Daily Current Affairs- October 31, 2023
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Thailand waives visa requirements for Indian and Taiwanese tourists

  • Thailand has announced that it will waive visa requirements for tourists from India and Taiwan from next month to May 2024.
  • The move is aimed at attracting more visitors as the high season approaches. Thailand has already scrapped visa requirements for Chinese tourists, its largest source market before the pandemic.
  • Thailand has received 22 million visitors from January to October 29, generating $25.67 billion in revenue. India is the fourth largest source market with 1.2 million arrivals.
  • Thailand is targeting 28 million arrivals this year, hoping that tourism will boost its economic growth amid weak exports.
  • The visa waiver will allow tourists from India and Taiwan to enter Thailand for 30 days. They will still need to follow the health and safety protocols of the country.

MiG-21 jets fly past for the last time in India’s Air Force Day

  • India’s Air Force Day was celebrated on October 8, 2023 at Sangam, the holy confluence of river Ganga, Yamuna and the mythical Saraswati, in Prayagraj, India.
  • The event marked the final participation of the MiG-21 fighter jets in such displays. The MiG-21 is a Soviet-era aircraft that has been in service with the Indian Air Force since 1963.
  • The MiG-21 jets will be replaced by the Light Combat Aircraft (LCA) Mark-1A jets, which are indigenously developed by India. The LCA Mark-1A is a fourth-generation fighter jet that has advanced features and capabilities.

India and Bangladesh to inaugurate three development projects

  • The projects are the Akhaura-Agartala cross-border rail link, the Khulna-Mongla port rail line, and unit II of the Maitree super thermal power plant.
  • The projects are implemented with Indian assistance to boost connectivity and energy security in the region.
  • The projects will be inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on November 1, 2023 in a virtual ceremony.
  • The Akhaura-Agartala rail link will connect Tripura with Bangladesh’s railway network. The Khulna-Mongla port rail line will connect Mongla port with Khulna region. The Maitree power plant will enhance Bangladesh’s electricity supply.
  • The projects are part of India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy and its efforts to strengthen its ties with Bangladesh.

PM Modi flags off first heritage train to Statue of Unity

  • The heritage train is a steam-themed electric train that runs between Ekta Nagar and the Statue of Unity in Gujarat.
  • The train will start operations from November 5, 2023 and will ply every Sundays. It will cover a distance of 182 km in 3 hours and 40 minutes.
  • The train has three executive chair car coaches and a dining coach with wooden interiors and panoramic windows. The fare for one-way journey is Rs 885.
  • The train is part of the tourism development projects unveiled by PM Modi on the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Iron Man of India.

China and Russia slam US at Beijing security forum

  • The Beijing Xiangshan Forum is China’s biggest annual show of military diplomacy, attended by a US delegation amid regional tensions1.
  • China’s top military official Zhang Youxia criticizes “some countries” for provoking China on issues such as Taiwan, which he calls a “core interest”.
  • Zhang also expresses willingness to develop military ties with the US on the basis of mutual respect and cooperation2.
  • Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu warns the West of the threat of a direct military clash with Russia over the Ukraine war3.
  • The forum is held without China’s defence minister, who was sacked last week over corruption allegations.

Shenzhou-16 astronauts return to Earth after 180-day mission

  • Three Chinese astronauts, Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao, landed safely in Inner Mongolia on Tuesday after completing a 180-day mission in space.
  • The astronauts were part of the Shenzhou-16 manned spaceship, which docked with the Tiangong space station in June and conducted various experiments and activities.
  • The Shenzhou-16 mission was the longest and most complex in China’s space history. It was also the first time that China sent three astronauts to its space station.
  • The astronauts were welcomed by a recovery team and received medical check-ups. They will undergo further rehabilitation and evaluation in Beijing.
  • The Shenzhou-16 mission was the second of four crewed missions planned for the construction of the Tiangong space station, which is expected to be completed by 2024.

China’s innovative marine plastic treatment technology wins UN environment award

  • Blue Circle, a program that processes marine plastic waste in Zhejiang province, received the 2023 Champions of the Earth Award from the UN.
  • Blue Circle uses digital technologies to trace the recycling and remanufacturing of marine plastics, and rewards the fishermen who collect the waste.
  • Blue Circle has collected about 10,936 tons of marine debris, including about 2,254 tons of plastic waste, and improved the coastal water quality in Zhejiang.
  • Blue Circle is a model of sustainable and transparent waste management that benefits the environment and the economy. It will be shared with the global audience in multiple languages.

Reliance SBI Card: A co-branded credit card for Reliance Retail customers

  • Reliance SBI Card is a lifestyle-focused credit card that offers rewards and benefits for shopping at Reliance Retail’s network of stores and online platforms.
  • The cardholders can enjoy welcome benefits, travel and entertainment benefits, and spends-based milestone rewards such as renewal fee waiver and Reliance Retail vouchers.
  • The card is a result of a partnership between SBI Card and Reliance Retail, aiming to leverage their extensive network and customer reach. The card also provides curated offers from SBI Card on an ongoing basis.

AU Small Finance Bank to merge with Fincare Small Finance Bank for geographic and strategic expansion

  • The merger will create a pan-India retail banking franchise that will leverage the complementary geographic footprint and product basket of the two banks.
  • AU Small Finance Bank has a strong presence in the northern and western states, while Fincare Small Finance Bank has a large customer base in the southern states.
  • The merger will also help the banks diversify their product offerings, as Fincare has a big microfinance book and AU Small Finance has expertise in vehicle finance and MSME lending.

Statue of Unity marks its 5th anniversary as a symbol of national pride and regional development

  • The Statue of Unity is a 182-meter tall monument dedicated to Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the first Home Minister of India and a leader of the independence movement.
  • The statue was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 31, 2018, on the occasion of Patel’s 143rd birth anniversary. Modi visits the statue every year to pay tribute to Patel’s legacy.
  • The statue has attracted nearly 1.5 crore visitors in less than five years, boosting the tourism industry and the local economy. It has also transformed the region of Kevadiya, Narmada district, into a “Unity City” with various attractions and facilities.
  • The statue is a source of inspiration for future generations to uphold the ideals of unity and progress that Patel embodied. It is also a testament to Modi’s vision and dedication to the nation.

Zahid Hussain from South Kashmir wins silver medal at Asian Shooting Championship

  • Zahid Hussain is a shooter from Anantnag, Kashmir, who participated in the Asian Shooting Championship held in South Korea in 2023.
  • He secured the silver medal in the men’s 50M rifle prone event with a score of 624.5 points, just behind the gold medalist from Kazakhstan who scored 625.6 points.
  • His achievement is a source of pride for his hometown and the nation, and also brings him closer to qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics. The Asian Shooting Championship is a qualifying event for the Olympics, offering 24 quotas for the top two finishers from each country in 12 Olympic shooting events.

IAF Deploys Three S-400 Missile Units Along China And Pakistan Borders

  • The Indian Air Force (IAF) has strengthened its air defense capabilities by deploying three S-400 air defense missile squadrons along the borders with China and Pakistan.
  • The S-400 missiles are advanced air defense systems that can intercept enemy aircraft and missiles at long ranges. India procured five squadrons of these missiles from Russia in 2018-19 for ₹35,000 crore.
  • The delivery of the remaining two S-400 squadrons has been delayed due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Indian and Russian officials are set to meet soon to finalize the delivery schedule.
  • India has also cleared the procurement of the Indian Long Range Surface Air Missile (LR-SAM) system under Project Kusha. The LR-SAM system is a three-layered long-range surface-to-air missile defense system developed by DRDO.

Former Assam minister Sarat Barkotoky passes away

  • Sarat Barkotoky was a veteran Congress leader and a former MLA and minister of Assam. He died on October 30, 2023, at the age of 88.
  • He was born in Mathurapur, Sonari, in 1935 and joined the Congress party at a young age. He was elected to the Assam Legislative Assembly six times from the Sonari constituency.
  • He served as a minister of state in the cabinet of former Chief Minister Hiteswar Saikia in 1991-96. He held various portfolios such as education, health, and social welfare.
  • He was defeated by BJP candidate Topon Kumar Gogoi in the 2016 assembly elections. He was one of the ten cabinet ministers who lost their seats in that election.
  • He was known for his loyalty to the Congress party and his dedication to public service. He was also a retired teacher and a social worker.

Lionel Messi wins record-breaking eighth Ballon d’Or

  • The Ballon d’Or is a prestigious award that recognizes the best football player of the year. It was established in 1956 by France Football magazine and has been awarded annually since then, except for 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Lionel Messi, the Argentine star who plays for Paris Saint-Germain and the national team, won his eighth Ballon d’Or in 2023, breaking his own record of seven titles. He received 41% of the votes from a panel of journalists, coaches, and captains from around the world.
  • Messi had an outstanding season in 2022-23, scoring 38 goals and providing 14 assists in 45 games for PSG and Argentina. He also led Argentina to their first Copa América title in 28 years, scoring four goals and being named the best player of the tournament.
  • Messi beat Karim Benzema of France and Robert Lewandowski of Poland, who finished second and third respectively in the Ballon d’Or rankings. Cristiano Ronaldo, Messi’s longtime rival, came fourth with 9% of the votes.
  • In the women’s category, the Ballon d’Or Féminin was awarded to Aitana Bonmati of Spain, who plays for Barcelona and the national team. She scored 25 goals and provided 18 assists in 42 games for Barcelona, helping them win the treble of La Liga, Copa de la Reina, and UEFA Women’s Champions League. She also scored three goals for Spain at the UEFA Women’s Euro 2023.

Jyothi Yarraji and Tejas Shirse break National Games records in hurdles events

  • Jyothi Yarraji and Tejas Shirse are Indian track and field athletes who participated in the 37th National Games in 2023.
  • They both won gold medals in their respective hurdles events, 100m for women and 110m for men, and set new National Games records with their timings.
  • Jyothi Yarraji finished the 100m hurdles in 13.22 seconds, breaking her own record of 13.28 seconds. She is also a silver medallist at the Hangzhou Asian Games in 2022.
  • Tejas Shirse clocked 13.71 seconds in the 110m hurdles, improving his previous record of 13.80 seconds that he set in the morning event. He is also a national champion and a Commonwealth Games bronze medallist.
  • They both displayed their athletic prowess and technique, leaving the competition far behind. They are among the top contenders for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

India seeks to buy 26 Rafale Marine fighter jets from France

  • India has sent a Letter of Request (LoR) to France, indicating its intent to procure 26 Rafale Marine fighter aircraft for the Indian Navy.
  • The deal, worth about Euro 5.5 billion, will be done through a government-to-government agreement, reflecting the strategic partnership between the two countries.
  • The Rafale Marine aircraft are designed to operate from aircraft carriers and will enhance India’s naval capabilities in the Indian Ocean region.
  • India also wants to integrate its indigenous missiles, such as the Astra air-to-air missile, with the Rafale Marine aircraft.
  • The deal was cleared by the Defence Acquisition Council before the Prime Minister’s visit to France in July 2023.

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