Unique Civil Times Snippets for April 2019

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has named State Bank of India (SBI), ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank as Domestic Systemically Important Banks (D-SIBs), which in other words mean banks that are too big to fail.

Implications

  • As per the norms, these banks will have to set aside more capital for their continued operation. RBI comes with the list every year since 2015.
  • Inclusion in D-SIB indicates that failure of any of these banks would have a cascading effect on Indian financial system.
  • Inclusion in the list gives additional comfort to investors that these banks won’t be allowed to fail and therefore, borrowing costs of these banks from the markets are cheaper than their peers.

SBI, was setting aside 0.45 per cent of its assets till 2018-19 as a surcharge. From next year, applicable from April 1, the bank will have to set aside 0.60 per cent of its risk-weighted assets. The increase in capital is in a phased manner, with the ultimate aim of providing one full percentage point extra as capital buffer for D-SIBs.

ICICI Bank and HDFC Bank’s capital requirement rises to 0.20 per cent, from 0.15 per cent now. These two banks are in the fifth basket, and are considered less important than SBI.

  1. RBI to inject liquidity via forex swaps
  • In order to meet the durable liquidity needs of the system, the Reserve Bank has decided to augment its liquidity management toolkit and inject rupee liquidity for longer duration through long-term foreign exchange Buy/Sell swap.
  • The swap will be in the nature of a simple buy/sell foreign exchange swap from the Reserve Bank side. Under the swap, a bank would sell US dollars to the RBI and simultaneously agree to buy the same amount of US dollars at the end of the swap period.
  • It will inject long-term liquidity worth $5 billion into the system through foreign exchange swap arrangement with banks for three years.
  1. Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency
  • India’s second credit rating agency is ICRA (Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency) was set up in 1991.
  • It was promoted by Industrial Finance Corporation of India (IFCI), other leading financial/investment institutions, commercial banks and financial services companies as an independent and professional Investment Information and Credit Rating Agency.
  • Today, ICRA and its subsidiaries together form the ICRA Group of Companies (Group ICRA). ICRA Limited is a Public Limited Company, with its shares listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange and the National Stock Exchange.
  • The company rates rupee-denominated debt instruments issued by manufacturing companies, commercial banks, non-banking finance companies, financial institutions, public sector undertakings and municipalities. They also rates structured obligations and sector-specific debt obligations such as instruments issued by Power, Telecom and Infrastructure companies. The other services offered by them include Corporate Governance Rating, Stakeholder Value and Governance Rating, Credit Risk Rating of Debt Mutual Funds, Rating of Claims Paying Ability of Insurance Companies, Project Finance Rating, and Line of Credit Rating.
  1. National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA)
  • The National Anti-Profiteering Authority (NAA) has been constituted under Section 171 of the Central Goods and Services Tax Act, 2017.
  • To ensure that the reduction in rate of tax or the benefit of input tax credit is passed on to the recipient by way of commensurate reduction in prices.

Institutional Framework

  • The National Anti-profiteering Authority comprises of a five-member committee, consisting of, a Chairman (equivalent to a rank of secretary in the government), four technical members (present/former commissioners of State tax or central tax departments). The Additional Director General of Safeguards under the Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBEC) would be the Secretary to NAA.

Tenure

  • The National Anti-profiteering Authority committee will initially have a two-year tenure that can be extended by the GST Council if they see a requirement for its existence in the future.

Aim

  • The primary aim of the National Anti-profiteering Authority is to ensure the benefits of reduction or lower taxes under the new GST regime are passed onto the end consumers. Which is to determine that if any reduction in the rate of tax on supply of goods or services is passed onto the final recipient by way of proportional reduction in prices. Apart from this, the NAA also has to identify registered people/entities who have not passed on the benefit of a reduction in the rate of tax by means of ITC and bring them to task.

Members

  • The NAA consists of a Chairman along with four senior government officials, mostly of the rank of joint secretary appointed as technical members in the authority.

Special Powers of NAA

  • NAA has the authority to deregister an entity or business if it fails to pass on the benefit of lower taxes under GST to the customer.
  • Deregistering a business will be the last course of action and extreme step against any violator
  • NAA will recommend the return of undue profit which a business earned from not passing on reduction and benefit of tax to consumers along with an 18 per cent interest. It can also impose a penalty if it sees it necessary.

Anti-Profiteering Mechanism Under GST Regime

  • Complaints are based on jurisdiction, complaints that are local in nature will be first sent to a state-level committee for screening
  • Complaints at a national level will be marked directly to the standing committee
  • In case the incident of profiteering relates to an item of mass consumption with an “all India ramification”, the application may be directly made to the Standing Committee
  • If complaints have merit, respective committees will refer cases for further investigation to the Directorate General of Safeguards
  • The DG Safeguards will generally take about 3 months to complete investigation and send the report to NAA
  • If the NAA finds that the company has not passed on GST benefits, it will either direct entity to pass on benefits to consumers, or if the beneficiary cannot be identified, it will ask the company to transfer the amount to ‘consumer welfare fund’ within a specified timeline.

Polity and governance

  1. Plea bargaining
  • Plea bargaining in India is a new concept for Indian legal system is contained in  Section 265A to 265L, Chapter XXIA of the Criminal Procedure Code. It was introduced through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2005. This changed the face of Indian Criminal Judicial system.
  • Plea bargaining is the pre-trial negotiations between the accused and the prosecution during which the accused agrees to plead guilty in exchange for certain concessions by the prosecution. It is an agreement in which the defendant pleads guilty to a lesser charge and the prosecutors in return drops more serious charges. There are two types of plea bargain:
  • Charge bargain:When the prosecution allows a defendant to plead guilty to a lesser charge or to only some of the charges against him.
  • Sentence bargain:It occurs when an accused or defendant is told in advance what his sentence will be if he pleads guilty.
  • It is applicable to those offences for which punishment is up to a period of 7 years.
  • It does not apply to cases where the offence committed is a socio-economic offence or where the offence is committed is committed against a woman or a child below the age of 14 years.

Benefits:

  • It helps in fast disposal of cases.
  • It makes a mutual understanding between the defendant and the prosecutor related to the case.

Drawbacks:

  • Involvement of police in the bargaining invites coercion.
  • The court’s impartiality is at stake.
  • It may lead to corruption of one or other type.

Ecology and Environment

  1. New frog species found in Western Ghats
  • One new frog species has been spotted in the Western Ghats of India, reconfirming the region’s status as home to one of the richest assemblage of frogs in the world.
  • The scientists have named the frog Astrobatrachus kurichiyana. Astrobatrachus is in recognition of its starry spots and kurichiyana in honour of the ‘Kurichiya’ indigenous community of Wayanad in Kerala, where the scientists stumbled upon this new species.
  • As of now, this species is known only from the Kurchiyarmala peak, an isolated hill range located on the western edge of Wayanad plateau in the south-central region of the Western Ghats’ steep slope.
  1. Critically Endangered porpoise
  • The vaquita is the smallest porpoise, and the smallest cetacean. It lives only in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez), where latest abundance estimates point to just 30 animals left (as of November 2016).
  • The single most serious threat to the vaquita, and the cause for its rapid decline, is the use of gill-nets in the vaquita habitat.
  • A gill-net is a wall of netting that hangs in the water column. The mesh is designed so that fish can get their heads through, but not the rest of their bodies. As they struggle to free themselves, they get entangled with their gills. Gill-nets are very effective and used around the world, but often lead to large amounts of by-catch and pose a threat to other marine animals.
  • The use of gill-nets in the vaquita habitat is currently banned throughout the vaquita’s range.
  1. Indian Forest Act, 2019: Proposed Amendments
  • A proposed legislation accords significant power to India’s forest officers — including the power issue search warrants, enter and investigate lands within their jurisdictions, and to provide indemnity to forest officers using arms to prevent forest-related offences.
  • The Indian Forest Act, 2019 is envisaged as an amendment to the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and is an attempt to address contemporary challenges to India’s forests.
  • The draft law has been sent to key forest officers in the States for soliciting comments and objections until June 7, says an accompanying note by the Union Environment Ministry.
  • Amendment proposed to provide indemnity to Forest-officer using arms etc, to prevent the forest offence…Forest-officer not below the rank of a Ranger shall have power to hold an inquiry into forest offence and shall have the powers to search or issue a search warrant under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973
  • “Village forests”, according to the proposed Act, may be forestland or wasteland, which is the property of the government and would be jointly managed by the community through the Joint Forest Management Committee or Gram Sabha.
  • The legislation also proposes a forest development cess of up to 10% of the assessed value of mining products removed from forests, and water used for irrigation or in industries.
  • This amount would be deposited in a special fund and used “exclusively for reforestation; forest protection and other ancillary purposes connected with tree planting, forest development and conservation,”
  • Independent experts said that the proposed law would lead to conflicts during implementation, particularly when seen in the context of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
  • On February 28, the Supreme Court stayed its own controversial order of Feb 13, directing State governments to evict nearly a million forest dwellers who couldn’t prove their title claims to forest land.
  1. India’s carbon dioxide emissions up 5%
  • IEA report shows China, U.S. & India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand
  • India emitted 2,299 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2018, a 4.8% rise from last year, according to a report by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
  • India’s emissions growth this year was higher than that of the United States and China — the two biggest emitters in the world — and this were primarily due to a rise in coal consumption.
  • China, the United States, and India together accounted for nearly 70% of the rise in energy demand.
  • India’s per capita emissions were about 40% of the global average and contributed 7% to the global carbon dioxide burden.
  • The United States, the largest emitter, was responsible for 14%.
  • As per its commitments to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India has promised to reduce the emissions intensity of its economy by 2030, compared to 2005 levels. It has also committed to having 40% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 and, as part of this, install 100 GW of solar power by 2022.
  • India says it will cost at least $2.5trillion (₹150 trillion approx.) to implement its climate pledge, around 71% of the combined required spending for all developing country pledges.

Science and Technology

  1. Nipah virus
  • It was first identified in 1998 at Kampung Sungai Nipah village, Malaysia. The virus is named after this village.
  • The natural host of the virus are fruit bats belonging to the family Pteropodidae.
  • In 2004, humans were affected after eating the date palm contaminated by infected fruit bats. Pigs can also act as intermediate hosts.
  • The symptoms of Nipah are similar to that of influenza: fever, muscle pain, and respiratory problems. Inflammation of the brain can also cause disorientation. Late onset of Encephalitis can also occur. Sometimes a person can have an asymptomatic infection, and be a carrier of Nipah and not show any symptoms.
  • How do doctors diagnose Nipah?
  1. Serology- blood tests to see the antibodies
  2. Histopathology- microscopic study of tissues
  3. PCR- Polymerase Chain Reaction technique to look for viral DNA
  4. Virus isolation
  • Confirmatory tests include.
  1. Serum Neutralization Test
  2. ELISA
  3. RT-PCR
  • According to WHO, ribavarin can reduce the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and convulsions associated with the disease. Individuals infected need to be hospitalised and isolated.
  • Special care should be taken to prevent human-to-human transmission. Surveillance systems should be established to detect the virus quickly and to initiate appropriate control measures.
  1. Chinook helicopters
  • India finalized a contract for 15 Boeing Chinook helicopters in September 2015. The first batch arrived at the Mundra Port in Gujarat in February this year. All helicopters will be delivered by March next year.
  • The first batch of 12 pilots and as many flight engineers underwent training in the U.S. in October 2018.
  • The Chinook can carry a maximum payload of 11 tonnes and 54 combat-ready troops or 24 stretcher patients.
  • The Army’s recently inducted M-777 Ultra-Light Howitzers can be carried under slung to forward areas.
  • This will significantly improve the rapid reaction capabilities along the western and eastern borders.
  • The service ceiling of 20,000 feet would redefine heavy lift not just in operations, inter-valley transport and artillery transport but also in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts in far-flung areas.
  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) on Monday inducted the first batch of four Chinook CH-47F (I) heavy-lift helicopters, which will significantly improve airlift to high-altitude areas.
  • The induction of Chinook will be a game changer the way Rafale is going to be in the fighter fleet.
  • This modern, multi-mission-capable, heavy-lift transport helicopter will enhance our heli-lift capability across all types of terrain to the full effect.
  • These helicopters will be deployed in the northern and eastern regions.
  1. Hayabusa 2
  • Hayabusa2 is an asteroid sample-return mission operated by the Japanese space agency, JAXA.
  • It follows on from Hayabusa mission which returned asteroid samples in 2010.
  • Hayabusa2 was launched on 3 December 2014 and rendezvoused with near-Earth asteroid 162173 Ryugu on 27 June 2018.
  • It is in the process of surveying the asteroid for a year and a half, departing in December 2019, and returning to Earth in December 2020.
  • Hayabusa2 carries multiple science payloads for remote sensing, sampling, and four small rovers that will investigate the asteroid surface to inform the environmental and geological context of the samples collected.
  • The Hayabusa2 payload incorporates multiple scientific instruments:
  1. Remote sensing: Optical Navigation Camera (ONC-T, ONC-W1, ONC-W2), Near-Infrared Camera (NIR3), Thermal-Infrared Camera (TIR), Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR)
  2. Sampling: Sampling device (SMP), Small Carry-on Impactor (SCI), Deployable Camera (DCAM3)
  3. Four rovers: Mobile Asteroid Surface Scout (MASCOT), Rover-1A, Rover-1B, Rover-2.

  1. Centre notifies new rules for drugs, clinical trials
  • The Union Health Ministry has notified the Drugs and Clinical Trials Rules, 2019 with the government stating that the move is aimed at promoting clinical research in the country.
  • The rules will apply to all new drugs, investigational new drugs for human use, clinical trials, bio-equivalence studies and ethics committees.
  • The highlights of the notification includes reduction in time for approving applications, which has now come down to 30 days for drugs manufactured in India and 90 days for those developed outside the country. “Also, in case of no communication from Drugs Controller General of India, the application will be deemed to have been approved,”
  • As per the new rule the requirement of a local clinical trial may be waived for approval of a new drug if it is approved and marketed in any of the countries (EU, UK, Australia, Japan and US) specified by the Drugs Controller General with the approval of the government.
  • The new rules will ensure patient safety and an ethics committee will monitor the trials and decide on the amount of compensation in cases of adverse events.
  • Indian Society for Clinical Research (ISCR) said that the new Clinical Trial Rules are well balanced and will further the conduct of ethical and quality clinical trials in the country which, in turn, will benefit patients.

What is clinical trial?

Clinical trials are scientific studies conducted to find better ways to prevent, screen for, diagnose, or treat disease. These clinical trials may also show which medical approaches work best for certain illnesses or groups of people. Clinical trials produce high-quality data for healthcare decision making.

The purpose of clinical trials is to answer scientific questions. Therefore, these studies follow strict, scientific standards which protect patients and help produce reliable clinical trial results. Clinical trials are one of the final stages of a long and careful research and development process. The process often begins in a laboratory, where scientists first develop and test new ideas.

  1. India’s First Missile Tracking Ship, Called Ocean Surveillance Ship (OSS),
  • The Indian Ministry of Defence (MoD) sanctioned an initial amount of Rs 725 crore (USD105 million) for the project and the total cost of the program is reportedly around Rs 1,500 crore (USD230 million).
  • India’s first missile tracking ship, called the Ocean Surveillance Ship (OSS), has commenced her sea trials.
  • The vessel, with a yard designation of VC 11184, is built by Indian Ministry of Defence-owned shipbuilder, Hindustan Shipyard Limited (HSL).
  • The ship has successfully undergone its harbour trials before commencing the sea trials.
  • The sea trials are conducted by a joint team of the Indian Navy and the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO), India’s technical intelligence agency.
  • During the sea trials, the ship’s specialised surveillance systems – three dome shaped antennas packed with sensors – will be extensively tested.
  • The ship is reportedly fitted with a primary X band and secondary S band active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. It also has a long open deck for installing multiple missile tracking antennas.
  • The ship is expected to be part of India’s Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) program, an elaborate missile shield being developed to deter enemy missile attacks.
  • OSS will also carry acoustic equipment, underwater listening devices and other extensive suites of navigation, communications, command and control (C3) equipment.
  • The vessel, designed by Vik Sandvik Design India (VSDI), reportedly has an overall length of 175 m, a beam of 22 m, a depth of 6 m and a displacement of over 10,000 tonnes.
  • The ship is powered by two imported 9000kW combined diesel and diesel (CODAD) configuration marine diesel engines and three 1200 ekW auxiliary generators enabling it to have a maximum speed of 21 knots.
  • Ship is equipped with flight deck and hanger facilities for a HAL Chetak or HAL Dhruv ALH helicopter, and will have a crew complement of 300.
  • The ship will be jointly operated by the Indian Navy and the NTRO.
  • Only four other countries — the US, Russia, China and France — operate similar vessels.

 

  1. Second Scorpene submarine ready for induction
  • The contract for the licensed production of six Scorpene-class submarines at MDL, Mumbai, was signed on 6 October 2005 under Project 75.
  • The programme’s first-of-class, INS Kalvari was commissioned in December 2017, after a delay of more than six years from the original contracted timelines.
  • Khanderi was launched into water in January 2017 and has since been undergoing a series of trials.
  • Kalvari is the first modern conventional submarine inducted by the Navy in almost two decades.
  • Khanderi has completed all trials and is in the final stages of acceptance.
  • It is expected to be commissioned into the Navy by end April or early May.
  • Meanwhile, the third submarine Karanj is also likely to be delivered by end of year 2019, he added.
  • In addition, the Navy currently operates four German HDW class submarines and nine Russian Kilo class submarines.
  • The Navy had last inducted a conventional diesel-electric submarine, INS Sindhushastra, procured from Russia in July 2000.
  • The last two submarines Vagir and Vagsheer are in advanced stages of manufacturing on the assembly line. The fifth submarine is in the final stages of being booted together. The ‘Boot Together’ is where the five separate sections are welded together to form the submarine.

Geography

  1. Galápagos Islands
  • The Galápagos Islands part of the Republic of Ecuador, are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed on either side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean surrounding the centre of the Western Hemisphere, 906 km (563 mi) west of continental Ecuador.
  • The islands are known for their large number of endemic species and were studied by Charles Darwin during the second voyage of HMS Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by means of natural selection.
  • Situated in the Pacific Ocean some 1,000 km from the South American continent, these 19 islands and the surrounding marine reserve have been called a unique ‘living museum and showcase of evolution’.
  • Located at the confluence of three ocean currents, the Galápagos are a ‘melting pot’ of marine species. Ongoing seismic and volcanic activity reflects the processes that formed the islands.
  • These processes, together with the extreme isolation of the islands, led to the development of unusual animal life – such as the land iguana, the giant tortoise and the many types of finch – that inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection following his visit in 1835.
  • The Galápagos Islands and their surrounding waters form the Galápagos Province of Ecuador, the Galápagos National Park, and the Galápagos Marine Reserve.
  • The principal language on the islands is Spanish.
  • Move to protect unique wildlife: Fireworks have been banned on the Galapagos Islands to protect the archipelago’s unique fauna.

 

  1. Cyclone Idai
  • The tenth named storm and record-breaking eighth intense tropical cyclone of the 2018–19 South-West Indian Ocean cyclone season, Idai originated from a tropical depression that formed off the east coast of Mozambique on 4 March.
  • Idai brought strong winds and caused severe flooding in Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.
  • Intense Tropical Cyclone Idai is regarded as one of the worst tropical cyclones on record to affect Africa and the Southern Hemisphere as a whole.
  • The long-lived storm caused catastrophic damage in Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi, leaving more than 700 people dead and hundreds more missing.
  • In the Southern Hemisphere, it currently ranks as the second or third deadliest tropical cyclone on record, having a death toll comparable to that of the 1892 Mauritius cyclone, the 1903 French Polynesia cyclone, the 1927 Madagascar cyclone, and Cyclone Leon–Eline in 2000.
  • Idai brought strong winds and caused severe flooding in Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, which killed 784 people – 468 in Mozambique, 259 in Zimbabwe, 56 in Malawi, and one in Madagascar – and affected more than 3 million others.

 

  1. Network of lakes found beneath Antarctica glacier
  • Scientists have discovered a network of lakes beneath the largest glacier in East Antarctica, a finding that may be critical in predicting how the melting of polar ice will change the world’s oceans in the future.
  • Researchers of Australian Antarctic Program have undertaken seismic studies to find out if there is bedrock or water, as sub-glacial lakes or ocean, under the ice.
  • If there’s bedrock under the glacier, it’s sticky and will move more slowly, but if there is water or soft sediments, the glacier will move faster.
  • This study has shown us for the first time that there are substantial amounts of water contained in sub glacial lakes, not far from the ocean.
  • The flow of water in and out of these lakes has the potential to exert a powerful control on the rate that the ice flows into the oceans.

Security

19.   AUSINDEX, 2019

  • India and Australia will practise manoeuvres to hunt submarines together in their largest ever naval exercise that will take place in the Bay of Bengal, from April 2-16.
  • The AusIndex war-game will feature reconnaissance and attack aircraft, warships and submarines and is being described as the `most complex exercise at the high end’ between the two sides.

 

  1. Theatre Level Readiness and Operational Exercise (TROPEX)-19
  • Theatre Level Readiness and Operational Exercise (TROPEX) held earlier this year in the Arabian Sea and north Indian Ocean.
  • This day long review of TROPEX 19 by the Chief of the Naval Staff with all Operational Commander’s is intended to examine the conduct of the exercise and to assess the operational preparedness of the Indian Navy.
  • Lessons learnt from the exercise will provide the Navy accurate assessments to fine-tune combat deployments, force structuring requirements, operational logistics, and material and training imperatives.
  • About 60 ships of the Indian Navy, 12 ships of the Indian Coast Guard and 60 aircraft were part of TROPEX 19.
  • Amongst the key attributes of Naval forces are the ‘Versatility’ to change roles, ‘Mobility’ and ‘Poise’.
  • Availability of such a large number of combat ready assets in the theatre of operations for TROPEX 19 allowed the Indian Navy to expeditiously respond to the developing situation in synergy with the three services.
  • Earlier, TROPEX 19 had commenced with Tri-services Amphibious Exercise in the A & N islands with participation of Army and Air Force.
  • This was followed by the largest Coastal Defence Exercise code named SEA VIGIL’ on 22 Jan and 23 Jan 19 with participation of all 13 Coastal States and Union Territories along with all maritime stakeholders.

 

  1. Exercise Mitra Shakti-VI
  • Exercise MITRA SHAKTI will commence from March 26 to April 8 for the year 2018-19,in Sri Lanka. It is a military exercise between India and Sri Lanka. It is conducted annually as part of military diplomacy and interaction between the two countries.
  • The aim of the exercise is to build and promote close relations between the armies of both the countries and to enhance the ability of joint exercise commander to take military contingents of both nations under command.
  • The exercise will involve training in tactical level operations during international Counter Insurgency and Counter Terrorist environment under United Nations mandate.
  • The exercise was started in 2012 as a response to China’s efforts to increase its influence in South Asia and the Indian Ocean region.

 

  1. AFINDEX 19: India-Africa Together takes oath of humanitarian assistance in joint field training exercise.
  • With the aim of training for the participating contingents in Humanitarian Mine Assistance and Peace Keeping Operations (PKO) under the United Nations’s charter, the Africa-India Joint Field Training Exercise 2019 or AFINDEX 19 kicked off in Aundh, Pune.
  • AFINDEX-19 scheduled from 18 March to 27 March 2019 started with a grand opening ceremony on 18 March 2019 at Aundh Military Station, Pune.
  • Contingents of the 17 African Nations i.e. Benin, Botswana, Egypt, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe came together for the opening ceremony.
  • In addition to the participating nations from the African continent, officers from Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar would attend the exercise as Observers.
  • A flypast by a set of Advanced Light Helicopters and Cheetah Helicopter of the Indian Army carrying the flags of United Nations, India, and the AFINDEX was the highlight of the opening ceremony.
  • The exercise will focus on the exchange of best practices between the participating nations, team building and tactical level operations in conduct of United Nations-mandated tasks to include establishment of a new mission, siting of a United Nations Headquarters for Peace Keeping operations, siting of Military Observer sites during the peacekeeping missions, protection of civilians, nuances of standing combat deployment, convoy protection, patrolling aspects and aspects related to Humanitarian Mine Assistance.
  • An equipment display of all indigenously developed defense-related equipment is also planned on March 26 and 27 during the joint exercise under the aegis of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industries (FICCI) at the Foreign Training Node in Aundh.
  • The exercise is expected to greatly facilitate the sharing of Indian Armed Forces experiences in United Nations Peace Keeping operations with countries in Africa and shall significantly enhance relations with the African continent.

Miscellaneous

  1. Vienna named best city to live
  • For the tenth time in a row, Austria’s Vienna has been able to secure the title of being the most liveable city in the world in the Mercer’s Quality of Living survey that was unveiled on March 13.
  • The Austrian city had toppled seven-year record holder Melbourne to attain the top position on The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Livability Index 2018.
  • Following Vienna, Switzerland’s Zurich is lying at the second position in this year’s Mercer survey which ranks a total of 231 cities across the globe.
  • This year, Mercer provides a separate ranking on personal safety, which analyses cities’ internal stability; crime levels; law enforcement; limitations on personal freedom; relationships with other countries and freedom of the press. Luxembourg has been ranked the safest city in the world, followed by Helsinki and the Swiss cities of Basel, Bern and Zurich in joint second.
  • At the 105th place, Chennai ranks as Asia’s safest city, while Karachi (226) is the least safe.

 

  1. Karambir Singh
  • Vice Admiral Karambir Singh was appointed as the next chief of naval staff, succeeding Admiral Sunil Lanba.
  • The government made the selection following a merit-based approach and did not go with the tradition of appointing the senior most eligible officer to the post.
  • Born on November 3, 1959, Singh was commissioned into the Indian Navy on July 1, 1980. He earned his wings as a helicopter pilot in 1982 and has flown extensively on Chetak and Kamov helicopters.
  • He is perhaps the first helicopter pilot to helm the Navy, said a Navy official.
  • He is a graduate of Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and College of Naval Warfare, Mumbai, hails from Jalandhar and a recipient of Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) and the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal.
  • In his career spanning over 37 years, the Admiral has commanded four ships — Indian Coast Guard ship Chandbibi, missile corvette INS Vijaydurg, guided missile destroyers INS Rana and INS Delhi.
  • He has also served as the Fleet Operations Officer of the Western Fleet.
  • His other important assignments include Chief of Staff of the Tri-Services Unified Command at Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra and Gujarat Naval Area (FOMAG).
  • In the rank of Vice Admiral, he was also the Director General of Project Seabird, looking after infrastructure development of the Navy’s modern base at Karwar.
  • The Navy Chief retires after a three-year tenure or attaining 62 years of age, whichever is earlier.
  1. Sharda Peeth
  • Sharada Peeth is an abandoned temple close to the Line of control (LoC), sits in PoK’ Sharda village in the Neelum Valley (at a distance of around 140 km from Muzaffarabad and 30 km from Kupwara) .
  • The shrine was once regarded as a major centre of higher learning of Vedic works, scriptures and commentaries.
  • It is a seat of Hindu Goddess Saraswati. Goddess Sharada was also referred to as Kashmira-Puravasani.
  • The temple has close resemblance with the Martand temple (another religious site in Anantnag) in architecture, design and construction style. According to A Case Study of Sharda Temple, academics believe that Raja Lalitaditya had built the Sharada Peeth for containing the religious and political influence of the Buddhism. The claim is supported by the fact that Lalitaditya was a master of building massive temples.
  • The Kashmiri Pandits consider the temple as important because of their cultural heritage and glory of their land from the ancient times.
  • The temple has been completely deserted since Partition in 1947.
  1. Abel Prize
  • The prize was first proposed in 1899, to be part of the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Niels Henrik Abel’s birth in 1802.
  • Shortly before his death in 1899, the Norwegian mathematician Sophus Lie proposed establishing an Abel Prize when he learned that Alfred Nobel’s plans for annual prizes would not include a prize in mathematics.
  • Able Prize awarded for outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics, Country Norway.
  • Presented by the Government of Norway.
  • First awarded – 2003.
  • The Norwegian Government gave the prize an initial funding of NOK 200 million in 2001.
  • Previously, the funding came from the Abel foundation, but today the prize is financed directly through the national budget.
  • The funding is controlled by the Board, which consists of members elected by the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters. The current leader of the Board is John Grue.
  • Karen Uhlenbeck won the 2019 Abel Prize Tuesday—becoming the first woman to ever receive the prestigious award, which is often referred to as the Nobel Prize of mathematics. “The fundamental impact of her work on analysis, geometry and mathematical physics”.
  1. Gallantry Awards in India

Post-independence, first three gallantry awards namely the Param Vir Chakra, the Maha Vir Chakra and the Vir Chakra were instituted by the Government of India on 26th January, 1950 which were deemed to have effect from the 15th August, 1947.

Thereafter, other three gallantry awards i.e. the Ashoka Chakra Class-I, the Ashoka Chakra Class-II and the Ashoka Chakra Class-III were instituted by the Government of India on 4th January, 1952, which were deemed to have effect from the 15th August, 1947. These awards were renamed as the Ashoka Chakra, the Kirti Chakra and the Shaurya Chakra respectively in January, 1967.

 

These gallantry awards are announced twice in a year – first on the occasion of the Republic Day and then on the occasion of the Independence Day. Order of precedence of these awards is the Param Vir Chakra, the Ashoka Chakra, the Mahavir Chakra, the Kirti Chakra, the Vir Chakra and the Shaurya Chakra.

 

DESIGN OF THE MEDAL AND RIBBON

PARAM VIR CHAKRA

Highest military decoration awarded for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, in the presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea, or in the air. Highest military decoration awarded for the highest degree of valour or self-sacrifice in the presence of the enemy.

MAHAVIR CHAKRA

Second highest military decoration awarded for acts of conspicuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy whether on land, at sea or in the air. Second highest military decoration in India and is awarded for acts of conspicuous gallantry in the presence of the enemy.

 

VIR CHAKRA

Third highest military decoration awarded for acts of gallantry in the presence of the enemy, whether on land or at sea or in the air. Third highest military decoration for acts of gallantry in the presence of the enemy.

 

ASHOKA CHAKRA

The Ashok Chakra series of awards are open to civilians also. Recommendations received in respect of civilians from the State Governments/Union territory Administra-tions and Ministries/Departments of the Central Government are processed by the Ministry of Defence for the consideration of the Central Honours and Awards Committee chaired by the Defence Minister. These awards are biannual and are given on the Republic Day and Independence Day.

 

KIRTI CHAKRA

It is the peace time equivalent of the Maha Vir Chakra, and is awarded for the “valour, courageous action or self-sacrifice” other than in the face of the enemy.

 

SHAURYA CHAKRA

This is awarded for gallantry other than in the face of the enemy. This award may be granted to civilians or to military personnel and may be awarded posthumously.