Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC 13th April 2024

National News 

1. India welcomes steps by Taliban to restore assets to minorities 

  • India has welcomed the Taliban's initiative to restore property to the minority Sikhs and Hindus of Afghanistan. In a bid to cleanse Afghanistan's major cities of 'property mafia', the 'Justice Ministry' of the Taliban administration in Kabul in recent weeks has initiated a large-scale crackdown on the owners of properties who had gained these illegally in the previous decades. 
  • Responding to a question from The Hindu during the weekly press briefing, Randhir Jaiswal, Official Spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, on Friday said, "We have seen reports on this issue. 
  • If the Taliban administration has decided to restore property rights to their citizens belonging to Afghan Hindu and Sikh community, we see this as a positive development." The Hindu had earlier reported that following the decision of the 'Justice Ministry', Narender Singh Khalsa, a Sikh leader from Afghanistan, has returned to Kabul after the Taliban assured him and other members of the minority religious communities that their property rights would be safeguarded. Recently, the 'Justice Ministry' issued notice to the influential Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hezb-e-Islami, asking him to evacuate the bungalow that he possessed in Kabul. 

2. Inflation slowed, yet no relief on food bills 

  • India's retail inflation moderated to a 10-month low of 4.85% in March from 5.1% in February but food inflation remained sticky at 8.52%, little changed from the 8.66% recorded in the previous month as price rise accelerated in cereals and meat, while vegetables, pulses, spices and eggs remained in double- digit inflation. 
  • While inflation for urban consumers cooled significantly from 4.8% in February to 4.14% in March, rural consumers had it harder as they 1experienced a slightly higher inflation of 5.45% in March compared with 5.34% in the previous month. 
  • This trend was visible in the extent of food price rise as well, as it accelerated from 8.3% in February to 8.6% in March for rural India, while the food inflation for urban consumers dropped from 9.2% in February to 8.35% last month. 
  • On a month-on-month basis, there was no change in the Consumer Price Index but the food price index inched up about 0.2% and economists reckoned that the ongoing heatwave could spike food inflation in coming months. Even as crude oil prices are firming up and an inflation spike in Still sticky 
  • Food inflation remained high at 8.52% in March, with a slight variation from 8.66% recorded in the previous month (in %) the U.S. may delay hopes of interest rate cuts from the Federal Reserve, sticky food inflation at home could further dampen prospects of rate cuts from India's central bank. 
  • While March's inflation rate is still aloof from the bank's stated 4% target, average retail price rise in the last quarter of 2023-24 has been 5.01%, in line with the 5% average projected by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI). 
  • The RBI, which last week called inflation the elephant in the room that needs to return to the forest for good, expects retail inflation to ease to an average 4.5% this year from the 5.4% clocked in 2023-24. 

International News 

3. Israel deploys 'C-Dome' defense system, naval version of Iron Dome 

  • Israel deployed its ship-based defense system, C-Dome, for the first time against a suspected air target near the southern city of Eilat. C-Dome, a naval version of Iron Dome, hit the target, with no injuries or damage reported. 
  • The incident followed an alert in the area, which had previously been the target of a missile attack from Yemen's Houthi rebels. The target was rapidly intercepted by the C-Dome defense system deployed on the Saar 6 class corvettes. 
  • Developed by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, C-Dome uses interceptor technology similar to Iron Dome, providing a strong defense against rocket and missile threats. 
  • Unlike Iron Dome, which has its own dedicated radar, C-Dome is integrated into the ship's radar to detect incoming targets. C-Dome ensures the possibility of fullcircular ship protection against the entire spectrum of modern threats – maritime and coastal. 

4. Belgium's Ingmar De Vos becomes President of 'Association of Summer Olympic International Federation' 

  • Ingemar De Vos of Belgium has been elected President of the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF). The 60-year-old replaces former ITF president Francesco Ricci Bitti, whose third term as ASOIF president ends on December 31, 2024. 
  • De Vos, who has been President of the International Equestrian Federation since 2014, was elected to lead ASOIF at the 48th ASOIF General Assembly in Birmingham, United Kingdom, during the SportAccord World Sport and Business Summit. 
  • De Vos, who is also a member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), will take up his new post on January 1, 2025 and will serve a four-year term. 
  • The 48th General Assembly of ASOIF took place on 9 April 2024 during the SportAccord World Sport and Business Summit in Birmingham, UK. 
  • On 30 May 1983 it was decided to establish the Association of Summer Olympic International Federations – ASOIF. The membership of ASOIF is 30 Full Members and two Associate Members. The ASOIF Secretariat is based in Lausanne, Switzerland. 

Manoj Mittal - SIDBI Chief 

  • The Bureau of Financial Services Institutions has selected Manoj Mittal, managing director of nonbanking financial company IFCI, as the next Chairman and Managing Director of Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI). 
  • He will replace Sivasubramaniam Raman as the CMD of SIDBI. Raman joined SIDBI, the premier financial institution for MSMEs in India, in April 2021 for a period of three years. 
  • Mittal joined IFCI in June 2021 after serving as Deputy Managing Director of SIDBI between February 2016 and January 2021. Mittal joined SIDBI in 1996 as a Scale 1 officer and became the deputy MD of the bank in 2016. 

5. USA launches underwater drone ‘Manta Ray’ 

  • USA's Northrop Grumman has unveiled its prototype unmanned underwater vehicle 'Manta Ray'. The Manta Ray, manufactured by Northrop Grumman, was designed to perform long-range, longendurance military missions. 
  • The initiative is part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Manta Ray program, which aims to test key technologies for a new class of autonomous submarine vehicles designed for long-duration missions. 
  • The Manta Ray project began in 2020, and the goal of the project was to develop "a new class of long-duration, long-range, payloadcapable unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs)". 
  • Seawater is corrosive, marine life (such as barnacles, jellyfish, and seaweed) can corrode moving parts, and various types of electromagnetic radiation (especially sunlight) do not propagate well in seawater. .
  • Manta Ray aims to advance the state of the art in UUV technology, addressing issues such as marine life "biofouling", corrosion, the difficulty of low-power highefficiency propulsion, and "underwater low-power means". Detecting and classifying threats.”
  • Lightweight anti-submarine torpedoes, when fitted to a drone like the Manta Ray, can deliver enough hit to fatally injure a submarine. 
  • It is named after the giant 'finned' fish manta ray. The manta ray fish's body shape is extremely efficient for swimming underwater, allowing the massive animal to glide through the water with slow, graceful flaps of its fin-like fins. The gliding method allows them to "save energy and maximize speed efficiency". 

State News 

6. Uttar Pradesh's first glass skywalk started at Tulsi Falls in Chitrakoot. 

  • Uttar Pradesh state government has launched UP's first glass skywalk at Tulsi Falls in Chitrakoot to promote ecotourism. 
  • UP Forest Corporation (UPFC) proposed to build a glass skywalk bridge over the waterfall in the Markundi range of Chitrakoot forest division. It was initially called Shabari Falls. This year the state government has changed its name to Tulsi Waterfall. 
  • At this site at least three streams of water fall through the rocks from a height of about 40 feet into a wide stream and eventually disappear into the forest. 
  • As soon as people walk on the bridge, the sound and sight of water falling on the rocks will be worth seeing. The glass skywalk can also give a view of the forest below it. 
  • A large number of tourists visit this place, but the Glass Skywalk Bridge will promote it outside Chitrakoot and UP also. 
  • The project also proposes a rock garden, cactus garden and view shed near the waterfall as ecotourism add-on. The inspiration for this project comes from the Skywalk Glass Bridge in Rajgir, Bihar. 
  • The forest department can contact the consultants who designed Bihar's Glass Bridge which was inaugurated in 2020 and was the second project of its kind in the country. The first glass skywalk bridge was built in Assam. Defense Systems 

7. Iron Dome Developed by Rafael Advanced 

  • Defense Systems and Israel Aerospace Industries, the system became operational in 2011. The land-based Iron Dome has been used countless times to intercept rockets fired from the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. That defense system costs about $50,000 per launch. 
  • Iron Beam is Israel's experimental air-defense system that uses laser technology to shoot down drones and rockets 

Schemes & committees News 

8. Risky premise Policymakers must simplify trade rules to boost exports 

  • The Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Thursday raise raised its forecast for India's GDP growth in the current fiscal year ending on March 31, 2025, to 7%, from 6.7% earlier, citing robust public and private Investment as well las expectations of a gradual improvement in consumer demand as the rural economy recovers. The regional multilateral lender also projected that India's economy would expand by 7.2% in fiscal 2025-26. 
  • The ADB's latest growth forecast for India's GDP is, however, still slower than the 7.6% pace that India's National Statistical Office has estimated for the 12 months that ended on March 31. Last year's expansion too was driven by strong investment while consumption remained muted. The ADB, however, cautioned that its forecast could be proven wrong by global risks including a sharp rise in oil prices or prolonged high interest rates in the West to tackle inflation. 
  • It estimated that India would likely be the economy most affected in Asia by the high interest rates due to the greater sensitivity of the rupee to western interest rates. It also noted that while the Centre's capital expenditure spending had been strong and was projected to grow with rising budgetary allocation, project completions in the private sector had failed to match rising project announcements. Most conspicuously missing from the ADB's report, however, was the absence of any comment on the controversies surrounding the integrity of India's national income data or concerns raised about the heavy influence of government tax receipts on final GDP. 
  • The lender also failed to make any mention of the absence of significant structural reforms in India, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the reasons the strong growth numbers reported by the government have been questioned is that they have come at a time when economic reforms have taken a backseat. 
  • The ADB's assumption of a likely rebound in consumer spending to support its 2024-25 growth projection is also at risk of being undermined. Global country risk research firm BMI recently flagged the risk to consumption spending from stretched household savings which are near all-time lows. In any case, the Centre would do well to listen to the ADB's suggestion to create large-scale special economic zones with an easier policy environment to boost exports. Given the challenges flagged by the lender to global merchandise trade, including the extremely volatile situation in West Asia and the disruptions to the normal east-west shipping route through the Red Sea, India must heed the ADB's recommendations to integrate better with global supply chains and improve its logistics infrastructure post haste. 

9. IISc researchers design novel hydrogel to remove microplastics from water 

  • Researchers at the Indian Institute of Science (IISC) have designed a sustained hydrogel to remove mail microplastics from water. 
  • According to the IISc, microplastics pose a great threat to health as these tiyny plastic debris can enter our bodies through the water we drink and increase the risk of illnesses. 
  • The hydrogel designed by the researchers has a unique intertwined polymer network that can bind the contaminants and degrade them using UV light irradiation. 
  • Scientists have previously tried using filtering membranes to remove microplastics. However, the membranes can become clogged with these tiny particles, rendering them unsustainable. 
  • Instead, the IISc team led by Suryasarathi Bose,Professor at the Department of Materials Engineering, decided to turn to 3D hydrogels. The hydrogel developed by the team consists of three different polymer layers chitosan, polyvinyl alcohol and polyaniline intertwined together, making an interpenetrating polymer network (IPN) architecture. 
  • The team infused this matrix with nanoclusters of a material called copper substitute polyoxometalate (Cu-POM). These nanoclusters are catalysts that can use UV light to degrade the microplastics. The combination of the polymers and nanoclusters resulted in a strong hydrogel with the ability to adsorb and degrade large amounts of microplastics. The team found that the hydrogel could remove about 95% and 93% of two types of microplastics in water. 

Award News 

10. Jain Acharya Lokesh Muni honored with US President's 'Golden Volunteer Award 2024' 

  • Jain Acharya Lokesh Muni has become the first Indian monk to be honored with the US President's Gold Volunteer Service Award for his contribution to public good and humanity. Acharya Lokesh Muni is the founder of Ahimsa Vishwa Bharat and World Peace Centre, a non-governmental organization in India. 
  • Jain Acharya Lokesh received the President's Award, Certificate of Honor, Golden Shield and a citation signed by US President Joe Biden. US Congressman Brad Sherman read out the certificate and citation issued by US President Joe Biden, at a ceremony held in Capitol Hills, Washington DC. 
  • The U.S. President's Volunteer Service Award was established in 2003 during the presidency of George Bush. The award is given to individuals who have provided at least 500 hours of volunteer service in the United States and whose volunteer work has positively impacted communities and inspired those around them. 
  • Earlier last month, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar honored Acharya Lokesh Muni with the prestigious title of 'Global Jain Peace Ambassador'. He was honored at a function organized by Navagraha Teerth Kshetra, a Jain pilgrimage center in Hubli Varur, Karnataka. Acharya Lokesh Muni 
  • Followers of Jainism founded by Lord Mahavira. He is a thinker, writer, poet and social reformer who has been making continuous efforts for the building of national character, development of human values and establishment of non violence, peace and mutual cooperation in the society. He founded Ahimsa Vishwa Bharti in Gurugram, Haryana. 
  • Born on April 17, 1961 in Pachpadra city, Barmer, Rajasthan, Acharya Lokesh Muni has done extensive study in Jain, Buddhist, Vedic and other Indian and foreign philosophies. 
  • His notable contributions have received wide recognition, including the 'Ethical Honour' from the Gulzarilal Nanda Foundation in 2006, the National Communal Harmony Award from the Government of India in 2010, the Ambassador of Peace Award from the United Nations in 2014. 

11. Dr. Aggarwal Eye Hospital honored with ‘Best Scientific Poster Award’ 2024 by USA 

  • The research team at Dr. Aggarwal Eye Hospital has been awarded the prestigious ‘Best Scientific Poster Award’ at the 2024 Annual Meeting of the American Society for Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS). 
  • This recognition comes in light of their groundbreaking study on the topic 'Efficacy of RevitalVision vision-training software in improving best-corrected vision in stable keratoconus patients after crosslinking surgery'. 
  • The research was led by Professor Lionel Raj and Professor David Heber, ophthalmologists at Dr Agarwal Eye Hospital in Tirunelveli. A prospective controlled, randomized study demonstrated remarkable clinical outcomes, providing new hope for patients suffering from keratoconus. 
  • The study found that stable keratoconus patients who underwent RevitalVision visiontraining software after crosslinking surgery experienced significant improvements in their vision, with an average improvement of 2.5 lines on visual acuity test charts. 
  • RevitalVision, a prescribed, homebased vision-training software program, has been shown to be effective in improving vision in keratoconus patients after crosslinking surgery. 
  • Keratoconus is an eye condition characterized by thinning and bulging of the cornea, often causing blurred vision and sensitivity to light. While procedures such as corneal collagen cross-linking can stabilize the cornea and prevent progression, they can leave patients with poor vision. Until now, these patients lacked effective treatment options to improve their vision. 

Banking News 

12. HDFC becomes the first private bank to open a branch in Lakshadweep 

  • Private lender HDFC Bank has opened a branch in Kavaratti island of Lakshadweep, making it the only private sector bank to have a presence in the Union Territory. 
  • This branch aims to upgrade the banking infrastructure in Lakshadweep by offering a wide range of services with a focus on personal banking and digital banking solutions. 
  • The branch will provide customized digital solutions including QRbased transactions for retailers to meet the financial needs of individuals, families and businesses in the region. 
  • HDFC Bank is continuously expanding its distribution network, with branches now located in the cooler regions of Kashmir, the southern tip of Kanyakumari and the major tourist destination Lakshadweep Island. 
  • HDFC Bank is one of the leading private banks in India and was one of the first banks to receive approval from the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to set up a private sector bank in 1994. 
  • As of February, 2024, the Bank had a distribution network of 8,192 branches and 20,760 ATMs/Cash Recycler Machines (cash deposits and withdrawals) in 3,836 cities/towns. 
  • Notably, approximately 52% of HDFC Bank's branches are located in semi-urban and rural areas, reflecting the bank's commitment to serve customers across India. 
  • In addition, it has 15,053 business correspondents, mainly operated by Common Service Centers (CSCs). 
  • Its headquarters is in Mumbai, Maharashtra, apart from this it also has branches in countries like UAE, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain etc. 

13. India Post Payments Bank launches ‘Online Aadhaar ATM Service’ (AEPS) 

  • India Post Payments Bank has launched ‘Online Aadhaar ATM Service’ (AEPS).If there is an urgent need of cash and do not have time to visit a bank or ATM, one can get cash from the comfort of one's home using IPPB (India Post Payments Bank) Online Aadhaar ATM (AEPS) service. 
  • With Aadhaar Enabled Payment System (AEPS), one can use their biometrics to withdraw cash or make payments from an Aadhaar linked account. Customers can withdraw small amounts using AePS without visiting ATM or bank, thereby saving time. 
  • According to NPCI, "Business Correspondent (BC) is an approved bank agent who provides basic banking service using a microATM (Terminal) to any bank customer wishing to avail his/her Bank BC service." 
  • But linking of Aadhaar number with bank account is a prerequisite for successfully processing the transaction. Transaction status will be available primarily at M-ATMs. On registering for mobile alerts the customer will receive an SMS from IPPB as well as his/her bank. 
  • India Post Payments Bank was launched on September 1, 2018 with 100% equity owned by the Government of India. Its initial branches were opened in Ranchi, Jharkhand and Raipur, Chhattisgarh. 

Appointment News 

14. Britain appointed Lindy Cameron as female High Commissioner to India for the first time. 

  • Lindy Cameron, a distinguished alumnus of Oxford University and former CEO of the UK's National Cyber Security Centre, has been appointed as the first woman High Commissioner to India. 
  • Lindy Cameron was appointed Britain's High Commissioner to India in place of Ellis. His appointment marks a significant milestone in UK-India relations, coming 70 years after India appointed its first High Commissioner to London. 
  • Cameron, who has been serving as chief executive of the UK National Cyber Security Center since 2020, has been working with the British government since 1998. 
  • She was previously Director General of the Northern Ireland Office (2019-2020), and has spent a large part of her career at the UK aid agency, DFID (Department for International Development). 
  • Between 1998 and 2007, she was with DFID in Kabul, Baghdad, Hanoi and Lagos. And then from 2011 to 2019, he served in DFID – in West Asia, North Africa and country programmes. 
  • With her diverse experience in multiple conflict zones, Cameron brings a very different experience to her predecessor, Alex Ellis, who was a career diplomat. Ellis will go to Spain as the British ambassador. 
  • Cameron's appointment comes at a time when India and Britain are negotiating a free trade agreement, and both sides have expressed their intention and interest to conclude the talks by the end of the year.

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