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Current Affairs Today March 20 2018

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INDIAN AFFAIRS

Karnataka cabinet approves separate religion status for Lingayats
On March 19, 2018, Karnataka State Government under Chief Minister Siddaramaiah (belonging to Congress Party) approved the separate religion status for the Lingayat community.
Information about Lingayat community in Karnataka:
i. Lingayat community owes allegiance to the 12th century social reform movement initiated by Basaveshwara.
ii. The community constitutes about 17 percent of Karnataka’s population mainly residing in northern parts of the state.
iii. Lingayats have been demanding a separate religion status since long time. Besides, a seven-member committee, formed by Karnataka State Minorities Commission which submitted its report on March 2, 2018 recommended that Lingayats in Karnataka may be considered as a religious minority.
iv. In the past, the Lingayats have mainly supported Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).Thus, this decision will have a tremendous political impact in the upcoming Karnataka State Legislative Assembly polls to be held in May 2018.
Quick Facts about Karnataka:
♦ Capital – Bengaluru
♦ Current Chief Minister – Siddaramaiah
♦ Current Governor – Vajubhai Vala
♦ Important National Park – Bandipur National Park

Third edition of National Conclave on Mines and Minerals held in Delhi
On 20th March 2018, the 3rd edition of National Conclave on Mines and Minerals was held in New Delhi.Third edition of National Conclave on Mines and Minerals held in Delhi3rd edition of National Conclave on Mines and Minerals:
i. The conclave saw participation from: representatives of state governments, mining industry, industry associations, financial and academic institutions.
ii. It acts as a platform to display the recent policy initiatives by the Indian government. Discussion on the issues, challenges and opportunities in the mining sector were conducted.
iii. Mines Minister Narendra Singh Tomar presented awards to 20 best performing mines with ‘5-Star’ rating.
Some lakes in Delhi:
♦ Bhalswa Horseshoe Lake
♦ Najafgarh Lake
♦ Sanjay Lake

NCAA becomes World’s First Trusted Digital Repository
India’s National Cultural Audiovisual Archives (NCAA) has been certified as the world’s first Trusted Digital Repository as per ISO 16363:2012 standard, granted by Primary Trustworthy Digital Repository Authorisation Body Ltd. (PTAB), United Kingdom.
More information about NCAA:
i. NCAA is a project of the Union Ministry of Culture, implemented by Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA).
ii. Objective of NCAA is to identify and preserve India’s cultural heritage available in audiovisual form through a process of digitization and making it accessible to the people.
iii. By end of March 2018, a corpus of 30000 hours of unpublished, non-commercial audio & video recordings will be made online at NCAA repository.
iv. NCAA digital repository is powered by DIGITĀLAYA which is developed by C-DAC Pune.
v. At present, 11 governmental and 10 non-governmental cultural organisations are the partnering institutions of NCAA.

Informal WTO Ministerial Meet held in New Delhi
Informal meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) ministers was held in New Delhi on March 20, 2018.Informal WTO Ministerial Meet held in New DelhiHighlights of Informal WTO Ministerial Meet:
i. This meeting was called by India to explore options to reinvigorate the World Trade Organisation (WTO), by engaging in free and frank discussions.
ii. This meeting was attended by Ministers and Vice Ministers from 27 countries and WTO Director General Roberto Azevedo.
iii. In wake of U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to slap import tariffs on steel and aluminium, discussions at the meeting revolved around concerns over increasing protectionism in global trade.
Quick Facts about World Trade Organisation (WTO):
♦ Formed in – 1995
♦ Task – Regulation of International Trade
♦ Headquarters – Geneva, Switzerland
♦ Current Director General – Robert Azevedo

India and EU sign an agreement on sharing earth observation data from each other’s satellites
On 19th March 2018, India’s Department of Space and the European Commission signed an agreement that will enable them to share earth observation data from each other’s satellite.
India and EU sign an agreement on sharing earth observation data from each other’s satellites:
i. The agreement was signed by Philippe Brunet, director for Space Policy, Copernicus and Defence, on behalf of European Commission and by PG Diwakar, Scientific Secretary in the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) on behalf of the Department of Space.
ii. The agreement was signed in Bengaluru. The agreement aims to strengthen cooperation on Earth observation and mutual access to data from sentinel series of satellites of EU (European Union) and from the earth observation satellites of India.
iii. As per this arrangement, the European Commission would offer free, full and open access to data from the Copernicus Sentinel family of satellites to India.
iv. India’s Department of Space will offer free, full and open access to the data from ISRO’s earth observation satellites to the Copernicus programme and its participating states.
About Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO):
♦ Chairman – Dr. K. Sivan
♦ Headquarters – Bangalore, Karnataka

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS

G-20 Ministers meeting held in Argentina
First G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors under Presidency of Argentina was held on 19th and 20th March 2018 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.G-20 Ministers meeting held in ArgentinaHighlights of G-20 Ministers meeting:
i. The meeting was attended by 22 finance ministers, 17 Central Bank Governors and 10 heads of international organizations, including International Monetary Fund (IMF) Managing Director, Christine Lagarde and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme, Achim Steiner.
ii. Discussions at the this two-day meeting revolved around  infrastructure development and the future of work in the digital arena.
iii. Interestingly, concerns over U.S. President Donald Trump’s decision to slap import tariffs on steel and aluminium, which may trigger a global trade war were not discussed at this meeting.
iv. This was the first of five such meetings to be held before Argentina hosts the G20 Summit on 30th November and 1st December 2018.
Quick Facts about G20 (Group of Twenty):
♦ Founded in – 1999
♦ Purpose – Forum to deliberate upon key issues affecting the global economy
Members Countries: Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russian Federation, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union

Military drill “Gulf Shield 1” begins in Saudi Arabia
Gulf Shield 1 Joint drills, organised by Saudi Arabia’s Defence Ministry, started in the eastern region of Saudi Arabia from March 18, 2018.
Details about Gulf Shield 1 Joint drills:
i. Military forces of Saudi Arabia and 23 other countries are participating in this month-long drill.
ii. This is the largest military drill in the region in terms of diversity of expertise and quality of weapons that will be used.
iii. Objective of this drill is to enhance coordination and cooperation, modernise joint mechanisms and raise military readiness of participating countries.
Quick Facts about Saudi Arabia:
♦ Capital – Riyadh
♦ Currency – Saudi riyal
♦ Ruling Monarch – King Salman
♦ Neighbouring countries – Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Qatar, Bahrain, UAE, Oman, Yemen

BANKING & FINANCE

US bans use of Venezuela’s new Petro Currency
On March 19, 2018, US President Donald Trump signed an executive order making it illegal for US citizens to purchase any cryptocurrency issued by Venezuela.US bans use of Venezuela's new Petro Currencyi. The order prohibits U.S. citizens from engaging in transactions using Venezuela’s oil-backed currency, called the Petro.
ii. In a bid to ease country’s economic crisis, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro had launched ‘Petro’, a cryptocurrency backed by Venezuela’s oil, gas, gold and diamond wealth.
iii. Venezuela’s economy has been reeling under pressure since last year owing to falling oil prices and sanctions imposed by US.
iv. Mr. Maduro’s plan was to pay Venezuela’s foreign debtor with ‘Petro’ and thereby attempt to restructure country’s debt.
v. Trump administration in US wants Maduro regime to reverse the crisis that it has caused by adopting prudent economic measures rather than trying to circumvent US sanctions by issuing ‘Petro’.
Quick Facts about Venezuela:
♦ Capital – Caracas
♦ Currency – Bolivar fuerte
♦ Current President – Nicola Maduro
♦ Important Rivers – Orinoco, Caroni

Bank of America introduces chatbot named Erica
Bank of America has started rolling out Erica, its chatbot that can help customers check balances, remind about bills and answer bank-related questions. 
About Bank of America’s chatbot Erica:
i. Erica has been rolled out to customers in Rhode Island.
ii. Bank of America had first introduced Erica at fintech and payments conference Money 2020 in October 2016. Testing of Erica was conducted during 2017.
iii. Customers of Bank of America will be able to interact with Erica via voice or text and it will help them with routine day to day banking transactions.
Quick Facts about Bank of America:
♦ Functioning as Bank of America since – 1930
♦ Headquarters – North Carolina, US

General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC Re) to operate from Lloyd’s in London
Indian Government-owned reinsurer, General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC Re) has received permission to commence operations of ‘GIC Syndicate 1947’ from Lloyd’s of London from April 2018.General Insurance Corporation of India (GIC Re) to operate from Lloyd’s in LondonCommencement of GIC Re’s London operations:
i. Lloyd’s is a United Kingdom-based insurance marketplace, where specialty underwriters provide reinsurance to global buyers by forming a syndicate.
ii. Earlier, in December 2017, Lloyd’s Franchise Board granted ‘in principle’ approval to GIC Re to create ‘GIC Syndicate 1947’.
iii. ‘GIC Syndicate 1947’ is thus the first Lloyd’s syndicate to be backed entirely by capital from an Indian reinsurance entity.
iv. Neil Attwood has been appointed as active underwriter, while Pembroke Managing Agency Ltd., a specialist provider of Lloyd’s managing agency services, will manage ‘GIC Syndicate 1947’ in the initial years.
v. GIC Re’s presence at Lloyd’s will increase its share of international reinsurance business and will be instrumental in making India a regional reinsurance hub
Quick Facts about GIC Re:
♦ Founded in – 1972
♦ Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
♦ Current CMD – Alice Vaidyan

BUSINESS

Government scraps export duty on sugar to boost exports
In a bid to boost overseas sales in a surplus year of production, India Government has scrapped the 20 per cent sugar export duty.
More information about Sugar export duty:
i. In the 2017-18 season ending on September 30, 2018, sugar production in India is likely to touch a record 29.5 million tonnes.
ii. This marks a 45 per cent increment over previous year, and is the main reason behind local sugar prices coming down by more than 15 per cent in the past six months.
iii. In addition to scrapping sugar export duty, Government may make it compulsory for mills to export 2-3 million tonnes to cut bulging stocks at home.

IRCTC ties up with Ola Cabs for booking cab on its website and app
On 19th March 2018, IRCTC (Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation) announced its partnership with Ola Cabs, in order to provide a book taxi option in its app and website.IRCTC ties up with Ola Cabs for booking cab on its website and appIRCTC ties up with Ola Cabs for booking cab on its website and app:
i. This partnership between IRCTC and Ola Cabs is a six month pilot project. This will offer Ola Cabs booking services to customers in the IRCTC Rail Connect App and on its website.
ii. All facilities provided by Ola Cabs will be offered on the IRCTC Rail Connect App and website for the same price as it is offered directly by Ola.
iii. Cabs can be booked up to seven days in advance or on reaching the railway station. Also IRCTC outlets at railway stations or Ola’s self-serving facility will also enable customers to book cabs.
About Ola:
♦ Co-Founder and CEO – Bhavish Aggarwal
♦ Headquarters – Bengaluru, Karnataka

India signs Double Taxation Avoidance pact with Hong Kong
On March 19, 2018, India and Hong Kong signed Agreement for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion.
Details about India-Hong Kong Double Taxation Avoidance Pact:
i. This pact is in accordance with Section 90 of the Income Tax Act, 1961 which authorises Indian Government to enter into an Agreement with a foreign country or specified territory for avoidance of double taxation of income.
ii. The pact will not only prevent double taxation but will also provide for exchange of information between the two countries
iii. It is expected that it will boost flow of investment, technology and personnel between both the countries.
iv. This pact will give protection against double taxation to over 1500 Indian companies and businesses operating in Hong Kong as well as to Hong Kong-based companies operating in India.
Quick Facts about Hong Kong:
♦ Special Administrative Region of – China
♦ Currency – Hong Kong Dollar
♦ Current Chief Executive – Carrie Lam

APPOINTMENTS & RESIGNS

Katrina Kaif becomes brand ambassador for international non-profit organization ‘Educate Girls’
Bollywood actress Katrina Kaif has been named the brand ambassador of ‘Educate Girls’, an international non-profit organisation.Katrina Kaif becomes brand ambassador for international non-profit organization ‘Educate Girls’Katrina Kaif – brand ambassador of Educate Girls:
i. As brand ambassador of Educate Girls, Katrina Kaif will work towards creating equal opportunities for girls to access quality education.
ii. Educate Girls involves the families, village leaders, local administration and school authorities in its efforts towards educating girls.
About Educate Girls:
♦ Founder – Safeena Husain
♦ Head Office – Mumbai

David Wright joins BSE Board as Public Interest Director
BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange) has appointed David Wright as a Public Interest Director on its board.
David Wright joins BSE Board as Public Interest Director:
i. David Wright’s appointment as Public Interest Director is effective from 16th March 2018.
ii. He worked with the European Commission for a long time. He also worked as Secretary General of the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) from 2012 to 2016.
About BSE (Bombay Stock Exchange):
♦ MD & CEO – Ashishkumar Chauhan
♦ Corporate Office – Mumbai

Nanda Bahadur Pun re-elected as Nepal’s Vice President
On 19th March 2018, Nanda Bahadur Pun took charge as Nepal’s vice president for a second term.
Nanda Bahadur Pun re-elected as Nepal’s Vice President:
i. On 18th March 2018, Nanda Bahadur Pun was re-elected as Nepal’s Vice President unopposed, as no other party had filed nominations.
ii. Nanda Bahadur Pun’s oath of office and secrecy was administered by President Bidya Devi Bhandari at an official ceremony.
iii. Also, Shasi Kala Dahal of CPN-Maoist Centre was elected vice-chairperson of the national assembly. She defeated Brinda Devi Ale of Nepali Congress.
About Nepali Congress:
♦ Headquarters – Lalitpur, Nepal
♦ Merger of – Nepali National Congress, Nepal Democratic Party

Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik given additional charge as Governor of Odisha
On 19th March 2018, Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik was given additional responsibility as Governor of Odisha.Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik given additional charge as Governor of OdishaBihar Governor Satya Pal Malik given additional charge as Governor of Odisha:
i. SC Jamir completed his five-year term as Governor of Odisha. Following this, Satya Pal Malik has been given additional charge as Governor of Odisha.
ii. Satya Pal Malik is 72 years old. He has served as Union minister of state for parliamentary affairs and tourism.
iii. He was a Rajya Sabha MP for two terms and was also a Lok Sabha MP. He was a member of Uttar Pradesh Assembly from 1974 to 1977.
Some wildlife sanctuaries in Bihar:
♦ Vikramshila Gangetic Dolphin Sanctuary
♦ Udaypur Wildlife Sanctuary
♦ Kanwar Lake Bird Sanctuary

SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

NAL gets approval for new “Hansa-NG” Next-Gen’ trainer aircraft
Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) has given in-principle approval to National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) for design, development and certification of Hansa-NG, a next generation trainer aircraft of the two-seater Hansa-3 aircraft. 
More information about “Hansa-NG” Next-Gen’ trainer aircraft:
i. Hansa-3, developed by NAL is India’s first all-composite light aircraft. Currently, flying clubs across India are using Twelve Hansa-3 for pilot training courses.
ii. NAL initiated designing and developing a next generation trainer Hansa-NG in order to meet the latest requirements of the flight training schools in India.
iii. Hansa-NG is a collaborative project between NAL and MESCO Aerospace.
Quick Facts about National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL):
♦ Established in – 1959
♦ Established by – Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)
♦ Headquarters – Bengaluru, Karnataka

SPORTS

Team USA concludes Paralympic Winter Games Pyeong Chang 2018 with most successful performance in 16 years
On 18th March 2018, the Paralympic Winter Games Pyeong Chang 2018 in South Korea, concluded with Team USA having its most successful performance in 16 years.Team USA concludes Paralympic Winter Games Pyeong Chang 2018 with most successful performance in 16 yearsTeam USA – most successful performance in 16 years:
i. Team USA consisted of 74 athletes. It grabbed a total of 36 medals and topped the overall medal count.
ii. This is Team USA’s highest medal count since 2002 when it won 43 medals.
iii. It also topped the gold medal count for the first time since 1992. It topped the overall gold medal count and also the gold medals won on each day of the Games.
iv. Oksana Masters became the female U.S. athlete to have won the highest number of medals in PyeongChang Olympics with five medals. Among men, Dan Cnossen won six medals and topped the count.
v.The U.S. Nordic skiing team won 16 medals. Kendall Gretsch bagged the first-ever biathlon Olympic or Paralympic gold medal for a U.S. athlete.
vi.The U.S. Paralympic Snowboarding Team won 13 medals. 18 military veterans on Team USA won a total of 9 medals.
vii.The U.S. sled hockey team won its third consecutive Paralympic title. It became the first sled hockey team to achieve this feat.
About Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018:
♦ Host city – Pyeongchang, South Korea
♦ Dates – 9 – 18 March 2018

OBITUARY

Senior Journalist Sunil Sharma passes away
On 20th March 2018, Sunil Sharma, a senior journalist, died due to heart attack in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.
Death of Sunil Sharma:
i. Sunil Sharma was 49 years old. He is survived by his wife and daughter.
ii. He was working as the bureau chief of ‘Divya Himachal’, a Hindi newspaper.
Some National Parks in Himachal Pradesh:
♦ Pin Valley National Park
♦ Khirganga National Park
♦ Inderkilla National Park

Veteran Hindi poet Kedarnath Singh passes away
On 19th March 2018, Kedarnath Singh, a popular Hindi poet passed away, after being ill for some time, in New Delhi.Veteran Hindi poet Kedarnath Singh passes awayDeath of Kedarnath Singh:
i. Kedarnath Singh was 83 years old. He is a former professor and chairperson at the Department of Hindi Language at the Centre for Indian Languages at Jawaharlal Nehru University.
ii. He had received the Jnanapeeth award in 2013. In 1989 he received the Sahitya Akademi award.
Some important museums in India;
♦ Samudrika (Naval Marine Museum) – Delanipur, Andaman & Nicobar Islands
♦ Bhagwan Mahavir Government Museum – Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh
♦ International Dolls Museum – Chandigarh

Social activist C R Chandradath passes away
On 20th March 2018, C R Chandradath, a social activist, passed away at a private hospital in Kochi, Kerala.
Death of C R Chandradath:
i. C R Chandradath was 75 years old. He is survived by his wife and two children.
ii. He was the director of Centre of Science and Technology for Rural Development (COSTFORD) in Thrissur.
Some temples in Kerala:
♦ Sabarimala Temple – Sabarimala
♦ Vaikom Mahadevar Temple – Vaikom
♦ Attukal Temple – Attukal

IMPORTANT DAYS

International Day of Happiness – March 20
On 20th March 2018, International Day of Happiness was celebrated all over the world.International Day of Happiness - March 20International Day of Happiness:
i. The United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness since 2013. This day stresses the importance of happiness in the lives of people.
ii. Theme for International Day of Happiness 2018: “Share Happiness”. This year the focus is on the importance of relationships, kindness and helping each other.
iii. Every year, a World Happiness Report is prepared as a survey of the state of global happiness.
iv. Apart from usual ranking of the levels and changes in happiness throughout the world, this year the focus is on migration within and between countries.
Some UNESCO Cultural Heritage sites in India:
♦ The Architectural Work of Le Corbusier – Chandigarh
♦ Nalanda Mahavihara (Nalanda University) – Bihar
♦ Taj Mahal – Uttar Pradesh