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22 to 24 February 2020 Current Affairs

International :
  • The 13th Conference of Parties to the UN Convention to Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) concluded at Mahatma Mandir in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on February 22, 2020. 

    Gandhinagar Declaration :
    1.) The 'Gandhinagar Declaration' aiming for major new actions for migratory species was adopted by the participating countries at the concluding day of CMS-COP 13. 
    2.) The declaration stressed on the importance of migratory species for the new global biodiversity strategy.
    3.) The declaration calls upon the Parties, Governments and relevant stakeholders to promote the importance of ecological connectivity and functionality, international cooperation and the conservation of migratory species.
    4.) The declaration also talks about strengthening the role of the CMS in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. 
    5.) It aims to support efforts to address ecological connectivity and necessary resource mobilization to achieve, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030.

    During the weeklong conference, a total of 10 species were added in the CMS Appendices I and II for special conservation and 13 species for Concerted Actions. 
    1.) The CMS Ambassadors Programme was relaunched to advocate for the conservation of migratory species and their habitats. 
    2.) Internationally renowned conservationist Ian Redmond, award-winning explorer and environmentalist Sacha Dench, and Indian actor Randeep Hooda were named as CMS Ambassadors for Migratory Species until 2023. 
    3.) Seven new Migratory Species Champions including the Government of India were named at a special high-level event organized on the sidelines of the conference. 

  • French state-owned energy giant EDF began shutting down the country's oldest nuclear power plant after 43 years in operation.

  • The global terror financing watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) decided continuation of Pakistan in the 'Grey List' and warned the country that stern action will be taken if it fails to check the flow of money to terror groups. The decision was taken at the Financial Action Task Force's plenary in Paris. 

    The plenary has noted that Pakistan addressed only a few of the 27 tasks given to it in controlling funding to terror groups like the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) and the Hizbul Mujahideen, which are responsible for a series of attacks in India. 

    With Pakistan's continuation in the 'Grey List', it will be difficult for the country to get financial aid from the International Monetory Fund, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and the European Union, thus further enhancing problems for the nation which is in a precarious financial situation. Pakistan was placed on the 'Grey List' by the FATF in June 2018 and was given a plan of action to complete by October 2019 or face the risk of being placed on the 'Black List'. 

    The FATF is an inter-governmental body established in 1989 to combat money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. 

  • Finance Minister of India, Nirmala Sitharaman on February 22, 2020 emphasised the need to enhance global risk monitoring and explore the scope for policy co-ordination to deal with such risks. Speaking at G-20 Finance Ministers and central bank governors meeting in Riyadh(Saudi Arabia), she called upon all the member countries to enhance their efforts aimed at empowering women, youth and small and medium enterprises. Ms Sitharaman was the lead speaker during the session on "Enhancing Access to Opportunities for All" in the G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors Meeting.

  • The child malnutrition rate in Bangladesh has declined sharply over the last six years. The finding was reported in the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS) 2019, jointly conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) and UNICEF. The survey has also recorded an improvement in many other areas related to health and nutrition, Child protection, hygiene and sanitation. 

    The rate of chronic malnutrition among children measured by the stunting level among them has come down from 42 percent in 2013 to 28 percent in 2019. The percentage of underweight children below 5 also declined from about 32 percent to 22.6 percent over the same period. The infant mortality rate has also declined from 46 to 34 per thousand live births between 2012-13 and 2019. The survey reports that the percentage of children of school entry age who enter the first grade of primary school marked a sharp upward trend from 33 percent in 2012-13 to 61.4 in 2019. 

    The Global MICS Programme was developed by UNICEF in the 1990s. It collects internationally comparable data on a wide range of indicators on the situation of children and women for use in policies, programmes, and national development plans.

  • Sveriges Riksbank (or simply the Riksbank), the central bank of Sweden, had begun testing its digital version of currency, e-krona. If this year-long pilot project successful, this would lead to the creation of world’s 1st central bank digital currency (CBDC). 

    The pilot project will be in operation for one year, until February 2021, will use distributed ledger technology inspired by the blockchains that operates crypto currencies. The digital currency e-krona will be used to simulate day-to-day banking functions like payments from a digital wallet such as a mobile phone application.

National :
  • The National Museum in New Delhi is hosting a unique exhibition on India’s ancient food history called "Historical Gastronomica - The Indus Dining Experience" till the 25th February that goes back to over 5000 years ago. The event is curated jointly by the National Museum and One Station Million Stories (OSMS) - is based on archaeological research, museum artifacts and their characteristics. The exhibition demonstrates the evolution of food habits, food processing techniques and related architecture of the Harappans. Recreation of food of the Indus-Saraswati Civilization by National Award-winning Chef Sabyasachi Gorai is one of the main attractions of this exhibition which is first of its kind in the country.

  • The fourth Anniversary of the launch of Shyama Prasad Mukherji Rurban Mission (SPMRM) was observed on 21st February 2020. In 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the Mission with the vision to deliver catalytic interventions to rural areas on the threshold of growth. 

    The Mission aims at transforming these Rurban clusters by stimulating local economic development, enhancing basic services and creating well planned Rurban clusters. This will lead to the holistic development of the region and encourage integrated and inclusive rural development.

  • Haryana government will open "Atal Kisan - Majdoor" canteens in all mandis and sugar mills across the state to provide affordable and cheap meals to farmers and labourers at a concessional rate of 10 rupees per plate.

  • Food Processing Industries Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal and Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani jointly inaugurated National Organic Food Festival in New Delhi on February 21, 2020. The three-day festival aims at strengthening organic market and encouraging women entrepreneurs engaged in manufacturing of organic produce. Around 180 woman entrepreneurs and different self-help groups SHGs from across the nation are exhibiting their organic products in various segments.

  • Atal Innovation Mission, the flagship initiative of NITI Aayog, has contributed immensely to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across the country. A cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, had on 24th February 2016 given its approval for the establishment of Atal Innovation Mission. 

    The Mission is establishing Atal Tinkering Laboratories in schools across India to foster curiosity, creativity and imagination in young minds and inculcate skills such as design mindset and computational thinking. The Atal Tinkering Labs are dedicated innovation workspaces of 1200-1500 square feet where kits on the latest technologies like 3D Printers and Robotics are installed using a grant of 20 lakh rupees from the government. 

    Students from Class 6 to Class 12 can tinker with these technologies and learn to create innovative solutions using these technologies. Atal Innovation Mission is setting up world-class Atal Incubators at the university, NGO, SME and Corporate industry levels that would trigger and enable successful growth of sustainable startups. The Mission is providing a grant of upto 10 crore rupees to successful applicants for setting up greenfield incubators or scaling up existing ones.

  • The Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi (PM-KISAN) scheme completes one year on February 24, 2020. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had launched the scheme on 24th February 2019 at Gorakhpur in Uttar Pradesh. 

    Under the Scheme, an amount of 6000 rupees per year is transferred in three equal installments of 2000 rupees in every four months directly into the bank accounts of the farmers. Launching the PM - Kisan scheme from Gorakhpur on this day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said that the scheme will help farmers in meeting their agricultural and domestic needs. Over 8.46 crore farmers have been given the benefits of the scheme till 20th of this month.

  • Government has amended provisions of Arms Act, 1959 and Arms Rules, 2016 to increase the number of firearms that can be kept by shooters and enhanced quantity of ammunition fixed for practice for the year. As per the new rules, now international medalists and renowned shooters are allowed to keep additional weapons up to a total of twelve under the exempted category, which earlier was seven. 

    Through the amendments it has also been clarified that no license is required for Indian citizens for acquisitions, possession of small arms falling under the category of curio. However, appropriate license as prescribed would be required for use or to carry or transport such small arms. Without the endorsement of such firearms in the prescribed license of the owner, no ammunition shall be sold for their use.

  • On February 21, 2020 Union Minister of State for shipping Mansukh Mandaviya, inaugurated the India’s first floating jetty on the banks of Mandovi river, Goa and also an immigration facility office at a cruise terminal in Vasco, Goa. 

    The floating jetty is made up of cement concrete which was built on a short time, will boost inland waterways, they are environment friendly and 3 more will be built in Goa. The new floating jetty can be resized, realigned and relocated as per requirement.

Bilateral :
  • India and Maldives on February 21, 2020 discussed issues of mutual interest in the area of security and law enforcement cooperation. Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with his Maldivian counterpart Sheikh Imran Abdulla who called on him in New Delhi. 

    Welcoming the strengthening of India-Maldives Partnership, both sides welcomed the expansion of bilateral cooperation in diverse fields including policing and law enforcement, counter-terrorism, counter-radicalization, organized crime, drug trafficking and capacity building. The meeting was also attended by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla and other senior officers from both sides.

  • Union Steel Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has urged Indian and Japanese Industries to collaborate in the sectors like Housing, Railways, Roads and Infrastructure as there is a lot of scope for usage of steel in these sectors. Mr Pradhan said, India is providing huge markets in these sectors for foreign companies and Japanese companies should take benefits of it. The Minister said, India has a huge market and Japan has technology and capital and if both collaborate it will be a win-win situation for both.

  • India and Sri Lanka have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for up-gradation of infrastructure in plantation schools for estate workers of Indian origin. The project envisages up gradation of infrastructure of 9 plantation schools as identified by Sri Lanka under an Indian grant assistance of 30 crore rupees. The government of India has been implementing several projects in the field of education, deepening India-Sri Lanka cooperation in the education sector. 

    Construction and renovation of many school buildings in Northern Province is also being undertaken under Indian grant assistance. These projects are in continuation of Government of India’s people-oriented development cooperation with Government of Sri Lanka.

Economy :
  • RBI unveils 5 year National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI): 2019-2024. In order to promote financial literacy among customers and to provide access to formal financial services in an affordable manner, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has released a National Strategy for Financial Inclusion (NSFI) 2019-24. 

    The strategy has been prepared by Financial Inclusion Advisory Committee (FIAC) of the RBI in consultation with the Centre, Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI), Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India (IRDAI), and Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority of India (PFRDA). 

    NSFI has been finalized and approved by the Financial Stability Development Council (FSDC). The document was formally released by Mahesh Kumar Jain, Deputy Governor, RBI at the High Level Meeting on Financial Inclusion for the North East region convened at Agartala, Tripura. 

    Key recommendations:
    1.) There should be universal access to financial services wherein every village should have access to a formal financial services provider within a 5-km radius.
    2.) The banking outlets of commercial banks to be increased to provide easy and hassle-free digital process.
    3.) The strengthening of digital financial services in all tier-II to tier-VI centres is required to facilitate a less-cash society by March 2022.
    4.) Every eligible adult should be provided with basic financial services like savings account, credit, micro-life and non-life insurance products, pension product, and a suitable investment product.
    5.) By March 2020, every adult enrolled under the PradhanMantri Jan DhanYojna (PMJDY) should be enrolled under an insurance scheme and pension scheme.
    6.) The public credit registry has to be made fully operational by March 2022.

Business :
  • The United States has surpassed China to become India's top trading partner. According to the Commerce Ministry data, the bilateral trade between the US and India stood at nearly 88 billion dollars in 2018-19 fiscal. During the period, India's trade with China was at 87.1 billion dollars. 

    Similarly, during April-December 2019-20, the bilateral trade between the US and India stood at 68 billion dollars against a nearly 65 billion dollars trade with China in the same period. 

    America is one of the few countries with which India has a trade surplus. On the other hand, India has a huge trade deficit with China. In 2018-19, India has a trade surplus of 16.9 billion dollars with America, while it has a deficit of 53.6 billion dollars with the neighbouring country. The data showed that China was India's top trading partner since 2013-14 till 2017-18.  

  • The Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME) has launched a National Level Awareness Programme (NLAP) 2020 from 17th to 28th February, 2020. 

    The main objective of NLAP is to spread awareness about the schemes & activities undertaken by the Ministry and its attached organizations such as Office of Development Commissioner (MSME), Khadi & Village Industries Commission, Coir Board, National Small Industries Corporation Limited, National Institute of MSME, MSME Technology Centres, and Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Rural Industrialization. 

    About Awareness Programme: 
    i.) A total of 126 field offices of the Ministry & its organisations are conducting the awareness programmes across the country to spread the information among students of colleges and educational institutes. 
    ii.) The awareness drive will be conducted in more than 600 colleges covering almost 60,000 students from all parts of the country. 
    iii.) Audio-Video films about the activities of the Ministry & its organizations, details of the schemes implemented by the Ministry are displayed to the students. 

Sports :
  • India will host the Commonwealth Shooting and Archery Championships in January 2022.

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated first-ever Khelo India University Games at Cuttack, Odisha on February 22, 2020. With this inauguration, India joined the league of nations where University Games are organized. As many as 3,400 athletes from 159 universities across the country will vie for top honours across 17 disciplines, including rugby which is among the six-team events.

  • In Ladakh, Drass Red lifted 2020 Ladakh Winter Sports Carnival, Junior (Under-18) Ice Hockey and Skating Championship by Defeating Drass Winter Games Association, by 4 -0.

  • Veteran New Zealand batsman Ross Taylor on February 21, 2020 became the first player in the world to play 100 matches in all three formats of cricket. The landmark achievement came as he took the field against India in the opening Test at Basin Reserve in Wellington. The ongoing match is also his 100th Test. Taylor was presented his 100th Test cap by former New Zealand wicket-keeper Ian Smith before the match.

  • In Chess, India's 13-year old Grandmaster D Gukesh emerged champion in the 34th Cannes Open in France. Gukesh defeated Harutyun Bargseghyan of France in the final round to end with 7.5 points.

  • The Union Territory of Ladakh is all set to host the first-ever Khelo India Winter Games. In the presence of Ladakh Lieutenant Governor R K Mathur, Union Minister for Youth Affairs and Sports Kiren Rijiju inaugurated the games on 25th February at NDS Indoor Ice Hockey Rink in Leh.

Awards :
  • Dr. Niti Kumar, Senior Scientist of Molecular Parasitology and Immunology Division, CSIR-CDRI, Lucknow, has received the SERB Women's Excellence Award-2020. She will be awarded by the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind during the National Science Day celebration at Vigyan Bhawan on February 28, 2020. 

    The award is given to women scientists under the age of 40, who have received honors from various national academies. Women researchers will be assisted by Science and Engineering Research Board(SERB) of the Department of Science and Technology, Government of India, with a grant of Rs 5 lakh per year for 3 years.

Defence :
  • A five-day training course on Vessel Search Technique being organized by the Indian Coast Guard jointly with the Australian Border Force began on February 24, 2020 in Chennai. The Defence Ministry said, the course by the Mobile Training Team of the Australian Border Force is being conducted for the Indian Coast Guard personnel, Customs officials and Coastal Security Group members of the Tamil Nadu Police. 

    The programme is set to bolster efforts of both the countries for realizing the common national maritime objectives of ensuring safety and security at sea. Indian Coast Guard Eastern Commander Inspector General S Paramesh, Australian Consul General in Chennai Susan Grace, Australian Border Force Counselor Tim Sheppard and officials from the Indian Coast Guard, Customs and the Coastal Security Group of the Tamil Nadu Police participated in the inaugural function.

  • Defence Minister Shri Rajnath Singh laid the foundation stone of the Army Headquarters new building “ThalSenaBhawan” in Delhi Cantonment. ThalSenaBhawan, the multi-storeyed complex adopting Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment (GRIHA-5 rating) norms, designed like a “rising sun” and spread over nearly 39 acres. 

    Key Points :
    i.) The Army Headquarters is currently housed in the iconic South Block at Raisina Hill, Delhi.
    ii.) At present, the Army headquarters is split into 8 pockets across New Delhi such as South Block, SenaBhawan, Hutments Area, R.K.Puram, Shankar Vihar etc., and the new building accommodates Army headquarters in one place ensures that they can work under one roof.
    iii.) The newly created Department of Military Affairs (DMA) will be headed by the Chief of Defense Staff (CDS), General BipinRawat.
    iv.) Nearly 1,700 officers (both military & civilian) and 1,300 sub-staffs will be accommodated in the new building and the cost of the project will be in excess of Rs 700 crore and will be constructed within 5 years.

Science & Technology :
  • Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has launched ‘5G Hackathon’ in association with government, academia and industry stakeholders. 
    1.) Aimed at shortlisting India's focused cutting edge ideas that can be converted into workable 5G products and solutions, the Hackathon will be spread across three phases beginning from February 21, 2020. 
    2.) The event will culminate in a grand felicitation ceremony at India Mobile Congress on the 16th of October this year. 
    3.) Winners of the various phases will share a total prize pool of 2.5 crore rupees. 
    4.) The 5G technology provides quantum leap over 4G in terms of speed, peak data rate, latency, spectrum efficiency and connection density. 
    5.) The Hackathon will convert innovating ideas into products and solutions in different verticals and develop India specific use cases around 5G. 
    6.) The 5G Hackathon is open to developers, students, start-ups, SMEs, academic institutions and registered companies in India and NRIs. Stakeholders can participate as individuals or as a team to present use cases for the 5G network in the Indian context.

  • In a first, Canadian doctors have used a robot to perform a surgery to treat brain aneurysm. The medical condition is a weakness in a blood vessel in the brain that balloons and fills with blood. The experimental procedure was described at the International Stroke Conference-2020, held in the United States. 

    The surgery was performed on a 64-year-old female patient. The researches said, the ability to deliver rapid care through remote robotics for time-critical procedures such as stroke could have a huge impact on improving patient outcomes. It will also allow surgeons to deliver cutting-edge care to patients everywhere, regardless of geography.

Days :
  • Bangladesh on February 21, 2020 observed the Shaheed Dibash known as ‘Amar Ekushey’ across the country to pay tribute to the martyrs of language movement. The day is observed as Shaheed Dibash to commemorate the martyrs who were killed in firing by the Pakistani police on 21 February 1952 in Dhaka.

  • On 24th February every year, the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) celebrates the Central Excise Day across the country. The day aims to honour the contribution of the Central Board of Excise and Custom to India's economy. 

    Additionally, the Central Excise Board being a primary tax collection agency for the Central Government, the day also recognizes and acknowledges the hard work put in by the officers of CBCE and encourages them to carry out their duty with utmost sincerity. Furthermore, the day is also observed to check corruption in goods manufacturing business as well as implement other rules to carry out the best possible excise services.

Persons :
  • In South Sudan, rebel leader Riek Machar was sworn in as first vice president on February 23, 2020. The rebel leader returns as first vice president in a transition government which will serve for 36 months.

  • Katherine Johnson was an American mathematician, who passed away on February 24, 2020. She was 101. Katherine was famous NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) mathematician who led the American space agency to a new height. 

    Her calculations related to space travel played an important role in transporting humans to space. Katherine was one of the first women scientists of NASA who helped humans to reach space. It is believed that the Americans were able to overtake the Soviet Union in the space race because of her contributions.

  • Vietnam’s dissident Buddhist monk, who had been under house arrest since 2003, passed away at the age of 93 years on February 22, 2020. He was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize multiple times for his vocal advocacy for democracy. 

    The Buddhist monk was the head of the banned Unified Buddhist Church of Vietnam (UBCV). The church reported his death on February 23. As per reports, the Buddhist monk in his will signed in April 2019 has requested a simple funeral, not more than three days and his ashes to be scattered at sea after cremation.

Environment :
  • Scientists have recently discovered a new species of snail. The temperature-sensitive species is named Craspedotropis gretathunbergae. The scientists have given this name after the environmental activist Greta Thunberg. Scientists have been given this honor to Greta's efforts in spreading awareness towards climate change.



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