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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

06 Mar 2021


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Biden Appoints Two more Indian-Americans to Key Administration Position

  • US President Joe Biden has appointed two more Indian-Americans in key administrative positions.
  • Chiraag Bains has been appointed as Special Assistant to the President for Criminal Justice and Pronita Gupta has been named Special Assistant to the President for Labour and Workers.
  • The announcement for appointing Bains and Gupta was part of more than 20 appointments of additional policy staff who will serve with the White House COVID Response Team, Domestic Climate Policy Office, Domestic Policy Council and National Economic Council.
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Researchers Find Five New Species of Shrub Frogs

  • Researchers from India and the United States have found the five new species of shrub frogs. These species of the frog were discovered from the Western Ghats which is a globally recognised biodiversity hotspot.
  • The five species of the frogs belong to the Old World tree frog of the family called Rhacophoridae. These species were discovered by researchers from Kerala Forest Research Institute, University of Delhi and University of Minnesota. This discovery is part of the long comprehensive study on Shrub frogs of genus Raorchestes in the Western Ghats. The research was carried out for the period of 10 years. The new species were identified and were distinct on the basis of several criteria including the external morphology of the frog, calling pattern, DNA, and behaviour.
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Axis Bank Partners WhatsApp to Offer Basic Banking Services

  • Axis Bank said that it will be available on popular social messaging app WhatsApp and will allow basic banking services, including account balance, and transactions history.
  • The third largest private sector lender said the service will allow customers to seek information regarding their account balance, recent transactions, credit card payments, fixed and recurring deposit details, besides getting their queries answered in real-time.
  • The facilities will be available to both the bank and non-bank customers.

Kotak Mahindra Bank to Handle Salary Account of Indian Army Personnel

  • Private sector lender Kotak Mahindra Bank will handle the salary account of the Indian army personnel.
  • The bank has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Army for salary account.
  • The MoU enables Kotak to offer its salary account proposition, combined with exclusive benefits for the Indian Army, to all army personnel – both active and retired.
  • Through the Kotak salary account, all personnel of the Indian army will get access to the full range of Kotak's products and services including a zero-balance salary account that earns up to 4 per cent interest per annum with free unlimited ATM transactions on all VISA ATMs and anywhere banking across the bank's network of 1,603 branches and 2,573 ATMs across India.
  • The salary account will cover other benefits such as a bespoke salary account for the army personnel, enhanced complimentary personal accident insurance cover - for both on-duty and off-duty incidents.

ICICI Bank Targeting to Serve 20 lakh Customers of Rival Banks

  • Private sector lender ICICI Bank said that 10 lakh customers of rival banks are using its mobile application for transactions. The lender expects the number of such customers, who are using the app for instant UPI-based payments and recharges, to double in the next three months.
  • Its head of digital channels and partnership Bijith Bhaskar said the bank is using NPCI''s interoperable infrastructure to serve customers of other banks as well through its app called "imobile pay".
  • Users like the ''Pay to Contacts'' feature the most. The functionality enables users to send money either to a mobile number or a UPI ID of their friends/contacts, to any payment app or a digital wallet, it said.
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NASA's Perseverance Rover Drives on Mars for First Time

  • NASA's Mars 2020 Perseverance rover performed its first drive on Mars, covering 21.3 feet (6.5 meters) across the Martian landscape.
  • The drive served as a mobility test that marks just one of many milestones as team members check out and calibrate every system, subsystem, and instrument on Perseverance. Once the rover begins pursuing its science goals, regular commutes extending 656 feet (200 meters) or more are expected.
  • The drive, which lasted about 33 minutes, propelled the rover forward 13 feet (4 meters), where it then turned in place 150 degrees to the left and backed up 8 feet (2.5 meters) into its new temporary parking space.
  • To help better understand the dynamics of a retrorocket landing on the Red Planet, engineers used Perseverance's Navigation and Hazard Avoidance Cameras to image the spot where Perseverance touched down, dispersing Martian dust with plumes from its engines.
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Sania Ousted from Qatar Total Open

  • Sania Mirza's first tournament in more than a year ended with a semifinal defeat as she was ousted from the Qatar Total Open along with her partner Andreja Klepac.
  • Sania and her Slovenian partner lost 5-7 6-2 5-10 to America's Nicole Melichar and Dutch player Demi Schuurs in one hour and 28 minutes.

Kiren Rijiju Bats for Hosting Olympics in India

  • Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju pitched for hosting the Summer Olympics in the future, saying that the Olympic movement is not complete till India hosts an edition of the quadrennial sporting extravaganza.
  • During a virtual conference organised by the Conference of Indian Industry, the 6th CII Scorecard, Rijiju complimented United Kingdom for hosting the Olympics on three occasions.
  • On the occasion, Rijiju also highlighted his ministry's two big initiatives -- the Khelo India and Fit India programmes. He appealed to corporates to launch the Fit India movement in their offices. Rijiju also appealed to the business fraternity to help in making sports a vibrant industry in India.
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Delimitation Commission Gets One Year Extension to Conclude its Task in J&K

  • The Delimitation Commission, a panel for redrawing the parliamentary and Assembly constituencies in Jammu and Kashmir, has got a one-year extension, a move indicating that the Assembly polls in the Union Territory would not be held anytime soon.
  • A gazette notification issued by the government said that the panel, headed by retired Supreme Court judge Ranjana Prakash Desai, will get one more year for completing its task in the Union Territory, which came into existence on October, 2019 after the Centre abrogated the special status of the erstwhile state in August that year and announced its reorganization.
  • The panel was set up last year to redraw the electoral constituencies of Jammu and Kashmir and four northeastern states — Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Nagaland. However, the one-year extension is only for Jammu and Kashmir.

Modi and Swedish PM Discuss Defence

  • Amid interests shown by Swedish company Saab to manufacture its Gripen fighter aircraft in India, Prime Ministers of the two countries noted defence is an important area of a long-standing collaboration.
  • Saab, a global defence and security giant, has been eyeing the Indian market for its Gripen fighter aircraft for a long time and has made a strong pitch on multiple occasions in the recent past that it is completely aligned with the 'Make in India' policy of the government here and is ready to build products and solutions in India, by Indians, for India and for export.
  • Noting that Gripen is already operational in Sweden, Czech Republic, Hungary, Thailand and South Africa among other countries, Saab had said its offer was moulded to meet all the requirements of the Indian Air Force and the defence and security needs of the country in general.
  • Saab's portfolio includes combat aircraft, surveillance solutions, electronic warfare, avionics, weapon systems, sensors, commercial aeronautics, training, service and support.

Centre forms 259-member Committee

  • The Centre formed a 259-member committee to commemorate the 75 years of India's independence which falls on August 15, 2022.
  • The committee, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will include former President Pratibha Patil, former Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and HD Devegowda, several Ministers, leaders, including Sonia Gandhi and LK Advani, artists, sportspersons, among others.
  • The committee will provide policy direction and guidelines for formulation of programmes for the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Indian Independence, at the national and international levels.
  • Earlier, a National Implementation Committee (NIC), under the chairmanship of the Home Minister, had been constituted for the commemoration, to guide the policies and programs to be undertaken by various Ministries.
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DRDO Joins Exclusive Club after Long-range Air-to-air Missile Test

  • A successful test of the technologies that go into a solid fuel ducted ramjet (SFDR) has propelled the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) into an exclusive group of manufacturers that can build long-range air-to-air missiles (AAM) capable of shooting down enemy aircraft hundreds of kilometres away.
  • The DRDO has already impressed the Indian Air Force (IAF) with its home-grown Astra medium-range AAM. The IAF is planning to equip the Tejas Mark 1A fighter with the Astra Mark 1, enabling it to strike airborne targets at ranges of 60-70 km.

India Ready to Sell BrahMos, But Exports Remain Hostage to Concerns over CAATSA

  • The ominous shadow of US sanctions on Russian defence entities looms ominously over India's plans to fast-track the export of BrahMos cruise missiles which are being locally manufactured in collaboration with Moscow.
  • India is in advanced talks with several countries, especially the Philippines, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), amongst others like Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia and South Africa to sell them the BrahMos missile system.
  • But its export remains hostage to unresolved concerns over the US's Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions or CAATSA, which has the potential to hobble all such sales via arbitrary embargoes.
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Sheikh Hasina's Political Adviser HT Imam Passes Away

  • HT Imam, the political adviser to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, died at a military hospital.
  • He was undergoing treatment at the Combined Military Hospital in Dhaka.
  • Imam was the cabinet secretary to the 1971 wartime government.
  • After the Awami League headed by Hasina formed the government following the 2008 election, Imam was appointed as the public administration affairs adviser to the Prime Minister.
  • Following the 2014 elections, he was made the political affairs adviser to the Prime Minister.

Glenmark Pharma Signs Rohit Sharma as Brand Ambassador for Candid Powder

  • Drug major Glenmark Pharma signed cricketer Rohit Sharma as brand ambassador for its product Candid Powder.
  • Candid Powder brand is a market leader in its category, with a market share of 64 per cent in the medicated powder category.
  • Glenmark's Candid Dusting Powder is used to treat four key skin problems of redness, irritation, sweat rash and fungal infections.

Muthoot Finance Chairman M. G. Muthoot Passes Away

  • M. G. Muthoot, the chairman of Muthoot Finance which is the largest gold loan NBFC in the country, passed away in New Delhi.
  • The 71-year-old Muthoot was for long based in the National Capital even though his diversified group that runs over 20 businesses from gold loans to securities, realty estate to infrastructure, hospitals to hospitality and education, is headquartered in Kochi making it one of the largest business houses in the state.
  • The Muthoot Group's flagship Muthoot Finance had a loan book of close to Rs. 56,000 crore in the December 2020 quarter.
  • The group has grown manifold under him, when he took over it had just 31 branches but now has over 5,550 branches across the country and outside today and the group.
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WAN-IFRA Names the Hindu Group Champion Publisher of the Year 2020

  • The Hindu Group won two golds and two silvers at WAN IFRA's South Asian Digital Media Awards, culminating in being named 'Champion Publisher of the Year', owing to the highest tally on the points table.
  • The awards are presented in recognition of outstanding work done by news publishers, in digital media. The winners were honoured virtually at the Digital Media India 2021 Conference.
  • The World Association of News Publishers or WAN-IFRA, is a global organisation of the world's press, with a network of 3,000 news publishing companies and technology entrepreneurs, and 60 member publisher associations representing 18,000 publications in 120 countries. South Asian Digital Media Awards are presented in 10 different categories. Twenty judges from across the globe evaluated the entries and chose the winners.

International Women of Courage Award

    • Women from Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka and China have been selected for a prestigious award for demonstrating exceptional courage and leadership in advocating for justice, gender equality and women's empowerment.
    • The annual International Woman of Courage (IWOC) award recognises women from around the globe. It will be presented in a virtual ceremony next week.
    • First Lady Dr Jill Biden would deliver a special message with the award being presented by the Secretary of State Tony Blinken.
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Uttar Pradesh Passes Repealing Bill, 2021

  • The Uttar Pradesh Assembly witnessed noisy scenes minutes before it was adjourned sine die on Thursday as the opposition questioned the government over the tabling of a bill to repeal enactments which have ceased to be in force or have become obsolete.
  • The opposition Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and Congress staged a walkout over what they called "procedural non-compliance" and alleged that democratic traditions were shattered.
  • Amidst the din, the House passed the Uttar Pradesh Repealing Bill, 2021. In all, 61 laws were repealed through the bill.
  • The Uttar Pradesh Repealing Bill, 2021 is "one of those periodical measures by which enactments, which have ceased to be in force or have become obsolete, are repealed. On recommendation of the State Law Commission, it has been decided to repeal enactments, which have become redundant or the retention whereof separate Acts is unnecessary."
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UK to Open New Graduate Route for International Students

  • The United Kingdom will open a new graduate route for international students from July 1. The new route will be open to students from other countries including India who have completed their course of study at bachelors or doctoral level in the UK.
  • The bachelor's degree holder will be able to work for a maximum period of two years and three years for doctoral students, the UK government in its release mentioned. The route will be unsponsored, students without a job offer can also apply.
  • The candidates can also apply for jobs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. "The new graduate route will help the UK government to achieve the ambition set out in the international education strategy to increase the number of international students in higher education in the UK to 6,00,000 by 2030.
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Tourism Body Urges Goa Government to Allow Chartered Flights from Safe Places

  • A tourism body in Goa has urged state Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to allow chartered flights in the state from safe destinations under an air bubble agreement to boost tourism.
  • The Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG), in a memorandum to the CM, said that various trade bodies have suggested forming travel bubbles with Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, other CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries, the UK, Poland and Finland for these commercial flights.
  • This comes ahead of the state assembly's budget session, which is scheduled to be held between 24 March and 16 April.
  • The Directorate General of Civil Aviation last week extended the suspension of international commercial passenger flight services till March 31.
  • Amid the suspension, special international flights have been allowed under the Vande Bharat Mission since May last year and under bilateral "air bubble" arrangements with select countries since July.
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A 2500-year-old Egyptian Mummy in Telangana Museum Gets a New Life

  • A 2,500-year-old Egyptian mummy housed in the Telangana State Archaeology Museum in Hyderabad, which had been facing the threat of disintegration over the years, has now been restored to a large extent and experts say there is no threat of any decay for at least another two to three decades.
  • The main reason for the decay of the mummy was oxidation over a period of time. Based on the experts' suggestions, the mummy was shifted from the wooden chamber into a glass chamber imported from Germany. The chamber is connected to a nitrogen supplier, which constantly supplies nitrogen and removes oxygen.
  • The 1.40-metre-long mummy, believed to be that of Nasihu, the daughter of the Sixth Pharaoh of Egypt of 2500 BC, has been on display at the state museum since 1930.
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