Current Affairs : 19 June 2021

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  • Jun 19, 2021
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Current Affairs : 19 June 2021

World’s third largest diamond unearthed in Botswana

On June 1, 2021, the Debswana Diamond Company discovered the world’s third-largest diamond in the Jwaneng mine in Botswana, South Africa. Botswana is Africa’s largest diamond producer. 

The 1,098-carat stone was delivered to President Mokgweetsi Masisi two weeks after it was discovered. 

Highlights 

  • According to preliminary calculations, the stone is slightly smaller than the world’s second-biggest 1,109-carat Lesedi la Rona diamond.
  • It was discovered in Botswana in 2015, and the world’s largest 3,106-carat Cullinan diamond, which was discovered in South Africa in 1905.
  • According to Lynette Armstrong, acting Managing Director of Debswana Diamond Company, this is the largest diamond ever discovered by Debswana in its 50-year existence. 
  • The 73mm long, 52mm wide, and 27mm thick stone has yet to be named. “It could not have arrived at a better moment after the COVID-19 pandemic affected diamond sales in 2020,” Minerals Minister Lefoko Moagi said of the stone’s discovery.
  • Due to the pandemic , Debswana saw a 29% decline in production to 16.6 million carats and a 30% drop in sales to $2.1 billion in 2020. 
  • Debswana Diamond Company is a joint venture between De Beers and the government of Botswana. 
  • Debswana receives 80% of its revenue from diamond sales in the form of royalties, dividends, and taxes, which go to the government. 
  • The final value of the stone has not been determined yet. 
  • The world’s second-largest Lesedi la Rona diamond, weighing 1,109 carats, was sold for $53 million.

World Competitiveness Index 2021: Switzerland tops ranking

India remained at 43rd place on the Institute for Management Development’s World Competitiveness Index 2021. (IMD). Switzerland came out on top in the 2021 rankings, with Sweden coming in second.

 There are 64 countries on the World Competitiveness Rankings List. In the 2021 rankings, innovation, digitization, welfare benefits, and social cohesiveness were all important factors in economic performance.

Highlights

  • While Denmark fell from one place to third place, the Netherlands remained in fourth place, and Singapore fell to fifth place from first place in 2020.
  • According to IMD, India’s position has remained consistent for the past three years, but this year it has shown considerable increase.
  • There was a strong improvement in government efficiency, which could be attributed to reasonably stable public finances despite the pandemic’s challenges. 
  • It could also be a result of the positive comments received from Indian business executives regarding the government’s assistance and subsidies for private enterprises. 
  • However, India’s economy’s short-term performance will be determined by its capacity to combat the pandemic.
  • According to the research, attributes such as investment in innovation, digitalisation, welfare benefits, and leadership, all of which contribute to social cohesion, have helped countries better weather the recession and so rank higher in terms of competitiveness. 
  • Top-performing economies have diverse levels of innovation investment, supporting public policy, and diversified economic activities. 
  • According to the analysis, these economies’ strength in these areas prior to the pandemic helped them to deal more successfully with the economic consequences of the crisis. 
  • It went on to say that competitive economies have succeeded in switching to a remote work schedule while also allowing for remote learning. 
  • It went on to say that addressing unemployment has been crucial. 
  • The report also stated that countries that have ensured the effectiveness of key public spending, such as public finance, tax policy, and business legislation, are seen as essential policies to relieve the pressure on COVID-19-affected economies.

Zambia’s first president Kenneth Kaunda passes away

Kenneth Kaunda, Zambia’s first president and a staunch supporter of African independence, has died. He was 97 years old at the time.On June 17, 2021, Zambia’s current President Edgar Lungu announced the sad news on his social media website. 

Zambia will be in mourning for 21 days, he said. On June 14th, the former President was brought to the hospital, with officials later stating that he was being treated for pneumonia.

Highlights

  • From 1964 to 1991, Kenneth Kaunda served as Zambia’s first democratically elected president. 
  • He began his career as a school teacher. He led the country, which was then a one-party state, until 1991, when he was defeated in an election after multiparty politics was introduced. 
  • Kaunda was a key figure in Zambia’s fight for independence from British rule. 
  • Northern Rhodesia was the name given to Zambia at the time. 
  • In 1951, he became the Organising Secretary of the Northern Rhodesian African National Congress in Northern Rhodesia. Later, under the presidency of Harry Nkumbula, he became Secretary General of the Africa National Congress (ANC).
  • In July 1961, Kaunda organised the Cha-cha-cha civil disobedience campaign in Northern Province, which primarily consisted of arson and disrupting major roadways.
  • In the 1962 elections, Kaunda campaigned as a UNIP candidate, which resulted in a UNIP–ANC Coalition Government, with Kaunda as Minister of Local Government and Social Welfare. 
  • In January 1964, Kaunda’s UNIP party won the next major elections, and on October 24, 1964, he became Zambia’s first president, appointing Reuben Kamanga as his vice-president.
  • Following the signing of the Choma Declaration in 1973, Kaunda implemented a one-party state, banning all political parties save UNIP through a constitutional amendment. 
  • This was allegedly in response to tribal and inter-party violence earlier in the year. 
  • In 1990, he finally caved in to local and international pressure and agreed to multiparty elections. 
  • He was defeated by Frederick Chiluba, the leader of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy, in the 1991 elections.

Global COVID-19 death toll exceeds 4 million: Reuters

Coronavirus-related deaths globally reached a sad milestone of 4 million on June 17, 2021, according to a Reuters calculation. It is because of the fact that many countries struggle to obtain enough COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate their people. 

While the frequency of new COVID-19 cases and deaths has dropped in countries like the United States and the United Kingdom,other countries continue to face vaccination shortages as the delta variant becomes the dominant strain around the world. 

Highlights

  • According to a Reuters investigation, the COVID-19 death toll took nearly a year to reach 2 million, whereas the next 2 million were recorded in just 166 days.
  • Brazil, the United States, India, Mexico, and Russia, in order of total number of deaths, account for roughly half of all COVID-19-related deaths worldwide. 
  • According to the population, Hungary, Peru, the Czech Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Gibraltar have the highest death rates. 
  • The working capacity of crematoriums in developing countries has been strained, and gravediggers in numerous countries have been obliged to extend cemeteries row after row of new graves. 
  • Since March, Latin American countries have been experiencing their worst outbreak. 
  • According to a Reuters investigation, the region is home to 43 of every 100 infections worldwide.
  • Latin America has nine of the top ten countries with the most deaths per capita in the previous week. 
  • Argentina, Peru, Brazil, Bahrain, Colombia, Uruguay, and Paraguay are just a few of these countries. 
  • As the trend of infection towards younger patients continues, hospitals in Chile, Bolivia, and Uruguay have been seeing a lot more COVID-19 patients between the ages of 25 and 40. 
  • On a seven-day average, India and Brazil have reported the highest deaths, and both countries are still dealing with cremation issues and a lack of burial space. 
  • According to a Reuters investigation, India is responsible for one out of every three COVID-19 deaths reported every day around the world.

Newly discovered Tardigrade species named after Kerala

Researchers have identified a new species of Tardigrade in the genus Stygarctus, which they have named after the state of Kerala where it was discovered. Tardigrades are so minute that studying them necessitates the use of advanced microscopes. 

They are also known as moss piglets’ and ‘water bears,’ and despite their small size, they are among the most hardy animals on the planet. 

Highlights

  • The discovery is the result of a study on the ecology and variety of Kerala’s undersea groundwater habitats conducted by the Ministry of Earth Sciences and the National Center for Earth Science Studies. 
  • The new species, Stygarctus Keralensis, is the first taxonomically documented marine tardigrade from Indian waters, according to the researchers.
  • A research team led by Vishnu Dattam,  N.K., Jayachandran P.R., and S. Bijoy Nandan, Professor, Department of Marine Biology, Microbiology, and Biochemistry, Cochin University of Science and Technology, discovered Stygarctus keralensis in Vadakara, North Kerala.
  •  Copenhagen University’s J.G. Hansen was also involved in the research. Stygarctus keralensis is the eighth species in the genus Stygarctus, and it can grow up to 130 micrometres in length.
  • When it comes to dealing with environmental stress, tardigrades have a unique and fascinating method.
  •  It’s called Cryptobiosis, and it causes their metabolic activity to come to a halt, resulting in a death-like state. 
  • Extreme pressures, temperature, radiation, and dehydration are not a problem for some tardigrade species. 
  • Tardigrades, according to Dr. Bijoy Nandan are robust animals that can be found anywhere on Earth, from mountain tops to the deep oceans. 
  • They’ve also made it through five cataclysmic extinctions. They are invertebrates that are related to spiders, insects, and crustaceans and are among the lesser-known invertebrate groups.

Odisha CM announces Rs 1,690 crore COVID-19 package

On June 17, 2021, Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik announced a COVID-19 package worth Rs 1690.46 crore for the state’s socially and financially disadvantaged individuals. 

Construction workers, landless farmers, indigenous peoples, the urban poor, state food security beneficiaries, Divyang students, and labourers covered by the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of 2005 (NREGA) will all benefit from the package.

Highlights

  • 178.911 crores will be granted to about 17.84 lakh landless farmer households in the state under the COVID-19 package, while Rs 206 crores will be used to aid all landless farming families in three instalments under the Kalia Scheme. 
  • Under the MUKTA Yojana, Rs 260 crores would be distributed to the urban poor in 114 municipal units across the state by December 21. 
  • In addition to their daily earnings, workers under the NREGA scheme would receive Rs 50 per day in support. 
  • According to the statement, the state government will bear Rs 300 crores in additional pay from April 21 to June 21.
  • From July to November 21, the state government would spend Rs 92.86 crores on supplying 5 kgs of rice free of charge to beneficiaries of the state’s Food Security Scheme.
  • In Odisha, 66,214 tribal people from 13 Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) will receive Rs 5,000 per household as a form of livelihood aid. 
  • This will cost the government Rs 33.10 crores. The money will be deposited immediately into the beneficiaries’ bank accounts. 
  • The pre-matric scholarship money will be issued to the bank accounts of 5.40 lakh Scheduled Tribe and Scheduled Caste students.
  •  It will cost the government Rs 252.35 crores.
  • Between April 21 and June 21, Rs 3.72 crores would be spent on 26,465 Divyang students under the Banishree scholarship programme. 
  • 6,471 special school kids who study online and at home would receive Rs 1,245 per month for food expenditures.

Cabinet nod for Inland Vessels Bill

The Union Cabinet approved the Inland Vessels Bill, 2021, on Wednesday, which would replace the Inland Vessels Act, 1917. Inland waterways totaling 4,000 km have been operationalized. The bill will govern inland vessel safety, security, and registration. Instead of distinct regulations set by the states, the Bill establishes a uniform law for the entire country. There will be no need to seek separate licences from the States because the certificate of registration issued under the proposed law will be deemed valid in all States and Union Territories.

Highlights

  • The bill establishes a consolidated database for capturing vessel, vessel registration, and crew information on an internet gateway. 
  • It mandates the registration of all mechanically powered watercraft in a central database. Non-mechanically powered vessels must be registered at the district, taluk, panchayat, and village levels.
  • Inland waterways have now been operationalized for a total of 4,000 kilometres.
  • The bill establishes a registration certificate that is valid in all states and union territories.. 
  • On an internet gateway, the bill establishes a central database for recording vessels, vessel registration, and personnel details. 

Inland Waterways in India

  • Rivers, canals, backwaters, and creeks make up India’s huge network of inland waterways. 
  • The overall navigable length is 14,500 km, with mechanised ships being able to use around 5200 km of river and 4000 km of canals.
  •  In comparison to other large countries and geographic areas such as the United States, China, and the European Union, India’s use of rivers for freight transportation is significantly underutilised. 
  • In India, the total freight handled (in tonne kilometres) via inland waterways accounted for only 0.1 percent of overall inland traffic, compared to 21% in the United States. 
  • In Goa, West Bengal, Assam, and Kerala, organised cargo shipping is limited to a few waterways.

Government lowers tariff on Edible oil imports

The government has lowered the tax value for edible oil imports, including palm oil, by up to USD 112 per tonne, which analysts believe will result in lower domestic costs. The Central Board of Indirect Taxes and Customs (CBIC) has reduced the tariff import value of crude palm oil by USD 86 per tonne and RBD and crude palmolein by USD 112 per tonne, respectively.

The base import price of crude soybean oil was also decreased by USD 37 per tonne. The new tariff value for edible oil got into effect on June 17,2021.

Highlights

  • According to tax experts, the lower tariff value could lead to a softening of edible oil prices in the domestic market as customs charge on the base is reduced.
  • According to AMRG & Associates Senior Partner Rajat Mohan, there is a large imbalance between domestic production and consumption of edible oils in India, resulting in significant imports and rising retail prices in recent months. 
  • If the whole supply chain, including manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, is ready to pass on this gain to the ultimate consumer, the ripple effect of the lower base import price could be visible in retail prices. 
  • In the last year, the price of edible oil in the United States has more than doubled. Imports supply nearly two-thirds of India’s edible oil consumption.
  • According to data published by the Solvent Extractors’ Association of India, overall imports of vegetable oils (edible and non-edible oils) increased by 9% to 76,77,998 tonnes from November 2020 to May 2021, compared to 70,61,749 tonnes the previous year.
  • The edible oil marketing year runs from November to October.

Athlete Milkha Singh passes away at 91

Milkha Singh, a legendary Indian sprinter, died on Friday as a result of post-Covid problems. At the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, he was receiving treatment. The 91-year-old had tested positive for COVID-19 on May 19, but was placed in home isolation after confirming that he was asymptomatic at his Chandigarh apartment. 

However, on May 24, the great athlete was hospitalised to the Fortis hospital’s ICU in Mohali owing to “COVID pneumonia.” On June 3, he was transferred to PGIMER in Chandigarh.

His demise came just five days after his wife Nirmal Kaur passed away from complications related to the Covid procedure.

Highlights

  • Milkha Singh, also known as the ‘Flying Sikh,’ earned a name for himself in track and field, capturing four gold medals at the Asian Games. 
  • He also took home a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Cardiff in 1958. 
  • In the 1960 Rome Olympics, he finished fourth in the 400m final, almost missing out on an Olympic medal. Milkha Singh crossed the finish line in 45.73 seconds. 
  • It maintained a national record for nearly 40 years before being surpassed in 1998 by Paramjeet Singh. 
  • Milkha Singh had also competed in the Olympics in 1956 and 1964. In 1959, he was awarded the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour.
  • Singh won gold medals in the 200m and 400m in the National Games of India in Cuttack in 1958, as well as gold medals in the same events at the Asian Games. 
  • At the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, he won a gold medal in the 400m (440 yards at the time) with a time of 46.6 seconds. 
  • This latter feat made him the first gold medalist from independent India at the Commonwealth Games. 
  • Milkha was the sole Indian male to win a gold medal in individual athletics at the Games before Vikas Gowda in 2014.

19 June,2021: World Sickle Cell Day

World Sickle Cell Day is a United Nations-designated day to enhance national and worldwide awareness of sickle cell disease. The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution on December 22, 2008, recognising sickle cell disease as a public health issue and “one of the world’s main genetic illnesses.” 

On June 19th of each year, members are encouraged to promote awareness of sickle cell disease on a national and worldwide level, according to the resolution.

Highlights

  • Sickle cell anaemia is a set of diseases that affect your red blood cells. Sickle cell anaemia is a hereditary disease that you inherit from your parents and are born with; you cannot catch it from other people. 
  • Sickle cell disease causes your typically round and flexible blood cells to stiffen and sickle shape, making it difficult for the blood cells and the oxygen they carry to travel easily about the body and causing pain. 
  • This can result in excruciating agony. Sickle cell crisis is the name given to these excruciating attacks. 
  • To control the discomfort, they are given strong medications like morphine.
  • Complications of sickle cell disease include stroke, acute chest syndrome, blindness, bone deterioration, and priapism. 
  • Organs such as the liver, kidney, lungs, heart, and spleen can be damaged over time in sickle cell patients. Complications of the condition might also lead to death. 
  • Sickle cell disease treatment focuses on avoiding and treating problems.
  • Sickle cell trait is inherited when just one of your parents carries the sickle gene, but it does not lead to sickle cell disease. 
  • Although the feature is not a disease, certain things must be considered if you wish to have children. 
  • If neither you nor your partner has sickle cell trait, your offspring will not have sickle cell disease, but they may carry the trait (50 percent chance).

Restructuring OBF into 7 different corporate entities

The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) will be abolished, and seven new Defence Public Sector Undertakings will be established to handle the country’s 41 ordnance factories. The Cabinet gave its approval to the establishment of the organisations, which would be wholly owned by the government. 

By the end of the year, the change should be complete. There would be no changes in service conditions, according to the Cabinet note on the decision.

Highlights

  • Employees of the OFB threatened to embark on an indefinite strike in October of last year, but it was called off after consultations with officials from the Defence Ministry.
  • All the OFB personnel in the manufacturing units would be transferred to the new corporate entities on a deemed deputation for the first two years, according to a top ministry official, without affecting their service conditions as central government employees. 
  • “Pension liabilities of retirees and current employees would continue to be met by the government,” the official added. 
  • The restructuring aims to turn the ordnance factories into productive and profitable assets, expand their product range specialism, increase competitiveness, and improve quality and cost-efficiency.
  • The seven companies would be in charge of various verticals of the items manufactured by the 41 ordnance manufacturers. 
  • The Ammunition and Explosives group will be in charge of ammunition manufacturing, while the Vehicles group will be in charge of defence mobility and combat vehicle development. 
  • A Weapons and Equipment group, a Troop Comfort Items group, an Ancillary group, an Opto-Electronics group, and a Parachute group would also be present.

Ordnance Factory Board

  • The Ordnance Factory Board (OFB), which is made up of Indian Ordnance Factories, is a government entity under the Department of Defence Production (DDP) of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). 
  • It works on product development, manufacturing, testing, marketing, and logistics for a variety of air, land, and sea systems. 
  • OFB is made up of 41 ordnance factories, nine training institutes, three regional marketing centres, and four regional safety controllerates located around the country.

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