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General Awareness

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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

24 Feb 2021


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Japan Appoints Minister of Loneliness

  • Japan has appointed a Minister of Loneliness to take try and reduce loneliness and social isolation among its residents.
  • The decision has been taken by the government as the country is now dealing with rising suicide rates.
  • Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, earlier this month, appointed Tetsushi Sakamoto as the Minister of Loneliness to tackle the rising suicide rates for the first time in 11 years.
  • Sakamoto is already a minister in charge of dealing with Japan's declining birthrate and promoting regional revitalisation, and will now also oversee government policies to deal with loneliness and isolation.

Philippines Offers Nurses in Exchange for Vaccines from Britain and Germany

  • The Philippines will let thousands of its health-care workers, mostly nurses, take up jobs in Britain and Germany if the two countries agree to donate much-needed coronavirus vaccines.
  • The Philippines, which has among Asia's highest number of coronavirus cases, has relaxed a ban on deploying its health-care workers overseas but still limits the number of medical professionals leaving the country to 5,000 a year.
  • Alice Visperas, director of the labour ministry's international affairs bureau, said the Philippines was open to lifting the cap in exchange for vaccines from Britain and Germany, which it would use to inoculate outbound workers and hundreds of thousands of Filipino repatriates.

Nepal's Supreme Court Reinstates Dissolved House of Representatives

  • Nepal's Supreme Court reinstated the dissolved House of Representatives, in a setback to embattled Prime Minister K. P. Sharma Oli who was preparing for snap polls.
  • A five-member Constitution bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JBR annulled the government's decision to dissolve the 275-member lower house of parliament and ordered the government to summon the House session within the next 13 days.
  • Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20 after President Bidya Dev Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling party.
  • As many as 13 writ petitions, including the one by the ruling Nepal Communist Party's Chief Whip Dev Prasad Gurung were filed at the apex court seeking the restoration of the lower house parliament.
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West Antarctica's Getz Glaciers Flowing Faster

  • Wherever you look in West Antarctica right now, the message is the same: Its marine-terminating glaciers are being melted by warm seawater.
  • Scientists have just taken a detailed look at the ice streams flowing into the ocean along a 1,000 km-stretch of coastline known as the Getz region.
  • It incorporates 14 glaciers - and they've all speeded up.
  • Since 1994, they've lost 315 gigatonnes of ice - equivalent to 126 million Olympic swimming pools of water.
  • If you put this in the context of the Antarctic continent's contribution to global sea-level rise over the same period, Getz accounts for just over 10% of the total - a little under a millimetre.
  • This is the first time anyone has done a really detailed study of this area of West Antarctica. It's very inaccessible to people to go and do field work because it's so mountainous; most of it hasn't ever been stepped on by humans.
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Gati-KWE to Process Cargo Loads of 100 Trucks a Day

  • Express logistics services provider Gati-KWE will set up a surface trans-shipment centre (STC) in Delhi at the Allcargo Logistics Park on the Western Peripheral expressway with a capacity to process cargo for short-haul deliveries in north India and long-haul movements across the country.
  • The proposed facility is designed to process cargo loads of almost 100 trucks a day and to be spread over 1.5 lakh sq feet area at Farukh Nagar logistics park. It is expected to be functional from June this year, Gati-KWE -- which is a part of Allcargo Logistics -- said in a release.
  • The company plans to come up with four more such tech-enabled state-of-the art centres in the future, it said without giving a specific timeline.
  • The facility has been conceptualised to achieve economy of scale and provide unparalleled customer service, the release said, adding that apart from consolidating Gati-KWE's logistics operations on the outskirts to decongest the city, the STC adheres to the green belt requirement as well.

SEBI Imposes Fine on Alchemist Infra Realty, 4 Others

  • Markets regulator SEBI has slapped a total fine of Rs. 1 crore on Alchemist Infra Realty Ltd and four individuals for illegally mobilising funds from the public through a collective investment scheme.
  • The individuals who have been fined are Brij Mohan Mahajan, Narayan Madhav Kumar, Balvir Singh and Chandra Sekhar Chauhan.
  • As per the order, the company had mobilised funds to the tune of Rs 54.1 crore, Rs 449.41 crore and Rs 1,087.68 crore as on March 31, 2009, March 31, 2010 and March 31, 2011 respectively.
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Scientists Develop Lead-free Material to Convert Waste Heat to Electricity

  • Indian scientists have found a new lead-free material which can efficiently convert waste heat to power small home appliances and automobiles.
  • So far, most of the efficient thermoelectric materials developed by scientists use lead as a major constituent element, thereby restricting their use for mass-market applications.
  • Scientists from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research, Bengaluru, have identified a lead-free material called 'Cadmium doped Silver Antimony Telluride' which can efficiently allow recovery of electricity from 'waste heat', marking a paradigm shift in the thermoelectric puzzle.
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President Ram Nath Kovind Inaugurates Motera Stadium

  • President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the Motera Cricket Stadium in Ahmedabad where the third test between India and England kicked-off.
  • Union Home Minister Amit Shah was present on the occasion. The President is on a two-day visit to Gujarat. He attended the third convocation of the Central University of Gujarat (CUG) at Gandhinagar as the chief guest.
  • Spread over 63 acres, the Motera stadium has been billed to be the world's largest cricket stadium with a seating capacity of a whopping 1,10,000. It houses 76 corporate boxes, an Olympic-level swimming pool, an indoor academy, four dressing rooms for athletes and food courts. 
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340-km RRR around Hyderabad to be Longest Bypass in India

  • The road transport and highways ministry gave 'in principle' nod for the 340 km 'Regional Ring Road' (RRR) around Hyderabad, which will connect all districts of Telangana with the state capital. The RRR, a four-lane access-controlled highway will cost Rs. 16,000 crore. This will be the longest bypass in India.
  • Announcing the decision at Union minister Nitin Gadkari's home, junior home minister G Kishan Reddy said, "Gadkariji has assured us the road will be built in three years once state acquires land. We are urging state government to take proactive steps to fast-track it for development of Telangana."
  • In November 2016, the highways' ministry had given 'in principle' nod for declaring the two parts of RRR – northern and southern — as national highway. Monday's decision has now paved the way for land acquisition and preparatory work.
  • The RRR is to be taken up in two parts. The northern part of 158 km, connecting Sangareddy, Narasapur, Toopran, Gajwel, Yadadri, Pragnapur, Bhongir and Choutuppal will be taken up at a tentative cost of Rs. 7,560 crore. It will be totally funded by the Centre and another Rs. 1,961 crore will be spent for land acquisition. The state government has agreed to bear 50% of the land acquisition and pre-construction cost.

Chhattisgarh: Peace Panel Formed for Dialogue with Maoists and the State

  • Activists, journalists and social workers constituted a peace committee to initiate dialogue between Maoists and the government with the objective of attaining lasting peace in Maoist-affected regions of Chhattisgarh. 
  • The committee named Concerned Citizens' Committee of Chhattisgarh (4Cs), comprises 11 members who will lead the negotiations with the state and the Maoists, while bringing them on a common platform.
  • Former Union minister Arvind Netam, former chairperson of the SC/ST Commission Nandkumar Sai, leader of Sarv Adivasi Samaj B Rawte, Communist Party of India (CPI) leader in Bastar, Manish Kunjam, executive president of the Sarv Adiwasi Samaj B.S Rawte, journalists Diwakar Muktibodh, Kamal Shukla, social worker Virendra Pandey, Indu Girish Pankaj, and RD Rao are panel members.
  • Peace activist Shubhranshu Chaudhary has been made the convenor of the committee.

Kushinagar Becomes Third International Airport in UP

  • Union minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced that Uttar Pradesh got its third international airport in the form of Kushinagar. Puri said that this will help boost tourism in the region.
  • Kushinagar Airport will boost tourism in the region & facilitate travel on Buddhist circuit by providing direct aviation connectivity to the city where Lord Buddha attained Mahaparinirvana.
  • The airport is located in the vicinity of several Buddhist cultural sites like Sravasti, Kapilvastu and Lumbini. The other two international airports in Uttar Pradesh are Chaudhary Charan Singh International Airport of Lucknow and Lal Bahadur Shastri International Airport of Varanasi. Another one is being built in Jewar, Greater Noida.
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Cochin Shipyard Bags Navy Order for Six Missile Vessels

  • Cochin Shipyard emerged as the lowest bidder for a Rs. 10,000-crore contract by the Indian Navy, to build Next Generation Missile Vessels.
  • The state-owned company has emerged as a forerunner in the Indian shipbuilding and ship repair industry that can build and repair the largest vessels in India.
  • Incorporated in 1972, CSL can build ships up to 1,10,000 dead weight tonnage (DWT) and repair ships up to 1,25,000 DWT.
  • It said the final announcement of the contract will be subject to the satisfactory completion of necessary formalities in this regard.
  • CSL has secured shipbuilding orders from internationally renowned companies from Europe and Middle East and is nominated to build the country's first indigenous air defence ship.

SSB to Use Image Analysis at Nepal and Bhutan Borders to Monitor Changes, Troops

  • The Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB), which guards India's frontiers with Nepal and Bhutan, plans to use space and map-based technologies Geospatial Intelligence (GEOINT) and Geographical Information System (GIS) to assess any physical changes at the borders, presence of troops, or weaponry as well as border crimes.
  • The move comes months after Nepal amended its Constitution in June last year to redraw its political map laying claim over the strategically key areas of Lipulekh, Kalapani, and Limpiyadhura in Uttarakhand. India and China this month began disengagement of troops that have been involved in a standoff for eight months in Ladakh.
  • The SSB has access to satellite-based GEOINT, which involves collecting information from analysis of images and data associated with a particular location. It uses imagery to survey and assess human activity and physical geography anywhere on earth.
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Shantanu Mitra to Rejoin Temasek-backed Fullerton India as CEO

  • Shantanu Mitra will re-join Temasek-backed Fullerton India Credit Company Limited (Fullerton India), as its chief executive and managing director from April 2.
  • Earlier, he was MD and CEO of the company in 2017. Rajashree Nambiar stepped down as MD & CEO in January 2021 after a three-year stint to pursue outside interests.
  • Mitra has over 20 years experience at Standard Chartered and Citibank, where he had stints in India, Singapore and Thailand.
  • His role in Standard Chartered was Senior Regional Risk Officer, India, Middle East & Africa, based in Mumbai. His previous experience with Fullerton included a stint from 2010 to 2017, initially as the head of consumer risk for the parent company Fullerton Financial Holdings and subsequently a very successful tenure as CEO & MD.

RBI Ropes in Punjabi Rapper for Awareness Campaign on Cyber Fraud

  • Amidst an unprecedented rise in cyber frauds and manifold jump in online financial transactions, the Reserve Bank, in a quirky bid to drive its public awareness campaigns, has roped in Punjabi singer-rapper Viruss to drive home its points this time.
  • What's interesting about the latest campaign is that the central bank, which since the lockdowns has been very active on social media, has deployed a peppy rap music to issue its latest directives to the public on how they can and should protect themselves against cybercrimes and identity theft.
  • The campaign appeals and encourages the public, especially the tech-savvy netizens who tend to transact online, on staying 'satark' or alert against some common fraudsters and cybersecurity threats.

Yamani, the Saudi Oil Minister who Brought the West to its Knees Dies

  • Saudi Arabia's Sheikh Zaki Yamani, the embodiment of the ascent of Arab petroleum power and the face of the 1973 oil embargo that brought the West to its knees, has died.
  • Yamani was a witness to the 1975 murder of the Saudi king who had plucked him, a non-royal, from obscurity to be oil minister. Later the same year Yamani was kidnapped at an OPEC meeting by Ilyich Ramirez Sanchez, known as Carlos the Jackal.
  • Known for his elegant manner and trademark goatee beard, Yamani's 24-year tenure running the oil affairs of the world's biggest crude producer made him a global celebrity during the inflationary "oil shocks" of the 1970s.
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Central Excise Day

  • On 24th February every year, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) celebrates the Central Excise Day across the country. The day aims to honour the contribution of the Central Board of Excise and Custom to India's economy. Additionally, the Central Excise Board being a primary tax collection agency for the Central Government, the day also recognizes and acknowledges the hard work put in by the officers of CBCE and encourages them to carry out their duty with utmost sincerity. Furthermore, the day is also observed to check corruption in goods manufacturing business as well as implement other rules to carry out the best possible excise services.
  • To mark the occasions, the Central Board of Excise and Customs conducts a host of activities across the country including seminars, workshops, educational and cultural events, awareness programs, competitions, and award ceremonies. Additionally, the board also holds a series of awareness programmes to help the public understand the roles and responsibilities of CBCE and its officers.
  • The Central Excise Day is celebrated every year to commemorate the Central Excise and Salt Act, which was enacted on 24 February 1944.

Khajuraho Dance Festival 2021

  • The 47th Khajuraho Dance Festival began in Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh in February 2021.
  • The week-long festival has been organised by the Culture Department through its Ustad Alauddin Khan Music and Arts Academy Bhopal and will culminate on February 26, 2021.
  • For the first time in 44 years, the Khajuraho Dance Festival is being held in the World Heritage temple group premises.
  • The Khajuraho Dance Festival is an internationally acclaimed cultural event, hosted each year since 1975, at the magnificent city of Khajuraho located in the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh. 
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Union Bank of India Wins World HRD Congress Awards

  • Union Bank of India was awarded "Best Service Provider" in Human Resources and also the best institution for "Excellence in Learning & Development" at the 29th Global HRD Congress awards function held at Mumbai in February 2021.
  • Kalyan Kumar, Chief General Manager, HR was named as "Chief Human Resources Officer of the Year". Vinayak V Tembhurane, General Manager, HR, received the coveted award on his behalf.
  • Global HRD Congress Awards are given to institutions annually for the best HR practices under different categories. The Eminent jury which consists of best in industry will select the organizations taking into account their remarkable achievements in HR.
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Govt. Launches National Urban Digital Mission

  • The Central government launched the National Urban Digital Mission to create a digital infrastructure for cities in the country.
  • The Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry (MoHUA) said that the move will institutionalise a citizen-centric and ecosystem-driven approach to urban governance and service delivery in cities by 2022, and across all cities and towns by 2024.
  • Union Housing and Urban Affairs Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and Minister of Electronics and IT Ravi Shankar Prasad launched the National Urban Digital Mission' (NUDM) at a virtual event.
  • Other initiatives -- India Urban Data Exchange (IUDX), SmartCode, Smart Cities 2.0 website, and Geospatial Management Information System (GMIS) -- were also launched at the event.

Delhi Govt. Makes Regulatory Process Easier for pvt Schools to Gain Recognition

  • The Delhi government has made it slightly easier for private schools to get recognition or extension of their provisional recognition, reducing the number of regulatory compliance parameters from 91 to 73.
  • At present, private schools' requests for recognition, upgradation or extension of provisional recognition are examined on 91 compiled checkpoints by the Directorate of Education.
  • Now, these checkpoints have been clubbed to make the process easier, and minimising regulatory compliance burden.
  • Now onwards, all cases of recognition, upgradation, extension of provisional recognition of private schools shall be examined as per clubbed 73 checkpoints.
  • The checkpoints on basis of which schools are examined include number of classrooms, library and laboratories facility, playgrounds, drinking water supply, separate toilets for boys and girls, among other criteria.
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10th Century Buddha Vihar Discovered in Jharkhand's Hazaribag

  • A 10th century structure resembling a small 'Buddha Vihar' (Buddhist shrine-cum-monastery) has been discovered during an excavation, being carried out by Archeological Survey of India (ASI), in the foothills of Juljul Hill at Sadar block of Hazaribagh district, around 110-km from capital Ranchi.
  • The ASI identified three mounds in the foothills having links to Buddhism last year. The excavation of the first mound last year led to the discovery of a complete shrine with a central and two subsidiary shrines, just two metres below the surface. However, the excavation work was suspended after two months due to Covid-19 pandemic triggered lockdowns and some other reasons.
  • In the second round of excavation, beginning the last week of January this year, the second mound, around 40-meters away from the first mound or central shrine, was excavated and a small Buddha Vihar like structure was discovered.
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