Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC -18th February 2024

1. Pashupati Paras Launches “SUFALAM” For Food Entrepreneurs 

  • Union Minister of Food Processing Pashupati Kumar Paras has inaugurated “SUFALAM: Start-Up Forum for Aspiring Leaders and Mentors Startup Conclave 2024”. 
  • This initiative demonstrates the government’s unwavering dedication to fostering entrepreneurship and building a supportive ecosystem for startups, which in turn empowers aspiring entrepreneurs in the food processing industry. 


  • The Startup Conclave for Food Processing Entrepreneurs has the potential to be a game-changing event, driving the sector towards a future marked by innovation, sustainability, and inclusive growth. 
  • As startups come together to exhibit their creativity and foresight, the conclave acts as a source of inspiration, encouraging the upcoming generation of food processing leaders to push the limits of what’s possible. 

2. Sonowal inaugurates Kalughat Inland Waterways Transport terminal in Bihar 

  • Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has inaugurated the newly constructed Kalughat Inland Waterways Transport (IWT) terminal on National Waterways -1 (NW-1) at Kalugaht near Parmanandpur in Saran district in Bihar. 
  • It has been constructed with a worth of 82.48 crore rupees. 
  • It will provide seamless connectivity to vessels from Haldia and Kolkata ports along NW -1. 
  • The new Intermodal Terminal cargo will enhance handling capacity along inland waterways. 

Sarbananda Sonowal in News 

  • Sarbananda Sonowal laid foundation stone of the Regional Research Institute for Homoeopathy at Guwahati 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches Port Health Organization under Sagar Setu 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches 3rd edition of Global India Maritime Summit 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurates DGNSS “SAGAR SAMPARK 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches ‘SAGAR SAMRIDDHI’ 

3. ISRO successfully launches INSAT-3DS weather satellite 

  • The GSLV-F14 carrying INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite was successfully launched on Saturday from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota. About 18 minutes after the lift-off from the spaceport's launchpad, the GSLV-F14 deployed the INSAT-3DS into the intended geosynchronous transfer orbit. 
  • "The spacecraft has been injected into a very good orbit. The injection conditions were as expected and we also noted that the vehicle has performed very, very well," ISRO Chairman S. Somanath said. 
  • The INSAT-3DS satellite is a follow-on mission of the third generation meteorological satellite from geostationary orbit. The satellite is exclusive and mission designed for enhanced meteorological observations, monitoring of land and ocean surfaces for weather forecasting, and disaster warning. 
  • The INSAT-3DS satellite will augment meteorological services along with the presently operating IN- SAT-3D and INSAT-3DR inorbit satellites. 
  • The primary objectives of the mission are to monitor earth's surface, carry out oceanic observations and its environment in various spectral channels of meteorological importance, provide the vertical profile of various meteorological parameters of the atmosphere, provide data collection and dissemination capabilities from data collection platforms, and provide satellite-aided search and rescue services 

4. Mahindra Percussion Festival in Bengaluru on March 23, 24 

  • The second edition of the Mahindra Percussion Festival will be held on March 23 and 24 at the Prestige Srihari Khoday Centre for Performing Bengaluru. Arts,
  • The two-day festival will start with the Charu Hariharan Quartet showcasing a distinctive performance that merges Kerala and Karnataka percussion and tribal music. This will be followed by a performance by Mridangam virtuoso Viveick Rajagopal and Anantha R. Krishnan. The festival will also honor south Indian percussion through the legendary Vikku Vinayakram's Gha- tam Symphony, featuring Grammy Award-winner V. Selvaganesh, V. Umashankar, and Swaminathan Selvaganesh. The day will conclude with the Swarathma Percussive Experience, featuring Thavil Raja and Beat Gurus.
  • Day two will begin with the "Rhythms of India" ensemble, bringing together Darshan Doshi, Varijashree Venugopal, B.C. Manjunath, and Praveen Rao. There will also be an avant-garde exploration of the emotional journeys of the Ashtanayika, the eight archetypal heroines from ancient Indian literature. The festival will draw to a close with Taufiq Qureshi's "SURYA". 
  • Jay Shah, vice-presi-dent, Cultural Outreach at Mahindra Group, said, "At Mahindra, we have always endeavored to bring our audiences, particularly millennials and Gen Z, closer to their heritage and culture and give a stage to artists and art forms that are at the margins." 
  • The Mahindra Percussion Festival, in association with The Hindu, is co-sponsored by Mahindra Finance, Paul John Visitor Centre, and Carlsberg Smooth Soda and promoted and produced by Hyperlink Brand Solutions. Tickets are available on 

5. India wants Israel to be mindful of Gaza civilian deaths 

  • External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar has reiterated India's call for a two-state solution to permanently resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict. Speaking at the Munich Security Conference in Germany, he also Jaya said that Israel should have been mindful of civilian casualties in its (ongoing) response to Hamas's October 7 attack, while calling that attack "terrorism". 
  • "No caveats, no justification, no explanation. It was terrorism," Mr. Jaishankar said during a panel discussion with the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock. 
  • "It is important that Israel should be, should have been, very mindful of civilian casualties," he said, adding that it has an obligation to observe international humanitarian law. He called for the return of Israeli hostages taken by Hamas and for the opening of a "sustainable humanitarian corridor" to provide relief in Gaza. 
  • The conflict in West Asia needs a "permanent" and "long-term" fix, Mr. Jaishankar said. "I think today many more countries... feel not just that the two-state solution is necessary, but it is more urgent than it was before," he said. 

6. Greek PM Mitsotakis to attend Raisina Dialogue next week 

  • Greece's Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis will travel to Delhi next week as the chief guest for the Ministry of External Affairs' (MEA) annual Raisina Dialogue. 
  • While the final schedule for the Raisina Dialogue, to be held from February 21 to 23, is yet to be announced, Mr. Mitsotakis will be one of several international dignitaries arriving for the conference organized by the Observer Foundation Research (ORF), and is expected to include several Foreign Ministers and Deputy Foreign Ministers from European countries, including Lat-via, Romania, Estonia, Serbia, and the Netherlands, and neighboring countries like Nepal, Vietnam, and other Ministers from other parts of the world. 
  • The Raisina Dialogue coincides this year with the G-20 Foreign Ministers' meeting hosted by Brazil on February 21 and 22, and while External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar will stay in Delhi to host the conference, most G-20 Foreign Ministers are expected to be in Rio de Janeiro. 
  • According to sources, Ukraine's Deputy Foreign Minister Irina Borovets is also expected to speak at the event. U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, who was due to attend the conference and hold ICET technology talks in Delhi, is unable to travel to India due to "domestic and international" considerations, sources said, indicating both the Biden admit campaign nistration's commitments, U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin's recent hospitalization, and also ongoing developments in the Israel-Gaza conflict as well as Ukraine. Senior State Department official and former Ambassador to India Richard Verma is visiting India, Sri Lanka and the Maldives, and he and U.S. Admiral John Aquilino, Commander of its Indo Pacific Command, are expected to address the conference instead. 
  • The conference will begin with a keynote address by the Greek Prime Minister on Wednesday, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi will accompany him. 
  • Mr. Mitsotakis, who has been invited for a State visit, will also travel to Mumbai and is expected to be accompanied by a large business delegation. Among other discussions, both sides are expected to take forward talks on the India-Middle Economic East-Europe Corridor, which has hit a pause due to the Israel-Hamas conflict. "India Greece relations have been elevated to "Strategic Partnership" during Mr. Modi's visit to Greece in August 2023. They are based on shared cultural values, commitment to foster economic growth, collaboration in the fields of security and defense, shipping, maritime and marked by convergence on regional and global issues," the MEA said. 
  • During his visit to Athens last year, Mr. Modi had made a strong pitch to Greek businesses to invest in India, and the two leaders had agreed to set a target to double bilateral trade by 2030. India and Greece have been negotiating a migration and mobility agreement to facilitate legal "skilled migration" between the two countries since 2022, but have yet to conclude it According to sources, no government to government agreements are ready for finalization, but several Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) between Indian and Greek businesses are likely to be signed during the visit, including those in banking and finance, insurance, IT, and think tanks. 
  • This is the ninth edition of the Raisina dialogue, organized by the MEA-ORF. Previous editions have had keynote addresses by leaders of Denmark, Rwanda, Israel, the European Commission, Italy, and others 

7. With no Census data to depend on, government scrambling to assess population of vulnerable tribes 

  • With the 2021 Census delayed, the government's attempt at using the PM Gati Shakti portal to estimate the total population of Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTG) across the country is hitting one wall after another. 
  • This has led the government to arrive at three different estimates for the total PVTG population in the last three months-around 28 lakh in November, 36.75 lakh in mid-January, and 44.64 lakh by the end of January. Officials say this figure is not final. 
  • The information on population is crucial to the implementation of the government's 24,000 crore PM-JANMAN package for PVTGS. This data is needed 
  • We are not saying all gaps have been identified. What we have now is monumental given where we started just six months ago for accurate gap assessment and to sanction certain infrastructure projects that have a population criteria that need to be met. 
  • When the package was launched in November 2023 to ensure that PVTG villages had all basic facilities and infrastructure, the government said there were around 28 lakh PVTG people in the country. The government said its goal was to plug infrastructural gaps in the around 22,500 habitations they occupy. But by the time the operational guidelines were released in January, the Tribal Affairs Ministry claimed the total population of PVTGS stood at 36.75 lakh. By the end of January, the government had further revised the total population tally pegging it at 44.64 lakh as of January 31. Neither of these estimates had included data from Bihar and Manipur, with officials saying that population of some habitations are yet to be fed into the portal for the rest of the States as well. 
  • "We have to constantly keep revising the population data as and when it is rationalized," one district official in the south of Jharkhand told The Hindu, while another one in Chhattisgarh said there is not much uniformity in how different States and districts were estimating the population figures. 
  • Some districts are using population data from ration distribution charts, others are using data from as far back as the 2011 Census or surveys conducted in 2015 by government institutes; some districts have designed detailed surveys and have conducted a near-headcount of the PVTG population as recently as 2023 while others have only estimated it based on household and habitation surveys, according to some district officials working on the project. A government official explained that most of the population data being gathered was based on "habitation-level surveys", insisting that it was "not a Census Census-like exercise". The Tribal Affairs ministry has told all Ministries working on PM-JANMAN that the population data on the portal is not meant to be static and that it is subject to revision when each Ministry or department is on the ground to verify and rationalize the data. 
  • "We are not saying all gaps have been identified. But we are at least on our way. The data updation is continuous and as and when we keep identifying more gaps, we will plug them. What we have now is monumental given where we started just six months ago," a senior Ministry official said. 
  • The entire 24,000 crore allocation for the JANMAN package is meant to be spent over a period of three years. So far, projects sanctioned under the package amount to a little over ₹4,700 croгe 

8. Jnanpith for Gulzar, Sanskrit M scholar Rambhadracharya 

  • Celebrated Urdu poet Gulzar and Sanskrit scholar Jagadguru Rambhadracharya have been selected for the 58th Jnanpith Award, considered by many to be the country's highest literary honor. 
  • Sampooran Singh Kalra, popularly known as Gulzar, is considered one of the finest Urdu poets of his generation. He is also known for his work in Hindi cinema. Rambhadracharya is a renowned Hindu spiritual leader, educator and writer of more than 240 books and texts, including four epics. He is the founder and head of Tulsi Peeth at Chitrakoot in Madhya Pradesh. 
  • "It has been decided to give the award (for 2023) to eminent writers from two languages: Sanskrit writer Jagadguru Rambhadracharya and well-known Urdu writer Shri Gulzar," the Jnanpith selection committee said in a statement. 
  • The Jnanpith Award is presented by the Bharatiya Jnanpith, which was established in 1944. 
  • The award carries a cash component of 11 lakh, a statue of Vagdevi, and a citation. It is the second time that the award is being given for Sanskrit and the fifth time for Urdu. 
  • Gulzar, born in 1934, received the Sahitya Akademi Award for Urdu in 2002, the Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2013, and the Padma Bhushan in 2004. He has also won five Na- tional Film Awards. 
  • He penned the lyrics for the song Jai Ho from the film Slumdog Millionaire that received an Oscar in 2009 and a Grammy in 2010. 
  • He is known for his work in Maachis, Omkara, Dil Se, Guru, and Aandhi. Gulzar has also directed AL classics such as Koshish, Parichay, Mausam, and ka Ijaazat, as well as the tele-vision serial Mirza Ghalib. 
  • The Bharatiya Jnanpith, in a statement, said: "Gulzar has been setting new milestones in the field of literature. In poetry, he invented a new genre "Triveni' which is a non-muqaffa poem of three lines. Gulzar has always created something new through his poetry. For some time now he has also been paying serious attention to children's poetry". 
  • Rambhadracharya, a polyglot who speaks 22 languages, is one of the four Jagadguru Ramanandacharyas of the Ramananda sect and has been holding this position since 1982. A poet and writer in several languages, he received the Padma Vibhushan in 2015. 

9. Joblessness rising in country with education levels: study 

  • The country's economy is witnessing a stagnating employment growth rate, weakening em employment elasticity, slow structural structural transformation, and brewing structural problems in the labor market such as low female labor force participation and a rise in the unemployment rate (UR) with education levels, according to a study by D. Tripati Rao of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM), Lucknow. 
  • Prepared in collaboration with researchers from the Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani and the Union Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, the study points to a surge in output growth and employment from 1987-88 to 2004-05, followed by "jobless growth" from 2004-05 to 2018-19 and a subsequent trifling rebound thereafter. 
  • In an academic paper based on the study published in the Indian Journal of Labour Economics, the researchers prescribed that a conscious effort to identify and promote the labor-intensive manufacturing sector will help in accomplishing inclusive growth. The researchers analyzed data from the National Sample Survey Office's (NSSO) Employment 
  • A conscious effort to identify and promote the labor-intensive manufacturing sector will help in accomplishing inclusive growth, it says and Unemployment Survey and the Periodic Labour Force Survey Dashboard for the study. 
  • They found that the agricultural sector, though employing the most youth, contributed low value addition to the overall economy, resulting in significant employment challenges. "Apparently, "A eco economic growth, rather than creating more jobs, has resulted ( in net labor displacement. Alongside the number of jobs created, it is equally important to examine the quality and decency of jobs, as there is a strong linkage between productivity and job decency," Prof. Rao said. 
  • The study also points to gender disparity in the labor market and a growing level of unemployment for the highly educated youth than the less educated. In 2020-21, the total labor force in India stood at an estimated 556.1 million. "Out of this total, 292.2 million (54.9%) were self-employed, 121.1 million (22.8%) were in regular employment and an estimated 118.6 million (22.3%) were in casual employment. The number of unemployed people declined from 26.4 million in 2019-20 to 24.3 million in 2020-21 in India, while an additional 119 million people were not added to the potential labor force during the same," the study said. 
  • "The overall female Work Force Participation Rate (WFPR) for those aged 15-59 in 2020-21 stood at 32.46%, a full 44.55 percentage points below that of men. Further, the total percentage of male WFPR (81.10%) in the same year for ages 15-59 is more than twice the rate for female adults 33.79%)," the study said. 
  • The study said the UR rises by education level. "The UR for the illiterate and less educated class (below primary) was 0.57% and 1.13% respectively while, for the highly educated class (graduates and above), it was 14.73% in 2020-21 2020 for the age group '15-29 years'. This pattern follows across the years," the report said. It said that the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, public work projects, and poverty alleviation measures have a favorable influence on the lives and livelihoods of rural people. 

10.IAF showcases its weapons arsenal, firepower at Pokhran 

  • The Pokhran range near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan reverberate with thunderous explosions and applause as the latest platforms of the Indian Air Force (LAF)-the Rafale jet, the Apache attack helicopters, and the indigenous Prachand light combat helicopter-along with legacy platforms, demonstrated their capability and fire power at the Vayu Shakti exercise on Saturday. 
  • "During the display, approximately 50 tonnes of ordinance was dropped in a short span of two hours over an area of two square km. The event truly show- cased LAFs offensive lethality and precision targeting capability," the LAF said in a statement. Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan was the chief guest. 
  • The event began after 5 p.m. with three Chetak helicopters trooping the National Flag and the Air Force ensign, flying past the grandstand with the National Anthem playing in the background. This was followed by a sonic boom created by a Rafale aircraft. Two Jaguar air- craft flying at low levels followed the Rafale, taking high fidelity reconnaissance images of the area. The demonstration was carried out in light, dusk, and night conditions with simulations. 
  • A Rafale fighter engaged an aerial target with the MICA multi-mission air-to-air missiles, while the indigenous Light combat Air-craft fired the Russian R-73 the targets were missed, which officials said would have worked in the case of a real target as the proximity fuse would ignite destroying the target. 
  • Beyond Visual Range (BVR) missile. In February 2019, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistani F16 jet with an R-73 fired from his Mig-21 before he was shot down and ejected in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. The Apaches fired Hellfire missiles and rockets while Prachand fired rockets. 
  • This year, the exercise saw participation by 121 aircraft. Over two hours, the LAF showcased its capability to deliver weapons with long range, precision capability as well as conventional weapons, on target, while operating from multiple air bases. A couple of copters demonstrated its firepower in this event for the first time, engaging targets with Hellfire air-to ground guided missiles, while Mi-17 helicopters engaged ground targets with rockets. In another first, Chinook helicopters demonstrated rapid deployment of combat assets by airlifting the Army's M-777 Ultra-Light Howitzers in an underslung mode, which later destroyed simulated enemy targets on the ground. 
  • Combat support operations by transport aircraft included a "containerised delivery system" drop by a C-17 heavy-lift aircraft, and an assault landing by a C-130J carrying IAF Special Forces, Garuds. 
  • In joint operations of the Army and the LAF, weaponised versions of Advanced Light Helicopters Mk-IV destroyed simulated enemy targets with rockets and guns. Special operations by the IAF transport and helicopter fleets, involving Guards and Indian Army elements, were also on display. 
  • Garuds inserted by Mi-17 helicopters carried out an "urban intervention" in anti-terror, insurgency operations aimed at clearing hideouts of terrorists. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles carried out a bomb damage assessment of all targets, which was live streamed to the operations center and the audience.

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