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Current Affairs 2018


US expels two Venezuelan diplomats 
• The United States has ordered two top Venezuelan diplomats to leave the country within 48 hours, in a response to a similar action taken by Venezuela against two of its top diplomats.
• The Charge d'Affaires of the Venezuelan embassy and the Deputy Consul General of the Venezuelan consulate in Houston were declared personae non grata and directed to leave within two days. 
• The action was in reciprocation to Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's decision to declare the Charge d'Affaires and Deputy Chief of Mission of the US Embassy in Caracas personae non grata.

IRCTC introduces VIKALP scheme

• Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation has introduced VIKALP scheme for passengers in wait-listing to provide berth in another train.
• Under the scheme, passengers from all classes & trains would be able to select 5 trains. However, the scheme does not guarantee a confirmed berth.
• The passengers would also need to be prepared, as they could be shifted to another train leaving even 12 hours prior to the booked one.

Odisha to launch mobile app for advance info on lightning

• The Odisha government has decided to introduce a special mobile application to provide advance information on lightning which has claimed at least 61 lives between April and May 2018. 
• The mobile application will be developed to alert smartphone users if they are in a lightning zone. The people using smart phone will get information regarding possible lightning in their areas at least one hour ahead of the calamity.
• The move would enable them to move to safer places and save their lives. The aim of the initiative is to reduce death toll due to lightning.

Pravin Agrawal appointed BHEL director

• Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited has appointed Pravin L Agrawal as the part-time official director on its board.
• Agrawal, an Indian Forest Service officer, is presently serving as the joint secretary in the Department of Heavy Industry (DHI), Ministry of Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises.
• Established in 1964, BHEL is India’s largest power generation equipment manufacturer.

Railways to spend Rs 350cr to train drivers on simulators

• The Indian Railways will spend around Rs 350 crore to train 1.5 lakh drivers and assistant drivers through virtual reality techniques to bridge the gap between theoretical and practical learning.
• The training will be conducted in 47 centres across zones and the national transporter will soon float a global tender to acquire about 40 simulators for the purpose. 
• Fitted with computer-generated motion images, the simulators will have a man-machine interface, a host of computers and a video camera to capture the movements of the driver.

NYSE to have its first female leader

• The New York Stock Exchange has appointed Chief Operating Officer Stacey Cunningham as its first female president.
• Cunningham will replace Tom Farley as the head of NYSE. She was previously appointed as NYSE’s chief operating officer in June 2015.
• The move means two of the top three US stock exchange operators are led by women


Kathua rape case: SC directs J&K government to protect victim's family, lawyer

• The Supreme Court on April 16, 2018 directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to provide security to the family of the eight-year-old Kathua gangrape and murder victim. 

• The judge’s bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud also asked the state government to give security to the lawyer and a family friend assisting them in pursuing the case. 

• The apex court also directed the state police to provide adequate security at the observation home where a juvenile accused has been kept. 

• The bench said that the policemen providing security to the victim's family and others will be in plain clothes. 

• Further, the apex court has sought response of the state government on the plea of the victim's father seeking transfer of the trial of the case from Kathua, preferably to Chandigarh. The next hearing of the case will be on April 27, 2018. 

SC dismisses PIL against pension, benefits to former Parliamentarians

• The Supreme Court on April 16, 2018 dismissed a PIL challenging the perks, including pension and travel allowances, given to former Parliamentarians.

• A bench of Justices including Justice J Chelameswar and Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul had reserved its verdict on the PIL on March.

• An NGO had approached the apex court challenging the Allahabad High Court order dismissing its plea, which had claimed that pension and other perks being given to MPs even after demitting office were contrary to Article 14 (Right to Equality) of the Constitution.

Guatemala votes to ask UN court to resolve Belize border spat

• The people of Guatemala voted on April 15, 2018 to ask the top United Nations court to resolve the claim that the nation owns half of the territory of Belize, its neighbouring nation.

• The dispute dates back to the 18th century, during the Spanish and British colonial rule of the region.

• An overwhelming number of people turned up for the vote, more than 90 per cent, asking the International Court of Justice (ICJ), based in The Hague, to intervene.   

• Though Guatemala recognised the independence of Belize at the beginning of 1990s, it never accepted the borders and continues to stake a claim to about 11,000 square kilometers, half the territory of the former British colony.

• In December 2008, both countries signed a deal that its inhabitants could vote to decide whether the territorial claim, which includes various islands, should be decided by the ICJ.

• English-speaking Belize, which became independent in 1981, still hasn't set a date for its referendum.



Queen appoints Prince Harry as Commonwealth youth ambassador
• Queen Elizabeth has appointed Prince Harry as a youth ambassador for the Commonwealth, a role that will see him encouraging young people to use the network of mostly former British colonies to address their challenges. 

• The announcement of Harry's new job coincides with the start of a summit of the Commonwealth Heads of Government in London, which will seek to boost the network at a time when Britain is negotiating its departure from the European Union.

• In a statement, Buckingham Palace said more than 60 per cent of the Commonwealth's 2.4 billion people were under the age of 30.

• Prince Harry will work to create links between young people and youth leaders of the Commonwealth and to encourage them to use Commonwealth platforms to address the social, economic, and environmental challenges of their generation.

• Harry, who is 33 and fifth-in-line to the throne, has stepped up his public duties and is at the forefront of a rebranding of the monarchy as modern and relevant.
China launches website to report foreign spies

• China has stepped up its campaign against foreign espionage with a website in Mandarin and English encouraging people to report national security threats such as bids to overthrow the socialist system. 

• The website, 12339.gov.cn, launched by the Ministry of National Security on April 15, also urges anyone to report attempts by Chinese nationals or foreigners to bribe state or military officials, instigate armed riots or incite ethnic separatism. 

• The potential problematic behaviour also includes foreigners meeting "any person within China who has conducted activities endangering state security or is strongly suspected of doing so" -raising concerns that any interaction with dissidents would be frowned upon. 

• According to the website, the informants will be rewarded for discovering espionage equipment or for tip-offs on anyone suspected of buying or selling state secrets.

Biannual Army Commanders’ Conference begins in New Delhi

• The biannual Army Commanders’ Conference will began in New Delhi on April 16, 2018. 

• The opening address was given by Minister of State for Defence Subhash Ramrao Bhamre. 

• Chaired by Army Chief General Bipin Rawat, the senior commanders will deliberate on specific issues to Army formations and Army as a whole at the conference. 

• The important issues that are likely to come up for discussion include management of the extant security dynamics, mitigation of future security threats and enhancement of combat edge over potential adversaries.

• The Army Commanders’ Conference is held biannually for formulating important policy decisions through collegiate deliberations. It is an important event for planning and execution process of the Indian Army.


India on April 16, 2018 won the elections conducted by UN’s Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations in the Asia Pacific States category.

India amassed the highest number of votes -46, followed by Pakistan 43, Bahrain 40 and China 39. India would now be required to serve a four-year term in the committee along with few other nations beginning on January 1, 2019.

India was also elected by acclamation to other subsidiary UN bodies in five separate polls including United Nations Development Programme and United Nations Population Fund.

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