ForumIAS: Facts in News (February Week 4th, 2018)

Facts in news is published on a weekly basis that consists a gist of all crucial news articles from ‘The Hindu’ that may bear relevance to Civil Services Preparation.

Here is the Summary of all current happenings from around the world for the Fourth week of February 2018.

Download Facts in News PDF file here.

Social issues
Don’t discount WaSHContext:
• Studies prove that Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) trials in countries like Kenya and Bangladesh ended, with no significant reduction in stunting among children.
• Stunting is driven by multiple factors, one of which is inflammation.
• Inflammation is normal biological responses of body tissues to stimuli such as disease-causing bacteria (pathogens), but ironically repeated exposure to high doses of bacteria that are not linked with diseases or diarrhoea also cause inflammation.
• Inflammation down regulates growth factors, and thus impairs normal growth in children.
• Mothers with inflammation in the gestation tissues had smaller babies in our study.
• WASH (or Watsan, WaSH) is an acronym that stands for "water, sanitation and hygiene".
• Universal, affordable and sustainable access to WASH is a key public health issue within international development and is the focus of Sustainable Development Goal.
• Attention to WASH can also improve health, life expectancy, student learning, gender equality, and other important issues of international development.
• Access to WASH includes safe water, adequate sanitation and hygiene education.
• This can reduce illness and death, and also reduce poverty and improve socio-economic development.
Saving livesContext:
• According to the recent Unicef Report “Every Child Alive”, India, with nearly 600,000 newborn deaths each year, accounts for a quarter of the global burden of neonatal deaths. It needs political will for India to bring down its shamefully high newborn mortality rate
Highlights of the Report:
• Of the 184 countries, which the report covers, India ranks 31st with 25.4 neonatal mortality rate (per 1,000 live births)
• India ranks behind poorer countries such as Bangladesh, Nepal and Rwanda.
• Despite being ranked 12th, India has shown impressive progress in reduction of under-five mortality, nearly meeting its (Millennium Development Goal) MDG target, with a 66% reduction in under-five deaths during 1990 to 2015.
• The number of annual under-five deaths in India has gone below one million for the first time in 2016.
Bills, Policies, Programs, Schemes, Orders, Judgments
No discriminationContext:
• Delhi high court has recently said that companies cannot deny health insurance to those suffering from genetic disorders.
Genetic disorder:
• A genetic disorder is a genetic problem caused by one or more abnormalities in the genome.
• It is a condition that is present from birth (congenital).
• Most genetic disorders are quite rare and affect one person in every several thousands or millions.
Govt. schedules meeting on Lokpal for March 1Context:
• The government will invite the leader of the single largest Opposition party to attend a meeting scheduled for March 1st, 2018 to discuss the long-pending appointments to the anti-corruption ombudsman, Lokpal.
The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013:
• The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013, commonly known as The Lokpal Act, is an anti-corruption Act of Indian Parliament.
• It seeks to provide for the establishment of the institution of Lokpal to inquire into allegations of corruption against certain public functionaries and for matters connecting them.
• The Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha on 22 December 2011 and was passed by the House on 27 December as The Lokpal and Lokayuktas Bill, 2011.
• It was subsequently tabled in the Rajya Sabha on 29 December.
‘‘Rational tax system soon to boost EVs’Context:
• The government said that it was trying to bring out an industry-friendly new National Automotive Policy as well as a rational system of taxation for promoting electric and hybrid vehicles.
Provisions of draft National Automotive Policy:
• Adopt a long-term roadmap for emission standards beyond BSVI and harmonize the same with global standards by 2028
• Rollout CAFE norms till 2025 and beyond and setup incentives/ penalties
• Adopt a composite criterion based on length and CO2 emissions to classify vehicles for differential taxation purposes
• Harmonize automotive standards over the next 5 years in line with WP-29.
• Improve the skill development and training eco-system, increase accountability of ASDC and implement a Labor Market Information System
• Retain tax exemption on different levels of R&D expenditure with strong audit control
• Scale-up of indigenous R&D with commercially viable innovations
• Harmonize AIS and BIS standards on safety critical parts over next 3 years
• Fast track adoption of Bharat New Vehicle Safety Assessment Program
Electric vehicle:
• An electric vehicle, also called an electric drive vehicle, uses one or more electric motors or traction motors for propulsion.
• An electric vehicle may be powered through a collector system by electricity from off-vehicle sources, or may be self-contained with a battery, solar panels or an electric generator to convert fuel to electricity.
• EVs include road and rail vehicles, surface and underwater vessels, electric aircraft and electric spacecraft.
Learning from CauveryContext:
• Supreme Court judgement on Cauvery water dispute highlights the role of water sharing issues on election outcomes
The judgment:
• The overall allocation of Karnataka was increased by 14.75 thousand million cubic feet (tmc ft) at the cost of Tamil Nadu.
• The enhanced allocation includes 4.75 tmc ft exclusively for drinking water requirements of Bengaluru.
• The increase and decrease have been worked out, keeping the Cauvery Water Disputes Tribunal’s final order of 2007 as the reference point.
• Except this modification, the verdict has essentially stuck to the final order.
• The court was unequivocal on the formulation of a scheme to implement the modified final order, and it asked the Centre to draft the scheme in six weeks.
• The scheme entails the creation of an implementation mechanism, called the Cauvery Management Board (CMB).
New India needs women as equal partners, says ModiContext:
• In the 41st edition of his Mann Ki Baat radio broadcast on 25th February, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stressed the need to have women as equal partners in the development of the country and referred to newly launched “Gobar Dhan” scheme.
“Gobar Dhan” scheme:
• The Galvanizing Organic Bio-Agro Resources Dhan (GOBAR-DHAN) scheme was first announced by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley during his budget speech on February 1st, 2018.
• The scheme would focus on managing and converting cattle dung and solid waste in farms to compost, biogas and bio-CNG.
• The Gobar-Dhan Yojana will also help in keeping the village clean while increasing the income of farmers and cattle herders
‘No time frame for Cauvery Board’Context:
• Union Minister for Water Resources Nitin Gadkari recently said that the Centre was keen on implementing two major projects — diverting water from the Godavari to the Cauvery and the Polavaram project.
Diverting water from the Godavari to the Cauvery:
• About 3,000 tmc ft of water in the Godavari was going to the sea.
• The aim was to save at least 700 tmc ft by diverting it to the Cauvery through two dams at a cost of about Rs. 1 lakh crore.
Polavaram Project:
• Polavaram Project is a multi-purpose irrigation project.
• It has been accorded national project status by the union government.
• This dam across the Godavari River is under construction located in West Godavari District and East Godavari District in Andhra Pradesh state and its reservoir spreads in parts of Chhattisgarh and Odisha States also.
SC seeks details on over-crowded prisonsContext:
• The Supreme Court has asked the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) to provide details and figures of prisons where the occupancy rate is over 150% as on December 31, 2017.
National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA):
• National Legal Services Authority of India (NALSA) was formed on 5 December 1995.
• It is administered under the authority of the Legal Services Authorities Act 1987.
• Its purpose is to provide free legal services to eligible candidates (defined in Sec. 12 of the Act), and to organize Lok Adalats for speedy resolution of cases.
• The Chief Justice of India is patron-in-chief of NALSA while second seniormost judge of Supreme Court of India is the Executive-Chairman.
Occupancy rate refers:
• Occupancy rate refers to the ratio of rented or used space compared to the total amount of available space.
• Analysts use occupancy rates when discussing senior housing, hospitals, bed-and-breakfasts, hotels and rental units, among other categories.
Into priesthood: on training Dalits to become priestsContext:
• Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) had taken a unique decision to train Dalit and tribal youth in the procedures of performing temple rituals and practices.
Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams:
• Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams, abbreviated as TTD, is an independent trust.
• It manages the Tirumala Venkateswara Temple at Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh.
• The trust oversees the operations and finances of the second richest and the most visited religious center in the world.
• It is also involved in various social, religious, literary and educational activities.
Haryana cabinet nod to death penalty for rape of victim aged 12 or lessContext:
• The Haryana government has given its nod to a proposal to bring in a legislation that would have a provision awarding death penalty to those guilty of raping girls aged 12 years or less.
Amendments and decisions taken:
• In case of rape or gang rape of a girl upto 12 years of age, there will be a punishment of death or rigorous imprisonment of not less than 14 years which may extend to imprisonment for life that is for remainder period of person’s natural life
• The government has also decided to amend legal provisions like section 376A (Intercourse by a man with his wife during separation), 376D (rape by one or more persons constituting a group), 354 (Assault or criminal force against woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and 354 D (2) (stalking) of Indian Penal Code (IPC).
376D A of the IPC:
• In case a girl upto 12 years of age is raped by one or more persons constituting a group, each of those persons shall be deemed to have committed the offence of rape.
• They will be punished with death or rigorous imprisonment for a term which will not be less than 20 years, but which may extend to life along with a fine
354 of the IPC:
• The punishment under section 354 of the IPC will not be less than two years (earlier not less than one year) but may extend upto seven years (earlier upto five years) and shall also liable to fine.
354D (2) of IPC:
• Whoever commits the offence or stalking will be punished on first conviction with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years and be punished on a second or subsequent conviction, with imprisonment for not less than three years, but which may extend to seven years (earlier up to five years)
Grid stability is keyContext:
• Instead of transmitting electricity to the farmers, the government, to start with, wants farmers to usesolar energy to power their irrigation pumps.
Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM):
• The Union Budget 2018 has allocated close to Rs. 48,000 crore to set up the Kisan Urja Suraksha evam Utthaan Mahabhiyan (KUSUM).
• This programme will help set up more than 28 GW of combined solar capacity through these solar pumps.
• The government plans to purchase the surplus power through electricity distribution companies.
• This proposal will almost certainly increase agricultural incomes and reduce electricity losses when transmitting power to remote rural areas.
International issues
‘Korean investments will be protected’Context:
• Assuring Korean firms that their investments in India would be protected, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon Korean companies to invest more in India.
Bilateral trade between India and Korea:
• Korea ranks 16th in terms of FDI equity inflows to India.
• The bilateral trade between India and Korea crossed $20 billion in the year 2017, for the first time in six years.
• More than 500 Korean companies, including Samsung, LG and Hyundai, have operations in India.
• India offers a lot of potential for the Korean investors with its huge market and enabling policy environment.
As the borders begin to closeContext:
• Emerging economies, India and China for example, have become increasingly involved in influencing global economic policies and voicing their development concerns and priorities in various multilateral fora.
• A remittance is a transfer of money by a foreign worker to an individual in his or her home country.
• Money sent home by migrants competes with international aid as one of the largest financial inflows to developing countries.
Global remittances:
• Twenty-three countries, led by India and followed by China, the Philippines, Mexico, Pakistan and Nigeria, receive over 80% of global remittances.
• However, as a share of gross domestic product (GDP), the top five recipients are smaller nations: Haiti, the Kyrgyz Republic, Liberia, Nepal and Tajikistan.
• In these low- and middle-income countries, remittances have helped lift millions out of poverty and unemployment and enhanced their standard of living and human development.
Indian remittances:
• India has witnessed sharp remittance growth since 1991.
• Remittances, which were valued at $2.1 billion in 1991, touched $70.4 billion in 2014.
• Since then, the value of remittances to India has seen a modest decline: $68.9 billion in 2015 and $62.7 billion in 2016.
• There was a slight improvement in 2017 in $65.4 billion.
Sources of remittances for India:
• India receives about 56% of its remittances from migrants in West Asia, with the remainder from mainly North America and Europe.
Kerala’s remittance economy
• Since the 1970s, the Gulf region has attracted millions of Malayalis, with remittances amounting to over 36% of the State’s GDP.
• Kerala is unique in this sense that no other large State in India depends so much on remittances.
• This also makes the southern State the perfect setting to study the phenomenon of migration.
• The Kerala Migration Surveys, conducted by the Centre for Development Studies, have studied migration from Kerala since 1998.
• Remittance flows to Kerala saw a sharp rise of over 40% in 2011 to 2014.
A royal salute to India’s religious pluralityContext:
• Jordanian King Abdullah II, King of Jordan will deliver a special address at Vigyan Bhavan in Delhi on Tuesday on his three-day visit to India.
Major takeaways:
• Jordanian King will speak on “Islamic heritage: promoting understanding and moderation”, to an audience including academics, Islamic scholars and representatives of all denominations of the Muslim community.
• After talks with Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, the two sides are expected to announce a number of agreements, including one to set up a “centre of excellence” in Amman
• One pending issue not yet resolved is on the resumption of direct flights between Delhi and Amman, which were shut down when Royal Jordanian Airlines ended its service in 2014.
• King Abdullah will also visit the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi to “explore collaborations with Jordanian technical institutes”
• Bilateral trade, which is mainly dependent on fertilizer imports, dropped drastically from about $2.2 billion in 2014 to $1.3 billion in 2017, and both sides will discuss how to improve business ties.
• While the visit will focus on bilateral issues, the two leaders are expected to discuss the Palestinian peace process.
Fire and furyContext:
• The barbaric campaign of airstrikes and bombardments launched by government forces in rebel-held Eastern Ghouta, on the outskirts of Damascus, has killed at least 270 people in three days.
Eastern Ghouta:
• Eastern Ghouta, with an estimated population of 400,000, is one of the last significant areas held by militants fighting the regime.
• It fell into the hands of the rebels in the early stages of the seven-year-long civil war, and repeated government attempts to overrun it were foiled.
• It was here that chemical weapons were used in 2013, killing hundreds of people.
• There is a wide range of militant groups in Eastern Ghouta, including the Saudi-backed Jaysh al-Islam, the Qatar-funded Faylaq al-Rahman, and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda.•
Vietnam to discuss South China Sea with IndiaContext:
• Vietnam will take up South China Sea-related issues during the March 2-4 visit by President Tran Dai Quang.
South China Sea-related issue:
• China’s claim over most of the South China Sea is a major issue between the two countries.
• In this regard, Vietnam has been one of the more vocal countries in the 10-member ASEAN grouping to find a solution to China’s expansionist policy in the South China Sea
South China Sea:
• The South China Sea is a marginal sea that is part of the Pacific Ocean.
• It encompasses an area from the Karimata and Malacca Straits to the Strait of Taiwan of around 3,500,000 square kilometres (1,400,000 sq mi).
• One-third of the world's shipping passes through it carrying over $3 trillion in trade each year.
Cornered by the Quad?Context:
• The four Quad countries, Australia, India, Japan and the U.S., pushing back the China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and are working to establish a joint regional infrastructure scheme as an alternative to the same.
The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue:
• The dialogue was initiated in 2007.
• The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue is an informal strategic dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia and India.
• It is maintained by talks between member countries.
• The dialogue was paralleled by joint military exercises of an unprecedented scale, titled Exercise Malabar.
• The diplomatic and military arrangement was widely viewed as a response to increased Chinese economic and military power.
China's Belt and Road Initiative:
• China's Belt and Road Initiative aims to connect Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Africa with a vast logistics and transport network.
• The logistic and transport network encompasses roads, ports, railway tracks, pipelines, airports, transnational electric grids and even fiber optic lines.
Adopting a ‘wait and watch’ approachContext:
• Differing preoccupations in both countries, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit this month was a subdued affair compared to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran.
Major takeaways from Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit to India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Tehran:
• India conveyed its support for the full and effective implementation of the JCPOA, the need for strengthening consultations on Afghanistan, and enhancing regional connectivity by building on the Chabahar.
• Nine MoUs were signed relating to avoidance of double taxation, visa simplification, cooperation in diverse fields including agriculture, traditional systems of medicine, health and medicine, postal cooperation, trade remedial measures, and a lease contract for an interim period of 18 months for Phase 1 of Chabahar.
• Earlier in October, Iran had allowed a wheat shipment of 15,000 tonnes for Afghanistan through Chahbahar.
• There was talk about an aluminium smelter plant and a urea plant to build up Indian investments in the Chabahar free trade zone.
• One positive thing is the exploration of a rupee-rial arrangement.
• This agreement could provide an alternative channel for economic and commercial transactions in case U.S. sanctions do kick in, making dollar denominated transactions impossible.
• The U.S. government has announced fresh measures to tighten the scrutiny of H-1B visa petitions
Measures provided:
• The new visa policy makes the procedure of issuing H-1B visas to those to be employed at one or more third-party worksites very tough
• The companies filing H-1B petitions for their employees will have to associate a particular project to the individual visa, which could be approved only for the duration of the project.
• The new policy empowers the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to issue H-1B visas to an employee for only the period he/she has work at a third-party worksite.
• The H-1B is a visa in the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act, section 101(a)(15)(H).
• It allows U.S. employers to employ foreign workers in specialty occupations.
• If a foreign worker in H-1B status quits or is dismissed from the sponsoring employer, the worker must either apply for and be granted a change of status, find another employer (subject to application for adjustment of status and/or change of visa), or leave the United States.
Going grey: on Pakistan and the FATF watch listContext:
• The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that monitors countries on action taken against terror-financing and money-laundering has decided to place Pakistan back on its watch list, or “greylist”, from June, 2018.
Financial Action Task Force (FATF):
• The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an inter-governmental body.
• It was established in 1989.
• The objectives of the FATF are to set standards and promote effective implementation of legal, regulatory and operational measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system.
FTAF blacklisting:
• The FATF blacklist or OECD blacklist has been issued by the Financial Action Task Force since 2000.
• It lists countries which it judges to be non-cooperative in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing, calling them "Non-Cooperative Countries or Territories" (NCCTs).
National issue
‘Hard to steal, destroy or tamper with Aadhaar’Context:
• Aadhaar cannot be tampered with or destroyed since it is nearly impossible to duplicate or match the biometrics of the 10 fingers and the iris (eye) scan of the person concerned.
• Aadhaar is a 12-digit unique identity number.
• It is issued to all Indian residents based on their biometric and demographic data.
• The data is collected by the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI), a statutory authority established in January 2009.
• Direct benefit transfers, zero leakages, hassle-fre opening of bank accounts, foolproof delivery of ration goods, proper attendance in the social welfare hostels, arresting impersonation in examinations, etc. have become possible due to Aadhaar.
• 1.5 crore bank accounts have been linked, 1.62 crore bogus ration cards have been unearthed, two crore LPG gas connections checked with overall savings for the Government being 50,000 crore.
NHPS a gimmick, says ChidambaramContext:
• Former Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has dubbed the National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS) as a gimmick alleging that it was introduced without any proper planning.
Ayushman Bharat programme:
• The Government has recently announced two major initiatives i.e. Health and Wellness Centre and National Health Protection Scheme in health sector, as part of Ayushman Bharat programme.
• This was aimed to address health holistically, in primary, secondary and tertiary care systems, covering both prevention and health promotion.
Health and Wellness Centre:
• Under this scheme 1.5 lakh centres will bring health care system closer to the homes of people.
• These centres will provide comprehensive health care, including for non-communicable diseases and maternal and child health services.
• These centres will also provide free essential drugs and diagnostic services
• The Budget has allocated Rs.1200 crore for this flagship programme. Contribution of private sector through CSR and philanthropic institutions in adopting these centres is also envisaged.
National Health Protection Scheme:
• National Health Protection Scheme will cover over 10 crore poor and vulnerable families (approximately 50 crore beneficiaries).
• It will provide coverage upto 5 lakh rupees per family per year for secondary and tertiary care hospitalization.
• This will be the world’s largest government funded health care programme.
Economic issue
ICAI favours existing audit mechanismContext:
• The Institute of Charted Accountants of India (ICAI) supports efforts to strengthen its existing disciplinary and oversight mechanism through amendments to the CA Act.
Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI):
• The Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI) is the national professional accounting body of India.
• It was established on 1 July 1949 as a statutory body under the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949.
• It was enacted by the Parliament (acting as the provisional Parliament of India) to regulate the profession of Chartered Accountancy in India.
• ICAI is solely responsible for setting the Standards on Auditing (SAs) to be followed in the audit of financial statements in India.
• It also issues other technical standards like Standards on Internal Audit (SIA), Corporate Affairs Standards (CAS) etc. to be followed by practicing Chartered Accountants.
• It works closely with the Government of India, Reserve Bank of India and the Securities and Exchange Board of India in formulating and enforcing such standards.
Leaders break ground on Afghan section of TAPIContext:
• The long-awaited mega gas pipeline project of Turk¬menistan, Afghanis¬tan, Pakis¬tan and India (TAPI) connecting the energy-rich Central Asian nation with the South Asian countries was recently inaugurated.
Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI):
• The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI), also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, is a natural gas pipeline.
• It is being developed by the Galkynysh – TAPI Pipeline Company Limited with participation of the Asian Development Bank.
• The pipeline will transport natural gas from the Galkynysh Gas Field in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India.
• Construction on the project started in Turkmenistan on December 13th, 2015.
• The pipeline is expected to be operational by 2019.
DoT’s plan to spur synergy among 7 PSUsContext:
• The government unveiled a ‘strategic plan’ to enable seven state-owned companies under the Department of Telecom (DoT) to work closely with an aim of promoting greater operational synergy among them.
Action plan:
• The action plan covers MTNL, BSNL, Indian Telephone Industries (ITI), Centre for Development of Telematics (CDOT), Telecommunications Consultants India Ltd. (TCIL), Testing and Certification of Telecom Equipments (TEC) and BharatNet (BBNL).
• Under the plan, government has identified specific areas where teams will work on including manpower, settlement of legal issues and utilisation of vacant space.
• However, there were no plans to merge BSNL and MTNL for now.
• MTNL shares rose 7.78% to ₹24.25 per share while the ITI scrip climbed 2.13% to ₹126.90 on the BSE.
• The strategic plan, finalised after several discussions between all stakeholders, entails effective utilisation of human resources, optimum use of vacant space and promoting ‘Make in India’.
Department of Telecommunications:
• The Department of Telecommunications, abbreviated to DoT, is a department of the Ministry of Communications of the executive branch of the Government of India.
• It manages matters related to communication mediums like telegraphs, telephones, wireless, data, facsimile and telematic services
Centre may enact law against fugitivesContext:
• The Union government may consider enacting the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill to confiscate assets of those who flee the country and refuse to return after committing frauds in excess of Rs. 100 crore.
Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2017:
• The Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill 2017 was first mentioned by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in his Budget speech in 2017-18.
• It came against the backdrop of bringing back Vijay Mallya, who owes over Rs 9,000 crore in the Kingfisher Airlines fraud case.
Salient features:
• The Bill primarily empowers the government and investigating agencies to confiscate property and assets of economic offenders and defaulters who flee India.
• It covers a wide range of offences, including wilful loan defaults, cheating and forgery, forged or fraudulent document of electronic records, duty evasion, non-repayment of deposits and others.
• The Bill also proposes setting up of a “Special Court” under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, which will declare a person a “fugitive economic offender”.
PNB: freeze on lending fearedContext:
• The Indian industry had called for better control systems to check financial frauds and also suggested gradual reduction in government holding in public sector banks (PSBs).
Public Sector Banks (PSBs):
• Public Sector Banks (PSBs) are banks where a majority stake (i.e. more than 50%) is held by a government.
• The shares of these banks are listed on stock exchanges.
• There are a total of 21 PSBs in India.
Lithium ion batteries charge up rural housesContext:
• The shift towards lithium ion batteries from the older technology of lead acid batteries has allowed firms like KAHO India Private Limited to help the Centre achieve its rural electrification target even in areas beyond the reach of the grid.
KAHO India:
• KAHO India is a Lithium Ion Battery based Solar Lighting System provider.
• It was established in 2012.
• It seeks to provide last-mile energy access through compact solar modules to areas that are so far not connected to the grid.
Q3 GDP growth likely 6.9%, best in 2017, says pollContext:
• According to a Reuters poll, India’s economy grew at its fastest pace in a year in the October-December quarter as consumers, businesses and the government stepped up spending.
Statistical details:
• Gross domestic product (GDP) grew 6.9% in the October-December quarter from a year earlier.
• In July-September, the economy grew 6.3% annually.
• Rupee strengthened 6.5% against the dollar in 2017.
• India’s gross value-added (GVA)increased 6.6% from a year earlier in October-December from a year earlier, compared to 6.1% in the prior three months.
OVL drops plan to build Iran LNG facilityContext:
• ONGC Videsh Ltd. has dropped plans to build a $5 billion LNG export facility in Iran.
ONGC Videsh Ltd.:
• ONGC Videsh Ltd. is a Miniratna Schedule “A” Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) of the Government of India under the administrative control of the Ministry of Petroleum & Natural Gas.
• It is the wholly owned subsidiary and overseas arm of Oil and Natural Gas Corporation Limited (ONGC), the flagship national oil company (NOC) of India.
• The primary business of ONGC Videsh is to prospect for oil and gas acreages outside India, including exploration, development and production of oil and gas.
Liquefied natural gas (LNG):
• Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is natural gas (predominantly methane, CH4, with some mixture of ethane C2H6).
• It has been converted to liquid form for ease and safety of non-pressurized storage or transport.
• It takes up about 1/600th the volume of natural gas in the gaseous state (at standard conditions for temperature and pressure).
• It is odorless, colorless, non-toxic and non-corrosive.
Canary in coal mineContext:
• The Central government has allowed the re-entry of commercial mining firms into the sector.
Reasons for taking coal out of the private sectors hand:
• India’s coal industry was predominantly driven by the private sector after Independence until the Indira Gandhi government decided to transfer all coal holdings to Coal India through the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973.
• The key reason cited for taking coal out of the private sector’s hands was that it was essential to meet power needs.

Security and defense
Maldives declines invitation for MILAN exercisesContext:
• Maldives has declined an invitation to join the MILAN series of multilateral exercises hosted by Indian in March at Andaman and Nicobar.
• Milan is a multilateral naval exercise hosted by the Indian Navy under the aegis of the Andaman and Nicobar Command.
• The biennial event is held in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
• It features professional exercises and seminars, social events and sporting fixtures between participating nations.
• Milan was first held in 1995.
Rustom-2 UAV takes to the skiesContext:
• Recently, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) carried out a test-flight of the unmanned aerial vehicle Rustom-2.
• Rustom-2 belongs to a family of UAVs under development, besides Rustom-1 and Rustom-H.
• It is a medium-altitude long-endurance drone (MALE) and will fill a critical capability gap in the inventory of the armed forces.
• It can fly up to an altitude of 22,000 feet and has an endurance of over 20 hours.
• It is capable of carrying payloads for electronic and signal intelligence missions.
• It is the first flight in user configuration with a higher power engine.
‘Unplanned development plan threatening Netravathi basin’Context:
• According to a study, an unplanned development path adopted by “unscrupulous decision-makers” is threatening the ecologically sensitive regions in the Netravathi river basin in Karnataka.
Highlights of the Report:
• According to the report, river diversions, hydro electric projects, coastal reservoirs, commercial plantations, unscientific tourism, etc., would cause irreplaceable loss of rich biodiversity in the river basin
• The report said that rivers/streams in the ecologically sensitive regions should not be diverted or manipulated as that would affect the water retention capability of the catchment area and ground recharge potential.
• It would affect the sustenance of water in the streams and affect the downstream users’ right to adequate freshwater.
• The report further highlighted that of the 433 villages in the basin, 111 are in ecologically sensitive region (ESR) I followed by 69 villages in ESR II, 119 villages in ESR III and 134 villages under ESR IV.
Netravathi River Basin:
• Netravathi basin has a catchment area of 4,409 sq km
• It covers 11 taluks in Chikkamagaluru, Hassan, Kodagu, Dakshina Kannada and Udupi districts.
• It originates in Bangrabalige valley, Yelaneeru Ghat of Kudremukh in Chikkamagaluru district.
• The basin is part of the ecologically fragile Western Ghats, one among the 35 global hotspots of biodiversity.
• It is the lifeline of Dakshina Kannada region supporting the enormous population with rich resource base and diverse cultures.
Science and technology
Meet Avani, first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft soloContext:
• Flying Officer Avani Chaturvedi has become the first Indian woman to fly a fighter aircraft solo.
Other details:
• She flew a MiG-21 Bison.
• She undertook the sortie from IAF’s Jamnagar base.
• Other three women pilots, Ms. Chaturvedi, Bhawana Kanth and Mohana Singh, had undergone strenuous training programme to fly fighter jets.
• They were commissioned as Flying Officers in July 2016
Magnificent launchContext:
• On February 7th, 2018, U.S. tech and automobiles billionaire Elon Musk made history when the Falcon Heavy, the world’s most powerful rocket, was successfully launched by SpaceX
About Falcon Heavy:
• The Falcon Heavy is a large cargo-lifting rocket developed by private spaceflight company SpaceX.
• The rocket lifted from Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Cape Canaveral, Florida, using Launch Complex 39A.
• The rocket’s payload was a cherry-red 2008 Tesla Roadster electric car.
• The Roadster became the first automobile in deep space.
• The rocket is 230 ft tall with 2,500 tonnes of thrust.
• The cost per launch is $90 million.
Regulating the futureContext:
• Alan Turing speculated in 1950 that around the turn of the century, it would be possible to make computers that matched the capacity of human brains, packing in about a billion neurons.
Artificial intelligence:
• Artificial intelligence (AI, also machine intelligence, MI) is intelligence demonstrated by machines, in contrast to the natural intelligence (NI) displayed by humans and other animals.
• In computer science AI research is defined as the study of "intelligent agents": any device that perceives its environment and takes actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals.
• Colloquially, the term "artificial intelligence" is applied when a machine mimics "cognitive" functions that humans associate with other human minds, such as "learning" and "problem solving".
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