisation in Civil Engineering.
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