Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC -23rd February 2024


1. Ilham Aliyev won Azerbaijan presidential election for the fifth time 

  • Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev won a fifth consecutive term by winning 92% of the votes in the elections. In previous elections, they typically get around 85% of the vote. Turnout in a snap election called a year ago after Azerbaijan took back the Nagorno-Karabakh region from Armenian separatists last September was 67.7%. 
  • Aliyev, 62, was first elected president in 2003 following the death of his father, Heydar Aliyev, a former KGB officer who had ruled Azerbaijan since 1993. He was reelected in 2008, 2013 and 2018 with 86 percent of the vote. 
  • Aliyev said he called the election "a symbol of the beginning of a new era" that sees Azerbaijan regain full control over its territory. The breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region was recaptured by Armenian separatists in September 2023. 
  • However, the election was held amid a crackdown on independent media and in the absence of any real opposition. Azerbaijan's main opposition parties boycotted the vote, which Ali Kerimli of the Popular Front Party called "an imitation of democracy". 
  • For the first time in Azerbaijan's post-Soviet history, 26 polling stations were opened in Karabakh, where President and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva went to cast their votes in the region's main city, Khankendi. In 2009, Aliyev amended the Constitution of Azerbaijan to allow him to run for president an unlimited number of times. 
  • Then, in 2016, Azerbaijan adopted controversial constitutional changes, increasing the presidential term from five years to seven years. Aliyev has further strengthened his dynastic grip on power by appointing his wife Mehriban Aliyeva as First Vice President. 

2. Kosovo becomes the last non-EU country to be granted visa-free access to the Schengen zone 

  • In a significant achievement, Kosovo has secured visa-free access to the Schengen Zone, the world's largest free movement area. Kosovo was the last non-European Union (EU) country among the six countries of the Western Balkans to enjoy this privilege. 
  • The Schengen Agreement was signed in 1985 by the five member states of the European Economic Community (Belgium, France, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). Non-European Union countries such as Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Iceland are part of Schengen through special association agreements. 
  • The government has asked people not to abuse the Schengen rules, which state that people can stay as tourists for 90 days out of 180 but cannot work. 
  • The agreement aims to create a border-free zone in Europe allowing free movement of people, goods, services and capital called the Schengen Zone, where internal border checks are largely eliminated. 
  • Over time the Schengen zone has grown to include 27 countries, covering more than 4 million square kilometers and hosting approximately 420 million inhabitants. 
  • Schengen enables seamless travel for more than 400 million individuals across member states without border checks. Tourism facilitates approximately 1.25 billion visits annually, promoting cultural exchange and economic prosperity. 


  • It is a landlocked region bordered by Albania, Macedonia, Serbia and Montenegro, with a majority Albanian population and a Serb minority. Its capital and largest city is Pristina. 
  • According to the World Bank, Kosovo is a parliamentary republic and an upper-middle income country. It declared independence from Serbia on 17 February 2008 and is recognized as an independent country by over 110 United Nations members. India, Brazil, China, Russia and Mexico do not recognize Kosovo as an independent country. 

3. Microsoft and iCreate launch ‘iMPEL-AI’ program 

  • Microsoft and iCreate launched the iMPEL-AI (iCreate-Microsoft Program for Emerging Leaders in Artificial Intelligence) program in the presence of Union Minister Chandrashekhar. 
  • International Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (iCreate), Microsoft signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for an ‘iMPEL-AI’ program supported by the Ministry of Electronics and IT to promote AI startups in India. 
  • The program will screen 1100 AI innovators across India to become AI Most Valuable Players (MVPs) and focus on priority themes of healthcare, financial inclusion, sustainability, education, agriculture and smart cities. 
  • In the second phase, the program will select and scale 100 startups across India to build with Azure OpenAI, and the top 25 will receive go-to-market support from Microsoft's global network to develop innovative, globally competitive products . 
  • This MoU is in line with the vision set out by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi during his meeting with Microsoft Chairman and CEO Satya Nadella last year. iCreate has been at the forefront of leading new initiatives that foster innovation and unleash the true potential of startups. 
  • The IMPEL-AI program has been carefully designed to foster AI innovation and product development with access to both mentorship and technology infrastructure. 
  • Apart from supporting startups, the iMPEL-AI program also aims to provide AI skilling opportunities to 11,000 innovators, startups and young Indians. 

4. NASA launches 'DC-8 aircraft' under Asian Air Quality or ASIA-AQ mission 

  • NASA has launched a series of extended flights with its giant flying laboratory, the DC-8, across Asia under the Asian Air Quality, or ASIA-AQ, mission. 
  • In a mission aimed at enhancing key models for predicting and combating air pollution, the US space agency aims to make progress in identifying pollution sources and behaviours, potentially leading to more accurate public warning systems. 
  • NASA's 'DC-8 aircraft' took off from NASA's Armstrong Flight Research Center in Palmdale, California to conduct test flights as part of airborne and satellite investigations. Starting this week in the Philippines, NASA's DC-8 is conducting flights lasting up to eight hours, hovering as close as 15 meters (50 feet) to the ground to collect air particles for detailed analysis. The aircraft will expand research flights to South Korea, Malaysia and Thailand in the next weeks. 

‘DC-8 aircraft’ 

  • While satellite visualizations and ground measurements provide important data, alone they cannot fully portray air quality problems and the sources they cause. 
  • ASIA-AQ IS A JOINT EFFORT BETWEEN NASA AND SEVERAL INTERNATIONAL ORGANIZATIONS INCLUDING THE National Environmental Research Institute (NIER) of Korea and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources Philippines (DENR), Universiti Kebangsan Malaysia (UKM), Geo-Informatics and Space and Technology Development Agency Thailand (GISTDA) and the Ministry of Environment Taiwan (MOENV). 

5.India Sends Sacred Relics Of Buddha To Thailand 

  • In a significant event that marks a deep connection between India and Thailand, four revered relics of Lord Buddha and his disciples have arrived in Bangkok, Thailand, accompanied by a delegation from India. 
  • The delegation, led by Governor of Bihar Shri Rajendra Vishwanath Arlekar and Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Dr. Virendra Kumar, includes esteemed monks, officials, curators, artists, and scholars. 
  • The holy relics were received with great reverence and ceremony at Bangkok Military Airport by H.E Mr. Sermsak Pongpanit, Minister of Culture, Royal Thai Government, and other dignitaries. 

6.CJI Chandrachud Inaugurates Ayush Wellness Center At Supreme Court Premises 

  • The Chief Justice of India, Justice DY Chandrachud, inaugurated the ‘Ayush Holistic Wellness Centre’ within the premises of the Supreme Court of India.
  • The Ayush Holistic Wellness Centre situated within the Supreme Court premises is a facility designed to provide comprehensive care addressing physical, mental, and emotional well-being. 
  • An important aspect of the inauguration was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Supreme Court and the All-India Institute of Ayurveda. 

7.PM Modi To Lay Foundation For 550 Amrit Bharat Stations 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to inaugurate the foundation stone laying ceremony for 550 Amrit Bharat stations on February 26. 
  • The initiative aims to improve railway station facilities by developing rooftop plazas and city centers, with an investment of Rs 40,000 crore. 
  • Additionally, the Prime Minister will lay foundation stones for about 1,500 road overbridges and underbridges across different states. 

8.India’s Mineral Output Rises By 5.1% In December 2023 

  • In December 2023, India’s mineral output witnessed a notable increase of 5.1% compared to the same period in 2022, according to the Ministry of Mines. 
  • The mining and quarrying sector’s index of mineral production for December reached 139.4, marking a significant rise from the previous year. 
  • The production of coal reached 929 lakh tonnes, lignite 40 lakh tonnes, iron ore 255 lakh tonnes, and limestone 372 lakh tonnes in December. Positive growth was observed in the production of lignite, limestone, coal, bauxite, and natural gas. 

9.Trilateral Exercise ‘Dosti-16’ Kicks Off In Maldives 

  • Indian and Sri Lankan coast guard ships joined the Dosti 16 exercise held in the Maldives from February 22-25. 
  • This year marked a significant development with Bangladesh participating as an observer, indicating a widening scope for the exercise and underlining the growing importance of maritime collaboration in tackling evolving challenges. 
  • By fostering cooperation, the exercise addresses traditional security concerns while collectively preparing for non-traditional threats like piracy, smuggling, and environmental disasters. 

10.India Approves Acquisition Of BrahMos Extended Range Supersonic Cruise Missiles For Navy 

  • The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) has approved the acquisition of over 200 BrahMos Extended Range (ER) supersonic cruise missiles for deployment on Indian Navy warships. 
  • The deal, valued at ₹19,000 crore, signifies a significant step towards bolstering India’s naval capabilities. The BrahMos ER variant boasts an extended range of 400 to 500 km, significantly augmenting the Navy’s operational reach. 
  • A formal agreement between BrahMos Aerospace and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) is anticipated to be signed early next month to initiate the process of inducting these weapons into the Indian Navy. 

11.India Surpasses China As HSBC’s Third-Largest Profit Hub 

  • In 2023, India surpassed China to become HSBC’s third-largest profit hub, showcasing a remarkable surge in profitability. 
  • The fiscal year ending December 2023 saw India’s profits soar by 25% to reach an impressive $1.5 billion. HSBC’s annual report for the fiscal year ending December 2023 unveiled key insights into India’s exceptional performance. 
  • Anticipated credit loss provisions decreased significantly from $90 million in 2022 to $51 million in 2023, contributing to improved profitability. 

12.Guru Ravidas Jayanti 2024 

  • Guru Ravidas Jayanti 2024, marks the 647th anniversary of the birth of Guru Ravidas, observed on February 23rd. Guru Ravidas, also known as Raidas, stands as one of the eminent saints of the North Indian Bhakti movement. 
  • Born into a marginalized untouchable leather-working caste in Varanasi, his life and works profoundly reflect the challenges and struggles of his social background. 
  • Guru Ravidas, also known as Raidas, was an Indian mystic poet-saint who lived during the 15th to 16th century CE. Revered as a guru across various regions of India, including Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab, and Maharashtra, 

13.Inauguration Of Rashtriya Udyamita Vikas Pariyojana: Empowering PM SVANidhi Beneficiaries 

  • Union Minister of Education and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Shri Dharmendra Pradhan inaugurated the Rashtriya Udyamita Vikas Pariyojana in Sambalpur, Odisha. 
  • The initiative, launched virtually across 9 cities, aims to empower beneficiaries of the PM SVANidhi scheme nationwide. 
  • The objective of this yojana is to provide comprehensive entrepreneurship training to create job providers instead of job seekers. It offer a 22-week training program combining theoretical knowledge with practical exposure through offline, online, and hybrid modes. 

14.Swayam Scheme 2024 

  • The Swayam Scheme, introduced by the Odisha government, is a strategic initiative aimed at fostering entrepreneurship among the youth of the state. 
  • Known as Swatantra Yuva Udyami, the scheme provides an array of financial supports, including interest-free bank loans of up to Rs. 1 lakh, to encourage young individuals to embark on entrepreneurial ventures. 
  • The initiative seeks to empower the youth by providing them with the means to start their business ventures, thus addressing unemployment and promoting economic activity within the state. 

15.AYUSH And Tribal Affairs Ministries Launch Joint Initiative For Tribal Student Health 

  • The Ministry of AYUSH and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs have unveiled a collaborative effort aimed at improving the public health of tribal students. 
  • This joint initiative focuses on implementing Ayurvedic interventions to address health issues among over 20,000 tribal students. 
  • The initiative aims to study the health requirements of tribal populations and deliver public healthcare services with a focus on addressing major issues such as malnutrition, iron deficiency anemia, and sickle cell diseases among tribal students. 

16.IRCTC Teams Up With Swiggy For Pre-Ordered Meal Delivery 

  • The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) has partnered with Swiggy to facilitate the delivery of pre-ordered meals booked by passengers through IRCTC’s e-catering portal. 
  • This collaboration aims to enhance convenience and choice for railway travelers. Initially, Swiggy’s services will be available at four major railway stations – Bengaluru, Bhubaneswar, Vijayawada, and Visakhapatnam. 
  • IRCTC plans to extend this service to more stations after completing the initial phase, broadening its reach and catering to a larger demographic of passengers. 

17.CleanMax And Bangalore International Airport Forge Long-Term Partnership For Renewable Power 

  • Renewable power solutions provider CleanMax and Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) have signed a 25-year long-term power purchase agreement aimed at fostering sustainable energy practices. 
  • The renewable energy initiative will draw power from a 45.9 MW Solar-wind Captive Power Project established under a special purpose vehicle named Clean Max BIAL Renewable Energy Private Limited. 
  • Situated in Jagaluru, Karnataka, the project encompasses a 36 MW solar power plant and a 9.9 MW wind power plant. 

18.Appointment Of Salil Parekh To The USISPF Board Of Directors 

  • In a significant move, Salil Parekh, the Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Infosys, has been appointed to the Board of Directors of the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF). 
  • Salil Parekh, with a distinguished career spanning nearly three decades in the IT services industry, is recognized for his leadership in executing business turnarounds and managing successful acquisitions. 
  • Since taking the helm at Infosys on January 2, 2018, Parekh has set the strategic direction for the company, steering one of India’s leading IT giants through periods of significant change and global challenges. 

19.Logo For 7th North East Youth Festival 2024 Unveiled 

  • The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports has officially unveiled the logo for the highly anticipated 7th North East Youth Festival 2024. 
  • The emblem beautifully encapsulates the vibrant essence of the eight northeastern states, marking a tribute to the rich cultural tapestry of the region. 
  • Moreover, the festival has chosen the Phayre’s leaf monkey as its mascot, further symbolizing the unique biodiversity and heritage of the North East. 

20.Bhopal Athletes Conquer The World’s Highest Frozen Lake Marathon 

  • In a remarkable display of endurance and determination, Bhagwan Singh and Mahesh Khurana from Bhopal have completed the Pangong Frozen Lake Marathon 2024, held in Leh-Ladakh. Bhagwan Singh is also the first mountaineer from Madhya Pradesh to scale Mount Everest. 
  • Known for its extreme conditions, this marathon is celebrated as the ‘World’s Highest Frozen Lake Marathon.’ The event unfolded on February 20, amidst heavy snowfall, at an altitude of 18,680 feet with temperatures plunging to -15°C, posing an ultimate challenge to the participants. 

21.America’s Odysseus Spacecraft Makes 1st Commercial Moon Landing In History 

  • In a historic moment for space exploration, the Odysseus spacecraft, spearheaded by Intuitive Machines (IM), has achieved what was once solely the domain of national space agencies: a successful soft landing on the lunar surface. 
  • This landmark event marks the first commercial venture to accomplish such a feat, signalling a significant leap forward in private sector involvement in space exploration. 
  • The significance of this achievement cannot be overstated. Not since the Apollo era in 1972 has an American spacecraft delicately touched down on the moon’s surface. 

22.Germany’s Andreas Brehme, 1990 World Cup Winning Goal Scorer, Passes Away 

  • The world of football is mourning the loss of one of its most celebrated figures, Andreas Brehme, who passed away at the age of 63. 
  • Fondly remembered as Germany’s World Cup hero of 1990, Brehme’s sudden and unexpected death has left a profound sense of sadness among fans and former teammates alike. 
  • Brehme etched his name into football history during the 1990 World Cup final, where his late penalty secured a 1-0 victory for West Germany over Argentina, led by the legendary Diego Maradona. 

23. WHO launches global initiative ‘GIDH’ on digital health 

  • Union Health and Family Welfare Minister Dr. Mansukh Mandaviya addressed the public launch event of the World Health Organization's Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH) on 21 February 2024. 
  • The GIDH is a WHO managed network that was unanimously adopted by all G20 countries, invited countries and international organizations and collectively launched as a key deliverable of India's G20 Presidency during the Health Ministers' Meeting in Gandhinagar, Gujarat on August 19, 2023. 
  • It will support countries in three ways - by coordinating resources to avoid overlap and providing quality-assured products based on their needs. 
  • The new GIDH initiative will serve as a WHO-managed network and platform to support the implementation of the Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020- 2025. 
  • The GIDH national digital health transformation will allow the democratization of digital health technologies, particularly in the Global South. The success of GIDH also requires strong regional cooperation. Also urged the Director of WHO-SEARO (South East Asia Region) to implement GIDH in the region. 
  • As a WHO managed network (“Network of Networks”), GIDH aims to consolidate and build on recent and past gains in global digital health while strengthening mutual accountability. 

24.Sri Lanka To Host Geeta Mahotsav’s 5th Edition From March 1 

  • The International Gita Mahotsav (IGM), a celebration deeply rooted in the spiritual and cultural heritage of India, is set to embark on a new journey as it finds its foreign soil in Sri Lanka. 
  • Scheduled from March 1 to 3, the fifth edition of the IGM promises to be a grand affair, bringing together devotees and enthusiasts from around the world. 
  • Having previously been held in Mauritius, London, Canada, and Australia, the Mahotsav’s expansion into Sri Lanka reflects its growing global appeal. 

26.Former Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi Passes Away At 86 

  • Former Lok Sabha Speaker and ex-Maharashtra Chief Minister, Manohar Joshi, passed away at the age of 86, marking the end of an illustrious career that spanned several decades in Indian politics. 
  • A prominent figure in the Shiv Sena, Joshi was the first from the party to hold the top post in Maharashtra, serving as Chief Minister from 1995 to 1999. 
  • His tenure as Lok Sabha Speaker from 2002 to 2004, during the Vajpayee government, was a testament to his leadership and political acumen. 

27.A Celebration Of Language Diversity: Amar Ekushey In Bangladesh 

  • Bangladesh observes Amar Ekushey on February 21st, a day to remember the people who died fighting for Bangla to be an official language in 1952. This event led to significant changes in the country. 
  • Early on February 21st, the President and the Prime Minister of Bangladesh placed wreaths at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka. 
  • This act starts a day of tribute to those who lost their lives for the language movement. The Amar Ekushey song is played, adding to the solemn atmosphere. 

28.Centre decides to continue Women’s safety scheme till 2025-26 

  • Union Government has approved the proposal of the Ministry of Home Affairs of the continuation of the implementation of the Umbrella Scheme on ‘Safety of Women’ at a total cost of around 1,180 crore rupees during the period from 2021-22 to 2025-26. 
  • Besides, every year 5000 police personnel will be imparted training for effective investigation and prosecution to curb crime. 
  • Under it, 24-hour emergency helpline service 112 will be scaled up. He also informed that for scientific and timely investigation, six cyber forensic science laboratories are being set up at Pune, Chandigarh, Kolkata, Delhi, Kamrup, and Bhopal. 
  • Women’s help desks and 827 antihuman trafficking units have been set up at 13,557 police stations across the country so far and women’s help desks will also be established in the remaining 3,329 police stations. 
  • Besides, every year 5000 police personnel will be imparted training for effective investigation and prosecution to curb the crime against women and children. 

29.Goa Collaborated with World Bank for Blended Finance Facility 

  • The Goa government will set up a blended finance facility in partnership with the World Bank that will enable the coastal state to access and mobilise concessional finance to implement low-carbon and climate-resilient investments. 
  • This will be the first of its kind, climate-focused, multi-regional facility at the subnational level. This will help Goa to access and mobilize concessional finance to implement low-carbon and climate-resilient investments. 
  • Blended finance – encompassing public, private, international and domestic climate finance – has the potential to help Goa and other coastal states in India build greater resilience to rapidly increasing climate impacts. 

About Goa 

  • Formation – 30 May 1987 
  • Capital – Panaji 
  • Chief Minister – Pramod Sawant 
  • Governor – S. Sreedharan Pillar 

30.Scientists discover world’s largest snake in Amazon rainforest 

  • Scientists have unveiled the existence of a colossal serpent lurking within the heart of the Amazon rainforest. This is the world’s largest snake discovered to date. 
  • Measuring a staggering 26 feet in length and weighing a hefty 440 pounds, this mammoth anaconda possesses a head comparable in size to that of a human. 
  • Its magnitude has earned it the title of the largest and heaviest snake species on the planet. 

About Amazon Rainforest 

  • These are vast tropical rainforests, located in northern South America. 
  • It is located mainly in the drainage basin of the Amazon River and its tributaries. The total area of this rain forest is approximately 6,000,000 square kilometers. 
  • These are tropical forests which are found within 28 degrees north or south of the equator. 
  • These forests are widespread across Asia, Australia, Africa, South America, Central America, and numerous Pacific islands. 

31.19,000-crore Navy deal for 200 BrahMos approved 

  • The Centre has accorded approval for procurement of more than 200 BrahMos supersonic cruise missiles and associated equipment for the Indian Navy at a cost of around 19,000 crore, people familiar with the matter Thursday. said on 
  • The missiles will largely be deployed on various warships to enhance overall combat capabilities of the Navy, they said. 
  • It is learnt that the proposal approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security entails acquisition of a mix of BrahMos missiles having a range of around 290 km and the latest ex- tended range variant of the weapon with a range of around 450 km. BrahMos Aerospace Private Ltd., an Indian-Russian joint venture, produces the supersonic cruise missiles. 

32.India to open diplomatic mission in Albanian capital 

  • Albania's Foreign Minister Igli Hasani said on Thursday that Albania is planning to open an Embassy in New Delhi while India will soon have a diplomatic mission in Tirana. 
  • Mr. Hasani, who is visiting India to participate in the annual Raisina Dialogue, presented his country as an important location on the 'corridor' that connects Europe with Asia and urged closer trade ties between the two countries. 
  • "I am glad to know the plans of the Indian government to open a representation in Tirana and we are also planning to open an Embassy very soon in New Delhi," Mr. Hasani said in a statement to the media. 
  • Mr. Hasani's visit to Delhi coincided with the visit of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis who is on a state visit to India. He said the India Middle East Economic Corridor should be pursued despite the ongoing conflict in Gaza. With around 500 km of coastline, Albania is a northern neighbor of Greece and is evidently trying to get onto the connectivity projects bridging India and the European continent. 
  • "Albania is at the crossroads between the European Union and the East. Albania is a part of many corridors that link India with the European Union. With Albania becoming one of the fastest growing Euro-pean economies, we are rapidly moving to foster stronger economic ties with India," said Mr. Hasani. 
  • He mentioned that in 2023, more than 10 million tourists visited Albania, adding, "It is of utmost importance that this momentum between Albania and India is not only preserved but also enhanced.” 
  • Albania is at present represented by noted architect Dikshu Kukreja who was appointed as the Honorary Consul General of Albania last year. 
  • Mr. Kukreja said the Albanian language is linked to Sanskrit and the two sides have "many cultural, linguistic, and historical ties.” 

33.The next frontier Government must keep the regulatory environment of space sector clear 

  • Space used to be the final frontier but its increasing exploration has changed that, replacing a romantic notion with narratives with financial, socio-economic, and geopolitical implications. Space technologies and space flight are expensive, risky endeavors that only national agencies were suited to engage in for decades. This is no longer true as private sector players are increasingly expected to complement, augment, and/or lead the way by identifying market opportunities and innovating rapidly. India started on this path in 2020 with state-led reforms that opened its space sector to private companies, then releasing the 'Geospatial Guidelines' and later the 'Indian Space Policy', creating the Indian National Space Promotion and Authorisation Centre (IN-SPACe), and passing the Telecommunications Act 2023 that, among other departures from the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885, provided for satellite broadband services. On February 21, the government opened the door to 100% foreign direct investments (FDI) in the "manufacturing of components and systems/subsystems for satellites, ground segment and user segment" up to 74% in satellite-manufacturing, operations, and data products; and up to 49% in launch vehicles, space ports, and their corresponding systems. As such, by stepping out of the way and allowing substantial FDI via the automatic route, the go- vernment has taken the logical next step in spurring the contributions of private space flight operators, technology-developers, and application designers to the national space economy, in line with ambitions outlined in the Space Policy. 
  • The decision gives India the ability to take advantage of its less vitiated foreign ties to catch up with China's more advanced position as a space power. While the Chinese programme benefits from not-inconsiderable private sector participation, its ability to attract foreign investments is hamstrung by its belligerent foreign policies and the Xi Jinping administration's plan to modernize the military by, among other things, adapting civilian technologies for military use, though other countries, including the U.S., have similar policies. According to IN-SPACe chairman Pawan K. Goenka, a "significant" slice of the $37.1 billion that the space sector raised worldwide in 2021-23 went to space start-ups. Against this extended backdrop, new investments can add to India's space economy by improving start-ups' access to talent and capital; effecting a better balance between upstream and downstream opportunities, versus the current skew in favor of the former; boosting local manufacturing; and improving investor confidence. Finally, to sustain these winds of change, the government must keep the regulatory environment clear, reduce red tape, increase public support, and ease Indian companies' ability to access foreign markets. 

34.Govt unveils 4 web portals for news publishers 

  • Union Information & Broadcasting Minister Anu rag Singh Thakur on Thursday launched four online portals of the Central Bureau of Communication, the Registrar of Newspapers for India, the New Media Wing, and the Digital Addressable System of the Ministry, 
  • The Minister said the initiative was aimed at ensuring ease of doing business by fostering a more conducive business environment for newspaper publishers and TV channels, enhance transparency and efficiency in government communication, provide easy access to authentic government videos, and create a comprehensive database of local cable operators for streamline regulatory processes in the sector in future. 
  • The four portals include 'Press Sewa' for registration of newspapers and periodicals and 'NaViGate Bharat' for videos on the entire gamut of the government's development-related and citizen welfare-oriented measures. The other portals are for registration of local cable operators and a transparent empanelment, media planning and e-billing system 

35.'No need to amend Wildlife Protection Act 

  • Union Minister for Environment, Forest, and Climate Change Bhupender Yadav said that there is no need for any amendment in the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 to address human-wildlife conflict, as the chief wildlife warden was empowered to trap, catch, and, if necessary, shoot wildlife according to Section 11 of the Act. 
  • Kalpetta in Kerala on Thursday after holding discussions with senior officials of various departments, Mr. Yadav blamed the State government and local representatives of Wayanad and the adjoining regions for ignoring the escalating human-animal conflict. This was unfortunate and led to loss of lives, he said, adding that he hoped the State government would be "prompt" in dealing with such situations in the future. 

36.12 MPs re-elected from 2004-2019 have criminal cases: report 

  • A total of 12 out of 23 Members of Parliament re-elected from 2004 to 2019 have criminal cases against them, according to a report by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) and National Election Watch. Nine of the 12 face serious charges such as murder, attempt to murder and dacoity. 
  • The report was prepared after an analysis of the self- sworn affidavits of 23 re- elected MPs from 2004 to 2019. 
  • Of the 17 BJP MPs who were re-elected, seven (41%) had criminal cases against them and all three Congress MPs re-elected faced criminal cases. 
  • The lone re-elected MP from the All India Majlis-E- Ittehadul Muslimeen (AlMIM) had a criminal case against him as did the MP from Shiv Sena. 
  • Four of the re-elected MPs had declared their educational qualifications to be between Class 10 and 12 while 18 have declared having an educational qualification of graduation or above and one re-elected MP is a diploma holder. 
  • Nineteen of these re-elected MPs are aged between 51 to 80 years and four between 40 to 50 years. Of the 23 re-elected MPs, only three are women. 
  • The average assets of these MPs was 1.52 crore in 2004 and it rose to 3.46 crore in 2009, 29.85 crore in 2014 and 17.51 crore in 2019. 
  • The average asset growth for these 23 elected MPs, between the Lok Sabha election of 2004 to 2019 is 15.98 crore, the report said. 

37.European delegation urges India to support Ukraine mired in war 

  • European Ministers gathered for the Ministry of External Affairs' Raisina Dialogue here urged India to reconsider trade and ties with Russia, and to press the case for Ukraine's sovereignty ahead of the second anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine that falls on February 24. 
  • The ministers, who made up a large majority, numbering 15 of the 21 Foreign Ministers speaking at the annual conference, have been meeting with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar separately since Wednesday, as well as during a lunch hosted by him for some of them for the India-Nordic-Baltic forum on Thursday. 
  • In particular, they urged India to join a "Peace Conference" in Switzerland, set to be held shortly, at the request of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to sources, Mr. Jaishankar also discussed this with the Swiss Foreign Minister recently. 
  • "What we have been arguing is that the war of Russia in Ukraine is not only about Ukraine, but also about one country violating the sovereign borders of another country, and that undermines interna- tional law and the UN Charter," Latvian Foreign Minister Krišjānis Kariņš told The Hindu. 
  • "We think that as European countries and India, as democracies, what we have inherently in common is the understanding that the rule of law must be upheld," he added, urging New Delhi to express more support for Ukraine, where tens of thousands are believed to have been killed, and more than 14 
  • The ministers made up 15 of the 21 Foreign Ministers who spoke at the Raisina Dialogue; millions of people were displaced. Since February 2022, the Modi government has abstained from all United Nations resolutions on Ukraine, maintained ties with Russia while sending aid to Ukraine, and has increased India's intake of Russian oil multi-fold, making it the source for a third of India's oil imports. 
  • Neighbors worried' Echoing the message given by other European countries during the conference, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Gabrielius Lands Bergis said those neighboring Ukraine are particularly worried about a loss for Ukraine in the conflict. 
  • Speaking to The Hindu, he said the Baltic countries believe that as the Russian forces grow more entrenched in Ukraine's east, Russia could attempt to annex more territory in other countries. In an interview to a U.S. journalist last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin had said that any further "territorial claims" were "absolutely out of the question". Addressing a press conference on Thursday, German Minister of State in the Federal Foreign Office Tobias Lindner said that he sees India's position shift- ing in terms of diversifying its military hardware procurement from Russia to other countries like the U.S. and Germany. 
  • He also called on India participate in the upto coming "Peace Conference" in Switzerland, and to "have its voice heard" on the issue. 

38.CBSE discusses open-book exams for Classes 9 to 12 

  • After the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) proposed to create open-book tests for students of Classes 9 to 12 in English, Science, Mathematics and Biology from this year, members of the CBSE governing body discussed the issue recently. 
  • Open-book tests allow students to access books while appearing for the examinations. 
  • The CBSE has said these tests would undergo a pilot phase in schools to evaluate various aspects such as completion time, suitability for formative and summative assessment, and perceptions of stakeholders. It has proposed the timeline for design, development, and the review of open book tests by June. This will be followed by pilot testing of materials in schools in November and December. 
  • The CBSE has said that open-book tests would focus on higher-order thinking skills, application, analysis, critical and creative thinking, and problem-solving. and Training teachers 
  • Members of the governing body contemplated this proposal and raised queries on the CBSE's strategy for training teachers to endorse open-book assessments among students. 
  • One member stressed the importance of the CBSE's preparedness to confront unprecedented challenges that might arise during this endeavor and sought clarification regard- ing the type of content the CBSE plans to develop for this test. 
  • The CBSE said that open-book tests would comprise visual aids, diverging from curriculum- linked case-based questions to explore content beyond the syllabi. 
  • However, members of the governing body acknowledged that there were challenges persisting in developing high-quality textual materials, ensuring student understanding and acceptance of this new assessment method. 
  • Members warned that it should not make schools anxious or foster tense environments. 
  • One member even suggested that teachers could first take open-book tests to grasp the potential for multiple answers in openbook exam questions. Another member said advanced placement exams of U.S. college entrance had a high amount of question clarity and quality, advocating for a similar high standard in open book examination content.

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