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INDIAN AFFAIRS

Lok Sabha passes Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017
On March 15, 2018, Lok Sabha passed Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 which seeks to authorise Central Government to fix tax-free gratuity amount and period of maternity leave with an executive order.
i. Under the Payment of Gratuity Act, 1972, formal sector workers with five or more years of service are eligible for maximum Rs. 10 lakh tax-free gratuity after leaving job or at time of superannuation. 
ii. After implementation of 7th Central Pay Commission recommendations, ceiling of gratuity amount for central government employees was increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh……………………………………….Click here to Read more

Tamil Nadu Neutrino project gets environmental nod 
Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has granted environmental clearance for setting up India-based Neutrino Observatory (INO) project at Bodi West hills in Theni district of Tamil Nadu.
Environmental clearance for INO Project:
i. In November 2017, Tamil Nadu State Expert Appraisal Committee had observed that proposed site forms part of the catchment area of various streams that contribute to the Vaigai watershed.
ii. However, considering the national importance of the project, MoEF took up the proposal at the Central level as a special case and granted environmental clearance with 17 conditions.
iii. Among these, most important condition is to obtain Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) consent to establish and operate the project.
iv. The INO project, jointly supported by Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) and Department of Science and Technology (DST) envisages building a world class underground laboratory to study properties of neutrinos (subatomic particles produced by the decay of radioactive elements).

Dharmendra Pradhan inaugurates Delhi Energy Dialogue (DED) 2018
On March 14, 2018, Union Minister for Petroleum and Natural Gas, Dharmendra Pradhan inaugurated the first edition of Delhi Energy Dialogue (DED) 2018 in New Delhi.Dharmendra Pradhan inaugurates Delhi Energy Dialogue (DED) 2018Details about Delhi Energy Dialogue (DED) 2018:
i. The dialogue was organised by Ashden India Collective (AIC) in alliance with the Climate Parliament and The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI).
ii. The dialogue served as a platform for stakeholders in the field of energy and power to deliberate on key developments and challenges for ‘energy for all’ in India.
iii. While inaugurating the dialogue, Mr. Pradhan stated that India is a happening place for energy as every day 40 million people are going to hydrocarbon retail points to meet their demand and 190 million people are getting the benefit of subsidies.
iv. He also added that by 2040, India’s energy consumption will grow by compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4 per cent and India currently offers 1 lakh crore of bio-fuel and bio-energy business to the world.

Three-day annual Krishi Unnati Mela begins in Delhi
Three-day annual Krishi Unnati Mela, focusing on ‘doubling farmers’ income’ began in New Delhi on March 16, 2018.
Highlights of Krishi Unnati Mela:
i. The objective of Krishi Unnati Mela is to create awareness among farmers about latest agriculture related developments.
ii. Farmers and agri-scientists from various parts of India will be attending this Mela.
iii. 800 stalls displaying latest agriculture and allied sector technologies have been set up at the venue of  Krishi Unnati Mela.
iv. A theme pavilion on doubling of farmers income, organic farming, cooperatives, farm inputs, has also been set up to familiarise farmers with the latest developments in the farming techniques.

Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of IACP held in New Delhi
On 14th March 2018, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated the two-day Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi.Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of IACP held in New DelhiAsia-Pacific Regional Conference of IACP:
i. Theme of the conference: Challenges to Policing in 2020 – How is Cyber Space shaping our approach to Cybercrime and Terrorism, how do we perform within it and take advantage of it.
ii. The conference was organised by the Asia-Pacific World Regional Office (APWRO) of IACP along with Intelligence Bureau.Intelligence Bureau Director Rajiv Jain was the host of the conference.
iii. Main focus of the conference: discussions on exploitation of cyber space by terrorist or organized groups for committing crimes and illegal activities. Ways to prevent such activities was discussed.
iv. Participants: President of IACP, Mr. Louis M. Dekmar, other senior executives of IACP, representatives from police organisations of Asia-Pacific region, heads of police forces of states and union territories of India and chiefs of Central Police Organisations of India.
About IACP (International Association of Chiefs of Police):
♦ President – Louis M. Dekmar
♦ Headquarters – Alexandria, Virginia, United States

Ministry of Health launches LaQshya program to benefit pregnant woman and newborn
The launch of ‘LaQshya’ program that aims to improve quality of care in labour room and maternity Operation Theatre (OT), was recently announced by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
LaQshya:
i. Aim: LaQshya aims to enhance quality of care for pregnant women in labour room, maternity Operation Theatre and Obstetrics Intensive Care Units (ICUs) and High Dependency Units (HDUs).
ii. Implementation: It will be implemented at all Medical College Hospitals, District Hospitals and First Referral Unit (FRU), and Community Health Center (CHCs).
iii. This program will reduce maternal and newborn mortality count. It will offer Respectful Maternity Care (RMC) to all pregnant women in public health facilities.
iv. This program will implement ‘fast-track’ initiatives to obtain results in 18 months.
v. In order to improve critical care in Obstetrics, dedicated Obstetric ICUs at Medical College Hospital level and Obstetric HDUs at District Hospital will be implemented through this program.
vi. The quality improvement in labour room and maternity OT will be monitored through NQAS (National Quality Assurance Standards).
vii. Facility that obtains 70% score on NQAS will be given LaQshya certification.  Facilities that obtain more than 90%, 80% and 70% score will be awarded Platinum, Gold and Silver badge respectively.
viii. Facilities that obtain NQAS certification, required quality indicators and 80% satisfied beneficiaries will receive Rs 6 lakh, Rs 3 lakh and Rs 2 lakh as incentive for Medical College Hospital, District Hospital and FRUs respectively.
About Ministry of Health and Family Welfare:
♦ Minister of Health – Jagat Prakash Nadda
♦ Ministers of State for Health – Ashwani Kumar Choubey, Anupriya Patel

PM Modi inaugurates 105th Indian Science Congress in Manipur
On 16th March 2018, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the 105th session of the Indian Science Congress in Imphal, Manipur.PM Modi inaugurates 105th Indian Science Congress in ManipurPM Modi inaugurates 105th Indian Science Congress in Manipur:
i. Imphal has become the second city in the North-East India to host the Indian Science Congress.
ii. The Indian Science Congress has participation from 5000 delegations. Noble laureates, scientists, scholars and researchers from all over India take part in this congress.
iii. He inaugurated Luwangpokpa Multi-Sports Complex, Rani Gaidinliu Park, and few other projects after inaugurating the congress.
iv. He laid foundation stone of the National Sports University, 1000 Anganwadi Centres, 19 residential complexes for teachers, doctors and nurses, etc.
Some UNESCO Natural Heritage sites in India:
♦ Great Himalayan National Park Conservation Area – Himachal Pradesh
♦ Kaziranga National Park – Assam
♦ Keoladeo National Park – Rajasthan

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

President Ram Nath Kovind’s six day Visit to Mauritius & Madagascar
Indian President Ram Nath Kovind was on a six-day official visit to island nations of Mauritius and Madagascar from March 11, 2018.
i. Besides, President Kovind’s visit to Madagascar was the first ever visit by an Indian President and he was chief guest at the island nation’s golden jubilee of independence celebrations, a high honour.
ii. On March 13, 2018, President Ram Nath Kovind inaugurated the World Hindi Secretariat building in Mauritius. India announced a new USD 100 million Line of Credit for defence procurement by Mauritius.
iii. During the course of Indian President Ram Nath Kovind’s visit to Madagascar, India and Madagascar signed an umbrella agreement in the field of defence…………………………………………………Click here to Read more

India ranks 78th on WEF Energy Transition Index, topped by Sweden
India has ranked 78th among 114 countries on the World Economic Forum’s (WEF’s) Energy Transition Index.
i. The report outlined that currently, major portion of India’s energy needs are met by fossil fuels, which is not only affecting environmental sustainability but is also increasing energy import costs.
ii. Besides, sizeable share of India’s population still does not have access to electricity and clean cooking fuel……………………………………Click here to Read more
Energy Transition Index – Top 3:

1 Sweden
2 Norway
3 Switzerland

BANKING & FINANCE

SEBI Raises Currency Derivatives Trade Limit to $100 Mn
Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) has raised the exposure limit under exchange traded currency derivatives (ETCD) for residents and foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to USD 100 million across all currency pairs.SEBI caps cross-shareholding in mutual funds at 10%Currency Derivatives Exposure Limit:
i. This decision comes after RBI raised the exposure limit to USD 100 million in February 2018.
ii. ETCD, in USD/INR, EUR/INR (Euro), GBP/INR (Great British Pound) and JPY/INR (Japanese Yen) are primarily used by Indian exporters and importers and foreign portfolio investors (FPIs) to hedge their risk against currency price fluctuations.
iii. It is to be noted that for taking positions within the prescribed limit, corporate/individuals are not required to present any proof on underlying exposure.
iv. Earlier exposure limit was USD 15 million for USD-INR contracts and USD 5 million for other currency pairs.
v. Increasing exposure limit will help the participants to better manage their risk and will also improve the liquidity in the instrument.
vi. However, onus of keeping the exposure within the new prescribed limit rests with participants. Besides, it is a combined limit across all exchanges.
vii. For taking positions beyond the prescribed limit, entities/individuals will have to provide a proof of underlying exposure.

Muthoot Finance ties up with Global IME bank for money transfer service to Nepal
On March 15, 2018, Muthoot Finance Ltd., the flagship company of Muthoot Group tied up with Global IME Bank to expand its money remittance services between Indo-Nepal Corridor.
Details about Muthoot Finance – Global IME Bank tie-up:
i. As per the terms of the tie-up, Nepali migrant residing in India would be able to transfer money instantly (by paying nominal charge of Rs. 200) to their families in Nepal from any of the 4600 branches of Muthoot Finance.
ii. In Nepal, 193 branches and more than 7000 pay out centres of Global IME Bank will serve as remittance receiving points for Nepali families.
iii. Millions of Nepali migrants residing in business cities of India like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Bengaluru and also in the states of Punjab and  Uttar Pradesh will get benefit of this facility without opening a bank account.
Quick Facts about Muthoot Finance:
♦ Founded in – 1939
♦ Headquarters – Kochi, Kerala
♦ Current Chairman – M. G. George Muthoot

AWARDS & RECOGNITIONS

Veteran actress Simi Garewal wins UK Golden Flame Award
On 15th March 2018, Indian actress Simi Garewal received the “UK Golden Flame Award” at the opening ceremony of the Tongues of Fire UK Asian Film Festival in London.Veteran actress Simi Garewal wins UK Golden Flame AwardSimi Garewal – UK Golden Flame Award:
i. Simi Garewal is an actress and a talk show host. She has been honoured with this award for her contribution to Indian cinema.
ii. The Tongues of Fire UK Asian Film Festival is held between 15 and 25 March 2018. It is held in London, Leicester, Manchester and Edinburgh.
About Film and Television Institute of India (FTII):
♦ Chairman – Anupam Kher
♦ Location – Pune, Maharashtra

APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS

Mujahid Anwar Khan appointed new Pakistan Air chief
On 16th March 2018, Pakistan appointed Air Marshal Mujahid Anwar Khan as the new chief of Pakistan air staff.
Mujahid Anwar Khan appointed new Pakistan Air chief:
i. Mujahid Anwar Khan will take charge as Pakistan Air chief on 19th March 2018. He replaces Sohail Aman.
ii. Currently, Mujahid Anwar Khan is Deputy Chief of the Air Staff (Support) and Director General, Air Force Strategic Command at Air Headquarters, Islamabad.
Some important airports in India:
♦ Veer Savarkar International Airport – Port Blair
♦ Kempegowda International Airport – Bengaluru
♦ Biju Patnaik International Airport – Bhubaneswar

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

India’s first cloned Assamese buffalo born
Central Institute for Research on Buffaloes (CIRB) said that, a cloned Assamese buffalo male calf was born for the first time.India’s first cloned Assamese buffalo born:
i. The Assamese buffalo clone calf named Sach-Gaurav was born on 22nd December 2017 through a normal delivery.
ii. The calf was born to a Murrah buffalo. The Assamese buffaloes were seen only in the north-east India. They were mostly used for agricultural work.
iii. The birth weight of the calf was 54.2 kg. It was healthy and had normal physiological parameters.
About Indian Council of Agricultural Research-CIRB:
♦ Objective – to conserve superior animals of all buffalo breeds
♦ ICAR-CIRB Director – Inderjeet Singh

Railways introduces innovative analytical approach to locomotive scheduling to enhance productivity
Indian Railways has launched an innovative analytical approach to enhance the deployment of electric and diesel locomotives run passenger trains.
Innovative analytical approach to locomotive scheduling:
i. A software dependent mathematical decision support system will be utilised to improve the productivity of locomotives.
ii. This system has been developed by Ministry of Railways along with experts. It is implemented all over India.
iii. This system finds out the minimum number of locomotives needed to run all the passenger trains according to time table, also fulfilling the maintenance and operation necessities at the same time.
iv .In Budget 2018-19 a project to implement this process of locomotive link optimization using decision support system software in Indian Railways has been sanctioned. It will be implemented by Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS).
About Centre for Railway Information Systems (CRIS):
♦ Purpose – develops and manages the Information Technology applications of the Indian Railways
♦ Function under – Ministry of Railways

SPORTS

Germany’s Tommy Haas retires from professional tennis
Tommy Haas of Germany, the Indian Wells Tournament Director, has announced his retirement from professional tennis.Germany’s Tommy Haas retires from professional tennisRetirement of Tommy Haas:
i. Tommy has announced his retirement at the age of 39. He became world number two in May 2002.
ii. He bagged silver medal in the Olympic Games in 2000. He has achieved 569 career wins. He was made Tournament Director at Indian Wells in 2016.
About Tommy Haas:
♦ German former professional tennis player
♦ Born – 3 April 1978

Nepal gains one-day international status for the first time
On 15th March 2018, Nepal cricket team gained One-Day International (ODI) status for the first time.
Nepal gains one-day international status for the first time:
i. Nepal cricket team has gained ODI status after it won over Papua New Guinea by six wickets in the World Cup Qualifiers in Zimbabwe on 15thMarch 2018.
ii. This is a significant achievement for Nepal as that Nepal cricket board is currently suspended by ICC.
About International Cricket Council (ICC):
♦ Chairman – Shashank Manohar
♦ CEO – David Richardson

Sanjivani Jadhav wins bronze in 14th Asian Cross Country Championship
On 15th March 2018, India’s Sanjivani Jadhav won bronze medal in women’s 8km cross country race in the 14th Asian Cross Country Championship at Guiyang in China.Sanjivani Jadhav wins bronze in 14th Asian Cross Country ChampionshipSanjivani Jadhav wins bronze in 14th Asian Cross Country Championship:
i. Sanjivani Jadhav covered the 8 km distance in 28 minutes and 19 seconds and won bronze medal in the women’s 8km event. She was surpassed by China’s Li Dan (28:03) and Japan’s Abe Yukari (28:06).
ii. Indian women’s team comprising Sanjivani, Swati Gadhave, Jhuma Khatun and Lalita Babar also bagged a bronze medal.
iii. Performance of three best finishers of a country in the individual race is taken into account for team medal.
About Asian Cross Country Championships:
♦ Frequency – biennial
♦ Type – regional cross country running competition for athletes from Asia

OBITUARY

Lebanese author, feminist Emily Nasrallah dies at age 87
On 13th March 2018, Lebanese author and feminist Emily Nasrallah, passed away after battling cancer, in Beirut, Lebanon.Lebanese author, feminist Emily Nasrallah dies at age 87Death of Emily Nasrallah:
i. Emily Nasrallah was 87 years old. She started her career as a journalist. She published her first book “Birds of September” in 1962.
ii. She was born in 1931.  She stayed in Lebanon along with few other women writers during the civil war and wrote about the war.
Some important boundary lines:
♦ Line of Actual Control – India & China on the Northern border
♦ Line of Control – India & Pakistan
♦ Durand Line – Afghanistan & Pakistan

BOOKS & AUTHORS

Sri Lanka Cricket releases ‘A Tribute to Jagu’ book on Jagmohan Dalmiya
Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC) has released the book named ‘A Tribute to Jagu’ as a tribute to former BCCI President Jagmohan Dalmiya.
A Tribute to Jagu:
i. This book has been compiled by SLC as a commemoration of Jagmohan Dalmiya’s contributions to cricket.
ii. They honoured him posthumously as the greatest non-Sri Lankan contributor to Sri Lankan cricket.
iii. Avishek, son of Jagmohan Dalmiya, who is the joint secretary of the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) received the book.
About Sri Lanka Cricket (SLC):
President – Thilanga Sumathipala
Vice presidents – Mohan de silva, K. Mathivanan;

IMPORTANT DAYS

World Sleep Day – March 16
On 16th March 2018, World Sleep Day was observed all over the world.World Sleep DayWorld Sleep Day:
i. World Sleep Day is an annual event organized by the World Sleep Day Committee of World Sleep Society.
ii. When: It is observed every year on the Friday before Spring Vernal Equinox. The next World Sleep Day will be on 15 March 2019.
iii. Why: This day aims to reduce the burden of sleep problems by means of better prevention and management of sleep disorders.
iv. Theme for World Sleep Day 2018: Join the Sleep World, Preserve Your Rhythms to Enjoy Life.
About World Sleep Society:
♦ President – Charles Morin
♦ Secretary – Yuichi Inoue