Current Affairs – March 2019
2019 Lok Sabha election
The 2019 Lok Sabha elections will be held in seven phases from 11 April to 19 May, covering a total of 543 constituencies, to form the 17th Lok Sabha. The result of these elections is scheduled to be announced on 23 May 2019.
The Election Commission, in a press conference, announced that nearly 900 million electorates have registered for the elections this year. The current Lok Sabha tenure will end on 3 June 2019.
These are the most important elections of the country and take place once in every five years. To form the central government, a party needs 272 MPs to win. If a party doesn’t have 272 MPs on its own, it can ally with other parties and form the government. The Prime Minister of the country is chosen from the winning party.
For more details, visit https://www.indiatoday.in
Government of India releases new series of visually-impaired friendly coins
The Government of India released a new series of visually-impaired friendly coins at a function in New Delhi on 7 March 2019, in the denominations of ₹1, ₹2, ₹5, ₹10 and ₹20. The coins keep increasing in size and weight from lower to higher denominations. They have been designed by the National Institute of Design and are round in shape, except the 20-rupee coin, which is in the shape of a 12-edged polygon and weighs 8.4 grams.
According to the official press release, the Prime Minister said that these coins will act as an aid to the visually impaired and will instil confidence in them.
For more details, visit http://www.pib.nic.in
Pinaki Chandra Ghose appointed as India’s first Lokpal
Retired Supreme Court judge, Pinaki Chandra Ghose, was appointed as India’s first Lokpal on 19 March 2019 to probe corruption cases against public servants of the nation, including the Prime Minister and the chief ministers.
This advancement came into effect nearly five years after the Lokpal Act was notified in January, 2014.
The selection committee, led by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, also appointed former SSB chief Archana Ramasundaram, ex-Maharashtra chief secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain, Mahender Singh and Indrajeet Prasad Gautam as the non-judicial members of the Lokpal.
Furthermore, Justices Dilip B Bhosale, Ajay Kumar Tripathi, Pradip Kumar Mohanty and Abhilasha Kumari have been appointed as the judicial members.
For more details, visit https://www.livemint.com
Pramod Sawant sworn-in as the 11th Goa Chief Minister
The former speaker of the Goa Legislative Assembly, Pramod Sawant, was sworn-in as the Chief Minister of Goa on 19 March 2019. Sawant succeeded Manohar Parrikar, who breathed his last on 17 March after a prolonged battle with advanced pancreatic cancer.
Along with the CM, Ramkrishna Dhavlikar of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Vijai Sardesai of the Goa Forward Party, were sworn in as Deputy Chief Ministers. Other ministers who were sworn-in included Manohar Ajgaonkar (MGP), Rohan Khavtye (independent), Govind Gaude (independent), Vinod Palyekar (Goa Forward Party), Jayesh Salgaonkar (Goa Forward Party) and four members of BJP, namely Mauvin Godinho, Vishwajit Rane, Milind Naik and Nilesh Cabral.
For more details, visit https://www.ndtv.com
Vice Admiral Karambir Singh appointed next Navy Chief
Overlooking seniority in service chief appointments, the government appointed Vice Admiral Karambir Singh as the next Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS) in March, 2019. Singh will succeed Admiral Sunil Lanba, who shall retire from the post on 30 May 2019.
According to news reports, official sources say that this decision has been taken by following a merit-based approach, unlike the tradition of appointing the most senior eligible officer.
Presently, Vice Admiral Singh is serving as the Flag Officer Commanding in Chief (FOC-in-C) of the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam. He is a recipient of the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) and the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM).
For more details, visit https://www.indiatoday.in
India to host FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup 2020
The Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) announced that India will host the seventh edition of U-17 Women’s World Cup in 2020. The decision was taken at the FIFA Council meeting held at Miami on 15 March 2019.
This is the second time that the country will be playing the FIFA World Cup tournament by virtue of being hosts. Previously, India played the FIFA tournament when they hosted the U-17 Men’s World Cup in 2017. Besides India, fifteen other teams will be shortlisted for the final tournament.
In the last tournament held in Uruguay, Spain won the World Cup by beating Mexico by 2-1 in the final round. Claudia Pina from Spain was named the best player of the tournament, Mukarama Abdulai from Ghana became the top scorer and Catalina Coll from Spain was named the best goalkeeper.
The first U-17 women’s tournament was held in 2008 in New Zealand.
For more details, visit https://sports.ndtv.com
SC lifts life ban imposed on Sreesanth
The Supreme Court lifted the lifetime ban imposed by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on cricketer, S. Sreesanth, on alleged charges of spot-fixing during the 2013 IPL.
On 15 March 2019, the SC bench, comprising Justice Ashok Bhushan and Justice K. M. Joseph, directed the BCCI to reconsider the punishment within the next three months. However, the order shall not have any effect on the criminal proceedings pending against the bowler in the Delhi High Court.
Sreesanth was accused of receiving money for conceding 14 runs in an over during a match held between the Indian Premier League teams, Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab, in Mohali in May 2013.
For more details, visit https://www.deccanherald.com
India bags 368 medals at Special Olympics
India scripted history in the Special Olympics World Games by bagging 368 medals, including 85 gold, 154 silver and 129 bronze, in various sports such as cycling, judo, table tennis, roller skating, volleyball, badminton, golf, etc.
Over 7,500 athletes from 190 countries participated in the 15th edition of Special Olympics, held between March 14 and March 21 in Abu Dhabi.
The Special Olympics World Games is an international sporting competition for athletes with intellectual disabilities. It is held every two years, alternately between Summer and Winter Games. The next event is scheduled to take place in Sweden in 2021.
For more details, visit https://scroll.in
Swachh Survekshan 2019 Awards announced
Based on the cleanliness survey conducted by the central government in 4,237 cities over a span of 28 days, Swachh Survekshan Awards for the session 2019 have been announced. Here’s a list of some of the winners:
Cleanest city: Indore
Cleanest big city (above 10 lakh population): Ahmedabad
Cleanest medium city (3–10 lakh population): Ujjain
Cleanest small city (1–3 lakh): New Delhi Municipal Council
Cleanest capital: Bhopal
Best Ganga town: Gauchar
Fastest moving big city: Raipur
This survey is conducted with the intent of encouraging large-scale participation of citizens and creating awareness about the importance of working together towards making the country a cleaner place.
For more details, visit https://www.businesstoday.in
World pledges to reduce the use of plastics by 2030
After five days of talks at the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) in Nairobi, Kenya, 170 countries pledged to significantly reduce the single-use plastics, such as bags straws, bottles and cutlery, by 2030.
According to news reports, Siim Kiisler, the UN General Assembly President said, “The environment is at a turning point. We don’t need verbose documents, we need concrete commitments.”
The UN also informed that almost 500 billion disposable plastic bags are being used worldwide each year, while one million plastic bottles are purchased every minute. In addition, eight million plastic leaks into oceans every year, thereby posing a threat to marine life.
The meeting was attended by nearly 5,000 delegates including environment ministers, scientists and various businessmen.
For more details, visit https://www.business-standard.com
Environment Ministry amends Hazardous and Other Wastes Rules 2016
On 6 March 2019, the Union Environment Ministry released a notification regarding the amendments in the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016. The changes have been brought about to strengthen the management of hazardous waste in the country.
Here are the key features of the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management and Transboundary Movement) Amendment Rules, 2019, as notified:
A. Solid plastic waste has been prohibited from import into the country, including in Special Economic Zones (SEZ) and by Export Oriented Units (EOU).
B. Exporters of silk waste have been exempted from seeking permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
C. Electrical and electronic assemblies and components manufactured in and exported from India, if found defective, can now be imported back to the country within a year of export, without obtaining permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
D. Industries that do not require consent under Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, are now exempted from requiring authorisation also under the Hazardous and Other Wastes (Management & Transboundary Movement) Rules, 2016, provided the hazardous and other wastes generated by such industries are handed over to authorised actual users, waste collectors or disposal facilities.
For more details, visit https://www.thehindubusinessline.com
World’s largest e-waste recycling hub opens in Dubai
The recycling centre in Dubai, Enviroserve, has opened the world’s largest e-waste recycling facility, the Recycling Hub. This facility will utilise the state-of-the-art reclamation technology to process Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment (WEEE), IT asset disposition (ITAD), refrigerant gas and specialised waste.
The plant is located at the Dubai Industrial Park, occupies an area of 2,80,000 square feet and has a processing capacity of 100,000 tonnes of total integrated waste per year. This 5 million dollar project is being financed by the Swiss Government Export Finance Agency.
For more details, visit https://www.msn.com
Students from all over the world skipped school to demand tough action on climate change
The 16-year-old Swedish activist, Greta Thunberg, inspired a rally of protest demanding tough action on climate change. Students from the South Pacific to the edge of the Arctic Circle skipped classes and took to the streets on 15 March 2019, to show solidarity against the governments’ failure towards taking action against global warming.
Over 1,50,000 angry students across 100 countries urged their governments to take strict actions against climatic change. The protests were held in cities such as New Delhi, Paris, Washington, San Francisco, Pretoria, Los Angeles, Madrid and Berlin and the news about these protests spread through social media and word of mouth.
Ms Thunberg has also been nominated this year for the Nobel Peace Prize.
For more details, visit https://www.thehindu.com
7 of the 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India
The World Air Quality Report, published on 5 March 2019, reveals the state of particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in 2018. According to the report, seven out of the ten most polluted cities in the world are in India, while two are in Pakistan and one in China.
Gurugram from India tops the chart with 135.8 PM, followed by Ghaziabad with 135.2 PM. The other Indian cities in the list are Faridabad (129.1 PM), Bhiwadi (125.4 PM), Noida (123.6 PM), Patna (119.7 PM) and Lucknow (115.7PM).
Commenting on the report, the Executive Director of Greenpeace South East Asia, Yeb Sano, said, “Air pollution steals our livelihoods and our futures, but we can change that. In addition to human lives lost, there’s an estimated global cost of 225 billion dollars in lost labour, and trillions in medical costs. This has enormous impacts on our health and on our wallets. We want this report to make people think about the air we breathe, because when we understand the impacts of air quality on our lives, we will act to protect what’s most important.”
This report, prepared in collaboration with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, is based on a study of 3,000 cities and highlights the unequal distribution of PM2.5 pollution.
For more details, visit https://www.iqair.com
UN Environment’s sixth Global Environment Outlook released
The United Nation Environment Program (UNEP) released the sixth edition of the Global Environment Outlook (2019) titled, ‘Healthy Planet, Healthy People’, on 4 March 2019.
Listed below are the major findings, as published in the report:
A. A healthy planet is important for the health and well-being of people. It directly supports the lives and livelihoods of 70 per cent of the earth’s population.
B. The top 10 emitting countries emit 45 per cent of global GHG emissions; the bottom 50 per cent countries emit only 13 per cent.
C. Exposure to indoor/outdoor air and water pollution costs at least 9 million lives annually.
D. Meat production currently uses 77 per cent of agricultural land. Agricultural production consumes 70 per cent of global water.
E. Current science justifies policy action now. Detailed knowledge can enable more refined and ambitious policies.
F. Achieving the 2°C Paris Agreement target could save $US 54.1 trillion for a global expenditure of $US 22.1 trillion. Achieving a 1.5°C target could lead to a health saving of $US 3.3–8.4 trillion for India and $US 0.3–2.3 trillion for China.
This comprehensive report aims at providing adequate knowledge to governments, local authorities, businesses and citizens on the current state of the environment to make efforts towards attaining a sustainable world by 2050. Moreover, it provides possible solutions and analysis of the effectiveness of trends towards a sustainable future.
For more details, visit https://wedocs.unep.org
New Zealand Mosque attack
In a shameful act, a 28-year-old terrorist named Brenton Tarrant from Australia, attacked Christchurch, New Zealand on 15 March 2019. The mass shooting took place in two mosques, namely the Al Noor Mosque and the Linwood Islamic Centre. As a result, nearly 50 innocent lives were lost. The alleged shooter even live-streamed the gruesome attack on social media.
Post the attack, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Jacinda Ardern, termed it as a ‘terrorist attack’ and said that the perpetrators having ‘extremist views’ have no place in New Zealand. She said, “This is one of New Zealand’s darkest days. Many of those affected may be migrants or refugees … They are us…. The perpetrator is not.” She even urged the media and the citizens to not name the attacker and provide him any publicity.
In the wake of the terror attacks, the government of New Zealand reformed the country’s gun laws.
For more details, visit https://www.vox.com
Kazakhstan renames its capital to ‘Nursultan’
Kazakhstan’s new President, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who was sworn-in on 20 March 2019, renamed the country’s capital Astana to Nursultan or ‘Sultan of Light’ in his first official act. This decision was taken to honour the long-time ruler Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned from the post of the President unexpectedly.
Tokayev also promised to seek opinions from Nazarbayev in matters of key concerns. The former President served the nation for almost 30 years before taking a step back. However, he will continue to enjoy certain significant powers due to his constitutional status as the ‘Leader of the Nation’, life-time position as chief of the security council and head of the ruling Nur Otan party.
For more details, visit https://www.bbc.com
Peter Tabichi from Kenya wins the Global Teacher Award
Peter Tabichi, a science teacher from Kenya, gives away 80% of his salary to poor pupils. In order to acknowledge his efforts and noble deeds, he has been awarded with the 2019 Global Teacher Prize in a ceremony in Dubai. He donates his salary to pupils at the Keriko Mixed Day Secondary School in Pwani Village, Nakuru, who otherwise cannot afford books and uniform. The 36-year-old teacher wants to promote science in Kenya and other parts of Africa.
Tabichi left behind 10,000 nominations from over 175 countries in the competition run by the Varkey Foundation to win the award that carries a prize money of $US 1 million.
For more details, visit https://www.bbc.com
India ranks 76th on WEF’s global Energy Transition index
According to the Geneva-based World Economic Forum (WEF), India ranks 76th on the global energy transition index, two places up as compared to the previous year. The chart was topped by Sweden, followed by Switzerland and Norway at number 2 and 3, respectively.
The report was published on 25 March 2019 and benchmarks 115 countries. It clearly mentions that India has alarmingly high pollution levels and a relatively high CO2 intensity in its energy system.
The World Economic Forum was established in 1971 with an objective to provide a global platform for leading people in the business, politics, academic and other areas of the world to take necessary actions towards global, regional and industrial changes.
For more details, visit http://www3.weforum.org
Science & Technology
Mission Shakti successful: India becomes the 4th largest space power
India successfully conducted its anti-satellite (A-SAT) missile test on 27 March 2019. The missile prepared by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully shot down the low-earth orbit (LEO) satellite in merely three minutes.
With this success, India became the fourth largest space power in the world to have acquired an ASAT missile capability, joining the league with the US, Russia and China. The Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, however assured that this project, titled Mission Shakti, will only be used for India’s space security purposes.
For more details, visit https://www.foxnews.com
NASA’s lunar orbiter spots water molecules on moon
NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) observed water molecules around the dayside of the moon. The availability of water could be of great help to astronauts in future lunar missions.
According to the official website of NASA, John Keller, LRO deputy project scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland said, “The study is an important step in advancing the water story on the moon and is a result of years of accumulated data from the LRO mission.”
Further explaining the significance of the discovery, Amanda Hendrix, a senior scientist at the Planetary Science Institute explained, “Lunar water can potentially be used by humans to make fuel or for radiation shielding or thermal management; if these materials do not need to be launched from Earth, that makes these future missions more affordable.”
For more details, visit https://www.nasa.gov
Turing Award 2018 announced
The Turing Award 2018 has been presented to Yoshua Bengio, Geoffrey Hinton, and Yann LeCun, the trio that laid the foundation for artificial intelligence. The winners also received a prize of $US 1 million.
Often referred to as the ‘Godfathers of AI’, the trio is known for developing the AI-enabled techniques that help in the facilitation of tasks such as computer vision, speech recognition, natural language processing and robotics, besides others.
At present, Bengio is a professor at the University of Montreal and scientific director at Mila, Quebec’s Artificial Intelligence Institute; Hinton is a VP and an engineering fellow of Google, a chief Scientific Adviser of the Vector Institute, and a university professor emeritus at the University of Toronto; and LeCun is a professor at New York University and a VP and chief AI scientist at Facebook.
The ACM A.M. Turing Award is the highest distinction in computer science and is often termed as the ‘Nobel Prize for Computing’. This award, named after Alan Turing, a British mathematician, is presented annually by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) to individual(s) for their lasting and major technical contributions in the field of computer science.
For more details, visit https://www.theverge.com
ISRO Awards presented to 96 achievers
The Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) presented awards to 96 individuals on 13 March 2019 for their contributions to space research and programmes at a ceremony held in Antariksh Bhavan.
The 12th edition of awards comprised four types of individual and team awards, namely Performance Excellence Awards (10), Merit Awards (20), Young Scientists Awards (50) and Team Excellence Awards (16).
The awards were presented by the former ISRO chairman, Dr K Kasturirangan, and current chairman, Dr K Sivan.
For more details, visit https://www.isro.gov.in
President confers Gallantry and Distinguished Service awards
The President of India, Ramnath Kovind, conferred gallantry awards to Armed Forces Personnel on 14 March 2019, for displaying extraordinary courage, conspicuous gallantry, and extreme devotion to duty. A total of three Kirti Chakras and fifteen Shaurya Chakras were presented at a solemn ceremony held at Rashtrapati Bhawan, New Delhi.
On 15 March 2019, the President also conferred 13 Param Vishisht Seva Medals, 2 Uttam Yudh Seva Medals and 26 Ati Vishisht Seva Medals to senior officers of the Armed Forces for their distinguished services of exceptional order.
For more details, visit https://economictimes.indiatimes.com