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Daily G.K. - Top Stories

15 May 2021


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Neera Tanden Appointed White House Senior Adviser

  • Indian-American Neera Tanden has been appointed senior adviser to US President Joe Biden, two months after she withdrew her nomination as Director of the White House Office of Management and Budget due to stiff opposition from Republican senators.
  • She has been entrusted with two tasks – launch a review of the US Digital Service, and plan contingencies that could result from the Supreme Court's consideration of Republican lawsuits seeking to strike down the Affordable Care Act.

Chad's New Military Leader Woos Key Ally Nigeria

  • Chad's new military leader has been in Nigeria for talks with President Muhammadu Buhari to shore up regional support for his regime.
  • Lt Gen Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno heads a military council after his father, President Idriss Déby, died of injuries sustained during clashes with rebels last month.
  • Chad is a key ally in the fight against Islamist groups in the Sahel region of Africa - in particular the Nigeria-based militants Boko Haram.
  • Nigerians know and appreciate the role Chad played in helping us to combat terrorism, and we will continue the collaboration.
  • The Nigeria President, himself a former military ruler, offered his support to Lt Gen Déby in helping him return Chad to democratic rule, which the military council has said will happen within 18 months.

Jacinda Ardern Tops Fortune's World's 50 Greatest Leaders 2021

  • New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern has topped the 'World's 50 Greatest Leaders' list for 2021, released by Fortune Magazine. The 'World's 50 Greatest Leaders' list for 2021 is the eighth edition of the annual list which celebrates leaders, some well-known and others who aren't so familiar, who made a difference amid the "truly unprecedented times" of the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • From India, Adar Poonawalla, the chief executive officer (CEO) of Serum Institute of India (SII) is the only Indian among the top 10 names. He is placed in the 10th spot.
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Punjab Comes up with Plan to Boost Exports

  • The Punjab Government has come up with a plan to give boost to ease of doing business besides promoting exports. Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan approved the initiative — a first by any state in the country.
  • Chairing the state-level export committee's meeting, she said the state government has prepared the Punjab State Export Plan 2021-26 in order to implement 'district as export hub scheme' and 'one district one product scheme'. This will transform the state into an export power house and promote local products with an objective of increasing volume of exports, synergies of various schemes of the Centre and the State, besides increasing efficiency in supply chains and augmenting export infrastructure, products and market diversification.

Exports Jump to $30.63 Billion in April

  • India's exports in April jumped nearly three-fold to $30.63 billion from $10.36 billion in the same month last year.
  • Imports too rose to $45.72 billion last month as against $17.12 billion in April 2020, the data showed. Trade deficit widened to $15.10 billion as against $6.76 billion in April 2020.
  • Exports in April last year had plunged by a record 60.28% due to the Covid pandemic-induced lockdown. In March this year, exports grew by 60.29% to $34.45 billion. Due to the low base effect, exports in April 2021 recorded a growth rate of 195.72%.
  • Oil imports stood at $10.8 billion as compared to $4.66 billion in the corresponding month last year.
  • Major export commodities which have recorded positive growth in April include gems and jewellery, jute, carpet, handicrafts, leather, electronic goods, oil meals, cashew, engineering, petroleum products, marine products and chemicals.

Reconsider Ties with Crypto Exchanges, RBI Tells Lenders

  • The RBI is informally urging lenders to cut ties with cryptocurrency exchanges and traders as the highly speculative market booms, despite a Supreme Court ruling that banks can work with the industry.
  • The guidance comes as India is crafting a law to ban cryptocurrencies and penalise anyone dealing in them, which would be among the most sweeping crackdowns on the new investing fad in the world. But with the Covid crisis engulfing the country, no one is sure when such a Bill may be passed, adding to investors' confusion.
  • The RBI in 2018 had forbidden banks from dealing in all transactions related to bitcoin and other such assets. That diktat was challenged by the crypto exchanges and in March 2020, the Supreme Court overturned the RBI ban and allowed lenders to extend banking facilities to them. With investors continuing to rush into the hot new asset class, however, regulators appear to be gearing up for another try.
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China Completes Historic Mars Spacecraft Landing

  • An uncrewed Chinese spacecraft successfully landed on the surface of Mars, making China the second space-faring nation after the United States to land on the Red Planet.
  • The Tianwen-1 spacecraft landed on a site on a vast plain known as Utopia Planitia, "leaving a Chinese footprint on Mars for the first time.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping issued a message of congratulations to all the people involved in the mission.
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Punjab Gets its 23rd District

  • Fulfilling a pre-poll promise of the Congress party, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh declared Malerkotla as the 23rd district of the state on the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitr.
  • Amarinder was addressing the people of the state virtually on the occasion of Eid. Getting Malerkotla declared as an independent district was a long pending demand of the Muslim community and the residents of the town. The town has a predominant Muslim population.
  • The government had promised that Malerkotla will be declared a district soon in 2017. The then Cabinet minister Navjot Sidhu and Finance Minister Manpreet Singh Badal and Razia Sultana had addressed the Eid function in 2017 in Malerkotla and stated that Malerkotla will soon be a district.

Centre Moves SC, Wants BC Reservation Order Reviewed

  • The Centre has moved the Supreme Court seeking review of the May 5 majority verdict which took away the power of state governments to declare socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC) for grant of quota in jobs and admissions.
  • The Centre has maintained that the 102nd Constitution amendment did not take away the power of the state governments to identify and declare SEBC and the two provisions that were inserted did not violate the federal structure.
  • A five-judge Constitution bench headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan had unanimously set aside Maharashtra law granting quota to Marathas and refused to refer to the 1992 Mandal verdict putting a cap of 50 per cent on reservation to a larger bench.

Delhi Govt. to Bear Cost of Education and Upbringing of Children Orphaned by Pandemic

  • Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said that the Delhi government will extend financial help to families which have lost their earning members to the coronavirus and also bear the cost of education and upbringing of children orphaned by the pandemic.
  • He said in the past 24 hours, Delhi has recorded around 8,500 cases as against over 28,000 cases on April 20 and that the positivity rate has come down to 12 per cent as against 36 per cent on April 22.
  • But the fight against the coronavirus has not ended and there is no room for leniency, the Chief Minister said in an online briefing.
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Times Group's Indu Jain Passes Away

  • Times Group chairperson Indu Jain died due to Covid-related complications. She was 84.
  • Hailing her as a visionary, Times Now TV channel, part of the Times Group, described Jain as a lifelong spiritual seeker, pioneering philanthropist, distinguished patron of the arts, and passionate proponent of women's rights.
  • After becoming chairman of the Times Group in 1999 she evolved a distinctive leadership style, characterised by compassion and inclusiveness that helped propel the group to new heights.
  • She set up The Times Foundation in 2000, with sustainable development and transformational change as its key goals. One of India's most respected non-profits, it provides community services and runs the Times Relief Fund to offer assistance during cyclones, earthquakes, floods, epidemics and other crises.
  • She was the founder president of FICCI Ladies Organisation (FLO), established in 1983 to promote entrepreneurship and professional excellence among women in India. From 1999, she also served as chairperson of Bharatiya Jnanpith Trust, founded in 1944 by Sahu Shanti Prasad Jain, her father-in-law, to promote literature in Indian languages.

Fire Services, Civil Defence & Home Guard Chief Passes Away

  • Senior IPS officer Mohammed Jawed Akhtar who headed the directorate general of fire services, civil defence and home guard under the Home Ministry died. He was 59.
  • The 1986-batch Indian Police Service (IPS) officer of Uttar Pradesh cadre was appointed as the director general (DG) of fire services, civil defence and home guard in August last year.
  • He was set to retire from service in July.
  • The central police organisation that works under the command of the Union home ministry is headquartered in the national capital.
  • Akhtar, before being appointed to the post, was serving as the Special DG with the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF).
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International Day of Families

  • International Day of Families is celebrated on May 15 every year. Family' is a single word with many meanings. A family holds a special place in the life of an individual. Taking time every day to appreciate your loved ones and to reconnect as a family can feel very refreshing.
  • The Day was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993 with resolution A/RES/47/237 and reflects the importance the international community attaches to families. The International Day provides an opportunity to promote awareness of issues relating to families and to increase knowledge of the social, economic and demographic processes affecting families.
  • The theme for the 2021 International Day of Families is 'Families and New Technology'.

4th India-Swiss Financial Dialogue Held Virtually

  • The fourth India-Swiss Financial Dialogue was held virtually through video conferencing. Ajay Seth, Secretary Economic Affairs led the Indian delegation. The delegation from the Swiss side was led by Daniela Stoffel, State Secretary, and State Secretariat for International Finance, Switzerland.
  • The dialogue, inter-alia, covered sharing of experiences by both countries for collaboration on various aspects including investments, International Financial Services Centre Authority (IFSCA), National Investment and Infrastructure Fund (NIIF), FinTech, sustainable finance and cross border financial services.
  • Further, matters relating to G20, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and tax challenges arising from the digitalization of the economy were discussed along with infrastructure financing, read the release.
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IIT Hyderabad and NIMS Japan Jointly Launch Research Centre for Materials Research

  • The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Hyderabad, and the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS), Japan today launched Joint Research Centre. The two institutes had signed an agreement last year on an international collaborative graduate school programme which allows graduate students enrolled in doctoral programs to stay at NIMS for up to one year for their thesis research works.
  • To further develop the joint research with complementary strengths in the materials science field, young faculty members of IITH stay at NIMS with their PhD course students during the sabbatical leave period and conduct sustainable collaboration with NIMS scientists. To perform the sustainable joint research between both institutions, the research centre has been launched.
  • The opening of this joint research centre will further strengthen these ties and support the future leaders of both countries to achieve the best research results in the field of materials science.
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Carmarthenshire Council Buys Last Portrait of Dylan Thomas

  • The last portrait of poet and writer Dylan Thomas, painted two months before his death, has been purchased by a council in Wales.
  • Carmarthenshire council bought the painting for £15,000 at an auction on 17 April and its museum service took delivery of the artwork this week.
  • The painting had been in the private collection of artist Gordan Stuart until his death in 2015.
  • It has only been seen publicly twice since it was painted in September 1953.
  • That was at the 1954 National Eisteddfod, and 60 years later at 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea - Thomas' childhood home.
  • The painting was one of four painted over three afternoons at the poet's boathouse and writing shed in Laugharne, Carmarthenshire.
  • Two of the four oil paintings are in the State University of New York in Buffalo, and the third is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery in London.
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Greece Ends Lockdown Measures and Opens to Tourists

  • Greece has launched its tourist season, lifting most remaining restrictions on movement and declaring "we are putting the lockdown behind us".
  • Although an average of 2,000 daily Covid cases are still being reported, vaccinations are being rolled out.
  • German tourists have begun flying in. From 17 May it will not be illegal for Britons to travel to "amber list" Greece, but they are advised not to.
  • Only for "green list" countries such as Portugal will rules ease significantly.
  • Although the UK has a relatively low infection rate, Germany has said it will be classed as a Covid risk area from Sunday because of cases of the Indian variant in some areas. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Friday the Indian variant could pose "significant disruption" to lockdown easing on 21 June.

Jammu and Kashmir L-G Manoj Sinha Approves Relief Package to Tourism Sector Stakeholders

  • Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha has approved a relief package amounting to two-crore ninety-four lac and twenty-two thousand rupees as part of the relief package to tourism sector stakeholders in wake of the COVD-19 pandemic.
  • The Tourism Department by virtue of the order has been advised to follow up the release of funds with the Lieutenant Governor's Secretariat.
  • The amount shall be transferred from the "J&K Relief Fund" to the official account of the Department for further transfer to the beneficiaries concerned.
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