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Weekly Current Affairs March 2024 (12th to 18th Mar 2024)

 

 

Current Affairs March 2024

Read this post to know about Weekly Current Affairs in short for the Week March 12 to 18, 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 2 of March are given below:

 

Weekly Current Affairs Update

For the Week: March 12 to 18, 2024

HEADLINES

 
 
Section A: INDIA

  • announces implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act
  • MHA launches mobile app for those seeking citizenship under CAA
  • Panel suggests 18 amendments to Constitution, other statutes for simultaneous polls
  • Agni-V nuclear missile test conducted under Mission Divyastra
  • SC asks SBI to reveal unique serial number on electoral bonds
  • Centre shuts down Rashtriya Mahila Kosh
  • Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Test to be conducted nationwide
  • Indian patent office grants 1 lakh patents in past year
  • Govt notifies Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 2024
  • Digital Criminal Case Management System (CCMS) Platform of NIA launched
  • Skill development and education program for Sikh community launched
  • NITI Aayog Launches ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative
  • PM launches portal for marginalised sections
  • Prasar Bharati launches news sharing service
  • 18 OTT apps blocked for vulgar content
  • Govt designates I4C as agency of MHA to notify unlawful activities in cyber world
  • MeiTY drops ‘permission’ rule for AI models
  • PM distributes 1000 Kisan drones to 1000 NaMo Drone Didis
  • GRSE launches two new warships for Indian Navy
  • Infantry combat vehicle upgrades: Govt inks deal with AVNL
  • Defence Minister approves expansion of National Cadet Corps
  • India Navy’s first independent headquarters inaugurated in Delhi
  • Army raises first unit to operate Apache attack helicopters in Jodhpur
  • Coast Guard seizes Pak boat with narcotics worth ₹480 cr in Arabian Sea
  • Directorate of Revenue Intelligence conducts operation ‘Rising Sun’
  • Lok Sabha elections to begin from April 19; counting on June 4
  • Centre for Jain Studies to be set up in Indore
  • Centre of Jain Manuscriptology to be set up at Gujarat University
  • Centre of Gurumukhi script at Khalsa college in the University of Delhi
  • Centre for Advanced studies in Buddhist Studies at University of Delhi
  • Gyanesh Kumar, Sukhbir Singh Sandhu appointed ECs
  • Ex-bureaucrat Navneet Kumar Sehgal is new Prasar Bharati chairman
  • Bureaucrat Rahul Singh appointed new CBSE chief
  • Sheyphali Sharan is new govt spokesperson
  • AS Rajeev assumes charge as Vigilance Commissioner
  • Kishor Makwana appointed new chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Castes
  • EC announces Para-archer as National Icon
  • Former Navy Chief Admiral (retd) L. Ramdas dies at 90

 

Section B: INDIA & THE WORLD

  • India ranked 134th on UN Human Development Index for 2022
  • Bhutan’s PM visits India
  • Cabinet approves signing of MoUs with Bhutan on energy efficiency
  • Cabinet approves India-Middle East Europe Economic Corridor
  • President Droupadi Murmu visits Mauritius
  • India abstains in UNGA on Pak resolution on Islamophobia
  • Global Connectedness Report unveiled by DHL
  • Democracy Report 2024 released by the Gothenburg-based V-Dem Institute
  • India remains world’s top arms importer in 2019–2023
  • refutes Harvard study on “zero-food children”
  • Indian commandos foil bid by Somali pirates to attack ships on high seas
  • India, Dominican Republic ink trade protocol
  • Tri-service exercise ‘Bharat Shakti’ held in Rajasthan
  • India-Seychelles joint exercise
  • PHFI 2nd on list in global ranking of public health institutions
  • Govt, ADB ink USD 23 mn loan pact to strengthen fintech ecosystem in India
  • Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs visits India

 

Section C: WORLD

  • EU and Egypt agree to a €7.4-billion deal on energy, migration
  • Spain’s Congress backs amnesty law for Catalan separatists
  • Elections held in Portugal
  • UK tests laser weapon DragonFire
  • Iran, Russia, China conduct Marine Security Belt 2024 joint naval drill
  • Warring tribes in Papua New Guinea sign ceasefire deal
  • Pak Navy gets its first spy ship
  • Niger junta ends US military deal, seeks troops’ exit
  • Nepal govt declares Pokhara its tourism capital
  • Denmark to start conscripting women for military service
  • Joint US-South Korea annual drills wrapped up
  • US House passes bill that could ban TikTok nationwide
  • World Oral Health Day celebrated on March 20
  • Global Recycling Day observed on March 18
  • World Sleep Day observed on March 15
  • International Day to Combat Islamophobia observed on March 15
  • World Consumer Rights Day celebrated on March 15
  • International Day of Mathematics observed on March 14
  • International Day of Action For Rivers observed on March 14
  • Haiti’s prime minister Ariel Henry resigns as law and order collapses
  • Nepal PM Prachanda wins vote of confidence in Parliament
  • Palestinian leader names adviser Mohammed Mustafa as PM

 

Section D: SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

  • ISRO’s INSAT-3DS captures first images of earth
  • Four astronauts return to Earth after half-year mission at ISS

 

Section E: AWARDS

  • 96th Academy Awards presented
  • Critics’ Choice Awards 2024
  • Chameli Devi Jain Award 2024 winners announced
  • Chennai-based Music Academy awards Sangita Kalanidhi award
  • ToI’s #UnplasticIndia campaign wins at Spikes Asia 2024
  • The Hindu Group wins 6 awards at WAN-IFRA Digital Media South Asia 2023
  • Central Banking London selects RBI for Risk Manager Award

 

Section F: BANKING & FINANCE 

  • NPCI allows Paytm to become third-party application on UPI with four banks
  • Customer complaints with RBI Ombudsman up 68% in 2022-23
  • India allows RBI to import gold without paying import levies
  • Office building of 3 multi-state cooperative societies inaugurated
  • CCI approves merger of Slice with North East Small Finance Bank

 

Section G: ECONOMY

  • Centre announces new scheme to subsidise electric two and three wheelers
  • Foundation stone laid for India’s 1st commercial semiconductor fabrication facility
  • PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan launched for coal sector
  • Centre opposes more state taxes on minerals
  • Govt bans pharma firms’ gifts & travel sponsorship for docs
  • India’s forex reserves jump to over two-year high of $636.1 bn
  • ITIs to add ‘AI for All’ to curriculum
  • No porting allowed within seven days of SIM card swap: TRAI
  • Govt seeks bids for electrolyser manufacturing under SIGHT
  • MoU signed between DGFT and DHL to benefit MSMEs
  • Piyush Goyal attends virtual ministerial meeting of IPEF
  • SIDBI and NIESBUD to transform Fair Price Shops
  • Trade deficit widens to $18.7 billion in February
  • Centre hikes windfall tax on petroleum crude
  • Industrial growth slows to 3.8% in January
  • Wholesale inflation eases to a four-month low of 0.2% in February
  • Retail inflation almost flat at 5.1% in February
  • Prices of petrol and diesel cut by Rs 2 per litre
  • MoD inks contracts with HAL to procure 34 advanced light helicopters
  • MoD signs contract worth Rs 2,890 crore with HAL to upgrade 25 Dornier aircraft
  • PM flags off India’s first automobile in-plant Railway siding project
  • Sidbi gets $24.5 million from GCF for ‘Avaana’ fund
  • Centre imposes minimum export price of $2,000 per tonne on honey till December
  • ISMA revises sugar production estimate

 

Section H: CORPORATE

  • Paramount to sell its remaining stake in Viacom18 to RIL
  • ETHANOL 100 fuel launched by Petroleum Minister Hardeep S Puri
  • Fly91 airline starts operations
  • Swaraj launched on OTT platform Amazon Prime
  • HUL introduces foster/kinship caregiver leave policy
  • Ad veteran Fali Vakeel dies at 71

 

Section I: STATES

  • Haryana: New CM wins trust motion
  • Haryana Govt initiates ground penetrating radar survey at Agroha archaeological site
  • UP to rename 8 railway stations
  • Jharkhand: Centre for Tribal Culture & Heritage
  • Maharashtra: Ahmednagar renamed as Ahilya Nagar
  • Maharashtra makes inclusion of mother’s name mandatory in all govt documents
  • Maharashtra govt gets Air India building for ₹1,601 crore
  • PM visits Ahmedabad, Gujarat
  • PM Modi inaugurates Kochrab Ashram in Gujarat
  • India, ADB sign $181 million loan to improve livability and mobility in Ahmedabad
  • NHPC to develop 200 MW Solar Power Project in Gujarat
  • Centre agrees to let Kerala borrow ₹5kcr more
  • India’s 1st FutureLABS center opens at C-DAC Thiruvananthapuram
  • Global Spirituality Mahotsav held in Hyderabad
  • Hyderabad Liberation Day to be celebrated on Sept 17
  • Fishing Harbour inaugurated at Juvvaladinne in Nellore District of AP
  • India’s first underwater metro train services begin in Kolkata
  • SC stops Assam govt. move to de-notify rhino habitat
  • Mizoram cuts MLAs’ perks

 

Section J: SPORTS

  • All England Open badminton tournament held in Birmingham
  • Indian Wells Open tennis tournament
  • Indian tennis tournaments
  • RCB win Women’s Premier League
  • North Zone clinches Vizzy Trophy cricket
  • Gulveer Singh betters men’s 10,000m National record
  • Olympian shuttler Satish Bhatia passes away
  • High-performance director of Indian boxing team sacked

 
 

Section A: INDIA

 

Govt. announces implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act

The government on March 11, 2024 announced the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), approved by Parliament in 2019, notifying the rules under which the legislation will operate. The law aims to grant citizenship to migrants belonging to undocumented members of the Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian communities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan who had come to India on or before December 31, 2014.

 

Applicants for Indian citizenship under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act 2019 (CAA) can submit any of nine documents, including valid or expired passport, ID cards and land tenancy records, to prove he or she is a national of Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Pakistan.

 

The applicants can also submit any of 20 documents like copy of visa and immigration stamp on arrival in India, certificate issued by an elected member of any rural or urban body or a revenue officer to prove that he or she has entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

 

The rules also state that the applicants will have to provide an eligibility certificate issued by a locally reputed community institution confirming that he or she belongs to either Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi or Christian community and continues to be a member of that community.

 

The applicants will have to give a declaration that they “irrevocably” renounce the existing citizenship and that they want to make “India as permanent home”.

 

The list of documents to prove that the applicant is a national of Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Pakistan are: copy of passport issued by the government of Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Pakistan, registration certificate or residential permit issued by the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer or Foreigners Registration Officer in India, birth certificate issued by a government authority in Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Pakistan, school certificate or educational certificate issued by the school or college or board or university authorities in Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan.

 

Other documents that will be acceptable include identity document of any kind issued by government of Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Pakistan or any other government authority or agency in these countries, any licence or certificate issued by a government authority of Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan, land or tenancy records in Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Pakistan, any document that shows that either of the parents or grandparents or great grandparents of the applicant is or had been a citizen of one of the three countries i.e. Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Pakistan.

 

Any other document issued by a government authority or a government agency in Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Pakistan which will establish that the applicant is from Afghanistan or Bangladesh or Pakistan will also be acceptable.

 

The above documents will be admissible even beyond their validity period.

 

List of documents to prove that the applicant has entered into India on or before December 31, 2014 are: copy of the visa and immigration stamp on arrival in India, registration certificate or residential permit issued by the Foreigners Regional Registration Officer or Foreigners Registration Officer in India, slip issued by the census enumerators in India to such persons while conducting census related survey.

 

The applicants may also submit government issued licence or certificate or permit in India, including driving licence, Aadhaar card, ration card issued in India, any letter issued by the government or court to the applicant with official stamp, birth certificate of the applicant issued in India, land or tenancy records or registered rental agreement in India in the name of the applicant, PAN card issuance document bearing the date of issuance.

Any other document issued by the central government or state government or any public sector undertakings of central government or state government or any financial institutions like banks or any other public authority, certificate issued by an elected member of any rural or urban body or officer thereof or a revenue officer, record and account details relating to and issued by the banks (including private banks) or post office accounts in the name of the applicant.

 

Insurance policies issued in India, electricity connection papers or electricity bills or other utility bills, court or tribunal records or processes in India in respect of the applicant, document showing service or employment under any employer in India supported by employees provident fund/ general provident fund/ pension/ employees’ state insurance corporation documents will be acceptable.

 

School leaving certificate of the applicant issued in India, academic certificate issued by a school or college or a board or a university or a government institution, municipality trade license issued to the applicant, marriage certificate will also be acceptable.

 

The above documents should have been issued by an Indian authority and will be admissible even beyond their validity period and the documents should establish that the applicant had entered India on or before December 31, 2014.

 

MHA launches mobile app for those seeking citizenship under CAA

The Union Home Ministry on March 15, 2024 launched a mobile app that will allow eligible people to apply for Indian citizenship under the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019. The application can be downloaded from the Google Play Store or the website — indiancitizenshiponline.nic.in.

 

Earlier, the home ministry launched the portal for eligible people to apply for Indian citizenship under the CAA.

 

The rules for implementation of the contentious CAA were notified on March 11, 2024, paving the way for granting citizenship to undocumented Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Parsis and Christians (non-Muslim migrants) from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

 

After the CAA rules were issued, the centre will now start granting Indian nationality to persecuted non-Muslim migrants from the three countries who came to India till December 31, 2014.

 

Panel suggests 18 amendments to Constitution, other statutes for simultaneous polls

A high-level committee on simultaneous elections has proposed that 18 distinct amendments to the Constitution and other statutes would be required for the implementation of the proposal. The panel led by former president Ram Nath Kovind recommended simultaneous elections to the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies as the first step followed by synchronised local body polls within 100 days in its report on ‘one nation, one election’ submitted to President Droupadi Murmu on March 14, 2024.

 

The changes suggested include the amendment to the provisions of the Constitution relating to preparation of the electoral roll by the Election Commission of India in consultation with the State Election Commission(s) for the elections to the local bodies (in Article 325).

 

It would also require an amendment to a constitutional provision in order to have simultaneous elections for municipalities, panchayat along with general elections of the Lok Sabha and the state legislatures (Article 324A).

 

On the Second Constitutional Amendment Bill proposed by it, the panel said, “Under Article 368(2) of the Constitution of India, ratification by not less than half of the states will be required to carry out amendments to the Second Constitutional Amendment Bill to the Constitution of India as these matters are related to state affairs.”

 

Addressing the issue of a hung Parliament or Assembly, the proposals suggest a mechanism for resolving situations where no single political party or alliance secures a majority.

 

“A situation that may arise and is required to be dealt with is that of the hung Parliament/Assembly. It is a situation wherein a single political party or a pre-poll alliance does not have enough elected members to secure an overall majority in the House/Assembly,” it said.

 

“The convention over the decades requires the President or the Governor to explore the formation of a Government by inviting the different political parties to form a government, if necessary, by collaborating under a common minimum programme.

 

“Constitutional values assume that those in public life would rise to the occasion when the need arises in order to ensure that the country or the state as the case may be, have an elected government in place,” the report stated.

 

Agni-V nuclear missile test conducted under Mission Divyastra

India on March 11, 2024 test fired a new version of its long-range Agni-V nuclear missile, which makes it harder to be taken down by air defence systems, and gives a single missile the ability to hit multiple targets deep in enemy territory. The test was named Mission Divyastra by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

 

It was the first flight test of indigenously developed Agni-V missile with Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology. With the test, India joins a select league of nations with the MIRV technology. At present, US, Russia, UK, France and China have operational MIRV missiles in their arsenal. Developed by DRDO, Agni-V has a range of over 5,000 km.

 

With the MIRV technology, a single ballistic missile can carry multiple warheads that can independently be used to strike targets. With the MIRV, the effectiveness of enemy’s anti-ballistic missile system that relies on intercepting individual warheads is also reduced.

 

SC asks SBI to reveal unique serial number on electoral bonds

The Supreme Court of India on March 15, 2024 asked the State Bank of India to reveal the unique serial numbers provided on the now-banned electoral bonds, data of which was made public March 14.

 

A five-judge Constitution bench of Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud and Justices Sanjiv Khanna, BR Gavai, JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra said that the SBI has not fully complied with its March 11 order in which it had ordered the bank to disclose all details concerning Electoral Bonds. The apex court noted that the SBI did not disclose the unique alphanumeric numbers present on every electoral bond. It issued a notice to the SBI and sought a response by March 18. The SC said the judgment of its 5-judge Constitution bench clarified that all details of electoral bonds were to be made available including date of purchase, name of purchaser, and the denomination.

 

Announced by the NDA government in 2017-18, the electoral bond scheme, which allowed anonymous funding to political parties, was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on February 15. The apex court ordered that all data of electoral bond donors and beneficiaries should be made public.

 

During its February 15 judgment the SC had ordered the SBI to furnish details related to the bonds and pass them on to the Election Commission of India (ECI) who, in turn, were to make it public. SBI is the only authorised financial institution under the electoral bond scheme.

 

Information on electoral bonds disclosed by SBI

SBI informed SC that a total of 22,217 electoral bonds were purchased and 22,030 redeemed by political parties between April 1, 2019 and February 15, 2024.

 

Subsequently, as per the SC’s request, EC made the data public. Future Gaming and Hotel Services bought the highest value of bonds, worth Rs 1,368 crore, with Megha Engineering and Infrastructure Ltd coming next with Rs 966 crore in purchases.

 

Other donors featured on the list included steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, Sunil Bharti Mittal’s Bharti Airtel, Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta, ITC, Mahindra and Mahindra, DLF, PVR, Birlas, Bajajs, Jindals, Spicejet, IndiGo and the Goenkas.

 

Among the known corporates, Agarwal’s Vedanta Ltd bought Rs 398 crore worth of bonds, while Sunil Mittal’s three companies together purchased a total of Rs 246 crore worth of bonds.

 

According to the data uploaded by the poll panel, the buyers of electoral bonds included Spicejet, IndiGo, Grasim Industries, Megha Engineering, Piramal Enterprises, Torrent Power, Bharti Airtel, DLF Commercial Developers, Vedanta Ltd., Apollo Tyres, Edelweiss, PVR, Keventer, Sula Wines, Welspun, Sun Pharma, Vardhman Textiles, Jindal Group, Phillips Carbon Black Limited, CEAT tyres, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories, ITC, Kaypee Enterprises, Cipla, and Ultratech Cement.

 

The parties that redeemed electoral bonds include the BJP, Congress, AIADMK, BRS, Shiv Sena, TDP, YSR Congress, DMK, JD-S, NCP, Trinamool Congress, JDU, RJD, AAP, the Samajwadi Party, Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, BJD, Goa Forward Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, Sikkim Krantikari Morcha, JMM, Sikkim Democratic Front, and the Jana Sena Party.

 

Centre shuts down Rashtriya Mahila Kosh

The government has closed down the Rashtriya Mahila Kosh (RMK), which was formed in 1993, following the recommendation that it has lost relevance as there are substantial alternative credit facilities available for women in rural areas, according to a gazette notification. The RMK was launched to provide collateral-free credit to women in the informal sector.

 

The Women and Child Development Ministry said the report on the rationalisation of government bodies prepared by the Principal Economic Adviser (PrEA) recommended shutting down the RMK as it had lost relevance after financial services were expanded across the rural areas and easy availability of concessional, collateral-free microcredit from banks under various government schemes, the notification released on March 12, 2024 said.

 

Government schemes like the Deendayal Antodaya Yojana-national Rural Livelihood Mission, Deendayal Antodaya Yojana-National Urban Livelihood Mission and PM Mudra Yojna have successfully nurtured lakhs of self-help groups, who can access vast banking networks and cheap credit facilities.

 

Taking note of the present scenario, all operations and activities of RMK stand closed with effect from December 31, 2023, the notification said.

 

The ministry said the employees of RMK have been given special voluntary retirement under the Special Voluntary Retirement Scheme (SVRS) and surplus funds of RMK (Corpus and Reserves and Surplus Funds) have been returned to the Consolidated Fund of India (CFI).

 

The outstanding loan portfolio of RMK has been transferred to the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), a financial institution that focuses on developmental aspects line enhanced credit flow to the mandated segments, on an ‘as is where is basis’ without any monetary consideration, the ministry added.

 

Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Test to be conducted nationwide

The Department of School Education and Literacy (DoSEL), Ministry of Education, Government of India, is set to conduct the Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Assessment Test (FLNAT) as part of the ULLAS – Nav Bharat Saaksharta Karyakram on March 17, 2024, across 23 states. Approximately 37 lakh learners will appear for this important nationwide assessment.

 

The FLNAT will be held in all districts of each participating State/UT, with the District Institutes of Education and Training (DIETs) and Government/aided schools serving as test centres. The assessment comprises three subjects – Reading, Writing, and Numeracy – each carrying 50 marks, totalling 150 marks. This test is developed to evaluate the foundational literacy and numeracy skills of registered non-literate learners.

 

Previously, two FLNATs were conducted in 2023 – in March and September. In the last FLNAT held on 24th September 2023, 17,39,097 learners appeared, out of which 15,58,696 were certified. Till date, a total of 36,00,870 learners have been certified. The test will be conducted in the regional language of the learners, in line with NEP 2020’s focus on promoting multilingualism and using the mother tongue or local language as the medium of instruction. Conducting this test in regional languages shall help in promoting and preserving linguistic diversity.

 

Indian patent office grants 1 lakh patents in past year

Indian patent office has granted over 1 lakh patents in the past year on account of steps taken by the government to further strengthen the intellectual property rights ecosystem, an official statement said on March 16, 2024.

 

It also said that there has been a notable surge in Geographical Indication (GI) registrations, demonstrating a threefold increase compared to the previous year.

 

As on date, 573 GIs are registered in India.

 

In 2023-24, 98 new GIs have been registered and another 62 will be registered by March 31 this year.

 

Similarly, so far this fiscal, copyright and design registrations totalled at 36,378 and 27,819 respectively.

 

“Every 6 minutes one technology is seeking IP protection in India. In 2023, an all-time high of 90,300 patent applications were received. Patent office granted over one lakh patents in the last one year (15-Mar-2023 to 14-Mar-2024). Every working day, 250 patents were granted,” the commerce and industry ministry said.

 

It added that the Patent Rules, 2024 have been notified and these rules introduced several provisions aimed at simplifying the process of obtaining and managing patents, thereby facilitating a conducive environment for inventors and creators.

 

In the revamped rules, a unique provision for New ‘Certificate of Inventorship’ has been introduced to acknowledge the contribution of inventors in the patented invention.

 

Besides, the time limit to furnish foreign application filing details in a specified form has been changed from six months from the date of filing of application to three months from the date of issuance of the first examination report.

 

The time limit for filing requests for examinations has been reduced from 48 months to 31 months from the date of priority of application or from the date of filing of application, whichever is earlier.

 

It added that the renewal fee has been reduced by 10 per cent if paid in advance through electronic mode for a period of at least 4 years.

 

Govt notifies Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 2024

The Central government has notified the Cinematograph (Certification) Rules, 2024, in order to improve the process of certification of films for public exhibition.

 

“These new rules aim to streamline and modernise the film certification process for the digital age, keeping pace with the emerging technologies and advancement in the film sector,” said the Information & Broadcasting Ministry on March 15, 2024.

 

The Ministry and the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had earlier undertaken extensive consultations with filmmakers, cinema owners, disability rights organisations, non-government organisations, film industry bodies, the general public, and other stakeholders, to ensure an all-encompassing and all-inclusive approach, it said.

 

“A comprehensive revision of the Rules has been done to fully align it with the adoption of online certification processes, which will ensure enhanced transparency, efficiency and ease of doing business for the film industry,” said the Ministry. There is a reduction in timelines for the processing of film certification.

 

The rules introduce age-based categories of certification by further subdividing the existing UA category into three age-based categories: seven years (UA 7+), 13 years (UA 13+), and 16 years (UA 16+), instead of 12 years.

 

“These age-based markers would be only recommendatory, meant for the parents or guardians to consider whether their children should view such a film. The age-based certification system with UA markers is to be implemented to ensure young viewers are exposed to age-appropriate content. It will play a crucial role in balancing the need to protect vulnerable audiences, such as children, with the principles of freedom of expression and consumer choice,” it said.

 

In the CBFC Board, one-third of the members will be women and preferably half will be women. Also, a new provision allows for the film to be screened expeditiously for certification, in case of any urgency felt by film-maker(s) due to their prior commitments of release of the film.

 

The new rules also provide perpetual validity of CBFC certificates, instead of the previous 10-year period. An edited film for television broadcast, as only unrestricted public exhibition category films can be shown on television, will be recertified.

 

The government had last year amended the Cinematograph Act, 1952, after almost 40 years.

 

Addressing accessibility

In another development, the government has notified the guidelines for the accessibility of persons with hearing and visual impairment to films.

 

The feature films that are for public exhibition in cinema halls/movie theatres for commercial purposes will have to follow the guidelines. All the films to be certified in more than one language have to comply with the rules within six months and the others within two years.

 

The guidelines provide at least one accessibility feature each for the hearing impaired and visually impaired viz. closed captioning and audio description.

 

Accessibility features will be deployed by licensees of cinema theatres by using customised equipment, mobile apps or other available technologies during the regular show.

 

Starting January 1, 2025, films submitted for prestigious events like the National Film Awards and the International Film Festival will also need to comply with the guidelines.

 

A dedicated committee appointed by the Ministry, with half its members being persons with hearing/visual disabilities and representatives from the film industry, will oversee the implementation. Viewers can also file complaints with theatre licensees. The committee will address their concerns within 30 days through the licensing authority.

 

Digital Criminal Case Management System (CCMS) Platform of NIA launched

In a major fillip to India’s fight against terrorism and organised crime, Union Home Minister and Minister of Cooperation Amit Shah inaugurated a unique digital Criminal Case Management System (CCMS), designed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in New Delhi, on March 14, 2024. The newly developed CCMS will enable the NIA personnel to better coordinate in terrorism and organized crime cases, thereby improving justice delivery. The new stand-alone version of CCMS has been developed by NIA as a user-friendly and easy-to-deploy, customizable, browser-based software to help the State Police forces in their investigations and prosecution.

 

Sankalan app

Shah also launched a mobile app ‘Sankalan’ – A compendium of New Criminal Laws by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The app has been designed for navigating through new criminal laws as a bridge between old and new criminal laws. This app will work as a comprehensive guide for all stakeholders. The app will work in offline mode as well and its availability has been ensured in far-flung areas so that all stakeholders can have access to desired information around the clock. Sankalan app will be available for download on Google Play Store, Apple Store and its desktop version may be downloaded from official websites of MHA and NCRB.

 

Real estate

In the virtual event, the Home Minister e-inaugurated NIA’s 2 new branch offices in Jammu and Kochi and a residential complex in Raipur.  These will strengthen the agency’s reach and presence, and provide a safe and secure environment to NIA officers and personnel to operate in the States tackling the menace of terrorism and left wing extremism.

 

Skill development and education program for Sikh community launched

To commemorate the auspicious occasion of the Sikh New Year, Union Minister of Ministry of Minority Affairs, Smriti Irani, on March 14, 2024 launched a skill development, leadership and entrepreneurship promotion and education program for the Sikh community. This program has been approved under the Pradhan Mantri Virasat Ka Samvardhan (PM VIKAS) Scheme of the Ministry, through Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), which is a Statutory Body established for the welfare of the Sikh community.

 

This program will target 10,000 youth and women and seeks to provide modern skills training in employment-oriented job roles, promote Sikh artisans such as Sikligars and other groups who are practicing traditional arts & craft forms, foster women leadership and entrepreneurship, and education for school dropouts. The total expenditure on the program shall be approximately Rs 100 Crores.

 

To formalize this partnership, the Ministry of Minority Affairs will implement the program through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with societies/ educational institutions nominated/ registered under the DSGMC, which is already operating 4 colleges in Delhi University viz. Sri Guru Tegh Bahadur Khalsa College, Sri Guru Nanak Dev Khalsa College, Mata Sundri College of Women and Sri Guru Gobind Singh College of Commerce, 12 branches of Guru Harkishan Public Schools, and 1 ITI.

 

NITI Aayog Launches ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative

In a move towards bolstering local economies and fostering grassroots entrepreneurship, NITI Aayog launched the ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative under its Aspirational Blocks Programme on March 13, 2024 in the presence of BVR Subrahmanyam, CEO, NITI Aayog and other delegates from various states and blocks. This initiative aims to encourage a spirit of self-reliance among the populace of Aspirational Blocks, propelling them towards sustainable growth and prosperity. The logo for ‘Aakanksha’ was also unveiled under the ‘Vocal for Local’ initiative by Prof. Ramesh Chand, Member, NITI Aayog. As a part of this initiative, indigenous local products from 500 Aspirational Blocks have been mapped and consolidated under Aakanksha. The launch was attended by all 329 Districts and Block Level Officials under Aspirational Blocks Programme who connected virtually for the event. Suman Bery is currently Vice Chairperson, NITI Aayog, in the rank and status of a Cabinet Minister.

 

PM launches portal for marginalised sections

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 13, 2024 virtually launched the Pradhan Mantri Samajik Utthan evam Rozgar Adharit Jankalyan (PM-SURAJ) portal for credit support to entrepreneurs from disadvantaged sections of society. Modi also disbursed around ₹720 crore worth of credit to one lakh beneficiaries from the Scheduled Castes, Denotified, Nomadic and Semi-Nomadic Tribes, Other Backward Classes and Safai Karamcharis. The portal will be a one-stop point where people from disadvantaged sections of society can apply for and monitor the progress of all loan and credit schemes already available to them.

 

Prasar Bharati launches news sharing service

Union Information and Broadcasting Minister Anurag Singh Thakur on March 13, 2024 launched ‘PB-SHABD’ — Prasar Bharati’s news sharing service and the revamped websites of DD News and Akashvani News. The Minister said news organisations would be provided with clean feed and they would not have to carry the Doordarshan logo. He said the SHABD service was being provided free of cost for the first year as an introductory offer and would provide news stories in all major Indian languages across 50 categories. The PB-SHABD has been designed to provide daily news feeds in video, audio, text, and other formats to subscribers.

 

18 OTT apps blocked for vulgar content

The Union government on March 12, 2024 banned OTT apps, websites and social media platforms for airing content deemed obscene and vulgar content. The Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (I&B) blocked 18 OTT platforms that have been airing content deemed obscene, vulgar, and, in some cases, pornographic. The government has also banned 19 websites, 10 apps (7 on Google Play Store, 3 on Apple App Store), and 57 social media accounts linked to these platforms. This decision was made under the provisions of the Information Technology Act, 2000.

 

The list of apps blocked on March 12: Dreams Films, Voovi, Yessma, Uncut Adda, Tri Flicks, X Prime, Neon X VIP, Besharams, Hunters, Rabbit, Xtramood, Nuefliks, MoodX, Mojflix, Hot Shots VIP, Fugi, Chikooflix, Prime Play

 

“One of the OTT apps amassed more than 1 crore downloads, while two others had over 50 lakh downloads on the Google Play Store. Additionally, these OTT platforms extensively utilized social media to disseminate trailers, specific scenes, and external links aimed at attracting audiences to their websites and apps. The social media accounts of the concerned OTT platforms had a cumulative followership of over 32 lakh users,” the I&B ministry said in the release.

 

Govt designates I4C as agency of MHA to notify unlawful activities in cyber world

The Centre has designated the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) as an agency of the MHA to notify, under the Information Technology Act-2000, law-enforcement agencies about unlawful activities in cyberspace.

 

“In exercise of the powers conferred by clause (b) of sub-section (3) of section 79 of the Information Technology Act 2000, Central Government being the appropriate government hereby designate the Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), to be the agency of the Ministry of Home Affairs to perform the functions under clause (b) of sub-section (3) of section 79 of Information Technology Act, 2000 and to notify the instances of information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by the intermediary being used to commit the unlawful act,” an official notification said.

 

The I4C was set up by the MHA to provide a framework and eco-system for law-enforcement agencies (LEAs) in dealing with cybercrime in a coordinated and comprehensive manner.

 

MeiTY drops ‘permission’ rule for AI models

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeiTY) has withdrawn a contentious ‘advisory’ that had required Artificial Intelligence (AI) companies to obtain government permission to make their products available to users online in India. A revised advisory withdrawing the original March 1 missive, also withdrew the requirement of an action taken report from tech firms that was due on March 15, 2024. The initial advisory appeared shortly after Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar took issue with the response of Google’s Gemini chatbot to the query, “Is [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi a fascist?” Screenshots of Gemini’s response had gone viral on social media. After resistance to the advisory emerged, Chandrasekhar said that it would not apply to start-ups, though the advisory did not make that clear.

 

PM distributes 1000 Kisan drones to 1000 NaMo Drone Didis

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 11, 2024 handed over 1000 drones to 1,000 Namo Drone Didis across 10 locations across the country and disbursed bank loans to Self Help Groups (SHGs) in the Sashakt Nari – Viksit Bharat programme at Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa in New Delhi. The PM also interacted with Lakhpati Didis. Some of the drones distributed by the PM were Kisan drones manufactured by Garuda Aerospace. The NaMo Drone Didi Initiative aims to empower rural women by training them to become drone pilots for agricultural purposes. The initiative aims to equip 15,000 women-led Self-Help Groups (SHGs) with agricultural drones to assist in tasks such as crop monitoring, spraying fertilisers and sowing seeds.

 

GRSE launches two new warships for Indian Navy

Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers (GRSE) Ltd launched two ASWSWC warships for the Indian Navy on March 13, 2024. These have been named “INS Agray” and “INS Akshay”. These two vessels were 5th and 6th in a series of 8 Anti-Submarine Warfare Shallow Water Crafts (ASW SWCs) being built by GRSE. The primary role of an ASW SWC is to conduct anti-submarine operations in coastal waters, Low Intensity Maritime Operations (LIMO) and mine laying operations.

 

Infantry combat vehicle upgrades: Govt inks deal with AVNL

The Ministry of Defence on March 13, 2024 signed a contract with Armoured Vehicles Nigam Limited (AVNL) for procurement of 693 armament upgrades of infantry combat vehicle BMP2 to BMP2M. This upgrade includes night enablement, gunner main sight, commander panoramic sight and fire control system (FCS) with automatic target tracker under Buy (Indian-Indigenously Designed Developed and Manufactured) Category.

 

Defence Minister approves expansion of National Cadet Corps

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved a proposal for the expansion of the National Cadet Corps (NCC) with the addition of three lakh cadet vacancies. This decision comes in response to the growing demand for NCC enrolment from educational institutions across India. Since its inception in 1948 with just 20,000 cadets, the NCC will now have a sanctioned strength of 20 lakh cadets.

 

India Navy’s first independent headquarters inaugurated in Delhi

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on March 15, 2024 inaugurated the ‘Nausena Bhawan’, the new headquarters of the Indian Navy at the Delhi Cantonment. It marks a significant milestone for the Navy as it has established its “first independent headquarters in Delhi”, the defence ministry said in a statement. Previously, the Navy operated from 13 different locations, necessitating a consolidated and purpose-built facility such as the ‘Nausena Bhawan’, it said.

 

Army raises first unit to operate Apache attack helicopters in Jodhpur

Preparing to induct the first batch of AH-64E Apache attack helicopters into its fold, the Indian Army Aviation Corps raised its first unit at Jodhpur on March 15, 2024 that will operate the helicopters. The Apaches will be the second attack helicopters in the Army after the indigenous light combat helicopter (LCH). India signed a deal with Boeing for six more Apaches for the Army, at a cost of around $800 million, in February 2020. As part of the deal, six pilots and 24 technicians were trained by Boeing in the U.S.

 

Coast Guard seizes Pak boat with narcotics worth ₹480 cr in Arabian Sea

In a sea-air coordinated operation, narcotics worth ₹480 crore were seized from a Pakistani boat with six crew in the Arabian Sea near Porbandar, by a multi-agency team led by the Indian Coast Guard. The Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) and Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) coordinated with the Coast Guard in the operation in the intervening nights of March 11 and 12.

 

Directorate of Revenue Intelligence conducts operation ‘Rising Sun’

The Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) busted a big syndicate involved in smuggling of foreign-origin gold worth around Rs. 40 crore in its operation code named ‘Rising Sun’ on March 12-13, 2024. The operation, planned and coordinated across four states, resulted in seizure of a huge quantity of smuggled gold, weighing around 61.08 kg valued at around Rs. 40 crore, along with 19 vehicles, cash and other electronic items in Guwahati, Barpeta, Darbhanga, Gorakhpur and Araria.

 

Lok Sabha elections to begin from April 19; counting on June 4

India’s general elections will be held in seven phases from April 19 to June 1 with votes for the 543 Lok Sabha seats to be counted on June 4, Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar announced in New Delhi on March 16, 2024.  Alongside this, assembly elections will be held in Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh on April 19, followed by Andhra Pradesh on May 13. Odisha’s assembly polls will be in four phases — May 13, 20, 25 and June 1.

 

Centre for Jain Studies to be set up in Indore

The Ministry of Minority Affairs on March 14, 2024 approved projects under PMJVK (Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram) Scheme for ‘Establishment of Centre for Jain Studies’ in Devi Ahilya Vishwavidyalaya (DAVV), Indore Campus. The Ministry approved these projects for an assured financial assistance of Rs. 25 Crores for strengthening infrastructural development pertaining to development of Jain philosophy, fostering academic collaboration, promoting interdisciplinary research, preservation of language via digitization of manuscripts, community outreach via hubs establishment.

 

Centre of Jain Manuscriptology to be set up at Gujarat University

The Ministry of Minority Affairs on March 14, 2024 approved the Centre of Jain Manuscriptology at Gujarat University amounting to Rs. 40 Crore. Recognizing the significance of promoting education and research in the field of Jain Studies, the Ministry of Minority Affairs under PMJVK (Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram) scheme approved for the establishment of Jain knowledge centre with an aim of academic support for development of Apabharansh and Prakrit language of Jainism in the University.

 

Centre of Gurumukhi script at Khalsa college in the University of Delhi

The Ministry of Minority Affairs on March 14, 2024 approved Centre of Gurumukhi script at Khalsa college in the University of Delhi’ with the total estimated cost of Rs.25 Cr under its scheme viz. Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK). The objective of this centre would be to facilitate collaboration between the University and the Ministry to enhance educational opportunities for minority communities in India, particularly in the field of Gurumukhi Studies, through establishment and strengthening of the required infrastructure for undertaking Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Ph.D and research programs.

 

Centre for Advanced studies in Buddhist Studies at University of Delhi

Focusing on the increasing demand and need for reviving the Buddhist Studies language not only as a subject for higher education but also to preserve the heritage and culture of the minority communities and recognizing the significance of promoting education and research in the field of Buddhist Studies, the Ministry of Minority Affairs on March 14, 2024 approved the proposal from the University of Delhi for establishment of the ‘Centre for Advanced studies in Buddhist Studies’ at the University at an estimated cost of approx. Rs. 35 crore under its scheme viz. Pradhan Mantri Jan Vikas Karyakram (PMJVK) and “Buddhist Development Plan” (BDP). The objective of this Centre would be to facilitate collaboration between the University and the Ministry to enhance educational opportunities for minority communities in India, particularly in the field of Buddhist Studies, through establishment and strengthening of the required infrastructure for undertaking Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Ph.D and research programs.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Gyanesh Kumar, Sukhbir Singh Sandhu appointed ECs

Former IAS officers Gyanesh Kumar and Sukhbir Singh Sandhu were on March 14, 2024 appointed as election commissioners.

 

A selection committee headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi recommended their names.

 

The vacancies had come up in the Election Commission (EC) after the retirement of Anup Chandra Pandey on February 14 and the sudden resignation of Arun Goel on March 8.

 

The poll panel is headed by Chief Election Commissioner Rajiv Kumar.

 

At the selection panel meeting chaired by the prime minister, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury gave a dissent note, raising questions over the procedure adopted to choose the election commissioners.

 

The selection committee has one Union minister — Home Minister Amit Shah — as nominated by the government and the leader of the largest opposition party in the Lok Sabha as members.

 

The President appoints Chief Election Commissioner and Election Commissioners. They have tenure of six years, or up to the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier. They enjoy the same status and receive salary and perks as available to Judges of the Supreme Court of India.

 

Ex-bureaucrat Navneet Kumar Sehgal is new Prasar Bharati chairman

Retired bureaucrat Navneet Kumar Sehgal was on March 15, 2024 appointed as the new Prasar Bharati chairman, a post that had been vacant for four years. Sehgal succeeds A Surya Prakash, whose term ended in February 2020 after he turned 70, the upper age limit for a person holding the post. The vice president, who is also the chairman of the Rajya Sabha, heads the selection panel for the post of the Prasar Bharati chairman. The chairperson of the Press Council of India and a nominee of the President complete the three-member panel. The meeting was attended by Press Council of India chairperson Justice Ranjana Desai (retd) and Information and Broadcasting Secretary Sanjay Jaju.

 

Bureaucrat Rahul Singh appointed new CBSE chief

Senior bureaucrat Rahul Singh was appointed chairperson of the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) by the Centre on March 13, 2024. He will succeed Nidhi Chhibber, who has been named Advisor in the Niti Aayog. Rajeev Kumar Mital has been appointed as Director General, National Mission for Clean Ganga under the Ministry of Jal Shakti.

 

Sheyphali Sharan is new govt spokesperson

Senior Indian Information Service (IIS) officer Sheyphali B Sharan has been appointed as the new government spokesperson, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said. Sharan had earlier served as the spokesperson of the Election Commission and the Finance Ministry.

 

AS Rajeev assumes charge as Vigilance Commissioner

AS Rajeev, former CEO of Bank of Maharashtra, took charge as a vigilance commissioner at the Central Vigilance Commission on March 11, 2024. The President, by virtue of the power vested under Section 4 (1) of the Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, has appointed him. The Central Vigilance Commission Act, 2003, provides for the appointment of a Central Vigilance Commissioner and two Vigilance Commissioners. The tenure of the Vigilance Commissioner is of four years or till the incumbent attains the age of 65 years.

 

Kishor Makwana appointed new chairperson of National Commission for Scheduled Castes

Kishor Makwana, a BJP leader, was on March 9, 2024 appointed as the new chairperson of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC). Along with Makwana’s appointment, President Droupadi Murmu has also approved the appointment of two new members Love Kush Kumar from Bijnor in UP and Vaddepalli Ramchander from Telangana. The tenure of the Commission is three years and this is the 7th Commission. In August 2023, then chairman Vijay Sampla resigned from NCSC. Arun Halder who was vice chairman at that time then assumed charge as acting chairman and held the position till Feb 18 when his tenure came to an end. The tenure of two other members of the 6th Commission also ended in Feb. The NCSC is supposed to have a chairperson, vice chairman and three members. With the three appointments announced on Saturday, now the new Commission has a chairperson and two members.

 

EC announces Para-archer as National Icon

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on March 16, 2024 announced Sheetal Devi, an Arjuna Awardee Para-archer, as the National Icon in the PwD category.

 

Former Navy Chief Admiral (retd) L. Ramdas dies at 90

Former Navy Chief Admiral (retd) L. Ramdas passed away in Hyderabad on March 15, 2024 at the age of 90. He served as the 13th Chief of Naval Staff (CNS) in 1990-1993.  He joined the Joint Services Wing of the Armed Forces Academy in Clement Town, Dehradun in 1949. He was commissioned as an officer of the Indian Navy in September 1953. While in service, he established the Naval Academy in Cochin. He commanded INS Beas, which had played a pivotal role during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. He served as the Indian Naval Attache in Bonn, West Germany (1973-76) and as Fleet Commander of the Eastern Naval Command. He commanded both the Southern and Eastern Naval Commands.
 

 

Section B: INDIA & THE WORLD

 

India ranked 134th on UN Human Development Index for 2022

India’s ranking on the United Nations Human Development Index improved by one position in 2022 to 134 out of 193 countries ranked compared to 135 out of 192 countries ranked in 2021 on the back of a marginal increase in its HDI value to 0.644 compared to 0.633 in 2021. With an HDI value of 0.644, the latest HDR places India in the medium human development category.

 

The 2023-24 Human Development Report (HDR) titled, “Breaking the Gridlock: Reimagining Cooperation in a Polarized World”, was released by UNDP on March 14, 2024.

 

As per the report, in 2022, India saw improvements across all HDI indicators including life expectancy, education, and Gross National Income (GNI) per capita.

 

While India’s life expectancy rose from 67.2 to 67.7 years, expected years of schooling reached 12.6, mean years of schooling increased to 6.57, and GNI per capita saw an increase from $6,542 to $6,951.

 

India demonstrated progress in reducing gender inequality with a GII value of 0.437 and ranked 108 out of 166 countries in 2022. The GII measures gender inequalities in three key dimensions – reproductive health, empowerment, and labour market.

 

The UNDP added that India also has one of the largest gender gaps in the labour force participation rate, a 47.8% difference between women (28.3%) and men (76.1%).

 

Top-10 countries: Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Hong Kong, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Ireland, Singapore & Australia. South Sudan was ranked last at 192nd.

 

“The widening human development gap revealed by the report shows that the two-decade trend of steadily reducing inequalities between wealthy and poor nations is now in reverse. Despite our deeply interconnected global societies, we are falling short. We must leverage our interdependence as well as our capacities to address our shared and existential challenges and ensure people’s aspirations are met,” said Achim Steiner, Administrator, UN Development Programme.

 

Bhutan’s PM visits India

Bhutan’s Prime Minister Dasho Tshering Tobgay came on a visit to India from March 14 to 18, 2024. Tobgay and Prime Minister Narendra Modi discussed a wide range of economic, trade and strategic issues, at their bilateral meeting in New Delhi on March 14, 2024.

 

Tobgay was accompanied by a high-level official delegation that includes ministers of foreign affairs, commerce and energy, as well as senior government officials.

 

The Union Cabinet recently approved the signing of two agreements with Bhutan recently. The first is an agreement between the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for cooperation in food safety; and the second is a memorandum of understanding between India’s Bureau of Energy Efficiency and Bhutan’s department of energy for cooperation in energy efficiency and energy conservation measures.

 

Cabinet approves signing of MoUs with Bhutan on energy efficiency

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 13, 2024 approved the signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between India and Bhutan on extending co­operation in the field of Energy Efficiency and Energy Conservation Measures.

 

The MoU was signed between Bureau of Energy Efficiency, Ministry of Power, Government of India and Department of Energy, Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, Royal Government of Bhutan.

 

As part of this MoU, India aims to assist Bhutan to enhance energy efficiency in the household sector by promoting star labeling programme developed by Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE). The formulation of building codes, to suite the climate condition of Bhutan, will be facilitated based with India’s experience. Creation of a pool of energy professionals at Bhutan is envisaged by institutionalizing training of energy auditors.

 

The training of retailers would help in dissemination of energy efficient products with consumer audience regarding savings from star rated appliances. India aims to support Bhutan in its endeavor to develop and implement the Standards and Labelling scheme.

 

The MoU will enable exchange of Information, data and technical experts related to Energy Efficiency and energy conservation between India and Bhutan. It will help Bhutan to ensure availability of energy efficient products in the market. The MoU will analyze energy efficiency policies and cooperation in the field of energy efficiency research and technology deployment.

 

MoU on petroleum products

The cabinet also approved signing of MoU between India and Bhutan on General Supply of Petroleum, Oil, Lubricants (POL) and related products from India to Bhutan. It will promote bilateral trade in the hydrocarbon sector and will ensure secured and long term supply of petroleum products to Bhutan.

 

MoU on food safety

The cabinet also approved the signing of an Agreement between Bhutan Food and Drug Authority (BFDA), Ministry of Health, Royal Government of Bhutan and Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) regarding cooperation in the areas of food safety. BFDA will issue a Health Certificate as a proof of compliance with the requirements prescribed by FSSAI, while exporting the products to India. This will promote Ease of Doing Business and will reduce compliance cost on both sides.

 

Cabinet approves India-Middle East Europe Economic Corridor

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave its Ex-post facto approval on March 13, 2024 to the Inter-Governmental Framework Agreement (IGFA) that was signed on 13th February, 2024 during the High Level visit between the Governments of India and the United Arab Emirates on Cooperation for the empowerment and operation of the India-Middle East Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC). The aim of the IGFA is to enhance the bilateral relations and to further strengthen the relations between the two countries in the Ports, Maritime and Logistics sectors.

 

The IGFA includes areas of cooperation between the two countries with the objective of exploring further potential of future joint investment and collaboration in respect of development of the IMEC.

 

The Agreement contains detailed framework for cooperation between the two countries. The cooperation will be based on a set of mutually agreed upon principles, guidelines and agreements consistent with the relevant rules and regulations of the countries’ jurisdiction.

 

President Droupadi Murmu visits Mauritius

President Droupadi Murmu visited Mauritius on March 11-12, 2024.

 

On March 12, she visited the Mahatma Gandhi Institute (MGI), Moka, Mauritius. The Institute was established in 1970 as a joint initiative of the Governments of India and Mauritius. MGI is a leading institution promoting and propagating Indian arts, culture and languages in Mauritius. The President announced the extension of eligibility of Overseas Indian Citizenship for Indian-origin Mauritians of the 7th generation, which will allow more young Mauritians to reconnect with the land of their ancestors. The University of Mauritius conferred Honoris Causa Degree of Doctor of Civil Law on the Indian President. Murmu participated as the Chief Guest of the 56th National Day celebrations of Mauritius on March 12.

 

On March 11, Murmu was received at the Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam International Airport in Port Louis by Prime Minister of Mauritius, Pravind Kumar Jugnauth along with members of his Cabinet. Murmu met President Prithvirajsing Roopun at State House, Le Reduit.

 

Murmu also announced that the Indian government will support the Government of Mauritius in the redevelopment of the sacred Ganga Talao complex into a religious, cultural and tourist hub. Ganga Talao is a crater lake situated in a secluded mountain area in the district of Savanne. It is about 550 m (1,800 ft) above sea level. It is considered the most sacred Hindu place in Mauritius.

 

India abstains in UNGA on Pak resolution on Islamophobia

India abstained in the UN General Assembly on a draft resolution introduced by Pakistan and co-sponsored by China on Islamophobia, asserting that the prevalence of “religiophobia” against Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and other faiths facing violence and discrimination must also be acknowledged rather than singling out just one religion.

 

The 193-member General Assembly adopted the resolution ‘Measures to combat Islamophobia’, introduced by Pakistan on March 15, 2024, with 115 nations voting in favour, none against and 44 abstentions, including India, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Ukraine and the UK.

 

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj voiced condemnation of all acts motivated by anti-Semitism, Christianophobia and Islamophobia but asserted that it is crucial to acknowledge that such phobias extend beyond Abrahamic religions.

 

Kamboj told the UN General Assembly that “it is crucial to recognise” that Hinduism, with over 1.2 billion followers, Buddhism with more than 535 million and Sikhism with over 30 million followers worldwide, are all subject to religiophobia.

 

Global Connectedness Report unveiled by DHL

Globalisation reached a record high in 2022, remained close to that level in 2023, and is expected to accelerate in 2024, the latest edition of DHL Global Connectedness Report 2024 suggests.

 

The report tracks flow of trade, capital, information, and people around the world and measures the globalisation of 181 countries and territories. India ranks 62nd in the DHL Global Connectedness Index with Singapore achieving the number one spot. The Netherlands and Ireland rank second and third.

 

The annual report, commissioned by global logistics major DHL and New York University’s Stern School of Business, states the findings of the report strongly rebuts the notion that the growth of global flows has gone into reverse.

 

The 2024 edition is based 011 almost nine million data points. It ranks the connectedness of 181 countries, accounting for 99.7% of the world’s gross domestic product and 98.7% of its population.

 

DHL is a German multinational that offers a comprehensive range of parcel, express, freight transport and supply chain management services, besides e-commerce logistics solutions.

 

Democracy Report 2024 released by the Gothenburg-based V-Dem Institute

India, which was downgraded to the status of an “electoral autocracy” in 2018, has declined even further on multiple metrics to emerge as “one of the worst autocratisers”, according to the “Democracy Report 2024” released by the Gothenburg (Sweden)-based V-Dem Institute on March 12, 2024.

The V-Dem Democracy Report 2024, titled “Democracy Winning and Losing at the Ballot”, highlights the continuity of an autocratization trend in the world, noted by previous reports from V-Dem and other organizations such as Freedom House, the Economist Intelligence Unit or International IDEA.

 

The report categorises countries into four regime types based on their score in the Liberal Democratic Index (LDI): Liberal Democracy, Electoral Democracy, Electoral Autocracy, and Closed Autocracy. “India, with 18% of the world’s population, accounts for about half of the population living in autocratising countries,” the report said.

 

The report singled out freedom of expression, clean elections, and freedom of association/civil society as the three worst affected components of democracy in autocratising countries.

 

“The Modi-led government also continues to suppress the freedom of religion rights. Intimidation of political opponents and people protesting government policies, and silencing of dissent in academia are now prevalent,” the report noted.

 

With regard to India, the report said that a third consecutive term for the BJP and Mr. Modi “could lead to further autocratisation given the already substantial democratic decline under Modi’s leadership and the enduring crackdown on minority rights and civil society”.

 

V-Dem’s Democracy Report is a collaborative project involving 4,200 scholars from 180 countries, and is based on 31 million datasets that cover 202 countries from 1789 to 2023.

 

India remains world’s top arms importer in 2019–2023

India remains the world’s top arms importer and its imports increased by 4.7 per cent between 2014-2018 and 2019-2023, Swedish think tank SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) said in a new report on March 11, 2024. Russia remained India’s main arms supplier (accounting for 36 per cent of its arms imports). China’s own arms imports shrank by 44 per cent, mainly as a result of substituting imported arms with locally produced systems.

 

Saudi Arabia was the world’s second-largest arms importer in 2019-23, receiving 8.4 per cent of global arms imports in the period. Qatar increased its arms imports almost fourfold (396 per cent) between 2014-18 and 2019-23, making it the world’s third biggest arms importer in 2019-23, according to the report.

 

India’s arms imports have slightly decreased to 9.8% of the global arms sales between 2019-23 from the previous double-digit figure of 11% between 2018-22.

 

The USA’s arms exports grew by 17 per cent between 2014–18 and 2019–23, and its share of total global arms exports rose from 34 per cent to 42 per cent. The USA tops the list of exporting countries, accounting for 42% of global arms exports, followed by France (11%), Russia (11%), China (5.8%) and Germany (5.6%).

 

Govt. refutes Harvard study on “zero-food children”

Harvard study, published in February in the JAMA Network Open, a peer-reviewed journal, which claimed that the prevalence of “zero-food children” is as high as 19.3 per cent in the country, terming the article a ‘deliberate and malicious attempt to sensationalize fake news’.

 

“Zero-food children” are children between 6 and 23 months old who did not consume any milk, formula, or food in the last 24 hours.

 

The Ministry of Women and Child Development, in an official statement, said that out of the “so- called” 19.3 per cent Zero Food Children referred to by the study, 17.8 per cent had received breast milk, but the article excludes breast milk from the definition of food for infants who are six to twenty-three months old.

 

Indian commandos foil bid by Somali pirates to attack ships on high seas

In a direct military intervention, an Indian warship and marine commandos on March 16, 2024 thwarted the attempt by a group of 35 Somali pirates to use a hijacked merchant vessel as “a mother ship” for launching attacks on other commercial ships on the high seas. The 17 crew members of the merchant vessel, Malta-flagged bulk carrier MV Ruen that was hijacked in December 2023, were safely evacuated without injuries and the 35 pirates apprehended in the operation conducted by guided-missile destroyer INS Kolkata with her marine commandos around 2,600 km from the Indian coast. INS Kolkata was backed by patrol vessel INS Subhadra, P-8I long-range maritime patrol aircraft, drones and additional marine commandos air-dropped by C-17 aircraft of the IAF in the major operation east of the Somalia coast.

 

India, Dominican Republic ink trade protocol

New Delhi: India March 13, 2024 signed the protocol to establish a bilateral institutional mechanism with Dominican Republic on trade and commerce to develop cooperation on trade, services and industrial technologies. The agreement, signed in the 25 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, is an important step to elevate the existing economic and commercial relations further, according to the statement India primarily imports gold from the Dominican Republic and exports pharmaceuticals, marine products, motor vehicles, two and three wheelers.

 

Tri-service exercise ‘Bharat Shakti’ held in Rajasthan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi witnessed the tri-service exercise ‘Bharat Shakti’ at the Pokhran firing range in Rajasthan on March 12, 2024.

 

India-Seychelles joint exercise

An Indian Army contingent departed for Seychelles on March 17, 2024 to participate in the 10th edition of Joint Military Exercise ‘LAMITIYE-2024’, the Ministry of Defence said in a statement. The Joint Exercise between the Indian Army and Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF) will be conducted at Seychelles from March 18-27. ‘LAMITIYE’ meaning ‘Friendship’ in the Creole language is a biennial training event and has been conducted in the Seychelles since 2001. 45 personnel each from the GORKHA RIFLES of the Indian Army and Seychelles Defence Forces (SDF) will participate in the exercise.

 

PHFI 2nd on list in global ranking of public health institutions

Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) has been ranked second top public health institution globally, behind London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. The first pilot of Public Health Academic Ranking (PHAR), published by the International Journal of Public Health on March 11, 2024, stated that PHFI ranks exceptionally well on the criterion of “quality”. The project was aimed at creating a model for ranking of public health institutions.

 

Govt, ADB ink USD 23 mn loan pact to strengthen fintech ecosystem in India

The government and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on March 14, 2024 signed a USD 23 million loan agreement to enhance access to quality fintech education, research, and innovation at the Gujarat International Finance Tec-City. GIFT City is an initiative of the Centre and the Gujarat government to foster India’s financial services and fintech ecosystem. As per the loan agreement, a fintech institute will be set up at GIFT City. The project will establish International Fintech Institute (IFI).

NEWSMAKERS

 

Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs visits India

External Foreign Minister S Jaishankar on March 12, 2024 held discussions with Belarusian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Aleinik on bilateral ties including development partnership in the field of defence. The meeting, held in New Delhi, saw both leaders delving into various facets encompassing political, trade, and economic dimensions.
 

 

Section C: WORLD

 

NEWS ROUND UP

 

EU and Egypt agree to a €7.4-billion deal on energy, migration

The EU chief and five European leaders visited cash-strapped Egypt on March 17, 2024 to announce a €7.4 billion financial package focussed on boosting energy trade and stemming irregular migrant flows to the 27-member bloc.

 

The deal will include billions in credit over coming years for highly indebted Egypt.

 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen — who was joined by the leaders of Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Greece and Italy — met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

 

The Strategic and Comprehensive Partnership agreement includes five billion euros in loans over four years, 1.8 billion euros in investment and hundreds of millions for bilateral projects including on migration.

 

Egypt, mired in an economic crisis, borders war-battered Libya and the centres of two ongoing conflicts — the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip and Sudan’s war between the regular armed forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces.

 

Egypt already hosts around nine million migrants and refugees, including four million Sudanese and 1.5 million Syrians, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration.

 

The delegation included three Mediterranean leaders — Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, her Greek counterpart Kyriakos Mitsotakis and Cyprus President Nikos Christodoulides.

 

The agreement follows several controversial deals the EU has sealed in northern Africa — with Libya, Tunisia and Mauritania — to stem the flow of irregular migrants across the Mediterranean Sea.

 

Spain’s Congress backs amnesty law for Catalan separatists

Spain’s Congress has approved a controversial amnesty law that seeks to benefit nationalists facing legal action for separatist activity in the north-eastern region of Catalonia.

 

The law, a revised version of a bill rejected in January, received 178 votes in the 350-seat chamber lower house of Parliament. It now has to be backed by the Senate. The revised version of the bill stipulates that only crimes deemed terrorism by the EU, rather than Spanish law, will be unprotected by the amnesty.

 

The amnesty aims to remove pending legal action against people accused of separatist activity, mainly stemming from a 2017 Catalan bid for secession.

 

The most high-profile potential beneficiary of the law is former Catalan regional president Carles Puigdemont, who led the failed independence attempt and has been living in Belgium ever since, to avoid the reach of the Spanish courts. He is being investigated for terrorism-related crimes for his alleged role in protests in 2019.

 

The parliamentary support of Puigdemont’s JxCat and the fellow pro-secession Catalan Republican Left (ERC) has been crucial in allowing Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez to govern since his investiture in November.

 

Three years ago, Sánchez’s Socialist government granted pardons to nine Catalan separatists who were given long jail terms for their part in a 2017 independence declaration after a referendum declared illegal by the courts.

 

Elections held in Portugal

Snap legislative elections were held on March 10, 2024 to elect members of the Parliament of Portugal. No party achieved an absolute majority in the 230-seat Assembly, with the center-right Democratic Alliance (AD) led by Luís Montenegro winning 79 seats, closely followed by the Socialist Party (PS), which lost the absolute majority it gained in the 2022 elections and was reduced to 77 seats. The election also saw the emergence of the right-wing populist Chega party as the third-largest party in parliament, quadrupling its previous seat count to 48 seats. Turnout in the election was at 66.2 percent. The Socialist Party (PS), led by Prime Minister António Costa, won an absolute majority in the 2022 legislative election with 41 percent of the votes and 120 seats in the 230 seat Assembly. On 7 November 2023, Costa resigned following ongoing searches and arrests involving members of his Socialist government in connection with alleged corruption and malfeasance in handling lithium mining and hydrogen projects in the country.

 

UK tests laser weapon DragonFire

The UK’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) conducted successful tests of its first-ever laser weapon, named “DragonFire”. The tests, conducted in January at the Herbrides Range in Scotland, demonstrated the weapon’s precision, with the ability to hit a coin from a kilometer away.

 

Iran, Russia, China conduct Marine Security Belt 2024 joint naval drill

China, Iran and Russia conducted joint naval drill “Marine Security Belt 2024” in the Gulf of Oman, a crucial waterway near the mouth of the Persian Gulf, in March 2024.

 

Warring tribes in Papua New Guinea sign ceasefire deal

Warring tribes in Papua New Guinea negotiated a temporary ceasefire on March 13, 2024, agreeing to halt a spiralling series of revenge killings in the country’s remote highlands. Years of tit-for-tat fighting in Papua New Guinea’s central Enga province has escalated in recent months, with as many as 64 tribespersons killed during a single grisly ambush in February. Two feuding factions — known as the Yopo Alliance and the Palinau Alliance — met in the capital of Port Moresby to hammer out a three-month ceasefire. Highland clans have fought each other in Papua New Guinea for centuries, but an influx of mercenaries and automatic weapons has inflamed the cycle of violence.

 

Pak Navy gets its first spy ship

China has helped Pakistan Navy induct its first specialised research or spy ship, which apparently has the capability to track launch of nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles and undertake other intelligence-gathering missions. The 87m-long PNS Rizwan is said to be similar to India’s indigenously-built 175m-long INS Dhruv, which was commissioned in 2021.

 

Niger junta ends US military deal, seeks troops’ exit

Niger’s ruling junta ended an agreement that let US military staff operate from a $110 million drone base, paving the way for Russian troops to move in. The military leaders revoked the deal with “immediate effect,” seen as ending the US presence in the sub-Saharan country. The decision is a setback to Washington, which had been forced to suspend operations at Air Base 201 in Agadez after a July coup and was pushing to keep its most strategic military asset in the region afloat. The US has about 1,000 troops in Niger as part of an effort to battle Islamist insurgency in the Sahel region and Libya.

 

Nepal govt declares Pokhara its tourism capital

Nepal’s government on March 17, 2024 declared Pokhara, a picturesque city in Gandaki province, as the tourism capital of the Himalayan nation. The formal declaration was made during a special ceremony organised at Barahi Ghat, located on the shores of Phewa Lake. PM Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ presided over the special programme.

 

Denmark to start conscripting women for military service

Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen announced plans to extend military conscription to women for the first time and increase the standard service time. Under plans for its 2024-2033 defence settlement, 5,000 conscripts, both male and female, will be called up each year from 2026. Currently, all physically fit men over the age of 18 in Denmark, which has a population of just under 6 million, can be called up for military service. Because enough men do so voluntarily, there is a lottery system that means not all of them have to serve. In 1998, women were permitted for the first time to serve military service on a voluntary basis.

 

Joint US-South Korea annual drills wrapped up

The 10-day Freedom Shield exercises between defence forces of United States and South Korea concluded in South Korea on March 14, 2024.

 

US House passes bill that could ban TikTok nationwide

The US House of Representatives on March 13, 2024 passed a landmark bill that could see TikTok banned in America. It would give the social media giant’s Chinese parent company, ByteDance, six months to sell its controlling stake or the app would be blocked in the US. While the bill passed overwhelmingly in a bipartisan vote, it still needs to clear the Senate and be signed by the president to become law. Lawmakers have long held concerns about China’s influence over TikTok.

 

World Oral Health Day celebrated on March 20

World Oral Health Day was celebrated on March 20, 2024. The theme of this year’s World Oral Health Day is ‘A Happy Mouth is … a Happy Body.’

 

Global Recycling Day observed on March 18

Global Recycling Day was observed on March 18, 2024. The day is observed every year on March 18 with an aim to spread awareness about the rapid pace at which our natural resources are depleting and the need for recycling to slow it down. The day promotes the concept and practice of recycling and encourages the limited use of natural resources to save the planet. The Global Recycling Day 2023 was celebrated around the theme “#RecyclingHeroes” to encourage people and actions that help our planet by recycling.

 

World Sleep Day observed on March 15

The World Sleep Day was observed on March 15, 2024. Every year, World Sleep Day is observed to raise awareness of the human right to sleep, which is frequently compromised by modern lifestyle habits. The day is observed every year on the Friday preceding the Spring Vernal Equinox. This year, it is being celebrated on March 15. The annual celebration, according to the World Sleep Society, aims to highlight the significance of sleep and raise awareness of sleep-related health issues.

 

International Day to Combat Islamophobia observed on March 15

The International Day to Combat Islamophobia was observed on March 15, 2024. Islamophobia is a fear, prejudice and hatred of Muslims that leads to provocation, hostility and intolerance by means of threatening, harassment, abuse, incitement and intimidation of Muslims and non-Muslims, both in the online and offline world. It was observed for the first time in 2021.

 

World Consumer Rights Day celebrated on March 15

World Consumer Rights Day was celebrated on March 15, 2024. This year’s theme is ‘Fair and Responsible AI for Consumers’. The day is celebrated every year on March 15. World Consumer Right Day was started by Consumer International, an organisation of consumer groups. The day is celebrated on March 15 when former US President John F Kennedy gave a speech about consumer rights to the US Congress.

 

International Day of Mathematics observed on March 14

The International Day of Mathematics was observed on March 14, 2024 with its theme as: “Playing With Math”. Also known as Pi Day, International Day of Mathematics is an annual celebration observed on March 14th. The date is written in the format of month and date (MM/DD) to represent the value of Pi, which is 3.14. The day is celebrated by mathematics enthusiasts and educators worldwide to recognize and appreciate the significance of mathematics in our lives.

International Day of Action For Rivers observed on March 14

The International Day of Action For Rivers was observed on March 14, 2024. Every year on March 14, the International Day of Action for Rivers is observed to promote awareness of the importance of the river systems on the planet earth. The day tries to focus on the uneven access to clean water and the pollution occurring due to human activities. This is the reason behind the increase in the pollution of freshwater.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Haiti’s prime minister Ariel Henry resigns as law and order collapses

Haiti’s Prime Minister Ariel Henry on March 13, 2024 resigned following weeks of mounting pressure and increasing violence in the impoverished country. It comes after regional leaders met in Jamaica on March 11, 2024 to discuss a political transition in the country.

 

Henry is currently stranded in Puerto Rico after being prevented by armed gangs from returning home. He has not been allowed back into Haiti after leaving in late January for visits to Guyana and Kenya, where he signed a deal on the deployment of an international security force to help tackle violence.

 

Henry’s resignation had been one of the key demands of the heavily armed gangs that have recently tighten their grip on the capital, Port-au-Prince. These gangs have attacked the main prison to help thousands of inmates escape, as well as targeting police stations, the capital’s international airport and its port.

 

Nepal PM Prachanda wins vote of confidence in Parliament

Nepal Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ on March 13, 2024 won a vote of confidence in Parliament. Prachanda, 69, a leader from the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) — the third largest party in the House of Representatives (HoR) — received 157 votes in the 275-member House of Representatives. The vote comes days after Prachanda broke alliance with the Nepali Congress and forged a new alliance with the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist-Leninist). According to constitutional provisions, a prime minister has to take a vote of confidence after an ally withdraws support to the ruling coalition.

 

Palestinian leader names adviser Mohammed Mustafa as PM

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas appointed Mohammed Mustafa, a long-trusted adviser on economic affairs, as Prime Minister on March 14, 2024. Mustafa’s appointment comes less than three weeks after his predecessor, Mohammed Shtayyeh, resigned, citing the need for change after the Gaza war began.
 

 

Section D: SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

 

ISRO’s INSAT-3DS captures first images of earth

ISRO on March 11, 2024 said its meteorological satellite INSAT-3DS has initiated earth imaging operations, and released the first set of images captured by the on-board payloads (6-channel Imager and 19-channel Sounder).

 

The Imager and Sounder payloads are similar to the ones flown on INSAT-3D and INSAT-3DR, but significant improvements have been achieved in radiometric accuracy, black body calibration, thermal management, and imaging throughput, among others. The payloads were designed and developed at the Space Applications Centre (SAC), Ahmedabad. The first images are processed and released at the Master Control Facility, Hassan in Karnataka.

 

Noting that the 6-channel Imager equipment captures images of the earth’s surface and atmosphere across multiple spectral channels or wavelengths, it said the use of multiple channels al lows for gathering information about various atmospheric and surface phenomena, such as clouds, aerosols, land surface temperature, vegetation health, and water vapour distribution. “The Imager could be configured to capture specific features of interest,” ISRO said.

 

The 19-channel Sounder captures radiation emitted by the earth’s atmosphere through channels carefully chosen to capture radiation emitted by different atmospheric constituents and properties like water vapour, ozone, carbon dioxide, and other gases, while others may be designed to measure temperature variations in different layers of the atmosphere, it added.

 

These payloads generate over 40 geophysical data products such as Sea Surface Temperature, Rainfall (precipitation) Products, Land Surface Temperature, and Fog Intensity for the user community.

 

The data collected derives information about the vertical structure of the atmosphere, crucial for weather forecasting, climate monitoring, and understanding atmospheric processes, ISRO said.

 

Four astronauts return to Earth after half-year mission at ISS

Four astronauts from four countries caught a lift back to Earth with SpaceX on March 12, 2024 to end a half-year mission at the International Space Station. Their capsule streaked across the U.S. in the predawn darkness and splashed into the Gulf of Mexico near the Florida Panhandle. NASA’s Jasmin Moghbeli, a Marine helicopter pilot, led the returning crew of Denmark’s Andreas Mogensen, Japan’s Satoshi Furukawa and Russia’s Konstantin Borisov.
 

 

Section E: AWARDS

 

96th Academy Awards presented

The 96th Academy Awards, better known as Oscars, were held in Hollywood, Los Angeles (US) on March 10, 2024.

 

Among the highlights, ‘Oppenheimer’ clinched a total of seven awards, including the Best Picture title. Christopher Nolan’s adept direction earned him the Best Director accolade, while Cillian Murphy’s captivating portrayal secured him the Best Actor award. Robert Downey Jr. also contributed to the film’s success, receiving the Best Supporting Actor honour. Other awards won by ‘Oppenheimer’ were Best Cinematography for Hoyte van Hoytema, Best Original Score for Ludwig Göransson and Best Film Editing for Jennifer Lame.

 

Emma Stone claimed the Best Actress award for her role in ‘Poor Things,’ which also secured wins in three craft categories for Best Costume Design for Holly Waddington, Production Design, and Makeup and Hairstyling.

 

Da’Vine Joy Randolph’s portrayal in ‘The Holdovers’ earned her the Best Supporting Actress award.

 

Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki’s animated feature ‘The Boy and the Heron’ clinched the Best Animated Feature title.

 

Jonathan Glazer’s ‘The Zone of Interest’ was honoured as the Best International Feature Film.

 

The documentary ‘20 Days in Mariupol’ was recognized as the Best Documentary.

 

The musical talents of Billie Eilish and Finneas O’Connell were acknowledged with the Best Original Song award for “What Was I Made For?” from ‘Barbie.’

 

Justine Triet and Arthur Harari secured the Best Original Screenplay award for ‘Anatomy of a Fall,’ while Cord Jefferson was honoured with the Best Adapted Screenplay award for “American Fiction.”

 

The award for Best Visual Effects was won by Takashi Yamazaki, Kiyoko Shibuya, Masaki Takahashi and Tatsuji Nojima for ‘Godzilla Minus One’.

 

Critics’ Choice Awards 2024

The 6th Edition of Critics’ Choice Awards 2024, given by the Film Critics Guild, were presented to the winners in Mumbai on March 12, 2024. The acting honours are given for feature films and for streaming platforms.

 

List of winners:

 

Web series category:

  • Best Web Series: ‘Kohrra’
  • Best Director: Vikramaditya Motwane for ‘Jubilee’
  • Best Actor: Suvinder Vicky for ‘Kohrra’
  • Best Actress: Rajshri Deshpande for ‘Trial by Fire’
  • Best Supporting Actor: Sidhant Gupta for ‘Jubilee’
  • Best Supporting Actress: Amruta Subhash for ‘Lust Stories S2: The Mirror’
  • Best Writing : Gunjit Chopra, Diggi Sisodia and Sudip Sharma for ‘Kohrra’

 

Feature films category:

  • Best Feature Film: 12th Fail
  • Best Director: P. S. Vinothraj for ‘Koozhangal (Pebbles)’
  • Best Actor: Vikrant Massey for ‘12th Fail’
  • Best Actress: Shefali Shah for ‘Three of Us’
  • Best Supporting Actor: Jaideep Ahlawat for ‘Jaane Jaan’
  • Best Supporting Actress: Deepti Naval for ‘Goldfish’
  • Best Writing: Devashish Makhija for ‘Joram’
  • Best Editing: Abhro Banerjee for ‘Joram’
  • Best Cinematography: Avinash Arun Dhaware for ‘Three of Us’

 

Special Category:

  • Gender Sensitivity Award: Fire in the Mountains
  • Extraordinary Contribution to Cinema Award: Usha Khanna

 

Short film category:

  • Best Short Film: ‘Nocturnal Burger ‘
  • Best Director: Reema Maya for ‘Nocturnal Burger ‘
  • Best Actor: Sanjay Mishra for ‘Giddh (The Scavenger)’
  • Best Actress: Millo Sunka for ‘Nocturnal Burger ‘
  • Best Writing: Ashok Sankhla and Manish Saini for ‘Giddh (The Scavenger) ‘
  • Best Cinematography: Jigmet Wangchuk for ‘Last Days of Summer ‘

 

Chameli Devi Jain Award 2024 winners announced

Chameli Devi Jain Award 2024 for Outstanding Woman Media Person of the Year was presented jointly to independent journalist Greeshma Kuthar, and Ritika Chopra of the Indian Express on March 15, 2024.

 

According to The Media Foundation, an independent jury comprising senior journalist and columnist Radhika Ramaseshan (Chair), award-winning journalist and author Mariyam Alavi, and Down to Earth managing editor Richard Mahapatra, selected the winners from more than 65 entries of women journalists.

 

Kuthar is an independent multimedia journalist who has been engaged in deeply-researched long-form investigative reporting from conflict areas such as Manipur. Her reports have appeared in The Caravan, Al Jazeera, etc.

 

Chopra is chief, national bureau (government) and national education editor at the Indian Express, Delhi. She oversees the newspaper’s coverage of government policy, education and the Election Commission of India.

 

Set up by the Media Foundation in 1980, the Chameli Devi Jain Award for Outstanding Woman Media Person of the Year is named after Chameli Devi Jain, a freedom fighter and community reformer who was imprisoned during India’s independence movement. The first award was given in 1982 and since then, it has been presented every year to those practising impactful journalism in fields such as social development, politics, gender justice, human rights, health, conflict and consumer values.

 

Chennai-based Music Academy awards Sangita Kalanidhi award

Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna was on March 17, 2024 announced as the winner of its Sangita Kalanidhi award by Chennai-based Music Academy for 2024. The Sangita Kala Acharya awards will be presented to mridhangam player Parassala Ravi (V. Raveendran Nair) and vocalist Geetha Raja. Other awards: TTK Awards will go to Thiruvaiyyaru Brothers S. Narasimhan and S. Venkatesan, who are from a musical lineage that stretches back to Tyagaraja. Another artiste who will get the award is violinist H.K. Narasimhamurthy. The Musicologist Award will be given to Margaret Bastin. This year’s Nritya Kalanidhi award will be presented to Neena Prasad.

 

ToI’s #UnplasticIndia campaign wins at Spikes Asia 2024

On 2023 World Environment Day, The Times of India (ToI) launched ‘Unplastic India’. The idea was to make people aware why they should shun single-use plastic, and also help them find easy replacements for their daily needs. On March 14, 2024, the campaign won the Grand Prix award in the print and publishing category at Spikes Asia 2024. The campaign also won bronze awards under the categories Industry Craft: Illustration and Design-Posters. The agency, VML, had done the creatives for this campaign. Spikes Asia Awards are given for creative advertising. UNEP shared the campaign on their bulletin.

 

The Hindu Group wins 6 awards at WAN-IFRA Digital Media South Asia 2023

The Hindu Group bagged six awards for its campaigns and its website at the WAN-IFRA Digital Media Awards South Asia 2023 held in New Delhi recently.

 

The Hindu Made of Chennai, a city celebration campaign, won gold in both the ‘best in audience engagement’ and ‘best in native advertising campaign’ categories.

 

Chennai-a-maze, an online cryptic crossword challenge won silver in the ‘best in audience engagement’ category. The crossword was rolled out on The Hindu Crossword+ website as part of the Made of Chennai campaign from Madras Day (August 22, 2023) for 10 days. The activity was done in association with Tamil Nadu Tourism Development Corporation and Storytrails, a company that does story-based walking tours in India. ‘Made of Chennai song’- an audio-visual done as part of the campaign as a tribute to the city won a special jury mention at the awards ceremony.

 

Also, The Hindu website won silver in the best news website category. The Hindu’s meta description for a news article using GenAI won silver under the best use of AI in the newsroom category.

 

Central Banking London selects RBI for Risk Manager Award

The Reserve Bank on March 15, 2024 said it has been selected for the Risk Manager Award by the London-based Central Banking as part of Central Banking Awards 2024 for rolling out a new enterprise-wide risk management (ERM) framework across the organization.
 

 

Section F: BANKING & FINANCE

 

NPCI allows Paytm to become third-party application on UPI with four banks

The National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) on March 14, 2024 permitted Paytm parent One 97 Communications to operate as a third-party application provider on the Unified Payments Interface infrastructure.

 

The permission will allow Paytm to offer UPI payment services through a multi-bank model, like rivals PhonePe and Google Pay, moving away from its exclusive partnership with associate entity Paytm Payments Bank Ltd. Paytm Payments Bank, in which One 97 Communications owns a 49% stake, has to stop providing banking services from March 15 (March 15, 2024) as per a Reserve Bank of India order.

 

Axis Bank, HDFC Bank, State Bank of India and Yes Bank will act as payment system providers to One 97 Communications, said NPCI, which operates UPI.

 

Yes Bank will also be the merchant acquiring bank for existing and new UPI merchants for the company.

 

The “@Paytm” handle, which Paytm has been using to provide the service through the payments bank, will redirect transactions to Yes Bank. This will enable existing users and merchants to continue to do UPI transactions and autopay mandates without interruptions. One 97 Communications has also been advised to complete migration for all existing handles and mandates, wherever required, to new PSP banks at the earliest, NPCI said.

 

Customer complaints with RBI Ombudsman up 68% in 2022-23

Customer complaints with the Reserves Bank Ombudsman were up by 68 percent in 2022-23 according to the Annual Report of Ombudsman Schemes released by the Reserve Bank on March 11, 2024.

 

Under the Reserve Bank Integrated Ombudsman Scheme (RBIOS), the central bank received 7,03,544 complaints between April 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023, showing an increase of 68.24% over last year.

 

Public sector banks accounted for 41 percent of the complaints followed by the private sector banks which accounted for 31 percent of the complaints.

 

In terms of category of complaints a fifth (20.27 percent) of the complaints were concerning mobile and internet banking, while another fifth (20.13 percent) were concerning loans and advances.

 

The ombudsman’s office handled about 33 percent of the complaints.

 

Of the total complaints 2,34,690 complaints were handled by the Ombudsman’s office and 4,68,270 complaints were closed by Centralised Receipt and Processing Centre (CRPC) as non-complaints /non-maintainable complaints.

 

The central bank’s integrated Ombudsman Scheme adopts “One Nation One Ombudsman” principle and provides single window for resolution of complaints against the regulated entities including banks, Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs), Payment System Participants and Credit Information Companies.

 

India allows RBI to import gold without paying import levies

India has allowed its central bank to import gold without paying import levies, the government said in a notification issued late on March 12, 2024.

 

Gold importers from the world’s second biggest gold consumer need to pay basic customs duty and Agriculture Infrastructure and Development Cess (AIDC).

As of September 2023, the Reserve Bank of India held 800.79 metric tonnes of gold, including gold deposits of 39.89 tonnes.

 

Of that, 388.06 tonnes is held overseas and 372.84 tonnes is held domestically, according to the RBI’s latest reserve management report.

 

Office building of 3 multi-state cooperative societies inaugurated

Cooperation Minister Amit Shah on March 13, 2024 inaugurated the new office building of three national level multi-state cooperative societies — Bharatiya Beej Sahakari Samiti Ltd (BBSSL), National Cooperative Organics Ltd (NCOL) and National Cooperative Export Ltd (NCEL) at World Trade Centre, Nauroji Nagar in New Delhi.

 

The government had earlier approved setting up of these three cooperative societies. These societies have been registered under Multi-State Cooperative Societies Act, 2002. Cooperative societies of all levels (from district to state to national) who are interested in activities specified for each of the three societies, are eligible to become members.

 

All the three societies will procure the agricultural produce and seeds from the farmers via PACS. This would enable farmers associated with PACS  get maximum value for their produce. The societies will be working with an objective of ensuring that profits on the net surplus go directly to farmers’ accounts, thereby preventing leakages in the process.

 

NCEL

NCEL has been formed to promote exports from the cooperative sector. The member promoters of NCEL include Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd (GCMMF), Indian Farmers Fertilizer Cooperative Ltd (IFFCO), Krishak Bharati Cooperative Ltd (KRIBHCO), National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation (NAFED), and National Cooperative Development Corporation (NCDC). NCEL will undertake direct export of goods and services of cooperatives and related entities.

 

NCOL

NCOL has been formed to realize the potential of organic products and create a healthy agriculture ecosystem. It acts as an umbrella organization for aggregation, procurement, certification, testing, branding and marketing of organic products of the cooperative sector. NCOL is promoted by NAFED, NDDB ( National Dairy Development Board), NCDC, GCMMF and NCCF. NCOL will help in the increase of production of organic products and it will also provide support in marketing of authentic and certified organic products by the cooperatives and related entities at various levels.

 

BBSSL

BBSSL deals with the advanced and traditional seed research and production and is responsible for their processing and marketing through the cooperative sector. It is promoted by IFFCO, KRIBHCO, NAFED, NDDB and NCDC. BBSSL aims at increasing the production of quality seeds in India, at par with the global standards through cooperatives, and thereby reducing the dependence on imported seeds. The good quality seeds will help in enhancing agriculture production, and in turn income for seed producing farmers.

 

CCI approves merger of Slice with North East Small Finance Bank

Competition watchdog Competition Commission of India on March 12, 2024 approved the merger of fintech startup Slice with troubled lender North East Small Finance Bank (NESFB). As per the plan, Garagepreneurs Internet, which owns the brand Slice, will merge with its inhouse non-banking finance company Quadrillion Finance, and the combined entity along with the bank’s microfinance entity, RGVN Microfinance, will merge with NESFB.
 

 

Section G: ECONOMY

 

Centre announces new scheme to subsidise electric two and three wheelers

The centre on March 13, 2024 announced a new scheme to promote sale of electric two and three wheelers the country. According to Heavy Industries Minister Mahendra Nath Pandey, Rs 500 crore is being allocated for the Electric Mobility Promotion Scheme (EMPS), 2024. This scheme is valid for four months from April 1 onwards.

 

This new initiative replaces the ongoing Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of Electric Vehicles in India Phase II (FAME II) scheme which lapses on March 31, 2024. Companies will need to register under the new programme to be eligible for getting subsidies as existing registration under FAME II scheme will not be valid for the coming programme. The window for fresh registrations opens from April 1 onwards. There are presently 192 electric vehicle (EV) models being subsidised under FAME II which is focused on supporting sale of locally made products.

 

EMPS 2024 offers a subsidy on EVs of up to Rs 10,000 per two-wheeler, Rs 25,000 per light three-wheeler (like e-rickshaws), and Rs 50,000 per heavy three-wheeler (like autos and commercial units).

 

The new scheme allocates Rs 333.39 crore to support sale of 3.33 lakh electric two-wheelers (e-2W) and Rs 126.19 crore for sale of 25,238 large electric three-wheelers (e-3W L5). Sale of 13,590 e-rickshaw type electric three-wheelers (e-3W) is to be supported through the Rs 33.97 crore allocation under the EMPS, 2024.

 

EMPS 2024 lowers the subsidy on e2w and e3w and completely omits electric buses and four wheelers. Responding to a query on the same, the official quoted above said, “A third iteration of the FAME scheme (FAME III) will be announced after polls to cover more categories. Registrations made under the EMPS 2024 will be valid for the new scheme as well,” indicating that EMPS 2024 is a precursor to a wider scheme for supporting EV sales in India.

 

Launched in 2019, FAME II has so far subsidised sales of nearly 1.3 million two-wheelers, 150,613 three-wheelers, and 18,794 four-wheelers. Over Rs 6,163 crore has been disbursed under the FAME II scheme which was initially launched for three years but later extended to five, ending in 2024.

 

Foundation stone laid for India’s 1st commercial semiconductor fabrication facility

Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid the foundation stone of the chip fabrication unit of Tata-Powerchip Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp at Dholera on March 13. He also inaugurated the CG Power-Renesas outsourced assembly and test (OSAT) facility at Sanand (Gujarat) and the Tata OSAT unit at Morigaon (Assam). All three units were inaugurated virtually. Dholera will be India’s first commercial semiconductor fabrication facility.

 

The three projects had received Cabinet nod on February 29 this year. Combined, the three projects are worth over Rs 1.25 lakh crore. The proposed investment for Tata-PSMC chip foundry is Rs 91,000 crore, the Tata OSAT facility Rs 27,000 crore, and the CG Power-Renesas, Rs 7,600 crore.

 

The three projects mark India’s entry into the domain of commercial chip fabrication units. India’s semiconductor industry is still in its early stages.

 

The govt. plans to make India a global hub for semiconductor design, manufacturing and technology development. With this end in view, the Programme for Development of Semiconductors and Display Manufacturing Ecosystem in India was notified on December 21, 2021, with a total outlay of Rs. 76,000 crore.

 

The capacity of the Dholera unit will be 50,000 wafer starts per month (WSPM).

 

The CG power semiconductor unit will manufacture chips for consumer, industrial, automotive and power applications.

 

The Morigaon facility will cater to sectors such as automotive, electric vehicles, consumer electronics, telecom, and mobile phones.

 

PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan launched for coal sector

The coal ministry on March 13, 2024 launched the PM Gati Shakti National Master Plan, which offers a database of existing, ongoing and future coal projects, to foster comprehensive planning and execution of projects in the sector.

 

The master plan is a geographical information system (GIS)-based digital platform involving various ministries for integrated planning and coordinated implementation of infrastructure connectivity projects.

 

The coal database has 74 geographical information system-based layers on the PM Gati Shakti portal under categories such as coal block, coalfield boundary and land asset data, which will provide stakeholders with infrastructure information.

 

The information on coal mining projects can be used for planning and executing projects in the sector for timely completion, according to the ministry.

 

The portal encompasses crucial GIS layers such as coalfield boundaries, coal evacuation systems, location of railway sidings, and land asset data, providing stakeholders with a comprehensive understanding of the Indian coal industry.

 

Centre opposes more state taxes on minerals

The Union govt on March 12, 2024 told a 9-judge CJI-led bench that Parliament-enacted Mines and Mineral (Development and Regulation) Act ousts states from the jurisdiction to levy tax on minerals which are national resources.

 

The bench had repeatedly asked govt to show the provision of the Act or Constitution which barred states from taxing major minerals. Solicitor general Tushar Mehta said a negative provision is never put in taxation legislations to bar states, but the general trend is to “occupy a field by central law to oust states’ jurisdiction”.

 

The union government and mining companies have opposed giving states the power to tax minerals, arguing that major minerals were unevenly distributed across states with some having substantial quantities of minerals like coal, iron ore, bauxite and manganese as compared to others having little or no major mineral resources. The Centre also reasoned that states rich in minerals could impose heavy taxes on minerals, raising their price, increasing imports and affecting the economy.

 

The Centre has argued that under Entry 54 of Union List, it has exclusive control over mines and minerals and in exercise of this power, Parliament enacted the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957 which takes away the state’s power to tax in this field. It is under this Act that the royalty is fixed by the Centre but it goes into the state’s coffers.

 

Govt bans pharma firms’ gifts & travel sponsorship for docs

Government on March 12, 2024 notified a uniform code for marketing practices by pharmaceutical companies, which prohibits them from extending travel and stay facilities in India or abroad to doctors and their family members for attending conferences and workshops, unless the person is a speaker at the event.

 

The uniform code for Pharmaceutical Marketing Practices (UCPMP) 2024 also bans any kind of gifting to healthcare professionals and lays out guidelines for redressal of complaints related to breach of the code.

 

The department of pharmaceuticals has shared a copy of UCPMP 2024 with all pharmaceutical associations for strict compliance. The department has directed the associations to form an ethics committee to investigate complaints related to any breach of the code.

Actions suggested for any established breach include asking the entity (company in question) to recover money or items, given in violation of the code, from those concerned, suspending or expelling the entity from the association or referring the matter to the agency or authority of govt that is qualified to act in the matter.

 

UCPMP 2024 holds the chief executive officer (CEO) of the company responsible for adherence to the uniform code. It says the executive head of the company should submit a self-declaration within two months of the end of every financial year to the association for uploading on their website, or directly to the UCPMP portal of the department of pharmaceuticals in case he or she is not a member of such a body.

 

India’s forex reserves jump to over two-year high of $636.1 bn

India’s foreign exchange reserves jumped by $10.47 billion to $636.1 billion for the week ending on March 8, latest data by the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) showed on March 15, 2024. This is the biggest surge since the week ended July 14, 2023.

 

Previously, forex reserves expanded by $6.55 billion to $625.63 billion for the week ended on March 1, 2024.

 

According to the Weekly Statistical Supplement released by the RBI, Foreign currency assets (FCAs) increased by $8.12 billion to $562.35 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 expanded by $2.3 billion to $50.72 billion, whereas SDRs were up by $31 million to $18.21 billion.

 

Reserve position in the IMF increased by $19 million to $4.82 billion.

 

It can be noted that in October 2021, the country’s forex kitty had reached an all-time high of USD 645 billion. The reserves have been declining as the central bank deploys the kitty to defend the rupee amid pressures caused majorly by global developments.

 

Typically, the RBI, from time to time, intervenes in the market through liquidity management, including through the selling of dollars, with a view to preventing a steep depreciation in the rupee.

 

The RBI closely monitors the foreign exchange markets and intervenes only to maintain orderly market conditions by containing excessive volatility in the exchange rate, without reference to any pre-determined target level or band.

 

ITIs to add ‘AI for All’ to curriculum

Industrial Training Institutes (ITIs) across India will soon include ‘AI for All’ as part of their curriculum to build awareness on artificial intelligence. This initiative is spearheaded by the Future Right Skills Network (FRSN) in collaboration with the Directorate General of Training (DGT) to enhance the employability prospects of students. The ‘AI for All’ curriculum aims to bridge the gap between industry requirements and academic offerings.

 

“This step is crucial in aligning academic programmes with the evolving needs of industries. The AI curriculum by FRSN is part of the larger initiative of DGT, to integrate AI learning at ITIs,” a press release said.

 

Formed in 2019, FRSN is a collaborative effort of Quest Alliance, Accenture, Cisco, JP Morgan and SAP Labs India. A memorandum of understanding between the DGT and FRSN on the project was exchanged on March 14, 2024 in the presence of union minister of education and skill development and entrepreneurship Dharmendra Pradhan.

 

No porting allowed within seven days of SIM card swap: TRAI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on March 15, 2024 updated regulations to disallow telecom subscribers to port out of their current network provider if they have “swapped” their SIM card, after the loss or damage of a previous card, within the past seven days. The regulations prohibit telecom operators from issuing a “unique porting code” (UPC) which is the first step of changing providers using mobile number portability. This amendment would “result in preventing [the] porting of mobile connections soon after SIM swapping/ replacement, by fraudsters in the name of new subscribers,” the TRAI said in an explanatory memorandum.

 

The move is part of the anti-spam measures the TRAI has taken. Previous steps include creating a do-not-disturb registry for subscribers to opt out of spam, releasing a now-defunct app to enforce that registry by allowing users to file complaints against errant telemarketers, and requiring all transactional SMS messages by businesses to be as per a format registered with telecom operators, barring which they get filtered out.

 

The TRAI has also recommended to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) a feature that would display the legally registered name of every caller on recipients’ handsets, a feature that drew some criticism on privacy grounds. The DoT has launched Chakshu, its own portal for reporting “suspected fraud communication”.

 

The DoT had asked the TRAI to examine a suggestion that telecom firms be required to match the identity of subscribers when they port out from one operator to another. The TRAI said that this suggestion will be “examined separately”.

 

Govt seeks bids for electrolyser manufacturing under SIGHT

The government on March 16, 2024 invited bids for setting up electrolyser manufacturing capacities under the second tranche of the Strategic Interventions for Green Hydrogen Transition (SIGHT) scheme. The second tranche of the scheme entails a central financial assistance of ₹2,220 crore.

 

The SIGHT programme is a financial measure under the National Green Hydrogen Mission with an outlay of ₹17,490 crore for both domestic manufacturing of electrolysers and production of green hydrogen. The total outlay for all tranches of electrolyser capacities under the scheme is ₹4,440 crore.

 

The deadline for submission of bids is April 30, while the pre-bid meeting is on April 2. Solar Energy Corporation of India is the nodal agency for the tender. The government had launched the incentive scheme for electrolyser manufacturing in June 2023 and called for bids in the first phase in July.

 

MoU signed between DGFT and DHL to benefit MSMEs

The Directorate General of Foreign Trade (DGFT), Ministry of Commerce and Industry, on March 14, 2024 partnered with the global logistics service provider, DHL, through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) which will cover 76 districts in three phases, to conduct capacity-building sessions, training, and workshops for making Indian MSMEs export-ready.

 

Santosh Sarangi, DG, DGFT said that the objective of this collaboration is to introduce exporters/MSMEs to the digital commerce space so that they get an opportunity to export “Make in India” products, tap international customers and overcome the challenges related to logistics while exporting through the e-commerce route.

 

DGFT has been working for boosting e-commerce exports from the country, leveraging its ‘District as Export Hubs’ initiative. The goal is to promote and enable micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) to explore the international markets through e-commerce channels.

 

John Pearson, Global CEO of DHL Express emphasized that DHL is the first international express operator to sign MoU with DGFT. This partnership with the Government of India will further solidify DHL’s commitment to India and aligns with DHL’s Go Trade program to empower MSMEs in the global market.

 

DGFT and DHL aim to bring together a team of knowledge experts to assist Indian exporters/MSMEs in the identified districts through handholding sessions and develop a start-up kit for first-time Exporters/MSMEs wanting to go global.

Aligning with the Foreign Trade Policy 2023, in the past few months, DGFT has signed MoUs with Amazon India and Shiprocket covering 20 and 16 districts respectively. These collaborations with e-commerce platforms and service providers have encouraged series of outreach events by DGFT- Regional Authorities to onboard new exporters; promote first-time exporters, and handhold MSME producers to become exporters through cross-border e-commerce sales under the District as Export Hub initiative.

 

Piyush Goyal attends virtual ministerial meeting of IPEF

Union Minister of Commerce & Industry, Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution, and Textiles, Piyush Goyal on March 14, 2024 joined U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo along with the ministers from the other Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity (IPEF) partners, in their first Ministerial meeting this year.

 

During the virtual ministerial meeting on Pillars II-IV, IPEF partners reviewed the progress made since the substantial conclusion of the negotiations for the proposed IPEF Clean Economy Agreement (Pillar III), the IPEF Fair Economy Agreement (Pillar IV), and Agreement on IPEF in November 2023. The IPEF partners also discussed the ongoing cooperative work ahead across the three proposed agreements.

 

Additionally, IPEF partners welcomed the entry into force of the IPEF Supply Chain Agreement w.e.f. 24 February 2024. The texts of the proposed Clean Economy Agreement, Fair Economy Agreement, and Agreement on IPEF were also made public.

 

Addressing the Ministerial gathering, Goyal called for an expeditious implementation of all the action-oriented collaborative elements under various IPEF Pillars.

 

About IPEF

IPEF was launched in May 2022, bringing together 14 regional partners – Australia, Brunei, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United States, and Vietnam – in a new model of economic cooperation. IPEF negotiations began in late 2022. In May 2023, the IPEF partners announced the substantial conclusion of the negotiations for a first-of-its-kind IPEF Supply Chain Agreement. In November 2023, the IPEF partners announced the substantial conclusion of the negotiations on the proposed IPEF Clean Economy and Fair Economy Agreements, as well as on a proposed overarching Agreement on IPEF to help ensure the durability of the framework and held a signing ceremony for the IPEF Supply Chain Agreement.

 

SIDBI and NIESBUD to transform Fair Price Shops

The Department of Food and Public Distribution has entered into two MoUs with the Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE) and the Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI) To transform the Fair Price Shops (FPSs) in India.

 

The Department of Food & Public Distribution (DoF&PD) signed an MoU with the National Institute for Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development, NIESBUD under Ministry of Skill Development and Entrepreneurship (MSDE), to tackle skill development challenges faced by FPS dealers, particularly in areas of digital literacy, financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills needed to adapt to the market changes and explore new business opportunities. The MoU was signed on March 14, 2024 at Kaushal Bhawan, New Delhi by officials of these organisations.

 

Another MoU between DoF&PD and SIDBI was entered into on March 5, 2024 at Krishi Bhawan, New Delhi. Through this partnership, SIDBI will offer a simple-to-use digital solution for providing working capital assistance to the FPSs through its GST Sahay application. This initiative will enable FPS to operate on a credit model for selling non-PDS commodities.

 

Trade deficit widens to $18.7 billion in February

India’s trade deficit widened to $18.71 billion in February this year, after hitting a nine-month low in the month before, government said on March 15, 2024.

India’s trade deficit in January 2024 stood at $17.5 billion while in February 2023, it was $16.6 billion. A narrowing trade deficit tends to help limit India’s current account deficit and strengthen the Rupee, which has been leading among Asian currencies in terms of performance this year.

 

Merchandise imports in February rose 12.2 per cent on a year-on-year basis to $60.11 billion. In January, imports stood at $54.4 billion. Exports increased by 11.9 per cent on an annual basis to $41.4 billion. In January, exports stood at $36.9 billion.

 

In February, services exports were $32.35 billion, while imports were $15.39 billion. In January, services exports were $32.80 billion and imports were $16.05 billion.

 

Centre hikes windfall tax on petroleum crude

The government has raised its windfall tax on petroleum crude to 4,900 rupees ($59.15) a tonne from 4,600 rupees with effect from March 16, according to a government notification released on March 15, 2024. The tax is levied in the form of Special Additional Excise Duty (SAED). The SAED on export of diesel, petrol and jet fuel or ATF has been retained at nil. Earlier on February 16, the government had raised the windfall tax on petroleum crude to Rs 3,300 a metric ton from Rs 3,200 and hiked the tax on diesel to Rs 1.5 a litre from zero. India imposed a windfall tax on crude oil producers from July 2022 and extended the levy on exports of gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel, as private refiners wanted to sell fuel overseas to gain from robust refining margins instead of selling locally. The government revises the tax fortnightly.

 

Industrial growth slows to 3.8% in January

Growth in India’s industrial output decelerated to 3.8 percent in January, according to data released by the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation on March 12. At 3.8 percent, the latest industrial growth figure as per the Index of Industrial Production (IIP) is unchanged from the December 2023 figure of 3.8 percent. That number was on March 12 revised higher to 4.2 percent by the statistics ministry. This was to be expected after the commerce ministry revised upwards core sector growth for December to 4.9 percent from 3.8 percent. The eight core industries – coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, fertilisers, steel, cement, and electricity – make up around 40 percent of the IIP. As such, it is seen as a lead indicator of industrial growth data.  In January 2023, India’s industrial output had grown by 5.8 percent.

 

Wholesale inflation eases to a four-month low of 0.2% in February

Wholesale inflation eased to a four-month low of 0.2% in February compared with 0.27% in the previous month, despite an increase in food prices as input cost pressures remained benign, data released March 14, 2024 showed.

 

Retail inflation almost flat at 5.1% in February

India’s retail inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), remained flat between January and February. The headline retail inflation number came in at 5.09% in February compared to the 5.1% print for January 2024.

 

Prices of petrol and diesel cut by Rs 2 per litre

Govt-run fuel retailers on March 14, 2024 slashed prices of petrol and diesel by Rs 2 per litre. Petrol and diesel prices have remained frozen since May 22, 2022 when the Centre last reduced excise duty on them. This was the second excise duty reduction in seven months that had followed a similar move on Nov 4, 2021. The two reductions together had brought down the excise duty on petrol and diesel prices by a total of Rs 13 and Rs 16 per litre, respectively.

 

MoD inks contracts with HAL to procure 34 advanced light helicopters

The defence ministry on March 13, 2024 signed two contracts with a combined value of Rs 8073 crore with the Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd for acquisition of 34 advanced light helicopters and associated equipment for the Indian Army and the Coast Guard. Out of 34 Dhruv Mk-III helicopters, the Army will get 25 and the Coast Guard will receive nine. The acquisition is under the Indian-IDDM (Indigenously Designed, Developed and Manufactured) category. The ALH Dhruv Mk III UT (Utility) — the Indian Army version — is designed for search and rescue, transportation of troops and casualty evacuation among other roles. The ALH Mk III MR (Maritime Role), the ICG version, is designed for maritime surveillance, search and rescue, rappelling operations and also for transportation of troops.

 

MoD signs contract worth Rs 2,890 crore with HAL to upgrade 25 Dornier aircraft

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) on March 15, 2024 approved the upgrade of 25 Dornier aircraft. The Ministry of Defence on March 15, 2024 signed a contract with Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) for Mid Life Upgrade (MLU) of 25 Dornier Aircraft along with associated equipment for the Indian Navy at a cost of Rs 2,890 crore. The MLU for Dornier Aircraft includes an upgrade to incorporate state-of-the-art avionics systems and primary role sensors, the Defence Ministry said. The defence ministry said the project will be implemented within six and half years.

 

PM flags off India’s first automobile in-plant Railway siding project

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 12, 2024 inaugurated India’s first automobile in-plant railway siding project of Maruti Suzuki India at its plant in Hansalpur, Gujarat.

 

Sidbi gets $24.5 million from GCF for ‘Avaana’ fund

Small Industries Development Bank of India (Sidbi) has received $24.5 million from Green Climate Fund (GCF) for its maiden anchored project Avaana Sustainability Fund (ASF) valued at $120 million. GCF, a pivotal component of the historic Paris Agreement, is the world’s largest climate fund. GCF approved Sidbi’s project and committed the investment at its 38th board meeting in Rwanda on March 5. The primary aim of the ASF project is to invest in early-stage companies harnessing technology-led innovation to spur climate solutions and sustainability in India. Anticipated outcomes include significant contributions to climate change mitigation, adaptation, and the enhancement of resilience in vulnerable sectors of the Indian economy, Sidbi said in a note.

 

Centre imposes minimum export price of $2,000 per tonne on honey till December

The government on March 14, 2024 imposed a minimum export price (MEP) of USD 2,000 per tonne on natural honey till December this year. The notification will be effective immediately. Exports below this MEP value will not be permitted. “Export of natural honey is free. Minimum export price (MEP) of USD 2,000 per metric ton is imposed till December 31, 2024, or until further orders, whichever is earlier,” the Directorate General of Foreign Trade said in a notification. During April-January this fiscal, natural honey exports stood at USD 153.21 million. It was USD 203 million in 2022-23. The major exporting destinations include the US and the UAE.

 

ISMA revises sugar production estimate

Industry body Indian Sugar Mills Association (ISMA) has revised the sugar production estimate for 2023-24 upwards to 34 million tonnes; up by 2.9% from its earlier estimate of 33.05 million tonnes issued in January this year. The Indian government has put a cap of diversion of 1.7 million tonnes of sugar for ethanol production in 2023-24 to make more sugar available for the consumers as there were concerns over the production of sugar due to the drought in Maharashtra and Karnataka. ISMA also appointed Deepak Ballani as its new Director General.
 

 

Section H: CORPORATE

 

Paramount to sell its remaining stake in Viacom18 to RIL

Paramount Global will exit Viacom18 by selling its remaining 13.01% stake to Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) for ₹4,286 crore, a deal that will value the Indian media company at about ₹33,000 crore.

 

In separate regulatory filings, the US media and entertainment major and the Mukesh Ambani-led Indian conglomerate have said the transaction is subject to the satisfaction of certain customary conditions, including receipt of applicable regulatory approvals.

 

The transaction is also subject to the completion of the proposed joint venture (JV) involving RIL, Viacom18, and The Walt Disney Company’s Star India.

 

RIL’s stake in Viacom18 will increase to 70.49% after the completion of the deal. It currently holds compulsorily convertible preference shares (CCPS), representing a 57.48% equity stake in Viacom18.

 

Former Star India chairman and CEO Uday Shankar’s Bodhi Tree Systems holds around 16% stake in the company while the remaining stake of about 13.5% is held by TV18.

 

Paramount, which owns media brands like MTV, Vh1, and Nickelodeon, will continue to license its content to Viacom18. It has launched its streaming platform Paramount+ as a bundled service on Viacom18’s streaming platform JioCinema.

 

Viacom18 is a subsidiary of TV18 Broadcast, which is in the process of merging with Network18.

 

Paramount Global (formerly Viacom), which had formed Viacom18 as an equal joint venture (JV) with TV18 in 2007, has been ceding control of the company to RIL after the latter’s acquisition of Network18 from Raghav Bahl.

 

In 2018, RIL took control of Viacom18 by acquiring an additional 1% stake from Paramount for a cash consideration of $20 million to take its stake to 51%.

 

Paramount’s stake in Viacom18 declined to 13.01% from 49% last year following a ₹15,145-crore fund infusion by RIL and Bodhi Tree Systems.

 

The fund infusion gave RIL-owned entities a 60.37% shareholding in Viacom 18, with Bodhi Tree Systems receiving 13.08%. Subsequently, Bodhi Tree hiked its stake in Viacom18 by purchasing an additional 2.89% stake from RIL for ₹953.23 crore.

 

The stake acquisition by RIL comes close on the heels of the joint venture (JV) deal between RIL and Disney to merge Viacom18 into Star India, a company owned by the American media conglomerate.

 

ETHANOL 100 fuel launched by Petroleum Minister Hardeep S Puri

In a strategic advance towards cleaner fuel alternatives, India commenced the sale of ETHANOL 100 across 183 Indian Oil outlets in Maharashtra, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi, and Tamil Nadu from March 15, 2024. Union minister for petroleum & natural gas Hardeep Singh Puri, flagged off the high-octane, eco-friendly fuel in the presence of Indian Oil Chairman Shrikant Madhav Vaidya. ETHANOL 100 is positioned as a cleaner alternative to gasoline, offering lower emissions and high performance for engines.

 

Fly91 airline starts operations

Union Minister for Civil Aviation and Steel, Jyotiraditya M. Scindia on March 12, 2024 inaugurated Fly91, a regional airline and flagged off its maidan flight between Manohar International Airport (MOPA), Goa and Agatti Islands, Lakshadweep.

Swaraj launched on OTT platform Amazon Prime

Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting, Anurag Singh Thakur launched the first season of “Swaraj” on OTT platform Amazon Prime, in Mumbai on March 12, 2024. This serial of 75 episodes covers unsung heroes of freedom struggle of from all

 

HUL introduces foster/kinship caregiver leave policy

Fast-Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) maker Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) has introduced a foster/kinship caregiver leave policy. HUL presently offers parental support options including parental leave, adoption leave, secondary caregiver leave and fertility support. The foster/kinship caregiver leave is provided to ensure that caregivers for foster children or kinship can balance their professional responsibilities with their caregiving duties.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Ad veteran Fali Vakeel dies at 71

Advertising industry veteran and former vice chairman of Lowe Lintas Fali Vakeel passed away on March 16, 2024 at the age of 71. Vakeel’s career spanned several decades during which he played a pivotal role in shaping the landscape of the Indian advertising industry.
 

 

Section I: STATES

 

Haryana Govt initiates ground penetrating radar survey at Agroha archaeological site

Haryana Vidhan Sabha speaker Gian Chand Gupta and urban local bodies minister Kamal Gupta recently inaugurated a ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey at the Agroha archaeological site in Hisar. This initiative is part of a broader effort to develop the site in collaboration with the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and the Haryana archaeology and museum department. The agreement between ASI and the Haryana government aims to enhance the historical significance of the Agroha archaeological site. The last excavation at the site occurred between 1978 and 1981, revealing evidence of an ancient civilization buried beneath the mound. The GPR survey is a geophysical technique that helps identify the composition of underground layers and locate any hidden structures.

 

UP to rename 8 railway stations

The Union Ministry of Home Affairs has given its approval to the Uttar Pradesh government’s proposal to rename eight railway stations in Amethi district, substituting them with names associated with local temples, saints, idols, and freedom fighters.  The proposal, forwarded by the government on February 12, suggests renaming Kasimpur halt as Jais City and renaming several intermediate stations like Jais as Guru Gorakhnath Dham, Bani as Swami Paramhans, Misrauli as Maa Kalikan Dham, Nihalgarh as Maharaja Bijli Pasi, Akbarganj as Maa Ahorwa Bhawani Dham, Warisganj as Amar Shahid Bhale Sultan, and Fursatganj as Tapeshwarnath Dham.

 

Jharkhand: Centre for Tribal Culture & Heritage

Union Minister for Tribal Affairs; Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, Arjun Munda, virtually laid the foundation stone of ‘Centre for Preservation and promotion of Tribal Culture & Heritage’ at Padampur, Kharsawan district, Jharkhand on March 16, 2024. The museum is an effort to depict and preserve the rich legacy of the tribal community in the State of Jharkhand, while showcasing the rich tribal way of life and culture. An MoU was signed on 21st February, 2022 between National Tribal Research Institute (NTRI) New Delhi (under M/o Tribal Affairs) and the Bharatiya Adim Janajati Seva Sangathan (BAJSS) to establish BAJSS as resource center of NTRI.

 

Maharashtra: Ahmednagar renamed as Ahilya Nagar

The Maharashtra Cabinet on March 13, 2024 approved the renaming of Ahmednagar city as well as the district as Ahilyanagar. This is the third renaming of a city in the state in the last two years. In June 2022, the last cabinet with Uddhav Thackeray as chief minister had approved renaming of Aurangabad to Sambhaji Nagar and that of Osmanabad city as Dharashiv. Ahmednagar has been named ‘Ahilyanagar’ in honor of 18th-century Maratha queen, Ahilyabai Holkar who is renowned for her leadership during the 18th century in the Malwa province, where she established Maheshwar as the capital of the Holkar dynasty. Ahmednagar, founded by Ahmad Nizam Shah in 1494, later became the capital of the independent Sultanate of Ahmednagar.

 

Maharashtra makes inclusion of mother’s name mandatory in all govt documents

The Maharashtra government on March 11, 2024 decided to make it mandatory to include name of mother in all government documents. The decision will be implemented from 1st May 2024. The Maharashtra cabinet also decided to make inclusion of mother’s name mandatory on all govt documents like Birth certificates, School documents, property documents, Aadhar cards, and PAN cards. In 2018, the income tax department had in 2018 cleared that quoting of father’s name in PAN application forms will not be mandatory in cases where mother of the applicant is a single parent. The Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) had then amended the rules which gives an option to the applicant as to whether mother is a single parent and the applicant wishes to furnish the name of mother only.

 

Maharashtra govt gets Air India building for ₹1,601 crore

The Centre on March 14, 2024 approved the transfer of the Air India building at Nariman Point in Mumbai to the Maharashtra government for ₹1,601 crore. The state government has agreed to waive dues of ₹298.42 crore payable by AI Assets Holding Company (AIAHL) to the state for this transaction, Department of Investment and Public Asset Management (Dipam) secretary Tuhin Kanta Pandey said. State-run AIAHL, a special purpose vehicle (SPV), holds the non-core assets that were not part of the government’s strategic sale of Air India to the Tata group for ₹18,000 crore. In February 2022, the Tata group completed the acquisition of a 100% stake in Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express (a low-cost carrier airline that focuses on short-haul international operations especially in West Asia) and 50% in the joint venture Air India SATS (airport services on ground and cargo handling).

 

PM visits Ahmedabad, Gujarat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 12, 2024 dedicated to the nation and laid the foundation stone of various developmental projects worth over Rs 1,06,000 crores at Dedicated Freight Corridor’s Operation Control Centre in  Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The development projects encompass multiple sectors including railway infrastructure, connectivity and petrochemicals. He also flagged off 10 new Vande Bharat trains.

 

During the visit, the PM:

 

Laid the foundation stone of Railway Workshops, Loco Sheds, Pit lines/ Coaching Depots; Phaltan – Baramati New line; Electric Traction System upgradation work  and dedicate to the Nation two new sections of Dedicated Freight Corridor between New Khurja to Sahnewal (401 Rkm) section of Eastern DFC and New Makarpura to New Gholvad section (244 Rkm) of Western DFC; Western DFC’s Operation Control Center (OCC), Ahmedabad

 

Flagged off ten new Vande Bharat trains between Ahmedabad-Mumbai Central, Secunderabad-Visakhapatnam, Mysuru- Dr. MGR Central (Chennai),  Patna- Lucknow, New Jalpaiguri-Patna, Puri-Visakhapatnam, Lucknow – Dehradun, Kalaburagi – Sir M Visvesvaraya Terminal Bengaluru, Ranchi-Varanasi, Khajuraho- Delhi (Nizamuddin)

 

Flagged off the extension of four Vande Bharat trains: Ahmedabad-Jamnagar Vande Bharat is being extended till Dwarka, Ajmer- Delhi Sarai Rohilla Vande Bharat is being extended till Chandigarh, Gorakhpur-Lucknow Vande Bharat is being extended till Prayagraj and Thiruvananthapuram- Kasargod Vande Bharat is being extended till Mangaluru; and two new passenger trains between Asansol and Hatia & Tirupati and Kollam stations

 

Flagged off freight trains on Dedicated Freight Corridor from various locations – New Khurja Jn., Sahnewal, New Rewari, New Kishangarh, New Gholvad, and New Makarpura

 

Laid the foundation stone of Petrochemicals complex of Petronet LNG including Ethane and Propane handling facilities worth over Rs. 20,600 crores at Dahej, Gujarat

 

Laid the foundation stone for Ekta Malls in two states; Gujarat and Maharashtra worth around Rs. 400 crores

 

PM Modi inaugurates Kochrab Ashram in Gujarat

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on March 12, 2024 inaugurated the redeveloped Kochrab Ashram and launched the Master plan of the Gandhi Ashram Memorial at Mahatma Gandhi Ashram in Sabarmati, Ahmedabad, Gujarat. The master plan includes the restoration of Hriday Kunj, the creation of a library and archives building, the development of visitor facilities, interactive workshops, public utilities, and an interpretation centre.

 

The Kochrab Ashram was the first Ashram established by Mahatma Gandhi after coming to India from South Africa in 1915. It is still preserved as a memorial and tourist space by Gujarat Vidyapeeth.

 

India, ADB sign $181 million loan to improve livability and mobility in Ahmedabad

The Government of India and the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on March 13, 2024 signed a $181 million loan to build quality infrastructure and services toward improving urban livability and mobility in the peri-urban areas of Ahmedabad city in Gujarat. The Ahmedabad Peri-urban Livability Improvement Project aims to make peri-urban areas of Ahmedabad livable, environmentally sustainable, and efficient with robust physical and social infrastructure, a vibrant economy, and a distinct identity as a preferred investment destination.

 

NHPC to develop 200 MW Solar Power Project in Gujarat

NHPC Limited, CPSE hydropower company under the Ministry of Power, has won the bid to develop a 200 MW capacity Solar Power Project to be set up in the 1,125 MW RE Park of Gujarat State Electricity Corporation Ltd. (GSECL) at Khavda in Kachchh district of Gujarat. The e-reverse auction for the project was conducted by Gujarat Urja Vikas Nigam Limited on 2nd March, 2024 and the Letter of Intent has been issued by it on 14th March, 2024. The project has been secured at a tariff of Rs. 2.66 per unit and will be completed in a period of 18 months.

 

Centre agrees to let Kerala borrow ₹5kcr more

The Union government on March 13, 2024 told the Supreme Court that it is ready to allow the Kerala government to borrow an additional ₹5,000 crore in the current fiscal year as a onetime measure. However, it will be subject to certain conditions to be imposed in the next financial year.

 

Additional Solicitor General N Venkataraman also told the court that giving additional borrowing to the state in FY 2023-24 is “neither prudent nor in the interest” of the state government. Rejecting the Centre’s offer, senior counsel Kapil Sibal, for the Kerala government, said that the amount was inadequate and the proposal to impose stringent conditions would amount to interference in the state’s finances and borrowing powers.

 

Earlier the Supreme Court had asked the Union government to consider providing a one-time bailout package to the Kerala government, which is currently facing severe fiscal problems due to the Centre’s decision to impose a cap on its borrowing capacity. The Court has suggested that the amount given as part of the bailout package could be adjusted in the first quarter of the next financial year.

 

India’s 1st FutureLABS center opens at C-DAC Thiruvananthapuram

Union Minister of State for Electronics and IT, Skill Development, Entrepreneurship and Jal Shakti, Shri Rajeev Chandrasekhar inaugurated India’s first FutureLABS center in C-DAC Thiruvananthapuram on March 12, 2024. This center, namely, “Centre for Semiconductor Chips & Systems for Strategic Electronics”, will be playing a crucial role in catalyzing an ecosystem for next generation chip design, manufacturing, and research. Among the other announcements, there was a collaboration announced between C-DAC (T) and the Ministry of Railways for the development of electric locomotive technologies. An MoU was signed between C-DAC(T) and Tata Power for the development and deployment of microgrid technologies. There was also the announcement for the transfer of technology of the electric vehicle wireless charger, developed by C-DAC(T) and VNIT Nagpur, to BelRise Industries Limited.

 

Global Spirituality Mahotsav held in Hyderabad

Vice-President Jagdeep Dhankhar visited Hyderabad, Telangana on March 16-17, 2024. On March 16, Dhankhar was the Chief Guest at the Valedictory Ceremony of the ‘Global Spirituality Mahotsav’ at Kanha Shanti Vanam, a meditation centre in Hyderabad. “Inner Peace to World Peace” was theme of the Mahotsav organised by the Union Ministry of Culture in coordination with the Sri Ram Chandra Mission.

 

Hyderabad Liberation Day to be celebrated on Sept 17

The Centre on March 12, 2024 announced that it will celebrate September 17 every year as ‘Hyderabad Liberation Day’. In a notification, the Union Home Ministry said Hyderabad did not get independence for 13 months after India’s independence on August 15, 1947 and was under the rule of the Nizams. On September 17, 1948, the then Hyderabad state, which was under the rule of the Nizams, was annexed into the Union of India following military action, initiated by the then Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

 

Fishing Harbour inaugurated at Juvvaladinne in Nellore District of AP

Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying Parshottam Rupala, Union Minister of Ports, Shipping & Waterways Sarbananda Sonowal and Chief Minister, Andhra Pradesh Y.S. Jagan Mohan Reddy on March 12, 2024 jointly inaugurated the Fishing Harbour at Juvvaladinne in Nellore District of Andhra Pradesh approved under Blue Revolution Scheme through virtual mode. The Department of Fisheries, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying, Government of India approved the proposal of Government of Andhra Pradesh for construction of this new Fishing Harbour at Juvvaladinne in March’2020 at a total cost of Rs 288.80 crore under the Centrally Sponsored Scheme (CSS) on Blue Revolution: Integrated Development and Management of Fisheries in a convergence mode with Ministry of Ports, Shipping and Waterways under Sagarmala.

 

India’s first underwater metro train services begin in Kolkata

Commercial services of the country’s first underwater metro train commenced in Kolkata on March 15, 2024. The train began its journey from the Howrah Maidan station on the East-West metro corridor of Kolkata at 7 am, while another started cruising from Esplanade station at the same time.

 

Kolkata and Howrah are connected through bridges over the Hooghly river but now the twin cities are also being linked beneath the river.

 

The commercial services began after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on March 6 inaugurated the Howrah Maidan-Esplanade section of Kolkata Metro’s East-West corridor, heralding India’s first venture into underwater metro services. The under-river section of the tunnel is 520 metres long.

 

According to the statement issued by the Metro Railway, the 4.8-km stretch of East-West Metro from Howrah Maidan to Esplanade has been built at a cost of Rs 4,965 crore.

 

Of the total 16.6 km of the East-West corridor, 10.8 km is underground, including the tunnel beneath the river.

 

SC stops Assam govt. move to de-notify rhino habitat

The Supreme Court on March 13, 2024 froze the Assam government’s move to withdraw a notification dating back to 1998 constituting the Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, which hosts one of the largest rhino populations in the country. The Assam Cabinet had on March 10 withdrawn the notification issued by the State Forest Department in 1998. The Cabinet decision of March 10 said the notification was issued unilaterally by the Forest department without consulting the Revenue Department or even the Chief Minister. The government reasoned that declaration of the sanctuary was made without settling the rights of the people living in villages in the area, including Thengabhanga, Murkata and Mayong. These villagers belonged to the marginalised communities and had been residing in the area even before Independence.

 

Mizoram cuts MLAs’ perks

Mizoram govt will save at least Rs 13 crore in five years by reducing the facilities and entitlements of ministers, the speaker, deputy speaker and members of the state legislative assembly with the passage of four amendment bills in the House, CM Lalduhoma said on March 13, 2024. The bills seek to reduce the entitlements of household attendants of CM and assembly speaker from six to four, ministers and ministers of state, deputy speaker as well as deputy govt chief whip from four to three. Members of the assembly will be entitled to have two household attendance, which was not amended. One of the points in the amendment bills is doing away with providing funds for purchase of vehicles for all the 40 legislators in every term.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Haryana: New CM wins trust motion

Haryana’s newly appointed chief minister Nayab Singh Saini won the trust vote during a special session of the Assembly on March 13, 2024. In the 90-member state assembly, the BJP has 41 MLAs and it also enjoys the support of six of the seven independents as well as of lone Haryana Lokhit Party MLA Gopal Kanda. 10 MLAs of the Jannayak Janta Party (JJP) absented themselves from proceedings. The main opposition Congress has 30 MLAs while the Indian National Lok Dal has one. After Saini won the confidence motion by a voice vote, former chief minister Manohar Lal Khattar announced he was resigning as Karnal MLA. Saini was sworn in as Haryana chief minister on March 12, replacing Khattar. The state also saw the break up in the ruling alliance as BJP and JJP.
 

 

Section J: SPORTS

 

All England Open badminton tournament held in Birmingham

Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie defeated compatriot Anthony Ginting 21-15, 21-1 in 55 minutes to claim the men’s singles title at the All England Open badminton tournament in Birmingham on March 17, 2024.

 

Spain’s Carolina Marin claimed her second All England title when Japan’s Yamaguchi Akane quit in the second game of the final due to a hip injury. Marin, the 2016 Olympic champion, won the opening game 26-24 and was 11-1 in the second when Yamaguchi decided to retire.

 

Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto of Indonesia won the men’s doubles title, beating Malaysia’s Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in the final 21-16, 21-16.

 

South Korea’s Baek Ha-na and Lee So-hee defeated Matsuyama Nami and Shida Chiharu of Japan in the final 21-19, 11-21, 21-17 to win women’s doubles title.

 

Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong of China defeated Japan’s Watanabe Yuta and Higashino Arisa 21-16, 21-11 in the final to win mixed doubles title.

 

Indian Wells Open tennis tournament

Spain’s Carlos Alcaraz won the men’s singles title at the 2024 Indian Wells Open tennis tournament (also known as 2024 BNP Paribas Open) by defeating Russia’s Daniil Medvedev in the final 7–6(7–5), 6–1 at Indian Wells (US). Women’s singles title was won by Poland’s Iga Świątek who beat Maria Sakkari of Greece in the final 6–4, 6–0.

 

Men’s doubles title was won by Wesley Koolhof (Netherlands) & Nikola Mektić (Croatia) who defeated  Marcel Granollers (Spain) & Horacio Zeballos (Argentina) in the final 7–6(7–2), 7–6(7–4). Women’s doubles title was won by Hsieh Su-wei (Chinese Taipei) & Elise Mertens (Belgium) who defeated Storm Hunter (Australia) & Kateřina Siniaková (Czech Republic) in the final 6–3, 6–4.

 

Mixed doubles title was won by Australia’s Storm Hunter & Matthew Ebden who defeated France’s Caroline Garcia &  Édouard Roger-Vasselin in the final 6–3, 6–3.

 

Indian tennis tournaments

Ramkumar Ramanathan defeated compatriot Karan Singh 6-2, 6-2 in the final to clinch the the $25K ITF men’s singles title in New Delhi on March 17, 2024. Meanwhile, Dalila Jakupovic of Slovenia defeated India’s Shrivalli Rashmikaa 6-3, 6-2 in the final of the $25K ITF women’s tennis event in Indore.

 

RCB win Women’s Premier League

Royal Challengers Bangalore (115/2 in 19.3), led by Smriti Mandhana beat hosts Delhi Capitals (113 in 18.3), captained by Meg Lanning, by 8 wickets in final to win Women’s Premier League at the Arun Jaitley Cricket Stadium, New Delhi on March 17, 2024. Sophie Molineux (Royal Challengers Bangalore) was given Player of the match for taking 3 wickets for 20 runs in four overs. Player of the tournament award was given to Deepti Sharma of UP Warriorz Women). Most runs in the tournament: Ellyse Perry (Royal Challengers Bangalore) (347). Most wickets in the tournament: Shreyanka Patil (Royal Challengers Bangalore) (13)

 

North Zone clinches Vizzy Trophy cricket

North Zone scored a thrilling three-wicket win with one ball to spare against South Zone in the final of the Vizzy Trophy one-day cricket championship at Barsapara (Guwahati) on March 16, 2024. The scores: South 284 in 48.4 overs (Aditya Venkatesh 61, S. Dineshraj 106, Vikrant Rana 4/41) lost to North 287/7 in 49.5 overs (Tripuresh Singh 75, Aayush Sikka 56, Abhishek Kaushal 55).

 

Gulveer Singh betters men’s 10,000m National record

Asian Games bronze medallist athlete Gulveer Singh shattered the 16-year-old National record in the men’s 10,000m to finish second in his heat at The Ten in San Juan Capistrano in California. The 25-year-old clocked 27.41.81 on March 16, 2024 to better the 28:02.89s time that stood in Surendra Singh’s name since 2008.

 

Olympian shuttler Satish Bhatia passes away

Wing Commander Satish Bhatia, a former junior World badminton champion, National champion and Olympian, passed away on March 13, 2024. He also featured in the Thomas Cup for India. Bhatia joined the Indian Air Force in 1964 as a transport pilot.

 

High-performance director of Indian boxing team sacked

Boxing Federation of India (BFI), in consultation with the Sports Authority of India (SAI), sacked Ireland’s Bernard Dunne, the high-performance director (HPD) of the Indian boxing team. This follows the country’s dismal performance at the qualifiers in Busto Arsizio, Italy where all nine participating boxers failed to secure a quota place for Paris 2024.

 

 

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