Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 2nd February 2024


1. Net zero gain for job guarantee scheme 

  • ₹86,000 crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), the budget for the scheme for the financial year 2024-25 has been hiked by ₹26,000 crore in comparison with the 2023-24 Budget estimates, though it is the same as the revised estimates for the ongoing financial year (2023-24). So, the net gain for the rural employment scheme could be zero or even negative. 
  • As per the statistics available on the Union Rural Development Ministry website, the total expenditure on the programme so far has been ₹88,309.72 crore. According to some estimates, as on February 1, the Centre owes ₹16,000 crore in wages to the State governments. The govern- ment has argued that MGNREGS is a dynamic 
  • The 2024 Budget, though, breaks the continued trend of slashing the budget for the programme. In the 2023 Budget, only ₹60,000 crore was allocated which was 18% lower than the ₹73,000 crore Budget estimates and 33% lower than the ₹89,000 crore revised estimates for financial year 2023-24 for the scheme. 
  • Scheme and the dues are cyclically paid. But for the last two years, the Centre has halted the programme in West Bengal, claiming corruption in implementation of the scheme. The Centre owes almost 17,000 
  • 'Allocation falls short' But activists and academics said the allocation still fell way short of the sum required for efficient implementation of the programme. "Matching the revised estimates is a tacit acknowledgement of rural distress. But it takes no step to alleviate it.
  •  Simple calculation points out that considering 5.6 crore households are registered under the programme, this sum can provide for 25 to 30 days at most of work in a year," Rajendran Narayanan, Professor at Azim Premji University, said. 
  • The allocation furthers the trend of spending 15 to 20% of the Budget clearing the past dues. In the present case, this includes ₹7,000 crore owed to the West Bengal government. "To meet the employment needs of registered households under MGNREGS, a crucial 3 lakh crore is essential. However, the allocated budget falls significantly short at a mere 186,000 crore. Considering the outstanding dues in West Bengal that need clearing and the additional work requirements for the workers in the State this year, coupled with the historical trend of 15 to 20% of the Budget being spent on clearing past dues, the allocation seems increasingly inadequate. 
  • This shortfall raises serious concerns as it not only jeopardizes the guaranteed right to work. under MGNREGS but also constitutes a gross violation of this fundamental entitlement," Chakradhar Buddha, who is affiliated with LibTech India, a consortium of academics and activists, said. 

2. Marginal rise in allocations for farming, fisheries 

  • Maintaining that the 'anna-data's' welfare is the highest priority of the Centre, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said in her Budget farmers' empowerment and well-being will drive India forward. 
  • The allocation for the Agriculture Ministry is 1,17,528.79 crore, a rise of 1,997 crore when compared with the previous Budget. The allocation for the Ministry in the revised estimates was ₹1,16,788.96 crore while the actual expenditure in 2022- 23 was 99,877.01 crore. 
  • While schemes like the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana saw an increase in allocation, the allocation under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi remained the same at 60,000 crore. The PM Kisan Man Dhan Yojana, however, saw a decrease in allocation.
  • For agricultural research, the allocation is 9,941.09 crore. Ms. Sitharaman said direct financial assistance is provided to 11.8 crore farmers, including marginal and small farmers, under the PM Kisan Samman Nidhi. "Crop insurance is given to four crore farmers under PM 
  • The Budget, however, was silent on issues such as a guaranteed minimum support price based on the M. S. Swaminathan Committee's formula Fasal Bima Yojana.” 
  • The Minister said a comprehensive programme for supporting dairy farmers will be formulated. "Efforts are already on to control foot and mouth disease," she said, adding the programme will be built on the success of existing schemes, including the Rashtriya Gokul Mission, National Livestock Mission, and Infrastructure Development Funds for dairy processing and animal husbandry. 
  •  The Ministry received an allocation of ₹4,521.24 crore, an increase of almost 200 crore when compared with the previous Budget. The Minister said a separate Department for Fisheries has resulted in the doubling of both inland and aquaculture production. The Budget, however, was silent on guaranteed minimum support price based on the M. S. Swaminathan Committee's formula. 

3. School, Higher Education Departments get more money in interim Budget 

  • Both Higher Education and School Education departments under the Union Ministry of Education received an increased budgetary allocation in the Interim Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman here on Thursday. Schemes such as PM Schools for Rising India (PM SHRI) got almost 50% more allocation than the last Budget. 
  • The total allocation for the School Education Department is 73,008.10 crore. In the last Budget, it was 68,804.85 crore. In the revised estimates of last fiscal, the amount was 72,473.80 crore. Actual expenditure of 2022-23 was 58639.56 crore. Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman (PM POSHAN), previously known as the mid-day meal scheme, received an outlay of 12,467.39 crore. 
  • For PM SHRI, the allocation is 6,050 crore. For the Higher Education Department, the total allocation is 47,619.77 crore. In the last Budget, it was 44,094.62 crore. In the revised estimates, it rose to ₹57,244.48 crore and in 2022-23, the actual expenditure was 38,556.80 crore. 

4. One cr. homes to get free power via solar panels 

  • Taking a cue from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assurance following the Ayodhya temple consecration that one crore households will be electrified via rooftop solar installations, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her Interim Budget reiterated that commitment. 
  • "Through rooftop solar-isation, one crore house-holds will be able to obtain up to 300 units of free electricity every month.... this would translate to benefits of ₹15,000-18,000 annually for households from free solar electricity, and selling of the surplus to the distribution companies," she said in her address. 
  • The average all-India household consumption of electricity is about 100 units a month, say public data. The net-metering policy allows users of rooftop solar power to supply their surplus power back to the grid, thus offsetting their electricity bills. 
  • Whether the government would fund new installations or only subsidize those installing new ones the latter has been a practice for years and the demographic that the scheme was targeting was not specified in Ms. Sitha-raman's address. 
  • Last year, the government spent 2,167 crore on its rooftop solar power programme, and for 2024- 25, it has budgeted 4,555 crore, according to the Budget documents updated on Thursday. 
  • At present, India has about 11 GW of installed rooftop solar capacity, of which only 2.7 GB is in residential units and the rest in commercial or industrial spaces. There is no centralized national estimate of how many of India's estimated 30 crore households have rooftop solar units, The Hindu reported last month citing estimates from experts; it is unlikely to be over 10 lakh. 
  •  Neeraj Kuldeep, Senior Programme Lead, CEEW, said in a statement on Thursday that 20-25 GW worth of rooftop solar capacity could be supported through solarisation of one crore households. Residential consumers receive subsidized electricity from distribution companies (discoms), and if such households were to be 'solar- ised', it would save discoms about 2 lakh crore over the next 25 years (the solar plant's life). "All States can leverage this opportunity as rooftop solar potential exists everywhere...," he added. 
  • Ms. Sitharaman also announced a 'viability gap funding' to support the capital-intensive offshore wind sector, of up to 1 GW capacity. These are wind farms located in the sea. Though no details or budgetary allocations were announced, it is expected to encourage private sector investments in the sector. 

5. Govt. to launch housing scheme for middle class 

  • Providing a boost to affordable housing, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday announced that the government would launch a scheme to help "deserving sections of the middle class living in rented houses or slums or chawls and unauthorised colonies" buy or build houses. 
  • In a fillip to rural housing, she said that two crore more houses would be built under the flagship Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)-Rural. She said that despite the pandemic-induced challenges, the "implementation of the PMAY (Rural) continued and we are close to achieving the target of three crore houses. [Construction of] two crore more houses will be taken up in the next five years". The PMAY is a credit-linked subsidy scheme to facilitate access to affordable housing for low- and Two crore more houses will be built under the flagship Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana-Rural moderate-income groups. 
  • It has two components PMAY (Urban) for the urban poor under the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, and PMAY (Rural) for rural India under the Ministry of Rural Development. 
  • The allocation for the Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry is 77,523 crore, up from 76,431 crore in 2023-24. The total allocation for PMAY is 80,671 crore. The Minister said the government was working with an all-round, all- pervasive and all-inclusive development approach to make India a 'Viksit Bharat' by 2047. 

6. Three economic rail corridors on the anvil

  • With investment in infrastructure, the Union Ministry of Railways has been allocated 2.55 lakh crore for the financial year 2024-25, up by 5.8% from last year's allocation of ₹2.41 lakh crore. 
  • Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said that up to 82% of last year's allocation had been spent by the end of January. 
  • The Budget document says the Railway Ministry could only utilize 1.6 lakh crore, based on the actual numbers released for 2022-23. He said the revised operating ratio for 2023-24 was 98.7%, which is the ratio of working expenses to traffic earnings. "All expenditure for pension is being borne from railway revenue," he added. 
  • Nirmala Sitharaman said that the Centre will implement three major economic corridor programmes: energy, mineral, and cement corridor, also being referred to as Energy Economic Corridor; port connectivity corridor aka Rail Sagar; and high-traffic density corridors, aka Amrit Chaturbhuj. 
  • A total of 434 projects with an investment of Il lakh crore will be rolled out under these programmes, he said. 
  • "An integrated approach to Railway planning has been undertaken by consulting 18 Ministries and this plan has been in the works for the past two years. We are in the process of preparing detailed project reports, freezing final alignments, and interacting with State governments for the smooth working of the development along these corridors," he said in response to a question by The Hindu. 
  • They have been planned along the lines of the PM Gati Shakti framework by tracking the origin and destination nodes of Railways. 
  • "This allows us to understand where we need to add a railway section, which areas require doubling or multi-tracking of routes, where we need rail-over-rail flyovers, or where we need to deploy new lines. For instance, how do we better manage passenger flow from Bihar, Jhark hand, Odisha towards Mumbai, Hyderabad, and Bengaluru or how do we manage large transport origin from Nashik," he said. Over the next five years, it is planning to overhaul 40,000 coaches to provide a better passenger experience similar to that of the Vande Bharat trains. The entire exercise is expected to cost 15,200 crore. 
  • "Good quality toilets, better safety standards like installing semi-permanent coupling, features like presence of charging points, automatic water measure- ment systems for filling up of tanks, installation of GPS and CCTV cameras will be added features in upgraded coaches," he said. 
  • Notably, budget allocation for investment in public sector units and joint ventures decreased from 34,353 crore in 2023-24 to 31,107 crore in 2024-25. Experts say this is because the Railways is interested in opening up the market to private players. 
  •  The bullet train project by National High Speed Rail Corridor has attracted the maximum chunk of allocation, up from ₹19,592 crore to ₹25,000 crore. 

7. Delhi Police gets 11,400 crore 

  • Delhi Police has been allocated 11,397.98 crore in the interim Budget for the year 2024-25, a decrease of 4.47% from the last fiscal, according to the official data released on Thursday. 
  • Apart from maintaining law and order in the national capital, Delhi Police's responsibility also includes traffic management in the city. 
  • The Budget is prepared for routine expenses as well as for various schemes to be implemented by Delhi Police such as developing traffic and communication networks in NCR mega cities and a model traffic system. 
  • Apart from maintaining law and order in the national capital, Delhi Police's responsibility also includes traffic management in the city. 
  • Under Delhi Police, the upgradation or expansion of communication infrastructure and training, induction of latest technology and installation of traffic signals are also to be compartmentalized within the Budget. 
  • For the financial year 2023-2024, the budget allocated to the law enforcement agency was ₹11,932.03 crore. However, it was revised to ₹11,940.33 crore for the same period. 

8. Karnataka plans digital detox initiative with game developers, NIMHANS 

  • The Karnataka government on Thursday said it would launch a 'Digital Detox' initiative in collaboration with the All India Game Developers Forum (AIGDF), with special emphasis on gaming and social media. 
  • The aim is to spread awareness about the ills of spending too much time in the digital world and instead create an environment of responsible gaming, Minister for Information Technology, Biotechnology Priyank Out said. 
  • Speaking at the valedictory function of GAFX 2024, he said, "The Digital Detox initiative is yet another step towards fulfilling this government's commitment of building a digitally empowered Karnataka through responsible use of technology." 
  • Observing that mental health issues, shrinking attention spans and fraying real-world relationships are the outcomes of digital dependence, the Minister said that technology had woven itself firmly into the fabric of everyone's lives, and being glued to screens has become the norm in this hyper-connected age. 
  • "This initiative will enable an environment of meaningful and constructive use of technology while minimizing its adverse effects," he assured. 
  • The government of Karnataka will work with AIGDF and the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) to raise awareness about mindful technology. 
  • Through this initiative, both online and offline digital detox centers will be set up across the State of Karnataka, which will offer personalized guidance, where trained professionals will provide counseling and support to individuals seeking to navigate their relationship with technology, an official release said. 

9. Space gets nominal hike, likely boost for spaceflight start-ups 

  • With no major space missions slated for 2024, the Department of Space has received only a nominal increase of 4% in its allocation in the interim Union Budget for 2024-25, from 12,545 crore to 13,043 crore. The Indian space programme will spend much of the year on pre launch testing milestones for the lunar exploration (Chandrayaan), human spaceflight (Gaganyaan) missions, and some other projects. 
  • In 2023, the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) launched and successfully executed its long-awaited Chandrayaan-3 mission. The ISRO also launched the Aditya-L1 mission to study the sun and the XPoSat short for 'X-ray Polarimetry Satellite' mission to track and study neutron stars and black holes from space. India also signed the Artemis Accords to participate in the U.S. multilateral programme to return humans to the moon by 2025. 
  • The major launches slated for 2024 include an uncrewed Gaganyaan test flight, the third developmental flight of the Small Satellite Launch Vehicle, and the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar mission. ISRO scientists and engineers have also been working on propellants, satellite propulsion systems, new launch vehicles, and technology transfer to the industry. 
  • In her Budget speech, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced a corpus of 1 lakh crore, with five-decade interestfree loans, to boost private sector investment in research and development. While the details are not clear, India's nascent private spaceflight sector and its 200 or so start-ups are expected to benefit from this infusion. The revenue expenditure of IN-SPACE, the nodal agency setup by the Union Cabinet in 2020 to oversee the activities of this sector, also increased 24%. Similarly, revenue for space technologies which includes work on Gaganyaan and the development of systems for new launch vehicles and spaceflight missions increased 27%. 
  • he 8% increase in the allocation for space tech- nologies is, however, out of keeping with the work planned on Chandrayaan-4 and the Lunar Polar Exploration mission, a partially reusable launch vehicle, and others. Then again, the Department of Space underutilized its allocation for space technologies in 2023-24 by more than 1,500 crore. Finally, expenditure for INSAT satellite systems was halved from ₹531 crore in 2023-24 to 276 crore in 2024-25. 

10. India increasing allocation for Maldives, ₹400 crore revised to ₹770.9 crore

  • India's neighbor received a substantial share of the annual allocation for the Ministry of External Affairs in the interim Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Thursday. Out of all the countries in the neighborhood, Bhutan has received 2,398.97 crore as allocation for the current fiscal year, while Nepal has come second with 650 crore for various development projects currently under way in the Himalayan country. For 2024-25, Nepal has received an allocation of 700 crore. 
  • The Maldives, which has been in the news recently because of anti-India protests and remarks from its top leadership, has seen a substantial bump in allocation. The allocation for the Sri Lanka will receive *60 crore of the allocation for the current fiscal. Conflict-struck Myanmar has received 370 crore in the current fiscal.
  • Maldives for 2023-24 was *400 crore which went up to 1770.9 crore this time. This indicates that India is increasing investments in the archipelago nation. 
  • Indian projects in Bangladesh under current fiscal will receive 130 crore. A sum of 220 crore has been allocated for Afghanistan which is governed by the Taliban that is yet to find official recognition from India. 
  • Among the island nations of the Indian Ocean, the Seychelles and Mauritius have received ₹9.91 crore and ₹370 crore, respectively, in the current fiscal. The port of Chabahar in Iran will receive 100 crore as funding. A sum of ₹3,849 crore has been allocated for Lines of Credit under the Indian Development and Economic Assistance Scheme. 
  • Reflecting India's growing engagement with African nations, the Budget has allocated ₹200 crore for the African development projects; the figure is as per revised estimate for current fiscal. 

11. Budget for Census slashed, population count may not take place in first quarter 

  • The Union Home Ministry has been allocated ₹2.02lakh crore in the interim Budget, a marginal increase of 1.4% over the Revised Estimates for the 2023-24 fiscal year. 
  • Survey and Statistics has been slashed to 1,277.8 crore from 1,546.65 crore allocated in 2023-24, a further indication that the Census exercise that was to be initially completed in 2021 is not planned in the first quarter of the fiscal. 
  • Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) and the Crime and Criminal Tracking Network Systems (CCTNS), which will enable the implementation of the three criminal laws, have been increased. The allocation for the CCTNS has been increased to ₹520 crore in the interim Budget from 221 crore in 2023-24. The allocation for the I4C has been increased to ₹150 crore from 94 crore. 
  • A sum of 1.32 lakh crore was given to the police, which includes the Central Armed Police Forces. The Union Territory of J&K has been allocated 37,277.74 crore. 
  • Ladakh got ₹5,958 crore, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands ₹5,866.37 crore, Chandigarh 5,862.62 crore, Puducher- ry 3,269 crore, Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu 2,648.97 crore, 
  • Lakshadweep 1,490.1 crore and Delhi 1,168.01 crore. A sum of ₹1,248.91 crore was given to the Cabinet under which the expenditure on the Council of Ministers, Cabinet Secretariat, Prime Minister's Office came. 
  • While the Intelligence Bureau has been allocated 3,195.09 crore (13,268.94 crore in 2023-24), the Delhi Police was given 11,177.50 crore (11,940.33 crore), and the Special Protection Group (SPG) ₹506.32 crore (446.83 crore). 
  • The Budget allocated ₹3,199.62 crore for security-related expenditure and Special Infrastructure Scheme for Left-wing extremism-hit areas, 335 crore for Border Area Development Programme, 214.44 crore for safe city projects, and 330 crore for the Land Port Authority. 

12. Govt. to consolidate the demand of three Services in defense allocation 

  • A significant measure to bring jointness in the procurements of the armed forces, the government has decided to consolidate the demand of the three Services in the capital head of the defense budget based on similar items of expenditure such as land, aircraft and aircraft engines, heavy and medium vehicles and others. 
  • In the interim Budget presented by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, there was no significant change in the allocation for defense with the total allocation for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) standing at 16.2 lakh crore for 2024-25. "This will bring flexibility in financial management by enabling the MoD to reappropriate the fund among the three Services keeping in view the interservices priority," the Ministry said in a statement. This is a measure towards bringing in jointness in procurements among the three Services and ad- dresses the shortfall often faced between committed liabilities, milestone payments to be made for past deals, versus the allocation for each Service which was faced by the Navy and Air Force in the past. For major capital procurements, the authority to prioritize is the Chief of Defence Staff and once cleared is sent to the Defence Acquisition Council for approval. The allocation of 26.2 lakh crore is 4.72% higher than the Budget Estimates (BE) and marginally lower by 0.38% from the Revised Estimates (RE) for 2023-24 and is 13.04% of the total Union Budget presented. Of this, 27.67% goes to capital, 14.82% for revenue expenditure on sustenance and operational preparedness, 30.68% for pay and allowances, 22.72% for defense pensions and 4.11% for civil organizations under the MoD. The capital allocation, which is for new procurements, stood at 21.72 lakh crore, 5.78% higher than the BE of last year. 
  • Budget data shows that from BE to RE of 2023-24, the Defence Ministry returned 15,371.8 crore from the capital component while it received an additional 28,548.61 crore under revenue expenditure, other than salary, meant for sustenance and operational commitment. 
  • For FY 2024-25, the revenue allocation, minus pay and allowances, is 192,088 crore which the Ministry said is aimed at providing the best maintenance facilities and support system to all platforms, including aircraft and ships. It also facilitates the procuring of ammunition, mobility of resources, movement of personnel, catering to day-to-day expenditure of armed forces in strengthening the deployment in forward areas and keeping the forces always ready to take care of any eventuality, it stated. On the capital allocation, the Ministry said that this was in line with the Long Term Integrated Perspective Plan of the three Services aimed to fill the critical capability gaps through modernisation of the armed forces by "materializing some big ticket acquisitions in FY 2024-25." Planned modernisation of the existing Su-30 fleet along with procurement of 12 more aircraft, acquisition of new engines for MiG-29 jets, induction of C-295 transport aircraft and acquisition of missile systems will be funded out of the budget being allocated. "The financial provision made during the budget this year, will also boost socio-economic development in that region along with promoting tourism," the Ministry stated. 

13. Biden administration notifies U.S. Congress of 31 MQ-9B UAV sale to India 

  • The U.S. Congress was on Thursday formally notified of the possible sale of 31 MQ-9B high-altitude long endurance armed Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) to India at an estimated $3.99 billion. The f development comes amid reports of a hold over the deal by the U.S. Congress over the Pannun episode and concerns over India's "high-level" inquiry into f the incident. " 
  • The State Department has made a determination of approving a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of India of MQ-9B Remotely Piloted Aircraft and related equipment for an estimated cost of $3.99 billion. The Defence Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) delivered the required certification notifying Congress of this possible sale today," the DSCA said
  • The deliveries will begin three years after the signing of the contract, Defence officials stated release. Detailing the process in response to a quest, a U.S. Embassy Spokesperson said, "Congress now has 30 days to review the proposed sale. Upon conclusion of their review, India and the U.S. may conclude the sale with a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LoA)." 
  • As the UAVs would be armed, the deal also includes 170 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles; 16 M36E9 Hellfire captive air training missiles; 310 GBU-39B/B laser Small Diameter Bombs (SDB); and 08 GBU-39B/B LSDB guided test vehicles with live fuzes among others. 
  • The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) had accorded the Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the procurement of 31 MQ-9B UAVs from General Atomics, 15 Sea Guardians for the Indian Navy, and 16 Sky Guardians eight each for the Indian Army and Air Force, on June 15, 2023 and the MoD had stated that the AoN noted the estimated cost of $3,072 million provided by the U.S. government. Following this, just ahead of the talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G-20 summit, MoD issued the Letter of Request to the U.S. Government. 
  • Defense officials had stated earlier that the deal could be concluded this year and deliveries begin three years from the signing of the contract. Earlier, officials on both sides had expressed confidence that the Congressional approval was a formality. 

14. China becomes the world's top vehicle exporter in 2023, overtaking Japan 

  • The Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association (JAMA) has released its annual vehicle figures for January 31, 2024. This shows that China will overtake Japan to become the world's largest vehicle exporter in 2023. 
  • JAMA data shows that Japan exported 4.42 million vehicles in 2023, while the number of vehicles exported by China in January 2024 was 4.91 million, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers (CAAM) report. 
  • Whereas China's Customs Bureau has put its number at more than 5.22 million. 
  • This is a massive increase of 57 percent year-onyear. The Chinese auto sector has boomed in the last few years. The main reason for this is the huge investment in electric cars. One in three of these exported vehicles is an electric vehicle. In 2023, China's exports of NEVs reached a record 1.203 million, an increase of 77.6 percent year-on-year. 
  • Meanwhile, Chinese company BYD snatched the crown from Tesla for selling the most electric vehicles (EVs) in January 2024, taking advantage of Beijing's strong government support for the emerging sector. 


  • Chinese companies are at the forefront of patent filing and technological innovation in NEVs. 
  • They not only excel in innovative production, but also have the advantage of scale and a complete industry chain. China's NEV-related public patents account for about 70 percent of the global total, while patents for Internet-connected vehicles account for more than 50 percent of the world total. 
  • According to customs data compiled by CAAM, Belgium, Thailand and the UK were the top three NEV export destinations, while Russia and Spain were among the top 10 destinations for China's auto exports. China aims to increase the proportion of NEVs in new car registrations to 45% by 2027. 
  • The total export value of China's new tech-intensive green trio – solar batteries, lithium-ion batteries and electric vehicles – is set to rise 29.9 percent to 1.06 trillion yuan in 2023 

15. USA includes six Indian markets in the list of notorious markets 

  • The United States has included 6 Indian markets in the list of 'notorious' markets. This list includes three offline (physical) and three online (virtual) markets in India. On January 30, 2024, the US Trade Representative (USTR) released its annual Notorious Markets List. There are three physical Indian markets: Heera Panna in Mumbai, Tank Road in Karol Bagh in New Delhi and Sadar Patrappa Road Market in Bengaluru. Online Indian marketplaces included in the list include IndiaMart, Vegamovies and WHMCS Smarters. 
  • The list of 'notorious' marketplaces has identified 39 online and 33 physical marketplaces engaged in trademark counterfeiting or copyright theft.According to the list, China remains the top source of counterfeit products globally. 60 percent of the seized goods come from there. 
  • There are seven markets in China that are notorious for manufacturing, distributing and selling counterfeit goods. 
  • It also houses Chinese e-commerce and social commerce marketplaces Taobao, WeChat, DHGate and Pinduoduo, as well as cloud storage service Baidu Wangpan. 
  • The movement of people in physical markets has increased after COVID-r19, due to which the sale of counterfeit goods has increased again. 
  • US Trade Representative Katherine Tai emphasizes the economic harm caused by the trade in counterfeit and pirated goods. 

List of 'notorious' markets 

  • The USTR first identified 'notorious' markets in its Special 301 Report in 2006. Beginning in February 2011, the USTR began publishing a discredited markets list, separate from the special 301 report, to increase public awareness. 

16. Five more Indian wetlands added to Ramsar list 

  • India has added five more wetlands to the List of Wetlands of International Importance, or the Ramsar List, taking the number of such sites in the country to 80. 
  • The announcement of adding five more sites, three in Karnataka and two in Tamil Nadu, to the list was made by Federal Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav. 
  • Three of these sites, Ankasamudra Bird Conservation Reserve, Aghanashini Estuary and Magadi Kere Conservation Reserve are located in Karnataka whereas two, Karaivetti Bird Sanctuary and Longwood Shola Reserve Forest are in Tamilnadu. 
  • With the addition of these five wetlands to the List of Wetlands of International Importance, the total area covered under Ramsar sites is now 1.33 million ha which is an increase of 5,523.87 ha from existing area (of 1.327 million ha). 
  • Tamil Nadu continues to have the maximum number of Ramsar Sites (16 sites) followed by Uttar Pradesh (10 sites). 
  • India is one of the contracting parties to the wetland convention, signed in Ramsar, Iran, in 1971, and ratified the convention in 1982. 
  • India is one of the Contracting Parties to Ramsar Convention, signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. 
  • World Wetlands Day (WWD) is celebrated across the globe to commemorate the adoption of this international agreement on wetlands on 2nd February 1971. 
  • India ratified this Convention on 1st February 1982. Earlier in August 2022, India achieved a significant milestone of taking the total number of Ramsar Sites to 75 during the 75th Year of Independence. 
  • Due to a significant policy push from the Government of India, the number of Ramsar sites has increased from 26 to 80 in the last ten years, of which 38 have been added in the last three years alone. 

17. Dharmendra Pradhan launches MoE – AICTE Investor Network 

  • Union Minister Shri Dharmendra Pradhan has launched ‘Ministry of Education – AICTE Investor Network’ in New Delhi. 
  • This initiative to be a ground-breaking beginning that will bring students, faculty, investors and the market on one platform to strengthen the culture of innovation. 
  • The network aims to provide crucial financial support, mentoring, and strategic guidance to early-stage student or faculty-led startups. 
  • Through this unique network, the Ministry of Education seeks to encourage private investment in student- and faculty-led startups. 

18. BHU gets automated DNA extractor machine 

  • North India’s first human DNA bank is being set up at Banaras Hindu University (BHU). 
  • The Automated DNA Extractor Machine has been installed in the Gnyaneshwar Lab of the Zoology Department of BHU. 
  • These machines are completely indigenous to Make in India. It has been made in such a way that the minimum plastic is used in it, so that there is no harm to the environment. 
  • With this machine, DNA can be extracted from any biological material, like blood, saliva, hair or tissue. With its help, DNA can be separated from about 32 samples at one time in 30 minutes. 

19. Government allocates 3.4% of GDP for Capital Expenditure Boost 

  • The government proposes to increase capital expenditure outlay by 11.1 per cent to Rs 11.11 lakh crore in 2024-25, amounting to 3.4 per cent of the GDP, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman in her interim Budget. 
  • The central government will focus especially on five eastern states – Bihar, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, and West Bengal. 
  • A capital expenditure, or capex, is used to set up long-term physical or fixed assets. 
  • Coming to the fiscal deficit, the government pegged for 2024-25 at 5.1 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). 
  • In 2023-24, the government pegged the fiscal deficit target for 2023-24 at 5.9 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP). Sitharaman said that the fiscal deficit of 2023-24 was downwardly revised to 5.8 per cent. 
  • The government intends to bring the fiscal deficit below 4.5 per cent of GDP by the financial year 2025-26. 

20. AU SFB appoints former RBI deputy guv HR Khan as non-executive chairman 

  • Private sector lender AU Small Finance Bank has appointed Harun Rashid Khan, former deputy governor of the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), as non-executive chairman following approval from the shareholders. 
  • Khan’s tenure will begin from the date of taking charge, January 30, 2024, after approval from the Board of Directors and from the RBI and shareholders of the bank. 
  • Khan will take charge from Raj Verma, whose tenure as Part-time Chairman ended on January 29, 2024. 

Recent Appointment in Banking & Insurance Sector 

  • Executive Director of Bank of Baroda – Sanjay Vinayak Mudaliar 
  • Executive Director of Indian Overseas Bank – Joydeep Dutta Roy 
  • MD & CEO of DCB Bank – Praveen Achuthan Kutty (replace Murali Natrajan) effect from 29/4/24 
  • Deputy Governor of RBI – Michael Patra (1 year extension) 
  • CEO of PhonePe For International Payments Division – Ritesh Pai 

21. 2 February – Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day 

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis Awareness Day is observed every year on February 2nd. 
  • Objective – To raise awareness of rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory disease that affects the joints. 
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), another name for rheumatoid disease, is an autoimmune disease in which the body attacks and damages the lining of the joints, mistaking it for foreign material. 
  • This causes pain and inflammation. Although it can affect people of any age, sex, race or ethnicity, women are more likely to be affected (2.5 times more likely than men). 
  • The most common age group is between 20 and 50. 
  • Alfred B. Garrod first used the word “rheumatoid arthritis” to describe the disease in 1858. It had previously been confused with osteoarthritis. The first methotrexate treatments became available in 1988. 

22. 2 February – World Wetlands Day 

  • World Wetlands Day is observed every year on 2 February.
  • The day primarily aims to raise global awareness regarding the crucial role of the wetlands for human beings and the planet. 
  • Theme 2024 – Wetlands and Human Wellbeing 
  • It also marks the date of adopting the Convention on Wetlands on February 2, 1971, in Ramsar, Iran. 
  • According to the United Nations Environment Programme, around 90% of the world’s wetlands have been degraded since the 1700s. 
  • As per the data, the wetlands are now depleting three times faster than the forests, and as these are critically important for the ecosystem World Wetlands Day plays a pivotal role. 

23. What are wetlands? 

  • To define the crucial part of the ecosystem, it is a piece of land that is saturated or flooded with water either permanently or seasonally as well. 
  • It includes water bodies such as lakes, rivers, underground aquifers, swamps, wet grasslands, peatlands, deltas, tidal flats, mangroves, coral reefs, and other coastal areas as well. 
  • These wetlands can be classified into three segments such as inland wetlands, coastal wetlands, and human-made wetlands 

24.Mera Yuva Bharat (MY Bharat) Portal Surpasses 1.45 Crore Youth Registrations In Three Months 

  • The Mera Yuva Bharat (MY Bharat) portal has garnered over 1.45 crore youth registrations within a remarkable three-month period, attesting to its widespread popularity.
  • Launched by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi on October 31, 2023, the platform has swiftly become a crucial driver of youth development and engagement. 
  • The portal’s success can be attributed to its highly accessible and user-friendly interface, enabling seamless registrations within minutes. 
  • MY Bharat innovatively blends physical activities with digital connectivity, reflecting the modern, dynamic nature of the platform. This unique ‘Phygital’ approach distinguishes it as a pioneering initiative. 

25.FM Sitharaman Declares Free Cervical Cancer Vaccine For Girls Aged 9-14 

  • Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, in her interim budget speech for 2024-25, indicated that the government would actively “promote” vaccination to combat cervical cancer. 
  • Sitharaman stated, “Our government will encourage vaccination for girls aged 9 to 14 years as a preventive measure against cervical cancer” during her budget speech. 
  • Despite this commitment, the finance minister did not provide specific details regarding the government’s plan, leaving uncertainties about its inclusion in the national immunization program. 
  • In India, cervical cancer ranks as the second most common cancer among women, posing a significant health challenge. 

26.Surat Airport Attains International Airport Status 

  • Surat Airport, situated in Gujarat, has officially received recognition as an International Airport from the Indian government, a significant development overseen by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Union Cabinet. 
  • This strategic decision underscores Surat’s increasing economic potential and aims to enhance global connectivity, aligning with the city’s status as a thriving hub for the diamond and textile industries. 
  • By elevating Surat Airport to international status, the government aims to boost economic growth, attract foreign investment, and strengthen diplomatic ties with other nations. 
  • The designation as an International Airport is expected to significantly increase both passenger traffic and cargo operations, driving regional development and globalization efforts. 

27.Tamil Nadu Launches ‘Kalaignar Sports Kit’ Initiative 

  • Tamil Nadu Youth Welfare and Sports Development Minister Udhayanidhi Stalin recently announced a pioneering scheme aimed at nurturing sports talent at the grassroots level. 
  • Named after the late Kalaignar Karunanidhi, the ‘Kalaignar Sports Kit’ initiative is set to provide sporting kits to 12,000 village panchayats across the state. 
  • The inaugural distribution of the sports kits under the Kalaignar Sports Kit scheme is scheduled to take place on February 7 in Trichy. This event marks the beginning of a concerted effort to equip village-level athletes with the necessary resources to pursue their sporting aspirations. 

28.Indian Navy Declares 2024 As ‘Year Of Naval Civilians’ 

  • In a strategic move to bolster efficiency and bolster the well-being of its civilian workforce, the Indian Navy has declared 2024 as the ‘Year of Naval Civilians.’ 
  • This initiative targets comprehensive Civilian HR Management, with a focus on enhancing administrative efficiency, embracing digital transformation, implementing targeted training programs, and fostering employee welfare activities 
  • The declaration of 2024 as the ‘Year of Naval Civilians’ underscores the Indian Navy’s commitment to recognizing and empowering its civilian workforce. 
  • Through targeted interventions and strategic initiatives, the Navy seeks to create an environment where every member, military and civilian alike, can thrive and contribute to the nation’s maritime security objectives. 

29.Budget 2024: Bhutan Leads As Top Indian Aid Recipient 

  • The Interim Budget 2024, unveiled by Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, sheds light on India’s foreign aid allocation, with Bhutan emerging as a significant recipient. 
  • In the Financial Year 2024-25, India allocated a substantial portion of its budget to foreign aid, with a notable emphasis on Bhutan. 
  •  The Indian government provided ₹6,541.79 crore to foreign governments with ₹4,927.43 crore as a grant and ₹1,614.36 crore as a loan, as per the revised estimates for 2023-24. It crossed the budget estimates of ₹5,848.58 crore for 2023-24. 

30.Budget 2024 Unveils INR 1 Lakh Crore Corpus For Private Sector R&D Incentives 

  • In a groundbreaking move to foster research and development (R&D) within the private sector, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, during the Interim Budget 2024 announcement, disclosed the establishment of a substantial financial corpus amounting to INR 1 lakh crore. 
  •  This corpus aims to provide low-cost or interest-free loans, extending up to 50 years, specifically dedicated to fueling research and innovation endeavors within the private industry. 
  • Private companies can now access interest-free loans for 50 years through a INR 1 lakh crore fund, promoting long-term financing and encouraging research and innovation in emerging fields. 

31.India, Oman Sign Pact For Defense Sector Collaboration 

  • India and Oman have taken significant strides in bolstering their strategic partnership through enhanced defence cooperation. 
  • This agreement lays down clear guidelines for procurement of military equipment and signifies a tangible step towards solidifying their strategic partnership. 
  • The MoU paves the way for an expansive range of collaborative initiatives, including joint exercises, training programs, and information sharing mechanisms. Such endeavors are instrumental in promoting mutual trust and interoperability between the armed forces of India and Oman.  

32.Tamil Actor Vijay Announced The Formation Of His Political Party, Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam’ 

  • Popular Tamil actor Vijay announced the formation of his political party, ‘Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam,’ on February 2. This announcement comes as a pivotal moment ahead of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, marking Vijay’s official entry into the political arena.
  • Vijay announced during a press conference, unveiling ‘Tamilaga Vettri Kazhagam’ as the name of his newly formed party. While he disclosed that his party would not contest in the upcoming 2024 Lok Sabha elections, he expressed his intention to run in the 2026 Tamil Nadu Assembly polls.

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