1. India, Indonesia joint military drill begins in Bandung
• The Indian and Indonesian armies on February 19, 2018 began the sixth edition of their annual military exercises in the West Java province of the archipelago country.
• The opening ceremony of the two-week Garuda Shakti military drill between the Special Forces of the Indian Army and the Indonesian Army was held at Bandung.
• The exercises will include experience sharing in counter-terrorism operations, close quarter combat and other areas of special operations.
• The joint exercise highlights the increasing trust and cooperation between the two armies and their renewed commitment to deepen defence and security exchanges.
2. UP unveils new tourism policy to woo tourists and investors
• The Uttar Pradesh government on February 19, 2018 announced a new tourism policy to increase footfalls as well as investment in the state.
• The state government aims to encourage at least 4-5 persons from each of the 6.5 lakh villages in the country to come and participate in the Kumbh Mela at Allahabad in 2019.
• The Department of Tourism envisages an annual increase in the number of foreign tourists by 10 per cent and domestic arrivals by 15 per cent.
• The state government has also accorded tourism the status of an industry.
• It has also offered investment opportunities, fiscal incentives and benefits under its new tourism policy, on making investments within a 20-km radius of all tourist sites of the 10 tourist circuits in the state.
• These circuits include the Ramayana circuit, the Braj circuit, the Buddhist circuit, wildlife and eco-tourism circuit, Bundelkhand circuit, Mahabharata circuit, Shakti Peeth circuit, Adhyatmik circuit, Sufi circuit and the Jain circuit.
3. Delhi Metro travellers can pay bus fare, parking charges with smart cards now
• Delhi Metro commuters can now pay the fares of feeder buses and a number of parking lots at metro stations through their smart cards.
• Delhi Metro currently has more than 200 feeder buses plying on over 40 routes to ferry commuters to the nearest metro network.
• The commuters can now use their metro smart cards to pay parking charges at 13 metro station parking lots including Vishwavidyalaya, Saket, Karkardooma, Dilshad Garden, Akshardham, Patel Chowk, Kashmere Gate and Mewala Maharajpur.
• Delhi Metro Rail Corporation has said the facility will be expanded across all Metro parking lots in the future.
4. Students in Bihar asked to wear slippers during board exams
• In a bid to stop cheating, the Bihar School Examination Board on February 18, 2018 ordered students sitting for the board examinations to not wear shoes and socks during the examination.
• The board stated in an official circular that the students will have to wear slippers on the exam day.
• The Bihar School Examination Board's President stated that this rule will also be implemented in the annual Secondary Examinations.
• The instructions have been issued to all district education officers, candidates and parents in this regard.
• The board examinations are scheduled to commence in Bihar from February 21, 2018.
• The new rule comes after 985 students were expelled on February 17 for cheating during the intermediate examination conducted by the Bihar School Examination Board.
• A total of 25 people were caught writing the exam on behalf of another candidate.
5. Reliance to invest 60,000 cr in Maharashtra
• The Chairman and MD of Reliance Industries Limited, Mukesh Ambani announced on February 18, 2018 that his company would be investing around Rs 60,000 crores in a collaborative initiative in the state of Maharashtra, over the next 10 years.
• Reliance would be establishing India's first-ever integrated industrial area for the fourth Industrial Revolution in the state of Maharashtra.
• More than 20 global companies, including Nokia, Dell, HP, Cisco, Siemens have already agreed to co-invest with Reliance.
• The fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to help Maharashtra and India solve difficult problems including education, healthcare, water security and also boost agriculture.
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6. Artificial Intelligence can be used to eradicate poverty and diseases: PM Modi
• Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi stated recently that the Union Government has firm belief that it can use artificial intelligence to eradicate poverty and diseases.
• He said by doing so the government would be able to bring prosperity to poor and under-privileged sections.
• The Prime Minister said there is no doubt that productivity will increase by using Artificial Intelligence, however, there are also rising fears of human redundancy because there is a competition between the mind and the machine.
• Further, he added that the progress of Artificial Intelligence depends on and will be driven by human intentions.
7. Nasscom launches platform to upskill 2 million professionals
• The National Association of Software and Services Companies (Nasscom) on Februuary 19, 2018 launched a platform to upskill two million IT employees and skill two million youth in eight technologies starting with Artificial Intelligence (AI).
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the FutureSkills platform while formally inaugurating the World Congress on Information Technology (WCIT) 2018 through video conference from New Delhi.
• Under the initiative, half of the Indian IT industry's four million employees will be upskilled and another two million potential employees and students will be skilled over the next three to four years.
• The technology professionals and the youth will be skilled and re-skilled in AI, Virtual Reality, Robotic Process Automation, Internet of Things, Big Data Analytics, 3D Printing, Cloud Computing, Social and Mobile.
• Nasscom also signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) to collaborate in fostering, cultivating and strengthening reskilling initiatives.
8. Scientists grow sheep embryos containing human cells
• Scientists from the US and Japan have transferred human stem cells into sheep embryos, an advance that may pave the way for growing transplant organs inside animals.
• The hybrid embryos containing both human and sheep cells were created in an early step toward growing human organs in farm animals before transplanting them into patients.
• The new finding paves way for genetically tailoring the organs to be compatible with the immune system of the patient receiving them, thus removing the possibility of rejection.
• Using stem cell and genomic editing technologies, human stem cells were successfully transferred into early sheep embryos, producing embryos for which about one in every 100,000 cells were human.
• The experiment began with Hiro Nakauchi, from the University of Tokyo, who grew a mouse with a rat pancreas and a rat with a mouse pancreas.
9. PM flags of new Mysuru-Udaipur train
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 19, 2018 flagged off a new express train from Mysuru railway station.
• The Palace Queen Humsafar Express train will run between Karnataka's Mysuru and Udaipur in Rajasthan.
• Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah was also present at the occasion, along with the Prime Minister.
• Besides this, the Prime Minister would also be inaugurating the newly carved 630 steps on Vindhyagiri hill in the city.
• Prime Minister Modi is on a two-day visit to the poll-bound Karnataka and is expected to participate in various programs in Mysuru.
10. Kerala Haj Committee files plea challenging Centre's Haj pilgrim selection
• The Kerala Haj Committee on February 19, 2018 filed a plea challenging the Union Government’s guidelines in Haj pilgrim selection.
• The plea was heard by a three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud.
• The apex court has asked the Union Government to file a reply as to what are quotas of states with respect to giving quota to Haj pilgrims.
• The matter would come up for hearing on February 21.
• Earlier in January, the Union government scrapped the Haj subsidy for pilgrims as the fund will instead be used for the empowerment of minorities from this year.