Gyaankosh – Current Affairs for March 2019 – Set 2

  • The fourth session of the UN Environment Assembly gathered in Nairobi, Kenya from 11 – 15 March 2019.  In the five-day UN Environment Assembly, countries from around the world has set their sights on a pivotal deal to curb plastic waste, a source of long-term pollution and worsening contamination of the ocean’s food chain.  The UN wants individual countries to sign up to significantly reduce plastic production, including a phasing out of single-use plastics by 2030, a goal inspired by the 2015 Paris Agreement on voluntary reductions of carbon emissions. 
  • The world currently produces more than 300 million tonnes of plastics annually, and there are at least five trillion plastic pieces floating in our oceans.
  • A resolution plan of Rs. 42,000 crores submitted by ArcelorMittal for the acquisition of Essar Steel Ltd. was approved by the Ahmedabad bench of the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). The approval has been granted 583 days after the beginning of insolvency proceedings, against the mandatory time period of 270 days.
  • According to the latest report published by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), India was the world’s second largest importer of major arms in 2014–18 and accounted for 9.5% of the global total.
    Saudi Arabia which holds the long-held tag as largest importer accounted for 12% of the total imports during the period.  Russia accounted for 58% of Indian arms imports in 2014–18, compared with 76% in 2009-13. Israel, the U.S., and France all increased their arms exports to India in 2014-18. The Russian share in Indian imports is likely to sharply go up for the next five-year period as India signed several deals including S-400 air defence systems, four stealth frigates, AK-203 assault rifles, a second nuclear attack submarine on the lease, and deals for Kamov-226T utility helicopters, Mi-17 helicopters, and short-range air defence systems.
  • The Madhya Pradesh government issued an ordinance increasing reservation quota for the Other Backward Classes (OBC) to 27% from the current 14%.
  • Astronomers from Thiruvananthapuram and Mumbai have identified a new population of ultraviolet stars in the globular cluster NGC 2808 using the Indian multi-wavelength space observatory AstroSat, launched in September 2015. AstroSat is India’s dedicated multi-wavelength space observatory which endeavours for a more detailed understanding of our universe.
  • Google on March 12 celebrated 30 years of the World Wide Web (WWW) with a doodle. On March 12, 1989, British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee while working at European Organisation for Nuclear Research in Switzerland, CERN, submitted a proposal for an information sharing system that would become the WWW. On April 30, 1993, CERN put WWW software in the public domain. Its popularity started spreading from November with the launch of Mosaic, the first search engine to accept pictures. That revolutionised the web, making it user friendly. Mosaic was later replaced by the likes of Internet Explorer, Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox.
  • The Indian cricket team retained its second spot in the T20I team rankings with 122 points, despite the recent series loss against Australia at home. Pakistan tops ICC T20I rankings with 135 points, with England remaining at third place with 121 points. In the T20I batsmen rankings, Indian batsman KL Rahul moved up to the fifth spot. In the T20I bowlers’ list, Kuldeep Yadav, who was rested for two T20Is against Australia, dropped a place to the fifth rank. Pakistan’s Babar Azam and Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan remained in top positions in batsmen and bowlers’ list respectively.
  • State Bank of India has become the first domestic bank to link the interest rate it offers on savings account deposits to an external benchmark — the Reserve Bank of India’s repo rate. By doing so, the bank will effectively link all loan rates to an external benchmark either directly or indirectly, thereby attempting to speed up the transmission of any changes in the benchmark monetary policy rate to depositors and borrowers.
  • Distinguished scientist Ajit Kumar Mohanty was on appointed Director of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC), the country’s premier multi-disciplinary nuclear research facility.
  • Lok Sabha 2019 elections start from April 11, in seven phases, says Election Commission. Code of Conduct for parties kicks in from 10th March and there are close to 90 crore eligible voters. Date of counting will be on the 23rd of May 2019.
  • According to data provided by the World Gold Council (WGC), India has the 11th largest gold reserve and the current holding pegged at 607 tonnes. The Netherlands holds the 10th position with 612.5 tonnes, or just about 5.5 tonnes ahead of RBI. The top spot is occupied by US gold reserves of 8,133.5 tonnes, followed by Germany with 3,369.7 tonnes. International Monetary Fund (IMF) ranks third on the list with total gold reserves of 2,814 tonnes.
  • Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft banned by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in the Indian airspace from 1600 hrs IST or 1030 UTC 13th March 2019. The airlines affected by this are SpiceJet which has 13 jets of the model 8 variant and Jet Airways which has 5 jets of this variant.
  • HDFC Bank Ltd crossed the Rs6 trillion market capitalization mark for the first time, making it only the third Indian firm—after Tata Consultancy Services Ltd (TCS) and Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL)—to achieve the milestone. RIL is the most valued company in India with a market cap of Rs8.50 trillion, followed by TCS at Rs7.48 trillion.
  • Special Olympics World Games 2019 is held at Abu Dhabi, from March 14 to 21. The Games were declared open by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. There are 7,500 athletes from 190 countries taking part at the Games this year. Team India is the second largest contingent after the host UAE with 387 players, along with coaches and other staff. The Special Olympics takes place every two years and alternates between summer and winter.
  • Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old Swedish student and activist has been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts in climate activism and fighting global warming. She began her weekly protest in August 2018 by riding her bicycle to the Swedish Parliament with ”School strike for climate” sign. The #FridaysForFuture movement went viral and spread over 80 countries. If she were to win, she would be the youngest recipient since Pakistan’s Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 when she received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014.
  • The Austrian capital Vienna has topped Mercer’s index of most liveable cities for the 10th year in a row. Zurich in Switzerland, is placed second in the index, while Auckland, Munich and Vancouver came joint third. Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu is ranked at 105 in Mercer’s Quality Of Living Index and is the number one city from India. Luxembourg was named the safest city in a separate personal safety league table. Global consulting firm Mercer surveyed in 231 cities across the globe and were ranked them based on factors such as healthcare, education, public services, recreation, crime, housing and personal freedom. The ranking was based on data analysed between September and November 2018.
  • International Football Federation (FIFA) President Gianni Infantino announced that India will host the U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020. The tournament in India will be the seventh edition. India will take part in the tournament for the first time in its history. This will be the second FIFA tournament India will be hosting, after the U-17 Men’s World Cup in 2017. The U-17 women’s tournament began in 2008, when New Zealand hosted it. Spain is the current champions.
  • As per RBI notification, IDBI Bank has been categorized as a private sector lender following the acquisition of majority stake by Life Insurance Corporation. IDBI Bank has been under the prompt corrective action framework of RBI that bans it from corporate lending and branch expansions, salary hikes and other regular activities.
  • The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved designating Shri Subhash Chandra Garg, lAS, Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs, Ministry of Finance as Finance Secretary.
  • Indian Writer Raghu Karnad has won the Windham-Campbell Prize $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize in the non-fiction category for his debut book, The Farthest Field: An Indian Story of The Second World War. Raghu Karnad is the son of legendary writer and the Jnanpith awardee Girish Karnad.
  • Manohar Parrikar, Goa Chief Minister and former defence minister, has passed away at the age of 63 after a long battle with pancreatic cancer. Parrikar was diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer in February 2018. He was an IIT Mumbai graduate in metallurgical engineering and among the first members of BJP in Goa.
  • Kerala is also the only state in the country to have an entire government department set up to address the grievances of non-resident Keralites (NRKs). ‘NORKA Roots’ clears applications for loans from ‘pravasis’ to open businesses, helps with certificate attestation to migrate abroad and under the ‘santhwanam’ programme, disburses assistance to disadvantaged families for health and marriages.
    The Non Resident Keralites Affairs abbreviated as NORKA is a department of the Government of Kerala formed on 6 December 1996. It is the first of its kind formed in any Indian state. The department was formed in an attempt to strengthen the relationship between the NRKs and the Government of Kerala and to institutionalise the administrative framework. The field agency of NORKA is known as the NORKA Roots, which was set up in 2002 to act as an interface between the NRKs and the Kerala Government. It also acts as a forum for addressing the NRKs problem, safeguarding their rights and rehabilitating the returnees.
  • The State Bank of India has launched a new service called ‘YONO Cash’ for its customers using which customers can withdraw money from ATMs without using debit cards. This facility is available over 16,500 of its ATMs through the You Only Need One (YONO), mobile app platform for the first time in the country. The ATMs enabled for this service will be called as YONO Cash Point.
  • The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) named State Bank of India (SBI), ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs), which in other words mean banks that are too big to fail.
  • The Winners in the various categories of the All England Open Badminton Championships 2019 are:
    • Men’s Singles: Japan’s Kento Momota
    • Women’s Singles: China’s Chen Yufei
    • Men’s Doubles: Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan & Hendra Setiawan
    • Women’s Doubles: China’s Chen Qingchen & Jia Yifan
    • Mixed Doubles: China’s Zheng Siwei & Huang Yaqiong
  • The first day of Spring 2019 is on 20th March. Spring equinox today will experience an equal amount of daylight in the Northern and Southern hemispheres. The spring equinox occurs when the sun is directly in line with the equator. While in the North, it marks the beginning of spring, with daylight hours continuing to lengthen until the summer solstice in June. In the south of the equator, it is the beginning of autumn. Spring Equinox occurs twice every year, around March 20 and September 23. 
  • Tata, Reliance, and Airtel emerged as the top three Indian brands of 2019, according to a report published by Interbrand, part of the Omnicom Media Group. Tata continued to hold the top position in the best Indian Brands ranking as its brand value grew by 6%, mainly due to Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). Knocking Airtel off from the 2nd spot, Reliance’s brand value grew by 12%, bolstered by the success of Jio. Airtel stood at number 3.
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