Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC -11th February 2024


1. CSIR NAL flies test-drone that can double up as 'pseudo satellite’ 

  • Scientists at the CSIR-National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) successfully tested an unmanned aerial vehicle, called High Altitude Pseudo Satellite (HAPS), at Challakere, Karnataka earlier this month. 
  • HAPs are like drones, except that they are expected to be in the stratosphere well above where commercial planes fly and can be powered enough by solar cells and a battery-system to be able to hover for days on end. 
  • A fully working HAPS can be used for a variety of applications, from surveillance to beaming 5G waves. 
  • They can double up "towers in the sky" and have more flexibility than satellites, in being able to map a piece of land from above. 
  • The NAL system is currently far from these goals. 
  • The HAPS that was flown this month is a scaled- down HAPS. The 5-meter-long system, with a wing- span of 11 meters and weighing 23 kg, rose to about 3 km and stayed put for about eight hours. This prototype, scientists associated with the project told The Hindu, "met or exceeded all the performance metrics set out for it". 
  • However, a series of tests have been planned and they are expected to culminate in a full-bodied craft with a wingspan of 30 m (nearly as much as a Boeing 737) by 2027. 
  • It will be able to rise to 23 km and stay airborne for at least 90 days. "There are very few proven systems anywhere in the world that can do this and given the variety of potential applications, India ought to be able to have such capabilities of its own," said Abhay Pashilkar, Director, CSIR-NAL. 
  • While HAPS may look elementary, it requires a fair bit of engineering prowess. 
  • They are unmanned and must fly days and nights on end, meaning they need solar-powered batteries and not jet fuel capable of lifting the air frame up to the stratosphere (which extends from 20-50 km above the earth's surface). This ascent into the sky is challenging, given the air turbulence in the atmosphere, and the fact that these are relatively light planes. 
  • "The weight of the air- frame is only 8 kg but the entire system's weight is nearly 23 kg. Most of the weight is of the batteries," said Dr. Pashilkar. 
  • Unlike the familiar solar panels on rooftops, those used to power the plane are extremely thin solar films. 
  • "There are only one or two companies in the world capable of making solar-cell films that thin," said L. Venkatakrishnan, Chief Scientist and Head, NAL, and in-charge of the HAPS programme. 
  • "It's like the Hero Honda of the skies. Our test this month gave us the information required to design a bigger system, particularly on how we can ensure that the drone remains balanced given the forces it will be subject to," he told The Hindu. 
  • CSIR-NAL aims to design and build the HAPS' propellers, battery management system, carbon-composite airframe, flight-control system, and the high-powered electric motors that can withstand extreme temperature ranges. 

2. Navy chief inaugurates new defense systems 

  • Chief of Naval Staff Admiral R. Hari Kumar inaugurated a Precision Approach Radar (PAR) at INS Utkrosh in Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which will enable "highly accurate horizontal and vertical guidance to land an aircraft safely in low visibility conditions, such as heavy rain and fog". He also inaugurated the IUHDSS (Integrated Underwater Harbour Defence and Surveillance System) at Naval Jetty, Port Blair, the Navy said. 
  • "The IUHDSS is capable of detecting, identifying & tracking surface and underwater targets in the vicinity of naval jetty thereby enhancing security of Port Blair harbor," the Navy said in a statement. 
  • Adm. Kumar, accompa- nied by Kala Hari Kumar, President Navy Welfare and Wellness Association, visited Andaman and Nicobar Command (ANC), the country's sole operational tri-service command, from February 6 to 9. In addition to visiting the headquarters, the CNS also visited Vijay Baugh and laid the foundation stone for a sailors' accommodation. 
  • During his visit, Adm. Kumar also interacted with personnel posted in various units across the Command. 

3. A period of reform, perform, transform’ 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday said the five-year tenure of the 17th Lok Sabha was a "period of reform, performance, and transformation" that propelled the country towards big changes. 
  • The country has moved towards big changes at a fast pace and all members of the House made an important contribution. Such works were completed for which people had waited for centuries," Mr. Modi said in his valedictory speech. He added that the country "will bless the 17th Lok Sabha". 
  • This was the last session of the Lok Sabha before the general election, which too was touched upon by Narendra Modi 
  • Mr. Modi. He said that it might make a few nervous but it was an essential aspect of democracy and "we will accept proudly". 
  • He referred to the resolution on the Ram Temple in Ayodhya passed by the Lok Sabha, stating that the move would give "constitutional power to the generations to come to be proud of our values". 
  • He added that "for generations, people had dreamt of one Constitution, but this House made that possible by removing Article 370". 
  • The Prime Minister thanked MPs and Speaker Om Birla. 
  • "You [Mr. Birla] always had a smile on your face no matter what happened. You led this House in an impartial manner and I laud you for it. There were times of anger and accusations, but you handled these situations with patience and ran the House wisely," Mr. Modi said. 
  • Referring to the pandemic, Mr. Modi said that during the past five years, the "biggest crisis of the century" was seen, and Mr. Birla made arrangements so that parliamentary work was not hampered while ensuring the dignity of the House. 
  • "There used to be talk of the need for having a new building in earlier times but the decision of the Speaker made this a reality during the 17th Lok Sabha," he said, adding that the ceremonial installation of the "Sengol" (scepter) in the House was also made under Mr. Birla's leadership. 
  • He said the 17th Lok Sabha saw 97% productivity. "We are moving towards the end of the 17th Lok Sabha and we resolve that the productivity should go beyond 100% in the 18th 
  • Lok Sabha," Mr. Modi said. 
  • He also hailed the passage of the women's reservation Bill and the criminalisation of instant triple talaq. 

4. NIT-Calicut committee to examine professor's FB comment hailing Godse 

  • The National Institute of Technology, Calicut, (NIT-C), has set up a committee to look into the recent social media comment by one of its professors hailing Nathuram Godse, Mahatma Gandhi's assassin. 
  • In a release on Saturday, the NIT-C authorities said that "the institute does not endorse or support any comment that goes against the principles and values upheld by the Father of the Nation, Mahatma Gandhi". "To address the complaints related to the comment in question, the institute has constituted a committee to thoroughly 
  • Professor Shaija Andavan had written 'Proud of Godse for saving India' under a post by a lawyer investigating various aspects of the incident. It will prepare a comprehensive report and based on its findings appropriate action will be taken by the higher authorities. NIT-C is committed to upholding the highest standards of integrity and ensuring that its faculty members adhere to the principles," they said. 
  • Shaija Andavan, a Professor attached to the mechanical engineering department at the NIT-C, had written "Proud of Godse for saving India" under a Facebook post by Krishnaraj, a lawyer. The post had said that Hindu Mahasabha leader Godse was a "hero" for many in "Bharat". 
  • About the suspension of Vysakh Premkumar, a final-year student of Electronics and Communication engineering, over the protest against a 'Geeta Gyan' event held on January 21, the authorities said that the action "has been temporarily put on hold". "The student in question has filed an appeal regarding the suspension, which will be reviewed by the Senate. The Senate will convene a meeting to review the appeal.” 

5. EPFO sets interest on PF deposits at 8.25% 

  • The Central Board of Trustees (CBT) of the Employees Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO) has recommended an interest rate of 8.25% on provident fund (PF) deposits for 2023-24. The current interest rate is 8.15%. 
  • "The move is a step towards fulfilling PM Modi's guarantee of strengthening social security for India's workforce," said Union Labour Minister Bhupender Yadav after a meeting of the CBT here on Saturday. The meeting has also authorized Mr. Yadav to constitute the new executive committee of the CBT. 
  • The CBT has recommended to the Union Finance Ministry that the new interest of 8.25% could be applied to the ac- cumulations in subscribers' accounts for 2023-24. Once the Finance Ministry accepts the approval, the new rate will be officially notified in the government gazette. "Subsequently, the EPFO will credit the approved rate of interest to its subscribers' accounts," the Union Labour Ministry said in a press release. 

6. Cabinet approves Rs 6,000 crore scheme for formalisation of fisheries sector 

  • The Union Cabinet has approved a Rs 6,000 crore sub-scheme under the flagship Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) with the objective of formalizing the largely unorganized fisheries sector in the country. 
  • The formalization will be done through the creation of a national fisheries digital platform, facilitating access to institutional finance for the sector and creating an insurance product which would cover at least 100,000 hectares of aquaculture farms during the project period. 
  • Almost half of the total project cost, that is around Rs 3,000 crore, will come from public financing that includes World Bank and the AFD external financing while the balance is expected investment from the private sector and the beneficiaries. 
  • The scheme will run for four years starting from FY-24, incentivizing fisheries and aquaculture microenterprises through performance grants for improving fisheries sector value-chain. 
  • The scheme proposed a one-time incentive to the willing farmers against purchase of insurance with a farm size of four hectares of water spread area and less. 

About PMMSY 

  • Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) was launched on 10th September 2020. 
  • The aim of the scheme is to bring about Blue Revolution through the sustainable development of the fisheries sector over a period of five years (2020-2025.) 
  • PMMSY was announced in the union budget 2019-20. 

7. India ranks 3rd in USGBC’s list on green building certification for 2023 

  • India ranked third in the US Green Building Council’s (USGBC) annual list of top 10 countries and regions in the world for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification in 2023. 
  • While mainland China and Canada held the first and second positions, respectively. The United States has not been included in the list. 
  • LEED is a green building rating system and the certification is a globally recognised symbol of sustainability achievement and leadership. 
  • The rating system is available for virtually all building types, thereby providing a framework for healthy, highly efficient and cost-saving green buildings. 
  • In India, LEED is administered by the Green Business Certification Inc (GBCI). 

8. Varanasi to have country’s first conservation centre for Gangatiri cows 

  • The Uttar Pradesh government will set up the country’s first conservation centre for Gangatiri, a breed of cows in Varanasi. 
  • This breed of cows originates along the Ganga banks. The state govt will establish a centre for genetic improvement and propagation of the breed in Varanasi with the help of the Central government. 
  • Over the years, Gangatiri has been significantly overshadowed by high-yielding cow breeds like Sahiwal. 
  • But the technology used at the centre will help produce cows of high genetic merit using the IVF and embryo transfer technology (ETT), in which embryos from genetically superior cows would be disseminated to other females to increase the number of genetically superior progenies. 

About Uttar Pradesh 

  • Capital – Lucknow 
  • Chief Minister – Yogi Adityanath 
  • Governor – Anandiben Patel 

9. Papanasam beach at Kerala’s Varkala secures spot among world’s 100 best beaches 

  • Varkala’s Papanasham Beach has achieved a significant milestone by securing a place among the world’s top 100 beaches in Lonely Planet’s renowned guidebook, “Best Beaches: 100 of the World’s Most Incredible Beaches.” Situated approximately 45 kilometers north of Kerala’s capital, the beach is easily accessible via road and rail, attracting a plethora of backpackers due to its stunning cliffside setting. 
  • Recognized as a geological monument by the Geological Survey of India (GSI), the beach offers breathtaking views of the Arabian Sea and serves as a popular destination for both international and domestic tourists. 

10. Ravi Kumar Jha appoints as MD & CEO of LIC Mutual Fund

  • Ravi Kumar Jha has been appointed as Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of LIC Mutual Fund. 
  • Jha, with a distinguished career and prior association with LIC, comes with a track record of over 30 years in handling diverse positions and he was serving as Executive Director – Corporate Strategy till December 2023. 
  • His previous roles include Executive Director Corporate Strategy – LIC Mutual Fund Asset Management and various positions at LIC of India. 

Recent Appointment in Banking & Insurance Sector 

  • Non-executive Chairman of NPCI Board – Ajay Kumar Choudhary (replace Biswamohan Mahapatra) 
  • MD & CEO of Tata AIA Life Insurance – Venkatachalam H (replace Naveen Tahilyani) 
  • Consumer lending and mortgages head of Bandhan Bank – Santosh Nair (Shantanu Sengupta) 
  • Non-executive chairman of AU Small Finance Bank – HR Khan (replace Raj Verma) 
  • Executive Director of Bank of Baroda – Sanjay Vinayak Mudaliar 

11. Bharat Ratna For Former PMs Charan Singh, PV Narasimha Rao 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that former prime ministers PV Narasimha Rao and Charan Singh, and scientist Dr MS Swaminathan will be conferred with the Bharat Ratna. 
  • Mr Narasimha Rao was the prime minister from 1991 to 1996 and is known to be the man who heralded the economic liberalisation of India. 
  • Mr Charan Singh, a champion of workers and farmers’ rights, briefly served as the prime minister in 1979. 
  • Dr Swaminathan, a renowned scientist, is known as the architect of India’s green revolution. 
  • The Prime Minister had also announced earlier that former Bihar CM Karpoori Thakur and LK Advani would also be awarded the Bharat Ratna in recognition of their outstanding contributions. 

About Bharat Ratna 

  • The Bharat Ratna is India’s highest civilian honor, which was established in 1954. 
  • This award is not limited to any specific caste, occupation, status, or gender and is awarded to individuals who have made exceptional contributions in any field of human endeavor. 
  • The Prime Minister recommends the Bharat Ratna recipients to the President, and no formal recommendation is required. 
  • The recipient of this award is presented with a Sanad (certificate) signed by the President and a medal. 
  • However, no monetary grant is given to the recipient. According to Article 18(1) of the Constitution, the Bharat Ratna cannot be used as a prefix or suffix to the name of the recipient. 

12. India declared joint winners Of SAFF Women’s U-19 Championships with Bangladesh 

  • India was declared joint winners of the SAFF Women’s Under-19 Football Championships with hosts Bangladesh though the visitors initially thought they have won the title through the toss of coins, in an unprecedented change of decision made by the match officials. 
  • The match ended 1-1 after the regulation 90 minutes of play and direct penalty shootout was ordered by the referee. 

13. 11 February – International Day of Women and Girls in Science 

  • The International Day of Women and Girls in Science is celebrated on February 11 every year. 
  • The day is observed by the United Nations to promote full and equal access and participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. 
  • This year will be the ninth International Day of Women and Girls in Science Assembly. 
  • Theme – Women and Girls in Science Leadership, a New Era for Sustainability and the subtheme is “Think Science … Think Peace” 14. Chile’s former President Sebastian Pinera dies in helicopter crash eChilean ex-President Sebastian Pinera died in a helicopter crash. 
  • The helicopter carrying Pinera, 74, and three others plunged into a lake in southern Chile. The former president was pronounced dead shortly after rescue personnel arrived at the scene. The other three passengers survived. 
  • Pinera, aged 74, was a towering figure in Chilean politics, having served two terms as president, from 2010 to 2014 and again from 2018 to 2022.

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