Current Affairs Daily Digest – 19 Feburary 2024

President Droupadi Murmu Gives Assent to Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024President Droupadi Murmu has given her assent to the Public Examinations (Prevention of Unfair Means) Bill, 2024, aimed at preventing malpractices in government recruitment examinations.

  • The Bill was passed by the 2 Houses of Parliament in the Budget session is intended to prevent unfair means in the public examinations.

Points to Note:
i.The Bill got the approval from the President and shall come into force on a date decided by the central government by notification in an official Gazette.
ii.The Bill, which has become an Act now with the President’s approval, defines several offences about public examinations.
Public examinations:
Public examinations in the act refer to examinations conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), Staff Selection Commission (SSC), Railway Recruitment Board (RRB), National Testing Agency (NTA), Institute of Banking Personnel Selection (IBPS), and Departments of the central government and their attached offices for recruitment.
i.The objective of the Bill lies in fostering greater transparency, fairness, and credibility within the public examination systems.
ii.It aims to assure the youth that their sincere efforts will be fairly rewarded, securing their future.
Prohibited Activities:
i.The Bill intended to prohibit collusion or conspiracy to facilitate indulgence in any unfair means including:

  • Unauthorised access or leakage of question papers or answer keys.
  • Assisting a candidate during a public examination.
  • Tampering with computer networks.
  • Conducting fake examinations.
  • Issuing fake admit cards and offer letters.

ii.The Act also prohibits:

  • Disclosing exam-related confidential information before time; and
  • Unauthorised people from entering exam centers to create disruptions.

Protection of Candidates:
The Bill defines candidates and ensures they won’t be subject to actions within the purview of the Bill.

  • Instead, they remain covered by existing administrative provisions of the relevant public examination authority.

Offenders under the Bill will face severe penalties, including:

  • Imprisonment ranging from 3 to 10 years.
  • Fines ranging from Rs. 10 lakh to 1 crore.

Note: All offenses under the Bill are cognisable, non-bailable, and non-compoundable.
Accountability of Service Providers:
i.The legislation prohibits service providers from shifting exam centers without permission from the examination authority.
ii.Service providers will be barred from conducting public exams for 4 years.
iii.The proportionate cost of examination will also be recovered from such a service provider.
Note: The service provider is an organisation that provides computer resources or any other support to a public examination authority.

Union Minister Parshottam Rupala Launches the Realigned AHIDF SchemeOn 14th February 2024, Union Minister Parshotam Rupala, Ministry of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying(MoFAH&D) has launched the realigned Animal Husbandry Infrastructure Development Fund(AHIDF) Scheme at New Delhi, Delhi.

  • He also released a radio jingle(advertisement music) on AHIDF.

i.AHIDF was launched on 24th June 2020 by the Prime Minister(PM) Narendra Modi under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan Initiative with an outlay of Rs 15000 crore.
ii.On 1st February 2024, The union cabinet approved the continuation of the AHIDF under the Infrastructure Development Fund (IDF)with an outlay of Rs 29,610.25 crore.
iii.The realigned scheme will be implemented for three years from 31st March 2023 till 2025-26.
About the AHIDF Scheme:
i.The Scheme will encourage investments in animal-based (Dairy and Meat) processing and diversification, Animal Feed Plant, breed multiplication farms, Agri-waste management, and veterinary vaccine/drug production facilities.
ii.Dairy Infrastructure Development Fund(DIDF) has been subsumed in the realigned AHIDF. The interest subvention for Dairy Cooperatives has been increased to 3% under the realigned AHIDF instead of the 2.5% under DIDF.
Eligibile entities:
Farmer Producer Organization(FPO); Private companies; Individual Entrepreneurs; Section 8 companies and Micro Small and Medium Enterprises(MSMEs)
i.Beneficiaries will get a 3% interest subsidy for 8 years(including 2 years of moratorium).
ii.Beneficiaries can receive loans up to 90% of the project’s estimated or actual cost from scheduled banks.The scheme has no maximum or minimum limit on loan amounts.
iii.Beneficiaries will get a credit guarantee of up to 25% of term loan.
iv.It also has the option of integrating with capital subsidy schemes from other ministries or state-level schemes.

GoI Announces 1st Ever National Creator’s Awards for New-age Influencers & Creators The Government of India (GoI) through its citizen engagement platform MyGov announced the first-ever ‘National Creators Award’ to recognise and celebrate the contributions of new-age influencers, and content creators and celebrate India’s digital creator economy.

  • The awards will recognise outstanding creativity and innovations across over 20 categories in diverse sectors such as education, social change, environmental sustainability, gaming, and more.

The award aims to highlight the diverse voices and talents that shape India’s growth, influence its cultural narrative, contribute to positive social change, and promote innovation and creativity in the digital sphere.

India & Colombia signed MoU on Sharing India’s Open-Sourced DPIs
Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of India and  Ministry of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) of Colombia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on sharing India’s open-sourced Digital Public Infrastructures (DPIs) – India Stack Solutions – implemented at Population Scale for Digital Transformation.

  • The MoU was signed by S. Krishnan, Secretary of MeitY and Mauricio Lizcano, Minister of ICT of Colombia in the presence of Rajeev Chandrasekhar, Minister of State (MoS), MeitY.
  • The MoU intends to promote digital transformation(India Stack) through capacity building programs, the exchange of best practices, the exchange of public officials and experts, the development of pilot or demo solutions, and the facilitation of private sector contacts to mutually benefit the digital ecosystems of both countries.

Note: India Stack is a set of digital infrastructure components that enable the delivery of various digital services to Indian citizens by utilizing Aadhaar, eSign, Digilocker, and Unified Payments Interface (UPI).

Ruchira Kamboj of India Chaired 62nd Session of the Commission for Social DevelopmentAmbassador Ruchira Kamboj, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations (UN), chaired the 62nd Session of the Commission for Social Development (CSocD62), held from 5-14 February 2024 at the UN Headquarters in New York, the United States of America (USA).

  • India chaired the session of CSocD for the first time since 1975.

Note: Poland is set to chair the 63rd session of the CSocD in 2025.
About CSocD:
The CSocD is the advisory body of the  UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and serves as a crucial intergovernmental platform responsible for the social development pillar of global development.
CSocD was initially established as Social Commission in 1946. ECOSOC renamed the commission as The Commssion for Social Development in 1966.
Bureau of CSocD62:
i.Chair: Ruchira Kamboj (India)

  • Carla María Carlson, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of the Dominican Republic.
  • Jon Ivanovski, Deputy Permanent Representative at the Permanent Mission of North Macedonia.
  • Stéphanie Toschi, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Luxembourg.
  • Joslyne Kwishaka, Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Burundi.

Note: The bureau of CSoCD62 was elected during the 13th plenary meeting of 61st session of CSocD. India’s term in CSocD will expire in 2027.
About CSocD62:
Priority theme: Fostering Social Development and Social Justice through Social Policies to Accelerate Progress on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and to Achieve the Overarching Goal of Poverty Eradication.
Highlights of CSocD62:
Four resolutions were adopted during the session chaired by India.
i.Resolution on Promoting care and support systems for social development.
ii.Resolution on Social Dimensions of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development.
iii.Resolution on the Priority Theme of the 63rd session of the CSocD.
iv.Resolution on the Priority Theme of the CSocD62.

LIC Launches a New Insurance Plan ‘LIC Amritbaal Plan 874’ for ChildrenOn 17th February 2024, the Life Insurance Corporation of India (LIC) launched ‘LIC Amritbaal Plan 874’, a new Non-Linked, Non-Participating, Individual, Savings, Life Insurance plan.

  • The plan is designed to meet the higher education and other financial needs of the child.

i.Age of Entry – 30 days to 13 years
ii.Maturity Age – 18 years to 25 years
iii.Premium Paying Mode- Yearly, Half Yearly, Quarterly, Monthly and Single
iv.Policy term: For single premium payment– minimum 5 years & maximum 25 years and for Limited Premium payment – minimum 10 years & maximum 25 years.
v.Sum Assured: Minimum Rs 2 lakhs (No limit on Maximum Sum Assured)
vi.Loan facility:
For limited premium: loan can be availed after 3 years premium have been paid.
For single premium: loan can be availed after 3 months after purchasing the policy.
About Amritbaal Plan:
i.The plan offers risk cover on the life of the child during the policy term.
ii.It facilitates the accumulation of corpus through a Guaranteed Addition of Rs 80 per 1000 Basic Sum Assured throughout the Policy Term.
iii.The policy comes with many facilities like Locking period (2 years), a Revival option (5 years), a Cooling-off Period (15 days), and a Riders option.
iv.The premiums paid are exempted from income tax under section 80C of Income Tax Act, 1961.
About Life Insurance Corporation (LIC) of India:
Interim Chairman – Siddhartha Mohanty
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
Established in – 1956

CIAL & BPCL signed MoU to set up World’s 1st Green Hydrogen Plant Within an AirportCochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bharath Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL) to set up the world’s first green hydrogen plant and fueling station within an airport setting.

  • Under this MoU, a 1000 kilowatt (KW) pilot project will be established at the airport premises of Cochin International Airport, Ernakulam, Kerala.

Key People:
i.The MoU was exchanged in the presence of Pinarayi Vijayan, Chief Minister (CM) of Kerala & Chairman of CIAL at the Legislative Complex in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
ii.G. Krishnakumar, Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) of BPCL and S. Suhas, MD of CIAL were also present during the event.
Key Points:
i.As per the MoU, CIAL will provide land, water, and green energy resources for the construction of the green hydrogen plant.
ii.BPCL will provide technology for the establishment of plant and fueling stations and manages the overall operations.
iii.The initial output of the plant will be utilized for powering vehicles within the airport premises.
iv.The plant is expected to be completed in 2025.
What is Green Hydrogen?
i.Green hydrogen refers to hydrogen produced using renewable energy sources through a process known as electrolysis.
ii.Green hydrogen is produced by splitting water molecules (H2O) into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2).
Additional Info:
In 2015, CIAL became the world’s first airport which is fully powered by solar energy.
About Bharath Petroleum Corporation Limited (BPCL):
i.BPCL is a Maharatna Central Public Sector Enterprise (CPSE) functioning under the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas (MoPNG).
ii.In 1952, incorporated as a private limited company with the name Burmah Shell Refineries Limited and renamed as BPCL in 1977.
Chairman & Managing Director (CMD) – G Krishnakumar
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra

2023 Burgundy Private Hurun India 500 List: RIL Tops as Most Valued Indian Company for 3rd Consecutive YearAccording to the 2023 Burgundy Private Hurun India 500 released by Axis Bank’s Burgundy Private and Hurun India, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) has emerged as the India’s most valuable company for the 3rd cosecutive year with a value of Rs 15,64,663 crore.

  • RIL is followed by Tata Consultancy Service (TCS) with a value of Rs 12,36,229 crore and HDFC Bank with Rs. 11,25,975 crore at 2nd and 3rd spot.

Note: 2023 Burgundy Private Hurun India 500 is the 3rd edition of the 500 Most Valuable Private Companies in India.
The list comprises companies across 44 cities of 16 states in India, led by Mumbai (156); Bengaluru (59); and New Delhi (39).
i.Maharashtra has the highest number of companies followed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Delhi.
ii.The top 3 cities contributed 254 entrants, compared to 264 entrants in 2022.
About Hurun Report Inc.:
Hurun Report is a leading research, luxury publishing and events group established in 1998 in London, the United Kingdom(UK).
It has presence in various countries including India, China, France, UK and Japan. Hurun India was launched in 2012.
Founder & Chief Researcher (Hurun India) – Anas Rahman Junaid
Headquarters (Hurun India)- Mumbai, Maharashtra

Havildar Varinder Singh of Sikh Regiment conferred Vishisht Seva Medal for Octocopter DevelopmentHavildar Varinder Singh of the Sikh Regiment in the Indian Army was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) for designing an innovative drone called ‘a multipurpose octocopter’.

  • He was one of the 130 Vishisht Seva Medal awardees announced by President Droupadi Murmu on 25th January 2024.

Click here to view the full list of Vishisht Seva Medal Awardees  
About multipurpose octocopter:
i.The multipurpose octocopter is a versatile drone capable of conducting surveillance operations, grenade dropping, aerial target engagement with weapons like the AK-47, and logistics operations.

  • The octocopter is a type of drone with eight blades.

ii.It can also be used to drop essential supplies to forward posts, including in high-altitude areas.
About Vishisht Seva Medal:
The Vishisht Seva Medal was instituted on 26th Jan 1960 as VSM Class-III to recognize the distinguished service of a high order. It was renamed in January 1967 as VSM.
Medal: The 35-millimeter (mm) diameter medal is circular in shape and made of bronze.
The medal’s front side features a five-pointed star, while the reverse bears the State Emblem with the text written around the upper edge.
Ribbon: The medal is attached to a gold color ribbon which has three dark blue stripes dividing it into four equal parts.
If a recipient of the medal is awarded the medal again, each succeeding award will be recognised by a bar that will be affixed to the riband that suspends the medal.
About Indian Army:
Chief of the Army Staff – General Manoj Pande
Headquarters – New Delhi, Delhi
Founded – 1895

Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency successfully Launches H3 rocket 
On 17th February 2024, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) successfully launched the second H3 Launch Vehicle (H3TF2) from the Tanegashima Space Center, off the coast of Kyushu, Japan.
i.The H3 rocket was developed by JAXA along with Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Limited (MHI).
ii.H3 carried a dummy satellite, VEP 4 (Vehicle Evaluation Payload 4), and two functioning microsatellites, CE-SAT-1E and TIRSAT, for earth observation purposes.
iii.The cost-effective rocket is designed to carry a 6.5 metric tonne payload into space for 5 billion Japanese yen (USD 33 million) per launch.
Note: H3 is the successor to the H-IIA launch system, debuted in 2001. Previously, H3 had suffered two failures in February 2023 and March 2023 due to technical issues.

Phylloneura rupestris: A New Species of Damselfly Discovered in Kerala
A team of researchers discovered a new species of damselfly named Phylloneura rupestris from the Ponmudi Hills (Western Ghats) in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.

  • The common name of the new species of the bambootails group is “Cliffside Bambootail”.
  • The species epithet rupestris translates to “that lives on cliffs or rocks”  in Latin which denotes its habitat preference.
  • The discovery was published in the scientific journal ‘International Journal of Odonatology’, published by Worldwide Dragonfly Association.

Global Tourism Resilience Day 2024- February 17 The United Nations (UN) Global Tourism Resilience Day (GTRD) is annually observed across the globe on 17 February to recognise the importance of fostering resilience in the tourism industry.

  • GTRD observance emphasises the necessity to address and navigate shocks, considering the inherent vulnerability of the tourism sector to emergencies.

17 February 2024 marks the observance of the 2nd Global Tourism Resilience Day.
i.On 6 February 2023, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted the resolution A/RES/77/269 and proclaimed the  17 February of every year as Global Tourism Resilience Day.
ii.The first-ever Global Tourism Resilience Day was observed on 17 February 2023.
About United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO):
Secretary-General– Zurab Pololikashvili
Headquarters– Madrid, Spain
Established in– 1975

Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar Launched ‘Van Mitra’ Scheme & Portal to Encourage Community Participation in Plantation Manohar Lal Khattar, Chief Minister (CM) of Haryana, launched the ‘Van Mitra‘ scheme and its portal to encourage community participation in tree plantation activities on non-forest lands.
About Van Mitra’ scheme:
Objective: To empower local community to participate in expanding Haryana’s green cover, increase the survival rates of newly planted trees and to increase tree planting in non-forest land outside traditional forest zones.
i.Families with an annual income of less than Rs 1.80 lakh can join the scheme.  Eligible individuals aged 18 to 60 can register to become ‘Van Mitras,’
ii.The eligible individuals will be identified from data of Parivar Pehchan Patra (PPP) maintained by the Citizens Resources Information Department (CRID).
Note: The Van Mitra portal or Mobile App will be used for registration, geo-tagging, and assessment of the survival of plantations.
Financial Incentives:
i.Under the scheme, each ‘van mitra’ will receive an incentive, based on the maintenance of the plant for up to 4 years and they can plant a maximum of 1,000 saplings.
ii.In the first year, Van mitras will receive Rs 20 per pit following this, Rs 30 will be awarded for each sapling planted.
Note: Payment will be directly made into their accounts, adhering to the government’s Direct Transfer Benefit (DBT) policy of Government.
i.In the first phase of the scheme, the selection of 7500 Van Mitra from economically weaker sections will be done through the portal.
ii.A Van Mitra can select non-forest land for plantation anywhere in the village, town, or city of their residence.
Training: Van Mitras receives basic training on plantation techniques and protection measures. Practical training will also be provided on using the Van Mitra mobile app.

Odisha Cabinet Approves SWAYAM Scheme to Provide Interest-free Loan to Unemployed YouthsThe Odisha cabinet approved various proposals including the establishment of a new scheme named Swatantra Yuva Udyami Scheme (SWAYAM), to provide interest-free loans to unemployed/underemployed youths, and to promote self-employment among the youths in Odisha.

  • Under the scheme, the eligible youth in the age group of 18-35 residing in both rural and urban areas in Odisha can avail loan of up to Rs 1 lakh to start a new business or expand the existing ones.

Note: The state Cabinet chaired by Chief Minister (CM) Naveen Patnaik has approved several proposals, encompassing diverse sectors during a meeting at the Lok Seva Bhawan, Odisha.
The objective of the scheme is to support entrepreneurs, who intend to start new ventures or expand their existing businesses.
Budget Allocation:
The government plans to disburse Rs 448 crore for the scheme, aiming to benefit 1 lakh eligible rural youth over 2 years.
Eligibility Criteria:
i.All rural unemployed youth or those without outstanding loans from central/state schemes for the same purpose.
ii.Should be in the age group of 18-35 years; (18-40 years for the special category).
iii.In rural areas, the applicant’s family is covered under the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) or Biju Swasthya Kalyan Yojana (BSKY) and should earn less than Rs 2 lakh annually, where “family” implies self and spouse.

  • In the urban area, the applicant’s family must be covered under the BSKY scheme or earn less than Rs 3 lakh annually.
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