EPFO Marginally Increases Deposit Interest Rate to 8.15% for FY23The Central Board of Trustees (CBT), the apex decision-making body of the Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO), has proposed a new interest rate of 8.15% for Provident Fund deposits for the current fiscal year 2022-23 (FY23), to nearly 6 crore subscribers.
- This proposed interest rate (8.15%) is 0.05 % higher than the 8.10% interest rate of FY22, which is the lowest in four decades.
This is the first increase in the Employees’ Provident Fund (EPF) interest rate since 2018-19, when it was lifted to 8.65% from 8.5% previously.
i.The EPFO is expected to have a principal amount of Rs. 11.02 lakh crore, and an income of Rs. 90,497.57 crore for FY23, which is the highest recommended income so far.
- This is substantially greater than the income of Rs. 77,424.84 crore and the principal of Rs. 9.56 lakh crore in FY22.
About Employees’ Provident Fund Organisation (EPFO):
i.EPFO is a social security organisation that provides social security benefits through provident, pension, and insurance funds.
Chief Executive Officer(CEO) – Neelam Shami Rao
Headquarters – New Delhi, Delhi
Establishment – 1952
ICAR & World Bank issue Delhi Declaration on modernisation of Agricultural Education System The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the World Bank jointly issued the Delhi Declaration on Modernisation of Agricultural Education System in alignment with the National Education Policy(NEP) during the valedictory session of the International Conference on Blended Learning Ecosystem for Higher Education in Agriculture 2023(ICBLE 2023) held in New Delhi, Delhi.
i.The 3-day ICBLE 2023, first of its kind initiative to promote blended learning initiatives in agricultural higher education, was organised jointly by the ICAR and World Bank from 21st to 23rd March 2023 at Bharat Ratna C. Subramaniam Auditorium, National Agricultural Science Complex(NASC), New Delhi, Delhi.
ii.On 21st March 2023, Narendra Singh Tomar, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare inaugurated the conference and launched the Blended Learning Platform for higher education in agriculture.
- The platform was developed by ICAR as a part of the World Bank-funded project.
About the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR):
ICAR is an autonomous organisation under the Department of Agricultural Research and Education ( DARE ), Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare(MoA&FW).
Director General– Himanshu Pathak
Headquarters– New Delhi, Delhi
PFRDA Increases Ombudsman’s Upper Age Limit to 70 Years from 65 YearsAccording to the notification dated 27th March 2023, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) has amended the PFRDA (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) Regulations 2015 and increased the upper age limit of the Ombudsman from 65 to 70 years.
- The amended regulations are called the “Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) (Amendment) Regulations, 2023”.
- The amended rules come into force on the date of the publication of the official gazette.
According to the PFRDA (Redressal of Subscriber Grievance) Regulations 2015, the upper age limit for the ombudsman was 65 years.
i.The Ombudsman is an official appointed by PFRDA who receives, considers and facilitates the resolution of complaints or grievances, which fall within the ambit of the regulations.
- Ombudsman is a Swedish word meaning “legal representative.”
ii.The appointed ombudsman holds the office for a period of 3 years. The ombudsman is also eligible for reappointment for another 2 years.
With effect from April 1, 2023, PFRDA has made the mandatory upload of withdrawal and KYC documents to enable seamless processing of exit and annuity payments for the benefit of National Pension System (NPS) subscribers.
About Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA):
PFRDA was established by the Government of India on 23rd August 2003
Chairman– Deepak Mohanty
Headquarters – New Delhi, Delhi
Odisha declares Gandhamardan Hill as Biodiversity Heritage SiteThe Forest, Environment and Climate Change Department, Government of Odisha has issued a notification declaring the Gandhamardan Hill Range in Bargarh and Balangir district as a Biodiversity Heritage Site (BHS).
- Following this, an area of 18,963.898 hectares of Gandhamardan Hill (Gandhamardan Reserve Forest) including 12,431.8 ha (Bargarh) and 6,532.098 ha (Balangir) is declared as BHS of Odisha.
- This is the 3rd BHS of Odisha after Mandasuru Gorge in Kandhamal district and Mahendragiri Hill Range in Gajapati district.
- The designation was made in accordance with Rule 20(2) of the 2012 Odisha Biodiversity Regulations and Section 37 of the Biodiversity Act.
The rich biological resources in Gandhamardan Hill range are under pressure due to various human activity(anthropogenic) such as pollution and climatic factors and the traditional ecological knowledge associated with the bio-resources of the hill is declining.
Significance of Gandhamardan Hill:
The Gandhamardan Hill is considered a treasure trove of medicinal plants and an Ayurvedic paradise of Odisha.
This ecosystem, with rich floral and faunal diversity, has a diverse socio-economic, ecological and biological significance for the people of Odisha.
The region houses around 1,055 plant species which includes 849 angiosperms(Flowering plants), 56 pteridophytes, 40 bryophytes, 45 lichens and two gymnosperms(seed-producing plants) and 63 species of macrofungi.
The region houses around 500 species of animals which includes 43 mammals, 161 birds, 44 reptiles, 16 amphibians, 118 butterflies, 27 dragonflies and 7 damselflies and 83 species of spiders.
Note: Ficus conccina var dasycarpa (angiosperm) and Peucetia harishankarensis (Spider) are endemic to this hill.
The region houses 2 historical monuments
- Nrusinghanath Temple located on the northern slope
- Harishankar Temple situated on the southern slope of the foot hills of Gandhamardan.
The 2 hill shrines are major pilgrimage sites of Odisha.
Hiuen Tsang had described the hill shrine as a Buddhist heritage site named Parimalagiri.
i.Bauxite reserve in the region was planned for exploration by the state government through a private venture.
ii.In 1980s, then public sector Bharat Aluminium Company Limited (BALCO), now under the control of Vedanta Group, had almost started mining of bauxite from Gandhamardan.
iii.Later the mining proposal was stopped following people’s protest against mining.
Government extends PAN-Aadhaar linking deadline to June 30, 2023
On 28th March 2023, the Ministry of Finance (MoF) informed that the Central Board of Direct Taxes(CBDT) has extended the deadline to link Permanent Account Number (PAN) with Aadhaar from 31st March 2023 to 30th June 2023.
- According to Sub-section (2) of section 139AA to Income-tax Act 1961, it is mandatory for every person who has been allotted a PAN as of 1st July 2017 to intimate his Aadhaar Number so that the Aadhaar and PAN can be linked.
- According to the MoF, as of 28th March 2023, more than 51 crore PANs have already been linked with Aadhaar.
IAF Participated in “Exercise Cobra Warrior” for The First Time
India made its maiden participation in “Exercise Cobra Warrior”, which was conducted at the Waddington Air Force Base of the Royal Air Force (RAF) in the United Kingdom (UK) from March 6–24, 2023.
- Along with India, Finland and Saudi Arabia have also made their maiden appearances in the exercise.
An Indian Air Force (IAF) contingent of 145 Air Warriors took part in the exercise with five Mirage 2000 fighters, two C-17 Globemaster III aircraft, and an IL-78 midair refueller aircraft.
Exercise Cobra Warrior
i.The RAF of the UK hosts the largest multilateral air exercise, Exercise Cobra Warrior, twice a year.
- Participants: RAF and the IAF, as well as air forces from Finland, Sweden, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Belgium, the United States of America (USA), and Singapore.
ii.The aim of the exercise is to participate in a range of fighter aircraft encounters and learn from the top strategies employed by other air forces.
iii.This exercise included high-intensity, large-force, and tactical air warfighting operations.
iv.The RAF provided Surveillance, Multi-Engine Tactics, Qualified Weapons Instructor Courses, Qualified Space Instructor Courses, and other training during the exercise.
Japan commits Rs 7,084cr for Three Infrastructure Projects in Indiai.On March 28, 2023, Japan has committed Rs 7,084.5 crore to India for three infrastructure projects viz. one each in Patna (Bihar), West Bengal, and Rajasthan.
ii.Notes in this regard were exchanged between Rajat Kumar Mishra, Additional Secretary, Department of Economic Affairs (DEA) and Suzuki Hiroshi, Japan Ambassador to India.
iii.The Infrastructure Projects are Patna Metro Rail Construction Project (I), Rajasthan Water Sector Livelihood Improvement Project (II), and Forest and Biodiversity Conservation for Climate Change Response in WB.
Prime Minister– Fumio Kishida
NPCI recommends up to 1.1% interchange fee on UPI transactions of over Rs 2,000 via PPIs i.From April 1, 2023 onwards, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) will impose an interchange fee upto 1.1% will be levied on merchant transactions made through prepaid payment instruments (PPIs) such as wallets or cards, that use the Unified Payments Interface (UPI).
ii.The charge will be applicable on payments exceeding Rs 2,000, made to online merchants, large merchants and small offline merchants.
About National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI):
MD & CEO– Dilip Asbe
Headquarters– Mumbai, Maharashtra
PSBs wrote off Rs 91,000 cr in 9 months of FY23According to data presented in the Rajya Sabha as a written answer by the Union Minister Nirmala Sitharaman, Ministry of Finance Public sector banks (PSBs) have written off around Rs 91,000 crore in first 9 months of FY23.
- In this, State Bank of India on the top (Rs 17,356 crore) followed by Union Bank of India (Rs 16,497 crore) and Bank of Baroda (Rs 13,032 crore).
i.All the scheduled commercial banks (PSBs, private banks and foreign banks) wrote-off around Rs 1.61-lakh crore worth of loan in FY18. Recovery from written off accounts was less than Rs 13,000 crore or around 8% of bad debts taken off from the book in FY18
- For next four fiscal, the percentage rose to 10.8, 12.8, 14.9 and 19.4 per cent, respectively.
ii.During all these five years, total amount in written off loan accounts was over Rs 10 lakh crore, while recovery was over Rs 1.3-lakh crore. This means net written off amount was around Rs 8.7-lakh crore.
Argentine-American Mathematician Luis Ángel Caffarelli honoured with The Abel Prize 2023On 22nd March 2023, the Abel Prize for Mathematics was awarded to Luis Ángel Caffarelli, an Argentine-American mathematician and an expert in “partial differential equations” which can explain phenomena ranging from how water flows to population growth, at the University of Oslo, Norway.
- Luis Caffarelli, a 74-year-old professor at the University of Texas, was honoured for his seminal contributions to regularity theory for nonlinear partial differential equations.
Luis A Caffarelli is the 26th Abel Prize Laureate and he is the 1st Latin American mathematician to receive the award.
i. Norway’s King Harald V will present the Abel Prize to Luis Caffarelli at an award ceremony in Oslo on 23rd May 2023.
ii. In 2022, the prize was won by American mathematician Dennis Sullivan for his research into topology and chaos theory.
About Luis Ángel Caffarelli:
i. Luis Caffarelli was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1948. He currently holds the Sid Richardson Chair at the University of Texas at Austin, Texas, United States of America(USA).
ii. He also has been a professor at the University of Minnesota(United States of America-USA), the University of Chicago(Illinois), and the Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences at New York University(USA).
iii. Luis Caffarelli’s other awards include the 2005 Rolf Schock Prize, the American Mathematical Society’s 2009 Steele Prize for Lifetime Achievement, the 2012 Wolf Prize, the 2013 Solomon Lefschetz Medal, and the 2018 Shaw Prize.
About the Abel Prize:
i. The Abel Prize, named after the Norwegian mathematician Niels Henrik Abel (1802–1829), was established by the Norwegian Parliament (The Storting) in 2002, on the occasion of the 200th birth anniversary of Niels Henrik Abel.
ii. The award carries a cash prize of 7.5 million Norwegian Krone (USD 710,000).
iii. The Prize is awarded by The Norwegian Academy of Science and Letters, on behalf of the Ministry of Education.
Lalit Kumar Gupta named as CMD of Cotton Corporation of India
The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) chaired by Prime Minister (PM)Narendra Modi, has approved the appointment of Lalit Kumar Gupta as Chairman and Managing Director (CMD) of Mumbai(Maharashtra)-based Cotton Corporation of India (CCI) with effect from the date of his assumption of charge of the post for a period of 5 years, or till the date of his superannuation, or until further orders, whichever is the earlier.
CCI is a Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) under the Ministry of Textile
- The order of the appointment was issued by the Department of Personnel & Training (DoPT), Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions.
- Public Enterprises Selection Board (PESB) panel recommended Lalit Kumar Gupta for the post of CMD of CCI.
Lalit Kumar Gupta has a very long association with CCI, about 25 years. He joined CCI in August 1994. He is also a member of the Institute of Company Secretaries of India (ICSI).
NIC developed the “Maaptol Grievance” app to facilitate the Registration & Redressal of Consumer GrievancesThe National Informatics Centre (NIC), under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), has developed a mobile software application called “Maaptol Grievance” to facilitate online registration and time-bound redress of consumer grievances connected to the Legal Metrology Act and rules framed under it.
- The Weights and Measurements Department, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD), provided the contents that were published on this application.
- The application mainly provides eGovernance Services delivery and intends to provide better citizen services by the government.
i. The Weights and Measures Department of the Delhi government must attend to the settlement of the grievances lodged on the app in a time-bound manner, within two working days (48 hours).
ii. Any consumer can use this software application to file a complaint with the government’s Weights & Measures Department.
- If the department of Weights & Measures discovers any violations involving goods that are being sold or distributed by weight, measure, or number, or any shortcoming in the mandatory declarations on packaged goods and commodities according to the provisions of the Legal Metrology Act, 2009 and rules made thereunder.
iii. Categories of the Grievances:
- Deficiency in mandatory declarations by manufacturer or packer or importer on packaged goods; overcharging; short supply of goods or commodities; the short weight of Liquefied Petroleum Gas(LPG) in the gas cylinder; short supply of petrol or diesel by a petrol pump; short supply of Compressed Natural Gas(CNG) by a CNG pump outlet; and weighbridges.
About the National Informatics Centre (NIC):
Director General- Rajesh Gera
Headquarters- New Delhi, Delhi.
Dr M A Hasan’s book titled “War and Women” launched at UNHRC, Geneva
On 24th March 2023, a book titled “War and Women” authored by Dr M A Hasan was released during the 52nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) at the United Nations(UN) building in Geneva, Switzerland.
In this book, Dr M A Hasan documented the magnitude of torture and killings committed by the Pakistan Army during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
- Freedom Fighters of the Bangladesh Liberation War and Executive members from International Non-Governmental Organizations(NGOs) were present at the book launch.
- Tazul Islam, a Bangladesh freedom fighter based in Zurich, Switzerland, is the Chief guest of the launching ceremony.
World Piano Day 2023 – March 29World Piano Day is annually observed across the globe on the 88th day of the year(mostly falls on the 29th or 28th of March), which is the same as the number of keys on the piano, intending to celebrate the Piano, an acoustic, keyboard, stringed percussion instrument.
- Piano Day aims to create a community platform to bring together piano players from all around the world.
World Piano Day 2023 was observed on 29th March 2023.
- World Piano Day 2022 was observed on 29th March 2023.
- World Piano Day 2024 will be observed on 28th March 2023.
i. The idea of Piano Day was initiated by German Pianist/composer/producer Nils Frahm.
ii. The 1st ever World Piano Day was observed on 29th March 2015.
History of Piano:
i. The Piano was invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori (1655-1731), a musical instrument maker, from Padua, Italy.
ii. In the year 1700, Bartolomeo Cristofori is credited with replacing the plucking mechanism with a hammer to create the modern piano.
iii. The piano was initially called ‘gravicembalo col piano e forte,’ which means “soft and loud harpsichord.”
Assam Rifles Commemorates 188th Raising Day – 24th March 2023 On 24 March 2023, Assam Rifles, the most decorated Para Military Force of India, celebrated its 188th Raising Day at its Laitkor Garrison, Shillong, Meghalaya, and also its various formation and Units in the North East and Jammu and Kashmir (J&K).
- G Kishan Reddy, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Development of North East Region graced the Assam Rifles’ Raising Day 2023 celebrations as chief guest.
- G Kishan Reddy along with Lt Gen P C Nair, Director General of Assam Rifles paid homage to the martyrs of the Force at the War Memorial in Shillong, Meghalaya.
Assam Rifles was raised on 24th March 1835. It has done yeoman service to India and contributed immensely to bringing peace to the North East states.
- Assam Rifles is often referred to as the “Friends of the Hill People” and the “Sentinels of the North East”.
- It is the oldest paramilitary force in India whose primary role is to protect part of India’s Northeastern border.
i.During 2022-23, 3 battalions received the Chief of the Army Staff Unit Citation and 5 Battalions received General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Unit Citation.
ii. Personnel of the force have also been decorated with 1 Shaurya Chakra, 7 Sena Medals, and 411 Presidential & Governors Medals.
iii. The force has excelled in Sports by winning 6 medals in International Games (Gold-1, Silver-1& Bronze-4), National Games (Gold-17, Silver-17& Bronze-15) and All India Police Duty Meet Shooting Competition(AIPDM) (Gold-31, Silver-25 & Bronze-26) in 2022-23.
About the Assam Rifles:
Director General- Lt Gen Pradeep Chandran Nair
Headquarters- Shillong, Meghalaya
West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee launches Flagship Road ‘Pathashree-Rastashree’ ProjectOn 28th March 2023, Mamata Banerjee, Chief Minister(CM) of West Bengal(WB), launched “Pathashree-Rastashree” in Singur, WB. Pathashree-Rastashree is a flagship project of the government of WB to strengthen road infrastructure and enhance connectivity to villages by constructing 12,000 km of roads in 22 districts of WB.
On 15th February 2023, the “Pathashree-Rastashree” project was announced by Chandrima Bhattacharya, Minister of Finance of West Bengal, while presenting the Budget in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly.
i. Under the Pathashree-Rastashree project,West Bengal will get 7,219 new roads and 1,548 roads will be upgraded. Over 29,475 villages across all gram panchayats will be covered by roads.
ii. A total of Rs 3282.75 crore in state funding would be used for the entire project.
iii. The total number of roads approved in the scheme is 8767. Nearly 30,000 villages will benefit from the project.
About West Bengal:
Chief Minister- Mamta Banerjee
Governor- Jagdeep Dhankhar
National Park- Sundarban National Park; Jaldapara National Park
Wild Life Sanctuary- Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary; Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary