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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

06 Jan 2021

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

At UNSC, India Warns of Syrian Chemical Weapons Falling into Hands of Terrorists

  • India has warned that Syrian chemical weapons can fall into the hands of terrorists, in the first public statement after New Delhi began its two-year term at the United Nations Security Council as a non-permanent member.
  • India's envoy to the UN, TS Tirumurti said that India remains concerned about the possibility of such weapons falling into the hands of terrorist organisations and individuals. Terrorist groups have taken advantage of the decade long conflict in Syria to entrench themselves posing a threat to the entire region.
  • The Security Council took up the report on the activities of Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in implementing Security Council resolution and its Executive Council decisions in relation to the elimination of the Syrian chemical weapons programme.

US Hits Iran with Fresh Sanctions

  • The US blacklisted a Chinese company that makes elements for steel production, 12 Iranian steel and metals makers and three foreign-based sales agents of an Iranian firm, seeking to deprive Tehran of revenues as Trump's term winds down.
  • The China-based company is Kaifeng Pingmei New Carbon Materials Technology Co Ltd. Among the 12 Iranian companies are the Pasargad Steel Complex and the Gilan Steel Complex Co.
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ENVIRONMENT

GSI Draws Up Strategic Plan to Step up Exploration

  • With the demand for rare earth elements (REE) increasing significantly, the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has drawn up a strategic plan for enhancing REE exploration in India that outlines a roadmap for the next five years.
  • REEs are a group of seventeen metals that are used in a wide range of critical products enabling many emerging green energy technologies, high tech applications and defence systems. This includes electronics, medical instrumentation, renewable energy, alloys, high strength magnets, ceremics, hybrid vehicles, lasers, nuclear science, biofuels and rechargeable batteries.
  • At present, India obtains its REE raw materials from foreign sources like Canada, Russia and China. According to available information, China is the world's largest producer or REEs, with an output of 132,000 metric tonnes in 2019, followed by the Unites States with 26,000 metric tones. India produced 3,000 metric tonnes that year.
  • GSI will also focus its exploration efforts on various potential geological environments and areas which warrant accelerated exploration efforts. Concentration of REE elements will also be studied in the suitable bauxite deposits having a genetic linkage with REE rich segments.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

IDBI Bank Launches Video KYC Facility for Opening Savings Bank Accounts

  • IDBI Bank launched a video KYC account opening (VAO) facility for savings bank accounts. Through the facility, a customer can open a savings account with the lender from the convenience of his/her home or office as there are no physical forms to be filled or visits to be made to the branch.
  • Video KYC is a quick and easy way to open a savings account from the comforts of your home. It ensures that the online journey for opening a savings account remains safe, simple, and fast eliminating the need to visit the branch for KYC.

Bajaj Auto Becomes World's most Valuable Two-wheeler Company

  • Bajaj Auto became the first two-wheeler company globally to cross a market capitalisation of Rs. 1 lakh crore (around USD 13.6 billion). This market valuation is considerably higher than all other domestic two-wheeler companies. As per analysts, a market capitalisation of over Rs. 1 lakh crore has not been achieved before by any international two-wheeler company anywhere in the world.
  • Bajaj Auto achieved this milestone as it celebrates the 75th year of its operations.
  • Bajaj Auto has its manufacturing facilities at Chakan near Pune, Waluj (Aurangabad), and Pantnagar (Uttarakhand). It recently announced the setting up of its fourth plant at Chakan at an investment of Rs 650 crore for manufacturing premium segment bikes and electric two-wheelers.

RBI Operationalises PIDF Scheme to Boost Digital Payments

  • The Reserve Bank said that the Payments Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF) has been operationalised to create 30 lakh new touch points every year for digital payments in Tier-3 to Tier-6 centres.
  • In June last year, the RBI had announced the creation of Payments' Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF). The fund intended to subsidise deployment of payment acceptance infrastructure in Tier-3 to Tier-6 centres, with special focus on the north-eastern states.
  • The PIDF presently has a corpus of Rs. 345 crore — Rs. 250 crore contributed by the Reserve Bank of India and Rs. 95 crore by the major authorised card networks in the country.
  • The target for the PIDF is increasing payments acceptance infrastructure by adding 30 lakh touch points every year — 10 lakh physical and 20 lakh digital payment acceptance devices.
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SPORTS

Sanjay Kapoor Elected All India Chess Federation President

  • Sanjay Kapoor was elected president of All India Chess Federation (AICF) while Bharat Singh Chauhan retained the secretary's post.
  • Kapoor, representing Uttar Pradesh Chess Association, defeated incumbent PR Venketrama Raja in a close contest. Kapoor received 33 votes as against 31 of Raja. Chauhan beat Ravindra Dongre 35-29. Apart from the president, secretary and treasurer, six vice-presidents and six joint secretaries were also elected.

Gregg Clark is Analytical Coach of Indian Men's Hockey Team

  • South African Olympian Gregg Clark has been appointed as the new analytical coach of the Indian men's hockey team till the Tokyo Olympic Games.
  • Clark, who will join the national camp this month, had coached the Indian junior men's team in 2013-2014 when it won the Sultan of Johor Cup and also participated at the 2013 FIH Junior World Cup in New Delhi.
  • He was associated with the Canadian men's team as Assistant Coach from 2017-2020.
  • Clark in his 11-year long career, competed in 250 international matches, appearing in two World Cups (1994 - Sydney and 2002 - Kuala Lumpur) and two Olympic Games (1996 - Atlanta and 2004 - Athens). 
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

PM Boris Johnson Cancels Republic Day Visit to India

  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson cancelled a planned trip to India later this month, citing the need to oversee the COVID-19 pandemic response at home.
  • It may be noted that Johnson was scheduled to visit India on 26 January for the Republic Day celebrations. The UK Prime Minister was invited as the chief guest for the Republic Day Parade.

Parliament to Hold Budget Session from January 29 to February 15

  • The first part of the Budget Session of Parliament will be held from January 29 to February 15, during which the government will present Union Budget 2021-22 on February 1.
  • Cabinet Committee on Parliamentary Affairs (CCPA) has recommended the Budget session of Parliament from January 29. The CCPA has recommended Part 1 of the Budget session from Jan 29-Feb 15, while Part 2 will be held from March 8 to April 8. 
  • President Kovind will address the joint sitting of both the Houses of Parliament on January 29, while the Union Budget will be presented on February 1.
  • Both the Houses of Parliament will function for four hours each day during the session.

Congress Loses Leader of Opposition Post in Assam Assembly

  • The Congress in Assam suffered a setback after its legislature party leader Debabrata Saikia lost the position of the Leader of Opposition in the Assembly, following defeats in by-elections, deaths of two MLAs and two recent defections to the BJP.
  • The present strength of the Indian National Congress Legislature Party, Assam Legislative Assembly is not equal to the quorum fixed to constitute a sitting of the House, that is one-sixth of the total number of Members of the House as required under the aforementioned provisions and therefore, the Hon'ble Speaker, Assam Legislative Assembly, has been pleased to withdraw the recognition of Shri Debabrata Saikia, MLA, as Leader of the Opposition, Assam Legislative Assembly.
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DEFENCE

Tech Mahindra Partners with College of Military Engineering for Defence Solutions

  • IT major Tech Mahindra's research and development arm, Makers Lab, has collaborated with the College of Military Engineering (CME), Pune to address challenges in the field of defence through technological innovations.
  • CME will leverage the partnership to address critical military problem statements and be future-ready using next-generation technologies of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotics.
  • Through this collaboration, Makers Lab will provide real-world technological exposure to the army officers at CME and assist them in getting the nuances of next-generation technologies such as AI, Machine Learning (ML), Robotics, Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) to make them future-ready for modern-day warfare.
  • As a part of this partnership, Tech Mahindra will establish a Makers Lab at CME to utilise their diverse set of capabilities and promote R&D to provide cutting-edge technology solutions for defence forces.

India and Israel Successfully Test MRSAM Air Defence System

  • In a major boost to their combat capabilities, India and Israel have conducted a successful test of a Medium-Range Surface-to-Air Missile (MRSAM) defence system which was jointly developed by the two countries. It is aimed at providing ultimate protection from enemy aircraft.
  • The MRSAM is an advanced path breaking air and missile defense system that provides ultimate protection against a variety of aerial platforms.

Indian Army Inks Pact with Goa Shipyard for Fast Patrol Boats

  • Indian Army has inked a contract with Goa Shipyard Limited (GSL) to procure 12 Fast Patrol Boats for surveillance and patrolling of large water bodies, including those in high altitude areas like Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh.
  • Pangong Tso's 134-km length is divided into eight 'fingers', military parlance for mountain spurs jutting into the water body that is contested by both sides. The lake is frozen with the onset of winters, and the Army plans to deploy around two dozen such boats by next summer.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Pankaj Mithal Sworn in as CJ of J&K, Ladakh High Court

  • Justice Pankaj Mithal was appointed as the new Chief Justice (CJ) of the Common High Court for the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and Union Territory of Ladakh in Jammu.
  • Chief justice Mithal has been appointed in view of the retirement of chief justice Gita Mittal recently. Chief Justice Mithal was administered the oath of office by Lieutenant Governor of J&K, Manoj Sinha.

Former Maharashtra Minister Vilas Patil Undalkar Passes Away

  • Former Maharashtra cabinet minister and seven-time Congress MLA Vilas Patil Undalkar has passed away.
  • The veteran Congressman, Undalkar, who was popularly known as 'kaka', was elected seven times from Karad-South Assembly constituency for a record 35 consecutive years, from 1980 to 2014.
  • Undalkar held the Cooperation and Law and Justice portfolios in the State Cabinets during the previous Congress-led state governments.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

Venkaiah Naidu Calls for Bridging STEM Gender Divide

  • Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu called for bridging the gender divide in STEM-related employment that is in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math-related careers.
  • Vice President said that while India produces the highest percentage of women STEM graduates in the world (about 40 per cent), their share in STEM jobs in India is very low at 14 per cent and needs to be improved.
  • As per Naidu, due to the government's efforts, the number of girl students in IITs went up from just 8 per cent in 2016 to nearly 20 per cent now.
  • Naidu also appreciated the Department of Science & Technology's Women Scientists Program as a laudable initiative that encourages women to take up careers in science and maths. 

NDRF Inducts its First Women's Team

  • Keeping in line with the government's policy, the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) has inducted the first batch of over 100 women calamity combatants and rescuers.
  • Officials in the country's federal calamity force said that an all-women team of freshly trained NDRF personnel was deployed for contingency duties on the banks of the Ganga in Uttar Pradesh's Garh Mukteshwar town.
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ART AND CULTURE

Uttarakhand Tableau on Kedarnath Temple Selected for Republic Day Parade

  • Uttarakhand's tableau featuring the Kedarnath temple has been selected by the defence ministry for the upcoming Republic Day parade in New Delhi.
  • Uttarakhand's table was among the tableaus of 32 states and UTs which participated in the process and only 17 were selected.
  • Uttarakhand's tableau has been selected for the 12th time for the Republic Day parade since the formation of the state in 2020. Before this, the state's tableau was selected for the Republic Day parade in 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019.
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