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Weekly Current Affairs February 2024 (13th to 19th Feb 2024)

Current Affairs February 2024

Read this post to know about Weekly Current Affairs in short for the Week February 13 to 19, 2024. If you’re getting ready for entrance exams in India, it’s really important to know what’s happening around you. Whether you want to study UPSC, SSC, Bank Exams, Defence Exams or something else, keeping up with current events is a must. The exams often have questions about what’s going on in the world – like news about our country, other countries, or new discoveries. Being aware of these things not only helps you do well in the exams but also makes you smarter in general. It’s like having a wider view of the world, which is good for interviews and discussions too. So, it’s not just about passing the exams but also about being informed and ready for whatever comes your way.

In this post, you can see the headlines of current happenings categorised for your convenience. The categories of weekly current affairs of Week 3 of February are given below:
 

 

 

Weekly Current Affairs Update

For the Week: February 13 to 19, 2024

HEADLINES

 

Section A: INDIA

  • SC unanimously strikes down poll bonds scheme, terms it ‘unconstitutional’
  • BJP got 90% of all corporate donations in 2022-23: ADR
  • Draft guidelines to prevent misleading ads by coaching centres released
  • Defence Acquisition Council approves projects worth Rs 84,560 cr
  • Magazine told to take down article alleging Army torture in J&K
  • revises guidelines for community radio stations
  • National Conference on APAAR held
  • Unani Day celebrated on Feb 11
  • TMC MP Mimi Chakraborty resigns from Lok Sabha
  • Padma Shri chef Imtiaz Qureshi dies

 

Section B: INDIA & THE WORLD

  • PM visits UAE
  • UPI services launched in Sri Lanka & Mauritius
  • India, Nepal sign pact to link UPI, NPI for faster remittances
  • Law Commission submits report on matrimonial issues of NRIs, OCIs
  • Naval Exercise Milan in Visakhapatnam from February 19
  • India sends assistance to cholera-hit Zambia
  • India performs well on 85 indicators of SDG target: UNESCAP
  • Regional Dialogue of National Security Advisers on Afghanistan held
  • ASEAN Secretary-General visits India

 

Section C: WORLD

  • US House of Representatives approves Quad bill
  • EU rules policing digital content come into effect
  • EIU’s Democracy Index launched
  • Ukraine troops withdrew from Avdiivka
  • Germany approves $1.22 billion military package to Ukraine
  • Germany overtakes Japan as third-biggest economy
  • Greece: Parliament passes law to allow same-sex marriages
  • Ministerial Meeting of International Energy Agency held in Paris
  • 99 journalists killed in 2023: Committee to Protect Journalists
  • Iran unveils air defence systems
  • Iran fires first ship-based long-range ballistic missiles
  • International Day for the Prevention of Violent Extremism observed on Feb 12
  • International Epilepsy Day observed on Feb 12
  • World Radio Day celebrated on February 13
  • Global Tourism Resilience Day observed by UN on February 17
  • Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies at 47
  • Indonesia: Defence Minister claims victory in Presidential poll

 

Section D: SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

  • ISRO launches INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite
  • SpaceX launches Odysseus to the Moon
  • Japan launches next-generation H3 rocket
  • ISRO organising “Young Scientist Programme”

 

Section E: AWARDS

  • Winners of 58th Jnanpith Award announced
  • Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi receives Assam Baibhav award
  • 2024 BAFTA Awards
  • Winners of National Youth Parliament Competition felicitated
  • Indira Gandhi, Nargis Dutt National Film Awards renamed

 

Section F: BANKING & FINANCE 

  • Real estate recovery: IBBI launches ‘project-wise resolution’ initiative
  • RBI gives Paytm 15 days more before curbs kick in
  • RBI curbs for users of Paytm Payments Bank
  • LIC launches plan for child’s higher studies

 

Section G: ECONOMY

  • Authorized capital of FCI hiked to Rs 21,000 crore
  • Panel set up for framing guidelines to check pesky calls
  • NITI Aayog launches portal on restoration of wastelands
  • India’s trade deficit widens annually to $17.49 bn in January
  • 16th Finance Commission holds first meeting
  • PM announces Surya Ghar Muft Bijli Yojana
  • SUFALAM 2024 organised by Ministry of Food Processing Industries
  • Workshop on DAY-NULM held in collaboration with UNDP
  • PFRDA brings pension funds under PMLA net
  • Wholesale inflation eases to 3-month low of 0.27% in January
  • Retail inflation eases to 3-month low of 5.1%
  • India’s forex reserves dip by $5.24 bn to $617.23 bn as of Feb 9
  • Global pulses meet organised in Delhi
  • FSSAI certifies over 500 hospitals as ‘Eat Right Campuses’
  • Sonowal launches ‘Sagar Aankalan’ guidelines for Indian Port Performance Index
  • Ranjeet Kumar Agarwal takes over as ICAI President

 

Section H: CORPORATE

  • JSW Steel, JFE Steel JV to set up electrical steel facility
  • EaseMyTrip founder and SpiceJet promoter bid for GoFirst
  • Quess Corp to split into 3 independent listed cos
  • Eris acquires 51 pc stake in Swiss Parenterals for Rs 637.5 cr
  • Wipro to buy $66-mn stake in Aggne Global
  • Mizuho takes 15% stake in Credit Saison
  • Yatharth Hospital acquires Faridabad-based Asian Fidelis for Rs 116 crore
  • NCLT approves Shri Dutt’s acquisition of Indian Sugar manufacturing co
  • MoD inks contract with BEL for navy warfare systems
  • Park Hotels listed
  • New CMD appointed at IRCTC

 

Section I: STATES

  • Bihar: CM Nitish Kumar wins trust vote
  • PM-WANI service expanded in Bihar
  • P. invokes ESMA, imposes six-month ban on protests
  • Rajasthan: PM lays foundation stone of NHPC’s Bikaner solar power plant
  • IAF conducts Exercise Vayu Shakti in Rajasthan
  • PM lays foundation stone of AIIMS Rewari in Haryana
  • National Conference on Jal Jeevan Mission held in Lucknow
  • Tamil Nadu passes resolutions against delimitation, ‘One Nation, One Election’
  • Tamil Nadu: Jailed Minister Senthilbalaji resigns from cabinet
  • Tamil Nadu: 10 dead in blast at fireworks unit
  • Karnataka CM launches Asha Kirana scheme
  • Karnataka to launch new agri scheme to make farming sustainable
  • Karnataka: Bill on use of Kannada on sign boards passed
  • Telangana Assembly passes resolution for caste survey
  • Regional centre of Sangeet Natak Akademi opened in Hyderabad
  • Kerala passes resolution requesting Union govt. to amend wildlife Act
  • Odisha: Organ donors’ funeral to be held with full state honours
  • Odisha: JSW to invest ₹65,000 crore to set up steel complex
  • Odisha to give ₹1,000 to all PDS families
  • Maharashtra: Panel hands over Maratha quota report to CM
  • Maharashtra: Ajit Pawar’s group real NCP, so no MLAs disqualified: Speaker
  • Maharashtra to sell sand online on ‘no profit no loss’ basis
  • First-ever Digital India future SKILLS Summit held in Guwahati
  • Jain seer Vidyasagar Maharaj passes away at 77
  • Actress Kavita Choudhry passes away at 67

 

Section J: SPORTS

  • Badminton Asia Team Championships held in Malaysia
  • Africa Cup of Nations football
  • Stefano Napolitano clinches Bengaluru Open tennis
  • Iga Swiatek wins Qatar Open tennis
  • UWW lifts the suspension on WFI
  • India beat England by 434 runs to go 2-1 up in Test series
  • Asian indoor athletics championships held in Tehran
  • Legendary South African all-rounder Mike Procter dies at 77
  • Former India skipper Dattajirao Gaekwad passes away at 95

 

Section A: INDIA

 

SC unanimously strikes down poll bonds scheme, terms it ‘unconstitutional’

The Supreme Court on February 15, 2024 struck down the validity of the electoral bonds scheme, terming it ‘unconstitutional’. It also held that anonymous poll bonds are violative of Right to Information under Article 19(1)(a). The Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud said that poll bonds are violative of fundamental rights and they are not the only way to curb black money.

 

SC has directed state-run lender State Bank of India to stop selling electoral bonds. SBI has also been asked to furnish the details of donations through electoral bonds and the details of the political parties which received the contributions since April 2019. The SC directed SBI to share the details with the Election Commission by March 6, who in turn, has been asked to publish these details on the website by March 13, 2024. SBI is the sole entity authorized to issue and remit electoral bonds in its 29 authorised bank branches.

 

Electoral Bonds which are within the validity period of 15 days but which have not been encashed by the political parties yet shall be returned by the political party to the purchaser. The issuing bank shall then refund the amount to the purchaser’s account.

 

As for the corporates, the Supreme Court ruled that Electoral Bonds must be disclosed as the donations by companies are purely for quid pro quo purposes. The bench, headed by CJI, also examined the removal of the corporate donation cap, which was previously set at a maximum of 7.5% of net profits.

 

Features of Electoral Bonds

Electoral bonds are a bearer instrument in the nature of a Promissory Note and an interest free banking instrument, which can only be purchased by a citizen of India or a body incorporated in India.

 

The State Bank of India is the sole entity authorised to issue Electoral Bonds via its 29 specific branches.

 

Electoral bonds are issued/purchased for any value, in multiples of Rs 1,000, Rs 10,000, Rs 1,00,000, Rs 10,00,000 and Rs 1,00,00,000.

 

Citizens and firms can donate them to political parties without revealing their identities.

 

Only registered political parties who have also secured not less than 1% of the votes polled in the last election to the parliament or a state assembly can receive the bonds, which they have to cash within 15 days.

 

Supporters of the scheme argue that it makes the funding of political parties traceable and transparent while also protecting the identity of the contributor.

 

BJP got 90% of all corporate donations in 2022-23: ADR

Election watchdog Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) released a report on corporate donations received by political parties in 2022-23.

 

The report focuses on donations above ₹20,000 received by the national political parties in 2022-23, as per details submitted by them to the Election Commission. These parties are the BJP, the Congress, the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) [CPI(M)], and the National People’s Party (NPP).

 

The total donations declared by the national parties for 2022-23 stood at ₹850.438 crore. The BJP received ₹719.85 crore and the Congress ₹79.92 crore.

 

The BSP declared that it did not receive any donations above ₹20,000 during this period. The total donations received by the national parties in 2022-23 increased by ₹91.70 crore, a rise of 12.09% from the previous financial year.

 

Draft guidelines to prevent misleading ads by coaching centres released

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has released draft guidelines for prevention of misleading advertisements in the coaching sector.

 

In the guideline that are now open for public consultation, practices such as making false claims about success rates, providing number of selections or rankings of students or creating false sense of urgency or fear of missing out that may heighten anxieties have been termed as “misleading”

 

The guidelines also state that concealing important information related to the name of the course and duration of it opted by successful candidates will also be considered misleading. “Falsely representing in ads that students’ success is solely attributable to the coaching, without acknowledging the individual efforts of the students,” will also be considered misleading and coaching institutes will need to clearly state the extent of the coaching involvement in their success.

 

The draft defines “coaching” as tuition, instructions or academic support or learning programme or guidance provided by any person.

 

It has also defined obligations for any person engaged in coaching. The coaching institutes will need to disclose rank secured by the successful candidate, name of the course opted by them, duration of course and whether such a course was paid or free in ads. They will also be obliged to “put disclaimer/ disclosure/ important information at a prominent and visible place in the advertisement.”

 

Obligations

The font of disclaimer/disclosure/ important information in the advertisement shall be the same as that used in the claim/advertisement,” the draft stated. They are also not allowed to use name, photos or testimonials of successful candidates without consent.

 

In such ads, coaching institutes will be obliged to “accurately represent” the facilities, resources and infrastructure available to students in the advertisement, the draft guidelines added. It added that coaching institutes should refrain from cherry-picking exceptional cases to create skewed impression of success and will need to maintain transparency and truthful representation in their ads.

 

“Every person engaged in coaching shall not make false claims which includes 100 per cent selection or 100 per cent job guaranteed or guaranteed preliminary/mains or guaranteed admission to institutions or false testimonials of successful students or fake reviews,” the draft states. Stakeholders have been asked to submit comments by March 16.

 

Defence Acquisition Council approves projects worth Rs 84,560 cr

The Defence Acquisition Council, chaired by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh approved projects worth around Rs 84,560 crore, the Defence Ministry said in a press release on February 16, 2024.

 

The capital acquisition proposals cleared by the DAC include air defence tactical control radar, heavy weight torpedoes, medium range maritime reconnaissance & multi-mission maritime aircraft, flight refueller aircraft & software defined radios.

 

The DAC gave approval to procure new generation of anti-tank mines having seismic sensor and provision of remote deactivation with additional safety features.

 

“In order to enhance the operational efficiency and domination in the Tactical Battle Area for engaging targets that are Beyond Visual Line of Sight by the Mechanised Forces, the AoN under Buy (Indian-IDDM) category has been accorded for procurement of Canister Launched Anti-Armour Loiter Munition System,” the press release read.

 

Further, the DAC also approved amendments in the Defence Acquisition Procedure (DAP) 2020 to buoy defence start-up ecosystem and promote the procurement of advanced technologies from start-ups and MSMEs developed under the Innovations for Defence Excellence (iDEX) and Technology Development Fund schemes, the ministry said.

 

Magazine told to take down article alleging Army torture in J&K

The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has ordered The Caravan magazine to take down a story it published on the subject of the Army’s alleged “torture and murder of civilians in a restive Jammu,” the Delhi-based monthly said in a statement. The order, which The Caravan says it will challenge, targets a piece that was part of a series of articles on the magazine’s February issue on “The Military Under Modi”. “Screams from the Army Post: The Indian Army’s torture and murder of civilians in a restive Jammu,” written by journalist Jatinder Kaur Tur, speaks among other things on allegations by civilians in Poonch and Rajouri. The report documents allegations that the Army was torturing and sometimes killing civilians under suspicions of involvement in terrorist activity.

 

Govt. revises guidelines for community radio stations

Minister of Information and Broadcasting Anurag Singh Thakur released the revised policy guidelines for setting up community radio stations at the Regional Community Radio Sammelan (South), a two-day conference which commenced in Chennai on World Radio Day on February 13, 2024. The revised guidelines allowed a single institution to set up a maximum of six stations in different districts of operation, increased the advertising time for the stations from seven minutes to 12 minutes per hour, and increased the rate of advertisement from ₹52 per ten seconds to ₹74 per ten seconds. The first community radio was launched in 2004. There were 481 community radio stations in India at the moment.

 

National Conference on APAAR held

Union Minister of Education and Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, Dharmendra Pradhan, attended the National Conference on APAAR: One Nation One Student ID Card in New Delhi on February 13, 2024. The Automated Permanent Academic Account Registry (APAAR) is an initiative introduced in alignment with the National Education Policy (NEP) of 2020 and the National Credit and Qualifications Framework (NCrF). It aims to provide a unified and accessible academic experience for students across India by assigning a unique and permanent 12-digit ID to every student, consolidating their academic achievements in one place.

 

Unani Day celebrated on Feb 11

The Unani Day was observed on February 11, 2024. Theme of this year’s Unani Day was ‘Unani Medicine for One Earth, One Health’. The day is birth anniversary of physician Hakim Ajmal Khan.

NEWSMAKERS

 

TMC MP Mimi Chakraborty resigns from Lok Sabha

Bengali actress and TMC MP Mimi Chakraborty on February 15, 2024 announced her resignation from the Lok Sabha. She was a first-time MP from Jadavpur in West Bengal.

 

Padma Shri chef Imtiaz Qureshi dies

Legendary chef Imtiaz Qureshi, the man behind Dum Pukht and Bukhara, died at the age of 93 in Delhi on February 16, 2024. In 2016, he became the first practising member of his fraternity to get a Padma Shri. Dum Pukht, the restaurant at Maurya Sheraton that became synonymous with the master chef and a standard bearer for Indian fine dining, served as a food laboratory where Qureshi invested some of his signature dishes.

 

 
 

Section B: INDIA & THE WORLD

 

PM visits UAE

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited UAE on February 13-14, 2024

 

Meeting with UAE’s President

Modi and UAE’s President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan held one-on-one and delegation level talks in Abu Dhabi on February 13. They reviewed the bilateral partnership and discussed new areas of cooperation.

 

The two leaders witnessed the exchange of following:

  • Bilateral Investment Treaty: This agreement will be a key enabler for further promoting investments in both countries. India has signed both a Bilateral Investment Treaty and a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with UAE.
  • MoU on cooperation in the field of electrical interconnection and trade: This opens new areas of collaboration in the field of energy, including energy security and energy trade.
  • An Intergovernmental Framework Agreement between India and UAE on the India-Middle East Economic Corridor: This would build on previous understandings and cooperation on this matter and foster India and the UAE cooperation furthering regional connectivity.
  • MoU on cooperation in Digital Infrastructure Projects: This will create a framework for a wide ranging cooperation, including investment cooperation, in the digital infrastructure sector and also facilitate sharing of technical knowledge, skills and expertise.
  • Cooperation protocol between the National Archives of the two countries: This protocol will shape extensive bilateral cooperation in this field including restoration and preservation of archival material.
  • MoU for cooperation in the field of heritage and museums: This would foster engagement between the two countries aimed at supporting of the Maritime Heritage Complex at Lothal, Gujarat.
  • Agreement on interlinking of the instant payment platforms – UPI (India) and AANI (UAE): This will facilitate seamless cross-border transactions between the two countries. This follows the MoU on interlinking payment and messaging systems signed in July last year during PM’s visit to Abu Dhabi.
  • Agreement on inter-linking domestic debit/credit cards – RuPay (India) with JAYWAN (UAE): Banks and financial institutions in the UAE will start issuing the payment card called JAYWAN from the second quarter of this year. An important step in building financial sector cooperation, this will enhance the universal acceptance of RuPay across the UAE. JAYWAN uses licensed technology from India’s payment operator NPCI.

 

IIT Delhi–Abu Dhabi Campus

PM interacted with the first batch of students from the IIT Delhi–Abu Dhabi Campus. The project is a joint collaboration between the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi (IIT-D) and Abu Dhabi Department of Education & Knowledge (ADEK). The first academic program – a Masters in Energy Transition and Sustainability – commenced this January.

 

BAPS Temple

Modi on February 14, 2024 inaugurated the first Hindu stone temple in Abu Dhabi, UAE. The temple has been built by the Bochasanwasi Akshar Purushottam Swaminarayan Sanstha (BAPS). Modi thanked the President of UAE, Sheikh Mohammad Zayed Al Nahyan, for making the grand temple in Abu Dhabi a reality. The BAPS temple is built on a 27-acre site in Abu Mreikhah, near Al Rahba off the Dubai-Abu Dhabi Sheikh Zayed Highway, at a cost of around ₹700 crore.

 

World Governments Summit

At the invitation of Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister, Defence Minister, and the Ruler of Dubai, Modi participated in the World Governments Summit in Dubai as Guest of Honour, on February 14. He delivered the special keynote address on the theme of the Summit – “Shaping the Future Governments”.

 

 

Bharat Mart

Modi and Al Maktoum virtually laid the foundation stone of Bharat Mart at Jebel Ali Free Trade Zone in Dubai to be built by DP World, on February 14.

 

AHLAN MODI

On February 13, Modi addressed the Indian community in the UAE at ‘AHLAN MODI’, an event organized by the Indian community in the UAE. The event drew participation from Indian Diaspora from across the 7 Emirates. The event was held at the Zayed Sports City stadium in Abu Dhabi. The UAE is home to about 3.5 million Indian nationals making it the largest population of Indian citizens anywhere in the world.

 

UPI services launched in Sri Lanka & Mauritius

India’s Unified Payment Interface (UPI) services were rolled out in Sri Lanka and Mauritius on February 12, 2024 during a virtual ceremony attended by Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi and the top leadership of the two island nations, underlying New Delhi’s leadership in the Indian Ocean Region.

 

India’s RuPay card services were also launched in Mauritius. Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe and PM Pravind Jugnauth of Mauritius were present on the occasion. Jugnauth said the co-branded RuPay card would be designated as a domestic card in Mauritius. Modi said that India’s Unified Payments Interface, that is UPI, is now performing a new responsibility — Uniting Partners with India.

 

The expansion of UPI services will enable availability of UPI settlement services for Indian nationals travelling to Sri Lanka and Mauritius as well as for those travelling to India from Mauritius. The extension of RuPay card services in Mauritius will enable Mauritian banks to issue cards based on RuPay mechanism and facilitate usage of RuPay card for settlements both in India and Mauritius.

 

India, Nepal sign pact to link UPI, NPI for faster remittances

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) and Nepal Rastra Bank (NRB) on February 15, 2024 signed and exchanged Terms of Reference (ToR) to integrate fast payment systems of India and Nepal through Unified Payments Interface (UPI) of India and National Payments Interface (NPI) of Nepal, respectively.

 

“The integration is aimed at facilitating cross-border remittances between India and Nepal by enabling users of the two systems to make instant, low-cost fund transfers,” the RBI said in a statement.

 

The collaboration between India and Nepal in linking their fast payment systems through the UPI-NPI linkage would further deepen financial connectivity and “reinforce the enduring historical, cultural, and economic ties between the two countries,” the central bank said.

 

Based on the ToR exchanged between RBI and NRB, necessary systems would be put in place to link UPI and NPI. Formal introduction of the linkage, that is, commencement of operations would follow shortly, it added.

 

Law Commission submits report on matrimonial issues of NRIs, OCIs

22nd Law Commission of India has submitted its Report No. 287 titled “Law on Matrimonial Issues Relating to Non-Resident Indians and Overseas Citizens of India” to the Government of India on February 15, 2024.

 

The Law Commission of India received a reference on The Registration of Marriage of Non-Resident Indians Bill, 2019 (NRI Bill, 2019) from the Ministry of External Affairs, received through the Department of Legal Affairs, Ministry of Law and Justice, for examination.

 

Having conducted an in-depth study of the law concerning the instant subject-matter, including the NRI Bill, 2019  the Commission said that is of the considered opinion that the proposed central legislation should be comprehensive enough to cater to all facets involving marriages of NRIs as well as foreign citizens of Indian origin with that of Indian citizens. Such a legislation should be made applicable not only to the NRIs but also to those individuals who come within the definition of ‘Overseas Citizens of India’ (OCIs) as laid down under Section 7A of the Citizenship Act, 1955.

 

It further recommended that all marriages between the NRIs/OCIs and Indian citizens should be made compulsorily registered in India. The said comprehensive central legislation should also include provisions on divorce, maintenance of spouse, custody and maintenance of children, serving of summons, warrants, or judicial documents on the NRIs/OCIs, etc.

 

Naval Exercise Milan in Visakhapatnam from February 19

Warships from the US, Russia and Iran, among other nations, will be in India to take part in a joint naval exercise. Exercise Milan, being held in Visakhapatnam, is being conducted by the Indian Navy and will involve 51 nations across the world. The harbour phase of the exercise will be from February 19 to 23, followed by sea exercises from February 24-27. The Milan series of exercises were started in 1995.

 

India sends assistance to cholera-hit Zambia

India on February 17, 2024 sent medical and material assistance to Zambia as the southern African country deals with a deadly cholera outbreak. External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar took to social media to announce the aid consisting of 3.5 tonnes of water purification supplies, chlorine tablets and ORS sachets handed over by the Indian High Commissioner in Zambian capital Lusaka Ashok Kumar. Zambia has been asking for more medical help to deal with the situation that has been described as a “cholera emergency”. According to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the outbreak began in the Zambian capital region and by early January 2024 had killed around 333 people.

 

India performs well on 85 indicators of SDG target: UNESCAP

India’s performance on 85 of Sustainable Development Goal parameters has improved, with progress stagnating on 27 counts and worsening on 36, a new report released by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, February 15, 2024, showed. Data released by the UNESCAP as part of the Asia and the Pacific SDG Progress Report: Showcasing Transformative Actions 2024 report indicated that the country still had quite a few indicators where data availability was an issue.

 

Regional Dialogue of National Security Advisers on Afghanistan held

India on February 15, 2024 urged Central Asian countries to use the port of Chabahar located on the southeast coast of Iran to enhance connectivity and trade with India and other countries in the world. Participating in the sixth Regional Dialogue of Secretaries of Security Councils/National Security Advisers on Afghanistan in Kyrgyz capital Bishkek, India’s Deputy National Security Adviser Vikram Misri called for an “inclusive and representative” government in Afghanistan.

NEWSMAKERS

 

ASEAN Secretary-General visits India

A delegation led by Kao Kim Hourn, Secretary-General of ASEAN, called on Union Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, Arjun Munda on February 14, 2024 at Krishi Bhavan, New Delhi.

 

 
 

Section C: WORLD

 

NEWS ROUND UP

 

US House of Representatives approves Quad bill

The US House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed the Quad bill which instructs the Biden administration to establish a Quad Intra-Parliamentary Working Group to facilitate closer cooperation between the US, Australia, India and Japan. Quad is a plurilateral framework comprising India, Australia, Japan, and the US, with a shared commitment to upholding a free, open, and inclusive Indo-Pacific, amidst China’s aggressive behaviour in the strategically vital South China Sea.

 

Passed by a roll call vote of 379 to 39 votes, the ‘Strengthen US-Australia-India-Japan Cooperation’ or the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) bill says that the joint cooperation between the US, Australia, India and Japan should be strengthened.

 

It directs the State Department to submit to Congress, within 180 days of the bill’s enactment, a strategy to increase engagement and cooperation with the Quad, and within 60 days of its enactment, to enter into negotiations with Japan, Australia and India to establish a Quad Intra-Parliamentary Working Group to facilitate closer cooperation.

 

China claims nearly all of the disputed South China Sea, though Taiwan, the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam all claim parts of it. Beijing has built artificial islands and military installations in the South China Sea.

 

EU rules policing digital content come into effect

Digital companies will have nowhere to hide after the EU’s landmark content law enters into full force from February 17, 2024, with the risk of heavy fines for any violations. The new rules, known as the Digital Services Act (DSA), kicked in 2023 for the world’s largest platforms, including Facebook and TikTok, but will now apply to all except the smallest companies. The European Union felt companies were not doing enough to block illegal content or acting sufficiently to protect consumers.

 

There have been several probes launched by the European Commission to quiz the largest platforms on how they are addressing an array of concerns from consumer protection to children’s activity online. So far, the EU has launched formal infringement proceedings against tech billionaire Elon Musk’s X over “illegal content and disinformation”.

 

Punishment for violations of the DSA will be harsh. Those that breach the rules could be fined up to 6% of their global annual turnover, or even banned in the EU for serious and repeated violations. The EU will officially be able to hit companies with sanctions, including fines, for any violations.

 

EIU’s Democracy Index launched

EIU’s Democracy Index, launched on February 15, 2024, sheds light on trends in democracy globally in 2023, as war and conflict spread across the globe, reinforcing existing negative trends in many countries. The annual index, which provides a snapshot of the state of global democracy, registered a decline in its total score from 5.29 in 2022 to 5.23. The increasing incidence of violent conflict has badly dented the global democracy score.

 

According to EIU’s measure of democracy, almost half of the world’s population live in a democracy of some sort (45.4%), but only 7.8% reside in a “full democracy” (scores above 8.00). Substantially more than one-third of the world’s population live under authoritarian rule (39.4%). The good news is that the number of democracies increased by two in 2023, with Paraguay and Papua New Guinea being upgraded from “hybrid regimes” to “flawed democracies”. Greece became a “full democracy”, but Chile was reclassified as a “flawed democracy”. Pakistan was downgraded to an “authoritarian regime”, while Angola was upgraded to a “hybrid regime”.

 

Ukraine troops withdrew from Avdiivka

Ukrainian troops withdrew from the devastated eastern town of Avdiivka, Ukraine’s new army chief General Oleksandr Syrskyi said in on February 17, 2024, paving the way for Russia’s biggest advance since May 2023 when it captured the city of Bakhmut. The withdrawal, announced as Ukraine faces acute shortages of ammunition with U.S. military aid delayed for months in Congress, aimed to save troops from being fully surrounded by Russian forces after months of fierce fighting, Kyiv said. General Syrskyi, who took the helm of the Ukrainian military in a major shakeup last week, said Ukrainian forces had moved back to more secure positions outside the town that had a pre-war population of 32,000. Capturing Avdiivka is key to Russia’s aim of securing full control of the two provinces that make up the industrial Donbas region.

 

Germany approves $1.22 billion military package to Ukraine

As part of a security agreement signed between Germany and Ukraine, Berlin has prepared a further military support package worth 1.13 billion euros ($1.22 billion) that is focused on air defence and artillery, the German defence ministry said. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed the security agreement at a ceremony in the German capital on February 16, 2024. The so called Munich Package includes provisions for 120,000 rounds of 122-millimetre calibre artillery ammunition and an additional 100 IRIS-T SLS missiles this year, as well as a second SkyNext air defence system set to be delivered in 2025.

 

Germany overtakes Japan as third-biggest economy

Once forecast to become the world’s biggest economy, Japan slipped below Germany last year to fourth place, official data showed February 15, 2024, although India is projected to leapfrog both later this decade. Despite growing 1.9 percent, Japan’s nominal 2023 gross domestic product in dollar terms was $4.2 trillion, government data showed, compared with $4.5 trillion for Germany, according to figures released in January 2024.

 

Greece: Parliament passes law to allow same-sex marriages

Greece legalised same-sex marriage and equal parental rights for same-sex couples on February 15, 2024 as lawmakers passed a bill that has divided Greek society and drawn vehement opposition from the country’s powerful Orthodox Church. The bill passed with 176 votes for and 76 against in the 300-seat parliament. Although Greece became the 16th European Union country to allow same-sex marriage, it is the first Orthodox Christian nation to pass such a law. Greece extended civil partnerships to same-sex couples in 2015, but stopped short of extending equal parental rights at the time. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had pledged to pass the new measures after his landslide reelection in 2023.

 

Ministerial Meeting of International Energy Agency held in Paris

Energy and climate ministers from around the world met in Paris on February 13-14, 2024 for the 2024 Ministerial Meeting of the International Energy Agency (IEA) to take stock of the latest developments in energy markets, policies and transitions – and to set the Agency’s strategic direction for the coming years. The participants expressed commitment to safeguard energy security while speeding up clean energy transitions to keep the goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C within reach. Ministers from the IEA’s 31 member countries and from partner countries across the world participated. Co-chaired by France and Ireland, the 2024 IEA Ministerial Meeting was also the occasion to mark the 50th Anniversary of the founding of the IEA.  The IEA was founded in 1974 to ensure the security of oil supplies.

 

99 journalists killed in 2023: Committee to Protect Journalists

Seventy-two of the 99 journalists killed in 2023 were killed in the Israel-Hamas war, making the last 12 months the deadliest for the media in almost a decade, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on February 15, 2024. Killings of reporters would have dropped globally year-on-year had it not been for the deaths in Gaza, Israel and Lebanon, the CPJ said, although fatalities were stable in Somalia and the Philippines. The toll is the highest since 2015 and an increase of nearly 44% on 2022’s figures. “More journalists were killed in the first three months of the Israel-Gaza war than have ever been killed in a single country over an entire year,” the CPJ said.

 

 

Iran unveils air defence systems

Iran unveiled two new air defence systems — the Arman anti-ballistic missile system and the Azarakhsh low-altitude air defence system — on February 17, 2024. The Arman missile system “has a medium range and a high altitude that can identify targets at 180km and engage and destroy them at 120km,” defence minister Mohammad-Reza Ashtiani said.

 

Iran fires first ship-based long-range ballistic missiles

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said on February 13, 2024 it has launched long-range ballistic missiles from a warship for the first time. The launch from the Shahid Mahdavi during naval manoeuvres involved firing two ballistic missiles capable of striking targets up to 1,700 km away.

 

International Day for the Prevention of Violent Extremism observed on Feb 12

International Day for the Prevention of Violent Extremism as and when Conducive to Terrorism was observed by the UN on February 12, 2024. Violent extremism is an affront to the purposes and principles of the United Nations. It undermines peace and security, human rights and sustainable development. No country or region is immune from its impacts.

 

International Epilepsy Day observed on Feb 12

On the occasion of International Epilepsy Day, observed annually on the second February 12, 2024 of February, a series of public awareness programs were conducted across various regions to educate and sensitize the public about epilepsy. Department through its National Institutes and CRCs organized multiple events on February 12, 2024, to highlight the importance of understanding and supporting individuals with epilepsy.

 

World Radio Day celebrated on February 13

The World Radio Day was celebrated on February 13, 2024. Proclaimed in 2011 by the Member States of UNESCO, and adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 as an International Day, February 13 became World Radio Day. This year’s theme: “Radio: A century of information, entertainment and education”.

 

Global Tourism Resilience Day observed by UN on February 17

The Global Tourism Resilience Day was observed by the UN on February 17, 2024. The day aims to emphasize the need to foster resilient tourism development to deal with shocks, taking into account the vulnerability of the tourism sector to emergencies. It is also a call for action for Member States to develop national strategies for rehabilitation after disruptions, including through private-public cooperation and the diversification of activities and products.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny dies at 47

Russian opposition leader and political prisoner Alexei Navalny died at the age of 47 at a penal colony in Siberia on February 16, 2024. Navalny had been behind bars since January 2021, when he returned to Moscow after recuperating in Germany from nerve agent poisoning that he blamed on the Kremlin. Since then, he received three prison sentences, all of which he rejected as politically motivated. He had organised anti-government demonstrations and ran for office to advocate reforms against corruption in Russia and against President Vladimir Putin and his government. Navalny was a Russian Opposition Coordination Council member, the leader of the Russia of the Future party and founder of the Anti-Corruption Foundation (FBK). In October 2021, he received the Sakharov Prize, the European Parliament’s annual human rights prize.

 

Indonesia: Defence Minister claims victory in Presidential poll

Indonesia’s Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto declared victory in the presidential election held on February 14, 2024 after unofficial vote counts showed him with a huge lead that could see him win in a single round. Subianto has won more than 50% of votes. His opponents Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo trailed with about 25% and 17% respectively.

 

 
 

Section D: SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

 

ISRO launches INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite

The GSLV-F14 carrying INSAT-3DS meteorological satellite was launched on February 17, 2024 from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Sriharikota (AP) by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO). About 18 minutes after the lift-off from the spaceport’s launchpad, the GSLV-F14 deployed the INSAT-3DS into the intended geosynchronous transfer orbit. The launch was fully funded by the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES).

 

INSAT-3DS will augment the country’s meteorological (weather, climate, and ocean related) services with the presently operational INSAT-3D and INSAT-3DR in-orbit satellites. The newly launched INSAT-3DS satellite aims to enhance the monitoring of Earth’s surface, atmosphere, oceans, and environment, elevate capabilities in data collection and dissemination and satellite-aided search and rescue services. The initiative will boost India’s weather, climate, and ocean-related observations and services, expanding knowledge and better disaster mitigation and preparedness in the future.

 

The 51.7-meter (m) tall and 4 m wide Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV)-F14 placed the INSAT-3DS satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit, then to a geosynchronous stationary orbit in space. INSAT-3DS is configured around ISRO’s well-proven I-2k bus platform with a lift-off mass of 2,275 kilograms.

 

It is equipped with payloads: (i) an imager payload with a six-channel optical radiometer to generate images of the Earth and its environment; (ii) a 19-channel sounder payload to provide information on the atmosphere; communication payloads, namely (iii) a data relay transponder to receive meteorological, hydrological and oceanographic data from automatic data collection platforms, and (iv) a satellite aided search and rescue transponder that relays a distress signal or alert from beacon transmitters with global coverage. Indian Industries have significantly contributed to the making of the INSAT-3DS.

 

Meteorological data from the INSAT-3DS satellite shall be utilised by institutes of the Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoES), namely, India Meteorology Department (IMD), National Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF), Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), National Institute of Ocean Technology (NIOT), and Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and various Indian agencies to enhance meteorological research and services. This will boost India’s weather and climate prediction and forecasts, timely alerts and early warnings, and advisories for public and last mile users such as fisherfolk and farmers.

 

SpaceX launches Odysseus to the Moon

A moon lander built by Houston-based aerospace company Intuitive Machines was launched from Florida early on February 15, 2024 on a mission to conduct the first U.S. lunar touchdown in more than a half century and the first by a privately owned spacecraft.

 

The company’s Nova-C lander, dubbed Odysseus, lifted off atop a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket flown by Elon Musk’ SpaceX from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral.

 

The two-stage, 25-story rocket roared off the launch pad and streaked into the dark sky over Florida’s Atlantic coast, trailed by a fiery yellowish plume of exhaust.

 

About 48 minutes after launch, the six-legged lander was shown being released from Falcon 9’s upper stage about 139 miles above Earth and drifting away on its voyage to the moon.

 

Intuitive Machines mission, the IM-1 flight is carrying six NASA payloads of instruments designed to gather data about the lunar environment ahead of NASA’s planned return of astronauts to the moon later this decade.

 

 

Japan launches next-generation H3 rocket

Japan launched its flagship rocket in what could be a turning point for a battered space programme struggling to overcome recent setbacks and compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. The H3 rocket, built by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries for Japan’s national space agency (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency or JAXA), delivered a pair of satellites to orbit roughly 16 and 25 minutes after it took off on February 17, 2024 from Tanegashima Space Center in south-eastern Japan. All aspects of the launch went as planned, according to JAXA.

 

ISRO organising “Young Scientist Programme”

Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) is organising a special programme for School Children called “Young Scientist Programme” “YUva VIgyani KAryakram” (YUVIKA) from May 13 to 24, 2024. The key objective of this initiative is to impart basic knowledge on Space Science, Space Technology and Space Applications to the younger students in emerging trends in space science and technology. Applicant students can visit the website of ISRO Antariksha Jigyasa:

 

 
 

Section E: AWARDS

 

Winners of 58th Jnanpith Award announced

Renowned Urdu poet Gulzar and Sanskrit scholar Jagadguru Rambhadracharya have been named the recipients of the 58th Jnanpith Award, the Jnanpith selection committee announced on February 17, 2024.

 

Sampooran Singh Kalra, popularly known as Gulzar, is celebrated for his works in Hindi cinema and is considered one of the finest Urdu poets of this era.

 

Rambhadracharya, the founder and head of Tulsi Peeth in Chitrakoot, is a renowned Hindu spiritual leader, educator and writer of more than 240 books and texts, including four epics.

 

In a statement, the Jnanpith selection committee said, “It has been decided to give the award (for 2023) to eminent writers from two languages: Sanskrit litterateur Jagadguru Rambhadracharya and well known Urdu litterateur Shri Gulzar.”

 

Gulzar received Sahitya Akademi Award for Urdu in 2002, Dadasaheb Phalke Award in 2013, Padma Bhushan in 2004, and at least five National Film awards for his works. Some of his finest works include the song “Jai Ho” for film “Slumdog Millionaire”, which received an Oscar award in 2009 and Grammy Award in 2010, and songs for critically acclaimed films as “Maachhis” (1996), “Omkara” (2006), “Dil Se…” (1998), and “Guru” (2007), among others. Gulzar also directed some timeless award-winning classics, including “Koshish” (1972), “Parichay” (1972), “Mausam” (1975), “Ijaazat” (1977), and television serial “Mirza Ghalib” (1988).

 

Rambhadracharya is one of the present four Jagadguru Ramanandacharyas of the Ramananda sect and has been holding this position since 1982. A polyglot, who speaks 22 languages, Rambhadracharya is a poet and writer in several Indian languages including Sanskrit, Hindi, Awadhi, and Maithili. In 2015, he received the Padma Vibhushan award.

 

Established in 1944, the Jnanpith Award is given annually for outstanding contributions to Indian literature. The award carries a prize money of Rs 21 lakh, a statue of Vagdevi and a citation.

 

Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi receives Assam Baibhav award

Former Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi was given the Assam’s highest civilian award, Assam Baibhav, in Guwahati on February 13, 2024. Assam Governor Gulab Chand Kataria presented the award to Gogoi, currently a member of Rajya Sabha, in the presence of Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar. The award carries a cash prize of ₹5 lakh and lifelong medical treatment, the cost of which is borne by the Assam government.

 

The only person from the northeast to serve as the Chief Justice, Ranjan Gogoi is the son of Kesab Chandra Gogoi, who briefly served as the Chief Minister of Assam. The National Register of Citizens of 1951 for Assam was updated during his tenure as the Chief Justice.

 

The Assam government also conferred the Assam Saurav, the second-highest civilian award to four individuals, including swimmer Elvis Ali Hazarika and athlete Hima Das. The Assam Gaurav was awarded to 17 other achievers in their respective fields.

 

2024 BAFTA Awards

Biographical thriller ‘Oppenheimer’ marked its dominance at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) Film Awards, bagging seven trophies including for Best Film and Best Director (for Christopher Nolan) in London on February 18, 2024.

 

Cillian Murphy was named Best Actor in a Leading Role for playing J Robert Oppenheimer, known as the father of the atomic bomb, in ‘Oppenheimer’. Emma Stone was the Best Actress in a Leading Role for ‘Poor Things’. The award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role was won by Da’Vine Joy Randolph (‘The Holdovers’). The award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role was won by Robert Downey Jr (‘Oppenheimer’).

 

The award for Best Original Screenplay was won by Justine Triet and Arthur Harari for ‘Anatomy of a Fall’. Best Adapted Screenplay award went to Cord Jefferson for ‘American Fiction’. ‘Oppenheimer’ also won awards for best Original Score and Cinematography. ‘The Zone of Interest’ (German, Polish, Yidish) won the awards for Outstanding British Film and Best Film Not in the English Language. The award for Best Animated Film went to ‘The Boy and the Heron’ by Japanese animators Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki.

 

Indira Gandhi, Nargis Dutt National Film Awards renamed

The ‘Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director’ and the ‘Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration’, which are part of the National Film Awards, have been renamed on the recommendation of the Committee for Rationalisation of Film Awards.

 

The cash that goes with prizes in all categories has been increased significantly. The Dadasaheb Phalke Award winners will now get ₹15 lakh, up from the ₹10 lakh earlier.

 

In a report adopted by the Information & Broadcasting Ministry, the committee constituted under the chairmanship of the Additional Secretary (I&B) made several recommendations. Accordingly, changes have been incorporated in the 70th National Film Awards (2022) Regulations.

 

Awards clubbed

The committee recommended that the ‘Indira Gandhi Award for Best Debut Film of a Director’ be renamed ‘Best Debut Film of a Director’, and the award money be increased to ₹3 lakh. It also said that the ‘Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration’ be clubbed with ‘Best Film on Social Issues’ and ‘Best Film on Environment Conservation/Preservation’ and renamed ‘Best Feature Film Promoting National, Social and Environmental Values’. The Best Animation Film and the Best Special Effects categories have been clubbed under a new category of Best AVGC Film.

 

The Best Actor award has been renamed ‘Best Actor in a Leading Role’; and the Best Actress to ‘Best Actress in a Leading Role’. As recommended, the Best Supporting Actor award has been titled ‘Best Actor in Supporting Role’ and the Best Supporting Actress award to ‘Best Actress in a Supporting Role’.

 

The committee had also recommended that only one award be given in each category.

 

 
 

Section F: BANKING & FINANCE

 

Real estate recovery: IBBI launches ‘project-wise resolution’ initiative

Insolvency regulator IBBI has given a boost to the real estate sector with the introduction of the concept of ‘project-wise’ resolutions in the real estate insolvency cases.

 

It has now amended its Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process (CIRP) regulations to empower the Committee of Creditors (CoC) to direct the Resolution Professional (RP) to invite separate resolution plan for each project.

 

The Insolvency and Bankruptcy Board of India (IBBI) has also mandated that the IRP/RP should maintain separate bank accounts for each real estate project when the corporate debtor is involved in real estate development.

 

India’s real estate sector accounts for about 7 per cent share of country’s GDP (estimated at $ 3.5 trillion).

 

This flexibility in inviting resolution plans in real-estate cases has been provided with a view that each project in a real estate case may need different treatment in terms of resolution.

 

IBBI had in January 2021 sought public comments on measures that may be needed to improve outcomes in real estate cases.

 

It was then observed there are situations where because of the default in one project, the CIRP is initiated against the entire company. This is counterproductive as other solvent projects are also stalled post-commencement. In real estate cases, the default often pertains to specific projects (while other projects continue to do well).

 

Amended dispensation

Under the amended dispensation, the RP has been mandated to convene a CoC meeting at least once in every 30 days, with a provision to extend the interval between meetings to a maximum of one meeting per quarter, if CoC so decides. To enhance the oversight of the CoC over going concern costs, the amendment provides that the RP must seek approval from the CoC for all costs including going concern costs related to the insolvency resolution process.

 

RBI gives Paytm 15 days more before curbs kick in

In a relief to customers, RBI on February 12, 2024 relaxed the deadline on most of the restrictions imposed on Paytm Payments Bank to March 15 from Feb 29, including accepting fresh deposits. It also clarified that QR codes and soundboxes that are not linked to PPBL will continue to work after mid-March.

 

However, RBI made it clear that there is no coming back for the payments bank to these services. RBI unambiguously advised customers to apply for new Fastags and National Common Mobility Card (NCMC) cards used in metros and buses if they are currently Paytm customers. It also said that those who are using PPBL savings accounts to receive subsidies, salaries or government benefits should open new bank accounts.

 

While RBI appears to have taken a tough stance on PPBL and ensured that there is no disruption in the UPI payment space, there will be challenges going ahead. PPBL has issued close to 45 lakh Fastags which will have to be replaced by other banks. The tough KYC norms require that customers can not own two Fastags accounts at the same time. PPBL is also the banker for 253 toll plazas for electronic collection and a new bank will have to step into its shoes.

 

For millions of shopkeepers and handcart vendors (3.5 crore, according to RBI data) who display the Paytm QR code there will not be much disruption. The number of merchants that had linked their QR codes to Paytm Payments Bank was only in lakhs as most preferred their physical banks with ATMs to the bank.

 

Paytm has partnered with Axis Bank for its nodal account. Nodal accounts are those where funds are held in escrow pending settlement and a source of float money to the bank. Even though PPBL does not get fresh money from depositors, the nodal account will continue to receive settlement funds from the merchant acquiring business.

 

RBI curbs for users of Paytm Payments Bank

Addressing concerns around the curbs imposed on Paytm Payments Bank, the Reserve Bank of India issued an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) detailing what will be the future of the bank, how can customers and merchants utilise or withdraw their funds, and what will be allowed post March 15.

 

Impact on those holding Paytm Payments Bank accounts after March 15

Funds can be withdrawn or transferred from savings or current accounts. Debit card, UPI mandates, loan EMIs and auto-debit payments will also be allowed till balance is available. However, account holders will not be permitted to deposit money into the account, including salaries, fund transfers or subsidies. Only interest, cashbacks, sweep-in from partner banks,or refunds may be credited.

 

Money in the Paytm wallet after March 15

Wallet holders can continue to use, withdraw or transfer to another wallet or bank account up to the balance available. Minimum KYC wallets can, however, only be used for merchant payments. No top-up, money transfer or credit, other than cashbacks or refunds, will be allowed.

 

Transfer of Paytm Payments Bank accounts to other banks

Customers can approach Paytm Payments Bank or use its banking app to close their wallet and transfer the balance to an account with another bank in the case of full KYC wallets. For minimum KYC wallets, available balance may be used or a refund requested.

Impact on Paytm FASTag and NCMC cards

FASTags and NCMC cards issued by Paytm Payments Bank can be used to make payments up to the available balance, or closed and refunded. No incremental funding, recharge or top up will be allowed post March 15. Customers will need to get a new FASTag or NCMC card issued by another bank or non-bank pre-paid instrument (PPI) issuer.

 

Impact on merchants holding Paytm Payments Bank account

Merchants can receive and transfer funds using a Paytm QR code, soundbox or POS terminal even after March 15, only for facilities linked to a bank account other than Paytm Payments Bank.

 

Impact on UPI, BBPS and AePS payments

Paytm Payments Bank account payments through Bharat Bill Payment System (BBPS) and Aadhar enabled Payment System (AePS) authentication are allowed up to the balance available. Money can also be withdrawn from the account through UPI, IMPS or with the help of a business correspondent till March 15.

 

LIC launches plan for child’s higher studies

LIC has introduced a new plan called ‘LIC’s Amritbaal’ designed to meet expenses related to a child’s higher education. The plan is an individual, savings, life insurance plan specifically tailored to accumulate a corpus for meeting the higher education and other needs of the child. It offers guaranteed additions at the rate of Rs 80 per thousand basic sum assured at the end of each policy year from the inception till the end of the policy term, provided the policy is in force. The plan has a minimum entry age of 0 years and a maximum entry age of 13 years. The minimum age at maturity is 18 years, while the maximum age at maturity is 25 years. Short premium payment terms of 5, 6, or 7 years are available. The minimum policy term for limited premium payment is 10 years and for single premium payment is 5 years.

 

 
 

Section G: ECONOMY

 

Authorized capital of FCI hiked to Rs 21,000 crore

In a decision aimed at bolstering the agricultural sector and ensuring the welfare of farmers nationwide, the Government of India (GoI) on February 17, 2024 announced an increase in the authorized capital of the Food Corporation of India (FCI) from Rs 10,000 Crore to Rs 21,000 Crore.

 

FCI, as the pillar of India’s food security architecture, plays a pivotal role in various crucial functions, including the procurement of food grains at Minimum Support Price (MSP), maintenance of strategic food grain stocks, distribution to state governments and Union Territories (UTs), and stabilization of food grain prices in the market.

 

The increase in authorized capital is aimed at enhancing the operational capabilities of FCI in fulfilling its mandate effectively. To match the gap of fund requirement FCI resorts to Cash Credit, Short Term Loan, Ways & Means etc. Increase of Authorised capital and further infusion will reduce the interest burden, reducing the economic cost and ultimately affecting the subsidy of GOI positively. With this infusion of capital, FCI shall also embark upon modernizing its storage facilities, improving transportation networks, and adopting advanced technologies. These measures are needed not only for reducing post-harvest losses but also for ensuring efficient distribution of food grains to consumers.

 

GoI provides equity to FCI for working capital requirement and for creation of capital assets. FCI is undertaking a comprehensive initiative to create an Integrated IT system, leveraging existing internal systems (FAP, HRMS) and external systems (State procurement portals, CWC/SWC). The E-office implementation has already made FCI a less paper organization. These initiatives of integrated IT solutions serving as the core operational software for FCI, shall provide a single source of information and streamline functions with a common digital backbone.

 

As a part of enhancing its efficiency, FCI is executing tasks such as cement roads, roof maintenance, illumination, and weighbridge upgrades, enhancing food security. Purchase of lab equipment and the development of a software platforms for QC labs aim to improve quality checking. Studies on “Out-Turn Ratio”, “Shelf-Life”, and “Pest Management for Fortified Rice” complement FCI’s commitment to building an efficient and food security management system. The integration of automated digital equipment further aligns with FCI’s objectives, aiming to remove human intervention for a transparent procurement mechanism and enhance infrastructure for employees, saving on rent and creating assets for FCI.

 

Panel set up for framing guidelines to check pesky calls

The Centre has set up a committee to formulate guidelines to address the issue of pesky, promotional or unsolicited commercial calls received by consumers. The Department of Consumer Affairs (DoCA) has constituted a committee in this regard.

 

The committee will comprise officials from the Department of Telecommunication, Department of Financial Services, Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Reserve Bank of India, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority. Representatives from Cellular Operations Association of India, telemarketing companies and voluntary consumer organisations will also be part of this committee, an official statement from DoCA stated.

 

A meeting chaired by Rohit Kumar Singh, Secretary, Department of Consumer Affairs, was held on February 14, 2024 to discuss issues faced by consumers due to pesky, promotional and unsolicited commercial calls.

 

Telemarketers have been advised to get 140-number series prefixed to their phone numbers so as help consumers to control what kind of calls or texts they want to receive.

 

DoT and TRAI have also been making efforts to address this issue. The telemarketers have been advised to get their business entity, sender IDs and SMS templates on DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) platforms. DLT platforms are operator-run portals such as Airtel, Vodafone, Jio, BSNL etc, where businesses need to register by giving their business details.

 

NITI Aayog launches portal on restoration of wastelands

Greening and Restoration of Wasteland with Agroforestry (GROW) report and portal was launched on February 12, 2024 by Prof Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog at NITI Aayog. This multi-institutional effort led by NITI Aayog utilized remote sensing and GIS to assess agroforestry suitability across all districts in India. Using thematic datasets, an Agroforestry Suitability Index (ASI) was developed for national-level prioritization. The report provides state-wise and district-wise analysis, supporting government departments and industries for greening and restoration projects.

 

The “Greening and Restoration of Wasteland with Agroforestry (GROW)-Suitability Mapping” portal Bhuvan allows universal access to state and district-level data. Currently, agroforestry covers 8.65% of India’s total geographical area, totalling about 28.42 million hectares. Current report underscores the potential benefits of converting underutilized areas, especially wastelands, for agroforestry. The GROW initiative aligns with national commitments, aiming to restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030 and create an additional carbon sink of 2.5 to 3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent.

 

India, the seventh-largest country globally, faces issues like increased build-up areas, degraded land, and imbalanced resources. Approximately 16.96% of the Total Geographical Area (TGA) is wasteland, requiring transformation for productive use. Geospatial technologies and GIS are employed to map and prioritize these wastelands for agroforestry interventions.

 

The National Agroforestry Policy in 2014, aims to enhance productivity, profitability, and sustainability through this agroecological land use system. Agroforestry integrates trees, crops, and livestock, addressing food, nutrition, energy, employment, and environmental challenges. This aligns with global commitments like the Paris Agreement, Bonn Challenge, UN Sustainable Development Goals, United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification (UNCCD), Doubling Farmers Income, Green India Mission and more.

 

India’s trade deficit widens annually to $17.49 bn in January

India’s trade deficit widens year-on-year to $17.49 billion in January this year, Commerce Ministry announced on February 15, 2024.

 

India’s January 2023 trade deficit stood at $17.03 billion and $19.8 billion in December 2023.

 

Merchandise exports in January rose 3.12 per cent on an annual basis to $36.92 billion, up from $35.8 in the same month a year ago. Merchandise exports in December were $38.45 billion.

 

Meanwhile, merchandise imports in January were $54.41 billion, up 3 per cent year-on-year. Merchandise imports figure in December stood at $58.25 billion.

 

In January, services exports were $32.80 billion, while imports were $16.05 billion. In December, services exports were $27.88 billion and imports were $13.25 billion.

 

Services exports in January were $32.80 billion and imports were $16.05 billion in January. In December, services exports and imports were $27.88 billion and $13.25 billion respectively.

 

During April-January FY24, exports dropped 4.89 per cent to $353.92 billion while imports slipped 6.71 per cent to $561.12 billion.

 

16th Finance Commission holds first meeting

The 16th Finance Commission (XVI-FC) held its first meeting under the Chairmanship of Dr. Arvind Panagariya in Jawahar Vyapar Bhawan, Janpath, New Delhi on February 14, 2024.

 

The XVI-FC discussed its Terms of Reference, as per the order made by the President of India and notified by the Ministry of Finance vide Notification S.O. 5533(E), dated 31st December, 2023.

 

The XVI-FC acknowledged the need for wide ranging consultations with various stakeholders, including State Governments, Local Bodies, Ministries of Government of India, and experts.

 

The XVI-FC recognised that it will be carrying out detailed analytical work and would require to rope in all the expertise that it can garner, including that from leading research organisations, leading think tanks and other organisations working in the area of fiscal federal relations.

 

The XVI-FC approved the setting-up of its office at Jawahar Vyapar Bhawan on Janpath in New Delhi.

 

The XVI-FC will make its recommendations available by 31st October, 2025, covering an award period of 5 years commencing 1st April, 2026.

 

PM announces Surya Ghar Muft Bijli Yojana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 13, 2024 announced the launch of rooftop solar scheme for free electricity – PM Surya Ghar Muft Bijli Yojana. This project, with an investment of over Rs. 75,000 crores, aims to light up 1 crore households by providing up to 300 units of free electricity every month.” Residential consumers can apply at-  pmsuryaghar.gov.in”

 

SUFALAM 2024 organised by Ministry of Food Processing Industries

Start Up Forum for Aspiring Leaders and Mentors (SUFALAM) 2024 was organised by the organised by Ministry of Food Processing Industries in New Delhi on February 13-14, 2024. The event concluded with a take home message that Innovations, Collaborations and advanced technologies in different facets of Food Processing are the key drivers for transforming Start-ups in food processing domain to established food businesses. The event was inaugurated by the Union Minister of Food Processing Industries Pashupati Kumar Paras and witnessed participation from over 250 stakeholders, comprising of start-ups, senior executives from Food Processing companies, MSMEs, financial institutions, venture capitalists, and academia.

 

Workshop on DAY-NULM held in collaboration with UNDP

A two-day national workshop was held in Ranchi, Jharkhand on February 15-16, 2024, under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihoods Mission (DAY-NULM), the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA), in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). With participation from about 150 delegates from across the country, the workshop served as a platform for deliberations on emerging trends and opportunities in urban livelihoods, with a primary focus on bolstering resilience and empowerment for women across urban The event featured multiple panel discussions focusing on enabling strategies to foster women-led urban livelihoods and emerging sectors and types of enterprises in climate, services, retail, and manufacturing. It also explored other themes like the Multidimensional Poverty Index (NMPI) and the role of philanthropies in addressing issues of urban poverty through identifying priority areas and innovative financial investments.

 

PFRDA brings pension funds under PMLA net

In a major overhaul of its pension fund regulations, pension regulator PFRDA has brought pension funds within the ambit of Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), tightening the oversight on these entities. It has as part of the latest amendments to its existing pension fund regulations introduced a concept of ‘fit and proper’ criteria for Principal Officers of both the sponsor and the pension fund. Every pension fund in the market should have ‘pension fund’ as part of its name (for instance one cannot have UTI Retirement Solutions as name of Pension Fund). PFRDA Chairman Deepak Mohanty expressed confidence that pension assets will surpass ₹12-lakh crore by end March 2024.

 

Wholesale inflation eases to 3-month low of 0.27% in January

The wholesale price index (WPI)-based inflation eased to a three-month low of 0.27 per cent in January, mainly due to moderation of food prices, including vegetables. The WPI inflation was in the negative zone from April to October and had turned positive in November at 0.39 per cent. In January 2023, it was at 4.8 per cent and in December 2023, it was 0.73 per cent.

 

Retail inflation eases to 3-month low of 5.1%

Retail inflation moderated to a three-month low in Jan on the back of a favourable base and some easing in food and fuel prices, while industrial output growth rebounded in Dec, led by manufacturing. Data released by the National Statistical Office (NSO) on February 12, 2024 showed inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose an annual 5.1% in Jan, slower than the previous month’s 5.7%.

 

India’s forex reserves dip by $5.24 bn to $617.23 bn as of Feb 9

India’s foreign exchange reserves dipped by of $5.24 billion to $617.23 billion for the week ending on February 9, latest data by Reserve Bank of India (RBI) showed on February 16, 2024. According to the Weekly Statistical Supplement released by the RBI, Foreign currency assets (FCAs) dropped by $4.81 billion to $546.52 billion. Expressed in dollar terms, the FCAs include the effect of appreciation or depreciation of non-US units like the euro, pound and yen held in the foreign exchange reserves. Gold reserves fell by $350 million to $47.74 billion, whereas SDRs decreased by $55 million to $18.14 billion. Reserve position in the IMF decreased by $28 million to $4.83 billion.

 

Global pulses meet organised in Delhi

The Global Pulse Confederation (GPC)’s three days convention — Pulses 24 — was organised in Delhi from February 15 to 17, 2024. The event, organised by GPC in co-operation with co-operative major NAFED (National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India Ltd.), aimed to spread the message of pulses as smart crops for a sustainable future and provide a platform for collaboration and innovation to further this mission. India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of pulses. This is the first time the annual conference organised by the GPC was held in India.

 

FSSAI certifies over 500 hospitals as ‘Eat Right Campuses’

The Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) on February 14, 2024 said it has certified more than 500 hospitals as ‘Eat Right Campus’. This is part of the food safety authority’s Eat Right India initiative that focuses on creating safe, healthy and sustainable food environment within various institutions and workplaces, including hospitals.

 

Sonowal launches ‘Sagar Aankalan’ guidelines for Indian Port Performance Index

The Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways and Ayush, Sarbananda Sonowal launched ‘Sagar Aankalan’ guidelines during the stakeholders meet for implementation of the MoUs signed earlier at the Global Maritime India Summit 2023 (GMIS 2023) in New Delhi on February 16, 2024. The “Sagar Aankalan” Guidelines for National Benchmarking of Indian Ports Performance would be applicable to all Indian seaports with an aim to achieve; Mapping and benchmarking of Indian Port’s – logistics performance and efficiency, Harmonisation of standards, definitions and performance with global benchmarks, Improving competitiveness, efficiency and overall performance of the port sector with focus on improvement, productivity, sustainability and customer satisfaction.

 

Ranjeet Kumar Agarwal takes over as ICAI President

The CA Institute has a new President in Ranjeet Kumar Agarwal for the council year 2024-25. He has assumed charge as the 72nd President of Institute of Chartered Accountants of India (ICAI), which is world’s largest accounting body, on February 12, 2024. Charanjot Singh Nanda, Central Council Member, has been elected as Vice-President of ICAI.

 

 
 

Section H: CORPORATE

 

JSW Steel, JFE Steel JV to set up electrical steel facility

The joint venture between JSW Steel and JFE Steel Corporation will be setting up its facility in Bellary in Karnataka, with a planned investment of 5,500 crore rupees, and is targeting to start production in 2026-27 (Apr-Mar).

The joint venture – called JSW JFE Electrical Steel – will produce grain oriented electrical steel, which finds application in energy-efficient transformers, and will the first company in India to have end-to-end manufacturing of grain oriented electrical steel products.

 

EaseMyTrip founder and SpiceJet promoter bid for GoFirst

EaseMyTrip founder Nishant Pitti and SpiceJet promoter Ajay Singh have submitted a joint bid to revive GoFirst, giving the budget carrier, grounded since May 2023, another chance of a restart. While Pitti, who has bid through his company Busy Bee Airways, will bring in about Rs 500 crore for the revival process, Singh, who has bid in his personal capacity, brings experience of running an airline to the table. Another bid for GoFirst has come from Sharjah-based Sky One. A third company, Safrik Investments, has also shown interest in the airline. The National Company Law Tribunal had on Feb 13 extended the deadline by another 60 days to complete GoFirst’s resolution process. The first attempt did not see GoFirst getting any bids. Safrik Investments has presence in New York, Abidjan and Dubai.

 

Quess Corp to split into 3 independent listed cos

Quess Corp announced its split into three independent entities in what the business services provider said is a move aimed at unlocking shareholder value. This will result in the separate listed companies of Quess Corp, Digitide Solutions and Bluspring Enterprises. They will handle workforce management (Quess), business process management, Insurtech and HR outsourcing (Digitide) and facility management, industrial services, and investments (Bluspring).

 

Eris acquires 51 pc stake in Swiss Parenterals for Rs 637.5 cr

Eris Lifesciences acquired a 51 per cent stake in Swiss Parenterals for Rs 637.5 crore. Ahmedabad-based Swiss Parenterals is a leading player in the sterile injectables business in over 80 emerging markets across Africa, the Asia Pacific and Latin America.

It has two facilities in Gujarat, which produce a wide range of sterile injectable formulations.

 

Wipro to buy $66-mn stake in Aggne Global

Wipro Ltd. announced a deal to acquire 60% equity in U.S.-based Aggne Global, a consulting and managed services company, for $66 million in an all-cash deal to strengthen its consulting and services capabilities for the insurance sector.

 

Mizuho takes 15% stake in Credit Saison

Mizuho Bank, Japan’s third largest bank by assets has invested Rs 1200 crore for a 15% stake in Bangalore based non-banking finance company (NBFC) Credit Saison as it seeks to diversify into lending to small enterprises and consumer finance in India even as it expands its large corporate book.

 

Yatharth Hospital acquires Faridabad-based Asian Fidelis for Rs 116 crore

Yatharth Hospital and Trauma Care Services acquired Faridabad-based Asian Fidelis Hospital for Rs 116 crore. The healthcare provider, which currently operates three super specialty hospitals in NCR (national capital region), has inked a definitive agreement with Pristine Infracon Pvt Ltd and its shareholders for the buyout.

 

NCLT approves Shri Dutt’s acquisition of Indian Sugar manufacturing co

The bankruptcy court has approved the acquisition of Indian Sugar Manufacturing Company by the consortium of Shri Dutt India and Shri Dutt Biofuels. The company’s total admitted liabilities were about ₹523 crore and the successful bidder is paying ₹175 crore to acquire the company. Before the tribunal’s approval, the resolution plan was approved by the company’s lenders with 100% of voting share in favour of the consortium.

MoD inks contract with BEL for navy warfare systems

The Ministry of Defence signed a contract with Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL), Hyderabad on February 13, 2024 in New Delhi, for procurement of 11 Shakti Electronic Warfare Systems along with associated equipment / accessories for Indian Navy under Buy (Indian- IDDM) category at a total cost of Rs.2269.54 Cr. The Shakti EW System is indigenously designed, developed and manufactured. The Shakti EW System is capable of accurately intercepting electronic emissions and implement counter measures in dense electromagnetic environment. The Shakti EW System will be installed on-board capital warships of Indian Navy. The project will generate employment of two and half lakh man-days over a period of four years with participation of more than 155 industry partners including MSMEs

 

Park Hotels listed

Shares of Apeejay Surrendra Park Hotels, which runs hotels under the ‘The Park’ brand, climbed 32 per cent to close at ₹205 on its debut trade on February 12, 2024 against the issue price of ₹155. The stock listed at ₹186 with a premium of 20 per cent on the NSE. During the day, it hit an intra-day high of ₹223.20. On the BSE, the shares of Park Hotels ended 31.26 per cent higher at ₹203.45.

 

New CMD appointed at IRCTC

Railway PSU IRCTC announced the appointment of Sanjay Kumar Jain as its Chairman and Managing Director in February 2024. Prior to this role, Jain was Principal Chief Commercial Manager (PCCM) of Northern Railway, Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation Ltd (IRCTC).

 

 
 

Section I: STATES

 

Bihar: CM Nitish Kumar wins trust vote

The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar won the floor test in the Bihar Assembly on February 12, 2024 with the support of 129 MLAs. Three legislators of the Opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) voted in favour of the government amid a walkout by all non-NDA MLAs. The government needed the support of at least 122 MLAs to win the majority test in the 243-member Assembly.

 

Ahead of the trust vote, Bihar Assembly Speaker and RJD leader Awadh Bihari Choudhary, who had earlier refused to resign, was removed with 125 MLAs voting in favour of the motion and 112 opposing it. Deputy Speaker Maheshwar Hazari of the JD(U) then chaired the House. After the House passed the resolution for the removal of the Speaker, Mr. Kumar moved the motion seeking trust vote for the new NDA government he had formed with the BJP on January 28. The motion was passed 129-0 through voice vote after the Opposition walked out from the House.

 

The NDA, comprising the BJP, Janata Dal (United), Hindustani Awam Morcha (Secular), and an Independent MLA, had support of 128 MLAs while the Opposition Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) of the RJD, Congress, and Left partieshad the support of 114 legislators. One MLA of Asaduddin Owaisi’s All Indian Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), Akhtarul Iman, was undecided.

 

On January 28, Nitish Kumar left Mahagathbandhan and joined hands with the BJP again to form the NDA government in the State. He took oath as Chief Minister for a record ninth time along with two Deputy CMs from BJP and six Ministers. Kumar who has been Chief Minister of the State since November 2005.

 

PM-WANI service expanded in Bihar

Union Minister of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj  Giriraj Singh inaugurated an initiative on February 13, 2024 at Paprour Gram Panchayat under Barauni Block of Begusarai District aimed at digital empowerment in Grameen Bharat (rural India). The pilot project titled ‘Smart Gram Panchayat: Revolution towards Digitization of Gram Panchayat’ was launched with the aim to extend PM-WANI (Prime Minister’s Wi-Fi Access Network Interface) Service in all Gram Panchayats across Begusarai District in Bihar. Begusarai has now become the first District in Bihar to equip all Gram Panchayats with Wi-Fi services under the PM-WANI Scheme.

 

U.P. invokes ESMA, imposes six-month ban on protests

The Uttar Pradesh government on February 16, 2024 invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA), banning strikes by government employees in all State departments, corporations and authorities for a period of six months. “In exercise of the powers under sub-section (1) of Section 3 of the Uttar Pradesh Essential Services Maintenance Act, 1966 (UP Act No. 30 of 1966), the State government prohibited strike for six months from the date of the notification,” reads the notice issued by Additional Chief Secretary Devesh Chaturvedi.

 

Rajasthan: PM lays foundation stone of NHPC’s Bikaner solar power plant

Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the 300 MW Solar Power Plant located at Karnisar-Bhatiyan vilage, in Poogal Tehsil, Bikaner, Rajasthan through video conferencing mode on February 16, 2024. The project is being set up by NHPC Limited under Government of India’s CPSU Scheme, Phase-II, Tranche-III with a total investment of over Rs. 1,732 crores. The project aims to produce around 750 million units of green power annually, considering a Capacity Utilization Factor (CUF) of 28.50%. The Power Usage Agreement for the project has been inked with Punjab State Power Corporation Limited (PSPCL), at a tariff of Rs. 2.45/unit for 25 years, considering Viability Gap Funding (VGF) of ₹ 134.70 crores offered by the Ministry of New & Renewable Energy, Government of India.

 

 

IAF conducts Exercise Vayu Shakti in Rajasthan

The Indian Air Force conducted Exercise Vayu Shakti at the Pokhran range near Jaisalmer in Rajasthan. This year’s theme: ‘Lightning Strike from the Sky’. The event also included a free fall drop by the Akashganga team and flare dispensing by C-130J by night. During the display, approximately 50 tonnes of ordnance was dropped in a short span of two hours over an area of two square km. The event showcased IAFs offensive lethality and precision targeting capability.

 

PM lays foundation stone of AIIMS Rewari in Haryana

Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Rewari in the presence of Bandaru Dattatreya, Governor, Haryana, on February 16, 2024. The Prime Minister also laid the foundation stone of various other development works in Haryana. The establishment of AIIMS, Rewari in Haryana has been approved under the Pradhan Mantri Swasthya Suraksha Yojana (PMSSY) scheme of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India. PMSSY aims to correct regional imbalances in the availability of affordable and reliable specialized health services and to enhance facilities for quality medical education in the country. So far, establishment of 22 new AIIMS has been approved under PMSSY. Of these, 15 AIIMS have been approved since 2014. AIIMS of Haryana is one of them. This new AIIMS is being developed at a cost of Rs 1650 crore on 203 acres of land at Majra Mastil Bhalkhi village in Rewari district of Haryana.

 

National Conference on Jal Jeevan Mission held in Lucknow

The Department of Drinking Water and Sanitation (DDWS) organised National Conference on Jal Jeevan Mission (JJM) on February 16-17, 2024 in Lucknow in the presence of Union Minister of Jal Shakti, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, alongside senior officials from Govt. of India and States/ UTs. The conference aimed at ensuring a unified approach towards sustainable solutions for effective operation and maintenance (O&M) of the water infrastructure, and witnessed wide participation from stakeholders across States/ UTs. The gathering served as an enriching platform for the confluence of ideas, experiences, and best practices to sustain and propel JJM objectives and sustainability. Shekhawat launched a novel initiative ‘Citizen Corner’ on the dynamic dashboard of Jal Jeevan Mission. ‘Citizen Corner’ is a one-stop solution with an easy interface with real-time details on water quality of a village and all other water supply information at the click of a button and puts the ability to manage water quality and supply directly into the hands of the citizens.

 

Tamil Nadu passes resolutions against delimitation, ‘One Nation, One Election’

The Tamil Nadu Assembly on February 14, 2024 ‘unanimously’ adopted two resolutions against the Union government’s ‘One Nation, One Election’ proposal and the proposed delimitation after 2026.

 

The resolution against the proposed delimitation reads, “This august House urges the Union government that the delimitation process, to be carried out after 2026 on the basis of the census, should not be implemented. Owing to unavoidable reasons, if the number of seats on the basis of population is to increase, it shall be maintained at the present ratio of the constituencies between the States in the Assemblies and both Houses of Parliament fixed on the basis of the population of 1971.” It further says, “This august House also urges that States like Tamil Nadu should not be penalised for implementing socio-economic development programmes and welfare schemes over the past 50 years.”

 

The resolution against ‘One Nation, One Election’ proposal reads, “This august House urges the Union government not to implement the ‘One Nation, One Election’ policy as the theory is against the basis of democracy; impractical; and not enshrined in the Constitution of India.” It further says that the elections to the local bodies, the Assemblies and Parliament are being held at different times on the basis of people-centric issues in a vast and diverse country like India, and the concept is against the idea of democratic decentralisation.

 

Tamil Nadu: Jailed Minister Senthilbalaji resigns from cabinet

Jailed Tamil Nadu Minister without portfolio V. Senthilbalaji, who was arrested in June 2023 by the Enforcement Directorate in an alleged money laundering case, resigned from the Cabinet on February 12, 2024. He had sent his resignation to the Chief Minister from the Puzhal Central Prison. The case has its roots in an alleged cash-for-job scam in the Metropolitan Transport Corporation (MTC), which took place when Senthilbalaji was the Transport Minister (2011-15) in the Jayalalithaa Cabinet. Before his arrest, Senthilbalaji was holding the plum portfolios of Electricity and Excise and Prohibition. Chief Minister M.K. Stalin had retained him as Minister without portfolio and allocated the subjects to two other senior colleagues.

 

Tamil Nadu: 10 dead in blast at fireworks unit

Ten workers were killed and six injured in an explosion at a private fireworks factory unit in Kundayiruppu near Sattur in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district on February 17, 2024. The blast, which took place at the Ashok Sparklers factory at about 12:30 p.m., completely destroyed five out of the 74 buildings on the premises.

 

Karnataka CM launches Asha Kirana scheme

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah launch ‘Asha Kirana Eye Care at Your Doorstep’ under the aegis of National Programme for Control of Blindness and Visual Impairment on February 18, 2024. An initiative by the Department of Health and Family Welfare, comprehensive eye check-ups will be done for individuals across all age groups under the ‘Asha Kirana’ scheme. Free spectacles will be provided to the visually impaired and cataract surgeries will be done free of cost, the statement said.

 

Karnataka to launch new agri scheme to make farming sustainable

Karnataka plans to consolidate various agri schemes to launch a new one to help farmers make agriculture sustainable and lucrative. “Making agriculture sustainable and lucrative is our Government’s top priority. Keeping this in mind and to encourage integrated agriculture, various schemes related to agricultural sector will be consolidated and a new scheme called Karnataka Raitha Samruddhi Yojane will be started from this year,” said Chief Minister Siddaramiah in the State budget for 2024-25 on February 16, 2024. The scheme aims to assist farmers in achieving stable incomes through diverse agricultural activities such as farming, animal husbandry, horticulture, and dairy farming. It includes guidance on crop selection based on soil and market factors, soil testing, adoption of new practices and technologies, awareness of storage and value addition opportunities, and establishing market connections for better pricing.

 

Karnataka: Bill on use of Kannada on sign boards passed

A fine will be imposed and trade licence cancelled if business establishments in Karnataka fail to display name boards with 60% of text in Kannada in the upper half of the boards, according to a Bill passed by voice vote by the Karnataka Legislative Assembly on February 15, 2024. Under the Kannada Language Comprehensive Development (Amendment) Bill, 2024, an enforcement wing, involving police and Kannada and Culture Department officials, would be formed to monitor name boards, particularly in Bengaluru. An app would be launched soon to enable the public to upload complaints against business establishments that fail to display their boards as per the rule.

 

Telangana Assembly passes resolution for caste survey

The Telangana Legislative Assembly in Hyderabad on February 16, 2024 passed a resolution to take up a comprehensive door-to-door household caste survey in the state to plan and implement various plans for the progress of backward classes, SC and ST citizens and other weaker sections. The resolution, moved by Backward Classes Welfare Minister Ponnam Prabhakar, was adopted after a debate in the House.

 

Regional centre of Sangeet Natak Akademi opened in Hyderabad

Former Vice President and Padma Vibhushan Awardee M. Venkaiah Naidu and Union Minister of Culture, Tourism and DoNER G Kishan Reddy inaugurated the Regional Centre of the Sangeet Natak Akademi in Hyderabad that will be known as Dakshin Bharat Sanskritik kendra on February 13, 2024. They also laid the foundation stone for the Bharata Kala Mandapam auditorium as a part of the centenary celebrations of Ghantasala.

 

Kerala passes resolution requesting Union govt. to amend wildlife Act

The Kerala Assembly on February 14, 2024 adopted a unanimous resolution urging the Centre to suitably amend the Wildlife Protection Act to mitigate human-wildlife conflicts. Members across the aisle supported the resolution aimed at eliminating wildlife that trespass on human habitations, imperilling the life and property of citizens, destroying crops and preying on livestock.

 

Odisha: Organ donors’ funeral to be held with full state honours

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has announced a new initiative to encourage organ donation in the state. Under this initiative, the funeral of organ donors will be conducted with full state honours. The Chief Minister’s Office (CMO) announced this on February 15, 2024. The Odisha government established the State Organ & Tissues Transplant Organization (SOTTO) in 2019. Additionally, the government introduced the Suraj Award in 2020, named after a young individual from Bhanjanagar, Ganjam district. Suraj was declared brain dead after a road accident, and his family’s decision to donate his organs resulted in six lives being saved. In recognition of the immense contribution made by organ donors, the government provides a financial assistance of Rs 5 lakh from the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund to the families of these donors.

 

Odisha: JSW to invest ₹65,000 crore to set up steel complex

Sajjan Jindal-led JSW Group plans to invest ₹65,000 crore in setting up an integrated steel manufacturing complex comprising a steel plant with 13.2 mtpa capacity, a cement factory, and a captive power and cargo handling facility at Paradip in Odisha. JSW Steel laid the foundation stone for building the steel plant on February 16, 2024 after the Industrial Development Corporation of Odisha handed over 2,958 acres to the company. The Odisha government had originally acquired the land for a 12 mtpa steel project proposed by POSCO in 2018.

 

Odisha to give ₹1,000 to all PDS families

In Odisha, Naveen Patnaik government on February 12, 2024 announced to provide one-time livelihood assistance of ₹1,000 in cash to each of the over 95.90 lakh families covered under the Public Distribution System (PDS). The government also declared launch of ‘SWAYAM’ under which ₹1 lakh of interest-free bank loans will be provided to all rural unemployed youths aged between 18-35 years (18-40 years for special category) for initiating new business venture. As far as ‘SWAYAM’ scheme is concerned, rural youths having family income less than ₹2 lakh are eligible for receiving ₹1 lakh loan.

 

Maharashtra: Panel hands over Maratha quota report to CM

Maharashtra State Backward Class Commission (MSBCC) head Justice (Retd) Sunil Shukre on February 16, 2024 handed over the survey report examining the backwardness of Maratha community to Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde and deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis. The report, which has not yet been made public, is widely expected to conclude that the community is socially, educationally and economically backward and pave the way for legislation providing for a Maratha quota in the special assembly session on Feb 20.

 

Maharashtra: Ajit Pawar’s group real NCP, so no MLAs disqualified: Speaker

After Election Commission’s order granting NCP name and symbol to deputy CM Ajit Pawar on February 6, Maharashtra assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar on February 15, 2024 endorsed it, recognizing the deputy CM as real head of the party as his group has a legislative majority with 41 MLAs on his side and 12 with party founder Sharad Pawar. EC has permitted the Sharad Pawar bloc to use the name ‘NCP (Sharadchandra Pawar)’; the faction is awaiting allotment of symbol.

 

Maharashtra to sell sand online on ‘no profit no loss’ basis

The Maharashtra government has decided to sell sand online on a “no profit no loss” basis, a move that will enable people to buy the key construction material at a cheaper rate and curb illegal sand mining, revenue minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil said on February 14, 2024. The change in the policy will also help curb illegal mining of sand, its transportation and storage, he said. The minister said under the earlier policy, there were cases of irregularities and criminal activities, alluding the attacks by sand miners on government officials. Under the new scheme, tenders will be invited for management of mining of sand, its transportation and construction of sand mining depots. It will also enable setting up of a technical committee under tehsildar to monitor the sand in creeks and rivers, the minister said.

 

 

First-ever Digital India future SKILLS Summit held in Guwahati

Union Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Skill Development & Entrepreneurship, and Jal Shakti, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, announced that Assam will soon have its first-ever semiconductor packaging plant worth nearly Rs 25,000 Crore. He made this announcement during his address at the first-ever Digital India future SKILLS Summit, which was held on February 15, 2024 at the Birinchi Kumar Baruah Auditorium, Gauhati University. The Digital India future SKILLS Summit hosted by the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) through the National Institute of Electronics and IT (NIELIT) witnessed the convergence of esteemed dignitaries, industry leaders, academia, policymakers and technology enthusiasts to deliberate on strategies for Catalyzing future-ready talent for India & the World.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Jain seer Vidyasagar Maharaj passes away at 77

Digamber Jain seer Acharya Vidyasagar Maharaj passed away at the age of 77 on February 17, 2024 at Chandragiri Teerth of Dongargarh in Rajnandgaon, Chhattisgarh. Maharaj was the most renowned saint in the Digambar Jain community. Born on Oct 10, 1946, in Karnataka’s Sadalga, the seer embraced spirituality at 22 and was initiated as a Digambar monk by Acharya Gyansagar Ji Maharaj. In 1972, he was elevated to Acharya status.

 

Actress Kavita Choudhry passes away at 67

Actress Kavita Choudhry passed away at the age of 67 in Amritsar on February 15, 2024. She became well-known for playing the role of IPS officer Kalyani Singh in TV serial Udaan, which ran from 1989 to 1991 on Doordarshan. The serial was about a spirited girl who overcomes financial worries and gender barriers to become a police officer. It was inspired by the life of Kavita’s sister, Kanchan Choudhry Bhattacharya, India’s second woman IPS officer and the first woman director general of police. Kavita had earlier become a familiar face modelling for Surf as the fictional character Lalita-ji.

 

 
 

Section J: SPORTS

 

Badminton Asia Team Championships held in Malaysia

China beat hosts Malaysia 3-0 to won the men’s title at the Badminton Asia Team Championships 2024 in Shah Alam on February 18, 2024.

 

Weng Hongyang defeated Leong Jun Hao 21-19, 21-17.

 

In the doubles match, Xie Haonan and Zeng Weihan defeated Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik 21-16, 16-21, 23-21.

 

In the third match, Lei Lanxi defeated Eogene Ewe 21-10, 21-14.

 

India defeated Thailand 3-2 in final to win women’s title for the first time.

 

PV Sindhu defeated Supanida Katethong 21-12, 21-12 in the first match.

 

In the first doubles match, Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand defeated Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai 21-16, 18-21, 21-16 to give India a 2-0 lead.

 

Busanan Ongbamrungphan defeated Ashmita Chaliha 21-11, 21-14 in the third match.

 

In the second doubles match, Benyapa Aimsaard and Nuntakarn Aimsaard defeated Priya Konjengbam and Shruti Mishra 21-11, 21-9 to make the score 2-2 in best of five final.

 

In the deciding match, Anmol Kharb beat Pornpicha Choeikeewong 21-14, 21-9 to win the title for India.

 

Africa Cup of Nations football

Tournament hosts Ivory Coast beat Nigeria 2-1 in the final to win the 2023 Africa Cup of Nations final in Abidjan on February 11, 2024, adding to their continental titles won in 1992 and 2015. William Troost-Ekong put Nigeria ahead in 38th minute. Franck Kessie equalised for the hosts in 62nd minute. Sebastien Haller scored the second goal for the winners in the 81st minute. Emilio Nsue of Equatorial Guinea won the golden boot for the top scorer (5 goals) at the tournament. Other awards — Player of the tournament: William Troost Ekong (Nigeria), Best goalkeeper: Ronwen Williams (South Africa), Young player of the tournament: Simon Adingra (Ivory Coast), Fair play award: South Africa.

 

Stefano Napolitano clinches Bengaluru Open tennis

Stefano Napolitano of Italy defeated Seongchan Hong of South Korea 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 in the final to win the men’s singles title at Bengaluru Open ATP Challenger tennis on February 18, 2024. India’s Ramkumar Ramanathan and Saketh Myneni won the men’s doubles title by defeating Frenchmen Constantin Bittoun Kouzmine and Maxime Janvier 6-3, 6-4 in the final.

 

Iga Swiatek wins Qatar Open tennis

Poland’s Iga Swiatek won the women’s singles title at Qatar Open tennis tournament on February 18, 2024 by defeating Elena Rybakina of Kazakhstan 7-6 (8), 6-2 in the final.

 

UWW lifts the suspension on WFI

The United World Wrestling (UWW) on February 13, 2024 lifted the suspension on the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) with immediate effect, asking it adhere to certain conditions related to athletes’ welfare. Now the Indian wrestlers, who had to compete under the UWW flag during the suspension period, will be able to compete under the National flag in UWW events. UWW had provisionally suspended the WFI on August 23, 2023 after the National federation failed to hold its elections in time owing to the wrestlers’ protest against former president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh. The UWW Disciplinary Chamber had found sufficient grounds to impose the provisional suspension as the situation in the federation prevailed for at least six months. The UWW Bureau, which met on February 9, decided to lift the suspension under the following conditions:

 

India beat England by 434 runs to go 2-1 up in Test series

India (445 and 430/4) defeated England (319 and 122) by 434 runs in the third test at Saurashtra Cricket Association Stadium (renamed as Niranjan Shah Stadium) in Rajkot on February 18, 2024 to go 2-1 up in the five-match Test series. This was India’s biggest Test win in terms of runs, surpassing the 372-run victory over New Zealand in 2021. Chasing a daunting 557 for victory, England were bundled out for 122 on day four of the contest. Ravindra Jadeja was Player Of The Match for taking seven wickets in two innings and scoring 112 runs in first innings.

 

Asian indoor athletics championships held in Tehran

The Asian Indoor Athletics Championships 2024 was held in Tehran, Iran, from February 17 to 19. India returned with four medals – three gold and one silver. Tajinderpal Singh Toor (men’s shot put), Jyothi Yarraji (women’s 60 m hurdles) and Harmilan Bains (women’s 1500 m in 4:29.55s) won gold medals while Ankita Dhyani (women’s 3000m) won silver. Indian athletes also broke two national records in Tehran. Jyothi Yarraji’s timing of 8.12s in the women’s 60m hurdles saw her better her own mark of 2023 by 0.1 seconds. Tajindepal’s winning throw of 19.72m shattered the previous indoor shot put national record of 19.60m set by Vikas Gowda back in 2005.

 

Legendary South African all-rounder Mike Procter dies at 77

Former South African all-rounder Mike Procter died at the age of 77 in Durban on February 17, 2024. Procter’s career as a fast bowler, capable off-spinner, hard-hitting middle-order batter, and astute captain is etched in the annals of South African cricket history. Procter was South Africa’s coach in the post apartheid era. He could only feature in seven Tests due to South Africa’s isolation in 1970s and 1980s.

 

Former India skipper Dattajirao Gaekwad passes away at 95

India’s oldest Test cricketer and former captain Dattajirao Gaekwad passed away in Vadodara on February 13, 2024 at the age of 95. Dattajirao was the father of former India opener and national coach Aunshuman Gaekwad. He played 11 Tests for India between 1952 and 1961, captaining the national team in 1959 when it toured England. The right-hander made his debut against England at Leeds in 1952 and his final international game was against Pakistan in Chennai in 1961. In the Ranji Trophy, Gaekwad represented Baroda from 1947 to 1961. He became India’s oldest living Test cricketer in 2016 after the death of former batter Deepak Shodhan at the age of 87 in Ahmedabad.

 

 

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