Current Affairs- 19 & 20 February 2023

4th Edition of India-Japan Army exercise ‘Dharma Guardian’ Commenced in JapanOn 17, February 2023, the 4th edition of the India-Japan joint annual military training exercise ‘Dharma Guardian’ commenced at Camp Imazu in the Shiga province of Japan. The exercise was scheduled to be conducted till 2 March, 2023.

  • Objective: To strengthen bilateral relations between India and Japan and enhance the level of defence cooperation between the two forces.
  • Participants: Infantry Regiment from the Middle Army of the Japan Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF) and Troops of the Garhwal Rifles Regiment of the Indian Army have participated in the exercise.

Key Points:
i.The two armies will share best practices in tactics, techniques, and procedures of conducting tactical operations under a UN (United Nations) Mandate, along with developing inter-operability, bonhomie, camaraderie, and friendship.
ii.The exercise includes platoon-level joint training on operations in jungle and semi-urban/urban terrain to improve the interoperability in planning and execution.
iii.Both armies will engage in a variety of missions ranging from joint planning, joint tactical drills, basics of establishing integrated surveillance grids, including employment of aerial assets.
iv.During the port call by the two JMSDF (Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force) ships Uraga and Awaji at Kochi, Kerala the ship’s crews visited training facilities and activities undertaken at the Training Command of the Indian Navy.

  • Port call is an intermediate stop for a ship on its sailing itinerary

Note – The last edition of Exercise Dharma Guardian was held in Belgaum, Karnataka in February, 2022.

OECD STRI Index: India Ranked 47; Japan and UK gained 1st two Spots

India ranked 47th in OECD’s (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) report titled ‘OECD Services Trade Restrictiveness Index (STRI): Policy trends up to 2023’, which highlights the key outcomes of the 2022 OECD STRI.
Key Points:
i.India’s rank of 47 (which was increased from ) among 50 countries shows the presence of more market restrictions in the country.
ii.OECD STRI index covers 38 OECD members, as well as Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Peru, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Thailand, and Vietnam.
iii.Russia, Thailand and Indonesia are the three countries ranked below India.
iv.On average, Japan, the United Kingdom (UK) and the Netherlands displayed the lowest regulatory barriers to services trade across sectors in 2022.
v.Economies with the highest trade liberalisation impact on the STRI in 2022 were Viet Nam, Japan, and Kazakhstan.

World Bank Report: COVID-19 Damaged Cognitive Development, Lifetime Earnings of an Entire Generation

According to the World Bank report “Collapse and Recovery: How the COVID-19 Pandemic Eroded Human Capital and What to Do About It”, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive destruction of human capital at essential stages of the life cycle, especially affecting children and young people in underdeveloped and developing countries.
Key Findings from the Report
i.In the report, researchers analyzed global data on how the pandemic affected children at three crucial developmental ages: early childhood (0–5 years), school-age (6–14 years), and youths (15–24 years).
ii.It concluded that COVID-19-related education shocks could cause students in South Asia to lose up to 14.4% of their future earnings.
iii.Between April 1, 2020, and March 31, 2022, schools in South Asia were entirely or partially closed for 83% of the time—significantly longer than the global average of 52%.
iv.The report claims that COVID-19 also did significant damage to youth employment.

  • Earnings for young people fell by 15% in 2020 and 12% in 2021.

Key Points:
i.During the two years since the pandemic began (April 2020–April 2022), the World Bank has provided roughly USD 11 billion in pandemic response financing in South Asia.
ii.The amount includes USD 2.7 billion to support social safety nets for more than 857 million vulnerable people, USD 2.5 billion for 15 health projects, USD 2.80 billion for 12 education projects, and USD 1 billion to support the purchase and distribution of vaccines.

12th World Hindi Conference held in Fiji; The 12th World Hindi Conference, which took place from February 15–17, 2023, in Nadi, Fiji, decided to promote Hindi as a language of contact-dialogue among all people around the world who speak, understand, and are fond of it.

  • The Conference was jointly inaugurated by Fijian President Rato Wiliame Katonivere and Indian External Affairs Minister (EAM) S. Jaishankar, who was on his maiden visit to Fiji.
  • The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Government of India (GoI) organized the conference in collaboration with the Government of Fiji.

The main theme of the conference is “Hindi – Traditional Knowledge to Artificial Intelligence.”
Note: The 11th World Hindi Conference was held in Mauritius in 2018.

i.In 1973, the Rashtrabhasha Prachar Samiti of Wardha (Maharashtra) envisioned the idea of World Hindi Conferences.
ii.As a result, the inaugural World Hindi Conference was held in Nagpur, India, from January 10–12, 1975.
iii.So far, 11 World Hindi Conferences have been held in various parts of the world.
Key Points:
i.A commemorative postal stamp was released by the Fijian government during the commencement of the conference.
ii.On the occasion, a special Samarika and five additional publications were also released.
iii.During the conference, the “Vishwa Hindi Samman” was presented to a total of 12 Hindi scholars from India and 19 scholars from abroad, as well as two institutions from each of India and abroad.
iv.The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and the Fijian government organized special cultural performances to take place during the conference.
v.A special exhibition on the history of the Girmitiyas in Fiji was presented in accordance with the conference.
India-Fiji Ink Visa Exemption Pact for Diplomatic and Official Passports Holders
India and Fiji signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on visa exemption for holders of diplomatic and official passports on the margins of the 12th World Hindi Conference, held in Fiji.

  • The MoU exchange was witnessed by Fiji’s Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka and India’s EAM S. Jaishankar.

Key Points:
i.Diplomatic and official passport holders in India and Fiji will now be permitted to enter, transit through, stay, and leave each other’s territories without a visa for a period not exceeding 90 days as a result of the visa exemption.
ii.The exception will make it simpler for both countries to participate in opportunities for discussion, meetings, and collaboration at all levels.

RBI Issues Final Guidelines On Interest Rate Risk in Banking BookThe Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued final guidelines on “Interest Rate Risk in Banking Book” (IRRBB), which mandate banks to measure, monitor, and disclose their exposure to IRRBB, which may have an impact on lenders’ capital base and future earnings.

  • The final IRRBB guidelines are consistent with the revised framework issued by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision (BCBS).
  • The implementation date of the guidelines will be announced in due course.

Interest Rate Risk in Banking Book (IRRBB)
IRRBB refers to the current or future risk to banks’ capital and earnings resulting from unfavourable changes in interest rates that affect their banking book positions.

  • Increased IRRBB can adversely impact a bank’s current capital base and/or future earnings.

Key Points:
i.Banks are mandated to be prepared to measure, monitor, and disclose their exposure to interest rate risk in the banking book.
ii.According to the guidelines, the bank’s board is accountable for identifying the nature and extent of the bank’s IRRBB exposure.
iii.The board may assign responsibility for IRRBB management and monitoring to ALCO (Asset-Liability Committee), which should regularly assess the nature and extent of the bank’s IRRBB exposure.
iv.The Board/ALCO is in charge of establishing adequate limits on IRRBB, valuing positions, and evaluating performance.

  • It includes procedures for updating interest rate shock and stress scenarios and key underlying assumptions guiding the institution’s IRRBB analysis.

v.Banks are required to have a clearly defined, board-approved risk appetite statement that outlines the policies and procedures for limiting and controlling IRRBB.
vi.Prior to implementation, significant hedging or risk management measures must be approved.
Click here for official guidelines
About the Reserve Bank (RBI):
Governor – Shaktikanta Das
Deputy Governors – Mahesh Kumar Jain, Michael Debabrata Patra, M. Rajeshwar Rao, T. Rabi Sankar
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
Establishment –1935

Paytm Payments Bank becomes the first in India to launch UPI LITE feature  Paytm Payments Bank Limited (PPBL) has launched UPI LITE, a feature enabled by National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI) for multiple small-value UPI transactions.

  • PPBL has become the first payments bank to deploy such a UPI LITE feature as part of its commitment to promote innovation.

i.The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) introduced the UPI LITE feature, designed by NPCI, in September 2022.

  • UPI LITE offers customers a better experience by enabling faster and safer real-time small value payments.

ii.A UPI LITE wallet, once loaded, enables a user to make instant transactions of up to Rs. 200, making the entire experience quick and seamless.

  • A maximum of Rs. 2,000 can be added to UPI LITE twice daily, increasing the cumulative daily usage to Rs. 4,000.

Note: According to official NPCI data, half of all daily UPI transactions in India are for less than Rs. 200.
Key Points:
i.As PPBL strives to promote the use of digital payments across India, the feature enables faster real-time transactions with a single click through Paytm.
ii.Additionally, it clears the bank passbook of small transactions since they are now only displayed in the Paytm balance and history section rather than the bank passbook.
iii.This will improve customer experience, increase transaction success rates, and get PPBL closer to processing a billion transactions per day on the UPI platform.
Paytm Payments Bank Limited (PPBL)
i.With more than 1,726.94 million transactions in December 2022, PPBL continued to lead all other major Indian banks as the largest UPI beneficiary bank for 19 months in a row.
ii.PPBL is among the top 10 remitter banks for UPI transactions, with 386.50 million registered transactions.

  • It is also one of the leading issuers and acquirer banks for the National Electronics Toll Collection (NETC) FASTag.

About National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)
NPCI was formed as an umbrella organisation for retail payment and settlement systems in India.
MD & CEO – Dilip Asbe
Headquarters – Mumbai, Maharashtra
Establishment – 2008

RBI Appointed Vikramaditya Singh Khichi as a Member of the Advisory Committee on RCLOn February 17, 2023, Reserve Bank of India (RBI) appointed Vikramaditya Singh Khichi, former ED ( Executive Directors) of Bank of Baroda(BoB) as a member of the Advisory Committee on Reliance Capital LimitedLtd (RCL).
i.On December 7, 2021, RBI had constituted an Advisory Committee under Rule 5 (c) of the Insolvency and Bankruptcy (Insolvency and Liquidation Proceedings of Financial Service Providers and Application to Adjudicating Authority) Rules, 2019, to assist Nageswara Rao Y, Administrator of RCL in the operations of the financial service providers during the corporate insolvency resolution process.
ii.MembersIn December 2021, the  Advisory Committee was formed with the following members,

  • Sanjeev Nautiyal, ex-DMD(Deputy Managing Director), State Bank of India
  • Srinivasan Varadarajan, ex-DMD, Axis Bank
  • Praveen P Kadle, ex-MD & CEO, Tata Capital LimitedF

Key Points:
i.Now due to the resignation of Srinivasan Varadarajan from the Advisory Committee with effect from February 17, 2023, RBI has decided to appoint Vikramaditya Singh Khichi as a member of the Advisory Committee with immediate effect.
ii.The Advisory Committee will advise the Administrator in the operations of RCL during the corporate insolvency resolution process.

Philips Domestic Appliances globally renamed as Versuni

Philips Domestic Appliances, headquartered in the Netherlands, has been rebranded as “Versuni” after Royal Philips sold its domestic appliance business to Hillhouse Capital in September 2021.
Following the sale, the Domestic Appliances business became independent.

  • As a licensee of Royal Philips, the company will continue to use the Philips consumer brand, as well as Saeco, Gaggia and Philips Walita, on its products and services.
  • The new company name will be implemented worldwide throughout 2023 and supported with a new and distinct company visual identity.
  • The company’s portfolio includes kitchen appliances, coffee, climate care, garment and floor care.

Indian Railways & India Posts launch joint parcel service – Rail Post Gati Shakti Express Cargo Service

The Indian Railways and India Posts have formally launched their joint parcel service “Rail Post Gati Shakti Express Cargo Service”. The service is started in 4 sectors: Delhi to Kolkata; Bangalore to Guwahati; Surat to Muzaffarpur; and Hyderabad to Hazrat Nizamuddin. In the first phase, a total of 15 sectors have been planned to be covered.

  • A pilot weekly service was launched on 31st March 2022 from Surat to Varanasi by attaching a VPU to Tapti Ganga Express.
  • India Post will be the single point of contact for the customer for the despatch of consignment from pick-up till delivery.

Union Minister G. Kishan Reddy Presented Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar 2019, 2020 and 2021 to102 Artists of IndiaOn 15th February 2023, G. Kishan Reddy, Union Minister, Ministry of Culture presented the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar (UBKYP) for 2019, 2020 and 2021 to around 102 Artists  (including three joint awards) at Meghdoot Theatre Complex, Rabindra Bhavan in New Delhi, Delhi.

  • The event was presided over by Dr Sandhya Purecha, Chairperson of Sangeet Natak Akademi, the national academy of Music, Dance and Drama, and the apex body of the performing arts in the country.
  • Note: The winners of includes 19 artists from the North East region of India, which highlights the changed circumstances of the region.

On 8th November 2022, the General Council meeting of Sangeet Natak Akademi has selected 102 artists of India who have made a mark as young talents in their respective fields of performing arts for the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Key Points:
From 14th to 17th February 2023, a four-day festival of music, dance and drama was organised featuring the recipients of the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar for the year 2019 at Meghdoot Theatre Complex, Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi, Delhi.
About Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar:
i.Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar is presented to artists up to the age of 40 years to encourage young talents in diverse fields of the performing arts.
ii.The award was introduced in 2006 with the objective to identify and encourage young talents and give them national recognition early in their life.
iii.The award carries a purse money of Rs 25,000, an Angavastram and a plaque.

Indian-Origin Neal Mohan Replaces Susan Wojcicki as Youtube’s New CEONeal Mohan, a longtime Google and YouTube executive who is an Indian-American, has been appointed the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of YouTube.

  • Mohan will succeed Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s outgoing CEO, who is departing after nine years in the position.
  • She had been with Alphabet Inc., YouTube’s parent company, for nearly 25 years.

About Neal Mohan
i.Mohan began his career at Accenture in 1996.
ii.He subsequently joined NetGravity, a startup that was later acquired by DoubleClick, an internet advertising firm, in 2002.

  • DoubleClick was acquired by Google in 2008.

iii.Mohan was in charge of Google’s display and video advertising units from 2008 to 2015.

  • He led the development of advertising products for Google’s AdSense, AdMob, DoubleClick, YouTube, and Google Display Network ad tech products.

iv.He has been the Chief Product Officer at YouTube since 2015.
Key Facts:   
i.Neal Mohan’s appointment elevates him to a growing list of renowned Indian-American CEOs at some of the world’s largest technology firms.

  • He will join executives like Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Adobe CEO Shantanu Narayen, and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

ii.With over 20,000 searches for his name, Neal Mohan scored third in Google’s trending searches following the announcement of his appointment as YouTube CEO.
About YouTube:
CEO – Neal Mohan
Founded – 2005
Headquarters – San Bruno, California, United States (US)

Govt Approved 3 major appointments in Army: Lt Gen MV Suchindra Kumar as new Army Vice Chief

The Government of India (GoI) has approved 3 major appointments in the Indian Army, Lieutenant general MV Suchindra Kumar, who is currently serving as the Deputy Chief of Army Staff (Strategy) in the Army Headquarters, was appointed as the new Vice Chief of Army Staff.  He succeeds Lt Gen B S Raju who has been appointed as the Jaipur- headquartered South Western Army Commander.
The government has also appointed new commanders for the Central and South Western commands.

  • Lt Gen NSR Subramani, serving as the Chief of Staff at the headquarters of the Northern Command in Udhampur, has been appointed as the next Central Army Commander in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh(UP).
  • Lt General Kumar replaces Lt Gen BS Raju, who has been appointed as the Jaipur-headquartered South Western Command chief.

The new appointments will come into effect on 1st March 2023.

MEA launched ‘mPassport Police App’ to Fast Track Passport Verification ProcessThe Ministry of External Affairs(MEA), Government of India launched ‘mPassport Police App’ to streamline and expedite the passport issuance system. This app will also help with the timely updation and issuance of passports.
i.Police verification is one of the integral parts of the passport issuance system.
ii.Various efforts have been undertaken to streamline and expedite the process of the passport issuance system.
iii.The MEA introduced the ‘mPassport Police App’ to further expedite the process,
Additional info:
i.On the occasion of the 76th Delhi Police Raising Day, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, dedicated 350 mobile tablets to personnel of the Delhi Police Special Branch.
ii.This will result in the entire process of police verification and submission reports digital and paperless.
iii.Passport verification using tablets will reduce the verification time from 15 days to 5 days, effectively reducing the passport issuance timeline by 10 days.

12th World Pangolin Day – 18th February 2022World Pangolin Day is annually observed across the world on the 3rd Saturday of February with an aim to create awareness about Pangolins a unique endangered mammal and their plight.
18th February 2023 marks the observance of the 12th World Pangolin Day. 

  • The 11th World Pangolin day was observed on 19th February 2022.
  • The 13th World Pangolin Day will be observed on 17th February 2024.

About Pangolin:
i.Pangolins are the only mammals wholly covered in scales and they use those scales to protect themselves from predators in the wild that feeds on ants and termites.
ii.The hard plate-like scales of the pangolins are made of Keratin.
iii.The name pangolin is derived from the Malay word ‘pengguling’ meaning ‘something that rolls up’.

Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai Presented Revenue Surplus Budget with Outlay of Rs 3 lakh croreOn 17th February 2023, during the Karnataka State Assembly, the Karnataka Chief Minister(CM) Basavaraj Bommai presented a revenue surplus budget with no tax hike. For the 1st time, the budget outlay of Karnataka has crossed Rs 3 lakh crore mark and is pegged at Rs 3,09,182 crore, up from Rs 2,65,720 crore in 2022-2023.

  • The budget for the first time, post-pandemic, was a revenue surplus one, with receipts expected to be more than expenditure by Rs 402 crore.
  • To further boost capital expenditure, the budget has enhanced outlay by 30.4% for capex to Rs 61,234 crore in FY24.

Key Points:
i.The fiscal deficit has been expected to be at Rs 60,581 crore which is 2.60% of the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP).  The total liabilities at the end of 2023-2024 are estimated at Rs 5,64,896 crore, which is at 24.2% of GSDP.
ii.With borrowings of Rs 77,750 crore, the liabilities at the end of 2023-24 are pegged at Rs 5,64,896 lakh crore, or 24.20% of GSDP, thereby satisfying all parameters of the Karnataka Fiscal Responsibility Act, 2002.
About Karnataka:
Chief Minister– Basavaraj Somappa Bommai
Governor– Thawar Chand Gehlot
Wildlife Sanctuary– Brahmagiri Wildlife Sanctuary; Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuaries

J&K Govt Approves Rs 30.40 cr ‘Sensor-based Smart Agriculture’ ProjectJammu and Kashmir (J&K) government (Govt) has approved a ‘Sensor-based Smart Agriculture’ project worth Rs 30.40 crore for integration of agriculture with technology driven by Artificial Insemination (AI) and IoT (Internet of Things) for automation of practices, and make it efficient and profitable for the farmers.
Key Points:
i.Under the project, a sensor-based pilot study will be conducted on high-density apple orchards, protected cultivation and smart livestock farming.
ii.Hi-tech poly houses would be used for the cultivation of cash crops around the year with the application of IoT and automation for monitoring the microclimatic parameters of plants.
iii.The greenhouse technology will increase yields and produce off-season vegetables as early production or late availability as compared to open field conditions.
iv.As 70% of the J&K’s economy is based on agriculture, the adoption of digital agriculture, particularly AI and IoT, will increase efficiency, production, productivity, and profitability.
v.The project intends to increase the use of resources and improve efficiency by up to 80%  and automate agricultural operations with precision in HDPs (High-Density Plantings) of Apple, vegetables, and livestock.
vi.Identifying pests and diseases via AI-based detection using handheld sensor devices would reduce the drudgery and cost of cultivation by 20%.
vii.Real-time detection and variable rate spray using robotics and drones will reduce the production cost by 80%.
viii.The project also aims to build a sensor corridor for livestock and phenotyping and yield prediction.
About Jammu & Kashmir:
Airports – Udhampur Air Force Station, Awantipur Air Force Station
Bird sanctuary – Hokersar bird sanctuary

Mastercard & ACCESS announce FPO empowerment programmes in Assam

Mastercard and ACCESS Development Services have announced the launch of a new programme in Assam with a focus on empowering Farmer Producer Organisations(FPOs) in Assam.

  • The programme aims to strengthen FPOs by helping build their capacity through structured technical assistance by a professional cadre of trainers.
  • The programme mainstreams Agriculture through Networks and Development Initiatives, or MANDI.
  • Mastercard and ACCESS are aiming to help address these challenges by facilitating training frameworks, curriculum, and tools for FPOs.

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