Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 18th December 2023


National News

1.PM Modi To Inaugurate Of Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor 

  • In alignment with the government’s commitment to fortify the logistics sector, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate the 402 km-long segment of the Eastern Dedicated Freight Corridor (DFC) on 18 December. 
  • The project, executed at a cost of Rs 10,903 crores, boasts 12 stations, comprising six junction stations and six crossing stations. 
  • The dedicated section spans from New Deen Dayal Upadhyay Junction to New Bhaupur Junction, situated on the Delhi-Howrah rail route, covering districts like Chandauli, Mirzapur, Prayagraj, Kaushambi, Fatehpur, Kanpur Nagar, and Kanpur Dehat in Uttar Pradesh.

2. 8th Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival held in Guwahati 

  • According to Tanushree Hazarika, Director, Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival, the much-awaited 8th edition of the Brahmaputra Valley Film Festival (BVFF) is scheduled to be held at Jyoti Chitrabon Film Studio in Guwahati, Assam from 14- 17 December 2023. 
  • The festival began with a special screening of the Hindi crime drama 'Kookie' directed by Pranab Deka. It concluded with the screening of Footprints on Water starring Adil Hussain and directed by Nathalia Syam. 
  • The festival highlights an impressive range of feature films, documentaries and short films. The BVFF, which began its journey in 2013, is making a comeback this year after a three-year break due to the pandemic. 
  • The festival aims to cater to the growing film production scene in the North-East and provide a platform to showcase local talent and creativity. 
  • The festival is envisioned as a community-building exercise, bringing together filmmakers, film students, professionals and cinema enthusiasts from across India under one roof. 
  • This year, BVFF has received a total of over 200 film submissions, of which around 120 are from the Northeast. It includes films from ten different languages of India including Assamese. 

International News 

3.Denmark introduces green tax on air passengers from 2025 

  • Denmark has agreed to impose a tax on air passengers to help finance the airline industry’s transition to greener practices, which will be gradually phased in from 2025. 
  • The government in November proposed imposing an average tax of 100 Danish crowns ($14.35) on air travel to help finance the industry’s green transition, which aims to enable all domestic flights to use 100% sustainable fuels by 2030. 
  • Under the agreement, the tax by 2030 will reach around 50 Danish crowns ($7.35) per passenger for intra-European flights, 310 crowns for medium-distance flights, and 410 for long-distance.
  • According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a study has found that aviation contributes to 3.5% of climate change. 
  • The research indicates that two-thirds of this impact result from various factors, including contrails, nitrogen oxides, water vapor, sulfate aerosol, soot, and other aerosols. 
  • The remaining one-third is attributed to the cumulative heat-trapping effects of long-lived CO2 emissions, totaling 32.6 billion tonnes between 1940 and 2018, roughly equivalent to the total global CO2 emissions in 2010. 
  • The goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 is not only crucial for the aviation industry but also aligns with the Paris Agreement’s objective to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees 

About Denmark 

  • Capital- Copenhagen 
  • Currency- Danish krone 
  • Prime Minister – Mette Frederiksen 

4.Global coal demand- likely to decline 2.3% by 2026: IEA 

  • Despite production of coal reaching a record this year, global demand is expected to decline by 2026, a re port by the International Energy Agency (IEA) says, While the decline is expected to be due to a shift towards renewable energy and plateauing demand in China, India will remain the "driving force" for the fuel until that year. 
  • The report, released on December 15, sees the glo bal demand for coal rising by 1.4% in 2023, surpassing 8.5 billion tonnes for the first time. This increase, however, masks stark differences among regions. While demand in the European Union and United States is expected to drop by 20% each, it is expected. 
  • Rise by 8% in India and 5% in China in 2023 due to demand for electricity and diminished generation of hydroelectric power. 
  • The IEA's expectations of a decline in coal demand is premised also on a change in global climate, The current El Nino conditions, usually linked with a drier monsoon in Asia, are expected to turn to La Ni na, which is generally linked to better rainfall, between 2024 and 2026. 
  • This will presumably translate to greater hydroelectric power output. 
  • Moreover, a steep upward trend in low-cost solar photovoltaic deployment is expected to add renewable generation. 

State News 

5.Kerala-Based Startup, Genrobotics Ranks Top 3 In Global AI Summit For Indian Startups 

  • Genrobotics, a Kerala-based startup, has emerged as a frontrunner in the field of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for social change. The company achieved significant recognition by being adjudged among the top three AI startups in India at the Global Partnership on Artificial Intelligence (GPAI) Summit 2023. 
  • Genrobotics clinched the ‘AI Game Changers‘ award at the summit for its groundbreaking G-gaiter Robotic Technology. Genrobotics earned recognition for its healthcare innovation, specifically the development of G Gaiter—an advanced AI-powered robotic gait trainer. 
  • G Gaiter is tailored for individuals contending with mobility challenges stemming from conditions like stroke, spinal injury, accidents, Parkinson’s disease, etc. This revolutionary technology facilitates quicker recovery, minimizing the need for external assistance in the rehabilitation process. 

Defence News 

6.India’s Akash Missile Achieves Global First: Engages Four Targets Simultaneously At 25km 

  • India has achieved a global first by demonstrating the capability of its indigenous Akash missile system to engage four aerial targets simultaneously at a range of 25 kilometers. 
  • The remarkable feat took place during the ‘Astrashakti’ military exercise conducted by the Indian Air Force on December 12. This exercise served as a platform to showcase the exceptional capabilities of the Akash missile system, illustrating its ability to engage multiple targets concurrently. 
  • The Akash missile, with a commendable range of up to 25 kilometers, represents a short-range surface-to-air missile designed primarily for safeguarding vulnerable areas from potential air attacks. This demonstration not only underscores the effectiveness of the Akash system but also solidifies its significance in India’s defense capabilities. 

7.IAF Successfully Testfires ‘SAMAR’ Air Defense Missile System In Andhra Pradesh 

  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) has proudly announced the successful test firing of its Surface to Air Missile for Assured Retaliation (SAMAR) air defence missile system. This accomplishment marks a milestone for the IAF’s strategic self-reliance efforts. 
  • The IAF conducted the successful firing trials of the SAMAR air defence missile system during the AstraShakti-2023 exercise at Air Force Station Suryalanka. This exercise provided the platform for the SAMAR missile system to showcase its capabilities in real-world scenarios. 
  • SAMAR is a quick reaction surface-to-air missile system, ingeniously crafted by the IAF’s 7 Base Repair Depot (BRD) and 11 BRD, in collaboration with Simran Flowtech Industries and Yamazuki Denki. Notably, the system repurposes old Russian-origin Vympel R-73 and R-27 air-to-air missiles, demonstrating an innovative approach to maximize existing resources. 

8. Maldives cancels ‘Hydrological Agreement’ with Indian Navy

  • After asking India to withdraw its military personnel from Maldives, President Mohammed Muizzu has decided to pull out of the 2019 agreement for cooperation in the field of hydrology between the Indian Navy and the Maldives National Defense Force. 
  • The Navy had so far conducted 3 such surveys under the agreement signed with India by Muizzu's predecessor Ibrahim Solih. Earlier, amid geopolitical changes, Maldives requested the withdrawal of Indian troops.
  • The agreement allowed the Indian Navy to conduct extensive hydrographic surveys in the Maldives to help improve navigation safety, economic development, security and defense cooperation, environmental protection, coastal zone management and scientific research. 
  • A senior official in the President's Office said, "In future, hydrography work will be done under 100 per cent Maldivian management and information will be shared only with the people of Maldives." 
  • He said the government would review "secret agreements" signed in the past. Administration that endangered the independence and sovereignty of the Maldives. The new government led by Muizzu, who took power last month, is widely seen as pro-China. 
  • Muizzu is also intent on expelling Indian military personnel who are involved in the operation and maintenance of two naval helicopters and one Dornier aircraft gifted to Male by India. 
  • Maldives also did not participate in the recent NSA-level Colombo Security Conclave meeting of which it is a member-state along with India, Sri Lanka and Mauritius. 

Economy News 

9.S&P Global Ratings: Positive Outlook For Asia-Pacific Economies Despite Global Challenges 

  • S&P Global Ratings has expressed confidence in the credit strength of Asian emerging and developing economies, citing their positive impact on the credit ratings of governments in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region. 
  • The agency anticipates that these economies will contribute to maintaining stable credit ratings for most APAC nations in the coming one to two years. 
  • S&P emphasizes that the growth of Asian emerging and developing economies will serve as a credit strength for many governments in the region. 

Business News 

10.Fuel Price Cut Anticipation Grows As Global Crude Oil Slips Below $80/Bbl 

  • The call for a reduction in retail prices for petrol and diesel has intensified as international crude oil prices recently dropped below $80 per barrel, stabilizing in the $76-77 range. 
  • This demand is backed by the robust performance of oil marketing companies (OMCs) in the first half of fiscal year 2023 and the maintenance of retail inflation within the Reserve Bank of India’s (RBI) comfort zone in November 2023. 
  • The present scenario of prices below $80 is considered favorable for OMCs. It remains uncertain whether there will be a cut in excise duty, as observed in November 2021 and May 2022, or a resumption of the daily fuel price revision exercise, which has been on hold since April 6, 2022. 

11.NPS Assets Surge To ₹10.7 Lakh Crore With Impressive 16.94% Equity Returns

  • India’s National Pension System (NPS) has witnessed a substantial growth in assets, reaching a new milestone of ₹10.7 lakh crore as of December 9, 25.95% higher than the previous year. 
  • Riding on the bullish wave in equities, pension funds have achieved an impressive average annual return of 16.94% in equities, as of December 8 this year. 
  • This stellar performance in equities surpasses other investment avenues with returns of about 7% in Corporate Bonds, 7.10% in Government Securities, and approximately 8.2% in Central and State Government Schemes. 
  • The total NPS assets, including Atal Pension Yojana, surged to ₹10.7 lakh crore, marking a significant increase of 25.95% YoY. Notably, NPS assets in equities amounted to ₹1.9 lakh crore, contributing to the overall growth. 

Important Days News 

12.International Migrants Day 2023 

  • International Migrants Day 2023, observed annually on December 18, serves as a global platform to recognize and appreciate the significant contributions of migrants while shedding light on the challenges they face. 
  • This day serves as a reminder to reflect on and celebrate the invaluable contributions of millions of migrants worldwide, recognizing their role as dynamic agents for the development in both their countries of origin and destination. 
  • The theme for International Migrants Day 2023 is “Promoting Safe Migration.” Through this theme, the United Nations calls for nations to affirm their dedication to upholding the human rights of all migrants, irrespective of their legal standing. 18 December – Minorities Rights Day

Ranks & Reports News 

13.Aster Medcity Claims The No.1 Spot As India’s Leading Emerging Hospital

  • Aster Medcity, located in Kochi, Kerala, and a unit of Aster DM Healthcare, has emerged as a frontrunner in the healthcare industry. 
  • The hospital has recently achieved the remarkable feat of being ranked No.1 in the ‘Best Multi-specialty Hospital Emerging‘ category by The Week-Hansa Research 2023, as published in December 2023. 
  • This recognition underscores Aster Medcity’s commitment to delivering quality healthcare services, making it a preferred destination for patients both within India and around the globe. 
  • Earlier this year, Aster Medcity’s Cardiology department secured the 49th position in the prestigious Top 100 Cardiology Hospitals in Asia Pacific, as recognized by the internationally reputed Newsweek magazine. 

14.Logistics Performance Index 2023: States And UTs Recognized For Achievements And Challenges 

  • The Commerce and Industry Ministry recently released the fifth LEADS (Logistics Ease Across Different States) 2023 report, shedding light on the logistics performance of various states and Union Territories in India. 
  • Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Chandigarh, and Gujarat are among the 13 states and Union Territories recognized as “achievers” in the logistics index chart for 2023. 
  • Notably, the number has reduced from 15 to 13 states this year, with Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand transitioning to “aspirers” and “fast movers” categories, respectively. 
  • Sikkim and Tripura showcased commendable progress, moving from the “fast movers” category in 2022 to the coveted “achievers” category this year. 

15.Hyderabad Leads In Food Adulteration Cases: NCRB 

  • The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) recently revealed alarming data that sheds light on the severity of Adulteration, especially in the city of Hyderabad and its surrounding areas. 
  • The NCRB data pointed out that Hyderabad topped the nation in food adulteration cases in 2022. In close second place was Andhra Pradesh, trailing after Telangana. 
  • Among 19 major Indian cities, a total of 291 cases of adulterated food were reported, with a staggering 246 cases emerging from Hyderabad alone. This unsettling trend underscores a pressing concern for the city’s food safety. 

Agreements News 

16.Kotak Mahindra Bank Partners With IITK To Launch Kotak School Of Sustainability 

  • The Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur (IIT) and Kotak Mahindra Bank Limited (KMBL) have joined forces to establish the Kotak School of Sustainability. The collaboration aims to provide leadership solutions for sustainability and prepare future generations to champion the cause of sustainable development.
  • The Kotak School of Sustainability is touted as India’s first full integrated institution dedicated to sustainability education. Funded by Kotak Mahindra Bank through its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) program, the school is poised to play a crucial role in shaping the future of sustainability initiatives in the country. 
  • According to the press release by Kotak Mahindra Bank, the initiative aims to offer comprehensive academic and skill-building programs at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. The overarching goal is to equip students with the knowledge and skills needed to address complex sustainability challenges. 

Appointments News 

17.Israel Appoints Reuven Azar As New Ambassador To India With Expanded Diplomatic Role 

  • The Israeli government recently greenlit the appointment of Reuven Azar as the new Ambassador to India, underscoring his expansive role as the non-resident Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Bhutan as well. 
  • Azar holds graduate and post-graduate degrees in International Relations from the Hebrew University, providing a solid academic foundation to complement his rich diplomatic experience. 
  • Reuven Azar currently serves as the Ambassador of Israel to Romania. His diplomatic journey is marked by diverse roles, including heading the Israel-US-China internal task force at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 
  • Prior to this, he spent three years as the Deputy National Security Advisor for Foreign Policy and served as the Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister of Israel. 

18. Indian Navy signed MoU with IIT Kanpur to promote technology development

  • Indian Navy has signed an MoU with Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur to promote technology development, innovative solutions and joint R&D. 
  • Rear Admiral K Srinivas, Asst Chief of Materiel (Dockyard & Refits) and Professor Subramaniam Ganesh, Officiating Director IIT Kanpur concluded this MoU. 
  • IN and IIT Kanpur share common interest in academic exchange of scientific research activities in the field of Engineering related to defence technologies. 
  • The MoU would serve as a broader framework and enable both sides to enhance capacity building, provide solutions to field-level issues and enhance training effectiveness through exchange of faculty/ guest lectures. 
  • The structured collaboration focuses on joint Research and Development initiatives involving teams from Centre of Excellence (Marine Engg) at INS Shivaji, Lonavla and IIT Kanpur. 

Science & Technology News 

19.Bhashini AI Translates PM Modi’s Speech In Indian Languages 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi utilized an AI-powered Indian language translation tool, ‘Bhashini’, during a recent speech in Uttar Pradesh. 
  • The tool, developed by the government, aims to facilitate real-time translation, fostering communication across diverse linguistic communities within the country.  ‘Bhashini’ operates as an AI-driven language translation system, facilitating conversations between speakers of different Indian languages. It allows individuals to communicate in their native language, effectively breaking down language barriers. 

Scheme News 

20. 58 Airports covered under “Krishi Udan” Scheme: Govt 

  • The Government has said that 58 Airports in the country have been covered under the Krishi Udan Scheme. 
  • The Scheme was launched in 2020 on international and national routes to assist farmers in transporting agricultural products to help improve their value realization. 
  • Minister of State for Civil Aviation Dr V K Singh said this in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha. 
  • Krishi Udan Scheme 2.0 was also announced in 2021 focusing on transporting perishable food products from the hilly areas, North Eastern States, and tribal areas. 
  • The scheme currently covers 25 airports focusing on North Eastern, Hilly and Tribal region besides 33 airports in other regions/ areas. 

Banking and Financial News

21. RBI authorizes Bandhan Bank to disburse pensions to railway employees 

  • Bandhan Bank has been authorized by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) for the disbursement of pensions through e-PPOs on behalf of the Ministry of Railways. 
  • This authorization enables Bandhan Bank to disburse pensions to all employees of the Ministry of Railways who have retired from their service. 
  • This mandate also provides the Bank access to around 50,000 average Indian Railways retirees every year across all offices including 17 zonal railways and 8 production units of Indian Railways. 
  • Authorization to disburse pensions to retired employees of railways provides an opportunity to serve them with the best products and services of the bank. It also allows retired employees to enjoy the most competitive rates provided by Bandhan Bank. 
  • This will provide the existing as well as new customers of Bandhan Bank an opportunity to avail the world-class banking services, competitive interest rates along with senior citizen privilege provided by the Bank. 
  • Pensioners also get access to more than 1640 branches and best in best-in-class digital banking platform of Bandhan Bank. 
  • Indian Railways is the largest employer in the country with an employee strength of nearly 12 lakhs. 

About Bandhan Bank 

  • Founded – 2001 
  • Founder – Chandra Shekhar Ghosh 
  • Headquarters – Kolkata 
  • MD & CEO – Chandra Shekhar Ghosh
  • Chairperson – Anup Kumar Sinha 

22.IndusInd Bank Introduces ‘Indus Solitaire Program’ For The Diamond Industry 

  • IndusInd Bank has recently launched the ‘Indus Solitaire Program,’ an innovative community banking initiative specifically designed to cater to the unique needs of the diamond industry. 
  • This comprehensive program is set to provide an array of exclusive benefits and features, reinforcing the bank’s commitment to serving the diamond community. 
  • Its Specialized Banking Features are: 24×7 locker access at select branches to ensure the security of valuable assets, Family account add-ons for a comprehensive banking experience, Zero cross-currency markup fee on foreign exchange transactions and facilitating international business for industry professionals. 

Miscellaneous News 

23. Professor Savita Ladage received the ‘Nyholm Prize of the Royal Society of Chemistry’ 

  • Professor Savita Ladage from Mumbai, Maharashtra has been named as the winner of the Royal Society of Chemistry's Nyholm Prize in recognition of contributions to chemistry education. Professor Ledge also received £5000, a medal and a certificate. 
  • Based at the Homi Bhabha Centre for Science Education, Tata Institute of Fundamental Research, Professor Ladage won the award for mentoring chemistry teachers and enthusiastically advocating the importance of chemical education through the introduction of teacher and student programs that promote chemistry education in India. 
  • Savita Ladze joins a distinguished list of past winners in the RSC's prize portfolio, 60 of whom have won a Nobel Prize for their work, including 2022 Nobel Prize winner Caroline Bertozzi and 2019 Nobel Prize winner John B. Goodenough. 
  • The award aims to advance excellence in the chemical sciences and is established by the Chemical Society of London, formed in 1841, whose first president was dialysis inventor Thomas Graham. Seven years later Queen Victoria granted the Society a Royal Charter, confirming its purpose as "the general advancement of chemical science".

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