Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC -20th February 2024

1.Breakthrough Prize laureate calls for collecting 'precious' protein structures 

  • Protein structures are precious and they should be collected and pooled into a central resource, John Jumper, Breakthrough Prize laureate, said here on Monday. 
  • "We are learning about protein sequences three thousand times faster than we are learning about protein structures. We have this enormous gap in which certain things are 5-very easy to measure like genetics and certain things are very hard to measure three-dimensional structures and we would love to close this gap", he said. 
  • Mr. Jumper was delivering the TNQ Distinguished Lectures in the Life Scienc- es - 2024 on 'Highly Accurate Protein Structure Predictions: Using Al to Solve Biology Problems in Minutes Instead of Years' at the JN Tata Auditorium, IISc. Mr. Jumper, who currently leads the Alpha-Fold2 project at Google 
  • DeepMind, spoke about the project that made structure predictions for over 200 million proteins. AlphaFold is an Al system developed by Deep Mind that predicts a protein's 3D structure from its amino acid sequence. The programme is said to reduce the time taken by scientists to determine protein structure, besides displaying the impact Artificial Intelligence (AI) can have on scientific discovery. 
  • Mr. Jumper has been developing novel methods to apply Al and machine learning (ML) to protein biology. "We really want to make AlphaFold have a wider domain and be more useful. There is a tremendous amount of interaction between protein and Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), protein and Ribonucleic acid (RNA), etc, so we really want to achieve this goal of whole Protein Data Bank (PDB), how do we make predictions for all the atoms that you could see within the PDB. This is still work in progress," he said. 
  • Mr. Jumper said that data has to be diverse for ML. "There are a couple of key components for ML. Data has to be diverse. Data has to be diverse as the problem you are looking to solve. Bigger and more general problems are easier to solve with ML," he explained 

2.Class 10, 12 exams will be held twice a year from 2025-26’ 

  • Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan on Monday said students will get an option of appearing for Class 10 and 12 board examinations twice a year from the academic session 2025-26. 
  • Pradhan was speaking after launching the PM SHRI (Prime Minister Schools for Rising India) scheme in Chhattisgarh under which 211 schools of the State will be upgraded. The function was held at the Pandit Deendayal Upadhyay auditorium in Raipur. 
  • He said one of the objectives of the new National Education Policy (NEP), unveiled in 2020, was to reduce academic stress on ed students. He said from the 2025-26 academic session, students will get an opportunity to appear for the Class 10 and 12 board exams twice. 
  • According to the New Curriculum Framework (NCF) announced by the Ministry of Education in August last year, board examinations will be held at least twice a year to ensure that students have enough time and opportunity to perform well. They will also get the option to retain the best score. 
  • Asking students present at the function if they were happy with the decision, the Union Minister told them to keep the best marks obtained after appearing in both exams. 
  • "Prime Minister Narendra Modi ji's vision through the NEP is to keep students stress-free, enrich them with quality education, keep students linked with culture and prepare them for the future. This is the formula for making India a developed country by 2047," he added. 
  • Mr. Pradhan slammed the previous Congress government in the State, saying education was not its priority. 

3.No Aadhaar number canceled, says UIDAI 

  • The Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) on Monday said that to keep the Aadhaar database updated, intimations are being issued to Aadhaar number holders from time to time, but no number has been canceled. 
  • Aadhaar, as the most commonly used digital identity, is used to avail of numerous subsidies, benefits and services, the UIDAI said on its website adding that to maintain the accuracy of the Aadhaar data- base, the authority had initiated an exercise for update of documents) Aadhaar information. 
  • "In the course of activities undertaken to keep the Aadhaar database updated, intimations are issued from time to time to Aadan haar number holders. In this connection, it is clari- grie- fied that no Aadhaar number has been canceled," the UIDAI said. 

4.Greece's gateway to Asia, India's gateway to Europe 

  • The state visit by Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis to New Delhi (February 21-22) will be another important step in building a strategic relationship between India and Greece, a process which began with the historic visit of the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, to Greece in August 2023. This was a visit that led to considerable excitement in Greece at the highest political levels and among Greek business leaders who sensed the great opportunity that a strategic partnership with India provided. 
  • Ahead of the visit, Mr. Mitsotakis told this writer that he is determined to deepen bilateral ties and cooperation in many fields, adding that "India will find no better gateway to Europe than my country and for Greece there is no better gateway to Asia than a close strategic relationship with India." He said, "PM Modi's historic visit to Athens created a momentum which I hope will be accelerated with my upcoming visit to (India]," 
  • India is perceived as an old and traditional friend of Greece, but also as a rising great power in the fast-changing global scene. Mr. Mitsotakis will be accompanied by a high-level Greek business delegation comprising business leaders not only looking at India's potential as their gateway to Asia but also as a manufacturing base for their global operations. 
  • The importance of security and stability Greece and India are in many ways 'prisoners' of geography. They are located in areas strategically important to the global system but are areas that are at the same time geopolitically volatile. As recent events in the Red Sea have shown, the security, stability and prosperity of the East Mediterranean region, where Greece is situated, is vitally dependent on the security, stability and is a journalist in Greece and the Executive Editor of the Kathimerini newspaper 
  • The political determination to move Greece-India ties forward is linked to the view by Athens that India is both an old and traditional friend, and a rising power prosperity of the Indian Ocean region. More than ever before, the political leadership in India and Greece is aware of the compelling strategic reasons and urgency to build a strategic relationship between the two countries. 
  • Bilateral strategic, military and business cooperation has been moving along over the years, but at a slow and unhurried pace. The Indian Navy and Indian Air Force have been participating in joint exercises with the Greek armed forces and reciprocal exercises are planned from time to time. Businesses have also been looking at each other. An Indian construction company, for example, is involved with a major Greek Construction company in the building of a new airport on the island of Crete. A well-known Indian business family has made major investments in several companies in the food business in Greece. A mid-sized Indian shipping company has already opened a brokerage firm in Athens and looks to become a key player in the trans-Atlantic shipping market. 
  • A large systemic bank in Greece has tied up with a major Indian financial institution to sell mutual fund products globally. It is also interesting to note that Greece's most important long-term foreign investor is Indian-Canadian billionaire Prem Watsa, founder and CEO of the Fairfax Financial Holdings. Mr. Watsa often states that "Greece is still by far the best European country to invest in." With knowledge of both countries, he has been a steady promoter of Greek-Indian business cooperation. But the question is, is this enough? 
  • As economic reforms by the Mitsotakis government over the last five years push the Greek economy towards a more sustainable growth path, and as Greece positions itself as the reliable eastern flank of the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in the Eastern Mediterranean, also building its defense industry, the idea of constructing the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEEC) is gaining in salience. It is hoped that Greek and Indian business will discover many more reasons to partner with each other. Greece has been a strong supporter of deeper EU-India relations and is now working to ensure the EU-India bilateral trade and investment agreement (BTIA) is rapidly concluded, which would be a further catalyst to bilateral economic.
  • The value of closer people-to-people ties that will preserve the heritage of our ancient linkages must not be ignored. It must be ensured that there is an attempt to remain familiar to each other even while Greece and India modernize themselves. There need to be more university student exchange programmes, more cultural exchanges and more media cooperation. Think tanks in both countries need to build more scholarships together. And, there definitely needs to be more travel links between the two countries. The fact that the political leaders of Greece and India exchanging visits within a short time frame shows not just their determination to move the relationship forward but also the urgency they attach to this task. 
  • It is now for government policymakers and businesses to follow their lead. The year 2024 is a critical one for the world and for Europe, and it has become a critical year in the building of the Greece-India strategic partnership. 

5.Major projects for education, skilling to be launched 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate and lay the foundation for a number of new education- al institutions on Tuesday. The projects are worth 13,375 crore. The ceremony will be held in Jammu. 
  • The Prime Minister's Office said in a release that the inauguration will be a significant step towards upgrading and developing education and skilling infrastructure across the country. The projects include permanent campuses of IIT-Bhilai, IIT-Tirupati, IIT-Jammu, the Indian Institute of Information Technology, Design and Manufacturing in Kancheepuram, the Indian Institute of Skills in Kanpur and two campuses of the Central Sanskrit University at Devprayag in Uttarakhand and at Agartala in Tripura. Mr. Modi will also inaugurate three new IIMS in Jammu, Bodh Gaya and Visakhapatnam. 
  • Mr. Modi will also inaugurate the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) at Vijaypur (Samba) in Jammu.

6.Migratory Conservation Conference (CMS COP14) held in Samarkand, Uzbekistan 

  • The 14th meeting of the conference of conference on the preservation of migrant species of wild animals (CMS COP14) has been held from 12 to 17 February 2024 in Samarkand, the historic city of Uzbekistan. 
  • The first United Nations COP conference held in Central Asia is. Its slogan was "Nature Know No Seema" and the mascot was snow leopard. The meeting will be one of the most important global biodiversity meetings since adopting Kunming-Mantrial Global Biodiversity Framework (Biodiversity Scheme) in 2022. 
  • On the occasion of CMS COP14, nine champions were awarded under the Migrant Champion Program, including Uzbekistan, Monaco, India, Germany and United Kingdom governments, European Commission, Environment Agency - Abu Dhabi, National Wildlife Center of Saudi Arabia. 
  • The 13th Conference (COP), Gandhinagar has been held in Gujarat, India from 17 to 22 February 2020. The Government of India has been signed by Convention (CMS) on the protection of migrant wild animals since 1983. The first CMS Copes took place from 21 October 1985 to 26 October 1985 in Bonn, Germany. 

Important decisions 

  • Convention coverage included 14 species, including Eurasian Links, Palas' cat and Sand Tiger Shark. Other measures were adopted to protect species such as chimpanzee and giraffe. 
  • The Central Asian flyway spread to 30 range states of migratory birds was also agreed. The initiative adopted includes the establishment of a coordination unit in India with the financial assistance of the Government of India. 
  • A new, science-based Samarkand strategic plan for migrant species for a period of 2024-2032. 
  • Extension of existing concrete actions for nine species such as new solid actions for six species including chimpanzee, strawcolored fruit bat and six species for six species, and nine species such as giraffe, Atlantic Hampback Dolphin and Antipodian albatros. 
  • A global anxiety for small Sitas, sharks, marine turtles and marine birds, strong mandate when dealing with bucket and aquatic wild meat. Three new action plans for aquatic species, Atlantic Hampback Dolphins, Hawksble Turtle and Angelshark. 

7.Bank of Baroda launches India's second corporate credit card on RuPay network 

  • BOBCARD (formerly known as BOB Financial Solutions), a wholly owned subsidiary of Bank of Baroda and National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI), has announced the launch of the second corporate credit card on the RuPay network. 
  • A corporate credit card on the RuPay network is a financial instrument specifically designed for corporate customers, offering benefits and features to meet the needs of businesses. RuPay is a domestic card payment network in India, and corporate credit cards on this network offer benefits to companies and their employees. 
  • BOBCARD's newly launched corporate credit card on RuPay allows integration with Unified Payment Interface (UPI) through any UPI-enabled app. 
  • With this credit card, users will get complimentary lounge access and fuel surcharge waiver. BOBCARD said the corporate credit card also has a complimentary personal accidental death insurance cover for its cardholders. 
  • India's first corporate credit card. Last year, IndusInd Bank launched 'IndusInd Bank eSwarna', India's first corporate credit card on the RuPay network. 
  • The card facilitates transactions at merchant outlets and lets users make UPI payments by linking the card with UPI-enabled apps. .
  • IndusInd Bank Eswarna Credit Card also offers complimentary lounge access and fuel surcharge waiver. Corporate travelers can enjoy the added benefit of comprehensive travel insurance coverage and an exclusive rewards program. 

8.BAFTA Award for Best Film Award in 2024 to Openheimer 

  • The 77th British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Awards 2024 was a celebration of cinematic excellence at the Royal Festival Hall in London. 
  • The ceremony, known as BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), was hosted by actor David Tenant. 
  • Leading with influential 13 nominations, "Openhaimer" emerged as the biggest winner by achieving seven BAFTA including Best Film. 
  • Directed by Christopher Nolan, the film not only mesmerized the audience with its interesting story and direction, but also raised its glow in categories like Cinematography, Editing, Basic Score and Supporting Actor, in which Robert Downi Junior won his role for his role. 

BAFTA Award 2024 winning list 

  • Best Film - Openhaimer 
  • Best Actress - Emma Stone - Poor Things
  • Best Actor - Sylon Murphy - Openhaimer
  • Best Supporting Actress - Dr. Win Joy Randolf - The Holdovers 
  • Best Supporting Actor - Robert Downey Junior - Openhaimer 
  • Best Director - Christopher Nolan - Openhaimer 
  • Best Documentary Award "20 Days in Marriupol" 
  • BAFTA Rising Star Award - Mia McCaina -Bus 
  • Excellent British film - The Zone of Interest 
  • Best Animated Film - The Boy and the Heron 
  • Best original screenplay - Anatomy of a Fall 
  • Best converted screenplay - American fiction 
  • Basic Score - Openheimer 

9.BPCL will set up the country's first green hydrogen plant at the Kochi airport 

  • The Indian Refiner Bharat Petroleum Corp Limited (BPCL) has announced to construct and operate a 1,000 kW green hydrogen plant inside the Cochin International Airport. Kochi Airport is set to become the country's first airport to set up a Green Hydrogen plant. 
  • Cochin International Airport Limited (Seal) is going to set up a green hydrogen plant in the airport campus in collaboration with BPCL Kochi Refinery. 
  • BPCL said the initial output will be used to provide electricity to vehicles in the airport, which is in the southern part of the country. Green hydrogen, which arises from water using renewable energy sources, is recognized as future fuel and align with carbon-plate strategies. 
  • Indian companies are investing billions of dollars to reduce emissions to meet the country's target of net zero emission by 2070. India is also expanding the use of biofuels in its transport sector to achieve this goal. 
  • BPCL has planned to invest $ 18.16 billion in the next five years to increase its oil business and expand its renewable energy portfolio as its target is 2040 pure zero targets. 
  • Sial officials said that Kochi Airport is the first airport in the world which is fully powered by solar energy. Solar plants and a hydroelectric station now have a cumulative installed capacity of 50mw which produces two lakh units of electricity per day. 

10.Government raises authorized capital of FCI from Rs 10,000 cr to Rs 21,000 cr 

  • The government of India has increased the authorized capital of state-run Food Corporation of India (FCI) from ₹10,000 crore to ₹21,000 crore to enhance the operational capabilities and fulfill its mandate effectively. 
  • FCI is the central government’s nodal agency that undertakes the procurement of foodgrains at a minimum support price (MSP) to protect the interest of farmers. It also maintains strategic stocks and distributes the grains under different welfare schemes. 
  • The increase in the authorized capital will reduce the interest burden, decrease the economic cost and ultimately affecting the government subsidy positively. 
  • These measures are essential not only for reducing post-harvest losses but also for ensuring efficient distribution of food grains to consumers. 

About FCI 

  • The Food Corporation of India (FCI) is a statutory body under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution. 
  • It was set up in 1965 following the enactment of the Food Corporation Act, 1964. 
  • It was set up in 1965 with its initial headquarters at Chennai. Later this was moved to New Delhi. 
  • Govt launches ‘Sagar Aankalan’ guidelines to boost efficiency, competitiveness 
  • Union Minister Sarbananda Sonowal has launched the ‘Sagar Aankalan’ guidelines for the Indian port performance index to boost their efficiency and improve competitiveness. 
  • The ‘Sagar Aankalan’ guidelines for National Benchmarking of Indian Ports Performance will be enforced across all seaports in India, with goal of boosting their efficiency and competitiveness. 
  • India has 13 major ports – Deendayal (Kandla), Mumbai, Mormugao, New Mangalore, Cochin, Chennai, Ennore (Kamarajar), Tuticorin (V O Chidambaranar), Visakhapatnam, Paradip and Kolkata (including Haldia) and Jawaharlal Nehru Port. 
  • The Union shipping ministry has also drawn up an action plan to speed up the implementation of agreements signed at the Global Maritime India Summit 2023. 
  • During GMIS 2023, 360 MoUs were signed with an investment commitment of Rs 8.35 lakh crore and the announcement of additional investible projects worth Rs 1.68 lakh crore. 

11.Sarbananda Sonowal in News 

  • Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurates Kalughat Inland Waterways Transport terminal in Bihar 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal laid foundation stone of the Regional Research Institute for Homoeopathy at Guwahati 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches Port Health Organization under Sagar Setu 
  • Sarbananda Sonowal launches 3rd edition of Global India Maritime Summit .
  • Sarbananda Sonowal inaugurates DGNSS “SAGAR SAMPARK

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