Current Affairs | National | International | SSC | UPSC 20th June 2024


National News

 1. Union Cabinet gives go-ahead to increase MSP of 14 kharif crops 

  • The Union Cabinet on Wednesday gave its nod to raise the minimum support price (MSP) for paddy by 5.35% to 2,300 a quintal for the 2024-25 kharif marketing season, a decision that comes ahead of the Assembly elections in Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Delhi. 
  •  In the first major decision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's third term in office, the Cabinet approved MSP hike for all 14 kharif season crops, in alignment with the government's "clear policy" of keeping MSPs at least 1.5 times above the cost of production as calculated by the government, Information and Broadcasting Minister Ashwini Vaishnaw said. However, only four of these crops have MSPs that will provide farmers with a margin of more than 50% above production costs. 
  • They are bajra (77%), followed by arhar dal (59%), maize (54%), and black gram (52%). 
  •  Paddy, the season's key crop, will see an MSP increase of ₹117 per quintal, which will allow farmers a margin of 50%. The hike comes despite the government holding a record stockpile of rice, over four times the required buffer, but is significant ahead of the upcoming elections in key States. Kharif sowing usually begins in June with the onset of the southwest monsoon, while the crop marketing season will run from October 2024 to September 2025. 
  • The MSP hike is likely to result in a total financial implication of ₹2 lakh crore, about 35,000 crore higher than the previous season, Mr. Vaishnaw said, adding that this would boost farmers' incomes. 

2. DGCA issues advisory on gender equality 

  •  The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued an advisory to airlines and airports to adopt measures to promote gender equality, and recommended measures such as return-to-work policies for women on a career break, training programmes for cabin crew to help them diversify their skills, and leadership and mentorship programmes for women.
  •  The safety regulator said its advisory aims to increase the representation of women in various positions in the aviation sector to 25% by 2025, which is also the call given by the International Air Transport Association under its 25 by 2025 global best practices. 
  • Organizations have also been urged to implement government laws on the provision of maternity leave and creche facilities, and develop measures to hire women back after a break in service due to parenting needs. 
  • The regulator has also asked them to develop a zero tolerance policy towards sexual harassment, and train employees to dispel biases against women 

3 India, U.S. working to scale up partnership on critical minerals 

  •  India and the U.S. are looking to "quickly" conclude a bilateral agreement on furthering cooperation on critical minerals between the U.S. Department of Commerce and the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry and the Ministry of Mines, and to drive a partnership in supply chains for graphite, gallium, and germanium. 
  •  One of the aims will be to promote "India's vital role in the mineral security partnership, including through co-investing in a lithium resource project in South America and a rare earths deposit in Africa, to responsibly and sustainably diversify critical mineral supply chains," said a fact sheet issued on June 17 
  • In July 2023, India released a list of 30 minerals critical for the country. 
  •  on the India-U.S. Initiative for Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) dialogue, chaired by the National Security Advisers of the countries. 
  •  In July 2023, India released a list of 30 minerals critical for the country and has been looking to acquire mines abroad in addition to expanding exploration within the country. To enable this, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 was amended through the MMDR Amendment Act, 2023. 
  •  India has incorporated a joint venture company Khanij Bidesh India Ltd. (KABIL) with equity contri- bution from three Central Public Sector Enterprises National Aluminium Company Ltd, Hindustan Copper Ltd and Mineral Exploration and Consultancy Ltd with the objective of acquiring critical mineral assets abroad to ensure consistent supply of critical minerals to the Indian domestic market. KABIL is presently exploring opportunities for acquisition of critical minerals assets like lithium and cobalt in Australia, Argentina and Chile.

 International News 

4. Ukraine launches world’s first ‘Unmanned Systems Forces’ 

  •  In a move aimed at revolutionising modern warfare, Ukraine has officially established the world’s first Unmanned Systems Forces (USF), dedicated to advancing the capabilities of unmanned and robotic warfare in the air, sea and land domains. 
  • Announced in February 2024 by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, it became a reality with the formal launch of this unprecedented military branch on June 11, 2024. Ukraine became the first country in the world to create an Unmanned Systems Force. 
  •  Speaking at the ceremony held in Kyiv, Deputy Minister of Defence Ivan Havryliuk called the establishment of the USF a significant moment not just for Ukraine but potentially for international military cooperation. 
  • “Ukraine is the only country in the world to have created an Unmanned Systems Force, and this has raised hopes for the creation of a coalition of countries,” Havryliuk said. Colonel Sukharevsky, known for his leadership during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, took over the leadership of a force designed to push new standards in unmanned warfare. 
  • Colonel Sukharevsky is a decorated veteran, known by his callsign "Borsuk" (Badger), with vast experience in unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) deployment. 
  • The USF will be reinforced with more than one million domestically developed first person view (FPV) unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) by 2024, a testament to Ukraine's effort to develop indigenous defense capabilities. 

5. New Zealand scraps 'burp tax' on livestock after sharp reaction from farmers 

  •  New Zealand has scrapped plans for a so-called "burp tax" aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from sheep and cattle. The country's center-right coalition government said it would keep agriculture out of the country's emissions trading scheme in favor of exploring other ways to reduce methane. 
  • The burp tax was introduced in October 2022 under then-Prime Minister Jacinda Adern, whose Labour Party was defeated in last year's elections, making way for the current ruling coalition led by the National Party. 
  • The previous Labour Party government announced the "world-first" burp tax in 2022 as part of Wellington's efforts to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 
  •  The move, which fulfills a preelection promise by former businessman Christopher Luxon's National Party, comes after plans to tax agricultural emissions from 2025 led to nationwide protests by farmers concerned about the impact it would have on their livelihoods. 
  • The primary aim of the plan was to reduce methane emissions from ruminant animal species. Ruminant animals such as cows, sheep, goats and buffalos have a special type of digestive system. 
  •  Ruminant animals have four compartments in their stomachs, one of which, the rumen, helps them store partially digested food and ferment it. This partially digested and fermented food is chewed again by the animals and completes the digestion process. 
  •  Almost half of New Zealand's greenhouse gas emissions come from the country's estimated 10 million cows and 26 million sheep. 

6.Russia, N. Korea sign defence pact, vow to assist each other if attacked 

  •  Russian President Vladimir Putin and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un on Wednesday signed a new partnership that includes a vow of mutual aid if either country faces "aggression," in a pact that came as both face escalating stand-offs with the West. 
  •  Details of the deal were not immediately clear, but it could mark the strongest connection between Moscow and Pyongyang since the end of the Cold War. Both leaders described it as a major upgrade of their relations, covering security, trade, investment and 
  • The two met as Mr. Putin visited North Korea for the first time in 24 years. The summit came with cultural and humanitarian ties. 
  •  U.S. and its allies express growing concerns over a possible arms arrangement in which the country provides Moscow with badly needed munitions for its war in Ukraine in exchange for economic assistance and technology transfers that could enhance the threat posed by Kim's nuclear weapons and missile program. 
  • Mr. Kim said the two countries had a "fiery friendship," and that the deal was the "strongest ever treaty" between them, putting the relationship at the level of an alliance. He vowed full support for Russia's war in Ukraine. 
  •  Mr. Putin said that it was a "breakthrough document" reflecting a shared desire to move relations to a higher level.
  •  North Korea and the former Soviet Union signed a treaty in 1961, 
  •  which experts say necessitated Moscow's military intervention if the North came under an attack. The deal was discarded after the collapse of the USSR, replaced by a pact in 2000 that offered weaker security assurances. 
  •  Putin's foreign affairs adviser said the leaders exchanged gifts after the talks. 
  •  In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Mr. Putin's visit to North Korea illustrates how Russia tries, "in desperation, to strengthen relations with countries that can provide it with what it needs to continue the war of aggression that it started against Ukraine.” . 

State News 

7. Hyderabad-based space tech startup Dhruv Space’s ‘Thaibolt satellites’ complete 15,000 orbits of Earth 

  • Hyderabad-based space tech startup Dhruv Space has successfully completed its first mission with the Thaibolt-1 and Thaibolt-2 satellites. These satellites have safely exited orbit after completing 15,000 orbits around the Earth. Both satellites were launched by ISRO’s PSLV C54 in November 2022. 
  •  The Thaibolt satellites had a storeand-forward payload, designed to receive messages from sensor nodes or remote ground stations. It stores the above-mentioned messages on flash memory for downlink to a network-connected ground station. The mission also engaged several ham radio operators across India. 
  •  The satellites were built using Dhruv Space’s P-DoT platform, a picosatellite platform for satellites weighing 1-24 kg. 
  •  Dhruva Space has also developed the P30 nanosatellite platform (1-30 kg) and the P90 platform (up to 300 kg). These satellites were manufactured entirely in Hyderabad with the help of around 20 MSMEs. 
  • Dhruv Space CEO Sanjay Nekkanti highlighted the progress enabled by the in-house developed P-Dot platform in research, constellation development and applicationagnostic use by customers. Dhruva Space is now focusing on its first hosted payload mission, LEAP-1, scheduled to be launched later this year through ISRO. 
  •  Founded 12 years ago by Sanjay Nekkanti, Krishna Teja Penamakuru, Abhay Aygoor and Chaitanya Dora Supureddy, Dhruva Space specializes in building satellite infrastructure and platforms compatible with any rocket and payload. 
  •  In April, Dhruva Space raised about $9.3 million (Rs 78 crore) from investors such as Indian Angel Network Alpha Fund and Blue Ashva Capital, taking its Series A funding to about $14 million (Rs 123 crore). 

8. Row over visit of Australian deputy envoy to Bengal 

  •  Australian Deputy High Commissioner Nicholas McCaffrey was conveyed a "no objection" to meet officials in the West Bengal government at an "appropriate" level, official sources said on Wednesday after the Trinamool Congress accused the Centre of rejecting his request to meet three Ministers in the Mamata Banerjee government. 
  •  "A no objection was conveyed to the Australian Deputy High Commissioner based on the principle of reciprocity for meeting officials of the West Bengal government at an appro- priate level," a source said. The clarification came after Trinamool Congress MPs Saket Gokhale and Sagarika Ghose accused the NDA government of not allowing the Australian deputy envoy to meet the Ministers in the West Bengal government. They also alleged that the Centre was creating hindrance in West Bengal getting foreign investment. 
  • McCaffrey sought the meetings ahead of his planned visit to West Bengal. 

Defence News

9. Indian Army announces induction of 550 indigenous ‘ASMI submachine guns’ 

  •  The Northern Command of the Indian Army has ordered 550 indigenously designed, developed and manufactured ASMI submachine guns worth Rs 4.26 crore. This is the first such indigenously designed and manufactured weapon to be inducted into the Indian Army. 
  • The ASMI submachine guns are manufactured by Hyderabad-based Lokesh Machines Limited. 
  •  AMSI is an acronym for Asmita, which means pride. It was designed by Armament Research and Development Establishment (ARDE), a Pune-based laboratory of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), in collaboration with the Indian Army. 
  • The design was handed over to CNC (Computerised Numerical Control) machine manufacturer Lokesh Machines Ltd for manufacturing. Lokesh Machines Ltd manufactures the ASMI submachine gun at its Turpan factory located in Medak district of Telangana using aerospace-grade aluminium. 
  •  It has outperformed international competitors in accuracy and reliability, with both a lightweight design and compatibility with NATO-standard ammunition. 
  •  Priced under Rs 1 lakh, the gun is cost-effective and versatile for various military roles, reflecting India's progress in defence manufacturing and self-reliance. 
  • The use of aerospace-grade aluminium makes the submachine lightweight and durable. The ASMI is a single unibody 9x19 mm calibre submachine gun weighing less than 2.4 kg.The submachine has a magazine capacity of 32 rounds and can fire at a rate of 800 rounds per minute. It is 10-15% lighter than international competitors like Israel Weapon Industries' (IWI) Uzi and German firearms maker Heckler & Koch's M. 

10. Army hospital launches firstof-its-kind skin bank facility for armed forces in Delhi 

  •  The Army's Research and Referral Hospital in New Delhi has launched a state-of-the-art skin bank facility, the first of its kind to be set up within the Armed Forces Medical Services. 
  • The Defence Ministry said the landmark initiative aims to revolutionise the treatment of severe burn injuries and other skin conditions among service members and their families. 
  •  Director General Medical Services and Colonel Commandant Lieutenant General Arindam Chatterjee described the launch of the skin bank as a testimony to the unwavering commitment towards the health and well-being of service members. He said the facility will not only enhance the quality of care but also strengthen the ability to assist those affected by severe injuries. 
  •  The new skin bank aims to serve as a centralised hub for collection, processing, storage and distribution of skin grafts, providing a vital resource for military medical centres across the country.

11. CDS General Anil Chauhan releases joint doctrine for cyberspace operations 

  •  Chief of Defence Staff General Anil Chauhan released the joint doctrine for cyberspace operations during the Chiefs of Staff Committee meeting held in New Delhi. The meeting said the joint doctrine is an important publication that will guide commanders in conducting cyberspace operations in complex military operations environments. 
  • China has built major capabilities in the cyber warfare domain, including cyber weapons to disrupt or destroy adversary's military assets and strategic networks as well as energy, banking, transportation and communication grids even before the actual kinetic warfare begins 
  •  In 2019, the government had approved the creation of only a small tri-service defence cyber agency instead of a full-fledged cyber command as desired by the armed forces. 
  •  The official said the new joint doctrine is "an important step" to speed up the ongoing process of integration being actively pursued by the Army, Air Force and Navy. He said, "Apart from the traditional domains of land, sea and air, cyberspace has emerged as an important and challenging domain in modern warfare. 

Sports news 

12. World champion Neeraj Chopra wins gold at Finland World Athletics Continental Gold Tour 

  •  Olympian and world champion Neeraj Chopra has won the gold medal in the men's javelin throw event at the World Athletics Continental Gold Tour at the Paavo Nurmi Stadium in Turku, Finland. 
  •  He topped the field of eight men with a best effort of 85.97m. Chopra produced his best throw of the day with an effort of 85.97m in his third attempt. Toni Keranen, 26, won the silver with a personal best effort of 84.19m. 
  •  This was Neeraj's third event of the year after the Doha Diamond League and the Federation Cup. Neeraj finished second in Doha with a throw of 88.36m, before his 82.27m throw at the 27th Federation Cup in Bhubaneswar last month earned him the top spot. 
  • Neeraj did not feature in the 2023 edition of the Games in Finland due to an injury. At the same time, he finished second in the 2022 Paavo Nurmi Games with a throw of 89.30 m, which was better than the national record at the time. 
  • The Paavo Nurmi Games is Finland's top track and field competition in the summer and has been held every year since 1957. The competition is a Continental Tour Gold Meet, a top-level world athletics event. 

13. Grandmaster Arjun Erigassi wins Stepan Avagyan Memorial 2024 crown 

  • India's highest-rated chess player Grandmaster (GM) Arjun Erigassi has won the Stepan Avagyan Memorial 2024 crown in Jermuk, Armenia. The 20-year-old chess player from Telangana defeated Russian GM Volodar Murzin in 63 moves in the eighth and final round to score six points with four wins and as many draws. 
  •  The win also helped Arjun reach his career-high live rating of No. 4. His performance rating was 2823. 
  •  Arjun has been in fine form this year, winning the Menorca Open title in April, finishing second at the Tepe Sigeman Chess Tournament in May and finishing joint fifth at the Sharjah Masters Open tournament. 

14. Asia Oceanic Beach Ultimate Championship India runners-up 

  •  On 16 June 2024, the Indian national Ultimate Frisbee mixed team won the silver medal at the Asian Oceanic Ultimate Beach Championship (AOUBC) held in Shirahama, Japan. They competed against defending champions Philippines, who also finished first in the men's and women's categories. It is the number one team in Asia. 
  •  The competition saw participants from Asia, Australia and New Zealand. In its 2019 edition, the Indian team won the bronze medal. This year, except for one player from Bengaluru, the rest of the 18- member team was from Chennai. The athletes were selected based on national trials and selection camps. 

Appointment News 

15. Actor Theo James appointed UNHCR global goodwill ambassador 

  •  UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, announced the appointment of British actor Theo James as its newest global goodwill ambassador. 
  • In 2019, he used his acting talents to provide the voiceover for a video for UNHCR's high-level segment on statelessness. 
  •  James, who has starred in the television series "The Gentlemen" and "The White Lotus," has been supporting UNHCR since 2016, and has traveled to Greece, France and Jordan to meet with asylum seekers and refugees. 
  •  The UN High Commissioner for Refugees said last week that the number of forcibly displaced people hit a record 117.3 million at the end of last year, and that figure could rise without global political changes. 
  •  UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1950 after World War II to help millions of Europeans who had fled or lost their homes. 
  •  UNHCR now has 20,739 staff working in 135 countries. It has helped more than 50 million refugees successfully restart their lives.
  •   The 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Protocol are the key legal documents that form the basis of UNHCR's work 

16. Annurag Batra elected to global TV academy 

  • Annurag Batra, founder of exchange4media and Chairman of BW Business world, has been elected a member of the International Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He joins a group of over 900 members from about 60 countries, representing the world's leading television and media firms. 
  •  He set up an institutionalized exchange4media, creating a new platform for media, television and related domains in digital, a release said. He acquired BW Businessworld group nine years ago and has developed it to become a 360-degree media platform, it added. 

Ranks and Reports 

17. Official data: more frequent surveys and quicker results are on the cards 

  •  The Centre is eyeing an increase in the frequency of some critical official surveys, including the periodic survey to measure employment, and releasing their results faster to facilitate timely and informed policy decisions, a top Statistics Ministry official said on Wednesday. 
  •  Speaking at a data user conference on the recently released findings of the Household Consumption Expenditure Survey (HCES), 2022-23, Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation Secretary Saurabh Garg said data would be the basis of making "much more informed" decisions needed to attain the common 
  •  Having replaced traditional pen and paper surveys conducted by enumerators on the field, with Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI) tablets that were used in the HCES, for instance, India's statistical officers can now directly upload the data from the field so that time delays that happen between the survey and the 
  •  For any decision maker, the availability of data at the right time is critical for making more informed decisions availability of results is decreased, Mr. Garg said. 
  •  "The use of technology is something we will continue to focus on as we move ahead, and the purpose is to ensure that we can reduce the time period between surveys. For example, we have the HCES and the PLFS [Periodic Labour Force Survey]... many of these surveys that are annual, we are looking at which of them can be made quarterly, and some of them could be made monthly," Mr. Garg said. 
  • "For any decision-maker, the availability of data at the right time is critical for making more informed decisions," he underlined. The Ministry is also seeking to foster collaboration and interaction with other Ministries and departments, with a view to ensure that statistics generated across government can "talk to each other" and be tapped easily by departments based on their needs. 
  •  The official statistics machinery is also striving to ensure compliance with global data standards, such as the UN system of national accounts or the special data dissemination standards of the International Monetary Fund. 

18. A torrid crisis A prolonged summer should be 

  •  Northern India has been bearing the brunt of the longest stretch of heatwaves in the last 15 years. The minimum day temperatures in some States have consistently remained above 45° C and those in the relatively cooler ones, at least 3°-6° C above what is usual for this time of the year. Even night temperatures have consistently been 3°-6° C above normal, a consequence of the near-absence of moisture and rain. To add to this, the monsoon has been sluggish. After an early start, the monsoon has stalled since June 12 and is stuck in central India. 
  •  Before its onset over Kerala, the India Meteorological Department had forecast the rainfall in June over India to be 'normal'. It has now updated that estimate to be 'below normal' or, in quantitative terms, a minimum 8% shortfall over the month's expected quantum of 16.69 cm. This update, however, is not useful as it does not give an insight into the progress of the monsoon. 
  •  The normal dates of the monsoon's arrival over the north- western and northern States are those spanning the June 25-July 1 timeframe. Whether the monsoon's current hiatus will push these dates even further remains to be seen. A prolonged hiatus could mean an even greater load on the infrastructure in these States. 
  •  On June 17, the Power Ministry said that demand in northern India had surged to 89 GW (89,000 MW) , the highest in a single day. To meet this power requirement, nearly 25%-30% had to be "imported" from the other four regions south, west, east and north-east and possibly Bhutan. 
  •  A precise break-up was not provided. Though the Ministry claimed credit in meeting the demand, it indirectly reveals the strain on the infrastructure. The installed power capacity in northern India is 113 GW (1,13,000 MW) and if the northern grid still needed to import power, it suggests an inability to utilize its full capacity.
  •   Delhi's international airport had a half-hour blackout on the same day and it stands to reason that prolonged heatwaves and demands on cooling are only going to further strain the grid. Compounding this is the water crisis that has gripped Delhi. While water pilferage is a common woe, the heat has exacerbated demand, and Haryana, a key source of water for Delhi, has refused to increase supply citing its own constraints. 
  •  It is high time that politics is set aside and the prolonged summer is holistically addressed by the Centre and States as a natural disaster.

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