Current affairs of 21st August 2019

1. India holds 9th Session of India-Kenya Joint Trade Committee in New Delhi

Union Minister of Commerce & Industry and Railways, PiyushGoyal led the Indian delegation, whereas the Kenyan delegation was led by Peter Munya, Minister of Industry, Trade and Cooperatives, Government of the Republic of Kenya.

Key highlights:
  1. Decisions taken: Discussions on the sidelines of the 1st UN-HABITAT Assembly was done and agreement to expand cooperation in the field of housing through capacity building of Kenyan officials was made.
  2. Conference to be held:  A Conference on Housing in India and exploring partnership between Kenya Institute of Housing and Building Technology (KIHBT) and Building Materials and Technology Promotion Council (BMTPC), India is to be held in the future.
  3. MoU expanded: MoU(Memorandum of Understanding) between the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, the Government of the Republic of Kenya on cooperation in the field of National Housing Policy Development and Management signed on 11th July 2016 was expanded.
  4. Reason for expansion: To strengthen cooperation in the areas of sustainable urban development including smart cities, water and waste management and urban mobility. Further, Kenya had also requested for technical assistance to support the implementation of Kenyan urban and affordable housing programmes.
2. National Conference of Tourism Ministers organised by the tourism ministry in New Delhi

The one-day National Conference of Tourism Ministers organised by the Union Ministry of Tourism  was held in New Delhi. It was inaugurated by Shri Prahlad Singh Patel,Union Minister of State for Tourism & Culture (Independent Charge).

Key highlights:
  1. State Tourism Ministers of 19 States, Secretaries of Tourism and other senior officials attended the conference.
  2. Three new Memorandum of Understandings (MoUs) and five new Letters of Intent (LoIs) to the prospective ‘Monument Mitras’(private sector companies, public sector companies and individuals that adopt tourist sites become monument mitras) were handed over.
  3. Presentations were given by State Governments of Kerala and Sikkim showcasing their best practices in the tourism sector.
3. Indian President launches plantation drive in New Delhi as part of Van Mahotsav celebrations

The President of India, Shri Ram NathKovind planted Maulsari sapling in the Rashtrapati Bhavan Estate(New Delhi) and launched a plantation drive. It was done as part of the ‘Van Mahotsav’ celebrations.

Key highlights:
  1. The President’s Secretariat will be planting 3,252 trees and 2,962 shrubs for the next few weeks in the President’s Estate which is spread over 330 acres, as part of this Van Mahotsav drive. Many Ornamental and fruit trees will be planted in the upcoming weeks.
  2. Van Mahotsav is an annual tree planting movement in India which began in the year 1950.
4. ‘Housing for All’ will be achieved 2 years in advance by 2020: Hardeep Singh Puri

Union Minister of Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Singh Puri stated that the central government is committed to achieving its target of providing ‘Housing for all’ under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY) in two years before the deadline by 2020.

Key highlights:
  1. A total of  48 lakh houses are currently constructed, but this number will rise to 75 lakh. 24 lakh houses have been sanctioned over to beneficiaries under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (Urban) till date & it will be increased to 50 lakh.
  2. The central government decided to build 1.12 crore houses by 2022, of these around 84 lakh houses have been sanctioned to date & the remaining will be sanctioned by the end of 2019.
  3. As per the estimation, about 600 million people would be residing in cities by 2030, the year in which India is expected to meet the sustainable development goals set by the UN (United Nations).
  4. Puri also pointed out that the enactment of RERA (Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Act, 2016) has removed many abnormalities in the real estate sector successfully.
5. Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina & Tennis Legend Sania Mirza will co-chair WEF’s India Economic Summit 2019 to be held in New Delhi

The World Economic Forum (WEF) in collaboration with Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) will organize 2-day India Economic Summit 2019 scheduled to be held in New Delhi from October 3 – 4, 2019 with the aim of promoting strong collaboration between South Asia and ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations ) nations. The theme of the event will be ‘Innovating for India: Strengthening South Asia, Impacting the World’.

Key highlights:
  1. Key leaders: Sheikh Hasina (Prime Minister of Bangladesh), Sania Mirza (Sportsperson and UN –United Nations Women Goodwill Ambassador for South Asia), Heng Swee Keat (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance of Singapore), Shobana Kamineni (Executive Vice Chairperson, Apollo Hospitals Enterprise), and Shailendra Singh (Managing Director, Sequoia Capital India) will be the co-chairs for the Summit.
  2. Thematic pillars: The meet will resolve strategic issues of regional significance through 4 thematic pillars, which include the new geopolitical reality and new social, ecological and technological systems.
  3. Focus: The meet facilitates dialogue on policy tools, business models, industry standards, norms and guidelines for promoting the dynamism of India to meet its growth potential & accelerates the adoption of 4th Industrial Revolution technologies.
  4. Participants: Top leaders from government(Nitin Gadkari, Piyush Goyal, Smriti Irani, Dharmendra Pradhan, and Hardeep Singh Puri, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh, Congress leader Shashi Tharoor, NITI Aayog Vice-Chairman Rajiv Kumar and NITI Aayog CEO Amitabh Kant), Industry leaders (Rahul Bajaj, Sanjiv Bajaj, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Arundhati Bhattacharya, Adi Godrej, Ajay Singh, Sunil Mittal and Nandan Nilekani)are expected to  attend the meet.
6. High-Level Meeting (HLM) between Indian and Srilankan coast guard held

A High-Level Meeting (HLM) was held between India and Srilanka at the Indian Coast Guard (ICG) headquarters in New Delhi. The Indian delegation was led by Director General, Indian Coast Guard K Natarajan, and the Srilankan delegation was held by Rear Admiral Samantha Wimalathunge.

Key highlights:
  1. The meeting was held as part of the MoU(Memorandum of Understanding) signed between the two sides in establishing a collaborative relationship to combat illegal activities at sea like smuggling and developing regional cooperation.
  2. An official visit to India is paid by a 4-member delegation of Sri Lanka Coast Guard, led by Wimalathunge from August 19-23, 2019.
7. Iceland commemorates first glacier lost due to climate change

Iceland has marked its first-ever loss of a glacier to climate change. The glacier lost was, Iceland’s Okjokull glacier. People commemorated this loss with a plaque (An ornamental tablet, typically of metal, porcelain, or wood, fixed to a wall or other surface in commemoration of a person or event).

Key highlights:
  1. The plaque unveiling ceremony was attended by scientists and locals at the Okjokull glacier in west-central Iceland, as it failed to fulfill the criteria to be classified as a glacier after melting throughout the 20th century.
  2. The plaque bears the inscription “A letter to the future”.
  3. Glaciologists stripped Okjokull of its glacier status in 2014, a first for Iceland, as the glacier ice covered that 16 square kilometres but by 2012, measured just 0.7 square kilometres in 2017.
  4. To have the status of a glacier, the mass of ice and snow must be thick enough to move by its own weight. For that to happen the mass must be approximately 40 to 50 metres thick.
8. Mahindra Finance to acquire up to 58.2% stake in Sri Lanka’s Ideal Finance for LKR 2 billion 

Rural NBFC (Non Banking Financial Company) Mahindra & Mahindra Financial Services Ltd has signed a joint venture (JV) with Ideal Finance Ltd (IFL), a subsidiary of the leading Sri Lankan conglomerate, Ideal Group, for the acquisition of up to 58.2 % stake in the Ideal Finance for LKR-(Sri Lankan Rupees) 2 billion (nearly Rs 80 crore).

Key highlights:
  1. Investment: Mahindra Finance will invest LKR 2 billion till March 2021 to acquire the stake.
  2. Benefits: The joint venture with Ideal Finance will create a market-leading financial services business in Sri Lanka for Mahindra.
  3. Mahindra Finance: It has over 6.2 million customers in over 3,70,000 villages in India and its assets under management (AUM) is recorded at over $10 billion. It will expand its business model in Sri Lanka with this joint venture.
  4. IFL: It is a non-banking financial Institution registered with Central Bank of Sri Lanka, caters financial services to the individual needs of its clients. Its assets base is recorded at LKR 4.4 billion and an equity base of LKR 1.1 billion and as many as 10 branches. The partnership will help IFL to emerge as a tier-1 category in a short period of time.
9. DRDO hands over MMR design to the Indian army

The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) chairman, and Secretary of the Department of Defence (Research & Development- R&D) G. Satheesh Reddy handed over the design of the Mobile Metallic Ramp (MMR) to the Indian army in an event held at the DRDO bhawan in New Delhi.

Key highlights:
  1. The MMR with a load-bearing capacity of 70 metric tonne (MT), was handed over to Vice Chief of Army Staff, Lt Gen Devraj Anbu.
  2. It has been designed and developed by the Centre for Fire, Explosive and Environment Safety (CFEES), which is DRDO’s premier research laboratory.
  3. MMR: The MMR is designed and developed for the Indian Army for reducing Strategic Mobility time of mobilising Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFV). Portable modular design with easy assembling and disassembling are the features of MMR.


10. US startup Cerebras Systems unveils World’s largest processor with 1.2 trillion transistors called Cerebras Wafer Scale Engine

New artificial intelligence (AI) company Cerebras Systems based in United States(US) has unveiled the world’s largest single silicon-based processor, the Cerebras Wafer Scale Engine (WSE) with 1.2 trillion transistors, the basic on-off electronic switches that are the building blocks of silicon chips.

Key highlights:
  1. The rectangular shape chip measures around 8 inches by 9 inches, comes with 400,000 AI (Artificial Intelligence) cores and 18 gigabytes of on-chip memory.
  2. It is made by a team headed by Andrew Feldman with the aim to enhance the development work of AI. It is 56.7 times larger than Nvidia’s most powerful server GPU (graphics processing unit).


11. NASA’s  MMS Mission took 1st high-resolution measurements of an interplanetary shock 

America’s space agency, NASA’s (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) Magnetospheric Multiscale mission (MMS) has obtained 1st high-resolution measurements of an interplanetary shock event. These shocks are launched from the Sun which continually releases streams of charged particles called the solar wind, which has 2 types, slow and fast. When a fast stream of solar wind overtakes a slower stream, it creates a shock wave.

Key highlights:
  1. Advantage:  These shocks provide ideal testbeds for learning about larger universal phenomena.
  2. Measurement:  The MMS mission measured the shock with fast and high-resolution instruments including the Fast Plasma Investigation (FPI), which can measure ions and electrons around the spacecraft at up to 6 times per second.
  3. Interplanetary shocks events: It occurs when particles transfer energy through electromagnetic fields instead of directly bouncing into one another. These shocks are a phenomenon found every part of the Universe, including in supernovae, black holes, and distant stars.
  4. MMS : It is NASA’s robotic space mission launched in March 2015 to study Earth’s magnetosphere. It comprises of 4 identical spacecraft, which fly in a tight formation that allows for the 3D(3-Dimensional)mapping of space.
  5. Journal: The findings have been published in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Space Physics.
12. 2nd International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism observed on 21 August 2019

The 2nd International Day of Remembrance and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism has observed with the aim to focus on the resilience of victims and their families.

Key highlights:
  1. UN Secretary-General, António Guterres informed General Assembly that Terrorism continues to pose a major threat to individuals, families, and communities.
  2. The UN has been working to provide resources, mobilize the international community and better address the needs of victims of terrorism by sensitizing the States.
  3. The General Assembly, in its resolution (A/RES/72/165) of 2017, established 21 August as the International Day of Remembrance of and Tribute to the Victims of Terrorism in order to honour and support the victims and survivors of terrorism and to promote and protect the full enjoyment of their human rights and fundamental freedoms.
13. World Senior Citizen Day observed on August 21, 2019

The World Senior Citizen Day was observed on August 21, 2019 across the world. The day is recognized to create awareness of the condition of elder people and support them through senescence.

Key highlights:
  1. This day is observed to thank and acknowledge elders for all that they have done for their children. They sacrifice their entire life in nurturing their relationships.
  2. The day was first announced on 14th of December in the year 1990, by the United Nations General Assembly(UNGA) & it was celebrated for the first time on October 1, 1991.
  3. The day originates from the time of 1988. It was formally settled by the former president of the United States of America i.e. Ronald Reagan. He had marked the 5847 declarations on August 19, 1988, which showed August 21 as the National Senior Citizens Day.
  4. As per the 2017 census, 47 million senior citizens from India live in the United States of America.
  5. Several programs are held throughout the world where elders’ life studies, personal experiences are shared and solutions are offered to fight the factors that affect their well-being.

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