Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 30th December 2023


National News 

1.Centre, Assam sign peace pact with ULFA faction 

  • The Union Home Ministry and the Assam government signed a memorandum of settlement with the protalks faction of the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) on Friday. 
  • Home Minister Amit Shah said the "tripartite settlement is significant for Assam's peace", and the government had achieved success in eliminating all the violent groups in the State. 
  • "It is a golden day for Assam's future. Assam and the northeast have endured violence for decades. ULFA cadres have agreed to surrender arms and ammunition, vacate their camps and have decided to join the mainstream and engage in the peaceful democratic process established by law and maintain the integrity of the country. Since 1979, all those who were killed were the country's citizens," the Home Minister said, adding that the total number of such cadres stood at 700. 
  • Mr. Shah said a time-bound programme would be made by the Home Ministry to fulfill the demands of the ULFA and a committee would also be formed for its monitoring. 

2.Government Allocates Rs 1,170 Crore For Ladakh Roads: Gadkari 

  • In a significant move towards enhancing infrastructure in Ladakh, Union Minister Nitin Gadkari announced that the government has sanctioned a whopping Rs 1,170.16 crore for 29 road projects in the region. 
  • This development aims to address the connectivity challenges faced by Ladakh, the largest Union Territory in terms of area and the second least populous in the country. 
  • Moreover, as part of the Central Road and Infrastructure Fund (CRIF) scheme for the fiscal year 2023-24, an additional Rs 181.71 crore has been earmarked specifically for the construction of eight bridges in Ladakh. 

3.Gujarat To Unveil India’s First Submarine Tourism In Dwarka 

  • The Gujarat government, in collaboration with Mazgaon Dock Limited (MDL), is set to make waves in the tourism industry by introducing India’s first submarine tourism venture. 
  • This ambitious project aims to explore the mesmerizing marine life surrounding Bet Dwarka, a sacred island off the coast of Dwarka city, steeped in mythological significance within Hinduism. 
  • Tourists will have the opportunity to dive 100 meters below the sea surface in a specially designed submarine, providing an up-close encounter with the rich marine life surrounding the island. 
  • The tourism facility is expected to be operationalized before Diwali in 2024, marking a festive occasion for both locals and tourists. 

4.Kerala CM Unveils Board For Transparent PSU Hiring 

  • Kerala’s Chief Minister, Pinarayi Vijayan, recently inaugurated the Kerala Public Enterprises (Selection and Recruitment) Board, a pivotal step toward enhancing transparency and efficiency in the recruitment processes of public sector units (PSUs). 
  • The primary objective of the newly inaugurated board is to streamline the selection process for competent individuals, initially focusing on public sector units under the Department of Industries and Commerce. 
  • Moreover, it opens its services to PSUs from other departments, aiming to bolster the overall effectiveness of public sector institutions in the state. 

5.Gujarat Claims The Title Of India’s Petro Capital 

  • Gujarat has emerged as the nation’s petrochemical powerhouse, boasting the world’s largest grassroots oil refinery and a state-of-the-art petrochemical complex. 
  • The dynamic growth of the petrochemical sector in Gujarat is exemplified by the monumental achievements of Reliance Industries Ltd’s (RIL) Jamnagar refinery and the ONGC Petro additions Limited (OPaL) petrochemical complex in Dahej. 
  • With established players like Reliance, Shell, ONGC, and others having firmly established their manufacturing units in Gujarat, experts foresee the state becoming unparalleled in the chemicals and petrochemicals sector. 
  • The upcoming 10th edition of VGGS, themed ‘Gateway to the Future,’ is poised to further boost investments and collaborations in the petrochemical domain. 

6.Telangana government started ‘Praja Palan Programme’ 

  • Telangana Deputy Chief Minister Bhatti Vikramarka Mallu recently inaugurated the government's Praja Palan program in Ibrahimpatnam. The Praja Palan program is designed to collect comprehensive information about the needs of residents, creating a detailed database at the grassroots level. Under this, white ration cards will be given to the poor. 
  • Applications under Praja Palan Program will be taken from 28th December to 6th January. Teams have been appointed for all the villages which will inform people about government benefits under Mahalakshmi, Rythu Bharosa, Indiramma Indlu and Cheyutha schemes. 
  • Under this, a single application form can be used to apply for five different welfare schemes. 
  • The initiative involves the collection of applications from individuals, enabling the government to identify potential beneficiaries of the six guarantees promised by the Congress during the assembly elections. 
  • During this period, teams of officers will visit two villages each day, and actively engage with the local population to collect filled application forms in the prescribed format. 

7.Guwahati University of Assam develops 'Metallic Oxide-rGO' sensor to detect formalin in fish 

  • A team of researchers from Guwahati University, Assam, has developed a new sensor made of metallic oxide-cum-graphene oxide (Metallic Oxide-rGO) mixture that can detect formalin adulteration in fish at room temperature. 
  • Food adulteration is the practice of adding illegal or harmful substances to food to make it appear more attractive or to extend its shelf life. 
  • Formaldehyde is a colourless, pungent gas used in various industrial processes, including as a preservative in some foods, commonly used in fish in developing countries. However, the use of formaldehyde in food is illegal in many countries, as it is a known carcinogen. 
  • The sensor used graphene (a material derived from graphite) oxide (GO) and tin oxide-reduced graphene oxide composite (rGOSnO2) to detect formalin in adulterated fish. 
  • Graphene oxide (GO), the oxidized form of graphene, exhibits high solution processability and ease of chemical modification with other materials such as metals, metal oxides or polymers. 
  • The sensor has been tested at the laboratory level on adulterated fish as well as on fish available in the fish markets of the Guwahati region. The research, supported by DST-PURSE (Promotion of University Research and Scientific Excellence), was published in the journal ACS Appl. 

8. Lt. Governor Inaugurated CRC Samba-Jammu For Person With Disabilities 

  • The Lt. Governor Shri Manoj Sinha of the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir unveiled the commemorative plaque, officially inaugurating the Composite Regional Centre (CRC) for Skill Development, Rehabilitation & Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (Divyangjan) in Samba – Jammu. 
  • The CRC Samba – Jammu, an initiative by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment, Govt. of India, aims to provide comprehensive support, skill development, and rehabilitation services. The overarching goal is to empower individuals with disabilities and facilitate their seamless integration into mainstream society. 

International News 

9.China names former Navy chief as new Defence Minister 

  • China named former Navy commander Dong Jun as its new Defence Minister on Friday, replacing a predecessor removed after just months as Beijing and Washington restart critical military-to-military talks. 
  • Mr. Dong was appointed at a meeting of the standing committee of China's National People's Congress, state news agency Xinhua said. 
  • Mr. Dong's promotion comes at a time when Beijing ups military pressure on the self-ruled island of Taiwan ahead of presidential elections next month and grows increasingly assertive in disputed waters in the South China Sea. 
  • China and the U.S. are also in the process of re-establishing military lines of communication. 
  • Beijing has not given an official reason for the removal of Li Shangfu, Mr. Dong's predecessor, who was ousted after seven months in the role following a lengthy disappearance from public view. 
  • Mr. Dong, born in 1961, was made commander of the navy in August 2021. 
  • He was replaced by Hu Zhongming earlier this month. 
  • Mr. Dong previously served as deputy commander of the Southern Theater Command, which includes as its area of operation the South China Sea, where Beijing has territorial disputes with neighboring countries. 

10.Argentina Rejects BRICS Membership Under President Javier Milei 

  • Argentine President Javier Milei has officially declined the invitation to join the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) grouping of major emerging economies. 
  • The rejection was conveyed through letters sent to BRICS leaders, solidifying Argentina’s decision to abstain from the bloc. President Milei’s rejection was grounded in the assertion that Argentina’s membership was “not considered appropriate at this time.” 
  • The letters emphasized a departure from the foreign policy approach of the previous administration, indicating a comprehensive review of decisions made earlier. The president highlighted that his geopolitical alignment prioritizes ties with the United States and Israel, eschewing alliances with communist nations. 

Defence News 

11.Indian Navy unveils new epaulets for admirals 

  • Following Prime Minister in Narendra Modi's announcement during the Navy Day celebrations in Sindhudurg on December 4, the Navy unveiled the new design of epaulets for admirals, with the octagon in the new design drawn from the naval ensign and inspired by rajmudra of Chhatrapati Shivaji. 
  • The Navy said the new design is a "true reflection of our rich maritime heritage" and reiterates the "resolve to do away with Ghulami ki Mansikta". 
  • The Navy is also set to rename some of the ranks now in British nomenclature to reflect an Indian connection.
  • "Adoption of the new design reaffirms our commitment to the two pillars of Panch Pran Virasat Par Garv & Ghulami ki Mansikta se Mukti," the Navy said on social media. 
  • 'X'. "Bharatiya Nausena embracing Bharatiyata in letter and spirit." 
  • The new epaulets have the golden Navy button top, followed by an octagon, an Indian sword and a telescope crossed, followed by stars indicating the ranks. 
  • In his remarks at the Navy Day celebrations, Mr. Modi said by seeking inspiration from Chhatrapati Veer Shivaji Maharaj, "Bharat is moving forward leaving behind the slave mentality". "I am glad that now a glimpse of the legacy of Chhatrapati Veer Shivaji Maharaj is also going to be seen in the epaulets worn by our Naval Officers. The new epaulets will also now be similar to the insignia of the Navy," he stated. 
  • In September 2022, during the commissioning of the first indigenous aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, Mr. Modi had unveiled a new Naval ensign. He had also said that the Navy would rename its ranks ``in line" with Indian traditions. 

12.Defence Secretary Opens HAL’s Aero Engine R&D Facility In Bengaluru 

  • Defence Secretary Shri Giridhar Aramane inaugurated a new design and test facility at Aero Engine Research and Development Centre (AERDC) of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in Bengaluru, Karnataka on December 29, 2023. 
  • The newly inaugurated facility, spanning over 10,000 sq. meters, is poised to be a hub of innovation in the field of aerospace engineering. Equipped with special machines, advanced setups, and computational tools, it signifies HAL’s commitment to staying at the forefront of technological advancements. 

Economy News 

13.Core Sector Output Growth Hits Six-Month Low At 7.8% In November 

  • In November, the production growth of eight crucial infrastructure sectors hit a six-month low at 7.8%, primarily attributed to declines in the crude oil and cement sectors. 
  • While this figure is higher than the 5.7% recorded a year ago, it reflects a slowdown from October’s 12% growth. 
  • The last comparable dip occurred in May, with a growth rate of 5.2%. Despite the overall deceleration, coal and refinery product outputs demonstrated double-digit growth. 
  • For April-November 2023-24, the combined growth of these sectors reached 8.6%, surpassing the 8.1% in the corresponding period last year. These sectors hold significant weight, contributing 40.27% to the Index of Industrial Production (IIP). 

Scheme and Committee News

14.Government Modifies Interest Rates On Small Savings Schemes 

  • The Union government announced adjustments in the returns on specific savings schemes, leaving the Public Provident Fund (PPF) rate untouched for the sixth consecutive quarter. 
  • The Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme (SSAS) will now yield 8.2%, up from the previous 8%, while the 3-year time deposit rate increases marginally to 7.1% from 7%. Despite expectations of a broader reset, the PPF rate remains stagnant at 7.1%. 
  • The rates for the upcoming quarter are determined by government bond yields between September and November 2023 for matching maturities, as per the adopted formula. The decision comes after a series of rate hikes in select small savings schemes over the past six quarters. 

15.Interest rates up on two schemes; no hike for PPF 

  • The Union government on Friday decided to raise the returns on the Sukanya Samriddhi Account Scheme (SSAS) from 8% to 8.2% and on three-year time deposits from 7% to 7.1% for the first quarter of 2024, while retaining the status quo on interest rates for all other small savings schemes. 
  • A small savings rate reset was keenly awaited as returns on these schemes had been hiked significantly ahead of the last Lok Sabha poll in January 2019. However, there was no major rejig this time around and returns on the popular Public Provident Fund (PPF), which had been hiked to 7.9% ahead of the previous Lok Sabha election, remain frozen at 7.1%.

Appointment News

16.Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar Appointed As Ex-Officio Chancellor Of Pondicherry University 

  • The Vice President of India, Jagdeep Dhankhar, has been appointed as the ex-officio Chancellor of Pondicherry University. This appointment comes as a result of a modification in Statute 1(1) of the Pondicherry University Act of 1985. 
  • The official communication from Rajneesh Bhutani, Registrar-in-charge of the University, highlights that this change is effective from December 5, as published in the official gazette by the Government of India. 
  • Pondicherry University, established in 1985 by an Act of Parliament, has been a prominent institution for higher education in the region. The Pondicherry University Act of 1985 outlines the governance structure of the university, including the position of the Chancellor. 

17.Manindra Mohan Srivastava appointed Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court 

  • The Supreme Court Collegium has recommended names of judges to the Center for appointment as Chief Justices of five high courts. They will be appointed in Rajasthan, Punjab and Haryana, Guwahati, Allahabad and Jharkhand High Courts. 
  • Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud is the Chairman of the Supreme Court Collegium and Justices Sanjiv Khanna and BR Gavai are members. 
  • Justice Manindra Mohan Srivastava as Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court, Justice Sheel Nagu for Punjab and Haryana High Court, Vijay Bishnoi for Guwahati High Court, Arun Bhansali for Allahabad High Court and Jha As Chief Justice of Rakhand High Court BR Sarangi's name has been recommended.

Rajasthan High Court 

  • The said appointment of Justice Srivastava as Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court follows the elevation of Chief Justice Augustine George Masih as a judge of the Supreme Court. Earlier, Justice Srivastava was the acting Chief Justice of Rajasthan High Court. 
  • Justice Srivastava was appointed as a judge of Chhattisgarh HC in December 2009. Interestingly, the collegium chose the two seniormost judges of the Rajasthan HC - Justices Vijay Bishnoi and Arun Bhansali - to head the Gauhati HC and Allahabad HC respectively. 

Award News 

18.Oscar of Science Breakthrough Award-2024 announced 

  • The 2023 Breakthrough Prize, known as the "Oscars of science", was announced. The winners will be honored at the 10th Breakthrough Awards ceremony in Los Angeles on April 13, 2024. 
  • These include 11 winners of Breakthrough Prizes in life sciences, fundamental physics and mathematics, among whom the $3 million prize will be shared. 12 early-career physicists and six mathematicians are also sharing the $100,000 New Horizons in Physics Prize.
  • Three female mathematicians who recently completed their PhDs will each receive a $50,000 Maryam Mirzakhani 

New Frontiers Award

  • Founded in 2012 by Silicon Valley leaders including Yuri Milner, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan (from Facebook) and Sergey Brin (from Google). 


  • Laureate Simon Brendel has made significant contributions to differential geometry, a field that uses calculus to study curves, surfaces, and spaces. 

Basic Physics: 

  • Winners John Cardy and Alexander Zamolodchikov have contributed a lifetime of profound insights into quantum field theories. 

Life Sciences 

  • This year's Life Sciences Award winners include honorees recognizing significant advances in the fight against three major diseases – cancer, cystic fibrosis and Parkinson's disease. 
  • Carl June and Michel Seidelen genetically engineered T cells with synthetic receptors to recognize single cancer cells, leading to remarkable success in the treatment of liquid cancers such as leukemia, lymphoma, and myeloma. 
  • Cystic Fibrosis Breakthrough: Sabine Hadida, Paul Negulescu and Fredric Van Gore discover the first effective drugs to treat the underlying cause of cystic fibrosis. 
  • Discovery of Parkinson's disease: Thomas Gasser, Alan Sidransky and Andrew Singleton discovered the most common genetic cause of Parkinson's disease. 

19.Noted Bengali writer Sirshendu honored with Kuvempu award 

  • "All my writings are like love letters to people," said Sirshendu Mukhopadhyay, noted Bengali writer and recipient of Kuvempu Rashtriya Puraskar. "Whatever I write, I keep people in mind. Whether it is a short story or a novel, it is my token of my love for humanity," he said. 
  • He spoke after accepting the award presented at a function organized by the Rashtrakavi Kuvempu Trust in Thirthahalli taluk on Friday. Mr. Mukhopadhyay said he was honored to receive the award instituted in the name of Kuvempu. "I have read some of Kuvempu's poems in English translation. He is one of the great poets of the 20th century. I visited Kavishyla, where the poet meditated. I am elated by the beautiful environment here," he said. 
  • Kuvempu had a special relationship with West Bengal. He took Ramakrishna Paramahamsa as his guru. "Interestingly, Kuvempu visited Belur Math in Kolkata when he was 25 years old. He has written poems in praise of Ramakrishna Paramahamsa and wrote about Vivekananda as well," he said. 
  • Mr. Mukhopadhyay, now 88, recalled his visit to Karnataka in the late 1970s as a journalist to trace the journey of Rama, Laksh- mana, and Sita during their exile. He visited Hospet, Hampi, Bengaluru, Chamundi Hills at Mysore, and other places. 

Books and Authors News

20.A Book Titled “The Babri Masjid Ram Mandir Dilemma” Authored By Madhav Godbole 

  • The Babri Masjid Ram Mandir dispute has been a longstanding and contentious issue in India, intricately woven into the fabric of its history and politics. 
  • A recent publication, titled “The Babri Masjid Ram Mandir Dilemma: An Acid Test for India’s Constitution,” authored by Madhav Godbole delves into the complexities of the issue, emphasizing the missed opportunities for resolution and the imperative for a modern and equitable solution. 
  • The book underscores the possibility of preventing the Babri Masjid’s demolition, citing instances where timely intervention by leaders such as Rajiv Gandhi, V.P. Singh, and P.V. Narasimha Rao could have averted the hardening of political positions. 

Science and technology News 

21.NASA To Study Asteriod ‘Apophis’, Approaching Earth On April 13, 2029 

  • NASA, the renowned space agency, has redirected its OSIRIS-REx spacecraft from its recent mission to asteroid Bennu to study another celestial body: Apophis. 
  • This asteroid, named after the Egyptian god of Chaos, is anticipated to pass within a remarkably close distance of 32,000 kilometers from Earth’s surface on April 13, 2029. 
  • Apophis is classified as an “S-type” asteroid, composed of silicate and nickel-iron materials, distinguishing it from other asteroid types. As Apophis approaches Earth, OSIRIS-APEX will get within 25 meters of its surface, aiming to extract crucial information. 

22.NASA launches 'Osirix-APEX Mission' to study asteroid Apophis 

  • NASA has launched 'Osirix-APEX Mission' to study the asteroid Apophis- 'God of Chaos'. OSIRISAPEX, the follow-up to OSIRIS-REx, will study physical changes occurring at asteroid Apophis following the asteroid's rare close proximity to Earth in April 2029. 
  • Apophis is still five years away from Earth, but when it arrives in April 2029, it will come within 20,000 miles of Earth's surface. OSIRISREx, the first US mission to collect a sample of the Bennu asteroid in 2020, brought the sample to Earth on September 24, 2023. 
  • So scientists will keep an eye on it through OSIRIS-APEX. Additionally, the Osiris-Apex spacecraft will study Apophis's surface, which is likely composed of silicate (or rocky) material and a mixture of metallic nickel and iron. 
  • Asteroid Apophis was discovered in 2004, Apophis was identified as one of the most dangerous asteroids that could impact the Earth. 
  • Images of asteroid Apophis were recorded by radio antennas at the N Deep Space Network's Goldstone Complex in California and the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia. The asteroid was 10.6 million miles (17 million kilometers) away. 
  • OSIRIS-APEX's principal investigator, Dani Mendoza DellaGistina, is a planetary scientist specializing in the surface and near-surface structure of small airless worlds in the Solar System. She was previously the Deputy Principal Investigator of OSIRISREx.

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