Current Affairs Daily Digest – March 20 2019
1. Mumbai social worker Gauri Sawant becomes first transgender election ambassador
The Election Commission of India has appointed transgender social activist Gauri Sawant, as one of the 12 election ambassadors from Maharashtra. During 2004 and 2009 Lok Sabha elections there was no record of transgender voters.
Following the Supreme Court order, transgenders got the right to vote for the first time in 2014. In 2014, 918 voters were registered in this third category. This number has doubled in five years and now it is 2,086.
2. GST Council approves transition plan for new GST rates
GST council approved a transition plan for new goods and services tax rates on residential properties under which developers of under-construction buildings may either opt to shift to the revised lower rates without input tax credit or stick to the previous rates.
Revenue Secretary Ajay Bhushan Pandey told media that for housing projects launched on or after the first of April this year, the developers will have to adhere to the new GST rates recommended by the council last month. Developers can also opt for different GST options for separate buildings in a project depending on if construction started before or after 31st March this year.
3. Indian-origin Jagmeet creates history, enters Canada parliament
Indian-origin Jagmeet Singh has created history in Canada when he made his debut in the House of Commons as the first non-white leader of a major opposition party in the country.
Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party, was elected in federal by-elections held on February 25. Singh’s first words as an elected lawmaker were about last week’s terrorist attack on two mosques in New Zealand.
4. Kazakhstan President resigns after nearly 30 years in power
Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev has announced his resignation after nearly 30 years in power.
The 78-year old leader had ruled the country since it emerged from the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.
5. India loses hosting rights of Davis Cup, Fed Cup due to closure of Pak air space
The closure of Pakistan’s air space in the aftermath of the Balakot air strikes has resulted in India losing the hosting rights of the junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup. The junior Davis Cup was to be held at the DLTA complex from April 8-13 while the Fed cup matches were scheduled from April 15-20.
Both the competitions will now be held in Bangkok, Thailand.
6. Designer Ritu Beri, First Indian to be Appointed as Cultural & Tourism Ambassador of Uzbekistan in India
Popular Indian fashion designer Ritu Beri has been appointed as the Cultural and Tourism Ambassador of Uzbekistan in India by the Ministry of Tourism of Uzbekistan. This is in recognition of her contribution towards bringing the two countries together by way of fusing cultures in her clothing line.
She is the first Indian to be appointed to this position.
7. JGU launches report on higher education in India
The Jindal Global University (JGU) has launched a report on improving higher education quality in India.
In the report “Diversity and Inclusion: Towards Building a Diverse, Equitable and Global University”, the JGU highlighted its progress on 16 indicators including national origin, state origin, gender parity, age, religion and caste, education and professional background, disability, academic offerings and interdisciplinary, pedagogy, research and disciplinary diversity.
The other indicators are international collaborations and partnerships, governance and leadership, student financial inclusion, inclusive teaching and learning, gender identity and sexual orientation, and community outreach and engagement.
Releasing the diversity report, Professor Virandar S. Chauhan, Chairman of the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) pointed out the multiple challenges for higher education institutions in attaining reasonable progress on indicators of diversity and inclusion.
8. IBM creates Blockchain-based global payment network
Information Technology (IT) major IBM has created a Blockchain-based global payment network that transmits monetary value in the form of digital assets, commonly known as cryptocurrencies or “stable coins.”
The payment network called World Wire uses the Stellar protocol that reduces intermediaries and allows users to accelerate settlement time. World Wire has already enabled payment locations in 72 countries, with 47 currencies and 44 banking endpoints.
9. US to build first exascale supercomputer in 2021
The US has disclosed its plan to build an exascale supercomputer, about seven times the speed rating of the most powerful system built to date.
The US Department of Energy (DOE) granted a $500 million contract to Intel and sub-contractor Cray Computing and the supercomputer, called Aurora, will be delivered to the department’s Argonne National Laboratory near Chicogo in 2021.
The IBM supercomputer is currently ranked the fastest computing system in the world, a notch occupied by China’s Sunway TaihuLight and Tianhe 2A for five years.
10. Russia-US’ Venus space probe to be launched in 2027
A Russian-US joint interplanetary probe to Venus will be possibly launched in 2027.
“The launch windows in 2026, at the end of 2027, in 2029 and 2031 are being discussed. Even if the financing starts this year, we are missing the first date, so it will most likely be 2027”, Lyudmila Zasova, a researcher at the Space Research Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, was quoted as saying in an interview with Sputniknews agency.
The Venera-D space mission, a joint project to land on Venus, involves Russian orbital and landing gear and a small US scientific station. It is expected to be launched by the Russian Angara-A5 heavy rocket from the Vostochny Cosmodrome in Russia’s Far Eastern Amur Region.
11. SBI to auction NPA assets worth Rs 6,169 cr in March
The State Bank of India will auction non-performing assets (NPAs) amounting to Rs 6,169 crore in the next 10 days to recover its dues from various defaulting business outfits.
The country’s largest lender carries out auctions of financial assets of those defaulters who have not paid their dues. From March 22-30, the bank, which has already put out a list of the assets, will auction these to asset reconstruction companies (ARCs), banks, non-banking financial companies (NBFCs) and FIs.
The accumulated value of assets on sale is Rs 6,169 crore and the actual realisation will happen depending on the reserve price and bids from the buyers.
12. US, Brazil sign space technology safeguard agreement
The US has signed an agreement with Brazil to protect its technology associated with US participation in space launches in the South American country.
The agreement is about “technology safeguards associated with US participation in space launches from Brazil.
13. Russian defence minister meets Syrian president
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Syria on the instruction of President Vladimir Putin and held talks with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Shoigu delivered a message from Putin to Assad, and they discussed fighting international terrorism in Syria, various aspects of security in the Middle East and post-conflict settlement.
14. Mobile app developed by IIPHG, PHFI to combat exam pressure
A mobile application to cope with exam related stress and anxiety for students and their parents has been developed by Indian Institute of Public Health Gandhinagar, Gujarat, (IIPHG) in collaboration with National Mental Health Program, Department of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Gujarat. The mobile application is called ‘Conquer Exam, Be a Warrior.’
15. US Mathematician Becomes First Woman To Win Prestigious Abel Prize
Women took another step forward in the still male-dominated world of science as American Karen Uhlenbeck won the Abel Prize in mathematics for her work on partial differential equations.
“Karen Uhlenbeck receives the Abel Prize 2019 for her fundamental work in geometric analysis and gauge theory, which has dramatically changed the mathematical landscape.
She is the first woman to win the prize, which comes with a cheque for six million kroner (620,000 euros, $703,000). She is also an advocate for gender equality in science and mathematics.
16. 33rd Edition of India-Indonesia Coordinated Patrol (Ind-Indo Corpat) Commences at Port Blair
Indonesian Naval Ship KRI Sultan Thaha Syaifuddin and Maritime Patrol Aircraft CN-235 led by Cmde Dafit Santoso arrived at Port Blair, Andaman & Nicobar Islands, India for the Opening Ceremony of the 33rd edition of the India-Indonesia Coordinated Patrol (IND-INDO CORPAT) to be held from 19 Mar to 04 Apr 2019. His Excellarry Ambassador of Indonesia to India, Mr. Shidharto Raza Suryodipuro is also visiting Port Blair to attend the Opening Ceremony to be held at Port Blair from 20 – 21 Mar 19. The Indian delegation is led by the senior officer from the Indian Navy, Commodore Ashutosh Ridhorkar, VSM Naval Component Commander, Andaman and Nicobar Command.
17. Xiaomi launches Mi Pay to take on Google Pay, Paytm
Aiming to take on the likes of Google Pay and Paytm, Chinese handset maker Xiaomi launched its Unified Payments Interface (UPI)-based payments application “Mi Pay” for its MIUI users in India.
According to the company, the Mi Pay service aims to be an all-in-one payments solution for its users. It would be available for all Xiaomi devices running its proprietary MIUI OS based on Android.
The app is integrated within MIUI interface across SMS, contacts, scanner, app vault and settings and ICICI Bank is the payment service provider.
18. Karnad’s ‘Indian Story’ gets him Windham-Campbell Prize in UK
Journalist and writer Raghu Karnad won the $165,000 Windham-Campbell Prize in the non-fiction category for his debut book, The Farthest Field: An Indian Story Of The Second World War.
Karnad is the second Indian to receive the prestigious prize, since Jerry Pinto won it for his novel, Em And The Big Hoom, in 2016. Karnad is one of the eight winners chosen across four categories—fiction, non-fiction, drama and poetry—this year. American writer Rebecca Solnit is the other awardee in the non-fiction category for the diverse body of work she has produced over her career.
19. Famed economist, professor Alan Krueger dies at 58
Prominent labor economist, former economic adviser to the Clinton and Obama administrations, and University economics professor Alan B. Krueger died . He was 58.
20. Former SC judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose appointed India’s first Lokpal
Former Supreme Court judge Justice Pinaki Chandra Ghose appointed as the country’s first Lokpal, the anti-corruption ombudsman. Former Sashastra Seema Bal (SSB) chief Archana Ramasundaram, ex-Maharashtra Chief Secretary Dinesh Kumar Jain, Mahender Singh and Indrajeet Prasad Gautam have been appointed as non-judicial members of Lokpal.
Justices Dilip B Bhosale, Pradip Kumar Mohanty, Abhilasha Kumari and Ajay Kumar Tripathi have been appointed as judicial members in the anti-corruption ombudsman, the communique issued by Rashtrapati Bhavan said.
These appointments were recommended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led selection committee and approved by President Ram Nath Kovind.
21. India has some of the world’s cheapest cities to live in: EIU
Some of India’s biggest cities are among the cheapest in the world to live in, according to findings of the Worldwide Cost of Living Survey by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU).
Cities of Bengaluru—India’s technology capital, the southern city of Chennai, and the country’s capital city New Delhi ranked among the world’s ten cheapest cities in a ranking released by the Economist Intelligence Unit in its bi-annual survey on March 19. EIU ranked 133 cities in 93 countries surveying 50,000 individuals.
Bangalore is Asia’s cheapest city, being more than twice cheaper than the three most expensive cities, according to the rankings.
Amongst the most expensive cities in the world, Singapore and Hong Kong topped the rankings, along with Paris, followed by Zurich and Geneva. Singapore has continued to hold on to the ranking for five years now.
22. World Sparrow Day 2019
World Sparrow Day is a day designated to raise awareness of the house sparrow and then other common birds to urban environments, and of threats to their populations, observed on 20 March. It is an international initiative by the Nature Forever Society of India in collaboration with the Eco-Sys Action Foundation (France) and numerous other national and international organisations across the world.
The theme for World Sparrow Day 2019 is “I LOVE Sparrows”.
23. International Day of Happiness 2019
The United Nations International Day of Happiness is celebrated on March 20 to inspire and spread a global happiness movement. The theme for 2019 is “Happier together”. The central theme is “Share Happiness and be Part of Something Amazing”.
24. EU regulators fine Google €1.49 billion for blocking rival online search advertisers
European Union (EU) antitrust regulators handed down a €1.49 billion fine to Google for blocking rival online search advertisers, marking the company’s third penalty in two years.
EU’s competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced the results of the long-running probe of Google’s AdSense advertising business at a news conference in Brussels on Wednesday.
The commission found that Google and its parent company, Alphabet, breached the EU antitrust rules by imposing restrictive clauses in contracts with websites that used AdSense, preventing Google rivals from placing their ads on these sites.