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Daily Current affairs for 18-21st March 2018 (English)

Important Days:
1.  March 20 - The world sparrow day (WSD) is observed every year to raise awareness of the house sparrow and other common birds in urban environments and threats to their populations.
2.  March 21- International Forests Day
National:
1. For strengthening its early warning services and enhancing preparedness for management of hazards in state, the  government of Odisha will collaborate with Regional Integrated Multi-Hazard Early Warning System (RIMES). The partnership will be forged between Odisha State Disaster Mitigation Authority (OSDMA) and RIMES in field of drought monitoring and early warning for different natural disasters. The partnership will help OSDMA to strengthen its quality, prediction ability and response capacity. RIMES is already working with the Tamil Nadu State Disaster Management Authority. The RIMES is an intergovernmental body registered under United Nations.
2.       Krishi Unnati Mela (a three day annual event) with focus on doubling farmers’ income was held in New Delhi. The objective of fair was to create awareness among farmers about latest agriculture-related technological developments. The Krishi Mela this year will be significant owing to the interests of farmers and those involved in allied sectors. PM Narendra Modi laid foundation stone for 25 Krishi Vigyan Kendras and unveil a portal on organic farming. He also conferred Krishi Karman Award and Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhaya Krishi Vigyan Protsahan Puruskar to progressive farmers and states on the occasion.
3.       Sand Mining Framework has been launched by the Union Ministry of Mines at the third National Conclave on Mines & Minerals held in New Delhi to help states deal with the sand mining issues, including demand supply deficit and illegal extraction. It also seeks to addresses issues of state objectives, demand-supply assessment and measures to sand availability, allocation model, transportation and monitoring mechanism.
4.       The proposal to grant full autonomy to 62 higher educational institutions which have maintained high standards of excellence under Autonomous Colleges Regulation was approved by the University Grants Commission (UGC). The complete autonomy will allow these higher educational institutions to start new courses, new departments, new programmes, skill courses, off campuses, research parks, appoint foreign faculty, take foreign students, offer variable incentive packages and introduce online distance learning. These 62 higher educational institutions include 5 central universities, 21 state universities, 26 private universities and 10 other colleges.
5.       The setting up of a Plastic Park in Deoghar District, Jharkhand is approved by the Union government. A range of polymer products including woven sacks, moulded furniture, water tanks, bottles, pipes and mosquito nets would be manufactured at the park. The project would be set up at a cost of Rs 120 crores in an area of 150 acres. The project is expected to provide direct employment generation to about 6000 people and indirect employment to over 30000 people.
6.       The sixth Foundation Day of  Biotechnology Industry Research Assistance Council (BIRAC) was celebrated  on 21st March 2018 with the theme ‘Sustaining Innovation – A Market Driven Pathway’. BIRAC is not-for-profit Public Sector Enterprise (PSE) set up by DBT, Ministry of Science and Technology to empower emerging biotech industry to undertake strategic research and innovation. It is basically industry academia interface. It has launched over 10 flagship schemes that are supported by funding from Department of Biotechnology (DBT), and manages 7 collaboratively funded programs with international partners.
7.       The Statement of Intent (SoI) to work closely with District Collectors and key officers of ‘Aspirational Districts’ to support their transformation in terms of healthcare, education and nutrition have inked between NITI Aayog and Piramal Foundation. The collaboration is for four years with the option to continue, based on mutual agreement.
8.       An MOU was signed between the Indian Council of Forestry Research and Education (ICFRE) and Technology Information, Forecasting & Assessment Council (TIFAC) o provide livelihood opportunities and augment income of forest based communities. The MoU will be valid for period of 10 years. It will assist industries to optimize utilization of forest based resources with access of technology to different users. Through this collaboration, TIFAC will help ICFRE to refine and up-scale the technologies developed, take technologies to end users including farmers, state forest departments, forest based industries and forest dependent communities in more effective manner.
9.     The state cabinet of Rajasthan has decided to release notification for one lakh eight thousand government jobs in various departments by next month.  The notification of 108 types of jobs will be released by April end and recruitment process will be completed by July. State Cabinet also gave its nod for setting up a transgender welfare board, which will frame policies for the third gender to ensure equality. The board will be headed by the minister of Social Justice and Empowerment department along with 15 government and six non-government officials. The cabinet also approved five per cent reservation to ex-army personnel in Group-A and B of government services apart from age limit relaxation.
10.   Information and Broadcasting Minister Smriti Irani and Communication Minister Manoj Sinha on March 21, 2018 launched free wi-fi service for Sansad Adarsh Gram, Udwada town in Valsad district of Gujarat through video conferencing. The Union Ministers also interacted with people of the area. Speaking on the occasion, Smriti Irani said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision of Digital India is being fulfilled. Communications Minister Manoj Sinha said that one lakh gram panchayats have been linked digitally so far. He said the Optical Fibre Cable has been increased to 14 lakh kilometres.
11.   The National Cultural Audiovisual Archives (NCAA) project of Ministry of Culture was certified as world’s first Trusted Digital Repository as per ISO 16363:2012 standard. The certification was granted by Primary Trustworthy Digital Repository Authorisation Body Ltd. (PTAB), United Kingdom. Its primary objective is to identify and preserve cultural heritage of India available in audiovisual form through process of digitization and make it accessible to the people.
12.    A MoU was signed between the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare and Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship to conduct skill development training programmes for agriculture and allied sector. These skill development training programmes will be conducted to conduct skill development training programmes for agriculture and allied sector. These skill development training programmes will be conducted at Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVKs). The MoU will help to increase cooperation between both ministries and help in fulfilling Government’s dream of “Kaushal Bharat-Kushal Bharat”. KVK is a project of ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research) for testing and transfer of Agricultural technologies at grassroot level.
13.   Indian Railways has formally handed over eighteen 1350 HP AC/DC diesel electric locomotives to Myanmar Railways. It was the first project completed in current Indian Line of Credit (LoC).The 18 locomotives were supplied by RITES, a PSU of Ministry of Railways and manufactured by Diesel Locomotive Works, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. India and Myanmar have been long enjoying cooperation in Railway sector over the last two decades. Moreover, Indian Railways is playing a pivotal role in developing cordial relations with the neighboring countries.
14.   Online marketplace and hospitality service provider Airbnb has signed four MoUs to boost tourism North East India. The MoUs aim at creating hospitality micro-entrepreneurs across key destinations in North East India. They seek to leverage community resources and appropriate local resources based technology for development. Under MoUs, NEC, NETDC and Airbnb had agreed to expand tourism in north east India through Airbnb’s global platform.
15.   The Festival of Innovation and Entrepreneurship (FINE) was inaugurated in New Delhi  by President Ram Nath Kovind. The 5-day festival was organised by Rashtrapati Bhavan in association with Department of Science and Technology (DST) and National Innovation Foundation-India (NIFI). FINE is an initiative to recognise, respect, showcase, reward innovations and foster supportive ecosystem for innovators.
16.   The commemorative coins of denominations Rs. 1,000 and Rs. 10 has released by President Ram Nath Kovind on the occasion of Nabakalebar festival at a function held in Puri, Odisha. These coins were release to mark the festival which is a symbolic recreation of sibling deities — Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra. Naba means new and Kalebara is body In this festival, the idols of Lord Jagannath, Balabhadra and Subhadra and Sudarshan are replaced by new idols as it is believed that Lord Shree Jagannath adornes new body during Nabakalebara. It is usually comes in every twelve to nineteen years based on the auspicious two months of Ashadha in a year called as Purusottam month as per the Hindu calendar.
17.   The first National workshop on Poshan Abhiyaan was held in New Delhi on March 20, 2018 to implement the campaign in a fast track mode across the country. The day-long event saw participation from all the states and union territories. The Poshan Abhiyaan campaign was launched earlier this month by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Jhunjhunu, Rajasthan.  It aims to ensure holistic development and adequate nutrition for pregnant women, mothers and children. The programme also targets to reduce the level of stunting, under-nutrition, anaemia and low birth rate. 



International:
1.       The petitions for H-1B visa will be accepted by the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) from April 2, 2018. The H1B visa is a non-immigrant visa that enables US companies to employ foreign workers in jobs that require theoretical or technical skills. The federal agency, however, said it has suspended premium processing of all H-1B petitions which is expected to last until 10th September this year. 
2.     President of Myanmar, Htin Kyaw, on March 21, 2018 announced his retirement from the post amidst concerns about his health over the last few months. Htin Kyaw was the country's first civilian president after Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, won the historical elections in March 2016, ending the decades of military dictatorship. The 72-year-old President was a supporter of India's Act East Policy and was also the first Myanmar president to visit India in 2016. His resignation has come at a time when Myanmar and State Consellor Aung San Suu Kyi, are facing heavy backlash due to the alleged military violence in the Rakhine state, leading to an exodus of tens of thousands of Rohingya Muslims to bordering Bangladesh.
3.     French president Emmanuel Macron on March 20, 2018 unveiled his plan to boost French, the 'language of liberty' around the world. French is the sixth most spoken language in the world, after Mandarin Chinese, English, Hindi, Spanish and Arabic. There are now more French speakers outside France than inside it. French was long dominant at the European Union headquarters in Brussels but recent times saw growth in popularity of English in European institutions, especially since the eastern European members joined the bloc in 2004. Macron aims to spend hundreds of millions of Euros boosting the French language worldwide, in a push to overtake English in Africa, increase the use of French online and teach French to more European officials to loosen the grip of the English language on Brussels.
4.     Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced legislation on March 20, 2018 that requires the gun retailers in the country to keep records of firearms inventory and sales for at least 20 years. The proposed bill would also expand the scope of background checks for those who want to acquire a gun. For example, the personal history questions on a license application would cover a person's entire lifetime instead of five years. The legislation would also require purchasers of rifles and shotguns to present a valid license. Currently, license verification is voluntary for non-restricted firearms like rifles.
5.     India's Department of Space (DoS) and the European Commission on March 19, 2018 signed a cooperation agreement related to sharing of earth observation satellite data.  Under the agreement, the European Commission will provide India with free, full and open access to the data from the Copernicus Sentinel family of satellites using high bandwidth connections from data hub to data hub. India on the other hand, will provide the Copernicus programme and its participating states with a free, full and open access to the data from ISRO's earth observation satellites including historical data sets.  This comprises data from land, ocean and atmospheric series of ISRO’s civilian satellites (Oceansat-2, Scatsat-1, Megha-Tropiques, SARAL, INSAT-3D, INSAT-3DR) with exception of commercial high-resolution satellites data. 
6.       An agreement was signed between   India and Hong Kong for the avoidance of double taxation and the prevention of fiscal evasion with respect to taxes on income. This agreement will stimulate flow of investment, technology and personnel from India to Hong Kong and vice versa, prevent double taxation and provide. for exchange of information between two contracting parties. It will also improve transparency in tax matters and will help curb tax evasion and tax avoidance.
7.       Philippines has announced to withdraw from International Criminal Court (ICC) citing reason of international bias and held that ICC was being utilized as a political tool against it. It will make Philippines only second country to withdraw from the Rome statute, following Burundi in 2017. South Africa attempted to leave in 2016, but its withdrawal was revoked by UN.
8.       The US Treasury imposed sanctions on four current and former senior Venezuelan officials, accusing them of alleged economic mismanagement and corruption. As a result of the punishment, all assets of the designated persons that are subject to US jurisdiction are frozen and US persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.
9.       The President of United States, Donald Trump issued an executive order prohibiting US transactions with Venezuela's digital currency. The US blocked all transactions related to, provision of financing for and other dealings in, by a US person or within the US, any digital currency, digital coin, or digital token that have been issued by the Venezuelan government since January 9. The new measure has been introduced to counter the latest attempt from the Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro’s administration to circumvent US sanctions.
10.   Russia has blocked a meeting of the United Nations Security Council to discuss the human rights situation in Syria. Deputy Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, Gennady Kuzmin said that they do not see any justification for the meeting since human rights is not a subject on the agenda of the Council. Russia is the largest international backer of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. France and six other members had called for the meeting, which was expected to include a briefing from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein. China, Bolivia and Kazakhstan voted with Russia to prevent the meeting, while Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea and Ethiopia abstained from voting. Those who voted in favour of holding the meeting included France, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Poland, Holland, the United States, Peru and Kuwait.
11.   Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman has announced that women need not dress in the black abaya often seen as their expected attire throughout the kingdom. The Crown Prince indicated that the Sharia law does not dictate that women wear the traditional garment so they could choose their clothing, so long as it is respectful. He said Sharia law stipulates that women wear decent and respectful clothing just like men. The statement of the reformist Crown Prince is being seen as yet another progressive step towards women's right in the conservative kingdom.

Science & Technology/ defence:
1.     India Post on March 20, 2018 paid tribute to theoretical physicist and cosmologist Stephen Hawking by issuing a special cover on him in all its 22 circles. Hawking died at the age of 76 on March 14 in his home in Cambridge in the United Kingdom.
2.       Varuna-18- the Indo-French joint naval exercise was held in Arabian Sea off Goa coast. It was aimed to explore measures to facilitate operational-level interactions between their armed forces and increase mutual cooperation, considering the common global threats. The exercise was conducted in three phases and included anti-submarine, air defense and asymmetric engagement exercises. The first phase of the exercise was held in Arabian Sea. The second phase was held off the Chennai coast in Bay of Bengal in April 2017 and third near France’s La Reunion Island in South Western Indian Ocean in May 2018. This edition of exercise saw participation of French submarine and frigate Jean de Vienne from French side. The Indian Naval was represented by destroyer INS Mumbai, frigate Trikand with their integral helicopters, INS submarine Kalvari, P8-I and Dornier Maritime Patrol Aircraft, as well as the Mig 29K fighter aircraft.
3.       The Gulf Shield – 1 military exercise of 23 countries including Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states was held in Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia. The one month exercise was largest military drill in region as it saw participation of ground, naval and air forces of participating countries.
4.       A new species of water strider named Ptilomera nagalanda Jehamalar have been discovered by Scientists from Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) in Nagaland. It was found in river Intanki in Peren district of Nagaland.
5.       ICGS C-437- the interceptor boat has been commissioned by The Indian Coast Guard (ICG) at Porbandar, Gujarat as part of its efforts to strengthen coastal security. ICGS C-437 shall be based at Jakhau under administrative and operational control of commander Coast Guard Region (North West). The interceptor boat is 27.8m long, has displacement capacity of 106 tonnes and has maximum speed of 45 knots. It is capable of undertaking multifarious task such as surveillance, search and rescue, interdiction and rendering assistance to boats and craft in distress at sea.
6.       The Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) has launched its lost and found mobile applcation for passengers at 59 airports across India. The app offers three facilities – lost and found items at airports, tracking complaints or request status and technical consultancy in security, and fire services. It can be downloaded from the website of Ministry of Information and Technology. The CISF guards 59 civil airports across the country. Its main advantage is to help passengers to directly register complaints and get status of their complaint immediately from airports under its security cover. It can also be used to place a request for obtaining technical consultancy provided by force. It will provide passengers alert when the lost article is found.
Economy:
1.       The export duty of 20% on raw and refined sugar to boost shipments has scrapped by the Central Board of Excise and Customs (CBEC) under Ministry of Finance. The removal of export duty will help to export excess sugar output in India for sugar season 2017-18. This will also prevent further price erosion of.the domestic sugar prices.
2.       NITI Aayog has released comprehensive roadmaps and detailed timelines for its initiative Sustainable Action for Transforming Human Capital in Education (SATH-E) project to introduce system-wide Governance Transformation in school education. It will also promote data-driven analysis to strengthen academic monitoring across schools in the country. Its roadmap refers to time-bound, goal-driven exercise that will reach its logical culmination by end of academic year 2020. The roadmaps  will operate between 2018 to 2020. They lay out detailed interventions to be taken by three participating states- Jharkand, Madhya Pradesh and Odisha to become ‘Role Model States’ in school education.
3.       The anti-dumping duty has imposed on import of ‘Ofloxacin’ from China by the Revenue Department in the Finance Ministry. It was imposed for three years following recommendations of Directorate General of Anti-Dumping and Allied Duties (DGAD) to protect domestic producers from below-cost shipments. Ofloxacin is in class of antibiotics called fluoroquinolones. It is used to treat certain infections including bronchitis, pneumonia and infections of skin, bladder, urinary tract, reproductive organs, and prostate (a male reproductive gland). It works by killing bacteria that cause infections.
4.       Government has inked $120 million loan agreement with Asian Development Bank (ADB) for completion of projects to improve Rail Infrastructure along high-density corridors and operational efficiency of Indian railways. The project is aimed at enhancing efficiency of rail infrastructure through electrification, introduction of modern signaling system and doubling rail tracks on key routes in country. The loan proceeds will be used for busy freight and passenger routes in Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, including “Golden Quadrilateral” corridor that connects Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and New Delhi.
5.       The first G20 meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors began on March 19, 2018 in Buenos Aires, with the presence of 57 delegations from countries and institutions. The summit, held at the capital's Center of Exhibitions and Conventions (CEC), was attended by 22 finance ministers, 17 central bank governors and 10 heads of international organisations including IMF Director-General Christine Lagarde and Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme Achim Steiner. With Argentina presiding the G20 this year, topics under discussion are likely to be infrastructure and the future of work in the digital arena. After the US announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports of 25 and 10 per cent respectively, the delegations are expected to put out a joint statement on the matter. This is the first of five such meetings to be held before Argentina hosts the G20 Summit on November 30 to December 1.

Appointments/Resignations:
1. Bihar Governor Satya Pal Malik (72) additional charge of Odisha until regular arrangements are made. He was given additional charge after incumbent governor S C Jamir completed his five-year tenure.

Prepared by
     Sarala Dhavamanoharan
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