Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC - 7th February 2024

1. Rajya Sabha passes Bills to add PVTGS of Odisha, A.P. in ST lists 

  • The Rajya Sabha on Tuesday passed the Constitution (Scheduled Tribes) Order Amendment Bill, 2024 and Constitution (Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes) Order Amendment Bill, 2024. 
  • The passage of the Bill cleared the way for the addition of many new communities to the ST list of Odisha and the inclusion of synonyms and phonetic variations of existing tribes in the ST lists of both Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. Both Bills got support from MPs across party lines. 
  • Among the additions were notably seven Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGS) (a subset of STs) four in Odisha and three in Andhra Pradesh whose independent names had been specifically added as synonyms or sub-tribes of communities already on the ST lists of these States. 
  • While replying to the discussion on the Bills for Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, which were taken up together, Union Tribal Affairs Minister Arjun Munda took a dig at previous non-NDA governments for considering the most vulnerable STs the PVTGS as tribals just in name but never thinking about including them as entries in the ST lists. 
  • Mr. Munda claimed that at least nine of the 75 designated PVTGs were never explicitly included in the ST lists of their respective States. "But it is our government under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that is bringing legislation like this," he said. 
  • In Odisha, the PVTG communities added are Pauri Bhuyan and Paudi Bhuyan as synonyms of Bhuyan tribe; the Chuktia Bhunjia as a synonym of Bhunjia tribe; the Bondo as a sub-tribe of Bondo Poraja tribe. In Andhra Pradesh, the PVTG communities included Bondo Porja and Khond Porja as synonyms of Porja tribe. 

2. Lok Sabha passes anti-cheating Bill 

  • The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, to check malpractices and organized cheating in government recruitment exams. 
  • The Bill proposes a minimum of three years imprisonment and a fine up to 1 crore. 
  • Replying to a debate on the Bill that was passed after a brief discussion, Union Minister for Personnel Jitendra Singh said that he wanted to clarify that no candidate will be harassed as the legislation is against people who misuse the system. 
  • "There is no attempt to centralize the system. When an examination is canceled, it affects the students, their years are wasted. While a time-bound completion of such [canceled] examinations may not be assured, the efforts are on," Mr. Singh said. 

3. After five months of pause due to the Gaza war, govt. hopes to move on the IMEC 

  • After months of a pause on the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) that was launched during the G-20 summit in September 2023 but stalled due to the Israel-Hamas conflict, the government is expected to take talks on the project forward this month, when Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis visits India. Mr. Mitsotakis, who is due to visit as a chief guest at the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA)-Observer Research Foundation (ORF) annual Raisina Dialogue from February 21 to 23, had held initial discussions on building Greece as a regional hub for trade into Europe, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi had traveled to Athens in 2023. 
  • Officials said that in addition to bilateral talks with the Greek delegation, high- level meetings with the U.S. 
  • National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, European Union Secretary-General Stefano Sannino and others on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue could yield some progress on the IMEC's plans as well. 
  • According to diplomatic sources, the visit by Mr. Mitsotakis could kickstart the talks over the next steps for the IMEC, particularly the use of Greek ports like Piraeus for the 3,000 km corridor that starts from India, and is designed to complete connectivity via Israel's Haifa port to Europe, bypassing other routes like the Suez Canal and the Red Sea. Thus far, the eight parties that signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) in New Delhi have only held informal consultations, the sources said. They include the European Union, France, Germany, India, Italy, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the U.S. According to the MoU signed on September 9, the participants had planned to meet "within the next sixty days to develop and commit to an action plan with relevant timetables' '. However, after the October 7 terror attacks in Israel and Israel's bombardment of Gaza, countries like the UAE and Saudi Arabia have been unwilling to discuss "normal" ties with Israel, and the IMEC meeting hasn't taken place more than 150 days later, leading experts to suggest that the project is viable without progress on the Israel-Palestine conflict. 
  • "This is a multilateral effort in which so many countries are involved, but the progress [on the IMEC] so far is very good," Union Railway Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said in response to a question from The Hindu. "There is clarity that this is a very big insurance against any disruptions in the trade routes," he said, adding that the alignment of the route and "missing links" had been identified. 
  • Diplomats and officials The Hindu contacted also insist that the IMEC project would not be paused indefinitely, given the strong commitment by all other parties involved, especially the U.S. and the European Union, that will be required to fund the initiatives through the G-7-led Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment (PGII), as well as India, which hopes to benefit from the trade lines generated, and the possible railway contracts India might win in the Gulf region. With inputs from Maitri ( Porecha.) 

4. Modi-headed committee to meet today to select new EC 

  • A committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will meet on Wednesday to select a candidate for the post of Election Commissioner. 
  • The meeting will be held to fill the vacancy that will arise when Election Commissioner Anup Chandra Pandey demits office on February 14, sources said. 
  • This is the first meeting of the committee since a new law for the appointment of the CEC and other ECs came into force on January 2. The other members of the panel are a Union Minister nominated by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha. 

5. Understanding the nuances of the liberal arts 

  • Liberal arts degree programmes are on the rise in the context of Indian private higher education. At the same time, liberal ideologies are gravely misunderstood and viewed with skepticism in contemporary popular and right-wing articulations. As a faculty in a liberal studies school, I find that a greater understanding of the value of liberal arts education and what it offers to future citizens are extremely essential for a more harmonious future. By better understanding the nuances of what a liberal arts education can offer, students who opt for this degree can better respond to their contemporary problems whether it is the on-going Israel-Palestine war or the politics of merging the state and religion. 
  • A liberal arts education seeks to enable students and future leaders to understand contemporary social problems in context. This is to suggest that to understand and respond to any situation, we must engage with the historical, sociological, economic, and psychological contexts. Such an approach would necessitate openness, require an ability to comprehend a problem from multiple perspectives, and recognise the complexity of the issue at hand. No quick answers or solutions would be possible. Another important aspect of a liberal arts education is to learn how to historicise our contemporary problems. This can enable us to have a view of the present in a way that does not ignore the past but instead teaches us how historical events have led to contemporary crises. This is why a historian may have a stronger and clearer opinion about present crises than someone in a non-liberal arts field. A nuanced perspective, fertile with critical thinking, would is Associate Professor, School of Liberal Studies, BML Munjal University, Haryana 
  • A greater understanding of the value of liberal arts education is essential for a more harmonious future, a point being lost sight of in contemporary popular and right-wing articulations that require us to recognise how and why we do have a problem or a conflict. Is there a context to the crises at hand? What are the larger geopolitical issues that affect the issue? Who is being affected and what is at loss? 
  • For example, any armed conflict is not about a battle for physical resources or religious dominance, but represents multi-dimensional fault-lines over culture, language, perceptions of truth and justice. The construction of the idea of 'sovereignty' is itself often hinged on subjective perceptions of historical claims and injustices. Geopolitical and military interests add to the complications of a narrative of conflict. A liberal approach at the very minimum should recognise these complexities before denouncing any particular voice or narrative. 
  • People's identities are intrinsically linked to regional, national, religious, gender, and other markers. There is nothing reductive about recognising identities of people. No social scientist or historian or economist is, as often labeled as doing so, trying to reduce identities to characteristics. This would be a grave misunderstanding of these liberal disciplines. Instead, recognising identities means acknowledging difference, which is innate in human society. How can we forget the history of human evolution, the formation of societies, cultures, and groups, and speak from a naive position of "simply being human"? 
  • In making sense of conflict between two groups, a student of the liberal arts would instead first ask the question 'when and why do national identities matter?' Does the erasure of identity of some lead to the dominance/flourishment of other identities? If identities did not matter, then why do passports matter when we travel? Why do nations not open up their borders to all religious and national subjects? 
  • Power as a central vector In aiming to answer these questions, the role of power in societies can be recognised as being extremely significant. Liberal arts education allows students to learn that power is a central vector in understanding contexts and crises. Incorporating the role of power in any analysis does not denude it of nuance, as Allison Schrager argues in a 'premium' media online article of December 3, 2023, "There is an economic case for redefining liberal arts education". Rather, it deepens the engagement with contemporary crisis situations. Ignoring power relations and hierarchies between identities often leads to flat, homogenized narratives that are hardly of use in the real world. It would be naive and ignorant to deny the role of power in war, or in societies at large. 
  • Power itself may operate in a society, or between nations, in a complicated, multi-layered fashion, and thus a nuanced liberal understanding should anchor itself on a complex treatment of power not by excluding or wishing it away. A liberal arts education, seeking to be transformative, encourages students to be more humane, while recognising differences and identities, and understanding how power operates within our societies. By asking critical questions first and then understanding the problems in-depth, students can learn to think about solutions, take informed stands, and find resolutions which shall also have to be complex and nuanced. 

6. Understanding the delimitation exercise 

  • The delimitation of constituencies for the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies is to be carried out on the basis of the first Census after 2026. The 2021 Census was originally postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently due to delays on the part of the Central government. 
  • What is delimitation? Delimitation means the process of fixing the number of seats and boundaries of territorial constituencies in each State for the Lok Sabha and Legislative assemblies. It also includes determining the seats to be reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) in these houses. Article 82 and 170 of the Constitution provide that the number of seats in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative assemblies as well as its division into territorial constituencies shall be readjusted after each Census. This 'delimitation process' is performed by the 'Delimitation Commission' that is set up under an act of Parliament. Such an exercise was carried out after the 1951, 1961 and 1971 Census. 

What is the constitutional requirement? 

  • 'Democracy' means 'rule or government by the people'. It follows that the government is elected by a majority with the broad principle of 'one citizen-one vote-one value'. The number of seats in the Lok Sabha based on the 1951, 1961 and 1971 Census was fixed at 494, 522 and 543, when the population was 36.1, 43.9 and 54.8 crore respectively. This broadly translated to an average population of 7.3, 8.4 and 10.1 lakh per seat respectively. 
  • However, it has been frozen as per the 1971 Census in order to encourage population control measures so that States with higher population growth do not end up having higher number of seats. This was done through the 42nd Amendment Act till the year 2000 and was extended by the 84th Amendment Act till 2026. Hence, the population based on which the number of seats is allocated refers to the population as per the 1971 Census. This number will be re-adjusted based on the first Census after 2026. The boundaries of territorial constituencies were readjusted (without changing the number of seats) and seats for SC and ST were determined as per the 2001 Census and will again be carried out after 2026. 
  • In a normal course of events, the delimitation process for the number of seats, boundaries of territorial constituencies and determining the reserved seats for SC and ST would have happened based on the Census of 2031 as it would have been the first Census after 2026. However, with the 2021 Census now being postponed and the year 2026 nearing, there have been talks about the impending delimitation exercise. 

What are the issues? 

  • The number of seats were frozen based on the 1971 Census in order to encourage population control measures. The population explosion that happened in our country during the last five decades. has been uneven with some States like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan having a greater increase than States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. There arebtwo options that are being discussed in the public domain with respect to the revised delimitation exercise based on the projected population of various States as of 2026. 
  • The first is to continue with the existing 543 seats and their redistribution amongst various States (Table 1) and the second is to increase the number of seats to 848 with proportionate increase among various States (Table 2). It can be noticed in both these scenarios that the southern States, the smaller states in the north like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, as well as the northeastern States are bound to be at a disadvantage when compared to the northern States of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. This may go against the federal principles of our country and may lead to a feeling of disenchantment in the population of the States that stand to lose in their representation. It also goes against the philosophy of freezing seats as per the 1971 Census with the States that have been better at controlling the population losing out on their political significance. 

What are international practices? 

  • In a federation like the U.S., the number of seats in the House of Representatives (the equivalent of our Lok Sabha) has been capped at 435 since 1913. The population of the country has increased almost four times from 9.4 crore in 1911 to an estimated 33.4 crore in 2023. The seats among the States are redistributed after every Census through the 'method of equal proportion'. This does not result in any significant gain or loss for any of the States. For example, based on the Census of 2020, the reapportionment has resulted in no change in the number of seats for 37 States. Texas gained two seats, five other States gained one seat each and seven States lost one seat each. In the European Union (EU) Parliament which consists of 720 members, the number of seats is divided between 27 member countries based on the principle of 'degressive proportionality'. Under this principle, the ratio of population to the number of seats shall increase as the population increases. For example, Denmark with a population of around 60 lakh has 15 seats (average population of 4 lakh per member) as against Germany with a population of 8.3 crore having 96 seats (average population of 8.6 lakh per member). 

What can be an ideal solution? 

  • The issue arises because democratic and federal principles seem to be at loggerheads in the delimitation exercise as envisaged. However, they can be harmoniously reconciled by giving equal importance to both. The main work of a Member of Parliament is to legislate on 'Union List' matters like Defence, External Affairs, Railways, Telecommunication, Taxation etc. and hold the Central government accountable. Majority of the schemes of the Central government are implemented only by the State governments. Hence, the number of MPs in Lok Sabha may be capped at the present number of 543 which would ensure no disruption in the present representation from various States. This will maintain and uphold the federal principle. The number of MLAs in each State may be increased in line with the current population (without changing the number of Rajya Sabha seats) to address the democratic representational requirement. 
  • However, the most important reform for strengthening democracy is to empower the local bodies of panchayats and municipalities who engage with the citizens on a day-to-day basis. The devolution of powers and finances to these bodies must be significantly increased to strengthen democracy at grass root levels. 
  • Rangarajan. R is a former IAS officer and author of 'Polity Simplified'. He currently trains civil-service aspirants at 'Officers IAS Academy'. Views expressed are personal. 

7. PM Narendra Modi Unveils Projects Worth ₹1330 crore In Goa 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi has participated in ‘Viksit Bharat, Viksit Goa 2047’ programme and inaugurated and laid the foundation stone of projects worth over ₹1330 crore. 
  • The Prime Minister inaugurated the permanent campus of the National Institute of Technology Goa. 
  • The newly built-up campus has various facilities such as tutorial complex, departmental complex, seminar complex, administrative complex, hostels, health centre, staff quarters, amenity centre, sports ground and other utilities to cater to the needs of students, faculty and staff of the Institute. 
  • PM also dedicated the new campus of the National Institute of Watersports to the nation. The institute will introduce 28 tailor-made courses aimed at fostering the development of watersports and water rescue activities catering to both the public and the armed forces. 
  • PM also inaugurated a 100 TPD Integrated Waste Management Facility in South Goa. It has been designed for the scientific treatment of 60 TPD wet waste and 40 TPD dry waste, while also featuring a 500 KW solar power plant that generates surplus electricity. 
  • Prime Minister laid the foundation stone for Passenger Ropeway, along with associated tourism activities, connecting Panaji and Reis Magos. The foundation stone for the construction of a 100 MLD Water Treatment Plant in South Goa will be laid by him. 

PM Modi in News 

  • PM Modi inaugurated CLEA-CASGC 2024 Conference in New Delhi 
  • PM Modi Unveils Infrastructure Boost in Bulandshahr, UP 
  • PM Modi inaugurates Diamond Jubilee celebrations of Supreme Court 
  • PM Modi released commemorative postage stamps, book on Ram Temple 
  • PM Modi inaugurated Boeing’s India Engineering and Technology Center in Bengaluru 

8. Dr Jitendra Singh launches the theme for National Science Day ‘Indigenous Technologies for Viksit Bharat’ 

  • Union Minister of State (Independent Charge) Science & Technology; MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh has released the theme for the “National Science Day 2024”, titled “Indigenous Technologies for Viksit Bharat”. 
  • The NSD Theme for this year’s celebration reflects a strategic focus on promoting public appreciation for Science, Technology and Innovation and accomplishments of Indian scientists to address challenges through home-grown technologies for over-all well-being.
  • The Theme not only marks a new era but also presents an opportunity for public and scientific fraternity, both domestically and internationally, to collaborate, work together, and contribute to the well-being of India and humanity as a whole. 
  • The National Science Day (NSD) is celebrated every year on 28 February to commemorate the discovery of the ‘Raman Effect’. Government of India designated 28 February as National Science Day (NSD) in 1986. 
  • On this day Sir C.V. Raman announced the discovery of the ‘Raman Effect’ for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1930. 

9. Maharashtra Govt decides to introduce ‘Chief Minister Vayoshree Yojana’ 

  • Maharashtra Government has decided to introduce ‘Chief Minister Vayoshree Yojana’ that is likely to benefit 15 lakh senior citizens who suffer from some physical or mental disability. 
  • These citizens, above the age of 65 years, will be screened and those found eligible will be paid three thousand rupees. 
  • The scheme will be implemented across all districts at an approximate cost of 480 crore rupees. 

About Maharashtra 

  • Capital – Mumbai 
  • Chief Minister – Eknath Sindhe 
  • Deputy Chief Minister – Devendra Fadnavis & Ajit Pawar 
  • Governor – Ramesh Bais 

10. Arunachal Pradesh Cabinet Approves 2 new district 

  • The cabinet of Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu has approved the creation of two new districts for ease of administration. 
  • The cabinet decided to carve out Keyi Panyor district from Lower Subansiri and Bichom from East and West Kameng districts. 
  • The number of districts in the northeastern state will now rise to 28. 

About Arunachal Pradesh 

  • Capital – Itanagar 
  • Chief Minister – Pema Khandu 
  • Governor – LG (Retd) Kaiwalya Trivikram Parnaik 

11. Govt plans to have 25,000 Janaushadhi Kendras by March 2026 

  • The government has set a target to have 25,000 Janaushadhi Kendras across the country by March 31, 2026. 
  • In a written reply in Rajya Sabha, Union Minister of State for Chemicals & Fertilizers Bhagwanth Khuba said that about 10,624 Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Kendras (PMBJKs) were functional across the country till January 31, 2024. 
  • For further expansion of the scheme, the government has set a target for opening 25,000 Janaushadhi Kendras (JAKs) by March 31, 2026, he added. 
  • Accordingly, the Pharmaceuticals & Medical Devices Bureau of India (PMBI) has invited online applications from all districts of the country. 
  • Prices of the Janaushadhi medicines are generally 50-90 per cent less than that of branded medicines’ prices which are available in the open market. 
  • During the past nine years, estimated savings of more than Rs 28,000 crore for the citizens have been possible. 
  • Pradhan Mantri Bhartiya Janaushadhi Pariyojana (PMBJP) was launched by the government in 2008. 

12. Apurva Chandra appointed as Health Secretary 

  • Information and Broadcasting Secretary, Apurva Chandra has been appointed as the Secretary, Department of Health & Family Welfare. 
  • Chandra is a 1988-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Maharashtra cadre. 
  • Meanwhile, senior bureaucrat Sanjay Jaju has been appointed as the new Information and Broadcasting Secretary, in place of Chandra. 
  • Jaju, a 1992-batch IAS officer, is currently serving in his cadre state of Telangana. 
  • A Neerja, currently Additional Secretary, Department of Fertilisers has been appointed as Special Secretary in the same department. 
  • Also, Ashish Kumar Bhutani has been appointed as Secretary at Ministry of Cooperation. 

13. ADB Appoints Mio Oka as New Country Director for India 

  • Asian Development Bank (ADB) has appointed Mio Oka as its country director for India. 
  • She will succeed Takeo Konishi who has been promoted as ADB Director General for South Asia at the Manila headquarters. 
  • Oka will take charge of steering ADB operations in India and fostering relations with the government and the country’s other development partners. 
  • India is currently ADB’s fourth largest shareholder and one of its largest borrowers since 2010. 
  • In 2023, ADB committed USD 2.59 billion in sovereign lending to India in addition to USD 16.31 million in technical assistance and USD 5.25 million in grants under the sovereign portfolio. 
  • The current India sovereign portfolio comprises 73 projects worth a total of USD 15.7 billion. 

About Asian Development Bank (ADB) 

  • Founded – 19 December 1966 
  • Headquarters – Mandaluyong, Metro Manila, Philippines 
  • President – Masatsugu Asakawa 
  • Vice President – Ashok Lavasa 
  • Director of ADB for India – Mio Oka (replace Takeo Konishi) 
  • Executive Director – Vikas Sheel 
  • Adviser to the Executive Director – Smita Sarangi 
  • Member Countries – 68 (Niue) Recent Appointment in Foreign 
  • US Representative on WHO Board – Vivek Murthy 
  • Secretary General of BIMSTEC – Indra Mani Pandey (replace Tenzin Lekphell Bhutan) 
  • ‘Class C’ Director on Board of Directors of Federal Reserve Bank of New York – Rajiv Shah 
  • Executive Director of Asian Development Bank (ADB) – Vikas Sheel (for 3 years) 
  • Adviser to the Executive Director of ADB – Smita Sarangi 

14. El Salvador’s Bukele re-elected as president 

  • President Nayib Bukele has secured a thumping victory in El Salvador’s elections after voters cast aside concerns about erosion of democracy to reward him for a fierce gang crackdown that transformed security in the Central American country. 
  • Bukele winning 83% support with just over 70% of the ballots counted. 
  • As Bukele embarks on his second term, addressing poverty and fostering economic growth remain paramount. His initiatives, including the adoption of Bitcoin, aim to stimulate economic activity and alleviate poverty, despite skepticism from international observers. 

About El Salvador 

  • Capital- San Salvador 
  • Currencies- Bitcoin, United States Dollar 
  • Official language- Spanish 
  • President- Nayib Bukele 
  • Newly Appointed Prime Minister & President 
  • Sultan of Malaysia – Ibrahim Iskandar 
  • President of Comoros -Azali Assoumani (4th time) 
  • President of Guatemala – Bernardo Arevalo 
  • President of Taiwan – William Lai 
  • King of Denmark – King Frederik X (replace Queen Margrethe II) 

15.Union Culture Minister Lays Foundation Stone For India’s Digital National Museum Of Epigraphy 

  • Union Culture Minister G. Kishan Reddy recently laid the foundation stone for the country’s digital National Museum of Epigraphy at the Salar Jung Museum, Hyderabad. 
  • Spearheaded by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), this museum aims to house approximately one lakh ancient writings spanning various times and languages, preserving them for future generations. 
  • This initiative builds upon the announcement made last year by Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman regarding the establishment of the Bharat Shared Repository of Inscriptions (BharatSHRI). The goal of this project is to digitize one lakh ancient inscriptions, ensuring their accessibility to a wider audience and facilitating scholarly research. 

16.The Public Examinations (Prevention Of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024 

  • The Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, represents a comprehensive legal framework aimed at safeguarding the integrity and fairness of public examinations across India. The bill is introduced to address and prevent the use of unfair means in public examinations. 
  • It encompasses a wide range of definitions and stipulations that clarify the roles, responsibilities, and penalties associated with the conduct of public examinations. 
  • The bill’s enactment underscores the government’s commitment to ensuring a transparent, equitable, and merit-based assessment system. 

17. DoNER Hosts ‘North-East Sammelan’ 

  • A North-East Sammelan convened at the Dr. Ambedkar International Centre in New Delhi drawing attention to the region’s progress and collaborative efforts. 
  • The event boasted the presence of distinguished ministers, MPs, MLAs, officers, and students, accentuating the significance of the occasion. 
  • Additionally, the ministers inaugurated significant projects virtually, including the North Eastern Cultural and Social Institute in Dwarka and the Barak Hostel at JNU, New Delhi. 
  • The institute, with a substantial budget allocation, promises to be a hub of cultural exchange and social engagement, while the hostel addresses the accommodation needs of Northeast students, enhancing their academic experience. 

18. White Paper On Economy: NDA Govt To Table On Alleged UPA Govt’s Economic Mis-Management 

  • India’s Budget session has been extended by a day to allow for the tabling of a “white paper” on alleged economic mismanagement under the previous Congress-led UPA government. 
  • Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman will present the white paper in both houses of Parliament on Feb 10, highlighting the economic challenges faced before 2014 and the subsequent turnaround under the current government. 
  • The white paper serves as a tool for the government to communicate its analysis of past economic policies and present its vision for the future. It aims to educate the public on economic issues and gather feedback on proposed strategies. 

19. Sri Lanka Pursues Free Trade Agreements With India To Boost Economic Growth 

  • Sri Lanka, facing economic challenges and seeking to spur growth, plans to establish free trade agreements (FTAs) with several countries including India by the end of 2024. 
  • Sri Lanka aims to finalize an FTA with India by the end of 2024, alongside similar agreements with Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and China. 
  • These agreements are intended to open new markets for Sri Lankan businesses, contributing directly to economic growth. 

20. Iran Abolishes Visa Requirements For Indian Tourists From Feb 4, 2024 

  • Iran eliminates visa requirements for Indian tourists from February 4, 2024, aiming to boost tourism and global engagement. Indian ordinary passport holders can visit every six months for up to 15 days. 
  • Iran has expanded its visa waiver program to include 33 countries, alongside India, to encourage overseas travelers, showcasing its commitment to global interaction. 
  • The countries approved for Iran’s new visa waiver program include India, Russia, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, and others. 

21.Uttar Pradesh Government Enhances ‘EV Upyog’ Portal To Promote Electric Vehicles 

  • The Uttar Pradesh government is taking significant steps to promote the manufacture and use of electric vehicles (EVs) in the state. 
  • One of the key initiatives in this endeavour is the enhancement of the ‘EV Upyog’ portal, which serves as a platform to facilitate EV-related activities. 
  • To enhance the EV Upyog portal, the Uttar Pradesh Development Systems Corporation Limited (UPDSCL) has commenced the process of hiring a software development agency for a period of one year. 
  • The objective is to introduce several attractive features and improvements to the portal, making it more user-friendly and efficient. Cloud server technology is being leveraged for hosting the portal, ensuring scalability, reliability, and enhanced cybersecurity measures. 

22. Justice Vijay Bishnoi Sworn In As Chief Justice Of Gauhati High Court 

  • Justice Vijay Bishnoi has recently been sworn in as the Chief Justice of the esteemed Gauhati High Court, marking a significant milestone in his illustrious legal career. 
  • The Central Government, through a notification dated February 2, 2024, formally appointed Justice Vijay Bishnoi to the esteemed position of Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court. 
  • His distinguished career as a Judge of the Rajasthan High Court, coupled with his extensive experience in legal practice, makes him a fitting choice for this role. 

23.Maharashtra Proposes 40 Ropeway Projects, Inks MoU With NHAI For Execution 

  • The collaboration between the Maharashtra government and the National Highways Logistic Management Limited (NHLML) marks a significant step towards advancing connectivity and tourism development through ropeways under the National Ropeway Programme ‘Parvatmala’. 
  • The Maharashtra government and NHLML formalized their partnership by signing a MoU, emphasizing the joint commitment towards infrastructure development and the implementation of ropeway projects. 
  • The Maharashtra government has proposed 40 ropeway projects for consideration, targeting prominent tourist destinations and enhancing connectivity across regions such as Mumbai, Satara, Raigad, Nashik, Nanded, Ratnagiri, Sindhudurg, and Pune. 

24.Monkey Fever 

  • Kyasanur Forest Disease also known as Monkey Fever, has emerged as a significant health concern in Karnataka, India. With two fatalities reported this year and 49 positive cases, the state’s health department is on high alert. 
  • Originating from the Kyasanur Forest in 1957, KFD is caused by the Kyasanur Forest Disease Virus (KFDV), belonging to the Flaviviridae family. 
  • The state has witnessed 49 confirmed cases this year, leading to heightened efforts by health officials to contain the spread. The majority of cases have been reported in the Uttara Kannada district, signalling a concentrated outbreak zone. 

25.IRCTC Initiates Ramayana Circuit Train To Bolster Tourism 

  • Following the inauguration of the Ram temple, the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation has introduced a meticulously crafted tour program, immersing travelers in the spiritual tapestry woven by the Ramayana. 
  • This pilgrimage journey marks a significant milestone in connecting devotees with revered sites associated with Lord Rama’s saga. The pilgrimage itinerary spans across a myriad of iconic destinations, encapsulating the essence of Lord Rama’s legendary expedition. 
  • To ensure a seamless and comfortable journey, IRCTC has meticulously curated amenities catering to the diverse needs of travelers. Options include triple and double occupancy in second AC and cabins, as well as a double occupancy coupe option in the Bharat Gaurav Deluxe AC tourist train. 

26.Divya Kala Mela 2024 Inaugurated In Agartala, Tripura 

  • The Divya Kala Mela, an initiative by the Department of Empowerment of Persons with Disabilities (DEPwD), is set to grace the vibrant city of Agartala, Tripura. 
  • This event, inaugurated on 6th February 2024, aims to celebrate the talents and skills of Divyang artisans and entrepreneurs from across the country. 
  • The Divya Kala Mela offers a diverse range of products, including home d├ęcor, clothing, stationery, organic products, and more. 

27. China launches nine satellites with powerful 'Jielong-3' rocket 

  • China has launched nine satellites into orbit on the powerful jielong-3 rocket. jielong-3, or Smart Dragon3, was launched off the coast of Yangjiang in southern Guangdong province. It was the third launch of the rocket, which was developed by China Rocket Company, since December 2022. 
  • jielong-3 can carry a payload of 1,500 kilograms (3,300 lb) to a 500 kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. China Rocket Company had said the rocket could carry more than 20 satellites at a launch cost of less than $10,000 per kilogram. 
  • Jielong-3 can be compared with the powerful Legion-1. Developed by CAS Space, Legion-1 can also send a 1,500 kg payload into a 500 km sunsynchronous orbit. 
  • Other commercial companies in the Chinese vehicle launch sector include Galactic Energy, whose Ceres-1 rocket made its maiden flight in November 2020. At least seven Ceres-1 launches in 2023. 
  • Also in the field is Landspace, whose 2023 launch of the Zhuke-2 marked the world's first successful payload delivery by a liquid oxygen-methane rocket and a breakthrough in the use of low-cost liquid propellant in China. 
  • In the realm of larger rockets, OrionSpace plans to launch Gravity-1 from a ship off the coast of eastern Shandong province in January 2024. 
  • The rocket is capable of sending payloads of up to 6,500 kg into low-Earth orbit. 
  • In 2023, China had more launches than any other country except the United States, which made 116 launch attempts, while Elon Musk's SpaceX had less than 100 launches. 

28. DRDO successfully tests high-speed expandable aerial target 'Abhyas' 

  • Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has conducted four flight trials of High-Speed Expendable Aerial Target (HEAT) named 'Abhyas' from January 30 to February 2 at the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur.
  • Using a modified robust configuration with a single booster designed by the Advanced Systems Laboratory in Hyderabad, the tests reduced launch acceleration. 
  • This success is an important milestone for DRDO's Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE) and its collaborative efforts with production agencies. 
  • ABHYAS flight tests focused on achieving specific mission objectives, including safe release of the booster, launcher clearance, and achieving the required end velocity of launch. 
  • During the trials, various parameters important for the performance of the air target were successfully verified. These parameters include endurance, speed, maneuverability, altitude and range, confirming ABHYAS's capabilities as a high-speed expendable air target. 
  • The exercise includes an indigenous autopilot system, ensuring autonomous flying capabilities. The air target is equipped with radar cross-section, visual and infrared enhancement systems, providing a comprehensive platform for weapons practice. 
  • With recent trials supporting production agencies like Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and Larsen & Toubro (L&T) Defence, the exercise is now ready for production. 

29. Border Roads Organization starts fencing project on IndiaMyanmar border 

  • The Border Roads Organization (BRO) is fencing the strategic IndiaMyanmar border, starting from a 10-km stretch in Manipur. The Home Ministry has identified 1,700 kilometers of fencing. 
  • BRO has a long-term plan of Rs 30,000 crore for the North-Eastern region, with a focus on Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Fencing work up to 10 km along the border at Moreh in Manipur has already been completed, which has been handed over to Assam Rifles. 
  • The next 80 km in Manipur has been identified, and the remaining 250 km is in the planning stage. BRO is also involved in infrastructure development in the Campbell Bay region and is focusing on India-China border roads in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. 
  • Home Minister Amit Shah had recently said that the Center has decided that the India-Myanmar border will be protected by barbed fencing like the India-Bangladesh border and the government is reconsidering the free movement agreement with Myanmar. 
  • Four Indian states – Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram – share a 1,643 km long border with Myanmar. The organization was earlier involved in fencing the India-Bangladesh border along with the Border Security Force (BSF). 

30. NASA discovers habitable super-Earth ‘TOI-715 b’ 137 light-years away 

  • NASA scientists have discovered a planet named TOI-715 b, located 137 light years away from Earth. The planet is one and a half times wider than Earth and has the potential to support life. 
  • TOI-715 b revolves around its parent star. This means that the planet is located at a distance from its star that can provide the right temperatures for liquid water to form on its surface. 
  • The James Webb Space Telescope has not only detected exoplanets, but also "the composition of their atmospheres, which may provide clues to the possible presence of life," NASA said. 
  • The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) played a key role in identifying TOI-715 b. TOI-715 b orbits a red dwarf star, a type of star smaller and cooler than our Sun. Such stars are known to host "small, rocky worlds". 
  • Light year is the unit that measures the distance traveled by light in one year. Light travels at a speed of 186,000 miles (300,000 kilometers) per second and covers a distance of 5.88 trillion miles (9.46 trillion kilometers) in a year James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) 
  • The project is a collaboration between the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). Which was launched in December 2021. 
  • It is currently at a point in space known as the Sun-Earth L2 Lagrange point, about 1.5 million km from Earth's orbit around the Sun. It is the largest, most powerful infrared space telescope ever built. 
  • The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) is a space telescope that is part of NASA's Explorer program. It looks for exoplanets using the transit method and can scan an area 400 times larger than the Kepler mission.

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