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Indian Affairs

Parliament passes bill that lets govt double tax-free gratuity to Rs 20 lakh
On March 22, 2018, Parliament passed Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 which authorises Central Government to fix tax-free gratuity amount and period of maternity leave with an executive order.

Parliament passes bill that lets govt double tax-free gratuity to Rs 20 lakh

Information about Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017:
i. Payment of Gratuity (Amendment) Bill, 2017 was introduced by Labour Minister Santosh Kumar Gangwar in the Lok Sabha during the winter session and was passed on March 15, 2018.
ii. 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.
iii. After implementation of 7th Central Pay Commission recommendations, ceiling of tax-free gratuity amount for central government employees was increased from Rs 10 lakh to Rs 20 lakh.
iv. Need to bring in the amendment bill was felt as unions had been demanding for inclusion of this change into the Act.
v. Now since the Rajya Sabha has passed the bill, Centre may notify tax-free gratuity of Rs 20 lakh for the organised sector.
vi. The amendment bill also contains a provision which authorises Central Government to notify the period of maternity leave eligible for qualifying as ‘continuous service’ under the gratuity law.

CM Pinarayi Vijayan launches M-Kerala app at Kerala’s first global digital summit
On 22nd March 2018, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan launched the M-Kerala app, at #Future, Kerala’s first-ever global digital summit held in Kochi.

CM Pinarayi Vijayan launches M-Kerala app at Kerala's first global digital summit

M-Kerala app:
i. The M-Kerala app will help citizens to avail nearly 100 government services using their mobile phones.
ii. The M-Kerala app also has mobile payment options. The #Future summit was held on 22nd and 23rd March 2018. Theme of the Summit was “Towards a Digital Future”.
Some Lakes in Kerala:
♦ Enamakkal Lake
♦ Pookode Lake
♦ Vellayani Lake

Central Government to fully fund education of martyrs’ children
On March 21, 2018, Union Defence Ministry released a notification stating that Indian government will now; fully fund the education of martyrs’ children.

Central Government to fully fund education of martyrs' childrenGovernment funding for education of martyrs’ children:
i. Earlier, Government did provide educational concession to martyrs’ children. However it was limited only up to Rs 10000 a month.
ii. This cap has now been lifted and hence, education of children of army officers, ‘persons below officer rank’ missing in action, and those disabled or killed in action will be fully funded by Government.
iii. Around 3400 such children will be covered under this initiative and every year, Rs. 5 crore will be spent by the Government for this cause.
iv. Government funding will be provided only for undertaking studies in government/government-aided schools/educational institutes/military/Sainik schools and other schools or colleges recognised by the Central or State governments.

Andhra Government launches NAIPUNYA RATHAM or World on Wheels
On March 22, 2018, Andhra Pradesh (AP) State Government launched, NAIPUNYA RATHAM or World on Wheels, a multi-utility vehicle aimed at taking technology to the remote corners of the state.

Andhra Government launches NAIPUNYA RATHAM or World on WheelsDetails about AP Government’s NAIPUNYA RATHAM or World on Wheels:
i. NAIPUNYA RATHAM or World on Wheels was launched from State Secretariat in Amaravati.
ii. AP Chief Minister N.Chandrababu Naidu has announced that 12 more Naipunya Rathams will be rolled out by May 2018.
iii. NAIPUNYA RATHAM or World on Wheels, which is a part of AP State Government’s ‘Smart village Smart Ward Programme’ will not only facilitate in furthering digital literacy but will also create an awareness about various government schemes.
Quick facts about Andhra Pradesh:
♦ Capital – Amaravati (de facto)
♦ Current Chief Minister – N Chandrababu Naidu
♦ Current Governor – E S L Narasimhan
♦ Important National Park – Papikonda National Park

 Navy warship INS Ganga decommissioned in Mumbai
INS Ganga, an indigenously built frigate of the Indian Navy, was decommissioned in Mumbai on March 22, 2018.

 Navy warship INS Ganga decommissioned in MumbaiMore Information about INS Ganga:
i. Commissioned on December 30, 1985, INS Ganga is a Godavari-class guided-missile frigate of the Indian Navy.
ii. It was Built in Mumbai by Mazagon Dock Limited.
iii. Decommissioning ceremony of INS Ganga was attended by several officers who had earlier served on board the ship.
iv. Vice Admiral A K Bhal, who served on INS Ganga as crew member from 1989 to 1991 was the Chief Guest for the ceremony, while Vice Admiral (Retd.) K K Kohli, the first Commanding Officer of INS Ganga was the special Guest of Honour.

 Air India becomes First commercial flight to cross Saudi airspace to land in Israel
On March 22, 2018, Air India flight (AI 139) became the first flight to land at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion Airport (Israel) after passing through Saudi Arabia air space.
i. This is the first time, Saudi Arabia has allowed a commercial flight to Israel to use its airspace.
ii. In a bid to further people-to-people contact and diplomatic ties between India and Israel, Air India  introduced the direct thrice-a-week flight from New Delhi to Israel’s Capital Tel Aviv.
iii. Saudi Arabia’s decision to permit Air India to use its airspace enabled it to take a shorter route, saving 2.10 hours of travel time.
iv. Israel’s national carrier El Al, which operates flights to India, does not fly through Saudi Air space. Rather, it takes a longer route over the Red Sea.
Quick Facts about Air India:
♦ Commenced Operations in – 1946
♦ Headquarters – Delhi
♦ Current Chairman and MD – Pradeep Kharola

  ‘First Indian Sign Language Dictionary of 3000 Words’ Launched
On March 23, 2018, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment, Thaawarchand Gehlot launched “First Indian Sign Language Dictionary of 3000 words” in New Delhi.

 ‘First Indian Sign Language Dictionary of 3000 Words’ LaunchedMore Information about First Indian Sign Language Dictionary of 3000 words:
i. The Indian Sign Language (ISL) Dictionary has been developed by Indian Sign Language Research & Training Centre (ISLR&TC) under Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD) of Union Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment.
ii. With a focus on providing more information in Indian Sign Language, the dictionary will be instrumental in removing communications barriers between the deaf and hearing communities.
iii. As per the census 2011 data, there are 5071007 Deaf people and 1998535 with speech disability in India.
iv. Words in the ISL dictionary have been placed under five broad categories viz. everyday terms, legal terms, academic terms, medical terms and technology terms.

 First National Conference on Drug Law Enforcement held in New Delhi
Minister of State for Home Affairs, Hansraj Gangaram Ahir inaugurated the first National Conference on Drug Law Enforcement in New Delhi on March 23, 2018.
Highlights of First National Conference on Drug Law Enforcement:
strong>i. This conference has been organised by the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), under Union Ministry of Home Affairs. 
ii. More than 110 delegates from nearly 50 State and Central law enforcement agencies involved in combating drug trafficking viz. State Police forces, State Excise departments, Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF), Border Guarding Forces, Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Central Bureau of Narcotics (CBN) will be participating in this two-day conference.
iii. Deliberations at the conference will be aimed at forming a roadmap for drug law enforcement and coming  up with related recommendations.
iv. Representative of United Nations and foreign law enforcement agencies will also be sharing their experience on the subject.
v. The conference will conclude on March 24, 2018 and Union Home Minister, Rajnath Singh will be the Chief Guest at the closing session.
Quick Facts about Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB):
♦ Formed in – 1986
♦ Headquarters – New Delhi
♦ Parent Entity – Union Ministry of Home Affairs
♦ Current Director General – Abhay

All India Police Science Congress Kicks Off In Shimla
On 22nd March 2018, the 46th All India Police Science Congress began in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh.
All India Police Science Congress:
i. All India Police Science Congress was organised by the Himachal Pradesh Police Department and The Bureau of Police Research and Development. It was held for 2 days.
ii. It was inaugurated by Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Jai Ram ThakurDirector General Bureau of Police Research and Development A P Maheshwari said that, forums have been created for collaboration of scholars of IIT, IIM and the police to tackle threats posed by criminals in the virtual world.
iii. The Police Science Congress created an opportunity to exchange, learn and understand the best practices followed in other states and union territories.
Some wildlife sanctuaries in Himachal Pradesh:
♦ Kalatop Khajjiar Sanctuary
♦ Kanwar Sanctuary
♦ Renuka Sanctuary

International Affairs

Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2017
International Energy Agency (IEA) has stated that Global energy-related carbon emissions rose to a historic high of 32.5 gigatons in 2017.

Global carbon emissions hit record high in 2017

Rise in Carbon Emissions:
i. 32.5 gigatons carbon emissions in 2017 marks a 1.4% increment over previous year.
ii. The rise in carbon emissions during 2017 has been largely attributed to higher energy demand and the slowing of energy efficiency improvements.
iii. Global energy demand rose by 2.1 percent in 2017 to 14050 million tonnes of oil equivalent.
iv. 70 percent of this incremental demand was met by oil, natural gas and coal.
v. In context of this news, it is important to note that Carbon dioxide emissions are the primary cause of global average temperature rise.
Quick Facts about International Energy Agency (IEA):
♦ Established in – 1974
♦ Secretariat – Paris, France

 ‘World’s best airport’ title goes to Changi, Mumbai ranked 63rd
Singapore Changi Airport has been rated as world’s best airport for the sixth consecutive year by UK-based consultancy firm Skytrax.

 'World's best airport' title goes to Changi, Mumbai ranked 63rdWorld’s Best Airports:
i. Changi Airport, owned by Government of Singapore, is one of the world’s busiest airports by international passenger and cargo traffic.
ii. In 2017, Changi Airport served 60 million passengers from almost 100 countries across the world.
iii. Major attractions at Changi airport include a rooftop swimming pool, two 24-hour movie theatres screening the latest blockbusters for free  and a sunflower garden that features several varieties of sunflowers grown in the airport’s on site nursery.
iv. The awards were announced at Skytrax World Airport Awards function held in Stockholm, Sweden.
v. Changi Airport is followed by Incheon International Airport in South Korea at No.2 and Haneda Airport in Japan at No.3.
vi. Among Indian Airports, Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, Mumbai ranked 63rd, while Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru and Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi ranked 64th and 66th respectively.

 Australia Scraps Work Visa Programme Used Largely By Indians
Australia has abolished its employer-sponsored 457 visa programme which was mainly used by Indians.
Australia Scraps 457 visa programme:
i. The 457 visa programme has been replaced with a new programme that requires higher English-language proficiency and job skills.
ii. The 457 visa programme was launched in the 1990s. It was used by more than 95,000 foreign workers, of which majority were Indians.
iii. On 18th March 2018, it was replaced by a new Temporary Skills Shortage visa programme.
iv. The 457 visa programme permitted companies to employ foreign workers up to 4 years in skilled jobs where there was a shortage of Australian workers. People with that visa were allowed to live in Australia with their immediate family.
Some important international boundary lines:
♦ Blue Line – Israel and Lebanon
♦ Purple Line – Israel and Syria
♦ Green Line – Israel and its neighbours (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria)

  Banking & Finance

Equitas Bank ties up with CSK, launches Yellow Army Savings Account
On March 22, 2018, Equitas Small Finance Bank (SFB) rolled out ‘Yellow Army Savings Account’ to commemorate its association with the Indian Premium League (IPL) franchise Chennai Super Kings (CSK).

Equitas Bank ties up with CSK, launches Yellow Army Savings AccountMore information about Equitas Small Finance Bank’s ‘Yellow Army Savings Account’:
i. ’Yellow Army Savings Account’ will fetch interest rate of 6 per cent per annum for balance below Rs. 10 lakh and 6.5 per cent per annum for balance above Rs. 10 lakh.
ii. Visa debit card of ’Yellow Army Savings Account’ carries personal accident cover of up to Rs. 5 lakh, air accident cover of Rs. 30 lakh and lost card liability of up to Rs. 25000.
iii. Besides, ’Yellow Army Savings Account’ holders can avail a range of exclusive offers on movie ticket-booking, entertainment and lifestyle purchases, food etc.
iv. As per an agreement between Equitas and CSK, Equitas will be the principal sponsor of CSK and the banking partner of CSK for three years.
Quick Facts about Equitas Small Finance Bank:
♦ Founded in – 2007 (as micro finance lender)
♦ Started Small Finance Bank operations in – 2016
♦ Headquarters – Chennai, Tamil Nadu


ISRO–BHEL Tie up for the Production of Space Grade Lithium-Ion Cells
Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) have entered into a Technology Transfer Agreement (TTA) for production of space grade Lithium-Ion cells.

ISRO–BHEL Tie up for the Production of Space Grade Lithium-Ion Cells

Utility of Lithium-Ion Cells:
i. Lithium-Ion cells have high energy density, reliability and long cycle life and are thereby used by ISRO as power sources for satellite and launch vehicle applications.
ii. Technology to produce space grade Li-ion cell has been developed by ISRO’s Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC).
iii. Under the TTA signed with ISRO, BHEL will produce space grade Li-Ion cells which can meet India’s space programme requirements.
Quick Facts about ISRO:
♦ Established in – 1969
♦ Headquarters – Bengaluru, Karnataka
♦ Current Chairman – Dr. K. Sivan

Appointments & Resigns

John R Bolton appointed as National Security Adviser to President Trump
On 22nd March 2018, President Trump named John R. Bolton as his third national security adviser.

John R Bolton appointed as National Security Adviser to President TrumpJohn R Bolton appointed as National Security Adviser to President Trump:
i. John R Bolton replaces Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster. John R Bolton will take charge as national security adviser on 9th April 2018.
ii. He is  a former American ambassador to the United Nations. He was undersecretary of state for arms control during the administration of George W. Bush.
Some important dams in India:
♦ Indira Sagar Dam – Narmada River
♦ Koyna Dam – Koyna River
♦ Supa Dam – Kali Nadi River

Sherry Rehman becomes first female Senate opposition leader of Pakistan
On 22nd March 2018, Sherry Rehman became the first woman Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, the upper house of parliament, in Pakistan.
Sherry Rehman becomes first female Senate opposition leader of Pakistan:
i. Sherry Rehman is 57 years old. She belongs to the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).
ii. She was Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US between 2011 and 2013. In 2015, she was elected to the Senate.
About Pakistan People’s Party (PPP):
♦ Chairman – Bilawal Bhutto Zardari
♦ Headquarters – Islamabad, Pakistan

Awards & Recognition

DRDO bags ‘Most Informative Pavilion’ award at the ISC
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has bagged the “Most Informative Pavilion” award in the Pride of India Expo, in Manipur.
DRDO bags ‘Most Informative Pavilion’ award:
i. The Pride of India Expo was a part of the 105th Indian Science Congress (ISC) held in Manipur. It was conducted from 16th March to 20thMarch 2018.
ii. DRDO displayed cutting-edge indigenous defence technologies with more than 150 exhibits and models from 18 of its laboratories and received a good response.
Some National Parks in Manipur:
♦ Keibul Lamjao National Park
♦ Sirohi National Park

‘We Are Sikhs’ campaign wins top US award
‘We Are Sikhs’ campaign that was launched in April 2017 in America, has received the 2018 PRWeek US award, nicknamed the “Oscars of the Public Relations Industry”, in the category of Public Cause.

‘We Are Sikhs’ campaign wins top US award‘We Are Sikhs’ campaign wins 2018 PRWeek US award:
i. “We are Sikhs” ad campaign was launched by National Sikh Campaign (NSC), a non-profit organization.
ii. The campaign was conducted by Sikhs to inform Americans about their religion. The campaign was executed by FP1 Strategies.
iii. The campaign has bagged the award for projecting Sikhs as neighbours and everyday Americans who suffer from discrimination due to ignorance of their faith. The award was presented in New York recently.
iv. USD 1.3 million was raised by Sikhs and also some Hindus for the campaign. The ad campaign was shortlisted among five finalists for the ‘Best for a Cause’ award.
About National Sikh Campaign (NSC):
♦ Objective – to promote a better understanding of the Sikh community in America and other Western countries, and to project a positive image and profile of the Sikh community
♦ Co-founder and senior adviser – Rajwant Singh

Science & Technology

DAE develops “Fluorimeter” device to measure uranium traces in water
Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) has developed “Fluorimeter”, an instrument that measures traces of uranium in water.
i. Fluorimeter has been developed by the Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT). RRCAT is a unit of DAE based in Indore.
ii. Cost of the fluorimeter is Rs 1 lakh. It will detect traces of uranium in water.
iii. It will be highly useful in regions like Punjab where uranium traces have been detected in water at dangerous levels.
iv. DAE has transferred its technology to another one of its unit, Electronics Corporation of India Ltd (ECIL), for mass production of Fluorimeter,.
v. Fluorimeter can examine traces of uranium in a sample of water from 0.1 PPB (Parts-per-billion) unit to 100 PPB.
vi. The permissible radiological limit of uranium concentration for drinking water has been fixed at 60 PPB by the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board.
vii. High levels of uranium traces present in drinking water will increase radiological and chemical risks to human health.
About Raja Ramanna Centre for Advanced Technology (RRCAT):
♦ Director – P A Naik
♦ Location – Indore

Important Days

Bihar celebrates 106th foundation day
On 22nd March 2018, celebrations for the 106th foundation day of Bihar began at three locations: Gandhi Maidan, S K Memorial Hall and Rabindra Bhawan in Patna, Bihar.

Bihar celebrates 106th foundation day106th Foundation Day of Bihar:
i. Theme of 106th foundation day of Bihar is: “Centenary of Champaran Satyagraha and Elimination of Dowry and Child Marriage”.The celebrations will be held till 24th March 2018.
ii. Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu inaugurated the main function at Gandhi Maidan. He released the following books: ‘Ek Tha Mohan’, ‘Bapu Ki Chiththi’, ‘Champaran Ki Kahani’ and ‘Neel Ke Dhabbe’.
iii. The first Bihar Diwas was celebrated in 2012. Bihar separated from undivided Bengal in 1912 as an independent state.
iv. Floral tributes were paid to Mahatma Gandhi’s portrait. A laser show is conducted at Gandhi Maidan as a part of the celebrations.
v. Local artists performed street plays, folk songs and dances at various locations of Patna.
Some wildlife sanctuaries in Bihar:
♦ Bhimbandh Wildlife Sanctuary
♦ Kaimur Wildlife Sanctuary
♦ Kanwar Lake Bird Sanctuary