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Current Affairs Today February 14 2018

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West Bengal becomes first state to opt out of ‘Modicare’
On 13th February 2018, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced that, West Bengal has opted out of National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) also known as ‘Modicare’.
West Bengal becomes first state to opt out of ‘Modicare’:
i. The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) also known as ‘Modicare’ was announced in the Union Budget 2018-19.
ii. The NHPS would cover 10 crore poor families. It provides insurance coverage of Rs 5 lakh per annum. It is said to be the world’s largest government healthcare scheme.
iii. Mamata Banerjee said that, the NHPS is similar to West Bengal’s existing ‘Swasthya Sathi’ scheme. The ‘Swasthya Sathi’ scheme has already covered 45 lakh families amounting to 2.5 crore people of West Bengal.
iv. She said that, now contributing to NHPS would be a wastage of West Bengal’s resources and West Bengal opts out of NHPS. West Bengal has become the first state in India to opt out of NHPS.
Some National Parks of West Bengal:
♦ Neora Valley National Park – Kalimpong district
♦ Jaldapara National Park – Alipurduar District
♦ Gorumara National Park – Jalpaiguri district

Indian, Chinese armies celebrate Chinese spring festival in Ladakh
On 13th February 2018, on the occasion of Chinese spring festival, Indian and Chinese armies held a Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) in Chushul sector of Ladakh region.Indian, Chinese armies celebrate Chinese spring festival in LadakhBorder Personnel Meeting (BPM):
i. The Border Personnel Meeting (BPM) was held at Chinese BPM hut in Moldo garrison of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in Chushul sector of eastern Ladakh.
ii. Indian delegation was led by Colonel Deependra Jasrotia and Chinese delegation was led by Senior Lieutenant Colonel Bu Hong Dong.
iii. The national flag of China was saluted by both the delegations. The Indian and Chinese delegation leaders presented their ceremonial addresses.
iv. Both the delegation leaders exchanged wishes and after a vote of thanks, cultural programmes were conducted. The cultural programmes exhibited Chinese culture and traditions.
About Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA):
♦ Headquarters – Central Military Commission, Beijing
♦ Service branches – PLA Ground Force, PLA Navy, PLA Air Force, PLA Rocket Force, PLA Strategic Support Force

Punjab Government makes super straw management mandatory
On February 12, 2018, Punjab State Government has issued notification to attach Super Straw Management System while using the combine harvester machines for harvesting the paddy (rice) crop.
Using Super Straw Management for reducing Air Pollution:
i. Super straw management system, attached to self propelled combine harvesters, cuts the paddy straw into small pieces and spreads the same.
ii. By following this method of harvesting, farmers are not required to burn the paddy straw, before sowing the next crop.
iii. Burning the paddy straw, before sowing the next crop (referred to as stubble burning), has been identified as a major cause of air pollution in North India during winter months.
iv. In context of this news, it is important to note that local harvesters are not keen on using super straw management system as it is priced at around Rs 1.20 lakh and attaching it to the combine harvester increases fuel consumption.

Meghalaya Governor Inaugurates India, Bangladesh ‘Friendship Gate’
On February 13, 2018, Meghalaya Governor Ganga Prasad inaugurated the ‘Friendship Gate’ for Indian and Bangladesh border guards.Meghalaya Governor Inaugurates India, Bangladesh 'Friendship Gate'India-Bangladesh ‘Friendship Gate’:
i. This “Friendship Gate” has been constructed with an aim to have a Wagah-like beating retreat ceremony for India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh.
ii. At Wagah Border (Amritsar, Punjab on Indian side), India’s Border Security Force (BSF) and Pakistan Rangers, jointly conduct beating retreat ceremony (lowering of flags) on daily basis in a synchronised manner. This venue has become a popular tourist destination.
iii. ‘Friendship Gate’ has been constructed near an Integrated Check post, 90 km South of Meghalaya’s capital Shillong on border with Bangladesh.
iv. Mr. Ganga Prasad has assured that he will take up necessary steps to promote tourism in the area.
Quick Facts about Meghalaya:
♦ Capital – Shillong
♦ Current Governor – Ganga Prasad
♦ Current Chief Minister – Mukul Sangam
♦ Important National Park – Nokrek National Park

Assam becomes fourth state to issue RoW guidelines for telcos
Assam has become the fourth state in the country to issue the Right of Way (RoW) guidelines for telecom service providers.
i. A legal right, established by usage or grant is referred to as Right of Way (RoW).
ii. Assam State Cabinet had approved these RoW guidelines on January 28, 2018, and State Chief Secretary V K Pipersenia held a meeting with telecom service providers and other stakeholders on February 12, 2018 to review the current mobile and internet connectivity status.
iii. These guidelines will regulate the establishment of underground and overground telecom infrastructure in Assam.
iv. The entire process of seeking Government approval and required rights will be made online within a period of one year and all operators will have to compulsorily register in the ease of doing business portal of the Assam government.
Quick Facts about Assam:
♦ Capital – Dispur
♦ Current Governor – Jagdish Mukhi
♦ Current Chief Minister – Sarbananda Sonowal
♦ Important National Park – Kaziranga National Park

Punjab govt sets up revenue commission to revisit the existing land Acts
Punjab State Government has formed a six-member revenue commission to revisit the existing land Acts to make them relevant with the changed land use situation.
Details about Punjab Govt’s Revenue Commission to revisit the existing land Acts:
i. The commission will be headed by Justice (Retd) SS Saron of Punjab and Haryana high court.
ii. NS Sangha – Advisor in Punjab Land Records Society (PLRS) will be the member secretary of this commission, while NS Kang – Chairman of RERA, Dr. SS Gill – Former head of Economics department at Punjabi University, Jaswant Singh – Ex PCS Officer and GS Mangat – MD of State Co-operative Bank (Retd) are the other members of this commission.
iii. The commission will examine the need for new Acts or the amendment of the existing ones to legalize the land lease practices in the state. Besides, it will also review the existing policies with regard to disposal and utilization of government lands.
iv. Primary objective of this commission is to streamline the existing laws, procedures and processes relating to land administration by taking in to consideration the requirements of modern agricultural and non-agricultural uses.
v. The commission will have a term of one-year.
Quick Facts about Punjab:
♦ Capital – Chandigarh
♦ Current Chief Minister – Amarinder Singh
♦ Current Governor – V P Singh Badnore
♦ Important River – Sutlej


South Africa declares drought a ‘national disaster’
On February 13, 2018, South African Government declared the ongoing drought as a “national disaster”. The drought has afflicted southern and western regions of South Africa including Cape Town.South Africa declares drought a 'national disaster'Drought in South Africa:
i. According to experts, this drought that began two years ago was triggered by El Nino (a complex phenomenon, developing in Pacific region, that causes global changes in temperature and rainfall).
ii. Declaring the ongoing drought as ‘national disaster’ implies that South African central government will now take responsibility for relief efforts.
iii. The drought is so severe that, April 12, 2018, was predicted as ‘Day Zero’ (date when its taps are expected to run dry) for Cape Town. However, due to water saving measures announced by the local authorities and duly adopted by the residents, “Day Zero” has now been pushed to June 4, 2018.
Quick Facts about South Africa:
♦ Capital – Pretoria (Executive), Bloemfontein (Judicial), Cape Town (Legislative)
♦ Currency – South African rand
♦ Current President – Jacob Zuma
♦ Neighbouring Countries – Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho (encircling)

India gets access to strategic Oman port Duqm for military use
India has secured access to the key Port of Duqm in Oman for military use and logistical support.
Strategic Significance of Access to Port of Duqm in Oman:
i. This development was the highlight of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Oman on 11th and 12th February, 2018.
ii. Port of Duqm is situated on the southeastern seaboard of Oman, overlooking the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean and is in close proximity to the Chabahar port in Iran.
iii. Access to Port of Duqm in Oman for military use will help India to expand its footprint in the Indian Ocean  region and thereby counter Chinese influence and activities in the region.
Quick Facts about Oman:
♦ Capital – Muscat
♦ Currency – Omani rial
♦ Ruling Monarch – Sultan Qaboos bin Said al Said


Government of India makes Amendments in Small Savings Act
In a bid to remove existing ambiguities due to multiple Acts and rules for Small Saving Schemes Government of India has proposed merger of Government Savings Certificates Act, 1959 and Public Provident Fund Act, 1968 with the Government Savings Banks Act, 1873. Consequentially, Government has proposed ‘Government Savings Promotion Act’, a new amended umbrella Act which subsumes the relevant provisions of above stated acts.Small savings schemes interest rates cut by 20 bpsi. The main objective of this proposed act is to make implementation easier for the depositors as they need not go through different rules and Acts for understanding the provision of various small saving schemes.
ii. As per PPF Act, the PPF account cannot be closed prematurely before completion of five financial years, not even in exigencies. The new act will introduce provisions that would permit premature closure of Small Savings Schemes to deal with medical emergencies, higher education needs, etc…………………………………… Click here to Read more


NTPC to supply extra 300MW to Bangladesh
NTPC Vidyut Vyapar Nigam (NVVN), wholly-owned subsidiary of NTPC Limited has won a tender to supply 300 megawatts (MW) of electricity to Bangladesh for 15 years.
i. Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) had invited tenders for supply of 500 MW power from India for short term (June 1, 2018 to December 31, 2019) and long term (January 1, 2020 to May 31, 2033).
ii. NVVN won the order for both, short term and long term for 300 MW power.
iii. Besides NVVN, Adani Group, PTC and Singapore-bases Sembcorp were also in the fray to bag the order.
Quick Facts about NTPC:
♦ Founded in – 1975
♦ Headquarters – New Delhi
♦ Current Chairman & MD – Gurdeep Singh


Ellen Johnson Sirleaf awarded Ibrahim prize for African Leadership
On 12th February 2018, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, former Liberian president, won the Ibrahim Prize for Achievement in African Leadership.Ellen Johnson Sirleaf awarded Ibrahim prize for African LeadershipEllen Johnson Sirleaf wins Ibrahim prize for African Leadership:
i. The Ibrahim prize for African Leadership is awarded to a democratically-elected African leader who had proved to be an outstanding leader, served their stipulated term and finished their term within the last 3 years.
ii. The award consists of $5 million, which will be paid over 10 years, and $200,000 every year for the rest of the recipient’s life.
iii .Ellen Johnson Sirleaf is the first elected female head of state in Africa. She served as Liberian President for 12 years. She is the first female leader to receive this award. Her term ended in 22 January 2018.
About Ellen Johnson Sirleaf:
♦ Age – 79
♦ Position – 24th President of Liberia from 2006 to 22nd January 2018


Ashok Das appointed as Ambassador of India to Brazil
On 13th February 2018, Ashok Das was named the next Ambassador of India to the Federative Republic of Brazil.
Ashok Das – Ambassador of India to Brazil:
i. Ashok Das is an Indian Foreign Service (IFS) Officer of the 1987 batch. Currently he is Additional Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.
ii. He has been appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Federative Republic of Brazil. He will soon take charge as the Ambassador of India to the Federative Republic of Brazil.
Ambassadors and High Commissioners of India to various countries:
♦ Bhutan – Jaideep Sarkar
♦ Germany – Mukta Tomar
♦ Russia  – Pankaj Saran

Krishna Kumari to become first Hindu minority woman lawmaker from Pakistan
Krishna Kumari is to become the first female Hindu lawmaker in Pakistan since 1947.Krishna Kumari to become first Hindu minority woman lawmaker from PakistanKrishna Kumari – to become first female Hindu lawmaker in Pakistan since 1947:
i. Krishna Kumari is a 38 year old woman from Pakistan’s Hindu minority community. She is a member of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
ii. She has been nominated by the opposition Pakistan People’s Party for the upcoming Senate elections. The elections will be conducted on 3rdMarch 2018.
iii. She hails from a very poor family and was married at the age of sixteen. She is to become the first Hindu woman lawmaker in Pakistan since 1947.
About Pakistan People’s Party (PPP):
♦ Headquarters – Islamabad, Pakistan
♦ Chairperson – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari


Defence Acquisition Council approves acquisitions worth over Rs 15000 crore
On February 13, 2018, Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Union Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman approved capital acquisition proposals of the defence services, valued at Rs 15935 crore.
Purchase list approved by Defence Acquisition Council (DAC):
i. Light Machine Guns for the three services at an estimated cost of over Rs 1819 crore.
ii. Seven lakh forty thousand assault rifles for the three services at an estimated cost of Rs 12,280 crore. These rifles will be made by the Ordnance Factory Board and a private company.
iii. 5719 sniper rifles for the army and the air force at an estimated cost of Rs 982 crore.
iv. DAC has also approved the procurement of Advanced Torpedo Decoy Systems for enhancing the anti-submarine warfare capabilities of the Indian naval ships.


Russian unmanned Cargo Ship launched to Space Station
On 13th February 2018, the ‘Progress’ unmanned cargo ship was launched from the Russian space complex in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.Russian unmanned Cargo Ship launched to Space StationLaunch of Progress – unmanned cargo ship:
i. The Progress capsule carries 2.7 metric tons of food, fuel and other supplies to the International Space Station. It reached the orbit eight minutes after it lifted off from the Russian space complex.
ii. The International Space Station houses six astronauts: three Americans, two Russians and one Japanese.
iii. The Russian Soyuz 2.1a rocket launched the Progress ship. The spacecraft will dock at the Zvezda Service Module on 15th February 2018. The spacecraft is referred to as Progress MS-08 or Progress 69.
About Roscosmos:
♦ General Director of the State Corporation for Space Activity “Roskosmos” – Komarov Igor Anatolyevich
♦ Headquarters – Moscow, Russia

Government developing Soft power matrix tool to hardsell soft power in diplomacy
Indian Government is working on developing a “soft power matrix” to foster better diplomatic traction with neighbouring countries and rest of the world.
India’s Soft Power:
i. Soft power is country’s ability to persuade other countries to do what it wants without resorting to force or coercion. Country’s unique culture, its political values and its foreign policies are the three resources that builds a country’s ‘Soft Power’.
ii. Currently, India’s Soft Power is articulated in foreign countries through the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR).
iii. ICCR works to promote India’s artistic and cultural traditions through a range of activities such as organising ‘Festivals of India’ abroad.
iv. Besides, Indian Government’s outreach efforts such as the propagation of Gandhian values and philosophy, extending educational scholarships to foreign students, showcasing the strength of the Mumbai film industry, extending humanitarian assistance to foreign countries affected by natural disasters and even mementos offered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Heads of Government during his foreign visits are perceived as attempts to inform the world about Indian artistic and cultural heritage.
v. The proposed Soft Power Matrix, which is being developed is aimed at calibrating the ongoing activities and thereby making it more effective.

UK unveils new technology to fight extremist content online
On 13th February 2018, British government introduced a new technology to remove extremist material from social media.UK unveils new technology to fight extremist content onlineUK unveils new technology to fight extremist content online:
i. Home Secretary Amber Rudd made an announcement about this new technology to remove extremist material from social media.
ii. The software has been developed by ASI Data Science. It was funded by the UK government.
iii. This system is said to use advanced machine learning to study the sound and visual of videos for “subtle signals” to check if they are extremist content like Islamic State propaganda.
iv .This software will be provided to small companies that are not able to develop such technologies.
About ASI Data Science:
♦ CEO – Marc Warner
♦ Location – London


India ranked among top 10 in the World in Terms of Forest Area
At the time of releasing India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2017 on February 12, 2018,Union Minister for Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Dr.  Harsh Vardhan stated that in terms of land area under forest and tree cover, India has ranked 10th in the world.
Forest and Tree Cover in India:
i. As per ISFR 2017, Forest and tree cover in India is 802088 sq km i.e. 24.39 per cent of the total geographical area.
ii. In terms of land area under forest and tree cover, India is a stand out case as none of the other 9 countries in the Top 10 has a population density of more than 150 persons per sq km, compared to India.
iii. Mr. Harsh Vardhan added that as per the latest Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, India is placed 8th in the list of Top Ten nations reporting the greatest annual net gain in forest area.
iv. As per ISFR 2017, Andhra Pradesh, followed by Karnataka and Kerala have shown the maximum increase in forest cover since 2015.


India to host 8th edition of Theatre Olympics
On 17th February 2018 – 8th April 2018, the 8th edition of ‘Theatre Olympics’ will be held in India for the first time.
8th edition of Theatre Olympics:
i. The 8th edition of Theatre Olympics will be inaugurated by Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu at the Red Fort, Delhi, on 17th February 2018. It will end in Mumbai on 8th April 2018.
ii. Nearly 25,000 artistes from 30 countries will take part in the Theatre Olympics. The event will feature 450 shows, 600 ambient performances and 250 youth forum shows. Out of that, 65 shows will be done by international artistes.
iii. Culture minister Mahesh Sharma said that, the 65 foreign shows will be condcuted in 17 cities of India.
iv. India will display its theatre forms like: Swang, Rasleela, Nautanki, Bhand Pather, Jatra etc., under the theme of ‘Ek Bharat, Shreshtha Bharat’.
v. National School of Drama (NSD) director Waman Kendre said that, the theme of Theatre Olympics is “Flag of Friendship”.
About National School of Drama (NSD):
♦ Established – 1959
♦ Location – New Delhi
♦ Director – Waman Kendre

RSPB women win 8th Senior National Women’s Hockey Championship title
On 11th February 2018, Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) won the 8th Senior National Women’s Hockey Championship title, at the Astro Turf Hockey Stadium in Ranchi.RSPB women win 8th Senior National Women's Hockey Championship titleRSPB wins 8th Senior National Women’s Hockey Championship title:
i. Railway Sports Promotion Board (RSPB) won over Madhya Pradesh 4-0 in the final and won the 8th Senior National Women’s Hockey Championship title.
ii. Vandana Katariya and Priyanka Wankhede scored goals for the RSPB team. In the bronze medal match, Haryana defeated Jharkhand team 2-0.
About Hockey India:
♦ Headquarters – New Delhi
♦ Founded – 2009
♦ Purpose – governing body of field hockey in India


Noted scribe Muzaffar Hussain dead
On 13th February 2018, Muzaffar Hussain, writer and journalist, passed away due to a long term illness, at Hiranandani Hospital in Vikhroli, Maharashtra.
Death of Muzaffar Hussain:
i. Muzaffar Hussain was 78 years old. He is survived by his wife, a daughter and a son.
ii. He was born on 20th March 1940 in Madhya Pradesh. He was awarded Padmashree award in 2002 and Lokamanya Tilak Jeevan Gaurav award for journalism in 2014.
iii. He was proficient in many languages. He has written several books. He was also a columnist.
Some wildlife sanctuaries in Maharashtra:
♦ Mayureshwar Wildlife Sanctuary – Pune district
♦ Phansad Wildlife Sanctuary – Raigad district
♦ Radhanagari Wildlife Sanctuary – Kolhapur district

Former Union minister Bolla Bulliramaiah dies
On 14th February 2018, Bolla Bulliramaiah, former Union minister, passed away due to age related ailments at Tanuku, in Andhra Pradesh.Former Union minister Bolla Bulliramaiah diesDeath of Bolla Bulliramaiah:
i. Bolla Bulliramaiah was 92 years old. In 1984, Bolla Bulliramaiah became an MP.
ii. He was then elected to the Lok Sabha from the Eluru constituency: in 1991, 1996 and 1999.  He was the Union minister of state for commerce in the 1996-98 period.
iii. Earlier, he was chairman and managing director of Andhra Sugars. He belonged to the TDP (Telugu Desam Party).
About TDP (Telugu Desam Party):
♦ Leader – N. Chandrababu Naidu
♦ Founded – 1982

Former Maharashtra MLA Hafizbhai Dhature dies at 77
On 14th February 2018, Hafizbhai Dhature, former Maharashtra MLA, passed away due to heart failure in Miraj, Maharashtra.
Death of Hafizbhai Dhature:
i. Hafizbhai Dhature was 77 years old. He is survived by his wife, a son and three daughters.
ii. He belonged to the Congress party. He represented Miraj in the Maharashtra Assembly for one term.
About Indian National Congress:
♦ President – Rahul Gandhi
♦ Founded – 1885