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NITI Aayog releases Baseline Ranking of Aspirational Districts
On March 28, 2018, NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant launched the baseline ranking for the Aspirational Districts based on published data of 49 indicators across five developmental areas of Education, Health and Nutrition, Agriculture and Water Resources, Basic Infrastructure and Financial Inclusion and Skill Development.
Baseline Ranking of Aspirational Districts:
i. Mr. Kant also announced that the ‘Champions of Change’ Dashboard (created by NITI Aayog in partnership with the Government of Andhra Pradesh) for real-time data collection and monitoring will be open for public viewing from April 1, 2018.
ii. District Collectors of all the aspirational districts will be able to input the latest available data of their respective districts through this Dashboard.
iii. Besides, in order to exemplify the spirit of competitive federalism, Delta Ranking (ranking based on incremental progress) of Districts will be available from May 2018.
About Aspirational Districts:
♦ Aspirational districts refer to selected 115 backward districts that are lagging on specific development parameters.
♦ Central Government has undertaken a major policy initiative for rapid transformation of these districts and senior government officials have been assigned responsibility to coordinate the efforts of the Centre and states in facilitating development in such districts.
93% rural households with access to toilets using them: NARSS 2017-18
As per findings of National Annual Rural Sanitation Survey (NARSS) 2017-18, about 77% homes in rural areas of India have got toilets and over 93 per cent households in villages who have access to toilets are using them.
Highlights of NARSS 2017-18:
i. NARSS 2017-18, was conducted by an independent verification agency selected by Union Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation under the World Bank support project to the Swachh Bharat Mission Gramin (SBM-G).
ii. The survey was conducted between mid-November 2017 to mid-March 2018 and covered 92040 households in 6136 villages of India.
iii. It was overseen by an Expert Working Group (EWG) comprising representatives from World Bank, UNICEF, Water Aid, India Sanitation Coalition, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Sulabh International, NITI Aayog, Knowledge Links and Statistics and Programme Implementing Ministry.
iv. The survey also re-confirmed the Open Defecation Free (ODF) status of about 96% of villages which were declared and verified as ODF by various districts and states.
v. The report outlined that 70% of the villages surveyed had minimal litter and minimal stagnant water.
vi. As per Government data, since the launch of Swachh Bharat Mission in October 2014, 6.5 crore toilets have been built across rural areas and about 30 crore people have stopped defecating in the open.
India, China agree to renegotiate bilateral trade and investment agreement
On March 26, 2018, a meeting between Union Commerce and Industry Minister, Suresh Prabhu and China’s Trade Minister Zhong Shan was held in New Delhi.
Outcome of meeting between Suresh Prabhu and Zhong Shan:
i. This meeting was held under the aegis of the China-India joint-group on Economic Relations, Trade, Science & Technology.
ii. During the meeting, both the countries agreed to renegotiate a bilateral investment agreement and jointly prepare a road map to reduce the massive trade imbalance in favour of China.
iii. It is to be noted that India’s goods trade deficit with China for the first ten months of 20017-18 stands at $52 billion as against $0.6 billion in 2000-01.
iv. Besides, China has also pledged to look into the issue of granting greater market access to Indian farm products and try to resolve any issue that hurts the prospect of Indian pharmaceutical exports to China.
v. This meeting was held in the backdrop of US plan to impose $50-billion tariffs on Chinese goods, a move which trade experts believe, would trigger a global trade war.
Quick Facts about China:
♦ Capital – Beijing
♦ Currency – Renminbi
♦ Current President – Xi Jinping
♦ Important Rivers – Yangtze, Yellow River
Ministry of Power partners with Skill India to support electrification scheme ‘Saubhagya’
On March 27, 2018, Union Ministry of Power partnered with the Union Ministry of Skill Development & Entrepreneurship to train the manpower in six states for speedy implementation of SAUBHAGYA scheme.
Ministry of Power joins hand with Skill India:
i. SAUBHAGYA (Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojna) aims to achieve universal household electrification in all parts of India in a time bound manner.
ii. Training the manpower in six states – Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Odisha and Uttar Pradesh – under this initiative, will be undertaken as a special project under Central Government’s Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY).
iii. Training will be provided to around 47000 Distribution Lineman-Multi Skills and 8500 Technical Helpers to meet the requirement of power sector.
iv. This partnership will be instrumental in addressing the issue of lack of trained manpower, which has been the main constraint in speedy implementation of the Government’s electrification programme under SAUBHAGYA.
About SAUBHAGYA (Pradhan Mantri Sahaj Bijli Har Ghar Yojna) Scheme:
♦ Announced in – September 2017
♦ Objective – to provide electricity to all households in India
♦ Total Financial Outlay – Rs. 16320 crore
Virat Kohli wax statue to be unveiled at Madame Tussauds Delhi
Indian cricket captain Virat Kohli’s wax figure will soon be unveiled at Madame Tussauds, Delhi.
i. Madame Tussauds wax museum in Delhi is known for the portrayal of the famous names in the world of entertainment, sports, history and politics.
ii. The main Madame Tussauds wax museum is in London and smaller museums are located in a number of other major cities of the world including New York, Berlin, Beijing, Tokyo, Singapore and Sydney.
iii. Kapil Dev, Sachin Tendulkar and Critiano Ronaldo are other sportsperson featured at Madame Tussauds Delhi.
SAP to collaborate with NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission
On March 27, 2018, SAP (Systems, Applications & Products in Data Processing) signed a Statement of Intent (SOI) with NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM).
Details about SAP – NITI Aayog collaboration for Atal Innovation Mission:
i. NITI Aayog’s Atal Innovation Mission (AIM) is Indian Government’s endeavour to promote a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship across Indian schools, universities and industries. Under AIM, Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATLs) have been established in schools across India to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young generation.
ii. As part of the SOI, SAP will adopt 100 Atal Tinkering Laboratories (ATL) during 2018 to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education among secondary school children across India, specifically in Rajasthan, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
iii. SAP employee volunteers will coach and mentor students in these schools on advanced technology topics such as such as Internet of Things, design thinking, introduction to programming languages and experiential science learning, while SAP’s design lab in India, will provide training and allow students to gain hands-on experience with technology gadgets.
iv. It is to be noted that AIM currently has similar partnerships with Intel and IBM and SAP has thus become the third partner for the programme.
Quick Facts about SAP:
♦ Founded in – 1972
♦ Makes – Enterprise software to manage business operations and customer relations
♦ Headquarters – Walldorf, Germany
India Becomes 3rd Largest Electricity Producer in the World
With production of 1423 billion units (BU) in Financial Year 2016, India was the third largest producer of electricity in the world.
Electricity Production in India:
i. Over seven years to 2017, electricity production in India grew by 34%.
ii. India now produces more electricity than Japan and Russia, which had 27% and 8.77% more electricity generation capacity installed, respectively, than India seven years ago.
iii. According to a report by India Brand Equity Foundation (IBEF), a trust established by the commerce ministry, Electricity production in India stood at 1003.525 BU between April 2017-January 2018.
World’s Top 5 Electricity Producers In 2016:
|Country||Electricity Produced (in BU)|
CBDT extends PAN-Aadhaar linking deadline to June 30
The CBDT (Central Board of Direct Taxes) has extended the deadline for the PAN-Aadhaar linking from the current last date of 31 March 2018 to 30 June 2018.
CBDT extends PAN-Aadhaar linking deadline to June 30:
i. The order issued by CBDT said that, the deadline for PAN-Aadhaar linking for filing I-T returns is extended till 30 June 2018.
ii. This order by CBDT has been issued after the Supreme Court judgment that was made earlier this month, ordering extension of the March 31deadline for linking Aadhaar with several other services.
iii. This is the fourth extension offered by the government for individuals to link their Permanent Account Number (PAN) with their biometric ID (Aadhaar).
iv. Previous deadlines were 31 July 2017, 31 August 2017 and 31 December 2017.
About Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT):
♦ Chairman – Sushil Chandra
♦ Location – New Delhi
Asia’s Largest Tulip Garden “Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden” in Srinagar Opens for Visitors
On 25th March 2018, Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden, Asia’s largest Tulip garden, in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir, was opened for visitors.
Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden opened for visitors:
i. The Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden is located on the foothills of the Zabarwan mountain range along the banks of Dal Lake.
ii. Jammu and Kashmir Floriculture minister Javed Mustafa Mir said that, the floriculture department has planted 12.25 lakh Tulip bulbs of 40 varieties and colours in the garden.
Some National Parks in Jammu & Kashmir:
♦ Kishtwar National Park
♦ Hemis National Park
♦ Dachigam National Park
15th Meeting of India-US Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism held in New Delhi
On 27th March 2018, the 15th meeting of the India-US Counterterrorism Joint Working Group was held in New Delhi.
15th Meeting of India-US Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism:
i. The India delegation was led by Ministry of External Affairs Joint Secretary Mahaveer Singhvi. US delegation was led by U.S. State Department’s Principal Deputy Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Alina L. Romanowski.
ii.Threats posed by terrorist groups throughout the world and in their respective regions including cross border terrorism in the South Asian region were reviewed by the working group.
iii. Both countries ensured to strengthen information exchange on world’s most dangerous terrorist groups and individuals.
iii. They discussed efforts to curb the funding and operations of regional and global terrorist organizations.
iv. Also international and bilateral cooperation on justice, law enforcement and capacity building efforts to counter terrorism and UN Security Council Resolution 2396 were discussed.
v. Current efforts to ensure implementation of domestic and international terrorist designations were discussed. Progress was achieved on counterterrorism cooperation between India and US.
vi.The next meeting of the Joint Working Group will be hosted by the United States in 2019.
Some museums in New Delhi:
♦ National Handicrafts and Handlooms Museum
♦ National Museum of Natural History
♦ National Rail Museum
Seychelles opposition blocks military deal with India
On March 27, 2018, Seychelles’ opposition coalition (which holds a majority in Seychelles Parliament) stated that it would not ratify a deal signed with India to build military infrastructure on its Assumption Island.
i. Agreement on Assumption Island Project in Seychelles was signed in 2015 during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Seychelles.
ii. However, owing to opposition, a revised agreement, including several amendments was prepared in January 2018.
iii. Now the opposition is not ready to ratify it as in past few months there has been public protests in Seychelles against this projects based on fear that India would appropriate the Assumption Island .
Quick Facts about Seychelles:
♦ Capital – Victoria
♦ Currency – Seychellois rupee
♦ Current President – Danny Faure
♦ Other nearby island countries – Comoros, Mauritius, Madagascar
Banking & Finance
SBI Card Launches Exclusive Credit Card for Doctors
On March 27, 2018, SBI Cards announced that it has partnered with Indian Medical Association (IMA) to launch ‘Doctor’s SBI Card’, which has been designed to complement the distinct lifestyles and needs of doctors.
More Information about ‘Doctor’s SBI Card’:
i. SBI Cards is a joint venture between India’s largest bank, State Bank of India and The Carlyle Group, while IMA is the voluntary representative organisation of Doctors.
ii. Among other features just like regular cards, unique proposition of ‘Doctor’s SBI Card is the professional indemnity insurance cover of Rs 10 lakh to protect doctors against professional risks and liabilities.
iii. This is an industry-first feature which covers legal and defense costs as well as out of court settlements and court awards emanating on account of unforeseen events of claims raised by patients or related parties.
Quick Facts about Indian Medical Association (IMA):
♦ Formed in – 1928
♦ Headquarters – New Delhi
India signs $80 Million Loan Agreement with ADB to boost Youth Employability in HP
Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of India have signed $80 million loan agreement to modernize technical and vocational education and training (TVET) institutions in State of Himachal Pradesh.
$80 Million ADB Loan for HP:
i. Funds procured through this loan will be used to conduct short-term and long-term training programs in growth areas including electronics, automobiles, pharmaceutical, tourism and hospitality, health care etc
ii. Relevant and good quality TVET programs will be developed which will improve employment prospects of nearly 65000 youths by 2022.
iii. Funds will be deployed in establishing a polytechnic for women, seven Rural Livelihood Centres, six city Livelihood Centers and upgrade 11 employment exchanges into model career Centres.
Quick Facts about Asian Development Bank (ADB):
♦ Formation Year – 1966
♦ Headquarters – Manila, Philippines
♦ Current President – Takehiko Nakaho
RBS India facilitates setting-up of WomenInTech Forum
Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) in India will facilitate to set up ‘WomenInTech (WIT) Forum that will work towards encouraging women to take up careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
More information about ‘WomenInTech (WIT) Forum:
i. WIT Forum will not only work towards creating awareness among young women about career opportunities in STEM but will also provide scholarships for economically weaker section.
ii. It will also provide mentoring and upskilling to increase the employability of women in STEM careers.
iii. Professional consultancy network Deloitte is the knowledge partner for this initiative.
iv. In the context of this news, it is important to note that nearly 2.5-3 million new jobs will be created in the IT and IT enabled services sector by 2025.
Quick Facts about Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS):
♦ Founded in – 1727
♦ Headquarters – Edinburgh, Scotland, UK
Appointments & Resigns
SC appoints Justice Jawad Rahim as acting chairperson of NGT
On 27th March 2018, Justice Jawad Rahim was appointed as the acting chairperson of National Green Tribunal (NGT) by the Supreme Court.
Justice Jawad Rahim – acting chairperson of NGT:
i. Justice Jawad Rahim is a judicial member of National Green Tribunal (NGT). He will perform his duties as acting chairperson of NGT until a regular appointment is made.
ii. He will also participate in the selection process of other members of the NGT. However, it has been made clear that his appointment is an interim arrangement and a regular appointment will be made soon for the post of the Chairman of NGT.
About National Green Tribunal (NGT):
♦ Established – 2010
♦ Location – New Delhi
♦ Purpose – effective and fast disposal of cases related to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right related to environment
Pradosh Kumar Rath to be new chairman cum managing director of RINL
Pradosh Kumar Rath has been shortlisted as the new chairman cum managing director (CMD) of RINL (Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd).
Pradosh Kumar Rath to be new chairman cum managing director of RINL:
i. At present, Pradosh Kumar Rath, is Director (Operations) at RINL. Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) selects candidates for top positions at public sector units.
ii. PESB had interviewed six candidates including Pradosh Kumar Rath for the chairman cum managing director position at RINL. Pradosh Kumar Rath was selected as the top choice by PESB on 27th March 2018.
iii. Pradosh Kumar Rath’s appointment is subject to clearance by the Central Vigilance Commission and the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet.
iv. If his appointment gets clearance, Pradosh Kumar Rath will get a 3 year tenure at RINL as CMD. RINL’s current CMD P Madhusudan will retire on 31st May 2018.
About RINL (Rashtriya Ispat Nigam Ltd):
♦ Headquarters – Visakhapatnam
♦ Operates – Vizag Steel Plant
Indu Bhushan appointed CEO of Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission
On 27th March 2018, Indu Bhushan was appointed the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission.
Indu Bhushan – CEO of Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission:
i. Indu Bhushan is the Director General of East Asia Department, Asian Development Bank (ADB) in Manila, Philippines. He has been appointed as CEO of Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission for 2 years.
ii. Earlier, he was Director General of the Strategy and Policy Department in ADB. He joined ADB in 1997.
About Ayushman Bharat National Health Protection Mission:
♦ Benefit cover – Rs 5 lakh per family per year
♦ Target beneficiaries – more than 10 crore families belonging to poor and vulnerable section
Rahul Dravid appointed state election icon for Karnataka Assembly polls
Karnataka Chief Electoral Officer Sanjiv Kumar announced that, cricketer Rahul Dravid will be the state election icon for Karnataka Assembly polls.
Rahul Dravid – state election icon for Karnataka Assembly polls:
i. Sanjiv Kumar said that, disabled government employees will be appointed as polling staff in selected polling stations for the first time.
ii. He added that, 450 all-women polling stations will be set up. The Election Commission of India has announced a single phase poll for the Karnataka Legislative Assembly on 12th May 2018.
iii. The Karnataka Legislative Assembly comprises 224 members. Votes will be counted on 15th May 2018.
About Election Commission of India:
♦ Chief Election Commissioner – Om Prakash Rawat
♦ Election Commissioners – Sunil Arora, Ashok Lavasa
Win Myint elected as President of Myanmar
On 28th March 2018, Win Myint was elected as President of Myanmar by Myanmar’s parliament.
Win Myint – President of Myanmar:
i. Win Myint replaces Htin Kyaw as President of Myanmar. Last week Htin Kyaw resigned citing health reasons.
ii. Win Myint is 66 years old. He is former speaker of Myanmar’s House of Representatives. He is a member of National League for Democracy.
iii. He was made a vice-president of Myanmar last week. On 28th March 2018, the Myanmar Parliament voted for the three vice-presidents to elect one of them to the post of President.
iv. Win Myint secured 403 votes and defeated Myint Swe who obtained 211 votes and Henry Van Tio who got 18 votes.
About National League for Democracy:
♦ Headquarters – Yangon, Myanmar
♦ Chairperson – Aung San Suu Kyi
Awards & Recognition
President confers Gallantry Awards in Delhi
On March 27, 2018, President Ram Nath Kovind presented Gallantry Awards and distinguished service decorations at the Defence Investiture Ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.
Gallantry Awards presented by President of India:
i. President Kovind presented three Kirti Chakra, 17 Shaurya Chakra, 14 Param Vishisht Seva Medals (PVSM), one Uttam Yudh Seva Medal (UYSM) and 22 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals (AVSM).
ii. These awards were announced on the eve of Republic Day.
iii. Kirti Chakra is the second highest peacetime gallantry award (After Ashok Chakra), presented for valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice away from the field of battle.
iv. Kirti Chakra was presented to CRPF Commandant Chetan Cheetah and Major Vijayant Bist of the 4th Battalion of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry. Major David Manlun of the 164 Infantry Battalion of the Naga Regiment was honoured posthumously with the Kirti Chakra.
v. Vice President of India – Venkaiah Naidu, Prime Minister of India – Narendra Modi and Union Defence Minister – Nirmala Sitharaman were also present at the occasion.
Two Indian activists shortlisted for Commonwealth Youth Awards 2018
Two Indian activists Mirnalini Dayal and Yogesh Kumar have been selected among 20 finalists for the Commonwealth Youth Awards 2018 for their contribution towards achieving gender equality.
Two Indian activists shortlisted for Commonwealth Youth Awards 2018:
i. Mirnalini Dayal and Yogesh Kumar have been selected from across 53 Commonwealth member-countries.
ii. Mirnalini Dayal has been chosen for her work as a campaign leader for ‘Health Over Stigma’.
iii. Yogesh Kumar has been shortlisted for establishing the social enterprise ‘Even Cargo’.
iv. Both the finalists are based in Delhi. They were selected for their work towards achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal No. 5 on gender equality.
v. The Commonwealth Youth Awards 2018 recognises people from 15 to 29 years of age whose work had a remarkable impact on their communities.
vi. All finalists will be granted 1,000 pounds to continue their development work along with a trophy and certificate.
vii. The Regional Young Persons of the Year will be granted 3,000 pounds, and the Commonwealth Young Person of the Year will receive 5,000 pounds.
viii. Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) will be held in April 2018 in London.
About Commonwealth of Nations:
♦ Head – Elizabeth II
♦ Secretary-General – Patricia Scotland
Science & Technology
NASA to launch GRACE-FO mission to observe Earth’s frozen regions
On March 27, 2018, US space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) announced that during 2018, it will launch two new satellite missions to enhance the view of Earth’s frozen regions.
NASA’s missions to observe Earth’s frozen regions:
i. Firstly, NASA in collaboration with German Research Centre for Geosciences will launch the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission (as a continuation of the original GRACE mission) which will track fluctuations in Earth’s gravity field in order to detect changes in mass, including the mass of ice sheets and aquifers.
ii. Thereafter, Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite-2 (ICESat-2) will be launched to measure the changing elevation of ice around the world. ICESat-2 will use a highly advanced laser instrument.
iii. These missions are significant as it will offer insights into changes in Cryosphere (portions of Earth’s surface where water is in solid form viz. sea ice, glaciers, ice caps etc.) which are impacting lives of people all around the world.
Quick Facts about NASA:
♦ Founded in – 1958
♦ Headquarters – Washington D.C., US
AIFF launches scouting App to unearth talent
On 27th March 2018, All India Football Federation (AIFF) launched “Scout-Me”, a mobile based scouting application to discover future players.
i. AIFF has become the first National Sports Federation to launch a mobile based scouting application to discover future players. Scout-Me app will make the scouting process easy.
ii. Scout-Me app has been developed by Kush Pandey. Kush Pandey is 17 years old. He is a football enthusiast.
iii. He had represented Delhi at the National Championships. He also leads his school football team.
About All India Football Federation (AIFF):
♦ President – Praful Patel
♦ Location – New Delhi
Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation launches New portal for pensioners
On 28th March 2018, Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) launched a new portal which enables EPFO pensioners to obtain pension-related information.
EPFO launches New portal for pensioners:
i. This portal will help users to obtain details like pension payment order number, payment order details, passbook information and other related information.
ii. It will also help pensioners to check the status of their life certificate. It will also furnish details and reason for stoppage of pension.
iii. The enhanced “Track eKYC” facility for the convenience of members has also been introduced to verify status of Aadhaar seeded against their Universal Account Number (UAN).
iv. The facility can be accessed at Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO)’s website: www.epfindia.gov.in
About Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO):
♦ Central Provident Fund Commissioner – Dr. V. P. Joy
♦ Headquarters – New Delhi
Steve Smith, David Warner hit with 12-month ban
On 28th March 2018, Steve Smith and David Warner were banned from playing for Australia by Cricket Australia after the ball-tampering scandal during the Cape Town Test against South Africa.
Steve Smith, David Warner hit with 12-month ban:
i. It was found out that sandpaper was used in an attempt to rough up the ball. Opener Cameron Bancroft has been given a nine-month ban for executing the plan in the third South Africa Test.
ii. Steve Smith has been banned from captaining the Australian national team for two years. It is said that, David Warner, former vice-captain, will never be considered for any leadership position in the future.
iii. Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft will have to wait 12 months for them to be considered for a leadership role.
About Cricket Australia:
♦ Formed – 1905
♦ Chairman – David Peever
Veteran journalist V. Sriharsha passes away
On 27th March 2018, V. Sriharsha, a reputed journalist, died due to cardiac arrest, in New Delhi.
Death of V. Sriharsha:
i. V. Sriharsha was 62 years old. He worked as a media consultant with the GMR Group after he had retired as Bureau Chief of ETV (Delhi).
ii. Earlier, he had worked with The Indian Express, Pioneer and Deccan Chronicle.
Some UNESCO cultural Heritage Sites in India:
♦ Group of Monuments at Hampi – Karnataka
♦ Group of Monuments at Mahabalipuram – Tamil Nadu
♦ Group of Monuments at Pattadakal – Karnataka