Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC 18th March 2024


National News 

1.India’s First Integrated Oil Palm Processing Unit By 3F Oil Palm 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated India’s first integrated oil palm processing unit, operated by 3F Oil Palm, marking a significant stride in the nation’s journey towards self-reliance in edible oils. Situated in Arunachal Pradesh’s Roing, this project aligns with Mission Palm Oil under the National Mission on Edible Oils – Oil Palm (NMEO-OP). 

International News 

2.Vladimir Putin Secures Another Six-Year Term In Russian Election 

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin clinched victory in the recent election with a commanding lead of 76.1% of the vote, as per preliminary results. This win marks Putin’s continued dominance in Russian politics, now extending his tenure to a total of 24 years in power. 

3.EU and Egypt agree to a €7.4-billion deal on energy, migration 

  • The EU chief and five European leaders visited cash strapped Egypt on Sunday to announce a €7.4 billion financial package focussed on boosting energy trade and stemming irregular migrant flows to the 27- member bloc. 
  • The deal will include billions in credit over coming years for highly indebted Egypt, and stepping up energy sales that could help Europe "move further away from Russian gas", said a senior European Commission official. 
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen who was joined by the leaders of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Italy met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah alSisi ahead of the scheduled signing ceremony. 
  • The Strategic and Comprehensive Partnership agreement includes five billion euros in loans over four years, 1.8 billion euros in investment and hundreds of millions for bilateral projects including on migration. 
  • Egypt, mired in a painful economic crisis, borders war-battered Libya and the centers of two ongoing conflicts the Israel- Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and Sudan's war between the regular armed forces and the paramilitary hu Rapid Support Forces. 
  • Haven for refugees Egypt already hosts around nine million migrants and refugees, including four million Sudanese and 1.5 million Syrians, according to the UN's International Organization for Migration. 
  • The EU official said the deal includes steps to cooperate on "security, counter-terrorism cooperation and protection of borders, in particular the southern one" with Sudan. 
  • The Gaza Strip "will not be the main focus but will be part of the discussion" in Cairo, the official added. 
  • The delegation included three Mediterranean leaders Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, her Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cyprus President Nikos 
  • Christodoulides. The agreement follows several controversial deals the EU has sealed in northern Africa with Libya, Tunisia and Mauritania to stem the flow of irregular migrants across the Mediterranean Sea. 

4. Emergency declared after volcanic eruption in Reykjanes Peninsula of Iceland 

  • A volcano has erupted once again in Iceland's Reykjanes Peninsula, the fourth eruption since December. The volcano spewed smoke and bright orange lava into the air. It is considered to be the most powerful explosion ever. 
  • Due to this, a state of emergency has been declared in southern Iceland, leading to the evacuation of surrounding areas, including the famous tourist attraction, the Blue Lagoon. 
  • According to the Icelandic Meteorological Office, the eruption opened an approximately threekilometre-long crack in the earth between the Stora-Skogfell and Hagafell mountains on the Reykjanes Peninsula. 
  • The blast site is a few kilometers northeast of Grindavik, a coastal town of about 3,800 people, about 50 kilometers (30 miles) southwest of Iceland's capital, Reykjavik. 
  • Grindavik was evacuated in November, when the Svartsengi volcanic system awakened after nearly 800 years with a series of earthquakes, causing large cracks in the ground north of the town. Iceland has 33 active volcanic systems and sits on what is known as the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the boundary between the two largest tectonic plates on the planet. 
  • This is now the seventh eruption since 2021, and scientists believe the region is entering a new volcanic era that could last decades or centuries. 
  • The most devastating event in Iceland was the 2010 eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano, which spewed huge clouds of ash into the atmosphere and led to widespread airspace closures in Europe. 

State News 

5.Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik Inaugurates India’s First Indoor Athletics and Aquatic Centres 

  • Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik inaugurated India’s first indoor athletics stadium and indoor aquatic centre at the Kalinga stadium in Bhubaneshwar. The Chief Minister also laid the foundation stone for a new indoor diving centre in the stadium complex. According to Patnaik, the new indoor facilities will help athletes train throughout the year without fear of weather-related disturbances. 

6.Tamil Nadu Signs MoU To Implement PM SHRI School Scheme 

  • The Tamil Nadu government has agreed to implement the PM SHRI Schools (PM Schools for Rising India) scheme by signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Education, Government of India. This initiative aims to enhance the quality of education in the state and align with the objectives of the National Education Policy 2020. 

7.As Ayodhya turns a tourist hotspot, 'guides' leave devotees high and dry 

  • For Vinay Shukla, 52, the visit to Ayodhya in the second week of March wasn't as pleasant as he had expected. A resident of Satna in Madhya Pradesh and ardent devotee of Lord Ram, he feels he was overcharged by a local guide he hired through the hotel staff for the Ram Temple visit. 
  • "I was told about the special darshan of Ram Lalla and paid ₹2,000 each for five people, but later got to know that there was no such arrangement," Mr. Shukla said, bitter about being fleeced. 
  • Mr. Shukla is not alone. With the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Temple in Ayodhya witnessing an average foot fall of 1 lakh to 1.5 lakh pilgrims daily, the city's in "frastructure and tourism ecosystem is still playing catch up. "There is a huge rush, people from adjoining districts are a bit aware of the city, but outsiders face some difficulties as a few locals try to take advantage," says Rahul Pandey of Ayodhya Tour Guide Service. 
  • Devotees also demand a dedicated awareness campaign by the government. "There is no arrangement for special darshan by paying a certain fee or any special pass at the Mandir. If you ever hear about paying for darshan, it might be a scam," said the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Trust after multiple complaints were raised. 
  • "We booked our stay through a local agent. We were charged 6,000 per head but the hotel room was below-par. Some people had booked through the Holy Ayodhya app and they paid less than half of what we shelled out and enjoyed a comfortable stay," said Raghu Veer Chaudhary from Bareilly. Many budget hotels which used to charge 1,200- 1,400 per day before the opening of the temple have increased rates by 25%. 
  • Many visitors from outside the State are not aware of the Holy Ayodhya app, which aims to provide pilgrims with affordable homestay options whose fares are regulated by district authorities. "Many tourists are not aware of these options," added Mr. Pandey. 
  • Locals said the hospitality sector in the city is still at a nascent stage and only took off following the Supreme Court's November 2019 judgment on the Ayodhya Temple. They hoped the industry would develop with more quality and affordable options in the next 12-18 months. At present a few hundred hotels, lodges, and homestays cater to the needs of the devotees. 
  • Construction of 142 hotels, including luxurious ones like Wyndham Hotels and Resorts and Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL), were launched at the recent Global Investors' Summit. In the 2023 edition of the summit, 102 investment intents worth approximately 18,000 crore were signed for tourism in Ayodhya. 

8. Maharashtra Chief Minister inaugurated the country's first LNG bus in Mumbai 

  • Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde inaugurated India's first liquefied natural gas (LNG) powered bus, which will be operated by the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation. 
  • A release from the state-run transport corporation said 5000 of its diesel vehicles will be converted to LNG alternative fuel vehicles in phases. 
  • Converting buses from diesel to LNG will reduce pollution by 10 percent and fuel costs will reduce significantly. MSRTC has signed an MoU with M/s Kings Gas for converting buses to LNG. 
  • MSRTC, which caters to around 60 lakh passengers daily, will set up LNG distribution facilities in 90 depots across the state. MSRTC's LNG buses in Mumbai, Maharashtra aim to reduce CO2 emissions, save on fossil fuel. 
  • Earlier, on March 11, 2024, Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of Petronet LNG's Petrochemicals Complex in Dahej, Gujarat. Its cost is more than Rs 20,000 crore. 
  • This petrochemicals complex, including ethane and propane handling facilities in the country, will help in boosting hydrogen production and demand for polypropylene. 

Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) 

  • LNG is a liquid form of natural gas that is usually shipped in large quantities to countries where pipeline expansion is not possible. Natural gas is cooled to 160 degrees Celsius and brought into liquid state. 
  • Many impurities are separated from natural gas during the process of making liquefied natural gas. That is why LNG is called the purest form of natural gas. 

9. Global Spirituality Festival 2024 held in Hyderabad 

  • The Union Ministry of Culture in collaboration with Heartfulness Foundation has organized the Global Spirituality Festival 2024, a gathering of spiritual leaders, in Hyderabad, Telangana from 14 to 17 March 2024. 
  • With the theme "World Peace from Inner Peace", the Global Spirituality Festival aims to promote interreligious dialogue and connect individuals of all ages and backgrounds with spirituality in their daily lives. 
  • Minister G Kishan Reddy said it is considered the world's "largest" congregation of spiritual leaders and aims to bring together the essence of all religions and spread the message of peace across the world. 
  • The Global Spirituality Festival was held at Kanha Shanthi Vanam, said to be the largest meditation center in the world. 
  • The four-day summit, attended by over 100,000 participants, included panel discussions, cultural programmes, exhibitions on India's spiritual history and immersive experiences in spirituality. 
  • Ramakrishna Mission, The Art of Living Foundation, Isha Foundation and many other renowned organizations came together to make this event a success. The summit will serve as a platform for spiritual leaders to discuss and collaborate on promoting peace and harmony at the global level. 

Defence news 

10.Defence Ministry contract with HAL for upgrade of 25 Dornier aircraft 

  • The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has signed a contract worth ₹2,890 crore with the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for the midlife upgrade of 25 Dornier patrol aircraft of the Indian Navy. 
  • The midlife upgrade for Dornier aircraft includes an upgrade to incorporate state-of-the art avionics systems and primary role sensors. 
  • The upgrade would significantly enhance the operational capability of the Dornier aircraft of the Indian Navy to perform primary roles of maritime surveillance, coastal surveillance, electronic intelligence and development of maritime domain awareness. 

11.Indian Army contingent departs for Seychelles for Exercise “LAMITIYE-2024” 

  • A contingent from the Indian Army embarked on a journey to Seychelles to participate in the Tenth edition of the Joint Military Exercise “LAMITIYE-2024” alongside the Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF). 
  • Scheduled to take place from March 18th to 27th, this biennial training event holds significant importance in fostering cooperation between the two nations. 
  • The term ‘LAMITIYE’, translating to ‘Friendship’ in the Creole language, encapsulates the spirit of camaraderie underlying this exercise, which has been a tradition since its inception in 2001. 
  • With 45 personnel each from the renowned GORKHA RIFLES of the Indian Army and the Seychelles Defence Forces, the exercise aims to bolster interoperability in Sub-conventional Operations within Semi-Urban environments, aligning with Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter on Peacekeeping Operations. 

Recent Exercise 

  • 5th edition of Military Exercise ‘Dharama Guardian’ between India and Japan – Mahajan Field Firing Ranges, Rajasthan 
  • 12th edition of MILAN Naval Exercise – Visakhapatnam 
  • Indian Air Force Conduct Exercise Vayu Shakti-2024 – Jaisalmer, Rajasthan. 
  • 1st edition of Military Exercise – SADA TANSEEQ between India & Saudi Arabia – Rajasthan 
  • Desert Knight Exercise between India, France, UAE – over Arabian Sea 

Appointment News 

12.Navneet Sehgal Appointed as Prasar Bharati Board Chairman 

  • Retired bureaucrat Navneet Kumar Sehgal has been appointed as the new chairperson of the Prasar Bharati Board. The position had been vacant for four years after A Surya Prakash retired in February 2020 after turning 70, the upper age limit for the post. 

13.Kotak Bank Appoints Jaideep Hansraj As President Of ‘One Kotak’ 

  • Kotak Mahindra Bank has appointed Jaideep Hansraj, the current MD and CEO of Kotak Securities, as the Group President – One Kotak, effective from April 1, 2024. This move signifies a strategic shift towards optimizing the Group’s financial conglomerate model and enhancing customer offerings through collaborative efforts across subsidiaries. 

Important day 

14.18 March – Ordnance Factories Day 

  • Ordnance Factories Day is observed every year on March 18. 
  • Indian Ordnance Factories play an important role in safeguarding us and providing strength to the Indian Armed Forces. 
  • Indian Ordnance Factories provide arms and ammunition to the Indian Armed Forces, in turn providing them strength to protect us with more zeal and determination. 
  • During the British rule in India, the British East India Company realized the growing demands of arms and ammunition for the British army in India. 
  • In 1775, the Board of Ordnance was formed in Fort William, Kolkata. 
  • In 1787, a gunpowder factory was formed in Ishapore and a gun carriage factory was formed in Cossipore, Kolkata. Now it’s known as Gun and Shell Factory, Cossipore. 
  • After India gained independence in 1947, the Ordnance Factories were placed under the control of the Indian Government. 

Ranks and Reports News 

15.India’s Ranking On The DHL Connectedness Index 

  • India’s position on the DHL Global Connectedness Index has seen a notable rise, reflecting its burgeoning role in the global economy. From ranking 67th in 2022, India has advanced to the 62nd position in 2023, underscoring its increasing significance in the realm of globalization. 

16.India’s Forex Reserves Jump To Over Two-Year High Of $636.1 Bn

  • India’s foreign exchange reserves witnessed a significant surge, marking a third consecutive increase in the week ended March 8, 2024. This surge propelled the reserves to reach a two-year high of $636.1 billion, showing the highest weekly increase since July 14, 2023, according to data from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). 

17.NASA To Carry ‘Message In Bottle’ To Europa, One Of Jupiter’s Moon In October 

  • In October of this year, NASA will embark on its Europa Clipper mission, aiming to explore Jupiter’s moon Europa in search of signs of life. Scientists are particularly interested in a potential salty lake hidden beneath its icy crust. As part of this mission, NASA plans to send a unique message to Europa, symbolizing human curiosity and creativity. 

Obituaries News 

18.Prominent Tribal Leader Lama Lobzang Passes Away at 94 

  • The former member of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and prominent Buddhist Monk of Ladakh, popularly known as Lama Lobzang, passed away this morning at his residence in New Delhi. He was 94 years old. 
  • This award is given every two years in memory of Princess Diana. It recognizes exceptional youth for their social work or humanitarian services. The Diana Award charity, established in memory of the late Princess of Wales, is celebrating its 25th anniversary. 

20.Kashmir Hosts First Formula-4 Car Racing Event Along Dal Lake 

  • The beautiful Dal Lake in Kashmir witnessed an exciting event on March 18. Formula-4 car racing was held for the first time in the region. The sleek racing cars raced along the Boulevard road near the lake, creating a thrilling atmosphere. The Zabarwan Hills provided a stunning backdrop for the event. 

Awards News

21.Uday Bhatia & Manasi Gupta honoured with Diana Memorial Award 

  • India’s Uday Bhatia and Manasi Gupta were honored with the ‘Diana Memorial Award’. 
  • Along with them, a total of 20 people from the world were honored with the ‘Diana Memorial Award’. 
  • Uday Bhatia, founder of Uday Electric, and Manasi Gupta, founder of Huesofthemind Foundation, received their awards from Prince William, the older son of Princess Diana, at an awards ceremony in London’s Science Museum. 

About Uday Bhatia 

  • Uday Bhatia is an inventor from Delhi. Uday Electric, founded by 18-year-old Uday Bhatia, is headquartered in Delhi. Uday’s low-cost invention can provide relief from power cuts. 
  • He made a unique invention to deal with the electricity crisis. This can provide uninterrupted lighting for 10 hours during power cuts. 
  • His invention provided continuous electricity to 950 families and increased their education and employment opportunities. 

About Manasi Gupta 

  • Manasi Gupta is a mental health campaigner from Haryana. 
  • Huesothemind Foundation, founded by Manasi Gupta, is headquartered in Gurugram. 
  • During the Corona pandemic, 24-year-old Manasi Gupta’s mental health services were appreciated and she got a different recognition. 

Recent Awards 

  • Chameli Devi Jain Award 2024 – Greeshma Kuthar (independent journalist) & Ritika Chopra (Indian Express) 
  • IAA Golden Compass Award 2024 – Srinivasan Swamy 
  • Erasmus Prize 2024 – Amitav Ghosh (For highlighting the climate change crisis 
  • Measles and Rubella Champion Award – India 
  • National Youth Parliament Festival 2024 – Yatin Bhaskar Duggal (First prize); Vaishna Pitchai (Second); Kanishka Sharma (Third) 

Other awards 

Sports News 

22.EC announces Para Archer Sheetal Devi as National PwD icon 

  • Election Commission has announced Para Archer and Arjuna Awardee, Sheetal Devi as its National PwD Icon. 
  • Her name was announced at an Exhibition Cricket Match between the Indian Deaf Cricket Association Team and the Delhi and District Cricket Association team in Delhi. 
  • The match was organized by the Election Commission in association with the Board of Control for Cricket in India to foster voter education and inclusivity. 
  • On the occasion, the Commission launched a dedicated Voter’s Guide for PwDs and Senior Citizen Electors. The comprehensive booklet outlines essential provisions available to PwDs and senior citizens, including infrastructural, informative, and procedural details at polling stations. 

23.RCB triumphs over Delhi Capitals in WPL 2024 final 

  • Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) beat Delhi Capitals in the final of the 2024 Women’s Premier League to break their 16-year-long trophy drought. 
  • RCB defeated DC by eight wickets to lift the WPL trophy at the Arun Jaitley Stadium in New Delhi. 
  • RCB made easy work of their 114-run chase against DC to lift their maiden WPL title. A wonderful first innings performance from RCB’s spin-attack helped them clinch their first-ever trophy as a franchise.
  • Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB) Captain – Smriti Mandhana
  • Delhi Capitals (DC) Captain – Meg Lanning (Australia)

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