This Daily Current Affair Capsule aims to be a time-saving tool for going through relevant news from national dailies and government releases on PIB. Aspirants for UPSC IAS, CDS, SSC CGL, NDA, etc. will find it highly useful to cover for revision and awareness purposes.

 

National Important Current Affairs – 21 March 2018

■ President Ram Nath Kovind has conferred the prestigious Padma awards for 2018 on 43 prominent personalities at Rashtrapati Bhavan, New Delhi.

  • Noted music composer Illaiyaraja, littérateur P. Parameswaran and Classical singer Ustad Ghulam Mustafa Khan have been honoured with Padma Vibhushan.
  • Law Professor and jurist Prof. Ved Prakash Nanda, Historian Dr Ramachandran Nagaswamy, Kerala Bishop Dr Philipose Mar Chrysostom and classical musician Pandit Arvind Parikh received the Padma Bhushan.
  • Indian Tennis player Somdev Kishore Devvarman, Badminton Player Kidambi Shrikant, littérateur and Prof. Digamber Hansda are among the 36 personalities who received Padma Shri.

This year 84 Padma awards have been announced on the eve of Republic Day.

About Padma Awards: 

The Padma Awards are one of the highest civilian honours of India announced annually on the eve of Republic Day. The award seeks to recognize achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of public service is involved. The Awards are given in three categories:

  • Padma Vibhushan (for exceptional and distinguished service)
  • Padma Bhushan (distinguished service of higher order)
  • Padma Shri (distinguished service)

The Padma Awards are conferred on the recommendations made by the Padma Awards Committee, which is constituted by the Prime Minister every year. The Padma Awards Committee is headed by the Cabinet Secretary and includes Home Secretary, Secretary to the President and four to six eminent persons as members. The nomination process is open to the public. Even self-nomination can be made.

The Government of India instituted two civilian awards-Bharat Ratna & Padma Vibhushan in 1954.  The total number of awards to be given in a year (excluding posthumous awards and to NRI/foreigners/OCIs) should not be more than 120. The award does not amount to a title and cannot be used as a suffix or prefix to the awardees’ name.

 

■ The Supreme Court has observed in a judgment that the anti-atrocities law (the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989), which protects Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes from casteist slurs and discrimination, has become an instrument to “blackmail” innocent citizens and public servants over the years.

A Supreme Court Bench of Justices A.K. Goel and U.U. Lalit has said in their 89-page judgment that in past three decades there have been complainants — who belong to the marginalised sections of society — use the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act of 1989 to exact “vengeance” and satisfy vested interests.

Instead of blurring caste lines, the Act has been misused to file false complaints to promote caste hatred. The current working of Atrocities Act may even “perpetuate casteism” if it is not brought in line and the court needs to intervene to check the “false implication of innocent citizens on caste lines.” Any harassment of an innocent citizen, irrespective of caste or religion, is against the guarantee of the Constitution.

The 1989 Act penalises casteist insults and even denies anticipatory bail to the suspected offenders. The law is also used to rob a person of his personal liberty merely on the unilateral word of the complainant.

The court referred to how the public administration has been threatened by the abuse of this Act. Public servants find it difficult to give adverse remarks against employees for fear that they may be charged under the Act.

The bench also referred to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data for 2015, which said that closure reports had been filed in 15-16 per cent of the complaints under the Act. And over 75 per cent of such cases taken up by the courts had resulted in acquittals/ withdrawal or compounding of the cases.

Guidelines issued by the Supreme Court:

To protect public servants and private employees from arbitrary arrests under the Atrocities Act, the court directed that public servants can only be arrested with the written permission of their appointing authority. In the case of private employees, the Senior Superintendent of Police should sanction it. Besides this precaution, a preliminary inquiry should be conducted before the FIR is registered to check whether the case falls within the parameters of the Atrocities Act and if it is frivolous or motivated.

Also, anticipatory bail should be allowed if the accused is able to prima facie prove that the complaint against him is malafide.

 

■ The two-day India-Japan Workshop on Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) has successfully concluded. The workshop was jointly organized by the Ministry of Home Affairs, National Disaster Management Authority, and Government of Japan. The workshop brought together the best technical know-how from both the countries, with particular focus on earthquake detection and early warning and identified possible areas of cooperation with Japan in the field of DRR.

 

■ Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar has announced that the University Grant Commission (UGC) has accorded autonomy to 60 higher education institutions, which have maintained high academic standards. These universities will remain within the ambit of the UGC but will have the freedom to start new courses, off-campus centres, skill development courses, research parks and any other new academic programs.

As per UGC’s February 2018 notification on graded autonomy, quality institutions will get the freedom to start their own courses, departments, centres and schools, provided they generate their own funds rather than demand these from the government. These institutions will also be permitted to hire faculty at packages higher than the UGC scale if they are able to raise resources for the extra payment. They will also have the freedom to hire foreign faculty members who have taught in any of the top 500 institutions of the world on a contractual basis.

Of the 60 institutions, five are Central Universities, 21 State Universities, 24 deemed, two Private Universities and eight colleges, which have been granted autonomy under the Autonomous Colleges Regulation.

Institutions having a National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC) score of 3.5 and above, out of 4, are in Category-1, and those with a NAAC score of 3.26 to 3.5 are in Category-2.

  • Jawaharlal Nehru University and University of Hyderabad are the two Central institutions that will be granted the highest autonomy as Category-1 institutions under the new scheme of higher autonomy for quality institutions. Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, is also in Category-1 with a high NAAC score of 3.89. Among state universities, Jadavpur University, Savitribai Phule Pune University and Osmania University, Hyderabad are in Category-I.
  • Banaras Hindu University, Aligarh Muslim University and the English and Foreign Languages University, Telangana, are in Category-II, which too enjoys high autonomy. Among state universities, University of Mysore, Anna University, Chennai, and Punjab University, Chandigarh are in Category-2. Among private universities, OP Jindal Global University, Sonepat, and Pandit Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Petroleum University, Gandhinagar, are the only ones to make it to Category-II.

 

■ The Government of India has approved the setting up of a Plastic Park in Deoghar District, Jharkhand. The project would be set up at a cost of Rs. 120 crores in an area of 150 acres and a range of polymer products including woven sacks, moulded furniture, water tanks, bottles, pipes mosquito nets, etc will be manufactured. This project has great potential for attracting investment for setting up an ecosystem for plastic industry and generate employment opportunities for the local populace and transform the region into a ‘Plastic hub’.

 

■ A Health Ministry notification has said all pharmacies and chemists dispensing anti-tuberculosis drugs will have to inform the nodal officer of the district about the TB patients along with details of medicines and a copy of the prescription electronically or in hard copy. The government has decided to rope in chemists and druggists to strengthen the mechanism of notifying tuberculosis incidents to authorities. If they or a health establishment fail to do so, it would attract penal action, including imprisonment and fine.

The notification has also said in order to ensure proper diagnosis and management of tuberculosis, it is essential to collect complete information of all TB patients. The aim of this exercise is to trace missing TB cases by strengthening the reporting system.

 

■ The Minister of Communications Manoj Sinha has called upon the Department of Posts to explore ways to generate revenue through philately as is the practice in many countries of the world. He felicitated the students selected in the first edition of DeenDayal SPARSH (Scholarship for Promotion of Aptitude and Research in Stamps as a Hobby) Yojana 2017-18.

A Commemorative Postage Stamp on Solar System and Special Cover and Special Cancellation on renowned scientist Stephen Hawking were also released on the occasion.

About Philately:

It is the hobby of collection and study of Postage stamps. It includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloguing, displaying, storing, and maintaining the stamps or related products on thematic areas. Philately is called the king of hobbies because Stamp collection as a hobby has lot of educational benefits – it teaches about the socio economic political reality of the period in which the stamp is issued or the theme on which it is issued.

About DeenDayal SPARSH Yojana: In order to increase the reach of Philately, Department of Posts had launched a scholarship program for school children called DeenDayal SPARSH (i.e. Scholarship for Promotion of Aptitude &Research in Stamps as a Hobby) in 2017. Under the scheme, annual scholarships will be awarded to children of Standard VI to IX having a good academic record and also pursuing Philately as a hobby through a competitive selection process in all postal circles of the country.

 

International Current Affairs Capsule – 21 March 2018

■ The United Nations has called on Turkey to end a state of emergency imposed after a 2016 failed coup attempt, saying it has led to profound human rights violations. The UN said the state of emergency has paved the way to arbitrary detentions and dismissals, infringements on the rights to freedom of association and expression and torture and ill-treatment.

Note that: The state of emergency, declared by President Tayyip Erdogan after the coup bid and still in force, has been used to justify the torture of detainees and interference with the judiciary. Turkey had arrested 160,000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of civil servants since a failed coup in July 2016.

 

■ Norway’s Academy of Sciences and Letters has announced that Canadian mathematician Robert Langlands has won the prestigious Abel Prize – worth $776,000 – for developing a programme connecting representation theory to number theory. The so-called Langlands programme dates back to 1967, the programme has enlisted hundreds of the world’s best mathematicians over the last 50 years.  It suggested deep links between two areas, number theory and harmonic analysis, which had previously been considered unrelated.

Robert Langlands, aged 81, will be awarded the 6-million-kroner ($776,000) Abel Prize by Norway’s King Harald in Oslo.

About the Abel Prize:

Named after the 19th century Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel, the prize was established by the Norwegian government in 2002, to honour outstanding scientific work in the field of mathematics, a discipline which is not included among the Nobel prizes.

Along with the Fields Medal, which is awarded every four years at the Congress of the International Mathematical Union (IMU), the Abel Prize is one of the world’s most prestigious maths prizes.

 

■ Former French President Nicolas Sarkozy has been taken into police custody and questioned over allegations that late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi had financed his 2007 election campaign. Sarkozy had until now refused to respond to a summons for questioning in the case. However, he denied any wrongdoing. He had left office after one-term in 2012.

 

■ A British Parliamentary committee has asked Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg to appear before it to explain in person the claims that millions of users’ data were harvested for political campaigns. The Chairman of the House of Commons on a Digital, Culture, media and Sport Committee,  has asked Zuckerberg to share his own account of the said controversial issue. This request was made as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation into fake news on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Economics Today’s Current Affair Capsule – 21 March 2018

■ The government has scrapped export duty of raw and refined sugar to boost exports. The Central Board of Excise and Custom has issued a notification to reduce export duty on raw sugar, white or refined sugar from 20 percent to Nil.

This has been done in anticipation of a record 29.5 million tonnes of the sweetener production in the current 2017-18 marketing season. Earlier, the government had doubled import duty on sugar to 100 percent to check imports.

Note that: The sugar output of India is estimated to rise sharply to 29.5 million tonnes in the 2017-18 marketing year from 20.3 million tonnes in the previous year.

 

Obituaries

■ The world’s last male northern white rhino has died at the Kenyan conservancy, leaving only two females of its subspecies alive in the world. The 45-year-old rhino, named Sudan, lived with the last two females of the same species, 27-year old Najin and 17-year old Fatu. After all attempts at getting him to mate naturally failed, conservationists had brought attention to the issue after they put Sudan on dating app Tinder last year, hoping to raise enough money to pay for a $9 million fertility treatment.

 

“Current Affairs Questions for UPSC IAS Prelims – 21 March 2018 “

Q1. European Union (EU) has recently signed pact with which country on sharing earth observation data from each other’s satellites?
A) India
B) Canada
C) China
D) Thailand

Q2. Kedarnath Singh, the renowned poet and Jnanpith awardee has passed away. He was associated with which language?
A) Urdu
B) Odia
C) Tamil
D) Hindi

Q3. Which state is hosting the 7th edition of the Women Science Congress (WSC-2018) with the theme “Reached the Unreached Through Science and Technology” ?
A) West Bengal
B) Punjab
C) Manipur
D) Haryana

Q4. The Nabakalebara festival is celebrated in which state, for which recently commemoratory coins in denominations of Rs 10 and Rs 1,000 were also released?
A) Karnataka
B) Odisha
C) Assam
D) Kerala

Q5.Which union ministry is organising the first-ever National workshop on Poshan Abhiyaan in New Delhi?
A) Ministry of Human Resource Development
B) Ministry of Women and Child Development
C) Ministry of Labour and Employment
D) Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment

Answer these questions in the comments below. We encourage you to discuss your thoughts on the news and issues mentioned in today’s current affairs post. The idea is to promote healthy discussions on interesting issues to make preparation fun. Have a good day!

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