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Weekly Current Affairs March 2024 (19th to 25th Mar 2024)

 

 

Current Affairs March 2024

Read this post to know about Weekly Current Affairs in short for the Week March 19 to 25, 2024. If you’re getting ready for entrance exams in India, it’s really important to know what’s happening around you. Whether you want to study UPSC, SSC, Bank Exams, Defence Exams or something else, keeping up with current events is a must. The exams often have questions about what’s going on in the world – like news about our country, other countries, or new discoveries. Being aware of these things not only helps you do well in the exams but also makes you smarter in general. It’s like having a wider view of the world, which is good for interviews and discussions too. So, it’s not just about passing the exams but also about being informed and ready for whatever comes your way.

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

 

Weekly Current Affairs Update

For the Week: March 19 to 25, 2024

HEADLINES

 

 

Section A: INDIA

  • EC publishes electoral bond data with alpha-numeric bond numbers on website
  • SC urges restrain on preventive detention
  • 38 districts across 10 states categorised as LWE-affected with effect from April 1
  • SC directs States to give ration cards to 8 cr. workers
  • SC stays Centre’s notification on setting up fact-checking unit under PIB
  • CBSE disaffiliates 20 schools for enrolling dummy students
  • SC to lay guidelines for appointment of Lokayukta in states
  • Meta to label AI-generated, deepfake content as ‘altered’ as election approaches
  • I&B Ministry cautions influencers against endorsing betting platforms
  • Panel to study scope of underground power lines in Great Indian Bustard habitat
  • Army inducts first lot of India-made anti-drone systems for China border deployment
  • BEML successfully test fires indigenous 1500 HP engine
  • Indian Army sets up STEAG for R&D in fields such as 6G, AI
  • Indian Army Major develops Multi-Target Detonation Device
  • Helicopter Unit inducted at Air Force Station Thanjavur
  • IAF activates Emergency Landing Facility Strip on NH in AP
  • CJI inaugurates Accessibility Help Desk and Media Enclosure at Supreme Court Complex
  • BhashaNet portal launched
  • Patanjali MD submits unqualified apology to the apex court over misleading ads
  • Painting by Francis Newton Souza sells for $4,890,000 at auction
  • Mariam Mammen Mathew to chair DNPA

 

Section B: INDIA & THE WORLD

  • World Air Quality Report 2023 unveiled by IQAir
  • India’s richest 1% has highest concentration of wealth in decades
  • India criticises UfC model for UNSC reform
  • PM visits Bhutan
  • Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu seeks debt relief from India
  • India, US resolve last outstanding WTO dispute on poultry
  • ITU elects India as co-chair of its Digital Innovation Board
  • CBI and Europol officials sign working arrangement
  • Operation Indravati launched to rescue Indians from Haiti
  • Indian Navy complete 100 days of ‘Op Sankalp’
  • Indian Navy brings 35 Somali pirates to Mumbai for trial
  • EAM deliver lecture at National University of Singapore
  • Lord Buddha relics return after exhibition at shrines in Thailand
  • India issues a demarche to Germany on Delhi CM’s arrest comment
  • President of Bulgaria thanks PM for Indian Navy’s anti-piracy operation
  • India extends $23.37-million credit line to Guyana
  • CII U.K. India Business Forum recommences activities in London
  • India-USA HADR exercise Tiger Triumph-24 conducted
  • India’s trade dependence on China, EU increased in 2023: UNCTAD
  • TRILAT maritime exercise held in Tanzania and Mozambique
  • International Strategic Engagement Programme being held at National Defence College
  • SCO Startup Forum organized in New Delhi
  • Vinay Kumar appointed as next Ambassador of India to Russia

 

Section C: WORLD

  • UN weather agency issues ‘red alert’ on climate change
  • Illegal profits from forced labour up by 37% in last 10 years: ILO
  • Hong Kong: New security law gives govt. more power to curb dissent
  • Russia, China veto US bid on Gaza ‘ceasefire’ at Security Council
  • Intel wins $20 billion in US govt grants, loans for chip plants
  • France slaps €250 million fine on Google in news copyright fight
  • Global sea level jumped due to El Nino, climate change: NASA
  • UN adopts global resolution aimed at ensuring safe use of AI
  • Central banks deploy AI to assess climate-related financial risks
  • Summit for Democracy organised in Seoul
  • World Happiness Report 2024 launched by UN
  • Australia, Britain sign defence cooperation agreement
  • US Air Force tests air-launched hypersonic weapon
  • Baloch separatists storm Pakistan’s China-invested Gwadar port; eight killed
  • Pakistan hits suspected hideouts of TTP in Afghanistan
  • Sri Lanka says foreign research ships allowed for replenishment
  • 40 dead in attack by unidentified gunmen at Moscow concert hall
  • Arab League celebrates anniversary of formation
  • Israel s barring UNWRA from making aid deliveries in northern Gaza
  • International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination observed on March 21
  • International Nowruz Day celebrated on March 21
  • World Tuberculosis Day observed on March 24
  • International Day for the Right to Truth observed on March 24
  • World Meteorological Day celebrated on March 23
  • World Poetry Day celebrated by UNESCO on March 21
  • World Down Syndrome Day observed on March 21
  • World Water Day celebrated on March 22
  • Vladimir Putin wins fifth term as President in Russia
  • Indonesia: Prabowo Subianto declared winner of presidential election
  • Ireland’s PM Leo Varadkar resigns
  • Character actor M. Emmet Walsh dies at 88
  • Pearl Harbor attack survivor dies at 102

 

Section D: SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

  • Milky Way building blocks found, named Shiva & Shakti by Germany-based institute
  • Russian Soyuz rocket carrying 3 astronauts to International Space Station
  • ISRO launches SAKHI app to assist Gaganyaan crew
  • IAU approves Chandrayaan-3 Vikram’s landing site name
  • IIT Kharagpur, Indian Navy announce research partnership

 

Section E: AWARDS

  • Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards: 2021 & 2022
  • org to honour IAA India, Ramesh Narayan
  • Michel Talagrand wins Abel Prize for Maths
  • Bina Agarwal wins inequality research award
  • ISRO gets US aviation award for Chandrayaan-3 mission

 

 

Section F: BANKING & FINANCE 

  • NHAI monetises 889 km road infrastructure through Highways Trust
  • IRDAI clears new norms to boost governance
  • RBI issues omnibus framework for recognising SROs for regulated entities
  • RBI fines TMB, DCB for violating lending rate norms
  • RBI eases rules for National Common Mobility Card
  • PSBs doing better in managing NPAs: FICCI-IBA survey
  • AMFI must decline fresh investments in overseas ETFs: SEBI
  • Mutual fund industry completes 100 years of existence
  • HDFC bonds can’t retain infra tag after merger: RBI
  • Central Bank MD M V Rao elected IBA chairman

 

Section G: ECONOMY

  • Start-up Mahakumbh held at Bharat Mandapam, New Delhi
  • GRID-INDIA is now a Miniratna Company
  • DGCA slaps ₹80 lakh fine on AI for ‘overworking’ pilots
  • India’s exports may reach $450 billion this fiscal: New FIEO president
  • Foreign exchange reserves rise to $642.49 billion
  • Re slips to all-time low of 83.43 against US Dollar
  • India achieves ‘historic’ one-billion-tonne coal & lignite production
  • India has extended its ban on onion exports indefinitely

 

Section H: CORPORATE

  • Indian investors led by JSW pick up 51% stake in MG Motor India
  • PSU TCIL to sell its entire 30% stake in Bharti Hexacom
  • Jupiter Wagons to acquire Bonatrans India for ₹271 crore
  • Bengaluru-based Varthana Finance buys ISFC’s school loans portfolio
  • France’s YKONE buys marketing agency Barcode
  • Sensor Tower acquires market intelligence platform Data AI
  • Kedaara Capital picks up majority stake in ice cream maker Dairy Day
  • HDFC Bank sells its education loan arm HDFC Credila
  • Nvidia launches Blackwell chip
  • Garuda Aerospace launches drone Trishul
  • rejects HZL’s plan to split firm
  • Krystal Integrated lists
  • 71 Indian companies feature on FT’s Asia-Pacific top 500 high-growth list
  • Hurun India Rich List 2023
  • IndiGo named as ‘Airline of the Year’
  • MTR Foods creates Guinness World Record for longest dosa
  • TVS Group Venu Srinivasan’s family signs non-compete MoU
  • Zomato renames ‘Pure Veg’ to ‘Veg Only’
  • Bajaj Beyond commits ₹5,000 cr for CSR schemes
  • Former DD head Rathikant Basu dies at 82
  • Naveen Jindal made president of steel lobby ISA

 

 

 

 

 

Section I: STATES

  • SC lets Ajit faction of NCP use clock symbol in polls with ‘sub-judice’ declaration
  • Karnataka Governor returns amendments to Endowments Bill
  • Karnataka clause on minimum number of students for minority institution scrapped
  • Karnataka moves SC for Central funds for drought management
  • Kerala moves SC as President withholds assent for 4 Bills
  • Allahabad HC strikes down UP Madrassa Act as unconstitutional
  • Himachal Pradesh: Six Congress MLAs join BJP
  • ASI starts survey of disputed Bhojshala complex in M.P.
  • Bridge under construction collapses in Bihar; one dead
  • Punjab: 20 dead due to consumption of spurious liquor in Sangrur district
  • Assam pauses land sale between people of different religions
  • Governor R.N. Ravi re-inducts Ponmudy as Minister in T.N.
  • Telangana Governor resigns
  • ED arrests Delhi CM Kejriwal in excise policy case

 

Section J: SPORTS

  • BWF Swiss Open 2024 badminton tournament held in Basel
  • WTT Feeder Beirut II 2024 table tennis tournament
  • Sathiyan wins WTT Feeder title
  • Fastest recorded goal in international football
  • Tennis: Arjun-Jeevan pair finishes runner-up in Murcia Challenger
  • Haryana win Hockey India senior women’s national championship
  • Denmark’s Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen wins Kolkata Challenge golf
  • Odisha FC win Indian Women’s League football title
  • Jorge Martin wins Portuguese MotoGP
  • Carlos Sainz wins Australian Grand Prix
  • Calicut Heroes win Prime Volleyball League 2024
  • Indian Open Jumps Competition 2024 held in Bengaluru
  • Indian Open Throws Competition 2024 held in Patiala
  • Pankaj Advani in Hall Of Fame at the World Billiards Museum
  • 2024 Paris Olympic Games: India’s flag bearer, chef de mission named
  • Jasmin Paris becomes first woman to complete 100-mile Barkley Marathons
  • Malaysia declines to host 2026 Commonwealth Games
  • Ex Pakistan captain Saeed Ahmed passes away

 
 

Section A: INDIA

 

EC publishes electoral bond data with alpha-numeric bond numbers on website

The Election Commission of India (ECI) on March 21, 2024 uploaded the data on Electoral Bonds provided by the State Bank of India (SBI), including bond numbers, as per the directions of the Supreme Court.

 

This fresh data set of electoral bonds includes their alpha-numeric numbers that can help match their purchasers with the political parties that received the funds.

 

Two separate lists of the donors and the recipients were published by the poll panel on its website after the details were submitted to it by the State Bank of India earlier in the day as per a Supreme Court order.

 

The State Bank of India was the only bank authorised to sell and redeem the bonds, which were first issued in March 2018 and were being sold until being declared null and void by the top court last month.

 

On March 18, the Supreme Court had directed State Bank of India (SBI) to disclose “forthwith… every conceivable detail” of the electoral bonds purchased and encashed since April 12, 2019, including the unique numbers they bear. The bank was directed to provide the information to the Election Commission of India.

 

The SBI chairman was asked to file an affidavit by 5 pm, March 21, 2024, to the effect that no information has been withheld, in line with the February 15 judgement wherein the Supreme Court struck down the electoral bond scheme as “unconstitutional.”

 

The public sector lender was the sole issuer of electoral bonds.

 

The court had issued a notice to SBI, asking it to explain on March 18 why it had withheld the bond unique numbers.

 

When the apex court scrapped the bonds in mid-February on grounds that they were unconstitutional, it had asked S BI to provide full details of the funding instrument to the poll panel, which was to then post this publicly.

 

The Election Commission published the information provided by SBI on March 14, which didn’t include the unique numbers that will reveal who gave how much to which party.

 

SC urges restrain on preventive detention

Observing that preventive detention is a draconian measure and any such move based on a capricious or routine exercise of powers must be nipped in the bud, the Supreme Court has set aside a Telangana High Court order rejecting an appeal by a detainee.

 

A bench headed by Chief Justice of India D Y Chandrachud on March 21, 2024 said the essential concept of preventive detention is that the detention of a person is not to punish him for something he has done but to prevent him from doing it.

 

“Inability on the part of the state’s police machinery to tackle the law-and-order situation should not be an excuse to invoke the jurisdiction of preventive detention,” the bench also comprising Justice J B Pardiwala and Justice Manoj Misra said.

 

“Preventive detention being a draconian measure, any order of detention as a result of a capricious or routine exercise of powers must be nipped in the bud. It must be struck down at the first available threshold,” the top court said.

 

The appellant was arrested under the Telangana Prevention of Dangerous Activities Act of 1986 on the order of the Rachakonda police commissioner in Telangana on September 12 last year. Four days later, the Telangana High Court rejected the man’s petition, assailing the detention order.

 

The Supreme Court, in its recent order, said the law is well settled that the power under any enactment relating to preventive detention has to be exercised with great care, caution and restraint.

 

38 districts across 10 states categorised as LWE-affected with effect from April 1

The Home Ministry has issued a fresh categorisation of the districts affected by Left Wing Extremism (LWE) across 10 states after their number came down by almost half in the past nine years.

 

A total of 38 districts across these 10 states are categorised as LWE-affected with effect from April 1, 2024 compared to 75 in 2015. These ten states are: Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Telangana and West Bengal

 

Chhattisgarh has the most number of LWE-affected 15 districts, followed by Odisha (seven districts), Jharkhand (five), Madhya Pradesh (three), Kerala, Maharashtra, Telangana (two each), and West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh (one each).

 

Of these, 12 districts – seven in Chhattisgarh, two in Odisha and one each in Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra – are categorised as “most affected districts”, and nine – four in Jharkhand, two in Odisha and one each in Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Telangana – are categorised as “districts of concern”.

 

The ‘most affected district’ section was created in 2015 with 35 districts to ensure focused deployment of resources, the officials said, adding subsequently following a review in 2018, the number of such districts was brought down to 30 and thereafter to 25 in 2021.

 

SC directs States to give ration cards to 8 cr. workers

The Supreme Court on March 19, 2024 took exception to the delays in the implementation of its April 2023 order to provide ration cards to about eight crore migrant workers registered in the eShram portal but not covered under the National Food Security Act. The portal has 28.6 crore registrants. Of this, 20.63 crore are registered on ration card data. A Bench led by Justice Hima Kohli directed ration cards to be given to the remaining eight crore migrant and unorganised sector workers registered with the eShram portal in two months.

 

The court was acting on the arguments raised by advocates Prashant Bhushan and Cheryl D’Souza for activists Anjali Bhardwaj, Harsh Mander and Jagdeep Chhokar.

 

Bhushan had argued that there could be more than 10 crore workers left outside the protective umbrella of the Food Safety Act as the statistics were based on the 2011 census. The court had said that it was the duty of a welfare state to include migrant worker on the ration card roll expeditiously.

 

SC stays Centre’s notification on setting up fact-checking unit under PIB

The Supreme Court on March 21, 2024 stayed the notification on setting up a fact-checking unit under the Press Information Bureau (PIB) to identify fake news about the Union government.

 

A bench headed by Chief Justice DY Chandrachud said the validity of the rule involves serious constitutional questions and impacts the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.

 

On March 20, the Centre notified the fact-checking unit to monitor online content about the government for accuracy. The notification came days after the Bombay High Court declined a petition to restrain the Centre from notifying the unit. The petition was filed by stand-up comedian Kunal Kamra and the Editors Guild of India.

Under the new rules, if the fact-checking unit comes across or is informed about any posts that are “fake”, “false” or contain “misleading” facts about the business of the government, it would flag it to the social media intermediaries. These intermediaries would then have to take down such content if they wanted to retain their “safe harbour” (legal immunity against third-party content).

 

CBSE disaffiliates 20 schools for enrolling dummy students

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) said on March 22, 2024 it has disaffiliated 20 schools, including five in Delhi, for enrolling dummy students and ineligible candidates. The board has also downgraded the affiliation of three schools.

 

Pursuant to a surprise inspection conducted in CBSE schools across the country to check whether the schools are running according to the provisions and norms contained in the affiliation and examination bye-laws, it was found that some schools were committing various malpractices of presenting dummy students, ineligible candidates and not maintaining records properly.

 

Five of the disaffiliated schools are in Delhi, three in Uttar Pradesh, two each in Kerala, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra, and one each is in Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand, Assam and Madhya Pradesh. The schools with downgraded affiliation are in Delhi, Punjab and Assam.

 

SC to lay guidelines for appointment of Lokayukta in states

The Supreme Court said on March 22, 2024 it will lay down the guidelines for the consultation process to be followed by chief ministers, chief justices of high courts and the leaders of the opposition for appointment of the Lokayukta in states. The top court issued notice to the Madhya Pradesh government on a plea challenging the appointment of Lokayukta in the state on the ground that the leader of the opposition (LoP) was not consulted.

 

Observing that the issue has country-wide ramifications, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud said some procedural modalities have to be decided.

 

The Supreme Court was hearing a plea filed by the Leader of the Opposition (LoP) Umang Singhar of the Congress challenging the appointment of Justice (retired) Satyendra Kumar Singh as Lokayukta on the ground that he was not consulted.

 

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the state government, said the chief justice of the high court was consulted and the entire file was sent to the leader of the opposition.

 

Meta to label AI-generated, deepfake content as ‘altered’ as election approaches

In the run-up to the Lok Sabha elections, global social media conglomerate Meta will empower its fact-checkers to label content generated with the help of artificial intelligence (AI) or deepfake technology as “altered” on its platforms Facebook and Instagram, the company said on March 19, 2024. Content, video, photo, or audio, which is labelled as “altered” or is detected by Meta’s algorithms to be nearly identical to such altered content will appear lower on Facebook and Instagram feeds.

 

I&B Ministry cautions influencers against endorsing betting platforms

The Union Information & Broadcasting Ministry on March 21, 2024 cautioned social media influencers against endorsing offshore online betting and gambling platforms, stating that failure to comply with the advisory might lead to the removal of social media posts and accounts. It said such advertisements had financial and socio-economic implications on consumers, particularly the youth. The online advertisement intermediaries have also been advised not to target such promotional content towards the Indian audience. The Ministry has also asked them to conduct sensitisation efforts among their users.

 

The advisory underlines that while Section 79 of the IT Act, 2000 provides for exemption from liability of intermediaries for third party information, data, or communication link made available or hosted by them, Sub section (3)(b) of section 79 provides that the exemption from liability shall not apply if upon receiving actual knowledge, or on being notified by the appropriate Government or its agency that any information, data or communication link residing in or connected to a computer resource controlled by the intermediary is being used to commit the unlawful act, the intermediary fails to expeditiously remove or disable access to that material on that resource without vitiating the evidence in any manner.

 

The Ministry has reiterated the advisory by the Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) dated 06.03.2024 which had expressed concerns regarding endorsements of betting/gambling platforms by celebrities and influencers to endorse and promote their betting activities, and had cautioned that any such direct or indirect advertisement or endorsement shall be subject to rigorous scrutiny.

 

Panel to study scope of underground power lines in Great Indian Bustard habitat

The Supreme Court on March 21, 2024 constituted an expert committee to balance the conservation and protection of the endangered Great Indian Bustard bird population with the country’s international commitments to promote renewable sources of energy.

 

The large-winged birds are on the brink of extinction, and one of the causes is the frequent collision with high-powered power cables running adjacent to its core habitats in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

 

A three-judge Bench headed by Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud said a blanket direction given by the top court in April 2019 for moving high voltage and low voltage power cables underground required “re-calibration”.

 

The expert committee includes wildlife and forest conservation experts along with officials from Wildlife Institute of India, Renewable Energy Ministry and Environment Ministry.

 

The remit of the panel would be to determine the scope, extent and feasibility of underground and overhead electric lines in areas identified as priority spots for the birds in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

 

The committee would explore alternatives to balance sustainable development goals and conservation of the birds. It could recommend additional measures to identify additional priority areas. The panel has to file its report in the top court on or before July 31.

 

Army inducts first lot of India-made anti-drone systems for China border deployment

The Army has now inducted an initial lot of seven new indigenous integrated drone detection and interdiction systems (IDD&IS) for deployment along the northern borders with China. The vehicle-based IDD&IS, which provide for both “soft kills” of hostile drones through jamming and “hard kills” through lasers, has a detection range of 5 to 8 km. While the “soft kill” can jam the drones at ranges from 2 to 5 km, the effective “hard kill” range is over 800 meters. Produced by DRDO and Bharat Electronics, these IDD&ISs are Mark-1 variants inducted by the Army Air Defence (AAD). They will add to the existing counter-drone systems.

 

The systems provide an integrated capability to detect low radar cross-section drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and enable their destruction through integrated application of soft and hard kills.

 

With the cost-effective operational utility of drones and swarm drones being reinforced by the Armenia-Azerbaijan, Russia-Ukraine and other conflicts, the armed forces are going in for induction of a wide array of UAVs from both domestic as well as foreign sources. There is an equal emphasis on inducting different kinds of effective counter-drone systems. They range from jamming, spoofing and blinding systems to disrupt the satellite or video command-and-control links of drones to laser-based DEWs (Directed Energy Weapons).

 

BEML successfully test fires indigenous 1500 HP engine

India’s first indigenously-made 1500 Horsepower (HP) engine for Main Battle Tanks was test fired at PSU BEML’s Engine division in Mysuru complex on March 20, 2024.

 

The 1500 HP engine represents a major shift in military propulsion systems, possessing features such as high power-to-weight ratio, operability in extreme conditions including high altitudes, sub-zero temperatures, and desert environments. Equipped with advanced technologies, the engine stands on par with the most advanced engines globally.

 

The first test-firing of the 1500 HP engine signifies the completion of Generation One, focusing on technology stabilisation. Generation Two will see BEML producing engines for various trials at Combat Vehicles Research and Development Establishment, a DRDO laboratory, and their integration into actual vehicles for user testing. The project is slated for completion by mid-2025.

 

Indian Army sets up STEAG for R&D in fields such as 6G, AI

The Indian Army has established the Signals Technology Evaluation and Adaptation Group (STEAG) that is dedicated to researching and evaluating futuristic communication technologies like 6G, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and quantum computing for military applications.

 

Indian Army Major develops Multi-Target Detonation Device

The Indian Army has patented a Portable Multi-Target Detonation Device (WEDC), developed by Major Rajprasad RS of the Corps of Engineers. The WEDC is a microprocessor-based electronic system designed to enhance the safety and reliability of detonating multiple targets. It offers a long range of 2.5 kilometers and features both wired and wireless modes of firing, allowing troops to undertake demolition at long range with increased safety and precision. The WEDC overcomes the limitations of the previously used Exploder Dynamo Capacitor systems, which were mechanically operated wired systems with a limited range of 400 meters. The WEDC’s increased range and advanced features, such as the ability to selectively fire multiple targets independently or simultaneously, make it a valuable addition to the Indian Army’s arsenal.

 

Helicopter Unit inducted at Air Force Station Thanjavur

One Helicopter Unit was on March 19, 2024 inducted at Air Force Station Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu under the Southern Air Command (SAC) that is based in Thiruvananthapuram. SAC was established in July 1984 “in response to certain geopolitical developments to ensure effective command and control of IAF assets and facilitate quick deployment of combat forces in the event of threats developing in the Indian Ocean Region,” the defence ministry said.

 

IAF activates Emergency Landing Facility Strip on NH in AP

The Indian Air Force on March 18, 2024 carried out an activation of an Emergency Landing Facility (ELF) airstrip on a national highway (NH: 16) in Andhra Pradesh’s Bapatla district, showcasing high level of “synergy and liaison” between the IAF and civil agencies.  The 4.1 km long and 33-m wide concrete airstrip has been constructed by the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI) as per specifications provided by the Indian Air Force (IAF). The ELF airstrips enhance flexibility of air operations during contingencies and are invaluable assets during humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations in far flung areas.

 

CJI inaugurates Accessibility Help Desk and Media Enclosure at Supreme Court Complex

Chief Justice of India, DY Chandrachud, on March 21, 2024 inaugurated “Accessibility Help Desk” and “Media Enclosure” at the Supreme Court Complex aimed at ensuring equitable access to justice for all citizens, including those with special needs. He emphasized that the establishment of this help desk is a direct result of the recommendations put forth by the committee chaired by Justice Ravindra Bhat. This committee’s comprehensive report outlined various measures aimed at making the Supreme Court more accessible to individuals with diverse needs, including differently-abled individuals, senior citizens, pregnant women, and those requiring special assistance.

 

 

BhashaNet portal launched

The Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and National Internet Exchange of India (NIXI) on March 21, 2024 launched the BhashaNet portal at Universal Acceptance Day (March 28) event in New Delhi. The event was held with the support of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). The event marked a significant milestone in advancing digital inclusion and promoting Universal Acceptance across India.

 

Patanjali MD submits unqualified apology to the apex court over misleading ads

Patanjali Ayurved Managing Director, Acharya Balkrishna, has tendered an unqualified apology in the Supreme Court over alleged misleading advertisements. He said that he will ensure that such advertisements are not issued henceforth and that its intention is only to exhort the citizens of this country to lead a healthier life by consuming products of the Ayurvedic company, including products for lifestyle ailments, through the use of age-old literature and materials supplemented and backed by Ayurvedic research.

 

Painting by Francis Newton Souza sells for $4,890,000 at auction

‘The Lovers’, a painting by Indian artiste Francis Newton Souza (1924 – 2002), sold  for $4,890,000 at an auction conducted by Christie’s on March 20, 2024.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Mariam Mammen Mathew to chair DNPA

Mariam Mammen Mathew, Chief Executive Officer, Manorama Online, has been appointed chairperson of Digital News Publishers Association (DNPA) for two years from April 1. She would succeed Tanmay Maheshwari, Managing Director, Amar Ujala. Puneet Gupt, Chief Operating Officer, Times Internet, is the new vice-chairman.
 

 

Section B: INDIA & THE WORLD

 

World Air Quality Report 2023 unveiled by IQAir

Bihar’s Begusarai has emerged as the world’s most polluted metropolitan area. Additionally, Delhi has once again been designated as the capital city with the poorest air quality, as per the latest World Air Quality Report 2023 released by the Swiss organization IQAir.

 

Begusarai, boasting an average PM2.5 concentration of 118.9 micrograms per cubic meter, has surpassed all other metropolitan areas this year, despite its absence from the previous year’s rankings.

 

The report underscores India’s ranking as the third-highest in air pollution levels among 134 countries, following Bangladesh and Pakistan. This marks a significant shift from 2022 when India stood at eighth place globally in terms of air pollution.

 

Delhi’s PM2.5 levels have also worsened from 89.1 to 92.7 micrograms per cubic meter in 2023. The capital has retained the title of the most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive year since 2018.

 

By reducing air pollution levels, countries can reduce the burden of disease, and long and short-term illnesses. The current guidelines of World Health Organization (WHO) state that annual average concentrations of PM2.5 should not exceed 5 micrograms per cubic meter (µg/m3), while 24-hour average exposures should not exceed 15 µg/m3 more than 3 – 4 days per year. PM2.5 describes fine inhalable particles, with diameters that are generally 2.5 micrometers and smaller.

 

The data for this report was compiled from a comprehensive network of air quality monitoring stations and sensors worldwide, involving various institutions, organizations, and citizen scientists. The 2023 report has expanded its coverage to encompass 7,812 locations in 134 countries, compared to 7,323 locations in 131 countries in 2022.

 

India’s richest 1% has highest concentration of wealth in decades

The wealth concentrated in the richest 1% of India’s population is at its highest in six decades and the percentage share of income exceeds that of countries including Brazil and the United States, research group the World Inequality Lab found.

 

Since India, which won its independence in 1947 from Britain, opened its markets to foreign investment in 1992, its number of billionaires has surged.

 

“The ‘Billionaire Raj’ headed by India’s modern bourgeoisie is now more unequal than the British Raj headed by the colonialist forces,” the authors said.

 

By the end of 2023, India’s richest citizens owned 40.1% of the country’s wealth, the highest since 1961, and their share of total income was 22.6%, the most since 1922, the study, whose four authors included Nitin Kumar Bharti and Thomas Piketty, found.

 

India criticises UfC model for UNSC reform

India has criticised a model for the UN Security Council presented by the Uniting for Consensus group that includes Pakistan, saying it stands against the idea supported by a majority of member states to expand permanent and non-permanent seats and underscored that the world of the 21st century “desperately needs a UN 2.0”. The UfC comprises Argentina, Canada, Colombia, Costa Rica, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Pakistan, the Republic of Korea, San Marino, Spain, and Turkiye. China, a permanent member, and Indonesia are participating in the group as Observers.

 

The UfC group is opposed to the creation of new permanent members in the Security Council. The UfC model entails a Security Council with 26 seats, with an increase only in the non-permanent, elected members. It proposes creating 9 new long-term seats with immediate re-election possibilities.

India’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Ruchira Kamboj said in response to the UfC model presented by Italy at the Intergovernmental Negotiations (IGN) meeting on UNSC reforms on March 18, 2024.

 

PM visits Bhutan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bhutan on March 22-23, 2024 where he announced India’s decision to double assistance for Bhutan’s 13th five-year-plan from Rs 5,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore.

 

On March 22, Modi received Bhutan’s highest civilian award, the ‘Order of the Druk Gyalpo,’ the first foreign Head of the Government to receive the honour. The award has been conferred to Prime Minister Modi in recognition of “his outstanding contribution to the growth of India-Bhutan relations and for his distinguished service to the Bhutanese nation and people.”

Bhutan’s King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck awarded the ‘Order of the Druk Glyalpo’ to Modi in Thimphu.

 

An MoU signed during the visit provides for establishing two proposed rail links between India and Bhutan, including the Kokrajhar (Assam)-Gelephu rail link and Banarhat (West Bengal)-Samtse rail link and their implementation modalities.

 

On March 21, PMs of the two countries inaugurated the Gyaltsuen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck Mother and Child Hospital, built with the assistance of the Government of India, in Thimphu

 

Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu seeks debt relief from India

After his anti-India rhetoric, Maldives President Mohamed Muizzu has struck a reconciliatory tone, saying India will continue to remain his country’s “closest ally” and urged New Delhi to provide debt relief to the archipelago nation. The Maldives owed approximately USD 400.9 million to India by the end of last year.

 

Ever since he took oath as the president in November 2023, the pro-China Maldivian leader has pursued a hardline stand towards India and within hours had demanded that Indian military personnel operating three aviation platforms be repatriated from his country by May 10.

 

On March 21, 2024, in his first interview with the local media since assuming office, Muizzu said India was instrumental in providing aid to the Maldives and has implemented the “greatest number” of projects.

 

India will continue to remain the Maldives’ closest ally, he said and emphasised that there was no question about it, Maldives news portal Edition.mv said in a report that carried excerpts of Muizzu’s interview to its Dhivehi language sister-publication ‘Mihaaru.’

 

India, US resolve last outstanding WTO dispute on poultry

India and the US March 21, 2024 informed the World Trade Organization (WTO) that they have reached a mutually agreed solution on the outstanding dispute on poultry imports from Washington, thereby resolving all of their seven disputes at the global trade watchdog.

 

In 2015, India lost a long-pending dispute over poultry imports from the US at the WTO. India had prohibited the import of various agricultural products from the US because of concerns related to Avian Influenza.

 

New Delhi lost the case at the WTO at both the panel level and at the appellate level and though it lifted the ban, Washington remained unconvinced about the mechanism for poultry shipments and import duties and did not withdraw the case at the WTO.

 

As India was not able to implement the decision within the stipulated time frame, the US had demanded compensation. The two countries were discussing ways to resolve the case mutually.

 

In 2023, the two sides settled six disputes- countervailing measures on certain hot-rolled carbon steel flat products from India, certain measures relating to solar cells and modules, measures relating to the renewable energy sector, India’s export-related measures, certain measures on steel and aluminium products, and additional duties on some products from the US.

 

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi and US President Joe Biden’s meeting in 2023, India also agreed to reduce tariffs on certain American products, including frozen turkey, frozen duck, fresh blueberries and cranberries, frozen blueberries and cranberries, dried blueberries and cranberries, and processed blueberries and cranberries.

 

ITU elects India as co-chair of its Digital Innovation Board

International Telecommunication Union (ITU) elected India as co-chair of its Digital Innovation Board during its meetings at Headquarters in Geneva from March 18-20, 2024.  The Digital Innovation Board comprises of Ministers and Vice Ministers of Telecom/ICT of 23 Member Countries of ITU spanning Asia, Europe, Africa, North and South America.

 

The Geneva-based ITU has started Innovation and Entrepreneurship Alliance for Digital Development to respond to significant unmet needs of ITU Membership in the area of innovation. The Alliance has three main vehicles: i. Digital Transformation Lab ii. Network of Acceleration Centres iii. Digital Innovation Board.

 

The Alliance established the Digital Innovation Board to provide strategic guidance, expertise and advocacy regarding its mission of building critical local enablers and fostering innovation and entrepreneurship in digital development, to create a more inclusive and equitable digital future for all.

 

CBI and Europol officials sign working arrangement

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation (Europol) on March 21, 2024 signed a working arrangement, establishing cooperative relations between the law enforcement authorities of India and the Europol. The working arrangement was signed by Europol Executive Director Catherine De Bolle and CBI Director Praveen Sood during a virtual event, in the presence of senior CBI and Europol officials.

 

Operation Indravati launched to rescue Indians from Haiti

India has started Operation Indravati to evacuate its nationals from Haiti to the Dominican Republic, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said on March 20. The move comes days after India had said it was looking at evacuating up to 90 of its nationals from Haiti in view of the deteriorating security situation in the Caribbean nation.

 

Indian Navy complete 100 days of ‘Op Sankalp’

Indian Navy on March 23, 2024 completed 100 days of ongoing maritime security operations under aegis of ‘Op Sankalp’ in the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea and Red Sea in the Indian Ocean. “Piracy has resurfaced as an industry to gain from the disorder in the region. We will take affirmative action to prevent that,” Navy Chief, Admiral R Hari Kumar said.

 

Indian Navy brings 35 Somali pirates to Mumbai for trial

Indian Navy on March 23, 2024 brought 35 Somali pirates to Mumbai aboard the warship INS Kolkata, days after they were captured by Indian forces. The operation freed a hijacked bulk carrier and rescued several hostages. The Indian Navy recently rescued 17 crew members of the vessel MV Ruen during an anti-piracy operation lasting nearly two days, with no casualties. INS Kolkata, with the 35 apprehended pirates, returned to Mumbai on March 23 and handed over the pirates to the local police for further legal action in accordance with Indian laws, specifically the Maritime Anti Piracy Act 2022,” the Navy said.

 

EAM deliver lecture at National University of Singapore

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on March 23, 2024 delivered a lecture at the ISAS (Institute of South Asian Studies) of the National University of Singapore (NUS) in Singapore. Dismissing China’s frequent claims, he emphasised that Arunachal Pradesh was a “natural part of India.”

 

Lord Buddha relics return after exhibition at shrines in Thailand

Relics of Lord Buddha, along with those of his disciples Arahant Sariputta and Arahant Maha Moggallana, returned to National Museum in Delhi on March 19, 2024 after exhibition at shrines in Thailand for 26 days.

 

India issues a demarche to Germany on Delhi CM’s arrest comment

Indian Embassy in Berlin has issued a demarche to Germany after its Foreign office commented on the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal by ED. It said the remarks were akin to interference in domestic affairs of India. While a demarche was issued by the Indian Embassy in Berlin, the German Deputy Ambassador to India was summoned by MEA on March 23, 2024 to lodge a protest. The German foreign ministry, reacting to Kejriwal’s arrest, stated on March 22, “We have taken note, India is a democratic country. We assume and expect that the standards relating to independence of Judiciary and basic democratic principles will also be applied in this case. Like anyone facing accusations, Mr Kejriwal is entitled to a fair and impartial trial, this includes he can make use of all available legal avenues without restrictions. The presumption of innocence is a central element of the rule of law and must apply to him.”

 

President of Bulgaria thanks PM for Indian Navy’s anti-piracy operation

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev March 18, 2024 thanked PM Narendra Modi for Indian Navy’s anti-piracy operation that saw it successfully rescuing seven Bulgarians who were part of a crew that was being held hostage by pirates aboard a hijacked ship. In an operation that lasted for 40 hours, Indian Navy on March 16, 2024 rescued a ship from Somali pirates off the Indian coast, rescuing the crew and ending a three-month takeover of the Maltese-flagged bulk carrier MV Ruen.

 

India extends $23.37-million credit line to Guyana

India has extended a Line of Credit (LOC) of $23.37 million to Guyana for procurement of two Dornier 228 aircraft from defence PSU Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). After signing the LOC, the HAL will now enter into a contract for supply of two Dornier transport aircraft to Guyana at a cost of $23.37 million, the Exim Bank said on March 19, 2024. Earlier India had offered 19 defence training slots to the Guyana Defence Force (GDF) under its Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme. These training slots under the ITEC Programme, a leading capacity building platform of the Ministry of External Affairs, included 10 courses of Army, 4 of Naval and 5 of Air Force.

 

CII U.K. India Business Forum recommences activities in London

Indian and British business leaders gathered in London on March 19, 2024 to re-launch the CII (Confederation of Indian Industry) U.K. India Business Forum (IBF) following a hiatus that began shortly after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. CII Director-General Chandrajit Banerjee said that an objective of the relaunched platform would be to look at greater collaboration and deepen connections which “will go beyond business”.

 

India-USA HADR exercise Tiger Triumph-24 conducted

A bilateral tri-service humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) exercise named Tiger Triumph-24 between India and the United States commenced on the Eastern Seaboard on March 18 and will continue until March 31. This exercise, aimed at enhancing readiness and cooperation between the two forces, is part of the ongoing partnership between India and the US. “The Harbour Phase of the exercise is scheduled at Visakhapatnam from March 18 to 25, which includes pre-sail discussions, subject matter expert exchange on professional subjects and deliberations on planning and execution procedures of various tasks,” said a press release from the Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command (ENC) of the Indian Navy.

 

India’s trade dependence on China, EU increased in 2023: UNCTAD

India’s trade dependence on China and the EU increased in 2023, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) said in its Global Trade Update. As per the report, India’s trade dependence on China and the EU increased 1.2% each in 2023. In 2023, global trade saw a 3% contraction.

 

 

TRILAT maritime exercise held in Tanzania and Mozambique

India Mozambique Tanzania (IMT) Tri Lateral (TRILAT) maritime exercise is being held in Tanzania and Mozambique from March 21 to 29, 2024.

 

International Strategic Engagement Programme being held at National Defence College

Two-week International Strategic Engagement Programme (IN-STEP) is being held at National Defence College, New Delhi under the aegis of the National Security Council Secretariat, with participation from International delegates from 21 countries from March 18

SCO Startup Forum organized in New Delhi

The fourth edition of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Startup Forum was organized March 19, 2024 in New Delhi. The initiative focused on broadening startup interactions among the SCO Member States, fostering an environment conducive to innovation, promoting job creation, and inspiring young talent to develop innovative solutions.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Vinay Kumar appointed as next Ambassador of India to Russia

Vinay Kumar (IFS: 1992), presently Ambassador of India to Myanmar, was on March 19, 2024 appointed as the next Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation, informed the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).
 

 

Section C: WORLD

 

NEWS ROUND UP

 

UN weather agency issues ‘red alert’ on climate change

The UN weather agency has sounded a “red-alert” about global warming, citing record-smashing increases last year in greenhouse gases, land and water temperatures and melting of glaciers and sea ice, and warning that the world’s efforts to reverse the trend have been inadequate.

 

The World Meteorological Organisation, in a “State of the Global Climate” report released March 19, 2024, ratcheted up concerns that a much-vaunted climate goal is increasingly in jeopardy: That the world can unite to limit planetary warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial levels.

 

“Never have we been so close – albeit on a temporary basis at the moment – to the 1.5° C lower limit of the Paris agreement on climate change,” said Celeste Saulo, the agency’s secretary-general. “The WMO community is sounding the red alert to the world.”

The 12-month period from March 2023 to February 2024 pushed beyond that 1.5-degree limit, averaging 1.56 C (2.81 F) higher, according to the European Union’s Copernicus Climate Service. It said the calendar year 2023 was just below 1.5 C at 1.48 C (2.66 F), but a record hot start to this year pushed beyond that level for the 12-month average.

 

“Earth’s issuing a distress call,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. “The latest State of the Global Climate report shows a planet on the brink. Fossil fuel pollution is sending climate chaos off the charts.”

 

The latest WMO findings are especially stark when compiled in a single report. In 2023, over 90% of ocean waters experienced heat wave conditions at least once. Glaciers monitored since 1950 lost the most ice on record. Antarctic sea ice retreated to its lowest level ever.

 

WMO said the impact of heatwaves, floods, droughts, wildfires and tropical cyclones, exacerbated by climate change, was felt in lives and livelihoods on every continent in 2023.

 

Illegal profits from forced labour up by 37% in last 10 years: ILO

Forced labour in the private economy generates $236 billion in illegal profits per year with the total amount of illegal profits from forced labour rising by $64 billion or 37% since 2014, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on March 19, 2024. According to the report, it is estimated that traffickers and criminals are generating close to $10,000 per victim, up from $8,269 (adjusted for inflation) a decade ago. As per the report, forced commercial sexual exploitation accounts for more than two-thirds (73%) of the total illegal profits, despite accounting for only 27% of the total number of victims in privately imposed labour.

 

Hong Kong: New security law gives govt. more power to curb dissent

Hong Kong lawmakers passed a new national security law on March 19, 2024 that grants the government more power to quash dissent, widely seen as the latest step in a sweeping political crackdown that was triggered by pro-democracy protests in 2019. The legislature passed the Safeguarding National Security Law during a special session. It comes on top of a similar law imposed by Beijing four years ago, which has already largely silenced opposition voices in the financial hub. The law threatens stringent penalties for a wide range of actions authorities call threats to national security, with the most severe – including treason and insurrection – punishable by life imprisonment. Lesser offenses, including the possession of seditious publications, could also lead to several years in jail. Some provisions allow criminal prosecutions for acts committed anywhere in the world.

 

Russia, China veto US bid on Gaza ‘ceasefire’ at Security Council

Russia and China on March 22, 2024 vetoed a US-led draft resolution at the Security Council on a ceasefire in Gaza, with Moscow accusing Washington of a “hypocritical spectacle” that does not pressure Israel.

 

The United States, Israel’s main ally which has vetoed previous ceasefire calls, put forward the resolution which for the first time would have supported “the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire” and condemned the October 7 attack by Hamas.

Russia and China exercised their vetoes, Algeria also voted against and Guyana abstained. The other 11 Security Council members voted in favor, including permanent members France and Britain.

 

The draft had stopped short of explicitly demanding that Israel immediately end its campaign in Gaza. In the delicate language of Security Council resolutions, the draft “determines” the “imperative” of an “immediate and sustained” ceasefire.

 

Intel wins $20 billion in US govt grants, loans for chip plants

The US government will award Intel $8.5 billion in grants and as much as $11 billion in loans to help fund an expansion of its semiconductor factories, marking the largest award from a program designed to reinvigorate the domestic chip industry.

 

The package will support more than $100 billion in US investments from Intel, including efforts to produce cutting-edge semiconductors at large-scale plants in Arizona and Ohio, the Commerce Department announced March 20, 2024. The money also will help pay for equipment research and development and advanced packaging projects at smaller facilities in Oregon and New Mexico.

 

President Joe Biden toured an Intel campus in Phoenix and announced a preliminary agreement with Intel for a major award from the 2022 Chips and Science Act. Intel is the first company to land a preliminary Chips Act funding deal for advanced chipmaking facilities. The Chips Act set aside $39 billion in grants — plus loans and guarantees worth $75 billion — to convince chip companies to build factories on American soil.

 

France slaps €250 million fine on Google in news copyright fight

French regulators said March 20, 2024 they were fining Google 250 million euros ($272 million) for breaching commitments on paying media companies for reproducing their content online and for using their material for its AI chatbot without telling them. Organisations representing French magazines and newspapers -as well as Agence France-Presse (AFP) -had lodged a case with the regulator in 2019.

 

Under its commitments, the US tech giant has to provide news groups with a transparent offer of payment within three months of receiving a copyright complaint.

 

But the regulator said March 20, it was imposing the new fine on Google for “failing to respect commitments made in 2022” and not negotiating in “good faith” with news publishers. The US tech giant also used content from press agencies to train its artificial intelligence platform-Bard (now known as Gemini) without notifying them.

 

Global sea level jumped due to El Nino, climate change: NASA

Global average sea level rose by about 0.3 inches (0.76 cm) from 2022 to 2023 — nearly four times the increase of the previous year — NASA said on March 21, 2024, attributing the “significant jump” to a strong El Nino and a warming climate.

 

The NASA-led analysis is based on more than 30 years of satellite observations, with the initial satellite launching in 1992 and the latest in 2020.

 

Overall, sea levels have risen by around four inches since 1993.

The rate of increase has also accelerated, more than doubling from 0.07 inches per year in 1993, to the current rate of 0.17 inches per year.

 

The immediate cause of the spike is the El Nino weather effect, which replaced the La Nina from 2021 to 2022, when the sea level rose around 0.08 inches. El Nino involves warmer-than-average ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific.

 

But there is also a clear human footprint evident in the underlying trend of acceleration.

 

UN adopts global resolution aimed at ensuring safe use of AI

The United Nations General Assembly March 22, 2024 unanimously adopted the first global resolution on artificial intelligence to encourage protecting personal data, monitoring AI for risks, and safeguarding human rights.

 

The non-binding resolution, proposed by the US and co-sponsored by India, China and 120 other countries, was adopted by consensus with a bang of the gavel and without a vote, meaning it has the support of all 193 UN member nations.

 

The resolution is the latest in a series of initiatives by governments around the world to shape AI’s development, amid fears it could be used to disrupt democratic processes, facilitate fraud or lead to huge job losses.

 

The resolution aims to close the digital divide between rich developed countries and poorer developing countries. It, however, doesn’t cover the military use of AI, another growing concern.

 

Central banks deploy AI to assess climate-related financial risks

Central bankers said on March 19, 2024 they have broken new ground by using artificial intelligence to collect data for assessing climate-related financial risks, just as the volume of disclosures from banks and other companies is set to rise.

 

The Bank for International Settlements, a forum for central banks, the Bank of Spain, Germany’s Bundesbank and the European Central Bank said their experimental Gaia AI project was used to analyse company disclosures on carbon emissions, green bond issuance and voluntary net-zero commitments.

 

Regulators of banks, insurers and asset managers need high-quality data to assess the impact of climate-change on financial institutions. However, the absence of a single reporting standard confronts them with a patchwork of public information spread across text, tables and footnotes in annual reports.

 

Summit for Democracy organised in Seoul

The third Summit for Democracy was organised in Seoul from March 18 to 21, 2024. The Summit featured a range of activities under the theme ‘Democracy for Future Generations’. This year’s summit agenda focused on digital threats to democracy, including misinformation, artificial intelligence, and deep fakes. South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol joined U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and other foreign officials in calling for measures to counter digital threats to freedom. The event is the third of its kind after U.S. President Joe Biden established the summit in 2021. It was held online due to COVID-19 restrictions. A second summit was co-hosted in 2022 by the United States, Costa Rica, Zambia, the Netherlands and South Korea, also mostly online.

 

World Happiness Report 2024 launched by UN

Finland for the seventh time straight became the world’s happiest country, according to the annual UN World Happiness Report that was released on March 20, 2024. Finland is followed by Denmark, Iceland, and Sweden. Out of the 143 countries surveyed, Afghanistan remained at the bottom of the list, facing ongoing humanitarian crises since the Taliban regained power in 2020.  The ranking of happiness is determined by individuals’ self-assessed evaluations of life satisfaction, along with factors such as GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and corruption. India ranked 126, the same as last year.

Australia, Britain sign defence cooperation agreement

Australia and Britain have signed a new defence and security agreement that makes it easier for their defence forces to operate together in each other’s countries and Australia chose BAE Systems, Britain’s biggest defence company, to build nuclear submarines in partnership with Australia-based naval firm ASC. British Foreign Secretary David Cameron and Defence Secretary Grant Shapps were in Australia for annual talks with their counterparts in Adelaide. The treaty signed on March 21, 2024 requires the two nations to consult each other if they come under threat. Under AUKUS, a trilateral security and defence partnership between Australia, the UK, and the US, Australia will buy several U.S. Virginia-class submarines in the next decade, and build a new AUKUS nuclear-powered submarine at Adelaide shipyards by 2040.

 

US Air Force tests air-launched hypersonic weapon

The US Air Force has successfully tested an air-launched hypersonic weapon in the Pacific Ocean. The test, conducted on March 17, 2024, involved a B-52 bomber departing from Guam carrying an Air-launched Rapid Response Weapon (ARRW). This test comes as the Pentagon faces increasing pressure to keep pace in the hypersonic weapons race, especially in light of advancements by China and Russia in this field. The US Air Force’s test of the ARRW aimed to evaluate the operational hypersonic missile’s performance and gather insights into its capabilities. While the specific speed of the weapon during the test was not disclosed, previous tests have shown that the ARRW can achieve speeds at least five times faster than the speed of sound.

 

Baloch separatists storm Pakistan’s China-invested Gwadar port; eight killed

Baloch separatists armed with guns and bombs attacked Pakistan’s strategic Gwadar port, key to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), on March 20, 2024, with seven militants shot dead by security forces. China has invested heavily in mineral-rich Balochistan, including developing Gwadar, despite a decades-long insurgency. The militants stormed the complex in the rugged southwestern province which houses offices of different government departments, intelligence agencies and paramilitary forces.

 

Pakistan hits suspected hideouts of TTP in Afghanistan

Pakistan on March 18, 2024 launched airstrikes against several suspected hideouts of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) in Afghanistan’s Khost and Paktika provinces. The Afghan Taliban responded by firing on Pakistani positions along the border, according to the Afghan defense ministry. Pakistan’s defense and foreign ministries called the strikes on Afghanistan “retaliatory,” likely referring to the suicide bombing against a Pakistani military post in North Waziristan on March 16. This is the latest chapter in long-standing tensions between Pakistan and Afghanistan over the TTP.

 

Sri Lanka says foreign research ships allowed for replenishment

Sri Lanka has said it will allow foreign offshore research ships for replenishments at its ports despite a one-year ban on such vessels. This was done after China protested to Colombo for allowing a German survey ship but turning down Beijing’s similar request. This is the first time Sri Lanka has officially admitted that foreign research vessels will be allowed for replenishments since President Ranil Wickremesinghe’s government imposed a one-year ban on offshore research vessels in December 2023 after security concerns raised by India and the US following the visit of two Chinese high-tech research vessels in 14 months.

 

40 dead in attack by unidentified gunmen at Moscow concert hall

As many as 40 people died in an attack by unidentified gunmen at a concert hall in Moscow on March 22, 2024. The assailants threw explosives, triggering a massive blaze at the Crocus City Hall in Moscow. The attack took place as crowds gathered for a concert of Picnic, a famed Russian rock band, at the hall that can accommodate over 6,000 people.

 

Arab League celebrates anniversary of formation

India has displayed “steadfast dedication” to the cause of Palestine by extending humanitarian assistance and by supporting a “two-state solution” to the Israel-Palestine crisis, the Ambassador of the Arab League said on March 21, 2024. In a statement to mark the anniversary of the formation of the Arab League on March 22, Ambassador Yusuf Mohamed Abdulla Jameel supported Indian position and called out Israel for its military campaign in Gaza Strip. Arab League was formed in Cairo on March 22, 1945.

 

Israel s barring UNWRA from making aid deliveries in northern Gaza

Israel is barring UNWRA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) from making aid deliveries in northern Gaza, which faces threat of famine, said UNWRA head Philippe Lazzarini on March 24, 2024. Gaza faces dire humanitarian conditions as a result of Israel’s war against Hamas that began nearly six months ago, triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel on October 7. Recently a UN-backed food security assessment warned that famine was projected to hit the north of Gaza by May unless there was urgent intervention.

 

International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination observed on March 21

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was observed on March 21, 2024. The 2024 theme of the International Day is “A Decade of Recognition, Justice, and Development: Implementation of the International Decade for People of African Descent”.

 

International Nowruz Day celebrated on March 21 

The International Nowruz Day was celebrated on March 21, 2024. Nowruz marks the first day of spring and is celebrated on the day of the astronomical vernal equinox, which usually occurs on 21 March. It is celebrated as the beginning of the new year by more than 300 million people all around the world and has been celebrated for over 3,000 years in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, the Middle East and other regions.

 

World Tuberculosis Day observed on March 24

World Tuberculosis Day was observed on March 24, 2024 with its theme as: ‘Yes! We can end TB!’ The day is observed each year on March 24 to raise public awareness about the devastating health, social and economic consequences of tuberculosis (TB) and to step up efforts to end the global TB epidemic. The date marks the day in 1882 when Dr. Robert Koch announced that he had discovered the bacterium that causes TB, which opened the way towards diagnosing and curing this disease. This year’s theme conveys a message of hope that getting back-on-track to turn the tide against the TB epidemic is possible through high level leadership, increased investments and faster uptake of new WHO recommendations.

 

International Day for the Right to Truth observed on March 24

The International Day for the Right to the Truth Concerning Gross Human Rights Violations and for the Dignity of Victims was observed on March 24, 2024. This annual observance pays tribute to the memory of Monsignor Óscar Arnulfo Romero, who was murdered on 24 March 1980. Monsignor Romero was actively engaged in denouncing violations of the human rights of the most vulnerable individuals in El Salvador.

 

World Meteorological Day celebrated on March 23

The World Meteorological Day was celebrated on March 23, 2024 under the theme: ‘At the frontline of climate action’. The day commemorates the coming into force of the Convention establishing the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on 23 March 1950. WMO Secretary-General Celeste Saulo said weather and climate indicators are “off the charts”, but it’s not too late for humankind to live in harmony with nature.

 

World Poetry Day celebrated by UNESCO on March 21

The World Poetry Day was celebrated on March 21, 2024 by UNESCO with its theme as: ‘Standing on the Shoulders of Giants’. The theme aims to highlight the iconic writers of the past whose trailblazing work enlarged the footprint of poetry across cultures. Every year, World Poetry Day is celebrated on 21 March with the aim of supporting linguistic diversity through poetic expression. “Arranged in words, coloured with images, struck with the right meter, the power of poetry has no match. As an intimate form of expression that opens doors to others, poetry enriches the dialogue that catalyses all human progress, and is more necessary than ever in turbulent times”, UNESCO Director-General, Audrey Azoulay said.

 

World Down Syndrome Day observed on March 21

World Down Syndrome Day was observed on March 21, 2024. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has an extra partial (or whole) copy of chromosome 21. It is not yet know why this syndrome occurs, but Down syndrome has always been a part of the human condition. It exists in all regions across the globe and commonly results in variable effects on learning styles, physical characteristics and health. Adequate access to health care and inclusive education is vital to the growth and development of the individual. The estimated incidence of Down syndrome is between 1 in 1,000 to 1 in 1,100 live births worldwide. Each year, approximately 3,000 to 5,000 children are born with this chromosome disorder.

 

World Water Day celebrated on March 22

World Water Day was celebrated on March 22, 2023 with its theme as ‘Water for peace’. When water is scarce or polluted, or when people have unequal, or no access, tensions can rise between communities and countries. The theme is aimed at fostering harmony, generating prosperity and building resilience to shared challenges.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Russia: Vladimir Putin wins fifth term as President

President Vladimir Putin was re-elected President of Russia for a fifth term with 87.28 percent of votes, Russia’s electoral commission said March 18, 2024, after election held on March 15-17. Other candidates in the fray were Nikolay Kharitonov (4.31%), Vladislav Davankov (3.85%) and Leonid Slutsky (3.2%).

 

Indonesia: Prabowo Subianto declared winner of presidential election

Indonesia’s election commission on March 20, 2024 formally announced Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto had received the most votes in the presidential election held on February 14. Prabowo won the election with 59% of votes, a resounding win over rivals Anies Baswedan and Ganjar Pranowo, who respectively received about 25% and 16%, according to the official tally of the election body. Prabowo is expected to take over from outgoing President Joko Widodo in October.

 

Ireland’s PM Leo Varadkar resigns

Leo Varadkar (45) on March 20, 2024 announced that he was stepping down as Ireland’s Prime Minister and leader of the Fine Gael party in the governing coalition, citing “personal and political” reasons. Fine Gael party and Fianna Fail party are running a coalition government in Ireland. Simon Harris (37) succeeded Varadkar as leader of Fine Gael party and is set to be youngest PM, to succeed Leo Varadkar who became PM at 38 in 2017.

 

Character actor M. Emmet Walsh dies at 88

  1. Emmet Walsh, character actor known for roles in Hollywood movies “Blood Simple” (1984) and “Blade Runner” (1982), died at the age of 88 in US on March 19, 2024.

 

Pearl Harbor attack survivor dies at 102

Richard C. “Dick” Higgins, one of the few remaining survivors of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (US), died on March 19, 2024 at the age of 102. Higgins was a radioman assigned to a patrol squadron of seaplanes based at the Hawaii naval base when Japanese planes began dropping bombs on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
 

 

Section D: SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

 

Milky Way building blocks found, named Shiva & Shakti by Germany-based institute

Scientists of one of the world’s leading astronomy institutes, Germany-based Max Planck Institute for Astronomy, have identified two of the Milky Way’s earliest building blocks and named them “Shakti” and “Shiva”.

 

“These appear to be the remnants of two galaxies that merged between 12 and 13 billion years ago with an early version of the Milky Way, contributing to our home galaxy’s initial growth. The new find is the astronomical equivalent of archeologists identifying traces of an initial settlement that grew into a large present-day city. It required combining data for nearly 6 million stars,” the study said, the results of which have been published in Astrophysical Journal.

 

Max scientists Khyati Mal han and Hans-Walter Rix were the ones who succeeded in identifying the two earliest building blocks that can still be recognised today as “proto-galactic fragments that merged with an early version of our Milky Way”.

 

Russian Soyuz rocket carrying 3 astronauts to International Space Station

A Russian Soyuz rocket carrying three astronauts to the International Space Station blasted off on March 23, 2024. The spacecraft carrying NASA astronaut Tracy Dyson, Russian Oleg Novitsky and Marina Vasilevskaya of Belarus launched smoothly from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch facility in Kazakhstan.

 

The three astronauts were to join the station’s crew consisting of NASA astronauts Loral O’Hara, Matthew Dominick, Mike Barratt and Jeanette Epps, as well as Russians Oleg Kononenko, Nikolai Chub, and Alexander Grebenkin. Novitsky, Vasilevskaya and O’Hara are to return to Earth on April 6.

 

The space station, which has served as a symbol of post-Cold War international cooperation, is now one of the last remaining areas of collaboration between Russia and the West amid tensions over Moscow’s military action in Ukraine. NASA and its partners hope to continue operating the orbiting outpost until 2030.

 

ISRO launches SAKHI app to assist Gaganyaan crew

The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC), the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) facility at Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram, has developed a multi-purpose app that will help astronauts on the Gaganyaan space flight mission carry out a range of tasks such as looking up vital technical information or communicating with one another. The Space-borne Assistant and Knowledge Hub for Crew Interaction (SAKHI) will, among other things, monitor the health of the astronauts, help them stay connected with Earth and even alert them about their dietary schedules. The space facility has tested an engineering model of the custom-built, hand-held smart device featuring SAKHI. The development of a flight model is in progress. The ISRO is hoping to launch the Gaganyaan mission in 2025.

 

IAU approves Chandrayaan-3 Vikram’s landing site name

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) has granted approval for the name ‘Statio Shiv Shakti’ to designate the landing site of Chandrayaan-3’s Vikram lander. This decision, announced on March 19, 2024, follows Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s declaration on August 26, 2023, that the landing site would be named ‘Shiva Shakti’. The Gazetteer of Planetary Nomenclature, which documents planetary names approved by the IAU, defines ‘Statio Shiv Shakti’ as a compound word from Indian mythology that represents the masculine (Shiva) and feminine (Shakti) duality of nature.

 

IIT Kharagpur, Indian Navy announce research partnership

Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur has signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Indian Navy to drive innovation through research partnership and technology development, the institute said on March 20, 2024.It includes propulsion systems, systems and controls, instrumentation and sensors, industrial engineering and operational research, nanotechnology and micro-electromechanical systems, hydrodynamic study of fluids, computer-aided design, study of mechanical design of systems and equipment, surface treatment, study of acoustics, reliability, quantum computing and quantum mechanics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data analytics, mechatronics and robotics.
 

 

Section E: AWARDS

 

Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards: 2021 & 2022

Winners of the Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards for 2021, 2022 were awarded in New Delhi on March 20, 2024. Politics to investigation, sports to economy, 44 were felicitated for works of excellence across print, digital and broadcast during 2021 and 2022.

 

List of winners is as follows:

 

PRINT

 

HINDI

2021, Kirti Dubey, BBC News Hindi: For her story on the police investigation that followed four lynching cases

2022, Anand Choudhary, India Today Magazine: For his story on the loopholes in the implementation of a Central scheme in Rajasthan

 

REGIONAL LANGUAGES

2021, Shabitha MK, Mathrubhumi Daily: For her investigative series that maps the situation of women in Kerala jails

2022, Anand Madhusoodan Sowdi, Kannada Prabha Daily: For his reports on an appointment scam in Karnataka

 

ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY REPORTING

2021, Jayashree Nandi, Hindustan Times: For her stories on unplanned development in the higher reaches of the Himalayas

2022, Basant Kumar & Ayush Tiwari, Newslaundry: For a series on the slow choking of the Aravallis

 

UNCOVERING INVISIBLE INDIA

2021, Monica Jha, Freelance (Fifty-Two.in): For her story on how a testimony by four child victims led to conviction in a trafficking case

2022, Rupsa Chakraborty,The Indian Express: For her series of stories on the backwardness of Nandurbar

 

BUSINESS AND ECONOMIC JOURNALISM

2021, Aditya Kalra & Steve Stecklow, Thomson Reuters: For series on how Amazon’s business practices undercut small businesses

2022, Twesh Mishra, The Economic Times: For his story on the import of Made in China wheels by the Indian Railways

 

REPORTING ON POLITICS & GOVERNMENT

2021, Ritika Chopra, The Indian Express: For her series of stories on the inner workings of the Election Commission

2022, Prajwal Bhat, The News Minute: For his coverage of the Udupi hijab row

 

SPORTS JOURNALISM

2021, Mahender Singh Manral & Mihir Vasavda, The Indian Express: For their story on boxer Deepak Pahal and his descent into the world of crime

2022, Andrew Amsan, The Indian Express: For his story on how an IAS officer got a stadium emptied to walk his dog

 

INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM

2021, Devesh Kumar Arun Gondane, Loksatta: For his investigation that uncovered the loopholes in a recruitment exam

2022, Zoya Hussain & Hera Rizwan, TRT World: For their story on hysterectomies among India’s women manual scavengers

 

FEATURE WRITING

2021, Vandana Menon, The Print: How an SDMC engineer tracked down Dara Shukoh’s burial site

2022, Raj Chengappa, India Today: For his story on the truth behind why Kashmiri Pandits had to flee their homes

FOREIGN CORRESPONDENT COVERING INDIA

2021, Joanna Slater & Niha Masih, The Washington Post: For story on how a group of human rights activists were subjected to surveillance

 

PRAKASH KARDALEY MEMORIAL AWARD FOR CIVIC JOURNALISM

2021, Vinod Kumar Menon, Mid-Day: For his series of stories on a raging pandemic

2022, Azeefa Fathima, Balakrishna Ganeshan & Prajwal Bhat, The News Minute: For their investigation on the prevalence of manual scavenging

 

PHOTOJOURNALISM

2021, Gurinder Osan, PTI: For his series of photographs from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics

2022, Abhinav Saha, The Indian Express: For his image of an IAS officer who got a stadium emptied to walk his dog

 

BOOKS (NON-FICTION)

2021, The Long Game, Vijay Gokhale: For his book that explores the dynamics of negotiation between India and China

2022, The Life and Times of George Fernandes, Rahul Ramagundam: For his biography of the socialist politician

 

BROADCAST

 

HINDI

2021, Jugal Purohit, BBC Hindi News: For his documentary on hardships that healthcare workers faced during pandemics

2022, Hridayesh Joshi, Newslaundry: For his documentary on arsenic contamination in groundwater

 

REGIONAL LANGUAGES

2021, Sofia Bind, Media One TV: For her documentary on the Chola Nayakars of Kerala

2022, Tejas Vaidya, BBC News Gujarati: For his documentary from Bilkis Bano’s village, Randhikpur

 

ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY REPORTING

2021, Princess Giri Rashir, EastMojo: For her documentary on the mushrooming of coking coal factories in Meghalaya

2022, Down To Earth Multimedia team, Down To Earth (Web Portal): For their documentary told from nine of India’s cleanest cities

 

UNCOVERING INDIA INVISIBLE

2021, Vishnukant Tiwari, The Quint: For his documentary that examines what development means to tribals in Bastar

2022, Vikas Trivedi, BBC News Hindi: For his documentary on the salt workers in the Rann of Kutch

 

REPORTING ON POLITICS AND GOVERNMENT

2021, Brut India: For their documentary on a women-led movement in Assam

2022, Abhishek Bhalla, indiatoday.com: For his story on the Kashmiri Pandit community

 

INVESTIGATIVE REPORTING

2021, Meghnad Bose, The Quint: For examining the money flow in the PM-CARES fund for vaccine development

2022, Saurabh Shukla, NDTV: For uncovering the truth behind an incident of custodial torture in Saharanpur

 

Earthday.org to honour IAA India, Ramesh Narayan

In commemoration of Earth Day 2024, Earthday.org has announced the recipients of its 2024 awards. The International Advertising Association (IAA) India Chapter is to receive the ‘Earthday.org’s 2024 Best Organisation Spearheading Sustainable Development’ Award.

 

The award recognises IAA’s commitment to recognising and inspiring marketing and advertising companies to drive positive environmental action as well as recognising specific categories such as Corporate Social Crusaders, Green NGO’s and Green Crusaders.

 

Advertising veteran Ramesh Narayan will be conferred the Earthday.org’s 2024 ‘Most Sustainable Marcom Personality Award.’ The award acknowledges his dedication to environmental conservation efforts, his authorship of the 14-year-old IAA Olive Crown Awards, his personal commitment to mass tree planting, both urban and rural, and his continuous involvement in solar-driven rural transformation.

 

Michel Talagrand wins Abel Prize for Maths

The Abel Prize for Mathematics was awarded March 20, 2024 to France’s Michel Talagrand (72), an expert on probability theory and functional analysis. Talagrand was honoured for “groundbreaking contributions” that have “outstanding applications in mathematical physics and statistics,” the Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters said. The Abel Prize was first awarded in 2003. The recipient wins a sum of 7.5 million Norwegian kroner (US$700,000).

 

Bina Agarwal wins inequality research award

Development economist Bina Agarwal has received the first Global Inequality Research Award. The newly established award, instituted by the World Inequality Lab and Science Po’s Center for Research on Social Inequalities, France, has been given jointly to Agarwal and University of Massachusetts Amherst professor James Boyce “for their work on social and environmental inequalities”. Agarwal is former director of Institute of Economic Growth (Delhi).

 

ISRO gets US aviation award for Chandrayaan-3 mission

ISRO received US’s Aviation Week Laureates Award for its achievements in the Chandrayaan-3 mission, which made India the first country to land on Moon’s South Pole on Aug 23, 2023.
 

 

Section F: BANKING & FINANCE

 

NHAI monetises 889 km road infrastructure through Highways Trust

The National Highways Authority of India said on March 19, 2024 that it has successfully monetised 889 km of national highways worth ₹16,000 crore through the National Highways Infra Trust (NHIT).

 

“NHIT has concluded fund-raising through ‘InvIT Round-3’ for national highway stretches of aggregate length of 889 kilometres at an enterprise value of over ₹16,000 crore, which is the largest monetisation by NHAI and one of the largest transactions in the history of the Indian road sector,” it said. NHIT is an infrastructure investment trust (InvIT) sponsored by NHAI.

 

NHIT raised unit capital of around ₹7,272 crore from domestic and international investors and debt of around ₹9,000 crore from Indian lenders, to fund the acquisition of national highway stretches, according to the statement. InvIT is an instrument on the pattern of mutual funds, designed to pool money from investors and invest in assets that will provide cash flows over a period of time.

 

NHIT was set up in 2021 to support the government’s National Monetisation Pipeline aimed at monetising national highway assets.

 

IRDAI clears new norms to boost governance

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDAI) recently approved the eight principle-based consolidated regulations to enhance clarity and coherence in the regulatory landscape.

 

The regulations encompass pivotal domains such as safeguarding of policyholder interest, rural and social sector responsibilities, electronic insurance marketplace (Bima Sugam), insurance products and operation of foreign reinsurance branches, as well as aspects of registration, actuarial, finance, investment and corporate governance.

 

As regards rural, social sector and motor third party obligations, the erstwhile regulations pertaining to minimum business obligations have been consolidated.

 

Compliance and measurement of these statutory obligations have been revised where the unit of measurement under the rural obligations will now be gram panchayat.

 

The scope of social sector has been extended to cover cardholders and beneficiaries under various schemes. Under the motor third party obligations, the unit of measurement will be renewal of insurance coverage to goods carrying and passenger carrying vehicles as also tractors.

 

Bima Sugam will be an insurance electronic marketplace that aims to achieve universalisation and democratisation of insurance to empower and safeguard policyholders’ interests so as to achieve the vision of ‘Insurance for all by 2047’. This marketplace would serve as a one-stop solution for all insurance stakeholders, including customers, insurers, intermediaries, and agents, thereby, promoting transparency, efficiency, and collaboration across the entire insurance value chain.

 

RBI issues omnibus framework for recognising SROs for regulated entities

The Reserve Bank of India has come up with a final omnibus framework for self regulatory organisations mandating them to set up grievance redressal mechanisms for members and a non-discriminatory fee structure, among others.

 

The omnibus framework prescribes the broad objectives, functions, eligibility criteria and governance standards, which will be common for all SROs, irrespective of the sector. “The framework is the minimum requirement and the recognised SROs will be encouraged to develop their best practices,” RBI said.

The dispute resolution process should consistently use efficient, fair and transparent policies and procedures that are in line with the regulatory and statutory requirements, the central bank said. They are also told to offer counselling on restrictive, unhealthy and such other practices which may be detrimental to growth of the sector.

 

RBI also told SROs to frame a code of conduct for their members and to monitor adherence to the code.

 

In general, the regulator expects SROs to be an ally of it in ensuring better compliance with the regulatory guidelines, development of the sector, protection of stakeholder interests, foster innovation and detection of early warning signals.

 

A draft omnibus framework was issued in December last year. RBI has prepared the final one after examining the stakeholder’s view and public comment on it.

 

RBI fines TMB, DCB for violating lending rate norms

Reserve Bank of India on March 13, 2024, imposed a penalty of ₹1.3 crore on Tamilnad Mercantile Bank for non-compliance with directions on ‘Interest Rate on Advances’ and ‘Central Repository of Information on Large Credits (CRILC) – Revision in Reporting’.

 

The supervisory inspection for FY22 showed that the bank had failed to benchmark interest rates on certain floating rate loans to MSMEs to an external benchmark lending rate; had adopted multiple benchmarks within the same loan category, and failed to price certain floating rate loans with reference to the actual benchmark rate applicable. It also wrongly reported external rating of certain borrowers to CRILC.

 

The central bank also fined DCB Bank ₹63.6 lakh for breach of norms on ‘Interest Rate on Advances’, it said in a separate release. RBI said that the inspection for FY22 revealed that the bank failed to reset the interest rates at the prescribed periodicity in certain MCLR linked floating rate advances. It also failed to benchmark the interest rate of certain floating rate retail and MSME loans to an external benchmark lending rate.

 

RBI eases rules for National Common Mobility Card

The National Common Mobility Card (NCMC), offering seamless digital payments across multiple public transport systems in the country, has found limited adoption to date. But that may change now, thanks to regulatory latitude over use cases.

 

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has now allowed such cards to be issued with a limit of Rs 3,000 without any KYC. This will likely allow more such cards to be issued – and used.

The new regulatory order on prepaid cards with no KYC should open up the space for more players and make it attractive.

 

Unlike the closed loop system, which allows the customer to use a card only in a particular metro service, commuters can use an NCMC card for payments at metros, buses, road toll plazas and fuel stations.

 

PSBs doing better in managing NPAs: FICCI-IBA survey

Public sector banks in India are doing better in comparison to their private sector counterparts in terms of non-performing assets, a survey conducted by industry body FICCI and the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA) found.

 

A nonperforming asset refers to loans or advances that are on the brink of default.

 

According to the survey, a large majority (77 per cent) of the respondent banks reported a decrease in the NPA levels in the last six months.

 

All responding public sector banks have cited a reduction in NPA levels, while amongst participating private sector banks, 67 per cent banks have cited a decrease.

None of the respondent public sector banks and foreign banks have stated an increase in their NPA levels over the last six months while 22 per cent private banks reported an increase.

 

Among the sectors that continue to show high level of NPAs, most of the participating bankers identified sectors such as food processing, textiles, and infrastructure.

 

The survey was carried out for the period July to December 2023. Those banks that were surveyed together represent about 77 per cent of the banking industry, as classified by asset size.

 

AMFI must decline fresh investments in overseas ETFs: SEBI

Capital markets regulator SEBI has directed the Association of Mutual Funds to stop accepting fresh investments in overseas exchange-traded funds from April 1 as it is approaching the overall limit of $1 billion set by the RBI.

 

In January 2022, SEBI stopped fund houses from taking fresh subscriptions in schemes investing in overseas stocks. After the recent fall in the overseas market, it allowed investments but with an overall industry cap of $7 billion.

 

The mutual fund industry has schemes that invest directly in overseas markets. The other avenue is through overseas exchange-traded funds (ETFs), which subscribe to schemes managed by foreign fund houses. Currently, there are 77 MF schemes in India that invest overseas.

 

AMFI and individual fund houses have urged the RBI and SEBI to raise the overseas investment limits to allow investors to take advantage of the rally in developed markets.

 

Mutual fund industry completes 100 years of existence

The $63-trillion mutual fund industry, which was started by door-to-door salesman Edward Leffler back in 1924, on March 21, 2024 completed 100 years of existence. The first open-ended mutual fund was known as Massachusetts Investment Trust. This allowed small investors to buy in a diversified portfolio and then sell shares for the value of the underlying assets. India’s first mutual fund was established in 1963. Named Unit Trust of India, it was an initiative of the Government of India and the RBI.

 

HDFC bonds can’t retain infra tag after merger: RBI

The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) is said to have turned down a request from HDFC Bank to permit classification of securities worth more than ₹1 lakh crore issued by the erstwhile HDFC Ltd as infrastructure bonds. The RBI has communicated to HDFC Bank that there is a technical hurdle in giving the infrastructure tag to bonds issued by the former HDFC Ltd because those were issued by an NBFC (non-banking finance company) and norms for treatment of bonds are different for banks and NBFCs.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Central Bank MD M V Rao elected IBA chairman

Central Bank of India managing director and chief executive officer MV Rao was on March 21, 2024 elected as the chairman of the Indian Banks’ Association (IBA). The managing committee of the IBA also elected State Bank of India Chairman Dinesh Kumar Khara, Indian Bank Managing Director and Chief Executive S L Jain, and City Union Bank Managing Director and Chief Executive N Kamakodi as vice-chairmen.
 

 

Section G: ECONOMY

 

Start-up Mahakumbh held at Bharat Mandapam, New Delhi

Start-up Mahakumbh was organised by the government at Bharat Mandapam, New Delhi from March 18 to 21, 2024. This event aimed at connecting startups with a spectrum of inventors including venture capitalists, investors and potential corporate partners.

 

The event hosted over 2000 startups, 1000+ investors, 100+ unicorns, 300+ incubators & accelerators, 3,000+ conference delegates, 10+ country delegations, 3000+ future entrepreneurs and 50,000+ business visitors from across the country.

 

The event was organized jointly by the collaborative efforts of ASSOCHAM, NASSCOM, Bootstrap Incubation & Advisory Foundation, TiE and Indian Venture and Alternate Capital Association (IVCA). It was supported by Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), MeitY Startup Hub (MSH) and Invest India. Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the event on March 20, 2024.

 

GRID-INDIA is now a Miniratna Company

Grid Controller of India Limited (GRID-INDIA) has been conferred with the status of Miniratna Category-I Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE). This recognition was bestowed upon by the Ministry of Power, Government of India. Established in 2009, GRID-INDIA oversees uninterrupted operation of the Indian Power System, ensuring the efficient transfer of electric power within and across regions, facilitating trans-national power exchanges with a focus on reliability, economy, and sustainability. It facilitates competitive and efficient wholesale electricity markets and administers settlement systems. Comprising five Regional Load Despatch Centres (RLDCs) and the National Load Despatch Centre (NLDC), GRID-INDIA manages the All India synchronous grid.

 

DGCA slaps ₹80 lakh fine on AI for ‘overworking’ pilots

Aviation safety regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has imposed a penalty of ₹80 lakh on Air India for ‘overworking’ pilots in violation of laid-down mandatory duty hours for the crew. The DGCA conducted a spot audit in January and upon random scrutiny, found lapses in providing adequate weekly rest of 36 hours for the cockpit crew, and adequate rest before and after ultra-long range flights such as those to the U.S., it said in a statement.

 

India’s exports may reach $450 billion this fiscal: New FIEO president

The country’s merchandise exports are expected to reach USD 450 billion by the end of this fiscal despite geo-political challenges like the Red Sea crisis, FIEO President Ashwani Kumar said on March 19, 2024. He said that the need of the hour is to address the Red Sea crisis challenges by ensuring the availability of marine insurance and rational increase in freight charges. Further, the FIEO (Federation of Indian Export Organisations) president said that the organisation is also working on exploring more opportunities for exporters in regions like Latin America and Africa.

 

Foreign exchange reserves rise to $642.49 billion

India’s foreign exchange reserves rose for a fourth straight week to hit a record high of $642.49 billion as of March 15, central bank data showed on March 22, 2024. The reserves rose by $6.4 billion in the reporting week.

 

Re slips to all-time low of 83.43 against US Dollar

The rupee fell to its lowest closing level against the US dollar after weakening sharply on March 22, 2024, as a decline in the Chinese yuan dragged down Asian currencies while firm demand for the greenback from banks on behalf of importers added pressure on the local currency. The domestic currency closed at 83.43 per US dollar, as against 83.15 on March 21, 2024.

 

India achieves ‘historic’ one-billion-tonne coal & lignite production

India, the world’s second largest coal consumer, has surpassed the milestone of producing one billion tonnes of coal and lignite. The world’s No 2 producer, after China, also surpassed FY23’s coal and lignite production of 937.22 million tonnes (mt), 25 days ahead of the time take the previous fiscal year. Terming it as a “historical high”, Coal Minister Pralhad Joshi said the achievement of 1 billion tonnes in coal and lignite production will ensure that lights are on in people’s homes as the coal sector continues to power up the economy.

 

India has extended its ban on onion exports indefinitely

Imposed by India – the world’s biggest exporter of the vegetable – in December, the ban was due to expire on March 31. Traders had anticipated it would be lifted as local prices have more than halved since the export restrictions were implemented and this season’s crop is yielding fresh supplies. India exported a record 2.5 million metric tons of onions in the financial year that ended on March 31, 2023.
 

 

Section H: CORPORATE

 

Indian investors led by JSW pick up 51% stake in MG Motor India

Chinese automobile MNC SAIC Motor has divested a 51% stake in its subsidiary MG Motor India to Indian investors led by the steel-to-paints conglomerate JSW Group. JSW Group Chairman Sajjan Jindal on March 20, 2024 announced a joint venture with SAIC, marking the group’s entry into the automobile sector. The joint venture company is known as JSW MG Motor India Private Ltd., and JSW Group has picked up a 35% stake. Other investors include Indian financial institutions with an 8% stake, the employees of MG India with 5% and MG India’s dealers with 3%. The JV unveiled the Cyberster, an all-electric convertible roadster that can accelerate from 0-100 km/h in just 3.2 seconds. The car is estimated to be priced around £50,000 (approximately Rs 53 lakh).

 

PSU TCIL to sell its entire 30% stake in Bharti Hexacom

PSU Telecommunications Consultants India Limited (TCIL) has decided to sell its entire 30% stake in Bharti Hexacom in two tranches of 15% each. On March 19, 2024, Bharti Airtel’s unit Bharti Hexacom, in which TCIL holds a 30% stake, received the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi) approval for Initial Public Offering (IPO). Sunil Mittal-promoted Airtel holds a 70% stake or 35 crore shares and the remaining 30% shareholding, equivalent to 15 crore equity shares is held by non-promoter TCIL.

 

Jupiter Wagons to acquire Bonatrans India for ₹271 crore

Jupiter Wagons announced a deal to acquire Bonatrans India Pvt Ltd, by acquiring 94.25 per cent of shares for a consideration of ₹271 crore. The company will eventually become a subsidiary of Jupiter Wagons. Bonatrans India, a railways and related service provider, is engaged in the manufacturing of components of rolling stocks such as wheels, axles, and wheel sets. The company was incorporated in February 2013 and has its manufacturing plant in Chhatrapati Sambhajinagar (Aurangabad), Maharashtra.

 

Bengaluru-based Varthana Finance buys ISFC’s school loans portfolio

Bengaluru-based Varthana Finance, a non-banking finance company (NBFC) that provides loans to affordable private schools and students to pursue higher education, has acquired school loan portfolio of India School Finance Company (ISFC) across 14 states for ₹126 crore. Under this deal, Varthana Finance will acquire the portfolio of all 1000 schools that are part of ISFC, the company said on March 15, 2024. Over 100 of these 1,000 schools are from various districts of Karnataka.

 

France’s YKONE buys marketing agency Barcode

French international influencer marketing agency YKONE has bought a controlling stake in Indian content and influencer marketing agency Barcode Entertainment to foray into the Indian market. YKONE has bought a 70% stake in the Mumbai-based Barcode for an estimated valuation of $18-20 million. Rahul Khanna, CEO of Barcode, will become a board member of YKONE. Olivier Billon, founder and CEO of YKONE, said the company is eyeing a turnover of close to $100 million in 2024 due to the acquisition of Barcode.

 

Sensor Tower acquires market intelligence platform Data AI

App analytics company Sensor Tower said it is acquiring rival firm Data.ai in a move that could create a powerhouse entity in the mobile intelligence industry. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed. Both market intelligence platforms, Sensor Tower and Data.ai help businesses and developers track key metrics for their mobile apps, such as download estimates, active user base, in-app revenue generation, and user engagement relative to specific demographics and competitor performance.

 

Kedaara Capital picks up majority stake in ice cream maker Dairy Day

Kedaara Capital picked up the majority stake in Dairy Classic Ice Creams Private Ltd, known for its brand Dairy Day, headquartered in Bengaluru, for an undisclosed amount. The investment will also provide full exit to Motilal Oswal Private Equity and other angel investors.

HDFC Bank sells its education loan arm HDFC Credila

HDFC Bank on March 20, 2024 said it has sold its education loan arm, HDFC Credila, for Rs 9,552 crore to investors led by Baring Private Equity Asia and ChrysCapital, valuing the company at Rs 10,350 crore. The sale was necessitated by a regulation that barred the bank from owning its inherited education loan company after its merger with its parent company HDFC in 2023. HDFC invested in the education loan company in phases from 2009, which proved profitable for HDFC Bank. The company has a loan book of Rs 25,237 crore and a 9-month net profit of Rs 379 crore with less than 0.1% bad loans. Founded by brothers Ajay and Anil Bohora in 2006, HDFC Credila is the country’s largest education loan company.

 

Nvidia launches Blackwell chip

US-based Nvidia, on March 18, 2024, announced its most powerful Blackwell chip capable of processing trillion-parameter AI models up to 30 times faster and at one-fourth use of power.

 

Garuda Aerospace launches drone Trishul

Drone manufacturer Garuda Aerospace launched border patrol surveillance drone Trishul in March 2024. The surveillance drone can be used for monitoring people movement, natural calamities and assessing traffic, among other things.

 

Govt. rejects HZL’s plan to split firm

The Mines Ministry has rejected a proposal by Vedanta group firm Hindustan Zinc Ltd. (HZL) to split the company into different entities. The government is the largest minority shareholder in HZL, owning 29.54% stake in the firm. Hindustan Zinc had earlier announced plans of spinning off business into separate entities, including zinc and silver.

 

Krystal Integrated lists

The stock of Krystal Integrated Services, a facility management and security services provider, ended its first of listing at 0.38 per cent lower on March 21, 2024 at ₹712.30 on BSE, against the IPO price of ₹715. On the NSE, it listed at ₹785, up 9.79 per cent, and closed at ₹713. The initial public offering of ₹300-crore consisted of a fresh issue of up to ₹175 crore and an offer for sale of up to 17.50 lakh shares. The price band was ₹680-715.

 

71 Indian companies feature on FT’s Asia-Pacific top 500 high-growth list

Seventy-one Indian companies made it into the ranks of the sixth annual “High-Growth Companies Asia- Pacific 2024” report, jointly released by The Financial Times (FT) and Statista, a data company. Electric-vehicle platform Zypp Electric and agritech firm BigHaat claimed the top two ranks respectively, in the report that lists 500 high-growth companies. South Korea topped the list in terms of the number of companies, with 123 firms reporting high growth, followed by Japan and Singapore, with 101 and 93 companies, respectively. India secured the fourth position, with its 71 high-growth companies making the cut. To qualify for inclusion, companies needed to demonstrate a minimum compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.1 per cent.  Zypp Electric, founded in 2017, from India, led with an impressive 396 per cent CAGR from 2019 to 2022, followed by BigHaat, founded in 2015, with a 304 per cent CAGR. Singapore-based logistics company ISO Tank Management secured the third spot with a 286 per cent CAGR.

 

Hurun India Rich List 2023

According to the Hurun India Rich List 2023, there are 1,319 individuals with wealth over Rs 1,000 crore in India, marking an increase of 216 individuals and 278 new entrants. This is the first time the list has surpassed the 1,300 mark, recording a 76% increase over the last five years.

 

IndiGo named as ‘Airline of the Year’

Budget airline IndiGo was named as the ‘Airline of the Year’ at the Air Transport Awards 2024 held in Athens, Greece recently. The 2024 Air Transport Awards was organised in partnership with Hermes – Air Transport Organisation and ATN – Air Transport News to recognize the contributions made in the aviation sector. The winners are voted for by both the readers of Air Transport News as well as a jury of international aviation experts.

MTR Foods creates Guinness World Record for longest dosa

Food brand MTR Foods recently announced that they now hold the Guinness World Record for the world’s longest dosa (123.03 feet). The dosa was made in partnership with Lorman Kitchen Equipment in Bengaluru by a team of 75 chefs. The previous record was 54ft.

 

TVS Group Venu Srinivasan’s family signs non-compete MoU

Venu Srinivasan, Chairman of TVS Holdings Ltd (formerly Sundaram-Clayton Ltd) and Chairman Emeritus of TVS Motor Company, has announced that his family members have executed a memorandum of understanding to avoid competition among themselves. The MoU covers the usage of TVS brands and other associated areas too.

 

“My family members (Mallika Srinivasan, Lakshmi Venu, and Sudarshan Venu) and I have executed a memorandum of understanding dated March 20, 2024, and its execution was completed on March 21,” Venu Srinivasan of TVS Holdings, the holdingcompany for investments inTVSMotor Company, said in a filing to stock exchanges. Venu Srinivasan’s wife Mallika is the Chairperson and Managing Director of Tractors and Farm Equipment Ltd (TAFE), which is a part of the Amalgamations Group.

 

His daughter Lakshmi Venu is the Director of two-wheeler maker TVS Motor Company Ltd, , and Deputy Managing Director of TAFE Motors and Tractors Ltd, a wholly-owned subsidiary of TAFE. Venu’s son, Sudarshan, is the Managing Director of TVS Motor Company Ltd.

 

Under the MoU, Sudarshan Venu has agreed that he and persons controlled by him shall not use certain trademarks (including TVS) in relation to certain businesses, including design, manufacturing and supply of aluminium and magnesium die castings/machined castings for OEMs and the after-market

 

Further, he also agreed not to compete for a defined period, including in the business of agricultural machinery such as tractors and self-propelled farm equipment.

 

Mallika Srinivasan and Lakshmi Venu have agreed that they and the people controlled by them will not use certain trademarks (including TVS) in relation to certain businesses, including two-wheeler and three-wheeler vehicles, financial services, and real-estate business, and they have also agreed to not to engage in certain businesses, including two- and three-wheeler vehicles, parts and/or accessories for any such vehicles, for a defined period.

 

The company is not a party to the MoU signed by the family members. Also, the MoU doesn’t in any way impact the business of TVS Holdings Ltd, and its ability to continue its business as currently conducted today is not impacted, it added.

 

Zomato renames ‘Pure Veg’ to ‘Veg Only’

Zomato has renamed its ‘pure veg’ mode to ‘veg only’ mode after continued online backlash hit the company over the past few days. Several users took to social media to criticise Zomato’s decision to use the term ‘pure veg’ and have delivery personnel dress up in green instead of the regular red uniforms to ferry the vegetarian food, citing concerns around community and caste-based discrimination. On March 20, 2024, Zomato rolled back green uniforms which the pure veg food delivery fleet was earlier supposed to wear.

 

According to Zomato CEO Deepinder Goyal, the latest move to introduce veg-only mode was implemented considering India has the largest share of vegetarians in the world. It aligned with the broader strategy of the company to expand its total addressable market.

 

The fleet meant for vegetarian orders will not be identifiable on the ground, but the app will show that consumer’s vegetarian orders will be served by the veg-only fleet.

 

Bajaj Beyond commits ₹5,000 cr for CSR schemes

The Bajaj Group on March 22, 2024 committed ₹5,000 crore towards social impact initiatives over five years, with a sharp focus on skill development, under ‘Bajaj Beyond’ — the group’s new identity for all its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) and charitable programmes. This initiative is expected to benefit over two crore youth and enable them to take advantage of the employment and entrepreneurial opportunities offered by India’s growing economy.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Former DD head Rathikant Basu dies at 82

Rathikant Basu, the Chairman & CEO of Broadcast Worldwide Limited, passed away on March 17, 2024. He was 82. Basu held many key posts in the M&E industry, He was the Executive Chairman of Star India between 1996 and 2001. He served as the Director General of Doordarshan from 1993 to 1996..

 

Naveen Jindal made president of steel lobby ISA

Naveen Jindal, the chairman of Jindal Steel and Power, has been appointed as the President of the Indian Steel Association.
 

 

Section I: STATES

 

SC lets Ajit faction of NCP use clock symbol in polls with ‘sub-judice’ declaration

The Supreme Court on March 19, 2024 directed the Ajit Pawar faction of NCP to issue a public declaration that the use of “clock” symbol by it for campaigning in the Lok Sabha and assembly elections is “sub-judice and subject to the outcome” of the challenge by the Sharad Pawar faction to the decision of Election Commission of India. ECI had recognised the Ajit faction as the real NCP. Aggrieved by ECI’s decision, the Sharad faction had moved the apex court.

 

The court directed the Ajit faction to issue a public notice in newspapers in English, Marathi and Hindi editions. The bench has ordered that such a declaration should accompany all advertisements to be issued by NCP. “Such declaration shall be incorporated in every template, advertisement, audio or video clip issued” on behalf of NCP, the court ordered.

 

The Supreme Court bench also ordered that a “man blowing Turah (trumpet)” symbol shall not be allotted to any other political party, independent candidate and the same shall not be used in any manner by the Ajit faction. ECI and the Maharashtra State Election Commission have been directed to take necessary actions in this regard.

 

The Supreme Court bench also made it clear that the undertaking given by the NCP (Ajit faction) to not use the name and pictures of Sharad Pawar in election posters will apply not just to the state of Maharashtra but also to other states.

 

Karnataka Governor returns amendments to Endowments Bill

In a setback to the Congress government, amendments to the Karnataka Hindu Religious Institutions and Charitable Endowments Act, 1997, which were cleared in the recently concluded Budget session, has been returned by Governor Thaawarchand Gehlot. The amendments sought to tax rich temples to provide aid to poor ones. Seeking clarifications, the Governor has sought to know if the State government has conceptualised any legislation to encompass other religious bodies in similar fashion.

 

The amendments to the Endowment Act seek to expand social security measures to over 40,000 archakas (temple caretakers) in Muzrai temples and also develop C category temples using funds from the income of richer temples.

 

With the Bill, the State government proposed to seek 10% of the gross income of 87 temples with annual income of over ₹1 crore and 5% of gross income from 311 temples with an annual income of over ₹10 lakh to be transferred to a Common Pool Fund. It proposed to utilise the money for the welfare of archakas and development of over 34,000 ‘C’ category temples whose annual income is less than ₹5 lakh.

 

The proposal was to bring an amendment to an earlier amendment in 2011 where 5% of the net income of temples with annual income between ₹5 lakh and ₹10 lakh, and 10% of the net income of temples with annual income of over ₹10 lakh, would come to the fund.

The government is hoping to collect approximately ₹60 crore from the move of which ₹25 crore would be spent on developing ‘C’ category temples.

 

Karnataka clause on minimum number of students for minority institution scrapped

The Karnataka Government has withdrawn the criterion that there should be a minimum number of students from a minority community at an education institution for it to qualify as a ‘Religious Minority Institution’.

 

A decision on this was taken in the State Cabinet on March 12, and an order issued on March 16.

 

This follows guidelines from the National Commission for Minority Educational Institutions of Higher Education.

 

The Department of School Education and Literacy had a criterion that at least 25% of the students in these institutions had to be from the minority community that is running the institution. This was even higher — 50% — for technical education, higher education, and skill development, entrepreneurship and livelihood Department institutions. Now, these conditions have been removed.

 

The government said this decision was necessary due to a decline in enrolment of minority students at these ‘religious minority institutions’.

 

Citing 2011 census data, the order stated that Karnataka has 96.01 lakh people from the minority community, of which 78.94 lakh are Muslims, 11.43 lakh are Christians, 28,000 are Sikhs, 95,000 are Buddhists, 4.40 lakh are Jains, and around 1,000 are from the Parsi community. There isn’t enough population of many minority communities to get students as per the minimum requirement prescribed earlier.

 

However, other criteria — the institution has to be established by members of the particular minority community primarily for the benefit of that community and should be administered by members of that community — for an institution to be declared a religious minority institution will continue.

 

Karnataka moves SC for Central funds for drought management

The Karnataka government on March 23, 2024 moved the Supreme Court seeking a direction to the Centre to release financial assistance from the National Disaster Response Fund (NDRF) to the state for drought management. The petition has also sought to declare that the Centre’s action in not releasing the financial assistance for drought arrangement as per the NDRF is “ex-facie violative” of the fundamental rights of the people of the state guaranteed under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution. It said the state is reeling under “severe drought”, affecting the lives of its people and for the Kharif 2023 season, which starts in June and ends in September, a total of 223 out of 236 taluks are declared as drought-affected. The plea said 196 taluks are categorised as severely affected and the remaining 27 as moderately affected.

 

Kerala moves SC as President withholds assent for 4 Bills

In an unprecedented move, the Kerala government on March 23, 2024 filed an appeal in the Supreme Court as President Droupadi Murmu has withheld assent for four Bills passed by the Kerala Legislature without disclosing any reasons.

 

It has also moved the Court against Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan’s office for keeping the Bills pending for a long and indefinite period, and later reserving them for the consideration of the President.

 

The state said that the act of the President in withholding the assent for the four Bills without giving any reason was highly arbitrary and in violation of Articles 14, 200 and 201 of the Constitution. The reference of the seven Bills to the President has to be recalled on the grounds of Constitutional morality, the State has argued.

 

Allahabad HC strikes down UP Madrassa Act as unconstitutional

Allahabad high court on March 22, 2024 struck down as “unconstitutional” the Uttar Pradesh Board of Madrassa Education Act, 2004, on the ground that it violates principles of secularism with its “scheme and purpose” of “only promoting and providing education of Islam”, and awards degrees in contravention of the UGC Act.

 

The verdict, which upheld petitioner Anshuman Singh Rathore’s contention that the Act was “ultra vires”, directly impacts 15.8 lakh students in 13,329 recognised madrassas in UP.

 

The bench directed the state govt, which has been trying to integrate science and maths into madrassa education, to accommodate all madrassa students in regular schools affiliated with the primary, high school and intermediate education boards.

 

“The state govt shall ensure that per requirement, sufficient number of additional seats are created and further, if required, sufficient number of new schools are established. The state govt shall ensure that children aged 6 to 14 years are not left without admission in duly recognised institutions,” the order states.

 

Himachal Pradesh: Six Congress MLAs join BJP

Amid political turbulence in Congress-ruled Himachal Pradesh, the six rebel Congress MLAs who were disqualified from the Himachal Pradesh Legislative Assembly last month joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on March 23, 2024. They were joined by the three Independent MLAs who had submitted their resignations to the State Assembly secretary on March 22. The three independent MLAs who have now joined the BJP are Ashish Sharma, Hoshiyar Singh, and K.L. Thakur. The six former Congress MLAs are Rajinder Rana, Sudhir Sharma, Inder Dutt Lakhanpal, Ravi Thakur, Chaitanya Sharma, and Kutlehar MLA Davinder Bhutto. They joined the BJP in New Delhi, in the presence of Himachal Pradesh BJP president Rajiv Bindal and Union Minister Anurag Thakur.

 

ASI starts survey of disputed Bhojshala complex in M.P.

The Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) on March 22, 2024 conducted a survey of the controversial Bhojshala/Kamal Maula Mosque complex situated in Dhar district of Madhya Pradesh and made preparations for using carbon-dating equipment, officials said. A 15-member ASI team along with police and district administration officials kept the site ready for scientific assessments following a Madhya Pradesh High Court directive. The court, on March 11, directed the ASI to carry out a “scientific survey” within six weeks of the complex, a medieval-era monument that Hindus believe is a temple while the Muslims call it Kamal Maula Mosque.

 

Bridge under construction collapses in Bihar; one dead

A portion of an under-construction bridge, being built over Kosi river, collapsed in Supaul district of Bihar on March 22, 2024 morning that left one person dead and nine others injured. The 10.2-km bridge across the river is being constructed between Bheja and Bakaur in Madhubani and Supaul districts of Bihar. The bridge comprises 170 spans and the length of each span is about 60 metres. The original cost of the bridge was ₹1,200 crore, but it has now escalated to ₹1,700 crore. The foundation stone of the bridge, coming under the Bharatmala Project, was laid by Chief Minister Nitish Kumar in 2014.

 

Punjab: 20 dead due to consumption of spurious liquor in Sangrur district

More than 20 people died due to the suspected consumption of spurious liquor in several villages of Sangrur district in Punjab.

 

Assam pauses land sale between people of different religions

The Assam government has restricted the grant of no objection certificates (NOCs) for the sale of land between people belonging to different religions for three months.

 

A March 7 notification issued by the Revenue and Disaster Management (Registration) Department through the Governor said the grant of NOCs has been “kept in abeyance” to prevent vested interests from creating communal conflict during the Lok Sabha election.

 

However, if District Commissioner is of the view that grant of such NOC is absolutely necessary for attending circumstances and will not lead to any breach of law and order, the same may be issued with prior concurrence of Inspector-General of Registration, Assam.

NEWSMAKERS

 

Governor R.N. Ravi re-inducts Ponmudy as Minister in T.N.

A day after the Supreme Court made strong observations against Tamil Nadu Governor R.N. Ravi for refusing to re-induct former Minister K. Ponmudy in the State Cabinet; the Governor administered the oath of office and secrecy to the latter at a ceremony at the Raj Bhavan in Chennai on March 22, 2024. On March 21, Chief Justice of India D.Y. Chandrachud had slammed the Governor for “defying the Supreme Court”. The Governor had declined to administer the oath of office to Ponmudy despite an apex court order, on March 11, suspending his conviction in a disproportionate assets case. A three-judge Bench led by Chief Justice Chandrachud had given the Governor overnight to correct his course.

 

Telangana Governor resigns

Tamilisai Soundararajan, Governor of Telangana and Lieutenant-Governor of Puducherry, on March 18, 2024 resigned from her posts.

 

ED arrests Delhi CM Kejriwal in excise policy case

Delhi Chief Minister and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) convener Arvind Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on March 21, 2024, on charges of corruption and money laundering in the formulation and execution of the State government’s excise policy for 2021-22, which was later scrapped. Kejriwal is the fourth AAP leader to have been arrested in the case, after former Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, Rajya Sabha Member Sanjay Singh and the former party’s communications in-charge Vijay Nair. Delhi’s former Health Minister Satyendar Kumar Jain was arrested in another case.
 

 

Section J: SPORTS

 

BWF Swiss Open 2024 badminton tournament held in Basel

Spain’s Carolina Marin defeated Gregoria Mariska Tunjung of Indonesia in the final 21-19, 13-21, 22-20  to win the women’s singles title at the BWF Swiss Open 2024 badminton tournament in Basel on March 24, 2024. Chinese Thaipei’s Lin Chun-Yi defeated compatriot Chou Tien-Chen 7-21, 22-20, 23-21 in the final to win men’s singles title. Other winners — Men’s doubles: Ben Lane & Sean Vendy (England), Women’s doubles:  Lanny Tria Mayasari & Indonesia Ribka Sugiarto (Indonesia), Mixed doubles: Goh Soon Huat & Shevon Jemie Lai (Malaysia).

 

WTT Feeder Beirut II 2024 table tennis tournament

India’s Sreeja Akula won the women’s singles title at the WTT Feeder Beirut II 2024 table tennis tournament at the Al Kawthar Secondary School in Lebanon on March 24, 2024. Akula beat Luxembourg’s Sarah De Nutte 3-1 (6-11, 12-10, 11-5, 11-9) in the final. Hong Kong China’s Doo Hoi Kem &  Zhu Chengzhu won the women’s doubles title by defeating India’s Sreeja Akula and Diya Chitale in the final 3-1 (11-4, 9-11, 7-11, 6-11). India’s Poymantee Baisya and Akash Pal defeated compatriots Sathiyan Gnanasekaran and Manika Batra 3-1 (11-9, 7-11, 11-9, 11-0) in the final to win the mixed doubles title. Kazakhstan’s Kirill Gerassimenko won men’s singles title by beating India’s G Sathiyan in the final 3-0 (11-9, 13-11, 11-9). India also managed a 1-2 finish in men’s doubles with Manush Shah and Manav Thakkar beating compatriots Mudit Dani and Akash Pal 3-1 (11-7, 11-5, 9-11, 11-6) in the title clash.

 

  1. Sathiyan wins WTT Feeder title

India’s Sathiyan Gnanasekaran beat compatriot Manav Thakkar in the final 3-1 (6-11, 11-7, 11-7, 11-4) to win the men’s singles title at the WTT Feeder Beirut 2024 table tennis tournament in Beirut, Lebanon on March 21, 2024. Jorge Campos and Andy Pereira of Cuba won the men’s doubles title defeating India’s Manav Thakkar and Manush Shah in the final 3-1 (11-5, 7-11, 11-13, 12-14). Mixed doubles title was won by Diya Chitale and Manush Shah who defeated compatriots Manav Thakkar and Archana Kamath 3-1 (11-6, 10-12, 11-6, 11-6).

 

Fastest recorded goal in international football

Austria’s Christoph Baumgartner scored 6 seconds after kickoff against hosts Slovakia in Bratislava in his country’s 2-0 win the friendly match on March 23, 2024. This is the fastest recorded goal in international football. The goal was one second faster than Lukas Podolski’s goal for Germany against Ecuador in 2013.

 

Tennis: Arjun-Jeevan pair finishes runner-up in Murcia Challenger

Arjun Kadhe and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan were beaten 7-5, 6-1 by the top seeds Theo Arribage and Victor Cornea in the doubles final of the €74,825 Challenger tennis in Murcia, Spain. The champion team collected $4,250 and 75 ATP points. The Indians won $2,450 and 50 points.

 

Haryana win Hockey India senior women’s national championship

Hockey Haryana beat Hockey Maharashtra 3-0 in a shoot-out to claim the 14th Hockey India senior women’s National championship at Pimpri in Maharashtra on March 23, 2024, after both the teams were tied 1-1 at the end of regulation time. It was Haryana’s third title having won it in 2013 and 2020. Jharkhand finished third.

 

Denmark’s Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen wins Kolkata Challenge golf

Denmark’s Rasmus Neergaard-Petersen won the Kolkata Challenge at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club course on March 24, 2024.

 

Odisha FC win Indian Women’s League football title

Lynda Kom scored a hat-trick while Pyari Xaxa netted twice as Odisha FC blanked Kickstart FC 6-0 and won its maiden Indian Women’s League football title in Bhubaneswar on March 24, 2024. Odisha topped the seven-team table with 31 points from 12 matches while three-time champion Gokulam Kerala FC, which defeated East Bengal FC 5-1 in Kozhikode, finished runner-up with 29 points. Kickstart (21) was third.

 

Jorge Martin wins Portuguese MotoGP

Jorge Martin of Pramac Racing team won the Portuguese MotoGP in Portimao on March 24, 2025. Enea Bastianini of Ducati Team was second while Pedro Acosta of Tech 3 was third in the second race of the season.

Carlos Sainz wins Australian Grand Prix

Ferrari’s Carlos Sainz won the Formula One Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne on March 24, 2024 followed by Charles Leclerc (Ferrari) and Lando Norris (McLaren) in second and third places respectively. This was the third of 24 races in 2024 Formula One World Championship.

 

Calicut Heroes win Prime Volleyball League 2024

Calicut Heroes defeated Delhi Toofans 15-13, 15-10, 13-15, 15-12 in the final to win the Prime Volleyball League 2024 at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai on March 21, 2024.

 

Indian Open Jumps Competition 2024 held in Bengaluru

The Indian Open Jumps Competition 2024 was held in Bengaluru on March 20, 2024. Results are as follows:

 

Women

High jump: Athira Somaraj (1.76m); Kevinna Ashwine Annavi (1.74m), Khushi (1.68m)

Pole vault: Pavithra Venkatesh (4.15m), Mariya Jaison (3.80m), Sindhushree G (3.80m)

Triple jump: Poorva Hitesh Sawant (13.31m), Sharvari Avinash P (13.31m), Sheena NV (13.18m)

Long jump: Nayana James (6.67m), Shaili Singh (6.40m), Pavana Nagaraj (6.17m)

 

Men

Pole vault: M Gowtham (5.10m), Reegan G (5m), Shekhar Kumar Pandey (4.90m)

Long jump: Muhammed Anees (7.94m), Aditya Kumar Singh (7.78m), Vishnu Siva Sankar (7.50m)

High jump: Jesse Sandesh (2.20m), Aadarsh Ram (2.10m), Swadhin Kumar Majhi (2.10m)

Triple jump: Abdulla Aboobacker (16.76m), Eldhose Paul (16.45m), Prabhu Selva (16.32m)

 

Indian Open Throws Competition 2024 held in Patiala

Indian Open Throws Competition 2024 was held in Patiala, Punjab on March 22, 2024. Results are as follows:

 

Men

Shot Put: 1. Tajinderpal Singh Toor (19.82m), 2. Dhanveer Singh (18.74m), 3. Prabhkirpal Singh (18.04m)

Javelin Throw: 1. Vikrant Malik (81.68m), 2. Shivpal SIngh (80.47m), 3. Pramod (79.04m)

Discus Throw: 1. Nirbhay Singh (54.89m), 2. Oinam Alson Singh (53.78m), 3. Gagandeep Singh (52.49m)

Hammer Throw: 1. Damneet Singh (65.82m), 2. Gurdev Singh (61.87m), 3. Mukul (61.61m)

 

Women

Shot Put: 1. Abha Khatua (17.56m), 2. Rekha (14.98m), 3. Shiksha (14.54m)

Javelin Throw: 1. Jyoti (51.55m), 2. Karishma S Sanil (51.02m), 3. KM Saloni (50.21m)

Discus Throw: 1. Nidhi Rani (53.57m), 2. Neetika Verma (51.52m), 3. Bhavana Yadav (50.63m)

Hammer Throw: 1. Harshita Sehrawat (59.78m), 2. Tanya Chaudhary (57.36m), 3. Anmol Kaur (55.47m)

 

Pankaj Advani in Hall Of Fame at the World Billiards Museum

India’s ace cueist Pankaj Advani has been inducted to the Hall Of Fame at the World Billiards Museum in Shangrao City, Yushan, China. Seven-time World snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan was also bestowed the honour.

 

2024 Paris Olympic Games: India’s flag bearer, chef de mission named

Male table tennis player A. Sharath Kamal was named India’s flag bearer at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games by the Indian Olympic Association. Women’s boxer MC Mary Kom was named as the chef de mission of the country’s contingent.  Kom will be assisted by luger Shiva Keshavan, who has been appointed the deputy chef de mission.

 

Jasmin Paris becomes first woman to complete 100-mile Barkley Marathons

British ultrarunner Jasmin Paris became the first woman ever to finish the Barkley Marathons 100-mile race on March 22, 2024, completing one of the most challenging ultramarathons in the world with 99 seconds to spare in the 60-hour cut-off. Paris finished the race in 59:58:21 and was one of five ultrarunners to complete the annual race held in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee that has seen no finishers in more than half the races in its nearly four-decade history.

 

Malaysia declines to host 2026 Commonwealth Games

Malaysia has declined the opportunity to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games due to financial concerns, as confirmed by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. This decision comes after the withdrawal of Victoria, Australia, in 2023. The Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) has extended an offer of 100 million pounds ($127.93 million) to Malaysia to assist in hosting the event.

 

Ex Pakistan captain Saeed Ahmed passes away

Saeed Ahmed, a former Pakistan Test captain, passed away in Lahore on March 20, 2024 at the age of 86. Saeed played 41 Tests, scoring 2,991 runs with five centuries and 16 half-centuries. He also took 22 wickets with his off-spin. He made his Test debut against West Indies in the famous drawn Bridgetown Test in 1958 when he was 20 and played his last match for Pakistan in Melbourne against Australia during the 1972-73 tour.

 

 

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