August 23, 2019

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National

  1. HRD Ministry launches initiative to train over 42 lakh teachers
  • The HRD Ministry launched the National Initiative for School Heads’ and Teachers’ Holistic Advancements (NISHTHA) here aimed at training over 42 lakh teachers across the country.
  • NISHTHA is the world’s biggest such project and will focus on training 42 lakh teachers from across the country.
  • HRD Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ launched the initiative’s website, training modules, primer booklet and mobile app built for the purpose.
  1. Tourism ministry announces new 5 year visa and other e-visa relaxations in the works
  • A reduction in the e-visa(electronic visa) fee was proposed by the tourism ministry with the aim of attracting more foreign travellers to the country. As of the proposed plan, a new 5-year visa plan was announced, and also the e-visa fee will be offered with the option of short-term as well as long-term tourist e-visa plan.
  • The announcement was made by Tourism Minister Prahlad Singh Patel (Minister of State- independent charge), at the State Tourism Ministers’ conference held on august 20, 2019 in New Delhi.
  • Last year, the government made plans to increase foreign tourist arrivals to 20 million by 2020. As of 2017, the number stood at 10 million.
  1. Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh approves decisions regarding re-organisation of Army Headquarters
  • Union Minister for Defence Shri Rajnath Singh approved certain decisions regarding re-organisation of Army Headquarters, based on a detailed internal study conducted by the Army Headquarters (AHQ).
  • An independent vigilance cell will be made functional under COAS (Chief of Army Staff) with Tri-Services representation. Accordingly, ADG- Additional Directorate General (Vigilance) will be placed directly under the COAS for this purpose It will have three Colonel-level officers (one each from Indian Army, Indian Air Force and Indian Navy).
  • This will be done within the existing posts at AHQ. At present, the vigilance function for the COAS is through multiple agencies and there is no single point interface.
  1. FASTags will be mandatory for all vehicles from December 2019: Nitin Gadkari
  • Shri Nitin Gadkari, Minister of Road Transport & Highways (MoRTH) stated that FASTags will become mandatory for all vehicles from December 2019, during the launch of the new website that gives data about highways construction, land acquisition, FASTags, etc.

Key points:

♦A total of  52.59 lakh FASTags have been issued till now. These are being issued through various channels such as Point-of-Sale (PoS) by 22 certified banks at NH toll plazas, bank branches, etc.

♦The Ministry has also initiated steps to enact the Motor Vehicles Act 2019 to help tackle road accidents and bring down fatalities. 63 clauses deal with penalties, licenses, registration and National Transport Policy which do not require framing of new rules, have been sent clearance to Law Ministry for evaluation.

♦FASTag: It is an electronic toll connection device attached to the windscreen of the vehicle to enable drivers to pass through toll plazas without having to stop for a cash transaction.

♦It uses radio frequency identification (RFID) technology to enable direct toll payments while the vehicle is moving. The toll fee is deducted from the bank account linked to FASTag.

State

  1. Rajasthan govt to give 70 litres free water everyday per person
  • Rajasthan CM Ashok Gehlot has approved a proposal to provide 70 litres of water for free to residents of the 13 desert districts of the state.
  • The state chief minister has approved the proposal of the finance department for amending the water tariff to give relief to the people of the state.
  • The state government had previously approved to provide 40 litres of free water to all individuals in rural areas of the state.
  1. Punjab launches ‘Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojna’ dedicated to Rajiv Gandhi
  • Paying tribute to former Prime Minister late Rajiv Gandhi on his 75th birth anniversary, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh launched his government’s flagship universal health insurance scheme ‘Sarbat Sehat Bima Yojana’, benefitting nearly 46 lakh families, in Mohali near Chandigarh.
  • e-cards were handed over to the first 11 beneficiaries to kick off the scheme, which would entitle beneficiaries to avail annual cashless treatment up to ₹5 lakh per family per year, including pre-existing diseases, was aimed at ensuring the best possible treatment to the beneficiaries free of cost.
  • Punjab has become the first state in the country to offer medical insurance cover to the maximum number of its people.
  1. Karnataka best state to set up rooftop solar project
  • Karnataka ranks the best among states for setting up a rooftop solar project, according to the Attractiveness Index (SARAL) released by Minster of New and Renewable Energy and Power R K Singh.
  • Telangana, Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh come next in the rankings. All four states i.e. Karnataka, Telangana, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh have been graded A++.
  • The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been ranked last. This rating has been designed collaboratively by MNRE, Shakti Sustainable Energy Foundation (SSEF), Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ASSOCHAM) and Ernst & Young (EY).
  1. Haryana CM increases family income limit for BPL beneficiary
  • The Chief Minister of Haryana Shri Manohar Lal Khattar, increased the family income limit of households from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 per month to qualify as Below Poverty Line(BPL) beneficiary. It was announced at a BPL ration card distribution function in Panchkula, Haryana.

Key points

♦Ration cards were distributed to 37 BPL beneficiaries of Panchkula and Kalka in Haryana.

♦A total of 56,315 beneficiaries received ration cards at the special functions organised simultaneously in all 22 districts of the state after a gap of 8 years.

♦The beneficiary will receive food grains and other food items at subsidised rate.

Banking & Finance

  1. BookMyForex partners with YES Bank to launch Forex Card on Visa network
  • com, the world’s first and largest marketplace for foreign exchange and remittances, announces the launch of a co-branded Multi-Currency Forex Travel-card in partnership with YES Bank and Visa to offer a seamless experience to Indian overseas travellers.
  • Customers will now be able to buy Forex Travel Cards at the click of a button on the BookMyForex platform and get free doorstep delivery across major cities in India.
  • Further, to promote the sale of forex travel cards over forex currency notes, BookMyForex will offer zero margin or exact inter-bank rates 24×7 on Forex card sales.
  • BookMyForex is also offering new age and increasingly popular contactless cards that allow a user to simply tap their card on a POS terminal, a must-have feature in countries such as the UK where some merchants only allow contactless payments.
  1. RBI permits processing of e-mandate on credit and debit cards for recurring merchant payments
  • India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has permitted processing of e-mandate on credit and debit cards along with Prepaid Payment Instruments (PPIs), including wallets for recurring merchant payments with AFA (Additional Factor Authentication, a security measure put in place for card payments that requires OTP – one-time password verification) during registration and 1st It will come into effect from 1 September 2019.
  • Applicability: Cards shall be only for recurring payment transactions and not for a ‘once-only’ payment.
  • Transaction limit: The maximum permissible limit under this payment system shall be Rs 2,000 per transaction.
  1. RBI Extends Timings of RTGS Transactions by an hour from 7 am instead of 8 am from August 26, 2019
  • India’s central bank, the Reserve Bank of India(RBI) has extended the timings of Real-Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) transactions by an hour from 7 AM instead of 8 AM with effect from August 26, 2019 with the aim to increase the availability of the RTGS system.

Key points:

♦At present, the Real Time Gross Settlement (RTGS) System is available for customer transactions from 8 AM to 6 PM and for inter-bank transactions from 8 AM to 7.45 PM.

♦In order to promote digital transactions, the RBI (Reserve Bank of India) had decided to allow the National Electronic Funds Transfer (NEFT) services to be active 24×7 from December 2019 from the current timings of 8.00 am to 7.00 pm on all working days(excluding  2nd and 4th  Saturdays of a month). NEFT is used for fund transfers up to Rs. 2 lakh maintained by the Reserve Bank of India. There is no maximum and minimum limit of money transferred through NEFT.

♦RTGS: It is for large-value instantaneous fund transfers with the minimum limit of Rs 2 lakh &there is no maximum limit.

Business & Economy

  1. Defence production target set at Rs 90,000 crore for 2019-2020
  • The department of defence production set a target for 2019-20 is nearly 12 per cent higher than the production achieved in the previous financial year.
  • In the financial year 2018-19, the department had produced equipment worth Rs 80,502 crore.
  • Exports worth Rs 15,000 crore have been envisaged from the total quantity of equipment produced.
  1. Amazon opens its largest campus in the world in Hyderabad
  • Amazon India inaugurated the largest company-owned campus, worldwide in Hyderabad, the only one outside the US. The e-commerce firm will house more than 15,000 employees out of the over 62,000 members of the India team.
  • The Hyderabad based campus is the only Amazon-owned office outside the United States and will house over 15,000 employees of its over 62,000 employee base in India.
  • Prior to this, the company had the largest buildings in Seattle that could house about 5,000 employees.
  1. India’s GDP growth set to slow further to 5.7% in April-June quarter: Nomura Report
  • According to the report by Nomura, a global financial services major, India’s GDP (Gross Domestic Product) growth is set to slow further in the April-June quarter of 2019 to 5.7% year on year (YoY) from 5.8%, before improving to 6.4% YoY in Q3 and 6.7% in Q4. The economy is expected to see some recovery in the July-September quarter.

Key Points:

♦Improvement: Data so far for July 2019 shows that 53% of indicators have improved compared with 31% in June 2019. Nomura’s Composite Leading Index (CLI) for July-September quarter has ticked marginally higher to 99.9 from 99.8 in Q2, led by higher industrial production growth, an improvement in visitor arrivals growth, equity markets and lower policy rates.

♦Sector wise analysis: The automobile sector is facing its worst crisis in two decades and reports suggest thousands of job losses in the auto and ancillary industry. In the real estate sector, the number of unsold homes has increased. The Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) companies have reported a decline in volume growth in Q1.

♦Decline in GDP: India’s economic growth slowed to 6.8% in 2018-19 – the slowest pace since 2014-15, reason being the slowdown in the economy. Consumer confidence is waning, Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) has plateaued and international trade and currency war is further aggravating the problem.

  1. Knight Frank ranks Delhi as the 10th fastest growing market globally
  • Prime Global Cities Index of London based consultancy Knight Frank has ranked Delhi as the 10th fastest growing prime market globally. The index is topped by Berlin(Germany) whereas Istanbul(Turkey) and Vancouver(Canada) were the weakest markets with rates minus 9.9% and minus 13.6% respectively.

Key points

♦Bengaluru (2.8%) and Mumbai (0.8%) were ranked 15th and 30th on the list, respectively.

Prime Global Index:

♦46 cities’ movement globally were tracked based on its luxury residential prices but only 35 out of those 46 cities have projected price growth.

♦Despite Berlin ranking first in the index, its annual growth rate has decreased from 14.1 per cent in March to 12.7% in June and Frankfurt, by comparison, has seen its annual price growth increase from 9.6% to 12% over the same period.

♦However as of June 2019, Luxury residential prices have overall registered an average increase of 1.4 per cent.

♦The index is expected to moderate further in the second half of 2019 before strengthening in 2020.

Appointment & Resignation

  1. Dr Ajay Kumar appointed as Defence Secretary
  • Dr Ajay Kumar, a 1985-batch IAS officer of Kerala cadre, has been appointed as Defence Secretary in the Ministry of Defence.
  • The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) has approved the appointment of Dr Kumar who will replace Sanjay Mitra, a 1982-batch IAS officer of West Bengal cadre, upon the completion of his term.
  • Also, ACC has approved the appointment of Ajay Kumar Bhalla, as Home Secretary. He is a 1982-batch IAS officer, an officer on Special Duty, Ministry of Home Affairs.
  1. Rajeev Gauba-Home Secretary, appointed as the next Cabinet Secretary
  • the Union Home Secretary Rajiv Gauba, was appointed next as the new cabinet secretary (the most powerful position in the country’s civil service), replacing PK Sinha. He is appointed for a period of two years from august 30,2019, approved by the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC).

Key points:

♦Gauba, a 1982-batch IAS officer of the Jharkhand cadre will initially join as the Officer on Special Duty in the Cabinet Secretariat after which he will take over from Sinha.

♦He was a key architect of the Jammu and Kashmir Reorganisation Act under which Jammu and Kashmir were divided into two union territories under Article 370 of the Constitution.

♦Rajiv Gauba had also served as secretary in the Union Urban Development Ministry, Additional Secretary in the Home Ministry and as chief secretary of Jharkhand previously.

♦Power secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla who had joined as the officer on special duty in the home ministry will take over as the home secretary for a tenure of two years.

Books

  1. Culture Minister Shri Prahlad Singh Patel launched the book called ‘the Diary of Manu Gandhi’ in New Delhi
  • Shri Prahlad Singh Patel, Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Culture and Tourism has launched the book called‘the Diary of Manu Gandhi’(1943-44) at a function in the auditorium of Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi

Key points:

♦Manu Gandhi (Mridula) was a grand niece of Mahatma Gandhi, daughter of his Nephew Jaisukhlal Amritlal Gandhi, and stayed with Gandhiji till his assassination. The 1st volume of the diary is a record of her life and times with M.K. Gandhi between 1943 and 1944.

♦It  has been brought out by National Archives of India, an Attached Office under the Ministry of Culture on the occasion of 150th anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi in collaboration with Oxford University Press.

♦The diary was in Gujarati language & it has been edited and translated by Dr. Tridip Suhrud, a popular scholar engaged in understanding the Gandhian Intellectual tradition.

♦The author also shares a moment of Kasturba Gandhi’s illness and death and also unravels the deep emotional bond she develops with Gandhi, whom she calls her ‘mother’.

Science, Space & Technology

  1. NASA confirms Europa Clipper Mission
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), United States (US) space agency, has confirmed the next phase of development of the Europa Clipper Mission, an interplanetary mission to Jupiter’s smallest moon Europa, with the target to launch by 2023. It will be conducting an in-depth exploration of Jupiter’s moon Europa and investigate whether the icy moon can have suitable conditions for sustaining life and increase our insights into astrobiology.

Key Points:

♦The space agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California leads the development of the Europa Clipper mission in partnership with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory for the Science Mission Directorate.

♦The mission is managed by the Planetary Missions Program Office at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

♦Reason: Jupiter’s Galilean moon Europa consists of a huge ocean of liquid water beneath its icy shell. The water is in contact with the rocky core of the moon, which according to space scientists, make a range of interesting chemical reactions possible. Hence astrobiologists consider 1,940-miles-wide (3,120 kilometres) Europa moon to be one of the best bets to host alien life in the solar system.

  1. Microplastic in water is not harmful: WHO
  • According to a new assessment by the World Health Organization, there is currently no evidence to suggest a human health risk from microplastics in drinking water.
  • This report also says that irrespective of whether there are any risks to human health, there is a need to improve management of plastics and reduce plastic pollution.
  • WHO report said that there is no universally agreed definition of microplastics but they are generally considered to be smaller than half a millimetre across.

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August 23, 2019

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