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Oman author Jokha Al Harthi wins Booker International Prize
  1. Omani author Jokha Al Harthi has won the prestigious Man Booker International Prize for his book Celestial Bodies.
  2. Celestial Bodies is the story of three sisters of a desert country confronting its slave-owning past and a complex modern world.
  3. The Man Booker International Prize is an international literary award sponsored by the Man Group.It is the same organisation that gives the Man Booker Prize for fiction.
  4. It is awarded annually for a single work of fiction in any language that has been translated into English and published in the United Kingdom in the last year.
  5. Further,it carries a cash prize of 50,000 pounds or 64,000 US dollar for the winning title shared equally between author and translator.
UAE launches ‘Golden Card’ scheme to woo wealthy investors, exceptional talents
  1. The United Arab Emirates(UAE) has launched a permanent residency scheme called as Golden Card programme.
  2. This scheme was introduced to attract wealthy individuals and exceptional talents such as doctors, engineers, scientists, students and artists.
  3. The Golden card visa categories include (a)real estate investors who can get a visa for 5 years (b)general investors who will be allowed visa for 10 years and (c)other entrepreneurs and talented professionals such as doctors, researchers and innovators for 10 years.
  4. Further,the outstanding students will also be permitted residency visas for 5 years.All categories of visas can be renewed upon expiry.
  5. The benefits of the permanent residency also includes the spouse and children of the cardholder to ensure cohesive social ties.
  6. This initiative will attract greater foreign investment and stimulate the local economy making it more efficient and attractive to investors.It will also increase the UAE’s competitiveness and reaffirms the country’s position as a global incubator.
Panel submits a report on reducing oil import dependency
  1. A High-Level Committee constituted by the government has submitted its recommendations to bring down India’s dependence on crude oil imports.
  2. The committee was formed to look into issues related to (a)research and development centres of oil and gas public sector undertakings(PSUs) (b)tax issues and ways of benefiting from the goods and services tax (GST) and (c)possibilities of mergers, acquisition and consolidation of oil and gas PSUs and their joint ventures.
  3. The committee has also looked into the proposal of formation of new entity dealing with oil services and supply of qualified manpower to the Oil and Gas sector around the world.
  4. This committee was formed after the oil ministry has said that India’s import dependence of crude oil and liquefied natural gas (LNG) increased to 82.59% and 45.89% respectively.
  5. The committee has recommended short term, medium term and long term strategies in the report by clearly bringing out the strategy to reduce the import dependency of the nation.
  6. The ministry has said that it will consider the recommendations submitted by the committee while formulating policies in the matter.
Shyam Saran to be conferred with Japan’s ‘Order of the Rising Sun’ award
  1. Former Indian Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran has been selected for Japan’s National Award called as ‘The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star’.
  2. He has been awarded for his contributions in strengthening strategic ties and enhancing mutual understanding between India and Japan.
  3. ‘The Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star’  is the Japanese government’s Second Highest National Honour.
  4. It was established by Japanese Emperor Meiji in 1875.It is awarded for an exceptional civil or military merit.
OBC categories commission receives 2-month extension
  1. President of India has approved extension of the term of the Commission to examine the issue of Sub-categorization of Other Backward Classes in the Central List till July 31st,2019.
  2. Other Backward Class(OBC) is a collective term used by the Government of India to classify castes which are socially and educationally disadvantaged.
  3. The commission was appointed in 2017 to examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among various castes and communities that come under the Central OBC list
  4. The committee also has to work out the mechanism, criteria and parameters for the actual sub-categorization within such OBCs.
  5. The commission will also take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes and communities in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.
  6. The Supreme Court in its order in Indra Sawhney had observed that there is no constitutional or legal bar to state categorising backward classes as backward or more backward.
  7. At present,27% quota in government jobs and educational institutions is given to OBCs,provided the annual income of the family is up to Rs 8 lakh.Those with higher earnings are referred to as the ‘creamy layer’ and are not eligible for reservation.
  8. Creamy layer is a term used to refer to the relatively wealthier and better educated members of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs).They are not eligible for government sponsored educational and professional benefit programs.
Only electric 2-wheelers may be sold in country after 2025
  1. Niti Aayog has proposed that in the next six to eight years,India’s entire two-wheeler industry should go full electric.The proposal is aimed to curb pollution and reduce India’s dependency on fossil fuels.
  2. The Niti Aayog has also pushed for doubling direct subsidy for electric three-wheelers to Rs 20,000 per kilowatt hour to make them as affordable as those that run on fossil fuel.
  3. Besides, the government is looking at prescribing stringent fuel efficiency norms for new petrol and diesel vehicles, while offering financial and other concessions for the electric segment.
  4. The government has set an ambitious target in 2017 to electrify all new cars and utility vehicles by 2030 but resistance from the auto industry forced it to scale back the plan.The government now expects electric vehicles to make up 15% of all new sales in five years from less than 1% currently.
  5. Indian Government has also launched Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Hybrid & Electric vehicles in India(FAME India) to encourage Electric Vehicles.
  6. FAME is part of the government’s two-pronged strategy to place India as a key driver in the global mobility revolution.The strategy is (a)boost domestic manufacturing by insisting on minimum of 50% local content in e-vehicles and (b)create massive size and scale for electric vehicles in the country to make the investments made in the sector viable.
  7. The FAME II is an expanded version of FAME I,launched in 2015 which aimed to support hybrid/electric vehicles market development and Manufacturing ecosystem.
Finance Ministry begins pre-Budget discussions
  1. The finance ministry has begun the pre-Budget consultation exercise with industry bodies in the run-up to the full budget to be unveiled by the new government in July,2019.
  2. Recently,the finance Minister had presented the Interim Budget on 1st February 2019.
  3. An interim Budget or vote on account means that the government seeks the approval of Parliament for meeting expenditure for the first four months of the fiscal year (April-March) with no changes in the taxation structure.The estimates are presented for the entire year as is the case with the regular Budget.
  4. The government of the day presents an interim budget if it does not have the time to present a full Budget or because national elections may be near as propriety demands that the task of framing the full Budget be left to the incoming government.
  5. A full budget is the presentation of annual finances of the government, change in existing tax slabs, announcement of new schemes and sops for different sectors of the economy.
  6. However, in the case of an interim budget, change in tax slabs are not made and no new schemes are announced but only finance estimates are presented.Further,the incoming government has full freedom to change the estimates completely when the final Budget is presented.
Gender diversity good for businesses: UN
  1. United Nations International Labour Organisation (ILO) has released a report titled “Women in Business and Management: The business case for change”
  2. The report surveyed nearly 13,000 enterprises across 70 countries on assessing how gender diversity policies impact business outcomes.
  3. The report revealed that around 57% of companies agreed that increased gender diversity initiatives result in better business performance.
  4. The companies have said that they observed profit increases between 5 and 20%.The report says the positive impact of gender diversity initiatives start becoming evident when women occupy at least 30% of senior management and leadership positions.
  5. However, nearly 60% of companies don’t meet this mark.Additionally,in almost half of the companies surveyed, less than one in three of entry-level management recruits are women.
  6. The International Labour Organization (ILO) was founded in 1919 to promote social justice and thereby contribute to universal and lasting peace.The ILO is responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labour standards.
  7. It is the only tripartite United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programmes promoting decent work for all.
Sushma Swaraj speaks of Pulwama, Sri Lanka attacks at SCO Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Kyrgyzstan
  1. India’s external affairs minister has attended the meeting of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO)  in Bishkek,Kyrgyzstan.
  2. While addressing the meeting,External Affairs Minister has urged the member nations of SCO for greater counter-terror cooperation in the backdrop of terror strikes at Pulwama and Sri Lanka.
  3. She also said that India is open to strengthen the Regional Anti-Terror Structure(RATS) of SCO to fight terrorism and security challenges in the region.She has also said that India remains committed to regional connectivity and peace in Afghanistan.
  4. Further,she has urged the members of the SCO to support efforts of India for the comprehensive reform of the UN Security Council to make it more representative and effective.
  5. The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation,also known as the Shanghai Pact,is a Eurasian political,economic,and military organisation.It was founded in 2001 by the leaders of China,Kazakhstan,Kyrgyzstan,Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.
  6. Apart from Uzbekistan,the other five countries have been a part of the Shanghai 5 since 1996.The cooperation was renamed to Shanghai Cooperation Organisation after Uzbekistan joined the organisation in 2001.India and Pakistan joined SCO as full members in 2017.
  7. The Regional Anti-Terrorist Structure (RATS) is a permanent organ of the SCO.It serves to promote cooperation of member states against (a)terrorism (b)separatism and (c)extremism.The head of RATS is elected to a three-year term.Each member state also sends a permanent representative to RATS.Its headquartered in Tashkent,Uzbekistan.
China must prepare for difficult times, says Xi
  1. Chinese President has said that China should be prepared for difficult times as the international situation is getting complex due to bitter trade war between China and the US.
  2. The two countries are engaged in a retaliatory tariff measures on each other’s imports after the talks had collapsed to resolve their trade disputes.
  3. The trade tensions has further intensified since US had blacklisted Chinese telecom equipment company Huawei Technologies.This decision was taken after US authorities had said that there was a risk in using Huawei products as it could be used by China for illegal surveillance.
  4. The trade talks between the U.S. and China had stalled after Chinese officials had sought major changes in the proposed trade deal that the US administration says had been largely agreed.
  5. Further,the US business community has asked for more reciprocal policies as China for years has blocked major U.S. tech firms including Google and Facebook from fully operating in its market.
  6. Chinese President has also said that China must overcome various major risks and challenges from home and abroad on the Long March day.
  7. The Long March refers to a series of military retreats by the Red Army during its conflict with the Kuomintang Army starting in 1934.It eventually led to the communist takeover of China under the rule of Mao Zedong, who became chairman of the Communist Party of China in 1949.
Four judges elevated to Supreme Court
  1. The Central Government has cleared the names of four judges to be elevated to the Supreme Court.
  2. The Government has cleared the appointment after the Supreme Court collegium had reiterated its recommendation to elevate the Judges as nothing adverse has been found regarding their competence, conduct or integrity.
  3. Once the judges are appointed, the Supreme court will have its full sanctioned strength of 31 judges.As of now,the apex court is functioning with 27 judges.
  4. Collegium system in India is the system by which the judges are appointed by the judges only also referred to as Judges-selecting- Judges.It is the system of appointment and transfer of judges that has evolved through judgments of the Supreme Court and not by an Act of Parliament or by a provision of the Constitution.
  5. The Supreme Court collegium is headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprises four other senior most judges of the court.A High Court collegium is led by its Chief Justice and four other senior most judges of that court.
  6. The collegium sends its recommendation to the Government for approval. The government can either accept it or reject it.In the case it is rejected,the recommendation comes back to the collegium.If the collegium reiterates its recommendation to the government,then it is bound by that recommendation.
AFT asks Centre to submit files on Navy chief selection
  1. Armed forces tribunal(AFT) has directed the government to produce before it all records and documents relating to selection of the new Navy Chief.
  2. This direction by the AFT came in response to a petition filed by Vice Admiral challenging the government’s decision to ignore him for the Navy chief’s post despite him being the senior most officer.
  3. Armed Forces Tribunal (AFT) is an Indian military tribunal established in 2009 under the Armed Forces Tribunal Act, 2007.Its Principal Bench is in New Delhi.It also has 11 regional benches.
  4. It’s objective is to adjudicate complaints wrt appointments and conditions of service in respect of persons subject to the (a)Army Act,1950 (b)The Navy Act,1957 and (c)the Air Force Act,1950.It can further provide for appeals arising out of the orders of courts martial held under the above-mentioned Acts.
  5. The Composition of Armed Forces Tribunal consists of Judicial Members who are retired High Court Judges. Administrative Members are retired Members of the Armed Forces who have held the rank of Major General/ equivalent or above for a period of three years or more.
  6. Proceedings are conducted as per the Armed Forces Tribunal (Procedure) rules,2008.The Tribunal normally follows the procedure as practiced by High Courts of India.Paramilitary forces including the Assam Rifles and Coast Guard are outside the tribunal’s purview.
Water experts warn of ‘desertification’ of Marathwada
  1. Economists and water experts have warned of “desertification” in the water scarce Marathwada region of Maharashtra. They have further said that the water crisis in the region is a policy induced failure.
  2. According to experts, though rainfall in Marathwada is below normal, it is enough to meet the basic drinking water and household needs of the populace besides leaving enough water for one crop.
  3. However, an unsustainable cropping pattern which has led to indiscriminate pumping of groundwater has depleted groundwater tables to an extent where rejuvenation has become impossible. According to data by the Groundwater Surveys and Development Agency, the water table had dropped alarmingly in 70 of the 76 talukas, with more than 25 reporting a drop of more than two metres.
  4. Given the arid climatic conditions in Marathwada, cereal and oilseeds had been the main crops traditionally cultivated in the region. However, predominant crops here are soybean and Bt Cotton which are not conducive for the region. Further, sugarcane cultivation and sugar mills have worsened the situation.
  5. The sugarcane crop is a water guzzler. On an average, sugarcane in Maharashtra requires 2,063-2,468mm of rainfall on one hectare to complete the crop’s 12-to-18 month cycle. Further, according to the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP), it takes 2,515 litres of water to produce a kilogram of sugar.
  6. However, despite being such a water-intensive crop, sugarcane grows to continue in the arid and water scarce Marathwada. This is primarily because sugarcane offers an assured price to the farmers which other crops fail to provide.