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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

31 Jan 2021

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

India- Japan 5th Act East Forum Meet

  • The fifth joint meeting of the India-Japan Act East Forum was held between India and Japan. The meeting was co-chaired by Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and the Ambassador of Japan to India, Suzuki Satoshi.
  • At the Act East Forum, India and Japan reviewed the progress of ongoing projects in the North Eastern Region of India.
  • These projects were launched in the areas ranging from the hydropower, connectivity, harnessing of water resource, sustainable development, and skill development.
  • Both the sides also appreciated the role played by the Act East Forum, ever since it was established in the year 2017, in streamlining India-Japan bilateral cooperation.
  • The act east forum was established in the year 2017. The agreement to establish the forum was signed in September 2017 during the visit of Prime Minister Abe to India. This platform works in line with the Japan's vision for a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" and India-Japan collaboration in the North Eastern Region under India's "Act East Policy".

US Focused on Dealing with Iran's Advancement Toward Nuclear Weapon

  • The Biden administration is prioritizing dealing with Iran's progress towards achieving a nuclear weapon, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said.
  • "From our perspective, a critical early priority has to be to deal with what is an escalating nuclear crisis as they move closer and closer to having enough fissile material for a weapon," Sullivan said during a virtual panel discussion hosted by the US Institute of Peace.
  • The Biden administration would like to re-establish some constraints on Iran's nuclear program that have fallen apart over the past two years, Sullivan said.
  • President Joe Biden has vowed to renter the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) after his predecessor Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the accord and pursued a "maximum pressure" campaign against Iran.

South Korea Rebukes Opposition over Report on Nuclear Plant in North Korea

  • South Korea's presidential office issued a rebuke to an opposition leader who accused it of "abetting the enemy" after a news report that Seoul had planned to build a nuclear plant in North Korea.
  • Local broadcaster SBS unveiled a prosecution indictment listing more than a dozen documents from the energy ministry that suggested a previously unknown project to set up a nuclear plant in North Korea.
  • The documents were among 530 files that prosecutors say the ministry had illegally deleted to conceal that it had distorted feasibility studies to shut down a reactor in South Korea, the report said.
  • Kim Chong-in, leader of the main opposition People Power Party, called the potential plan a "shocking and appalling act that abets the enemy". 
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ENVIRONMENT

National Marine Turtle Action Plan Launched

  • Considering the need to have a conservation paradigm for marine megafauna and marine turtles, the Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has released 'Marine Mega Fauna Stranding Guidelines' and 'National Marine Turtle Action Plan' in New Delhi.
  • Speaking at the virtual launch event the Union Environment Minister said that both floral and faunal diversity including the marine biodiversity is the beauty of India, and we need to conserve it with the best possible action and interventions.
  • India has rich marine biodiversity along a vast coastline of over 7,500 km. From colourful fish, sharks, including Whale Sharks, turtles and big mammals like whales, dolphins and dugongs to bright corals, marine habitats not only harbour diverse species but also provide resources essential for human wellbeing.
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BUSINESS AND ECONOMY

Economic Survey 2020-21

  • Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tabled the Economic Survey 2020-21 in the Lok Sabha.
  • The Economic Survey 2021 presented an estimation of the progress that the Indian economy has made in the last 12 months.
  • The survey highlights that the real growth rate for Financial Year 2021 was taken as -7.7% as per MoSPI while the real growth rate for Financial Year 2022 is assumed was taken as 11.5 % on the basis of estimates provided by the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
  • As per the survey, there was de-growth for the first time.
  • It highlights that the Indian economy is technically in a recession as it has witnessed a contraction in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the last two consecutive quarters.
  • The Survey also provided a detailed analysis of India's V-shaped economic recovery after it was affected due to corona pandemic. It highlights that mega vaccination drive supports the V-shaped recovery.

LG Electronics Announces Record Operating Profit in 2020

  • LG Electronics Jan. 29 announced record 2020 revenue of KRW 63.26 trillion ($56.45 billion) and record operating profit of KRW 3.20 trillion ($2.85 billion), an increase of 31.1% over 2019, and driven primarily by higher sales of OLED TVs and home appliances, among other products.
  • Sales in the fourth quarter, ended Dec. 31, of KRW 18.78 trillion ($16.76 billion) grew 16.9% from the same period of 2019 and were 11% higher than the previous quarter. Despite the impact of COVID-19, the quarter's operating profit of KRW 650.20 billion ($580.19 million) increased significantly by 539% compared to the fourth quarter of 2019.

Tata Steel to Continue Separation of European Activities

  • Tata Steel's European works council said that it expected the separation of Tata Steel's Dutch and British operations to continue, despite Swedish steel maker, SSAB's decision to halt talks over the potential acquisition of Tata's Dutch steel mill.
  • As per works council chair Cinta Groo, it is unclear how we will proceed, but we expect the separation to continue.
  • Groos said that she did not expect takeover talks with ThyssenKrupp to be revived, after the European Commission blocked a merger between Tata's European activities and the German company in 2019. 
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SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

NASA's Mars Rover Perseverance is in the Home Stretch of its Journey to Red Planet

  • The long deep-space journey of NASA's next Mars rover is nearly over.
  • The car-size Perseverance rover, which launched on July 30 of last year, is scheduled to land inside the 28-mile-wide (45 kilometres) Jezero Crater in mid-February.
  • Perseverance is the centrepiece of NASA's $2.7 billion Mars 2020 mission, which will break new ground in Red Planet exploration. For example, the rover will hunt for evidence of ancient Mars life on the floor of Jezero, which hosted a lake and a river delta billions of years ago. No previous Red Planet robot has done such work (though NASA's twin Viking landers, which touched down in 1976, did look for signs of extant organisms).

Jalandhar NIT Develops Multi Purpose Robot Cutebot

  • BR Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar has developed a multi-purpose service robot 'Cutebot', It can be used in a hospital environment as well as by security agencies for surveillance,
  • The robot is also enabled with a wheeled mobile platform. Doctors and medical staff can interact with patients of Covid-19 and other infectious diseases through the audio-visual screen of the robot while sitting in their rooms as it is equipped with a camera and voice communication system.
  • They can help in guiding patients on medicines and also deliver refreshments in the isolation wards. For security personnel, it can help in surveillance and in some other required areas. The robot has been designed jointly by Kuldeep Singh Nagla, Associate Professor and a specialist in robotics and automation, and Professor L K Awasthi, director of the institute.
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SPORTS

BCCI Not to Hold Ranji Trophy for First Time in 87 Years

  • The BCCI will not be conducting its premier first-class domestic tournament Ranji Trophy for the first time in 87 years as the parent body opted for the Vijay Hazare Trophy as per the wishes of a majority of the state units.
    • The BCCI will also host the U-19 National One Day tournament for the Vinoo Mankad Trophy and the Women's national 50-over tournament as per a letter sent by BCCI secretary Jay Shah to the state units.
    • While BCCI president Sourav Ganguly and secretary Shah were keen to have the blue riband tournament that pays the maximum match fee (Rs 1.5 lakh per game approx) to the players, it is understood that a two-month-long bio-bubble even for a truncated two-phased Ranji Trophy in times of the COVID-19 pandemic wasn't feasible.
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NATIONAL AFFAIRS

India and Bangladesh Discuss Development Cooperation, Defence Line of Credit

  • India and Bangladesh discussed ways to speed up development cooperation and operationalise a $500-million line of credit for defence ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Dhaka in March.
  • The matters figured in foreign office consultations that were co-chaired by foreign secretary Harsh Shringla and his Bangladesh counterpart Masud Bin Momen in New Delhi. The two sides focused on deliverables that could be implemented by the time of PM Modi's visit to participate in celebrations marking the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Bangladesh, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
  • Bangladesh is perceived as a key pillar of India's "Neighbourhood First" policy and has benefited from development cooperation worth about $9 billion, including $7.8 billion in lines of credit at concessional rates. India provided seven million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, including two million doses as a grant, to Bangladesh this month.
  • The two sides also discussed the operationalisation of the line of credit of $500 million for Bangladesh to procure defence equipment from India. The agreement for this was signed last year and the two sides are exploring the supply of "kinetic and non-kinetic equipment.
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DEFENCE

China Launches Second Advanced Naval Frigate for Pakistan

  • China launched the second naval missile frigate equipped with an improved radar system and long-range missiles for its all-weather ally Pakistan to help it bolster maritime defence and deterrence capabilities, according to a media report.
  • The Pakistan Navy has contracted the construction of four Type 054A/P frigates from China since 2017, and the first ship was launched in August last year.
  • The Type 054A multi-purpose, guided-missile frigate is the mainstay of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy, with 30 vessels in commission.
  • Compared with previous Chinese frigates, the new version has better air defence capability, as it is equipped with an improved radar system and a larger number of missiles with a longer range, Zhang said, noting that the Type 054A frigate also has world-class stealth capability.
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PERSONS IN NEWS

Janakiraman and Aswini New MDs of SBI

  • The appointment's committee (ACC) of the Cabinet has approved the appointment of Swaminathan Janakiraman and Ashwini Kumar Tewari as new Managing Directors (MDs) of State Bank of India (SBI) for a period of three years.
  • Prior to this, Swaminathan Janakiraman was the deputy managing director (Finance) at SBI and Ashwini Kumar Tewari was serving as MD & CEO of SBI Card, a subsidiary of SBI.
  • SBI is headed by a Chairman and four managing directors. Dinesh Kumar Khara is the current Chairman of the bank. The other two MDs of the bank are C.S. Setty and Ashwani Bhatia. The two posts were vacant since October 2020.

Lt Gen Chandi Prasad Mohanty is New Army Vice-chief

  • Lieutenant General Chandi Prasad Mohanty has been appointed as the new Vice-chief of Army staff. He would assume the office on February 1, 2021, from Lt General SK Saini, who is superannuating on 31 January 2021. Lt General CP Mohanty is an alumnus of Rashtriya Indian Military College, Dehradun, and National Defence Academy. He is a June 1982 batch Infantry Officer from the Rajput Regiment.
  • Vice-chief of Army Staff is the deputy head and the second-highest-ranking officer of the Indian Army. The position is held by the senior officer in the rank of Lt-General, of the Commander in Chief grade.
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DAYS AND EVENTS

Martyrs Day

  • India celebrates Martyrs' Day or Shaheed Diwas every year on January 30. On January 30, 1948, during his evening prayers in the Birla House, Mahatma Gandhi, was shot dead by Nathuram Godse.
  • Hence, on January 30, Martyr's Day is celebrated by the country to commemorate the death anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi. On this day, the President, the Vice President, the Prime Minister, the Defence Minister and the three Service Chiefs (Army, Air Force and Navy) lay wreaths made of multi-colour flowers at his Samadhi at Raj Ghat in Delhi. At 11 am, a two-minute silence in memory of Indian martyrs is observed throughout the country. 
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GOVERNMENT POLICIES AND SCHEMES

Start-up India Seed Fund Scheme

  • The government launched the Start-up India Seed Fund Scheme (SISFS).
  • The scheme will be launched with a corpus of Rs 945 crore.
  • The scheme was launched with the aim of providing the financial assistance to start-ups for the product trials, market-entry, proof of concept, prototype development and commercialization.
  • The funds under the Start-up India Seed Fund Scheme will be disbursed through the selected incubators across the country.
  • The scheme will be in mission mode for the year 2021-25.
  • The funds under SISFS can be availed by a start-up that are incorporated not before the 2 years ago at the time of application.
  • The Start-ups will be recognized by the DPIIT.
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GENDER/ HEALTH/ EDUCATION

Sikkim Asks Schools to Introduce 11 Local Languages in Curriculum

  • The Sikkim government has asked all schools in the state to introduce 11 vernaculars in their curriculum from the next academic session for students to pick one as second language.
  • As of now, students in state-run schools are given Bhutia, Nepali, Lepcha and Limbu as options for second language, and seven more would be added to the list.
  • Private schools will have to ensure that all 11 local languages, including Tamang, Gurung, Mangar, Sherpa, Mukhia, Rai and Newar, are made a part of the curriculum.

STEPapp Ties Up with Bihar Govt. to Support Girl Child Education

  • STEPapp (Student Talent Enhancement Program Application) app has tied up with the Bihar government to support girl child education in the state.
  • Educating girls is one of the factors that bring growth prospects in the development of India. Every student, every child, irrespective of their gender, has the right and should be given the privilege to get a quality education.
  • The STEPapp app has been implemented in more than 3500 schools in Pan India. With more than 27 lakh downloads and more than 31 lakh users, STEPapp has collaborated with the state and central governments to implement the e-learning solution in schools all over the country.
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ART AND CULTURE

ASI Unearths 10th Century Temple During Excavation in Bhubaneswar

  • The Archaeological Survey of India has unearthed a stone structure suspected to be the floor of a 10th century temple during excavation near the 11th century Lingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar.
  • ASI officials said that while carrying out scientific cleaning of the two acre land adjacent to the 11th century Suka-Sari temple complex, they found the floor of the temple as well as a portion of wall containing beautifully engraved statues of danseuses of the temple that was earlier buried under the campus of a demolished Sanskrit college in Bhubaneswar. A base (Shakti) of Shivling has also been found during digging at the site.
  • As per reports, many ancient structures around the vicinity of Lingaraj temple are believed to have been damaged during the demolition drive carried out by the Odisha government for renovation of the old town area under Ekamra Kshetra Project.

Stunning Eagle Sculpture Uncovered at Sacred Aztec Temple in Mexico

  • A striking 600-year-old Aztec sculpture depicting a golden eagle has been uncovered in an ancient temple in Mexico, archaeologists with Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History. 
  • The eagle, which measures 41.7 inches by 27.6 inches (106 by 70 centimeters), is the largest bas-relief sculpture ever found at the temple.
  • The eagle was carved into the floor of a structure at the foot of Temple Mayor — the iconic pyramid-shaped temple that was built at the heart of the ancient Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlán and is now in modern-day Mexico City. 
  • Artists created the bas-relief, a type of sculpture with raised images carved out of a stone background, in the mid-15th century during the reign of Moctezuma I. 
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